Chicago Weekend 2019

As a side note … I’ve been slacking on the blogging. We did Pumpkin Nights and I thought about blogging about it … but then didn’t. And we did a teeny tiny trip to Tucson where we *gasp* actually ate at some different places … but I really didn’t take photos so there’s that. But we DID also do a nice long weekend trip to Chicago for a wedding, so here I am. Again. Finally.

Thursday, October 31:

Our original trip plan was November 1-4, but then B realized he booked us our yearly physicals on the 4th, so the trip got shifted up a day. Therefore, we left on the 31st. DEN-SLC-ORD … and we almost got super delayed in SLC thanks to weather in Chicago. The storm we had moved eastward and, well, sorry.

We got in mid afternoon, so we hopped the train from ORD to downtown and then considered walking to the hotel … but since it was snowy and slushy and we had an extra bag (garment bag for B’s suit), we hailed a cab instead. Totally worth the $6. We got checked in to the Marriott Magnificent Mile, got in a super quick workout, and then did an early dinner at Gino’s East since B really wanted some deep dish.

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Deep dish really isn’t my thing, but we split a pizza with two different halves – B did the Meaty Legend and I did the Spinach Margherita. A bit too spinach-y for my tastes, but it did the trick.

Friday, November 1

We woke up fairly early, got in breakfast at the hotel, and then went for a run. Our goal: the Bean (yes yes I know it’s called Cloud Gate officially but I also know the creator is an asshole, so BEAN.).

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Just past sunrise. No one there!

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Look up.

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And yes, that’s snow on it.

We continued down to Buckingham Fountain
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and then ran the river walk a bit before getting coffee and heading back to the hotel.

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We did some admin stuff at the hotel, I got my lift in, we showered, and then we headed out for the day. First stop was to B’s cousin Peter’s place to say hi. Peter also gave us his Art Institute member’s card so we could head there the next day. Post-Peter, a quick snack at Jimmy John’s (… ugh, but their new tiny Little John’s sandwiches are the perfect snack size), and then off to our main goal for the day – the Field Museum and SUE the T. rex.

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SUE, the Rockies (baseball team), and Blair Braverman: the three reasons Twitter is not a complete hellscape. Seriously, SUE is hilarious. And they retweeted the selfie I shared of myself, SUE, and the kidlets.

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My dinosaurs with the majestic murderbird.

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Took a quiz about SUE/T. rexes – is it any surprise that I aced it?

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The end of the exhibit.

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Maximo the Titanosaur who took SUE’s place in the great hall.

From SUE and the Field, it was on to the Shedd Aquarium which is basically next door.

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I remember loving the Shedd when I was a kid (… I was also fairly obsessed with sea creatures …) and our first reaction was kind of underwhelming. Okay, to be completely honest, our first reaction was disappointment in learning that their stingray touch is only seasonal and we missed it by a DAY. No flap-flaps for us. Booooo.

We started at the bottom level and worked our way up … and it definitely got better as we moved up to the main floor. I took a decent amount of pictures but didn’t really save many except for the awesomeness that is the mantis shrimp.

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Hey buddy! Thanks for not completely hiding underneath the rocks like your relative was doing in Denver last time I saw it.

We also did grab a snack while we were there at one of the cafes – mediocre breakfast sandwich thing that B grabbed. My apple danish was AWESOME … and the weird licensed Starbucks in there really needs to learn that Pumpkin Spice Lattes (my first of the season) come with whipped cream, dangit.

After the Shedd, we walked back to Peter’s where B’s parents finally made it into town (they were staying with Peter and his husband while we chose to stay in a hotel). Then we all convened at a Latin American fusion restaurant, Carnivale, for dinner.

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Inside. I can totally believe that this place used to be a nightclub.

I had salmon over some quinoa mixture and it was really pretty good.

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Emilio took the picture so he wasn’t in it, but from L to R: B, me, father-in-law, mother-in-law, Peter.

Saturday, November 2:

Day two started off with a workout in the hotel gym (seriously, it was one of the nicest hotel gyms I’ve ever seen), then breakfast, and then out and about again.

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(played the “we’ll happily take your picture if you can return the favor for us” game to get this one. it was a candid shot the guy took but it ended up being my favorite of the bunch.)

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River.

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Yes, we went back; I wanted to see how busy it was.

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10:30a on a Saturday looks a lot different than 7:30a on a Friday did …

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Cool little installation also in Cloud Gate Plaza.

Our main stop that morning was the Art Institute of Chicago, as it contains B’s two favorite paintings. As we were meeting the family again for lunch, we unfortunately didn’t have time to explore the whole museum. I guess that means we’ll just have to go back …

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Grant Wood, “American Gothic.”

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Favorite painting number one.

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“Nightlife.” I forget the artist. But I love the piece.

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Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” Favorite painting number two.

There was an Andy Warhol exhibit going on, so we checked that out as well.

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One of his famous Campbell’s Soup can pieces was in the exhibit, but photos of it weren’t allowed. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Warhol, but I definitely appreciate him more after seeing this exhibit.

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Lion outside.

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Now I’ve officially been at the beginning point and the ending point of Route 66 … as well as seen some other random parts of it.

Lunch was at Vapiano’s, which is kind of like Eataly if you’ve ever been there. It’s kind of like a made to order cafeteria/food market. Hard to describe, but it was really tasty.

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Split that caprese salad with B and I got some pasta with cream sauce and mushrooms and I added shrimp to it. It was delicious.

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Leaving lunch. Had to snag a picture of the elevated tracks. Peter played mini tour guide for a few quick buildings post-lunch with all of us.

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The floor inside what was the old Chicago Athletic Club.

We split back up from the family – my mother-in-law’s knee was hurting her and B and I wanted to do a little bit of shopping/wandering on the Magnificent Mile. B stopped in a Garrett’s for some popcorn while I wandered into the doughnut shop next door.

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The chocolate was meh; the glazed twist was pretty good.

We only did some window shopping – the Nordstrom in Chicago is glorious compared to the ones we have back home – but I will admit, I almost spent a decent chunk of change in Roots. The main thing stopping me was luggage space. I consoled myself by reminding me that we’re planning a trip to Calgary in the spring.

We got back to the hotel to start getting loosely packed up and to get ready for the actual reason we came to Chicago – B’s cousin’s wedding. I was excited since I haven’t met a lot of people on B’s dad’s side (Peter, for example, is on his mom’s side).

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All dressed up!

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This is the cake topper? These are my people.

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The ceiling in the cocktail hour/ceremony space. Everything took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I regret not taking the time to wander around, but: heels.

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To that last point re: heels … the shoes were fine if I was sitting or moving. Long periods of standing and the feet killed. Knew I should have found a spot to sit during the ceremony …

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Us.

We didn’t stay very long at the wedding – cut out about 90 minutes early (at least) as we had to catch an early flight back to DEN. The time change helped, but still. 3:30a wake up calls suck regardless.

Sunday, November 4:

As everything had melted, we walked to the train station that morning … and were rewarded with a nice night view of the river.

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Got to the airport with plenty of time … and even enough time to stop in the Sky Club for a tiny bit of breakfast (sweet, sweet breakfast). We chose to go through MSP on the way back and that layover is where coffee was consumed. SLC was our original plan, but flights through MSP looked shockingly good (usually they’re AWFUL to DEN) and that flight got us home a few hours earlier. Totally worth the earlier alarm.

I hadn’t been to Chicago in years – hadn’t really visited it since the mid-90s and hadn’t done anything at all there since 2005 (just a Cubs/(ironically) Rockies game with the ex driving back home from college) – so I was excited for this trip. I’m happy to say that it lived up to my expectations and I can’t wait until I go back again.

Vegas/LA Fall 2019

I didn’t write about our last trip to Vegas (back in late July/early August) because it was a super short trip just to sell B’s crash pad car. However, he bought a new crash pad car and we needed to drive it out to LA. So … we did that.

Sunday, September 29:

At the last home game of the Colorado Rockies season, the players come around and hand out stuff to the fans and it’s all fun and great. When we booked our 15 game package, we made sure to do this game as we enjoyed the experience last year. As our Vegas stay was booked starting the 30th and it’s a 12-13 hour drive … we figured we’d just leave after the game and make it as far as we could.

Wellllllll the Rockies decided to go into extras and it finally got to a point where we had to leave. So we did, sometime in the 11th. We listened to the rest of the game during the first part of the drive, happily learning they won in the 13th.

In any case, the delay meant no Utah, but almost – just a few miles from the border in Fruita.

(obviously we could have made the state of Utah, but the best option for hotels once you cross the border is like 100 miles in and that would have put is in super late.)

Food Eaten: (on the trip) Dinner: nachos and beer at El Tapatio.

Monday, September 30:

Woke up fairly early in order to get on the road as soon as we could. As caffeine is needed in our family, a stop at the Starbucks in Fruita was a must. And as Fruita has had some dinosaurs found there … it might be my new favorite Sbux.

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Looooooook at all the dinosaurs!!!

From there, a steady drive to Las Vegas. We drove straight to the Bellagio (do we stay anywhere else? not really) where we proceeded to have issues post-check-in for the second time in a row. A few months ago: get to our room and the keys don’t work (electronic lock thingy had dead batteries). This trip: our room that we thought had been ready … wasn’t. Got transferred to a new room, but still, annoying.

We got settled and headed to the fitness room to get a quick workout in (treadmill run and lift). Back upstairs to shower and then out for an early dinner. B had been really craving pizza, so we went to Giordano’s across the street at Bally’s. B had a mini personal deep dish and I had a chicken broccoli fettuccine alfredo.

Gambling might have happened too, but I’m not 100% sure.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, Starbucks, random gas station snacks (I got a second cup of coffee and gas station coffee goes down better with a snack). Lunch: … I think maybe a bite at Taco Bell? and then just random snacks. Dinner: Giordano’s. Dessert: gelato from Cafe Gelato.

Tuesday, October 1:

We woke up and went for breakfast and coffee, stopping in a quiet conservatory along the way.

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So much nicer when it’s not packed with people.

On the way back from coffee, I bought a necklace from the art vending machine inside the Cosmo, but I forgot to keep the picture I took for this blog. Oops. We then went back to the fitness room to bust out a workout before our main event for the day.

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This doesn’t have much to do with anything … except the fact that the amount of dinosaurs we travel with now has doubled over the years. Oops …?

Anyway, the main thing we had booked was the Happy Place, which had a pop-up in the Shoppes at Mandalay Place. I had first heard of Happy Place when it had a pop-up in Boston and I had friends who went and it looked totally cool. Completely designed for the instagrams? Yep, but whatever. When I learned it was coming to Vegas and that our drive out coincided … I talked B into going. #worthit.

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First room.

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(yes I totally also took a picture of me not smiling in front of this wall)

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You could also lay down and make confetti angels. Which I did for the boomerang for the instas.

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Sadly, the free cookies weren’t very good.

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Super bloom room!

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Wish I had done my instagram research to make the shots from this room more believable.

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My husband totally looks like a serial killer here.

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There is a picture of me on the lips couch behind the o in the previous photo, but I figured this super awkward photo of B was way more amusing to share.

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Sure, Cornelius. Absolutely.

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Very, very true.

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Always look up.

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Quite possibly one of my most favorite husband photos ever.

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Yes there were people in each room to take pictures of you if you needed it. I’m serious when I say this place was basically designed for social media.

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This ball pit was B’s favorite part of this whole thing. Because dude. Ball pit.

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Confetti in my eyeballs … but still fun.

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Yes, yes we did, Happy Place.

In case you’re wondering … YES I COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY RECOMMEND THIS PLACE. Pop-ups live now in Vegas and in Philly. GO. If it ever comes to Denver I’m going again. SUPER fun. And I probably should have given it it’s own blog post. Meh.

Afterward … we did a tiny bit of gambling at Excalibur (cheaper craps tables for the husband) before stopping at Eataly in Park MGM for food.

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B had a panini. I went simple with steak and potatoes. Next up was Margaritaville for a quick drink.

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Saw this across the street. We were there on the second anniversary of the shootings.

We went back to the Bellagio for a little bit to chill out and gamble some and also gather our energy for dinner.

Dinner was at Black Tap inside the Venetian. We heard about it watching “The Flay List” on Food Network – Black Tap was the place Bobby Flay’s daughter Sophie liked for burgers. It looked fun, we found out there was a location in Las Vegas … we decided to go.

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We didn’t get one of the fancy burgers – just the All-American – but it was delicious. My only complaint: bun needed a tiny bit of toasting. And the fries (regular and sweet potato) were mediocre.

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They have CRAZY milkshakes. We went fairly subdued with the Brooklyn Blackout. Only thing that was a disappointment on it were the brownies – super dry and almost seemed hollow when you bit into them. Shake itself was delicious, if not extremely rich.

Didn’t gamble as much back at the hotel as the MLife system went down, but that’s probably not a bad thing.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: Sadelle’s, Starbucks. Lunch: Eataly (separate drinks at Margaritaville). Dinner: Black Tap LV.

Wednesday, October 2:

We had no rush to leave Las Vegas, but kind of decided to head out of the hotel fairly early anyway. We grabbed a small bite at the hotel before heading to a place we tried last visit, Saint Honore, a sister concept of our favorite coffee shop, Cafe Lola. We tried a regular doughnut last time, but I really wanted to try the beignets this time around.

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Pretty dang good.

A hop across the street to Target to pay my bill and then up the road a block or two to Cafe Lola. Because of course.

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All decorated for the holidays. Also: spot the dinosaur.

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Our coffees and my favorite, the pasteis de nada.

After B got a bit of work done, it was off to LA. We were tossing around the idea of Palm Springs or somewhere else in California … but ultimately decided to just explore LA some more. Ended up being a fairly low key evening with a run and some food.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: Cafe Gelato, Saint Honore, Cafe Lola. Lunch: random drive snacks. Dinner: our standard Whole Foods in Manhattan Beach. Also a later evening snack at Taco Bell (and a gas station Haagen Dazs bar).

Thursday, October 3:

We decided to do one of our favorite little places for breakfast in Hermosa Beach in Martha’s 22nd Street Grill.

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Mostly because of this view. Ah, ocean.

After breakfast, off to the LA Farmer’s Market. B got some coffee and then it was time to wander around. We really didn’t buy anything, but it was pretty cool. Bonus is that it was right next to the Grove (fancy shopping center) which had a Sprinkles in it. Sprinkles makes the best pumpkin cupcake I’ve ever had … and their cupcake store/ATM shut down in Vegas (booooo). As we’re in the season of all things pumpkin/pumpkin spice … I wanted the damn cupcake. So this location was a bit fortuitous.

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Tried a doughnut in the farmer’s market.

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So pretty.

From there, a few miles away so I could visit the actual store of Trashy Lingerie. It was different from what I was expecting, but I’m glad I went. Didn’t buy anything, though.

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Street art across the way.

We had a touch of car trouble after this (seriously never buy from the used car lots on West Colfax, people) so our afternoon plans kind of got thrown out the window. Thankfully we didn’t have many. I’m not going into details about all of what happened … but know that it sucked. Hard.

And also made us feel a lot better about dinner that night.

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Mmmm, In-N-Out.

I wanted to try to catch the sunset at the beach as I usually try to do, and we kind of made it.

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The peace of walking along the shoreline hearing the waves crash along the shore was exactly what we needed.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: Martha’s 22nd Street Grill, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Bob’s Donuts. Lunch: Norm’s, Sprinkles cupcake, Whole Foods. Dinner: In-N-Out Burger.

Friday, October 4:

Early wake-up call to get to the airport as B had to leave on a trip and I had to get home.

Also, did you know that the Delta SkyClub has a toast bar so you could make your own avocado toast? Well, now you do.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: Delta SkyClub. Lunch: Athenian Restaurant once I got home. Dinner: … random stuff around the house.

On Tea at the Brown Palace Hotel

Although I really haven’t blogged about it much, we’re still doing our monthly date nights. Not all of them have been super exciting (a lot of times it’s just dinner … and even if it’s a new place I haven’t always wanted to write about it). However, this month we decided to really change it up and do tea at the Brown Palace Hotel.

The Brown is one of the oldest hotels in Denver (if not the oldest), built in 1892. They also do a high tea during the afternoons from 12-4. I’ve done it a few times, but the last time was over a decade ago for a friend’s birthday.

I’ve talked about it, and B wanted to do it … but it was hard for us to commit to as you typically have to make your reservation for tea months out and with his schedule, that isn’t easy. However, once he got his March schedule, we chatted about it, and they had spots open. So, we went yesterday.

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We just did the signature tea, as neither of us wanted alcohol. You get to choose your type of tea; I chose a black while B chose a green. Unfortunately, I can’t recall which flavors we got and the menu online doesn’t match yesterday’s. Both, however, were delicious.

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The treat tower.

Bottom level: scones. We had a buttermilk and a coconut and we loved both of them. The Brown imports their Devonshire cream from England and it is very tasty.

Middle level: sandwiches. Your typical cucumber sandwich (yum), a chicken salad on rye (okay), and a curry egg salad (not bad, but you definitely taste the curry).

Top level: desserts. A mini almond madeleine (tasty), some mint petit four (gross), a chocolate thing (highly disappointing), and some raspberry pastry that was surprisingly good – reminded me of a tarter Starbucks Raspberry Swirl Loaf.

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B is excited.

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You can get extra sandwiches, so we just got more of the cucumber ones.

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A close up of the raspberry dessert. It was pretty.

Tea at the Brown is definitely a fun experience, albeit a pricey one. I wouldn’t recommend it as something to do super frequently, but it is worth doing.

Dior at the Denver Art Museum

The Denver Art Museum has had an exhibit on Dior (as in Christian Dior, French fashion house) for the past several months and ends in 10 days. I’ve been meaning to go, particularly because I tend to hit up the fashion-centric traveling exhibits (Cartier, YSL). However, I just wasn’t finding the time.

I did want to go before it ended so I finally picked a time and went by myself this past Tuesday. I didn’t particularly feel like doing the audio tour so I kind of blazed through the exhibit, but it was still really cool. I also wandered around a bit of the regular museum afterward.

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Mirrored exhibit sign.

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There were a ton of dresses on display; I mainly just took pictures of my favorites.

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Embroidery sample. Simply amazing.

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Another embroidery sample.

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If you went into Dior’s store, you could walk out with an entire look, down to the perfume and makeup.

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Love the color.

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Framed with other dresses and a gorgeous orchid print.

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This dress was set back in a display of a ton of other dresses, but it caught my eye. So stunning.

Then, as I said, off to wander the rest of the museum … which was kind of small since half of it is under construction/restoration.

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Dinosaur! Okay, so it’s actually called “Made In China,” but still. Dino.

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Love the color and whimsy of this piece.

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I may not understand it, but it made me look. Evocative.

T and B Do Belfast

Randomly, four years ago, Hockey East and the ECAC decided to get together and play a hockey tournament every Thanksgiving up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Apparently this is because Belfast and Boston are sister cities (that a whole bunch of BU alums attended because, well, BU runs the world) and BU alums are the head of the Belfast Giants hockey club and they decided to make this a thing at some meeting between the two cities. The tournament became the Friendship Four and BU was finally announced as part of it last year. So, for a full year, we’d been hoping to pull off this trip to Belfast to go because see hockey in (Northern) Ireland? Sign us up!

To make this happen, a lot of things had to fall into place. Finances (did it as on the cheap as possible), the time off (for B), the flights to look okay (because we weren’t going to buy tickets) … and thankfully, everything came together. Mostly. I’ll get there.

Wednesday, November 21:

Our first day was a travel day. We took the first flight out of DEN to JFK because it looked the best … and because not taking the first flight whenever possible breaks non-revving rules. As a result … it meant we got to sit in the Sky Club at JFK for a very, very long time. Which we did, after we got lunch.

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We changed spots like three times.

The flight to DUB looked good. No fancy business class pods, but we thought we were going to get a row to ourselves (two of a three row). Unfortunately, some guy joined us (we think he was a row off, but we couldn’t say anything). This made for a slightly more uncomfortable flight … especially when it came to sleeping (or trying to. Especially since the dude in the middle in front of us moved to the aisle in front of me and reclined his seat and moved around a lot making it HARD to sleep. That, and the turbulence from hell that almost made me vomit.).

Still, fairly uneventful flight. No movies watched, partially because there was nothing that struck my fancy and partially because I did want to try to sleep some.

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But we got there, and that was all that mattered!

Thursday, November 22:

We landed in Dublin, cleared customs, and then bought tickets for a bus up to Belfast. I wandered around to maybe get a snack, but nothing caught my eye.

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Except this. This did. None of the donuts did, though. Unfortunately.

I ended up nodding off again on the two hour ride … waking up about a half-hour outside of Belfast and extremely nauseous. How I didn’t actually throw up on that ride I don’t know. I had bile come up two or three times. It was not pleasant. But, we made it, and that’s all that matters. We walked the mile or so to our hotel (Hilton Belfast), checked in … and died. Unintentionally, but a nap definitely happened.

Once we woke up, we decided we needed to go out and get some food. We had heard of a Christmas market at City Hall, so we headed over there.

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Belfast City Hall.

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Cool looking ride that I may have gone on had I not had the close puke call earlier …

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Dutch pancakes being made.

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Dutch pancakes. So good. A bit of a different Thanksgiving dinner, but it worked.

Friday, November 23:

We woke up, grabbed breakfast at the hotel, and then ventured out for the morning. Our destination was the Titanic Museum, as we wanted to get there as close to open as possible. We did stop for a cappuccino first, though.

On our walk, we stopped by the Big Fish (Salmon of Knowledge). I had heard about the Salmon of Knowledge thanks to a Maeve Binchy book I had read ages ago, so when I saw the statue on Google Maps, I knew I had to check it out.

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Kind of in love.

From there, it was a short walk across the bridge (in the rain) to the Titanic Museum.

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B successfully sent a message via Morse code!

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Sure, why not?

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On the deck of the ship. Kinda.

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Lunch the day of the sinking.

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The Nomadic (last White Star Line ship remaining) and I forget what’s in front it. But it’s where they used to dry dock ships. I think.

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Husband looked like the sculptures outside so I made him pose.

Afterward, we stopped by the SSE Arena to get tickets for the games (the whole reason we made the trip …) and then grabbed some lunch back near the hotel. I think we ended up napping for a tiny bit (oh, jet lag …) before heading back out to the arena. We skipped the first game (Yale and Union), though.

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Arena.

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The bar inside the entertainment complex next door, Rockies, still had a goalie stick out for Humboldt.

Our friend (and huge BU fan) Cindy, whom I’ve known since college, got us into a pregame alumni reception inside the arena, where we got to hang out and eat some snacks.

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And I continued my trend of mascot selfies. Thanks, Rhett!

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Hockey!

BU won their first game, which was awesome. The atmosphere in SSE Arena was actually pretty good. If they don’t sell all the tickets, they give some away to youth groups and the like so we had a giant group of rowdy middle school-aged kids in the front of our section. Holy crap those kids were insane. It was almost more fun watching them than the hockey.

We got out and walked back toward our hotel while waiting to hear about meeting up with other friends there. We grabbed a quick bite at the hotel bar (since we really didn’t eat dinner …) before walking to the Duke of York to say hi to friends. We didn’t stay out too terribly late, but it was fun hanging out in the very, very crowded pub.

Saturday, November 24:

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From breakfast at the hotel.

The one thing I really regret not doing on this trip was heading up to Giant’s Causeway. We didn’t want to rent a car, and all the day tours were full day affairs. Since we had the hockey game … we didn’t want to chance the timing. So instead, we stayed inside the city. Our first stop was to (*sigh*) Starbucks for some coffee … but mainly to get a Northern Ireland coffee mug. We then headed to St. George’s Market – a combination farmer’s market/food hall/Christmas market. We really probably should have gotten some veggies or something there, but oh well.

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From there, we walked to the Belfast peace wall. We had seen a lot of other friends go there earlier in the week and wanted to check it out.

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On the way, in West Belfast.

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Sobering yet completely awesome. Also of note: the UK was trying to figure out their Brexit deal and one of the main points of worry was open borders in Ireland since ain’t no one wants to go back to the Troubles.

We headed off back to the Christmas market so B could get some of the Bailey’s hot chocolate everyone had been raving about.

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We didn’t stay long beyond that, though – too many people and my social anxiety kicked in big time. So, instead of finding lunch there, we found a small cafe within a bookstore for a couple of sandwiches. After lunch, more touristy wandering.

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This awesome alley is right across from the Duke of York (you can see it behind me).

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Same street.

Before the game, we walked back over to the Titanic Museum to get an ornament (had been mulling it over and decided to buy it). Good thing, too, since the museum looks awesome at night.

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Also got a shot of the famous Harland and Wolff (shipbuilding) cranes.

Then it was off to the pregame reception once again.

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L to R: Me, Rhett, Cindy.

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We needed a picture of us!

Unfortunately, BU did not win the Belpot, as they fell to Union that night. Boooooo.

Sunday, November 25:

We didn’t have too early of a wake up Sunday morning, but we did get moving relatively early, since our main goal for the day was to get back down to Dublin.

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Dinosaurs looking out the window one last time.

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Walking to the bus stop.

I took Dramamine for the return trip – just in case – which was probably good. I did end up nodding off again though, which was nice. We got to the airport and then caught a shuttle bus to our hotel – the Holiday Inn Express right near Dublin Airport. Since we were (hopefully) leaving the next day, we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous, besides seriously repack (kind of half-assed it in Belfast). As a result, dinner was also simple at one of the restaurants at the Crowne Plaza next door.

Monday, November 26:

We woke up with enough time to get checked out and grab some breakfast at the hotel before going to the airport. We hit the airport, checked in … and learned we wouldn’t get boarding passes unless they thought we had a chance of making the flight. As a result, we had a few hours to kill before we needed to be back by the counter. Time to play the waiting game. As we checked in with a higher priority, we were able to go past security … but the odds of us getting on did not look to be in our favor.

We went through security and customs as quickly as we could (you clear U.S. Customs in Dublin which is kind of cool … also thank you Global Entry you were worth every penny) and got to the gate to wait … and wait … and learn we were screwed. Dangit. We got escorted back out … got our passports stamped as we “re-entered” Ireland … and then sat for a bit figuring out our next move. We got some food for lunch at the airport, considered going into town … but decided “screw it,” rebooked the Holiday Inn Express, and went back over to the hotel.

We did, however, venture out for a very nice walk at the park across the street.

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It had been raining that morning … so this rainbow (it was a full arc, too) was nice to see.

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We’re mature.

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It was a beautiful way to spend some time. I think we both needed a bit of time with some fresh air in nature.

We hit up an Italian place about a block down for dinner and then back to bed … but not before I contacted my parents to have them please go over to our house and brine the turkey sitting in my fridge so we could cook it on Wednesday to have our very delayed Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, November 27:

Second verse, same as the first … except this time when we checked in, they let us go right through (plane was open enough). The security line was much shorter earlier in the morning which was nice. As we didn’t have a gate that early, we were told to just hang out in the departure lounge (or really just around all the Duty Free shops). B bought some whisky. I almost bought a gorgeous cashmere scarf … but couldn’t justify the money on something I’m not sure I’d use all that much. I did, however, find a pair of dachshund socks for his mom. We also got some coffee at a cafe. When the board told us to go through customs, we dutifully followed and then sat at our gate. Or what we thought was our gate (it changed).

In the gate area, we saw a few of the BU fans Cindy introduced us to that also worked for the same airline. I guess they tried the Sunday flight, didn’t get on … and didn’t even try for Monday. They got on too … and ended up sitting behind us.

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We’re going hoooooome!!

Going back was nice as we got #podlife (as I like to call it). My video screen was being stupid so I didn’t watch a movie, but I did read quite a bit.

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T Schmeg the emotional support dinosaur (kidlet babysitter) hung out like this the entire flight.

We got into JFK and then sat in the club for a while until our Denver flight … which we also happily made and I’m pretty sure I slept some on it, too.

It may have been 26 hours later than planned, but we made it home.

Not the longest or best (Northern) Ireland trip, but it was a lot of fun being able to see my hockey team in another country.

On Minnesota and Its Fair, Once Again

Like we so often do, we headed back to Minnesota for the State Fair last week. We drove up, both so we could bring our bikes to ride with a friend of B’s and so we could bring back some stuff of his from his parents (namely, his original Nintendo).

It was a weird trip; it wasn’t that good, really; I don’t know if it’s stale, or age, or a lot of stress (which I won’t be going into much here), or what, but I think we need a break. At least from the fair.

We left early morning on August 22nd and drove straight through. Stopped at Starbucks for breakfast, Golden Corral for lunch (easy way to get salad), and my Trails truck stop in Albert Lea for some ColdStone Creamery. Stopped at a rest area somewhere in Iowa, north of Des Moines, to get out and run a mile. Stopped at a bar to meet some friends of ours for a drink and nachos, friends we haven’t seen in years but will be seeing again soon out here in Colorado. Finished at the Marriott near the airport and Mall of America.

Thursday was mainly mall day. Walked over after breakfast to get coffee (at both Starbucks and Tim Horton’s … and sugar at Cinnabon) … and waited for the mall to officially open since we got there a bit early. Oops.

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Outside.

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Sign in the mall.

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Gelato spoon chandelier.

We didn’t get too many things – a candle and some Minnesota stuff for B, some new markers for me from the Crayola store – but it was okay. We ate food court stuff for lunch (me Panda Express, B Chick-Fil-A) and I also had a mid-afternoon cappuccino from the Nordstrom eBar.

Post-mall, we drove around B’s old neighborhood in Burnsville, as he hadn’t seen it/been over there in several years. I saw where he cut his hockey-playing teeth and we played on a playground.

Dinner was cobbled together from the hospitality suite in the Marriott.

Friday morning, we rode with Tim in the rain before heading to Cossetta’s in St. Paul for lunch and some time at the Science Museum of Minnesota (using that reciprocity).

The museum was a touch disappointing – at least for adults. Super hands-on for kids (and there were tons of kids there), but a little meh for us.

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Random fish sculpture.

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There was a really cool exhibit on mental health, explaining it in a way that all of us can understand.

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Resting in a giant red blood cell chair.

Post-museum, we headed back to the Minneapolis side of things to do date night at the mall. We fell back on an old standard, Benihana, and then went up to the fourth floor to play a whole bunch of games at GameWorks. Easy, simple, and fun.

Saturday we slept in a bit before heading up to B’s parents house for most of the day/afternoon. I had a few things I needed to do after that, so we did those errands and then rode bikes for a tiny bit. Post-bikes, our standard breakfast-for-dinner pre-race (Perkins edition) and then just laid low the rest of the night.

Sunday morning we ran the Milk Run 5K (which if you want to know how that went, head on over to the tri blog).

After the race, we headed back to the car to clean up a bit and then into the fair. I should mention we had a free post-race breakfast sandwich from Giggles Campfire Grill that was TERRIBLE. When we got back in the gates, we took a beeline towards the Agriculture Building to make sure we could try a brand new apple we heard about – the First Kiss.

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This apple is still a year or two from hitting stores, but it was pretty tasty. Of course, one of its parents was a Honeycrisp, which is basically the best apple out there, so it’s no wonder.

Our next stop was to French Meadow for some coffee and then on to the West End Market to try one of the new foods – Nordic Waffles.

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It was a super popular booth – about a 25 minute wait to even order and then about another 20 minutes to get the waffles. They have seven different varieties – we tried two: the Breakfast All Day and the Cinna-Sugar-Butter.

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The breakfast waffle? Totally worth the wait. The sweet one? Needed more butter, we think, for it was a bit disappointing.

From there, we walked over to the Dairy Building to get our free malt/sundae/whatever from the race, making some detours along the way.

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Newer fun house at the Mighty Midway.

I didn’t get a picture, but B got his malt (really more of a shake) and I got a chocolate sundae. Really, it tasted like Dairy Queen’s. But it was free, so meh.

Our next stop was the poultry barn, because chickens.

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And turkeys!

We actually got to pet a Silkie chicken, which was amazing.

The humidity was starting to kill us at that point, but we kept persevering. Or trying to.

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It is not a fair trip without cheese curds.

We headed over to the corn roast after that to split an ear of corn and both decided the humidity was too much, so we headed back over to the West End Market to pick up a Christmas decoration purchase we made after our waffles (a retro hockey skate with greenery). B couldn’t decide whether he wanted more food or not (I totally didn’t), so I sat down while he went and got a pickle dog.

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Pickle wrapped in cream cheese and pastrami. No, I did not try it. Blargh.

As it looked like rain was rolling in, we decided to head out for the day. We went back to the hotel to shower and then wandered over to the mall for dinner.

Monday morning, back on the road, and back to Denver.

T and B Do Italy: April 18-20

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the fourth of those posts.

Wednesday, April 18:

We made our last full day in Florence a fairly busy one. We slept in a tiny bit (comparatively speaking), but woke up with plenty of time to grab breakfast and stand in line for about an hour waiting to get into the actual Duomo cathedral. A line was going to be stood in regardless (I read on some other blog somewhere that standing in line is one of the great Italian traditions (for tourists?)), and we figured an hour before opening wouldn’t be too bad. We were right.

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Santa Reparata crypt underneath. Once again, built on top of another church.

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Looking up in the Cupola.

That taken care of, we headed across the Arno to officially hit the Palazzo Pitti as well as the Boboli Gardens.

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In the Palazzo Pitti. If this room isn’t rented out for weddings, the Palazzo Pitti is screwing themselves out of a lot of money.

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Renaissance bathroom.

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The ceilings, man, the ceilings.

The Palazzo, in its essentials, was basically an ostentatious old house. From an aesthetic standpoint, I think I prefer Versailles from my vague memories of it … although that might not quite be the fairest comparison.

When it came down to it … we might have been just happiest buying tickets solely for the Gardens as opposed to the package deal we did purchase.

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Gardens.

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Looking down at the Palazzo Pitti.

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Killer view of the Duomo from the Gardens.

I would have adored to spend a lot more time in the Gardens, exploring every pathway … but poor B was getting a bit hangry (and I’m not sure if they allowed re-entry), so we left and grabbed lunch at a cafe down the street.

Lunch eaten, it was back to the hotel to catch up on internet stuff and attempt to pack up. Due to buying the wine and other liquids, we knew we’d have to check a bag, and we figured mine would be the best as it was somewhat hard-sided. When it comes down to it, I am a packing wizard, so I was able to successfully cram everything in (pilot B was fairly astounded at my skills). However, we still thought another bag might be nice … so I decided to be a total tourist and purchase a 30 euro leather tote from a street vendor so I could have a second carry-on and maybe not completely stuff my suitcase to its gills.

B also wanted some chocolate as a souvenir, so we found a local Italian chocolate shop for that. We also decided to get some more gelato … but it was fairly meh. We capped off the night with our third dinner visit for pizza, which we once again ate on our balcony. Which I regret in no way whatsoever.

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Since I didn’t photograph it earlier, I wanted a picture of the church we had mass in on Sunday … which I took off our balcony.

Thursday, April 19:

We woke up early to get one more run in as well as some photos with everything quiet.

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Cathedral.

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Fake David near the Palazzo Vecchio.

We went back to the hotel and showered and went down to breakfast … where I was surprised with a cappuccino with my name on it.

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B got a duck. They said his name was too long … which is kind of a lie as he has seven letters, same as I. However, the B probably takes up more space than a T …

I felt so special.

Breakfast consumed, we walked back toward the Duomo for our cupola visit.

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Shot of the baptistery, campanile, cathedral and cupola.

It was a bit tricky to climb all the way up to the lantern part of the cupola, but the views made it worthwhile. It was a wonderful way to cap off our final morning in Florence.

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B taking photos.

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Yours truly.

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Looking down.

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Florence, you’ve been amazing.

We headed back to the hotel to check in for our flight, gather up our stuff, and check out. We walked back to the train station to buy tickets back to Milan and then over to the airport … as well as some snacks and lunch for the train.

Both trains were uneventful.

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Milano Centrale. I regretted not getting a photo here the first time around.

We had a tiny adventure getting to our hotel – the Holiday Inn Express Milan-Malpensa – but we made it work fine in the end. We walked over to a different hotel for dinner, but in general, it was a very low-key night as we had to be up super early the next morning.

Friday, April 20:

We took the earliest shuttle from our hotel over to the airport just to ensure we could be at the airport at least three hours ahead of time. Our options were get there 3:30 or 2:45 ahead of our flight; we went with the former … and good thing, too.

I checked in my bag okay and got the security check for my passport (or so I thought … there were issues with this) and B probably should have stayed with me, but due to some miscommunication (silly language barriers) … got in a different line. I got through my stuff way quicker, met him in line … where they ended up making him check his bag, too. That dealt with, we had to walk a bit to get through security … and then walk even more to get through passport control. This took up almost two of the three hours, so it is damn good we got there early.

Starving (breakfast at the hotel had been open five minutes before we had to catch our shuttle), we got our final Italian cappuccinos and some mediocre food at the cafe by our gate. We also used up most of our last euros buying some snacks and liquid for the flight home.

No upgrade coming back, but we sat together, so all was well. I ended up watching three movies on the flight (since, well, no nook to read):
– “Murder on the Orient Express” – B started it and I was watching over his shoulder so I finally just turned it on. Good, and I’m going to need to read the book now.
– “Battle of the Sexes” – no clue how much liberty was taken with this (knowing Hollywood, probably a lot), but I enjoyed it.
– “Spotlight” – SO GOOD. I vaguely remember the Boston church/sex scandal breaking while I was in college (… terrible journalism major, that’s me), but the lawyer on the case was a BU grad and featured in our alumni magazine, so I figured I should watch it, and I am so glad I did.

We landed in JFK, cleared customs … and then spent quite a bit of time in the Delta Sky Club before catching our flight home to Denver (which I mostly slept through).

Such an amazing trip, and I am so thankful we took it!

T and B Do Italy: April 16-17

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the third of those posts.

Monday, April 16:

B wanted to see Pisa, so Monday was the day we planned to rent a car and head to Pisa. We left the hotel a bit early after breakfast so we could see the famous pig fountain (Il Porcellino) without masses of people around.

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B putting a coin in its mouth and rubbing the nose for good luck.

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Me pretending to be Inspector Pazzi from “Hannibal,” fake washing non-existent blood off my hands. Because I’m a nerd.

We found the rental car place okay … but realized too late that B needed his passport, so we had to do a round trip to the hotel and back. Oops. Extra walking!

That all sorted, we got our car (an Alfa Romeo with standard transmission, so ain’t no way was I driving), managed to get down the parking ramp and out of town successfully following Google maps.

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He’s only slightly terrified.

Made it to Pisa okay, found the last spot in some lot … and walked on over. B bought us tickets (you can go up the tower now; you couldn’t when I last saw it 20 years ago) while I spent .80 euro to pee … and it was some of the best .80 euro I’ve ever spent.

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Baptistery, cathedral, and tower (meant to be the campanile or bell tower for the cathedral).

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Dinosaurs and tower.

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Loved the detailing of the baptistery, though we didn’t go inside.

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Basic.

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Kidlets trying to do their part.

(much you think I was too mature to do this … I have shots. but on my phone. and I’m not sharing them here. sorry not sorry.)

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Looking up.

We were in line to get in when I got notified my purse was too big … so I had to run out of line to get it tossed in a locker, freaking out the while since it was right on our entrance time and they had a ton of signs saying YOU MUST NOT MISS YOUR TIME … but thankfully I was still okay. Phew. BUT. If you’re going to go up the tower … and you think your bag might be too big … just check it well before your time. Lockers are free. It’s nice.

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Cathedral view from the top.

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Stairs we popped out of.

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Looking up from the bottom.

We took a lunch break and then popped into the Duomo. I only took one picture inside – the stunning ceiling.

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Gorgeous.

(felt a bit weird taking photos in the cathedral after we had gone to mass the previous day … while most of these churches are sure, open to the public … they’re also still very much in use for services as well.)

We then mostly successfully navigated our way back to Florence (ended up on the toll road for a minute … oops) and returned the rental car.

The hotel was our next stop to quickly check up on some internet stuff and then we popped out for a mid-afternoon pick me up of cappuccino … after which we saw a random parade walk through.

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All in medieval (I think? Renaissance, maybe?) dress. I took a video of the majority of it on my phone, and the whole thing passed us by in just about two minutes.

Since we’re run nerds, we returned to the hotel to try to find the Boston Marathon on TV. We weren’t successful (boo), but we Twitter-stalked the race while playing cards, super happy for Des Linden becoming the first American woman to win in 33 years. Yay Des!

We were hoping for dinner to be pizza again … but a lot of things in Florence are closed on Mondays. I figured that we’d have luck finding an open restaurant near the Duomo since it’s the big tourist area and we did.

Our walk back to the hotel included a giant, delicious, yet ridiculously expensive cone of gelato (seriously overpriced).

Tuesday, April 17:

After breakfast, we wandered over to the Duomo to get tickets for everything. We could … but the earliest available cupola reservation was for Thursday, so we did the earliest we could get, figuring we could do it in the morning before leaving town.

We also skipped the actual cathedral that day (crazy lines), but hit up the baptistery, the campanile, and the Duomo museum.

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Inside the baptistery. I like how they covered the construction with images of what was behind it. Nicer effect.

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View from the top of the campanile.

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Campanile.

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Donatello turned Mary Magdalene into nightmare fuel.

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Michelangelo’s La Pieta.

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Shot of the cupola from the top of the Duomo museum.

Our next stop was the Mercato Centrale … and we apparently also walked through the San Lorenzo leather markets on our way there and back.

The Mercato Centrale is awesome. Bottom level is kind of like an indoor farmer’s market, with tons of stalls selling all sorts of food and goodies while the top floor is food vendors. We didn’t end up eating lunch there, but we did pick up two bottles of wine, some olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for us (which, as I found out later on my credit card statement, cost us like $10) as well as a jar of jelly for B’s parents.

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Food stall.

We didn’t want to be carrying all of that around everywhere, so we headed back to the hotel, picking up some sandwiches along the way.

After eating, we headed over the river to do the Boboli Gardens … but then decided to do the whole combo pack with them, the Palazzo Pitti, and the Uffizi Gallery. However, if you’re going to do so … you have to do the Uffizi first. So we headed back over the river to the Uffizi Gallery to buy our ticket there … and then saw a whole bunch of art, some of it famous.

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Botticelli’s Primavera.

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Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.

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Stunning ceiling in the Niobe room.

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Leonardo Da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi.

Post-Uffizi, we grabbed a cappuccino near S. Croce church.

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Both of us were dying just a touch, so we went back to the hotel to do our standard afternoon break.

We headed back out to dinner to Gusta Pizza where we dealt with super obnoxious Americans in line waiting to get in (holy. crap.) and sat next to some nice ones while we ate.

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Picture taken before we had company at our table.

Post-dinner, we hung out on the Ponte Santa Trinita, ostensibly waiting for the sunset (mediocre again), but it was just super nice to chill in the gorgeous evening and people watch.

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Husband. Probably with a Japanese engagement photo shoot going on behind him, since we saw a plethora of those while in Florence.

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Yours truly.

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Looking at our hotel, the Hotel Berchielli.

T and B Do Italy: April 13-15

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the second of those posts.

Friday, April 13:

I weirdly woke up this morning with a rash on my forearms that ended up spreading elsewhere on my body. I hoped it was just heat rash (though how *that* would have developed, I have no clue) and that it would go away in a few days.

(thankfully, it did.)

We ate breakfast at the hotel before checking out and wandering to take the metro to Milano Centrale so we could catch a train to Venice. We got to the station way earlier than we needed which meant cappuccino time (and we split a croissant).

The train trip itself was fairly uneventful. As I was without a book (boooo), I mostly just watched the scenery roll by … and it was pretty gorgeous. Got a glimpse of a lake near Verona and kind of wished I was on that side of the train so I could have gotten a picture.

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B on the train. We bought first class tickets for all our train trips – it had been recommended to us and it was totally the way to go.

We got into Venice and I was on Google maps trying to figure out where to go when we got accosted by a dude with a porter “helping” with our bags to a water taxi … when I totally actually wanted the water bus.

The ride was nice …

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Gondola as seen from the water taxi.

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Hanging out in the back.

… but it wasn’t 90 fucking euros nice. (20 for the porter who carried our bags 50 yards and 70 for the taxi. I didn’t tip the driver even though I probably should have. He can bitch to the asshole who directed us to him.) It was our one mistake on the trip and I am still kicking myself over it as you can tell. ARGH.

Once again, we were basically able to check into our hotel right away … which seemed really weird for both of us. We figured it was because we weren’t traveling during peak tourist season, but who knows, really.

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Tiny room. The cube shower was what I think of when I think of European showers – just enough room to clean yourself.

We changed clothes and then headed right back out to find food and wander around. I had major issues with Google maps and their directions finding lunch and combine that frustration along with hangry-ness and it was the first (and only!) time on the trip that we got really close to snapping at each other.

Pro tip: If you buy an international data plan and use the Google … ignore their directions. Streets change willy-nilly and trying to find street signs will just cause undue anxiety. Instead, follow the little blue dot line on the map and navigate that way. While it might seem like you’re using up ALL OF THE DATA … trust me, you aren’t. My plan gave me a gig of data and I didn’t even come close to using up half of it over this trip. Of course, I also threw it into airplane mode and used WiFi when it was available to be safe.

We eventually stumbled upon the lunch place B found on the interwebs as one of the best places to eat at … it wasn’t bad. We discovered the Ponte di Rialto during that adventure and found it crawling with tourists.

Post-lunch, we grabbed some gelato and then it was off to St. Mark’s Square.

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Down a canal.

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St. Mark’s Square.

We chose not to worry about going in.

Our next stop was all for me – the Libreria Acqua Alta. I had seen photos and I had to get some of my own. It was amazing.

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The book steps that are all over Pinterest. Bad lighting to get photos of a person on them, though, so sad day for that.

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This fire exit sign cracked me up.

From there, we kind of got turned around and ended up in a part of town we didn’t necessarily want to be in … but since Venice is so tiny, no harm no foul. We next found our way to the San Zaccaro church and its flooded crypt.

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Difficulties of being in a city that’s essentially sinking.

From there, we found our way to a gluten-free shop our friends Norm and Emily who went to Italy this past November visited. Norm asked us to pick up something as a favor for Emily’s birthday which is coming up soon, so we did that.

Then off to the hotel to chill out for a bit before venturing back out to dinner. I had read that you wanted to hit up the Rialto at sunset, so I snuck out of dinner to do so … didn’t get any good sunset shots, but I did get an evening Venice shot off the bridge.

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Saturday, April 14:

So you know how I mentioned above that I read that you wanted to hit up the Rialto at sunset? Well, I actually meant sunset AND sunrise. I’m not completely sure as to *why* that’s a recommendation, as the lighting wasn’t amazing at either … but sunrise was a fantastic time to hit up the bridge because it was EMPTY.

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Could not have gotten this shot during the day. Or at night. Or any other time.

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Okay, so the lighting wasn’t *completely* terrible at sunrise …

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Yours truly.

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Absolutely no way I could have gotten this during the day or the night prior.

Completely worth waking up for.

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Mossy steps leading into the Grand Canal. Rialto is behind me, for reference.

Our next stop was the Ponte di Chiodo – the bridge with no parapet. It is one of two bridges in Venice left that doesn’t have a handrail and, I’m not going to lie, it was a little weird walking down it.

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Completely glad we went looking for it, though.

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Street view from the bridge.

Last main thing I wanted to see in Venice seen, we popped back to the hotel to grab a few euros for a cappuccino at a cafe we saw open and then BACK to the hotel to shower, pack up, and eat breakfast.

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View from our window, looking down.

We then took the water bus we were SUPPOSED TO TAKE IN THE FIRST PLACE back to the train station.

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Seen on the ride.

Then, at the train station, it was time to sit around and wait for our train to Florence.

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I saw donuts. I totally bought one, too.

We took a different train company up to Florence – Italo as opposed to the TrenItalia Frecciarossa. Wasn’t necessarily better or worse – just different.

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We did sit next to each other though as opposed to being across from each other.

Florence, thankfully, was completely easier to navigate than Venice … although that could also be due to the map trick from above. In any case, made it to the hotel just fine … and once again, checked in right away.

Room was super nice – we got a balcony!

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Just chilling in the sunshine.

Our location was wonderful – on the banks of the Arno, just one bridge down from the Ponte Vecchio. We got settled in, I figured out how much data I had been using (I was worried after the Venice navigational nightmares), set up alerts (which is how I know I barely used any on this trip since I got no alerts) … and ended up napping. Oops.

Woke up around 3:30p and decided to wander around. We got gelato at some place B found on the interwebs as supposedly amazing (eh).

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And clearly upgraded to two flavors.

In our simple wandering, we found our way to the Plaza dell’Accademia as well as the Duomo, so it’s nice that everything is easily navigable that way as well. We went back to the hotel where B proceeded to nap and I killed the last of my nook battery. Dinner was takeaway pizza from the BEST PIZZA PLACE EVER (no, seriously, it may have surpassed T’s for me), Gusta Pizza.

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He’s so happy.

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Om nom nom.

This was one of the best moments of the trip – eating delicious, authentic pizza (owners are from Naples) on our own private balcony in Florence.

I tried to catch the sunset after dinner, but it was too hazy to be really good.

Sunday, April 15:

I woke up at 3:30a … probably due to my nap the day previous. Oops. It ended up being okay, however, as we went running pre-dawn up to the Piazzale Michelangelo to try to catch the sunrise and get views of the city.

We didn’t get a sunrise, but we did get amazing views.

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B hanging out.

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Us.

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See? Amazing views.

We also ended up chatting with some Italian locals (well, kind of – he was from Turin originally) who we’re pretty sure were still up from the night before. Heh.

Ran back to the hotel, grabbing some more euros out of an ATM along the way.

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And a shot of the Ponte Vecchio, clearly.

We ate breakfast at the hotel when we got back, showered, and wandered around, stumbling upon the Florence Half-Marathon along the way.

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We had seen signs for it in our hotel’s elevators … and I didn’t think until later to look up if they had other distances. I am not in half shape by any means, but I totally could have done the non-competitive 8K. Plus it was cheap. Dangit.

One thing B really wanted to do was to go to (Catholic) mass while we were in Italy, so we found a church with an English speaking service and went (totally my first time going to mass in like two years). We also got roped into doing the readings which was a touch awkward.

Wandered around a bit more after church and grabbed some paninis for lunch which we ate near the Duomo.

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All in all, though, it was a pretty lazy day. I was almost successful in not napping that afternoon (almost). We did find a great place for dinner and did the full three (four?) course thing and pretty much rolled out of the restaurant (more on that when I do the food blog).

T and B Do Italy: April 10-12

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the first of those posts.

Tuesday, April 10:

We woke up early Tuesday morning to head to DIA for our 7am flight to JFK.

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Me at the airport.

I read on the plane, but I also finally got B to watch “Coco,” which we sort of managed to do together. I really do enjoy that movie.

We landed in JFK, got some Shake Shack, and then headed to the Delta Sky Club since we had a few hours to wait before our flight to Milan.

That flight was nice since we were able to get upgraded to Delta One.

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Brandon in his pod.

In true me fashion, I didn’t sleep at all on the flight (except wanted to in the final hour or so when it would have been pointless). I did watch “Cars 3” since B has been bugging me to do so for a while. Definitely not as cute as the original, but not bad. I also watched “Pitch Perfect.” I attempted to journal, but the turbulence was pretty bad so that didn’t happen.

Wednesday, April 11:

We landed in Milan with me half asleep … and I somehow left my nook charging cable on the plane. I realized it right as I exited the plane and went back on to look … but it was nowhere to be found. I think it got caught up with the Delta headphones (which were picked up immediately apparently …?) and I filled out a lost item report, but, as of today, still haven’t heard anything from it. But it’s okay, because B ordered me a new one on the internets and it got here yesterday.

We got some euros out of an ATM in the airport and then proceeded to catch a train into the city and then the subway to our hotel … right off the Duomo stop. Our room was actually ready within 15 minutes of getting to said hotel, so that was amazing. I got on our internet to figure out why my international data plan wasn’t working (had some setting switched off. Oops.) and then proceeded to take a three-ish hour nap which was NOT intentional, but hey.

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View from our hotel window.

We ventured out in the rain for some food. We tried a grocery store, but couldn’t find anything easy that didn’t require thought/assembly. We then found a sandwich place around the Duomo area which was really delicious. Post-paninis, we had the first of very many Italian cappuccinos.

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Gustave the coffee dinosaur approves.

I will say right now that I am typically NOT a latte/cappuccino person. I am iced coffee all the way. But Italian cappuccinos? Starbucks (and, quite honestly, most coffee shops) is complete trash comparatively.

Food eaten, we went back to the hotel to go sleep a lot more.

Thursday, April 12:

We woke up relatively early (unsurprisingly) and ate a really delicious breakfast at the hotel. Our hotel actually had a fitness center too (SO WEIRD for Europe), so we hit that up for a super quick lifting session that felt amazing. We showered after and then ventured outside for a few hours.

Our first stop was to get tickets for the Duomo … which took us no time at all because the cathedral was barely open at that point. Hooray for keeping weird American hours! We walked around inside and went up on the terrace.

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Replica of the Madonnina that’s on top of the cathedral.

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Inside.

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Archaeological site underneath. A lot of the cathedrals seem to have been built on the same sites as former churches, so there’s history beneath them.

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On the terrace/roof.

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Dinosaurs with the city behind them.

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B taking in the view.

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Gothic architecture.

We left the Duomo and headed essentially next door to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an insanely awesome shopping center. We grabbed some waters as well as a snack and cappuccino inside.

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So gorgeous.

Our next stop was the Milan canals, which I had read about. Got turned around a bit on the way, but eventually made it there. Definitely not as impressive as the Venetian ones, but fairly off the tourist beaten path which was nice.

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We split a massive (and delicious) slice of pizza for lunch. It reminded me of my favorite place back in Boston (T. Anthony’s, if you don’t remember), but not *quite* as good. The still-shining sun provided us a pleasant and much more direct walk back to the hotel.

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Random church we saw on the way.

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Duomo with clouds rolling back in.

We realized we still needed to visit the Duomo museum (admission as part of our cathedral entrance), so we did that.

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Scale model inside.

After, we decided to go back to the hotel to chill for a while. We’ve found when traveling that it’s wise to give ourselves some downtime. B ended up napping while I killed the rest of my nook battery to FINALLY read T. Kingfisher’s “The Wonder Engine,” which I had been saving specifically for this trip. It was amazing as I expected it to be.

We wandered out to find food that evening and it ended up being fairly snacky and fairly terrible. It also started raining again, but it meant for some fun night shots of the Duomo.

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We then found ourselves the first gelato of the trip from a cart (the shop we had been eyeing had just closed as we walked in), but it was delicious.

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We packed up and headed to bed – we were out of town the next day.