Tucson, May 2020

If you know me/us, you know we like to travel. A lot. B does it for his job. Thanks to the shitshow that is our current world (… although less so, now), B hasn’t gone anywhere since this all began. Neither have I.

However, with things opening up a little … we decided that for our mental health, we both needed to get away. So that’s exactly what we did. And of course, where did we go? Tucson.

Tuesday, May 19

We didn’t leave super early like we normally do, mostly because we weren’t trying to make it to Tucson in a day. We woke up, went for a run, and got on the road about 8 or 9 am. We went a slightly different route, going through Utah and into Arizona that way.

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We stopped for lunch in Moab, which officially makes it the longest amount of time I’ve ever officially spent in Moab. We were also able to sit and eat in a restaurant for the first time in like two months, so that was nice.

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Arches National Park was closed (we probably would have stopped in had it not), but if you keep driving out of Moab, you come across Wilson’s Arch, seen here. You can hike up to it, but it was super honking windy, so we nixed that idea.

Our stop for the night was in Flagstaff, Ariz. Dinner was takeout, although we found out when picking up the food that we could have dined in. Whatever.

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Not where we stayed, but it was a super cool sign. We were technically on Route 66 at this point.

Food eaten: egg at home, Starbucks, car snacks, Spoke on Main (Moab), more car snacks, Texas RoadHouse (Flagstaff)

Wednesday, May 20

We woke up relatively early on Wednesday as we had a destination in mind for that morning and we wanted to get there when it opened.

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Wait, what’s this? Apple orchard?

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Yep, just part of Slide Rock State Park! I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of it on Pinterest or it written about on travel sites. The rocks in the park/on the river are super slippery and form a natural water slide. It’s not that long, but it is super fun. There’s also a place you can jump from ledges into the water … which we both did after some hesitation.

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Taken after sliding down the rocks.

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Ledge jumping.

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When the bucket list item is worth it.

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Further up the river.

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We’ll be back, Slide Rock.

After Slide Rock, we deck changed at the car back into normal clothes and got back on the road. We didn’t stop in Sedona, but we did drive through – so cute. Will also need to return there at a later date to explore.

Our next stop was the Phoenix metro area. The drive down was absolutely stunning, particularly when we first started seeing the saguaros. We went down in the middle of blooming season and saguaros in bloom? Gorgeous.

We got lunch first and then did a short stop just for me.

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Been meaning to find this piece of interactive Kelsey Montague art for a while. Hoped to do it on either the January or (non-blogged about) March trip, but alas. Then a stop at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for more at home coffee for B in Scottsdale and Cadence Running Company in Gilbert for me for another pair of running shoes. B took over driving the rest of the way into Tucson and we detoured in Marana to the Pinal Air Park to mournfully look at all the parked airplanes not being flown thanks to the virus-reduced schedules.

We stayed at a new hotel in Tucson – the Westin La Paloma – mostly because we found a decent deal AND they had a lap pool. Pools in Arizona had opened on the 15th and this triathlete hadn’t swam in 75 days.

We checked in, tossed all the crap in the room, and got in a tiny swim. Really pretty tiny since I really felt the pool layoff (I tend to get nauseous my first swim or two back from a layoff, and this was no exception) AND I really needed food. But it was SO NICE to swim again.

Then dinner, and bed.

Food eaten: Chick-fil-a, Starbucks, In-n-Out Burger, eegee’s.

Thursday, May 21

I woke up early ostensibly to swim, but I realized I really needed food first. So food was had first. We called around to a few places to make sure they had dine-in (not everyone did), but Baja Cafe, the place Seton and Debbie took us back in January did, so that’s where breakfast was. From breakfast, it was off to Saguaro National Park (East) to go for a short trail run/hike.

There … I saw something very special.

For a bit of backstory, during this quarantine/shelter-in-place, I’ve reconnected with an old friend from the grade school days. She’s now actually a legit shaman and has been running in-person moon circles in California for a few years. However, as all of our lives have been transferred online (more than they already were), she decided to host an online circle. Since it was free and I was curious, I signed up. And then I did three more (and paid by the end gladly). During the moon circles, we do a guided meditation into our heartspace. I’d seen the Sonoran desert in three of the four and a Gila monster in the last two. The first time, it just showed up and the second time as an actual spirit guide. And then I started seeing them everywhere – all on my random desert feeds I follow on Instagram and even as a mural on some building off I-25 that I drive past all the time and SOMEHOW just realized that it had a Gila on it (I’d already noticed the awesome trout). So, on this trip, I had a feeling I’d see one in the wild. You need to remember, however, that spotting them is extremely rare. They spend something like 98% of their lives underground. In all my trips to Tucson (which is many), I’d seen one once and even then it was only crossing the road. I’d never seen one up close, so to speak. Both B and I thought that might change this trip. And it did.

But it might not have even happened. As we did our run, we ran a different path at the fork in the trail than I/we usually do. We could have just turned around and went back from whence we came, but I wanted to go the normal route. We would just finish the run distance whenever we came to it and then could just hike back.

On this whole run, I was constantly scanning the surroundings, looking for a Gila. And then I finally told myself, stop. If you consciously look for it, you won’t find it. (and you might hurt yourself for not paying attention where you’re stepping on a rocky trail.) So I finally started to let go. And as we approached one of the washes you cross … I saw something, stopped my Garmin, and squee’ed.

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B: “Why did we stop?”
Me, pointing: “Loooooook!”
B: “Where? What?”
Me, more emphatically: “LOOOOOK! IT’S A GILA!”
B: *squees with me*

Little lizard wanted nothing to do with us – we tried being quiet as we got closer (iPhone cameras, or at least ours, don’t zoom well and I wanted to actually get a damn picture) – but no, they waddled off and away from us. Which was adorable (go find one scampering off).

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You almost never see pictures of them straight, but this was the clearest I could get. And even then, this is the edited, enhanced, insta version.

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Wandering off into the desert.

Man, that made my trip. No joke.

We finished up the last little bit of the run and then continued wandering in the park a little.

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Saguaro blossom.

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Ahh, cacti.

After Saguaro, we considered riding … but swam instead and then just spent most of the rest of the day outside by the pool. Dinner was our one take-out meal in Tucson, as there was no way I was missing out on a cheese crisp (that came in a pizza box) and green corn tamale from Casa Molina.

Food eaten: Baja Cafe, Starbucks, food from one of the random Westin La Paloma restaurants, Casa Molina

Friday, May 22

Friday, we woke up and decided to try a brand new place for breakfast that I had seen referenced on the social medias – Joe’s Pancake House on Kolb.

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We both love low-key breakfast joints … probably more than we like the fancy/hipster ones. Plus all that food cost us like $15, which is even better. I like places like Frank’s/Francisco’s where you can get a killer food deal.

After breakfast, it was a bit of driving around exploring … partially to get me to some murals.

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I realized too late that I completely forgot about the new Tucson Together mural (and I need to find out where it is) … otherwise I would have tried to find that one, too. We also hit up a rock shop and then lunch.

Most of the afternoon was spent doing some admin work and lazing about the hotel room, but we did end up going on a bike ride before dinner and DATE NIGHT IN AN ACTUAL RESTAURANT AGAIN. We also tried a new place on the west side that we’d driven past a few times but never actually stopped.

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Inside.

It was DELICIOUS. B’s steak was fantastic and every time I grabbed a bone from my ribs, it just came out, leaving the meat behind.

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You kind of see that here. If you went outside to behind where that sign was, you can actually see the pit/grill they used. My kind of place. Highly recommended.

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The mud pie wasn’t the best I’ve had, but it still wasn’t bad.

After dinner, we quick hopped over Gates Pass for the sunset. Unfortunately we’re in the time of year where Tucson has like two clouds, so it wasn’t as fabulous as it was in January.

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One last stop for a few more “bucket list Tucson photos” finally got me this sign:
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and driving to it got me this one:
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(For those not in the know, Magic Carpet was the BEST MINI GOLF EVER back in the day in Tucson. Fun, interactive holes, two courses … it was the greatest. R.I.P. I miss you Magic Carpet. One of the few Tucson things I deeply regret never being able to have B experience with me.)

Food eaten: Joe’s Pancake House, Starbucks, eegee’s, Baggin’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Daisy Mae’s Steak House.

Saturday, May 23

After one last swim for who knows how long (*cries*), it was on the road to get out of town. This was a weird Tucson trip in that we didn’t go the I-25-Hatch-I-10 route at all. Part of it was because that New Mexico still is pretty locked down, but part of it was also to experience some different stuff. We drove north out of Tucson to Phoenix and then detoured toward Kingman as B wanted to see how quiet Las Vegas was (and to extend the trip a touch longer).

This made it a drive neither of us had done before and one totally worth it as we drove past the tiny Arizona town of Wickenburg that looked TOTALLY AWESOME and became yet another place that we need to go back to and visit. Seriously, this is why I love road-tripping and taking weird back routes. You stumble upon the greatest stuff.

Nevada/Las Vegas was weird. I tried going to a JoAnn’s to find Vegas Golden Knights fabric to make more masks, but that was a massive fail and a half. What wasn’t was finally being able to visit the new Cafe Lola location in Henderson. Even though they didn’t have my pasteis de nada (boo).

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Roped off. No influencer pics for you!

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Weird feeling compared to the Summerlin location, but I think that’s more the fault of the current state of things as opposed to anything they could control.

B wanted to drive the Strip – that was weird, seeing all of the normally open doors shut and barred. When we left it was the happiest we’d ever been leaving Las Vegas. Usually we wouldn’t be that excited to get to our evening destination (Cedar City), but alas.

Food eaten: Waffle House, Starbucks, In-n-Out Burger, Cafe Lola, Brody’s Mexican, Crumbl Cookies.

Saturday, May 23

Our final day was the most boring day – just a drive day.

Or so we thought … as it decided to start spitting snow in Vail and then didn’t stop precipitating (snow until just after Georgetown and then steady rain) until we got home. Yay.

Food eaten: Starbucks, Einstein Bros. Bagels, home snacks, food at the brother and sister-in-laws.

A little surreal to travel, but it was a much needed trip for both of us.

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.

On Costa Rica

Since I’ve been with B, I’ve managed to go on one whole trip with him as my pilot. And by pilot, I mean literally, he’s the one flying the airplane. That trip was back in … 2009 or 2010 when I went with him up to Fargo, N.D. Exciting, no?

Since he made it to Delta, he’s been wanting me to come with and preferably to one of his long layovers. We were finally able to make it work last week when I tagged along on his trip to Costa Rica.

To make it out okay, we left on the first flight to LAX Tuesday morning. We kept the day fairly low-key (errands and the beach) as, since we were taking the red-eye flight, a nap had to happen that afternoon. Late late Tuesday night, I hopped in the back for his red-eye to Costa Rica (LIR). On the flight, I finally watched “Coco,” which was really cute. I also didn’t sleep, because it’s me.

We got into LIR about 6:30 Wednesday morning. I popped on the shuttle with the crew to the hotel (which, for company reasons, I’m actually not allowed to mention. Sorry.) … and proceeded to almost puke on the way. I was already kind of nauseous from not having eaten in quite some time plus having been up all night, so a rollercoaster-y van ride? Not good.

At the hotel, we got me an extra room key as well as paid for me to join in on the all-inclusiveness, quickly changed, popped down to the buffet for some breakfast … and then back upstairs for some SLEEP. Four-ish hours later, we woke up and went for a short (hot, humid) run to shake off the cobwebs. Because it’s me, we also got stopped and asked for directions which I hope we were able to do given the language barrier.

We literally ran to one of the other buffets as our ending point so we could eat some lunch. Food consumed, back upstairs to shower and then head back down to hang out at the pool.

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Looking at the resort from the back of the property.

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We’re mature.

We hung out for a couple hours before venturing back upstairs to chill for a little bit.

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Outside seating for the breakfast/dinner buffet.

Since it’s me, I wanted to try to catch the sunset, so we walked down to the beach before dinner to do that.

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We weren’t quite at the best angle to catch the best sunset, but it was still pretty awesome. There are quite a few restaurants on property that B has eaten at for dinner, but none of the menus were calling out to me, so we just decided on the buffet again.

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Fountains leading down to the pool area.

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Ran into one of the flight attendants and had her take our photo.

Dinner wasn’t bad, but the food kind of got progressively worse throughout the day. Breakfast? Good. Lunch? Not bad. Dinner? … well.

We stayed up a bit later than we probably would have wanted just because B needed to take the online Jeopardy! test, but whatever.

The next morning was pretty relaxed. We went down to breakfast, down to the beach and around the property to take some pictures, and then to the fitness center to get in a workout. It was super busy when we got there, so I got in a bit on a stationary bike and a much smaller lift than I would have liked.

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Dinosaurs looking out over the ocean.

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Looking back at the property.

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Being cute.

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On one of the shortcut paths.

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Fountain in a courtyard in the spa/fitness center building.

After the workout, we showered, packed up, and caught the van back to the airport. I made it out of Costa Rica just fine … but I should know better than to try to non-rev through Atlanta late on a Friday to Colorado in not only ski season but also spring break season. Needless to say … I spent an unplanned night in a hotel and we used points to get me home late Saturday evening.

Despite my woes getting home, it was nice to be able to ride on a plane my husband was flying as well as experience one of his favorite layovers.

Tempe Trip 2017

Also known as our yearly trip to Ironman Arizona. Since 2012, we’ve only missed one year (2014). Other than that, we’ve been down every year. Probably will actually skip next year, however. Maybe.

In any case, I’m not going to share anything from the race, but rather the trip surrounding it. I’ve also been apparently forgetting to take pictures with my actual camera half the time (Instagram stories are wicked fun, yo), but I still did get several. Two of the food ones were phone pics, though.

Wednesday, November 15:

A very long day of driving. But! Did see the sun do a cool effect somewhere on I-40/Route 66. Forget whether this was still in New Mexico or the Arizona side of things, though …

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Ate: egg at the house, snack at Starbucks, lunch at Golden Corral (mmm, salad), dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse, various homemade car snacks.

Thursday, November 16:

We stayed at the (really new) Hilton Garden Inn ASU, which was about three miles from Tempe Beach Park (that is, IMAZ ground zero). Alas, no free breakfast, so we went out at a place I found on the interwebs, Matt’s Big Breakfast. Matt’s has a few locations around the area, but we ate one just down Rio Salado. B had The Hog & Chick (their basic meat and eggs and potatoes) while I had the daily special … eggs benedict.

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Menu.

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Hashbrowns were terrible. Eggs Benedict wasn’t bad (although only one of my eggs was poached properly). They also pretty much forgot about B’s toast, which was sad, because it was good homemade sourdough.

After breakfast, a stop for coffee (mmm coffee) and then off to the Desert Botanical Garden, which, yay, FREE with our reciprocal membership. Because, if you know me/us by now, you know we love looking at cactus.

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Chihuly pieces.

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They had a butterfly exhibit. This is just one of many photos I took in there.

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Good to know.

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Building on site.

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Oh look, photo op site.

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(After saguaros,) my favorites – purple prickly pears.

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Poor Lonely George.

After the Gardens, it was off to the spring training home of the Colorado Rockies (okay, and the Arizona Diamondbacks), Salt River Fields.

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I may have brought this sweatshirt solely for a photo op.

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Super cool.

Afterward, we grabbed lunch, went back to the hotel to get a workout in, and then headed off to B’s great aunt and uncle’s house for dinner and conversation.

Ate: Matt’s Big Breakfast, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf/Starbucks, Sweet Tomatoes, homemade food made with love by family.

Friday, November 17:

We wanted a bit of a lighter breakfast so we headed off to a Whole Foods for their oatmeal bar. Was not nearly as good as the ones ’round these here parts. I had a coffee social with my SMASH teammates, so we headed to Tempe to go FINALLY hike the A mountain (I think?) that’s right on the ASU campus and behind the mill on Mill.

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Dinosaurs enjoying the view.

I really don’t remember much of this day, weirdly. I know I did the coffee social, and I know we checked out the expo … and I know I went back to the Tempe Mission Palms to go to the SMASH warehouse sale … but I think the rest of the day was fairly low-key.

Ate: Whole Foods, Starbucks, random snacks thanks to the coffee social, In-N-Out, Gordon Biersch, Cold Stone.

Saturday, November 18:

We had the Tempe Friends and Family 5K this morning, so we woke up a bit earlier to head down to Mill – not only for a parking spot, but to grab breakfast at NCounter. We’ve eaten there quite a few times before and love it. Some pre-race oatmeal with a side of eggs was perfect.

If you really want to know how the race went, you can pop on over to the tri blog.

Post-race, we got coffee and checked out the expo, buying some general Ironman merch (as well as IMAZ stuff sans-date, since we have done it before).

As we’ve picked up curling this year, B wanted to go see the curling club … so we did that.

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Yes, we’re nerds.

We technically got invited back to curl on Sunday … but ended up passing on the offer.

Lunch was at a little teriyaki place at Tempe Marketplace which was pretty tasty. We were trying to keep it a little low key as that night was date night!

We needed to figure out a November date night and I figured this trip would be a perfect time to do it, so we found a nice place in Scottsdale called Olive and Ivy. When researching the trip, this place kept popping up a lot as well as everyone saying “eat on the patio,” so we decided sure, let’s eat here … and get reservations on the patio. Totally worth it.

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Art on the river outside. If you look to the left and see the bistro lights, that’s Olive and Ivy.

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Menu.

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View from our table.

We split some bruschetta.

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We tried:
Prosciutto: fig preserve, port salut
Mushroom: roasted garlic, crescenza
Brussels Sprout: whipped goat cheese, crisp prosciutto, sherry gastrique

The Prosciutto had too much arugula on it, but otherwise it was pretty good. The Brussels Sprout was missing … something, and the Mushroom would have been better had it been warm (but it was still my favorite. Despite our server trying to tell me it was terrible).

For dinner, B had the Veal and Spinach Ravioli (parmesan, mizuna), while I had the Sea Scallops (creamy polenta, roasted brussels sprout, bacon gastrique).

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It. Was. Delicious.

Ate: NCounter, Starbucks, Yogi’s Grill, Olive and Ivy.

Sunday, November 19:

Entirely a day of cheering on athletes. I had 14 people I was tracking. Two made it to Kona and, unfortunately, two didn’t finish.

Of note, though, was our “dinner.” My friend Katie said we had to go to Culinary Dropout, as it is her favorite restaurant in Tempe. As we basically grazed and snacked all day, we didn’t eat a full meal; rather, we each got a salad and split two appetizers.

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Soft pretzels and provolone fondue. SO GOOD.

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Cheddar and potato pierogies. Also quite delicious.

It was pretty tasty. Not sure if it’s my *favorite* place in Tempe, but was quite delicious.

Ate: hotel breakfast buffet, Starbucks, Cabin Tempe (not recommended), ice cream from the Baked Bear, Culinary Dropout.

Monday, November 20:

I dropped B off early to Sky Harbor as he had a trip that started Tuesday … but given the drive and flights and blahblahblah … he had to leave that morning. I grabbed some coffee and headed down to Tucson so I could pick up some tamales. As I got there before the tamale place opened, I took some photos around town.

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Some of my favorite street art in Tucson. Off 6th.

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Lost Barrio.

Tamales picked up, I started the drive back, stopping in Las Vegas, N.M., for the night.

Ate: Starbucks, random snacks from gas stops, Cracker Barrel.

Tuesday, November 21:

A short day – even with a weather/accident delay outside of Larkspur (and a stop at the grocery store), I was still home by noon. Hooray.

Ate: hotel breakfast, Starbucks, home cooked goodness.

Retirement Trip

Also known as Boston and L.A. May 2017.

But wait, retirement, you might say?

Yep. Thanks to B getting a job with an ACTUAL airline (a mainline carrier as opposed to a regional), he let me quit my soul-sucking barista job so I could finally free myself from customer service hell. My CS shelf life? Waaaaay overdue.

Cinco de Mayo was officially my last day with the company and while it was bittersweet in some respects, I have no regrets about leaving. None.

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My farewell cake.

I was in theory supposed to do a race that weekend, but since I had taken a good chunk of the spring off due to mental health AND B had a Boston overnight … I decided to join him in Boston instead and then go back to L.A. with him to play for a day. Since I could now do such crazy things.

My original plan was to take a red-eye from DEN to JFK Friday night and then catch an early flight from JFK to BOS Saturday morning. Well, all of the latter flights filled up for whatever reason and then my red-eye got delayed … so I left the next day and connected through MSP. Whatever.

I landed in Boston, dumped off my bag at B’s hotel (he wasn’t getting in until much later that night), and immediately met up with one of my old college roommates, Courtney. We hung out for a while before parting ways. I headed down into the city and had quite possibly the worst lobster roll ever (somewhere in Quincy Market. I don’t even recall which stand).

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No lobster roll picture, but found this in City Hall Plaza.

I felt so gross afterward that I headed back to the hotel to sit and read for a little while. My stomach settled enough around 7ish that I felt comfortable heading back out for some dinner. Nostalgia directed me straight back to campus.

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Heh. My kind of graffiti.

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I can fully believe that Target can be the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Thai fried rice (and a glass of wine) at Brown Sugar Cafe was awesome on my nearly empty stomach (hadn’t eaten much all day). I felt enough belly space to hop across the street to T. Anthony’s for a slice – where my boy Paul STILL recognizes me, 12 years post-graduation – and then a few doors down to Angora for the best fro-yo on the planet.

That took up enough time for me to get back to the hotel and read a bit more before B’s flight got in. He got in and I got to finally get some WONDERFUL SLEEP.

(I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the few days previous.)

Sunday morning, we tried breakfast at some place on Boylston – I don’t recall the name – that had apparently just started a breakfast service. They need to improve on it, for it was highly mediocre. We were considering going for a run after that, but since it was gorgeous out – that weekend was the one sunny spot in Boston in like two weeks – we decided to just put on our shoes and walk around the city.

I took him down through Fenway to the Back Bay Fens, part of the Emerald Necklace. I’d talked about going down there back in school, but had never taken him there, so we did that. We then stopped at the BU Bookstore just because and obviously I walked out of there with some stuff! I found a pair of capris on clearance (workout capris for $30? Yes please!) and a wonderful comfy new Under Armour hoodie while B found a new pair of workout shorts. After that, we strolled downtown where I got to redeem my lobster roll disaster from the previous day at James Hook and Co.

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We were hoping to meet up with our friend Ann at some point, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be. So, we went back to the hotel to shower and pack up. I decided to leave before B and get to the airport a bit earlier just in case.

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Hi husband doing his walkaround!

Unfortunately, the BOS-LAX flight he was flying was oversold, so guess who got to stay behind?

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Airport life. Featuring: new hoodie!

B offered to get me a hotel, but I just didn’t want to deal with it. I treated myself to a ridiculously expensive dinner at the Legal’s Test Kitchen in the airport (chowder, a glass of Pinot Noir, and one of my top-three lobster rolls) before attempting to settle in for the night.

Except apparently Logan doesn’t let you sleep in the concourses; no, it kicks you out pre-security. I went from a quiet, cozy, carpeted corner to a cold, noisy, tiled floor that was being cleaned for seriously two hours. Or so it felt like. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep. I managed an hour before I got booted out, maybe another broken 90 minutes on the tile, and then about 75 minutes at what I thought was going to be my gate once I went back through security at 4:15am.

Luckily, I made the morning LAX flight just fine, watching “Moana” and “Hidden Figures” on the way, being crowded in my middle seat by two manspreaders stealing the armrests.

B had rented a car, so he picked me up at LAX and took me to see his crash pad there (also so I could change). I inadvertently passed out for about an hour while he booked us a hotel room for the night. I woke up, changed, we headed off to our hotel, and then went to the Strand and rented cruiser bikes.

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B biking the Strand.

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Wall of succulents.

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Toes in the sand.

We went back home the next morning. Although it included not a lot of sleep and had a lot of stress, it was a wonderful mini trip to celebrate my “retirement” from coffee slinging.