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: The Food

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 final of those posts.

So much food eaten in so many days … might be easier on all of us if I do this in a modified list form …

Tuesday, April 10:

Breakfast: egg and oj at the house, oatmeal at the DIA Delta Sky Club.
Lunch: Shake Shack at JFK, veggies in the Delta Sky Club there.
Dinner: Delta One pod life, baby.

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Appetizers. “Grilled apricots with whipped ricotta, truffle honey and crispy prosciutto;” “Baby iceberg wedge salad with chives and cherry tomatoes served with creamy dill dressing” Also had the opportunity for a tomato bisque (which B ate and liked), but I didn’t take it. Not usually the biggest fan of wedge salads, but this one wasn’t bad. The apricots (not something I would normally eat, but hey, adventure) were surprisingly good … but probably would have been better warm.

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Dinner. “Cacio e Pepe ravioli – parmesan fondue, asparagus tips and blistered tomatoes” Actually was interested in the salmon option, but got the ravioli. Which I think I’m ultimately okay with (plane fish? could be sketchy …) … mostly because it was delicious.

Dessert: continued pod life.

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Lemon Tart. B did not get one. I think one of the (good) flight attendants saved it for me due to something that happened before we even took off that I would prefer not getting into on here, but had me crying for a good hour or so. I am thankful for this, because it was AWESOME.

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Best part of international first/business class is the make-your-own-sundaes. Mmm.

Wednesday, April 11:

Breakfast: more pod life.

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“Potato and gruyere frittata with tomato hollandaise and asparagus” It was this or some homemade granola cereal with yogurt, which I didn’t want to take my chances with. I know I wouldn’t have been happy with that … but I wasn’t particularly happy with this, either. Blargh. The croissant was tasty though …

Dinner: Panino Gusto

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We kind of slept through lunch, so dinner was just a place we found out walking – a fancy Italian sandwich shop. Apparently it’s a chain around Milan, but it was really tasty. We also had our first of many trip cappuccinos there.

Thursday, April 12:

Breakfast: free at our hotel. Great spread, though – eggs, meats, cheeses, assorted pastries, yogurts, fruit, several fruit juices …
Snack: croissant and cappuccino at Marchesi in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuale II.

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Lunch: a massive slice of pizza we split from somewhere near the Navigili canals.
Dinner: savory crepe from some restaurant we found – cheese and ham and mushrooms and it was pretty terrible but it was food. Also fries from Amsterdam Chips because we needed something better for our taste buds.
Dessert: gelato from some cart near the Duomo.

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He got cherry, I got coffee (caffe). Like cappuccinos, gelato is so much better in Europe.

Friday, April 13:

Breakfast: hotel, once again.
Snack: cappuccino and croissant at Pan Brioche in Milano Centrale. Partially to waste time, partially because mmm, cappuccino.

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Lunch: Impronta Cafe, Venice, Dorsoduro district.

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This place was highly rated in “best places to eat in Venice” – B found it. Maybe if we had eaten something other than just sandwiches … B was meh on his. Mine was actually tasty after I peeled off all the olives. Ugh, olives.

Snack: gelato from some tiny shop near some church somewhere in Venice. Could not recreate where. But I got more caffe gelato and it was good.
Dinner: a prix fixe menu at Bacaro Jazz. Wanted to keep it a touch cheaper and their menu looked okay. Food … was there.

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Their version of a mussels au gratin. Not the greatest I will say. I forget what B did as his first course … lasagna, maybe?

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Main course of chicken milanese. This was good. I was happy with this.

Saturday, April 14:

Breakfast: well, our first “snack” was a pastry and a cappuccino at a small cafe near our hotel after some sunrise wanderings, but breakfast was actually just at our hotel. Less “Americanized” than in Milan, it was pastries, cold meats and cheeses, yogurt, and, thankfully for my protein-needing belly, hard-boiled eggs.
Snack: random stuff on our train ride, plus I saw donuts (donut cioccolato) in the train station. Had to buy one.

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Looks normal …

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… but oh wait, it’s not. It was … weird. Edible, but weird.

Lunch: a sandwich we bought at the same place we bought the donut that we split once getting into our hotel room in Florence. Also some gelato, because, duh. Went to a place called Perche Non (literally, why not). Had good reviews, upped it to two flavors – cioccolato along with my caffe. The chocolate was SO RICH OMG and it overpowered the coffee to the point that the coffee was almost flavorless. Don’t know if I would actually recommend them.
Dinner: the first of three eventual trips to Gusta Pizza (Gustapizza? might be one word …)

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Pizza margherita. I wish I could be eating this right now …

Sunday, April 15:

Breakfast: hotel. Not as wide of a variety as in Milan, but probably ultimately overall tastier. Scrambled eggs, strange bacon, pancakes (that I didn’t try), various pastries, meats and cheeses, yogurts …

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… and cappuccinos that I got designs in every morning. So tasty.

We also got a cappuccino while out wandering at the Corona Cafe, but I don’t want to consider a cup of coffee a “snack,” so I’ll just mention it here.

Lunch: random paninis we picked up at some cafe wandering around that we ate outside the Duomo.
Dinner/Dessert: a full three (well, four with dessert) course meal at La Sosta de’Golosi, a restaurant right down the street from the Duomo area. Super nice staff and really delicious food.

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Course one, that we split – prosciutto-wrapped melon. So tasty.

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Course two – mushroom papparadelle. I was quite happy with this, while B was happy with his … spaghetti bolognese I think …

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Course three – chicken parm for me, beef entrecote for B, and fries to split. I’m not sure how authentically Italian chicken parm is necessarily … but it was some of the best I’ve ever had.

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Course four – dessert. I got gelato affogatto (essentially ice cream and espresso) while B got some cake that the mom of one of our servers made and brought in. It was good but way too sweet; I’m glad we each got what we did.

Monday, April 16:

Breakfast: hotel noms.
Lunch: sandwiches at some tiny cafe right near the Leaning Tower in Pisa.

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The chicken, on the left, was really good. The ham and cheese, on the right, got a bit much.

“Snack”: quotations because it was cappuccino at Corona Cafe again.
Dinner: Il Bottegone, in the Duomo square. Mondays mean a lot of stuff closed in Florence, but if you want to eat, you can always count on the touristy areas. Even if it means you’ll pay a bit more.

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My turn for the beef entrecote. Pretty good. I do regret not trying actual Florentine bistecca, but, cost. We also split more prosciutto melon which was predictably delicious.

Dessert: gelato at Ristorante d’Orologio.

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This caffe gelato may have been quite tasty, but it was also SO EXPENSIVE. Our two gelato cones were damn near 14 euro, which is INSANE. Not worth it. AT ALL.

Tuesday, April 17:

Breakfast: hotel, as per usual.
Lunch: sandwich pizza from some cafe. No, really, that’s the best way I can describe it:

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While it looks weird (and was quite greasy), it was actually really good.

“Snack”: apparently we’re on an afternoon cappuccino kick, and this day’s infusion was provided by Caffe Mario near S. Croce church.
Dinner: more delicious Gusta pizza.

Wednesday, April 18:

Breakfast: hotel, because of course.
Lunch: at Il Borghetto, on the other side of the river. Cross the Ponte Vecchio and head up toward the Palazzo Pitti and you’ll find it.

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A touch dry, but otherwise not bad.

Snack: one final scoop of caffe gelato from Festival de Gelato. Maybe not as good as Ristorante d’Orologio, but definitely a lot f’ing cheaper.
Dinner: one final visit to Gusta. I miss you, delicious pizza.

Thursday, April 19:

Breakfast: one final hotel breakfast.

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Pictured: cheese danish thingies I ate at least two of every morning, B’s duck cappuccino, my name cappuccino. Not pictured: the pile of eggs I ate every morning.

Lunch: random sandwiches we bought from some place in the Florence train station that we ate on our train back to Milan.
Dinner: so there wasn’t much by our Holiday Inn Express, but the Crowne Plaza down the road had a restaurant, La Brughiera, so we ate there.

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Gnocchi that we split for a first course. This was to die for.

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Oh hey, more entrecote! With really terrible roasted potatoes.

Friday, April 20:

Breakfast: a hard-boiled egg that I grabbed from our hotel in the five minute window we had between breakfast opening and our hotel van as well as cappuccinos, mediocre sandwiches, and pastries from InAmore cafe across from our gate in MXP almost four hours later.

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We may have had two cappuccinos each … knowing that we’d miss them terribly when we got home. Which is 100% accurate.

Lunch: some chicken and risotto something or other we got back in coach on the airplane. That wasn’t actually all that bad, really.
Snack(s): Magnum bar on the flight, some turkey and cheese croissant thingy on the flight, a metric crapton of cucumber in the Delta Sky Club in JFK … Pringles on the flight home …

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Back of the bus plane snacks. Not quite as pretty as up front … but tbh I would have rather had this for breakfast as opposed to that frittata on the way out …

Dinner: Chick-fil-a of shame on the way home. Too tired to do/think of anything else, and only picked it up because we knew we needed to eat SOMETHING.