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 2018 and 2019

2018 was an interesting year.

My first inclination was to call it a good year, filled with a lot of travel (which it was), but it also had some hiccups.

I tracked my travel – Minnesota, Tucson, California (Disney), LA, Costa Rica, Scottsdale, LA, Italy, Montrose, LA/Las Vegas, Sterling, Vegas/LA, Rifle, Tucson, Minnesota, Tucson, S. Colo/Las Vegas, Telluride, Bloomington, Belfast, St. George/Vegas. I met Shinedown. I did a lot more hiking. I saw friends each month. I tried new recipes and restaurants.

I also gained more weight, and had an existential triathlon crisis, having my lightest racing season in a decade.

The goals that I stated here, I mostly accomplished.

The main one, live with purpose, I feel like I was pretty good at. If you count it by my comment of less mindless scrolling of the interwebs … well … that got worse as the year went on.

I did continue to chase the sun, getting some stellar sunrises and finally catching a good sunset in Tucson.

I successfully visited all 41 (43?) state parks, gaining a wonderful new perspective on the state and life in general. (and yes I still need to blog about that)

I’m not entirely sure I got more organized … or had more grace … but I don’t think I was entirely deficient, either.

I did create a bit more, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. You saw the evidence of the few fiction pieces I did here, and I kind of did Inktober this year (though all those doodles were pretty crappy and I didn’t share them for a reason).

So what for 2019?

Travel will happen (and already has – started off the year in Las Vegas), but a little less as I’m training for another IRONMAN. It doesn’t mean that I can’t travel a lot prior to September, but it does mean that my travel will be limited.

I still have my create and write monthly goals, but I also added in the goals of actually doing a larger painting and finishing the purse I started a few years ago.

In general, though, I like the purposeful life goal. I’ve been setting daily intentions since late July and I like living with intent. I think I’ll keep with that.

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.

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.

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 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.