Parlez-vous anglais?

I returned last night from a fun weekend in Vegas– details to come in an upcoming update post– and am already counting down to my next trip, which is in a couple of weeks, to Montreal and Quebec City.

Megan and I will be spending a few days in the province of Quebec, and I am so excited for everything that we have planned. I’ve been to other parts of Canada before, but I’ve heard that both of these cities have a lot of charm and fun things to see, and they’re supposed to have a very European feel to them.

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from Pinterest via flickr

I’m hoping to have time to buy a guidebook this week (I still prefer them to any smartphone app or website) and have been pinning pretty sights on Pinterest for a few weeks now. You can see my board by clicking here. I’m imagining there will be a lot of exploring with frequent stops at outdoor cafes, as a lot of the pictures I’ve seen show colorful umbrellas and happy people eating and drinking beneath them. Sounds great to me!

If you have any recommendations or helpful links, please share!

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Iceland: En Route and Day 1

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Everything about our departure was very easy. That’s one of the nice things about a medium-sized airport like Denver. There isn’t an international terminal or anything crazy that you have to do, so we were through security in about 10 minutes and waiting at our gate. I was surprised that Icelandair doesn’t offer complimentary meals; I’ve never been on an international flight that doesn’t. The flight was about 7 hours and went by extremely quickly. They had a lot of good entertainment options on the TV’s, so I was able to watch a couple of things and then tried to nap for maybe an hour. Like most people, I hate airline seats, so I didn’t get any actual sleep.

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Arriving at the airport was very exciting. I always love checking out all of the other destinations at airports that are big on connections to see where people are going. When we arrived at 6:30am we saw flights departing for Sweden and London Gatwick. We had no issues with our bags or immigration or customs, and were walking outside to meet our transfer at about 6:50am. Someone (me) forgot to print out our itinerary, and it was emailed a few months ago so I couldn’t find it in my inbox. Both Kristin and I thought there would be someone waiting for us with one of those little signs. We walked through the group of probably 20 drivers holding signs, and didn’t see one for us. It was one of those not trying to feel rejected moments, where we didn’t make it obvious we were looking for the signs in fear that there wouldn’t be one for us. And, of course, there wasn’t.

Luckily the airport had free wifi, so I was able to get on my email and see that we had to go to a ticket window to get vouchers for the coach bus that would take us into town. Major sigh. It all worked out.

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About an hour after getting on the bus, we arrived at our hotel. We paid 30 Euro to check-in then, at about 8am, and the rate included breakfast for each of us. We decided a quick nap before our city tour would be a good idea, and it really was.

 When we later made friends who were also traveling on the Groupon, we found out how lucky we were to be assigned to this particular hotel. It is right in the middle of Reykjavik and we were able to walk everywhere. Most of the other Denver Grouponers were at a hotel outside of the city center, and though they were provided with a bus pass, it still wasn’t as convenient as where we stayed. The picture of the exterior of our hotel was actually taken on our last night, but that is what it looks like. You can also see the beautiful view from our hotel room above.

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Stop one on the city tour was Bessastaoir. This is a compound visible from much of the city, but isolated to get to. We were very surprised to learn that this is the vacation home for the Iceland’s presidents, and since the flag was up, he and his family were in residence. We were able to walk around most of the compound, and even right up to the front door.

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We also saw a few of the neighboring port cities where high-tech fancy condos are placed next to fish refineries. Supposedly these are very hip areas to live.

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Our next stop was the Perlan, a cool circular building that is tourist attraction as well an event center. Our guide told us that it’s a very popular place to ring in the New Year, and we could see why.

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After driving around the Laugardalur sports and recreation area which has one of the cities most popular geothermal pools, we visited the Hofoi house, where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev had a summit in 1986. From the way the guide talked, it seems like this is a very proud part of Iceland’s history, having two leaders meet here during the Cold War.

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The final stop on the city tour was at the Hallgrimskirkja church and the old town center where the Iceland parliament and town hall are located. The church was a very unique design and we enjoyed walking around the grounds.

After returning to the hotel, we went for an early dinner and then relaxed in the hotel room and went to bed early to catch up on sleep.

Struggle City

Happy Monday! Is getting back from vacation not the worst thing ever? I have been feeling completely out of it since returning on Thursday. Lots of eating, lots of resting, mixed with events that require alcohol has me feeling sluggish and unmotivated. I think the fact that I drank soda with abandon from the moment we took off until returning also played into it, since I haven’t had any soda since January. I went to the gym on Saturday and forced myself to do a good bit of cardio, but napped yesterday instead of going. After work I’m off to do some cardio and a Pilates class. Hopefully that will help me feel back on track. Might also be a cereal for dinner kind of night.

Enough with the complaining, the Iceland trip was amazing! Kristin and I are very good travel companions so we saw everything we wanted to see and did everything we wanted to do, with one exception. I’m going to start working on the Iceland posts and will probably do one for each day, so there will be more details to come.

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Day one, looking slightly delirious and crazy after having been up for 36 hours

Up Next

After taking an unplanned hiatus from travel during the early months of 2014, I will be embarking on my next adventure in less than a month. Kristin and I are off on another trip, but this time it’s not a roadtrip. We’re off to:

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Iceland!

I blogged about wanting to go there back in 2010, and right after Christmas it became a reality! Denver recently got a direct flight to Keflavik on Icelandair, and as a result I came across a Groupon deal for a flight, 3 nights hotel, and 3 tours for a very reasonable price.  It seemed too good to pass up, and luckily Kristin agreed with me. The weather will be very cold when we go in April, but there is still a chance we may be able to see the Northern Lights. The more people I talk to about Iceland, the more excited I get. Every person who has been raves about it, in particular a very well-traveled couple I know who did a 2-week Scandinavian cruise stopping in almost every port city in the Finland, Norway, Sweden, etc. They said Reykjavik was their favorite, hands down. If you have any recommendations or information about the island, please share!

images via visitreykjavik.is, goiceland.is, biskvitka.net

Canceled

Flight cancelations happen all of the time, but somehow I have been fortunate enough to have never been affected, at least that I can remember. A few weekends ago I was supposed to be on the East Coast, visiting Washington D.C for one night and then heading up to Baltimore for Friday night and Saturday and Sunday.

I arrived at the airport for my 7am flight, and discovered that my flight was canceled. Through the process of figuring out the next step and consequently having to cancel the trip, I learned a very important lesson.

Don’t be the obnoxious, screaming person, but don’t be the easy going, too understanding person either.

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While I was waiting in the 20-plus person line to learn about my options and hopefully rebook, I was surrounded by people of all different levels of upset. After one of the ticket agents made an announcement that the next available seats were for Saturday, two days later, there was the guy who screamed “f*** you, I’m finding a different airline” and jumped the line rope and ran off. There was the guy in front of me who was going to miss his sister’s wedding and was brainstorming all kinds of rental car and train options with his girlfriend. The couple behind me was due in the Caribbean for their honeymoon and would lose out on a $700/night suite. And then there was me. I was very frustrated and disappointed, but by the time it was my turn at the counter, I’d gotten a big dose of perspective from the predicaments of my fellow travelers.

I of course wanted to see my friends in DC and my family in Baltimore, and this is a very important time of year for us, but I wasn’t missing a once in a lifetime event like a wedding, I wasn’t going to lose a huge amount of money on the hotel and I thought about how many times I’ve traveled with few or no issues. So when it was my turn, I was calm and nice to the ticket agent (like an adult should be) and listened as she once again confirmed that the earliest I could get to my destination would be Saturday afternoon. I was due to return to Denver almost exactly 24 hours later.

She then proceeded to say that the weather was supposed to stay bad and that there is a huge backlog of passengers so it was uncertain how the rest of the weekend would play out for traveling– implying that I might have some issues returning home on Sunday. Logically of course, going for 24 hours didn’t make sense. But I do wonder whether being a little bit more visibly angry or clearly frustrated would have helped my case in some way. Here’s hoping I’ll never have to try it out, but I’d love to hear the experiences of others and dealing with extreme delays and cancelations. Has keeping your cool helped you get to your destination, or did making your frustrations known get you better options?

Let’s Take it Way, Way Back

Going through my drafts, I came across this post, about my trip to NYC… last April. Lest all the formatting and uploading go to waste, here, nearly a year later and with another trip to the city in between, are the details.

This was my first New York City trip as an adult. I’ve been numerous times, but all when I was younger. I’m actually pretty ashamed to admit my last trip was the summer before my junior year… of high school!

So, this was way overdue. As someone who enjoys time exploring on my own, I didn’t mind having Thursday and Friday to my self while everyone was working.

I spent time in places I’d never been before:

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Washington Square Park

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Rolf’s german restaurant, which is supposed to be amazing at Christmas

Tried some delicious new food:

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‘Smac. I’d be 200 lbs if I lived in the East Village near this place

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Unfortunately walked right by Magnolia, but really enjoyed Crumbs

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Brunching is big everywhere, but the group I was with took it to the extreme. Appetizers, coffees, mimosas, main dishes and dessert. I seriously don’t know how people afford this every weekend.

Experienced NYC day drinking… with a view of the Brooklyn bridge:

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Which led to me taking pictures like this:

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And, at a biergarten on Sunday before heading home, witnessed a real fire break out:

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What’s not to love about this amazing city?

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Palm Springs

The day after Thanksgiving I flew to L.A. to meet up with Megan and enjoy a little bit of sun in Palm Springs. Neither of us had been there before and were very excited to check it out. We had beautiful weather, low 80’s all three days, and mostly spent time relaxing by the pool and exploring the food scene.

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View from our room at the Saguaro

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I was very impressed with the Saguaro and would definitely stay there again

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We were in the orange and lime green room, and I was surprised to see my bikini matched the bathroom door

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Ready for night number one on the town, where we tried champagne from a can

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Fun day in the sun

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Pretty colors that can’t even be ruined by a recycling bin

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Night two, aka the night I learned how awkward sitting pics can be

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Crazy, impromptu night out back in Downtown LA. We stayed out karaoke-ing until 2am. It was awesome.

Texas Ranching

Over Labor Day weekend (yes, about 5 months ago) I took a trip to Dallas with a few friends. We spent the majority of the time out on a ranch, which was perfect for my mood that weekend.

There ended up being 13 of us hanging out at the ranch, and it was a non-stop weekend of fishing, ATVing, shooting, monster trucking, drinking games and watching college football. Aka it was a perfect escape from the grind and drama that has been occupying my Denver life, particularly at work.

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Looking back at the pics has me hoping we’ll make another trip down there soon, it was such a great time. And yes, that last picture is me shooting an AK 47. Highly recommend.

The Games

The main reason we decided to take our New York trip when we did was that my cousin’s basketball team had non-conference games scheduled upstate, which seemed like a really cool coincidence. It probably won’t happen again, so I knew that my mom and I needed to take advantage of the opportunity. They won both games, against Binghamton and Cornell, which means they’re 2-0 when I’m in attendance. Hope they will win their game when I visit Baltimore next month and I can officially call myself a good luck charm.

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We didn’t get to explore the Binghamton campus very much, but it looks like its a pretty sizeable school. We had a great dinner in a cool area by the river at the Lost Dog Café. It was great how many family members and friends made the trek from all around New York to come to the games as well.

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Ithaca was freezing and dreary when we were there. It’s a bit of a trek to get to because it isn’t near any of the main highways that run through the area.  When we first arrived we had a great lunch at a place downtown but I can’t remember the name.

Empire State: The Catskills

For the second part of our New York visit, my mom and I spent 4 days in the Catskills region, where her hometown is located. We have many family and friends still in the area, so there were lots of people to see, and I always love hearing stories about her childhood and seeing where they took place.

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View from our family friends’ home, where we stayed.

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Visiting the site of my grandpa’s house, my mother’s childhood home, which was destroyed in a flood in 2007

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Downtown Roscoe, where my cousins and I spent hours riding our bikes and golf cart

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Spent some time at the lake house and Clear Lake, a staple in all of my Roscoe summer trips

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Saw some of the local landmarks on our long drives around the area

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As long as I’ve been going to visit Roscoe, the town has been in a pretty constant state after experiencing it’s bust in the middle of the 20th century. While there are many business that have been around for years, there are two spaces where restaurants go in and out, and a few vacant storefronts downtown. Of course, the recession hit this small town even harder than most places, so I was happy to see that two new business have cropped up, Roscoe Beer Co. and Prohibition Distillery.

It’s always great to go back to a place where you have really fond memories and hope to spend more time in the future. I still need to share details from the games, but I figured this part of the trip deserved it’s own post.