Saturday, May 29, 2010

Winning the Travel Game

I love love love to travel.

Nate and I both have traveled to some great places, and I hope we visit many great places together in the future. I loved visiting Europe and taking in all of the culture and experiences. Nate may have different travel goals than I do, but I think we can come to some agreements when it comes to future travel destinations.

I've accumulated a little list of places I think we could both enjoy....

1. Hawaii

* Nate has been there, and I want to go there. He liked it and would like to go again. Double whammy! We both win... what more could we ask for?

* I have never heard anyone say they didn't like Hawaii.

* I've always wanted to have someone ask me what I did in Hawaii, and then I
would answer most appropriately that "I got lei'd in Hawaii"! Do they even lei people there upon arrival at the airport anymore? (yes, I am a "grown up")

* Luau!! After watching Hawaiians prepare for a luau on the travel channel, I've really wanted to eat roasted pig and traditional Hawaiian foods! Yesssss please. Not to mention I'd love to learn to do the luau... and I made a grass skirt out of yarn once. (I was probably about 8 years old) I've always wanted to wear a coconut top with a grass skirt.

* The sheer beauty of the land, people, ocean, etc...

2. Vals, Switzerland

* I've been there and would love to share it with my husband.

* The thermal baths! Probably one of the most beautiful settings and relaxing experiences I have ever had in my life. (Besides one other place in Switzerland, Verzasca Valley, where I sat next to a river for hours just enjoying the clean air and rushing water sound!)

* You can't really tell from the first picture, but there's an outdoor pool at the thermal baths that has some breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. One
can't help but feel incredibly blessed to be sitting outside taking in the sun at a location like that.

* Being immersed in the perfect temperature of water in a cave-like setting. Just sounds interesting doesn't it?

* Not to mention that you have to take multiple trains to get to Vals... I love train rides! We would literally be in the middle of nowhere. No crazy distractions or crowded streets. Aaaahh. Are you relaxed yet?

And... last... but not least:

3. Dublin, Ireland

* Culture, history, and beer... oh my! Dublin would be a fantastic spot for two beer and history lovers. Guinness, Guinness!

* Pubs - we both like a chill environment and aren't much into fancy bars or clubs. Pubs are great for laid back beer drinkin' and hanging out!

* Castles! Not to mention the history alone would be amazing to experience, but I bet they have some great haunted castles too.

* Neither of us have been to Ireland, so we could both share the new experience together. Yay! Don't you feel all warm inside now? :)


So those are three places on my travel wish list that I think both of us would enjoy. We could probably add someplace tropical eventually. We would both love a secluded beach spot too. I'm thinking St. Lucia... or St. John... yeah. There are so many places to visit, and not enough time for all of it! Our travel needs just may change with time, but I think this is a pretty good start.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Escape to Estes Park

A couple of days ago, Nate and I visited Estes Park on an overnight trip. Nate had been there before, but it was my first time visiting the quaint town of Estes Park. A few times I felt like I was "home", because of the touristy nature of Estes Park. We passed multiple ice cream and candy shops. Not to mention, the town felt like an escape from the hustle and bustle of busy city (suburban) life. It was what I expected of a mountain town, and we would both love to return again soon.

Our time in Estes Park was a nice escape from our everyday lives. We spent some time walking the main street that runs through town, and we discovered an operating watermill in the river at the end of town. The running water masked what little bit of noise we heard, making the atmosphere rather peaceful. Beautiful! Multiple times on our walk through town we inhaled deep breathes of the freshest air we had breathed in a while. The town, all of the people walking the streets, the clean air, and the wildlife were all a breath of fresh air to us both.

While visiting Estes Park, we experienced some things we don't usually see back home. We spotted quite a few deer and elk while on a drive up to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. The entrance fee was a little more than we wanted to spend this trip, so we're hoping to visit again some other time and drive into the park when we have more time to explore. Not to mention, the weather was a bit "crisp". And by crisp, I mean it snowed while we were there. I don't consider snow to be the best hiking weather, and we didn't bring our snow shoes (we actually don't own any, but I wouldn't mind having some). Since we weren't exactly prepared for snow, we decided to visit the Stanley Hotel and stay inside for the day. The hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places, so we got our dose of history on our trip to Estes Park too.

Nate and I both loved our visit to the Stanley Hotel. On our drive into the parking lot at the hotel, we saw a group of people obviously on a tour of the property. We both decided, hands down, that we wanted to take the tour too. The earlier tours had filled by the time we got there, so we signed up for a tour about two hours later. We spent some time walking around on our own, and we also enjoyed a little time in the bar next to the lobby of the hotel. I obviously had to drink the "Redrum Punch" and Nate drank a "Shining-inspired" beer brewed by the Estes Park Brewery. The hotel, as we discovered during the tour, has a very rich and interesting history. Not only did the hotel inspire Stephen King to write his book, The Shining, but some scenes from the movie Dumb & Dumber were filmed there too. (If you're a D&D fan, you might recognize the staircase below as the one where Lloyd grabs Mary's ankle and trips her up while they raced up the stairs.) The tour of the Stanley Hotel proved very informative and exciting!

Most importantly, the Stanley Hotel is haunted. We learned quite a bit about the history and hauntings of the hotel on our tour, and we even had a few interesting things occur during the tour....
... more on that tomorrow.
All in all, our trip to Estes Park was everything I had imagined. Nate and I had a relaxing time, but enjoyed ourselves and had fun along the way.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Airport Love

I love airports! That probably sounds weird to most people, but I really love spending time in airports. I love the people watching opportunities, and I love trying to guess where everyone is going. Airports provide hours of entertainment, and those places are always changing and evolving. Fascinating!

Over the years, I've been known to book a flight solely based off of whether or not it included a layover somewhere I hadn't been yet. Layovers mean you may get to see a new place, even if it is just a snippet. It depends on how much of a hurry you're in, but give it a shot if you're not in a rush.

jet contrails over Denver International (DEN)

Many people find my enjoyment of the airport a little odd, but everyone loves a place that others find a little strange. (If you say that you love funeral homes, I'll be a little worried... but to each his own).

Most people don't enjoy being at the airport. They find it stressful and hectic. My advice would be to arrive extra early for your flight, because that really seems to reduce the stress of travel. Not to mention, you may even have time to grab a little food if you get there early enough!

If you're ever early for your flight at Denver International Airport,
grab yourself a delicious breakfast burrito from Mesa Verde in Concourse A.
You can thank me later!

regional airline tarmac at Denver International (DEN)

I can tell you plenty of airport codes from across the country. Call it strange if you must, but I'll embrace my quirky obsession with airports. You never know when you'll need to know that PLN is Pellston, Michigan's airport code or that GSO is Greenboro, North Carolina.

Detroit Metro (DTW) looking like a ghost town at 6am on a Christmas morning

One of my favorite pass-times at the airport is people watching. I've seen some very interesting things at the airport. Wild outfits, celebrities, carry-on animals, and odd human behavior. Flying used to be something that only the rich and glamorous could afford, but today many walks of life travel via airplane. Sometimes you see passengers dressed to the nines, and you also see people looking like they just rolled out of bed (which they might have if it's an early flight). I've observed people walking their tiny "carry-on" dogs through the concourse, and I've watched people walk their children on leashes throughout the hallways. I never understood the child leash thing. Just know that if you love people watching, the airport is a great place to look!

welcome to Las Vegas (LAS)

I enjoy having conversations with people at the airport. I've had numerous conversations with people I've met at airports. Their destinations often intrigue me, their stories of travel interest me, and I almost always have to learn a little about them and their lives. The hustle and bustle of an airport is something that will never bore me! You never know who you might pass by while traveling through an airport.

watching planes takeoff & land from our hotel room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas

The dynamics of the airport amaze me every time! It overwhelms me just thinking about everything that must happen in order to make the whole thing run smoothly. So many things happen simultaneously, and not always visibly, just for daily operation.

As an airline passenger you've probably experienced delays, and usually there is nothing you can do about it. Being at the mercy of the airlines and mother nature often makes travelers weary. All you can do is show up and go with the flow. If you're not a "go with the flow" kind of person, then flying can wear you out if you let it. Instead, I suggest taking a second to enjoy the little things that make the airport such a fascinating place. It doesn't have to be a stressful experience. I always recommend taking some time to take a look around you.

Safe Travels!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Many Shoes Full of Sand Later

Last summer I flew to Alamosa, Colorado with Nate on one of his overnight trips for work. Why would I want to spend a night in Alamosa, Colorado, you ask. Well, because I could visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park of course! I had seen a few pictures online of others who had visited the park, and I was pretty excited to see this stream (pictured above) that runs through the dunes. On arrival, I was disappointed to find that the stream had dried up for the summer. You could locate water by digging a hole about 3 feet deep though. Hurray. Next time we'll have to visit in spring when the stream is in full force. We still enjoyed our time at the dunes, stream or no stream! Alamosa is also home to the San Luis Valley Brewing Company (more on that later). Even though Nate had to work, we enjoyed our free time in Alamosa!

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is located a short distance by car from Alamosa, so we rented a car while in town to get us to the dunes. The wide open views create great anticipation for what is to come. I kept asking, "Where the heck are the dunes? You can't see them." Needless to say, I was impatient and ready to climb! The sand dunes finally came into view, and I was surprised to see this little brown patch of sand tucked up against these gigantic mountains, which seemed to dwarf the size of the dunes, but do not be deceived! They are much larger and expansive than you can fathom. We later realized what we could not tell from the car ride to the park.

Upon arrival at the dunes, we read a few of the signs to inform visitors of the natural habitat and what to expect while climbing the dunes. I don't remember how long they estimated it would take a climber to reach the highest sand dune, but I do know that Nate and I shattered that average time with our incredible speed and willpower to reach the top. (Actually it was my crazy idea and drive to go all the way to the top, and by the time we were halfway there Nate realized that I really was crazy and not joking. But I convinced him to climb to the top with me, and I think he forgave me once we were there.) Our round trip time was about 3/4 climbing and 1/4 sprinting down the dunes as fast as possible. It was.... awesome! Nate's co-pilot, Ben, came along on the trip to the dunes, but was ill-prepared in flip flops. Warning: Do not attempt to climb the dunes in flip flops! Your feet will be burned to a crisp, because the temperature of the sand reaches temperatures close to that of the surface of the sun. (joking... I have no idea of the actual temps. Just that it is hot!) I think the park rangers recommend hiking boots, but Nate and I wore sneakers and those worked alright, minus the shoe fulls of sand we had to empty every 20 minutes or so. The signs in the parking lot did not warn against that. Oh well, it was just a sign.

Something that really took me by surprise, while climbing, was the wind. No, not that there was wind, but the quiet that the gusting wind created. We could not hear any sounds other than each other and the wind. It blew me away (no pun intended) how powerful the wind was and to realize that the wind was shaping the dunes around us as we climbed. The next time we visit, the wind will have re-shaped the dunes into something new. Pretty amazing if you ask me.

I was determined, once laying eyes on the sand dunes from the parking lot, to reach the highest dune in sight. The achievement alone was a prize, and who knew what else we would find at the top. At this point, can I remind everyone how difficult it is to walk/run on sand? If you have ever run on a beach you know what I mean. Now imagine walking uphill in sand. Ah yes. It felt like maybe we were walking backwards on an upward moving escalator. I just told Nate we had to keep climbing if we ever wanted to reach the top. We could do it! All the while, the wind pelted our legs with what felt like tiny pieces of glass. Just when we thought we had the highest dune in sight, we would reach it to find a higher one. They surely didn't seem that far away from the parking lot. Oh well. We climbed and climbed... and climbed... and climbed... all the while emptying our shoes what seemed at least 100 times. It got to the point where it felt like the wind was pushing us downhill and it was working against our climbing, but let me tell you it made our downhill sprint that much faster! (so worth it if you ask me) Nate and I ended up holding hands and basically pushing/pulling each other up the highest dunes. At this point, Ben was just a speck in the distance. I knew we needed some motivation. So I reminded Nate that we were going to the San Luis Valley Brewing Co. afterwards, and that we would deserve the "ice cold beer" that much more after this. On our final ascent, we were chanting "Ice cold beer! Ice cold beer!" In no time, we finally realized we had reached the top of the highest dune, and boy was that amazing! The sand pelted us from the West, the wind noise was deafening, and we were shocked to see infinite sand dunes in the distance. Even though we found that we only "conquered" a small piece of the dunes, we were still pretty happy with reaching our goal. Not to mention, the view was incredible! I knew the climb would be worth it all along.

Don't get me wrong, the climb was... fun... and everything, but the descent was exhilarating! Like I mentioned previously, it took us about 1/4 of the time to reach the bottom than it did to climb to the top. An obvious reward of the tough climb, happened to be the run/dance down the dunes. I'll blame my awkwardness on tired legs. My upper body moved much faster than my legs, and I almost toppled over while attempting to run down the dunes. Nate's long legs carried him with ease. On numerous times I laughed so hard I almost wet myself. (And we were a long way from any restroom) I was actually laughing at Nate, who was laughing at me and my awkwardness. We have the pictures to prove it, but I'm not going to show any pictures of me running down the dunes. Nate told me I ran like a girl, and I retaliated by telling him I am a girl. Good one, Nate. After all of the fun and games, we were back where we started. But with a much greater appreciation and respect for the towering dunes behind us.

While driving away from the park, Ben said he was laughing at us running down the dunes. At least we could provide him with some entertainment for the day. We came across a herd of deer while leaving, and I'd have to say it was an amazingly beautiful way to end our time at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. I'll bet the deer aren't crazy enough to attempt climbing the dunes, and their bare feet probably just sink in the sand anyway. They seemed pretty content to just graze the grounds. I couldn't help but notice how the grassy area blended right into the dunes. It made me wonder where on earth all of that sand came from? I guess I have some research to do now.

Nate, Ben, and I enjoyed our handsome reward at the San Luis Valley Brewing Company in Alamosa. The guys just had a pint or two, since they had to fly the next day. I, of course, had to try a little of everything and went with the sampler!

All in all, I would say we had a rather successful trip. The Great Sand Dunes were more than I expected, even though the stream was dried up for the summer. Guess we'll have to visit in spring. Although I'm not sure how easy it is to cross the stream and then replace your shoes onto wet/sandy feet. Could be a new challenge, and I think we could do it.

The peace and quiet, while climbing the dunes, was unbelievable. It was a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of Denver. We accomplished our goal of reaching the highest dune to find that the dunes were much larger than we ever thought. When it comes to the creation of sand dunes, never underestimate the power of wind. On the flight out of Alamosa, we flew by the sand dunes. I laughed at how small they looked from the air.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Personal Library

If you know anything about me, you may know that I love being surrounded by books and reading them too. We have a mini library forming in our apartment hallway, and as you can see there is not even one inch of shelf space available for more books.

After looking at this picture, I realized that when we move we'll have to pack up and lug all of these books to a new location. Yikes! Maybe I should lay off of the book purchasing for a while. It is a goal of mine to have a "library" space in a future house. This may not come for a while, because we aren't even really thinking about buying a house yet. But when we do have a house and some extra space, I really really really (did I mention really) want a room or designated area for books and reading! Actually, there will probably be many shelves and places for storing books around our hypothetical house, but I'd still love a library-type room. I've seen some really great ideas for libraries and reading nooks, and I'm storing up great ideas as I type. For now, we'll have to make do with our tiny apartment library.

I visited the St. Gallen Abbey Library (pictured below) in Switzerland about 4 years ago. And let me tell you, it was like I had died and gone to book heaven!

The St. Gallen library may not be ideal for a personal library, but the reading nook shown below might be. I found the picture of this cute little reading nook while browsing google images, and I would love to have a spot like this in a future house! What a smart and multi functional space. It wouldn't take too much room in a house, and it has a spot for keeping books and reading... score!

As for books, I'm currently reading "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson. He's one of my favorite authors, and I'm working on convincing Nate to read it when I'm done. The book is laugh out loud funny. I'm not kidding. I was stifling laughs on the airplane ride back to Denver this past weekend. A little embarrassing, but worse things could have happened. I also really like Nicholas Sparks' books too. (There's really no chance to convince Nate to read those!) They're always a comfort read, and I am usually pleased after reading his books. As for my favorite type of book to read, I'm not really sure. I like a little bit of everything, and that's sort of like my taste in music too. Anyone have recommendations of great books they have read? I am open for suggestions.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

No Snow Please

So Nate and I are headed back to Michigan for a wedding! A high school friend of mine is getting married. Can't wait! I am hoping the weather there will be better than of the picture below. (It was taken in Petoskey, MI in January of 2009) It will just be wrong if it snows that much in Michigan in May. Plus there's a wedding.... so, no snow please!

I did hear the weather may be a bit of a wintry mix on Saturday, and I am really not thrilled about that. Not only because there's a wedding, but because I swear this is the crappiest spring I've had since moving to Colorado. My friends and family back in Michigan have been "bragging" about how great this spring has been; it's been sunny and warm all spring. And I may not get to experience one of the best springs in Michigan history?! No fair. It's almost like we've swapped weather, because it's usually not so crappy (cloudy, snowy, windy) in Colorado during spring. I'm going to cross my fingers that it will be 60's and higher in Michigan and that it doesn't snow! Will post some Michigan trip updates later. Have a great week.