Category Archives: places

city of lights, part three: bike tour

I have a confession to make.

I’m obsessed with bike tours.

Think about it: the wind in your hair, a knowledgeable (and in this case, Scottish!) guide, pain-free feet…  In my humble opinion, bike tours are the very best way to see and experience a new city, big or small.

Case and point: the Fat Tire Bike Tours Monet’s Gardens Tour.

Giverny (via Vernon) is a short 45 minute train ride from Paris’ Gare St. Lazare, and my oh my is it WORTH THE TRIP.  Sitting here on my couch in Dallas, I’m at a loss for words to describe the beauty and the… purity and the “fraîcheur” of the French countryside.

After a picnic “à la française” (consisting, of course, of bread, cheese, pastry, and cider), we hopped on our bikes and, led by our fearless leader, Dave, headed for Monet’s estate at Giverny.

Giverny is… paradise.  If I could describe my dream home, it would look (and smell!) a lot like the estate Monet designed for himself.  It’s colorful, it’s inspiring… it’s truly unlike any other place I’ve visited.  We started our tour in the waterlily garden, where Monet painted hundreds of his iconic “Nymphaes.”  I could almost feel his presence there–it’s so easy to see why he was awestruck by the wild beauty of the water, the vines, and the flowers.

I was thrilled to have a chance to walk through the pastel-colored interiors of Monet’s home and see what he saw through his bedroom window–a painting in and of itself.  Drop dead beautiful, seriously.

So without further ado (and because I’m realizing that my words are inadequate to describe this wonderful place), here are a few of the many, many photos I took in Giverny:

the famous water lily garden

Giverny?  Definitely worth the trip.  Fat Tire Bike Tours?  Awesome.  Truly a wonderful day, y’all.  Wonderful.

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city of lights, part two: la porte

Parisians love beauty.

From their heads to their toes… to their doorknobs.

One day, my front door will look just like this one.

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my new favorite (american) city

No, I’m not kidding.

Colorado Springs is my new favorite city in America.  The mountains are majestic, the weather (in the spring) is perfect, and well…  I didn’t want to come back home after spending three days there.

We spent a majority of our time at the Olympic Training Center.  My brother (the rockstar) qualified for the Junior Olympics in air rifle (yes, it’s an Olympic sport.  Really.), so my family and I trucked (or in my case, flew) up to Colorado to cheer him on.  The OTC is, for lack of a better word, inspiring.  I can easily see why a young athlete would want to live there.  Heck, I want to live there!  World class facilities, the Colorado mountains, and oh yes, an unlimited supply of food in the athletes’ cafeteria.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

But lest you think we spent all of our time stalking Olympic athletes and drooling over giant plates of food (only athletes are allowed to eat in the cafeteria anyway.  Tyranny, if you ask me.), there’s much more to see and do in “Springs” than play the “guess the country flag” game.

While Matthew fraternized with athletes from around the country, my parents and I went to Garden of the Gods and drove the winding road to the summit of Pikes Peak.  Literally jaw-droppingly beautiful.  I haven’t spent much time around mountains, but I’ll tell you this: it would not hurt my feelings to live where the air is a bit thinner.

See?  Told you it was amazing.

Sadly, I don’t have much to report in the way of delicious restaurants.  That is THE one aspect in which Colorado Springs was… well… less than exciting.  I was expecting local eateries, Trader Joe’s, you know…  Austin-y things.  And “Springs” didn’t deliver, unfortunately.  But I guess the mountains make up for all of that.  Or at least I’ll keep telling myself that.

After spending three days in Colorado, I told my brother that he needs to kick himself in to high gear so he can become a “resident athlete” at the Olympic Training Center.  So that I can visit.  And also so he can be successful.  But really so that I can visit.

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i’m going baaaaaaack!

… to Paris, that is!

In spring 2010, I spent four months living in Paris, studying French and having the time of my life.  (Check out

Since May 14, 2010, I’ve been counting down the seconds until my next opportunity to jump across the Atlantic and revisit the City of Lights.  And now, thanks to discounted travel privileges and six days of precious vacation time, I finally have my chance.  In 22 days.  And man oh man, I am PUMPED.

So please excuse me if, for the foreseeable future, you hear a lot about Paris.  Excuse me?  Yes.  Sorry?  No.

À bientôt, mon coeur.  À bientôt.

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do you know the way to santa fe?

“You know…  Tumbleweeds, prairie dogs…  Yeahhhhh.”  (Rent?  The musical?  Anyone?  No?  Ok.  On we go.)

A few weeks ago, my parents and I planned a quick weekend trip to Santa Fe (by way of Albuquerque) to celebrate my dad’s big 5-0.  My parents reminded me that I had, in fact, been to Santa Fe once before, but since that was more than 20 years ago, I’m going to go ahead and call this my first visit to the land of chiles and adobe.

Now first of all, I have to brag a little bit about the weather during our trip–we LUCKED out.  The sky was beautiful and blue all weekend, and even though it was admittedly a bit cold and very blustery, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.  Traveling is much more fun when the sun is out, don’t you agree?

In the interest of avoiding boring you to tears, I’ll spare you the play-by-play of our trip and just share some of my highlights instead.  Less writing for me, more pictures and less reading for you–sounds like a bargain.

Taking the tram to the tippy top of Sandia Peak was easily my favorite part of our trip.  New Mexico is beautiful, and it was worth an admittedly harrowing tram ride to get such a great vantage point.

Tecolote cafe: “great breakfast, no toast.”  Ok, I’ll admit: I found this little gem after googling “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”  Not one of my favorite shows, but WOW this place was amazing.  No toast, you say?  No, because there was a basket full of fresh pastry goodies instead.  Oh yes.  So good.

Ok, so this is kind of a lackluster collection of pictures.  I know.  So shoot me.  I’ll work on it, I promise.  But you can rest assured that there were more than two highlights of this trip, including…

  • The Buffalo Thunder casino, north of the city.  Just as ridiculous as it sounds, and we had a great time.
  • Stuffed Sopapillas at Tia Sophia’s in the Santa Fe square.  Seriously.  Don’t even look at the rest of the menu.
  • Jewelry vendors in the square on Saturday morning.
  • A wine tasting at Casa Rodena (good experience, not-so-great wine.  Consider yourself warned.)

But my favorite thing about the city?  THE COLORS.  I can’t even describe the vibrancy–every building, inside and out, was littered with stunning designs in beautiful yellow, green, red, and blue hues.  Pictures don’t do it justice, so you’ll have to check it out for yourself…  Just an hour and a half’s jaunt from the Albuquerque Sunport.

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hey, wanna go to denver today?

10:00 am – Hey, wanna go to Denver today around 2?

10:05 am – Sure, why not?

And so began a whirlwind, less than 24-hour long trip to the Mile High City.  I had never been to Denver before, and neither had my fearless travel buddy, but after looking up the weather forecast for Saturday (high of 42!), we packed our fleece jackets and headed north.

After two short flights (DAL to TUL to DEN), we stepped off the plane and in to downright chilly weather.  Which, after a summer packed with triple-digit days, was nothing short of amazing.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see my breath.  Ever.

I wish I had tons of tourist tips to share with you, but since I spent a total of about 4 hours in the city, I only have a few suggestions:

  • The 16th Street Mall is adorable.  It’s a pedestrian walkway lined with restaurants, quirky memorabilia stores, and even a Southwest Airlines porch.  Pedi-cabs transport tired tourists from one end of the strip to the other.  (And trust me…  If you’re not used to altitude and you’re as out of shape as I currently am, those pedi-cabs will look VERY tempting after about a mile of walking.)
  • We had dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery.   It had great ambiance, pretty reasonable prices, and, as you’d expect from a brewery, delicious beer.  Try the jalapeno cheese dip.
  • Go to the Rockies.  Seriously.  They taunted us the entire time we were in the city because we didn’t have enough time to trek out there.  Rest assured that next time I travel to Denver, my first stop will be the mountains.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

I absolutely loved Denver.  The weather was beautiful, the mountains are RIGHT THERE, and walking through the city feels a bit like walking through a storybook.   I can’t wait to go back soon and spend more time there.  Now if only I knew how to ski…

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