Adventures in Colorado

I was able to travel to another state once again thanks to my job — this time heading out West to Colorado. It was a vacation that had a lot more physical activity than what I’m normally used to, but it was totally worth it getting to take in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. On top of that, this trip was full of a lot of firsts for me: first time staying at a historic, five-star hotel — oh, I mean five-diamond hotel as I was constantly corrected on — first time seeing the red rocks of the West at Garden of the Gods and first time being at any altitude above 500 ft. (Side Note: The altitude at Pikes Peak completely kicked my ass, but I’ll consider it training for Peru elevations). There were a lot more things I would’ve liked to have seen (i.e. the UFO Watchtower and visits to ‘ghost towns,’ but that just means I’m headed out to Colorado again some time in the future.


Land of Fire and Ice

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It seems a little far-fetched to compare any place on Earth to outer space, but that’s exactly how someone described Iceland to me. Driving through roads of barren, steaming black soil, kaleidoscope-colored rock formations and enormous mountains will really give you the sense that the exaggeration is completely spot on. And maybe this is another point of exaggeration, but my seven-day roadtrip through Iceland and the Ring Road has to rank up there with one of the coolest things I’ve done in my 25-years of life:

Day One: My boyfriend Cesar and I landed in Iceland on a day of what I considered unpredictable weather: rain, sleet, snow, hail, sun and winds that shook our rental car… all within an hour. I quickly learned that fast-changing weather is actually the norm here, so I’d better have a plan A, B and maybe even a Plan C in case a snowstorm decides to show up on a day that was supposed to be sunny.

Cesar and I (along with our friend Andy) attempted to drive north to see Hvítserkur, but a heavy snowstorm passed through and we ended up getting stuck at a rest stop for a couple hours. Like many islands, there’s only one main road in Iceland, so once there’s an accident (or in our case a couple of accidents), it holds up traffic everywhere. When conditions cleared up, we drove up an icy, long and winding road through the mountains to find Kirkjufell

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Day Two: I walked down the stairs of our hostel to read a sign that said, “Snow storm expected in south Iceland on 12 March. Be cautious of hurricane winds up to 50 mph,” and instantly felt anxious. Despite the warning, I headed out to Reykjavik, and even ended up floating around the Blue Lagoon in the middle of a snow storm because there was no way they’d be giving me back a refund.

Day Three: The waterfalls Haifoss and Gjain were on the to-see list for the third day, but as I mentioned before, Iceland’s weather really had the final say on what we could see on our daily itinerary. As the blog Unlocking Kiki notes, visiting Gjain in the summer is difficult — even with a 4WD car. On a March day, it was practically impossible and extremely unsafe to try and drive over ice and through a couple feet of snow. We had to settle on only seeing Haifoss and Seljalandsfoss for the day.

By this day, I really began to realize just how gorgeous the Icelandic countryside is. One of my most favorite visual memories of Iceland is seeing Icelandic horses looking so free and regal just galloping around the mountains and hillsides. There is a reason why you see so many great photos of Icelandic horses and it’s because they walk right on up to you and pose! This guy with the perfect emo bang came right up to us during a pit stop on our way to Vík.

Processed with VSCOcam with s3 presetDay Four:  About two hours after we visited the famous Sólheimasandur plane wreck, the owners of the land where the abandoned plane is located decided to shut off access to the site. Apparently you can still visit as long as you are willing to park offsite and walk a couple miles, which I probably would have huffed and puffed about (literally and figuratively), so I’m glad I made it on time. That being said, I’m grateful I didn’t get out of climbing up Skogafoss waterfall because the view was amazing.

While shooting b roll at DyrholaeyCesar’s Canon 5D Mark II took a dip in the ocean when an enormous wave came out of nowhere and knocked him over. You can actually watch the video of it happening over on his Instagram, where you’ll hear me running for my life in the background. We found out his camera was unrecoverable, so that definitely put a damper on the day for all of us.

Day Five:  Our fifth day in Iceland was all about visiting the places the Beibs hit up in his “I’ll Show You” music video, such as Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon (though we were smart enough to not roll down any mossy hills or swim freezing waters like he did.) The three of us also ventured out to Black Sand Beach to see Reynisdrangar, which are basalt sea stacks located under the Reynisfjall mountain. Legend has it three trolls attempted to pull a ship to shore, but when dawn broke, the early morning sunlight turned them into needles of rock.

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Day Six: On this day, I felt very Nat Geo-esque visiting the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon  and catching some seals pushing seagulls off the glaciers, but most importantly… We saw the Northern Lights! It took a couple of hours of sitting outside in the freezing cold and pitch darkness at Jökulsárlón, but it happened! At first glance, the lights just looked like wispy smoke floating through the air, but with every minute that passed, the green became more and more visible. I always thought the phrase “seeing the Northern Lights ‘dance'” just couldn’t be true, but it turns out it is. I watched a beautiful green, white and purple streak of light travel in a wave across the sky and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

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Day Seven: The road trip  we had stretched out over the course of six days had to be driven in just a couple hours because we had to fly out of Iceland on Day Seven. You actually can drive around the entire country in just 24-hours, but with all the places we wanted to see, a day obviously wouldn’t have been enough. We said goodbye to our cute little cabin in the mountains and headed back to Reykjavik for a quick mural tour.

Iceland was one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen. I’ve got a loooong list of other countries on my bucket list, but this is one of those places I’d be willing to experience twice. A visit to Iceland in the summer is definitely something I’d be down for.


(Photos by Andy, Cesar and I)

Castle Hill

You know you’re comfortable when you and your significant other forget to even buy anniversary cards… and you’re both okay with it! You also know your boyfriend’s comfortable — or should I say accustomed? — when he can spend a portion of the day chillin’ at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, getting a lesson in 18th century history without coming up with a single complaint.

I guess this means that after five years together, my interests are finally rubbing off on him, which would also explain why he agreed to an anniversary trip to Charlottesville, Virginia rather than a destination we normally would’ve chosen, like Philly or New York. For once, we wanted to get away from a city atmosphere, relax in a cabin, watch movies and just scrapbook a bit. (Also, who would’ve thought he’d end up at a point in life where the idea of picking out scrapbook paper and stickers at Michael’s could be considered fun?!)

Out in Charlottesville, we visited a couple local spots: the Downtown Mall, Monticello and the Barbecue Exchange, but my favorite place of all was Castle Rock Cider. There’s not much I can say about Castle Rock beyond that it’s gorgeous and it was just so peaceful “adulting” out there with the boo, some cheese on our plates, “Serendipity” cider in my glass and the Blue Ridge mountains in the background.

The Big Easy

The people of New Orleans are just as vibrant as the candy-colored homes and shops of the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny, where celebrated the 25th year of life as the weeklong resident of my very own watermelon shotgun house. There was the palm reader/tarot card woman I anxiously approached outside Jackson Square. The kind waitress at The Gumbo Pot, who laughed at my friends and I when she discovered we traveled all the way to the bayou and didn’t even end up seeing any alligators. On Bourbon Street, the bouncers that yelled, “It’s titty time!” and the bartenders who were quick to shove jello shots down your throat if you accidentally opened your mouth too wide near them. And I’ll never forget the 17-year-old my friend Andy struck up a conversation with on a streetcar. He shared the fact his mother chose to ride out Hurricane Katrina in their home rather than face the crimes that happened in the Superdome with so many people crammed in it. He recounted being just seven and having to loot stores for food just to survive, and how even ten years later the city will never be what it once was. His words rooted even further in my mind after a drive past a couple neighborhoods, that even ten years after the storm, still aren’t repaired.

On a much lighter note… I brought in the next chapter of my life by earning beads on Bourbon Street (but not in that way, okay?), taking a spin around the carousel bar at the historic Hotel Monteleone and watching live bands on Frenchmen Street. I faced my fears of the occult by not only speaking to a voodoo woman, but by visiting Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, and I spent an afternoon vintage hunting in the Garden District. And yes, the beignets at Cafe Du Monde are as great as everyone claims. This city — these people, this experience — was a great way to bring in the next quarter century of my life. Though I would like to someday experience New Orleans in its full glory during Mardi Gras, Halloween week was a pretty good preview.

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Colores de México

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I just returned home from an amazing week in Playa del Carmen, a Mexican town nestled in between Cancún and Tulum, and it lived up to every one of my expectations. This was actually the first time I’ve taken a hands-off approach to vacation planning and left it all in my boyfriend’s capable hands, but it all worked out pretty well. I’m still not sure whether I should call booking international travel four days before departure a hot mess, or just spontaneous, yet somehow it worked for us :)

After touching down in Playa del Carmen on Tuesday evening, we spent all of Wednesday at the beach bar Blue Parrot, eating ceviche, relaxing with a couple drinks and then went for a parasail ride over the Caribbean. We kept seeing ferries en route to Cozumel Island, so we decided that was the move for the next day. I’m so glad we did because renting a moped to drive the streets with the locals and exploring the nearly empty beaches of Cozumel were the highlights of the trip for me. On Friday, we went on a Tulum ruins and ‘Xtreme’ adventures tour with Aventuras Mayas, specifically one that had me testing my courage out there: zip lining over the jungle and floating around in underground cenotes (Note: I can’t swim, so it was kind of a big deal working myself up to dive in). The rest of the trip was spent wandering around Playa del Carmen’s touristy Avenida 5, but I decided to take some time to wander through the local neighborhoods for a taste of real Mexican life, complete with paletas and delicious tortas de milanesa!

The colors of the streets and scenery in the Rivieria Maya area were so beautiful. I really can’t wait to explore Mexico City next.

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Central Park Scenes

I shared the above picture on Instagram and one of my followers commented, “I feel like this needs a Humans of New York caption!” And maybe she’s right. I know everyone has a unique life story, but there’s just something about the people of New York City that is so captivating, and that had me walking past each person on the street like, hmm, I wonder if I’ve ever seen your photo on HONY, when I visited the city last weekend. At a subway station downtown, I actually did run into this gentleman who, along with his mother, lost their apartment after their landlord raised the rent. He was living in a shelter at the time he was interviewed by Brandon Stanton of HONY. You really can’t find people watching like that in other U.S. cities.

Central Park is one of my favorite places to do some of that people watching I love so much. In one hour’s time, I saw a small choir singing beautiful, uplifting hymns. Hordes of tourists ready to drop some serious money for a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park, just hoping to capture a quick moment of city romance. Adorable kids having a fun afternoon checking out sailboats at Kerbs Boathouse (and all I could hope was that they were excited because they remembered that one scene in “Stuart Little,” too!)  I even witnessed a cute wedding proposal.