My mom is from, as the locals say, “Down Under”. While I was growing up, my family and I used to go to Australia to visit my relatives and explore! I am pretty sure those trips were the ones on which I got bitten by the travel bug! My husband and I have been together for a little over 4 years and he still had not been to see and meet my heritage so, when the opportunity came up in May for some time to get away, we hopped on it!
While I’ve been to Australia a handful of times, I have never been to New Zealand. I wanted to make this trip somewhat new for both of us, so we planned to do a week in New Zealand and a week in Sydney. I figured a week in each would be plenty of time and bought the tickets – little did I know, just a week in NZ is pushing it! The best way to explore New Zealand is to do a giant road trip of either the North or South Islands (or both!). You need a solid few weeks to do all of the attractions in both. Knowing we were going to be jet-lagged upon arrival and we only had 6 full days in NZ, we opted to do a route around the North Island.
We flew out of Houston on Air New Zealand. While our check-in guy told us that our big plane was swapped with a smaller one last-minute, making my 6’2 husband a little nervous for leg space, we ended up scoring the airplane jackpot with an entire row to ourselves! We slept most of the 15 hour flight and I caught up on 4 different movies. While we were delayed about an hour and landed around 7:30 AM in Auckland, customs was a breeze and we were on the shuttle to our rental car in no time.
While I looked into getting a camper van for the trip, the rental, gas, and camp site fees were actually a few hundred dollars more than booking the hotels I looked into. Granted, I was looking at vans with toilets so they were more expensive than the just-bed versions, but still! We ended up going to hotel route and renting a tiny little, beat up Nissan Tilda to scoot us around. It was perfect on the narrow roads and already had so many marks on it we were scratch-stress free. Not only that, but I requested a car with a trunk instead of a hatchback so we could have our luggage in the car while we were in between hotels without anyone knowing (just in case).
Our first stop on our road trip was Hot Water Beach in Hahei. We had about a 2.5 hour drive from Auckland to the coast. The drive was absolutely beautiful with so many hills, sheep and cows, and immensely thick brush, but it was all hard to see considering my eyes were on the windy roads and I was focused on driving on the wrong side of the road!
We pulled up to the Top Ten Hotel Hot Water Beach and were so excited. We were staying in a little bungalow and it was so cute! It had a great porch for relaxing, amazing wake up view, and was only a ten minute walk from Hot Water Beach!
We relaxed for a few minutes and decided it was time for some lunch and exploring. The hotel recommended Hot Waves Café which was hidden in the woods. It was a cute café and we were expecting pretty average food but, boy, were we wrong! I got a lamb burger with capsicum salad and tzatziki and it was probably one of the best burgers of my life! It also had yummy potato cakes. Ryan actually got a sweet potato cake dish with bacon and, again, it was scrumptious!
We filled up quick and decided to walk to Hot Water beach. The beach is named for its underground volcanic streams that empty out into the ocean. You can dig a hole in the beach to access the stream water and create a sand hot tub! You are supposed to dig around low tide for easier access to the steaming water and, though low tide started at 4, people were already digging around 2! Their holes were at least 5 feet deep and we were a little put off by the effort of digging that far down!
We headed back to the hotel, changed into our swim suits, rented a shovel from the hotel, and walked back to the beach and it was even more packed! We decided to start digging a bit over from the crowds. Even though our dig site was the same level as the others with steam coming out of them, our water was not hot! You could be just a few inches away from the stream output and the water temperature was 20-30 degrees different! Some of the water was so hot you could not even step in it! We found that the best strategy was to dig on the edge of the hot stream to get a mix of cool and hot water and make the perfect temp. There was another couple that asked if they could dig with us and we ended up hanging out in our pool and trying not to boil for about an hour. It was such a fun experience!
We ended up heading back to the hotel to change and get dinner around 5. At this point, we had been up for about 15 hours and it was wearing on us. The hotel had a “Fish & Chip” stand so we grabbed that for dinner. It was delicious but there were sooo many fries. Good thing I shoveled so much sand as a work out!
With the jet lag hitting us strong, we went back to the room and were fast asleep by 6:30 PM!
Ryan couldn’t wait for today and our tour through Chianti wine country. His favorite wine’s of all are Chianti Classicos which are from the heart of the Chianti region in Tuscany and have black roosters on the label to signify that they are made with the right formula of Sangiovese grapes.
Our hotel didn’t include breakfast, so we walked to a little pastry shop to carbo-load on croissants and doughnuts before making our way to the train station to meet our Walkabout Florence tour group. Our tour guide, Lavi, was energetic and ready to go. She led us through the station and down to our smaller sized tour bus. There were about 15 people on our bus and it was the perfect size for a tour. Unlike some of our tours in Phuket, Thailand, we did not encounter any other tour groups during the rest of our day on this tour, making it very intimate and unique.
The drive to our first winery was about 50 minutes but it went by quickly as Lavi told us all about the history of Chianti wines. Apparently, in the days of the Romans, wine was terrible tasting. The Romans used any grapes they could find, didn’t prepare the wine well, and diluted it with 2 parts water. Because it tasted so bad, the Romans would add spices and other things to it to mask the taste and mainly drank wine for health reasons (it was safer than water in most cases). Over the years, people discovered that the way you grow the grapes, the size of the bunch, the altitude of the grapes, the soil, amount of skin used, and the aging process are all critical components to making a decent tasting wine. Harsher growing conditions and smaller grape yields typically give the best tasting wines. Not what you would typically think, right?
To grow a Chianti Classico, there are rules the govern all aspects of the wine making process so that the wine quality maintains the Classico standards. For example, the vines have to be planted close together so that they compete with one another for water and minerals. The wine makers do not water the plants so the vines have to drive their roots deep into the soil to find water. The vines have to be planted between a certain altitudes and on a slope because water is harder for them to get. Most importantly, all of the wines have to be at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. There are a slew of interesting rules that go into makings such amazing wines.
Our first winery was Villa Li Corti which sits on top of a hill on the 617 acre estate. We toured the vineyard and the olive groves before going inside to see the wine making process.
We took a tour of the barrel rooms…
And we got to see how olive oil is made. Apparently, “extra virgin” for olive oil means it came from the first press of the olives in the machine (below) after picking. Buyers be ware, the new and trendy “extra extra” virgin oil is just a marketing gimmick and the closest thing to “extra extra” would be eating raw olives.
We went up to the tasting room and sat at a 4 top table with bread and meats for us to try. We started talking to the other couple across from us and learned that they also got married on September 16th as well and were also on their honeymoon! Small world. We had a good conversation about all things wedding, living in Brooklyn, and other miscellaneous topics while drinking some delicious wines and eating the meats.
After tasting #1, it was off to our lunch location – La Cantinetta di Rignana. We bounced and swerved our way on the bus, deep into the heart of Tuscany, to this little restaurant in the middle of nowhere. It was just as special as the restaurant we went to in Hvar and apparently, it was so good that George Clooney and his wife went their twice in the same week! The view was amazing and we were treated to an insanely good meal. George has good taste in food…
Up first were 4 different types of bruschetta: tomato and olive oil, chicken liver, “lardo” which is cured ham fat (like on prosciutto), and mushroom. My favorite two were the lardo and chicken liver – sounds gross but it was so good!
After that, we had two types of pasta: boar rigatoni and truffle ravioli. The shavings of truffle were huge and I am now addicted to everything truffle. It was family style so I had to share the ravioli, but I did not want to!
After lunch, Ryan and I walked through the vineyard and tried a grape that had fallen from the vine. IT was so good.
We hopped back on the bus and off to the third winery. The roads were very bumpy, windy, and narrow and we almost had some “too close to the edge of the cliff” moments… but we eventually made it to the Montemaggio estate. The manager gave us a tour of the vineyard and the gardens.
They were actually harvesting the grapes while we were there, so we got to see the grapes getting crushed and pushed into one of the big tanks. It was quite a treat to get to see all parts of the wine making process in action.
We were led through the villa and up to the tasting terrace. There were cheese pairings with our wine and we must have tried 6 different, delicious varieties. The lady next to me was making very strange, monotone noises while our host was speaking, and Ryan was imitating her in a way that almost made me lose my wine a few times. Between his silliness and the wine, we had a blast!
After the last wine, it was back on the bus and to a little square for some shopping. There was an amazing butchery there that smelt heavenly, so we bought some meat and cheese to take back to the States.
After about a 50 minute bus ride back, it was time to say goodbye to our tour group, drop the wine and goodies we bought back at the hotel, and walk over to Il Latini for dinner. Like the night before when we first stumbled upon the restaurant, there were 30 people already there waiting for the doors to open. At least there was a line this time, instead of a massive, unorganized crowd. Thankfully, we had reservations and went to the front of the line to get in pretty easily once the doors opened.
The place was family style so everyone sat close together and it was a very social setting. There was a pre-fixed menu for $55 euro a person, but we were not that hungry, so we ordered a few things off of the menu instead and stuck with the table wine that was only 10 euro a bottle. Little did we know, our “small order” got us enough food for 10 people.
We got the 3 salami plate and did not realize that the “selection of 3 pastas” was actually 3 full servings of various pasta dishes!
After that, was the massive steak and two different, complementary desserts. Thank gosh we did not go for the tasting menu!
As it turns out, the couple next to us who did get the tasting menu didn’t get that much more food than us but they paid double! They got one additional entrée, but we were also given the same desert and a free bottle of desert wine! We started chatting with them about the sheer amount of food and what tasted the best. The couple was in town from California and were pretty fascinating. One was an artist and the other was in the energy business and we had a good convo about American politics for about 45 minutes until all of the wine finally disappeared. Overall, the dinner was very enjoyable and we would recommend Il Latini to anyone in Florence that is anywhere on the scale of very hungry to starving. You will get a delicious meal for a great price.
Off to Florence this morning! After a quick walk to the Spanish Step’s Metro station, we were on our way to Roma Termini to get on the train to Florence. The Metro station was attached to the train station so there were plenty of signs to easily direct us to the train tracks. We bought tickets at one of the self-serve stations and we in quite a hustle to get on the train. Ryan was running ahead of me, weaving in and out of people to a track. I had no idea if it was the right one, especially since the destination portrayed on the screen was not ours. Ryan made his way down the platform and hopped into a train car and I was still confused. We sat in some open seats and I was pretty sure we were on the wrong train, but there was no one in sight to help direct us. The only thing we had going for us was that the train number on the screen was the same as that on our ticket, so I just had to trust Ryan that we were going the right direction. After the water taxi debacle in Hvar though, I was a bit nervous.
It also turned out that we had assigned seating and were in cart 6 instead of 11. We got kicked out of our seats and had to travel the carts to the back of the train. We finally found our seats, and I was a little stressed out, but thankfully, we were able to confirm we were on the right train! Phew!
It only took a little over an hour to get to Florence, and our hotel, C-Hotels Ambasciatori, was right across the street from the platform which made things super easy. Our room was quite large, the bed was soft, and we had pretty nice balcony with a good view.
After a quick refresh, we were off to find lunch. We walked for 20 minutes or so through the alleyways, past the markets, super expensive stores, the Duomo, and down to more reasonable restaurants outside of the tourist section.
We ended up at a hole-in-the-wall place down a random alley and had a delicious pasta meal, however, the bread was terrible. We had to douse it in balsamic to give it any taste. Little did we know that, in Florence, the bread is made without salt. Apparently, years and years ago, the coastal city of Pisa was in charge of the salt trade that fed into Florence. Florence and Pisa went to war, and Pisa refused to sell Florence salt so, Florence stopped putting salt in their bread and, instead, made their olive oil and meats more flavorful and salty to make up for the bread’s flavor deficits. Florentines also typically do not eat the bread until their main course, not with the appetizers or pastas, so we were doing it all wrong!
After lunch, we explored a little bit before walking over to the Uffizi to meet up with our tour guide for our Skip the Line Uffizi Gallery Tour. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was officially sick. My nose would not stop running and I was exhausted. I think the wine at lunch also affected Ryan because all he wanted to do was nap – we were a pretty pathetic looking duo at this point. On top of that, we realized that the meeting point for our tour was about 5 blocks away at a square, not at the Gallery as I thought – oops. This was not a “good mood” day unfortunately. We made it to the meeting point and were not the “talkative” couple in the group. We somehow made it to the Uffizi and I had to get about half a roll of toilet paper to use as tissues throughout our tour.
Our guide was super nice and chipper though, and did a great job of perking up our spirits and walking us through the amazing rooms of the gallery. We looked at a lot of Gothic, Medieval, and Renaissance period pieces, learning all about the style of painting during those times and the breakthrough’s of Davinci, Raphael, and Micheal Angelo.
The paintings and sculptures were pretty amazing, especially considering the massive size of them. Even the frames were incredible. We just had some art framed and could only imagine how much the ornate frames here would run.
We made it through the Uffizi in one piece and followed our guide over the Ponte Vecchio bridge which is filled with jewelry stores. Ryan kept having to pull me past all of the sparkles in the windows. After we got over the river, our tour was over and we were ready to pass out at the hotel. We made a quick stop for a bite to eat in the Piazza della Repubblica. I had some yummy petso raviolis and Ryan had a delicious salmon gnocchi. Apparently the best day to eat gnocchi is on Thursday’s because that is traditionally the day most restaurants make it and, luckily for us, it was Thursday.
During our entire dinner on the patio, we watched the illegal sellers of random junk harassing people in the square. They had selfie sticks, light up balls that they threw high into the sky, roses, and other little things for sale. As soon as you made any sort of eye contact with them, they would run up to you and hustle you to buy whatever it was they were selling. They even came up to the people inside the restaurant multiple times. It was quite annoying and invasive of our space. The entire time we watched, we did not see one person actually buy anything. It was a little sad really.
We walked through random little alleyways back to the hotel. Along the way, we stumbled across a huge crowd of 50 – 60 people. I thought there must have been a fight or really good street artist or something, but in reality, they were all crowded around the closed doors of a restaurant, Il Latini. The doors opened at 7:30 on the dot and people were basically “Black Friday” rushing to get in. Those with reservations were picked out to enter and everyone else could go in as tables opened up. With such a crowd, the place had to be good, so we called to make a reservation first thing once we got back to the hotel.
We were getting ready for bed and I noticed that yet another one of our hotels had a bidet. Since we both had no clue how to use one, I turned to YouTubed to show me the way. Ryan and I laughed our way through the video and then I proceeded to go into the bathroom and turn the thing on out of curiosity. Little did I know, the water spigot was facing upwards and water went everywhere! Not kidding, I flooded the bathroom. I busted out laughing and Ryan kept asking me what happened from outside – my strategy, obviously, was to deny deny deny, but he totally caught me making a total mess of the loo. It was hysterical! Thankfully, we had a bunch of towels to absorb all of the water before hitting the sheets to sleep.
Another day, another train! After an early wake-up and quick breakfast, we were off to the train station under the Spanish Steps to hop the Metro over to the Vatican City for our tour. We met our guides on some stairs by the main entrance to the Vatican with about 30 other people. Thankfully, they divided all of us up into a few groups, so our group was only around 15 people. While we waited for the tour to start, all of these very insistent guys were trying to sell us scarves, selfie sticks, and other doodads – they were everywhere! You have to ignore them and avoid all eye contact so they don’t get one spark of hope that you may be willing to buy something.
Our guides handed out headsets and we were off to enter the Vatican. Because we bought the Rome Combo: Skip the Line Vatican, St. Peter’s Square, and Colosseum walking tour, we got to cut in front of the hundreds of people in line waiting to get in. Our guide said that the line was actually shorter than usual since the Pope was giving Mass and everyone was in St. Peter’s Square. That was hard to fathom given the line that went from the entrance around the entire square!
Our guide was very knowledgeable and funny. She kept making jokes about the status of guys she would have dated if she lived back when they were alive. She talked about the status of the guy she loved most and sighed at how he would never loved her back because he was in love with another. She then dramatically pointed to a statue across the room – of another man! Talk about the drama of it all!
We went into the Pine Cone Square and some people in our group were missing. There were two women in particular that kept losing each other and causing issues with the group. They were pretty clueless as to what was going on so it was comical, especially considering our guide would try and page them over all of our head sets when they went missing. It was like a game of Marco Polo.
We made our way through the Vatican museum, past hundreds of sculptures, each more grand than the other. I was just astonished at the size and scale of these statues. Some of the big toes on the statues were the size of my fist – can you imagine just how big they where?
Everywhere you looked there was another amazement. The Gallery Of Maps was probably my favorite room with giant maps of each part of the country all down the walls and the most decadent ceiling.
We then went into four rooms painted by Raphel and our guide pointed out fun facts about various features in the most important of the paintings. Eventually, we got to the modern art museum in the Vatican that also houses thousands of pieces of donated work. It was pretty amazing.
At that point, we gave our headsets to the guide and she pointed us to the Sistine Chapel. Since the Pope was speaking, St. Peter’s Basilica was closed until he was finished, so we decided to get some sandwiches for lunch in the café before entering the Chapel and onto the Basilica.
Since it is such a holy place, you are not supposed to take photos or talk in the Chapel. Ryan read one of the signs wrong and was convinced we could’nt even hold hands, but after seeing the same sign, we discovered it was really talking about clothing restrictions, not hand holding! Anyways, we were in awe of the Chapel once we entered. Just the scale of the paintings and how significant they were was inspiring. We spent a good 20 minutes just admiring the various frescos and pointing out the areas our guide mentioned within each painting.
Eventually, we moved down to the Basilica and entered it’s doors. That place is just so shockingly massive that you feel like the size of an ant, it is detailed down to the last paint stroke, stunningly opulent and inspiring how much care was involved over its 120 years of construction. You need all of the adjectives in the book to describe it. We saw quite a few bride and groom couples walking through the Basilica as well. Apparently, over the summer the Pope will bless marriages within 2 months of getting married, so couples come in their wedding attire to Mass to be blessed, and then take pictures all over the city. Considering we were on our honeymoon, I loved seeing all of the happy couples and checking out all of the wedding dresses.
We had about 1.5 hours to make our way over to the Colosseum for our next tour at 3 PM. Being the public transport pros we’ve become this trip, it was back on the Metro to meet our next guide. Quite a few people from our Vatican tour were also on our Colosseum tour as well – it was a long day for all of us.
We got another headset for this tour to listen to our guide. I really liked the headsets because the guide doesn’t have to yell to the group, it makes hearing the guide super easy, and you can go look at something without losing the group and missing out on information.
The Colosseum wasn’t too crowded and we were in under 5 minutes. While this was my second time at the Colosseum, I was still in awe. I am fascinated by the gladiators and have watched all of the shows and movies that come out around the subject. I find ancient Rome, its politics, mythology, and history so interesting.
One of the main themes of both of our tours was the Pope’s influence on things. Over the years, the Popes destroyed much of the Colosseum to reuse the marble and statues for other buildings like the Vatican. Since they took a lot of the metal frame work within the walls of the Colosseum, there was not enough to support the walls during a large earth quake and much of the northern wall fell as a result. The Colosseum was basically used as a mine to get materials until 1749 when Pope Benedict XIV decided to preserve it. It would have been such a spectacle to see back in 87 AD in its glory days.
Much of the other sites we saw that day had the same story as the Colosseum. They were huge, intricate buildings that were made with opulence and then destroyed for material use. Those buildings that did remain intact were only so because the Church deemed them important and kept them up to date. Thankfully now, all of those ruins are preserved.
We walked up the Palatine Hill and learned about a massive palace that was once there. We walked through it’s gardens and grounds and again, were astonished by the sheer size of it.
There were also some amazing vista points looking over the Forum from the Hill.
We then went down into the Forum and walked the ancient roads of Rome. It was interesting how Rome was built on different levels as people would just build on top of older buildings. Because of the various levels, city planning for Rome is difficult because builder’s never know what they will find once they break ground.
We were pretty exhausted after our tour, but Ryan was still willing to walk over to the Trastevere area where our Biking guide from the day prior said the best restaurants were. We walked for about 20 minutes before happening upon a row of really cute places with great menus. We looked at all of their menus and saw some of the food people were eating, and opted to eat at Ditta Trinchetti. What a great idea that was! The kitchen was right behind us and we could see the chefs making our food. We had some delicious olive bread to start, and then I had the most amazing carbonara of my life. Ryan had a lasagna that was mouth-watering as well and I would have eaten there the rest of the trip if I could.
Right before we tabbed out, the power went out for the entire restaurant! It took them a few minutes to get back up and running, but then the credit card machines didn’t want to connect! Our waitress gave us some delicious lemon cookies to munch on while we waited and, after about 7 attempts to process our card, we finally paid for our meal. We had about a 30 minute walk back to the hotel, so we grabbed some gelato for the way back, and admired the Castel Sant’Angelo and other sites we came across along our moon lit stroll back to the hotel.
It has become a bit of a tradition for us to go skiing over New Years. For 2018, we planned another road trip to Taos but, unfortunately for us and Taos, they barely got enough snow to open a major run. Considering the 11 hour drive time, hotel, ski rentals, and lift tickets, the hike to Taos was simply not worth the effort for one ski run. But of course, we couldn’t go without our ski trip, so we decided to look else where for snow! We began our search in Colorado and, after pro-con-pro-ing Vail, Beaver Creak, Copper Mountain, and a few other locations, we landed on Breckenridge.
We loved the ski-in / ski-out resort luxury that we had in Snowbird, Utah (I mean, who really wants to lug their equipment all over town) so we tried to narrow our hotel search to those close to the slopes. We found the Beaver Run Resort at the base of one of Breckenridge’s ski lifts. It was ski in / out, had hot tubs all along the runs for after-ski relaxation, looked great, and the price was right, so we booked it!
The flight from DFW to Denver was a little over 2.5 hours. We had bulk head seats so Ryan could stretch out his 6’2 legs, and we were feeling pretty good after some wine and a light dinner at Vino Volo in the airport. I have to say, airport food is getting much better and Vino Volos goat cheese, chicken salad is definitely a winner!
We landed in Denver around 8 PM and hopped on the Summit Express shuttle for the 2 hour drive to our resort. The shuttle was warm (thank gosh!), and we stopped at a gas station half way through to grab some snacks and energy drinks before we got to the resort since they were $5 on property! We always bring some Quest Bars for a mid-ski day snack too, so hitting a store before reaching the resort was a must. Highly recommend!
The shuttle took exactly 2 hours and our driver, Charlie, was super nice. I have to say, Breckenridge at night is gorgeous with all of the snow and twinkle light covered pine trees! The Beaver Run Resort had a bunch of glittering pines to greet us as we pulled up. We were exhausted and quickly checked in to head up to our room. At first, I was a little nervous about the room since the bed room was super cramped upon entry, but then I saw that we had a massive tub area, mini-kitchen, and huge living room. In the morning, we opened the blinds to uncover a beautiful view of the slopes / ski-lift. Total win on our part!
After an early wake up, we walked to the Coppertop Café and got some to-go breakfast tacos to enjoy by the fireplace. It was such a relaxing way to start the day.
We then set off to the rental shop to get our gear. Someone who was supposed to look / book this stuff in advance did not do their job prior to our trip … so at 12:05 AM I started looking up rental places and we found that the shop at our resort gave 15% off if you booked in advance. Apparently, I could still do so at 12:05 AM on the day of our rental-need, so we not only saved a bunch of money on rental gear, and it was ready and waiting for us when we walked into the ski shop. Travel tip: Always book in advance. The further in advance you book, the more you will most likely save too.
We were quickly fitted and ready to roll! The ski lift was right next to the rental place, so we were up and away in no time. We started with some green slopes and got our ski-legs back quickly. Breckenridge slopes are actually pretty easy. After 3 green trial runs, we were ready for some blues. Breckenridge is a series of 5 peaks and you can ski from peak to peak, using the various runs to travel wherever you want to go. Our hotel was at Peak 9 on the far left side of the mountain, but we found that our favorite blues were on Peak 8 and Peak 7.
We skied until around 10:30 and went to one of the base run restaurants for some water and Quest Bars. The key to a good ski session (not to mentioned feeling at all OK on the mountain) is hydration. Breckenridge had hydration stations all over the place so we drank lots and lots of water.
We took back to the mountain for another hour and a half before getting peckish again. This time, we went to the restaurant at base 8 called Vista Haus. The food looked great and Ryan and I decided to share a pizza. On a cold day when you are burning tons of calories, a warm, cheesy pizza really does the trick! We had quite the company while enjoying our pizza as well. The 4 people next to us were all part of a 70-year-old plus ski group! The oldest member of their clan was 96! Can you believe that? They travel the world together skiing and we had quite a conversation with a NYC couple who were gushing with stories of their 50+ years of worldly ski adventures. Talk about relationship goals!
After saying goodbye to our new friends, we took off to the slopes for a few more hours. We were actually pretty happy with our runs. Skiing is really all about confidence. As soon as you start to lose that, you are bound for a yard sale!
Our legs were starting to give out on us so we made our way, slope by slope, lift by lift, back to Beaver Run. We were totally pooped. It’s one thing when Ryan needs a nap for recovery, and totally different when I need one too – I am usually the energizer bunny! We slept until 5ish and got ready to explore Breckenridge’s town. Another perk of the Beaver Run Resort is that they have a free shuttle system with over 20 pick up locations all over town. We called down for a shuttle and one arrived to take us in no time. Little did we know, town was only .04 miles away so we totally could have walked it!
We heard about the yearly snow sculpting competition and had to check it out. We walked down Main Street until we saw the various counties participants flags – it was so cool! The statues were massive and each country had a different theme that their sculpture was trying to portray. Just the detail alone was incredible. The sculptures had to be done by the next day, so they were busy at work finishing their master pieces.
Ryan’s favorite was China’s work which was a monkeys face with a hand holding an apple coming out of the snow. I have no idea how much architectural planning went into that piece as all of the legs had to hold the heavy monkey’s head in place. The detail on the face and fingers was pretty incredible as well!
About half way through our trek, I saw a hot coco stand with do-your-own toppings and just had to get some! There is nothing like hot coco to warm up your hands and soul on a cold day!
We finished up the show and decided to walk main street and explore the shops. There were tons of cute boutiques, Colorado souvenir shops, restaurants, and knick-knack places. Ryan bought a new beanie and we couldn’t say no when we passed the Mountain Top Cookie Shop. We got the cookie dough, cookie sandwich and a toffee cream sandwich to save for an after-dinner snack. Yummmmmm!
Eventually, we got hungry and wandered around to various menus until we came to Flipside. It had a very cool vibe and even better burger-aroma when you walked in. The burgers on the menu all sounded divine and I ended up with the Red Door burger that had brie and bacon fig jam with truffle fries and a glass of red wine. What a great dinner!
Behind Flipside was a little grocery and liquor store. Ryan wanted to get lunch / breakfast stuff since we had a kitchen at the resort and I was all in, until I realized they didn’t have or were out of a bunch of things we had in mind. Ryan ended up getting strawberry toaster strudel, raisins, and Gatorade and I decided to stick with the resort’s breakfast tacos. (If you know me, I cannot resists tacos in general, so that is always my go-to option!). With bags in hand, walked back to the resort. It was a short walk and, at our usual elevation / incline, would have been a breeze, but it was steep and we basically almost died huffing and puffing back up!
To cap off the night, we decided to hit up the outdoor jacuzzi by the slopes. It was surrounded by snow-capped pine trees and we had the giant hot tub all to our selves – very romantic! We relaxed in there for a or so before freezing our way back inside and warming by the fireplace.
We got back to the room, took a warm shower, and decided to share my chocolate chip cookie dough sandwich as a night-cap before heading to sleep.
Breckenridge Day 2 –
We gave ourselves a little later wake up this morning at 8 AM. All we had to do to get on the slopes was walk downstairs to grab our gear and then another 10 feet to the door! Waking up was made so much easier since it was snowing too! We got ready in not time and ate the strawberry toaster strudel that Ryan bought us for breakfast the night before. We grabbed our boots and our skis and were on the slopes by 8:30.
My legs were pretty shot from the day before. Knowing that skiing is all about confidence, I tried to “positive self talk” my way down the mountain, but all of the fresh snow made skiing a little more tricky.
There were some blue runs on the far left side of the mountain, so we made our way over there one lift up, and strategic run down to the next lift. We ended up skiing around slopes 6 and 7 for a few hours, even accidentally trying a blue run that should have been label a black!
Even with all of the squats and lunges I did in preparation, my legs were dying and my skiing was getting a bit sloppy. We decided to head back to the hotel, one slope at a time, and I ended up catching my ski on something, got turned around, skied backwards for a few seconds, falling on my back, and hitting my head hard enough to hear a crack in my helmet. Thank gosh I was wearing one! I was so winded and it took all I had to raise my hand up to alter Ryan that I wasn’t dead! Thankfully, I was ok and was able to ski back to the resort, but I knew I was going to be sore and needed a good deep tissue massage ASAP!
After another dip in the hot tubs and a freshening up, we headed back down to the ski town to check out the final results of the snow sculpture competition. It was amazing to see the transformation of some of the finished work and sad to see some of the others that didn’t hold up over the final night of creation! The ballet one we loved the day before didn’t make it – the before and after is below:
After the sculptures, we decided to grab some wine and charcuterie at an adorable little shop, and then we headed to the Blue Stag Saloon for some delicious smoked salmon dip and venison pot pie.
Breckenridge Day 3 –
Our last day on the slopes was amazing. While the sun was out, it was only 9 degrees, but we had lots of great slopes and our bodies are ready for a full day! While my epic wipe out gave me some serious whiplash, I was cruising down the slopes with ease.
We decided to stay on slope 9 which closest to our hotel since we had not attempted those runs yet. There was one particular blue run at the very top of the mountain that looked like it would be the perfect long run to cap off our ski day. On the map, the first part of the blue mirrored a black and looked pretty steep, but we foolishly said it wouldn’t be tough! The joke was on us! We got to the top and our blue run was the only blue around – but it was literally three separate levels of long moguls and we were not mogul people! The reason I say “were” was because we somehow made it down with only one minor fall! We were so proud of ourselves and the picture below does not do the steepness of the slope justice.
Talk about a great way to end our ski trip!
After we returned our rental gear, we hit the spa for one last time. We had our own private hot tub and it felt great against our sore muscles while we watched people ski down the slopes.
After the hot tub, we walked down to town and found the perfect dinner spot – a Vietnamese pho place. I swear, pho soup on a cold day can relieve any stress cure any illness (*note I am not a physician so it probably wont do anything but warm your soul and taste delicious!).
Breckenridge, Day 4 –
Today was “D-day” aka departure day. We had a few hours before the Summit Express shuttle was picking us up and, with the state of my whip-lashed neck, a deep tissue massage was all we needed. We made an appointment for a couples massage at Simply Massage, just a quick walk from the resort, and had one of the best massages of our lives. Not only was the place decorated like something I would Pinterest for our apartment, the staff was great and very knowledgeable. My masseuse gauged my neck’s range of motion before the massage and knew just where to apply pressure. I felt a million times better afterwards. I highly recommend their services and they are much cheaper than the $150 massages on resort property.
After our massage, we went back to the hotel, got picked up, spent 3 hours on the shuttle to the airport, and were up and away back to Texas.