Eureka, Dallas

One of my favorite places for a refreshing drink on a hot Texas day at a reasonable price is Eureka! in Uptown, Dallas. It has a constantly changing variety of crafted beers for anyone looking for a custom beer flight, and their mixed drinks are light and full of flavor.

Eureka!, Dallas

The last time I went, I enjoyed the below fig, goat cheese, & bacon burger with melt in your mouth honey drizzled sweet potato fries! (Just looking at it makes me want to go back!). I topped it off with my favorite signature cocktail on their menu, the Caphuchin’s Ruby Red with grapefruit juice and rosemary.

Eureka! Dallas

We also had a beer flight and Caphuchin’s Greyhound: Vodka, mint, basil, and maraschino – yum!

Eureka! Dallas

If you go with a group. Eureka! has some great plate for sharing such as their Nacho Average Nachos, Lollipop Corndogs, and taco bar.

If you are looking for a delicious spot for happy hour or a yummy bite to eat, you can’t go wrong with Eureka!

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Florence & Pisa, Italy

Florence & Pisa, Italy

I woke up this morning at 7 AM with a purpose. The doors for the Florence Cathedral’s Duomo climb open early and we wanted to be first in line for the 420 step hike to the top! I got dressed via flashlight so I wouldn’t disturb my roommates, and grabbed a quick bite to eat before meeting some of the other girls for our trek to the Duomo. We waited in line for about 30 minutes and watched at least 4 or 5 brides walk by with their groom and photographer in tow to take early morning wedding pictures – hat a great idea to avoid the crowds!

The climb up to the top of the Duomo was like going back in time. The pathway up was narrow and old and you could feel how the stones had worn over hundreds of years to other adventurers. Mid-way up, you walk around the inside top of the Duomo and see the incredible paintings that line the dome. The scale of this Heaven, Earth, and Hell depiction is just mind-blowing. You can see, in the picture below, the 10 foot high fence lining the walking path in relation to how giant the whole place is.

After more stairs an a steep ladder climb, we finally made it to the most breathtaking view in Florence:

On top of the Duomo, Florence Cathedral, Italy

Since we got up so early, there were not that many people, so thankfully, it wasn’t crowded. If you can climb the stairs, and they are challenging, this is a must do in Florence!

After the Duomo, we met back up with the tour group and our Florence guide to learn about the Florence Cathedral itself, walk past the Uffizi Gallery, and continue over the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence. It had a truly beautiful view of the river. We continued our walk to a local leather factory for a demo! The leather workers showed us how to tell real leather from fake leather and how they make hard boxes completely made out of leather. It was super interesting and I highly recommend watching a demonstration before buying any leather goods from the markets.

By the time we were done with the leather demo, we were starving. We picked up a bag of cherries to snack on on the way back to the hotel where our bus to Pisa was waiting.

A 1.5 hour drive later, we finally arrived at the market around the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa for a gnocchi lunch before our next tour. We walked through the gateway to the giant green Piazza where the Leaning Tower of Pisa and cathedral are.

We toured through the cathedral in front of the Leaning Tower first. The catherdal has several huge stone pulpits with intricate engravings that each took 10+ years to carve. The wealth of the church back then is truly astonishing and hard to grasp until you have toured your share of Italy’s cathedrals.

We walked into the Baptistry, the 100% marble Duomo looking building in front of the Cathedral. Every hour, a priest enters the Baptistry to sing for the sole purpose of demonstrating the amazing echo effect that the architecture of the Baptistry creates. It was unlike anything I have ever heard before. A must-do in Pisa!

After our tour, we walked to the Tower, and saw just how far down it has sunk. Apparently, architects have found away to fix the leaning issue, so the Tower will not be sinking or leaning any further.  We took a bunch of pictures (typical tourists) and then soaked up the sun in the lawn. It was amazing to relax in a place with such a view!

We packed up about 45 minutes of free time, headed back to Florence, and took a quick shower before walking to our wine tasting dinner. Our dinner was in the cellar of a wine shop. The cellar was quite large and went under the main road. It used to be a jail with lots of tunnels but, overtime, the some of the tunnels collapsed and this particular one now only takes wine as its captives. It was a very cool vibe for our very Italian, mustached wine instructor to teach us how to pair wines, meats, and cheeses in. We had very generous amounts of wine, a white and two reds, and ate a ton of parmesan cheese, and bread with balsamic vinegar.  Needless to say, it was a tasty and tipsy night!

Florence & Pisa Tips:

  • Climb the Florence Cathedral’s Duomo in the early morning for a quick climb and views without lots of other people.
  • Go to a leather factory and learn all about the leather process. They are mostly free and teach you great tips for spotting fake and real leather throughout the markets.
  • Try the fruit at the local markets. It is so delicious and a great, healthy snack.
  • Listen to the singing in Baptistry in Pisa. The echo in the marble building is not to be missed.
  • Wear sun screen and / or a hat. There is not much shade in Pisa.
  • Visit a local winery in Florence and learn how to pair wines and how experience them.

Florence, Italy

Sometimes when you are on a trip with random people you’ve never met before and you have to share rooms with them, you learn quickly if they have different tendencies than you. One of the girls in our group liked to get up at the crack of dawn, and so, it was another 6:30 AM wake up to embark on our journey to Florence!

We got a later start on the road and hit some traffic, so our journey took 2.5 hours instead of 1.5, but it gave me plenty of time to catch up on sleep and my travel journal. We drove through the spine of the Alps, but it was hard to see through the fog. Finally, we arrived at our hostel in Florence! We stuffed all of our bags into a room, ran to the front door to start our exploration, and was confronted with torrential rain!

We bought some umbrellas at a shop next to our hotel and took off through an alley way to a tiny little deli the size of a closet for a delicious goat cheese, sun-dried tomato, and salami sandwich. It is amazing how every alley in Florence is packed with little gems of stores and restaurants.  After lunch, we walked past the gigantic Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers to the Palazzo Medici.

The Palazzo Medici is a huge palace filled with amazing architecture, views, and art. The ceilings are so ornate with gold lief, intricate carvings, and paintings. We were completely in aw walking through such a place. You can see the scale of the ceiling and how ornate they were in the photos below, plus my favorite painting of the tour.

We also tried to go to the Accademia Gallery to see the Statue of David, however, the line was around the block and we couldn’t get in. I definitely recommend buying tickets to the Florence museums in advance as both the Accademia and the Uffizi (one of the most acclaimed museums in the entire world), were sold out on the days we wanted to go.

Since we couldn’t do any more museums, we went to the market to shop for goodies. Florence is known for its leather and, while there are a lot of faux-leather in the market, you can find some good deals on the real deal. I bought a beautiful leather jacket and haggled my way to a great price! On the way back to the hotel with all of our new stuff, we came across this really interesting building that, starting at about 10 feet up, was completely covered in dollar bills:

Dollar bill building in Florence, Italy

You never know what cool things you will encounter down the non-touristy path.

We walked through the cobbled Florence streets to an adorable little restaurant for a group dinner. The wine, sausage pasta, and bruschetta made for an excellent experience, but the waiters really topped if. They were young men and, with the 40 women in our tour group and our tour guides teasing, their faces were redder than my wine! The waiter’s dad even let them off duty early to lead our group, like parade grand marshals, to the bar. Hilarious!

Dinner in Florence, Italy

We ended up at a space age style club appropriately called “Space” where all of the tourists apparently go. The music was funky and we had a great time people watching the night away on the dance floor!

Florence tips:

  • Bring an umbrella and shoes that can get wet.
  • Buy tickets to the museums and tours you want to take in advance.
  • Wake up and climb the Florence Cathedral’s Duomo as soon as it opens! The stair ways are super narrow so, the less people, the better. Also, the view is so much better without the crowds and the climb will take you half the time.

Snowbird, Utah – New Years Day

Snowbird, Utah – New Years Day

7:45 AM wake up! I was happy and ready to go until I put my feet on the floor and the soreness of skiing the previous day resonated throughout my legs! Ouch! Pushing through the pain, we got ready for the -8 degree ski day ahead of us. We had another yummy bagel breakfast at The Atrium before heading to our locker full of gear. I can’t reiterate enough how amazing a ski-in / ski-out hotel is. We popped our skis on and were immediately on the slopes!

The Chickadee slope goes right down to the mouth of the Creek Road green run which goes the length of the mountain and passes all of the lifts. We skied down the run, taking our time and soaking up every second, to the Mid-Gad lift. The Mid-Gad lift has two stops, one half-way up the mountain which has more green runs and an adventure park, and the second which reaches the top of the mountain’s advanced runs. As we are relatively new skiers, we stuck to the green slopes, our favorite being Second South. Second South leads both back to Mid-Gad and another lift called Baby Thunder. We went between both lifts throughout the morning, getting better and more confident throughout the morning.

Snowbird Mountain Trail Map

We need a snack break around 11. Thankfully, we had Quest bars in our jackets for extra fuel, however, mine froze because I had it in an outside pocket of my jacket! Pro tip: keep chapstick, liquids, lotion, and snacks in the inside of your jacket to prevent freezing!

A few more runs later, we skied to the base of the Mid-Gad lift to the Creekside Grill. Besides hot chocolate, there is nothing better than some warm, yummy, chili on a cold day! It totally hit the spot and some time off of our feet helped us gain our energy back for a few more afternoon runs.

Snowbird, Utah

There were a lot of little ski school groups on the slopes with kids from 4-8 years old! These kids would fly by us on 1.5 foot skis with no poles, in their super puffy ski suits, and I couldn’t get over how cute they were! Since there were more kids than instructors in each group, the kids needed “lift buddies” to help them on and off the lift. We were more than happy to help and I had some adorable conversations with some of these little pros. On the way up the Mid-Gad lift, I helped a 4-year-old girl up to the adventure park so she could go off of the jumps! We were talking about how long she had been skiing and I asked her where she was from. She said “Well, I don’t know where I am from but I DO know what planet we are on. EARTH!”. I totally melted – so cute!

It took us about three runs to get back to the hotel and my legs were skiing like jello when I took my skis off in the locker room! We decided to jump into one of the three hot tubs located right next to the Chickadee slope at the Cliff Lodge. It felt so great on our legs and we were not even 5 feet away from watching the skiers on the slopes. We hung in the hot tub, making new friends from all over the States, for about an hour before heading to the room for a pre-dinner nap.

At the Cliff Lodge in Snowbird, Utah

We opted to go to the Cliff Lodge’s Mexican restaurant, El Chanate, for dinner. We were a little skeptical of how the food would be considering we are used to awesome Mexican food in Texas, but we were pleasantly surprised! We started with some margaritas (of course), chips, & a delicious salsa. I also had some yummy pork tacos and Ryan tried the Pollo En Rajas con Crema (chicken in a spicy cream sauce) which I probably ate 1/3 of. Apparently, the chef, originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, has been working at theEl Chanate for over 10 years and makes very authentic Mexican cuisine (not Tex-Mex).

Throughout dinner, we got into an interesting conversation with our waiter; a fellow traveler from the North East. He decided to uproot his life with one of his friends and bike / rock climb their way through the USA. They made it all the way to Utah before running out of money, so he decided to stay behind in Utah and work until summer. Apparently, the mountains in Utah are top-notch for rock climbing and hiking in the summer – who knew?

Looking back at this post, I realize that some of my favorite memories of this day were garnered by meeting new people and talking to them about their experiences. You never know what funny thing they are going to say, what travel tips they will have, or how amazing their life has been until you start that conversation. Meeting new people and making new friends is definitely one of my favorite things about traveling.

 

Snowbird, Utah – New Years Eve

Snowbird, Utah – New Years Eve

On any other day, getting out of bed to -10 degree weather would be hard, but when you have skiing to do, it is “hasta la vista bed”! The excitement kept me up all night so I was ready to wake up, put all on all of my super warm, puffy gear, and head to The Atrium restaurant at the Cliff Lodge for a quick bagel and coffee breakfast. The view from our breakfast table was breathtaking and we watched the pros ski down the black diamond slopes in front of us.

The ski rental, lift ticket, and locker area was right outside of our breakfast spot so I was quickly fitted for my ski gear and then we headed down the Chickadee slope to the Snowbird Ski School. This was my boyfriend Ryan’s first ski experience so we booked lessons for him – mainly because I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I taught him wrong and something happened. I was a little nervous about skiing at Snowbird for this first time since it is such a challenging mountain, but the instructors were awesome! The lessons were on a small slope next to the Chickadee run so I skied down Chickadee about 20 times while waiting. I probably should have adventured down to the other Snowbird slopes while Ryan was learning, but this was only my 3rd time skiing, so I wasn’t super comfortable wandering off alone. I still had a great time getting “back on the bike” though and could watch Ryan in his class periodically on the way down the hill.

One of the coolest things about the slopes at Snowbird are the lift passes. You just put them in your pocket and go through these scanners in line for the lift which automatically scan your pass and let you in. This made the process super quick and easy!

After about two hours, Ryan’s class was finally ready to take the lift up Chickadee to try their luck down a big slope. We got to the top and Ryan thought he was supposed to go for it, so he literally skied in a straight line, gaining lots of speed, down this pretty steep slope! I was skiing behind him yelling “fall over!” and, realizing the “pizza” breaking style wasn’t working for him, he watched someone else stop and mirrored them to slow himself. Phew! The exhilaration went to both of our heads and Ryan’s ski skills got better and better with ever run we did.

We were starving by lunch time and went to the Snowbird center for lunch at Tram Car Pizza. It was warm and delicious. I also un-buckled my ski boots and the feeling came back to my toes – yay! After rehydrating and readjusting my boots to keep the circulation flowing in my feet, we did a few more runs down the slope before heading back to the Cliff Lodge. The lodge is right off of the slope so we skied to the entrance, took off our gear, and walked inside to the hotel locker room. Our locker corresponded with our room number, which I totally forgot, so I accidentally put all of our stuff in someone else’s locker. Oops! Pro travel tip: put your room number in the Notes app of your phone so you can’t forget it!

A hot shower and a nap later, we were getting ready for New Years Eve! The Snowbird Center was having a parade and firework show so we got bundled up and walked down to watch. We nestled up next to a warm fire pit sitting under three giant, twinkle light covered fir trees. Little did we know, the parade was not an average parade! All of a sudden, people around us started pointing to the mountains where red flare lights started popping up! A procession line of about 200 night skiers with red flare lights on their poles started skiing in a snake-like line down the mountain. It was absolutely gorgeous. Immediately after they made it down, a fireworks show started. Not only were they some of the coolest fireworks I have ever seen with all of the different colors and patterns, but every time another one went off, it lit up the mountain-scape behind it with additional glitter off of the snow and ice. Stunningly romantic!

We waited by the fire for the crowds to disperse and then walked down to the first floor of the Snowbird Center to the Tram Club for some wine and live music before dinner. It had a great ski cabin vibe and the jazzy music was perfect. Literally three feet from the Tram Club door was the door to The Steak Pit, our dinner spot. I don’t know how, but we hadn’t thought of calling to make dinner reservations until the day we left, so naturally, everything was completely booked. Somehow, the hotel concierge got us into the Steak Pit for dinner at 8 o’clock sharp. With all of that said, we were expecting it to be a mad house, but strangely, only half of the tables were taken.

We scored a table right on the window with an enchanting snowy-forest view. A few of the trees had a fence around them with a sign saying that the fence protected the trees from the local porcupine named Larry. Despite looking the entire time we were at dinner, we never actually saw Larry, but he definitely caused amusement!

We started dinner with a lemon artichoke appetizer and a giant shared salad. Unfortunately, the food wasn’t presented well so I didn’t take any photos, but it was still delicious! For the main course, I had grilled rainbow trout with rice pilaf. We were super full after our entrees so we decided to forgo a big desert at the restaurant for some Junior Mints and gummy snacks from the Cliff Lodge store. We hopped in bed, surrounded by our snacks, and watched the NYC ball drop at 10 PM Utah time. While it was not the fanciest way to spend NYE, it was perfect for us, especially considering how exhausted we were after a long day of skiing.