Prague, Czech Republic- All for $582

Prague, Czech Republic- All for $582

What’s up! Are you looking for a Travelers adventure or are you the type to read travel blogs on end and scroll through the picturesque Instagram feeds of inspiring vagabonds, tagging their posts to your ‘Bucket List’ Collection archive like I do? This year, I took that leap. I gave up on the wishing, dreaming and vision boarding this year, partly because I just didn’t make the time to complete my board and mostly because all the things I envisioned started to manifest as soon as the new year began. Guys, I am here to tell you, skip that step and just do it already! Yea I know it’s easier said than done but because I love you all so much, I am going to give you some tips and tricks that I applied that got me all the way to Prague, Czech Republic.

While this opportunity was by total luck, the budgeting and preliminary steps for it was planned and the most important part. So do you want to know how I traveled through Europe for only $582? Keep reading.

First, I have to shout out my cousin Jazz a.k.a my Travel Buddy for sharing her awesome and scholarly news in the family group chat and asking if any of us would be down to accompany her on a week long Euro-trip free of lodging charges. (I told you it was by total luck).

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1. Get a Passport

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Okay for the preliminary steps of how this whole thing kicked into gear started by getting a passport of course. This little blue book can take up to 6 weeks and depending on where you are going, your passport may need to be in active status for at least 6 months! There are lots of locations to choose from when you apply for your passport like the post office and the tax collectors’ office. Make sure you have a lot of patience, 2 forms of ID- a birth certificate and a drivers license, $150 and more patience. You can set an appointment if you have enough time before your trip and this may save you from the long wait.

2. Get an International Data Plan

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Check with your cell phone carrier and inquire about an international data plan. There are alternatives if you want to save a few bucks. You can get another sim card, download WhatsApp but you will need a reliable wifi connection everywhere you go for this option or just simply unplug. The international data plan came in very handy because not every place in Prague had wifi. Not to mention it was pretty spotty at times and irritating when I wanted to “facetime” my family the city and post on the gram.

Verizon offers the Travel Pass for just $10 a day. After turning your phone on roam it will send you a text noting when your time expires (24 hours). It draws from your existing data plan so keep in mind not use all of your data before your trip or you will be stuck connecting to the spotty wifi like all the other tourists wherever you go if there is a hotspot at all.

Which brings me to my next preliminary tip!

3. Get an adapter and/or converter.

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What’s that you ask my fellow clueless first time vagabonds like myself. Here is a very simple run down. The outlets are very different abroad because of the voltage. Here in America the standard voltage is 120V whereas in most of Europe it is about 200V+. Unless you want your devices blowing up, you need a CONVERTER to CONVERT our voltage from 120V to a higher voltage. You then will need to hook that converter into an adapter that has prongs to fit the outlet of wherever you will be, hook your phone charger up to the contraption, plug it into the wall and voila you’ve got power! Luckily most devices have a built in converter so all you will need is the adapter piece which will cost you way less than having to purchase both the converter and the adapter. I’m a bit of a techie but my frugality supersedes all of that so I searched for some good ones and found a very inexpensive adapter on Amazon for less than $8! You’re welcome =)

 

4. Budget Budget Budget!

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This was probably the most I spent on anything the entire trip.

This part is probably my favorite. It truly speaks to that dorky accountant in me. I can literally crunch out calculations all day for no reason at all. But it served a purpose for me this time. Can you believe I traveled through Europe for a week with only $582? The timing for the trip was impeccable that I was able to use my tax refund for the airline ticket and my passport so all of the $582 was used towards spending money for the entire week. To be more precise I converted 454 USD for 125 Euros and 6,100 Czech Koruna prior to leaving to avoid any crazy currency exchange charges. I probably could have gotten away with exchanging less because I did go back with some cash but those made some nice souvenirs. But, here’s how you can make that money stretch. In the beginning, I used my Czech cash for whatever but as time went on I started to use my credit card for points! lol no but to save my cash for street vendors and some dope ass souvenirs. My credit card charges totaled $128. Combined with what I exchanged before I left, my entire trip came to $582! That is one hell of a deal. $582 may sound like a lot but I had no idea what to expect for my first time and TripAdvisor gave me some solid advice to budget at least 1,000CZK per day which was about accurate. Between the site seeing, eating and tipping 10% on top of every 600CZK meal, and the fact that they charge for water and a to-go box (lmao), it’s better to be safe than sorry. Besides, you can always hang on to the money and get it converted back to USD when you return. I’d still like to challenge myself to travel for less than $582 next time.

Bank of America ships your currency the same day if ordered by 2pm. For a small shipping fee, it can take 3-7 days to arrive to your mailbox or to a Bank of America facility near you. Mine arrived in about 24 hours max. You can also notify your bank that you are abroad via the app in less than 2 minutes so that you can begin using your credit/debit card right away.

5. Register with the U.S. Embassy

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This last step is optional, I didn’t do it but you can notify the U.S. Embassy of when you depart and arrive. Signing up for the STEP program allows you to stay abreast of any current issues happening around just incase some crazy shit goes down. Also it is helpful to download a translator app just so you’re not completely lost communicating in the native tongue. Plus its always respectful when you try to recognize another culture that is not your own. Learn a few catch phrases like “Thank you,” “Yes,” “No,” before you arrive because the second you’re off that plane, the culture shock is real.

Now that you’re ready to go, check back in next week for part two where I’ll list some exciting activities, food (mmm… European pastries) and the overly dope air bnb that we called home for the week right in Old Town.

xo, Andy

Travel: 10 Things To Do In Chicago

Travel: 10 Things To Do In Chicago

So my fitness journey got off to a great start. After trekking, and at one time getting lost in the streets of Chicago, Illinois, I actually lost weight despite ALL the food I ate. While I may have shed a few pounds, I did gain some great tips to share with you guys! The city was picturesque this time of year and the trip could not have come at a more perfect time. I was due for another adventure after New Orleans and I’d say that’s exactly what I got. I also got to spend quality time with my boyfriend’s family which is always enjoyable. My boyfriend is, Sam (Sammy). We arrived at the Midway airport in Southside Chicago early Friday morning, grabbed our one bag (no carryons-That was GREAT) and headed for the “L” to catch the Orange Line. (I hope you’re taking notes cause this is great advice). I’m one to want the full experience as best as I can get it so I was excited to take public transportation and catch the train. Not to mention it was $6 for two one ways compared to an always $50 uber ride when you’re leaving an airport. What was cool was the Netflix show, Shameless is filmed in Chicago and one of the train stops was right outside of the Gallegher home in South side Chicago.

Did you know? After the great Chicago fire in 1871 which burned dozens of neighborhoods, buildings and the city’s business district to the ground, the city rebuilt using steel and concrete. This rebirth gave rise to the world’s first skyscraper and now the city stands stronger than before as the illustrious Chicago, IL you know today? Hence, the name, “Tale of Two Cities.”

IMG_20170708_090439PANO_20170709_212302IMG_20170710_094042 There is soooooo much to do in this beautiful city especially in the summer time when the weather is just right. TIP from the locals: the best time to visit the city is during the month of July as the other months are either cold or rainy or both. Luckily we didn’t experience either of the two or it would have made it impossible to do all of what I am about to tell you. Well you can still eat cause this city knows good eats.

  1. Catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field

What a hell of a way to kick off your Chicago vacation by catching the 2016 World Series Champions play at home. I think what made it even more worthwhile was not only the fact that the Cubs won against the pirates but it was my first time at Wrigley Field as well as my boyfriend’s first time and he is a HUGE fan. Wrigley was like a dream come true for him. I guess our wedding doesn’t even stand a chance. The crowd was relentless and full of spirit as foul balls flew high into the sky. The stadium is an oldie but goodie with it’s original structure still in tact. And the ivy is just as lush and green as the first day of Spring.

Honestly, the tickets can get pretty steep but the atmosphere surrounding the park is only a little less cool but there are still tons of things to do and buy, sites to see and food to eat in Wrigleyville. But if you enter into the friendly confines grab you some concessions, a cold one of Old Style beer (Chicago’s Beer) and an official Cubs cocktail as you marvel is the postcard like view of the Chicago skyline.

2. Taste of Chicago This event does not happen often but if you listened to my advice and come in July, you won’t miss it. I believe it’s always the first week of July. It’s a really neat way to get all of the local food you can get in one place. There were literally TASTES of the various local diners, food trucks and restaurants in the Chicago area. I even got African food, catfish and I tried gator sausage. I would say budget at least $40-60 for two people to enjoy a “taste” of their preference and you should still have some leftover to drink a bit. If you don’t drink alcohol save yourself some money and pack up some waters. There may also be some good people out there giving away their leftover tickets. Sam and I were approached by two people with extra tickets so you know we grubbed.

3. Take Your Picture at the Bean While you’re strolling through the field of flowers on your way to the Taste, stop and get a picture taken at the famous Bean in Millennial Park. It’s just a huge silver mirror in the shape of a bean but hey, it’s the typical tourist thing to do. Right?!

4. Go Shopping on the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Ave.) I never really get the big deal of shopping in a big city but there was a two story Anthropologie, the official Cubs store and I managed to find a Calvin Klein dress, IVY PARK capris and Nike sneakers all for $100 from Nordstrom Rack. I got a steal for all this stuff so I can say there are way more options to choose from in a bigger city.

5. Find a Speak Easy Bar

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I didn’t know what a Speak Easy was at first but my boyfriend’s mom was so excited about it and she had me all ears to know more. We made it to the bar and the walls were covered in old photographs of the famous patrons that entered through the original doors that still stood in place. The original bar was still standing after the Chicago Fire including many other furnishings and aesthetics like the burlesque shows that played at the top of every hour. We waited an hour and a half at least before we got to go downstairs where the magic happened. So while we waited we toasted with the locals and took shots of the nastiest liquor ever- Malort. But you gotta try it though. Yuck!

During prohibition era, all alcohol was illegal of course. Big names like Al Capone would smuggle their barrels of alcohol through underground tunnels and alley ways using these Speak Easy bars. I guess the name Speak Easy is due to having to keep these acts confidential during the time.

6. Find Your Crust This is for my pizza lovers! Have you ever had real deep dish or stuffed crust pizza and I don’t mean that cheap crust stuffed with mozzarella cheese. NO. Chicago style pizza opens your eyes to the limitless options of what pizza could be and it’s all about the crust. Do you like butter crust or do you like stuffed crust. I found that I prefer stuffed crust from the famous Giordano’s. What’s yours?

7. Take a a Stroll Down the Riverwalk Burn off those calories from eating all of the delicious food around the city or sit on the wall of steps with your honey and look out at the Chicago River as the dazzling city lights do a dance on the still waters. You may even catch the enthusiastic kayaking tour guide who tells all the jokes and the history of the city. Whatever you decide to do this is one of the many tourist attractions you must see before leaving. And it’s FREE.

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8. Go Irish Pub Hopping If drinking is your thing then Irish pub hopping should be too. I didn’t realize that most of my preferred beverages were Irish libations and after waiting almost 4-5 hours in lines (yes plural) for the Ledge at the Skydeck, any kind of libations were what we all needed. So to get everyone back in good spirits we made a game of it. Any bar with an O’ or an Irish sounding name, we stopped for a shot of Powers, Tullamore Dew and a Smithwix… Or pretty much whatever they had. Nothing like day drinking with the Irish.

9. The Ledge

Don’t and I repeat, DON’T waste your time and money going anywhere near this place. We waited in line nearly 5 hours until we finally got to the Little box in the sky which we along with about 20 other people got to stand in for maybe 3 minutes before we had to rotate with the next group. I’m all smiles here but I was not a happy camper.

Also if you consider skipping the line and paying the extra $20+ I wouldn’t, essentially you will wait in line to watch a 15 minute introduction then wait a little longer to get on the elevator to the 103rd floor where you will wait in another line for the best 3 minutes of your LIFE!

10. Take It All In

Chicago is buzzing with tons of options to suite each pallet. You can easily make this a budget friendly trip using my 10 Things To Do in Chicago blog post. Or you can make your own list and share it with me! I hope this inspired you to get out and travel. Don’t forget to share this post and your next “Top 10 To-do List” so I can read all about it.

xo, Andy

Good Eats: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, FL

Good Eats: Oxford Exchange, Tampa, FL

So I don’t know what took me so long to step into this beautiful library/secret garden-like Oasis we Tampanians call the Oxford Exchange (OE) but I’m glad I finally did.

This place is immaculate with it’s gorgeous floor to ceiling windows and a special room dedicated to books and brews sure to compliment any palate. I personally loved the Blueberry green tea with Blueberry, lemongrass and pomegranate.

The old English style atmosphere makes you feel like you are dining in what used to be Hogwarts cafeteria. And the food is just as amazing. There are very little selections but judging by my entree I can see that this place prides quality over quantity.

Shoe shine any one ? $7

On to the food. These ingredients are FRESH. It can be a bit pricey but not that far off if you’re thinking about bonefish brunch (not that I don’t get down with Bonefish) just try OE.

Club (Sandwich) on wheat bread w/ sweet potato fries

It’s so eclectic that if you wanted a spot for a girls night out or a scenic venue with a pleasant ambience suitable for the inlaws, the Oxford Exchange is definitely the place.

Enjoy!

Bon Appétit! 😉

Travel: There’s No Place Like NOLA

This draft has been patiently waiting for me to finish it so I decided what the heck, Let’s do it! Although we did not make it for Mardi Gras it felt like every night was a party in the crescent city. It was a blast and so monumental in so many ways. To start, it was 25th birthday. Typically birthdays don’t mean much to me. I don’t mind celebrating or planning one for people but for my own, I celebrate on a more intimate and more discrete level. However, I do go out with a bang for those certain birthdays I like to call “milestone years.” Your Sweet 16, 18 (maybe), Finally legal 21, Quarter Century 25 and the Dirty 30 are years worth having one hell of a story to tell.

I recently graduated (shout out to FAMU c/o 2015!) I got a job immediately after and I give many thanks to God, the School of Business & Industry and this accounting degree for that. Being a full time student is nothing like being a full-time employee. It was a bustling time in my life between transitioning to an entire new lifestyle, moving and getting a new apartment with my boyfriend which are all posts for another day so please be patient with me lol. And on top of that, my anniversary was during this time as well. Vacations and all celebrations got put onto the back burner until plans came up about what to do for my 25th birthday.  I had always imagined what it would be like to settle down in New Orleans. This movie I watched as a young girl called Eve’s Bayou, sparked the love and appreciation I had for the city. The family values and that southern charm in the film reminded me so much of how I grew up and that feeling always felt like home. I cherish the moments of running around my Granny’s acres through mazes of her towering pine trees and feeling that fresh country air on my skin and the orange dusty, caly-like dirt between my toes. Everyone was a ma’am or a sir. I don’t mind manners, some common courtesy and a little bit of etiquette when necessary. It’s charming. I knew New Orleans was a mecca for great food and the home of jazz music. I love jazz music and most of all I LOVE TO COOK. My expertise is in the cajun cuisine but I seize any opportunity I get to eat and experiment with new things especially if I can do that while traveling. So my lovely and fantastically thoughtful boyfriend planned this entire trip to cap off such an eventful year.

Day 1. “Who Dat?!”

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We had to do it the right way and stop by the dome to catch some Sunday football at the Mercedes Superdome. We got our site seeing and souvenir shopping kickstarted early as we landed at like 9am and couldn’t check in until noon-ish. All the planets were aligned on this trip. Our Uber experience and flight could not have been more smooth (We flew Delta). Although we couldn’t check-in the bell hop still held our bags and lucky for us all the bars and restaurants opened exactly at 10am. We took full advantage starting with New Orleans style gumbo and a Fuzzy Leprechaun at Pat O’s. This was our go to bar at the end of every night. If you want a sultry pianist serenading you as you fine dine or if you want to pull up at the bar and watch the game or just dance out in the courtyard with your girlfriends and take back some Hurricane cocktails, this is the place to do it. There is fun for everyone and the hosts make sure everyone is on their best behavior even while drunk as skunks.

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Fuzzy Leprechaun at Pat O’s.

We chose to be full tourists and footed most of the places we visited. We walked all the way downtown and back which was about 20 minutes from our hotel in the French Quarters. The game ended up being a record game in the NFL as one of the highest scoring football games in history and the Saints won! Despite the trouble we had with the seating arrangements (which was hard to believe since we got our tickets from NFLtickets.com) we still had such a great time and enjoyed experiencing the excitement from the loyal Saints fans. And here is some advice if you ever plan to enter a football game, pack your things in a clear bag or don’t bring one at all. The PJ’s coffee shop made a boatload of money from the ladies (including myself) whose bags were over 4″ x 6″ in size! That’s a standard picture size if you need a visual. You know the old school pictures we would take our film in to Walgreens and get developed. Each bag they checked in was $20 and this “locker room” was none other than a Ziploc freezer bag with a number coded on it as your bag’s I.D. number. At least the night got better and so did the food. We ended up loving this fun little joint called the Acme Oyster House where they chuck fresh oysters in front of you. They had the best chargrilled oysters you WILL ever have and the oyster shooters and catfish weren’t bad at all either.

 

 

Day 2. Willie Mae’s Scotch House & Louis Armstrong Park

 

What we really could not wait to get our bellies full with was Willie Mae’s fried chicken! We explored the city some more and decided we were going to take a leisurely stroll through the community and hopefully get up close and personal with some of the damage and ruins Hurricane Katrina left behind. I must say the resilience and pride the people had for their beloved city after such a tragedy was so moving to witness that we had to stop by the museums later on the trip.

If you try to hit this place up in the middle of the day, you were warned here first. The line will be wrapped around the building. It’s a tight little house that was renovated into a restaurant to only seat about 75 people at a time if that. It’s better to go in as a party of two than to go with a crowd but regardless of how many people are in your party, you will all agree that the wait was worth it. The menu was very minimal but we only came for one thing and we were not disappointed. It was a great thing we walked because we needed help digesting all the food we had just inhaled.

 

On the way back to the hotel we strolled through Louis Armstrong park which was less than a block away from our hotel. The park was filled with statues of jazz artists and  trailblazers. It was a shame to see that after the hurricane the place was crawling with what they call “gutter punks” and junkies. Be forewarned these aren’t nice homeless people that take “no” for an answer, they take it very personal if you don’t share your food or hard earned dollar. The sad part is they walk around with these dogs that they steal from the pound to make you feel sorry for them and the worst part is some of them even pimp out their kids, making them beat on buckets and make tap shoes out of soda cans as they sing and dance for tips.

After the park, we just crashed. Some time around 8 or 9 o’clock we found some energy to pull ourselves out of bed to hit the nightlife. We hit up Acme Oyster house for a second round of the famous charbroiled oysters and I tried an oyster shooter. If you have never had one, I advise that you be comfortable with oysters enough to just throw it back. The contents are simple- cocktail sauce, oyster and vodka. YUM. Of course we slid to Pat Obrien’s for some shots of Jameson and Hurricanes and later found a cool cover band at a night club and sipped on a few beers. Before the clock struck 12am, I was a few drinks done over and I danced my ass into 25 with some new friends at the Beach on Bourbon night club.

Day 3. Happy Birthday to ME!

By this day, we were pretty partied out as we are not much party people to begin with but when in NOLA do as the New Orlenians right? We started the morning off right with shots Bourbon and great laughs. I wanted more of a relaxing day since I wanted to save most of my energy for later that night so we grabbed the last of our souvenirs and headed over to Cafe DuMonde for the famous beignets and cafe au lait- a french style coffee mixed with warm milk.

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It was so delicious that we brought some back for our coffee drinkers at home (i.e. ourselves and our parents of course). We checked out Jackson square a bit more and found this artist who painted on the reclaimed pieces of wood left behind in Hurricane Katrina. We finally got to visit a few museums since they were closed the first two days we were there. Later that night I put my firetruck red dress on and set bourbon street ablaze. We dined at this really delicious upscale restaurant right on Bourbon street called the Red Fish Grill. Of course I ordered the red fish and Sammy got some of the classiest style shrimp and grits we had ever tasted. And this is a good stopping point as the rest of the night went undocumented and is kind of fuzzy to me 😉 at the moment. Every night included its fair share of fun and booze as it was to be expected. These are the top spots I recommend in New Orleans when you book your trip and I hope to hear all about it.

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Travel: Andy in the Mile High City

I recently checked off another bucket list item and spent a three night/two day vaca. in the lovely city of Denver, Colorado. Man, was this one of the most wildest times that will go down in history! You know when you just get that right group of people that makes the time even better. In October I celebrated a dear friend and soon to be relative’s DIRTY THIRTY with a gang of her closest, fun, free and eccentric rugby team mates from all over the U.S. It was such a beautiful moment to see everyone come together and show so much love. The feels and energy of the entire trip felt like I was a ‘Mile High.’

Day one was all about getting turnt, tipsy and tatted (oops did I say that)? We all settled into the stunning 420 friendly mini mansion after meeting and greeting all of the wonderful ladies. Yes, I said mini mansion! I told you this trip will go down in history. Here are a few shots of the sweet spot in the beautiful Highland Manor.

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After the shenanigans, our first dive was this jumping bar and grill just over a huge hill!

Highland Tap and Burger @ 2219 32nd Ave Denver, Colorado 80211

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Ok so this looks like an ordinary shroom burger loaded with mushrooms with delicious melted cheese oozing down the sides and a steak knife stabbed through the middle of the brioche bun. Well there is really nothing ordinary about the Shroom Luvas burger at the Highland Tap & Burger. I pride myself on being a burger chick so I can most definitely respect a tasty and juicy old fashioned. This award winning patty (according to ZAGAT magazine) is cooked in finely fattened duck butter that is a known delicacy in French cuisine. Foie Gras is the name and if you like savory, rich and juicy, why not try it all on a burger. This will be a burger experience you will never forget down to the last bite.

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Other great things from the menu was the mac n cheese. NOM NOM!

Day two was the birthday girls day. We grabbed brunch from this cool rooftop restaurant called the Viewhouse downtown, had some cake and hit the bar scene for some day drinking.

It’s Brothers! @ 1920 Market Street Denevr, Colorado 80202

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This cool dive bar is filled with State (FSU) gear and themed drinks its like a little condensed piece of Tallahassee smack dab in the midwest of Denver, Colorado. Of course we closed out the afternoon with a few rounds of beer and pool and caught the 2016 homecoming game against Wake Forrest. No I’m not a Nole, I am a Rattler for life but those who know the area know the love is real.

Later that night we got to experience the breathtaking  and historical Red Rocks Amphitheater. I will be honest I did not know a thing about this venue until my boyfriend nearly leaped out of his seat when I said that we were seeing a concert there. LOL. Although the country singer Brantley Gilbert headlined that night and none of us knew a lyric from him or any guests on the lineup, we made the best of it and fit in as well as a zebra would in a pride of lions. But of course, the food was good of course. Midwest loaded nachos- incomparable.

This is a shot taken from the window of the Uber. Unfortunately I lost all of my photos on my old phone so I am really scrapping the bottom of the barrel here, but hey! this should push you to go see it for your damn self cause there is nothing like it. Oh and apparently people choose to hike up this mountain for fun and past those huge boulders there is a stage and tons of rows of seating. Just imagine the view. 😉

Red Rocks Amphitheater @18300 West Alameda Pkwy Morrison, Colorado 80265

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My view. WOW

By day three we had endured all of the fun our bodies could handle. There are some seriously good eats in Denver. Our last stop was a place called Gourmet Dogs where they served some pretty wacky, yet delicious hot dogs, burgers and fried mac n cheese done right. And of course we washed it down with some beers from the Great Divide. It’s a great bar for a serene, casual and lax happy hour or whenever you’re in the mood for $1 flights of some of Colorado’s finest local breweries.

Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs @ 2148 Larimer Street Denver, Colorado 80205

By night 3 we were all like zombies. Some of us were parting this evening so we hit up this bar just down the street from our air bob and they probably had the best barbecue wings I have ever had. We finished off at a cute hole in the wall joint for some karaoke and let the sun beat us to bed. WHAT A NIGHT.

Our last day, while the girls were still sleeping, my boyfriend’s sister and I decided to go out and get everyone a farewell treat from Voodoo Doughnuts cause we just couldn’t leave without going there. Thank God we did, look at this! Mmmm…

Voodoo Doughnuts @ 1520 E Colfax Ave Denver, Colorado 80218

Until next time Colorado!!!

xo, Andy