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That time we didn’t want to leave the hotel …

Let me tell you about a little thing I call travel burnout.

San Francisco was a city that Dan and I were super jazzed to visit. It has been on our must-see list for years! It was a main destination on the road trip and we were excited to arrive!

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It didn’t take long to realize that we were both suffering from traveler burn out. We’ve encountered this before on our previous month long trips. You are tired. Not just mentally or physically tired, but tired of being a tourist. You are tired of looking at things. Monuments, museums, art, shops, restaurants, history lose all meaning to you. I couldn’t care less about anything. I stopped looking around in awe. I stopped pointing things out. I kept my head down and tried to avoid all the people. It’s like your brain cannot let in any more details and you need to let it shut down.

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We woke up late on our first full day in San Francisco. We hadn’t really discussed what we were going to do. We ate breakfast, showered, watched some horrible daytime talk show and then decided to head downtown. We wondered aimlessly around the shopping district, in and out of stores without buying anything. It was pretty wild walking up and down San Francisco’s steep hills.

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Our next stop was a great little gluten-free arepa restaurant we found (thanks Google!) called Pica Pica. I loved this restaurant. They specialized in arepas (a delicious, soft, warm corn based bread) of course, but they also had other great dishes! I had a spicy pulled pork arepa, a side of coleslaw and an order of yucca fries with spicy ketchup. So good. Dan also tried the cheddar cheese empanadas. The best part is that the entire restaurant is 100% gluten-free! It even says so on their sign. We loved this place so much we even went back for dinner the next night.

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As much as I love finding restaurants like this when I travel, I always get a little sad when I think about how I won’t be able to go back. At least not for a very long time.

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After lunch we decided to take drive to the Golden Gate Bridge. Despite the fact that it was sunny downtown, it was very, VERY foggy at the bridge. You could only see fragments of this stunner.

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And did I mention how cold San Francisco is? At this point our travel burnout was at peak levels and Dan and I decided that we’d enough of forcing ourselves to be tourists. At exactly 4pm we decided to go back to the hotel. We picked up some In N Out burger and hid out in the hotel room, writing, editing photos and watching TV.

It was a perfect night.

We stayed in a nice little motel in San Carlos, CA called The San Carlos Inn. It was a great price and our room was clean and spacious. The only problem was that traffic in the bay area is a nightmare. It took us forever to get downtown and back (no matter the time of day!) I would recommend you take your traffic tolerances into consideration when deciding where to stay! I think we’ll splurge on a room downtown next time, or at the very least learn the commuter train schedule.

Take me out to the ball game!

Take me out to the ball game!

Want a fun evening activity in San Francisco?

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How about a baseball game? Dan and I decided to go to a San Francisco Giants game while we were in town. I’m glad we did! The AT&T Stadium is absolutely stunning. The park overlooked the harbour and you could watch all kinds of boats coming and going.

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We drove up the coast from LA and arrived just in time to catch the first pitch of the game. They were playing the Cincinnati Reds and the stadium was packed. I guess being World Series Champions helps with ticket sales.

The Giants ended up losing (badly), but Dan and I still had a blast. The only thing we were unprepared for was how cold it was! I was wearing leggins and a t-shirt and figured I was appropriately dressed for a summer evening, but San Francisco is cold! People were getting out of their cars in pants, hooded sweatshirts, tuques(!) and scarves. Not only is San Francisco surprisingly cold during the summer, but because the park was so close to the water. I’m talking see your breath kind of cold. We brought our rain jackets with us, but they did not help.

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The best part of the night was that I had a hot dog. What’s that you say? Everyone has hot dogs at baseball games? Not those who suffer from celiac disease. But I did! I had a hot dog. There’s a vendor on the first level of the AT&T Stadium that sells completely, 100% gluten-free hot dogs. They are near section 112 and should not be missed. They also sell kettle chips (which are gluten-free!) and offer a gluten-free beer. My rapidly expanding belly meant that I stuck to water, but come on! Having a ball park hot dog has been something I’ve missed. The bun was really decent. It looked like it was a Udi’s hot dog bun, but it was warm and soft. The hot dog was steamed and delicious. I covered mine in ketchup and mustard and ate that hot dog like it was my job! It really doesn’t take much to please/entertain me!

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That right there is happiness. :)

One Day in Los Angeles

LA is something else. The city of dreams I suppose. It was a bit of an after thought for us. We originally had no intention of going but when we realized that we’d practically be driving through on our way to from the Grand Canyon to San Francisco, we figured why not!

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We arrived late in the afternoon and only had one full day (two nights), so we had to be strategic about what we wanted to see. The first night we picked up some In N Out burger for a quick supper before heading to our hotel. In N Out is great. Their menu is simple; burgers, fries, milkshakes. Everything is fresh, nothing frozen. As a result you can easily eat a glutne-free meal. The only thing in the restaurant that has gluten in it is the buns. If you order your burger “protein” style, it comes wrapped in several layers of fresh, crisp lettuce. The french fries are hand cut each day and are the only things that touch the fryer. I was amazed at how good they were without being too greasy.

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Once again thanks to hotels.com, we got ourselves another great motel. It was called the Regency Inn and was located just outside of the downtown core. It was independently owned and a great place to stay. The next morning we got up bright and early and headed downtown. Our first stop was a long stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Us, like all the other tourists, walked along the long stretch of street with our heads down reading the many, many names of celebrities.

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We made it all the way to the famous TCL Chinese Theatre, formerly known as the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. A place that has seen its fair share of red carpet movie premieres.

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This is where you will find all the giant blocks of cement with celebrity footprints, handprints and signatures immortalized in the sidewalk.

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We made our way back to the car by walking down the other side of the street. Even more stars! I’m pretty sure all celebrities have a star at this point. I’ve been meaning to look into what exactly the criteria is.

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We then decided to take a drive down the famous Sunset Boulevard and The Sunset Strip. It takes about an hour to drive this route and it gives you multiple perspectives of LA.

We stopped shortly after starting at a restaurant called EVO Kitchen, which had a bunch of gluten-free options. Dan and I both had pizzas with almond stuffed mushrooms and veggies with hummus and fig tempenade as appetizers. Everything was incredibly delicious. I highly recommend checking this place out.

We continued our journey down the strip until we reached Beverly Hills. We took some time to drive up and down some of the streets. Most of the houses were blocked by giant ornate gates and hedges. I couldn’t believe how much staff we saw. I’m assuming most of them were garden/pool staff. There were so many of these workers around that food trucks and carts had shown up on many of the streets to feed them. If you were at all inclined you can take a “celebrity house” tour, which takes you up and down these streets and lets you know how lives where or who lived where.

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We continued our drive throught the Pacific Palisades and then into Santa Monica. We got out of the car and walked around the Santa Monica beach and then went to explore the Pier.

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Our next stop was Venice Beach, which was completely different. Think more tattoos, piercings and skateboards.

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In a search for frozen yogurt, we made our way into downtown Santa Monica and explored their beautiful outdoor shopping area. We or course treated ourselves to some Pinkberry frozen yogurt. My favourite flavour is a combination of cherry and chocolate.

That night we had tickets to the LA Philharmonic at the famous Hollywood Bowl. What an unbelievably stunning venue.

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We picked up some picnic items at Trader Joe’s and nibbled away with the thousands of other picnickers. The piece was The Rite of Spring and the performance was fantastic. The guest violin soloist was out of this world. All the jaws in our section had dropped.

What happens in Vegas…

On our way to Vegas, we stopped at the Hoover Dam because it was something Dan was dying to see.

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Of course there were millions of tourists! There were several tour options, and we decided to the half-hour Power Plant tour. You can also take a one hour Hovver Dam tour, but we didn’t want to take too much time away from Vegas. The Power Plant tour costs $11 each and was fascinating!

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The tour began with a short movie about the history and the construction of the dam. It focused on all the politics involved in the creation and the division of the Colarado River water between the States. The dam was built during the Great Depression, employing so many men who would have otherwise been unemployed.

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We were then taken underground by elevator to see the water tunnels and generators. The amount of water that flows through the plant is mind blowing. You could feel the rumble under your feet. It was definitely not an appropriate tour for anyone who is claustrophobic.

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After the tour we were taken up to the observation deck to get an amazing view of the dam itself, the bridge and the man-made lake that was created by the dam.

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If you are ever driving between The Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, I highly recommend stopping by for a tour of the dam. It is a remarkable feet of engineering.

Driving into Vegas after spending several days in the desert was a bit of a blow to our senses. So many blinking lights! So many people. So many hotels.

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We decided to treat ourselves while in Vegas for an early one year anniversary present, and booked a night at the Bellagio hotel and booked tickets to see Cirque du Soleil’s ‘O’.

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The hotel was incredible. I’ve never stayed anywhere like it before. The decor, the bed, the carpet, everything was unbelievably beautiful.

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We even got bathrobes! If only we had stayed more than one night. The bathroom had a huge vanity, bathtub and a stand-up shower.

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We checked in, brought our bags to the room, freshened up and then took a short walk along the strip. We got to see the famous Bellagio water and light show. We made dinner reservations at the renowed Michael Mina restaurant in the hotel. We then spent about an hour in the casino (where I lost $20) and then headed to the restaurant.

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The meal was amazing. The service was incredible. The dinner was pricey, but totally worth it for a special occasion. For appetizers I had a summer vegetable salad and Dan had lobster ravioli. For our mains I had steak with roasted turnips, carrots and fingerling potatoes. Dan had roasted chicken. Every bite was heavenly. It was a very romantic night. We even had our pictures taken by a professional photographer. We end up purchasing the photos and they came in folders with Bellagio, the date and the name of the restaurant engraved into them. An amazing souvenir. We then made our way to see ‘O’. The Theatre was located right in the hotel at the edge of the casino. It was just as wonderful as I thought it would be. The best Cirque show I’ve seen.

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The next morning we spent the some time walking up and down the strip. We walked around the MGM Grand, visited the M&M store, and the Coca-Cola shop (both of which were pretty wild).

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We took a walk through the Venetian.

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The mall inside has been designed to look like Venice as dusk. We then crossed the street and took a stroll through Caesar’s Palace.

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The mall inside is HUGE and has roman inspired statues and fountains. It too looks like dusk inside. Vegas does not want you to know that there it is daylight.

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We stopped to have brunch at Max Brenner’s Chocoalte Restaurant.

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The have a gluten-free menu that lists which of there regular items are gluten-free or can be made gluten-free. I had an omelette with hash browns (both of which were naturally gluten-free!). And because it was a chocoalte restaurant I started with a , which is a make it yourself hot chocoalte. I chose white chocolate for a special treat.

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For dessert I had a dark chocolate fondu with bananas and strawberries. Heaven. So good. If you love chocolate this is the restaurant for you.

Southern Utah and all its beauty

The drive from Denver to Colorado took about five hours and took us through the Colorado mountains.

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It was ear poppingly beautiful. Small towns and ski resorts were set-up along the side of the highway.

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There was even a Costco in the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. We saw so many people biking this route as well. The air was getting crips and it was nice to get out of the big hot cities.

Southern Utah was just as impressive, except the landscape consisted of desert conditions and giant red rocks.

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We arrived at our campsite located in Dead Horse National Park, which is on the edge of the Utah Canyon – impressive, but not as big as the Grand Canyon. The site was surrounded by beautiful low lying desert trees and red, red sand.

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There is absolutely no shade in Southern, Utah, but the campground supplies you with a roof over your picnic table. There is also no fires pits allowed, but each site has a charcoal bbq to use.

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After organizing our campground we headed to Arches State Park to hike amongst the red rocks and arches. It costs $10 to enter the park and that’s good for 7 days. Its great if you want to break up your explorations into multiple days.

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It was hot. Very hot. I think the temperature was around 40 degrees celcius. Thank goodness there was no humidity. There were signs all over the park warning people that DEHYDRATION KILLS and to not start a hike unless you had at least 2L of water with you. There were water refill stations at the start of the park and at the end by the campsite.

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Because of the heat and my pregnancy we decided not to do any major hiking this time around. Instead we drove through the park making frequent stops at some of the most noteworthy rock formations. We did do a few short hikes including one at the end.

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It was 7 pm at this point and the temperature was way more comfortable. We left the park as the sun started to set and headed into the nearest town to pick up some campings supplies. As were driving back to Dead Horse Park the sky turned BLACK. You should have seen the lighting. This lighting had branches! We could see it coming towards us and did everything we could to get back to the campsite before it hit, but we were driving directly into it. We felt like storm catchers. It got dark so fast. The huge rain drops started to fall as we drove up to our site. To our horror our tent had blown away! Thankfully a very nice neighbour had put a few rocks on it, but Dan had to reset everything up in the middle of a dark storm! We also had to cook and eat in the dark. It was not a good start to our first night of camping. Just as our dinner was ready (hot dogs and veggies and hummus!) the rain stopped, the clouds moved on and the stars came out. The rain cooled everything down and it turned into a beautiful night.

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I actually found sleeping in the tent while pregant to be quite comfortable. We brought and blew up an air mattress for me. I don’t usually use one while camping, but it definitely helped. I also brought along my Snoogle body pillow.

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We found out the next morning that it is monsoon season in the desert and that these kinds of severe, but quick storms happen almost every night (and they did!).

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We woke up early (desert camping pro-tip: don’t sleep in otherwise your tent turns into an actual oven) and headed out to explore the Utah canyon and Dead Horse Point. It was absolutely stunning. It was my first canyon experience. I could have sat on that ledge for hours. What a great place to just sit and think.

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We continued moving through the Utah and the desert on our way to Arizona and the Grand Canyon.The drive was uneventual. Just a lot of hot sun and rock. It hours before we say any cities, people or vegetation.The sun beat in on us for hours and the air conditioning could just barely keep us cool. We spent about three days with it turned on max!

This Canyon sure is Grand

The Grand Canyon is one of those places you hear about over and over again.

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I knew it had to be a stop on our trip, especially because we were headed to California. The park itself is HUGE. You turn off the highway and drive for miles before you even get to the main gates. At this point a friendly park ranger with a wide brimmed ranger hat takes your $25/vehicle entrance fee.

We stopped right away at the watchtower, which is the park’s first lookout point. Bus loads of tourists were milling around the parking lot, gift shop and cafeteria (yes, this lookout point has all of the above).

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We wondered down the winding path and were suddenly hit by the vastness of the canyon. You are immediatly blown away by the enormity of what you see below you. I couldn’t even process what I was looking at, especially because you could only see sections of the canyon at a time. I could have stood at the edge and stared int to the abyss for hours.

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We stayed on the southern ridge and reserved a campsite at Mather Campground. This is one of two campgrounds available at the park. It was beautiful. The tree cover offered some much needed shade from the desert’s beating sun rays. We set up our tent and kitchen making sure it was wind and rain proof.

Just up the street from our campground was a huge General Store, which included a full sized grocery store, cafe, bank, souvenir store, camping/hiking equipment and a restaurant. Did I mention how big this park is?

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I am finding it quite comfortable to sleep in the tent while pregnant. We have an air mattress, which we are using for the first time, as well as my body pillow. Getting in and out of the tent is another story.

That night we relaxed at our campsite. We made spaghetti with tomato sauce and mozarella cheese. A storm (lightning/thunder) blew through our campsite. It was short lived and we had a tarp to give our camp kitchen a roof.

After the mini-storm we started a fire and roasted marshmallows for s’mores while I read. It was a perfectly relaxing night.

We woke up the next morning to giant antlered elk roaming around the campground, standing beside tents, eating leaves and getting their antlers stuck in trees. We saw a family eating breakfast at their picnic table while an elk ate leaves beside their tent. It was hilarious.

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We spent our second day in two parts. We started by driving to a few key lookouts and taking pictures. We evend did a short hike down the side of the canyon. It was incredibly hot and with me being pregnant we decided to keep our hikes short. During the hottest part of the day we hung out in the shade at our campsite and made lunch on the fire. We may or may not have fallen asleep in our camp chairs.

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Once it cooled down – a little – we drove to the shuttle bus pick up. The orange shuttle bus takes you along a huge section of the cayon wall that is closed to car traffic. The shuttle is free and you can hop on and off at each lookout. It is also possible to hike between the points.

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We were enjoying the beautiful views, hopping on and off the air conditioned bus, when all of a sudden intense black clouds started to form in a couple of different places inside and around the canyon.

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And then the lightning. You should have seen the lightning! The mini storms were pretty isolated at this point, there was no rain, but the wind had picked up significantly. We decided to end our adventure and take the next shuttle back to the car. So we waited … and waited … and waited for a shuttle. We started to worry and so did the other couples waiting with us.

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Finally after about 25 minutes a shuttle arrived. The driver informed us that this section of road had been closed because of the threat of lightning strikes., and that the shuttles were going around picking people up and then heading back as soon as they were full. It took them that long to get to us. Thank goodness they did!

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We got back to the Village and into our car with no problems. The rain started when we got to our campsite, so we headed to the general store to stay dry and use their wifi. The storm lasted about 15 minutes. We were back by our tent making tacos like nothing had happened.

The next morning we packed up and headed to Las Vegas!

A view from the river…

A view from the river…

Monday morning we woke up and visited a Super Target and Michaels near our hotel to avoid the rush hour traffic heading towards Chicago. I love Target and I’m happy that the stores in Toronto seem to be fairly similar to the ones in the states!

On our way back downtown, we stopped at Cassava once again for round two of empanadas and cassava rolls!

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We decided to spend the hot afternoon browing the galleries in the air-conditioned Art Institute of Chicago. Like most museums and galleries the building itself was stunning. Simply wondering in the halls and garden admiring the archecture is worthwhile. We focused most of our time in both the Modern American and Modern European wings.

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The Institutes most famous work! American Gothic.

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This building housed some amazing art. It featured a lot of lesser known works by some well known artists including: Picasso, Dali, Pollock, Matisse, Klee, Warhol. We got to see the famous American Gothic work as well. The admission was pricey at $19 each and we picked up a visitor’s guide which highlighted the galleries most notable works, but it was still a great way to spend a very hot afternoon.

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There was a special exhibit happening while we were there and it was included in our admission.

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The Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity exhibit focused on the importance of fashion in the art. It included both paintings and clothing, shoe and accessory samples. The displays were well done and the impressionist artwork was stunning. Well worth the stroll.

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After the gallery we took a walk down the magnificent mile which houses some incredible archetecture and all the high end shops. We found ourselves at the P.F. Chang’s to take advangate of their gluten-free menu. Chinese food!

We spent our last evening on the Wendella Chicago Architecture Boat Tour. YOU MUST DO THIS.

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If you are going to do one thing in Chicago I highly recommend this tour. It takes you up and down both the north and south branches of the Chicago river than then into Lake Michigan to give you spectacular views of the city scape. This was definitely the highlight of our time in Chicago, maybe even the whole trip!

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The sun set while we were on the cruise and It was so wonderful to watch the city transform from daytime to nighttime. The tour guide told us all about the buildings that line the river including what year they were built, who the archetect was and the reasonings behind the design. She included a lot of information about the city’s history including the great fire and the World’s Fair. I have a better understanding now of how Chicago is laid out and the reasons behind it’s development and expansion. Tickets cost $28 and were worth every penny. The entire tour lasted about 75 minutes. After being in the hot, bustling city it was nice to feel the breeze while coasting down the river.

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Things to do in Denver when your alive…

In order to spend more time on the West Coast we had to sacrifice a day of our trip to make our way from Chicago to Denver. This was supposed to be a 14 hour drive, but with all of our stops including a long picnic lunch in Des Moins it took us around 16 hours. We drove through Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska and then finally through to Denver, Colorado.

We stopped in Des Moins Iowa to pick up some picnic items at Trader Joe’s.

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The Des Moines public library!

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Checkers anyone?

We then drove downtown to eat at the Pappajohn Sculpture park. It was beautiful. The Pappajohn sculpture park takes over 4.4 acres of land in downtown Des Moines. It displays 24 sculptures worth a combined $40 million. John and Mary Pappajohn, lifelong art collectors, donated their sculptures to the Des Moines Art Center to create new public arts space. Fantastic!

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We also stopped to see the Freedom stone and got a rare chance to stand on a highway and take some cool pictures.

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The rest of the day involved reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, blogging, napping, bugging dan, stopping to pee, turning the air-conditioner on and off and watching the acres and acres and acres of corn fields go by.

We spent a day in Denver exploring the downtown area. Despite the fact that there was a lot of construction, the downtown core was really charming.

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We spent most of our time on the 16th Street Mall, which is lined with restaurants, pubs and shops. I stopped in Ross, which is a cheaper version of winners, and picked up a couple of adorable maternity outfits. The best part is that there is a free bus that will take you up and down the street. 

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We stopped at Yogurtini’s for some frozen yogurt.

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The allergens are clearly marked and most flavours were gluten-free. I had peanut butter, banana and chocolate. It was heavenly. It was really hot in Denver and ducking in and out of the shops really helped us keep cool. Thankfully the frequency of the Starbucks made my frequent need to pee! Unfortunately we were six minutes late on our parking meter and got a $25 parking ticket.

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I had heard about a children’s clothing store in Denver that sold unique fashionable clothing for babies and children called Little Me’s. We decided to seek it out and found ourselves in a place called Cherry Creek.

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Cherry Creek is a shopping area with all kinds of high end stores (Kate Spade, Lulu Lemon, North Face, furniture stores etc.) a mall, Whole Foods and a bunch of restaurants. Little Me’s had some beautiful clothes and I picked up a couple of outfits. The entire area was beautiful. We were there on a weekday and it was very peaceful. The streets are tree lined and mostly car free. It was fun to stroll down the streets and walk through stores that I had never heard of. There was an incredible furniture store called Room & Board. When I’m rich I will have my entire house decorated by this store. I also found a super fun décor store called Jonathan Adler. I picked up an adorable giraffe night light for the nursery.

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We had lunch at Chipotle’s Mexican Grill. There tacos are gluten-free. Just make sure you ask them to heat up the corn tortillas with tin foil to avoid cross contamination. On our way back to the hotel we stoped off at whole foods to pick up our groceries for our three-day camping excursion. We also picked up some prepared salads and wraps for dinner.

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We stayed just outside of Denver in Westminster, Colorado in the La Quinta motel. Our room was huge! It also had a beautiful outdoor pool.

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After our shopping adventure we put on our suits and spent about an hour cooling down in the pool.

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We absolutely loved this hotel. It was clean, bright and the staff was incredibly nice and helpful. The king sized bed was a huge plus. If you are looking for an affordable place to stay outside of Denver, I would recommend La Quinta. We discovered this hotel at www.hotels.com and we couldn’t beat the price. When we stay in budget hotels/motels we usually have low expectations, but this time we were very happily surprised!

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I absolutely love going to the Drive-In and they have one in Denver called The 88 Drive-In. Dan and I put on our pajamas, grabbed our dinner and some snacks and headed to the movies! The double feature was Despicable Me 2 and Pacific Rim. It was a perfect, relaxing summer night. The people of Denver are serious about their drive-ins. So many family created living room set-ups in front of their cars. Tables, chairs, blankets, coolers. Quite a few families had roof-top set-ups including one van that had huge bean bag chairs on its roof. The drive-in is such an affordable way to spend an lazy summer night. Especially if you bring your own snacks. Dan and I ended up buying skittles at the concessions of course.

Chicago, Chicago, I’ll show you around…

Chicago, Chicago, I’ll show you around…

Let me start by saying that Chicago is incredible. It completely captured my traveling heart.

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It must also be noted that I have fallen deeply in love with many cities that I’ve visit. But, I would definitely list Chicago as one of my favourite cities. I might have to come out and say that I like it better than New York City. Don’t tell anyone though. We arrived around 4pm Chicago time (one hour behind Toronto) and checked into our hotel. In order to save money on this trip we booked budget hotels/motesl located outside the cities. In Chicago we stayed at a Howard Johnson in Addison, IL (near O’Hare Aiport). We freshened up, grabbed some gluten-free tacos at Chipotle’s and headed to The Second City to see their 101st review Let them Eat Chaos.

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I’ve been wanting to go to Chicago for years to see a show at this iconic comedy club. After working and training at The Second City Toronto, I can believe it took me so long to do so. The show was great! It was nice to sit back, relax and laugh after a long day of driving. The Second City is located in Old Chicago. A beautiful area with restaurants, cafes and dreamy tree lined streets. The patios were full of people enjoying the beautiful cloudless weather. As you enter the theatre you are suddenly hit with the sheer number of comedic talent that has come off that stage.

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The next day we slept in and then headed into the city. We spent the morning orienting ourselves with the downtown core. We headed to State street for Dan’s Starbucks coffee fix and then did some shopping at Macy’s. The Macy’s building is the oldest department store in Chicago. It still has that old timey feel which you can really see in the old-style elevators. You almost expected there to be an elevator operator greeting you as the door opened. Next we headed to AT&T to buy a month long voice and data plan. Dan recently purchased an unlocked Nexus phone from Google, which allows us the freedom of buying an american pre-paid data plan. We can now check emails, google for gluten-free restaurants, get directions, book tickets, post to Facebook and Instagram and make unlimited calls for the duration of the trip. Priceless! Other than a huge chunk of Nebraska this plan will give us access to the internet all across the country.

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We then headed to Millennium Park to see the Cloud Gate (The Bean!) sculpture and walk around the park. I absolutely love Chicago’s skyline. Chicago, the birthplace of the skyscraper, has some beautiful buildings that line the riverbank.

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We found a little hidden health food gem to have lunch. It’s a small counter serving take-out called Eat Fit. It’s actually part of a huge gym, but is open to the public. The menu features many quinoa and rice bowls, wraps and protein powder-based smoothies. Dan and I both had a southweastern quinoa bowl with tomatoes, corn, black beans and chicken.

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We then headed to Trader Joe’s to pick up some snacks for the afternoon. I’ve heard so many great things about this grocery store and was excited to find out that there was one just around the corner. They have a ton of gluten-free food as well as fresh prepared and organic options. We walked back down towards the park and found a few more amazing sculptures and then sat in the shade eating Trader Joe’s gluten-free macarons.

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We found another wonderful gluten-free restaurant for dinner located near Wrigley field. Cassava makes healthy baked empanads, cassava rolls, soups, chilli and smoothies. Because everything is made with an authentic cassava flour and cheese, the entire restaurant is gluten-free.

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Dan and I tried the beef and cheddar and the chicken empanadas and ordered a bowl of cassava rolls. It was unbelievably delicious. Those empanadas and cassava rolls will visit me in my dreams. The one thing I don’t like about traveling is discoverting these incredible places in cities and knowing that you can’t just go back next week. I’d eat there everyday if I could! We got two carrot strawberry smoothies to go and left to drive around the neighbourhood.

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That night we had tickets to see the play Belleville at the famous Steppenwolf Theatre. The show was pretty good. The subject matter was really dark, but the performances were fantastic.

Summer Road Trip!

Once again Dan and I are spending one month during the summer traveling. This will be our third summer in a row! The big difference is that this year I’ll be doing all my adventuring 6 months pregnant with our daughter Ivy! I’ve prepared to stay hydrated, have a plug-in cooler filled with healthy snacks and will make frequent use of all rest stops that we come across.

After spending a week in Paris in December, we decided to stay a little closer to home and go on a road trip. After renting cars in both Iceland and Croatia last summer, we decided that we absolutely love the freedom that driving gives us. Our car becomes a small home away from home. We can keep food, changes of clothes, towels, bathing suits and extra shoes available at all times in case there’s a sudden need to jump in a lake or go for a hike.

This summer we are embarking on a 29 day road trip across the mid-western, western United States. We will be visiting Chicago, Denver, Arches State Park, The Grand Canyon, Vegas, L.A., San Francisco, Portland, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, Valley of the Gods, Kansas City and Indianapolis. We will be staying in both budget hotels and campgrounds. Our car is full of camping equipment, a Coleman stove, duffle bags and a cooler!

My goal on this trip photographically is to keep my camera on manual. I purchased a Panasonic Lumix G2 camera a couple of years ago and have mostly been using it the semi-automatic settings. I’m really trying hard to learn how to use the camera in manual and now that my skills have improved (slightly) its time to throw myself in head first. No more automatic! This does mean that some of my photos will turn out horribly as I forget to change the ISO settings or make my Aperture bigger instead of smaller, but I’m getting better and better and capturing really great photos. I will highlight the best ones here!

Bright and early on a Saturday we packed our car to the brim and set off for the 8 hour drive between Toronto and Chicago. The drive was uneventful. American Road Side stops were a life saver. They were clean and had picnic tables and green space to walk around to stretch our legs. This allowed me the freedom of staying hydrated without wondering where the next bathroom was going to be. Amazing! I’m sure my little one was appreciative as well.

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