Archive | October, 2018

Falling out of Summer

31 Oct

A picture of one of my favorites cities in the world:


MY city ❤


Summer season was winding down, and like any season (in both nature and life), it had its ups like:

  • The best friend sleepover at the dream flat with MY best friend and Emily’s best friend! We got to snuggle in the dream flat and wake up the next morning with mimosas in hand.

#dreamflat pic minus the #dreamflatmate


The Best Friend Sleepover Squad –  Champagne for breakfast!


  • Micromanaging the chocolate chip cookies when Helen and I were baking. We watched these little suckers minute by minute to make sure the cookies would rise like a phoenix from the ashes — but in the end they pretty much just stayed ashes. “Damn us.” Said Helen as we took the first bite.  We’d left them in for a mere minute too long.


  • Having a jam sesh with Emily, Bel, and Kevin in the dream flat!  Finally, all of the musical instruments that “we” own in the living room at the same time!  Helen was elated!!


  • Going on a date at a Hungarian restaurant and going to banjo night afterwards. “Thanks for coming out!!”, The head guy yells.   “We’re music lovers”, yells someone else. “We’re fans of leisure”, my date responds.


  • My NEW TAX GUY, JP.  He’s changed my life for the better.  Thanks to Matt for linking me with him! I celebrated my clean money with a dirty martini.


But the fleeting weeks also had its downs, like that one time I:

  • Came back from Burning Man with my skin SO DRY that I constantly had to put lotion all over my body to try to replace the moisture. I basically became a slug.  Bel, remember when I was so slippery that I dropped a coffee mug all over my dresser?!


  • Had a very bad day (but got cheered up by taking a walk through the park, in the rain, to a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar).


  • This also very, VERY bad day:



Don’t need to explain this one…


  • The Friday night that I was feeling down and Helen was out of town.  After I met a police woman who was somewhat of a sorority sister to me, I drove to a well-lit Get Go parking lot and ate panang curry in the car, windows up and doors locked.


  • Unrelated, I went on a bad date with a guy who’s “not a feminist.” Check please.  The bright side was that Helen and Victoria were there to console me when I got home.


But even though there would be bad days, they didn’t last.  I started seeing Julia again (she’s so helpful) and here are some more of my FRIENDS…

  • Sam Tallent.   I hadn’t seen him in YEARS, and he’d come from Colorado to perform at a new comedy club that opened in Pittsburgh. It was so great to see him! I saw his standup show for the first (and second) time. (So good!) Afterwards we found time to catch up and reminisce.



Thankful for how many funny people I know.



Talkin’ bout Greg. You know, Greg. From college.

  • Victoria, who has made Helen (and I) suuuuuper fancy-adjacent nowadays. She’s so talented and has hung up her gorgeous art on the dreamflat walls, which she said are perfectly untextured, and which, if you don’t know, is one of the fanciest of compliments. #PinkyUp. She also gave me and Bel matching pumpkin necklaces on Halloween ❤




  • Our beautiful Katie who started her globe-trotting journey in Iceland and sent us a text with the houses she picked out for Patrick, me, and Helen. Who NEEDS House Hunters International when you’ve got a friend like Katie?



The row of best friend houses; moving in ASAP.

  • A hangout sesh where I had some balloon flowers made for me which..I hated.. They popped and scared me. But, other times, I had fun made-up bedtime stories told to me and another time still, I got a chocolate flight (yum).


  • Emily C. and I had our first official friend hangout!



New, happy friends!


  • Nina, with her short-notice visit to Pittsburgh.


  • My pregnant Colleen who visited us in Findley Lake!  I finally got to meet Ben (he’s lovely). We now know SHE’S HAVING A GIRL!!!!!! (squeals of joy).



Supporting our Colleen and her little bun in the oven.


  • This beauty (below) who let me join her kickball team called Pitch, Please! I played one game but I loved it.



Make them say “Pitch, Please!”


  • After my first and only kickball game I got to meet this dog who LOOKS LIKE A NOVA SCOTIA DUCK TOLLING RETRIEVER!!!! (That would be the THIRD that I’ve met, for those of us keeping track) The owner wasn’t actually sure what his breed was but I ACTED ACCORDINGLY AND TREATED THIS ANGLE WITH THE REVERENCE AND HONOR HE DESERVED!  



Love at first bark.  He didn’t bark though, so….


Some family time:


  • Aunt Betsy and Uncle Marvin visit at Findley Lake.



Nature + Family = Great Photo Opp


  • We went to visit the SUPER INTERESTING National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY.  I’d recommend it. Afterwards we had a delicious family dinner with only a little bit of plastic in my (comped) meal.



National Comedy Center!! 



Sportin’ my new, souvenir t-shirt, thanks mom!


  • My parents came to visit me in Pittsburgh and we got to spend some family time at Aladdins ❤ ❤ ❤



The OG best friends.


And of course…summer parties 🙂 I went to the:

  • New most memorable Labor Day celebration I’ve ever been to.  It was a Nolan’s party, which are SO MUCH FUN!   And then afterwards, Bel and I went stargazing (and laughing) with Sarah, Mindy, Emily, and Kevin.


  • The graveyard for a surprisingly playful day.



Don’t trip on any of those headstones, you two.


  • SOUP PARTY, thrown by Emily T. There was SO much good soup, and we also got to dress in costumes for Halloween. SOUP-er fun!



The soup party. Not pictured: The soup.


  • Ian’s Super Soft Birthday Party, complete with a cupcake making station!



Cupcake party! Not pictured: Any of the attendees.



Trick or Treat!


And I know I don’t need to say it, the pictures will do most of the talking, here’s the goods.  I mean, the food.

  • A delicious vegan meal from Apteka. My first.



You never forget your first Apteka.


  • A dream flat meal that I took extra care to plate.  One of those omelets is dairy free and the other one actually looks like an omelet.  



Victoria has taught me well.


  • Roasted veggies that Katie Barbaro taught us how to make! We were resistant at first but now….THIS IS HOW WE DO!



Not pictured: Katie. Or the vegetables.



  • Helen had her BIGGEST GIG TO DATE! On October 3rd, she opened for CAMERON ESPOSITO in a sold out show WITH A LINE AROUND THE BLOCK!!!  I COULDN’T BE PROUDER!!!!



From V: BIG flowers for a BIG show!



Glimpsessssss.  (That’s Katie B.’s shirt on me ON HELEN’S BIG DAY!)


  • Earlier that week we had gone to to the venue (The Rex Theatre) to suss out things and to see Addi sing.
  • Anna C. Riley made some SUPER cool, notebook sized stickers to try to help woo Helen some of those sweet, sweet Cameron fans!



I want to bumper sticker my car!  HOW CUTE ARE THESE?!!!



Cameron and Helen in an Espi-tweeto.


  • Cameron loved Helen so much (how could she not?!), that she invited her to perform at another show IN ANOTHER TOWN as her opener the following night!!!!!!! And that is how OUR HELEN went about on a mini tour with THE Cameron Esposito!!!



Is she famous now?



Outside of the venue, pre show, with names you don’t often see together on a billboard.


I’m “falling” onto cloud nine from (late) summertime,

Keeping up with the Colombians

27 Oct

Happy belated blogging everyone!

Colombia has become an increasingly popular travel destination (it’s gorgeous), and my LLF,  Patrick, had highly recommended it.  While there, I made a bilingual pun that, while isn’t good, I will immortalize in writing: Colobienbienbien.
This post is long. And plans to impart some travel knowledge to help you plan a trip to Colombia.  If you don’t want the knowledge then just skim through the subsequent text and pictures and it’ll practically be like you traveled there yourself (only in a way more cost effective way).

I visited Colombia in October. AKA the rainy season.  This is the very first country that I have ever been to where not having all of my vaccinations restricted where I could go. The  That blew my mind because here is a link to a list of all of the countries that I’ve been to  (spoiler: at the time of this writing there were over 50). And would you believe that not a single one required proof of vaccinations??!  So I was a bit surprised when, because I didn’t have my yellow fever vaccine, I wasn’t allowed to travel to certain regions in Colombia.  This ended up being (probably) for the best, since, as I mentioned, it was rainy season and, full disclosure, I also wasn’t taking malaria medication….


Tip numero uno…

  1. Get your yellow fever vaccination.

I got mine less than one week after returning home from said Colombia trip at the Allegheny Health Department (sick shout out! Not, like, literally sick though) and learned that the yellow fever vaccination is good for a lifetime.  I repeat, A LIFETIME.

I turned to my nurse and said “Whhhaaaat!  That’s so cool!  What other vaccinations do you guys do over here?!”  She said “Hep A, Hep B, Tdap, Typhoid”  I said “I’LL TAKE THEM ALL, PLEASE!  But not now.”  So, look out for updates on that in future blog posts.  For now, I received the yellow fever vaccination which, I’ll repeat, is good for a lifetime.


Without that vaccination, in Colombia, I wasn’t allowed to visit:

  • Crystal Canyon
  • Minca
  • Southern region of the Amazon

Those places are saved in my for the next Colombian excursion.  I was, however, able to go to other places in this gorgeous Spanish speaking country.  Here they are in the order that I visited:

  • Bogota
  • Pereira
  • Filandia
  • Salento
  • Cartagena
  • Medellin

A very full itinerary with three different in-country flights. 

One great thing about Colombia is that flying around, by US standards, is very reasonable and affordable. Most of my flights (domestically) were about $40 USD and purchased the night before departure.  
There were cheaper flights listed but to buy them online you needed 1. to buy them in advance (duh) or 2. to be using a local credit card or bank.  This last point was frustrating because 1. I wanted to spend less money and 2. I (still) kept trying to buy plane tickets from these websites and going through the entire process multiple times to buy a plane ticket from a website and then being told no takes awhile.
And yet, as always, my experience in these moments made me grateful that the money I make is in US currency and that our economy is so strong.   In Colombia, the monthly wages are equivalent to $246 USD.  It really matters what country and circumstances you’re born into and it can be (seemingly) impossible to get out of.
So, because of my circumstances (and limited time) I chose to buy $40 plane ticket (for a one hour flight) and not a $10 bus ride (for ten hours on a bus).  The flights themselves were mostly not full (it being rainy season and locals not being able to afford them), and I went back and forth to different airports multiple times.
Tip numero dos….

2.   Exchange your money at the airport.

We found it really complicated to exchange our money in Colombia, and credit cards are virtually not accepted.  That being said, I highly recommend exchanging your USD to Colombian pesos at the airport.  I found that to be the best deal.

Now, you’re probably like “Who is this we you’ve started throwing in?”  Let me introduce Dom, a French speaking Canadian.  The two of us met on CouchSurfing in Pittsburgh during PRIDE (see this post where his photo first appears).  We had gotten along well in June, kept in touch, and decided to travel together in October.  I picked the country.  Dom has quite an interesting travel style: He’s not a planner, he literally buys his international plane tickets the night before a trip (and yes, that does make the price more expensive).  He like to go with the flow and if it weren’t for me we wouldn’t have known where we were staying the first night we landed!  I’d never traveled with someone quite like this before, and I was super excited for the new experience.



Repping Montreal and Pittsburgh — but switched.

It’s really fun to travel to a country where your own currency can go so far.  When we arrived in Bogota, which, mind you, is a HUGE city, a 35 minute Uber ride cost us $7.35 USD.  We dropped off our stuff that afternoon (at a great airbnb) and went out to try some street food…
Tip numero tres….


  1. Eat on the streets.

Again, the USD is incredibly strong in Colombia, so our money went a long way, especially when it came to street food.  There was a bunch of stuff– meats on sticks, liver, drinks called “aromatic”, fruits (ginips– YUM), and grilled food.  I’ll be honest — everything we ate on that first night was just okay.   So this is tip number three due to cost efficiency.  We weren’t really wowed. We ate rice-milk type things, homemade popsicles, and everything and anything we wanted.  For dessert, Dom wanted to keep to his travel tradition (which he does in every country) and go to McDonald’s. We ended up getting Mcflurries, which, in Colombia, was really just ice cream with m&m’s sprinkled on top — still good, but not a McFlurry. Who knows, maybe their “machine was broken,” an excuse that transcends borders. Funny thing is, our food from McDonald’s ended up being one of the most expensive meals we ate the entire time in Colombia at a whopping $8-13.


Busy-city Bogota.


Grilled corn on the cob.


It was Sunday, so by 8pm, everything was closing up. And quickly.  We noticed a lot of people–men, women, and children– sleeping on the streets, wrapping themselves and the stuff they were selling in blankets. As it got later (8:30pm), an alarming military and police presence was growing in the streets.  This scared me so I insisted we head back to our Airbnb. Dom wanted to stick around to see what it was all about, but I refused. I told him that he could go back out after he dropped me off, but by the time we got back to the Airbnb, his curiosity had subsided. During various encounters we had with locals later on in the trip, I asked what could’ve been going on that night. None of the students (they are so good at english) or locals we talked to knew, but the general consensus was that it was smart that we got away from them. We’ll call this tip number 3.5: Use caution and go with your gut.
The next day, we woke up early and went to “climb” up to the best view in Bogota (it was less of a hike and more of just stairs).  This staircase was hard. It was 2,350 meters up– great exercise, no doubt, but we rode the funicular down. After our “hike”, we had breakfast — eggs (yum), freshly squeezed orange juice, and something wrapped in a banana leaf that felt like I was opening up a present — and headed out on our graffiti tour.



Birds-eye-view Bogota.


It’s was very sunny.


Our art-tour-guide.

I do think that the graffiti tour would’ve been a lot more special if either Dom or I had appreciated art but since there were more pressing matters at hand (i.e., we could barely understand anyone), we dipped out early to go to Claro and get a SIM card.  If you’ve never bought a SIM card in another country sometimes it is an absolute pleasure (I’m looking at you, Asia) and sometimes it is medium hard (Colombia) and sometimes it is darn near impossible (Isreal).  Luckily, Colombia wasn’t as bad as Israel, but it was a process.  Claro is a huge store with long lines and computers; they don’t take credit cards, and their cash-only payment system is very confusing and located on the opposite side of the store. But because we knew this might take some time, and because we were so determined to succeed, we had allotted half a day to do this and got our SIM cards pretty painlessly.  Then just like that, we had translators on our phones! Muy bien!!
Not many people (in my experience) in Colombia speak English (except, like I said, a few of the students). Not even basic things.  So I’m pretty sure my Spanish improved.  I mean it must have, right?! And I was really inspired while I was there to, if I ever come back, settle in one city for a month or 2 and take language classes. NOTE TO SELF: Medallion would be a great place to learn.

After getting the SIM cards, we went back to our airbnb and booked a ticket Dom-style (i.e., the day of) to Pereira. To be honest, it was pretty exciting to purchase a plane ticket the exact day I was going to use it– and I was lucky to be trying out this travel style in a country where the domestic flights weren’t very expensive (even the last-minute tickets). Dom consolidated his bags and gave our host some maple syrup he brought from Canada as a gift (Canadians are SO nice), and we were off.


  1. Get to Bogota Airport early

Bogota is a big and busy city, and there can be LOTS of traffic heading to the airport. I recommend leaving plenty of time to get there. If you get there too early, they have these INCREDIBLE ice cream cones hand-dipped in amazing chocolate, so I would just hang out and eat one (or three) of those.

At this point in my trip, it was clear that Colombians were SO nice and helpful.  When we landed, the taxi driver (a notoriously corrupt line of work) who drove us to our Airbnb in the middle of the night in Pereira was super nice, and our host met us out on the street to make sure we had made it ok. I was relieved to be out of Bogota and in a smaller city, which definitely was more in-line with the vibe I was looking for.


The plane we booked last minute!


Us in blue dot form.


Morning, sunshine!

We woke up to a beautiful view in the morning and headed out to explore. Walking down the street, we were greeted by so many DELICIOUS smells — the freshest fruits with lots of variety and sweet, sweet coffee sold cheaply everywhere on the street in tiny quantities.  Like barely bigger than a shot glass.  Of course, I personally didn’t have many sips of that coffee but I did have lots of sniffs.

The soundtrack to our daytime stroll.


SO. MUCH. FRUIT. Note my favorite — the mangostein



What’s this??

Also note: Keeping my favorite, precious fruit on my lap.

It’s called chirimoya and is sort of like a dragon fruit.

After exploring for a bit we took a taxi to the bus terminal and bought a ticket to Filandia  for lunch.  Money wise, the best value for lunch is called “the executive lunch’ and they always come with soup, a starch, a bit of “salad”, and a protein.

Rolling hills in Filandia.


So many COLORS.

6.  To save money, order the executive lunch.  

Here’s an example of what one looks like…


Dom ordering another meal probably called the Hungry Hombre

More food talk.
At some point, Dom was craving some Western-style food and I was craving some vegetables so we headed to a “Western” restaurant.  I got this crepe, which wasn’t that good but at least I got a leaf of lettuce (pre romaine trying to kill you).



*some veggies.

After Filandia, we continued on to Salento, which ended up being my favorite town of the trip (where we got the veggies pictured above). It was rainy (probably because it was rainy season), and we stopped to get a view from the top of the town. Meanwhile, I ordered this delicious hot drink (that cost thats than $1USD) to keep me warm (ok, fine, I got it for the nutella).



Nutella on the top.  Nutella on the BOTTOM.


View from the highest point in town.




Rainy streets didn’t keep us from exploring!


We stayed in a private room at a hostel that was advertised on Airbnb and got great instructions from the owner as to how to go on a long (6 hour; 12km) hike the next day.  We were really excited to get an early start but woke up to the sound of rain literally POUNDING down on the zinc roof. We decided to get a few more hours of sleep until it sounded like the rain had lightened up.  When this happened, we headed to a Willy (jeep), which would drive us into the rain clouds to the beginning of the challenging 12km hike.


7. Ride on the back of a jeep.


Free willy!! Just kidding, they weren’t free.


Riding (safely) on the back of the jeep.

Once we were dropped off, our host had instructed us to look for a “puerto azul” (blue door) which was really a fence and after a 15 minute false start in the wrong direction Dom and I were on our way!
8. Take this hike past Salento and don’t walk past the blue fence!
We paid the small park entrance fee and crossed 9 wooden bridges (one person at a time because a few did seem…er…precarious).

Dangerous bridge over running water pt.1



Dangerous bridge over running water pt.2


You get the jist…

We hiked for several hours before finally reaching Acaime, a hummingbird refuge.  We paid another small entrance fee there 7.5 the fee is worth the entrance and received a cup of hot coco (sans nutella) and saw a kuatis!

Cutie kuati.





Hummingbirds enjoying some sugar water while we were enjoying our sugar (chocolate) water.



Feeling refreshed from the cocoa and the adorable wildlife, we backtracked for a while (which was always the plan) and then climbed up more to get some great exercise before heading down for a final descent into the Valley de Cocora, the main event. And main event, it was. These trees are something straight out of The Lorax; they’re called wax palms and are the national tree of Colombia. They looked so surreal and gorgeous in this otherwise treeless landscape.



When the Snapchat filter matches your real location.


Luscious green landscapes.



Bonafide tree-hugger.


Quick survey: painting or real?



Lorax Sammi, working up a sweat.



Not all who wander are lost…thanks to direction sign posts.


The kind of smile only nature can provide.



From The Lorax to Alice in Wonderland.

The whole hike took us about 5.5 hours, and as you can imagine, when we finally got back to a Willy and into Salento, we. were. famished. So, seeing as though Salento is known for their trout, I rewarded myself with a trout dinner that only cost $7.25.


8. Eat Trout in Salento. 


Next time you find yourself on a strenuous hike, don’t TROUT yourself– you can DO IT.


The next day, we headed back to Pereira. We were meant to go to the airport there, called Armenia, which is the actual name of the airport in Colombia! (Fairly confusing and potentially disastrous when searching SkyScanner for flights).


Gorgeous town square.

When we got to Armenia — the one in Colombia — we got on a bus and then on another bus, past Pereira to some hot springs we had heard about where we then hopped on another Willy, and the scenery became STUNNING. We got to the natural hot springs (there were two options, but we sprung [hehe, get it?] to go to the farther one in San Vincente, which was incredible


9. Go to the hot springs in San Vincente.  


Along with the hot springs, there were waterfalls, and a literal hot river.  


Oh the places you’ll go in Colombia.


Forget the song; go chase waterfalls.


Natures TLC.

The hot spring trip lasted about four hours. And it WASN’T ENOUGH TIME. But we had to keep up with our Colombian itinerary, and alas, we had another plane to catch. This time, we were off to Cartagena!



When we got to Cartagena, we did more exploring, making our way to the Old City, the Walled City, San Francisco, and beyond.



10. Go to places this colorful.



Flower market.



I spy with my little eye something yellow.


Dom didn’t raise that Canadian flag– it was already there.


The center of Cartagena was beautiful, and it was a nice change from where we had been.  It was less rainy, way more humid and much, much warmer, which made exploring the streets more muggy. We soaked in all of the bright colors of the buildings as best as we could. And, as we were walking, we found a tiny local bar, which I loved, because it was somewhere the locals actually went (and also liked). They had wifi and cold drinks — I ordered a CosteNita, which is a super tiny beer. So maybe I ordered another.



Hangin’ with the locals.



Fruit man instead of the ice cream man.



We walked all the way to the beach part of town and admired fisherman bringing in their hauls for the day.  Watching people buy fish directly from the fisherman not only made my stomach rumble but also inspired me to eat fish again in this part of the country.




The daily catch.



Definitely FISHING for compliments on this food photography.


While we hung around the beach area during lunch, we made friends with a group of students who were selling popsicles. We asked them why, and they told us that they were trying to raise enough money to travel around Colombia by bus. We OBVIOUSLY donated to the cause, excited to see young, adventurous travelers trying to find a way. Dom and I hung out with them for a while and took pictures at sunset.  



Young Colombian travelers and friends ❤



Photo credit DOM


Cartagena at sunset.



Maybe it was the fact that it was getting hotter outside, or the spontaneous nature of Doms personality….. but as we passed a barbershop Dom decided it was a good time get his beard trimmed. I couldn’t have agreed more. In fact, that’s tip numero 11….


11.  Get your beard trimmed in Colombia.

It was a great experience– they did a really fabulous job, and I got to chill with a beer during the process.


Definitely recommend this as an activity in Colombia… you know, if you have a beard


12. Also recommended: chilling with a beer while your travel partner gets his beard cut.


Cartagena loves color.

Dom and I stayed in Cartagena for the night. If we had gotten to stay longer in Colombia, we probably would have gone to an island or –if either of us had gotten our yellow fever vaccines beforehand, Minca (Oh Minca, so sad to have missed you). Since we didn’t though, Dom and I chose Medellin as our last and final Colombian city. We headed there the next day.



During our stay in Medellin, Dom and I stayed with a local host family who was incredibly kind and didn’t speak any English. Which was actually great for my Spanish, and sidenote, as I said before, it would’ve been a GREAT place to do so.

Tip number 13

13.  If you have the time or are able stay for a month or two, take a Spanish class!

Anyway, we settled in at our hosts’ house, and for lunch, we found a modern, but traditional dish right across the street from our homestay.




After eating, we walked around the city, stumbled upon some live music in a park, danced, walked across a bridge, and found ourselves in (yet another) park with stunning city views.


Anyone up for a game of checkers on this thing?



🎶Dancin’ in the street! 🎶



Beautiful rolling hills.


Views on views.


Crossing cultural bridges… or just regular bridges.  Pittsburgh, is that you?


Birds as colourful as the houses.



We ended up in the fancy (read: touristic) part of Medallian. It’s one of those places where it’s touristy for good reason because it was CHARMING!  

Dom and I picked a restaurant that had local vibes so as not to be too touristy, but still hang in the area, drink some ClubColombia El Dorada, and appreciate the good vibes.



Local restaurant in a touristic area.


It was around Halloween and I decided to buy a shirt, dressing myself up as a Colombian futbal player.  


Halloween costume.


Other people were dressed up too, and my favorite costumes were the life-sized uno cards (callback to Baltimore and my glimpses).


Not pictured: My glimpses or anyone I know.


We enjoyed Medellin, seeing this city transform from day to night.  Dom had to leave first thing in the morning, but I had one more full day on my own, which I decided to use to practice more of my Spanish with my lovely hosts.

After Dom’s departure, I decided to take my new friend, Jose Luis, out to lunch. I told him to pick anywhere— his favorite place! He asked, “Anywhere?” And I was like, “Yup, your favorite restaurant.” So we started walking, and something must have gotten lost in translation because I was expecting a local place with some really great, traditional, fresh cuisine, but we ended up here:



Eat fresh, I guess.

I stifled a laugh, but I had said anywhere. We ate Subway, and it was good, he was right. We even got a sandwich to go..  

Jose Luis was pretty happy.

After lunch, Jose’s mother joined us. We walked around the city, went to some botanical gardens, and happened upon a small festival (not to be confused with a carnival) along the way.  Muy divertido!


A family affair.


My gracious hosts!

I enjoyed the day with them and had a really great time practicing my Spanish.  After we got back to *our apartment, I put my Halloween costume to good use and went to a futbol game– Medellin vs. Bucaramanga. I met up with a group of gringos outside the game waiting for it to start. There was no drinking inside the stadium (smart), but we had hours before the game to hang out, paint our faces, and talk before the game started. It was such a beautiful night!

When it was game time, we took our seats in the stadium — I was sitting right next to a sign that said “Always home field advantage!”  There was SO much energy in the stadium throughout the entire game, the spectators would randomly clap at different rhythms (and as someone with no rhythm, I really got into it).




Whistles were boooooos.  My one faux pas? Everyone in the entire stadium was wearing red, and my Halloween costume was yellow. Whoops.  The good news was that the opponents weren’t wearing yellow either…



Ole, Ole Ole Ole!!


Gringos y gringa.


We had such a great time!!  I was enjoying hanging out with these gringos, and we all seemed to get along well, except for a girl in the group who couldn’t be bothered (her name was Molly). As the game went on, there was an escalation of celebration — we were jumping, screaming, clapping — SO MUCH EXERCISE, we probably got as much cardio in as the futbol players. I LOVE IT.  Straight up burning calories. The whole stadium was shaking.  The game went into overtime, and luckily, Medellin ended up winning. It was DEFINITELY an experience of a lifetime to be at that game and by far the best sports game I’ve ever, ever experienced.


Los gringos!!


In a sea of red, be a yellow.

What a FANTASTIC last night in Medellin. I reflected on my time in Colombia as I headed back “home” in a (super cheap) Uber– Medellin at night was so lit up, it looked like a twinkling night sky. Gorgeous. The next day, I went to the airport with dreams of coming back, with a yellow fever vaccination.


At the airport, I took inventory of my funds.
Note: I’d spent about $33USD a day.  This included Airbnbs and domestic flights.  



Tip numero 14


Colombia is waiting.


Fun in Atlanta: A Blog about Dallas

15 Oct

Goin’ on an adventure!!


It was a glorious, rainy early morning. Kevin and I parked in 9F (we reviewed this so many times that I still remember) and I practically (okay, I did) spun my way inside of the airport.  THIS WAS SO EXCITING!!!  We relaxed in the lounge until the last possible second — “Go big or go home”, they say… and we weren’t going home because we had practically just gotten to the airport. — As we ran to the gate we heard our names over the loud speaker.  Perfect timing.  WE WERE ON OUR WAY TO TEXAS!!!!!!! ….with a not-so-quick layover in Atlanta.

The first flight went well.  But as we headed to our gate for the second flight we couldn’t help but notice the board said “New Orleans”.  Huh?  Is this plane going to New Orleans?!  Everyone in the boarding area was just as confused as we were, but then the announcer came over the loudspeaker and cleared everything up… Flight 4099 has been canceled.  CANCELED, Y’ALL. Not delayed, but full-on canceled at the exact moment we were supposed to be boarding.  

Kevin and I looked at each other and I started laughing so hard I teared up.  WHAT.  After waiting in line, getting out of line, and waiting in line again, we finally talked to a representative who gave us a couple of options.  The best one was (not to take a plane back to Ohio but rather) to stay in Atlanta for eight hours and then catch the 6pm flight to Dallas.  The flight itself was going to take longer than usual due to weather and needing to be rerouted.  We were just hoping it wasn’t going to get canceled altogether…again. We snacked on the veggies I’d brought from home as we took the metro into the heart of Georgia. We interacted with a lovely metro-station attendant who helped us buy our tickets. So far this trip was so fun (!) and had us on a plane, surfing on the airplane train, and now on an actual train.

And thus, our weekend in Dallas began in Atlanta.  What are you supposed to do in Hotlanta (but actually Coldlanta at the early hour we got there) in the morning after a canceled flight? We choose the traditional route… an Israeli breakfast.


Shakshuka– traditional Atlanta cuisine?


After our shakshuka that left me #shook because it was amazing, we left to do some more exploring and stumbled into Piedmont Park and Atlanta’s gay pride festival.  Now normally, in Pittsburgh, we don’t stumble upon Pride; we joyfully anticipate Pride; we prepare for Pride.  And not knowing about Pride in Atlanta, as Kevin simply put it, we showed up “looking like squares.”  No sequins, no bright colors, no tutus, no rainbows all over our bodies….it was a shame.  We did our best to make ourselves as visually PRIDEFUL as possible (although, to be clear, we wear Pride in our hearts ALL THE TIME) and picked up some sweet, sweet swag.


Stickers and beads — quick! Blend in!


We continued to walk around Piedmont Park in our make-shift Pride gear, but, as the day wore on it became clear that not being covered in sparkles and colorful garb wasn’t our only fashion faux pas. Turns out that Coldlanta really does turn into Hotlanta in the afternoon. IT WAS SO HOT, and Kevin really regretted not bringing a pair of shorts — but hey, in his defense, we most definitely thought we’d be in Dallas at that very moment where the temperature was much lower.  

We stumbled upon these hot clear balls full of, what turned out to be, good exercise and great fun. We signed up, got a running start, rolled around, built up more of a sweat, and emerged laughing and giggly.   I mean….Do I use this as an accessory for the furries next year? 


Human hamster balls.


After ditching our balls, we left the park and settled on a new pair of wheels…one we’d seen all around town. Scooters!


We’ll just leave these here for the professionals.


….We totally underestimated this thing. Honestly, Lime scooters are a great idea, but neither of us possessed the talent to do the “full” (er…1/12) Atlanta city tour that we had dreamed.  We weren’t skilled enough to turn our heads when we were in the wrong lane. Cost wise, it was efficient but for us but that’s where the efficiency ended.  Wanna know how far we shakily got? See below.


The Lime scooter challenge: Last longer than 11 minutes. 


So instead of scootering, we decided to walk around the city. We saw some sights (including a web MD office) and took the long way (not the pretty way) to the puppet museum. You know, for variety’s sake. 

Once our 8 hours in Atlanta were over, we headed back to the airport, gave our extra metro passes away, caught our flight, and had some snacks: we split a sample-size Laura bar, a nectarine, and a tiny bag of pretzels. Not a Texas sized meal, but then again, we weren’t in Texas yet.  We still felt hungry and had enough time to RUN into the Atlanta lounge where we picked up some much needed fuel.  

Kevin kept reminding me that our vacaion hadn’t started yet. “Vacation doesn’t start until we get to Dallas.” Great news!

And we finally did it, we made it to Texas 🙂 All smooth sailing from there, right? Oops.  I booked the rental car from the wrong airport.   Sigh.  What a novice mistake and meant even more time between us and downtown Fort Worth.  We sleepily brainstormed, problem solved, and eventually figured it out.  We headed out on the town and saw some of Fort Worth… at least the part that we likened to Pittsburgh’s Southside.  Here it is:


So different at night and during the day.


We couldn’t bring ourselves to party in Fort Worth.  We’d given Atlanta our all and…well, we had seen Fort Worth at night.  That was all we could muster until the next morning when it felt like we’d hit a RESET button.  A new day that I got to start with a Texas steak.


Chom chomp chomp.


After we were finished breakfast, we decided to hang around a bit and see what this place had to offer.

We found a great cattle drive — which is most definitely not a cattle parade, mind you. After watching the cattle parade down the street during the cattle drive, we headed towards Billy Bob’s (a bar) that you had to pay to enter.  Once paying, finding no one inside (including a bartender who would serve us), we decided to just head out and go to Dallas.  Or, more specifically, the Texas State Fair (in Dallas). But not before we rode a mechanical bull, walked all around town, played ski-ball at the White Elephant, and got a life-saving coffee at one of the places I had marked on the map.


Not a cattle parade


Ok…so, The Texas State Fair is, by far, the best state fair that I’ve ever been to.  To be honest, I haven’t been to many but, THIS ONE WAS SO GOOD!  If I ever make a Superlatives blog, this State Fair will be featured.  It started off extra promising when we found FREE street parking.  Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but we were stoked!

The way this fair worked was that we bought a certain amount of tickets, and then we paid for everything in the fair with the tickets. Each ticket cost $.50 and there were SO MANY GOOD DEALS. Everything was reasonably priced — for example, water was two tickets ($1) and beer cost six tickets ($3).



Giant Cowboy (that moved!)


So I promise that  the fair wasn’t only cool because it was economical (although, again, IT WAS!). It also had soooo many games, a sky tram, talks about milking and farming AND AN ODDITIES TENT (so cool) where we saw a LIVE TWO-HEADED SNAKE. I repeat. A LIVE  two-headed snake!! (I added the repetition there for 1. Each head and 2. Dramatic effect).

We also saw a two-headed stuffed piglet and conjoined turtles with many legs, but the snake was by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.  I’d never seen anything like it before. A LIVE TWO HEADED RATTLE SNAKE!  Both heads had tongues that flickered out to ‘smell’ the air.  It was alive for sure! We kept going back to look at it; there were no pictures allowed inside the tent. 



4 coupons is $2.  And this is the only photo of the two headed snake I could get.


They also had regular, one-headed animals, which were fun to check out. Including piglets and snakes.  Not kept in the same tent.  We went to the snake area (of the one-headed variety), and Kevin let me gush about my old pet snake, Namastay (RIP).  It was so thoughtful and nice of him to inquire about her so sincerely. 


Remembering Namaste.


Other one headed animals included dogs and cats and birds doing amazing tricks like making doors open and flags fly and a separate petting area where we got to pet and feed this zebra…


Kevin, aware of the top AND bottom teeth.


The atmosphere was just so lively and fun. It was a completely different vibe from Fort Worth, and we were both so glad to be there.  Not only did we indulge in the animal oddities, but we also indulged in food and beer. We were really surprised that in the land of food-with-lots-of-butter and oversized portions that we found HEALTHY food sans butter (but still in oversized portions) like this mango:


Mango as tall as that guy in the background.


The mango above was SO juicy and SO good. It might be the best mango that I’ve ever had and I’ve lived in the Caribbean #credentials  The best mango I’ve ever had was on a stick, at a fair, in Texas.  This fairs fare was more than fair…it was remarkable!

Don’t worry, it wasn’t all vegan and all natural, they also had healthy (?) fried food, like the fried avocado (still dairy free). The beer choices were also super unique like this corndog beer (pictured below) and the cotton candy beer (not pictured and also not very good):


Side of mustard.


After all of the mishaps we’d had earlier on in the trip, everything went according to plan. Even the weather behaved for us!! It was supposed to rain all weekend, and during our day at the fair the weather was great! It did start raining at night — actually pouring — but not before we were able to ride the huge Ferris Wheel.  We ran back to the car soaking wet (which somehow made running more bearable and fun).  It was a super successful day. 


Not mad about it!

Happily, our artistic Airbnb was close by and we went to dry off.

The next day, the weather took a turn for the worse and added cold-wind to the rainy mix.  So, we decided to do a self-guided driving tour around the city.  We drove around downtown, saw sculpture gardens and parks (just from a distance, no need to get out in that really cold rain…brrr!), cool buildings, graffiti, Dealey Plaza where JFK was assassinated, and a suspension bridge that we circled and ultimatly crossed.  


Chasing bridges.


For lunch, we had been planning to check out this raw restaurant that I’d been eager to go to. It was near the airport, perfect location for our final meal; but when we pulled up, all the lights were off, and it looked very, very closed. I was short of devastated, but Kevin, the hero, decided to go outside in the freezing rain and check the doors to see if he could get inside.  AND IT WAS OPEN!!!! So glad he checked (thanks, Kevin!). It turns out the lights were off because the power had gone out — but luckily we had picked a raw restaurant and they don’t need to cook anything so it didn’t really matter.  YAY!!!

I WAS ECSTATIC!!!!!!! And may have over ordered although I loved it all and don’t regret a single dish.


Raw sushi… but like, not the regular raw kind.



Delicious food you don’t even need to cook.  These two dishes were the best; raw enchiladas and avocado “toast”.  


So after eating this healthy, invigorating meal, and taking some to go, we headed back to the airport. We had what we thought would be a cushy two hours once we landed before Kevin had to be at Arcade for the Improv 101 Class Show that he taught but, in fashion with the earlier parts of this trip, our flight kept getting delayed.  We looked at the weather.  It was warmer and drier in Pittsburgh than it was in Dallas and we held out hope that we were going to make it to the theatre on time.  And we did!  With 15 minutes to spare, Kevin showed up at Arcade before his class successfully took the stage to preform.

So, not only did I get to begin my Dallas vacation in Atlanta, but I got to end it cracking up to comedy in Pittsburgh.

Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?


A Texas-sized smile,