Monday, November 23, 2015

North Table Mountain - Or an accidental 7 mile hike

I am obsessed with Golden, Colorado. Just a few miles outside of Denver, this little town has all the charm and character you would expect from an old minor town. Small streets, up-and-coming neighborhoods, a few breweries and old restaurants liter the small main street and surrounding neighborhoods. There is something special about this little town (maybe it is the Coors Brewery...)

A few weeks ago, when the weather was still unbearably warm, I decided to take my favorite pup, Rusty,  for a walk. I googled it, and it looked like a few of the trails were a hilly 2-3 miles. Perfect. I drove the 20 minutes from my house in the Highlands neighborhood, and off Rusty and went, starting on the steeeeeeeep hill. I figured I would just keep walking until a natural loop happened. The various blogs made it sound so easy, I didn't think I really needed to look at the map. 

Big mistake. Two hours later, with no water, Rusty and I were still trekking through the steep cliffs, up and down we went. I finally asked a biker riding by, and it ended up I took a wrong turn somewhere, and we went all the way around the entire mesa (see map below). SEVEN MILES.

Although, something about this landscape is simply breathtaking, with the steep cliffs and wildflowers doting the hillside. Even in summer, Colorado is absolutely beautiful. Looking back, I am happy we did it, but I would highly recommend water next time! 
leash-free and loving it.

Learn more about North Table Mountain Park HERE.

Exhausted, and hating me. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Denver Rock and Roll Half Marathon

Ok back to reality, folks. No more Vietnam galavanting, but instead back to my current (awesome) reality here in Denver, Colorado. I want to share more of this with you, as I think this city freaking rocks. I love living here, and I want to catch you up on what I have been doing the last few months. Traveling will always have my heart, but I do I want to share more of what my life is about right here, right now. 

So I ran another half marathon! I must preface this with the fact that I have never been a fast runner, nor will I ever be. Nor am I a good runner, I just love being outside. I’m naturally slow and absolutely hate going outside my 10-minute-mile comfort zone. But breaking news: I ran my second half marathon in Denver, at one of my fastest times yet! Thank you Rock and Roll Denver! Somehow, Jeremy and I talked each other into running another race (remember the Colfax Marathon in May?)

It turned out to be a beautiful October day in Colorado, one where the sun was shining, but it was crisp and cool out. The streets were closed for the event, and we saw the sun rise over the deserted city streets as we began at a balmy 6 am. This was one of my favorite race courses ever, running through downtown Denver and City Park. 

I have already signed up for next years! :)
My post running meal. Cheese chips and the best peanut butter pie you've ever had. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Views (and thoughts) from the Green Pepper

As we settled into Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, we soon came to realize this new city was an extreme difference to our time in Hoi An. From the busy, bustling streets, to the extreme food and drink vendors littering every corner, this was the Vietnam Lisa and I had been expecting. We were excited to explore our neighborhood, the Old Quarter, which seemed full of life. Backpackers roamed through the streets trying to dodge cars, carts, motorbikes, and more. They mingled with the locals as different restaurants set out the little plastic stools for people to sit and drink on. These streets were definitely not made for cars AND pedestrians, so people constantly were jostled and moved as they walked, sat, talked, and bought items.

After eating more delicious Vietnamese food (thank you Lonely Planet, you never steered us wrong) we stumbled across a busy four corners of shops, each with its own restaurant-style stool seating outside. At that moment, a 50-cent beer sounded pretty good, so we picked the first one: The Green Pepper.

The Green Pepper quickly became our home away from home, not only for that evening but the rest of our week there. We went there every single day, grabbing a beer once the sticky, hot sun had gone down. Oddly finding solitude in the busy, bustling street. Motorbikes constantly almost hit us; the police always making us move our little plastic stools back and out of the street (and once they left, the workers would move us back) and the constant flow of tourist and locals made conversations incredible.

We met so many great people there. Backpackers from Australia and The United Kingdom, folks on their honeymoon from New Zealand, and locals on their way home from work. But nothing beat the first night there, when we met 2 wonderful, incredible, jovial people from New Zealand. An older couple, they were traveling through Vietnam for the second time, enjoying each other and the retired life. The stories they had to share, and the life they had lived together, was something that you can only truly appreciate while traveling and consuming copious drinks, with nothing else to do but talk about life. We exchanged information after many hours of talking, knowing we would see them again.

I can’t explain why this encounter was so special, and what it was about this couple that touched me to this day. As I write this, I still get a bit of nostalgia; Goosebumps actually. Maybe because I simply want to be them when I am older. To travel with my partner, and have as much fun at 75 as you did at 25. To sit on a little plastic stools, sipping on crappy, cheap beer, but loving every minute of it. To be in awe and wonder of other cultures, and to still immerse myself regardless of my age or marital status. I know this will be me. But these people, actually made me believe it.

We never made it to Halong Bay, due weather, but thanks to the Green Pepper, our time in Hanoi and Vietnam was more incredible than we could have ever imagined.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Next Stop: Hanoi

Our beautiful, lazy time in Hoi An came to an end after three sweaty nights. we figured it was time to move on to the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi. We were dead set on taking a trip to Halong Bay, but weather was making it hard to plan. Since all shuttles seem to leave from Hanoi out to the bay, we figured it would be good to head to the big city. 

It was sad to leave Hoang Trinh Hotel, as they were so incredibly kind and generous to us. But we were ready for a little more excitement than Hoi An had to offer, so to the big city we went! 
Just fitting in with the locals 

beer at 8 am! This is what vacation is all about! 

Welcome to dirty, smelly, sweaty, amazing Hanoi!  Were people drive dangerously, the streets are incredibly narrow, and you can get a beer for 25 cents. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Nights in Hoi An

Even though Hoi An has a reputation as a town that turns its lights off early, there are two factors that make it an attractive nightlife location:

#1 - you can walk everywhere here as it's small enough for a night out without the need of wheels and indeed the centre is pedestrian only – this in a country that adores motorbikes.
#2 - the beer in Vietnam is about the cheapest in the world,  making just about anywhere in the country party central if you wish it to be. 

So after the long days of walking around in the oppressive heat, we enjoyed the (somewhat) cooler  nightlife that Ho An had to offer. As much as we wanted to go out and "live it up," it was just too dang sticky out most nights, so we were in bed by 9am. But in an attempt to try and be young, we always went out to dinner. 

It was always worth it, as the lights and lanterns of Hoi An were something not to be missed. 

Our fancy dinner, where we met the greatest traveling couple and had a great glass of wine.