Friday, November 3, 2017

Eurotrip 2017: Prague

View from the Charles Bridge.

Oh, Prague. You are gorgeous and affordable, and I love you. I spent the most time here of my three destinations, and it was definitely my favorite. I stayed at this AirBnB, and I would recommend it. On the other side of the river from the touristy Old Town, so a little quieter, but there were plenty of shops and restaurants on my street, and the tram stopped just down the block. Pretty much perfect. Some highlights from my time:

- The food. Oh lord, the food. So good! I had a great portobello burger at a vegetarian restaurant, fresh pasta and pesto, all sorts of goodies at a vegan cafeteria, and quite possibly the best pizza of my life. Reservations seem to be a big thing in Prague, but since I was a single, a few places let me sit at the bar/grab a quick bite if I promised to be done in an hour, so I got by without making any. Plus, they have trdelník and Angelato. I loved it.

Freshly made salty caramel gelato.


- The sights: I visited the Karel Zeman museum, the Kafka museum, Strahov Monastery, the Lennon Wall, the Astronomical Clock, saw a blacklight theater performance, and went the movies (to see Home Again, in English. I had a rough day and needed a break, lol). I'm a movie buff, so I really enjoyed the Karel Zeman museum, which delved into his use of special effects and different film techniques before CGI was a thing.



- The public transportation: I thought it was easy to get around in Prague. A lot of things were walkable from my apartment, but if I wanted to take the tram or metro, it was pretty straightforward (you can buy a three-day pass on their app, and plan your routes on Google Maps). I also took a day trip to Karlovy Vary (2.5 hours from Prague) on a bus for about $10 roundtrip.

- Karlovy Vary: I spent a Saturday here, and it was a great day. Arrived in the morning on the bus, grabbed a quick breakfast, and then went to the spa for a few hours. I had a mineral bath (a literal bath in a copper tub, you just soak for 20 minutes and then they wrap you in a sheet to relax/dry off), a massage, and went to the pool (with sauna and whirlpool). It was nice and very relaxing, but a little different than the states, procedurally. My appointments were booked in separate rooms, and I dressed in between each treatment (they're not about that white robe life). Also you have to pay for your time in the pool, and I got scolded for going half an hour over my projected time (it was inexpensive and not a big deal, but how am I supposed to estimate how long I want to relax in the nice warm water? Ninety minutes was just not enough). I spent the rest of the day wandering around the town, which is full of beautiful old buildings, rolling hills, and fall foliage. Just gorgeous.

This is what Europe should look like, right?

- Not speaking the language: Not knowing Czech was not much of an issue. It would've come in handy for picking out a tablet, but when I asked if people spoke English, most of them did, at least enough to get the point across. For directions and bus routes, I would just remember the general idea
of the street or stop name (like "the one that starts with SD" when I needed to get off at Švandovo Divadlo), which worked out just fine.

The one thing I didn't like about Prague (and Europe in general, really) was all the smoking. So many cigarettes, y'all. Colorado has fairly strict smoking laws so I'm not really around it much here, and the smell really bothers me. But what can you do?

Friday, October 27, 2017

The One Where I Whine About My Meaningless, Consumer-Driven Life

Well guys, I made it! I was in Europe for 12 days and lived to tell the tale. I wouldn't go so far as to say "I came, I saw, I conquered," but how about "I laughed, I cried, I ate all the baked goods"? We'll go with that.

I hate that this is the thing that sticks out at me about the trip, because it seems completely stupid, but my phone broke on Day 4. One minute I was scrolling through Instagram, and the next, the screen went black and I was never able to get it to reboot. I'm ashamed to say I freaked out, because I try not to be tethered to my phone, but I did freak out a bit. How was I going to contact my AirBnB hosts? Or look at maps? Or research and plan a day's activities? OR TAKE A GODDAMN PICTURE? I didn't really need it for making calls, but I definitely needed its other capabilities.

I thought it over and decided to buy a tablet to get me through the rest of the trip. I didn't want to spend money on a phone that might not work when I got back home, and I figured a tablet would do what I needed it to do and be more affordable. So I took the tram to the mall and luckily spotted a Samsung sign in a store window right next to the stop.

After asking around for an English-speaking salesperson, I ended up just pointing and pantomiming my way through the purchase, and I left with this. The camera pretty much sucks (no flash and 2 MP) and it's far slower than my phone, but for $72, I made it work and tried to move on with my life. In the grand scheme of things, it was a minor hiccup in an otherwise enjoyable trip. And way better than having food poisoning on a long-haul flight.

I might be extra salty about it because I still don't have a phone, three weeks after mine broke. I ordered a new one within 24 hours of its death, but apparently the replacement was just released and Google is behind on shipping them out, so ... tablet it is. I will say, it's much easier to use the tablet here, where I know where I'm going and have generally the same schedule every day. But I do look forward to the day when I can (for example) text someone that I'm running late, or call my doctor to schedule my annual physical. One day, friends. One day.

(Don't worry, I'll write more about the actual trip in another post. Because it was dope.)



Monday, October 2, 2017

It gets me real pissed off, and it makes me wanna say ...

FUUUUUUUCK. All of the fucks. Sunday morning I woke up, read about Trump ridiculing the mayor of San Juan, and went back to sleep. But this morning, I woke up to much worse news. Another mass shooting. The worst one yet (in America).

I am of course saddened by the loss of life here. I'm not dead inside. But since I didn't personally know anyone affected by the shooting, my grief is outweighed by anger. When does it end?

I've seen lots of fun people on Facebook telling my friends not to "make it about politics." Newsflash, people, IT IS ABOUT POLITICS. Gun laws are political. Lately, health care (and thus mental health benefits/coverage) is political.These are things our government regulates, and these are two big factors in tragedies like Vegas. So how exactly do we expect things to change if we don't make it political? We're gonna pray all the bad away?

That was rude. I'm not a big prayer person, but no disrespect if that's your thing. Please continue to pray for people's minds and hearts to change if you choose to. But I think we've got to take tangible action to prevent more of this shit going down.

That means better gun control laws. Sorry I'm not sorry that it makes it harder for Joe Blow to get a gun. It SHOULD be hard to get a gun, friend. Perhaps as hard as it is to get an abortion? Just sayin. And even if tightening up gun regulations doesn't stop ALL mass shootings, I'm guessing it would stop some. Isn't it worth a try? So, call and write to your congresspeople. I have Sen. Gardner's number saved in my phone, because 2017. Support organizations that are working to end gun violence and the influence of the NRA, like Everytown for Gun Safety.

It also means more accessible mental health care. I'm lucky, I can go to therapy for $15 a visit, because I have really good insurance. Even with that, it took me months to find a therapist who A) takes said insurance and B) was accepting new patients. Relatively few hoops to jump through, but like I said, I'm lucky. But someone who is struggling won't want to deal with hoops; it will seem like an insurmountable task that will never get done. We also need to address the stigma surrounding mental health care (this org seems to be working on it - I'm not familiar with it, but Aisha Tyler posted about it and she generally knows what she's talking about). It's absolutely not a sign of weakness to seek help. Honestly, I feel like recognizing you have some shit to deal with and attempting to address it is brave. Tamping it down or masking it by distracting yourself is the easier option, because you don't have to leave your comfort zone. But taking care of yourself makes you better able to take care of others, and if we all took better care of people, there just might be fewer people resorting to gun violence. Or any violence. Whoa.

So that's my three-pronged plan. Gun control, more access to mental health care, and love. Easy-peasy.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

Hey y'all. I want to write about all the garbage that's going on in the world and how we can/should be doing better, but I don't really have the words and I don't feel informed enough to say anything novel. So I'll just talk about myself, cuz I'm super good at that. Next week, I'm trying something new and taking a solo international trip. Technically, I went to Spain to study abroad by myself, but there was school and a host family and field trips, so that doesn't really count.

I've been wanting to travel more outside the US, but it's hard to find travel buddies and I was hesitant to go it alone. People either didn't have the funds or the PTO, or we couldn't get our schedules to line up. But when I found a cheap ticket to Brussels in June, I just bought it (shoutout to Kayak's Explore tool for the heads-up on the sale). I decided it was time to start doing what I wanted in life, partner or no partner. And the only way to get over your fears is to face them, so I might as well start. Should I list some more cliches, or are we ready to move on?

So I'm going. I leave Wednesday for 12 days, with stops in Prague, Brussels, and Iceland. I'm very excited and only slightly nervous. I'm doing an Icelandair flight to Brussels, with a stopover in Iceland on the way home, and then I found a cheap ticket from Brussels to Prague. Things I'm looking forward to:

- TREATS! Belgian waffles, chocolate, trdelník, etc. My sweet tooth shall be satisfied. I'll try to squeeze in some vegetables between all that and french fries.

- Unplugging: I'm sure my phone will be used a lot for directions, translations, photos, etc. But I'm not bringing my laptop and I intend to lay off the social media (excluding Instagram, cuz I'll be overgramming the shit out of this trip) and TV/movie watching. The goal is to read books and be present. Also kinda jazzed about the quiet that will come from not speaking the language(s).

- All of the museums. And culture. And history. Last time I was in Europe, I was 21 and didn't so much care about these things. Now I can appreciate the fact that old things in Colorado are from the 1800s and old things in Europe are CENTURIES older than that.

The only real anxiety I have about the trip is not speaking the language. I've been practicing common phrases (please and thank you, how much is this, I don't eat meat, do you speak English, etc.) but I feel like not being able to read street signs could be challenging, especially when taking public transportation. I was nervous about this before my Asia trip, but it turns out English is abundant in Thailand and Cambodia, and it was never an issue. I don't want to assume Europe will be the same, though. But I downloaded Google Translate and I'm hoping I can make it work.

So that's what's going on with me. I'm sure I'll write more when I get back and have a billion photos and recommendations and reviews to share. What's new with you?

Friday, September 15, 2017

New York: The Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Made Up

Phew. This summer (every summer, really) felt like a whirlwind of activity, and things are finally slowing down. I love summer, and most everything that happened was fun/enjoyable, but it's nice to have some breathing room, ya know? Although I am definitely missing my community pool already.

I hardly traveled the first six months of the year, and then my PTO took a major hit starting in June. I did ATX Festival, Seattle/Vancouver in July, Tennessee in August, and New York City last week. Because who needs retirement savings? JK. I do. But taking a long weekend here and there is a feasible way for me to satiate my wanderlust.

Let's talk about New York. I first visited in 2005, when I was a senior in college. My dream was to move there after graduation and work for a women's magazine, preferably Jane. The trip made me realize just how freaking expensive it was, and how overwhelming the hustle and bustle of the city was for me, after growing up in a town of 5,000.

This time around, I was less overwhelmed and more smitten. The architecture is gorgeous, the public transportation is expansive, and there are so. many. options. when it comes to food and entertainment. We were there for 4.5 days and I feel like we barely dipped our toes into the pool of things to do. I still don't think I would live there (unless I won the lottery), but I had a fabulous time.

We arrived Wednesday afternoon, and took the bus to the subway to our hotel. The Moderne Hotel was a perfect fit for us: cute, great location, clean, and fun/friendly staff. I would definitely stay there again.

The impetus for the trip was the ticket to Hamilton I bought myself the day after the election last year. Trump becoming president really gave me a jolt of "anything can happen, you shouldn't put off doing what you enjoy" FOMO and I went for it. Coincidentally, they had just opened up new dates, so I was able to buy a non-resale ticket for less than a million dollars. My friend Laura (aka Other Laura aka my doppelgänger) decided to join me on the adventure, and thus, a trip was planned.




Hamilton was ... good. I'm glad I got the chance to see it, but I think my expectations might have been too high. I know every note of the original Broadway cast recording, so it was obvious when the cast deviated from that. There were some good deviations (the current Aaron Burr was a little snarkier than Leslie Odom, Jr.) and some bad ones (Eliza's voice didn't blow me away). So, there's that.

Me and Evan Hansen's bed. Good story: After I took this, I had to convince the guy sitting behind me that I was taking a selfie and not a photo of him. 


What did blow me away, though, was Dear Evan Hansen. Holy crap. I cried, more than once. It really takes a nuanced look at belonging and loneliness and doing what you can with what you have. Also, Ben Platt is phenomenal. I saw on Instagram he'd been on vocal rest the week prior, but I never would have known otherwise. He sang his fucking heart out. And his mannerisms to depict Evan's awkwardness and anxiety were perfect. His Tony win was absolutely deserved.



We also saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and it was really fun. Not revelatory, but it had some cute updates to the characters, and the sets were great. Christian Borle makes a great Willy Wonka (streets ahead of Johnny Depp, for sure. It'd be hard to beat Gene Wilder in my heart, though). Overall, an entertaining and enjoyable show.

This is already a novella, so I'll be brief about other highlights.



- The New York Public Library: The building is gorgeous, the tour is free, and you learn all sorts of fun facts. Win.



- Museum of Sex was super interesting. Lots of exhibits for a small space. Plus they have a boob bounce-house. How could you say no to that?

- Museum of Math was also interesting, and honestly a little challenging. I don't math that much in everyday life, and my geometry skills were a liiiiittle rusty. Tessellation is hard, friends.




- Top of the Rock (observation deck on top of Rockefeller Center): Great views of the city. And I was singing the 30 Rock theme song for the rest of the day.

- DŌ: Edible cookie dough sold in scoops, like ice cream. As good as it sounds.
- Milkbar: I tried cereal milk soft-serve. It's a different taste, but I dug it.

- The Meatball Shop: I thought this was gonna be so-so and mostly a gimmicky place, but the food was delicious. I had a sandwich with pesto and veggie balls, and it was probably the best meal of the trip.

I've had "see a Broadway show" on my bucket list for a while, so I was happy to check it off (times three). And it was fun change to be in an urban environment, where things are walkable/easily accessible by public transportation. While Denver is growing, I live on the outskirts, and even the most developed parts aren't on the same level as NYC. There are so many sights (like three boroughs) I didn't see, so I'm sure I'll be making my way back at some point.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

ATX Festival, Year Two

Hey y'all! This post is about Texas, so I'm allowed to say y'all here, for sure. I arrived home a few days ago last month (killing the blogging game, as per usual) from Austin, Texas, where I spent the weekend attending my second ATX Festival. It was glorious. I wasn't quite as pumped as last year going into it, because there weren't as many shows I watch coming this year, but I had a great time anyway. The highlights:

Creatives and cast from Sweet/Vicious. 


- Sweet Vicious screening: I had never heard of this show and then decided to watch it before attending the fest, and it is SO good. And the cast and creatives love it, and it’s so meaningful to them and so many viewers. MTV cancelled it, but they’re still shopping for a new home. I hope they find one, because this story is important and deserves to be told.

Kick-ass females of television: Mara Brock Akil, Liz Tigelaar, Kyra Sedgwick, Mary McDonnell, Taylor Dearden and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.


- Complex, Not Complicated: A Look at a Woman’s Character panel: A chat with some badass females who are actresses/writers/creators/EPs about the importance of depicting women as multi-dimensional characters but going beyond the "harried woman who tries to have it all” trope.

The I'm Sorry panelists. And the free popcorn and cocktails the show sponsored. Alternate caption: "More people sitting in director's chairs!"

- I'm Sorry screening: Created by and starring Andrea Savage, the show is loosely based on her real life. They screened the pilot, and it was hilarious - bawdy, relatable, and the cast is filled with funny people you'll recognize. Also, Tom Everett Scott plays her husband, and I've had a crush on that adorable man since That Thing You Do! It's on TruTV and I honestly have no idea how to access that, but if I can figure it out, I'll definitely be watching.

There were a bunch more screenings and panels (I think I went to 17 over four days), but those were my absolute faves. I AirBnB'd it again this year, and my place was near-perfect. Great location, comfy bed, and a pool. 10/10, would stay again. The ROT Rally was in town, which means it was hella loud, but since I wasn't driving, it was only minimally annoying.

The only weird thing about my AirBnB: This creepy-ass sign.

The thing I really love about this festival, more than any celeb sightings or swag, is the people. I joked on Facebook while waiting for my flight that I was "going to be with my people," but it's true. I'm normally not one to talk to strangers, but making friends here couldn't be easier. Knowing that we share an obsession with television makes it real easy to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. And they're just as pumped about the topic as I am. I feel welcomed and accepted and not at all weird for showing up solo. I haven't signed up for next year's fest yet, but I'd say it's highly probable I will return.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Keep Calm and Carry On.

Me with my pals Sara and Kelly in Sevilla, Spain. There is little photographic evidence of my last Europe trip, because this was back in the day (2005) when cameras used film. And you can't waste those frames on selfies!

I've been thinking a lot lately about the state of the world. With the the upcoming anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the attacks in Portland, Manchester, and London, and myriad other acts of violence that have occurred in the interim, it's hard not to think about it, really. And having a loose cannon in the White House does little to ease my mind (but that's a whole other blog post).

The idea became more personal when my mom called last week as I was driving home from work. We chatted while I was stuck in traffic (hands-free via Bluetooth, don't worry), and I mentioned I've been researching a trip to Brussels and Iceland.

"Be careful," she cautioned. "Brussels had all those attacks." I know she's my mom and thus she worries, but the threat of a terrorist event didn't even register on my list of concerns about the trip. I was more nervous about not speaking the language and finding an AirBnB that was affordable but still had a bathroom and no bedbugs. So her comment gave me pause.

Bad things do happen. And they can happen anywhere, at any time. My house is 15 minutes from the movie theater where a dozen people were killed in 2012. The last time I was in Europe, I happened to visit London in between the two July 2005 bombings. I don't say that to imply "Look at me! I've narrowly escaped tragedy!" but merely to point out the sadly ubiquitous nature of these events. Being out and about in the world today comes with a degree of risk.

But I don't want to let that stop me. I've always wanted to see the world, and I'm finally in a situation where I have both the PTO and funds to do so. So while I can't say I'll be venturing to the Middle East anytime soon, I don't want to put travel on hold until we somehow unlock the secret to world peace. Letting fear overshadow the things that bring me joy in life feels like letting the bad guys win. And if someone gets to win in my life, I want it to be me. So I'll proceed, with caution. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.