While planning out your journey to Europe, whether you are going for a few weeks or a few months, the first thing on your list will be to figure out where you will go. Most of your decision should be based on the type of person you are
Traveling the Rocky Mountains - Best tips and tricks
Adventure begins with this baby
I can't tell you enough how incredible this trip was. If you're traveling to Colorado and you want to know a little bit about what to do and where to go, then this is your stop. Colorado is in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and when it comes to adventure travel, it's your place to go.
Not only because you can hide away and not see a single soul for days, but also because there is just so much to do, while not having to spend money at campgrounds, or go where the tourists are.
It is our dream to live in one of these suckers for a year and explore the Rocky Mountains, even beyond Colorado, but until we can do that, we had to settle for a sweet little taste by renting one for five days. And the best five days it was!
We started by making arrangements at this place in Denver called Adventure Travel Sports Rental. Disclaimer. It's not cheap. You pay for the rigged up monster you can literally climb rocks with, like ours here, but they also have a bit more modest and less expensive options.
We booked about six months in advance, and even that was a bit tricky. I would book as early as you possibly can, especially if it's a summer trip you're planning. You can see all of the amenities on the website for each vehicle, but ours in particular had everything we needed except food, clothes, etc.
If you're flying in from out of town, Denver would be the city you fly in to. It wouldn't be difficult to take an uber from the airport to their location in Golden, Colorado. If you're driving in, then talk to them about where a good place to leave your car for the duration of your travels.
First things first when you go on trips like this. What do you bring?
I found it a bit tricky to know how to pack, so I've made a list here for you so you can plan ahead a bit better than I did.
What to bring for one week- The necessities
Food and Drink
Thanks to all of the quaint little mountain towns along our trip, we were able to stop at various grocery stores along the way, so we weren't too worried about stocking up on every single thing.
Our sports vehicle had a fridge, but a small one, so we brought a big cooler to compensate. If you need to make a refreshments stop before you head out towards the mountains, try our one-stop liquor shop, Tipsy's Liquor World.
It's quite an attraction with every single version of local beers your heart could desire as well as every other kind of wine or spirit you might want. Water would also be among the important things to get.
Now for the food. We wanted to make our culinary situation as simple as possible, but at the same time, we were trying a vegan diet, so it made things a bit more complicated.
We ended up deferring to Hobo meals, aka, various veggies, beans, and whatever you like (even meat and cheese if you're not vegan) wrapped in tin foil and thrown into the hot coals of your campfire to cook. Now, before you plan on having a fire, make sure you check the fire dangers for whatever county you travel to here.
With Colorado being as fickle with weather changes as it is, it's likely that something can change from one day to the next. Just be prepared food-wise for something like that.
Thankfully we were safe to have fires and made variations of these bad boys the entire trip. I'm going to list off some yummy things you can throw in them to give you a head start.
Hobo Meals for camping
potatoes- reg. or sweet
rice (something you can bring pre-cooked
bulgar (my favorite)
The list could go on. We season with olive or veggie oil, salt, and pepper, then wrap in two layers of tin foil and cook for about 30 min. You can get as fancy or as simple as you want. We loaded all of our cooked ingredients in a giant tortilla, poured some hot sauce on it, and had ourselves an easy and healthy meal along with an ice cold local brewed beer. What is better than that!?
Campfire Breakfasts - Courtesy of our dear friends
oatmeal bulk mix (prepared beforehand) - rolled oats, chia seeds, flax seeds, shaved almonds
Add all ingredients together in a bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Add milk if desired.
On this rigged up vehicle, they have everything you need for a fully loaded kitchen, so you can pretty much cook whatever. We also had meals like pasta and sauce or baked potatoes.
Where we went - Our mapped out tour
Our first stop was Mc Cullough Gulch Rd., near Quandary Peak. Quandary Peak is a fourteener, so if you're feeling fit, there is that. We set up camp there for the following two nights. The first day we ventured out to do a hike called McCollough Gulch Trail.
It was beautiful but full of tourists. I would say it's worth it if you don't mind other friendly hikers around. This location, in general, was a lot more polulated then we had hoped for. It's just a preference thing, but just so you know the details.
Our second day in this area, we headed towards Quandary Peak to this sweet spot but weren't quite fit enough to take on that high altitude fourteener. We settled for a smaller hike called Monte Cristo Gulch, where we saw these guys.
Apparently, there are minerals in the dirt they just can't get enough of. It was entertaining, to say the least, watching goats lick dirt for about two hours while we ate our leftover hobo meals from the night before. I'm not being sarcastic either.
From there we said goodbye to our friends who came along for the first two nights and continued down South through Fairplay, and a little deeper West into the mountains on County Road 22. There was literally NO ONE there (which is what we were looking for) except a bear running at full speed down the road in front of our SUV.
Yep, watch out for bears! It's important in Colorado to follow procedures with keeping food up at night, etc. You can find all the information you need on it here. They are typically more afraid of you then you are of them. No grizzlies, thank goodness! Just black and brown bears which are considered fairly safe.
Here is a picture of where we stopped for the night, right by a little creek. If we had known about these amazing little hideaway camping spots, we would have probably come here the first two nights and stayed along County Road 22. No one there, and much more to explore, as well as great four-wheeling spots to utilize with the massive rock climber you paid a pretty penny for.
From there we decided to do a lot of driving since we wanted to see the mountain ranges down south, into the infamous Sand Dunes. It was quite the trip but was accompanied by an amazing view making up for it. We stopped for a few hours at the Sand Dunes, where we took a little hike and ate some food. It was breathtaking.
My husband's main reason for renting this bad boy was to find some key four-wheeling spots and scare the shit out of me while having a little "American adventure." You see, in Germany, that sort of thing is VERBOTEN! In fact, a lot of fun in general, when it comes to adventuring is not allowed there. In essence, this was my husband's way of experiencing a little freedom when it comes to adventure in nature.
Following the Sand Dunes, there is a four-wheeling spot that leads you right back up East into the mountains, and it is terrifying. In fact, my husband was even freaked out by certain situations he put us in, not knowing if we would be stuck on our sides in a ditch somewhere no one knew we were.
Okay, maybe I'm dramatizing it a bit, but still. This is where we set up camp, again in the middle of nowhere, about one hour up this terrifying trail. That's me clanking wood sticks together to keep the mountain lions away. If you've seen The Parent Trap you will know that I just made a really lame joke.
That's my "Are you kidding me, I just woke up," face.
The next day we made our way back down, and this was the last obstacle we encountered before swearing to never go up that psychotic four-wheeling trail again.
That concludes our amazing adventure in the wild and rugged Rocky Mountains. From here, we headed back to Golden to return the truck!
This was truly one of the best travel adventures we have ever had. It enabled us to relax at campsites, but at the same time explore, find amazing hiking spots created by an amazing Creator, see new creatures (thankfully not be eaten by them,) and adventure in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Unforgettable.
ITALY - simply put, it’s the best place in Europe
Where to go, what to see
I have had many experiences in Italy, and not one of them has been bad. Okay, except that one time I had to sleep in a strange man’s room (don’t worry, he wasn’t there with me) because they ran out of rooms at the hostile. His sheets smelled like…okay, I’m getting off topic.
Italy has so much to offer that it’s stupid if you didn’t go there while on your European travels. Italy is the place I discovered what food should taste like. Let me give you a little tour of my favorite place on earth…ELBA.
Italy has always held a special place in my heart. There's something about it that I can't put my finger on. It doesn't apologize for what it is and that's what makes it so genuine and real. When I'm there, I seem to forget that there is another life waiting for me when I return. I cook and drink wine like an Italian. I relax like an Italian. In a small way, I sort of become Italian, even if I'm only there for a week.
The past ten years I have discovered many places in Italy, but Elba is by far my favorite, which is why I’m dedicating one special post in its honor.
When we were figuring out where to go, we happened upon an amazing airbnb, located in Marciana, Elba. With abundant vegetation and breathtaking beaches, it is my top place to go during the offseason. I haven't been there in high season, but I heard it's hot, crowded, but of course, still fantastic.
Our Airbnb was just a 5-minute drive into the hills outside of Marciana Marina, and another 10-minute walk from your car to the house. The hike down to the beach from our place took about 15-minutes and is definitely not for older people or kids under 5. If you're willing to be a little more active on your vacation, it's well worth it.
For me, I got my work out in, hiking early mornings on the path ride outside or house, and this little extra journey to the beach helped me justify that giant serving of Gelato and Aperol Spritz I had every night. Here are some pictures of our adventures.
Take the day and go sailing. The Captain was also a learned cook from Parma, who made us simple pasta and sauce dish with Parmesan, (from Parma of course) a fennel salad, and gave us all the wine we wanted, right on their boat! Another great adventure we have had on a previous trip there was snorkeling with Stefano. A forewarning on this, you won't see an abundance of fish due to, well, lack of fish from over fished seas. The experience was still worth it for me, though.
We shared the boat with a few other travelers, and the small family of the Captain. Our day consisted of stopping at different bays throughout the day to take a dip in the ocean, as we circled the Island.
We had our own private beach
Even the rocks were comfortable
It wasn't actually a private beach, but the entirety of our stay we didn't see a single soul, except other boats that would sometimes come in and port for an hour or so. This happened twice.
We pretended we were Swiss Family Robinson for the week and built ourselves shelter form the sun.
The best thing about the mediterranean is there hasn't been a shark attack since 1964. No sharks, but plenty of jelly fish! Not deadly. At least the ones we saw.
There was a hiking path right outside our door. I discovered all kind of treasures, beaches, and absolutely NO PEOPLE. It was wonderful.
I love this, only because we did the tourist thing made friends with a few wild cats. I do agree, though. Cats are NOT trustworthy, but I still love them.
I do recommend bringing your own wine if you drive there. It's quite expensive on the Island. Local made pasta and sauce, however, is quite affordable and easy to just bring home and make yourself. We stopped at this little gem where the owner makes everything himself.
We did splurge a little. If you want to call it splurging. An amazing meal for a great price. Bar Monilli was inland, on the top of a slope in Marciana. When you get to this there, don't stop at the first restaurant you see. It will be full of tourists. Keep going deeper and see what you can find. It's worth it!
Elba was the Island where Napoleon was exiled, which makes it only proper to have a beer named after him.
The freshest gnocchi you will ever eat. I kid you not. Italians don't have to try very hard to make something that is out of this world.
The most relaxed you will ever see me. Go to Marciana, Elba! You won't ever forget it.