Hannah Drake

Travel

Telluride Travel Guide

TravelHannah DrakeComment

Back in September of 2015, before I even started this blog, I took advantage of a Living Social or Groupon type discount and treated myself to a few days in the picturesque town of Telluride, Colorado. Because I went in the middle of the week, no one was really available to go with me. I made the near seven hour drive by myself and actually had a really wonderful time. It was such a fantastic time of year to go because the fall colours were coming through, the weather was perfect with that signature crisp in the air in the mornings and evenings), and it wasn’t too busy.

Since the trip pre-dated my blog, but remains one of the best holidays I’ve ever taken, I decided to share a bit about the trip in this space, four years later.

WHERE TO STAY

Like I said, I took advantage of a discount to stay at the Lumiere, which is not a place I could usually afford. It was so nice and I loved staying a little bit tucked away in the Mountain Village. I had breathtaking views of the mountainside off my balcony and it proved to be a great location.

I would honestly just recommend anywhere in the Mountain Village. I parked my car when I arrived and only used it once while I was there. I was a short walking distance to the (free) gondola over the mountain into Telluride, which itself is an easily walkable town. With the time of year I was there, my dinner times were perfectly timed to pretty much always catch the alpenglow from the sunset while on the gondola. I loved it!

WHERE TO EAT (AND DRINK)

I had my first meal in Telluride at The Floradora Saloon, where the bartender chatted about seasonal regulars, including Oprah, Tom Cruise, and Jerry Seinfeld. I ordered the duck spring rolls and an extra dirty martini and just sat at the bar enjoying my little appetiser.

For dinner, I walked over to the Cosmopolitan to eat in their restaurant. I treated myself to the surf ‘n turf and apparently called it the best lobster I’ve ever had!

The next day, I had lunch at the highly recommended and the award winning Brown Dog, that serves Detroit style pizza. (I didn’t know that was a thing.) I ordered the 3-1-3, but I’m not sure if Detroit style is my thing.

Before my final dinner in Telluride, I had a drink at the Last Dollar Saloon in town caught my eye for dinner, so I headed back to Mountain Village and boy am I glad I did. I’m not even kidding when I say that four years later, I still think about this meal! I stopped at the Madeline to eat in their restaurant. I sat at the bar again and took some suggestions from the very friendly bartender. She recommended the Buffalo Negra, a cocktail that included bourbon, balsamic vinegar, fresh basil, and ginger beer. It was amazing. To eat, I just ordered fresh oysters and literally the most delicious tater tots I’ve even eaten to date.

The next day before heading home, I stopped for a quick lunch at Steamies in town. It very much reminded me of Shake Shack, especially the crinkle cut fries.

For breakfast both days I was there, I took a box of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin O’s to have in my room, which turned out to be on the balcony every morning. It was a great way to start the day.

WHAT TO DO

On the only full day I was there, I decided to drive up to the famous Bridal Veil Falls. In hindsight, I would actually recommend just hiking up, but I didn’t exactly come prepared for a hike. If I recall correctly, I drove up as far as I could go, which did offer stunning views, but being in Colorado, you’ve simply got to hike!

I booked a 4x4 Tour of Imogene Pass through the hotel for my final morning in Telluride, which later ended up saving my life. (Just keep reading.) They picked me up from the hotel in the morning before driving around Mountain Village and Telluride picking up everyone else. (I was the only one under 50!) The guide said they considered it bad luck for single women to go beyond the tunnel. That's when I started getting nervous. When the Tomboy Mine was functioning, the only single woman allowed up there was the school teacher. The views were incredible, but after we passed the ghost town of Tomboy Mine, we were beyond tree line and it was pretty barren. We stopped at the top to take some photos before heading back down the same way. There is only one road up and down the pass, it’s almost always only wide enough for one vehicle, and it definitely takes some skill to navigate the rough mountain road. However, our guide was tossing out some driving tips to us in the back while he was driving. And thank God for that.

Before starting the journey back, I wanted to drive the colourful Million Dollar Highway that was nearby. I pulled up how to get there on Google Maps and it gave me two options, both would take about the same amount of time, but one was significantly shorter in distance that the other. I figured it was a glitch, chose the shorter route, and went on my merry way. I even drove by the mountain seen on Coors cans, which is no where near the Coors brewery. Eventually I turned off the main highway, drove through a very small town, then started driving into the actual forest. After having to drive through a small creek that flowed through the road, the trees finally cleared and I saw that the road curved around the side of the mountain, was very rocky, and was about wide enough for one car at a time. There was a Jeep Wrangler stopped on the road ahead of me. The passenger was outside taking pictures, but when she got back in, they didn't start going. Then the driver got out and walked up to my car saying he was waiting for the car to come down because it's "pretty narrow up there". So we waited. The car that was coming down took forever and then had to go up onto the side of the mountain a little bit to pass us. It really was narrow!

We start going and I quickly realised we were on a 4x4 trail. I later discovered it was Ophir Pass, one of the most dangerous roads in the state. You can only drive it with high clearance 4-wheel drive so thank goodness I was in my mom's Rav-4. I was white-knuckling the steering wheel and actually praying aloud and talking to myself the entire time. The guy ahead of me stopped again at a switch back and said there were more cars coming. I asked him if he had driven the road before and he said he just had a map that located the few spots where you could pull over to pass. We waited while two more cars passed and then continued on our way. I got high-centered for a quick second and then we eventually made it to the top. He told me I could keep going and it was an easier road on the way down. I actually thank God for that man every day because I would have died on that road without him, I'm pretty sure. I would have started going and ended up head-to-head with the car coming down with no where to go. It was terrifying! But I eventually made it to the Million Dollar Highway and it might have been worth it.

WHAT TO WEAR IN TELLURIDE

I haven’t included any of my very 2015 #OOTD mirror selfies, but I’ll give you an idea of the things I packed for my three days in Telluride in mid-September. Of course your activities will dictate what you pack, so if you plan on being more active, make sure you’re prepared for hiking or biking or whatever else you want to do.

Have you been to Telluride yet? I’m sure it’s on your list now!

Lumiere image from Google.

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Hampton Court Palace

TravelHannah DrakeComment

Way back in May, my mom came to visit for about a week. I’m fully convinced that she’s devoted to seeing everything England has to offer in her lifetime and we certainly hit the ground running on this visit as well. We spent her first day in London, but the second day we took the train down to see Hampton Court Palace.

Hampton Court Palace is part of the Historic Royal Palaces, which includes six iconic structures: Kensington Palace, the Tower of London, Banqueting House, Kew Palace, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, and of course Hampton Court Palace itself.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HAMPTON COURT PALACE

It was originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey under King Henry VIII with building beginning in 1515. A short 14 years later, Wolsey fell from favour with the King, so he gave the palace to Henry, who later expanded it.In the 17th century, King William III set about expanding and renovating the palace to rival the Palace of Versailles in France, causing much of the original Tudor palace to be lost. However, his work stopped in 1694 before it was complete, which left two distinct and contrasting styles: Tudor and Baroque. In the 18th century, King George II was the final monarch to reside in the palace.

SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT HAMPTON COURT PALACE

  • The renovations that Henry ordered on the palace when he first came into possession of it cost him £18 million at the time!

  • The King’s Beasts are ten statues one the bridge leading to the gatehouse and represent the ancestry of Henry himself and his third wife, Jane Seymour.

  • The clock on the gatehouse facing the inner court was installed in 1540 and contains three dials that tell the hour, the day of the month, and the position of the sun relative to the earth.

  • Henry VIII married his final wife, Catherine Parr, at Hampton Court Palace in 1543.

  • It’s one of two palaces left in England owned by Henry VIII, the other being St. James’ Palace in London.

  • William Shakespeare staged several of their places at Hampton Court Palace for King James I.

  • Queen Victoria opened it to the public in 1838.

  • In the late 1800’s, the American Vanderbilts modelled their Florham estate in Madison, New Jersey after the Baroque style of the palace.

  • The palace has served as a filming location for Hollywood since the 60’s with films including A Man for All Seasons, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Holmes & Watson, Cinderella, and most recently (and perhaps most recognisably), The Favourite.

  • The gardens have the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze, designed in 1700.

HAMPTON COURT PALACE TODAY

Today, Hampton Court Palace is a popular tourist destination as it’s quite literally a snapshot in time for two significant periods of British history. Your ticket of admission will include an audio tour, which will take you through the palace, dressed to represent the different periods in its history and you will, without a doubt, feel like you’ve taken a step back in time.

The palace also hosts festivals, concerts, and an annual flower show. There are regularly scheduled special exhibits, including a recent exhibit of costumes from The Favourite that I believe we only missed by a few weeks.

10 Things to Know Before Visiting Italy

TravelHannah DrakeComment

It’s been nearly ten months since we left for our trip to Italy, our long awaited honeymoon slash first anniversary trip. It was an incredible trip and certainly the most extensive (and expensive) holiday Luke and I have ever done together. A lot of planning went into our trip, but there was still a bit that caught us off guard.

PLAN WHERE YOU WANT TO GO

Duh, right? Italy is a big country, rich in culture and history from corner to corner. While we were, I realised that before I moved to England in 2017, I probably knew more cities in Italy than any other European country. There’s Rome, Florence, Naples, Venice. There’s the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Sicily, Tuscany, Lake Como and Lake Garda. It seems like Italy is massively popular for travel bloggers and influencers and every day I log into social media, someone else I follow is in Cinque Terre or Positano. I can’t blame them, these are beautiful places and I fell in love with Italy too. But here’s the thing, all of that and whatever else you want to do is simply not doable in one short-term trip. I’ve always said I could easily spend a month travelling around Italy and now that I’ve been, I can assure you that’s probably an underestimate.

When we started planning, I had quite a few places in mind, including the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Lake Como, Venice, and Tuscany. (Rome was always a must-do for our first trip.) When we looked at a map, we were surprised to find our choices dotted all over the country. So with just under two weeks, we had to narrow down our list, ultimately prioritising Rome and the Amalfi Coast, which seemed more than manageable in our time frame. When it came time to book, it made sense geographically and financially to fly into Naples and out of Rome, so we started building an itinerary around that and focus on southern Italy. Taking a train from Naples to Rome (1 hour, 10 minutes) was our longest travel day, with ever thing else—whether by ferry or by car—was under an hour.

We built our itinerary in both digital and paper forms with travel, accommodations, and activities all colour-coded. It was really handy to keep all the paper work together in a folder that could easily slip into our backpack.

LEARN A FEW KEY PHRASES

This is something we didn’t do and we definitely regret. First of all, learning key phrases in the native language is just basic decency. While most people spoke English, we also encountered a few who didn’t. We were able to get by, but it goes without saying that if we had learned what we were trying to say most frequently, it would have made it a lot easier for everyone.

Start with these:

Hello - Ciao

Goodbye - Addio

Please -Per favore (per fav-or-ray)

Thank You - Grazie  (graht-see-eh)

You’re Welcome - Prego (pray-go)

Can I have the check, please? - Il conto, per favore

Do you accept credit cards? - Accettate carte di credito?

RENT A CAR OUTSIDE THE CITIES

You’ve probably heard that driving in Italy is NUTS. You heard correctly. On our very first day, walking around Naples, we were shocked (and scared) by the roads. People just seem to do whatever they want and go wherever they want. And the volume of scooters on the road doesn’t make it any easier. We originally booked our rental car from the second day of our trip, thinking we’d pick it up at the train station, drive it to catch the ferry to Capri, and park it at our hotel overnight. Bad idea. On our first afternoon there, Luke called to move it back a day, paying a fee of £15, I think. It was worth it though. We didn’t see much parking at the port, there didn’t seem to be parking available at the hotel, and it would have been madness to do all that driving when we only needed to walk about 20 minutes from our hotel to catch the ferry!

It was really nice having a car on the Amalfi Coast, though. We drove from Naples to our Airbnb in Vietri sul Mare, stopping for the day in Pompeii. It gave us the freedom later to drive to Sorrento catch the boat for our boat tour and later to drive back to Pompeii to go up Mount Vesuvius. We didn’t do much driving along the coastline, where the roads are more narrow and have tight hairpin turns, but driving through the mountains was a bit easier. It was longer in kilometres, but ultimately took about the same time to get there.

If you plan on venturing out of your home base, so to speak, it’s worth looking into renting a car. When we originally booked it, it was under £90 for six days. I wouldn’t, however, recommend getting a car if you’re in a major city like Naples or Rome.

LOOK FOR A BASE COST ITEM ON THE MENU

When you’re looking for restaurants, you can gauge how expensive it will be based on the most simple item: margherita pizza. When we were in Naples and on the coast, we found most restaurants had their margherita pizza between €4 and €6. (The most expensive was right off the pier in Amalfi, €6.) However, when we got to Rome, it was more likely to be €7 to €10. The best deal we found was right outside of Pompeii when we got a pizza and a drink for €5!

On that note, reconsider drinking soda while you’re there. (Or probably anywhere in Europe.) 20oz glass full of ice? Yeah right. Unlimited refills? Forget it. You’ll be paying anywhere from €2 to €4 for a CAN of Coke. Yes, one can. I have a terrible affliction where I get so thirsty only Coke can quench my thirst, and that, my friends, adds up when you’re in Europe.

DON’T ORDER OFF THE MENU

I don’t necessarily mean making up a dish or asking for substitutions. When you order at a restaurant, especially in a tourist-dense area, order your food with your menu in hand and point to what you want. Most menus we saw listed the item in Italian with a description in English underneath. But we’re all so used to different pasta dishes, it’s easy enough to order. However, when we were in Capri, we went to a place for lunch that had assorted grilled fish on the menu for €28. After I had ordered literally off the menu oysters for us to share, the waiter took our menu. When he came back, Luke ordered the assorted grilled fish and said we were going to split it. Somehow that got lost in translation and when the bill came at the end of our meal, it was €139. The oysters had been €5 a piece and the assorted grilled fish had been €40 and we had gotten two! (They had brought out a big platter and then took it back and put it on two different plates, so we didn’t realise.) It was seriously shocking and kind of a buzz kill for the rest of the day. If I’m being perfectly honest, it made me feel like they were really slimy and taking advantage of tourists. It certainly left a bad taste in my mouth. For the rest of the trip, we were sure to order menu in hand and be super clear when we wanted to split a dish. It didn’t happen again.

To end that on a positive note, our first night in Naples a waiter who spoke very little English asked if we wanted wine and we said yes we wanted a bottle, without looking at a wine list. He brought back a €11 bottle of delicious red wine!

CARRY CASH

A lot of places are going to be cash only, whether you’re stopping for lunch, like at L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples, or for a mid-afternoon gelato. Some activities are cash only, like the steps to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Vendors selling souvenirs on the street are probably cash only. We had to get cash more than once, but it seemed more places were card-friendly in Rome. In addition, if you’re doing a guided tour, make sure you have the amount you want to tip in cash before you start. We weren’t able to tip our amazing tour guide for our Rome in Day tour and we both felt absolutely awful.

BE PREPARED FOR SMOKERS

For some reason, in my mind, smoking has always seemed like a more French thing than anywhere else. I’ve only spent about 48 hours in Paris, most of it at Disneyland, but it seemed like there were more smokers in Italy. (Just take that with a grain of salt.) Smoking is prohibited in bars and restaurants, but dining outside under striped umbrellas is part of that European charm! We walked by waiters and baristas standing right outside their restaurant smoking in their uniform. Just about every time we stopped to enjoy the scenery, someone next to us would be smoking. But the worst was when someone at the next table over would be smoking through our meal. On our last night in Rome, we had dinner in the Jewish Ghetto between the host smoking on one side and the guy at the table 6 inches from ours smoking on the other. And it’s not like they don’t know how dangerous smoking is. I looked over at the guy’s cigarette pack on the table and probably 60% of the box was covered in SMOKING KILLS warnings.

BE PREPARED TO PAY TOURIST TAX

At our hotel in Naples, our Airbnb on the Amalfi Coast, and our hotel in Rome, we had to pay a “tourist tax” that wasn’t covered by what we had already paid. I’m not sure what it was in Naples or if Luke was able to pay by card. But the other two times, it was cash only, but we were given the option to pay at check in or check out. On the coast, it was €1 per person, per night, but in Rome, it was €3 per person, per night. I would imagine we would have been prepared for it if we had read the fine print, but I for one wasn’t expecting it.

SOME BASILICAS HAVE A DRESS CODE

If you plan on visiting any basilicas, particularly the Vatican, make sure you’re aware of the dress code before hand. The Vatican is of course a holy place, and because of this, you are required to cover your shoulders and knees. It may seem unbearable in the summer months, but they will turn you away. As we passed the line to get in, we also passed vendors selling scarves to women who were wearing tanks tops. Later, inside the Vatican, we saw a girl who had one of the scarves tied around her waist as her dress was too short. Luke is generally a warm person and we were visiting the Vatican at the end of an 8 hour walking tour that day, so he packed jeans to change into before we went in.

SOME MAJOR TOURIST DESTINATIONS HAVE BAG RESTRICTIONS

If you plan on going to the Vatican or the Colosseum while you’re in Rome, make sure you check the limits they have on bags before you go in. Don’t plan on going to either place on a day you’re travelling if you’re not able to leave your luggage at your hotel or Airbnb. It’s a great idea to have a small backpack to carry around while you’re out sightseeing, filled with water, sunscreen, and anything else you need throughout the day, but make sure it’s small enough to be let in to the places you want to go. While you’re at it, get rid of any spray sunscreen you have before you go to the Colosseum. They no longer allow sprays of any kind (bug spray, sunscreen, body spray, etc.) and we had to toss our sunscreen outside the gates. We used the Little Ash from MUZMM and if you want to get one for yourself, you can use the code HANNAH20 at check out for 20% off your order! (They ship internationally!) It’s such a fantastic travel bag.

And for some Rome-specific bonus tips:

YOU CAN’T EAT ON THE SPANISH STEPS

It probably seems like the perfect place for an impromptu picnic that you’ve actually been dreaming of because it might have been in a movie you saw once. But they’ll actually tell you off for eating on the steps. And there are plenty of security guards (or maybe it’s police) walking around ready to do just that.

DON’T FORGET TO VALIDATE YOUR METRO TICKETS

Do not learn this the hard way. Like us. You have to buy your metro tickets in a newspaper stand near a station. It might not be completely obvious where you can buy them, they might not take credit cards or be able to break bigger bills, it might be a hassle. But once you get on the metro, there are yellow boxes near the doors where you can validate your ticket. You might be able to get away with it (also like us) for a while, but if you get caught it is e x p e n s i v e to pay the fine. And don’t worry, they have a credit card machine ready to go for you if you don’t have the cash. Just validate the tickets and save yourself the hassle.

PLAN TO VISIT THE TREVI FOUNTAIN EARLY — AND WATCH YOUR BAG AND POCKETS

Want to get a shot without hundreds of other tourists in it? Go early! Sadly the Trevi Fountain was off while we were there so we didn’t stick to our original plan of going back one of the last two mornings we were in Rome. But that’s the way to do it. Also, watch your bags. It’s so crowded and your pockets and bags are prime for the picking. We were warned by our tour guide on the first day, so Luke turned our backpack around to be on his front and made sure everything was zipped and secure.

PIN FOR LATER!