Exploring my new city: St. Louis

Exploring my new city: St. Louis

After driving 17-hours straight from Orlando to St. Louis, we arrived. We settled into our temporary hotel-home and Vishal prepared for his first day of work. I began the apartment search, something I urge you all to secure BEFORE you move, and explored my new city.

I am still so impressed by everything St. Louis offers. There are so many (free) things to do and all within a 5-minute walk to 15-minute drive. I live downtown and I am literally steps from the Edward Jones Dome, where the Rams play, a few blocks from Ballpark Village (which is amazing!) and Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals play. I can walk to a multitude of restaurants and bars all around me, including my favorites: Pi Pizzeria, Rooster, Sauce on the Side, and Bridges Tap House and Wine Bar. The unbelievably expansive Forest Park is a short 10 minute drive and offers golf courses, one of the best (and free) zoos in the country, museums, boat rentals, and so much more. St. Louis is also home to Anheuser Busch, a full production factory that offers free daily tours, beer school, a chance to see their Clydesdales and  Biergarten. Truly awesome. I’ve done it all over five times already. A bit out of the city limits, but well worth the drive, is Lone Elk Park. It is a drive along trail where you find bison and elk roaming the grounds. Pack a picnic to eat by the lake and be sure to bring a camera for awesome close-up shots!

St. Louis really is an awesome place to visit and live. I’ve become a cardinals fan, took the journey to the top of the Arch, and eaten some AMAZING food. This is a place you must experience and try out some of the places I’ve pointed out if you find yourself in this wonderful city.

With love,

Steph

Pictures and info captions below! I was even able to sneak in a piece of famous, St. Louis gooey butter cake and a few shots of Simba 🙂

Moving On and Starting Over

Moving On and Starting Over

Well, I’ve been living in St. Louis for three months now! While I never thought I would end up in Missouri, I can really see why people fall in love with this city.

When Vishal announced our new destination, I was beyond nervous and had no idea what to expect. I had never visited the area before and the only background knowledge I had on STL was that it was home to the Arch. That’s it. But, with only two weeks to pack up and move out of our place, I was more worried about how I was going to fit all of our stuff into my sedan (not an easy feat), than how life would be in our new city.

After a few weeks here, an overwhelming feeling I had when on my own was how cut off from my familiar world I felt. After living in my college town for the previous four years, having friends all around me, and always having someone to call up to hang out with, I began to realize that growing up sometimes means leaving the familiar behind. It was also hard that I used to only be a three hour drive from home and was accustomed to seeing family just about every other month. It was all just very comfortable. That comfort is what made it so hard, yet so easy, to leave. It is a shocking and in-your-face type of thought, but I’ve realized how necessary this experience was for me. I was able to reevaluate myself and given the chance for a period of introspection to better understand my wants and my needs, discover what’s important in my life, and where I want my life to lead me. If there was any a time to experience something like this, the time was now. This is time before there is anything holding Vishal and I back from being truly “free” in the we-have-no-real-responsibilities way.

A few things I have discovered during this new journey:

1. You realize who the important people are in your life. I cannot tell you how much I wish I could be just a short drive away from my family and friends.

2. You get away from the drama you always had to deal with before. Sometimes, when you’re around your friends and peers and just those various groups you end up interacting with, you get pulled into or are around negative people. When you move away, you get to leave all of that negativity behind and just focus on the people who matter!

3. You can start over fresh and have the chance to reinvent yourself. You have left the people who have formulated concrete perceptions of you, so if there is something you want to change about yourself, you can without being nervous of people’s reactions. You have the chance to make a new impression on the new people you’ll meet in your new city.

4. You discover how valuable hanging out with friends you’ve known since elementary/middle/high school is. It was a strange thought I had, but there is an interesting comfort in surrounding yourself with people who have known you through various stages of your life. You realize the relationships and friendships you form with people in your adult years are in a separate league than ones from your childhood, teenage, and college years. This is not a bad thing, it’s just something about growing up that makes those older friendships even more special and meaningful.

This experience has been amazing, scary, exciting, anxiety-enducing, but overall so important and valuable. So, take the leap, jump in with two feet, and take advantage of new experiences while you have the chance. It is the best opportunity for self-discovery and I urge you all to take that next step towards a new adventure.

With Love,

Steph

A Vegetarians’ Guide: Walt Disney World Resort

Dating a vegetarian has opened my eyes to the daily difficulty that comes with trying to find somewhere to eat. Having dietary restrictions makes this even harder when traveling and trying to please multiple appetites. You would think that with all of the people that visit the Walt Disney World Resort, “Mickey” would make sure that there were plenty of options, besides salad, for his friends with special diets, but that is simply not the case. Below I have listed out the best restaurants, both quick service and sit down, around the Disney property that offer vegetarian dishes or that I have experienced can facilitate special requests. Keep in mind that most of these restaurants only offer one, maybe two, entrees that are vegetarian, so if you have a picky eater, check out the menus available on the Disney Dining site for full descriptions! Also, most of the quick service options only offer Quinoa burgers, which I have experienced to come out VERY greasy to the point that my boyfriend could not eat it without getting sick and some offer just Portobello Sandwiches (a no-no for mushroom allergies).

Downtown Disney
T-REX: MY FAVORITE! If you have special dietary restrictions, the chef will come out to the table to fully understand your needs and, in our experience, has created fully custom dishes to satisfy our needs and taste buds!
Crossroads at House of Blues
Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe
Bongos Cuban Cafe
Rainforest Cafe
Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restuarant
Portobello Country Italian Trattoria
Planet Hollywood
Fulton’s Crab House
Earl of Sandwich

Magic Kingdom
Tony’s Town Square
Crystal Palace
Cinderella’s Royal Table
The Plaza Restaurant
Be Our Guest
Liberty Tree Tavern* (lunch only)
Columbia Harbour House (Lighthouse Sandwich and Vegetarian Chili are a must!)
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
The Diamond Horseshoe
Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe
Pinocchio Village Haus
Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant (two pasta dishes you must request without meat and Alfredo sauce may be made with chicken stock so ask to be sure)
Tortuga Tavern (Vegetarian Burrito!)

EPCOT
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
Coral Reef Restaurant
Electric Umbrella
Katsura Grill
Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe
La Cantina de San Angel
Le Cellier Steakhouse
Liberty Inn
Lotus Blossom Cafe
Nine Dragons Restaurant
Restaurant Marrakesh
Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room
Sunshine Seasons
Teppan Edo
Tutto Italia Ristorante
Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

Disney’s Hollywood Studios
50’s Prime Time Cafe
ABC Commissary
Backlot Express
The Hollywood Brown Derby
Hollywood & Vine
Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano
Pizza Planet Arcade
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
Starring Rolls Cafe

Animal Kingdom
Pizzafari
Rainforest Cafe
Restaurantosaurus
Tusker House Restaurant
Yak & Yeti Restaurant

Continue reading “A Vegetarians’ Guide: Walt Disney World Resort”

Cave of the Winds

Cave of the Winds
During my trip to Denver, CO, the boyfriend and I decided to trek down deep into the earth at Cave of the Winds in Colorado Springs- technically Manitou Springs. About an hour from Denver, this attraction was definitely worth the drive.
You can pick from two different tours, the Discovery Tour (more suited for families) and the Lantern Tour (for the more adventurous). We decided to toughen-up and go on the Lantern Tour. So worth the extra $10.
A bit of a disclaimer, the Lantern Tour is not for the faint of hearts. It is a pretty long trek with lots of almost crawling, ducking, steps, and some slippery floors. You can really feel it, especially with the altitude and temperature change, but it is obviously doable.
We did have to wait a bit before our tour began, but there is plenty to do and see until then! The building has two decks that overlooks an absolutely beautiful mountain and valley, so we just posted up in the rocking chairs admiring what Florida is seriously lacking in appealing landscape.
The tour started with pictures at the entrance of the cave before we made our way to the grand cavern (If you’re a picture person like I am and its a slower day, they’ll let you retake it at the end of the tour until you’re happy). Our tour guide, Chris, was wonderful. Very informative and funny. He gave the group a brief history of the caves, which were discovered in 1881. I love learning and hearing about the past, so I was all about this tour. There were so many interesting tid-bits we learned about the caves themselves, their discovery, the man who discovered them, and some “ghost stories” that linger in the caves.
After completing the majority of what the Discovery Tour covers, we moved onto the sections that were exclusive to the Lantern Tours. This involved going up a few more flights of stairs to another make shift entrance. Before going in deeper, we were all given hand-held, gas-and-wick lanterns (so cool!). We explored more passage ways, cool illuminating rocks, and experienced total and complete darkness after putting out our lanterns. During the darkness phase, Chris talked us through the sensations our eyes were going through trying to adjust through the darkness. It was a really interesting experience.
The trip wraps up as were taken back through the caves. After working our way through different passages and witnessing so many other holes in the walls, I can only think about how many other passages that have yet to be discovered!
Oh and there is a section of the cave where previous visitors have left personal mementos to mark there trip to the caves permanently, so be sure to bring a business card or old school ID with you! I wish I had known that before, but I’ll just have to go back next time I’m in town!
Extra bonus for those of you who experienced Greek life in college and were lucky enough to know brothers of TKE:

No idea how it got there, since it’s about three stories up, but how cool?! Try and find it on your visit!

Overall, the Cave of the Winds tours are a definite to-do attraction when in Denver or the Colorado Springs area. You’ll experience history, folklore, cavern passages over hundreds of years old, and it is an experience that the entire family can enjoy.  Plan in advance and purchase tickets online for a discount!
Anyone else experience Cave of the Winds? Let me know what your favorite part was in the comments!

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods
One of the most beautiful places I have been to: Garden of the Gods. Wonderful and picturesque. This is a place you definitely NEED to visit. It is a free public park and National Natural Landmark located in Colorado Springs; about an hour drive from Denver. Stop at the visitors center for a map and the volunteers who work there are a great resource for special sightings around the trails.
View from the Visitor Center observation deck)
There are designated trails, all featuring something special. You can start wherever you’d like, as each trail as easy and accessible parking. We started off with the scenic paved trail. It was beautiful and there were tons of people enjoying their morning there that day, some with their dogs (made me really miss my Simba back at home). Throughout the entire park, you enjoy amazing dramatic views sandstone rock formations towering 300 feet above you and sights of Pike’s Peak (another favorite of mine) in the background. There were plenty of opportunities to explore unpaved paths, which the boyfriend and I took complete advantage of. We climbed, explored, and found the coolest areas that you otherwise wouldn’t see. Finding all of the different famous formations like the Kissing Camels, Balanced Rock, and the Window Rock, where our favorite activity. I highly suggest visiting the Window Rock. It is a rock formation with a hole in the middle that perfectly frames a sight of Pike’s Peak through it.
 Garden of the Gods is a great place for easy hikes, biking, and horse trails. I swear we could have spent the entire day in Garden of the Gods, if only our trip wasn’t so short.