The Mile-High City: Part 1

The Mile-High City: Part 1

So this ended up being quite the post, so I decided to split it into 2 parts.

Several years overdue, I finally made time to visit my best friend, Noel, in Denver. I say overdue because the last time I visited was towards the end of our freshman year of college, almost 4 years ago. Sure there was stuff to do back then, but you’re limited when you live in the dorms and don’t have a car. So this time around we were determined to explore Denver quite a bit more.

I arrived Monday night, so after Noel picked me up from the airport, there was little to do except get settled and hang out. One of the new developments I was already anticipating having to navigate was the weed culture in Denver, being that it’s now legal for recreational use. So out of curiosity, I tagged along as Noel and her boyfriend went to a dispensary to stock up on “supplies”.

Quick aside, not that it matters, but I’ve never done any kind of recreational drug in my life. I’ve never felt the need to, and I’d say I’m still pretty uncomfortable with how common it seems nowadays. I debated even mentioning it in this post, but I felt that it’s relevant to my experience in Denver. So here we go.

Anyways, like I said, we visited a dispensary. Now, as absurd as it is, I subconsciously had a mental image in my head of a dark, seedy place. But of course that is very far from the truth. The dispensary we visited was very clean, almost clinical in presentation. The staff was nice, and seemed very used to having someone come in to ogle like I was doing. So that experience served to dispel some misconceptions I was having. That being said, I’ll stick to wine…

Monday night, we hung out and went over the plans for the week. Everyone was kind enough to let me rest after a day of travel. Tuesday morning we would be returning to the airport to pick up another one of our buddies, Ty, who was coming out to visit for a couple of days.

After picking Ty up on Tuesday, we headed to a local brewery, since that is another thing Denver is known for, their beer. Colorado Plus offers several local and house made beers. So I definitely took advantage and tried several different brews. I also highly recommend the deep fried pickles. It was a lazy way to spend a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, but what’s better than sharing some beers with a group of friends?

Dinner was at what is apparently a Denver staple, Casa Bonita. I’ll admit, it was interesting, but I might have enjoyed it much more if I were like 10 years younger. The inside is basically set up like a Mexican village, with a waterfall the centerpiece of the place. One of the appeals is the “live-entertainment”, but it only seemed to consist of a guy diving into the water from different heights. Not to say it wasn’t impressive, but it was underwhelming. The plates of food were also very overpriced for what I considered to be meh quality. The only redeeming factor for me was the unlimited sopapillas you got per table. They also had an arcade, but it was so sad and rundown. I definitely understand this place is meant for families with young kids. So it was an experience, but I would maybe steer clear.

Wednesday we had a jam-packed schedule. You can’t visit Denver without taking advantage of the hiking available within an easy drive’s distance. So we decided to head to Red Rocks in the morning. The weather was almost perfect (I wouldn’t have minded if it were a little cooler…), and the hike itself is not that difficult. We visited the Amphitheater, then headed back down to follow a trail. The Red Rocks are gorgeous. I absolutely recommend it to everyone. I do wish I had a better camera to take more photos, but I was happy with what I got. The trail wasn’t all that long, so we were able to head back to Denver relatively early in the day, at around 2pm.

That ended up working really well because it gave us ample time to rest for a bit and then get ready for our other activity planned for the night, a Colorado Avalanche game!

Yes, I was able to coerce my friends into attending the game with me. They were extremely patient with me as I felt the need to explore Pepsi Center. It’s located near downtown Denver, and their public transportation, the Light Rail, had a stop right outside the arena. So ease of access is huge. The arena itself is definitely a little older. I felt the interior was a bit dull and boring, especially in comparison to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and even our own American Airline Center back home. They seemed to offer the typical food and drink options you’d find at most arenas, and all was pretty similarly priced. The game itself went really well for the Avs. The Colorado Avalanche at that point had already clinched last place in the league. They have been having a historically terrible season. And I could definitely sense that amongst the fans. I feel some sympathy for the fans as my Dallas Stars have also been having themselves a terrible season… Anyways, the Avs managed to pull a win against the Detroit Red Wings. I don’t think many arenas compare to Nashville in terms of in-game presentation and the noise of the crowd. But the fans in Denver were pretty loud. It helps that they won! It was a fun experience for sure, and I was able to knock one more team off of my list!

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Ty had to catch an early flight back home the next morning, so we called it a day after the game.

So I’ll stop here for now…come back later to read part 2!

Italia

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Smashville (aka, Nashville)

Smashville (aka, Nashville)

Last year my hockey buddy Caitlynn and I made a vow to visit every arena in the NHL at least once. Not including the Dallas Stars, that leaves us with 30 teams we would need to visit. 30 teams and 30 cities we get to explore! So really, this doubles as a chance to indulge our hockey obsession along with my desire to travel.

And what better way to get the ball rolling than with a visit to the Predators in the Music City, Nashville! Lucky for us the schedule lined up perfectly, so we were able to watch our beloved Dallas Stars on the road during the regular season for the first time (we had watched them play at T-Mobile Arena against the LA Kings during their Frozen Fury preseason exhibition games).

Nashville is probably the NHL city closest to us, but even then it’s still about 630 miles away. We decided to road trip instead of flying, both because it was cheaper, and because we actually really enjoy long road trips (yes, really). We left Friday morning, and came back on Monday.

The trip there was rather uneventful, because really, I mean, it was mostly through Arkansas. We left Dallas at 6am and arrived in Nashville at around 7pm.

And the very first thing we did was stop at Hattie B’s for some hot chicken! And that set the tone perfectly for our visit…

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I fantasize about this hot chicken to this day…

I could write a whole piece about my love for hot chicken. It was recommended by a friend back home, and I’m very glad we took her suggestion. A Nashville specialty, it’s basically fried chicken seasoned with cayenne pepper and other spices. We tried hot chicken that had the seasoning in the batter, as well as another variation where they added the seasoning as a sauce after the chicken was fried. I’m not sure which was the more authentic version, but either way, it was delicious and spicy and wonderful.

After our late dinner and a quick trip to Target (gotta stock the room with snacks and drinks), we finally checked into our hotel. We took the opportunity to make actual plans for the next couple of days…at that point we only had the game on Sunday, so we needed to find stuff to do the rest of our trip.

So we decided to make the hour long drive to Lynchburg to visit the Jack Daniels distillery early Saturday afternoon. Now that drive was slightly more interesting as we headed out into the rolling hills of southern Tennessee. Lynchburg itself is a tiny town, with the distillery the only major attraction.

The tour was fascinating. Every bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey we’ve ever purchased was made and bottled in the same place and the same way as Jack Daniels himself did over a century ago. Which is insane to think about. We were led around the grounds and got to see every step in the process from fermentation to mellowing to aging, and then finally bottling. And of course we got to sample some of their most popular products!

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From there we headed back to the hotel room to get ready for infamous Broadway Street. We were determined to fully experience everything that Nashville had to offer, which meant we needed to check out some honky tonks to get a taste of that country music life. Full disclaimer, I am not a fan of country music. But watching it live was a different experience. The crowd’s energy was infectious. And I won’t lie, the drinks helped quite a bit…Broadway St. is basically a street full of bars and honky tonks, with Bridgestone Arena nestled right in the middle of it all. So we just walked down the street ducking into places that looked and sounded interesting. Being a Saturday night, we had plenty of company. Some of the more entertaining places were Acme Feed and Seed, Tequila Cowboy, Tootsie’s, and Big Bang.

Although I will say that our Saturday night shenanigans came at a price, at least for me. So Sunday morning we kinda chilled in the hotel room to try to recover in time for the game. But some hot chicken (which I learned is great hangover food) and a bottle of Gatorade later, I was feeling completely normal in time to hit up the Johnny Cash museum before watching the game.

With the museum being a few yards away from Broadway St and the arena, we were able to walk over a little after the doors opened. We had planned to get there early to explore the arena before warm ups began.

Let me just say that Nashville absolutely loves their Predators. The crowd was  into it. They cheered non-stop, even when down (believe it or not, we were actually up by three goals at one point…). No lie, I am extremely jealous, because hockey is just not a big deal in Dallas, not when we have to compete with the Cowboy, Rangers, and Mavericks. So our arena tends to be on the quieter side. But Nashville, they have chants and jeers, and an amazing atmosphere that I just have never experienced before. And the Nashville culture is very present in all they do in the arena. I mean, they even have live country bands perform during intermissions. Their goal song (which we unfortunately heard too often), is a Tim McGraw song. So yeah, the game was really something.

Their arena is relatively new and modern, and they have so many unique food options. We chose to eat dinner from the grilled -cheese stand (I had a delicious hot chicken and waffle sandwich), but they had everything from BBQ, to Mexican and everything in between. And despite us being Stars fans in our Victory Green jerseys, everyone we talked to (Preds fan or not) was incredibly nice. We even bumped into several fans from Dallas that had also made the trip for the game. So even though we lost, we had a blast.

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Our view for the game

After the game I did end up stopping by one of the fan stores to buy a Predators magnet (I’m sure that looked kind of silly) to add to my collection. I also bought myself an ornament from a souvenir shop on Broadway to commemorate the trip. Then we just went back to the room to pack and rest up before hitting the road Monday morning. After a quick breakfast (Waffle House, because what else?), we were on our way back home. And the way back was just as uneventful as the way there…

All in all, I was really charmed by Nashville. And I’m really eager to go back soon, with more friends in tow. But yeah, I’m still not a fan of country music.

Thank you for reading!

Italia

Hockey Obsessed

Hockey Obsessed

I can pinpoint the moment I became a die-hard hockey fan. We were at my second Dallas Stars game ever on October 27th last year, having attended my first a couple of days earlier. We were playing the Anaheim Ducks, and they had scored 3 goals in the first period, leaving the score 3-0 going into the 2nd intermission. A 3 goal deficit is quite difficult to overcome…but almost halfway through the period Patrick Sharp scored his first ever goal as a Dallas Star. And that opened the floodgates. By the end of the period, the score was tied, 3-3. The 3rd period is relatively quiet. As time winds down, you pretty much know that the team that scores the next goal will win. And with less than 2 minutes left in the game, Antoine Roussel scores the game winner. The Dallas Stars had staged and completed the comeback. And the very next day I started the process of securing Season Tickets for the rest of the season.

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Final Score of the Stars vs. Ducks game on 10/27

It’s been a little over a year since then. And I’m happy to say my fierce passion (obsession?) for the sport and my team has only grown. The funny thing is, I can’t really put into proper words why I like hockey so much. It’s some combination of the speed of the game along with the physicality and character of the players that just speaks to me. Then add to that the sheer skill needed to perform at that level. It’s a recipe for success in my book.

So here I am. A Season Ticket holder. A girl that owns more hockey related apparel than I thought possible (I’d guess that 45% of my wardrobe is either green or Stars related at this point). Someone that can list players from any team and their stats off the top of her head.

Hi, my name is Italia, and I am obsessed with hockey. At this point, I don’t know what I did with my time before then…