About Cheryl Lock
Cheryl Lock is a former magazine, newspaper and website editor turned full-time freelance writer. She has worked on staff at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, More and Parents magazines, as well as for Learnvest, the leading women's financial website. Her work has also appeared in Newsweek, Forbes, Ladies' Home Journal, the Huffington Post, AOL Travel and more.
Cheryl was born in Nuremberg, Germany and grew up moving around every few years as an Army brat. The urge to travel has been with her her whole life. While she calls New York City home, Cheryl makes it a priority to travel as much as possible throughout the year. Some of her favorite places include Iceland, the Great Barrier Beef, Cabo, Rome, Calabria and Munich, although she hopes to never stop exploring. Cheryl blogs about her travel adventures (and what's happening in and around New York City) at Weary Wanderer.
Latest Posts by Cheryl Lock
Last Friday Chris and I kept up a promise we’ve made to each other to try a new place in Denver at least once a month by having dinner at The Kitchen, which is conveniently located right on the 16th St. Mall. I wasn’t sure what to expect, since I didn’t know too much about the place other than that friends had said it was good, but we were not disappointed. I may even go so far as to say that it’s one of my favorite places to eat in Denver now, and it’s definitely a great place to bring a date.
Here’s what we had …
Appetizers started out with organic mushrooms on toast, Maine mussels with grilled bread and the goat gouda gougère (basically a tasty fried cheese puff), pictured below.
Of course we had drinks. I decided to stick with white wine and Chris had — can you guess? — a Manhattan! Surprise, surprise.
This picture simply does not do my house made capellini with ramps, house ricotta & micro basil any justice, friends, because it was, in all honesty, some of the best pasta I’ve had. Ever. And I’ve had pasta in Italy. The ricotta was the perfect compliment to the capellini, and the basil was so fresh, I felt like they had just gone out back and picked it before they put it on my plate.
Dessert was cappuccino and the sticky toffee pudding.
I love the feel of community that’s so important in this restaurant, too. In fact, The Kitchen restaurants all donate a percentage of sales to help plant Learning Gardens (which are actual gardens created in schools across America to help teach kids about the importance of real food) in their local communities.
Recently, we headed to a quaint paint studio in the Highlands, one of my all-time favorite hoods in Denver. The company — Sipping N’ Painting — hosts one to three classes a day, and you can pick which photo you want to paint. (Meaning the day you pick corresponds to a specific photo — everyone in the class paints the same thing, which the artist takes you through step-by-step to create.)
We decided to paint a hot air balloon scene, and even though I’m no Picasso, I’m pretty stoked at how my photo came out …
Who doesn’t love a blank canvas and all it represents? You get one free drink with the class, and you can pay for additional drinks, or even a bottle of wine. They have snacks, too, which let’s be honest, was more important to me than the drinks.
Some of the options you can pick from to paint.
The beginnings of a skyline.
My sister called my sky “ominous” when I sent her a photo of it … ignore her.
The final product!
The studio is directly across the street from The Truffle Table — Denver’s wine & cheese bar. I have every intention of bringing my bestie (who is coming into town on Thursday for a week – squee!) back here to paint, followed by some deliciousness at The Truffle Table.
We recently hosted our first visitors to Denver, which was both fun and nerve-wracking, since we haven’t been here that long ourselves and definitely haven’t done as much exploring as I normally like to have done before invite people to try things.
Friday we met up at the local dive Star Bar for drinks before dinner. The menu changes every week, so it’s hard to say what they’ll have from one day to the next, but there are tons of local brews on tap, and they have live music, pool tables and skeeball, and while they don’t serve food themselves, they have menus available to order in from many of the tasty joints that are right on that block, as well.
We decided to forgo ordering food to the bar, though, in favor of heading over to Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizza, which is right next door. We ordered a bunch of things to share, including the Arrosto salad, the Queens pizza and the Nutella Pizza for dessert … all of which were amazing. Plus the atmosphere was fun and festive … this would be a place we’d head back to, for sure.
Saturday we attempted to meet up with our friends for breakfast at Snooze in Union Station, but when something is rated the No. 1 place to get brunch, you better believe there will be a line, and at an hour and 45 minute wait time, we weren’t having that. So we headed on over to The Delectable Egg, instead, and had ourselves a delicious breakfast, including some of the best coffee I’ve ever had (ever), and a mouth-watering Bloody Mary.
^^ I had mine sans bacon — thank you very much — but it was still delicious!
After breakfast we went for a little walk by the Platte River (in winter, yes, we’re badass, what can I say?) and over to REI to show them how big and fun it is.
Then later we wandered over to the Wynkoop Brewery (during what would turn out to be our first significant snowfall since we’ve been in Denver, no less) for their free brew tour (definitely worth it), some beers and appetizers.
Dinner was at the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (which we also visited the last time we were here in April), and Sunday we met up again for coffee and bagel sandwiches at Bruegger’s Bagels. And while I have to say that nothing, and I mean nothing, beats eating an egg and cheese bagel from our favorite deli on the corner of 3rd and 89th while sitting on a bench in Central Park or taking a walk around the Reservoir, Bruegger’s is a place that I would probably be okay bringing visitors to … if I had to pick.
We just did a whirlwind drive from New York to Colorado stopping in Columbus, Ohio, St. Louis, Missouri, where we stayed at the Hilton St. Louis Downtown at the Arch
Kansas City, Missouri and also on the Kansas side.
We ate at the Flatiron Bar & Diner — think fried oyster po’ boy and gumbo with beer after a ten hour drive.
Later at the Hilton in St. Louis (above).
As I mentioned before, the Arch was only a couple blocks from our hotel, so we just had to head out at night to catch it all lit up.
And it did not disappoint!
We grabbed drinks at the Hyatt….We purchased tickets online the night before and headed out (in the frigid cold, I might add) the next morning to head up the Arch and see the sites. It really was a pretty fun experience, but be warned clustrophobes … this is maybe NOT the activity for you! I wouldn’t consider myself to be claustrophobic, but even so, the tiny little vessels that carry you to the top of the Arch had my heart racing — and Chris and I were in there alone! (On the way up we were alone at least … we shared with two people on the way down.) I can’t imagine how it would have been if the intended six people were squished together in there!
But the views are pretty spectacular, so you kind of forget about the ride up (and down) once you’re up there.
This is the Old Courthouse, where the slave Dred Scott sued for his and his wife’s freedom in 1846. This statue stands as a monument to the couple — and everything that historic case stood for — outside of the courthouse today.
For lunch we headed to Schlafly Brewery.
After days of driving and 1,836 miles covered (plus lots of McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and Subway for lunch), we had made it to Colorado, my friends, and our final destination — Denver — was in site.
Years ago, I became obsessed with taking a trip to the Galapagos, where we would be following in the footsteps of Darwin, making amazing discoveries and partaking in fascinating experiments. A few weeks ago, I finally accomplished that goal.
If you’re an animal lover, you must add the Galapagos to your list, because there is no place on earth like it, my friends. So far in life I’ve had the great opportunity to snorkel in some pretty amazing places (the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Great Barrier Reef, to name a few), and nothing even came close to snorkeling here. (Sorry, Barrier Reef. You were awesome and all, but the Galapagos has my heart.)
We took the Aida Maria, which is a small-ish sized yacht that fits up to 16 guests, and we had 15 on board for our trip. The size of the ship also means that space is pretty limited, and while we had bunk beds in our room, Chris and I used the top bunk to store our luggage and we slept together on the bottom bed. I’m honestly not sure what people did who didn’t share a bed, because there would have been very little floor space for luggage.
In terms of our itinerary and the islands we visited, here’s how we did it.
We started with Baltra Island and then went snorkeling at Bachas beach on Santa Cruz Island. The second day, we woke up after cruising all night in the midst of Genovesa, a shield volcano in the eastern Pacific Ocean and headed to the Barranco (aka Prince Phillip’s Steps and the place where we found owls!) at the top of Genovesa.
Next on the agenda was Bartolome Island and thereafter, Sullivan Bay and it’s insane lava fields on Santiago Island, and the following day, we went to Daphne/Black Turtle Cove and later to Cerro Dragon (a trail that runs through three different environments even though it’s just 1,600 m long) on Santa Cruz.
It’s named this because the northwestern side of Santa Cruz Island is home to an impressive population of Conolophus subcristatus, or Galapagos land iguana. We also had our final (and my favorite) snorkeling excursion on this particular outing. It was here that we saw sharks again, and I had one playful little sea lion who swam in circles around me while I snorkeled, waving her cute little fin at me the whole time. Oh Galapagos — you slay me with your magical moments.
Next was the Charles Darwin Station, where we saw giant tortoises! We were a bit bummed as we left that we hadn’t seen these awesome animals in “real” life, but as we were driving back to the airport we saw three or four them along the side of the road. Then it was back to Baltra to catch our flight back to the mainland Ecuador
Something else that was really cool about the trip is that everyone’s itinerary was planned by the National Park Service in order to keep as few people as possible on the islands at the same time. So for example, even if we were docked at an island with two or three other ships, we were never doing the same activity at the same time as the people from the other boat. If we were hiking, they would be snorkeling, and vice versa.
The last night of our trip we even got to go out to a bar (which was a good thing because the ship ran out of booze!) with a couple other young people from our boat and our tour guide (there were some restaurants, shops and bars at Puerto Ayora, which is where our tour guide was from. We even got to meet his adorable wife and 5-year-old son!)
Now let’s get to the fun part — the photos!
This (not so) little guy is a land iguana. We came across another one later in our hike that walked a good 100 feet towards our group of 16, bobbing his head in warning the whole while, before getting a couple of feet in front of us and turning around. I think he made his point, though ;) Land iguanas are pretty territorial, but they’re also pretty harmless.
Clawless lobsters at the fish markets in Puerto Ayora.
A marine iguana just hangin’ out. Watching them swim in the water is pretty amazing.
How adorable are the giant tortoises?! They can live to be between 120 and 150 years old.
These bright red crabs against the black lava?
Being in the water snorkeling was amazing, but watching sunsets from the back of the boat wasn’t too shabby, either.
The sea lions would get so close to you! And our tour guide would say, “Just see what happens.” Animals on the islands are super curious, and because humans aren’t their predators here, they are just fearless. It’s pretty cool.
A lava heron (which we concluded looked shockingly similar to a grumpy old man, no?!)
A few minutes after this photo was taken this sea lion would take a big ole’ dump in the water while I was snorkeling, totally bringing me back to earth (and out of the water!) from the surreal moment I was having. See the one in the background, too? With his nose in the air? I always wondered what they were thinking when they did that.
The blue beaks on the red-footed boobies are simply beautiful.
This was a view from Cero Dragon on Santa Cruz island.
Penguins! Can you believe the Galapagos has penguins? What doesn’t this place have?
Sullivan Bay on Santiago to demonstrate how far and wide the lava fields went.
The site of one of our many, many snorkel adventures.
There’s a blue-footed booby on the rocks!” This was an inside joke amongst everyone on our boat, since we came to realize that we could listen carefully for Reuben to call out loudly when we were on hikes or outings and he spotted some wildlife he really wanted us to see. His enthusiasm was seriously contagious. You could tell he loved his job and loved the Galapagos and just wanted to teach us everything he could, and that was just the best.
Pelican in flight.
We took the dinghy’s out one morning to Black Turtle Cove and saw all manner of animals, from the blue-footed boobies above to this green turtle, to mating sea turtles to sting rays and sharks.
Mating turtles, oh my!
Four stingrays in a row, right in front of our boat.
Honestly, we took about a gazillion photos here friends, as I’m sure you can imagine, and culling them down into just a couple is really hard. But I think what I’ve included here gives you a good indication of what the Galapagos is like — and it’s simply a heaven on earth.
So after our five days on the boat we caught a flight back to Quito and Jorge dropped us back off at La Rabida. It was bliss!
After three weeks of hiking, snorkeling, walking and swimming, we wanted to relax more than anything else when we reached Costa Rica. We looked at it as a way to chill and as such, we booked three days at Posada El Quijote in Escazu, Costa Rica (right outside of San Jose), and then a week at Barcelo Langosta Beach, an all-inclusive resort in the beach town of Tamarindo.
Above Toucan was taken at the animal refuge zoo and below was the view from our first Costa Rican hotel, with the city of San Jose in the background.
Let’s start with Posada El Quijote — it’s adorable. The hotel is a tiny boutique one nestled in the town of Escazu, which is one of the richer towns in Costa Rica. Our cab driver told us Mel Gibson bought a house here.
The included breakfast was a huge draw for us, the best breakfast we had on our entire trip, as was the view from the backyard, where Chris and I took to having some drinks after sunset every night, watching the twinkling lights of San Jose in the background. Some highlights of Escazu for me (besides the hotel, which I would highly recommend), was eating at both Tiquicia (with its amazing city views as well) and La Casona de Laly , and taking a tour of the city of San Jose.
About San Jose itself, I’d highly recommend not staying directly in the city if you can avoid it, because other than a few good museums and a gorgeous concert hall, the rest of the city is really pretty much chain restaurants and concrete. In our case, staying outside of the city and taking a half day trip into the city itself to check things out was more than enough.
They were having a family day when we took our half-day tour in San Jose, so the main town square was alive with all kinds of activity. How awesome is this tight-rope little lady? You go girl.
We caught this view on one of our walks around our Escazu neighborhood. Gorgeous.
After three relaxing days in Escazu, Chris and I packed up our stuff again and loaded it onto a bus headed for the coast of Tamarindo and the Barcelo Langosta Beach Resort. The bus ride was roughly five hours and once we were off the main highways and driving through the smaller towns, I enjoyed seeing the homes and shops and some of the average Costa Rican way of life.
You’ll find wild parrots throughout Costa Rica.
Below, we tried our hand at ziplining with Pura Adventura while we were in Costa Rica – imagine gliding through the air, feeling completely weightless, watching amazing views unfold before you.
After what felt like weeks not hours, we finally arrived at Barcelo Langosta. If you’ve ever stayed at an all-inclusive before, you won’t be disappointed with this one.
The staff was very friendly, and offered many of those all-inclusive activities most people enjoy (water aerobics, dance classes, live music on certain nights, beach volleyball, etc.), and the buffet was pretty great for all-inclusive food, especially since they switched up their theme every night to keep it fresh. Below, the sunset facing the resort.
They also have one restaurant on the grounds, which if you stay for longer than three nights is included in your price, and that was super tasty. We saw tons of wildlife around the resort, too, like two different kinds of monkeys, green lizards, land iguanas, birds and more.
The beach is public, so it can get a bit crowded, and it’s not the best beach for swimming because the waves tend to be rougher there (which makes it perfect for watching surfers!) and there are a lot of rocks. But the sunsets were some of the most gorgeous ones we saw on our whole trip, and to not have to think at all about what we were going to do about eating during the days made it a lot more laid back for us, as well.
We watched the sunset from the beach every night.
Posada El Quijote Country Inn
Belo Horizonte, Escazu, Costa Rica
Barcelo Langosta Beach Resort
Calle Playa Langosta, Tamarindo
Guanacaste, Santa Cruz 50309, Costa Rica
After our adventures in Peru, we packed up our belongings and headed to the airport to fly a bit up the continent to Ecuador, where we would be taking part in the second, third and fourth parts of our South American adventure: Quito, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands.
We started out in Quito before exploring the more rural parts of Ecuador which included the Rainforest, Amazon and the Galapagos. Here’s a bit of what we saw during our stay in Quito.
This statue was a gift to the city, but its back faces towards the more poor area, and the people who live there unfortunately took that to be a bit of a slight.
The Old Town section of Quito is beautiful during the day, but our tour guide warned us that it can be a bit desolate, and even dangerous, at night. If you make it here, however, be sure to NOT MISS the Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus church. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos inside, but I’ve never been to a more beautiful church, and it’s absolutely not to be missed when you’re checking out this part of Quito.
We were in the old section of Quito Ecuador on a Monday, so we were lucky enough to catch the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace, which really is quite the show.
We also visited the part of Quito where the lines of latitude and longitude are zero, which was fascinating. (There are actually two of these places. The first was the one the French thought was zero latitude, but the Ecuadorian army later scientifically determined the actual spot to be about 200 meters away. Still, that’s not bad for an educated guess!) Anyway, the equator line is so weird! This is me, trying to balance an egg on its end (which our tour guide and someone else in our group successfully managed to do), and you have practically zero strength on the line as well. It’s also incredibly hard to walk in a straight line when you’re directly on the equator (as demonstrated by Chris, below), and the water really does flush in different directions to either side of the line.
I feel as though I would be wrong to ignore something that came up a lot while we were in Quito — which is safety. We didn’t do a ton of research on the area before heading there, since it was part of our package anyway, and we’d be spending so few days there, but as it turns out, there’s quite a bit of noise on the internet about the safety of tourists in the area.
While I think a lot of this has changed in recent years, I think it doesn’t hurt to be on high alert if traveling to this area. I wouldn’t walk at night anywhere (cabs are readily available, although you need to be sure to get in legitimate cabs with meters, and make sure the cab drivers actually turn on the meters, because they will try to stiff you), and don’t be flamboyant about things that call you out as a tourist — like carrying ginormous cameras or stopping to look at a map every couple of feet.
The first day we arrived in Quito it happened to be a holiday, and we found the city to be pretty empty and a bit desolate, which to be honest made it a bit creepy. But after the city filled with people again, and when we roamed around during broad daylight, we found the people to be friendly and helpful, and nothing was scary at all.
We also had some of our favorite meals here in Quito. Our tour guide (Gorge, who was one of our favorite tour guides of the whole trip), suggested one little restaurant called Mama Clorinda, where we ate empanadas, potato soup, shrimp and rice and lamb stew (Chris, not me), that was all totally delicious. Chris also really enjoyed the steak at La Casa de mi Abuela.
After our three days in Quito, we headed back to the airport with Gorge to catch our flight to the Amazon, which was a pretty surreal experience in and of itself. We stayed at Sacha Lodge, which we really loved. The food here was pretty amazing, especially considering the fact that it was buffet style made for dozens of people all at once, and the lodges themselves were gorgeous, wooden cabins with big, bright hammocks on open porches directly in the rainforest.
These little leaf cutter ants were so amazing! They were one of the first signs of life we saw when we arrived, and there was a whole big stream of them running across the path we had to walk to get to our lodge, busy carrying those little leaves to their new destination.
To get to the lodge, we had to fly to another city from Quito, take a 2.5 hour motorized canoe ride, walk a mile through the rainforest, then take another 15-20 minute canoe ride to the lodge itself.
Sunset over the Sacha Lodge lake was epic every night.
The very first night we were there we went on a night hike and saw all kinds of creepy crawlies. You’d think that seeing creatures like this would freak me out, but honestly it didn’t — it was fascinating.
Baby tarantulas! We would see very many of these during our stay at the Amazon, most of them a whole heck of a lot bigger than this one.
Look at this adorable patootie!
These parrots fascinated me. They come to the clay lick to eat the clay, which helps neutralize the acid in their stomachs from eating berries and such. Such smart parrots.
One of my two favorite moments in the Amazon occured while I was in the shower. Like I mentioned, our cabins were pretty awesome, and the bathrooms were the absolute best. The back of the shower was just a screen, which looked out directly into the rainforest. So one day while I’m showering, I happen to notice some movement in the woods, and it was this little monkey, along with about five or six of his friends! Monkeys — just chillin’ in the rainforest — which I could watch all to myself while I took a shower. Once in a lifetime experience, for sure.
Another shower monkey!
How cute are these cabins!?
One day we went into the butterfly house, which housed hundreds of amazing, beautifully colored butterflies, along with one nasty, huge tarantula that had moved in and just occasionally snacks on the butterflies.
We took a lot of canopy walks high above the trees, where we saw tons of birds like Toucans and Hummingbirds and even a King Vulture!
This snake, which we happened upon on one of our hikes, is referred to as the Venti Quatro, because once bitten by it, you’ll die within 24 hours. Nice, right? And he was thisclose to us on the hike. This was also right before a tree branch broke and Chris was showered with fire ants that bit him all over his arm. While he was in pain for about nine hours after it happened, he now thinks this is pretty bad ass. I mean, if you’re going to be in the Amazon, you might as well have a story to tell, right?
We went piranha fishing, and I was the first person to catch one! It was so crazy. You put some meat at the end of a fishing pole, and when you throw the line in, you can’t even see the piranha attacking it, you just see the meat moving around in the water as they snip at it. This is a red-bellied kind.
^^ Look at those teeth!
The thing that makes both Chris and myself a little sad is that our camera didn’t have a better zoom, because some of the birds we saw were absolutely amazing, and our camera just wasn’t cutting it in terms of capturing their essence. But we spent four days in the Amazon, and it was both terrifying, beautiful and exhilarating. We did a lot of activities during the days, but we also had some time to relax, which was highly welcome.
After our Amazonian adventure, we packed ourselves back up, headed back out on the canoe rides and hikes that would eventually get us to the airport, and flew back to Quito, where we would have a half day before flying back out the next morning to … THE GALAPAGOS!
To say that the 7-hour, 9.5.-mile hike we did of the Inca trail almost killed me would probably be a bit of an exaggeration … but let’s be honest friends — it’s a hard trek.
After spending four days in Cusco getting acclimated to the altitude and checking out some of the other sites, we woke up around 6 a.m. on a Friday to head three hours on the train with our tour guide, Michael, to the spot on the Inca trail where we would be starting our trek.
Here’s a bit of what we saw on that hike:
One little tale about the trek that I’d like to share was a sort of adorable one about my lunch. The night before we left it occurred to me that I should probably remind the B&B where we were staying (which was booked in conjunction with our entire Inca Trail/Machu Picchu hike) that I am a vegetarian, since they were packing our lunch for the next day. “Sure no problem!” they said.
Cut to our lunch on this intense hike the next day (you can probably see where I’m going with this). Our guide seemed really nervous about the lunch and kept saying, “Oh I really hope they packed your vegetarian!” He was eager for me to open my lunch so he could make sure it was the right stuff, and when I did he was so relieved. “Oh good, they did pack you a vegetarian!”
“Absolutely, looks great!” I assured him, even though what I was looking at was fried rice with ham.
It was really no biggie — I just ate around it. I figure in circumstances like this, when you’re traveling in different parts of the world and trying to be thoughtful of their own customs and traditions, it’s best to go with the flow as much as possible. Lucky for me, big pieces of ham are easy to eat around ;)
Anyway … after about seven hours of ups and (very few) downs and stairs and switchbacks, I was ready to be done! And thankfully we had quite the amazing payoff at the end of the hike, too:
Not bad — am I right?! When you book the 2-day trek (at least when you book with Cusi Travel), what happens is you hike the Inca Trail all day, ending up at Machu Picchu late in the afternoon. You then take the bus (the crazy bus down the side of the hill where there is barely enough room for one vehicle, let alone the two that sometimes squeeze by each other!) down into Aguas Calientes — the town below Machu Picchu — to spend the night. We then got up super early the next morning to stand in line to catch the bus back to Machu Picchu for a tour with our guide, and we had decided to hike Huayna Picchu as well, so we’d be doing that without our guide around 10 a.m. the following day after our Inca Trail hike.
A word now about the Huayna Picchu hike (before I share some of the absolutely stunning photos) — it’s terrifying. And when I saw terrifying, I mean terrifying! First off, it’s sometimes referred to as the “hike of death,” so you know, there’s that. See that tall-ass mountain that sticks straight up into the sky in the photo above? The one directly to the right of Machu Picchu. That is Huayna Picchu, my friends, and that is what we hiked the day after our Inca Trail hike. It’s 8,920 ft high, with barely any handrails or cover of any kind, and only 400 people are allowed to climb it every day in order to keep it from being too crowded. (If you want to learn more about the hike itself, if you’re considering it, I would read this, which has some really good info to prepare you before you decide either way.)
I’m going to be honest — I didn’t do any reading about the hike before we took it on. I had a friend who had done it a few years earlier and she recommended adding it to our Machu Picchu visit before our tour guide even recommended it to us and if I hadn’t done it, I may have scared me away from actually doing the hike, in which case I would have been robbed of an amazing feeling of accomplishment, not to mention these amazing, once-in-a-lifetime views: