Restaurants · travel

Day 33 & 34 of USA Road Trip – Santa Fe

So the margarita trail was a bust. You needed to drink 5 of their suggested margaritas to get a t-shirt, but you could only get a maximum of 2 margarita points a day, regardless of how many you drank. Seeing as we were only there for 2 days, we wouldn’t have been able to get a t-shirt (which is the whole point of doing the trail). Instead, we bar hopped along our own route and tried lots of different drinks! That basically sums up our first evening in Santa Fe. 


We stopped for dinner first at a local Mexican restaurant called Mucho Gusto. It’s a short walk away from the main drag so it’s a little cheaper than the overpriced restaurants right in the heart of town. They don’t have gluten free items marked on the menu, but once asked they were very knowledgeable and knew what I could and couldn’t eat. I went for the beef and it was yummy. Obviously, I had to wash it down with their house margarita! 


From there we headed to Coyote Cafe and nabbed ourselves a spot on the rooftop, overlooking all the gorgeous terracotta rooftops. The cocktail menu was AMAZING. I tried 3 different cocktails and all of them were dreamy, especially the Coco Loco. 


Once we had peeled ourselves away from the cocktails, we stood outside Starbucks to steal the wifi and book an Uber home. I remember when Uber first became a big thing in London and my housemate and I used it to get to a friends birthday party. Within a couple minutes, a fancy Mercedes had pulled up outside and our driver was wearing a suit! Plus, it only cost us £10 to get from Clapham to Holborn. Alas, that Uber now only exists in my memory. Last night, there was apparently a surge (even though the streets of Santa Fe were quiet and there was zero traffic), and they were quoting $45 for a trip that cost under $10 three hours prior. Such a joke. We downloaded the Lyft app instead and yes, they also had a surge, but it was only $14 to get home with the surge fee added. Download Lyft!! 

Today we got the train into town at Ewan’s request (he revealed yesterday that he loves trains almost as much as commercial planes – the things you learn about someone when you spend a month with them in a car). Despite the fact that we got the times wrong and arrived 45 minutes early for our train, it was a VERY cheap and easy way of getting around. I capitalized the ‘very’ next to cheap because we got both journeys for free! On the way into town, no one came around selling tickets, so we just didn’t buy one. On the way back, someone came round to sell tickets just as we were about to arrive at our stop, so he told us we didn’t need to pay. Score! The train is also adorably called The Road Runner and when the doors close, it makes the ‘meep meep’ sound! Cute. 


We explored all the outskirts of town today, staring at the Railyard. There were lots of cute craft and food stalls in the Railyard, including a coffee shop that did the BEST gluten free coffee cake I’ve ever eaten. Ewan passed on the PB&J cookie which came back to bite him in the arse later. 


We hung out for a while in the Railyard Gardens; looking at the cool art installations, spotting wildlife like gophers and squirrels and climbing in the kids playground. I did at one point stand in a red ants nest but nothing bit me! Can you believe it?! [After I wrote this line, we went to collect our washing from the guest laundry and on the way, a grasshopper fell from a tree and landed on my head. Sigh]. 


A short walk from the Railyard is the State Capitol Building and ‘The Oldest House in the USA’, which was made out of dirt and manure! Both are free to visit. 


Ewan began to get the hunger shakes so we headed to the very popular Cowgirl BBQ for lunch. There was a band playing live country music in the Courtyard so the place was super busy. Their menu is classic BBQ and I was happy to see that they mark the gluten free options on the menu. I went for the nachos which are apparently famous and have been rated highly by Food Network and the Travel Channel…. but they were just okay! 


We walked off our lunch around the streets of Santa Fe and checked out a couple local shops before stopping for our final drink of the day at Blue Corn Cafe. We sat on the rooftop, soaking in the sun and shooing away greedy pigeons. 


Tomorrow we’ve only got an hour drive to Albuquerque, which I’m intrigued to see. I’m expecting it to be very much like Santa Fe but I could be wrong! 

Restaurants · travel

Day 31 & 32 of USA Road Trip – Colorado Springs 

I really should start calling this blog ‘What bit me today?’ because I seem to experience a new insect bite every day. This afternoon, as we were walking around The Garden of the Gods, Ewan noticed that I had blood all over my ankle. Something had feasted on my leg and left a mess… even staining my sodding white trainers! Livid. FYI I’ve been covering myself in a bug repellant spray that’s apparently designed for the Amazon Rainforest. Remind me never to take a trip there if I want to come out alive. 

Yesterday, we spent the morning at Coors Brewery. It’s completely free, from parking to the beers at the end of the tour! It was a quick, interesting, self-guided tour which ended up in a large tasting room, where you are allowed to try 3 beers each. Obviously due to my coeliac disease, I can’t drink beer, which meant that Ewan had 6 beers before 11.30am! I helped myself to the unlimited soft drinks instead, and became the designated driver for the day. 


After the brewery tour, we walked/swayed into the town of Golden, Colorado for something to soak up the alcohol in Ewan’s system. We came across a pizza joint called Woody’s that did gluten free pizza. It was nice but I had to pay $5 extra for the gluten free base, which is pretty high compared to what I’ve ever had to pay before, especially because you always end up with something smaller than the gluten-containing version anyway! They did, however, introduce me to a weird food pairing that I kind of enjoyed; they gave me honey to dip my pizza crusts in! It was nice, but I’d still take a garlic & herb dip over it any day. 


On the way back to the car we spotted a bakery called Gold Mine Cupcakes and saw a little sign advertising gluten free. I took a turtle cupcake for the road…. there’s always room for dessert. 


Ewan slept like a drunken log all the way to our next stop, the US Air Force Academy. It was another free attraction with a museum and an incredible chapel that looked like something out of Lord of the Rings! 


For dinner we had reservations at a place called The Rabbit Hole in Colorado Springs, and I was super excited because it had a great gluten free menu online and was Alice in Wonderland themed. The restaurant was as beautiful as I had imagined, all twinkly fairy lights and intricate paintings. Sadly, the gluten free menu was nowhere near as good as it could have been. It turns out that nearly all of the items on the menu are fried (even the plain chicken that goes in the salad) in the same fryer as gluten containing ingredients, so very little is suitable for coeliacs. I went for the wild rice risotto with asparagus and scallops, which was delicious, but it would have been nice to have more options. 


Today has been a dreamy day, starting off at Royal Gorge, about an hours drive from Colorado Springs. Admission is $26 each, but you can get it for $24 if you buy online. It’s a large park with a gondola, skycoaster, zip line and an enormous pedestrian bridge – the gondola is included in standard admission and isn’t as scary as it looks! Ewan didn’t love the pedestrian bridge and got very clammy palms, but I still managed to snap a couple pics of him on it (as he complained through his teeth that I was making him stay on the bridge longer than necessary). 


We decided to check out Canon City afterwards and see if they had anywhere we could eat lunch, and we got insanely lucky. Right in front of our parking space was a restaurant called Teek. It was honestly one of the randomest places ever; all the servers were in top to toe tie-die (including bandanas), not one single item of furniture matched another and the menu had a little bit of everything. Their gluten free items are marked on the menu, and they have a separate fryer too! We shared the pork buns to start and each had the chicken tacos with root vegetable fries for our main. YUM. 


It was now time to head to the Garden of the Gods, a stop that I had been looking forward to for weeks. It’s completely free and you can either drive or walk around the park (or do a mix of the two like we did!). One of the coolest sights to see there is the Kissing Camels, basically a rock formation that looks like two camels kissing! Such an amazing place to tick off the bucket list. 


We drove into Colorado City Old Town afterwards and I was rewarded with a glass of Cherry Wine after being the designated driver yesterday. Not as good as the Blueberry Wine we had in Gatlinburg but still good! 

Onto Sante Fe tomorrow and we’re going to do the Margarita Trail… can’t wait!! 

Restaurants · travel

Day 30 of USA Road Trip – Denver

We are having the best time in Colorado, it’s really beautiful and I definitely want to come back during winter to see it all in the snow! Yesterday, we explored Denver. There was a Park & Ride only 5 minutes drive from the hotel, so we opted for that to get into the city. It was a 45 minute bus ride, but I didn’t mind as I had my excellent book with me; The Glass Castle. 

We arrived downtown and it felt so good to be in a big(ish) city with loads going on and lots to see. We walked along the 16th Street Mall and came across a sign advertising a Money Museum. We were only mildly interested until we saw the word ‘free’, at which point we marched enthusiastically towards the entrance. It was actually a really cool place, with loads of interactive exhibits and little bags of shredded money that you could take away with you. Ewan and I enjoyed acting like kids and designing our own dollar note using crayons and stencils (I know, we’re too cool) and I got a glimpse of what my face would look like on money. Personally, I don’t think anythings ever suited me more. 


After all this excitement, we headed for a walk along the river before grabbing a coffee and some gluten free cakes at a book store. We sat in front of Union Station with them, people watching and sunbathing. 


After a couple hours of wandering around the city, we headed to Larimer Square to find somewhere to have lunch. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that Ewan and I have a soft spot for Lederhosen. This soft spot for Germany also extends to German food, especially currywurst. As soon as we saw Rhein Haus and it’s cheery blue umbrellas, we knew we had a winner. They have a super cheap Happy Hour menu with loads of gluten free options, including currywurst for only $5! Thinking that the portions would be as small as the price, I went for the currywurst and potato salad. The food arrived and the portions were enormous – we definitely should have shared! You can also play Bocce Ball (Bowles to my UK readers) for free at the restaurant.  


After lunch, it was time to tick off some more of Denver’s top sights. We saw the huge Blue Bear peeking into the Convention Centre and the gorgeous Courthouse, which hilariously we mistook for a public attraction and went in. Two security guards asked us if we were due in court today, and upon seeing our confused faces, showed our tourist asses the door. 


Thankfully, we had more luck with the Capitol Building and enjoyed roaming around it and peeking into lots of interesting rooms. We spotted a plaque at the front of the building that marked the one mile above sea level point. It’s weird to think that Denver is so high up, but we could definitely feel the altitude as we were walking up all the steps inside the building (or that could have been the currywurst weighing us down). 


Overall, I loved Denver and had such a good day exploring the city. We are in Colorado Springs at the moment and have lots of cool things on the agenda for tomorrow. Will update shortly!

Ps. Bug bite welts have all but gone. Yay! 

 

Restaurants · travel

Day 28 & 29 of USA Road Trip – Omaha, Lincoln, Cozad & Cheyenne 

Note: Wifi being strange so apologies if the pictures on this blog post don’t show up! Will fix ASAP. 

So it turns out that there are far worse things to find in a motel room than dead skin and a cockroach. In the motel we stayed at in Des Moines (Days Inn West Des Moines FYI – don’t EVER stay there), I got bitten by bed bugs. We had an early night ahead of our 5 hour drive the next morning, but due to my old lady bladder I got up to wee at 11.30pm. During this wee I noticed rows of bites over both of my arms and immediately knew from a previous experience in Orlando back in 2000 that it was bedbugs. A quick check of the mattress confirmed it and we headed to reception, freaked out and upset, and got our room changed. I knew I was in for a nightmare couple of days because my body reacts like a paranoid idiot to insect bites and in a matter of hours, I had massive, swollen welts over both my arms. Ouch. Ewan didn’t get bitten once!! 


The next morning, we waved a VERY happy farewell to that motel and got on our way to our next stop, Cozad. Around midday, we stopped in Omaha to stretch our legs along the Riverfront and grab some lunch. As we were exploring the market, we came across a cute, family owned restaurant called Old Market Spaghetti House and headed in when we saw that they did gluten free pasta. I went for the gluten free angel hair pasta with pesto cream sauce. I’ll admit that it did look a little like a cat had vomited on my pasta but it did taste good! It was refreshing to find a restaurant that offered a gluten free pasta option other than penne too. 


Back on the road, we were driving along the freeway when we saw what is apparently referred to as ‘the Penis of the Prairies’ (Ewan told me this and I’m not 100% sure whether he’s having me on or not). In more professional circles, it’s called the Nebraska State Capitol Building. We decided to go into Lincoln and visit it, and we were pleasantly surprised that you could both park and go in it for free! The inside of the building was gorgeous and reminded me of Gringotts Bank from the Harry Potter movies. You can also take the elevator up to the lookout to get a good view of the city. 


A couple hours later, we arrived at Cozad, our destination for the evening and the sleepiest town ever. To be honest I think describing it as a town is a little generous, but it was very quaint and our pink motel was very cute! This was a very ‘road trip’ kind of night, staying in the middle of nowhere. For dinner there was zero option other than the Dairy Queen next door, where I had the grilled chicken salad and an m&m’s blizzard. 


We ended the evening by washing everything in our suitcases, as bed bugs can travel in your luggage/clothes. Obviously this could not just be a straight forward operation; the washing machine broke, ruined a few of our clothes, and the motel owner ended up letting us use their personal washing machine because the other was now out of order. We were up until almost midnight waiting for the sodding dryer to finish! 
Today has been much smoother overall, even the bumps on my arms have deflated a little! On the drive to Denver, we stopped off in Cheyenne to see their Capitol Building but OF COURSE it was under renovation and covered in scaffolding, so we checked out their State Museum (free!) instead. 

For lunch we wandered into a cafe called Dad’s Cafe, and from looking at the menu on their blackboard, it didn’t look like I could eat anything. I asked the man behind the counter and he informed me that I was in a 100% gluten free, coeliac friendly restaurant. I was SO happy! It’s not often the case where I can literally order absolutely anything on the menu, they really should advertise on their menu/signage that they are gluten free! I chose the Wyoming Rueben and Ewan had the BLT, which naturally I had a couple bites of too. Everything was so good! 


Before leaving Cheyenne, we visited their famous boots!


We’ve arrived safely in Denver and are both so excited to explore the city tomorrow! Sleep tight all, don’t let the bed bugs bite…. 

Restaurants · travel

Day 27 of USA Road Trip – Des Moines 

Can you believe that we’re almost 4 weeks into the road trip?! It’s going insanely quickly! 5 weeks still to go though, so I have a while before it’s time to head back to reality.

We’ve already had loads of incredible moments and this really has been the best trip of my life so far, but there have been a few less amazing experiences that never made it onto the blog, and seeing as today’s destination was another quick one, I’ll reveal a few secrets. 

1. Gluten free bread doesn’t seem to cope well in the heat of the car and subsequently moulds very quickly, so I was using corn tortillas to make my peanut butter and jam sandwich lunch for about a week. I’m back to bread now as that was just too weird.

2. Following on from the above, we originally found ourselves sans cutlery, so I was literally spreading peanut butter and jam onto the tacos with my fingers. 

3. Ewan and I have only had one argument on the trip, the first night in New Orleans. Obviously, it was over food and I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually cried because the only thing I could eat in the city was a salad (told you I was a salad dodger). 

4. I’ve had to stop painting my nails all the colours I like because mosquitos are attracted to the darker colours and keep biting my fingers. 

5. I’ve also had to stop fake tanning after we got caught in a downpour and my beautiful white Converse got soaked. All the fake tan came off my feet, staining my shoes orange. We’ve washed them twice and they are still peach! 

Back to the present day, this morning we drove 3 hours to Des Moines, Iowa. The ride was uneventful and we only stopped once for a ‘wee and wifi’ break in McDonalds. Des Moines is a cool place to visit; modern, clean, and interesting, but it’s missing one vital component – people. It was totally dead! Perhaps it’s busier on a weekday? 


We headed to the State Capitol, a gorgeous, gold-roofed building with lots of attractive gardens and interesting monuments all around it. There was a big brass bell out the front that Ewan rang, and almost pooed himself when it made an insanely loud booming noise. We were the only ones there which made for great photo opportunities, but the bloody roof had scaffolding on it! That always happens to me. Whatever city I’m in, whatever building I’ve gone to see, I guarantee it will be covered in scaffolding! The State Capitol is closed on a Sunday so we couldn’t go inside it, but if inside is anything like the outside, I bet it’s worth a look. 



We then headed to Pappajohn Sculpture Park, which if you were wondering, has nothing to do with the pizza joint (don’t pretend your mind didn’t go there). It was a very cool space and full of weird and wonderful statues. Below are a couple of my favourites. 


It was now time for DINNER! I was super excited because we had reservations at Louie’s Wine Dive and their gluten free menu looked incredible. I was not disappointed! Their gluten free menu is extensive; you can get everything from pasta to battered fish to Nutella torte. We started with the calamari to share but sadly (not sadly for me) it was dusted with Parmesan, so Ewan didn’t eat it. My main was the champagne fish and chips, which was a champers and rice flour battered cod served with fries and coleslaw. The coleslaw was rank by the rest was delish! I washed my battered fish down with a couple happy hour $5 glasses of champers and was definitely in my happy place. I couldn’t resist the chocolate torte for pudding either. Coeliacs, please check them out if there’s a Louie’s Wine Dive near you, the staff are adorable and the food is great! 

Restaurants · travel

Day 25 & 26 of USA Road Trip – Oklahoma City & Kansas City

The last couple of days have been quite light in terms of sightseeing as we are just ticking off states/passing through places at the moment, but we’ve still seen, and eaten, some cool stuff! In Oklahoma City, Ewan had a hilarious mental breakdown when he found out that parking was 50 cents more expensive per hour than we had expected (even though we’d only planned to park for 2 hours) and thankfully it turned out that 2 hours was just about enough time anyway! We first visited the eerily beautiful Oklahoma City National Memorial that honours the victims of the 1995 bombing. It was incredibly moving and I encourage everyone to visit if you’re ever near the area. 


We had a little wander around Bricktown, a neighbourhood that’s basically a poor man’s San Antonio or Camden without the people, but it’s still a cute area to have a drink by the water! There’s lots of fairy lights so it’s probably prettier at night. What with the extortionate
parking, we headed out of the city for dinner and came across a Chili’s. Once seated, I explained my dietary requirements to the waitress. She was SO good and gave me a full allergen breakdown of every item on the menu, which even included information on cross contamination, meaning that I could make a safe choice for myself. I went for the chicken fajitas with corn tortillas and I was not disappointed! The whole thing was cooked in garlic butter so tasted divine, and the portion was huge! Very impressed with Chili’s and their gluten free options. 


We went for a little swim in the hotel pool before bed, which was nice but it was probably the randomest pool I’ve ever swam in. Imagine you’re in a dingy indoor car park and you come across a hole filled with water surrounded by a couple plastic chairs… that was the vibe of our hotel pool. It was clean though! 

Today has mainly been a driving day, around 6 hours in total to Kansas City. Once we checked in, we went straight for dinner at a BBQ restaurant called Q39. It gets super busy and the parking is a bloody nightmare, but it is 100% WORTH IT. Literally the best meal we’ve had on the road trip so far, and the best burnt ends I’ve ever had. Their menu is annotated to show the gluten free options, and I was happy to see that almost all the meats and sides were gluten free. From the suggestion of our waitress, we both went for the brisket platter with an extra rib added. Honestly, I’m almost sad that we loved it so much because it means that one day we might have to come back to Kansas City… and there’s really not much else here! Fingers crossed we find even better BBQ at one of next stops.  Note: Q39 also offer 3 varieties of gluten free beer, which I didn’t try because I think beer tastes like cats piss, but this is yet another reason why this place is amazing for coeliacs! 


We burnt off about 1/100th of our dinner with a walk around Penn Valley Park afterwards, and then headed back to the hotel to freshen up before going over to the casino across the road for a night of wine and gambling. Sadly, our plan was foiled when they wouldn’t accept our I.D. for the casino because it wasn’t American. Pffffft. Hope we don’t have this problem in Vegas! We had a glass of wine at a restaurant instead and I came back to the hotel to write this. Crazy Saturday night! Heading to Des Moines in the morning 🙂 

Restaurants · travel

Day 23 & 24 of USA Road Trip – Fort Worth & Dallas 

To fill you all in on the glamour of our road trip, we woke up this morning to a special guest in our bed…. a cockroach. I’ll never be the same again. 

Taking it back a couple days before the above incident, we arrived at our Fort Worth, cockroach-infested motel on Wednesday, an hour and a half before the official check in time. We’ve been pretty lucky with the other motels because all but one have let us check in early, and the one that didn’t let us store Big Red in their storage room so we didn’t have to leave ‘her’ on the backseat while parking downtown. We were not lucky this time. The parking lot and motel seemed completely empty, but the man behind the counter refused to check us in. Okay, no problem, could we perhaps sit by the pool until we can check in? No. Okay, can we leave our suitcase then? No. Why? I wouldn’t want to be responsible. Oh it’s literally just got clothes in, that’s fine. Actually, my storage unit is full. Right….. 

We gave up and headed to McDonalds with a plan to sit with a coffee and use the wifi until we could check in. It was the roughest McDonalds I’ve ever been in and they didn’t seem to appreciate out-of-towners. While I was in the queue, the lovely patrons were looking me up and down (sadly not in a complimentary way, and I was wearing my most flattering shorts), sneering, HISSING and a couple guys were hanging around our car, looking in the windows at our stuff. Unsurprisingly, we took that coffee to go and decided to head back to the hotel to sit in reception until check in time. When we got back, there was a different man at reception and he checked us in with zero issue, 15 minutes after we first arrived. Blurgh. 

All that palava aside, we dropped our stuff in the room and headed into Fort Worth on the bus. Our first stop was the beautiful Water Gardens, an amazing park with 3 stunning water features and a man-made mountain that you can climb. One of the water features was a large fountain with steps all the way down, meaning that you could walk right into the heart of it. Gorge! The second one was built to have the effect of mosaic tiles on water, and the third was an Alice in Wonderland themed Quiet Pool. We climbed the mountain and each step was 20 inches tall…. I’ve been living off BBQ food and haven’t worked out since we started the road trip so my legs definitely felt it and are still sore today! 



While walking around downtown and visiting Sundance Square and the JFK memorial, we saw a hotel bar advertising ‘Bubble Hour’, where a glass of prosecco was only $3.50! We couldn’t resist and went in for a glass, and I realized just how much I’d missed prosecco! 


For dinner we went to Uno, a pizzeria chain we had been to in Orlando back in April and I’d fallen in love with their gluten free pizza. It was SO good to have it again, and perhaps even better than I remembered. They know their stuff about cross-contamination and offer gluten free burgers too if you aren’t into pizza (but why wouldn’t you be?!).


Thursday morning we drove to Fort Worth Stockyards (tip: street parking is free for 2 hours and you don’t really need longer than that), went in lots of shops selling cowboy boots and hats, and watched the cattle herd at 11.30am. 


Once the cattle had finished their performance (a short walk from one sign to another), we got back in the car and drove to Dallas. We stopped for lunch at Sonny Bryan’s BBQ and LOVED it. Nearly all their meats are gluten free, as are most of their sides. I went for the pulled pork, pulled chicken and brisket with potato salad and beans. YUM. Their BBQ sauce is gluten free but served in old Corona bottles, so perhaps skip the sauce if you’re a coeliac, unless you REALLY trust their dishwasher. 


We walked around Dallas, stopping at the location where JFK was assassinated back in 1963, and visiting his beautiful memorial. We also popped into the Dallas Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden (both free!) for a wander and took some pics of Founders Square. I’m glad we ticked Dallas off our bucket list, but Fort Worth was my favourite of the two. 


We had our first night in of the road trip last night – accompanied by a couple microwave meals from Walmart! We know how to live.