Cafe Life: Duluth, MN

If you spend some time driving up and down the [very steep] streets of Duluth, MN to find free parking, you will no doubt then spend some time walking up and down those same [steep] streets in order to find a cup of coffee. I did that, and I ended up sitting here at Duluth Coffee Company.  There is a sunny bench when you walk in, but to get to the coffee you venture into a dim and delicious-smelling back part of the shop where there is a counter to order at, a wall of guitars made out of what looks like drift wood, and Duluth-themed gear to bring back home.  The menu is straightforward and to the point: actual coffee drinks that promise a caffeine rush and plenty of flavor without making your teeth ache from a bunch of unnecessary sugary syrup.  Excellent.  I have ordered my usual, a cappuccino, and it’s excellent.  I also enjoyed not paying an arm and a leg for it (lookin’ at you, Colorado).  

There are a few locals chatting with the barista, and a mix of what I assume are other visitors.  I can tell that they are visitors because, like me, they pause to peruse all the Duluth-themed gifts for sale.  My friends back home would like that stuff, right?  It’s pretty quiet overall, with just a bit of conversation and some music.  It is a Sunday morning, and unlike some cities, this one seems to actually sleep in on Sundays.  The street outside- which is a main drag of the downtown area- has minimal traffic.  The temperature outside is somewhere around 68 degrees, and with the sun shining it’s a perfect morning to lounge around outside with coffee.  

Between the guitars made out of driftwood (and I see one made out of an old aluminum tin!), the collection of old coffee pots on the wall, and the handful of attractive people in here, I am definitely happy to set up camp and enjoy my drink.   This place could easily fall into the trope of tourist trap if it weren’t for the good coffee, interesting people, and comfortable feel that attracts regulars as well as visitors.  I don’t recognize any of the bands that are playing softly in the background, but I know that I like them.  My cappuccino is almost gone and it’s time for me to pack up and continue on my journey, so I will hurry up and post this now.  Cheers!

A Solo Roadtrip

This is the Tiffany’s necklace, the LBD, the sweet vermouth, the ice cream on a hot day, the- you get it.  This is the thing for travelers that you need to have under your belt.  This is the solo roadtrip.  I’m planning mine for August.

Alright, so my roadtrip will be less of a meander and more of straight shot towards an end destination, but I’m nervous and excited for it all the same.  The starting point will be Denver, CO and the end point will be Duluth, MN.  My mother’s side of the family is from Duluth so we tend to gather there every summer.  I’ve missed a few trips to Duluth here and there and summer just never feels complete!  This is the city on the Big Lake, a city of gentrified industry, great fish, great beers, great people, and a beautiful mix of the outdoors and a city lifestyle.  The “Minnesota nice” adage is alive and well in Duluth.  The drive should take me about fifteen hours, give or take, and I plan to make the drive in one day.  Since my work days are about that long it’s not exactly unusual to find me on the move that long of a time period, although I’ll admit I have never driven for that long in one go before.  When Mom and I roadtripped out to Colorado last October we split the drive into two days (we had my two cats and my two rabbits with us and those babies needed a break!).

I’m looking forward to powering through Nebraska and then having some more fun in Iowa and Minnesota.  My little Diana F+ camera will make a great companion to help document (as well as my trusty Nikon).  What things do you need for long road trips?  What secrets have you discovered for making a long trip a success?  I’ve written about this in previous posts, but here are a few of my favorite road trip items.

1) Coffee and water and snacks (duh).

2) Harry Potter OR Outlander novels on audiobook.

3) That said, I also need a sweet roadtrip playlist.  Sometime you just gotta blast that Florence + The Machine.

4) A comfy tee and shorts combo to throw on but still feel stylin’ in.  I’m ogling some great adventure tanks on Etsy right now…

5) My Nikon and my Diana F+ to document!

6) Great friends to text you and make sure you’re still in one piece!  This is a bit of a joke, but it’s also nice to be able to reach out and share things digitally when you are alone.

I’d love to hear what other people like to bring on their trips.  Maybe I can get some inspiration for mine! 

Cafe Life: Denver, CO


I think that this post will be the first in a series about different cafes.  [“Way to play into a stereotype, you crazy millennial kid you,” is what you must be thinking]

I love visiting cafes when I am in new cities.  Or cities that I visit, love, but don’t live in.  This past summer I wrote a little bit about some great coffee shops I checked out in Duluth, MN, and San Francisco, CA.  Hopefully this January I can visit Seattle, WA and experience that famed Seattle coffee culture.  Not only is coffee delicious (there is a distinctive cappuccino happy dance that happens in my head when I see that tiny mug with the fern patterned foam coming at me.  Yeah, I look normal on the outside, but…), but I feel like setting up camp in a cafe lets you get to know the neighborhood and city at a leisurely pace.  Plus, it is a heck of a lot cheaper than paying for some kind of guided tour.  Not to sound terrible but…when you flock with other tourists, you tend to get only a very skewed glimpse of a place.

Back to coffee: I’m sitting in Little Owl Coffee on Blake St in downtown Denver.  Even though I’ve spent the past three weeks working in Denver I haven’t had a chance to explore it properly yet.  I left my car near the Park N Ride (parking near it instead of in it= freeeeeee), took the train, then the free mall ride bus for about two blocks and then BAM! Coffee time.  I did some research last night looking at some of the best- or highest rated- cafes in Denver.  There were a lot to choose from, and all looked pretty tempting, but Little Owl had the highest praise, so I thought I’d start here.  It’s exterior is pretty unassuming: a sleek black exterior with glass door printed with the the name + an owl.  Of course!  Inside it’s very modern looking with the back wall made entirely of a white marble.  The counter tops at the bar are also marble, but the few tables in here are made of some kind of beautiful wood.  The stools are also wooden, with slim wire legs or just glass.  Behind the coffee bar is a shelf full of interesting-looking glass cups, decanters, and goblets.  Those little glass globes with living succulents in them are peppered around the cafe.  There is a door that leads to what looks like an art gallery.  I’m still savoring my cappuccino (served up in less than 5 minutes, so yay for quick service) so I haven’t gone over there yet.  There are a few people sitting outside and in.  Two business-y looking men are having an animated discussion at the long wooden table in the middle of the cafe, another business guy is sitting next to me on his laptop, and a very chic looking woman is keeping to herself across the cafe.  I am very much in love with her boots.

The cappuccino is delicious.  I must learn some coffee jargon so that I can accurately describe what I am tasting.  All I can say right now is that I am happily engaged with this tiny mug and it’s foamy contents.

Fast forward a couple of hours.  I fell in love with Tattered Cover book store.  I visited City Stacks also, and was very impressed with the selection.  It seems like a bookstore just for young women, but maybe I just happen to like every book they had on display.  Now I am grabbing a bite to eat before I catch the train home.  I am at another cafe that was very highly rated: Amante Coffee.  It’s on 17th St, right across from Union Station if you care to visit.  I got a cup of black coffee and added a little cream, cocoa, and cinnamon.  I got pain au chocolat to compliment.  The coffee is delicious (and not just because of the stuff I added).  I had a Lorelai Gilmore moment when I took my first sip- this must be what Luke’s coffee tastes like.  Too bad there is no Luke behind the counter.  The vibe here is a little more relaxed and a little more touristy.  The inside looks chic, and alternative music is playing at a soothing volume, but there is also a flatscreen with whatever football game is on mixing with the coffee shop vibes.  This cafe shares the bottom floor with what looks like a salon and hotel, so there is a small amount of confused foot traffic.  Next to me two women who look about my age are discussing efficient ways to manage small business.  A couple of tourists look lost at a table across from me.  The barista is friendly, attentive, and capable.  There is a fair variety of beer and wine available also.  I have my eye on the sweet Amante coffee stickers near the register.