How to Spend a Weekend in Denver, CO

How to Spend a Weekend in Denver, CO

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After 2 fun-filled weekend trips to Denver, I finally feel confident that I can share some great tips to have the best trip!  Denver is a bustling city and it definitely can feel overwhelming trying to figure out how to fill your time.  From food to beer to beautiful hikes, it really has something for everyone.

Where to Eat & Drink:
Avanti Food & Beverage
This place was the first food court style market we went to.  They have quite a few different restaurants all in one building with a bar and rooftop area.  The rooftop views are stunning of the whole downtown area, though it was raining the day we went so we didn’t get to enjoy the rooftop area as much.  We opted to order from Bistro Georgette; a croque-madame & steak frites.  This was very yummy, but if you’re feeling something different there’s also Mexican, pizza, fish, and southern food options!  We also grabbed some drinks from the bar, and while I never figured out exactly what they were called, they have these adult slushy capri suns that just looked like what summer should be made of!  If you venture here consider yourself warned, this place is very popular and was packed when we went!  


  

Stanley Marketplace
You might start to see a common theme; these food court style warehouses are so popular here!  Stanley Marketplace was another one we tried, this one has way more shops and food options to explore.  There are also fitness studios and even a dentist office.  We ate at Rosenbergs Bagels and Delicatessen; an everything bagel egg sandwich and matzo ball soup.  If you need to keep cool and avoid the hot summer sun, walking around the two levels is a great way to kill time!



We found this restaurant because we were on the hunt for a place that did happy hour on Saturdays.  Fortunately, they offer it from 4-6 everyday!  I was able to find out about the everyday happy hour by using the app HHaP Denver which is a log of basically every happy hour in the city!  It isn’t full-proof but it definitely helps narrow it downs with filters like dog friendly, deals starting soon, and drink or food deals.  I highly recommend their Dragonfly Spritz, it was so tart and refreshing!  My boyfriend had the Kentucky Buck and said it was good if you want something a little stronger.  We also tried the avocado toast, chopped salad, and artichokes.  All the food we got was delicious and surprisingly filling.  The bar area has garage style walls that open to the patio and allow for a wonderful breeze.  



Central Market
Surprise, surprise!  Another food collective!  I told you these were popular.  This one we just went to for drinks, but we definitely wandered through the food option wishing we were hungrier.  It’s conveniently located in the RiNo District and the blended painkiller I had was like a tropical vacation in a glass.



Ice Cream Riot
This is a must if you have a sweet tooth!  They not only have cheddar goldfish flavored ice cream, they also have poptart ice cream sandwiches!!  I had never thought of this before, but wow is it a great combo.  We chose the chocolate ice cream with a chocolate chip flavor poptart.  One sandwich was more than enough for us to share and it did get a little messy as it melted.  If I went back I would want to try the cinnamon ice cream with the cinnamon brown sugar poptart! 



This is the IT place for brunch, but with that delicious reputation comes some long waits.  I’d recommend using the app to book your reservation ahead of time if you plan on going.  We only had to wait about 20-30 minutes and used this time to wonder around the neighborhood nearby.  Once we got our table I was so excited for my French toast, which did not disappoint.  They also have tons of more savory options and a large drink selection, I went with the cranberry mimosa!  



Since this was one of my favorite places in college, I just couldn’t resist checking out this location to compare!  I will say, while the atmosphere is definitely different as an adult, the food is still as good as ever.  Whether you want a rice bowl or a huge burrito, either one is guaranteed to fill you up.  There’s indoor and outdoor seating options at every location I’ve seen, and of course the best margs you can find being served from open to close!

This was another happy hour gem.  We went around 5pm on a Friday and it wasn’t busy until about 40 minutes after we got there.  Not only are there some great menu options, the restaurant is also conveniently located so you can walk around the Denver Pavilions and 16th Street Mall.  I highly, highly, highly recommend the chicken sandwich and pomegranate martini!  It may sound weird to recommend chicken at a steakhouse, but this sandwich is worth it.  It has Brie on it so you know it’s delicious.



American Culture
This was definitely one of favorite drink stops!  They have 12 different brands of kombucha on tap and offer flights, glasses, and even growler options!  If you love kombucha or have never even tried it, I would make some time to stop in.  The flights of 4 different kombucha is only $8 and the best opportunity to try it out for the first time or find a new favorite.  In case you’re still on the fence, kombucha has health benefits like improved gut health, weight loss, and decreased chance of heart disease.  My favorite flavor we tasted was the Alpine Lavender with Blue Razz following in a close second.



Where to Explore:
 For a mere $10 you can taste the Rockies, in the Rockies!  What I mean is you’ll get 4 full size beers and a commemorative beer glass.  Plus, there’s a tour of the whole brewing process and history included too.  This is the 2nd time of done this tour, but the 1st time doing it as an over 21 individual who actually got to enjoy the samples.  It’s so fun to see the copper vats that hold the hops and the conveyor belts that box the cans.  Plus, this is the freshest Coors you can ever taste!  It is about 30 minutes outside of Denver, in Golden, but the drive is pretty and Golden itself is a very quaint little town surrounded by beautiful forests and a river.  We had to wait about 45 minutes-an hour to get on the bus to the tour start even though it was a week day so definitely plan for a little bit of wait time or try to get there when it first opens.  You have to take the bus to the tour area or else you can’t take the tour, you can only get into the gift shop, so don’t try to skip the line!



This was the first hike we did in Denver, well about an hour outside of Denver to be exact, and it definitely showed why Colorado is so well know for it’s hiking.  It’s rated a moderate hike and I would agree, it wasn’t terribly hard but it also wasn’t a walk in the park.  It took us about 2 hours in total and is a 4.2 mile loop.  Along the way you’ll see a creek and some small water falls leading up to the actual falls.  We opted to get to the falls then climb up them and do the top portion of the loop trail back.  There were amazing views and it was nicely shaded for a good portion of the time.  We got there at 8am and already the parking area was full and we had to park on the street, however, the trail itself never felt full until we were about halfway back to the trailhead.


Located right near the Lower Maxwell Falls trailhead is Evergreen Lake.  It was a good size and looked very popular so we decided to stop in.  There were options to rent kayaks, paddle boards, and paddle boats, along with a golf course across the parking lot.  We jumped at the opportunity to paddle board, even though the water was a little chilly, and it cost $20 per person for 1 hour.  It’s not a swimming lake so I just hoped I wouldn’t end up wet at all.  Since it was July the summer storms start at about 2pm each day and coincidentally we started paddle boarding at about 1:45pm.  We stuck out the drizzling rain because it really wasn’t that bad, but eventually were called in because of lightning.  I would recommend going early in the day to get the most out of your time, but even with the storm it was still an incredibly fun experience to say I’ve paddle boarded in Colorado!  If you’re there in winter instead, they offer ice skating too!



City Park
This wasn’t one of the parks we walked around, we stuck to the one near the neighborhood we stayed in, but I felt it needed to be included after hearing that it often has really fun events.  Not only does it have tons of grass and walking trails, plus a lake you can paddle boat in, it also hosts things like Jazz in the Park with food trucks and live music.  If you get a chance, grab a blanket and some drinks and head out to see what’s happening that night!  It's also the location of the Denver Zoo & Museum of Nature and Science.

This was the second hike we chose to do and I’m so glad we did!  This area was near Idaho Springs, about 1 hour and 20 minutes outside of Denver.  You have to pay $5 cash per vehicle to park, but even when we got there around 1pm there was still plenty of parking available.  The hike itself is ranked moderate and is 1.9 miles out and back.  In the beginning I was slightly intimidated because it is a steep, rocky trail with very little shade.  While this does last for about 3/4 of the hike up, it isn’t long at all, and then flattens out.  Then you arrive at a beautiful lake with snow on the mountains right past it.  We hiked around the lake over to the snow first because of course we needed to really see this snow that existed in the middle of July!  There were lots of kids sledding down it, and even a few brave skiers you hauled their skis up the hill and skied back down.  We then followed the bottom part of the snow over to some cliffs we had seen people jumping off.  This trail wasn’t very well marked so we had to wing it a little to find our way and it definitely wasn’t an area I recommend attempting with kids or dogs.  It featured quite a few bushes we had to dodges, rock areas we had to climb, and a tiny little path on the edge of the water towards the end.  It was cool to finally reach the cliffs so my boyfriend could jump in (the water was way too chilly for me to attempt it!) since not a lot of people seemed to make their way over there.  We were fortunate enough to be there when the water level was high, otherwise the cliff diving could have been very dangerous and we would not have attempted to go over there.  Always be cautious when choosing to do things like this and make sure the area is clear of debris or stray sticks and rocks.  In total we spent about 2 hours on the hike, though many people seemed to spend a good portion of the day there!  If you wanted to pack a lunch it would make for a great picnic area.





Filled with bars, restaurants, and fantastic street art the RiNo District is a great option if you want to wander around.  Central Market is nearby, along with tons of other options.  I mostly enjoyed looking at the different murals we passed!



16th Street Mall
This mile long pedestrian promenade in downtown is filled with windows to shop and places to grab a bite.  It’s a very bustling area and at certain times of the year it even has pianos on the sidewalks for people to sit and play!  

Denver Pavilions
This 3 story outdoor mall area in Downtown Denver is another option with tons of shops and restaurants, and even a movie theater.  We stopped in to see what was around after dinner one night and the area was very alive.  Don’t make the same mistake we made by looking for “the best view of Denver” because it definitely isn’t what you’d expect it to be haha. 



Shockingly, even after doing all of this there’s still plenty more on my list for next time!  If you have some extra time I’d add in the Blue Moon Brewery for lunch, drinks at 54thirty, and a hike to Hanging Lake!
XOXO, Cierra






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A Review of the Best Carry-On Bag & Updated Packing List

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I've been on the hunt for a better carry-on bag for years.  I've tried designer totes, backpacks, duffel bags and nothing seemed to hold enough and when they did it was never organized well.  Recently I stumbled upon the Baggallini Overnight Expandable Laptop Tote with RFID Phone Wristlet and let me tell you, IT'S A GAME CHANGER!  


I waited to share anything about it until I had fully tried it out and now, after 6+ flights with it, I stand by my statement.  When I got this bag in the Charlotte Airport, I already had a carry-on tote and roller bag so in order to buy it I had to find somewhere to put it.  I kid you not, I fit my entire carry-on tote into this bag and continued carrying it like that for the rest of the week.  That just goes to show how much it can hold & it still fit under the seat on each plane.  There is a zipper on the bottom that allows the bag to extend out further for weekend trips, but even with my whole tote inside it I didn't have to extend it.


Not only can this bag be carried as a tote, it also has a cross body strap if that's more your style.  Aside from these two straps, my number one favorite feature is the third strap on the back that attaches it to my roller bag.  This strap allows it to sit on top of my carry-on roller bag without falling off as I'm on the go!  I will never purchase another carry-on bag that doesn't have this strap.


I also love the variety of pockets it has.  There's a slip pocket for a laptop or tablet, a slip pocket outside for a phone, a zipper pocket inside and 2 outside, a snap closure drop pocket outside and it comes with a little travel wristlet that offers RFID protection.  If you aren't taking advantage of RFID protection when you travel, its a must!  It keeps hackers from being able to steal your card information via scanners.  I use these sleeves on my debit and credit card normally, but having the option to put them in the wristlet and transfer it from the tote to my day-to-day purse is so convenient.  

Now that I have this tote I also wanted to share what I'm filling it with on my trips lately.  So here are my carry-on must haves:

Sheet masks to combat dehydration
Disinfectant wipes for the seat, air vent, and tray table area 
Water bottle (I love this one because it can do hot tea or cold water!)
• Snack bag with tea bags, crackers, granola bars, and hard candies
• Current book and reading glasses
• Sunglasses
• Bag with chargers and earbuds, all organized with twist ties
• iPad
• Pen and notepad
• My retainer (especially on overnight flights so I can sleep with peace of mind that my teeth aren't shifting), pills, and vitamins
Bag with emergency medicines like Tums, Benadryl, and Tylenol
• A wrap to use as a blanket, scarf, or towel
• On longer trips I also include the Trtl pillow hooked to one of the straps (it is amazing to help you actually get some sleep on flights!) and compression socks to help with circulation!



I want to know what your travel must-haves are and if you think there's a better travel bag out there let me know so I can give it a try!
XOXO, Cierra

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Business Casual: Cold Weather Edition

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Let me tell you, I thought having to dress in business casual everyday for class would be so fun!  Who wouldn't want to pick out cute outfits everyday, right?  Well, that lasted about a week until I realized that I missed my leggings and athleisure clothes.  While Arizona may not get as cold as other areas, we do still have a little bit of Fall & Winter seasons!  Not to mention, sometimes the lecture halls feel like it's winter, even in early August.  

After a full year of classes and switching up my wardrobe, I finally think I've got it down!  I figured I can't be the only one who has a dress code to follow so now I'm going to share my 5 favorite outfits I've put together for the colder Fall and Winter weather.  Each piece can be mixed in with tons of other options for both warm and cold weather, but I'll come back to some warm weather outfits in a future post!  All links are to the exact brand, though some of the styles are older so I linked the most similar newer ones that are available.



Shoes (old White House Black Market) | Pants | Top | Backpack

To start, I walk to and from class everyday so finding a good pair of shoes that still fit the dress code was priority number one.  The shoes in this post are amazing.  They have been put to the test and passed with flying colors; no blisters or aching feet!  I love the support they offer since I not only walk a lot now, but will be on my feet a lot in my future rotations.  



Shoes | Pants | Top | Belt | Tote | Earrings


For bottoms I had to really search to find quality ones that still fit me well.  I found that the cheaper brand ones I started with didn't breathe well and stretched out so quickly.  Loft, Express, and Calvin Klein have been my saving grace with this.  I tried to stock up on neutral colors and patterns so I could re-wear them, while still looking fresh.  For class I wear pants, skirts, and dresses with equal frequency, but I believe once I'm in rotations I will mainly be wearing pants for more comfort and mobility.
The last thing I want to touch on is accessories for these outfits.  I like to keep my jewelry simple with just some stud earrings or subtle statement earrings, a dainty necklace, and if I don't have any labs that day, some rings.  On days I know I have labs I avoid jewelry so I won't have to remove it in the locker room.  To keep all my things together I use a backpack, though I also often see large totes carried in class, it's really up to personal preference on what's more comfortable for you.
These outfits will be on repeat all season long because they are the perfect mix of warmth, comfort, and style.  I'm definitely not an expert on winter outfits but I hope you found this helpful!  Do you have any questions I didn't cover about what I wear for class that I can include in the warm weather wardrobe post?  
XOXO, Cierra
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The Vet School Series: Interviewing

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It's that time of year again, vet school interviews time!!!  I can’t believe it’s been three years already since I was interviewing.  This can be incredibly stressful, I know, but I'm going to try to ease at least some of the fears or concerns you may have.  I'll start by saying I had 5 interviews, 4 in person and 1 over Skype.  Prior to these interviews I had done 3 phone interviews, 3 panel interviews, and 1 one-on-one interview.  This was over a 3 year period so I was comfortable but not completely confident in my interview skills.  To combat this I sought help from my university's career services center, which offers mock interviews.  I found this very helpful, I was able to tell them what I was interviewing for and they prepped common vet school interview questions.  It was set up very similarly to a real interview, then after he went through what I did well, what I could improve upon, and general tips.  I highly recommend attempting to find something like this prior to any kind of interviews because an outside perspective can be very helpful, even if you feel like you don't have anything to improve upon.

There are a lot of resources to find typical questions that are asked during interviews so I'm not going to cover that, but I will say it isn't a bad idea to research current topics in the field and prep answers to common questions you find.  A tip I got for answering scenario questions like "tell me about a time when ..." was STAR, this will prevent you from rambling and never actually answering the question (which I tend to do sometimes).  It stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result.  Basically, you word your answer so it covers those points in that order to fully answer the question without unnecessary information taking up your time.  It also was calming for me to take a second and think through the question with that approach so that I could form an organized answer quickly.

The next big part of interviews is how they're set up, this seemed similar from school to school for me.  For the in person interviews it was a full day event with the interview, a tour, financial aid presentation, lunch, and words from a student panel and Dean of the school.  All 4 of my in person interviews felt very relaxed and I was able to ask the current students any questions I had.  The tour is also important because you want to be able to see yourself on the campus and feel comfortable there.  

For the day of the interview I brought a tote bag with snacks, water, a padfolio, a pen, my ID, makeup for touch-ups, and an extra pair of pantyhose.  The ID was super important because some schools required it for check-in.  I took my padfolio and pen out of the tote for the interviews so I could jot any notes or questions down.

In regards to interview attire, business professional dress is a must.  Even during a Skype interview you want to look the best you possibly can.  For every interview I wore this burgandy Express skirt suit (try to wear a color if you can because everyone seems to wear black!), nude pantyhose, nude pointed toe heels, and a blue or white Brooks Brothers button down (they don't require ironing so they're amazing to pack!).  I curled my hair and left it down, though it was tucked behind my ears so it wouldn't fall into my face.  My jewelry was one ring, a pearl necklace, and pearl earrings.  I did my makeup as I would for a casual event with a light nude lipstick (color: Syrup) and nude eyeshadows.

Some schools have other events before or after the interviews, like a dinner.  I would follow the same dress code for these events as well unless it is otherwise stated.  I wore mauve dress pants, a thin black belt, nude pointed toe heels, a white button down, and a wool coat.

Interview Dinner Outfit

Interview Outfit

Interview Outfit

Skype interviews are a little different just because you don't physically go anywhere but the rest remains basically the same.  My biggest tip is to try to reserve a space somewhere, I chose my university's library study rooms, that you can sit with a plain background behind you and where you will not be disturbed.

I hope this calmed some of the anxieties you may have had, if not feel free to reach out!  I would love to hear about your experiences or what you have coming up!
XOXO, Cierra
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1 Day in...Sedona, AZ

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With the weather still being warm in Phoenix it's always a good idea to find some ways to cool down.  One of my new favorite ways is to escape to Sedona for the day!  It's a quick 2 hour drive from Phoenix and at least a 10 degree difference in temperature.  This was my second time driving up for the day and it is honestly the perfect escape.  For this trip I like to pack a backpack or CamelBak, sunscreen, plenty of water, snacks, and layers since it can be a little chilly or even sprinkle!  

Food in Sedona can be pricey, so if you're budgeting I would recommend packing a lunch and snacks!  We forgot this and ended up grabbing sandwiches at Red Rock Deli before we ventured out to hike!

After you're in town I highly recommend heading for the Devil's Bridge Trail.  It can be found off Dry Creak Road where there is a parking area, public restrooms, and a nice little map to decide which trail you want to take.  I prefer the Dry Creek Road Trail over the others because it is quicker and easier, in total about 2 and a half hours including photo stops.  


Once you head out from the parking area you come to this sign on a dirt road.  The first 3/4 of the 3.6 miles is a lot like this dirt road, nothing really intense to walk through.    



After about 15-20 minutes of walking you will reach the trailhead!  From here you only have about 2.5 more miles to go, again it really is pretty flat terrain still.


The last 30 minutes or so are when it starts to get a little more difficult.  There are about 4 sets of dirt stairs to get up, but I have seen people of all ages on the trail doing just fine!


The first main view area at about the 3/4 mark shows off the surrounding mountains beautifully and is a great option for selfies!  There's also amazing plant life along the whole trail, like this blooming prickly pear so be sure to keep your eyes open.  There can also be wildlife like snakes, scorpions, and other animals on the trail to be cautious of.



At this point you're so close to the bridge!!  About 10 minutes before you're there you'll hit two steep incline step areas.  These are more difficult than the previous ones but there are plenty of areas to hold onto to get yourself up.  If you take your time there shouldn't be any issue getting through it!  I promise that even though the last bit is a little intimidating, it is well worth it!


This is the Devil's Bridge!  It is a natural structure and even more incredible in person.  It's wider in person than it seems so taking pictures isn't terrifying but please be cautious, there's no need to do anything crazy or dangerous just for a photo.  If you can't get enough of the views there's a ton of other trails to hike and quite a few options available to stay for a few days.

How have you been escaping the summer heat?
XOXO, Cierra





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The Vet School Series: Transitioning from Undergrad to Professional School

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In honor of starting my second year of veterinary school, I’m back with Part 2 of my Vet School Series!  In case you missed the last one on applying, you can find it here.  In this post I want to keep with the flow and talk about how it was to go from interviewing in undergrad to being a full blown veterinary student!  I want to start out by saying no it was not an easy year, not by any means.  The transition was tough in ways I hadn’t expected, but with that being said I made it through!  Just because it was tough does not mean it wasn’t doable.  Much like the process of applying, people make out the transition and first year to be traumatizing and impossible, I’m here to tell you it most definitely is possible!  


I went from studying the bare minimum, maybe a few days before an exam at most.  I did the assignments I was assigned when I had the time to, but didn’t really have to spend every night or very many weekends working on things or studying.  Boy was I in for a change when the 1st week of classes I was now studying from the moment I got home from class to the moment I went to sleep.  It also was a bit of an adjustment to have class from 8am-4pm or 5pm most days when I was used to only having about 4-5 hours of class each day.  Between these two changes I was feeling exhausted before the year even really started.  

I had to get a schedule put in action, and it had to happen quick.  I decided I would work out twice a week in the evenings, and never the night before an exam.  I would try to be in bed by 9pm each night, eat breakfast every morning, pack my lunch for the day, study for a few hours when I got home, break for dinner, and study more until bed.  This schedule stuck with me for basically the whole year, granted if it was a crazy week I would slack on working out or buy lunch at school and occasionally I did have to stay up until 10 pm or 11pm but that was the most I ever differed.  I found having a set schedule helped because it was one less thing to think about.  


I also think that working out was very important for me.  Yes, school was the most important thing for me during that time, but I couldn’t preform my best if I wasn’t feeling my best and working out always made me feel good.  Finding something like this that’s quick but impacts your attitude, and even body, in a positive way is very important to try to keep your stress levels low.  I still made time on weekends when I didn’t have upcoming exams to see my family, attend my alma maters homecoming, and even have game nights with my study group.  You’re allowed to still have a life while you’re in school :)  

Along with making time to do things, finding a group of people you fit with in your class is also hugely important!  I didn’t think much of this during orientation until the 2nd or 3rd day, then I realized wow I really need to make some friends, this isn’t something I want to go through alone.  I got really lucky and found my group right after coming to that realization, but don’t give up if you don’t find your place right away, just keep branching out!  Having peers to reach out to when I was confused or needed some extra study time really made a huge difference for me.  Sometimes I study really well on my own, but for other things I found going through it with others helped it stick way better.  Plus, the support system was something I never realized would be so important.  No one not in your situation can truly understand exactly what’s going on each and everyday, but the people in your class do!  They will be right there with you when an exam was awful or an awesome case was gone over in lecture.  Don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need to, I definitely did!  

Lastly, take advantage of every opportunity you can your first year!  This is the time to decide what you want to partake in and what you don't.  I chose to join 2 clubs; the Shelter Med Club and the Swine Club.  Fortunately through Swine Club I was able to attend the annual meeting for the American Association of Swine Veterinarians in Orlando, Florida!  I also chose to partake in a program that assigned me a local mentor and let me tell you, this was a game changer!  I never thought they would match me as well as they did and my mentor has given me amazing advice!  I highly suggest seeing if your school or state association offer a mentorship program because I can't even describe how thankful I am for finding mine.  Along with taking advantage of opportunities, you can also say no to things because staying on track and managing your time so you don't burn out is still the number one priority.


As I’m writing this I’m thinking it must sound like I actually had a pretty easy time, all I had to do was make some friends and change up my schedule, how hard could it be?  That part was an adjustment, but wasn’t necessarily hard.  The hard part comes from the pace, you’re expected to learn things much faster than in undergrad.  You also can have multiple hard subjects in the same quarter, which I always avoided doing in undergrad.  This is where the challenge starts, in the beginning I felt I was doing okay with it all, but around spring break I realized I was definitely not.  I let all my stress build up, the feeling that I could not be good enough to be there, the feeling that I had so much to do constantly, everything.  It all built up and finally it started to break me down.  I tell you this not to scare you, but because it can happen to anyone and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  I reached out to a campus counselor we are provided access to and she helped me work through how to manage my stress better, how to keep myself in a positive mindset, and how to focus even when I don’t want to.  After meeting with her multiple times throughout the last quarter I started to feel like I really could do the things I needed to and I knew I was in a place I deserved to be.  It really can apply to anything from vet school to family life to work; if you start to feel like you aren’t able to figure things out yourself, reaching out for help is always a good idea! 


All in all, I wouldn’t give up the last year of school for anything.  I’m grateful I have the opportunity to be where I am and continue to learn and grow into a profession I love.  

If some of you are where I was last year, don’t be afraid to reach out!  I would love to hear how your journeys are going!
XOXO, Cierra

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How We Spent 3 Days in Paris

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This year my mom & I’s big summer trip was to Paris! She had never been to Europe and I had never been to Paris.  We decided what time was better to give it a whirl than now!  Keep in mind, between the two of us we know maybe 10 French words.  We had a short & sweet trip that was filled with things straight out of postcards and movies.  I’m going to share our jam packed 3-day itinerary and how we made the most of our time there, so let’s get started!  



DAY 1–
Our flight landed mid day at Charles de Gaule airport, we hit the ground running by taking “Le Bus Direct” from the airport to our hotel.  It was a very convenient and easy experience, the bus arrives every 15 minutes in Terminal 1 and you can buy your tickets with a card at the kiosk or pay the driver in Euros.  It cost us 36,00 Euros one way for 2 adults.  The bus itself was air conditioned, clean, and not crowded.  We took the direct 2 toward Eiffel Tower and got off at the Champs Elysees stop.  In all it was about an hour bus ride to that stop.  I highly recommend this transport option if your hotel is near any of the stops because it saves you the trouble of hauling luggage up and down the metro steps!  I did hear that at times there can be delays due to traffic and later in the day it can become more crowded.  



Our hotel, The Royal Hotel, was perfectly located just 2 blocks the Arc de Triomphe, a must-see landmark, and 1 block from Champs de Elysees, a street filled with restaurants and shops.  The room itself was nice with two windows that opened to view the street, though it was small it worked perfectly for the two of us.  



It was also only a 20 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower and after we checked in we headed there!  Our first stop was the American Cathedral since it was on the way, it was incredibly beautiful inside and completely free to enter!  After about 10 minutes further of walking we reached the Eiffel Tower area.  It was so grand to walk up and see the Eiffel Tower up close and in person.  There is a water feature called the Trocadero that we walked to in order to get full photos and honestly it was less crowded than I expected!  I was able to get quite a few photos without many other tourists in them.  When we were there the water fountains were all on, but I read that early in the morning around sunrise the Tower reflects across the pool area.  


Jumpsuit is old TopShop | Tee | Shoes | Sunnies | Barrette   


On our way home we at at Bistro Des Champs right on Champs de Elysees.  They had a lovely outdoor seating option that seemed to be common for the restaurants around and allowed for great people watching!  We both ordered Croque-Monsieurs, which are basically ham & cheese sandwiches, and a glass of champagne.  It came to about 25,00 Euros each in total and the atmosphere of being right on Champs de Elysees was well worth it!  



DAY 2–
On our second day we got up and went to breakfast around 7am.  The selection was very nice with kiwis, cheeses, fresh bread, pastries, meats, eggs, cereal and yogurt.  



Our plan for this day was to see EVERYTHING.  From what I researched we could see almost all the major landmarks in the city by walking down both sides of the Seine River.  We first came to the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais.  They have exhibits inside, but we just visited the outdoor area.  On the opposite side of them is a beautiful park too.  We looped around them toward the Pont Alexandre III bridge.  This bridge allows for foot traffic as well as cars.  It has incredibly ornate gold accents all across it and is definitely the most ornate of the bridges we saw.  


Top (similar) | Shoes are old Jeffrey Campbell | Jeans 
Some of the foot bridges have vendors with locks you can purchase and attach!

We crossed here and moved forward toward the Louvre Museum.  This area was more crowded than the others we had been in thus far and we did not go inside the museum.  I read this museum alone could take an entire day so we just stuck to seeing the pyramids to save time.  


  

The last stop before we headed back down the Seine toward our hotel was Notre Dame Cathedral.  We weren’t sure what to expect to see since the fire occurred, when we got close you could still see the cathedral and it was stunning, but there was a massive crane working and large fencing around the entirety of it.  Though it was not like it was previously access wise, it was still a sight to see.  



The way back was much quicker for us since we didn’t need to stop as much, the two exceptions being lunch and the Musee d Orsay.  We stopped at Paradis de Fruits st Michel between Notre Dame and the Louvre.  This is a great option if you’re craving something healthy, I ordered a “detox salad” and carrot, ginger, apple pressed juice.  It was such a refreshing meal after having eaten mostly airport and bready meals the past couple days.  


  

The museum had an intimidating line, but it moved pretty quickly totaling about 45 minutes of waiting.  2 adult tickets cost 28,00 Euros.  We were on the hunt to find a clock window that made for a beautiful silhouette photo that even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have taken advantage of!  However, once we were inside we were able to appreciate so much more than just the clock.  There were two levels of sculptures, my favorite being the Ernest Barrias’s Les Chasseurs d’alligators ou Les Nubiens, Monet paintings, a temporary Van Gogh exhibit that featured his famous self portrait, along with many other beautiful works of art.  To find the clock you have to go to the top level and past the first clock located in the cafe area, the one accessible for photos is in the last exhibit wing of that floor.  We spent 45 minutes inside because we were getting tired, but we estimated you could do the whole museum in 3-4 hours. 


   
  

On our way home we couldn’t resist stopping in to Ladurée to taste the famous macarons in the actual place where they originated.  There was a short 4 person line to eat in the cafe, versus a 15 person line to buy the macarons to-go.  I had been on the hunt for lemon sorbet since I read that it was very good in Paris so I jumped at the opportunity to have it here, along with a lemon macaron of course. 



DAY 3–
The first two days were very exhausting, with day 2 totaling up about 25,000 steps according to my health app!! So the third day we opted to take the metro rather than walk.  We took metro 2 from Port Dauphine at Charles de Gaule Eteloie to Blanche station.  One-way tickets cost 1,90 Euros each, this machine was much like the machine for “Le Bus” and was super easy to use.  



In total it took about 30 minutes and we arrived just a few steps from the famous Moulin Rouge in the red light district of Paris.  We thought we might check out one of the shows, but sadly tickets were around 150,00-200,00 Euros each!  I think it would definitely be a fun experience and something worth budgeting for next time.  

Since we had made it all the way to this area we decided to walk over to Montemarte, a neighborhood well known for the Sacre Couer Basilica.  It’s an easy walk through town to the bottom of Montemarte, but a bit of a trek up multiple flights of steps to the top.  This being are rest day we chose the tram ride up for 1,90 Euros each.  This Basilica completely exceeded my expectations, yes there were a lot of tourists around but it rivals Notre Dame in beauty.  




They offer an option to walk up 300 steps to the very top of the building for panoramic views of the city.  Us always being on the hunt for the best photos thought this was a great idea!  I will be very honest; this was not a great idea for me whatsoever.  You walk all the way to the basement area of the building, walk through a ticket booth, and enter a small (think 1 person wide) staircase with small rectangular windows only every 10 steps.  


  

This is just the first half of stairs.  I made it this far with some deep breathing, then we came out to an open walkway and stunning views.  I was thinking okay if this is halfway then it’s definitely going to be worth it at the top!  



So we embark on the second half and about 10 steps in I realize there’s no window.  Looking up and seeing only walls and concrete and looking down to see only walls and concrete was too much for me.  I immediately told my mom to turn around and basically had a panic attack in the open walkway.  I wouldn’t normally consider myself claustrophobic but in this situation I think the lack of windows and distance in the that tiny stairwell was just too much for me.  You might be thinking okay cool you don’t want to go up, just go back, right?  Well, the fun part about that is the stairs are one way up and one way down on the other side of the viewing area.  I knew there was a 0% chance of me not only making it up the last half, but also back down the whole thing, so we started back down the wrong direction.  With the exception of one guide telling us it was one way, people were very nice and let us go through.  Once back at the ticket booth we had to get across the gate and finally I was back in open air.  I googled the view from the top and it did look spectacular, but I definitely would caution you if small spaces aren’t your friend this might not be the view to go for.  

There is good news for people like me though!  Our last sight planned for the day was the Arc de Triomphe, my mom wanted to see the view from the top (we just hadn’t learned our less had we?). We took the metro back to our station and walked the few blocks to the underground tunnel below the street to the Arc de Triomphe.  This tunnel was huge and well lit, not a concern for me at all.  Then we bought our tickets for 12,00 Euros each and I convinced myself that this staircase wouldn’t be as traumatizing.  



I’m glad my mom pushed that we go because it wasn’t nearly as bad to climb up!  The stairwell area is open, the stairs are metal, and there are 2 areas to stop in and walk around  along the way.  A few times I still had to just look straight ahead and follow my mom or the group ahead of us, but it was a significantly better experience.  I would say that getting up to the top, even with stopping on both floors between, took only about 15 minutes.  



At the top you can see all of Paris in every direction; the Eiffel Tower, Montemarte, the business area, everything!  At the beginning and end of the stairs outside you can see the underneath of the Arc and all the details up close, plus there is an eternal flame burning in remembrance of the unknown soldier that we had no idea was there.  If you’re hesitant about going into these stairwells now, I would highly recommend starting with this one!  The view is very worth it and if I can do it right after my Sacre Couer experience, you totally can too!  



To celebrate the fact I made it up to the top we got French crepes from one of the carts on the corner of Champs Elysees, they seem to always be there in the evenings.  I ordered Nutella with strawberries, my mom got Nutella with bananas.  It was so cool because he actually makes them right in front of you and they tasted incredible!  



Since this was our last night in Paris we wanted o have a glass of champagne to end the trip.  We chose Le Balzac on Champs Elysees and also ordered French onion soup to share.  The soup was delicious with big pieces of bread and so much melted cheese.  



The one thing we couldn’t seem to make happen was staying up long enough to see the sights lit up.  We snuck out at a time we thought was late to snap some pictures at the Arc de Triomphe in a dress I brought with me, but it still wasn't even close to sunset!  It got dark at around 10pm and we were already so tired by 8pm every night.  I think it would be worth it next trip to take a mid day nap and go back out later in the evening.  


Skirt (similar) | Shoes | Top

HEADING HOME—
I don’t have much to say about our trip home since it was much less exciting, but I’ll give you the basics.  We asked the hotel the night before to call us a car in the morning so we didn’t have to drag our bags around to the bus or metro that early.  It cost 60,00 Euros and took about 1 hour.  We arrived around 7am and there were literally no lines anyway which was fantastic!  If you have the chance, book a morning flight!  The one downside is we had no idea about there rule for liquids in carryons since we have TSA Precheck and never have to really pay attention to bag requirements.  In Charles de Gaule airport you are allowed only one 1 quart bag filled with travel size liquids per person.  To put this into perspective I had about one a half bags worth of stuff since all my makeup and toiletries were in my carryon.  They are not lenient with this rule, so between my mom and I we had to throw away about 5 items.  If you take one thing away from this whole post, remember to pay attention to your liquids because we all know most of that stuff is way too pricey to just be throwing away!  

Have any of you been to Paris?  Let me know anything we might have missed to add to our list for next time!
XOXO, Cierra 

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