Where’s the Weed? Mile-High City

Like the modern day gold rush of the 1800s, fortune seekers are fleeing to Colorado due to the legalization of recreational marijuana. Although many believe this is where its penned “Mile High City” nickname was derived, it actually comes from the State Capitol building steps measuring exactly 1 mile above sea level.  On a recent trip to Denver, many of my preconceived notions of the city were dispelled. I was most surprised by the landscape. Of all the pictures I’d seen of Colorado’s lush, green mountains and wild, flowing rivers, I was, instead, greeted by barren, dry, flat land as far as the eye could see. Off in the far distance, you could see white-capped mountains, but the city itself sits on very flat topography. I would later learn that, the sporadic patches of smoke I witnessed from the air were wildfires burning in nearby Boulder, likely due the drought plaguing this area for quite some time.

Instead of taking the $9 commuter train from the airport straight to downtown Denver, I grabbed a Lyft since I always get great insight into a city from the drivers.  My driver, Ryan, told me how the city was growing by nearly 2,000 people monthly, causing unprecedented development and skyrocketing property values.  He told me how his monthly rent went from $400 to almost $1,500 in less than 2 years, evidenced by the rising frames of new apartment buildings and cranes covering the skyline.  Although many had moved here because of weed, many were also drawn to its artistic vibe, proximity to the mountains, and booming economy.  He told me stories of how he was able to take his girlfriend on a day trip to Vegas, costing him only $60 round trip. He spoke of how he used to work at a weed dispensary, but, after a few years, quit when the owner, who had become a multi-millionaire overnight, purchased several homes, boats and took his girlfriend on a 1-month vacation to China, yet refused to offer health benefits to his employees citing “he couldn’t afford it.” He was now studying to acquire his real estate license and take advantage of the thriving real estate market.

As I explored the streets of Denver the next morning, I expected to be inundated with the scent of pot everywhere. Surprisingly, it was nowhere in sight or sniff.  Why wasn’t I seeing the children of the Bohemian 70s or the Rastafarian tokers or even the college kids smoking on every corner? So I did my research and present you with the following Denver marijuana laws as of this posting:

  1. You must be 21 to purchase and must provide ID.
  2. You can’t go toking on the streets. Although this law is evolving over time, the following is true, “Discretion is appreciated, usually required,” Amendment 64 does NOT permit the consumption of marijuana “openly and publicly.” There are some “private” cannabis clubs where you can buy a day membership to consume, but many are new and not at the caliber they should be. Although many will look the other way if you hide away for a quick smoke in an alleyway, you can still be cited by Denver Police for public consumption. To be discrete, edibles or a portable vaporizer can be your best friend.
  3. You can smoke at hotels, where up to a quarter of rooms are allowed to be designated as cannabis zones.
  4. As of October 1, 2016, the following rules took effect in regard to purchasing limits:

Since concentrates and edibles have a much higher level of THC than flowers, the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) issued the following guidelines:

  1. 1oz Flower = 8g of Concentrate (Shatter, Wax, etc.)
  2. 1oz Flower = 800mg of Edibles

You can still mix and match, but it gets confusing. For example, you can purchase 2 grams of concentrate, but then you will be limited to buying an additional ¾ oz of flower (as 2 grams of concentrate is now equivalent to 1/4oz flower). One important thing to note is these restrictions only apply to retail sales, not possession. You can legally possess up to 28 grams of concentrates or THC as defined in the Colorado Constitution.

  1. You can’t pay by card. US banking laws prohibit the use of credit cards for buying drugs and so, for now, cannabis can only be purchased with cash.
  2. You can’t buy weed all hours. Shops cannot open before 8am and must shut before midnight. Having said that, cities are allowed to establish their own rules. For example, Denver stores must close by 7pm.
  3. You can’t take the marijuana you buy outside Colorado, bring it on the plane or post it home to yourself. Sorry guys…..
  4. Colorado law sets a legal limit for the amount of active THC in your system while driving as 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood.
  5. The “open container” law in Colorado makes it illegal to possess marijuana in the passenger area of a vehicle if it is in an open container, a container with broken seals, or if there is evidence of consumption.
  6. Your right to possess marijuana in CO does NOT apply when you are visiting national parks, national forests, monuments, or other federal properties such as courthouses. Also be aware that many ski areas are located on Federal land. Possession of marijuana on Federal land is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000 on the first offense, along with a 15-day mandatory sentence that can be extended to two years in prison for a second offense.
  7. The law allows residents to cultivate up to 6 plants, 3 of which can be in flowering stage in an enclosed, locked space.

As I quickly learned, the city’s laws prevented people from getting high on every corner, so don’t expect a scene from Woodstock once you exit the plane….bummer.

As I worked my way down the 16th Mall Street, there were a plethora of cool shops, restaurants, department stores, a Jazz club and a movie theatre.  All were easily accessible by the FREE Mall Ride bus that runs up and down the street daily. In addition to the many pedestrians enjoying the sights and sounds of this bustling area, I also noticed many homeless people on every corner.

The next morning, I went jogging along a nearby river and noticed sleeping bags and a handful of tents strewn waterside where people had slept overnight. I wondered if many were transients who migrated from other states seeking a quick fortune, only to find they couldn’t afford the high licensing costs of nearly $25,000 to open a weed dispensary. A resident later told me that many of the homeless were being displaced by the ever increasing rent costs and that the industrial buildings, where they previously sought refuge, were being torn down and rebuilt with high-end apartments and lofts. They went on to say that the homeless shelters would not allow anyone in under the influence of alcohol or drugs, causing many to seek shelter on nearby city streets.

If it’s on your bucket list to have dinner in a bank vault, I have just the place – The Broker Restaurant at 821 17th Street. What was previously the basement of a former Bank, it has been serving up complimentary bowls of peel-and-eat shrimp and mouth-watering steaks to crowds for generations.  Their red leathered seats and mahogany wood booths transport you back to the bygone era of the 20s and 30s.

All in all, I enjoyed my trip to Denver and highly – get it? – recommend.  Should my next trip not be for business purposes, I will carve out some time to hit the nearby slopes or enjoy a hike in the mountains.

14 Signs That Traveling the World is Your Destiny

14 Signs That Traveling the World is Your Destiny

Travel. Nomadic Life. Wanderer. For some of us, these words spike our endorphin levels to a super, happy high. A sign that traveling the world is your destiny, perhaps an addiction.

Check these 14 signs to see if traveling the world is your destiny.

  1. Home always feel temporary.

Your home is more of a storage unit and while it may be nice to return to it every so often, the big, wide open world just feels well…more comfortable than those old pair of slippers tucked under your bed. When you’re home, you spend time planning the next trip and one day you swear you’ll just sell everything you own and travel for as long as you possibly can.

  2. You’re a little obsessive over your Passport Book.

If someone were to ask you what your prized possession was, you would quickly answer that it was your passport. It’s beautiful.  Every so often you open its precious pages and trace your fingers over the intricate lines of your various passport stamps fondly remembering each customs agent who stamped it. The thought of having to send it off for a Brazilian visa or for renewal causes heart palpitations. If it’s still blank, you dream of filling it. When you use Passport Book -in a sentence, you capitalize the “P” and “B”. It’s just that significant.

  3. You have a very large stash of travel sized items. 

Tiny tubes of toothpaste (and what you think is toothpaste), hand sanitizer, cute little shampoos, shoe shiners, sunscreen, towelettes – from all different countries in various languages.

You buy them. You collect them. You love them.

You own such a large stash of travel sized items, you would convince a hoarder to have a yard sale. When www.alltravelsizes.com runs out of something, they call you first.

They are like religious icons and sometimes you even make a gift basket out of them for a special friend. But even then, you secretly hope they re-gift back to you.

  4. If your significant other doesn’t like to travel, it’s a deal breaker.

If your significant other doesn’t like to travel, they won’t be your significant other for long. It’s true. Having wanderlust is the only disease you want them to have and their desire to travel is more important than if your zodiac signs are compatible. The world is your first spouse, but you’re willing to share it with the right person – which might make you a polygamist or poly amorous. One of them.

  5. Travel rewards mean the world to you. 

Travel rewards such as points and frequent flyer miles are so important to you that if the  The Points Guy told you to drink the Kool-Aid, you would. In a heartbeat (which would soon lead to no heartbeat).

You apply for credit cards just to get the bonus points, you endlessly make your friends sign up for credit cards so you can get referral points and you ask for points instead of birthday money. You get the point.

  6. You have Facebook friends from all over the world. 

Even Berber friends from Morocco who send you pictures of the Sahara every so often like it’s porn.  And sometimes they send porn – not appropriate.

These aren’t random Facebook pen pals, but people you have met (but never touched) while on your many travels whether it was on the train to Paris or sitting in a coffee shop bar in Amsterdam. You can never have enough global friends.

  7. You have spent Thanksgiving or some other holiday in another country. 

You have spent <insert holiday> in another country. Not just Labor Day, but no holiday is off limits and when Mom expects you home for Christmas meatloaf, you book travel instead. That means more time to add to your vacation days! You rebel. Thankfully, your Mom loves you unconditionally and understands. Besides, you’re pretty sure that being destined (and addicted) to travel is a hereditary gene that perhaps skipped a generation? Either way, you can’t help it. You were born this way and your parents will accept you no matter what.

   8. You quit your corporate job to travel more. 

Going into an office 5 days a week from 9am – 5pm then having to ask permission to take time-off that you earned just doesn’t fly anymore. So, you quit. You do freelance so you can travel more and start a travel blog. This is a definite sign that you are destined to travel the world.

  9. You refuse to pay full price for anything, but you happily pay for Global Entry.

You’re cheap and all your friends make fun of you for only using Groupon or ScoutMob when you go out, but you will happily fork over the money for Global Entry and TSA Precheck. By being a TSA Precheck member you breeze through security lines faster and by enrolling in Global Entry, when you return home to the USA, you whip through customs instead of long re-entry lines. The faster you get home, the faster you can plan your next trip so the extra bucks are worth the time savings even for cheapskates like your friends, Alicia and Michelle.

  10. You reference the past by countries, not years.

You don’t reference the past by a year, but by the country you visited.  If someone asks you which year your daughter was born, you answer, “Oh, that was the year I fell and got attacked by a bunch of geese in Greece….Dang that hurt.” It’s just how your brain is wired.

  11. You can pack “all that” into a carry-on. 

You mastered the art of origami at the age of 9 months when your Grandmother found your diapers folded into a swan. Now, you are a master of the KonMari Method and you can pack 3.2 weeks worth of stuff into a carry-on. Even the European blow dryer and flat iron you bought while overseas.

  12. You won’t spend 2 minutes trying to figure out anything, but you can operate any washing machine in the world.

Forget trying to learn the latest Windows or a MAC or solve a Sudoku puzzle. You don’t have time or patience for any of that, but you will figure out how to use that washing machine meant for those fluent in hieroglyphics.

Like. A. Boss.

And if you are nowhere near a washing machine? No worries because you know how to wash them using the Aloksak Bag Method.

  13. As a child, you preferred National Geographic over Dr. Seuss. 

The pictures of the people and the world enclosed between two mustard yellow magazine covers lured you like a snow cone on a sweltering summer day. Dr. Seuss was probably more appropriate for your age, but even then, you knew that those NatGeo pictures were just a keyhole view of your future life.

“It’s opener, out there, in the wide, open air.”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

  14. You invest your money into memory banks. 

Money isn’t everything to you. You just need enough for the necessities and to get you from Australia to Zimbabwe and then to Iceland. And just maybe a few coins for a laundromat, just in case. It’s not just the destination but the amazing memories that you create by immersing yourself in the unfamiliar. The more you have, the richer you feel. And any extra money you can spare, you donate to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease because it would be shame for this disease to rob you of your wealth.

If you can relate to any of these 14 signs, there is no doubt that you are destined to travel the world.

~ Yours in Travel,

Girls Gone Abroad






Coming Full Circle


Traveling with your family can be super stressful, yet also make for the BEST stories. Recently, my parents, brother and I finished a 3 city tour in France: Paris, Jouy-lès-Reims & Lyon. There were two main reasons for this trip: to visit my family’s ancestral hometown of Jouy-lès-Reims and to return, for the first time in 20 years, to Lyon where I studied abroad my Junior year in college. First off, let me introduce you to my “special” family. My mother, Pat, a retired English Literature teacher of 35 years, a Sharon Osbourne look-a-like and a woman who still corrects my spoken grammar to this day (I’m 40 year’s old..sigh), is an expert on world religions. This comes in rather handy when visiting centuries old churches and especially helpful when visiting Greece last year and its many religious sites, but I digress.

My father, Larry, a retired insurance agent, unintentionally creates his own language of what we lovingly call “Larryisms”. My brother, Braden, 5 years my senior, well, let’s just say he spends more time on his hair than I do.

Being the Matriarch of the family, my mother, Pat, expects to be catered to when traveling. Having survived Cancer, comments like, “Alicia, please carry my bag. I had Cancer” are not uncommon or out of bounds for her. She has also become more forgetful with her things over the years, perhaps due to her vast knowledge of intellectual subjects leaving little room for common sense.  On the FIRST DAY of our trip, she lost her Paris Pass which provides entry into all of the museums. 5 hours later, I discover it hidden in my bag where she stuffed it, UNBEKNOWNST to me, but it was my fault according to her…SHOOT ME NOW. Subsequently, having left her cell phone in the Louvre bathroom, her bag with her passport on a TGV train car in Paris and having locked herself into a bathroom in Reims leaving her screaming for help (forever engrained in my memory is the French bathroom attendant yelling back “Attention, attention!” while trying to break her out with a screwdriver), I threatened to latch a child leash on her so as to keep an eye on her throughout our trip.

Then there’s my poor Dad, Larry, who still struggles with the English language and, I might add, his FIRST and ONLY language. Comments like, “Pat, we don’t live in a second world country,” or saying “jigsaw” when meaning “hacksaw” or “kilimonators” vs. “kilometers,” sent my mother, brother and I into gut wrenching fits of tearful laughter.

My brother, Braden, seemed to think if he put a French accent on English words that it magically made them French. “Zaynk you for ze Coke. I like eet very much.” “Ze man on ze street smellz like armpito.” “I need zome poudre de ball sack.” Every time we approached a door with a sticker that read “Poussez”, my brother and I couldn’t help but snicker.   





While staying in adjoining rooms in Paris (men in one room, ladies in the other), I plugged my Mom’s hairdryer in the bathroom, turned it on & it quickly sparked fire causing the lights & ALL POWER to go out in BOTH rooms. It was fried.  The hotel hairdryer in our bathroom never recovered so I was forced to use the one in the men’s adjoining room bathroom. My brother and I, having sibling rivalry wars since childhood, quarreled over the hair left on the bathroom toilet after my blow drying session. Did I mention the hotel bathrooms were so small that I could brush my teeth while I pee?  Let’s not even get into the fact that it’s nearly impossible to find a public restroom in France that doesn’t require you to pay a fee. Again, I digress.

If a French person didn’t understand them, my parents seemed to believe that if they spoke English more SLOWLY, enunciated EVERY WORD and spoke more LOUDLY, that this would suddenly make others English speaking….smh. Being a Southern gentleman, my father would frequently attempt to start conversations with strangers while waiting to cross the street at intersections. “How you doing today?” “So, how long have you lived here and what do you do for a living?” Needless to say, he got a lot of blank stares. It took him a while to learn that the French, especially in large cities, do not make eye contact nor rarely speak with strangers on the street.



Our 2nd city tour brought us to the small commune of Jouy-lès-Reims (0.72 sq mi & population 185), the hometown of my Great, Great, Great, Grandfather many generations back, Jean Baptiste Barras dit le Blon, who emigrated to Louisiana in 1719 at the young age of 19, and settled in the small Louisiana town of Newroads (previously Pointe Coupee) where settlers were promised free land. Having no known, living relatives in Jouy-lès-Reims, my parents had previously reached out to the Mayor’s office and arranged to meet up with some of the locals during our trip. Odile Crooke, a sweet and jovial local who teaches professionals how to speak English and married to an English man, served as our own personal tour guide; taking us on the most incredible tour of our ancestral hometown. Nestled in the Champage region of France, Odile arranged a private tour of the Cooperative Jouy Pargny where many of the Vineyard owners produce their own champagne.  The Co-Op President, Christophe, gave us a personal tour of the entire facility where we learned every step of the process from picking grapes in the vineyards, to adding sugar and yeast, to the (2) fermentation processes to degorgement (removing sediments) to corking. We also learned that Champagne bottles are thicker than wine bottles so as to withstand the increased pressure and that, with wine, the deeper the indentation at the bottom of the wine bottle, the longer you can keep the wine after opening before it goes bad. The Champagne tasting at the end was icing on the cake!


Following the Champagne tour, we met up for a delicious, French lunch at nearby La Garenne restaurant with the Mayor, Sylvie, her assistant, Christine, the Assistant Mayor Jean-Bernard, and Odile’s husband, Phil. We had a lovely conversation talking about our families and family dynamics, about Jouy-lès-Reims, about our professions, about politics and about life. After gifting them with Atlanta Braves’ hats, Georgia T-shirts and Cajun Zydeco CDs, we said our heartfelt goodbyes and knew we would meet again. This was definitely the day we made new, lifelong friends and when our family came full circle.


(L to R: Phil, Jean-Bernard, Christine, Larry, Sylvie, Pat, Odile, Alicia & Braden)



Being the typical, excessive Americans with 8 bags for 4 people, the rental car company gave us a large Renault Trafic van that seats 8 people for our drive from Reims to Lyon. It took me 5 minutes to figure out that you had to lift the manual stick up and then push left to reverse (completely backwards from American vehicles). After a 4.5 hour drive and a few rest stops later with holes in the ground for bathrooms, we arrived in Lyon.

I was like a child on Christmas morning overtaken with excited anticipation. It had been 20 years since I had last step foot in this city that was so life-changing for me in my early 20s. As a student at L’Université Jean Moulin Lyon III during my Junior year in college, it was the toughest, yet best year of my life. It was the first year I had lived away from my family, my first time in Europe, the year I quit my sorority and the year I came out to my family. This was the year I fell passionately in love with traveling and took off on frequent adventures with my Eurorail pass in hand. Stepping out of the car upon arrival in Lyon, it brought me back to my 20 year old self along with a wave of emotions. Over the next few days and being the Gastronomic capital of the world, I would eat the most amazing French food, would visit my old apartment building, my old University and my old restaurant and bar haunts. There were so many new buildings, modernized structures and even a new Tram line. The city was more beautiful than I had remembered and allowed me to rediscover it with my family alongside me.

In more ways than one, I had come full circle on this trip, rediscovering humanity, myself and my family…

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