Durango City Guide


In 2012, my parents bought a home in Durango, much to our dismay, as we were rooting for a lake house in Austin. We are now so glad they ignored our pleas, as this old-timey city has definitely won over our hearts (and the lack of Texas humidity is a huge bonus). Durango has everything you could possibly need in a getaway city – great food and drinks, amazing views, fun activities, good shopping (well, not high fashion), and perfect weather (ahem, except perhaps the freezing cold winters). We’re fortunate enough to live just two streets over from Main Avenue, which is where most of the restaurants and shops are found. Given that most things in Texas are driving distance, it’s nice to be able to walk to dinner. We also take advantage of the proximity to the mountains and Animas river, and spend the days outside hiking, biking, rafting, running, etc.

If you’re looking for a fun Colorado vacation spot, I highly recommend making a trip to Durango. And if you come, I suggest trying some of the following restaurants, juice bars, ice cream shops, parks and adventure centers. If you have already been to Durango, am I missing anything?

 Food and Drinks

Carver’s Brewing Co.: This brewery is a favorite in our family, as it’s just two streets over from my parent’s house and the food is delicious. I typically order the Sesame Seared Ahi Stir Fry (substitute tofu for Ahi) or the veggie burger without the bun and a salad versus fries. Both options are delicious. Sasha normally gets the Tatanka (buffalo) burger and also loves it. They have big to-go beers called “Growlers” (discounted refills), so naturally Sasha and Dad have to drink one or two of those to prove their Colorado manliness.

Sweet Summery Guacamole Recipe

I am an avocado fanatic – I could eat them all day long, so naturally, I love guacamole. The local grocery store in Durango recently had a sale on avocados – 10 for $10, which is a steal. We bought 10 and then realized they would go bad before we managed to eat them all, as we’ve been adventuring to different restaurants for dinner in the evening. I decided to make my signature guacamole dish, which is sweet and salty, given that I use Robert’s Reserve Roasted Red Pepper and Onion Dip and sea salt. This dip is very summery, given it’s slight sweetness. Depending on whom I am making the guacamole for, I’ll add cilantro to the top or jalapeños – enjoy with Stacy’s pita chips (Sasha’s favorite), or celery and carrots if you’re being healthy like I am right now!


  • 2 tablespoons of Robert’s Reserve Roasted Red Pepper and Onion Dip
  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/8 cup of red onions
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (optional garnish)
  • Handful of chopped cilantro (optional garnish)


  1. Finely chop 2 garlic cloves and 1/8 cup of red onions and add to mixing bowl
  2. Add 2 tablesppons of the roasted pepper and onion dip (in most grocery stores in a stand alone section near the deli)
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to the bowl and mix
  4. Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt to the bowl – keep out in case you want to add more later
  5. Pit and add three avocados to the bowl – ideal to use a mortar and pestle (I love this Le Creuset one!)
  6. Mix well and add additional salt if desired





Istanbul Travel Guide

For years and years, I dreamed of going to Istanbul, and two years ago, Sasha and I decided to travel there after his MBA international trip took him to Accra, Ghana. He met me in Turkey, and we spent five days adventuring before heading to Athens (also highly recommended – travel guide to come soon!). There are so many iconic sites to see and oodles of delicious Turkish food and wine to be eaten. We both agree that our days in Turkey were some of our favorite together – this also includes the latter half of our trip, during which we went to Cappadocia. See photos of Cappadocia here.

I kept a very good travel diary while I was there, which was very helpful in writing this post. I also blogged while we were traveling – you can read the Istanbul posts here, here and here – lots of pictures! I have the travel bug and am dying to take Isla on an adventure, which Sasha laughs at. We are going to Mexico City in just a few weeks to celebrate one of my best friend’s weddings – I cannot wait to explore this historic city with some of my closest friends.

Have you ever been to Istanbul? If so, what would you add to my travel guide below? Click here to see a complete list of my travel guides, which includes BaliParisDurangoAustinHoustonWashington, DC,  and San Francisco.


Food + Drink

Amedros Cafe – True story – Sasha and I still talk about the halloumi cheese appetizer we got at Amedros Cafe. It was that good (and there’s a photo here).

Pasazade Restaurant – We were starving, walking around Istanbul trying to find Pasazade Restaurant after tackling some of the big sites earlier in the day. When we finally found Pasazade (check out TripAdvisor, I’m not the only one to recommend it!), we were overwhelmed by the happy servers. The entire staff was so happy and accommodating. We ate the Vegetable Bükme as an appetizer, then I had the Herb Sauté with Mushrooms and Sasha ate the Seferceliye. We of course dabbled in the Turkish wine. We were most excited about the slanted white plates that the food is served in! It’s the little things in life, I suppose!

Aloran Cafe – We walked by Aloran Cafe and it was empty (December is not tourist season in Istanbul), so we kept walking, even though it was ranked highly on TripAdvisor. The owner came outside and convinced us to come in, and ohmygosh am I glad we did. Sasha ate the kebab and I had a mixed vegetable dish – we were so full by the time we left, it wasn’t even funny. We had the Turkish wine recommended by our waiter and moved from glasses to a bottle rather quickly.

Red River – If you want to enter back into the Western world for a minute or two, go to Red River for a drink. We got complimentary drinks because we are from Texas, duh!

Al Bushra Restaurant and Bar  (at Hilton Istanbul) – The views from this delicious restaurant are unbelievable. We felt funny eating at the hotel where we were staying, as we typically avoid that, but it was highly recommended by past visitors, so we gave it a try. This Lebanese restaurant was intimate with low lighting and round tables with comfy cushions. I ordered the falafel and highly recommend it!

Juno – We went to this eclectic little restaurant near the Hilton for a drink before dinner, and ended up staying to eat as we loved the atmosphere. We asked the waiter what he recommended (one meat, one vegetarian) and ordered that! I don’t think you can go wrong at Juno.

Pierre Loti Cafe – Apple tea. That’s all I need to say. I will dream of that drink forever! This little cafe boats amazing views of the Golden Horn. We also had Turkish coffee, which tasted like heaven as well.



Basilica Cistern – These underground caverns are the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. The cistern was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. The lighting is kind of eerie, but it’s worth visiting.

Topkapi Palace – This large palace was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years.  As well as a royal residence, the palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. Not only is the palace a majestic sight to see, the outer gardens are equally exquisite.

Hippodrome of Constantipole – The area is officially called Sultan Ahmet Square and used to be an area for the circus and other entertainment. The course of the old racetrack has been indicated with paving, although the actual track is 6+ feet  below the present surface. The surviving monuments are two obelisks and the Serpentine Column, and these now sit in holes in a landscaped garden. The walled obelisk is massive and definitely worthy of photographing. The hippodrome is in the same area as Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern.

Istanbul Archaeology Museum – We ducked into this museum as it started raining, and were really glad we had. The architecture of the old buildings and the gorgeous exhibits are fascinating – all signs have English translations, so you can follow along. If you are a museum person, I recommend you visit the Archaeology Museum.

Blue Mosque – One of the most famous sites in the world, the Blue Mosque (technically called Sultan Ahmed Mosque) will not fail to impress you. The mosque has one main dome, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The design is the culmination of two centuries of Ottoman mosque development. It incorporates some Byzantine Christian elements of the neighboring Hagia Sophia with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. Be sure to wear conservative clothing during your trip to Istanbul – you will have to also wear a hijab (head scarf) before entering, but don’t worry, you’ll get one before you go in.

Hagia Sophia – Hagia Sophia s a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal church, that later became a mosque when Constantinople was conquered by Ottoman Turks. It is now a museum. You can see where the Muslims plastered over images of Jesus and Mary – it is a fascinating place to walk through. The view from the main entry (look upward) will take your breath away.

Gulhane Park – This park is luscious and green (and we visited in December!), and we spent about an hour just wandering through (and getting some delicious warm coffee). It’s a pleasant break from the busy hustle and bustle of the city.

Egyptian Spice Bazaar – The spice bazaar is a shock to your senses in the very best way. We spent about two hours just walking through and buying coffee, nuts, dried fruit and spices to take home. We bought the most amazing coffee (see note below), which all of the gift recipients loved.

Grand Bazaar – The grand bazaar is also rather overwhelming, as it is literally a maze of stores. As long as you’re not claustrophobic, you will love it. The stores aren’t selling high-end goods, but the trinkets, scarfs, candles, etc. are definitely worth looking through.

Rüstem Pasha Mosque – The Rüstem Pasha Mosque is famous for its large quantities of exquisite İznik tiles, set in a very wide variety of beautiful floral and geometric designs. The mosque is built on a high terrace over a complex of vaulted shops, whose rents were intended to financially support the mosque complex. The narrow, twisting interior flights of steps in the corners give access to a spacious courtyard. We went into this quiet mosque for a private tour – it was very calm and beautiful.

Pierre Loti Funicular – We rode the funicular ride up to the top of Pierre Loti Cafe, where the views of the Golden Horn are breathtaking. The hot apple tea at the cafe (mentioned above) was a perfect treat to sip on while taking in the views.



  • Stand in line at the Egyptian Spice Bazaar to buy coffee from Mehmet Efendi – it is well worth the wait (and bring some home for family and friends!)
  • Sign up for a tour with True Blue Tours (request Yilmaz – he was wonderful)
  • Take a boat ride on the Bosphorus
  • Done a hijab and enter a mosque with a local who can explain what happens where and why
  • Drink lots and lots of Turkish wine
  • Order a clay pot dish, which they will break at your table
  • Get lost in the Grand Bazaar (make sure to haggle!)
  • Walk around Gulhane Park
  • Take pictures inside Hagia Sophia – it is gorgeous
  • Wander through the Basilica Cistern (get the audio guided tour – it’s worth it!)

Vegan Black Bean Brownies + The New York Baking Company

Ever since my vegan chocolate beet muffin success, I’ve felt a little braver in the baking department. Rizzi from The New York Baking Company (Facebook page) asked me to review their brightly colored silicone baking cups, which you can buy on Amazon here. After doing some research, I decided to try baking vegan, gluten-free black bean brownies. I found a number of different recipes online, and adapted them to make our own unique blend (mainly adapted from The Minimalist Baker’s recipe here). Sasha and I devored them within minutes – they are that good (and we’ve made them multiple times in the past week!). Did I mention they are flourless and have no dairy products? It’s definitely seems too good to be true. I have included photos and the recipe below – I highly recommend you make these if you’re trying to satisfy a sweet tooth. 

The baking cups worked like a charm. They cost $9.95 and are worth every penny. Not only are these colorful cups BPA free, they are easy to clean – just rinse them and pop them into the dishwasher. The cupcakes came right (without any difficulty!) and into our mouths. Delicious! If you enjoy baking but hate peeling cupcakes, brownies, and muffins out of wrappers, I highly recommend you buy these cups.


  • 1 can black beans
  • 2.5 tablespoons flaxseed meal + 6 tablespoons water to create a flaxseed ‘egg’
  • 3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of Truvia sugar blend
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 bar of vegan, gluten free chocolate (I love this one!)


  1. Turn oven to 350 degrees in the bake setting
  2. Mix 2.5 tablespoons of your flaxseed meal with 6 tablespoons of water and set aside to settle
  3. Add together all of your dry ingredients (sea salt, cocoa powder, sugar blend, baking powder) and mix
  4. Add the melted coconut oil and vanilla extract and stir well
  5. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute and add to the bowl
  6. Add your flax egg – the batter should be icing-like texture at this point
  7. In a separate bowl, add the drained, clean black beans and grind them until they are a soft, blended texture (you can do this in a blender or food processor, but my parents don’t have one in their house in Durango – it works easily by hand too)
  8. Add the ground beans to the batter and mix well
  9. Line your muffin tray with the baking cups and add the batter to each cup – these don’t rise much, so you don’t need to leave space
  10. I added some almond butter to the batter for the last few muffins for a little extra kick – delicious!
  11. Allow the brownies to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the outside is slightly crispy, then wait until they cool off and enjoy!











Et voilà – the final product below!





One happy mouth

Recipe adapted from The Minimalist Baker

Baking cups provided by The New York Baking Company – all opinions are my own

Photos by me!

Highlights of Week One in Durango

We’ve been in Durango for just over a week now, and we are loving it. Sasha said to me yesterday, “You realize the most important and stressful decision we make all day is what we’re going to eat for dinner.” I laughed – but it’s true. We go on about four to five walks a day, as my parents live within 5 minutes of the grocery store, Main Street where all of the restaurants and shops are, Animas River, and mountain trails. My Nike Fuel Band is back in action! I wrote a Durango Travel Guide post last year, but I definitely have to update it after trying many new restaurants, juice bars and ice cream shops. I’ve put together an assortment of photos from our first week – as you can tell, I’ve been very trigger happy as of late.

What are your summer plans?

PS Happy birthday, Mum and Karine!


Isla flew from Houston to Denver to Durango and slept through every second of it (thank you, Lord!)


Walking to Durango Joe’s for morning coffee with the whole Petrovic family


Hiking and biking (while the grandparents were here to babysit!)


I finally found a bow that is semi-appropriately sized for a newborn – and a tutu dress from my sweet co-workers!


Celebrating our one year anniversary — with dinner and on a raft!


My favorite bow romper from Paola (I love Janie and Jack!) and our romantic rooftop anniversary dinner


Staring at that face all day and praying she always wants to hold my hand


Geared up for a day on the water (another Paola gift!) and a wet pup from lots of Animas River swimming


Isla’s new nap place – the BabyBjorn – and a tired tanner in her Baby Gap swimsuit from Erin


Navajo State Park adventures with the whole family (Isla slept through the entire experience)


A sneak peak of Isla’s newborn photos from Taylor Lord and I’ve finally sent all of the birth announcements!


Father-daughter bonding moments that make me heart melt


Hamming it up – and wearing her UT apparel! Girl’s gonna be a Longhorn fan, for sure