Posts by Claire Lardizabal

Writer. Currently eating my way through Colorado. Follow my adventures @dclardiz.

Florence, Italy

Florence among the Apennine Mountains. My Italian instructor had us hike up to San Miniato al Monte for this city view.

Three years ago, I boarded a plane on my way to a study abroad in Florence, Italy, equally terrified and excited for the next five weeks to come. I bought my ticket — my first huge purchase as a 22-year-old — and it would take me from St. Louis to Montreal to Rome and back.

When I arrived in Rome, the plan was to take the train to Florence. However, almost every piece of advice that I religiously followed from Google was wrong. Not every Italian spoke English. You didn’t get your train ticket to Florence from where it said I should. Jet lagged in a foreign country, I did the only thing I could: I followed the signs.

The signs took me from immigration to a red ticket kiosk. “To Florence on the fast train?” I asked a nearby employee. One hundred euros later, I had two train tickets. One was to the main train station, the other was for the Frecciargento to Florence. I followed the signs to the airport train station and my departing platform. When I settled down in my respectful train, I realized there were no maps inside to tell me to where I could connect to Florence. I panicked. The sunlight was jarring as my body begged for sleep. I stared at my train tickets, but they didn’t make sense either. I was lost.

An older woman boarded the train with her husband and sat next to me. “Are you off to big adventures?” She asked gently, gesturing to the tattered Delta airport tag on my weathered baby blue suitcase. I told her I was going to school in Florence. This was my first time in Italy, or Europe for that matter. She was Australian and came to Europe a many times before; she told me where to hide my money, to be protective of my passport, and most importantly, where to get off for my next train. My Frecce ticket even told me: Roma Tiburtina.

Speaking to her was a relief to my exhaustion. I found my train stop and validated my ticket (something I had read: if you didn’t hole punch your ticket prior to boarding and a train conductor checked your un-validated ticket, you’d get a fine). Finally, I had about 15 minutes to spare when the hunger kicked in. All I had was cigarettes (a habit I’ve long kicked) so I smoked one. I’m in Rome, I thought, incredulous at the fact that I had made it this far. All I had to do was get on this train and make it on time for orientation at Florence University of the Arts. Nothing could stop me.

Except maybe a tourist’s need to overpack. I had boarded the wrong car on Le Frecce and ended up in a hallway of massive suitcases. The train began to move and I had no other choice but to hoist my full sized luggage over and through to get to my car. Strangers of all nationalities helped me lift my suitcase as I dragged it two cars down; when I arrived at my assigned seat, I passed out.

About an hour later, I woke up in the rolling farm hills of Tuscany. “Are we in Florence?” I asked the lady next to me. “Firenze?” She corrected me. “Si.” I collected my belongings as the train rolled into the city’s main train station, Santa Maria Novella. I had finally made it to Florence.

back to the grind.

the Art’s desserts are a work of art on its own: carrot cake with cream cheese icing, candied carrots, pineapple meringue, house-made granola, and edible flowers.

hey everyone! sorry I haven’t written for awhile. I started a new job at The Art, a hotel, in downtown Denver. modern and trendy, The Art is a three-year-old hotel filled with the most interesting art pieces. you can find me at Fire, its fine dining restaurant, where I have a great view of Denver and the mountains. 🙂 besides that, I’ve been getting my tan on and spending time with T and friends.

a few things:

I am studying to become an introductory level sommelier. a sommelier is an expert of wine, and since I am in fine dining now, I think it would be a great tool to have under my belt both sales and writing wise. I basically have a minor in enology as I spent plenty of time strolling through vineyards and drinking vino, it’s just now I have to memorize all the wine regions and varietals of the world.

I pitched to a really big publication in LA. so, fingers crossed that they get it and like it.

I am still in the midst of writing stories I want to pitch to publications. for awhile, I was lagging with no motivation behind me… until two nights ago. I went to Idaho Springs last weekend and bought a chalcopyrite, this beautiful turquoise-gold-magenta stone (a result of copper iron sulfide), and it’s supposed to help you recover what you lost. well I had a dream (more a nightmare) that I had “lost my words” and that I couldn’t write anymore. it was a most needed wake-up call, and all the projects I’ve been sitting on are up and rolling again. I’m very excited because I’m working on stories in California, Colorado, and Missouri, so I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Capri, Italy


MAY 30, 2015

After a nauseating ferry ride from Naples to Capri (what a way to learn that you’re prone to sea sickness), we finally arrived at the base of the famed Mediterranean island. We noticed that everyone was jumping into white vans that shuttled them off, but we opted to walk instead.

Four flights of stairs in, the city was still nowhere in sight. We trampled through makeshift rock steps that trailed up Capri, surrounded by white artsy beach houses (owned by the rich and famous, no doubt) with views of baby blue skies and cerulean waters. We emerged from another flight of stairs and came out into a road, where I spotted a local man. Centro? I asked, out of breath. He pointed up.

Hundreds of steps later, hungry and ready to give up, we were almost to the top when we smelled it. Warm sugary scents wafted down the stairs toward us and instantly, we picked up the pace. What was that smell? we wondered. Was it fresh baked chocolate croissants? Was there some new Italian delicacy waiting for us at the top of the stairs? We finally broke out into the centro of Capri and sped walked past the high-end boutique shops and restaurants when we saw it.

The source of those delicious aromas came from piping hot waffle irons, conveniently placed by an open window, churning out just-baked waffle cones for Buonocore Gelateria. In awe, I watched as they took those thin crepe-like waffles and rolled them into a perfect shape of an ice cream cone. It was the most memorable welcome to Capri.

A Fresh Take on “This is America”

one thing I cannot believe people have NOT talked about yet is the impact of music videos on our youth, especially young black children. we’ve been warned in the past about how too much MTV is bad for you, but what exactly are music videos doing to children? in Childish Gambino’s “This is America” music video, we watch a stream of recurring problems for African Americans (which we are sadly desensitized to at this point), but I feel like the biggest one has flown right above everybody’s head.

there’s a reason he chose black school children in uniforms as his dancers. if they were in any other dress, we would forget that these kids are only in school. imagine being a young black child after school, scrolling through the channels. all he or she sees is a sea of white: white actors, white problems, white music. then they stop at BET or MTV or ESPN and sees someone who looks like them. they see talent, fame, and a ticket to respect. (something children clearly do not have enough of, but more on that later.)

they see these moves. they imitate them, in hopes to be as good as what they see on their TV screen. then there’s the words, the enticing rhythm and flow. violence is a common theme they rap along to. so is sex, alcohol, and drugs. when they repeat this cycle enough, it becomes the norm. then they bring it to school. they start living it out on the weekends. and when life gets to be too much, there’s the unlucky ones who take it to the streets and probably end up belonging to the streets till they hit the grave. the streets are where those music video dreams can come alive.

in “This is America,” among all the chaos and crime, the children dance as a way of expression, but ultimately represent the influence black musicians can have. Donald Glover shows how he can smile and dance and rap without taking a second look at the chaos behind him, and the teens blindly follow in suit. he’s blatantly calling out the rappers who are not using their privilege to speak the truth and break the cycle. the same can also be said for the media, which has a track record of depicting African Americans as criminals.

going forward, we should empower youth, especially black youth, to show them a way out of this false narrative. I feel like there’s a lot of unnecessary hate in this country and to fix it, we need to take a step back, think about that feeling, and learn as much about it as we can to offer a solution. rap artists should take note that they have a very difficult/important role to play, too, but rap & hip hop may very well be the bridge that brings us all together.

Eating Rights

Three years ago, if you told me that I would be an animal and environmental rights activist because of what I was eating, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. My food writing journey has been an amazing one – sampling, sipping, and telling stories about the best food and drink you could imagine. But along the way, I began to listen to other stories – ones that affect you and me. The “local” eating movement goes beyond supporting local businesses. It’s about supporting practices that are 1. humane and 2. sustainable. And while the concept seems pretty simple, finding restaurants that follow those same ethics are not.

Continue reading →

Happy Hour at Araujos Mexican Restaurant


Araujos’ Mexican street style fish tacos are topped with onions and cilantro and served in a flour tortilla.

If you’ve ever been to the Venice Beach Boardwalk in L.A., perhaps you lined up by the towering “fish tacos $2” sign to find out if it’s worth the wait. One bite into the crisp and lightly battered fish, and you wonder where this taco’s been all your life.

Sadly, it’s been a minute since I’ve been to sunny California, but I still think about that taco all the time (does anyone else do that or is it just me?) Fortunately, I’ve found its twin, right here in Jefferson Park. Araujos Mexican Restaurant is frequented for its breakfast burritos (a flour tortilla stuffed with meat, potatoes, and scrambled eggs in a mild or hot chile sauce), but in the evening, has a killer happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. Margaritas are two for the price of one, and those fish tacos I was talking about earlier? Get them on Wednesdays for $2 as well. Venice Beach, Jefferson Park. I couldn’t tell the difference.

2900 W. 26th Ave., Denver, 303-455-3866

dancing in the rain

my mental health journey is taking a little bit longer than I expected. but it’s so typical of me to put a deadline on “getting better.” the truth is, I’m never gonna get better. the depression, the bipolarity, the maybe PTSD: I’m stuck with it forever. it’s just my choice whether I want to let it dictate my life or learn how to coexist with it.

I’ve sadly let it dictate my life and in the end, the only person I’m fooling is me. I have become this incredible pretender. someone who smiles on the outside but is plagued with racing, anxious crazy thoughts on the inside. cognitive behavioral therapy has helped in rewiring the unwanted thoughts to be just that (thoughts) but I also made two discoveries. 1. it is not my fault I have unwanted thoughts. 2. they are a culmination of my past and my mood disorder.

so going forward, I have to learn how to coexist with my very own storm cloud. when it comes back again, instead of running for cover, I must learn how to dance in the rain. and from that, I will create.