Our Final Days in South America: Escazu, San Jose and Tamarindo, Costa Rica

_DSC0215^^ This was the view from our first Costa Rican hotel, with the city of San Jose in the background.

So I’m writing my final post on our four-week South American trip, and it’s making me sad, friends. The only positive here is that I’m posting it on the same day that we’re flying out to Australia for three weeks, so a gal can’t be sad for too long, ya know!

Anyway, Costa Rica. After three weeks of hiking and snorkeling and walking and swimming, our thought about Costa Rica was that it should be a relaxing place for us to chill for a couple of days before heading back to the states. As such, we booked three days at Posada El Quijote (you can find the site for the actual hotel here) in Escazu, Costa Rica (right outside of San Jose), and then a full week at Barcelo Langosta Beach, an all-inclusive resort in the beach town of Tamarindo.

Let’s start with Posada El Quijote — it’s adorable, to say the least. The hotel is a tiny boutique one nestled in the town of Escazu, which is one of the richer towns in Costa Rica. (Our cab driver told us Mel Gibson bought a house here. Not sure if that’s true, or if it’s even a draw, to be honest, but there it is.) Anyway, the included breakfast is a HUGE draw for the place — it’s some of the best breakfast we had on our entire trip, as was the view from the backyard, where Chris and I took to having some drinks after sunset every night, watching the twinkling lights of San Jose in the background. Some highlights of Escazu for me (besides the hotel, which I would highly  recommend), was eating at both Tiquicia (with its amazing city views as well) and La Casona de Laly , and taking a tour of the city of San Jose.

About San Jose itself, in my opinion I’d highly recommend not staying directly in the city if you can avoid it, because other than a few good museums and a gorgeous concert hall, the rest of the city is really pretty much chain restaurants and concrete. (Check out this Lonely Planet review before making your final decision, is all I would say. In our case, staying outside of the city and taking a half day trip into the city itself to check things out was more than enough.)

_DSC0262^^ They were having a family day when we took our half-day tour in San Jose, so the main town square was alive with all kinds of activity. How awesome is this tight-rope little lady? You go girl.

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_DSC0235^^ We caught this view on one of our walks around our Escazu neighborhood. Gorgeous.

After three relaxing days in Escazu, Chris and I packed up our stuff again and loaded it onto a bus headed for the coast of Tamarindo and the Barcelo Langosta Beach resort. The bus ride turned out to be longer than we had hoped (five hours!), but once we were off the main highways and driving through the smaller towns, I really enjoyed seeing the homes and shops and some of the average Costa Rican way of life.

_DSC0307^^ Stopping at the halfway point on the bus and happening upon this gorgeous animal refuge zoo with these beautiful Toucans was definitely a benefit of the bus ride.

_DSC0289^^ These parrots were wild, which was pretty amazing.

After what felt like forever, we finally arrived at Barcelo Langosta. If you’ve ever stayed at an all-inclusive before, you won’t be disappointed with this one. The staff was very friendly, and offered many of those all-inclusive activities most people enjoy (water aerobics, dance classes, live music on certain nights, beach volleyball, etc.), and the buffet was pretty great for all-inclusive food, especially since they switched up their theme every night to keep it fresh. They also have one restaurant on the grounds, which if you stay for longer than three nights is included in your price, and that was super tasty. We saw tons of wildlife around the resort, too, like two different kinds of monkeys, green lizards, land iguanas, birds and more. The beach is public, so it can get a bit crowded, and it’s not the best beach for swimming because the waves tend to be rougher there (which makes it perfect for watching surfers!) and there are a lot of rocks. But the sunsets were some of the most gorgeous ones we saw on our whole trip, and to not have to think at all about what we were going to do about eating during the days made it a lot more laid back for us, as well.

_DSC0337^^ We watched the sunset from the beach every night, and Chris even joined in to play beach volleyball most nights, too. He took a surf lesson, as well — although I’m not sure how much that’ll come in handy when we move to land-locked Denver, Colorado ;)

IMG_5330^^ We went zip lining with Pura Adventura while we were in Costa Rica, and it’s seriously my new favorite thing! You can’t imagine the feeling of gliding through the air, feeling completely weightless, watching the most amazing views unfold before you. Unless, of course, you’ve ziplined before, then you absolutely can imagine it ;) This was our amazing crew.

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_DSC0405^^ Sunset facing the resort. Not too shabby!

And that was pretty much our Costa Rica experience, my friends. Although I’m glad that we went zip lining and Chris took surf lessons and we had time to relax, if/when we ever do make it back to Costa Rica, I’d be sure to plan a few other things that the area is known for, like checking out the rainforest and the cloud forest and a volcano or two. Still, I feel lucky we were able to see the animals we did see, just from the resort.

And that’s it in a nutshell, ya’ll! South America in four weeks — Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica. I want to add Brazil, Chile and Argentina to my list of must visit places now, because South America is so vast and beautiful and has so much to offer — I would just highly recommend to anyone who loves adventure travel to get out there when it’s possible. You won’t be sorry!

Okay friends, so we’re off to Australia now! We’ll be gone through the holidays, and we start our drive out to Denver pretty much as soon as we get back … so … wish us luck!

And happy holidays to all of you! May your days be filled with friends and family and lots of love and laughter. And snow!

Bis bald!

Back When I Was Fulfilling a Dream of Mine By Visiting the Galapagos Islands

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So, how exactly do you blog about a trip that has meant so much to you for so long? It’s hard to know where to start, friends, I’ll tell you that much.

Let me start from the beginning. When I first started out in college as a bright-eyed freshman, I went in as a biology major, since I had had the dream of becoming a vet for oh-so-very long (nevermind the fact that this dream eventually gave way to my one of being a journalist … let’s skip that part for the purposes of this story). During fall semester of my freshman year, I became obsessed with a school trip to the Galapagos, where we would be following in the footsteps of Darwin, making amazing discoveries and partaking in fascinating experiments.

Not to make things dramatic (who are we kidding — I’m nothing if not dramatic), but my parents wouldn’t let me go. So it became a goal of mine to, at some point, make it to this beautiful, interesting, historic place.

And a few weeks ago, I did, friends — I accomplished the goal. Go me! And it was way, way, way more than I ever could have hoped it would be. Little did I know what adventures awaited both me and Chris when we signed on for the 5-day Aida Maria cruise in the Galapagos (which, by the way, was booked by Southern Explorations on our behalf as part of our whole Ecuador package). Little did I know that we would fall in love with our tour guide (a Galapagos native named Reuben who walked around everywhere barefoot), or snorkel 2-3 times every single day with everything from sharks to sea lions, or see penguins and owls, as well. (Penguins, for goodness sake!).

If you’re an animal lover, you must add the Galapagos to your list, because there is no place on earth like it, my friends. So far in life I’ve had the great opportunity to snorkel in some pretty amazing places (the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Great Barrier Reef, to name a few), and nothing even came close to snorkeling here. (Sorry, Barrier Reef. You were awesome and all, but the Galapagos has my heart.)

Let me start by explaining our boat to you. The Aida Maria is a small-ish sized yacht that fits up to 16 guests, and we had 15 on board for our trip. Lucky for us, Southern Explorations booked our trip early enough so that we got a top room (there were only two available, and we were told they’re booked on a first-come, first-serve basis), because it really helped make the cruise special to be able to open our bedroom door every morning to gorgeous Galapagos waters. The size of the ship also means that space is pretty limited, and while we had bunk beds in our room, Chris and I used the top bunk to store our luggage and we slept together on the bottom bed. I’m honestly not sure what people did who didn’t share a bed, because there would have been very little floor space for luggage.

In terms of our itinerary and the islands we visited, here’s what we did:

Sunday: 
AM: Baltra Island
PM: Bachas beach (and our first snorkel!) on Santa Cruz Island

Monday:
AM: We woke up after cruising all night in the midst of Genovesa, a shield volcano in the eastern Pacific Ocean
PM: The Barranco (aka Prince Phillip’s Steps and the place where we found owls!) at the top of Genovesa

Tuesday:
AM: Bartolome Island
PM: Sullivan Bay and its insane lava fields on Santiago Island

Wednesday:
AM: Daphne/Black Turtle Cove
PM: Cerro Dragon (a trail that runs through three different environments even though it’s  just 1,600 m long) on Santa Cruz. It’s named this because the northwestern side of Santa Cruz Island is home to an impressive population of Conolophus subcristatus, or Galapagos land iguana. We also had our final (and my favorite) snorkeling excursion on this particular outing. It was here that we saw sharks again, and I had one playful little sea lion who swam in circles around me while I snorkeled, waving her cute little fin at me the whole time. Oh Galapagos — you slay me with your magical moments.

Thursday:
AM: The Charles Darwin Station, where we saw giant tortoises! We were a bit bummed as we left that we hadn’t seen these awesome animals in “real” life, but as we were driving back to the airport we saw three or four them along the side of the road — so check that off the list ;)
PM: It was back to Baltra to catch our flight back to the mainland Ecuador

Something else that was really cool about the trip is that everyone’s itinerary was planned by the National Park Service in order to keep as few people as possible on the islands at the same time. So for example, even if we were docked at an island with two or three other ships, we were never doing the same activity at the same time as the people from the other boat. If we were hiking, they would be snorkeling, and vice versa.

The last night of our trip we even got to go out to a bar (which was a good thing because the ship ran out of booze!) with a couple other young people from our boat and our tour guide (there were some restaurants, shops and bars at Puerto Ayora, which is where our tour guide was from. We even got to meet his adorable wife and 5-year-old son!)

Now let’s get to the fun part — the photos!

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_DSC0030^^ This (not so) little guy is a land iguana. We came across another one later in our hike that walked a good 100 feet towards our group of 16, bobbing his head in warning the whole while, before getting a couple of feet in front of us and turning around. I think he made his point, though ;) Land iguanas are pretty territorial, but they’re also pretty harmless.

_DSC0034^^ Pink flamingo!! Look at this scenery — does it not look like another planet?

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_DSC0123^^ Clawless lobsters at the fish markets in Puerto Ayora.

_DSC0146^^ A marine iguana just hangin’ out. Watching them swim in the water is pretty amazing.

_DSC0160^^ How cute are the giant tortoises?! They can live to be between 120 and 150 years old, so you just know they’re super wise ;)

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_DSC8982^^ These bright red crabs against the black lava? Amazing.

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_DSC9084^^ Being in the water snorkeling was amazing, but watching sunsets from the back of the boat wasn’t too shabby, either.

_DSC9139^^ The sea lions would get so close to you! And our tour guide would say, “Just see what happens.” Animals on the islands are super curious, and because humans aren’t their predators here, they are just fearless. It’s pretty cool.

_DSC9169^^ A lava heron (which we concluded looked shockingly similar to a grumpy old man, no?!)

_DSC9207^^ A few minutes after this photo was taken this sea lion would take a big ole’ dump in the water while I was snorkeling, totally bringing me back to earth (and out of the water!) from the surreal moment I was having. See the one in the background, too? With his nose in the air? I always wondered what they were thinking when they did that. So cute!

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_DSC9418^^ The blue beaks on the red-footed boobies are simply beautiful.

_DSC9519^^ This was a view from Cero Dragon on Santa Cruz island.

_DSC9593^^ Penguins! Can you believe the Galapagos has penguins? What doesn’t this place have?

_DSC9632^^ Look at our cute little boat — oh how I miss it!

_DSC9729^^ Chris took this photo of me at Sullivan Bay on Santiago to demonstrate how far and wide the lava fields went. And our tour guide went barefoot on this! Poor Reuben — his feet were too big for standard Ecuadorian mens’ sizes, so he grew up not wearing shoes most of the time, and now his feet are tough as nails! (As was demonstrated on many, many, many occasions on this trip.)

_DSC9762^^ The site of one of our many, many snorkel adventures.

_DSC9813^^ “There’s a blue-footed booby on the rocks!” This was an inside joke amongst everyone on our boat, since we came to realize that we could listen carefully for Reuben to call out loudly when we were on hikes or outings and he spotted some wildlife he really wanted us to see. His enthusiasm was seriously contagious. You could tell he loved his job and loved the Galapagos and just wanted to teach us everything he could, and that was just the best.

_DSC9913^^ Pelican in flight.

_DSC9915^^ We took the dinghy’s out one morning to Black Turtle Cove and saw all manner of animals, from the blue-footed boobies above to this green turtle, to mating sea turtles to sting rays and sharks.

_DSC9925^^ Mating turtles, oh my!

_DSC9936^^ Shark!

_DSC9947^^ Four stingrays in a row, right in front of our boat.

Honestly, we took about a gazillion photos here friends, as I’m sure you can imagine, and culling them down into just a couple is really hard. But I think what I’ve included here gives you a good indication of what the Galapagos is like — and it’s simply a heaven on earth.

So after our five days on the boat we caught a flight back to Quito and Jorge dropped us back off at La Rabida for what turned out to be only a couple of hours, since our flight to Costa Rica was super early in the morning and we basically had to be picked up at 2 a.m. to check in and such.

We leave for Australia this Monday (ah, I can’t believe it!), but I’ll be sure to get my final South American post — Costa Rica! — up as soon as possible next week. So bis bald for now, my friends! I shall see you all again very soon!

The 52 Project: November 24

_DSC0308^^ Well friends, this is the fourth and final photo that I’ll be posting for the ’52 Project’ series from our trip to South America. We saw this little guy when we were about halfway through our bus ride from Escazu to Tamarindo, Costa Rica, and he pretty much embodies what I think of when I think of Costa Rica. Vibrant. Lively. Fun. Pura Vida, baby! As I type this I’m sitting at my mom’s dining room table back in upstate New York. We arrived home from our trip around midnight last night, and I’m looking forward to going through all the photos and posting some more in-depth info from the trip which was, without a doubt, the trip of a lifetime.

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Marathon Key … Tomorrow!

Hiya friends,

Things here have been a bit … hectic! We were in Pennsylvania this past weekend for our nephew’s first birthday party, which was so cute and fun :

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Rory2^^Photographers who can wrangle kids into taking awesome, synchronized photos deserve a medal.

Rory3^^ But the mayhem is fun, too ;)

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Rory5^^ The best we could do ;)

Until Sunday night when my whole family started to drop like flies as we one-by-one contracted pretty much the same stomach bug.

Yuck.

Anyway, we’re moving on from that, because thank goodness I’m better for tomorrow, when I fly out to Marathon Key! I’ll be gone for 10 whole blissful days (yahoo!), and my best friend and I plan to do nothing but lay in the sun, go out on the boat, snorkel and drink tasty drinks the entire time, with maybe a little hiking thrown in here and there.

I’ll be back in early April (holy cow, April!) to update you on the happenings in Marathon Key. Until then, bis bald, my friends!

Vacation on the Horizon …

Hi friends,

So winter is apparently determined to drag on. And on. And on and on and on. I mean …. I’m just about getting a little sick of it. In my mind, if it’s not going to snow (don’t be mad at me, I’m know you’re all sick of the snow, too!), then there’s just no point in having cold weather.

The point is — thanks goodness I’m headed to the Keys next week with my best friend! If you’ll recall, I was in Key West a couple years back with my lovely sisters

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This time I’ll be heading to Marathon Key, which I’m super excited to check out. Then, only one short week after getting back from Florida, Chris and I will head to Colorado (Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver) with my sister and her boyfriend to check everything out.

Ah, the thrill of upcoming travel. It really does give us something to look forward to, doesn’t it?

Bis bald, friends!

 

Our Final Day in Iceland

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Last Monday was our last day in Iceland. (A tear.) We had had an absolutely amazing time up until then, what with making friends and seeing the Northern Lights and watching a geysir explode and eating some delicious food. But we had something on tap for Monday that, if I’m being completely honest, was high up on my list of reasons why I wanted to visit Iceland in the first place.

The Blue Lagoon.

Let me tell you a little bit about this place, my friends. According to their website, “the Blue Lagoon was accidentally formed in 1976 during operation at the nearby geothermal power plant. In the years that followed, people began to bathe in the unique water and apply the silica mud to their skin. Those with psoriasis noticed an incredible improvement in their condition. Over the years, the Blue Lagoon has been innovative in harnessing this gift of nature to develop different spa services and products. Today, Blue Lagoon is recognized as one of the wonders of the world.”

In other words, friends, the Blue Lagoon is straight up magic. The silky blue water is just warm enough that you never want to leave, but not so hot that you can’t stand bathing in it for hours on end. (We were there from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.) The silica mud — placed in little containers around the outskirts of the Lagoon that you can spoon out and spread on your body — makes your skin feel like perfection and gives you a glow that lasts for weeks for come. There is a swim-up bar with smoothies and wine and beer, a waterfall that you stand underneath whose pressure feels like the best shoulder massage you’ve ever had in your life, a steam and sauna room and so, so, so much more.

Oh, and it’s friggin’ beautiful …
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Photo 7^^ Us after spending four hours in that ridiculousness. See? Aren’t we resplendent ;)

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You can get lockers as part of your Blue Lagoon package (there are a bunch of different package options … we picked the cheapest one), and there is a space to store your luggage. The Blue Lagoon is about 20 minutes from the airport, and about a 40-45 minute ride from Reykjavik, making it the perfect activity either directly after arriving in Iceland or right before heading back home. You can book a package, like we did, that provides transportation to and from the airport and or your hotel.

A word to the wise when it comes to the Lagoon — this is no place for modesty, friends. Full showers are required both before entering the Lagoon and after, and this means sans bathing suit showering. Lots of naked people are gettin’ about in these Lagoon locker rooms, my friends, and there’s no use feeling awkward about it, because you’ll just be out of place. Another tip is to load your hair up with as much conditioner as possible — and leave it in, don’t wash it out — before heading into the water. Even so, you’ll probably end up leaving the Lagoon with a mess of mangled, salty hair, but it’s totally worth it.

And so that was about it. After four hours of relaxing in the Lagoon and the steam room, after smothering our bodies in what could only have been pounds and pounds of silica mud and after eating delicious smoothies, we headed back into the locker rooms to shower and dress and catch our bus to the airport to head home.

Iceland. Oh, Iceland. I had an idea of how amazing you were before I visited you … but I never in a million years could have imagined the impression you would leave.

If it’s within your ability to do so, I would highly recommend making the trip. Believe me … you’ll thank me later.

Bis bald, friends! A quick last-minute addition to my travel list for this year is a trip to Marathon Key with my bff for my birthday in early April. It’s a 10-day trip using her parents’ time share … and yes, I do believe I am one of the lucky ones.

Okay, now bis bald, friends!

 

Travel Alert — Our South American Trip is Planned, People!

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So after much, much, much planning, research, debate, blood, sweat and tears on our part, Chris and I have finally locked down a South America itinerary that we’re — well let’s just say it — absolutely ecstatic with! Here’s how it goes:

We’ll arrive in Cusco, Peru a couple days ahead of our 5-day tour of the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu with Cusi Travel. That tour looks a little something like this:

Day 1 – Cusco City Tour
Day 2 – Sacred Valley Tour
Day 3-4- Inca Trail/Machu Picchu 2D/1N
Day 5 – flight to Quito

In Quito we’ll connect with our second tour group, Southern Explorations, for our 12-day tour of the Galapagos Islands (I can’t breathe when I type that I’m so excited) and the Amazon Rainforest. That tour includes jungle walks, butterfly sanctuaries, canoe rides, bird watching, canopy walks and zip lines in the Amazon, as well as walks along Darwin’s Way, snorkeling with Galapagos penguins, sea lion, giant tortoise and Blue-footed Booby meetings, and so much more, in the Galapagos.

We’ll end the trip with a little over a week at an all-inclusive beach resort in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

I don’t think I really need to tell you guys just how excited we are for this trip. It’s the trip of a lifetime, and we feel more than a little lucky to be able to go on it.

Oh, and in other news … we leave Thursday for our trip to Iceland. That snuck up on us! Can’t wait to share all that info and the photos here with you guys when we’re back. As a heads up, we’ll be taking a Northern Lights tour, as well as a Gulfoss and Geysir Express Afternoon tour and a trip to the Blue Lagoon.

Bis bald, friends! Here’s to really livin’ it up in 2014!

Photo courtesy of Cusi Travel

 

 

 

Using Travel Agents (Plus a Big, Fun Announcement!)

photo^^ You know Christmas is over in New York City when you start to see
this sad little sight on every street corner.

 

Hi friends,

So January — and the new year in general — feels like it’s solidly in place now, wouldn’t ya say? We’ve packed the Christmas decorations away, the tree (which we lovingly named Mr. Big) is laying sadly on the curb outside our apartment awaiting its final destiny, the credit card bill with all those Christmas presents on it has arrived and the 2014 goals are written and action is being taken to fulfill them. (I’ve already read one whole book — wahoo! That’s one of my goal 14 for the year down …)

Anyway, travel destinations are always on my resolution list, and this year is no exception — with one big exception. While nothing is set in stone yet, Chris and I have big plans for this year. After a deluge of weddings every weekend in September and in the beginning of October (so fun!), the plan as of right now is to head to South America for a couple of weeks right after, come home for the Thanksgiving holiday, and then — are you ready for this? — move to Colorado.

Oy. It’s a big step friends. This plan is one of the main reasons why I’ve been trying to make the most of the city recently, particularly during what may very well have been our last Christmas season here.

I may start crying right now.

Don’t get me wrong — I do believe this will be a good move for us, it’s just … while we’re still here, it’s sort of hard to imagine not living here, you know?

Anyway, all of this moving stuff is for another day. The point of today’s post is to say that I’m in full-on planning mode for our South America trip, because nine months is certainly not a long time to have to plan for a multi-week, multi-destination trip. There’s health and travel insurance to think about. Travel visas. What to do with our stuff (not to mention our pets!) while we’re gone. Oh and cash flow — that’s a big one, too.

The South America itinerary at this moment in time includes, in no particular order:

  • The Galapagos Islands (Wahooo!!! I get to check something off my Bucket List!)
  • Machu Picchu/Peru
  • Costa Rica
  • Brazil
  • Argentina

While I’m thrilled with the prospect of traveling to all these amazing places, the thought of planning this trip was daunting. Then I had a brilliant thought — travel agents. The only time I’ve ever dealt with a travel agent was when my cousin was getting married in Jamaica and he used one. According to him, having this person help out with all the planning and documentation really took a lot of the stress off of him.

That seemed nice to me.

So I reached back out to her. And while we’re still in the very, very beginning stages of planning, I will say that so far it’s been going pretty well. There are a lot of emails back and forth, but I’ve given her the basics — budget range, desired locations and timeframe, type of travel we’re hoping to do (active, leisure, etc.) — and she’s working on putting something together.

Now I do know that there are some pitfalls to using travel agents. While some agents charge an upfront fee for their services, this particular woman I’m working with right now doesn’t, because she’s paid by the hotels, etc., that she sets up for us during our trip. That of course means that she works within a set group of hotels, etc. I’ll have to do a little bit of research once we hear back from her to be sure that the places she uses are the types of places we’re looking for — but at least it will be a good starting point.

So that’s it, friends. I’ll definitely keep you updated throughout the year as this process moves along. I can’t believe that we’re actually making moves on this South America trip — I feel like we’ve been talking about it forever. Then after that will come Colorado.

But that’s a story for another time, friends.

Bis bald!

The Year 2013: A Review

Hi friends,

Well it’s that time of year again — the one where everyone takes a couple minutes to take stock of how the past 12 months have gone? This year has been a particularly important one for myself and Chris. It was our first year of married life. It was a year spent celebrating our marriage around the world with family and friends. It was a year that we made some pretty big decisions about our future (not yet shared here!), and one that had a lot of amazing traveling in it …

February
In February we took an amazing weekend trip to Tarrytown for our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, where I had one of my absolute favorite meals of this entire year.

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my dessert

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March
In March I took a relaxing trip to visit my best friend in D.C., where we practiced wedding makeup for Chris and my upcoming wedding party in April.

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April
April was a holy-cow-of-a-month for us! First, I turned 30 (ah!), and we celebrated with a gorgeous hike up Breakneck Ridge with friends.

Thanks for going along with my crazy idea, gang!

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Holy rock climbing!

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Then Chris’s parents came for a visit, and we all took a trip to London so that Chris could run the 5th race in his World Marathon series.

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Geared up!

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We also celebrated our marriage at Magnanini Winery in upstate NY with friends and family in April, but I didn’t blog about that because I didn’t have photos for a long time. I have them now, though! Here are some of my faves.

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June
In June we celebrated our wedding in Jersey with some close friends and family. Here are some of my favorite shots from that party:

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July
In July we took a trip out to Charlotte, N.C. and Arizona to visit an old, old friend of mine.

^^Bloody Mary's in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.

^^Man and wilderness.

^^Cheers to you, Arizona!

^^Bye-bye Sedona. It's been real.

^^Canyon Breeze views.

^^Sedona hike--unbelievable.

^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.

^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.

August
In August I took another trip back down to D.C. for a “sprinkle” baby celebration …

^^The beginning stages of lemon bars. Can you say yum?!

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^^ Blueberry Crumble for the dessert bar.

^^We also made these to-die-for apple crumble bar with cinnamon. The sign in the back was a piece of corkboard that Lisa painted with chalkboard paint and strung some twine across. People wrote notes on little cards and placed them on the twin for Alison and her new baby boy.

and we visited what has now become our new favorite upstate winery — Warwick Valley Winery.

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Summer Happenings
I feel like I should take a moment to pay homage to all of the activities we took part in this summer that were right here in New York City, like seeing Shakespeare in the Park, hosting my nephew’s very first trip to NYC, riding bikes through the park, seeing the NY Philharmonic in the park (are you sensing a “park” theme?!), checking out the Met, going for a sail from Pier 25 on the west side and strolling around DUMBO, Brooklyn … to name a few.

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^^ I seriously forgot how many hills there are in Central Park. I had to take a break about 3/4 of the way through.

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^^Stolen from Istagram, thank you very much.

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^^ So -- what's the theme? Can ya tell? Hint: I'm wearing a red wig!

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^^ Freshman year JMU roommates -- go Dukes!

September
September was another busy month for us. First we took the ferry out to Governor’s Island to go exploring.

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^^ Carousel ahead!

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We also headed to St. Augustine, Florida for the Gentleman of the Road Mumford & Sons tour for Chris’s Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip … (also talked about here)

^^View from the Beachcomber. Not too shabby.

^^Chris with the Castillo de San Marcos fort in the background.

^^Check out all the wrist tags we needed! Shuttle. Concert. Drinks. Boat. Check!

^^This last photo was actually from Saturday night's show when Mumford was playing and it was lightning in the background. But we'll get to that ...

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October
We headed to Australia (also here) at the end of September and into October to celebrate our wedding with Chris’s side of the family, as well as to take a honeymoon trip to The Great Barrier Reef.

^^What bride gets to wear her wedding dress three times? This one, that's who!

^^ Mom and baby. Man I'll never stop loving it when I see these guys!

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^^ The Sydney Harbour's a real beaut - isn't she?

November
I headed to the suburbs of Philly in November to visit an old friend and her family, and we took a trip out to the Philadelphia Zoo while I was there …

^^ I was about to delete this photo of the Clown Fish because I had better ones, until I saw the Fish Photo Bomb.

^^ This little guy is a Red Panda, and she'll be making an appearance in my children's book very soon!

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^^ Rhino!

and we celebrated Thanksgiving in both Newburgh and New Jersey.

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December
This month we surprised my stepdad with a Super Secret weekend trip to Syracuse, his alma mater, for his 50th birthday.

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And we took a Christmas trip to Stowe, Vermont with some family

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And that about sums up 2013, friends! On the docket for 2014 so far is …

  • A trip to Saratoga Springs the first weekend in January to celebrate our one year anniversary. I’m particularly excited about the hotel where we’ll be staying — Saratoga Arms it’s gotten amazing reviews.
  • Iceland in February!
  • Denver in April with my sister and her boyfriend
  • A trip out to Cape Cod for a friend’s wedding (not to mention lots of other friends’ weddings scattered throughout the year!)
  • A potential 1.5-3 month trip in South America at the end of the year. Lots more on this to come.

Bis bald, friends! And may your new year be filled with fun travels, great friends and awesome experiences!

Travel Truisms

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I know I talk a lot about my favorite bloggers here (heads up: I’m about to do it again!), but they just inspire me so. Blogging is about so many things. A lot of times when I’m traveling I’m often taking photos of things that I think will look good on the blog. (Signs to remind me exactly of where I am, for example, or cute people I see out and about who are just too darn adorable not to photograph.)

But then there are times when, in the middle of taking those photos, I wonder: Would I be having more fun if I weren’t so concerned with what photos I’ll be putting on the blog? Or with jotting down every last detail so that I’ll have it to write about later?

Would I be more in the moment during my travels if I (gasp!) didn’t have to blog about it later??

And then of course there are times when, five years after visiting a place, a friend asks me what the name was of that adorable little rooftop drinks place in Rome and I can say, “You know what? Let me just look that up in my blog …” and it all goes away.

The photos I take. The memories I write down. They’re all part of this ongoing journey I’m on to see as much of this crazy, beautiful, wonderful world as I can. And yes, maybe sometimes taking photos takes me out of the moment for a couple of seconds just so I can get that perfect shot!  But I think, I hope, that if a moment is really worth having all to myself (or worth having with just someone special), that I know just when to put the camera down, and to just sit there and savor it. All for myself. Not for the sake of the blog.

Anyway, as I said at the beginning, I’m constantly inspired by bloggers I follow religiously who have beautiful photos, gorgeous families, travel up the whazoo and seem to just always, always have it together. Today, however, one of those favorite bloggers of mine wrote a post that was so real and so authentic, that it got me thinking I should do the same.

Here’s my version …

    • I know I blog a lot about how amazing it is to live in New York City, but sometimes I really don’t feel that way. In fact, sometimes I hate it. Sometimes I hate walking up four flights of stairs to get to my apartment. Sometimes I hate being shoved around on the subway. Sometimes (pretty much all the time) I hate the sweltering summers, with one tiny air conditioner for the whole apartment and sticky subway platforms and no cooling breezes or oceans to play in. But then I remember — I truly do believe that this is one of the best cities in the whole, entire world, and for however long my life keeps me here, I’m incredibly lucky to have this time.
    • The No. 1 tippity top place on my list that I want to travel to is the Galapagos Islands, and sometimes I get frustrated with myself that I haven’t made that enough of a priority.
    • Travel, to me, is about broadening my horizons. It’s about learning new things and meeting new people and seeing how everyone around the world lives.
    • I get incredibly jealous of other people’s travels, and I hate that about myself.
    • Sometimes, just sometimes, when I’m traveling, I wish I wasn’t a vegetarian so I could try more of the local cuisine.
    • Occasionally I feel guilty about how much money I’ve spent on travel over the years. I always try to be cheap about it, but let’s be honest — traveling is expensive. I’m young, and I have a lot of years to save up, but I’ve made traveling my priority for a while now, and it might be time to start thinking about some other things that’ll take up some money in the future. When I do start to feel guilty, though, I just go back and read some past travel posts. Then I remember that really, every trip I’ve had has been priceless.
    • I always feel like I haven’t traveled enough. Then I remember (ahem, Chris reminds me) that life is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have plenty of adventures to go on in the years ahead.
    • All of my trips have meant so much to me for different reasons, but I’d have to say the one that stands out the most was last summer when I took a surprise trip to Calabria to visit my Grandfather’s side of the family. I visited the house where my grandfather was born and raised, met family members I probably would never in my life have otherwise met … and I’ll never, ever forget the look on my grandfather’s brother’s face when he recognized who I was when I walked in the door.
    • Sometimes my travel goals keep me from doing things around New York City that I might enjoy. Chris and I are so busy saving up for future trips that sometimes I wonder if we’re robbing our present selves of interesting experiences.
    • I’ve never learned more about my girlfriends and sisters then when I’ve been traveling with them. Sometimes traveling together can be difficult — especially if you come into it with differing budgets and ideas for what you’d most like to accomplish — but if you can find a travel buddy who meshes with your own ideas of what travel should look like … well there’s nothing in the world more fun than that!
    • I will never, ever be able to print out all the photos I love most and create the photo albums/frames that I have planned in my mind. That’s just one more reason why I’m so thankful I have this blog to look back on.

    Bis bald, friends — and thanks for indulging me!

St. Augustine Follow-Up

Hi guys,

Since I ran out of photo space on the blog when I was trying to post about Chris’s birthday trip to St. Augustine, I feel like I somewhat short-changed the update. I wanted to just add a couple more photos here from our time spent in Florida a few weekends ago, and to give another big shout-out to Mike’s Yacht of Fun, which we did the Saturday we were there. That whole experience on the yacht really helped make our trip …

^^ You don’t have to be 12 to enjoy a good handstand on the beach.

^^ Bros.

^^ Mike’s yacht of fun. Seriously. Lots of fun.

^^ Manatee! I mean honestly, look how close we were!

^^ Pulling up to the Conch House for lunch.

^^ LOVE the Conch House. It’s right on the water.The food is tasty and on Sundays they have live jazz music and a great bar.

^^ Lunchtime views.

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^^ Moustaches were put  up all around the city to match the "Gentlemen of the Road'" theme.

^^ Moustaches were put up all around the city to match the “Gentlemen of the Road'” theme.

^^ And another.

^^ And another.

^^ And another. (If you look reallllyyy hard you can see it!)

^^ And another. (If you look reallllyyy hard you can see it!)

^^ One more.

^^ One more.

^^Last one. Sorry -- I love a good moustache.

^^Last one. Sorry — I love a good moustache.

^^ John Fogerty of CCR stepped in when Fun. backed out last minute. He was really, truly great.

^^ John Fogerty of CCR stepped in when Fun. backed out last minute. He was really, truly great.

^^ The grounds.

^^ The grounds.

^^ Stage view.

^^ Stage view.

^^ Hey Mumford. How's it shakin'?

^^ Hey Mumford. How’s it shakin’?

^^ A little lightening in the background made things pretty scenic.

^^ A little lightening in the background made things pretty scenic.

^^ After the concert we met up with Jon and Rachel and our newfound friends -- Mike of Mike's Yaht of Fun's son and his girlfriend. He proceeded to buy us shots of Absinthe, which was fun to watch the bartender make, but kind of gross to drink. Tastes like black licorice. Ick.

^^ After the concert we met up with Jon and Rachel and our newfound friends — Mike’s (of Mike’s Yacht of Fun) son and his girlfriend. He proceeded to buy us shots of Absinthe, which was fun to watch the bartender make, but kind of gross to drink. Tastes like black licorice. Ick.

Okay friends, now I’m done with my St. Augustine updates. Thank you for bearing with me.

Have a great weekend! Bis bald!

Australia Part III: Ships of Sydney

^^ The Sydney Harbour's a real beaut - isn't she?

^^ The Sydney Harbour’s a real beaut – isn’t she?

Hey friends,

I’m back now with my third and final Australia installation. I seriously cannot believe it’s been more than a week since we’ve been back. Time honestly flies by.

So back to two Fridays ago, Chris and I were boarding our flight on Hamilton Island to meet up with our family back in Sydney …

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Chris & Cheryl Go on a (Belated) Honeymoon: The Great Barrier Reef

Hi friends,

Welcome back. On to Part II of our Australian Adventure. Last Monday morning (was it seriously only last Monday morning?! Gosh a lot’s happened since then.) Chris and I left his house in Bathurst seriously early in the a.m. with his brother Ben and Ben’s girlfriend to head back to Sydney to catch our flight to … drum roll … THE GREAT BARRIER REEF!

^^ Flying over the Reef.

^^ Flying over the Reef.

^^ Be-aut-iful!

^^ Be-aut-iful! [Ed note: Please ignore the smudge on the lower right-hand side of my lens. It pains me that it’s there in some of my photos, and were I any good at Photoshop, yes, I would try to take it out.]

It only takes about two hours to fly from Sydney to the island where we were staying , Hamilton Island, which is part of the 74 Whitsunday Islands all located on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. And thank goodness, because I was ready to get my relax on! The place we stayed — the Whitsunday Apartments — was actually a group of apartments … obviously.

^^ The view from our balcony. Not too shabby.

^^ The view from our balcony. Not too shabby.

So we had a kitchen, bathroom, dining room, living room and really huge bedroom. It was nice that we really felt like we were on our own during our honeymoon, but at the same time had the help of people in the lobby if we really had a question or concern.  The island itself is relatively small, and it’s pretty easy to walk to the majority of the places you’d want to go (like the downtown shop area, the other resort pools and stores, the beach, the place where you could eat breakfast with the koalas!), but it is pretty hilly, and some of the spots (like one particularly gorgeous sunset area), is much more easily accessible via free bus transportation, or …..

^^ Everyone on the island rents these little electric golf carts to drive around -- no one except the owner of the island is allowed to drive regular cars on the land. We only rented the car on Tuesday, as we were doing excursions the other days we were there.

^^ Everyone on the island rents these little electric golf carts to drive around — no one except the owner of the island is allowed to drive regular cars on the land. We only rented the car on Tuesday, as we were doing excursions the other days we were there.

It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway — the beaches here are gorgeous. And during low tide, you can walk out for what seems like miles into the ocean, with all of these little pools of warm water around you, and tons of sea life surrounding you.

^^ Yup, it was jellyfish season. You pretty much have to be aware of that, then ignore it, or else you'll be obsessing over it the whole time you're in the water.

^^ Yup, it was jellyfish season. You pretty much have to be aware of that, then ignore it, or else you’ll be obsessing over it the whole time you’re in the water.

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^^ Having a drink poolside at one of the other hotel pools. Pool-hopping was one of my favorite things about the low-key feel of this island. It's like we were all one big happy family. No one cared where you were actually staying -- everyone was welcome everywhere!

^^ Having a drink poolside at one of the other hotel pools. Pool-hopping was one of my favorite things about the low-key feel of this island. It’s like we were all one big happy family. No one cared where you were actually staying — everyone was welcome everywhere!

While we spent most of the day Monday familiarizing ourselves with the island and the pools and the oceans, we wandered into town around 4:30, just to check it out, and ended up squatting at the Manta Ray Cafe, which turned out to be a great place to catch the sunset over the harbour, as well as to learn about some of the local wildlife from our waiter:

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^^ What? I'm not paying attention to you.

^^ What? I’m not paying attention to you.

^^ Oh yes I am. As our waiter pointed out (and as we later witnessed) the cockatoos on this island are not shy, and they WILL steal your food if you look away for even one second.

^^ Oh yes I am. As our waiter pointed out (and as we later witnessed) the cockatoos on this island are not shy, and they WILL steal your food if you look away for even one second.

^^ The fruit bats seriously come out at night. Ick!

^^ The fruit bats seriously come out at night. Ick!

On Tuesday we rented our little golf cart early in the morning, and then spent the morning eating breakfast with the koalas (yes, my favorite ever), and checking out the zoo.

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^^ Don’t worry — he was behind glass ;)

^^ Who knew this docile (and weird) looking bird would be Australia's deadliest bird. Doesn't he look like a turkey?!

^^ Who knew this docile (and weird) looking bird would be Australia’s deadliest bird. Doesn’t he look like a turkey?!

^^ I know, right. It's like, how can this  much cuteness exist in the world?

^^ I know, right. It’s like, how can this much cuteness exist in the world?

The rest of Tuesday was a pretty chill day for us. We checked out the island a bit more, had some drinks at the swim-up bar, slept on the beach, drove the car out to this spot with gorgeous views. You know — pretty typical Tuesday stuff.

^^ Just having wine and cheese and crackers on our awesome porch.

^^ Just having wine and cheese and crackers on our awesome porch.

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^^ Goodnight, Great Barrier Reef.

^^ Goodnight, Great Barrier Reef.

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^^ This little guy landed right on my arm which, of course, caused me to freak out. Oh, nature.

^^ This little guy landed right on my arm which, of course, caused me to freak out. Oh, nature.

^^ And this little guy was staring us down as we ate our Fish & Chips dinner by the harbour. We think he's a baby stone-curlew. Whatever he was, he was seriously funny looking.

^^ And this little guy was staring us down as we ate our fish & chips dinner by the harbour. We think he’s a baby stone-curlew. Whatever he was, he was seriously funny looking.

Onto Wednesday. Wednesday was an amazing day because, as a wedding gift to us, good family friend’s of Chris’s got us a half-day boat ride out to Whitehaven Beach.

Oh Whitehaven Beach … how beautiful were thee? The beach stretches out over 7 km (yup, that’s Aussie speak), and is completely uninhabited. It’s received a ton of accolades, such as “Queensland’s Most Beautiful Beach,” and for good reason. The sand is pure white, and it never gets hot. Plus it’s so fine, it’ll clean your jewelry for you while you sunbathe.

Not too shabby.

Oh, and there’s some sort of ridiculous fine if you were to try to steal sand from it. Something like $35,000. So don’t do that.

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So that was how we spent our Wednesday morning — chillin’ on the most beautiful beach in the world. When we got back mid-afternoon we did a bit more pool-hopping and beach sleeping and eating and drinking and card playing … just general merriment.

Thursday, then, was the day of all days. On Thursday, we took a full day boat excursion out to the Great Barrier Reef. This tour included oh-so-much. There was a breakfast on the boat, lunch out on the pontoon once we arrived at the Reef and a tea service on the ride back. There was snorkeling equipment at the Reef, a glass-bottom boat ride and an open observatory deck from the pontoon. All of that was included in the price. ($225 per person which, honestly, wasn’t that bad.) You could also purchase some additional activities for an added fee, like Scuba diving (which Chris did), and a guided snorkel tour (which I did). So when we arrived, luckily Chris and I were the first group to go on our perspective diving and snorkeling tours. (A quick note about the jellyfish: Since it was stinger season, we had to wear wetsuits into the water. This was my first experience wearing one and I have to say — I didn’t hate it. I mean, they definitely aren’t the most attractive things … but they kept me warm and safe, so I’m okay with it!)

Then we met up afterwards for lunch, went on the glass bottom boat ride and then spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling together.

Me oh my, it was amazing. Besides how gorgeous the Reef itself is (don’t stand on it or touch it! it turns to sand!), we saw Clown Fish (aka Nemo), sea cucumbers (which no one else was impressed with, but I was), giant sea turtles, clams the size of my body, this other fish that I don’t remember the name of that is so territorial that when my guide picked up a rock and placed it near the fish, he picked it up with his mouth and spit it out far away from him. Amazing. Plus tons of other awesomely colored and incredibly interesting sea life. Experience of a lifetime, to say the least.

Of course I didn’t take a ton of pictures here, because I was busy doin’ stuff (sorry), but here are a couple shots I was able to snap:

^^ Fish at the Reef, as seen from the glass bottom boat ride.

^^ Fish at the Reef, as seen from the glass-bottom boat ride.

^^ Some coral from the same ride.

^^ Some coral from the same ride.

^^ A view of the part of the Reef where we snorkeled and dove. Look at all that gorgeous green/blue coral under the water, just waiting to be checked out!

^^ A view of the part of the Reef where we snorkeled and dove. Look at all that gorgeous green/blue coral under the water, just waiting to be checked out!

^^ A storm was brewin' on our way back from the Reef. It made for some pretty awesome pictures.

^^ A storm was brewin’ on our way back from the Reef. It made for some pretty awesome pictures.

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Thursday night we had dinner reservations at coca chu, a restaurant that one of Chris’s aunts had recommended. We ordered delicious cocktails, a bottle of wine and more food than we could even possibly hope to eat in two days. (Seriously, our waiter even told us we ordered too much food. We can’t be stopped.) The food is South East Asian, and our table overlooked the ocean as the fish jumped in and out of the water.

Am I setting the scene enough for ya?

Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling all that well that night (major bummer). I think the travel and jet lag and drinking and eating had all finally caught up to me. No matter — it was still an awesome night with delicious food and fabulous company. That’s all you can really ask for, right?

Friday was our last day on the island, and we spent it doing a bit of shopping, grabbing some delicious breakfast at the local bakery and eating by the harbour, and drinking the last of our wine and beer on the beach. It was seriously sad to say goodbye to Hamilton Island and our little honeymoon, but we had the best, most amazing time. Chris and I both keep saying how we loved that the island provided the perfect blend of fun activities and adventure with just the right amount of leisure and relaxation. You can chose to do nothing at all, and still have fabulous time, or you can do all the activities your little heart desires. (Chris even took a 2.5 mile hike one day while I took a nap. Gotta love that.)

Friday afternoon it was back to Sydney to meet up with our families for our last weekend in Australia, as well as to take in the International Fleet Review.

But I’ll be back with that blog post next week ;) Bis bald, friends! Hope you all have awesome weekend activities planned!

Australia … Tomorrow!

Hi friends,

So unfortunately it looks like updating this site isn’t going to make it to the top of my list of things to do before we head off to Australia TOMORROW! Bummer. At any rate, to seriously super quickly sum up our Saturday in St. Augustine for Chris’s birthday ….

  • We rented Mike’s Yacht of Fun, complete with boat driver Mike and his lovely wife, for the day Saturday. We drank some beer and ate some snacks, went swimming, saw some manatees, had lunch at The Conch House, and just had an amazing time in general. We also met Mike’s son when he rode out on his jet ski to meet us when we were swimming, and he suggested that we all meet up later that night, after the concert, which we did. And it was amazing.
  • The concert on Saturday was great! Mumford was totally amazing, and at the last minute the band Fun backed out, so John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame stepped in and was. awesome! He played a couple songs with Mumford and Sons, as well, and it was really just a very good festival — I would highly recommend it for next year!
  • After the concert we met up with Riley (Mike’s son) and Jon and Rachel at a bar and ate delicious fried pickles and fried green tomatoes, and drank A LOT of drinks. (Which may or may not have included Absinthe. It did include Absinthe. It was gross, because I hate black licorice, but it was fun to watch them melt sugar over the top!)

Anyway, I really wish I could have posted photos from the concert and our day sailing (we got SO CLOSE to the manatees!), but maybe after I update I will, and I wanted to get this last post up before we leave.

So that’s it, friends! Tomorrow we’re off for two weeks to Australia for our fourth and final wedding celebration, not to mention our honeymoon at the Great Barrier Reef …. awahooo!!!

In the meantime, I’ll also be reading this NY Times piece about spending 36 hours in Reykjavik, Iceland, in preparation for our trip there in February.

Okay, bis bald, friends! Wish us a safe (and short!) flight, and I’ll be back with updates (and photos!) soon!

xo,

WW

A Birthday Trip for the Books: Part I

Hi friends,

So this past weekend we headed off to my old stomping grounds, St. Augustine, Florida, to take in the Gentleman of the Road Stopover Tour for Chris’s Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip. Two of our friends (who are currently dating, thanks to us ;) ), came with us and surprised Chris on the plane. He had no idea they would be there. It was sort of amazing.

The entire package was booked through CID entertainment, including our hotel (The Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites St. Augustine North — which was fantastic), the 2-day festival tickets, two t-shirts, two posters and shuttle passes to and from the festival grounds until 3 in the morning. They made everything so simple for us, and I was SUPER impressed with them. If you’re ever thinking of booking a package through them, I’d highly recommend it!

Anyway, back to last Friday, our friends Jon and Rachel had surprised Chris on the plane, and we were off! We rented cars in Jacksonville and drove the 45 mins to St. Augustine. Friday we started with some delicious seafood at Mango Mango’s near the beach (try their famous Corn Cakes with Monterrey Jack … to die for!), then we hung out on the beach for a while (where I played touch football for my first time ever … yikes), and got some drinks at the Beachcomber Restaurant, which is right on the beach.

^^Cute little houses on the way to the beach

^^Cute little houses on the way to the beach

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^^We changed into our swimsuits in the public restroom across the street from Mano Mango’s. Classy people we are.

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^^View from the Beachcomber. Not too shabby.

^^View from the Beachcomber. Not too shabby.

After our early afternoon beach visit we headed to Publix to pick up drinks for Saturday’s boat trip (oh Publix, how I’ve missed you!), then went back to the hotels to shower and get ready to catch the shuttle to downtown for the festival. 

A word about St. Augustine’s downtown area. It’s gorgeous. So cute, and a lot of fun to explore. Every street you turn down has a different and interesting feel to it — art stores, cafes, bakeries, bars, it’s just really fun. This trip was not, however, a site-seeing trip, so I won’t be talking much about the downtown area other than to say that if you go to St. Augustine, you must visit it. The concert venue was in a park that was literally in the middle of the downtown, but it was late both Friday and Saturday when we got out, so we pretty much picked a bar both nights and hung out.

On Friday night Chris and I were excited to catch Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. And they definitely did not disappoint. Neither did the venue, actually …

^^Check out all the wrist tags we needed! Shuttle. Concert. Drinks. Boat. Check!

^^Check out all the wrist tags we needed! Shuttle. Concert. Drinks. Boat. Check!

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^^This last photo was actually from Saturday night's show when Mumford was playing and it was lightning in the background. But we'll get to that ...

^^This last photo was actually from Saturday night’s show when Mumford was playing and it was lightning in the background. But we’ll get to that …

After the show we did get to take in a little bit of the downtown area while waiting to meet up with our friends.

^^Chris with the Castillo de San Marcos fort in the background.

^^Chris with the Castillo de San Marcos fort in the background.

^^Chris thought he needed to take 150 packets of cheese from the pizza truck at the festival. Ask if those made it home with us ...

^^Chris thought he needed to take 150 packets of cheese from the pizza truck at the festival. Ask if those made it home with us …

^^ Chris and the oldest wooden school house in America.

^^ Chris and the oldest wooden school house in America.

Something else that was really fun was that the city put gigantic moustaches all around, in random places, in honor of the Gentlemen Tour. They pretty much cracked me up. I wanted to post some photos here, but since I’m out of photo space, I guess that’ll have to wait until I upgrade the site.

Okay friends. I’m off to upgrade this WordPress package of mine so I can hop back on here soon and finish up info from our St. Augustine trip before we head out to Australia this Tuesday!

Bis bald, everyone! Hope you all have fun weekend plans!

Secret St. Augustine Success!

Hi friends,

So Chris and I returned from his Super Secret Birthday Trip last night and it was a roaring success, if I do say so myself!

I haven’t had a chance to upload my photos from the trip yet, but as a quick sneak-peak, here are two iPhone photos to tide you over:

^^Check out the AMAZING venue, with Mumford and Sons playing while lightning (!) goes off in the background. It never actually rained, just provided us with some added entertainment!

^^Check out the AMAZING venue, with Mumford and Sons playing while lightning (!) goes off in the background. It never actually rained, just provided us with some added entertainment!

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Some friends came with us and TOTALLY surprised Chris on the plane … but more on that later!

Anyway, we went to the beach, listened to amazing music, ate great food, took a boat ride and saw some matinees … all in only two days! I’m exhausted, but it was totally worth it!

More photos to come later this week — and we’re off to Australia in EIGHT days … oh my!

Bis bald, friends!

A Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip for the Man!

^^ I did it! I pulled off a secret!

^^ I did it! I pulled off a secret!

Hi friends!

So tomorrow is the big day — the day Chris and I fly out for his Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip! And yes, I somehow DID manage to keep the secret! (Well not the whole secret, I accidentally forwarded our flight information to him thinking it was information about a different flight. That was stupid.)

I put together these three envelopes for Chris to open when he got home tonight. Step 1 contained our boarding passes for our flight tomorrow. Step 2 contained our rental car information, becauseeeeeeee … Step 3 were our tickets to the Gentlemen of the Road St. Augustine Stopover Tour!

I’m totally excited for this. Not only will we be seeing Mumford & Sons, fun., Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and tons of other great acts, but I’ll finally get to show Chris St. Augustine, the town where I lived for a year and 1/2 after graduating from college. It means a lot to me to be able to share that with him.

I also booked a boat tour with Mike’s Yacht of Fun — so I can’t wait to report back on that!

Bis bald, friends! Pray for us to have good weather!

The Excitement of Upcoming Travel

Hi friends!

Well we’re firmly into the second quarter of 2013 here, and it’s time for me to start getting excited about some of the trips we have planned for the rest of the year.

So let’s see. For starters, my in-laws will be making their way to the U.S. the week after next, and Chris and I will be heading to London with them to watch Chris run the London Marathon:

100_6027^^A little flashback to when Steph and I first visited London back in 2010

Then, Chris and I booked a trip out to Arizona to visit an old friend of mine for the weekend of July 4th. Neither one of us has been before, so we’re super excited. We’re going to go camping and hiking, and visit Lake Powell and Havasu Falls:

images

September will be a big month for us, too. We’ll be heading to Australia to celebrate our wedding with Chris’s side of the family, and then taking a couple-day honeymoon to The Great Barrier Reef:

100_5405

^^A little memory from our last trip to Australia (written about here and here). That’s Shawn the Koala, the subject of my soon-to-written children’s book series. Seriously. It’s coming.

There will be another trip in September two weekends before Australia, but that’s super secret for now, as it’s a surprise trip in honor of Chris’s 30th birthday. Let’s just say—I’m super excited about it!

And that’s about it (for now)! Bis bald, friends! I’ll catch up with you again super soon …

A Very Hamptons Girlfriend Getaway

Hey friends,

So my sister finally posted some photos from my surprise bachelorette bash in the Hamptons, and I thought I’d share them here. I loved our time together talking, eating, drinking, taking in the hot tub and watching movies by the fire. It was perfect, and I’m blessed to have the sisters and friends that I have …

The bus that took us to the restaurant Saturday night was Jamaican themed!

The house we stayed in was gorgeous, and right on the bay!

Our night view.

The beautiful breakfast my sisters had for everyone.

From when we took a walk on the beach.

Our hot tub!

Our porch view.

Me and some of my gals.

I’m getting married!

Me and the gals from Learnvest.

Me and my sisters, whom I love dearly for throwing me this little shindig.

Bis bald, friends! I hope you all had a lovely holiday!

My Trip to Calabria, Part Deux

Welcome back friends! I’ve come to the part of my travel blogging that I always hate–the part where I write about the rest of the trip and then I’m done. It always feels so finite, like I’m actually finally done with the trip. There’s nothing left to do. The last word has been written. As long as I still have these blog posts to write, the trip is still alive in my mind, you know?

Anyway, as they say… all good things must come to an end, I guess.

So here we go, on with the final few days of my trip.

Continue reading

Back From Key West!

Hey friends!

So my sisters and I arrived back in NY last night after an awesome trip to Key West. It’s 11:40 at night right now, so I’m not going to write up the entire Key West blog post, but as a preview, let me say:

  • Flying first class is ah-mazing
  • Key West is eclectic, funny and wonderful
  • I lost my dad’s headsets
  • Comped 3-bedroom/3-bathroom suites are also ah-mazing
  • Driving a Mustang convertible is as fun as it would seem

Anyway friends, tomorrow=full blog post, I promise.

Until then…bis bald!

MIA = Me

Hi guys! So I’ve been MIA again lately…my bad! I’ve been plugging away on my travel plans for this year and, oh yeah, I got engaged :)

VERY excited about all that! Of course, that doesn’t really have anything to do with travel (although I will say that we will most likely be having a destination wedding. So that will most certainly be about travel!)

Anyway, besides all that, my sisters and I are headed off tomorrow for a trip to Key West. I’m beyond excited. This will be the first time that the three of us are going on a trip alone together, so I think it’ll be a lot of fun. I haven’t (yet) convinced them to go snorkeling with me, but don’t worry, I have time to do that…

In other news, Chris is all booked for the Berlin marathon in September. We’re thinking our Europe trip will be a couple of days in Berlin for the race, a couple of days in Munich for Oktoberfest, then renting a car (which is my new favorite aspect of this trip!) and driving to Venice for a night, before training it to Rome. Chris has never been to Germany or Italy, so I’m really excited to show him around there, especially Rome.

Yup, it’ll be tiring. That’s how most of my vacations turn out to be. However, my sisters have made it well-known that they would like for this Key West trip to be a relaxing one. I’m cool with that. I think I have it in me to do a relaxing trip!

Okay friends, you know how it goes….bis bald, until next time! I’ll be back soon with Key West photos and updates!

Jamaica in Photos

Hi Friends!

So last night, at around midnight, Chris and I arrived back in NYC after our trip to Jamaica for our cousins wedding.

Sad!

It’s so sad to come home from a trip, especially one that was as fun as this one to Jamaica was. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort, the Iberostar Suites, in Montego Bay, Chris and I sharing a room with my sister, which was totally fun (well, for us it was! I’m pretty sure Jen would say she definitely knows Chris a bit better after that experience).

All in all, the five days we spent in Jamaica were amazing. It was fun to hang out with the entire family, and the weather was great. The only time we had rain was late one afternoon while some of us were visiting the little shacks off the hotel property (ominously labeled by the sign: “Enter at your own risk”) where local people sold goods they had, allegedly, made. We bought a painting and some wooden pooh bots, with each and every seller offering Chris a hit of their weed, as well.

He declined, of course.

And somehow, despite all the drinking and sitting around in the sun by the pool and the beach that we did (and trust me, we did a lot of this), we managed to be a bit active. We did water aerobics in the ocean (taught by one of the many beautiful staff workers at the Iberostar), and Chris, my dad, Judy and I also decided to test out the snorkeling that was available from the hotel, which was amazing.

We went to a beach party that included lots of provocative dancing and a fire-eating dancer, and went to a disco. With my dad. I went to a disco with my dad.

I got stung by a jellyfish, and, perhaps most importantly, revealed to my dad and Judy that I had a tattoo. After having waited years to tell my dad this, when I finally did tell him that I had a tattoo, his response was: “I know. I saw it on the boat.”

Sheesh, it was anticlimactic.

Anyway, here are some visual memories:

The ladies taking on some water aerobics

 

Fire dancer!

Midnight beach walking

Sisters

The fam

 

The happy newlyweds!

Off to snorkel!

The spear fisherman who we gave a ride back to the shore after snorkeling caught all these fish! With a spear!

And that’s about it, my friends! Here’s hoping some of my family reads this and shares their own memories (hint, hint!).

Here’s to the next trip—Key West in January with the sisters.

Bis bald, friends!

Jamaica! In T-9 Days…

Jamaica in November

Jamaica !!

Hey friends! So it’s only 9 days left until our trip to Jamaica … so exciting!

Our brochure and tickets (actual plane tickets! Do you even remember what those look like?!) came in the mail the other day, and we are so, so, so excited!

And speaking of trips, as this year begins to wind down (which, by the way, I seriously can’t believe…), I’m starting to get really excited for the trips I have planned for next year (as is usually the case with me).

Here’s what’s on tap (hopefully) for next year:

  • Key West in January with my sisters
  • Costa Rica in April with Chris
  • New Orleans with Lisa at some point
  • Berlin, Munich, Rome and Venice with Chris and some other friends for the Berlin marathon and Oktoberfest in September/October

Man I love traveling :)

Bis bald, friends!

In The News: South Padre Island “Best Affordable U.S. Vacation”

 

South Padre Island

U.S. News & World Report  has named South Padre Island the “Best Affordable U.S. Vacation” and “Best Family Beach Vacation” in their first-ever Best Vacations rankings, found here. According to a press release, the rankings compare the most popular travel spots against one another for the benefit of prospective travelers. They use a combination of how strongly a collection of published travel writers recommend the destination and how strongly U.S. News Travel website users recommend the destination to determine the winners.