Have a Happy Friday, Friends!

02_BrooklynDinner^^ Empanadas and fried plantains at Ideya in Brooklyn with friends before flying back to Denver earlier this week.

Happiest of happy Fridays to you, my friends! Chris and I have spent this week getting back into the groove of things (this is especially true for me, since I’d been in New York for 12 days … sheesh!), and this will be a quiet little weekend spent with some friends and checking out a brewery and beer factory (hopefully!) in a nearby town.

Bis bald, friends! Until next week …

01_Subway^^ Every time I return to New York now I end up acting like a total tourist. Our old 6-train subway line from Grand Central to the Upper East Side. Le sigh.

03_Courtney Shower^^ Celebrating a cousin’s impending (second!) baby with dinner at Homegrown Tap & Dough and dessert (ice cream, duh!) from Bonnie Brae Ice Cream, a Denver institution.

04_Penny^^ Coming home to this little lady’s not so bad.

The Year 2014: A Review

Well, friends, it’s been quite the year! When I’m old and grey and looking back on my travels, this will certainly be one of my favorite years to reference. Here’s how our adventure-filled 365 days played out:

January
In January Chris and I headed upstate for a first anniversary trip to Saratoga Springs, which we promptly fell absolutely in love with.

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February
As the winter weather dragged itself out in NYC, Chris and I decided to spice things up a bit, so we packed up and headed over to Iceland (blogged about here, hereherehere and here — man I know how to drag out a trip, don’t I!). While there we saw the Northern lights (once in a lifetime experience), rented bicycles to ride around the city, tried out some local beers, relaxed at the Blue Lagoon and generally fell in love with Iceland’s gorgeous scenery.

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March
In March I headed down to Florida for a little girlfriend’s/birthday getaway in Jupiter and Marathon Key (the trip was about 10 days long, so it lasted from the end of March all the way through my birthday into the beginning of April.) In Florida we saw spectacular sunsets, amazing marine life and even took a kayak ride through the mangroves. It was a spectacular birthday, indeed.

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April
After deciding to pack up and move our little family to Denver, Colorado, Chris and I decided — maybe we should visit there and see how it actually is before doing so! So in April we flew out to the middle of the country with my sister and her then-boyfriend (now fiancée!) to check out Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver. What we found were really sweet people, tons of awesome breweries and amazing outdoor opportunities.

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May
In late April/early May I took the bus down to D.C. to visit a friend for her birthday, and we decided to rent some kayaks (which is kind of becoming our thing now) and take them out on the Potomac.

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June
In June Chris and I hopped in the car and took a day trip to Phoenicia and Otter Falls, places he visits every year when he and a bunch of his running friends run a relay race in the area. He had been wanting to get me up there to taste the amazing pancakes at Sweet Sue’s Restaurant (they don’t disappoint!) and see the waterfall at Otter Falls.

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July
In July I headed to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware with my immediate family and a ton of our extended family for some quality beach time (and a delicious seafood night — a time-honored family tradition).

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September
In September Chris and I were lucky enough to cash in on one of our awesome wedding presents and take a helicopter ride high above beautiful ole’ NYC

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We also participated in my family’s annual Penn State football tailgate weekend in Happy Valley, but this time with one very notable addition — our nephew, Rory ;)

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And then, at the end of the month, I was honored when the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau invited me out for a visit to their beautiful city (blogged about here, here and here). P.S. This trip included my first ever hot air balloon ride — amazing!

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October and November
Well, friends, October and November were the months to end all months for us. After about a year and a half of planning, Chris and I finally headed out on our four-week long adventure to South America, including Peru (blogged about here, here and here) , the Amazon, the Galapagos and Costa Rica. There’s not much more that I can say here about this part of the year that I haven’t already said in my other posts about them, but I’ll just say one more time — this was the trip of a lifetime, and we’re so grateful we were able to take the time to do it.

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December
And then, my friends, after all of that, Chris and I were lucky enough to hop back on a plane in December and fly off to spend the holiday season with Chris’s family in Australia.

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Miscellaneous
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of other amazing things that happened this year, like taking part in wedding ceremonies and bachelorette parties for six of our friends, my baby sister getting engaged, checking a couple of big NYC things off our bucket lists (like this visit to the Cloisters and this one to the Met rooftop bar), and, of course, saying farewell to the city we love so dearly.

IMG_4223^^ Visiting the Met rooftop with my dad and stepmom for Father’s Day.

IMG_4466^^ Celebrating a cousin’s wedding in Brooklyn.

IMG_4472^^ We sure know how to party down. (And we had lots of practice with tons of weddings this year!)

Me_and_Lise2^^ Hosting a bestie who has long since moved from the city and came back for a visit.

Monkey_Bar10^^ Revisiting my absolutely favorite restaurant in Manhattan.

photo 2^^ Attending Rory’s first-ever baseball game. (Go Mets!)

photo 2^^ Checking out new and fun areas in Manhattan.

photo 3^^ Taking a gorgeous fall hike in beautiful areas to break in new hiking shoes.

RoryBabysit^^ Spending some time with my nephew = always a fabulous time.

Atlantic_City^^ Heading to Atlantic City (twice!) for friends’ bachelorette parties.

You’ve been a pretty stellar year — 2014. I’m sad to say goodbye, but excited to see what 2015 holds.

Bis bald, friends — and very merry and happy New Year!

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!

From the Archives: The Road Trips Of My Childhood

On the Huffington Post today, Millie Kerr faces her impending 30th birthday with a look back on her travels over the years—and specifically on what she calls the “never-ending road trips” that she and her family would take.

Millie’s own memories got me feeling a bit nostalgic, as well as a bit sad.

When I think back to all the “never-ending road trips” that I took with my own family, I can’t help but wonder how the rise in gas prices may be depriving Americans of something they might not even have considered—the epic, memorable family road trip. While the majority of my “adult” traveling life has been engineered by boats and planes, my childhood was peppered with family road trips that included little more than the four or five of us (depending on which family it was), the car, some good books and toys and music, and the open road. We never headed too far—Boston, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and the Jersey Shore were all favorite haunts of ours. But it wasn’t even so much the destination (although don’t get me wrong, those were amazing as well) as it was the journey and the shared experiences that kept us packing it in the car for more every year.
There is something to be said about waking up at the crack of dawn and piling your bags by the trunk of the car in the driveway so that your dad or step-dad could systematically load them in, or sleeping under one blanket with your sisters as your dad or stepdad continues the drive through the night.
There is something to be said about sitting, elbow to elbow, with your sisters in the back seat of the Dodge Caravan or Subaru Outback, verbally sparring for more room, but secretly not minding too much.
There is something to be said about the miles we traveled while writing stories to ourselves in our notebooks, belting out lyrics of songs we listened to over and over again in our Walkmans, and then our Discmans, or looking out the window at the countryside rolling by.
There is something to be said about the pit stops along the way, the fast food you ate that never quite tasted the same when you weren’t on an epic family road trip, or the snacks that your mom and stepmom packed for you for the hours-long ride.
When I think about my future and having kids of my own some day, I’m saddened to wonder if I will be able to afford giving them the same kind of memories. How much money would an epic road trip like the kind we used to take cost now that gas prices are topping out over $4? What will the vacations of my children’s futures look like?
I’m saddened to think I might not be able to give them everything my parents gave me on those bumpy, windy journeys we took years ago—with the windows down and the wind blowing in our faces.
I think they gave us more than they may even know….

From the Archives: When in Banff, Play Like the Locals

The beautiful town of Banff is completely surrounded by mountains.

About two years ago, and after I had only known him for three weeks, Chris packed up and left the U.S. to head over to Banff, Canada, for a five-month long trip to work and play.

Lucky for me, we continued to talk while he was gone, which meant that right around the two month mark after he left, we both felt it was time for a trip. I was headin’ to Banff! I wouldn’t have a lot of time off of work, since it was only one month after I returned from Hawaii, but you’d be surprised, as I was, with everything you can do in Banff in only 4 days.

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From the Archives: Australia Part II

Even though we had a great time site seeing, eating, scouting out kangaroos and soaking up the sun, my all-time favorite aspect of the trip was my never-ending Melbourne family

Back in the land of Oz we boarded an early morning plane (complete with a sad, screaming baby) on Jan. 2 for a short two-hour kangaroo hop, skip and jump from Sydney to Melbourne.
This magical place called Melbourne held special meaning for me, because we would be staying with my grandfather’s fantastic Italian family. With oodles of aunts, uncles and cousins—only about 1/8 of whom I’d actually already met—to catch up with, I knew it would be another whirlwind time for us, but well worth it. With only three full days to take it all in, that would mean more late nights and crack of dawn mornings, but we were up for the challenge. More Aussie photo memories after the jump.

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From the Archives: In the Land Down Under

When in Australia, the first (and main) thing you should concern yourself with is seeking out these magnificent creatures in their wild habitat. Then, once you find them, do your best not to disturb them, cause they can be meeeaaannnn

I’m sorry I couldn’t think of a more original way to introduce the blog entry that is actually the most recent traveling that I have done—on this, my travel blog.

But it will have to do.

In December and January Chris and I took a trip back to his homeland for Christmas and New Years, and it was even better than I ever could have imagined. I have been thinking about how to write something up about the trip since I started this blog, and friends and family who have looked at it ask me how I could have gone so long without writing something about it. The truth is, it was such a detailed, long, multiple-journeyed trip, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. I think I’ve settled on letting the photos do most of the talking (and there are lots of photos). So without further adieu, here are some of the highlights.

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From the Archives: A Throwback to Valentines Days Past

This year I spent Valentines day at my mom’s house, planning an upcoming trip to Europe with my sister. Last year, however, Chris and I were on a boat heading out to snorkel in the Bahamas.

There’s a lot to be said about this. For our first Valentines day when we were actually physically together (the first year we were dating he was in Banff), it was pretty great to be in the Bahamas. On the other hand, we learned a pretty valuable lesson on that trip—if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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From the Archives: There’s no place like…

Hawaii with a friend.

While I await the upcoming adventures of Chris in Japan from this weekend (snowboarding with his best friend at the resort where he works -tough life!), I’ll pull some trips from my archives to post.

When a high school friend of mine decided to move to Hawaii after she graduated from college, sure, I knew I’d miss her, but also, I was friggin’ excited! Since Chris was away in Banff, Canada, at the time, I decided I’d treat myself to my own little Valentines day treat and I booked my flight to coincide with the ‘holiday of love.’

And I was in love. From the second I stepped off the plane and got “leid,” until the time I had to (unfortunately) board to go back home, I fell more and more in love with the island. We stayed on Honolulu and made a couple of treks out to Waikiki and some other touristy spots, but for the most part, the greatest thing was seeing Hawaii through the eyes of a person who lived there. Faye took me to local bars and her favorite restaurants. We went to a fancy hotel bar and saw David Beckham (not planned, just fate, I swear!), and we went on hikes and jumped off of waterfalls. Here are a few of the highlights:

Everywhere you go in Hawaii you want to take photos, but it’s so frustrating, because no photo ever turns out as beautiful as the scenery actually is. Since it’s now been a full two years since I was there (sob!!!), it’s hard for me to remember all of the tiny details of the trip, other than to look through my photos (another good reason to blog!). I think nobody really needs convincing to go to a place like Hawaii, but I have to admit, it was never really on my ‘must visit’ list until I knew I had someone to go there and visit with. Having gone now, though, I’d go back in a heartbeat. My trip with Faye was more on the adventurous side, which I loved. Next time I might spend more time on the beach, mixed in with the hiking and the waterfall jumping. Still, I love a vacation that has some sort of mix of the two.

Hopefully I’ll have an update next week or the week after from Chris’s trip to Japan. He’ll be there right during the Japanese New Year (it’s actually the night he arrives), so it should be really fun.

Until next time…bis bald…and see you soon!

From the Archives: A Beautiful Burlington

A few months ago I found myself between a rock and a hard place. I was desperate for a little vacay time, but neither my boyfriend nor any of my friends had the extra days that I had. So I decided to take it to a higher source.

My mom had a little time on her hands, and she was still upset over the loss of our family pup and felt like she could use a get-away as well. Still, it took some coaxing on my part to get her to agree to a short trip. Then, once that was decided, it was clearly time to pick the place. I suggested California— she said too far. I suggested Chicago. She said she wasn’t too keen on the prices of flights at the time. So I did a little further digging and came up with Burlington. I had heard great things about it—like mountains, breweries, cobblestone streets and Lake Champlain. And that’s all before the amazing fall foliage you’ll find if you go at a time like we did— in mid-October.

A few highlights:

Homemade apple cider at an apple cider mill in the mountains in fall= best time ever.

Gorgeous Lake Champlain.

Drinking beer with mom from a local brewery. Priceless.

A Burlington vineyard.

It’s just a tiny taste of Burlington (not to mention the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour and the Lake Champlain chocolates factory tour and tasting), but having just been there for four days left me wanting to see more of it. My mom and I have decided to make the mother-daughter trip a yearly thing, so maybe this year we’ll hit it up again. Could I get her on the ski slopes next time? Probably not, but here’s hoping!

A few other must-hit spots if you’re in the Burlington (and surrounding) area:

The Skinny Pancake: for some really delicious crepes
Nectars:
if you happen to care where the band Phish began (who doesn’t care about that?!)
Downtown Burlington (Church Street Marketplace): complete with street performers, tree-lined cobblestone streets and a street named Cherry (guess what lives on that street? You guessed it. Ben & Jerry’s. They’re everywhere in Burlington!)
The Storm Cafe: overlooking Otter creek, it’s a little creepy to go when it’s raining, but cute nonetheless

Until next time, my friends…bis bald…and see you soon!