And so here we are, friends … we’ve arrived at our final two days in Australia. Le sigh.
Our last two days were filled with all the classic Australian activities, including checking out Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, then heading out on the Manly Ferry to check out Manly Beach with some family and old friends. Lotte had the best time splashing around in the water with our friends’ son, who is one year older, and we’ve discovered G’s love of fish and chips, as was demonstrated by her eating all of Chris’ aunt’s fish after she woke from a delightful nap by the beach.
Lotte and I just flew back yesterday from our quick trip to New York, and as much as we missed dad (sorry Chris!), we had so much fun. Lotte had a ton of firsts (first trip to the beach! first first birthday party!), we celebrated my Uncle’s retirement, we met my sister and bro-in-law’s new puppy, and just pretty much rocked out on our trip together.
Don’t get me wrong … traveling alone with a little one is super hard. The flight? Hard. Doing everything yourself for five days straight? Hard. Ummm … major shout-out to all the single parents out there who do that every. single. day. I honestly am in awe of you.
On that note, I want to publicly thank the staff at Delta for being amazing on our flight out to New York. When the woman giving me bag tags for Lotte’s car seat and stroller saw that I was booked in a middle seat, she moved us so we had a full aisle all to ourselves.
On the flight, the flight attendants were so super helpful and sweet. They held Lotte for me while I went to the bathroom, gave me free food from the menu you’re supposed to pay for, and were so supportive when I walked her up and down the aisle for about 20 minutes until she fell asleep (for about 40 minutes :/). All-in-all, it was the best flight I’ve had with her so far, and this was Lotte’s fifth time flying. Thanks again, Delta!
Anyway, enough of that. Here’s what we got up to!
^^ Lotte loved Linus, my sister and Brian’s new pup. He was pretty good with her, too, even though you could tell they both were a little confused about who (and what) exactly the other was 😉
^^ On Friday my sister took off from work (thanks sis!) and we headed to Rye Beach, which was Lotte’s first beach experience. I would definitely recommend this beach, especially to people with kids. It was clean and had plenty of bathrooms, the water was super calm and it’s near an amusement park as well, if that’s your thing. It does cost a bit to go ($15 to park and $10/person for admittance), but if you stay long enough it’s definitely worth it. At first Lotte wasn’t so sure about the water and kept holding her feet up when I tried to put them in, but she got the hang of it and really loved hanging out under the umbrella. Carla and Fiona met us there and we actually got a good couple of hours out of the babes. I was pretty impressed!
^^ Saturday was my Uncle’s retirement party, which was a really fun time. They had it at Limoncello’s Restaurant, which always has good food, and we danced and ate cupcakes and had a merry, jolly good time!
^^ Every single time my grandmother and Lotte get to see each other it’s pretty much my favorite time ever.
^^ On Sunday Steph and Brian hosted a first birthday bash for little Lotte at their house! We had about 15 people and got lots of delicious food, and my sister ordered the most adorable cakes you’ve ever seen in your entire life. We had a swing and a little pool for the kiddies, and Lotte got some amazing presents. She’s one lucky gal, my daughter is!
^^ I ordered the sandwiches from Hannaford’s, and we were pleasantly surprised with how tasty and sizable they were. Would definitely recommend!
^^ My sister’s hydrangea bush is insane, so she brought some inside to decorate. How pretty are these?!
^^ Lotte sure does love a good splash around!
^^ These three <3
^^ Look at this cake! This was Lotte’s “smash” cake, which she was meant to just smash her hands into. At first she wasn’t so sure what to do with it, but once I gave her a taste of frosting with my finger, it was all I could do to stop her from eating the whole thing.
^^ And these bunnies, which are actually made of cupcakes, were the cutest! Our theme was “Some Bunny Is One,” and Steph smashed is out of the park with her surprise birthday cakes. Love you little sis!
^^ Facetiming Dad (who couldn’t take time off work for this particular trip) while we sang happy birthday!
^^ Loves everything about it.
^^ Gift opening wasn’t necessarily Lotte’s favorite part of the party, but it was (one of) mine! Look at this adorable doll my sis and Brian picked up for Steph while they were on their honeymoon in Italy! The. Stinkin’. Cutest. Now I just have to hide it from her so she can’t actually play with it.
^^ The greatest family who made Lotte’s first first birthday party oh-so-special. I can’t thank you guys enough!
Lotte’s actual birthday is this Thursday, so my dad and stepmom are arriving tonight and my stepdad tomorrow, and we’re basically just going to have a week of Lotte fun time. Because you only turn one once, right?
Well guys — Chris and I have been in Denver for about 3 1/2 weeks now, and while I’m not necessarily homesick, I would say I’m feeling a certain wistful nostalgia for all the plans we made last year and all the traveling we did. From South America to Australia to traveling cross-country — along with all the time we spent with my family at home in between — I loved every last second of it, and as Chris and I were just saying: we wouldn’t have changed one damn thing.
So I guess it’s a good thing that I haven’t had time to upload the photos from my camera since right after South America, then, because it afforded me the opportunity to relive November, December and the beginning of January all over again.
And I thought I’d share some of that here … you know, in case you wanted to partake in my wistful nostalgia.
^^ A big ole’ plate of ribs for Robert’s birthday. (I refrained, obviously, but I’m told they were delicious.)
^^ This. Face.
^^ This boy loves his trains.
^^ It’s Dad’s job to carve the turkey every year, and he only eats about half of it while he’s doing so 😉
^^ Chris and I managed to make it back to the city in between hanging with fam, too. We even made to my favorite place in the entire world to ice skate — Bryant Park.
^^ A blurry but still beautiful Grand Central.
^^ Mom and I made some gingerbread cookies that, much to my surprise, turned out pretty fabulous!
^^ These Connor boys … too cute!
^^ Beautiful Sydney in the background.
^^ So grateful for these Sydney friends of ours! (And so excited to meet their little baby, coming in just a few months now!)
^^ Watson’s Bay waves.
^^ Sydney blues.
^^ Chris and I were lucky enough to be able to spend a whole week with his sister and her boo in Canberra. Kate took the week off to hang with us, and it was pretty much the best ever. This little pooch hung out with us while we did some wine tasting at a vineyard in the area.
^^ Pssst…it really wasn’t. Because it was hot. And there was no snow. But it was still one of my all-time fave Christmas’ ever!
^^ Kate works at Old Parliament house, and we were lucky enough to get an insider’s tour.
^^ I couldn’t agree more with this saying on display in one of the rooms at Old Parliament House.
^^ The Australian Coat of Arms at the new Parliament House.
^^ Bro and sis … duh!
^^ I call this one “Me, Kate and the Kangaroos.”
^^ After Canberra Chris and I headed off to Coolaman to visit one of his besties from college. While there we took some time to visit the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory (where I simply had to snap this photo because comeon!! Do these two not remind you of Lucy and Ethel working at the chocolate factory?! Simply the best.) We also ….
^^ Had a seriously amazing seafood feast that included these babies — which are pretty much a staple in my diet any time I’m in Australia.
^^ After Coolaman we drove to the Taronga Zoo in Dubbo. This zoo is amazing, folks. We rented bikes (which I highly recommend), and rode around catching all the shows that we could. With over 4,000 animals and more than 20 keeper talks every single day, there is so much to see here. And the wide open zoo plan means that the animals are as close to their natural habitat as possible. It’s really pretty amazing.
^^ The Galapagos Giant Tortoise!
After the zoo we headed back to spend our final week — Christmas week — in Bathurst with the fam.
^^ The original Connor Clan.
^^ You can’t quite tell, but there’s a Nannan being hugged under there 😉
^^ Nannan with most (not all!) of her grandkids and great-grandkids!
^^ An impromptu game of cricket in the park … nothing more Aussie than that.
^^ These two.
^^ Andddd now we’re on to St. Louis! That’s Chris there, that teeny, tiny blob on the bottom right.
^^ Me in the teeny, tiny pods that carry you to the top of the St. Louis Arch.
^^ The view from the top = spectacular.
^^ Dred and Harriet Scott statue in front of the courthouse.
And that’s it, friends. Nothing like a walk down memory lane (and a rockin’ blog for documenting it all) to make you feel better, right?
Bis bald, friends! And here’s to future plans and travels and adventures that are just as exciting as those of our pasts.
^^ 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.)
^^ 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.
^^ 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.
^^ 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.
^^ 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.
^^ 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 😉
^^ 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.
^^ 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!
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:
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
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!
^^ 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.
^^ Pink flamingo!! Look at this scenery — does it not look like another planet?
^^ Clawless lobsters at the fish markets in Puerto Ayora.
^^ A marine iguana just hangin’ out. Watching them swim in the water is pretty amazing.
^^ 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 😉
^^ These bright red crabs against the black lava? Amazing.
^^ Being in the water snorkeling was amazing, but watching sunsets from the back of the boat wasn’t too shabby, either.
^^ 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.
^^ A lava heron (which we concluded looked shockingly similar to a grumpy old man, no?!)
^^ 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!
^^ The blue beaks on the red-footed boobies are simply beautiful.
^^ This was a view from Cero Dragon on Santa Cruz island.
^^ Penguins! Can you believe the Galapagos has penguins? What doesn’t this place have?
^^ Look at our cute little boat — oh how I miss it!
^^ Chris took this photo of me at Sullivan Bay on Santiagoto 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.)
^^ The site of one of our many, many snorkel adventures.
^^ “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.
^^ Pelican in flight.
^^ 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.
^^ Mating turtles, oh my!
^^ 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!
^^ 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.
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 :
^^Photographers who can wrangle kids into taking awesome, synchronized photos deserve a medal.
^^ But the mayhem is fun, too 😉
^^ 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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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 …
^^ Us after spending four hours in that ridiculousness. See? Aren’t we resplendent 😉
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.
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:
^^ You know Christmas is over in New York City when you start to see
this sad little sight on every street corner.
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.
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!)
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.
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 …
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.
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.
^^ 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.
Okay friends, now I’m done with my St. Augustine updates. Thank you for bearing with me.
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!
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.
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 …..
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!!!
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.
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 …
After the show we did get to take in a little bit of the downtown area while waiting to meet up with our friends.
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!
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!
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:
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:
^^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 …
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 …
Bis bald, friends! I hope you all had a lovely holiday!
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.
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.
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!