February 27, 2015

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Completion is not my forte.  I start new projects with all the passion and commitment of an Olympic athlete preparing for his big day.  I write down my goals, map out a plan, and throw myself into it with enough fervor to make a whirling dervish's head spin.  For the first few weeks, I consistently follow my plan and place proud check-marks by each accomplished item.

Yep. Once upon a time, I meant
to learn Old English.  Does "fo shizzle"
count as old English these days?
But all too soon, the excitement fades.  I go from writing every day to writing every other day.  Soon that turns into once a week.  Eventually, I stop altogether.  As both my mother and my husband can attest, all those projects sit neglected and forgotten in a drafts folder or on some dusty shelf in the back room.

That apocalyptic novella I started?  Yeah, it's still stuck in chapter five.  Who knows if Caroline will make it out of the burning car alive.

Continuing with my martial arts?  Um, still one step away from black belt.  Like I've been for the last eight years...

Developing a bucket list of places in Virginia?  Well, if by bucket list, you mean a bunch of doodles on college-ruled paper, sure!

So knowing this about me, you can recognize the momentousness of the occasion when I announce that after 18 months, not only am I still sticking with a project, but I've actually reached a milestone in it.

Drumroll please.
And apparently only two people are proud of me.  Woot.

You read that correctly.  I, Katrina Can't-Ever-Finish-A-Project-to-Save-Her-Life-Unless-It's-Work-Related-And-By-Work-I-Mean-I-Get-Paid-For-It Elisabet, actually finished Level 1 of Rosetta Stone.  Albeit, after 18 months.

My husband purchased four levels of the Rosetta Stone German edition as a birthday present to me in August 2013.  I had all these big plans to complete Level One before our trip to Germany this past July so that I could carry on deep, meaningful conversations with Danny's Oma.  You know, the ones in which I comment about the weather (Der Regen in Spanien faellt vor allem in dem Flachland*), complain about the neighbor (Die Macht ist stark in diesem einen*), or bemoan the current political upheaval in Ukraine (Nie mitmachen Sie in einem Landkreig in Asien*).

Of course, that didn't happen.

But better late than not at all, yes?  So with another trip to Germany coming up in 68 days, I'm ready to tackle some new, totally-realistic goals when it comes to this language learning adventure:

  1. Get halfway through Level 2 of Rosetta Stone.
  2. Learn one joke to tell our German friends over a maß in der bierzelt.  (And don't give me that gab about Germans having no sense of humor; they totally do.)
  3. Increase my vocabulary enough to have one sincere conversation with Oma in which I state my (memorized) piece, then smile and nod when she replies and I have no idea what she's saying.

So let it be written, so let it be done.**

Heck, who am I fooling?  If I can just follow the conversation without getting lost in a sea of I-Don't-Know-What-That-Word-Means, then I'll call the trip a win.

Are you trying to learn a new language?  How's that working out for you?

* If you're American and you've never watched My Fair Lady, Star Wars, or The Princess Bride, not only will you not understand these jokes, but I don't think we can be friends.  Like, seriously.
** Ten Commandments reference.  Again, see above.

February 25, 2015

Wave Jumping & Beach Bumming in OBX (Re-blog)

It's cold outside.  It's cold inside because I refuse to get another $300 heating bill.  I'm cold, grumpy, and not happy that we're getting more snow tonight.  So instead of being a productive member of society, today I am feasting my eyes on warm beach scenes, particularly this one from our trip to the Outer Banks in August.  Either it'll put me in a better mood, or it'll make me curse the weather even more.  Either way, at least all my griping might warm me up.


The Thrifty Gypsy's Travels ~ Wave Jumping & Beach Bumming in OBX: With only ten paid vacation days in a year, our vacations tend to resemble a gauntlet of things to do and see rather than a time to unplug... (continue reading here).

February 24, 2015

Rocky Mountain Dreamin'

Earlier this week, we learned that some of our European friends will be visiting the U.S. later this year for a road-trip of epic proportions.  In the span of 18 days, they will be landing in Vegas and leaving through Denver, visiting about a dozen national parks in between.  Sadly, we will be unable to join them in this adventure, but it whet my appetite to plan our own excursion to the mid-west.  My brief weekend visit to Colorado in 2013 seems like just a dream, and I'm dying to put my boots down in the Rockies!

If you were to road-trip through the mid-west, where would you go?

February 23, 2015

Remember the Alamo

Few words resonate so strongly in American history textbooks the way "Remember the Alamo!" does.  Even international visitors largely unfamiliar with United States history have a vague idea about the events and choose to visit this small mission in San Antonio, Texas, to get a glimpse of the fabric that has made Texas -- and in large part, the United States -- so great.  But what exactly are we supposed to be remembering about the Alamo?  What happened there, and what events led up to this defeat which has been transformed into a rallying point?

The story of the Texas Revolution and subsequent annexation into the United States encompasses over ten years, but can be condensed into a few key events leading up to and after the Battle of the Alamo:
  • In October 1835, the colonists of Texas, which at that time was Mexico's northernmost province, rebelled against the increasingly centralist Mexican government.  At this juncture, the ultimate goal was unclear as popular sentiment was divided between seeking independence or reinstating the Mexican Constitution of 1824.  However, within two months, all Mexican troops were withdrawn from or driven out of Texas, and it seemed clear that Texas would declare its independence. 
  • In February 1836, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna marched into Texas and caught Texans unprepared.  In March, Texas declared itself independent, but the newly-formed army under Sam Houston was pushed back towards the border with Louisiana in the face of Santa Anna's army.  It is during this time that the Battle of the Alamo occurred.
  • In just twenty minutes and at the cost of only 9 Texan casualties, Sam Houston routed Santa Anna in a surprise attack on the Mexican army's vanguard at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.  Santa Anna himself was captured, and his ransom included a promise to lobby for Texas' independence in the Mexican government.  It was at this battle that the cries of "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Goliad!" became a rallying point of Texan history.
  • Despite Santa Anna's ransom agreement, Mexico refused to recognize Texan sovereignty, and when Texas agreed to be annexed into the United States in 1845, the Mexican-American war erupted, lasting until 1848.

The events of the Battle of the Alamo itself can be characterized into two parts: the siege and minor skirmishes for the first 12 days, and the full-blown assault and capture of the Alamo on the 13th day.  Although romanticized in films such as Disney's Davy Crockett or John Wayne's The Alamo, the hand-to-hand assault and combat of March 6, 1836, was far from romantic.  Many of the Texans were killed by bayonet wounds, which is neither a swift nor preferable way to die.  One Texan was bayoneted in front of the women and children survivors hiding in the sacristy of the complex.

Although the Battle of the Alamo was just a small occurrence in the overall strategy of the conflicts, it is arguably the most memorable.  There is the tragic romance of a few hundred Texans staving off over 1,500 Mexican soldiers for 13 days.  Then there is the celebrity appeal of such well-known names as Davy Crockett, James Bowie, and William Travis, all dying at the Alamo.  And then there is the historic appeal -- it became a rallying point for the Texas revolution and ultimately has become representative of the insatiable thirst for personal liberties and independence which has resulted in this country we live in.  And this is what we should recall when we remember the Alamo.

Have you visited the Alamo?


Linking up with Bonnie RoseAmandaCaityMarcella, and Michelle for #TravelTuesday!

February 22, 2015

Visiting Natural Bridge (VA)

George Washington carved his initials here.  Thomas Jefferson built a cabin retreat here.  Katrina Elisabet took a selfie here.

Do I look presidential to you?
See?  I have something in common with the founding fathers of America!

That something happens to be a visit to the Natural Bridge, located in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia just south of Lexington.  Believed to have been formed by the collapse of a cave formed by Cedar Creek, the Natural Bridge is a marvel of the natural world.  The arch of the Bridge is taller than the falls of Niagara and to this day still serves as an actual bridge for State Route 11.

The Monacan Indian tribe have a legend that the bridge first appeared as they were fleeing from an enemy tribe.  Thanks to the bridge, they were able to take a stand and beat back the enemy, making the place a sacred site to them even today.  During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Natural Bridge was an iconic stop for European visitors on their tour of the new world, and even during the Civil War, both Union and Confederate troops detoured from their marching orders so that they could marvel at it.

Now maybe you can see how it's taller than
Niagara Falls.
We visited Natural Bridge on a January day slated to reach highs of 60 ̊ but temperatures still hovered in the 30s that morning.  As such, the trail underneath the bridge was closed due to ice.  Since my preferred mode of death is not by a having an icicle fall on my head, this was just fine with me, and we could still admire the bridge even if we couldn't actually go up and touch it.

I would recommend a total of 1 to 2 hours for this site, depending on your interest and how many of the walking trails are open.  Admission is somewhat steep at $14 for adults (discounts for seniors and past/present military service members), but I would still encourage you to visit this natural wonder.  It's worth the money.

During the weekend nights of warmer months, there is a "Drama of Creation" light show that illuminates the Natural Bridge, and special events fill the summer calendar.  The Natural Bridge Historic Hotel is adjacent to the property if you want a relaxing weekend in the country, or like us, you could stay in historic Lexington, which is a 15-minute drive away.

And once you're done touring this natural wonder, be sure to stop a few miles down the road to gawk over a man-made wonder:  Foamhenge, a life-sized replica of Stonehenge that is free to the public and a hoot to visit.

Ever visited the Natural Bridge or anything like it?

February 20, 2015

From London With Love

Exactly one year ago, I arrived in London, having just bought a plane ticket only 36 hours prior and needing to constantly pinch myself to make sure it wasn't just a beautiful dream.  It proved to be exactly the motivation I needed to start this blog.

Since that trip, I've been recounting our experiences and passing on tips for thrifty traveling.  In just a few short days, the Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (TGT) will turn one year old!  Stay tuned for a celebratory giveaway and announcement of what I hope to do with the site within the next few months!

For more about London, check out these bloggers and posts:

Have you visited London?

Linking up with the #WeekendWanderlust!

February 19, 2015


Perched on the top of a hill just a stone's throw away from the Natural Bridge in the Blue Ridge of Virginia stands an impressive - and hilarious - recreation of Stonehenge.

Each "stone" has been carefully placed to replicate the orientation and layout of the stones at England's most famous henge.  However, as a sign near the entrance indicates, these foam-stones weigh significantly less than their fifty-ton counterparts, topping off at no more than 420 pounds a piece.

And unlike Stonehenge, which by some estimates took upwards of 1,500 years to complete with the labor of anywhere from 600 to 1,000 men, Foamhenge was completed in just six weeks with the labor of "4-5 Mexicans and one crazy white man."

The tongue-in-cheek humor really had me rolling.

Foamhenge is free to visit, and if you don't mind getting some red Virginia clay on your boots, you could spend a solid 15 minutes strolling through the site, snapping pictures to fool your friends on Instagram into thinking that you took a spontaneous jaunt over to jolly ol' England for the weekend.

What do you think?  Would you like to stop by Foamhenge?


February 17, 2015

Gifting Great Beer at Starr Hill Brewery

Sometimes there's no better ending to the day than a tall, cold glass of love.  The Love, that is.  If you've ever sampled this wheat beer from Starr Hill Brewery in Charlottesville, Virginia, you'll know what I'm talking about.

My serendipitous mini-road trip through the Blue Ridge Parkway culminated in a stop at Starr Hill Brewery (after a detour or two, of course!).  Although this brewery has become a household name in the town, the University, and my region since its establishment in the mid-1990s, this was my first visit.  My beer palate can't believe I waited this long.

Although I zeroed in on the German Hefeweizen-style The Love as soon as I saw the menu, I began instead with samples of Shakedown, a chocolate-cherry stout.  It was like sipping on a chocolate cherry cordial, only without the overwhelming sweetness that usually accompanies those candies.  As delicious as it was, however, I was satisfied with just a sample.

Next on my list was the Monticello Reserve, a colonial-style ale inspired by what Mr. Jefferson himself might have consumed at his plantation home a short drive east of the brewery.  This unfiltered wheat brew has a hardy taste to it, and the cloudiness of the beer would make any European wheat-beer drinker happy.  When it came time to order a full glass, I had a difficult time choosing between the Monticello Reserve and The Love.

But true Love conquers all (or at least my taste buds!).  Like the Monticello Reserve, The Love is an unfiltered wheat beer, but whereas the Monticello featured the more mild and "earthy" flavors of corn and citrus, The Love had a slightly spicier edge -- not at all overwhelmingly so, but enough for a great aftertaste.

As I live within 35 minutes of this wonderful brewery, I will certainly be back to enjoy these great craft brews, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Starr Hill!

Have you visited Starr Hill Brewery or sampled any of these beers?

Linking up with Bonnie Rose, Amanda, Caity, Marcella, and Michelle for #TravelTuesday!

February 14, 2015

Every Mile a Memory

Once upon a time, a girl worked at a local supermarket while in her freshman year of college.

One day she decided to come into work early to buy lunch before starting her shift as a cashier.  While at the salad bar, she noticed that a new guy with light brown hair and an aquiline nose was manning the station.  She struck up a conversation for a few minutes and walked away.

February 16, 2006
A weekend passed, and the following Monday was the day before Valentine's Day.  This girl went to her closing shift at the supermarket, resigned to the knowledge of once again being unattached on Singles' Awareness Day.  A few hours into the shift, she looked down her line of waiting customers and saw the new guy standing there with a pack of gum in his left hand.

"Hey, I just wanted to say that I really appreciate you saying 'hello' to me the other day.  That was really nice of you, and I just wanted to say thanks and Happy Valentines' Day."

Fumbling with the cash to pay for his gum with one hand, he handed the girl a single red rose and a red enveloped card.  The next few minutes following the young man's exit from the store found the girl blushing at the lighthearted remarks of approval from the customers in line behind the young man as they checked out with their items.

Later that week, the girl and the young man went on a dinner and bowling date.  It was the girl's first official date, ever, and she was charmed by the young man's Southern gentleman ways.  They talked about their lives and their plans.  She was determined to transfer to the University of Virginia to study English, and he was leaving the next week to go through the Marine Corps boot camp.  Despite their divergent paths, the evening passed quickly with no lack of things to talk about.

From the friend's wedding (May 28, 2006)
A few more brief encounters and then the young man left for boot camp.  Letters were exchanged (the handwritten kind), and through this old-fashioned correspondence, the young man asked the girl to accompany him to a friend's wedding when he returned from boot camp in May.  She agreed - on the condition that he meet her father and ask his permission first.

That May, the young man was the first person she brought home to meet the family.  He met a warm welcome.  That is, her father made sure to ask very probing questions to determine his character and intentions towards his daughter.  She hid behind the door of the basement steps to eavesdrop until she was so mortified by the questions that she scurried away, convinced the young man would not want anything to do with her ever again.

But he did.  And the next week they attended his friend's wedding where he asked her to be his girlfriend.  She accepted, and despite his departure for more training out of state, they maintained a limited long-distance relationship through letters and phone calls.  But by the end of summer, she called it off - intimidated by their age difference, the distance, and in general, unsure of what she was looking for.

June 2008
A few years passed.  The young man friended her on Facebook, shortly after returning from a deployment overseas.  They exchanged a few messages and met up a few times at the river.  He was halfway through his Marine Corps contract, and she had established a life at UVa as a transfer student away from home for the first time.  Just as before, she was charmed by his manners and felt absolutely trusting of his character.

But she just didn't want to settle down yet.  Family illnesses and mishaps in schedules prevented any more meetings that summer before she returned to college in the fall, and he went on a second deployment.  They continued to send messages through Facebook and exchanged handwritten letters, delayed a few weeks as they traveled halfway across the world with their recaps of the day and attempts to carry on earnest conversations in spite of the distance.

April 2009
By the holidays, the girl found herself increasingly thinking about him.  Wondering what he was doing.  Hoping he was safe.  Praying that no harm would come to him.  She told her roommate, "When he comes back from his deployment, if he asks me to go out with him, I will marry him."  Rather than hoping her last few months of college would slow down, she wished they would speed up until he finally returned.

One day she finally got the call.  He was back in the states!  And he would be home that weekend before taking his post-deployment leave in Europe.  She canceled her plans, switched out her work shifts, and drove to Richmond to see him.  His friends welcomed her, his sister smiled knowingly at her, and by the end of the night, they were an item.

The next day he met her at the river and told her he loved her, that he had waited on her all those years.  She knew some would say that it was happening too fast, but she finally knew what God had known all along: that the first "real" relationship of her life, the first guy she brought home, the first one to treat her and her family with respect, and the one who proved his commitment by waiting through her changeability and uncertainties, was the one person with whom she'd spent the rest of her life.  She loved him, too.

The 1st Valentine's Day Card
It's been 9 years since Danny first gave me that red rose and Snoopy Valentine's Day card.  I am so thankful for his persistence and constancy.  I am humbled when I hear his story of wishing on shooting stars in Iraq for me to come to love him.  And above all, I am awed at a God who would orchestrate this beautiful love story.  Our love story.

We've traveled to several states, a handful of countries, and countless cities together, but my favorite journey still continues.  Whether exploring our backyard or somewhere new, home is wherever I'm with him, and the journey gets sweeter by the day.

Happy Valentine's Day.


Linking up with Adelina of Pack Me To for the #SundayTraveler!

February 13, 2015

7 Reasons To Visit Prague in 2015

If you haven't jumped on the Prague bandwagon yet, what are you waiting for?!  This capital city of the Czech Republic offers all the best things about a European adventure, but without the hefty price tag.  Here's why you should book a trip to this Bohemian gem right now!

1.  It's a living fairy-tale canvas.
Prague emerged from World War II largely unscathed by bombing damage (minus a 1945 bombing that was intended for Dresden) and boasts a beautifully preserved Old Town quarter.  The oldest working astronomical clock in the world can be found at the Old Town City Hall, adjacent to the square, and every hour since 1410, it has paraded a procession of mechanical, sculpted Apostles to the delight of passersby and tourists.  Nearby the thirteenth-century Church of Our Lady before Týn towers gracefully over the statue of Jan Hus in the Old Town Square.  Simply walking the streets of Prague is enough to question whether you're in reality or fantasy.

2.  It's a city for romantics.
Step aside, Paris, because Prague is the city of love.  From cobblestone streets to majestic bridges over the beautiful Vltava River and from green city parks to the fairy-tale castle of Pražský hrad sitting high above the city,  Prague exudes romance. Its architecture lends itself to any mood: the gothic spires and dark interiors of St. Vitus evoke the broodier side of love; the white neoclassical residences lighten the mood and draw comparison with the luxurious streets of Vienna; the baroque opulence of St. Nicholas Church and the Goltz-Kinský Palace  reflect the impulsive, generous side of lovers; and the myriad of different architecture coexisting in one city ensures that no matter your mood, Prague will satisfy it.

Europe has a reputation of discouraging budget travelers.  While it's true that your money will go farther in South America, Africa, and Asia, Prague is one of those rare places in Europe that has all the Old World Charm without the hefty price tag.  We were able to afford a 4.5/5 star hotel on the Vltava River for less than the price of a three star hotel in Manhattan.  Winning!  Admission to attractions and museums run anywhere from 10-40% cheaper than London, Rome, and Paris.  Beer is cheap and delicious, and their traditional food is savory and affordable.  And speaking of beer...

4.  It's a beer lover's paradise.
Prague's beer deserves a category of its own.  While Germany may have the reputation as the beer capital of the world, the Czech Republic is actually the number one beer-drinking nation in the world.  To put it in perspective, Austrians and Germans drink 107.8 and 106.1 liters of beer per capita, respectively; Czechs drink 148.6 liters per capita.  The competition isn't even close.  The Czech Republic invented the Pils beer, and their Pilsner-Urquell can be found flowing through the taps of every bar in Prague.  So grab yourself a seat at one of Prague's many quintessential squares and enjoy some people-watching over the top of a frothy glass of pivo.

5.  It's got a lot of character.
Despite a growing reputation as a party city (cheap flights and the cheap booze make it a popular destination for bachelor(ette) parties), the large number of churches, museums, and cultural attractions makes this "city of a hundred spires" a cultural hot-spot.  The St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle is a must-see; climb its tower's 297 steps for stunning views of the city.  But there's more to Prague Castle than the cathedral - an extensive armory, a row of quaint shops and houses, of which one was the residence of Franz Kafka for a short period of time, and covered portion of the castle wall.  Find the crossbowman to try your hand at operating this medieval weaponry!

6.  It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ok, so the whole city isn't a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it certainly seems like it!  The Old Town, the Lesser Town, and the New Town -- it's "new" only in relation to the Old Town, which dates from the ninth century, whereas New Town was founded in 1348 -- all comprise the Historic Centre of Prague.  The Charles Bridge has linked these areas together since 1357 and is itself a masterful example of architecture.  The Charles Bridge acquired its name from Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, who himself laid the first stone of the bridge at 5:31am on the 9th of July 1357. The precise timing of this event is documented due to the Emperor's strong belief in numerology, as this date makes a numerical bridge of its own (1357 9 7 531 - year, day, month, time).  Be sure to spout off this fun fact the next time someone tells you numbers aren't cool!

7.  It's a great segue into Eastern Europe.
Thanks to the ravages of communism's fifty-year reign, many Westerners are still hesitant to venture into the former East Bloc of Europe.  Don't be.  But even if you are, Prague is a great first step due to its historical ties with the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Let her beautiful streets and historic buildings coax you from your western European safety blanket and out into less traveled destinations.  Venture onward and eastward to Budapest or Sofia!

So, are you ready to book a flight to Prague yet?!


Linking up with A Brit and a Southerner for the #WeekendWanderlust!

February 10, 2015

10 Winter Travel Ideas in Richmond, VA

Winter gets a bad rap in the travel world, particularly during the awkward time between the December holidays and the first hint of spring in late March.  However, it doesn't have to be that way!  Cold weather favors the brave travelers among us, as otherwise crowded sites in the summer will have little to no visitors this time of year.

Whether you're a Virginian or someone looking to take advantage of our mild winters, here are some great places to visit in our capital city of Richmond during these colder months -- all but one are on the National Register for Historic Landmarks!

From Wikipedia
1.  The Virginia Capitol Building
Designed by Thomas Jefferson himself, the Virginia Capitol Building is a neoclassical masterpiece, housing the longest-running general assembly of the western hemisphere.  Take a tour if you can (it's free), but if not, admire the Palladian architecture from the outside.

2.  The Museum of the Confederacy/White House of the Confederacy
Virginia's history runs the gamut - wars, victories, defeats, historical "firsts" of American history, etc.  One reminder of Virginia's war past can be found at the Museum of the Confederacy and the White House of the Confederacy, which commemorate Virginia's role as capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War.  ($15 to enter both the Museum and White House, or $10 for just one.)

3.  The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
While not as prestigious as any of the Smithsonians, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has a small, but quality collection of art and artifacts from around the world.  Admission to traveling exhibits may entail a small fee, but otherwise general admission is free!

From Wikipedia
4.  Agecroft Hall
Pining for a bit of England, but unable to visit anytime soon?  Check out Agecroft Hall - a 15th-century Tudor mansion from Lancashire that was bought at auction, disassembled, shipped, and reconstructed in Richmond ninety years ago.  The rooms and furnishings depict every day life for a 16th century English family, and with admission at $8 a person, it's a far more affordable trip to "England" than a plane ticket.

5.  Monument Avenue
This "Grand American Avenue" is the only street on the National Register of Historic Landmarks and a source of pride to the Richmond community.  The style of architecture varies along this five mile road -- Italianate, English Tudor, Colonial, Spanish, and Georgian houses, churches, and apartment buildings create a pleasing backdrop to the six statues along this tree-lined avenue.

6.  St. John's Church
"As for me, give me Liberty or give me Death!"  Patrick Henry uttered these famous words during the Second Virginia Convention at St. John's Church.  Among his audience numbered George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and other great American Patriots.  Follow in their footsteps with a tour of the church and grounds!

St. John's Church
7.  Shirley Plantation
If you want to experience the Virginian plantation life, take a drive down the scenic Route 5 just east of Richmond to visit Shirley Plantation, which has been in the same family for eleven generations.  Shirley Plantation is arguably the "most intact 18th century estate in Virginia" and well-worth spending a few hours touring the house and grounds.

8.  Richmond National Battlefield Park/Petersburg National Battlefield
As the once-capital of the Confederate States of America, many battles occurred in and around Richmond.  To better understand the scope of the battles and the cost of human life, visit the Richmond National Battlefield Park or Petersburg National Battlefield, site of the infamous "Crater" attack by the Union against the Confederacy; both sites are run by the National Park Service.

9.  Hollywood Cemetery
Come pay your respects to U.S. Presidents John Tyler and James Monroe at this beautiful resting place in the Oregon Hill neighborhood of Richmond.  Beyond the two presidents, other notable interments at Hollywood Cemetery are Jefferson Davis, J.E.B. Stuart, George Pickett, John Randolph, and 18,000 Confederate war dead.  It is both a somber yet serenely charming location to visit.

Hollywood Cemetery (Photo by Calah D.)
10.  Byrd Theatre/Carytown
The Byrd Theatre, or Richmond's "Movie Palace," is a Renaissance Revival-styled cinema located in Carytown, a hip urban retail neighborhood.  The Byrd offers movie showings at $2 a person, but the real show is the whole experience of this old-fashioned theater, which will be featured in an upcoming European documentary about historic theaters of the U.S.!

Bonus:  Richmond breweries
Thanks to state law changes in 2012, the craft beer industry in Richmond has boomed.  Dozens of breweries and cideries have opened in the general area in recent years, joining an already stellar cast.  Hardywood, Strangeways, Midnight, Center of the Universe, Eisley, Blue Bee Cidery, and Legends are just a few of our favorites.  Join a brewery tour or get a DD to check some of these guys out!

Have you visited any of these places in Richmond?  What are your winter travel plans?


Linking up with Bonnie Rose and other travel bloggers for #TravelTuesday!

February 09, 2015

A Rooster in Trafalgar

If you've ever been to Trafalgar in London, you'll know that the National Gallery likes to display interesting sculpture out in the square.  In February 2014, this smurf-colored rooster stood proudly to the left of the Gallery.  I'm sure Chanticleer himself couldn't have looked more splendid.

Have you visited Trafalgar Square?

February 08, 2015

Recycling, Or How to Be a Good German in America

o, we're neither German (at least not in terms of nationality), nor tree-hugging hippies (no offense to my hippie friends).  But after years of ignoring that nagging feeling that maybe we ought to recycle, we finally bought a few extra bins this past July and turned our waste system into something which would make our German relatives beam proudly.  Or so we'd like to think.

However, there is certainly an art form to separating one's rubbish, and though one might argue that the affinity and ability for Germans to do it so efficiently must have a DNA-link, the scene I encountered this past week would make Danny's Oma gasp in dismay.

Cue the "Psycho" stabbing music.

Obviously, when it came to Danny's recycling genes, the American genes won out over the German ones.  Surely his German half must have cried out in protest at this haphazardly-gleeful cramming of cardboard and paper into this bin.  The very idea sounds like a schizophrenic cartoon.

Thankfully, my maternal great-grandparents both had German roots, so the 1/16th German in me came to the recycling bin's rescue.

 Ahhhhh, no more overflow.  Now this is a neatly-sorted bin.

Disaster averted, my 1/16th German self could proceed to the next challenge:  ordering just the right wool socks to wear with my sandals this summer.

Ok, just kidding.  I've got to draw the line somewhere!


Linking up with  Jess from Ice Cream & Permafrost for the #SundayTraveler!

If you're looking for delightfully amusing vignettes and escapades regarding German culture and lifestyles, you should check out Expat Eye on Germany, an Irish-woman's recounting of daily life while teaching in Berlin.  It's a tongue-in-cheek blog best read with a mas of beer in hand and the understanding that no topic is off-limits for "BerLinda."