November 18, 2015

Calling All Travel Writers!

With anywhere from 4-6 weeks until Baby Gypsy arrives, I would like to invite interested travel bloggers to contact me if you'd like to have a guest post (or two!) featured on The Thrifty Gypsy's Travels while I'm figuring out the "baby thing!" Even if you do not have a blog of your own, but would still be interested in guest writing, let's talk!

You can write new material or offer a recently-written and published post from your own site that you feel would best interest TGT readers - anything from local to international travel, dining experiences, general commentary on traveling, or perhaps even an amusing anecdote. I can be reached at, and we can discuss more particulars in private.

So help a pregnant gal out and increase your reach in the travel blogosphere, too! 


November 08, 2015

On the Banks of the Shenandoah

"Well I come from the valley, I'm a rebel boy.
Born on the banks of the Shenandoah.
In '61, I went to the war,
To win one for Virginia!
Ya, my brother went first and they called me, too.
I was green as clover in the morning dew.
So I marched to the drum, and I sang to the tune.
Carry me back to Virginia!"
- Old Crow Medicine Show, "Carry Me Back to Virginia"

When it comes to summer pastimes in Virginia, tubing is king. Although we're relatively new to the tubing scene, having only launched our maiden voyage in the summer of 2013, we have acquired a respectable amount of gear and equipment that would make any redneck yacht club green with envy.

Our most frequented river is the James, which runs west to east through central Virginia and eventually spilling into the Chesapeake Bay, due to living within 15 minutes of its banks. Whenever we're unable to get away for a whole weekend, we'll spend a Saturday or Sunday floating the five miles between the Cartersville and West View landings in Goochland and Cumberland counties. If the river is high (5 feet or above), the float generally takes about 2-3 hours, but if it's below four feet, you could be floating for 4.5-6 hours! Those are the days when drinks and sunscreen run out before you finally reach the take-out point!

But by far our favorite float trips are found on the Shenandoah River through the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains north of Charlottesville in the towns of Luray and Shenandoah. This is rural Virginia at its finest.

In July we rented a beautiful log cabin situated on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in the general proximity of the Grove Hill public access point. As soon as we saw the cabin, we were in love. Sycamore Landing was appointed with all the comforts of home, and the owners went above and beyond to stock snacks for us to take out on the river!

Tubin' in style
Despite forecasts of a hot and sunny day, Saturday dawned cool and cloudy after an early morning thunder-burst of rain. We went out on the river anyway, floating the 1 mile stretch from the nearest public access point to the cabin. By the end of it, my goosebumps seemed permanently tattooed on my arms, but it was a great ride! There was a long, quiet stretch of water followed by a series of riffles and baby rapids that necessitated our maneuvering around rocks barely covered by the water flow.

After a quick break for lunch, the sun finally broke clear, and we were back out on the water! This time we spotted a family of deer, and the fishermen were pulling out a decent catch.

Blurred action shot
Our passion for tubing still not satiated, we drove even further up-river and parked alongside the road to risk breaking our necks going down a 90° incline to facilitate an even longer trip back to the cabin. The risk was worth the trip, though. It began with even more powerful rapids than the other stretch, and at some points we were amazed that we didn't popped a tube on a rock! But we made it back to the cabin in one piece and with only a few casualties: a soaked iPhone, a destroyed e-Cigarette, lost sunglasses, and epic sunburns.

The trip was a blast, and I can't wait to do it again! It's not really a safe stretch for little ones, though, so the arrival of Baby Gypsy may delay a return trip longer than we'd like.

Have you ever gone tubing? Where is your favorite place to go and what equipment do you bring? 

What We Brought (For 5 People):
2 "Double Tubes" also called floating couches
1 Single Tube (and sometimes a back-up)
2 Cooler Tubes
Beverages and snacks
Sunscreen, an umbrella, and flip-flops or water shoes

Where We Floated:
Our shortest trip utilized the Grove Hill Public Access Point, but the longer trip (where we scrambled down the river bank) was from the Grove Hill Bridge to roughly Ingham (exact location of landing point not shown to respect the privacy of the rental home). It was approximately 2 miles and took a little over 2 hours.

November 03, 2015

An Ill-fated Journey to Atlantis

The lost city of Atlantis may not be quite as lost as you thought. In fact you can visit a ruined city on the Greek island of Santorini (Thira) which may in fact be the fuel for the Atlantis legend. That is, if the public transportation gods of Greece don't thwart your best efforts to see it!

On our trip to Greece this past spring, Danny and I ventured from our home base of Oia on Santorini to visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri, situated on the opposite end of the island. The island of Santorini is a actually a live volcano, which last erupted in 1956, but famously erupted in 1646 BC, splitting the island into several pieces and likely causing the downfall of the Minoan civilization.

The island on the right is actually the volcano.
Akrotiri, however, was not obliterated by Santorini in the same way Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii. One can only surmise that violent earthquakes or some other premonition of doom preceded the eruption, as the archaeological survey of the site has revealed numerous household items but no human casualties. If only the Pompeiians had paid attention when Vesuvius warned them with earthquakes!

The last day of our visit to Santorini dawned cool and rainy, but that didn't deter us from waiting in the town square for the public bus to Fira, the capitol city of the island, in order to switch buses and continue on to Akrotiri. Estimates from the time-table schedule had us arriving in the ruins within 90 minutes, plenty of time to enjoy the site before catching a late lunch.

Ah, the well-laid plans of mice and men...

An hour later, the bus still had not arrived. By this time, the crowd of waiting vacationers had swelled to roughly 70 people, and we made small-talk with a recently engaged couple from the UK. Just as we were about to split a cab-fare to Fira, the bus finally arrived. The well-behaved crowd turned into a mob, elbows flying as each jockeyed their way towards the front of the group, any and all semblance of a proper queue flying out the window.

"I've been waiting for ten minutes! I'll be damned if I miss this bus!" said one lady. Try waiting for over an hour, I muttered under my breath as I rolled my eyes at her.

We didn't make it onto that bus.

Maybe disappointment jaded my opinion, but I found Fira
to be chitzy compared to Oia.
Fifteen minutes later, another bus arrived, and the scene replayed itself. However, this time we managed to make it on board. The bus driver packed the seats and aisles before pulling out of the square, leaving many people behind. Danny and I began to wonder if we even had enough time to make it to Fira then onward to Akrotiri considering that our plane left the island in under six hours. The apparent inefficiency of the public transportation had us worried.

Within an hour, we were deposited in Fira. And then we waited for the bus to Akrotiri. Six buses and an hour later, with no bus to Akrotiri having once showed despite the fact that a bus is due every 30 minutes, we officially gave up our idea of visiting the ruins. We wandered into Fira to find a bite to eat and meander through the town (quite uncharming in comparison to Oia) before returning to the square for a bus to Oia. Mercifully, the bus was only thirty minutes late.

So long story short, don't trust the public transportation on Santorini! Rent a car, a scooter, or hire a taxi. Heck, make the walk yourself if you have to! But our plans to see the lost city of Atlantis were foiled for want of a reliable transportation system.

Oh, well, better luck next time, right?

Well, there were a few charming things about Fira!

Have you ever had to modify or cancel portions of your itinerary due to transportation? We seem to have ill-luck with public transportation as we "enjoyed" a nail-biting delay on Mt. Vesuvius and then more delays on our train from Naples to Rome!

Linking up for #TravelTuesday!

November 01, 2015

Mapping My Month: November 2015

Where has the time gone?!

Last month, this summer, no - the whole stinkin' year has passed by in such a blur. And while I have no new travel stories from October, I can attest that the nesting instinct of a pregnant woman is a legit thing. When I haven't collapsed on the couch in exhaustion nursing slightly swollen feet, you could find me with duster and vacuum in hand as I've rearranged ALL THE THINGS in our place. Sometimes more than once. My husband is a long-suffering man.

So far pregnancy has actually been fairly kind to me. While I had nausea in the first few months, it was relatively mild and usually eased by eating some fruit. Aches, pains, and a few persistent discomforts have been the only annoyances I've battled recently, and although my waistline has grown significantly, by most standards I don't really look eight months pregnant since I was so tiny to begin with. Here's to hoping I lose it as quickly postpartum as I've been gaining it in these last few weeks!

"Travel Sized" onesie made by my talented sister-in-law &
photo cred to my other b.a. sister-in-law.
As for Baby Gypsy, she's quite the tumbler. When the radio starts blasting the 1950s rock'n'roll, she picks up her feet and throws a rave! And if my cravings have been any indicator, she has international tastes when it comes to food. Greek, Mexican, Italian, and German are all favorites on the menu. Now if only she inherits my genes for sleeping through the night at an early age, we'll be ready for adventures in no time!

The closer the due date draws near, though, the more we continue to evaluate our long-term goals for travel and life plans. We'd like to be able to visit Germany in the early spring so that Danny's Oma, who is now 91 years old, can meet Baby Gypsy, but we're also trying to weigh the financial costs of attempting to buy our first house in the late summer or early fall. We've been saving for a house for a while, and it's time to turn our savings into reality. Of course, as we choose not to fund our travels with debt, buying a house will inevitably curtail our travels to one degree or another. And considering that we had two international trips in 2014 and then again this year, it'll be emotionally tough to cut back to just domestic trips when we've been so spoiled (first world problems, eh?).

While October was quiet in the travel and adventure department, I did manage to visit one new winery for the #252by2022 challenge -- Cooper Vineyards. Although I didn't really allow myself to do more than just a tiny taste of each wine, I think I may have found a post-pregnancy new favorite wine: the Sweet Louisa. It doesn't hurt that this winery is located only a 10-12 minute ride from my house!

So, November, I'm glad you're here, but I'll be even more glad when you leave and December (aka, baby month!) arrives! I feel as though I've been pregnant forever but still nowhere near to the starting line (if you think labor and delivery is the finish line, you're in for a rude awakening); anxious for Baby Gypsy to be here but feeling woefully unprepared for all the changes she's about to make in our lives; excited for a new year with new adventures and new memories and new moments viewing the world through a little one's eyes; and overall just feeling very blessed with all the support and love from our families, our friends, and from the travel blogging community in general. Thanks for sticking with us!

What's in the works for your November?

Temple of Hephaestus - A throwback to our May 2015 trip to Greece.