March 29, 2016

Europe 101: Saving Money (And Time) While Sightseeing

Once you've developed a budget-friendly itinerary for your Europe trip, you're ready to acquire the tips and tricks to be thrifty while on the streets of Europe!

With popular sites come populous queues, which will waste a lot of your vacation time. Time is money! You can reserve tour times for many places or skip lines by purchasing passes ahead of time.

This is me, skipping the long line at the Colosseum
with my Roma Pass in hand!
In Rome we utilized the Roma Pass for free admission to three sites, including line skipping at places such as the Colosseum; three days of unlimited public transportation; and discounted admission to other sites during the three day activation period of the pass. The lines at the Colosseum were, well, colossal (har, har, har), and we saved so much time bypassing the queue with our Roma Pass!

The Roma Pass also saved us time at the Vatican Museum where we were able to bypass the line for buying tickets and march straight to security. However, there is no way to skip the security lines at the Vatican to enter St. Peter's Basilica, so you'll just have to budget a lot of time for that one!

Conversely, we lost a lot of time in Paris by not reserving a viewing time in advance for the Eiffel Tower. Two months before our May 2015 trip, I looked online to see if reservations were possible. They were... but they were already completely booked for May. So as soon as you book your plane tickets, book your tickets for various attractions!

Please don't travel all the way to Europe just to seek out the nearest McDonald's or KFC for a cheap meal! When in Rome, eat as the Romans do. Grab a slice of pizza. When in Greece, have a delicious döner kebab lunch, and in Germany, enjoy a bratwurst meal. Eat cheaply for breakfast and lunch so you can enjoy a good dinner and your wallet will thank you!

Before you even leave for your trip, determine how many and how much you plan to spend on souvenirs. It's easy to be suckered into buying a lot of cheap trinkets once you arrive, but even cheap trinkets will add up if you keep buying indiscriminately! We purchase magnets at each location we visit, but beyond that we keep a strict budget on how much we spend on keepsakes.

Many sites offer audio guides to enhance the spartan English signs of exhibits. Save yourself money by finding and downloading free podcasts onto your smartphone. Rick Steves offers many free podcasts, and we have utilized many of them on our travels.

What are you waiting for? Start planning your trip to Europe now!

March 22, 2016

Doing Jamestown with Ozzy Osbourne

"If you stick around a little longer, you'll see Ozzy Osbourne."

I laughed, thinking the archaeologist was pulling my leg. We three gypsies - myself, Danny, and baby girl - had just spent the last five hours wandering through Jamestowne, Virginia, and enjoying the unusually wonderful March weather. Surely celebrities like to tour historical sites as much as the next person, but Ozzy? THE Ozzy Osbourne? No way. He's probably one of the last celebrities I'd expect to see in Virginia's historic triangle.

We strolled past the archaeologist - literally; baby was snoozing in the stroller (#Imsopunny) - and made for the door, but as we were about to walk out, I heard the park ranger ask the archaeologist when Ozzy was expected to arrive. Weird, I thought. Maybe they aren't joking.

"He's supposed to be here already," the archaeologist said. "His film crew has been here since three."

Since it's the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service, I had assumed the professional photographers and film crew seen in the park were for promo material. We had even wandered in front of the lens a few times, trying our best to look like polished national park visitors. But apparently, black nail polish and dark clothing would have stood us in better stead - Ozzfest had come to Jamestowne for the day!

Despite American textbooks placing such a huge emphasis on the colonies in Massachusetts, Jamestowne holds the distinction of being the first successful English colony in North America, making it THE birthplace of America. Sorry, Plymouth, we beat you by a solid 13 years. English settlers, financed by the Virginia Company in a venture to discover gold in the New World or at least a westward passage to Asia, landed in Virginia in 1607 and made camp on a mosquito-ridden, swampy island on the James River. Defensibly, it was a good set up to fend off attacks by natives or the Spanish. But its livability proved to be less than ideal. Over 80% of the original 104 boys and men sent to settle Jamestowne died within the first year or two. Starvation and sickness proved to be worse enemies than men.

After enduring droughts, starvation, sieges and attacks by natives, fevers, plagues, and bloodthirsty mosquitoes, the colony at Jamestowne became successful and thrived by 1613, ostensibly because John Rolfe planted tobacco but more likely because women were sent to the colony, because, girls rule!

And note, this was still before your time, Plymouth!

At any rate, the Jamestowne fort was eventually lost to time for nearly two hundred years. It wasn't until 1996 that archaeologists and historians announced that the original site had been found and was in the process of being excavated!

Today the entire island is under the dual control of Preservation Virginia and the National Park Service. Visitors can see the exact location of the original fort, its outline reproduced through the erection of wood logs. Excavations have uncovered thousands of artifacts, several skeletons, and even the skull of a young girl who was cannibalized presumably during the great starving time of 1609-1610.

With this gruesome aspect of Jamestown's history, perhaps it's not so out of place that the "Prince of Darkness" himself, Ozzy Osbourne, would choose to film an episode there for his upcoming History Channel show (warning: link contains strong language). So while baby gypsy slumbered in her stroller, we waited outside the visitor center for a shot to meet or at least see Ozzy Osbourne. As celebrities are rarely punctual, we waited for thirty minutes, but weren't disappointed!

Unfortunately, we were shooed away from our original vantage point by Ozzy's film and security crew so this is the best picture we got. As we walked to our car, I casually mentioned to another couple leaving the park that Ozzy was on his way in. Apparently, they followed him and got a much clearer photo than we did. Check it out!

So while Jamestowne did not disappoint in the history department, Ozzy gave our experience added flavor. And you better believe I'll be checking out his episode on Jamestown to see if we three gypsies made the cut for background material that the crew was filming throughout the afternoon. This just may end up being my ten seconds of fame, y'all!

Ever been to Jamestowne? Or have you ever seen a celebrity while on your travels?


Want more Thrifty Gypsy? Follow me!
Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Linking up with Bonnie, Swags, Diana and Anna!

March 15, 2016

Small Talk, Big Adventure: Appomattox, VA

Last month we took Baby Gypsy, then two months old, on an outing to Appomattox National Battlefield in central Virginia, where General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of the Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Potomac, effectively ending the American Civil War. Rather than boring you with an adult's account of the visit, I'll let Baby Gypsy tell you about our day - from her own unique perspective.

The "clean" house

I could tell today was going to be different. Mama kept telling me that we were going somewhere, and Daddy was busy checking my swag bag for the fifteenth time. I wasn't sure what all the fuss was about. Mama kept talking about adventures and "baby's first outing." I had no idea what that meant, but she sounded excited, so I grinned up at her as I shoved my fist in my mouth.

I was put into the box with the handle, and then Daddy took me outside. The yellow ball above my head was very bright, and the blue ceiling didn't have any white fluff this time. What a beautiful day! 

Mama and Daddy kept talking on and on about "Ah-poo-mattox" and "useless grant." It made no sense to me, so I closed my eyes and fell asleep...

"Where am I?! I'm so hungry! Someone FEED ME!!!" I shouted as I woke suddenly from a deep sleep. I had no time to ask nicely - my tummy felt so empty! Mama and Daddy must have expected this as within minutes I had my lunch while they ate theirs. I think they can read my mind.
Daddy pushing my chariot through Ah-poo-mattox.

As soon as I finished, Daddy got my chariot ready and off we went! We walked up a small hill to where a large brick building was surrounded by a few other buildings. They looked older than my Daddy, and he's really old! Mama told Daddy that this was the courthouse, whatever that means. Inside this so-called courthouse a man in a green uniform handed Daddy a map and explained that the "clean" house across the way is where the surrender happened. Mama is always cleaning, so I figured she'd like that house. 

We followed a green uniformed lady outside and towards the clean house. The lady kept talking on and on about "generally" being chased by blue men until he got trapped there at Ah-poo-mattox. The blue men took generally's trains away, and he had to send a message to useless grant to meet at the clean house. I still didn't really understand, but I waved my hand at the green uniformed lady as if I did. 

The scene of my crime, aka where useless grant won.

Inside the clean house, Daddy held me in the same room where generally surrendered. The green uniformed lady was still talking, but I couldn't pay attention - my tummy really hurt! I scrunched up my face, and I tried to be ladylike but.... I just couldn't hold it in anymore. My diaper ranneth over. I sneaked a peek at the green uniformed lady, but she was still talking. Phew. I was quite embarrassed, but Mama looked like she was laughing. She said something about blackmail for my wedding. Whatever that means.

Anyway, we walked around a little bit longer outside before they took my chariot back to the bigger chariot so we could go home. I think I liked this little adventure thing, and I hope we can do more!


Want more Thrifty Gypsy? Follow me!
Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Linking up with #TravelTuesday!

March 08, 2016

Athens Photo Fails

Here we go again! Time for another installment of photo fails - the awkward, the funny, and the merely not-so perfect. These photos are from our May 2015 visit to Athens, Greece.

I am a unicorn. A Greek unicorn.
... in which I contemplate a tree for some unknown reason.
A photo of taking a photo. #FirstWorldProblems

It's ok. I don't like the right side of my face either.

Say cheese! Or just stand there awkwardly. Same difference.

Nothing says "seasoned traveler" quite like striking a nonchalant pose by a random rock while sporting some snazzy shades.

Photo fail - where you try to get an artsy shot where the grass in the foreground is fuzzy and the temple in the distance is in focus.

"Hey! Let's take a picture of these random circular wheel-y things, but not write down what they are so we can never explain them!"

No photo fail here. I was totally creeping on my hottie hubby. ;)

Do you have some favorite photo "fails" from your travels?

Check out our photo fails from Prague and Paris!

Add caption