March 17, 2017

Finding Small-Town America - Mount Airy, NC


There's a certain stereotype to small-town America, and it's no coincidence that it looks a lot like Mount Airy, North Carolina. Small shops. Old-timey buildings. Locals greeting each other on the streets. Vintage and knickknack shops sandwiched between local food joints!

March 08, 2017

In Search of Pretty Places


Very rarely do I call attention to or endorse other travel bloggers and enthusiasts, but when I do, it's either because I know them personally or have followed them long enough to trust their content and have developed a cyber-relationship with them over a mutual love for all things travel. Emily falls into both categories. I've known her personally for over 16 years, having grown up in the same county, attended the same social settings, and everything else that comes with growing up in a rural small-town.

March 06, 2017

How Having a Baby Improved My Travel Experience


Did you do a double-take when you read the title of this post?

Most people would assume that having children would diminish the travel experience, and if you read some of my tongue-in-cheek posts about flying with babies and how we survived a total of 19 hours on a plane with an 8 month old, you would think I'd be among that crowd.

I didn't say traveling with a baby is easier. But I do think it's better.

March 03, 2017

Three Years a Gypsy


Today my blog turns three. THREE.

*Sniffles* My little baby is growing up so fast!

Seriously, though, I am proud and amazed that I've been able to keep this blog alive for so long, relatively speaking of course. To put things in perspective, the only other thing I've been able to maintain for a longer time would be my marriage, which will be hitting the seven year mark in June.

For those of you who have stuck with me since the beginning, a lot has happened and changed in the past three years. I left a job I loved only to find a career I really, really love. We've managed to cross a few items off the travel bucket list (only to replace them with three times as many places!). We had a daughter on Christmas Eve 2015. And are expecting an Independence Day baby in 2017. We've put down roots by buying a house, even while remaining forever wistful at not having accomplished a move overseas. We don't blog half as much as we used to, but we are alive and well on social media and love all the interactions with fellow travel-lovers there.

But while I may not have been as prolific of a blogger in the past year compared to the first two, I've been focusing more on my style and the quality of the information I present, rather than the quantity. There's definitely a viewership difference between the posts I just throw together and the ones where I take the time to create a thoughtful post! Here are some highlights, lowlights, and some personal favorites from the past three years:

Personal Favorites (From The Past Year):

Flying with a Baby: Tips, Tricks & Hot Toddies
"Flying with a baby isn't easy. But it's not impossible.

Becoming a parent doesn't mean that you stop being who you are and stop doing what you love. Yes, finances change with having children. Yes, interests and lifestyles will change, too. But if you make travel a priority and budget accordingly, it's still possible - even if you have to spend more time prepping and jump through more hoops to accomplish it!"

Read more.



Richmond Through the Eyes of a Local [Travel Blogger]
"Every city has a combination of personality, culture, and natural attractions (or lack thereof) which makes it distinct from any other place in the world. Call it a fingerprint or call it a flavor - but each town is unique. When traveling to a new city or country, I seek out the best examples in each of these categories to get a holistic view of that place as a living, breathing entity of people and attractions.

And when I stop to seek out these same ideals in my own backyard, I come to one conclusion: Richmond is one cool city."
Read more.

Footloose & Rabies Free [A Reintroduction of Thrifty Gypsy]
"Hi, my name is Katrina. I'm a little bit crazy and 100% weird, but I promise I don't have rabies.* 

No, really. I don't.

If I haven't scared you away yet, welcome! As a new co-host of the #TravelTuesday link-up, I thought it the perfect opportunity to (re)introduce myself to the travel blogging community..."   Read more.

Dinkel-What? [Europe's Hidden Treasures]
"Even those who don't travel are familiar with the big names, the "must sees" if you will, of Europe. London's Big BenRome's Colosseum, and the Eiffel Tower of Paris, just to name a few. But there's more to Europe than the tourist hot spots, and if you're looking for a break from the hordes, a hidden treasure like Germany's Dinkelsbühl may just tickle your travel fancy."
Read more.

Europe 101: Tips, Tricks & Being Thrifty
"It's no secret that travel from the United States to Europe can be expensive. Stupid expensive. While there are some things you can do to help mitigate some costs, others - such as airfare - can't be avoided. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can make your dollars go further when planning a trip to Europe!"

Read more.



Highlights (Popular Posts):
The Time We Accidentally Found the Red Light District in Nuremberg
"Hey, let's go down this way and walk along the city walls."

With this suggestion from Danny, we busted a sharp left down the cobblestone streets of Nürnberg's Altstadt or Old Town.  This was new territory for us..."  Read more.

"Every visit to Italy ought to include at least one day on the coast.  In the midst of an itinerary packed full of ruins, monuments, fountains, museums, beautiful churches, Unesco World Heritage sites, and hurry-hurry-hurry!, we paused for a day on the Campanian coast, basking in the salt breeze, soaking up the warm sun, and swimming in crystal clear water.  Turns out, it was our favorite day of the whole Italian trip."   Read more.

"Whether you're planning to visit Pompeii on a day-trip or book a hotel to stay longer, at some point during your visit, you'll probably need to grab at least one meal.  During the two and a half days we spent in Pompeii, we tried out two restaurants, a cafe, and some street food.  While most of the eatery choices in close proximity to the ruins are very touristy, some are better than others, and even good restaurants near the ruins may appear deserted for dinner since most tourists visit Pompeii only for the day.  Here are our recommendations, ratings, and caveats of available eateries in Pompeii (the ancient ruins) and Pompei (the modern town)..."  Read more.


A Visit to Pearl Harbor [Guest Post]
"After following the Thrifty Gypsy for some time, I got the travel bug myself. I won’t lie. Seeing someone take the time to experience the world is inspirational, and it made me wish I could, too. In the last 15 months I have taken every opportunity to explore and am glad for it. Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Hawaii, a drive north along the east coast, a drive south along the east coast, some local trips mixed in there - I’ve tried to explore and do SOMETHING each month since I came down with this bug..."  Read more.

Das Ist Mir Wurst [Or My Love/Hate Relationship with German]
"Q:  What do you call a person who speaks three languages?
A:  Trilingual.
Q:  What do you call a person who speaks two languages?
A:  Bilingual.
Q:  What do you call a person who speaks one language?
A:  An American!
Now before you think I missed my calling as a stand-up comedian..."  Read more.


Lowlights (Overlooked Posts):
Turning Pennies Into Memories - Sticking to the Plan
"Let's start with a brief recap:

You've changed your priorities and mindset about spending, choosing to take control of your finances and to dictate where your money goes instead of floundering between pay periods wondering where in the world your income went and how you'll survive until the next paycheck..."  Read more.


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..." 
Read more.


Thoughts from London
"-Five hour energy shots are worth their weight in gold.
-The Tube is AMAZING.
-Apparently 52' with a real feel of 45' makes Londoners break out their shorts, skirts, and fishnets. (Winter heat wave?)
-My life is complete now that I've seen the Rosetta Stone & the Sutton Hoo exhibit. Weepy glees.
-Buying the last minute ticket here was the best decision ever..."  Read more.


The Marienberg Fortress in Wurzburg
"Würzburg was one of many places we visited while honeymooning in Germany for 23 days in 2010, and it's a city I would definitely recommend seeing.  It's located on the Main River in the northwest corner of Bayern about an hour east of Frankfurt.  We spent only the better part of the day there, but managed to see the Residenz, the Marienberg Fortress, the Alte Mainbrücke (the Saints' Bridge), and the Würzburg Cathedral -- arguably the four main attractions of the city!"
Read more.

Flying Isn't Just for the Birds
"Airfare.  It's the one aspect of traveling that can wreak havoc on any planner's budget, particularly transatlantic or transpacific flights.  But instead of dreading the search and purchase of a plane ticket, turn it into a competition with yourself to find the best price possible.  The time you spend researching will be well-worth the money you save on the ticket."

Read more.




Thanks for sticking with me over the years! If you haven't already, tell me a little about yourself and what corner of the world you call home!

***
Want more Thrifty Gypsy? Follow me!

February 24, 2017

Life, The Universe & Everything

In a world of oversharing, Danny and I have decided to err on the side of caution when it comes to privacy. Sure, we share details about our travel experiences, which oftentimes get personal, but we tend to be mum on our lives outside of that and practice especial care in regards to our little gypsies. Both here on the blog and on our social media, we have a strict no photo policy of our children. You may see a bit of cheek, the back of the head, or cute little toes, but you will not be seeing their faces. While this decision garnered a few teasing comments from family and a few eye rolls from those who didn't fully agree with us, we've been very careful not to share our daughter's name or photo online, no matter how innocuous or well-meaning our intent!

But it's been a while since I've given a general update on our family, how having an energetic one year old (and another on the way!) impacts our travel plans and travel style, or sharing how we split our budget between exposing our little gypsies to the world and ensuring that they get to enjoy the highlights of their own culture and country when we're at home. In other words, it's time to get a little personal!

Baby Gypsy #2
This past week we had a small party for Baby Gypsy #2 (hmmm, I might need to redevelop pseudonyms now that we're having more than one kid!), and our cupcakes revealed that we are expecting another daughter! Even more importantly, the ultrasound showed that she is developing quite normally, healthily, and energetically as she has plenty of energy to make herself felt through tiny kicks and punches. Seeing her little face on the ultrasound was yet another reminder as to how miraculous a gift life is and that even the unborn can make you fall in love with their personality!

Baby Gypsy #1
Sometimes I think that we have the Energizer Bunny for a daughter - she never stops moving! So far I've gained very little weight this pregnancy (a blessed relief after gaining so much last time), and I could undoubtedly attribute most of that to the thousands of calories burned chasing a toddler around the universe. Ever since she learned to walk at 10 months old, she has hardly paused since. She particularly loves being outdoors, whether visiting her daddy at the downtown mall in Charlottesville, trotting around Pilot Mountain in North Carolina, or chasing her puppy on her grandparents' hobby farm. Taking her to Germany seems like such a distant memory, and I dearly wish we could put firm plans in place for our return. She would be so much more fun now at this age, although the plane ride would probably be even more of a handful.

Absolutely fascinated by goats. She likes to "woof" at them.
Budgeting for Travel
Buying a house, having a "hungry hippo" toddler, and throwing the impending arrival of another little girl into the mix can make the budget do back-flips if you're not careful! We still make saving for travel a priority in the midst of life's everyday expenses. We managed to take a long, low-key weekend getaway to Mount Airy, North Carolina, for Danny's birthday (I tend to gift him trips away instead of things), and I still squirrel money away for our next, as-yet-unplanned-and-unbooked return trip to Europe. We've spent the last two World Cup finals in Germany, so we're looking to make it a tradition with a visit in July 2018. Sneak peeks at the general cost of flights in July and realizing how expensive 3-4 plane tickets will be nearly gave me a heart attack, but it'll be so worth it.

On top of that, I've dedicated $10 a week for a Girls Getaway... in 2023. You may laugh at that far-off date, but I'm completely serious! While we are all busy having babies and raising little ones right now, a few of us are hoping to take a (by then) much needed ladies-only trip somewhere. Maybe the Caribbean. Maybe Croatia. Maybe Spain! In saving $10 a week, by 2023, I'll have $3,120. Not a bad chunk of change!

***
Recently, we booked my mother in law's round-trip tickets from Washington D.C. to Frankfurt for a total of $605 - a very, very good price for mid-May (thank you, IcelandAir!). That familiar rush of finding a good deal and dreaming about beloved places abroad has left me feeling a little sad that we likely won't be venturing beyond our state's borders much this year, let alone the country.

Thankfully, that sadness only lasts until I see a picture of my daughter's face and then I start making plans to take her someplace new a little closer to home. Having kids is hard. Traveling with kids is hard. But I wouldn't change my life for the world. Unless you happen to have a spare million laying around to share!

What's new in your corner of the universe?

***
Want more Thrifty Gypsy? Follow me!

February 17, 2017

How to Scratch the Travel Itch (When Stuck at Home)


You know that feeling when you're driving home on a Friday night after work wishing you were driving to the airport for a weekend getaway? That itchy, have-to-travel compulsion that almost inevitably occurs when your next planned trip is months away? Or worse, not even in the works?

Yeah, that feeling can sting a little sometimes.

So what's a girl to do when the travel bug starts itching? I have a few go-to methods that help me travel vicariously when my butt is stuck in central Virginia.

⇒ Watch a travel show or movie.
This can be anything from joining Rick Steves in Europe, hopping behind Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck on their Roman Holiday scooter, or questing with Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings (Can I get a #MiddleEarthIsAREALPlace trend going, please?). Movies have the ability to transport you away from reality for a while; why not immerse yourself in another culture to quench your travel thirst?

Recommendations: The Amazing Race (tv show), The Sound of Music, The DaVinci Code, Mary Poppins, almost any James Bond movie.

Roman Holiday, anyone?

⇒ Stalk your fellow travel bloggers and 'grammers.
Chances are, one or two of your favorite travel bloggers are currently tripping around the world or are still writing about their recent adventures. Go drool over their photos, laugh at their snafus, and let their travels distract you from your wanderlusting itch. Don't have time to read? Fill your feed with some kick-ass Instagrammers!

Recommendations: [BlogsWhat Up, Swags?! | A Nesting Nomad | Megan C Starr | Snow In Tromso | Em Busy Living | The Travels of BBQ Boy and Spanky  [Instagram] What Up, Swags?! | InSearchOfPrettyPlaces | The Wandering Wife | A Nesting Nomad | Megan C Starr


You could always just follow me!

⇒ Go explore your back yard.
Have you ever thought about the fact that all those exotic places on your bucket list are someone else's "back yard" and that your own back yard might be on someone else's bucket list?! When traveling far isn't an option, don't overlook the cool places close to home! Make yourself an expert on your city, region, or state.

Recommendations: Check out your locality's tourism board for suggestions or use Trip Advisor's "top things to do" for your area.

The OBX isn't quite my backyard, but it's pretty close!

What are your go-to travel itch distractions when you're stuck at home?


***
Want more Thrifty Gypsy? Follow me!

February 09, 2017

7 Wineries in 6 Hours


My friend Meghan is a Wine Nazi. And I mean that in the most flattering, complimentary way possible!

On a cool April day, we three girls - Meghan, my fellow #252by2022 challenger Brittany, and myself - piled into the car and headed west for Virginia's wine country. We hoped to visit at least three wineries; we dared to think we may even see four. But seven?! Well, when you have a determined wine fanatic like Meghan at the wheel, all things are possible!*

(c) Brittany James
1. Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery
As our taste for wine tends to run on the sweeter or less dry side, we were very pleased with a lot of the selections at Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery as most are fruit-based wines and meads. My particular favorite was their strawberry "Sweet Vixen" wine, but the Sweet Melon was a close runner-up.

2. Bold Rock Cidery
Bold Rock is an old favorite of ours as Brittany and I first concocted our #252by2022 challenge after a spontaneous visit to their establishment earlier that spring. The Virginia Apple and Vat No. 1 are our ciders of choice, with the latter resembling more of a champagne than a true cider.

3. Flying Fox Vineyard
The wines of Flying Fox Vineyard suit the palate of dry wine aficionados, of which we are not. However, we found the 2013 Pinot Gris and the White Table Wine to be drinkable** and were pleased that the price for tasting included keeping the stemless wine glass as a souvenir!

Flying Fox Vineyard. (c) Brittany James

4. Afton Mountain Vineyards
With a sign at the front of the property proclaiming that "Grapes Don't Grow in Ugly Places," we had high hopes for beautiful scenery at Afton Mountain Vineyards, and we were not disappointed! Similar to Flying Fox, Afton has many dry varieties of wine, although there were a few sweeter ones which we fancied, such as the Muscat and Mountain White.

5. Cardinal Point Winery
Folksy, bluegrass music greeted our ears at Cardinal Point Winery's outdoor porch and patio where we settled down on comfy couches with a glass of 2014 Quattro, a blend with tastes of apple, peach, pear, and, of course, grape. It is slightly drier than my normal wine favorites, but I took a bottle home with me anyway!
Virginia Is For [Wine] Lovers.
Veritas Vineyard & Winery. (c) Brittany James

6. Veritas Vineyard & Winery
Veritas numbers among the nobility of wineries in the general Charlottesville area. The atmosphere is what I imagine of the vineyards and wineries of Napa Valley. Polished. Aristocratic. Aloof. Veritas' wines have a reputation for being solid performers, but my only favorite of the day was their 2013 Rosé, which was light and crisp.

7. Pollak Vineyards
We capped our wine blitz at Pollak Vineyards, squeaking through the door shortly before their official closing time, but were treated as warmly as if we were the first guests of the day. If the weather hadn't been so depressingly foggy (and it hadn't been so late in the day!), we would've taken advantage of the beautiful patio and scenery around the tasting room. Although Pollak's wines generally run more on the dry side, by this point in the afternoon, I liked almost all of them with the Rosé 2014 (sensing a pattern here?) taking the top spot of the line-up.

Have you visited any of these wineries in Virginia? What's your all-time favorite wine?


Pollak Vineyards.
(c) Brittany James

Wine barrel art.
(c) Brittany James
We four winos!
(c) Brittany James

***
Want more Thrifty Gypsy? Follow me!


* Meghan later went on to visit 8 wineries in 5 hours on a separate occasion. This should be a Guinness Book of World Records title!
** For all we know, they could be very good wines, but as we have not yet developed the taste buds for the drier varieties of wine, we can't recommend either way.
***All photos were taken by and used with permission of Brittany James. Unauthorized use of these photos, as with any photo on The Thrifty Gypsy's Travels, is strictly prohibited.

February 06, 2017

Traveling through Taste


So my not-resolution resolution for 2017 was to purposefully be present and do, translating into a goal of experiencing at least one new thing for every calendar month. While our wallets recovered from the holidays and buying a house, we stayed close to home in January. But my taste buds traveled to the Middle East and Far East, thanks to the variety of restaurants accessible to us!

My first food foray of the year was at the Afghan Kabob Palace in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a lunch out with the whole office. It was a dream-come-true for the cravings of a pregnant woman! An all-you-can-eat buffet of lamb or chicken curry, manto (beef dumpling), somosas (stuffed pastry shells), eggplant, rice, and other various vegetables served in traditional Afghani spices. It was delicious.


A photo posted by Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (@thriftygypsytravels) on


My taste was not yet sated for eastern food, though! The following week, I ventured farther east (figuratively, that is) for Indian cuisine: chicken marsala on a bed of curried vegetables and rice. I think this baby already has the makings of a transcontinental cuisine connoisseur since most of my cravings lately have been for ethnic food!

What's piqued your taste buds lately?

***
Want more Thrifty Gypsy? Follow me!

February 01, 2017

Ready, Set, WEEKEND

I think most of us can agree that there are few things better than the weekend, especially a weekend with a planned getaway!

There have been very few hints dropped about our destination and plans as the details have been a surprise gift for my hubby's birthday. But that man is particularly good at squirreling information out of me, and the cat was let out of the bag last night...

Source.
Mount Airy, North Carolina. Also known as Mayberry U.S.A. due to its role as inspiration for the town of the same name in the iconic Andy Griffith Show. Danny and I have wanted to visit this place for a long time, but we never made the time for it in lieu of visiting more far-off destinations. There's no better reason than for a birthday nor a time better than now to enjoy a town so family-friendly and focused on preserving the slower-paced life of bygone times. It's time to enjoy small-town U.S.A.!

What are your plans for February?
***
Want more Thrifty Gypsy? Follow me!

January 08, 2017

A Not-Resolution Resolution for 2017


Last year's travel wish list ended up... busting, to state it mildly. Between adjusting to a baby, saving our pennies for our three week trip to Germany, managing a full time job and buying a house, we didn't go very many places. Out of the sixteen items and two bonus items on that list, I completed six.

Womp womp.

So this year, rather than posting specific travel and lifestyle wish list items, I am simply resolving to be present and to do.

Simple enough to manage even for a working wife and mother, right?

By the end of this year, I want to look back and identify at least one new thing for every month, no matter how simple. I want to be present in my hometowns (Charlottesville and Richmond, Va.) and to do things here. While I'll always hunger for going somewhere else, during this time of having to stay closer to home, I want to make the most of it and discover why people come visit this area. Because they do! And they do so to experience many things I have yet to do.

As one example, both Charlottesville and Richmond have vibrant food scenes, thanks to the plethora of restaurants that call this area home. This month I tried eggplant for the first time at an Afghan restaurant here in C'ville. If I accomplish nothing else in the next three weeks, at least I can claim that as a new experience for January! The food was delicious, and I loved how the decor transported me to another corner of the world.

So now I just need to compile a rough idea of things to do and see in our area (and maybe one or two out of state things we can squeeze in?). If you were to come to central Virginia, what sort of things would you like to do or see?


Want more Thrifty Gypsy? Follow me!

January 03, 2017

2017 - Two Is Better Than One


Happy 2017, everyone! Surprise (or no surprise), the Gypsy family is expanding yet again! It's time to prepare for another passport purchase when Baby #2 makes their appearance in early July. We seem to have a knack for holiday babies (our daughter arrived on Christmas eve 2015), so I would not be surprised if we end up with an Independence Day babe. Anyone want to place a bet?!

***

While many were relieved to see the backside of 2016 and welcomed 2017 with cautious optimism, we enjoyed a wonderful 2016 and feel that 2017 has some big shoes to fill. We enjoyed so many firsts. Our 2016 began with a new outlook on life, seeing the world through the eyes of a newborn. From outings to staycations to visiting new places and revisiting favorites, we took Baby Gypsy everywhere with us. While traveling is a completely different ball game with a child, it is not only completely doable, but something we highly recommend, both for your child's sake and yours. It has compelled Danny and I to work better as a team and permitted us to experience the world in a new way as we share it with our little one. While Baby #2 will keep our hands even more full, I can't wait to take this newest little one near and far, too! Visiting Germany in 2018 for the World Cup sounds like a great idea. Time to turn these littles into Mannschaft fans - Mia san mia, y'all!

Admittedly, our travels in 2016 were few and far between compared to previous years, but this was only partly due to having a little one. We began looking for a house in the early spring, and by summer, we were under contract. We took a few trips around the state (bumping into Ozzy Osbourne while he filmed a TV show at Jamestown was one highlight), took a couple trips up to Amish country in Pennsylvania, and spent three glorious weeks in Bavaria visiting Danny's German relatives. But with the impending purchase of the house, we were mindful of our finances and satisfied ourselves with exploring our two closest cities - Richmond and Charlottesville, Va. - instead of more exotic international destinations. 2017 will likely also be a more subdued travel year due to Baby #2's mid-year arrival, but with so many things to see in our state (let alone our whole country), I'm sure we'll have more than a few new things to enjoy!

With so many things on our plate regarding home ownership and new baby, I daren't even make a 2017 travel wishlist because it's likely I won't accomplish a single thing! However, I am resolving to be more present in the present - spending less time mindlessly scrolling online and being more efficient with what time I do spend in cyberspace. Plus, let's face it - having one kid is time-consuming enough, but two?! My poor blog is going to be so neglected! However, I still maintain a presence on Instagram with photos from past trips and recent excursions. But unless or until I win that coveted lottery and can achieve stay-at-home-trophy-wife-and-mama status, I can't promise that my blogging frequency will improve. :) But I shall try!

What's going on in your lives?!

Regensburg with the little and my sister in law

***

Want more Thrifty Gypsy? Follow me!