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!

Left to right: Barney, Opie (front), Andy, and Aunt Bea
This town in the northwestern part of the state, a stone's throw from the Virginia border, holds the distinction of being the inspiration for the town of Mayberry as featured in the 1960s sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. Little more than a small dot on the map from a bird's eye view, Mount Airy represents quintessential small town America: slow-paced living high on quality relationships with neighbors and low on the anonymity of big cities. Capitalizing on its connection to Andy Griffith and the show, the town has carefully preserved its main street shops and maintained a few replica buildings as iconic trademarks of the sitcom, such as the courthouse, Floyd's Barber Shop, and Wally's service center.

The Andy Griffith Show followed the life of the widower sheriff, Andy Taylor, who spends more time raising his son Opie and calming his excitable cousin, Deputy Barney Fife, than solving any actual crime, since the biggest commotion in town is usually caused by the local drunk who often breaks into the county jail to pass out after a bender.

Growing up, I absolutely adored the show. Barney Fife and his "one bullet" was by far my favorite, but there was something charming in each character. For my husband's birthday this year, I gifted him a weekend away as a family to a place where family fits right on in and is celebrated.

Whether you're a fan of the show or not, Mount Airy is great for a stopover or detour from the Blue Ridge Parkway or just a quiet weekend away. We found an absolutely adorable 1930s house with three bedrooms on Airbnb just around the corner from Main Street for less than a price of hotel rooms! We spent our Saturday wandering up and down Main Street, snapping photos in front of the various replica buildings and locking my husband up in the jail for "failure to buy his wife chocolates on a regular basis" (preggo lady has needs, y'know!). We also took an excursion out to see the views from Pilot Mountain, a short drive south of Mount Airy. They did not disappoint!

A post shared by Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (@thriftygypsytravels) on
Beyond the town itself, there are a few wineries in the area, and the Blue Ridge Parkway and accompanying Appalachians are within a very short drive. Mount Airy hosts "Mayberry Days" that advertises to be a family-friendly celebration of the town and the show, oftentimes featuring actors from the show itself.

Coming home from a long weekend is always a sad affair for us, but even more so after having slowed our hectic lives to a comfortable amble in a town where the journey isn't necessarily about the destination, but the quality time spent getting there.

Have you been to Mount Airy? What's your favorite small-town America location?

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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. 

Emily currently lives in Colorado Springs, working as an accountant by day and developing her skills as a hiking enthusiast, nature photographer, and insatiable wanderluster at every chance she gets. She recently returned from a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands and can be found 'gramming and blogging at InSearchOfPrettyPlaces.


🌎 Hi! Tell us a little about yourself.
Pocahontas State Park, Virginia
I'm Emily, a 32 year old accountant with an insatiable love for all things travel! I grew up in a little town outside of Richmond, Virginia, but recently packed up everything and moved 1,700 miles away to Colorado Springs, Colorado. I am married to a wonderful man I met in college, who is in the army now. We have two cats and a very outgoing husky that we like to take hiking with us. We are both very passionate about the outdoors and try to hike something every weekend we are home. I'm an avid postcard collector an a very amateur photographer. But learning to take a good picture and using PhotoShop to enhance my photos has become one of my favorite hobbies!

🌎 What was your first trip in search of a pretty place?
The first trip I remember inspiring my love of travel was beginning our annual pilgrimage to New York City and Boston to visit our extended family. We would all pile into our family minivan and head north. Since I come from a relatively large family of six, my parents tried to keep the spending low by taking us tent-camping instead of staying in hotels. I developed a strong love for camping at an early age and have camped in many of the states on the eastern seaboard. My parents love camping as well and have spent a considerable amount of time hiking and camping in the United States and abroad. I'm so thankful that they shared their love with us from the beginning, and I'm always surprised to meet someone who has never camped before!

🌎 Where was one of your recent "pretty places" trips?
Pacific Northwest
One of my recent trips was driving the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to Seattle! It has been a goal of mine since I made the drive from San Diego to LA years ago. The entire coast is absolutely stunning, and it’s a trip I think everyone should take. We camped along the way and it truly added to our experience! Plus, I got to add two more states to my list (Oregon and Washington)!

🌎 What is your travel style?
I love luxury, and I love the outdoors. My interest tends to gravitate toward places where I can experience both if possible. But I can stand to “rough it” a little if it means getting to enjoy nature in an intimate way. When we planned our PCH trip we decided to camp for two nights since the scenery is so beautiful. It truly added to our experience, and even though we were in a tent, I was comfortable both nights! Falling asleep to the wind in the trees and the waves on the Oregon coast was so peaceful!

🌎 What is the hardest part about traveling?
Traveling is hard for everyone at times. Missed flights, lost reservations, not speaking the language, etc. Of course those things are difficult, but for me the hardest part about traveling is my health. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was in college, and it requires some vigilance. Fortunately, I have been in remission for the better part of a decade and usually feel okay if I’m doing all the right things. When I travel, inevitably, I will face some stress which makes me sick. Each trip I take I’m learning more and getting better at knowing how to handle it. I make sure I give myself enough downtime, have a comfortable place to stay (luxury!), keep my medicine handy, and eat foods that I know are safe. I try to keep in mind that it will pass and that I have never regretted take a trip yet!

Glacier National Park
🌎 Where to next?
We would like to visit Japan! I have read so many excellent reviews and heard so many people speak highly of the culture that I can’t wait to get there! Because we are military, we are going to try staying on the base there since it is cheaper but still nice accommodations. I am reading everything I can get my hands on about Japan and starting to plan our trip.

We’re also planning to take a few day trips nearby. There is so much of Colorado I have yet to explore! Places on our list include hiking Pike’s Peak, visiting Breckenridge and Estes Park, and spending a long weekend in Crested Butte!

You can follow Emily on Instagram and her blog for more pretty places!

Drake's Seat, St. Thomas Virgin Islands. 

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All photos in this post are the property of In Search Of Pretty Places and are used with permission. Unauthorized use of the photos is strictly prohibited.

Linking up with: Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.

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.

🌎 Little Eyes, Big World
Seeing the world through the eyes of a little one is amazing. My daughter can't contain her excitement over something as simple as a fallen leaf, let alone the wonder of a medieval stone wall! I have not traveled enough to feel inured or unmoved by man-made or natural wonders yet, but if I were to ever reach that point, taking a trip with a child could fix that problem in short order. I see the world anew when my daughter enjoys a new experience, and it's made my own travel experience richer.

🌎 Stop & Smell the Roses 
True story: kids will slow you down. Their little legs can't keep up; nap times are a necessity; attention and interest will wane when you're in the middle of enjoying a culture's finest attractions; and chicken nuggets will be demanded over the niceties of foie gras. You can bemoan that fact, or you can embrace it. Traveling with kids is a much slower affair than traveling as a couple (or solo), and some choose to forego traveling because of it, taking an all or nothing approach. However, I would much rather experience something than nothing! And a slower pace to accommodate the little ones simply means that I have more time to smell the roses along the way, savoring the culture and experience rather than rushing through it.

🌎 Crossing Language Barriers
Smiling is a universal language, and there is perhaps nothing more engaging or endearing than a little kid smiling at you! When Danny and I traveled as a couple, we didn't seek to overly engage ourselves with any residents of our destinations. We preferred to primarily observe and interact only with servers, hotel workers, or those employed at cultural attractions on an as-needed basis. We have probably missed out on a deeper understanding of these cultures and other travelers because of it, but with a kid, we have no choice. Our daughter loves to smile at everyone. And everyone loves to smile at her! While carrying her around the Regensburg Cathedral, I was mobbed by a group of Japanese ladies who began cooing and smiling and talking excitedly to us in Japanese with a few interspersed "cute baby!" phrases thrown in the mix. It was a small interaction, but so heart-warming to me. Traveling with a child, especially a baby, makes you very approachable and can open up a lot of doors to interacting with a culture in a way you wouldn't expect. Rather than walking by a playground, you may end up spending time there, experiencing in a small way what it would be like to actually live there and perhaps making friends with a local mom and kids that are probably more like you than not.

As with anything in life, traveling with kids is what you make of it. You can choose to focus on the downside, or you can choose to dwell on the enriching part. Broaden their world, enrich their minds, and choose to have fun in doing so!

Traveling with kids: would you do it? 

Other #TravelWithKids posts:

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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!

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