July 31, 2014

Mapping My Month: August 2014

Where do I even begin?

Bagni della Regina Giovanna, Punta del Capo, Italy
July brought so many travels and adventures, beginning with a whirlwind trip through Italy's Campania and Lazio regions and ending with a more relaxed fortnight in the heart of Germany's Bavaria.  We wandered the ancient streets of Pompeii; swam in the crystal clear water of Roman ruins in Punta del Capo just outside Sorrento; ascended Mt Vesuvius and stared down her steaming throat; experienced the unforgettably packed "cattle wagon" of the Circumvesuviana train line from Naples; got our feet dusty and worn in Rome, gawking over the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, and various churches; pilgrimaged to St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and marveled at masterpieces of artwork by Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, and others; reached euphoric levels after having the best gelato of my life on the Piazza Navona and otherwise enjoyed many delicious (and not-so delicious!) Italian dinners.  And this was just in the first seven days!

I also made sure to leave an unforgettable impression on those around us by "throwing" pizza on the floor in Pompeii, stepping on a gooey piece of gum in Sorrento, being baptized by a bird, elbowing a waiter in the groin, frying my hairdryer and our converter at our hotel in Rome.  To just name a few things!

Deutschland ist nummer eins!!!
But we arrived in Germany just in time to experience a World Cup win!  It's becoming our tradition to watch the final matches of the World Cup with our friends in Stuttgart.  Four years ago we celebrated a third place finish for Germany, but this time we were overjoyed to see Germany earn the Weltmeister title! 

We visited Strasbourg, France; drove up windy roads in the heart of the Schwarzwald (Black Forest); ate our fill of wurst and schnitzel; celebrated the Kinderzeche, one of Germany's oldest festivals, in Danny's German home town of Dinkelsbühl; experienced the festivities of a bierzelt (beer tent) with our Stuttgarter friends; toured the aldstadt of Nuremberg; and spent blissful hours on windy Bavarian roads and, of course, testing out our rental car's engine on the autobahn!

There were a few difficult moments, even fewer downright stressful ones, but overall it was a wonderful trip.  I'm still thinking in "Deunglish," feel terribly guilty because we're not (yet) sorting our trash here, but overall I am glad to be back home in the good ol' U.S. of A.  August will be a quieter month for us in comparison.  We may go on a camping/tubing trip for my birthday or spend a few weekends on the Northern Neck, but otherwise it's time to plump our bank accounts and start dreaming of the next big trip.  And, of course, start writing more in-depth posts about July's adventures!

How was your July?  And what's on the docket for August?

July 28, 2014

Breaking the Radio Silence

Well, I'm back. 

Or more specifically, my body is back in the United States, but my brain is somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic!  I haven't yet decompressed from our adventures or sorted through my thoughts about the trip.  Overall, it was amazing.  There were some difficult parts, but it was more or less outweighed by the great parts.

Once I've caught up from the hundreds of work and personal e-mails, adjusted to east coast time, and stopped thinking and speaking in Deunglish (totally a real thing), I'll start writing about all the things we were able to see and do!  In the mean time, it's back to my desk job so I can start saving for the next adventure!

Bis bald!

July 13, 2014

Live from Germany!


It's been 24 years, but tonight Germany proved themselves the best team. I can't believe we are here in Stuttgart to experience it. It's already 3am, so this post will be short. However, I am savouring the moment. Unbelievable. Ich kann es night glauben - I can't believe we are actually here to see, experience, and join in with the celebration! This sort of excitement rarely happens in the US!

Obviously, I will write better and more detailed posts in the future. But for tonight, I will revel in the honking cars and shouting fans.

Remember to follow me on Instagram, twitter or Facebook for updates!

Gute nacht!

July 12, 2014

Ciao, Italia! Hallo, Deutschland!

Our time in Italy is at an end. We're off to Fiuminco airport and onward to Germany! It's been great fun - loads to write about later on proper blog posts. I probably won't be able to post as frequently in Germany as we won't have hotel WiFi to use. It's time for family, friends, and fußball!!!

If I am online it will be on social media, so see my previous blog post on where to follow me!

July 10, 2014

Shameless Plugs

View from the Castel San Angelo

It's hard to blog while on the road, but so far I've been able to keep up with social media. To see some pictures, follow my traveling mishaps, help feed my growing fanatacism with Germany's National Football team, and read other random things that catch my fancy, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @thriftygypsy87 and on Facebook at The Thrifty Gypsy's Travels.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Rome. We've seen a lot, but of course there are a lot of things we won't be able to squeeze in. Guess that means we'll have to return one day! Tonight we're off to the Trevi Fountain to toss in a coin and wish for a return visit.


July 08, 2014

Guest Post: A Honeymoon Cruise

Tulum, Mexico
(C) Sean R.
The following is a guest post by my friend Sean, as I am currently vacationing in Europe and posts by me will be few and far between until my return!  Enjoy!


Recently, my wife and I chose to go on a cruise vacation for our honeymoon.  I had been asked by a certain thrifty friend of mine to write down my experiences and reasons why cruising was the best value for us - so here goes!

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas. Source.
We took a seven-night cruise on Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas departing from New Orleans, Louisiana, and bound for Falmouth in Jamaica, George Town in the Grand Caymans, and Cozumel, Mexico, before returning back to New Orleans.

The Serenade of the Seas is a Radiance Class vessel that entered into service in 2003.  She is 90,090 Gross Tons, 962ft long, 106ft beam, 25ft draft, and a cruising speed 25 knot.  She has a passenger compliment of 2,112 persons with a crew compliment of 857.

She also boasted 3 hot tubs, 3 pools, 4 specialty restaurants, 2 main dining rooms, 16 bars, clubs and lounges, a rock wall, a putting course, spa, fitness center, and theatre.  Essentially, she’s a small city floating on the water!

But without further ado, here are my five reasons to go cruising!

1.  Destinations

Snorkeling in the Caribbean. Yes, that's my head!
(c) Sean R.
One of the biggest reasons to go cruising is the sheer plethora of destinations.  Want to go visit the glaciers of Alaska?  Go for it!  Want to take a transatlantic cruise and see the northern lights at sea?  Can do!  Want to tour the ports of Italy, Spain and France?  Why not?  Feel like seeing Greece, Turkey and Russia?  It can happen.  If you feel like touring Europe, go for a river cruise where you can see the culture and history (or wine if you want to cruise France) from a much smaller river boat.  Cruising does not have to be to the Caribbean; you can quite literally cruise anywhere.

We chose a classic cruise to destinations that neither of us had been to yet.  My wife has been on several cruises in the past, but it was my first.  We chose a cruise that meshes our love of history with our interest in the outdoors.  One of the benefits of cruising is the ability to go on excursions.  Excursions come at an additional price, but the experiences are vetted by the cruise line.  And if you are running late from finishing your excursion, the ship won't leave you behind!

In Jamaica we took a historic tour where we visited the oldest Anglican Church in Falmouth, toured the town of Ocho Rios, saw the bay where Christopher Columbus first landed in the new world, and ate some authentic jerk chicken.

Columbus Bay in Jamaica, (c) Sean R.
While in the Grand Caymans, we wanted to learn about the history of the island, but also wanted to go snorkeling and enjoy some of their famous beaches.  We went on a 'Jeep Wrangler Adventure' tour, which involved more mental exercise than I anticipated!  I had to drive on the left-hand side of the road while operating a right-hand drive Jeep!  We drove all around the island, visited the town of Hell, and then ended on a resort beach where we were able to go snorkeling out on the reef.

In case you were wondering, they do serve Budweiser in hell.
(c) Sean R.
When we visited Cozumel, we took the opportunity to tour the Mayan ruins in Tulum.  That took the entire day but was definitely worth it.  Seeing the windows where the sun would rise during the mornings of the solstices and equinoxes fascinated me the most.

We finally ended our vacation with a tour of New Orleans . Highlights of that tour included seeing the Superdome, levees, the 9th Ward, and the Cemetery of St. Roch.

2.  Food

A cold watermelon & raspberry soup topped
with creme fraiche & pistachios... yum!
(c) Sean R.
Oh, where to begin!  Cruising is definitely a foodie's dream.  Every dish is made from scratch and was a fine dining experience.  We had some of the freshest, most amazing muesli on board.  Each three-course dinner had a different theme.  Snacks and cookies were also available on-board, and with only a few exceptions, it’s included in the cost!

The exceptions are usually the specialty restaurants.  These can be great options for people who want a quieter dinner that is fancier or more specialized.  However, we decided not to partake in the specialty dining rooms.  The other exception was the coffee bar.  If you wanted an espresso drink you had to pay extra, however, prices were still cheaper than at Starbucks!

3.  Entertainment

Cruise lines are constantly thinking of new things to add.  On our cruise there were belly flop competitions, daily bingo games, and a version of the Newlyweds Game.  There were two aerial shows, which included a balancing act made all the more impressive because the ship was going through some rougher seas at that time!  For three of evenings, there were professional comedy shows, all of which were hilarious!

There were also special events for people at different stages in their lives.  We enjoyed a special honeymooner’s luncheon for complimentary mimosas or champagne with other couples!  There were also luncheons for the singles onboard and events for teens and kids so the parents can do their own thing.  The best part…It’s all included in your cruise package!

The aerial show!
(c) Sean R.
4.  Culture

The cruise is designed to optimize meeting new people and making new friends.  A myriad of cultures were represented by both staff and passengers.  Our head waitress was named Laarni, and she was from the Philippines.  The assistant waiter was named Sezai, and he was from Turkey.  Both of them were wonderful waiters and more than happy to talk with us.

Our guide in Tulum
(c) Sean R.
In each of the port, we were able to talk and interact with local people.  The tour guides were very interested in sharing their stories and culture.  Our guide in Cozumel was of Mayan descent and passionately explained his culture and history.  Having him guide us through the Tulum ruins was an absolutely incredible experience.  You could just feel his passion!

5.  Value

So let’s talk value.  The upfront cost might strike you as incredibly expensive, especially when you include airfare.  But break down the individual costs for a similar trip and you’ll quickly realize that it’s really a good value.  Hotels are incredibly expensive, and I don’t know of any hotels that’ll also fold towel animals or provide all your meals with your board!

Why, Mr. Hiss, aren't you lookin' stylish tonight?
(c) Sean R.
And beyond your room and meals, the on-board entertainment is also included.  We were able to see a comedy show in the theater each night plus the aerial/balancing act on the last evening.  Just imagine the cost for nightly theater tickets anywhere else.  It would be incredible!

With many of the modern cruise ships, they have on-board water slides, surfing experiences, rock walls, and even zip lines.  All of these things are included in your package price.  With all of this in mind, cruising really is a great value for the money you spend!

Sean and his beautiful bride!
(c) Sean R.

So are you ready to book your cruise vacation?!  Have you ever been on a cruise?

Linking up with #TravelTuesday!

July 07, 2014

Traveling Mishaps

At Mt Vesuvius' crater

We made it to Rome! Apparently, arriving 90 minutes after your scheduled time is normal? We've yet to have a train or bus experience that was punctual, but have tried our best to roll with the punches. We're having a great time!

Otherwise I've been doing a good job keeping things exciting. First, there was the pizza throwing incident in Pompeii (yes, I keep hinting at this story; no, I'm not going to tell it yet because typing on a smart phone is painfully slow). Next, I managed to step squarely on a whopper of a gum wad in Sorrento just outside the train station. Glorious. But those two incidents can't compare to tonight's mishap: elbowing a waiter in the groin as he passed by. Lovely. You know your spouse loves you when you keep making a fool of yourself, and he keeps telling you how beautiful you are. <blush>

Again, time is short and sweet, and our comfy bed is calling my name. We're just around the corner from the embassy, so if my accidents escalate at least we can get the consulate to act on my behalf! Ciao!

Regina Giovanni - "The Green Lagoon"

So our days in the Napoli province are coming to an end. This morning we will climb Vesuvius and then catch the cattle train to Napoli and on to Roma. Yesterday we swam in the ruins of an ancient Roman bath and sunbathed along the Mediterranean. Several bucket list items have now been accomplished!

I will certainly write a more in depth description of today once I'm back in the states!

View of the Mediterranean from the Roman ruins

July 05, 2014

Pompeii Photos

We made it to Italy, safe and sound! Naples was rather eye-opening (more on that later); I already threw pizza on the floor (accidentally but spectacularly); gawked at the wonder of Vesuvius; and pinched myself while at the Pompeii ruins to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Oh, and Germany made it to the World Cup semi-finals so we are thoroughly happy! Here are a few teaser photos from today:

WiFi has been spotty so updates may be infrequent, and I don't want to spend my time here on the internet anyway! Until the next WiFi watering hole, ciao!

July 03, 2014

A Capitol Fourth

The Capitol - July 4, 2013
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
Tomorrow is America's birthday - Independence Day!  On this date in 1776, the Founding Fathers presented the Declaration of Independence to the colonies as a clear statement of resolve to cut governmental ties with England.  Now 238 years later, we Americans celebrate in a variety of ways, from backyard barbeques to community firework parties to bedecking ourselves in red, white and blue to show our patriotic fervor (or corniness!)!

Washington Monument & Reflecting Pool
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
Independence Day is one of my more favorite holidays.  Usually we keep it low-key, playing lawn games, barbequing, laughing with family and friends, and capping off the day with some firecrackers!  However, last year we kicked it up a notch and traveled to D.C. for the Capitol Fourth festivities!

We arrived in DC shortly before noon and headed straight for Capitol Hill where we met up with two friends in town from Germany.  I found myself appreciating Independence Day in a unique way as I tried to "see" the festivities through the eyes of a European visitor.  We spent the next few hours meandering through the monuments, grabbing a burger at one of D.C.'s many restaurants, and finally ending up stretched out in the grass at the National Mall to talk away the hours until the fireworks show began!

WWII Monument
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
The "Capitol Fourth" specifically refers to a free concert given right in front of the Capitol building on July 4th.  To attend, all you need to do is show up early and grab a seat before they fill up.  (For more details, see their website.)  The audience's back is to the Capitol building, and the stage for the concert stands between the audience and the Mall.  Last year Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow played, but we skipped the concert because the staging unfortunately blocks good views of the fireworks.  And those fireworks - they don't disappoint!  It was a great show!

This is the first year I won't be in the U.S. for Independence Day, but I'm too excited about our long-anticipated vacation to be wistful.  Wherever you are, at home in the states, abroad on holiday or living as an expat, you can still celebrate America's birthday, and I intend to do so - from Pompeii, Italy!

Happy (early) Independence Day, y'all!  How are you spending your July 4th?

July 01, 2014

Mapping My Month: July 2014

We leave in two days.


This pretty much sums me up.
June was an absolutely amazing month, kick-started by the wedding of my brother here in Richmond and followed closely by trying out local bars and restaurants, taking an excursion to Colonial Williamsburg, a gorgeous summer walk through my beautiful Goochland county, watching some World Cup action, and culminating with a quiet weekend of cleaning and packing for our Europe trip!  This past month also brought me a Liebster Award nomination and having two guest posts published on Ever Changing Scenery and the Contented Traveller -- several firsts for me!

We will be gone for every weekend in July.  Every weekend!  Our plans include visiting Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Naples and Rome in Italy before flying to Stuttgart, Germany, to watch the final World Cup matches with our friends.  From there we'll make our way to the charming medieval town of Dinkelsbühl (otherwise known as Danny's German home town) situated on the Romantische Straße in Bavaria.  We'll enjoy the Kinderzeche festival and visit with more family and friends.  Since we're renting a car, we'll be able to take day-trips throughout the region, and I'm hoping to visit Baden-Baden and Strasbourg on the border with France as some of my ancestors originated from there.  

Unlike our time in Italy, which is scheduled almost down to the minute, our time in Germany will be more relaxed and spontaneous.  I can't wait to see what we'll end up doing!

Obviously my posts here will be infrequent while we are away, but be sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram for updates from the road!  (Don't forget, I'm on Bloglovin', too!)
What are your July plans? 

Linking up with Bonnie, Van, Kiki and other travel bloggers for #TravelTuesday!

To see my post about my particular brand of travel style, check out my post here!