June 30, 2015

Mapping My Month: July 2015

I wish I could say that June 2015 was a very productive month - for life, the universe, and everything in between - but honesty is the best policy as my mother always says. So the recap will be very brief to reflect the (nearly nonexistent) events of the past month.

A few weeks ago we went public about my upcoming three month long "vacation" from work. I wish I could say that the time off will be spent on a beautiful Caribbean beach with a tall, cold drink in hand, but in all actuality my hands will be full with baby bottles and diapers. Baby Gypsy is on their way!

Maybe in 5 months...
The Universe...
Despite exhaustion and nausea dogging my steps, we did manage to keep our weekends delightfully full. One weekend of baby showers (preview of our future life) and adult birthday brewery parties (where, sadly, I was unable to partake) in the general Richmond area provided me with a challenge for after #252by2022 has been completed: visiting every brewery in Virginia!

Two weekends of boating, beaching, and being relaxed in Virginia's beautiful Northern Neck helped recharge us after long work weeks. Our five year anniversary fell on one of those weekends, and it was so lovely to spend our anniversary in the same place we spent our mini-honeymoon. Nothing beats the saltwater lowlands of Virginia.

Last weekend was spent waging war on the clutter that has taken over one of the spare bedrooms. I think the clutter won this battle; we still have a lot of work to do in order to make way for crib, changing table, pallets of diapers, and lots of future souvenirs for Baby Gypsy's travels!

And Everything...
I definitely didn't do much travel writing over the past month, that's for sure. Only six other posts in all of June? It's a new record low.

July should be similar to June, but with more writing, a weekend tubing trip to the mountains, celebrating Uncle Sam's birthday somewhere that has water, and maybe a girl's weekend to Ocean City. Still not sure if I have the energy level to attempt that one!

2015 Goal Updates:
1. Hot, humid Virginia days have deterred me from doing much exercise, but technically I'm under doctor's orders to walk at least 30 minutes a day... I'm just going to let that sentence fade off without any excuses...
2. The credit card balance is so low that I may just pay it all off in a fit of financial denouement. Take that, debt monster!
3. No caffeine, no alcohol, no sushi, no deli meat. It's no wonder people are itching to get pregnant all the time! </sarcasm>
4. Although I gave up on cutting back the amount of time, I'm doing well about not posting all the time. Sorry, no dinner selfies or words of wisdom typed while perched on the porcelain god.
5. We made zero progress on the #252by2022 challenge this month. Chalk it up to pregnancy tiredness (although I'm still planning to visit wineries while pregnant and make B do the tasting) and B being on vacation. We shall have to redouble our efforts in the future.

So what epic adventures are you up to this July?

June 28, 2015

Acclimating to Athens

Warm. Historic. Struggling. These were the only preconceived notions and adjectives that I packed for our first visit to Greece this past spring. And as we stepped off the plane and onto the efficient metro line from the airport to the capitol city of Athens, we were introduced to all three aspects in quick succession from the scenery flashing by the metro-car windows.

We selected Greece to be our new country of 2015 for several reasons: its warm climate (important for an early May visit to Europe), its multitude of historic sites to visit, its tendency to frequent the headlines for all the most dire economic reasons lately, and because it's been on my international bucket list for years.
A crowded Monastiraki Square with the Acropolis in the background

Arriving in Athens was... exhilarating. Seeing the highway signs indicating Corinth and Thessaloniki gave me goosebumps as the realization that we were really here finally sank in, and even the prolific graffiti in downtown Athens filled me with excitement. There's nothing like viewing in person what you've been studying through photographs for forever!

After a quick shower and stowing our luggage at our comfortable, no-frills-but-killer-view hotel room near Monastiraki Square, we set out to wander. And wonder.

The vibe from Athinas Street made Danny feel like he was back in the Middle East. First-floor shops sold footware, hygiene products, and chainsaws (who needs a chainsaw in the middle of Athens?!) all in one place, while apartments and hotels occupied the floors above. The items spilled out from the shops themselves into neatly-organized arrangements on carpeted sidewalks, necessitating careful footwork.

We followed the street south towards the Acropolis, which stands proudly above the city and provides a great compass for when the twistier streets leave you disoriented, and took a quick gyro meal just off the main square before continuing towards the historic sites. Although it was already nearing the evening hours, it was quite warm, and I was thankful to use a street map as a fan while we huffed and puffed our way upward.

Once we reached the halfway point of the Acropolis (at the "backdoor" entrance), we purchased our tickets for the next day and then enjoyed the view of the city below us before taking an evening stroll through the Agora.

There's no better way to acclimate and orient yourself to a new city than by taking a few hours to wander around with no agenda in mind. Just note any possible dodgy areas of town to avoid prior to arrival (sticking to the tourist areas in Athens is a safe bet) and soak up the atmosphere. And maybe some good Greek beer.

Have you been to Athens? What were your first impressions?

Linking up for #TravelTuesday!
Linking up for the #WeekendWanderlust!

June 25, 2015

Mountain Cove Vineyards, Virginia's Oldest (And Most Approachable) Winery

Let's face it, the stereotype for most wine drinkers generally runs along the adjectives of affluent, sophisticated, and somewhat aloof, and most wineries tend to cater towards that higher-class stereotype - pinkies up, my friends! But while these stereotypes may have some root in truth, many of us winos are just your average Joes and Janes looking to enjoy a good glass of wine while rubbing shoulders with people from every background.  Wine is not just a country club event, and Mountain Cove Vineyards, the oldest operating winery in Virginia, showcases this approachable side of wine in a rustic setting fit for the Queen of Sheba herself.

Old red barn near the tasting room.
(C) Brittany James
I loved Mountain Cove Vineyards from the moment we wound our way down the gravel driveway, flanked by rows of vines and capped with the rolling skyline of the Blue Ridge.  Everything about the place, from the rustic red sheds on the property to the country-style interior of the tasting room, makes a visitor feel welcomed.  Whether in a sundress and sandals, shorts and a t-shirt, pinkies up or down, you'll feel right at home.

As we exited the car, we were greeted with a friendly "Hello!" from the vines. "Are you here for the wedding or the wine?"  the woman asked as she took off her gardening gloves. "The wine!" we called back, and she came out of the vineyard and led us into the tasting room.

Wooden shelves, canned jams, and a pot-belly stove sit side-by-side with the rows of Mountain Cove's wine inside the tasting room. Tastings are free, which is a welcome practice in an industry that often charges fairly high prices for very small samples. Two wines in particular took our fancy: the Skyline White and the Tinto.

(C) Brittany James
The Skyline White is Mountain Cove's signature white made from the Villard Blanc variety, a grape native to the Vouvray region of France. It is light on the palate with semi-sweet tones, perfect to pair with a chicken or seafood meal - or just drink it sans food like some of us do!

But for us the Tinto wine stole the day. As their website states, this is the red wine for non-red drinkers, and I can personally vouch for that. The only wines I tend to enjoy are light and sweet like muscadine. However, Tinto is neither light or sweet, but the minimization of tannins and the overall drinkability of this Norton, Cabernet Franc, and Chambourcin blend made me an immediate fan.

Don't take my word for it, though. Stop by and taste it for yourself!

Part of the #252by2022 challenge.

All photos are the property of Brittany James and are used with permission. Unauthorized use of these photos is strictly prohibited.

Linking up for the #WeekendWanderlust!

June 19, 2015

5 Years + 1 New Adventure Announcement

Today Danny and I are celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary. I can hardly believe it's already been five years since our little country wedding, followed by a weekend escape to Kilmarnock, and a three week honeymoon to Bavaria. The past five years have blessed us and tested us, but stints of unemployment, severed friendships, and broken-down cars have been overshadowed by the love of our families, successes in the workplace, and of course, more than a few amazing vacations - ultimately succeeding in bringing us closer together as a couple!

We've had so many grand travels and adventures together - our most recent #EurSoGypsy excursion being no exception. It brought a lot of firsts and lasts to our relationship. Our first trip to Greece, our first encounter with Paris, our first time driving a sporty BMW on the Autobahn (booyah!). It was also most likely the last time we'll travel to Europe as a couple.

Wait, what?!

You see, in the midst of packing our suitcases and cleaning up the house the night before our departure, we learned that we'll be starting a brand new adventure at the end of the year...

We're pregnant!

Time to start figuring out all the ins and outs of infant passports, baby travel accouterments, and how to travel with a kid in tow! We're really excited about starting this next chapter in our lives, and though it will undoubtedly impact our travel lifestyle to one degree or another, we don't anticipate that we'll ever stop traveling. I mean, Baby Gypsy already has a country count of four - s/he needs many more countries than that, right?!

In the short term, though, Baby Gypsy has already had an effect on our travels in the sense that I've hardly had enough energy to survive a full day at the office, let alone the stamina or motivation to start dishing out on my backlog of travel adventures. Hopefully, that will soon change, and I'll be back to doing more than passing out on the couch by 7pm (true story).

Meanwhile, if you already travel with kids or know the well-guarded travel secrets of someone who does, please leave your best advice in the comment section; we want to know what items are a life-saver on trips, what items to leave at home, and how to plan an itinerary when you're carrying a little one in your arms!


Curious about how Danny and I ended up being together? Wonder no more!
Yeah, our child will probably end up looking something like this.  Source.

Linking up for the #WeekendWanderlust!

Linking up for the #SundayTraveler!

Linking up for #TravelTuesday!

June 11, 2015

Puddle Jumping at Bear Creek Lake State Park

My grandfather always used to call the youngest grandkids "puddle-jumpers."  The sheer childlike joy of being swung over a puddle while dangling from between the arms of two adults is a feeling that will always remain with me, and only certain places can evoke the memory of those feelings.  Bear Creek Lake State Park, a family-friendly and nature lover's haven, stimulated some of those memories.

Located in central Virginia's Cumberland County south of the James River, there is literally nothing near Bear Creek Lake State Park.  Sometimes, though, that's exactly what you want.  No grocery stores.  Little to no cell service.  No flashing neon lights.  Nothing but the chirping of insects, the quiet stir of the lake water against the shore, and plenty of puddles for kids - and puppies - to jump over.

Where do you go to unplug from the world?

Linking up for #WeekendWanderlust!

Linking up for #TravelTuesday!

June 08, 2015

Post-Travel Blues Disorder (Or How I'm Still Pouting That My Vacation Is Over)

Have you just recently returned from a trip abroad?

Do you feel depressed, indifferent, or uninterested in your everyday life? Do you find yourself unable to even look at pictures from your holiday without experiencing a severe case of jealousy over your past self?

If so, you may be suffering from Post-Travel Blues Disorder (PTBD).


If you hadn't noticed, things have been awfully quiet here at The Thrifty Gypsy's Travels since returning from our #EurSoGypsy escapades a few weeks ago. I can chalk it up to a few reasons, such as jet lag, catching up on work, and trying to stay afloat with a busy personal life, too. However, if I'm honest with myself (and you), I've just been feeling too unmotivated to write about anything.

The best thing about big trips abroad is the planning and anticipation; the worst thing is coming back and feeling like you have nothing to look forward to anymore. Of course that's a little over dramatic considering we have lots of weekend trips and events already planned, but try telling that to my post-travel self who is quite (un)happily wallowing in her post-travel blues misery! (Cue the "first world problems" hash tag...)

But as my body has finally acclimated to being back in the U.S. (took twice as long as last year!), I can slowly feel my enthusiasm building. And hopefully within a week or two, I'll have an exciting announcement regarding our next big adventure!

Until then, you really ought to follow my Instagram, which has been totally unaffected by my PTBD.

Do you suffer from PTBD after a major holiday of traveling? What's your cure?

Linking up for #TravelTuesday!

June 01, 2015

Mapping My Month: June 2015

All good things come to an end, and so May has left us.  If June can bring half as many great moments, then I'll be satisfied!

We did a lot this past month, and if you followed my #EurSoGypsy hash tag on Twitter and Instagram, you've already previewed what I'll be writing about over the next couple of months.  We spent a weekend in Athens getting the dust of ancients on our feet before flying to the island of Santorini (Thira) to wash it off in the crystal clear water of a volcano's caldera.  It was hard to tear ourselves away, but we did, making it to Germany in time to celebrate a few birthdays in Stuttgart!  Hangovers notwithstanding, we took the train to Paris for a whirlwind weekend before returning to Bavaria for some much-needed relaxation and visitations with family.  Before we knew it, it was time to drive back to Frankfurt for our return flight.  Eighteen hours after landing in D.C., I was back in the office, ruing the day I booked the flights without any recovery time before work!

Can you believe we did all that in less than 18 days?!

The calendar for June looks pretty sparse in comparison.  Our five year anniversary falls on weekend, so we may attempt a regional getaway, and I'm sure more events will pop up the closer we get to them.  I think a long weekend at the river or in the mountains is just what the doctor ordered, so I'll probably start planning something for the long July 4th weekend.  Beyond that, I'll just try to extend our European vacation by writing about it over the next few weeks and daydreaming about what our next adventure will be.  That is, if I can stop wistfully sighing over pictures long enough to concentrate!  (If you want a preview of what I'll be writing about, be sure to follow me on Instagram or Facebook as I've been posting a few pictures already!)

2015 Goal Updates:
1. After all the walking we did in Europe, I think I've had enough exercise to cover the rest of the year!
2. The credit card balance is still going down (despite Europe!), and the Venture miles keep going up! We're at 6,500 miles now.
3. Kicked the caffeine addiction.
4. Gave up.  #ohwell
5. B and I squeezed in two wineries for our #252by2022 challenge before I left for Europe.  Some progress is better than none, right?

How's your June lookin'?

Linking up for #TravelTuesday!