Traveling with Baby

When I stopped blogging, I had a bunch of posts created and ready to go, but felt that I had lost my way.  I was unhappy with them and felt they didn’t really have the tenor I wanted.  And while I don’t know if I’m going to stick with blogging after this post, I’m nervous, and anxious, and needed an outlet.

On Friday, we are gearing up to take our almost 7 month old on his very first flight.  Well four flights, since there isn’t anything direct from our home airport to Cozumel.  I am a ball of stress.  I hear babies can smell fear, and I reek of it.

How often will he cry? (“What if he cries?” seems like a silly statement and is akin to asking “is the sky blue?”)  And worse yet, what if we can’t calm him down?  Babies cry on planes all the time, and mainly because they can’t pop their little ears, they just don’t know how. But they also cry because they are hungry, bored, exhausted, and want to troll their parents.  What if we can’t manage?

I know that with parenting, we have to manage.  There literally is no other way.  You wake up each day knowing that all you’re doing is surviving, managing until bedtime, knowing it all starts again tomorrow, or in the middle of the night, multiple times even.  You just plow ahead, you hang onto the highs and try to forget all the lows, even though sometimes the lows make you cry, enrage you, flat out exhaust you, or all of the above. So on these upcoming flights, we have no other option.  We have to forge ahead, we have to use every tactic in the book and hope that one works long enough to keep us, our little Bubba, and the other passengers happy.  So on Friday, look to the skies, and say, “Good luck, Mama, you got this”.

I feel a little better now.  Good talk, see you out there.

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Babyzen Yoyo Stroller, aka a traveler’s dream.  Can’t wait to test it out!

Merry Christmas!

Dear Readers,

I hope that the warmth from family and friends melts away the stress of holiday travel, and that you soak up every last moment with your loved ones.

Family is my everything, my support system and my most ardent cheerleaders, and nothing is better than sharing a glass of wine (or nog – depending your preference), with those that matter most.

From Appetite4Travel, be merry, be safe, and have a happy and healthy New Year.

Cheers to 2016!

Sara

merry christmas

The Travel Tree

I love souvenirs.  I very easily can get suckered into those “I ❤ NY” t-shirts on the street and tacky little things that cost a fortune but don’t mean much, so a few years ago I decided to narrow my focus when it came to travel souvenirs or “merch” as Scube jokingly calls it.  As a result, instead of bringing back a $10 two inch Statue of Liberty or Leaning Tower of Pisa, I look for Christmas tree ornaments.  It’s my thing, and it drives Scube nuts, especially if we’re traveling somewhere in say, April.  But thus far, my success rate is at 100%, not without some required creativity.  Tip: Buy a magnet if no Christmas ornaments are available, loop a ribbon and with a glue gun, adhere the ribbon to the back of the magnet. Insta-ornament.

So as Scube and I put our tree up a few weeks ago, I was all excited to deck the halls with some new ornaments that we collected this year, from St. John, Capri, Ogunquit, Maine and Portland, Oregon.  What I love so much about these keepsakes, as with each ornament I dig out of the box, I’m taken momentarily back to that trip, a memory and moment in time that I can revisit each year on our “travel tree”.  Be it biking across the Golden Gate Bridge (and being scared out of my mind! It’s so narrow, there are so many people!), to gorging at a buffet at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas with the senior citizen crowd (jet lag had us up soooooo early, and who can say no to ice cream for breakfast?? Not this girl!), or meeting Sylvia, the third generation ceramic shop owner in Capri who thought she would study languages and travel the world before taking over for her Mother, and who now hopes her daughter will take over for her.  It’s all there, wrapped in paper towels and unearthed each year.

While our tree also has the requisite snowmen, Santas, and glittery balls,  our memories littered throughout seem to matter so much more.  And what started out as an almost silly way to avoid useless crap, it’s turned into something that I look forward to sharing with my own children and grandchildren someday.  The ornaments are a gateway to my memories, and hopefully our future spawn will think we’re pretty cool someday, when they’re not too busy being embarrassed by us.

What is your souvenir of choice?

#pray4paris, #prayfortheworld

It is very hard not to be afraid.

It was the start of my junior year in high school, in a town about an hour outside of Manhattan, on September 11, 2001. I remember everything.   I remember most of all knowing that our lives would never be the same. Going home that day I hugged my parents as tight as any adolescent ever dared without seeming uncool, I watched the news in fear, crying as another building collapsed and watching a reporter start to run. I remember a day or two later friends calling asking if I wanted to go out, I said “no,” unable to believe that my friends had so quickly moved on from recent events. Were they not scared? Sad? Afraid? But maybe they were, and they just reached the inevitable conclusion faster than I did or wanted to, that life goes on, and it must go on.

In light of the recent attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Kenya, it is very hard not to be afraid. It is very easy to close off the rest of the world at a time when we ultimately should not. It is all too easy to hide.

In the United States in the past year, we have seen terror in the form of mass school shootings, mass murders in houses of worship and murders on live TV, to name a few. So I beg myself, and I beg you, not to be afraid. Life will go on, and the greatest weapon we have is the willingness to let it, to continue to travel, to welcome in those who are lost, to see the world through another set of eyes, and continue to love.

“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”  Anne Frank

New England the Beautiful

In honor of Labor Day Weekend, and the last long weekend of summer, I wanted to do a pictorial of New England.  As a New Englander, there are so many spaces and places that I love, and now that I live in Pennsylvania, there are many things that I miss that used to be at my finger tips.  So please, take a moment and explore New England with me.

While I have been to all the New England states, the places that mean the most to me are my beautiful home state of Connecticut, my adopted state of Rhode Island, and finally, the state that has had my heart and my summers since I was in diapers, Maine.

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Saugatuck River at sunset, en route to Compo Beach
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Compo Beach Marina
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Compo Beach
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The Inn at Longshore, relax, have a beer, and enjoy one heck of a view
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Colorful kayaks, all snug in their beds
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Beautiful Narrow River – my husband’s childhood playground in South Kingston, RI
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Off to Newport, RI. Playground for the rich. One of the top 100 things to do before you die is the Newport Cliff Walk, just an FYI
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Newport, RI, the remainder of the tall ships festival. No complaints here.
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Where Narragansett beach meets Narrow River
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A busy night on Narragansett beach for the annual Philharmonic show
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The greatest lemonade ever and a Rhode Island staple. No summer is truly complete for me without at least one of these.
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Our favorite RI beach, Roger Wheeler. Small waves, big smiles.
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The beautiful Narragansett Towers and the Sea Wall
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Off to Maine! My all time favorite exit. Ogunquit summers here we come!
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View from the other side of Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, ME
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Perkins cove row boats, Ogunquit, ME
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First stop for lunch, Barnacle Bills!
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I have been eating here for as far back as I can remember
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Final boat shot of Perkins Cove, I promise
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Heading over the bridge in Perkins Cove to watch the fishing vessels fade away
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View from the Marginal Way, a 3/4 mile cliffwalk along the coast of Ogunquit to/from the Sparhawk Hotel and Perkins Cove
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My Dad’s favorite restaurant. Pick your lobster from the large pools before you enter and then put on your bib, it’s lobstahhh time
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The age old argument happening under the New England sea
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Lobster is kind of big thing here, and so are the buoys associated with the lobster traps
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Ogunquit Beach, the longest, widest, flattest beach I’ve ever seen. There are so many sandbars off of its coast that you could walk out into the ocean for yards before you couldn’t stand
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My favorite breakfast and the pancakes we use as the ultimate metric of best pancakes ever. Try as we might, we never quite succeed in recreating their majesty

Happy Labor Day!

The Wild West Part Two – Utah & Beyond

After leaving Vegas, our road trip adventure truly began.  Our first stop – Bryce Canyon, Utah.  When we were planning our road trip our goal was to cram, but not over cram, which left us with a tough decision.  Zion National Park or Bryce?  With all the research, photo images we consulted, and TripAdvisor reviews, we basically threw a dart at a map to determine which park to visit.

Hopping in our Prius we began the 4+ hour drive, and what a drive that was.  After spending all my time on the East Coast, seeing the desert, red rocks and various plateau formations as well as snow capped mountains was absolutely stunning. I’m not one for spending time in the car, but empty long highways filled with incredible scenery made the drive fly by.

Arriving in Bryce in the early afternoon we met with the tourism office to determine the best route through the canyon based on the time we had.  We had one shot at Bryce and we had to take it.  Light snow flurries were falling as we entered and walked through the canyon, navigating switchbacks with relative ease.  (Keep in my mind of petrified of heights, so parts of the walk I found to be narrow and uncomfortable to navigate as people passed on the path, but overall, if you’re a big wimp like me, you’ll survive.)  The Navajo Loop trail was perfect for the time we had and gave us the ability to appreciate the wonder of the canyon from so many different angles.

bryceThe canyon was like nothing I ever witnessed.  The bright and varying colors looked like someone had just poured thick, delicious cake batter into a mold and watched it set in various columns and plateaus.  The oranges were vibrant, especially against the backdrop of the pine trees, and the pinks and purples littered throughout looked beautiful against the falling snow.  Doing some research, I learned that these formations are called Hoodoos, and in Bryce the formation dates back 40-60 million years ago. Walking through these formations I was reminded by how small we are in a big world.  After spending a few hours in the Canyon it was time to check-in to our hotel and eat.

We spent the night in Tropic, Utah at the Stone Canyon Inn, and I would highly recommend it!  Tropic was an incredibly small town – I don’t even recall if there was a traffic light or not, but there was a restaurant and a general store which helped us stock up on additional snacks, waters, and beverages for the next leg of our trip.

After a great night’s sleep we were off to Arizona.  I don’t even think we needed to gas up our Prius yet!

In Arizona we had a lot planned.  Fortunately I’m married to a geography whiz and amateur cartographer, who assured me it was possible to see Horse Shoe Bend and Antelope Canyon en route to Flagstaff, AZ.  The Grand Canyon was our big ticket item, but by no means were we going to sacrifice other natural wonders along the way.

Horse Shoe Bend scared the living daylights out of me.  While it is incredibly beautiful, I was too scared to get close to the edge to view the Colorado River in horse shoe form.  See photo below. horseshoeMy husband on the other hand, army crawled to the edge to get the shot.  Horse Shoe Bend has no railings, no words of caution, just the edge of stony cliff to view the river below.  While so many others were brazen, I was not and hung back.  I know I preach about adventure, push yourself, try something new, and I did.  I pushed myself to get as close as possible, which was very much outside my comfort zone.  Click here to see a 360 panorama of Horse Shoe Bend in its entirety.  After spending about 45 minutes there (watching people cheat death), my husband and I headed out toward our next site – breathtaking Antelope Canyon.

Stay tuned!  I plan on devoting an entire post to Antelope Canyon because it is so downright beautiful.

The Beauty of a Walking Tour

Ah the walking tour.  If you’re anything like me you’re probably thinking that a walking tour equals an umbrella wielding guide in an old colored woolen jacket trying to coral a gaggle of foreign tourists down the street while shouting “this way! this way!”.

Well, walking tours have started to get a bit of a face lift, and are really worth using to your advantage.  I know there are plenty of free apps out there that provide maps and walking tour information, but when visiting a foreign country, my husband and I like being social.  We like meeting new people and talking with inevitably the local who is leading the tour. Tour guides are full of local knowledge and always provide recommendations that are off the beaten the path.

My main disclaimer here is that not all travel destinations will offer or even need a walking tour, but if you’re in a city, there’s a fair chance you can find a ton that fit your taste and requirements.

So why walking tours? They are a great way to get acclimated to a new city, as well as find new areas, restaurants, sample local fare, and get really great tidbits.  When we touched down in Sydney, Australia, the first thing we did (after we showered, changed, and face-timed my parents) was a walking tour…and it was free!  For three hours twelve of us explored Sydney with an incredible guide during the I’m Free Walking Tour.   The tour hit on all the sweet spots, and as someone who loves ice cream, the tour guide gave us a fantastic gelato recommendation (the Robert Brownie Jr was to die for!).  Since a walking tour is just a taste, my husband and I were able to identify areas of the city or landmarks we wanted to explore further, and were thrilled that we were able to spend our first day staring at the Sydney Opera House.  Granted – we had a whole week to explore Sydney, but what should you do if you’ve got only 24 hours to spare and are moving on to some place new?

aussie gelatoWe have also been in that situation* and there are many paid tours out there that focus on culture immersion (predominantly around food and wine).  I also find this to be an incredible way to see hole in the wall little spots and find out what the heck this place you’ve decided to visit is all about.  My husband and I put that to the test in Lisbon, Portugal, where we only had about a day and a half to really explore the city.  As a result – we chose a half day walking tour with Inside Lisbon that involved stops at local pastry shops, butcheries, wine and cheese shops, and Ginjhina bars littered throughout.  We also learned about the city’s history as it related to the Moor’s, and were taken to so many different neighborhoods along the way, including a ferry ride to a great seaside restaurant for lunch.  While I’d like to think we would have ambled in for a shot of ginjhina on our own, knowing the backstory really made us feel like one of the locals.

pastries belemSo while we love a walking tour, they’re not for everyone, and they’re not always available.  However, they offer a great opportunity to help you not only acclimate yourself to a city, but immerse yourself in it, even if you only have 24 hours or so to enjoy it.  Personally, I’m looking forward to our next tour – a walking food tour of Italy.  Stay tuned for that!

*Note: we also went on a walking tour in Seville, Spain, separate post on that later!

Renting a car on vacation? The dos and don’ts

Inevitably, you may take a trip that requires you rent a car.  While my husband and I are officially over that (thanks Portugal), sometimes it’s necessary to see the really cool, beautiful site that you may not be able to view without one.  So once you decide that renting a car is a must – here are a few things you should take care of first.

  1. Sign up for their free preferred or gold member status.
    1. Many rental car agencies Avis, Hertz, National, have their own type of free preferred status.  Ever see those car commercials where renters seemingly just walk to their cars and avoid lines?  That’s what this will allow you to do, and will very much come in handy in the US and abroad.
  2. If planning your trip far enough in advance – watch for coupons that result from joining rental car rewards programs for free.  Who doesn’t love a discount, right?
  3. Determine if you have a credit card that provides additional car rental insurance
    1. American Express commonly provides this with many of their cards, so check to see if some other credit card vendors provide this service.  Having this option will save you a bit of money as you can avoid paying rental agency fees for insurance.
  4. If traveling abroad, go old school.  Print off driving directions before your visit, download static maps, or spring for the navigation system.  No need to use precious data if you don’t have to.
  5. If abroad, make sure you have enough local currency on-hand or a credit card with a chip
    1. When gassing up – many gas stations only accept credit cards that have a chip in them, if your card does not work, make sure you have enough cash to avoid higher than expected gas charges from the rental company
  6. Video and photograph your car before you agree to take it off the lot…and when you return it
    1. We learned from an awful experience that rental car agencies uses minor scrapes on the car to get additional money out of you – even for scrapes under the car!  So definitely don’t bottom out, but in order to avoid additional charges or fees, video everything
  7. If you can’t drive stick, don’t rent a stick car (seems obvious, right?)
  8. Be careful and enjoy your trip!

IMG_6236*Just an FYI – I do not get paid to promote any companies on this blog (I’m so little! I have one follower!) but any links are provided to companies I have used and trust during my travels.