Amaro e Dolce

Life, unfiltered


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Four of my travel must-haves

It’s no secret that I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust. Over the past decade, I’ve perfected the art of “pick up and go” and I’m quite proud of the fact that I can go overseas for a week and still only take carry-on luggage.  But there are a few things I take with me on every overnight trip:

  1. My Kindle. I read quickly so this has become a major space saver. Even though I don’t read as much as I used to (because twins) I still like to sneak an hour or so in each day.
  2. Face masks. I picked up on this during business travel to Denver. The plane ride plus the altitude killed my skin, so I picked up a couple of sheet masks at Target. And then I became hooked. They take up barely any space, and there’s something relaxing about kicking back with a face mask at the end of the day. Especially now that I’m usually back in our hotel or AirBnB by 8 pm because of the girls.
  3. Socks. I have a serious disgust for gross floors, and now that my girls crawl everywhere, it’s eye-opening how dirty hotel floors are. Unless they are vacuuming and steam-cleaning with a high degree of frequency, those floors are a cesspool of germs. gross.
  4. Snacks. Especially for long road trips or plane rides. Plus there’s something cool about getting local nibbles for the trip back home. My go-tos are coconut water, fruit, energy bites and some form of candy (usually the kind I would beg my parents for on our road trips).

What are your must-haves for being on the road? Do tell!


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Dreaming of Wyoming

I’ve gotten into the habit of checking the “On this day” feature on facebook during my 2 am feedings and today’s brought such a smile to my face.

You see, I am pretty sure that we got pregnant with Z&E immediately after this trip. And this trip was life-changing for me. It was a tack-on to a business trip to Idaho, and it was my first time traveling alone. I was in a risk-taking part of my life. I was wound up with stress to the point of breaking. I had just turned in my notice to my job with no other job lined up. I had pretty much given up on the idea of getting pregnant.

I had tried to convince El Hombre to come with me to Wyoming, but he had just started a new job and he didn’t see my vision. So I went alone. After all, I wasn’t going to spend almost 10 hours of travel each way for two days in Idaho.

This day a year ago, I woke up at 5 am (mountain time), put on all my layers, hooked up my music to the car and made my way through Teton National Park as the sun rose to get to Yellowstone. To see the sun rise over Teton pass, with the mist steaming off the lakes is magical. The entire drive was breathtaking, and every waking moment I felt the stress slowly melting off. I entered Yellowstone feeling like I took a step back in to the Jurassic period. The ground was steaming and the world felt ancient.

I drove until I made it to Old Faithful, and I took a ranger tour around the geysers. Old Faithful erupted, as did several others, and watching the earth work its wonders with bison lazily grazing in the background, I realized that everything was going to work out.

I ended up spending the day driving through the park, stopping and walking around. I ended up close to the Montana border at one point and I remember debating if I should just keep going, just to see how far I could get.

I still daydream of those windy roads and the vastly different landscapes. Next time I want to spend several days within the park, exploring with my wonderful little family.


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4 Tips for traveling alone

I’ve always envied my friends who fearlessly would take off in to the world by themselves. They’ve always seen braver, so sure of themselves.

shadow of myselfThen last year I went to Idaho for work. When I was researching the best airport to fly in to, I realized that I was only going to be a few hours from Yellowstone. Since it takes almost 10-12 hours to get to that part of the country from South Florida, I couldn’t come up with any reason to not spend a few extra days exploring the park. Except… I didn’t have anyone to join me.

Then I said, “why not?” There was no reason for me to not go. I refuse to buy in to the idea that women can’t travel alone. I’ve been way too stressed to not take some time to explore America’s first national park. And you k
now what? It was an amazing experience. I was able to move around when I wanted, where I wanted. I came up with ideas for a longer trip with the hubby, read books and discovered amazing parts of this country.

If I had to give advice on traveling on your own (especially if you are a woman), it would be this:

  1. Be confident. The first question I got was “but what if something happened to you?” Well, anyone who knows anything about self defense knows that the more confident you look, the less of a target you are. Plus it’s easier to meet people if you aren’t afraid to talk to people.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings. Definitely get off the beaten path. I did. But be aware of who and what is around you. Not just in a paranoid, “is something going to get me?” sort of way. But also in a “wow, this place is amazing,” sort of way. Since you aren’t with people, you have no excuse not to look up and around.
  3. Research. There’s no negotiating things to do because you have different interests. So take the time to find out if there are awesome things around that you wouldn’t normally be able to do.
  4. Sit at the bar. It feels awkward to sit at a table by yourself. It’s quick, easy and if you aren’t feeling the people, at least there’s probably something on TV.

And if nothing else, carry bear spray. Especially in the woods.


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Throwback Thursday – Travel Style

So, I don’t always jump on the #TBT bandwagon, but this morning Facebook served up such a fun memory, I couldn’t help it. It’s no secret that I love traveling. Even if it’s just in my proverbial backyard.

It’s also not a secret that many Miamians like to get out of town on Memorial Day. Long story short, Miami Beach throws a hip hop party every year, and it gets crazy packed. Parking and traffic are even worse than normal and it’s virtually impossible to find a good spot on the sand. I always planned my vacations around that weekend for these reasons (plus an extra day that I don’t have to take PTO on? No brainer).

Back in 2009, El Hombre and I headed down to Key West for our first Memorial Day weekend trip, and it still ranks as one of my favorites of our trips together. Our friend had just moved back in town, and we spent the weekend on bikes, exploring side beaches, boating and listening to music. I’m pretty sure our uniforms were flip flops, bathing suits, shorts and sunscreen. I fell hard for Key West that weekend. I can still smell the coconut sunscreen and taste the saltwater.

Here are a few pics of that weekend:


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Haunted by wanderlust.

It’s back. That restless need to experience new things and see new places. Historically, I’ve always been restrained by a desk job and a meeting schedule but now it’s different. I have no place to be except for here. And in South Florida there are still nooks and crannies that I can explore. But I’m held back from exploring for much more physical reasons. Shortness of breath, inability to lean over, the bone-in exhaustion that comes with too much activity.

I think I’ve always been haunted by this sort of wanderlust.

In the past I dreamed of faraway places like Egypt or Japan. But now I am deeply curious by all the wonders that this country has to offer. My latest fixation is the Southwest. I am dying to take a trip through New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. I also think of turning up north on that trip and revisiting Yellowstone – a park that stamped an indelible memory on my soul (and may possibly be the reason I got pregnant.)

I want to experience deserts and mountains. To hike through crazy rock formations and admire rivers cutting their way through the landscapes.  To be on the road and stop at crazy scenic spots and quirky local shops.

It will be interesting to see if these girls inherit my urge to see the world. I can’t help but envision them in part of these adventures. Only time will tell, I suppose.


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The Barnacle: A hidden Miami gem

Yesterday I woke up with the urge to explore. I’ve never been good at sitting still and I swear I am driven by wanderlust. Being 7 months pregnant, hopping on a plane isn’t exactly an option for me. So instead of moping around the house, I decided to get out and explore Miami.

When I first moved here, I was never inside. I was intent on discovering all the nooks and crannies of this city. I used to blog pretty heavily about my adventures until I started commuting crazy hours for work.

One of the places I’d never been is the Barnacle State Park and I’ve always been curious about it. So off I went!

The Barnacle was built in 1891, when much of Miami was still covered in hammocks (the tropical forests, not the woven swings.) As you wander back in to the park, you walk through what remains of the Miami Hammocks in Coconut Grove. The live oaks, strangler figs, palms and other native growth intertwines above the path, creating a shady walkway with Spanish Moss gently flowing above you. The hustle and bustle of Coconut Grove quickly melts away and is replaced by the sounds of wind through the trees.

Barnacle State Park Hammocks walkway

The walkway to the Barnacle State Park in Coconut Grove

As the path drew to an end, I found myself approaching Ralph Munroe’s home, built in 1891. There are several other historic homes in Miami, but this one is the oldest home in the county that still stands in its original location. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go in, as you can only go inside as part of a tour, but I did take the opportunity to sit out on the porch and appreciate the bay view and the cool breeze.

House at the Barnacle State Park

The view of the Barnacle House from the park entrance.

View from the Barnacle House

My view from the Barnacle House Porch. Look at that perfect sky and bay view!

Barnacle House from the bay

The view of the Barnacle House from the bay end of the property. There’s obviously a bit of renovation going on.

Once I caught my breath (lugging around an extra 30 pounds of babies and placentas is exhausting), I meandered down through that green yard towards the bay. Along the way I passed families playing and couples picnicking. At the end of the property is the old boathouse and a dock that’s referred to as the “Railway to Nowhere.”  The name came from the fact that Munroe used marine railways to bring boats out of the water so he could work on them. Otherwise there was no other way to transport boats.

You see, Munroe was a yacht designer, so he needed access to the bay. The boathouse was actually his first home on the property – built in 1886.  He lived upstairs and worked downstairs. This is actually not the original building – it was rebuilt after a hurricane destroyed the original boat house in 1925.

Barnacle Boat House

The replica of the original boat house.

Railway to Nowhere

The Railway to Nowhere – Ralph Munroe’s mechanism for pulling boats out of the water. AKA the original boat ramp!

Barnacle State Park dock.

The dock, jutting out in to Biscayne Bay, is closed to foot traffic. More than likely to keep people from jumping in for a swim on hot days.

 

I definitely enjoyed this park. It’s not especially big – which is perfect for me at this point – but it’s pretty, calm and not too far off the beaten path. Admission is only $2 and totally worth it. My only caveat is it’s probably easier to go on a week day, or early on weekends so you don’t have to fight for parking in the grove.


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My top 5 tips for a great road trip

In case you hadn’t noticed, I am a fan of road trips. There’s something almost romantic about the idea of flying in to a random city, renting a car and exploring the surrounding area. For years, El Hombre and I have found that our departing and returning cities are never the same – and if they are, you better be sure our rental car is still going to have some miles on it.

The way I look at it is, I may not have time to deep dive in to one specific place, but I can always come back if someplace intrigues me enough. We’ve found that Austin, New York, Boston and San Francisco are all cities on that list. As is Spain and Italy.

But over the years, we have also fallen in to a few patterns with our road trips that make them more successful, and I wanted to share these with you:

  1. Start off big: Meaning, we like to start off in the biggest city on our leg, and then wind down in to the smaller cities.  Why? Big cities are cool, but they also can be frantic. If you are just starting your vacation, you are likely more apt to acclimate to the fast pace and then slow down as you go. This is probably the one thing we would have changed about our last trip to Spain. We landed in Malaga, explored several smaller areas and then ended up in Seville. When we got to Seville it was almost a shock because it was so much faster-paced than everywhere else.
  2. Don’t be afraid to veer off the beaten path or stop along the way: One of the beauties of a road trip is not being tied to the fastest route. Sure, you might get to your next destination a few hours faster, but you also may miss the beauty of rolling countryside. Put it on mute and ignore it. I can’t tell you how many local artisans, general stores and restaurants I’ve stumbled across just by hopping off the highway.
  3. Pack Snacks: This is even more important if you are pregnant like me, but we always try to pack a few snacks. You never know when you hit a long stretch of road with no stops, or gridlocked traffic. Growing up, my mom would pack sandwiches and fruit. Or she would buy fruit off a local farm stand and peel it for us in the car. Our snacks tend to be water, gatorade, fruit, popcorn, trail mix and sometimes chocolate. After all, no one wants to be hangry on vacation.
  4. Pick a playlist: My husband is grandfathered in to this ridiculous unlimited data plan so we typically fire up his Spotify and Pandora for our trips. One of the habits we’ve fallen in to is alternating music with comedy. NEVER underestimate the power of comedy when you are stuck in traffic or horrific weather. If we hit a spot where he can’t pick up data, or we just get tired of what we’re listening to, we switch to local radio instead. Usually starting with NPR and then searching for rock music.
  5. Accept that not everything will go to plan: It’s inevitable. Bad weather happens. Getting lost happens. That road you wanted to explore will be shut down. All these things have happened to us.

    On our last trip we didn’t get a lot of stops in on our first day because of rain and tornado warnings. On another trip, we intended to stop in New Hampshire, but it was raining and so foggy we could barely see the road. When we were in Spain, they shut down our main road for construction and we had to get by with a paper map and GPS on our phones (very interesting without data) because the car GPS didn’t register the construction. It’s all part of the adventure and you can’t let it stress you out. You are, after all, on vacation.

Do you have any road trip tips I missed? Feel free to share in the comments!