Last month, we braved our first flight since COVID to return to the place where we were married: Jekyll Island, Georgia. It was our ten-year anniversary and we had always planned to return….and COVID would not stop us! It was a delightful trip; I honestly can’t believe how much we enjoyed ourselves!! COVID Travel However, going to the airport was traumatic. Our “home” airport is Dallas/Fort Worth, one of the busiest airports in the world. Masks were required and, though not everyone stayed 6 feet apart in the security line, at least it wasn’t a super long line. When we got into the terminal, though, it was just as busy as any weekend (and it was a Thursday). Matt almost had a panic attack. After being secluded for so long, being around so many people was alarming, for sure. We were freaked out and kept our masks on for the, relatively, short flight, not even drinking any water. So many people took their masks off to eat and drink…. But we stuck it out. Getting out of that mask, once we landed in Jacksonville, was heavenly!!! Jekyll Island Jekyll Island is near Brunswick, Georgia. It’s a flat island and is accessible by one road. In the past ten years, many more restaurants, hotels, and stores have popped up on the island. I missed how quiet and tranquil it used to be. Thankfully, it’s still not as busy as its neighbor, St. Simon’s island (though St. Simon’s has a yarn store!). Jekyll Island Club We stayed at the Jekyll Island Club, the place where we got married. The Club, built over 100 years ago, is in the historic district of the island. It is made up of a main club house, other, smaller cottages that have hotel rooms, some shops, a chapel, and lovely grounds. When we were there ten years ago, we were a bit distracted and short on time. But this time, we got to explore and take advantage of all the Club has to offer….. And it was lovely. Staying at the Club was like being on a cruise ship: you don’t have to leave the grounds if you don’t want to. There are several places to eat, plenty of shopping, a pool, a pier, and bikes to rent. We rented bikes one day and went around the entire island… It was so much fun! We saw tons of wildlife: deer, raccoons, bunnies, and even an alligator. Until Next Time We loved our long weekend on Jekyll so much that we considered coming back more regularly. But then, we don’t want to get tired of it. So it may stay a 10-year tradition. But if you need to get away, I can’t recommend the Club or the island enough!
Several weeks ago, we decided to go to Colorado. Though we had thought it out very meticulously – we’re both OCD – it was a rather last minute decision. Traveling, even roadtrips, during COVID has not sounded the least bit appealing…but we had a reason for this trip. This was the 10th anniversary of our engagement in Rocky Mountain National Park. So we set out on a road trip to one of our favorite places on earth, Estes Park. COVID Precautions We had thought long and hard about how to travel in the safest possible way. We’re the caretakers for both of our sets of parents and we’re both only children. We take our responsibilities very seriously. So here’s what we did: We drove straight through, making for a 14+ hour long drive. We stopped for bathroom breaks at rest areas instead of gas stations. We took our own pillows. We took our own food. We ate all of our own food outside of a few drive thrus and picking up pizza curbside. We disinfected our cabin and brought our own soap. (I hate cheap hotel soap bars!). We did not shop. (Exceptions were made for two yarn stores, which were not heavily trafficked.) We wore a mask while in town, though we didn’t walk around much at all, and on the trails in RMNP. Cabin One of our favorite things about Estes Park is Castle Mountain Lodge. It’s lovely. Though the cabins are not the most up to date or luxurious, they’re super clean and the grounds are immaculate. But the selling point: Fall River ran right outside our cabin and you can walk from the lodge to go on hikes into the park. We love this place. Hiking We love day hikes. We were able to do three on this trip. It always takes time to adjust to the altitude and you need some rest days in there…. So three was a good number for a week-long trip. We climbed Mount Olympus for great views of Estes Park. This trail is not actually a maintained trail so it was a bit tricky to follow….but the views at the top were worth it. On our anniversary, we hiked to the spot where Matt proposed at Dream Lake. It was a windy day – as were all the days we were there – but otherwise the weather was gorgeous and the hike is so much fun. Our last and longest hike was the Black Lake. This was an incredible journey. It’s over 10 miles roundtrip but my FitBit clocked in at 13 miles. There were so many great sights to see along this hike and so many different terrains to go through. Once at Black Lake, the winds picked up to astonishing speeds so we were not able to stay long. Already, I can’t wait to go back! Colorado The only wrinkle in our plans was the wildfires that Colorado was being devestated by at the time. When we left, they didn’t appear to be a threat. But halfway through our trip, after days of 50+ mph winds, they got out of control. If you plan on travelling, I encourage you to take precautions – but to do it. We all need a break from the day to day of COVID life. Our trip was truly rejuvenating.
We just returned from a trip – a cruise – where I got to visit multiple yarn shops! It’s the first time I’ve been able to visit a yarn shop – let alone more than one – on a cruise! I was ecstatic. My only worry was having enough space in my suitcase to bring back a yarn haul! Knitting + Travel I’ve mentioned before that I don’t knit while on vacation. I’ll take my knitting on work conference trips, but vacations are meant to spend time with family. There are times I really wish I had my knitting in hand while on vacation. This cruise was especially difficult because I ran into so many knitters! And the yarn stores didn’t help, either. But for our last two vacations, I’ve stayed connected to my favorite craft by reading about it. Last time, I read Clara Parke’s Knitlandia, which was fantastic. And for this cruise, I finally got around to reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Yarn Harlot, which has been sitting on my shelf for way too long. Cruising to Yarn Shops There are not many yarn shops in the Caribbean. And we’ve only taken two cruises that did not go to a tropical locale – Alaska and, now, New England/Canada. While in Alaska, we were too busy for me to even hope to visit a yarn shop. But I did my research well before we left on our cruise to New England and Canada and I knew exactly where I wanted to go! It was a bit surreal getting off a cruise ship and entering into a yarn shop. But Matt was extremely supportive, perhaps thinking that yarn is a great souvenir because it’s more useful than a t-shirt or trinket. More to Come In the coming weeks, I’ll be talking about all the fantastic shops I visited while on vacation. And I’ll go into detail about my yarn haul, pictured up top. It did, indeed, all fit into my luggage, with some help from Matt. With all the shops, I had one regret. We were on a tour for our day in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which happened to be on a Sunday. As you know, most stores open at noon on Sundays, including yarn shops. We had one stop before noon that day, in Mahone Bay – where Have a Yarn is located. We walked by and took pictures of the Halloween decor outside (below) but, sadly, I couldn’t get back to the store once they opened. But I keep telling myself that missing one out of four shops on my list is not bad! And I’ll get back to Mahone Bay someday!
Yarn Shops and Travel
People always ask me “So when is your next cruise?”. While my answer is usually “Not soon enough!”, it is always a relief when I can actually answer with “Soon!”. Donia and I are excited that soon (not soon enough!), we’ll be embarking on a cruise onboard Norwegian Getaway. This will be my 29th cruise, Donia’s 20th cruise, and our 19th cruise together. At the end of this trip, I will have spent 199 nights onboard a cruise ship. I’m steadily making progress towards my goal of spending over 365 nights onboard a cruise ship so I can say I’ve cruised for a whole year of my life! Norwegian Cruise Lines While the vast majority of my cruises have been with Royal Caribbean, Getaway will be my third time with Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). My first was onboard Norwegian Pearl in October/November 2009, sailing with my parents to celebrate my mother’s birthday that year. My second – and Donia’s first – cruise with NCL was in 2016 onboard Norwegian Escape, traveling with Donia’s parents and a couple of our friends. Getaway Because we liked so much about Escape, we chose Getaway partly because she’s the near-identical little sister ship to Escape. While Escape is a little bigger and has some extra bells & whistles, Getaway’s overall layout and deck plans are almost exactly the same as Escape’s. It will be nice to already know our way around the ship as soon as we get onboard, and it will be fun throughout the cruise recognizing the similarities – and differences – between Escape and Getaway. Ship Stats Maiden Voyage: February 8, 2014 Length: 1,068 feet Width (max): 170 feet Height: 179 feet Decks: 18 Passengers: 3,963 Crew: 1,646 Getaway’s Itinerary The other big reason we chose this cruise on Getaway is the itinerary. After having done so many cruises, it has become increasingly difficult for us to find a cruise that will get us to a port in the Caribbean that we haven’t visited before. With our upcoming cruise on Getaway, we’re lucky to be visiting not one, but two, ports that will be new to us. Even better is that one of those ports – Harvest Caye, Belize – is actually a new port itself, having opened in November 2016 as Norwegian’s newest private island. Itinerary Day 1 – Embarkation – Miami, Florida Day 2 – At Sea Day 3 – Roatan, Honduras Day 4 – Harvest Caye, Belize Day 5 – Costa Maya, Mexico Day 6 – Cozumel, Mexico Day 7 – At Sea Day 8 – Disembarkation – Miami, Florida It’s also a great itinerary because it gets us back to some of our favorite places that we’ve been to before. Donia and I both agree that Miami is our favorite overall port of embarkation. Going down the channel past incredible scenery and then overlooking South Beach while sailing out to sea with the Miami skyline as a backdrop makes for an incredible sailaway experience. Plus we’re staying an extra day and night in Miami after the cruise so we can spend a little more time exploring the city before we return home. Our days in port at Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico will let us return to some of our favorite beach clubs in the Caribbean, Maya Chan and Nachi Cocom. With two days at sea, we’ll have lots of time to explore the ship and all it has to offer. We’ll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the tranquility of being surrounded by brilliant blue water as far as the eye can see. And we will eat. Oh yes, we will eat. We may eat so much and so often that even the Hobbits would be impressed with how many meals we can fit into a day and week onboard. -Matt
Upcoming Cruise: Norwegian Getaway
Before we start delving into travel topics, I thought an introduction to our first love of travel would be appropriate. When I tell people that my husband has been on 28 cruises, their eyes get wide. Now that I’ve joined him on about 20 of those cruises, I can tell you with some authority why we enjoy them and why others would enjoy them, as well. Background Before I met Matt, he had already discovered a love of cruising. For him, stepping foot on to a ship meant freedom. As an IT professional, it also meant that no one could contact him – which was a huge appeal. He loved that there are always things to do on a ship. Or, more importantly, there are plenty of places in which you can do nothing. In reality, you can make a cruise whatever you want it to be. Traveling Together When I met Matt, I had been on one cruise. While I didn’t think it was the greatest thing, I didn’t dislike it. For me, it was stressful not being able to control the weather. The thought of storms or high waves could very easily send me into panic mode. To Matt, it was important that we shared his love of cruising. We both loved to travel and this was just one very important aspect of an already definitive hobby for us both. So we set out cruising together. And had a blast. We quickly learned that neither of us had the personality that required constant entertainment. We were content to entertain ourselves. The mere fact that you’re on a ship, in the middle of an incredible ocean, was enough for us. And Matt taught me when the best time to travel was (for weather) – and how to not get sick. So Many Cruises, So Little Time For me, cruising is a great way to see several places while only unpacking once. My previous vacations had been very active – hopping on and off trains in Europe, walking constantly, seeing as much as possible…. Cruising provided some much-needed downtime interspersed with activity while in port. We started out using only one cruise line, Royal Caribbean. But after 15+ voyages with them, Matt decided it was time to branch out. So, now we’re trying other lines – and having a lot of fun. Look back here to see, in more detail, how they all compare in coming months. Ports are also an important component when deciding to cruise. We always try to get to a different port that we haven’t visited before, but since we’ve done so many cruises (mainly in the Caribbean), new ports are hard to come by. When we first started cruising, I was all about the different islands – seeing everything every time. Now, I’m more into the journey itself. Check back for more travel updates – indeed, we have a cruise in less than three weeks!