Los Arcos, Puerto Vallarta

Warm Escape to Puerto Vallarta

I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life. Near or far, I’ve never needed an excuse to get away. But for some reason I’ve always held the mindset that if the flight is more than 5 hours I might as well go to Europe, which has kind of guided my choices as far as traveling is concerned. (But honestly, who could resist the allure of Europe?) Mexico was never on my radar. Perhaps because it has always seemed so close? I don’t really know why I never seized the opportunity to visit our neighbor to the south but boy am I sure glad I did last week. A little sun and sand is just what this city girl needed so I packed my bags and headed south to Puerto Vallarta.

Hard Hat Tour, Ellis Island - GirlGoneTravel.com

A Walk through Dreams: The Ellis Island Hard Hat Tour

From 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island processed about 12 million immigrants before it could be decided that they would be allowed to begin their lives in this country. The Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital, the United States’ first public health hospital, opened its doors in 1902. It is here where immigrants who were deemed too unhealthy to enter the country would stay. The treatment for various ailments, some far too gruesome for today’s standards, would either result in success, at which point immigrants would be released to enter the country, or failure, at which point they would be sent back.

It is difficult to imagine the fear and stress many of these newcomers experienced through the overall immigration process, especially for many who did not speak the language or had ever even seen a doctor before. Imagine the intimidation of being poked at, examined, or even questioned by men in lab coats, separated from your family, from your parents, being spoken to in ways you could not understand, all the while knowing that your dreams where just one more boat ride away.

Venice, Italy.

The Best of Venice, Italy’s Floating City

The first time I went to Venice was in the middle of summer and it was awful.

The humidity was debilitating, the heat at the turn at every corner seemed like a punch in the stomach. Though I appreciated its uniqueness, and enjoyed being there with my son, I did not really appreciate it for all it was.

My second trip, in early Spring, was a completely different experience. Days were a comfortable warmth, with a cool chill wave every so often. The skies were clear and though there are always tourists in Venice, there were pockets where we could totally avoid them and enjoy the scene.

Last time I visited, I was in and out in 24 hours. This time we stayed around for a few days. The combination of weather, slow pace, and low tourist season made it fun to explore and understand why so many people walk away completely in love.

24 hours in Verona, Italy._GirlGoneTravel.com

A day in The City of Love, Verona, Italy

Two hours from Milan and Venice, and only a little more than an hour from Brescia, where we were staying, is the city of Verona, best known for being the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Juliet’s House will be the place you will want to visit first upon arrival (though doors to the museum don’t typically open till mid-morning). Even when we arrived to the city early on a weekday morning, a mop of tourists had already gathered in the courtyard of where the real-life Cappello family once lived. There’s a statue of Juliet at the foreground where people wait in line to grab her bronze breast because supposedly it makes the one doing so lucky in love. My husband and I passed on this chance, confident that we were going to be OK either way. Watching people anxiously line up to do so, with women as well as men happily posing for photos with the boob of a statue in their hand was, however, the comical introduction to our day in Italy’s City of Love.

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Three beautiful days in Brescia, Italy

One of the greatest gifts I received as a young traveler to Italy was the opportunity to learn about Brescia. Brescia is about an hour and a half from Milan, in the region of Lombardy. Not many people I have spoken to about my time there as a young adult know where Brescia is, much less even heard of it. It has always been for me, especially as my intro to Italy, a secret paradise, my own little haven. Though the distance from Milan is short, it feels like it is worlds away. Brescia, considered one of the most ancient cities in Italy, is a favorite just as Northern Italy remains my favorite area of the entire country to visit.

I also have family there, which might influence it all a bit too, and it was a wonderful experience for me to return to such a special place in my heart with a husband and kids in tow. I spent the first few hours in complete awe of the fact that this was a moment when my past and present were coming together in the most beautiful way possible. 

Watching the clouds roll over the Alps in Switzerland.

What my family vacation in Italy helped me remember

I am back! I planned on only taking two weeks off from blogging, but that turned more into three. After my beautiful sister’s wedding and our road trip through Italy (thanks to those who followed us on social media!), my sister came into town for a few days more after her honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. We played tourists together through NYC and as every day went by I felt more and more relaxed with a lighter, more easy-going outlook on what I wanted to do for the rest of the year.

I have a bunch of posts and photos I want to share with you; where to go, what to do, where to stay…but first, I wanted to write about how significant the time away was for us.

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Planning a Road Trip through Italy

It’s road trip time, dear readers!

We didn’t take an extended road trip in 2015, although we did take smaller road trips closer to home which were a lot of fun and a great reminder that unforgettable travel does not have to be to far away places.

This year we are going international again (see our 2014 road trip through France)! I am excited to be returning to Italy and to revisiting some of the ol’ stomping grounds of my youth in Brescia.

Brescia is in the region of Lombardy in Northern Italy and is a 1.5 hour drive from Milan. I spent some time here deciding whether I wanted to stay and study there. I struggled with the language and was very young and  eventually made my way back to New York City. This time I will be traveling with my two youngest boys and my husband, and though things have changed dramatically since I was last there, I can’t wait to reconnect with my sister – whose wedding we will be attending – and with a region I once fell in love with. Of course, sharing this with my family makes the return that much sweeter.

Main St. Cortland, NY

Weekend Getaway to Cortland, NY

Nestled in upstate New York, just 30 minutes outside of my old stomping grounds of Syracuse (go Orange!), lays the quaint, historic city of Cortland. A winter ski destination and close in proximity to the wineries of the Finger Lakes, it was the perfect little weekend getaway for a fun father/daughter road trip.

Hiking Life_girlgonetravel.com

The Face of Adventure Travel

Adventure travel is, by definition, “a vacation or trip to a natural environment or remote place with the specific purpose of active physical participation and exploration of a new experience.” The level of challenge in the activities vary, but if you are passionate about outdoor travel and find yourself spending most of your travel time as well as budget on these types of experiences, you fall within the group of adventure traveler.

When looking at what the media considers to be an adventure traveler he generally is male, white, and muscular/thin. They can be a woman too, but still she is white and thin. Marketers envision younger backpackers and trekkers of summits who enjoy physically challenging expeditions and like to sleep in mud huts, tents, hostels and side road motels.

It is true that an adventure traveler is one who is generally a risk-taker and curious by nature and who tends to want to push themselves physically and mentally as part of their travel experience. But adventure travel is as diverse as those who partake in it.

Los Cabos_girlgonetravel

Weekend Getaway to Los Cabos, Mexico

After several trips to really cold destinations, I needed an escape to somewhere warm. I didn’t realize how much I needed this escape until I arrived to the warmth of Los Cabos, Mexico. When I arrived to San José del Cabo airport I felt the weight of winter, or maybe it was the many layers of clothing, lifted off my shoulders. The beautiful sound of Spanish filled the air, sprinkled with the English of the many tourists that visit here regularly. In a weekend’s time, I would get to enjoy two very different hotel experiences and lots of sunshine.

The airport is a direct 5-hour flight from New York and Newark airports, though the area is mostly visited by residents in the nearby Arizona and California states. The airport is easy to navigate – though it’s important to remember to stay clear of the aggressive vendors right outside the security doors before you exit the airport. I really can’t stress this enough. It’s best to book your car service/shuttle through your hotel reservation, all of which will be waiting for you outside of the airport, not before (regardless of what any vendor there will say). Avoid being tricked into sitting through a timeshare presentation and you should be OK to start your vacation.