wanderlust during a pandemic

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Isla Mujeres

This time of year is when I am normally planning our late winter or early spring vacation. For retailers, particularly in the liquor business, the frenzied holiday shopping grinds almost to a halt in January and doesn’t return to a more normal pace again until March or April. It’s a much-needed reprieve, especially after a record-breaking year like 2020. I miss travel planning, and my Facebook memories aren’t helping. It seems like every single day a travel memory pops up, taunting me. Here are the trips I’ve been thinking about.

4 years ago, we were preparing for our first vacation in Mexico. We chose Cancun because it was a non-stop flight, which is important when flying to and from the mountains in winter. Otherwise, you might make it back to Denver but get stuck there, and your car is in Eagle or Aspen. Not fun. It is actually the opposite of fun.

We’d heard great things about Dreams Resorts, but wanted a relaxing trip sans anyone else’s kids, so Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera won our business. It’s the adult-only sister company of Dreams, is all-inclusive and has lots of restaurants, activities and entertainment. Our goal was to sit on the beach and relax, as opposed to many of our previous vacations that tended to have lengthy itineraries. There was no itinerary here, except one outing to sail on a catamaran to Isla Mujeres and do some snorkeling. (The header photo was taken on the island.) That was the only time we left the resort. It was awesome.

This turned out to be a dream vacation. The service and the property itself were impeccable. We saw one piece of trash, and it was so out-out-of-place that we sat and watched it for the 10 minutes it took for an employee to find it. (The only exception to this were the cigarette butts some guests left in the sand. Seriously. Some were less than two feet from an ashtray. Grrrrrr!) The food and entertainment were exceptional as well, and I would give the spa 50 stars. Highly recommend!

2 years ago, I was busy organizing a work trip to Napa and Sonoma. I know. Work, work, work. 🙂 It’s trickier than just booking airline tickets and lodging, though. Our wine reps set up tastings for us every day we were there. I had detailed maps of both areas highlighted with distances between each spot and possible spots to eat along the way. This was the mother of itineraries for me! It was around 4 pages long and turned out to be invaluable. We ignored most of my restaurant suggestions and relied on locals to provide us with recommendations, which resulted in some amazing meals at places we never would have found on our own.

RELATED: WHERE TO EAT IN SONOMA

In Sonoma, we visited Rodney Strong, Iron Horse Vineyards, Hannah Winery, Hook & Ladder Winery, Alexander Valley Vineyards, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Cline family Cellars, Gundlach Bundschu and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. Our Napa stops included Sterling Vineyards, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Frog’s Leap Winery. We didn’t forget California beer! The Lagunita’s Brewing Company taproom in Petaluna was a sunny afternoon well spent, with live music in the large patio, and no craft beer lover should miss a stop at the Russian River Brewing Company‘s Santa Rosa Brewpub for some Pliny the Elder. Before you think all we did was work, we visited the beach and spent some time exploring the Jack London Historic State Park.

RELATED: A DAY IN SONOMA

Getting to this trip was a lot easier than getting home. With flight cancellation and delays, we ended up renting a car in Sacramento and driving home across America’s Loneliest Highway. It was a fun drive and we got home sooner than our flight would have.

1 year ago, which honestly seems like a lifetime ago, Scott and I separately came up with the idea to visit the Gulf Coast so that was an easy decision. We have family in Indian Rocks Beach, which is a wonderful destination with beautiful sunsets and beaches and lots of great restaurants. We spent several days with our cousins Brian and Peggy in their waterfront home that’s affectionately dubbed Club Peg. Though we did venture to the beach a couple of times, sitting on their dock watching pelicans and dolphins was pretty tough to beat. And spending time with family was something we’ll never take for granted again. They were amazing hosts, and we can’t wait to go back.

RELATED: TIPS FOR VISITING ANNA MARIA ISLAND

Next, we headed to Anna Maria Island, a favorite destination of our best friends. Now we know why. The island is just seven miles long, with gorgeous beaches, a free trolley and lots of shopping and restaurants. Our beachfront condo at Bali Hai was at the northern end of the island, and we could walk to restaurants and shopping. There was a trolley stop right there for easy rides to and from the southern part of the island. Another spot we’re eager to revisit. We are SO glad we scheduled this trip for early February before travel restrictions kicked in.

So, it’s January again, but we have no travel plans. In addition to COVID-19, sometimes it’s just hard to leave town when you own a business that’s open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’re hoping to get away for a long weekend or two as soon as it warms up a little, but there’s nothing in the works for anything longer than that. Here’s to hoping we can all hit the road, hop on board a plane or train or ship, and get the heck out of Dodge soon.

Thanks to Heiditown.com for the idea to relive past trips when wanderlust sets in. You should subscribe to her blog if you haven’t already.

Thanks for tuning in to TalesFromtheEmptyNest.com!

ruffing it with fido: how to take your dog camping

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Camping with Fido

Guest post by Aurora James

Spending time in the great outdoors with your canine companion can be quite a treat. However, if you’re planning on camping or spending the night, there are a few things you will want to do to prepare. With these tips, you’ll be ready to enjoy whatever nature throws at you. Continue reading

Missing Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day

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A little reminiscing in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I thought you might like a visual tour. Pour yourself a pint and enjoy the views. If you get the chance to visit Ireland, take it. Thanks for following Tales From the Empty Nest. Sláinte! Continue reading

hittin’ the trails in West Virginia

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Ashland ATV Resort Campsite

Ashland ATV Campground on the Hatfield McCoy Trails

The Hatfield McCoy Trail System is one of the largest off-road trail networks in the world, with more than 700 miles of trails in southern West Virginia. Scott has seen it featured on a couple of ATV shows over the years, so we decided to check it out while we were in this part of the country. Continue reading

30 things I learned while traveling abroad

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We learned that, given enough alcohol, we will eat haggis.

We learned that, given enough alcohol, we will eat haggis.

Our trip to Ireland and Scotland was very educational. I learned some things about myself. Scott and I learned some things about each other. And I definitely learned some things about traveling in these countries. Here are 30 things I picked up, in no particular order.

  1. We are not good with maps. We got lost. A lot.
  2. The Irish are quite possibly the friendliest people on Earth, until they get behind the wheel of a car. Then they’re crazy.
  3. Even after touring the beautiful Blair Athol Distillery in Pitlochry, Scotland, and seeing all of the care and skill that goes into making some of the finest Scotch in the world, I still don’t like it.
  4. Given enough alcohol, we will eat haggis. Continue reading

14 beds in 36 days

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The Newton Hotel in Nairn, Ireland.

The Newton Hotel in Nairn, Scotland.

I’m not sure why it works out this way, but it seems that our travel plans are always feast or famine. This fall was definitely a feast. Here’s how we slept in 14 beds in 36 days:

View from the Newton Hotel in Nairn.

View from the Newton Hotel in Nairn.

1. Glasgow, Scotland — We kicked off our two-week dream vacation at the Glasgow Thistle Hotel. The first day was a little hazy with jet lag, but we found our way to the West Coast Harley-Davidson Dealership, walked along Sauchiehall Street and enjoyed fish ‘n chips and a pint at Molly Malones. Okay, two pints. The Thistle is very nice and an easy walk from Buchanan Street, which is easily one of the best shopping venues I’ve ever seen.

2. Nairn, Scotland — Heading to the Scottish Highlands via Loch Lomond and Loch Ness along the same route James Bond drove in Skyfall, what was already an incredible day got even better when we arrived at the Newton Hotel. Once frequented by Charlie Chaplin and his family, this 56-suite hotel was originally built as a family home in the 17th century and is set in 21 acres of parkland and gardens. Our suite was very large, comfortable and beautifully appointed with views of the back gardens. It’s just a short drive to the historic Culloden Battlefield, which was our first stop the next morning. Continue reading