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To wrap up my series on our Cape May trip via Living Social, it’s time to talk about what to do in a shore town when half the town is still shut down and it’s way too cold to sunbathe.  Cape May is still full of activities in the off-season, so here are some highlights from our own trip.

Physick Estate
Jared loves touring old mansions.  In fact, whenever we travel, I think it’s safe to say we visit at least one.  We even made a special trip to Rhode Island to do the mansion tours one 4th of July weekend.  This trip was no exception, and with an abundance of Victorian-style homes, Cape May offered a lot of options when it came to tours.

The Emlen Physick Estate is the only Victorian house museum in Cape May.  It’s a neat story.  This house was in disrepair, and then the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts was formed in 1970 to bring it back to its historic state.  I won’t bore you with the historical details, but for $10, you get a 45 minute tour of the estate that concludes with a visit to the Carraige House, which typically has a separate historical display towards the back.  For $18, you can do a combination trolley tour of historic Cape May plus the mansion tour.  Our hotel gave us a voucher for the tours, however, we visited the mansion before we visited the hotel.  Darn.  Check with your hotel to see if they offer any deals for the tour.

Cape May Winery
I’m about to make a huge claim here and say that the Cape May Winery is one of the best wineries we’ve ever been to from an atmosphere perspective.  The tasting room is a gorgeous, expansive room with tables, couches, a bar and barrels lining the whole side wall.  Large enough to accommodate large groups without making other people feel like they are waiting around forever, the tasting room is really just a fantastic room.

Given how awesome the room was and how much it made us want to linger, we chose to do a tasting for $6 that included tasting 6 wines plus a souvenir glass.  Both Jared and I chose a mix of reds and whites to try, along with a dessert wine for me and a port for him, which I usually don’t find too much of at local wineries.  The wines we liked the most, like the Victorian White were very sweet.  That happens to be our preference, however, I also enjoyed some of the other more dry whites as well.

After our tasting, we decided to purchase a full glass of our favorites and sit in the tasting room for awhile, something I’ve never seen at other wineries.  Typically you go straight from tour (if there is one) to tasting, and then to the gift shop.  The Cape May Winery really encourages people to linger, with a balcony upstairs that looks over into the vineyard.  If it hadn’t been so windy and cold that day, this is something I definitely would have loved to do.  In fact, we saw one couple up there splitting a bottle and just hanging out.  Such a great, restful and fun activity, and we can’t wait to open the bottles we ended up buying.  Definitely worth a long afternoon stop on your trip to Cape May!

Cape May County Zoo
Another thing we’re huge fans of are gardens and zoos.  I’ll admit I was spoiled in DC, visiting the National Zoo sometimes every month without having to pay.  The Cape May County Zoo was a fabulous find.  With free admission year round, I was kind of expecting just a few animals set up in a dinky little park, but was pleasantly surprised to find it is so much more than that.

From lions and tigers and bears to simple geese, ducks and wandering peacocks, the zoo layout is one of the best I’ve seen in awhile.  I think we spent about 2 hours wandering around, enjoying the weather and all of the diverse animal populations.  Although the zoo was packed the day we were there, the expansive nature of the set-up allowed us to see everything we wanted to see without crowding around with other people.  Perfect for children and adults alike, the zoo is located a few miles outside of downtown Cape May in Cape May Courthouse.  Worth the drive, particularly since it’s free.  Just remember to support organizations like this with your donations to keep them up and running!

For all those that think of a certain show when they think of New Jersey, try visiting us first.  You’ll see there’s much more here than bumps and fist pumps.

Thanks to Living Social, Jared and I recently had the opportunity to check out Cape May, New Jersey for the first time (well, my first time-Jared was there as a kid).  As we walked around, I started thinking about all the great places we’ve been to in New Jersey that might get overlooked for those of us that live in-state.  Hence my new mission to tell you about them as we go along.  🙂

We covered a lot of ground while we were in Cape May, so I’ll start today by reviewing the lodging that we used.  The next set of installments will cover dining and area attractions.  We don’t want a super long post, after all!

The Carroll Villa Bed and Breakfast
The deal we purchased included a one night stay at the Carol Villa Bed and Breakfast, located less than a block from the beach.  Upon arrival, we received our complimentary bottle of champagne, as well as some coupons to area attractions (all part of our deal).  The check-in attendant was very friendly and made us feel welcome.

While the room we stayed in was certainly a bit small, it worked fine for us since we didn’t spend too much time in it anyway.  The shower had great pressure, and the bathroom was very clean and well kept.  Our room was right above The Mad Batter, the restaurant at The Carroll Villa, and during the live music, it was a bit noisy.  As in we could hear the specific songs the singer was performing.  However, we got back to our room around 9:45 p.m., and it all seemed to stop by 10.  If you’re sensitive to noise, though, as I know many are, this may not be the place for you!  I believe there are rooms on the other side of the hotel, so I would ask about those just to make sure.

Given that it was off-season, we were able to find parking about a block away.  In the summer, I can definitely imagine that parking is a challenge for guests at The Carroll Villa.  If you’re planning to stay in the summer, I would recommend calling ahead to find out what is recommended.

As mentioned, The Caroll Villa does have a restaurant, The Mad Batter, which is a great restaurant with a modest bar as well.  I’ll talk about this more in dining, but our deal did included a breakfast voucher, and we liked the convenience of having something right there.

Overall, The Caroll Villa was a beautiful place to stay, with an at-home feel that made even our short stay relaxing and comfortable.  If you’re thinking of vacationing somewhere this summer, I’d call early-I’m sure they book up pretty fast!  Thanks to Living Social and The Carroll Villa for helping us find out what Cape May has to offer!

*Writers Note:  Due to a handful of complaints that I have not written in awhile, I’ve decided to commit again to trying to post a few times a week. Yet again, I have no excuse for not writing, just been busy!

Jared and I love getting out for the weekend and creating new experiences.  There’s just something about a full weekend ahead of you to explore that really excites us.  Since I don’t really have long stretches of vacation to take, lately we’ve been looking for shorter trips we can take in and around the state to ensure we still get our fix without spending a lot or driving too much.

I wrote awhile ago about Groupon, the social buying site.  At the same time I signed up for Groupon, I signed up for Living Social, which is extremely similar, just with different deals.  I soon started getting emails about “Living Social Escapes“, which were vacation packages at a discounted rate.  The one that caught our eye was a Cape May Weekend.

I’ve always wanted to take a trip down to Cape May. New Jersey Monthly always writes about great restaurants and places to stay.  The deal that we found gave us one night (Friday or Saturday) at the Carroll Villa B&B Hotel that included a bottle of champagne, a gift basket of “goodies” and a complimentary breakfast at The Mad Batter.  All for $150.

The deal was that you had to book a night between now and May 7th.  Let me break down for you what a trip like this would cost normally for the weekend we chose:

1.)  Overnight accommodations at the Carroll Villa B&B typically cost anywhere from $99 per night to $239 per night.  The catch is that many rooms require a two night reservation.  For the room we are staying in, we would have had to pay about $238 for the weekend.  By the time we got there on a Friday night, it would have been so late we hardly would have had time to take advantage of our surroundings.  Major savings right there, allowing us through the site to only have to book one night.

2.)  Breakfast at The Mad Batter looks like it would cost about $15-$20 per person.

Couple this with the gift bag of goodies, and I’d say we’re looking at a low-cost weekend away just as Spring is about to arrive in NJ.

Booking the trip was easy.  All I had to do was buy the deal, and call the hotel to redeem.  The hotel has a specific person that handled the Living Social bookings, which I thought was fabulous.  I’ve worked with places before that have had no idea what you’re talking about when you try to redeem something you found online.  The process was seamless, easy, and stress-free.  And let’s face it, for two of us to go away for a weekend in Cape May for only $150, I’d stay it was totally worth it.

*Note:  Someone asked me recently if we had to “meet up” with the other people that purchased the deal.  Living Social is a social buying site, not a social meet up site.  The only social part is the buying element.  No other interaction required.  🙂

Looking forward to sharing our review of our Cape May Weekend come March.  Stay tuned!

Oh, and sign up for Living Social today.  Even though a lot of the deals may not be relevant to you, you never know when something great is going to come along.

I had one goal for our honeymoon:  to not schedule ourselves to death each day to the point of forgetting we’re actually on vacation.  Both Jared and I had talked about taking a cruise as our next big trip, so after we got engaged, that was an easy item to check off the list.  Jared had cruised with Celebrity before, and the ship left from NJ the day after our wedding.  Super easy choice.

There are a lot of elements to review about our trip on the Celebrity Summit, so  I’m going to break this into sections.  First, let’s start with the most important element of all:  service.

Celebrity Summit Docked in Bermuda

Jared handled the booking through a travel agent, so we can’t really speak too much about the service of the reservations department.  We didn’t have any trouble, so I’m guessing they were great.

Overall, we had an outstanding experience with the crew of the Celebrity.  From our statehouse attendant to the sommeliers to the activities personnel, everyone made us feel as if we were the most important couple on the ship.

Our statehouse attendant was a fabulous man.  He remembered us and ensured that we received two gift packages that had been purchased to help us celebrate our honeymoon.  He was easy to find when we needed something and super accommodating.  When we couldn’t finish our first bottle of champagne, he made room in the fridge to ensure it wouldn’t go to waste.  The room was always immaculate, and it was very easy to have our questions answered.

Our favorite part of the trip was probably the Celebrity Life wine tasting events.  The sommeliers on board were knowledgeable without being stuck up and so personable, we felt like they had been our friends forever.  Whenever we would be at dinner, they’d remember us, and even remembered our room number to retrieve our bottles of wine.  The atmosphere they created was just fantastic for those of us that love wine, but may not know all there is to know about it.  Can’t say enough great things about them!

Although we did not interact much with the cruise ship activities director, we always felt very welcome at any events we went to, including a special party for honeymooners.  The activities crew was engaging without being over the top annoying, which made us feel very comfortable wherever we were.

While Celebrity may not be the best choice for people our age, I can probably guarantee that you’re not going to find service like this on any other cruise ship!  I’ve got more reviews to come, so stay tuned!

Just ask my sister:  I’m a stickler when it comes to safe sun practices.  Don’t get me wrong:  I know that being tan makes people feel beaufiul, and I myself still get burned every now and then if I’m not careful (case in point:  falling asleep on the beach in Bermuda).  But, with all the research out there these days about skin cancer and how tanning can contribute to that, you’re being foolish NOT to put sunscreen on just because you’re afraid of being pale.

Pretty on the outside, but can wreak havoc on your insides!

About 90% of nonmelanoma cancers and 65% of melanoma cancers stem from the sun.  The sun’s UV rays wreak havoc on your DNA, even through getting a tan.  Those are staggering statistics to me, and scare me much more than not having a tan.

But how do you protect yourself?  Sometimes even when I slather on sunscreen, I still get burned.  WebMD has a helpful video regarding some simple sunscreen tips.  Some additional tips:

1.)  Pick the right SPF. Here’s a no-brainer:  the higher the SPF, the more protection against UVB rays.  However, just as dangerous, if not more dangerous are UVA rays, which do not cause reddening or pain like UVB rays cause.  A sunblock with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide can provide the most effective coverage.  Look for a solution that indicates it is for broad-spectrum coverage, which will protect against both harmful rays.

2.)  Reapply! Don’t be fooled-just because you put suncscreen on in the morning doesn’t mean you’re safe for the rest of the day.  I’ve read differing things about this, but I typically try to put sunscreen on 15-30 minutes before exposure and then again every 1-2 hours in the sun.  I feel paranoid doing it so often, but it’s been those times that I’ve diligently reapplied that I have not gotten burned.

3.)  Plan accordingly. The suns rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Yes, I know, that’s half your beach day.  If you’re planning on being outside for the whole day, try to seek shade when you notice your shadow is shorter than you are.

4.)  Visit your Dermatologist regularly. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.  Examine yourself regularly for any unusual spots. Regardless, make sure you book a yearly appointment with your dermatologist so he/she can check you thoroughly for any skin issues.

You can still have fun in the summer months, just make sure you’re careful!  Enjoy!

My recent trip to Ireland has once again inspired in me a hatred for that person we all become at least once or twice in our lives:  the tourist.  Now, I write this with full knowledge of the fact that I have been a tourist many, many times in my life.  However, after living in one of the most visited cities in the US as well as having traveled abroad a few times in the past few years, I have noticed that there are certain qualities that people possess that just scream, “I’m a tourist, why don’t you rob/pickpocket me, because I’ve made myself very stupidly visible.”

Jared and I always hope that wherever we go, people will think we are local.  And, I am proud to say that on more than one occasion in our travels, we have been asked for directions or recommendations that only locals could make.  Why?  Because we have a certain air about us that doesn’t scream DisneyWorld tourist.  Here, however, are my top pet peeves for the quintessential tourist:

1.)  Let’s Walk, People. There should be a section of the street for people like this….the people that feel it is appropriate to just stop in the middle of a sidewalk because they are lost or too caught up in looking at things around them.  Haven’t you ever heard of moving off to the side to do whatever it is you need to do?  Stop being so oblivious and get the heck out of everyone elses way.

This goes for the airport too, where there should be a line for stupid, amateur travelers.  I’m not as seasoned as some, but how hard is it to follow the million signs posted around security and other areas and do what you’re told??  Take off your freaking shoes, and move along once you are finished.  Do NOT stop in the middle of the pathways with your big, giant, never going to fit in overhead storage suitcase to find whatever it is you seem to have misplaced.  Once again, act like you’re driving and PULL OVER.

2.)  The Camera Necklace. Nothing screams “I’m here on holiday” than the guy with sixteen cameras around his neck.  Save it for Disney, my friend.  In populated cities, it only makes you a prime target for pickpockets and my blogging rants.  Oh, and you need to keep moving as well.  Quit stopping in the middle of my path to take a picture of the top of a building.

3.)  The Flash Happy. I take a lot of pictures, I will admit that.  However, when traveling abroad, or anywhere for that matter, I try to do so in a fashion that is discreet.  Last week, when I was having tea at Bewley’s, I saw a couple I identified as tourists right away (see #4) taking pictures of their food.  Because a bagel really looks different in the EU than anywhere else??  I’ve also witnessed people taking pictures of gas stations and random houses.  I guess there is a “certain charm” in Esso, but really?  What are you going to do with these pictures?  Save that flash for the historic landmarks and things that are actually relevant.

4.)  I ❤ Whatever City I’m In. That couple taking pictures of their food?  I knew immediately they were tourists because they were decked out in “I Love Ireland” gear.  Now, I have my fair share of Jersey Girl clothing, but I actually live there.  I know getting clothing emblazoned with your country of choice is fairly common, but I think it’s weird to wear it while you’re still there.  And to be all matchy matchy about it….

5.)  Tour Book Wielding Traveler. I understand the need to have a map on you when you’re traveling around a foreign city.  In fact, I’ve referred to my small one in the privacy of a street corner at a few points this week.  But really, don’t carry it around, flipping through pages, looking aimlessly around trying to figure out where you are going.  Not only do you set yourself up to be robbed by being so oblivious, but also, you’re in everyone else’s way.  Once again, pull over and consult that guide book.  Don’t do it right in the middle of a busy city sidewalk.

I could go on, but I’ll stop for now….

Some might find this harsh, but for those of us that have ever lived in a city populated by tour book wielding, camera necklace, flash happy, oblivious tourists, we know that all of this is true.  Not only is it unsafe to be this oblivious when you’re traveling, it’s also annoying to those around you :).  So please, get your wits about you before you begin your day, and remember:  that bagel looks the same wherever you’re from as it does here.

Cheers!

Well, friends, a rare opportunity has come up for me to travel to Dublin, Ireland for the week, and I’ve decided to take advantage of it.  So, I’ll be offline until Saturday, October 31.  Check back in November for some updates on our trip!

Keep your fingers crossed that I successfully figure out how to navigate to Ireland solo.  🙂  I’ll let you know how it goes.  I suspect it will be an empowering experience.

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