Grand Cayman – New Year & Baby Moon

The Cayman Islands weren’t on our short list of places to visit but you become very limited on options when you have a very specific time frame to travel and are trying to avoid Zika. When we found out we were pregnant we immediately began thinking about where we could go on a “babymoon”, the last trip before we became a family of three.  We needed to travel over the holidays and wanted to go somewhere warm. We narrowed it down to the Caribbean where there were three islands that were Zika free. Of the three islands, the quickest for us to get to was the Cayman Islands so we made the plans to be there over New Year’s.

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Seven Mile Beach – Calico Jacks

Most tourists end up staying on Seven Mile beach which is a stretch of white sand beach that is covered in hotels and condos. We ended up staying at a great Airbnb in Bodden town which is about halfway between Seven Mile beach and Rum Point, another popular tourist destination. You could drive around the whole island in about 2 hours so it was a good place for us to be so we could be close to Seven Mile but off of the beaten path.

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Beach and Ocean View from our AirBnB

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Baby Conch

 

Most of our vacation was spent relaxing, exploring the island, and eating at some great local restaurants. A few of our favorites were:

  • Heritage Café, a local joint serving fresh fish either Cayman style, coconut, or pineapple.
  • Kaibo Beach bar, a hipster restaurant and beach bar near Rum Point. They had a great view, food, and drinks.
  • Casa 43, a great Mexican restaurant near Seven Mile beach, they have a great tequila selection, awesome snapper ceviche.
  • Czech Inn, this restaurant is getting a call out because it was right across the street from our Airbnb, was byob, had fresh fish and jerk chicken, and we ended up eating her 4 times.
  • Rankins Jerk, a jerk shop in Bodden town where mostly locals visit. Great jerk chicken and worth the trip from Seven Mile for some local food.

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Heritage Cafe – Photo courtesy of one of the locals

Dan ended up diving two days while we were there. The island has over 200 dive sites and some beautiful coral.

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Another must do is to go to Stingray city, a sand bar off of the island where you can swim with stingrays and hold them! We took the sunset cruise out there which was good choice because you miss the cruise ship rush and get to sail back during a beautiful sunset. While we were on the island we saw 3-4 cruise ships a day and the locals said there could be up to 7 in the harbor at once.

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Being limited on the amount of scuba diving we could do since Dan was the only one diving, we were searching for other activities and found the Cayman Crystal Caves. They have over 100 caves and currently only 3 are open to the public. The best one is the last cave that has an underground lake.

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See the tree frog? 

We ended up driving around the island exploring and stumbled across a set of concrete sculptures that someone has put up in their front yard.  Don’t forget to drive on the left hand side of the road! Also driving around you can appreciate all of the massive homes on the island. Apparently Grand Cayman doesn’t have property taxes so you can plant your money here in real estate.

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Just one of the many luxury homes..

Top 5 things to do in Grand Cayman:

  1. Have a drink at Kaibo beach bar
  2. See the Cayman Crystal Caves
  3. Dive one of the 200+ dive sites
  4. Swim with the Stingrays
  5. Eat fresh fish and conch fritters or jerk chicken at a local joint

 

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Mojito’s on the East End – Tukka Restaurant

 

Portland and Coastal Maine – Americana, Sea Coasts and Seafooc

We knew going in that Portland ME was a quaint up and coming town. We didn’t know how much we would love it! So much charm, and an unbelieveable food scene from world class sushi to the freshest seafood and craft beer anywhere. It was a great couple days.

Wanting to see a local landmark, we realized our visit coincided with an annual charity benefit from local brewery Alagash. Oysters on the grill, al pastor tacos and a other delicious snacks. What a great way to see the Mansion!

Cheers to Alagash for the party, great brewery as well!

Beautiful summer days. Strawberries are in full bloom and we stumble upon a Strawberry festival. Buying several pounds from the overloaded farms.              We were on our way to see one of the many spectacular coastline views of Maine!

Lighthouses were a must in this unforgiving landscape.

 

Miyake sushi was an out of this world experience. Omakase with Kristin opting for the non-sushi route and Dan headed for sushi. Grilled fish head?

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Locally caught Giant Blue Fin Tuna and local Eel. Life changing.

Heading to Arcadia National Park and Bar Harbor, we stopped for lunch in Camden. Classic America.

Views of the hike in Arcadia.

Our way down found us in some really cool slot canyons!

We found our way to a lobsta pot for dinner.

Basically a local fisherman runs a small shack serving the days catch of lobsters, mussels, clams and corn.

Dan had to order a 2nd “dessert” lobster cause he was in love.

What a way to end the solo portion of our trip. Great food and a very relaxing but engaging couple of days on America’s north coast. We loved it, enjoyin spectacular views like this sunset over a wild mussel patch.

We finished the trip with a couple days with our family in Waterford. Enjoying a classic Americana 4th of July. Sharing the parade and treats with our loved ones!Catching some sunset views of the loons on the lake.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – The Smoke that Thunders

The day before we landed in Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, dictator for 37 years, had resigned. Transfer of power in Africa is dicey at best. We didn’t know what to expect but the borders were open so we went. Turns out not much. It had been so long coming that it was mostly a 1 day party and everyone went back to work. Capital controls had the money supply so tight that people literally slept at the bank trying to get some money out.

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The guys at The River craft brewing (only the second brewery in the country) told us the night Mugabe went was their best revenue night ever.

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Flying into Zambia, the Zambia-Zimbabwe border crossing was sketchy and we’re pretty sure (definitely sure) our hotel “airport transfer” included a bribe. Well, it did get us through faster. That’s Africa. On to Victoria Falls.

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Visiting the falls during the dry season they are still the same amazing site they were when the famous explorer Livingstone set eyes on them in 1855.

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During the wet season, I could only imagine how they would look. Water would be pouring over this whole portion.

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Dan got to play monkey man on this awesome fallen tree.

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Out hotel was a from a bygone colonial era. Immaculately maintained, beautifully detailed, it felt like a step back in time.

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The same applies for the nightly sunset cruise on a reconstructed 1940’s skiff.

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That lump in the water to the right of the brandy is a hippo!

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Our last night in town, we gorged on a platter of crocodile, kudo and impala meat.

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Sabi Sands, South Africa – Lions and Elephants and Leopards Oh My!

The Sabi Sands Preserve in Kruger National Park.

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The Sabi Sands are a unfenced portion of the National Park that is privately protected and has some of the most intact animal populations. Including this 7 week old critically endangered White Rhino.

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Our lodge Arenthusa was as close to a literal oasis as you can get. It’s fantastic 4-star service in the middle of nowhere. 3 meals, 2 game drives, high tea, a full bar, a perfect 3-4 day adventure.

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Safari is a whole different travel experience. We had a private room, with a bush patio and private pool.

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You get insanely close to huge wild animals and they don’t even flinch. Leopards stalking prey, wild dogs hunting as a pack, elephants bathing.

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Gotta stop. Herd of elephants are crossing the road.

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My favorite quote from the explorer Livingstone. “Cape buffalo always look at you, like you owe them money.”

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Oh and in between your stopping for a bush cup of coffee or starlight dinner on the open plains or a bush breakfast complete with mimosa’s!

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Basically it’s bad*ss. Lots of our pictures were taken by cell phone, because you’re that close. See the leopards?

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Sadly, the National Park is in a significant draught. The watering hole on the resort had dried up and the 14 hippos living there moved. For us that meant our well pumped private plunge pool was one of the most accessible drinking spots and elephants were constantly drinking from it. Unfortunately, never while we were there. As I write this, Cape Town for the same reasons is facing a water crisis so bad Day 0 of no water is less than 2 months away. Do a rain dance for South Africa.

Maputo, Mozambique – The REAL Africa

Next stop Maputo, Mozambique. South Africa’s neighbor, Mozambique bares the reality in Africa. 20%+ HIV rates, 50-60% desperate poverty rates, population between 25 – 29 million because they don’t actually know… That Africa.

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We had unbelievable access to companies and leaders in Mozambique. CEO of largest telecom, CMO of largest marketing agency, CEO of largest bank, CEO of largest port. Kristin gave the Thank You present to the bank CEO for meeting our group.

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All of the leaders were very optimistic on the countries future for several reasons. The country is very young, and well it’s hard to go backwards when you start from zero. The telecom CEO I found especially fascinating because they are merging cell phone carrier and bank into one product accessed on the phone. Through your phone you can store money, buy products and even take small loans. Helping offer banking to the 95% of Mozambique without a bank account. Millions in Mozambique don’t have power, water or sanitation, but have access to the internet and a cell phone.

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A walking tour of the city took Dan to a old fort.

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A dilapidated train station.

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And a stop for pasteis de nata. The best part of Portuguese anything. If you don’t know see our Lisbon blog.

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Leaving Maputo, it was back to South Africa, but this time we headed to the Sabi Sands Preserve in Kruger National Park. The Sabi Sands are a unfenced portion of the National Park that is privately protected and has some of the most intact animal populations.

Cape Town, South Africa – Earth, Wind and Wines

It’s a long way to South Africa. Our best flight option was 31 hours with a 10 hour layover in Frankfurt. Luckily, we landed midday and we’re able to train into town for some wieners (like REAL frankfurters) and beers.

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On we go and touchdown in Cape Town. The 30 minute drive from the airport takes you through the Cape Flats. A grimy extremely rough place. A place that’s like Juarez, Mexico dangerous. As we rounded around the imposing Table Mountain the city came into view. It’s beautiful. Brand new, sparkling, well cared for, first class modern city. Our Uber took us past a brand-new glass and steel hospital, with a Virgin Athletic Club on the 5th floor overlooking the highway and the bay. Wait, where did the desperate poverty go? It’s a weird place.

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Landing in the morning we had no choice but to fight the jet lag and rally. Luckily Uber is basically free in Cape Town (a ride in town cost about $1.30 each way) so we headed to the V&A waterfront to get our bearings. Our love from Cape Town begins. The food everywhere is exceptional. The drinks are expertly crafted. The service is fantastic. The prices are cheap.  It’s like San Diego but 80% off.

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That afternoon the winds blew just right giving us a great view of the “the tablecloth” as clouds gentle roll off the mountain.

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Just as we are settling into this paradise (and our duck confit eggrolls and local bottle of Pinotage) we are snapped into the reality of Africa. A disheveled mostly white but still “colored” woman ask for some food off our plate. Before we could react our black waiter came out to shoe her off. She then exploded into a rant about immigrants taking jobs from locals. He was being called out, accurately it seemed. Africa is a complicated place.MVIMG_20171105_173317.jpg

The next day we joined up with about 10 other DU students for a trip to Stellenbosch the capital of South Africa’s wine country. South Africa makes great wines. South Africa has been making great wines since before America was America.

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At Lanzerac, we learned about the famous Pinotage grape. Developed in the 60’s it is a cross between Pinot Noir and Meritage grapes. A delightful wine that can range from smooth to complex. Lanzerac planted the first Pinotage vines in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch.

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Our second stop at Graff had mediocre wine but an amazing facility with a million-dollar diamond necklace in the jewelry store.

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The next day, Tuesday began the DU class trip.

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We visited GOLD, a African Experience. Basically a Cape Town’s version of Casa Bonita for adults. Super cheesy, but really fun.

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We took a drumming class and Kristin danced with the crew.

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The Test Kitchen

As we looked forward to our adventure months in advance, Kristin set her sights on a reservation at The Test Kitchen. A five star restaurant, ranked as high as 26th in the world. Reservations are almost impossible to come by. Luckily, we were able to book months in advance, and here we go… Punctuated by two distinct experiences, the Dark and the Light dinner is an event. On the dark side, literally a room with barely enough light to see, cocktails are paired with a tastings from around the world. Highlights were the dishes from Scotland, South Africa and India. It was all amazing.

Then through a trap door we are taken to the Light. A bustling bright restaurant, we are served the more traditional restaurant experience.

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Wine parings, another 8 courses, the whole deal. A variety of fresh foraged mushrooms? Awesome. Our after-dinner treat was a glass of vin de Constance, a sweet white wine that was Napoleon Bonaparte’s favorite.

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No visitor to Cape Town missed Table Mountain a “New 7 Natural Wonders” of the world.

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Accessed by cable car 3,000 ft high provides quite a view of the city.

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The was so nice, we got to enjoy it for hours longer than expected as the cable car closed due to high winds. Kristin didn’t know she was about to be stuck up here.

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We also spent a day touring “The Cape” seeing Africa’s only penguins.

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We toured the Cape Reserve seeing wild ostriches while visiting and hiking on Africa’s south-western tip.

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A short hike provided breath taking views!

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Check out the surfers in the bottom right. There’s no land between them and Antarctica!

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Medellin, Colombia – Pablo Escobar’s City of Eternal Spring

From Cartagena we hop on an hour flight to Medellin, our last international stop before heading back to ‘merica. Medellin has almost perfect weather and is also known as the city of eternal spring. Sitting at 5,000 feet and near the equator, its 83 during the day and 70 at night. Medellin is also famous as being the home of Pablo Escobar, and was once the murder capital of the world.

wp-1456244823705.jpgMedellin is a city undergoing a massive transformation. The city can still be grimy, and there are still very dangerous areas, but quickly shedding it’s checkered history, the hillside restaurants bustle with expats from around the world. Nouveau art displays from adorn the city square.

wp-1456244950029.jpgMedellin’s second most famous son is Fernando Botero, famous for creating these overstuffed fat sculptures.

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In the last few years a new transportation network has connected this very hilly city and is bringing opportunity to the millions who live here. The old method, just wasn’t getting the job done in the 21st century.

wp-1456244815398.jpgOne of the most interesting elements of Medellin’s transportation network is the Metrocable.

wp-1456244691817.jpgThe Metrocable network is made up of gondolas that were built to connect some of the cities most vulnerable residents and offer them transportation to jobs, stores and opportunities.

wp-1456244732712.jpgUnlike home, the cheaper homes are found higher up the slopes. With high crime, and almost no access to services, until the Metrocable arrived this was a horrible place to live.

wp-1456288768606.jpgOne even connects past the city to a beautiful national park called Parque Arvi. The park was okay, a nice place to spend an afternoon strolling. The real experience was getting to take all the cable cars.

wp-1456244966324.jpgOne highlight of Medellin came from the outside world. On Superbowl Sunday fell during our time in Medellin. Luckily in our swanky neighborhood, almost all the bars were bustling with people watching the game; we even watched with two Broncos fans from Colorado. Dan could not have been happier, Kristin acquired a new lucky vest.

wp-1456288302181.jpgFollowing a tip from a Medellin local we met in Cusco, Peru. Our last day we made our way to the bus station for the 2 hour ride to Guatape. In the 1970’s Guatape lake was created when the surrounding hills were flooded for a hydroelectric project.

wp-1456244799392.jpgIn the middle of the lake sits the El Penol, a massive granite rock that looks very out of place. Local legend claims it’s a meteorite, we think it’s just cool.

wp-1456244837534.jpgUp we go. Hope the 750 steps up are worth it.

wp-1456244905719.jpgTruly, one of the best views in the entire world.

wp-1456244882151.jpgAt the top is an epic 360 degree panoramic views of the lake.

wp-1456288361285.jpgWhat a way to spend our last day of this great adventure. We are so blessed to have been able to finish this walkabout. We are so excited to finish strong celebrating Adrienne and Kevin’s wedding!

wp-1456244857235.jpgTop 5 Things to do Medellin

  1. Watch a Broncos Superbowl win!
  2. Ride to Guatape and hike El Penol
  3. Ride the Metrocable to Parque Arvi
  4. Buy coffee from Pergamino roasters
  5. Take a photo with a fatty from Fernando Botero