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.

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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

Cartagena – Caribbean Columbia

Cartagena is a beautiful colorful city on the Caribbean. It was the richest city during Spanish rule because all of the gold and jewels from the Incas were sent here before being put on ships back to Spain. The old city is a UNESCO world heritage site and is surrounded by a huge wall. Because of all of the money in the city the Spanish wanted to defend the city to the max so the wall was built along with multiple fortresses.

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Cocktails on a rooftop bar at sunset. 

We spent 2 of the days in Cartagena on the Islas del Rosarios which is a cluster of islands about an hour boat ride from the city. We decided we needed to take a vacation from our vacation/traveling and just relax by the pool before heading back to the states. The Islas del Rosarios is surrounded by a protected reef so we got a few more dives under our belt. Our favorite dive was a night dive where we saw a ton of lobsters and crabs. Then at the end of the dive we turned our lights off and got to see the bioluminescence in the water.

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Another one of the highlights was during dinners one of the guests would play the guitar and sing traditional Spanish songs. It was such a cool experience. Then on the last night the owner of the hotel shared a bottle of rum and Cuban cigars with all of the guests and the musician to thank him for playing. He also invited us all down to the lagoon near the hotel because it was one in five lagoons in the world where you could see great bioluminescence.

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Heading back to the city we had a pretty epic boat ride where the driver seemed to only drive the boat at full throttle over enormous waves. All of the passengers in the back of the boat were soaking wet by the end of the ride. Dan and I lucked out and only got a little wet. During this ride Dan coined the term #backlivesmatter so more attention would be put towards passengers at the back of the boat.

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Once back in the city we spent our time strolling the beautiful streets and city walls. At night the city really came alive with street musicians, dancers, and a male Shakira impersonator. These performers would rotate down the plazas to each of the restaurants. So each night you could sit on the patio of a restaurant on the plaza and have free entertainment.

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Nighttime is when the city really comes alive. The streets fill with tourists and locals, street performers, and horse drawn carriages. We took one of these carriages around one night. It was actually real affordable for a 20 minute ride where the driver tried to explain in broken English what the sites were. It ended up being a really cool way to see the city at night.

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Since Cartagena is on the coast we had a bunch of great seafood including some delicious ceviche. We ended up going back to the Cevicheria twice during our stay. The Cevicheria was also visited by Anthony Bourdain.

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Top 5 Things to Do in Cartagena:

  1. Take a boat trip to the Islas del Rosarios
  2. Sit on a patio sipping a mojito watching the street performers
  3. Get a horse drawn carriage tour of the old city
  4. Wander the city walls during sunset
  5. Eat ceviche