Italy Pt. 1- Exploring an Paestum and Agropoli

Beautiful view in Agropoli

Ahhh, Italy! There's no other place quite like it. Very laid back, very passionate for their culture, and very inviting. We decided to end our journey around the world with a Euro Road trip. From Nice, France we drove south to Italy. Along the west coast, we decided to stop in an old Greek settlement, Paestum. Paestum is just south of Naples. We stayed for 4 days and truly enjoyed our time and the food! We ventured to Agropoli, a beautiful seaside town on a hill. We saw ancient Greek ruins and relaxed on beautiful beaches. Next, we venture further south to Calabria, the region which Allie's family immigrated from, where we visit Allie's family and Nelson had a huge surprise for Allie!

India - The North - Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan

Nelson and Allie playing the part while in Rajasthan
After exploring the south of India, we traveled north to Delhi, the bustling capital. We explored Old Delhi and some famous sights including Ghandi's home. With our private driver, Deepak, we headed to Agra to visit the famous Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. We then began our tour of the state of Rajasthan, exploring many cities, palaces, and forts, feeling like we were back in an age of the emperors. The state was very arid and home to a vast desert. Rajasthan was quite different from the tropical south of India. In Rajasthan we visited Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Pushkar, moving around quite a bit but seeing so much. We felt like we had traveled back in time.

India - The South - Mumbai, Kerala, and Goa

Who is crazy enough to rent a scooter in India? We are.
Our first trip to India came with immense anticipation. With all of our research and conversations with fellow travelers, we knew we would experience something different from all of our previous travels. Many say India is its own world, some say not to try to make sense of it, others say embrace every moment. India was truly eyeopening and sensory overload. India is not for the faint of heart. The sheer density of people was truly astounding. With 1.3B people, nearly 1B more than the population of the US, with a third of the space (!!!) it was quite crowded everywhere, even in small towns. The country is very rich in culture. The flavors of the cuisine are complex and unique. With the large country came drastic variety within the regions. While its easy to categorize the the country by 'the north' and 'the south' as many people do, each state had a different feel, a different cuisine, different landscape, and different language. They say every 50kms the language changes.

We began in the financial capital of Mumbai and flew down to the state of Kerala, also known as 'God's own country'. It is a very spiritual region with Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists truly coexisting peacefully. We visited Fort Kochi and the famous Backwaters and Munnar, home to spectacular tea plantations. In true Allie and Nelson fashion, we rented a scooter to explore the tea plantation's rolling hills. Next we headed to Goa, a state known for its beautiful beaches and backpacker life.

South Africa Pt. 3- The Winelands and Cape Town

The queen and king of Cape Town?
The climax of our South Africa road trip ended with something near and dear to our hearts... wine! The wine lands of South Africa were a very pleasant surprise. In the US we don't have much of a selection of South African wines, we soon learned the wine game in South Africa is a true contender! The wines were delicious and they had the foods to match up to it. Not only were the wines great, the breathtaking beauty of the wine regions rivaled those of Tuscany or Burgundy. The views had us saying 'WOW' with every turn. We explored Hermanus, Franschoeck, and Stellenbosch. Franschoeck - meaning French corner, was settled by the Huguenot's and hence bringing the wine making skills to the beautiful valley. It was our favorite of the three regions and a beautiful place to spend our Christmas. We spent time in Cape Town, exploring the 'Mother City'. Truly a diverse gem of a city with a great vibe. Mountains, beaches, and amazing views aplenty! We hiked up Table Mountain which was not an easy feat. We visited the botanical gardens, beaches, and an amazing Saturday morning market. A great way to end our South African exploration. 

South Africa Pt. 2 - The amazing natural beauty of the Garden Route

The Christmas Spirit along the Garden Route
We ventured west from Jeffrey's Bay along the garden route. We took our time and stopped at many places along the way. As we kept venturing west, the beauty varied day by day, but it seemed we were constantly in awe. The natural beauty was breathtaking and we soon realized our pictures would not do it any justice. This is a place that needs to be experienced to truly appreciate it. The kind folks who owned and managed the guest houses and restaurants along the way would offer wonderful suggestions and tips for our travel along the coast. We started in Jeffrey's Bay, visited St. Francis Bay for a day trip, then continued to Plettenberg Bay, then arrived our favorite town along the coast Knysna. There were beautiful stop offs along the route, with plenty of hiking and national parks to explore. Enjoy! 

South Africa Pt. 1 - Johannesburg, Whitewater rafting, the Panorama Route, and the Karoo!

Nelson and Allie enjoy views of the Panorama Route
We began our South African journey in Johannesburg. A city that holds a sad history of division and exclusion. Of hurt and anger. But one can also say it is a city of unification. In 1992, the remarkable work of Nelson Mandela and President F W de Klerk, reconciled the country and brought a divisive nation together to be wholly 'South African'. The history of Apartheid is quite a piece of history and one can surely see the divide (At a much lesser scale) today in parts of the country. However, the country is making great strides and uniting as one. The people we encountered from all backgrounds were extremely friendly, wanting to assist us, wanting to make sure we were enjoying ourselves in their country. And we did enjoy it immensely! The natural beauty left us in awe each day! As we road tripped through the nation, we saw new natural beauty each day with such a variety of landscapes! 

We visited Johannesburg where the Apartheid Museum gave us a great history lesson and kept us engaged for hours. We also visited the neighborhood of Soweto. Vilakazi street was the home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners: Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Then we headed east to Hazyview and went whitewater rafting  in crocodile and hippo infested waters (!!!) and drove the infamous Panorama Route where we were in awe by the beauty. We then headed south to eventually reach the coastline. But before arriving to the south, we made a stop in Graaf Reinet. A town on the Karoo - The Karoo being comparable to our 'western frontier'. We did some hiking and a self drive game ride to see some wildlife. Enjoy Pt. 1 of South Africa, a country that truly surprised us in the best way possible. 

Zanzibar: Island living in Africa

Allie and Nelson enjoying the sunset on Thanksgiving Day.
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous island off the coast of Tanzania. Even though it is a part of Tanzania, it felt a world away at times. Zanzibar is known for its white soft sand beaches and beautiful weather. We experienced so much more than a relaxing island visit. We truly felt like we were living with locals, trying new foods, 'embracing' the slow life, and the 'simplicity' of living on a somewhat under developed island. When we arrived in Stone Town, the island's capital city, we were greeted with a very touristy feel. However, after leaving the town and heading to Jambiani, a beach with a very local feel, we felt like we had made a great choice for a stay.  We were forced to slow down. Pole! Pole! As they say in Swahili. To give an idea of how 'remote' our paradise was, let's just say most businesses did not accept credit cards, and the nearest ATMs were 1.5 hrs away in Stone Town! The electricity and water worked when it wanted to, along with the wifi as well. These minor inconveniences were appreciated as we gained perspective.

We learned that the island depended on the tides. Jambiani's economy revolves around fishing and seaweed harvesting. With the tide changing drastically throughout the day, it truly dictated life on the island. Many fishermen would depart at different times daily from right in front of our guesthouse. Naturally Nelson ventured out fishing with them one day. He also obtained his PADI license for scuba diving. We explored local life, interacting with them and asking questions. From their stories we tried to understand the social and economic challenges and balances needed in a location that is up and coming in the tourism world.

Lastly, we met incredible people in Zanzibar! Tourists and locals alike. We felt like when we left, we had made new friends from around the world! Likeminded travelers (many from Germany!) but we got to know much of the staff from our guesthouse. We stayed at Mango Beach Guest House in Jambiani. A 4 room ocean facing guesthouse with tranquility and also the local feel. We would recommend a trip to Zanzibar to anyone! Enjoy the pictures!

Tanzania- Our Safari

Nelson and Allie on safari in the Serengeti
We traveled to Tanzania in plans to hike Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately Allie's feet weren't up for the task, and after careful consideration we opted for a safari instead. What a surprise we encountered from this 'spontaneous' change in plans. It was like nothing we had experienced and we ran into a bit of luck with the things we saw. Not many get to see the 'great migration' of wildebeest, 6 'rare to see' leopards, 4 of the big 5 (lion, elephant, leopard, and buffalo.. still looking for that rhino!) and a standoff between a herd of buffalo and a pride of lions! We also visited a Maasai village and somehow ended up in a luxury tent in the middle of the Serengeti! All and all it was an incredible experience!

First, we need to give kudos to our trek/safari company. Chief's Tours was excellent, professional, and very willing to accommodate our change in plans from a trek up Kilimanjaro to a 5 day/4 night safari. The company is based out of Moshi, Tanzania and owned by Adidas, a local of Moshi. He was very communicative and willing to make our experience a great one. But truly, the safari would not have been as amazing as it was without our driver Sharima! He was incredibly knowledgable and wanted to ensure we had a nice time, but also a genuinely nice guy! We became friends with him. After interacting with some other tourists and seeing their guides, I think we truly lucked out. If anyone is interested in a safari in Tanzania, go with Sharima!

We toured 4 major parks in the 5 days. Tarangire National Park, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Lake Manyara. If we could do it again we would spend even more than two days in Serengeti. We enjoyed it so much!

The experience brought us face to face with nature but also gave us an appreciation for the wild and for mother nature's influence on the world. Please enjoy our photos of a truly incredible experience! We would recommend to anyone!

Dominican Republic: Back to El Patio

We traveled back to Nelson's native Dominican Republic to spend some quality time with family. We had a special occasion that brought us to Santo Domingo: Nelson's Dad's 60th birthday! We wouldn't have missed it. We were blessed to also have some of our closest friends from home join us for a holiday of their own. We explored Nelson's hometown of Santo Domingo as well as toured some beautiful places outside of the bustling city including Boca Chica, San Rafael Barahona, and Bahia de las Aguilas. The entire family from New York joined and we spent the birthday weekend in La Romana. Nelson and his parents showed Allie the true Dominican experience with lots of platanos, Presidentes, parties, and many Spanish lessons in between. Enjoy our photos as we toured the country. 

Italy, always a special place to visit.

Nelson, Allie and Mom on Allie's birthday
There is truly something magical about Italy. Must be why we keep returning, something keeps pulling us back. Maybe its the people, or the wine, or the majestic Tuscan sunsets, or the incredible food, or the creamy gelato, or just a feeling of raw natural 'down to earth' living you get when you are there. Anytime you get to spend time in Italy is a blessing, but its even more special to spend your birthday there. Allie's mom came to meet us in Tuscany for Allie's birthday. We visited wineries and Nelson did some biking in the Tuscan hills. We then traveled to the Roman region and spent some time in a small ancient Roman town called Sutri. We truly enjoyed our time in Italy, again, and will be sure to return soon. Enjoy our photos.