Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Dubai 2017

The boys had a four day weekend and given we're trying to squeeze everything in and every moment out, we decided to cross another "to do" off the list and make a quick trip to Dubai. The boys have wanted to go to Dubai ever since they saw the city on the TV show The Amazing Race. Specifically, they wanted to see the water park slide that went through clear tunnels with sharks in them. It really is amazing that the government (sheikh) has literally built this over-the-top, biggest-of-everything, glittery, shiny world, literally out of desert. And in less than 30 years!

It was a great getaway and the waterpark did not disappoint. Nor did the Burj Khalifa. Kenny thought I'd be unbearable because of the heat, but it really wasn't that bad given it was around 100 degrees every day. Pretty much you go from A/C to A/C and it seemed really dry, so not much complaining from me. Shocking to all of us.

Between our travels and school trips and swim meets, these boys seem to live on airplanes

I've never seen so many huge aquariums in my life. In the hotels, malls, waterpark, airport.

Chihuly in our hotel
Tallest building the the world...the Burj. Although Dubai is supposedly building one twice as high.

Views from the top

A completely artificial city sitting where there was only desert. 

A green Lamborghini...because why not? Boys thought it was so cool.

Still can't believe I got talked into this slide

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

South Africa 2017

This has been on my life list as long as I can remember. When we found out we were moving back to Europe Luc and I immediately started scheming as to when we could go on safari. When I saw the boys had two weeks off for spring break I knew that was going to be the perfect time, come hell or high water. It did not disappoint.

When I started researching I was immediately overwhelmed at how big the southern part of Africa is, with endless possibilities for safaris. I quickly contacted some tour agents who specialize in that part of the world and Go2Africa came up with a great itinerary for hitting South Africa, Botswana, and a little beach time in Mauritius.
Anti-malarial drugs down the hatch...
And off we go! Day one it's a bus, a train, a 12 hour flight, a 2 hour flight, a 45 minute bush plane, and a two hour drive to the camp. Good thing the boys are used to traveling!

I won't bore you with too many animal pictures. You can see most of them on Nat Geo, but here are some of our highlights.

Helicopter safari and transport were both amazing

Elephant skull - a sad reality of a previous drought a year or two prior
Two different leopard sightings after a looong time tracking them. This one was stalking an impala.

This one was probably just busting a gut laughing at us driving in circles for hours looking for him while he kept an eye on us from the tree.

This little guy was adorable and just learning he had a built in play toy with his trunk (below)

Another big one on our "must see" list. We just stumbled upon this male and female when we came around a corner. They had zero interest in us gawking at them.
Loved the impalas. They have so much personality and watching the males try and keep his large herd of females in line was very entertaining.
Loved all of the al fresco dining in the bush. We were always pleasantly surprised when we'd come around a corner to a full restaurant and bar set up in the middle of nowhere.

After our time in Botswana we were off to Mauritius for clean showers, beach time and some diving

After Mauritius it was back to S. Africa for one day in Johannesburg and then back home. Such a great and memorable first trip to Africa.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Morocco February 2017

When we moved back to Europe I had three countries on my "must visit" list...Jordan √...Morocco √ and South Africa...soon to be a √. As we're getting ready to leave this week for South Africa I remembered I'd never done a blog post for Morocco. I realize blogging might be old school these days but it's amazing how often I look back to see where we've been or try and figure out when we were there or jog my memory about a photo that comes across our screen saver. So I will hopefully keep up the blogging although I must admit it has become very tedious compared to all of the other online platforms out there.

We had no idea what to expect from Morocco and it ended up being a very pleasant surprise. The people were amazing, the food was good, the shopping was AWESOME (thank you Visa and FedEx for taking care of all of my purchases), and the landscape was unbelievably beautiful and surprising. Who knew Morocco was a snow skiing destination??

On to the photos, and as usual I had a hard time paring them down. Oh, and this was the big boys' 70th country visited! Quite the milestone for a 12 and 14-year-old.

We started off with half a day in Marrakech where we wandered the alleys, souks, and markets. It's a crazy show with snake charmers, monkeys, birds, and people hawking all types of souvenirs.

Snake charmer

Fresh juice with our brood helping. The people were incredibly nice.

 After that we headed off toward the desert through the High Atlas mountains. AMAZING views everywhere with such a diverse landscape. We did not envision Morocco like this at all.

After driving about 5 hours with a few sightseeing stops, we were off to the desert to camp for the night.
Our ride into the Sahara

Our camel guide

Such cool animals
Below two pictures are our camp. It surprisingly ranged from chilly to downright cold in the desert at this time of year. Each tent seemed to hold between 4-6 people. We split up between two tents. The tents were outfitted with one lightbulb and some very hard, sandy beds with about 5 blankets which we were very grateful for during the cold night.

The sand was unlike any we've ever seen. It was fine like powder and didn't seem to stick to you...well, unless you're a boy who rolls in it multiple times. We were cleaning out the boys' ears for days afterwards. 

Dinner was served in a larger tent, family style and was really good. Most meals we had a tangine (a stew of meat and veggies slow cooked in an earthenware type pot shaped like a conical pyramid), couscous, rice, and bread. As per usual, we brought along our own beer and wine given this wasn't our first rodeo in a Muslim country. Although we learned this is one of the more relaxed countries as far as religion. Our guide said he drank alcohol and regularly flew to Spain to "party."

After dinner the staff played traditional Moroccan music and Dominic and Jack helped. The man on the far left owned the camp and tour company we used.

Nothing like the stars in the desert. We all decided this was amazing but it was brighter in the Jordanian desert.
Something else we learned is that Morocco is famous for fossils. When our boys heard this they got very excited so our guide made a detour for some fossil hunting. Millions of years ago this area was under water so the area is littered with trilobites and ammonites, and other fossils I'd never heard of. Many, many people make their living hunting them and then turning them into furniture and souvenirs. Cue Visa and FedEx...two Moroccan tables are currently making their way to Switzerland.

A table like the two we're having made and shipped

From the desert it was back on the road again through the Dades valley toward Marrakech. Along the way we saw and stopped at multiple amazing kasbahs, which are the citadels of North African countries.

Oh, and an opportunity for Visa and FedEx to brighten the day. This bad boy Moroccan door has already shown up on my Swiss doorstep. And there may be a rug and a few other incidentals that left this showroom to find a new home with me.

And then back to Marrakech for some more sightseeing (this is their largest mosque) and shopping.

Moroccan breakfast

I think we bought all three of these scarves

The people were so photogenic but it was harder to capture it because they either didn't really like having their picture taken or they wanted money for the privilege.