In October of 2013, Jackie and I traveled to Paris, France and Positano, Italy for some much needed R&R. Although the trip was cut short due to a personal tragedy, here are some of our favorite images from those first 6 days.
Jackie and I love the out doors. When we lived in San Diego, our life was full of activities like surfing, biking, and hiking on a daily basis. Now that we live in New York City, the opportunity to do those things are few and far between. 2013 is a big year for me – I turned the big 3-0 – and although not one to make a big deal over my birthday, I knew I wanted to do something for the occasion.
If you ask Jackie about her track record with birthday gifts, she’ll voluntarily divulge she’s about one for fifty with me. It’s nothing against her, it’s just that anything I want I typically buy instantly, leaving her with nothing but a hope and a prayer that what she gets me is something I could want or need. But the stars aligned on this one and Jackie hit my gift out of the park – she took me on a 5 day Breckenridge Colorado vacation. It was the perfect way to celebrate the milestone. Her, the beautiful Colorado scenery, great weather, and lots of activities.
We arrived in Denver on Thursday afternoon, picked up our rental car, and headed two hours west to Breckenridge. If you’ve never been to Breck before, it’s this quaint little ski town that sits at the bottom of the rockies. Even though we went in late May, there was snow on the mountains and slopes were still open. Our first day was spent walking around the town and getting ourselves acquainted w/ the local establishments. We decided to hit up the local grocery store for some food and supplies. It wasn’t before long that the altitude sickness kicked in. For me it were headaches. For Jackie, nausea. We decided to lay low the rest of the night and watch a marathon of Game Of Thrones 🙂
Day two was our hike up McCullough Gulch – a trail that we were told would be intermediate in difficulty and should be clear from snow. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The snow that was supposedly ‘cleared’ was about 3 to 4 feet high and every now and then you’d hit a soft patch and you’d be stuck up to your thy, trying desperately to get out. This proved to be too difficult to hike so we diverted to a another trail. This was a much better, a much steeper, and much more manageable climb. We were deep in the forest for most of the hike until we past the tree line. We looked back towards the town and saw the beautiful snow capped mountains. We took some photos, rested on some nearby trees, and enjoyed the mountain air.
Day three was horseback riding, something Jackie LOVES. After a little gps malfunction, we finally arrived at the stables which sat on a special section of Breckenridge Mountain. The views were spectacular but overall, we were unimpressed w/ the experience. Our advice would be to find a private ranch or location that will allow you to do more free range riding – we basically walked for 20 minutes in a single line which was on the more boring side.
I’m a big New York Rangers fan and while we were away, the blueshirts had a big do-or-die Eastern Conference semi-finals game w/ the Boston Bruins. Luckily the playoffs are somewhat televised in this country and we were able to find a bar that played the game – Breckenridge Brewery. Although they were victorious that night, two days later they were beaten and knocked out of the playoffs [wiping away a tear as I type this].
Day four was a big one – white water rafting. Unfortunately due to the nature of the excursion, I didn’t bring my expensive camera and lenses – I opted for the GoPro Hero 3 Black edition (thanks Dom!). However, before we made it to the rafting site, we stopped to take a few scenic photos.
The Arkansas River has many levels of difficulty from class 1, all the way to class 5. We tackled a class 3 that day, which falls into the intermediate level. The part of the river we rafted was called “The Numbers,” a series of difficult rapids that climaxed at the number 5 rapid, the largest of the group. We had been told that since snow runoff was beginning, the water was a frigid 40 degrees. Needless to say no one wanted to end up in the water that day. At the number 5 rapid, there was a 5 foot cliff that you descend in a rocky gorge – three unfortunate boats flipped that day, sending all passengers into the snowy slush. Luckily, we were not one of them and we made it out ok. This was also the day that Jackie caught her terrible head cold that left her feeling pretty crappy for the next three days.
Day five was probably my favorite. We rented bikes from a local bike shop in town and rode through the beautiful bike paths Colorado has from Breckenridge to Frisco, a 9 mile trip. We stopped along the way and hiked some more, had the best Ruben sandwich I’ve ever had (granted this was my first Ruben) at Butterhorn Bakery and Cafe and then caught the free bus back to Breck.
I love Colorado for many reasons but as this trip confirmed, they promote healthy and active lifestyles, something we are missing in New York. As someone who works way too hard with two full time jobs, this trip helped me remember how much I need nature and the outdoors in my life. It won’t be a change overnight, but it’s a goal of mine to get back an active lifestyle once again.
We hope you enjoy the photo and the quick film we made of our trip! Until the next one, back to the NYC grind…
My wife and I met in San Diego back in 2007 and although we lived there for 4 years, we never drove the California coast before we moved home to New York. Friends, family – basically everyone we’ve ever spoken to – has told us to do the drive. After nearly 3 years back in New York, we headed back to check the item off our bucket list.
Our flight was scheduled to leave Newark Airport at 7pm. For those that live in Manhattan, this is pretty valuable information, so listen up. A cab to Newark Airport is roughly $70. Accounting for rush hour traffic, you’d need to leave around 4pm. As a much more efficient and cheaper alternative, take NJ Transit – it cost $12.50 per person and took 1 hour, door to door. You’ll have to transfer once but it’s well worth it.
We arrived in San Diego around 10pm and after a small wait for the airport shuttle, we were off to pick up our rental car. At the time of booking, FOX Rental car wanted an additional $1,000 for a convertible for 5 days.
As much as we wanted one, I decided a convertible in January wasn’t worth that kind of money. But as luck would have it, the lady at the ticket counter was having a good day (she was adopting a baby girl) and decided to offer us a convertible for $10/day – HELL YES. This turned out to be a blessing b/c if you’re going to make this trip, GET A CONVERTIBLE, it’s well worth it (even in January).
Our first two days we spent in San Diego visiting friends, reminiscing about the past, and eating the foods we crave daily yet can’t get anywhere but in southern california.
Pacific Beach was home to us for 2 and a half years – it’s very easy to see why so many people migrate to San Diego.
Sometimes to get the shot you need to get into some strange places – can you spot me?
But the resulting shot is well worth it.
Riding beach cruisers along the boardwalk was probably our favorite thing to do – a MUST HAVE if you haven’t done it!
Our ride for the trip. Again, it’s well worth the money for a convertible. Even in the colder months, the weather was around 65 and sunny. To counter the wind, we blasted our feet with heat.
Chronic Smoothies – yum.
After PB, we headed north.
Homage to Thelma & Louise.
First stop, La Jolla. I used to surf Windnsea a bunch. It’s a local break that gets pretty aggressive, but if you can handle it, it’s one of the better breaks in San Diego.
The local judges.
My favorite meal in San Diego is by far the Acai Bowl at Swami’s Cafe in Encinitas. Before you leave, this is a MUST.
Goodbye San Diego. Next Stop, Santa Barbara.
We spent the night in San Luis Obispo. Here’s another tip for all you budget travelers – use Priceline to book your hotels. By not booking in advance, we saved as much as 60% on hotel accommodations. Here’s what you do – around 5pm, load up the Priceline app on your iPhone. Select the location you’d like to stay in and then hit “NAME YOUR OWN PRICE.” Priceline will tell you what the lowest price was paid within a few hours. That’s a good starting point. Most of the time, that price is still higher than what you’ll end up paying. Reason is, at 5pm, most hotels figure they’ve sold the rooms they’re going to sell for the day – now it’s time to start discounting rooms to get whatever they can. They’d rather have someone in there than have it sit empty. I usually go for the highest star hotel they offer and then offer around $50 less than the last price paid. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The thing to note about priceline is, once you submit your bid, you’re locked in and you HAVE to stay there (if the hotel accepts your offer). Anyway, we saved a good amount of money when doing this.
The hotel front desk person saw I was carrying cameras and we started chatting. He told me about a local spot that most tourists don’t know about. He gave me general directions and then it was on us to find it. We took this windy road about 20 miles to a parking spot in the middle of nowhere. Since it was raining slightly, no one was around – just Jackie and I. We hiked through this small trail about 15 minutes and when we arrived on the other side it was an awesome sight. Cliffs, ocean, animals.
After taking in the breathtaking scenery, we were back on the road to our next destination: Morrow Bay. The town was quaint with not much to do. We decided to grab a bite to eat at the Coastal Cafe – and my GOD was it good. Jackie got some lobster bisque in a bread bowl (which you can see she enjoyed very much), while I went for some spicy veggie sandwich (to die for) – I wish I remembered the name of the sandwich, oh well.
The next part of the trip was probably our favorite. It was filled with those picturesque views of the California cliffs meeting the Pacific Ocean. This is really where the convertible came in handy. The wind in our hair, the sun on our faces, and the beautiful California coast…doesn’t get much better than that.
We stopped again, this time to grab a drink and some appetizers at Orsen Wells’ old home (that’s now a restaurant). Amazing views again.
These cows have the life.
Our next stopover was Monterey where we had dinner and then went to the Aquarium the next day.
Our final stop in our journey was San Francisco. Since we spent most of the previous day stopping and taking photos, we packed the cameras away and just enjoyed the ride. Our goal was to make it to SF by sunset so we could see the Golden Gate bridge under the setting sun.
That night we went to dinner at Gary Danko’s – apparently THE best restaurant in San Francisco. We’re not big on ‘hype’ but we figured ‘when in Rome’ and booked a table. Almost $300 later, we rolled out of there with our bellies full and our ego’s stroked. Gary Danko’s lives up to every expectation. The service is bar none and the food was fantastic.
Our next and final day in California was spent exploring the Red Wood trees in the Miur Woods National Park. Really hard to take bad photos in this natural beauty.
Overall this was one of our favorite trips we’ve ever taken. Anyone looking for a relatively cheap vacation in our own country, this should be your next one!
Did you know that we offer a ‘honeymoon package?’ Take some of our cameras with you on your honeymoon, snap photos and videos of your travels, and when you return we’ll take everything and make a totally rad video. Here’s one from my own honeymoon to South Africa.
If you missed them, here are some of the photos we took while on the trip:
We woke up this morning at 6:30am and were out the door by 7:30. We expected traffic but got to JFK in twenty minutes. After being yelled at by a South African Airlines personell for taking their photo (for the record, I was not taking it of them, I was taking it of the sign they were standing near), we were on board and ready for our 14 hour flight to South Africa.
When we arrived at the ticket counter, Jackie and I sweet talked the lady into giving us an exit row — and by sweet talked, I mean she offered it up b/c we said we were on our honeymoon and started asking her questions about her marriage. Regardless, it was the best thing we did b/c we had unbelievable leg room!
We watched a few movies, read some of our books, and took a sleeping pill that knocked out 5 of those 14 hours. The flight also came with complimentary alcoholic beverages and we made sure to take advantage. All in all, it was actually a pretty great flight.
After an extremely loooong wait in the passport line, we got our first stamps in our passports, or ass Jackie calls it, ‘we popped our passport cherries!”
It is now 10:05am South African time — which means it’s 3:05am New York time. We just landed in Johannesburg and are now waiting for our shuttle plane to Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve for our safari! We were met by some lady who transported us to the airstrip where we were handed some cool luggage bag that Jackie has already claimed. I wasn’t sure if we should tip her for her troubles, but after a 15 second pause where we both stared at each other, I figured she was expecting something…so I handed her a $5 dollar bill. I have no idea if that was a good tip or not, but chances are I will not see her again in my lifetime…so I think we’re OK.
Where to begin? So much has happened in the last 24 hours that Jackie and I both agree, if we left today we could still say our honeymoon was better than we ever imagined.
What we experienced on Safari, was nothing short of spectacular. In fact, my words do not do it justice.
We arrived at the Exeter River Lodge where we were greeted, by name may I add, by Patricia, the Lodge’s concierge and were handed homemade lemonade while we went over the details of our stay. We were introduced to our butler, Chris, who would be taking care of us the next couple of days. Whatever and whenever we wanted something, he would be at our every beck and call. It has been strange to have a butler but as we’ve learned, it’s actually a privilege to be one in their culture, so that made us feel a bit better about the whole thing. Chris then brought us to a table that sat along the river’s edge (hence the name of the place) where we were served a three course lunch. Everything that’s made here is fresh with local ingredients — it’s absolutely to die for. Apparently we are not the only ones who agree…midway through our meal, a hungry monkey swooped down and stole a loaf of bread right out of the bread basket of another table! We found out that the staff don’t like the monkeys b/c they do this often (later that meal they made their way into the homemade sorbet. We were left to settle for homemade ice cream instead). By the end of our meal we were stuffed to the gills but ready to see some game!
Having never been on a safari before, we weren’t sure what to expect. Every game drive (we have two a day) has our ranger and a tracker. The ranger is there to drive us from place to place, answer any questions, and tell us all about the wildlife. The tracker sits on the front of the vehicle and looks out for signs of animals. What these guys are able to do is crazy. They see the smallest hint of wildlife and are able to tell when and where the animal was and went. Our tracker was Jack and our ranger, Mark. Just gonna put it out there…these two guys have balls. Big balls. Bigger than anyone I know. They’re also extremely knowledgeable about tracking game and the bush so talking to them while we drove around was really cool.
The first thing we did was stop at this HUGE tree a few miles away from camp and had refreshments. We were paired with two other couples, Annie and Brett, newlyweds from San Francisco (ironically enough, Annie went to BC too!), and this couple from Poland or Switzerland — they were nice but didn’t speak English much. The guy was a GI doctor and he and his wife had been on hundreds of safaris before. All they seemed to do was take the best seats in the vehicle and constantly tell us to be quiet. As you can tell, they were not our favorites.
Within a few minutes of driving we came across a pride of lions (minus the male lion). Probably the coolest thing we’ve ever seen up to that moment in our lives (more on that later). Yes, we’ve both seen lions at the zoo but this is nothing like that. I really can’t describe the feeling of being only feet away from these cats. Our hearts were in our throats, beating a million miles a second. We got some great photos and video and headed on to other parts of the bush.
Within a few more minutes we came across an old, humongous, elephant who was eating some plant. Not too far away from mr. elephant was a leopard. Mark was extremely excited about seeing the leopard b/c they are notorious for being hard to find. But we got really lucky as this male leopard had just caught a lizard of some kind and was going to town on it. We watched it devour the thing only a few feet away. Incredible! We also saw a rhino bathing in it’s own feces (yum) and hundreds of impalas (similar to our deer).
After a few hours of driving, we pulled off to this sand dune where we had some cocktails and snacks. As the sun set and we slowly got our buzz on, we realized how amazing this vacation is going to be. As the last bit of sunlight left us, we hopped back into the vehicle and headed back to the lodge.
Only we didn’t make it that far. A few minutes into the drive, we got wind that the family of lions that we first saw that day were on the hunt and were being very active. As Jack held the one and only spotlight, Mark weaved around the bush to find the pride.
At this moment in time, it’s important for me to mention that Jackie was a little more than afraid. You’re in the middle of nowhere, in pitch blackness, with ONE little light source, and you can hear the growls of the lion pride. And they sound close. Very close. And close they were. Jack turned the spotlight in one direction and standing there was this big male lion. He looked menacing with all his cuts and scars. Seconds after that he started to walk directly at me calmly. It was almost too calmly. As he walked only feet from the vehicle, the only thing I could think about was “this thing is going to attack me.” He didn’t and he joined the rest of the pride who were waiting for some of the food that they recently killed. What an incredible experience.
We got back to the lodge and were seated for dinner, another 3 course meal where we had the options of Ostrich or some kind of fish. Either way, it was a lose, lose for me. I chose the ostrich and had one bite of it. No thank you. Jackie enjoyed her meal and we went back to the room and passed out.
Day one in the books. Could it get any better?
Apparently it does get better!
The Exeter River Lodge sits on the Sand River of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. Its proximity to the water is great for game viewing b/c the animals often pass by for a quick drink. The view alone was great, but add the possibility of seeing Lions or Elephants while eating and sitting on your deck and you’ll see why we chose this lodge over many others in the area.
Every morning we woke with a 5am call, followed by light refreshments and then our morning game drive by 5:45am. Yesterday we saw 4 of the 5 “big 5” — Leopard, Lion, Rhino, and Elephant. We needed to see some buffalo to complete the 5. Within a few minutes of our drive, we stumbled on a small herd of them. Beautiful creatures, we learned they are actually the most aggressive of the ‘big 5’ and have been known to charge vehicles if they aren’t in the mood to be watched. Luckily we weren’t charged. The only action we saw was one of them pissing for two minutes straight.
We moved on and got word that the Lion Pride we saw yesterday had met up with the males of the group so we headed towards them. The pride were situated on one side of where we were while a third male who was abandoned by his mother sat on another. Mark told us that this third male was trying to join the pride, however the other males had other thoughts on the subject. After a few minutes of basically nothing, trouble started brewing. Before we could even understand what was happening, a fight between two of the males erupted. It lasted all but 5 seconds but apparently it was enough to give the message — you’re not welcome. Wildlife is a crazy thing and after being here for just 2 days, we’re already viewing it differently.
We saw some baby elephants, baby rhino, baby impala, and some kind of african eagle. Seems like every turn we take, we see some other amazing creature.
After lunch Jackie got a 90 minute massage out back on our deck, overlooking the river. She said it was the best massage she had ever received. Instead of having lunch where everyone else was having it, we opted for a private lunch on our deck. While we ate we had visitors — the monkeys again — and then saw a herd of elephants pass by. It was magical.
On our evening game drive, Mark got wind of a female leopard who was feasting on a carcass not too far from where we were. After we watched her devour the warthog, we followed her over to a gigantic impala she killed a day or so before. Never one to give up a meal, she began feasting. After she got through the first layer of skin, the smell was horrific — two day old carcass that was baking in the African heat — we’ve never smelt anything worse. It got so bad we had to leave the area [WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTO BElOW!]
Not wanting to rush home to dinner, we decided to do an hour long bush walk with Mark and our couple friends from San Francisco. We learned about plants and other creatures that aren’t a threat to us. We leisurely made our way back to camp and worked up an appetite.
When we got back to our rooms we had instructions to make hats and masks for the new years eve festivities happening later that night. It was a relaxed dinner with all three &Beyond lodges dining and celebrating together. They had real african dancers and singers who put on a great show. Although we were getting up at 5am for our next morning’s drive, we stayed up with a small group of people and celebrated 2012 in the best possible way.