All posts for the month July, 2018

Our lovely nieces Molly and Lydia grace the Trevi Fountain

From the Seychelles we caught a long flight through Istanbul to Rome to kick off our late summer in Europe. We’ll be seeing lots of family and friends in various parts of Europe over the next few months. After two days on our own in Rome we welcomed the first arrivals: my mom and dad. And then my brother Pat, his wife Jenny, and Pat’s twin daughters, Molly and Lydia.

The eight of us had two days together in Rome before heading up to a rented villa in Tuscany for the week, where we will be joined by my other two siblings, their spouses, and five more nieces and nephews. But first we got to have fun running around Rome showing the top sites to Molly and Lydia.

While we were still on our own we had dinner at a place with a wine cellar down below dating from 50 A.D. Very atmospheric!

Grappa in the ancient wine cellar

Jim managed to find a fairly artful steak tartare. It was supposed to be “French style” though it wasn’t quite as French as he likes them. But it was pretty.

We don’t always make time for sites as touristy as the Trevi Fountain, but we couldn’t NOT take the girls there. And it is beautiful, despite the tourist hordes.

July afternoons in Rome are ridiculously hot, but mornings along the Tiber are so lovely and pleasant.

I love the big shady plane trees that drape over the walkways along the Tiber

The beauty of Rome is walking into one of the gazillions of random churches and discovering The Redeemer by Michelangelo

Touring ancient Rome with Mumpy and Lidd

Once the hard core touring is done, we got to take people to our favorite spot in the Campo de Fiori for aperitivos. Here is Jenny and Mumpy.

The best part of drinks in Campo de Fiori is being watched over Giordano Bruno

Then on to dinner close to Campo de Fiori

The antipasto plate. Italians do cold cuts very, very well.

Who doesn’t love the Colisseum?

Mark on a rocky point at our lodge on Félicité Island

Our last six days in Africa were on the island of Félicité, in the Seychelles. To get there required a taxi from Fisherman’s Cove on Mahe to the airport, a 15-minute flight to Praslin Island, a 20-minute taxi ride across the island and through the Vallée de Mai (a World Heritage Site), and then finally a 30-minute boat ride on to Félicité.

Our route to Félicité took us through Vallée de Mai (May Valley) on Praslin Island. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Vallée de Mai is home to the cocoa de mer, a massive palm that has the largest seeds of any plant in the world.

Once we got there though it was something close to paradise. Félicité is a private island, with the resort taking up only a small section of the land. And while technically the Seychelles are part of Africa, this felt nothing like Africa at all. In fact, one of the things we were surprised to find there was how American it felt. Not that the staff were American; they were from all over the world. The clientele, however, had a distinctly American cast, quite a change from our experience in Madagascar, Réunion, and Mauritius.

This five-night stay was definitely in the category of “luxury splurge” – a beautiful villa, great views, good food, utter relaxation. Even one long rainy day couldn’t detract much from the experience. There was one downside: our villa was way up the hill from the public part of the resort, the beach and restaurant and all that. It made for great views but was a really tough climb. Now, they had carts to take you up but that just seemed so lame. On the other hand, the climb was tough.

The view from our villa. We were way up on the island, which made for great views but an almost stunningly steep climb if you were walking.

The only other downside is that we kept comparing it to our stay in the Maldives earlier this year. They’re alike in many ways – the Maldives are a few degrees north of the equator in the Indian Ocean a bit east of here, while the Seychelles are a few degrees south of the equator – but as much as we loved our stop here it was constantly in our heads that this just wasn’t quite as nice as the Maldives. You have to admit to being very lucky men when you can come to a paradise like this and say “Oh, it’s nice but it’s no Maldives….”

You really can’t complain about a sea like this, though “It’s not the Maldives” was always on our minds

When you read TripAdvisor reviews of places like this you always read people saying things like “It was beautiful, but the wonderful staff made it special.” Really common and often reasonably true. The staff there were great. But what can make a stay even more memorable for us is meeting other interesting travelers and this was a great example. On our first day there we met Rob & Mel, a couple from Houston. Now, when I heard “Houston” my warning signs went off but as you might expect from an interracial gay couple they weren’t your average Texans. Rob is a surgeon, head of trauma if I remember correctly at Baylor Hospital, and Mel sells real estate. Both fun, fascinating, interesting people. They were there to celebrate Mel’s 50th birthday and then, to top it off, Rob proposed. (Mel said yes.) And we got to celebrate all that with them. Such fun!

Mark, Mel, and Rob on our last day. By now Mel has turned 50 and they’re engaged!

All that was a nice way to close off Africa, though as I said in most ways the Seychelles couldn’t be more different from real Africa. From here we fly through Istanbul on our way to Rome and some Sullivan family time in Tuscany.

My favorite spot in the resort, a couple comfy chairs on a rocky point, perfect for reading and napping

Here’s what it looked like from my vantage point

And what it looked like when Mark came looking for me

Swimming right near there wasn’t too bad either

Our villa with some of the massive rocks that the Seychelles are known for

Another thing the Seychelles are known for are their giant fruit bats. These things are huge. Huge. In fact, apparently they’re known as “megabats” and we were told they are the largest bats in the world. As we would sit outside our villa they in the late afternoon they were flying all over, often surprisingly close. And did I mention that they are really big?

Another bat. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the locals eat the bats around here. Supposed to be quite a delicacy. I honestly think I’d have tried one if given the chance but they weren’t on the menu at our fancy resort.

The hills near our place in the early evening sun with bats flying around

OK, one last bat picture, taken on our rainy day in paradise

Pretty lizard!

And speaking of cuties, someone pointed out this little baby bird nestled into a tree right in the middle of everything at the resort. I was surprised its parent would let us get so close….

The rock formations in the Seychelles are pretty spectacular. I kept expecting some Jurassic Park creature to climb out.

A different day, same view from the villa. I couldn’t decide which picture I like better….

Mark’s selfie to say goodbye to Africa

We stayed on Fisherman’s Cove, a pretty spot with rapidly changing, moody weather

St. Roch is the local church near Fisherman’s Cove

Our first stop in Seychelles was on Mahe, the country’s largest island and home to 86% of its population. We flew into the capital, Victoria, and rode 25 minutes to a small resort in Fisherman’s Cove, a place that looked just like a cove where fishermen would do their thing.

The highlight of our 3-day stop here was a hike to a gorgeous secluded beach called Anse Major, accessible only on foot. The hiking trail takes you through dense rain forest and over sections of the big granite boulders that Seychelles is famous for. Moody tropical weather meant quick changes from sunshine to grey to light rain and lots of combos thereof.

From here we’ll take a taxi, a plane, a car, a boat, and a golf cart to our next destination, Félicité island, where we hope to spend our last 5 nights in Africa in a Seychelles paradise.

The lovely hiking trail took us over boulders and through jungle

Finally — the lookout that reveals the beach we are after

Looking down at our destination, Anse Major

After a good workout Anse Major was a heavenly place to relax

The only restaurant open for lunch on our hiking route had great food, a crispy rose, and stunning views

The boardwalk at Fisherman’s Cove

Watching the weather change during breakfast