So for those of you wondering where in the world we are now, we are currently wrapping up our week long tour of Kenya for our upcoming AfroArt book. I must admit, this book is turning out to be pretty epic and we cannot WAIT to see it all together. We kicked things off in Europe and are now taking it to the motherland with a visit to Kenya, South Africa and Ghana. We were very lucky during our Kenya stay to have been hosted by an amazing travel agency, Bountiful Safaris. If you’re one of those millennial do-it-yourself travelers like me you’re probably used to the AirBNB/Uber/Taxi life when traveling. I typically find that travel agencies are a bit too cumbersome, pricey and not flexible enough for our needs. So I was thrilled to find that we were able to get amazing travel deals and the flexibility we needed through Bountiful Safaris. Their staff is amazing and were so accommodating to our needs. Here’s a quick recap of our Kenya tour…
After a (long) 20 hour flight, we arrived late in the evening and made a quick late night pizza run. Our visit was in Kenya’s winter so the weather was typically in the low 70s each day and low 60s in the evening. Coming from the south, this weather was great for us, but our Kenyan friends considered this blizzard weather! ha! Our friends were also not amused by our pizza choice, but it was actually great to us, lol! What more can you expect from a midnight pizza run? 🙂
We arrived at our hotel, the Azure Towers and were thrilled by our accommodations. The hotel had a nice restaurant, a free full buffet breakfast, lounge area, pool and more. We found that it had everything we needed and more (including little details like a universal outlet which made life a little easier.
Before even visiting Kenya, I knew that my very first stop needed to be one of the Maasai markets. Saying I was in heaven would be an understatement! There were so many amazing jewelry pieces, clothing and crafts that I had to restrain myself to not take everything there.
The next day we met with our amazing team here in Kenya to get ready for our big production for our AfroArt book. We can’t give away too many details but all I can say is that the shoot was indeed epic.
Who else gets to hang out with cows for their day job? 🙂
After the pressure of our main shoot was over, we decided to do a little safari exploration and shoot to see the other side of Kenya. Our little models were so happy to see the animals and for the safari tour. Do you guys remember Maya from our AfroArt series? The last time we photographed her, she was visiting LA but this time we got to photograph her in her own home town along with her BFF Hazel.
I will admit, I’m usually not a safari type of girl, but after doing one I can’t go back to seeing animals “behind bars” at the zoo. Seeing them in their natural environment is SO much more exciting and amazing.
Afterwards, the girls literally twirled around Kenya in their beautiful custom made dresses by Alexandria Olivia. These two were showstoppers everywhere we went.
Our very first trip to Kenya was everything we had hoped and more. We are already trying to figure out our return plans so that we can visit again soon. For my friends in the US – yes, Kenya=Wakanda. 😉
Ever since President Obama eased the restrictions on US travel to Cuba we knew that we wanted to one day visit a country that many US travels have never experienced. We wanted to experience the Cuban culture and see first hand what it was like. When we got the opportunity to go with a fellow photographer we knew we had to go. I will say that out of all of the countries we had been to we were most nervous about this one. There’s so much information about what you can and can’t do so we were not sure what to expect. For anyone planning to visit Cuba – here’s some handy info and things we learned along the way:
Cash is definitely king. Since your US based credit cards don’t work in Cuba you will need to be prepared to bring enough money for your entire trip. We recommend figuring out how much money you will need each day and double that amount. Exchange half then save the other to exchange in case you run out of cash. We ended up needing much more than originally planned so having the backup stash came in handy.
Figure out which area you will spend most of your time in and be sure to stay somewhere very close (within 5-10 miles). We spent way more than we should have on taxi fees because we were a little too far from Old Havana which is where we spent a lot of our time (we were about 30 minutes away).
Be prepared to break out your Spanish skills! I’d say about 70% of the people we met did not speak English, so our Google translate app was VERY handy. We were able to use it to help communicate by downloading the Spanish language offline and using it to help communicate with the locals when we needed to.
Consider staying in casa particulares (private homes). There are a few hotels if you want to live a little more luxurious or have any chance of being near wifi but if you’re a little more adventurous we’d recommend staying in casa particulares – private homes for rent like AirBnB. The hosts are often very welcoming and helpful if it is your first visit to Cuba. They can assist with connecting you with drivers, tour guides, etc. and are a good way to save money and get a more authentic view to Cuban life.
Be prepared to have an internet break. I went through a bit of internet withdrawal on the first couple of days but then realized that life without internet was kinda great for a few days, lol! There are some hotels and restaurants with wifi but you will need to purchase a wifi card which can be a little difficult to find.
Pack light! The Havana airport is somewhat manual so it can sometimes take a long time to retrieve your checked baggage. We heard stories of some folks waiting for up to 4-5 hours on busy days to retrieve their baggage so taking everything in a carry on is highly recommended.
Okay so back to our trip. When we arrived at our AirBnB spot we were greeted by our hosts who lived next door to our home. The home was a nice colonial style home with most of the basics you’d expect. Neither of our hosts spoke English so our Google translate app definitely came in handy. 🙂
Our taxi driver took us to his favorite restaurant in the ChinaTown area of Old Havana and we had to try the local favorite, Ropa Vieja which was really good. The prices at this particular location were amazing ($3-$5 for a full meal) but we found that prices can vary greatly between different restaurants so don’t expect this everywhere you go. Also in general, Cuba is not known for it’s delicious food but we were able to find decent food even for me as a picky eater.
One of the things I loved most about Cuban culture was the sense of community. If you’re old enough to remember a time before internet this is what it feels like – families spending time together, kids actually outside PLAYING and not in front of a tablet or phone. So cool to see!
Now that there are so many new tourists visiting Cuba the tourism industry is booming and there are lots of tours available that will give you a great overview of Cuba. We preferred to do a one day Havana tour on our first full day to get an overview of various areas in Havana and to figure out which locations we wanted to explore a little more. Our driver picked us up in a classic American car – which is the norm in Cuba. Kinda surreal to see all of these old cars still in use today.
One of our first stops on the tour was Plaza de Revolución which is notable for it’s many political rallies held by Castro and others to address Cubans. It is one of the popular tourist destinations for most of the year.
The parking lot at Plaza de Revolución looked like a car show with all of the classic cars bringing in tourists. So cool!
We visited several places in Havana and Old Havana and were able to snap a few pics of this gorgeous view.
I knew we would fall in love with the architecture but didn’t realize how much. Each corner was a photo opportunity so it was hard to put the camera down. 🙂
It is common to buy fruits and veggies from street vendors in Cuba.
We found that most of the people we met were really friendly and allowed us to photograph them with no problems. It is common to give a small tip in exchange for photos, but it is worth it for the great photos.
One of the favorite places we visited was San Jose warehouse which featured arts and crafts from local vendors. We met some extremely talented vendors here and ended up visiting several times during our visit. Since we were not able to find models before our trip to Cuba, we also met a few vendors who were instrumental in helping us to find our little models! Cuba also has many ah-mazing beaches there with beautiful clear blue water. We visited Santa Maria del Mar which was a beautiful beach close to Havana. The beach was quiet, clean and a great way to relax and get away from city life for a while.
We were also lucky to have our friend Rhonisha of R. Dione Photography there to assist during our shoots. Rhonisha captured this lovely photo below of this amazing moment when we randomly stopped a group of school kids walking down the street and positioned our model in front like a boss, LOL!
We wanted to incorporate a bit of Cuban culture and lifestyle into our shoots so we positioned our model with locations, backgrounds and props symbolic of Cuban lifestyle.
The next day our vendor/new friend bought us these ADORABLE twins to model these beautiful dresses from Ydamys Simo and we nearly passed out. We were so excited to photograph these little beauties!
We were almost done with our shoot and noticed a guy in a wheelchair sitting at the edge of his house door. I happened to look inside and noticed what looked like a REALLY cool home with records displayed on the wall, a few motorcycles propped nearby and a wall full of Cuban presidents. We asked if he would allow us to photograph the girls in his home and he welcomed us in. We left a nice tip on the way out and walked back with smiles from ear to ear. #WINNING!
Cuba is definitely on our list of MUST GO BACK places. If you are planning to visit we highly recommend exploring on your own so that you can meet and talk to the locals and get a real look at Cuban life.
The last stop on the first part of our tour was Accra, Ghana. Ghana was a country that I had spent some time in already during a study abroad during my college years. I had always wanted to go back – but this time with Reg and with a camera! Unfortunately I dropped my camera in the gutter during my first trip to Ghana and have absolutely no photos from that summer. 🙁 For this trip we opted for a hotel rather than AirBnB so that we would be near everything. The Roots Hotel Apartment was centrally located in Osu which is one of the main areas in Accra.
Although we loved the hotel, the breakfast was no bueno (example below). It was definitely overpriced and not worth the additional $24/day charge.
We made a visit to the grocery store and decided this would be better for breakfast and some lunch meals since we were going to be there for two weeks. The groceries in Ghana were surprisingly not as cheap as I thought they would be. For instance, the juices below were around $2/ea which is not too far from what I’d expect to pay in the US.
Even though there are taxis everywhere in Ghana we knew we needed to do a little location scouting on our own and explore so we decided to rent a car. Renting a car in Ghana was not as easy as some of the other locations without a Ghanaian driver’s license, but luckily we were able to rent with the help of a good friend in Ghana. Driving is a bit of a free for all so be prepared to be a very aggressive driver while there if you decide to rent a car. Our first stop was Makola Market which is one of Accra’s largest and most popular markets. You can find a bit of everything there from food to clothing, toiletries, etc. Think of it as a really really big swap meet. It was way too crowded for us to really enjoy it but we did enjoy watching the hustle and bustle of the market.
Next we decided to take a visit Independence Square which contains monuments to Ghana’s independence struggle. While location scouting we ran across the Accra Sports Stadium which was surprisingly open to anyone to visit. We knew we would have to shoot here at some point – it would take much more effort to get access to this type of location in the US.
Since we were staying in Osu, we loved roaming around the streets visiting restaurants, shops and of course the street vendors. Street vendors in Ghana are relentless so be prepared to shop (and bargain) while you are there. There were so many awesome things to buy.
One of our favorite restaurants in Ghana was a cool little spot called Buka. Nice spot with a Carribean feel and live music. We were finally able to try some of Ghana’s famous Jollof Rice which was amazing (if you like spicy food).
For a little break, we ventured off to Labadi Beach which is one of Ghana’s top beach tourist destinations. This beach can get a little crowded so if you have a little more time we’d recommend heading to some of the other beaches around such as Kokrobite beach. I’d say this beach is more fun for people watching than relaxing. Horse rides and rastas are common at Labadi beach so it’s definitely a different beach experience from the norm.
We were given a tip from a local photographer to check out a small town in Ghana called Jamestown – one of the oldest (and poorest) districts in the city of Accra. The district was once the hub for a succession of Portuguese governments, before the city became the capital of the British Gold Coast. Despite the apparent poverty, the quarter still makes for a safe and friendly place through which to wander during the day. More than anywhere else in Accra, there’s an evident sense of community. We fell in love with the wooden boats the fishermen were making. Photographer win!
While wandering around the community we spotted a small school in Jamestown and decided to check it out. We were still in need of one more model for our shoot so we figured maybe we’d get lucky. Lucky doesn’t even explain the gem we found. While visiting the school, the principal – Mr. Okai was kind enough to talk to us and show us around the school. Christ the King of Kings Preparatory school was built in 2011 by Dr. Immanuel Ojo to help improve the education situation among students in the Jamestown area. We spoke to the principal about the project we were working on and the principal shows us some of the students attending his school (which went from babies to middle school aged kids). One girl stood out from the rest – Rebecca. We were floored with this beauty and knew we had to have her for our shoot. She was everything we could imagine and more. The principal allowed Rebecca to go get her mother so that we could get permission to photograph her the following weekend. Her mother agreed and we left Jamestown smiling from ear to ear knowing we had found our gem.
Before I move further, let me just emphasize that the condition of this school is definitely not the norm in Ghana. There are several more affluent schools that look more like the school below. Just like our visit to South Africa, there are two sides to Ghana so we would be doing an injustice to only show one side.
On our shoot day we were one big ball of nerves. Even though Rebecca’s mom had agreed to participate in the shoot, would they actually show? We had no way of contacting them and our shoot day was on a weekend so we knew the school would be closed. We were prepared to search this town for Rebecca if they did not show, LOL. When we arrived we ventured along the community to figure out which areas we wanted to shoot first. Next thing we know, we see Rebecca running up to us on the beach (like in the movies) with a huge smile on her face. She had probably been waiting around all morning for her big opportunity. We were thrilled. The next obstacle was to see if the clothing we had would fit since we were not able to do a fitting before – to our surprise the clothing fit perfectly on her and we now had a supermodel in the making. Divine intervention indeed.
During our shoot the local kids in the community decided to tag along to witness Rebecca shine first hand.
It was a little weird having an entourage following us around during our shoot, but we fell in love w/the kids in Jamestown. Definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
We gifted as many of the leftover clothes from our tour as we could to the kids (and Rebecca) and they had a field day with the new gear. 🙂
We also caught up with my old college friend Theodore from my first trip in Ghana. Theodore lives in Ghana and was gracious enough to tag along during our shoot.
Just check out this little superstar. Rebecca looked like a baby Lupita Nyongo that day and it melted our heart to see her shine. An amazing experience that we will never forget. Rebecca’s first dress was designed by Kiki Clothing – a popular clothing boutique and designer in Accra.
The shot below is symbolic in so many ways. We wanted to capture this little beauty rising above her situation and showing the world a little of that #blackgirlmagic that shines within. I love that the kids sitting are still confident in their stature to show that they still walk beside and not behind.
Where did all this confidence come from? We were completely in love with this girl. This Alexandria Olivia dress was equally as gorgeous on her. The next day we did a little shooting in Osu with our model Dubi. Dubi is a sweet Ghanaian tween girl so we wanted to use the colorful buildings in Osu to highlight her vibrant personality. The talented folks at Kiki Clothing also made Dubi’s custom modern dress.
You know we had to use this colorful building spotted during our location scouting in Osu. 🙂
Dubi also sported this throwback Isossy Children dress which went perfectly with her skin tone.
Our very last shoot in Ghana ended up being with triplets! Yes triplets! This was our first time even meeting triplets – let alone photographing them. We decided on a stylish soccer theme since soccer is a popular sport in Ghana. We wanted this fashion story to highlight modern African style using Isossy Children’s playful styles.
Wow, so 33 days, 7 countries, 14 shoots and 30 kids later we survived and lived to tell the story! This trip was an amazing experience that we will never forget. We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to experience a little more of the world (our own way). We have a few more countries to visit to finish up our tour and will be sharing them with you guys periodically as we visit.
After our whirlwind tour of Europe we decided to head to Johannesburg, South Africa. We had always been curious about South Africa and wanted to experience it for ourselves.
We arrived at the airport and decided to stop in one of the restaurants to have some breakfast. The Johannesburg airport was pretty nice (much nicer than some of the smaller airports we had been to). Their airport had several shops and restaurants inside like you would expect from any major US airport. We decided to eat breakfast at a spot called “Wimpy” inside the airport. Here’s a look at our first South African breakfast. Pretty funny that fries were included with the meal. The meals cost about $5 USD which was great for the budget.
We also decided that driving would be the way to go in Johannesburg since we would be there for 10 days. They do have taxis, Uber and public transportation but it can get pretty pricey/inconvenient if you are there for a long stay. I was SUPER nervous about driving in Joburg because this would be my first time ever driving on the opposite side of the road. Okay so call me slow but I had only prepped my mind for driving on the opposite side of the road.. I totally forgot that EVERYTHING is on the opposite side (driver’s side, wheel, etc.). After my mini freakout I rolled off and we were on our way. It took me about 3-4 days to get used to driving on the opposite side but luckily the traffic in Joburg is not too bad so it was a good place for me to learn. Oh and check out the McDelivery driver below. McDonald’s delivery service!
We opted to stay in an AirBnB spot in Johannesburg because the price/accommodations couldn’t be beat. We found an amazing cottage home which was part of our host’s home (she had 3 small cottage houses on her property). This was no doubt the best accommodation we had since going on our tour. The cottage home was absolutely perfect and equipped with everything we might need (including washer, full kitchen and a pool!). I can’t believe we were able to get all of this for $65/USD/night! Debbie was the perfect host during our stay. The cottage home was private so that we had full privacy when needed, but she was available whenever we had a question. I almost don’t want to share this spot because it was so good but she was so kind to us during our stay so she deserves all of the recognition. Check out Debbie’s place here if you are ever looking for a great spot to stay in Johannesburg.
The other bonus to our home was location – it was in a great quiet neighborhood and down the street from a newly developed shopping center which could rival any shopping area in the US. Great restaurants, and cool shops made this a very convenient location. We found a favorite restaurant there called JB’s Corner which served a little bit of everything – kinda reminds me of California Dreaming here in the US.
The next day we decided to explore Johannesburg a bit. We knew that we wanted Soweto to be one of our first spots to see. We had always heard so much about Soweto so we wanted to see and experience it for ourselves. When we arrived, let’s just say that it was shocking to see the big difference between the area where we were living and Soweto. It was almost like stepping into two different worlds..
We stopped by a few local vendors lined along the streets in Soweto and were able to snatch up a few accessories for our upcoming shoot. Oh and we were pretty excited to have this Mandela money in our hands! LOL. Reg joked about wanting to make it rain in Mandelas..hahaha! Overall the people were really kind to us and welcomed us even though we stood out like a sore thumb. We would often hear calls of “American!” when they wanted to get our attention which was a little weird for us, lol..
Afterwards we drove around a bit and made a stop at the Nelson Mandela House which is now a tourist destination in Johannesburg. It was a little too late to go inside but we were able to take a peek from the outside. One thing we learned quickly about South Africa is that they have unofficial “parking attendants” everywhere who will offer to watch your car in exchange for a few bucks. Sometimes there’s no getting around it since they are sometimes stationed in parking lots. We also met a few guys who decided to serenade us with a song called “Welcome to Soweto” hoping for a little change in exchange. Here’s Reg looking extra awkward not knowing what he had gotten himself into, LOL..
When we ran across this little caravan my heart skipped a beat. I knew this would be perfect for the shoot that we had in mind but unfortunately it was gone on the day that we decided to do our shoot. 🙁
The other thing we learned quickly is that street vendors and performers are everywhere selling anything from batteries to toys to household items. We got a kick out of watching these guys..
The next day we met up with Bothale who is the owner of Hairtural natural hair salon in Johannesburg. Bothale’s hair salon is unique in that they specialize in heat free styling for natural hair. She had already been so helpful for us as soon as we announced our trip to South Africa so we were excited to meet with her in person.
Later, we decided to do a little shopping and met with Palesa, owner of JUA accessories in Joburg. Palesa is a part time business owner who makes gorgeous jewelry and accessories. We were thankful to be able to use some of her gorgeous pieces for our shoot. Each piece she pulled out was more beautiful than the next. While writing this blog post I just peeped some new pieces I am wanting already, lol!
Next we headed to the Sandton Mall – a pretty snazzy mall in Joburg so that we could hit up their H&M store for a few extra items we needed. While walking around the store, we were stopped by the two ladies below who asked if we were CreativeSoul – err what? To our surprise, they said that they follow us on social media and loved all of our work. To say I was floored would be an understatement to see how far our work had traveled. Still doesn’t seem real..
Later during our trip, we decided to explore a bit more and visit some of the more modern areas in Joburg. One of the recommendations was a little area called Maboneng which is where the young hipsters hang out. We were in love with this little area filled with culture, nice restaurants, artsy buildings and shops all around.
We loved this area and had a dilemma on where to do our shoot. Before arriving in Joburg we were set on shooting in Soweto because we felt it would fit the concept for our shoot. After visiting some of the other areas in Joburg we were torn on what to use… which side of Johanessburg should we show – the newer/more modern Johannesburg or Soweto which was full of culture, texture, history. This was such a dilemma for us so we decided to sleep on it a bit more before making our final decisions.
Unfortunately the day before the shoot mother nature had other plans for me because I got SICK with a cold. We got to experience our first pharmacy trip in South Africa while there which was interesting. Nothing was over the counter so Reg had to tell the pharmacist my symptoms and they recommended which types of meds to take. We ended up with a few things we knew and a few we didn’t know but I was willing to take anything at this point. On top of this it was time to start our malaria meds for our upcoming Ghana trip. On the day of our shoot I mistakenly decided to take the meds before having a meal and started to get extremely sick walking to the car. Next thing you know I’m vomiting everywhere before my big shoot! Unfortunately I had no choice but to keep it moving (photogs don’t get sick days you know) so I had to suck it up, put on a smile and hammer through the shoot.
So you’re probably wondering which location we decided on. We decided on both! For our main shoot with the kids, we decided to stick with our original location of Soweto. Later we did a lovely mother/daughter shoot with Bolthale and her daughter to show the more modern side of Joburg which worked out perfectly. Here are a few behind the scenes captures of us at our shoot in Soweto.
Also I thought it was important to share a pull back shot side by side with the actual shot for this shoot. I think one of our gifts as photographers is the ability to be able to find the beauty in people and places that other people simply cannot see. What may seem like a dilapidated old building to you may be a spot with perfect lighting and backdrop for us. Perfect example below. I loved the fact that we were able to make beautiful photographs in some of the most unlikely places. So many of these places had beautiful people and cultures so it would have been a mistake to skip these places simply because they didn’t show off the more modern parts of town.
The shots below may be some of my favorites. One of the things i love to see when working with kids is to see how their confidence grows during a shoot. That confident stride seen below is why we do what we do.
We were also thrilled to incorporate local vendors into our shoot to highlight some of the thriving small businesses in each location. We fell in love with some of the pieces from the NaturalOne clothing company and decided to mix it in with a few modern pieces. We also incorporate a few of our favorite pieces from US based designer Alexandria Olivia’s new tribal collection.
And here are some of our mother/daughter shots from the town of Maboneng. Love these! 🙂
Overall we enjoyed our time in Johannesburg and the lovely people we met while there. Our overall impression was that there was definitely two sides of Joburg and it would be a mistake to not experience both while there. We would love to go back and visit more areas and possibly Cape Town the next time we’re in town.
Our last European stop was Santorini, Greece. When we first started planning our world tour trip, I knew that Santorini was a MUST DO on the list. From all of the photos I had seen of Santorini I knew this spot looked like the perfect spot for us to visit. The most amazing scenic views, architecture, and weather put it at the top of our wish list. We purposely saved this spot for last before heading to South Africa because we knew that we could use this area as a partial vacay after having traveled 5 countries in about 15 days and having several days of back to back shoots. I knew that we’d probably be in need of a mini vacay by then. We stayed here a little longer so that we’d have a few days to chill which ended up being one of our best ideas so far on the trip.
Although the Santorini airport was very small and simple, we had pretty much had enough of airports and flights at this point. To get to Santorini you have to fly in to Athens first, so we had a layover in between. Reg’s face pretty much sums up our thoughts about flying and airports at this point…
When we arrived at the airport we took a taxi to our hotel which was about 30 minutes away. The taxi ride was a bit cray cray with the driver speeding through the winding roads so we were glad to finally make it to the hotel. One of the things that we were nervous about in Santorini was if we’d have to lug our bags up all of the stairs we had seen in Santorini. Santorini is one big island and most of the hotels are on the side of a cliff so most have stairs on the outside to get to them. To our surprise we were greeted by a hotel assistant who grabbed our bags for us on arrival and lugged them down the STEEEP stairways (thank goodness!). The receptionist at the front desk was super kind and got us really excited about being there. She walked us around the hotel property and showed us the amazing views. At this point our mouths were wide open – we were blown away by the views.
A few minutes after we were settled in our room, the receptionist came back to drop off a gift of wine and peanuts on our deck as a welcome. Neither of us drink, but we had to at least take a few sips that day because well – we were in Santorini!!!
That view tho 🙂
And the pools were like no other.
Santorini was one spot where we actually enjoyed the food (for the most part). For the first few days we were in love with all of the Souvlaki and kabobs, but after a while we started to notice there was not much else there. By the end of the trip we had enough Souvlaki to last us a lifetime but it was really good.
There was a cute little restaurant across the street from our hotel which stayed packed daily. The staff were SO welcoming and knew us by name after the first night. Each day we visited they gave us “freebies” at the end of our meal. One downside is that the food in Santorini was not so cheap – at least in the main hotel areas. You could easily spend $20/pp for a meal there.
The hotel we were staying listed free breakfast as an amenity on the website. We assumed it would be the typical continental breakfast. To our surprise, at this hotel you call when you are ready for breakfast and they bring a hot meal straight to your balcony for a breakfast with a view. This was one of the BEST parts about our visit to Santorini. We looked forward to our breakfast on the balcony each day (and got spoiled REALLY quick, lol). We were thinking this can’t be real life at this point, lol..
After chatting with the hotel receptionist we learned that to get around in Santorini you really need a car. After our $30 taxi ride from the airport we knew that we’d be broke if we used taxis each time we wanted to go somewhere. Luckily car rental is super easy in Santorini. There are plenty of local car rental places that rent to international tourists. For our 4 day trip we spent about $125 on a rental car. The cool thing is that most will drop the car off to you anywhere on the island and will also pick it up from you anywhere on the island. They delivered the car straight to our hotel and we were ready to roll.
I will say that I was pretty nervous about driving in Santorini since it was my first ever international driving experience. For the most part things were fairly similar to driving in the US except for a couple of things. Most European cars have the auto start/stop engines which is a little weird to a US driver. The cars seem to shut off when you are idle then automatically start up with a little press of the gas. Takes some getting used to. Also when we stopped for gas, and started to drive off the gas light seemed to not move. We thought we had gotten jipped but the gas attendant assured us that this was normal and that the gas light would start to move after a few minutes of driving.
On our first day of sightseeing we decided to visit the town of Oia since we had this in mind for our shoot location. Oia is probably the most popular town in Santorini and is known for it’s popular scenic views, blue dome cathedrals, and fancy blue doors. When we arrived, we were again blown away by the views. It’s definitely unlike anything we had ever seen.
There were several stores packed in Oia – mostly local artists and vendors. I actually liked a lot of the items for sale in Oia. We picked up a few items for our shoot there while shopping.
Santorini is also known for it’s donkey rides. Often tourists will do donkey rides around the island. Idk.. I felt a little sad for the poor donkeys so we didn’t do the donkey rides but opted for a quick pic instead. Yup that’s sweat on Reg’s forehead. The weather was pretty warm there, but not too hot. It can sometimes get very windy in Santorini though since you are on an island. On our first night it got so windy we thought our windows were going to break. After that the weather seemed to be pretty calm and pleasant for the most part.
As a photographer, the doors in Oia definitely caught my eye. I knew we’d want to use them in our upcoming shoot. There were so many different ones to choose from.
Anyone who knows Reg knows about his looong time wish for a household pet. There were stray dogs/cats pretty much everywhere in Santorini so yeah.. Reg got his whole entire pet life while there, lol!
The next day we met our model Lois for our shoot. This was one country where we were not able to find a local model to use in time so we were so thankful that Lois’ parents offered to fly to Santorini from London for our shoot. Mini vacay for them and we got to fulfill our dream of shooting in Santorini. So thankful to them for trusting us for this project.
Reg’s face in the first pic sums up the feelings we both had on our last day in Santorini. Extreme SADNESS. We spent our last few moments taking in the view from our hotel room window. It was definitely the vacay we didn’t want to end. Santorini is by far the favorite place we’ve ever visited. To put it into one word – paradise. We WILL be back!
Finally, here are some of the amazing photos captured of Lois in Santorini. 🙂
Of course we had to get the beautiful Santorini view in the background for a few…
And I told ya’ll those doors would come in handy. 🙂
These beautiful pink bushes called “bougainvillea” were all over the island… they are a staple in Santorini
We snuck a few pics in at the top level of a bookstore. Pretty cool setup they had..
I’ve always seen photos of Venice and had visions of shooting near the gondolas. Reg quickly nixed that idea and let me know that he had no plans of getting inside of a gondola. LOL. While searching around for things to see and do around Venice, I ran into one of the coolest places I had ever seen – Burano, Italy. Anyone who knows me knows that i LOVEEE color so when I saw this place I was more than sold. Houses that look like a box a crayons? YASS. This town is what dreams are made of. We decided to split our time between Burano and Venice so that we could see both while there.
By the time we had arrived at the airport we were already beyond stressed. We had a hiccup with the hairstylist’s flight so we had spent the morning going back and forth trying to make arrangements. When we arrived at the airport we spent a good 45 minutes trying to figure out where to go. Needless to say things were a bit confusing. We finally found our way to the water taxis which would take us to Burano. Our airbnb host said that the trip should be about a 30 minute boat ride, but we eventually learned that it was more like 2 hours between transfers, waiting, buying tickets, etc! The water taxis were pretty cool though.. kinda like a ferry ride if you’ve ever taken one before. Just a little chilly/windy so bring a jacket!
Having to lug our suitcases around while trying to find the ticket stations and our airbnb spot was definitely a sore spot. If I could give any advice to those planning to travel here it would be to pack light! You’ll thank me later. Unfortunately we didn’t have that luxury so here’s poor Reg trying to lug this luggage along the small cobblestone streets. There was about a 10 minute walk from our taxi stop to the house so we had to lug all of our luggage along with us. When we arrived we were greeted by our AirBnB hosts and our model and her mom. Our hosts were SO kind (even though we had NO idea what they were saying, lol). Thankful for our model’s mom who was able to speak to him and do a little translation for us.
Our model Kayla was such a cutie and traveled all the way from Milan for the shoot (about a 3 hour train ride to Venice).
Our home in Burano was 3 stories high and had a rooftop deck. The view was ah-mazing and we immediately started to get excited.
We then walked out and had to pinch ourselves. We couldn’t believe that we were actually there! This place had been on my Pinterest board for years so it was surreal actually being there – and getting to shoot there!
I have to say that one of the best parts of this trip was our little model Kayla. At only 8 years old this doll was SO professional. We had so many odds working against us on this shoot – the day before the second model we had planned for this shoot had to back out, we were without a hairstylist and by the time we finally got everything together we had about 1 hour total to shoot 3 looks with one model. We were blown away by how quickly Kayla was able to move to the different locations and knock out the shots we needed without even being asked. Oh and let’s remember that she had no idea what we were saying since she only speaks Italian. Trooper indeed!
Oh and let’s not forget how windy it was that day. This behind the scenes blooper makes me laugh because this is really what was going down that day. But miss Kayla pushed her hair back and kept it moving. 🙂
We will never forget this day and are so thankful for our little model Kayla who is destined for greatness in the future. <3
After our shoot we decided to walk around Burano a bit and explore. The town is pretty small but had lots to see and do within walking distance. You can definitely see that more and more tourists are starting to explore this area so there were several foreigners walking around with cameras to take photos of the colorful homes. The town is so quiet and laid back – people leave doors unlocked and there was definitely a “family” feel to the neighborhood.
Now, let’s talk food – I will say that the food did not live up to expectations here. 🙁 I think we were expecting to have some of the greatest Italian food we had ever had but we just didn’t get it here. May have just been the wrong restaurant but we were completely disappointed with our meals. 🙁 Next time we will get some recommendations first so that we get a better taste of Italy.
There were a few shops around Burano but more of the kitschy type of stores. We were able to find a few little souvenirs here and there. Burano is apparently known for lace, so there were several shops selling lace clothing and items.
The next day we left Burano and headed to Venice but I think this was probably a bad idea to do Burano before we saw Venice. If I had to plan the trip over again I would have visited Venice first before Burano, but I guess it depends on your taste/preference. The colorful buildings and quiet vibe of Burano was MUCH more our preference so when we got to Venice it just felt a little “blah”. It was like seeing Burano but without the color and many more tourists.
Another issue was our hotel – it was listed as being about 20 minutes from the main areas of Venice, but again it was more like a 40-45 minute boat ride to get there. By the time we checked in to our hotel we were a bit exhausted so didn’t get to see much more of Venice. Tip if you are planning to hang out in Venice for a short period of time- stay as close to the Piazza San Marco as possible if you plan on exploring that area. It will be easy to walk around and explore and to get to the main train station if needed. Venture too far out and it will be a bit of a pain to get back and forth unless you plan to stay for a while.
Finally, thought I’d talk about some of the quirks at some of the hotels in Europe. Most hotels in Europe use the door key to turn on the power (we had this in Amsterdam as well). While in our room in Amsterdam we had to call the front desk to find out why our power wasn’t working, LOL. “Uhm, you need to put the door key in the slot ma’am” whoops! 🙂 This seems to be pretty standard almost anywhere we went in Europe. No door key, no power.. Also, the photo in the middle? That’s the toilet flush “button”. No handle, just the button. And the third photo – the bidet of course! No lie, I was kinda excited to finally see a bidet in person although I didn’t use it, lol.
Burano, Italy will definitely go down as one of my absolute favorite places that we’ve traveled so far. I would love to go back here and just spend about a week doing absolutely NOTHING, lol! Check out some of the amazing images we captured of Kayla in Burano.. some of my favorites from the entire tour.
What photographer hasn’t dreamt of shooting in Paris? The architecture, the shopping, pastries and more! We wanted to experience it all. Unfortunately our French skills were pretty much non-existent so we were a little worried about the language barrier for us there. We arrived at our AirBnB location and were excited about the view. The architecture was pretty much amazing at every corner in Paris. This particular location was super tiny and gave us a sneak peek into “tiny house” living, lol! It was at this point that we started to realize how much larger things are in the US and how we had been living without the big screen tv, the extra square footage, and all of the extra STUFF for months and somehow managed to survive without a problem. We started to re-evaluate what we really need back home and how we have to make some changes into a more simplified lifestyle when we return.
Anyway, to our surprise, the host had left us with a few French snacks and goodies for our visit. One thing that made us laugh was the pink toilet paper in the restroom. I hadn’t seen colored toilet paper since I was a little girl, so it was funny to see people still using this in Paris. I thought that this stuff was discontinued everywhere but apparently only in the US.
We decided to take a late night run to the grocery store a few blocks away to experience grocery shopping in Paris. Remember I said everything was smaller? Peep the size of the shopping cart below. Yup, that’s the size of the shopping cart. Also, there were no large bottles of anything like we have in the US – the Tropicana OJ was the largest size available. Again, at this point we’re starting to re-evaluate our lives and way of living, lol! One thing we didn’t realize during our grocery shopping excursion was that there were no bags – we were supposed to bring our own recyclable bag with us so we had to carry our groceries out by hand. Whoops!
One of our favorite parts about Paris were the small bakeries everywhere! The desserts were everything you would imagine from a Parisian bakery. So many unique things to try.
The next day we ventured out to do a little sight seeing and knew we had to see the Eiffel tower just to knock it off the to do list. It was pretty much what we expected but we got a kick out of all of the vendors selling the exact.same.souvenirs at every corner. Reg made a joke that someone could come in and demolish the competition by simply offering some different products, lol!
We then took a visit over to the Louvre and fell in love. The architecture was everything we envisioned for our shoot. We knew that this would become our shoot location.
Our first shoot was with two gorgeous models for one of our favorite designers Alexandria Olivia. For this shoot, we decided to venture around our neighborhood to capture a little bit of everyday life in Paris (with a high fashion twist of course). Even though there was a bit of a language barrier the girls did an amazing job and we were off to our second shoot in Paris.
We decided to do hair and makeup at a hotel near the Louvre to make things easier. To our surprise, when we walked in the hotel room everything was PINK. When I say everything, I mean everything.. the chairs, curtains, bed, walls, toilet, sink, tub.. everything! After Reg’s initial shock and heart attack we got kinda used to the place. I guess Paris really is the city of love, lol!
Before our shoot we had a quick meal with a few of the models and our hairstylist, Sephora. It was a nice way to break the ice before our shoot.
For this shoot we relied heavily on help from our hairstylist and the parents to help translate our directions – along with a little demonstration. 🙂
One thing that’s universal for sure – the innocence of kids. Love that they are always able to make new friends in just a matter of minutes. We had a blast with these girls!
Big thanks to everyone who helped us out on this shoot. We can’t wait to visit again so that we can catch up with our new friends. 🙂
Oh and when we thought we were all done, one of the moms came back with a few gifts from Paris. I don’t know why people are so kind to us but we are SO thankful to the kindness shown to us during our visit.
Finally, here are some of the gorgeous images captured in Paris.
The next stop on our world tour was Amsterdam! While we were planning for our trip we went back and forth trying to decide between Amsterdam and Italy. We knew we had to nix one location because we were already feeling like we’d gone a little too overboard with our tour, lol! We ultimately decided on Italy because of the opportunity to shoot in my dream location Burano, Italy – a color lover’s dream! After we announced our launch we received so many inquiries from our Amsterdam crew that we knew we needed to make a stop there. We decided to cut our London trip short and make a short detour to Amsterdam. We are SO glad we decided to visit. Who knew there were so many adorable natural haired kids in Amsterdam?!
As I mentioned, we love color so while location scouting we found a really cool town about 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam called Zandaam. We knew that this would be the colorful backdrop we needed for our shoot. To top it off, the main building was our hotel surrounded by several shops and restaurants. Win! It kinda reminds me of a mini Dutch style lego land.
Since we were only going to be there for a few days we decided not to rent a car and just use trains/Uber along the way. Unfortunately we apparently chose the wrong day to use the train system. We ended up spending about 2 hours at the train station after about 4 train delays due to maintenance issues. We finally gave up and decided to Uber to our hotel. To our surprise, once our driver finds out we’re from the US he starts blasting 2Chainz in the car, lol! We asked if he usually listens to American music and he says “of course – have you heard Dutch music before?) Who knew a little trap music was all we needed to get us out of our funk, LOL.
We then decided to explore the main areas of Amsterdam. If there’s one thing you should know about Amsterdam – people love bikes! There were bicycles everywhereeeee there! Streets were narrow and parking spaces were almost non-existent so I guess biking around the downtown area is much less headache for the locals. We loved the cobblestone streets and vintage feel of the city.
We didn’t have a lot of time in Amsterdam to really explore a lot of restaurants but we did get to experience a few local treats that I will never forget. I will say that the people we met in Amsterdam were SO kind and welcoming to us. They surprised us with local gifts which really made our day. Reg received a gift of some authentic handmade cheese on one of our shoots, and I received a treat that i fell in LOVE with – Stroop Wafels! OMG, best gift ever.. We tried to spread them out as long as possible during our trip, lol! We found some here in the US but unfortunately it just didn’t compare. 🙁
Breakfast in the hotel was pretty cool, nothing drastically different than the usual continental breakfast – just a wee bit fancier. 😉
While we didn’t get to do a lot of shopping in Amsterdam we did get a chance to make a quick run into a few stores while there. For some reason we ended up in H&M in just about every major city during our trip to pick up items here and there. To our surprise, we looked up on the wall and saw two of our previous clients in the NY area on a large poster in the children’s section. So, so cool to see our kiddos halfway around the world! (Shout out to Jaylin & Misty!) We were also excited to see a Scotch R’Belle store up close and personal. We absolutely love their eclectic styles, so it was cool to be able to walk into an actual store.
For our first day of shooting, we wanted to incorporate the feel of Amsterdam with it’s trendy/hipster style. We had a blast exploring the city with our gorgeous model Faye.
The next day was our largest shoot yet back in the Zaandam area. I’m not sure Zaandam has seen that many curly kids in one area but we had a blast taking over the city.
Check out some of the photos we captured of these adorable kiddos below. We now know that Amsterdam will always have to be on our checklist when traveling through Europe. 🙂
Our first stop on our world tour was London! This was such a great stop for us because we had so many amazing friends that we met along the way to help us with our first trip. We arrived at our AirBnB spot and to our surprise the neighborhood felt a little like Brooklyn to us. Busy streets, mom and pop stores and restaurants and taxis on every corner were the sights and sounds of our first day on our tour. After lugging all of our luggage up through a tiny stairwell we arrived in our small but roomy spot to look around.
The small apartment was nice but there are a few quirks that we had to get used to (throughout most of Europe). First was no shower curtains or doors – there’s a tiny half door that doesn’t cover most of the shower so it’s likely that the floor will get pretty wet when showering. Also, most apartments were small therefore only had a washer but no dryer. We were just thankful to be able to wash our clothes at the end of the stay so not having a dryer wasn’t a biggie. Overall we liked our quiet little apartment even though it was a little far (about 30-40 mins) from Central London. One thing that we learned for sure is that London traffic can be a bit cray cray so we knew we’d have to add in an additional 30-40 minutes at least to get anywhere on time! 🙂
The next day we decided to head to Trafalgar Square to do a little location scouting. This was the central/more touristy part of London so there were lots of people and tourists walking around.
Kinda reminded us of Times Square with street performers walking around and protesters making a statement.
A few short blocks and we were able to find the Big Ben and London Eye. We were surprised at how close we were able to get to the Big Ben but knew we’d have to find a way around the tourists if we were going to get shots there during our shoots.
Now, let’s talk food and shopping. Just so you know – I am NOT an adventurous eater at all and didn’t plan to start on our world tour, lol! Reg is much more adventurous than me but we knew that getting sick on this trip was NOT an option. We had a tight schedule and multiple big shoots planned so we decided to stick w/the script for the most part. Our friends at Isossy Children did manage to greet us during our stay and take us to a pretty cool restaurant and they actually got me to try some fried duck which was pretty good!
Shopping in London can probably be compared to shopping in NYC or any other big city in the US. There were amazing shops everywhere but we looked forward to hitting up Next Direct. It’s like a little bit of H&M and Target mixed all together. Super cute kids fashions were all around for great prices. We did a little too much damage in Next and realized we had left one of our shopping bags in our Uber. To our surprise, our super sweet Uber driver drove all the way back to find us and deliver our bag. We are forever grateful to Zohaib for going out of his way to return our items.
Finally, shoot day arrived and we were all ready to go with our models lined up, adorable clothing from Alex and Alexa and Caramel Shop UK. The weather held out nicely and was much better than expected for London.
Somehow even being cramped in a teeny tiny hotel room in Trafalgar Square, we managed to get all of the kids ready to go with help from our hairstylist Dionne Smith. We obviously started to get a little silly at the end of the day but we’re so thankful for all of the parents and kids who hung in there with us with no complaints!
Check out a few photo highlights from our London shoots below. With each of our shoots we wanted to not only showcase and highlight various local designers, but also wanted to show a little bit of the culture and environment in our photos. We fell in love with the red phone booths everywhere and knew we had to incorporate them in our shoot.
This photo below cracks me up because the poor guard couldn’t smile or move, but I’m sure he wanted to laugh with the kids being silly in front of him. We were just surprised that they allowed us to get this close to him. Our first lesson on this trip was to not be afraid to ask for what we want. 🙂
We started out the morning with a larger group of kids and had so much fun exploring the “sophisticated” side of English style. These boys and girls looked so cool showing off their London swag.
Farouk James is always a little showstopper with that amazing red hair.
We truly enjoyed our time in London and had such a great time with all of the kids and new friends we met there. There are so many other places we wished we could have explored but we are glad we’ll have some new areas to explore on our next visit!