Nov 2013

Off To Mexico

It’s been a rough week. My mom had her heart surgery and while she’s holding her own; it’s not an easy thing to recover from. Every day there have been emails and phone calls discussing every aspect of her recovery, and she remains in the ICU. Meanwhile… tomorrow we’re leaving for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico… a long anticipated vacation.

I just added a bunch of minutes to my International plan so that my aunt could call me whenever and however she needed to, but – of course – I am feeling a bit guilty about sitting on the beach sipping piña coladas while my mother sits in the hospital room.

But we need to go. My family is really ready for some time with each other to just be.

See you next week. xoxo

Declan Found A Seashell
Riviera Maya, Mexico, 2006

Feb 2007

The Mexico Recap

OK, OK, here it is… finally! The short answer: we had a great time. The long answer follows.

We headed out very, very early the morning of Friday, January 26th for our 6am flight. Don’t tell the police, but I even ran a few red lights in my haste to pick up Danielle and get us on our way.

We made it to our resort by about 1pm Cozumel time and once I saw the lobby, I finally started to calm down from the massive panic attack I had the day before we left.

However, the reception dude – who suspiciously looked like he belonged in a Mexican boy band – told us we would not be in the quiet-at-night section of the resort (seeing as no resort is quiet during the day). When he kindly offered us an upgrade to the adults-only “Sabor” section for $10 extra a night, we jumped at the chance to sleep peacefully and not listen to the Macarena at 3am.

Even more quickly, we jumped into our dresses and headed to the lounge for drinks before dinner. We were able to make reservations in the fancy restaurants for every other night of our stay, but they were booked up for our arrival night. However, Jorge the Concierge surprised us with last minute reservations for that night too and became our best friend ever. We clinked glasses in his honor as we sipped our first fruity drink in the warm tropical air.

We decided that every evening should have a drinking theme. Friday night was the Dirty Monkey – which we had never heard of much less drank one before. For you fellow Dirty Monkey Virgins:

In a blender, mix:
4 oz. Cream of Coconut
1-1/2 oz. Dark Rum
1-1/2 oz. Kahlua
1 Banana
2 cups ice

Saturday came and we hit the beach. Lovely blue skies, blue water and lazy girls. Danielle and I slothed the morning away sitting on the beach and laughing our asses off thinking about the poor Denverites plodding their way through more snow. (Sorry, guys).

In the afternoon, we took a snorkel trip on a large Catamaran. And after an hour of waiting, pacing and cursing “Mexican Time,” the large Catamaran actually came and picked us up… at which point we finally realized I had set my watch incorrectly and they were all perfectly on time, we were just an hour early. DOH!

Oh – and the following pics came from a cheapie underwater camera – but I think you’ll forgive me for not taking the chance of sending my Canon to a watery grave!

We got into the water and did the snorkely thing – which I love love love, by the way. I could seriously snorkel every single day of every single vacation for the rest of my life.

However, one thing did end up in a watery grave! My silver wedding band that I bought from a street vendor on our honeymoon in San Francisco 10 years ago. It literally was like that scene from The Lord of the Rings; the ring slipped off my finger and twirled out of my reach as I desperately grabbed for it… and it just sank and sank. Danielle made several dives after it but it was just too deep and we lost sight of it. It wasn’t expensive, of course, but it certainly was sentimental. Danielle comforted me by reminding me it was my weight loss that caused it to slip off my finger, and we could look at it as closing that chapter in my life. And then later that evening I cheerfully bought 2 other silver rings, a pair of earrings and a lovely chunky bracelet to make up for the loss.

We swam down and around and looked at the lovely coral – which wasn’t as ripped apart from Hurricane Wilma as I would have expected.

But the coolest part of the adventure was the sea life. We saw a lobster, two stings rays, a barracuda, two sea turtles – the small one is swimming behind Danielle below, and the big one was literally 5 feet across!

And then there was the big finale.

We. Saw. A. Shark.

He is hard to see in this picture, but I assure you he is down there and only about 40 feet away from us. Danielle thinks he was about 8 feet long. And I think he was cool as shit.

The whole way home I just could not believe I swam with a shark. I rock.

To celebrate, that evening was Strawberry Margarita Night. And we had, um, let’s say, quite a few. So many, in fact, that we decided to wander around the pitch dark edge of the resort and down onto the pitch dark pier. This is the only photo that is ready for prime time. I trashed the photos that I mistakenly took of my underwear.

Sunday morning rolled around and Danielle was coherent enough to get up and go for a scuba dive. I am really proud of her for doing so, not just because she had a hangover – but because she is trying to get over some anxiety from a bad diving experience a few years ago. And she kicked ass! Especially considering Jeff was not there to go with her.

Meanwhile, I wandered around the resort and took photos of the foliage and myself.

The clouds rolled in Sunday afternoon and we literally just laid about, read our books for several hours and grunted at each other as our main form of communication. When was the last time you have been able to do that? It was fucking awesome.

Of course, this was also the afternoon of the one day that we ate in the buffet in the non-upgrade section of the resort. Remember what I was scared about before I left? Yup. There was another reason we hung out in the room all afternoon. Eeks. But by dinnertime I was feeling better, albeit swearing to steer clear of the buffet!

But. Did I mention we had a hammock on our balcony? And this photo was taken before Cosmopolitan Night even started. The leg up thing is actually an homage to an old family photo that I don’t even know the backstory behind – just that I always thought it was hilarious and we have started doing it on a regular basis. Mom? Aunt Heidi? Care to fill us in?

After dinner, we headed to the lobby and I brought out my Table Topics cards that a friend sent me for my birthday. We had some really deep, funny and interesting discussions. That Danielle is one smart cookie.

And when we were ready for some silliness, we took advantage of the atmosphere and started taking photos of each other.

Apparently we weren’t doing it well enough, because an observer started arranging Danielle for me. I guess I needed an assistant.

The next morning, Monday – we were bound and determined to do more snorkeling in front of the resort. So we tromped out into the waves and started swimming around. Precisely 3 minutes later we both shot out of the water like a canon. Danielle yelled, “Aimee! WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A HUGE HERD OF JELLYFISH.” And damned if we weren’t! They were fricking EVERYWHERE. We tried to swim away, but nothing going. We just looked at each other and said, “Every man for himself, see you on shore!” and we started swimming like crazypeople – zigging left and zagging right to avoid the gelatinous balls of stinging goo. Too bad no one was video taping us, we would have had our audition tape for The Amazing Race.

So, we bagged our windsurfing lesson for the afternoon and headed for a massage. A really, really good massage.

The staff at the resort said the storm from the night before blew the jellyfish in, so we took a walk along the beach in the afternoon, in search of. Yup, they were everywhere. That’s OK – the light was fantastic. So we took more photos of each other and as you saw from the previous post – lots of sand and shell pics too.

By the way – both Danielle and I are Harry Potter fanatics. On the trip, she started rereading all the books in anticipation of the new movie and book this summer. I will follow her through the books too so we are both READY. Oh, and I pre-ordered the new book today too (thanks, Teri!).

This evening was Miami Vice night. We have never heard of this drink either – it’s Piña Colada on the bottom and Strawberry Daiquiri on the top. Lots of calories and perfect for your last night in the tropics.

But wait – even more perfect and even more calories is my favorite treat when we go to Mexico… Tres Leche Cake. If I was a better cook and less lazy, I might try to make this back in the States, but I definitely look forward to it every time we head south.

Then, Tuesday morning, we snuck out for about an hour in a glass bottom kayak (Bryan was so proud) to see a few more fish and coral. We did get to see the most humongous angel fish I have ever seen (in my admittedly limited experience). But of course the motion sickness got the best of me, not to mention we had a flight to catch, so we headed back in and caught our cab to the airport.

Speaking of the airport – a little tip from me to you. Next time you go to Mexico and they give you a little immigration piece of paper: HANG ON TO IT. I had mine till just that morning and really just forgot about it and left it in the hotel. Apparently this is a really big deal, and Danielle had to do some major fast talking in Spanish for me, I had to fill out forms galore and then give them some big, sad puppy dog eyes to make the Mexican guarda let me pass. Oops.

So. As you can tell, we had a fantastic time. The resort itself is what I would have expected for what we paid – with the exception of the – um, maybe… well, um, OK, the pissy, over-the-hill but still trying way too hard to be young clientele… Wait, did I type that out loud? Oh, and the guy who picked at his nails for 15 minutes with his dinner knife. Yeah, he was pretty gross too. No wonder they have a food poisoning problem. But, other than that… totally top notch time.

Danielle – thanks for the great vacation, chica!

Now back to reality.

Jun 2006

The Mexico Recap (Sans Photos)

I am still editing the nearly 750 photos we took on our trip – so you will just have to wait for those! But here is the rundown of our adventures!

Let’s see. We arrived in Mexico on Tuesday evening (5/23) – to a complete and utter downpour. I mean, we seriously got an inkling of what Noah felt like.

The weather forecast was not promising for the week and for the 1st four days, we had overcast conditions. Thank goodness it never again rained to the level of our first evening – and in some ways, the clouds were nice to hold off the heat. Apparently the rainy season came early this year (note to self, for future trips).

The kids could give a rip about the weather, though – they were loving the BEACH and the POOL! Both were a little timid at first – but Lily got into the swing of things first and Declan soon followed. By the end of the trip, both were swimming on their own (with floaties, of course) and pretty much had grown gills.

In general, the kids had a blast. We had a few tough spots here and there – but truly – they both took everything in stride. They even had their first strawberry daiquiris (“sin alcohol,” of course) and luckily we positioned those drinks as “Mexico vacation drinks” – or else I would have to invest in an industrial size blender. (Although, come to think of it – that’s not a bad idea!)

The first few days were all about the beach in the morning and the pool in the afternoon. The resort has a pool that runs the complete length of it – so it was never crowded and just heavenly. The beach was awesome. It did have some more rocks than last time, thank to Hurricane Wilma. But overall, it was wonderful – nice waves and warm temps.

On Friday, we took a snorkeling excursion that was just awesome. We all climbed aboard a catamaran and sailed out to the coral reef (the second largest in the world, next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia). Can I just say how much I love snorkeling? I could have done that all day long – even though it was still slightly overcast which made it a bit harder to see the fish and reef life. It was Bryan’s first time snorkeling and he loved it too. We’ll definitely be doing that again. We even saw this crazy squid creature.

That evening was our 10th Anniversary and the crew was kind enough to watch Declan while Bryan and I went out to the Japanese restaurant at the resort. It was wonderful and romantic and Bryan really liked my letter. However, the bottle of champagne the restaurant brought us – plus the tequila shots in the lobby later, made for one interesting “ceremony” on the beach. Use your imagination.

On Saturday, Jeff, Danielle and I headed for the Mayan ruins of Tulum. I am glad that the kids stayed behind with the other adults – because that place is hotter than the surface of the sun. The sunshine did finally came out that day – and in FULL FORCE. But we really enjoyed the guide’s discussion of Mayan culture. I bought a book for further reading, and I will be sure to do another post about all the interesting things I find out. One thing I will note, is that the Mayan’s calendar resets itself on December 25, 2012 – when all the planets are in perfect alignment and a large asteroid revisits the earth. We are already discussing Christmas in the Riviera Maya for that year.

Sunday, we had a wonderful beach day. Beach, beach, beach because the sun was out, out, out. I snapped photos like crazy that day – sparking water and happy faces everywhere. We pushed back dinner so we could take sun setting photos, too. Of course, that is when I sprained my ankle – so the day did not end on a high note. Have I mentioned that, in my attempt to protect my precious camera, I gave Jenny a split lip? (…as in, I slammed the camera into her face to avoid an incoming wave). Poor thing. Luckily it didn’t swell up like my ankle did.

Danielle accompanied me to the medical clinic, partly because she is totally the good friend and partly because she is fluent in Spanish. We made quite a pair – she in her bikini and me in my sarong. Apparently we were ogled quite a bit, but I didn’t really notice through the haze of pain. The doc looked me over, said it was either a sprain or break, gave me some strong anti-inflammatory drugs, some crutches… and sent me on my merry way. The pain and swelling was pretty bad that night, so we laid low. I didn’t quite know how to use the crutches but a kindly, but nosy, lady at dinner was sure to inform me how wrongly I was using them.

For our last day, we all hung at the beach all day and Declan even took his nap there on a beach chair. Cap was kind enough to go early in the morning and reserve a spot right off the boardwalk so I only had to hop through the sand a short distance to plop down for the rest of the day.

Bryan was finally able to kayak this day (the held people back from kayaking due to the weather), so he jumped on the chance and went out to sea. Also, since Cap and Jenny are experienced sailors, the took out Hobie Cats a few times – so they were able to get out beyond the swimming boundary and see the coastline as well.

The only bad thing that happened on our final day was somehow I missed a sunscreen application for Declan – and he was unwilling to come out of the water for more than one minute… so he got a pretty bad sunburn on the lower part of his arm. Yes, with blisters and everything. I feel like total shit about it, especially seeing as we work in skin cancer prevention. But he is taking it like a trooper and it is healing really quickly. Phew.

As for food, we ate like crazy and had dessert with pretty much every meal. We joked when we got home that I would need a piña colada IV drip to help me through that rough withdrawal period.

The only other hiccup was somehow one of our bags didn’t make it into the van for the ride back to the Cancun airport. After much arguing (all done by Danielle, the only one fluent in Spanish, poor thing), the tour company put the bag in a taxi and it arrived literally one minute before we had to get through security. Of course, once we got through security (extra speedily due to the wheelchair I was in, I might add), the plane was a bit late and we sat in the un-airconditioned airport for a while. The kids did get a bit cranky by this point – but who could blame them? But once we got on the plane, both slept and we made it home with no further incident.

Overall, it was a fantastic vacation and I can’t wait to post all the photos to show you. OK, I couldn’t let it go without at least ONE photo! Here is a pic right before I busted up my ankle. Well worth the injury, I think.

Riu Palace Las Americas - Luxury All-Inclusive Cancun
Dec 2017

Riu Palace Las Americas Cancun: Luxury All-Inclusive For Adults Only

Note: Riu Hotels provided my stay, however all words and photos are mine.

I saved my fave for last with my Cancun resort reviews of the year. I really enjoyed my stay at Riu Palace Las Americas, an adults-only paradise on the north side of the hotel zone. Slightly smaller than its sister property, the Riu Peninsula, I liked how the Las Americas felt more intimate and cozy while still retaining luxury and service.

Review of Riu Palace Las Americas – Cancun, Mexico

Cancun Luxury All-Inclusive Resort - Riu Palace Las Americas

This was my first visit to an adults-only (18+) resort and while I always enjoy the fun when kids are around – it was nice to just relax with less hustle and bustle.

Check-in was a breeze and I found the staff all over the resort to be very helpful and fluent in English – although I tried my best (poor) Spanish when I could.

Cancun Luxury All-Inclusive Resort - Riu Palace Las Americas

Cancun Luxury All-Inclusive Resort - Riu Palace Las Americas Continue reading…

Riu Palace Peninsula Cancun - Hotel Review
Nov 2017

Hotel Riu Palace Peninsula Review: Luxury and Ease in Cancun

Note: Riu Hotels provided my stay, however all words and photos are mine.

Hotel Riu Palace Peninsula - Cancun Resort Travel

I was lucky enough to add a day at the beginning and end of my recent trip to Tulum to visit Cancun for the first time – and two Riu resorts: The Riu Palace Peninsula and the Riu Palace Las Americas, which I will cover in another post.

I know – it’s crazy that we often visit Mexico and I have never been to this hub, right? What I discovered is how EASY it is from Denver. I got early morning direct flights to Cancun, a quick shuttle ride and I was on the beach by mid-afternoon.

I’ll be honest, Cancun has always intimidated me because of its “party” reputation. We, of course, like to have fun and go out a lot … but we aren’t interested in an insanely wild location (usually, ha). Maybe during Spring Break Cancun is a bit different, but I found the Riu hotels we visited to be exactly what I was looking for. Luxury for adults-only, on the beach, with good food and amenities – plus a nice, friendly atmosphere.

Hotel Riu Palace Peninsula - Cancun Resort Travel Continue reading…