Arepa Barn – Gluten Free Heaven

Allergen-free eating on the road, food, musings, Travel, wyoming

note: this restaurant closed in 2018

ArepaBarn

It is rare in this part of the world to find a restaurant that is catered to a specific type of regional food. Though it is increasing and improving with Thai, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Mexican, Chinese, Korean etc. becoming more and more common in Colorado. However, an hour North, into the Wyoming landscape, there is less and less diversity and more and more meat and potatoes.

This diet has served the people of Wyoming well for the last 150 years or so. It meant survival and energy to get through tough summers and tougher winters. Yet, as time marches on, more needs and tastes are requested and the landscape becomes that of new needs and peoples.

My parent’s recently stumbled upon a certain gem of Casper, Wyoming. The Arepa Barn in Casper, Wyoming is a beautiful story of an immigrant family from Venezuela sharing their passion for food in a local eatery. On top of the restaurant being a fantastic reflection of Venezuelan eats the entire place is Gluten Free!

 

Having an entirely Venezuelan restaurant us a great treat in most of the United States, having one that is completely Gluten Free, or any restaurant that is totally Gluten Free, is a divine treat.

I visited this temple to Gluten Free eats last weekend when I was visiting my mom and sidling sibling and I absolutely fell in love. So much so that I had asked my mom to bring me some arepas when she visits on Monday.

All around the dining experience, it ended up being one of the best of my life. I will let my Facebook review do the explanation:

Where does one begin? This was all around one of my favorite dining experiences EVER!
1) The owners were very attentive to our food allergy needs. I have only ever seen that level of care at FINE dining locations in Italy and Mexico!

2) The owners are super sweet and friendly, I felt like I was in someone’s home!

3) The food! OMG the food was so good. Every last morsel was devoured at our table. Arepas are their own treat, but the fried plantains, soup, and rice and beans took everything beyond. I can’t speak highly enough of how good everything was. It was 100% fresh and made to order, making it even better than I good have dreamed of.

4) ALL of their food is Gluten Free! And you would have no idea because it doesn’t taste gluten free! As someone with celiac, this was such a treat, and a rare occasion where I could order anything off the menu.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved it and if you head to Casper, Wyoming stop by and have one of the best meals of your lives! They not only cater to celiacs, but they offer vegan, vegetarian, and plenty of meat options for anyone’s preferences.

Location: 1040 N Center St, Casper, WY 82601

Website: click here

Facebook: click here

Happy Eats!

Adventure of the Week – Omaha Zoo

adventure of the week, Nebraska, Travel, United States

On my recent adventure to the midwest I had a fun blend of road trip and train journey across 1000 miles, each way, of prairie…..and….prairie. Some may argue it’s plains, but either way you cut it, it ends up being a whole lot of grass, corn, straight rows, and small towns. Not to mention a few cow poop smelling sections near feed lots.

All I have to say is thank you engineers and scientists for cruise control and thank you oh wise zoologists of the last 100 years for placing a zoo in the middle of it.

Located in Omaha, Nebraska the Henry Doorly Zoo is by far one of the best zoos in the country, and absolutely one of the best in the world. Due to their investments, resources, creativity and dedication they have created a zoo that creates lasting memories for visitors that is unparalleled to other zoos.

For instance, I remember stopping at said zoo in about 2003 and being completely blown away at it, even if I was a snotty teen.

The zoo has changed little in the last 15 years, but it still remains an innovative and moving network of habitats that brings out the mystified kid in all of us.

My favorite, this journey happened to be the charming penguins who literally came up to the glass to nod heads with my fellow travelers, an 11 and 4 year old, who felt they both had nice chats with the friendly penguins.

Other highlights included the indoor rainforest with plenty of bats, otters, frogs, and pygmy hippos. The gorilla habitat offered plenty of entertainment with the massive creatures storming by visitors.  Finally, the cat house offered oohhhs and ahhhs at majestic clawed beasts lounging in the afternoon shade.

 

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Must Love Mexico…

mexico, musings

We, as Americans, have a distorted view of our Southern neighbor. Mind you it’s not just one Southern neighbor but a chain of diverse and exquisite countries. Culturally we lump them into a pile.

I read this quote from the late Anthony Bourdain that really struck me:

“Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes [and] look after our children…

Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people — as we sure employ a lot of them . . .

We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we,” as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them — and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films…

So why don’t we love Mexico?”

To Bourdain’s point on one hand we openly embrace tacos, tequila, and tortilla. We love wearing sombreros and mustaches on Cinco de Mayo. We love sugar skulls around Halloween. We love speaking Spanglish to movies and friends. We use wonky “Mexican” accents to mock and make humor. We don’t mind vacationing on their beaches and visiting their monuments.

Yet, when it comes to the people, we care less.

When it comes to the insensitive nature of our cherry picked love affair, we care less about the people and more about our personal advantages.

The fact that we are tearing families apart at the border is a prime example of this. Yet it breathes to deeper racist roots. It breathes of a deep history in this country of people being torn apart. Maybe the face was a slave master. Maybe the face was an oppressive native reeducation.

Today, the face is the newly implemented “no tolerance” policies for families seeking asylum, backed by Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump. Another outreach of a culture that prays on the vulnerable to make a point, to spin a political fire storm. It’s an act to discourage people from coming, an act that has likely not reached the hundreds of people fleeing for their lives across borders, thousands of miles north from the home they know.

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For decades undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and other Latin American countries, have been coming to this country. Once here they are often treated with distrust, hatred, and spitefulness. Yet, they are the ones that are picking our food, raising our children, building our homes, and they are active members of our society.

Around 50% of undocumented immigrants pay taxes, their children are educated with “our” children, their children go onto college and build lucrative careers. In fact, there is ample evidence to show that immigrants maybe participate more in our economy than those that are native born or with native born parents.

Still, we have no problem kicking the most vulnerable when they are already down.

Documented immigrants, refugees (asylum seekers) included (like the ones being separated at the border) are also part of the fray.

We rarely differentiate in our attitude. The other question is, should it matter how these children and others got here if they are desperate? Should they be treated this poorly by border officials? Are they not all people?

Ignorance, hatred, and racism asks questions on “WHERE is someone from?” “Are you here legally?” “Why don’t you speak English?”. Often all brown people from another land are looked on as lesser, as a burden, as someone taking. Even though ample evidence shares a different story.

This attitude stretches far beyond how we see those in the Americas.


When we visit the southern land(s) we often stay on fenced resorts, only venturing into the unknown for shopping or monuments. We rarely delve beyond a veiled surface to understand whose land we walk on. I am also guilty of this.

When we visit Mexico we don’t bother much to speak Spanish, and we demand that others speak English. When they visit us, or move here, we use slurs and condemn. We expect, once again, for English to be used.

We don’t mind using the land, the inexpensive vacations, the tasty food. We don’t mind the cheap labor and the exploitative nature of Colonialism. It’s for the benefit of Americans, so it must be okay. Right?

Yet the problems that cause people to flee, and beg for sanctuary, are related to our own bad choices. We directly perpetuate the drug cartels power in Latin countries due to our consumption of illicit substances. Even our heroin problem can be traced to cartels losing out on cannabis profits and flooding the markets with cheap heroin.

Yet, even though we are active participants, and problem makers in the system, we close the door and pretend the desperate masses are just not there. We have done it for years, and as far back as 2013 we were housing children that were running from cartels independently. Yet, this new wave is meant to punish the most vulnerable, and exploit the voiceless for vile policies, all pawns in a political power struggle.

When we have a leader that speaks about these peoples with such distaste, it’s easy to see that this feeling has deeper roots than “just a few haters”. In fact, the leader of the United States actively campaigned on this hatred, and building a wall, and he fucking won over it. So is it honestly a surprise that he has no problem vilifying and traumatizing desperate families?


I end with this question: if you dealt with the horrors that many of those fleeing North do, would you stay put? Would you allow your child to be killed by a cartel? Would you stand by while your wife was threatened? Would you want your children to possibly end up in these cartels?

I guarantee most of you would run if given the chance, because the small glimmer of hope in a distant land, is far better than no hope at all.

mustLoveMexico

Mexico Adventure- Sandos Caracol Eco Resort

Caribbean, love, mexico, Travel

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For our honeymoon in December we selected something a little different from the norm. We decided to ditch the high-end resort and head to something that felt more authentic to the country we were visiting. This meant that we wanted somewhere that offered plenty of activities, but also an embracing quality of celebrating the regional offerings in a caring and thoughtful way.

We selected Sandos Caracol Eco Resort for these reasons. The resort, as the name indicates, is an Eco resort, meaning it has made a consorted effort to reduce its waste and impact on the environment without sacrificing the resort. Sandos Caracol is a fantastic example of what I hope to see in resorts in the coming years. Over water bottles they have replaced everything with massive jugs of water. Over straws they just serve everything in cups. Over just trash, they offer recycling everywhere in the resort. For food, everything but a few options was served on reusable plates and with reusable cutlery. The resort has instead of ripping out the natural mangrove and water ways, it has built up to work with the jungle.

In addition to respecting the natural environment, which it teaming with birds, coati, monkeys, lizards, and sterilized feral cats; the resort offers a glimpse into the life and times of those that lived in the region before colonialism. They do this in multiple ways, including the Dance performances held several times a week. Sandos Caracol has sprinkled elements of indigenous culture throughout with statues, placards explaining beliefs and rituals, morning rituals celebrating different elements, and by building in a way that respects the features of the area. For instance, the resort has its own cenote in the center of the resort, in which visitors can snorkel and enjoy, but also be reminded of how these almost majestic fresh water features really sustained the Maya for centuries. These same systems provide most of the drinking water to these communities even today! All of this combines into a thoroughly enjoyable experience for visitors to the resort. You would literally never have to leave the resort if you didn’t want to. As an all-inclusive all the food and alcohol is included so there is no need to worry about the basics. Rooms are comfortable and welcoming. Restaurants and rooms are air conditioned. The resort is so shaded with natural trees and vegetation that nowhere gets super hot or uncomfortable. Then the beach has plenty of trees and shaded areas to keep pasty me happy. We upgraded our stay to an adults only area. This gave us beach cabanas, a private clubhouse with snacks and a bar, and a more calm part of the beach. It also meant our room was in a more secluded area of the resort, an area that we could listen to animals, and truly just enjoy our time in peace and some seclusion.

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Added bonuses to the resort:

  • It’s wonderfully walkable, meaning you get some exercise to burn off the alcohol.

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  • It’s only a maximum of about 10 minutes to the beach from any place in the resort.

 

 

  • You can snorkel in fresh or salt water.

 

 

  • They have their own resort dogs, Mexican hairless dogs, that were revered and loved by the Maya. They’re very friendly and cute!

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  • There is plenty of outdoor and romantic dining, creating a truly memorable experience.

 

 

 

    • They have a ceremonial area that’s hidden in the resort, one for sweat lodge experiences, and another for outdoor celebrations. Both are fascinating.

 

  • Everyone that works at the resort is warm, welcoming, and a delight to speak with. Take a few minutes to get to know some of their story, where they are from, and why they work at the resort.

 

 

  • Beyond traditional performances, they had more modern events such as a Michael Jackson night, superheroes night, and other events.

 

 

 

 

  • After their nightly shows, the resort does karaoke events, brings in local bands, or simply offers an enjoyable vibe throughout.
  • They have their own small water park, that is kid friendly, and then full of slides for the older kids….ahem…adults.
  • The beach, while a little rocky, is also full of wildlife such as tropical fish.
  • They have an odd assortment of rescue animals that hang out at the resort in friendly digs. This includes parrots, chickens, donkeys, pigs, rabbits, and probably some other friends I am forgetting.

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Adventure of the Week – A Mountain Wedding

documentary, musings, Photography, wedding

I’m a little late in posting this, but it always takes longer to edit photos than I plan. However, it’s worth the wait when you get such beauties like these:

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It helps that this couple was very loving and fun to be around. Their humor, and adoration made their shoot a comfortable and beautiful one that the results speak for themselves.

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I love photographing couples that I know a little bit too, these two grew up with my younger siblings, so knowing them and being around their vibrant personalities allowed me to create a charming collection of photos.

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Happy Happy!

THANK YOU BEN AND CASEY BECKER

Location: Shining Mountain Golf Course

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Traveling Sick

Travel

This is a fun topic than I know more than I ever expected to. Inevitably I get sick or someone in my family gets sick with a virus, stomach ache, or other annoyance. It’s part of life.

Traveling also means exposure to new germs, and viruses, and bacteria, that our bodies are not immune or adjusted to handle. It can mean annoying colds, at times it has meant stomach issues, and other times it is allergies. My trip to Europe in 2013 ended in me coming home with whooping cough.

  • Fun tip, you should get a booster whooping cough shot in your late teens or early 20s!

Regardless of how annoying it is and frustrating, I have come up with a few tips and ideas to avoid and treat the bugs of life.

  1. Bring wet wipes and hand sanitizer
    • I don’t want to contribute to the superbug problem, BUT for public areas such as planes, trains, buses, etc. it is a good idea to wipe down surfaces to get rid of lingering bugs.
    • Additional tip, these are life savers in case of a child puke party, as I learned a month ago.
  2. Plastic Bags
    • Also in case of puke parties, this is helpful with the clean up!
  3. Cough Drops
    • My favorite is Ricolla, as they are ideal for soar throats and some even have vitamins that are meant to improve the immune system. I’m not sure how accurate that claim is, but they do help with the throat and cough issues.
  4. Day Cold and Night Cold Medicine
    • Carrying a few packs of each of these can make a huge difference if an illness sneaks up on you.
  5. Allergy Medicine
    • If you are traveling in Spring and Fall, this helps immensely with pollen and dust that can irritate your system. My first trip to London I couldn’t breath due to plant life, and broke out in a rash all over my face, a little allergy medicine cleaned up the disaster and got me on with my travels.
  6. Stomach Medicine
    • I learned two things in Mexico my last trip:
      1. That I am totally okay with the food, water, and different bugs in Playa Del Carmen. However, my dear husband was not.
      2. Laxative is REALLY expensive in Mexico. Especially when bought at a resort.
    • The takeaway is that you should bring some stuff from home, just in case. Also, if you can find a local pharmacy, learn some of the local language to find what you need. Also, many people speak at least a  little English in popular American tourist locations. You’ll save a lot of money too!
  7. Translation Guide
    • To wedge into the last comment, this goes for any medicine you may need or anything else. Having some translation book, or the handy Google app makes life a lot easier to navigate language barriers.
    • Did you know that in some countries, like Italy, there is always a doctor on duty that can help employees find the medicine they need for their symptoms. If you can find one of these, life will be much easier!
    • My favorite story was in Rome, where I went into a pharmacy for tampons. I was at the counter and ready to pay when the woman looks at me, grabs my hand, and walked me to a display of mineral sunscreen. She announces “Blanca! Blanca!” and stuck the SPF 50+ in my hand. Maybe she had a sixth sense, because I DID need sunscreen, but couldn’t figure out the wording until someone pointed it out.
  8. Tissues and Comforts
    • I bring tissues with me regardless on if I will need them. ESPECIALLY with children around, you never know when you will need a makeshift napkin or something to clean with.
    • Sometimes a blanket and travel pillow can make a world of difference on a long trip and the need of something to relax with.
  9. Face Mask
    • I know our culture (Western that is) has not fully adopted this trend, but if you are sick and worried about being contagious, wear a mask. This is especially considerate if you are going to be sitting in a confined space where others can catch your cough germs.

 

Happy Travels!

sicktravel

Ditching Disposables When Traveling

Allergen-free eating on the road, Environment, food, musings, Travel

If you have been paying attention to much news, you know our plastic use is becoming a serious problem. Not only is it already a pollutant that doesn’t break down, but its becoming increasingly hard to recycle. For 20 years China has been taking plastics from the United States, and other counties like New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Yet, starting this year, there is no more plastic being purchased by China, which means there is a fuck ton, literally, of plastic with nowhere to go.

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With plastic not as easy to recycle, our culture and consumerism is facing the reality that we have way more plastic than we can handle. There are several reasons for this, plastic is often more expensive to recycle and reuse, than getting new oil. There is a problem in that we move plastic around the world before turning it into something, which when a main market is closing its doors, means that we’re dealing with trying to find new markets to reuse and produce. Then there is the blame on consumers, where most of the plastic sent to be recycled is dirty, smelly, and problematic. Learn more here. The other big issue is that amount of pollution this waste has created for China, which is part of the reason it has closed its doors.

Whatever the political dynamics are present, we have to cut down on our plastic use. SERIOUSLY CUT DOWN ON OUR PLASTIC USE. That means in every element of our lives, we need to reduce our waste. This very much includes when we travel.

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I am taking a road trip through the weekend, and my goal is to use the least amount of disposable items possible. This means a level of planning ahead so that I have items to reduce my waste. Here are my tips to reduce my mess, and trash, and to do my part on the plastic problem.

  1. Water Bottle
    • Most people don’t know this, but you can usually ask at a restaurant or gas station (with a soda fountain) that also has a water dispenser to refill for no cost.
    • As a back up, look for drinking fountains and as a last resort use a bathroom sink (make sure this is not marked as non-potable).
  2. Coffee Mug
    • You may be able to use a combo water bottle/mug but otherwise having a reusable mug is great for your morning needs.
    • When visiting a Starbucks of Dunkin Donuts, or your local mom and pop, just tell them you have a reusable cup. Even in a drive through I have yet to have a coffee shop bulk, and often they are happy to give you the refill price over a full price.
  3. Reusable Containers
    • Invest in some collapsable ones so that they take up less space! These are great for on the go pastries, full dishes, sandwiches, snacks and anything else you may want. It’s bad enough that most food is in plastic of some sort, why not reduce it’s plastic waste by at least half?
    • This is also a great way to make sure you pack some food so that you reduce eating out and expenses.
  4. Reusable Straws
    • If you feel like you need a straw, or some people just need them, then the more common and popular metal or plastic washable straws are excellent options.

What are your reusable favorites? My next steps are reusable plastic wraps made with beeswax!

Happy Travels!

ditching-disposables

NOTE: In some countries around the world you CANNOT drink the tap water, thus please keep this in mind when traveling.

Losing Bourdain

documentary, Florida, food, geek, italy, mexico, musings, new mexico, Scotland, Travel

I started watching Anthony Bourdain in No Reservations when I was a teenager. He had a wit about him, and an elegant but no nonsense means of writing about the world. He sucked me into his journeys in Ireland or Kenya and he did everything from drinking cow’s blood in Kenya to vegetarian dishes in India with humor, grace, and intelligence.

Bourdain moved through the world as something of an enigma. He was fully engaged with his location, yet he had a distance, a perspective, an observer’s mind as he met people and filmed a story. He existed in and out of the scene all at once, which made for a compelling look into his mind and craft.

Sure, he condemned vegetarians and Colorado, both which are near to my heart, but I forgave the grumpy uncle figure that could WRITE.

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He could WRITE. Bourdain pieced together vignettes that made the viewer stop and think, or day dream, or question their perspective on the world. He spun tales and myths and legend on his own that no one dared question. They were eloquent and smart, thick with descriptors and layers of thought and depth that many of his peers could never match.

I loved watching Bourdain in his element, elbows deep in meat and alcohol, talking with a local chef about the importance of animal innards to make distinct flavors and dishes. Bourdain was a compelling force, a person that could not be tamed or cut down, he just existed, and he shared with the world what that looked like.

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you.” 

Adventure of the Week – Lory State Park

adventure of the week, colorado, Colorado Events, family, musings, Travel

One of my absolute favorite locations in Northern Colorado is the easily accessible and very beautiful Lory State Park. For $7 a day or $70 for an annual pass, Lory and many Colorado State Parks offer a fantastic adventure into our natural spaces. While I adore having Rocky Mountain National Park in my backyard, it is often very crowded in the summer months and three times the drive to access it. Thus, for closer hikes and yearnings of the outdoors, I stick with Lory.

The park offers a dozen trails for exploring a variety of ecosystems, natural features, and wildlife viewing. My personal favorite is the Well-Gulch trail that offers a great moderate hiking experience, with some of the best views in the area.

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Plan for an hour to hike, and an hour to drive from Fort Collins. If you have the time, take a whole day to explore the area.

Happy Travels!

<blockquote class=”instagram-media” data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-permalink=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BXjLeWtHRd8/&#8221; data-instgrm-version=”8″ style=” background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% – 2px); width:calc(100% – 2px);”>

<p style=” margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;”> <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BXjLeWtHRd8/&#8221; style=” color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;” target=”_blank”>Today's after work #adventure meant heading to #lorystatepark finding some beautiful view + two friendly toads #colorado #fortcollins #horsetoothreservoir #foco #hikingcolorado 🌄🌲🐸🌿</a></p> <p style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;”>A post shared by <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/beccaleephoto/&#8221; style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;” target=”_blank”> Rebecca Lee Robinson</a> (@beccaleephoto) on <time style=” font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;” datetime=”2017-08-08T22:32:00+00:00″>Aug 8, 2017 at 3:32pm PDT</time></p></div></blockquote> //www.instagram.com/embed.js

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Mexico Adventures – Mayan Dance

Caribbean, mexico, musings, Travel

Welcome to my newest series of blogs on my travels in Mexico. I hope to expand on my stories soon, but for now we will focus on the Yucatan and Cozumel.

My husband and I had a fantastic time on our honeymoon, and we selected a fantastic blend of local culture, beach, and romance. Our selection was the Sandos Caracol Eco Resort just north of Playa Del Carmen, which turned out to be an ideal blend for our two travel styles.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the resort was the attempt to respect and nurture the local indigenous culture. The area that is home to the resort was once sacred to the Maya due to its location in a mangrove forest. Well, or so the resort legends tell. Regardless, the resort has features throughout that celebrate Maya culture, art, ceremonies, and animals.

One aspect I appreciated the most were the series of dance performances that they held throughout the week. I enjoyed not only the story aspect that celebrated the Maya, but also the insane talent that the performer had through dance, music, and presence. It was a real treat, that left the audience mesmerized at the skill and beauty.

Here is a short video on just how phenomenal the performances were.

Happy Travels!

Read more on Mexico: Chichen Itza, Seven Wonders of the WorldHoneymoon Planning for Opposites,

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