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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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.” 

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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Packing for the Unpredictable

Caribbean, Cruising, Florida, Ireland, italy, mexico, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, wyoming

Colorado winters overlap with spring in an unusual way. This week has gone from 70° to 25° and everywhere in between. Today it is snowing. It’s April 6, 2018 and it’s snowing.

I try to not get discouraged on these wintery days, after all we need the moisture and the snow has a charm to it. Yet, I do wish it was rain instead of the ice and freezing cold. It also reminds me of the importance of clothing with unpredictable weather patterns. While I have lived my whole life in the Colorado and I am fully aware of wacky weather, I have also been the victim of my own poor planning.  Therefore, it’s imperative that one puts together smart outfits for the unpredictable.

Here are the things I never leave home without:

  • Long pants or jeans
    • You never know when the weather will get cold, especially in the evening, even in tropical areas. Also, if you plan on any outdoor sports of hiking, long pants help with mud, cuts, and other facts of the journey.
  • Hoodie/Sweater
    • Every trip I have taken, whether a warm or cold climate, my hoodie comes in handy. I may not use it everyday, but when airport air-conditioning is too high, or a cold snap hits in Mexico, I am so thankful that I have it.
  • Sandals
    • Depending on how you travel, I have found sandals are a must have. For instance, going through airport security is easier when shoes slip on and off. If I want an impromptu visit to a swimming pool, I’m covered. Finally, if you are hosteling or staying at a number of places with a shared bathroom, sandals make trips down the hall much easier. My personal favorites are Birkenstocks or Chaco’s
  • A nice outfit
    • maybe someone will ask you on a date, or to a club. Or maybe you will want to dine at a fine restaurant. Research what seems appropriate for where you may go, and pack for it. I strongly believe it’s hard to be over dressed (okay maybe a ball gown is too much) so bring something pretty, easy to keep clean/wrinkle free, and a good pair of dress shoes.
  • Boots/Water Resistant Shoes
    • Rain, mud, and floods happen. Maybe I have bad luck, but I have always have had a need for something water resistant on my feet. Make sure you research what you may need, because warm monsoons in India are going to be far different from Spring showers in London.
  • Umbrella
    • I have lost, broken, and bought endless numbers of umbrellas. My biggest issue was not buying a high quality umbrella to deal with the torrential downpours that sometimes hit Scotland in January. My advice is that you should buy the best umbrella you can find and treasure it. Also, sometimes it’s better to just get wet than fight with gale-force winds.
  • Jogging pants, not pajama pants
    • If you don’t plan to do a normal workout routine, then I suggest you bring some warm and comfy jogging pants. These make life more comfortable, and are warmer when evenings get cold. While pajama pants are nice, jogging pants create much needed warmth, especially in winter and spring. Same goes for them as the hoodie, sometimes air conditioning and cold snaps freeze one out. Extra plush makes the day better.
  • Leggings
    • This rule is maybe not for men, or maybe, you do you. Leggings are my go to for flights, and extra layers in the cold. On flights they are more comfortable if you swell like I do with flights. Leggings are also great backups if your other pants are dirty, and they are usually easier to clean in a sink than a pair of jeans.
  • Reusable Shopping Bag
    • It sounds silly, but seriously invest in a shopping bag that is easy to fold up and stuff in a pocket or purse. This is a major convenience as more and more countries have moved from giving out plastic or disposable bags. So having a bag for shopping, or even just to lug around laundry, water bottles, snacks etc. is worth it.
  • Backpack or larger purse
    • Now don’t bring a small suitcase, but a day bag or day pack is what is needed for the day to day travels around the city or town. This can hold your water bottle, sun screen, camera, phone, snack, money and other necessities. Ladies, make sure you get a bag with an over shoulder strap. Backpack lovers, maybe carry it in front in busy areas.

What do you not leave home without?

Happy Travels!

unpreditable

Spring Foods from Around the World

europe, History, italy, mexico, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

Have you noticed how with each season come certain holidays and with said holidays comes certain food?

Naturally, this is not purely American (though we tend to take it above and beyond). Other countries in the world celebrate holidays in their own way and with certain dishes. Here are some of my favorite spring treats.

 

North America

  • Easter candy- this is a given, with Easter on its way and the end of lent, food looks mighty tasty that’s full of all the bad stuff you maybe gave up for 6 weeks.

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  • Fruit on everything- Though we live in world with fruit available almost year round, when berry and cherry season arrive everything has a touch of blueberries or cherries to make life more colorful.
  • Meat- pair your fruit and chocolate with some lamb….somehow this makes sense.

South America

Due to the flipping of seasons south of the border, most of South America is entering fall. Here are some of their preferred treats for their Easter Season

  • Easter Bread Ring “rosca de Pascuahas roots in Spain, king of like a King cake in the French tradition, it’s a sweet and tasty bread.

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  • Spanish Fasting Soup “potaje de la vigilia is popular this time of year. The main ingredients are codfish, spinach, and chickpeas.
  • Ceviche is a popular dish in Peru, and that means Easter week it becomes a necessity for home and celebration

Europe

Many of our “American” traditions have European roots; here are some of the better or more surprising foods.

  • German Eggs – This one surprised me on my first trip out of the country. As Germany was my first stop my friends there had received an Easter basket from their landlord. To my surprise, eggs are not refrigerated in Europe before purchase AND sometimes after. So boiled Easter eggs are often just left out for a few days, fully decorated and then consumed. The cool thing about eggs in the shell is that they don’t really rot and eggs don’t rot in general until they are very old or exposed to oxygen.

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  • British- Guess where that odd 1994 Cadbury commercial came from, the Brits. Who make and developed those delicious, sickly sweet fill eggs that are popular this season.
  • Italian- The Italian menu for this holiday moves away form heavy and sweet into fresh and tasty. Though lamb is also common asparagus side dishes are popular, so is an egg and rice soup, and for a finish many enjoy Columba cake.

Asia

With the seasons come new foods, and Asian cuisine is all about embracing what is fresh and seasonal. Many parts of China and into Korea love to eat dumplings starting from Lunar New Year into the summer as a hearty cold weather treat and for traditions around the food. Here are some other tasty treats.

  • Japanese- As blossoms and spring plant life leads to many spring traditions in Japan, they whole-heartedly embrace it with their food. Mochi with cherry blossom leaves are common, strawberries don many treats, and mugwort comes into popularity in mochi and other treats.

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  • Chinese- Asparagus stir-fries with beef, vegetable pot stickers, and lamb when available.
  • Southeast Asia- Much of this region does not have the seasons that we associate with in the west, but that doesn’t mean some food is not seasonal. Thai Basil is popular to make refreshing drinks as temperatures rise. Rice paper spring rolls, served cool make for a crisp treat with a tasty sauce and shrimp. Indonesian cuisine embraces fried crispy spring rolls full of tasty veggies and light meats.

Australia

While food in Australia is not too obscure for the holiday, and while they are very British culturally, Australia has their chocolate eggs, hot cross buns etc. BUT in Australia instead of a bunny bringing treats, kids get a visit from a Bilby…

Bilby critters are nocturnal insect, snake- eating rodent things, with giant claws. It’s really not any weirder than someone making up a rabbit that leaves/lays eggs. So while the food is not too weird, I leave you with the Bilby.

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AMENDED March 19, 2018

So I actually asked a friend about the Bilby, he is from Australia and said they have the Easter bunny in Australia and that the Bilby is a new twist on the classic. Maybe, just maybe to confuse foreigners.

 

Happy Travels!

 

Spring Break—Better!

Caribbean, Florida, mexico, musings, Travel

I used to dream of taking Spring Break to some wild party in Florida or the Caribbean, with muscular college boys and an age 18 drinking age. Then I went to said parties in college and I realized, this is not fun.

It’s not fun because it’s a constant drink-vomit-drink-make bad choices- drink…..you get my point.

While MTV glorified the Spring Break in the 90s and early 2000s while I I grew up. I began realizing that it was all for TV, and had nothing to do with the real drama or problems that arise out of a bunch of horny, wild teens and 20-somethings believing they have no repercussions.

Anyway, as an adult, a full 27 years into my life (at least I play an adult most days), I have realized that if you have the chance to Spring Break there are a few choices that should be made to make it better.

By all means, go off to Miami and get crazy, but make sure you tell you mom you love her, and that you buy a giant box of condoms and a case of bottled water. Just be safe dear friends and children.

OR stay around and enjoy the college traffic dwindling in your town, and take local hikes with no people. OR head to a small local town and get to know new people, I can share a few in Colorado and Wyoming if you would like. OR read some books you have been intending to, while drinking at a new coffee place each day. If you are young and needing a break, take a break for something that brings you real joy, not for something that others tell you to.

 

No fun in this mess.

I think that our culture informs us at a young age that a “party” or “wild night” is the begin all end all for fun as an older teen or 20-something, but the truth is that most parties suck. Most parties end in tears, if we’re being honest, there is a point where your friend is puking in a toilet for the 10th time in a week, and you are the only one sober enough to make good decisions that you realize that there is no “fun” in this mess.

Therefore, as mentioned above, bring yourself bliss and happiness and forget what MTV had to say about it. Bliss and happiness can mean eating at your favorite brunch place, or visiting your grandma. Maybe it’s an alternative spring break where you clean someone’s house or simply visit a retirement community with a basket of kittens. (The last one sounds like my virtual heaven)

Just get out there and be good to you, find what move you, don’t make your liver cry, make good choices. Be loving in your actions.

Happy Travels!

Chichen Itza

Caribbean, History, mexico, Travel
 If you read my last post you know that I went to Chichen Itza recently, as a part of my journey through the Seven Wonders of the World. I am sitting at 2 out of seven and feeling pretty good about getting tot he other five eventually.

However, I want to expand on my journey through Chichen Itza as it was a really remarkable day and I highly recommend spending the time to visit if you find yourself in the Yucatan or Mayan Peninsula.

I never truly understood why Chichen Itza was considered a wonder of the world until we visited it, and we made the right decision in getting up stupidly early and going with an archeologist as a tour guide.

 

This helped with several parts of our day. First, we beat the heat by getting there early. Second, we beat the general public crowds. Third, we missed some of the harassment from vendors that set up all over the city grounds. Finally, and most importantly, it gave us historical and cultural backgrounds we would have not otherwise learned.

If you have an interest in this tour, click here, it’s through Viator and well worth the price.

We started the day with a somewhat late pickup from our resort, this was the only real issue on the tour, which I am unsure of what happened with it, but it was a minor hiccup that was fixed with a quick phone call.

One downside for my husband was that the van from Playa del Carmen was pretty small for his 6’4″ body, but we survived. However, do note that this will be up to three hours in the van/bus each way. Also, you may bring a hoodie just for the cool weather and/or air conditioning on the bus. This is also a great time to nap! Don’t worry about needing a restroom of food/water, there will be about two stops going and coming back for any needs you may have.

At the complex we met up with our guide/archeologist, Marco, who took us on what felt like a SHORT two hour tour of the main part of the city.

As you walk into the city complex you are met with the grand pyramid, or Castillo Temple that is so iconic. This is where we learned about the sounds that bounce through the temple creating a whistling like a bird, which changes in pitch and volume from where you stand and listen or clap. To the east of this is a remarkable temple that makes a rattle snake noise (tail rattling) when you clap at a certain angle.

All of this is meant to represent and celebrate Kukulkan, the feathered serpent man-god that meant so much to the Maya culture. They also, at this time in the culture, practiced human sacrifice to appease the god(s) through blood offerings where hearts were ripped form chests while still beating, and  backs were broken before being drowned. (This really isn’t so different from gladiator games, public hangings, warfare etc.)

From there we toured buildings set up for the king of this specific city-state and the intricate measures that were taken for the rulers and nobility. For instance, a king was never allowed to touch the ground, so there are no steps from his throne room at the ball field and other areas that reach the ground. Instead, the noble was transported on a Litter.

In addition to being blown away by just the scale of the buildings more auditory wonders came into play. For instance, at the ball field, for the Mesoamerican Ballgame, they had an auditory system set up where the King could hear conversation from the opposite side of the field.

Maybe you remember it from this movie:

Traditionally, visitors from other tribes and cultures would be placed here, so that the king could listen for any treasonous information or gossip and it’s likely that the visitors had no idea they were being spied on.

Finally, our tour was wrapped up with some free time, around an hour, where we were able to see other buildings that made up the city. We also had to note we were only seeing about 30% of the entire city as much more was closed off for restoration and research. However, it was exciting to explore the city and imagine what it would have looked like with thousands of people milling around. People that were praying, working, selling, cooking, talking and living their lives as people around the world do.

In the other areas of the city we saw what is believed to be an astronomy tower, additional pyramids, and royal complexes that housed people and worked in tandem with their beliefs and rituals.

We learned other snippets as well, like that the Castillo or main pyramid has several pyramids built inside of it and that the Maya would build new things, and burn the old every 52 years or so as a rebirth cycle with their calendar. Additionally, the majority of the city would have been painted in lush, vibrant colors, specifically red made from paprika or cochineal.

While many people jump on the bandwagon that the Maya were supernatural or even in touch with a greater power, I have to encourage additional research and thought. It’s easy to come up and write off ideas as beyond this world, it’s harder to do the research and actually learn where, what, when and how things came together. Pretending that an alien or outside entity must have created these marvels writes off people that fall into a minority as somehow unable to build such remarkable things. Which is complete garbage. These empires and cultures from the Americas lived in the same complex cultures and identities that Europeans held onto. While they looked, spoke, and existed differently, their mores, taboos, and livelihoods were very similar and equally important. There are also endless wonders in the Americas, some of which are just being discovered.

Anyway, get out, explore, be amazed!

Seven Wonders of the World

History, italy, mexico, Travel
The “new” Seven Wonders of the World are not exactly “new” in any sense of the world. In fact the list makes up wonders and beautiful creations from cultures and peoples in the past. Which maybe makes them more impressive and engaging than if it were a list of mega stadiums and mansions from today. Not that engineering feats from the last 100 years are not important or impressive, but there is something whimsical and magical about those buildings that were created for a purpose centuries before we had cranes, automobiles. trains and other modern technologies that make building significantly easier.
What inspires me is that I am slowly, but surely, marking locations off of the list and I currently stand at two out of seven in my 26 years on planet earth. With two being seen in the last four and a half years! #killingIt
The list is as follows:
1. The Great Wall of China- China
2. Christ the Redeemer- Brazil
3. Machu Picchu- Peru
4. Chichen Itza- Mexico
5. The Roman Colosseum- Italy
6. Taj Mahal- India
7. Petra- Jordan
 
So far I have been able to visit 4 and 5 on my adventures and they have been nothing short of remarkable!
My first visit was in the summer of 2013 to The Roman Colosseum on my study abroad in Italy, where….well when in Rome, I had to take an absurd photo.
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The Colosseum was one of those odd locations where when you are fully aware of the blood and sacrifice that went into the stones you are standing on, it’s kind of eerie. This is also true for location five…
However, The Roman Colosseum is a fantastic gateway int the history of the region, especially when paired with the Roman forum which offers a full explanation on the life and times of the nobility in Rome. Besides the fact that the Colosseum was used for a bloody display of “sport” it is also an engineering marvel. Beyond that, did you know that the majority of the damage has nothing to do with time and wear over two millenia? Instead it is a reflection of thievery and people stealing materials in the middle ages, renaissance and into the 19th century for new buildings and moments. Which is pretty damn cool, and impressive that their skills and abilities have stood so greatly through the test of time.
Additionally, it is a part of Rome that is impossible to miss, a testament to the vastness and power of the Roman Empire, and the eternal city, showing the strength of the empire at its height. 
However, like all great things, they come to an end eventually. Which also brings us to Chichen Itza. 
Chichen Itza was found by Western explorers in the 19th century covered in jungle and abandoned for centuries.  Here it is in the 1890s:
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Due to being covered oh so romantically in greenery, some believed that the Maya people had lived “as one” with the planet and had a somewhat Utopian society. However, upon further research going into the next 100 years it was learned that they in fact had been a society that utilized slash and burn techniques and other methods to clear forests. This meant land for growing crops of corn and beans along with building an extensive road network that connected places like Chichen Itza with the rest of the Maya Empire.
Anyway, not to bore you with too much history, but the reality is that this city and subsequent cities in the area were home to a vast and powerful society. Additionally the use of sound techniques for spying, entertainment, religion and building the entirety of the area with the solar system, equinoxes, and celestial events in mind make it even more exciting. 
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Chichen Itza circa 2017

Naturally, the list of “wows” go on. Such as depictions of North American tribes that were visiting the area, such as the Mohicans. Then, there are mysterious pieces such as a man depicted with a long beard (most Native peoples don’t grow facial hair) and others showing a Star of David. Additionally, the auditory nature of the buildings is still somewhat puzzling and no one is positive how bird whistles and rattle snack sounds could be replicated. These aspects leave more questions than answers, that I look forward to hearing about in the future. 
To wrap up on the Maya, it’s important to remember this city also acted as a sacrificial area to the gods and especially Kukulkan. Many times slaves, prisoners, and even the “strongest” warriors and gamers were sacrificed for the benefit of all people in a bloody removal of organs, or sometimes drowning in a cenote.
Anyway, I’ll share more on Chichen Itza shortly, but I want to mostly say, it’s always a thrill to work through a list of exciting places in the world.
I do believe my next stop will be Peru and Machu Picchu where I am planning to hike the Inca trail and walk in the foot steps of another great civilization.