Relaxing On Turks and Caicos

We finished off our recent get away enjoying the beach in beautiful Turks and Caicos. The water is blue; the sand is white; it was lovely. We stayed at the Windsong Resort right on Grace Bay in a beach front condo.

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If you look carefully, in the back of the picture above, you can see a number of red buoys. They mark off a protected area where the reef is developing. That meant the area around it was wonderful for snorkeling.

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People came from resorts up and down the bay to snorkel at this spot. We’ve seen more colorful coral, but the fish were plentiful, and the MR swam through quite a few schools.

DCIM100GOPRO

The beach attendant said these were yellow-tailed something. I want to say grouper, but that’s probably because I ate it for dinner.

We were also excited to swim with turtles on multiple occasions. One little guy swam up to the surface, peaked at me and swam back down as if to invite me to follow. We were close friends for the next five minutes till he swam away.

DCIM100GOPRO

Stingrays liked to swim through a channel out past the buoys. It was so fun to watch them gracefully moving together totally synchronized. We haven’t quite gone through all of our photos, but I’ll see if we can’t find the stingrays for you.

This is not the place to go for a vibrant nightlife. Our resort was fairly low-key after dark. Our first night, we ate on-site, and the food was good but nothing special. So the other nights, we headed down the beach to restaurants the MR had scouted out on his morning runs.

Kitchen 218 at the Beach House along with Zest and Stelle both of which are at Gansevoort were all quite nice. At Kitchen 218, we were able to choose the fish, the preparation method, and the accompanying sauce. At times, I think I’d rather the chef made all those choices, since he or she knows more about it than I do. Then at Stelle, the beachside restaurant, the waiter led me and the MR over to a boat featuring their freshly caught fish, and we were able to choose. This would be a great opportunity for a family-style meal with a larger group. That’s where we ordered the local delicacy conch—it may be an acquired taste.

While eating our dinner at Zest, we were impressed by the feel of the resort. It was beautiful, refined, and felt very luxurious.

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Most of the restaurants are open air which works out well 90-percent of the time. Our second night, we followed the music to the restaurant at the resort next door, and watched as the large group at the beach-front table grabbed their plates of food and ran to cover.

I watched the sunrise tint the sky on our last morning there and sighed with contentment.

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This is a beautiful place. This is the MR’s favorite beach ever, and we’ve been to quite a few beaches from Nice and Greece, to Roatan and Maui. When we can leave a place as relaxed and refreshed as we were, I do believe we’ll go back.

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What’s your favorite beach destination? 

 

First Stop Miami

Earlier this month, we spent four days in Miami. We enjoy exploring a new city and seeing the sights. Neither of us have spent much time in the South—I don’t think Disney World really counts.

We didn’t know what to expect but were hoping for sunshine and a little heat in the midst of winter. We stayed at The Palms in an area known as “middle beach”. We had a lovely view, and the hotel backed up to the beach board walk. The MR made good use of it jogging in the mornings, and it gave us easy access to “south beach”.

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Our first day, we stumbled upon the Art Deco District setting up for a fair. They have a visitor’s center and tours and all sorts of excitement for the architecture/Art Deco enthusiast. We chose to simply wander about taking in the sights.

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We made sure to visit the everglades. Our tour picked us up at the hotel, and we were off. We’d wondered which direction they’d take us and were surprised to go just outside town to arrive at our destination. Miami appears to be next to (or perhaps in the middle of) a huge swamp.

One of our guides warned us not to try to take a photo next to any of the statues at the park, because they don’t have any statues…

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Apparently, that’s been a bit of a problem. A knee-high fence seperated us from this beasty, but luckily alligators are afraid of humans. The guides explained that most attacks arise from people feeding gators, and thus no longer posing a threat in the animals’ minds. Crocodiles on the otherhand are much bigger and more aggressive.

After a short program, I had the opportunity to hold Snappy. This three-year-old alligator with his mouth bound was still at a manageable stage.

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Then we were off to the fan boats by far my favorite part of the tour.

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The guides give you earplugs as you step on the boat, so you know it’s going to be noisy. But I loved the wind, the spray, the birds in flight, and skimming across the water.

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Alligators need to raise their bodies to a certain temperature in order to digest their food. That’s why you see them so often lying in the sun. The guides were able to point out animals right and left as we made our way through the park.

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One morning, we walked to the Holocaust Memorial. This is a very disturbing place. What I thought were tarps on a table, I saw on second glance where statues of corpses. While it’s hard to think about the horrible loss of life, it’s important to remember what hate and intolerance leads to.

holocaust-memorial

Our last day in Miami, we decided to check out Wynwood a neighborhood where arists have taken over the streets. Along with the established Wynwood Walls set aside for specific artists, the businesses around this area have embraced this form of expression covering their walls with paintings. I loved the energy and vibe of this neighborhood.

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We had a bit of a crazy experience with our Uber driver. She thought Wynwood was ugly, so she took us to the downtown park marina. We then walked back to our original destination. On our way, we wandered throught the Museum Park which is still under construction. Some day it would be fun to explore the modern art museum and the science museum. Maybe the next time we visit, we’ll get past the front doors.

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Living in a small town with a strong farming history, it’s fun to visit a city and get a chance to dress up and go out at night.

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Even with four-inch heels, it’s a bit of a stretch getting the two of us in a selfie.

We checked out Los Fuegos at the Faena Hotel of first full day in the city. It was conveniently located within walking distance of the Palms, and I’d enjoyed listening to an interview with the chef on The Splendid Table (a podcast for foodies). Chef Francis Mallmann’s food preparation focuses on fire, so I knew it would be right up the MR’s alley. We arrived a bit early and enjoyed a drink in the very cool, retro bar before heading to our table. The food was great, and we enjoyed a relaxed evening there.

The next night, we wandered down the street to a tiny Italian restaurant. When they greated us with “buonasera”, I knew we were in the right place. I love stumbling on little mom and pop restaurants—good food and good people.

Our last night found us at the Broken Shaker. This is a hip-trendy place. Looking around, the clientelle resembled my kids way more than me. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the vine-covered bar area where we were seated. It reminded me of casual living room groupings rather than a regular bar. We didn’t have reservations, but the hostess told us on the phone that there was seating. She meant in the bar; we thought in the dining room. We shared some small bites and headed out. Next time, it pays to plan ahead when you’re headed to an up-and-coming place.

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All in all, we had a good time in Miami. I didn’t get my Cuban coffee, I wouldn’t mind a more organized tour of the Art Deco district or Wynwood, and I’d like to visit the design district. I think we’ll just have to go back.

Ever visited Miami? What are some of your favorite vacation spots?

Put in your ear plugs for this fan boat video.  ​

On the Road Again

Me and the MR have been off adventuring once more. This time we traveled to beautiful Miami. 


After a few days, we flew on to Turks and Caicos where we’ve been quite relaxed. It’s wonderful to escape to the beach and sunshine in the midst of a cold rainy Seattle winter. 


The MR received a Go-Pro for Christmas and tried it when we were snorkeling. While stingrays make me nervous, it’s rather magical to watch them swim so effortlessly. 

We are wending our way home today, and I’m planning to share more about our trip next week, but here’s a link to the MR’s highlight video which he has so graciously shared. 

https://quik.gopro.com/v/sLSuZ0CuEZ/

Where are life’s adventures taking you?

The Beauty of Zihuatanejo

Before Christmas, we took the girls for a long weekend in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. We’ve been to the western coast many times and decided to venture out and go somewhere new.

Zihuatanejo is further south, has less tourists, is a little quieter, and has a little more heat. We loved it.

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The MR booked a suite at the Viceroy on Playa la Ropa. The concierge gave us a tour of the property before escorting us to our room. After a day of travel the hammock looked so inviting.

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We were greeted with flower petals on the beds and fruity teas. It’s so nice to be pampered.

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The key came in a little amulet that you could wear around your neck. How many swim suits have pockets, right? Our bed was draped in fabric, and each day we had a new design in flower petals at its foot.

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The staff delivered a tray of coffee, tea, and pastries every morning. I chose to enjoy mine seated on the lounge on our patio. A full breakfast at the onsite restaurants was also included.

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We spent most of our time under the palapas enjoying frequent swims in the bath water-warm ocean. The MR booked a snorkeling cruise with Captain Moses. So one morning, we hiked out into the waves, climbed onto his boat, and spent the morning snorkeling in beautifully clear water near Manzanillo Bay (I think). We did not go to the popular Ixtapa Island snorkeling destination. It was great to be on a small boat, just the four of us, the captain and his nephew, and we encountered just one other boat at our snorkel spot.

The water was clear, the fish were plentiful, and we had a great time. On the way back, we stopped at Playa las Gatas to see “Jesus in the Water”. The King of Kings statue is a bronze statue the local people had made as a symbol of their faith and commitment. After featuring in masses around Mexico, the statue was submerged off the protected beach in 2007.

The MR ran to town one of the first days on his morning jog. He was surprised to find a market area filled with pinatas. Our concierge explained that these were part of the Los Posadas pre-Christmas celebration. People travel house to house searching for a place to stay just as Mary and Joseph did long ago (or as he put it Maria y José).

On one of our lazy beach days, me and Sweet Miss went in search of playing cards. The hotel boutique was closed, so we stopped by the front desk to see if they knew whether any were available. They didn’t have a set, but the concierge offered to stop in town and pick some up for us. The next day, down on the beach, he brought me a set of Uno cards. Now that’s service.

We did enjoy a few trips to town as a family. We tried out some of the local restaurants, we wandered through the market, and we made our way down to the boardwalk along the beach.

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Have I mentioned this was a truly lovely place? I haven’t even shown you the sunsets.

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Our last night, we enjoyed a five-course tasting menu with wine pairings for $40 a person. The exchange rate right now is amazing. 

(The MR pointed out I was wrong after this post went out. Not a first—I asked what I’d gotten wrong. Dinner was $25 per person for that tasty meal. Did I mention the exchange rate?)

Me and the MR are trying to plan another trip down there this spring. Captain Moses told us the fishing all depends on the moon. That gorgeous moon we saw in Cabo back in November wasn’t doing our fishermen any favors.

I would stay at the Viceroy in Zihuatanejo again in a heartbeat.

Where’s your favorite warm weather destination?

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Trips: Part 2 Cancun

After a relaxing week in Maui, we were home for a week (enough time to do laundry) and then flew off to Cancun. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, Hawaii is beautiful, but it’s always fun to see new places, and while we’ve been to Mexico many times, this was our first trip to Cancun.

It was beautiful. We’re used to the smaller cities of the Babja Peninsula, but Cancun is huge in comparison. The water was warm and swimmable. And as one of our tour guides said, it’s 85-degrees every day with a low of 75—I could learn to live with that.

The MR was going for a conference, and my job was just to keep him company. We spent the first few days as tourists in the hotel district at Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach. It was easy walking distance to restaurants and attractions and simply a beautiful resort.

ToT2 Beach

I was amazed as we checked in by how precisely they trimmed the plants hanging over their balconies, and I have countless photos of the amazing flower arrangements. Simply by positioning the bouquets at an angle, clustered in tall vases makes such an impact.

ToT2 Foliage Collage

I was happy to note that the tropical blooms from Hawaii had followed us to Mexico. And don’t you love the impact of an uplight on an everyday palm? Maybe we need some for our front door planters, or we could use a few inside. After Mexico gained its freedom from Spain it was occupied by France. The cast iron lanterns reminded me of New Orleans and that French unfluence.

While we did have a day at the pool and wandering the markets, the rest were go, go, go with a trip to Chichen Itza—truly amazing and really hot. One of our cab drivers mentioned that you can take a taxi to the pyramid and then tour with an archeologist. That might have been nicer than what turned out to be a 12-hour bus, cenote, and small town, pyramid, and artist trour. After a long day of culture, we were off again on a snorkel trip to the Isla Mujeres. The boat trip over was quite rough, but after we dropped off over half the people on land and went to our snorkeling spot, I did jump in as our guide was shouting Vamanos! I was glad to have the required life preserver around my waist for 45 minutes of rough swimming/snorkeling.

ToT2 Excursion Collage

We did meet children who were quite proud of their Mayan heritage. After our adventures, I was glad for the short walk to the restaurants. This nighttime shot was the view from dinner our last evening in the hotel zone.

Next, we were off to the MR’s conference at the all-inclusive Nuzac at the other end of Cancun near the airport. It was a very zen experience compared to the over-the-top flowers and opulence of the last resort. The front entry was almost monastic in feel.

ToT2 Entry

Did I mention that they drive you around in golf carts and that a former president of Mexico once lived here? All of the workers always greated us with a fist to the heart (their heart, not mine) and a Buenas Dias or whatever was appropriate. I’ll admit it was a little creepy at first, but this place was seriously cool. Ah honey, I’ll let you get us all situated, and I’ll just admire the view off the lobby.

Tot2 Lobby Pool

Sadly, our room looked out on seagrass rather than the ocean, but who cares when you have a whole resort to explore.

The MR had a busy schedule filled with meetings, but he managed to squeeze in a salad at this lovely place.

Tot2 Dinner

The doors slid open to a beautiful view of the ocean, but sadly they kept blowing my hair across my face which makes eating a little tricky. Goat cheese, celery, and strawberries look oh, so special when formed in a circle.

ToT2 Strawberry Salad

The next day, while the MR headed off to more meetings, I had to languish by the pool. Can you say gorgeous?

ToT2 Pool

A friend was surprised when I told her the level of service in Mexico was heads above Hawaii. We stayed at three beautiful resorts, but in Hawaii, we stood in line for towels and a wrist band that said we had access to the pool, then we searched for a free chair with some shade. At the first resort, an attendant gave us towels as we left the hotel and made our way to the pool. At this last place, the attendants unrolled the towel set out on my chair, returned with another towel to use as a neck roll, and positioned the umbrella for my comfort. Let’s just say I was spoiled.

Sometimes it takes very little to make someone feel special. In Hawaii, the valets gave the MR a cold bottle of water when he returned from his morning run, but charged $5 for that same bottle of water poolside. There’s value in generating good will and making your guests feel special.

While the MR headed off to fire dancers on the beach, I was treated to a quiet dinner with fabulous food and impeccable service.

ToT2 Nighttime pond

We did manage to eat breakfast together. I was too busy putting my plate together to take pictures of the beautiful buffet, but look at this ceiling.

ToT2 Ceiling

If we had it at home, I’d worry about spiders, and mice, and cobwebs. But wouldn’t this be fun in a cabin? Maybe we’ll turn a corner of the meadow into trees surrounded by shallow ponds. It’s just so visually compelling.

ToT2 Pond

Of course, I don’t want to be the one scooping leaves come fall. Maybe this wood pot is a more doable take away.

ToT2 Wood Pot

Pedestals, unique containers, and massive repitition elevate the ordinary.

Now if I could just get someone to make me blackberry smoothies at home.

ToT2 Last Day

I think Cancun has won my heart. Perhaps we’ll be heading there again.

Do you have a favorite vacation spot?

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Trips: Part I Maui

Last month, we experienced the joys of travel with trips to Maui and Cancun. I thought it might be fun to share some of the highlights.

On this gray, dreary morning, Hawaii seems worlds away. If you’ve been following the blog for awhile, you know the company the MR works for has been taking its employees and families to paradise for years. Not only is it a wonderful perk, it’s a total morale boost in the midst of what can be a very overcast and depressing time of year in the Northwest.

This was our first trip to Hawaii without kids in over 20 years. It’s a little different when you don’t have to worry about accomodating little kids, or teenagers and their sleep schedules and shopping needs. Usually, we have at least one day, where one of the girls would be beet red and needing some time out of the sun. Suprisingly, we avoided that this year with a lot more time in the shade and plenty of sunscreen.

We stayed at the Grand Wailea, a truly beautiful resort.

ToTT GW

All the public spaces are decorated with statues, and plants, and flowers. I saw a lady redoing this floral arrangement using a step stool—it’s just that mammoth.

ToTT Flower Arrangement

We stayed in the chapel wing looking out (surprise, surprise) on the chapel,

ToTT Chapel

the beach,

ToTT Beach

and a rather busy coy pond.

ToTT Coy

We divided our days between the beach and the pool, but I did manage to talk the MR into taking a trip up-island to visit a few of the sights. Our first stop was the Ocean Vodka Distillery. We just happened to stumble upon it on our way to some farms. It was a quick tour, and we learned all about the making of “organic” vodka from sugar cane and deep sea, health water. At the end, we were given recipes for drinks and were offered free reign in the herb garden, so we could make lavender lemon drops or other herbal libations.

ToTT Vodka Herbs

Then we pressed on to the Surfing Goat Dairy Farm. It was a bit hot, a bit dusty, and we decided to enjoy some cheese and forgo the tour.

ToTT Goat Cheese

This award-winning cheese was quite tasty, and we still were able to enjoy watching some cute baby goats before continuing our adventure.

ToTT Goat 2

Our final stop up country, was Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm. The low bushes and steep slopes were pretty in early spring, and I’m sure they’re quite beautiful when in full bloom.

ToTT Lavender

After seeing a wooden bench snuggled under a wisteria draped arbor, I’m thinking maybe we need some comfortable overlooks for the meadow.

ToTT Bench

Along with lavender, the farm has a huge collection of tropical flowers. I was particularly wowed by this dinner plate-sized beauty.

ToTT Tropical Flower

I don’t think it’d grow at home, but I love the tropical, over-the-top plants you find in Hawaii. They’re just so in your face.

This was our second stay at the Grand Wailea. The first time, there was a snafu with the travel company, and all four of us were given one room with a king-sized bed. I wasn’t my nicest at that point. This time, thankfully, all went smoothly.

I love these resorts with their amazing landscaping and how they take advantage of little opportunities to add beauty. This underpass could simply have been left empty. Instead, it’s a wonderful vignette.

ToTT Vignette

We spent eight lovely, relaxing days in Hawaii, and then headed home for a week. Sweet Miss gave us a selfie-stick for Christmas. Me and the MR have this 10-11 inch height differential that makes selfies a challenge. We never quite figured out how to take a picture without totally blowing out the background, but we were really there—I promise.

Us

I always have a good time with this guy.

Any favorite places in Hawaii? Where do you like to stay?

On a personal note, we said goodbye to Bogart this last Friday. He was a wonderful friend, a good and faithful dog who loved us all intensely. I will miss playing ball and frisbee and shoving him in the bathroom when I had to answer the door and didn’t want to subject people to his protective qualities. 

Bogart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Taste of Sedona

We spent the last weekend of January in Sedona.  It was a first for me and the MR, and frankly it’s beautiful country.

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Flying into Tuscon, it was just a few hours drive to our destination.  First stop was the visitors center where the volunteers gave us great recommendations for hikes and directions to trailheads.  We had time for lunch and a short hike with my brother and sister-in-law before checking in to our rental home.

Hiking Collage

 

The Teacup Trail and the Devil’s Kitchen (a large sink hole) were both impressive, and we managed to stay off the road when the pink jeeps drove by.  Honestly it was nice just to be outside in our shirtsleeves in the middle of winter.

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The next day, we were off to Tuzigoot National Monument—an Indian village from 1100 AD.  We were amazed at the simple square buildings that still remain hundreds of years after they were abandoned.  The staff were informative and chatty and even agreed to take a photo of our whole group.  The MR’s folks had driven down from Mesquite, NV to join us.

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Just across the valley, we could see the mining city of Jerome built into the steep hillside.  It was an adventure just finding a parking spot, and walking the steep streets was a workout.  Staircases connect the switchbacks up the mountainside. We enjoyed lunch at the Haunted Hamburger and then made a mad dash to Montezuma’s Castle.  It closed minutes before we arrived, but we decided to head back the next day.  The hospital in Jerome has been converted into a hotel with spectacular views. Apparently, you can eat lunch in the assylum with the ghosts—very creepy.

Haunted Hospital

Montezuma’s Castle turned out to be another Indian cliff dwelling built right into the side of the bluff.  This one we had to admire from afar.  It’s really quite amazing what people did with primitive tools so long ago.

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Half the fun of traveling to new places is noticing the amazing differences in plant life.  We don’t have sycamore trees back home, and these cacti are so intricate.

plant Collage

Then it was on to the Chapel of the Holy Cross with archeticture inspired by the Empire State Building and lovely views.

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The last day, we woke to snow.  It was the MR’s birthday, and we spent a quiet day at home playing card games.

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That evening we enjoyed a spectacular dinner at Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill.  It’s not cheap, but the food was quite good.

Mirabella Collage

The next morning it was time to say goodbye and head back home to the real world.

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The MR asked if I’d go back.  Well let’s see, lots of nice restaurants, fun shopping, great hikes, beautiful scenery—I’d say that’s a yes.  There’s a gallery with some great paintings we almost bought, lots of shops we didn’t get a chance to explore, and I’d really like a chance to hit a few more trails.  I think this is just our first trip to Sedona.

Where do you like to go for a bit of sunshine in the midst of winter?