Friday, June 29, 2012

My Cancun Trip part 3 - Last Day at the Beach (and lots of cervezas)

Day 4 of my Cancun trip started (like most other days) very early. I was scheduled to take a taxi to the airport around 3pm, so I wanted to cram as much time in at the beach as I could before I left.

Capturing a picture from my balcony as the sun rises.

View of the sunrise from the balcony

After a quick buffet-style breakfast (more refried beans, nachos, eggs, and an assortment of fresh fruit… followed by yet another shot of Pepto), I headed down to the white sand beach. The sun was out in full force, and I happily sipped a cranberry and vodka cocktail while reading my book on a chair near the waves. Ah. Heaven.

Om nom nom

Since I was at the beach fairly early, I pretty much had a whole section to myself. If I could freeze frame a time of my life and re-play it over whenever I felt like it, this would probably be that moment. The time flew by; I took a stroll in the ocean, grabbed another cocktail, drank a cerveza, read a little bit more, lounged in the sun, and then retreated back into the resort.

The Infinity pool was -gorgeous- 
The hotel next to us
How creepy is this feathered dude?
I had the beach all to myself!
Chillaxin' to the max!
Eyeing those wave runners...
How peaceful does this look?
Our resort! The Great Parnassus Resort and Spa
Uber gorgeous.
Saying goodbye to the beach :( 

I picked up a few last minute souvenirs for friends and family, and purchased an authentic Mexican wrestling mask I’d had my eye on for quite awhile. It was pink, it looked like a mask Rey Mysterio wore (except much more girly), and I had to have it. For only $20, I think I got a pretty good deal. Plus, how cool do I look in this? The answer is: super cool.

So many great Mexican masks to choose from!
Jennie Mysterio! The coolest ever.

With time running out, I packed my suitcase, hopped into the shower, and then sat out on the balcony and let the hot sun dry my hair. I so didn’t want to leave. *le sigh*

Eventually the taxi came to pick me up, and I headed back to Cancun International Airport with a heavy heart. Why do vacations seem to go by so fast? Why can’t I be like that girl on the old TV show, “Out of this World” who could stop time by pressing her index fingers together? I just totally dated myself, didn’t I? :P

I had some time to spare at the airport, so I did a little more souvenir shopping, as well as enjoyed a nice pre-flight meal at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. I’m not a huge shrimp fan, but I did appreciate the crispy chicken fingers and a humongous margarita called the “Mango Sparkler.” Dear lord it was good, but HUGE. Why don’t we have a Bubba Gump’s restaurant in Ontario? It was a really fun place with a great atmosphere!

They let me keep the shaker too! :)

Finally it was boarding time. I waved goodbye to Cancun from the window of my West Jet seat and landed back in Toronto later than night. My time in Cancun was amazing. I never did capture a glimpse of the legendary Chupacabra, but what I did experience more than made up for it. This trip definitely set the vacation bug in me in motion. I want to travel more; I want to discover all this world has to offer!

Bye Cancun!

A view of the strip from the plane

See you again soon!

The sun sets as we head our way back north

Next week I head to Vancouver. I’ve never been out west before, so I’m sure I’ll have lots to blog about this experience as well. And don’t worry; I’ll keep my eye out for Bigfoot. I think I’ll try my hand at Squatchin’ next. ;)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Cancun Trip part 2 - A Visit to Chichén-Itzá (and lots of cervezas)

Day 3 of my Mexican vacay started off early. The previous night we made an impulse decision to purchase tickets for a tour of Chichén-Itzá in the Yucatan (a roughly 3 ½ hour drive from the hotel we were staying at.) Pictures of the famous El Castillo pyramid were scattered all over the resort, so we figured,  “when in Rome…" (or, rather, Mexico). How could we miss an opportunity to visit one of the new Seven Wonders of the World? Besides, it would make for an –awesome new Facebook profile pic. :P

I woke up before the sun (unheard of!) and scarfed down an excellent authentic Mexican breakfast (re-friend beans and all.) Have I mentioned lately how glad I am that I brought those Pepto Bismol pills? They definitely came in handy. 

Not the healthiest of meals, but those re-fried beans sure hit the spot. The farty spot.

After breakfast it was straight down to the bus, where we met up with our tour guide and found a seat amongst the other tourists. The bus was big and comfy, and our tour guide provided us with tons of historical background in both English and Spanish (I want to say his name was Jose, but it could have been Carlos. Or was it Moses?) He was a hoot to listen to, which helped keep me awake during the long trip.

Jose, Carlos, Moses (totally forgot his name) assured us that the world will NOT end in 2012. Hopefully.

I did the touristy thing and took tons of pics from inside the bus at the small towns we were driving by. Did you know Cancun has a Starbucks AND a Burger King? I even saw the famous McD Golden Arches amid the palm trees! True story! 

As we left the resort section of Cancun and crossed the border into the Yucatan, the towns began looking quite run down and intimidating. I was definitely glad to be in the safety of the bus with a group of people at the time.

Definitely wouldn't want to spend a night in here!

I hate to say that the stereotype of the “starving and forlorn Mexican dog laying on the side of the road” is true, but I did see quite a few hungry looking pups. It was hard to watch some of these impoverished towns fly past the window. The sights definitely made me more appreciative of all the material goods I take for granted back home. 

Someone throw that dog a bone!

One thing I did notice was the plethora of Coca Cola advertisements everywhere in these towns.  As a Communications major, I found the aggressively in-your-face advertising both thought provoking and sickening. Way to exploit your brand in areas of need, Coke. Anyway...

About ¾ of the way into the drive, the bus driver made a pit stop at a small arts and craft market on the side of the road. We all tumbled out of the bus, legs sore and butts asleep, and walked around the store examining all the hand-made goods. Explosions of colour leaped from the walls and ceilings. Hand-painted glasses, woven rugs and blankets, brilliantly vivid paintings, dolls, sombreros, and shining silver jewelry were only some of the products being sold. 

So many great crafts to choose from!
Me hanging out outside of the market.

The vendors were a bit pushy, and I wasn’t accustomed to bartering for a better price, but I did walk away with a brightly painted petite porcelain cat. We eventually said adios to the market, had a quick bite to eat from the convenience store nearby, filed back on the bus, and continued our drive to Chichén-Itzá.

After some more stand up comedy from our ever-entertaining tour guide Moses (that’s his name now and I’m sticking with it), we reached our destination. To say it was hot and humid in the jungle would be an understatement. A lady in our tour group actually fainted from heat stroke (keep in mind, this was Mexico’s cold season. Yikes.)

El Castillo (Spanish for "castle"), also known as the Temple of Kukulkan, is a Mesoamerican step-pyramid that dominates the center of the Chichen Itza archaeological site in the Mexicanstate of Yucatán

Archaeologists have identified thirteen ballcourts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame in Chichen Itza, but the Great Ball Court about 150 metres (490 ft) to the north-west of the Castillo is by far the most impressive. It is the largest and best preserved ball court in ancient Mesoamerica.

Upon entering the area, we were immediately approached by numerous vendors who kept harassing us to buy their (illegal) products. While not nearly as terrifying as the chupacabra (still no sight of him), these vendors were just as hostile. Sure, some of the artwork and crafts were pretty, but they were also WAY overpriced, and did I mention, illegal? It was hard to ignore these pushy people (they literally got right up into your face and almost bullied you into buying their products.) This was a bit of a let down because Chichén-Itzá and the El Castillo pyramid were absolutely breathtaking and I wish I could have enjoyed it without being shouted at to buy their “only one dollar” (but not really) whatevertheywereselling.

Beautiful arts and crafts (the vendor wanted me to pay him $ for taking this pic.)

I stuck close to our tour guide and tried to listen to all the historical info he was telling us. Here's a tidbit of what I was learned in the video I took below:

Eventually, our group was allowed an hour to venture around the site and explore for ourselves. I took a –ton of pictures, and enjoyed sitting in the shade for a while, since the hotter temps were starting to get to me too. I even got to see a few lizards who were basking in the sun, and a natural cenote where ancient Maya people would conduct sacrifices during times of drought. C’mon, how morbidly nifty is that?!

Me in front of the El Castillo pyramid. 
The tzompantli or Skull Platform. Can you guess what they put on top of here? 
Me in front of the Temple of the Warriors
The Temple of the Warriors showing Chac Mool.
El Castillo from the back.
Cenote Sagrado - who's jumpin' in first? 

When everyone had enough of the overzealous vendors (even little Mexican girls were persuading me to purchase homemade handkerchiefs from them… which of course I did – I couldn’t say no to those sad eyes and pleading voices!) we packed back on the bus and travelled into another town for dinner at a nearby hotel/restaurant. Supper was served buffet style, and I enjoyed an amazingly authentic meal (this isn’t your standard Taco Bell food!) and a cerveza to wash it down. Live dancing accompanied the dinner, along with some balancing acts from local performers.

Local entertainment... I can do that... totally.

Back on the bus, we digested a bit before hitting the final stop of our tour – a local swimming cenote to take a dip in.  I was pooped at this point, so I opted to hang out at the bar while everyone else descended into the pitch dark, creepy ass looking hole in the ground. No thanks.

I choose to do this...
... instead of this. I'm not the 'dauntless' type.

It was super late when the bus dropped us back off at the resort, where I was promptly welcomed by a donkey wearing a sombrero. I wish I was making this up, but alas, I'm not. I wanted to take a pic of the man and his sombrero-wearing ass, but apparently I would have to pay $1 for such luxuries. Instead I headed up to bed and quickly fell asleep.

Goodnight Moon.

It was a LONG day, but quite an experience. Visiting Chichén-Itzá was an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity and my only complaint was that I wish the vendors were not as pushy as they were. Despite this, I’d definitely recommend everyone visit this UNESCO World heritage site at some point in his or her lives. All in all, it was a fantastic day that I will never forget.

My time in Mexico was coming to a close at this point, but I still had half a day left to lounge on the beach and drink cervezas. And that's coming up in Part 3 of my adventure in Mexico! :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Cancun Trip part 1 - Search for the Chupacabra (and lots of cervezas)

Okay, so I’ll admit I’ve been a bad girl. Or, rather, a busy girl. I apologize profusely for not updating this little blog in quite awhile. BUT! to make up for this, here is a post about an awesome trip I took to Cancun, Mexico at the end of 2011. I had an absolute blast, and here’s how it all went down:

I woke up on a chilly October morning to these baffling words in my Twitter inbox: “Congratulations! You have been chosen as a winner in the Cancun CVB contest, including a complimentary (all-inclusive) stay at the Great Parnassus Resort and Spa in Cancun, Mexico!” Whaaaaaaaaat?! After reading these words I literally jumped up and did a crazy dance while “squeeeeing” in delight.

See, the thing is, I’ve NEVER travelled outside of Canada (save for a trip or two to New York state to purchase reduced priced Coach bags… but that’s another story.) I’ve never had the funds, or the courage, to venture out of my little happy, maple syrup drizzled, Canadian bubble. This was a -big- opportunity for me – and I jumped on it! Within days my plane was booked, the hotel was booked, and I was searching local stores for a perfect bathing suit to wear on the sunny beaches of Cancun.

Fast forward a couple months, and here I am sitting on a West Jet plane with complimentary ginger ale and Bits n’ Bites in my hand, travelling south to Mexico. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. I was (not so literally) crapping my pants skirt; anxious about what would unfold when I reached this foreign country. Would the people be nice? Should I have brushed up on my Spanish more? Will everyone try to sell me time-shares at the airport? Is the chupacabra real (and will it eat me if I look directly into its eyes)? Crap, did I pack the Pepto-Bismol?! Thankfully, a strong cocktail and a reassuring smile from a friendly West Jet flight attendant helped to calm my nerves.

Wing Shot from my seat going to Cancun. I love flying with West Jet!

Roughly four hours and a horrible in-flight screening of Halle Berry’s razzy-nominated ‘Catwoman’ later, the plane landed safely at the Cancun International Airport. Exiting the plane, I proudly received my first ever passport stamp (another happy dance ensued!), retrieved my bags, and met up with the taxi driver I had booked before hand to meet me there and ensure I got to the hotel in one piece (sans any chance chupacabra attacks – you can never be too careful.)

Landing in Cancun! Applause by all.

Upon arriving at the Great Parnassus Resort and Spa, I was stunned by how majestic it looked. The resort certainly lived up to its name – and our ocean-facing room with a balcony was no exception.

View of the ocean from the hotel room balcony
View of the Nichupte Lagoon from our balcony

We were greeted with not one, or two, but FOUR Dos Equis Cervezas, along with limes, salt, and several bottles of water. I don’t always go to Mexico, but when I do, I prefer it with Dos Equis. ;) The awesome staff at the resort made sure we never stayed thirsty.

Nice welcoming gift!
I do enjoy the Dos Equis

Not being accustomed to the heat, I quickly changed into something more comfortable and headed downstairs to check out the resort. Yes, an individual attempting to sell us time-shares approached us, but forcefully saying “no” as we were told to do, stopped him from asking again.

The remainder of my first day in captivating Cancun was spent taking full advantage of the “all-inclusive” perks the resort had to offer. Let’s just say, I had quite a few cervezas, and perhaps some tequila shots as well (but who’s really counting?). The bartenders in the various bars scattered throughout the resort were extremely accommodating to us foreigners. I also spent the entire evening laying out on a blue chair on the beach, soaking in the sun (with a high level SPF sunscreen on – have you -seen- how pale I am?!) and reading a Jodi Picoult book. Absolute heaven! You can’t beat the hot temps, turquoise water, an awesome buzz, and a good novel. Trust me, the combination of these things equals pure awesomeness. There were no sightings of the elusive and terrifying chupacabra on day one. I slept easy (and yes, I did remember to bring the Pepto. Phew.)

Another vid I took of our resort and the beach! 

Gorgeous stretch of beach in front of our resort!
The sun started to set, but I didn't wanna go inside!

Day two in Cancun followed a similar laid-back style as day one. My first authentic Mexican breakfast consisted of spicy eggs and refried beans (thankful once again that I remembered the Pepto-Bismol.) Sleeping in felt great, and immediately after breakfast we hit the African-themed bar downstairs (don’t judge.) An extremely strong tequila shot and cranberry vodka mix later, it was time to hit the beach again.

Me enjoying my cranberry vodka drink at the Kilimanjaro bar at the Resort. 
This dude made some wicked drinks! Tip a dollar American for extra strong booze :)
Tequila go down de hole.

The day couldn’t have been more perfect – bright blue skies, crystal clear water, warm temperatures, and an almost deserted beach. The entire day was spent enjoying the beach and the bar (and hoping back and forth from both.)

I'm so cool.
Stayed on the beach all day until sunset.
Enjoying my drink(s) :)

As the sun set, we went for a walk, witnessed a wedding on the beach, then went for a dip in the resort’s outdoor infinity pool. The cool water felt so soothing against my now sunburnt skin (Did I mention how pale I am?)

Sun setting on the beach. 
This pic I took reminds me of the poem, "Footsteps."

The night ended with a steak dinner that might have been the best meat I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting (or maybe this was the cervezas talking.) Seriously, the meat and potatoes just melted in my mouth.

This. Was. Amazing. Om nom nom.

We went to bed early because the next day we had to wake up at the crack of dawn to travel to Chichén-Itzá in the Yucatan. No sight of Mr.Chupacabra on day 2 either. I began to doubt his existence (but this is the prime time he will attack, so I still kept an eye out for him. I mostly just saw donkeys wearing sombreros… or maybe this was the cervezas talking.)

Day 3 and Day 4 of my Mexican vacay to be continued! Will Chuppy find me? Will I find him? Will he eat me? Is he writing this blog post at this very moment pretending to be me? All things to be revealed soon…