Oops. How Embarrassing.

It had to happen sooner or later. That’s the risk you take when publishing digitally rather than on paper. This morning I thought of an idea for a future post and jotted down some thoughts on my computer so I could work on it later. Imagine my progression from surprise to shock to horror when I realized I hit the “publish” button instead of the “save draft” button right next to it. Why are those buttons so close to each other anyway?

NOOOOOOOOOooooooo! Panic ensued. How do I recall/retract/delete a published post? Google that quickly with shaking fingers typing the search parameters. Go to the Dashboard, select the post, hit trash. Whew! It’s gone.

Not so fast. My posts automatically go to Facebook and Twitter. I pull up Facebook and see someone already liked it. Really? A stream of consciousness, an unfinished sentence? Ugh. How do I delete a post? Done. On to Twitter. Delete tweet. Done.

Email is next. Some readers subscribe by email so that when I publish they automatically get the post in their inbox. Google that. No way to recall that I can find. Not done.

Now what? Write an explanation and publish that. Am I making it better or worse? You decide.

Lesson learned.

Categories: Uncategorized | 11 Comments

The Best Thing I Ate in Puerto Aventuras

Our first night in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, we didn’t venture too far from our condo. The closest restaurant was Hoo Haa! which sounded like a Chinese restaurant to me but fortunately it was Mexican. We like Chinese cuisine but we didn’t plan to eat any in Mexico. The food at Hoo Haa! was fine but nothing special, although I’ve since seen rave reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook.  Following chips with pico de gallo and guacamole, Gail and I ordered the fish tacos and Jim had the specialty plate that looked quite impressive.

Chips, pico de gallo, guacamole

Fish Tacos at Hoo Haa

Jim’s Specialty Plate

The next evening we tried Hippos Marina Lounge. The Blues Brothers in front of the restaurant attracted us although honestly, what does that have to do with good food? Hippos Marina Lounge The food was well-presented but rather bland. Someone later told me when you order grilled fish in Puerto Aventuras you must tell them how to season it or it won’t be seasoned at all. I don’t know overall how accurate this is, but it was certainly true in this instance.

Grilled fish at Hippos

Grilled fish at Hippos

After asking around for restaurant recommendations, we found Latitude 20 uniformly received high marks so that was our next choice. There was good cause for the accolades.

Whole chicken at Latitude 20

Whole jerk chicken at Latitude 20

Fish at Latitude 20

Fresh grilled fish at Latitude 20

I had the fresh grilled fish with coconut curry sauce which was outstanding. The sauce definitely added plenty of flavor. All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our food and the entertainment at Latitude 20 and I hope the food is as good next year. The evening we were there, we met the new owner and I saw on Facebook that the chef, Danny, recently left as well. Next year, we’ll definitely go back to Latitude 20 and I’ll let you know whether it’s still our favorite.

We had a great meal at Cafe Ole on Sunday night when they serve all-you-can-eat ribs accompanied by beans and cole slaw. One serving was plenty for me but Jim had seconds and even thirds. The ribs were done to perfection and literally fell off the bones.

All You Can Eat Ribs at Cafe Ole

All You Can Eat Ribs at Cafe Ole

Each night we finished off the evening with home-made gelato and soon found our favorite was Jessie Gelato. I was led astray by Jim and Gail as I would never seek out dessert of my own volition. The generous servings were delicious and samples were freely provided to help us decide. Fortunately, the calories in the samples don’t count.

Jessie Gelato

Jessie Gelato

We’d read that the food in the village populated by the locals was cheap and tasty so we decided to take a walk over there and give it a try. Once there, however, common sense prevailed. I was worried about whether we’d end up with Montezuma’s revenge which Jim already had a touch of, so we opted for middle ground and visited Taco Paco located outside the village along the highway. Their excellent shrimp tacos are made fresh while you wait.

Taco Paco

Taco Paco

All in all, one of my favorite meals was actually in Tulum on the beach at Adelita’s. The chips, pico de gallo, guacamole, and fish tacos were only outdone by the tasty fresh kiwi and mango magaritas.

Adelita's at Tulum Beach

Adelita’s at Tulum Beach

I love Mexican food and with fresh ingredients, you really can’t go wrong. I tend to choose fresh local fish whenever possible since that’s not available much in North Iowa. We did try to purchase some fish from a fishing boat in the marina but we couldn’t agree on price. Next year I definitely want to try my hand at grilling local fish at the condo. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch on the balcony each day and with our view, you just can’t get any better than that.

Breakfast with a view

Breakfast on our condo balcony

Based on events from January, 2015.

Categories: Mexico, Travel | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

Walk on the Wild Side in Mexico

I was surprised by some of the wildlife I saw around Puerto Aventuras. I’ve been to the Yucatán Peninsula before and naturally I’ve seen plenty of geckos, iguanas and even a cucaracha or two. Incidentally, I’m a screamer. If I see a bug, especially one like a cockroach, I’m very likely to scream.  At home I have an exterminator once a month, not because we have bugs but because I don’t ever want to see a bug in my house.  On this trip, however, I saw some animals totally unfamiliar to me so I had to consult Michaelpedia. Michaelpedia is my son, Michael, who has been an expert on animals since he was a small child. When I saw a strange animal, I texted a picture to him and soon had reply with the name.

But first, let’s see the ordinary ones. Dolphin Discovery drew a lot of interest from children and adults who want to swim with the dolphins. I’m not a fan of keeping dolphins in captivity but I did take a photo.

Dolphin at Dolphin Discovery, Puerto Aventuras

Dolphin at Dolphin Discovery, Puerto Aventuras

As we explored the beach and area around our condo, we encountered iguanas languidly sunning themselves.

Iguana

Iguana

One morning, I was up early having my coffee alone on the balcony when I saw this pair on the lawn below me.

Agouti

At first, I thought they were rabbits but when they moved I knew they were something else. I sent the photo to Michaelpedia and learned that they were agoutis, rodents that are native to this area. To see them in action, watch the video.

Then on our visit to Tulum, we spied this creature which necessitated another text photo to Michaelpedia to determine that it was a coatimundi, from the raccoon family. You can see a second one just emerging from the jungle. The woman ill-advisedly luring them with food from the jungle didn’t warrant a picture, however. I hope she didn’t get bit but why do people do that stupid stuff?

Coatimundi

Coatimundi

I tried to get a photo of the gecko that Jim inadvertently brought in from the balcony after it dropped on his iPad but the fellow was too quick for me. I would also have loved to get pictures of the sea turtles at Akamal but the crowd of humans swarming in the water made the prospect of snorkeling in that area most unappealing. I’m just happy to have digitally captured some of the amazing wildlife we encountered while in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Categories: Mexico, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Contrasting Tulum and Akumal

A friend recently shared a blog post from a friend of hers entitled Celebrate the Contrast. It was an entertaining read and thought provoking as well. It was with that concept in mind that I approached this week’s post for my blog.  All beaches are not created equal but, that said, any beach is better than no beach in my opinion. So, it may be an easy first step in the exercise of “celebrating the contrast” to apply this concept to beaches.

There were two beaches close to Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, that we wanted to check out. The first was at Tulum. I’d been to Tulum before to see the Mayan ruins but didn’t set foot on the beach so this time we skipped the ruins entirely and went straight to the beach. Jim was suffering a bit of stomach upset so he stayed behind while Gail and I hopped on the colectivo (local bus) at Puerto Aventuras. For the 28 mile ride south, it cost us 35 pesos ($2.35) each. Then we walked about a mile from the highway to the beach, just following the foot traffic and found our way with no trouble.

Tulum National Park

Tulum National Park

We walked the beach and checked out a couple of restaurants. I’d read if you ate or drank something at a restaurant on the beach, you could use the lounge chairs and palapas all day long. A palapa is a Mayan structure with a thatched roof that really looks and acts like a sun umbrella. This restaurant, called Adelita, attracted us but when the fellow told us there was a minimum of 300 pesos to get a chair, we said we’d keep looking.

Tulum Beach

Tulum Beach

In the end, we returned to Adelita and ordered some lunch and margaritas which covered our minimum anyway. I had a mango margarita and Gail ordered the kiwi. (Watch for a future post of all the awesome food and drinks we enjoyed on the Riviera Maya.) The best part was that I would have this palapa all day to sit in the shade thus preventing a major sunburn from the intense Mexican sun.

IMG_9924

My Palapa at Adelita

The water was a beautiful turquoise, the perfect backdrop for beach photos. Disregard that guy in the water in this photo. He doesn’t belong to us.

IMG_9969

Beach at Tulum

Me and Gail

Selfie of me and Gail

One of the coolest things I had read about Mexico is that on Sundays the locals are admitted free of charge to area museums and attractions. I think Sunday is the day that families get out and do family “stuff.” We observed many Mexican families enjoying time together on the beach. Maybe they stopped here after a free visit to the ruins. I don’t know whether they owned these boats or whether the boats are considered fair game for seating space but several were occupied. I loved the local feel.

Mexican families at the beach

Mexican families at the beach

This is one of my favorite photos. I saw this little guy striding among the boats and had to capture him on film.

IMG_9936 - Version 2

Mexican boy

One more view of incredibly beautiful Tulum, a relaxing idyllic paradise on the Riviera Maya. Ahhhh.

Beach and the Caribbean from Tulum

Beach and the Caribbean from Tulum

Akumal was on our itinerary for the following day. It was only half as far as Tulum by colectivo but the cost was the same which was still a bargain. Akumal is the beach where tourists go to snorkel and view the sea turtles. Our first look at the beach was certainly the opposite of our experience on the previous day. It seemed that every inch of shade was already occupied.

Beach at Akumal

Beach at Akumal

We finally found a spot far down the beach under a spindly palm tree shared by a beautiful young couple with a selfie stick that they used to capture pictures of themselves on the beach and cavorting in the water. You can see a frond here under which I moved about every few minutes to try to stay in the shade. But the more interesting point of this photo is the swarm of people going out to snorkel to view the sea turtles. There must have been at least five or six such groups churning the water at any moment. I was glad I hadn’t planned to snorkel that day because it was a madhouse.

IMG_0007

Unfortunately, the constant cacophony of construction noise disturbed any thought of idyllic sunbathing. I would say that Akumal will become the next Playa del Carmen and we experienced it in the making.

IMG_0009 - Version 2 So, my celebrating the contrast caused me to appreciate our experience at Tulum with its low-key, relaxed, local vibe. I’m sure that young people who like to be where the action is would feel that they had scored big by being at Akumal instead. But, as I said, any beach is better than no beach at all. Yep, celebrate the contrast.

 

 

Based on events from January, 2015.

Categories: Mexico, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

#AmysGift

It’s been a tough week for bloggers in my world. We have a tight knit blogging group in North Iowa and on Wednesday, February 25, 2015, in the midst of a snow storm, one of our bloggers died in a terrible weather-related car accident after attending our monthly Social Media Breakfast.

Amy was a young, beautiful, talented woman who welcomed me into the world of blogging. I’m still pretty new to so many aspects of this world and she, in my opinion, was a genius with this stuff. I attended a previous meeting where she presented a number of apps and techniques that I was certain would improve my blog by leaps and bounds. I told her afterward that I needed to master those concepts but it was too much for me to comprehend the first time through. She breezily told me she’d share the powerpoint with me but of course, that didn’t happen before her tragic death.

Another time, at a birthday lunch for one of the bloggers, she shared with me that school had been difficult for her. I was surprised, to say the least, because this young lady was so knowledgeable and poised that I would have thought everything came easily to her. Her sharing that piece of personal information increased my admiration for her.

The visitation last night, March 1, was amazing. There must have been at least 800 people waiting two hours or more to offer their condolences to Amy’s family. What a tribute in this fast paced impatient world we currently inhabit. Today, the church was filled to capacity and the service was, without a doubt, the most moving I’ve witnessed. Amy’s cousin eulogized her with love, grace, and humor and the minister read a letter from Amy’s fiancee, Spenser, that expressed the depth of love every woman longs to hear from her beloved.

I was not a close friend and I haven’t known Amy for a long time but I am forever changed by knowing her and for that, I am grateful. That is Amy’s gift.

Amy

Amy

 

North Iowa Bloggers Selfie with Amy

North Iowa Bloggers Selfie with Amy

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Better than Finding 20 Bucks in a Cenote

I’m from a family of storytellers. Funny storytellers. I’m a storyteller, too, but not a very funny one. Or so they tell me. Years ago, my sons shared a technique to rescue my stories from a boring finish. At the end of a boring story, they told me to say, “…and then I found 20 bucks.”  It’s been useful at times.

While we were at the Latitude 20 Restaurant enjoying the results of our Mexican cooking class, we asked the women sitting with us about the cenotes in the area. A cenote (say-NO-tay) is a sinkhole created when porous limestone collapses into the underground water beneath it. Cenotes were sacred to the indigenous Mayan people who regarded them as the entrance to the underworld.  They were also the only source of fresh drinking water. There are over 7000 of these sinkholes on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico and we definitely wanted to see some.

We got a helpful tip from one woman who told us a number of cenotes have been developed into Disney type tourist attractions and we first needed to decide what kind of experience we were after. The adventure parks or private tours in the area cost $100-$150 per person depending on the package which may include a guide, transportation, equipment, and lunch.

After studying the list of nearby cenotes and their amenities, we chose one that allowed snorkeling and provided minimal facilities including restrooms and a restaurant but not the crowded, popular adventure park atmosphere. Rather than hire a guide, we opted to do it ourselves at a total cost of less than $25 each. Our first stop was the dive shop to rent our snorkel equipment. We rented the snorkel tube, mask, fins, and life vest for the day for $10. Gail also rented a shorty wetsuit for another $10 as the water in the cenotes comes from underground and can be chilly.

 

Dive shop in Puerto Aventuras

Dive shop in Puerto Aventuras

Talking to the staff at the dive shop, we learned that Dos Ojos, the cenote we planned to visit, was closed that day, Saturday, for a Mayan religious observance. He suggested another cenote, Chikin Ha. So, Chikin Ha it was. On the highway outside Puerto Aventuras we hopped on the local bus, called a colectiva, to ride the couple of miles to the entrance at Chikin Ha. The cost was 25 pesos or about $2.

When we got off the bus there was a sign, a ticket booth, and a guy selling tickets. He collected our fee which was about $10 and directed us to walk 15 minutes down the dirt road where he said they would collect our tickets and direct us to the cenotes. We walked, and walked, and walked, toting our equipment and finally arrived more than a half an hour later. If I hadn’t seen signs along the way, I may have questioned whether we’d find anything back there.

The road to Chikin Ha

The road to Chikin Ha

Chikin Ha

Chikin Ha Ecopark

When we finally arrived, we were somewhat surprised to be almost the only ones there. The ticket taker seemed listless and disinterested and really preferred to talk on her cell phone rather than give us directions. I admit I thought maybe we’d made a bad pick. The restrooms were fine, however, so we used them and we were ready to explore the three cenotes in this park.

Chikin Ha Ecopark

Chikin Ha Ecopark

 

Chikin Ha

Chikin Ha

As we walked the path to the first cenote, we encountered this fellow with a Harris hawk. I have no idea why he and the hawk were there.

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk

Cenotes range from entirely open, like a lake, to entirely enclosed within a cave and many variations in between. The first at Chikin Ha was open. The water was so clear that the limestone rock and fish beneath the surface were easily visible.

Open Cenote at Chikin Ha

Open Cenote at Chikin Ha

 

Chikin Ha Cenotes

Chikin Ha Cenotes

We decided not to snorkel in this cenote and moved on to the second. The second cenote was in a cave and we struck up a conversation with the young couple we encountered swimming in it. Hannah and David were from Australia traveling around Mexico and heading next to Cuba. They had been to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, and disliked it as too touristy but they loved the ruins at Tulum because it was the opposite. They had talked to someone familiar with many of the cenotes in the area, and picked Chikin Ha based on the recommendation that it was exceedingly beautiful and not so touristy. I felt reassured that maybe this was a good pick, after all!

Gail and Jim in cenote

Gail and Jim in cenote

The line that you see in the photo above was very useful for guiding us across the cenote allowing us to keep our masks in the water to see beneath us.

I'm going in!

I’m going in!

Swimming and snorkeling wasn’t allowed in the third cenote due to its fragile ecosystem. It was probably the most beautiful of the three and we could fully appreciate it without getting in the water. The turquoise color is so amazing and really more impressive than I could capture in photos. There were also many stalactites and stalagmites in this cenote.

Cenote at Chikin Ha

Cenote at Chikin Ha

We observed a candle ceremony at the back of the cave of the third cenote. We assumed this was a Mayan religious ceremony of some sort.

Mayan ceremony at Chikin Ha

Mayan ceremony at Chikin Ha

When I was about to enter the water of the second cenote, I went to remove my Fitbit (an activity monitor) from my wrist and discovered it was gone. I howled to Jim, “Oh no, I lost my Fitbit!” Hannah asked, “What color is it?” I responded, “Orange” and she said, “We found it on the road on our way in!”  So, while I didn’t find 20 bucks on this adventure, something even better happened.

 

Based on events of January, 2015

 

 

Categories: Mexico, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Serendipity in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico

I call it serendipity. Walking around the marina one morning, Gail and I thought we’d look for a restaurant, Latitude 20, that had been twice recommended to us. When we found it, a Mexican cooking class was about to begin. For 100 pesos (less than $7), we would learn to make Agua de Horchata, Ceviche Stuffed Avocados, Mexican Shrimp Cocktail, and Pineapple Casserole, and then get to eat it! Needless to say, we stayed even though we knew Jim was back at the condo waiting for breakfast upon our return. Some offers you can’t pass up.

Prepped food for Latitude 20 cooking class

Prepped food for Latitude 20 cooking class

We had front row seats and watched as the place filled up around us. This was obviously a popular weekly event that we had discovered entirely by chance.

Cooking class with Danny and Carlos at Latitude 20

Cooking class with Danny and Carlos at Latitude 20

Danny and his assistant, Carlos, started with the dessert, a pineapple casserole that would bake while we made the other dishes.

Recipe for Pineapple Casserole

1 medium pineapple, ripe

2 apples

1/4 cup to 1 cup (depending on how much you like) raisins

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup orange juice

Peel and core the pineapple; slice into rounds reserving the juice. Do the same with the apples.

Distribute them evenly in a pot. Add the sugar, raisins, and juice.

Cook over low fire for about 30 minutes. (I interpret this to mean bake at 325-350. The apples need to soften up.)

Let cool and serve with whipped cream.

Simple but tasty!

Danny showed us how to slice the ends off the pineapple and core it before trimming the skin off and slicing the fruit. This worked well for him but it presumes the use of a really sharp knife and some skill wielding it. I’ll probably continue to use my old method. Incidentally, he cored and sliced the apples the same way.

 

Carlos with Pineapple Casserole before baking

Carlos with Pineapple Casserole

Next up was the ceviche stuffed avocado. If you’re not familiar with this dish, ceviche (pronounced say-VEE-chay) is raw fish marinated in citrus juice with various other ingredients but typically onion, tomato, cilantro, and peppers.  I’m always a little nervous about raw fish but Danny assured us the lime juice “cooks” the fish so it’s really no longer raw. Alright then.

Raw fish for ceviche

Raw fish for ceviche

Recipe for Ceviche Stuffed Avocados

2 avocados

150 grams of raw fish (150 g is roughly 5 oz)

1/4 white onion (I would probably use a red onion)

1 tomato

1/4 bunch cilantro

150 ml lime juice (150 ml is roughly 5 oz)

salt and pepper

Cut the fish into bite size pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lime juice; put aside. It’s best to allow to marinate overnight.

Chop the onion, cilantro, and tomato. Add to the fish.

Cut the avocados in half; seed and peel.

Mix the fish with other ingredients and stuff the avocados. Serve cold.

Danny demonstrated how to chiffonade the cilantro so as not to bruise it. Chiffonade is a French word for a technique to roll the herb then chop it. I actually think another method is easier–click here and it’s also from France so it is still très chic! Just be sure to trim the cilantro from the stems first because they are too coarse to eat.

We also discussed the type of fish to use in this dish. Danny told us we were using wahoo on this occasion but any mild white fish will do.

Voilà!

Ceviche Stuffed Avocado

Ceviche Stuffed Avocado

The Mexican shrimp cocktail included an interesting ingredient, Maggi Juice. I asked Danny what it was and he explained that it’s like concentrated Worcestershire. I took a picture to see whether it’s available in the US. When I googled it, I found it online at Wal-Mart by the case of 24 bottles for $37.76.

Maggi Jugo

Maggi Jugo

Recipe for Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

1 cup ketchup

2 avocados chopped

1 medium red onion chopped

1/2 bunch cilantro chopped

1 lb. pacotilla shrimp (smaller cooked shrimp)

2 limes, quartered

4 dashes Tabasco sauce

1/2 orange

4 dashes Worcestershire sauce

3 dashes Maggi juice (substitute extra Worcestershire)

Mix the ketchup, avocados, juice of 1 lime and the 1/2 orange, Maggi, tabasco, Worcestershire sauce in a bowl.

Add the shrimp and mix well.

Serve in a bowl or tall glass and garnish with onion and cilantro with lime wedges and tortilla chips.

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

Last but not least, we made the agua de horchata. I’ve heard of this drink before but I had no idea it’s made from rice. It’s not the rice that makes it so tasty, however; it’s condensed milk. Anything that rich will certainly taste good.

Recipe for Agua de Horchata

3/4 cup rice (uncooked)

1 cinnamon stick

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 can condensed milk

water as necessary

Rinse the rice. Soak for 1 hour with enough water to cover it. Place in a blender and add enough water to cover by an inch. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and blend until finely ground. Drain the liquid through colander into a pitcher.

Return the ground rice to the blender. Add the condensed milk and about 2 cups water and blend again. Drain into the pitcher. Discard any remaining rice.

Add more water to the pitcher one cup at a time until it has the right amount of sweetness for you.

Add ice and serve cold.

Agua de Horchata

Agua de Horchata

I expected a heavy flavor like an egg nog but the aqua de horchata actually had an unexpectedly light, fresh taste.

Once all the dishes were prepared, the staff served us a portion of each. Everything was muy delicioso!

Ceviche Stuffed Avocados and Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

Ceviche Stuffed Avocados and Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

We returned for dinner that evening but more on that later.

ser•en•dip•i•ty (ˌsɛr ənˈdɪp ɪ ti)

n.
1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
2. good fortune; luck.
[1754; Serendip + -ity; Horace Walpole so named a faculty possessed by the heroes of a fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip]
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

Recipes provided by Latitude 20

Based on events of January, 2015

 

Categories: Mexico, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Do You Want to Know a Secret?

I recently visited a tropical paradise on the Riviera Maya in Mexico and honestly, I was tempted to keep it a secret. I know once I share it, you’ll want to go there, too; then it will be booked up and I’ll have to go somewhere else. But because I have a hard time keeping a secret and I’m so excited about this place, I just have to share it with you. Here’s a picture of our first view from the condo.

Our view

Our view from our balcony of the infinity pool overlooking Bahia de Fatima

It was already late in the afternoon when we arrived by private shuttle from the airport in Cancun so we decided to look around our accommodations and then explore the complex before dark.

Entrance to our Condo

Entrance to our Condo

Living/Dining combo looking out to the balcony

Living/Dining combo looking out to the balcony

Looking into the kitchen from the living area

Looking into the kitchen from the living area

Second bedroom off the living area

Second bedroom off the living area

Jim and I were traveling with our friend, Gail, and we agreed that she would have the master bedroom upstairs with its own balcony and another bath, while we would sleep on the main floor. I’m an early riser and I prefer to move around, make coffee, and work on my computer without worrying about disturbing others. Because of this arrangement, I neglected to get photos of her area but it was lovely with a king size bed and large closet along with the aforementioned bath and balcony. Jim and I rearranged our bedroom putting the two single beds together. Sliding doors separated the bedroom from the rest of the living area to provide privacy. (The entire condo is two floors up and, as far as I know, there is no elevator so this is not a good choice if you have mobility problems.)

The condo is supplied with everything one would need for a short or extended stay including wifi, a coffee maker, hairdryer, washer and dryer, a grill and even bottled water. There is a flat screen tv that we turned on just once late in our stay to see a weather report. (We’d heard about the epic storm that was hitting the east coast and Gail was scheduled to go through Baltimore.) Housekeeping came in twice to clean although we were there only one week.

Our first exploration of Puerto Aventuras revealed a gated community with restaurants and shops dotting the central marina. Our condo faced Bahia Fatima on the Caribbean Sea. This map shows the area with Puerto Aventuras resort area east of Highway 307 and the pueblo where the locals live is west of the highway.

On our first walk we saw Dolphin Discovery, where you can swim with the dolphins, then we wandered over to the nearby Omni Hotel. There we discovered their swim-up whirlpool bar that we returned to wearing our swim suits several times during our stay.

Dolphin Discovery

Dolphin Discovery with rainbow overhead

 

Omni Hotel

Omni Hotel swim up bar and whirlpool

 

Puerto Aventuras

Sunset at Puerto Aventuras

The next morning here’s what greeted me when I awoke early and had the living area to myself.

Morning coffee with a view

Morning coffee with a view

I didn’t tire of the view during our stay and I’m hoping our friend has already reserved the condo for two weeks next year. If I’ve kept your interest thus far, here’s the name of the place where we stayed. But shhhh. Let’s keep it our secret.

Chac Hal Al, Puerto Aventuras

Chac Hal Al, Puerto Aventuras

 

Based on events of January, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Mexico, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

Foodie Report for the Norwegian Star

You may recall an earlier post in which I claimed I’m not a foodie. In preparation for this post, I took a quiz to see just how un-foodie I was. You can take the same quiz here: http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Food/2012/0727/Are-you-a-real-foodie-Take-our-quiz. Imagine my surprise when I scored 80%! A score of 70% or higher qualified me as a definite foodie. Who knew? Frankly, I rocked all the French cooking questions because although I may not consider myself a foodie, I am definitely a francophile. Now that I can legitimately claim the title of foodie, I am presumptuous enough to give you a foodie report for the Norwegian Star.

With a capacity of 2348 passengers, the Star serves a lot of meals which obviously requires a huge amount of food. At embarkation we observed some of the provisions that would be loaded onto the ship to feed us for 14 days at sea.

Provisions to be transported onboard

Provisions to be transported onboard

The Star features 14 dining options, composed of two complimentary main dining rooms, the Versailles and the Aqua; the Market Cafe, which is a buffet; several other bars and cafes that serve food; and 8 specialty restaurants that charge an extra fee.

For breakfast, we opted for a made-to-order omelet and fresh fruit each morning in the Market Cafe after a workout in the fitness center or a walk on the promenade. I usually had egg whites only with every veggie. Yum! I loved sitting outside to enjoy the balmy temperatures in the morning.

Breakfast by the pool on the Norwegian Star

Breakfast by the pool on the Norwegian Star

For lunch, we enjoyed whatever they prepared on the pool deck or went back to the Market Cafe for a big salad and some protein.I enjoyed watching the chefs prepare dishes in mass quantities before our eyes. Since I’m gluten-free, I didn’t eat the pasta…

Seafood Pasta on the Norwegian Star

Seafood Pasta on the Norwegian Star

The first two evenings we ventured to the Versailles Main Dining Room which seats 491 guests. Frankly, we weren’t overly impressed with our service and although the dining room itself is gorgeous, it was noisy and distracting. The third evening we decided to try the other main dining room, the Aqua, which seats 334 guests in a bit more casual venue. We were so impressed that we had dinner there every night thereafter.

Versailles Main Dining Room, Norwegian Star

Lori and Jim at the Versailles

The main dining rooms feature the same menu with items that remain the same each night and “Tonight’s Signature Specialties” that change every evening.  There was plenty of variety and we had no trouble choosing a pleasing entrée along with starters and sumptuous desserts. Each entrée is paired with sides that complement the main dish but you can order additional items if you prefer. I usually opted for seafood while Jim chose beef or pork. I especially liked the portion control of the dishes that encourages some self-restraint. The service, presentation, and taste were especially good considering how many people they feed each evening.

We enjoyed our servers at the Aqua so much the first evening that we requested seating in their area every evening afterwards. Jessie is from the Philippines and Indra is from Indonesia.  They worked hard, and they were friendly, professional, and knowledgeable.

Our server, Jessie, on the Norwegian Star

Our server, Jessie, on the Norwegian Star

Our server, Indra, Norwegian Star

Our server, Indra, Norwegian Star

I love taking photos of food so I’m happy to share some of our meals with you. I wish I’d thought to photograph the menu each night so I could identify each dish as well. The names of the dishes are as appealing as the food, in my opinion.

IMG_9025 IMG_9026 IMG_9027 IMG_9038 IMG_9039 IMG_9236 IMG_9476 IMG_9528

They say the average cruiser gains a pound a day. I say you can actually choose to live a healthier lifestyle on a cruise ship.  If you get some exercise each day and make sensible food choices among the plentiful offerings, you can come home without “extra baggage.”

 

 

Taken from events of November, 2014

 

 

 

Categories: cruise, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 3 Comments

If Everyone Liked It…

The first time we went on a cruise, my husband, Jim, says he had to be dragged kicking and screaming onto the ship and he had to be dragged kicking and screaming off the ship. He mistakenly thought he would hate it but now we’re experienced cruisers with 8 cruises under our belts including 2 Mediterranean cruises, 5 to the Caribbean, and most recently the transit through the Panama Canal on the Norwegian Star. Next on the docket is an Alaskan cruise scheduled for June, 2015.

Cruising offers several advantages. First, your transportation, accommodations, meals, and entertainment are all included in the package so there’s less to plan and arrange after selecting your cruise. There are plenty of cruise lines and itineraries to choose from so you’re likely to find the perfect cruise for you. In addition, you know what you’re getting for your money and the total cost upfront… unless you spend a lot onboard and don’t keep track. You can choose to do as much or as little as you like with lots of options for activities onboard and excursions in ports, or simply relaxing by the pool with a book in hand. A cruise allows you to sample various ports of call without longterm commitment. If you like a place, you can return in the future and if you don’t like it, you’re not stuck for the duration of your vacation. Finally, while traveling place to place, your belongings stay onboard in one place so you don’t have to pack up for the next stop.

There are several disadvantages as well. If you’re a misanthrope or just not a particularly sociable person, the proximity of 2400 other passengers and half again as many staff may be uncomfortable. If you suffer from motion sickness (I had it once) or any other illness, being on a ship confined to a tiny stateroom is definitely a nightmare. See my post entitled Quarantine on the Norwegian Star. Additionally, there isn’t much opportunity to spontaneously  change plans because you have no choice but to go where the cruise ship goes at the appointed time or they WILL leave you behind.  Finally, alcohol is very expensive onboard and although you can take your own wine, it carries high corking fees. Cruising isn’t for everyone but as a friend once said, “If everyone liked it, it would be too crowded for us.”

Each ship is different but all that I’ve seen have a Las Vegas vibe to them–a kind of gaudy, glitzy, glittery glamour. Personally, I prefer a more understated elegance but I’m sure the cruise lines have plenty of research to back up their style choices. The closest I’ve seen to my personal taste is the Hawaiian theme decor on the Norwegian Jade which, ironically, cruises the Mediterranean and not Hawaii.

Before we leave the ship at the end of our cruise through the Panama Canal, here is a last look at the Norwegian Star.

The Atrium on the Norwegian Star

The Atrium on the Norwegian Star

Mural in Stairwell

Mural in Stairwell

Deck chairs on the Promenade

Deck chairs on the Promenade

Promenade Deck

Promenade Deck

Red Lion Pub

Red Lion Pub

IMG_9380

Lori on deck for walking

IMG_8833

Pool area with water slide

IMG_9491

Lori and me in the hot tub

.

Towel Art

An example of towel art that appeared every evening in our stateroom

Panama Canal Photo

Goodbye to Cruising the Norwegian Star

So tell me, have you cruised? What other advantages or disadvantages of cruising have you identified? Please share your thoughts.

Based on events from November, 2014

Categories: cruise, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 460 other followers