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Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

We just got back from a spur of the moment weekend getaway at Hotel Akumal Caribe Villas Flamingo. It was the ideal place to go away with our two best friends and their 4 year old for fun, sun and relaxation. Akumal which means “place of the turtle” in Maya is about a 30 minute drive from Playa del Carmen and about 1.5 hours from Cancun. It is a quiet little town engulfed by two bays: Akumal Bay and Half Moon Bay. It is a diving and snorkeling mecca as it is teaming with sea life…especially turtles. Last week I found a great deal on a site for Cancunenses (locals) that I just couldn’t resist and in a flash we had booked a two night/3 day mini-vacay in a 2 bedroom villa right on the beach all for just $220.00

View from the bedrooms

Our Villa (number 3) was one of 4 villas that share a pool and overlook the white sandy beach of Half Moon Bay. We were pleasantly surprised by the layout and by how well equipped the villa was it was almost as if the owner had stayed there himself and thought about what people could possibly want or need while on vacation. The two bedrooms both overlook the pool and the ocean and have a large balcony with a table and chairs to enjoy the afternoon sun. And the casually strung up hammock is perfect for catching up on your reading or for nodding off to the sounds of the rolling Caribbean waves.

Trolling the beaches for crabs

We spent our time swimming in the pool, playing games and enjoying nightly BBQ’s on our patio. At night, we looked for crabs (not to eat more for the amusement of our friend’s curious daughter), drank wine and stretched out on the Bali beds on the beach admiring the endless starry sky. Unfortunately, Half Moon Bay, though a great spot for snorkeling has a lot of rocks in the water so waterproof, thick-soled shoes are a must if you want to swim in the ocean.

Bali beds on the beach

On our last day, after checking out, we headed over to Yal-ku Lagoon—a favourite spot of mine. There is great snorkeling and it is a huge, beautiful blue lagoon with simple but elegant sculptures scattered throughout the carved out paths in the jungle that lead to the water’s edge. We got there early before the crowds arrived and left just as it started to get overrun by people. Then like all good things our quick getaway had come to an end and it was time to go home. It had been a great weekend made even better by our friends being able to join us. Work schedules in Cancun are often such that it can be difficult to organize quality time with those that are special in your lives. Moments like these that we shared are truly the “stuff” of memories. We will definitely be going back there again soon as Hotel Akumal Caribe Villas Flamingo is the ideal place to kick-back, relax and remember why we chose to live in Cancun in the first place.

Yal-ku Lagoon

Where do you go for your weekend getaways?

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This blog post should have been a follow-up to my previous post about Becoming a Mexican. I have been working on it since last week and it is called “A Survivors Guide to Becoming a Mexican Citizen” Essentially it deals with the nitty gritty of submitting your citizenship application with helpful tips so that others will hopefully have a much smoother experience than I did. BUT…..Life happened (as it so often does) before I could complete that post.

So tonight’s post is about seizing the day or carpe diem! I am all about sucking the marrow out of life whenever I can and I especially believe in spontaneity. These types of opportunities seem to present themselves less and less as the sands of time seem to slip away faster and faster. Today; however, was one of those glorious days when an unexpected opportunity fell squarely in our laps.

A lot of my work deals with social media marketing and today while I was scrolling through my Facebook updates I came across a post by Grupo Cenacolo saying that the first person who sent a message via inbox to reserve a table for Monday (tonight) would receive a free degustation of their new menu (drinks not included ). Of course, I jumped at the opportunity….it was a foodies dream come true. Miraculously we won (I never win anything)! After several messages back and forth with Daniela, the social media manager for Grupo Cenacolo, we booked a table.

Hubby at Cenacolo Mare

From the get go we had a wonderful experience. Daniela, in advance had advised the restaurant that we were coming, so we avoided the potentially uncomfortable situation of having to explain that we there because we won a free meal. We were greeted warmly by Karina (the hostess-it was her second night on the job). She took us to a table lagoon-side and introduced us to Israel, who would be our server for the night. We were thoroughly impressed with the décor of the restaurant. The lighting was soft and inviting and as we were seated we caught the remnants of another beautiful Cancun sunset. We ordered a bottle of wine…recommended by Javier…the wine expert and sat back with eager anticipation for what was to come.

View of the restaurant from our lagoon-side table

What came next was a true foodie extravaganza! Six small plates of exquisite seafood dishes that included lobster, seared tuna wrapped in prosciutto, squid, white fish bathed in black squid ink, and Carpaccio. Then two dishes of succulent meat prepared two ways. One of which was covered in a silky, pale yellow, rich, melted cheese. Oh my!!! Thank God we didn’t skip our Pilates class today! Then Chef, Mauro Amati, stopped by our table and graciously sent us a divine glass of red wine to accompany our meat dishes.

Seared tuna wrapped in proscuitto and white fish bathed in black squid ink

Our final dish provided a perfect ending to a marvellous meal. A martini glass filled with a mixture of assorted fresh berries folded into an impossibly smooth mascarpone cream. Truly a dessert fit for the gods. We washed it all down with a sweet anise and ordered the bill. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable evening especially since our plan for Monday night had been to work –out and then channel surf. It was an unexpected, spontaneous night and it reminded me that though my life may seem more ordered and tame these days that there are and still will be many more surprises in my future!

The view form our table–we just missed the sunset

**** I would like to thank all of those responsible for making tonight possible—Daniela (Social Media Manager), Karina (hostess), Israel (our server), Javier (wine expert) and Chef Mauro Amati. GRACIAS!!! And I almost forget to mention the freshly baked Foccacia bread….amazing!!!

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Several months ago we tried a new place that had just opened up at the Ibis Hotel in downtown Cancun and after that 1st meal I was hooked! I enjoyed everything about our dining experience that in just a few short months we have been at least half a dozen times already. Piola, which means, “Meeting Place” in an ancient Italian dialect  was started over 20 years ago by two brothers from Treviso, Italy and can now be found in Italy, US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Turkey and Honduras.

Piola

Piola has a varied menu that features simple Italian food at great prices in a colourful setting, with great music and very friendly service. Hubby and I have been making our way through the menu and so far we haven’t been disappointed in any of the dishes. From the “vacio” that melts in your mouth (similar to rib-eye) served with salad and pasta, to the beef Carpaccio and various pasta dishes each and every meal has been satisfying, tasty and a reasonable price .

Picanha-Argentinian cut of beef

We have gotten to know the staff and we are always greeted warmly when we arrive for dinner or lunch and the place is always abuzz with people which is rare in Cancun.  They have inside and outside dining on a pleasant semi-enclosed patio and space for large groups. Be sure to order their house speciality-frozen basil martinis- a real refreshing treat! After, six visits we still have a long way to go before we have tried everything so if you see us there be sure to say hi and Buen Provecho!

Pasta!

What is your favourite neighborhood restaurant?

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If you didn’t take advantage of We Move Forward into 2012’s lowest promotion price don’t worry there is still time. The offer has been extended until January 31st!

Read more about this awesome event in Isla Mujeres in my previous blog post We Move Forward into 2012

*** I am not being financially compensated for this blog post. The views and opinions are strictly my own

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As most of my readers know I am originally from Vancouver and 17 years ago, at the tender age of 22, I made the bold (and slightly terrifying) decision to pick up my roots to move to a totally, different  country to what I was accustomed.  It meant learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture and lifestyle.  As a woman, and especially as a foreign woman, it was difficult at times to adapt to the ways of my new-found home.  I chose to live in Cancun for many reasons, one of which was the climate. Maybe that sounds a tad superficial, but I found that the warmer climate boosted my sense of well-being. I felt renewed and enjoyed the endless sunny days and blue skies.

A beach-side view of Isla Mujeres

Over the years, I’ve become acquainted with other like-minded, strong women from all over the world who also chose to make Cancun their home. And like me, they too have encountered their share of obstacles that go hand in hand with being a woman in Mexico. It took a while at first, but I can now say that I feel fully integrated into my adopted country, without having to give up my personal identity as a Canadian woman. If anything my experience of living here has made me a stronger, more patient person. I love my life, the colourful culture and the people I’ve met here through the years. The great weather doesn’t hurt either!

And so with that short background story I will get into the purpose of this blog post. Several months ago my youngest sister, Amy, who is an editor for a university magazine in Canada, emailed to tell me about an upcoming event in Isla Mujeres called “We Move Forward into 2012” that will be hosted in Isla Mujeres …a short ferry ride from Cancun. Apparently Amy had interviewed an alumni student, one 0f the facilitators of the event that will be taking place from March 8th-10th. I immediately checked out their website as I am always interested in what is going on in my neck of the woods. I remember thinking “Wow!  What an interesting event for women. How empowering!”

Isla Mujeres

Then about two weeks ago I was contacted by a woman called Janeen Halliwell, who had been referred to me by Kelly McLaughlin, a fellow Cancun blogger; A Canuck in Cancun (check it out J).  Janeen was interested in finding local bloggers to help spread the word about “We Move Forward into 2012”. I immediately told her that I would love to get involved as I believe that this event will be truly special. It’s about bringing women together to discover their true potential through workshops and key speakers: an opportunity to meet women from all walks of life and perhaps forge new friendships, while enjoying the beauty of tropical Isla Mujeres.  What a ‘funtastic’ way to dive into 2012. I was also struck by how small a world it is, since Janeen turned out to be the alumni student that my sister had interviewed several months ago. Go figure! Call it a coincidence, a fluke or fate, but something tells me that I was meant to share this event with my readers.

“We Move Forward into 2012” will take place in beautiful Isla Mujeres from March 8-10th. For more information please click here  http://www.wemoveforward2012.com/

And I have also been authorized to share with my readers a very special promotion:

We Move Forward into 2012 by giving you the gift of our LOWEST PRICE PROMOTION!

Register for WMF 2012 between January 1 – 12, 2012 and receive $212 off the cost of this experience of a lifetime! You pay only $483 for 3 days on The Island of Women to nourish your body, mind, soul and spirit.

This is a time-limited offer for a space-limited event.

Act now and you will be among a special group of women who are kicking off the New Year by investing in themselves and their future.

Visit www.wemoveforward2012.com to learn more and register.

If you have never been to Isla Mujeres click here to watch a short video about the island provided by We Move Forward into 2012 http://bit.ly/sQxkg6

I hope that you check out their website and share it with your girlfriends, aunts, sisters and any other special women in your life. It looks like a wonderful event and a great reason to spend some time in the sun.

*** I am not being financially compensated for this blog post. The views and opinions are strictly my own.

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When you hear people discussing their vacations in Mexico you will often hear them describe how beautiful the beaches are, the turquoise water and white, soft sand but what you may not hear them talk about as much are the thousands of cenotes that can be explored either on your own or by joining a tour group. A cenote is simply asinkhole that is most often surrounded by rocky edges. There are above ground sinkholes as well as subterranean cenotes and the water is usually very clear. Many Mayan settlements were based around cenotes as they provided an essential water source for the people. Chichen Itza is one of the more well-known cities that settled near these natural wells. Mayans also believed that these sinkholes were gateways to the afterlife and so they played important roles in theirMayan rites.

Cenote Yokdzonot

In my 16 years in Cancun I have visited many cenotes and I continue to explore new ones whenever I get the chance to do so. I have always loved the ocean but I am particularly fond of these magical, fresh water oasesperhaps because they bring back such fond memories of time spent at the numerous lakes, found in B.C., whilst growing up in Vancouver, Canada. Some of my favourite cenotes are located close to home in Quintana Roo and some others are several hours away in the Yucatan state. Cenote Cristalino, which is about 15 minutes south of Puerto Aventuras, is probably the first cenote that I ever visited over 14 years ago. When I first started going very few people knew of its existence. In fact, on most occasions when I went there with friends we would be the only people there .It was our very own private oasis. Through the years that has changed with the advent of major development in the Riviera Maya and “cenote tours”. “Cristalino” is no longer just “mine”; however, it still remains a beautiful spot which I visit often especially when friends are in town.

In the Yucatan you can explore such amazing watering holes like the open air Cenote Il Kil and Cenote Yokdzonot as well as Cenote Dzitnup and Cenote Samula which are both subterranean cenotes. On my first trip to Il Kil we left our SUV in the parking lot just as two very large tour buses pulled in and a huge group of tourists descended from the buses, cameras in hand,rushing towards the very same entrance that we were heading to. We all handed in our tickets and were guided through the souvenir store en route to the cenote where luckily we lost about half of the people from the buses as they were waylaid by sales people trying to peddle ornaments, blankets and otherkeepsakes. We hurried along trying to lose the herd but quickly realized that the cenote was already full of people who had arrived on earlier buses.

Cenote Manati

As we approached the steps leading down to Il Kil we stopped to admire the view from above and I was left speechless, which for anyone whoknows me is quite something. I had seen You Tube videos and photos of Il Kil before but they couldn’t even begin to compare to the sight before us. The crystal blue water, surrounded by rocky edges and vegetation was truly magnificent. We made our way down the steps until we arrived at the cenote’s edge where we joined a crowd of people. We stowed our belongings and dove into the cool water. As I floated on my back I suddenly became aware of a silence that enveloped the submerged cavern. I looked around and to my delight realized that the majority of people had left to continue on their tour. I basked in the silence and swam under the small waterfalls letting the water crash down over my face. As I surveyed the area around me I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place, so serene and lush with vegetation and natural beauty-a true Garden of Eden if there ever was one.

Cenote Il Kil

Yokdzonot is very similar to Il Kil but without the crowds as it is relatively new to the tourist scene. It is run by a small group of Mayan women to help support their community of 850 people. It boasts an estimated depth of 45 meters and is 40 meters across and about 22 meters from the rim to the water. On our last visit there we were the only people in the water. Need I say more? Finally, the cenotes Dzitnup and Samula, which are by no means less breathtaking, are located in Valladolid, a quaint colonial town about 1.5 hours from Cancun. Both of them are below ground and offer a different experience than the aforementioned cenotes. LED lights enable you to navigate the stairs down to the subtlety lit caverns where you are greeted by an eerie silence with cave walls that echo your every word. Samula, though smaller, is less crowded (for now), and there is an opening above that lets in rays of light that shine down on massive tree roots, which in search of water have taken root in the small island in the center of the cenote. As you swim through the mineral infused water you cannot help but feel blessed to be a part of such relatively untouched natural beauty. I often experience a great sense of peace and feel connected to “something bigger” when I visit these places.

Cenote Samula

There are so many cenotes that one can visit while exploring southern Mexico. I have but only scratched the surface with this article. Below is a small list of some of the cenotes that I have been to over the years and which I recommend that you consider exploring on your next visit to Quintana Roo and the Yucatan.

•             Cenote Cristalino-15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, Q.Roo

•             Cenote Eden-15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen,Q.Roo

•             Cenote Azul-15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen,Q.Roo

•             Cenote Manati-40 minutes south of Playa del Carmen,Q.Roo

•             Grand Cenote-90 minutes south of Playa del Carmen

•             Cenote Il Kil- 2 hours west of Cancun (next to Chichen Itza,Yucatan)

•             Cenote Yokdzonot-30 minutes from Chichen Itza,Yucatan

•             Cenote Samula and Cenote Dzitnup- 90 minutes west of Cancun (Vallalodid,Yucatan)

•             Cenote Cuzama (3 cenotes) 4 hours west of Cancun (Yucatan)

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A couple of weeks ago we finally got around to checking out Zenzi’s Sunday BBQ on the beach in Playa del Carmen. We had eaten there  several times before on one of our many Playa del Carmen excursions but we hadn’t made it down for the BBQ yet so I was eager to go. Who doesn’t love a beach BBQ? We gathered a group of friends together and set off for the day with just our towels and sunscreen since ZenZi has a funky beach lounge. It was a nice change from lugging our cooler, beach chairs, shovel and sun umbrella to the beach.

Every Sunday Zenzi has their all-you-can-eat beach BBQ for the very reasonable price of 120 pesos (less than $12) drinks not included of course. 🙂  We settled into huge bean bag-like seats under a large sombrilla and ordered our first drink of the day. It was a beautiful Sunday with barely any clouds in the sky and very little breeze so we made frequent trips to the ocean to cool off between playing rounds of dominos and catching up on everyone’s news…or should I say gossip? We even taught my girlfriend’s little girl how to play dominos and for a 4 year old she kicked butt!

Chillin' at Zenzi Playa

Finally just before 2pm the BBQ was ready and with grumbling stomachs we made our way to the line. You could separate the true meat lovers from the rest as the carnivores skipped the fresh green salad, pasta salad and potato salad and went directly to the grill. There they loaded up on burgers, plump sausages, pork chops and lightly charred chicken wings. Delish!!!! Armed with over-flowing plates we dug into our mouth-watering meals with gusto and some of us even went back for seconds…. and dare I say thirds? By now the live band had started up and the cool sound of reggae  filled our ears as we relaxed after our filling lunch.

More drinks were ordered and trips to the ocean became less frequent as we settled into our bean bags and passed the afternoon sharing stories and anecdotes about life. As the sun began to drop  we gathered our things, paid our bill and made our way back to Cancun. It had been a great Sunday shared with good friends and tasty food a winning combination by anyone’s standards. We all agreed that we would definitely go to ZenZi’s Beach Club for their BBQ on a Sunday again.

Just some of the food that can be found at the BBQ

Have you been to Zenzi’s before? Do you like BBQ’s?

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