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Moving On!

Hi Everyone!

This will be my last post on “Ashlie’s Cancun Blog and other stuff! “which for the most part has been focused solely on Cancun.  I want to write about more than just my Cancun exploits. Don’t get me wrong I love Cancun and it has been my home for better or for worse for 18 years now but there is so much more to my life than just Cancun. So that being said thank you for showing an interest in my often sporadic ramblings about Cancun and I hope that you will decide to check out my new blog: http://travelfoodphotography.wordpress.com/

 

I plan to continue to blog about Cancun but I will also be sharing my love of travel, food and photography. A winning combination don’t you think?

I hope to see you again!

Sincerely,

Ashlie

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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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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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Birthday parties are always fun especially when you are a kid! I remember being so excited about my birthday party that I used to make myself sick. My Mom would organize such great parties with amazing cakes, which I don’t think that I could ever enjoy, because I always worked myself into such a state of excitement beforehand.  Those were the days when we lived for our birthdays and for our friend’s birthdays.

Jardin de Fiesta! Party Venue

Two weeks ago we went to a good friend’s of our son’s birthday party. He turned 6. Hubby and I don’t have any kids yet though we are in the process of “trying” –translation…lots of sex! Kid’s birthday parties in Mexico are very different than what I remember in Canada. I have been to a few of them during my 15 years in Cancun and they all seem to have one thing in common. In Mexico a child’s birthday involves the whole family, friends of the family and parents of the children. WOW!!! You do the math…. When I was a kid birthday parties generally meant, a few kids, a theme, games, cake, presents, and then your parents picked you up. If you are already reeling from the idea of the number of invitees now imagine that your child is in a class of 30 kids or so and that the custom is that you invite all of the kids to the party…now times that by parents and friends! Are you starting to get the picture?

Musical chairs

This particular birthday party was held at a jardin de fiestas (entertainment venue), which is quite common, as where in the world would you fit all of your guests otherwise? There was a swimming pool, a basketball court, an area with chairs and tables under a large palapa and a grill. And like most jardin de fiestas they are usually found off the beaten track as savvy investors buy up large parcels of land (cheap) and install a pool, a palapa, or sometimes a large hall to hold various events and then rent them out.

The Birthday Family

For Nico’s birthday they provided home-cooked food for everyone. At other events, which I have attended in the past, they have either been catered or a grill-man has been hired to cook the food at the party, which the hosts have brought in advance. Generally speaking guests bring their own alcoholic drinks but other non-alcoholic beverages are often provided. Last weekend there were about 60 guests of which 25 were children. It was a fairly hot day so the majority of the kids and some parents enjoyed cooling off in the pool, while others played on the jungle gym, while the adults sipped their drinks in the shade swapping stories.

Whacking the piñata!

After filling our tummies with cochinita, pastries and other snacks the games began for the kids. First up musical chairs and then some other familiar games ensued. Next the much anticipated event began—the piñata! All the kids lined up single file according to height (to give the little ones a chance first) in front of the strung up effigy of Batman. A resounding “whack, whack” proceeded as each child took their turn striking “Batman” until finally “he” exploded and candy fell everywhere. In a frenzied-like state the kids fell upon the floor to gather up as much candy as they could hold in little plastic bags.

The piñata aftermath

Once the piñata festivities came to an end it was time for dessert!! As Nico blew out the candles on his Spiderman decorated cake his face was unceremoniously pushed into the chocolaty, gooey, spongy cake, which is the custom in Mexico. For anyone who has never heard of this it is quite normal in Latin countries for the young and old alike. It usually starts off with people chanting “mordida mordida mordida” (bite bite bite) after the birthday song has been sung. The song that is always sung is Las Mañanitas.

Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David,

 Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti,

 Despierta, mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció,

 Ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió.

Que linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte,

 Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte,

 Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio,

 Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.

Translation:

This is the little morning song that King David sang

Because today is your saint’s day and we are singing it for you

 Wake up, my dear, wake up, look it is already dawn

 The birds are already singing and the moon has set

How beautiful is the morning in which I come to greet you

 We all came with joy and pleasure to congratulate you

 The morning is coming now; the sun is giving us its light

 Get up, it is morning, look it is already dawn.

The birthday boy!

Once everyone had enjoyed some cake hubby and I left and the party continued with Nicolas opening his gifts and as the last guests left the party the little ones were handed small party bags with a few gifts of appreciation from the hosts. It had been a lovely day spent with friends and I was once again reminded of some of the reasons that I love Mexico.

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Well, hello there everyone!! It sure has been awhile since I last sat down and blogged about my experiences in Cancun. My last post was at the end of June just before hubby and I left for Vancouver for our annual vacation to my hometown. There are many reasons that I stopped blogging for a while which I won’t bore you with today but suffice to say I finally feel ready to blog again. I hope for those of you who take the time to read about my experiences that you enjoy  our latest Cancun adventure.

Last Sunday hubby and I set off in our SUV along a dirt road to the end of Isla Blanca excited because we were going to “fly” that day. Sometime ago we saw a strange “flying machine” high up in the air over the Caribbean ocean and I exclaimed to hubby “I must must  must do that” We found out that a relatively new company to Cancun had brought “paramotor” to our sandy white beaches. Basically speaking a “paramotor”  is a quasi-go-kart for two with an  aircraft-type propeller and a parachute which is attached to it enabling one to fly.

Fly Me Cancun

Cesar getting ready for take off

We arrived at our destination, which was a beautifully untouched area of soft white sand surrounded by a deep turquoise ocean on one side and the calm green shallow waters of a lagoon on the other side. Daniel, one of the owners, explained to us what to do and what not to do on our flight and proceeded to strap Cesar into the “flying machine”. With thumbs- up from the pilot the “paramotor” set off along the beach until it took off and slowly climbed higher and higher into the cloudless blue sky.

Airborne!

When it was my turn I eagerly took my place and as we set off my heart skipped a beat as we left the shore behind us. As Isla Blanca and the people gathered around on the ground became smaller and smaller I felt a sense of utter freedom and wonderment. I marvelled at the beauty that is Cancun. The vibrant colours of the ocean and lagoon where they joined together took my breath away. Suddenly the pilot touched my shoulder and motioned to the right and I saw a huge turtle gliding effortlessly through the water alongside the shore. WOW!!!

Amazing View!

As our flight came to an end it seemed less than the allotted 15 minutes only because one can easily lose themself in the moment of pure freedom and beauty. We landed and after thanking all involved we set off on our way.

Beautiful!

It had been an incredible day. It reminded me of just how beautiful Cancun is, which can be easy to forget when you are working here and living day to day. As I write this I am transported once again into the sky and that sense of utter freedom and endless possibilities.

Videos of our day: Taking Off  and Hubby Airborne

For more info: Fly Me Cancun 

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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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