Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Two Eyes (PDC June 22, 2013)

This was our last full day in Playa Del Carmen and we started it off with breakfast at the Mayan Bistro before heading to the dive shop at 8:30. This would be our last two dives and we decided to do them in the Dos Ojos (Spanish for Two Eyes) Cenote. My Dad and I had both been to this cenote before, but it was Thomas's first cenote dive. It's a great first cenote experience.

Cenotes are beautiful. They are caverns that are dark and you need a flashlight to dive in them, but throughout the cenote, you can see shafts of light shining through the water. It's incredible and no diver should miss it. 

After the dive, we headed back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation before going to dinner. We had a great dinner at La Vagabunda, one of our favorite places in Playa. I had the filet mignon, Dad had the chili and Thomas had fish and chips. Everyone was happy with the food. Afterwards, Thomas and I headed down 5th Avenue in search of last minute souvenirs. We walked a lot, but found what we were looking for. We went back to the hotel and spent the last night in paradise laying out by the pool, enjoying the evening. 

I couldn't have asked for a better time with the two most important men in my life - my Dad and my wonderful boyfriend. Adios Mexico! We'll be back! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Horses, ATVs, and Jet Skis...OH MY! (PDC, June 20/21, 2013)

We had a leisurely breakfast at the Mayan Bistro before heading down the road to the Gran Porto Real Hotel where the horseback riding crew picked us up and took us to Maroma Adventures. It’s about a 30 minute drive from Playa. We waited for awhile and then were led to the horseback riding area where we mounted our horses for the trail ride to the beach. My horse was named Apache.

About 10 minutes into the ride, one of the horses fell over on its side and knocked the rider off. I am unsure of what happened. I think the horse tripped on something. Horse and rider were OK though and one of the tour guides traded horses with the rider and we were underway again. The ride was very nice, we meandered through a jungle trail and then near the beach and back again. It was a good way to spend a morning.

Manne's Biergarten. Delicious!
We returned to the hotel and got ready to head out to dinner. We had decided once again on Manne’s Biergarten. It has great food and we all enjoyed it earlier in the week. We walked over and were seated in the back outside. It was just us out there so it was like having our own private dining area. The food was great! Thomas and I had pork roast and my Dad had the schnitzel. We all enjoyed it.

After dinner we headed over to the bus station where we had ice cream cones from McDonald’s. Then we did some shopping as we walked back to our hotel  up 5th Avenue.

Later, after the sunset, Thomas and I went for a romantic walk on the beach. It was a beautiful day and evening.

FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2013
We had breakfast with Dad before we once again headed out to the Gran Porto Real Hotel to be picked up for our trip to Maroma Adventures. Dad decided on diving in the afternoon while Thomas and I went with ATV and Jet Ski riding. We arrived at Maroma and were taken to the jet skis first. Both the jet and ATV were shared, which meant Thomas and I would both be riding on the same one. I let Thomas have the jet ski for himself since he'd never been on one and I was on one last year in Cozumel. It's really hard to ride those with two people so I took pictures while he was on it. 

We both rode the ATV with Thomas driving. I had been on the ATV before as well, but again Thomas had never been. He loved both the jet ski and the ATV. We both had a lot of fun!!

Postcard comes to life!
After the activities were over, we had about a two-hour wait before the shuttle would take us back to the pick-up point so we had the free chips and salsa they offered then we found some lounge chairs on the hut in the picture to the left. Is that a postcard photo or what?? Thomas took that picture and I think it's just amazing. I would love to stay right there on the beach chair forever. Unfortunately, we did have to leave when our shuttles came. 

We made our way back to the hotel and we met up with Dad who had a good reef dive while we were gone. Then we all went to Las Delicias where Thomas and I had dinner. Dad had eaten earlier at Subway so he came along to keep us company. It was a nice dinner with all of us together. Thomas and I opted for some frozen yogurt at a shop I had seen as we were going to Maroma earlier in the day. The yogurt was expensive and not very good. Lesson learned - stick with the McDonald's cones at the bus station!

After dinner, Thomas and I went to the beach once again for a beautiful moonlight walk. We spent some time on the pier and listened to the waves. Such a nice way to end the evening. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Under Da Sea in Mexico (PDC, June 18/19, 2013)

TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 2013
We started the day with breakfast at Mayan Bistro. I ate way too much, which was a mistake. I had two sausages, several pieces of toast, and a couple of pieces of banana bread, plus some tea and juice. I should have known better than to eat that way when I’m diving in the morning, but live and learn.

We headed to the dive shop and got ready for our first dive of the day. This was Thomas’s first dive in the ocean. I was so excited to be diving with him. He had to do some exercises for his scuba certification while we were in the water. Our first dive was at a reef where we saw some eels and beautiful fish and coral. Then, during the break before the second dive, my stomach was feeling mutinous. This is what happens when I eat too much before diving. But I was OK with some rest.

Thomas makes his first descension
to the bottom of the sea
The second dive was very interesting. We descended to the bottom and Thomas completed some of the exercises he had to do as part of his certification. Then, we started swimming. And swimming. And swimming. The current was rough and we were swimming against it. We made very little progress and we couldn’t see a reef anywhere. Our dive master ascended twice to the top of the water. We later found out she was looking for our boat. The second time she ascended, she gave us the signal to stay where we were. 

Usually, when the dive master ascends, the rest of us do as well. But we stayed on the bottom and we held hands to try to stay in place because the current was so strong. Finally, the dive master gave us the signal to ascend and we did so. We floated for awhile on the top of the water waiting for our boat to come get us. Usually, the boat is very nearby our ascension spot, but the strong current had caused us to drift way off our course so the boat was across the water where we should have been. It was a good exercise for us in that we know we can handle some difficult circumstances under water. That is a very valuable thing for a scuba diver.

We got back to the hotel and Thomas and I decided to have a snack at the hotel restaurant. It turned out to be way more food than I thought it would be. Thomas had the Mayan cheeseburger and I had the beef burrito. It was a lot more food than I needed since I just wanted a snack, but it was OK.

Later, I had a nap and then Thomas and I headed to Las Delicias, which is my favorite place in Playa for fajitas. I had fajitas and Thomas had the tampiquena. We finished the evening walking down 5th Avenue, buying some post cards and taking photos. It was a nice evening with my amazing Thomas!!

We were up early again this morning. We had a leisurely breakfast before heading to the dive shop. I had two granola bars and some tea. I learned from yesterday’s mistake of eating too much before hitting the water. We walked over to the dive shop and got ready to head out to the dive site.

Here Fishie, Fishie
Today, we dove two reefs and it was amazing!! We saw sting rays, amazing schools of fish, a lion fish, and a huge turtle. The turtle was amazing, so incredible to see it under the water. Thomas finished his open water exercises and was certified as a scuba diver today! I am so proud of him!!

We returned to the hotel and I took a shower and then a nap. We headed to Karen’s Restaurant with my Dad where we all had great food. Thomas and I had the filet mignon and my Dad had the chicken. We talked for awhile at the restaurant and then headed to the Mega store where we got some water and M&Ms. OK, and also a Snickers Bar. And a couple of ice cream cones. But that’s all, I swear. Oh wait, we also bought a coconut.

We then headed back to the hotel where we will rest for the evening because tomorrow, we ride! Horses that is!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hola! Chilling in Mexico (PDC June 16/17, 2013)

SUNDAY, JUNE 16, 2013
My wonderful boyfriend, Thomas, and I were up early so we could get to the airport and fly to Cancun. We stopped at Shipley's Doughnuts for a morning pick-me-up before heading to the parking lot and taking the shuttle to the airport. Once inside, we saw a Nestle's Cookie kiosk and we bought a couple of cookies and some Icees. Definitely on the vacation diet already. We headed to the gate to wait for my Dad who was flying in from San Antonio and then joining us on the flight from Houston to Cancun.

This would be the first time Thomas met my Dad. They are Facebook friends and communicate some that way, but this was the first time they would be meeting. The meeting went well, which I knew it would. My parents are very good that way - they like our significant others unless and until they give a reason not to like them. My Dad also lived in Germany for 9 years total when he was in the Army (4 years one stint and 5 the next) so he knows the culture and the country and has traveled extensively throughout Europe. So he and Thomas had a lot in common. 

Since it was Father's Day, I gave my Dad his gift - a box of Caramel deLites Girl Scout cookies. He loves them and, as all real Americans know because real Americans eat these cookies every year, you can only buy them between January and March. I had bought a box and back in March and saved them for Father's Day. My Dad loved them!

So, finally we all got on the plane and I slept for most of the flight. I was tired. We arrived in Cancun and took the bus to Playa Del Carmen. There is no direct flight to Playa, but it's only 45 minutes from the airport via bus. The trip was easy and quick and we were in Playa in no time. We exchanged some money at the bus station because they give a good rate for dollars to Pesos and then we headed to our hotel, Aventura Mexicana, via taxi.

We checked into the hotel and then trekked over to Subway, where we always eat the first day. It's nearby and quick. We're always tired that first day so we have a simple meal. Afterwards, we bought some water at the Oxxo store and brought it back to the hotel before heading down 5th Avenue, the main tourist street, to scoop out some restaurants for the rest of the week and to go to Dairy Queen, another treat we allow ourselves while we're here. But, we were aghast upon discovering that DQ wasn't where we left it last time we were here in January. It had closed. The was great. But have no fear, we soldiered on because we are adept travelers and our mission for ice cream had a happy ending. More on that later.

We trekked the streets for a short time looking for a restaurant called Grillmeister, a German place my Dad had read about on Trip Advisor. The menu looked great so we wanted to try it. We didn't find it, but we decided to try again on Monday.

We came back to our rooms and headed to bed early because Monday was going to be our first Scuba Diving Day! While my Dad and I are certified divers, Thomas had never been diving, but he was getting certified here in Playa on this trip. He had done the academic study online before coming here and now he was going to do the practical work. I was very excited for him to get in the ocean with us and see all there is to see. But first, he had to get in the pool.

MONDAY, JUNE 17, 2013
My Dad headed to the dive shop early to take care of the scheduling and payment stuff (the non-fun items), while Thomas and I had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. They offer a free continental breakfast at the Mayan Bistro and it's good. 

Around noon, we headed over to Dive Mexico, which is the best dive shop ever anywhere. EVER!! We always dive with them when we come to Playa and it's always a great time no matter what. They are safety conscious, friendly, and always make sure you have a great time. 

Thomas had to complete some paperwork and a quick refresher for the academic portion of the dive instruction. He only missed two of the 18 questions. I am so proud of him! He's very smart, which is one of the many things I love about him. Dad and I then suited up in our wet suits and headed to the beach while Thomas spent the afternoon in the pool at the shop. The first day of dive instruction is in the pool so he can get familiar with the equipment and basic dive procedures. He enjoyed it and the instructor said he did everything right the first try. Again, very smart man! 

Dad and I had two reef dives in the ocean and we enjoyed them both. I always have trouble clearing my ears on dives and today was no exception. The pain was immense, but I got my ears cleared and really enjoyed our dives. We went out with a dive master named "Machete." Not his real name of course, but everyone calls him that. He was very nice and we both liked him a lot. He's from Spain as is our favorite dive master, Andrea. But Andrea was out on another dive so we had Machete. Nice guy and he was very understanding that I would need a lot of time to descend so my ears could clear. 

The reef dives were great, we saw a lot of eels, a lot of beautiful fish, we swam through an arch that had a lot of fish. It is so incredible to be underwater. I just can't explain it. Scuba diving is almost like a cult in a way. Once you get involved with it, it's hard to explain to others unless they too are involved, and you want to recruit everyone you know to get involved. It's just so amazing.

We finished our dives and returned to the shop where we met Thomas. We got our equipment rinsed off and we returned to the hotel where we showered and then began our trek to Grillmeister. We had gotten a good address from one of the dive shop women so we headed that direction. We didn't find Grillmeister, but we did find another German restaurant in the same area. They told us Grillmeister had closed so we opted to eat at Manne's Biergarten. The food was good. I had chicken cordon bleu, Thomas had schnitzel, and my Dad had the pork roast. It was all delicious and we will definitely return there for another meal this week. 

Thomas thought the ADO Bus Station might have a Dairy Queen. He thought he saw a DQ sign there when we arrived so we went to check it out. They did not have a DQ, but they did have a McDonald's ice cream shop so Dad got a couple of cones there. We hung out at the bus station for awhile because the rain was coming down hard, but it finally let up a bit so we headed back to our hotel and to see if we could find an ice cream shop that the folks at Manne's had told us about.

We stopped by a couple of places including the ice cream shop we'd been told about, but they were very expensive so we decided to head to the Mega (supermarket) to buy some ice cream there. As we walked into the Mega, we saw an ice cream shop on the ground floor with good prices and great prices. YES! SUCCESS!! Dad and I had banana splits and Thomas had a coconut drink. He also shared some of my banana split. It was all so good. 

We bought a coconut at the Mega because Thomas had heard fresh coconut in Mexico was very good. We got back to the hotel and broke the coconut holes with some scissors (we are a resourceful group) so we could drain the juice. Thomas will break the actual coconut Tuesday evening to begin eating it. 

We headed to bed early because Tuesday was going to be our first dive together. I couldn't wait for Thomas to see everything. Stay tuned for a recap of Tuesday's dive!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Feeling Blue

Last Friday, my sweet Thomas and I had a wonderful evening! We went to Outback Steakhouse and I introduced Thomas to A-1 Steak Sauce. He'd never had it and he loves it. We bought some at the store this last week. We both enjoyed our meals at Outback and then we headed to downtown Houston for Blue Man Group!

When I was in Germany in October, we planned to go to Berlin to see Blue Man Group, but the travel costs to Berlin were prohibitive. So, we scrapped that plan. But I decided to see if maybe, just maybe Blue Man Group might have a show in Houston at some point. I did the research online and found that they did indeed have a traveling show that was in Houston the first part of June! I purchased the tickets back in March and decided to surprise Thomas when he arrived here in May. 

He was thrilled! We drove to Jones Hall in downtown Houston and sat in great seats waiting for the show to begin. It did not disappoint!! The show has no dialogue. It is full of music, colors, and a ton of fun. It doesn't matter what language you speak or where you're from, everyone can enjoy it. And everyone did! The hall was full and every person there had a great time! Laughter, clapping, standing ovations. It was amazing!!

Blue Man Group is in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, and Orlando as well as traveling throughout the US for the rest of this year. It is also in Berlin, Australia, Brazil, and on the Norwegian Epic cruise ship. 

It's absolutely worth seeing and it's something all ages from kids to the elderly can enjoy. So much fun! GO BLUE!