Monday, April 29, 2013

Honeymoon: Day 7 Around Town & Day 8

The day after Michael and Amanda's wedding was supposed to be the "Wedding 2.0 recovery day" for all of the wedding guests, which would involve relaxing at the beach by their hotel. Again, since it was an all inclusive resort we figured we might have an issue getting in.

We started the morning trying out a different restaurant on the resort than we had, "Del Lago." It was a little more expensive but it was amazing with a much better breakfast buffet than the other restaurants on the resort. They also featured fresh made, all natural juices which were pretty fantastic, such as a cactus cantaloupe blend I tried.

One adorable part about all of the restaurants was that they did not have walls, they were open to nature, and so there were always birds hanging around, which I am sure some people would find gross, but again since I am a bird crazed person, I greatly enjoyed having them around. They had to keep covers on top of baskets that they kept the sugar packets in because the birds would come and steal them. At this restaurant there were also iguanas and other lizards chilling along the rocks a long the outskirts of the restaurant.

After a fanatastic breakfast we got out selves ready and decided to take a trip to downtown Playa del Carmen to check out the shopping and culture. The shop keepers are extremely overwhelming and are definitely using some high pressure sales tactics. I am not a fan of being places without set prices where there are bartering systems because I always felt like I  was getting cheated. We did get a few small things, such as magnets and T shirts for my parents, and some tequila for my sister and our friend Bruce who was puppy sitting for us in our absence. 

We also checked out the beach in down town Playa del Carmen, which was phenomenal. Unlike the beach at our hotel, there were no rocky reefs. We did not come prepared to really stay on the beach but it was nice to walk along the sand and get some more rays. 

Once we were done surfing the strip we headed to the hotel where everyone else was staying for the wedding in attempts to join the beach party. We did manage to sneak through one of the resorts and walk on the beach and find the party, however, as soon as we got there everyone was packing up from the beach and going to the pool bar which would be significantly harder to sneak into without the magical "all inclusive" bracelets. After spending a short time with Jordan's family and the rest of the wedding party we returned to our resort.

At the breakfast buffet at Del Lago they had encouraged us to come back for dinner, which included a show, so we decided to give it a try. The dinner was buffet style (as everything seemed to be there) and was steak themed, though the steak was way too salty for my taste, but everything else was good. We bought a bottle of wine and settled in for the show. It was just like a circus soleil type performance with dancers, singers, cloud swingers, contortionists. We were very happy  we decided to go back for dinner and to check out the how! Normally those types of shows are like $100 a  ticket and this was just included in dinner.

Day 8, was unfortunately not too exciting to talk about. We packed up and took one last stroll around the hotel. We went back to Del Lago again for breakfast (once we found them they couldn't get rid of us!)

We took the hotels shuttle to the airport, and headed home, to the cold, cruel Massachusetts. We were a bit worried since MA was expecting a snow storm on our way home.

The flight was ok, albeit the second half of the journey I got stuck next to some very loud ditzy girls who were chewing gum loudly (my major pet peeve!) and talking all sorts of ditzy nonsense non-stop. Since this was a short flight (lay over in philly) I could barely have my ipad on for distracting noise.

We took a cab to Bruce's house after our flight since it was starting to snow and we did not have a way of getting back to Gloucester.

It was very nice to see Leo, who was well taken care of by Bruce and got to hang out with his buddy James the whole time, but nonetheless, it was a cold awakening being back home.

I hope this was adequate description of our honeymoon, and again I apologize for the delay!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Honeymoon: Day 6, Michael and Amanda's wedding!

Day 6 of our honeymoon was Michael and Amanda's BIG day! 

Let me start off a bit with Michael and Amanda...

Michael is Jordan's cousin (or 2nd cousin.) Their Abuelita's (grandmothers) are sisters. 

Michael grew up in Miami, Florida whereas Jordan grew up around Boston, Massachusetts, yet they remained very close.

Michael’s little sister, Bianca danced with Amanda’s little sister, Melissa. They were BFFs and they always wanted to be sisters, so they came up with a scheme to get their older brother and sister together so they could be sisters. One day when they were hanging out at Bianca’s house, Melissa had Amanda pick her up and hence introducing the two… and so it began! That was 10 years ago.

A couple years ago, Jordan and I went on a trip to Florida for a vacation and to spend sometime with his family, this was my first time meeting them. We stayed with Michael and Amanda and their two dogs. They were so inviting and fabulous! All of Jordan’s family members down in Miami were like instant friends and family, they all welcome you with a hug and a kiss and invite you a long for everything.

I was, and still am, somewhat jealous and completely inspired by Amanda. She is gorgeous, super positive, and when I first met her she had just started working as a personal trainer. The jealously part comes in where she was out of the blue asked to become a trainer, whereas I up in Boston was certified and couldn’t find a job to save my life! Overall, her attitude is just amazing. Where other people would complain and whine she counts her blessings, which is always something I strive to do, but often come up short.
Amanda being an amazing yogi

After Jordan and I got engaged, Michael was like "now the pressure is really on!" since his cousin of the same age was getting married the family started giving him more pressure (But um, really... after 10 years I think the pressure was really already there.) 

Amanda's mother, who passed away 2 years ago, was Mexican, so they decided to have their wedding in Mexico in Playa del Carmen. 

The wedding was beautiful, and the location was amazing, but I will say the planning and communication left a bit to be desired. Especially since I was like the crazy wedding scheduler with everything for about 3 days surrounding the wedding broken down into roughly 15 minute intervals, so being there and having NO IDEA what was going on was a bit nerve racking. For instance, the meeting place described on Day 5 had not been decided until day 4 of our Mexico trip so I could not really plan or prepare.

Parents of the groom and my in-laws pre-wedding

Jordan was a groomsman in the wedding, and even he had no idea what time the actual wedding was at. We were told that a shuttle bus was leaving their hotel at 4:30 and another at 5:00 pm. We both managed to get on the 4:30 shuttle, which was good, because the 5:00 one never came and people had to find taxis and did not entirely know where they were going. 

The wedding took place at Xcaret, the ceremony was at St Francis of Assisi chapel, which was an open chapel without walls on top of a hill at Xcaret, which had a gorgeous view of the park. Getting there was a bit of a challenge, especially for older relatives and girls in high heals as it was a rocky, steep journey up to the chapel. 

The ceremony was beautiful, they did the traditional Mexican lasso ceremony where both Amanda and Michael's grandmothers roped a lasso around them to signify thier coming together as one. The lasso had been threaded with flowers from Amanda's mothers wedding dress which was a very special touch. Michael and Amanda had written their own vows, which was terrible in the sense that I cried the whole time. I always find the personal vows to be so beautiful and heart wrenching. They were a combination of sentimental, loving and funny. 
Lasso Ceremony

For the wedding reception, we walked across the park to "La Isla" Restaurant. Along the route were men dressed in traditional Mayan attire with face paint and blowing through conch shells as may have occured during Mayan celebrations. 

La Isla restaurant is set in a natural cave that involves walking down a spiral path down into the cave, which is surrounded by waterfalls and has an impressive fire in the middle. We were greeted by ornately garbed waiters who provided guests with cucumber or mango margaritas with a chili pepper rim (which was unexpected but delicious!). 

The whole restaurant set up was surreal. They had a harp player suspended over the cave, the roof was an intricate thatched spiral roof, lights were reflected off of the water and the caves crevices. 

Speeches were given by the father of the bride, best man (Michael's older brother Alex), maid of honor (Amanda's little sister Melissa) and a few other friends. Most of the speeches were in Spanish so I understood about a quarter of them. Amanda's sisters was given in English, in which she described how she and Bianca had wanted to be sisters, and about how their mother couldn't be there, it was a very touching speech which clearly lead to water works. 

Alex, the best man, toasting his brother
Melissa, the Maid of Honor, promising that she would not make today all about her, as she likes to do

Amanda laughing at a speech 
First Dance as newly weds! 

The reception went on with much dancing and tequila!   The food was also gorgeous and delicious of course, including an entree of surf and turf and some crazy looking desserts 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Honeymoon: Day 5 Beach bums

After our first 3 days of non-stop exploring we were ready for a well deserved beach/ pool day. 

We had a very strenuous day of getting a tan, swimming, ordering drinks by the pool and eating by the water.  

We started the morning by the beach, but as aforementioned the water was not really safe to go into there since there were reefs along the beach, so we moved up to the pool area. We did some reading (I was reading the Rules of the Bone fyi.) 

The service there was amazing. They came by to inform us when happy hour was and take our orders. We tried an array of fruity drinks and coronas. We were about to leave to go get lunch when they informed us they could serve us right there! So we stayed. Life was so tough.

After a day of lounging we set off to meet up with Jordan's family who was also in Playa del Carmen for his cousins wedding. Everyone else was staying at the Riu Grand Mayan Riviera Maya, which despite almost having an identical name to the resort we were staying at, was actually about a 30 minute taxi drive across town. 

Further confusion ensued when we were dropped off at the Riu Grand Mayan Riviera Maya Mexico, which apparently is a DIFFERENT hotel a couple miles away from our intended location. All of the Riu's were all inclusive resorts so we couldn't even get to front desk to figure out were we were. We had heated conversations with security guards at the entrance of of about 4 other Riu Grand Mayan resorts before finally finding the right one! It also did not help that the restaurant within the resort we were looking for was called the "La taquilla restaurante" so when we were trying to ask for directions (in our not-so-good Spanish) we kept being pointed in the direction of liquor stores instead. 

We finally found Jordan's family, but we still had to eat separately because they would not let us into the resort since we were not staying there, even though Michael, Jordan's cousin (the groom-to-be) had us on all of the lists, had paid for us and they took copies of our passports. 

We did get to spend some time with the family for a few hours at a bar afterwards but it was a frustrating chain of events to say the least! 

Random dancing at the bar on stage with the niños
Here is my Sister-in-Law Alya and her BF Ian 

This was Michael, the Groom's, dapper rehearsal dinner attire.

Groom's Abuelo and Abuela (now somehow my great Tio and  Tia  In laws I guess!) 

One of the groomsmen chilling on the beach 
Grooms Brother, Alex, Sister Bianca and Michael 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Honeymoon: Day 4 Xcaret!

Day 4 of our honeymoon journey, we did our last of the three Xcaret Tours, this time to Xcaret! 

Since Jordan had not been feeling well I was afraid we were going to have to skip our last tour, but I loaded him up with drugs (tylenol) and we shipped off on another bus!

Xcaret is a giant park that has cultural displays, nature exhibits, animal sanctuaries and beaches. There was a lot to take in!

We watched some of the cultural displays including the flying men (Jordan got a cool video of this but I do not know how to upload it.) The men basically come down from ropes by their feet and spin around while one man stays on top and sings and plays a drum. It is a way of honoring the gods.

We walked around and checked out the animal exhibits like the flamingos, jaguars, and manatees

Of course I could not miss an opportunity to make Jordan dress up as a turtle since I always call him a snapping turtle! (He snaps his jaw all the time.)

It was REALLY hot so we again did some water activities including some snorkling. We had to lock up the camera for this part so no photos. We also checked out the cemetery, stain glass windows, and butterfly pavilion. 
As you may know, I am kind of bird obsessed, so of course I dragged Jordan around the aviary. There were all sorts of parrots, flamingos, and water birds. 

 I was a bit disappointed since all of the pictures in the advertisements had parrots sitting on people, yet none of them seemed to want to be my friend. 

At the very end of the day we discovered my FAVORITE part of the park - the gift shop! Inside the gift shop were these bird eggs in an incubator that were hatching as you watched. It was amazing! All of a sudden you would be watching and ::CRACK:: a baby chick would go flying out and run around on top of the other eggs. I think I was literally crying I was so excited. Jordan joked that it was a good thing we did not see them earlier or I wouldn't have wanted to go see anything else.

We had the option to stay for a cultural show with dancing and music, but neither of us were feeling too good by this point so we decided to take the early bus home after having a traditional Mexican dinner.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Honeymoon: Day 3 Xplor!

Day 3 led us to another day of adventures. Throughout this time we had also spent some time at the pool, wandering around the resort and using our enormous jacuzzi in bedroom of course. 

Some statue in the resort lobby

We started the morning with a breakfast buffet at the Green Break room at the resort, which was a lovely buffet. We then hopped on another bus from the Xcaret company to check out Xplor

Since Xplor was largely water based, we did not bring our camera. But here are some pictures we snapped from from the bus. It was very interesting to see how variable Playa del Carmen was, it was tons of resorts and then little shacks like this: 

The tour guide described it as the industry in the Yucatan was currently tourism and rocks. We did also pass a few agave farms where they grow agave for tequila! The bus was going to fast at those points to take pictures though. 

There were A LOT of gorgeous parts of Mexico (and we obviously only saw a tiny piece of it) I just found the juxtaposition between the massive resorts and the tiny houses to be very interesting.  

Xplor was the "Adventure Theme Park" of the Yucatan.  Like I said, we did not take any pictures so these as from their website (linked) 

We started off by zip lining. I had never done it before, actually we were going to go ziplining for my bachelorette party but were unable to go because of a thunderstorm, so this was a good redemption.  There were two lines, one was higher and slower and one was faster and lower. They were both quite nice. We got to see the view of the park and some wild animals and fantastic caves. There were also a few splash landings!

Our next stop was to the underground cave swimming. There was the option to either swim or raft, we did the swimming. We also discovered that Jordan had extremely squeaky flip-flops after this adventure and I almost killed him <3 br="">

We then hung out for a bit on some hammocks to dry off (unfortunately the day we went here was the coldest day of our trip so after cave diving we needed to do some defrosting!) We also enjoyed some delicious fresh juice and smoothies! 

Next tried some amphibious vehicles.  We went zooming around the park and through caves and rivers! I am not going to lie, this was not too exciting and we were so cold at this point we were trying to focus on not getting any more wet.

Finally, we engaged in our favorite activity: the lunch buffet. We saved this for the end after all of the crazy excursions. They had a nice mix of foods but it was somewhat funny how every buffet also offered hotdogs and hamburgers (trying to appease the American kids!). 

Unfortunately our day of events left Jordan not feeling very good and I promptly took him back to the hotel and tucked him in! He blamed it on swallowing the zipline water but I think it was just the flying, and traveling since there were no GI symptoms.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Honeymoon: Day 2 Chichén Itzá!

 (Day 2 of our very delayed recap of our Honeymoon, in honor of Jessica.) 

Jordan’s mother had scared the bejesus out of us telling us about how his aunt was kidnapped in Mexico, so prior to going I had planned out a bunch of touristy trips before hand. I also made a very detailed agenda of our trip which everyone made fun of me for.

Our first trip was to Xichen Mayan Ruins, to Chichén Itzá (pronounced like chicken pizza). We did all of our tours through and did the 3 tour bundle, it was definitely worth it if you are considering doing to Mexico in the Playa del Carmen/ Cancun region.

Our first stop (which by the way, was a LONG ride ~2 hours, so if you go you might consider bringing a book which I neglected to do!)  was the Mayan Ruins! I admittedly did not know too much about them before hand so it was very interesting to get the guided tour.

They used to let people climb the ruins and go inside, but apparently people were doing graffiti inside. Inside sounded very cool and complex, apparently the more famous the person, the higher levels they got to go to. For example the priests were numero uno and got to go to the tippity top!

Along the side are these cool snake heads, that when the shadow hits them just right was a sign that it was time to plant the crops and harvest the crops. It was also a time for human sacrifice.

Along the walls were lines and lines of skulls, representing all of the human sacrifices made for the gods.
 They have a huge arena with these hoops on either side. The players hit a ball with a bat type of object in order to get the ball through the hole. At the end of the game one of the teams was sacrificed, it was unclear if it was the winning or losing team! It may have been considered a big honor to be sacrificed so it is hypothesized that the winners were sacrificed.  Those hoops were high up so I have no idea how anyone could get a ball up there.
Arena Hoops 

 While the ancient Mayans were not sacrificing people or playing games, they had some very well organized market places where most business would occur. There were pillars like this organized around in the market place where people used to gather to do their shopping.

In modern times, everyone now tries to sell the tourists stuff! Specifically masks and obsidian rock noted to have healing properties (think those rocks they put on people during a massage!) 

Beer was complimentary on the tour as well, also a great selling point.

We then went to Zací Mayan cenote, a natural swimming hole in a cave. It was gorgeous. There were some people swimming in the hole, but we were only given 30 minutes to explore so we did not have the chance. We almost got left behind by the tour bus as it was!

I was pretending to dive off the edge, but since you cannot see the edge it was less dramatic. Let us also note how red my arm was and this is only day 2!! They joked that in Yucatan, you can tan! I apparently could burn :x

An alter where some people worship
Entrance to the cave
 Our final stop of the day was Valladolid, Yucatan. We had lunch there and then got to wander around the city a little bit (Since Jordan and I had just almost gotten left behind at the sink hole we were very tentative to wander too far!) The town was very interesting. It used to also contain Mayan Ruins, but they were torn down and the town was built, but interestingly they used some of the same rocks that had been in the pyramids to make the new buildings.

 We mostly just checked out the local cathedral. There were a lot of people begging here and really showed the poverty of this particular area.

The end of the evening was us returning on our 2+ hour bus ride, after complimentary beers all day, so we once again hit the hay pretty early!