S: Riviera Maya - Mexico - 2011
FC: Riviera Maya - Mexico | 2011
1: I am feeling very blessed to be safely home from another grand vacation in the Caribbean. This marks our 5th trip to the Caribbean and our 2nd trip to Mexico! Rachel and I took 1,200 pictures throughout the week to commemorate. I am so happy to be able to share in the cultures of the world – as per St. Augustine – “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
2: This trip has especial meaning, commemorating our 10th year anniversary return with the Farkas’! | 2011 | 2001
3: Then & Now | We haven’t changed a bit! However, our combined clans have doubled in size since our trip in 2001. | 2011
4: La Playa
7: On Saturday, August 13, 2011, we set out on our 7-night adventure to Barcelo Maya Tropical Colonial at Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico. We booked through Continental Airlines vacations, with our flight leaving PIT at 7:00am for CLE then at 9:00am to arrive at Cancun at 11:30am. Viva Mexico!! Our all-inclusive trip was $2,460 and we originally booked Dylan, who only added $70 as he is still a lap child and we booked under the “kids stay free” promotion. Considering our flights were around $400 each, the vacation was an incredibly great value. After our Myrtle Beach trip in June, we decided it would be sad but better for Dylan to stay home. The prior night we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express then arose at 4:00am to catch the 4:30am shuttle. Check in was relatively easy and not crowded so we had time to have some fast food at McDonald’s. We even squeezed in an early morning beer at Great Lakes Brewing Co. Our flights were on-time and without a hitch although there is a one-hour time difference. Before takeoff, Lauren commented that she would rather eat mashed potatoes with yucky stuff on them than fly!
9: When we landed in Cancun, Brady saw a policeman with a machine gun and said, “This is intense!” We got to the resort around 3:00pm and had an awesome reception, complete with early check-in, drinks upon arrival, five specialty restaurant bookings and adjoining rooms #7253 and #7254 with the Farkas’. When we rounded the corner and saw Corona on tap, I think it was more surreal! We escorted the bellhop with our bags to the room and were even more pleasantly surprised by a fully stocked fridge with Modelo, sodas and jalapeño lime peanuts!
11: Our Room
12: With all this excitement, it was time to get something to eat at the beach buffet; however, our journey was somewhat halted by a tornado right out on the water from our resort! Let’s just say some of us ran for cover and some of us thought it was a great time to hit the buffet for a better view. Pollo Poco! We all know it was just a water spout! The tropical rain storm cleared up quickly and we checked out the pier where we saw an eel, big blue fish and striped yellow fish. The kids jumped in the ocean and pool with their clothes on! They spent hours in the Barcy waterpark which had slides everywhere, including a corkscrew, and while I would have loved to have tried it out myself; the resort Nazis had a whistle that prohibited us adults!
15: Sunday is our first full day of lazy bliss – Today I don’t feel like doin’ anything – I just wanna lay in the pool – Just wanna pick up a drink - Mixed up by Mario Coochie Coochie with a wink – ‘Cause today I swear I’m not doin’ anything – Nothing at ALL!! Woot woot!
16: The Riviera Maya
17: We sampled the whole catalog of drinks from Riviera Maya, Pina Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri, Mojito, Banana Surprise, Tequila Sunrise and my personal favorite, the Mango Tango. Even the kids ordered virgin drinks and Ben especially liked the “Cherry Temple”. Bienvenidos! Oh we put in a full shift at the pool bar today like it was an Olympic event!
19: Pool Bar
21: The kids were fully occupied playing goalie at water polo or looking for Mario and Luigi. Somehow we ended up clumsily exfoliating at the beach in the warm ocean waters. The beach was a little rough and had a few rocks scattered about that we quickly located the hard way – Ay Caramba!
23: Tonight we ate at the Italian specialty restaurant, Capri, sans Todd. The kids surmised that he drank some of the pool water and got sick. Probably, since he was in the pool all day! The antipasto bar was to die for – complete with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, brushetta, and a parmesan wheel. The meal was even better – Sea Bass for me, Roast Beef for Ray and Pizza for Brady. We topped off the evening with a trip to the Palenque Theater to see a competition that had couples playing an audience scavenger hunt and popping balloons using some funny positions. We also stopped at the Jaguar Discotheque but left shortly as it was an odd rendition of an S&L “What is Love” episode. We also browsed the Shopping Village right at our resort since everything was on sale “offreta”.
26: Mange Mange
29: On Monday we repeated the prior day, spending copious amounts of time at the pool and beach. When something is so wonderful, enjoy it fully! Todd tried to take the kids to the buffet numerous times, but was told “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Drippy Wet, No Service!” We met some older couples at the pool bar that were trashed but shared their coconut cups with us so we could get a “Coco Loco” drinky-drinky! Good thing we weren’t keeping pace with them! Again, the kids played water polo.
30: Later we took the potato sack sized fish food to the pier to feed the fish.
31: They were bountiful and easily enticed! Ray went for his first dive with the resort’s Dressel Divers. | Feeding the Fish!
32: We stopped at the Fiesta Maya Party before dinner at the Santa Fe Steakhouse. Tonight I had Tenderloin and Ray had Kabobs. We had the best ice cream for dessert too. Back to the theater for the Cubanisimo Show although we had to hurry back to the room for "tired" kids who then stayed up for another hour playing DS. However, tonight we were pleasantly surprised with turndown service complete with chocolate mints on the pillows.
33: Fiesta Maya | Punching Bag Plant | Party
34: "Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone."
35: "Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone." | Viva
40: On Tuesday we booked a tour for the following day to break the monotony of our lovely pool/beach routine. We played mini-golf but got bit up with mosquitoes and had to quit at Hole 9. Brady declared victory as we both forfeited. I have never experienced such viscous bugs although the mini-golf had a very jungle setting and there were NO bugs at the resort (except the cockroach which I saw being dismembered by some fire ants). We played in the Barcelo Dardo Tournament and after 3 scheduled rounds, Brady was the winner although the resort director invented another round as she only had an adult prize. So, Dad stole Brady’s thunder and won a t-shirt for his efforts! Meanwhile we met this character Alejandro who challenged Ray at ping-pong “"Play me, IF YOU DARE!!!” and said, “Boo Ya I bounced that off your fat belly!” We’ll let this slide, after all he was a Steeler fan! Terrible Towel and Tribune made lots of appearances at the Riviera Maya - more on that later.
41: Tonight we had reservations for Kyoto, the Specialty Japanese restaurant. Our chef put on a wonderful energetic show complete with a Mickey Mouse rice face and beating heart. I had Red Snapper which was delicious, Ray had chicken and Brady had kabobs.
42: Kyoto | Kyoto
50: SUN | Swim
54: "Laughter is an instant vacation." | Shop
61: On Wednesday we departed for our trip to Cozumel. Today I was part of the “Carcass Family”. First we had an hour bus ride to Playa Del Carmen, rode the ferry for about 45 minutes and then continued to ride the bus for a majority of the day. So we basically had an excursion of bus riding with a few other activities interspersed throughout the day. Luckily everything happens in increments of “5 Mexican Minutes” which can mean just about anything but 5 minutes! Our guide, Pamela, was entertaining and informative though with such facts as Habenaros are good for the memory – eat one and remember it forever!; the term Yucatan means “I hear you but I do not know what you say”; and she preferred “Playa” as her English translation was not so good.
62: We stopped for snorkeling at Chankanaab and our guide warned that she didn’t want us to swim to Cuba today so follow her lead. Brady snorkeled for the first time with me, hand in hand, and we saw coral and major fish thanks to someone that brought fish food! Unfortunately Brady drank some seawater and we swam to the shore for safety, although were accosted for an underwater picture on our exit - basically it was like, I see you drowning but can you please pose for a picture that I can sell you?
63: So then we headed to a tourist shop where I bought a blue lizard and two containers of vanilla for a negotiated $25 USD, but then converted to $270 pesos which was a better bargain at $22 considering the $12/$1 currency conversion. We were reminded of the bartering lingo of “almost free”. I bought a canister of Lays for $2 USD which turned into $3 somehow?
64: Snorkeling at Chankanaab
66: We traveled to the Punta Sur Ecological Park & Lighthouse, a natural reserve, to view the sea turtle nesting zone which is in effect from May to October and is identified by red sticks in the sand. We saw two crocodiles while we were ‘safely’ perched on an old rickety deck. We saw a mini Mayan ruin, El Caracol “was Brady in the picture?”, which served as a hurricane early warning signal built between 1200 and 1400 A.D. El Caracol acted as a whistle when strong winds funneled through the seashell to warn the people to prepare for bad weather and sent an alert to the mainland about the impending storm. Next we traveled down to Punta Sur for the ‘best beach on the island’ and to have lunch. We even finished off with a ‘drive-by’ of the Lighthouse.
67: With all this hurried excitement, I think our ferry ride back was the highlight of our trip, being serenaded by Latin-Ga and even Todd when he got the mike! The musician had no 'sea legs' and was about in my lap!
68: Tonight we barely made it back in time for our reset reservation for Mare Nostrum. We all dined on lobster and Brady had the most fantastic shrimp scampi served in a pineapple! | Mare Nostrum
71: Barcelo Maya Beach
73: On Thursday time is just dwindling away so we stayed at the resort to enjoy all of our free activities such as Shuffleboard, Pool Bingo, Ping Pong, Rock Climbing Wall, Riffle Shooting and the Juego Loco/Crazy Game. The Crazy Game was Jeopardy, where Rachel and I named our team “Coochie Coochie” in memory of our amigo Mario. This got a chuckle for our competitors. Never again will I not know that the first civilization to coin money was the Lydians and that Calderone is the president of Mexico! We hung out at the calmer northern beach at the adjoining resort and saw some great fish including a StingRay. Lauren thought it should better represent its namesake and “Sting Ray”! We had fish food in the water and the fish just flopped about. This was the most cashmere, powdery beach I’ve been to with the clearest water.
74: "Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone."
75: "Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone."
77: Friday was our last day and it just hung over us like the semi-ominous clouds in the sky. I’m not complaining thought since we had great weather all week – just two brief rainstorms on Saturday and Friday – otherwise sunny, warm and beautiful! We got adventurous, hiked across the highway to Kantun-Chi which included walking back a very desolate road that was a bit unnerving! Here the bugs were just merciless as we waited for a ride from the guide as we only had $100 USD but the entry was $133 USD. Eventually we got to tour with the promise of payment on the return. What we didn’t know was the van stalled out every 5 seconds which makes for interesting travel across a major highway. Kantun-Chi is an ecopark whose name means “yellow stone mouth” in Mayan. The Yucatán Peninsula is a porous limestone shelf with no visible rivers; thus, all the fresh water rivers are underground and provide the only perennial source of potable quality water. Being porous, caverns and caves formed where the fresh water collects – hence the cenotes or fresh water sinkholes. | The crystal clear turquoise water has a refreshing temperature of 78 F. Further, cenotes played a leading role in the development of the Mayan culture and had religious mythology significance as the gateways to the underworld. We had to climb underground to visit the Limestone Mayan Grotto with its striking natural beauty including an immense labyrinth of candy colored stalactites, stalagmites, and coral fossils. For some reason, I couldn’t get over the electrical boxes and wires just overhead and glistening with water! Stalactites and Stalagmites grow one inch every 100 years but if touched, they absorb body oil and stop growing. We also saw the fresh water above-ground cenotes which offered bats above, catfish below and hungry mosquitoes all around! A major bummer was that our pictures were not able to be retrieved so you’ll have to take my word for it.
79: We paid our final homage to the pool bar and before saying goodbye, we had "quatro" Mexican Flag shots at the buffet. We waited for the last night as Mario Coochie Coochie says they bring on a “siesta” and we discover they are pure tequila! Plus, eating plates of mounded up food resembling a pyramid begins to take its toll after a long week! I had to engage in last minute shopping, during which I (thankfully) missed karaoke at the theater. I did see another traveler’s whale shark snorkeling video and later closed down the lobby bar where tips could buy White Russians all night long.
84: Brady's "Top 5 Vacation Memories" are: (1) Pool (2) Water Polo (3) Drinks from Pool Bar (4) Food was good (5) Tornado
88: Not so graceful! | No more pictures! | Exfoliating Balls | We wanna rock! | I be back! | Guac Lesson
89: Kids beating me up! | Water Polo! | View from Room | Pool Aerobics
90: Kids are having a great time! | Shake what your mama gave you! | Better than a cheesehead! | Scuba Steve
91: Like Father, Like Son | ¿Quién es esa chica | Soccer or Futbol? | You didn't take me?!?
93: Our return home was at 12:10pm to 2:24pm at IAH then departing at 5:00pm to arrive at 8:46pm on August 20, 2011. If there were any regrets on the trip, I would say it was that we didn’t visit the Palace on hopes of spying a sea turtle, that we were unable to get our Kantun-Chi pictures and we didn’t get to order an especial hurricane drink! Now we do have “Mayan Ruin Mountain” to look forward to though! | Siestas