Spring Turns to Summer

Been a few months since I last posted.  Not really much going on to post about, but that is about to change..Summer is here!

One thing about being from the Atlantic Coast, there is nothing better then when Spring arrives and the transition to summer begins!

Everything coming to life and awakening after a long Winters sleep is what makes getting through Winter worth it.  These are a few pictures from around our home as Spring sprung.

The scenery all around us is second to none.

My hubby managed to get a lobster dinner in for his birthday.

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He also was able to visit his family home in Beaver Cove, Cape Breton.

Me, I visited the city and made lots and lot of wine!

We got things summer ready around home, I visited Sobeys Big Red Chair and most importantly, we celebrated Canada 150 with the rest of Canada.

My 21 year old son bought himself a 31 year old car, which much to my surprise turned out pretty good.

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Halifax had visitors from the US Navy here for Canada Day and we had a visit from the largest container ship to ever to come!

We are just a few short weeks away from starting our Canada 150 vacation adventures and escaping this cubicle jungle.  I can’t wait! Cubicle

 

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Another Sunny South Vacation Ends

We came home from Mexico on March 8.  It is always a time of mixed feelings.  We love Mexico but we also love home, Canada.

I could probably see us moving to 2 week vacations soon, just cause one week isn’t enough really.

Saying good-bye to Akumal and the Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort was tough.  Loved it so much!  So glad that we finally got to stay there!

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I know we will be back.  There is just so much to see and do in Mexico.  I am sure you could travel for years and still find new things.

We like the adventure of seeing new places and new things, so not sure if Mexico is next year’s destination or not, but we won’t wait three years to return like this time.  Oh, if only we could win the lottery!  I would travel my life away!

The last thing you see at the end of your vacation is the airport.  Cancun airport doesn’t disappoint.  It is a busy busy spot with lots to do while you wait for your flight.

You can also get some really good views of airplanes.

A plane takes off or lands at least every five minutes, making for great video and pictures while you wait your turn!

Take off is so scenic!

Until we meet again Mexico!  Thanks for the memories and the hospitality!

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Now we are into April, the snow is almost gone and it’s time to start thinking about summer vacation.  This year marks Canada’s 150th birthday and we have three weeks booked off to see some of our beautiful country.  Here are a few pictures from home to warm you up!

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So excited for Canada150 vacation!

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What to do on a rainy day in Akumal?

When you travel during the winter months you have to expect some not so good weather.  Yes, even in the sunny south.  Bonus about the south is that while our nasty weather comes in the form of snow and freezing rain, theirs is rain.  I will take a rainy Mexico winter day over a snowy Nova Scotia winter day anytime!

Hubby and I generally avoid the organized excursions.  Being on a bus, having timed stops, being gone for the whole day and all that really doesn’t appeal to us.  We are more the figure out what interests you, grab a cab and go sort of traveler.  We like the adventure and freedom of doing our own thing.

However, we had a rainy morning while on our vacation and figured that would be a good time to look for an ATV or Dune Buggy type place.  Couldn’t find anything on the internet that was close by so we talked to our Air Canada guy.  Everything he had was whole day and nothing really appealed to us.  So we got on the internet and started looking at what else we could do.  Found the Akumal Monkey Sanctuary and Animal Rescue, which was just down the road from us but at first it looked a little pricey.  We also had friends who were staying at another resort doing a cenote tour but that sort of scared me – not sure if I would be able to do one let alone three at that point.

We were undecided so we popped up to the resort’s tour desk (Akumal Tours and Excursions) to see what they had.  Turned out they had a company (Vea ATV Tours) that offered a small group ATV half day excursion that included the Monkey Sanctuary and a cenote.  Sounded like a perfect fit for us, so Tim called and got us in at the last minute.

On the way there here we had to pick up a couple in Half Moon Bay and Akumal.  I could just drive around all day and be happy honestly.  I love looking at different places.

The first part of the excursion was the Monkey Sanctuary and Animal Rescue.  It is one of those experiences that make you happy and sad at the same time.  Lots of the animals here are rescues from resorts.  You know, the ones you can get your picture with.  These animals are often mistreated, not provided with the care, food, and attention they need.  Others are exotic animals that were rescued from owners who just didn’t know how to properly care for the animals.  It is good that the rescues and sanctuaries exist, but sad that they are needed.  They will do pictures here, but it’s under the care and guidance of someone who is properly trained to handle the animal and never for more than a few minutes.  Most importantly the animals/bird aren’t chained to anyone/anything and they aren’t having food withheld or being otherwise mistreated for the sake of a tourist’s picture.  You can use your own camera or buy the ones they take.  It’s still not for me though, did it once in Punta Cana and regretted it ever since.  A few of these pictures are from the thumb drive I purchased at the end of the trip.  Hard to get pictures of all the animals.

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They also had a very nice lady do a Mayan snack for us. It was really good!

Next up was the ATV ride.  It was a total of 14 km on nicely groomed trails.  So much fun!  Lots of puddles from the rain!

Last was the cenote.  I am not much of one for closed in dark places and unknown bodies of water.  To say I was a little nervous was an understatement.  But wow, just wow!  It was incredible.  So beautiful!  Glad I didn’t let my fears get the best of me.  Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be a good thing :).

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All told we were gone just over 4 hours, which was perfect and long enough for an organized excursion.  We got to do all three things we wanted in that time and enjoyed every minute of it.  There were only 12 of us on the tour, so it was a nice small group.

Again, a couple of the pictures from the ATV and cenote were not taken by me, they were on the drive I purchased.  Many of mine didn’t do the cenote the justice it deserved and I couldn’t take pictures of us driving the bike obviously.

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Ek Balam Ruins Yucatan, Mexico

Mexico has been my favourite southern destination since we first set foot in the country.  Now, we aren’t world travelers (yet!) or anything but we have been to quite a few places.  The food, sun and sand are fantastic but what really draws me back to this beautiful country is it’s history and the people.

On our very first trip we found the Coba Ruins.  It is a fascinating site, home to the highest known pyramid in the Yucatan and you can still climb it.  Let me say, that was a terrifying experience but so worth it!  You could still see paint on the stones. It was an awesome experience.

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We have also been to Tulum, which was a major port city for Coba.  It is a stunningly beautiful site.  The location is unique among the Mayan sites.

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I have always had a bit of an aversion to Chichen Itza.  I just feel it will be too touristy and that will make it disappointing.  I know it is beautiful, but it isn’t just about how a site looks.   Yes, I am a tourist but I love to touch and feel the history not just look at it.  I knew this year I wanted to see ruins, so we investigated Ek Balam and Uxmal before we left.  It came down to distance from the resort, Ek Balam was closer so that is where we went.

We were the first people on the site and for about a half hour after that on the day we went.  That was incredible.  You can feel the history in Ek Balam.  With everything you touch, see and smell you get an overwhelming sense of history.  I loved it.  We had a great guide who shared both facts and Mayan stories about the site.  You could feel his passion for his people, his beliefs and the site.  He grew up playing on the ruins at Ek Balam.

We didn’t do the cenote, but there is one there.

This is the entrance arch.  There are walls all around the entrance to the site are like a maze, which were likely for defensive purposes.  When the Mayan peoples entered or exited through this arch there were spots for foot washing.   They are still there and very recognizable.

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The first building you see (and can climb) is the Oval Palace.  Our guide told us it was really more of a temple than a palace.  The view is incredible.

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There is a ball court.  As our guide pointed out, most of the stories around the game are just that, stories.  There is no documented record, to date, of how the game was played or specifically by whom.

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The site is only minimally excavated.  I believe the guide said 17 out of 70 buildings are done.  It is a diamond in the rough.  Hopefully they continue to excavate and find new treasures.

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Ek Balam is where the tomb of Ukit Kan Lek Tok’ was found in the 1990’s.  As our guide explained it he was a ‘King of Kings’.  There are many Mayan writings at this site so they do know much of his story.  When they found the tomb it was still in tact, all the treasures have since been moved to a Museum.

The temple where he was found is El Trono and they believe that the open mouth is that of a jaguar.  And yes we made it to the top of the temple.  Scary but so worth it to just sit and reflect at the top.

Someday I hope we get to Peru, Belize, Guatemala and many of the other ancient sites, including Egypt, but for now this makes me very happy. I feel very fortunate that we were able to experience Ek Balam.  It really was amazing.

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Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort

We have been to the Riviera Maya area several times now.  On our very first trip we discovered Akumal Beach.  Fell in love with it that very first time.

Back then there was a single resort on that beach, Akumal Beach Resort.  It was a small 3 star place on a 5 beach that had a very loyal clientele.  The price was generally pretty high for a 3 star as well.  But I knew people who just loved it.  Raved about it.  I followed forums and blogs of people who just couldn’t get enough of it.

It of course made us want to go and find out what all the hoopla was about.  Alas, it never happened.  Darn place was so popular it just sold out for our available weeks year after year.

Then a couple of years ago the resort underwent a major transformation.  They renovated everything and added lots of new features.  Basically total makeover.  Some of the regular clientele seemed a little miffed about it, but personally I was more intrigued.

Once we saw pictures, posts and reviews of what they had done, I knew.  I just knew I had to find a way to book it.  I diligently watched the different travel sites for 3 years until I found exactly what fit our needs.  We booked in November of 2016 for March 2017.  The day after we booked it was sold out.  I can’t tell you how happy I was we didn’t wait on this one!  Lesson learned – if you want it you just have to go for it.

I was beside myself for months.  Stuck between excited to finally be going and fear that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.

We are all different kinds of travelers and we look for different things.  For our annual southern trip my husband has always said he doesn’t care where we go so long as he can snorkel, that isn’t really true he does care, but lack of snorkeling is a deal breaker for him.  Me, I like a nice room, nice restaurants, nice beach and the little things that make you feel special as a guest.  I want to feel special, like I matter to them.  Deal breaker for me would be mediocre service or reviews of mediocre service.  Aggressive time share tactic reviews are a deal breaker for both of us.

Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness resort seemed to hit all the right notes for us, in reviews and forum posts anyway, and after months of waiting we finally got there.  Almost from the moment I set foot in my room I knew.  I just knew that this was what everyone was saying it was.  It felt so comfortable.

From beautiful sunrises in the morning to sitting in our deck hot tub looking at the stars at night, it was perfect.  Well, I know nothing is perfect but it was darn close.

We met so many people from all over the world!  People like us who just wanted to get away.  This isn’t a party place, maybe kind of an adult party place where everyone is in bed by 11:00/11:30 but not a rip roaring have at ‘er party place.  It is a traveler friendly place for all ages and there is lots to do for everyone of all ages.  The WiFi was exceptional, even your phone addicted teen is happy here!

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And there is the snorkeling of course!

Lot of food, drinks, treats and every bit of it was great!  I tried a lot of drinks, maybe a few too many?  Naw, it was vacation!

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From the staff to just the little things they do right, I loved this place.

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This is a small to medium sized resort so it won’t fit everyone’s travel style.  If you are partial to the mega-resorts you likely won’t like this.  But for us it was as close to perfect as we have come yet.  Long long beach for walking, close enough to walk to town, lots to do on the resort, lots of snorkeling and a great spot to be if you felt like doing absolutely nothing.  Even though it was full, it never felt full or crowded.  We said that time and time again.

Funny thing, there is another resort on this beach now, Secrets Akumal.  Secrets has been on my wish list for a long time.  Figured while we were there we would check it out.    Was  it worth paying double the price to be next door (still on the same beach)?  Honestly, I couldn’t see any reason why.  It was nice but no nicer than where we were.  We googled it and it didn’t offer anything more than what we had.  I think my wish list may need an update.

I got every morning to watch the sunrise.  I love being able to do that and here it was especially beautiful.  It matters not where I go, it is one of my favourite things to do!

Next up will be Ek Balam, which was amazing!

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Akumal – What a Great Place

We just returned from our visit to Akumal, Mexico.  What a great vacation we had!

We stayed at the Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort for a week.  I had been wanting to stay here for years but the place just sells out too fast.  It is one of those resorts you can’t wait for a deal on.  You have to book it when you see it.  I will do a separate post later for the resort itself.

The resort is on Akumal Beach, which is one of the nicest beaches in that area.  The beach is long with white sand and is well known for its turtles.  Been a bit of controversy down there lately as the government has banned tour operators from taking groups into the bay but it is in the best interest of the turtles and their environment that the government has taken this action.  There were just too many people going.  It was out of control.  You can still go there just not with a tour operator.

The beach is definitely one reason we love this area, but the other is the town itself.  Love going in there.  You can just shop like you would at home, no hassle.  Prices are reasonable and you can get whatever you need to want.  Of course peso’s is the easiest way to pay for everyone but they are flexible with other currency.

We did lots of fun things on this trip – Ek Balam, Akumal Monkey and Rescued Animals Sanctuary, ATV tour, and a cenote.  I will be posting about them all, trying to keep my posts a reasonable length.

One of my most favourite things we did was beach walking.  Akumal Beach is long.  There is the public area, two resorts and loads of condos/apartments/ homes.

Lastly for this post, should any of you be planning a trip where there is snorkeling I strongly recommend the full face snorkel mask.  I have never been able to put a snorkel mask on, full blown panic attack if I try.  I was desperate to find a way to see the turtles this year.  I bought goggles hoping that might work for me.  My husband on the other hand went to a local dive shop and bought me the full face mask and snorkel.  Figured if I couldn’t use it he would.

Let me tell you, I wouldn’t have believed it unless I tried it but wow!  It was great and the first thing I saw was turtles.  So amazing!  I will never be able to snorkel like hubby can but I was thrilled that this worked for me.  I stayed out for quite a while and saw so many things.  It was awesome.  The snorkel part goes on top of the mask.

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Anyway, I look forward to sharing our adventures!

 

 

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Winter and Yay! It’s Almost Time!

So far this year our Winter has been reasonably good.  January, which is normally our coldest month, was considerably nicer than usual.  A few cold nights but nothing to complain about.  Of course, having our first trip of 2017 booked certainly makes everything more bearable!

In 2017 my husband and I will be celebrating 25 years married.  That being the case, we decided that our upcoming trip to Akumal will be the kick off of our celebrations and we are going to spoil ourselves a little bit more than usual.  This should be excellent!

The resort we are going to has a web cam nearby.  We have watched it everyday since our first trip to Akumal almost 10 years ago.  So excited to finally be staying on that beach!  This is the web cam link –  Akumal Web Cam

Now that February is here it is time to get things in gear.  Last week was pretty much a  write-off with a blizzard Monday and then another snow storm three days later.

Hopefully that will be the worst of our winter over with.

‘Cause flipflops in the snow is not near as nice as flipflops in the sand!

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I did manage to get my suitcases out for our upcoming trip.  Well, sort of.

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I also made a spontaneous decision to chop off a lot of hair before venturing to the sunny south.

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Today I finally manged to get something, other than cats, in the suitcase!  And now I can’t wait for departure day!

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2017 has also seen us spend lots of time with friends eating and drinking!  I have been experimenting with wine, which has been loads of fun. Too much at times, if that is possible.  Made a few different whites, loved the Riesling.  Now looking for a red, struggling to find one I really enjoy enough to have 30 bottles of.

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I have a friend who does custom blasting, etching etc and he made me the best wine glass ever!   Blasting Impressions

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Made some beer too, a pale ale.  It is getting better as it ages.  I think I would like to try a Mexican cerveza next time.

I have also been experimenting with new recipes for beef stew, donair’s, sloppy joe’s and pulled beef.

We are very lucky to have a very talented chef at our local Sobeys.  She makes great food and gives you the recipe to try at home.

The donair recipe is in a previous blog entry and the stew was a concoction of my own using the Clubhouse stew seasoning for flavour.

Hope you are having a wonderful start to 2017!

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