New Years in Cancun

I love Contiki trips but they jam so much adventure, fun and culture into such short periods that when your done you need a vacation from your vacation! Luckily we decided to extend our trip one more day so that we could relax and enjoy the white sand beaches of Cancun.

We wasted away the final day of 2015 on a white sand beach in Cancun.

After some well deserved rest we got guzzied up and ready to ring in the new year Cancun style!

We headed to a massive beach party and concert. Chelsea and Sarah were leaving on an early bird flight that morning so we took advantage of the few hours we had left and danced the night away. At one point we even made it into the VIP section thanks to some fancy Mexican VIPs. We stole their SWAG and some free drinks then ran away from them. After the ball dropped I said my goodbyes to Chelsea and Sarah who had to get to the airport. I stayed and danced with the other Contiki people who were there too. Around 4am the party was still going hard but I was ready to go. drunkenly I thought it was a good idea to walk home alone…but somehow I managed to make it. I fell asleep on the bathroom floor and woke up the next morning feeling very hung over. But it was worth it. It always is.

I spent my last morning in Cancun sweating off a hangover in a beach chair eating tacos. Good vacation? Yes. Oh yes.

1619599_10153650116780813_4074146054936984179_n.jpg

 

Chichen Itza – Yucatan Highlights Day 3

Tensions were high this morning after learning that my travel companions and others on our tour had been robbed.

After a brief counseling on the importance of keeping your money safe and bags locked we boarded our bus and put on the day song and drove towards on of the 8th wonders of the world Chichen Itza!

These ancient ruins are a must see. We had a guided tour that disproved some of the urban legends surrounding the Mayans and showed us some secrets of the sacred grounds (like the bird clap). Afterwards we had a ton of time to roam around, chase lizards and shop the flea market.

Bursting with new found knowledge of Mayan culture and dripping with sweat from the Mexican sun we were ready to cool off. Luckily around the bend from Chichen Itza is a refreshing cenote where we got to jump off ledges and swim surrounded by lush jungle foliage and towering cave walls. 

 

 

Robbed – no bueno.

Last night our members of our Contiki group were robbed.

A large group of us were hanging out on the roof top deck of our hotel when two fellow travelers came up and revealed that a cash had gone missing from their suitcases. After that several other people went to check their belongings and discovered they were also missing money. No one was robbed of everything. Only several bills here and there. We think the thief did this thinking no one would notice such small amounts missing. But for my travel mates who were on tight budgets every penny counted.

Our tour manager Abe did the best he could to console everyone but there was no way to tell when and where the crime took place. We all suspected our bus driver. The bags were on the coach for a long time during the day unmonitored.

Our suspicions were raised the next morning with the bus driver showed up late and looked like he had an all night rager…

The moral of this story is: DON’T LEAVE CASH UNATTENDED & ALWAYS LOCK YOUR SUITCASE!

 

Merida, Mexico -Yucatan Highlights Day 2

1911663_10153639342155813_3256223080798061347_n

Up early for our flight from Mexico City to Merida!

We arrived around 10am and headed right out for Brunch at La Chaya Maya. Our tour manager recommended a Mexican specialty dish. For life of me I can’t remember what is was or was called. I do remember it being horrible. Luckily one of my friends order something else and we all shared hers while we  sipped mysterious green aloe drinks.

After our group brunch we were able to drop our bags at the hotel and then had free time. So Chelsea, Sarah and I decided to walk to the zoo. The Merida zoo is free and actually very cool (although if they probably do not meet most animals rights groups terms for animal capitvity). They had soooo many tigers. I think maybe 100, in all different shapes, colors and sizes.

 

After a few hours, several bottles of water and pounds of sweat we headed back to the hotel and freshened up for dinner.

We met our tour guide and walked to the city center for a short historical tour. We saw the famous cathedral of Merida and expereinced the busy and vibrant marketplace.

Then in groups of four we boarded horse drawn carriages for a bumpey ride towards our resturant.

21490_10153639342305813_480200119792194643_n.jpg

Dinner at El Refugio Fonda was probably the best meal I had in mexico. There was free sangria and a buffet that featured Merida specialties like Tortilla Lime soup and Mole. 

936605_10153640200165813_4233335504694836651_n.jpg

Plate stacked high.

 

 

 

Mexico City isn’t scary, it’s amazing

When planning for my trip to Mexico I was met with much concern from friends and family. Mainly because I was not going straight to the touristy beaches of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. I started my trip in Mexico city. As a woman traveling alone (I met up with a group later) I was warned to stay vigilant, cary pepper spray, don’t stray from the beaten path, ect. Honestly I was nervous about Mexico City. Recently the news has been flooded with horror stories about kidnappings and murders in Mexico. So entering the city I was certainly on guard.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.04.05 PM

Mexico city view from my hotel

But from the moment I touched down in MEX I felt nothing but compassion and kindness from the citizens I encountered. I quickly found that residents of Mexico city want to erase the stigma surrounding their historical, cultural and vibrant home. I felt safe walking around. I easily navigated the well kept streets and was helped by several friendly people. I also noticed there was a large police presence. Knowing around every block I could find a blue light or standing police officer eased my nerves.

Before traveling to Mexico I made friends with two others from my tour. We made plans to meet up for dinner. The three of us wandered through the city center and found an amazing Mexican Seafood restaurant called Chuchito Perez Roma. After struggling a bit with the language barriers we managed to order Mojitos, beers and lots of tacos! I sampled duck, chorizo and steak tacos. The food was so fresh and colorful. The waiters were hilarious and very patient with our terrible Spanish.

After dinner we explored the city a little more before heading to the rooftop of our hotel for a night cap.

12687801_10153712315655813_6165311040993963602_n

Where did I stay?

Best Western Royal Zona

173520_37_y

Where did I eat?

Chuchito Perez Roma

800_1109

Yucatan Highlights of Mexico Day 1

This morning I rose before the sun and met up with my Contiki Tour group. After meeting our tour manager and tour mates we headed out to see Mexico City!

We hopped aboard our coach and began with a historical tour of the National Palace and historic city center. Then we journeyed through the Coyoacan barrio. Coyoacan is a relaxed, colorful and historic neighborhood. It’s lined with old mansions, fountains and beautiful squares. There we also saw Frida Kahlo’s famous blue studio.

We ventured briefly through the markets and sampled authentic Churros. I had a nuttella filled and pear filled churros. They were warm, gooey and crunchy. Muy Delisiouso!

Next stop was a river boat tour of Mexico’s famous floating markets. We rode through the markets on a vibrant and colorful pontoon boat. We saw merchandisers selling ponchos, flowers, food and beer. It was interesting to watch people bid and barter over products. We were there on a national holiday, so the market was pretty empty. I would love to go back to the market on a busy day to see it in full action!

Afterwards we boarded the coach again and rode about one hour towards our final destination, Teotihuacan. Before reaching the pyramids we feasted at an included buffet and were entertained by a crazy and very bouncy dance show. After the show we were invited to a tequila tasting. We were offered multiple shots of various types of pure Mexican tequilas. It’s always a good idea to get tipsy before climbing ancient ruins. Right?

1656020_10153637503900813_6145925416052077708_n

She’d win a twerking competition

Finally we made it to the famous Sun and Moon Temples of Teotihuacan. We were free to roam the grounds and hike up the humongous pyramids. Teotihuacan is one of the last remaining ancient pyramids that you can still climb up. I highly recommend you make the hike. The view from the top is absolutely breath taking and completely worth the effort.

10526069_10153637502485813_3442210253649452786_n

Starting my trip to Mexico by visiting Teotihuacan really set the tone for my Mexican adventure. Mexico is full of so much history, culture and color. 

1044240_10153637503160813_1713295842705759360_n

On the ride back to Mexico city the coach was absolutely silent. Everyone was exhausted from climbing up the pyramids. Once we got back to the hotel I met my new roommate Gina, got dressed up and ready to see Mexico city at night!

We attended another fully including dinner. Every thing was delicious. We had tacos, stuffed chilis, rice, grilled chicken and agave water. Later the group dispersed. My friends Chelsea, Sarah and I decided to wander around for a bit longer. We stumbled upon a bar that specialized in Alcoholic Ice Cream! It was set up like a typical ice cream parlor, but all of the flavors are infused with liqueurs! I had Mint Chocolate Chip and it was spectacular. We all even felt a little buzzed afterwards. I think a ice cream bar would do fantastic in the states. I know I’d be there number one customer!

My first day in Mexico was jammed packed. We saw beautiful architecture, artisan sculptures, sampled tostadas and tequila and were mesmerized by extreme vistas.

Mexico is so much more then I imagined.

Contiki perk: The only thing I paid for all day were the Churro’s and bottled water. All of the meals (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) and entry to Pyramids, floating markets and tequila tasting were included in the total cost of my trip with Contiki!

images.png

The Perks of Traveling Christmas Day

12642465_10153712355135813_5377219895636938942_n.jpg

My journey to Mexico was one of the smoothest and most relaxing travel experiences I have ever had. The ease can be credited to United Airlines.

I started my trip in Richmond, VA. At 5am on Christmas morning the airport was a ghost town. I was the only person in line for security and my flight to Houston from Richmond was only half full.11205578_10153712355145813_6853964298982777333_n

In Houston I spend my three hour layover in the United Club Lounge. I used free passes earned from Visa travel credit card. In the club they provided free breakfast, wifi, private corners and comfy couches. The Houston club is humongous! It’s three stories, there are computer nooks, offices, showers, two bars, two buffets and a storage room. The lounge was crowded but it was much better then schlepping around the actual airport.

I headed to my gate about 45 minuets before boarding. While waiting the airline made several announcements that my flight was overbooked and they were looking for two people to give up their seats. They began by offer just a $200 certificate. But as time grew closer to boarding they upped the ante. At that point it was also announced that my original flight was delayed one hour.

So I offered up my seat. In return I received a $500 certificate, two meal vouchers, another United Club pass and a first class ticket on the next flight to Mexico city (only 45 minutes later). My original ticket only cost $190 so I profited $310!

12654670_10153712315875813_3630923570518238000_n.jpg

I had never flown first class before so I was super excited to have earned a free upgrade. I felt like a total ballllllller $$!$. My seat was huge and upon boarding I was offered wine and a hot towel. Throughout my flight I had three glasses of wine…hey it was free! Then dinner was served. Oh my goodness it was delicious. First class was absolutely fabulous.

12644917_10153712315860813_7338922924056579759_n.jpg

As a Christmas preent my dad bought me a car service transport from the airport to my hotel. He used a website called Blacklane to book the car. So upon exiting the terminal I was greeted by a chauffeur holding a sign with my name. He escorted me to the car and I was off to Mexico city center!

The eight hours of travel from Richmond to Mexico City were without a hick-up. I felt so refreshed when I finally arrived to my hotel that I was ready to take on Mexican nightlife right away!

Thank you United Airlines!