Friday, November 22, 2013

Catalonia Riviera Maya Weekend Escape

Most people think that living in Cancun is an endless beach party, cocktails, sunshine and bikinis. OH how I wish that were true. The reality is that we work and work and work and work and that very few people actually take the time to enjoy the beauty that is around us or to relax and enjoy a "touristy" moment. Fortunately, my job entails taking those moments (work, work, work) and writing about them. Perhaps not often enough, but enough that I recognize just how fortunate I am. 

I was recently invited to spend a weekend at the Catalonia Riviera Maya Resort in Puerto Aventuras. And OH how we needed this escape. Boyfriend and I jetted (ok, drove) down to Puerto Aventuras on a Friday night, had a very welcoming and friendly check-in and settled in to our suite. Ooooh, sweet suite in the "privileged" section of the hotel (a little upgrade from the standard rooms, more amenities, privacy and tranquility). I had purposely starved myself that day knowing I would be spending a weekend with unlimited food (DANGER DANGER screamed my waistline) so I was "hangry" (hungry/angry) and ready to chow down.

Boyfriend and I are both super fans of Asian cuisine so we headed to the "Mikado" restaurant for some teppan fun and sushi treats. I started off reaching for the cocktail menu and enjoyed an "ojos verdes", a totally yummy green drink made with local liqueur "Xtabentun". The restaurant features a set menu enjoyed in a group setting with a chef cooking for all with Japanese "flair" (though our chef was from Yucatan, he did a great job). The sushi was really really good, I actually asked for more of the tuna sashimi (joys of all inclusive!) The veggies in the teppan were super fresh and crispy and we walked out so full that we didn't even have dessert (shocking, I know!)

The next morning dawned bright and sunny (we were sooo worried about rain, Cancun has been inundated lately!) and we were overjoyed. Our plan was simple. Do. Nothing. We had breakfast at the buffet, booked a couple of spa treatments for the afternoon and just chilled by the pool. Walked on the beach. Chased birds and fish. Chilled some more and tried to learn Russian by osmosis (the place was like Little Moscow!)

The highlight of our stay was our visit to the Alegria Spa. We arrived an hour before our appointments to take advantage of the hydrotherapy circuit. Cool shower, hot sauna, cool dip in the pool, hot steam, repeat. And repeat. Boyfriend went off for his massage and I for my facial AND massage. Delicious! We both left the place so relaxed that we were practically speaking in tongues.

We enjoyed our dinner that evening in the "Bamboleo Grill", the service was incredible and the food was very tasty. I realized that in my youth I would look at an all inclusive as "drink all you can" and now in my "old age" I am definitely more about the food. We didn't hit the bar, we only had a few cocktails all weekend but oh my did we satisfy our taste buds!

The next day was a little bit rainy so we just snuggled in under the covers before going for our brekkie. We wandered a bit between the rain drops, enjoyed some people mocking  watching and headed back to the room to pack up. A quick weekend getaway but incredibly valuable! We relished the (unfamiliar) relaxation together. Totally recommend getting away with your love as often as possible, cannot wait to do this again! Next time we may even get up and enjoy some activities....or not...there is something quite divine about "doing nothing" in paradise. When's the last time you did the same? Treat yourself!

For more photos. please see my Catalonia Riviera Maya Flickr set.

**The weekend was provided courtesy of Catalonia Resorts but all opinions expressed here are my own.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Festival de Vida y Muerte Xcaret Park 2013

Quiero pib, quiero pib, quiero pib!

Every year as the end of October approaches, my stomach starts to growl and my mouth starts to water as thoughts of "pib" aka "mucbilpollo" start dancing in my head. "Pib" is a traditional dish served for "Dia de los Muertos" or "Hanal Pixan", similar to a tamal and oh so tasty. I know that I will get my "pib" fix when I visit Xcaret for the annual "Festival de Vida y Muerte" event. And my hot chocolate. And churros. And coconut candy.

The food is not the only reason to attend this grand fiesta (though it sure is a good one). Every year Xcaret Park in the Riviera Maya plays host to the "Festival of Life and Death", a cultural celebration honouring the Mexican traditions of "Day of the Dead". Dance, music, theater, children's activities, visual art, there is so much to do that you can't possibly see it all. I take the most pleasure in just wandering around and soaking in the vibe (and eating as much as possible of course).

Make-up stations are placed throughout the park and everyone is invited to paint their faces in the style of the "calavera" or "skulls". You'll see scary death masks, beautiful "Catrinas", ghostly pallor, pretty skeletons, every face is different and it is certainly the favourite activity of visitors to the festival. I've taken to going one step further, doing my make-up at home and putting together a costume of sorts, playing Catrina and truly embracing the holiday in my own way. I'm no expert in make-up but I have SUCH FUN and love seeing the reactions of the children at the park. And the other drivers on the highway. And the police at the Playa del Carmen check point.

Looking at the schedule of events for one day is overwhelming, almost 40 different activities and shows. This year we chose to see a play called "El Pajaro Dziu" by Aquelarre Teatro in the newest performance venue in the park, the Salon Hacienda. I was entranced! Three young artists told this traditional Maya story with music, dance and a great sense of humour. My only disappointment was having to hear someone behind me translating the show for their English speaking guest, it was a distraction (I come from the world of theater, you do NOT talk during a play!) I blocked them out and enjoyed myself immensely regardless. Just a heads up for monolingual guests that some of the performances are in Spanish only, you may prefer to catch a dance or music show instead.

Without exaggeration, I can easily say that this is the most anticipated event of the year in the Riviera Maya for me. Xcaret Park does a phenomenal job of organization, I'm always blown away by the professionalism and quality of their work. It is certainly worth taking a special trip at this time of year to discover the beauty of the "Day of the Dead" celebrations in Mexican style. This year I shared the experience with my son and my man, priceless time with the ones I love. For more information, be sure to check out this link, Festival de Vida y Muerte. Trust me, this is leagues beyond Halloween, it's something that will change you and stay with you forever. More photos of Festival de Vida y Muerte 2013.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How do YOU Travel? Hyatt World's Largest Focus Group Twitter Fiesta

How do YOU travel? What are your "on the road rituals"? How do you stay in touch with family and friends, balance a personal life and maintain a healthy diet? (Or not, ooooh that Mexican cuisine!) Share your rituals and learn how other travelers deal with being on the road in a gigantic Twitter party with Hyatt and LatinaBloggers connect!

I (@cancuncanuck) will be one of the co-hosts of the "world's largest focus group" along with @zancada @tipsdeviajeros and @mconstruyendo on Thursday September 26, 2013 starting at 12:00 pm CST with our moderators @lbconnect and @laflowers and of course, @hyattpr. Just follow the hosts and the hashtag #HyattWLFG. We'll ask the questions, you provide the answers in a fast-paced hour of tweeting fun. Learn from the experts on how to stay in touch and stay healthy when traveling and share your ideas and routines. RSVP on Facebook please!

This is a world-wide event with chats taking place over 24 hours! Hyatt will be engaged all day long to learn more about what travelers are thinking today with the goal of discovering new ideas of how to provide the best possible experiences for their guests. This is your chance to be heard!

#HyattWLFG is sponsored by Hyatt, participants will have the chance to win, two winners will each get two free hotel nights at any Hyatt hotel worldwide (subject to terms and conditions). To be eligible to win, you must join the party and participate during the hour with an original tweet (RT's not eligible) using the hashtag and answer the giveaway questions correctly. Winners will be announced throughout the hour!

Looking forward to tweeting with you!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Frida Kahlo Museum Mexico City

Quick, name ten famous Mexican painters...

Ok, can't name ten? You can probably name at least two, the emblematic Frida Kahlo and her muralist husband Diego Rivero. The pair became famous in the early part of the 20th century not only for their artistic work but for their politics and the drama of their personal lives. Hollywood brought their story to the big screen in 2002 with Selma Hayek in the starring role of Frida, the uni-browed, outspoken, ballsy artist who battled health issues and turbulent relationships and documented her life on canvas. Her self-portraits grace the walls of museums and tacky souvenirs alike, making her one of the most recognizable artists of all time.

"Frida with Magenta Rebozo" New York 1939 Nickolas Muray

The Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City is located in the Coyoacán district in the "Casa Azul" where Frida was born, grew up, shared her married life with her volatile husband Diego and eventually died. Four years after her death, the house was converted into a museum, allowing visitors to view work by both Frida and Diego, their collection of Mexican folk art, photographs, art supplies and household items, a true time capsule, the house has not changed much since 1951.

Frida Kahlo's paints and brushes

Frida Kahlo's wheelchair and easel

Frida's famous bed with mirror on top and death mask at rest

Frida Kahlo was also well-known for her fashion statements, her wardrobe always carefully selected to highlight her cultural background and to disguise the physical ailments she suffered as a result of childhood polio and a horrifying accident when she was 18 years old. After her death, Diego Rivera insisted that her clothing be locked away and it was not until 2004 that the doors were unlocked to reveal a "blast from the past" look at this fashion icon's sense of personal style. 

A sampling of Frida's medical corsets

Typical Frida "Tehuana" style

Contemporary fashions inspired by Frida

The full "Tehuana" skirts used to hide her disfigured legs, the loose peasant blouses disguising the leather and plaster corsets she was forced to wear and the custom, hand-painted shoes she wore with hidden lifts are now on display in the accurately titled "Appearances Can Be Deceiving" exhibit. The exhibit also includes contemporary designs inspired by Frida Kahlo, even this long after her death her style continues to impact the art and fashion world. 

I had wanted to visit the museum for a LONG time and this past weekend was fortunate enough to be able to cross it off my bucket list. Well worth a visit when in DF (pronounced "deh efay", the "real" way to call Mexico City). Unfortunately it was the only attraction I was able to visit on this trip before I got whacked by altitude sickness! Next time, Teotihuacan and Templo Mayor for sure! Click to see more Frida Kahlo Museum Photos 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Del Sol Photography - My Job Rocks

Being the social media junkie that I am, I follow a LOT of pages on Facebook. For years one of my faves has been Del Sol Photography. I was super fan, oohing and aahing and sharing their photos out of pure love and fascination. In 2012 I saw they were hiring production help in their office and I jokingly commented that they should look me up if they were ever in need of social media marketing help. In a fine example of "ask and ye shall receive", in 2013 the universe brought me the opportunity to meet up with the fine folks behind the magic and I left my job of almost four years to join the Del Sol team as "Digital Brand Manager" (fancy words for "marketing on the internetz").

I feel like the luckiest woman on the planet. As a community manager, content is king and I have THE best possible content to share everyday. Incredible, magical, "unicorn" moments captured by the artists behind the lens. Yes, they have technical skill, but beyond that all the Del Sol photographers are gifted in their ability to freeze emotions in time, not your standard "everyone get together and smile" shots you see from typical wedding photographers.

I'm thrilled to be working with innovators. Not content to just cruise on their natural talents, they are constantly improving their skills and seeking innovation in their art. Del Sol Photography was one of the first studios to embrace the "trash the dress" trend many years ago and are now simply THE BEST in the field of underwater mermaid brides. Now Del Sol goes one step beyond and has created the "Adam and Eve" session, brides and grooms swimming out of their gowns and suits and going "au naturel" in the cenotes, expressing their love and passion in these artful photos.

Apart from their skill, talent and artistic vision, the Del Sol peeps are truly, authentically, honestly NICE. Muy buena onda. Every one of them! I'm surrounded by kindness and artistic enthusiasm! I really couldn't ask for a better job, I feel blessed everyday, grateful for all that I am learning and the opportunity to bring my own skills to the table as part of the team.

This is not a paid post. It was not a request from the boss man. It comes directly from my heart and I really wanted to share this with you, my readers. It IS possible to live the dream my friends! Just put it out to the universe and it will come to you too!

(All photos in this post courtesy Del Sol Photography)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Turtle Nesting in the Riviera Maya

Loggerhead Turtle Playa Xpu Ha

Running down the beach under a starlit sky, following the pale red light bobbing ahead of me, getting a little out of breath and feeling the sweat trickle down my neck. We're on turtle patrol on Playa Xpu Ha in the Riviera Maya, looking for nesting mamas to ensure that they are able to lay their eggs in peace and make their way back to the sea. Guillermo Camarena of Animo-OneWorld is a man on a mission, his job during turtle nesting season to monitor the long stretch of beach on Playa Xpu Ha, tracking the nests, moving eggs to protected areas and educating tourists and locals alike in how to preserve and protect these incredible creatures. He invited us to shadow him for a night in his valiant conservation quest.

Guillermo is obviously accustomed to hustling fast down the beach, it was really tough to keep up with him! We were glad we did though, as we huffed and puffed approached the Al Cielo hotel we came upon a beautiful loggerhead female in the process of laying her eggs. She had dug her nest very close to the hotel property in a high traffic area so it was decided that her eggs would be moved to the enclosed and protected area that has been set up on Xpu Ha, joining the 10000 other eggs already waiting to hatch. When mama was done, she had added 115 eggs to the count!

Loggerhead laying eggs (warning, turtle vagina!)

When she started to make her way back to the sea, we moved just a few meters north and came upon a green turtle completing her annual task. She had already dug her nest, laid her eggs and was in the process of covering her hole again. Her powerful flippers dug in and gave us a nice sandy shower, making a WHAP WHAP WHAP noise as she did. Guillermo and his team took detailed photos of the turtles' heads in the hopes of identifying them by their markings, they measured the shells and checked the general health of each tortuga. Their organization relies on donations and has very limited funding, so they do not have the money to invest in tagging operations which would really be ideal. (Hint hint, click the link, make a donation!)

Catching the eggs

Bucket of 115 loggerhead turtle eggs

When the green turtle started her return trip, we went back to the "home base" at the Xpu Ha entrance and were lucky enough to be a part of one of the first turtle releases of the season. The first nests are starting to hatch and the babies are ready to start their lives in the sea. These little cuties sure move fast, almost impossible to get a good photo with their speed and the low light!

More than 100 protected nests, more than 10000 eggs

We had a terrific night, a magical experience with these gorgeous creatures! If you are in the Riviera Maya during turtle nesting season, PLEASE take note of the following:

1  Do NOT take flash photography or use any white light on the beach at night. Use a flashlight with a red filter (red t-shirt or bandana will do the trick). Ask your hotel to shut off any outside lights.
2. Do NOT approach the turtles unless turtle patrol/conservationists invite you to do so. If you see a turtle coming to shore, report it to hotel security or nearby turtle patrols. Do not interfere, they spook easy and will return to the sea without laying their eggs.
3. Pick up your trash! Do not leave anything on the beach (toys, towels, etc) that could impede their movements. Ask hotels to move their lounge chairs and tables in at night.
4. Donate to local organizations devoted to the conservation and protection of sea turtles. They need all the help they can get!

The turtles have been making this journey for milenia, now they are in danger as humans take over their turf. Let's do all we can to protect them and ensure that their journeys continue for a long time to come.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cenote Jardin del Eden Riviera Maya

It is stinking hot in Cancun. Melty hot. Cook an egg on my porch hot. Electrical bill through the roof hot. In almost ten years here I have never felt so danged sticky. I thought I had grown accustomed to sweltering temps but this year is killing me. If I could, I would live in a cenote, permanently underwater, even if it meant having pruny feet and fingers and growing gills and webs between my toes, it would be totally worth it.

Cenote Jardin del Eden

There are literally thousands of cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula, each one with its own unique characteristics. A cenote is a natural limestone "sinkhole", they can be open (total collapse of the limestone "roof"), semi-abierto (half open) or closed, meaning the "roof" is intact and to access the cenote you must enter through small openings and lower yourself down to the chilly water-filled caverns below. The cenotes are often connected to underground rivers, there are no surface rivers in the Peninsula so these are the only sources of fresh water. Thus, they have long been considered "sacred" ground to the local Maya inhabitants as they provide LIFE to the region.

Max takes the leap

We recently took a refreshing jaunt to our favourite cenote, Jardin del Eden in the Riviera Maya. Not exactly "touristy" (thus a fave!), it's a beautiful open cenote with hidden caves, a great cliff for jumping and some awesome underwater vistas. There are always scuba divers exploring here, there are secret passages under the water connecting to nearby cenotes, one day I will join them!

Scuba diver explores

LOVE these particular fish, they are gorgeous!

Max (now 8 years old!) has decided that he wants to be a "scubafreediver". I try to explain that it is simply "free diving" but he's got the phrase stuck in his head. I will secretly laugh at him until he stops (and remind him of his phrase at his wedding, I'm keeping a list of embarrassing things to share). He practices diving down as far as he possibly can in the cenote. Each time he gets a little deeper! I recorded a quick video of his attempts and a quick whirl around Jardin del Eden. (Yes, you can hear me laughing underwater, quite a trick really, ta-dah!)

Until I can get to a cenote again I will be parked in front of my fan, sucking back cold drinks and repeating the phrase "No manches, que calor!" over and over, showering frequently and hoping to lose weight simply by sweating. So far no luck on that front, perhaps I should cut out the ice cream breaks. 

How are you keeping cool this summer?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's a Kelly blog!

Sooo, I haven't been blogging much. Not as "myself" anyway, I write daily for work, it pays the bills, but it's not "ME".  I have this HUGE sense of guilt hanging over me about CancunCanuck, like it's something that I MUST do. Have to. Forced to. Responsibility. And thus, nada. Writer's block. A couple of months back I met up with my awesome friend Suzanne who is the Mexico expert. She asked me why the heck I wasn't blogging. I floundered for a second then said "I don't know what it is anymore, travel blog, expat blog, Mexico blog, mommy blog, bilingual blog, news blog or personal blog!!!" Sweet Suzanne smiled and said "It's all of those silly, it's a Kelly blog!" Well huh, go figure, her response has been stuck in my head ever since and I've realized I just have to write. As me. Same as I used to.

BUT I realized there is a difference now. I used to write to escape and to pretend a bad situation wasn't so bad. Force myself to focus on the positive aspects of my life, adventure, my son, etc, like a little kid with hands over ears screaming "LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU" to all the negative stuff going on. Now that I have moved on from said "bad situation" and life really is good and positive and full of love and light (no, seriously, not Pollyanna-ing, it's true!), I have less reason to write. Or, as I am realizing of late, different reasons to write. I just have to break through and allow myself to be the writer that I am now. There are theories that in order to be an artist, you must be miserable. Been there and done that, ya basta! I hope to surpass that and show that I don't have to suffer to be creative. Without getting all sappy and lovey-dovey gross/guacala on you of course.

Soooo, I still don't know where this is going. Not sure if it's going anywhere but I get an "A for Effort" for writing this post, no? I do know that I miss writing as myself and sharing my adventures and experiences and thoughts. But I don't want to just be a travel guide. And I definitely do not want to be an "expat expert" (I know, it's horrible, but the emails I get from people with dreams of living on white sandy beaches under palm trees make my teeth hurt now, no offense intended to anyone with fantasies, just find a little reality in there, sabes?) I'm not an expert in immigration or finding a job or tracking down your vacation relation (seriously ladies, STOP falling in love on your one week all-inclusive trip, it never works!) I can't tell you what to do with your life or how to make a change or where you should live or who you should love. Ann Landers I am not. Just come along for the ride, enjoy the road, have a larf or three with me as I figure out what this journey/lucha is for me.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Xplor Fuego - HOT Night of Adventure in the Riviera Maya

I first visited Xplor Park in the Riviera Maya when they opened many moons ago, a fun day of ziplines, underground rivers and amphibious vehicles. They've just launched a NEW adventure, Xplor Fuego and invited me for a fam trip to check out the experience.

Xplor is great fun in the daytime, but a whole new level of adventure at night! We started out with a swim in the underground river. Lit with red, it had the appearance of a volcano (or hell as some said!). The guide cracked a joke about the water being hot (it was bubbling and glowing like lava), but we knew darned well we were going to be shivering in no time. Not a bad thing, we were sweating like mad, it was pleasantly refreshing! It was a relaxing float through the gorgeous stalactite formations, natural wonders of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Soaking wet we made our way through the twisty turny paths to the start of the zipline circuit. The night circuit is a variation on the day, a little shorter (for time) but still a total riot. Our first few flies were while the sun was going down, a pretty pinky purpley sky. Then night REALLY fell and we were flying through the darkness. WOW, seriously unique experience! The longest/tallest zipline in the Riviera Maya is at Xplor, zipping for over a minute in total darkness, seeing the fire of the torches in the distance, spectacular!

The final zipline has an AWESOME water landing, it's dark and I spun around a bit (sorry if you get dizzy) but I did manage to capture a little video.

The final leg of our adventure was in the amphibious vehicles, driving along jungle paths, through cenotes and caves and whipping around some tight turns. My friend Myrna was at the wheel and I thought she may possibly have been trying to kill us but I haven't laughed so hard in a good long time. My body took a good beating sitting in the back but it was oh so worth it.

The last part of our journey was the most delicious, DINNER. The food at all the Xperiencias Xcaret parks is always superior and Xplor is no exception. I admit it, I gorged myself on the unbelievably delicious ribs. And cheese. And had two baked potatoes with a sour cream topping that I could have eaten by the spoonful. And more ribs. After burning off a tonne of calories swimming the river and climbing the zipline towers, I totally blew it all in a very short period of time, walking out a few kilos heavier than when I went in, te juro.

Thanks so much to Xperiencias Xcaret for always being terrific hosts. You can see more photos on the Xplor Fuego Flickr set!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Xenotes: A New Experience in the Riviera Maya

Team Xenotes

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I looooove me some cenote action. Hopping in the car and cruising down south to refresh in the cool waters, do a little snorkeling and jump off some cliffs, it's a pretty regular weekend thing for us here in Cancun. I've been hearing all about the newest park from Xperiencias Xcaret called "Xenotes" and was excited to receive an invitation to a fam trip to check it out this past weekend.

The friendly public relations staff greeted us at the meeting point and after a few minutes of teasing them about their waiter-like uniforms (dos micheladas por favor!), we boarded the bus to make our way to Puerto Morelos. It was the usual gang of social media folks and press and the giggles started early, it's always nice to travel with a group of fun folks who are really knowledgeable about the region. (Y'all know who you are, abrazos!)

Cenote "K'áak"

The drive took us down the cenote route near Puerto Morelos, faaaaaar down the cenote route actually. I've visited cenotes in this area before and was really looking forward to seeing what Xperiencias Xcaret had discovered. We arrived at the first cenote, enjoyed a little coffee break and were introduced to the park by the Director.  We donned our life jackets, had a little shower to rinse off any contaminants and our group "Zotz" (the bats) skipped down the path to our first stop, starting the day with a zipline ride landing in the water. This first cenote "K'áak" or "Fire" was beautiful! We swam past a couple of waterfalls and enjoyed the rocky views around us after we had made our zipline splash. There were optional inner tubes, but it was so hot that most of us chose the refreshing swim instead.

Lucky shot, two butterflies on a shell

We visited three more cenotes over the course of the day, each with its own unique characteristics and activities. In our travels in between we marveled at the thousands (oh yes, thousands) of butterflies that were swirling around us, it was like nothing I had ever seen before!

Ready to kaya in cenote "Ha'"

In cenote "Ha'" or "Water" we got an underwater view while snorkeling, little fishies and pretty water lilies and we paddled along a gorgeous stretch of water in kayaks. In cenote "Iik'" or "Wind", we flew through the air on a couple of different ziplines and splashed down for some huge laughs. We took a little break here for a delicious lunch, a luxurious picnic with yummy soup, sandwiches and rich brownies (and don't forget the wine and beer!) The last stop of the day was at cenote "Lu'um" or "Earth", a closed cenote which we entered via a controlled descent from a tall tower (kind of like rappel, without all the work). This was a cathedral-like cenote with a soaring roof, dangling vines and the coldest (and most refreshing!) water of the day. We took turns taking flying leaps off the ledge into the crystalline waters until it was time to go.

Controlled descent in cenote "Lu'um"

On the bumpy ride back we serenaded each other with song and the Zotz team formed a bond for life. It's one of the things I liked best about this tour, they only take small groups at a time and it is a great way to make new friends, enjoying a day in nature, no technology (though for some of us the lack of a cel signal was a little harder to handle than for others, snicker) and reconnecting with the universe and friends.

Cenote "Lu'um"

Big thanks to Xperiencias Xcaret for inviting me to play at Xenotes, I hope the new venture is a great success! Thanks to the Zotz team for a great day, LA LA LA LA LA LA LA Coco Bongooooo Coco Bongooooo, love you all!

For more photos, please visit the Xenotes set on Flickr! I am working on editing some videos too, soon, soon!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pop Culture Fest 2013 at Hacienda Tres Rios Resort

Mexican culture...the ancient Maya pyramids, traditional regional dances, Aztec mythology. The past comes alive for tourists when they think of Mexico, but what many people miss is the rich culture of modern day. Fusion cuisine, contemporary art, film and music, artesanal beers, wines and spirits and of course, pop culture entertainment like lucha libre. Hacienda Tres Rios in the Riviera Maya held a festival to celebrate today's vital Mexican culture, the Pop Culture Fest 2013, introducing tourists to a "new" side of Mexico.

Somebody says "fiesta", and I am totally on board. I was excited when my friend Kristin (the community manager for Tres Rios) invited me to play with her and a gaggle of girls who work in social media. We boarded the bus in Cancun and headed south. 

The first event of the day (after seeking out the desperately needed coffee) was a cooking demonstration by the Tres Rios chef. He put together a dish of beef filet with "huitlacoche" sauce ("corn smut" in English, but it just sounds so dirty that way, no? We'll stick with the Spanish). I admit to never having enjoyed huitlacoche in the past, but this little treat was rich and delish and left me wanting more. And well, the small taste whet our appetites and we made our way to the cafe and devoured sweet pastry treats (I had at least two of each, diet be damned, it's a party). 

Beef filet with huitlacoche sauce

With our bellies sated and caffeine coursing through our veins, we had a few minutes before the next event so we checked out the lobby art exhibit of dresses inspired by Mexico but made completely of paper products. This one was piñata-fabulous. 

Afraid if I wore this I would get hit by children with sticks

We made our way to the sports bar to express our competitive sides with some traditional "balero", an addictive game with a stick and a wooden top and string, desperately trying to get the top to sit on the stick. We each had ten chances to try to make it, if we got it, we could keep the "balero". Errr, I didn't do so great but they were kind enough to let me keep the toy after I put on a pouty face.

The "balero" and the flag. Doesn't get any more Mexican than this 

 I'm totally doing it wrong

Now, on to the good stuff, drinking and learning, can't beat that with a stick. The sommelier from Imperial Mezcal was on hand to give us a lesson in this fine Mexican spirit. It's a lot like tequila, but has its own unique characteristics and history. I developed a fondness for mezcal in Oaxaca and with this tasting and lesson, was able to further develop my appreciation for the art. In addition to a proper tasting class, the mixologist served up some cocktails made with mezcal, the mojito was divino!

Imperial Mezcal

We had a delicious lunch (I had beef in blue cheese sauce, ooooh so good), accompanied by the cool chicas of social media and a few "alebrijes" (tamarind margaritas). We then prepared ourselves for the main event, getting all gussied up for a Mexican dinner and the big show.

I had only been to a lucha libre event once and well, I hated it to be honest. But I was ready with an open mind and climbed the bleachers to settle in for a night of knock downs. What I discovered was a grand tradition of choreography and humour! The luchadores were hilarious, I haven't laughed so hard in a good long time. I got to screaming along with everyone "rudos, rudos, rudos!" and belly laughing with the girls. After the show I ran down to meet "Zumbi" (Brazilian themed character who incorporated capoeira in his act, the ladies loved the sexy hips and gymnastic ability of this dude). The adrenaline must have been flowing through me too as I climbed into the ring and onto the ropes, letting out a grand lucha scream from the top. 

Luchas! "El Alebrije" was my fave 

Crazy luchador eyes? Ok, I'll play along with Zumbi 

Ruda!!!! (I need a skimpier costume)

We were totally exhausted at the end of the day, but it was a "good" kind of tired. We learned, we laughed, we ate, we drank, we got a little crazy with the lucha libre. This was a very cool event and I think we need more of its kind. As much as I love the ancient culture of this country, I do live in the modern Mexico and celebrate the richness of the society, the silliness, the art, the constant drive forward and the importance of sharing good times with family and friends. Thanks to Tres Rios for putting together this affair, hopefully it will be an annual event and more folks will be able to raise a glass to the Mexican culture of today. Salud my friends!

D is for Dengue, Depression and Dread

I'm currently sitting in my Cancun apartment, staving off the Covid 19 panic and using all my Jungle Kelly powers to maintain my cal...