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.

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...