My night at Xoximilco

Xochimilco (with a ‘ch’) is one of the main tourist attractions in Mexico city and thanks to it’s grand display of Mexican culture and tradition has been declared a Cultural Heritage for Humanity by the UNESCO.

Xochimilco © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

Xochimilco © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

I have traveled to Mexico city various times during the 9 years I have been here in Mexico however I have never had the chance to visit Xochimilco, so when I first heard that Xoximilco would be opened by the company that owns Xcaret and Xel-Ha,  I just knew that I had to go and last week I was lucky enough to get invited! Best of all I was able to go surrounded by a ton of my friends and colleagues which just added to the whole experience!

The gates open a full hour before the ‘trajineras’ set sail which gives you plenty of time to get registered and pose  for some awesome photos. They also have an area when you can try fresh fruit waters, or something stronger if you would like, as well as try the traditional Mexican snack of Esquites, which are small cups of cooked corn grains topped with salt, chile and mayonnaise!

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After you’re all registered and are assigned your boat you are sent off to cover yourself from head to toe in bug repellent! Take my word on this one, you will not want to miss any areas! In the bathroom areas they have huge pots of repellent, which is a pretty nice touch as you don’t have to worry about remembering to bring your own! I’m normally one of those lucky people that doesn’t tend to get bitten but even with the repellent I finished the night with quite a few bites around my ankles!

As the sun set it was time for one last group photo before we boarded the trajinera and set sail into the canals of Xoximilco!

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When the sun goes down is when the fun really begins, from the moment you step onto the trajinera you are transported to a different world of Mexican culture and tradition. As we were a large group we had a private trajinera just for us which just added to the whole experience. The guides and oarsman are over-the-top and make sure everyone gets involved in the fun whether it is demonstrating how to perform a tradition Mexican ‘grito’ or explaining how certain Mexican traditions came to be. My personal favourite was the story of the rabbit on the moon.

Snacks and drinks are already set up on board the trajinera for you however take my recommendation and don’t over do it on the snacks as there really is a never ending supply of Mexican dishes served to you throughout the evening! The ‘kitchen boats’ as I started to call them, are set up in strategic points throughout the canal and each trajinera is expertly moored beside them in order to transport the plates from one boat to another. As a vegetarian I have to say that the Vegetarian options were phenomenal, I had the chance to try banana ‘meatballs’, Mushroom tamales, grilled asaparagus among others. It was absolutely delicious!

Between courses you are also treated to live performances from groups and artists playing music originating from the various states of Mexico. My favourite always has been, and probably always will be, the Mariachis!

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As the tour is at night one of the nicest aspects is the fact that they have professional photographers strategically placed throughout the route taking photos in prime locations which of course came out way better than any photos I could have possibly taken with my camera or iphone! Plus it’s always nice to be able to get group photos where everyone is in the photo and you don’t have the dilemma of having to look for someone to take the pic! At the end of the evening you are given the opportunity to view all the photos that were taken and rather than having to choose your favourites and purchase them individually, you are able to buy a USB which contains all of the photos taken! An awesome feature as you have the digital copies of the photos and can print them as many times as you please or upload them to Facebook and make all your friends jealous!

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The tour itself lasted little over 3 hours but felt a lot longer as it is non stop entertainment and fun! I truly had a blast and I definitely plan on going again when my family are in town!

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It’s official.. I am a Grinch

I still remember my very first christmas here in Mexico, it was pretty significant as it was my first christmas away from home and away from my family and I have to admit that it didn’t really bother me. I spent the entire day on the beach lapping up the free cocktails and soaking up every ray of sunshine that I could… Those were the days…

I have to admit though that as the years have gone by (this year will be my 8th christmas away from home) Christmas has started to feel less and less festive. Maybe because I grew up celebrating christmas with the huge tree and the ENORMOUS pile of presents all delicately wrapped and placed under the tree while I was sleeping, maybe because I am used to spending Christmas day in my (almost always new) pijamas, crashed out in from of the TV stuffing my face with all the Christmas chocolates that my grandmother insisted on buying or maybe it’s just because I can’t get my head around celebrating away from my family.

When you tell people you will be spending Christmas in the Caribbean you always lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and the oh-so-common ‘you’re so lucky’ but I am really lucky? Would you honestly give up spending the festive period with your family and loved ones for a few rays of sunshine?

I have to admit that last year my boyfriend did attempt to snap me out of my full on grinch mode by making me put up a tree, cue lots of complaining on my behalf about how it was a waste of time and that the dogs were going to eat it BUT it was there and it did add a certain amount of festivity to the house and made for very pretty christmas photos; well it did until the dogs made it come crashing down on Christmas day!

My tree in all it's glory!

My tree in all it’s glory!

The custom Xmas photo

So as we approach the festive month of the year, I’ll be putting on that HUGE festive smile that I have to wear at work and wishing everyone Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas on the beach whilst secretly wishing that I was on a plane flying home to the arctic temperatures of London to spend Christmas with my family!

The most successful ViDAS Clinic to Date

So after a hectic few days of dogs and cats being treated left, right and centre the clinic was over and packed up just as fast as it had arrived. After so much anticipation I still can’t believe it’s been and gone already.

Thanks to the work of the ViDas vets and all of the volunteers that offered their time to help out the clinic was the most successful one to date with a grand total of 1254 animals sterilized in 5 days!

Bring on ViDas Playa del Carmen 2014!!

ViDAS 3012 – Pt. 2

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Just a pile of puppies..

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and more puppies..

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and more..

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Loved this little scruffy guy..

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Coco was loving the drugs..

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ViDAS

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Keeping records of all the dogs operated!

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Not al the dogs liked waking up with no balls..

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No clinic is complete without the T-Shirt souvenir..

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By FAR one of my favourite dogs.. I named him Dave!

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A face full of wrinkles..

ViDAS 2013 – Pt. 1

Every year, around this time the wonderful people at ViDAS set up a clinic here in Playa Del Carmen for local people to bring their dogs and cats to be sterilized for free. ViDAS (Spanish for LIVES), is a non-profit organization made up of veterinarians, veterinary students and other animal lovers dedicated to improving the lives of animals and people through veterinary medicine and education. The clinic itself is set up in one of the many local schools and each of the classrooms is set up to form operating theatres and recovery rooms. All of the material, food, drink, medication and everything else used is donated by wonderful people both here in Mexico as well as around the world in order to make these clinics a complete success. I had the opportunity to help them out this year and it really is a wonderful experience seeing how so many people bring their pets to the clinic knowing that neutering them will give them a much better quality of life.

Street dogs here in Mexico are becoming an issue, mainly due to bad ownership. The saying “There is no such thing as a bad dog, just a bad owner” really does apply here. People love getting a cute little puppy but then it grows and they realize the full extent of the responsibility involved and the costs generated. This unfortunately leads to people abandoning their pets in the streets. Most of these animals are not sterilized so it’s like a vicious circle as more and more puppies are born on the streets everyday. I’ve written before about animal rescue refuges but they can only take in so many animals and do so much. The real issue that needs to be tackled is educating people into realizing that sterilizing their animals is the way forward. It is sad but a lot of people, mainly men, see neutering their dogs as a direct reflection of their own masculinity! Seriously people, cutting your dogs balls off does not make you less of a man!

The clinic really is a fantastic idea  and last year alone 1130 cats and dogs safely sterilized during the 6 day clinic in Playa del Carmen! There is still a few more days left of the Clinic here which I’ll be attending and I’m sure I’ll have a ton of new friends and fun stories to share at the end of it! The heat is overwhelming and everyone spends their days pulling out ticks and combating fleas but knowing that you are improving the animal’s way of life is reward enough. Just seeing the difference between how the animal comes in and how it leaves is priceless. There are several volunteers who also take it upon themselves to collect dogs and cats from the street to bring them in, some lucky ones are adopted there and then by other volunteers or taken back to the US and Canada in the hope of finding them a home there. Of course this is not the case for all the animals brought in, unfortunately some of them do have to be returned to the street but at least they go back clean, tick and flea free and sterilized

These photos were taken just during the first few hours of day one:

Even the smallest puppies were brought in to be sterilized.

Even the rain didn’t stop the people from coming to the clinic with their dogs and cats

Little Blackie right after surgery – a few minutes after this photo was taken she was running around again!

Two little ones waiting their turn

Volunteers taking care of the animals as they woke up from the anesthetic

Out for the count..

Just a small selection of the medication donated and used at the clinic

De-fleaing and de-ticking the animals while they were still out from the anesthetic

If you would like to make a donation to VIDAS to keep helping them do what they do you can just click the image below. Even the smallest amount can help:

Ni Modo

So I’m gonna start off apologizing for the HUGE gap in between posts.. it’s been a hectic few weeks. So many highs and lows, up and coming changes, life has literally been turned upside down but if there is one phrase that I’ve learnt here in Mexico that pretty sums life up at the moment it’s ‘Ni Modo’. I don’t think there is an actual translation for Ni Modo in English but it pretty much means: Shit happens, there’s not much you can do about it, so just move on!

So, moving on.. tomorrow I’ll be going on a new tour here in the Riviera Maya. Its called Xenotes and looks like it’s gonna be an absolute blast.

The Xenotes Tour includes a visit to four cenotes (sinkholes) where you will enjoy activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, rappelling, zip lines, inner tubes and swimming, with a period of relaxation to enjoy a Glam Picnic, a true moment of adventure in contact with nature.

The website for Xenotes promises me a day full of fun and nature combined so make sure you check back and see if they did live up to everything they promised! I’m pretty sure it will!

I also found out today that the annual Playa Del Carmen fair or feria as it is known here is in town. It’s gonna be here for at least a week so that will definitely involve a few visits! For those of you that have read my previous posts, you will know me now that I do love a Feria. It’s a great place to really get to know the real Mexico!

So all in all it’s gonna be a busy week, time to get back in to the Blog!

And just as an afternote (not that it is by any means a less significant occasion) today is my Dad’s Birthday! So, Happy Birthday Daddy! Love you x

My Daddy & Me

Celebrating Father’s Day in Mexico

Father’s day in Mexico is known as Día del Padre and like all Mexican celebrations it’s a day full of fun, fiestas and of course food. Father’s day here is celebrated on the 3rd sunday of June like most other countries which in my case is very useful. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have forgotten Mother’s day as here in Mexico it is celebrated in May but back home it is in March! Needless to say my mum now gets to celebrate 3 mother’s day a year just in case! Thank god for international flower delivery companies and paypal!

Family is very important here in Mexico, maybe more so than in other countries, so celebrations such as Father’s Day are always celebrated in a big way. Although it is not a national holiday that doesnt make it any less celebrated (although an extra day of work wouldn’t be bad). Mexican chocolate and all kinds of sweet goodies normally play a big part on the day itself!

My dad is normally here with me at this time of year but due to health issues, this year we’ll be celebrating Father’s Day apart. So Dad.. this blog post is dedicated to you and I can’t wait to see you soon. No matter where I am, or how old I get, I’ll always be your little girl. I love you daddy!