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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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

Travesía Sagrada Maya

Photo courtesy of Del Sol Photography

The ‘Travesia Sagrada Maya’ translates into English as Sacred Mayan Journey and it is an INCREDIBLE event that takes place every year here in the Riviera Maya.

The Sacred Mayan Journey is a ritual in which the Maya braved the ocean on their canoes and crossed to Cozumel to worship the goddess Ixchel.

This year marks the 7th annual event and will involve over 300 oarsmen in 30 canoes making their way from Xel Ha Park over to Cozumel and back again, ending their journey with a festival celebrating their arrival in Xcaret park. This event raises awareness of the Mayan culture as the original culture in this area, a fact that is disappearing over time.

Every aspect of the event, from the people taking part to the oars, from the body paint to the food offered at the festival it all has a significance within the Mayan world and each belief is brought to life in present day thanks to the participation of so many local members of the community within this event. Not all participants are local, thanks to the ever growing popularity of the event there are people that travel from other states and ever other countries to take part in this wonderful experience.

If you ever have the chance to be in the Riviera Maya at the end of May, this is one experience that you cannot miss. It is truly incredible and has the power to take your breath away with the sheer dedication of the members and the symbolism portrayed.

Official page: http://en.travesiasagradamaya.com.mx/

You can’t miss checking out this page for AMAZING photos taken at last years event by Del Sol Photography:

http://delsolphotography.com/travesia-sagrada-maya/

X is for Xel Ha

Xel-Ha, one of the amazing attractions in Cancun, Riviera Maya, Mexico, a natural aquarium park considered the largest aquarium in the world, the perfect place to perform activities in Riviera Maya. If you love nature, there is no better place than Xel-Ha to practice snorkeling and water activities

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Xel Ha Park

Xel Ha has got to be one of my favourite places to go when I have time off. It is a natural park that is based around a huge lagoon and an awesome place if you like water activities such as snorkeling. They have an amazing lazy river that you can snorkel through or if you’re lazy like me, they have inflatable donuts that you can use to just float down the river.

image courtesy of TripAdvisor

Inner tubes in the Lazy River

There are tons of cool fish and sealife to see and it is all completely natural. None of the fish in the park are in captivity, they are there because they want to be. Xel Has is commonly known as the world’s largest natural aquarium.

Enjoying a day off at Xel Ha

Xel Ha

Once you pay your entrance to the park it is all inclusive and another HUGE bonus of this park is the food they have available throughout the day. I think I can safely say that I would go just for the food.

Xel Ha are very big on the environment and biodegradable sunblock is a must when you are visiting the park. Keep in mind that biodegradable sunblock can be thicker than regular sunblock so don’t over do it with the cream!!

Biodegradable Sunblock

Another unique activity that Xel Ha park offers is the Dolphin Sea Trek. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience and if you are a non-diver like myself it is the closest you will get to feeling like a dive master.

My Sea Trek Experience at Xel Ha

Hugging a Dolphin

If you’re visiting this area, a visit to Xel Ha is a must do!

The incredible views at Xel Ha

The lagoon at Xel Ha

B is for Beach

Day two and the letter B.. living in this caribbean paradise the first word that sprung to mind was Beach. The Riviera Maya coastline stretches from the north end of Cancun all the way south to Tulum. I have to admit that even though I live here I definitley don’t go to the beach as often as I should. However, everytime I do go to the beach I always think to myself  ‘I really should come more often’.

The white sand and cristaline waters of the Caribbean are what makes this part of Mexico so popular and there are tons of beaches that are ‘hidden’ away from the tourists and are no where near as populated as the beach clubs you’ll find in the centre of town. That being said the beach clubs offer a great atmosphere if you’re going to spend the day drinking and listening to dance music in the sun. They also host some of the best concerts around.

Mamitas Beach Club – Playa Del Carmen

Playa Esmeralda is also located right in the center of Playa Del Carmen however it tends to be much more popular with locals rather than with tourists due to its location. It offers none of the facilities that the beach clubs offer however it is still a great place to go and soak up some sun. Sunday is day to give it a miss though as you’ll find that 90% of the locals spend their day there and it is impossible to find a spot to lay down your towel.

Playa Esmeralda

If I had to narrow it down to my top 3 beaches in the Riviera Maya it would have to be following:

  1. XpuHa – Without a doubt one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. The white sand stretches, undisturbed, for miles and the water is the most amazing shade of blue. It is definitely one of the places that is a must do during any visit to the Riviera Maya.

    XpuHa

  2. Tulum – The perfect mix of culture and beauty. The mayan ruins of Tulum are situated right on the beach itself and the views are phenomenal. Just a short drive south of the ruins and you arrive to Playa Paraiso which is absolutely stunning. You can rent a cabaña right on the water front and it makes the perfect weekend getaway!

    Playa Paraiso

  3. Akumal – The advantage of Akumal is really the colour and clarity of the ocean not to mention the soft white sand. If you have the chance to visit Akumal don’t forget to take your snorkeling equipment as you will almost always find sea turtles right there on the coast and snorkeling with them really is amazing! FYI Akumal is actually the ancient mayan word for ‘Place of the Turtles’

    Akumal Bay

    So there you have it.. B is for Beach and day 2 of the blog challenge is complete.

A is for Animal Rescue

t’s April 1st and Day One of my A-Z blogging challenge. There are a million things that I could have written about my life starting with the letter A and then it dawned on me.. the one thing that matters most to me and that has affected my life here in Mexico in more ways than one, Animal Rescue.

Dogs were always my favourite animals, every birthday and christmas the first thing on my wishlist was a puppy however living in an apartment in the center of London wasn’t the ideal surrounding. Fast forward 20 years and I arrived in Mexico, living alone there was nobody to tell me that I couldn’t have as many dogs as I wanted. Just for the record, I now share my house with 7 rescued furbabies and whilst they make my life hell, I love them to bits and wouldn’t change them for the world.

The closest I’ve ever gotten to an actual ‘family’ photo

The reason I ended up with so many dogs is in part because I love them and would have more if I could but more so because they are all, with the exception of my golden lab, rescue dogs. Street dogs here in Mexico are a common site and whilst there are several refuges in this area alone they can’t cope with the amount of dogs (and cats) that are abandoned on a daily basis. One of the refuges that does an amazing job in this part of Mexico is ‘Tierra de Animales’ (Land of the Animales) They have over 200 dogs there and each and every one of them was rescued from the street. Most of them were picked up in horrific conditions due to malnutrition, abuse or disease. The team at Tierra de Animales, lead by Ricardo Pimentel, do an amazing job nursing the dogs back to health and finding them new homes either here in Mexico or even in the US and Canada. Cross border adoptions are so easy now days that personally I think every home should have their own Mexican Street Dog.

Ricardo and some of the dogs available for adoption at Tierra De Animales

One of the cases that I will never forget is Xolo, a dog that was practically dead when they rescued him. After a few months at TDA he slowly but surely started to recuperate.. He is now absolutely gorgeous and living in the US with his adopted family. He is the perfect case study to demonstrate that you never really know what a dog can become with the right care and attention.

The amazing recovery of Xolo

Tierra de Animales has only been open for 2 years and they have already rehomed hundreds of dogs that would never have had a chance in life and the most amazing part of all is that they operate purely on donations. They receive absolutely no government funding at all.

So if you’re thinking about getting a dog, why not consider a cross border adoption or even just donating to the cause.. you’ll be making 200 mexican doggies very happy! You can find out more about Tierra De Animales via their webpage:

www.tierradeanimales.org

or you can follow them on facebook and twitter:

www.facebook.com/tierradeanimales

www.twitter.com/tierradanimales

Destination Weddings – The other side of the story

Destination Weddings are becoming more popular than ever especially here in Mexico. Only a few hours away from the US and Canada, it is an ideal solution for young couples that are looking for somewhere different for their wedding. Destinationa weddings offer them all of that and more. If you choose the right location, a destination wedding can save you thousands of dollars. Booking a destination wedding really is the ideal solution as the majority of the packages include the services of the wedding planner.

At work, I share my office with the wedding department of the hotel and the wedding manager just happens to be one of my best friends. I have to say that I have a whole new respect for destination wedding planners. Not only do they have to deal with the typical bridezillas on a day to day basis they also have to deal with the travel agents who can be just as bad.

Not only does she, Jacki, have contact with the bride, normally on a daily basis, for up to a year prior to the wedding she is also involved in absolutely every detail of the big day itself, from making sure the flowers are perfect to zipping up the bride’s dress prior to the ceremony.

What most future brides don’t realize is that whilst Jacki is answering their 5ooo neurotic emails a day, she is also doing the same exact thing to approximately 50 other ladies all at the same time. Just by mentioning a name, Jacki can tell you the date of the wedding, the full names of both bride and groom even the type of flowers they’ve ordered. Her memory is IMPRESSIVE! Past bride’s have even named her the bride whisperer due to her ability to calm down even the worst bridezilla. Of course they don’t see the side of her that we do in the office but it’s her happy, relaxed self that will always be seen by the wedding guests.

I probably am biased seeing that she is my friend but without a doubt Jacki is one of the best wedding coordinators in the business and any bride that has her wedding organized by Jacki is guaranteed to have the perfect day and memories that last a lifetime.

So to all you future brides out there planning a destination wedding, you’re coordinator knows that this is the biggest day of your life and they will make it perfect just give them a break every now and then!