11 November 2013

23 Oct-2 November 2013: Puerto Adventuras, Mexico

Turning another decade older meant trying to find a way to celebrate it in style....which ultimately ended up as a vacation by the beach, in the sun (mostly), and with the good company of friends (and great cocktails)!

I ended up choosing Mexico (Riviera Maya) as it was close enough to New York and not too expensive.  Inviting two close friends meant that only fun times were ahead.

Puerto Adventuras (the resort) was about 45mins from Cancun but far enough out from the main tourist hub so as not feel too hemmed in.  Mind you, it was all inclusive, but funny enough the majority of people in the resort were from South America, not North America or Europe.

For 9 days I scuba dived, lay on the beach, ate, took shelter from the daily afternoon downpours, and just chilled out (with the occasional massage and trip to the gym).  Didn't take much to unwind - especially with Terreis and Jane there to help in the endeavor!!

Turning *0 wasn't such a hardship and I certainly enjoyed the time with two very good friends!  The scuba diving was also very diverse - especially the cave diving.

So here's to turning *0 and celebrating it in even greater style!

21 August 2013

2012 to 2013: New York, US

Living in New York consists of being outdoors in either snow, sunshine, heat or humidity - which means New York is a playground for most people year round.  I have had so much fun here and these photos tell it all....from winter to spring to summer and back again.

Stand up paddle boarding on the Hudson - summer 2012

Horse riding upstate New York - summer 2012

Ice skating in Central Park - winter 2013

Snow shoeing and cross country skiing in New Jersey - winter 2013

Kayaking in New Jersey - summer 2013

Kayaking in Cape May, New Jersey - summer 2013

Jets game at Metlife Stadium, New Jersey - summer 2013

Atlantic City, New Jersey - summer 2-13

First winter in New York - 2011

High roping and ziplining, New Jersey - summer 2013

TropFest, NY - Summer 2013 (Mary, Tereza)

Kiwi get together, NY - Winter 2012 (Elodie & brother, Sera)
Mount Snow, Veromont - Winter 2013
Mount Snow, Vermont - Winter 2013
MatchBox Twenty/Goo Goo Dolls concert, Jones Beach - Summer 2013 (Mary)
Jones Beach, NY - Summer 2013

Country and Western night, NY - Spring 2013

Build a Bear with my niece, NY - Spring 2013 (Grace)

Halloween with friends, NY - Fall 2012 (Elodie, Sera)

Flying back into New York - Spring 2013

4th July party with Beccy - Summer 2013 (me and Beccy)

MatchBox Twenty/Goo Goo Dolls concert, Jones Beach - Summer 2013

Out with friends, NY - Summer 2013 (me and Terreis)

28 May 2013

24-28 May 2013: Nashville, US

I am not sure why I wanted to visit Nashville, but the idea hit me and I couldn’t let it go (probably because of the programme 'Nashville').  In any case I decided it was time to visit and visiting during a long weekend seemed the best idea.  I did do some prep beforehand, such as booking a night at Bluebird Café (which sold out within 20mins of tickets going on sale), booking a night at the Grand Ole Opry, and just doing some research about what to see and do.

Nashville is the corner stone of country music in America - the long list of entertainers coming from here is immense.  The first day or so I spent walking around and just getting my bearings – I then joined up with a walking tour and then a hop on/off trolley bus.  Some of the things I recommend doing/seeing include:

Ryman Auditorium
One of the most famous concert halls in the history of country music, this auditorium still hosts live music events.

Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is known for creating one-of-a-kind entertainment experiences for audiences of all ages. It's where unforgettable moments happen every week...moments like the night Little Jimmy Dickens scaled a ladder to invite Trace Adkins to become an Opry member. With country music's new stars, superstars, and legends live on stage, you never know what'll happen next.

Bluebird Café
The Bluebird Café is one of the world’s preeminent listening rooms and the venue has gained worldwide recognition as a songwriter’s performance space where the “heroes behind the hits” perform their own songs; songs that have been recorded by chart-topping artists in all genres of music.  Their reputation as a listening room is based on the acoustic music that is their signature style. 

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
This museum highlights the history of country music from its birthplace in the Music City to present-day.

Walkin' Nashville - Music City Legends Tourhighlights from this walking tour include
  • Printers Alley - small, gritty street lined with some of Nashville's best bars and restaurants
  • Hatch Show Print – one of the oldest working letterpress print shops in America. Located in a historic building at 316 Broadway in the heart of downtown Nashville, Hatch Show Print has produced posters for performers ranging from B.B. King to Dolly Parton
Hop On/Off trolley bus highlights include:
  • Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park – the Bicentennial Mall stretches through downtown Nashville, on the north side of the State Capitol Grounds. It covers 19 acres and contains numerous exhibits of Tennessee history and geography.  There are also bells that ring on the hour every hour.
  • Centennial Park - the Parthenon stands as the centerpiece of Centennial Park.  Alan LeQuire's 1990 re-creation of the Athena statue is the focus of the Parthenon just as it was in ancient Greece. The building is a full-scale replica and the statue of Athena is cuirassed and helmeted, carries a shield on her left arm and a small (6ft) statue of Nike (Victory) in her right palm, and stands 42ft (13m) high, and gilt with more than eight pounds of gold leaf
Even though it was May, it was hot (85 degrees or so)….so I hate to think what the temps would be in the middle of summer!  I also ended up doing some shopping – who could leave Nashville without getting a pair of country and western boots – and of course ended up in a few of the many bars that upcoming and ‘wannabe’ country singers perform in (the most famous being ‘Tootsies’).

Downtown Nashville is more geared for the party animal and/or country music fan – there are lots of bars and a lot of drinking is done till the early hours of the morning. I would recommend coming and seeing this neck of the woods, but it is not really anything like the show ‘Nashville’ and I wouldn’t stay more than 2-3 days if you don’t have your own transport.  Many attractions are out of town and you either need a taxi or your own car.

But it is what it is, and you can just feel the fervor and love country music fans have for this place.

04 March 2013

20-30 March 2013: Whistler, Canada

Once again we (Terreis and I) found ourselves in Whistler, Canada – our favourite place to ski.  Once you’ve skied here, you’ve been spoilt for life!

We did it slightly differently than last year and went with a hotel for accommodation only.  The hotel – Aava Hotel – was OK and we were more than comfortable for the 10 days we were there.

Terreis didn’t start off too well with being delayed for a day…that didn’t stop me getting out and enjoying my first day on the slopes :).  The sun was out, the temps were warm and I was eager to try out my new app – Ski Trax.  This clocks everything from speed, to distance to elevation.  By the end of the trip I had clocked my fastest speed at 83km/hr!!  I was skiing about 35-40km per day over 9 days and my knees were not very impressed at all!

The weather in the first 4 days was outstanding – sun, warm temps - very unseasonably good weather.  By day 5 we were getting worried as it was too warm (70 degrees in Whistler village one afternoon).  By day 6 we had given up on fresh snow and basically went out late’ish morning (after the ice had thwarted), skied straight through till early/mid afternoon and then called it a day.  Nothing worse than skiing through mush on tired legs!

One afternoon I even decided to go and do some cross country skiing…if my knees weren’t already feeling like they were 80 years old, they certainly did after 3hrs of this!  Very hard work but worth the effort.

We usually ate out for our meals and tried quite a few different restaurants.  All very good, but some more expensive than others.  But that is Whistler Village for you – even the massage we had one afternoon was nearly 0.5x more expensive than New York.

It was a fantastic, if not tiring, 9 days and I really do recommend Whistler to everyone who skis/snowboards. There is a slope for everyone and you never get bored.  Remember there are two mountains here with a very long gondola between them!!

02 January 2013

23 Dec-2 Jan 2013: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala

New York is relatively close to Central America…which is why I decided to do a 10 day trip through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala with Gecko. This included Xmas day and New Year's eve. 




I did this trip with a friend Terreis Sierra (also skiing buddy) who flew out from London.  There were also 14 other people on the trip and surprisingly the majority of us were from the southern hemisphere...in particular, Australia! The guide, Alonso, was Mexican and would be with us for the whole time.

We started out in Cancun where most of us did either snorkelling or ziplining/caving. I decided to spend the day in and out of the water snorkelling the second largest reef in the world near to Maroma.  Not much wildlife to see but the water was crystal clear (if not a bit chilly!). It was Xmas eve so we celebrated it in style at a restaurant - drinking frozen margaritas, eating great tasting food, wearing balloons and being entertained by the staff! Unfortunately we had an early start on Xmas day for our drive to
Tulum which is a spectacular pre-Columbian walled city ruins overlooking a beautiful coastline.  It is perched on a cliff and with amazing views over the ocean.  A hot day, but bareable.

From here we got a local bus to Chetumel to spend the night before heading into Belize.



Caye Caulker
Everyone chilling on Caye Caulker


Caye Caulker


Caye Caulker

A very quick visit to Belize...straight over the border to Belize City where we got a speedboat to Caye Caulker - 33km from Belize, and only 7km from north to south.

We got to spend 1.5 days here in quite basic accommodation (where we all got bitten to death by fleas/sandflies...or whatever they were!).  It may not have actually had a nice beach, or clear waters to swim in, but the snorkelling trip we did the next day was absolutely stunning!!  There were lots and lots of turtles, mantas, stingrays, sharks, fish and very beautiful coral.  Some of the best snorkelling (and diving) I have ever done! Another bonus for the island is the seafood…very very tasty!  The lobster was $40 and some of the best I have ever tasted.  



The tour group!

New Year's Eve - Antigua

Sunset in Antigua

The next stop was the border to Guatemala - this meant an early get up and a long day driving to Flores and to a small picturesque town (Itza) on an island in the middle of Lake Peten.  Lots of cobblestone streets and a gorgeous lake that we all jumped into to wash off the grit and sweat from the day.

The next morning was a very early getup so we could visit the ruins of Tikal - the largest excavated Mayan ruin site in the Americas.  There are 5 main temples of which we climbed three of them, the highest at 90m.  The site is still used for ceremonies and is surrounded by jungle - which includes animals such as a crocodile, parrots, toucans, howler monkeys and tarantulas. Alonso (a sun worshipper) did a blessing for us all....which was amazing to experience in the ruins.

We were off again that night to catch an overnight bus to Guatemala City...a 10hr bus ride that only covered 500km!!!  Very slow, very cold in the bus and at 2am in the morning there was a little bit of confusion over one of us nearly missing the bus after a pit stop (which luckily didn't happen!).  After getting to Guatemala City we got another bus to Antigua - a very beautiful town and former capital of Guatemala. 

Antigua is a colonial town set deep in a valley encircled by three volcanos and at an elevation where you had to wear a jacket at night. It is also a protected UNESCO town.  There was lots of walking about, shopping and for those who had the energy, an early morning hike up a volcano.   

We spent 3 nights here, including New Year's eve. I really enjoyed my time in this town, there was a lot to see, to experience and to shop for (especially jade, coffee and chocolate)! This is where we saw a lot of local Guatemalans holidaying - more than foreign travellers! As for New Year's eve....everyone congregated down in the market place where everyone was letting off fireworks....including metre+ lengths of fire crackers.  We couldn't tell what was 'official' fireworks and what individuals were letting off.  All in all the atmosphere was relaxed, friendly and chilled out.  Lots of kids about too.

Got to say, though it was only 10 days in length, the entire group got on exceedingly well, everyone had a fantastic time and we got to see the highlights of these 3 countries.  Guatemala is definitely a favourite of mine, and I would love to go back and see it in more depth one day. 

- Seeing the Tikal ruins
- Snorkelling off from Caye Caulker
- Chilling out in Itza, Belize
- Spending time in Antigua

- Have a guide when going through Tumul and Tikal
- Bring dimp with you as the sandflies will eat you alive!
- Do a full day snorkelling trip from Caye Caulker
- You can't exchange US$ to Quetzels in Guatemala...either ATMs (which may or may not work), or exchange money at the border
- If catching local buses, bring a coat as the air con is put on high!