Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Está Todo Bien

After 12 months of waiting, the time had come again to head South with the Martin's. (Or Martine's as they are called in Mexico).
Last year was such a huge success for us, the boys and Grandma that we didn't hesitate to sign up for another round of Sun, Sand and Surf in Playa Del Carmen.

Grandma flew in on Wednesday and we flew out on Thursday, but not before breakfast at the Chop House.
We were quickly reminded that we may have left home, but home didn't leave us.  Keith's phone rang while we were waiting for our luggage.  Yes... he did get a ration of grief from all of us for working in the first moments of vacation, but come to find out, it was a telephone call well worth taking.
Unlike last year, baggage and customs was smooth sailing.  Before we knew it we were toasting to another Mexican vacation.
For twelve months, Patrick and Keith have been talking about the tacos at El Fagon.  So naturally, this was our FIRST stop.  We quickly dropped our bags and headed out for a taco snack.  When we arrived, we found meat spinning on the grill, el pastor style.  Somethings I have learned not to question, like what are we eating.  Just eat it and enjoy.  It was OH SO GOOD!!!!!

El Fagon is off the main drag.  The guys found it last year when they asked our drive where to get the best tacos and he pointed out El Fagon, just across the street from Mega (like the locals Wal-Mart).  The place is always loaded up with locals and as time goes on, the tourists are discovering it as well.  We hope that it never loses it's amazing "hole in the wall" touch, with the BEST tacos, EVER!  (Oh great... now I'm craving them.  Only 11+ months to go until we can load up on them, again.)
So Happy to be at El Fagon and to be on vacation!

Patrick, Kristi, Keith and Carrie toasting Pacifico while we wait for these much anticipated el pastor and chorizo tacos.
Finally, the time has come.

Keiths' Tastebuds: What is this?  Yes, yes it is. It's heaven, chorizo style!!
"Come to Daddy!"
Long before the trip, we (ok, Kristi and Carrie) decided that we were going to fire up on the first night.  If it was going to be like last year, we wouldn't make it out dancing if we spent the day at the beach and then ate like rockstars for dinner.  Bedtime would come before the clubs starting pumping, so... we fired up!

The guys didn't have a choice, it was on the agenda.

What better way to fire up for vacation than with a round of Cards Against Humanity?
Hands down, without a doubt, the most side splitting, hilarious game of all time.

Game On! Kristi's ready!
Loving our evening of games, cocktails and a warm winter breeze on our patio in Mexico.
SO Happy to be on vacation and ready for our night out.
At dinner, Keith had the camera, so there are actually a few photos of me!
Night one, Carboncitos.
Here, is another location that we have been thinking about for a year and finally, the time had come to brush up on our spanish so that we could read the menu.
That's it, enough photos of me.
Time to take the camera back!
Really... there are no words.

Carboncitas is a crowd favorite, I'm always impressed with their beverage delivery.

Not one, not two, but THREE margaritas stacked on top!
So happy to be at Carboncitas where it's a warm Mexico night.
Ahh.... So happy that the wait is over.  We're in Mexico and we're fired up for our big night out!
Pina Coloado, good enough for two.
It may have been good enough to share, but I didn't.  Yes, I kept it all to myself!
Finally... the time had come that we had been waiting for all year.  It was time to take on the gauntlet of dance clubs and pick one for our big night out!
We were lured into this one, which I couldn't tell you what it was called but I can tell you that they were playing excellent music and they had someone dressed up like a cow as a mascot.  Plus, we must have been something special because they gave us a Reserved table! 
Kristi and I had an absolute blast!!

Our husbands, well, that's still up for debate.  They stood at our Reserved table like our body guards.  It was kind of funny but nobody messed with us.  Of course, this didn't stop us from photo bombing a group photo on the dance floor.  It also didn't stop the guy who's phone the photo was taken on from bringing it over to show it to us.  We just smiled and shrugged our shoulders.  The music was SO loud, that there was no way to have conversation anyway, right?

Typically I would have cropped in this photo of Kristi and I.  However, there is so much about it that tells the story, it absolutely cracks me up!  

Front and Center: Kristi and Carrie having the "Time of our Lives" cause "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!"

To the left: Patrick wondering if he had eaten something bad at Carboncitas because surely he is hallucinating that he is in this place and wondering how long he has to bare the pain.  Every song is agony.

To the right: The waitress is wondering if Keith is going to hurry up and take the photo and order another round of over priced cocktails.

Regardless of what was going on around us, Kristi and I were going to dance those tacos off.  We had promised ourselves that we would do this for a whole year and nothing was stopping us!
The next morning, the patio was absolutely welcoming.  At home, it was snowing but here, it was nothing but sunshine, blue skies and warmth.
So, what is one to do with a patio like this?
Enjoy an Iced Starbucks, of course.
It didn't take long and we were at the beach.  We tried out Wiki's beach club for a change from the previous year.  It was just down the beach with plenty of space and a great infinity pool that we dipped in to cool off.
Finally, on the beach with our first Pina Colada.
At the beach for 2.2 minutes and Keith was ready to tackle the waves.
Patrick and Keith headed down the beach and came back with boogie boards.  They were like kids in a ... well... an ocean.

Friday night and we were ready to head out on the town.
It was SUCH a great day to bask in the sun and play in the surf.
A couple of quick couples photos before heading out.
As we were leaving Porta Playa we asked the door man to take our photo, prom style.
We didn't try very hard to keep our smiles and happiness to be on vacation on the down low, we let it all SHINE!
We opted to go to a "hole-in-the-wall" Italian place but since there was a wait, we went hat shopping.
Don't let the gringos in the tourist shop scare you.
Our condo neighbors recommended Casa Mediterranea.  It was the cutest little Italian place down a decorative alley off of 5th street.  It was such a nice change from the busy 5th street crowd.  The restaurant has been owned and operated by Italian immigrants for 20 years and the food was a true testament that it was the real deal.  According to Keith and Patrick, the lasagna was A-MAZ-ING!!
Night two and we were ready to crawl into bed well before midnight.  It had been a full day at the beach topped off by an Italian carb overload.  We called it a night before the clubs were occupied, which meant, no dancing night cap.

We have also entered the time in our lives when a night of 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep is a true vacation.  Especially when the next day is kicked off with Starbucks!

Keith and I went on the morning Starbucks run and we picked up a special treat from the French Bakery of Chocolate Croissants.  It really doesn't get any better.
"Should we sneak away with the Coffee and Croissants, or should we actually deliver them to our friends?
Oh... ok... we'll deliver."
On Saturday, we went back to the private beach that we LOVED last year.
This year, it had become a bit more commercialized, but that didn't stop us from living it up.
Carrie and Kristi, ready to work on our tan.
Keith and Patrick, waiting for the kayaks.
Yes... waiting.
Last year, it was $20 for the day. This year, they had to make an "appointment" and they were on a timer.  So... they bellied up to the bar to hand with Manuele, our trusty bartender two years in a row.
It wouldn't be a trip to see Manuele without a carafe of Mimosas.
Ahh... paradise.
The highlight of the day and one of the top highlights of the vacation was the 30 minutes on the jet ski.  Obviously, we don't have photos but it was SO-MUCH-FUN!!

The water was a bit rough, but in some respects it made for more fun.  The waves were huge (so they seemed) and with no effort at all, your jet ski would launch over the waves.  All you could do was hold on and hope to land it.  We were smiling ear to ear and loving every moment.  It was worth every single peso, salty water drop in the eye (even with goggles on), wedgie and later, sore muscles.
That night, it was back to Carboncitas.
How do you pass up a tower or margaritas after a day like today?

Looking back at these photos it's almost like de ja vu from two night previous.
When we went to Mega to load up on snacks and mixers, Kristi was sad that she couldn't find coconut water.  Then, we found out why.  At this little market on 5th avenue they were selling the real deal!  Of course, we put down our $3 for a coconut.  Apparently it's good for you, especially with Malibu.
Check out those coconuts on Keith :)
We couldn't resist.
MMMmmmm Mmmmm mmmm
Coconut water!
By Sunday, we had met our match with the sun.  By the afternoon, we were calling over the cabana boy at the Indigo beach club for an umbrella.  Our slightly rosy winter skin thanked us.  
I did take some time to break away to take photos of the beach.  I love the umbrellas at this beach and how they frame the view.
Playa Del Carmen was originally a fishing village.  The anchored boats is an instant reminder that it is still a fishing village for many locals.
It was great fun to watch the activity on the pier as the locals came to the beach for an afternoon swim.  It was so nice to see the families enjoy their great homeland, which we don't always see while we're on vacation.  During the day there were families with small children.  As the evening came near, the crowd turned more toward the young adults meeting up with friends.  In that respect, it really is no different than at home and how we all enjoy where we live.

There was evidence of the man made beach washing into the ocean, but nowhere as clear as the north side of the beach where the sand bags were in place to hopefully hold the beach in place.  Apparently, Playa had trucked in sand to extend the beach but sometimes, you can't mess with nature.  Once again, it shows how strong the ocean is and who is really in control.
Once again, Keith and Patrick rented the boogie boards for the price of purchasing a beer from the bar where they found them.  They also found a sand bar that had some great waves breaking across it.
After these long days on the beach, it was getting tougher and tougher to rally for the evening.  By Sunday, we turned to another night on the patio with a round of Cards Against Humanity to get the party started.
We have never laughed so hard as we did with this game.
Keith actually said that his muscles hurt from laughing.
Once again, we tried another boutique restaurant that came highly recommended.  Mestizaje sin Frontras did not disappoint.  
The service, presentation and food were SO good that we took photos!
Tuna Tar Tar and Suckling Pork Tacos.  YUM!
This was my salad, topped with fresh pears and prosciutto. I wish I had this to eat right now.
Kristi's avocado salad.
Keith is fired up about his meal.  Don't ask why he's making crazy fingers.  I'm sure that it made perfect sense at the time.
Turkey Mole, Hey!

Pause, Strike a Pose
After another amazing dinner (yes, we ate ourselves silly through Playa), we turned up the energy with some Mojitos and Salsa.
I was about to jump up and bust out some Zumba moves when some real dancers showed up to show us up.  It was amazing to watch the talent emerge on the dance floor.  What a special treat.
Another goal that we had this year was to rent cruiser bikes to ride around town.  Literally, we had to hike up and down streets to find a place that rented them, but once we did find them, we made a reservation and picked them up on Monday morning.  It cost $15 for a 24 hour rental and was once again, a top activity for the trip.  With Starbucks in hand, we pedaled away in search of new adventures.
We had to make a quick stop at the condo.  As I waited up the street, I couldn't help but notice how acclimated we were on the streets of Playa.  You can especially tell by how the car is driving directly toward Patrick and neither the driver nor Patrick seem to mind.  Don't worry, the car swerved around and Keith and Patrick finished their conversation.  Really, it was a win/win.
We were headed toward Playa Car, which meant that we had to ride down a busy street.  When in Playa, ride like you live there.  This means that you ride on the side of the road and say a little prayer that the cars go around you.  While at a red light, we took a selfie.  We were having so much fun!  It felt good to get some exercise while we worked on our tan at the same time.  Another Win/Win!
Playa Car was beautiful and like nothing I have ever seen in Mexico.  It was actually more like Coronado, CA than anything.  They even had a nice bike path, which got us off of the streets and a bit closer to the wild life.
Selfie while riding.  Yes, this girl may have talent!
At some point, Kristi gave the guys a hard time that they couldn't ride and multi-task.  It went something like "Carrie can take pictures while she rides, you can multi-task too."  You know me... raising the bar of excellence :)
Speaking of getting closer to wild life... LOOK AT THIS!
We went down a side road where there was an empty lot.  It was covered with iguanas. 
Keith was dying to get his hands on one, but he thought better of it.  Or... he heard a loud voice in his head (or ear) saying "don't you dare pick that thing up, I don't want you to end up in a Mexican hospital!"
The iguanas were huge and Kristi instantly declared that she couldn't live here with these creatures.  If Kristi ever moves to Mexico, she'll be on the top floor of the condo building.
Keith is still wondering what is living in the bottom of that abandoned lot, he may be the only one wondering.
Whew!  We finally rode away from the lizards and toward the beach.  It was gorgeous!

Eventually, we headed back and discovered that there was a bike path nearly the entire way back to Playa Del Carmen.  Fortunately, we were able to miss the busy roads.

Most of the trip we rode single file.  Once we got back to Playa, Keith and I rode side by side, which provided a photo op.  In a divine twist of fate, our photo captured a personal favorite, Starbucks.  Seriously, this was not planned.  We didn't even know until we looked at the photos later.  I'm sure there are some of you doubting that statement.
After our morning ride, we worked up an appetite for La Cueva del Chango and their famous 
The Chilaquiles lovers, red faced and ready to order.
The fourth one in the party is not so much of a Chilaquiles lover, but more of a breakfast burrito kind of gal.  Yes, they made me one special and it was so delish.
After another fantastic meal, we pedaled back toward the beach.  Really, it doesn't get much better.
Back at the Indigo beach club, we had coconut water, a nice breeze and sunshine all around.
Monday afternoon we opted to test out our condo pool and we loved it!!
It was sunny, cool and not crowded.  Just what the vacation doctor ordered.  
It was our last night in Playa, we had bikes and we couldn't decide what to do.  The guys had a proposal of a Tour De Playa.  It took some convincing, we tweaked the proposal slightly, but then we were all game.  Kristi had been dreaming of going to Bucket of Beer for a bucket of beer so we saddled up and pedaled on over.
On the rooftop, we looked out over the crowd walking by while we cooled off with our bucket of beer.
You can tell that vacation is winding down by the volume of photos.  
That night, we did do Tour de Playa on our bikes.  As mentioned, we started with Bucket of Beer, followed by a much needed shower.  Next up, we went out for pizza at the other end of 5th street.  It was so refreshing and relaxing to pedal our bikes down the road to pick up some pie.

Eventually, Tuesday morning came.  The vacation was coming to an end.  We were super excited to get back to see our boys, but we were sad to leave our amazing vacation.

After a morning bike ride north of town and a light breakfast at the French Cafe, we retuned the bikes and headed back to the condo pool.  It was a perfect way to end an amazing six days.
The pool was cool and refreshing and such a nice change from the busy beach.
That afternoon, we went out for a late lunch before heading to the airport.  We got our last fill of chips, guacamole, mexican food and cocktails.  From here on out, it was airport snack food for the rest of the day.  It was quite possible that we might starve after all of the amazing food that we had been eating multiple times a day.
Once again, a truly wonderful vacation.  You'll notice, we never did make it back to the dance clubs.  Do we know ourselves, or what.  Next year, we'll rally on night one (get ready, Patrick) and ride it out the rest of the time.  Maybe, we'll actually rally twice... maybe.

HUGE THANKS to Grandma for coming to stay with the boys.  This trip wouldn't be possible without you and we are so glad that this is a vacation for you and the boys as well.  Yes, it may be different, but we know that it was a great time for the three of you too.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

Está Todo Bien!!
It's all good!!
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