Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen

The good thing about catching and early flight is that there is no traffic on the way to the airport. The bad thing about a 7:25 AM flight is that you have to wake up at 4:30 AM – yuck! Thankfully, the adrenaline brought on by our vacation to Playa Del Carmen got me out of bed, in the car, and to the airport with plenty of energy.

Getting through security was a breeze so early and the check-in people were about as awake as we were. We grabbed some breakfast from Starbucks and, after a short wait, hopped on a 50% full American Airlines flight to the Cancun airport. We had a whole row to ourselves and indulged in some movies during the 2.5-hour flight. Talk about an easy start!

Flying to Cancun Airport

We arrived in the Cancun airport right before 10AM and headed out to our shuttle. There is a horde of travel agents at the exit of the airport ready to sell you excursions to everywhere you can imagine. Word of advice, just keep walking straight to the exit and don’t let them take up your time for the pitch! If you can, try to pre-arrange your shuttle to your hotel before you go so all you have to do is hop in and be on your way. We used Happy Shuttle to get to our Playa Del Carmen all-inclusive. The shuttle was clean and private so we didn’t have to spend beach time dropping other people off. Additionally, it was only about $65. The cab ride back from our hotel was only $34 since it costs less upon departure, so I recommend only booking your shuttle to your resort in advance.

We arrived through the ornate gates of the Paradisus La Perla, a Melia brand resort, and were immediately greeted by “Bienvenidos”, a cold towel for our face and hands, and a beautiful spa-like entry way. We stayed at the ME Cancun two years ago, a sister property of the Paradisus, and loved our stay so much that we wanted to stay within the Melia properties again for this trip.

Check-in was a little tricky because our reservation was under “Jessica Jessica without my last name. No idea how that happened, but all of the staff referred to me as “Jessica Jessica” for the remainder of the trip! Check-in also came with a purple sparking champagne drink, and then we were introduced to Marcos, our concierge. He welcomed us, gave us a map tour of the hotel, and walked through the 14 different restaurant options so we could make reservations for the various options. It was all very exciting!

Paradisus La Perla

Marcos also pitched us a “special deal” that included a free massage and free dinner at the Paradisus premier restaurant, “Passion by Martín Berasategui”. We were hesitant at taking the 90-minute pitch to sell us a Melia Club membership, but the $330 worth of free goods and a 3 night’s stay at another Melia property made us inclined to do the pitch. We made a pact though that, no matter what they pitched, we were not going to sign-up.

After we finished up with Marcos, we went to The Grill; the lunch buffet restaurant on the adult’s side of the hotel. I love all-inclusive’s because you can order everything and anything you want with no repercussions outside of a very full belly! We got some margaritas (it was a bit hard to explain “skinny margs” to the waiter but we got it eventually!), calamari, focaccia flat bread with pears, pesto and chicken, stuffed fish, and salmon. All totally delicious!

Satisfied with our lunch, we decided to explore the hotel. We walked through the mangrove forest separating the hotel from the beach, saw bunches of iguanas sunning themselves along the way, and headed to the water front! While the beach was not as wide and long as that in Cancun, it was still beautiful and calling to us to go in! Unfortunately, our room was not ready and my sneakers / active wear was not conducive to salt water swimming. We walked down the beach, back into the resort, through the pool area, and back to check-in to see if our room was ready. We initially arrived at 11:30 AM so getting our room did not seem too unreasonable, but we had to wait another 45 minutes to 3 PM to finally get our keys. Sipping a margarita on a day bed looking at the ocean helped, but it was still a bit annoying!

Enjoying a margarita at The Grill at Paradisus La Perla, Playa Del Carmen

We were finally escorted to our room with our bags and, boy, were we impressed! Our room had a huge tub, a double rain shower, a nice sitting area, and a huge balcony that looked over the mangrove forest and into the ocean. Score! I did think that our room had a live fish tank too but to my chagrin, it was just a picture of one…

Anyways, we changed into our swimsuits and headed to the pool for some late afternoon rays. There were tons of people there drinking, laying out, and playing water volleyball. We laid in some beach chairs and drank cocktails while talking to some South Carolinians and Canadians next to us. One of the best things about these resorts is meeting other people.

Around 6 or so, we decided to get ready for our reservation at the Fuego restaurant; a modern Latin place with a flair for ceviche. The restaurant had fiery ambiance to it and the wait staff was very friendly. We started with some delicious tempura and ceviche, had a glorious quinoa and chicken salad, enjoyed flank steak and veal for the entrees, and finished with apple cream and creme brulee desserts. I must say; the meal was excellent but the dessert was a little subpar.

After dinner, we heard that there was a Michael Jackson show going on in the theater on the family side of the resort. With wine in hand, we sat and watched one of the most ridiculously entertaining and strange shows of our lives! The guy playing Michael Jackson was a great dancer and did a fantastic job lip syncing all the songs. In between his bits, there were 2 guys and a girl who slow-jammed thriller and totally butchered some of Jackson’s other songs but they were so into it one couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. There were even acrobats doing aerial and flexibility stunts similar to, but not quite the caliber of, Cirque Du Soleil. I must say, we went in not knowing what to expect, and were totally overjoyed with surprise of this ridiculous show!

After MJ, we grabbed another glass of wine at the open-air bar, and then headed back to the room for some shut-eye.

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Plan the perfect trip to Fredericksburg, Texas

Plan the perfect trip to Fredericksburg, Texas

Thinking about going to Fredericksburg, Texas? For a romantic weekend, girls trip, or quick getaway, Fredericksburg is the perfect place to spend a long weekend or do a two-day trip! You may have heard that there are wineries and some good hiking there, but if you want help planning the specifics and some things to day dream about until your trip arrives, I’ve got some tips for you!

Plan the perfect trip to Fredericksburg, Texas

  1. Stay at an Airbnb close to Main Street. There are tons of cute, reasonably priced, updated Airbnbs in Fredericksburg that are walking distances from wine shuttle pickups, the Pacific War Museum, and the main shopping / restaurant area on Main Street. Why have to worry about driving and parking when you can walk? Especially since there are no ride sharing services in Fredericksburg. Also, there is an HEB about 2 minutes off Main Street to grab stuff for breakfast if you want to make it at your Airbnb before heading out for your day. Ours even had a fire pit which was awesome for enjoying the perfect weather at night with a glass of wine.
  2. Sign up for a wine shuttle service to get to and from the wineries. Most of the shuttle services are about $20-$25 for the day and will take you to a bunch of wineries so you do not have to drive. You can check their websites before you book to see how many and which wineries each service goes to. Also, if you buy wine or anything else at a winery but do not want to lug the bottles around, the shuttles will bring your purchases back to the pickup area so you can continue on your way bag-free. We took the 290 Shuttle service and it was worth every penny. (Read about our experience here).
  3. Have water and salty snacks ready at your hotel or Airbnb after your wine tour. You will need to hydrate and all of the sugar from the wine will have you craving something savory. Also, try to do your wine tour early enough to have time for a nap before dinner. I am not a nap person typically, but having a nap break really helped us enjoy the rest of our evening without feeling groggy.
  4. Explore Main Street (aka downtown). There are about 4 blocks of cute boutiques, restaurants, bars with live music, candy stores, and wine tasting rooms that are unique to Fredericksburg!
  5. Research the best restaurants on TripAdvisor and make reservations before you go. Weekends can be busy and wait times long, so a little planning ahead will help you maximize your stay. I recommend checking out the Vaudeville Supper Club for a fancy night out or their Bistro for a more casual affair.
  6. Check out the  Pacific War Museum for a little history if you have an extra hour.
  7. Don’t forget to bring your active wear and hiking boots (or sneakers) to wear to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. The hike is only half a mile to the top of the rock and is not super strenuous. As long as you have sun screen, sun glasses, and a water bottle, you can do it! The view is well worth it, but just make sure you arrive earlier rather than later because the park will close the parking lot once full (around 10AM).Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Read about our adventure at the wineries or Main street and Enchanted Rock to learn more!

Fredericksburg Part 2

Fredericksburg Part 2

After a long day of wine tasting and a solid power nap, it was time to resume the Fredericksburg fun! We had an 8:30PM reservation at the Supper Club at the Vaudeville restaurant on Main street so we decided to walk through the shops on Main before dinner. There are quite a few boutiques, wine tasting rooms, candy stores, and knickknack stores to walk past and Ryan bought a big bag of white cheddar popcorn for our road trip home. After about 2 hours, we needed water and some energy so the plan was to grab a coffee and water at a bar before dinner. We went into a bar and ended up getting beer and a Michelada (basically a bloody Mary with Dos Equis instead of vodka). After being introduced to Micheladas during my trip to Guatemala, I can’t say no to them! It was so refreshing to have something salty and savory after the sugary wine earlier that day.

Finally, it was time of dinner. We walked to Vaudeville and went in the side alleyway entrance to this amazing, fire-lit, patio area. Wow, was it surprisingly nice! I told Ryan he needed to plan things more, since he did such a good job on this trip, and he told me he was taking a sabbatical from planning! (Insert eye-roll here) Anyways, we were greeted by name and escorted to this intimate table on the side of the restaurant. We had a pre-fixed 3-course meal in store for us and our names were even on the menu! Talk about amazing service.

We started with cocktails and three types of delicious bread; parmesan puff, multi-grain, and olive. The bread was light, fluffy, and made that day right in town! As we were enjoying our bread, we saw a black tail slink by our table and Ryan freaked out. There was a cat in the restaurant and Ryan loves cats. Apparently one of the girls at a table by us was allergic, so the host picked the cat up and put it on a table right outside the window from us. Ryan kept going on and on about he wanted a “café cat” and that they should have put him at our table. Literally, the rest of dinner, Ryan was on the lookout for that dang cat! I must admit, it was cute.

Our first course came and drew our attention from the cat and back to our dinner. The sweet smell of the curry immediately made our tastes buds perk up and the prawn and squid ink noodles were the perfect complement. I was a little skeptical that I would not be a huge fan of the dish, but I would have that every day for weeks if I could!

Our second course was perfectly cooked pork loin with grilled Brussel sprouts, a Brussel sprout empanada, and a to-die-for parsnip puree! I couldn’t believe how far this meal was outside of my expectations!

For desert, we had a dense, moist lemon cake with raspberry sorbet and vanilla panna cotta. Again, it was done perfectly and the three courses were just the right amount of food.

Ecstatic about all of the delicious parts of our dinner, we walked off our meal on the way home and quickly found our way to sleep.

Day 2: Enchanted Rock

After doing the wineries and shopping in the previous day, we decided to drive to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area for a hike. The Park is know for its massive pink granite dome that sticks way above all of the other features in the area. In peak season, the park gets packed early, and they close the gates as early as 10AM to control the crowds. Knowing that, we got up before the crack of dawn (like 7:30 AM) to make sure we could get a spot. It took about 30 minutes to drive to the park site and there was a line of cars already waiting to get in at 9AM!

We were able to get a spot, lathered up with sun-screen, and took off on the Summit trail. It was about a half mile, straight up-hill hike to the top of Enchanted Rock. There were quite a few people but it did not feel too crowded and there was a nice breeze to keep us cool on the way up.

The cactus, flowers, and giant boulders that had broken off Enchanted Rock and been shaped into all sorts of configurations over the years made for a very scenic hike, not to mention the breathtaking view from the top! Strangely enough at the top of the rock, there were little bodies of water called vernal pools that have mini-ecosystems of small creatures, making the moon-like rock alive with wildlife.

We enjoyed the view from the top for a while and took a more round-about way down. I thought the trail went one way and Ryan warned that it didn’t. I went anyway, almost stepped on a pretty big snake, and was scared right back to the right path to Ryan. He then proceeded to make hissing sounds the rest of the way down, partially making fun of me, partially trying to scare me again! While we didn’t see another snake (thank gosh!), we did encounter a few lizards and cool looking birds.

Our hike took about 1.5 hours total and was worth every step. The drive back seemed like it took no time at all. We walked in to the Airbnb and saw a strangely shaped piece of plastic on the ground that Dakota had chewed. We quickly realized that she had somehow pulled down the large bag of popcorn Ryan had bought the day before and she ate the entire, previously unopened bag! There was only one small kernel left of evidence that that popcorn had ever existed! Of course, Dakota pretended like nothing had happened and we couldn’t help but laugh. Oh, that dog.

Before we knew it, we were freshened up, packed, and ready to head home. We were starving so we parked in town and stopped at Burger Bar for burgers and sweet potato fries before embarking on the long drive through the middle of no-where Texas to get back home.