Fort Lauderdale, FL – Day 3

Day 3 

It was so nice to catch up on sleep on this trip. While I still had to wake up around 6:15, getting a good 8-9 hours was awesome. While Harper does make funny noises throughout the night, she doesn’t actually wake up. She’s so good to us!

Once the alarm went off, we changed and fed Harper, and enjoyed coffee and muffins on the patio while we watched people run up and down the beachside. There was a 5k of some sort going on and quite a lot of people! We eventually joined them for a stroll about a mile up the coast to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.

Originally, we were going to do an hour long drive to the Everglades to explore for the day, but we opted to keep it local and do the Park instead. It was a nice morning; about 80 degrees and a bit humid but the beach breeze made it really nice. Once we got into the Preserve, the trees blocked the breeze and it was muggy and HOT. We had to be careful with Harper since her stroller was not vented and the little fan was just not cooling enough. We also quickly realized that the trails were not paved and off-roading in the stroller was pretty bumpy. Ryan walked in the front on the trails to help lift the stroller over big roots in the path that were pretty frequent. 

After we found our way along the trail, we came up to this massive, 20O+ year old tree. The only thing I’ve ever seen like it was was in El Salvador, but I think this one was bigger. It seemed like the roots grew out from the top and then down, making more and more trunks from the same tree as it grew. So cool!

As we walked, we also noticed about a million mosquitos and we didn’t bring our bug spray. Mozzies love me and I was getting eaten right and left. The trail led us into marshy section and this guy in front of us was being followed by 20+ mosquitoes. The trail was slightly flooded so we decided to turn around and walk on the paved road instead where there were not as many mosquitoes. Harper was getting hot so we were holding her as well. After about an hour of walking, we decided to turn around instead of continue the loop so we didn’t overheat. Overall, the park was nice but would have been much better on a cool day with bug spray. Thank goodness we didn’t go to the Everglades instead!

Thankfully, a quick shower helped us cool down and we were back out the door to head to the water Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi station about 5 mins down the road. The closest station was pretty shallow, so only the small water taxis stoped there and you had to call ahead. I did and the lady said it would be about a 20-30 minute wait for the next taxi. We hung out under the shade of a tree and a few more families showed up. About 45 mins in, we were getting impatient and I called again and the girl said it would be another 20 minutes, not the next way to spend vacation time. Some do the families decided to walk another .5 miles to the next station. We decided it wait it out and finally, after an hour, a taxi showed up. Good thing we waited since some of the walkers didn’t make it to the stop in time to be picked up by our boat (Yikes!).

We got settled and put Harper’s headphones on so it wouldn’t be too loud for her between the boat engine and the taxi driver’s speaker. The driver pointed out the big homes along the drive, who owned them, the cost, and the major yachts that went with them. The sheer number of billionaires that had places along the canals was incredible and the boats were really impressive. 

Harper was so interested in looking all around. It was about a 45 minute ride to Stop #2 of Los Olas Blvd where we were going to hop off for lunch. Just a few minutes before our stop, I moved my hand from holding Harper and realized it was slightly wet. Oh no! I tried not to panic Ryan and asked him gently to get the diapers and wipes out. I had poop all over my leg and it was all the way up Harper’s back to her neck. It was probably one of her biggest blow outs yet. Ryan got the wipes out but put them on top of the diaper bag and then put them back in the diaper bag and shut it. He didn’t understand what was happening so I had to tell him. He couldn’t hear me over the engine so I raised Harper up like Simba in the Lion King and showed him. His eyes went really wide as he saw the organge, goo all up her back, and it was business time. We got the wipes out and her outfit was just completely destroyed. Thankfully, I had a change of clothes in the diaper bag (and diapers this time!), so it was a quick change. Both the diaper and the onesie went into the garbage. There was no saving that really adorable outfit! As soon as the bag was packed, it was time to hop off the taxi. We cut it really close but everything was fine and we had a good laugh about it all.

We hopped off a taxi and were on our way to find something to eat. At this point it was 1:30 in the afternoon and we had breakfast at 6 AM so we were starving. El Camino was the first restaurant we came across and looked really good so we got a patio table. I ordered a strawberry basil margarita, chips and salsa, and we split some tacos. They were really tasty and filled us right up. Of course, Harper got her second lunch of the day at that time too. We only had about an hour left because I had to get back to the hotel and pump. Being on a 4 to 4 1/2 hour schedule really does make things a little complicated and the hour wait to get on the taxi really messed that up.

There were a few people walking around the boulevard with drinks in their hand so I asked the waiter if he could take some margaritas to go and he said the boulevard is actually open container! With two margaritas in hand, we started walking the boulevard. There were tons of really cute boutiques and galleries. I would’ve loved to go through all of them but we didn’t really have time. Effusion Gallery caught our eye and allowed drinks inside, so we popped in for a look. We like to buy art when we go places because there’s so much more meeting than just going to home goods and buying something off the shelf. We started this trend when we were in Santa Fe with a piece of abstract art featuring Marilyn Monroe. Given this was Harper’s first vacation, we had to get her something!

There were these really cool donut pieces of art that could not have been more perfect. Harper’s favorite onesie that she wears all the time has donuts on it and the donut art fate! While it doesn’t really match her room, it will definitely go somewhere in our house and will go with her for the rest of her life. We ended up buying three donuts and the gallery owner told us that the artist was actually her daughter. She was one of nine kids! The art had so much more meeting with our love for donuts for Harper and then the fact that this gallery owner’s daughter made the art.

With our big purchase made and ready to ship we had to walk back to the water taxi. We made it just in time to do a quick FaceTime call with my parents at the taxi station, check out some iguanas that were hanging out on the dock, and then hop on the boat. It was about a 45 minute ride back to our stop and went relatively easy compared to the first go-round. Harper was an angel, of course, and the weather was nice. This taxi driver definitely as an interesting facts about the homes etc. We even passed International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum which has the highest diving planks in the world at 880 feet. You if you drive off the top, you enter the water going over 55 miles an hour! The only other diving platform in the world that is as tall is in China! Really interesting to see considering I used to be a swimmer.

We were pretty exhausted and sweaty by the time we got back to the hotel. We freshened up and decided to take a bit of a siesta before heading out to dinner. We had reservations at a waterfront restaurant called Shooters Waterfront. Shooters was one of the stops on the water taxi route but, after how long the taxi took, we decided to drive there in our rental car. There was also a storm rolling in so we took a risk by sitting on the patio where we had a good view of the canal and all of the boats going by. One of the waiters kept running up and down the wharf yelling at the boats to slow down because they were causing too much of a wake.

I ordered this absolutely amazing strawberry frozen lemonade. It was probably one of the best drinks I’ve had in a long time (but also probably also a ton of calories – eh, it’s vacation!). Harper was very interested in trying some, but I only let her touch the glass.

I also had macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi with a peanut curry sauce. It was pretty decent but could’ve used some basil and a little more salt. Shooters was our least favorite meal of the entire trip.

We are pretty exhausted when we came home. We fed Harper and, while doing so, Ryan discovered his new favorite show Below Deck. It was dreaming on Bravo the entire trip and we ended up watching it every time we were back in the room! Ryan wanted us to sign-up for Peacock so he could watch it from start to finish. His obsession was is OK with me because it might inspire a chartered boat trip through the islands at some point, right?! I am always thinking of the next place to go and how to get Ryan’s OK to go there!

Ps. If you are a new mom or day and traveling with a little munchkin, I put together a quick guide with tons of tips and tricks for traveling with a kid. Check it out!

Fort Lauderdale, FL – Day 1 & 2

Boy, did we need a vacation. We had a few planned in 2021 but, due to pregnancy risk issues, we had to cancel. Those cancelations led to a $500 Sprit Airlines credit that had to be used by December 31st, 2021, so I had to book something. With our baby Harper on the way and no baby passport in hand, I needed to find a relaxing spot with a short flight that was in the US. Fort Lauderdale, FL seemed to fit all of our requirements for a long Memorial Day weekend trip with a baby.

The week leading up to our vacation ended up being crazy. We went on our first road trip to Houston; a combined a work trip with a visit to the in-laws so Harper could meet her great-grandmas for the first time. We got back Sunday and then I left early Monday for a two-day work trip to Minneapolis. I got back Tuesday, packed Wednesday, and we were off Thursday for Florida. I made our Florida packing list a week in advance and our Houston trip gave us traveling-with-a-baby practice, so we were good to go despite the jam-packed schedule.  

Our flight was at 7:10 AM so we woke up at 4:50 AM (yikes!). I pumped while getting ready and Ryan fed Harper quickly before the Uber pulled up. We brought soooo much stuff and filled up the Uber’s trunk. We used to just travel with carry-ons and a backpack but now we’re fully equipped with strollers, carriers, checked bags, 3 backpacks, and a baby!

The line for bag check was already really long at the airport, but we got to skip to the attendant area since we had Harper and our bags were checked pretty quickly. We walked past the longest line I’ve ever seen to get through security to the short TSA Pre line. Somehow, Ryan’s ticket didn’t have TSA Pre on it, so Harper and I went through while Ryan ran back to the gate agent to get his ticket reprinted. Going through security was not too hard but, when people say “wear your baby through it”, do it! You need both hands to break down your stroller and car seat and manage all of your bags. Fortunately, a nice man helped me get everything into the scanner. Harper and I grabbed Starbucks while Ryan got through and then we went to the gate to check the stroller. I tried to board but the agent said I needed a ticket for Harper. I thought we had one since I booked the trip with a lap child, but we had to go back to the gate agent for 15 minutes of unchecking and rechecking-in. Thankfully, we kept our row 4 seats.

We were excited to sit down and relax after the stress of getting everything onto the plane, but then realized Spirit had no in-flight entertainment and we only packed things to do for Harper! Whoops! Thankfully, Harper fell asleep on me and didn’t wake up until an hour into the flight. She was so perfect, just cooing at people around us and being a happy baby. We fed her about 2 hours into the flight and we smelled her “popcorn” poop (yes, her poo smells like movie-theater-grade, buttery popcorn). I got the diaper bag out in search of diapers, and I searched, and I searched.. and no diapers. I had put a whole sleeve of diapers in the bag but moved them into a carryon and just assumed the diaper bag had its usual supply. Oh boy! Thankfully, it didn’t smell thaaaat much so we were able to power through until we grabbed our bags from bag check and found a bathroom. Harper was such a trooper! (But seriously, who forgets diapers!?).

We hopped on the shuttle to grab our rental car and then it was off to the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. Our room was perfect for a little family because it had a living room and kitchen area which was great for cleaning bottles, pump parts, and making breakfast! We had a stellar beach view too. The only thing I would have changed is that we could not see the view from the bedroom so we couldn’t relax and watch the ocean as I would have liked. Other than that, the hotel was in the perfect location and the staff was so nice. 

After we settled in, we took a short walk down the beach side to Wild Thyme for lunch . We sat on the patio and enjoyed the view and some fancy car watching (we saw a $1.9MM Bugatti Veyron). I had a delish Ahi Tuna salad and Ryan had buffalo style shrimp with these crazy crispy potato wedges. Yum! 

After lunch, we went to Publix to grab baby supplies, drinks, and breakfast stuff. It was an easy and short trek but we had to wait for the drawbridge both ways because there were some mega yachts going through the canals! It was pretty neat to watch such insane engineering. 

It’s amazing how time flies when you have a baby. After another feed and quick pump, it was time for dinner. We went to the S3 (Sea, Surf, & Sand) restaurant at the hotel and got seats looking at the beach. We were in for such a treat. We got local goal cheese croquettes (aka fried cheese balls) with this delish Peruvian sweet sauce. Ryan had never tried hamachi before and had apprehension to ordering it, but ended up loving the tender yellowtail with hints of truffle! We also split two sushi rolls and a ponzu old fashion. They were excellent! The funny thing was the wait staff also brought a kids menu and crayons for Harper. She was only 4.5 months and still only drinks breast milk so it was pretty funny thinking she could eat Mac and Cheese. It was nice of the staff to think of her though!

After dinner, we went back to up to the room and were asleep by 8:30 PM. We really needed a good rest! I still had to get up at 1:15 AM to pump as usual but I didn’t wake Ryan or Harper since we had have separate rooms.

Day 2

6:15 AM wake-ups were never a thing on trips in the past but, with a baby and pumping schedule, now they are! It was really nice to get an early start with some coffee on the patio. After enjoying some muffins and cuddle time with Harper, we took off on a morning beach side stroll. It was in the 80’s but not hot. We walked to a CVS to get some additional supplies and came back to grab our massive beach bag to head to the beach.

There were tons of chairs and umbrellas set up. We picked one with a good ocean view, put Harper in a swim diaper, and headed to the water. While the water was pretty warm, Harper was not a fan. We tried a few different ways of testing the sand and water with her but she just didn’t want it… probably because she was hungry. Nothing can get in the way of this munchkin and her food.

After about 10 mins of ocean time, we went back to the chairs, fed Harps, and relaxed for 1.5 hours or so. It was so nice. And yes, I did get Harper and I matching swimsuits!

We had noon reservations at a Mexican place called Lona which was just down the beach from our hotel. We took a short walk over and got a table looking out at the water. We had some passion fruit margaritas and I decided to try something new. Instead of my usual carnitas taco order, I went with the lobster quesadilla. OH MY GOSH. This quesadilla was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. It was stuffed with huge chunks of lobster, pickled red onion, cilantro, the perfect amount of cheese, and this super yummy southwest sauce. Even as I write this, I want it again! (Spoiler, we went back so I could have it again). Ugh, so good! Ryan, a quesadilla purest who proclaims that the perfect quesadilla is just tortillas and cheese, even admitted that this one changed his mind! I you are close to Lona, you MUST go try it.  

With full bellies, we decided it was time to test out the pool and see if Harper would like it more than the ocean. Ryan went back to the room to change her and grab the beach bag while I scored us a spot in the shade. There weren’t many so I had to be quick. It’s amazing how your pool priorities change when you have a baby from sunny spots with a good view to the most shaded area you can find! Ryan and Harper arrived and we blew up Harpers floaty and hopped into the warm water. The temp was perfect and Harper was quickly too comfortable in her floaty to stay awake. She passed out for about an hour while ryan, myself, and about half the other people in the pool obsessed over how cute she is and enjoyed floating around.

Eventually, our time at the pool was up. Being on a 4-4.5 hour pumping schedule does put a limit on things. We went up to the room and I took a bubble bath with Harper to get her all cleaned up. We took a family nap for about 1.5 hours and got ready to go to dinner. After a nice 15 minute walk down the shore, we arrived at Thai On The Beach, a tiny restaurant on the second floor of a shopping plaza overlooking the water. Ryan got a Thai boba tea and green curry and I had a Thai stir fry. It was really yummy and quite a cute little restaurant. We have been pleasantly surprised by how delicious all of the food has been on this trip!

After dinner, we went back to the room and got ready for bed. We had some birthday cake Oreos for desert and passed out around 9 PM.

Ps. If you are a new mom or dad and are traveling with a little munchkin, I put together a quick guide with tons of tips and tricks for traveling with a kid. Check it out!

Riviera Maya During Covid

Day 1 –

With everything going on with Covid, our trip to Spain and Portugal, two trips to Mexico, and trip to SXSW this year were all canceled. By July, I was getting very restless. We have a few friends who work for different airlines, like Southwest and American, and both of them were traveling and gave us all of the details on how the airlines were staying relatively safe. With that in mind, we decided to take a trip in September for our three-year anniversary to Riviera Maya Mexico.

After doing tons of research on TripAdvisor, we found the Unico 20 87 resort in Riviera Maya. Unico was only running at 50% capacity and they had major deals on their typically $800 a night room’s so we booked an ocean front, all inclusive, adults only room for only $350! Flights were $1,600 to fly direct from DFW on American when I originally when they are usually $250! I was panicking at first, but after some additional research and waiting a couple of days, we finally got a flight that was reasonable for the dates we wanted.

I couldn’t contain my excitement leading up to the trip! I broke out all of my resort wear and packed it all into our carry-on bags. We booked a whale shark tour and I couldn’t stop imaging swimming with such incredible creatures. However, we were at the tail end of the whale shark season so I wasn’t quite sure if we actually get to see any. I wasn’t holding high hopes that this trip was actually going to happen in 2020, let alone the whale sharks.

Luckily, we got to the airport without issue and were of security within five minutes. Our flight boarded on time and we even landed 15 minutes early! We were through customs and onto the private Happy Shuttle ride to our hotel within about 15 minutes. Crazily enough, everything went super smoothly for probably the first time in 2020! The drive to the resort was uneventful and we passed a few of the resorts we stayed at in the past, as well as Xplor, one of the adventure park so we went to. Most of the adventure parks and quite a few resorts were closed due to Covid in different cities since City regulations vary from place to place. Technically, we weren’t even supposed to enter the country unless it was for emergency reasons, but Cancun was letting people in for vacations anyways as tourism has such a huge impact on the economy.

We drove up to the resort and it was absolutely beautiful and situated in the middle of jungle. Our driver told us that there were monkeys and jaguars in the jungle around our resort! I was wearing a jungle blouse with jaguars to match LOL.

We walked into the resort and immediately felt relaxed. Everything was socially distant and all of the staff are wearing masks. They even sanitized our shoes when we came in with spray to make sure that we are safe. Upon check-in, we met Carlos, our personal concierge for our entire stay. He gave us his details via WhatsApp so we could communicate and also booked all of our restaurant reservations for the week so we didn’t have to worry about it later on in our trip. We were then taken up to our ocean-view room and, wow, it was absolutely gorgeous! The view of the ocean was 10 out of 10 and our room was super modern and clean. I absolutely loved it.

We put our stuff down and decided to go to one of the lunch spots right by all the pools for a bite to eat since we hadn’t had anything since breakfast and it was already 3 PM. While we were eating, we saw three different couples from our flight were actually staying at the same resort! We are amazed at just how many Texans we ended up meeting on our trip.

We tried quite a few different dishes for lunch. I would say the food was a 6 out of 10 on the yummy scale but it wasn’t one of the main restaurant so I wasn’t too worried. After filling up, we hopped into our bathing suits and went back to the pool for a swim. We found some lounge chairs by another couple who were just married that Saturday. They were super nice and we talked to them for a while before they got up for the dinner reservation. We hopped in the water and another couple came down to swim in the same area so we started chatting. The girl, Kayla, was a CrossFit gym owner and her boyfriend, Jordan, was an engineer. They were definitely “feeling themselves” with some drinks and we ended up having a very lively conversation. After about 30 minutes, they got up to leave for their dinner reservation but Kayla was having trouble getting out of the water and we were all laughing so hard as she kept falling down! It was hilarious. It was her first time in an all inclusive and the drinks really snuck up on her! After they left, we swam for about another half an hour and basically had the whole pool to ourselves.

As we were getting out, my phone started ringing. I answered it and some one said “can we get a wheelchair?” I told the person that he had the wrong number but, as I hung up, I realized it was Jordan! I looked around and saw Jordan and Kayla about 30 yards away – they hadn’t made it very far! Kayla was sitting on the ground laughing hysterically and Jordan couldn’t get her up to move around. I ran over to the closest restaurant, knocked on the door, and typed “too much to drink drink, need a wheelchair” into Google Translate. The waiter read it and walked over to our friends to help them get back up to the room! It was so funny and quite a scene.

We went back to the room ourselves and got ready for a nice dinner at the Mexican restaurant. We sat on the patio and, of course, I forgot to wear bug spray. Oops! Despite that, we ended up having a lovely dinner. We got these duck taco spring roll things that were absolutely so delicious that we had to order more. Got a love all inclusives!

We also had guacamole with crickets, steak, bone marrow, and a pork chop which was all really good. At one point, there was a mosquito on my cheek and instead of saying “Hey, there’s a mosquito on your face”, Ryan just looked at me and blurted out “Eat it”! It was such a weirdly funny reaction that we used that phrase for “there’s something on your face” the rest the trip.

After dinner we went back to the room, got ready for bed, and had an amazing night sleep!

Day 2

We were supposed to go on the whale shark excursion on this day but, because it was the end of the season and the tour hadn’t seen whale sharks in a couple days, they canceled. I was a bit bummed, but it is 2020 so what can you do? We will just see them the next time we visit Mexico.

We got up and went down to the breakfast restaurant for a delicious breakfast. We probably ordered way too much but, at all inclusives, you have to try different things, right?! I tried one of the Mexican egg dishes and wasn’t a big fan but still enjoyed our morning.

After breakfast, we went back to the pool area we were in the day prior. At some of the other resorts we’ve stayed at in past trips, we’ve had to get up super early in the morning to reserve chairs because there are so many people but, with 50% capacity, we had our pick of all of the best pool spots!

We claimed some chairs and decided to go walk along the beach for a little bit. The sand felt great between our toes and the water was a perfect temperature. It felt so nice to get out and walk a little bit. There was barely any people on the beach too!

We went back to the resort and laid out for a while. The sun was so intense. Eventually, I got up to walk around and saw Kayla and Jordan! We ended up moving over closer to them and they were so excited that we still wanted to talk to them even after the craziness of the night before! I was so proud of Kayla for being such a trooper. She was much better condition than I thought she might be LOL. We ended up chatting with them pretty much the whole day in the water. It was a really nice time.

One of the guys working in the activities part of the resort told us we could go stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. So, after lunch of Hawaiian pizza and pork tacos, all four of us headed to the beach. We tried to find the kayak area and were flagged down by this guy. He was hanging by the lifeguard stand so he looked pretty legitimate. He came up to us and, instead of kayaks, offered us cigars. When we politly declined, he said “how about cocaine?”! What?! That was definitely not what we were going for. We laughed as we say “no” and walked way into the ocean water to relax for a while. The water temperature was absolutely perfect and, while there were some rocks in the water, we found a great, sandy patch to float around in. The colors of the water was so blue and amazing and I was very happy.

We eventually ventured back to the pool area and said goodbye to Kayla and Joe so they could go to dinner. We had an 8:30 reservation at the Italian so we have some time to kill. We ended up going back to the room and decided to try out the hot tub bath on the balcony. As I like overindulge, I put both containers of bubble bath in tub and turned the jets on. Bubbles were flying everywhere! It was absolutely hilarious. The people at the pool below us could see us being goofy and there was bubbles flying all out of our balcony down to the pool. I can only imagine what they thought of our laughter! 

After rinsing all the bubbles off, we got ready for our dinner at the Italian restaurant. Since our reservation was so late, we tried to go and get an earlier table but they were booked out. All of the restaurants were at half capacity so it was kind of hard to get reservations at decent times. We ended up going to the coffee bar for an espresso and then over to the reception bar for a couple cocktails and football.

8:30 finally hit and we walked over the pond area back to the restaurant. We ordered calamari and various pasta dishes that were all really tasty. I got raviolis for my main course but there were only three of them made of way-too-thick thick dough so I didn’t like them very much. We had a few glasses of wine and enjoyed the evening overall.

After dinner, we walked back to the room with full bellys and passed out.

Day 3 –

Day three of our trip started the same as day two, with a delicious breakfast trying all-of-the-things and getting a good spot at the pool. We decided to sit by the party pool today because it was a celebration of Mexican Independence Day. The resort put up these fun banners everywhere and hosted events and music throughout the day. There was a nice older couple that sat next to us and we ended up chatting with them for a good hour or so before Ryan and I decided to embark on a hard-core water basketball tournament. Mind you, he’s 6’2 and I am 5’2, but I still totally beat him (maybe with just a littttttle bit of cheating). We had a lot of fun with water basketball and were a little winded. Covid definitely got me out of shape, but after mudslide and a few strawberry margaritas, I got my wind back in my sales!

About 20 minutes later, the water volleyball tournament commenced and we ended up playing for three different games. No one wanted to play at first so we went over to just play each other and, after we entered the volleyball court, 20 showed up on each side! It was a bit crowded but really fun. Once volleyball ended, all of a sudden flamenco dancer started dancing. They did a great job and had wonderfully colorful outfits on. We enjoyed some alcoholic Popsicles while we were watching the show and then a guitarist appeared and played guitar alongside the DJ in this really awesome rhythm I’ve never heard before. It was quite entertaining.

We had another pizza for lunch and just relax by the pool until it was time to get ready for our dinner reservations at the sushi place at 5. The sushi restaurant was totally booked out and I had to check the Unico app every few hours to see if anyone had canceled just so we could get in.

I’m so glad we did! The sushi restaurant served some of the best sushi we’ve ever had, and we’ve been to Japan! The spring rolls were so crispy and delicious with so much flavor and the sushi was insane. We thought the portions were small so we ordered a hot pot of bbq pork ribs, pad thai, some steak thing and ended up with absolutely way too much food! But it was all sooooo good.

After dinner, we walked over to the breakfast restaurant located right by the beach where they were supposed to have live dancing and mariachis. We had some wine and churros while we waited. Ryan wanted to move spots to sit by the pool and, right after we moved the dancers started their performance where we were sitting. Talk about bad timing. We ended up just lounging in the dark, listening and watching the dancers run in and out of the bathroom as they changed into their numerous outfits.

Carlos, our Unico guide, texted us and said that there was a turtle release right before the fireworks at 9. We invited our friends Jordan and Kayla to go check it out and we all set off on an adventure to try and find the turtles. We walked on the beach and it was so dark! I turned on my cellphone light and saw a giant crab the size of a softball on the beach not 2 feet in font of me! There were bugs everywhere too. We kept walking into the darkness and thought we were going to get mugged but, eventually, we saw a group of three or four people crowded around a guy with a bucket of baby turtles. The bucket must have had a few hundred turtles in it and followed the guy down to the water’s edge. The guy who was in charge dug a small path in the sand and then tipped the bucket of turtles over and they all started running towards the water. It was absolutely wonderful to see. They were so cute and wiggley. Jordan had to pick one up and reroute it into the ocean because it was coming to hang out with us. Even though we didn’t get our whale shark experience, we still had a bit of nature love with the turtles.

Once all the turtles were safely in the ocean, we walked back to the pool area and relaxed on some lounge chairs facing the firework area. The fireworks went off with a bang (literally) and were right above us! It made for a wonderful view. The fireworks didn’t last very long but they were so fun to watch and made for an insanely great end to the night. We chatted with Jordan and Kayla for a while after the fireworks and eventually decided to call it a night. 

Day 4 –

I finally got my groove down at breakfast and ordered Mexican eggs with red bell peppers, green bell peppers, onions, homemade flour tortillas, salsa verde, and bacon to make breakfast tacos! While it all took absolutely forever to come out of the kitchen and my eggs came out 15 minutes before everything else, it all ended up being really delicious.

After breakfast, we went to the pool and decided to try the infinity pool area. We grabbed some chairs for Kayla and Jordan and figured out we had the best view in the house. It was only place in the resort that had ocean view and the infinity edge was just amazing!

We were right by the party pool and I was ready to work when Victor from the athletic’s team came out for some “pool-aties”. We jumped into the water with about 5 other people and were stretching and moving and grooving! It was pretty fun! Kayla and Jordan came up to our spot and then invited some other friends they had met throughout the resort, so we had quite a group going. Although our new friends didn’t want to join, Kayla and I indulged in the pool spin class. While there was no resistance on the pool spin bikes, the water made it hard to peddle, especially when we were out of the saddle! It was quite a workout! You’d think with my Peloton I’d be OK at water spin but, boy it was tougher than I thought.

After “spool”, spinning in the pool, we relaxed and just hang out by the poolside chatting and enjoying yourselves. Around 3 o’clock it was time for us to go to the spa for the experience pools in massage! We walked over to the spa and we’re taking through a series of experience pools and showers. We first had to to shower off, then go in the hot sauna for 10 minutes, then the steam room for 10 minutes, then the cold shower, then a Jacuzzi tub, and then a cold plunge into a freezing pool. After all of that, it was time for a massage. The massage was absolutely fantastic, especially on oils and my sunburnt skin. I was soooo red even though we had been putting on tubs and tubs of sunscreen. Oops!

After the spa we went back to the room and felt super relaxed. Ryan wanted a nap but we had to go to the sushi restaurant early to try and change our reservation from hibachi to sushi again. We had such an amazing dinner the night before that we wanted to enjoy it again, especially since it was our three-year anniversary. We grabbed an espresso and walked over to the restaurant and they were, thankfully, able to accommodate us.

We even talked to the sommelier and ordered a bottle of port 20 year Tawny port. We talked to the waiter about how good the food was and he brought out the chef to chat. We had a really nice night talking about how this place compared to all of the wonderful places we’ve been able to eat at like Gagan in Thailand,  Il Pagliaccio  in Italy,  Passion by Martín Berasategui. It was so nice to remember all of those very special nights.

Once we got to desert, we had some of our port and set two glasses over to Jordan and Kayla to enjoy as well. After dinner we grabbed the bottle and went to the bar lobby to drink the rest and chat with some of the new friends.

I ended up playing pool with this guy who was in the 60s and had moved to Mexico to DJ for 14 years before moving back to Florida to retire. He had led a pretty interesting life! While we didn’t do so well at pool, we had a good time playing.

Once Jordan and Kayla got done with dinner, we met up with their other friends and ended up going to one of the couples swim-up rooms to hang out. Eventually got kind of cold in right now headed back up to hit the hay.

Day 5 –

It was our last morning in Mexico and our checkout time was at 12:30. Boy did time fly! We went back to breakfast restaurant for another round of breakfast tacos and then out to the infinity pool for our favorite spot. Ryan was super sunburnt so he hid under towels and a big umbrella while took a quick walk on the beach to get one last look at it before we had to leave. Feeling refreshed, I laid out and absorbed some sunshine in the fresh air.

Eventually our group from the prior day trickled in and we all enjoyed each other’s company until it was time for Ryan and I to get ready to go. We went back to the room and ordered room service pizza intros for our “last meal” in front of our ocean view. We packed up, checked out, and were back in the Happy Shuttle van to the airport before we knew it. We were in the airport quickly, on the plane quickly, landed quickly, and were out a customs in no time. It almost felt like the entire trip it never happened as it went so fast. We were definitely relieved to have the time off to decompress.

Golden Temple, Kinkakuji outside of Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Day 2

After a quick and over priced breakfast of weird ham, egg, and lettuce finger sandwiches, we all met at 9 AM for our full Kyoto day tour. Unfortunately, our guide Mika had gone to the wrong hotel, so we had a bit of a wait before she came running into the lobby. Mika was very friendly and bubbly as she walked us down to the subway stations for our connections to our first stop, the Palace gardens.

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We wanted to see cherry blossoms and Mika said there was a part of the garden with quite a few in bloom. She was so right! They were beautiful and my mom was super happy that we got to see some. We are right on the brink of all of them flowering so, every day, more and more are popping out.

The Emperor and Empress were actually residing in the palace we were at so we could not go look at the place itself. Instead, we walked to hop on a bus to get to the Golden Temple, Kinkakuji. There were tons of people but seeing the gold leaf temple reflecting in the pond below was so worth it. The gardens were also beautiful but the gold building stole the show.

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We enjoyed the gardens as much as we could while staying in line with the flow of tourists. Mika told us that this was a light day for traffic too since we hadn’t yet entered the peak season yet! I couldn’t even imagine how crowded that would be! At least Ryan, being 6’2, could see over everyone to find me when I got sidetracked.

After the Golden Pavilion, we stopped for lunch at a very traditional soba house. We had to take our shoes off downstairs and had a short table on the second floor to enjoy our food. I had tempura soba and it was quite good but a little over priced. Everyone else felt the same about their meal and we had to pay for our guides food and transport during the tour. I get paying for our own food and transport but you would think the tour cost would at least cover the guide.

After lunch we had a 30 minute bus ride to get to Kyoto station. Lunch must have had sleeping pills in it because I zonked out on Ryans shoulder. I kept waking up thinking we had missed our exit but all was good. We took a few subway connections and would up at the entrance to the famous Tori Gate shrine (Fushimi Inari Shrine). There are over one thousand gates of all heights within the property. It was also very crowded at the start and there were so many girls dressed in their kimonos and taking photos. It made it hard to navigate. We all decided to make a few poses of his own haha!

The crowds did open up eventually and the walk through the forrest because much more enjoyable. Japan is, overall, just so crowded it takes away from the magic a little bit.

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After the Tori Gates, it was back on the public transit and to Gion. We walked through some more temples and were getting pretty burnt out. We ended back at the main temple in Gion to check on the massive cherry tree and see if it has bloomed more before saying goodbye to Mika.

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My parents took off in one direction and Ryan, Julia and I decided to check out Nana’s Café for a drink and to relax. I had this AMAZING drink with sweet black bean at the bottom. It was by far the best latte of any kind I’ve ever had! It felt so good to just sit and reflect after so much go, go, go!

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Post-latte, we went back to the hotel to freshen up and meet my parents for a drink at the bar. Ryan needed some serious calories so he went to McDonalds for dinner and we took off to this famous gyoza place down the street. We waited about 20 minutes but it was so worth it! My sister and I tried an assortment of gyoza flavors from veggie to pork, curry, and shrimp.

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Post gyoza, Ryan met us up for another ice-cream crepe before heading back to the hotel for bed.

Kyoto, Day 1

To ensure we got to the train station on time, we had breakfast at the Hiroshima Washington Hotel. It was a mix of both Japanese and Western style dishes. I tried a whole host of dishes and was quickly filled up and ready for the day. We grabbed our luggage and were off to wait on our bus to the Hiroshima Station. We were waiting about 10 minutes before my sister and I realized that the bus didn’t start until 9:33 and it was only 8:55. We needed a different route so we quickly changed course to hop on the green line trolly. We had some difficulty figuring out how Pasmo cards, the preloaded public transit payment cards, worked to check in but figured it out after watching others for about 4 stops. I got stuck on the way out because I didn’t have enough money left! Oops!

I loaded up my card and we were off to JR line 13 to wait on our train. We got there about 20 minutes early to ensure Ryan, Julia, and I had seats in the unreserved section. My mom went to the bathroom as we were heading up to the platform and she came running back to us exclaiming she had lost dad! Oh no! I took her to the numbered area on the platform for her train car and told her to wait while I went to find my dad. After running around for 5 minutes, I found him patiently waiting right where she left him originally. When I told him we were all waiting for him he said “I thought she was taking a little longer in the loo than usual!”Phew! I brought dad back to the platform and told them to make sure to get off at the Shin-Osaka station for our train transfer to Kyoto. About 5 minutes later, we saw my parents attempt to get on the wrong train headed for Tokyo! Thankfully, they saw our panicked signals to abort and we all ended up getting on the right train. It is never easy!

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It took us about 2 hours to get to Kyoto by train. The station was only a quick subway ride away from the main area where the Cross Hotel was located. Our hotel was situated right in the main shopping district and only a few blocks from the Gion district. We were not able to fully check in so we dropped off our bags and took off to explore the shopping area.

There were two main streets parallel to one another that were lined with shops and restaurants. The streets were pretty packed but we made our way around. I found a cute skirt at a boutique and my sister found a few items at a thrift store. We were getting pretty peckish but, with our impending late-night food tour in a few hours, we opted for something a little lighter. We found a fried chicken place and had that with some pork and gyoza.

After lunch, we checked into our hotel. It was so luxurious and our rooms were much bigger than our other hotels. My sister and I decided to continue exploring the shops for another hour before we met up with everyone for a drink. There are not a lot of wine / sports / regular bars or just places to just have a drink in Japan. Even our hotel’s bar closed around 3 PM and didn’t open back up until 6 PM for dinner service. We were lucky to find this “Liquor Museum” right around the corner. It was a small bar with tons of old, cool looking alcohol bottles. When we walked in, one of the patrons looked at me surprised and told me, jokingly, that I did not look old enough to drink! I will take that as a complement!

We had a few gin and tonics before it was time to walk to a designated subway station exit by the Gion district to meet our guide, Mardi, for our night food tour. Mardi was actually from the Dallas area and extended her year long study abroad into 5+ years in Kyoto! She started the tour talking about how the Gion area was for entertaining and had us try some delicious rice cakes with a soy glaze as she talked about the Kabuki theater across the street.

We kept walking up the main road until we got to the Yasaka-Jinja Shrine Nishiromon Gate. The main hall is over 360 years old! Interestingly enough, Mardi told us a myth about a god who had 3 children. The first two, the goddess of the sun and god of thunder, were born from the god’s tears. The third and more meddlesome child was shot out of the god’s nose as a booger! No wonder that god felt he drew the short stick in life! Such a funny story.

We rang the bells of the shine for luck and to make a wish and then continued on through the grounds to a massive cherry tree almost in full blossom. It was beautiful in the evening light and there were a bunch of 20-something year olds picnicking around it and enjoying the evening.

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We left the Shrine grounds and continued through the narrow streets of Gion. In earlier parts of our trip, especially in Tokyo, we kept seeing these weird posters of very feminine looking men. Mardi explained and pointed out these high rises with floors and floors of for mainly men, but also women, where hostesses worked and served drinks. There is not supposed to be anything sexual going on at these clubs, more like the hostesses incessantly complement and listen to all of the woes of the patrons. The hostesses also make themselves look nothing like their patron’s spouses in real life, thus the male hostesses look super feminine and made up and the females wear prom-fancy level dresses with full hair and makeup. The patrons do not tip the hostesses in cash, but they do buy them very expensive luxury goods, so there are tons of thriving pawn shops close to the clubs filled with designer shoes, bags, and clothes that the hostesses sell for cash and the patrons buy to give away. Such a strange and unique way of doing things. Apparently this is the equivalent to doing business on golf courses in the US.

We continued to wind down the narrow passages and Mardi also explained that every house / restaurant has to have a bucket of water out front incase of fire. Considering many of the houses had paper walls, I don’t think those small buckets would help too much but it doesn’t hut to be prepared?

Eventually, we got back to the main area and walked to our first, tiny restaurant on the river side for tapas! We were the only people in the restaurant and we tried a whole bunch of seasonally delicious dishes and drank some beer.

After we had our fill, Mardi took us to more of a bar styled restaurant for tempura fries, fried chicken, and sashimi, again all totally delicious.

We were stuffed by the end of dinner and thanked Mardi for such a great welcome to Kyoto. Even though we were so full, we somehow found room for ice cream filled crepes before heading back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

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