Friday, February 17, 2012

Birthday Celebration in Mexico!

Riviera Maya, Mexico, a beautiful, picturesque place with stunning beaches -- and the place where JC and I decided to spend my birthday this year.  We traveled to Riviera Maya for our honeymoon and had a wonderful time, so we were confident this visit to Mexico would be just as nice. 

This trip was unique for me because we flew out of O’Hare Airport in Chicago.  This was my first time flying out of O’Hare.  I’ve heard horror stories about O’Hare, so I was a little uncertain about what to expect.  Luckily for us, our flight was at seven in the morning, so we breezed through check in, and security.  Flying super early does have its benefits.

The flight went over without any hitches, and getting through customs in Cancun was quick also.  Cancun airport is fairly small, so it makes it pretty easy to get around; however there is a unique security procedure.  While going through security, you have to push a button and if you get a green button you’re good to continue out of the airport, if you get a red button, you have to have all of your bags opened, and searched.  This hasn’t been a problem for us yet, we have gotten green lights both times we went through security.

We booked our trip through Apple Vacations, so once outside the airport we looked for our flower-shirted Apple reps.  This trip we stayed at a hotel that was closer to Tulum than Playa del Carmen, so we knew that our drive to the resort would be long.  What we didn’t know was that our wait for a shuttle to our resort was also going to be long.  Because there were only a couple other couples who’d booked hotels in the area our resort was located, we had to wait for them to get checked in with the Apple people.  After waiting about a half hour in the warm sun I forced JC to talk to our Apple rep again to make sure he hadn’t forgotten about us.  I’m glad I did because we were able to get a shuttle right after.  Who knows how long we would have waited otherwise!

The drive to Grand Sirenes was about an hour and a half.  It wasn’t a terrible drive and I liked seeing some of the towns and cities, but I was ready to get to the resort after the long plane and bus ride.  Once we got to the resort our room wasn’t ready so we changed into our swimming gear and laid by the pool for the rest of the afternoon.  The weather was the worst the first day, overcast and some sprinkles, so I didn’t plunge into the freezing water.  But that didn’t stop JC.  He braved the cold water temperatures to get our first frozen drinks from the pool bar.  The “Princess” drink was my favorite on this trip. 

Most of our trip was spent by the pool soaking up the sun, drinking, reading and relaxing.  But we also explored the grounds and tried out a couple of the specialty restaurants open for dinner.  The first dinner was at the Mediterranean restaurant.  JC loved all of the restaurants because they had fresh seafood, eyes, skin and all!  The second night we had dinner at a beach party, which was provided by Apple.  We had fresh lobster off the grill and steaks; however we weren’t able to enjoy the experience because as soon as we got our food it started pouring.  You would think with a weatherman as a husband he could predict this – but on vacation he shuts his phone off and doesn’t care about the weather at all!  We go on vacation for a reason!  Even though the food was a little soggy the lobster and steak was still fabulous.  The next night we tried the Cajun restaurant which was very good.  I had never had Jambalaya before and wanted to make sure we tried this place.  I really enjoyed the atmosphere (the restaurant was by the pool) and the food.  The final night, my birthday, we went to the Italian restaurant.  The food wasn’t great at this venue, but the atmosphere was nice.  The entire décor was black and white with zebra stripes. 

This resort was unique because the beach area was not straight sandy beaches like many of the others in the area.  It was built around a coral reef area and had many huge rocks and boulders surrounding the beach.  This does not make for great swimming in the ocean, but that didn’t bother me because I would rather swim in a pool anyway.  The waves were pretty strong the entire trip, so we never ventured out to see the coral in the area, but snorkeling was available for us to try.   

There was a small Mayan ruin on the property also.  We had to climb through some rocks and boulders to explore the area, but it was a neat feature.  At night lights shone on the building.  We were able to see some of the coral off of this cliff area.

The only excursion we took part in was the last day of our vacation, my birthday.  We had read on Trip Advisor that the beaches in Tulum were beautiful, so we wanted to make sure we went to Tulum.  Since the trip was pretty short, we didn’t care to do too many other excursions.  They take up pretty much the whole day in most cases and are very expensive. 

Our excursion was to the Mayan Ruins in Tulum.  This was a half day excursion so it was perfect for us.  We were shuttled to the Ruins area and were given a guided tour through most of the Ruins site.  I’m not a huge history buff, but I do love seeing the historic sites at places where we vacation.  JC, on the other hand, loves history and enjoyed the tour.  We went to Chichen Itza, another Mayan Ruin location, on our honeymoon so he’s become interested in this population after that trip.  When  the tour was finished we were able to go swimming at the beach below the Ruins.  This beach was beautiful, one of the most picturesque beaches I’ve ever seen.  It was surrounded by cliffs and white sandy beach.  After swimming for a while we went back to a flea market area and purchased a couple Mayan calendar wall decorations and tried authentic tacos from a taco hut.  I will admit I was a little nervous eating the tacos.  The meat and ingredients for the taco came out of galvanized buckets and trash bags.  Even though it probably wouldn’t meet U.S. Food Preparation standards the tacos were great and we also tried shaved lemon-tequila ice.  It was a great half-day excursion.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone wanting a little history, shopping and local treats. 

As always I was sad to leave Mexico.  The weather was beautiful, the people were friendly and the resort was nice.  In comparison to other resorts we’ve stayed at while traveling out of the country the Grand Sirenis resort was my least favorite.  JC and I are partial to Iberostar resorts.  We stayed there for our honeymoon at Riviera Maya and also in the Dominican Republic for our first year anniversary(ish) trip.  These resorts are outstanding, so it’s hard to meet our expectations after staying there.  The Grand Sirenis is an older hotel and I believe it’s noticeable.  But the staff, grounds and area were great.  If I were traveling back to the area I would probably stay somewhere else based on the long drive from the hotel, but it was still a wonderful trip that I wished wouldn’t have ended so quickly. 

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