Freedom 35!

After talking about it for what seemed like an eternity, some of my university friends and I headed to Mexico for a week of fun and relaxation at the Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Resort. It was an amazing week and was more easy and fun than I could have imagined!

The Grand Sirenis is a huge resort about 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, and an hour south of the airport in Cancun. It’s located on an inlet of the Caribbean sea, and boasts some pretty amazing snorkeling right at the resort.

Map of the Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya

We spent the first few days sitting on the beach, where we went swimming and/or snorkelling most mornings and played volleyball most afternoons.  The weather was cooler than we expected for a late January visit, especially at night. I wore a sweater or jacket every evening, and wished I’d had a few more options.

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We also tried our hand at archery, which was fun but involved a lot of waiting since we could only go one at a time.

archery

At the end of the week there was a lot of wind, which meant the red flags were flying at the beach and we couldn’t go in the ocean. We stayed by the pool those days, which seemed to be what everyone at the resort decided, since the pool was busier those days.

Poolside

Two of us made up a scavenger hunt that we all participated in, and included:

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a shot at the lobby bar
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a trip in the lazy river
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a photo with the entertainment staff
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an iceberg at the beach bar
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a drink at the pool bar

I think it goes without saying that people in the resort probably thought we were a little bit crazy, but we didn’t care because it was fun!

We also tried our hand at beer pong and foox, an “extreme” version of foosball with two balls, and took many trips through the lazy river.

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beer pong
foox
lazy river

We spent one morning snorkeling at Akumel, where there are plenty of sea turtles. While I understand it used to be free, it’s not free anymore. In order to go out into the coral, a $10 for rental equipment and guide is required, and I thought it was very worthwhile. We got to see some of the cool wildlife in the inlet, including a barracuda and plenty of sea turtles, and when we told him where we were staying, our guide said we could go on a little excursion on our own from the resort. Plus, the guides make sure that everyone is following the rules around the coral and wildlife, making sure that they will be there for others to enjoy.

We went on the homemade excursion the next day, and it was perfect. The route takes you through the Grand Sirenis Mayan Beach Resort to the nightclub, which we playfully (and with reason) named the poo poo bar, along the rocky beach to an unnamed (as far as I can tell) inlet where the fresh water from the land mixes with the saltwater from the ocean. It makes for some interesting snorkeling, though I spent a lot of time thinking there was something wrong with my mask.

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route from the Grand Sirenis to the inlet

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group photo
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what happens when you have 6 engineers trying to take a group photo

The buffet at the Grand Sirenis was fine, but we were all a little sick of it by day 3. We were lucky smart to have our three a-la-carte restaurant reservations at the end of the week, followed by a plan to go into Playa del Carmen for dinner on our last night.

birthday dinner at the Bayou, the cajun restaurant
Japanese teppanyaki at Ikebana
Japanese teppanyaki at ikebana

On our final night, we went out to Playa del Carmen for an authentic Mexican meal at La Cueva del Chango, a small, cozy restaurant a little bit off the beaten path. Our server was excellent and made some fantastic recommendations both for food and drinks. I would highly recommend going if you`re ever in the area!

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fabulous dinner at La Cueva del Chango

After a short, futile walk into some slightly sketchy parts of town to find some karaoke, we ended up at a small bar, Caiman Tugurio for some drinks and live music. We then continued along 10 Av. Norte, through some loud party areas to the beachside bar and restaurant Fusion, where we sat on the beach and enjoyed more live music. It was the perfect way to end a great week!

live music at fusion
live music at fusion

The next day proved to be a long one. While we still had a beautiful sunny day, our plane  from Toronto was seriously delayed due to a snowstorm, so we spent the majority of the day in the Cancun airport. When we finally boarded, it was directly from the tarmac, since there were no gates available.

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Although it was a less than stellar end to a perfect week. I wouldn`t have changed a thing.

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until next time!

Mexico

As promised back in May, I’ve finally got myself organized enough to post about our trip to Mexico!

Horray!

We stayed at the beautiful El Dorado Royale, in Playa del Carmen. It had superb ratings for food, which was very important. And on that front, it didn’t disappoint. The food at all of the restaurants were amazing! My favourites were the Italian restaurant, d’Italia, and Pacific Rim restaurant, Kampai. We also loved the Health Bar for lunch – I had the same chicken sandwich and strawberry almond smoothie every day, and never tired of it!

We attended the “Islands” night at Fuentes dinner theatre, a five course meal themed around islands of the world. We opted for the wine pairing, which I had never done before, but I will definitely do again. Though it may be the reason for my missing a photo of the last course. The missing first course was just me being mindless!

1. Shrimp from Hawaii  2. Tuna from Japan  3. Pulled Pork from Jamaica  4. ?? from Iceland

While we were there, we took a day trip to the ruins at Tulum and the Xel-Ha water park. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for a day outside!

The ruins at Tulum was also known as Zama, or dawn, because of its location where dawn first breaks in Mexico. The community was a commercial port; it was an active redistribution centre for local and foreign products, from places such as Central America, the Pacific and Gulf coasts and Central Mexico. by sea, river and land .routes.  Its began at the time Hispanic navigators arrived on its shores and islands.

The ruins at Tulum

The bottom left picture is the building known as El Castillo, or The Castle, and it is the most imposing building at Tulum. It was likely also to have been the most important. Its facade would have been painted in bright colours and decorated with sculptures, and the corners had large stucco figureheads. On both sides of the staircase there are two small temples. Offerings that filled the air with scents and colours would have been placed on the altars here. The upper temple is where main religious ceremonies were performed.

The El Dorado Royale has a pretty decent ‘environmental program, including a 70,000 sq. ft. hydroponic greenhouse where they grow several types of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chilies, squash, beans, leafy vegetables and a selection of herbs, including cilantro and mint. They offer bi-weekly tours, and I was happy to go on one! They also claim to use solar hot water heating for all of their water heating systems. While I couldn’t confirm this, they definitely had a huge solar water heating system installed. I wanted to take a tour, but was too shy to ask!

Greenhouse!!

The rest of the days we sat by the beach or the pool. We only had about an hour of rain the entire time we were there, and it was on our first day – not too shabby!

I even managed to get a bit of my Dutch homework done!

SPF 60 and sitting in the shade

R and I are spending some vacation time on the sandy beaches north of Playa del Carmen. Our resort is lovely and we’ve had some devious food. We also managed to avoid the “loyalty program” tour which, according to trip advisor, is a fancy word for a very expensive timeshare. I’ll post more about it later, but for those who’d like to see pictures now, I’ve posted a few I took with my phone. Adios!