Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Packing Up Again

These are the little guys I got us when my boyfriend moved overseas. We always bring them with us when traveling.  There will be a whole post of their adventures at some point. This is them posing in The Gentleman's living room window. He has a terrible view. 
What a crazy year.

I have to segue from my posts about Mexico to say that I'm currently in the middle of my about-to-travel routine. I'm headed back out to the Middle East on Thursday, which means that for the fifth time in less than a year I'm leaving the country. At this point, I don't even put my suitcase away anymore - it now has a home on the floor of my room. My passport remains in my carry-on, along with eye drops, ear plugs, and an eye mask. I'm thinking ahead eight time zones and remembering to call my credit cards to tell them I'll be overseas and making sure that my cats are taken care of. (My roommate is awesome and not only feeds and waters the cats while I'm gone, she loves on them with brushings, treats, and trips to sit outside on the balcony. I think they are starting to like her better than me.)

I was talking to one of my besties, Stupid, this morning, and she mentioned that while, at first, The Gentleman's announcement that he was being sent overseas for work was a pretty difficult pill to swallow, it's turned into a year of incredible travel opportunity. And she's right. While I would much rather have The Gentleman by  my side (because he's handsome and funny and cooks really good pad thai), our joint love of travel and adventure has propelled us into some pretty awesome experiences. Our separation is temporary, and while being in an Xtreme Long Distance Relationship has been the hardest thing I have ever. Done. Hands. Down, it's also been the best. 

Travel is one of my most favorite things, and I have had opportunities to do things that I probably never would have had if it weren't for our circumstances. What we are doing is incredibly difficult and a lot of hard work, but we are young and we both have decent amounts of PTO from our jobs and the means to travel, and so he gave me the best parting gift he possibly could by saying "Where do you want to go next?"

I am extraordinarily lucky to have had these experiences, and luckier still to have them with my most favorite person. And so, yes, I prepare for another 15-hour flight and Xtreme Jet Lag (I am SO BAD at jet lag...I mean, no one is particularly GOOD at it, but I am REALLY REALLY TERRIBLE no matter how often I experience it), but I'm also preparing for more adventures with someone I love a whole lot. 

I'm hoping to post the remainder of my Mexico photos before I leave, but seeing as how I am up to my eyeballs in laundry and still have two full work days before my 10pm flight, it may just have to wait until I get back. And there will be more adventures to tell then, too.



I feel slightly compelled to defend our choice of going to Cancun in late March by saying that:
a) It was cheaper than our first choice (Key West)
b) As an expat, The Gentleman cannot be in the United States for more than 30 days within a calendar year. Coming home for two weeks meant that leaving the country for 6 days of those two weeks buys him a little more time on another visit.
c) After our last few vacations, I put my (admittedly spoiled and bourgeois-y) foot down and declared that I wanted to lie on a beach and read chick lit and have drinks brought to me. I do love history and museums, but I also love "Doing Nothing." And by "Doing Nothing," I mean all of the aforementioned activities. 

We picked Cancun based on the sole fact that the flights weren't outrageously expensive, and we could find something all-inclusive. But herein lay a conundrum: Cancun? In March? The Gentleman and I are both well above the requisite Spring Break Age Limit of 23 (argue all you want - that EXISTS), and I didn't want any wet T-shirt contests or drunken bro's to disturb my daily regimen of British chick lit and Bloody Marys beachside. After some thorough research (any hotel that bragged about ENDLESS, BOTTOMLESS, or TOPLESS was immediately rejected), we discovered that the resort where we'd stayed in the Dominican for a wedding last May has a sister resort in Cancun. Our vacation had been incredibly lovely, and nothing like the all-inclusive nightmares you've heard. The food was delicious, the service impeccable, the rooms spotless, the beaches pristine. 

And so, we arrived at 8pm on March 26 at Dreams Cancun and discovered that we had certainly picked the right resort for charm, beauty, and no SPRING BREAKKKKK-eyness going on.

Unfortunately, we went a bit too far in the other direction....

The Gentleman and I were slated to stay in a fully-booked resort for six days, and apparently we had forgotten to bring children under ten. Because EVERYONE ELSE HAD THEM. IN SPADES.

Far away from fountains of tequila shots or sexy contests involving whipped cream and bananas, we found ourselves at Cancun's Familiest Friendliest Resort. Not once could I get into the hot tub - because it was completely full of small children. A small children stew, if you will. The first night we went to the resort's on-site night club, we were treated to a lip-synced sing-along rendition of Grease, complete with a blonde-wigged Sandy whose dark Mexican curls kept springing out from under. As I lay on the beach reading child-inappropriate literature and drinking fully-liquored Bloody Marys, I was kicked with sand as children ran by, and at one point nearly clocked in the head with a stray horseshoe from a nearby game.

BUT - and I will fully admit this - it's pretty hard to complain about much of anything when you're at a beautiful beach resort with unlimited food and drinks and the person you love. We had a truly fantastic time. And if we find ourselves someday having seventeen children under the age of ten, we know just where we'll go for vacation.

And, to be fair, any resort that claims to be "adults only" is, well....slightly dodgy. Maybe next time we just won't go on vacation the week of Easter. That's all I can think of, because everyone in Cancun kept talking about how it was the "slow time of spring," and that the "spring break rush" was over. Not at Dreams Cancun. That place was hopping with virgin pina coladas and limbo competitions on the beach. Which is completely unfair, because not only are those kids all hopped up on sugar (and no liquor), but they are VERY SHORT and can OBVIOUSLY LIMBO MUCH BETTER BECAUSE OF THE SHORTNESS.

Not that I'm mad about that or anything.

Anyhoodle. It was a lovely vacation. I read three books and drank a lot of cervesas.

Oh, and our room? It overlooked a dolphin pen.

Up early on the first morning to enjoy my coffee...

....with the dolphins hanging out below. DOLPHINS.

The dolphins do shows throughout the day. More on thiss in a later post, wherein I kiss one of said dolphins. (See side panel of blog for evidence.)

Day One was overcast and slightly chilly.

The Gentleman made an attempt to stick a foot in the water, but alas - the Caribbean on this particular day was a LOT colder than it looks....

We stuck it out, lying determined by the beach, until it started to rain on us. Cold and clouds we could handle...rain we could not.

So we went for a walk. This was a giant lamp in the hotel lobby. I took about 17,467 pictures of it. In fact, The Gentleman became annoyed because everytime we walked past it, I wanted to get my camera out and take another picture. "IT'S DIFFERENT LIGHT RIGHT NOW." 

A walk just out of our resort led us to where all the kids hang out (although not today, apparently....)

Nothing. Makes. Sense.

The weather was not lovely on the first day.

But the SECOND day.....  !!

Dolphins having their breakfast.

View of neighboring resort from our balcony.


Much like the Dominican, the resort is absolutely beautiful and brings the outdoors in. Light and airy with plants and birds everywhere.

The dolphin pool sucks salt water in from the Caribbean, and it drains slightly when the tide goes out.

One of the restaurants had an albino catfish. He was not on the menu.

The same gray sea - a day later.

I don't know what compels me to take pictures like this. I just need to.


The third day we were there, I decided to try out the resort's yoga class. They said to be at the gazebo at 9am. This is the gazebo. Where they do yoga. Outside.
DOES IT GET ANY BETTER?! (Obligatory foot pic)

This is the view from the gazebo. Where they do yoga. Outside.

 Stay tuned for: Adventures in Coco Bongo, the Food (of course), and my cuddle episode with a dolphin.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Mexico Grub - Most Like It Hotttt

I like spicy food.

Prior to my relationship with The Gentleman, most of the spicy food I consumed came from Japanese, Thai, and other Asian cuisines. Southwestern spice, however, is very different from the flat spice of wasabi or the pinprick slow burn of Thai chili peppers. Southwestern food is fiery and flavorful, less vinegary than other hot spices. At least to my beginner's palate.

But what I've learned is that I not only like spicy food, I really like spicy food. I'm slowly getting more and more daring, choosing the two chili pepper option after finding I'm used to the one chili pepper option. Not quite yet onto three chilies, but give me time.

We did not go to Tijuana. But the restaurant wanted us to think we did.
 The first place we went to was Frontier, and the first thing I ordered was (of course) huevos rancheros. I have since come to decide that I. Love. Huevos. Rancheros.

I mean, what's not to like?! It's eggs, veggies, tortillas, cheese, and spicy. All awesome things that, when thrown together on a large plate, become EVEN MORE AWESOME.

Huevos rancheros awesomeness.
 On the morning of our failed balloon ride, The Gentleman took me to Flying Star to cheer me up. It worked, because I ordered this:

Breakfast hash with organic red quinoa, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peppers and onions, and a poached egg.  I have got to try this at home.

During our brief afternoon visit to Santa Fe, we did get to go to The Shed for lunch. It's apparently where famous people hang out. We didn't see anyone famous (this time), but we did have a pretty incredible meal:

Carne Adovada Plate - 
Pieces of lean pork slow-roasted in a marinade of Shed red chile, garlic and oregano. One rolled blue corn enchilada filled with cheddar cheese, onion, covered with red chile & baked. Served with pinto beans & posole

To clarify, posole is a Mexican stew made with pork and hominy. That's those little yellowy bits at about 11 o'clock on the plate. Those little yellowy bits were delightful.

And it was here, at The Shed, that I experienced the most delightful margarita. I am not, per say, a huge fan of margaritas. I don't love sour mix, and most margarita mixes are somehow too sweet for me. But the bartender made me a margarita that featured St. Germain as a primary ingredient. I LOVE St. Germain! And it really did make quite a difference - it was sweet enough to balance the sourness, but not overly sweet. And it tasted fantastic with tequila.

Here is where a Fun Embarrassing Story comes into play. The bartender, who was quite amicable and lovely despite the fact that the restaurant was one like an hour and a half wait (FOR LUNCH, mind you), asked me how I liked my drink after I'd tasted it. I told him that St. Germain is basically one of my most favorite drinks, and he asked if I had ever tried a drink called "Death in the Afternoon?" Champagne, he said, and St. Germain, a candied cherry, and then something else that I didn't quite catch. I hadn't tried "Death in the Afternoon," as it turned out. But I would keep that in mind.

Wellp, because we were on vacation, The Gentleman and his family decided to order another round of margaritas with lunch. Being an adventurous person always seeking to broaden my horizons, I asked the server for a "Death in the Afternoon" cocktail. He sort of looked at me strangely, and I explained: "The bartender mentioned it?" He nodded and went over to the bar, and I saw the bartender look puzzled at first, but then over at me, and gave me a mischievous thumbs' up.

The other, normal, margaritas arrived at the table. "What did you order?" everyone wanted to know. Something with St. Germain and champagne, I said, because I didn't think I could drink any more tequila and still sightsee around Santa Fe all afternoon.

The bartender himself brought me my drink - a champagne flute filled with some sort of clearish green liquid, and a side split of champagne. "People don't usually order these for lunch!" he exclaimed, and I was just about to lament the lack of champagne lunches when The Gentleman politely asked what the green liquid was in my glass.

"That," the bartender said, setting down my flute and pouring champagne into the glass on top of the green liquid, "is the absinthe! Well, and some St. Germain in there too." He set the champagne split, now half-empty, down next to my full champagne glass. "Enjoy!" he exclaimed. "The last time I drank these was with my now-ex-girlfriend. We each had two and took a six hour nap."

So there I was, at a nice lunch in Santa Fe with my boyfriend and his parents, and I had just ordered an absinthe cocktail.

How classy.

The Gentleman seemed to find it hilarious. "Absinthe. You ordered absinthe."


"Yes, of course. And it happens to come with absinthe as well."


"Well, you got one."

I tried to generously share my drink around the table, but no one was clearly as stupid brave as I was or was looking to expand their horizons. So I expanded my own horizon. All the way into an hour-long nap on the car ride home.

This is a "Death in the Afternoon." It's delicious. And by all means, order it. But possibly not at lunch. With your boyfriend's parents.