Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Long Weekend in Tulum: Day 1

The trip started off with a complete bang: I ran into my friends Ingrid and Andrew at LAX while Christian and I were waiting for our flight. They were on their way to El Salvador to look at wedding venues (I blogged about one of their first dates and now they are affianced!), which I for one am happy about. Holler for another passport stamp! As if that wasn't good enough, I was happily munching on smothered truffle fries from an airport restaurant when I looked up and saw my old friend/manager of my favorite restaurant, Takami. Raf! I screamed mid-bite, and sure enough, he looked up to see me shoveling french fries into my mouth, likely the same as the last time he saw me. Turns out, he had recently opened that very restaurant after returning from Thailand, where he'd been for the last couple of years. Hell of a way to run into someone after so long, right? So yeah, I'm not too sure how to trump that for the best way to start a vacation.

(Tips) I always keep myself up the night before I travel so I can knock out on the plane and combat any jet lag (as evidenced by my tired eyes in the photo, below). A window seat is the way to go so you can lean against it while you sleep, and I've found that the last few rows of the plane can have some empty seats, if you're lucky. (I swear, it's like the airplane gods are speaking directly to you when there's a whole row open so you can lay down.) I also wear an oversized sweater that can double as a blanket for when it gets chilly in-flight.

We took a red-eye flight and landed early the next morning in Cancun. We booked round-trip transportation to and from the airport via our hotel, Papaya Playa Project, simply because I figured it'd be the easiest option. I usually try to aim for the most economical option, but traveling is tiring, especially after a connecting flight. For a 90 minute drive to Tulum, my goal was a hassle-free and safe drive directly to our destination.

(Tip) Book transportation one-way to your hotel if you want to do the hassle-free thing, and find a friendly taxi driver with the best rate to take you back to the airport. If you don't rent a car, you'll likely take several taxi rides to and from town and surrounding villages, and will get a grasp on rates in pesos. You'll know what a good negotiated rate is and who to ask. (It would have saved us about $50-75.00 this way.) Also of note: we exchanged some currency prior to traveling and found a better rate than what was listed at the airport (and pesos will allow you better negotiated rates than dollars).

Our bungalow, the most charming bungalow that I ever did see.
This view! I meeeeean...
The lobby of Papaya, which can't get much cuter. (Eco-chic, as they'd describe it in Tulum!)

After settling in, we headed straight for the beach in front of our hotel. The beach cabanas had my name written all over 'em, each and every one. We plopped down and immediately ordered food and drinks. And by food, I mean a massive Mexican feast, which we managed to somehow eat in entirety. (And then Christian fell asleep, so I naturally used the opportunity to take a bunch of selfies.)

(Tip) Downtime is necessary on your first day, especially for a shorter trip. Trying to squeeze too many agenda items into an already-tight schedule will only wind up exhausting you; relaxation - even for a hour or two - is a must.

Since we had planned on Saturday being our chill-out day, we thought it was best to schedule a nice dinner for that same evening. Christian had a connection for one of the most popular restaurants in Tulum, Gitano, and we scored reservations ahead of time. The food was fantastic, a healthy spin on traditional dishes (more on what to eat/do later) - and so was the tequila. I'm not a tequila drinker, but right before we left, we were brought Mezcal shots on the house. When in Mexico....

(Tips) Ask for Amanda and tell her we recommended Gitano! She also gave us great advice on what to do during our short stay, and scratched some things off our original list that she mentioned were either too touristy or too family oriented. Also, make sure to buy bug spray, and apply extra at night! (Seriously.)

Tulum's beach zone, as a whole, looks just like this. It's absolutely beautiful.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Postcard from Tulum.

Guess who's back, full of energy, new memories, and mosquito bites? Me! (Pretend you see the emoji girl with her hand raised, here.) Tulum was incredible. I ate my way through this little village from start to finish, climbed Mayan ruins, snorkeled through cenotes (sinkholes), made new friends, and as planned, went barefoot in the sand for the majority of my trip. Surprisingly, I'm not at all tired; I must be on a travel high, which I'm not mad at.

I can't wait to share more photos, videos, and my favorite memories, which I actually remembered to make note of while there. (I'm not quite sure how though, given the amount of margaritas I consumed within that four-day span.) I also remembered, for the most part at least, to stop thinking and to let things just happen. I constantly need to work on that, which I do admit. It was funny, the snorkeling guides at one point were even telling me to Relaxxx! I guess I'm that obvious, ha. I can assure you though, while I was lounging on this chair (above), in beautiful Tulum, Mexico,  I didn't need any reminders...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hitting Our Inner Reset Button.

Apparently, our brains process five times the amount of information they did 20 years ago, since we are constantly "plugged in" to some sort of technological facet. I think my brain just does that on its own, the over-processing part, but either way, it can become quite the overload. That said, in order to hit the "reset" button on my brain and disconnect for a few, I'm off to a long weekend in Tulum! I'm beyond excited to run around barefoot on the beach and eat until my little heart is content, with my good friend Christian. (Drinking pressed weeds wasn't for nothin'.) Tulum is known for some of its great restaurants (like this one, where you can't even make a reservation ahead of time), and I'm looking forward to trying some of the hole-in-the-wall joints, as well. Buena comida es buena comida!

Ideally, I'll come back nice and refreshed after "unplugging," only to immediately "plug back in" and share hundreds of photos on this here blog. Ha. Happy weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The joke's on me.

Back in Massachusetts, I used to pick dandelions in my front yard, when they were just considered, you know, weeds -  and now I'm spending nine dollars to have them pressed into a juice. Ain't that some 'ish.

Le sigh.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Self-dating: a Concert.

I have so much to write about regarding this "self-dating" topic, but not as much time as I'd like in order to bang it all out this very second. Because that's who I am: an instant gratification kinda gal, lacking a bit in the patience department. Since I have to start somewhere though, I'll start off with saying this: take yourself out on a date! Specifically, take yourself out on a date to a concert. (Trust me.)

I've always liked doing things on my own. That's not to say I always prefer my own company to that of others; however, every now and then, I really like spending quality time with myself. Dating myself, you could even call it.

I take myself out to dinner at least once per week, which honestly can be super entertaining. People - men in particular - wind up sharing so many stories about their life to the lone girl sitting at the bar (like this guy did), and being a Sociology major (and a talker myself), I eat it all up. I've also learned to really enjoy going to the movies by myself, especially living in the city since I'm able to walk to the theater. And now? I'm at a cafe that I've been frequenting on weekends for a little breakfast and writing solo date. When I came in today, my coffee was ready before I reached the front of the line - and it was on the house! There are definitely perks of going places alone; being forced to interact with people can get you hooked up! But I digress.

Last week, for the first time ever, I went to a concert by myself. Remember Making the Band, on MTV? Welp, here's an embarrassing confession: I am utterly obsessed. Like, currently still obsessed, despite the show going off air in what, 2008 or so? I've always loved to sing and dance, so I've been vicariously living through these girls for years. (Another confession: when I workout, I watch MTB videos on YouTube. They're about seven increments at a time on an unauthorized channel. That's some real dedication right there.) Anyway. Two of the girls from Danity Kane, the band that was eventually formed from the TV show, recently formed their own group called Dumblonde. I stalked their Instagram learned they were going to play a local show at The Roxy and immediately asked a friend of mine to go. I'd never seen any of the MTB concerts before, and the little girl inside of me wanted so desperately to go. So, I excitedly made a plan and bought my ticket.

When the night of the concert rolled around, my friend had to cancel. I was pretty bummed, but after some thought, I decided to still go. I knew I'd be more disappointed if I didn't get to see the girls perform after all these years, so that rationale won over me feeling uneasy about going alone. I got dressed, Ziggy (and Nellie) kissed me goodbye, and off to the concert alone I went.

I got there a bit early to scope out the scene and to get a stiff, nerve-calming drink. There were people already packed in front of the stage, so I stood by the bar to people watch. And so I could get an easy refill, should I become extra uncomfortable by myself. I tried to say "hello" to a couple of people, yet no one seemed really interested in chatting. I decided to squeeze my way toward the front of the stage, which wasn't too hard since it was just me, and I perched against the wall.

Any anxiety I had was alleviated as soon as the stage curtain raised. I was in my music zone, in front of people I'd been following since I was eighteen. Thank god I went. I was singing and dancing with people next to me in the crowd, who had been fans of the show and of these girls as long as I had. That was the best part, and it got better and better with each song that played.

Upon scanning my photos after the show, I was closer to the stage than I had even realized. I was so, so thankful that I went, replaying the videos all night long that I had taken - not ones that I was seeing on someone else's social media account, after the fact! I would totally go to another concert alone again, I would just get there closer to the start of the show, since it was a bit awkward fumbling around the venue before the opening act even started. I think it's good to push yourself out of your comfort zone, which I definitely was, since I'm not a frequent concert goer. Had my I don't wanna go alone rationale won, I wouldn't have been able to say, after ten years, that I finally saw the girls from Making the Band. I had a night that was all about me, and not in a selfish way; I was able to own my night and fully enjoy it, despite being on my own. And I'm proud of that.

P.S. I figured as long as I was being a fangirl, I may as well snag a photo with Cindy, who was on the show years ago, too (which a true MTB fan would know).

So freakin' embarrassing.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Droppin' Gems.

"It's nice when your friend, or your boyfriend, or your husband is easy going." - Gram

Wanderlust II.

Since my last wanderlust roundup, I can check off finding "something to look forward to," as far as travels go, on my Life's 3 Must-Haves' list because...I'm going to Tulum! Two weeks from tomorrow can't come soon enough, that I will say. It won't be a lengthy excursion; rather, a short and sweet jaunt to a remote little area (they just added electrical outlets!), perfect for recharging. And I am long overdue for a recharge.

Singapore was totally different from any other country I've visited thus far. It's a bit pricey, but man is it clean! For OCD folks like myself, I mean, this is the place to live. Carli and I walked about a mile from our hotel to the Singapore Flyer (I was in heels), and my feet decided they couldn't make it round-trip. So what's a girl to do? In one of the cleanest countries you will find? You walk home barefoot, naturally. (And I didn't even freak out about what possible diseases could come my way. Go me.)

While I'm not one to love photos of myself, this is easily one of my favorites, taken on the streets of Singapore, in front of the fancy Raffles Hotel. (My hair was even blowing in the damn wind!) Whenever I see this picture I feel lucky and think, wowthat really happened.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Mr. X."

My hair was done to perfection. Come hell or high water, I was going out to dinner - with or without company.

I didn't recognize anyone at the bar, which was unusual, but not a big deal. I knew the bartenders, who I feel much more comfortable recognizing as my friends, along with most of the other restaurant staff and management, since this was my local haunt. Plus, I really don't mind dining alone - I can even prefer it - so 'twas just me and my new hairdo, on that fine Wednesday.

I couldn't yet tell if the suit with his back turned toward me was as obnoxious as I'd presumed him to be, since I hadn't actually spoken with him. I was totally judging, I admit it, based partially on his attire and partially on a conversation I'd been overhearing between him and a man he'd later call a "grifter" (enough said). There was only one open barstool at the bar, in the far left corner - you guessed it - right next to the suit. I moved it an inch or two closer to the wall and sat down.  

"Great view, isn't it?" he said, after waiting a few minutes longer than I had expected to attempt a conversation.

"Yep," I replied dismissively, and picked up my champagne flute.

"I mean really, it's a great view," he persisted.

"It is nice."

"Are you dating one of the bartenders?" he asked.

I shot him a look. I can't just go out to dinner because I'm hungry, and because I like my hair today?  "No," I declared, and immediately regretted it. He was waiting for me to follow up my answer, so I pointed to one of my two bartender/friends and said "I'm friends with his wife." I'm 2-2 now, I thought, realizing I had opened a door for further conversation.

"Oh," he said. "What's she like?"

Knew it. "She's great," I responded. "A wonderful photographer."

Somehow sensing my annoyance from across the bar, Joe suddenly appeared in front of me and asked if I was ready for round two. Trying to use some sort of ESP to tell him I had gotten into a conversation about his wife, I laughed and said "Just keep them coming," circling my forefinger in the air.

"You know, my daughter is going off to college in Boston, and I'm really nervous," he began to ramble after sipping his cocktail. "She's never had a boyfriend, and I'm afraid some douchebag will see her as some sort of Californian bait. Do you think some fisherman will break her heart?"

"I, um-"

"I think so," he answered his own question. "She's beautiful and she doesn't even know it. Want to see a photo?" Before I could answer, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and stuck it in my face.

"She's very pretty," I remarked. (I was being honest.) "I'm sure she has a good head on her shoulders."

"She does. I told her not to have sex with guys because of low self-esteem, and things like that. You know, don't just give it up."

I took a big gulp of my champagne, and wondered if he was aware he had begun to talk about his kid's sex life. "She seems smart," I tried to assure him. Granted, I knew nothing of the girl or the situation.

"She's beautiful," he repeated. "Do you think I should be worried? About these fisherman?"

I'm sure I looked offended, but he wouldn't understand why just yet. "I'm actually from that area," I paused for his reaction, "and I'm not sure what your hangup is with fisherman, but I mean, it's college. And you're a guy, what did you do when you were a college freshman?" I asked. "Fish?" I smiled. Good one, KB.

"Oh man, now I'm worried. Thanks for that," he said. And he really did look worried.

"I'm just being honest," I told him. "You're married, right?" I had noticed a tattoo on his ring finger - no physical wedding ring - a squiggly design resembling an infinity symbol. Married men without wedding rings doesn't surprise me; a suit with an exposed tattoo kind of does, though.

"Twenty-five years," he announced.

"You must have gotten married young," I noted.

"I was twenty-five."

Another round of drinks arrived, which I credited for making me less annoyed with the incessant chatting. I even started to proactively contribute. "Ever cheat on her?" Apparently, the champagne was making me much more comfortable asking such personal questions, too.

"I have," he admitted, unabashedly.

"Oh," I said, caught off guard by his honesty. I am sooo going to write about you, I thought. "Is this a...consistent thing?"

"Define consistent," he challenged.

My eyebrows raised. "I think you just answered my question."

"It's only ever been sex," he started to explain, "and never an emotional affair. I did have a torrid affair once, before I was married, but that was the only time."

At this point, I was intrigued. "I think you just became my muse," I informed him. "But I'll let you pick your alias." I'd expected him to white-knuckle it, the idea of his story surfacing somewhere, but he didn't seem to care. He seemed flattered, even. I watched him think for a few seconds.

"Mr. Big," he blurted out.

"Mr. Big?" I laughed. "C'mon."

"No, okay," he paused. "Mr. X. Let's go with Mr. X."

To be continued...

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Morning Coffee with a Text on the Side.

Saturday, 7:17 AM

Hi, just want to let you know that I realize I passed on the trait of grinding about things, to you. While it is burdensome, it's because we are passionate. If we didn't care so much, we wouldn't be who we are. I believe it is far better to care even with how much it hurts. - My father

I believe the same. He passed that on to me, too.