Monday, July 23, 2012

Life is what you make it!

This weekend was our first weekend staying in Carmen. We knew that we wanted to explore the beach and find a spot to go when people come to visit. We woke up Saturday morning and headed down the island to where a few people had told us were the best beaches. Apparently there was a miscommunication, because after going down a shady, dirt road and being the only people in this eerie place, we decided to get the hell out of dodge and continue our search. We tried one other place on the side of the highway. It was a beautiful beach, but a little too quiet. After an hour we were on the road again.

Our first thought was to get a margarita at a restaurant we had passed on the way called Los Tortugueros. When we pulled down the road for Los Tortugueros, we expected it to just be a restaurant. Boy, were we surprised! We found the perfect place to spend our weekends! Immediately, our waiter brought us the most delicious margaritas, and we sat in the shade admiring the view of the beach. It had some of the prettiest views we had seen all day. Music was playing and families were visiting. It was just a great place to relax. You could take your margaritas and stroll down the beach with no worry of if you’d pay your bill or bring the margarita glasses back. We went for a swim in the gulf and found some gorgeous seashells and even a few hermit crabs. They served us the BEST ceviche either of us has had... huge, fresh shrimp with the refreshing combination of lime, cilantro, and tomatoes that makes me wish I could eat it every day.

The fun didn’t end there. At around 2:30, I asked for the bill, and the waiter told me something about  sea turtles in Spanish. I thought he was saying that sea turtles come to nest or something. One thing was clear, he was very insistent that we should stay until 6pm for this event. We passed the time with swimming, walks on the beach, and more drinks. When it was near 7pm, a guy came out with a speaker phone and announced that we should all follow him to the edge of the beach. On the way, we overheard some people speaking English, and after a few margaritas, we didn’t hesitate to say hi. These new friends explained that we were actually going to release baby sea turtles into the wild. The turtles hatch from mid-July to August and once a week for a few weeks, Los Tortugueros hosts the release of the turtles into the wild. I immediately became a giddy child haha. They passed the turtles out to children first, and I silently hoped they’d mistake me for a kid, no dice. Next women got their turn to get a baby sea turtle. They were SO cute. One of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. For those of you who haven’t seen the video on facebook, the announcer counted to three, and the turtles raced to the water. Mine was almost the last turtle into the water, but it was so exhilarating to watch. Made. My. Day!
As soon as the turtles hit the water, the heavens opened up, and it began to pour down raining. We rushed with our new friends under a hut to take cover. After about 5 minutes of talking to them, we somehow found ourselves invited to ride on their boat with them on Sunday to see the blessing of the fleet for a Carmen festival. How LUCKY!!! We ended the day with a new place to take our friends and family when they visit, and more importantly, new Carmen friends!

Sunday we woke up early, bought/packed an ice chest for our adventure, and headed to the marina. It was our first time in the marina which doesn’t seem to belong in Carmen. The boats are huge and the area itself is beautiful. I even saw a peacock walking around. We met about 20 more expat friends who were so welcoming and almost all from the South. We spent the day riding up and down the bay. I seriously think every person in Carmen who owns a boat came out that day. They had festive balloons decorating their boats. The big crew boat with the Virgin of Carmen came out of the port, and the crowd cheered. Onlookers that didn’t have boats crowded the shore. It was really, really cool. I think we were in awe most of the time. Growing up in South Louisiana, being on a boat makes me feel at home. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face.

Some boats at the marina.

One of the boats with our new, expat friends

Virgen Carmen on the back of the crew boat.


The bigger birds in this picture are Brown Pelicans.

After the blessing of the fleet and boat parade, we headed to a “beach” which really reminded me of Lake Bash. Boats tied to each other and people crowded the water. The difference was we could see the bottom of this water. We hung out all day with our new expat friends and got a little too much sun. We all agreed that we love to cook/eat, and we have dinner parties in the works for when we move into our house. Overall, it was the perfect day and the perfect weekend.  

Billy and George

This weekend was a huge blessing. How wonderful to find a fun place that we can go on warm days in Carmen. It's also exciting that we made new friends.  I really wondered before we moved here how I’d feel about our first trip back to the States. With how much I missed home when I was in Spain, I figured I’d be itching to come home. I guess the difference is having my best friend here with me. Billy and I talked about how life is what you make it. We could have been miserable here, but we continue to venture out and try new things every day. The reward is living a very adventurous life in Carmen. We are having the best time and feel so blessed. I think we agree that it didn’t take long for us to make new friends, and we are fortunate for that. So, don’t worry about us. We are doing just fine J.

Happy birthday to my dad! Love you Daddy! See you soon :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hacienda Xcanatun

The amazing Memo turned 32 on Sunday. To honor this momentous occasion, we celebrated in style at Hacienda Xcanatun lounging by the pools, drinking mojitos, and eating delicious food.  We left Carmen Saturday morning on our first road trip across the Yucatan to Merida. The drive was gorgeous. At least half of it was along the coast with only sand between us and the Gulf. We were excited to see how beautiful the beaches are right outside of town!

Hacienda Xcanatun was one of the nicest places either of us has ever stayed. In fact, it was voted one of the top boutique hotels in Mexico.  Once you enter the gates, you feel like you’re in a different world. It has 9 acres of beautiful, exotic gardens complete with Mayan statues for your viewing pleasure. We arrived and someone immediately took our bags. At the reception area, we were offered “welcome drinks”, their version of a margarita with a special Mayan ingredient, XtabentĂșn. They were so fresh and delicious. Here is the recipe, although I’m not sure where one would find the secret ingredient.
XcanatĂșn Margarita recipe:
1 1/2 oz. silver tequila (100% agave please, we love Fortaleza and Siete Leguas)
1 1/2 oz. lime juice (fresh please, and preferably from our trees)
1 oz. XtabentĂșn
½ oz. simple syrup

After walking through the gardens with our margaritas, we decided to visit the bar, which is beautiful and looked like it belonged in New Orleans. We decided to try the mojitos, and Billy was shown the cigar menu. The birthday boy informed me that from now on, the Landreneau’s only smoke Cuban cigars. We took our mojitos and Cuban cigar “para llevar” and lounged around the pool until the sun was hidden by the beautiful palm trees.

Dinner Saturday night at Casa de Piedra was exquisite. In Carmen, the restaurants are almost all American chain food, Chili’s, Applebees, Boston’s, oh my! Needless to say, our mature palettes have been missing delectable food. We started with the shrimp ceviche. So wonderful! Followed by plantain and cumin soup for Billy and their version of Caprese salad which had goat cheese instead of mozzarella and added prosciutto... genius! Finally I had filet mignon with garlic whipped mashed potatoes, and Billy had the rack of lamb special. Dessert was a special birthday treat for Memo. What a wonderful night.

Sunday morning I scheduled a couple’s massage in our suite, the romance package. A man arrived with a massage table, and Billy silently freaked out as he imagined a guy giving him a massage. Two ladies arrived at our suite shortly after to actually give us the 60 minute massages. Once the tables were set up, the ladies immediately suggested we get undressed. I had to ask in Spanish if they wanted us to get undressed right then (with them in the room) followed by “How will you not see me naked?!”  They politely decided to step into the other room of our suite while we covered ourselves appropriately with towels. When they came back into the room, they told us about Mayan history and explained that they would be putting flowers on our chests to join our spirits. I guess I didn’t understand the gravity of this explanation until mid-massage, when my towel was pulled down to my belly button, K and a bouquet of flowers was laid on my chest between the girls. For those of you who know me well, I’m more modest than most. My mouth was trying to reveal an embarrassed smile as I told myself that it was ok that two more people in the world just saw my goods because I’d never see these women again. Keep in mind that my eyes were closed the whole time. I was basically thinking… “Did she just…?” “Noooo!” “Yep, definitely putting flowers there.” I opened my eyes when they left the room for a moment to take a peek at the new arrangement of exotic flowers lying on my chest. Memo had flowers too. Once I got past the bashfulness of it all, the massage was wonderful. They even poured a bath with flowers around the edge of the tub, incense burning, and two shots of honey liquor for us to make a toast. I can now say that I’ve experienced Mayan tradition :p.

 After our massages, we packed up and headed 20 minutes down the road to Progreso. On the way, we saw signs for Dzibilchaltun, Mayan ruins, not far off of the highway and decided to stop. It was our first time seeing Mayan ruins. It was about noon and very hot when we arrived. We walked around the different museums and finally found our way to the actual ruins. The first one we saw was called “The Seven Dolls” and it was breathtaking. We enjoyed seeing the ruins from such an ancient culture and imagining what went on there when the area was thriving. As we climbed up one of the ruins, we heard laughing and splashing. Here I must note that I was wearing my swimsuit and a cover up during the whole tour and felt completely inappropriately dressed. We walked over on the top of the ruin and saw what I would have thought was a mirage in that heat. It was actually a beautiful lake in the middle of the ruins. We quickly ventured over to the water, and I jumped in. They had little fish swimming around, and I realized everyone was in their swimsuits. Duh, of course they have a lake at the ruins go to swimming in… why else would I be wearing my swimsuit on a public tour? It was so refreshing. We soon noticed the time and headed back to the car to make our way to Progreso.

Journal entry in the museum :)

Progreso was bustling with locals and tourists. Vendors filled the streets with handmade goods and treats. We didn’t have much time if we were going to get home before dark, so we decided to grab a bite to eat and head home. While it was great to see a different place, Progreso was not for us. It was overwhelming with the amount of people that were at the beach, making it difficult to lounge in one spot. We decided to ditch the beach and settled in at a patio restaurant where we people watched from a distance. We would definitely take the quiet, desolate beaches on Isla del Carmen over Progreso, any day of the week.

It was a 5 hour drive from Progreso to Carmen.  The drive home was just as beautiful as the drive there. We really love Carmen and traveling around. We got home as the sun was setting over the Gulf of Mexico, not a bad view. J It’s funny that we consider a hotel “home” right now. We were so happy to be in our hotel bed after fitting so much fun into two days. It was a really great adventure!

Love yall!