Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Minnesota enjoyed a White Christmas this year. We've had a couple of fairly big snowfalls. Now that we are retired and don't have to drive in it every day at 6 AM, it really is beautiful! Since Christmas day, we've had some very warm temperatures and have lost about 5 or 6 inches of snow already. Not to worry - it's Minnesota and we know we'll get plenty more.
Our holiday festivities included several family gatherings. Of course, having the grandkids around brings lots excitement and this year we had some big announcements as well --
Sarah and Pete will be adding a new little one to our crew of grandkids in July!! Yipee -
Jill (my niece) and Jake will be getting married! Yahoo -
As we look into the new year, these two events will be highlights & we will continue to use our new found time to explore the countryside!
This week we are heading to Mille Lacs Lake to visit our good friends John and Grace. Lowell and John will do some ice fishing for sure, although the reports from the lake have been slow. In mid-January, which is right around the corner, we will hit the road and travel south to visit friends and family in Florida, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Right now our schedule is pretty loose - we plan to be home for the High School Hockey Tournament in early March.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cancun Adventures

Our week in Cancun with the Theissens went so quickly! What a beautiful spot - even with windy, cloudy "winter" weather, we were able to get a little bit of color. Between a tour booked through the resort and the public transportation system we were able to get around the area and enjoy the local culture, food and shopping.
On Tuesday, we traveled south of Playa Del Carmen to the Mayan ruins at Tulum. Tulum was a walled city on a bluff overlooking the Caribbean. It was an active trade center from about 1200 AD to the early 1500's. The people of this area were obsessed with astronomy and calendars. The main building, El Castillo, was built with a small window that directed the suns rays into the Temple of the Frescos on the days of the solstice and equinox. The rays then illuminate beautiful fresco art on the walls. The Mayan civilization is noted for the only known, fully developed, written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as its art, architecture and mathematical and astronomical systems. The city was abandoned when the European explorers brought new diseases into the indigenous people. It wasn't discovered again until the mid-1800's, when it had been overgrown by jungle. Most of the artifacts are in museums in England and France. At the end of our visit to the ruins, we walked along the wall and found lots of 2 to 2 1/2 foot iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks.
After Tulum, the bus took us a few kilometers north to Xel-Ha' - a huge water park on a lagoon. The park centers around a big salt water lagoon. There are 3 or 4 restaurants and a few more bars and snack shops. Your entrance fee includes all you can eat or drink at the restaurants, snorkeling, hiking and a large hammock area for resting! We spent most of our time snorkeling - it was Diane's first experience and she did great! We saw lots of fish - striped fish, yellow fish, blue fish, big fish, little fish! Jeanie & Joel loaned us an waterproof camera so we can share a few pictures.
We took advantage of our time in Mexico to sample lots of local food and restaurants as well. In addition to great margaritas and cervesas just about everywhere we went, three restaurants really stood out - the Captain's Cove, where an alligator named "Willy" cruises the side of the dining deck and gets fed by the waiters - rib bones, fish leftovers and more! Willy is about 7 feet long - and he eats really fast!!!
Another evening we went with Rick's brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Marlene, to Locanda Paolo, an Italian restaurant in downtown Cancun. We had everything from shrimp and conch to fresh clams and linguine, calamari and fresh Italian sausage. A great meal and great atmosphere - Paolo, the owner and chef was so nice and visited our table a couple of times to be sure we enjoyed our dinner. Perico's was the other great restaurant. It was a fun evening - one of those places with "participatory" entertainment - dancing and singing and balloon art! The appetizer was called Molecajete - beef tips in sauce and cheese served in a stone pot! It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious - esta rico! Then we shared an order of chicken fajitas - and brought home leftovers! Diane and Rick have more pictures to add to this group - I'll share them in the next few weeks. And again - a great big GRATIAS to Rick and Diane for inviting us to share the week with them.
It was a wonderful week and I know we both want to visit those warm Caribbean waters again some day! Feliz Navidad!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hola Amigos!

We've arrived in Cancun Saturday afternoon and were greeted by 80+ degrees. Since it
was about 15 degrees and snowing when we left MN we had a bit of adjusting to do - not to worry though! A couple of margharitas and nachos grande put us in a vacation frame of mind quickly!

On Sunday we took the ferry to Isla Mujeres, a small island just northwest of Cancun. There we rented a golf cart and toured the island! Golf carts share the road with cars and trucks and motorcycles. We spend a couple of hours in a Garrafon, a natural reef park on the very end of the island. The restaurant there was closed because they were hosting a wedding, so we saw the guests arriving and even saw the bride on the road after we left - she and her Mom and Dad were making their entrance in --- a golf cart!!! Yup. She was gorgeous and I'm guessing that it was a spectacular wedding. The park is the eastern most land of Mexico - the place where the sun first touches Mexico every morning! Wonderful views.

As we continued on our way, we stopped at a little bar that boasted "Beer so cold it'll make your teeth hurt". Well, none of us suffered, but the beer was very good. We sat at a table next to a sign telling us we were 89 miles from Cuba! Then we had nachos and margharitas at a little bar on the beach in the downtown area. Isla Mujares is a really great little spot - less busy and less fancy than Cancun.

Today we spent most of the day by the pool, everyone is now recovering from all the sun. Later we'll probably head out to a little bit of shopping and dinner on the marina. Our villa is wonderful! We have great views of the ocean from our bedroom windows and the deck. The ocean is that amazing turquoise color.
Tomorrow we are heading down to the Mayan ruins at Tulum and to a park name Xal-Ha (I think!). Just wanted to try to upload a few pictures and share some of this wonderful adventure with you. I'm not sure how many pictures I'll get uploaded right now, but it'll give you a taste and we'll share more when we get home.