Weekend

Cancun/Tulum Baecation Recap

Well, I finally made it to country #30.

Mexico!

What is better than reaching a travel milestone? Doing it alongside the love of your life (looking at you Mark). There was no possible way for this to be anymore perfect, except maybe if the water was bless, but I’ll get into that later.

We had booked the flight for Cancun earlier in the year and it was our first trip together outside of Canada/US area. Because I aim to be the MOST prepared person ever, I had gone ahead and booked all of our activities as well. On Friday we would zipline and ride ATVS, on Saturday we would go visit Chichen Itza + swim in a cenote and on the Sunday we would relax on a catamaran going to Isla Mujeres.

On top of booking all those activities I went ahead and found us a decently-priced airport transfer to take us from Cancun airport to our AirBnB in the hotel zone. I had read all these message boards about it being $60USD roundtrip and I refused to pay that! I luckily stumbled upon Canada Transfers which offered the same transfer (and I added an apple juice and a beer!) for $67.00CAD roundtrip. It worked out perfectly because their service was prompt getting to and from the airport.

When I booked all those activities for Cancun I also considered some of the items we may need for the excursions. Since we were only traveling with our carry-on luggage for the flight with Interjet, we needed to pack smartly. I had written a post about my packing for this specific trip and I will say, it worked out just fine. I fell within the weight limits and still had all the items needed for the trip. For the activities themselves I had purchased us:

  • Matching folding backpacks to use for our day trips. These were super lightweight and awesome for our carry-ons because they fold into a bag the size of your palm. You can get them here. I bought Mark a green one and I got myself a pink one.

  • To go with our backpacks I got Mark green water shoes and some pink ones for myself. Found here. I thought these might be necessary when we did the ATVing and jumping into caves and whatnot. Didn’t want to wreck my good shoes but still wanted my feet protected.

  • Made sure to get us two waterproof cases because there was no way I was missing out on some photo ops just because we happened to be a little wet. Found here.

  • Because I had contemplated taking my selfie/ussie skills to a next level I went ahead and purchased a bluetooth remote shutter (found here) and an amazing travel tripod that is able to stand, be used as a selfie stick and capable of being wrapped around things so you can take some different angled pictures. (found here)

  • Naturally, I also brought along my favourite portable charger because I never wanted to be without an opportunity to take pictures of Mark, food, beach or myself. (found here)

I bet you read that and are like, ‘wow that girl is well-prepared, this should be awesome!’ Or ‘who the hell thinks of this shit?

I do. I think of it. And guess what? Didn’t even end up needing to use most of it. Why? Because one week before our trip I saw a hotel on IG and we unanimously chose to cancel ALL the damn activities, get a refund, and stay at a hotel for one night in Tulum. We had already paid for three nights at our AirBnB in Cancun, but suddenly we were feeling adventurous I guess.

So let’s get to the trip now…..


Friday, August 31st - Arrival

We had an EARLY morning this day. Our flight was leaving at 7:30am, so we made sure to be at the airport for 5:30am. Breakfast at the airport was necessary. There really isn’t much to tell about the actual flight itself because it left on time, was fine in the air and landed on time. Nothing too wild happening.

Once we landed at 10:40am (Cancun time) we set out to find our prearranged shuttle to take us to the AirBnB. Although check-in wasn’t until 3:00pm usually, we had contacted our awesome host who said we could check in as soon as we got there. Joy.

As we exited the airport we were able to quickly find our driver, get our pre-ordered drinks and make our way down to the Hotel Zone.

The drive through the Hotel Zone is quite nice because on the left side of you there is a lagoon and on the right side is a LONNNNG strip of just resorts and beaches. I eventually found out that the length of this Hotel Zone was like 32KM? Wild.

Once we got to our AirBnB at the Solymar Condo’s we just followed our hosts instructions and made our way to our room where the cleaning lady (SHOUT OUT TO BERTA, YOU’RE AWESOME) was waiting and let us in.

I really liked our place because it was enough space for the two of us, had a nice bathroom, huge bed and a really nice view from the balcony of the pool and beach grounds.

Because I am a beach bum I got changed ASAP and went down to the beach with Mark. Sigh. This is where the sadness came for the duration of the trip - seaweed. The entire beach area was absolutely covered in seaweed that was at least up to my shins. We got ourselves some beach chairs to still relax, but I was incredibly saddened by not being able to go into the water. Mark did talk me into making a try ONCE to go into the water where the seaweed wasn’t as thick, but after five minutes we both left the water because it was just gross touching your body.

After some relaxation and alcohol, we went back inside to change and decided to go find a local variety store just to have some necessities in the condo. It was about a 10 minute walk to the nearest Oxxo and they had everything we needed there. We bought: bug spray, spray deodorant, chips, chocolate, massive bottle of water, a big Heneiken bottle and a 750ml bottle of Captain Morgan rum. This came to $25.00 Canadian equivalent. AWESOME. I was loving the prices of things here very much.

Upon returning to our room, it was time to get dressed up a little and head to our dinner reservations at Navios. This is another place I had just happened to see on Instagram and it was also listed in our hosts binder of good places to eat nearby.

Again, this was just a short 10 minute walk away and actually ended up being right next to the Oxxo we had visited earlier in the day. This restaurant was beautiful. It is right on the lagoon and the setting is so romantic. As it got darker they turned their lights and candles on, which added to the ambiance.

The food was good and the service was especially nice. We totally had lied and told them it was our anniversary on the reservation to ensure we’d get a good seat. It worked! We got great seats and they ended up giving us a slice of cake with ‘happy anniversary’ written next to it. Please don’t judge me for lying, I just wanted somewhere nice to sit. Was I going to take a free piece of cake though? Absolutely.

After the dinner we walked back and went to sleep because Friday was a very long day and Saturday was going to be the same.


Saturday, September 1st - Tulum Adventure

This day will be short and sweet in terms of what I will write in this particular blog post. Why? Because I already wrote THREE blog posts about what happened on this day.

Today we were going on our adventure to go spend a night at the hotel we cancelled all of our activities for. We had planned out how to get from Cancun to Tulum on their transit system and it worked out really well for us. If you are wondering how to get from Cancun to Playa de Carmen to Tulum, the post I wrote about that is here.

Just know, it was a good experience and along the way we got to eat some delicious breakfast by the Cancun bus station that had ‘Jamaica juice’ aka sorrel on the menu, we saw Playa de Carmen for all 15 seconds during transferring from one bus to another and I had my FIRST guacamole I didn’t hate in the downtown core of Tulum.

Arriving in Tulum was interesting because prior to going on this trip I had to repeatedly hear about the dangers in Cancun and Tulum. I don’t doubt that bad shit happens, but once you enter Tulum it’s really even more confusing. That city is literally hipsters walking everywhere. Hipsters and locals, that is it. There are countless places to buy souvenirs, to drink, book excursions and to eat. Tourists are riding around on bicycles in hoards and it is a pretty chill place. I didn’t feel any danger, personally.

After tasting the first guacamole that didn’t taste like feet and sadness, we took a taxi to our Instagram hotel and you can read ALL about our experience there in this post I wrote about it.

Most important thing to note was, cancelling all the activities to stay at this place was most 100% worth it. The end.


Sunday, April 2nd - Back to Cancun


On Sunday we left the hotel around 11:00am and headed back to Cancun. Refreshed and feeling really good we thought this might be a good night to go party.

When we got back to downtown Cancun we wanted to first get some food before making the trek throughout the Hotel Zone to get ready and hit a club. This was the plan, at least.

Again, for someone who is adamant on planning everything to the second, this trip sure as hell wasn’t going as planned. We randomly stumbled into the loudest restaurant we could find. They had statues of Spiderman and Homer outside, how could this place possibly NOT be awesome?

As we sat down, it quickly became clear to us that there was no other tourists at this restaurant/bar and also that our servers spoke absolutely no English. I live for this shit eh? Please put me in situations where I have to just figure shit out as I go along.

This place had some deal for like six Coronas for $6.00 and I should mention I don’t drink beer so that was all for Mark. We managed to order some nachos and fajitas, the beers for him and a double shot of dark rum and Coke for myself.

This is where things began to get VERY entertaining. My boyfriend Mark is a gorgeous Jamaican man with dreadlocks, just to offer this exact description of him. No boost. EVERYWHERE we went in both Cancun and Tulum, locals wanted to high five him and take pictures with him. At this bar it was happening constantly. At one point they even played reggae on the speakers for him.

During this time I realized we only had cards to pay with and this wasn’t one of those ‘electronic payment’ type establishments so I went searching for a bank machine. Let me tell you, being three double shots of rum in and the sun beaming down on me - I really went for an adventure for those 30 minutes. I left Mark at the bar to take care of our belongings (and so it didn’t look like we were trying to run out on our bill) and oh mannnn the intense search I ended up on.

Not a SINGLE one of the bank machines near the place had money in them. I even walked all the way back to Cancun central bus station, all three of their bank machines were empty. Then I proceeded to walk to exchange booths that also ended up not taking cards. Finally I found a random variety store that took credit cards and withdrew money.

Once I returned back to the bar, I found five men huddled around Mark plotting out how we were all going bar hopping later that night. Told you, dude just popular there.

We kept drinking and then I did some dancing. It was an awesome afternoon. We made plans with one of the locals to come back at 9:00pm to this exact place and continue the party. Cool. Said our goodbyes to all the friends we made at the bar and went to find our bus back to the AirBnB.

Full disclosure: I don’t remember much after this. I know we got on the bus and that Mark made some other friends on that bus. Next thing I know, I woke up at about midnight and wondering where the night had gone? I know we had left the bar at 6:00pmish …. how the hell was it midnight? Weren’t we supposed to be out? When did I manage to shower? So many questions.

Mark turned and said to me, ‘I tried to wake you up, but you weren’t even trying to hear all that’. Shit.

I went back to sleep and yeah, that was the end of the trip.


On the Monday we woke up and just hung out in the pool of the hotel and stood in awe of the gargantuan iguanas on the property. Our host had OK’d using the property until almost 2:00pm (check out was supposed to be at 11:00am) and we took full advantage.

Our shuttle service came and got us at 2:00pm and took us to the airport so we could catch our flight back home. Sadness.

This trip was really amazing. This was the first time in a long time I actually 1) relaxed on a trip and 2) didn’t do everything I had planned out. Strange phenomenon for me. I guess I have my boyfriend Mark and the rum to thank for that. Sometimes you can’t go 100% by your itinerary, I guess, maybe, sometimes.

Just know, #30 was super memorable for me.

- Mirna

 

 

 

Chicago Baecation Recap

I love Chicago. 

I love Chicago the way I love Nutella. I just really can't get enough of it and I like it in so many ways that it would take posts on posts to explain it properly. 

This past weekend was my fourth time going to Chicago. I went once with my best friend, another time to get my mind together after a breakup and a third time to go to the NFL Draft. This time I took my boyfriend on a little baecation for the weekend because I wanted him to have an awesome 30th birthday and also for him to see how incredible the windy city is. 


Friday, March 31st - Arrival

On Friday we went to Billy Bishop Airport and took a Porter Airlines flight to Midway. Flying from Billy Bishop is so much better than Pearson because as a downtown dweller it means less time spent traveling to the airport and more time enjoying the free snacks and water bottles at the airport (picture below). I also love flying with Porter! The people who work for them are always so nice and you get to drink and have snacks on the airplane at no additional cost. Also, their complimentary shuttle from downtown to the airport comes in handy. After much beer, wine and chips - we landed at Midway.

The subway system in Chicago may be a bit dated, however, I would choose their system over Toronto's ANY DAY. I love the 3-day unlimited rides pass for $20 and I also love that both of their airports are connected to the subway. No extra fees or needing to take a special subway or bus, you just hop on the subway lines and can make your way downtown so easily. 

As we boarded the subway to our destination, we were accompanied by some gentlemen we had met on the Porter flight who were heading to Chicago for a wedding. We mentioned that it was my boyfriends birthday, at which time they handed him a bottle of Crown Royal to start drinking on the subway. I will neither confirm nor deny if this happened, as that may be considered lewd behaviour - to some. Not me.

We arrived to our hotel for the weekend, the Millennium Knickerbocker. This is an old school looking hotel in downtown Chicago. I loved everything about it. I booked the king room which was a nice size for the two of us and came with complimentary Wi-Fi and a very nice bathroom. In their lobby they even had a jazz band playing by the bar on the Friday evening which gave us the real feel of the history in the hotel. 

After relaxing for a little while in our room it was time to take my boyfriend to eat the most important meal in Chicago - deep dish pizza. I love deep dish pizza. I LOVE IT MORE THAN THAT THIN CRUST THING THEY SERVE YOU IN NEW YORK. Yes, I said it. I prefer Chicago deep dish pizza to that thin stuff in New York. We went to the closest Giordano's we could find via Google maps. Upon arriving there was a bit of a wait, however, you can pre-order your pizza which takes 45 minutes to make anyways so it was at least being worked on while we waited for a table. 

I realize between Gino's East, Lou Malnati's and Giordano's everyone has their own favourite pizzerias in Chicago and you can stick to whichever one you like best. For proximity and the massive screens they had both NBA and NHL on, Giordano's was very good for us. This was the perfect meal to send us into a food coma and sleep to prepare for our busy Saturday.


Saturday, April 1st - Birthday

I thought I was going to sleep in on this weekend getaway, but as someone who has been waking up at 6am on weekends for the past three years - no chance. My boyfriend was still asleep and since it was officially his birthday I took a stroll to the hotels lobby to get some breakfast for us. Let me say this, holy shit breakfast at hotels is expensive. I know I should have just assumed that and maybe planned better, but I didn't want to be gone long so I could surprise him as he woke up. I purchased the two breakfasts and made my way back up to the room and surprised him. The food was OK, not the worst breakfast I've ever had nor the best. At least the miniature jars of jam that it came with were really cute.

After lounging around for a little bit more, we started our walk to Navy Pier. The scenic route along Chicago's Lake Shore Drive is always something to be delighted about, especially on a day where it was sunny and 15 degrees. My next birthday gift was a lunch boat cruise on the Spirit of Chicago. All I can say is WOW about the whole experience. The staff (shout out to our waitress Nicky) and the ambiance was incredible. The cruise came with a buffet lunch and a two hour ride on the water. I purchased some extras for our ride like the shrimp cocktail and also a window seat. Another thing we decided to purchase while on the boat was a 45-ounce rum punch drink. Yes, you read that right, 45 ounces. It didn't even matter than we had a massive buffet lunch, once that rum punch hit we were both wavy. 

There was a DJ on the boat playing some music and people did dance, we saw some get down real hard to the Cupid Shuffle. Many people aboard were either celebrating birthdays or anniversaries and ALSO drinking that 45-ounce rum punch -  very jubilant crowd. 

As we disembarked from the cruise we were also handed freshly baked cookies by the staff and I was able to take my 45-ounce glass with me home as a souvenir. Overjoyed, and birthday boy was having a great day.

The plan after the cruise was to go shopping, that definitely did not happen. Due to the large consumption of alcohol we fell asleep in our hotel room for almost four hours. Wasted the afternoon, literally. When we woke up and realized it was evening and that the NCAA Final Four games were on, we decided to just order some food and watch those. 

Now it was time to party. I had read about there being a reggae lounge called The Wild Hare with live bands and a Twitter follower of mine had sent me a flyer for a hip hop club named The Evil Olive that also had a dancehall/afrobeats/soca room in the back. At the reggae lounge the cover was $10 and the crowd was definitely there for the vibes and food, not so much dancing. We stayed there for about 30-45 minutes taking in the wonderful singing on stage but we decided that we wanted to go dance and not just observe that evening. At this point we left for the hip hop club. 

Cover for me was $10 but for my boyfriend it was $20, also, he had a light sweater that he had to put in 'mandatory coat check' - odd. I was a bouncer for five years and had never witnessed a mandatory coat check, especially of a light sweater. This place was booming. The front had a large dancefloor with an elevated area for the DJ and many strobe lights. I hoped to walk through and hear Faneto, that did not happen. We went to the tiny room in the back that was designated for dancehall instead. 

This room was so small and the people were not even dancing. I loathe that there are so many people (men and women) who spend all this money to go out and look nice but do not dance and just spend the whole night Snapchatting themselves pretending to have fun. It was a strange thing to see as my boyfriend and I came there for the sole purpose of dancing. The DJ was OK, his choice of dancehall songs to mix was very odd. I would say he was maybe a notch above the dancehall selections top 40 clubs in Toronto play. Eventually some people began dancing (3am) but by 4am we were ready to leave and go to sleep. 


Sunday, April 2nd - Departure

On our final day in Chicago, I took my boyfriend to my favourite brunch place there called Yolk. I had been there numerous times on my previous trips and their red velvet french toast stuffed with cream cheese was calling my name. The place was very busy and we were eventually seated. The french toast was delicious and so was the raspberry lemonade that felt like it was being served by the liter. 

Following this large brunch we walked over to Millennium Park to do some touristy Chicago things. The Bean, the stage, the walkway to the Art Institute of Chicago and the front entrance of it. I wanted my boyfriend to see all the wonderful architecture that Chicago has to offer that is not inundated solely by glass structures of condos on condos on condos. (Sorry, Toronto)

Sadly it was time to return to Midway for our flight back to Toronto. I love that our hotel had a bag hold for no extra charge so we didn't have to spend the day carrying our luggage around while sightseeing. After picking our bags up we hopped back on the Red Line and then the Orange Line to be on time for our 7:30 pm Porter flight. 


Overall, this was an awesome weekend getaway for both of us. He got to celebrate his birthday being inebriated on a boat and I got to eat more pizza. Most importantly, this was another person I had converted to loving Chicago. To understanding that there is more to Chicago than just media headlines. I hope to be back in July for my 5th time, so I can attend the Taste of Chicago!

- Mirna