Monthly Archives: March 2015

Siesta Key Reprised…Sort of… 

It began like most trips. I had an early morning flight out of Des Moines, Iowa, so I was up by 4 am and my husband dropped me off at the airport at 5:00. The plan was to meet my friend, Gail, at the airport in Tampa, pick up a rental car, drive an hour and a half to Siesta Key, and stay at the same condo we rented last year–a Siesta Key retreat reprised, so to speak. It turned out a little different from the plan, however.

My flight from Des Moines arrived in Tampa at noon. When I arrived, I found a text from Gail saying that her 11:30 am flight from Columbus, Ohio, was delayed. That was the beginning of a long day in the airport. You know how it goes. Or maybe you don’t. The airline can’t predict how long a delay will be. The staff tries to keep the passengers informed but it’s a guessing game for everyone. There was a mechanical problem with the plane which they thought they could fix but one delay led to another and another. Consequently, I spent the day waiting, calling, texting, and exploring TPA. It’s a nice airport with great amenities and now I know almost every inch of it.

Gail called the rental car company only to learn there was good news and bad news. The good news was they would hold the car until 1 am. The bad news was I couldn’t pick up the car even if we added me as a driver because Gail had rented the car in her name. We’d have to cancel the booking and rebook at a higher rate. So, I was stuck at the airport.

Finally, at 5 pm I decided it was time for a glass of wine at Wine Flight while I pondered my situation. I checked shuttle and taxi rates to Siesta Key and found it would cost me over $100 to get there. I checked with Uber and with a $20 coupon, the cost was about $80. At 5:30 Gail called to say she was scheduled to leave Columbus on the 8:30 pm flight which would arrive at TPA about 11. If anything delayed that flight, I’d be forced to stay in a hotel at the airport when we’d already paid close to $200 a night for the condo in Siesta Key. Decision made.

I contacted Uber. If you’re not familiar with Uber, keep reading. Uber is a phone app that launched in 2009 and is now available in 55 countries and 270 cities worldwide. In short, you “request, ride, and pay via your mobile phone.” (Uber.com) I downloaded the app, entered my credit card information, and requested a ride. Within 5 minutes I had a text that said my ride was 5 minutes away. I jumped up, paid my wine bill, and flew (no pun intended) through the airport having no idea where Uber would pick me up.

I’d read about the conflict between Uber and the taxi companies in Tampa so I should have expected trouble when the fellow at the taxi stand, seeing my distress, said, “Can I help you?” and I responded, “Probably not, I’m looking for my Uber ride.” Well, that elicited a stronger reaction than I expected when he started yelling that Uber better not show up there and they would pay a $10,000 fine if they did. I raced away from the taxis and went back inside to hide. There I texted back to Uber asking where they would pick me up. The response was, “Sorry we’re not sure what you want. Download the Uber app at uber.com/app. Std msg data rates may apply.”

I opened the app and saw a picture of Nader, my driver, his car information and phone number, and a map showing his location approaching the airport. Just then my phone rang and it was Nader asking where I was. I told him my location and within minutes, he arrived to pick me up. It was that easy…once I knew what I was doing.

Whew! After observing the obligatory social conventions with Nader, otherwise known as giving him the third degree about his background, family and job, I called my husband to report my whereabouts. When I told him I was riding to Siesta Key with Nader from Uber, he said, “Oh, the company I’ve read about having some problems with sexual assaults.” Great. That gave me confidence.

Obviously, I arrived alive and unharmed. After all, you’re reading the story. I had a positive first experience with Nader from Uber and I would recommend giving Uber a try. By the way, after your ride, you rate the Uber driver on the app and the driver rates you, the customer. Interesting. Although it actually wasn’t much cheaper than a taxi or a shuttle, with the coupon I saved some money.

Siesta Key Condominiums

Siesta Key Condominiums

I finally arrived at Siesta Key about 7:30 that evening, but Gail didn’t arrive until many hours later. But that’s another story.

Based on events from March, 2015

Categories: Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Oops. How Embarrassing.

It had to happen sooner or later. That’s the risk you take when publishing digitally rather than on paper. This morning I thought of an idea for a future post and jotted down some thoughts on my computer so I could work on it later. Imagine my progression from surprise to shock to horror when I realized I hit the “publish” button instead of the “save draft” button right next to it. Why are those buttons so close to each other anyway?

NOOOOOOOOOooooooo! Panic ensued. How do I recall/retract/delete a published post? Google that quickly with shaking fingers typing the search parameters. Go to the Dashboard, select the post, hit trash. Whew! It’s gone.

Not so fast. My posts automatically go to Facebook and Twitter. I pull up Facebook and see someone already liked it. Really? A stream of consciousness, an unfinished sentence? Ugh. How do I delete a post? Done. On to Twitter. Delete tweet. Done.

Email is next. Some readers subscribe by email so that when I publish they automatically get the post in their inbox. Google that. No way to recall that I can find. Not done.

Now what? Write an explanation and publish that. Am I making it better or worse? You decide.

Lesson learned.

Categories: Uncategorized | 11 Comments

The Best Thing I Ate in Puerto Aventuras

Our first night in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, we didn’t venture too far from our condo. The closest restaurant was Hoo Haa! which sounded like a Chinese restaurant to me but fortunately it was Mexican. We like Chinese cuisine but we didn’t plan to eat any in Mexico. The food at Hoo Haa! was fine but nothing special, although I’ve since seen rave reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook.  Following chips with pico de gallo and guacamole, Gail and I ordered the fish tacos and Jim had the specialty plate that looked quite impressive.

Chips, pico de gallo, guacamole

Fish Tacos at Hoo Haa

Jim’s Specialty Plate

The next evening we tried Hippos Marina Lounge. The Blues Brothers in front of the restaurant attracted us although honestly, what does that have to do with good food? Hippos Marina Lounge The food was well-presented but rather bland. Someone later told me when you order grilled fish in Puerto Aventuras you must tell them how to season it or it won’t be seasoned at all. I don’t know overall how accurate this is, but it was certainly true in this instance.

Grilled fish at Hippos

Grilled fish at Hippos

After asking around for restaurant recommendations, we found Latitude 20 uniformly received high marks so that was our next choice. There was good cause for the accolades.

Whole chicken at Latitude 20

Whole jerk chicken at Latitude 20

Fish at Latitude 20

Fresh grilled fish at Latitude 20

I had the fresh grilled fish with coconut curry sauce which was outstanding. The sauce definitely added plenty of flavor. All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our food and the entertainment at Latitude 20 and I hope the food is as good next year. The evening we were there, we met the new owner and I saw on Facebook that the chef, Danny, recently left as well. Next year, we’ll definitely go back to Latitude 20 and I’ll let you know whether it’s still our favorite.

We had a great meal at Cafe Ole on Sunday night when they serve all-you-can-eat ribs accompanied by beans and cole slaw. One serving was plenty for me but Jim had seconds and even thirds. The ribs were done to perfection and literally fell off the bones.

All You Can Eat Ribs at Cafe Ole

All You Can Eat Ribs at Cafe Ole

Each night we finished off the evening with home-made gelato and soon found our favorite was Jessie Gelato. I was led astray by Jim and Gail as I would never seek out dessert of my own volition. The generous servings were delicious and samples were freely provided to help us decide. Fortunately, the calories in the samples don’t count.

Jessie Gelato

Jessie Gelato

We’d read that the food in the village populated by the locals was cheap and tasty so we decided to take a walk over there and give it a try. Once there, however, common sense prevailed. I was worried about whether we’d end up with Montezuma’s revenge which Jim already had a touch of, so we opted for middle ground and visited Taco Paco located outside the village along the highway. Their excellent shrimp tacos are made fresh while you wait.

Taco Paco

Taco Paco

All in all, one of my favorite meals was actually in Tulum on the beach at Adelita’s. The chips, pico de gallo, guacamole, and fish tacos were only outdone by the tasty fresh kiwi and mango magaritas.

Adelita's at Tulum Beach

Adelita’s at Tulum Beach

I love Mexican food and with fresh ingredients, you really can’t go wrong. I tend to choose fresh local fish whenever possible since that’s not available much in North Iowa. We did try to purchase some fish from a fishing boat in the marina but we couldn’t agree on price. Next year I definitely want to try my hand at grilling local fish at the condo. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch on the balcony each day and with our view, you just can’t get any better than that.

Breakfast with a view

Breakfast on our condo balcony

Based on events from January, 2015.

Categories: Mexico, Travel | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

Walk on the Wild Side in Mexico

I was surprised by some of the wildlife I saw around Puerto Aventuras. I’ve been to the Yucatán Peninsula before and naturally I’ve seen plenty of geckos, iguanas and even a cucaracha or two. Incidentally, I’m a screamer. If I see a bug, especially one like a cockroach, I’m very likely to scream.  At home I have an exterminator once a month, not because we have bugs but because I don’t ever want to see a bug in my house.  On this trip, however, I saw some animals totally unfamiliar to me so I had to consult Michaelpedia. Michaelpedia is my son, Michael, who has been an expert on animals since he was a small child. When I saw a strange animal, I texted a picture to him and soon had reply with the name.

But first, let’s see the ordinary ones. Dolphin Discovery drew a lot of interest from children and adults who want to swim with the dolphins. I’m not a fan of keeping dolphins in captivity but I did take a photo.

Dolphin at Dolphin Discovery, Puerto Aventuras

Dolphin at Dolphin Discovery, Puerto Aventuras

As we explored the beach and area around our condo, we encountered iguanas languidly sunning themselves.

Iguana

Iguana

One morning, I was up early having my coffee alone on the balcony when I saw this pair on the lawn below me.

Agouti

At first, I thought they were rabbits but when they moved I knew they were something else. I sent the photo to Michaelpedia and learned that they were agoutis, rodents that are native to this area. To see them in action, watch the video.

Then on our visit to Tulum, we spied this creature which necessitated another text photo to Michaelpedia to determine that it was a coatimundi, from the raccoon family. You can see a second one just emerging from the jungle. The woman ill-advisedly luring them with food from the jungle didn’t warrant a picture, however. I hope she didn’t get bit but why do people do that stupid stuff?

Coatimundi

Coatimundi

I tried to get a photo of the gecko that Jim inadvertently brought in from the balcony after it dropped on his iPad but the fellow was too quick for me. I would also have loved to get pictures of the sea turtles at Akamal but the crowd of humans swarming in the water made the prospect of snorkeling in that area most unappealing. I’m just happy to have digitally captured some of the amazing wildlife we encountered while in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Categories: Mexico, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Contrasting Tulum and Akumal

A friend recently shared a blog post from a friend of hers entitled Celebrate the Contrast. It was an entertaining read and thought provoking as well. It was with that concept in mind that I approached this week’s post for my blog.  All beaches are not created equal but, that said, any beach is better than no beach in my opinion. So, it may be an easy first step in the exercise of “celebrating the contrast” to apply this concept to beaches.

There were two beaches close to Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, that we wanted to check out. The first was at Tulum. I’d been to Tulum before to see the Mayan ruins but didn’t set foot on the beach so this time we skipped the ruins entirely and went straight to the beach. Jim was suffering a bit of stomach upset so he stayed behind while Gail and I hopped on the colectivo (local bus) at Puerto Aventuras. For the 28 mile ride south, it cost us 35 pesos ($2.35) each. Then we walked about a mile from the highway to the beach, just following the foot traffic and found our way with no trouble.

Tulum National Park

Tulum National Park

We walked the beach and checked out a couple of restaurants. I’d read if you ate or drank something at a restaurant on the beach, you could use the lounge chairs and palapas all day long. A palapa is a Mayan structure with a thatched roof that really looks and acts like a sun umbrella. This restaurant, called Adelita, attracted us but when the fellow told us there was a minimum of 300 pesos to get a chair, we said we’d keep looking.

Tulum Beach

Tulum Beach

In the end, we returned to Adelita and ordered some lunch and margaritas which covered our minimum anyway. I had a mango margarita and Gail ordered the kiwi. (Watch for a future post of all the awesome food and drinks we enjoyed on the Riviera Maya.) The best part was that I would have this palapa all day to sit in the shade thus preventing a major sunburn from the intense Mexican sun.

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My Palapa at Adelita

The water was a beautiful turquoise, the perfect backdrop for beach photos. Disregard that guy in the water in this photo. He doesn’t belong to us.

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Beach at Tulum

Me and Gail

Selfie of me and Gail

One of the coolest things I had read about Mexico is that on Sundays the locals are admitted free of charge to area museums and attractions. I think Sunday is the day that families get out and do family “stuff.” We observed many Mexican families enjoying time together on the beach. Maybe they stopped here after a free visit to the ruins. I don’t know whether they owned these boats or whether the boats are considered fair game for seating space but several were occupied. I loved the local feel.

Mexican families at the beach

Mexican families at the beach

This is one of my favorite photos. I saw this little guy striding among the boats and had to capture him on film.

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Mexican boy

One more view of incredibly beautiful Tulum, a relaxing idyllic paradise on the Riviera Maya. Ahhhh.

Beach and the Caribbean from Tulum

Beach and the Caribbean from Tulum

Akumal was on our itinerary for the following day. It was only half as far as Tulum by colectivo but the cost was the same which was still a bargain. Akumal is the beach where tourists go to snorkel and view the sea turtles. Our first look at the beach was certainly the opposite of our experience on the previous day. It seemed that every inch of shade was already occupied.

Beach at Akumal

Beach at Akumal

We finally found a spot far down the beach under a spindly palm tree shared by a beautiful young couple with a selfie stick that they used to capture pictures of themselves on the beach and cavorting in the water. You can see a frond here under which I moved about every few minutes to try to stay in the shade. But the more interesting point of this photo is the swarm of people going out to snorkel to view the sea turtles. There must have been at least five or six such groups churning the water at any moment. I was glad I hadn’t planned to snorkel that day because it was a madhouse.

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Unfortunately, the constant cacophony of construction noise disturbed any thought of idyllic sunbathing. I would say that Akumal will become the next Playa del Carmen and we experienced it in the making.

IMG_0009 - Version 2 So, my celebrating the contrast caused me to appreciate our experience at Tulum with its low-key, relaxed, local vibe. I’m sure that young people who like to be where the action is would feel that they had scored big by being at Akumal instead. But, as I said, any beach is better than no beach at all. Yep, celebrate the contrast.

 

 

Based on events from January, 2015.

Categories: Mexico, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

#AmysGift

It’s been a tough week for bloggers in my world. We have a tight knit blogging group in North Iowa and on Wednesday, February 25, 2015, in the midst of a snow storm, one of our bloggers died in a terrible weather-related car accident after attending our monthly Social Media Breakfast.

Amy was a young, beautiful, talented woman who welcomed me into the world of blogging. I’m still pretty new to so many aspects of this world and she, in my opinion, was a genius with this stuff. I attended a previous meeting where she presented a number of apps and techniques that I was certain would improve my blog by leaps and bounds. I told her afterward that I needed to master those concepts but it was too much for me to comprehend the first time through. She breezily told me she’d share the powerpoint with me but of course, that didn’t happen before her tragic death.

Another time, at a birthday lunch for one of the bloggers, she shared with me that school had been difficult for her. I was surprised, to say the least, because this young lady was so knowledgeable and poised that I would have thought everything came easily to her. Her sharing that piece of personal information increased my admiration for her.

The visitation last night, March 1, was amazing. There must have been at least 800 people waiting two hours or more to offer their condolences to Amy’s family. What a tribute in this fast paced impatient world we currently inhabit. Today, the church was filled to capacity and the service was, without a doubt, the most moving I’ve witnessed. Amy’s cousin eulogized her with love, grace, and humor and the minister read a letter from Amy’s fiancee, Spenser, that expressed the depth of love every woman longs to hear from her beloved.

I was not a close friend and I haven’t known Amy for a long time but I am forever changed by knowing her and for that, I am grateful. That is Amy’s gift.

Amy

Amy

 

North Iowa Bloggers Selfie with Amy

North Iowa Bloggers Selfie with Amy

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 16 Comments

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