Puerto Vallarta: Secrets vs. Grand Fiesta

Once we decided that we would just go back to Puerto Vallarta instead of somewhere farther, I hit the ground running on our options. There was a checklist with our wants…All-inclusive, adults only, swim up bar with a swimmable beach. I went on all the travel sites comparing the only two resorts that checked off our lists and those two were Secrets Vallarta Bay and Grand Fiesta Americana. Since we had already been to Secrets, I really wanted to see a pros-cons list comparing the two, but never found one. So I am going to make one for future me and for anyone who wants a rundown on the differences between the two. Price wise they can be close to the same and other times it seems that Secrets is much pricier. I will say that both places had very low prices at one point but I hesitated to book, sigh…I wanted to wait until I knew that we were going to be vaccinated in time. Once I booked, the prices did climb a bit, what can you do? Better healthy than quarantined.

Secrets Vallarta Bay

PROS ( I have to preface this, we went during Covid and they weren’t at full capacity, things may not be the same anymore)

  • Free Covid testing upon departure. If you test positive they will PAY for you to quarantine and provide you with all your food and non-alcoholic beverages (you have to buy your own booze).
  • Close to town, walkable even.
  • Staff throughout the entire resort was exceptional. Bartenders especially!
  • No wristbands and no class/booking distinctions.
  • No problem getting chairs by the pool, again maybe because it wasn’t full capacity.
  • Drinks were good and what you wanted, no potential of being watered down.
  • Grounds were kept immaculate.
  • Plenty of pool games without silly “must-do’s” to win.
  • Clientele was more our age, maybe a little older and there was just a classy vibe, even when things were getting a bit crazy.
  • Had a more elegant and romantic vibe.
  • Horse back riding and tours available on the beach.
  • Beautiful rooms with large tubs and an ever bigger shower.

CONS

  • Beach not swimmable, rocky and strong undertow. The no swimming flag stayed up all week.
  • No nightly dancing or DJ/music by the pool (again maybe just because of Covid)
  • The resort grounds were split in half, one side was adults only and the other was for families aka kids. However the restaurants are spread out among the entire place. So some restaurants you might want to eat at will have children. On the plus side, the kids couldn’t come to the adults only side.
  • The food was just average.
  • Casino was closed (probably Covid)
  • Had a handful of suggestions of swinging and/or obnoxious advances.
  • A lot of vendors on the beach.

Grand Fiesta Americana

PROS

  • Views from anywhere were amazing.
  • Pool DJ daily.
  • Plenty of different restaurants and bars, no kids at all.
  • Food was pretty good.
  • Man made enclave in the ocean/bay. Perfect for floating and swimming. Free kayaks available.
  • Dance club/bar with DJ every night.
  • Free Covid Testing upon departure.

CONS

  • Rooms weren’t great. No bathtubs and the shower got the bathroom floor wet.
  • Outside room hallways weren’t cleaned very well, smelled like rotten food sometimes.
  • Color coded wrist bands were given out at check-in. We were told it was just to identify who bought what package through what company, ie. Costco, Expedia etc. But I don’t believe that was the truth. I think it has to do with how much you paid, or something along those lines.
  • Staff was good, but not exceptional and the service was not consistent.
  • Mojito and Martini bars weren’t open every night AND the bartender didn’t even know how to make a true mojito, so there’s that.
  • Pool chairs were taken super early in the morning. The sun didn’t hit the entire pool until 11:00am.
  • Alcohol seemed watered down and sometimes we didn’t get what we ordered.
  • More of a younger crowd that came with more of a “no f*cks given” vibe.
  • Farther from town, about 15 minutes in cab.
  • Drugs were offered, ha, maybe not a negative for some.
  • Pool games came with consequences ie. lap dances etc. No thank you.
  • Didn’t offer free quarantine if tested positive for Covid.

Now that I wrote it all out, it seems like there is a clear winner. We agreed that if we were to go back, we would go to Secrets. Secrets was just a bit more upscale, had a tad less of a party vibe, We brought up the Target vs. Walmart comparison while we were there, Secrets was Target and Grand Fiesta was Walmart.In the end, Secrets ended up having more of what we want in an all-inclusive resort.

Now the hard question…”are all-inclusive resorts worth it?” Who knows? I am an all-inclusive resort novice. I have been on my share of cruises and I have heard other peoples stories about how great these resorts are but I ask myself, is there something better for the same price?

The problem, if there was one, is that we live in an area that is home of the California burrito and the fish taco. We have Michelin star restaurants, craft cocktail bars, breweries and some amazing wine. So, when we go to these resorts are we actually downgrading from our norm? The answer is yes, sounds snobby perhaps but I don’t mean it to be. It’s just a realization that we have it good in San Diego and if we want the warm ocean water, amazing views AND great food and drink, it doesn’t come in an affordable all-inclusive package. But I am also not on board with paying a ridiculous amount of money for multiple meals daily and adult beverages hour by hour, day by day. So we get what we get.

I think if you are a simple person, and don’t spend much thought on food and are fine with domestic beers, then this is probably an amazing vacation. Me, I am a food snob and self appointed wine drinker, so I will go on these trips and appreciate the simple things on the vacation, sun, love and free flowing wine.

With that, a friend of ours that we actually met at Secrets PV, is a travel agent. He highly recommended the Hyatt Ziva in Puerto Vallarta if you aren’t as picky as we are.

In the end, no matter where you go and stay, it will be amazing.

Secrets Vallarta Bay

Grand Fiesta Americana

The Devil made me do it.

Isn’t it great when you stumble upon a great place by accident?

I knew nothing of this bar aside from some good reviews that I saw on Trip Advisor. I had some notes saved for days like these when we were going to be wandering around. It was an open air bar on the Malecón with around 12 bar stools, we soon found out that this was in fact a Sun Devil’s bar, yeah that college football team from Arizona. That took the illusiveness out of it but we stayed and we were happy with that choice. The owner of the bar graduated from ASU back in the day and then moved to PV and opened this place. It’s prime real estate so I imagine he is riding high on the hog. The bar menu was written on the walls in chalk, I ordered a passion fruit margarita, Shawna ordered a mango colada and we also threw in two flaming Dr. Peppers because somehow, she has managed to go through life without ever having one, truthfully she still hasn’t. Her amaretto never left the shot glass and she just chugged Modelo, ha!

Once we finished our drinks we decided that it was time to get some food. I don’t know why we chose the place we did but it was a good decision.

We sat to this view while chatting with an American man who just recently moved from Washington state to Puerto Vallarta with his wife. He went on about how good the food was and how great it was to live there. Then my molé enchiladas arrived and it went silent.

Happy and full we hopped back into a cab to our hotel and I bet you can guess what we did next.

That’s right, back to pool and this view.

Teleport me back!

Before dinner we popped into the Mojito bar where the service was slow, the drinks were worse but the spectacular view helped us swallow the poorly made drinks.

One drink at the Mojito bar and then we made our way to Gulietta, the Italian restaurant. The porcini risotto was the highlight, so good in fact, we would go back for more.

The next morning (day 3) we had coffee and breakfast delivered to the room and then….headed down to the pool. The fun pool, not the boring pool. The fun entertainment took place in the pool with the booze, the pool without the bar was for the boring people and the boring fun, well that’s what Emilio (see below) said daily .

We played Bingo and water volleyball and then we met new friends. Toby and Lord were from our neck of the woods aka California. We became fast friends and after dinner, which I am sure we had, we met them at their hotel room for some tequila. Sounds shady right? It wasn’t, they are really great people and they even convinced us to try this tequila that was….sippable. gasp! Still seems shady huh? Ha, we sipped and talked and talked and sipped and then went up to the sky bar. The people watching was on point, I am sure drinks were spilled but the laughing and dancing never stopped. I am sorry to say that we didn’t take a picture with them, but we will someday.

Wash, rinse and repeat. Same routine, different day. Day 4 and we had found our groove, we knew what activities we wanted to participate in and which ones we did not. For instance, I played Texas Hold Em’ and Lord was part of the Juego Loco.

I mean, what even was that? Ha, ha. After that brilliant and brave performance by Lord, we took a moment to salute the Mexican Air Force.

Mexican Air Force

We met another couple in the pool that day and they were self appointed avid Karaoke singers. They told us about a bar called Kooky’s in town that had Karaoke on Thursday’s and it just so happened to be….Thursday. We tossed the idea of leaving the resort around and decided to make a decision after dinner.

Dinner.

We ate well at the Japanese restaurant and committed to a night out, we called an Uber into town for some Karaoke.

We ordered some drinks, said hello to the ladies that invited us and took this all in.

AMAZING!

Fun times. It was a fun time to sit back and watch magic happen…. from a safe distance away.

Sadly, it happened. We woke up to our last full day of our trip. The people we had met and spent our days with were starting to disperse and new guests were arriving. We took advantage of one more day. We floated in the warm ocean water, enjoyed the slight chill of the pool and watched a pretty remarkable belly flop contest.

We had a really good lunch at the Cevicheria and an even better dessert.

The coconut ice cream was incredible.

We decided we needed to have the mushroom risotto one more time before we left, so off we went to the the Italian restaurant again. Finally, I ordered a really good drink.

The one and only, espresso martini.

We went up to the Sky bar thinking that since it was a Friday night and new people had rolled in that it would be a busy, great music situation. That was not the case. Turns out that most everyone went into town for their Friday night and we watched some musicians play instrumentals that lullabied us down to our room.

That’s it, that’s how it ends. We slept in, packed, ate one last meal, said our goodbyes and hit the road to the airport.

We had a great time. Cheers Puerto Vallarta, thanks for the fun!

Now…. Since we have been to both Secrets and Grand Fiesta, which resort would we revisit?

T.B.C.

Grand Fiesta, Fiesta Fiesta

Oops, we did it again (insert Britney voice). We went back to Puerto Vallarta and stayed at a different resort this time so that counts as trying something new, right? When striving to pick a warm destination for an affordable getaway we have a couple of things to consider. First, we don’t want to be away from the girls any longer than we have to. So, with that in mind, we don’t want to spend two days of the trip on trains, planes or in automobiles. Second, we want an all inclusive and preferably adults only because duh. Cabo didn’t have what we were looking for exactly so we were hemming and hawing between Cozumel and PV…. again. The travel to get to Cancun along with the travel to get from there to Cozumel sucked so much time that we committed ourselves to a different all-inclusive in Puerto Vallarta.

This was the view from our room at the Grand Fiesta Americana. It’s located south of the Malecón opposed to Secrets, (where we stayed last year). That resort was just near the heart of the town. We decided against any excursions this time, setting aside just one day to head into town to see whatever we missed the last time.

It’s such an easy flight down there and we were on the tarmac by 3:15. However, travel had seemed to return to normal and the line for customs was longer than the most popular ride at Disneyland, probably. Finally we were in a cab with a very watered down margarita by 4:45 and at the hotel just after 5:00. Everything else went smoothly and the weather was incredible so we set everything aside, put on our bathing suits and went straight to the pool.

One of the reasons we picked this place was because every room, restaurant and bar had this view. For dinner we ate at the Mexican restaurant. To start we had the guac and a squash blossom quesadilla, both delish. I also had the pollo en molé, Shawna ordered something that she liked but we don’t remember exactly what…chefs kiss!

The sky bar was a big deck with hot tubs, a dance floor, a bar and restrooms. This is where the nightly entertainment took place and the DJ set up after to close out the night. You guys, this was a people watching haven. Much different than the PV Secrets, also this crowd range was a tad younger. The other thing we realized while driving to our hotel was that it was Pride week in PV, how fun! We people watched, laughed and cringed until the early hours before falling into our bed.

The next morning we went downstairs to have breakfast, it looked like it was originally a buffet but now was an order and wait situation. Different lines for different stations. We had chilaquiles, mimosas and croissants. We weren’t terribly impressed, but it did it’s job of filling our bellies before our day of endless drinks at the pool bar. Then we found a spot at the pool, which we would learn, a task that needs to happen early in the morning if you want a good spot (aka next to the pool bar). I am pretty sure you can pay a staff member to save you a spot, just a tip, a good one in my opinion.

Once settled, we sat, sipped and sunned. Can we just note the water and sunscreen in the picture? Gotta hydrate and protect our skin from ALL the sun-kissing.

The entertainment staff was fantastic and they provided plenty of things to participate in or just watch from a safe distance away. I will divulge more into this in due time.

We spent the entire day in the pool, eventually the DJ packed up, the bar closed and that was our queue to get ready for dinner.

Dinner wasn’t great. We ate at the tapas bar and ordered generically which resulted in tough octopus and stale bread. We heard that some of the options were indeed delicious, but I can’t confirm that. Afterwards we sat in the lobby and listened to a hispanic Jake Gyllenhaal play the saxophone.

Tuesday was our in town day. We woke up, ate room service and then had the concierge call us a cab. It was a whopping seven dollars for our cab driver to take us to Playa de los muertos. Which is also known as gay beach, another fun fact.

Looking south from the pier.
Looking north from the Pier.

We knew if we just walked north along the water that we would eventually hit the Malecón and also where we had lunch on our last trip. (That post is here.)

I wanted to peek at the shops on the River Cuale but when we got there, it was a “Donde esta el baño” situation. So we sat in the closest air conditioned place we could find, ordered drinks and relaxed for a few. I had a Cadillac marg and she had a mango marg and let me tell you, those were the two best drinks we had since we left San Diego, sigh.

We shopped, walked and happened upon a place called the Devil’s bar. I remembered reading about this place in all of my pre trip browsing. So we popped in and order some drinks.

TO BE CONTINUED!

Welcome to the Jungle

Back when I was researching places in Puerto Vallarta to stay, I also was looking into horseback rides in the Sierra Madre mountains. My mom and I took a ride there while in port on a cruise years ago, it was a great time. I was in contact with Pam from rancho el charro for months, sporadically checking in on how things were going down there. She moved down there from Ventura 50 years ago and never left. She has a ranch with a couple of handlers at the very end of civilization at the bottom of the mountains. I booked a five hour ride up to a waterfall on the Wednesday of our trip.

My brother had planned to meet us down in PV, arriving Wednesday afternoon. My hope was that we would all arrive back at the hotel around the same time. Shawna and I had coffee sent up to the room and then called an Uber at 9 in the morning,  we were ready for our day. Pam was meeting us at a library in town, not far from the hotel zone to take us to the ranch. It took a good 25 minutes or so to get to the ranch, it’s literally out there. Pretty sure a lot of the little huts and stores didn’t have electricity or running water, very rural. We joked about why she has to pick her customers up, no one would ever find the place, there was also no cell service.

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Pam’s horses were healthy and happy. After we signed our life away, we hopped on (much harder as I age, sigh) and we were off. Tomás, our wonderful wrangler led us out of town and up to the top of the mountain to a waterfall. He had his machete out making way for us to trail blaze, he would often get off of his horse to pick up fresh mangos and he also had a little snack for us to enjoy at the waterfall. My horse Lobo was sweet. His canter was a little uncomfortable and he wasn’t as sure footed on the way down. I thought for sure one time we were both going down when he slipped. Shawna’s horse, Frijolito was a pig and wanted to eat everything in his sight, but he was also hell bent on making sure he was the leader. So I took up the caboose taking in all the sights and OMG all of the big flying insects.

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The ride was long and very serene. It was just us, the horses and the jungle. fun fact, this is wear they filmed Predator.

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My ass (not that one up there) was so sore, probably would have paid off to have taken a few short rides before jumping into a half day excursion. We were hot and sweaty and ready to get back to the hotel to jump into the pool. Pam was kind enough to take us all the way back there.

My brother and his friend were already there, sitting in the lobby bar watching a soccer match. We said our hellos, went to change and met at the pool. There we had meet and greets, played some pool games and all sorts of shots were being ordered from our favorite bartender Jaime. We had Blowjobs, Donkey Semen, Sex with the Bartender and a few others that I have never heard of in my life. People would come closer and whisper “what was that you just had? It looked so good”. It was fun to yell the name and watch them either cringe or laugh.

We closed out the day with nine of us having dinner at the Mexican restaurant. I don’t want to talk down on the food but living in San Diego, it’s hard to beat what we have here. We ate, drank and talked for a couple of hours before dancing to music in the lobby.

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If you are ever in Puerto Vallarta and looking for a horseback ride tour, I would recommend you check out Rancho el Charro. You really can’t ask for anything more if you want a real ride in the jungle. I will most definitely go back.

 

 

 

Car Tripping

Our motel in San Simeon was right off of highway 1 which was most important. Unfortunately we were met with loud upstairs neighbors. I am not sure if it was children, dogs or grown men but they weren’t sleeping when the rest of us were hoping to. When the noise finally calmed down we were able to get some sleep. The next morning we grabbed a to-go bag of breakfast items from the front desk and then we hit the black tar, not that kind, jeez.

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While this guy pondered his next to-go meal, we headed ten miles north to the vista point to see some elephant seals.

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We planned on being in the car for most of the day so we hoped for the best {open restrooms and photo ops} when we did pull off of the highway.

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We crossed the famous Big Little Lies bridge however the photo cred goes to my brother, I just stole it for the blog.

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Once we hit Carmel by the Sea, we parked for some browsing and wine tasting. We lucked out with Manzoni Cellars. Winery tasting rooms were told minutes before we arrived that they were closing all indoor operations again. This place had two tables outside, luckily. The wine was good and we left with a bottle of Syrah.

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Ready for lunch aka clam chowder, we continued north to Monterey.

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The place we really wanted to eat at had a long wait so we stumbled into the nearest place and ate a mediocre lunch. The weather wasn’t quite warm enough to stay and walk around outside so we decided to continue our drive up the coast heading for the Golden Gate Bridge.

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We left the cooler weather behind and drove into Sonoma. I called a local pizza place at the square and we picked up our dinner before hitting the hotel. It was a long day in the car so we were ready for a good nights sleep, we had wine tasting to do the next day.

Cancun {Part 3}

This was our first Christmas away from our kids which is in part why we decided to get away. I couldn’t imagine just sitting in our living room without them. We woke up a tad gamey on Christmas morning, luckily we had a special in room mimosa breakfast ordered for 8:30. Then we planned our attack to hit up Isla Mujeres. We went back and forth with just hopping on a Catamaran right outside our hotel to cut out the trip off of  the resort grounds and down into town to catch the Ferry. Buuuut, we weren’t keen on being on someone else’s schedule and having them choose where we were going to have lunch. In the end we decided to just do it ourselves. We hopped in a cab and jumped on the ferry.

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Once we were off the ferry they had people renting golf carts. We quickly grabbed one and within minutes we were in ours heading south down the island. Only 7 km long, its an easy trip around the island. Our friend at the resort told us to go to The Joint, a bar that someone he knows, knows someone else that might work there. Or so that is how the story went. About ten minutes into our cruise we unexpectedly and surprisingly ran straight into….

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That was some luck. We parked and went up to this outdoor bar. There were a couple guys playing some Sublime and a local bar dog. Shawna ordered a mango margarita and I ordered the best espresso martini of the entire trip, you guys it was so good. So good in fact that I ordered another to go. It’s legal there, well I assume it was since the bartender put it in a to-go cup for me.

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Not a terrible view to sit with a bevi.

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Once back in our cart we continued around the island. It’s just beautiful.

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We stopped every so often to walk down the the water and then I was able to get some cell service so we stopped at a cemetery and I called my girls to wish them a merry Christmas.

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Once we made it around the island we parked near Playa Norte. This is where there were restaurants and the beaches had chairs to rent. We had a pretty good lunch on the beach and I was very confident that it was el fin of tequila for me on this trip.

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After lunch we walked up the beach until we reached some open beach chairs. We plopped down, set our alarm and here is the best part. Fell asleep.

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We woke to the alarm and headed back to the mainland with plans of playing pool volleyball. But once we were back we ended up skipping it and just sat in the jacuzzi chatting with people.

For dinner we got all fancied up and went for one last Italian meal. Their garlic cream soup was so incredible you could bathe in it. I will see if I can recreate now that we are home. They had a Christmas show that night, once that was over I was beat.

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We woke up on our last day to rain. Once we were all packed we went down to the cafe for breakfast. Our flight wasn’t until later that day so were able to spend a little more time with friends at the pool until it was time to say our goodbyes. The trip home was a piece of cake and we were back in our own bed by midnight. It was a really good trip, just long enough. If we decided to do another all inclusive I would focus more on going where the food and wine is a bit better. But It’s going to be hard to go back to a hotel that isn’t all inclusive, that is definitely the way to go.

Cancun {Part Two}

A couples massage was booked for the next morning and it was the best way to start the day. After the massage we had access to the hydro-pool and hot tubs. Since it was still raining on and off we chose the warm option.

 

After drying off in the sauna we made our way to get breakfast before the storm.

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This was the worst day in the way of rain. It would dump bucket loads and then stop and continue throughout the day. We took this opportunity to join in the sushi making class.

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The entertainment staff was in charge of all things fun. Classes, pool games, volleyball…you get the point. They were the best out of all the staff at the resort. This is what happens if you give them your phone.

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Alejandra and Dylan made our stay just that much better.

If you can believe it, this was my first time making sushi. I didn’t do to bad but I think I’ll stick to ordering it.

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Most of our time was spent in the pool, drinking, and playing. Some days we played water volleyball, some days we played music trivia and some days we just floated around. Sometimes there were even boats of fresh skewered fruit floating around as well. We also met a lot of nice people that became instant friends. I wish I had more pictures but our phones were always under a towel somewhere.

Then the weather took a turn, the humidity dropped and the sun came back out. It was just perfect.

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Another afternoon we took a cigar making class. To sum it up, I learned WAY more than I ever needed to know about cigars. After the class a few of us shared a cigar and then decided the pool was more important.

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Each night we went to dinner and the evening show. We ate at the French restaurant and the Italian restaurant twice. We had amazing dishes like duck confit,  rack of lamb and and a garlic cream soup. We also had some very underwhelming dishes like the escargot and basically every dessert item on any menu.
Next door was a sister resort that we had full access to but it wasn’t adults only.  Several people mentioned to us that we should head there for their Brazilian steakhouse, so we took an evening to try it out.  To sum it up, it was a waste of a dinner. Harsh? Maybe. The salad bar was a sad excuse, some of the meats were okay but most weren’t very good. The one thing that stuck out the most were all.the.kids. It’s funny we hadn’t been around any children for a handful of days and it was like a heightened sense of chaos at that restaurant. The next day we were talking to another couple and told them about our dinner and the first thing out of the women’s mouth was “aren’t kids there?” Ha, what were we thinking?

The shows were also not great, probably just local talent that they can find. If you are used to Vegas shows or cruise ship entertainment, you need to take these with a large grain of salt. The guest singing talent show however was the best. One of our friends went up and sang a Bon Jovi song. He started out a show that turned out to be a lot of fun.

We all ended up in the club and danced the night away.

To be continued.

Cancun {part one}

A couple of weeks back we left San Diego before the sun was even awake, viva Mexico. We headed to Cancun for an adult only Mexican holiday. It was a long day of travel but we had the best seat companion, Lily the dog.

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By the time we got our luggage, hopped into our ride and barreled through the traffic it was late into the evening. We chose to stay at Secrets Playa Mujeres, an adult only all-inclusive resort. North of the hotel zone where it’s more quiet. We were greeted with Champagne and shown to our room.

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Our room was nice, we had a soaking tub in the bathroom and the patio, a rain shower with all the amenities one would need. After we dropped off our stuff, we headed down to the first restaurant we saw for dinner. Sadly, we were not impressed with our dishes and had our fingers crossed that this wasn’t setting the bar for the rest of our meals. After dinner we went back to the room to unpack and shower. We decided dessert was a necessity. We put on pj’s, ordered room service and ate in bed while binging the Investigation Discovery channel. Pretty sure that channel stayed put all week, those stories are horrifying.

The next morning we ordered breakfast and ate it on our patio amongst the breathtaking views. We sat and wished the clouds away.

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The weather didn’t heed our wishes and the rain came on and off and ON for the next couple of days. Not that that hinders anyone, everyone was still doing their thing while we sat out in one of the many jacuzzi’s. When it did stop, we moseyed down to the beach to drink in the beautiful grounds.

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This was our first all inclusive experience. Since cash wasn’t needed (aside from tips for the staff) I was sort of hoping that they would have a set up like Great Wolf Lodge. A bracelet that has your room key and a credit card that you wear the entire time. Leaving you not having to worry about a lone room key. When I asked the concierge if I needed to carry the key everywhere, she replied, “you do if you want to get into your room.” Side eye. So no matter what, we were stuck with a key to carry around all day and night.

There were around 7 restaurants on the grounds. steakhouse, seafood, Asian, French, Italian a buffet/cafe, an upscale Mexican and coffeehouse. Plus 24 hour room service. The food was hit or miss. Some things were incredible and some were incredibly bad. Case in point…This shrimp dish was delish.

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This potato soup served during the same meal, was absolutely not delish. It tasted like raw potato water.

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Each night we ended up at the dance club which is a really strong word for what it actually was. Some nights were busy but most were quiet. They did have a couple of pool tables but the sticks weren’t taken care of so after the second day we gave up.

We had a really good meal at the seafood restaurant the following day. We ordered the whole fried fish, the octopus, the chocolate crepe cake and the apple crumble. I was excited to have all this with a cold Chardonnay but the wine was very underwhelming. They poured a basic brand from Chilé and honestly none of the varietals were good. But I guess that’s what happens when we are so spoiled with wine where we live.

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We ended the day on the patio in the tub with wine. We learned that if you want to order a bottle of something through room service they will charge you, but if you just order 4 glasses of wine, it’s included. Brilliant.

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To be continued.

Weekend at the Lake

We decided to spend Memorial weekend up at Lake Arrowhead. It has been over a year since we were last up there and now that Averi is a bit older and a tad easier, we thought….why not?

We rented the same VRBO that suited our needs perfectly last time. Plenty of rooms, a fire place and a nice deck with a hot tub.

Once we hit our first destination on the mountain, Lou Eddies Pizza, Kaili hopped out of the truck and threw up. We high fived her for making it to the top and saving us a huge mess to clean up.

After a few sips of 7-up, she was ready for pizza.

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Full on delicious pizza, we checked into our rental, unloaded ALL of our stuff (crazy the amount of stuff we need for just a few days) and hit the store.

Then it was time to play.

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We wandered around the Village and stopped at a new Tap Room for a couple of coconut margs and snacks for the girls.

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It was absolutely beautiful up there.

Dinner was enjoyed on our patio. Grilled rib-eyes and wine, while the girls splashed in the hot tub.

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After bath and pajamas, we indulged in S’mores while the sun went down.

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The next morning we woke up and headed out for a hike to “Heart Rock”.  We had zero phone service by the time we got to where we thought the beginning of the trail was but it turned out we were in the wrong spot. Luckily other people were in the same predicament and working together, finally managed to find where we needed to be. Unfortunately, Averi decided she was done with nature and her mood went to shit.

There were loads of Ladybugs all over the place, to the point where it was actually making my skin crawl.

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About a 1/4 mile up the trail Averi had given up and I had to carry her. I wanted to throw in the towel and just let Shane and Kaili finish it,  but Shane talked me into continuing. We took turns carrying the little terrorist to the end. We didn’t really get to explore the waterfall or the heart shape rock since the girls were well, you know.

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Kaili did a great job and had a lot of fun, that is until I told her I wanted to take her picture. Tell me how you really feel Kaili.

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Shane carried Averi all the way back to the paved road where she managed to use her two feet to make it to the truck.

We were all famished and ready for lunch so we stopped at a highly recommended Mexican spot that sits cliffside the mountain. The food was really good as were the views.

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After lunch, Averi’s mood lifted so we headed down to the village for some play time.

The girls finally got to go on a few the rides, something we have been hearing about nonstop since we arrived.

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The pirate ship was the clear favorite.

Then it was our turn, we sat outside and had margaritas while the girls had ice cream.

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We wandered up to the grocery store for some goodies to build a charcuterie board for dinner.

Once the girls were down for the night, we sat outside enjoying our meal when a visitor let himself into our yard.

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We tried calling the number on his tag but no one answered. Shane said he remembered seeing this dog the last time we were here so while he walked down to that house, Zuess and I enjoyed some cured meats. Then he was happily reunited with his owners.

Sunday morning after some espresso’s made with my new Staresso, which I LOVE, we went back down to the lake for lunch.

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We shared some appetizers and a few cocktails, which were all really good.

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A neighbor of the house we were staying at invited us to a block party later that afternoon. It was an interesting group of people and after an hour or so of chatting, we had had enough and decided to head back to the house to try and eat up some leftovers.

Before heading home Monday morning, we took once last glimpse of the lake. We left beautiful weather and headed back into town welcomed by a grey sky and cooler weather.

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It’s always a good time up there and I am ooking forward to enjoying a Christmas in Lake Arrowhead some time in the future.

Little Getaways

Kaili had this week off of school for Spring break and instead of us sitting around the house we joined Shane for a week in Oxnard, Ca.

We left Sunday early in the day and made a pit stop in Irvine for a visit with family before making our way up to Malibu. The drive along the coast up there is just breathtaking. We stopped at Paradise Cove for lunch. With tables in the sand and amazing views, you really do feel like you’ve reached Paradise.

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We easily devoured a bottle of Cakebread 2012 Merlot for a very reasonable price considering where we were. It’s hard to beat sitting on the beach with a good drink while the kids are entertaining themselves in mother natures playground. The food was underwhelming, which seems to be a reoccurring theme for us lately but the atmosphere made up for it.

dThe last leg of the drive was an easy one and we got to the hotel by check in time. Our room that was supposed to be ready, wasn’t, and being a Hilton Honors member we got upgraded to an ocean view suite. Still full from lunch we decided to skip dinner and just go with happy hour beverages. We watched the sun set on the balcony before tucking in for the night.

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Shane still had to work so the girls and I were on our own for most of the days.  We played at the beach in the mornings and then spent the afternoons at the pool.

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One day I brought my book down thinking I might be able to read a chapter and then I laughed and laughed and laughed at myself.

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We would meet Shane at happy hour in the evenings and then head into town for dinner. We had some very good steamed mussels at la Petit Cafe in the harbor, after we managed to make it back to the hotel bar to catch most of the USMNT soccer match. The girls ate ice cream on the floor, we had some wine, it was perfect.

We also found a good Mexican spot in Oxnard called Cabo Seafood grill and Cantina and everyone was happy with their meal, a rarity these days.

Thursday morning we took one last dip in the hot tub before packing up for the drive home.

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The hotel service wasn’t as good as it should be for a pricey resort but overall the stay was very nice. One of my favorite things is being able to hear the waves crashing from the couch as the ocean breeze blows through the room.

Kaili was complaining of an earache on the drive home and Averi was super tired and cranky. Turns out K had swimmers ear but luckily we caught it fast and she’s good as new now.

Little getaways like these are just what the doctor ordered.