I stand with UKRAINE.
Long live the land of tequila, tacos and sombreros!
Mexico will always have a special place in my heart because of my grandparents. They had two trailer homes. One in Wisconsin and one in Texas and they would spend the summers in Wisconsin and the winters in Texas. Not a bad idea I always thought. Their home in Texas was in Brownsville, which is smack dab on the Mexico – US border. Many times we visited them we would go to Mexico. We would park and walk over a bridge to Matamoros, Mexico, the bridge was of course over the Rio Grande which separates the countries. There were always adorable, laughing and VERY tan children below on the bank yelling at us to throw money. I believe sometimes my grandpa would give me some coins to throw down to them. My grandpa knew where to go and we’d usually stop for lunch at one of his favorite haunts, where huevos rancheros, enchiladas and tacos were always part of our orders. And this was TRUE mexican food. No Taco Bell here, no siree. Much better than Chi-Chi’s, Taco Bueno, “insert mexican restaurant here”. I do miss my BoBo’s Cantina though – do you hear me Stillwater folks?! And then we’d wander around the marketplace. I bought too many maracas to count but my parents scored a fancy marble chessboard with marble chess pieces that has been well loved.
So I was really looking forward to the beautiful and sweet Amy marrying the talented chef Kary in ….. MEXICO! Flying into Cancun from Miami was a breeze (no pun intended). I ordered a Dos Equis from the steward and settled in my window seat glued to the scene below.
I booked Cancun Cheap Transfers to pick me up from the airport to take me to the hotel. They had already sent me a message they would be waiting for me by the Margaritaville stand just exiting the airport. And they were! I booked a private van so there were no other stops to get to the hotel as quickly as possible. It was $55 for a one-way private trip. And they were great! I used them on the way back too and the driver even carried my bags into the airport and helped me check in. I can highly recommend!
Hotel Occidental Xcaret Riviera Maya was where we all stayed. Upon arrival I was offered an ice cold beer while waiting to check in. It’s a very big resort and after check in someone walked me to my room where I had chocolate covered strawberries and a stocked mini bar waiting for me. The luggage guy arrived quickly so I could get settled in. I gulped down all of those strawberries in a matter of minutes and popped open a cold beer while unpacking and sending “where are you” messages to all my friends that were already there. One thing, you must pay for Wi-Fi. The price was about $45 for four days if I remember correctly, it is not included with the room.
Soon I met the fabulous Bess in the lobby and we grabbed a margarita before finding the others. The resort is all-inclusive so grabbing a drink or two or three is easy and you don’t need to worry about keeping track of how much you’ve spent! Or even how much you drink! 😉 We met most of the gang at the seafood restaurant – there are eleven restaurants to choose from and I enjoyed the Paco’s Tacos the best (pizza AND tacos), because you really can’t go wrong with either of those. But there is also a huge buffet restaurant with so many options of salads, fruit, breads, pasta, main courses, desserts …. more more more. And there you can wear what you want because some restaurants have a dress code. And breakfast every morning for me was the buffet by the lagoon. My morning view was this. Gorgeous, right?!
There are so many different and fun things to do at the resort and around the resort. At the resort itself are many swimming pools, a beach lagoon, a private adults only area with ocean access, many ruins around the grounds that you can even go into and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to mention this but ANIMALS!!!! Iguanas are EVERYWHERE but there are monkeys (!!!!) which most people saw every morning on their balconies but my area didn’t have monkeys – because I was told there are snakes (!) there and monkeys don’t like snakes (well, me neither). I also saw this weird small pig animal, a deer(!), a huge ass scorpion, birds and of course fish fish fish. I apologize for all the exclamation marks but animals y’all!
And part of the resort is their Eco-archeological Xcaret Park. I didn’t do this because it was a bit expensive but everyone who had kids did go and enjoyed it. There is a lazy river (which I heard is not that lazy), swim with the dolphins, cultural attractions and more. Besides the park, people went to Cozumel, went snorkeling with whale sharks (they are huge!) and a day trip to visit Tulum. Of course, you can always just be really lazy and relax with a rum runner on the beach.
Then it was wedding day!!! Yippee!!! It was pretty chill to start with and we hung out around the lagoon. Some of us got up early to save the big beach lounge beds and some lounge chairs down by the water. We soaked up the sun and worked on the song list and had a Rum Runner or two and then it was time for the nuptials. It was perfect, between the ocean and one of the bigger ruins on the grounds. The ceremony was simple and beautiful – that must make it simply beautiful. Then off for an hour reception to have a snack, a cocktail, take some photos, sign the wedding book and watch the bride seriously think about shoving a handful of cake in her husband’s mouth. A very lovely evening with many people I have known for most of my life and getting to see and meet their children. A time never to be forgotten with many lovely and funny memories made. Let the tears commence!
There was even a full moon that night.
Congratulations you love birds! So happy for you. xxoo -k
My parents moved to Phoenix, AZ a few years ago in their perfect retirement community. And every time I’m there I find so many fun and cool things to do, which I’d love to share with you!
Sharing is caring, y’all.
- Take A Hike! Get your butt outdoors and breathe in the fresh air. Plus some exercise always does a body good. There are many great hiking trails but Camelback Mountain is the closest to my parent’s house so that’s the one I hike. Two main trails lead to the summit of Camelback, a camel-shaped mountain just 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix. Both are rated extremely difficult. The Echo Canyon hike is the more rugged of the two and requires steep climbs and scrambling over large rocks. The Cholla Trail, while a little bit less strenuous, is also a little bit longer. The beginning of the hike is easy, with switchbacks and even terrain. The last third of the trail requires scrambling up steep grades with drop-offs on each side. Both hikes are a little under 2.5 miles long. Plan on taking two to three hours, depending on your condition, to make either of the round-trip hikes. Please don’t forget to bring lots of water to stay hydrated!
- Go See A Show! It doesn’t matter if it’s theatre or ballet or opera or a concert. Whichever is your jam go do it. There are just so many opportunities in Phoenix to find something that you would love. I recently saw Wicked at the ASU Gammage theatre. Great show! Great theatre. In August, The Book Of Mormon (SO GOOD) will be performing there.
- Visit A Museum! I love the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix. It’s one of the best places to experience the myriad cultures and art of American Indians of the Southwest. Since its founding in 1929, the Heard Museum has grown in size and stature to become recognized internationally for the quality of its collections, world-class exhibitions, educational programming and its unmatched festivals. Dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art, the Heard successfully presents the stories of American Indian people from a first-person perspective, as well as exhibitions that showcase the beauty and vitality of traditional and contemporary art.
- Eat At A New Restaurant! Before seeing Wicked at the ASU Gammage we went to have an early dinner at Durant’s Steakhouse. We got there five minutes before actual opening hours, walked through the back entrance (through the kitchen – do it, be a regular), ordered martinis (extra dirty for me) and a brandy old fashioned for mom before we were seated. And speaking of seating, we slid into our red leather booth surrounded by red velvety wallpaper before having an excellent meal. Don’t get me wrong, Durant’s is not somewhere to get a quick, cheap eat. But if you want a culinary and cool experience go check it out. Quick fun fact – John Wayne, Clark Gable and Joe DiMaggio all frequented Durant’s.
- Check out something just outside of Phoenix! Last time my mom and I went to see Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright‘s winter home and school. Ever since I was young I loved architecture and touring mansions – the Marland mansion in Ponca City, OK and don’t think I went completely insane in Newport, RI – The Breakers!!! Marble House. WOW, just wow. So definitely check out Taliesin West. But THIS TIME we went on a boat ride on Saguro Lake with my aunt and uncle who were visiting. Saguro Lake is about 45 minutes Northeast of Phoenix. The 1,200-acre lake is 10 miles long and reaches depths of more than 110 feet at its deepest point. Its 22 miles of shoreline include rocky crags, canyon walls, marshland, and desert shrubland. The area also offers a variety of recreational activities (kayaking, hiking, fishing, sailing) including a scenic and educational riverboat cruise. We took a ride on the Desert Belle riverboat, a 90-minute narrated cruise on the lake. Let me clarify, the Captain didn’t speak the entire boat ride, there were lots of groovy tunes and time to breath in the nature. Besides hundreds, if not thousands of Saguro cacti we saw a bald eagle and a bighorn sheep!!! I was super stoked about the sheep. I highly suggest to bring your binoculars.
Have a ton of fun on all your adventures. And I’d love to hear what you love to do in and around Phoenix. 🙂
The cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Have you been? They are breathtaking! So beautiful. We had just finished exploring the Ring of Kerry the day before and headed northwest to check them out the day before we had to head back home. Film buffs will recognize them as the cliffs of insanity from the movie The Princess Bride. (LOVE that movie. so good)
The cliffs are one of Ireland’s most famous tourist destinations receiving over one million tourists every year. They’re in Clare county and located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region. The cliffs consist of mainly Namurian shale and sandstone and it’s possible to see 300-million-year-old river channels cutting through at the base of the cliffs. 300 million years old? Wow.
I was really REALLY wanting to see a puffin. I think they are one of the cutest birds ever. Sadly, we didn’t see any (insert sad face) but maybe you’ll be luckier. If so, please send a picture.
You are free to walk along the cliffs. There aren’t any guard rails so if you have young children please make sure to watch them. I was astonished at so many people sitting on the edge with their feet dangling! It made my stomach drop a bit. Cuz you know, one slip and well, I’d think you’re a goner.
The day was a bit hazy when we were there. But still gorgeous.
O’Brien’s Tower is located at the highest point of the cliffs. It was built in 1835 by Sir Cornellius O’Brien as an observation tower for Victorian tourists but is also rumored to have been built for a woman he was courting. On a clear day the view can extend as far as Loop Head at the southern tip of Clare and beyond to the mountains of Kerry. Looking north from O’Brien’s Tower on clear days, the Twelve Bens in Connemara, beyond Galway Bay can be seen, and typically the Aran Islands to the west.
The cliffs are a must see when in Ireland. Don’t forget to add them to your sightseeing list. I’m off to watch The Princess Bride again.
S W A N L I F E @royal palace de l’almudaina||palma de mallorca
B I R D L I F E @sarapitabeachmallorca
What might that mean? HoooooPooooeee!?!? Just my exaggerated version of this darling bird that keeps showing up in my backyard. I thought it was a woodpecker (chalk it up to my lack of bird knowledge). And every time the bird showed up I yelled to my boyfriend, “Woody the woodpecker is back!” And we would watch it hop around with its colorful peak of hair on it’s head and its lovely black and white feathers. Finally, I decided I should educate myself to actually find out what kind of woodpecker this is that loves my backyard …. and is not afraid of my cats.
Low and behold, this is not a woodpecker but a hoopoe! Hoopoe = Wiedehopf in German. Good to know, right? You pronounce it as hu:pu. The name imitates the cry of the bird, listen – huuupuuuu. Awwwwww. So sweet. It is a fun bird notable for its distinctive “crown” of feathers and it is the national bird of Israel. I know you have been dying for a pic. Thanks to Wikipedia here is a good one:
Isn’t it ADORABLE!?!? The hoopoe is a medium sized bird, 25–32 cm (9.8–12.6 in) long, with a 44–48 cm (17–19 in) wingspan. The call is typically a trisyllabic oop-oop-oop, which gives rise to its English and scientific names, although two and four syllables are also common. Other calls include rasping croaks, when alarmed, and hisses. Females produce a wheezy note during courtship feeding by the male. Both genders, when disturbed, call a rough charrrrrr. The food begging call of the nestlings is similar to that of a tiiii. I love birds. Don’t you? And a picture of this darling in my backyard:
My own personal hoopoe! The hoopoe is widespread in Europe, Asia, and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. The diet of the hoopoe is mostly composed of insects, although small reptiles, frogs and plant matter such as seeds and berries are sometimes taken as well. Awww, maybe it likes the little geckos that are around my house. It is a solitary forager which typically feeds on the ground. More rarely they will feed in the air, where their strong and rounded wings make them fast, in pursuit of numerous swarming insects.
Hoopoes are monogamous, although the pair bond apparently only lasts for a single season, and territorial. The male calls frequently to advertise his ownership of the territory. Chases and fights between rival males (and sometimes females) are common and can be brutal. Birds will try to stab rivals with their bills, and individuals are occasionally blinded in fights. Sounds vicious! And not sure how only a season is monogamous … haha but to each their own.
So there you have it! A bit of a hoopoe lesson. Let me know if you see one! Huuupuuuu
Der Klapperstorch or the White Stork to us English speaking folks. It is called der Klapperstorch in German because of the sound it makes with its beak. The adult White Stork’s main sound is noisy bill-clattering, which has been likened to distant machine gun fire. The bird makes these sounds by rapidly opening and closing its beak so that a knocking sound is made each time its beak closes. The clattering is amplified by its throat pouch. Used in a variety of social interactions, bill-clattering generally grows louder the longer it lasts, and takes on distinctive rhythms depending on the situation—for example, slower during copulation and briefer when given as an alarm call. Like the adults, young also clatter their beaks.The up-down display is used for a number of interactions with other members of the species. Here a stork quickly throws its head backwards so that its crown rests on its back before slowly bringing its head and neck forwards again, and this is repeated several times. The display is used as a greeting between birds, post coitus, and also as a threat display. Breeding pairs use this display, as well as crouching forward with the tails cocked and wings extended.
Wouldn’t that be awesome if humans used those behaviors to show greetings, or post coitus or when threatened? Your mate throws his head back and forth showing pleasure from the moment – or when greeting his best friends? Doesn’t matter which, it is all the same emotion.
Back to the birds. When my parents and I were leaving Poland my mom shouted (way too early in the morning), “Did you see that?!”. I flipped the car around and lo and behold there was this stork nest!! Have you ever seen a nest with storks in it? The nest was huge and these two adorable (yes, adorable) storks just hanging out.
The White Stork breeds in open farmland areas with access to marshy wetlands (this nest was next to a large pond), building a large stick nest in trees, on buildings, or on purpose-built man-made platforms. Each nest is 1–2 m (3.3–6.6 ft) in-depth, 0.8–1.5 m (2.6–4.9 ft) in diameter, and 60–250 kg (130–550 lb) in weight. Nests are built in loose colonies. Not persecuted as it is viewed as a good omen, it often nests close to human habitation; in southern Europe, nests can be seen on churches and other buildings.
I had noticed these large nest of twigs, mostly on top of homes, where the chimney was, I wondered why they would leave the nest there, because you cannot use your chimney with a stork nest on top of it. But since the storks do migrate to Africa in the winter maybe they would take the nest down when the migrated? And put it back when it was spring? Not sure, but once I first saw them, I noticed the nests everywhere.
Storks!! They bring babies, have you heard? According to northern European legend, the stork is responsible for bringing babies to new parents. The legend is very ancient, but was popularised by a 19th century Hans Christian Andersen story called The Storks. German folklore held that storks found babies in caves or marshes and brought them to households in a basket on their backs or held in their beaks. These caves contained adebarsteine or “stork stones”. The babies would then be given to the mother or dropped down the chimney. Households would notify when they wanted children by placing sweets for the stork on the window sill. From there the folklore has spread around the world to countries such as the Philippines and South America.