Monthly Archives: January 2010

Cancun Rocked and Rolled in 2010

Larry and I went to Cancun over New Year’s week.  This trip had been planned for about a year.  We gifted each of our son’s a plane ticket to Cancun and invited them to stay in our two-bedroom time-share.  All they had to do was to purchase a ticket for their gals, Brandon his wife Kim and Jacob his girlfriend Brittany.  

Larry and I last went to Cancun in 1995 to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary with our friends Ken and Sally who were doing the same.  In 2001 we went to Playa del Carmen with the company that I was working with as a benefit toward all the good sales from the previous year.

I love the Caribbean ocean.  I have only been to Cancun and its surrounding areas, to Belize and to the Dominican Republic in the very Eastern part of the Caribbean.  I love the sand, the coral, the color and warmth of the ocean, the snorkeling the people their cultures, the food and the drinks.

Our kids and their women had never been to Cancun.  We all arrived there on Saturday December 26th.  We stayed at the Casa Maya Hotel which if Cancun is layed out like the number “7” then we were in the middle of the top of the seven.  The hotel row goes down the right side of the leg of the seven and the lagoon is on the left side of the leg of the seven.  At the Casa Maya we didn’t have all-inclusive (which I really don’t like) but as it turned out the restaurant and food staff were great and we ate many meals there.  We ate our first and last dinners there both with an option to have a buffet or eat from the menu.  We ate another night there when they had a Welcome Night and we were treated to not only 3 drinks plus dinner but also great a great dancing performance all for less than $20/pp. 

                                                           Our view of Cancun from our condo

At the Casa Maya they had beautiful beaches that were actually on the Gulf of Mexico as opposed to the hotel row that is on the Caribbean.  The nice thing about being on the Gulf vs. the Caribbean is that the ocean is shallower, milder and perfect for wading and swimming.  It’s a great place for kids to enjoy.  The Casa Maya also had a palapa facility for lunch and dinner if weather permitted and a smaller palapa bar with stools on the sand as well as tables by the pool.  The resort had all sorts of events going on daily from beach volleyball, darts, and pool basketball to ceramics and water aerobics.  Besides the main pool they had an adult-only pool, which is where the gym, spa and hammocks were.  One of the features that I loved were the servers who came walking around the beach.  A couple times I ordered their medium margarita.  It came in a ½ yard bright orange plastic glass with the longest straw ever!  This was very refreshing.  They also had lit tennis courts that Brandon and Jacob took advantage of a couple times.  We were no more than a 5-minute walk to the bus stop, which would take us into downtown Cancun, or to the hotel row with all the discos and restaurants. 

                          Drinking with the family                                                      Kim and Brandon at the beach

One day we took an excursion to Isla Mujeres.  The Mother Island.  Our tour consisted of a full day of sailing on a catamaran, drinking rum, tequila and cervazas on the sail boat.  We stopped at a National Park to snorkel with our captain as our local guide, we docked at Isla Mujeres and had time in town on the island to shop and get a feel of the locals.  Then off we went to a private beach south on the island to eat lunch and relax.  We sailed both ways and had perfect weather.  We did all of this for the price of $39.00 per person!  Such a deal!

                                          Jacob, Brittany (forward), Kim and Brandon sailing to Isla Mujeres

Another day we rented a caravan and drove it south to Tulum where there are Mayan ruins.  We spent about 2 hours getting there, and then walked all around for a while.  The ruins were over 3,000 years old and are still in pretty good shape.  Especially considering they are right along the cliffs of the Caribbean.  After Tulum we drove to Akumal which is a very small beach community known for its diving.  We had a delicious lunch there then had a couple hours of beach time before it got dark.  Those of us who snorkeled enjoyed seeing sea turtles (my first time!), stingrays, and a few other assorted fish.  From there we continued to drive north with another stop in Playa Del Carmen.  There we had a fantastic Mayan dinner to celebrate Kim’s belated birthday.  We walked all around the shops up and down the main street.  It was extremely crowded!  From there we drove back to our condo.  A long day but we all had a great time.

                                                                            Larry and Lori at the beaches of Tulum

A couple nights after enjoying the beach all day at our resort we took the bus out for dinner.  One night we went into the downtown area.  We went on a Sunday and found it very interesting.  All the families were out in town walking around.  We ended up at a square in a park where they have a number of concession stands of food, drinks and goods for sale.  The little children were on these electric vehicles, like bumper cars, but made out of plastic.  All different sizes and shapes.  A lot of them had room so there were two kids per car.  Flanked around this very large park area, (no grass) were some restaurants.  We ended up at an Italian restaurant.  We really enjoyed what we ate.  We didn’t have wine, mostly because before we even left home we realized where we were going, and knew that their alcoholic specialties were going to be tequila, rum and cervezas.  So, that is what we stuck to.  The other night we ventured out and we took the bus in the opposite direction and went to the hotel row area and met up with cousins Eric and Delores who had just flowed to Cancun for 4 nights from Los Angeles.  We all experienced Senior Frogs together.  And I mean experienced it.  The wait staff is all crazy in a very fun way.  We sat outside so we could hear ourselves talk a bit better.  We had a magician come to our table for a while, did some good tricks, we had funny labels pinned on us, mine was 75% blonde for example.  Our servers were full of surprises and fun.  The food was edible, but the drinks were better.  If you got too drunk they have a sober slide where you end up in the lagoon.  After dinner we walked around the mall and shops and discos.  It was just starting to get busy at 10:00 at night.

                      Drinking at Senior Frogs                                                           Drinking at Playa del Carmen

On New Years Eve we went out to dinner to a Brazilian Steak House.  This type of cuisine is getting more and more popular especially in the larger cities.  We got there around 6:30, got seated and then were taken to the salad buffet, which has a large number of different types of salads for you to choose from.  You could get full just from this but when you are ready for the meat to start coming to your table you turn over your coaster to the red side and the real dinner begins.  The different servers come over to you with a huge hunk of meat on a large skewer and they tell you what the meat is.  If you want some, then they slice a nice thin slice for you and put it on your plate.  So, we received Rib Eye, Flank Steak, Pork Loin, Turkey wrapped with bacon, New York Steak, Top Sirloin, to name a few.  Unless you turn your coaster over they keep on coming over.  After a while we asked if they had of their obscure meats.  So pretty soon they brought over lamb, ostrich and crocodile.  Everything was delicious.  I especially liked the ostrich, the crocodile was tasty, but it reminded me too much of chicken with a gamey flavor.  In the middle of the table they served us some French fries, Caesar salad, fried bananas and fried cheese for us all to share.  The meal was pretty pricy, about $40/pp without drinks.  If you go, go real hungry in order to get your monies worth.  The good thing eating here on New Years Eve was that the food lasted all night long in our tummies.

Speaking of New Year’s Eve this was to be the highlight of our trip.  Jacob and Brittany had gone out on Monday night to check out what our options were for N.Y.E.  They came back with what appeared to be a great option for $80.00 all you can drink and dance at The City disco club.  This was in our price range so we all bought tickets for the Thursday night spectacular.  Now, remember we were very full from all the protein we had at the Brazilian restaurant and were well rested up for a great evening.  We started out by going to the outdoor bar.  Larry and I started with Margaritas on the rocks.  That is where we ended up too.  There was the shot of tequila at midnight but besides that we stayed on course.  We all stayed pretty close together at the beginning then before we knew it Jacob and Brittany were downstairs on the dance floor bumping and grinding.  We staying up stairs to do our own bumping and grinding.  They had a couple acts before the New Year, one was a fire juggler.  The other was a couple doing different gymnastics similar to Cirque de Soleil.  Then the music went on and we did a quick 20-second countdown to the New Year.  It was pretty puny.  The balloons didn’t drop for a number of minutes.  Anyways, time flew; we were dancing and drinking and drinking and dancing.  Before we knew it Brittany was tapping on my shoulder showing me her new ring that Jacob had just proposed to her with.  Yes they got engaged!  Evidently they found a little corner in the club, and went into their own little world.  Jacob got on his knee and proposed.  He had the ring, a special necklace from their first date and all sorts of goodies.  All of us except Brittany knew that this was suppose to happen sometime on New Year’s Eve.  We actually knew about this all week long!  Which made for a long week, even longer for Jacob.  Brittany was totally shocked and very pleasantly surprised.  He did this at 2:00 local time, which was 12:00 back at home.  We then danced for another hour, went walking on the beach and celebrated some more then we left the two lovebirds and went back to the condo.  We got back around 4:00 and got to sleep around 5:00.  

                                                                   Jacob and Brittany get engaged!

On new years day we all got up around 11:00.  We moved around slowly, made some eggs for breakfast and got ready to go down to the beach.  It was a pretty windy day so it didn’t warm up so well.  It was annoying trying to read in the wind and so we stayed down only for a couple hours.  We came back upstairs and took a nap.  Around 7:00 we all converged together and went downstairs for our last diner together.  This was a celebratory dinner for Jacob and Brittany’s engagement.  The dinner theme was Caribbean.  Their buffet was pretty good with fish, beef and pork dishes.  I was very interested in their salad bar.  I took two helping of that.  Everyone enjoyed the dinner.  We went back to the room and just hung out.  Brandon and Kim packed, as they were first to leave the next morning.  

We each brought different games to play while we were there like, dominoes, cards, farkel, Uno, trivia questions and cribbage.  We played Uno the first night while we were waiting for time to pass by for Brandon and Kim to arrive.  Jacob and Brittany played some cribbage.  We all took a couple hours one night and played Oh Hell.  

This trip was perfect, we had alone time, we had time with each couple and we had time as a whole family unit.  We all got along great, shared all sorts of stories and have new stories to tell.  I hope we can do this sort of trip every 5 years.   

One afternoon = Five wineries in Livermore Valley

Last Saturday I had to go into work for a few hours.  I had Larry drive me so afterwards he could pick me up and we could go wine tasting in the Livermore Valley.  I work in Livermore and we really wanted to visit a few wineries that we have heard about but not visited yet.  So Larry picked me up and off we went into the city of Livermore.  The city, which is large in size but small in reality.  You will find the downtown area with cute stores and good restaurants on First Street.  There are about four to five blocks with all the activity, which makes it easy to take a leisurely stroll and check out the goings on.

The first winery we went to was Ryhan Winery.  I had been there before but Larry had never been and it was close to the two wineries that Larry wanted to visit.  Ryhan winery was very nice; they had a very nice staff and some foods to pair with their different wines.  They offered pepper jack cheese, mozzeralla cheese, homemade chili chicken, olives marinated in different herbs and spices, and some chocolates.  Being a foodie I won’t go into details of what I would have done differently, but they made a great effort.  I liked their raspberry sparkling wine.  Larry and I both had their Syrah, which was pretty good; they also have a Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gricio and many others.  This was strictly a tasting room.  Their tasting fee is $5.00 but if you buy wine they don’t charge you.  Their hours are Friday 12-5, Sat/Sun 11:30-5:00 or by appointment.

Right next door to Ryhan Winery in the same attached building was Cuda Ridge Wines.  Larry Dino the winemaker and owner was there pouring the wines.  This was the winery, cellar and tasting room all in one spot.  Larry’s specialty is making Bordeaux style wines.  Cabernet Franc is one of their specialties.  We also tried a Sauvignon Blanc, a Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Zinfandel that is on a different label.  All of their wines are made from grapes they get in the Livermore Valley.  They opened their winery in 2007 and their tasting room this past fall ’09.  They produce 1100 cases at the present moment.  They will also be offering a Semillon and a Malbec.  The surroundings were very comfortable and Larry and his wife Margie were very hospitable.

Our next stop was about 2 miles away.  These next two wineries are next to each other in a business park that fronts onto the main street.   The first winery we walked into was Occasio Winery.  They have a nice comfortable set up with a front room with the tasting counter, then behind that is a boardroom that can be used for a crowd up to 10 persons.  In that room they offer cheese and or lunch if you’re so inclined for your purpose.  Courtney was the person behind the counter pouring for us.  She was very nice and very knowledgeable.  We found out that the winery similar to Cuda Ridge had its first vintage in ’07 and opened their tasting room in the fall of ’09.  The owner and winemaker is John Kinney.  They currently are producing 500 cases of wine but very quickly will be up to 1,200 by the end of the year.  We got a small tour of the facilities.  They have a very nice sized laboratory.  Then the back area where the winery/cellar is was just the perfect size, room for growth yet small.  Back in the tasting room we tried a Pinot Gris ’08, a Sauvignon Blanc ’08*, a Rose of Zinfandel ’09* and a Zinfandel ’08*.  The future will be bringing a Petite Syrah, Fume Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a red blend of some sort.  We really enjoyed the wines and bought 3 bottles*.  Their wine club membership is different where they give you 20% off all wine purchased.  Their tasting fee is $5.00 but that is taken off if you purchase wine.  Their hours are Friday 12-5, Sat/Sun 11:30 – 4:30 or by appointment.

Right next door was Nottingham Winery and Satyrs’ Pond Winery.  The winemaker/owner Jeff Cranor, makes the wines for both labels.  Justin and Chris helped us with our wine tasting experience.  Similar to Occasio the feel when you walk in was very comfortable.  Their tasting area was a bit more cramped.  But they also have room for you to wander around and look at the different artwork on the walls.  The owner’s brother Pat Cranor is a thriving artist in San Diego and he has quite a number of pieces for sale there.  Chris took us for a tour of the back, which is very large for their size winery.  They like to have enough room for their special events that they host.  We sampled the Viognier from Nottingham Cellars, which was floral but not overwhelming, as it can be.  Then we tried the Satyrs’ Pond Winery Lux Alba white blend, which is a Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend.  Then in a decanter we sampled Satyrs’ ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon.  I really liked this.  Then in the next decanter we sampled Nottingham ’07 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both were very good, smooth but the Satyrs’ had more potential I thought to lay down for a few years.  At the end Chris opened up the Nottingham Ralphi’s Red Blend, which is Merlot from Napa and Cabernet from Livermore.  At first this wine fell flat on the tongue.  But after a bit of swirling and waiting patiently for it to open it did so in a big way.  We had to buy one of those.  They charge a $5.00 tasting fee, which gets reimbursed if you purchase any wine.

After all of this, and I was done, Larry said do you want to go visit Linda and Earl at Cedar Mountain?  I said sure as it was only 2 minutes away.  So we went to see our old buddies.  Unfortunately they were busy but we got to sample their Sauvignon Blanc side by side with their Sauvignon Blanc Reserve.  Quite a difference – I liked the reserve better.  Then I tried their Chardonnay of which I have always felt that they make one of the best in the Livermore Valley.  We both had to sample their Tortuga Royale.  This is a port made by co-fermenting Blanches Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with Scharffen Berger 70% cacao powder and fortified with fine Eau De Vie Brandy.  You can only imagine how amazing this was.  There was just enough of the chocolate aroma and flavor with the grape flavor of the Cabernet and the brandy for the alcohol and smoothness.  I could have continued drinking this all afternoon!  However, we had grocery shopping to do etc.  Next time I’m there I’m going to buy one of those for my liquor cabinet.  For $25.00 it’s a fantastic gift for any wine lover!

So this concludes another wine tasting experience in Livermore Valley.  There are over 50 wineries there now and more popping up.  It’s a great place to go and sample wines without feeling any pressure.  I feel very fortunate that I live 20 minutes away!