Sunday at Isla Blanca Beach

Let’s go to the beach -each,

Let’s go get away.

Those are the lyrics I listened to while I packed our backpack for our beach trip yesterday. Nothing works like Nicki Minaj to get me pumped for a day out!

I’ve always heard great things about Isla Blanca, a beautiful spot just up the coast from Cancun. It’s a mostly virgin area, with just a few mansions set along the beach along with 1 or 2 restaurants. The drive from downtown Cancun took about an hour, first passing through Puerto Juarez then heading north along a jungle-lined highway filled with pink flowers. Eventually, the highway turns into a rough, winding path through the jungle that takes you to an almost untouched beach and lagoon.

We parked the car on the side of the road and were immediately greeted by the loud chirping of bugs all around us. I’d never heard bugs that noisy, and it was so cool being in the middle of nowhere.

Spotting the bright turquoise water on the horizon, I knew the trek north would be worth it.

We had arrived before most of the crowds and had our choice of spots on the sand. To lay out our pareos, we had to clear some of the seaweed out of the way. Then, Jorge turned on our iPod speakers and we took in the scenery while listening to some Sugar Ray and reggae.

The water itself was ideal: crystal clear! There were no plants underfoot and the temperature was cool but not too cold. It’s no secret that Jorge and I hate waves, but the waves here were soft enough not to be a problem. We also had some pretty good views of Isla Mujeres and Cancun’s Hotel Zone off in the distance.

After a swim or 2, the blogger in me had the urge to explore. I walked to the nearby lagoon and a bit up the beach, and found tons of beautiful sights!

Taken from the beach, with the lagoon on the horizon

The lagoon

The only negatives of this beach were the large amounts of seaweed on the beach and the lack of shade. Other than that, it was amazing. No beach is perfect, right?

Our little group of friends filled the afternoon with napping, exploring, swimming and snacks before trekking back to Cancun. I loved the untouched feel of Isla Blanca, and I hope to make it back someday.

 

Gringation’s Isla Blanca Tips:

  • Sunscreen. Always.
  • Umbrella. A secluded, untouched beach also means no beach club, so loungers and umbrellas are in short supply. There was lots of jungle, but alas no palm trees for shade. Bringing along your own umbrella is a great idea if you’re not used to a lot of sun.
  • Snacks and several large bottles of water. Again, a secluded beach means hardly any restaurants.
  • Got a well-behaved dog? Bring him along! We saw tons of people with their dogs on this beach, and it looked like so much fun. Just make sure to be near some shade and to supply plenty of fresh water for your pet.
  • Pocket change. There was a bathroom area on our stretch of beach. Cost: $5 pesos
  • Go on a weekday. We went on a Sunday, and tons of locals showed up by early afternoon. Luckily there was still plenty of room right by where we were, but certain areas got quite crowded.

 

Just Chill

The past 2 days have been pretty stressful. Not bad at all, just stressful.

I’m sharing with you the image I use to relax. It reminds me of why I’m living in Cancun (beach weekends) and what my professional goals are (7-day beach weekends).

I use this image (taken on Holbox island) as my cell phone screen saver.

What relaxes you?

Reader Photo Requests: Outside My Front Door

Moving along with Reader Photo Requests: My follower and Facebook friend Joe asked me to post the first thing I see when I walk out my front door every morning.

I love my front patio. It’s the main reason we plan to continue renting our current house for a long time. Even my neighbor across the street has a plant-filled yard, so from my living room I can look out the front window and pretend we live in a garden fairyland. Cancun is a city known for its teeny-tiny front and back patios, most of which are all concrete, so we’re very lucky to actually have a backyard and front planters where we can practice our gardening.

I will be posting updated patio photos soon because I got several house tour requests, so hang tight for awhile and you’ll see how it has grown.

Every morning, I walk out my front door and stop to check on the progress of my orchid tree before I walk out the front gate. We bought this tree last year thinking it was just a plant until blog reader Pauline informed me that it was, in fact, a tree. We have left it in our front patio planter ever since, but the plan was always to take down the tree in the backyard and replace it with the orchid tree. On Saturday we had the last of the old tree trunk removed from the backyard, but since our gardener put in some serious weed killer, we’re going to wait a week or two before transplanting the orchid tree into its place of honor in the backyard.

For now the orchid tree looks a bit out of place and the planter is overcrowded, but that will all change soon.

Here it is in the early morning light. I love the specks of light coming through our copa de oro tree.

The flowers on this tree are absolutely gorgeous, and they seem to bloom year-round here in the tropics. They grow in bunches. When 1 bunch has died out, there are always several new ones to take its place.

Our little orchid tree is a fighter! Our landlords came to paint the front of the house a few months ago, and they moved a few plants around while they were here. For some reason, the landlord actually cut the entire plant down to its roots. Jorge asked him why he did that and he couldn’t really answer… weird… so anyway we’re really glad that the orchid tree has come back in full force so quickly!

What’s your favorite flower?

Jam-Packed Anniversary Weekend

Yesterday our 2 year wedding anniversary!

Despite the fact that Jorge had to work all day Saturday, It still turned out to be a really great anniversary weekend. Very very late Saturday night, we tried a new little bar in downtown Cancun called The Beer Box, located at Galerias Infinity. It was perfect for a quiet night out, and the service was great.

Jorge may or may not have had 2 1/2 of these pitchers.

They have some $10 peso shots that we made sure to try. They had a blue one with vodka and Bacardi that I loved, along with these mango vodka shots. (I wasn’t a big fan because I hate powdered chile. Hate hate hate.)

Our mango shots, with vodka and powdered chile

Some friends caught up with us later that night, but the bar was preparing to close. Even though we were about to leave, they insisted that we could stay. So the guys had another beer pitcher while the servers took down the tables and mopped up.

Sunday, Jorge and I went to Isla Mujeres for the day. On a whim, Jorge mentioned he wanted to walk around the streets of Isla’s downtown area, something we never do. We were pleasantly surprised.

We saw a new location of one of our favorite Cancun restaurants, Los de Pescado, right by the main square, so we ordered a delicious and cheap lunch of fish tacos and shrimp burritos on their terrace.

So many diet rules were broken. And it was so worth it.

After lunch, we strolled down Avenida Hidalgo, which was like a smaller, less crazy version of Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen. Jorge and I made a mental note to try some of the restaurants on our next trip.

At the end of Avenida Hidalgo, we walked through to Playa Norte. It was such a hot afternoon that we didn’t even lie out on the sand, like usual. We just dropped our bag on the sand and ran into the ocean.

Then I snapped a few pictures to share on my Facebook page, of course. One of the hazards of being a blogger is constant picture taking, but I controlled myself a little this time.

Jorge had been dying for an ice cream all day, and a quick walk back down Avenida Hidalgo took us to a little gelato shop we’d seen right under Los de Pescado. This shop was called Parad-Ice Cream. So adorable! I wish I’d thought to take a picture, but I was so excited about my Ferrero Rocher and Tiramisu ice cream cone that I totally spaced.

Ice cream in hand, we walked one block over to the boardwalk area, sat on a bench and watched the waves.

Back in Cancun, we spent a few hours with Jorge’s family, got tortas from our favorite food stand and watched 2 episodes of The Mentalist. Definitely a busy and memorable day!

What did you do this weekend?

 

Reader Photo Requests: Me Dressed As My Blog Art

From my Reader Photo Requests, my good amiga Vanessa asked to see me dressed like my blog art.

Wish granted!

Here's my lovely mini-me, looking fabulous...

And here's me!

The palm tree is a little sad and I’m wearing a t-shirt instead of a bikini top (I have a “no bikini pics on the internet” policy), but I think it’s pretty close! Green print sarong, white bikini, orange hammock bag, gold hoop earrings… all I’m missing is the wind in my hair, a cocktail, and a flower behind my ear.

Thanks to Jorge for taking “beach” pictures of me at 11 pm. Love you!

An Announcement!

This little blog continues to grow thanks to friends, family, fans and loyal readers.

I have so much to share with you all that this blog is no longer big enough to hold everything that my big mouth has to say. So… I’m proud to announce the new Gringation’s Cancun Blog Facebook page! Here, I’ll be sharing little tidbits, posting beautiful photos (and a few not-so-beautiful photos), sharing links on Cancun news and talking about culture.

The new Facebook page will be a great place for fans to get to know me better, and for me to get to know you better!

And to share our love of Cancun and Mexico, of course.

Like the blog? Click here to like the new Gringation Facebook page!

Hope to see you around!

 

Reader Photo Requests: My Neighborhood

When I asked for Reader Photo Requests last week, Meredith and Joe asked to see more of my day-to-day life. Sometimes things that seem so ordinary to me might be interesting to someone else, like my neighborhood.

I love my neighborhood! It’s very family-oriented and everyone always says “buenos días” when they see me walking down the street. The best part about it is the parks. Even though Cancun is a tropical tourist destination, the downtown area (where the locals live) is surprisingly low on green areas and parks. We do have some great ones, but they are few and far between throughout the city. My neighborhood is one of the few exceptions! We have a small park on every corner, along with 3 large ones.

Here are some pics of the little park by my street.Whenever I walk by and see the palm trees, I remember I’m in paradise. (Minus the brown patches of grass and the middle-school graffiti, of course.)

**I apologize for the less-than-stellar photo quality. I snapped these on my way back from work while holding my gym bag and purse.**

What’s the best thing about your neighborhood?

Girls’ Weekend at Now Sapphire Resort

The food, the drinks and the gossip were flowing freely this weekend!

My Brazilian amiga Nadia suggested we do a girls’ weekend at an All Inclusive resort in the Riviera Maya. Saturday afternoon, we drove down toward Puerto Morelos to the beautiful Now Sapphire resort. I actually used to intern at this hotel in the reception area 3 years ago, back when it belonged to another resort chain. (Yes, I interned at many, many resorts during my university days.) Visually, it has always been my favorite resort in the area, with an immense pool and wood walkways winding through soothing ponds. All this is combined with breezy palapa roofs and a combination of Mexican and Asian-inspired style. Gorgeous.

After a quick check-in, we were taken to our room via golf cart. The resort is divided into small, 3-story villas named after Mayan ruins. Our building was set right by the beach, with a jungle view room set on the 2nd floor. I was very impressed with the guestrooms! Each has a small sitting area and a large balcony, not to mention a great bathroom.

Nadia and I spent our evening bouncing from one restaurant to another, taking full advantage of the resort’s All Inclusive plan. We sampled sushi, caipirinhas, martinis, baba ganoush, spinach ravioli and I can’t even remember what else!

The Mediterranean restaurant

The oceanfront restaurant, my fave!

Memories Lobby Bar, with tons of dancing and socializing after dinner

Nadia admiring the bathroom artwork

We turned in at midnight and woke up early the next morning with the breakfast we had pre-ordered the night before. After a quick workout, we put on our swimsuits and headed out to do some damage at the breakfast buffet.

Nadia then went to check out the spa specials while I decided to hang out at the pool. There were no loungers available (experienced resort-goers will be familiar with the infamous Towel Game), but I saw a beautiful bali bed right next to the pool with nobody on it. “This is too good to be true,” I thought to myself. So I waited a few minutes, and nobody showed up. I slowly and cautiously arranged my things on the bali bed, looking around in case anyone came up to tell me it wasn’t allowed. Thrilled with my success, I made myself comfortable and snapped a few photos.

Living the life

After the most glamorous 15 minutes of my life, a young uniformed gentleman approached me with a clipboard.

“Excuse me, miss. What is your room number?”

“307.”

(long pause while he flips through a few pages)

“Is your last name Palmer?”

“No…” (Stay cool, Laura, stay cool!)

“I’m sorry, miss, but these bali beds are reserved for our Preferred Club guests. There’s actually quite a long waiting list to use them.”

“Well I’ve already made myself comfortable! You should really put up a sign or something,” I exclaimed in righteous indignation as I got my things together.

“The sign is right here on the post, miss.”

“Oh. Ummm… sorry then. Thanks.”

Fabulousness transformed into humilliation within 30 seconds. Could only happen to me.

Feeling unimportant and defeated at the prospect of finding a chair, I made my way to the beach and settled in under a palapa while I waited for Nadia.

That's better.

We ordered some bottled waters from the beach waiter, spent an hour or so talking about life, took some pictures and watched the boats go by. Now this is a vacation!

Nadia suggested we try our luck back at the pool. There were still no loungers available, as expected, but we set our stuff  by the pool’s jet tub and hopped right in. I loved the pool. Lots of activities were going on by the swim-up bar, but the pool was big enough that it was easy to find quiet areas for relaxation. Submerged loungers, one of my favorite things, were also in abundance.

We had programmed a late check-out for 1:30, so we eventually headed back to the room, packed up and changed into some dry clothes. Check-out was quick and easy, and we made our way to the Bluewater Grill for some more All Inclusive action in the form of ceviches and burgers.

The Now Sapphire was a great experience. I dare to say it was even better than most All Inclusives! Here’s why:

  • No bracelets
  • No waiting in line to make dinner reservations every morning (first come, first served)
  • 24-hour room service included
  • No worrying about towel cards… just walk up, get your beach towel, then bring it back when you’re done. Easy.

Gringation’s Tips:

  • Bring bugspray! Mosquitos weren’t a problem during daylight hours, but let’s just say that we weren’t the only ones feasting during our outdoor dinner at the beachfront grill.
  • Upgrade to the Preferred Club. Preferred guests have a private lounge, a beautiful separate pool, access to spa facilities and reservations for the poolside bali beds. (I only spent 15 minutes on the bali bed, but it was amazing!) This is one instance where I’d say the extra amenities are worth the higher pricetag.
  • Sit at the teppanyaki tables at Lemongrass restaurant. What a show!
  • Get to the pool early if you want to grab a lounger. Just don’t leave your stuff there for 4 hours without using it. Be cool, people. (Waking up at 5 am, putting your flip flops on a lounger, then going back to sleep until noon is not acceptable resort behavior.)

 

Weight Loss and 5K Training

Hopefully this will be one of my last weight loss update posts!

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 1

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 2

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 3

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 4

Diet

Remember that 2-week diet from hell I was just on to get over my end-game weight loss plateau? Well, it worked! I was able to lose 2 whole pounds (1 kg). That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s actually quite good when you’re right near the end. I’m at 132 pounds, with only 4 pounds to go to get to a healthy % body fat. My regular weight loss diet is now back in place (with a few less portions of carbs per day, but still nice), so I’m a happy girl.

My nutritionist even asked me if I wanted to stay where I am or continue. Wow! That means that she thinks I’m A-ok! I told her I wanted to get rid of the last 4 pounds to be at the % body fat that I should be, so onward we go.

Here are some more before and after pics… not very recent, but enough to give you an idea of how my double chin has disappeared! When I get down to my goal weight, I’ll be sure to have some awesome pictures for ya.

Before

After

Exercise

I’ve also decided to train for a 5K that’s coming up in August. This is very scary because I am horrible at running. Always have been. Back in grade school in Virginia we had physical fitness testing twice a year, and I always dreaded running “The Mile”. I was always among the last kids to cross the finish line, and the experience was just humiliating.

And now I’m doing it voluntarily.

This is what happens when you have too many athletic friends to talk you into things.

Most of you have probably heard of the Couch to 5K (C25K) program, and that’s what I’m using to train (along with a few friends). I’m just about to start Week 4 of the program, and it’s going… ok. It’s still unclear if I’ll be able to run the entire 5K without walking, but I will at least cross the finish line without crawling.

Several of my friends will also be participating and a few of them are at about my same level, so we’ve been keeping eachother motivated and even running together on a few occasions.

I started out training on the treadmill at the gym, but trust me: the treadmill is much, much easier than running outside. So this week, after some advice from my friends, I’m starting to do the vast majority of my running outdoors. Cancun has some great areas for running. Maybe I can post about that sometime next week.

What’s the biggest personal challenge you’ve ever overcome?

Reader Photo Requests!

My long-term readers may remember that a few years ago, I had a game here on the blog called “Show Me Your (fill-in-the-blank)”. It was a ton of fun and SO MUCH has changed in my life in the past 2 years, that I figure it’s time to do it again.

 

Gratuitous beach picture, just because

 

So here goes: I will post pictures of whatever you ask for! (Well, within reason of course. Let’s not get too crazy, mmkay?)

Just leave a comment telling me what part of my life you want to see, and I’ll take pictures of it to post on the blog.

 

And… GO!