Tag Archives: vacation

Taking a Chance in Cabo

6 Apr

It’s no secret that I like to travel – especially when it involves escaping to a warm, sandy beach when good ol’ Minnesota has been boasting some of the coldest temperatures on record. More than 40 days with temperatures below ZERO, I mean — really? I had somehow convinced myself that traveling to Key Largo in December would suffice for a warm vacation until spring rolled around. That lasted until about January 1. I started looking for beach destination vacations after I somehow managed to lock myself out of the house one morning with poor baby Sophie when the air temperature was -13 degrees.

I am a huge proponent of online reviews. I don’t book a hotel room or a restaurant reservation until I’ve read at least a few reviews online about others’ experiences. Have I met any of these people before? Most likely not, but I am putting my trust in them that they reviewed the establishment honestly and fair. And to this date, I’ve had pretty decent success.

After introducing my husband to all-inclusive resorts last year, he’s basically refused to go to anything but when a beach is involved. He likes that he can go get a mango-tango fruity drink anytime he pleases (and I won’t deny I don’t mind indulging in unlimited chips & guac). I started our vacation search in Mexico – typically cheaper than the Caribbean islands, but it was spring break time…. so, yeah. For the same cost of a trip with 37 layovers to Cancun, we could get a one-stop layover trip to Cabo. Done and done.

Cabo shoreline

Our Cabo view for the week.

My last trip to Cabo was a memorable one – and not for the reasons you’d think. My cousin and I got food poisoning from one of the buffets – and I’ve never looked a turkey the same again. This time around I was determined to find a resort where the threat of food poisoning was minimized (read: waaaay nicer). One resort that caught my eye was the Royal Decameron in San Jose del Cabo; it had recently gone under new ownership and was completely renovated. The resort was significantly smaller than the Hyatt’s of the area, but still donned the same views and was competitively priced.

Cabo beach

San Jose del Cabo beach by morning.

The pictures piqued my interest so I went straight to the reviews section – nothing by 4 and 5 stars. The further in-depth I read though, I learned the Royal Decameron used to be a nudist resort of types – but under new management, changed the way they did business. The only complaint I consistently come up within the reviews was despite changing how they did business, there was still evidence of the previous ownership throughout the resort by way of provocative paintings. Through numerous complaints, current ownership – rather than replace the paintings – hired what had to have been an amateur artist to paint ‘fig’ leaves to cover certain body parts. I found the paintings more humorous than offensive – especially with the added ‘leaves’ (which looked more like Christmas trees). We decided to book the trip and take a chance on a newly renovated, former nudist resort.

Our cab ride from the airport to the resort left us feeling like we had made a mistake. When we told the cab driver where to take us, he chuckled and said, “oh, the swingers resort?” AH, what?! Had new ownership only transformed the former nudist to a now swingers resort? What did we get ourselves into?! We had a sense of relief to find out that it was also a former swingers/nudist resort.

We gambled and won. The online reviews, once again, did not lead me astray. We enjoyed our time at the modestly-clothed, newly renovated resort and would welcome the opportunity to stay the Royal Decameron again.


Key Largo, Montego, Baby Why Don’t We Go

30 Dec

The husband and I wanted a quick getaway before our puppy came. We’re calling it our “puppymoon” – is that a thing? Because it should be. There’s honeymoons and babymoons, but there really should be puppymoons. Disclosure: I am not a parent. However, I think a baby would be far simpler than a puppy.

We’ve had our little bundle of joy since Saturday, December 21.

Our last bit of peace, quiet and sanity occurred December 14-18 when we were in Florida. We had always talked about going to the Florida Keys to see what it was really like. We’d heard that it’s extremely relaxing, but the beaches aren’t necessarily the best. How can a Florida beach not be the best? My thoughts exactly.

Thanks to my awesome travel planning skills, I scored us a good deal on airfare. However, we were flying into Miami and out of Fort Myers, neither of which is near the actual island, Key West. We stayed in Key Largo, where we were one of 35 rooms in a 180-room hotel. It was perfect. The beach, on the other hand, was not what I’d necessarily consider a “beach.” We were surrounded by water, we could hear the waves crashing and the constant squawking of sea gulls, but there was no sand. The ‘sand’ on the beach was little stones – and it felt like walking on glass shards. Needless to say, we wore flippy floppys at all times. But the view was still gorgeous.

Key Largo

Key Largo was much more industrial than I would have pictured the Florida Keys – and was mostly residential areas. Maybe that is what was so serene about the place we stayed – there was NO one around and we hardly saw boat traffic in the bay our hotel was on. The only exception of a daily disturbance was the hotel’s bartender and his parrot (Mango), who lived on a boat that was docked about 100 yards from the hotel’s beach.

We ventured only to Islamorada for dinner one night, but didn’t make it any further down US Highway 1. Despite what I’ve read about US Highway 1 being one of the most scenic drives in the country, we opted not to drive down to Key West to see the southernmost point of the USA. We feared getting stuck in the two-lane traffic on US Highway 1, wasting one of our limited number of days on our mini-getaway. Islamorada was much more touristy than Key Largo – and incredibly windy. We wanted to have dinner on the water, but that wasn’t happening. The restaurant we chose had the windows closed due to high winds and fear of jumping fish from the ocean to your plate.

Our adventure continued from Key Largo through the Everglades and on to Fort Myers. The drive was only about four hours, but Pat’s very concentrated, determined driving got us there on-time (if not a little earlier). Quick backstory: Pat is mortified of snakes. Driving through the Everglades, he was convinced a snake was going to slither through barbed wire fence along the highway, over the hot asphalt and through the car floor to eat him. This motivated him to get through the Everglades as quickly as possible. Luckily, we made it to the western Florida coast in plenty of time for a beautiful sunset by the Fort Myers pier (before a delicious BBQ dinner) to cap off our trip.

Fort Myers

Ultimately, due to traffic, we didn’t make it all the way down the Florida Keys to Key West. Someday we will. Rather, we opted to soak up as much beach time and sun as we could – which in hindsight was the best thing we did, because this winter has been the worst winter ever. 40+ days below zero (temperature, not including windchill)? No, thank you. Consequently, the worst winter ever also happened to coincide with getting a puppy. Worst winter ever, times two.

winning big

16 Aug
Have you ever noticed and wondered why the majority of huge lottery jackpot winners are older? Rarely do you see someone my age win a $300+ million jackpot. Now, I am by no means an avid lottery ticket purchaser, nor am I any good at gambling (hello slot machines!) – but whenever I see the lottery ticket jackpot inching closer to record breaking amounts in the triple number plus six-zero digits, I’ll take a shot by randomly purchasing a ticket and hoping for the best. The most I’ve ever won is $7, which I immediately turned around to purchase some celebratory Starburst from the fine lineup of candy at the gas station. A girl can dream, right?
But that’s what I usually do when I spring for a lottery ticket – I start dreaming about what I would do with such an unfathomable amount of money. I immediately think “beach” and start searching for dream vacations (which, by the way, a first vacation would be to a beautiful hut over crystal clear waters in Bora Bora).
I also dream of the perfect house we’d build, complete with a massive gourmet kitchen, beautifully huge master suite with ensuite bathroom, a movie theater and, of course, a man cave for Pat – and preferably built on a lake where we can go boating! In addition, I dream about a vacation house somewhere tropical that we’d spend our winters – or at least, I would, while Pat is playing with the hockey boys at the Xcel Energy Center.
And I would love to donate a huge chunk of change to some of my favorite charities like the Humane Society, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and St. Jude.
What would you buy? You can’t tell me you don’t dream about it sometime.
For now though, that is how it will all remain: a dream. Someday randomly buying tickets will pay off. Someday.

Once in a lifetime

27 Apr

My apologies – it has been awhile since my last post. I blame the fact that I’ve been writing blog posts for clients all day long and analyzing web statistics that the last thing I want to do when I get home is spend my evening staring at a computer screen. An excuse nonetheless, I vow to get better at blogging more frequently (practice what you preach at work, right?).

I have mentioned previously that I’m an avid travel enthusiast – and poor Pat probably didn’t know the extent of my love for traveling before he said, “I do.” I’m sorry, hubs! I promise I’ll try to keep the getaways to a minimum – and by minimum I mean less than 10. 🙂 While I love exploring new places of any sorts, a tropical location is by far my favorite. What is better than the sun, the sand and a drink in my hand to clear the mind and recoup from what we can only assume has been awhile since my last break from work/everyday happenings of life?

One thing that Pat and I were adamant about with our wedding planning was to take a honeymoon immediately following – or at least leave within a few days of our wedding date. The hullabaloo that comes with a wedding can get overwhelming at certain times (let’s be honest, its mostly the numbers) and what better way to start our marriage than a relaxing getaway, just the two of us? As much as we would have both love to go someplace exotic in the Caribbean or some where floating along the equator, we really didn’t want to be blown to smithereens by a category five hurricane. I guess that’s what we get for having a summer wedding, huh? The alternative to the exotic hurricane-ridden tropics of the Caribbean? The volcanic islands of Hawaii! Hawaii seemed like a sure bet on weather and island beauty. A special thanks to both Chris and Andrea, as well as Jim and Cam on their advice on which island to visit and the activities to do/see!

After some slight deliberation and searching online, Pat and I decided to go to Maui – and we were NOT disappointed. When we returned from our honeymoon, everyone would ask how Maui is – and there literally are no words to describe how beautifully perfect it is! I found a GREAT travel package for us online (if you ever need help booking a vacation, ask me – I can find travel deals in a power outage snowstorm) – while our flight was long, it was SO worth the wait. As a side note, we recommend not taking an American Airlines flight long distances – in an eight hour flight, we each got ONE soda. That’s it. We learned our lesson for the flight back to stock up on food and extra drinks, but a friendly FYI for those traveling with American Airlines.

Anyway, the hotel included in the package was an ocean view room at the Hyatt Regency in Maui. Saying it was a five-star hotel is an understatement. I mean, check out our daily view!!

The grounds were amazing – free forming, organic, spread out across what seemed like a mile of oceanfront beach made the hotel seem so personable and not-crowded (even though the hotel has 800+ rooms).

The sunsets never failed on beauty. We stayed on Kanaapali Beach, which is on the west side of Maui, so just walking along the path throughout the Hyatt Regency’s property we were able to take some amazing pictures. I couldn’t believe the beautiful colors in the sky as the sun sank on the horizon!

The first morning Pat and I were there, we woke up long before the sun was supposed to rise to drive to the top of Mount Haleakala. We were over 10,000 feet above sea level and watched the sun rise above the clouds. One of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. I am SO glad we drove up there, even if I’m not a morning person!

We also opted to take our chances driving on the road to Hana. The drive itself was serve-racking as all hell, but the sights seemed like they were straight from a story book. There were waterfalls, tropical rain forest donned cliffs lining the crystal blue ocean; but the road along these beautiful sites was one and a half cars wide, at best. And since we were on the ‘tropical’ side of the island, rain was plentiful. We stopped at the Twin Falls (at least a mile hike back into the forest), black sand beach and other scenic lookout points along the road. The drive was well worth it – especially once we found the only restaurant in Hana for a bite to eat, and discovered they had the Badgers game on!

Twin Falls - the first stop on the Road to Hana

Without the help of our parents, our wedding wouldn’t have been possible – thank you for everything. And a special thank you to Rodger and Nora for our gift – a honeymoon in Maui was truly a once in a lifetime experience we will never forget.

Busy bees.

31 Mar

The past few weeks have been nothing but a whirlwind here at the Brannan household. Pat is busier than ever at work with a new station in town – but on top of that, he is putting in extra time with the Minnesota Wild, honing his journalism skills writing articles, learning what it takes to run a professional franchise in the National Hockey League, and making all sorts of connections with local media and the Wild staff. I couldn’t be more proud of what is working on for himself, both personally and professionally! I some times envy how much fun he gets to have at his job, because let’s be honest, how many of us get to play on the radio or run around the X watching our most favoritest sports team in the world? I do not, however, envy his hours. He can keep those all to himself!!

On top of Pat’s hectic schedule, I am busy getting situated and accustomed to my new position with a local marketing agency – I have been learning a TON and am being exposed to so many wonderful opportunities. I also started volunteering time with the Make a Wish Foundation and am pursuing a membership with a local professional organization. As I write this, I wonder to myself, when will I see Pat?! Poor Max. Home, all alone, with nothing but windows and birds to keep him entertained (I assure you he’ll be fine, so long as one of us is home by 9pm for his ‘treat’).

And on top of ALL of that, we recently returned from a beautiful vacation visiting some good friends in the Cayman Islands. It was B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L down there – I still can’t get over the color of the water! I have been to Florida, California and Hawaii, but nothing compares to the shades of turquoise water in the Caribbean.

My poor camera’s batteries were dead by the end of our second day in Cayman, solely because I took so many pictures of JUST the water. Not only was the color amazing, but the clarity of the water was astonishing! We brought some snorkel gear with, in case we got  super adventurous, but standing in waist deep water you could see the fish swim around your legs.

Our awesomely gracious hosts showed us the island’s beauty – from the perfect beach spots for soaking up sun to the best sunset happy hour drink spots to the romantic Italian restaurant (literally) on the beach. I would have to say my favorite though was Rum Point, a secluded beach on the northern part of the island where far less tourists travel to. It was peaceful, relaxing, super chill – and the water was even prettier there than on Seven Mile Beach! For those seeking a little more adventure than the walk from the beach bar to your lounge chair, Red Sail Sports offered jet ski, kayak, and catamaran rentals – you were going to be hard pressed to move me from my lounge chair though.

We did break out our snorkel gear to do some shallow water sightseeing on Seven Mile Beach. It was neat to see the small albino-looking fish swim around your legs or the coral that randomly appeared on the ocean’s floor, but the not-so-neat part was the salt water taste that lingered on your lips, long after your head was above water. Pat and I also splurged to go jet-skiing around the Seven Mile Beach area – and got DRENCHED! It was a windy day, resulting in extremely choppy water (I’m pretty sure I swallowed at least two gallons of salt water) – nevertheless, still extremely fun and I’m glad we went.

The one downfall about staying in the Seven Mile Beach area was the number of cruisers you would run into on a given day. Our first day in Grand Cayman, there were four cruises with port stops, followed the next day by FIVE more ships stopping! On any given day, a cruise ship can add an extra 2,000-3,000 people on an already incredibly small island! The island itself, I found out, was only 22 miles long, with the widest point at any given time being only eight miles – we managed a round-the-island trip in one day. The only bonus about all of the cruisers is most didn’t have a rental car, limiting them to Georgetown and surrounding areas – but that made it take a two-mile drive take close to 20 minutes.

The sunset we saw on our last night was, in my opinion, the best one we saw down in the Caymans. Each night we would fervently look for the ‘green flash’ since we were so close to the equator. We failed miserably, but I attribute that to the clouds that lingered into dusk. We did, however, see the Black Pearl! Or at least that’s what I’m calling it – I won’t deny that I wasn’t secretly hoping Captain Jack Sparrow would randomly appear to have a rum with.

Overall, a fabulously relaxing island to visit. I would recommend it to any cruisers that have a port stop in Georgetown – or for anyone looking for a tropical getaway with a special British, yet Caribbean flair. Yea, mon.