Saturday, November 20, 2010
But something happened tonight that made next week's birthday extra special.
Our long-time friends Carrie and Steve Christensen (and their three boys) drove across the country from Denver and showed up at my front door tonight. I had NO IDEA they were coming. I heard the doorbell ring, peeked through the window of the front door and was so stunned to see them standing on our front steps.
SURPRISE!!! from the Christensens 2010 from Sarah on Vimeo.
Oh my gosh. Surprises are the best. Seeing them totally made me cry. I am overwhelmed that they really drove all this way, took time off from work, school, etc. They'll be in town for a week visiting us and other friends. It's going to be so fun!!
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
So this one's for you, cute Ava :)
Wava Ava Ava Ohhhh (Eli's version of Justin Bieber's "Baby" song) from Sarah on Vimeo.
P.S. - I made this spinach salad tonight and loved it!! The dressing was really light and tasty (lemon, honey, olive oil). I didn't include the apple, radicchio, or the sunflower seeds, but those would prob. be good too. Mine was more simple, with spinach, bell pepper, red onion, and butternut squash. Yum. A great fall salad.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Anyway, the boat dropped us off at a small village in a remote cove south of Puerto Vallarta. From there, we split into two groups of about 15 people each and loaded into two WWII army trucks. We buckled in and held onto overhead straps as the truck drove 20 minutes up 2,000 ft on roads that were paved, cobblestone, and then dirt with many ruts and holes. It was a bumpy ride. There was one other American couple in the truck with us and the rest were Mexicans who didn't speak English.
Krista, this last picture is for you, since I know you love spiders :) This was on a web at the base camp. Yuck..... :)
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
We are back from vacation and I have a ton of pictures to share… we packed a lot in, but felt SO relaxed. The weather was perfect—80s and 90s and sunny the whole time. First, here are some things about the Grand Velas Resort that we loved.
- Mixed drinks by the pool
- Swimming in the infinity pools
- Water and beach volleyball
- Water aerobics
- Bike tours (fincluded)
- Boogie boarding (included)
- Sea kayaking (included)
- Hot tubbing
- Soccer on the beach
- Ping pong tournament (Ben had some major competition from the hotel staff :)
- Four restaurants – Frida (Mexican), Lucca (Italian), Piaf (French), and more casual buffet and large menu-restaurant by the ocean
- Room service any time—especially for breakfast
- Fresh squeezed orange juice whenever we wanted it
- Cool, lemon-scented wet towels to cool off when we were hanging out near the pool
- Pool cafe with chips, salsa, guacamole, burgers, sandwhiches, all brought to your lounge chair by pool servers
The service at this place was amazing. Some of our favorites were Hector, the pool water who was always bringing us more drinks, food, etc. We loved the activities coordinators, Adriana and Ever, whose jobs were to organize activities for the guests and join in when they needed more people (for things like soccer, volleyball, ping pong, etc.).
We missed our kids, but they did really well with Ben’s mom during the first half and my parents for the second half. I think they were getting sad by the last day though – seven days is a long time!!
We returned home late last night and woke Eli up really fast to give him hugs—when he saw us, he sleepily smiled and sighed a happy sigh, then went back to sleep (we didn’t wake Charlie up because he’s more unpredictable if woken up at night). And all day today, the kids were showering me with hugs and kisses and were so happy. I think we all appreciate each other a little more after some time apart.
Here are a few pictures from the day we arrived at the lovely Grand Velas resort.
First - the check-in area/lobby. Rather than standing at the front desk, we sat in these chairs and drank floral tea while we signed the check-in papers. We noticed right away that the staff moved at a very relaxed pace.
The lobby had this huge thatched roof -
These pink flowers were all over the grounds and planted below each balcony.
The view from our room was so pretty -
There were four pools and two jacuzzi areas.
The hotel had eight floors – we were on the 7th.
Room 724 -
Ben out on our balcony -
View of the hotel from the ocean -
There were people selling things in this little hut on the side of the hotel’s beach area, but they weren’t intrusive (especially compared to downtown Puerto Vallarta, where there were people all over the beaches begging you to buy their jewelry and other items).
The view from my poolside lounge chair on our first day -
Ahhh, pasty white feet and bright toenails… true sign that I came a place like Chicago seeking some sunshine -
This was one of the first of many (virgin) drinks I had at the hotel. This one had mango, ice, and a little pepper mixed in and around the edge of the glass. It was DELISH! However, the next day, I got another one from the same pool server… the bartender screwed up and I realized after two sips that there was alcohol in there and sent it back. The server kept insisting he had written down that it was a virgin drink, but the bartender confirmed that he screwed up.
Look at this happy face.
This is day 1 of unwinding. It was great to arrive on a Monday because the hotel was EMPTY. We were one of the few people down by the pool. By the end of the week, the hotel was more full because there was a Mexican poultry conference held there, as well as an incentive trip for employees at Jolly Time popcorn (random! It was fun talking to people from both groups). It was so nice though when it was so quiet in those first few days.
Pictures of our gigantic suite (I think ours was the cheapest option there at the hotel, but I wasn’t complaining!)
The grounds were very clean and well manicured -
There were lots of beautiful plans around the hotel -
This is the pool where we did water aerobics the next day – it was just me and Ben with the instructor. I think she was just happy people wanted to do it! The next time we did water aerobics, there were a few ladies who joined us and said they had seen us doing it before and thought it looked fun.
There were tons of these flower petals scattered throughout the halls inside the hotel. But I thought they were prettiest where they were planted on the balconies.
Ben played a lot of beach volleyball on the days we hung out at the hotel, and we both played soccer on the beach (closer to the water), which was a lot of fun. After each game, hotel attendants would come by with cool, lemon-scented wet towels and bottles of water. The service here was fantastic.
Seriously, go to Mexico in November when it’s not busy. The hotel people said December and spring break are their busiest times.
There were lots of types of seating – like these cabanas -
We went kayaking in the ocean on our second day, which was a lot of fun (but a little scary getting up over the waves). Ben went kayaking again on our last full day in Mexico to go fishing with one of the hotel’s activities coordinators who had caught some fish the week before and was excited to try it again. Unfortunately, Ben tipped the kayak and lost his fishing pole!! It was a bummer, but what can you do?? It wasn’t a very nice fishing pole at least.
Nighttime view of the lobby -
Sunsets were gorgeous!
This was my daily lunch – a fruit platter (with a little bit of that pepper seasoning sprinkled on it)
And chips and salsa and guacamole…
All eaten at my chair next to the pool and looking out onto the ocean.
But the best part was the popsicle guy who came around each afternoon. Coconut popsicles are the BEST! So delish. Even better when it’s all inclusive. Free and delicious.
This is how our room looked in the mornings after being cleaned -
Here’s our room service breakfast – every night we would place our order to have breakfast brought up at 8:30 a.m. I got so much sleep on this trip!! It was great.
Notice the beach bag that came with the room – it was great for carrying my magazines, books, sunscreen down to the pool.
And this is how our room looked each evening when we came back from dinner – they would turn the sheets down, place robes on the bed and the paper with the hotel’s schedule/activities for the next day. The schedule was about the same from day to day—bike or kayak tours at 10 a.m., water aerobics at noon, beach volleyball at 1 p.m., ping pong tournament at 3 p.m. soccer at 3 p.m., tequila lessons at 5 p.m. (not joking), etc.
The funniest thing was that the tv in the bedroom was always turned in the evening to the hotel’s spa commercial with repetitive, soothing music. I took a few snapshots of the commercial – so funny. Those neck wrap things were awesome, by the way.