How To Plan A European Adventure – On A College Budget

Good Afternoon Loves!

Eric and I made it safely to Florida yesterday afternoon and have been enjoying a day (with a late start) full of last minute errands before we head out on our graduation cruise tomorrow! Woo! If you’ve been following on my journey the last few months, you may already know I recently graduated from Arizona State University and am now a full time employee at a local Landscape Architecture firm in Scottsdale – so basically I’m a real adult now.. it’s been a crazy transition but I am oh so excited to no longer have homework – ever!

For my final Spring Break (ever) I planned an European Adventure for myself and two of my best gal pals, Alex and Lauren. This was Alex’s first time abroad so I wanted to make sure we hit the hot spots to get the best experience out of our short week of travel. In typical Crystal fashion, I began the planning process about 10 months in advance and was able to score some amazing flights!

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No really – we booked our flights from Los Angeles to Barcelona for $139 one-way, and our return flight from Paris for $158! So really, if you’re on a budget and you don’t think you are able to make a trip abroad happen – you totally can! My best words of advice to do so are to check SkyScanner for flights. I would honestly recommend Norwegian Airlines to anyone looking for an affordable airline with amazing service. I used Norwegian for my flights to France two years ago when I studied abroad and visited 12 countries!1

So, to give you an idea as to what really happened I have included a few pages of the Plan Book I made to keep us all organized – I’m a tad bit OCD about organization if you haven’t noticed… But it came in handy! From an overall itinerary to a more detailed Daily schedule, we had all of our bases covered with wiggle room for last minute adventures (like our last minute decision to go to Paris Disney!)

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So really, if you’re on a budget and you don’t think you are able to make a trip abroad happen – you totally can! Just follow some easy money saving tips that I have outlined below!

Finding Cheap Flights

Like I said earlier, I 10/10 recommend SkyScanner but if you’re looking for flights abroad and are willing to fly out of one one of the major hubs (Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York) then I would say Norwegian is the best airline with amazing low-cost flights. When using Norwegian, there is a calendar tool that gives you a full month view showing flight prices to allow you to choose the cheapest date.Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 5.21.55 PM.png

Finding Cheap Transportation

Aside from the typical recommendations of getting around town via Uber or Lyft, I recommend downloading the local transportation maps and utilizing the public transportation (if available in the city you are visiting). This saves you money when purchasing the bundle tickets and gives you a real experience as a local by navigating your way around town.

Finding Cheap Eats

I 100% recommend using Yelp when you are traveling to be able to search for literally anything! Restaurants, Shops, Entertainment, Tattoo Shops (we got matching tattoos in Barcelona via Apple Maps recommendations). Prior to your trip, I recommend assembling a list of restaurants located around town or around the spots you plan on visiting so that you have restaurants in mind to visit.

Next week I will post about the specifics for each location – Barcelona, Munich and Paris! So check back for that – in the meantime, feel free to comment below with any questions or tips that I should include!XOXOged!

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Epic Birthday: Exploring Havana, Cuba!

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It’s a beautiful day for travel inspiration, and I’m here to get you hooked on Cuba! If you have an interest in history, architecture, or culture – this is a great place to visit; if you have an interest in gorgeous views, exploring, and bright and colorful building – this is a great place for you! Overall, Cuba has made me top 5 list of places to explore and I can’t wait to visit once more [once the political feuds calm down – bummer] through the help of Norwegian Cruise Lines!

I am extremely fortunate to say that I was able to enjoy my birthday in Cuba and extremely lucky that I was able to convince my sisters to join along in the festivities [granted it didn’t take much to convince them… it was really an immediate YES from everyone]! So after buckling down and confirming our amazing trip through Dreamtrips, we began to pack – 5 months later…. But we eventually made it!

Welcome to Heaven – err, I mean HavanaIMG_2099

For our first day in Havana, we enjoyed a LARGE breakfast on board the ship before going through customs. Cereal, fruits, cheese, pastries, and coffee galore – we don’t skimp on our meals when there’s a full day of adventure ahead.

Customs was much simpler than I had originally assumed, we each went into a booth to present our passports, got a stamp and were on our way to the exchange station. Easy-peasie!

The grand day of my 21st: Viñales, Cuba

I’ve always wondered what Cuba would be like. Run down and rugged like the news tells us, or historically well-kept with secrets of gorgeous views (totally unbeknownst to the world) – it was the latter.

Tobacco Farm

After boarding our excursion bus we made our way to our first stop, about 1.5 hours inland to a tobacco farm where we got to see tobacco leaves drying and a skilled cigar master roll a few as we passed around a cup of cafesito [cuban coffee].

After purchasing a bundle of 40 cigars for our loved ones back home, we went back onto the farm and tried some delicious sugar cane – with a splash of rum. Delicious! Then back onto the bus we went for our next stop about an hours away to a gem of a location.

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Enjoying the scenery in Viñales with my sister Perla

The second stop of this excursion was in a small town with a grand view (I mean, look at that!) where we enjoyed an amazing lunch on a cliff-side with a few friendly visitors that included rowdy pigs (fun story about them later) and friendly cats who loved the attention we willingly gave them. With a 3-course meal of local delicacies, we all truly immersed ourselves in the scenery as we were all pleasantly bewildered by the grand view. We spotted a few cowboys riding their horsed down the steep cliff-side to the smaller towns within the valley and continued to gaze at the lush mountainsides behind us.

Remember the pigs? Our rowdy little friends? Well these cuties made a stop at our deck for lunch right before their bath time – and boy did they need their bath. As cute and pink as they were, we weren’t expecting them to be covered in mud. Yup – pink on top and muddy on the bottom. Surely we realized this as they brushed up against a fellow travelers purse and left their ‘gift’ alongside. Soon enough, the farmer next door came on over and shooed them back to their home for a bath. Yet, I still want a micro pig.

Our next stop was in a busier town, with a great market with local vendors. I treated myself to some new artwork because why not, its my birthday 🙂 After walking around for about an hour we went on our way to the last stop of the day – the rum factory for Havana Club! This factory was about the size of my childhood home, with about 10 workers labeling and packaging the bottles of rum. The hustle and bustle of the room increased as the tour group of 30 walked in, so we made our way over to the shop next door for samples and postcards.

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Las Joyas – my best friends for life!

 

This jam packed day of adventure was the best gift I could have asked for – yet we celebrated once more on board the ship with a magnificent dinner spread where we ate for about 2 hours [told you we don’t mess around when it comes to food]. The best way to end any celebration, is with family – and that’s exactly what we did. Cheers to amazing travels, and even more amazing sisters to share these fun adventures with!

Be sure to check back in next week for a continuation of this post as I delve into our trip so that YOU can plan your own Cuban adventure!

XOXO, my very best wishes –

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The BEST of Seattle – The Emerald City

If Seattle isn’t on your bucket list of  ‘U.S. cities to explore’ add it now! Coined the Emerald City for the vast greenery that meets the Pacific Ocean. Today however, I am not going to talk about nature, it’s all about downtown – the urban jungle and why this place makes it to my top 10.

Quick Guide to Downtown

  • Parking
  • Pike Place
  • Waterfront
  • Space Needle
  • Monorail

Parking wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated, found a great spot at the mall, Westlake Center (underground public parking). The cost of pricing was typical for a big city- $20/day. The mall itself had several levels of retail space, including typical anchor stores like JC Penny, Macy’s and Nordstrom.

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Iconic Pike Place

Five minutes from Westlake Center is one of Seattle’s top attractions, Pike Place Public Market. This bustling farmers’ market is filled with handmade goodies, gallery worthy artwork, fresh seafood, fruit, beautiful flowers, pet toys, and quirky trinkets galore! Make sure you stick around to watch a tourist complete the perfect catch from the playful fish vendors. Visiting from out of state? They can ship anything. It is also home to the original Starbucks.

Tourists beware* Plan on spending HOURS browsing the hundreds of goods and chatting with the talented artists and craftsmen eager to chat. I didn’t keep track, but I am pretty sure it took me over two hours and I know I missed a handful of booths.

The Waterfront

The walk to the waterfront takes about 15-20 minutes. There’s a ton of steps or at least it felt that way… and unfortunately they’ll still be there on your way back! Be sure to wear comfortable shoes.

There are however handful of ‘stops’ you can make on your way down to keep you entertained. The ‘gum wall’ is there ready for some epic selfies, local breweries, and multiple galleries, you can pop-into to break up the walk.

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Waterfront park is sandwiched between the Seattle Aquarium and Pier 57. The aquarium has a package deal that includes a cruise, but they also have an ‘a la carte’ price list, see below or follow the link for all their attractions and fees.

Aquarium only

Adult (ages 13 & over) $24.95
Youth (ages 4-12)* $16.95
Child (ages 3 & under) Free

I have always loved ferris wheels and I couldn’t pass up the ‘Great Wheel’ on the Seattle waterfront. The views are spectacular. The attendant gave about 3 go -arounds worth; it was nice to sit, relax, and soak up the city from 152 ft.

The Seattle Space Needle

It’s a given, you cannot visit Seattle and not see the Seattle Space Needle. Built in 1962 for the Seattle World’s Fair, the 600 ft+ landmark offers a 360 degree view of this captivating city. Bustling with people young and old, it is easy to see the fascination. Home to the Children’s Museum, Chihuly Gardens and Glass, Science Museum, Museum of Pop Culture, you must set aside multiple days to see it all.

I’ve gone ahead and added links to each of the museums for your reference.

Monorail

Exhausted yet? I sure was. I recommend the monorail, conveniently built just steps from the Space Needle. What’s the cherry on the top? The monorail drops off at Westlake center, on the top floor of the mall right where I started!

Do you have any ‘must see’ attractions or restaurants in Seattle we should add to our list? If so, please do share your recommendations with us in the comments section below.

Until next time!

Grand Canyon National Park- The Old West Experience

It is incredible to think that though we live in the beautiful state of Arizona- the Grand Canyon State, there’s so many Az natives who have never been to our National Park. This week we changed that… and we did it by train!

Roughly 2.5 hours north from Phoenix, Az on the historic Route 66 sits Williams, a charming town, coined the ‘gateway to the Grand Canyon’. From there you can travel back in time to the Old West; jump aboard the 1923 diesel locomotive up the same railway that President Theodore Roosevelt, President Franklin Roosevelt, and President Eisenhower took. You can even throw in a royal or two.

Grand Canyon Railway

The experience began 15 minutes before the conductor called “All Aboard!”, with a quirky cowboy show and shootout. At 9:00am sharp the train pulled up and with our tickets in hand we found our car; a 1923 Locomotive with all its vintage charm. The seats are the original pine green and the back manually shifts to turn the seats to face another.

On the trip north Alexander, our PSA (Attendant) shared with us tons of history and facts about the train, the land, and the Grand Canyon. Each seat had a map with a guide, we all followed along with Alexander noting view points, visitor  centers, and restaurants to visit during our three hour stay. If you happen to get thirsty on the ride up, they have water available to refill bottles or you can visit the train cafe. Any trash will be sorted and placed in recycling bins. The glass, we were told, is shipped to be made into benches for the park!

The train pulled into the station around 11:45am, many visitors from out state were surprised by the weather. Make sure that if you are planning a trip, that you do not assume that it will be warm because it is in Arizona. Northern Arizona is home to the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the country and the average temperature is 66F High and 33F Low. On this particular trip, the high for the day hit 42F. Wear layers!

The National Park

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This place is absolutely magical! I have heard, ‘it is just a big hole in the ground” or “I don’t know what the big deal is,” but once you make it up the stairs past El Tovar Hotel and the painted backdrop of the canyon, in all of its glory, is staring at you… My eyes never adjusted. The layers of colors and dimensions, the contrast of the desert and the snow, it was breathtakingly beautiful.

We walked up and down the south rim, had lunch at the Bright Angel Restaurant- the Reuben was great – and stopped in the Hopi House gift shop -built in 1905!

The paths are paved and handicap accessible, perfect for everyone to enjoy the views. Though we didn’t get a chance to make the 22 mile hike to the Desert View Watchtower within our allotted three hours, we enjoyed the ‘Trail of Time’. Between Verkamp’s Visitor Center and Yavapai Point there’s a geology exhibit, with rocks from different layers of the canyon, some close to 2000 years old. For rock collectors young and old, this will blow your mind. Want to learn more about the Grand Canyon National Park? Read more here.

Back in Williams, a buffet dinner was awaiting. The Grand Depot Cafe had an all you can eat family buffet, with prime rib, salads, a pasta bar, and desserts.

The hotel was delightful and undeniably convenient. The rooms were cozy, restrooms spacious, and tons of details. I was impressed to learn that they received a recognition from TripAdvisor as Green Leaders in 2014. They have their own line of shampoo, lotion, hand wash, and conditioner; to reduce waste their full size containers have been placed strategically for easy access. They also need to win an award for their customer service, everyone I ran into was extremely knowledgeable and always willing to help with a smile on their face.

The Package: Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel

Our package included round trip tickets from Williams to and from the Grand Canyon, park entrance fee, 1-night hotel accommodations, dinner (4p-9p) with plenty of time to get back to your room after the whirlwind trip & breakfast (6a-10a) enough to wake up late, eat and check out by 11a.

Cost: $484 (taxes & fees included) for 2 adults & 2 children

Final review: 5 stars – Great value

Ready to book your trip? Choose from a package experience or just the train ride here.They do have discounted tickets for AAA members as well as AARP- make sure that you ask for pricing!

I’ll catch  you next week,

Guest Contributor- Esme

 

 

 

Chicago in a Day!

If you happen to make it to the ‘Windy City’ this year, the bucket list of items you must see will be too long to do in a day. I made the most of the 24+ hours I had in this fabulous city, given the weather, with not more than $100 in my pocket!

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

My fight into O’Hare (ORD) was pleasantly uneventful, had a chance to finish ‘Start Something That Matters’ by Tom’s Founder Blake Mycoskie; fun read on how one of the first social ventures came to existence. I needed to get to Downtown Chicago, so I hopped on the CTA Blue Line ‘L’ blue line train, which you catch underground for only $5 USD – a taxi cab fare would be about $40/ride. The Blue Line conveniently runs 24hrs a day, 7 days a week for your riding enjoyment.

The trip into town is about 45 minutes from O’Hare; the subway train goes above ground 3/4 of the way to Chicago, so you get a chance to do some sightseeing. I hopped off on Grand Ave, made my way up to the city streets to pick up water and wait for my ride.

Lunch

By the time I made it off the train, it was close to 2pm and my stomach let it be known that the pretzels on the plane ride would satiate no more. Found my friends (yay!) and scouted our lunch venue. We found a cute place off of Randolph St. called Little Goat Diner it was incredibly busy, but they were quick to sit us.

chicago-1The ambiance was fun and young. All the menu items looked amazing, so we opted to pick a couple of items to share!

Our choices

Snack Corner (Appetizers): Goat Chili Cheese Fries & Machos Nachos

Breakfast (Served all day): Bull’s Eye French Toast

Sammiches: Los Drowned (braised beef, havarti, avocado, pickled peppers & onions, spicy mayo, hoagie)

Soup: Goat Chili

Everything met expectations, but the Goat Chili Cheese Fries were beyond spectacular!

Urban Jungle

After lunch we took a drive around the city to check out one of the most beautiful cityscapes I have ever seen. I ended up printing some of these and putting them up on my walls I love this city so much!

Museum

You cannot make a trip out to Chicago and not make it to ONE of their museums. Turns out that Bank of America Bank Card holders get free admission on the first weekend of every month! View list here of all the museums across the country you can get free entry to.

The lines were long to most of the ones on the list, we ended up finding a great deal on Groupon to the planetarium so we spent the afternoon enjoying the four story Adler Planetarium, which happens to be the first planetarium in the western hemisphere to open to the public in 1930.

This is a great place for the family. Many interactive installations and knowledgeable hosts to answer questions. Below is a slideshow of some of the exhibits for your viewing pleasure.

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The museum has a fun retail space with t-shirts and great trinkets to take home. Make sure you budget accordingly.

To complete the trip we strolled around Solidarity Dr., where Soldier Field and Shedd Aquarium sit. I can’t wait to go back and visit each one!

*** This installation is right across from the Adler Planetarium, “Circle of Animals/Zodiac heads” Bronze, 2010 by Artist Ai Weiwei.

Arizona Sailing at Lake Pleasant

Though the myth of Arizona getting beach front property has yet to be debunked, we can still make a quick 30 minute trip from the urban jungle and experience Lake Pleasant. This reservoir gives any native Arizonan the feel of a ‘Baja’ sailing adventure and the opportunity at a ‘coastal’ breeze with our beautiful desert scape from the luxury of a boat.

We chose a local sailing company Arizona Sailing Adventures for this day trip and can’t wait to do it again!  The lake entrance has a nominal fee, (not included in the sailing package). The fee included up to four people and deck snacks. Our Captain, Bill provided us with fresh fruit, crackers, cheese and drinks for our 2-hour cruise along the lake.

The waters were peaceful and everyone on the lake, jet-skiing, kayaking, and boating was out soaking up sun, enjoying the beautiful Arizona winter weather.

PRICING

Weekly rate for 2 hour cruise: $200 for up to 4- guests ; $150 for 2-guests

Weekend rate for 2 hour cruise: $300 for up to 4 guests

BOAT

Our vessel was a beautiful white Catalina 22′ sail boat, which Bill taught us to prep for sail and even allowed us to steer the beauty along the coast and back to dock. The two hour cruise was perfect for us and our two young companions (daughters 7 & 9 years old). I recommend that you apply and reapply sunscreen throughout the trip, and use the facilities before boarding the boat.

Want to learn more about Lake Pleasant? This site has short video clips and a ton of information on the marinas and restaurants for your future visit.

 

How to Escape Your Responsibilities: Mexico Edition 

Have you ever just needed a break? Either physical or mental – maybe both? Well that’s exactly what my friends and I needed, so what else is there to do to escape your real world adult responsibilities? Mexico. Mexico is how you properly escape, trust us on this one.

Now this isn’t  the first time I’ve written about Puerto Peñasco because I’m guilty of being a frequent visitor (for good reason). This past weekend my friend Gina decided it was a great weekend to escape and so we made it happen. Fast forward four short hours we made it to the beach with the boyfriend in tow. With a few drinks in hand and a towel on the sand, it was time to truly relax – so we did.


We thought we’d take advantage of the calm and quiet scene of the town before Spring Break season and booked a whale watching tour for $25 each – except we didn’t see any whales (oh 🐳). Hopefully there’ll be more sea action when we head back next weekend! The sunset cruise included fish tacos and margaritas – but they were definitely virgin. Gina can vouch for that one.

Eric and I go down to Rocky Point any chance we get so we have our basic routine down. Leave Tempe around 6, make it to Mexico in time for tacos al vapor for breakfast, grab squid to fish, lay on the beach for a few hours and end the night with caramelos at our favorite spot, Tacos Brisas. This time, we changed it up a bit and got a chance to enjoy the local night life at the Malecón.


If you’re ever in the area or just want to make the trip down to Puerto Peñasco, let me know as I’d love to help you plan!
XOXO

 

Cancun 2-day parks Pt. Two

Welcome back to round two! The second park we visited was Xplor an all inclusive adventure park. This park is perfect for couples and older kids, some of the activities are a little intense- zip lines require lots of walking and climbing steep steps, some of the underground water taverns are a 30min-45min swim from beginning to end.

Admission

The price per ticket is $120 USD which includes:

Day adventure: opens at 9:00 a. m. to 5:00 p. m. Local time.

  • 2 river circuits to paddle on Rafts (They have single and double rafts to choose from. We only had a chance to complete one, we were behind a large group, and it took us 45 min to get through the entire thing)
  • Two circuits with 14 Zip-lines. (This was a pretty amazing experience, you could see the coast and some of the other ‘sister’ parks from the tallest tower.)
  • Travel along 6.2 miles through two circuits with Amphibious Vehicles. (For this part, not sure if it was the vehicle that we got, but it never really picked up speed. If you are traveling with older kids or teens, this is a good activity for them to practice driving)
  • Swim along 430 yards in the Stalactite River. (Beautiful, there are milestones for anyone who would like to step off the river- it can get tiring)
  • Hammock Splash. (Didn’t get a chance to do this one, the line was quite large. This is a popular one for kids)
  • Spelunking. (Each entrance to a river will have you exploring caves, crossing small water falls, and tons of photo ops!)
  • Lunch buffet and unlimited beverages: coffee, hot chocolate and multi flavor water. We do not offer alcoholic beverages. (The buffet was okay, ton of options, but not as nice as Xcaret. We didn’t time it correctly, they were about to close when we finally made it, so our meal was a little rushed.)
  • Locker for two. (This was extremely convenient, the locker key goes in a handy wristlette. The lockers are located at the center of the park, which makes it easy to get to if you need to dry off, change clothes, or use the facilities. It was extremely clean, there’s also rest areas, showers, dressing rooms and bathrooms available.)
  • Equipment: Zip-lines: helmet and harness; Amphibious Vehicles: helmet and vehicle for two; Stalactite River Swim: helmet and life jacket; Rafts: helmet and paddles. (They thought of EVERYTHING)

*List taken directly from Xplor park website, my notes in italics.

What to pack:

  • Change of clothes
  • Water shoes
  • Towel
  • Swim Suit
  • Water resistant camera or phone holder

Final review –  3 out of 5 stars

Price & Value: You could do each activity once in less than four hours. The price is moderately high for the amount of activities available. Young children would not be able to participate in the majority of the adventures.

Crowds: It wasn’t busy during the week. They do a good job in letting guests know wait times for each activity.

Photography: Like in the other excursions and parks photos are available for purchase, including photo packages. I wish I would have taken more photos or video with my phone, but it was just too fun to take it all in and enjoy the views. Perhaps if we would have had a chance to repeat each activity, we’d have captured some clips too.

Below are the ones from our photo package.

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Touring the Mexican Riviera

explore-tulumOne of the items high on my bucket list was to visit the Mayan ruins in the city of Tulum, which happen to be about two hours from Cancun, and only 45 minutes from our hotel in Playa del Carmen. Luck would have it, the morning prior to our excursion a man on the beach had a great package – an entire day of ‘Extreme’ adventures in the jungles of Quintana Roo, a meal, and a guided tour of the Mayan Ruins of Tulum (transportation to and from the hotel) & zip-lining for $80 USD. Keep in mind that a one-way taxi ride into town was roughly $40 USD not including tip. Needless to say I booked it!

Guided Tour of Mayan Ruins in Tulum 

The shuttle picked us up at 6am sharp and routed through the town of Playa Del Carmen to pick up the rest of the group, which took longer than anticipated; there were two couples from Argentina and a young lady from Norway. We arrived at our first stop, Tulum around 9am where we had a chance to use the facilities.

NOTE: There’s an attendant outside the men & women’s restroom with a cash box and sanitary paper, at first glance I figured I had to pay in order to use the facilities, but our tour guide let everyone know that both restrooms were fully supplied with everything we needed. 

The group was also forewarned about mosquitos, so the shops came in handy as I completely forgot to pack my repellent. The shop I went into had two kinds one was $10 USD the other $7USD, I managed to haggle and paid $5 USD for a small bottle.

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The package included the entrance tickets to the archeological park; it took about 10 minutes from the parking lot/shop area to get to the main entrance. Many rented bicycles, others paid for a trolley, our group opted to walk it there and back. In hindsight, the trolley would have been a good idea; once the sun came out it was a scorching 80 degrees & humid.

Make sure that you stay close to your group, there will be multiple guided tours, you don’t want to get mixed up with a different tour and miss your shuttle to the next destination. Once we made it past the main park entrance a dense jungle greeted us. Our guide identified a couple of different flora and a sacred tree native to the area, the Kapok, ceiba or Ya’ axche in Mayan. The Ya’axche can grow to be up to 100ft tall and still used in traditional medicinal practices.

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Learn more about the flora native to the area here.

Once out of the jungle, we encountered what remains of the limestone wall of the once thriving city of Tulum. The stones, shades of white, gray and black protected what was at its historic peak, an important trade center for this coast.

1tulum-6There are multiple structures still standing; our guide explained that it is believed only high priests resided within those walls. I couldn’t help but imagine what this Mayan city looked like in all its glory.

As we made our way through the city, there is the Castillo. Across from the Castillo a structure that is believed to hold ceremonies- a Mayan face is carved facing southwest and distinct red hand prints surround the top strip of the building.

From there we walked east to one of the best preserved temples, perched on a cliff. If you stand facing the Caribbean looking out north towards Cancun, you’ll be able to see a corral reef that has been perfectly carved for boats to travel to and from this beautiful city to other worlds.

Once you make it past the amazing views of this archeological haven, make your way down to the crystal clear waters of the stunning Tulum beach. It will not disappoint.

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Ready for your Mexican Riviera vacation? If you are a planner, this site will give you a ton of options and information on activities and popular tours so that you can get that taken care of before you even walk out of the Cancun (CUN) airport and the Caribbean breeze touches your hair. ¡Buen viaje!

Happy Campers

Hey guys!!! * please bear with me as this is a pretty lengthy post, but I promise there are also lots of super cool pictures for you to check out 😉 *

It was Saturday July 30th, when Aaron and I headed for Durango, Colorado with Aaron’s dad and his friend. We were determined to go backpacking in the Rocky Mountains. When we finally arrived in Durango, we checked into our little shack of a hotel for the night and went out for a tasty “last supper” [before our strenuous hike ahead] at Steamworks.

Sunday morning we rushed to make it to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train (a must do if you’re ever in Durango), we boarded with exactly one minute until departure! After taking in the mesmerizing views for a couple of hours, we hopped off the train at the Needleton Flag Stop. It began raining shortly after getting off of the train, so we spent the night along the Animas River (where I caught my first ever fish on a fly rod, say whaat?!)… I had no idea what I was in for the next day.

Monday morning we set out on the Chicago Basin Trail, a trail that would have us gaining 3000 feet of elevation in just 6 miles. The hike basically took us the whole day, so when we got to the top, we quickly set up camp with the bit of daylight we still had left. Of course, shortly after setting up, it began to rain again so we decided to call it a night.

Tuesday morning, we slept in a bit and when we finally got up we had breakfast and Aaron decided he wanted to fish, so we hiked down stream a bit but caught nothing… and again it started raining.. that led to Aaron and I sitting in our tent playing with cards.

Wednesday morning was the day we decided to hike back down the Chicago Basin Trail (good thing because we later found out that it hailed that night up there). Prior to leaving our camp, the mountain goats decided to pay us a visit (see below for a photo of the SUPER CUTE baby one!). Hiking down was much easier than going up, but that didnt exactly make it easy. We camped along the Animas River again that night buuuut it rained on us for EIGHT HOURS straight before we decided to just go to bed (needless to say it was an uneventful evening).

Thursday, we decided to pack out a day early since we were tired of being rained on. We caught the train back to Durango at 3:30ish and eventually made our way back to our shack of a hotel. We were so excited to have a real meal; on our way to dinner, we met a guy who had just finished hiking the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango!! (That made me feel like a wimp).

Friday morning, it was POURING rain until about 12:30 and then the day was eventually spent fishing in town, eating [a delicious] lunch at Derailed Pour House, and then more fishing at Lemon Lake. That night Aaron and I ate a gourmet meal of Pizza Rolls in our hotel room 😉

Saturday  morning, we loaded up the truck and drove back home. This felt like forever because there was an accident and I was so anxious to get home and sleep in my own bed! Plus, I had never been so sore in my entire life and sitting in the car was not helping!

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