Music Monday – “South of the border, down Mexico way/That’s where I fell in love, when the stars above came out to play/And now as I wander, my thoughts ever stray/South of the border, down Mexico way” (And Our Wedding Slideshow!)

Shea likes to joke that I was the “best bride ever” when we were planning our destination wedding in the Mayan Riviera back in 2002.

And it’s true – my natural “anal retentive” librarian personality shone through as I pretty much handled all the arrangements from flowers to writing the entire script for the ceremony to picking the music including this song.

But perhaps I should’ve listened to the lyrics a bit more closely beyond the first verse?

According to Wikipedia…

In the lyrics, a man looks back with regret and pain for having lied to the woman he can’t forget (“…and now as I wander, my thoughts ever stray…”) and returned for too late, just as she was preparing for marriage. The lyric is in juxtaposition with the music, which swings with syncopated joy.

South of the Border” – Chris Isaak

Bonus if you’ve read this far: Here’s a slideshow I created for our wedding reception in Shea’s hometown where many of the family and friends who couldn’t make our Mexican wedding came together on an August long weekend for a Mexican-themed fiesta.  (I updated it at some point to include a couple other notable events in our life including our move to Ontario and the expected due date for Pace which replaced a joke slide we had in the original showing a picture of Shea with her cousin’s baby and a big question mark which got a big laugh at our reception! Oh, and sorry that some of the slide captions got cut off when I imported the original file to Google. I’ll fix that when I have time.)

For best effect, have Mary Chapin Carpenter’s version of John Lennon’s “Grow Old With Me” playing in the background as you watch.


10 Unique All-Inclusive Ideas

As I mentioned in a recent post, as fun as they are, most all-inclusives basically feature the same type of amenities at their core – a handful of buffet and a la carte restaurants, pools and beaches, bars and night clubs, poolside games and nighttime shows.

That made me think about what some resorts have done or could do to make themselves unique…

  1. Create a theme for your resort.  Some already do this in fairly generic ways – “Adults Only” or “Family Focused” or even partner with media companies like Hanna-Barbera or Hard Rock.  But I’m thinking more like what the resort we’re going to in a couple days has done by embracing the “Eco-Friendly” theme in a variety of ways – from having rescue animals on site to having solar panels on buildings to not giving bottled water.  There are tons of other ways that resorts could embrace a theme – related to the local culture or targeting book lovers or yoga/holistic lifestyles or pretty much any sub-group – to differentiate themselves (although the risk is that resorts need to be “all things to all people” by default so having too narrow of a theme could backfire or get old.)
  2. Be a true all-inclusive.  Many resorts have a few things that they still charge for – most spa services, most motorized water sports, non-house wines in the a la carte restaurants.  Since we’re already (over) paying for everything we get “for free”, why not raise the price of the package by a hundred bucks and let customers pick one free massage or one free ride on a jet ski or one free bottle of wine at an a la carte?
  3. Relating to spa services, a resort could probably buy a few mid-grade massage chairs to offer to clients free of charge for those who are unwilling to pay for spa services.
  4. You see this increasingly at some resorts but have a kid-friendly, non-alcoholic bar specifically for the young ones, either in the kids club or near the pools.
  5. Most resorts have a mini-fridge with pop, beer and water.  Why not throw a few other edible snacks in there – cookies or peanuts or whatever?
  6. There are all kinds of sports-related options that all-inclusives haven’t embraced much beyond beach volleyball and zumba by the pool (possibly for liability reasons.) But why not have options for those who love skateboarding?  Parkour?  Zipline over the pool?  Trampolines?  Even a deeper pool with a diving board?  Or, if those things are too dangerous – why not an on-site bowling alley?  A small race track with mini-race cars?  A batting cage?
  7. Many do this already (everyone in the Dominican Republic plays it up as “Punta Canada” instead of “Punta Cana”) but they could do even more to appeal to the Canadians that swarm the resorts – have real Caesars on the drink menu instead of telling us that a Bloody Mary is the same thing, make sure you have at least 1-2 Canadian channels in the hotel rooms (and show a hockey game in the sports bar!), have maple syrup and poutine on the menu. 😉
  8. I’ve only heard of one resort in Jamaica that does this but why not have a staff member assigned to you for the week in the role of child care giver and light housekeeping for those who want to take their kids but also who want some mommy and daddy time.
  9. Especially for resorts located in or near cities, have an option that only includes breakfast but allows clients to go off-resort for their lunches and/or dinner to enjoy local cuisine.
  10. Formally partner with local schools or charities for guests who want to help those beyond the hotel workers.  Many all-inclusive guests take gifts/tips but the majority of these go to the workers at the resorts and may or may not get shared more widely.  Something like and knowing you can leave gifts right at the front desk, is a big help.

Saturday Snap – “Doritos Roulette” Challenge

One fun thing about being on holidays is that Pace and I spontaneously decided to go grab some late night snacks tonight after both Sasha and mom were in bed.

He likes regular Doritos but decided to try a flavour that’s mostly regular Doritos but also has some super-hot ones mixed in (even though he’s not a big fan of spicy food.)

This was partly because we had an idea that he could do a video of him trying these chips as a combo of the popular “unboxing” and “challenge” videos that are all over YouTube (and though we didn’t realise it at the time – of course, the “Dorito Roulette” challenge has become a Buzzfeed-worthy thing.)

I did the recording but the editing and other choices are all him – it’s amazing how much he absorbs from YouTube videos – having an intro, the “hey guys” line that all YouTubers say, having his own logo, working in a dab, sound effects and music, even having a funny “outtake” at the end.

Pretty impressive for a nine year old!

Happy Birthday Shea!

Have a great day!  Love ya!

Throwback Thursday – #tbt – Bull Fight (February 2000)

The other day I wrote about some memories of our first all-inclusive vacation to Mazatlan Mexico in 2000.

One thing I didn’t mention but which is a strong memory was our decision to see a bullfight.

I’m not sure what I expected but I was surprised by a lot of it – not just that the matador killed the bull (part of me thought he just danced around it for a while then both man and beast would leave the arena unharmed) but all that led-up to that point – guys on padded horses stalking the bull and weakening it by stabbing in its shoulders first, “pre-matadors” coming out to do some more damage before the main guy came out.

On one hand, you think – “Well, this is part of Mexican culture and it’s very meaningful” and on the other hand, you think “Well, I’m watching an animal be killed for my entertainment.”

So yeah, the take away, at least for me, is that I’m glad I did it for the experience (even as distasteful as I ultimately found it) but I’d probably never want to do it again.

.@SandosCaracol – One Week From Today!

I can’t remember how we ended up deciding on the Sandos Caracol resort when we booked last fall but I have to say this is the first time in all our various resort holidays over the years that I’m regretting that we’re only going for a week instead of two.

Beyond the things pretty much every all-inclusive resort has – buffets, a la carte restaurants, swimming pools, swim-up bars, kid club, evening theatre shows, etc., this resort seems to have *so* much more including numerous things that would be an off-resort excursion and/or additional cost anywhere else – cenote swims, good snorkeling right off shore, waterpark with slides for all ages, bike riding, petting zoo and encounters with wild jungle animals, outdoor Mayan culture shows, romantic river canoe ride and more!

Can. Not. Wait.

10 Random Memories From My First All-Inclusive Vacation, Oceano Palace, Mazatlan, Mexico

I’m a fairly obsessive journal keeper (less so since I’ve become an obsessive blogger) 😉 so, as we get closer to another all-inclusive adventure, it was fun to go back and re-read my entries from when Shea and I went to our first all-inclusive – the Oceano Palace in Mazatlan in 2000.

(I’m also an obsessive nerd and took a Windows 98-era laptop with me on the trip so I could write every day!) 😮

Here are some fond memories I re-discovered on that walk down memory lane…

  1. I can’t believe how *much* we did – a city tour, an island tour, a bullfight, a pub crawl.  We had some sort of excursion or off-site outing every single day.  (Now, we’re lucky if we leave the resort once!)
  2. We also ate off-resort a lot more – partly because we were in a resort within a city which made it easy to go out exploring (I still remember the convenience store across the street) and also because, even though we were a lot poorer, the trip was also a lot less expensive – maybe $800/person? – so we didn’t feel like we weren’t getting our money’s worth if we didn’t eat at the resort which had very limited food options compared to the much larger resorts we tend to go to now that have multiple buffets and numerous a la carte options as well.
  3. A dolphin washed up on shore one day and no one made any effort to get it back in the water as far as I know (I have no idea if it was alive or not when it washed up) and it was there overnight then some hotel workers showed up with brooms (!) the next morning, apparently to try to get rid of it.  Shea and I went off on one of our many excursions and it was gone when we got back – maybe the brooms worked?
  4. Speaking of Shea and since it’s Valentine’s Day, we happened to fly down on Shea’s 21st birthday and I think it may have also been her first time on a plane.  I thought about getting the flight attendant to get everyone to sing “Happy Birthday” to her but decided that if she was overly embarrassed, that could ruin our trip before it began (!) so instead, I slipped the flight attendant a note and the captain wished her a Happy Birthday over the sound system as we deplaned.
  5. This photo was our fourth floor view which was pretty amazing for our first-ever all-inclusive!  (Nowadays, most resorts have put the regular rooms at the back of the resort and you pay a premium to get a room near the ocean and/or with a decent oceanview.)
  6. When we went for our pub crawl, our bus was surrounded by pulmonia drivers who were angry that we were using a coach-style bus instead of using their services.  In these pre-smartphone days, the tour guide borrowed my (film) camera to take pictures of the developing situation in case it got out of hand (after I got her to promise to pay for the developing and a second set of prints for me!) After quite a delay, some open-air trucks were procured (maybe connected to the pulmonia companies?) and we proceeded on our way.
  7. I didn’t pack enough clothes so ended up doing “sink laundry” one morning then hanging my three pairs of underwear, two t-shirts and a few other assorted things on the balcony to (sort of) dry.
  8. We bought $50 worth of rice necklaces (a beach vendor would write your name on a grain of rice then put in a small capsule on a thin piece of cord) as souvenirs for us and various family and friends – probably 15-20 in total. (We paid about $2-3 for each one and probably could’ve got a better deal if we’d negotiated harder but the guy was someone Shea’s parents had met the year before and liked quite a bit so we wanted to treat him right.)
  9. I broke/badly sprained a toe (which has become a tradition – I did it on submerged lava rock on a beach in Hawaii and on at least one other trip as well) when I was out boogie boarding and got pushed towards some rocks at the edge of the hotel beach.  I went to stand up to move away, not realising there could be submerged rocks as well and…ouch!
  10. Met an American from Montana on our pub crawl who, when we told him we were from Saskatchewan, asked completely seriously if that was “in eastern Canada.”  (Uhm, the corners of our respective states/provinces touch?)

Music Monday – “I don’t know much about Cinco de Mayo/I’m never sure what it’s all about/But I say I want you/And you don’t believe me/You say you want me/But I’ve got my doubts”

Less than ten days to go…

Mexico” – Cake

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds – Three Concerts on the Beach @davetimmexico

It was about a week before we left for the Dominican Republic in February 2015 that I stumbled upon the news that Ringo Starr was performing at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, not far from the resort we’d be at.

After some quick discussion, I ended up buying tickets for my parents, Shea and I while the kids would stay behind with Shea’s parents.

It was a highlight of my life.

Because of that, I now make a habit of checking concert listings for any place we’re visiting just in case there’s something cool happening.

Although he’s no Ringo Starr ;-), I’m a fan of Dave Matthews so it was cool to see he’s doing a series of concerts on the beach at the Barcelo Maya Resort with frequent collaborator, Tim Reynolds, while we’re in Mexico.

Not as cool, it appears these concerts are limited to guests at one of five select resorts so we couldn’t get tickets even if we wanted to.  (Plus they’re already sold out anyhow.)

Oh well.

Anyhow, here’s a clip of Dave & Tim playing one of my favourite songs…

Saturday Snap – Our Super Bowl Party DJ