Mexico, Markets and Me

The first few times I went to Mexico, I did the “usual” resort thing in Cancun and surroundings and ventured out for a few excursions to ruins and to snorkel. It was fun; it served its purpose – to relax in the sun at the beach, see a few sights close by and return home rejuvenated. Nothing wrong with that.

When I began to backpack Mexico and focus on anything that wasn’t a resort, I saw a completely different side of Mexico and frankly, one that I preferred. In fact, one that I have returned to again (and I haven’t done that a lot) and most likely, will again.

It is not the beaches, the restaurants, or the hotels that draw me in. It is the markets and the people who go.

I am a market junkie and this trait guides me everywhere I go.

No market is the same. Some sell only produce, some sell meat, some sell clothing, some sell anything in the world you can think of and some are more like restaurants for the local people. Honestly, I am not biased; Β I love them all and have been known to drag my family to market after market (at least in Jade’s opinion).

It is the cheapest form of entertainment I can think of and also the best. I get a glimpse into local life and what it feels like and looks like. I imagine what it would be like to live there and go to the market as if it was my very own. Maybe..some day.. in the future..that will happen. In the meantime, I live vicariously through my photos.

Our Secret (well it used to be) Happy Place in Canada

You know those moments when it seems that there is some sort of divine intervention and it all just melds together and feels perfect? Just magical? Like it will never get better than this ever? Bliss in every sense of the word?

Well luckily for our family we have had a lot of those moments but some just break through and stand out from the rest.

This is what Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton means to us.

The melange of ocean, fresh air, peacefulness, mountains, beach, moose, fishing boats, rocks, whale watching and an oh so perfect favourite hotel/restaurant Β (the MidTrail Motel) has made this spot our ultimate happy place πŸ™‚

If I could put it all in a blender and drink it up daily, I would be a very happy Canadian!

There is simply nothing better than going for a drive to look for moose and then heading to the beach as the sun sets, making a fire, and watching the ocean and the sky become one.

Pure Magic.

I will never forget our nights there… ever!

Cheryl’s Travel Games – Read On to Follow the Rules

Ok, everyone in my family knows my favourite game to play… and it goes like this. If you had all the time and the money in the world where would you go? Another favourite Cheryl’s game is to ask for her children’s top 5 travel moments however, no one seems to appreciate Cheryl’s games as much as Cheryl does. In fact, Cheryl often (surprisingly) has counter answers such as – oh yeah, but what about this place? or oh no, how could you forget this moment? As you can see Cheryl’s games create a bit of a “oh no here we go again ” drone and she usually ends up playing them by herself or with Abby who will still play with her πŸ™‚

So if you had all the time and money in the world where would you go?

Cheryl’s top answers at the moment are Cambodia (always the correct answer πŸ™‚ India (usually number 2) and the rest is up for grabs…but usually it is a blend of Turkey, Zambia/Uganda/Namibia or any African country where we could self-drive and see animals as we should see them, sometimes Jordan for Petra, all of Europe but primarily lately it would be Romania, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Greece maybe, Italy always, Hungary Β and maybe the rest of Europe because I simply can’t decide, Nicaragua and always, Guatemala. Oh and there are the Galapagos islands as well, but that will be much later when we are rich! Ha Ha

Top 5 travel family moments (random order as I change my mind all the time)

1. Tikal, Guatemala (soon to be blogged about as Jurassic Park)

2. Sahara camel trek in Morocco (otherwise known as eat sand for supper moment)

3. Huacachina, Peru (sitting with my nephew at the bottom of the sand dune at night listening to Abby and Jade talk and giggle up in the dunes because they were having so much fun in the sand that they refused to come down)

4. Amsterdam (because Amsterdam should be a part of all good lists) – walking along the canals with Jade and eating some major quantities of fries late at night at a cafe and later walking with Jade and Erin and drinking at a pub outside (Jade was not drinking however)

5. All those first moments when your children see things outside of their world for the first time – Jade in Guatemala city and Noah and Abby in Lima and Erin soaking up the heat in the back of our rusty broken down cab on the way to Essaouira. And of course, I appreciated that she ventured out in Essaouira when we first arrived (no major culture shock for her) and got us much-needed water and the most delicious potato chips ever… all trips require good potato chips!

And of course… the above 5 probably changes every day… almost as frequently as Cheryl checks Kayak Explore options to see where she can fly to from Toronto at any given moment for the cheapest amount. If you don’t know Kayak Explore, get your butt off that chair and run immediately to your computer to check it out. It is an addiction that all wanna be travellers should know about!

The Most Magical Morning

There is something just magical about a morning at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

I have been twice and each time was extra special. What made this the most special was waking up and sharing it with Jade, a new set of eyes. We woke up and walked down to the edge of the lake and watched the boats fishing. After, we headed down the road to the spot where the women do their washing in the lake. This was amazing as it was Jade’s first time experiencing this. We tried to be discrete but this was challenging. The women said hola or buenos dias as they walked by us; carrying their loads in plastic buckets on their heads.

We then walked back to our all time favourite hotel called Posada de Santiago.

It is the most wonderful hotel located in Santiago Atitlan, a local village with daily markets, an active church, local schools and places just to wander and get lost. The hotel itself has individual cottages with hammocks outside, a viewing point to see Lake Atitlan, a pool lake side so you can swim and watch the activities on the lake at the same time, a hot tub and a wood sauna. The restaurant was amazing and it was where I first discovered I loved guacamole.

We would spend hours sitting in the restaurant watching the local people walking back and forth to town; often carrying bundles of wood or anything else (you dream it, it is probably carried) on their heads. In addition, a house cat would spend most of its time with Jade in the restaurant, much to Chris’s chagrin, which Jade loved.

I can’t recommend Posada de Santiago enough! The best way ever to introduce a teen or child to travel in Guatemala.

Why Morocco Should Be On Your To Do List

We were headed to Turkey but my mother was worried about its proximity to Syria… now in retrospect, it would have been a great place to go but who wants to be convincing someone the whole time that they should feel safe when they don’t? Not my idea of a vacation, so we changed our plans and went to Morocco. As it was the summer time, it was very hot which kind of changed our approach to the trip. Not wanting to backpack in the heat of the desert, we did a few things ourselves and a few the old-fashioned way… via a car, a driver and a tour guide.

Our top 7 smiles were:

1. The Food – from amazing olives, to warm bread, to fresh orange juice, to vegetarian tangines we had something for everybody πŸ™‚

2. The Souks– there is nothing like shopping in the old-fashioned markets where everything is crammed in the tiniest space but still looks like it was photo shopped – so adorable and so interesting πŸ™‚

3. The Riads- the most gorgeous hotels ever that look like they jumped off home decorating pages of magazines.. a combination of living outside and inside and nothing beats a hot night upstairs lounging outside on a sofa looking over a city πŸ™‚

4. Essaouira – we loved everything about this city… one of my all time favs…the souks, the water, the fishermen, the boats, the restaurants, the people… it has it all. one stop wonder. πŸ™‚

5. Chefchaouen- the gorgeously painted blue city that doesn’t seem real. Go out and get lost in the old part and wander the alleys taking pics of the most amazing doors πŸ™‚

6. Sahara Desert – there is nothing quite like it. It is beautiful, hot, dry (well not in our case, it rained), and a camel ride is one your butt will never forget… in fact I so enjoyed the camel ride (not), that I got off and walked beside my camel in the desert and yes, this is hard work πŸ˜‰

7. Train Ride – it is always fun to take the train and experience some local transportation unless you are Chris who didn’t get a sleeper car and spent the nite with the men while they smoked, ate and talked… all night long. πŸ™‚

The 3 frowns were awarded to:

1. The touts in Marrakech – arriving at the bus station in the early morning, we were literally pulled from one spot to the other as the taxi drivers fought over our business – not a fav moment 😦

2. Getting lost in the souks in Marrkech- yes, it is possible and it is hard to find your way and it is hot and there are touts galore and yes, you finally give up and pay a tout to show you the way home 😦

3. Getting the wrong henna – yes the black lasts longer but don’t look up on the Internet why after you have had it done. just do the right thing and get the brown/red one and yes, it will come off sooner but at least your skin will stay on! 😦