Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Birthday shenanigans, start as I mean to go on...

So, the day is finally here.... I wake up and yes.. I am 40! Lots of lovely Facebook messages, texts and a few calls make the morning special. Breakfast is lovely, a great buffet and I always love an omelette. I fill up on food and decide to let it settle, take a walk round and then go for a run. Now for those who know me, I don't run.... But beaches can be the only exception... Rare exception!! There is something about the sand and ocean that blocks out my natural aversion to running...

So in Cocobay there are three beaches, all making up a really nice running circuit which is beautiful and scenic and probably about 5k all told. It takes about 45 minutes to run altogether. After my run I take it easy on the beach, go for a swim and enjoy relaxing for a while. Lunch is a buffet as well, so I fill up on more fish and lovely food. Cocobay resort is really lovely, beautiful location but there isn't much to do in the resort itself, and watersports you have to pay for such as sea kayak, jet ski, hobie cat etc. so it doesn't have as much on offer as other all inclusives.

It is soon time to head to English Harbour to meet up with Gareth and go for birthday drinks. It takes about 45minutes to get there, I meet Gareth in Skullduggery and a few other familiar faces and have brought the free champagne and beer from my room to start the evening off. The classic yacht regatta is on and so the harbour is packed with people, and there are some really beautiful boats around.

We go to pick up the tender "baby box" as it's knows, which is blocked in by a sea of other tenders of all sizes from all the nearby boats, and we then start to manoeuvre our way out. At this point we realise the tender isn't exactly overly inflated.... It's tiny and with 4 of us on board it's struggling a bit, so it's a slow journey trying to stay dry on the way to EH01. But we finally make it safe and sound and get on board.

I wait while the guys get themselves organised, and crack open the free champers. It's nice to be back on EH01 for my birthday, I've spent so much time on her it's a bit like a home away from home. Gareth gets the tender inflated again and we head back to the Yacht Club for the classic regatta party, there is a live band, lots of people and free rum punch!

Gareth speaks to the band and they do a shout out for me for my birthday, lots of fun is had with singing and dancing. All together it was a fun way to see in my 40s!!!


Back on the road again....

So, after a brief little stop back home catching up with friends, going to the grand national for my birthday with my family and closest friends, catching up with work colleagues, 2 interviews, then a little visit to the Netherlands and a birthday dinner in Hoxton(a crammed 2 weeks!) I'm all set to leave again for my final adventure.... Antigua and sailing week, oh yes.... And turning 40! Ironically this was the first thing I booked and is the last thing I am doing.

The flight from Gatwick with British Airways is 10.45, so not too bad and I decided to drive down to make life a bit easier hopefully. First mistake, leaving at the crack of dawn, somehow I thought it was Friday and was expecting hideous rush hour traffic, and then hit the motorway and realised it was actually Saturday and everyone is still in bed! Oh well, a nice smooth drive down to the airport at least. And the sun is finally shining, it's a really gorgeous day, so happy, I'm wearing flip flops again!

It is a breeze getting through, and sadly no free upgrades for me for my birthday... Not really wanting to pay £400 for a bed when it's a day time flight! It was amusing being offered to pay £100 to upgrade to the class I was already in though... Hmm! I may have over packed a little for the trip, but sure I will wear everything and if not I'm sure that Gareth at least will make use of a dress of two during race week!

At the airport I run into someone I haven't seen for a good few years who used to work for me, small world as always... I do a little shopping, although Gatwick to be honest isn't great, and grab a drink and wait for my flight. The flight flies by really, a few films, great food, a few drinks and before I know it I'm in Antigua and heading to Cocobay Resort.

I arrive to be greeted with rum punch, very nice.... Settle in to my room which is lovely, lovely big bed, balcony with fabulous sea view, my own hammock, have a quick power nap and then head to dinner. I should mention that it is torrential rain at this point so I actually head to dinner in my sailing jacket. Not sure it meets the casual elegance dress code though!!!

Now I knew when I booked that this was a bit couple orientated... What all inclusives isn't.... But when I sit down, the waitress immediately pours out 2 waters! I explain I am dining alone, and a sad and shocked look crosses her face as if I had just declared I am dying of cancer or something!

So for dinner you get a 4 course menu, starter, soup, main and desert. I'm not too hungry so opt for just the main course. You can also go off "all inclusive" and pay extra for the good stuff.. Lobster, steak, and the like. Personally, I like the normal options. Fish it is, and it's delicious with a nice wine. I'm pretty impressed with the quality of the food, and chocolate melting pudding for desert... Lovely! I'm pretty exhausted by this point so a good nights sleep is in order, if I was in the UK I would be 40 now... But I'm not, I'm still 39 so making the most of it.....


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Going back to Blighty

So time to say farewell to Mexico, and head back to the UK.... Thankfully, it's only a short stopover for now and I'm not expected to go back to reality just yet... All the same, it's strange to think I will soon be seeing family and friends again after what feels like such a long time.


We get to the airport in Cancun and I start to look for the flight... A mild panic sets in when I can't see it. There is no 14.15 flight listed to Miami, only 12.15 and it is 12.00.... I start to freak out a little thinking the time is wrong on my iPhone and didn't take into account the time difference and struggle to find someone to reassure me. The staff are not exactly what you would call helpful or understanding of the dilemma, but thankfully the panic is only for 5 minutes when I find out there is a 14.15 flight after all...! Phew....


The journey is pretty straight forward, AA to Miami, Miami to London on BA back to the fabulous terminal 5. Last minute duty free shopping, and we are good to go. I get back and am greeted by my parents at the airport, it's lovely to see them and ridiculously freezing. Flip flops might not have been the best choice! I pick up my car and then drive in a blizzard back to my house, and spend the next 24hrs working on getting it to a temperature that I can live in without 2 fleeces and a blanket, or wearing everything I own! Welcome home...!

Final day

And so the last day arrives and the packing up starts, one final workout and then we head to meet up with our instructor for hobby cat sailing and snorkelling. We get there promptly, and we wait.... and wait..... and wait, all the time being told 15 minutes, and then watching the guy who sold us this adventure walk further down the beach on his mobile!! About an hour late, the guy finally turns up.

We then head out and I soon get the feeling that this is our driver, rather than instructor! So I leave it and just ask a few question, how do you steer, how do you tack, and gybe. We get to our snorkelling spot and are given the gear. Jumping in and heading towards the reef. Sadly the gear is a bit of a pain, the snorkelling keeps slipping and needs constant adjustment but I won't let that get me down. It's hard work swimming, and the reef is quotes shallow in parts. At times I swim and suddenly realise my foot is on the reef, and that I'm now caught in a shallow area wondering how to get out... I look up and see the someone waving "come here, look at this" that's all well and good but I'm stuck now in this reef!!!

Repeat this process about 8 times in an hour and that's about my experience really, lots of pretty fish but I think having been to the great barrier reef that this particular area doesn't compare! But it's fun, and the sailing is good. I learn how to get myself back into the hobby cat without assistance which is an event in itself really! Not the most dignified of performances but funny.

Then we head back, and I insist on taking the helm.... Let's just say, on the way back the ride is slightly more bumpy than on the way there, but it is fun and I enjoy it... Although I can see that sometimes the instructor (for want of a better word) is actually pushing the rudder where he wants it, but eventually as I get the hang of things that is less and less.

By the time we are back im starving so back to Zenzi again and this time we tuck into the nachos we have been seeing all week, and not disappointed one bit they are fab and filling! A couple more piña coladas and we are happy as Larry!

After finishing up, we head back to the hotel to pack what we can praying we don't need more bags! And then decide that out last meal will be back at Dialblito's. Tomorrow it's back to the UK for a brief pit stop and birthday party before my final adventure back in Antigua.... Turning 40!!!


Easter Monday

So fully recovered, I'm ready for the next cultural exploration with "Easy Tours". As always they are 20 minutes early, and apparently it's our fault people are waiting around! Not a great start. Thankfully, Helen is quick getting back from Starbucks with breakfast and we soon head off... Still 15 minutes early so not really sure what the issue is.

Tulum is not too far which is good, about an hour to get there and meet our guide. This is where we find out the group is Dutch and English, so half the time the guide is speaking Dutch, the other half English. The guide is also not exactly the most personable, quite aggressive. Everytime he finishes speaking English he basically tells us to move on... It's hard to hear him and we don't seem to be getting much information so there is a sad moment when both Helen and I switch off! Tulum is beautiful and scenic, nicely set against the ocean it's just a shame our guide is not great... We actually end up trying to listen in to other guides to see if they are better!

It's almost a relief when we get our own free time to explore and can walk round. That's when I see the attack of the killer gecko, a small child sitting on the floor eating a peanut butter sandwich (well I assume that really as they are Amercian), and all of a sudden a gecko comes charging across the floor up to the child. Luckily the father steps in between and rescues the child. However, the surprise is then the dad takes the sandwich off the child and starts to feed the gecko... What is wrong with these people!!! I swiftly move away....

After a few classic touristy shots, we then get to paradise beach. It's gorgeous, and the water amazing, perfect to swim in I am sad we will only have an hour here. It's nice to walk up the long stretch of beach and relax in the sunshine, and I could swim here forever the water is so lovely and warm, flat and clear. But sadly the hour ends too quickly and we head back. Once again, frustrated that the driver is saying everyone is waiting. He said 12.50 and it's 12.49, so if they are waiting that is there problem for not making the most of the beautiful beach and time we had there.... Whereas we made use of every second!!! I'm starting to wonder what the easy in easy tours stands for because it certainly isn't easy going! Sadly they seem to have a monopoly on tours in the area.

We get back to the hotel and head to Zenzi bar, grab a sun lounger and order food and decide its time to have a few cocktails... Piña colada here we come! Food as always, amazing I have tuna which is pretty much fresh off the boat and tastes divine. We sit back, relax, enjoy the afternoon sunshine and long around with cocktails... Well in a few days we will be freezing in the UK so best make the most of it!

In the evening we head to another hotel recomendation Diablito Cha cha cha, and it's a fabulous find of 50s chic, with Asian fusion menu... The food is by far the best we have had so far, and the settling is lovely, we have eaten so well in Mexico which is a real surprise, I'm pretty impressed I have to say!

After dinner we head across the street to a bar for a quick drink, its not exactly party night as its monday and this particular place has about 10 times more staff than customers, but the first drink is free so who are we to turn it down! We sit quietly drinking and notice in the corner of our eyes a couple dancing, they stand out because well no one is dancing, but everyone is staring. Its not the best dancing I've seen, but they seem to be enjoying it.... what the real surprise is during the chorus the guy suddenly starts breakdancing to riders on the storm.... To say the bar is gob smacked would be an understatement, he does it again!

It's at this point all the iPhones come out and whilst I at least attempt to subtly video this event, some are just blatantly pointing the phone at the guy as he does it again and again. It is hysterical.... But basically our queue to leave this establishment!


Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, well it was definitely a day of rest after a late night/early morning finish! Altogether a rather uneventful day that involved lying on the beach for a while, and pizza, pasta night at a local Italian. Wood fired pizza, with leftovers taken home for later!

I wish I had more to say... But sadly, I assumed the recovery position and had an early night ready to see what lies at Tulum and bracing myself for another Easy Tour experience!!!


Easter Saturday

So after a brief but interesting pool party experience, we are actually not feeling too bad the next morning so after another good workout we head to find another beach club to try out. This time we head to Zenzi bar, the food is amazing although sadly the service is slow... Although to their credit they do tell us they are having issues so not too bad I guess.

Helen orders ceviche which is amazing, to be honest it looks a lot better than the ceviche I had in Peru. The food is delicious, and we also get to grab a sun lounger after as well. After yet more relaxing we take a walk to find some stuff to do for the rest of the holiday... Well basically I want to sail, and I know there are hobbie cats here so we wander around and find a good tour guy on the beach, well at least we hope he is!!

We sign up for a special deal 1/2 day express tourism to Tulum ending up on Paradise beach, then 2hrs sailing and snorkelling. Perfect, we keep going down on price till basically we get a price we are happy with. It's the only way to book these things, just keep getting them to knock down the price or go somewhere else. Personally as long as you don't feel ripped off, it's all good and I think we got a good deal really.

Satisfied that our days are happily filled, we head back to get ready for a night on the town. On route I book us up in a lovely restaurant Mosquito Blue, now yes that is the same chain as Mosquito beach, but I'm just hoping the service is better. Luckily it seems to be even just booking the table, so I'm hopeful we will have a good evening.

Dinner is divine to be honest, and perfect really. Mosquito Blue is Italian, so I have a lovely Parma ham starter and blue cod main course which just melts in the mouth and not too heavy. A quick drink in the hotel, then it's off to La , tonight DJ m.a.n.d.y is playing and Helen and I are keen to hear him, mainly because we saw him last year for my birthday and it was a good night so just trying to relive the memories. Also, seeing as every night we hear the club music it's about time we went to see what all the fuss is about!

We stroll in, waiting to be asked to pay the cover charge, nothing.... We head up to the terrace which is really lovely open bar area, the music is good and its a good crowd gathering although still quite early. I head out to find out what time Mandy is playing, to which not even the staff know... But it sounds like 2am ish, so it's going to be a long night...

We get talking to various characters in the bar, most of whom seem to be Mexican, this is a pretty popular spot for Mexicans on holidays and with spring break it's pretty busy, most people say that about 70-80% roughly would be Latin American rather than American or European coming here which is quite interesting. There are a lot of locals too just finishing work and heading for drinks, in fact as we wander round we basically meet everyone who works at the hotel... With a surprisingly warm welcome, we now seem to be flavour of the month!!! All of a sudden we became cool!!!

One of the best moments had to be Helen approaching the DJ box, "Where's Phil? When is he playing?" like he's he bessie.... "Errr he's just coming, will be on in 20mins..." , then when Phil AKA M.A.N.D.Y comes up its "Phil, when are you playing, we have been waiting all night and only came here to see you" .... "emm, just coming on now, I will do my best " ... Well thats good to know!!

It was a really great night, a funny moment when someone introduced themselves by singing Abba.... Well I guess if your name is Fernando what else would you do!!! At least as we head to bed the music will no longer be playing... except of course the ringing in our ears.