Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vacation Adventures Part II

Happy Anniversary ... again. This was the longest anniversary celebration ever. Kip told everyone it was our anniversary at every occasion from June until August.

It is practically cliche for men to forget their anniversary.

Not Kip.

He celebrates our anniversary like it was Christmas and his birthday combined. He can tell you how we celebrated every anniversary, every year, going back to our first in 1995. (We rented a cabin in Colorado that time – it had a hot tub with a fake rock wall/waterfall. I think we only stayed one night and his parents were in a cabin around the corner. But at 21 and 19, it was still pretty cool.)

Now that we are “grown up” with work and family responsibilities, he looks forward to our anniversary as an opportunity to get away for a night or two – with just me.

This year my parents offered to take the kids for a week or two so we could celebrate our 15th anniversary in style. We took them up on the offer, extending it to almost three weeks so I could also go to New Orleans with Kip.

And that is how I ended up in Mexico, basking in the sun, drifting along on a pool raft, living like I was born to relax.

Kip reading a "highly relational, low-action" book I recommended.

It was completely extravagant and I apologize to anyone prone to jealousy. Stop reading now. It was a week of complete amazingness. Yes, that is a word. I just made it up. Ideas for new words come up when you float in a pool for hours, stopping only to reapply spf 50.

Hotel entrance

When we arrived at the nearly brand new resort in Playa Mujeres, we were greeted by massive double doors opening and a man in a suit offering us champagne.

Kip wondered out loud if we had died and gone to heaven.

The grounds were immaculate. Every detail had been tastefully engineered to promote romance and relaxation. We spent the first few hours just walking around, taking pictures, taking it all in.

It was pretty hot, so after Skyping with my parents and hearing the kids beautiful voices, we headed down to the beach. The resort had little catamarans and kayaks, and Kip didn’t waste much time getting out on the water. Warm wind and clear emerald waters made this my favorite sailing experience yet.

Over the next week we biked, played water volleyball, read books, met wonderful couples from England, ate great food (still not sure if my annoying 5-lb post vacation weight gain was the bread pudding in New Orleans or the chips and guacamole here), and tried out every beach cabana and beach chair. It was pretty much the most restful vacation ever.

This is actually the world's most romantic bar. You can order a glass of wine at night and snuggle up under the stars.
Best sailing ever

We played water volleyball nearly every day. I was a little intimidated at first, but jumped in and had a great time.

Kip is playing ping pong with Enrique, a wonderful resort employee who was hired to play ping pong with guys like Kip so their wives can give up after half an hour of playing ping pong in 100 degree heat and enjoy reading a book in the shade, which is what you SHOULD do in 100 degree weather. I loved that guy.

We did this too. ...

I took this picture and then joined Kip. Did I mention sailing is better in Mexico?

Pineapple on the beach My favorite, crepes! In Mexico, pretending to be in Paris.
Cafe overlooking pool area and beach. The dining area was actually over the pool. People swam under us while we ate.

Another vacationer, a honeymooner from England, told me definitively that it takes four weeks to have a proper holiday -- the first to properly prepare, two to enjoy the actual vacation and the last to recover. I’d like to work for his boss.

But in a way it’s true. I didn’t really unwind and relax until we had been there a couple days.

In fact, it wasn’t until the second or third day that we even talked about our life in California. I found this really strange, because we are both dreamers and romanticists. We always talk about where we have been and we dream up new adventures together. That is just part of what we do.

But I think during this vacation week we needed time together to forget about the past and the future and just enjoy being alive in the now. It was refreshing to say the least.

Thanks Mom and Dad for helping make this happen!

Kip liked the evening dress code .... dressy .... every night.
After another day in the sun.

Kip started the dancing one night at the resort's "discotech." Here he is demonstrating the "worm" for all the Brits who are taking pictures for their Facebook albums.

View from our balcony

The balcony
The bath was accessible from the living room or balcony.

Our happy anniversary champagne and fruit

Stopping to smell the flowers

Just some of the creative metal sculptures about the resort

Kip really liked hearing this bird sing.

The evening entertainment theater. We saw a really amazing circus show and Michael Jackson impersonator here.

These suns served as both the back of the bathroom sink mirrors and the head of the bed ... just another example of the creative interior design.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Vacation Adventures Part I

I'll stand Bayou Babe

It’s been three weeks since my last confession.

No, make that almost four. I thought of that lead a few days ago.

The last month has been an amazing time for our family. And I am just now getting back So here is a attempt to recap some of the last few weeks.

Bye-Bye Baby

On July 29th our kids flew to Oklahoma to spend three weeks with my parents. Kip and I took them to the airport, where I put on a brave face and tried to mirror their excitement – until their little bodies disappeared down the concourse walkway into the plane.

And then I started crying.

I don’t have the gift of gracefully crying – releasing dainty little rivulets with feminine mystique.

I dam it back until the levy breaks and then I look like Claire Danes in any movie she has ever been in.

I cried until the airplane disappeared. Strangers gave me sympathetic looks.

I cried all the way home. I called my mom and had another good cry.

“I feel like YOU!”
I told her.

“Just wait until your baby girl moves across the country!” I got back.

Finally I pulled myself together, got my hair “done” and decided that I was way more stereotypical female than I had ever let myself believe.


On Friday Kip and I flew out to Louisiana, spent a couple days with our dear friend Sanjeetha who teaches at a University in Natchitoches. She made amazing Indian food for us and drove us all over Cajun country. We drove by 200-year-old plantations, bushwhacked into a swamp and found a touristy alligator farm. We skipped the opportunity to eat alligator meat but thoroughly enjoyed watching a man feed dozens of the amazing creatures.

I took about 40 pictures. I just couldn’t get over the thick, snap-thud the alligators’ jaws made when they closed in on their chicken legs, their primal eyes, their massive scaly bodies, the way they moved….

Winner, winner, Chicken Dinner!

Sanjeetha and I are ignoring the feeding frenzy behind us.

OMG! Alligators! They are scarier than Theresa when she is hungry!

Sanjeetha made poori and puttu for breakfast. I took notes, but I don't think I'll ever be able to replicate. We will just have to get together again, soon.

A real swamp that we found while driving country roads around Natchitoches.

The Big Easy

We spent the whole next week in New Orleans. Kip had a computer graphics, aka, computer geek, conference, so I was free to literally wander around town all day while he was busy.

It took me a few days to get used to the feeling of not being responsible for children. I called my parents a lot – who were having a wonderful time traveling across the country to Orlando with the kids.

I went on my own book store tour, scoping out independent book stores and navigating my way there. I went to a slightly pretentious book store in the French Quarter apartment where William Faulkner once lived. I enjoyed talking to the curator/bookstore clerk until I got tired of pretending to have actually read any of the classic Southern writers hallowed there.

Nearly forgotten vinyl collection in the attic of Beckham's Bookshop.

The literary cat, resident of Beckham's Bookshop across from the House of the Blues.

I meandered through the French Quarter and found a musty book store that survived Katrina and housed three floors of rare books hidden under yesterday’s forgotten paperbacks. They even had a book store cat who sauntered through the stacks, lazily following the shifting sunbeams.

At a very writer-oriented book store in the Garden District I picked up a couple of books by local authors who had written about New Orleans and their Katrina experience – Chris Rose’s 1 Dead in the Attic and Sara Roahen’s Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table. They were both great reads.

I rode the St. Charles streetcar alone – although not really alone because the open-aired “trolley” was packed with sweaty bodies – locals on their way to work in the tourist section and tourists wandering back to where they belong.

I saw beads hanging from giant oak trees like leftover Christmas tinsel dripping over St. Charles Street, a full mile or two from the action of Bourbon Street.

I heard a couple great street bands.

I walked through a history museum, housed the in the very building the Louisiana Purchase was signed. I was so engrossed in actually reading every display that I overstayed my welcome. A security guard found me quietly meandering through the upstairs gallery and informed me that I was about to be locked up for the night. The museum had closed 20 minutes earlier.

History happened here.

I drank tea in our quiet hotel room and took long, hot baths.

It was pretty much the most alone time I have had since August 1998.

Banana something at Emrils. I loved the desserts in New Orleans -- bread pudding was amazing! I may have gained 5 pounds.

In the evenings Kip and I explored the town, eating at some amazing restaurants. We saw Augustana at the House of Blues, as well as dozens of great cover bands rockin’ their hearts out on Bourbon Street.

Catching Augustana at the HOB.... good gumbo there too.

A couple nights in a row we joined the inevitable nightly parade of tourist wandering in and out of French Quarter clubs. They were odd places in contrast to the serious LA music venues. They were light-hearted, like the perpetual Karaoke bar that paid heavy tribute to Michael Jackson and promised a daily opportunity to embarrass yourself. We dogged that opportunity for public humiliation, but fell right in when offered a chance to ride the mechanical bull at country music club.

Once was enough. No pictures posted.

This random Elvis wanna be jumped on stage and nailed "his" song with the house band, seemingly unrehearsed.

"Thank you, Thank you very much!"

Self indulgent photo shoot on our hotel roof in the Warehouse District. What do I say, no kids for a week?

I tried as many variations of gumbo as possible and even took a Creole cooking class one morning. That turned out to be less “hands-on” than I had hoped, but at least I learned a few new things and enjoyed hearing the culinary history of New Orleans.

Great little New Orleans place off the beaten path .... awesome red beans and rice!

In all, I was surprised how much I loved New Orleans. Maybe it was because we were on vacation, but I even liked the overwhelming southern humidity, the blanket of warm air that envelops you when you step out into the night air. I loved the people there too. Everyone was friendly.

On Friday morning we flew back and immediately started doing the laundry, taking care of chores that we had left undone, getting ready for the “real” vacation. Somehow Kip and I squeezed in a 12-mile beach run Saturday afternoon to keep us current with our Malibu Marathon training.

And then before dawn Monday morning we were hailing a cab outside our apartment and off to another adventure …..