Monday, March 30, 2015

Villas Paraiso Del Mar-Holbox Island

I love when an accommodation turns out better than expected, and that was exactly what we thought from the moment we set foot on Villas Paraiso Del Mar, on Holbox Island, Mexico. 

Prior to our trip I liked going online so I could take wistful glances at the pictures of palm trees and the beach, imagining what it would be like to read in one of the lounge chairs. Once there I realized that the pictures, as good as they were, did not do the villas justice.

Our room was located on the third floor of one of the villa buildings. 

We liked climbing up the beautiful wooden spiral staircase to get to our large, immaculately clean room. 

After the first night we learned to leave our sandals by the downstairs front door so that we didn’t drive the cleaning staff bonkers by tracking the entire beach up to our room.    

Our bed was comfortable. The weather was perfect, allowing fresh breezes to blow through the windows that we kept open while we soundly slept. 

The bathroom was equally clean, with a large shower that always had hot water and great water pressure.

I’m not sure why it entertained me so much, but I liked coming back to the room after it had been cleaned to see the little “your bathroom is clean, see we made little fans.”   

 It was the extra touches like that, and the two new complementary bottles of water left in the room daily that made us feel like valued guests.

Just in case you forgot something to read, or maybe you don't want to pack your book for the return trip, there was a book exchange with books in lots of different languages.

The open air lobby was beautiful and one of the two places on property offering WiFi (the restaurant was the other), so people tended to hang out there day and night. It offered some nice people watching. Especially the pond/fountain vs. kids (the fountain usually won or maybe the kids won because I think most of the kids actually wanted to get wet).

There was a bar in the lobby that opened in the evening. It was a popular place.  One night we each got an electric blue Holbox and settled into a little nook right by the bar. 

 I played a little game called, guess where that guest is from. 

Villas Paraiso Del Mar's location was ideal. It was in walking distance to town and other restaurants in the area. If you didn't want to walk, or wanted to explore beyond the walk-able areas, there were golf carts available for rent. You could also arrange a number of different tours with the Villas' friendly, helpful staff. 

There was a very nice pool. 

We probably would have had a pool day if we were there longer, but it was hard to sit by the pool when there was sand and blue gulf (Shannon corrected me every time I called it the ocean) water that begged to be admired.

There was an iguana that enjoyed chilling out by the pool. 

Shannon named him Mortimer. We said hello whenever we passed him. I imagine that being a pool iguana must be pretty sweet.  He had a girlfriend who lived there too, but she was more skittish around people so we saw her less. 

Finally of course, there was the beach area. 

The beach area put us into an instant state of relaxation. 

 There were places to lounge with plenty of shade,

and places to lounge if you don’t become an instant lobster in the sun. 

Every so often a staff person would come around to see if loungers wanted a drink or a snack from the pool bar.

We kept to the shady area.   We read books. 

We took naps. 

Did I mention that it was relaxing?

There are many nice places to stay on Holbox Island, but I think the wonderfulness of Villas Paraiso Del Mar greatly contributed to the overall awesomeness of our trip.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Philadelphia Travel and Adventure Show

Having caught the travel bug this year, we decided to check out the Philadelphia Travel and Adventure show at the Philadelphia Convention Center on Sunday.  We were not exactly sure what to expect, but figured it would provide somewhere to wander around on a cold Sunday afternoon. It was also the perfect excuse to get brunch.

Thanks to fellow writer Jessica A. Walsh’s guest post over at The French Fry Diary, I was highly motivated to have brunch at The Dandelion. 

It also fit in with the world travel theme of the day.
The Dandelion’s d├ęcor is cozy and charming; perfect for a chilly morning in March.

Ah brunch, it’s so hard to make a decision.

Do you go sweet breakfast and choose pancakes or French toast? Do you do savory breakfast and munch on eggs? Or, do you abandon breakfast altogether in favor of lunch? The choices can be a bit overwhelming.

We started out with the cheese plate because, cheese.  I love strong English cheeses and the cheese plate did not disappoint.

My three companions opted for sweet breakfast. Two got French toast and one opted for the Scottish pancakes. Everyone loved their dishes.

I went in a different direction and got the fish and chips. This decision was influenced by Marc Summers of Double Dare fame declaring on a Food Network television show that the fish and chips at The Dandelion was one of the best things he ever ate.

The chips were good. They were firm and I must admit that I prefer my chips to be a little softer on the inside, but, and I’m sorry to a certain chip shop that I am loyal to, the fish was the best fish of fish and chips that I have had thus far.  The fish was sweet and flaky and the batter was so light and non-greasy, I had to keep checking to remind myself that the fish was in fact battered.

After eating our English fare, we made our way to the convention center to explore the rest of the world at the Travel and Adventure show.

The Travel and Adventure show ended up being long aisles where the tourism boards from various destinations set up tables. They handed out books and brochures and were more than willing to gab about their destination if asked.

There were U.S. locations.

There were destinations abroad.

Belgium got extra points for handing out snacks.

If you were in need of chap stick, many tables handed out tubes along with their brochures.

We spent a lot of time filling out forms in the hopes of winning free trips.

There were a few activities like Segway rides, rock climbing and scuba diving.  

There was a stage where cultural performances took place and a kitchen where chefs gave cooking demonstrations.

It seemed like it was set up mostly for retirees. It was more Rick Steves (not that there is anything wrong with Rick Steves) than Lonely Planet. I think hippie backpackers would have fainted after opening the doors and seeing what was spread out before them. 

Whoever set the show up is either not in touch with today’s savvy, hip travelers and global nomads, digital or otherwise, or they just didn’t care and/or plan to attract them.

Things that would have made the event better(in my opinion)

Travel gear-  There was only one vendor selling any sort of travel gear. I'm in the market for a new small duffel bag to use as my carry-on only and this would have been a great place to search for the latest and greatest if they had travel gear vendors there.
Technology- It would have been great to have some places where you could see demonstrations or perhaps even play with some of the newest, most useful travel apps or see cool travel gadgets.
Books- The Penn Book Center did have a table set up and were selling a few travel books. How could I pass up a chance to support an independent book store? I got a book about a quest for pasta. 

How cool would it have been if there were some actual travel book authors there selling their books?

I guess what it comes down to is that it would have been nice if it was a more well-rounded event instead of it just being a sea of tourism boards handing out information that you could easily google on your laptop or phone nowadays. Have the tourism board tables, but have a variety of other travel related options as well, especially for travelers who may already know where they want go in the next few years. It would likely attract more people to the event.

The highlight of the excursion was getting the chance to hear popular Travel Channel host Samantha Brown speak.  I am a big Samantha Brown fan, so I was very excited.

She was beyond delightful. Exuberant, funny, and inspiring, she dished out her travel advice while entertaining the audience with humorous, personal travel stories. 

Getting to hear her speak was worth the $11.00 admission.

I wouldn’t return to the Travel and Adventure show next year unless it got a major overhaul or unless there was another speaker, Jack Maxwell comes to mind, that I would want to hear.