Tuesday, June 17, 2014

One Day in New Orleans, LA

I've been to New Orleans a few times, but Jason had never made the trip. It's only a 1 hour flight from Dallas, so it made for a really easy weekend.

We arrived first thing Saturday morning, dropped our bags at our hotel and headed straight to CafĂ© du Monde for some beignets and frozen chicory coffee. We were in sugary heaven! (Note: it's a cash-only establishment.)

I think this face means he likes them?

French Quarter &
Jackson Square were next. When something seemed interesting, we popped into a shop or peaked into courtyard to listen to live music. We honestly spent hours just walking. According to my fitbit, we walked over SEVEN miles this day.

We grabbed a yummy lunch at Central Grocery - the maker of the original muffuletta. Wow, it was absolutely delicious. We inhaled that sandwich!

Next, we had to grab a drink on Bourbon Street! We ended up sharing a hand grenade at Tropical Isle and made friends with a Texas couple and a bachelorette party. We heard a bit of a commotion on Bourbon, looked out, and noticed a NAKED bicycle brigade of probably a hundred people. Wow, only here! That link is to an article about the ride.

After our drink (and some cherry bombs), we set off to find a place to watch the World Cup game. We ended up grabbing a few drinks at Ryan's Irish Pub...Viva L'Italia!

We ate dinner at Pierre Maspero's, but no pictures because...well, a few too many drinks were had and I forgot. The French Onion soup was delicious though!

The next morning, we woke up and grabbed an early flight to Houston. After a few hours of being stuck, we finally made it back to Dallas. Traveling in the summer is just a bad idea...lesson learned!

Our trip was short, but sweet. I had been bugging Jason for ages to go and I'm glad we finally made the trip. New Orleans has a certain charm and I'm sure we'll be back. This just goes to show that even in one day, you can make some great memories!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

San Ignacio, Belize {Part 2}

Our last day in Belize, we did a 1/2 day tour to Barton Creek Cave. This is a Mayan cave system that is only accessible by canoe. We were basically paddled along the mile long creek, so it wasn't the most entertaining. According to our guide, there were over 20 skeletons on ledges above us, but we weren't able to access them. Since we were on a private tour, we did get to go through some pretty low stalactites, so that was fun. Compared to the ATM caves, it was honestly a let down. We did get to take pictures here though!

Getting to know our guide paid off as well - we were able to bring a few illegally imported Guatemalan beers into the cave with us! Apparently Belikin (Belize's beer) has a monopoly on the beer industry here. While it was good, it definitely didn't compare to the Guatemalan stuff!

The rest of the day was spent relaxing at our hotel. Ka' Ana is a small resort that was definitely outside of the norm for us. We're so glad we splurged a little to stay here! We had breakfast delivered daily to our room, tours completely arranged for us, turn-down service (complete with tasty treats), yummy food/cocktails and amazing service. The resort area was beautiful as well.  I would obviously recommend it to everyone!

The next morning, we caught a 30 minute flight from Maya Flats Airstrip to Belize's international airport in a 4-seater plane! It's a good thing we're not claustrophobic or afraid of flying/heights! After a quick wait at the airport and a super delicious breakfast, we were confirmed (and upgraded to exit row!) for our quick flight back to Houston.

Honestly? Belize was probably the perfect mix for Jason's and my vacation tastes. The active/cultural experiences were amazing and even found on the same excursions. I can't say enough good things - the people were amazing, the sites were amazing, the food was amazing.

As always, thanks SWA (and United) for letting us fly there for cheap!

Up Next: We're looking forward to a 
getaway within Texas and hopefully a trip to Sonoma Valley and/or New Orleans to finish out the summer.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tikal, Guatemala

If you've been following along for a while, you'll know we love ruins (here and here). Tikal is actually closer to Belize than most cities in Guatemala, so we knew that visiting was something we wanted to do on this trip. We booked a trip through our hotel and had a great guide in Wilbert.

It took about 2 hours to get from San Ignacio to Tikal (with border crossing). The whole drive, we learned about Belizean and Guatemalan people, Mayan history, and Tikal itself. It definitely paid off to have a guide for this trip as we learned so much that we would have missed otherwise. Also, he made the border crossing into Guatemala SUPER easy.

The picture below is a great example of how even the "restored" temples haven't been completely unearthed.

Below is Temple 4. This is the tallest temple at over 200 ft. The view from the top was used as the Rebel Base in Episode IV for all of you Star Wars' fans (me!!).

During our explorations, we saw tons of spider monkeys, green parrots, toucans, coati (like raccoons), and heard many other animals. The weirdest sound was howler monkeys - they sounded like jaguars! Our guides said that we were very lucky to see all of the wildlife since they are usually only active at sunrise. Since it had just rained, the whole jungle was awake!

The temple below is an example of restoration in process. It takes many years before they can even clear away all of the jungle growth from this temple.

This is the main plaza below. We spent over an hour just exploring this area. It is the most restored area of all Tikal. It poured rain on us for about 10 minutes - we were in a rain forest after all!

Tikal was so much fun to explore. It was so interesting to see the unexplored mounds that could potentially enclose a grand temple. It reminded us a lot of Cambodia. We asked our Guatemalan guide why the government hasn't given Tikal more money in order to fund a quicker restoration. Basically - the government is corrupt and it would take millions of dollars (or quetzals) and many many years to accomplish it. So slow and steady(?) it is then.

It's astonishing that not much is known about the Mayan culture. Even their written language hasn't been fully deciphered. I definitely want to go explore more Mayan temples on the Yucatan now!

After a traditional Guatemalan lunch (and a new love of Guatemalan beer), we drove back to San Ignacio. We ended the day at the pool and then great food and cocktails at our hotel.

Next up: Our 1/2 Day at Barton Creek Cave and the end of our time in Central America.