Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cancun with the fam!

On my way back from Cuba last year, we stopped in Playa del Carmen for almost a week. We ran out of money and new Mexico was cheap enough we could finish our vacation off right. I went right home and told my mom how awesome it was. I knew she would really enjoy it. Annnd it just to happens that their timeshare is available to transfer at a resort just outside of Playa.

So, we called it my brother's graduation trip and booked :) My mom brought her good friend, Kerrie, and I invited my good friend, Robyn, from San Diego.

I took the red eye from SF and arrived in Cancun at 6:00 AM. I slept maybe 4 hours but I was really excited to see everyone and get the trip started so it didn't make a difference. This photo is above the clouds, so awesome. I woke up just long enough to snap it before zonking out again (I spent almost 4 hours in at LAX).

We started out Saturday by heading to breakfast, then the beach. It was just as beautiful as I remembered. We all ordered Pina Coladas, I painted watercolors, swam, and we all enjoyed the sun.

Afterwards, we walked through Playa del Carmen and just checked things out. It was a really relaxing day and we spent most of our time catching up. There's a little taco restaurant right on strip called Yo Taco - delicious! They also have reasonably priced drinks and a very friendly staff. Once we made it back to the resort, their Grand Mayan pool was calling. It has to be one of the biggest in the's like 8 pools in one. With swim up bars!

Me, Kerrie, Robyn, Brother, Dad, Mom

I had the BEST night's rest in the super comfy bed with feather pillows and soft blankets. They even put a little chocolate on your pillow every night! It was nice to sleep so well since Sunday was a big day. We had plans to take a tour of Valladoid, the sacred Blue Cenote and Chichen Itza (one of the 7 wonders of the world!)
The buses are so nice with A/C and reclining seats that we were comfortable on the 4ish hour ride through the Yucatan.

Our first stop was in Valladoid to see the oldest church in Mexico. Valladoid is the modern name for the ancient city of Merida. The church is built on top of the Mayan city of T'ho. Stones from ancient Mayan temples were used to construct it. The Spanish forced Mayan slaves to tear down their own temples to build a Christian church. Americans weren't the only people to carelessly destroy ancient cultures for their own gain.
 Cathedral of San Ildefonso

 This little yellow string going through the center of the church is the only way to ring the bell.

Next up was the cenote. One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. It's a sinkhole. The sun drifts slowly through the small hole in the upper cave. Little particles float down and the light reflects just enough to bring light to the entire cave. The contrast is high between the cave and light - you can see everything. It was cold water, but I swam all around. There were what looked like small catfish and lots of moss. Other people were swimming as well, but when you got a little further out the water was still. No waves, no current, kind of like you can feel the life underneath.
My mom and I just before swimming in the cenote!

Afterwards we had lunch and headed over to Chichen Itza. The traffic around the park was insane. Chichen Itza is already a big tourist destination, but we happened to catch it on "free for locals" day so it was even more filled with people.

We got the BEST tour guide. His father and wife are Mayan and he has an archeology degree - this guy knew his stuff. We heard all about the sacrificial statues, their version of soccer/basketball using elbows and two small rings, and the eagle clicking that radiates from the pyramid when you clap near it. All really fun stuff. It was hot...and too many bugs. Still worth it.

Me and my mom looking small compared to the pyramid.
 For every captain that was killed from playing their sport, someone would carve a skull into the wall.

All of the pyramids (there's like 8 and counting...they keep finding more to re-build) have a serpent head at the bottom.

This statue is what they used to sacrifice humans...if you haven't seen Apocalypto, you should!

The tour guide told us all about a game they played using their elbows and a rubber ball (no idea how they made rubber...). This is the top box where the Mayan chief would sit to watch the games.

At a certain time of the day on certain days, it looks like a crawling serpent because of the shadow from the steps with the head at the bottom.

Monday I planned for us to go snorkeling to see the underwater sculptures. I read about them online, such a must see. I love the idea of incorporating man-made art with natural art. And wow, such a cool installation.

See the person curled into a fetal position on the hood of the VW bug?

We didn't expect it when we arrived, but we got to ride on the Twister! A speed boat they whip around and drive really fast like a roller coaster. It was especially cool for me, since I haven't ever been on a speed boat. For a first boat experience, I couldn't have asked for cooler.

There was white moss growing on different areas/pieces within the exhibit. It really made you feel like these humans were walking along the bottom of the ocean, chained to each other and too heavy to swim. Then they just blended in with the life around them and started sprouting coral.

I felt like the artist was trying to comment on the bonds of societies norms. One sculpture the people are shown literally burying their heads in the sand. What a profound idea of leaving your body vulnerable while you hide your face. Keep your emotions hidden and let the world judge exactly what they see. The groups of individuals were chained together and all looking down. There was pregnant sculptures, elderly, all kinds of people just chained together and walking on the ocean floor. It was poignant, you could find all kinds of meanings here.

After we left the museum we took a city bus through Cancun and stopped at my favorite little taco stand in the old part of Cancun. Yummy tacos, cheap drinks, and a nice relaxing time. I wish I knew what it was called...but the same guy was working as the last time I was there! I could sit there for hours, but its a good thing we didn't because we were just in time to make it to the bus back down to Playa.

Once we got to Playa we walked around, ate haagen dazs, and caught a Mexican maypole dance!

Those guys are brave.

After that Robyn and I decided we couldn't leave the next morning without going parasailing! We happened to catch it right at beautiful. It's peaceful up there :)

Such an great trip! There's like a bazillion more photos...maybe I'll make a Cancun/Playa part II.
Thanks to my family for putting the trip together and to our friends for joining !

Stay tuned for more adventures from last weekend, xo

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Life Lately

Sad and scary stuff.

Last Friday afternoon, I was sitting at my desk, in my cubicle, just typing away. I talk to my co-workers Lola and Annie pretty much all day since its a small office and we sit right next to each other. We were discussing something a few minutes before, but it was silence right then. The walls are thin, so you can hear the executives in their offices. I know all about my bosses vacation home remodel and our employees bonuses/stock options... Lola and I are always laughing about it. We speak in looks most of the time. A guest showed up in the office and our CEO started chatting loudly so I peeked over my cubicle to look at Lola and say without saying: 'there they go again', but she was concentrating hard on something so I decided not to interrupt. A couple minutes later - I heard a noise like she stood up. I glanced over and she was leaning on the desk violently shaking her clenched fists. It took only seconds to register that she wasn't angry, because her face looked completely empty. She was staring straight up like she saw a ghost. She was a ghost. Her face was dead. 

I got scared, but immediately turned around to catch her, save her, do something. Within the time it took me to push off my desk and roll my chair 2 feet, she hit the floor - hard. Still shaking and still empty, I thought she was going to die. Right there, on the standard berber carpet laying crooked by her gray cubicle. Less than poetic, that's for sure. Her plastic hair clip was broken in three places. There was puke on her cheek and her tongue was out and bloody. I thought immediately about the last thing I said to her and did she know that she's a good person and did she do everything she wanted and who's going to tell her daughter - who I met just a week before. I leaned down, started shaking her, and said 'help'. It was a scream in my head, but they tell me I must have whispered. I started to think clearly and turned around -dialed 911. By the time I got a person on the phone, she started to come around, the whole office ran over, and I started breathing again.
She's fine now. 

It took me an hour and a half to stop shaking. 
I remember so clearly the day my sister died, in our living room. I remember coming down the stairs to a stretcher. I couldn't see the paramedics, she just floated across the room under the whitest sheet of my life. I remember when my mom sat me down to tell me my grandma had a stroke. I was 9 years old and its like I was standing on the street where it happened. I remember my father, squishing my 2 year old self in between his legs. I've never met another person with a memory that young. I don't even know if its real.

It's strange how death has such a strong affect on people. No one knows how to talk about it. Especially when its tragic. I have a good friend who's grandpa passed yesterday. He was 94. It doesn't matter how full a life is, no one wants it to be over. It's just so hard to say goodbye. All the senses you shared, to see them, to hug them and smell them. My sister always smelled like coconut oil and cheap fabric softener. Now all you have is the memory. And, if you're lucky a few things to trigger it. I have a little ceramic box that says 'special sister', a ring she always wore that never fit me -now it does. Photographs my grandma took because she loved to capture time and tell you all the stories later. A little cat sculpture that sat on her old box TV - she let me play with breakable things, and a tattoo that reminds me everyday to let go of what's gone, but to remember all the things you learned and all the moments you shared. Boyfriend laughs at me for having all this 'stuff' to carry around. He's not very sentimental. I think if I lost the stuff it would be like losing them all over again. I don't know why but having something tangible to hold and see just makes it easier to live without them. No matter how difficult though - we have to try and realize that we're still here and we can carry on their wisdom and learn from their triumphs and their mistakes. You only have so much space up there, might as well fill it with happy times and special seconds you can cherish forever. 

You never fully appreciate what a big impact someone has on your life until they are ripped from it. And then, you know. And you wish you would have said this or done that. 
Witnessing Lola's seizure just woke me up to remember - I always want to appreciate the people I still have, forgive, believe, support, and don't dwell on the past. I think if I try to do that, when the next person I love leaves maybe I'll have a little more peace knowing they knew how much they meant to me.

I know this guy knows I love him :)

xo Ellie

*Photo is from when we went hiking in Muir Woods, Spring 2013.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Tour of San Francisco

It's always fun when people come to visit. Lucky for us, we had 6 visitors this last weekend. Have I mentioned we have a one bedroom apartment? It all worked out :) Thank goodness for air mattresses! Hugo, from Albuquerque, came on Thursday night. He and I have a travel bond from our trip to Cuba (starving, melting, and week long leg cramps - these bonds last a lifetime). Adam and Melissa, also from Albuquerque, came Friday night. I met Adam before, but it was nice to get to know him better and it was our first time to meet Melissa. Kara came to stay with us again from outside of the city and she brought a co-worker, Amber. Then, Saturday morning Megan, from Canada, flew in for a week. She is Angelo's best friend from when he studied abroad in Austria. We kicked off the weekend by a second attempt at going to Temple. And guess what? We made it this time! We weren't that impressed with it though. The music was way too house for my taste, but the decorations (a big buddha!) were very cool and we had fun just hanging out all together.

Angelo, me, Hugo, Kara, Kyle, Amber

Saturday was somewhat of a late morning. Since Angelo went to pick up Megan from the airport, I got to clean up from the night before. So great -  I hate that "end of the weekend apartment" that you have to deal with Sunday night. Everyone left to go for a run up to Alamo Square (the Painted Ladies). It's really the perfect exercise route with a bonus view at the end. I should attack that hill more often since I usually keep my jogs within Golden Gate Park.

Next up we headed over to wait in line at Zazie. The Haight is right next to Cole Valley, so we end up spending a lot of time in that area. But, we've never wanted to wait the hour to try it and figured since we had 9 people- might as well. It ended up being over an hour! Good thing it's sooo worth it. It's a French restaurant with a really cute café feel. They have signs up in French and a back garden patio that is San Francisco perfect. Bonus: the host will come and get you from the bar next door! Bloody Mary's are yummy.


        Zazie was delicious. Easily one of the best Eggs Benedict I've ever had. I ordered the Pierre Noir and wow. The egg was cooked perfectly, the salty bacon, crisp tomato, and buttery heaven hollandaise. Indescribable. Plus, I got a black currant mimosa with a scoop of peach sorbet. I don't even have to say that was awesome. 

We headed down to the Ferry Building because it's one of our favorite places to take visitors. So many cool shops and tents. After, you can walk down the piers to Fisherman's Wharf. I had to get Megan some macaroons from Miette. So good, and she hadn't had one before! Of course I ordered like 6. I bet their cakes are delicious. Who's ever birthday is next - look out.


We ran into an amazing street performance down by the grotto. Live SYTYCD!

After a pretty long day of walking around Pier 39, the grotto, and riding the trolleys, we ended up checking out Blue Mermaid Chowder House for dinner. Boyfriend and I have been wanting to try this place because a friend of friend actually works there. It was just as good as he said! Award winning Crab and Corn Chowder. 'nough said.

Afterwards, we had to walk over to Ghiradelli Square. It's always on the list. Megan ordered a salted caramel hot chocolate, so good. I was way too full to order anything, but I can tell you their sundae's are ah-mazing.

That night we ended up playing drinking games at home and listening to music. Adam is a fan of oldies and Megan likes country so it was a pretty epic mix. By the time we finally decided to leave and check out a few bars in the Haight, it was already really late. We still went to three places! I guess the ceiling can't hold us :) The Milk Bar was dead. I just know that place is going to be ridiculously fun when we finally catch it on a good night. Keep trying for sure. Hobson's was fun as usual: good music, expensive, and stops serving way too early. The new place we went to, Murio's Trophy Room was like a vampire bar! Really quiet and creepy, but very good decorations. It was a cool, chilled out spot with comfy sofas -- perfect to end the night. We grabbed a slice on the way home too from Escape from New York. This blog is such a testament to how often I eat...

In the morning, Kara, Amber, Adam, and Melissa all headed home. Kyle was too hung over to explore with us. So the fabulous four: me, Megan, boyfriend, and Hugo headed straight over to Chinatown to eat at Hong Kong Clay Pot. I tried Jellyfish. It wasn't that bad, but I'm not sure why anyone would eat it unless there's just nothing else. We also ordered Abalone, which I've only had raw. I thought maybe I would like it better cooked, but no, its just a little too chewy. I'll take Ahi Tuna or Scallops every day of the week. The pan fried noodles with shrimp were simple and delicious. I tried a fried spring roll (I'd only had the Vietnamese cold kind before this) - so good. The crunchiness really adds something.  Plus, Megan and I were irrationally stoked about the Pepsi :)

Angelo had to go home and study after lunch but the three of us kept on checking out the city. We walked over to the Transamerica tower. It was pretty intense to look straight up and watch the clouds zoom by -- sometimes they go so fast here! Oklahoma has perfect sunsets, Colorado has perfect blue skies, and San Francisco has perfect clouds/fog. Oh, and San Diego has perfect everything.

Afterwards, we went over to check out Coit Tower. People say there are parrots on Telegraph Hill, but this makes my 5th-ish time climbing it and I haven't seen one yet. My favorite is at the top when you look around at all the hills up and down, up and down on each side. It's worth the $7, but depending on when you go -- I'm not sure it's worth the line. The murals are pretty neat as well. I think the riot one on the back side. Who doesn't like the occasionally stickup included in art?
Last, but not least, we went home to grab boyfriend and Kyle to head to our favorite ice cream place in the city. I ordered Butterscotch and Raspberry Sorbet, yum yum yum yum yum.

I also just love their little outfits and the perfect soda fountain set-up. They even have home-made tinctures and use acid drops to make old fashioned sodas. Hands down the best root beer float ever. It even comes with a toasted marshmallow on top -

I'm so glad everyone came to visit and we got to show off our awesome city once again! Seeing the same sites never gets old when you have different people to share it with.

I hope everyone comes back soon!
Until next time xo