New Year’s Day-Part 1

7 am: Bzzzzzz. The clock alarm in the room goes off. Seriously? Zung turns it off and we go back to sleep. 8 am: the sonar sound from my phone goes off, reminding me to take my meds (for my Trigeminal Neuralgia). After a late night, we have actually slept late. Or what is late for us. Since this is high occupancy time at the hotel, I instruct Zung to go get us chairs on the beach.

First Zungrise picture.

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Let’s talk about that. I hate chair saving. If everyone stopped doing it, there would be enough chairs for everyone for when they are ready to occupy them. Why then, you are asking yourself, do we participate in this heinous practice? Because if we were the only ones who didn’t then we would be chairless. I feel okay about it because we only have them saved while we go eat breakfast. I like a long day at the beach. Those chairs will be well used by us. Some people save them at 6 am (or earlier) and don’t come out until 11 (or later). Some people save chairs at the beach, and also at the same time at the activity pool and quiet pool, so they can rotate through the areas throughout the day. I think that is just selfish and rude. The official Iberostar rule is that chair saving is not allowed, but I rarely see it being enforced. Once, in all my visits, have I seen them remove someones belongings. If no chairs are available, what I recommend is asking the pool/beach concierge/butlers (whatever they are called, to help you find a place to sit. They are more than happy to do this. At that point they will remove belongings from chairs that have not been occupied. If those people eventually come along, you can honestly say you did not move their stuff, but that security probably has it.

Ok, end of my ranting about chair saving, along with my justification for doing it.

Off to Bella Vista for breaky.

We take the Mimosas that they are handing out at the door. Mayvany is there. We ask for Azael, our favorite waiter. He remembers everything we drink and usually eat. I always change it up a bit though.

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The chillaquiles he remember that I like sound good though, so that is what I order. These are not on the menu, and while they are sometimes at the buffet, they are better when made fresh. Ask and they will make them for you. Chillaquile recipes vary alot. They make them pretty simply here with crisp tortilla chips, shredded chicken and red or green chili sauce. I find the green is too spicy for me.

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On top they sprinkle some cilantro or parsley and they have crema on them, which I should have told them to leave off, since cream things don’t seem to be my friend. I eat it all anyway and it is yummy.

Zung does not switch his vacation breakfast around, ever. He goes to the buffet and gets an omelette.

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After I devour my chillaquiles, I go up to the buffet for some fruit, and bacon. Yes, bacon. C’mon, it’s vacation. All diet rules will be broken. I don’t diet, diet. Okay, well sometimes I watch what I eat for my weight. But, I do try to follow the Mediterranean diet for my elevated cholesterol. Bacon is definitely not part of the Mediterranean diet. It is a regular part of my vacation diet though.

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We give Azael a Christmas present of some candy from Colorado. We see Dave and Tessa and they have a present for me. It is some tea from where they live in the UK, and there is a beautiful New Year’s card. When I get home this tea immediately becomes my favorite. Not only are Dave and Tessa fun, they are incredibly nice too.

We go back to the room after breaky and get ready for our day at the beach, which is pretty full. Despite the less than stellar weather.

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It is cold and cloudy and windy all day. Let’s just say there was not a lot of tanning.

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What is that, that I’m drinking, you ask? Perhaps a Havana Club rum and Coke? Nope. I had two mimosas at breakfast and then I just drank plain old Coke until lunch.

We take my official counting of the days picture. Apparently I was too lazy to get up.

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Zung, who is actually taking the week off from work, starts enjoying an adult beverage.

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We enjoy our morning, as much as you can on the beach with crappy weather.

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A Grand New Year’s Eve

THE Dress!

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We walk over to Bella Vista, which is where the special New Year’s Eve buffet is being held. Alberto, Sarah and Mayvany are all greeting guests as they arrive. Everyone is dressed so nicely.

Dave and Tessa are waiting for us, and we are late. I had hoped they would go ahead and get seated and when I see them waiting I feel bad. We all are taken to our table and order drinks. We start with champagne. Then we ask for some red wine and they give us the cabernet they are pouring. We don’t like it, but see that they are also pouring the Daimon Tempranillo, so we switch to that. That is one of our favorites.

The buffet is decorated really beautifully. We take lots of pictures and sample lots of things.

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As usual, most of the desserts are off limits for me because of my restrictions against anything with milk or cream. I manage to eat plenty though.

We take some more pictures before we leave.

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I love Tessa’s shoes! She is always dressed well and wears kick-ass shoes.

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We make our way over to the Lobby Bar, enjoying the decorations along the way. They are different from last year, which is nice for variety.

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When we got to the bar, Daniel makes us our first Cucumber Mojitos. They are too sweet so he adds some club soda and then they are better.

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We hang out at the bar for awhile. Rafael comes by and we talk with him for a bit. I tell him I enjoy the different holiday decorations.

We take a group picture with Daniel before we go to the theatre.

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As we are leaving the bar we cross paths with a man who looks at me and he stops and asks me if I am Andrea Tran. The one and only! His name is Jesse Weiner and he is there with his wife and son. We meet them too. My first rock star moment of the trip!

We head into the theatre. We have a table reserved. It is in the second row. You can reserve a table for free by buying a bottle (or more) of premium champagne. We have bought a bottle of Moet and Chandon. It is waiting for us in a bucket of ice.

They give out bags of goodies.

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I start out drinking water. I am feeling the need to rehydrate. I finally switch to a rum and coke. They make it very strong.

The show starts. It is a long version of the rock show. right before midnight they come by and open the bottle of champagne. They do the countdown (in Spanish). We drink the champagne. I don’t think I am that wasted. However, I may or may not have danced and I never dance. And there may or may not have been a video of said dancing.

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After things wind down in the theatre we go back to the Lobby Bar and then outside to watch the fireworks. We stop to wish Daniel a Happy New Year.

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We really, really enjoyed spending the evening with Tessa and Dave. We are looking forward to getting to spend more time with them over the next few days. We have a bar crawl planned with them tomorrow. It will be our first!

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We get back to our room. There is a calendar for 2017 waiting for us.

Happy Grand New Year!

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Settling Into Our Home for the Week

We have arrived at Playa Paraiso, but not yet at the Grand. We have to drive through the complex first. There is there convention center on the left and the shopping center on the right. The Maya and medical center are on the left.

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Then we turn to left right and go around the circle and head up the drive to the Grand. We are welcomed warmly by the bell boys. They send us to the lobby where they have us pay for our stay. Sometimes they have us pay when we check in and sometimes they wait until we check out.

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It is lovely to see everyone at the front desk. René, the new director of Public Relations, comes out and greets us. After we are checked in we go over to the Lobby Bar and have some champagne because they didn’t bring us any while we we checking in. Alex takes our picture. We are always so happy to be here.

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Before we know it, we are in the golf cart, going to Building 71. Hmm, that looks like a full glass of champagne. See that leather jacket I am carrying? That is about to get put away for the week. The weather is definitely cooler in the winter months, but there is still no need for any kind of jacket. A light wrap or shawl is sometimes nice to have in the evneing.

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We get to our room, 7141, corner suite on the third floor. There are the obligatory pictures from the balcony.

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And of course, the CROTW (or, sometimes called the CROW) picture. If you are a newbie, that stands for the Ceremonial Removal the The Watch.

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If you’re a newbie, I don’t wear a watch, or carry a purse on vacation. I do carry wristlets. They are just big enough to carry my phone, room card and a lipstick, plus some tip money. If you’re a newbie, make sure you tip. The service will warrant it.

Fernanado, one of the butlers, came by to get our pillow and liquor requests. I had made these by email already, but that’s okay. Everything arrived. Two down pillows for me, a foam pillow for Zung and a bottle of Havana Siete for us to share. There was a plate of meats and cheeses that was waiting for us. This was welcome. We were famished.

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There was also a fruit basket. This is beautiful, but we rarely eat much of it. That always makes me feel guilty, because eventually they just throw out the overripe fruit away.

We unpacked and then laid down. It was time to nap. We had gotten up obscenely early and would be up ridiculously late. Zung can fall asleep on command. Me? Not so much. Even though I was tired, I was excited. I did eventually fall asleep. It seemed like it was about two minutes lated that the alarm was going off.

Zung showered. I redid my hair and make-up.

Then, I put on THE dress. When we decided to spend NYE at the Grand again this year, I wanted to get a dress that would kick ass. I got a dress a few years ago, from Nordstrom, that was simply the most amazing dress I have ever bought. I wasn’t looking for it. I was was actually buying hosiery and looked up and it was on a mannequin way up on a ledge. I took myself to the dress department and bought that dress and unlike most of my dresses, it still hangs there today. I wanted a dress that amazing. I looked and looked and looked. I get most of my dresses  from Rent the Runway now. I had considered many, but hadn’t been able to get the ones I really wanted. I dd have one, but it wasn’t really amazing.

As I mentioned before, I found THE dress in Vail, during our very quick trip a few days before. I went into a store called Charm School Boutique. I looked at the cocktail style dresses, which were very nice and there were a couple that I liked a lot. However, I also looked at the price tags, and they were not cute and I didn’t like them at all. The saleswoman came by and said that all of those dresses in that section were 60% off. That made the price tags more tolerable, so I took a couple into the dressing room to try on. One was amazing. I went out to show Zung and the saleswoman came over and I asked what percentage off it was and she said, how about 70%?

“Sold!”

It was, in a word, amazing.

I hope you’ll agree.

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New Year’s Eve Trip to the Grand (Again)

New Year’s Eve in Mexico. At the Grand. Again. I can’t quite remember when we got the idea to do this. I remember after last year, we said that while it had been fun, we weren’t really sure it justified the much higher cost it involved. The Brown’s, Dave and Tessa from the UK, who I spent time with when I was here on my solo trip back in May, were going to be there. I really wanted Zung to meet them. We knew that we’d have to find a money tree first. We talked about it for several months.

Then we found the money tree! We also talked about going to Napa, instead. Right after New Year’s is actually a very inexpensive time to go there. But Dave and Tessa wouldn’t be there, and that was really the deciding factor. We threw caution about the high rates to the wind, and booked it.

The holidays were very stressful for me, with all the decorating and dinners and entertaining. Probably one of the most stressful I have ever experienced. However, I was a happy mama for Christmas because I had all my kiddos home. Nicholas has been able to come home from Italy both last year and this year, and his girlfriend, Tizzy, arrived Christmas day. Patrick’s girlfriend, Cat was here this year and her brother, also Patrick, joined us.

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That’s Cat on the end, with our Patrick, Tizzy with Nicholas. Patrick K and then Zung. In front is Susie, holding my sweet Sophie and me holding Sohpie’s ear.

Sitting down to Christmas dinner is always great, because then I’m done for the day with nothing left to do but eat and drink.

A couple of days later there was a quick, cold trip to Vail with all the kids again. While there, I found the AMAZING dress I had been looking for, for New Year’s Eve. It was a screaming good deal too. We came home to pack bikinis and sunscreen instead of the scarves and turtlenecks we’d needed in Vail. Well, I was packing bikinis. If Zung had packed a bikini that would have been just weird.

I’d been tanning for a couple of weeks. I know that is so bad for my skin, but burning is worse and I do unless I pre-tan. I decided this year to get a Mystic tan, which is a spray on tan. I was happy with the results. This way I would have some color for New Year’s Eve. For Christmas Susie had given me a gift certificate to the nail salon we go to, so we booked mani’s and pedi’s together.

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I make the always important, but difficult choice about shoes.

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We were flying out on New Year’s Eve Day, and our flight left at 8 am, which meant a       4 am wake up call. Somehow, that always feels earlier and is certainly colder in the winter. It also does not leave any time for vacation mimosas. Boo!

I always wear a down jacket and snow boots to the airport. We park in the garage. I do a quick change into a leather jacket and sandals and make a fast dash inside the terminal. We check in and head for the terminal where our airline is located. We have time to quickly get some fast-food breakfast sandwiches. They were not the tastiest thing I’ve ever eaten. Definitely a eat to live moment.

We board the plane and settle into our seats. It is too early for rum and cokes. So I have  a rum and o.j. Or two. Don’t judge Plus, the Oreos as my snack of choice that Southwest so thoughtfully provides at no additional charge.

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We doze for a bit. It was an occasionally bumpy flight, but in 3 1/2 hours we are landing. The immigration line is almost non-existant. We only have to wait for a few minutes for our bags. Even the Customs line is quick. We get the green light.

We go outside. I look for a sign with my name for our transfer. I can’t find it. I remember I was supposed to get a text with a code to exchange with the driver. I have not received said text. Then I remember that I have to turn on my Data Roaming for this to be able to happen. As soon as I do this, I get the text. I find our driver, or rather the guy who takes us to our driver. We load up our bags and head for the Grand.

You know, this is my 23rd trip to the Grand, and I still get excited when we see this sign.

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We have almost arrived at our second home.

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Travel Day

Well, this will be a short post, because I didn’t take notes. I do remember we went to breakfast with Helen and Chris. Other than that, I just can’t say for sure.

Overall, it was a good trip. It almost always is being at the beach. I love Mexico. It stole a piece of my heart that first time we came for our 25th anniversary, and stayed at the Royal Hideaway.

The VIM was a disappointment. But it wasn’t all bad, by any stretch. While the best part of the stay there was spending time with friends, there were some high points.

Things I liked about VIM:

-The dinners were good. Not great, but good. I have a really high bar for food, so it’s unlikely that any AI is going to reach the great level. I would say it is about on the same level as the Grand. It might even be a bit better, but more likely it is just new menus for us that made it seem like it might be that good.

-The wine was drinkable. I prefer having the wine list and options that the Grand has though.

-The bar we hung out in was nice with a nice selection of drinks. I think many people would think it was maybe a bit too quiet. I like that though.

-The second room we were in was nice. The swim out was actually a swim out. Unlike what they called a swim out at Secrets last year. You’d have to read that trip report to know what I mean.

-The buffet food was not bad. It was pretty average, but not bad.

-The grounds were pretty

-The water was nice to swim in. It was warm and mostly calm. I think this can vary though. The last day it was rougher.

-I liked the jewelry store.

-Overall, service was pretty good. I can’t say our first impression was good, with them trying to upsell us to their Prestige Club, or whatever they call it. a first lunch was initially a fail, but after complaining, it immediately improved, and that server was great the rest of our stay. There were definitely ups and downs with service, but overall, I feel like the service we get almost anywhere we go in Mexico is really good.

-They had Havana Club

Things I didn’t like about VIM:

-They cheaped out on the glass of welcome champagne. This really makes a bad first impression.

-The first impression went from bad to really bad with the upsell at check-in and then giving us two double beds. Honestly, this wouldn’t even have felt so unsatisfactory if they hadn’t tried the upsell first. It felt like punishment for not going with the upsell.

-The lobby has air that smells sickly sweet. It was so bad that I started to dread going in there.

-The first room was laid out so the flow was really disrupted by the sofa.

-Our first room had only one sink in the bathroom.

-The napkin with the welcome cake in our room was stained. While this doesn’t seem huge, again, it was early in the game and therefore made a bad first impression.

-While I was impressed that the Customer Service rep replied to me so quickly when I emailed about the almond milk, there was no follow through with actually fulfilling my request. This was worse than just telling me that they didn’t have almond milk. Then I would have brought my own.

-The resort is very large, which means not only lots of walking, but it made it hard to find things. Three days was definitely not long enough to feel like we knew our way around.

The only towel hut is by the pool. If you are a beach person, there is the hut with towels, but they are only for the prestige guests. This borders on obnoxious to have a hut with towels as you arrive at the beach, but to be told you can’t have them.

-The whole making us move on our last night had so many things wrong with it, I will not rehash it here. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know what happened.

-No Havana Club in our room.

-No Daniel. I guess he can’t be everywhere.

In the end, we would not return. We have also decided that we are not going to any other resorts for as long as the Grand is making us happy. Vacation time is too precious.

We considered this resort when it first opened, after we had been to the Grand once. On the feedback of the TA we were using at the time, we decided to go back to the Grand. I guess the rest is history. However, I wonder what my impressions would have been then.

Next Mexico vacation will be at the Grand. Come back next time for the start of our New Year’s Eve celebration!

 

 

 

 

 

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