Traveling Cleverly Since 2001

on Saturday, September 22, 2012 | 0 comments
Here are a few photos from my visit to Philadelphia last weekend. I went by myself, to visit a good friend who is expecting a couple of babies very soon! Yay twinsies! Anyway, her house is undergoing renovations, so we had to stay in a hotel. Darn. She chose the Hilton Inn at Penn right on the Penn campus. We had glorious weather, as I believe the pictures show.

 View from our hotel room, Inn at Penn

Our room, Inn at Penn. Loved this place! 

Our orangeade and lemonade, A La Maison, Ardmore, PA 

Lunch is served! 

View towards Wharton (that ugly round brick one) 

A copy of the famous artwork, on the Penn Campus 


Again with the beauty. Everywhere on this campus 

Sansom Street, a part that is really nice

on Monday, September 10, 2012 | 0 comments
I wonder if the 15 people who read this blog missed me last week? We spent a family week on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It was great fun. I'll definitely post more later, but here are a few shots of our beautiful week.

Back to reality today!

on Friday, August 31, 2012 | 0 comments
This will be my temporary home:

My days will be spent riding bikes, playing on the beach, yoga-ing, and frolicking with the young 'uns.

It's going to be great.
on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 | 0 comments
On my way to the car this morning, I saw that our cat vomited in the stroller. The $750 Baby Jogger City Select stroller. Penance for such extravagance?

Nevertheless, a cat may die today.

And, the other night? I sat in pee. My child's pee, which he had carelessly spilled on the seat and floor as he attempted to empty his child's potty into the big toilet. Mr. Nomad saw the spillage, but in his words, "it was chaos" as the baby was attempting to crawl through said pee. Mr. Nomad conveniently forgot to clean it up, and I ended up with pee on my legs.
on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 | 0 comments
We live in the suburbs on Atlanta. We ended up here, not by choice, but by circumstances. Right after Mr. Nomad and I got married, I started law school. Like, six weeks later. I went to UGA in Athens, which is way east of Atlanta, and the Mr. worked on far west side of Atlanta. This meant we had to live kind of in-between. So commenced three years of horrible commutes for both of us. Where I found that kind of energy and drive still baffles me.

We purchased a townhome in 2004 while I was in law school. Then, we rented it out when we purchased our home in 2006. Yes, THAT 2006, the one with the highest home prices ever record. The bubble of all bubble years.

So, like many 35-year olds that I know, I am now the proud owner of two homes - our starter and our second. We never planned to keep either of the houses this long, especially the one we're living in now. The house itself is fine, it's the location that's the issue. It's a nice neighborhood, but many of our neighbors don't speak English. We live in a heavily Korean area, and those that are friendly simply don't speak our language well enough to forge anything beyond pleasantries. Many aren't friendly at all - I've learned that, despite efforts, some cultures are very closed. It makes it tough for our toddler to have playdates and make friends. We've got a couple of friends in the immediate area, but that's it.

Though I want to move abroad, I do have to be a bit practical (dammit!). We've got kids to educate and student loans to pay. We've been considering different areas of Atlanta for years and have settled on where we want to buy. Problem is, we've got to wait a bit to sell our house, if we can sell it at all. Still underwater, don't you know? We're going to take a huge loss on the house, but I want it behind me. Plus, we have to save some for the NEW house, so yeah. It sucks.

We're looking at the Decatur/Oakhurst neighborhood. Decatur is not Atlanta, it's a separate city with its own taxes and schools. Good schools, too. Lots of parks, festivals and family-oriented activities. All within walking distance if you buy in the right area. It's going to be tough to find a house within our desired budget that is large enough for our needs, but I'm ready. It's going to be "the" house. The one to stay in for a long time. The family home.

I just want to get started. Waiting is very frustrating. Oakhurst even has its own flag - see?

on Monday, August 27, 2012 | 0 comments
One of my next adventures is going to be a girl's weekend in the North Georgia mountains. This area is really popular for Atlantans because (i) it's within a 3 hour drive, and (ii) the temperature drops, like, 5 or 10 degrees, which matters to us. It's the difference between tank tops and tank tops with cardigans. So, yeah.

The area around Dahlonega, Georgia, is a little micro wine country. There are lots of nice vineyards with tasting "rooms," many of them outdoors. Examples: Frogtown, Three Sisters, and Wolf Mountain.

The main town, Dahlonega, is home to a small public university and a busy downtown area. Like you would expect from a college town, there are a number of coffee shops, vegetarian and/or vegan inspired cafes, and a bookstore. Of course, it's a tourist town, so the obligatory chocolate shop and art galleries also populate the square.

I went with two attorney friends last year; this year we will add one more. It's becoming a yearly tradition, and I like it. It's inexpensive, it's quaint, and I don't have to go through a TSA checkpoint. Score.

A view like this close to home? I'll take it!

on Friday, August 24, 2012 | 0 comments
I've been on my replacement thyroid hormone for three weeks now. The doctor said it would take 6-8 weeks to reach it's full effect. I feel so good right now I cannot imagine how much better it could get. In three more weeks I may be able to run a small country. Or maybe just a 5K. Yes, that's slighty more reasonable.

This is really sexy talk. I feel like my 75 year old aunt. More about me.

So, my energy has slowly come back. It didn't hit me immediately, but it returned over the course of the last few weeks, bit by bit. I no longer wake up tired. I no longer yawn every 10 minutes. I no longer walk around in a mental fog.

I think the exercise is helping, too. When I found out about the hypothyroidism, I made a promise to start taking very good care of myself. I now make exercise a priority over housework. The dishes can wait. My health cannot.

I'm also tracking my daily food intake on My Fitness Pal. Love this app - it tells you how much to eat to reach your goal, and at the end of every day it tells you how much you'll weigh in 5 weeks if every day was like that day. Down 1.5 lbs this week, so it's working. Just 25 more to go. Hmph.

I decided to make another change as well. I've been on an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety drug for over three years now. It was prescribed to me during a very rough time in my life: job layoff (bad economy) and inability to conceive. Honestly, I needed the meds at the time. I was in a bad, bad place.

But, those circumstances have resolved, obviously. Especially the conception one, since now all Mr. Nomad and I have to do is think about a baby and we're gifted with one. Yes, yes, I know we're lucky. And tired. And broke.

Anyway, I've been tapering off that medication for a month now. I'm down from a dose of 20mg/day to 5mg/day. Besides occasional edginess, I've not experienced any withdrawal symptoms. I hope to be off it for good in about two weeks. I hope I can stay off of it, but the anxiety is what worries me. Prior to 2009, I was a very anxious person. I've become relatively chilled out in the last few years and I don't want to lose that. I like being laid back. I like not having panic attacks on airplanes.

But, I am trusting that I've changed in the past few years. I've definitely grown and matured. I am now okay with the fact that I can't control everything. Control is kind of boring anyway - it removes the excitement and unknown from life.

I mean, would an anxious person do this?

(Sky Trek Zipline, Arenal, Costa Rica, 2008) - okay, that's the Mr. there. In my defense, I added the pic really late last night and in the thumbnail I thought it was me. Apparently, I have crazy muscle arms in my mind. Never mind, I'm leaving it.
on Thursday, August 23, 2012 | 0 comments

on | 0 comments

To know me in real life is to know that I have a Caribbean obsession. How in the hell a girl born in Indianapolis in the middle of a February blizzard has the sea in her veins is anyone's guess.

My first visit was in 1999. Jamaica, on a reward trip with Mr. Nomad's employer. Ah, we were wee then, just an unmarried couple on our first "nice" trip. The pina colada's flowed, hangovers were nursed, I was bitten by a yellow jacket in my abdomen. It was nice, but it didn't hit me "there." You know, the heart (not the groin, you sick bastard).

For our honeymoon, we went to Aruba. We were halfway in to our first drink when I looked at my new husband and proclaimed, "we need to buy a house on this island." Annulment was still an option for him at that moment; he should have considered it.

I've tried on other islands over the years as I've depleted our expendable income: Grand Bahama, Sint Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla, but a one day cruise stop in 2005 changed it all. We pulled in to port at St. Thomas, and our day was to be spent on St. John, a short ferry ride away.

It was August, it was overcast. "Shouldn't we just stay here," asked Mr. Nomad as we stepped off the boat in St. Thomas, knowing my answer was "no" as soon as his question came out of his mouth. So on that ferry we went. (Annulment was no longer an option, it had been four years and we aren't Catholic. He had to tag along.)

"Welcome to St. John," proclaims a rather banal sign as you step off the ferry and walk by the pumpkin-colored ferry terminal. Welcome, indeed.

We took a jitney cab ride to the North Shore beaches. Though the driver was moving fast, the vistas glimpsed between the trees revealed St. John to be no ordinary island. Unlike St. Martin or Anguilla, where it was rare to find an ocean vista unspoiled by development, the North Shore of St. John embodies unspoiled with a few exceptions.

Don't get me wrong, I love the water and beaches of Anguilla, Mexico, the Bahamas. But the landscape is boring. No, I couldn't handle a flat island. Florida? That's out. I need points of reference, points of interest. A mountainous island for me, thank you very much.

St. John protected by law. Dedicated to the US Park Service by the Rockefellers. Caneel Bay, Peter Bay, and small portions elsewhere (a homesite or two) are all the development the North Shore has seen to date. 

Our day in 2005 was far from perfect. The heavens opened up as soon as we dipped our toes in the water at Trunk Bay. But when I look back at photos from that day, my smile in the pictures as we took cover from that storm says it all: I was happy.

See? Happy... and young. Good to see you, 27 year old face and clavicle. May we take a pause here to remember?

Moving along.

We went back for our first land-based trip in 2007. Then again in 2008, 2009 and 2010. I haven't been back since, which is hurting my soul. St. John is truly my place. See that picture above? That's no photoshop trick; it really is that beautiful. And that's just one of the North Shore beaches. That scene is played out, over and over again.

St. John even has a smell. It's earth, salt, decay... nature, really.

I don't mean to make it seem as if this is some deserted island. There is plenty of development. 1/3 of the island is not protected, and many millionaires (billionaires?) have chosen to build large monuments to their egos. Cruz Bay, the main town, is slightly seedy but serviceable. I always have fun there. The people are overwhelmingly friendly. I love it.

I'd love to move there. I think. I ponder this often, but holes are always punched in my plan. Private schools are required to the tune of $18K/year. Housing is through the roof expensive. Salaries are poor. Third world living at first world prices. That's how I've heard it described. There's an element of truth to that. But, there are things I cannot find in Atlanta: a small town feel, those views, no Apple stores, a sense of community.

For now, I must be content with visits. Perhaps I should stop typing and get to looking up airfare?

Maaahhho Bay.
on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 | 0 comments

Now that the babies are almost 1 and 3, I'm coming up (a little) from that all-consuming baby phase. Don't get me wrong, we're still plenty busy, but a 1-year old is infinitely easier than a newborn or even a six month old. I'm starting to do a few things for myself again. Yoga. Running. Food journaling. Thinking about traveling.

There were a few big trips I wanted to make before we had children. I did all but one of them. Africa would have to wait. Because I started this blog in 2009 and didn't transfer posts for my earlier blog, I've never really shared where we've been in the past. Here's our list of major travels (this list excludes lovely trips to Chicago, NYC and North Carolina to visit family and friends), followed by the "to do" list for the future.

Where I've Been:
1. St. Maarten/St. Martin: 2003-2005, 2007
2. St. John/BVI: 2007-2010
3. Maui: 2006
4. Costa Rica (Osa Peninsula, Arenal Volcano and San Jose): 2008
5. Italy (Amalfi Coast, Rome): 2009
6. England (Manchester, Telford): 2001
7. Jamaica (Negril): 2000
8. Bermuda: 2011
9. St. Croix, Dominica, Grenada, Tobago, St. Kitts: 2011
10. Puerto Rico: Several times, can't recall years
11. Grand Bahama: couple of times, can't remember when
12. Anguilla
13. Belize (Ambergris Caye): 2012
14. Mexico (Cancun, Riviera Maya, Isla Mujeres): 1997, 2009, 2012

List for the Future:
1. Africa: Tanzania and Kenya
2. St. Vincent and the Grenadines sailing
3. BVI Sailing
4. Santorini, Greece
5. Istanbul and Cappadoccia, Turkey
6. Paris and South of France
7. Amsterdam
8. British Columbia
9. Alaska
10. Kauai
11. Japan
12. Thailand
13. St. Lucia: To see the Pitons

I once said that when it comes to travel, you either have the time or the money, but rarely both. Now we've got the money (I mean, we're not rolling or anything, but we could make it happen), but the time! Oh, only if we could find it. I'd love to work remotely for a period of time and live in Europe with the boys. That way, we could see a lot of that fabulous continent in a short time. I can get Mr. Nomad on board, don't ya think?
on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 | 0 comments
I have a lot to say. Finding the time to say it is a different story. I've made this blog mostly about my family's personal travel experiences, but I'm wanting to branch out a bit more. I've got so much going on: full time job, two young kids, weight loss challenges, my changing perception of self as I get older... I've got lots to say but don't often take the time for self-reflection.

Does anyone care? I don't know, but I care. My life has changed so much in the past three years. Here's a rundown of where I am:

- FT working lawyer at a small firm. Not sure I ever want to make partner. Not sure I even want to work FT going forward. I kind of hate being a lawyer somedays but I'm not sure what else I could do. Is cutting back even an option? At least I enjoy my workplace.
- Mom of two young boys. Trying to balance being "fun" with also raising respectful and responsible young men. It's a job.
- Wife. We barely have time for each other any longer but are struggling to maintain closeness.
- Former beach junkie dealing with the fact that I don't fit into my impressive bikini collection at the moment. Will my recently discovered thyroid issues prevent me from ever getting back to where I want to be (need to be) to be healthy and confident?
- Former good friend who is now not so good. I don't have time for long phone conversations and my best friends live outside the state. Texts and short emails will have to do.
- Wanderer. Nomad. There is still that part of me that wants to travel the world. I want to learn how to sail. I want to learn to speak Spanish. It's easy to say "later." I've seen enough to know that later isn't guaranteed.

on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 | 0 comments
I am 35. No longer young, but not yet old. I guess I'm middle aged? In the middle of writing my Belize trip report (which I still have not completed), I got sick. It was early stage bronchitis, and it knocked me down in a serious way. I couldn't get out of bed one day. Literally - no energy to move. I haven't been feeling well lately anyway, but I realized I was way off when I had bronchitis. It was such a mild case, yet it hit me so hard and took too long to recover.

I went to the doctor. It's my thyroid. Apparently, it's slow and lazy. Which explains why I've been exhausted, unable to get out of bed, unable to lose weight, etc. It was easy to chalk this up to depression and stress. After all, I am a FT lawyer and mother of two children under 3. Hypothyroidism is a common enough condition, but I'd never realized the impact an incorrectly functioning thyroid can have on your entire health.

So basically, I'm on thyroid hormones, likely for the remainder of my days. The solution seems simple enough, though getting the dosage correct is a moving target. I've only been on meds for 10 days, and it should take 6 weeks for full effectiveness. I have to be diligent about my food intake and exercise, as it's going to be harder to lose and easier to gain weight than someone without this condition.

So, now I begin to try to lose my remaining baby weight in earnest, realizing that I have a handicap that normal dieters don't face and that this will be a long process. I've started running again (slowly) and I'm going to one vigorous 90 minute yoga class a week. I'll add more in as my energy (hopefully) returns.
on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | 2 comments
After our long morning of travel, we were excited to see Matachica Resort. I'd poured over where to stay for this trip, and was very excited about our choice. Matachica is a small resort comprised of about twenty casitas, eight of which are directly on the beach. We were lucky enough to book one of these. We stayed in a Deluxe Beachfront Casita called Strawberry (all the casitas have fruit names like Mango, Lime, Papaya, etc).


As we settled in, I realized it was hot. Like, really, really hot. Our first day was sultry, to put it mildly, with nary a breeze in the air. We proceeded to take our overheated selves to the main palapa for lunch and to book some excursions for the week. After a lunch of chicken quesadilla and caesar salad at Mambo restaurant, we booked a snorkel excursion to Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley for the following afternoon.

The rest of our day was of little note. I recall a cocktail and a nap and dinner in there somewhere. We slept the whole night through (yay for no kids!) and woke up early for our first full day.

After enjoying Matachica's complimentary continental breakfast (cereal, fresh fruit, yogurt and egg), we laid around and read. We much appreciated the breeze that was blowing consistently off the ocean.

I'm sure it hasn't escaped notice that the sea seems to be filled with seagrass near the shore. It is. That's how Ambergris Caye is. The reef is very close to the shore (you can see the breakers from the sand) and the sea inside the reef is filled with life. There are designated swimming areas off the docks, but Ambergris Caye is NOT for people who need a beach you can wade into.

We had scheduled a snorkel trip for the afternoon. Snorkeling is abundant off Ambergris Caye, though generally not accessible by swimming from shore. You have to take a boat or kayak to various spots along the reef. We wanted to snorkel the popular Hol Chan Marine Reserve, which has 24/7 protection from marine patrol. You have to go with a guide (as it is protected) and you receive all kinds of warnings about not harrassing the wildlife, etc. This location was about a 30 minute boat ride from Matachica. We had hoped for a private charter, but we couldn't make it worthwhile, cost-wise. So, we opted to go with a trip that left from our resort.

This trip had two stops: Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley. Our boat got to Hol Chan about 45 minutes before a big rush of boats showed up. Our group had only eight people, but it was too crowded for my liking. I frankly would have loved a private snorkel at Hol Chan, but it is costly. We saw a few things I haven't seen before, like a green turtle and a moray eel (a very large one). Though I've seen many, many stingrays, the spotted eagle ray has always eluded me. Not any longer! It was a great hour long snorkel, and the channel was very calm on the day we went. Belize has recently had some tourist deaths at Hol Chan, as I understand the current can get strong at times. It was like a big pool the day we went.

Our next stop was Shark Ray Alley, where I finally got some footage. Behold, the nurse shark feeding frenzy!

We were able to get in with these guys and swim around for a while. Though the largest nurse sharks I've ever swam with, these guys weren't scary. No teeth, so they are just big fish. It sure looks impressive from the boat, though.

After our snorkel, we had a nice boat ride back. We went into town that evening and ate at Elvi's Kitchen. Belize is not known for it's fine cuisine, but we had a great meal of stewed chicken and battered coconut/ginger shrimp at Elvi's. Definitely the best meal with had while on AC.
on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 | 0 comments
It's unlikely anyone is waiting impatiently for the next installment of my trip report. But... if you are, it is coming soon. I've been knocked down with a nasty virus and bronchitis.
on Friday, July 6, 2012 | 0 comments

I've been interested in visiting Belize for a number of years now. Back in 2008, when we visited Costa Rica, I vacillated between the two countries. In the end, the wildlife won out, so Costa Rica it was. But, I always knew a trip to Belize was on the horizon.

This trip was to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (yay us!). I spent about a month researching where to go, and once I'd decided on Belize, another few weeks deciding where to stay. In the end, I chose to visit perhaps the most well-known part of Belize, an island a short plane ride from the mainland called Ambergris Caye.

Ambergris Caye (AC) is known as a diver's destination. However, it's also immensely popular with honeymooners, couples and people who are adventure-minded in general. I honestly wanted to spend a few nights on the mainland and just a couple on AC, but the mainland jungle lodges are not known for their use of air-conditioning, and my husband is known for his love of air-conditioning. Apparently, sweating in near 100 degree heat and humidity is NOT romantic.

Anyway, after debating Victoria House versus Matachica (the two resorts that were frontrunners), I chose Matachica. In the end, I liked the way it looked better. It was colorful, bohemian, and had a thatched roof. I like a thatched roof. Also, it was further from town, which was appealing because I have two kids pulling at me, plus a full-time career as a lawyer. I'm tired of people.

In the end, I made the right choice. Victoria House is known as the "class" of Ambergris Caye. In that case, I do believe that Matachica brings the sexy. I mean, is this a sexy place or what?

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Since everyone likes a good travel story (not really, but I'm going to tell you mine), let me just say I almost screwed the whole trip by mis-timing our arrival at the airport. Not sure quite what happened, but we checked in with 30 minutes until takeoff. We made it after sprinting through security and begging people to let us push ahead. We then ran to the train, took the train almost to the end (damn gate assignment) and then ran TO THE END OF THE TERMINAL. Literally, I think our flight was as far from the check-in desk as it could be. Mr. Nomad was furious at me. Like, "what the hell were you thinking" mad. It was a great way to start an anniversary trip. Ah, marriage.

Anyhow, we had a multi-step trip. A flight to Houston, then a flight to Belize City, then a puddle jump on Tropic Air to AC. I was really unsure about the Tropic Air flight. I've been on a few small flights, but this was the smallest. A 12-passenger, single engine cessna. I normally avoid single engine aircraft, as I believe redundancy is better. I fortified myself with a rum punch from Jet's bar at the BZE airport. Our flight was called shortly after I received my rum punch, so I downed it in under 3 minutes. I should've just taken a shot.

This video shows my reaction upon takeoff. Basically, that hand wave and terse smile is saying "well, we're committed now." It's possible I made the same hand gesture on my wedding day (kidding!).

The flight was actually quite pleasant, and, thanks to my alcohol-induced chatter with fellow passengers, we were landing before I knew it. It was fun.

Upon arrival, we were met at the airport by our cell phone rental representative (highly recommended service, as calling using AT&T's international plan was cost-prohibitive) and a representative from Matachica. We took a short ride on a golf cart to Fido's bar and restaurant to wait for our water taxi to the resort. Planes, smaller planes, golf carts and boats: we were almost there, and it was just noon, Belize time!

This is Fido's dock in downtown San Pedro. This is the dock our resort shuttle used.

My first Belikin of the trip!

The beach in front of Fido's. More to come soon!
on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 | 0 comments
As soon as I can catch my breath, I'll begin our trip report for Belize. We had a great (albeit short) trip and got a lot of relaxation in. We also snorkeled with sharks, ziplined and went cave tubing. It was a really fun trip and I can't wait to share my pictures and video!
on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 | 1 comments
So in about two weeks, Mr. Nomad and I are heading off for our next adventure - to Belize! We're spending a short four nights on Ambergris Caye to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We opted to stay pretty far north of San Pedro town at a really unique resort called Matachica. We plan to spend our days reading, laying on the hammock on our oceanfront casita and snorkeling. We have one adventure on our final morning - we're going cave tubing and ziplining on the mainland before our late flight. It is sure to be fun, and I cannot wait! I mean, could you:

on Friday, May 18, 2012 | 1 comments
Here are some additional photos from the trip... wishing we were there now!

on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 | 2 comments
I first heard about Isla Mujeres about seven years ago, while researching somewhere to go between taking the bar exam and starting my first job. For a variety of reasons, we chose to go on a cruise, but Isla Mujeres (IM for short) has always been on "the list." My husband's cousin, also a close friend, and her fiance decided to get married there, and we definitely didn't want to miss it.

So, we decided to pack up the kids and hit the road. Our party consisted of myself, Mr. Nomad, the two wee nomads (7 months and 2.5 years), and our 18 year old sitter. IM is a small island, about five miles long, that sits just off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. IM is reached via ferry and the main mode of transport on the island is either a scooter or golf cart. There are cars and taxis, but not all that many.

Our flight to Cancun arrived early, around 10am, and we were on the 11:30am ferry. We arranged a private transport from the airport to the ferry dock with USA Transfers. I'd highly recommend this company if you need a private transport from the airport to anywhere in the Yucatan. Professional, on-time and economical ($75 round-trip for five people in a private, air-conditioned van).

Penthouse View
We rented penthouse unit 504 at Ixchel Beach Hotel from a private owner on VRBO. We wanted to rent directly from Ixchel Beach Hotel, but they were out of penthouse (PH) units. We wanted a PH since we were traveling with small kids and would spend a lot of time in the room. Ixchel Beach Hotel is located on North Beach, just North (duh) of the main town and in easy walking distance to all manner of restaurants, stores and golf cart rentals. Secluded paradise, it certainly wasn't, but it was beautiful.
Penthouse Hot Tub

After being met at the ferry dock, we were checked in by 12:30pm. The management company really pushed to make sure we could check in early as we were traveling with small kids who needed naps. That courtesy was much appreciated and we quickly settled in and put the kids down for a nap. After the kids were soundly asleep, Mr. Nomad and I went out to rustle up some lunch for ourselves and our sitter (who stayed back with our sleeping kids). We decided to forego the on-site restaurant in favor of a place on North Beach called Chimbo's. We had beer and margaritas, and yummy tacos. Oh, and guacamole. Good lord, did we eat some guacamole.

The pictures of Playa Norte (North Beach, for you non-Spanish speakers) are stunning. In person, I wasn't a huge fan of the beach. The beach is fairly crowded by Caribbean standards and there are lots of large sand-bag berms placed strategically along the beach to catch sand. They've done their best to make these look like rocks, but they are sandbags. On the plus side, the beach is very shallow and calm, and is perfect for little ones. You can wade very far out and only be up to your waist. This area is great for a friends getaway or a family vacay. For a romantic vacation? I'd look elsewhere.

Wee Nomad #1 on North Beach

Since we were traveling with children, our days were somewhat standard and fairly boring to most. We woke early, got breakfast and hit either the beach or pool. Usually in by lunch, the kids went down for a nap and we hung out on the terrace or perhaps got a drink. Late afternoons were spent in the pool usually. We did fit a few adventures in, however:

Mr. Nomad and I received a couples massage by Mary Ann Burns and another therapist she engaged to assist us. Her massage dome is on the south end of the island, almost directly across from the infamous Shell House. The dome did not have A/C, but none was necessary. Ocean breezes cooled us as Mary Ann and her friend did their magic. After an hour, I was complete putty.

The bride and groom had scheduled a afternoon snorkel cruise one of our days. This ended up being on a double-decker power boat and not a catamaran. The alcohol was included, as was the snorkel gear. We did get to see a turtle, but honestly the snorkeling was below average. I think I'm spoiled, so perhaps I'm not the best one to review this excursion. We did have a great time socializing though, which was really the whole point of the trip.

We rented a golf cart for 48 hours - what fun! We admittedly packed the baby and toddler on the golf cart - not the safest activity in the states, but in Mexico it was very common to see little kids of all ages on golf carts. We hit Chedraui, a small Wal-Mart type store, and stocked up on groceries, diapers, etc. We also did a full island circumnavigation, which was a lot of fun. IM honestly lacks in natural beauty. Being used to the rolling hills and emerald mountains of St. John, St. Martin, and other islands, the flat scrubbiness of Mexico seems unattractive. But, I've been to Mexico before, and know that the star is always the beaches and culture.

The people on IM were really lovely. Traveling with children in Mexico is a pleasure, because most people really love children and they get lots of attention. Our boys have extremely big eyes and long eyelashes, and the women couldn't get enough.

We ate out a few times, and I found the food on IM to be better-than-average. In no particular order, here are our eats:
Qubano: on Hidalgo in downtown. Ate there for dinner, had the grouper. It was decent.
Barlito: breakfast and lunch joint in downtown. Picked up breakfast one morning. HUGE portions, great breakfast paninis and the best cinnamon roll of all time.
Dos Amigos: On Hidalgo, Mexican - good food, very friendly, great guac
Chuuk Kay: This restaurant was on the lagoon, a bit expensive, but delicious margaritas. The food was okay, but the drinks were outstanding. Best mango margarita I've tasted ever.
Chimbo's: North beach, great tacos and guac
Liedy Palapa: North beach, good tacos

Tacos at Chimbo's

The wedding itself was at Zama Beach Club. This beach club is located on Sac Bajo, a small strip of land that sits between the lagoon and ocean. It's clear that this is the high dollar area of IM. Some of the nicest hotels and homes are on this stretch. I wish I'd discovered Zama earlier - everything about this club is what a Mexican vacation should be. Huge palapa covering the bar and restaurant area with a beautiful tiled floor, a two-tiered pool, a smallish beach cove with beach beds and nice loungers spaced at just the right distance from one another. I loved it, and it was a perfect location for a wedding. The wedding itself was a huge success!

We had a great family vacation on IM. It surely doesn't replace St. John as my favorite tropical destination. I'm not sure I'll be back in the next few years, but if I ever have occasion to visit IM again, I'll eagerly look forward to my return.