Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fun in the Mexican Sun

After spending Christmas in snowy Boston with Kristin's family, we were fortunate to spend a post-Christmas vacation with Matt's family in Mexico.  Everyone met up in Houston, flew to Cancun, and then took a taxi about 45 minutes south to the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Morelos.  Puerto Morelos is located on the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea between Cancun and Cozuml.  There we had a house on the beach with a nice pool, easy access to the ocean, and only a few blocks walk to downtown restaurants, bars, and shopping.

Perfect January weather...much different than Germany, Boston, Missouri, or Denver!
Most of these blog posts are about all of the amazing culture we find and history of the places we visit.  This trip was all about food, relaxation, and sun, so I'll just get right into the pictures.

One benefit to being a little jet lagged...I was up early to enjoy the sunrise.  Of course Kristin had no problem sleeping.

Most days we were up about the same time to have breakfast and discuss the day's activities...or lack thereof.

Then it was time to relax with a book or some music.

Plenty of shade available for the non-Hendrens with pale skin.
For lunch one day we walked a few hundred feet down the beach to La Playita for some fresh fish.  Yes...we'll take that one.
They fry them right up and serve it with tortillas, salsa, and other fixings.  This was probably my favorite meal while there.
On particularly ambitious days we walked to town for ice cream.

Each night we strolled back into town for dinner.  This taco shop ended up being a great find - it's just a tiny takeout place off of the beaten path.

Only a couple of bucks for an amazing dinner
Kristin tried a torta and it was also delicious.  We filled half of the restaurant--meaning we took up all of the tables on the sidewalk.

We had heard great things about a churros guy on the main square but all we could find was this place selling marquesitas - like a rolled crepe and native to the Yucatan.  Kristin enjoyed them with Nutella.
Kristin was pregnant, but I think the bump is mostly because she had a lot of delicious Mexican food to eat this night.

Another night we had a fancy dinner at John Gray's Kitchen.  It felt like a trendy place in Manhattan after the street food we had most nights.

Instead of going out one night, we had Chef Juan come to us and prepare a meal, or what turned out to about 5 meals after he made so much food!

This was just one round...dishes just kept coming and coming.

Didn't get the picture in time before people dug into this one!

Everything was prepared fresh in our kitchen by Juan and his brother.

These were tamales baked in banana leaves.

Finally we got a little ambitious and the boys went on a fishing trip.  The seas were a little rough but we still managed to find some good fish.

Mo took on the first one and did a good job of wearing it out.

Dad joined the fight and reeled one in.

As it got close, we could see it was a beautiful green dorado (Mahi-mahi).

Finally we got it into the boat!

I pulled in a Spanish mackerel to round out the catch.  Unfortunately the photographer is never in the pictures.

We took the Mahi-mahi to La Playita that night and they did a wonderful job cooking it up for us!  Again, we dug in before I could even get the camera out.

Meanwhile, the ladies had a fun time at Mexican cooking school

Cupcake was doing flips after some especially spicy salsa.
Mom's a pro and was done first!

After a quick rest Kristin was back in the game but I think Em worked the hardest.

While it's hard to not have a wonderful time in such a place, I think everyone enjoyed it even more than we had expected.  I'm sure we'll be going back in the future.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Quick Day at Heidelberg Castle (with special guests!)

Heidelberg is an old university town located about an hour and a half north of Stuttgart, in between Stuttgart and Frankfurt.  Sitting on a hill overlooking the city is Schloss Heidelberg (Heidelberg Palace), a mostly ruined castle that has its roots in the 13th century.  The castle was built over 500 years, but was partially destroyed numerous times due to disasters both natural (lots of lightening strikes) and man-made (sore-loser generals blowing the heck out of pieces of the castle before retreating).

The top of that tower may be missing.

We were excited that a last-minute visit to Frankfurt by Matt's cousin Chris and his wife Stephanie gave us a great excuse to tour the castle since we had only seen it from the outside (twice).  They offer English tours of the interiors once a day, so we hopped in our car and met outside of the gate.

The guests.

Although the exterior walls of the castle have a consistent appearance, the interior courtyard showcases multiple different styles that reflect its construction over a period of more than a half century.

Wasn't expecting a fancy pants palace inside the walls.

This part looks like a movie set -- you can see that the insides of the building are missing.

Unfortunately photography wasn't permitted on the inside of the castle, so you'll have to come visit to see for yourselves.  But the tour did end with a visit to the castle's wine cellar.  The previous occupants were serious about drinking and built the world's largest wine keg in 1751 (plus a few more huge ones to make sure they didn't run out of wine).  The biggest keg was a bit leaky, so it hasn't held much wine over the years.  Today it is used as an event space with a dance floor built on top of it.  

Thanks for the visit, Chris and Stephanie!  We hope you enjoyed your mad dash through Germany.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Kristin and I had a wonderful time visiting family and friends over the holidays in DC, Boston, and Missouri.  Thanks so much to everyone that hosted us!

We landed in Stuttgart at about 4:30pm on New Years Eve and busied ourselves with unpacking and eating until about 9:00 when we walked over to our friends' house for a party.  After some awesome food and drink, we joined the German tradition of setting off huge fireworks right in front of the apartment building.

I stayed on the balcony as the crew looked over their provisions

Never mind the cars, apartments, and stores...3' tall bottle rockets are fun!

After a few rockets, we moved on to the big stuff.  The neighbor had a couple of aerial repeaters that were also fun.

This guy decided to stop and watch...while drinking a beer

By 11:30, things were in full swing and we walked a few more blocks to the Königstraße (King Street), which is a big pedestrian mall.  By midnight, the party was really rocking and people were setting off fireworks everywhere.  They were flying through the crowds, bouncing off of the buildings, and creating an amazingly chaotic celebration...that was just a little bit scary.  Especially when you consider that most people were also drinking (no open container laws here).

Luckily we walked away with still-functioning fingers, toes, and eyes.  We made it home around 2am, with bodies still thinking it was 7pm and bottles of champagne and sparkling apple juice in hand.  

We hope your celebrations were also fun and wish you the happiest of New Years!

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.