Category Archives: Travelling

Cancun Mexico

Cancun. Wow! What an amazing place!

I spent 7 wonderful nights at the Moon Palace resort in Cancun between the 10th and 17th of November, the temperature there was 29oC and that’s slightly warmer than the frosty temperature back in the UK!

The beautiful Moon Palace resort is split into 3 different zones, Sunrise (more suited to younger couples and family orientated), The Grand (an Exclusive, grandiose and 5 diamonds rated luxury resort aimed at ‘nobby nob nob’ America and Arabic holidaymakers) and Nizuk (a more boutique experience and somewhere in the middle of the other two).

Normally, entry to the Grand resort is exclusive only to guests staying at the Grand; Nizuk and Sunrise guests can crossover into each other’s resort and I liked what I had seen in both places, so being a completionist I was curious to see what the Grand was like!

So I volunteered for an uncomfortable 3 hour tour/timeshare presentation to get a ‘free’ 1 day pass which is normally worth a couple of hundred US dollars.

Folks, don’t do what I did…..just buy the damned day pass if you want to check out the Grand! The Grand has its own water park with loads of slides and the Habibi Labanese restaurant is worth the price of the day pass alone.

However, avoid, avoid, avoid, the pushy Narcos timeshare sales pitch by Miguel at all costs!

Here’s the main bar at the Grand, which had what looked like a Murano glass ceiling. Funnily enough, I experienced gangsters at Mureno in Venice, so it was ironic to see Murano glass having just had a brush with the timeshare bandits.

Whatever zone you choose, you will see spectacularly landscaped gardens, several swimming pools, golf carts with dedicated staff who are only too happy to zip you off somewhere. Night or day, it all looks stunning.

All-inclusive at the Nizuk is a 5 star experience from start to finish. I had a Jacuzzi bath in my hotel room, access to 24 hour room service and fully stocked bottomless mini bar.

I saw my first raccoon and so many species of birds at the resort, Moon Palace has won lots of conservation awards and it’s easy to see this in their daily practices around the resort. I also saw some turtle nests, sadly I did not get to see the little chaps scuttle off into the sea but that’s ok.

What makes Nizuk special are the staff. Yutucan Mexicans (where most of the staff commute in from) are probably the hardest working professional people that I have ever met in my life and they all manage it, every day, with a smile and the kind of genuine warmth that humbled me to my core. If you are ever in their company, please tip very graciously.

Dinning at the exceptional El Manglar buffet restaurant is a spectacular affair; a couple of nights I also went to the resort a la carte traditional Los Caporales Mexican restaurant where I had the hottest habanero sauce of my life! Holy fuck it melted my mouth and tongue!

I think my favourite experience in Cancun was getting up early every day to watch the Sun rise from my balcony or down by the beachfront which was only a stones throw from my room.

I don’t think I would ever get bored of seeing such beauty.

I always enjoy a good swim, but drinking margaritas in the pool? Well that is just bloody fabulous?!?

The bottom line here is that you are not left wanting for anything here.

Going all-inclusive, you also get access to the other hotels that are part of the same group.

The Beach Palace hotel is about 20 minutes away from Moon Palace is on a stretch of beach that has the bluest water I’ve ever seen and has a spectacular rooftop terrace which gives a 360 degrees view of the surrounding area. Showing how the hotel zone strip acts as a divider between the lagoon and the sea.

There is also the Sun palace hotel, which is probably more of a local weekend break option. It was nice enough, but appeared to be very cramped compared to the others and in all honesty I couldn’t be arsed taking photos of all the sardine-like guests there!

I am glad I ventured out around the hotel zone because I saw first hand how local people go about their daily lives.

Mexicans live together and work together in such a fashion that can only make one conclude how disconnected the average London city worker is in compaison.

During lunchtime in Cancun, you see people sheltering together in the shade under the trees to stay out of the roasting Sun, people are sharing out food between each other; in some cases, cars are delivering lunches to everyone at the roadside and I thought this was beautiful, humanity at its finest and something that I really took to my heart (Corazon!).

If anything, it made me consider how extremely privileged I was to holiday at somewhere like the Moon Palace resort, knowing that I was eventually going back to my home and to all the things that I try not to take for granted.

I very much hope to go back to Mexico, next time for 2 weeks if possible, so that I can go on some tours!

I went to Cancun to have fun and relax for the first time in 5 years and I achieved that in abundance; but I think my trip also refreshed my moral compass which was definitely unexpected.

And for that, I say, gracias and salud!

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Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – Washington D.C.

Forget the White House, forget the Star Spangled Banner, forget all the steak; the best thing about Washington D.C. is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Holy fuck, they have some amazing shit here!

I honestly didn’t know where to run to first!  Upon entry, you go through security, then you are PRESENTED WITH THE APOLLO LUNAR MODULE!!  THE FUCKING APOLLO LUNAR MODULE FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

3 exceptionally brave men sat in this little thing for a week, going to the moon and back!  And the yanks have it displayed in the foyer!  You gotta love that?  The module is AMAZING, seeing the re-entry burn marks on the blast shield made me feel faint with geek shock; I personally could not fit in the module if I laid across all three seats, so goodness knows how the astronauts managed it.

After regaining my composure and putting my tongue in my mouth, I staggered and looked around the little ‘square’ foyer.  There in all their glory were the X-1 (Which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in), the X-15 (which broke the barrier of our atmosphere before rockets went further) and Space Ship One (The future of commercial space travel?).   Next to those, the Spirit of St Louis, the first aircraft to travel non-stop over the Atlantic.

I could not take it in?  I have loved planes and space travel since I can remember, so to be confronted with Man’s greatest technological achievements was something to cherish.

Around the museum, you can go from seeing the Wright Brothers ‘Wright Flyer’ through to WW1 and the bi-planes, then sample the WW2 planes (one of my favourite parts of the museum) and then into supersonic, before breaking into the space age.  It’s like a timeline of flight.

In addition to this, you also have a fantastic and comprehensive guide to rocket technology, from the Nazi V2 right up to things like intercontinental ballistic missles and a skylab module which was amazing to see.

It’s not all big vehicles, they have space suits, moon rock, the Wright Brothers tools, Gene Kranz’s waistcoat (NASA Flight Director during the Apollo 13 triumph).  More than you could possibly hope to see, if you are as big a science geek as I am.

Look at it all!

 

Smithsonian National Zoological Park (Washington D.C.) – Zoolights

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. has free entry and pandas!  Therefore, it deserves some of your time if you are in the area!  (And a generous donation!).

The zoo is situated between two Metro stations, Woodley Park and Cleveland Park; much of the park is on a very steep hill, so it’s a good idea to go the extra stop to Cleveland Park and walk down through all the exhibits.

Considering it’s a free zoo, it’s a fantastic park; I particularly liked the O-line method of transportation that’s available to the Orangutan’s so that they can swing overhead between two habitats.  Very cool!

The American trail is also another great feature, I’ve never seen a spectacled bear before,  beautiful animal.  Kudos for the amazon feature as well; walking through a very humid mini jungle was an odd sensation after having been exposed to chilly weather in D.C. throughout the week.

The Panda enclosure is the big feature and quite right too!  An adult and baby panda majestically sat just in front of me whilst I was inside the centre (well, the adult sprawled out on her stomach like she’d been on a hen party the night before).  I’ve seen pandas before, but it’s always a special feeling; such a cute baby!

I deliberately stayed at the zoo until closing time for the annual Zoolights feature.  The security staff cordon off the exhibits, but leave the main walkway through the park available so that you can waltz through and enjoy the lights with Christmas music (got to love the ratpack!).

Beautiful neon lights adorn trees and are also presented in animal statue forms during the holiday season; it was quite sweet seeing busloads of excited kids disembark and run around the zoo marveling at the dazzling display.

Excellent, excellent, excellent!  Shine on, you crazy diamond.

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Four Seasons – Georgetown – Washington D.C.

I could not get 5 consecutive nights at the Fairmont due to availability, so I arranged to stay at the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown for two nights before heading back to the UK.

Upon getting out of the taxi, I noticed how the place dripped in pretentious luxury; being in places like the Four Seasons is slightly uncomfortable for me because I did not feel like I belonged here at all? The valet guys are wonderful and genuine in their welcome , but the reception staff are trying so hard to be 5 star that it feels like you’re in a Hollywood movie?

That’s not to be dismissive of their excellent service, I just felt it was a little robotic?

The lobby is amazing, a roaring fireplace and sitting area is right by the revolving door, just before the reception.  The reception staff looked after me so well, took my baggage (still not comfortable with someone doing that) and had it delivered to the room.

The journey to my room felt like it took ages because of how big this hotel is?  Perhaps they could benefit from adding some of the Heathrow pod parking vehicles to take guests from reception to their rooms?

The room is definitely more classy than the Fairmont, but the rooms are slightly smaller?  That said, it’s immediately apparent that you are in a different class of hotel here.  The bed is beautiful, the chairs are extremely comfortable and the TV was almost twice the size of the last one!

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The bathroom had a HUGE shower (but no bath) and beautiful sink and countertop with a fantastic selection of toiletries.

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For a single night, I’d recommend a stay at the Four Seasons because it is absolutely amazing and I would not like to get too used to this kind of lifestyle, so that it remains a treat?  It was exceptional, but perhaps I was punching a little bit above my weight?

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Fairmont – Washington D.C.

I had the pleasure of staying in the Fairmont hotel in Washington D.C. for three nights between the 11th to 13th of December.

Upon my arrival in a taxi from Dulles airport, I was greeted (very genuinely) by some very cool valet dudes and made my way through the stunning lobby to check in. Again, all very professional.

The lobby is beautiful with a centrepiece Christmas tree right next to the bar; just at the back of the lobby area is a concept fireplace (lots of photo opportunities to be had) and plush armchairs are littered about which make for a nice place to sit and plan out your days in D.C.

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I had a really nice cheeseboard with a beer one evening whilst watching some American football and the prices are very reasonable.

There’s also a gorgeous courtyard full of trees and plants which are currently covered in Christmas lights for the festive season; animal statues made up of wireframe Christmas lights are on show here, their heads move with little motors which was a nice touch. Perfect for when you are totally fuzzed following a transatlantic flight and just want to watch some pretty lights.

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The rooms at the Fairmont are big and are generously furnished along with a very, very comfortable bed. The bathroom I had contained a nice sized bath with shower next to a really big sink and counter, massive mirror for a shave (if you are so inclined!).

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As you’d expect for a luxury hotel, the TV is bloody massive and has lots of channels to enjoy after trudging around the Capital. I watched the United vs Liverpool game, up yours you Scouse slags!

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What makes the Fairmont stand out, is it’s concierge team, particularly a chap named Chris, for whom nothing is too much trouble in going above and beyond the call of duty for people staying at the hotel. Chris provided us with a reservation at nearby Clydes restaurant in Georgetown (excellent) and provided me with a handy ‘family’ discount at Macy along with general advice about the metro. Huge thanks to him for that.

Absolutely fantastic value for money!