Travel Diary: Cancun, Mexico.

So this might be considered cheating to some extent, because it’s been about 3 years since the last time I was in Cancun, but a lot of people would always ask Diego and I about the hotel we stood at, the things we did, our general package when we were there, etc. so I figure why not do an entire post detailing it all?

* * * * * *

Cancun was the first place that Diego and I had ever traveled to together. We went there in July 2015 to celebrate our 1-year anniversary as a couple, and then, since we loved it so much, we went back again the following summer (summer of 2016).

Both times that we went, we stood for a week. Saturday to Saturday if I remember correctly.

Pricing

I guess first and foremost we should talk about the pricing of it all. I don’t remember any specific amounts or prices, but I do remember that because our package was all inclusive, it was one set price for relatively EVERYTHING.

For both times, Diego and I didn’t pay more than about $1,200-$1,400 (each), which included flights going and coming, hotel, car service to and from the hotel when we were arriving and leaving, and breakfast, lunch and dinner at the hotel. Plus there was all the cool little extras within the hotel that were included, which I’ll get into in a little bit.

So, all in all, we really didn’t spend all that much (thankfully). The only outside things we spent some money on were the excursions we did, souvenirs, and if we decided to eat or order out from the hotel.

One thing we were a little worried about the first time we went was money. We weren’t sure if we HAD to convert our money, how much we should bring, etc. And if I remember correctly, the first time we went, we brought/converted I believe $300-400. We came to find that although it was fine that we did that, it really wasn’t necessary. They’re pretty modernized over there (in the touristy parts anyway), so just keeping our American money and credit cards was fine, which we learned our lesson with the second time we went.

Hotel

IMG_0134
What the outside and general area of our hotel looked like. I took this while I was like a zillion feet in the air when Diego and I went parasailing!

The name of the hotel we stayed at (both times) was the Riu Palace Peninsula. It’s such a freakin’ beautiful hotel to stay in when you’re in Cancun, 10/10 would recommend it to ANYONE that asked me. The scenery was gorgeous, the hotel was AMAZING, and all of the staff were so nice. I literally cannot say enough amazing things about this hotel.

IMG_0358

IMG_0357

IMG_0118

The rooms were really nice and cozy too. Comfy bed, nice decently big shower, and even a Jacuzzi! The first year we stayed here our Jacuzzi was outdoor, right outside our room on the balcony, and the second time it was right in the middle of our room which was pretty cool.

 

IMG_1584 (1)

IMG_3743

For both times that we went, we stood in the same hotel. Which, looking back at it now, probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do. Yes we loved it both times and there were never any issues, but we pretty much experienced everything that we could the first time around, so the second time was ultimately just a repeat of that. Same amazing service, still, but it would’ve been best for us to book a different hotel, just to be able to experience a different one.

IMG_3251

IMG_3270

IMG_3857

IMG_3853

IMG_3616

IMG_0145

IMG_3261

IMG_3254

One thing that was really great about this hotel (among other things), was the fact that within the hotel, there were 4 different kinds of restaurants, plus a buffet area separate. There was a steak house, an Italian restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, and a fusion cuisine restaurant. We’re huge foodies, so for us, this was heaven. We legit tried a different restaurant everyday that we were there, plus ended up at the buffet for breakfast, lunch and dessert (and occasionally dinner as well haha). Not to mention there was 24-hour room service and a sports bar that was open 24-hours as well to get drinks and little snacks.

All of the restaurants were included in the ‘all-inclusive package,’ so the only thing we had to worry about was making reservations for the restaurants and leaving tips.

IMG_0146
Not a great picture representation of it, but this is the sports bar.
IMG_0130
The Italian restaurant.
IMG_3250
These next 3 images were from the buffet they had there. Unlimited EVERYTHING; food, drinks, etc.

IMG_3258

IMG_0150

IMG_0148

IMG_0140
The steak house restaurant they had in the hotel. Dinner with a view of the ocean ❤ _ ❤ even though it was dark lol.
IMG_3812
One of the MANY desserts they served on a regular basis ❤ _ ❤
IMG_3861
Side Note: The second time we stood here was really cool because SOMEHOW or another Diego and I got totally bumped up from the normal rooms/suites, to an adults only, VIP access type of section of the hotel. To this day we have no idea how that happened, but it was amazing. And along with being in that section came with also having a private restaurant for that area, which is where this was. I believe it was predominantly Greek food if I remember correctly.

Excursions:

Aside from the hospitality and great food, I think we can all agree that excursions are probably the best part(s) of ANY trip. Fortunately for us, Cancun had a TON of them.

Our first time here we did 3 major ones that were 100% outside of BOTH our comfort zones, which made it that much more great.

And the second time we were here, we did a bunch that were somewhat out of our comfort zones as well and just as fun.

When we first decided to come here and were thinking about the stuff we wanted to do, we knew we wanted to do one thing/excursion that was super adventurous and one that would allow us to not only have a good time, but also learn more about the history and culture of the destination we were at.

  1. The Xplor Park

If you are in Cancun and looking for a day-long, amazingly fun excursion, I 1000000% recommend for you to come to this park. We got to do this amazing ziplining course, swim in a cave, and ATV through the freakin jungle. To this day, that was probably my favorite excursion EVER. To be honest, I’m the biggest scaredy-cat EVER, so I don’t know what had suddenly came over me to be able to do all of these things, but it was AMAZING and so fun! I wish I could do it all over again.

What was really great about this excursion too was that it came with a lunch buffet; all types of great food, desserts and drinks. So we burned ourselves out with all of these activities and then got to stuff our faces afterwards lol.

Price wise, this was also the most expensive excursion. If I remember correctly, it was over $100 per person. But considering everything you were getting for the price, I think it was 100% worth it.

 

 

2. Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world. Ultimately it’s an archaeological site, displaying the advanced civilization of the Mayan people. It was actually a really great cultural experience, and interesting to see a lot of the natives from the area going about their daily routines, seeing the way they lived, etc. I would definitely recommend this if you’re looking to add a bit of an educational aspect to your trip. One thing I will say that we were totally unprepared for was the HEAT. We knew we were going to be outdoors, but didn’t know how intense it was going to be out there. It was so hot that both Diego and I got such an insane sunburn.

I would definitely recommend bringing a backpack with a few bottles of water, sunscreen, sunglasses and/or a hat, and a mini fan if possible because that Mexico heat is NO joke.

 

3. Parasailing

Doing this little excursion was actually Diego’s idea. It was the day of our one year anniversary, and I remember he was looking up at the sky watching these other people doing this, and just ended up being like “you wanna do that?”, and I was like ….. ._. um…not really. He ended up pushing me to do it, and as you can tell from the video below, I was shitting bricks. Overall though, I don’t regret it at all, it was fun and definitely something different that neither of us had tried before.

 

IMG_0132

4. Jet-skiing

I feel like jet-skiing is one those things that’s kind of a must whenever you go away on any sort of tropical vacation, and we hadn’t gotten to do/try it the first time we were in Mexico, so we definitely had to make time for it the second time around. It was a great little experience for the both of us, even though I was nervous as hell because I had heard a lot of scary stories from people I know when they were on jet-skies.

IMG_3643

IMG_3642

5. Snorkeling

I have absolutely no idea why I don’t have many pictures and/or videos from this excursion we did, but we also did snorkeling which included speedboating as well. This was cool because we got to ride by other portions of Cancun which were absolutely beautiful, which then led us to a portion of water that allowed to snorkel for a bit. Again, I was a chicken shit lol. It was all fun and games until I actually got in the water!

*Side Note: I can’t swim, which is why I got freaked out in the water.*

But it was a pretty cool overall experience for the little time that I actually spent in the water. We got to be around a ton of fish for a while and then ride all the way back to the starting point.

IMG_0360

6. Speedboating

This particular excursion was really cool because it came with 2 different things to do, which was speedboating and ATV-ing. Since Diego had driven the boat the first time we did it, I figure I take a crack at the second time around 😉 . I’m sure it’s safe for me to say that we were both a bit nervous for that; and I was definitely a little shakey at first, but by the end of it I got the hang of it lol. I for sure got too excited and was on my Fast & Furious shit haha 😂

 

7. ATVing

And finally, we did ATV-ing. This was dope because we got to ride through the Mexican jungle where we saw natives on foot going about their business, and also other people on a separate excursion riding horses and we got to ride along the beach too. This excursion also came with lunch included which was great because after being in the blazing sun for the majority of the day, that was definitely needed.

 

* * * * * *

Another great thing Diego and I got to do was a little photoshoot on the beach and throughout the hotel to celebrate our one-year anniversary. Neither of us had done anything like that before, and it was really special for us so we figure why not. It was definitely a little pricey, but all in all I would say it’s worth it because the pictures came out beautiful and now we have that memory and those keepsakes of our first anniversary AND trip ❤

IMG_0160

IMG_0167
These 2 were just a few of the pictures that we took, and also just my favorites in general ❤ _ ❤

* * * * * *

Overall, this was a GREAT first (and technically second) trip for both of us, especially since we were more or less just starting out as a couple and knew we wanted to go somewhere fun, but not too pricey. So I definitely recommend this to anyone, or couple, that may be contemplating a place to go that’s nice, fun, and not CRAZY expensive, especially if you really look into it and see how many great things will come along with wherever it is that you may be staying, or the excursions you may be doing.

I know this was actually a pretty long post, but it was really just because of all the pictures and videos that were included!! Hopefully I’ll get better at narrowing down all of these things as I continue to do these particular posts.

But I hope you guys enjoyed it and this was helpful to you in some type of way when it came to knowing about the hotel we stood at, the particular excursions we did, and the trip in general!

– Xoxo, Leo Girl ❤

Read More

On The Menu Today: Mottley Kitchen!

Hey Guys, Happy Friday! 🙂

Today’s post is going to be the first of many that come your way in the future that’s related to FOOD. I mean who doesn’t love food right? I know I definitely do, especially when it comes to finding and trying different spots and restaurants.

Diego and I tend to go out to eat A LOT, but don’t usually like to go to the same places over and over again unless we REALLY love it. So, because of this, we’re constantly finding new places to go and try out. It’s great because some are fancy, some are low-key, some we find hidden around the streets of New York, and some we don’t look for at all and just kind of stumble upon while on our walks around the city. We always get a ton of questions about the places we go from people whenever we post about it on Instagram or Snapchat, so I figure, why not make a new segment out of it? I want this to be the type of thing where I talk about the location, scenery, food itself obvi, and our general thoughts on the place, so that’s what this will be.

* * * * * *

As I said, Diego and I don’t typically repeat going to certain places unless we REALLY love it, so why not start off with a place that falls into that category? The place I’m talking about is called Mottley Kitchen! It’s a nice, new, cute little cafe located in East 140th Street in the Bronx (New York).

IMG_0462I’m not going to lie, when Diego first came to me and told me about this place and how good it was, I was definitely on the fence about it, because I was like honestly how good is this place REALLY when it’s not exactly in the best area of the Bronx? But let me tell you now….I was definitely pleasantly surprised and this has quickly become one of my FAVORITE places to go over the weekends to just chill get a coffee and pastry and get some blog work done.

Recently, Diego and I got a chance to sit down with the owners of the cafe, Kat and David, to chat and ask them a couple of questions about who they are as people, how they got started, etc. And one of the things we love about this place is how friendly and down-to-earth they (the owners and staff) are. We’ve exchanged a few words with them here and there in the past few months, but this was the first full-on conversation we had with them, and it just solidified our original positive thoughts about them and their business as a whole.

* * * * * *

The Owners:

The owners of the cafe are actually a young, married couple named David and Katherine, who are originally both from North Carolina (him from Charlotte, her from Raleigh). They moved to New York in 2015 after Katherine received a job offer to work at a restaurant in the city. After a few years of living in the Upper East Side, they realized they wanted and needed a bigger living space for not only themselves, but also to (possibly) expand their family one day, which is how they ended up in the South Bronx.

IMG_2344

David says they had pretty much looked all over New York for a new place to live, then they read up on a few things about the Bronx that interested them which was what prompted them to make the decision to move here. “It was a rich cultural neighborhood, and just an actual neighborhood feel in general. So from that we just started visiting and checking out a lot of the nearby places like the Bronx Brewery and La Morada, just kind of feeling everything out,” he said. “Then we found the place we’re at now and just realized it was a great fit, not only were we getting the bigger space that we wanted, but also the neighborhood sort of feel that we had been searching for.”

They’re also definitely no strangers to hearing the negative remarks that comes along with seeing and/or visiting the South Bronx, but they try not to let it phase them. “I think the area from what we’ve briefly seen and heard, still obviously has its rough edges, but there’s so many other great things about this area that almost makes those rough edges not even matter,” says David. “Like when we first moved in, within a week we had already known ALL of our neighbors and everyone was so friendly around us; we had spent 4 years in a walk-up on the Upper East Side and didn’t know or really speak to ANYBODY. Now we come here and everyone immediately accepts us as the ‘white people’ moving into their neighborhood, it just says a lot about them (in a good way).”

In meeting all of these people, they feel like they’ve created a sense of community, and now with the cafe they’ve created, they hope that that feeling is only going to continue to grow more.

* * * * * * * *

IMG_2382

About the cafe:

Which brings us now to the cafe itself.

Their main reason for wanting to have this space, aside from loving to be able to serve people, was because two years ago WAY before they opened, they were going around the Bronx and noticed that there really wasn’t a good hangout cafe spot in the area where people could go work, get a good cup of coffee and just hang out with some friends.

Which they don’t at all throw any type of shade at the nearby bodegas and their coffee, but they know their coffee isn’t exactly great quality.

 

“It’s something we definitely try to be attentive to, is how do we operate our business in a way that’s good for us AS a business, but also for the community and to better it?,” says David.

It was also a way for David to help Katherine live out one of her dreams. “I think it’s always been Katherine’s dream to be able to own/run a small cafe, and to be a ‘shop girl’,” says David. “But I don’t think she ever envisioned it being this big or having so many different facets to it.”

Which is where the name Mottley came from. “It’s a lot of different things out of one space, it’s like a diverse group of things or kind of like a ‘haj-paj’ if you will,” says David. “And that’s where the name Mottley derived from, because not only is this neighborhood like a diverse neighborhood, but we hope to kind of like offer a haj-paj of things when you come here; good food, a good place to sit and eat, a good place to have events, do catering, etc.”

David explained to me that before they had the idea to open a coffee shop, they were really only looking for a space for Katherine to run her catering business in. “Katherine had been renting one of those incubator spaces in the city at an hourly rate for a while, it was super expensive and just got to a point where it made sense for her to try to find her own little space,” he said. “When we moved to the Bronx was when she finally realized and made it clear that she didn’t want to work out of those little kitchens anymore, which was when and how we found this place; someone showed us the space and we were just like whoa….*laughs*, MUCH bigger than a ‘little kitchen’.”

IMG_2226

Alas came the idea of creating the cafe itself! “We figure, ‘alright well if we’re going to take this, we can also build it into a cafe with all the space we’re going to have,'” says David.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I was definitely interested in knowing about the work dynamic they have being that they are a couple, since I know it can be the sort of thing where it might be a conflict of interest at times mixing business with pleasure.

They were also obviously no strangers to hearing and/or experiencing this kind of thing themselves. “We’ve actually seen a lot of negative experiences with couples and families who have worked together. There was this job I had while I was in Raleigh working at a mom and pop coffee shop, and you could tell automatically that they just did NOT get along,” says David. “Katherine’s had a similar experience where she worked in a kitchen that was family-owned, and there was just all this tension you could feel among the family, so we try to be very careful with that.”

He went on to explain that it’s almost inevitable for work to come home with them most times, but they’re very careful in making sure there’s no tension between them and talking out anything and everything right there and than to avoid any of that possibly happening.

As for any particular visions and/or themes they wanted to follow through with for creating the cafe, its layout, or the menus, they both agreed they really didn’t have any ONE particular thing in mind. They did, however, do a lot of looking around, grabbing inspiration from some of their personal favorite food and coffee shops, as well as, of course, going through Pintrest a bit. “Overall it was extremely budget focused, we pretty much did what we could on the budget we had and everything else kind of just sprung out of that,” said Katherine.

Katherine said she’s probably spent about a decade swooning over places she’s loved, the things they serve, etc. so when they finally got to open their OWN place, they grabbed a lot of inspiration from that. “When we go to a bakery or order food at a restaurant, we always get like five different things for the two of us,” she said. Ultimately, they grabbed a lot of their favorite things that they would love to eat from other places, and not only made it their own, but BETTER. “The primary backbone to building up Mottley was locally sourced farm to table, beautifully plated, type of cuisine,” she says.

* * * * * *

Coffee, Food & Pastries:

When creating the menu along with the cafe in general, as previously mentioned, they took a lot of inspiration from some of their favorite places, and really just wanted to enhance it in their own way to make it better. “I remember thinking I definitely want to have a coffee cake, a certain type of muffin, a really delicious kind of egg sandwich, and a biscuit so that we could bring a little bit of the southern side to it,” says Katherine.

Originally, they didn’t even actually have a menu when they first opened back in December! “We didn’t really know what to serve, we wanted to be able to serve things that people were going to WANT to come and eat,” said Katherine. “When we first opened, all we had were baked goods and coffee, so when people would come in I would ask them, ‘what do you want to eat for lunch?’ and someone said ‘I love bowls,’ so that’s where the idea of bowls came from.” Ultimately, they truly fed off of the opinions and feedback of their customers.

Who doesn’t love a good coffee, egg sandwich and/or baked good? ESPECIALLY on a cheat day?! I know I do! Diego and I literally come here every Saturday for AT LEAST 2-3 hours to just hang out, catch up on some work and check out the latest baked good that was added to the menu.

Katherine pretty much bakes everything from scratch in house, except for the challah rolls and sour dough, which they get from Harper’s Kitchen in Harlem, which is an old space that Katherine actually used to work out of.

She believes that she’s more of a baker than a cook though. “I definitely have more experience as a baker, I cook a lot of like vegetables and other stuff for me and David, but I don’t really have any professional experience as a cook,” she says.

And let me tell you, she’s definitely talented at what she does. Personally, I’m SUCH a picky eater, so I immediately gravitated towards anything chocolate related and of course the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, but pretty much everything non-chocolate and bacon, egg, and cheese-related that I’ve tried here, I ended up loving.

I DO, however, stick to what I know a lot, so when you come check them out, be SURE to try their brown butter chocolate chip cookies and/or their brownies….you will NOT be disappointed (shown below).

 

IMG_0393

Mine and Diego’s absolute FAVORITE drink to get from here thus far is the Vanilla Bean Latte. It’s not too strong, and not too sweet (I personally think). It’s just right (shown above).

IMG_0445

IMG_2342

* * * * * *

Events & Activities:

I think what makes Mottley even better is the variety of events and activities that they hold there. There’s live music instead of your typical radio/constant loop playlist (although they do use a radio, but even the music they play on there is not your typical Kanye, Rihanna, Ariana Grande music), there’s story-time for kids, and Empanada night (to name a few).

For the sake of not making this SUPER long (longer than what it may already be), I’m just going to go in depth with 2 of their events/activities.

They have all sorts of performers from DJs to live singers/rappers and poets, that come on certain Saturdays throughout each month. And I think what’s so unique about them is that the music that’s played is either personal stuff that they’ve written or old-school stuff with a twist to it. It’s something that you really don’t see in other restaurants and/or coffee shops, and personally, I love that.

As for how exactly they go about picking people to be able to perform, David says they really don’t have a specific process or system for picking people. “At the moment it’s really just anyone that we can get to come in,” he says. “We did some small marketing for anyone that wanted to be able to perform, some signs outside, posts on Instagram, etc. and then if we heard about anyone that had musical talent we would be like ‘hey, come by!'”

For the time being anyone who does come in to perform are doing it for free, but they hope to be able to change that. “Eventually we want to be able to set up a program where when and if we get bigger, it’ll be more beneficial to not only us, but them as well,” says David.

Another event they tend to do on Saturdays is story-time for kids.

IMG_2345

David said that this woman named Rebecca came into the cafe one day while they were merchandising, saw their shelves, and asked about possibly being able to turn their shelves into somewhat of a library. “Rebecca has her own non-profit called Boogey-Down books, and ultimately, it’s meant to to help with literacy and get kids into reading,” said David. “Then she asked us if it would be okay for her to come in and do a reading every other Saturday, so we said of course!”

IMG_2346

Both Katherine and David explained that many of the activities they hold at their cafe have been because they (the people who end up being in charge of them) actually approach THEM about it. “Some of these people will walk-in, see the space and ask us if we ever thought about renting it out for certain little events and we think it’s really cool so we say yes to them,” they said. “They pitch the idea to us and we’re just like ‘yeah, please use our space for your event! *laughs*, and our other customers seem to enjoy it as well, so they will definitely continue to be apart of the business moving forward.”

* * * * * * *

I know blog posts typically tend to be short, sweet and to the point with things, but there are just so many amazing things to be said and known about this place that it’s like how could I NOT make it long and in depth?

At the moment, they’re open Tuesday through Friday from 7:30am-4pm, and Saturdays from 8am-5pm. They’re closed on Sundays and Mondays because ultimately, they do have to make some time for themselves. “I work Monday through Friday, we knew that we wanted to be open on Saturdays, and so for Katherine to have some sort of “weekend” it would have to be Sunday-Monday for us to be closed,” said David. This is likely to change in the future though at some point.

As for any possible future plans of expanding? David says he doesn’t think they would want to have a ton of different locations all over the place, but if the opportunity were to arise to be able to do or open something else in the neighborhood, they would definitely consider that.

They DO, however, have big plans for this current location. The biggest one being to construct and open to the public their rooftop section of the cafe. Although it is still in the beginning stages of research and planning, they hope to be able to create it as a green rooftop. “I’d like to build almost like a rooftop farm up there, try to do fruits, vegetables, and ACTUALLY try to farm stuff up there,” says David.

* * * * * * * *

FullSizeRender

This is literally like our modern day Central Perk. It’s chill, trendy, friendly people that work there and great quality coffee/food. What more can you ask for? I can only imagine the great things they’re going to be able to accomplish here in the next couple of months and years even. 10/10 recommend for you guys to try it out if you haven’t already.

Go show love and stay tuned to their Instagram page (@mottleykitchen) for any updates on future events, menu items, or plans that they may post about!

*Most of these photos were taken and/or edited by Diego 🙂 *

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for new content that’s going to be coming soon here!

-Xoxo, Leo Girl ❤