Posts Tagged With: travel

Summertime Happiness

Without a doubt, summer is my very favorite season of the year. The reason for this is three-fold:


1. I do not like coats. Having to wear a coat actually makes me angry. Even when the temperature necessitates a coat, I refuse to wear one.  And although I equally hate being cold, I suffer silently in protest to these annoying, bulky and cumbersome protective coverings. Thank you, summer, for your warm and balmy (albeit, humid, stifling & unbearable at times) temperatures, your long days and short nights (more time to par-tay!), and justification for flip-flops, tank tops and pony tails (a girl’s got to control the frizz!).   By the looks of this picture, my lack of enthusiasm for coats has been evident for the majority of my life.


2. It’s almost football season. Now I know most people equate football with the fall (my third favorite season), but training camp begins mid-summer, games begin in August (it’s pre-season, but who cares) and the grills are fully warmed up and seasoned for tailgating.   Since most of my team gear (GO Panthers!) is short-sleeved and I have an aversion to cold weather (see above), the late summer and early (very early) fall games are ideal.  Bring on the burgers, brews, corn hole and Luke Kuechly!!


3.  I looooove summer vacations! I especially love the beach.  Love sun bathing, love the sound of ocean waves, love the smell of salt air and sunscreen, love long walks along the shore, love getting up early to see the sunrise & then the next day sleeping in without setting  an alarm.  Reading books, playing bocce ball, building sand castles, riding bikes and firing up the blender (it’s never to early to say “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”).  The anticipation of vacation gets me through long and stressful work weeks, monotonous day-to-day tasks and the months of January through March (barely!).  Long or short, with family or with friends, summer vacations as a child and with my children are some of my fondest memories!  And in less than 48 hours, Beach Week 2014 begins… Peace Out!!




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My sister and three of her life-long besties just returned from a ten-day European “holiday” that I have no doubt was filled with epic adventures and priceless memories. The fact that they created their own hashtag (legit!), is just one of the fun, unique and offbeat elements of their “girls” trip.  Not only were the destinations they chose AMAZING  – Amsterdam, Austria, Budapest and Florence – but anywhere Jenny, Erin, Rebekah and Cat (#jercs) go, good times and LOTS of laughs will follow!


Although I was slightly jealous (okay, maybe INSANELY jealous), I very much enjoyed living vicariously through their regular social media postings of food, wine, cultural events (Hungarian baths count, right?) and plenty of jumping pics!  As if these countries weren’t already on my list, now I just need to figure out how to get there sooner!




The #jercs all met up in Budapest, Hungary and spent four incredible days immersing themselves in the history and traditions of the beautiful country.  And by “history”, I mean a trip to the aforementioned baths, snacks and refreshments after climbing Buda Hill, checking out the ruin pubs and yummy lunches of wienersnitzel and goulash overlooking the Danube.

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The next stop for the #jercs was Vienna, Austria – with planned visits to the Imperial Palace (and exquisite gardens!) and the Vienna Mozart Orchestra. So classy, girls!

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The one destination that I was THE most envious of was Florence, Italy.  The #jercs stayed in a beautiful and charming luxury apartment with a panoramic view over the Florence Cathedral and the Piazza del Duomo, one of the most visited places in Europe. ( – free plug, you’re welcome)  According to my sis, this was her very favorite part of the trip.  I’m pretty sure Jenny, on the other hand, was most excited about it being located right over the Prada store.  I may have gained a couple of pounds just thinking about all of that delicious Italian food and wine – they don’t call it “Eataly” for nothing!

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I don’t know how anyone could see fantastic travel pictures like these and not be motivated and compelled to see the world.  It may have sounded like I kept calling them #jercs (I’ll be honest, the double-meaning was a little fun) but I truly love every one of these girls.  Their boundless energy, appetite for adventure, zest for life and genuine love for each other is truly inspiring! Life is short – live, laugh, love… and travel (with friends!)!


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Honeymoon Heaven

It is nearly impossible to believe that in just a couple of days my husband and I will be celebrating our third wedding anniversary.  To say that the past three years have flown by is a complete understatement.  It seems like just yesterday that I married the man of my dreams at The Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah, GA (where we met!) and then had the most wonderfully romantic and relaxing honeymoon at the El Dorado Casitas Royale in Mexico’s Riviera Maya.

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When we first started planning the honeymoon we were completely set on at least two weeks in Italy, packing in as many destinations and experiences as possible.  After much thought and discussion (and moments of clarity) , we decided that we would postpone that trip and something more “low-key” and relaxing would be much more appropriate.  The thought of a direct flight to a Four Diamond,  all-inclusive, adults-only, seaside luxury resort sounded like the perfect “post-wedding” destination.  The El Dorado Casitas Royale not only met our expectations, it far exceeded them in EVERY way!

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When we arrived at the gorgeous resort, we were greeted with a huge smile and refreshing cocktail (I know I’m easy to please, but that one gets me EVERY time!).  We were then whisked off to our private casita and toured the beautiful, well-maintained property and immaculately manicured grounds.  My jaw almost hit the floor when we walked into our stunning and luxurious swim-up casita!  The room was huge with a high ceiling and palapa roof, had an in-suite Jacuzzi, roofless outdoor shower (my fave!), stocked minibar and every possible amenity.  There was also an exterior double bed and our own water-mirror balcony where we could step down to a lazy river that connected to our casita pool with swim-up bar.  We brought our own pool floats from home (I am obviously a professional sun-bather), so this was definitely one of our favorite features!

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We were on our honeymoon, after all, and the friendly, attentive and hard-working staff went above and beyond to meet our every need.  We had a private candlelit dinner on the beach, a beachfront couples massage, our suite decorated with rose petals, turn-down service with champagne, bubble baths drawn (my husband would KILL me if I posted a pic of him in the tub, but I am SO tempted) and we felt completely spoiled and pampered.  Although you can do as much, or as little, as you want at this resort we tried to balance being active (wink wink) with the relaxing and quality “one-on-one” time that we really wanted.

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This exquisite all-inclusive resort includes 7 gourmet restaurants and the fabulous service and attention to detail continues there. Every meal at every restaurant was absolutely delicious and the yummy food and beverages was definitely a highlight of our honeymoon experience.  Our casita pool bartender was quick to learn our names and favorite drinks and took VERY good care of us (which could be part of the reason I fell asleep during a live music show… and no, that picture will definitely NOT be posted)!  There was also 24-hour room service and I’m a little embarrassed to admit how many times I ordered chips & fresh guacamole (it was THAT good…just saying).

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Our swim-up casita shared a pool/bar with just a few other guests (adults only, thank goodness!), which was so peaceful and relaxing but we also enjoyed meeting and getting to know our “neighbors”.  Between hanging out in our floats in the pool, relaxing on the beach in the covered beach bed (well, my hubby did… I was worshiping the sun!), kayaking in the ocean, working out together, eating the most delicious food and being treated like royalty by the amazing staff, our honeymoon was exactly what we didn’t know we needed!  So thankful for the wonderful memories of an incredible week-long beginning to the rest of our lives! El Dorado Casitas Royale, muchas gracias from The Hensley’s!

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Happy Anniversary, my love, and here’s to many, many more years (and LOTS of travel!) together!  Te quiero mucho!!





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Down with the Derby

Growing up I had a fleeting but full-fledged obsession with horses and competitive show jumping. Nothing made me happier than being at the stables and my greatest wish was to have a horse of my own. After several years (and quite a few blue ribbons – toot, toot!) my equestrian career came to a screeching halt when I entered junior high and my social life was WAY more important.


Recently our family celebrated my mother’s 60th birthday at the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase races and I have to say it was one of the most fun days I’ve had in a long time. The beauty, strength and majesty of those beautiful animals brought back very fond childhood memories. But it really was everything else about the entire experience (AND we’re back to that “social” thing) that made the day so magical.  Fantastic food, festive fashion (outrageous hats and seersucker suits, of course), super-friendly people, bottomless mimosas (yeah!!) and the exciting racing atmosphere made for an absolutely impeccable day!!

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That experience made me even more anxious to cross yet another destination of my “bucket list” – The Kentucky Derby!! And watching the real-deal Derby over the weekend may have pushed me over the line to full-blown obsession.  So I’ve gotten my name added the list to be notified when 2015 tickets go on sale, fingers are crossed!  Better start shopping now for my big Derby hat, learn the words to “My Old Kentucky Home”  and somehow acquire a taste for mint juleps before then.  I’m not horsing (hehe!) around!


In doing my Derby research I also discovered the wonderful world of horse racing around the globe (sometimes it really pays to Google things on the internet). There’s The Preakness in Maryland, The Belmont Stakes in New York, The Royal Ascot in England, The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Dubai World Cup, just for starters. So, my “bucket list” just got a bit longer and I better be adding some more pages to my passport! Any activity that includes sports, friends, family, cocktails and fun (and dressing to impress!) is my idea of a GREAT time and hopefully next year I’ll be at Churchill Downs with over 164,000 of my closest friends! Big hats, big fun, race for the roses!


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Sojourn at The Sanctuary

Being that I’m a Carolina girl, born and raised, I love ALL things Southern. Actually, the more Southern, the BETTER!  The Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island is Southern charm, hospitality and beauty at it’s finest! This was my third visit to The Sanctuary and like the two prior visits, this 5-star hotel exceeded all expectations! This special weekend girls’ getaway was a “babymoon” of sorts, to celebrate one of my besties and the impending arrival of her first baby in a few months. Because of my past experiences, I thought The Sanctuary would be the perfect place to take her to relax, unwind and decompress before the busy months ahead. And as much as I love the intimacy and romance of travelling with my husband, there really is nothing like a GIRLS’ TRIP!!

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From the moment we pulled up to the front of the hotel, greeted by the friendly valets and bellmen, and escorted to the attentive front desk, the pampering began. Every staff member that we saw (or didn’t see) throughout our stay provided exceptional service and attention to detail! The lobby is grand and beautifully decorated, with two large staircases (very Gone with the Wind-ish) and is just a preview of the luxury and elegance of the entire resort.  The grounds are impeccably maintained and the natural beauty of the island is captivating!

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Almost nothing makes me happier than a jaw-dropping view overlooking the ocean and our (upgraded – woohoo!) room definitely did not disappoint! The ocean-view room the four of us shared was very spacious and comfortable, the linens were luxurious and the bathroom was exquisite!  Our beautiful balcony also overlooked the gorgeous green (I mean, insanely green!!) center courtyard that was set up for a large outdoor wedding.  We actually sat out on the balcony with mimosas in hand and observed the elegant ceremony (all in the name of research, of course).

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After an early (well not really, we are on vacation after all) workout in the very well-equipped and staffed fitness room, we were excited to get out and enjoy the nearly perfect April weather.  Since a couple of the ladies left young children at home, we were very excited to make our selves at home by the “adults-only” pool.  The concierge and pool staff were fantastic – quick with towels, drinks and food requests.  Several blissfully relaxing hours later, we showered up and headed to the Ryder Cup Bar at The Ocean Course Clubhouse (a MUST for any visit to Kiawah Island!). We got there just in time to catch a spectacular sunset and enjoyed a delicious dinner on the veranda, waves breaking in the background.

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Even though our old-age was starting to kick in and what we really wanted to do was crawl in the bed, we decided to rally and have a nightcap at the fantastic lobby bar.  Not only is the bar gorgeous and the service excellent, the great drinks, a stately fireplace and comfy furniture made it the perfect spot to cap off our evening!   Apparently there were quite a few people who had the same idea and the place was hopping until well after midnight!  (Yes, we stayed up until after midnight – hard core!)

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As sad as we were to leave on a gorgeous Sunday morning, we did enjoy a yummy breakfast at Jasmine Porch (I have never seen a shrimp and grits dish that I didn’t like!).  Unfortunately, we were a little early for Jasmine’s Signature Brunch (bottomless mimosas – hello!!) which I would definitely consider a don’t miss!  After one final walk around the gorgeous property and some pics of the beach it was time to bid adieu the wonderful Sanctuary hotel and beautiful Kiawah Island. My one and only complaint was there was so much more that I wanted to do – biking, kayaking and I definitely could have done some more sunbathing – but as the saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun!!”

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I would highly recommend The Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island for a destination wedding (saw one firsthand, so gorgeous!), honeymoon, anniversary (crossing my fingers!), babymoon, girls’ spa getaway, guys golf weekend or any “just because” occasion.  The gracious southern charm, world-class amenities and spectacular beachfront location will definitely keep this Carolina girl coming back again and again!

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Ahoy, Mates!

I wouldn’t have ever considered myself a cruise fanatic but the fact that I went on three cruises in a 14 month span, may speak otherwise. The first one was a group/couples-only cruise that was planned to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday. (Soooo much  fun!!!) The second one was just my husband and I and was more of a “work” trip, with the objective to visit as many high-end resorts on as many islands as possible. I know, poor me!

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The third was a multi-generational family cruise that fell between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Like many Americans, my husband’s family is spread out across the country so a couple of years ago we decided that in lieu of Christmas gifts, we would all go on a family vacation together. (Deep breaths….)  There are many reasons why I think a cruise was an ideal choice for our family vacation, but the two most important are ease and value.  Not only are your accommodations, food, activities and entertainment included, but we also got better rates and extra amenities by booking as a group.  Since we were paying for 6 people, this was HUGE for us! Plus, you only have to unpack once, you get to visit multiple destinations and there is plenty of room for everyone! As in, not TOO much family togetherness.  🙂

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Another great thing about choosing a cruise for your family vacation is there really is something for everyone.  Since our group included Grandpa Denny (at age 89!), aunts, uncles, cousins and grandkids of all ages, the freedom and flexibility to do what we wanted, when we wanted to do it was invaluable! Some spent the day in the casino, some ventured on shore excursions, some hung out by the pool (that would be me!) and some did LOTS of shopping. But without fail, every night we would all gather in the dining room, took turns sitting beside Grandpa and cherished the time we got to spend together as Family.

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Many cruise lines are now catering specifically to families and provide ample opportunities to laugh, play and connect . There are kids-only facilities and activities, the spa and specialty dining for adults and poolside fun, shore excursions, and nighttime entertainment for the entire family! Without a doubt, our entire clan had a blast (including those hard-to-please teenagers!) and we are already planning our next sailing – Christmas 2015!! Bon voyage, ya’ll!!

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An escape for the Mind, Body and Soul

For most of us from the U.S., whose idea of a vacation is a 3-7 day getaway to an over-crowded beach or theme park, I don’t think we have any concept of a true “holiday”. Europeans, though, believe in it whole-heartedly and I got to witness it first-hand on a “work” trip to St. Lucia. (Yep, still can’t believe I get to put the words “work” and “St. Lucia” in the same sentence!)  My mother and I went to the captivating island to attend a destination wedding/honeymoon symposium that was sponsored by the St. Lucia tourist board.  We had our choice of several high-end, all-inclusive resorts to stay at and after much research, deliberation and finger-crossing we decided on The BodyHoliday/Lesport.

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Let me first say that the raw beauty, charm and mystique of the island of St. Lucia can barely be put into words and it deserves its own post (and probably will).  But the BodyHoliday, with its secluded and private location at the top of the island, set back in a beautiful, lush bay and focus on luxurious and personal service, was truly a resort like I’ve never experienced!  After a long (1.5 hours), winding (resulting in carsickness) and scenic (through mountains & the rain forest!) drive from the airport, we were greeted with a cocktail and cold towel by friendly and professional staff.  From our first impressions of the personnel, grounds, beach, our oceanview room, the wellness center, restaurants and outdoor activities scheduled from dawn until dusk, I knew we were in for an incredible (and potentially exhausting!) 6 days!

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Not only is The BodyHoliday located in paradise (literally), this health and wellness resort is an all-inclusive on steroids!  The usual amenities of luxurious accommodations, all meals (plenty of delicious healthy, gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options) and bevs (including wine and cocktails), and friendly/attentive staff are, of course, included.  Also included is a daily spa treatment, and no that was not a typo, one spa treatment PER DAY!  Just a sampling of the treatments I received were a Lucian Lime & Ginger Body Scrub, Aloe Vera Body Wrap, Full-body massage and an Aromapure facial.  All superb!!  Also included through the wellness center are all watersports (motorized AND non-motorized), yoga/pilates, spinning (in a tree house!) and a vast variety of fitness classes. There are guided morning walks and bicycle rides into the island and professional instruction in tennis, golf, scuba and archery!  I was pretty motivated to participate in as many classes and activities as possible and kudos to my mom, she did do one morning walk!


One of my very favorite things about this particular vacation (uhm, I mean work trip) was the incredible variety of people we met.   Most of our fellow guests seemed to be European, from Britain in particular, and were warm, friendly and VERY sociable.  Almost every single one was on a return trip to The BodyHoliday (some go annually and stay for weeks) which really says it all!  Joining our new friends for high tea every afternoon and drinks after dinner (and working on my British accent) was definitely a highlight of the trip!

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Even though it may sound like an all-work/no-play trip (yeah, right), trust me, this girl did get in PLENTY of beach time!  The turquoise water was exquisite and hanging out in a cabana while being served yummy fruity drinks was a fantastic way to recover from my exhausting workouts (hehe!).  No need was unmet by the wonderfully attentive BodyHoliday staff, and I distinctly remember not having a care in the world!  Although I think The BodyHoliday (and St. Lucia in particular) is a very romantic destination, especially for activity-oriented people, it would also be great getaway for a group of friends, girls’ trip  (where my girls at??) or even singles!  If you really want to unplug, unwind, relax and rejuvenate your mind, body and soul, then let me prescribe the BodyHoliday as the perfect remedy!!  ….and take me with you 😉

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Veux-tu m’epouser?

One of the hottest new trends in the romance travel industry is a destination proposal, or otherwise known as, an “engagementcation”. The latest statistics show that about 1 in 3 marriage proposals take place while on vacation or a weekend getaway. I, of course, am a huge fan of the idea and love to see pictures and read stories about unique, romantic, creative and over-the-top schemes.

Pulling off a memorable destination proposal requires quite a bit of thought and planning but the most important detail is “location, location, location.” An exotic resort in the Caribbean, a winery in Napa Valley, a mountaintop lodge in Colorado or an iconic landmark in New York City are some popular choices. Even better would be the Eiffel tower in Paris, the Trevi fountain in Rome, a gondola ride in Venice or overlooking the Pitons in St. Lucia. As much as I am a beach girl, any and all of those destinations would elicit a big YES from me!

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The “engagementcation” genre is becoming so popular that many wedding planners, high-end resorts AND travel agents (wink wink) are expanding their businesses to reach the destination proposal market. They have staff and resources to assist with the where/when/how details of pulling off a fairytale proposal. Details like flowers, a champagne picnic, private table at a romantic restaurant, a secluded beach, hot air balloon ride, a horse-drawn carriage, sunset sail or helicopter charter, etc. The possibilities for a one-of-a-kind proposal are truly endless!

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The marriage proposal, after all, is really all about the story. The telling and re-telling of the feelings, emotions and memories that make up that magical moment. It may be a bit of a stretch to match Prince William’s super -romantic proposal to Kate on an African safari in Kenya, but a little thought, planning and effort can go a long way!

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Unbeknownst to his “hipness”, I’m sure, my husband also planned a destination proposal. It coincided with my birthday, which was how he was able to pull off the surprise and disguised it as a planned trip to Charleston, SC.  Perfectly timed, on a rooftop bar overlooking historic downtown as the sun was setting, he got down on one knee and said those magic four words (I think… I’m not really 100% what he said… It really was all a blur!!).  It was a night I will never forget and I am forever thankful for the “proposal story” we get to tell!

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What happens in Cabo…

Although Cabo San Lucas (Los Cabos) has been on my destination “bucket list”, I always thought the opportunity to actually go would be several years (or decades) off.  So when some very dear friends invited my husband and me to join them at the beautiful Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos Golf and Spa Resort for six days, I graciously accepted (followed up by back flips and cartwheels) and started packing my bags!  Not only was I excited to see all the beauty and activity the Baja peninsula had to offer, but I am always a fan of heading somewhere tropical in the brutally cold months of January/February.  And yes, being a native Southerner, 30 degrees is BRUTAL!

Cabo San Lucas is at the tip of the 800 mile long Baja California Peninsula and has the Sea of Cortez on one shore and the Pacific ocean on the other.  In addition to fantastic year-round weather and beautiful beaches, Cabo is especially well known for sport fishing, vibrant nightlife, championship golf courses and the famous stone arch called El Arco.  We were fortunate enough to experience all of these (minus golf, not so much my thing) and more!!

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Let me begin with our amazing resort, Fiesta Americana.  I absolutely can’t rave enough about it!  The views, rooms, pools, grounds, amenities, food, staff and service were TOP NOTCH!!  I have truly never seen such an impeccably maintained property and staff that go above and beyond to meet your every need!  Not only would  highly recommend this resort to anyone considering a visit to Cabo, but I will definitely be planning a return trip for myself!!

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One of the things that we were most looking forward to on our trip was our Cabo Sport Fishing deep-sea fishing charter.  And when I say WE, I mean my husband was REALLY excited about the fishing and I was a little more enthusiastic about whale sightings and working on my tan.  Although the day began early (6am!) and chilly (goodbye tan) and some of us may have gotten a little seasick (this girl), it was a fantastic experience and a highlight of our vacation!  Pulling out of the marina as the sun rose, we passed the iconic stone arch and our captain had us on the fish in no time!  Not only were we fortunate enough to reel in five large fish (four Mahi Mahi’s!), the whale sightings were breathtaking and numerous! Our deck hand then filleted our Mahi Mahi right on the back of the boat and we had it prepared at a restaurant at the marina – sushi ya’ll??

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After an exhausting day of “sport” fishing (hehe), we were definitely looking forward to checking out the shopping, restaurants and nightlife of downtown Cabo.  Walking through the markets looking for souvenirs was made even more enjoyable by my husband trying on and comparing Mexican masks.  He, of course, bought one and also a genuine-leather beer holster.  We’re classy like that.

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The first night we had dinner at a very highly-recommended restaurant, The Office. Situated directly on the beach (think sand in your toes), the great food, live mariachi band and festive atmosphere created the authentic Mexican dining experience we hoped for.  I 100% agree with the rave reviews and would consider it a can’t-miss for anyone visiting Cabo!

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Our vacation would not have been complete without a visit to the original Cabo Wabo.   Although there wasn’t a Sammy Hagar sighting, the delicious margaritas and guacamole and endless laughs with our friends more than made up for it!  I’d like to think that all the “walking” and “activity” we did during the week totally cancelled out all of the calories consumed but I doubt it.  I may be feeling jiggly, but it was totally worth it!

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One of the things that totally made the trip were the wonderful people we met, both locals and fellow tourists.  Understandably, everyone is happy and friendly, warm and outgoing, eager to share ideas and suggestions and best of all, quick to buy you a tequila shot!  True story 🙂

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Travel, to me, is one of life’s greatest gifts.  The opportunity to travel with loved ones and close friends can make it even more enjoyable and fulfilling.  I love this quote from writer Susan Sontag, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”  Thank you Mark and Beth for the memories and belly-laughs and allowing me to check another one off the list!!

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