Travel Diary: Secrets Maroma Beach

Secrets Maroma Beach

This post is a lot overdue…mainly because I forgot how much time and effort goes into putting together a travel post.  I like to put a lot of detail and photos into my travel blogs so I guess I have no one to blame but myself.  If you appreciate detail, be prepared for an extra-long post.  If you just want the coles notes version, you can scroll to the bottom and read my bullet list of the pro’s, con’s and in-betweens.  Enjoy!

A little over a week ago we returned from a one week stay at Secrets Maroma Beach (SMB); this was our third time staying at a Secrets Resort.  Last year we stayed at Secrets Playa Mujeres (SPM) in Mexico and quite a few years before that, at Secrets St. James in Jamaica.  If you read my review, you’re aware that I was not impressed with SPM so I wasn’t too keen to visit another Secrets resort, especially not long after our poor experience.  However, when we started looking at resorts a few months ago, we found a great deal via Expedia on SMB and because this is a resort we’ve wanted to visit for a while, we couldn’t resist booking it.

We flew out early on Saturday morning via WestJet and our flight was uneventful.  Unfortunately we arrived 20 minutes behind schedule and multiple other flights had just landed as well.  Which meant we spent 40 minutes in the immigration line; it was hot and humid with what felt like zero air conditioning.  The joys of traveling!  Eventually we did make it through the line and out to the transportation area.

We had pre-booked private transportation with Canada Transfers prior to our trip; when we arrived, a representative was standing with our names on a sign and directed us to our vehicle, which was a Chevy Suburban.  They provided us each with a bottle of water and then we were on our way.  Our driver was fine – not the friendliest and he pulled out his cell phone a few times while driving which always rubs me the wrong way.  On the way back our driver was much more personable and friendly.  At the end of the day they got us from point A to B and back safely and comfortably so it worked.

Checking in:

Fountain at the Front Desk - Secrets Maroma Beach
Fountain at the Front Desk – Secrets Maroma Beach

We arrived at the resort, were greeted by name and began the check in process in the front desk area.  Similar to other Secrets resorts, we were offered cool towels and glasses of champagne.  The lobby was really pretty – it had a large sculptural water fountain in the centre and large wall foundations that flanked the check-in and concierge areas.  Check-in was fairly simple but I knew what was coming – the Secrets Vacation Club (aka “timeshare pitch).  Last time, we sat through it begrudgingly, but this time I wasn’t going to let that happen.  We had just spent almost our entire day traveling and I had zero patience spending another 1/2 hour of my time listening to sales pitch for something a) I’m not remotely interested in, and b) cannot afford (I’ve heard rumours that this program costs up to $80K).  So when our check-in agent introduced us to our “VIP Concierge”, I somewhat bluntly and firmly stated that we had gone through the timeshare pitch last year and were not interested, and just wanted to get to our room.  I think I caught the agent off guard a bit (he made sure to correct me that this was not a timeshare program….ok?) and stated that we had to sign off on not wanting to participate in the “pitch”.  This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but we did it anyway and we left to find out room.  Secrets really needs to remove this as part of their check-in process!

Rating: Poor (based on timeshare pitch)

Our room:

We were in building 14 which was a short 5 minute walk from the main building (which housed most of the restaurants, a lobby bar, night club, etc.)  When we booked, a swimout suite was the only room type available.  We had always wanted to give a swim-out suite a try so we were excited to see what it was like.

Our room was beautiful!  The bathroom consisted of a separate shower, jacuzzi tub, water closet and vanity with two sinks.  Further inside was a stocked mini bar (stocked with pop and Coronas), a four-poster King bed, armoire with a flat screen tv, and beyond that, a desk and chair and small, built-in sofa and coffee table.  A set of patio doors led to a small patio area with another built-in sofa and lounge chair and a long pool that was shared with approximately 11 other guest rooms.  We were very impressed with the room.  It was very clean, well-appointed and luxurious.

Our concierge stopped by and quickly showed us the various features of the room.  We noticed that our safe was locked from the previous guest so he stated he would arrange to have someone come by and fix that for us asap.  We waited for 20 minutes after he left, but no one showed up so we called the front desk.  Thankfully within 5 minutes we had someone at our room who was able to fix this for us.  Phew, now vacation could officially begin!

Rating: Excellent


Secrets Maroma Beach - Teppanyaki restaurant
Dragon made of rice at the Teppanyaki restaurant

Food in Mexico can really be hit and miss but you can’t go expecting 5 star gourmet meals every night.  However, I must say that their buffet breakfast is fantastic and contains pretty much everything and anything you could ever want, including an omelette bar, crepe bar, smoothie and juice bar, fresh fruit, cereal, pastries, pancakes, waffles, hashbrowns, etc. If you can’t find something to eat there, you won’t be happy anywhere.  I was very impressed with their breakfast, especially compared to SPM’s last year.

For lunch there were a few options including the buffet, the Seaside Grill which offered pizzas, sandwiches, burgers and the like, and the pool grill which featured a different cuisine every day. Sometimes it was Italian with pizzas and pastas, other times it was BBQ with burgers and hotdogs.  It was nice to have more than one option for lunch for sure.  We ate mostly at the pool grill, just because it was was most convenient to the beach.  We both had some decent burgers at the Seaside Grill and really enjoyed the nachos at the pool grill.  We ate at the buffet once and it was good as well but it was a bit of a hike across the resort to it and we were lazy so we stuck the options that were closer to the beach.

The restaurants that stood out the most for dinner were the French, Mexican and Asian Teppanyaki.  We shared a delicious cheese fondue at the French restaurant and I really enjoyed my beef tenderloin.  Service was a bit slow but it’s not like we had anywhere to go, so no big deal.  At the Mexican restaurant we were very impressed with our chicken enchiladas and fajitas and the service was fantastic – prompt and so friendly.  The Italian restaurant wasn’t so great – both my tagliatalle pasta and D’s chicken parmesan lacked flavour.  We also made a decision to eat outside which I wouldn’t recommend as the mosquitos were really bad in that particular area.  Thankfully they had cans of mosquito repellent available for use.

We were able to get reservations for the Teppanyaki option at the Asian restaurant on our last night.  We sat at a table with 5 other couples and enjoyed a 4 course meal, with the main course cooked in front of us by a dedicated Tepanyaki chef.  The food was good, although it was more about the experience as there’s lots of theatrics involved with the cooking process.  We also visited the non-Teppanyaki side of the Asian restaurant and the food there was decent as well, although not our favourite.

We found that the alcoholic drinks were slightly watered down, although nowhere near the levels that we experienced at SPM.  The problem with the high levels of humidity is that any frozen drinks or ice in drinks began melting in a matter of minutes, so drinks were diluted pretty quickly.  At the end of the day it did take quite a few more drinks before D or I started feeling any affects from them, so I think there’s probably something going on here.

Rating: Good

The Beach: 

As mentioned, we spent the majority of our days lounging by the beach, reading books and relaxing.  The beach itself was one of the best we’ve ever been on – powder soft white sand with brilliant blue, super clear water that was literally the temperature of bathwater. During the first part of our trip, there was a bit of seaweed that washed up on the sand that was raked up quickly by hotel staff; on the last few days, the seaweed was much worse, to the point where going in the water freaked me out a bit.  I felt we were pretty lucky to have clear water for the majority of our trip, as I’ve read other’s reviews that state they had the seaweed highly present in the water for their entire stay.

We never had problems finding chairs at the beach as we were there early in the morning.  There were attendants at the beach that would actually come by and lay our towels for us which was a nice touch for sure!  They were also great in finding chairs for guests that came along later in the day when the beach was more populated. Drink service at the beach was usually pretty good, although on our last day it was a little slow (again, not a big deal)

Rating: Excellent

The Pools: 

There were two decent sized pools at SMB; an infinity pool that overlooked the beach and a second that contained the swim-up bar.  The second pool was more lively and was where activities like pool volleyball, bingo, etc. would take place.  One day they actually had a foam party there, accompanied by a DJ.  People seemed to really enjoy it – at least until the novelty wore off.   Not really our thing so we watched from afar (too much like a large bubble bath with strangers for me).  So there was definitely no shortage of activities for those who wanted to participate but you could find a quiet spaces if you wanted to too.  I felt like the pools were a bit smaller than other resorts we had visited previously and while it didn’t feel packed while we were there, I don’t know what capacity was at during our trip.

Rating: Very Good

The Resort/Layout:

We really enjoyed the layout of this resort; as mentioned the main building at the back of the property was where  several restaurants, the nightclub, front desk/conceirge, and lobby bar were located.  The middle of the resort consisted of the Sugar Reef Bar which was kind of like a sports-bar with tv’s, a pool and pingpong table.  They had these cool swings around the bar that were fun to sit at (although not so much with a drink in your hand).  They also had a pingpong table out in a shallow pool which was refreshing to play in given the heat.  I question their judgement in painting the bottom of the shallow pools beige/brown though – not really the best look.   The mini golf course was next to the Sugar Reef bar.  Further on were the pools, 2 more restaurants, another bar and then the beach. There were plenty of lounge chairs, umbrellas and beach beds around the pool and at the beach, and we never had problems finding a place to sit.

Rating: Very Good

Our daily routine:

I’ll spare you the play-by-play of what each day consisted of but here’s a quick summary of our daily routine; we’d get up, head to breakfast and then make our way to the beach.  We’d sit at the beach until about mid-afternoon, after which we’d head up to the pool and hang out there for an hour or two.  Then we’d engage in a competitive round of mini-golf and/or ping-pong (for the record, I lost every game! #zeroathleticability).  Following that we’d pick up a few drinks and go back to our room and enjoy our swim-out suite.  Late afternoon was the perfect time to do so as the sun was already past our building but with temperatures in the low to mid 30’s (celcius), it was still plenty warm.  A few hours later we’d get ready and head out for dinner.  Then it was a drink or two in the lobby lounge and then time for bed.  Repeat x 6.

We weren’t interested in going on any excursions outside of the resort as we just wanted to sit, relax and not do anything but read books at the beach, so that was what we did and it was great. 🙂  I do kind of regret that we never attended any of the nightly shows or at least see what the nightclub was like, but we were just so tired at the end of the night that we just didn’t have the energy.

Some unwanted visitors…

Secrets Maroma Beach

A bit of an amusing story to share – on our last night, we decided to just order room service and enjoy our swim-out suite to the fullest.  Our food arrived pretty quick and I thought it’d be a brilliant idea to eat our meals outside.  A few minutes later we had a visit from a pretty bold and hungry racoon.  The thing was not afraid of people and at one point was literally two feet away from me, on it’s hind legs and I swore it was going to catapult itself at me for my plate of carbonara.  That’s when we decided to finish our meal inside.  Then the next morning D discovered a sizeable, albeit dead cockroach on the floor of our room, near the patio doors.  I have no idea where it came from and I kind of don’t want to think about it.  At least it was dead?  I was very happy that it was our last day in that room – I would have struggled to sleep in there after that.   I get that  bugs are a given in a tropical climate, but finding one in our room freaked me out a bit.


The good:

  • We received service with a smile 99.9% of the time; all of the staff were very friendly and helpful
  • We greatly enjoyed our swimout suite
  • The beach is one of the nicest we’ve seen (pre-seaweed)
  • Pools were a good size and offered options for those who like to be social and those who prefer peace and quiet
  • Lots of activities available including those arranged by their entertainment crew (beach and pool volleyball, dart tournaments, etc.) in addition to a mini golf course, ping pong tables, badminton and other lawn games
  • Great layout of the resort meant it never felt crowded
  • Buffet breakfast was extensive, fresh and delicious

The in-between:

  • Lunch and dinner at the restaurants varied from good to poor
  • Alcoholic drinks still seemed slightly watered down at times

The not-so-good

  • Timeshare pitch needs to be scrapped
  • Wifi was spotty at best
  • Uninvited guests in/near our room

Overall rating: Very Good

We really enjoyed our stay at SMB and had a lovely, relaxing time.  I would definitely recommend this resort if you’re looking for a couples-only all-inclusive resort in Mexico.  That said, I’m kind of feeling Secreted-out.  I’d like to try a different area of Mexico (Cabo potentially?) and most definitely another hotel brand next time we decide to visit an all-inclusive.

Where’s the best all-inclusive resort you’ve stayed at?

Travel Diary: Boston

boston college2

This is Part II of my New York/Boston trip that my husband D and I took a few weeks ago.  If you’d like to read my travel diary on New York, please click here.  This one will focus on the few days we spent in Boston.

We flew from Boston from New York via Jet Blue.  I was so impressed by this airline – they’re what WestJet used to be before they got too big and full of themselves.  The customer service was great, they had free tv on the plane and you weren’t squished like a sardine sitting in economy.  Unfortunately they don’t fly out of Canada but I’d definitely fly with them again if I have a chance.

Where we stayed:

Sheraton Boston

Unfortunately I completely forgot to take pictures of our hotel room, aside from the view we had:

The view from our room at the Sheraton Boston

No complaints there!  We were lucky enough to be upgraded to a suite.  Our room was really nice, it appeared to be recently renovated.  We had a separate living space and then a bedroom and full bathroom.

The hotel itself was really nice as well; it was connected to The Prudential Center Mall via a covered walkway, which I’m sure would be beneficial during the colder months.  We were within walking distance to all the big attractions including Fenway Park, Boston Common, Newbury Street, etc..

What we did:

Red Sox Game @ Fenway Park

View of the field at Fenway Park

Okay I am really not a fan of baseball (at all) but D really wanted to go to a game so we went.  And I’m still not a fan of baseball.  But the history of the park is pretty cool – it was built in 1912 and is the oldest ballpark in major league baseball.  It’s obviously been renovated and restored many times since then but it’s still cool to walk through it knowing just how old it is and how much history exists amongst it.

Fenway Frank and Cracker Jacks!

The highlight for me at any sports event is generally the food and this one didn’t disappoint.  You have to have a ‘Fenway Frank” when you’re there and I did and it was the best hot dog I’ve ever had.  Had to throw a bag of Cracker Jacks in just because – although I remember them tasting way better when I was a kid.  There were many other things I would have liked to try but we were going for dinner after the game so we didn’t want to spoil our supper.  (Hindsight, the hot dog was much better than what we had for dinner that night, should have just eaten at the game)

Boston Duck Tour

Boston Duck Tours

This was something else that D wanted to do – I was skeptical about the whole thing.  I had seen these in other cities and they just seemed so touristy and cheesy.  Honestly it was both but also entertaining and informative and I’m really glad we did this.  Basically you tour the city in a World War II amphibious vehicle – meaning it can travel on land and water.  Our tour operator was hilarious and made the tour for us.  In between his dry jokes he gave us a wealth of info about Boston, it’s neighbourhoods and its history.  You also get a good feel of the city in terms of where things are and what attractions/sights you’d like to visit so I’d recommend doing this early on in your trip.  Tickets are about $35/person so for the 80 minute tour, we found it to be good value.  Plus this gives you a free pass to quack at passerbys on the street without them thinking you’re odd (they encourage this).

Freedom Trail

Sam Adam’s gravesite

This is a red trail that winds its way through various neighbourhoods in Boston and showcases various historical sites.  I’m not big on history but there were definitely some cool things to see here – Sam Adam’s gravesite, Boston Common, Massachuchets State House, etc.  This is a long trek (2.5 miles long) and we did it on a hot day so comfortable shoes and water were important.

Boston Public Garden

We didn’t do a guided tour, instead we picked up a brochure and map and did the tour ourselves.  The map cost $2.50 but it looks like you can download the brochure online for free or they have a smartphone app for double the price.

Quincy Market/Faneuil Marketplace

Outside of Quincy Market

Quincy Market/Faneuil Marketplace is a combination of shops, restaurants, and a 40 vendor food court.  We were so irritated with ourselves because we searched and searched forever trying to find a place for lunch and we ended up at Bostonia Public House, which was disappointing.  After lunch we realized Quincy Market was just down the street and the food court there is insane.  There are so many options including fresh clam chowder, lobster rolls, pizza, sandwiches, bagels, indian, pasta…the list goes on and on and everything looked and smelled amazing.  Lots of cool little shops around here too.

Where we ate:

Five Napkin Burger

We snuck in here for lunch shortly after we arrived as it was close to our hotel.  It was okay, nothing special.  I found my burger dry and kind of bland.  I had this on my list to try in New York and maybe it would have been better there but I don’t think I’d go back.

Regina Pizzeria (Fenway)

I had read that this was some of, if not the best, pizza in Boston.  It’s been around since 1926 so I figured based on that fact alone, how could we go wrong.  Well, we got ready for dinner and I misread their website and thought this was a full-service restaurant, when in fact it was actually a take-out restaurants with a few tables inside to sit at (fast-food style).  So that was a bit of a let down but we figured we were already there, we might as well just try it out.  We go inside and the only slices they have left are cheese, which is not usually our preference.  New pizzas wouldn’t be ready for 15 minutes or so and we were hungry and impatient and didn’t feel like waiting.  So we order 2 cheese slices from the very surly and cranky guy behind the counter (who I’m assuming was the Manager – he was barking orders at everyone around him) and  left.  Seriously, this guy was such a jerk to us, other customers, and his staff;  it was some of the worst service I’ve had in a restaurant in my life.  Fortunately (or unfortunately?) the pizza was delicious.  Very thin crust that wasn’t soggy (rare but very important!) with a ton of flavour which was surprising given it was only cheese.  I guess that’s how he stays in business!  There’s quite a few other Regina’s locations around Boston so I’d definitely go back but not to the Fenway location.

Bostonia Public House 

Clam Chowder @ Bostonia Public House

We stopped here for lunch after wandering around and getting lost in what I think was the Financial District for what felt like hours, looking for a place to eat.  We shared a bowl of Clam Chowder and I had a Lobster Mac n Cheese and D had a lobster roll.  The Clam Chowder was really good but the mac n cheese and lobster roll were just okay.

Lobster Roll @ Bostonia Public House

The disappointing thing here was the service – we waited a good 10 minutes to be seated because the hostess was no where to be found.  We were the only ones waiting for a table so it’s not like there was a long line of people.  We literally had 4 different servers walk past us (some more than once) and tell us that “Someone would be with us in a minute”.  Finally someone who I assume was the Manager came by and seated us (literally right next to where we were waiting), which was good for them because we were just about to turn around and walk out.  I understand that a hostess has their role but if the hostess is no where to be found and you see customers waiting to get a table, is it that hard to direct them to an empty table and hand over some menus?  Anyway, the icing on the cake was that our meal was just okay so definitely wouldn’t return.

Stephanie’s on Newbury

Breakfast skillet @ Stephanies

We went here for Sunday Brunch and it was sooo good!  They had a Bloody Mary Bar that I took advantage of and it was awesome – you could pick your vodka, mix, and garnish – to which I added a dill pickle, and a pepperoni and cheese spear.  I’m much more of a sweet drink type of person so this was actually the first time I’ve ever tried a Bloody Mary (I know) and it set the bar pretty high.  I’m not sure I’d drink these all the time but they were a nice change from the sugary drinks I usually have.

Eggs benny @ Stephanies

Anyway, the breakfast here was also really good.  I had eggs benedict and D had a breakfast skillet which was HUGE and included bacon, sausage, home fries, eggs and cheese baked in this large cast iron skillet.  Both were really yummy and large portion sizes.  Our service was great too so I’d definitely recommend this place and we’d go back.  I’d love to give it a try for dinner.


We decided to save a dinner in Boston’s North End for our last night.  The North End is famous for its large number of Italian restaurants (100!) and is similar to New York’s Little Italy, although much smaller!  I feel like I spent hours scouring Open Table looking for the best restaurant to make reservations at, although everyones opinion was that every restaurant here was good.  I ended up choosing Beneventos and we took a cab there, given that our hotel was a good 45 minute walk to the North End.  We checked in and proceeded to wait a half hour past our reservation time to get our table.  We weren’t concerned as we had no where to go but its something to keep in mind as I suspect that this is the case with most of the restaurants in this area.  While we were waiting, people were coming up and asking the host how long the wait was and most times the answer was at least an hour and a half.  Yikes!  Really glad we made reservations at this point.

We finally get our table which was tiny – but that was the theme with the whole restaurant, it was packed to the brim and you’re practically rubbing elbows with the people next to you. After reviewing the extensive menu, my eyes became bigger than my stomach and I ordered a vodka pizza (vodka sauce, mozzarella, proscuitto, and basil) to start and baked gnocchi in a tomato cream sauce.  D ordered an appetizer of lobster ravioli and chicken marsala as his main.  I discovered very quickly that this was way too much for for us and we couldn’t even come close to eating them all.  Such is life!  All 4 dishes were really good though!  Was it the best Italian I’ve ever had?  Probably not but it was a good meal.  And our server (whose name escapes me) was fantastic – she had so many tables I don’t know how she could keep anything straight but she was on top of everything and so friendly.  So would we go back here?  Probably not, but not because it wasn’t good.  Because there are so many other options in the North End that I’d like to try.

Mike’s Pastry


So you’d think that after that monstrous meal we had at Benevento’s that would have been enough for both of us but I had heard that Mike’s Pastry shop had the most amazing pastries and cannolis and I knew I had to try something from there before we left Boston.  So we made our way to the shop and discovered that the line to get in was halfway down the street and wrapped around the corner.  Much to D’s dismay, I took a place in line.  We waited for 45 minutes and by the time I got to the front I was so overwhelmed by the choices they had.  We ended up with two types of cannolis (Strawberry & Oreo) and a slice of Boston Cream Pie (when in Boston…).  They wrap up your choices in a box and tie it with string and send you on your way.

From left to right: Boston Cream Pie; Oreo Cannoli; Strawberry Cannoli

We took a cab back to the hotel but I wish we would have walked because then maybe I could have found some space in my stomach to eat these.  The crappy picture above does not do these justice – the cannoli’s were HUGE, like probably 3 times the size of a normal cannoli and just stuffed to the brim with pastry cream.  I managed to take a couple small bites of each of them (both were seriously amazing) and a bite of the Boston Cream Pie (wasn’t impressed – super sweet and gritty?) before I fell into a sugar and carb induced food coma.  We stuck the remnants in the fridge, hoping to devour them the next morning but our flight was really early and we were both still so full when we woke up so they ended up going to waste.  Which I’m still seriously sad about.  But I’d go back here and stand in line for 45 minutes again for those cannoli’s in a second. Yum!

And that was Boston!  We enjoyed the city and were amazed at how clean it was (especially after being in New York, although that’s not really a fair comparison). We were there for 3 full days and felt that was more than sufficient for us to do the things we wanted to do.  If I were to ever visit again I think I’d like to stay in a hotel closer to the waterfront/Quincy Market as there seemed to be more options for restaurants and plenty of shopping/attractions nearby as well.

If you have any questions about our trip please let me know.  As always, thanks for reading!


Travel Diary – New York City


At the end of August, my husband (aka D) and I travelled to New York and Boston for 10 days.  We had been to New York about 6 years ago and decided we wanted to visit again.  We chose Boston because we’ve just always wanted to visit there and given that the two cities are close by, we thought we’d combine the trips.  I’m going to focus solely on New York for this post and I’ll do a separate post on Boston.

Where we stayed:

Sheraton Times Square

Sheraton Times Square Hotel

We are SPG members so when we travel, we try to stay in Starwood hotels whenever possible.  Last time we were in New York we stayed at the Westin Times Square, and we liked it but this time the Sheraton was cheaper, so we booked it instead.

The location was great – it was a few blocks away from Central Park, and a few blocks away from Times Square so we could be at either location in a matter of minutes.  Lots of restaurants, bars, delis, and shops nearby so we were within close walking distance to anything we could have needed or wanted.

The rooms were compact (as expected) but functional.  The bathroom was a little squishy for my tastes and I found the room to be too dark overall but they were really minor concerns.  The one thing that bugged us was that our room backed on to the elevator banks and they were quite loud during peak times.  Overall though, we had a nice view of Central Park, the room was clean and the bed was comfortable.

Service at the hotel was mixed.  None of the bellman ever offered to help us with our bags when we were arriving or leaving. The front desk wasn’t the friendliest we’ve ever experienced, and we were pretty surprised to to learn that they charge guests to check their luggage.  Because we were SPG Platinum our fees were waived but that seemed like a cash grab to us – that should be a service included in your hotel rate.  Other than that, housekeeping was thorough and the rest of the employees we interacted with were friendly and helpful.  But I definitely wouldn’t say it’s the best customer service we received at a hotel.

What we did

Having been to NYC before, we didn’t feel a need to re-do much of anything we had done on our previous trip.  We did many of the main tourist attractions then, including the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Boat Tour, Top of the Rock, Museum of Natural History, Grand Central Terminal, etc.  This time we still had a list of a few attractions to visit, but there was a lot of just walking around and exploring neighbourhoods as well.

One World Observatory
One World Trade Center and the views from the Observatory

One World Observatory –  This is the observatory level of the brand new One World Trade Center building and it just opened in May of this year.   The deck is on the 102 floor of the building and gives you an amazing panoramic view of the city from its wrap-around, wall-to-wall windows windows.  I was a little worried that the views were going to be nauseating being up so high but I was perfectly fine.  And while I definitely felt like I was up HIGH, I didn’t feel like I was up 102 floors.  Though the cost of this attraction was steep ($32/person), I felt like the views were worth the cost.  But I probably wouldn’t do it again as for me it’s one of those things that once you’ve done it, it doesn’t really need to be done again.

The National 9/11 Memorial – On our last visit to NYC, this memorial and museum were not yet built and they had just begun building One World Trade Centre.  They did have a small museum, which we visited, and we also did a Walking Tour with a Security Guard who worked in the Twin Towers, and a Red Cross volunteer.  I’m not sure if they still offer those walking tours anymore, but if they do, I’d highly recommend doing one.  Listening to personal accounts of the events that transpired that day were so impactful; their stories have stayed with me ever since.

The memorial consists of two large waterfall pools that are set within the footprint of the Twin Towers.  The names of all those that have died are engraved on plaques that surround the pools.  It’s very peaceful and calming, but it’s also a sobering reminder of all those innocent people that lost their lives that day.  Needless to say, you leave with a heavy heart.

Brooklyn Bridge
Views of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge

Walked the Brooklyn Bridge – We took the subway to Brooklyn, got off (can’t remember which stop exactly) and walked towards Manhattan as I’ve heard you have great views of the skyline.  And we did!  It was super hot throughout our entire trip and even though we did this in the morning, it was still scorching hot.  Thank goodness for the guy selling cold water near the end of the bridge!  The views were beautiful and I think this only took us about 30 minutes max so well worth it!

Exploring neighbourhoods (Greenwich Village; China Town;  Little Italy; Noho; TriBeCa, SoHo) – There are so many great neighbourhoods in NYC it’s nearly impossible to keep track, as it is to know when you’ve left one and entered into another.  We walked, and walked, and walked and saw so many neat shops, restaurants, buildings and people.  And that’s one of the things I like most about NYC.

The set of Wicked

Wicked – When you’re in New York, you have to see a Broadway show.  It’s not debatable.  I wanted to see Wicked the last time we visited but it was sold out and we ended up seeing Mary Poppins instead.  Now I must admit, I’m not really a fan of musicals.  I much prefer plays but I’ve heard such good things about Wicked I knew I had to see it.  And it was really good.  The set was amazing and the cast was insanely talented, there’s no denying that.  But ultimately it confirmed that I am just not a musical-person.  If you are though, you should see this one because chances are, you’d be impressed.  Particularly if you are a fan of the Wizard of Oz.

The Highline
The Highline and a few snaps of its views

The Highline – The Highline is a public park built on a historic freight rail line, situated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. This was a nice break from the busyness of the city; we walked the full path from start to finish and experienced some great views of the skyline and Hudson River.  It’s also great for those that appreciate architecture as you’re surrounded by lots of cool old and new buildings!

Chelsea Market – Chelsea Market is situated right underneath a section of the Highline, so it made sense to combine the two.  I wish we had visited later in the day though because there were so many unique things I would have liked to pick up.  But I knew we had a long day of walking ahead of us so I didn’t bother.  The market is packed with all kinds of fabulous-looking and smelling food vendors and we were so tempted to try everything but ended up trying nothing as we were still full from our breakfast earlier.  This is definitely on my list of places to go back to if I’m lucky enough to visit New York a third time!

New York Library

New York Library/Bryant Park –  We didn’t spend a lot of time in Bryant Park but I wish we would have stopped and had a drink at the outdoor bar in front of the library.  They have these cute little tables and chairs that are surrounded by the most beautiful flowers.  We did stop in the library to look around – I was expecting to see shelves and shelves of books but I guess you need a membership to get in and see those.  The building inside is beautiful though!

Central Park
Riding and rowing through Central Park

Rented bikes/row boat in Central Park – Central Park has to be one of my favourite things about New York.  You can’t fully appreciate or understand its size until you’re there and even then it’s hard to comprehend.  Last time we walked the park and while we saw a lot of things, we were exhausted for days afterwards.  This time I definitely wanted to rent bikes but before we did that we discovered the lake where you can rent row boats.  We figured we couldn’t pass up the chance to do that, so we hoped in line, rented a boat for an hour and off we went.  Sorta.  I’m not sure D has ever rowed a boat before and its not the easiest thing to figure out, having not done it before.  Other people were making it look so easy but we were going in circles by the dock.  I was laughing hysterically while D was getting pretty frustrated.  It didn’t help that the 30+ degree sun was beating down on us.  Anyway, he eventually figured it out and we rowed ourselves around the lake.  I think we were both pretty happy when our hour was up though.

Afterwards we picked up bottled waters and caught our breath at the outside patio of the restaurant by the lake.  We noticed a bike rental vendor just across from the restaurant so we figured that given we were already sweaty and gross, we might as well just embrace it and get sweatier. So we rented bikes and rode the path that goes all around the park.  There were some uphill spots but most were downhill which provided some much needed breezes.  It took us about an hour to go all the way around the park and we’re so glad we did it, it was a blast.  Highly recommended if you’re ever in NYC!

Where we ate (Highlights)

Blue Smoke
BBQ Chicken and Mac n’ Cheese @ Blue Smoke

Blue Smoke: Mmmm bbq!  Seriously this was some of the best bbq chicken and mac n’ cheese I’ve ever eaten in my life.  The bbq sauce on the chicken was vinegary and unlike anything I’ve ever had before; and the mac n cheese was the creamiest and cheesiest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life.  We had lunch here and we were both so stuffed we could barely move.  Highly recommend this if you’re in the area.  Or even if you’re not, go out of your way to go here, it’s that good!

Blueberry cheesecake @ Juniors

Juniors: Their cheesecake is world-famous and we had it on our last trip and knew we had to go back.  We had the blueberry version and it was delicious as expected.

New York Sirlon & Rib Eye – Gallaghers Steakhouse

Gallaghers:  This steakhouse was established in NYC in1920’s and they showcase their steaks dry aging in a window that faces the street.  It’s a very old-school steakhouse with lots of dark woodwork and the servers wearing black suits, so you kind of feel like you’re transported back in time. We were so impressed with our meal – our steaks were top notch (and we are used to Alberta beef!), as were our sides and we experienced some of the best service we’ve ever received at a restaurant.

Shake Shack: Similar to Tim Horton’s here in Canada, I don’t think you can ever go to a Shake Shack and not have to stand in line.  However (unlike Tim’s), the wait is worth it.  Their burgers are sooo good and we are in love with their cheese fries.  I don’t want to think of the calories I consumed but similar the wait, it was worth it!

John's Pizzeria
Pepperoni, mushroom and sausage pizza – John’s Pizzeria

John’s Pizzeria: Pizza is another food item you cannot leave NYC without having.  We ate here last time and wanted to go again because we enjoyed it so much.  And it didn’t disappoint!  New York style pizza is so different than anything you’ll ever have anywhere else – it’s thin crust but they don’t skimp on toppings.  John’s is baked on a coal-fired brick oven and you can taste the difference.

Margarita pizza with sweet italian sausage – Lombardi’s

Lombardi’s Pizza: So, when we visited Little Italy, we may have ate lunch at two restaurants over a 2 hour timeframe.  We stopped at one restaurant that I can’t remember the name of and shared risotto and it was good, but nothing to write home about.  We left and continued to explore Little Italy and then came across Lombardi’s Pizza and were so disappointed that we didn’t see it first.  Lombardi’s Pizza is touted as American’s First Pizzeria and has been in business for over 100 years.  Despite having already ate, we knew we had to try it.  So we went it and ordered a small margarita pizza with sweet italian sausage.  First of all, the small is not really a small.  It was huge but we managed to find room for it.  And it was worth it; we can understand why they’ve been around as long as they have.

Ess-a-Bagel: I will dream of the bagel I had here for the rest of my life. Literally the best bagel I’ve ever had, and suspect I will EVER have.  I had a plain bagel with cheddar cream cheese and it was amazing.  The cream cheese was so light and fluffy and actually tasted like cheddar cheese.  Sigh – drooling just thinking of it now…


Kate Spade – I was on a mission to buy myself a new purse.  Lucky for me, Kate Spade had a sale on and a purse that I had my eye on for a while was included. And here she is:


The bow is what gets me with this purse – without it, I don’t think I’d like it as much.  In fact, I know I wouldn’t.   It’s structured shape is taking a little getting used to but I’m loving the versatility of the cross-body strap and wrist straps.  I tend to be a little hard on my purses so we’ll see how this one holds up (I have high hopes!).

e.l.f. studio store – I’ve never seen a e.l.f. store before so when I came across it in the Noho district (I think?) I knew I was going to do some damage on my credit card.  Luckily because e.l.f. is so cheap, I picked up a bunch of products for around $45 US. I had so much fun in here, especially because the majority of the products are things I cannot get back home.   I’m going to do a more in-depth post of what I bought and what I think about them later this week, so keep an eye out for that.

Century 21: If you’re a serious shopper and you’ve been to New York, then you know about Century 21.  If I had to describe it, it’s kind of like a much-bigger Winners with more designer/high-end brands and crowds similar what you’d find at a Boxing Day sale (the Canadian version of a Black Friday sale).  It’s a crazy place but if you can stand all the people, you can get some great deals.  Unfortunately I have to be in the right kind of mood to sharpen my elbows and search through racks and racks of things and I wasn’t in that kind of a mood the day I was there.  I did get a Michael Kors belt for $75 that was regularly $300 and a small wallet and purse organizer.  But that was it, nothing too exciting.  Kind of disappointed in myself to be honest.

Lastly, I came across a Birchbox STORE in Soho, so I knew I had to pay them a visit.  The store itself was somewhat disappointing but I ended up making up my own personalized Birchbox which was really fun. I’ll be doing a review on the products I picked out the week after next, so keep an eye out for that too!

And that was basically our trip.  We spent 6 full days and 7 nights in New York and that was plenty.  Despite the heat and humidity, we had a great time but I was definitely ready to leave by the last day!  It was a busy trip but it was so nice to see some new things we didn’t  experience last time, mixed with some of our favourite things from our previous trip.  I look forward to returning some day in the future.

As mentioned, we headed to Boston for a few days after New York, so I’ll have a travel diary on that next week as well.

Thanks so much for reading!


Vacation Beauty Routine – Part 2


First off – apologies for the horrible quality of my pictures lately. I take all of my pictures with my iPhone which usually works fine but lately it’s been acting up and making all my pictures blurry and fuzzy.  😦  Can’t even fix them much using Pic Monkey.  It’s annoying but I’m hoping to have it fixed soon.

So today I’m sharing the second part of my vacation beauty routine!  I like to keep my beauty routine simple on beach vacations because after spending all day out in the sun, we’re usually pretty tired so we go for dinner and maybe a drink or two and then hit the hay.  I hate spending a bunch of time on my makeup and hair only to be back in the room removing it all an hour or two later.

So I know I keep repeating myself but the extreme humidity created so many challenges for me and my beauty routine on this trip.  While my skin was never been softer and in less need of moisture, it was so frustrating to spend an hour getting ready, only to walk outside and feel like my makeup evaporated off my face and have my hair go flat and frizzy.  I had more products that didn’t work than did work, so I’ll definitely be seeking out some humidity-proof products the next time I travel somewhere warm.

On the reviews!

Primer: Rimmel London Stay Matte;  $7.99-9.99 CAD, depending on retailer

I’ve been using this primer for just under a month and I love it!  I have what I like to call extreme combination skin – super oily t-zone (especially my nose!) and super dry everywhere else.  Given the humidity, dryness really wasn’t much of a concern for me on vacation (one of the few benefits!).  This product really helped keep me relatively shine-free and extend the life of my eye makeup and foundation.  Yes, I said eye makeup!  I use this as my eyelid primer AND foundation primer and it works perfect for both.  Love that I can use one product for two purposes!  It reminds me a lot of Benefit’s the Porefessional but for a lot less!  I’ll definitely be re-purchasing this one!

BB Cream: Rimmel London Radiance; $7.99-9.99 CAD, depending on retailer

I purchased this at the same time I bought the Stay Matte Primer.  I did a first impressions review of this when I purchased it and I still really like this.  It’s a nice match to my skin tone, creamy and gives me a nice light finish.  This is the “Radiance” version of their BB cream but I don’t really feel like it gives me any kind of healthy glow or radiant finish like it claims but I’m not too hung up on that.  The only thing is I didn’t find that it has a lot of staying power, particularly in humid conditions.  Going forward I’d propbably give the Stay Matte version a try if I was going somewhere warm but this one works great at home.  For the price, you really can’t beat this though!  I’ll be repurchasing!

Powder: Rimmel London Stay Matte Pressed; $5.99-8.99 CAD, depending on retailer

So I was wearing this at home for about a month and I was really liking it.  It’s most definitely mattifying and I found it was really great at keeping oiliness at bay, especially on my nose.  However the last few weeks I’ve been experiencing some pretty bad breakouts.  I was going through the different products I was using and looking at the ingredients and discovered this has mineral oil in it.  I know there’s lots of claims out there that mineral oil in beauty products doesn’t cause breakouts but anytime I use something with it in it – breakout city.  So I’ve stopped using this and my skin has been clearing up.  Disappointing as I really liked this but obviously it’s not worth the breakouts.  Won’t be purchasing this one!

Mascara: Urban Decay Perversion Mascara; $26 CAD

I used my VIB points to pick up a deluxe sample of this mascara before I left on my trip.  I hadn’t heard anything about this prior but mascara is one of those items that I typically buy in the drugstore.  his mascara is super pigmented.  I’m not sure I’ve ever used a mascara that makes my eyelashes so dark and black, which I really liked.  Unfortunately, that’s all I liked about it.  It is super wet so I completely removed any curl I had in my lashes right after the first coat.  I like to coat my lashes a lot, so by the time I was done my lashes were stick straight and spidery.  It gave my lashes very little volume although it did add a lot of length.  I’m lucky enough to have fairly decent length lashes so I’m always looking for volume and thickness.  I also found it clumped a lot.  The brush is a natural bristle brush which I prefer, but it was really wide and thick so I was constantly touching my upper and lower eyelids with it.  Lastly, within a few hours I had raccoon eyes and flaking.  Ironically though it wasn’t so easy to remove at the end of the night.  As a result I would definitely not purchase the full size of this mascara.  Never mind the fact that it retails for $26!  Also maybe it’s just me but I find the name weird.  Perversion?

Shadow & Liner: Urban Decay Naked Palette; $64 CAD

I’ve had this palette for years.  Probably too long actually, I’m sure it’s probably expired.  But I’m slowly making my way through the shadows and I intend on using it until I’ve finished up every colour.  I always bring this with me on vacation because it’s so versatile.  I can do a nude eye or a dramatic smokey eye or something in between.  For the last 6 months I’ve been addicted to liquid eyeliner but I didn’t feel like bringing it with me on vacation.  Instead I used some of the darker shades as eyeliner using a liner brush and it worked great.

Side note – has this always been $64?  I don’t remember paying that much for it way back when.  It honestly seems ridiculous but assuming I did pay that much for it, I’d do it again as I use this almost every day.  It’s worth it.

Solid Perfume: Pacific Perfumes – Aloha; $28 USD

I picked this up in Hawaii last year for myself as a treat and I absolutely love it.  I’ve never used a solid perfume before but I’m not sure I’ll go back to using regular perfumes while on vacation after this.  It travels so well, and you don’t have to worry about the bottle breaking or perfume leaking in your suitcase.  The scent is light, musky and totally reminds me of Hawaii with notes of Bergamont, Cedarwood and Pomegranate.  It’s definitely lighter than a regular perfume but I like that – I just feel like everything should be lighter when you’re on vacation.  Love the packaging as well – the perfume is contained in a little sustainable wood pot.  The only thing I don’t like about this is the price $28 for 0.33 oz (yikes!) and as you use it the solid flattens out and it can be difficult to apply.  I’m not likely to order one of these online but this will last me a while given that I’ve dedicated its use strictly to vacations.  In the meantime I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for other solid perfumes to add to my collection.

Hairspray: John Fredia Frizz-Ease Moisture Barrier Firm Hold; $3.99 – $4.99 CAD (travel size)

I’ve honestly never had a good experience with any of the Frizz Ease products but I had this in storage so I thought I’d give it another try as well as try to use it up (I hate not using things that I’ve purchased, even if they suck).  This did absolutely nothing for my hair.  Granted, the humidity was really high (85% or more on some days) but the point of this spray is that it’s supposed to provide a humidity shield for your hair.  I’d style my hair as usual, spray this on, walk outside and it was flat and frizzy in 2 minutes flat.  Do not recommend this product at all and won’t be repurchasing.

Facial Wipes: Neutrogena Make-up Removing Cleansing Wipes; $8.99-10.99 CAD, depending on retailer

I’ve never really ever been a fan of facial wipes.  I find they never really get all my makeup off and I usually have to really “scrub” around my eye area to get my eye makeup off, which irritates the super sensitive skin around my eyes.  I picked these up because I’d heard good things about Neutrogena’s face wipes in general and thought the lavender scent sounded nice.  They also claim that they’ll remove all kinds of makeup, including waterproof.  These took of my foundation and other face products with ease but when it came to my eye makeup, it was painful.  I really had to rub my eyes to get my mascara and eye shadow off despite the fact on most nights I wasn’t wearing very much of either.  I also found the scent overpowering and somewhat irritating to my skin.  My skin is fairly sensitive though, so knowing that, I really shouldn’t have bought these in the first place.  Wouldn’t re-purchase these.

Lipstick: Rimmel London Lasting Finish by Kate #103 (no longer available);

I received this lipstick as free gift at Shoppers Drug Mart a few months ago and I thought I’d bring it along with me.  The rest of my makeup was fairly neutral and light, so I thought a pop of colour on my lips would be nice.  I’m typically not a fan of lipsticks, I prefer glosses and balms as they tend to be more moisturizing.  Surprisingly I actually quite like this one.  This is rosy pink cream and the colour is quite pigmented.  I didn’t find it super drying like most long-wearing lipsticks but I didn’t really find it all that long lasting either.  It’d last about an hour or two before the colour would start to fade and I’d need to re-apply.  I probably wouldn’t repurchase this just because lipsticks aren’t my thing, but for a lipstick, I liked it more than I thought I would.

Well if you made it all the way to the end of this – thanks!  I know it was a long read but I had a lot to say and share so I hope you found some of my thoughts useful!

Until next time!

Travel Diary – Playa Mujeres, Mexico


Hello everyone!

Well it’s been a bit since I had a new post but it’s for a good reason!  I just returned from a week-long vacation in Mexico with my husband.  It was lovely to get away – we really needed a break and we had been looking forward to this trip for a while.

Traveling is one of our favourite things to do and at least once a year we like to escape to a beach destination and just spend a week doing nothing.  No excursions or activities, just being completely lazy.

This year we chose a brand new all inclusive, adults-only resort in Mexico by the name of Secrets Playa Mujeres in Playa Mujeres, Mexico.  This resort is about 40 minutes from the Cancun airport and Playa Mujeres is a fairly secluded part of Cancun.  There’s only 5 resorts in this area and there’s no restaurants or shopping nearby.  We’ve stayed in this area twice before so we were familiar with it and personally we like it – I’ve never stayed in the “hotel zone” in Cancun but I’m not sure that would be our thing.  We enjoy the seclusion and quietness this area offers.

Unfortunately our experience here was less than fantastic, which was really disappointing.  I don’t want to get into too many details about our experience because I could literally be here all day, so here’s a quick summary of the good, the bad and the okay:


– This resort itself is gorgeous.  The pools, beach, rooms, landscaping, restaurants, etc. are all really lovely and brand new (the resort just opened in November)


Pool area

– Service at the restaurants and bars was generally very good.  Prompt service with a smile.

– The layout of the resort is a little different than other all-inclusives we’ve stayed at.  The lobby and a few of the restaurants plus the gym and spa were at the top of a hill, while the rooms, a few more restaurants, pools and bars were at the bottom of the hill.  They had golf carts to take you from point A to point B (which only took a few minutes at most).


– Food was hit-and-miss.  We had some good food, some okay food, and some really not good food.  I never really expect to have amazing food at an all-inclusive, but there was definitely some room for improvement here.

– Secrets typically brands themselves as a couples resort, however I think they are struggling with an identity crisis at this particular location.  Lots of drunk and rowdy people at the pools and lots of large events that took over many of the public spaces at night.  There’s also a very energetic entertainment crew that attempts to get people involved in their daily activities like Zumba and beach volleyball.  They’d play loud music at the pools during the day and constantly be asking you to participate in events.  None of this really bothered us (although the constant invitations did get a bit tiring after a while) but if you’re looking for peace and quiet this might not be the resort for you.


Infinity pool that overlooks the ocean

The BAD:

– Drinks were extremely watered down.  I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this anywhere but it was bad.  They’d fill a glass half full of hard liquor like vodka or whiskey, add a mixer and you couldn’t taste the alcohol.


Drinks at the piano bar

– Our check-in experience was horrible.  After being assigned our room, we received a 20 minute timeshare spell that we never asked for nor were interested in.  Despite us telling the rep that we weren’t interested he kept pressing us and kept with his sales pitch.  It was annoying, particularly after a long day of travel.

– Our room.  We booked the lowest category room which was classified as a Deluxe Ocean View suite.  This was our view:


It overlooked the roof of one of the restaurants and to the left there were a bunch of large ventilation systems that ran constantly and were extremely noisy.  We could have overlooked the view but the noise was way too loud for us to be able to enjoy the patio. When we called the front desk to ask if it would be possible to move to another room (within the same category) we were told no (quite rudely).  This, coupled with our check-in experience resulted in a bad overall first impression of the resort and it was hard to shake it the rest of our stay, especially given that there were quite a few other things that just weren’t up to par.

Ultimately though, we were able to enjoy the beach and pool, and ate and drank our fair share of pina colada’s and guacamole.  We read books, worked on our tans and enjoyed the sunshine.  Most of our issues were most definitely first world problems, but because we did pay quite a bit for our stay and have had superior experiences at other comparable resorts we most definitely won’t be returning to this resort.


I’m working on some posts later this week in regards to products I used while on this trip (more bad than good!).  Going from single digit temperatures with very little humidity to ones in the low to mid-thirties plus high humidity required some major changes to my daily beauty routine!  I applaud anyone who lives in an area with high humidity and looks great while doing it as I found it so challenging.  I’ve been to Mexico before but never at this time of year and it was much different than visiting in the fall and winter months.  Almost made me thankful for my dry climate back home (almost).

I also won a contest on Twitter while I was away and my prize is to arrive sometime this week.  I’m so excited that I won something and I can’t wait to get it.  More details to come!

If you have any questions about my travels please let me know – I’ll happily answer!

Have a great day!