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Friday, May 19, 2017

Honeymoon Bliss Part 1

As soon as we came back engaged from our Southeast Asia vacation (HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE) we started planning our low key fun wedding and reception.  On top of that came the hard part....where to honeymoon?  I wanted a real honeymoon-y destination and to me Fiji or Tahiti SCREAMS honeymoon!  I searched high and low on my usual Internet sites that I use for vacations but didn't find what I really wanted so for the first time EVER I turned to a travel agent...thinking we would get a super good deal.  I was also swamped with work and all my other to dos so I thought I would let someone else take some of the load off me.  We planned on getting married at the end of April so I wanted to get a deal before the Summer price tags were tacked onto airline tickets and such.  Hendrik was all for the over the water bungalow idea but he wasn't for Fiji or Tahiti since that entails a lot of traveling and we just came off a trip where we flew over 25 THOUSAND miles.  He was really wanting a short haul direct flight that was semi short.  That really narrowed our search criteria but there were a few contenders.  I worked with a local travel agent in Sulphur Springs for around a month of going back and forth trying out pricing on different places.  While she was hunting I still was also in my spare time and that's when I came across some newly built over the water bungalows at Riviera Maya in Mexico.  The website wouldn't even allow me to find out pricing so I let the travel agent know about it.  She got back in touch with me a couple weeks later...I had actually forgotten about it... with pricing and an itinerary.  The resort was a direct flight from Dallas to Cancun only 2 1/2 hours fly time and they had a bungalow available.  I told Hendrik the pricing and we had to really jump on it or let it go and start over.  I was dead set on this type of honeymoon and seeing there are only TWO resorts in the entire Western hemisphere that have this sort of accommodation and the one in Jamaica was completely booked this was our chance.  Hendrik agreed that this one was a go so I paid the down payment and we got it finalized.  I reviewed the website frequently and just day dreamed of our time there...hoping it was everything that the website and my mind had made it out to be.  This would be our first trip that we would stay the entire time at one place!  

Before I knew it...actually I knew it I had been counting down...the time was here and as I recovered from a massive hangover I packed our bags and we headed to Dallas the night before our flight.  We flew at 9 am so we had to be there by 6 am if we have to get up in the middle of the night to make our times then Hendrik prefers to go up the night before so we can get more sleep and be well rested on our travel days.  We stay at the Marriott North to earn points and the room fee essentially pays for the parking you would be out even in the long term parking lot of the airport.  It's a win win! We got a good 7 hours of sleep and took the hotel shuttle right to our terminal.  Checked in, made it through security and had breakfast before our flight and of course the airport Starbucks was a must.  There were SO MANY honeymooners on our flight we counted a total of 6 obvious couples either because we overheard them talking and/or they had on some sort of t-shirt explaining such.  Our flight was nice and short.  We were in separate seats so Hendrik watched a movie and I read/slept.  

Upon arrival we found our shuttle service and within a few minutes were in our private car on our way to the resort which was around a 40 minute drive from the airport.  We took the resort's winding driveway to a lobby which wasn't our lobby to check in.  We had to wait around 15 minutes but a golf cart soon picked us up and took us to check in.  After all the necessary details were taken care of we headed to our over the water bungalow.  We stayed a full week Monday to Monday at the El Dorado Maroma Beach Over the water bungalows called, Palafitos.  We got a room tour explaining all the odd and ins and I couldn't wait to get into my swimsuit and onto our private deck quick enough... 

The entire resort was phenomenal!  We can't say enough good things about it.  Our room was one of the best on the resort.  The butler staff was very attentive and made everything a dream come true.  Everything was thought of and nothing was left undone.  The El Dorado over the water Palafitos was gourmet inclusive which means top of the line all inclusive!  Like as much gourmet food as you want, as much room service, as much top shelf liquor. Pretty much anything and everything that you could want they had or would do for you.  I felt so bad asking for things but mainly we didn't need much either. We are so used to doing our own thing we weren't too sure how to utilize the butler service.  The food was out of this world good and if you wanted double portions then there was no problem, you want another entree to try no problem.  We ate almost every night at the private restaurant only for the Palafitos residents.  Not only was it the best food but it was so private.  We went to the amazing gym everyday for killer workouts, paddle boarded around all the bungalows, and snorkeled several times right from our deck.  We saw some awesome marine life and enjoyed doing pretty much the same thing everyday.  

We were by far the youngest people we saw at the Palafitos but we didn't really associate much with others we stayed at our bungalow the majority of the time other than when we went to the gym and the beach a few times. We had everything we needed and took every day to the max with relaxation!  I read so many books and magazines that I have had stacked on my night stand for almost 2 years.

Since everyday was the same essentially I'm going to do these posts a bit different...I'm going to do a food showcase because it was gourmet and delicious, a resort post showcasing all the views and rooms, and then a sunning and activities post that has all our other pictures.  This is the most words you will get the rest is picture eye candy!

Coming up is the RESORT pictures!!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Review: Girls Who Travel

If you don't already then you need to check out Good Reads.  It's a website that you can find book recommendations and keep track of the books you have read.  I mainly use it to track how many and what books I read but I also have a file that I put books in that I would one day like to read.  Girls Who Travel is a book that has been in that to read file for quite a long time.  I read so many books and so quickly on my honeymoon that I turned to this file to take advantage of the down time I had and read a couple of these books.  Girls Who Travel was a fictional book about a girl in her 20s trying to find her way in life through adventure and travel.  I loved this book and the ending was perfect!  It inspired me to read more travel related books and it only makes me want to not only read more but travel more too. LOL  I'm reading a similar book currently but it is nonfiction and a little harder to get through especially now that we are back to our normal routine.  I will be sure to fill you in on it when I'm done!  In the meantime check out this book you won't regret it.

A hilarious, deftly written debut novel about a woman whose wanderlust is about to show her that sometimes you don’t have to travel very far to become the person you want to be…

There are many reasons women shouldn’t travel alone. But as foul-mouthed, sweet-toothed Kika Shores knows, there are many more reasons why they should. After all, most women want a lot more out of life than just having fun. Kika, for one, wants to experience the world.

But ever since she returned from her yearlong backpacking tour, she’s been steeped in misery, battling rush hour with all the other suits. Getting back on the road is all she wants. So when she’s offered a nanny job in London – the land of Cadbury Cream Eggs – she’s happy at the prospect of going back overseas and getting paid for it. But as she’s about to discover, the most exhilarating adventures can happen when you stay in one place…

Wise, witty, and hilarious, Girls Who Travel is an unforgettable novel about the highs and lows of getting what you want—and how it’s the things you least expect that can change your life.

Book Review: Devious

After I read the current James Patterson novels that I have reviewed HERE and HERE I was on the hunt for some new content on my Kindle.  As always I turned to Amazon for these simple and cheap purchases but first I wanted to check on an author or two and see if they had come out with any new books in some series that I read previously and loved.  Sara Rosett is one of those authors and I was pleasantly surprised to find that she had put out a 5th book in her On the Run series!  These books are so good.  Not only are they mysteries which I love they are always filled with travel and adventure which...hello those three things put together make for an amazing book.  All the books in this series are really good books and they are so cheap.  Again easy reads but perfect for a day at the pool this Summer.  I hope that Sara keeps cranking them out in this series.  In the mean time I may need to check out some of her other published works!  

Free-spirited Zoe Andrews has settled into married life and feels she has found her ideal niche working for a company that discreetly recovers lost items for elite clients, but her first assignment, which takes her to Edinburgh to recover a stolen painting, turns out to be more complicated than she expected. 

Instead of simply getting in touch with contacts in the art world, Zoe finds herself tangled in a web of contradictions. Why would someone steal a not-so-valuable painting, and why was the thief attacked? Zoe’s search to find answers takes her from the ancient stone walls of Edinburgh Castle to the Baroque grandeur of Salzburg as she delves into a decades old mystery with ties to the present.

On the Run series: 
Book One: Elusive
Book Two: Secretive
Book Three: Deceptive
Book Four: Suspicious
Book Five: Devious

Book Review: 16th Seduction

After I wrapped up 15th Affair I was pleased to find the most recent Women's Murder Club novel was out by James Patterson, 16th Seduction.  I downloaded it onto my computer from Amazon and transferred it to my Kindle right from the comfort of my hotel bed one morning on our honeymoon and I was ready for my day in the sun.  I read each of these books in a full day of relaxing and like always the 16th Seduction didn't disappoint.  I was able to get a few answers to some questions that were left hanging from the 15th Affair and as I finished this book I couldn't help but want more. I  can't wait for the next novel in this awesome series to debut....never soon enough.  I can't brag enough about how these are good and easy reads.  

Amazon Synopsis:
The Instant #1 New York Times and USA Today Bestseller

Detective Lindsay Boxer investigates the most explosive case of her career.Lindsay Boxer is learning to love again. After the picture-perfect world she shared with her husband, Joe, and their beautiful young daughter shattered under the weight of Joe's double life, Lindsay is determined to put the pieces back together. But before she can welcome Joe back with open arms, their beloved hometown of San Francisco faces a threat unlike any the city--or the country--has ever seen. 

When the danger hits even closer to home, Lindsay and Joe find a common cause and spring into action, with quick results. But what at first seems like an open-and-shut case quickly turns into anything but, when the suspect threatens everything that Lindsay has worked a lifetime to build. As Lindsay's investigation is scrutinized and undermined by a criminal as brilliant as any high-powered defense lawyer, and her motives are called into question by everyone she thought had her back, not even the truth may be enough to save her. 

In a desperate fight for her career--and her life--Lindsay must connect the dots of a deadly conspiracy before a fiendish enemy puts her on trial-and walks free with blood on his hands.

Filled with the trademark suspense and emotion that have made James Patterson the world's #1 bestselling writer, 16th Seduction is the Women's Murder Club's toughest case yet--and an exhilarating thrill ride from start to finish. 

Book Review: 15th Affair

While on our honeymoon I got to catch up on almost 2 years of magazines and I was also able to read  a ton of books.  The first books on my list were the James Patterson Women's Murder Club novels that I was behind on.  The first one was the 15th in the series.  This series is so fun and easy to read.  I love each and every book just like the ones before it.  The story always changes but the characters are the same and you just get to continue following their journey. If you haven't read any of this series I HIGHLY recommend it.  James Patterson is a great writer and I love all his books but this series is by far my favorite of all.  

Amazon Synopsis:

Detective Lindsay Boxer chases an elusive, possibly very dangerous suspect...her husband, Joe.Lindsay Boxer has a beautiful baby daughter and a husband she loves unconditionally. She'd always been too focused on her career as a San Francisco police detective to wonder what domestic bliss might feel like, but now she knows, and she's never been happier. She can't imagine that a brutal murder at a luxury hotel, and the disappearance of a gorgeous blond woman from the scene, could have anything to do with her own life and marriage--yet soon both are unraveling, and Lindsay can't ignore disturbing clues that hit very close to home. 

Just as bombs are starting to go off in her personal life, an explosive tragedy rocks San Francisco, plunging the city into chaos. Pressed into duty to investigate a criminal plot that stretches around the globe, Lindsay again finds herself following signs that lead to her own front door. Thrown into a tailspin and fighting against powerful enemies trying to protect their operatives and conceal the truth at all costs, Lindsay turns to the Women's Murder Club for help as she desperately searches for the elusive, and deadly, blonde before she loses Joe for good. 

Filled with the pulse-pounding intrigue that has made James Patterson the world's #1 bestselling writer, 15th Affair is an emotionally charged story that proves all is fair in love, war, and espionage. 

Go check out this series ASAP!  Great Summer reading material!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Travel Tips and Tricks #2

In October Hendrik and I took our big vacation for the year.  We traveled to Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand; Bali, Indonesia and had long layovers in Dubai both coming and going.

In 2 weeks we traveled:

  • 25,853 miles flown (this is insane)
  • 3 different countries- UAE, Thailand, Indonesia
  • 7 flights
  • 2 extra bags bought
  • 1 proposal accepted
  • 13 hours ahead in time from our home time zone

This was our busiest trip to date and to get everything done and stay sane here are a few tips that I used this time and every other time we travel.
In 2016 I came across a travel website that I gave a chance and then I utilized it to the fullest!  Until our honeymoon (upcoming) I have never used any sort of travel agent other than myself and websites. I will review that process when we return next month but I won't be using a travel agent in the future unless I absolutely have to, not that it was a bad experience it's just unnecessary to me.  

  • Trip Masters

When deciding and trying to find itineraries for Caleb and I I stumbled across Tripmasters.com.  They have a ton of ready built itineraries that you can customize to meet your needs or you can just build your own from scratch.  I love the feature that allows you to change your dates and adjust pricing...see screen shot below.  

as you can see from above you can chose easily different dates around your initial date selection to see how the price may change! By waiting 2 days on this particular trip you can save over $500!!!
The overall website is so easy to use and makes researching your trip fun.  The booking process is seamless and easy!  Before booking me and Caleb's trip in the Summer I researched the website to make sure it was legit and had good reviews.  I only found people raving of the service.  I booked our trip and all the way up until our departure date received emails from Trip Masters letting me know steps I needed to take, documents I needed to have in order, and the overall itinerary.  On departure day I was a bit anxious but only in hopes that the travel experience was as seamless as the booking process had been.  But my worries were fruitless as all our flights and hotels were perfect they had all our information and nothing was wrong.  

I was so happy with Trip Masters that I used their website again when booking me and Hendrik's big trip in the Fall.  Again a seamless and painless experience from start to finish.  Oh and did I mention that the affordability is OUT OF THIS WORLD!  You will never be able to get all these flights, hotels, and other add-ons at the price that you can get them combined at Trip Masters...believe me I've tried.

Going forward I will continue to use Trip Masters for trips but not trips with Hendrik and I.  Trip Masters is really a website that I want to utilize to visit an array of cities/countries.  Both in my Summer and Fall vacations we traveled and moved around A LOT!  I don't mind that but when Hendrik and I travel together we do prefer a bit more down time and relaxation.  When I vacation with others I'm in it for all the experiences not so much the relaxation part.  

Long story now even longer...if you haven't yet then GO CHECK THEM OUT www.tripmasters.com 

  • Other websites that I've came across and love roaming around but have yet to actually use are Oyster.com and Jetsetter.com I can't wait to use these sites in the future.
  • Travel journaling is something that I've been doing for years.  At first it was really random by just grabbing the hotel note pad at the end of each day and jotting down quick notes of the day's events and what we did, ate, etc.  After several years I finally started using a plain green leather bound journal that had just been collecting dust on my desk for years.  Now I use that journal and take it on each trip.  At night I write down the entire day's details so when I'm home I can reflect and write AWESOME blog posts.  I encourage others to travel journal even if you don't have a blog so you can reflect on those entries as well as pictures and really relive that trip.
  • If you are new to travel or unsure of foreign hotels and such then chose hotels and airlines that you are comfortable with.  Years ago when I would travel alone I would stay only in Marriott's.  I would do this for the comfort level both emotionally and physically.  I trust the Marriott brand and they have hotels all over the world so your options are limitless.  The same thing for Delta.  If possible I always try to fly Delta so I can wrack up frequent flier miles on the same airline and I trust their service.  
  • Long layovers are something that I've never had a good opportunity to experience until this past Fall while traveling to Asia.  I knew that Emirates Airlines flew to Asia and that gave me a perfect excuse to hit up Dubai on the way through.  The layovers that I got on my flights through Dubai were the perfect amount of time.  A total of 36 hours 12 going and 24 coming home.  Check out THIS POST to see how we utilized our time on the layovers.  If you ever get the opportunity then set your flights up so you have a long layover.  It adds a whole other location to your vacation and is a perfect way to expand your adventures.  The only downside is the lack of rest but that's what flights are for LOL!  

I hope these little tidbits helped y'all or will help in your future travels.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Our Engagement Story

July 4th of this year will make me and Hendrik's 4 year dating anniversary.  Back in the Summer of 2016 we had talked more serious about marriage. Nothing too heavy as I felt no pressure to be married I was perfectly happy with where we were.  I knew we were both committed to the relationship and the end result for both of us was marriage to each other so I was content to let it happen in it's own time.  Around August he blatantly came out and pretty much said well if we ever get engaged you're going to have to give me some ring ideas because I don't know anything about it.  I said well I'm not going to pick out my ring I think that should be something you make the decision on but I'll send you some ideas of what I like and you can take it from there.

Here are some of the ideas that I had pinned that I sent to Hendrik.

A few days later he said that he only like a couple of the ideas I sent him and I said ok well you do what you think.  Not too long after that over dinner he said...well you never even told me your ring size. So I told him 7!  I obviously knew at this point that he was thinking heavily on the idea but I didn't ask questions or push.  He then talked to me about a jewelry maker so I got him a contact of the jeweler that Elizabeth used.  I think....something might be in the works!  A few weeks before we were leaving on our trip Hendrik asked me the EXACT day we were leaving...I had already told a couple of my closest friends and my mom that I really hoped he proposed while we were on vacation.  I thought it would be so memorable especially since we were going to really exotic places.  I also wasn't getting my hopes up because if Hendrik is anything it is in HIS OWN TIME!  So I all but forgot about the proposal as the days slipped by.  

Before I knew it we were standing in the departure terminal with my purse and the one back that I had packed.  I didn't think he would be carrying a ring all over the world in his pants pocket and I knew nothing slipped in the suit case so I thought well not this trip and off we went.  We went through our trip and I thought maybe I had misread the situation we had a couple snorkel trips planned that fell through both in Phuket and in Bali.  We both love snorkeling and that would have been the best idea.  On the day we were going surfing and I was going to train at Tiger Muay Thai I was unpacking the backpack to pack with our gear for the day and came across a small box buried in the bottom of the back pack.  I grabbed it out and it was a small present box not necessarily a ring box...my mind didn't grasp what I had and I turned to ask Hendrik what it was...he snatched it up and by that time I had sort of gathered what it was but didn't think too much about it and I for sure didn't bring it up to him...LOL  

The rest of our trip carried on as planned and we got down to the last day in Bali, October 23, 2016.  I did my hair and dressed in what clothes that I had left that were clean and cute.  We set out on our cultural day...See about our entire trip HERE and the details of that day's adventures HERE.  I sort of figured that if it was going to happen that of course it would be today on our last day.  We went on through our day and we made it to the last stop... the rice terraces. I was most excited about this stop on our tour today and it was absolutely breathtaking.

We asked the tour guide to come along with us and at first he declined but Hendrik said yes, we will pay for you to come and you can take pictures...I didn't think much of it as he had taken pictures for us in the monkey forest as well.  We hiked up and around the terraces and made it to a look out point with a small bench. We took pictures there and then stood and took pictures at the point.  I was ready to ask for my camera back and Hendrik said lets get a few more...I was like dang..how many pictures do we need but when I turned back around he was down on one knee with the ring box and he asked me to marry him.  I said yes of course and all I remember is our driver yelling...OMG!! Engagement and ring, ring, and then he asked to see my ring. LOL I was so distracted by him that I forgot to even kiss Hendrik until after we took EVEN MORE pictures LOL.  I was on cloud nine.  Of course through our hike it was drizzling rain so my cute hair was ruined by the day's humidity and rain!

Not only were we touring the most breathtaking place in Bali but I just got proposed to on vacation.  It was the best proposal I could have imagined.  We talked on the car ride back to the hotel and the remainder of the trip about how he got the ring past me, who all knew about it, and his original plans to propose during our snorkel trip.  I think the plan worked out just the way it was supposed to and I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Not only did Hendrik pull off the perfect proposal but he also gave me the perfect ring that he had custom made at a local jeweler in Winnsboro.  It was designed off the second example from above.  He did a fantastic job on all fronts!  Not only did we have the most amazing trip traveling around two several different countries but it ended on the highest note possible... coming home engaged!  Now we are only 2 weeks away from our wedding and then off to our honeymoon!

Stay tuned for wedding posts in the upcoming month!

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