A New Favorite Series

posted on: Friday, February 12, 2016

Have you heard of the series of books by Italian author, Elena Ferrante called the Neapolitan novels? I've been working my way through them these past of couple months and I just finished book four the other day. I haven't been so engrossed in a series like this in ages. From what I understand, these books and their author have quite the cult following in Italy and now abroad as well. Adding to the intrigue the author's true identity is unknown and Ferrante is only a pen name used to protect her privacy. The novels read like an autobiography but it's hard to know whether they are the true story of Ferrante's life since so little is actually known about her. The books follow Elena Greco (possibly Ferrante) and her friend Lila from early childhood through late adulthood. They are incredibly written; a detailed look into the private lives of two friends as they navigate school, the Neapolitan neighborhood they grow up in (and return to again and again), jealousy, love, heartbreak, failed marriages and aging. The writing is different than anything else I have ever read. Ferrante is so honest, so real in her description of  the dichotomy of female friendships that what she describes is both familiar and shocking. She writes the things we think but never say. If this isn't an autobiography Ferrante's ability for story telling is unsurpassed. It feels incredibly real. If this is autobiographical than the author has given us a voyeuristic view into the deepest parts of her life and relationships in an incredibly vulnerable way. 

The books are long, and Ferrante writes the story of Lila and Elena with meticulous care. It's a slow, delicious unfurling of their lives that left me wanting more even after consuming four books and hundreds of pages.  Have you read them? Would you? They're all I want to talk about now that I've finished them. If you have, let's discuss! Hit me up in the comments!

Chichen Itza and Valladolid

posted on: Monday, February 1, 2016

One more little post on Mexico today to remember this trip by. These photos are from the day we took a private tour out to Chichen Itza. Looking back, we probably could have rented a car and done the trip ourselves but we weren't sure how the roads were, or how difficult it would have been to find on our own since it was about a two hour drive from Tulum. That said, going on the tour was awesome. It was private, so it was just Josh and I, a driver and a guide who picked us up from our hotel in a very nice, comfortable commercial van. The owner of the company, Jay, was actually our driver that day and he has the tour timed perfectly to get you to sights before any of the crowds get there. He's also an expat from Santa Fe, so we had fun chatting with him and hearing about his life in Mexico.  Our tour guide, Roberto, was a proverbial fountain of knowledge about Chichen Itza, and Mexico as a whole, and I learned SO much about the history of the Mayans that I would have never been able to understand if we'd gone without a guide.

obligatory big arms
...and look! a picture of Josh and I in the same photo! thanks, Roberto!

After Chichen Itza we headed over to what is probably the most famous and arguably the most beautiful cenote in the Yucatan; Cenote Ik Kil. Seeing photos of this place before we left for Mexico is what really got me excited for this trip. It is unreal. Jay got us there right as visiting hours began and to my utter disbelief we had this entire place to ourselves. We could not have had better luck throughout this whole trip avoiding crowds and getting a really private, personalized experience at each place we visited. We were able to swim around in this beautiful place, completely undisturbed. It was a moment I will never forget.

And finally, on our way back to Tulum we stopped in the city of Valladolid to see some of the breathtaking Spanish colonial architecture. I'd emailed Jay when we booked the tour and asked if we could stop here and visit the Coqui Coqui since we would be so close. He graciously made arrangements to meet my request and Josh and I were able to soak in the beautiful architecture and enjoy a very memorable and delicious cup of tea in the CafĂ© de los Frailes before returning to Tulum. It was a perfect day.
I couldn't think of a much better place to spend a few nights away celebrating nine years of marriage. This country, at least what we were able to see of it in our short time there, exceeded our expectations in just about every way. I hope to return again and again.

Tulum, Mexico

posted on: Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Josh and I have just returned from a dreamy and much too short visit to Tulum, Mexico and I thought I'd share a bit about our trip here. When we decided to get married in January nine years ago we thought what good luck it will be to get to use our anniversary as an excuse to escape the cold Ohio winters and head somewhere warm each January to celebrate. Well, here we are nine years in and this is the very first time we've actually done just that. Turns out vacationing directly after the big holiday season is not that practical...in hindsight a September or October wedding would have been ideal. So, anyone out there who might be planning a wedding - learn from our mistake!  

So anyway, this year we finally did it. This was the first time to Mexico for both Josh and I and I think it completely exceeded both of our expectations. We stayed at the most beautiful hotel, with cabana type rooms overlooking the ocean and jungle. It's very rustic, with no electricity or wifi and only candlelight to light your way in the evenings. It felt a lot like climbing around an amazing adult sized treehouse! (In fact, it is an adults only hotel and clothing optional as well so you need to leave the kiddos at home for this one ;) Having no phones or tv or even a hair dryer took a little getting used to, but we could hear the waves crashing on the beach from our cabana at night and the experience more than made up for any inconvenience.

The day we arrived we had to take a transfer from the Cancun airport about an hour and a half south to Tulum, so a lot of our first day was eaten up by travel. Nevertheless, we wanted to get out there and see some sights before the day ended so we headed over to the Mayan ruins just a short way up the road. We arrived at about 4:15 and discovered the normal hours for entry ended at 4:30 but for a few extra pesos you could buy an evening pass into the grounds after normal visiting hours ended and see the ruins during the most beautiful time of day, sunset. We jumped at the opportunity and after waiting for all the guests to leave and the place to clear out they let those of us with evening passes in to explore on our own away from the crowds. It was perfect! There were maybe only 10 other people in there with us, and once everyone spread out in all directions, it was like having the place all to ourselves.

The next few days we spent getting to know the rest of Tulum. We ate at some really amazing restaurants, our favorites being the Kitchen Table with their perfectly salty pork ribs and pan fried whole octopus and Hechizo where we had an incredibly romantic candlelit meal beach side with a full moon shining overhead. The restaurant choices are seemingly endless, all offering (for the most part) an organic, farm to table cuisine, and we didn't have a bad meal the entire trip.  Walking through the main stretch of town there are so many boutique hotels and well curated shops to pop into as well. What I was most excited about was getting to see the Coqui Coqui hotel and perfumerie in Tulum. There are a few Coqui Coqui locations throughout the Yucatan Peninsula and I was beyond thrilled to get to finally see one in person. (I actually saw two! We took a day trip to Chichen Itza and made special arrangements to stop by the Coqui Coqui in Valladolid on our way back. More on that to come in another post!) The interiors nerd in me was going wild and I brought home a bottle of perfume that looks as good as it smells, which alllllmost justified the price tag ;) Good design you guys, it gets me every time.

Our last day in town we rented a car and drove north to Akumal Bay where we rental snorkel gear for the day and snorkeled with gigantic sea turtles, lots of pretty fish and some big old sting rays as well. When you get there they try to talk you into paying for a guided snorkeling excursion which gets you into the "protected areas" that you're not allowed into without a guide, but we saw plenty of wildlife just going out on our own. We also drove over to Yal Ku Lagoon which we'd heard had great snorkeling but the water was hazy that day and we didn't see much while we were there. We ate breakfast and lunch nearby in Akumal and both places were spot on delicious. Turtle Bay Cafe and Bakery for breakfast and at La Lunita for lunch. I would definitely recommend both if you're ever in the area.

But my favorite part of the whole day was getting to see the absolutely unbelievable Cenote Nicte Ha. A cenote, if you're not familiar with what one is, is an underground sinkhole filled with freshwater. These are dotted all along the Yucatan, but this one in particular was on my must see list. It is truly breathtaking. We arrived first thing in the morning and were the only people there. I'm not exaggerating when I say it is one of the most beautiful, serene and tranquil places I have ever seen. Lily pads float atop the blue green waters and you can slip into the caves around it's edges and swim through the cool, quiet, darkness. It's hard to believe a place like this really exists in nature. What a world we live in.

I have one more post coming about our day trip to Chichen Itza, so stay tuned for more on Mexico soon ;)

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