Excellence Playa Mujeres

About a month ago, Darren and I decided it was time for a little rest and relaxation.  He’s been working round the clock for ages and I’ve had one cold after the next not to mention I’m pregnant and chasing David around while he explores the world.  We first considered taking the little guy with us but after careful consideration we felt he was a bit too young still to sit quietly on the plane.  Plus, both sets of grandparents were all too eager to watch him while we jetted off to paradise.  We weren’t sure where we wanted to end up but the only criteria was to be in a warm, tropical setting.  After much research, we decided on the Excellence Playa Mujeres resort in Mexico for a 6 day/5 night escape.

Sunday morning we headed off to the airport and many hours later we arrived in Cancun.  The sun was shining, the humidity was high and the winds were breezy.  We sailded through immigration and managed to find the shortest line to clear customs.  After a short wait for our transportation van, we were on our way to the resort which was about an hour from the airport and about 20-30 minutes north of the strip hotels of Cancun.  When we pulled up we were warmly greeted by the staff with a cool washcloth to wipe our hands and face and a glass of champagne.  After a smooth check-in, we made our way to our room, a beautiful swim-out suite with a view of the lazy river and the spa.  We had our own private outdoor lounging space with two lounges and a daybed for relaxing.  The room was spacious and stocked with all the amenities you would need.  Our goal this trip was to relax and have some downtime so I requested a ‘quiet’ room.  The hotel obliged and kept us away from the hustle and bustle of the theater and bars.  While it was a short walk to the restaurants and the beach, it was just what we wanted.  Serenity.

We’ve spent our days relaxing either by the pool (of which there are 7) or on the beach.  The ocean is nothing spectacular.  I prefer the water and the beach in Aruba and St. Maarteen to to the beach in Cancun but it was still nice.   The hotel is an all-inclusive so everything is at your disposal.  There are eight different restaurants to choose from with a large variety of cuisine offered.  Breakfast is buffet style and lunch is an option of a la carte menu at certain restaurants or buffet at the main restaurant.  For an all-inclusive resort, we’ve found the food to be better than average in most cases.  Breakfast by far has surpassed any other buffet we’ve been to in terms of variety and quality.  Dinner options vary and some restaurants are better than others but overall we’d give the food a thumbs up.

The only disappointment we’ve experienced is the weather.  The first two days were magnificent.  Sun and a few clouds made for perfect days.  But today and yesterday there are thick clouds and some spotty rain.  It hasn’t forced us inside all day but it has put a damper on our tanning and pool time.  Since the weather is less than ideal we opted to play billiards, jenga and chess in the game room and then hit the spa for an afternoon.  I even managed to get Darren to try the spa experience.   I had a prenatal massage and a facial.  Both were excellent.  Darren had a hydrotherapy experience which was a circuit rotation through the steam room, sauna, warming pools and various other water therapy treatments.  Afterward, he said ‘not a fan’.

Overall, we both would give the resort an 8.5 rating.  The rooms are spacious and beautiful with all the amenities you would want.  The staff is very accommodating although at times service levels can be a little hit or miss.  The grounds are beautiful and meticulously maintained.  My only complaint is the mosquitoes.  They are out in abundance and I have a ton of bites to prove it.  The resort does provide bug spray for the outdoor restaurants but it didn’t prevent me from being bitten alive all day long.  Thank goodness I brought some insect creams to treat my bites. Despite the bugs, Darren and I would highly recommend this vacation destination to anyone.  It is a great place for anyone wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of their daily lives or for anyone celebrating a special occasion such as a honeymoon or anniversary.

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Home from the Hamptons

The first official Herman Family vacation came to end yesterday but it was a fabulous 10 days.  Our last couple of days in the Hamptons were terrific.  Despite some morning showers on Thursday we managed to venture out to Sag Harbor to walk along the pier, browse in the tiny shops and enjoy a late lunch at Blue Sky Cafe.  Friday the sun came out again and we spent the day swimming and relaxing.  Before we knew it, Saturday morning rolled around so we took one final dip in the pool and packed the car.   For our farewell lunch we dined at the Lobster Inn in Southampton and only wished we had eaten there sooner.  The waterfront dining on the inlet and the open air atmosphere were great.  We had a delicious lunch of fish and lobster.  The dinner menu look fantastic and extremely reasonable, especially the weekday specials.  We will definitely be back next time we head out east.

In typical Herman fashion, Darren and I hosted a bbq the night we got home.  We kicked off pre-wedding festivities for Darren’s good friend, Michael Woodrow by hosting our friends and having a great evening.  Sunday we witnessed Mike and Stacey tie the knot at Beckwith Pointe in New Rochelle.  What a beautiful evening for a wedding.  The ceremony was outside overlooking the water and the setting was just perfect.  The party was a blast and we all danced the night away.  A great time was had by all!

And now, today, Darren is back at work and David and I are back to our routine.  I feel the summer coming to an end and am getting sad.  I love the warm days, the sunshine and the carefree nature of long summer days.  Before we know it, the leaves will be changing and then it will David’s first birthday.  Time is flying….

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Exploring the Hamptons

It’s hard to believe our Hamptons vacation is half over.  The last few days have flown by.  Mom and Dad have kept me very busy and I’ve been having a ball!  We have done a variety of things so I am getting an exposure to everything the Hamptons has to offer.  Sunday we went to the Atlantis Aquarium since the weather was less than stellar but by Monday morning the sun was shining and the heat was on the rise.  We started the day off with a walk to the dock and then swimming in our pool.  Dad wanted to bbq a feast for us so we picked up some great food at the gourmet meat shoppe around the corner, fresh corn and veggies at the farmer’s market a mile down the road and an array of shellfish from the local fish market.  Mom said it was a culinary delight.  I just liked looking at all the big shells from the clams!

Tuesday after a morning dip in the pool we drove to East Hampton for a walk around town.  We strolled Main Street browsing the high-end shop windows while cooling off with some delicious homemade ice cream from Scoop du Jour.  Mom and Dad took me to see the big houses near the water and then they introduced me to Two Mile Beach.  Wow….that was spectacular!  I was captivated by the ocean and the breeze.  Mommy put me down so I could feel the water and the sand between my toes.  I liked the water but not the sand so Mom and Dad lucked out that they didn’t have to deal with me attempting to eat it.  Not this time anyway.  After a taste of the beach, we ventured to Sagaponack for dinner at Townline BBQ.   BBQ is not quite my taste yet but Mom and Dad loved it.  They chowed down on bbq brisket, pulled pork and ribs while I happily played with my straw and munched on a few veggie sticks.  The restaurant was the perfect choice because of the ultra casual setting.  There were tons of other kids and the noise level allowed me to talk all I wanted although I was pretty busy with my straw!

Today the weather was cloudy and cool so we decided to make it vineyard day.  After lining their stomachs at the Hampton Bays Diner, Mom & Dad took me to the north fork to explore the wineries.  We had many great destinations to choose from thanks to all the recommendations that poured in from friends and family but in the end we stopped at Duckwalk North and Osprey’s Dominion Winery.  I sat comfortably in my stroller while Mom & Dad sampled an array of chardonnays, reislings and cabernets.  After each tasting we sat outside on the deck enjoying some tranquility.  I was mesmerized by all there was to look at so I was a good little boy.  Came evening we headed further into Westhampton for a great italian dinner at Baby Moon Cafe and then a drive along Dune Road.  The rain started up just as we arrived home, luckily.  What a great day!  I can’t wait to see what they have in store for me tomorrow….

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Atlantis Marine World Aquarium

Today was our first full day here in the Hamptons and despite the dreary weather, Mom and Dad managed to make a fun filled day for us.  My morning started with a father/son walk around town and down to the docks so Daddy could give me my first view of Hampton Bays.  I was all eyes checking out everything.  I was so excited I practically jumped out of my stroller.  Next we picked up Mommy and off we drove to Riverhead.  After fueling up at the Riverhead Grill on french toast, pancakes and eggs (well, Mom & Dad did that) we walked to the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium where I was introduced to the world of fish.  We arrived just a few minutes too late so we missed the sea lion show but we walked around the entire aquarium learning all about the different fish.  I saw interesting looking ones like the Lake Malawi Chichlids, cuttlefish, puffer fish and a bunch of other sea animals surch as urchins, crabs and frogs.  I was enthralled by everything.  My eyes darted all around the tanks as I took it all in.  I even liked looking at the sharks.  There were so many different kinds, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Aside from the indoor exhibits, we visited the outdoor exhibits including the penguins, sting rays, and seals. We skipped the reptile section because mommy hates (aka… is afraid of) them.  Overall, we spent over an hour at the Aquarium and enjoyed every minute of it.  I know I won’t remember any of this when I grow up but Mom & Dad will tell me all about it.  All I can say, is that If you are out in the Hamptons and it’s a cloudy day, I think you should check it out.  It’s a short drive and as a bonus the Tanger Outlets are close by.

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Greetings From The Hamptons

Hello from the eastern end of Long Island.  This morning Darren and I packed up the Jeep and off we went on our first family vacation with David.  We are so excited to take a week to do what Darren and I never do – relax!  We decided six weeks ago that it was time to disconnect and recharge our batteries.  So off I went to find us a place to do just that.  After days of research we picked a house in the Westhampton area that is near the beach and has a pool.  It should give us just what we are looking for – serenity.

Today was our first day but since we had a late arrival we didn’t have much opportunity to take advantage of the amazing weather.  We arrived late afternoon and took a stroll around Southhampton til it was check-in time for our house.  We browsed in the windows of the high-end shops, checked out the fancy cars lining the streets and stopped for a sweet treat. Our plan for the next seven days is to swim, eat good food, read and most importantly, have uber quality time as a family.  The weather forecast seems promising so hopefully we will all come back with a ’sunkissed’ look.

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Destination: United States of America

Driving across country is one of our goals for a summer vacation in a few years.  Darren and I are no strangers to road trips especially since we drove over 1,500 miles on our honeymoon.  We love to explore national parks and all the hidden treasures tucked away on the journey from city to city; especially good places for homemade pie!  Right now the Pine Country Restaurant in Williams, AZ tops our list.  Given our ambitions, it is no surprise that when the Today Show “took a vacation” this week sharing many great destinations across the U.S., the segment on Road Trip Tips really interested me.  Anne Curry interviewed an editor from Travel & Leisure who provided great destinations and some very good tips for trekking around the country.  Click on this link to see some great ideas for summer travel.

Our master plan is to rent an RV someday and hit the open road.  We want to see the country and sample some great cuisine along the way.  We will check out delicious down home cooking and bbq while we take in the mountains and the prairies.  We look forward to sharing great memories with David and showing him the world first hand.  Now he just needs to get a little older before we put our master plan into action.

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Our Weekend Getaway at Turning Stone Resort & Casino

Last week Darren and I decided we wanted a little weekend getaway to recharge our batteries.  I spent hours scouring the internet for possible locations but most of the ideas we came up with didn’t work for one reason or another.  Then our good friends Shari & Steve recommended Turning Stone Resort & Casino, located 30 miles east of Syracuse.  We were very fortunate to find a room at The Lodge, the most exclusive accommodations at the resort, only days before we wanted to arrive.   With the downturn in the economy, the gaming industry has been hit hard and thus, we were able to secure a reservation only days before our arrival.

The Turning Stone in my opinion however, is more resort than casino.  Golf galore, two amazing spas, a pool, fitness center and over half a dozen restaurants, you really don’t feel that the casino is at the heart of the complex, especially when you stay at The Lodge.

Darren hit the links twice and I spent two days pampering myself with a spa experience.  He was impressed with the two 18-hole courses and thought they were challenging. So, while Darren was off perfecting his swing, I had a massage, facial and mani/pedi.  I thought the spa was very nicely done, had all the amenities one would look for including a hot tub, sauna and mineral pool.  The technicians were very professional and the services were quite good. I would definitely recommend Skana to anyone going to Turning Stone.

The restaurants were better than expected.  Most of the restaurants are in the main tower/casino area but there is one restaurant, Wildflowers, in the lodge.   We ate breakfast there both mornings and each time there was a wide selection of breakfast treats to choose from and everything was extremely fresh.  The waiters were ultra attentive and everyone aimed to please.  For dinner we dined at Forest Grill, the steakhouse, which was not the caliber of a New York steakhouse but it was still more than adequate and the prices were relatively moderate too.  We also dined at Pino Bianco, the Italian restaurant that had a wide variety to choose from.  The hotel is BYOB so if you plan on going, be sure to bring whatever alcohol you wish to consume.  The casino and hotel only serves water, coffee, tea, juice and soda.  If you do forget to bring a little vino, don’t fret, there is a liquor store just outside the premises where you can get most anything you are looking for.

The grounds at the Lodge were beautiful.  The blue stone patio in the rear of the lodge overlooks the gardens which are adorned with fresh flowers.  There are many chairs and a few cushy lounge chairs to relax on and enjoy the scenery.  Inside the lodge are several fireplaces, comfy chaise lounges and couches that you sink into.  It makes for a very homey and relaxing atmosphere.  They even serve free coffee and cookies for you to munch on while you curl up with a good book or just admire the view.

All in all, it was a wonderful getaway and we really enjoyed the experience.  Even the 4 hour drive didn’t seem so bad.  I guess it was because of the amazing company that I had :)

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Recharging Our Batteries

The past two weekends Darren and I were blessed with the opportunity to get away for a bit and relax a little.  We started off in Vermont where Darren took in some great skiing at Bromley Mountain while I indulged myself at the Equinox Resort and Spa with a massage and a facial.  We booked three nights at the same condo we rented last year and initially intended on bringing David with us.  However with it being cold and flu season, we reconsidered and left him with Grandma and Grandpa Herman for a few days.  They enjoyed his big smiles and cute sounds while we enjoyed some relaxation and a break from parenthood.  In addition to the spa and slopes we had some great meals at Laney’s, Sherrie’s cafe and our favorite Sirloin Saloon.  All of these places were obviously impacted by the downturn in the economy.  Every place we went to was virtually empty aside from Saturday night when there seemed to be some influx of people but hardly what you expect.  It was sad.  In the afternoon’s after lunch we browsed the outlets in Manchester and they were practically giving things away.  The only place that was hopping was the Spiral Press Cafe which we loved.  It is a bookstore and cafe all in one.  We bought some coffee and pastries and nestled into a table one afternoon where I read and Darren did some work while we indulged in our treats.  It was a fantastic getaway and we loved every cold, wintry minute of it.

This past weekend was the second half of our ‘recharging our batteries’ tour.  This time Grandma and Grandpa Kepner looked after the little guy and on Thursday morning Darren and I flew down to Grand Cayman.  Darren was invited by WashingtonPost and Slate to attend their 2009 Digital Media Summit at the Ritz Carlton and I was able to join him to enjoy the Caribbean.  We stayed at the Ritz which was beautiful and seemed to be the only hotel on Seven Mile Beach that was doing noteworthy business.  As we strolled on the beach one afternoon we were shocked to see tons of empty lounge chairs especially since this is high season.  Our taxi driver one evening said that tourism is way down especially for the Cayman Islands since they are one of the higher priced of all the islands in the Caribbean.  The weather wasn’t so good so we didn’t have much tanning time but we did manage to relax by the pool one afternoon and played some chess.  The winds were unseasonably cool as were the temperatures only near 70 for a high but it was far better than the 20s back home in NY.  Darren’s conference was great and he met many talented people in his industry and I had another opportunity to indulge in some sleep and relaxation so we enjoyed ourselves.  We had delicious dinners at Ristorante Pappagalo and A Grand Old House.  The island is definitely the priciest of all the islands I’ve been to but the quality was there.  By the time Sunday came we were really itching to get home.  We missed our little guy so much that we couldn’t wait for our plane to land.  On both trips, we looked at his pictures constantly and talked about him incessantly.  We can’t wait until he is a little older and would make a better traveler.  Right now, he’s just a little too little to schlep through the airports and on the plane with all the coughs and sneezes.  Hopefully next year, he can join us…we’d love that!!!

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More Updates to Hermanweb!

Check out “The Family” and “Our Travels” for more content.  We’ve added some fun facts about us as well as where our traveling shoes have taken us.   Stay tuned as we continue to enhance our blog….

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Fishbones Sunset Grille & Raw Bar in Duck, North Carolina

Last night for our final night in North Carolina we opted to go out to eat.  Dining out in the northern part of the Outer Banks is a bit of a challenge.  Restaurants either don’t take reservations and thus have endless lines and a long waiting time for a table or there is very high-end fine dining that can rack up a pretty hefty tab.  We opted to go early and give Sunset Grille in Duck a try.  We heard from a few locals that the restaurant was good so we figured let’s see what it was all about.  We arrived around 6pm and were very fortunate to get a table.  From the looks of the parking lot the place looked full but the parking lot is just on the small side for the restaurant.  We sat at a table outside overlooking the water and had a view of the pier.  The menu is a mix of fresh fish, seafood, chicken and steaks all relatively moderately priced given the location.  We started with drinks and some appetizers that we shared.  Nothing overly stood out – the calamari was average, the clams were fair and the fried conch fritters that Darren was craving were just okay as well.  We all had different entrees – stuffed cajun shrimp, grilled mahi mahi and tuna.  Portions were generous but in terms of quality all of the dishes were pretty decent but compared to restaurants up north they couldn’t really hold a candle.   Overall, we would give the restaurant a 7 – it was a slightly above average meal with a spectacular view that helps give it some added points.  If you are in the area and are looking for a great view and some decent fare, stop in.  You won’t be running back necessarily every night but you won’t be disappointed either.

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