Sunday, June 26, 2016

Exploring Generations and El Dorado in Riviera Maya

I always enjoy Riviera Maya, but this trip was especially good because it was all about checking out resorts. I didn’t have to follow a crazy schedule, I just had to relax, and I was going to take advantage.

My friend Roberta and I started the day with room service breakfast in our suite at Generations.

I ordered when of my Mexican favorites, Chilaquiles. I had some fruit on the side and coffee on the side and I was ready to start my day.

Roberta took full advantage of theroom service menu at Generations Riviera Maya All Inclusive by ordering an omelet filled with salmon, shrimp, vegetables, and sides of bacon and sausage.

The one thing we did have on the schedule was a tour of Generations Resort and the two properties next door, El Dorado Royale and El Dorado Royale Casitas, all of which belong to Karisma Hotels.

Sales Manager Veronica Zapata Castillo took us around the properties in a golf cart. She told us that Generations had 144 suites, in 10 different categories. 

The resort is all suites and every one has a butler.

Since I was dealing with an ankle injury and using a wheelchair for distance I was especially aware how accessible the place was, with ramps and elevators to everywhere. 

They even have portable wood ramps to put any place that isn’t enough.

We talked a lot about destination weddings and, with a trio of resorts together, Karisma Hotels was fully prepared for a variety of wedding styles on the beach, in the Sky wedding venue, and even in their very own Catholic chapel, which also does nondenominational weddings.

There were many different options we saw as we headed from Generations to El Dorado Casitas , where there were plenty of Bali Beds, and lounge chairs, in a laid back adults only environment.

We stopped at Naay Spa, where we toured the Memorable Moments Bridal Floor, the only one of its kind in Riviera Maya.

It was certainly set up to make a wedding day special, with room for the bride and a large group of family and friends, getting everything from hair, to makeup and nails done. And, of course, massages.

Roberta and I made arrangements to come back for our own treatments later in the day before getting back in the cart to El Dorado Royale, the next property in the group, which was also adults only.

El Dorado Royale is where you can find another unique feature only Karisma has – a huge greenhouse complex where vegetables, fruits, and herbs are grown for all three resorts. It’s extremely environmentally friendly and set up for compost.

El Dorado Royale is a much larger resort, with 430 rooms. It also has an upstairs gym and spa that offers sky massage, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. El Dorado Royale also has some unique amenities, such as complimentary bikes and hammocks.

Roberta and I got back to our suite at Generations. She went for a walk and I swam from our patio to the swim up bar for a mudslide. There were some kids there enjoying smoothies and I relaxed for a while before we headed to lunch.

Veronica had suggested we go to Kampai at El Dorado for lunch. I don’t get to have Asian often because of my seafood allergy, but she said they were very allergy friendly.

I took advantage of the fact that the chef promised to keep my food away from the fish and ordered an assortment of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Indian. It was all delicious.

We relaxed on the beach for a while before heading back to Naay Spa. It was a heavenly afternoon as we each indulged in the Nourishing Rituals.

Mine was Coco y Cocoa (coconut and chocolate). It included a mask of cocoa butter applied to my body, face, and hair, followed by a coconut milk bath, and a massage. I felt smooth, silky, and ready for a nap!

Dinner was at D’Italia Restaurant at El Dorado. It was a delicious Italian meal.

We were exhausted from a busy day in Riviera Maya and thoughts of staying up for some music didn’t last long – we were both in our beds and asleep very quickly. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Karisma Resorts Introduction to Generations in Riviera Maya

Karisma Resorts asked me to go to the opening of the first Nickelodeon Resort this summer in Punta Cana. It looked like it was going to be quite a place, and I’m always a fan of the Dominican Republic.

Unfortunately, the resort wasn’t open in time for me to go, but it worked out just fine: I got to check out some of the resort company’s Riviera Maya offerings.

To make things a bit more complicated, just before the trip I injured my ankle. At the time, I didn’t know how serious it was, but I did know that I could not walk much.

That left me with the terrible job of having to lay back, relax, and enjoy Mexico for a few days!

My friend Roberta was flying from Tennessee to meet me at Cancun airport. We were going to stay in Riviera Maya at Generations Resorts.

It’s a luxury family resort next door to the chain’s El Dorado Royale and El Dorado Casitas adults only properties we would also be able to enjoy.

We arrived at Generations quickly and the lobby was inviting. It was early in the day and our suite wasn’t ready yet. I repeated my requested for a ground level swim-up suite as it would have the least amount of walking.

While we waited, we enjoyed our first cocktails with lunch at the only buffet restaurant at Generations All Inclusive Resort , the Chef Market. Roberta picked up and assortment of food while I decided to ask the waiter to bring me the Carnitas Tacos from Palms Gourmet Terrace so I didn’t have to walk around.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch and then our butler came to escort us to our suite.

It was the room I had requested, a one-bedroom swim-up suite. It had two queen beds, a view of the Caribbean Sea, a jacuzzi, 24-hour room service, a stocked mini refrigerator, and a butler to serve our every need. What more could we want?!

Roberta decided to explore and I was more than happy to put on my bikini and lay down on the couch on our patio. The butler brought some ice for my ankle and I enjoyed the view and a book I had waited a long time to read.

It was Roberta’s first trip to Mexico -- I had been many times before, including five trips to the Cancun and Riviera Maya area)-- so she was gone a while checking out the landscape.

When Roberta came back, she helped me down to the lounge chairs in the water below our patio – one step closer to the resort’s main pool.

It had been a long day and I wasn’t feeling like a big swim. Instead, I showered and took a nap before dinner.

We were having dinner the first night at Generation’s Wine Kitchen Restaurant. It was a menu filled with small plates, and, of course, lots of wine.

It was a very relaxing atmosphere and there was even a water view from our table at Generations Resort .

We started with a tasting of a watermelon and cheese bite, followed by fresh vegetables on flatbread, carpaccio and shrimp linguine for Roberta, and soup and risotto for me.

Everything was delicious and that's a great way to start out at an all-inclusive resort.

Like the courses, the desserts were small. We weren’t complaining as we had plenty to eat and were close to falling asleep.

We made it back to our room and quickly drifted off, excited for the upcoming full day at Generations Resort in Riviera Maya.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Exploring Goldmoor Inn and the Grant Home

It was the last day in Galena for my friend Courtney and I. We filled the day with more exploration of the lovely inn we were staying in, as well as a look back into history.

We were down to the dining room at The Goldmoor Inn for another delicious breakfast.

Breakfast is part of the stay for all guests and the chef does it right, with a special feast each morning. For our last day, that meant yogurt with peaches, warm scones, and freshly made waffles with blueberries.

The meal was delicious and we walked it off with a tour of the property with Birgit Radin, who owns The Goldmoor with her husband, Slovo.

Within the beautifully manicured 23 acres is a spa, log cabins, two cottages (one English, one French), and walking trails.

The main house, which reminds me of a European castle, has 13 suites, including the Chef’s, where you can have a private meal prepared and enjoy views of both the sunrise and the sunset.

After the tour, we bid our hosts goodbye and headed to Grants Home, a national historic site.

The tour was quite informative. We learned all about Ulysses S. Grant, who was originally from Iowa, lived for a while in Georgetown and West Point, before serving as a General.

Grant then moved to St. Louis for a while before his family requested he move to Galena, Illinois, and help with their fur trade business.

Galena was where General Grant, his wife Julia Dent Grant, and their four children created this beautiful home.

The home is completely recreated, with mostly authentic pieces, to match what the Grants lived in until he was elected President of the United States (1868). 

In fact, the green chair from which he announced he had won the election is in the house, though he did take it with him to the White House during his term.

Cortney and I also learned about the children and Julia Grant, who was the first First Lady to be given that title, and the first President’s wife to have her own press secretary. 

She was involved in her husband’s life, and a friend to Susan B. Anthony.

After the tour, we had lunch at Otto’s Place, a popular spot by the railroad track in Galena.

It was Sunday afternoon and the place was packed with locals. After we tasted the food it was easy to see why. In addition to the “down home” atmosphere, everything was delicious.

I had the quiche with potatoes and their special coffee cake. Cortney went for eggs over easy, potatoes, fruit, and a piece of ham. It was more food than we could possibly finish.

After lunch it was time to depart for home. It had been a wonderful first trip to Galena, a place I will definitely return to. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Enjoying Galena

My friend Cortney and I had arrived in Galena the afternoon before and were really enjoying the area. For day two, we had a full schedule and we were up early to take it all in.

The Goldmoor Inn is an incredible property on the Mississippi River. Their spacious rooms and suites include a freshly cooked gourmet breakfast each morning.

While the chef makes one breakfast each day, they are flexible for special needs and allergies.

Our first breakfast consisted of warm scones, fresh fruit, juice, coffee, and a delicious omelet.

We took a ride to nearby Stockton, a small town within Galena/Jo County. We were first stopping at NorthWest Design Glass.

Northwest Glass is owned by Pennie, Daryl and Drew Groezinger.  They sell unique glass jewelry, ornaments, and other d├ęcor.

We browsed around the shop while Pennie finished up some work. She then gave us a glassblowing demonstration, which I don’t think I’d seen before.

After the demonstration, Cortney and I headed to downtown Stockton. It’s a quaint little town.

We had lunch at Stella’s Cafe. There were lots of locals, who you could tell come in there all the time.

The food was warm and comforting on the cool day. I had cream of chicken soup and pesto garlic bread with tomato, while Cortney went for the crabmeat egg rolls.

For dessert, we both devoured the red velvet cheesecake and chocolate torte.

Before we left Stockton, we went across the street to Sweet Alice’s. The bakery and candy shop is owned by the same family that owns Stella’s.

They have some great candies and cookies there, and we took some samples to go.

We drove back to the Goldmoor Inn for some rest before a long night. I was surprised at how curvy the roads in Galena are. It was certainly not what I was used to in Illinois.

We headed to Blaum Brothers Distillery for a tour of their operations, which they call “Handcrafted American Spirits from Grain to Bottle.”

They take fairly large groups through the distillery throughout the day to see their state of the art equipment and taste their vodka, gin, bourbon, and moonshine.

We had arranged the trip to coincide with Night of the Luminaria and Living Windows, two events that take place in Galena on the same night each December.

We were going to try to see as much as possible. We also wanted to stop in some of the wine tasting rooms along the way.

We parked at the end of downtown Galena and began walking through the streets. There were a lot of people, but it didn’t seem over crowded.

Many of the stores participated in the Living Windows displays. They ranged from characters acting out scenes in costume, to people baking, and even a couple getting married in a window!

The streets were closed to traffic and there were carolers walking and a belly dancer.

We passed some interesting places, such as Mean Bean Roaster, where you could design your own blend of coffee, and Timothy’s Table Bulk & Specialty Food Store, to which we returned the next day to get bags of Lucky Charm-like marshmallows.

Cortney and I also stopped at Galena Canning, where they offer endless samples of jams, jellies, salsas, and more, before going to the wineries.

We spent the longest time at Massbach Ridge. They had a large with some wines we really liked including their Seyval.

Dinner was at One Eleven Main. They are known for using many in-season ingredients and even have a board when you walk in listing some of what you’ll see on the current menu.

We started with a glass of moscato and the Beer Cheese Fondue. I had the duck for dinner and Cortney went for the pasta with shrimp. For dessert, we shared their Chocolate Roll.

After dinner, we took the Night of the Luminaria TrolleyRide. In the spring and summer months, the trolley takes you around Galena. 

For this special night, the tour includes some of the spots that are most lit up.

Our trolley driver had told us the best place for cocktails in town is Miss Kitty’s Grape Escape and we had to see for ourselves.

There was live music and we both liked the atmosphere and the spectacular three-page cocktail list. There were martinis, hot drinks, beer cocktails, and plenty of sweet libations.

Cortney went for one of the fruit martinis and I went for Death by Chocolate (Hot Cocoa, Kahlua, Chocolate Vodka).

We stayed for a bit before getting a cab back to the Goldmoor Inn. It had been quite a day in Galena and we had one more to go.