Empty Nest and Loving It

Within three weeks of our youngest daughter leaving home for college, we were sitting at the beach in Cabo San Lucas.  As our friends have gone through the same transition from having kids at home to being empty nesters, we’ve seen two typical transitions.  One, like ours, where the couple starts dating again and enjoying the freedom that it offers.  And the second, which always saddens us, is when, after spending years devoted to the children and their activities, the couple wakes up to find that the only thing they had in common was taking care of the kids and they drift apart and often get divorced.  Happily we couldn’t wait to start spending more time together because not only are we husband and wife, but we’ve always been each other’s best friend.  So, as sad as we were to drop our daughter off at college, we were excited to start having more adventures and we were off to Cabo.

Arch at Cabo
Arch at Cabo
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

We’ve said this many times, but we truly prefer to travel in the off season, so our trip to Cabo was in late October.  Our parents, who are avid travelers as well, had given us a week using their timeshare and this would be our first experience using a timeshare.  We flew into the Los Cabos International Airport, which is located in San Jose Cabo and is about a 45 minute taxi or shuttle ride to Cabo San Lucas.  This was our first trip to Mexico, we’ve been there several times since, but seeing the armed federal police officers all over the airport was unexpected.  You deplane outside and then walk into the airport to go through customs.  Somehow we managed to go through a wrong door into a room with all of the luggage.  There was a large glass wall between us and the room to go through customs with a door where a policeman stood.  We went to walk through the door to get into the other room and were quickly and abruptly told that we had to exit the way we came and go in the correct door.  No arguing with a man with semi-automatic rifle.

Dinner on the Beach
Dinner on the Beach
Infinity Pool at Villa Del Arco
Infinity Pool at Villa Del Arco

We made it through customs and were prepared for what we would face next, which was the gauntlet of timeshare salesman claiming that they will take you to your resort.  We’d been warned in advance and walked through, ignoring the fervent pleas to provide us a ride, and made it to the taxis and shuttles.  We chose to take a shuttle, which is cheaper, but you share the shuttle with several other families and couples, so it takes a little longer as they stop at the various resorts until they reach your resort.  As you get closer and closer to Cabo San Lucas, the ocean and the resorts start coming into view and it finally starts sinking in that you’re about to spend a week in paradise.  We were staying at the Villa Del Arco resort and from the moment we arrived, we knew we were in for an incredible stay.

Villa Del Arco
Villa Del Arco
Suite at Villa Del Arco
Suite at Villa Del Arco

Resorts in Cabo San Lucas aren’t like resorts in most other tourist locations in Mexico, they have a height restriction on resorts near downtown, so you don’t have these giant monstrosities along the beach.  The result of this is that the resorts are smaller, with fewer crowds in the resort and on their private beaches.  As we checked in, we were told that if we attended the one hour timeshare sales presentation we would get discounts in town and some vouchers for the resort.  Having not been through a timeshare pitch before, we accepted and were off to have a tropical drink while our luggage was taken to our suite.  Once we got to our suite, with its gorgeous view of the ocean and the famous arch in Cabo San Lucas (El Arco de Cabo San Lucas), we were truly impressed.

Arch at Cabo San Lucas
Arch at Cabo San Lucas
Private Beach at Villa Del Arco
Private Beach at Villa Del Arco

The following morning, we went to our timeshare tour where we were shown the different rooms of the resort and then taken to breakfast with our sales person.  Afterwards, we went to the sales office for the closing pitch.  We had told ourselves before we went that, no matter what, we were going to say “no”, this was just to get some free stuff.  Even though we’d only been there for a night, we were in love with the resort.  It wasn’t an easy decision, but after much debating and the sales manager sweetening the pot, we decided to buy what would turn out to be our first timeshare.  After the stress of making the decision to purchase, we were off to the pool and the pirate ship bar and restaurant located in the center of the pool.  We have swam laps around that ship/bar many times now and it is one of our fondest memories.

Pirate Ship Bar
Pirate Ship Bar
View from Our Room at the Villa Del Arco
View from Our Room at the Villa Del Arco

Another great thing about Cabo is the close proximity to town, restaurants, and the marina.  We love going to the restaurants and asking for the fresh catch of the day and having it prepared specially for us.  Cabo is also famous for the marlin and other sport fishing, so you can catch some fresh fish and take it to the restaurants to prepare for you and your guests.  On this trip we discovered walking down the beach from the resort to town and the marina provided us with many beach bar opportunities with drinks almost always on special and ceviche, guacamole, and fresh seafood always in abundance.  Walking from the resort to town to see the famous Cabo Wabo bar or haggle with the beach and street vendors for trinkets to take home is an easy twenty minute walk and some nice exercise to offset the time spent sitting pool or ocean side eating and drinking.

Cabo Wabo
Cabo Wabo
Marina at Cabo San Lucas
Marina at Cabo San Lucas

It was the first of what has been many happy trips that we’ve had since becoming empty nesters, but obviously holds a special memory in our hearts.  Not only did we become timeshare owners, but we fell in love with our home resort, the Villa Del Arco.  Most importantly, if it was possible, we became even closer by sharing another travel experience and have been back to Mexico several times since.  For those of you that aren’t empty nesters yet, take our advice, don’t forget to be a couple and foster the things that brought you together, the things that you have in common, the things that will fill your lives when raising the children is no longer your number one priority.  You’ll always be parents, there will always be advice to give and wisdom to share, but hopefully you’ll do that while filling your lives with adventure.

Our Favorite Poolside Waiter
Our Favorite Poolside Waiter
Lover's Beach
Lover’s Beach

New York City with No Agenda

Whenever we travel to a location that we’ve never been to before or one that has too many attractions to visit in a single trip, we make sure that we prioritize the places we want to see, but leave time for the unexpected. We just got back from a four day trip to New York City and we made the most of our time, but still left room for exploring. We used to live on the east coast, so we’d been to New York City a couple of times, but just for day trips, in and out with a few hours in the city, so we were excited to spend several days and immerse ourselves into what the city has to offer. We had a few priorities while we were there, the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, seeing a Broadway show, and eating a New York style pizza, but we purposely left room for opportunities that might arise. By the time our trip was over, we had an unbelievable time and have tremendous memories of the sites, the food, and the people we met.

Central Park
Central Park
Dona and Pete on Top of the Rock
Dona and Pete on Top of the Rock
Empire State Building
Empire State Building

We arrived in New York City on Saturday, July the 4th, and obviously the city was abuzz with excitement for the fireworks, but our first destination couldn’t have been more different. Being from Colorado, the heat and humidity of New York was somewhat of an adjustment. As we arrived by taxi, a billboard taunted us with the Minus 5 Ice Bar, a bar where the tables, glasses, seats, and the walls were all made of ice. We dawned fur coats and gloves and a few drinks later we were ready to start exploring the city. We always like to take our first day and try to acclimate ourselves to our surroundings, so we made our way to the streets of midtown Manhattan and worked our way towards Rockefeller Center. After a couple of glasses of wine at the Rock Center Café Summer Garden and Bar, we saw Radio City Music Hall and the theatre for the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, found a little restaurant for some food, and by the time the lights of the city were burning bright, we made our way to Time Square for some pure tourist photo opps.

Time Square
Time Square
NBC Studios at Rockefeller Plaza
NBC Studios at Rockefeller Plaza
Minus 5 Bar
Minus 5 Bar

Day 2, now was the time to start making sure that we hit some of the attractions that were important to us. Our first stop was at the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center with amazing views of the city including a view over the roof of our hotel, which was just two blocks from Central Park. Even if you have a little bit of vertigo, seeing the city from these heights simply can’t be missed. After viewing the city in all of its glory, we went to Central Park to get some lunch. As is our typical practice, we asked several locals where we should go. We knew that Tavern on the Green was quite famous, but everyone we asked said to go to Loeb Boathouse on the lake, we were not disappointed. Gondolas and row boats in the lake, a wonderful bar for wine while we waited with the throngs for a table, and as luck would have it, we met Bill Cower and his wife as they too were waiting. Apparently there is no expecting celebrity status here. Fortified with a good meal, we were off to explore Hell’s Kitchen and find a place to watch the finals of the Women’s World Cup. After sticking our noses in a couple of interesting places, we found the Mercury Bar that was right for us, with a good crowd, good food, and plenty of excitement for the game.

Loeb Boathouse in Central Park
Loeb Boathouse in Central Park
Central Park Fountain
Central Park Fountain
Loeb Boathouse
Loeb Boathouse
Freedom Tower in NYC
Freedom Tower in NYC

We’d gotten plenty of suggestions on where to get the best slice of pie in town and one place definitely stood out as far as recommendations. So, on our next full day in the city we grabbed a cab and headed towards lower Manhattan. When we arrived at the restaurant, mouths watering, the sign on the door Arturos indicated that they didn’t open until 4:00 pm, our pizza experience was going to have to wait. These are the little surprises that make a trip that more enjoyable. After walking a few blocks heading towards the 9/11 Memorial, we came across a tiny Italian restaurant and stopped to check out the menu. The owner came out to greet us, full Italian accent, ingratiating smile, and we had to stay for lunch. We couldn’t have been more pleased, Peplino Restaurant was one of the most satisfying meals of our entire trip. Once our stomachs and souls were nurtured, we continued on to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Words cannot describe how emotionally overwhelming it is to relive that horrific day through audio, video, and tactile content that truly moves the soul. Someday soon, we’ll talk specifically about that experience, but it is too much for a single post about New York City. Upon leaving the memorial museum, we were emotionally exhausted, but there was more of the city to be seen and we were determined to get our New York slice, so we headed north towards Arturos. Luckily we arrived just in time, this place definitely has a reputation for a reason and the place was packed with locals, always a good sign. We order a full pizza, knowing that it will likely be too much for us, but every bite was as delicious as the next, and for another few moments, we felt like locals sitting in our local watering hole.  Our day wasn’t done yet, though.  It was a long walk back to the hotel from Arturos (100 blocks), about half way, we were ready for a break and we were fortunate to find the Belgium Beer Café just in time for their happy hour.  Oysters and Manhattans while we were in Manhattan seemed a must.

Pizza at Arturos
Pizza at Arturos
Freedom Tower
Freedom Tower
9/11 Memorial
9/11 Memorial
Pasta of the day at Peplino
Pasta of the day at Peplino
Ravioli of the day at Pepolino
Ravioli of the day at Pepolino
Manhattan at the Belgium Beer Cafe
Manhattan at the Belgium Beer Cafe
Oysters at the Belgium Beer Cafe
Oysters at the Belgium Beer Cafe

With one full day left in the city, we booked our Broadway show, “Finding Neverland”, and started out for a full day of enjoyment. Today was the day to do the Empire State Building, more incredible views of the city and another stark reminder of the loss of the twin towers. After enjoying such an incredible view of the city, lunch was in order and we lucked out by finding another little restaurant where local’s way outnumbered any tourists. Parker & Quinn was quiet when we arrived, but most of the people in the know knew to make reservations, even for lunch. They wouldn’t be disappointed, featuring a menu of small fares, an English style of tapas, they provided a variety of exquisite nibbles that hit mark.   After an afternoon of roaming the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, we found an Irish restaurant with a good happy hour and excellent food called the Malloy’s Irish Pub and from there we were off to Broadway. The show was incredible, we laughed, we cried, we were thoroughly entertained.

Tapas at Parker & Quinn
Tapas at Parker & Quinn
Scallops at Parker & Quinn
Scallops at Parker & Quinn
Pete and Dona at the Empire State Building
Pete and Dona at the Empire State Building
Playbill for Finding Neverland
Playbill for Finding Neverland

All in all, it couldn’t have been a better trip. We were about to jump in a rental car and head to Valley Forge Pennsylvania for our son’s wedding, but everything about the trip was as magical as we had hoped. We weren’t on a schedule, rushing from attraction to attraction, but we saw incredible sights, met amazing people, and actually decompressed from our day to day lives and enjoyed a completely new environment. As we left New York City, we looked at each other and said, “We could live here, we like the energy, all of the variety that the city has to offer, it is our kind of city”. But we have many more adventures ahead of us, maybe we’ll decide to make a bold move and head to New York City or who knows, we’ll have to see what other locations move us to the point of making an adventurous decision.