Travel Mastermind to the Riviera Maya

Color images at the Cancun airport in Mexico
Preparing for a mastermind can be exciting and a little scary at the same time. #travel #mexico
Taking a mastermind trip is a great way to meet with people working on the same goals as you and learn new things. #travel #mexico #blogging

Travel and writing have both been a part of my life for as long as I can remember but never together. I loved to travel and I loved to write but I never thought of combining those two things until a few years ago with this travel blog, My Cornacopia. Now I’m at a point where I’m ready to go network and brainstorm with other travel writers and  I’m attending my first mastermind which will take place in the Riviera Maya of Mexico. Here’s what I have to look forward to:

Hotel

Air view of Grand Velas Riviera Maya

We’ll be having our mastermind at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Offering guests 3 unique room experiences (The Grand Class (romantic), The Ambassador  (family friendly) and The Zen Grand (relaxation)), Grand Velas Riviera Maya is an all-inclusive resort with something to offer for everyone. With 8 restaurants (some family friendly, some adults only), pools, activities, a world class spa and beachfront property it seems you can’t do anything but relax at Riviera Maya. I will be there mainly to learn and work, but I’m hoping to get a room in the The Zen Grand, eat at least one meal at their French restaurant Piaf and get a little time to experience their spa water treatment!

Adventures

Part of our travel bloggers mastermind includes experiencing things so that we can share them with our readers. To help us do that we’ll be taking an all-day excursion with Alltournative. Created to help tourists experience the natural beauty and history of the Riviera Maya, Alltournative is committed to preserving its environment in an eco-friendly, respectful way. This includes only allowing biodegradable sunscreens and bug sprays on their excursions to help protect the coral reefs and visiting authentic Mayan communities. We’ll be doing the Coba Mayan Encounter. I’m not going to lie – I’m a little scared to do the zipline. But if my 10 year old can zip line at Girl Scout camp, I think I can give it shot! What I’m really looking forward to the traditional Mayan meal, swimming in a cenote and learning more about the Mayan culture.

Mexican sinkhole or cenote

Traveling Solo

Truth be told, I need to admit that I’m a little nervous about traveling without my family. Not because I’ll be a female flying to a foreign country alone and meeting up with 9 other people I only know through Facebook and conference calls. That’s the least of my worries since I’m prepared with travel items that will protect my well being and I plan on being very alert while there. What I’m concerned about is having to leave a day early so I can get a hotel in Orlando to catch an early morning flight the next day, the flying part itself and also I feel a little guilty for leaving my family for so long.

However I’m very, very excited about learning more about travel blogging, getting to meet and learn from bloggers I’ve only known online and getting a little time to myself after a really rough year. So I’ll be sharing all my experiences with my readers and social media followers from the time I hit Orlando in a few days to the time I return. Stay tuned!

Mexican jungle viewed from Coba pyramid

Want to see my adventures in Mexico and how my first mastermind went? Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Have you ever been on a mastermind? Let us know if the comments what the topic was and how you benefited from attending.

Note: this post contains affiliate links – we may receive compensation from purchases made through those links.

 

Follow and share:

Beers of the Northern Pinellas Trail – Tarpon Springs and Palm Harbor

Pinellas Trail leading into Palm Harbor

Pinellas County, Florida is a popular destination thanks to its beaches. What many who visit the area don’t know about is a well-kept local secret – the Pinellas Trail. Covering 38 miles from north to south, the former railroad tracks have been converted to pavement for pedestrians, in-line skaters and bicyclists to relax and exercise.

In addition to great views and a safe place to exercise, there are 11 craft breweries that dot the 10 miles of trail from Tarpon Springs south to Dunedin. All locally owned, each brewery offers something a little bit different for beer lovers.

Since many wouldn’t be able to do all 11 breweries via the trail in one day, we’ll be splitting this into two blogs – one with the breweries of Tarpon Springs and Palm Harbor and the second blog with the breweries in Dunedin located close to the Pinellas Trail.  Here’s part one . . .

Tarpon Springs

The northernmost city in Pinellas County, Tarpon Springs is known for its Greek heritage and connections to the sponge diving industry. A quiet town, Tarpon Springs is seeing a rebirth and is home to three breweries all within steps of the Pinellas Trail.

Two Frogs Brewing Company – 151 E. Tarpon Avenue – Specializing in clean ales that are perfect in the Florida heat, Two Frogs is a play on the last name of the father-son owners, Michael and Chad Croake. Located in the town’s former drug store, Two Frogs often has live music on weekend nights (children aren’t allowed in the bar after 8pm). Snacks and sodas available.

May We Suggest: Mandarin Dreams Wheat

Brasserie Saint Somewhere – 312 E. Tarpon Avenue – Inspired by traditional Belgian-style beers, Saint Somewhere is owned by Bob Sylvester, a local brewing legend. Originally brewed in a warehouse and brewing since 2006, Saint Somewhere recently moved into an early 1900’s farmhouse. With different sitting area and local historical photos on the walls, Saint Somewhere has a quiet quaint feel.

May We Suggest: Anne

Silverking Brewing Co. – 325 E. Lemon Street – Located in the original Tarpon Springs jail and firehouse, Silverking is a brewery centered around fishing. There’s lots of fishing paraphernalia displayed throughout the brewery. Did you know that silver king is another name for the Atlantic Tarpon fish? With 8 staple beers, most of their selection is less than 6% ABV.

May We Suggest: Marshall Jones IPA

Palm Harbor

Just south of Tarpon Springs on the Pinellas Trail is the unincorporated city of Palm Harbor. Less downtown and more suburb on this portion, the Trail passes two breweries that sit right on the trail and are less than a quarter mile from each other.

de Bine Brewing Company – 993 Florida Avenue – 2,500 square feet of brewery houses de Bine

Brewing. With indoor and outdoor seating and a small loft area to relax, de Bine offers 14 taps of beers that are ever changing. They offer snacks, wine and non-alcoholic drinks. There’s also a stage area where they host live music and comedians on select days.

DeBine Brewery

Taps at DeBine Brewery in Palm Harbor, FL

May We Suggest: Fresh Tart Berliner Weisse

Stilt House Brewery – 625 US-19 ALT – Located in a small strip mall next to a pool supply store, you could easily miss Stilt House if you weren’t looking for it, especially from the Pinellas Trail. Since the Trail is located behind Stilt House, keep an eye out for it on the left as you head south just past the Palm Harbor overhead trail marker. There are over 15 beers on tap in a wide variety of styles along with wine and non-alcoholic drinks.

May We Suggest: Pinellas Trail Cream Ale

Stay tuned for our second part of Beers of the Pinellas Trail  . . . coming soon!

Follow and share:

8 Simple Things Not To Do In Florida

Florida is a very large state. From Pensacola Beach (in the upper left hand corner of the state) to Key West (the teeny tiny dot waaay at the bottom of the state) it would take about 12.5 hours to drive. To say that Florida isn’t monolithic is an understatement. In fact it’s so diverse in different areas, there aren’t many rules to how to visit the state. But there are some things that you don’t do when in Florida:

  • Don’t swim in lakes or canals or sit on their edges – A lot of visitors from the north think that a lake is a great place to cool off in or walk the dog in. Don’t. Because alligators. Alligators live in many body of waters in Florida. Some like springs where people can and do swim are monitored, usually by the state. And springs are crystal clear so you can see around you. Florida lakes are shallow and murky which is exactly the hunting ground that alligators enjoy and they’re not monitored on a regular basis. So you don’t know what’s out there. There has been a slight uptick in alligator attacks recently but that’s because more people are moving to the state which means more interaction with the reptiles and people, not because alligators love attacking humans.  Also do not let your pets play near lakes because alligators do like to feed on small animals. All that said it’s not uncommon to see locals water skiing and doing standup paddle board on lakes. It’s being aware that’s the key (and probably not falling off!) Oh and you should also never swim in any body of water in Florida at dawn or dusk. That’s when alligators and sharks tend to feed.

 

  • Since we’re talking about reptiles – don’t be afraid of lizards! Lizards are a big part of the Florida lifestyle. They’re really all over the place and while they can seem creepy most of them are an important part of the Florida eco-system (some, like iguanas, are an invasive species). We recently visited New York and there were house flies both indoors and outdoors. We couldn’t figure out why we don’t see a lot of house flies where we live in Florida and then we thought “lizards!”. So thanks to all the lizards not only for entertaining our cat but also for eating all those flies and other pesky bugs.

 

  • Don’t forget to drink a LOT of water. It’s hot here. And humid. That heat and humidity can be very surprising to people who are visiting and it can hit them in dangerous ways. So drink more than your normal amounts of water while you’re here. The easiest thing to do is bring a reusable water bottle for each family member when you come down. All the amusement parks and state parks have water fountains for you to fill up.

 

  • Don’t be vain. Wear a hat! Sure it might mess up your hair. But Ft. Myers on average has 114 days of temperatures over 85 and Orlando has 106. Some parts of the state don’t have a lot of trees which makes it even harder to find a little shade. So bring along a hat to help you avoid a bad sunburn on your face or heat stroke. For women who need to be stylish there are lots of options out there for great travel hats. For guys, lucky you – they sell baseball caps at every beach store in the state.

 

  • And speaking of sunburn – don’t forget to wear sunscreen. No matter what your skin type or color, you need to wear sunscreen and reapply it on a regular basis all over your face and body. As an African-American woman I wear sunscreen to help not only prevent skin cancer but also to help minimize damage to my skin that can cause wrinkles. Even people with a lot of melanin can get a sunburn and even get skin cancer. Did you know that skin cancer is what killed Bob Marley? No one should take a chance so put on that sunscreen. A bad sunscreen can lead to sun poisoning so a combo of the hat, lots of water and sunscreen will help minimize your chances of spending your Florida vacation stuck inside due to sunburn or even worse in the hospital.

 

  • Don’t miss the local breweries in the area you’re visiting. As of late 2017, there were 195 breweries throughout the state. Beer at JDubs Sarasota, FLThat’s a lot of local beer businesses giving you, literally, the local flavor of where you are. One thing we love to do when we go to a new city is find a craft brewery. Why? Because not only will you meet local people who can give you great hints of things to do in the area but also because craft breweries are generally family and pet friendly. They’ve become a bit like the corner store was 100 years ago. Even if you don’t like beer more craft breweries have wine choices and sodas. And if they don’t the majority don’t mind if you bring a can of soda in with you so you can sit with your friends and family while they’re sipping on their brew.

 

  • If you see a manatee out in the wild, don’t play with it, tease it with a water hose (they seem to like spinning in them), touch it or try to ride it. You will go to jail. If Manatee in Floridayou just have to swim with a manatee you’ll need to visit Citrus County on the state’s west coast. It’s the only place in the US where it’s legal to swim with them. But you still can’t touch them. We know – they’re adorable and slow and you could really catch up to one if you tried. However manatees, being slow, get injured and sometimes killed by boats which makes them a threatened species. There are lots of opportunities to observe them in the wild or while being rehabilitated so you can enjoy them without putting them in danger.

 

  • Don’t think that Florida is only about mouse ears and wizard wands. As I said earlier Florida is extremely diverse. If you’re a book lover, visit the homes of Zora Neele Hurston, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings or Ernest Hemingway.  If you’re a lover of camping and the outdoors visit one of the 175 Florida State Parks. Enjoy shopping or eating – there are local restaurants and stores in every corner of the state. Music? Theater? Art? Sports? Historical sites? Whatever you want to do Florida has it. So even though we love our amusement parks there’s more to Florida than Mickey.

If you remember these don’ts when you visit the Sunshine State you’re sure to have a great experience and hopefully remember your visit with a smile!

Follow and share:

Historical Homes of Tarrytown

If you’re in the New York City area and love historical places, be sure to schedule time to visit Tarrytown, NY. A small village on Hudson River Tarrytown is located just north of Sleepy Hollow, home of the Headless Horseman. With a rich history it’s a great place to spend the day while touring the local historical homes.  

Historical Homes

With such a rich history, there are a variety of homes in Tarrytown that you can take a tour of. However note that most museums in New York are closed on Mondays. This includes the majority of the homes listed below (Lyndhurst is open on Mondays).

Sunnyside – Built in 1835, Sunnyside was the home of author Washington Irving who wrote Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The Irving family owned the home until the 1940’s when John Rockefeller purchased it for historical purposes and opened it to the public. Today the home is maintained by Historic Hudson Valley who also provide guided tours. Sunnyside is open May through November.  

Kykuit – Technically located in Sleepy Hollow, Kykuit (pronounced Kye-cut) was home to four generations of Rockefellers. The 40 room home contains modern sculptures, European artifacts and spectacular views of the Hudson River. Kykuit is open May through November. There are several different tours available to purchase depending on how much time you have (tours are from 1.5 hours to 2.25 hours). Note that you cannot wander around the grounds of Kykuit without purchasing a grounds tour. Also no photography is allowed inside the house.

Lyndhurst Mansion – Owned by three prominent New York families, Lyndhurst was last owned by the Gould family. The 67 acre property houses the main house, carriage house (now the Welcome Center), a bowling alley, laundry building, rose gardens and the area where the massive greenhouse used to be. At Lyndhurst you can choose to just wander and relax on the grounds, which costs $5, or you can take various tours of the house. The home is filled with Tiffany lamps, antique furniture and European art hand selected by Jay Gould. There are also traveling exhibits, festivals and jazz concerts on the grounds.

Food and Drinks

If you’re visiting Kykuit, there is a cafe in their visitor’s center where you can grab something to eat before or after your tour.

We headed to downtown Tarrytown and ate at the local restaurant Horsefeathers. A family owned place that’s been there since 1981 it was the perfect place to have a cold lcoal beer (I enjoyed a Ithica Beer Co Apricot Wheat) and a great cheeseburger. We ate at the bar and our server was very friendly. They were even nice enough to give us change for a dollar without knowing that we were staying to eat! Parking in downtown Tarrytown is metered parking so you will need those quarters.

Our day trip to Tarrytown was a perfect way to get out of the house and enjoy some of the local history. If you’re in the area be sure to stop by!

Tarrytown is located 65 minutes outside of Manhattan and is accessible by Metro-North train or via car using I-278 and I-87.

Follow and share:

Food, Drinks and History In Ybor City

Living in the Tampa Bay Area gives me the ability to visit a lot of places. One of my favorite places to take a staycation is Ybor City. Located just outside of downtown Tampa, Ybor City was founded in 1885 by cigar manufacturer  Vicente Martinez-Ybor and was the premier place for cigar making outside of Cuba in the early 20th century.

Literally a city inside a city, you can easily see the sites of Ybor in one day if you choose. Here are some things to do while you’re there.

History

Ybor City Museum State Park – The Ybor City Museum State Park was created to help preserve the cultural history of the area. Consisting of a garden, a walk-through museum and a tour of an authentic Ybor City cigar worker’s house, the museum Ybor City Museumprovides a picture of what it was like to live in the area during i’s heyday. Exhibits about cigar rolling, Jim Crow laws and the local businesses help explain how Ybor City thrived for so long. Something new I learned – Ybor City didn’t just consist of Cuban immigrants brought over to roll cigars. There were also Jewish, Italian, Spanish and African-American merchants and workers who help the city succeed. Tip: cost to enter the museum is $4 but if you have a Florida State Park annual pass you get in for free!

Tampa Bay History CenterTechnically not located in Ybor City, the Tampa Bay History Center is easily accessible from Ybor via the trolley and worth the trip. With permanent exhibits on Tampa history (did you know that Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough RIders came to Tampa on his way to fight the Spanish-American War in Cuba?) and rotating exhibits that touch a variety of historical events, if you have a love of learning then this is the place for you.

Take a Walk – Walking around Ybor City is a lesson in history. Although there is a lot of construction in the area, there is plenty of old architecture still in place including the Cuban and Italian cultural clubs that were the backbone of the area. There are also lots of tours offered at various places. A word of warning though – some of these places charge a high price to see how their alcohol or cigars are made. If that interests you, that’s fine, but there are plenty of places that will explain their processes without charging $15 to see a couple of vats in the back of house. Be sure to ask what you’re getting and how much it costs before you commit because several places will advertise they have a tour and not tell you the price until you’re ready to start.

Tampa StreetcarRide The Trolley – Tampa’s streetcar system takes you almost 3 miles from Ybor City to the Channelside area to downtown Tampa. Riding the trolley on a sunny day is a great way to get around the area without getting in your car. There are several streetcar stops in Ybor, including at Centro Ybor. The streetcars come about every 20 minutes and rides on Saturdays are free!

Drinks

Beer

Coppertail BreweryLocated on the edge of Ybor, Coppertail Brewery offers a wide selection of beers brewed right in Tampa. Free Dive and Talk To Me Goose are two my favorites there. The brewery is 2 stories and filled with eclectic Beer menu Coppertailmurals and art. They also offer food if you’re hungry. Note: their tour is worth it – for $7 you get to see their warehouse and production area, a beer and a pint glass to take home.

Rock Brothers Brewing – Located in the heart of Ybor near Centro Ybor, Rock Brothers Brewing creates beers based on musicians both locally and nationally known (try the Hooties Homegown Ale named after Hootie and the Blowfish). The day we went they were out of quite a few selections because they were moving their brewing location. However the variety was still good and I can understand special circumstances. There’s also a concert venue upstairs called The Attic that has some great shows if you get a chance to go.

The Brass Tap – With over 70 taps and a great pub menu the Ybor City location of The Brass Tap is a great place to relax and hang out. We went to watch the end of the first playoff game for the Tampa Bay Lightning game and their staff was very friendly and welcoming. We grabbed some wings and mac & cheese to nosh on and had some Florida beers we hadn’t sampled yet (mine was a hardwater from MIA Beer Company).

Spirits

Florida CANE Distillery – You might miss this one if you weren’t looking for it. Located on a side street in a small storefront, Florida CANE Distillery is a micro-distillery that produces vodka, gin, whiskey and moonshine. The day we went we were greeted by the owner who gave us a few (okay more than a few) samples to taste. Due to Florida laws you can’t order a drink at any of the distilleries – you can only have samples. I’m not a straight liquor drinker so that doesn’t necessarily appeal much to me. However Florida CANE Distillery has a great thing after 8pm called Distillery After Dark. For a set price you get all of the items you need to make a drink on a tray and you mix it up yourself. A smart way to adhere to the laws and still be able to have that mixed drink. The atmosphere for Distillery After Dark was great – be sure to give it a try!

FishHawk Spirits – Located on the south side of Centro Ybor, FishHawk Spirits has a storefront where you can get 2 samples of their Florida made absinthia, vodka and brandy. FishHawk Spirits actually brews in Ocala so this is just a storefront but it’s a good way to taste some more Florida produced liquor.

Cafe con Leche

Tabanero Cigars – Yes I know that this is a cigar shop (that has some pretty nice cigars) but if you head all the way to the back of the store on E. 7th Ave x 16th St, there’s a little stand that sells Cuban coffees. The cafe con leche is excellent and tastes just like the ones I had in Cuba. We went there first thing in the morning while the streets of Ybor were still quiet and sat on their outside patio to enjoy our coffee.

Food

Columbia Restaurant – The oldest restaurant in Florida, the Columbia Restaurant opened in Ybor City in 1905 and has been in continuous operation under the same family ever since. With authentic Spanish and Cuban food and to die for sangria, the Columbia is a great place to go for an authentic Ybor experience. They even have a flamenco dancer show!

Tip: The Columbia Restaurant is very large but also requires reservations, as does the flamenco show. If you want to get a taste of the Columbia in a more casual setting, go to the Columbia Cafe which is on Riverwalk. It’s located underneath the Tampa Bay History Center so you can grab some food and drinks after you’re done there.

Blue Samurai – I worked in Tampa Heights for a few years and would go to the Blue Samurai in Centro Ybor for their lunch specials. During our staycation we went for dinner and while they didn’t have my lunchtime favorite, bento boxes, they did have a full menu that even my husband, who doesn’t eat sushi, could find something from. Their food is very fresh and doesn’t take long to serve, which is a plus if you’re looking to eat before going out for a night on the town.

 

Where To Stay

The Hampton Inn & Suites Ybor City, where we stayed, is located on the main thoroughfare of Ybor City, 7th Avenue. The staff is very friendly, the rooms (which have a microwave and mini fridge) have plenty of space and are quiet and they offer a free breakfast, which isn’t spectacular but will help you save a few dollars. The hotel offers a pool and exercise room and has a mini-mart if you need it. The hotel is a block from a streetcar stop and is close to the Port of Tampa if you’re going on a cruise. There’s also a hotel shuttle that will take you to locations within 3 miles of the hotel.

Ybor City is a wealth of history and fun. Have you visited yet? What’s your favorite part?

 

 

 

 

Follow and share: