Sometimes You Need a Vacation and Not a Travel Experience

We have always believed that we have two types of trips, travel and vacations. When we travel, it is all about seeing historic locations, exploring the architecture, tasting the local cuisine, and immersing ourselves into the culture. Vacations are about relaxation, refreshing our minds and bodies, and just getting away from the daily routines. We tend to travel more than we take vacations, but it is nice to just get away from time to time. Although there are many different places to visit in order to have a relaxing vacation, going to the beach is certainly one of our favorites. These are some of the favorite beach vacations that we’ve taken over the past few years.

Boats in Bay at Cabo

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – This is one of our favorite locations to visit and we’ve been there several times. It is located on the Baha Peninsula that extends south of California, making it very easy to get to from the United States. There are wonderful restaurants along the beach and in the marina, plenty of activities, and a variety of resort styles. We tend to go during the “bumper” season, meaning not quite off-season and not the busiest months. Because we have been there many times, we like the familiarity of it and revisiting places that we have enjoyed in the past.

Royal Service Area

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – We definitely indulged ourselves with our visit to the Dominican Republic as we chose to upgrade to the royal concierge service. This gave us a room right on the beach in an adult-only section of the resort. Because the resort was all-inclusive and had so many different restaurants, we didn’t actually leave the grounds of the resort during our time there, which we would do differently next time.

Ship on the Ocean from Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Located on the western coast of the mainland of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta is definitely a tourist friendly location. We happen to go during the time when there was a flu scare that actually didn’t have any impact to the region, but it caused a lot of tourists to stay away. We also enjoyed going to a cultural show during our time in Puerto Vallarta in addition to doing the typical tourist activities.

Beach by the Resort in Spain

Estepona, Spain – Located in the Spanish Riviera on the coast of the Mediterranean, Estepona is slightly smaller than Marbella that is just a few miles away. We actually spent two weeks in Spain, so this was a combination of travel with a little bit of vacation mixed in. It was certainly a wonderful way to end our days of exploring southern Spain by returning to a relaxing resort.

Just Another Day at the Beach in Carlsbad

Carlsbad, California – We took a quick trip to Carlsbad, which is located north of San Diego. Not only did we spend time in the quaint beach town, but we also took a wine tour to Temecula where we sampled a wonderful variety of wine. We were able to enjoy the laid back lifestyle of California, even if only for a week. Once again we were treated to some beautiful sunsets as we ate at various restaurants across from the beach.

Sunset in Florida

Orlando, Florida – We went to Orlando for our twentieth wedding anniversary and spent time in Walt Disney World. We also went to Cocoa Beach in order to dip our toes in the water. We really enjoyed our time in Epcot Center as you are able to experience different cultures, food, and drinks in one place. There are many wonderful beaches in Florida, but obviously they can be quite crowded and we certainly wouldn’t go during the spring break season.

Cabanas, Umbrellas, and Palapas on the Beach in Acapulco

Acapulco, Mexico – Although there has been a lot of reports of crime in the area in recent years, the beaches of Acapulco are certainly quite beautiful.  With the famous cliff divers, wonderful restaurants, and typical water activities, there is plenty to see and do in this resort town. This was the last trip that we took prior to the start of the pandemic.

If you are looking for a location where you can sit on the beach with a tropical drink in your hand, none of these locations will disappoint. Many of them are currently open to travelers although it is the start of the rainy season in most tropical locations, so we’ll probably wait for later in the year before considering a trip to one of these incredible destinations.

Our First Overseas Wine Tasting in Ronda, Spain

We have had the opportunity to enjoy wine tastings in several countries, but our very first experience was in the wonderful town of Ronda in Spain.  We took a tour from Estaponia, which is located in the Costa Del Sol, to take us from the beach to the mountain town with it’s historic bridge.  It was an amazing time travelling throughout the region and exploring the many sites that the area has to offer.  We rented a car while we were there, but when we visited Ronda, we hired a guide to drive us and take us to an organic wine vineyard as well as one of the many olive vineyards that dominate the hillsides.  It was probably a wise decision not to drive that day as the wine tasting was rather generous.

Wine Tasting
Wine Tasting
Gorgeous View of Ronda, Spain

We traveled to Spain in November, so it was the off-season as far as tourists goes, so we ended up with a private tour and tasting at the Joaquin Fernandez Vineyard.  The wine was amazing and the views from the vineyard were spectacular.  The vineyard was completely organic and at the ends of each row of vines were a variety of plants that attracted bees and insects that were natural predators to insects that could harm the grapes.  After the tour was the tasting.  For each wine, we were poured a full glass and the owner explained which grapes were used and why.  In addition to the wine, we had a meat and cheese tray as well as bread sticks to help cleanse our palate.  The owner would not continue on to the next wine until we finished our glass, so we were feeling quite good by the time we finished several glasses of wine.

Wine Tour
Wine Tour
Joaquin Fernandez Vineyard
Joaquin Fernandez Vineyard

From there we were off to visit an olive vineyard where they still hand press the olive oil.  It is a slow process where they continuously add pads to the press as they slowly crush all of the oil out of the olives.  Tasting freshly pressed olive oil was amazing, there is truly nothing like it.  It is truly a labor of love, but at the same time, it is definitely labor intensive.  In addition to pressing their own olives, the surrounding vineyards would sell their olives to them to be pressed and sold by them.  Everywhere you go in southern Spain, you are surrounded by olive trees and we were tempted several times to just pull our car over and grab some fresh from the branches.  After being spoiled by having such fresh olives, we have found ourselves to be very picky about the olives that we eat here in the States.

Olive Presses
Olive Presses
Dona at Olive Vineyard
Dona at Olive Vineyard

Ronda, itself, is a beautiful town with an incredible bridge that connects the old and new parts of the city.  It is home to the oldest bull fighting ring in Spain, although it is much smaller than ones that you can find in Seville or Madrid.  Sitting high upon the cliffs, the views from Ronda of the surrounding area is unbeatable.  It is certainly worth making Ronda a destination to visit if you’re in southern Spain.  It has all of the charm one would expect of a village, but has the amenities of a small city.  We sat and had coffee in one of the hotels and simply soaked in the atmosphere.

Bridge at Rhonda
Bridge at Ronda
Bullfighting Ring in Rhonda
Bullfighting Ring in Ronda

There were many things about our trip to Spain that were remarkable, but visiting Ronda and doing the wine tasting was definitely one of the best experiences of the trip.  Living in Colorado with all our mountains, it was surprising to us how similar the terrain of Spain was to much of the southwest.  The drive to Ronda, through the rugged mountains, was an adventure itself, but well worth the effort.  The wine tasting in Ronda was a perfect introduction to tasting wines during our travels and we look forward to our next opportunity to sample wine and tour a vineyard in another exotic location, it is an experience that can’t be beaten.

Lake Near Rhonda
Lake Near Ronda
View from Vineyard
View from Vineyard

Fresh Seafood Paella with Clams, Mussels, and Shrimp

Like many people, we really enjoy paella because it is versatile and not particularly complicated to make. Obviously we associate paella the time that we spent in Spain, but we’ve also had it in resorts in Mexico as well as the Caribbean. The key to making seafood paella is making sure that you are using the freshest seafood possible. We actually had the clams and mussels shipped to us from a company called Maine Lobster Now, which is also where we got our fresh lobster from last year for our anniversary when we were all in lockdown. The other key is using short-grain rice such as Bomba or Calasparra. Fortunately, in these days those are also available online if not in a store near you. Even though it is a simple dish to make and very rustic, it is perfect for a gathering where you can simply put the paella in the center of the table and let people serve themselves. Although we limited it to seafood, you can definitely add chicken thighs to make the dish even more hearty. It is quite common to add peas to a paella, but we have a food allergy in our family, so we did not add them. We made a slightly smaller batch that would serve 3 to 4 people, but it is easy to increase it to serve for a crowd.

Seafood Paella Ingredients


  • 6 to 8 Live Clams – scrubbed and cleaned
  • 8 to 10 Live Mussels – scrubbed, cleaned, and debearded
  • 8 to 10 Large Shrimp – peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup Bomba Rice
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion – finely diced
  • 1 Small Clove of Garlic – minced
  • 1/4 cup Red Bell Pepper – cut into strips
  • 1/3 cup Tomato Purée
  • 2 3/4 cups Chicken Stock – preferably homemade
  • 1/4 tsp Saffron
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Green Onion for garnish
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Seafood and Bomba Rice


Add the olive oil to a large cast-iron skillet (or a paella pan if you have one, but it isn’t necessary) and heat the oil to medium-high heat. Add the onion and simmer for 2 minutes and then add the garlic to the oil and simmer for and addition 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato purée and simmer for another 4 to 5 minutes and the liquid has reduced. Add the chicken stock, saffron, paprika, salt and pepper, and turn the heat to high in order to bring the liquid to a boil. Evenly distribute the rice around the pan and cook the rice for 10 minutes. Place the clams, mussels, and shrimp into the pan, being sure that the seafood doesn’t touch one another, and press them down into the rice and liquid. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. At this point some of the clams and mussels might have opened. Add the red pepper to the pan and cover (if all of the liquid has absorbed, add a little more stock) and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, checking every few minutes, until all of the clams and mussels have opened. If any of the clams or mussels don’t open, discard them, but if your seafood is really fresh, there shouldn’t be too many that don’t open. Garnish with the green onion and serve.

The Finished Paella