This October half term, I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in Mexico with my parents. Naturally, after being back in the grind of school and work for a month and a half, I was thoroughly  looking forward to getting away. Due to the amount of school work I had to do leading up to the holiday, my packing was fairly half hearted and I prayed I hadn't forgotten anything.

The flight was nine hours and being someone who can't sit still for more than ten minutes, I had been dreading it. However, to my surprise, it wasn't as horrific as I had anticipated. With extra leg room, lots of snacks and a personal TV screen with a wide variety of films to watch, the time passed pretty quickly.

Upon arrival at the hotel "The Grand Occidental Xcaret", we were greeted with cocktails in pineapple cups and shown to a large buffet, which definitely put us in a holiday mood.

Over the two weeks we spent a great deal of our time relaxing in the hotel, either in the lobby bar with a cocktail or by the pool and if we weren't doing that, we were stuffing our faces full of food. There were several buffets and five restaurants to chose from: Mexican, Mediterranean, Seafood, Grill and Oriental. My favourites were the Mediterranean and the Oriental, though we didn't get a chance to try the Seafood.

The beach at the end of the hotel complex was also gorgeous, with clear blue seas, colourful fish and perfect white sand. Not to mention it had yet another amazing buffet.

At the beach, there was an entrance to Xcaret park, which was home to many animals ranging from jaguars to dolphins and monkeys to turtles. It also had a fabulous beach, theatres showing Mexican traditions and Mayan style villages.

Some of the highlights in the park were snorkelling with fish, watching the dolphins do tricks and travelling down the natural rivers. And obviously the best thing was the free WiFi, which although wasn't the best connection, meant I could share the beautiful scenery with those back home.

Though we would have been perfectly content with just staying in the hotel and Xcaret park, we decided to venture out on several occasions. The first was an excursion to Tulum, the first Mayan city to be discovered. Our guide explained who would have lived in which building and how they protected themselves, which I found very interesting. He also spoke about how the Mayan calender worked and that the 21st December 2012 was in fact just meant to be the end of an era as opposed to a prediction of the end of the world. I found this funny, as when we visited seven years ago, the guide mentioned that it was possible that it would be the end.

After looking at the beautiful scenery of this old beach town, we hopped back on the bus and drove to Xel-Ha, an eco-tourist development, which is described as an aquatic theme park. As I have been to many theme parks such as Disney World, I was expecting it to be similar to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, which are water parks with large slides and man made pools. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Xel-Ha was not at all like these, but was a beautiful reef to go snorkelling in, with a few man made features on the coast such as restaurants and shops.

We began by cycling to the 'River Entrance', where we were given snorkels and flippers. We set off down this natural river, luckily it had a current pushing you along so it wasn't too much work. We saw many fish of all different colours and sizes and we even saw a mantaray. There were some activities when the river widened out into the sea, such as zip wires and a large rope going across the water and another rope to hold onto above your head. I attempted this and despite it killing my arms and having a stupid man wobbling the rope, I succeeded. We spent the rest of the day sunbathing and watching the dolphins play, before heading back to the hotel. Overall it was a very enjoyable day and an experience I would recommend.

Our second day out was to Playa Del Carmen. Now for me, anywhere I go, a shopping trip is a must. Shopping is one of my favourite activities and I was hoping to find some nice clothes that aren't in shops in England. Luckily, my wishes were answered and I made some excellent purchases. These included an American Eagle top in the sale, a grey shirt and gorgeous jeans from Stradivarius (a brand we definitely don't have at home) and a t-shirt in Berska. My Dad also got a Fossil watch as it was his birthday while we were away and Mum got a Guess handbag as well as a gorgeous Guess purse for me! I was a very happy, though slightly poorer, girl.

As we were there until the beginning of November, I was slightly gutted about missing Halloween celebrations. However, my woes soon disappeared as I realised we would be in Mexico for their Dia de los Muertos celebrations, which I knew were a big thing in the Mexican culture. Xcaret Park did not disappoint on this front and there was a big festival. There were displays, shows, face painting, stalls and food all round the park and the party atmosphere was amazing. One thing I particularly liked was that their main icon for the Day of the Dead was Catrina, which is how my name (Catriona) is pronounced. Mum bought one of the Catrina statues, a very elegant skeleton lady in a beautiful dress. Being there for these celebrations made the holiday even more special and gave us an excellent taste of the local culture.

The final highlight of the holiday, was on the very last day. We travelled home on the 1st November, and being my Dad's birthday, we thought we ought to do something special. We decided to go on the Adrenalina boat, which involved going on a boat at high speed across the water, doing twists and turns and being fully immersed in the water. It was very thrilling and definitely gave me an adrenaline rush!

Overall the holiday was fantastic. The hotel was amazing, the food was delicious, the service was excellent, everyone was very friendly and the whole experience was so much fun. I would definitely recommend a holiday there.

- Catri


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