RedStrong Red (default) BlueCalm Blue GreenFresh Green

Chose your color scheme.

Archive for "Travel"

#ZINCON 2017 Highlights – Short Version

Posted on August 16, 2017 by under Travel, Zumba.    

If you don’t have time to ready the lengthy #ZINCON highlights post from yesterday, here’s the short version:

No Comments

#ZINCON 2017 Highlights

Posted on August 15, 2017 by under Travel, Zumba.    

Brace yourself. This is going to be a long one!

Ah, where to begin. Since we arrived on Tuesday, there were no lines at the hotel check-in. Brian even managed to talk the concierge into giving us a corner room, which happened to be the exact same room we had last year. Definitely couldn’t have done that with dozens of tired, frustrated, impatient, guests waiting to check in behind us, which is typically the sight you see on Wednesday afternoon.

Untitled

Convention registration opened at 9 AM on Wednesday. Brian and I planned to be there first thing but we decided to have a nice leisurely morning. Plus, it’s good long walk from our room at the far end of the Hyatt to where registration is located inside the vast Orange County Convention Center (OCCC). Regardless, the line wasn’t bad that morning. The line got pretty deep as the day wore on though, and as more people started arriving. I know when we went back to get my “attendee” wristband (something new this year) replaced, which had started to cut off my circulation because it kept getting tighter and tighter, the line was quite long so rather than lining up with the registration people, I just waited in line at ZIN services. The line is short, but people’s needs are sometimes impossible, so it was a long wait regardless. My issue took only a couple of seconds to resolve, though. She simply cut the original wristband off and then gave me another one. I was careful not to make it too tight this time.

Untitled

I love that Brian goes with me because it makes waiting in long lines more bearable.

Untitled

Oh, I found this card in the bag and materials they give you at registration and I tried really hard to be active on social media this year so I could win one of these amazing prices but, as luck would have it, I forgot to make my Instagram account public so it was all for naught. #MassiveFail #StoryOfMyLife #LOL

Untitled

Brian and I also took a selfie at “our table” (this is the table that Brian, Andrea, and I would meet up at after events and such last year — so we wouldn’t lose one another) and sent it to Andrea and told her she was missed.

Our leisurely day consisted of registration, lunch at B-Line, a Chocolate Kingdom factory tour, and some pool time. We also walked around and scoped everything out as vendors were setting up.

Untitled

This is me trying to win a free cruise by posting this pic on social media and not realizing that no-one was seeing my posts (well, except for the followers that I had already previously approved). At least I’ll know for next year.

Untitled

This is what the otherwise quiet hotel lobby looked like as more and more people started arriving. The check-in line just gets worse, unfortunately. It’s improved some the last few years though, as people have gotten smarter and started arriving a day or two before like we did.

Untitled

Of course, no ZINCON is ever complete without pictures and selfies with your favorite Zelebs. This is DJ Francis with Brian pictured above.

Untitled

This is DJ Francis’ beautiful wife Zumba Education Specialist (ZES) Marcie Benavides. There are several power couples in the Zumba world but they are by far my favorite. They are so humble and nice. I just love them!

Untitled

This is ZES David Velez. I first met him in 2014 when he assisted ZES Steve Boedt with my Pro Skills training at the LA Conference. You’ll also see a half-naked David in one of my cruise recap posts.

Untitled

This is ZES Mario Guitierrez, official ZES of Israel. His choreo for “Sayonara” is what I’ve been using in class.

Untitled

This is ZES Steve Boedt, possibly my all-time favorite ZES. He taught the Zumba Pro-Skills training that I completed a few years ago.

Untitled

We ran into one of Andrea’s favorite ZESes in the elevator, Australia ZES Tamara Pitts. One of my favorite parts of staying at Hyatt Regency Orlando is running into all the ZESes and Zelebs that stay in the same hotel.

Untitled

This is ZES Lars Wensink.

Untitled

These are ZESes Benjamin Richard and Rodrigo Angello. They’re kind of a package deal. Ran into them at B-Line.

Untitled

These are ZESes Kass Martin and Steve Boedt. They’re kind of a package deal too. While they do present trainings and sessions apart, they are the most amazing when they’re presenting together. We took this photo after the Motown session.

Untitled

This is my crazy, packed ZINCON schedule this year.

Untitled

Brian and I packed light this year so we felt like we HAD to hit the Zumba Wear store right when it first opened.

Untitled

Mind you, the store didn’t open until 5 PM but the line actually started at 9 AM. They were already people in line for the store when we walked by to get me registered. We didn’t hop in line until later in the afternoon. That’s where we met this nice woman who we convinced to take a selfie with Brian.

Untitled

We were at the end of the line when we first got there but it didn’t take long for the line to reach the end of OCCC’s South entrance and wrap around. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who wanted to hit the store early. Hundreds of others had the same thought. Although, I found out later that had I been a 3-Star Zumba Wear Insider (I’m only a 2-Star right now), I could have gone in to shop hours before the store officially opened to the public. I could have shopped with all of the Zumba Education Specialists, ZIN Jammers, and other presenters!

Untitled

Joel happened upon us while we were in line for the store. Naturally, we had to take a selfie! He and Missy and Todd got in line with us and we all eagerly waited to get in to the Zumba Wear store to see the new collection.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Some people danced while waiting in line. We just took a bunch of pics.

Untitled

I planned to attend the official pre-ZINCON ZIN Flavor Master Class at the We Move the World Stage on the eve of ZINCON kick-off but there were already hundreds of people there by the time we got out of the Zumba Wear store.

master class

I kid you not. This is what I had to contend with.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

I found a good spot for dancing but not necessarily for seeing. Since I wasn’t in the line to get in first, I couldn’t get a spot near the front. I was kind of in the middle area surrounded by hundreds of other people. It was hard for me to see over people’s heads. I could see the middle to top part of the stage, so I could see who was leading, but I couldn’t see their feet so it was hard to truly follow and dance along. I’ve learned long ago not to follow the person directly in front of me because they’re not necessarily doing the routines right. I feel like I have to observe some for a bit first before I can trust that they know what they’re doing and only then will I start to follow them. That wasn’t happening in a crowded situation such as this.

Untitled

The people in the front were super lucky! I almost regretted my decision to hit the store first. So much so that I’ve actually resolved to skip shopping completely next year (unless, of course, I’m a 3-Star Zumba Wear Insider and can shop before everyone else does) because in choosing to shop you’re almost guaranteed to miss out on something else. I’d rather maximize my dancing going forward.

Untitled

I finally got frustrated and gave up. I ended up tracking Brian down and hanging out with him in the upper level, overlooking the stage area and crowd. By then, several others had the same idea and I couldn’t get a good spot there either.

Untitled

We finally just gave up and walked up to our room to drink wine and watch the sunset. Our room is so amazing, I almost wish I could spend more time just hanging out in there and enjoying the view. Almost.

Untitled

The next morning, Brian and I were up and at it bright and early for ZINCON kick-off. Like we aren’t all super pumped already; they get us even more pumped!

Untitled

Of course, the line was already super long. You really have to get in line at least a couple of hours before they open the doors to get a good spot. Lucky for us, we ran into another ZIN who we met while in line for the store the day before, Jay Medina (above). Naturally, I had to take a picture of him and Brian because they were wearing coordinating outfits.

Untitled

Jay let me and Snowman get in line with him so I didn’t have to be at the very end of the very long line, which at this point had already wrapped around and doubled over. Jay was near the front of the line so I got a really good spot when they opened the doors. It’s the closest I’d ever gotten to the stage. EVER. And, I was close enough to the front that I actually made the official 2017 Zumba Instructor Convention Magic Moments highlight reel.

Here are a few pics from the kick-off session.

Untitled

Yup. They brought the backpack kid in. See if you can spot him.

Untitled

The King of Soca, Machel Montano, also made a surprise appearance and performed a few songs. The kick-off session was off-the-charts AMAZING. I thought this year’s kick-off was the best ever.

Untitled

My final session of the day was a Master Class with ZES Steve Boedt. I just can’t get enough of him. He is super nice, super awesome, and so inspirational.

Untitled

At the last few ZINCONs they’ve had this memory wall that everyone tags and writes notes on. They made this year’s wall black and provided gold and silver Sharpies to match the 10 year anniversary theme.

Untitled

There wasn’t a lot of room to write much of anything, so this is all I could wrote. I guess there’s more room up top but I could never reach that high, even if I tried.

Untitled

While walking back to our hotel, we ran into Todd and Missy. They stayed at the Hilton, which is located on the opposite side of the OCCC from our hotel. We just happened to cross paths.

Untitled

Untitled

This is one of those iconic ZINCON photos. I’m pretty sure EVERYONE who was there has a photo similar to this one.

Untitled

No one has a photo like this one though, because I’m pretty sure I’m the only one with a good looking Brian with me.

Untitled

This is me, in the line for STRONG by Zumba (SBZ) training the next morning.

Untitled

I was glad that I got there early because it was a full room.

Untitled

There were several Master Trainers helping with the training but these are two key SBZ presenters who conducted our training: Master Trainers Ai Lee Syarief and George Iu. You might remember George from last year’s B2 training with ZES Loretta Bates. He and ZES Michael Marmitte assisted Loretta and thus, we got the “George Michael” treatment.

Untitled

After training, it was time to skedaddle and get read for the fitness concert. I hurried back to our room, showered, changed and then had to head back out to the OCCC. We ran into DJ Gringo (above) on the way there.

Untitled

Once again, I found myself at the ass end of a really, really long line. Brian ran into another ZIN, Sabrina, who I met at a previous ZINCON while he was trying to look for some of our friends in the line.

Untitled

Brian found Eleanor, Missy, Todd, and Joel and so I got in line with them because they were further ahead in the line than I was. It was kind of stressful though because this was shortly before the doors were supposed to open so I was worried that the line wouldn’t move before I got to them. And, there were thousands of people in line at this point so I actually struggled to find them. Thankfully, Joel is very tall and hard to miss.

Untitled

We only had time for a few selfies before it was time to enter the fitness concert area. Oh, one of the funniest things about this moment is, up until this point, no one had seen or heard from Eleanor.

Untitled

We were all very much relieved to find her alive, well, and enjoying all that ZINCON has to offer. LOL. This was a “first ZINCON” for a few people in our group: Eleanor, Joel, and Todd.

Untitled

I did not take any photos at all during the fitness concert while I was near the stage because I wanted to honor Beto’s request of no pictures or videos. He just wanted everyone to dance and enjoy themselves. It’s not really any fun when you’re trying to dance and the person next to you is just standing in place, taking a video.

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 9.32.05 PM FC

Brian took a bunch of really good screen captures while he was watching a live-stream of the fitness concert from our room, though. We both agreed that none of the pictures or videos I could have taken would have rivaled the up close shots from the live-stream. Anyway, I thought it was great that they made the live-stream option available to those who couldn’t make it to ZINCON this year but still wanted to experience the fitness concert.

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 9.30.29 PM FC

This year’s fitness concert was great but not quite as elaborate a production it has been in previous years. I still had a great time, though. It helped that I wasn’t right under gigantic speakers this time. And, no matter how badly my feet hurt from all of the day’s walking and dancing, I stayed for the whole thing this year!

Untitled

It was hard to get up the next day but it helped that my first session was Hip Hop Turn Up with (from left) Heidy Torres, Gina Grant, Dahrio Wonder, and Armando Salcedo. This amazing four-some consists of two Zumba power couples: Armando and Heidy (also known as A & H) and the Gina and Dahrio (the Wonder couple).

Untitled

I don’t have a lot of hip hop flavor but their session was such a blast! That’s kind of the point of taking the session, though. You take it to learn and be inspired.

Untitled

They didn’t have time for photos with each of the participants at the end of the session but at least they posed briefly for photos so those of us who wanted to snap a couple of pics could do so.

Untitled

As great as the presenters were, I think the best part of Hip Hop Turn Up was having Missy in the session with me. You know how much more fun Zumba classes are when your friends are in the class with you? Well, it’s the same for us ZINs also. Dancing is always way more fun with friends!

Untitled

Speaking of friends, I met ZIN Doris last year and ran into her again several times this year. I love it when we meet friends we’ve made throughout the years at ZINCON. It’s a mini reunion, or a massive one, depending on how you look at it.

Untitled

This is me with the Jhon Gonzalez’ Latin Urban team at the end of the session. They were super nice and stayed until every single person in line for photos got a photo with them. And to think Joel didn’t stick around for a photo because he thought there wouldn’t be time to get through everyone.

Untitled

Latin Urban was followed by House Experience with Benjamin and Rodrigo. It got a little crazy with a sort of prayer mob at the end. Of course, our friend Sarah was in the thick of it. She is a huge fan of the Benjamin and Rodrigo team.

Untitled

Joel was in House Experience with me and Sarah also. Sarah and her friend April stuck around at the end of the session and waited to chat with Benjamin and Rodrigo. Joel and I walked over to the ZCOM Meet and Greet event. I thought it would be a great opportunity for Joel to meet other instructors from our district.

Untitled

I didn’t stay for the entire ZCOM Meet and Greet. I only stayed long enough to drop Joel off and make sure he was in good hands. I had to get back to the room and quickly don my Cleopatra outfit for the “Golden Ages” theme party. There were several of us who dressed as ancient Egyptians. Naturally, I wanted to get photos taken with my fellow Egyptian people. However, surprise of all surprises, other people also asked to get their photo with me. This is the first year that this has ever happened. Not bad for a costume I bought off Amazon! (This is a link to the outfit and this is a link to the headpiece.)

Untitled

Here are a few of my favorite theme party costumes.

Untitled

There was a guy on stilts dressed as Anubis. He ended up winning the award for best costume. I must say, it’s pretty amazing.

Untitled

This lady was a huge hit, too. I don’t think she won any awards but she was most definitely the most photographed. EVERYONE wanted a picture with her!

Untitled

These guys were my favorite. I actually had to take a photo with them because my costume fit right in. I don’t know what I did with that photo, though.

Untitled

I was really bummed that they didn’t win the best group costume. I guess they didn’t make it down in time for judging. They had my vote for sure!

Untitled

While I attended all my sessions and workshops, Brian pretty much just hung out at the pool. He texted me this photo of his pool outfit on one of the days, which consisted of an old pair of board shorts and a new hooded tank top that he got at the Zumba Wear store. It actually works! Not bad for someone who is color blind.

Untitled

He did humor me and escorted me to the theme party in his Mark Anthony outfit. The next morning Brian and I were matchy-matchy again. This time in our STRONG by Zumba gear.

Untitled

Sunday morning was rough. We didn’t stay at the party too late but we did stay up later than planned. But it was rough only partially because of that. The final day of ZINCON is always really hard because you know that everything is winding down and the party is pretty much over. It makes me sad to walk by the partially torn down vendor booths. It starts quite early on Sunday morning.

Untitled

We ran into Sarah and her convention roommate April on our way to my final session, Bachata Extreme with ZJ Carlos Henriquez. I enjoyed the workshop immensely last year and so I decided to retake it this year.

Untitled

Everyone probably stayed up too late partying the previous night because, even though I wasn’t super duper early, I was literally the first person in line for the session. Since I got there early, I took advantage of taking a pic with Carlos before the session started.

Untitled

Here’s a pic of the session’s playlist which was made even more fantastic by having DJ Marina spin it. Hottest DJ. EVER!

Untitled

As always, the closing session was the perfect wrap up/conclusion to a wonderful ZINCON. Zumba has this way of sending us all back into the outside world completely energized. I was further energized by the opportunity to get a selfie with my fellow Filipino Marlex.

Untitled

The most remarkable thing about this photo is that I didn’t even realize Michael Marmitte was behind us until after I got home and started looking at the photos on my phone! WILD! We should have gotten him in the pic with us!

Untitled

After closing, we had some pool time with Missy and Todd.

Untitled

Here’s one final picture before we sent them off to the airport. I’m so glad Todd could join us this year. I had such a blast hanging out with these two! I think this year has been my all-time favorite ZINCON by far! I can’t wait until next year!

No Comments

Chocolate Kingdom

Posted on August 11, 2017 by under Things to Do, Travel.    

Since Brian and I arrived in Orlando a day earlier than usual, we decided to do some exploring. We found this place called Chocolate Kingdom conveniently located across from the Orange County Convention Center. Anyway, we’ve been coming to #ZINCON for several years and we didn’t even know this place existed. I suppose this is because (a) we’ve never really had that much time to spend exploring and (b) it’s kind of tucked behind the Walgreens, which we have never, ever ventured beyond.

Untitled

Apparently, Sarah was familiar with the place because it’s right across from the Red Roof Inn where she and her convention roomies usually stay but the running joke is, because the of the business’ nondescript fa├žade, it’s some kind of front for some sketchy operation. Yeah, we probably watch too many movies. Jokes aside, they do kind of need to work on their storefront more than a smidge.

Untitled

The business looks pretty legit once you’re inside. It’s just the outside that looks sketchy. LOL. Besides taking a tour, you can also purchase various truffles. They have lots of different kinds to choose from.

Untitled

A tour had just started when we got there but they were nice enough to let us join the one that was in progress. They next one wouldn’t have been for another hour or so. Honestly, I’m not sure we would have gone through with the tour had we not be able to do it right then and there.

Untitled

Our tour guide told us that we hadn’t really missed anything, just a little cartoon where the prince talks about the chocolate shoes and all of that.

Untitled

The tour, which talks about how you end up with a chocolate bar from a cacao bean, is definitely geared for children. They have little cartoon videos they play at each point of the tour.

Untitled

Here are a few pictures of our tour guide.

Untitled

The interactive parts of the tour included shooting marshmallows into the dragon, eating a candy-coated cacao bean, drinking a weird chocolate concoction similar to how it would have been served in the early days when chocolate was first discovered, and sampling some chocolates as we went.

Untitled

Some of the other things we tasted were a bit iffy but I was definitely not averse to sampling the processed chocolate.

Untitled

We got to taste some dark, milk, and white chocolate shoes.

Untitled

This is one of the old school tools that they use to process the chocolate and turn it into something delicious for us all to enjoy.

Untitled

Incidentally, chocolate – whether white, milk, or dark – has some pretty basic ingredients. You can see them listed in the photo above. High quality chocolate doesn’t require much. Unfortunately, chocolate makers these days add a bunch of other fillers. So, remember, the fewer ingredients the better.

Untitled

At the end of the tour, you can purchase one of these delicious candy bars that they make right before your eyes. You can also customize them to add your favorite mix-ins. Brian and I didn’t buy any though, because we were pretty much eating chocolate (various forms of it) throughout the factory tour.

Untitled

That’s pretty much the story of our Chocolate Kingdom tour. Before I sign off though, I’m leaving you with this: here are top ten reasons to feel great about eating chocolate. Enjoy!

Untitled

No Comments

Hyatt Regency Orlando – Our Home Away From Home

Posted on August 7, 2017 by under Travel, Zumba.    

When I received this email from the Hyatt Regency Orlando a few days before our trip, I knew we were in good hands. I didn’t have status this year because I hadn’t been working in Topeka and earning any World of Hyatt points but somehow I still got assigned one of the exclusive floors when I checked in on my Hyatt app.

Untitled

Brian is super spoiled and partial to the corner rooms so, naturally, he asks for one during check in. She manages to find one for us and — surprise of all surprises — it’s the exact same room that we stayed in last year.

Untitled

Untitled

When we walked in, the room (and the amazing pool view) felt oddly familiar. I actually looked up our hotel bill from last year to be sure.

Untitled

Untitled

It was indeed the very same room.

Untitled

Last year we got it because I was a Platinum rewards member. We actually got a few extras last year (like the complimentary access to the Regency Club Lounge where you get free food and booze all day long) that we didn’t get this year because I no longer had my status. I think we got the same corner room completely by accident. However, now that we’ve had it twice Brian is convinced that we should specifically ask for it again next year. Of course, I’m pretty sure that the minute that we specifically ask for our favorite room, we won’t get it. That’s how it usually works, anyway. So now my mission for the next year is to stay at only Hyatt properties as much as possible so I can rack up some points and earn my status back.

Untitled

I didn’t have status and the Regency Club Lounge which is $75 a day extra was completely sold out so we didn’t have access to the free breakfast, snacks, hors d’oeuvres, and drinks this year. However, they did give me this 20% OFF card which came in super handy because it gave us discounts to all of the restaurants at the hotel including the onsite Starbucks. We used the heck out of that card!

Untitled

Oh, I forgot to mention that we brought Snowman with us. It’s this dancing snowman that’s been going on trips with various work people for years. Snowman has his own album and everything.

Untitled

I think Snowman enjoyed the magnificent views from our room just as much as we did.

20526186_1668775989800642_2617188469366411925_n

One of the best parts of our favorite room is the magnificent sunsets. Brian and I actually got to enjoy it one night. We turned our chairs around to face the wall and just sat there drinking wine as the sun slowly disappeared into the horizon. Unfortunately, that was the only night I got to watch the sunset because I was super busy the rest of convention.

I’m not sure if Brian sat there and watched more sunsets during the rest of our stay. He certainly had enough time to do so. Since he was just hanging out and not actually attending convention, his schedule was much more leisurely than mine and consisted mainly of drinking beers and lounging poolside.

Anyway, we just love staying at Hyatt Regency Orlando. They always take such good care of you — with or without status. I hope our luck holds out and we get the same room again next year!

1 Comment

We’ve Been to Dog Heaven and It’s in Anchorage

Posted on June 20, 2017 by under Travel.    

Untitled

I forgot to mention the best part about SpringHill Suites Anchorage University Lake. There’s an amazing dog park next door and we were told it’s the best in the area. After walking the trail several times, we have to agree.

Untitled

Here’s a map of the lake that shows the trails and the areas where the dogs can be off-leash. The dog park more suitable for well-behaved dogs though, because it’s completely open with no fences. It’s beautiful but I’m not quite sure how our dogs would fare. We’d probably need to train them really well first.

Untitled

Untitled

One of our favorite things while in Anchorage was to walk around the lake every morning after breakfast. There were always lots of friendly dogs around which made us really miss Molly and Saki.

Untitled

There was no shortage of happy dogs and friendly pet owners.

Untitled

I had to take pictures of the dog park because it’s the most beautiful park I’d ever seen. Most of the dog parks around here are just fenced grassy areas. This was nature at its finest.

Untitled

Our surroundings were so breathtaking we had to take a bunch of selfies!

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

The park is so huge that, even though it’s frequented by lots of visitors (humans and dogs), it never felt overcrowded.

Untitled

Untitled

It wasn’t unusual to see dogs roaming about freely with their owners either lagging behind or walking ahead.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

This is the part of the lake opposite our hotel. You can kind of see the building through the trees.

Untitled

The dog park is amazing with breathtaking scenery but wasn’t without risks. There were signs like this in certain parts, which was a bit scary but we never did run into any moose — aggressive or otherwise.

Untitled

It was pretty cold the entire time that we were in Alaska but it didn’t keep us from enjoying our daily walks around the lake. We loved meeting all the friendly dogs and people. Not only did we get our daily allotment of physical activity, we also got our daily doggy fix.

Untitled

The sun finally came out on our last day in Alaska so we at least had one jacket-free day and we enjoyed the dog park even more.

Untitled

We cannot recommend this hotel enough. It would have been way cooler if we had Molly and Saki with us but you’ll love staying at the hotel whether or not you have your fur-babies with you.

Untitled

No Comments

« Older Entries «