Picture it-- Mexico! - sun - clear aqua and crystal blue ocean waters - exotic fantasy-land in the
flesh... But wait! As a matter of fact (ahem) we DO have pictures. There were over
152 digital images, 3 souvenir photos, a large bag of souvenir literature, and 8 rolls of print film. When
you are bleary-eyed from viewing what we culled them down to, remember how many there were to start with!
In the beginning...
I planned and drooled and anticipated this vacation for months. I solicited suggestions of preferred activities, begged info from relatives of coworkers for what to see and do... and went firmly determined not to make the mistake of missing an up-close and personal swim experience with dolphins as so many others had moaned with regret. Well, you know what they say about life and plans... I do not regret the choice I made in place of the dolphin experience, but I hope to get to the dolphins someday. In their place, I got up close and personal with the fishes... with my glasses on. I actually got to SEE the underwater population as something other than a blur, or later on at home see my memories for the first time in the photos of what I had seen as pretty, moving blurs. But I get ahead of myself....
Planning this vacation took a long time. It started out with me wanting
to do a cruise. Last summer as I was looking into various cruises and trying to
find one that coincided with one of Phil's school vacations, we kept coming across
horror stories of major cruise chains. The Big Red Boat (mother's personal
favorite) was seized by creditors in the middle of a cruise and all the passengers
were put off at the nearest port and left to their own devices as to how to get home again. Another major cruise line had a food poisoning episode that cut a cruise short and then less than a month later had to cut short another cruise due to malfunctioning plumbing and air conditioning units. Hmmm... we decided to look into non-cruise vacation options. Already frustrated with the process, I asked Stephen to look around for ideas.
Requirements were simple.
It had to be someplace warm with interesting activities (historical/archeological sites, museums, shops, artisans, craftsware, etc.). It had to be available during February's school break. It had to fit my budget which included many items related to the trip, but not actually part of the trip such as kennel fees and availability, clothing for the trip --damn! bathing suits are expensive!--, etc.
Mexico also meant we really should have current passports. Stephen merely had to renew his, but I, who have had the forms for the past 2 years, had to actually file them to get my first passport. The added benefit of having current passports opened new destinations as future possibilities... like the discounted airline fares to Britain and Germany (I want to spend a week just touring the many castles!)... but I digress...
Preparing for the Adventure was a series of (mis-)adventures as well...
The adventure of getting the passports included getting passport photos. Waiting for a good hair day was NOT going to happen when I had time to get the photo done. So I gave up on having a good hair day and just went. My hair on the day I left for Mexico looked NOTHING like the hair in the photo taken 3 weeks earlier for the passport! Since I had to submit it in person at a valid passport acceptance location, I had to find the Lowell post office. Good thing Stephen drove. We found it next to an area I am very familiar with, but I would never have survived driving there on my own. Particularly with the directions we were given! After paying exorbitant fees for expediting the process, we left. Nine days later, our passports arrived in the mail. My photo (read: hair) had not improved in the interim. My smile was remarked on. Apparently it isn't "done" to smile in your passport photo. Oh well.
Murphy's Laws in Action
Anything that is this heavily anticipated must, by all Murphy's known laws, have hiccups. Like a slip on icy steps sending us to the hospital for "pain management" of a cracked rib and a bruised kidney. Stephen warned the doctor he was going to Mexico the next day, so do whatever it took to make it happen. They did, he did, and on we went to the next Murphy episode of arriving at the airport only to discover our Delta flight was canceled due to a "work stoppage" (apparently only for Delta) at the Cancun airport. I was major bummed and convinced we would NEVER get to Mexico.
The delayed flight left the following morning on schedule, but in an effort to ensure we would not lose our rooms when we didn't show up at the scheduled time, I called the package purveyor, American Airlines Vacations and explained. They verified our reservations and fully paid status. Just to be on the safe side, we were given the hotel number in Mexico to touch base with them as well. I called Mexico. They had no reservation for us at all.
It was, eventually, resolved. We were met at the airport and brought to the hotel, only a short ride away. The clerk, seeing the delayed note on our reservations, asked why we hadn't come the day before. Don't go there, we said.
Sunshine At Last!
We bought an all-inclusive package at our hotel/resort. It was GORGEOUS! But we didn't truly take advantage of the wealth of "all-inclusive" of drink, food, drink, entertainment, drink, and drink offered because we really weren't there all that much. The evening buffet always included sushi-- California rolls are favorites of Stephen, he scarfed up as many as he could manage. I surfed the chips, cheeses and fruits and told myself I was eating healthy. The volume sortof belied that, but hey-- we were on vacation! The buffet area offered live entertainment as well. Usually it was a piano player, but we heard a Mexican quartet (think Zorro style with a magnificent tenor!) and a cheerful jazz brass ensemble while going to and from activities.
Narrow brick walkways threaded though lush gardens and pools. There are several connected buildings in this complex, and for footsore travelers (and those who are just plain lost) there is a golf cart transport service available. What they don't mention is that you are riding with kamikaze drivers working on speeds that would qualify them for the Gran Prix. We rode them exactly twice. For the luggage.
Now, I intended this to be a vacation. I warned Stephen I had no intention of racing from activity to activity when I wanted to relax. So of course we ended up booking something every single day we were there. It was my fault, too. There was nothing either of us was willing to skip!
First came Chitchen Itza, then Tulum and Akumal, The third day found us at Xcaret and on Friday we scooted across the water to Isla Mujertes, the Isle of Women. Saturday we came back to more snow and ice and home, sweet home.
We did manage to see a couple of the shows offered at the hotel. The productions ranged from awesome to "Not Ready for Prime Time" material. The hotel also offered a variety of cuisines at various restaurants. Try dining on Japanese menu items prepared by Mexican chefs, or Italian dishes translated by those same chefs. Picture it. I dare you. Nothing was what you expected, but they were all delicious.
Many of the notes I had on the trip are now on the photo pages. Why not take a break and go look at them, starting at the thumbnail index. Go on and take your time. I'll still be here, you know <g>.
Miscellaneous notes transcribed from menus, tablemats, price lists and receipts:
All the stop signs said "ALTO" which I thought was odd... until I remembered I was in Mexico and they had a different word for everything.
So many iguanas all with snoot-in-the-air poses, bobbing their heads up and down like those silly doggies in the back windows of cars from Brooklyn... basking
in brilliant sunlight, decorating the roof lines in Tulum and Chichen Itza...
Calendar dates come in both long form and short form. We had our wedding date done up in long form. The glyph you see next to this paragraph is short form for March 24, 2001. Those Mayans sure had a weird way with numbers. <g> Many of their glyphs are not translated because without reference books, and no "Rosetta Stone" for Maya culture, all translation must be inferred from the 4 remaining Maya texts. (See rant on censorship and book burning.)
Souvenirs included the aforementioned wedding date and a painted suede Aztec calendar. Together they cost maybe 70 US$. Framing them is costing us 614% of their purchase price. They're gonna look great but they are not cheap!
Salt water does weird things to your skin. Especially your lips. They feel grossly swollen and chapped. The heavily salted ocean water affected my breathing which felt labored and I had a sense of claustrophobia while still at the surface. Odd. Next time was better for breathing, worse for seeing. In a group in open water, I couldn't always locate Stephen. More than one group was in the area and I had minor moments of panic fearing I would board the wrong boat for the return trip. (Yes, I know I worry about weird stuff!) Snorkeling at Akumal I missed the crease behind my right knee and had this strange sunburn stripe there. I was more careful on applying sunscreen after that!
Return Murphy's adventure
Whenever we charged something in Mexico, it was charged in the local currency-- pesos were running $9.25-$9.50 for each US dollar. Our credit card company would handle the conversion for us. The day after we returned, Visa called and asked if we had charged a $395 luncheon tab. No, we had not signed any $3,000+ peso charge slip. No problem. All fixed. Fortunately, we didn't charge all that much. Stephen humored me by converting US cash to pesos so we would have usable currency when we landed. It turned out, most places took US dollars as well as pesos. Oh well...