Sunday, December 6, 2009

the fact that sonny bono thinks "dignitude" is a word does not prove the thing

So we're back from Mexico! It was amaaaaaazingggggg!! Let's start from the beginning, shall we?

First, my parents bought into a time share, getting 2 weeks per year that they'll be using for the annual family trip (2 rooms at a time, to make a huge suite for a week). But as a signing bonus or something, they got an extra week that they wouldn't be able to use before it expired. The Foliage and I had been looking for a way to justify the cost of a vacation while still GOING somewhere for vacation. So we booked a week at the Royal Sands and Spa in the hotel zone of Cancun in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

That's the view of the Caribbean (!!!) from our hotel room. I know. We know. Swoon.

So first the Foliage packed for 2 weeks (one for work, then staying in MD for T-Day, then vacation week)...but forgot his passport. Which left me at the house, searching through every box and drawer for it with him on the phone, suggesting places to look. This did not go well. In fact, I almost drove to Montgomery County to punch him. But eventually I found it.

Skipping over (the ridiculously busy and stressful) holiday, we got to BWI really early (crazy out of character for us), and...his passport was wrinkly. I kid you not.

Be warned: if your passport is wrinkled, the airport will consider it "mutilated" and won't let you use it for traveling abroad. So at 6 or 7 in the morning on a Saturday, we called my parents' house to see if my sister (who had a key to the house for cat-sitting purposes) could go and find the Foliage's birth certificate and voter registration card (apparently Mexico's pretty lax about people getting in and out...shocking) and bring it to us since our car was already checked in to an off-site parking area, which she did 'cause she rules. The picture above is of the offending and amending documents, edited for security.

AND when we got to Mexico and got our bags, I realized I'd left my phone on the plane. No one would let me back on the plane to look for it, and the airline information booth was closed. We checked with them twice later on to see if they'd found it, and....nothing. When we got back to the states, we checked with Continental, who told us to check with baggage, who told us to check with Continental's lost and found headquarters. So we did and now we're waiting. But I don't have a phone and it's the worst thing ever. Luckily, I didn't need it at all during the vacation, which is really the point of this post, so back to it...

Our hotel/timeshare was supposed to send a shuttle to pick us up from the airport, but we didn't see them anywhere, even after wandering around for the phone ordeal for about half an hour. No shuttle guys for us. So we ended up renting a sweet ride for a sweet price (with unlimited mileage) for the week:

What what Chevyyyyyy!! It was nicer than I expected it to be, and a real trooper for the beating we gave it. And gas is CRAZY cheap down there, so it was a really good deal. Especially because we're not really the sort of people who can just sit and relax. We needed to 'splore.

So on Sunday we drove into downtown Cancun and found...nothing. The place is apparently pretty barren on Sundays, which took us a while of walking and driving and expletives to figure out. We went back to the hotel, and then walked over to the mall that was right next door to see what was up (and because we were intrigued by the huge "Chocolate City" sign).

Terribly disappointing. The food was OK, but I didn't notice a chocolate theme, really. I expected to be surrounded by cocoa decadence, but it was more like a sports bar + warehouse + an extensive dessert list. That'll teach us to make purposeful forays into touristy establishments.

Moday we went South. I'd expended considerable energy NOT over-planning for this trip (as is my tendency), and had restricted myself merely to blogs of ex-patriots who had moved to the area for ideas of where to go and what to do. My favorite is Canuck in Cancun, written by a woman who went on vacation about 6 years ago and just never left. Love it. She and her family are crazy about the beach, and their favorites are Puerto Morelos and Isla Blanca, so I figured since she's in the know, the Foliage and I should probably hit them up.

We drove about 45 minutes or so South to Playa del Carmen

The Foliage walking up a very residential, cobblestone strip to the beach.

We walked along the beach where I guess the Foliage saw a LOT of topless sunbathers. I saw none. Weird. We eventually got a little bit away from the heavily touristy jimmy-buffet-playing haunts and found this little gem

Or at least, that was the view from our table in the restaurant, which was essentially a tile slab with a thatched roof over it, a few feet from the water. Then the man of my dreams took a table in the sand

Hubba hubba! That's all natural, ladies!

We had derish salsa, beer, and fish tacos.

Nomnomnomnom!!! After we paid, we attempted to walk back up to the street, and accidentally went right into some locals' back yard. That was embarrassing and I don't have a picture. We back tracked, then looked at the prices for the ferry to Cozumel, but decided to just get some fruit

Yet more noms. Sigh. We got some pineapple and acted like we couldn't hear the ferry ticket vendors shouting at us before making our way over to Puerto Morelos.

Hardly anyone on the beach

And craaaaaaaaazy calm waters

I heart Puerto Morelos.

On Tuesday we decided to go to Isla Blanca. However, a downside to being a tourist in the main touristy area of Cancun one expects you to really want to know how to get around. We asked all over the place for maps of the Yucatan, but only really found cartoonish, not-to-scale drawings that always made sure to point out the nearest Senor Frog's or Margaritaville.

For the record, I hate Jimmy Buffet. I'm sure he's a really nice guy, but I can't stand his music or anything associated with it. Or reggae. I guess I really just hate relaxation. That doesn't seem too outlandish. Anyway.

We asked about getting to Isla Blanca and the concierge said, "You mean Isla Mujeres..." To which we responded, "No, we have to take a ferry there. We can drive to Isla Blanca, right?" Cue the dubious look from the concierge. Fine, thanks, no help from that guy. Eventually, we found a single map of the peninsula in our room's phone book. It's the only map we found during the whole trip that even showed Isla Blanca on it. So we tore it out and went on our way.

After driving North for 30 to 45 minutes, we came to a dirt road labeled "Isl. Blanca"

It may look innocent, but this mother wrenched the rental's alignment pretty badly. No road crews for streets made of sand, I guess. This beach was the Foliage's favorite.

There was NO ONE there

Oh, except these people who were DEFINITELY having sex. And definitely saw us, so must have known we could see them. SO weird

He took my camera into the water to get a picture of the beach and was determined to get a shot of me. On the White Island, I nearly blend into the sand.

He played (read: fell) in the waves a lot

Well, he did. I tried to get pictures mid-fall, but they all ended up being shots of the surf and no visible human. Anyway. He could've stayed there for the rest of the week. He's kind of a like a puppy sometimes.

We went back to the hotel, to the swim-up bar, and asked some of our fellow vacationers what they were doing that evening. Why, Senor Frog's and Margaritaville, of course! What were we doing? Going to Isla Mujeres! Isla where? You know...the island you can see across the water...there are a bunch of ports with ferries to it... Blank stares. Yeah. We don't belong at resorts.

In reality, we laid down for a nap and then woke up around midnight. Mexico has funny things on TV in the middle of the night, in case you were wondering. Have you seen the movie "Sketch Artist"? We have. Thank you, MGM movie channel. You're a doll.

Wednesday was Chichen Itza day!

This was one of the things we'd planned to do and were really looking forward to. It was named a world wonder a few years ago, and how could you NOT see a world wonder if you're near one?! This day trip made us think that it might be cool to base our major vacations around seeing world wonders. Partly because he'd already planned to go see the Great Pyramid for his 30th birthday, which is also on the wonder list (it's at lat/lon 30, 30).

It was a loooong drive, and although rain had been predicted, it never came, and it was CRAZY hot and humid (remained true for the rest of the week, pretty much).

That thing was BLISS!

Every time we came to another building, I was, like, "oh, this must be the main temple," but nay! There was always more! I think this was the Observatory, used for planetary observation (duh) and record-keeping.

We took way too many pictures for me to post them all here. I'll post them all on FB in a bit. Suffice it to say, we highly recommend Chichen Itza as an excursion.

OK, I'll post that one 'cause it makes my legs look really thin.

I'm really good at being mean to vendors.

We decided to attempt Isla Mujeres again, but this time, no nap. In fact, we didn't even go back to the hotel first. We drove straight to Puerto Juarez and took the ferry over. When we were buying our tickets, we ran into a couple tourists who were on their way back after being over there ALL DAY drinking at - where else - Senor Frog's. Le sigh. People seemed to be confused that we were heading over so late. It was only 7!!

The island is only, like, 6 blocks wide, and most of the streets are blocked off so only pedestrians can get through.

I love Isla Mujeressssssss!!

We ended up at a Cuban place. Apparently Cuba is super close to the Yucatan Peninsula. You guys probably already knew that. But I, the geographically challenged, was shocked. In any case, it was ha-mazing.

No leftovers. He had grouper or some sort of whitefish, I had lobster tail, both in cuban spicy sauces and with traditional side dishes. Ooooooomg so gooooooood!!

The waiter took our picture. I really love Isla Mujeres.

We decided to check with our on-site excursion company, Thomas More. Obviously we were all over being our own tour guides, but we knew we wanted to go to the ruins at Tulum and one of the eco-waterparks, which were down in the same direction, and that it was a bit of a drive. TM had a deal with entrance to Tulum and Xel Ha (in Mayan, "Birth of the Rivers"), and the Xel Ha entrance included unlimited food and drink, lockers for our stuff, snorkeling...everything. W00t!!

So that was Thursday.

It was (again) REALLY hot and I was all ruins-ed out. We had a tour guide for this one, which was really cool and informative, but we could barely even listen to him, we were so focused on getting to the water park. Also we were super hungry 'cause we were sticking it out for the unlimited eats. We're kind of ridiculously stingy.

My boyfriend likes to taunt wild and stray animals. Tulum is full of HUGE lizards. Bad combination.

Tulum fuctioned as a fortress on the sea. Kind of torturous when all you want to do is jump in. FYI, you CAN go in the water there, but we knew we'd have to get back on the air conditioned bus soon and didn't want to be all wet and sandy for that. So we waited it out. And it was SO worth it!

After walking into Xel Ha, through the restaurants, our first view of the water.

Looking in the other direction.

Oh, man. OH, man. Can America please have an eco-waterpark? Plz? I've never been a huge fan of water parks. Standing in line for forever to go on a 5-second ride. The only part I really ever like is the lazy river. At Xel Ha, no lines for anything, no limit to the amount of time you could spend at any area, and again...unlimited food and drink, which were SO delicious.

We only had my digital camera and didn't want to spend money on a water-proof digital one, so there aren't any pictures of this place, really. We spent most of the time snorkeling, which was sooooo fun. Once we got away from an obnoxiously loud kid, it was incredible. We swam over and around coral reef that was teeming with bright, exotic fish that swam right up to us. At one point, I saw what looked like a wicked long fish. I pointed it out to the Foliage, and as I did, a smaller fish went down the the water's floor near it, and all of a sudden, the sand rippled. In a circle. It was a huge sting ray. Ummmmm yeah.

I'm not a really strong swimmer, and I didn't want to stir up the water a lot by kicking, so I tried to hightail it out of there just using my arms. It mostly resulted in my splashing and coughing in a dorky panic, before finally finding a set of stairs to stumble out.

On Friday we decided to take the ferry to Cozumel. It was the very last main attraction to see on the peninsula, and by far the most commercial. We took the ferry from Playa del Carmen, but not until having some insanely good tacos at a tiny street-side restaurant a few blocks from the dense downtown area. I love places where you have to order the tacos in specific quantities, rather than a platter of miscellaneous junk.

My adventure-craving boyfriend reeeeeally wanted to rent a scooter to get around the island (it's MUCH bigger than Mujeres)...and I'd nixed his desire to rent a (more expensive) Jeep or convertible for the week, so I felt obliged to satiate his vehicle desired.

So we got a scooter. Sigh.

Now, I am not really comfortable on bicycles. This translates to bikes with motors, too. He also had never driven a scooter OR a motorcycle. AND about 1/3 of every time I've been on a bicycle, I've injured myself. So...I was not pleased about this, and I knew I'd be a pain about it, even if unintentionally (gasping at everything and distracting him...stuff like that). But off we went.

And I was awful. I'm the least helpful scooter passenger ever. My arms were sore afterwards just from holding on so tightly and being so tense the whole time. Then we crashed. Well, we fell. In front of a van. As we were pulling off of the scenic road to a path that led to the beach. For some reason, we didn't take any pictures of the injuries sustained, but his knee was pretty gross. It didn't really stop bleeding until late yesterday or early today. I just scraped and bruised my right foot a little bit.

We sat at the beach for a little bit, and some suuuuuper nice people who were stopped on the island in the midst of a cruise have him some bandages after they spotted his bleeding knee. Heh. We are so pathetic sometimes.

At first it looked like we'd broken the mirrors, since they kept swinging around and wouldn't hold still. But eventually the Foliage figured it out, so there were only a couple of scratches on the bike. In the end, they asked for $10 for painting repairs, which was fine by us! We'd only paid $17 for the day's rental and didn't have to put gas in it (the initial offer was $25 and we had to return it with a full tank).

During our ride around the perimeter of the island, we stopped at the southern tip, which is apparently a state park.

This bar was all Bob Marley-d (gag) out, but we wanted to stop for a minute to have a beer. Later, we stopped at a place called "Coconuts" on the East side of the island. We had to walk to the top of a hill, which was rough after our spill, but it was sooooo nice.

Laying in a hammock in the shade, on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean, while my boyfriend brings me a beer. Hello, perfection.

We made our way back to downtown, which was all overpriced stores, but had some stuff we hadn't seen at the other locations. Overall, I like Isla Mujeres better. Surprise, surprise.

After nearly missing the last ferry back to Cancun, we drove to the hotel, and had dinner at the restaurant on premises that we'd assumed to be too touristy to try before. We got all dressed up.

Then I made a stupid face, 'cause that's how I roll. Dinner was DERISH!!

Digging in to the tableside-prepared guacamole and awesome salsa. We could barely finish our meals. In fact, I could only handle a bite or two of mine and I was stuffed. Which is weird, because we hadn't really eaten all day, save for the couple of tacos in Playa. It was a fantastic meal to wrap up the trip, in a really cool space.

Even though we were running late to get to the rental car place (EuropCar if you're looking for a really reliable and non B.S.-y company in the area), we had to take a Corona commercial picture...

With such limited time and kind of a cloudy morning, that was the best we could do. After talking about it the WHOLE trip. Because, I mean, we were looking at this all week:

Just to recap. In case you couldn't remember the beginning of the post. You're welcome.

Flying over the Caribbean and then the Gulf of Mexico. I bought the Foliage a good bottle of whiskey (he said it was good, I really can't gauge these things) in the duty-free area of the Cancun airport for an early birthday present. As long as he doesn't drink it and breathe on me, I don't care. I loathe whiskey breath, but he's crazy about the stuff. I got myself fruity tequila. Mmmmmm tequilaaaaaa...

So that was it. My first real vacation in, like, 6 years and the first time out of the country for either of us since high school. It was amazing. And for the same price we would've paid for an all-inclusive week, we did it all ourselves and saw everythinggggg. If you're on Facebook, you'll be seeing the full set of pictures soon. If not, I hope this post was sufficient.

Now I have to unpack and pass out. This took a long time to write.

1 comment:

tina said...

sounds like a pretty sweet time. Even though I hear that you're sick now, which is a bummer. And I hope you feel better soon.