Playa del Carmen

Day 1

After three hours of sleep, and ten hours of travel time, we finally found ourselves at Hotel La Tortuga (Av. 10 at Calle 12). It’s beautiful, clean and comfortable. We checked into our room, and unpacked. Took a dip in the pool, then had fajitas for dinner in the hotel restaurant and went to bed.

Day 2

We woke up slowly after fourteen hours of perfectly restful sleep. Mitch took his laptop to the pool area where there is free wi-fi so he can do some work for his clients. I had a cup of leche con cafe and flipped through Juxtapoz magazine absent-mindedly. Once Mitch wrapped up with work we went to Playa Mamitas at the end of Calle 28, which is a private beach club that our hotel contracts with. As we approached the beach, Mitch couldn’t believe how blue the water was.

Yes, it really is that blue.

We had nachos and cerveza for breakfast. Can you tell we’re on vacation yet?

After breakfast, we took a dip in the ocean. The water was a perfect temperature to cool us off from the heat and humidity. Mitch was hit by a small wave and his sunglasses were knocked off. I couldn’t believe it, but he was able to sift around in the sand a bit and find them again!

We got to the beach club a little late, so there weren’t any umbrellas left. Also, we didn’t realize we had to bring our own towels. We stayed for a little while, but left because we didn’t want to be exposed to the sun for too long. We are fish belly white and will burn easily if we’re not careful.

We strolled down Quinta Avenida for a while. Mitch wanted a hat to keep the sun off his face and also because he looks good in them. He tried on 25 hats from 15 different stores before he finally found one he wanted. The original asking price was 850 pesos (about $80), which quickly dropped to 350 pesos. We told him we’d think about it. As we were walking away, he offered $10 USD as the price. When we agreed, he said never mind, he’ll think about it. So Mitch walked away empty handed. Que lastima!

We walked around and looked at more hats. Most of the hats we saw had Corona logos on them. Lame. We finally found another vendor with a hat that Mitch liked. The price $35 USD. We tried to haggle, but no luck initially. We started to walk away when the vendor shouted 200 pesos. We took it. I was in no mood to continue looking for hats. It was getting to be siesta time. Although I wasn’t tired, the town was starting to shut down in the afternoon heat. All I wanted was a cold beer and a cool breeze.

We stopped by the Jungla Caribe (Calle 8 at Quinta Avenida), the hotel I stayed at last time I was here. It was cute and rustic. I’m so glad I booked Hotel La Tortuga instead. The amenities are really nice.

After visiting La Jungla, we found ourselves heading to Blue Parrot at the foot of Calle 10. I remembered being at that bar from my last trip eleven years ago. It’s the only thing that is the same from that trip besides the hotel I stayed in. The still have giant swings as seats near the bar. It looks cool, but not all that comfortable. The novelty wears off in about five minutes, but it is funny to watch the drunks try to hop on and stay seated.

There was a cool ocean breeze flowing as we sat on the deck and watched parasailers float through the clear, blue sky. We ordered Strawberry Daquaris and Mitch got brain freeze from drinking his too fast. There was a small plane flying overhead with a banner announcing a fire show at 11:00 p.m later that night at the Blue Parrot. We made a mental note to go back to the club for the show. If we remembered, great. If not, c’est la vie.

We finished our drinks and went back to the hotel. It was still that stifling hot part of the day, so I put my suit back on and hopped in the pool while Mitch pointed and clicked and responded to ranters on Apple boards complaining about the price drop off the iPhone. (Quit your whining people.)

We started feeling peckish and decided to get cleaned up for dinner. We went to place that Jaime recommended called Babes Noodles and Bar (Av. 5 at Calle 28) that has 1950s pin-up girl/rockabilly decor and serves Thai food with a Swedish influence. We ordered the Yellow Curry with Mashed Potatoes and it arrived with a slice of sour dough French bread. The combination sounds crazy, but was amazingly flavorful and fresh. Mitch got a gigantic blueberry margarita. We also ordered dessert–a banana and some chocolate wrapped in a spring roll wrapper and deep fried, served with coconut ice cream. Fabulous! We’ll go back for another meal before the trip is over.

Again, another stroll down Quinta Avenida to head back to the hotel. Mitch got some more internet fix and I read Harry Potter. It was almost 10:30, and we remembered to go back down to the Blue Parrot for the fire show. When they said fire show, I didn’t really know what to expect. A bonfire with fireworks thrown in, perhaps? We showed up and the place was starting to get crowded with lots of tourists wearing their action sandals and dancing to the groovy beats of Donna Summer and the like and such as. We ordered a couple of beers and found a seat on the same deck we sat on earlier in the day. The fire show started, and it was amazing–Burning Man/Crucible style fire dancing. The performers were very talented. My favorite part was when they were using hula hoops del fuego.

After the show ended, we finished our beers and headed back to the hotel. On our way, we came across a hippy VW van that had been tricked out and turned into a fully loaded, wi-fi connected, electronica-booming taco bar (Calle 10 near Av. 12). We ordered a couple of tacos for 24 pesos ($2.15) and they were delicious, so we ordered two more. We’re going to go back there again tomorrow. They are open 24 hours. Mitch, if you wake in the middle of the night, and I’m not in the hotel room, you’ll know where to find me.

Day 3

Another morning and we’re waking up slowly. I took Harry Potter to breakfast of chilequiles while Mitch continued to doze. I woke him up after breakfast and we hightailed it down to Mamita’s early enough to secure lounge chairs under an umbrella. Today was slightly overcast and the waters slightly murky and turbulent. We hung out for a couple of hours. Mitch wanted to nap, but found it difficult without his nest of pillows. A small storm hit shore, so we gathered our things and went back to the hotel. By the time we got home, the sky cleared and it was warm and sunny once again. Mitch took a nap and I sunbathed and swam in the pool. Mitch was still sleeping when I came back to the room, and it looked inviting so I laid down too and slept. We woke up later in the evening and strolled down Quinta Avenida looking for Mexican food. You’d think that would be an easy task considering we are in Mexico; however, Italians have really settled here and most of the restaurants serve Italian food. We finally found a place several blocks down the avenida. I had enchiladas with mole sauce. I’d never had mole before. It was good, but rich. Alas, the food coma took over and we went home and went to sleep. Before we got to the room, we passed a bar where a guy was completely passed out with his head down on the table. His friends hired a very loud mariachi band. The borracho didn’t even stir.

Day 4

We’re both sunburned today. We decided to take refuge in the shade of the hotel. Swimming a little, napping a little more. I read 250 pages of Prisoner of Azkaban and finished the book today. I heart Harry Potter. After our very long siesta, we went to dinner at 100% Natural (Av. 5 at Calle 8), a sort of quasi-hippy vegetarian chain restaurant. The food was nothing special. What was special was the vendor across the street selling beautiful conch shells outfitted with a light, hung from the ceiling by a chain. I couldn’t stop staring at them and decided I would buy one after dinner. From afar, Mitch and I selected the light we wanted and planned how, when and where we were going to hang it when we got home. All through the meal, I kept watching the shell that I wanted to purchase as people stopped by, pointing, inquiring and buying the lights. I started to get nervous that the shell I wanted was going to get sold as the artist was conducting sales right and left. I grabbed my credit card and thrust
money at Mitch so he could pay la cuenta and ran across the street to claim my shell. It is so beautiful. I hope I can get it home in one piece.

Day 5

We purchased a Coba Ruin tour through AllTourNative. It was a full day adventure. We started off having tacos for breakfast at the Hippy Bus Taco Stand and waited in the parking lot of Banamex to get picked up for our tour at 7:00 a.m. Once we made the rounds picking up all the other touristas, we were on our way into the jungle to visit Coba Ruins, a Mayan city that was at its peak 600 – 800 A.D. Coba is not fully restored like Chichen Itza. There are hundreds of buildings that are still covered by the jungle. We were lead by a Mayan guide informing us of the Mayan culture and use of the buildings. We saw a small temple and a ball court and some giant stones with hieroglyphic carvings. After the small guided tour, we were left on our own to walk 2 kilometers to the main temple. It is the tallest in the Yucatan–higher than Chichen
Itza by several dozen steps. I was a bit dizzy from the heat and also slightly afraid of the incline so I didn’t climb to the top. Mitch on the other hand, tackled the steep staircase with gusto. He took several photos while sat in the shade in a pool of sweat.

Once he descended, we hiked back to the park entrance and boarded our tour bus for our next stop. We drove about 30 minutes and landed on the outskirts of a Mayan Village. The village receives supplements from Alltournative, so it didn’t seem quite as rife with poverty as some of the other villages we passed on our way there.

Our first order of business when we landed was to suit up in leg harnesses and helmets. We took a brief hike and were blessed by a Mayan shaman on our way to a staircase that led to the wire crossing.

We zip lined across a chasm and unhooked when we landed. On my way across, I screamed a lot. You know, that fear of heights thing took over.

Still donning our harnesses, we walked a few paces, got hooked up again and then repelled down into the chasm. I was scared, but repelling just fine, until about half way when the side of the cliff was gone and I had no recourse but to let my feet hang down below me instead of feeling slightly grounded with my feet on the side of the cliff. I gripped the rope tightly, which caused me to break completely. I was too scared to release my grip, because I thought I would let go too much and fall crashing into the ground.

There was a couple on the tour from Rochester, NY, Jodie and Tom. Jodie had repelled down before me, and she already new I was a bit nervous because I was talking about being scared before zip lined. So, during a few moments of increasing panic, I just hung there, dangling about 35 feet from the ground. I just couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do to get down, then I heard Jodie, with her soft, encouraging voice saying, “Wendy, you’re doing a great job! Come on down.” That brought me back to my senses and out of my panic state. I was able to release my grip and touch my feet gently back on solid ground. Whew!

Of course, Mitch was totally unfazed.

We walked by a small pond filled with turtles lounging around, snacking on green leaves. They were really cute. We hiked back up to the top of the chasm for our next adventure.

Once we removed our gear, we went for another hike to the edge of a lake. We hopped in kayaks and paddled across. Mitch and I are really good in a kayak together. Little did we know there were crocodiles hiding in that lake. A couple we met at the hotel had done the same tour a day earlier and they actually saw the crocs. Apparently they are fed regularly and frequently so they don’t eat the tourists. Good to know.

We got out of the boats and went on another mini hike up into the jungle. We were pretty hot from the kayaking and hike.

We landed in a clearing where there was a giant Gatorade dispenser filled with cool water. We took long, refreshing drinks and caught our breath. Once we were settled, another Mayan shaman conducted a longer ceremony blessing us with prayer and incense, preparing us for our next adventure.

Afterwards, we climbed down a steep and slippery staircase into a dimly lit cave. It was so pretty, filled with stalactites. After descending stairs and ladders, we landed on a small pier that reached over the edge of a beautiful cenote. The water was so fresh and pure. Even in the dark, you could see several feet down into the water. We were so hot, we stripped off our
footwear and jumped right in.

Robin, one of the other tourists in our group, was from Belgium. She wanted to get in the water to cool down, but was afraid and doesn’t know how to swim. She told us that when she was a little girl, she fell through some ice and started to sink. Her brother jumped in and pulled her up by her hair and saved her life, but the trauma was still very fresh in her mind. Yeah, that would scare me, too. Mitch, being the nicest guy in the world, was in the water and coaxing her to jump in–he’d be there to catch her. As soon as she landed in the water, he swam up to her, grabbed her and pulled her a rock where she could stand and feel safe. Once he grabbed her, her face really lit up. It was great to see Robin battle her fear and enjoy being in the water.

The next tour group was descending the stairs, and that was our cue to get our shoes on and head back above ground. Another hike led us to a covered patio with the intoxicating aroma of Mayan cuisine. After all that activity, we were all famished. The once lively and constantly chattering group fell silent and focused on our meal. When we were done, we tossed chicken bones to the scrappy kittens underfoot and laughed while they growled at each other and gnawed on the bones. It was particularly entertaining for Mitch and me, because that’s how Murky used to eat when we first got her as a kitten.

With our bellies full, we headed back to town. But our adventure wasn’t quite over yet. We made a final stop at Alltournative headquarters to purchase souvenir photographs and indulge in a shot of tequila. Jodie had never done a shot before, so I showed her how to lick the salt off of her hand, shoot and then suck the lime. She loved it!

The most awesome part about going on the Alltournative tour is that they planned for everything. We were there to enjoy the tour and the activities. Instead of being loaded down with extra junk and cameras and wondering how to get from her to there, they had photographers and a guide following us the entire time. There is a ton of candid footage of everyone having fun. We didn’t once stop enjoying ourselves in an attempt to capture the moment. Someone was there doing that for us.

On our way back to town, we passed a restaurant called LOL-Che. Seriously. All I could think of was this:

Because we were not allowed to wear sunblock–it would contaminate the cenote–we’re a little sunburnt from the day’s activities. We decided to take refuge in the hotel tomorrow.

We got back to the hotel, took a short nap, then woke for dinner. We went to Bruno’s on Av 5 at Calle 10. Mitch and I were a little taken aback by our whale-like statures as forever documented in photographs from our Mayan adventure (our penance for making fun of all the fat americans over the last several days), so we shared a salad and a plate of Straccetti con langustino–triangle-shapped, spinach flavored pasta with lobster and asparagus for dinner. It was delicious. After a brief stroll to walk off dinner, we called it a night.

Day 6

I’m glad we decided the night before to stay at the hotel. We woke to a lovely tropical storm, complete with lightening, thunder and pouring rain.

After a breakfast of huevos revueltos and leche cafe (scrambled eggs and a cafe latte), we lounged on the patio for a while before Mitch returned to our room for a nap. I stayed on the patio and played on the computer for awhile. I enjoyed a nice, refreshing cerveza before hopping into the pool.

Tomorrow is our last full day in lovely, Playa del Carmen. When Mitch wakes from his nap, we’ll go to dinner and decide what we’re going to do tomorrow. I can’t believe our week is almost over. Fortunately, Mitch and I are having a great time and we plan to come back next year. There is so much to see and do (or not do) here.

Tonight, we went to Yaxche for Mayan cuisine. We sat under the awning outside. As soon as we were handed menus, another storm rolled in. The street filled with water so quickly, and everyone was running for cover. There is nothing better than sitting outside under a covering, during a storm when the evening temperature is slightly warm.

Mitch ordered a wonderful black bean soup with chaya, potatoes and carrots. It was divine. I had roasted corn on the cob, which was pretty good. For entree, Mitch had stuffed turkey in mole sauce. The mole sauce he had was much better than what I had a few nights ago. It was spicier and not as thick or rich tasting. I had grilled prawns in lemon and garlic. Delish! It was the best dinner we had so far. As we are carrying full-term food babies, we decided to skip on dessert, although I wanted it really, really, really, really bad. Do you understand how bad I wanted it? REALLY BAD. The dessert I wanted to order was some sort of fried dough with with chocolate and cream. Mitch promised we can go back tomorrow for lunch and get dessert.

The rain stopped and we headed home for one more dip in the pool. However, we were denied because, apparently, I don’t understand how the 24 hour clock works. I thought 20:00 was 10:00 p.m. It was 9:30, and as Mitch pointed out, 20:00 means 8:00 p.m., not 10:00 p.m. Duh.

Oh well, the air-conditioning was on full force in our room and cooled us down quickly. We turned on the tele (for the first time since we got here) and watch one of the most awesome romantic comedies, ever. Moonstruck. I heart Cher and Nicolas Cage.

Oh, and the commercials in Mexico? Much racier than in the States. They are downright dirty. They were advertising a celebrity gossip show, and actually showed Brittany Spears’ naked coochie. In a commercial! Ay, Dios Mio!

We should have turned off the television after the Brittany fiasco, but we were too slow. Celebrity Fat Camp started on VH1 and we were sucked in immediately–especially since our realization that we are not skinny people. We also needed to find out who that Jani guy was. Turns out he’s the Cherry Pie singer from Warrant. Go figure. I think he wouldn’t be so fat if he stopped taking female hormones in preparation for his sex change operation. Anyway, after the weigh-ins and evaluations and what not, Mitch and I decided that I need to follow Victoria Jackson’s plan and Mitch needs to mirror Jani Cherry Pie. But of course, this will all begin after vacation. I need to eat some deep fried dough with chocolate tomorrow.

Day 7

We woke up to a glorious morning and decided to go to the beach for our final day. Instead of hoofing it all the way down to Mamitas for a free beach experience, we went to the foot of Calle 10 and were willing pay the 100 peso rental fee for an umbrella and two chairs at a different beach club.

This morning we decided to eschew breakfast as our food babies are still hanging over our belts. As we turned the corner, the dratted Hippy Van Taco Stand came in to view. Before we even realized what happened, we had a delicious plate of four tacos sitting in front of us. It was like we were hypnotized or something.

The sky was getting cloudy as we made our way down to the beach. We got settled and ordered a bucket of cerveza. Before we finished our first beer, the rain started coming down in sheets. We ran for cover at the bar. Fortunately the storm only lasted for 20 minutes, mas o menos and we made our way back to the lounge chairs.

We noticed that the bar had a couple of tamed parrots in cages. Their wings had been clipped, so their doors were open allowing them to climb in and out of their cages as they pleased. They bigger parrot fell in love with Mitch and jumped on his shoulder. The parrot cooed and groomed and even kissed him. Mitch was in animal love heaven!

We hung out on the beach for a few hours, then came back to the hotel to make arrangements for our trip back to the airport tomorrow and to have some lunch. Lunch wasn’t particularly special. Well, wait. Let me rephrase that. The meal it self was nothing special–just a club sandwich for Mitch and a salad for me. The event after lunch was just spectacular. As we were sipping our afternoon coffee, I received a phone call from my manager informing me that I received the promotion I had been working hard for these last two years. Mitch knew from the conversation that I got Principal, and he jumped out of his chair and ran around the hotel telling the staff while I was still on the phone. I am just so absolutely thrilled to death. Vacation was definitely rejunvinating, but with this promotion, I will be able to return to work with even more vim and vigor than I thought I could possibly muster.

The hotel staff was wonderful. They poured us a shot of their finest sipping tequila so we could celebrate!

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