One could say I’m documenting this vacation as much for myself as for you, the reader. There are just so many times I can repeat how marvelous this trip was among my circle of family and friends before they start dodging me. By the end of this final account, you may have grown tired of hearing about my vacation, too, but I’m hoping you’ll bear with me until the last slide is shown. (Remember those old days when someone invited you over to see the slides of their vacation? How boring, right?)
Saturday was a late night for us at the end of a long day. The dinner of rock lobster was beyond what I can express to you in words, after which, I was sated and ready for a good night’s sleep. David, however, decided to ask Roberto to take him out on the town. I opted for the quiet of the room and a date with the pillow in anticipation of an early-morning visit to the beach in the company of a good book.
Early Sunday morning as I stretched leisurely on the chaise lounge reading, a staff member approached asking if he could get me anything. “How about some breakfast, madam?” Breakfast sounded pretty good, so I ordered up some bacon and eggs, toast and jam, and fruit. And in gourmet fashion, he soon brought me eggs scrambled with bits of bacon, thick toast slathered in butter, three choices of jam, a potato patty that tasted better than any American hashbrown, plus sliced papaya and yogurt. Oh my gosh! Such a divine breakfast on the beach just might have brought me as close to breakfast Nirvana as I will ever be.
Between bouts of reading and hydrating, I walked in the surf collecting sea shells, which is one of my favorite things to do on the beach. It’s as though the sea continuously gives up little gems, washing them ashore with every wave, tumbling them around, reshaping and smoothing them, making them ready for the finder. I gathered a nice collection of tiny shells, rocks, coral, and bone, like nothing I’ve ever gathered on the Gulf shore. With so much coral and rock along this coastline, one could expect to find treasures unique to the Caribbean Sea. Right?
Sunday early evening found us on a taxi ride to downtown Playa del Carmen to meet up with some young ex-patriots that David met in San Destin, FL, this past spring. We had a nice visit with them and learned that Playa appears to be a very safe place to live. I was a little surprised when, at sundown, their young son took off on his bicycle for the one-mile ride home through the city. Noting my surprise, his mother reassured me that he rides his bike farther than that to school in the city every day, and he is always safe. They’ve lived there about six years now and have never felt unsafe.
Near sundown, we parted ways with them and headed to a bank ATM, which is the most secure and recommended way to withdraw money. After getting our pesos, we hit La Quinta, or Fifth Avenue, where shopping opportunities abound; selling everything from high-end couture to low-end souvenirs. We haggled our way from bamboo hats for our fishing trip next day to Mexican coffee, candies, mescal, and hot sauces. We were told that the merchants hike up the prices, because haggling is expected and they advised us to never ever pay the list price–no matter what!
Just as David and I finished our shopping, I glanced up to see that the lunar eclipse was about to begin. and pointed it out to him. We quickly found a taxi that would whisk us the ten miles north to our hotel. Once we arrived, David hurriedly found Roberto and asked him if we might have dinner on the beach so that we could watch the eclipse. “Eclipse?” asked Roberto, before turning to rush back inside. He returned post haste with most of the staff right behind him, chattering in Spanish about the eclipse lunar. We stood together staring into the night sky as the first hint of darkness slipped over the lower left curve of the pale orange globe. “Si, si, We can set up your table right away!” And just like that we enjoyed our last dinner with Roberto outdoors, under the fading light of the blood moon.
After having been waited on hand and foot by Roberto since our arrival Friday afternoon, we were sad to learn that he would be off for the next two days. Not ready to part company with his new friend, David invited Roberto to go fishing with us. I’m not sure if Roberto often socializes with the guests outside of work, but he readily accepted the invitation. David then made a quick phone call to the charter captain asking if we might bring one more person, and it was a go. We agreed on a plan to pick up Roberto early the next morning.
Monday morning found us in a taxi stopping to pick up Roberto on our way south to Puerto Aventuras, a huge swanky resort filled with condos, bars, restaurants, golf courses, pools, and much more. Capt. Eddy Penta, our charter guide for the day, met us there, ready to take off. We hopped on board and idled through azure blue water between rows of ritzy-looking condos and apartments. I’m not sure if people live there full-time or just go there for vacation, but man oh man, what a magnificent place!
In short time, we headed East into the oncoming rolling waves, with David and Roberto feeling a little queasy. Fearing that I might become seasick, I had packed a little supply of Dramamine and promptly offered them each a dose, which they readily accepted. I went ahead and took one, too, although I’m very proud to say I was not the least bit queasy. With the brisk breezes and the magnificent sky and water competing so beautifully for my attention, I just didn’t have time or space to think about feeling seasick.
The gorgeous shades of blue and blue-green of the Caribbean were stunning. Once in the deep water, the deckhand set about baiting the hooks with ballyhoo fish on four different rods, setting them each in a holder along the gunnel. Soon, the depth finder on the console indicated a water depth of 800 feet, and with the baited lines streaming along behind the boat, “fishing” or trolling for mahi-mahi began full force. Having never been deep-sea fishing before, this was a new experience for me.
After about an hour with no luck in the deep water, the deckhand switched tactics, while Capt. Eddy navigated closer to the bank in water about 60 feet deep to try for anything else we might catch. Within half an hour we heard, “Fish on!”, and David took the first turn at reeling in a big fish. It was a nice barracuda. “I got my wish!”, he shouted. He had repeatedly stated since he booked the trip that if he just caught a big barracuda, he would be happy. Yep, he was happy!
Another hour of trolling produced another fish, and it was my turn to haul it in. The deckhand handed me the fishing rod, “Here! Hold this while I buckle the belt on you!” I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the fish didn’t put up much of a fight, and I figured out that I was reeling in against the drag created by the forward motion of the boat. I didn’t ask the captain or the deckhand, but my guess is that they must continue the forward motion in order to keep the fish hooked. Four hours flew by, and we did not manage to hook another fish. We’re sorry that Roberto didn’t get to land a fish, and I wish now that I had let Roberto take my turn so that he could have had that experience. Well, you know what they say about hindsight.
Before we knew it, we were back at the marina of Puerto Aventuras, where Capt. Eddy made quick work of filleting the bigger of the two fish. Although different from the way we fillet a big red fish, his method was much less wasteful, leaving very little meat on the bones. He then packed the two huge fillets in a plastic bag and gestured for us to follow him three blocks to a little cafe`. Once there, he asked us how we wanted the fish prepared and then related our desires to the chef in Spanish and sat down to chat with us a while before departing.
David, Roberto, and I enjoyed a cold drink, fresh tortilla chips and two salsas and rehashed the fishing trip while the chef prepared our fish. Before long, the waiter brought out the first dish–a beautiful ceviche, and it was the best ceviche I have ever tasted. Fresh off the fish, it doesn’t get much better than that. Then they brought out the fried fillets and fillets grilled with garlic and butter, fresh guacamole, salad, and french fries. It was all delicious, and what a culinary experience!
Roberto located a taxi to take us back to Hotel LeReve`, and he hopped out somewhere along the highway on the way back to our hotel. David and I returned to the room tired, full, and satisfied. David showered and went for a massage on the beach while I opted to finish my book on what had become my favorite beach chair. The wait staff brought me bottled water and a refreshing drink. Soon, David joined me, and we both ended up napping on our beach chairs the rest of the afternoon while the balmy breezes blew over us.
We sorely missed Roberto, his wit and quick smile at dinner Monday night, even though Carlos did a great job of waiting on us. To be honest, though, I don’t readily remember what we ordered, because we were both very downcast that it was our last night on this dream vacation. What I do remember, though, is the coffee Carlos made for us after dinner. He called it Mayan Coffee and prepared it with great flare using a local honey liqueur and a flamboyant process utilizing fire. With the house lights extinguished, everyone in the restaurant paused what they were doing to watch the display. He completed the preparation with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and served us the most exquisite dessert coffee I’ve ever tasted. Carlos said we must return and try his Mexican coffee next time. You know what? We just might do that.
Tuesday morning found us slowly and reluctantly packing up before walking down the beach to visit the little vendor lady to haggle over last-minute souvenirs. Along the way, we came across a group of two women and a young girl selling handmade woven purses, necklaces, and bracelets. From the first day we arrived I had watched them walk the beach every day, hawking their wares. I stopped the lady and asked the price of a necklace that had caught my eye. She told me $15 in English. Since I only had pesos, I asked her how much in pesos. She answered me in Spanish, but I didn’t understand, so she cleared the sand with her foot, and with her big toe, she wrote 150 in the sand. The haggling rule loomed large in the back of my mind, but before the rule could make its way to the forefront, I gladly handed over the 150 pesos without a hint of haggle and was happy to do so.
When we reached the vendor woman down the beach, she was just putting out her wares, so we walked farther down the beach than we had ventured before while waiting for her to open shop. When we returned to her palapa, we only had a couple hundred pesos left in our pockets. We asked her the price of the ceramic item David wanted, a Sin Cara mask for Miah, and a last-minute souvenir for me. We haggled with her and ended up getting all three items with what pesos we had left, which ended up being half of her asking price. Good deal! And yes, I purchased this gaudy ceramic iguana to hang somewhere in my screened room to remind me of the beautiful colors and colorful people of the Caribbean.
That, my friends, is pretty much the short version of a five-day dream trip to the outskirts of Playa del Carmen and points south to Tulum, Mexico. This might be way too personal, but I don’t ever sleep well at hotels. However, such was not true in this case. I slept better then I ever sleep at home and woke up refreshed each morning. I felt better and had more energy while there, too. I wonder if the balmy Caribbean breezes are therapeutic? In the old days, physicians sent their patients to the Gulf shores to breathe salt air and rebuild a weak constitution. Maybe that’s what happened to me?
Regardless of what medicinal magic I experienced, we avoided the tourist traps, met some nice locals, experienced near-royal treatment, and lived to tell about it. I’m still reliving this trip each day since my return and drawing from it the relaxed feeling of the warm Caribbean breeze, the rhythmic swishing of the waves, the jungle mist, and the unique tastes.
They say that too much of a good thing isn’t always good, but BW is thinking that a return to Playa del Carmen might just be what the doctor orders next year.
Back home and ready for adventure,