**So I had planned to post this last year, but well, things got a bit hectic and I never got around to it. In some ways I am glad that I didn’t, especially with all the current uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the stay-at-home orders (worldwide). This trip wouldn’t even be remotely possible now.
This particular adventure, while it involves Cancun (and Vicky’s 60th birthday), is more so a celebration of friendship. Not everyone was able to stay for the week, but the fact they showed up…even if it was for a day or two, says a lot.
It’s amazing how friendships, forged in college, (we all swam and played water polo together at UCSD) can stand the test of time (and often politics).
This year however, we (and everyone else for that matter) aren’t going anywhere, so like many, the only way we can get together is via ZOOM.
And with Vicky’s birthday on the horizon…again, I thought it fitting for us to revisit yesteryear.
Happy Birthday Vicky!
From bright white snow to bright white beaches.
This week was a collegiate reunion and week long landmark birthday celebration for my swim and water polo teammate, Vicky. Seeing as she is the first of our teammates to “age up”, she gets to pick the celebratory destination. This specific decade called for a rally to Cancun Mexico. (the last decade involved a memorable trip to Las Vegas. BTW, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…mostly). This excursion, as with most, my friend Sandy (aka. Pole Dancer) and I were travel buddies. We tried something new, and frankly cheaper to get to our destination. We found that the cost of flights to Mexico are significantly reduced if you fly out of Tijuana (TJ). Seeing as the drive time to TJ verses LAX, is virtually the same for the both of us, we decided to be adventurous, and use the CBX land bridge from the US side that deposits you directly into the Tijuana airport…for a cost of $30/ea for a round trip when you purchase the tickets online. Once you get your ticket via email, it directs you to Mexico’s immigration site, where you essentially complete your Visa request, and pay your entry/stay fees for trips lasting over seven days. This makes going through customs a breeze, unless of course you forget to print out the Visa and only bring your receipt that you paid your Visa fees…and your Spanish is no bueno. I can read it, and if you talk slow enough I can understand, but my ability to to respond verbally (in Spanish) is hampered by the fact that it goes through a German language filter before I can pull up the Spanish response. When I get stuck, my “go-to” foreign language ist Deutsch. This makes for odd (pathetic Americano) looks, and awkward conversations. For this adventure, we chose Volaris Airlines. Each email update, to include flight changes was, of course en Espanol. Applying for the Visa, and paying my fees (to include the “agreement” to pay via my credit card) was all in Spanish as well. I’m sure there was something I could have clicked to have the page switch to English, but then that would have been entirely too easy. For a Thursday, I was amazed at how packed each leg of our flight was, and how uncomfortably compressed the padding of our seats were, considering how much “padding” I provide myself.
As we flew over Mexico, I was amazed at the ruggedness of the terrain, jagged hills, vast mesas and deep canyons cut by narrow twisting and turning rivers. After a two hour layover in Guadalajara, we were on our way to Cancun.
Arid mesas and sharp canyons melt into lush, “flat” terrain that is choked with dense “jungle” vegetation. Evidence of past parcels of property having been cleared for use via controlled burns can be seen from my window as linear “boxes” in various stages of reclamation by the voracious forest, having been left untended.
When we arrive in Cancun, the air is warm and thick with moisture. As we had already gone through customs in Tijuana, we breezed down the path of “domestic flights” and were on the curb and to our pre-arranged shuttle driver who would take us to the Westin Marriott where our friends Vicky and Eileen have timeshares.
Once we checked into our room, it was not difficult to find our friends who had arrived before us, as we had a perfect view of them at the poolside bar. Let the festivities begin!
With all of us having had an earlier than usual morning, festivities would have to be postponed to the morning, a sad sign that we ARE getting older (or is it wiser?), but not without sharing a drink, a bite and a quick game of “catch up”.
Morning brought coffee, a brief shower…of rain, swim suits and a poolside excursion. After a spirited rendition of musical lounge chairs (in search of dry cushioning) we settled into our day of “leisure”.
Noon, required participation in Westin’s water aerobics class with our ambassador of FUN, Alejandro. This was followed by an aborted effort to win a bottle of tequila for music trivia, of which we couldn’t even cheat our way (via Google) to a point.
I did however prevail at BINGO in the final round, aptly named, “blackout” (where the prize was a 700ml bottle of 1800 Reposado tequila), as it required no skill, and good ole fashion luck!
In honor of Vicky’s “major” birthday (in which this trip/gathering was all about), the evening continued with dinner at a remarkable restaurant, La Destileria.
It’s famous for its overwhelming selection of tequila and amazing food.
And as luck would have it, we were treated to unexpected (it’s actually their “off-season”) entertainment in the form of pounding bongos, the entire restaurant singing “Sweet Caroline” (because no one can resist), and fireworks from a barge off-shore, to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “New York”. And of course, Sandy singing “La Bomba” with the mariachis.
The following day, as we have an “extended stay” with complete kitchens, and an outdoor BBQ access, we decided to walk to the super Mercado for the week’s vittles, so we could save our pesos for touristy excursions and Cabana boy tips.
Wanting to get our day going, and the fact that coffee filtered through a paper towel is just plain awful, we set off fairly early for the market, only to discover, after our cart was filled with libations, that one can not purchase alcohol (outside the resorts) before 11 am. This is not to say that we were out of adult beverages, it’s just that we were trying to be efficient…and planning ahead for the week. Slightly dejected we completed our purchase, sans alcohol, and walked back to the Westin.
Considering ourselves smarter than the average bear, and not wanting to lug our supplies in the humidity, for a paltry $2, we had our groceries delivered to our suite…eventually. A supposed delivery time of 30 minutes turned into 2.5 hours. Apparently the conversion formula for delivery time is the inverse to that of pesos to the US dollar (divide by 10, multiply by 2). I did the math and it was spot on (divide by 2, multiply by 10). Once our groceries arrived, it was time to meet up with rest of our clan, who were beginning to wonder ‘what the hell happened’ to us, which (for Sandy and I) in itself is not unusual. The remainder of the afternoon was spent between a round-robin of chatter, beverage, swim (actually float) as warm and increasingly blustery (sub hurricane force) winds masked what developed into a distinctly stripped sunburn. The afternoon was capped with a ‘mint challenge’ to see how much (if any) mint we could finagle from the bar(s) for our in-room mojitos, as mint was not available at the Super Mercado. Success required us to “rescue swim” our precious cargo of devilishly acquired mint across the pool. Finally! A much “poo-pooed”, but required, skill from our WSI (Water Safety Instructor) pool lifeguard days of our youth, paid off. Who knew that mint would be the “pay-off”. The day’s vigorous imbibing required a change of dinner plans, to a more “local” setting that did not require negotiating moving vehicles and/or curbs. When our check arrived, Sandy discovered that if you order beers that are supposed to be “on-tap”, and said kegs are empty, its reluctant substitution(s) are “on the house”, which was a pleasant surprise to an already epic day.
The following morning found us poolside again, even though there’s a perfectly warm Gulf of Mexico and white sandy beaches , complete with equally comfortable lounge chairs upon which to recline.
While we have beaches at home, we don’t have recliners poolside with food and beverage service, so we skipped the beach and mainly parked poolside and chatted.
Toward the end of the afternoon, we did manage to explore a Mayan temple just off the hotel grounds.
Truth be told, for at least one day, in our abject and frankly blissful laziness, we did exit our supremely comfortable lounge chairs for a memorable excursion to the Isla de Mujeres.
This required a scary cab ride to the ferry that takes one to the island just off our loungy location. Isla de Mujeres is similar to that of Catalina Island at home, in that no motorized vehicles are allowed. In order to circumnavigate the island we rented well worn golf carts reminiscent of our collective childhood visits to Disneyland’s “Auto-topia”, where we got to drive backfiring putt-putt cars with the pedal to the metal…in a circle.
With the exception of us, the “car” and our “circle” being bigger, it WAS just like that.
We circumnavigated the island rather efficiently, with a stop at Punta Sur (a Mayan archeological site on the southern most portion of the island).
Here, after paying an entrance fee (and for toilet paper) we wandered about, gazing at sculptures placed throughout the bluff top, numerous photogenic reptiles and the cyan blue sea in search of sea turtles.
After a quick beverage (to “hydrate”), we continued our exploration. While we did not have time for any real touristy (and expensive) activities, we did happen upon a unique lunch spot run by expats.
In addition to delicious food, they make amazing one-of-a-kind pieces of art that I would have loved to have purchased. Problem being, I am trying to downsize as it is, and while I appreciate their skill and artistry, I just couldn’t justify the purchase(s).
Once lunch as over, our two putt-putts parted ways. Seeing as Vicky is the oldest of our “crew”, she needed to head back toward the ferry, so she could take a nap on the beach. (At least that’s how I remember it…lol) Sandy, Eileen and I, decided we needed to snorkel and look for colorful fish and turtles.
We found a nice cove, near our lunch stop, to pull off the pot-hole riddled road and try our luck.
The sand was grainy and coarse beneath our feet, with pourus coral reefs that stretched from the high tide line into the infinite sea. Wearing our water shoes, we made our way into the tepid water, switched out to swim fins, and donned our masks to see what we could see…in the sea. We were treated to brightly colored tropical fish through crystal clear water. Cognizant of the obvious current than ran not far from shore, and the fact that we also had a ferry to catch (and our “go-carts” to return), we did not venture out too far, or too long. Refreshed, we clamored back into our adult sized putt-putt car, and crossed our fingers that it would start. I conveniently left my mask/snorkel and fins at the beach, and with no spare time to return to get them, there they stayed.
After several “passes”, after missing proper turns down one-way streets, we returned our ride and met up with Vicky and Co just in time for the 5pm ferry.
Fairly exhausted and slightly burnt, after a quick bite to eat, it was an “early” evening.
The following day we completed our water aerobics with Alejandro and those of us that still remained, spent most of the rest of the day poolside and/or in the hotel spa…because we could…and well, they let us.
With another epic decade complete, it was time to head home. Many thanks to our “elder”- Vicky for her rally cry, “It’s my 60th birthday. I’m going to spend it in Cancun. You are welcome to join me.” And so, just like her 50th (in Vegas), we did. I hope we are all around for her 70th. I hear France is nice in May…and, they make pretty good wine.
With any luck we’ll be off lock-down by then!