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Old 02-24-2005   #1 (permalink)
fnarf999
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Where I Went On Holiday (Trip Report)

This is going to be long and boring. Don't say I didn't warn you. The theme is probably "how can so many things go wrong and still be perfect?"

Day -2
=====
I'm sitting in front of playa.info trying to find some firm data on BOTB, if you know what I mean, when I sneeze. A minute later, I sneeze again. And then four in a row. You know how when you turn Furby upside down he says "worrrrried...."? That's me. I will NOT get effing sick the day before my trip, I will NOT.

Day -1
=====
But of course, I do. Full-blown cold, still getting worse by the second. I absolutely hate cold medicine of all kinds, I hate the stoned feeling more than the symptoms that they mostly don't take care of. But this is important; I'm going to be on an airplane. Damn it! Damn it! Plenty of fluids, echinacea, sacrifice a chicken in the back yard, I've tried everything, and now there's nothing to it but hard drugs. Rush to drugstore and stock up.

Day 1 (there's a zero in Maya numbers but not here)
====
Our flight is at 6:00 am, so here I am loading my bag into a cab at 3:30 AM, freezing in my vacation clothes. The bags have been obsessively packed and repacked approximately 400 times as several kinds of pointless anxiety sets in: should we bring the blender? Do they have towels in Mexico? Honey, I don't think the kitchen sink is going to fit in here, can it go in your carry-on? Nancy (my lovely and very patient wife) is having her own internal travel panic, which unlike mine is a deeply internal one; she appears to be in a standing coma.

One advantage of early morning travel for me is that I'm used to moving around in an unconscious state. Plus there's the Tylenol Cold pumping through my veins -- I think I took both "AM" and "PM" just in case. I have no recollection of arriving at Sea-Tac or getting on the plane.

I hope this doesn't offend anyone here, but it seems like people from remote areas have less of a conception of how to behave in crowded circumstances. The Alaskan woman sitting next to me appears to be full-on insane. She doesn't want to sit in the middle seat, so she stakes out an aisle seat up ahead that's not hers and glares bitterly as we load at anyone who thinks they have a ticket for it. She's also offering a loud running commentary of all the things she doesn't like about flying to her poor husband six rows back. She shifts several times before slinking back to her proper seat, where she puts her feet in my foot-cubbie and sprawls over my armrest. I'm so wired by this time I just sit there staring straight ahead.

I gather from the ticket stub that we stopped in LA, but all I can remember is having to get up to pee about eight times. I'm bad that way, but this was ridiculous. I blame the Tylenol, or maybe it was the Sudafed I topped it off with. The medicine wasn't really working all that well; if you were on that flight and got sick, I apologize. I what was rapidly becoming the world's most repulsive bandana wrapped around my exploding face most of the time, at least, so the by-spray was at a minimum.

Next: Cancun
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Old 02-24-2005   #2 (permalink)
Cerveza_dude
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Fnarff999,

Very entertaining. Can't wait for your next installment. Isn't flying great?
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Old 02-24-2005   #3 (permalink)
aņejo
 
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Steve - Cant wait to hear the rest !!!!!!!

It can only get better right ?????
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Old 02-24-2005   #4 (permalink)
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I love the start of the report...even if you didn't! Keep it comin'
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Old 02-24-2005   #5 (permalink)
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Part II: Cancun

Still Day 1
========

When we arrived in Cancun, the sun was starting to set. The only thing I notice as we come across the Yucatan is how thick the jungle looks and how insubstantial the bits that have been hacked out of it appear. It looks like if they closed Cancun Airport for a week, they'd never find it again. I'm starting to understand how the Maya cities could disappear for so long.

At the airport, we stand blurred by fatigue and confusion for a while until we realize that the ten thousand people standing in front of us are actually in a line. Our line. We have no idea where it goes, but it is clear that we need to get in it. If we had dashed straight for it off the plane without a second's hesitation, and gotten to the end of it just five minutes faster, we would have saved ourselves about an hour, as we would have got in ahead of the, oh jeez, now it's THIRTY thousand Italians. But we didn't.

So we slowly shuffle across the floor, eventually figuring out that we were headed towards those stairs over there. "Ah", I said, it's just down those stairs over there". Nancy was still mysteriously silent; there are times when my incredibly clever yet thoughtful running commentary wears a little thin, I'm told. At least she wasn't punching my arm. Yet.

When we reach the stairs, we realize that we still have fourteen hairpin turns left -- I counted -- before, well, I couldn't see what happened after that. Turns out that's where the giant roomful free-for-all was, where everyone tried to shove their way into one of the Immigration lines. So we shuffled some more. Shuffle, shuffle. Hey, I'm still a little high from the pills. The bandana was a serious bio-hazard by this time, though; if Nancy had had a big plastic bag with her she would have placed that over my head.

But then, the crowds parted like magic and we were standing there pretending we could understand what the nice man was telling us, which turns out to be "you're done here, please go over there now", which we did, got our bags, pushed the button, which was set to "everybody gets green", thankfully, as there were still forty thousand people there, and a mere two hours after we disembarked our plane, we were free to go.

I won't complain about Cancun because I've returned from international flights to far more unpleasant situations, like JFK in New York, where you are herded for miles down low-ceilinged, narrow slaughter chutes and end up in a room where you can see the people waiting for you on the other side of the glass but don't get to touch them for four more hours; or Sea-Tac, where you have to reclaim your bags THREE TIMES and go back through security twice -- coming IN. Urgh. In contrast, when we went to Copenhagen last year, we had a 100-yard walk through soothingly lit wood -paneled terminal, past immigration, into baggage claim where our bags were already waiting (after 15 minutes!), and were seated on a train into the city center 20 minutes after touchdown. This isn't that, but it's OK.

Immediately after clearing Customs, we are surrounded by literally dozens of uniformed people telling us to go to Xcaret. Right this minute. They all have "maps" of the area that show the Cancun airport, the highway, Xcaret and Xel-Ha, and nothing else. They appear to work for the government. I haven't been bum-rushed like this since I last landed in Newark, where all the nice gentlemen want to "help" you find a cab -- a useful service seeing as how all the cabs are fifteen feet away, lined up. We manage to extricate ourselves from the eager beavers and make our way past the five hundred sign-wavers outside to the one fellow holding up "Steve Dean" which is my first and middle names only, but it's the right name and hotel, so I figure we're good. It turns out his name is not Lamore; that's the van company. He's Miguel, and as soon as he shakes his hand he disappears again, to get the actual vehicle (which oddly enough is not parked here on the walkway).

The van arrives, much animated conversation ensues, and we head off to Hotel La Tortuga in Playa Del Carmen. It's fully dark by now, of course, so all we see of the mega-resorts along the coast is their giant illuminated signs -- when we can tear our eyes away from the dodge-em ballet taking place on the highway, that is. Um, we don't drive like this in Seattle. We're passive-agressive; these folks are just flat out regular agressive, and -- JESUS CHRIST THAT HUGE TRUCK IS COMING RIGHT --- ah. I think I'll close my eyes now.

Being dark, and being really tired, and still a little pill-crazed, I don't recollect much of our arrival except lights and colors and sounds. We manage to check in, and Henry, or HEN-ry! as he calls himself, takes us up to our room. Mexico is finally starting to happen here; the Hotel La Tortuga is absolutely beautiful, all dramatically-lit white adobe walls with beautiful plants cascading over everything, and tiles.

I'm pretty sure we ate dinner, but I never got to my cigar; I was out like a light before I got it lit.

Next: Playa
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Old 02-24-2005   #6 (permalink)
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Brief Interlude: Sorry, folks, I got to do some work here -- my employer is SO UNREASONABLE about that -- so part three may have to wait a while. Maybe lunch.
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Old 02-24-2005   #7 (permalink)
way into it
 
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fun!

I love your writing style! Very entertaining and I can't wait to read more!
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Old 02-24-2005   #8 (permalink)
toe in water
 
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"They all have "maps" of the area that show the Cancun airport, the highway, Xcaret and Xel-Ha, and nothing else. They appear to work for the government."

I love it!!!! I'm so enjoying your witty writing style....hurry more!!!
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Old 02-24-2005   #9 (permalink)
Hac Ptui
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The Beluga from Alaska's hubbie ain't no fool sitting six rows back, he already knows her routine.
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Old 02-24-2005   #10 (permalink)
fnarf999
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Day 2
====
OK, then. THIS is more like it. Nancy is awakened, fully refreshed, by the sound of me sneezing like a bomb going off sixteen times in a row. I think there's pieces of brain mixed in there by now. More pills.

Lying there in bed waiting for my skull to stop richocheting, I can't help but notice that it's a beautiful day outside. HEN-ry! had demonstrated the functioning of the impossibly complex A/C remote-control the night before, but he was operating under the mistaken impression that because I was standing in front of him, nodding and saying "yes, OK" that was absorbing even a tiny fraction of the information. I was not. But you know what? We didn't need A/C. I wanted to hear the birds outside, and it wasn't that hot; just very pleasant.

I couldn't really hear the birds all the well, though, because one drawback to the "junior suite with rooftop jacuzzi" at Hotel La Tortuga is that it backs onto 10th Avenue. I had been terrified booking the room that the noise from 5th would keep us awake -- but the noise from 10th was of a whole 'nuther caliber. Trucks, scooters, cars, banging cans, people yelling, whistles, honks, all kinds of things. It was a lovely day, all right, but a loud one. However, I was actually kind of glad, because I'm a terrible late sleeper and I HATE wasting the beautiful days on vacation gurgling up slowly out of sleep. Let's get out and have a look!

So we went to breakfast downstairs. Hotel restaurant, quite pleasant. A great deal of papaya was consumed by us both, in both solid and liquid form, as we both crave the stuff and the ones we get at home are three bucks and have been only partially ripened, apparently by exposure to nuclear waste. Not the same. These were yummy. The Agora restaurant attached to La Tortuga does a very nice breakfast if you're looking for something simple in a lovely garden setting.

Then: the beach. I read somewhere that there's a beach around here, and I meant to find it. We got our towels and membership paper for Mamita's at the desk, and strolled up through the town. Avenida Quinta (see, my Spanish is improving rapidly) even at this hour is a riot of color and sounds. Very pleasant. Mamita's is quite far, up beyond where the good street peters out, and Nancy is as usual convinced that I am leading her in the wrong direction into some kind of abandoned worksite, probably with a huge pit of chemicals to fall into, but I drag her onward and we find instead a bit of nice beach.

Nice, did I say nice? We've been to Hawai'i a few times, and we have fantastic beaches here in Washington (as long as you keep a sharp eye out for huge SUVs barrelling across them at 50 MPH), but not like this. What is this, this, STUFF on the ground? It can't be sand -- it's light and fluffy like powdered sugar, and it's cool to the touch, and when you snuggle your toes down in it, it's even cooler. Amazing. I've never seen sand like it. I'm starting to like this place. ATCHOO.

The bandana is gone; I think it was carted away by the hazardous waste people at the airport. But Nancy, being a woman, has secreted about her person at least a dozen little packets of tissues. Being a man, I of course habitually make fun of this ladylike behavior; I don't need no steenking tissues! Except of course I do. Once again I am forced to grovel and admit that I am a base creature and wrong as always, and get my own supply. ATCHOO.

The scenery is so beautiful; luscious glistening mounds of -- er, OK, I'm not supposed to be staring at the Italian women. Right. Seven shades of blue in the sea, four more in the sky, a few puffy clouds scudding across in the light breeze; and what's this? Oh hello. Why, yes, I WOULD like a nice cold cerveza, por favor.

We spend the entire day just lying there on our lounges. I got up a couple of times to shift mine a few inches to keep up with the moving shade, and at the previously arranged hour we did stroll up to the webcam and pose for our friends. But other than that, it was just pure decompression time. I could get used to this. I AM used to this already.

Ah yes, she turned over. Thank you, benevolent universe. It's a good thing Nancy can't see where my eyes are pointing through these new sunglass -- OW! What'd you hit me for?
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Old 02-24-2005   #11 (permalink)
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Great stuff! Keep it coming!! Any pics?
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Old 02-24-2005   #12 (permalink)
Hac Ptui
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When they turn over, I have to turn over and lay on my stomach. Attention! if this lasts more than 4 hours, seek medical attnetion immediately.
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Old 02-24-2005   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hac Ptui
When they turn over, I have to turn over and lay on my stomach. Attention! if this lasts more than 4 hours, seek medical attnetion immediately.
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Old 02-24-2005   #14 (permalink)
fnarf999
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Days 2-3
=======

That night, we had a proper dinner where I was fully aware of my surroundings. It's not my intention here to criticize, so I won't name names, but in general I have to say that the fancier the restaurant, the worse the food. We spent a lot of money at some well-recommended joints, only to receive very bland chicken cutlets or fish or whatever, floating in dull cream sauces with the same boring tongues of carrot and zucchini everywhere. I know everything doesn't have to be aflame with chilis, but really, we ate some incredibly boring meals in Playa.

On the other hand, every time we ventured into a taqueria, even the grimiest beat-down plastic chair place, we had absolutely wonderful food. The best thing I ate in Mexico might have been the pok chuc in the tourist-trap joint (the one with the red chairs) at Coba. In Playa, Los Almendros on 10th at Calle 6 had some terrific tacos -- I had one that was pork fat, which sounds gross but was awesome, and the chorizo is with mashed potato, and if you haven't had a mashed-potato & chorizo taco yet you're missing out.

The other best thing I ate was the famous shrimp taco at El Oasis. The rest of my meal was good, but that shrimp taco was like a trumpet blast and a ten-minute fiesta in my mouth. And that was only the second or third best thing at El Oasis; you've read about the tamarindo sauce, but for me the green sauce is the one I wanted to take home. I had heard stories of even Mexicans laying on some of this devil's milk and being shocked, but it was still a surprise. One drop -- POW. Two drops -- WOW. OK, we'll go to five drops on a chip -- oh lordie, the tears were running down my face. There is NOTHING on this earth as wonderful as the smoky sweet taste of habanero pepper, and when you taste it coming on you know that the blowtorch is about to touch the flame. WHOOSH. I sorta regretted it the next day, but I scarfed up a whole thing of chips with this magic sauce, never getting further than six drops at a time. When the guy who looked like the boss walked by, I flagged him down and raved incoherently for a few minutes, and when he told me I could drop by with an empty water bottle and cart some of the stuff away for 50 pesos, I cried some more. It's in my fridge right now.

If you're wondering, I discovered a few temporary cures for head colds here: one is a big snortful of salt water (decongests for a half hour), and the other is a repeated mild overdose of El Oasis's green sauce.

Thank you, habanero peppers.

Day 3
====

Repeat day 2, with a little more shopping.

A few fun experiences: I tried to buy a bottle of water in a drugstore on 10th with a 50 peso bill (getting small notes and coins was a constant problem). The girls there couldn't make change; I looked, and they had fewer than 10 pesos in the till. No English, no Spanish. For fifteen minutes I tried different combinations of more water, sunscreen, gum, toothpaste, different notes, taking things in and putting them back in, until I finally hit a combo that worked, which included some gum I didn't want. I think that unless you at some point acquire some gum you don't really want you haven't been to Mexico. While this was going in, another fancily-dressed American lady stopped in and had the same luck, only she swore and stomped out in a huff.

I have to say that in my whole two weeks in Mexico my desire to get into a huff over ANYTHING was at a historical low. By the end of the trip, you could have run over my foot in a car and I would have waved and smiled a little "te nada".

At some point I found myself trying to explain to Nancy where all these cigars came from. I have no idea, look, there's not that many, well, OK, I guess that's kind of a lot, but I'm on vacation, honey? The woman is capable by now of rolling her eyes without even moving a muscle. I endured a little scorn, possibly edged with a bit of contempt, but, well, I got to enjoy my cigars. I am very grateful to the person on this forum who recommended the Santa Claras, hecho en Mexico, as they were fresh and excellent, mild but a terrific head-filling smoke. Mmm. The Te Amos were also good, though not as good for me, the Torrents a bit less so, and I managed to save my money and not buy any Habanas -- though I did several times see the kid selling the glass-lid fakes I'd been warned about. Peso for value, I think the Santa Clara was about as good as I'm capable of appreciating. The cheap rolled-on-the-spot ones were also fun -- super moist and fresh, obviously not as prime a tobacco but pretty damn good for half the money, at least for the first few inches.
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Old 02-24-2005   #15 (permalink)
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wonderful report so far, can't wait to read the rest!!
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