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Old 01-01-2011   #1 (permalink)
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Rollin’ on the Riviera (and Beyond)- Caramba’s 2010 Report

Ugghhh. After a difficult year which started off with a bad ankle sprain in a February snowstorm that took 6 months to even start to feel better, and a year that included my father suffering a stroke and needing lots of extra care, we really needed our Playa fix by year’s end. Tempting as it was to plan nothing other than vegetating on a beautiful beach with a good book, I was feeling really antsy, too, and talked Brian into a little exploration. After nearly 20 years he has resigned himself to accepting the way I like to “relax”, and, being such a good sport he usually agrees to go along with my plans.

In the past few years we’ve been trying to add a day or so on to every trip, thinking that eventually we’ll find ourselves wintering in Mexico. Well, at this rate it may still take a while, but we do dream about that day…. and in the meantime, the 13 days and 12 nights that loomed ahead of us seemed like an eternity.

This trip report will contain many, many photos and hopefully not a lot of rambling. At least I’ll try.

Thursday, December 2nd

Harris (Tallyho) and Paul beat us here by a couple of days, and were already holed up in the penthouse suite at Plantation House. And Harris was torturing me by emailing me photos like this…

My massage therapist and friend Bettyann was also there, staying with her husband Dan at the Royal Haciendas just north of town. I was glad we’d overlap with them for a few days as well.
We had a mid-morning flight from Boston with a connection in Miami, which put us into Cancun at 4 p.m.

We’d booked a car rental through Mexperience this year and found it to be easy and relatively inexpensive ($265 total). By 5:00 we were tooling down 307 in a brand new Dodge Attitude with only 22 km on it, whoo hoo! By 5:20 we were saying oh oh….. we are going to OWN any dings and scratches on this baby when we are through- what have we done? Where were we planning to drive in this thing??

That dilemma was soon forgotten as we drove around the block a couple of times to find a parking spot near Luna Blue. A lovely ‘treetop terrace’ room was to be our home for the next two nights, and we tossed our bags in the room, changed into shorts and were enjoying our first of Jorge’s potent margaritas in a matter of minutes.
A wave of relaxation instantly overcame us and we easily could have settled in there for the long haul, but with our friends waiting for us at the Beer Bucket (good move on using cell phones down there this year) we sucked down a second marg and went off down the street, grinning ear to ear at being back in one of our very favorite places.

After catching up over a beer at the Bucket, the 6 of us moved on to Carboncitos where I was in heaven the second the salsa tray was set down in front of us. Mmmmmm, I could eat buckets of that pumpkin seed salsa, but the others hold their own as well…. chipotle, mmmmmmm, verde, mmmmm. Oh, and that decadent cheese crisp….. and tacos al pastor……. and more margaritas, oh my! After eating to our hearts content and having a quick chat with Russell who had stopped by our table, we started up 5th, leaving Bettyann and Dan to catch a cab home.

We started walking toward Plantation House with Harris and Paul but were lured into the Mojito Queen by the salsa music blaring and our overwhelming desire for just one nightcap.
Okay, it was early. The crowd was just starting to filter in. But somehow one thing led to another and before we knew it we were having more than just one nightcap and were, in fact, caught up in a sultry mass of dancers doing our best to keep up with and well, not look ridiculous next to the Mojito Queen herself- yes- she exists……….. a small, energetic woman who can make mojitos, shout orders to her bartenders, sing karaoke style over the booming sound system, chat up a few patrons, turn a few heads at the edge of the dance floor while luring more onlookers inside like a siren calling hapless sailors to the sea, all without missing a beat. We laughed and danced until the wee hours- at least it seemed that way to us weary travelers but it was probably really about 1 a.m. when our heads hit the pillow in our treetop retreat.

Paul and Harris
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Old 01-01-2011   #2 (permalink)
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ALLLLLLLLLLLLLRIGHTY another caramba TR ! just what i need on a cold new years day ! TY !! keep rollin'
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Old 01-01-2011   #3 (permalink)
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What happened the rest of the trip???
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Old 01-01-2011   #4 (permalink)
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Mojito Queen sounds fun!
Looking forward to more
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Old 01-02-2011   #5 (permalink)
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I am jumping on board. Need a good TR to keep me going thru this bitter windy cold!

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Old 01-02-2011   #6 (permalink)
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I'm going to try and post more in a little while.... I ended up coming down with a lousy cold yesterday as I was working on the next installment.
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Old 01-02-2011   #7 (permalink)
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Loving this so far! And your description of the Mojito Queen was spot on (we went there for the first time last trip). Weird little place, funky vibe.
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Old 01-02-2011   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by melliedee View Post
Loving this so far! And your description of the Mojito Queen was spot on (we went there for the first time last trip). Weird little place, funky vibe.
You've got that right!

Part two coming right up- I am just sorting out the pics....
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Old 01-02-2011   #9 (permalink)
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Friday, December 3rd

Brian was dreaming that Caramba was crying outside our window. It was early in the morning and I heard it too.
Not Caramba, but a big white and tan cat twice her size was sitting on the roof outside our room. I let her in, and Oso, as we learned her name was later, sauntered through the room meowing all the way up onto the bed, stretching out between me and Brian. We all fell back asleep for another hour until I reluctantly got up- unusual for me on vacation as I’m usually up with the sun (a full 180 degrees from my lifestyle at home, I’ll add).

Okay, so, yes- we are hung over. Not too bad, though. Nothing that a good breakfast at La Vagabunda won’t cure. After meeting Harris and Paul there we went back to Luna Blue to change and met them again around the corner from Plantation House at Indigo Beach Club. We’d watched the construction at El Taj here last year. What a nice spot.

We settled in for a long chill and alternated between beer and water, and finally started to feel human again.
Later we walked down the beach in search of coconut shrimp. I know there is much controversy about the beach reclamation but it was really amazing to see the new wide expanse of sand as we walked south to Playa Maya.

(well, okay, this one is looking north)

Gluttons for punishment or hair of the dog? Well, those gigante Playa Maya margaritas definitely hit the spot, as did the coconut shrimp. Best of all, though, was the squid with guajillo peppers- muy bueno! As usual, the music and the setting at Playa Maya were hard to beat.

(Sorry, didn’t think to take a pic of the squid until it was too late!)

We went back to Luna Blue to hang out for a little while and rest up for the peep meet there that night.

Later we took a walk, ending up at the Beer Bucket for a beer and before we knew it it was time to meet Harris, Paul, Bettyann and Dan for an early dinner across the street from Luna Blue, at Las Cazuelas.
What a charming little restaurant and even more charming hosts. Alberto and Mike treated us like old friends. It was funny to hear Alberto struggle with Harris’ name- “it’s too complicated”!
We ordered seafood paella for 6 (a huge pan full, and “6 servings for the price of 5”) and a pitcher of sangria, which soon led to another (what hangover?). I love sangria and was surprised to find out the ingredients included whiskey and Fanta- this was delicious and I swore I’d be back later in the week for more….

As we were sitting waiting for our paella to arrive I could see a few people starting to gather across the street. I recognized Dave (Transit) pulling up a swing, but then wander over toward us to look at the dinner specials on the board. I re-introduced ourselves (we’d met last year) and invited him to join us.
After a delicious meal, and seeing a bigger crowd of peeps gathering across the street we walked over to join everyone and watch Mike Grabow play.
Now, I love planning parties but am not always a very vocal host…. I recognized a bunch of peeps but was feeling somewhat shy. Harris, however is not known for her shyness and boomed out a request for everyone attending the peep meet to raise their hand, which broke the ice. I eventually made the rounds and was glad to see Andy and Rick (and Lenny) again, and finally meet some new peeps, including Sue (with Barney), Jim (ontheriver) and Donna, Larry (Playalong) and friends, Barbara (barbarayouzwak), Tonya (Tesla 573) and Harold- just back from Merida… I was so glad they made it…, Maureen, Barry (popeye) and Phyllis, absoluteAl, and wow, a forum blast from the past, DeniseA with Keith! That was a nice surprise and I was glad to have a few minutes to chat with her.
We made tentative plans to (what else) have dinner with Jim and Donna, I unloaded a bunch of supplies with Andy for the pet shelter, and had fun watching Lenny running around playing ball (although there was another little dog who tried to keep it from him). Barney seemed a little skeptical at finding himself back in Mexico but he was so cute and well behaved. Andy had another shelter dog with him (Trigger?) who was a real sweetheart, too. Mike Grabow was really entertaining, the tequila was flowing, and it was such a good night altogether. Unfortunately I didn’t take too many photos that night, but I’ll post the few I have…..

Donna, Jim (jimontheriver), Brian, Tonya (Tesla 573) and Harold

Harris (Tallyho) and Larry(Playalong)

Brian, Dan & Bettyann

Paul & Harris

Brian and me

Andy sang a little with Mike

When the music stopped and the crowd dispersed we went up and sat out in the treetops for awhile before calling it a night. The sun had not yet risen when our little visitor was meowing at the window, and I Iet her in to snuggle with us again. It would be hard to leave this little oasis in the north end.
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Old 01-02-2011   #10 (permalink)
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Can't wait for more!
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Old 01-02-2011   #11 (permalink)
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loving your report!! can't wait for more!!
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Old 01-02-2011   #12 (permalink)
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Enjoying you TR!
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Old 01-02-2011   #13 (permalink)
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Thanks , I've got more coming right up!
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Old 01-02-2011   #14 (permalink)
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Saturday, December 4th

Is this Mexico? It was freezing last night. No wonder Oso wanted to cuddle up next to us this morning. It was bright and beautiful outside, though, and it was moving day. First we’d go for a walk and have breakfast at La Cueva del Chango. Nice to have it within walking distance. As much as I like staying in Playacar Phase One I could see why so many people enjoy this neighborhood….

We sat out in the garden and enjoyed strong coffee and chaya juice and listened to the birds. I ordered chilaquiles with egg, green tomato and cascabel chili sauce (as good as I remembered from last year) and Brian had scrambled eggs with poblano peppers and chaya.

We checked our email back at Luna Blue and said goodbye to Frankie and Oso, and headed off for our beachfront studio at Fisherman’s Village.

We loved the treetop terrace room.

Here’s a few pics of our drive through town and Playacar.
The lavanderia on 15th that we usually use-


Even though we were among the first to check in, I was a bit miffed that we were given a less than desirable unit this year, with a tiny balcony. I’d been spoiled by the end unit we’d had last year with the huge balcony, and when my request to be changed fell on deaf ears, “oh, sorry, there is nothing else available”…, Brian reminded me that the studio was really just as nice, and we don’t spend a whole lot of time there anyway so it really didn’t matter. He was right, of course, but I still secretly held a grudge against the evil twins who had checked us in. They were punishing us for refusing the tour to see their latest and greatest facilities and upgrade our ownership. Stupid timeshares. (My father’s idea, not mine- he thinks they’re just great and has bought into a few of them over the years.) Beggars can’t be choosers, though- I am really more than happy to have a “free” place to stay. And wow, the beach……

My irritation faded away after going for a walk (cool, we can walk clear into town on the beach now).

I returned to see Harris waving a Negra Modelo from the balcony and I clambered up the stairs to join her and Paul with a cold one. Brian was all business though and passed on the beer- we needed to run back up to Luna Blue to get the laptop cord we’d left in our room and had a Mega run planned, so after a second quick beer we made plans to meet up for dinner later on with Bettyann and Dan, too, on their last night in town, and off we went on our errands.

We walked up to Plantation House that evening to find Harris playing mixologist with Bettyann and Dan. After serving me a pineapple margarita (sorry, buddy- can’t do it) I took it upon myself to make up a more traditional batch. Then we checked out Artevela, the candle shop next door.

Bettyann ordered some large sconces for her new porch that Harris offered to pick up before traveling home, and we walked across the street and settled in at Era Ora for a delicious Italian meal. It was then I discovered that my camera was not working so I have no photographic proof, but that meal was one of the best we’d have during our whole trip. I remember Brian had some sort of seafood pasta dish and I had the most incredible shrimp and asparagus risotto.

When we were served complimentary limoncello after dinner it dawned on me that I’d left home forgetting to strain the lemon zest from steeping in vodka I was using for homemade limoncello for Christmas gifts, and I was supposed to add sugar and let it set for a couple of weeks before bottling.
(Luckily I can now attest that it turned out just fine.)

Now it was just past 10 and just a little too early to say goodbye to Bettyann and Dan- we must at least stop somewhere quick for a parting drink. Oh yeah, what’s this? A nearly empty Mojito Queen- we’ll just slip in here for one….. Famous Last Words.

Sometime after 1 a.m., after the 6 of us had danced ourselves silly and drank several mojitos (for a whopping total of about 400 pesos!), we were giddily weaving through the throngs up 12th street. I laughed at Brian saying some strong hands in the crowd had just given him a brisk shoulder rub, and both Dan and Paul were walking ahead of him. Harris and I remarked how the scene reminded us of our old clubbing days and it was a good thing we were too old to put up with this nonsense now, but hmmm….. would we really ever learn?
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Old 01-02-2011   #15 (permalink)
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!Ay Caramba!
Your trip report is muy bueno! So excited to go back soon, and glad to hear Era Ora is still producing wonderful food and is still open!

Can't wait for the Ziggy installment
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