Sleeping in the Snake’s Nest

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Luxurious places can have the most interesting names such as the Mayan translation to the 18 miles stretch of hotel resorts and sugar sand beaches in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Yes. Cancun means “nest of snakes.” Not sure what to make of that, whether it’s a warning about inhabiting reptiles or a subtle nickname for the tourist trade but regardless Cancun felt like a paradise.

I recently returned from this whirlwind vacation which let me work on my manuscript on a lounge chair on the beach with the surf music and warm sun. Decadent? Like living inside a post card, dude! And I didn’t see any snakes but I did see quite a few wild iguanas.

Cancun. It’s a wonderland of ocean and pool fun; piano bars, nightclubs and dancing; tropical drinks, tequila samples and good food; … along with experiencing another culture which operates at a minimum level of “working English.”

I was a washed with sensory overload which held hands with a realized lifelong dream. See, I’ve ALWAYS wanting to go “tramping” through archaeological ruins and I got that opportunity with my time at both Chichen Itza and Tulum. Additionally, I expanded my experiences with extremes and habitats. Not only can I say I’ve been in a jungle but I have also witnessed both the poorest and richest conditions I have ever seen… to date.

Anyway, before all the wonderful memories fade as memories are wont to do… I’m putting figurative “pen to paper” along with some of the iMovies I put together. This one [below] is mostly our Cancun resort and the surrounding area.

So…why Cancun and why now? Well, a business conference for Andy was the reason and lucky me… I had this important job to make sure the pool didn’t go away plus get a little writing in.

We left Saturday, April 26, 2014 around noon from our local airport on a “puddle-jumper” to Philly. Of course a day of flying never runs smooth. We boarded and moments later were asked to vacate the plane. Reason? The Philly airport was closed. An aircraft on its runway was defunct. Made me realize I should look into traveling apps such as the one for the airports.

Nice little anxious time knowing we had two connecting flights. We reboarded not long after and disregarding the horrendous turbulence, which caused the stewardess to rush papertowels and water to at least one passenger, we got to Philly early and even had a nice lunch at a pub. The flight to Charlotte was fairly uneventful. We had time for one quick beer before boarding for Cancun.

I have to admit I was a little nervous about the idea of being out of my own country. Particularly Mexico. You hear so many horror stories and my personal experiences were limited. I had made two day-tripped excursions over to Mexica (Tijuana in 2000) and Canadian (Niagara Falls 2001) both before our pre-mandatory passports era. There are forms you have to fill out on the plane for Mexico immigration and after landing you go through customs. Wasn’t too bad. Greeted by duty-free shops as soon as we entered the airport and I will warn you … you may want to watch who you talk to at the airport. If you’re curious, let me know I might tell you.

Andy and I arrived at the JW Marriott about 10:30 that evening. We were all “eyes wide open, alert, nervous” as we found our arranged ride and checked in at the hotel. Room 336. Relatively spacious, beautiful bathroom with the large shower head (where water will glide over you from the nape of your neck to the small of your back), and sliding glass doors leading to a well-appointed balcony.

It’s always fun checking out a room but we settled in fairly quickly and headed to the bar for a beverage and wind-down time. Well…That was the plan. It kind of got enhanced. I mean, being in Cancun is a big fat permission slip to cut loose. Right? Six margaritas and dancing at the piano bar with some of the other ladies attending the conference while Andy socialized with the guys later, we headed for bed.

For anyone following me, you may remember I tore my ACL and meniscus back in May 2012, had surgery and that relearning how to do everything from walking on and also focusing on rebuilding knee strength has been an ongoing process. So I have to say emphatically that being able to dance like everyone else was incredibly satisfying.

I woke up, not hungover but dreadfully early. Really it hadn’t been on my itinerary for rising with the sun but Cancun called.

“Dawn’s light peeked through the slant in the curtains with shimmering iridescence and burst in star-patterns like Disney fireworks.”

Yes, put a creative person on location and they wax poetically.

So I got a sunstreaked “Get up! Get up!” call from nature and I actually listened. I padded out on our balcony and gazed out over the hotel’s pools and the beach and the Hard Rock building beside ours. My first day-time look with the palm trees and the Caribbean Sea did NOT disappoint.

We had a nice breakfast at the Sedona Grill. I had the fancy bacon quesadilla which was like $170. Yes, we are talking pesos which is about 13 to $1 US. We sat outside near palm trees and the beach listening to the calls of these blue-black birds with yellow eyes and sipped coffee as the coastal breeze caressed us. Yep we arrived in paradise and it smells like salt and coconuts. Only problem, we had a little adventure scheduled at 8:30 a.m. and it took most of the morning. We did go dressed in our swimsuits as we were told and the excursion did give us cheap Chichen Itza tour tickets, some free stuff and practice time with my Spanish with the taxi driver.

Remember watch who you talk to? Anyway, we had to pass on the snorkeling excursion which we were under the impression would be that morning because we needed to return to our hotel and sign in for our/his conference.

We rode back in a van and talked with other tourists. Some were only English speaking and some, like the Brazilian couple, only spoke Spanish. Just the first time in several days where I encountered people from all over the world.

We arrived at the hotel, signed in and got more free stuff and shortly afterwards, we spent a good portion of the day pool-side. We did make a valiant five-minute attempt to swim in the ocean but with the waves bowling us over and wanting to tug on our suits we surrendered to the pool.

As robust as the ocean was the temperature felt nice but the pool was like bathwater. I forwent my usual descent by centimeters and enjoyed a delightful circuit: Swim, have an adult beverage while in the pool, socialize, swim more and repeat. The pool set-up was rather intriguing with these little islands and channels under little bridges to connecting pools. Yes, one of the pools had a swim-up bar.

We ate at the Beachwalk and watched a wedding on the beach. Yes, Brittanee, Shush. I had this tasty steak wrap thing and Andy had a salad and we both had pink rumrunners. In hindsight I could have eaten a little lighter because of the evening’s meet and greet but had a second drink.

The evening’s activities took place outside buffet style in stations. The food was lavish, the staff attentive and the open bar flowing. Andy and I along with some of the conferrees debating how much this shindig would cost. My guess was at $12,000. (US dollars not pesos) I had an offer to go dancing later with my new pals but after two margaritas I switched to bottled water. Yes, my playful fun-loving side wanted so much to keep going, hit a night club and party till dawn my physical being was passed mildly grumbling about being exhausted and too full.

I got up with Andy on Monday to do the breakfast which was included in the conference. This meal really wasn’t lavish. I did enjoy the fresh pineapple and I ate a little of my bagel sandwich.

Afterwards, I spent the morning on the lounge chair under shade along the beach and worked on my book while Andy attended the conference sessions. I really enjoyed this time. It was peaceful and the muse spoke intermittedly with me. I think she got mesmerized by the ocean waves too.

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“A mermaid herself must have fashioned the Mexican Caribbean sea from the brightest sea-teal and skirted it with cloud-white crests.”

“And just passed the reef the teal transforms with no hesitation to a rich indigo until it touched the periwinkle sky.”

One of my gal pals told me as a writer I had no excuse not to find a way to describe the sea. I gave it my best go.

All ocean watching comes to a close though and I went back in to get lunch. Again it came with the conference. So… while in line, Andy says “I went all the way to Cancun to get this hot dog” and I responded by saying “whose wearing that shirt.” Naive little me…no they were serving hot dogs and hamburgers. My thought? I’m in Mexico so were is the good Mexican food??

I spent the afternoon shopping with my new gal pals at one of the malls. It felt good to learn more of the “lay of the land.” Ten pesos gets you on the bus to whichever bus stop on the circuit you want. Cancun’s resort area is only a 1/4 mile wide so there is only one throughway. I discovered shops will give you samplings of tequila if you look like you want to buy a bottle. I also saw this absolutely gorgeous Italian rapier in one of the shops and I was not allowed to photograph that. They did give me a business card. But — I mean what the heck?

We returned and spent more time pool-side. I don’t think this ever could get old.

Best part of the day (or second best) — I’m debating as my beach time was heavenly — was dinner at Destilaria. We asked the concierge what would be a good place for traditional Mexican food would be. She set up the reservation and gave us coupons for the house drink. (Yes, it was kind of margarita) We sat outside looking out over the lagoon. The service, the food, the ambiance was all wonderful. I’d happily go back. Andy had a fish platter with vegetables and I had a steak flambéed in front of us. We also had decadent Mexican desserts. The place was home to a tequila distillery as well and a shop “World of Tequila” where Andy and I sampled a great deal of tequila with a pleasant and knowledgable man before selecting our purchases.

I have to admit it’s a strange sensation wanting a vacation to slow to savor it while also wanting to rush to the final two days. Archeological ruins, remember?

I’m going to end here for now but I’ll post about Tulum, Chichen Itza, the Mayan underground and the extremes I mentioned very soon.

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