Cancun passed in a blur this year. The week went by so quickly I was caught off guard when it was time to come home, which is kind of bizarre, since we had plenty of time for relaxing on the beach, by the pool, in favorite restaurants and on the balcony of the villa. Here's the blow by blow report. Click on any pink text for pictures. I'll add more when I steal them from Geoff!
Monday: We actually arrived very late Sunday night, but, by the time we landed, got through immigration and customs and got to the resort from the airport is was about 1:00 AM and all we were good for was one beer (bless Geoff and Kristy for having the foresight to stock up) and a little yakking before bedtime. I purposely left our bedroom drapes a little open, so that we'd see the sea first thing upon waking up in the morning. Let me tell you, it's a great way to start the day! Paul and I wake up a little earlier than Geoff and Kristy, so we sat on the balcony, had breakfast and just enjoyed the view until they woke up. Then we all made the trek to the beach, where we spent copious amounts of time swimming, reading, eating guacamole, quesadillas and club sandwiches. For variety we later moved to the pool, where we swam up to the bar for a happy hour Bushwacker. When the biggest problem of your day is brain freeze from your frozen cocktail you're doing pretty well!
When the sun went down we hit La Habichuela for dinner, still one of my favorite restaurants in the world. We didn't think we'd be able to sit in the garden, but it turns out we did, which is always lovely. I had crab stuffed shrimp, caesar salad (made tableside, naturally), and we somehow managed to kill margaritas, mojitos, a bottle of wine, xtabentun, Kahlua and Kristy got the always festive Mayan coffee, which they make at your table and which features impressive pyrotechnics. We were quite tired when we got back to the villa (gee, what do you think might have caused that?), so we turned in after that.
Tuesday: Tuesday we went to Isla Mujeres. We took the bus to Puerto Juarez and caught the municipal ferry to the island, which only takes about 20 minutes or so on a normal day. We chose an abnormal day. Actually, it seems that it's always windy when we go to Isla Mujeres. On this particular day it was abnormally windy and the ferry pounded the white caps with ferocity. Good thing none of us are prone to seasickness! We were smart enough to take seats in the dry, air conditioned comfort of the lower level, so we arrived on the island feeling neat and pretty instead of windblown and soaked. We made our way to Chimbo's, at Playa Norte, for lunch. If you saw this place and didn't have a recommendation you'd never stop to eat there, because it's little more than a concrete floor and a run down looking counter, behind which the food is prepared. The food, however, is inexpensive and good. I had shrimp (naturally), a couple of Pacifico beers, and they make their own tortilla chips, which are yummy. We'd brought towels and such for the beach, but it was so windy and potentially dangerous that we just walked along the shore after lunch, then did a little shopping. I ended up with two necklaces! We made our way back to Cancun, in an even more pounding ferry ride than in the morning, hit the pool, since we have to swim every day while we're down there (It's a RULE, man!), then checked out El Shrimp Bucket for dinner.
The first El Shrimp Bucket (at least the first one I ever went to) was destroyed in Hurricane Wilma. That one was walking distance from VCI, where we stay, which was great. The new location involves a fairly long bus ride, but it was so great to see them back in business. I ordered a margarita and made the mistake of saying "Sure!" when the waiter asked me if I wanted it "grande." It was enormous! I will have you know, however, that I drank at least two thirds of it by myself, then followed it up with a Dos Equis when the Dos Equis party posse arrived (I had to help Paul get a free t-shirt, which you get by ordering a round of Dos Equis). Not only that, but they didn't even have to carry me back to VCI. I'm like Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark, drinking grown men under the table! P.S., the shrimp was great! The bus ride back to VCI was hell, since there was a ton of traffic in the hotel zone and we got stuck with a particularly obnoxious group of spring breakers, but they got off at Senor Frog's. After that it was like a private bus, particularly since the driver refused to pick up any more passengers!
Wednesday: After breakfast Paul and I took a long walk on the beach and took goofy pictures. We walked out onto the club's dock and there was a beautiful boat called Tequila tied up there. It turns out Royal Resorts is selling days on it as part of their time share package. We could have had a tour if we'd wanted one, but we didn't want to be late for lunch with Catherine, Geoff and Kristy's friend and time share salesperson, who was treating. I always enjoy talking to her and we had a very nice lunch under the palapa, looking out at the sea.
There was a group of women staying in the villa below us that we found highly entertaining. There are guys and gals who walk up and down the beach, selling everything from jewelry to pareos to funnel cakes, and these gals were buying everything in sight (and overpaying like crazy). They had to keep running up to their room for more money, as more and more vendors caught on and showed up with their wares. It was something to see. Those vendors probably had their best week ever with those women!
After suitable beach and pool time we adjourned to the villa for cocktails and showers before dinner. We do this every day that we're in Cancun, but this year it came to be known as "shower hour," which cracked us up. Paul invented a new drink this week, the Cancun Smuggler. Very tasty.
On this night we hit Cambalache, the Argentinian steakhouse, for dinner. If you're looking to put yourself into a meat coma, this is one of the best places in Cancun to undertake such a project. Paul and I got the tenderloin for two, caesar salad (again, prepared at the table) and we all shared these puffy potatoes that I've never seen anywhere else. I also had my typical Cancun trifecta of pre-dinner margarita, shared bottle of wine with dinner, and Kahlua straight up as a digestif. It was great and we had enough meat left over to add it to breakfast quesadillas for the rest of the week. We walked around Forum by the Sea after that, did a little shopping, then headed back to the villa.
Thursday: We really wanted to do some snorkeling in a calm setting, since the last few years when we've gone snorkeling in the open ocean we've been bitch slapped by the wind and white caps. We'd been to Xel-Ha very briefly a while back on a trip to Tulum where they gave you a little snorkeling time after visiting the ruins and it seemed like a good place to snorkel in calm waters, since it's in an inlet. We were right! Geoff organized a private trip there for us, since a private van was, no joke, $6 more per person than a shared van. It was such a great day. It's about 90 minutes from Cancun and we got there about 9:30 in the morning. All of our meals were included, so we had a big breakfast in one of their restaurants and an iguana came to visit while we sat there! Yikes! It must be used to people. We snorkeled for quite a while and saw lots of pretty fish and a big stingray. My favorite was this turquoise fish with purple and white markings. I've got to figure out what it's called. When we got out of the water Paul brought me a beer, which was included in the fee we paid for the private tour. I can't believe what a great deal we got. Okay, it was a lot of money, but in the U.S. a private van to a destination 90 minutes away, entrance to a recreational facility, all meals and drinks, towels, etc. would have cost A LOT more than we paid. We had lunch at Jardin Corona, which I adored, since they had all this vintage Corona beer ephemera on the walls and a Corona Wurlitzer-esque jukebox that played CDs, but looked very '50s. The food was good, too. After lunch we took the tram to the start of the "lazy river," where you begin the arduous journey of drifting through mangroves and past pretty scenery before getting out at a dock. Paul and I shared a two-person inner tube, which proved to be a good idea, since apparently the single person ones were a little hard to manage. It was really fun. We watched people jump off of the "Cliff of Courage" (no, thanks!) and slowly made our way down the river. Incredibly, it was time to go after that. The day flew by! Our guide/driver had some Dos Equis waiting for us in the van and we had a quiet ride back to Cancun.
That night we went to one of my favorite restaurants in Cancun, Gory Tacos. It's downtown and one would have to call it "shabby chic," or some would probably just say "shabby," but I love the classic Mexican movie decor and cheap food and drinks. We sat outside on this night and the mariachis found us almost immediately. After their serenade, Kristy and I enjoyed our two-for-one sangria while the boys had beer. The food was yummy as usual and we were drawn in to the drama of some cats hanging out at the karaoke bar across the walkway from Gory Tacos. There were four of them and the kept going inside, as if they expected to be fed, then being shooed out. They reminded me of characters in a Disney cartoon. After dinner we hit Pericos, which never changes, thankfully, including the staff, for a drink. Walking back to the bus after Pericos I think we were all happy to see that someone from the karaoke bar had given the cats some kibble, upon which they feasted with vigor!
Friday: Kristy and Geoff had arrived in Cancun Saturday and we'd gotten there late Sunday night, so they had already done their shopping and we'd done practically none, so that morning Paul and I bought a bunch of snacks from the store at the resort to enjoy back home, as well as some on-sale hot sauce and huge bottles of pure vanilla, which cost very little there, but would be about $50 here. We then took the bus to Plaza La Fiesta, a big store with several locations, which is one-stop shopping for souvenirs and gifts. We bought lots of gifts, cigars, chocolates and whatnot, but the best part (if you could put it that way) is that we spent so much that we were entitled to 800 pesos (approximately $76) worth of free silver jewelry, so I got an anchor charm with pretty opalescent touches. Now I need a good chain for it. Plaza La Fiesta has security guards that sit at the door by tables of tequila shots, in which you can indulge for the price of a tip, so we each had a shot upon entering and exiting the store. Woo hoo! We took the bus back to VCI for lunch at the palapa restaurant and more beach, pool and sun time, after which we polished off the bottle of Havana Club we had purchased to make Cancun Smugglers.
Friday night we went to Los Almendros for dinner, which is downtown, and which is a destination for locals as well as tourists. You're greeted upon entry by these mannequins in traditional Mexican attire and, bizarrely, the woman is wearing a hairnet. The guy just has plastic hair. They serve Mayan and Yucatecan cuisine and it's a lot of food for not a lot of money. I always get the same thing, Pavo con Rellenos Negro, which is turkey in this spicy black sauce that looks like motor oil with a whole boiled egg floating in it. It's so good. The waiter managed to drop a full bottle of beer at our table, which I've actually never seen happen in Cancun (those folks are trained), but I was glad that, if someone had to kill a full bottle of beer, it wasn't any of us! Kristy and I shared a flan for dessert and I had a Kahlua and she had a Bailey's while the boys had their xtabentun. After dinner we went back to the villa to pack.
Saturday: Since Paul and I had arrived on Sunday night, instead of our usual Saturday morning (hey, we were flying free, so beggars can't be choosers), I had opted to book the latest possible flight home on Saturday, which was at midnight. Therefore, we had the had an entire day at the end at the end of the trip that we normally would not have had. Kristy and Geoff left in the morning and we had to check out of the villa by 11:00 AM, but we checked our luggage with the bellman and devoted the rest of the day to relaxing on the beach, swimming, reading (I read my book about Don the Beachcomber, which was very appropriate), eating fresh guacamole and chips and happy hour. It was perfect. Our biggest dilemma the entire day was moving our beach chairs so that we remained in the shade of our palm tree (I don't do melanoma). Wading in the calm water on the club's beach I saw a little ray swimming in the sea grass. The beach water was warm the entire trip and I found myself wishing that, if I'm going to be reincarnated, I can come back as something that lives in the tropics, preferably on the beach or in the ocean. After it got dark we had a lovely dinner in the palapa restaurant of shrimp (tequila shrimp for me and coconut shrimp for Paul), big margaritas and Leon beer and watched the pretty pirate party ships anchor offshore and fire upon each other. It was time after that to leave for the airport. We were so relaxed that we both nodded off in the taxi. After some duty free booze shopping we again nodded off at the gate as we waited for our flight.
We arrived in New York and proceeded to go through such a bizarre scene in customs that I still can't believe it. I'm not going to write about it here, but feel free to ask either of us if you want the whole strange story. It all ended happily and, after pulling over in White Plains on the way home from JFK to take a nap (we were both like zombies), we made it home, unpacked our treasures and beach stuff, still full of sand, and enjoyed our Easter.