Monday, January 05, 2009

The Trip!

Okay, enough vacation time. I owe you all a trip recap. It was a wonderful one.

We had a super easy flight, thanks to a ride to the airport with Paul and Sheila, and hopping to the front of the long line due to our lack of checked luggage. Storms delayed a lot of flights, so our flight from Houston to Cancun was very empty.

We arrived around 11 am and breezed through customs. That button system is the best idea. We found our bus and used the spare time to do some last minute planning.

We took the bus to Playa del Carmen, and immediately took a taxi to Playacar. Our first night was spent at the Wyndam, an all inclusive fancy resort. They didn't know what to do with us, only spending one night and carrying our backpacks. But we quickly got used to the open buffets and bars and took our first dip in the pool. A little more "European family vacation" than our tastes, but it was fun to try out. We took advantage of the lounge-y beach and had lots of Tom Collins and blended drinks (being free, they were VERY weak).

Being too antsy to stay in one place, we walked up the beach and realized we were only about a mile from Playa del Carmen. We decided to walk the cute shopping plaza, only unfortunately I was still in my swimsuit, so I felt a bit out of place. We walked back through the neighborhoods connecting Playa del Carmen and Playacar, very Coronodo-esque. Cute.

The next day, we saddled up our packs and confused all the staff by simply walking out of the hotel and into Playa del Carmen, after enjoying the breakfast buffet. By now, I had eaten approximately 40 lbs of free watermelon, papaya, pineapple, and honeydew. We got our money's worth out of that place. We walked into Playa del Carmen and immediately wanted to find a place to stay so we could drop our packs. We found a cheap hostel and immediately booked. We headed out for some street tacos and a lots of strolling through the town.

The tourist part is unrecognizable from the last time I was there, but we found some charming parts. We walked for ages, with occasionally dips into the beautiful ocean and stops for guacamole and cervezas.

We had a cute dinner at a family owned seafood restaurant and ate more tacos. Chatted a bit with folks in our hostel, but it was strangely clique-y and we ended up drinking Coronas and reading by ourselves, before going to bed. Then apparently, it was party time. So so so loud. Our room had no real roof and it was a bit rough. Apparently, not quite our fit either. Oh well.

We got an early start and caught a bus to Tulum the next morning. Our next hostel was an adorable family owned place that was just lovely. We quickly made our way down to the ruins and admired the excellent real estate choices the Mayans made before having a lovely swim in the park's beaches and playing with all the giant iguanas.

We made our way into the town part of Tulum and had delicious ice cream while we wandered the streets. We found a great flea market, lots of real Mexican neighborhoods and culture. We shared a cab with a high school teacher from Boulder down to the beach and walked admiring all the fancy resorts and sampling their guacamoles.

We managed to walk all the way back to the ruins and headed back to our hostel.

It was Christmas Eve, and the family that owned the hostel cooked a giant meal of grilled fish and tons of paella for all of their lodgers.

There was about 30 of us and hardly one from the same country. We had a great time chatting with everyone about politics, the economy, travel. There were lots of folks who were in between school and taking 6 months to travel, made me jealous! Lovely time.

After dinner, the kids broke open a pinata. I loved this picture of one of the girls who strategized by not breaking the pinata but instead waited with her shoe box, ready to collect the candy from others efforts. We stayed up late chatting, but when we went to bed it was lovely and quiet. Much better. But not perfect, yet.

We decided (story to come later) to head up to Isla Mujeres the next day, instead of staying in Tulum, as we had originally planned. I thought Trent was just done with the town, but he had other ideas. We caught a bus to Cancun, found the right town bus to the ferry terminal thanks to a friendly food cart guy, and got on a ferry to Isla with no trouble. We made a fun, drunk, friend who gave us lots of un-solicited advice, but I had a great time practicing my Spanish. And he took our picture!

Isla was awesome. It is a tiny island, with more scooters and golf carts than cars. A lot of the roads are cobblestone and for being only 30 minutes away from Cancun, is super mellow and filled with happy Mexican families vacationing. We were planning on staying at a hostel, but it looked kind of loud and Trent immediately vetoed it (which made sense later). Instead we found this darling abuelita who had a little posada. It was bright bright pink and one of the tallest buildings on the island. We got the very top room for $25 a night and were very pleased with ourselves. Off for a swim at the lovely beaches (the best we found) and then we decided to have a nice dinner at an adorable restaurant on the beach. Delicious shrimp for me and squid for Trent.

Afterwards we strolled on the beach and... that's a story for another post. But very happy times.

The next day we went to an adorable little cafe for coffee and granola with fresh fruit.

We rented a vespa and tore around the tiny island. We went first to a park with a few Mayan ruins that is the eastern-most point of Mexico and breathtaking. Unfortunately we forgot our camera that day.. bummer. Afterwards we went to this funky old beach resort that had its heyday in the 1960's or so, but rented snorkling gear. We swam around and hung out with lots of zebrafish, rainbowfish, a sting ray (and I wasn't even stung... amazing) and lots of other cool stuff. We lounged around for a bit, but it started to get crowded, so we headed to a highly recommended seafood place on the beach where Trent had the local specialty, this huge grilled fish. Delicious. More scooting around, looking at the cute harbor filled with nice boats, getting lost, and having me try to drive. Awesome. Returned the scooter and returned to our pink palace. Dinner was street hamburgers.. Trent's favorite ever since he came to visit me in La Paz during college. These were just as good as we remembered.

We tried to hit the town that night, complete with making our own tequilla cocktails, but Isla is a pretty sleepy town. We spent a lot time walking around, enjoying our time together, and found a cute plaza all gussied up for Christmas with lots of adorable kids riding their new Christmas bikes around. I loved it.

Lazy morning eating watermelon on the beach before heading back to Cancun.

We had one night booked on the strip, to see what that was like. We took the cheap city bus, and our fancy hotel thought we were in the wrong place, since we looked pretty scrubby by now. They gave us champagne and escorted us (not sure whether to offer to take our luggage, since it was only our packs) to our room.

It was faaaaaancy. Or at least for us. We got dressed up and hit the beach, with its fancy pool and swim up bar.

Lots of Americans, but nice folks. We got all snazzed up for our time in downtown Cancun.

Not really our place. I kind of panicked and we ended up going to a restaurant for dinner just to get out of it for a bit. Surprisingly, the only place that gave us tummy aches. And we ate a lot of tacos and other things from carts!! We walked around town and tried to be brave, but had to forgo the "foam party" that was happening that night, in exchange for a lovely time in our hotel.

The next day we skeddadled out of the touristy part of Cancun and went downtown. Which was lovely! A real town, with lots of infrastructure (one of my favorite parts... I love to find the elementary schools and post offices) and real Mexicans. We found an adorable hotel and a great plaza with tons of street food options. We were going to try shopping, but found that the dealers were pretty awful. Hassling us for cheap, tacky, stuff. Soooo... we headed back to Isla! Naughty us. We just loved it.

We immediately found our favorite shop keepers and got some goodies, before having a cheap beer and watching the sunset on the beach. It was definitely our favorite place, and I am lucky it also has such great sentimental value now.

We caught a ferry back and got showered up before heading downtown again. The city was terrific. Lots of arts and dancing in all the plazas, happy Mexican families, delicious food. It was great. We stayed up late exploring and then came back to our hotel to pack. Up early to walk to the bus station and then our flight home. Where vacation part two happened!

It was a great trip, I love Mexico and I felt so relaxed and rejuvenated. The people were wonderful, the food was amazing, and sharing this trip with Trent and our new engagement was perfect. Yay Mexico!