We left cold, snowy Indiana for a week in the warmth and sun of Mexico. It was, almost completely, an excellent trip.
Our home for the week was the Paradisus La Esmerelda resort in Playa del Carmen, about 45 minutes south of Cancun. Our flight down was without incident, we navigated the hour-long line that was Mexican immigration, gathered our bags, and found our transport agent, a man holding a sign with our family’s name on it. The girls thought that was pretty cool. My sister-in-law who works in the travel industry had arranged the transport for us. I had to chuckle and wonder if she had tipped our driver about my musical likes, because as soon as we left the airport he switched the radio from Mexican music to one that played classic 80s and 90s music. The first song we heard was “Maneater” by Hall & Oates. Nicely done, Mexico!
The resort was very nice. Our room overlooked one of the resort’s several pools. Sadly we were also right next to one of the main walkways, so we got noise throughout the night from people strolling about. And our next door neighbors liked to keep their three-year-old kid out until well after 9:00 PM each night, which meant he had a full meltdown when they tried to put him to bed. As our rooms had a connecting door, we could hear every single scream and shout from the kid. The parents apparently decided that it was better to let the kid shriek and disturb everyone around them rather than lay down with him or find another method of soothing him. On our final night, when we were all wiped out and in bed early, this went on for about 20 minutes. S lost all patience and went over and kicked the connecting door over and over, which made me laugh. The parents did remove their son to one of the bedrooms so his screams were at least muffled a bit.
Anyway, the resort… Paradisus is an all-inclusive place. S and I had gone to all-inclusive places twice before with mixed results. Paradisus was excellent. There were something like 16 restaurants, although not all were open to kids. The food was always good to excellent. We had Asian-fusion, Mediterranean, modern Mexican, Japanese steakhouse-style, Italian, and ate at the buffet two nights. We also went to the buffet every morning but one. It was really, really good. I fell in love with combining chilaquiles and scrambled eggs for breakfast. It’s going to be my new breakfast thing here at home, too.
We also paid a little extra for the “family concierge” service. This got you some things like a fancy check-in service, a private pool that other guests were not allowed to use, and a personal concierge who was there to help you with all your needs. It was a slow week, so we “lucked” into having two concierges. I use quotation marks because that meant we got to tip two people at the end of the week. Lucky us! Anyway, Eduardo and Fernando were very nice. They brought the girls cookies and milk each night, although the girls did not like the cookies since they were Mexican-style and much drier and grittier than what they were used to. They set up dinner reservations for us for the entire week. They answered questions. And the big event was drawing the girls a huge bubble bath in our balcony jacuzzi tub, complete with balloon animals and cupcakes. There was an insane amount of bubbles involved: when all three girls got into the tub, you could only see their faces and toes poking out. They loved it.
Our days followed a regular rhythm: I usually woke up a little after 6:00 when the birds started chirping. One of the girls and I would then walk down to the beach to watch the sun rise. We never got a great sunrise, the point we were on looked east over a little grove of trees so we missed proper sunrise, but I got a few good pictures. Then we’d go eat right when the buffet opened at 7:00. After that, we’d take a walk, get our towels for the day, and claim some spots at the private pool. We’d usually head back to the room for a bit and then return to the pool around 9:00. We’d hang out there until noon-ish, eat lunch either right at the pool or at one of the outdoor restaurants, then continue hanging in the sun until late afternoon. We usually ate dinner at 6:30 and almost all of us were in bed and asleep by 9:30 most nights.
The girls did a few activities with the Kids Club, but they were kind of silly and aimed at younger kids. We didn’t take any trips into town or to visit any Mayan ruins either in Tulum or Chichen Itza. And the beach was a big disappointment. It was covered in some kind of nasty seaweed that washed up and rotted on the sand. So the area stunk and was full of small, flying insects that liked the rotting piles. Everyone told us this was unusual and was more typical of late summer than fall. There were crews out shoveling and using a Bobcat to move it, but it was a fruitless exercise as it just kept building up. S and I have been to Cancun and had told the girls about the beaches there, beautiful white sand and shallow, impossibly clear blue water that you can walk out into for several hundred feet and still just be knee-deep. So the expectation was pretty high for that kind of beach experience. They were disappointed, although we pointed out we still had a bunch of really nice pools. Even if the seaweed had not been present, the beach wasn’t nearly as clean as Cancun’s, once you got into the water it was very rocky, and the water was much more murky than 30 miles up the coast.
Although this was my third trip to Mexico, I did experience something new: coatis. We first saw them on Sunday morning at the pool. The girls started screaming about seeing ring-tailed lemurs. I said they looked like raccoons with long tails. Turns out I was closer to the truth: coatis are members of the raccoon family, although their tails are indeed rather lemur-like. They are active during the day and love to come out in packs of 5–20 and dig through trash, scavenge through leftover lunch trays, and take whatever you feed them. The younger ones, which have more colorful fur, are pretty cute. The older ones, which often turn gray and lose their fur, are borderline disgusting. One morning we found an old one hunched over on the stairs up to our floor. It looked like it had come in to die or something. We reversed course, took the elevator up, and then I walked down from above, slapping the stone steps hard until it scrambled back outside. There were also lots of big ass iguanas running around. One day one jumped up onto the lounge chair next to me. I heard scuffling, thought it was a bird, and just about pissed myself when I turned and saw this big lizard sitting two feet from me.
We did have the inevitable stomach issues during and after the trip. M likely ate something bad on Wednesday, and threw up overnight and Thursday morning. C and L both had lower GI issues that caused some trouble. And I think all of us have had lower GI “looseness” since we got back. I’m having some issues today, but let’s stop right there. Some of that can just be attributed to the amount of food we ate, I think.
C made a friend. The night we went to the Japanese steakhouse we sat by a family from the UK. We chatted them up and the next day their 10-year-old daughter and C started hanging together. They were kind of inseparable for the next five days. M and L also played with some sisters from New Jersey a couple days, but they didn’t get nearly as friendly with them as C did with her friend.
Once upon a time I spoke a fair amount of Spanish. Most of that is gone but I was able to recall and use a little last week. The waitstaff who were most comfortable with English enjoyed messing with customers who said more than “Por favor” and “Gracias” to them. Most of our meals began like this:
“Hola señores, ¿como están?”
“Muy bien, gracias, ¿y tu?”
“Bien, gracias, ¿hablas español?”
“Sí, pero muy, muy poquito. That’s about all I can do, your English is much better than my Spanish!”
And then we would all laugh.
One day at the pool our waiter came around and greeted us “Hola amigos!” I was talking to one of the girls at the time so instead of ordering a Dos Equis, I ordered “Dos Amigos.” I immediately caught my mistake and corrected it, but our man Alejandro loved that. “Dos Amigos, señor? Maybe dos amigas, right!?” The rest of the day he’d come by and ask, “¿Señor, quires más Dos Amigos?” and laugh again.
Folks also liked to ask where we were from. Apparently Indianapolis isn’t well known in Mexico so we ended up just saying “near Chicago.” Then they would ask if it was much colder up there. When we told them our security camera showed the front yard covered in snow Monday morning they were all amazed.
I believe those are the highlights. We had a very good week, the minor stomach issues excepted. It was relaxing, the girls were relatively well behaved, and we all came back with a little more skin color than we had when we left. Well C came back with a lot more, but she tans about 100 times faster than the rest of us.
We were supposed to jump right into spring sports today. It is Opening Day for spring kickball and we had three games on the calendar, plus L had a soccer practice we were going to try to make after her game. Naturally it has been snowing all day and although none of it is sticking, the windchills are down in the 20s. We’ve postponed all our games and are hoping the weather cooperates so we can get them in later this week. It is supposed to warm up quite a bit but there is also a chance of rain every day.
But we can’t complain after our lovely week in Mexico.