We left Canyon Lake and drove about three hours to our daughter, Kimi’s, home where we stayed for a week and visited with all the daughters and most of the grandkids. We had a great, relaxing, fattening visit.
Sunday, 3 November, we flew to Cancun, Mexico for a two week stay at a five star, all inclusive, resort.
Now I need to explain something. Y’all know that I’m not a “fancy” guy looking for the uppity up places to go, but when we canceled our cruise to Europe (due to timing issues with attending our granddaughter’s wedding), we had a three week gap in our schedule with nothing to do. We didn’t want to impose on our kids or their own busy lives, any more than we needed to so I went looking for “something” to do.
Booking.Com was running a “sale”; an all inclusive stay at a number of different Mexican resorts, beginning at around $800.00 for seven days, INCLUDING air fare. As I looked and looked, compared and compared, I determined that the cost of the canceled cruise would easily cover a two week stay at a resort. I then started looking at the rooms. Most rooms were “o.k.”, but I wanted something special to make up to Julieann for our bad experiences at Day Inn. I finally picked a room on the top floor that had a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, but also had a huge private Whirlpool and sunning area on the roof. The original cost of this room for two weeks was around $14,000. With the “sale” price, we paid a little over $5,000 including air fare (the cruise would have been $6,000 plus air fare to Rome from Houston).
I had also purchased ground transportation from the airport to the resort, about an hour drive. When we arrived at the resort our bags were stacked in front of the hotel and we were given a claim check. The next time we saw the bags later that day, they were neatly stacked in our room. When we arrived at the hotel I was escorted into the hotel by a gentleman who was trying, unsuccessfully, to find our names on his check in list. He said not to worry and just go to the Check In counter. As I was about to talk to the clerk at the counter the gentleman returned, all apologetic, stating that he didn’t know that we were “Privilege” members and escorted us to a private office where we had our very own “check in” person who also gave us drinks, fruit and vouchers for Lobster (or steak, in my case). We also didn’t know that we were Privilege members, but liked the treatment.
After completing the check in, our personal Butler (for the next 14 days) arrived to give us a tour of the hotel. We saw four swimming pools of various sizes and design, four major restaurants, one restaurant exclusively for “Privilege” members, at least a dozen bars, numerous “snack” restaurants including two ice cream shops, a coffee shop (with pastries and sandwiches), a large private beach on the ocean with a section for Privilege only, a huge theater that has a different performance every night, and a number of “specialty” restaurants. (If all this sounds familiar to you, you have probably sailed on a luxury cruise ship. This experience was basically the same minus the ship. Also, most ships are not All Inclusive and you have to purchase drink packages, Wi-Fi, pay extra for the Specialty Restaurants, etc. All this was included at this resort. The ONLY things that we had to pay for (IF we used them) was laundry services, massages at the Spa and Water Sports equipment).
So we made it through the first two days. Since we didn’t arrive at the room until almost 5PM and we had been up since 3AM, we went to the Privilege restaurant for dinner (it was the closest) and went to bed early. The service was great, but the food missed the "great" mark.
The next morning I wanted to see what the “buffet” restaurant had to offer. It was quite a walk from our building (found out later that we can ride a tram that comes by every 10-15 minutes) and it was HUGE buffet with islands of different foods. Service was constant and outstanding, but the food was actually so-so, even with their fancy juice drinks where they would add beets, carrots, etc. to orange juice.
After breakfast we walked around a bit and saw monkeys and Coati (AKA “Mexican Chickens” according to a local, but also known as coatimundis and coatimundi. Coatimundi is purportedly derived from the Tupian languages of Brazil. The coati is also known in English as the hog-nosed coon). They are mammals native to South America, Central America, Mexico, and the southwestern United States. They come running out from the woods to greet tourists. They all appeared friendly enough and if you didn’t have any food to give them, they just left you alone. Since it was still morning the animals were hungry. The tourists delighted in hand feeding the animals bananas and such, right under the sign that said “PLEASE DON’T FEED THE WILDLIFE”. As usual, that sign MUST have been for someone else, not them. Here’s a video I found that shows you the Coati
We had a fairly large rain storm during the night. When we returned to our room after our walk this morning we discovered a leak from the roof through one of our ceiling lights. Long story short – they moved us to a different, larger room right next door. The butler asked us to gather up the “small” items and move them and he would take care of the large items and all our hanging clothes. Well, he evidently did NOT clear this with Julieann as SHE insisted on repacking all our clothes, including the hanging clothes, and moving everything herself while the butler looked on. We paid for that breach in moving etiquette. We ended up making THREE additional return trips to the old room to pick up something (small) that she missed. Each trip required the approval of the Housekeeping Superintendent, Security (standing by in case we took something we weren’t supposed to take), someone from Housekeeping and our butler who mainly just stood around and scratched his head while Julieann did everything he told her not to do. Oh well……….
The dinner menu for the Buffet place said it was going to be “Oriental” so I wanted to try that. The food islands had Pizza, hot dogs, fries --- yeah, I can see some Orientals eating that, but not what I expected. I had the fried rice, sweet/sour pork and skewed beef. I liked the rice.
I had a drink (or two/three) at the main bar while we waited for the theater doors to open. As I saw just about everyone getting about the same service we were I asked one of the butlers what the difference was between the “regular” All Inclusive customer and a “Privilege” member. He told me about how the butler service is assigned to only Privilege (you know, that butler that we haven’t used yet), about the private Privilege beach, the private Privilege restaurant and the Privilege reservation system for the Specialty Restaurants. The Privilege members get a requested reservation time for dining where the non-Privilege customers need to wait in line for Space A (been there, done that). But, the biggest difference is the room itself. The non-Privilege folks have a standard room with no Whirlpool and "maybe" a Jacuzzi, etc.
Not sure if the extra expense would be worth it to everyone, but we really enjoy our Jacuzzi/Whirlpool and the view from our balcony.
After dinner we attended the “Broadway” show at the theater. All songs were lip-synced, but their dancing was enough to wear me out by just watching. Many of the performers lip-synced very well; others, not so much, but it was still an entertaining show. They performed against the songs of “The Phantom of the Opera”, “Dirty Dancing”, “Hair Spray”, “The Jersey Boys”, “Aladdin” and “Chicago”.
The next morning: Since we tried the Buffet breakfast yesterday and were under impressed, I thought it was time to try our private Privilege Restaurant. What I liked most about this restaurant, it seems that it doesn’t matter what time of the day you visit them, it’s going to take them about 30 minutes to cook and serve whatever it is you order. Since this is an All Inclusive Resort and serve premium alcohol, I was able to enjoy THREE Absolute Vodka Bloody Marys while waiting for my Eggs Benedict and then one more with breakfast. I can live with that.
When we were seated the Host handed us breakfast menus and told us that the breakfast buffet (major mini buffet in comparison to the main restaurant’s buffet) was available, ordering off the menu was an option or doing both was just fine. So, while I enjoyed my Bloody Marys, Julieann made her way to the buffet and scooped up some healthy stuff (fruits, veggies, etc.). She munched on that until her meal was served and then questioned what she had in front of her. Evidently they forgot some vegetables that were supposed to come with her meal. No problem – she just returned to the Buffet and got some. She was halfway through her breakfast when the waiter delivered a freshly made breakfast of what she had previously ordered. Now she had THREE full plates sitting in front of her, begging me to help her eat some. Sorry, I was already full on Bloody Marys.
That night the main restaurant was supposedly (emphasis on “supposedly”) preparing an Italian Dinner for our dining pleasure. I’m thinking, “They can’t screw that up”. I was wrong. You know, I don't believe that I am that hard to please, but this place seems to be going out of its way to NOT feed me properly. All I wanted and expected for "Italian Night" was a little pasta, some red sauce and maybe a meat ball or two. NOOOO -- the only pasta seen was cooked with some kind of seafood that I cannot have (because of my Allergies). They were also cooking flank steaks, but the one I got had more fat on it than I did. I also opted for the "mashed potatoes". I think they mashed them with a blender because it was more like Potato SOUP. And then a scoop of peas -- which left the steamer about 30 minutes before they should have (can you say "crunchy"?). Finally, as we approached the main restaurant we were mildly shocked to see that the restaurant was buttoned up and everything -- tables, chairs, buffet lines, hanging lights, decorations, etc. -- were set up outside on the grass. We thought that was sort of "ballsie" since there was a 60% of rain, but I gave them (undeserved) credit for knowing something we didn’t. Well, about 10 minutes into dinner, sure enough, the skies opened up and totally flooded the whole place. Customers and employees were scattering all over the place while I sat at our table, totally alone, enjoying my drink under a huge umbrella we very wisely brought with us. I felt really bad for the employees who had to hurry to tear down everything and re-set it inside the building. Didn't see any management types helping; you know, the guys who decided to have everyone eat outside with a 60% chance of rain. After being the ONLY one sitting outside and receiving numerous dirty looks from da spouse, I wandered into the building to watch the commotion of “tear down, move, re-set the tables and buffet line” show.
Anyhow, after the “Italian Dinner” I went to the Lobby Bar and had them make me two doubles; one for there and one to take to the theater for the show (yes, this is allowed. In fact, with over a dozen bars on this property, drinking alcohol whenever and wherever possible is not only allowed, I believe it is demanded.) So Julieann went to the Ladies Room and I finished the first drink. I carried the second double into the theater and there she was, waiting patiently for me to sit down next to her.
The show was titled “The Pops” and featured Beyonce, J-Lo, Ricky Martin, Madonna and Freddy Mercury. The guy who lip-synced to Freddy Mercury stole the show – he was fantastic. Very enjoyable show all around.
This morning we had breakfast at the Privilege Lounge with great success. I’m beginning to really like that is takes so long to receive whatever it is we order as I fill the time with numerous Absolute Vodka based Bloody Marys. My average is four per sitting. I think any more than that would cause that caustic stare I receive from Julieann’s pretty eyes to actually burn a hole right through my skull. The added attraction this morning was the witnessing of the most perfect set of breasts seen recently. The main thing that detracted from these perfect breasts was the Adam’s Apple the guy had :-(
Since the Main Restaurant has failed me three times so far, tonight we're going to try the Privilege Lounge for dinner. Because we order off the menu there I expect that it will be slow service, but will give me time to have 3 or 4 cocktails. ;-)
So, that’s what we did and here comes my major “gripe” with fancy restaurants. They all seem to go out of their way to re-invent food. Julieann ordered Oxtail Soup for the appetizer. She has eaten Oxtail Soup just about all over the world, but nothing like this. First the waiter placed an empty bowl in front of her. Then he poured the soup from what looked like a Tea Pot into the bowl. NO MEAT, NO BONE – as in “where’s the Ox Tail?” The soup was also advertised to come with noodles. Nah – NOODLE, as in ONE noodle. She then had the Lamb and was very pleased with that.
I just wanted a “standard” salad for my appetizer, but no such thing on the menu. So I ordered what I thought to be fairly close to a standard salad (minus any greens): Quinoa Salad with Tomato Jelly; (description): cherry tomato, purple onion, rucula, dehydrated cranberry. When it arrived at our table I have no words to describe it. If I didn’t know that I was expecting a “salad” I would have thought that I was just served some sort of desert. That is, until I tasted it. I tasted the “jelly” first and found that it “may” have contained some tomato juice, but was mixed with a LOT of sugar. I then moved the jelly off the “stuff” and found, what looked like, some kind of concoction that appeared to be rice mixed with stuff and served upside down. It didn’t taste like rice. In fact, the only items that tasted like they looked was the cherry tomato and dried cranberry. I don’t have a clue what the rest of the stuff was, but I didn’t like it. I then addressed my Rib Eye steak. Again, I don’t know what it was marinated in, but it didn’t taste like any Rib Eye I’ve had before. I only ate half of it.
To top off this dinner, a group of “rich” folks came in. I say “rich” because they acted like they owned the place; bossing all the wait staff and host, loud (VERY loud), obnoxious, foul mouthed, etc., etc. I couldn’t even finish my meal, IF I had wanted to. Just goes to show that money doesn’t buy class. I was truly embarrassed for them and really wished that they were not Americans. We just left and headed to the main bar for a couple of double Absolute Vodkas with Cranberry Juice, my “go to” saving grace place.
The show tonight was based on the movie “The Greatest Show”. It was o.k., but I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s show “Grease”.
As expected, Grease was GREAT!! BTW – The videos I made from these shows are too large for this forum (Travel Journal) so I posted a few on Facebook. You can see them by finding my posts between 3-17 November.
(Day Seven) So what's new in Cancun? We are fulfilling our promise to ourselves to "relax". Our schedule has been pretty much the same everyday: wake around 0700, computer time until 0900, breakfast @ 1000 (with 4-5 Bloody Marys), short walk until noon. Nap, read, soak in the Jacuzzi, etc. in the room until dinner at 1900 (most of the time is trying to decide which restaurant to try tonight). After dinner arrive at the lobby bar around 2030 to enjoy 1-3 Absolute & Cranberry Juice and then take one drink with us to the 2130 show. Walk back to the room around 2300, catch a little TV and then sleep. The show last night was The Lion King; not bad, but Grease is still my favorite -- that and Freddy Mercury.
Haven't really had a decent meal since we've been here. Breakfast is about all they can come up with without screwing up everything. I told you about the Italian Night where I couldn't even find any spaghetti. I found it last night at "Brazilian Night" along with hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, pizza, etc. I still don't know what a Brazilian dish is, but I FINALLY got my spaghetti. Another night we tried "Route 66", a so-called American BBQ place. I posted a photo of what we had. Julieann made out ok with her Pork Belly Sandwich, but not so good for me with my dry, tough Beef Brisket and cold, greasy Onion Rings. I really liked the Cole Slaw, but they only gave me a forkful. Tonight we're using our coupon for Steak (for me) and Lobster (for her). This was the best dinner I have had yet. Great T-Bone steak, but the “extras” were lacking and I didn’t care. Great steak! Julieann’s lobster was also great, or so I was told by the seafood expert.
During one of our walks to the beach we lied down on a lounge chair in the shade and enjoyed the breeze coming off the water. I also was trying to enjoy the view of the beach, but these bikini clad women kept getting in the way. Oh well, such is life.
The next day we finally left the resort and rode a tour bus two hours to Chichen Itza (Mayan Ruins), walked around for three hours and then two hours back to the resort. Chichen Itza was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people and is located in Tinúm Municipality, Yucatán State, Mexico. Chichen Itza was a major focal point in the Northern Maya Lowlands from the Late Classic (c. AD 600–900) through the Terminal Classic (c. AD 800–900) and into the early portion of the Postclassic period (c. AD 900–1200). The site exhibits a multitude of architectural styles, reminiscent of styles seen in central Mexico and of the Puuc and Chenes styles of the Northern Maya lowlands. The presence of central Mexican styles was once thought to have been representative of direct migration or even conquest from central Mexico, but most contemporary interpretations view the presence of these non-Maya styles more as the result of cultural diffusion.
Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical great cities, or Tollans, referred to in later Mesoamerican literature. The city may have had the most diverse population in the Maya world, a factor that could have contributed to the variety of architectural styles at the site. The city was built upon broken terrain, which was artificially leveled in order to build the major architectural groups, with the greatest effort being expended in the leveling of the areas for the Castillo pyramid, and the Las Monjas, Osario and Main Southwest groups. The site contains many fine stone buildings in various states of preservation, and many have been restored. The buildings were connected by a dense network of paved causeways, called sacbeob. Archaeologists have identified over 80 sacbeob crisscrossing the site and extending in all directions from the city. Many of these stone buildings were originally painted in red, green, blue and purple colors. Pigments were chosen according to what was most easily available in the area. The site must be imagined as a colorful one, not like it is today. Just like Gothic cathedrals in Europe, colors provided a greater sense of completeness and contributed greatly to the symbolic impact of the buildings. The architecture encompasses a number of styles, including the Puuc and Chenes styles of the northern Yucatán Peninsula. The buildings of Chichen Itza are grouped in a series of architectonic sets, and each set was at one time separated from the other by a series of low walls. The three best known of these complexes are the Great North Platform, which includes the monuments of El Castillo (Temple of Kukulcan), Temple of Warriors and the Great Ball Court; The Osario Group, which includes the pyramid of the same name as well as the Temple of Xtoloc; and the Central Group, which includes the Caracol, Las Monjas, and Akab Dzib. South of Las Monjas, in an area known as Chichén Viejo (Old Chichén) and only open to archaeologists.
The ruins of Chichen Itza are federal property, and the site's stewardship is maintained by Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History). The land under the monuments had been privately owned until 29 March 2010, when it was purchased by the state of Yucatán. Chichen Itza is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico with over 2.6 million tourists a year.
As with most Tourist “sites”, vendors lined the entrance and exit ways. One vendor at the entrance in particular captured our attention with his “Hello friends. If you don’t have time to stop to visit my store now, please stop on your way out. I promise I’ll only rip you off a little bit. Please help me – I have to pay for the wall.”
Tonight we had reservations for the Mexican Restaurant in the resort. I’m no expert on Mexican food, but I thought I knew the “basics” from my time in San Antonio. Ten items were on our menu; one lamb (Julieann’s favorite), one beef/chicken (Fajitas) and the remainder all seafood (which doesn’t like me). I’ve had Fajitas many times before and had an idea of what to expect. Surprise – NOT this time!!! Normally, when I order Fajitas they are either beef or chicken; this one was a combination of both. The Fajita is cooked with onions and peppers – this was done. Then the Fajita “normally” comes with Rice, Re-fried Beans, Cheese, Lettuce, Pico, Sour Cream, Fresh Guacamole, Garnished with Fresh Cilantro and Flour or Whole Wheat Tortillas (Just to make sure that I wasn’t lying to myself, I copied this description from a Mexican restaurant in Maryland). What I received as “extras” was a TEASPOON of Guacamole, LIQUID Re-fried Beans dripped along the edge of my plate, two flour tortillas and a half cup of rice. No cheese, lettuce, pico, sour cream. I ate it.
Julieann hasn’t fared so well in another area. She “loves” Jalapenos and all things spicy. There are TWELVE restaurants (or eating places) in this resort and we have yet to find one that serves Jalapenos. Now for a lesson in “local” food, namely the Jalapeño Pepper. In 1999, roughly 107,000 acres in Mexico were dedicated towards growing Jalapeños and as of 2011, that number had fallen to 101,000 acres. Jalapeños account for thirty percent of Mexico's chili production, and while acreage has decreased, there has been a 1.5% increase in volume yield per year in Mexico due to increasing irrigation, use of greenhouses, better equipment, knowledge, and improved techniques. BUT, whenever she asks for Jalapeno Peppers she’s given a blank stare. When we go on to explain what the Jalapeno Peppers are a light comes on in their eyes and they bring her a bottle of Tabasco Sauce. Tonight she received a hand-made concoction of “something” spicy mixed on a plate (I suspect it was Chinese Mustard). She just stared at it for awhile and then tried it. It was hot, but wasn’t the Jalapeno Peppers she had requested.
The next morning I had a chat with the lady who makes the dinner reservation and asked her if she knew what a Jalapeno Pepper was. She looked confusingly at me and said “Of course. That is a Mexican hot pepper.” I then asked why no one working in any of their restaurants knows what a Jalapeno Pepper was. She was dumbfounded and did not have an answer. It’s still a mystery and probably will be well after we leave Mexico.
Tonight we are trying the Italian Restaurant. Here’s hoping I can find the missing spaghetti.
UPDATE: Again, NO spaghetti, but did have something “like” lasagna.
Today we returned to Tulum (visited a couple of years ago). Tulum is the site of a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city which served as a major port for Coba, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The ruins are situated on 39 foot tall cliffs along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya; it was at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico. Old World diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in very high fatalities, disrupting the society and eventually causing the city to be abandoned. One of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites, Tulum is today a popular site for tourists. The site might have been called Zama, meaning City of Dawn, because it faces the sunrise. Tulum stands on a bluff facing east toward the Caribbean Sea. Tulúm is also the Yucatán Mayan word for fence, wall or trench. The walls surrounding the site allowed the Tulum fort to be defended against invasions. Tulum had access to both land and sea trade routes, making it an important trade hub, especially for obsidian. From numerous depictions in murals and other works around the site, Tulum appears to have been an important site for the worship of the Diving or Descending god.
Tulum was protected on one side by steep sea cliffs and on the landward side by a wall that averaged about 9.8–16.4 feet in height. The wall also was about 26 feet thick and 1,300 feet long on the side parallel to the sea. The part of the wall that ran the width of the site was slightly shorter and only about 560 feet on both sides. Constructing this massive wall would have taken an enormous amount of energy and time, which shows how important defense was to the Maya when they chose this site. On the southwest and northwest corners there are small structures that have been identified as watch towers, showing again how well defended the city was. There are five narrow gateways in the wall with two each on the north and south sides and one on the west. Near the northern side of the wall a small cenote provided the city with fresh water. It is this impressive wall that makes Tulum one of the most well-known fortified sites of the Maya.
There are three major structures of interest at the Tulum archaeological site. The Temple of the Frescoes, the Temple of the Descending God and El Castillo. Among the more spectacular buildings here is the Temple of the Frescoes that included a lower gallery and a smaller second story gallery. The Temple of the Frescoes was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun. Niched figurines of the Maya “diving god” or Venus deity decorate the facade of the temple. This “diving god” is also depicted in the Temple of the Diving God in the central precinct of the site. Above the entrance in the western wall a stucco figure of the “diving god” is still preserved, giving the temple its name. A mural can still be seen on the eastern wall that resembles that of a style that originated in highland Mexico, called the Mixteca-Puebla style, though visitors are no longer permitted to enter.
The Temple of the Descending God consists of a single room with a door to the west and a narrow staircase that was built on top of another temple that served as its base. In the niche located at the top of the door stands a sculpture that’s found throughout Tulum. He has wings, a headdress and holds an object in his hands.
Also in the central precinct is the Castillo, which is 25feet tall. The Castillo was built on a previous building that was colonnaded and had a beam and mortar roof. The lintels in the upper rooms have serpent motifs carved into them. The construction of the Castillo appears to have taken place in stages. A small shrine appears to have been used as a beacon for incoming canoes. This shrine marks a break in the barrier reef that is opposite the site. Here there is a cove and landing beach in a break in the sea cliffs that would have been perfect for trading canoes coming in. This characteristic of the site may be one of the reasons the Maya founded the city of Tulum exactly here, as Tulum later became a prominent trading port during the late Postclassic.
We met a family from North Carolina and had a great tour with them. Hope to stay in contact for future trips.
Today is our last day in Cancun. We leave at OH-DARK-THIRTY (0330 AM) tomorrow so we said our goodbyes to those we’ll miss the most. That would be the wait staff, the bartenders and a special hostess. We also said our goodbyes to those Mexican Chickens, AKA Coatis. We had our last breakfast at the Privilege Lounge. I’m thinking (or Julieann is thinking) that we’ve been here too long when the waiter delivers THREE DOUBLE Absolute Bloody Marys to me before we are even handed the menus.
We had a fairly relaxing time here, but won’t be back (too many problems for the price paid). We’ll come back to Cancun, but try a different resort next time.