Category Archives: Yucatan

My Travel “Essentials”

At Tulum

My travel “essentials?” I’m so glad you asked…

Running shoes, a bikini (if there is even the remotest chance of water and sunshine), my current journal, and my camera. Now, don’t get the misguided impression that I’m a carry-on only traveler. Not the case. Ever. But these are the “specialized items I’m not going to find in an airport kiosk or roadside shop. I’d rather forget necessary phone numbers than my running shoes! And perusing swimwear on vacation time sounds torturous as my interest in anything “retail” flags once I’ve purchased souvenirs for the folks back home.

So; how is it that I found myself camera-less in Akumal, Mexico (Ooh. I’m cringing just writing those words…)?

I could blame it on the passport frenzy that ensued when international travel requirements were updated to reflect present day realities. The kids’ paperwork was on its way well before the media grabbed the story in the spring of 2007, but when subsequent applicants expedited their passports; my three children were apparently relegated to the back of the tourist line. My Congressman Pat Tiberi’s office was responsive and helpful, but our margin to departure had dwindled to two days before our mail gal happily waved the envelopes at me from the end of the driveway. Maybe that blew my focus a little?

The sad reality is that when we arrived and I reached for a fresh camera battery, I suddenly remembered plugging my battery charger into an outlet by the garage door where I couldn’t possibly forget it. And I couldn’t remember unplugging and packing it.

With the dying battery light already flashing ominously in my camera screen, I checked out the options. Heather and Hannah before morning runThe Wal-mart in Playa del Carmen was my distant oasis of hope, and we didn’t plan to be near the city for several days. Thankfully, my more organized daughter had brought her camera, spare batteries and charger, and was displaying more than a casual flair for photography (Still haven’t figured out how she got both the creative gene and the organizational one; seems a little unfair…). She was annointed the trip photographer as I stingily snapped the odd photo, conserving what battery power remained.

Center of palm frond

Our eventual Wal-mart expedition was “educational”. I’d had a humorous Wal-mart experience previously in which my limited Spanish landed me my desired bug repellent only after a helpful employee first escorted me to the deodorant aisle. This time, we gathered Spanish language magazines and Mexican candy (“hot” chewy Skwinkles) for ourselves and friends at home. But when I asked about replacing my fading battery at the photo shop, I was informed that my closest possibility lay in Cancun to the north. Big sigh.

It was one of those “recheck your priorities” moments. Spending precious vacation time driving and shopping for something we might not even find in order to chronicle our happy adventure had the tone of an oxymoron. Another big sigh. Then, I resolved to maximize what was still available to us.

Tulum ruins

My daughter graciously considered my suggestions on “must-have” photos as we explored Mayan ruins and allowed strangers to snap group shots of us with her brand new digital camera. And I focused on capturing some mental snapshots and videos, because photographs are only one method of preserving memories…

I’ve written about my so-called “perfect moments”. They virtually save themselves into our internal data base, but with intent, they can become almost a transport point from days ahead to moments long behind us. It’s a matter of hitting your own “pause” button and then gathering in the messages that are nudging your senses. Like the stirring of a breeze as it ripples skirt against skin and hair into disarray. The lingering fragrances of sunscreen and ocean-salted children. Bubbling laughter layered over the rhythmic track of the tide… When deeply inhaled, these fragments fuse into a tangible place you can revisit within yourself.

Do I wish I’d had a working camera? Of course. Did it ruin my vacation? Never.

*Photographic credit goes to my daughter Hannah and a couple of anonymous passers-by.

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It’s Already Here

It’s here, isn’t it?  “Getting ready for Christmas” is actually the biggest part of our Christmas (or any holiday) experience. So take a minute to breathe it in. Those moments sitting in ridiculous amounts of traffic -but with someone you love in the passenger seat, the splattering of batter across your kitchen as cookies are created and baked, the extra sparkle in your neighborhood as you drive in through your own personal light show…   Let’s recognize these for the gifts that they are. How I ever was organized enough in 2008 to do a pre-Christmas vacation eludes me now as I scramble through last minute shopping, audio recording and writing projects!  But, it’s good.  The moments, as chaotic as they may occasionally be, are  mine.  And I appreciate them all.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico Map

Santa might check his list twice, but I didn’t have to do a recheck on the option of a Mexico trip just before Christmas this year! My response was an immediate and emphatic “Yes!” (throw in a squeal or two if you want to be completely realistic). Panic followed shortly thereafter. I lack the elfin staff that enables Santa to readily pause for cookies and belly laughs; could I really bypass the final pre-Christmas shopping days, returning just in time for its Eve?

Umm… yeah. As it turned out, that’s not such a big problem for a non-recreational shopper like me. More strategic shopping shaved off much of the reallocated time, and we aimed for earlier enjoyment of our treasured traditions such as “The Nutcracker” ballet with my daughter, gingerbread house-grahamcracker house buildingmaking with kids and cousins, and caroling with Grandma Dugan. If traveling to Mexico had required debiting seasonal joys, it wouldn’t have been worth the “warm”, but all fell into place, and I boarded the plane with virtually all of my shopping/baking completed ~ready for “wonderful” because I already had that cozy sort of feeling on the inside.

Here are some photos from “downtown” Play del Carmen in the days before Christmas. I hope to locate some more photos from previous trips to the area, because I spent most of our long weekend this time running, swimming, snorkeling and walking miles along the shoreline of the Caribbean Sea.

Counting my blessings in Spanish…

Updated from December 28, 2008.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico Map

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Maybe… Mexico? (The Royal Playa Del Carmen)

Pelicanos at Royal P del C

Several Mexican resorts are offering a “flu-free guarantee” in hopes of stemming national tourism losses that could total 4 billion in 2009.  Travel to more than twenty resorts booked by June 30  for this calendar year is eligible for the offer of three free vacations should a traveler become ill with a verified case of swine flu.

terraceview

The Royal Playa Del Carmen is among the properties offering this incentive to hesitant vacationers with additional deep discounts and promotions listed on the resort website.  Having recently enjoyed the endless amenities of this luxury resort last December, I can attest to the excellent values of the current vacation offers -regardless of the money back (in the form of future travel) guarantee.

roomviewThe Royal’s palatial suites, most of which are ocean-view or oceanfront, include enormous in-room jacuzzis and terraces overlooking the Caribbean Sea.  Rose petals, artistic towel “swans” and daily aroma therapy embellished our already delightful room, but the prize was most definitely the view of ever-blue water framed by rippling sheers.

beachbeds

All-inclusive resorts are the norm in Mexico’s resort areas; the quality of included fare can range from mediocre on up to exceptional.  We found the extensive beverage and restaurant service at the Royal Playa Del Carmen to be consistently very good to excellent.  We especially enjoyed our breezy lunches at Pelicanos on the beach and the fusian fare at Asianos.  The fresh fruit, Mexican cuisine and outstanding made-to-order omelets at Spice gave it our top vote for breakfast.  A well-equipped spa/fitness facility, watersports and a long beach -perfect for running and walking- made keeping up our exercise routines easy, and Playa Del Carmen was but a wander away -roughly a one block walk from the resort property.

swings

A billowing breeze, crescent of shoreline and clear blue sea are the only true essentials for a perfect beach day.  Add in a few unexpected delights such as frozen sugared grapes proffered on a passing tray and canopied beach beds -and one begins to understand the quiet joys of an adults-only resort.

Note the inviting plank swings dangling in front of a beach side bar and know that the child lives on in many of these adults…

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