Monday, April 16, 2018

THE RIVIERA MAYA – PLAYA DEL CARMEN AND PUERTO MORELOS


April 9, 2018

I got up early on Monday, thinking I would go to yoga.  I left Carlos snoozing and went out to find the yoga class which was supposed to be beside the adult pool, near our room.  I searched all over the property, but never did find the yoga class.  I went back to the room and worked on my blog for a couple of hours until Carlos got up.  Then we went to breakfast, arriving just before breakfast finished.  Viva Maya is like a cruise ship in that there is always food.  There are distinct mealtimes, but the snack bar operates 24/7, offering pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and an assortment of fruit and Mexican food.

Carlos is a good dancer and one of my missions for this trip was to start learning Latin dances.  We went back for another lesson in merengue.  The teachers went WAY too fast and the students were scrambling to keep up.  It was fun but passed by in a blur and I retained almost nothing.  As I have somewhat of a mental block when it comes to learning dance steps, this was not surprising.

After some time at the pool, we headed over to the trapeze rig so Carlos could try his hand.  He did pretty well for a first time and finished with an elegant back flip.  I videotaped his performance.  Then I went to a Zumba class while Carlos rested and sneakily videotaped me trying to dance.  When that was over, we got another salsa lesson.  I hoped that some of it might sink in if I kept going, but they seemed to be counting repetitions instead of beats and we were both fairly confused.  Still, it was entertaining and the music was good.

Don Diego Restaurant at Viva Maya
We had a 6:00 dinner reservation, so just had time to get cleaned up and ready to eat dinner at Don Diego, the Mexican restaurant in the resort.  The restaurant was decorated in traditional Mexican fashion with leather tables and chairs and sombreros and zarapes everywhere.  I started with shrimp nachos and was surprised when I received two chips covered with shrimp and cheese.  They were more like small tostadas than nachos, but at least I wasn’t tempted to gorge myself.  We both ordered arrachera and it was tasty, although the side dishes were more decorative than delicious.  Neither of us were impressed with the cakes we received for dessert, but the strawberry margaritas were good and Carlos got shots of good tequila.  The service was good and the staff amusing, so we had a good time.

Incredible Spread of Hors D'oeuvres
Carved Watermelon
















We had been invited to a cocktail party that evening.  The party was boring and we were too full to take advantage of the incredible hors d'oeuvres.  Everything was amazingly presented and there were beautiful watermelon carvings.  Looking at the food was the best part.  The two margaritas I had had with dinner made me ready for bed by 7:30, so I went back to the room to relax while Carlos went out on the town in Playa del Carmen with the girls he had met the previous night.  I was asleep by 10:00.



April 10, 2018

Once again, I got up early and went to get a cappuccino at the coffee bar.  The best WiFi connection in the hotel was at the coffee bar, so I stayed there, playing with my phone until I got hungry.  Carlos met me for breakfast and then I spent the rest of the morning using the internet in the coffee bar.

Playing Horse Shoes on the Beach
We met again for our dance lesson at noon and then barely had time to eat a little lunch before our dance instructress drafted us to play horse shoes.  There was a competition between several teams and Carlos and I emerged as the overall winners (due to no fault of mine.)  We received T-shirts as prizes, which was a good thing because Carlos had done laundry and all his clothes were still wet when dinnertime rolled around.  

Carlos Hanging from His Ankles
                      Carlos had another couple of gos at the trapeze and I begged off Zumba to videotape him.  Then it was time for salsa again.  Our days were flying by, even though we hadn’t really scheduled anything.

The Porto Fino Restaurant at Viva Maya












We had a later dinner reservation, so went for a quick dip in the pool before showering and dressing for dinner.  Tuesday night, we went to Porto Fino, another Italian restaurant in the resort.  The food was not as amazing as at the Miramare, but the wine was better.  I had a Caesar salad, some linguini al pesto that was good but strangely contained potato cubes, and some very lovely arrachera cooked in a red wine sauce.  Carlos had a chicken breast stuffed with crab and served in an almond sauce.  The sauce was good, but the chicken was dry.  The desserts were once again disappointing.  Carlos barely touched his mango mousse and I only ate the fruit and custard out of the center of my tart.  Still, they kept the wine coming and brought coffee with Bailey’s after dinner.  It surely beat the cafeteria.


Daniel Singing
After we were done there, we went to the theater where they were showing Maleficent on their huge wide screen.  The screen was so stretched that all the characters were terribly distorted, which was rather funny.  Once the movie was over, it was time for the Mexican Folkloric show.  I had seen many folkloric dances at the various festivals I had attended, but this was the best.  The dancers were good, but the excellent sound system and beautifully photographed backgrounds really made the show.
The Backgrounds Really Made the Show











May Pole Dance
One of our dance instructors, Daniel, began the show by singing a solo and he asked Carlos to videotape it for him.  He was actually very good and his singing expressed a lot of emotion.  We congratulated him afterward and had our pictures taken with him and the rest of the cast.

Neither of us were really tired, so we walked out to the beach and sat for a bit, enjoying the cool breeze and the lights of Cozumel in the distance.  Then I went back to the room to write and Carlos went off to find his friends.

Me with Daniel and the Rest of the Cast

April 11, 2018

We made it to breakfast before the doors closed and then relaxed in the members lounge until it was time for my dance lesson.  Carlos was stuck on the phone, so I went alone.  My partner was a rather arrogant young man who was a professional dancer and informed me that I would have to keep up.  I mostly managed to do so and had a good time.

Lounging by the Main Pool at Viva Maya
The afternoon passed quickly.  I relaxed by the pool and Carlos went back for his trapeze session.  I did a Zumba class and then we took a salsa lesson. I had danced so much in bare feet on the travertine tile that I had raised a blister on the ball of my left foot.


We ate dinner at the Viva Café, a windowless room that might once have been a conference room.  I did not recall its existence on my previous visit to Viva Maya.  The food was beautifully presented and tasty, if a somewhat strange combination of dishes.  I began with an assortment of bruschetta, followed by cream cheese stuffed shrimp and then a petite cheesecake covered with assorted berries and graced with a tiny chocolate sailboat.
Trapeze Act
Flying Around the Stage

                                                                                                                                                               


              The highlight of the day was definitely the Las Vegas show that evening.  There were a number of fun dance numbers, but the two circus acts stole the show.  The first was a fellow who performed amazing feats of gymnastics while suspended from a trapeze.  He was amazingly strong and not a small man.


The second act which was in many ways even more fantastic was a young man who flew about the theater suspended from a rope, sometimes hanging from one foot.  At one point he even hung with a loop around his neck.  He swarmed up and down the rope and swooped and spun while the audience held its breath.  It was a spectacular performance.

April 12,2018

A Beautiful Place to Sail
I had a 9:00 appointment to review the status of my membership in the vacation club, so I grabbed a cappuccino and went to the office.  When I finished there, I had to hurry to the beach to meet Carlos in time to make our reservation to take out a catamaran.  The wind had finally died enough for the port to be opened.  It was lovely sailing on the beautiful, warm, turquoise waters.  The little Hobee catamarans offered by the hotel have no headsails and so are nearly impossible to tack.  They stall at the point where the bow is straight into the wind and only throwing our weight to the low side sufficed to complete the maneuver.  Gybing was somewhat easier.


Landscaping at Viva Azteca
I took a swim in the ocean.  The water was very pleasant.  I spent the majority of the afternoon reading under a palm tree on the beach.  In the late afternoon we walked over to the Viva Azteca and walked around the property.  It was a smaller, quieter resort with only one pool and not a lot going on.  We had met several guests who preferred the Viva Maya, even though it was not as expensive, because of all the activities and shows.  The Viva Azteca was beautifully landscaped and peaceful when we were there.
Me with Carlos at Viva Azteca

We ate dinner at Bambu, the Asian restaurant at the Viva Azteca.  It offered a strange variety of Asian cuisines.  I had spring rolls and a dish billed as Indian that was made of beef and tasted like Turkish meatballs atop fried rice.  It was tasty, but strange.  I had deep fried ice cream for dessert, which was fun.  It was a short walk back to Viva Maya and felt good after the meal.  Carlos took a nap while I went to the show.  Then I wrote while we watched a movie on TV.





April 13, 2018

Friday was our last full day at Viva Maya which felt a little sad, but also somewhat welcome.  We couldn’t eat, dance, and lounge forever.  It was time to get on with life. 

We ate a late breakfast and then returned to lounge around the room until I went off to my last merengue lesson.  I was starting to get the hang of it and was sorry I wouldn’t continue to have a regular opportunity to practice with sexy young partners.  Carlos went to the beach in the afternoon while I dozed by the pool until it was time to head over to Viva Azteca for our dinner reservation at Xul-Ha, a Mayan restaurant.
Dinner at Xul-Ha

The restaurant was in an open-air palapa.  While the ambiance was delightful, it was hot and humid which may have contributed to my lack of appetite.  There was nothing wrong with the food but, after eating my sopa de limon, I barely picked at the little hard-boiled egg enchiladas in green mole and sliced pork seasoned with achiote.  Even the carrot cake for dessert didn’t tempt me beyond one bite.  The only thing I really enjoyed was the cold beer.

Dance Number from Chicago
We had time to walk back to the Viva Maya in plenty of time for one more show.  The entertainment team performed a selection of dance numbers based on Hollywood movies.  The huge screens provided vivid backdrops for the dancers.  In a few numbers, the dancers would disappear from the stage, only to reappear in the video, which was quite effective.  I especially enjoyed the selections from Chicago, but there were also impressive performances based on The Matrix and Grease.  When the show was over, I was happy to go back to the room to read while Carlos went out for one last evening with the friends he had made.
Grease
 April 14, 2018

We had just enough time to eat a leisurely breakfast, pack, and check out of the hotel before noon.  We took a taxi the short distance to the tourist bus station in Playa del Carmen (There are two.)  Carlos caught a bus from there to the airport for 190 pesos and I hopped on a bus to Puerto Morelos for 32 pesos (<$2.) 

Downtown Puerto Morelos Was a Mess
The ride took most of an hour.  We first threaded our way through Playa del Carmen to the long-distance bus station and then followed the coast highway, past numerous resorts, to the Puerto Morelos station.  The bus station was on the highway, but the beach portion of the town was a mile or so off the main road.  I got a taxi into town for 30 pesos.  The entire downtown area of Puerto Morelos was torn up and blocked off because of a repavement project.  The taxi dropped me a block and a half or so from my AirBnB.  I had to lug my bags over the piles of sand and concrete forms to the place where I was staying.

My House in Puerto Morelos

My Room
My host had left me instructions for operating a lockbox to get the key, but he just happened to be there and let me in.  There were three units but I was the only guest.  There was a restaurant in the front and three units in the back.  Most of the property consisted of a huge covered patio.  Each unit had an outdoor kitchen under the patio roof.  My room was spartan, but adequate.  The bed was comfortable and there was air conditioning and a limited supply of hot water that was sufficient for one person.  The hot water heater held all of two gallons.  I had an identical one under my kitchen sink to provide hot water until the water from the main heater kicked in.  The room could have used some paintings on the wall or something, but it was clean and comfortable enough.

The Kitchen
Puerto Morelos Malecon
It was very hot when I arrived, so I stayed indoors and read until the late afternoon when I went out for a walk.  There actually is a port in Puerto Morelos.  A coral reef just offshore provides a safe anchorage.  There were many fishing boats and tour boats, but not one sailboat.  The reef was protected in a National Park and sunscreen was prohibited on the otherwise attractive white sand beach.  The water was that clear Caribbean blue, marred only by the sargassum that grew everywhere in the region.  The weed washed up onto the shore and was raked into mammoth piles.  It wasn’t pretty, but did provide habitat for sea creatures.  I walked a little way along the beach, but the wind was blowing hard enough that sand was flying everywhere, so I quickly retreated inland to the street paralleling the beach.
Boats and Piles of Sargassum in Puerto Morelos
Catholic Church in Puerto Morelos
 Puerto Morelos is three streets deep.  My lodging was on the middle street.  There was a plaza between that street and the beach and a Catholic church across from that.  My lodging was to the right of the plaza, but the hotel zone and most of the restaurants were to the left.  Nothing was more than a few blocks away.  I walked down the street nearest the beach until I found a restaurant called Bianco that looked like it had a sheltered deck overlooking the water.

Bianco Restaurant


Bianco was an Italian restaurant and I had some very good gnocchi there.  After three and a half months in Mexico, I no longer felt I had to eat the local cuisine at every meal.  The food prices were quite reasonable, but the drinks were at least 50% more expensive than on the Pacific side.  I wondered if this was because people came to Cancun to drink.  I settled for beer which, even at inflated prices, was still only about $2.50 a bottle.  I enjoyed the meal and the view and chatted with a Mexican family at the next table who were friends of the owners.


After dinner, I strolled around the town.  The square was lively with vendors and street performers.  Music poured out of several restaurants.  My place was very noisy until well after midnight between the restaurant in front and the bar across the street.  At least I enjoyed the singer across the street, although I was amused to hear her perform the same repertoire played by all the musicians in La Cruz.  I longed for some good Latin music, but I hadn’t heard any on my stroll.  The best music I heard was coming from a lot featuring a collection of food trucks.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to have time to eat my way through all of Puerto Morelos.  I did manage to stop at an ice cream shop off the square on my way home and get a waffle cone full of chocolate ice cream.

April 15, 2018

I got up early and went for a swim on Sunday morning.  I walked down the beach, past most of the boats, and stopped to swim in front of one of the hotels where I saw a few other bathers.  The water was cool, but not too unpleasant.  I didn’t stay in long, since I had left my things unguarded on the beach.  I dripped dry on the walk back to my lodging.
The Cafe D'Amancia


After a shower, I went to the Café D'Amancia on the corner for breakfast.  I ordered a latte and huevos rancheros.  The latte was good and the eggs tastier than they looked.  Two fried eggs were served atop about four tostada shells and drowned in what looked like marinara sauce.  I had never had crispy tortillas with huevos rancheros before, but I enjoyed the meal nevertheless.

I went back home after breakfast to practice the guitar and work on my blog.  After a while, I heard water splashing and wondered where it was coming from.  Then the rain really started to hammer on the patio roof and I realized that we were having quite a dramatic thunderstorm.  The patio leaked quite a bit and water was puddling everywhere.  I spent the afternoon huddling in my room, drinking champagne, working on a blog post, and reading.  I was a couple of weeks behind on the blog, so there was a lot to do.  By the time I finally uploaded the post, it had stopped raining.

The rain had left the much-disturbed ground in front of my house a soggy mess and I sank up to my ankles as I stood outside to lock the door.  I had to wade across to the pavement of the street proper.  The rest of the town was less muddy, but still covered in puddles.  All construction had halted with the arrival of the rain.  I began to despair of the project being finished in time for me to get a taxi near my house when I went to leave.

Tacos.Com
I had come to Puerto Morelos on the recommendation of a friend from the United States who said it was his favorite place.  He had also given me a couple of restaurant recommendations.  On Sunday night, I went to the first of these, Tacos.com.  It was a little hole in the wall down the street (Javier Rojo Gomez) from my lodging on the other side of the plaza.  They offered a wide selection of gourmet tacos, most of which featured seafood.  I ordered shrimp, spinach, bacon, and cheese tacos on flour tortillas.  They were amazing, as was the orangeade they made from scratch.  After the champagne, I could pass on overpriced drinks.  I don’t know if it was the rain or just that I had gone out at dusk, but the jejenes were so bad that I almost fled before the food came.  My feet and ankles were badly bitten.  Fortunately, the itching from those bites subsided after a few hours, unlike the ones on the Pacific side which left big welts that lasted for days.

It was a little quieter at my place on Sunday evening and I managed to practice the guitar a bit more and do some reading before watching a bit of Netflix.  My lodging had decent internet and, being the only resident, I didn’t need to worry about hogging the bandwidth.  I tried to go to sleep about midnight, but was kept awake by a very drunk man trying to sing Pink Floyd a capella.  He sounded like he was in my courtyard but must have been out in the street.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

FROM LA CRUZ ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO PLAYA DEL CARMEN



April 2, 2018

Our friend, John, had lost his ATM card in the machine at the HSBC in Bucerias on Friday night, so had been unable to withdraw pesos.  Since it had been my experience that banks in Mexico will never return your card for security reasons (although I did once get mine back in Costa Rica when the power went out during a withdrawal), I suggested that John call his bank first.  It turned out that there was an issue with his account, although we had no idea why they should have confiscated his card.  

Still, John needed pesos, so we went to Bucerias on Monday morning to try to do something about it.
Don needed to see Dr. Alma about some new glasses, so we stopped there first.  She was swamped after a three-day weekend, but he was able to make an appointment for the following day.  He then wanted cash, so we stopped at the CI Bank because we had heard they had the lowest fees.  Unfortunately, their ATMs were out of service.  We continued on down the highway to the Bancomer by the Chedraui because we had been told that they would change dollars.  After waiting in a very long line, we learned that they only change Canadian dollars.  They told us to go back to the CI Bank to change U.S. dollars.  We decided that Don and I could sell John any pesos he might need for another day and crossed the highway to visit the Santander bank where I got some cash for my upcoming trip.  A quick stop at the HSBC confirmed my opinion that John would never see his ATM card again.
Not Sure What KFC Would Think About This

Having finished our tour of banks in Bucerias, we were hungry.  We stopped at the little hole in the wall Cocina Economica I had discovered on an earlier trip to Bucerias and had a nice breakfast.  Not being used to the way things are done in Mexico, John and the restaurant employees kept getting their signals crossed.  This particular restaurant serves instant coffee. If you order it with milk, they heat the milk for you.  Not knowing this, John ordered and made coffee and then asked for milk.  I did my best to tell them we just needed a little bit, but they insisted on making a whole second cup of hot milk.  Then John asked for a glass of water.  They had to run to the corner store to get bottled water for him.  He was frustrated and they were trying very hard to please.  It was uncomfortable for a while.  I had brought us into the one restaurant in Bucerias that does not cater to tourists!  I made coffee out of the remaining milk so it wouldn’t go to waste.  Fortunately, John didn’t say anything when his huevos rancheros came with corn tortillas instead of the flour he had ordered.

I left them after breakfast and hopped a bus for Mezcales.  I needed to buy a bus ticket for my trip to Guadalajara on Saturday.  I also stopped into the pharmacy next door and got a refill of my blood pressure medication.  I was able to purchase it over the counter.  It turned out to be a lower dose, but that was probably not a bad thing, since my blood pressure had been extremely low while in Mexico.  Another bus brought me home and I spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for my set at the Octopus’ Garden later that night.


Bill Playing at the Octopus' Garden
The Octopus’ Garden was having an open mic acoustic night.  I met Don and John there for dinner and my friend, Marc, joined us.  Alfredo had each performer do a sound check and made sure he had the proper microphones and/or cables for each of us.  I went third.  The first two musicians both played original music.  Bill played instrumentals and Leo played songs with lyrics in Spanish.  I played a mix of original and familiar tunes, including the one song I had written in Spanish.  It went well.  We started on a second round and Rusty inserted a set of his own songs.  My second set was once again a mix, although the audience seemed to really like my own songs.  I ended with Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’ 2018 and that was well received.  A couple more people arrived and played a few songs.  It was a very relaxed and pleasant evening.  We stayed until 10:30 or so.  I was sorry that I wouldn’t be around the following Monday night.




April 3, 2018

Tuesday was John’s last day in La Cruz, so we met at Cristi’s for breakfast.  We all liked her café and things went much more smoothly than the previous day.  After breakfast, Don headed off to see Dr. Alma and I said goodbye to John and went off to try (unsuccessfully) to make a nail appointment.  I found the salon closed, so stopped at the grocery store for a couple of items before walking home to spend a relaxing afternoon practicing the guitar and working on my blog post.  I even took a nap.  For the first time in weeks, I was asleep by 11:00.

April 4, 2018

Lazaro Cardenas Street Scene
Wednesday was the first day in what seemed like forever when I had no obligations.  I got up early and drank coffee while listening to the net.  Then I spent a long time practicing the guitar.  It was nice to be able to work on my actual guitar playing, rather than rehearsing for a performance.  Cherie was off on a motorcycle trip with a friend and the house was quiet.

Wednesday Market in Bucerias
My New Hat
About noon, I took a bus to Bucerias to pick up my new glasses.  Then I went to Chedraui to buy coffee filters.  I walked along Lazaro Cardenas on the way.  There was a Wednesday market going on and I stopped to look for a new hat.  With a place of my own in La Cruz, I                                                                                                                                            could finally buy a non-sailing hat without worrying about how I would get it home.  I looked at lots of hats but couldn’t find one big enough until I got to Chedraui where I actually found one for 50 pesos.  Now I could wear a hat without looking like a drowned rat. 


I considered stopping somewhere for lunch but decided to go home and make a bacon quesadilla instead.  I spent most of the remaining afternoon reading.

I had promised Cherie that I would meet the landlord at 6:00 when he was supposed to work on the door to our upstairs patio.  Actually, there was no door.  There was only an iron security gate.  Leaves, bugs, and animals were free to enter at will.  When the house was vacant, this created quite a mess.  The landlord’s solution was to line the door with a sheet of the insulating plastic they use on windows to keep out heat.  This would keep most things out, but we would need a second screen door if we wanted air.  Still, it was an improvement and they even caulked around the edges where the frame failed to meet the masonry.  Unfortunately, the frame was slightly warped and the door was difficult to close.  It had always been that way, so at least it was no worse.  We could work on that later.

By the time the door project was finished, it was too late to think about going out.  I heated up some leftover beef in green mole and ate dinner at home with my nose stuck in a book.  After dinner, I practiced a bit more and then wrote before sitting down to watch The Crown on Netflix.

April 5 – 6, 2018

I had no plans for the daylight hours of Thursday.  I listened to the net, ate breakfast and then spent the morning scrubbing the tile on the patio.  It was stained with all kinds of paint, tar, and glue, but I was able to wash away the fly specks, drink spills, and muddy footprints.  If I weren’t planning to leave in a couple days, a weekly mopping might have helped to keep it clean.

Once the patio was clean, I made some tostadas for lunch and then sat down to write and practice the guitar.

Don and I met for dinner at Tacos on the Street.  The restaurant had celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary the day before and I had missed the party because I had to supervise the modifications to our upstairs door.  The place was packed as always.  I had not been there since the previous year and found that while, before, their prices were higher than other taquerias, now they were comparable but the portions had gotten smaller.   The quality of the meat hadn’t changed, however, and their flan was creamy and excellent.
The Amphitheater at Sunset


After dinner, we strolled back to the boat to pick up cushions and then walked out to the amphitheater were the movie Geostorm was being shown.  The movie was somewhat predictable, but entertaining and it was a beautiful night with perfect weather.  There were noticeably fewer people than there had been the week before.  La Cruz was emptying out quickly.

Friday, I needed to pack and prepare for my upcoming trip.  I got up early and did laundry.  Our washing machine filled so slowly that we helped it by running the garden hose into it.  Otherwise, it would have taken an hour to fill.  This required one to pay attention, since the water needed to be turned off as soon as the machine started to agitate.  The whole process then needed to be repeated for the rinse cycle.  I made coffee while that was going on.

 As soon as my clothes were hung out to dry, I walked over the Gabriela’s salon to see about getting my nails done.  I found the gate lowered and a “for rent” sign on the shop.  Apparently, her operating two shops had only been temporary.  She had moved to Bucerias.  Normally, I would have just gone out there, but I was too busy.  I went to Cristi’s for a quick breakfast and then dropped by the workshop where they fabricate stainless steel because Don had been having trouble contacting them by telephone.  I found them busy cutting steel and decided not to bother them, but I let Don know they were there.

Next, I dropped by Jen and Gregg’s to say goodbye.  I found Casa Mango in an uproar because Jen and Gregg had just sold the house and all our friends were descending like vultures to purchase their furniture.  While I knew they had intended to sell the house, this seemed very sudden to me and kind of sad, although they assured me that they weren’t leaving La Cruz.  Maintaining that big house was just too much for them.  I purchased a set of bathroom shelves for 100 pesos. 

Don had texted back and requested that I talk to Geronimo, the steelworker, so I went back over there and determined that, yes, he could make Don a new anchor roller and would be there all day.  I informed Don and then carried my fortunately light shelves all the way across La Cruz to our house.  I must have looked a sight.  More than one usually friendly dog barked at me ferociously.  On the way, I stopped at another salon to make a nail appointment for later that afternoon.  I felt a little guilty for my disloyalty, but I was running out of time.
My New Nail Salon

I came back to town at 4:00 to get my nails done and then decided to head out to the marina to say goodbye to Betty.  As I was walking towards her boat, I realized that it was time for my Friday domino game.  I had had trouble getting there all season for one reason or another.  I was a little late, but still had time for several games with my friends and got a chance to say goodbye.

When the domino game broke up, I continued out to Betty’s boat and stayed there, talking with her, until it started to get dark.  I couldn’t raise Don, so went home and ate the last of my leftovers for dinner.  I stopped at the taxi stand at the top of Langosta and made a reservation for the next morning at 6:00.  I had learned the hard way that the taxis near the marina could not be relied upon to keep early morning engagements.  I read a bit and then went to bed early.  I had to get up early on Saturday to start my journey to Playa del Carmen.

April 7, 2018
I didn’t sleep well, knowing I had to get up early, so I had no trouble waking up at 5:15.  I got ready and actually had time to spare before the taxi arrived at six sharp.  We drove through the predawn darkness to the bus station in Mezcales.  Carlos had asked me why I wasn’t getting off at Tlaquepaque to which I had replied, “Because they don’t stop there.”  They don’t advertise stopping there, but I was curious, so I asked.  At first, they denied it, but then admitted that they could.  Another passenger overheard the conversation and said she wanted to go there, too.  I wasn’t certain it would happen, but thought it was worth a try, since it was closer to the airport.  The porters insisted that I check all my luggage, including my daypack.  I barely had time to grab my passport and medication.  Unfortunately, my map and snacks stayed in the pack.

The bus left at 7:15 and headed up the now familiar road past Sayulita and San Pancho and then up into the Jalisco highlands.  All the curtains were closed, but I caught glimpses of the blue agave fields as we passed.  Eventually, we entered the Guadalajara metropolitan area and I began to get restless.  Finally, the driver pulled off the highway and stopped at a taxi stand on the lateral.  I didn’t have my map and no one said, “Tlaquepaque,” but the woman who also wanted to go there was getting off, so I did, too.  I was reassured when the first taxista I saw shouted, “Aeropuerto, rapido!” 

T-Shirts at the Airport
I collected my belongings and climbed into the taxi.  It was still a fair distance to the airport, but only cost me a very fair 300 pesos, which was well below what I had budgeted for the transfer.  I arrived at the airport by 12:30.  I was way ahead of schedule.  Carlos wasn’t there yet (His watch was on Cabo time and he was an hour behind.),so I went to Starbucks and had a latte and a very dry limon scone that might once have been tasty.


Carlos arrived well before we started boarding and had managed to change his seat so that we could sit together.  Volaris is one of those “no frills” airlines and they charge you extra to get an assigned seat.  We had debated waiting until the airport and checking in together, but were afraid that all the seats would be taken by the time I got there.  By some miracle (or maybe because I had paid extra to check luggage) I was assigned an exit row seat.  Carlos managed to get the seat next to me, so we traveled in comfort and chatted with a Russian girl who had the window seat in our row.  The flight to Cancun took nearly three hours.  Even with paying extra for luggage, it had only cost me about $45.  The bus to Guadalajara had actually cost me more than the flight alone.

We arrived on time in Cancun and only had to wait half an hour or so for the collectivo to fill up enough to leave for Playa del Carmen.  The collectivo cost 340 pesos per person each way.  We could have had a private taxi for 1500 pesos round trip, which would have been a wash except that I wasn’t planning to return to the airport.

The collectivo dropped us off at Viva Azteca where I had requested my reservation.  Unfortunately, what I had received was a reservation at Viva Maya.  No one had said a thing to me about the change and I hadn’t noticed it when I made the reservation because I didn’t have a printer and hadn’t printed the confirmation.  I later learned that they had raised the cost of Viva Azteca and I didn't have enough points, but they should have said something.

The poor desk clerk at Viva Azteca eventually determined what had happened.  They were booked, so we couldn’t make a change, so we bundled into a taxi and paid 90 pesos to drive four doors down to Viva Maya.  We later learned this was probably fortunate, but was disappointing at the time.  I had stayed at Viva Maya before and wanted to check out the other resort.

Our Room at Viva Maya
The desk clerk at Viva Maya wasn’t nearly as accommodating and gave me a hassle because I didn’t have a copy of my confirmation.  I had it on my computer, but the computer refused to boot up and we had to summon a supervisor before we were finally able to check in.  I don’t know if it was because we were late or because we had irritated the clerk, but we didn’t get the usual welcome packet with the schedule of activities and invitation to reserve space at the restaurants for dinners.  We were tired and hungry, so skipped the bellboy and went straight to our room. Carlos was charmed by the mouse created out of a folded towel that had been placed on his bed.
Carlos' Mouse

Fortunately, we hadn’t missed dinner.   Neither of us had eaten lunch and it was then 9:00, so we were hungry.  We ate mediocre food in the dining hall and then went to the bar and ordered pinacoladas.  My status as an owner entitled us to top shelf liquor, but making a pinacolada any way other than the standard procedure proved disastrous.  My normal one was good, but Carlos’s proved undrinkable and we had to stop at the next bar for a replacement.  We walked around the resort and out the to beach.  A show was going on in the theater, but we were too tired to appreciate the noise and energy.  Having surveyed the layout of the resort, we returned to our room, watched a little TV, and crashed on our mercifully comfortable beds.






April 8, 2018

Espresso Bar at Viva Maya
Despite having to bed fairly early, we were late rising on Sunday morning.  By the time we stopped for coffee at the espresso bar and made our way to the dining hall, breakfast was nearly over.  There was a nice selection of breakfast foods and I enjoyed a couple of slices of French toast and a bowl of fruit.  My only complaint about pancakes and French toast in Mexico is that, since I don’t use syrup, I rely on butter to flavor them and the butter in Mexico is nearly always unsalted (or margarine) and tastes like nothing other than grease.  Knowing this, I grabbed some cream cheese and that worked fine.


We had time after breakfast to relax a bit before going to a merengue lesson at 12:30.  Carlos worked up an appetite dancing, so we went back to the dining hall after that.  I had a salad and a piece of focaccia, determined not to go crazy with the cruise ship-like abundance.  We were joined for lunch by our dance intructress, who we were sure was trying to figure us out.  Since I was a gringa old enough to be Carlos’ mother who spoke Spanish and he was a Mexican who spoke perfect English, but spoke Spanish with a different accent, we were a puzzle.

Adults' Pool at Viva Maya
Carlos needed to go to an Oxxo to pay his credit card bill.  Not having good mail service, most bills in Mexico arrive via a representative of the company and are paid in person. We borrowed bicycles from the resort and rode along the pleasant and mostly shady bike path to the center of Playa del Carmen where we found an Oxxo across from the ferry terminal.  That mission accomplished, we spent a couple of hours at the adults only pool near our room, mostly sitting in the lukewarm jacuzzi, talking to a couple from Kansas who were equally curious about our relationship.  They were actually staying at the Viva Azteca, but reported that it was overrun with children and had no adults only pool.  They had stayed at the Maya before and were of the opinion that we were fortunate to have been reassigned.


Agouti and Coati (long tail) Outside Our Room
We tried to go to a bachata lesson at 5:00, but it was cut short after a few minutes when the batteries in the boombox died.  We took that as a signal that it was happy hour, so got cocktails, picked up our books and went to the beach to read until dinnertime.  There was an agouti (kind of a cross between a rabbit and a deer) sneaking around under the mostly empty chaises, stealing French fries off abandoned plates.  The guests had been exhorted not to feed the animals, but no one had convinced the animals not to steal the humans’ food.  Several species of bird plagued the diners at the outdoor café and there were coatis, as well.


We had a reservation at the Italian restaurant, Miramare, located in a gargantuan palapa above the beach bar.  The food was excellent,but there were so many courses that I could only sample each of them.  I started with a cold creamy leek, zucchini, and avocado soup graced with melon balls and then proceeded to some delicious spinach and cheese ravioli.  Carlos had a salad and some lasagna, which wasn’t nearly as enticing as the ravioli, which were divine.  We both ordered the stuffed chicken breast for a second course.  Mine was served with a gorgonzola sauce so rich that I couldn’t eat even half of it.  When the desserts arrived, I could barely begin to eat mine, although it was amazing.  I had a cheese mousse with mixed berries served in a delicate bowl made of carmelized sugar and topped with both chocolate and raspberry sauces.  I really wanted to eat it, but I just couldn’t.  The only weak spot in the meal was the red wine, which was only one step above terrible and contributed mightily to my gastric distress.  While I had recently seen a notable improvement in the wine around La Cruz, the fine wines from northern Baja had yet to arrive at the Viva Maya.

We went to the show after dinner and that evening they were staging a contest for Miss Maya.  The four contestants were all rather mature for such a designation, but they were good sports.  The first game was a sexy dancing contest.  The woman from Argentina was by far the most restrained in her dancing but, also having the best body by a long shot, was declared the winner by the audience serving as judges.  The second contest required a male partner.  I sneakily signaled to the woman from California to pick Carlos.  He was game.  The contest involved bursting balloons between partners in compromising positions.  Carlos and his partner did very well and only lost by one point. 

There was a contest to name the movie associated with songs as they were played.  Finally, each contestant was instructed to collect as much clothing from the audience as possible.  Underwear was worth five points.    The contestants ran back and forth, collecting armfuls of clothing.  When time was called, Carlos and several others were down to their skivvies and a number of bras had been pulled off through arm holes.  Miss California won that contest, but Argentina was declared the overall winner.  Everyone had a good laugh.

I went back to the room after that, but Carlos headed to the disco where he met some Canadian lab techs and stayed out late talking to them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

LA CRUZ DE HUANACAXTLE – SAILING, BEACHES, MUSIC


March 26, 2018

Lobo, Andrea, and Latcho at Octopus' Garden
Having lost my glasses the week before, I took the first opportunity after Nancy and Shoshana left to go to Bucerias and order another pair from Dr.  Alma.  While the prescription on the pair I lost was the best I ever had, I didn’t really like the way they looked when I saw pictures of myself, so I selected something a little less conspicuous.  I went to the bank and returned home to spend a rare free afternoon.

Don and I had tickets to see Lobo and Latcho at the Octopus’ Garden.  I had not been aware that Lobo and Latcho had gone to Spain together forty years before to learn flamenco from the gypsies.  They played music from that time and talked about their experiences.  Andrea joined them for the second set.  It was a very good show and we encouraged them to play together more often.  It was our last opportunity to see music with Karen, John, and Janice because they were all leaving later in the week, Karen to travel to China and John and Janice to return to Canada.

March 27-29, 2018

Dancing at the Brittania
I spent much of Tuesday writing and practicing the guitar.  Our friend, John, arrived that afternoon and we took him to the Britannia to introduce him to La Cruz nightlife.  He danced a bit with Cherie and we all enjoyed the band.

Cherie at the Helm of Scout
                                                                                            Wednesday morning, Cherie and I had gone to Comet to borrow Don’s drill when I heard Scout on the radio.  I hailed them to say goodbye and they invited us to go sailing.  Don and John still needed to shower and eat, but Cherie and I made a quick change of plans and tagged along.  Greg needed to go to the fuel dock before leaving for La Paz and took the opportunity to go out and sail for a few hours.  We filled up with fuel and then sailed about the bay.  Cherie got a chance to practice driving, as she was trying to learn to sail.  Greg was a good teacher and made her feel comfortable and welcome.  It was nice to spend a bit more time with my friends from Scout.

Destiladeras Crowded for Semana Santa
I had time to go home and cook a late lunch of liver and onions before meeting John and Don at Ana Banana’s.  The crew from Scout was there, too, and we eventually consolidated tables and got everyone introduced.  It was a fun evening and John enjoyed dancing with Sally and me.  

John, Don, and I went out for tacos at a stand on the street when the bar closed.  La Cruz was hopping with visitors for Semana Santa and a carnival was set up around the square.

John, Don, and Me at Destiladeras
I was quite behind on my blog due to all the guests we had been entertaining, so I spent nearly all day on Thursday writing.  In the late afternoon, Cherie took John, Don, our housemate John, and me to Destiladeras for the sunset.  The beach was packed with Semana Santa vacationers.  We had to walk quite a way down the beach before we could find a clear spot.  Cherie and housemate John swam, Don lounged, and we played Frisbee and took pictures until the sun set.
Sunset at Destiladeras

We split up upon our return to La Cruz so that Cherie and I could go home and shower away the sand, but we met up later at Octopus’ Garden to hear what was billed as the Shuffle Band, but was actually just an amalgamation of whomever was left in town.  Joachim got a little carried away with his guitar solos and Alejandra was nursing an injured arm and couldn’t play the drums.  She played one bongo and looked bored.  Still, they were much better than the usual Shuffle Band lineup.  We danced to the few numbers that were danceable and John and Don ate dinner.








March 30, 2018

Mexican Drivers Can Really Load a Vehicle
Friday, I worked on my blog and then spent much of the day rehearsing for the open mic at Rhythm and Blues in Bucerias.  Cherie drove Don, John, and me over there where we planned to have dinner while I was playing.  This was John’s first experience of Bucerias and he remarked that Mexicans really knew how to get the maximum usage out of their vehicles.

We had to park several blocks away and had some trouble locating the bar, even though we knew where it was.  It turned out to be closed for the Easter holiday and, without all the tables on the street, was quite inconspicuous.

Don, Me, and John at Karen's Place in Bucerias
Our plans for the evening dashed, we decided to take advantage of being in Bucerias and go to dinner at Karen’s Place.  Cherie drove us to the other side of the arroyo and then we walked down towards the beach, where chickens boldly perched on parked cars.

Karen’s was packed with Easter beach goers and they had added extra tables on the sand.  They found us a table quickly, but it was quite a while before anyone got around to taking our orders.  Still, the view was fabulous and the company good.  We chatted and enjoyed the ambiance.  Eventually, we were served and had a nice meal.  Karen’s dinner menu is a little pricier than most restaurants, but the quality of the food is commensurate with the prices and the surroundings are divine.  We had paused to take photos on the way in because the setting sun made such a lovely backdrop.  Their breakfast and lunch prices are comparable to other, lesser locations and they have a nice happy hour from 3 to 5.

After dinner, we strolled down Lazaro Cardenas to La Postal.  Bobby had asked us to check if they were still having an open mic on Saturday night.  We were able to confirm that information, but they were closing as we arrived, so we had to be satisfied with getting cups of gelato at their street side stand and wandering back to the car, pausing to listen to music from a bar along the way where Cherie knew some of the patrons.

March 31, 2018

Saturday night was the last full moon concert at the marina amphitheater.  Cantus Eterna was playing.  They had a new singer and two lead guitarists, as Hugo, the old one, was leaving and being replaced.  The new singer spoke good English and had good diction but didn’t have the voice of the old one.  Both of the guitarists were very good and it was fun to watch the two of them dueling.  They played a lot of Pink Floyd, including some pretty deep cuts.  There was a group of Mexican youths dancing in the front row who were very appreciative of the music and I got a kick out of these kids who were so enjoying the same music I had enjoyed forty years before when I was their age.  Pink Floyd was huge in Mexico for some reason.

Every gringo in town was at the concert, as well as some of the townspeople.  It was a beautiful night and a great location to observe the full moon.  The band had stopped playing when the sun went down because they couldn't see until lights could be rigged.  While a full moon should rise when the sun sets, the mountains blocked the moonrise for an additional hour.

Don and John were hungry when the concert was over, so we perused the food stands in the plaza, but nothing appealed to them.  We walked up to the glorieta and they ate quesadillas at our favorite taco stand.  We sat there until they closed at 11:00.  The temperature was perfect.

April 1, 2018

Tatewari at the Sunday Market
John and I had been entrusted with the mission of obtaining a Frida Kahlo dog collar for Shoshana, so we had to go to the Sunday market.  Shoshana had sent me her dog’s measurements and I was to purchase the collar and send it home with John.  We met at the marina gate and walked along the malecon to the market.  John went through the market much faster than Nancy and Shoshana had.  I bought the collar and then we headed for the food stalls at the end of the breakwater.  John and I had empanadas for breakfast, while Don got a sausage sandwich.  I stocked up on sourdough bread, porchetta, and raspberries.  Don and I got juices and John picked up a coffee.  Tatewari was playing, so we ate and listened to the music.  I bought a CD that I hadn’t seen before.  Then we went our separate ways to rest until the evening.

Cherie and I had been startled by a two-inch cockroach the night before, so Don gave me some boric acid powder and I stopped at the grocery store on the way home to buy bacon.  After I napped, I concocted roach “cookies” from boric acid, flour, bacon grease and maple syrup and stuffed balls of dough into the dark corners of our cupboards.  I hoped this would kill our “pet” before he or she raised a family.

Leon Playing Washboard at Ana Banana's
Don and John wanted to go to Ana Banana’s for ribs that evening.  I ate at home and then walked down to join them. The Rhythm Roosters were playing country and classic rock.  Local character, Leon, played a number on the washboard.  Leon was 87 years old and played with many bands in town.  He was so well known that La Cruz T-shirts featured his image.  The band was entertaining and there were some very good dancers to watch.  Cherie and her friend, Luz, joined us for the second set.  Cherie and I danced with John.  

John was really enjoying La Cruz and starting to talk about coming down for the 2019 season.  La Cruz was working its magic on him.  We stayed until the music ended and then finished our drinks while the band packed up their equipment.  Cherie, Luz, and I walked home the long way so that we could walk Luz home.  We were all a bit more security conscious during Semana Santa with all the strangers in town.  It was a perfect evening and we paused frequently to view the full moon.