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Mexico and Me: Days 2 to 4

aMexico and Me: Day 2 (Sat 20th): Sun and Son

Amanda and I hit the gym first thing so we felt thoroughly virtuous as we took a cab into Playa del Carmen to stock up on food for breakfast and lunch. Our unit has nice kitchen facilities so our general plan is to eat breakfast and lunch in our unit and go out for dinner. The taxi in to Playa is a flat 195 pesos. The drivers are happy to wait while you shop and then drive you back. I guess it’s a guaranteed fare for them so it’s worth it.

Walmart has a large store where we were able to pick up most of what we needed. I was quite surprised though that they had very little variety in fruit. There were apples, mandarin oranges, bananas but no strawberries or grapes and the overall quality of the produce was really poor compared to what we get in Vancouver. Anyway we got eggs, yogurt, coffee and cream as well as some salad stuff. The lettuce looked pretty wilted but we found some tins of palm hearts, and artichokes to add vegetables to our salad.

Driving into Playa del Carmen and returning from there, one encounters a very noticeable police presence. First you notice the taxi slowly down and switching on hazard lights. Ahead is a long double line of cars inching forward. As the cab approaches the structure marked Polizia you see a series of very bored looking men with large very scary weapons standing on each side of the road every few yards. One holds a red flag and either stops the car or waves it through. a Generally the taxis seem to go through without being stopped but it is very disconcerting to be a couple of feet away from an automatic weapon. I don’t know what they are looking for – drugs? guns? people? But certainly the security seems greatly increased from previous visits. One of the cab drivers later told us that the Federales are out during the mid-Dec to mid-Jan period when there are lots of vacationers. Then they leave and hand over to the locala Polizia.

We dropped off our supplies, changed into swim suits and made our way to the pool area adjacent to the lobby to wait for a call from Michael to say he was on his way to the hotel. The hotel still does not seem overly crowded. We found empty pool chairs with no difficulty and stretched out in the shade (me) and sun (Amanda) to luxuriate in the warmth of the air.

The lobby pool area is new. Apparently it was not built when Amanda, Mike and their friends were here last December. It really is quite well designed. They have also changed to a new control system of beach towel cards. Previously you had a card with your name and suite number on it and they would take the card, mark down the number of towels, and then have to search through a bunch of cards when you return the towels. Now you get a card like a credit card, each of which is good for one towel. So when you return your towel you get back a card to use again. I wonder if the hotel went through a sort of Deming quality management program. You know when you form these quality teams and go through each of the systems from the perspective of the end user and the team members figure out how to streamline the processes. Hmmm. Or maybe some bright spark just came up with idea. Also you can sell advertising as each card is different advertising a different service, restaurant or excursion.

It was quite late in the afternoon when Mike arrived. He called to say the shuttle had just driven into the grounds so we were at the reception area when he arrived. By the time he had unpacked, showered and unwound from the trip it was dinner time. We figured the easiest choice for the evening was to have dinner at Café del Lago where they were featuring an Oriental buffet and the entertainment was billed as the International Show. Café del Lago is the place where they serve a breakfast buffet every morning and a themed buffet each night.

The buffet featured quite a variety of stations including a sushi section and a teppanyaki station as well as all the usual stir fries, noodles, rice. The grilled steak and vegetables at the teppanyaki were actually not bad considering the stuff is all mass produced. I could not resist one glass of wine.

The show featured one main dude lip-synching to familiar music from a number of countries. The women dancers are all tall and skinny and of course dressed in costumes featuring lots of feathers. They all look gorgeous but whether any of them can actually dance I don’t know because the choreography was rather basic. The male dancers seemed to have more dancing potential but they had even less chance to demonstrate anything. Still it was an hour of energetic entertainment and it seemed like good exercise. The show was over by 9 and we wandered back to the suite enjoying the warm night air. I guess it will take a few days before I stop actually noticing how nice the air feels.

Mexico and Me: Day 3 (Sun 21st): Starting off well

Despite the dinner and wine of the previous night we were in the gym by 7:30. The facility is really quite good and luckily the whole complex does not seem very full at the moment so we had no problems getting the equipment we wanted.

We all felt the need to take things easy and get into a state of holiday relaxation so there was unanimous agreement that after breakfast we would spend the day poolside. Except for a break for lunch at the Havana Moon Restaurant on the beach (grilled shrimp and salad – no umbrella drinks – my halo still shining) we spent the morning and early afternoon there.

For dinner we had made reservations at Tramonto, the Italian restaurant on site. This is the more upscale restaurant and I remembered the food as being of better quality than the more casual eating places on the site. We whiled away the time by playing a few hands of bridge. Mike had not played since our whole family were in Provence more than a decade ago so he was starting from scratch. I took a few lessons earlier this year but had to opt out of our Monday night game because my dance lessons conflicted, and Amanda played a couple of times when she visited me last. So it was the ignorant leading the more ignorant – so to speak. But fortunately on my Sony E-Book Reader I had downloaded The Idiot’s Guide to Bridge and we decided to work our way through that and see how far we could get.

On our way to Tramonto we had to go through the store. A woman dressed in an exquisite light peach coloured kimono opened the door for us. We wondered what that was about. And found out later that night.

Tramonto was just as nice as I remembered from my previous visit. Mike and I shared a Chateaubriand with red wine and béarnaise sauce. It was prepared perfectly to a medium red specification. They served it with potato wedges that I have to say unequivocally are the best I have ever tasted. It absolutely ruined my resolution to avoid French fries and other potatoes.

To celebrate the first time the three of us were together in over a year, we ordered a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. The wine waiter told us that Mexico has some sort of trade agreement with Chile so the taxes on Chilean wine are very low and that is reflected in the prices. I thought this bottle was reasonably priced and was really good. So it seems that we can find decent food and good wine in at least one of the on site restaurants.

On the way out we asked where the rest rooms were and were directed to the opposite side of the second floor. There to our surprise we discovered a new restaurant, that had just opened the previous week. It is called Gong – a taste of Asia. Hmmm. That explained the kimono at the entrance to the building. We asked about reservations and were told that it was not necessary. People have not obviously discovered this place yet. We decided to try it tomorrow.

Mexico and Me: Day 4 (Mon 22nd):

Feeling very virtuous, we were all in the gym by 7 pm. At 10 we were scheduled to attend one of their sessions to see the new facilities that are being built. After a nice buffet breakfast in Café del Lago with Kira, we went to have a look at the new suites and condos that are being built along the water. They are actually quite stunningly gorgeous.

In the afternoon we checked in to the spa where Mike and Manda both had haircuts and I had a manicure.

We decided to check out the Cyber café on the way to Gong restaurant. I had not checked my novus email for 5 days and was irritated to find 149 emails downloading of which only 9 were not spam. It seems that my spam filters are not working on this account anyway. I burned through 45 minutes of the hour I paid for and then decided to do more tomorrow. The download and upload time is so slow!

By the time we made our way to Gong Restaurant we were told we would have to wait about twenty minutes for a table, so Mike suggested we have drinks out on the patio. There was a pleasantly warm breeze and of course the night sky was brilliant with stars. I had a glass of another Chilean Sauvignon Blanc – very nice.

The menu in Gong is eclectic Asia, ranging from sashimi and sushi to a 2 course meal of Peking Duck, described as appetizers for 4 and main course for 2. We tried a variety of rolls and gyoza. Definitely a cut above the sushi on the Oriental buffet! I had a second glass of wine with dinner. Felt quite tired on my way back to the suite and by 10 I was in bed, reading De Mille’s new novel The Gate House. Whether it was the sun, the wine or the book (not his usual page-turning style), I was soon soundly asleep.