Monday, November 14, 2011

November 2011 vacation diary - day 2

We are actually only in Cancun because I’m speaking at an accounting and tax conference, which we decided to use as the springboard for a South American trip – we were always planning to take a vacation around now, although the original plan was to go to Rwanda. It’s a near-certainty we would never have come here otherwise. We landed around 8 pm on Saturday evening after a very easy flight, got through the dramas of my Blackberry having gone missing (they found it still on the plane) and then of us standing by the wrong baggage carousel for twenty minutes, and we arrived at the hotel around 9.30. The drive mostly consisted of those hotels and chain restaurants I mentioned (not tough to figure out this isn’t “the real Mexico”), but seemed largely dead, until we were suddenly in this mini-Vegas which was teeming even in mid-November and hurt your eyes and your ears. Our hotel, as it happens, is just a few minutes from there. A prime spot I guess!

It’s the Fiesta Americana Coral Beach – a crazily opulent place. We have a very nice room though, large and immaculate, with an ocean view (see for yourself). We went out for dinner, and ended up in one of the hotel’s five restaurants, also huge and largely deserted, sitting on a terrace overlooking a narrow beach and the ocean. The setting was nice and the service elaborate, but the food was pretty forgettable. That's really all we did that night. On Sunday night, after returning from Chichen Itza, I went off to a welcome reception, and stayed almost two hours, which is really good by my highly anti-social standards (I actually talked to people I don’t know, honestly). Then Ally and I went to an Argentinian place where we sat outside with a view of Starbucks; we were the only patrons. It was somewhat better than the first night's meal and cost less than half as much (that’s hotels for you). We walked a bit afterwards. It was 10.30 and a large crowd was waiting to get into the Coco Bongo club, which was advertising some kind of Katy Perry-themed show. Some people in the crowd were even older than we are. Crazy! It is truly frightening to contemplate what this place might be like during spring break season.

I was up at 4.30 the next day, catching up on web reading and writing this journal (vacation days feel incomplete without it) – unfortunately, the Internet is shockingly slow for such a modern hotel, with the connection frequently giving up altogether. I went to the conference just for a couple of hours (truth is, very little on the agenda is directly relevant to my narrow purpose in life); meanwhile Ally went to the gym. We met up at around 10.45 and decided to go to the island of Isla Mujeres, about a half hour’s ferry ride away, right across from our hotel. We bought tickets and the guy said the next boat was at 11.40. This gave us thirty minutes, enough time to take a ten minute walk along the beach and then return. In theory you can walk a long way along the Cancun beach, but in practice it was a rather onerous process of trying to avoid tripping over anyone. We arrived back at 11.35, just as the boat took off.

They put us on a bus to the next ferry terminal and we left from there instead. It took half an hour in very choppy water, to the accompaniment of an aging singer performing (barely audibly) to canned music. When we got there we just started walking along the beach again – it's wider and less populated than Cancun’s, more scenic and peaceful. We kept going until the beach ran out and we reached a rather desolate boardwalk. Ally was hungry (we hadn't eaten a thing yet) so we cut up to find a restaurant (we'd left behind all the touristy places we passed earlier), and when we didn’t find one, we pushed further into the untidy little streets. No tourists in this neighborhood, we thought proudly. We went another block..and we were back at the ferry stop, where we started – without realizing it, we’d done a complete loop of the island’s left fist.

So then we did go to one of the touristy restaurants, but the food took forever to arrive, and when it came it was again mediocre (not sure I’ve ever been served a largely inedible Caesar salad before..I promise this whole blog won't turn into a whine about lousy food). We walked off in the other direction – this part of the island much bleaker, the “real” Isla Mujeres I suppose. We noticed three Canadian licence plates (two from British Columbia and one from Quebec). Around the ferry terminals and the beaches we'd again been bothered incessantly to buy this or that – even after just two days, it’s getting a bit wearying, although at least they take no for an answer pretty quickly, unlike some places we’ve been – but that all fell away now. The island is seven miles long apparently (at least, one of the many guys who tried to talk us into renting a golf cart said it was seven miles long; when I searched the Internet it said five miles) so we turned back long before reaching the end, but we felt we’d bitten off a nice piece of it.

We returned on the ferry and walked back to our hotel. As soon as I got in, the phone rang and it was a bartender asking why I’d left without signing for my beer and two mojitos. I think I convinced him it wasn’t me (he conceded the guy was an American), but there you go, you're at risk even in your own hotel room!

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