Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November 2011 vacation diary - day 3

On the subject of safety, one of the people at the conference looked downcast when I said we’d been to Chichen Itza – he said he would have loved to go there too, but people back home had convinced him it would be unsafe. I felt bad for the guy and almost wished I had a story about being beaten up by the modern-day Mayans, just so he could feel vindicated (the Mayans are very short, but I expect they could still take me). I guess you never know though because later that day I heard about one of the other attendees getting robbed by a corrupt policeman. And by the way, the Chichen Itza guide told us the other day that Cancun means “nest of snakes” in the Mayan language. Anyway, we spent Monday night at a conference buffet dinner on the beach – it was set up very picturesquely, with live music and pretty good food (and a lot of it). Of course we spent much of the time just talking to each other, and at one point thought we might take off somewhere else for a drink, but then we got into various conversations, and ultimately outlasted virtually everyone, ending up in the bar with the guy who runs the whole thing. Among other things, the conversation demonstrated that I can pull the name of New York City’s traffic commissioner out of my head, which perhaps indicates too much time on the Internet.

The following day I was up around 5 (which actually is later than I woke up the previous two days – it’s not jet lag or anything, it’s just when I wake up). I did my presentation at 8.15, Ally went to the gym again, and by 9.45 we were fully on vacation, no more work obligations, all fun from here. Before going out, I took the opportunity to check on Ozu, via the Urban Dog web cam. He was lying on a yellow platform thing in the middle of the playground, which seems to be a favourite spot of his (I swear I don’t check up on him too often – that would be obsessive…I did leave the web cam open while we were out though, and when we came back several hours later he was in the same spot, with one of the staff sitting next to him with her hand on him, as if the two of them were overseeing the other dogs).

Cancun isn’t an island, although it’s often referred to as such – the vacation zone is on a strip of land which looks on the map like a grafted-on airstrip. We took a cab out of here, into the old downtown, to the Parque de Las Palabas, the local equivalent of Times Square I suppose, although at this time of day with about 1/100,000th of the activity level. Truth is we must have got there ridiculously early – there seemed to be a lot planned for later, with live music and all kinds of food vendors and sideshows, but none of that was happening yet. We walked round the surrounding streets a bit, but it was just cars and stores and people doing their thing – not unpleasant, but no great reason for us to be there. We explored some of the side streets and happened on a bistro/bakery called Grazie which looked a bit more elegant than the others (here it is). We decided to have breakfast, which we seldom do – it turned out to be the best meal of the trip so far, very simple but effective. We also had cupcakes, which may be an underexplored breakfast alternative. Nothing else was happening at the Parque de Las Palabas, and the returns on the outing were obviously going to diminish pretty fast, so we decided just to take a cab back to the hotel.

Then we thought we’d walk along the beach in the opposite direction to the walk we did the previous day, but we didn’t get very far before hitting the end of the public strip. We walked out to the road, but it seemed we’d reached the end of the hotel zone. So we wandered round a bit more, looking round the mini-mall containing the Hard Rock Café, that kind of thing, but you almost get the sense you’re not wanted there by day – you’re meant to be on the beach by day, and doing the other stuff at night (walking around during the day probably just stamps you as insufficiently classy, like someone who would try to sneak a peek at a star without her make-up). We ran into a woman from Quebec who lives here now and apparently hands out discount vouchers for a living. You run into the discount voucher providers a lot, and for example I now have four separate vouchers to the Plaza la Fiesta (“The largest Mexican outlets”), meaning I could go there four straight times and receive 10% off, or a free $20 of silver jewelry on any purchase over $50, as well as free shots of tequila.

We walked a bit more but it was too hot and anyway not that interesting. We returned to the hotel and had a couple of margaritas in the outside Sunset Bar, then essentially called it quits for the day, perhaps after having done less than on any previous day in the long history of our vacations together. Which of course is fine because people don’t come to Cancun to engage in “activity,” or again not during the day at least. We’re planning to make up for it later on. So we had some very quiet hours, which we spent napping and reading and suchlike and in my case watching the end of Fritz Lang's 1928 movie Spies, which I'd started watching on the plane. During my nap, I dreamed I made a smart-ass remark about Oprah Winfrey and some guy - not a Mayan - overheard and hit me. It really hurt, even in the dream. I think this means Cancun was insufficiently stimulating so my subconscious was twisting itself into ridiculous knots, trying to compensate.

We had dinner at a restaurant called Natura, described in one place online as the only good restaurant in the hotel zone. Maybe so...it has a vegetarian emphasis and the food was very fresh and well-judged. We walked back through the competing noises of the mini-Vegas strip, and some mild rain, and wrapped it up pretty early. Because we knew we had an early start the next day...

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