Tuesday, March 13, 2018

18. Odds and Ends From Playa Del Carmen

We spent the last 11 days of our time in Mexico in Playa Del Carmen. During that time at least five of the days were gorgeous and sunny but the beach was covered with stinky sargassum. We were glad to have our rooftop soaking pool for cooling off and relaxing. One day we started off at the public beach at the end of Calle 88 and walked ALL the way down to 4th without finding sand that was free of this ugly brown weed.

This hole is being dug in front of one of the big hotels. They bury the sargassum or make huge piles and truck it away.

These pelicans were a big annoyance to the fishermen who were baiting hooks.

This was the cleanest spot we could find and as you can see the water is brown with the yucky stuff it churns up.

See how relaxing the rooftop soaking pool is!

In years past I took lots of photos of the beautiful tile floors. Not so many pictures of them this year but this one was just so lovely in its randomness I couldn't resist.

Yes, we've become THOSE people who look at their phone in restaurants. This is taken in the restaurant Casa Toucan, one of our favorite places to eat.

I'm bringing back drinking chocolate! It is a habit I am not ready to leave behind! See the umbrella? Yes, we have had three days of gushing rainstorms in this last week. For the most part the rain doesn't last long but it is HARD. Skull art is everywhere, on ceramics, jewelry, shirts...the ones in the photo are mosaics of seeds and beans!

Aren't these trays of ice-cream tempting as they await the first customers of the day?

This is the chapel where I went to mass two Sundays in a row. The pastor is Mexican but he has only preached in Mexico for three years. He learned his English while serving a parish in Ireland...makes for an interesting accent!

And after mass Chris met me on the beach for another day of sunshine (although it did rain in the evening). There was too much sargassum to enjoy swimming but reading under our umbrella was very pleasant.

Closer to our apartment in Ejidal Colonial:

The mural on the wall of this book swap store is what drew me in. Yes, they do have a wall of English books. It is near the Parque La Ceiba, where I went for yoga.

 There are some very unique sights on some of the side streets. This was one of them. I know there has to be a story here. Someone DOES live in the house and there is a cord running across the street so I think he must be poaching electricity. I saw a dog there a couple times but no sight of the occupant.

On a couple days it did rain hard and longer than I would have liked and I got very restless so I went on a walk, umbrella in hand and saw these whimsical and fierce murals.

Many of the neighborhood streets look like what you see below. There is a lot of building both of houses and apartments going on but plenty of empty lots too. The empty lots have a jungly look and yes, I see more garbage, especially plastic, than I would like amongst the greenery. Plastic use is so much higher than at home: straws in every drink you order (unless you say "No poppote.") and plastic bags in grocery stores and all the water and beverage bottles! Do I feel safe? Yes absolutely! But I use common sense; I take my phone and I'm home before dark.

On the rainiest day with the biggest puddles, we went out to eat but our ideas of where to eat did not agree at all! Fortunately they were not too far apart in terms of distance. I went to La Ceiba de 30 and Chris went to Las Tabernacos; I had chilaquiles, with chaya, a plant similar to spinach and Chris had that beloved Canadian food, poutine.

This is the health food market adjacent to the restaurant. It is as neat as pin and has fabulous deli counter that I would have used if I had found this place earlier in our trip.

If it wasn't a packing impossibility I would take one of the hand made rocking chairs on the left back home to Seattle.

On a rainy walk late yesterday (3-12) afternoon, before the lightning and thunder made me take refuge in a small cafe, I spotted this tall bush with these amazing flowers that looked like clusters of orchids. 

This morning we took a cab to the bus station to buy our tickets for tomorrow's trip to the airport. Then we walked down La Quinta Avenida to Chez Celine for fancy French scrambled eggs and a crepe. 

I loved the eggs but the Dulche de Leche crepe I left half eaten. I don't think it is the restaurant's fault.  Crepes just don't appeal to me like pancakes or a chocolate croissant. The funny thing is I want to like them. They look pretty and the fillings are so varied but, "Nope, not the sweet for me."

Last night's storm blew most of the sargassum out to sea but the skies look like Seattle's. Although it is  a breezy 70 degrees.

Somehow seems fitting that we leave when the weather looks like this. It's a good last day in Playa.

Monday, March 12, 2018

17. Day Trip to X'cacel Beach, Xcacelto Cenote and Tulum

Saturday, March 10 2018
We rented a car again and returned to one of our favorite beaches  from last year,  X'cacel  Unfortunately saragassum, a brown smelly seaweed was filling the shoreline of all the beaches from Playa to Tulum and maybe further. It has been that way most of this week. Fortunately we saw cleaner shores in February when we were arrived.  But the cenote Xcacelito was a pleasant walk away along  the shore and into jungle. Being a Saturday, we had to wait 20 minutes to swim in the cenote. It is an ecologically sensitive site and they limit the numbers that swim in the cenote,  allowing a half hour for each group. No sunscreen and no food allowed either.  Considering that the ocean wasn't swimmable, we were all willing to wait.
See the line of brown along the shore line? That's sargassum. In addition to being unsightly, it is stinky and buggy. But sitting against a log, under a palm tree, closer to the tree line was a very comfortable spot for reading a book and watching the waves.

This is the path between the beach and the cenote. It is really lovely and in a couple spots there are clearings where people gather to picnic.

Here's the cenote before all of the people jumped in. Just like last year, Chris marveled at all the 'flesh' on parade, mostly in the form of young women in thong swimsuits.

More pictures from  our walk back to the parking lot.

This hermit crab was amazing! He just popped up from the sand in front of me. Literally popped up! I had no idea crabs lived in dry sand.

After our refreshing swim we drove on to Tulum where Chris had one last mojito at Bateys and I had a grapefruit & mint Guarapo. Notice the guy on a ladder in the back? He's painting a new stage backdrop.

I just love the colors of Mexican shops and carts! Earlier in our trip we rented lounges on a beach from a very friendly man. He asked us how we were enjoying our trip and we were enthusiastic in our response.  He told us: "The people in Mexico are pleasant and friendly because  they say "You never know when the person you meet might be God.”  This is also why they traditionally wear colorful clothes." 

One last order of lasagne from the Malqueridas restaurant!

Thursday, March 08, 2018

16. Cenote Jardin Del Eden

Yesterday we rented a car and drove about 30 minutes outside of town to this cenote. Yes, you can get there by colectivo, one of the white vans that zip up and down the highway with close to a dozen passengers but my husband says it is time to put that kind of travel behind us, we can afford the rental car. This way we were able to avoid the long hot walk to and from the cenote's entrance on the highway. The long part is not an issue for me, but I did like avoiding the heat.  This cenote is very popular with divers and you can watch them on land practicing/learning how to tie strings to mark their paths through caves.  I do wish I had a snorkel and mask to view the fish and rock formations. The water is very clear.  It is one of my favorite cenotes so far! Although there were lots of people, there was plenty of room to spread out. We spent about an hour there, enjoying our picnic lunch of sandwiches as we watched other swimmers and divers and brave souls who jumped off the platforms. Some people even did summersaults!

15. Countdown to Departure

This last week and a half in Playa Del Carmen is evaporating like the tropical raindrops that briefly sprinkled the ground this morning. As always, no matter the length of the trip, it will be hard to leave. I want to pack up the colors, sounds, tastes and smells that permeate our time on the Yucatan Peninsula. The vendors along La Quinta certainly know how to entice you into believing that maybe this or that tchotchke or  t-shirt is the way to bring Mexico back with you. But as my husband reminded me, most of those shirts only get worn once at home. I can’t begin to explain how nice it is to have our spacious apartment to come back to after spending a month in hotel rooms; although there was charm, comfort and cleanliness in many of the hotels. But this apartment, with it’s two bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, complete kitchen and dining area, 2 lanais, one off each bedroom  and the rooftop deck with a small soaking tub is luxurious. There are times when I don’t know where my husband is, even though I know he didn’t leave the apartment. He’s often in his favorite spot; the soaking tub. 

What’s not to like: it’s a 4th floor apartment and no elevator. That’s 48 steps with no handrails, coming and going. The highway is very close which can be convenient but it is a constant whir of noise. There is a lot of construction in this neighborhood;  we watch the apartment complex next door to us taking shape every day. Yesterday they poured concrete floors. The noise is not bothersome because we are on the 4th floor but I suppose it could become more of an issue as time goes on. Well the forecast was right, this afternoon we just had an actual rainstorm complete with thunder but it lasted only a half hour or so, leaving some puddles on the dirt roads.  

Centro Maya, mall that is only a quarter mile away and has every convenience of home.

The second bedroom and slice of the kitchen.

This is the most clouds we've seen in the past 5 weeks!