ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

A Member of the Press

Jane Sadek goes to the Dallas Art Fair
A Gallery at the Dallas Art Fair

TRAVEL HERE: A BLOGGER IN MEDIA HEAVEN

While the rest of the world gets rich and famous with social media, I blog on in anonymity – at least for the most part.  I’m famous among my real life friends and on Facebook among my followers, but beyond that it does me little good.  However, anyone driven to write, the way I am, needs a place to express themselves, so I blog on.  However, from time to time my blogging does get me a few perks.  That happened last week.

Dallas Art Fair

If you’ve been paying attention, then you know this is my third post about 2019’s Dallas Art Fair.  If not, some details about the main event are here and I also attended an introductory event I described on Monday. Last Thursday morning I reported to the FIG (Fashion Industry Gallery) for the Opening Press Conference. There among other media types, I perused the event’s art offerings and listened to a series of speeches by the designated dignitaries.

One of my favorite parts of the day was wandering around the space with a tag identifying me as “MEDIA.”  My thoughts about the media are not always congratulatory, but it’s nice when a lowly blogger like me can be of service.

Getting There

It meant skipping an MLS meeting, but I felt that was a small price to pay to attend the event as media.  Deciding what to wear was a bit of a challenge.  I’d been disappointed in my fellow females’ fashion choices the evening before, but encouraged by the men’s sartorial offerings, I pulled out a recent purchase, a long blouse from one of my favorite designers, to pair with leggings and some lacy wedge sandals.

My next challenge was making my way from my almost-rural home in Heath through the morning traffic to Downtown Dallas.  That went better than I anticipated, but my hope of parking in the DMA parking lot was dashed.  They don’t allow public parking until 10.  I parked in the First Baptist lot, so all I had to do was cross the street to The Fashion Industry Gallery at 1807 Ross Avenue.

I was not completely ignorant of the FIG’s existence and I knew it was in close proximity to the DMA, I just had no idea it was right there, nestled between the DMA and the Fairmont.  The most prominent feature on the building where I crossed the street was a restaurant.  My first guess at a possible entry was a false lead, but I saw someone who looked like they knew where they were going, so I followed.  Voila, I had arrived.

I have a sneaky feeling that anyone with chutzpah and a knowledge of the event could have gotten a media pass.  I saw them selling tickets at one kiosk, so I went up to the next one, where the lady asked, “Media?”  I said, “Jane Sadek, local blogger.”  She handed me my anonymous media pass, but it was the key to a weekend of art, so I was glad to get it –  in spite of the casual offering underlining I was certainly no VIP.

Dallas Art Fair
Shoe Art at Dallas Art Fair

Inside the Galleries

Then came the pay off for missing the meeting, fighting the traffic and searching out a parking spot – I was in. I had about a half hour before the press conference would begin, so I wandered through the galleries.  I’m never sure what to expect from Contemporary Art, but I was happy to discover most of what was exhibited was at least interesting.  I found a little of everything, from robots to hand woven rugs.  I also found craftsmanship.  These weren’t just ideas thrown together for their shock factor.  These were works of love, executed with skill and attention to detail.  To me, that’s art.

Satisfied the exhibit was worth part of my weekend, I planned to return with fellow art lovers in tow.  It was time to make my way to the press conference – which, by the way, was 10 minutes late.  Someone had overlooked tagging the first piece of art in the gallery which would provide the backdrop behind the podium.

Shoes at Dallas Art Fair
More shoe art!

As I surveyed the room I realized the female sector of the population had resumed their domination of the fashion scene, in contrast to the previous evening’s disappointing turn out.  Now, the guys were back to boring and the women were strutting their stuff.  I giggled a bit to myself over the “Dallas in Spring” vibe.  One woman in a fringed-wool, hounds-tooth micro-miniskirt, paired with turtleneck sweater, teetered over high rise booties.  She chatted up a friend in a frilly sundresses over suede boots.  A pair of Asian women, speaking a language I didn’t recognize, wore voluminous layers I couldn’t quite identify above comfortable walking shoes.  Then the denim skirt with the shell anklet over Adidas joined them.  I couldn’t resit taking a few pictures to respond to the rod iron shoes I’d seen in a gallery on the floor above.

A series of dignitaries made speeches at the podium, that’s when I learned I’d seen something cooler than I even realized the evening before. The whole thing is dedicated to the idea of pop-ups and a permanent home for the Dallas Art Fair.  With that kind of synergy, I bet it will be a very interesting spot, so put River Bend on you list of things to check out.

On the evening before, I’d wondered about the significance of choosing 214 as the name of a gallery.  It certainly wasn’t the suite number.  Like the characters in The Purloined Letter, I’d overlooked the obvious – it’s the Dallas area code.  Apparently in international art circles it is a familiar number, one to be proud of.  That cheered me.

Then I was momentarily taken back to my previous disappointment with idea-over-craft art.  As they announced the pieces which the DMA would purchase from the Fair, among the others was an odd, idea-driven installation which I’d seen at 214.  To me it looked like a room which was being set up for a presentation of some kind, but the workers weren’t finished.  Instead various tripods filled the space and the walls had random video showing on the screens.   I peered through the glass plates attached to the tripods, but nothing was gorgeous.

I shook off my disappointment and congratulated the artist in my head for capturing the curator’s attention.  Everyone doesn’t have to like something for it to be art.  Thankfully, the DMA had purse-strings long enough to wrap around other pieces and many of them were enchanting, even to me.

So, I hope you made it to the event.  Thanks to the Dallas Art Fair for expanding my horizons and giving me the opportunity to share the Fair with my friends.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Aw, Go Fly a Kite!

TRAVEL THERE: SAND, WATER AND A BRIGHT BLUE SKY

So, pretty much anytime Bill and I head to a destination with a beach, I say, “Bill, don’t forget to pack your kite.”  His kite is a Windsurf Trainer he picked up when we lived in Pismo Beach, CA.  Flying kites was a popular pastime in Pismo and after destroying a more conventional kite, Bill graduated to the large training kite.  On some trips the wind is too strong or not strong enough or there’s really not enough room to fly the kite, but in Cancun, we flew our kite.

A Two Person Job

If the wind is forceful enough to fly the huge kite, then the flier is going to need someone to help them get it into the air.  When we flew the kite almost weekly in Pismo,  we had the logistics down pat and could get the kite up in a very short period of time.

In Cancun, we were rusty, so it took a little longer than usual for us to get the kite into the air.  We had one false start and then fumbled around so much, a hotel employee pitched in to help.  Bill was very frustrated with our efforts until he realized while we’d been fumbling around, the wind had changed direction.  We hadn’t been helping him wrong, we were just in the wrong place once the wind changed.

Bill was almost too frustrated to continue, but as we folded up our gear, a breath of wind teased the kite.  Bill speculated that just a little further down the beach might provide a better wind, because instead of tall hotels, the beach was lined with two-story condos.

Up in the Air

We trudged further down the beach and fairly soon the kite was in the air.  I’m so glad we gave it one more try.  Bill loves flying the kite, but not as much as I enjoy him doing one of the few truly carefree things he likes to do.  Bill has many things he enjoys.  Golf, for instance, but he’s serious about his game, so he’s not carefree.  When his kite goes up, Bill is transformed into this joyful boy I especially adore.  Oh how I wish he enjoyed more things with such gusto and abandon.

We kept the kite in the air for quite a long time.  We didn’t get the kind of audiences we usually end up with in American venues, but the hotel employee assigned to beach duty enjoyed our antics, as did a lady who stopped to video us.  She gave me the idea to get a video of Bill as he handled the kite.  I hope you like it!

Coming Back Down

Flying the kite is the fun part.  Getting it in the air and packing it up to go represent the price you pay for fun.  While the kite was in the air, Bill tried, as he has before, to get me to pilot the kite.  Just as in previous attempts, all I did was down the kite.  The fun was over.  It was Margarita time.  We packed up and headed back to the Seadust.

As we climbed the stairs to the resort’s main pool, I stopped by the bar for a Margarita, while Bill found a pair of chaise lounges.  The water was great and we had fun.  Once out, I sipped on my Margarita and Bill opted for a tequila shot with a beer.

We had one more area we wanted to enjoy before the sun was down. so we headed off to adult pool we’d found earlier in the day.  Come back next week and take a dip with us.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Many Refreshing Experiences

TRAVEL THERE: A BUFFET AND A SWIM

For lunch we returned to our shopping experience venue, but this time we only had enough time to take advantage of a delightful buffet.  The buffet offered both Mexican and International selections.

Yummy for Your Tummy

We hit the Mexican buffet first and it was delicious.  Rice, refried beans, tacos and other favorites from the native cuisine.  It beat the Seadust all to heck.  Bill in particular loved a chicken-rich soup they served.  The international-ness of the International offerings was somewhat questionable.  They had tortilla chips covered in Cheez-Whiz, a sort of Mexican casserole and fajitas.  They also offered hamburgers, which I guess is what made it international.  I found it amusing and enjoyed the irony of ballpark nachos in the middle of the Yucatan peninsula.  They also had Huevos Ranchero, which I didn’t try, because I don’t do eggs, but Bill did and he said they were good.

As we ate our generous lunch a trio of ladies, dressed in the gorgeous embroidered dresses of the region, performed traditional dances for us, including the dance with the tray of beer bottles on their head.  It was a nice touch to a day which had already been wonderful.

There was a beautiful presentation of fruit, a refrigerator of gelatin and other chilled desserts, as well as hand-scooped ice cream cones.  Bill sampled the fruit and we both tried the watermelon ice cream.  Time for a quick potty stop was the only other thing we had time for.

Swimming in the Cenote

Our next stop was the Il Kill Cenote. I confess I am not much of a swimmer.  There was a time in my life when I had passed a Red Cross life-saving course and taught swim lessons.  That was a very long time ago.  Nowadays, I lounge by the pool and occasionally take a stroll through the shallow end.  I am almost embarrassed to confess I usually don’t even care that I have completely forgotten my swimming skills.  I am perfectly happy on the side of the pool.  However, on this particular day, I was somewhat envious of those who climbed down to the water’s edge and swam in the cenote.

Bill was one of those people. After we took a cursory stroll around the grounds, he changed into his swim trunks in the dressing room and showered off to protect the pristine waters of the cenote.  I climbed part of the way down to the cenote with him, so I would have a good vantage point from which to observe his brave swim in the virtually bottomless pool. 

When he reached the pool, he had three choices for entering the water: terrifying, less terrifying and sedate.  One glance at the terrifying height of the cliff from which many people dove told him that was not where he wanted to go.  It was quite a drop from where he was standing and he’s past proving anything to anyone.  The sedate route was set of wooden stairs, near a rope across the water.  Many people slipped into the water from the relative safety of the stairs and grabbed the line rather than actually swimming in the cenote.  That was a little bit too tame.

So Bill watched a few people dive into the cenote to see how they fared.  When they cleared the area in front of him, he dove in.  Seconds passed between his brave dive and the moment his head bobbed above the water.  I was sure he’d reappear, but I held my breath with him nonetheless.  He swam over to the rope and looked for me at the level above, but he chose the wrong me.

I smirked from the corner I’d chosen for observation, as he waved in vain to a woman who did not know him.  When we reunited after his swim he confessed he’d been disappointed his greeting had not been returned and he was glad to know I’d watched him in the water.

Almost as soon as Bill had back on his street clothes, it was time to get on the bus.  It was late afternoon as we headed back to Cancun.  I settled down in my seat and pulled out my book.  Come back next week as we re-enter to city of Cancun and return to our hotel.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Amusing Distractions

TRAVEL THERE: KUDOS TO CANCUN PASSION

Waiting for us beside our tour bus after the tour of Chichen Itza were our hosts from Cancun Passion.  Cancun Passion was the actual touring company we’d booked through Shore Trips, which had been recommended to us by Sandra Rubio at CTC Travel.  I can heartily recommend all of those entities to you. 

I love my friends at CTC Travel.  They are like cheerleaders, urging me on in my efforts to see the world.  You will love working with them as you plan your own travels.  Shore Trips is a great way to book excursions, all over the world.  They offer a wide variety of tours wherever you might go and their website is secure, informative and easy to use.  When it came to visiting Chichen Itza from Cancun, Shore Trips curated the very best choices of tours, in my opinion.  But let me tell you about Cancun Passion.

Service with a Smile

From the moment we connected with Cancun Passion, in the lobby of our hotel, we knew we’d made a good choice.  Their representative spoke perfect English, welcomed us with a hearty smile and ushered us into a pristine vehicle, which still had its new-car smell.  I can’t say that the next hour or so of picking up fellow passengers was all that much fun, but what I liked was that they kept us abreast of what was going on, so we weren’t left wondering if we’d actually ever depart the city of Cancun.

At one point, a guide showed up wearing my hat down the aisle of the bus.  I’d left the hat in the first bus we’d climbed onto, when we changed to the larger vehicle.  I don’t have any idea what difficulties they went through to unite me with my hat, but it showed a level of care which I really appreciated.  I’ve left many hats in many vehicles around the world and this is the first that was ever returned to me.

The light breakfast they served on the way to Chichen Itza was more than adequate.  They had generous baskets overflowing with all kinds of pastries from the sweet to the savory.  They served coffee and orange juice.  I drink neither of those on a regular basis, but I know I am in a very small minority and should I have asked, they could have given me water.  The repast was offered with good cheer and second, thirds and fourths were available if you wanted them. 

At every stop we knew exactly why we were there, what opportunities we had for necessities, shopping or entertainment.  We also knew exactly when we were supposed to be back on the bus.  We always had a convenient parking spot and not once did we have to wait for very long, before everyone was on the bus and we were back on our way.

As we got off the bus at Chichen Itza, they gave us a nice bottle of water, not one of those half bottles some folks give you, but a bottle generous enough to provide hydration throughout the visit.  They also had a big basket of small bbq sandwiches to keep hunger at bay as we visited the site.  The meat-filled roll was delicious.  

I particularly appreciated our tour guide.  He was not a pedantic as our Egyptian guide nor silly like some of the other Mayan guides, who had their guests clapping and yelling at the monuments.  He also did not engage in guessing games to present the pertinent information about the site, like the jerk who showed us around Passau and scolded us because we didn’t already know the information we’d hired him to tell us.  Our guide at Chichen Itza was proud of the accomplishments of his ancestors, but also honest about the horrors they committed.

Boarding the Bus at Chichen Itza

So far, our excursion had been almost perfect.  Perhaps a private tour would have been more accommodating to our personal needs and desires, but it would have cost a whole lot more.  For an affordable group tour, they did a great job.  However, even if I had harbored some minor grudge against them, all would have been forgiven as we approached the bus, hot and tired from our tour of the archaeological site.

Waiting for each guest was a cool wet hand cloth to wipe away the dust and heat of Chichen Itza.  Also, from the chilly interior of an ice chest each guest was offered a beverage.  Water, soda and beer was available.  I can’t remember when a Corona had tasted so good.

We have a buffet and a swim coming, but that can wait until next week.  Join me then for more adventures.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Where Did the Mayans Go?

TRAVEL TALK: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF A CULTURE

Last week I mentioned the Spanish and their influence on Mexico.  I was horrified by the Mayan culture at its apex, but by the time the Spanish arrived, the jungle had reclaimed Chichen Itza.  All that remained was a pile of stones to loot for building materials.  The magnificence of that society had crumbled.

Peeling Back the Jungle

Historians and archaeologists have many speculations on the downfall of the Mayans.  Their glorious city of Chichen Itza was first taken over by the Toltecs and then abandoned for reasons that are still unknown.  How did it happen?  How did such an advanced society merely fade into the jungle?

When you go to Chichen Itza today, you must use your imagination to understand just how astounding it would have been to walk among the monuments in their glory.  The rain and the wind have softened the many carvings on the faces of the buildings and walls.  Mere shadows of pigment hint at the remarkable murals once covering every inch of exposed stone.  How overwhelming it must have been!

Standing in the Plaza

As I stood there trying to imagine the city ripe with the beauty it once displayed and the engineering it had taken to create it, I was distracted by those around me.  Overweight senior citizens from America, sweltering in the sun and wondering why they had ever paid someone to bring them to this overrated steam bath.  Younger and thinner tourists, from around the world, frolicking like they were at a theme park, rather than an archaeological site.  Native Mayans leading tours, some trying to be comedians, while others shared the importance of the site’s history, but all hoping their meager salaries would be supplemented by generous tips from their audience.

And throughout the site, along every pathway, under every tree, were other Mayans.  Their marketplace no longer had a roof, so they huddled, one after another in the shade, to avoid the blasting heat of the sun, selling their wares.  One vendor offered pretty much the same thing as another.  Some focused on wearable souvenirs, while others sold trinkets to decorate your home.  Too many vendors demonstrated a wooden device that made the sound of a jaguar when you blew into it.  We were sick to death of the sound before we left.  More pleasantly, some vendors played melodies on rustic pipes.  Occasionally, you would see a craftsman, carving a beautiful statue with his own hands, while a quick inspection of other souvenirs would reveal a label professing they’d been made by hands in other countries, where the workmen would earn even less than a native craftsman.

How much easier it would have been to join my fellow tourists in their boredom or their freewheeling photography sessions.  I could have spent my time shopping among the tables of the modern day merchants, comparing the prices and workmanship of their offerings.  Why was I mired in gloomy thoughts of horrific bloodletting and an advanced society which was doing almost everything wrong when it came to the good of their citizens?  What was Chichen Izta trying to tell me?

This is not a conundrum I was able to solve in the few hours I walked among its monuments.  Instead I would walk back to the bus with a heavy heart and conflicting thoughts.  My conclusions would have to work themselves out over the coming days.

On to More Amusing Adventures

It was time to board the bus.  A buffet lunch waited for us and then we’d be headed to visit a cenote.  I shook over my pondering and looked forward to a good meal.  The traveler in me made way for the tourist.  Come back next week and we’ll consider lighter subjects.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL

Just How Civilized Are We?

TRAVEL THERE: MORE IMPRESSIONS OF CHICHEN ITZA

Last week I shared my first impressions of Chichen Itza.  The longer I stayed the darker my thoughts became.  As if in response to the cartwheeling girls in front of the pyramids, I felt the lives of the Mayans deserved to be carefully considered and now, days later, I am still pondering my observations.

Marketplace of the Macabre

As if to emphasize my train of thought, I realized the structure adjacent to the altars was the marketplace.  Beautiful rows of columns raised their heads to the sky, but like the Hypostyle Hall in Karnak, these columns once bore the weight of a heavy roof to protect the items of commerce available in the market.  Like us, Mayan traders traveled to distant lands and brought back beautiful items used for adornment, which were sold next to agricultural products and weapons and cosmetics.  Did the market close during the sacrifices?  I doubt it.  Instead, like a big box store getting ready for Black Friday, they’d hired extra help and filled their shelves with extra merchandise.

After showing us the main plaza and describing the crowds that once filled it during the days of sacrifice, our guide took us to the back of the pyramid where evidence of vandalism was apparent, but the vandalism is not recent.  The Spanish came and disregarded the value of the Mayan ruins by peeling off layers of stone to build their own homes.  The Spanish were not alone in this type of activity.  The beautiful marble which once covered the Egyptian pyramids was used to build later monuments for people who saw little reason to protect the beauty of past engineers.  How is that different from the cartwheeling girls?

Men of Science

At the back of the pyramid, the guide gave us a choice.  We could stay in the plaza to shop and take pictures or visit the observatory.   I was hungry for more, so we followed the guide.  Removed from the plaza, but still in the shadow of the pyramid stood an edifice for tracking the stars.  They performed accurate science in this place, science that measured the routes of the stars and their dance across the sky.  The statistics they calculated have proven to be as accurate as those of our own scientists, with their modern equipment, almost to the second.

The men of science in that day, knew from centuries of observation, the days would get longer, just as surely as they watched them get shorter.  It had always been that way.  Instead of proclaiming proven fact, they used their data to pick the day the sacrifices would be made.  To declare the truth would have reduced their own power, so they ignored what they knew and instead worked hand-in-hand with the politicians, celebrities and leaders to deceive the general public – those standing below the pyramid and those falling lifelessly down the steps.  Does that sound at all familiar to you?  It does to me.

The Pleasure Palace

Just beyond the Observatory, still in sight of the pyramid, is a huge palace, mostly still standing.  You can see intricate lattices of stone decorating the walls of the building, graceful columns in the walled garden and steps winding up to a balcony.  Was the spot chosen for its proximity to the pyramid?  Did they walk to the plaza or watch them from their pleasant garden?  Who were the royals who lived in the shadow of so much death and right next door to a scientific institution that could have used their data to end the grisly performances of religion?

The palace marked the beginning of a residential area.  Their neighbors were priests, other members of royalty, high level political appointees, the families of warriors and of the successful merchants whose businesses filled the market.  Their primitive HOA offered a steam bath and water was delivered daily from the cenote by slaves.  Other slaves brought food from the harvests to feed them.  Their house slaves swept the floors, served their meals, dressed their hair and raised their children.

It was fantastic, this life the powerful had built for themselves.  Certainly, it was also horrific, but did they notice or even care?  What if you had lived in those times, at that place?  Would you have joined the circus that protected your place in society or would you have lived each day in horror, wondering how your lone voice could make a difference against the odds?

If these impressions seem different to you from my usual travelogue, I must agree with you.  They seem different to me, too.  Wherever I travel and whatever I see, I try to put myself in the place of those who lived the life I am observing.  I try to use their experiences to better understand what I observe in my own world. I’ve stood alongside ancient monuments like Stonehenge and the Temple at Karnack.  I’ve visited magnificent cathedrals and breathtaking palaces.  I’ve walked through significant battlegrounds and beautiful gardens.  Never have I been as disturbed by what I saw as I was at Chichen Itza.

I’ve barely touched on the influence of the Spanish in Mexico.  At Chichen Itza all you really see of them is the stones they took away from the pyramid, which is in many ways symbolic of the other things they took away.  What they brought with them was a religion, which would replace the grisly sacrifices of thousands upon thousands with the sacrifice of One, but were they in truth any more benevolent than the murderous priests of Chichen Itza?  Let’s talk about that next week.

TRAVEL

The Marvelous, Malevolent Mayans

TRAVEL THERE: IMPRESSIONS OF CHICHEN ITZA

Is Chichen Itza filled with vendors hawking junk and and tourists taking selfies. Yep, it is, but if you let that stop you from visiting then you aren’t a true traveler. UNESCO has named it one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. My TV friends visit here often – Josh Gates, Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, Don Wildman and more. They come looking for everything from new discoveries beneath the pyramid to evidence of ancient aliens. It is a magnet for the curious and the bored. You must visit.

First Impressions

If you let it, Chichen Itza can turn you off before you’ve seen a single structure. The parking lots are a maze of tour buses. Pouring off of the buses en masse are all your least favorite tourists. You enter the park through the official obligatory shopping experience and for the rest of your visit you are avoiding the offers of the unofficial vendors hawking their wares on all the pathways through the park. It’s distracting and I wish they would go away, but that’s just Mexico.

Our guide led us quickly through the crowds, passed up the pyramid and took us to a shady spot just outside the infamous ball fields. There he began an education related to the rigorous castes of Mayan society. If you were born a noble, you remained a noble, living off the burdensome taxes charged to the rest of society. If you weren’t a noble, you weren’t going to become one, but you might become a human sacrifice or a slave. This is an aspect of Mayan society I had learned of previously, but this reminder colored the rest of my thoughts as I experienced what the Mayans had built.

The Marvelous and Malevolent

You learn quickly that the Mayans built all their wonderful cities without the wheel. What our guide, a Mayan himself, pointed out, was that Mayans knew all about the wheel. The evidence is everywhere from their calendar to the ball hoops, but the wheel was sacred, because it represented life. The wheel was there and could have made life easier, but from reverence they labored without it and their labors are magnificent.

In the famous ball court we learned the traditional game had to be modified to be played in such a huge stadium. They had pads and clubs not usually part of the game, but needed to reach the goals and cover the distances. The entertainment was for nobles only. Unlike the Colosseum in Rome, where everyone was welcome, in Mayan society only the priests and the royals observed the national past time, which would end in human sacrifice.

For the common man, just outside the ball courts were a series of open air altars.  During some ceremonies, thousands upon thousands would be sacrificed to the odd stone man, laying on his back, holding a bowl for the still warm hearts of the sacrificial victims.

From these auxiliary altars, between the ball field and the main plaza, our guide took us to stand before the main pyramid, but my mind was still back on the thousands and thousands of victims who would have their hearts ripped out, not over a century or a decade, not even over a year or a month, but in a matter of days.

The modern keeper of the altar.

I’d always known the Mayans were pretty brutal.  I’ve read about them, seen TV shows about them and even visited some of their other archaeological sites, but this was different.  Somehow, standing there in the shade of a tree, watching an iguana traipse around where once life upon life was snuffed out, it all became very real.  This excursion was not going to be a casual adventure to tick another item off my wish list.  It was going to impact my world view.

It was then the amusement park atmosphere of the main plaza began to grate on my nerves.  Scantily clad young women with piercings and tattoos performed acrobatic moves, like cartwheels and splits.  Young men performed their own antics to get the attention of the girls.  People took selfies of themselves, kissing before the altar, where bodies once stacked up during sacrificial ceremonies.  Guides were making jokes.  The activity was incongruous to the site.

A part of me listened attentively to what the guide was saying, but in my mind I was an ancient Mayan.  What would I have felt about the horrors I watched.  Would I have been sickened or entertained?  Did the Mayans behave as the tourists were behaving.  Then unwillingly I thought of our modern day killing sprees and realized we weren’t all that different than the Mayans.  My thoughts grew darker and darker.

I’ve used up all my words for today and I wish I could tell you next week would be more fun, but just as I share the good meals as well as the bad meals, I will tell you what it was like for me at Chichen Itza.  Please come back then to visit the rest of the site with me.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

Visiting Chichen Itza

The Famous Pyramid of Chichen Itza

TRAVEL THERE: A VERY LONG DAY

Our visit to Chichen Itza was a very long day and there is no way I can cover all of it in one post, so I’ll start with the logistics of the day and we’ll work from there.

Finally Chichen Itza

Though Chichen Itza has always been at the top of my Yucatan Wish List, I didn’t make it either of the other two times we visited the area.  Both of our previous visits have been via cruise ship to the port of Progresso and Chichen Itza is significantly inland from there, so we chose more accessible Mayan sites.

The first time we visited the ruins at Dzibilchaltan and it was a particularly enjoyable shore excursion, complete with lunch and a rodeo.  The archaeological site was interesting and there was a wonderful museum.  Last time we went to Xcampo.  It was a smaller site, but still interesting.  So, we’re getting pretty knowledgeable about the Mayans, but nothing can prepare you for Chichen ItzaIt is both marvelous and horrid.

Up Early  & Out Late

The first thing the guidebook I bought warned me about Chichen Itza was to avoid excursions from Cancun, because so much time is spent in transit.  Well, I appreciated the advice and understood the reasoning, but this was it.  If I didn’t go this time, chances are I might never again get the opportunity.

As we shopped excursions I saw two versions of the trip over and over.  Either you had to be on a bus by 4 AM or you left between 7 and 8.  The problem I discovered however, was that when you took later tours, you were in Chichen Itza during the hottest part of the afternoon, because all the tours stopped for lunch before going to the site.

Then Sandra Rubio, my travel agent at CTC Travel turned me on to ShoreTrips.com and they had a package called the Chichen Itza Plus.  This version of the trip would pick us up between 7 and 8, but we’d go to the site before lunch.  SOLD!

Since we were among the first to be picked up, we had to be in the lobby at 7:10.  When we got there after a quick visit to the breakfast buffet, they were waiting for us.  It was quite the ordeal to get out of town though.  The bus they picked us up in was bigger than the airport transport vans, but not as big as the full-sized tour buses.  We stopped at several hotels in the smaller bus and then traded to the big bus, but even then we had many more stops to make.

All that driving took a long time, but it was interesting to drive around and see other parts of Cancun.  I’d say it was about nine when we finally headed to Cancun.  They served a small breakfast – pastries, coffee and orange juice.  We were glad we’d hit the resort’s buffet.

The drive to Chichen Itza was about an hour and a half.  They stopped off at a shopping opportunity to use the restroom.  I was focused on sightseeing, not shopping, so they didn’t get to sell me anything.  Another short drive took us to the archaeological site – which I’ll go into in detail later.

After a couple of hours at the site, we went back to the shopping opportunity to have a very nice buffet lunch.  In my opinion, they would have gotten a lot more shopping out of me if they’d have let me use the restroom at Chichen Itza and given me shopping time after lunch.

Then, after lunch we made another short drive to Ik Kil Cenote.  I’ll also tell you more about that in a later blog, but it was a great way to end the day.  Well, the day wasn’t quite over.  We still had to drive back to Cancun, which seemed to take forever in the dark.

As we neared Cancun, the lights inside the bus switched on, a recorded version of “Tequila” was played on the loudspeaker and one of our guides had donned a wild get-up that I supposed was intended to be Mayan.  They served shots of tequila to anyone who wanted one, but right then it didn’t even sound good to me.  I was whupped.

It seemed like midnight when we got to the hotel, but I think it was only about 8:30.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about our time in Chichen Itza.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Frances is Found

TRAVEL BUG TALES: AN ANTI-CLIMATIC REUNION

So the phone rings and it’s Frances.  She was so nonchalant you would have thought she was calling from the lobby.  She’d gotten word in town that someone was missing out at the resort and she figured out it was her.  She was headed back now and we were to be sure the boat didn’t leave with out her.  We were taking a sail on a catamaran and having lunch on a deserted island.

Best Activity of the Trip

Yep, Frances is the one adjusting her sunglasses.  She sashayed into the resort and onto the boat like she’d been with us all the time.  Most of us know that feeling of never having wanted to see someone quite so much and also wanting to kill them at the same time.

The catamaran sail was lovely.  The water was beautiful and the weather perfect.  We sailed to an abandoned beach and hung out on the sand while locals barbecued fish for us.  I avoided baby oil and there wasn’t much wind.  The meal was good and soon we were headed back to the resort.

A little change in itinerary would have improved my opinion of this trip.  The first night should have been the Live Show, with dancers, swords and flame.  That would have gotten us off on the right foot.  Then we should have taken the catamaran and had our picnic.  What a great introduction to the Bahamas!  My salt water showers would have been much more bearable.

Farewell Party

I have no idea whether our final evening was an official event or just something cooked up among us.  The bar was serving conch balls for appetizers and we never made it to the buffet.

And remember the all-inclusive thing?  Well, all that was included on that evening was the first drink.  Even though we were in the bar for hours on end, we could never get a second one.  Instead we made trips out to the pool and communed with the coconut rum crowd or poured our coins in the Heineken beer vending machines.  The rumor existed that someone in the crowd had found a machine that would dispense the beer without the coin, but I can’t say for sure.

I was ready to go.  Though we’d all come to the party together, when I’d finally had enough, both Frances and Debbie were missing.  Someone invited me out for a walk on the beach, but fresh air was not what they wanted.  No love connection was made.

Instead, I went to my room, but I couldn’t get in.  Someone else had made a love connection and they were using the chain lock to keep me out.  Now I was just mad.  This had been no tropical paradise for me and I just wanted to go to to bed, which was currently being used by someone else.

While $219 hadn’t been a lot of money, even in those days, I felt as if it were money down the drain – money I could have used for something else.  I even resented the quarters I’d put into the slot machine.  Someone offered me the opportunity to sleep on their couch, but I wanted my pjs and my toothbrush and I wanted to take out my contacts.

There had been fun moments, but they’d all been overshadowed by disappointment.  The memory of the night at the local club had been compromised by the trick the limo drivers pulled on us.  The sandy beach experience had sidelined me.  The casino had been a bore.  My almost love connection had been washed out by a storm.  The delicious planter-punch-drenched meal was marred by my friend’s disappearance, that went on for entirely too long.  The only really entertaining time had been the sail and picnic, but just a few hours later I was sitting alone fighting tears.

I went back to my room and banged on the door.  I negotiated a pass-through to our room’s balcony.  Soon my friend and her latest romantic interest joined me there – as if I wanted their company.  Then my other roommate showed up.  I’ll leave the identities vague to protect the guilty.  Thank goodness we were leaving the next day.  I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

I’ll head home next week.  Don’t miss the flight!  I’ll see you then.

 

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, TRAVEL

A Few Final Points

TRAVEL THERE: CLUB MED PUNTA CANA IS WAITING

Here’s a few things I didn’t have a place for in other posts about Club Med Punta Cana.  I hope they’ll help you decide you need to go there and visit.  If so, call my friends at CTC Travel.

Dinner A La Carte

You never have to face down a buffet at Punta Cana unless you want to or unless you didn’t get your Indigo reservations in soon enough.  Indigo reservations can only be made in person at the restaurant on the day you want to eat there.  They start taking reservations at 9 AM and if you wait too long, you either won’t get the time you want or you won’t get in at all.

We celebrated our anniversary by having dinner at Indigo.  It was a lovely meal, but Bill made better choices than I did.  He had some kind of whole fish and he says it was one of the most amazing meals he’s ever had.  I had some Dominican shrimp in a plantain bowl.  Good, but not one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had.  Here’s a few pics from Indigo and that meal.

 Another Dinner Choice

With so much free food and drink available, we didn’t see much reason to spend money that way, but there was one opportunity to do just that.  It was called La Cava.  On the patios of Samana and Hispanolo (for dinner only) there was a section set aside for La Cava guests.  You become a La Cava guest when you purchase wine, whiskey or cigars from La Cava and enjoy them with a meal.  If we’d been there longer, we might have considered it, but we did just fine with the included comestibles.

Shopping

There were a few shops at the resort and they had lovely things – but there were no bargains.  Not a single one.  Especially not on larimar, a semi-precious gemstone found only in the Dominican Republic.  The cheapest larimar I found at the resort was a pair of earrings with a tiny piece of larimar hanging from each stud.  The price was $80 and if someone had brought it to me, I would have thought it was some cheap trinket they got for about 5.  So none of my friends got larimar.

At the resort, everything is priced in Dominican pesos and while everyone can tell you how much that is in euros, they are not so good with dollars.  That made shopping quite challenging.  It also almost caused Bill a heart attack when he saw a receipt with a bottom line of 4210.

45

Several years back, Club Med celebrated its 45th anniversary by printing up lots of T-shirts and other items with the number 45.  The items sold like hot cakes  So, when their 50th came, encouraged by the sales of the 45 items, they printed up lots of 50 merchandise.  However, the 50 merchandise was a bust.  They almost had to give it away to get rid of it. but while everyone was rejecting the 50th anniversary merchandise, they were still requesting items with 45 on it.  You’ll see the 45 logo all over the resort on everything from t-shirts and bikinis to flip flops and beach bags.  Vintage 45 items are a status symbol.  We spent a lot of time speculating on the ubiquitous logo and as we asked around, trying to solve the mystery, we discovered there were almost as many answers as their were t-shirts.  Some Americans thought it was for Trump – NOT!  Some French people claimed it was the number of a popular soccer player.  I asked the Chief of the Village and he gave me this skinny.  So, in case you ever go to a Club Med resort and wonder, well here’s the answer.

Farewell to Punta Cana

I think that about covers it.  You should have everything you need to enjoy a resort vacation with Club Med – and I heartily suggest you give it a try.  I’m probably the only person on the face of the earth that wouldn’t think it was the best vacation ever, but my best vacations are devoted to satisfying my inner Museum Girl.

Would we ever return to Club Med Punta Cana?  If we were the sort to repeat destinations, then there is no reason we would not.  It is a beautiful resort with great food and a lot of fun things to do.  We just rarely return to someplace we’ve already been.

So will we ever do Club Med again?  It is certainly a possibility, but we’d probably only go for three nights, not five.  We had a great time, but while Bill is more active at sports than I am, neither of us prefer sports for days on end.  I can see us doing it before or after a vacation devoted to all my museums, palaces and historic sites or just getting away for a few day.

Winning the fabulous door prize from CTC Travel certainly gave us a new favorite possibility on our wish list, but we’ve already got the next trip planned.  I’m just not ready to tell you about it yet.  Right now, as I finish up this post it is June, shortly after our Club Med vacation, I have no idea what I’ll be offering up next week on Travel Talk, but please come back.  I promise it will be fun!