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.

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

Back to the Seadust Buffet

The Infamous Buffet

TRAVEL THERE: THE RUDEST WOMAN IN MEXICO

As If We Didn’t Already Hate the Buffet

So why did we hate the Seadust buffet?  Well, it had a myriad of choices for every meal, but somehow few of them were anything we were interested in.  What’s more when we finally did pick out something to eat, it was at best mediocre.  The way some people filled up there plates, cleaned them and then went back for more and more and more, we know there were people who like the food, but we didn’t.

We also resented the tiny plastic cups provided for cold beverages – we’re talking juice glasses.  By the time you got a little ice, there was barely room for three good sups of soda.  There was also a tap for beer, but the glass barely held the head of foam, much less providing enough room for a reasonable serving.

Locating a salt shaker was a true challenge and pepper?  HA!  What pepper!

In an effort to be efficient, they whipped up your plate the moment you hesitated in the consumption of your food.  Therefore, one of us had to stay at the table at all times or the food we’d gone to so much trouble to pick out would be picked up.  Since you had to keep going back and forth to get more soda or beer, we didn’t spend much time actually eating together.

How Rude!

The final nail in the buffet coffin was the grill chef at this particular meal.  I decided to try a hamburger, freshly cooked at the grill.  At the grill window, there was a selection of entrees in pans from which to serve yourself, as well as a small refrigerated case with options you could order.

The grill chef was involved with grilling what looked like a couple of large pork loins, so I waited patiently, hoping I could catch her eye.  As I waited, I looked at the small cards defining the offerings in the case, which were in both Spanish and English.  In case you didn’t know, “hamburguesa” is Spanish for “hamburger” and “hot dog” is Spanish for “hot dog.” 

You know how it is when someone is trying to ignore you and hoping you will go away.  I can’t say that I blame the woman.  It’s not like she was the only outlet for food in the room and she was busy flipping the pork.  However, I really wanted that burger.

When she finally gave up and darted a glance at me, I smiled and said, “Hamburger, please?”  A fire flew into her eyes and disgust landed on her pursed lips.  “Espanol,” she demanded with a sneer.  I’m sure I looked a bit gobsmacked as I glanced at the card in the case to remind myself of the syllable which would make my request Spanish rather than English.  I made an effort to wrap my mouth around the Spanish, which she responded to with a snarky correction of my pitiful pronunciation.  She was absolutely gleeful to have the opportunity to do that.

I want you to know this rude lady was the only person who treated me this way throughout the entire trip.  I possess a very pitiful Spanish vocabulary for someone who lives in Texas and passed two semesters of high school Spanish.  I’m pretty good with signage and menus, but conversationally I’m a mess.  Still, I try to communicate in Spanish as much as I can.  I ask for cerveza and mantiquilla, instead of beer and butter.  I say por favor and gracias, instead of your welcome and thank you.  I greet people with hola que tal and if they respond with bueno y tu, then I struggle to come up with a word like magnifico.

This woman thought she was having one up on a stupid Americano.  She didn’t realize I was a blogger with over 2500 followers on various social sites or over 200,000 readers on Trip Advisor.  If you work in the public eye, you don’t know either.  That pain in the neck you’re waiting on might just be a social media maven who can ruin your online reputation.  As it is, I won’t be giving Trip Advisor a glowing report about the Seadust, but I’m also not going pick out this lady and make a big deal about her.  Who knows?  Maybe she was just having a bad day and too many of her other fellow employees worked really hard to make me have a good time.

Besides, I was about to go out to the beach and have a good time.  Come along with me next week.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Saved by the Balcony

Seadust’s Adult Only Pools

TRAVEL THERE: FINALLY, THE SEADUST DOES US RIGHT

After our breakfast, we explored the hotel a little more, discovering a few spots we’d missed before like the adult pool and the ball courts.  After that we returned to the balcony.

Our Favorite Spot

I’ve said it before, but I will say it again.  Our balcony was our very favorite thing about the Seadust.  We stayed out on the balcony for several hours.  I continued to read my book and Bill browsed the internet with his tablet.

I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed our time there, silently sharing some time of relaxation.  Occasionally Bill would show me some nugget the internet had served up.  There would be movement from time to time, shifting our chaise lounges to avoid the direct sun, stepping in the room to get an item or just putting down what we were reading and standing at the railing.

Eventually, our breakfast faded away and it was time to find our lunch – even though that meant going back to the Buffet.  We made a list of the things we wanted to do else where in the resort.

  • visit the gym
  • fly our kite
  • drink margaritas
  • try out the adult pool

A Quick Visit to the Gym

Before we started eating again, Bill wanted to try out the gym.  We’d taken a self-directed tour of the facilities before.  The gym is on a lower floor near the spa.  The entry area is beautiful and serene.  The spa looked quite inviting, but since I can go to a spa at home, I don’t use my vacation dollars there.

The gym was very clean and well-equipped.  A nice attendant welcomed up and offered to help if we needed him.  We went on into the gym and made ourselves at home.

I was wearing flip-flops, but didn’t intend to workout in them.  As I dug in my bag for my closed shoes, the attendant popped by to let me know I was not allowed to workout in flip flops.  Well, duh!  That’s the reason I’m over here in the corner digging in my bag, but thank you for sharing this very obvious information.  I guess they do have people who think wearing flip flops is appropriate for the gym.  I’ve seen people who thought they were appropriate for funerals, too.

Bill was already on the weight machines when I climbed aboard a stationary bike for some cardio.  I was on vacation, so I didn’t dial in a vigorous workout, but after 10 minutes I realized it was a little warm in the gym to workout in comfort.  After another 5 minutes I was off the bike and ran into Bill, who was coming to tell me he was experiencing the same difficulty.

We’d put it off as long as we could.  We were going to have to go back to the buffet.  It was that or the outdoor snack bar at the pool.  We’d watched other people fight off the aggressive gulls and curious pigeons.  So we went to the buffet – again.  This time it was a little more of an adventure than it had been before.  Come back next week and see what I mean.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL, WRITING

The Beauty of Our Balcony

TRAVEL THERE: AN EARLY MORNING REVERIE 

Our third day at the Seadust was devoted to enjoying whatever pleasures we could derive from the resort.  The food was horrid and while the recent renovation of the property had been adequate, it didn’t give us the appropriate quality to feel as if we were in a luxury resort.  So what did we do?

First Up!

I woke up early, which is SOP in this family.  I wasn’t quite up to visiting the gym, so I went out to the balcony with my travel journal and my book.  First, I caught up in the journal.  Looking over what I wrote, I see little that hints at the parallels I was beginning to draw between the ancient Mayan culture and our modern state of  devolving affairs.

After getting the journal up to date, I opened up my book and dove into the story.  The narrative was focused on bullfighting at this point.  We’d learned who the characters were and why we were there, but the story line seemed overly devoted to the matadors and their bulls.  I began to wonder if I should have chosen another book to read, which could have given me more insight into the Mayan culture.

I confess the bullfighting story did not hold my attention very well.  I constantly found myself staring off into the beautiful scenery just outside my balcony.  In the serenity I went through my prayer list, thinking of those in need, those I love and some friends who were vacationing together in another part of the Caribbean.  I’d pick up reading where I had left off, but soon I’d been soaking in the green of the palm trees and the blue of the water.

Mr. Lag Abed

Bill slept very late and after a short visit with me, decided to go back to bed for another nap.  I didn’t mind.  I returned to the balcony and continued dividing my time between the outstanding view and the book which was slowly turning its focus to the time period I was most interested in.

Michener rarely tells a tale with gripping speed, but instead slowly binds you in his tale like a python, slipping around an intended victim.  His reputation gets you within proximity and you snuggle up with the book to see what it is like.  You are aware of slowly changing positions, but you wonder why the snake has the reputation it does for devastating its victims.  Then all of a sudden it is too late.  You’d only been reading the book as a distraction and now you have to finish it to find out what happens to these people, who you now care very much about.

In spite of my interest in the book, my stomach decided it was time to have breakfast.  I roused Bill and suggested we use our breakfast time to plan our day.  Then we could return to the room to dress appropriately and gather up what we might need.

Breakfast of Victims

The only restaurant opened for breakfast was the buffet, so like the sacrificial victims in Chichen Itza we went where we were forced to go.  I hoped over breakfast I’d convince Bill to visit the Mayan museum and archaeological site right next to our hotel, but Bill had put up with all the Mayans he intended to.  Today he was going to get his money’s worth out of the resort.  Our accommodations might have been comped, but we’d paid the airfare, a small daily fee for tips and for the excursion to Chichen Itza.  So far, he felt the account wasn’t quite even and he was going to do something about that.

So after breaking our fast in one of our least favorite places in Cancun, we headed back to our room.  Come back next week and see how we spent the day.

 

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

This Is an Italian Restaurant?

TRAVEL THERE: SEADUST’S LIGHTHOUSE RESTAURANT

Hungry, thirsty and exhausted we had no desire to visit the room before having dinner.  Seadust’s website promised an Italian restaurant with a focus on seafood and that sounded good to us, but we couldn’t remember the name of it.  The only restaurant with a lobster tank in it was The Lighthouse, but the pirate-themed decor left us wondering what made it  Italian.

There is a Small Wait

It was about 8:30 and all the restaurants were busy.  The Lighthouse had about a 20 minute wait, so we left our name on the list and made the rounds of the area to see if anything else looked more promising.

  • The Buffet held no interest for us.
  • Big Ben, the steakhouse had an even longer wait than The Lighthouse.
  • Manhattan was the Seadust’s version of a NY Deli, which didn’t sound like what we wanted.
  • Samurai, the Sushi joint was closed for the evening.
  • El Maguey, was a Mexican restaurant and we’d already had a Mexican meal for lunch.
  • The poolside snack bar was closed.
  • We’d been at Maison d’ Michelle the night before and I was afraid of being served another helping of duck chunks, regardless of what I ordered.
  • The only other venue for food was a breakfast place for “Club” members.  It wasn’t breakfast time and we weren’t Club members, whatever that entailed.

That journey ate up about half our waiting time, so we made our way over to the bar we had visited the night before.  We grabbed some wine and cheese to hold us over until the The Lighthouse could seat us.

The Lobster Tank and Other Disappointments

Front and center in The Lighthouse is a lobster tank, announcing the seafood opportunities awaiting its patrons, but like the wines offered by the previous day’s supercilious sommolier, a significant surcharge accompanied the enjoyment of the crustaceans.  First strike!

The menu provided the answer to why the restaurant thought it was an Italian place, but you really had to read between the lines of the  poor translation to figure that out.  Nothing really sounded like what we imagined we might be served, but we settled on some choices.  Bill picked some kind of fish and I went with some fried seafood.  I’ve learned when the menu is a little shaky, go for either the mixed grill or something fried.  My dish was kind of a deep fried mixed grill but it would have to do.  This was more like a foul ball, rather than a strike.

Instead of appetizers, The Lighthouse offers a “salad bar.”  OK.  I went to check it out, because Bill didn’t want a salad.  There was a bowl of greens, but most of the choices on the “salad” bar were cold seafood options – large prawns, crab claws and other selections.  I came back to the table with my prawns and crab, which inspired Bill to try the prawns.  Strike two!  The prawns were overcooked and the meat of the crab claw did not justify the extreme measures required to get to it.  I’ve eaten crab claws my whole life.  I had never faced an enemy claw quite like these.  The shell of the crab was like a concrete casing and after you labored to get to the meat, it wasn’t very good.

The Iberostar

Our entrees arrived and it was another foul ball.  Mine was adequate.  You can get better at the Golden Corral, but I was hungry and it was edible.  I don’t think Bill’s entree could even be called adequate, but he did try to eat it.  All the while, Bill was Googling the Iberostar and the other accommodations in the Hotel Zone.  He decided then and there that all-inclusive would no longer be in his vocabulary!

To finish the meal, there was a dessert bar. Strike three. It did have desserts, but nothing we couldn’t have gotten our hands on in the dreaded buffet.  I chose a few small items, but Bill walked away.  He walked right over to the Maison d’Michelle and arranged for us to have dessert there.  He impatiently waited for me to finish the little tarts I’d picked up and then we revisited the duck chunk restaurant.  They served us two desserts and Bill ate both.

I was exhausted.  I was also sick and tired of hearing about the shortcomings of our resort.  Just because I didn’t waste my energy cataloging the irritants didn’t mean I was oblivious to them, but it also didn’t mean that I had to be disgusted with the whole vacation.  I could still have fun.  We returned to the room and I went directly to bed.  Things did get better the next day, but unfortunately, not in the restaurants.  Come back next week and see what I mean.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Libraries, Music, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Books

Back on the Bus

TRAVEL THERE: A LONG RIDE HOME

It had been a very long day and there was still some left as the bus headed back to Cancun.

The Joy of a Good Book

I had read it before, but even so, I had chosen James Michener’s book Mexico, as my reading material for the trip.  Unlike many of his novels, which begin even before the appearance of man in a locale, this novel focused on a modern day journalist covering a bullfight festival, who was at the same time Mexican, American, Mayan and Spanish.  The book does look back at the ancient residents of the country, but instead of choosing an actual tribe, such as the Mayans, Toltecs, Aztecs or Olmecs to showcase, Michener made up a sort of conglomerate tribe called the Altomecs, allowing him to comment on them all.

So many years had passed since my last reading of the book that it seemed fresh.  Occasional scenes gave me a sense of deja vu, but I was still following the plot with interest, unsure how it would end.  (I still haven’t finished it as I write this post, but the more I read the more I remember, and I have recalled the end.)  On the bus ride back to the Seadust, I was only a third of the way through and the Altomecs had not even entered the narrative, except a brief mention from time to time of the pyramid which was near the primary locale of the story.

It had been a long day and several times I caught myself dozing off.  At one point, I woke from a dream to discover it was pitch black outside.  I had been asleep for quite a while.  In my dream I was back at Chichen Itza.  I was among the crowds watching the sacrifices, but somehow I was doing so as a character from Michener’s book and at the same time, I was privy to all the knowledge I had accumulated in my actual lifetime.  I stood on the plaza remembering scholarly data about the Mayan civilization, our own lifestyle in America and the many other civilizations I have studied and observed.

When I woke up it took a few moments to figure out exactly where I was.  I soon noticed the guides were fiddling around with the technology.  TV screens folded up and down as if on their own and the guides huddled over a remote control.  I suspected something was up, but they still managed to surprise me with their tequila service.

The interior lights of the bus flashed on as a rather loud rendition of the song “Tequila” played on the loudspeaker.  A man in a strange costume, his face covered with a stocking mask was standing in the aisle.  Though I was pretty sure it was supposed to be entertainment, a part of me was still under the influence of my strange dream.  It wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience, but I understand they intended it to be.

Bill had a little tequila, but I had no interest.  My stomach was ready for its next meal and had no interest in alcohol.  We were soon back to Cancun and we were fortunate enough to be the second stop.  Unfortunately, the first stop was the Iberostar which had refused Bill entrance the previous day.  Before the night was over, I was also wishing we could visit the Iberostar!  Come back next week and find out why!

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

Late Night at the SeaDust

TRAVEL THERE: AFTER DINNER ACTIVITIES

Dinner at the Maison de Michelle had been a little disappointing.  We were still a tad bit hungry and one more glass of wine seemed like just the ticket.  We were able to take care of both those problems.

Wine and Cheese Delight

Right outside Michelle’s was a bar and voila, they had a buffet with cheese and baguettes.  While I chose an assortment of cheeses to top off the meal, Bill ordered another round of drinks.  Yes, they served Savignon Blanc and Merlot in champagne flutes, but who are we to complain?

While we weren’t thrilled with everything we were experiencing, we weren’t suffering too much either.  At this point of the trip we chose to giggle about the chunks of duck and made plans to try another restaurant the following evening.  They had eleven after all!

Like our stroll on the beach and the poolside sunset, our after dinner drinks with cheese were very enjoyable.  We really only had one concern.  When we’d gone upstairs to change clothes, we discovered our balcony was lit up like Alcatraz.  The huge balcony had a big hot tub and we were hoping to enjoy it, but who wanted to relax under such a bright light and none of the switches in the room turned off the exterior lights.

Bill had stopped by the guest services desk to ask about the lights and they assured us the lights would be automatically turned off sometime between 10 and 11.  We also asked what time they were turned back on.  That was something no one knew.  We decided we were tired and even though it wasn’t 11 yet, we were going to go back to the room.

Hitting the Hot Tub

Our absolute favorite thing at the Seadust was the balcony.  When we first arrived, the curtains were closed, which was a mistake on their part.  They were hiding the best part!

The Cancun Hotel Zone is on a thin strip of land just east of Cancun proper.  From our room, we had a great view.  We could see the adult pool area (which we hadn’t figured out how to get to, yet) the main road connecting all the hotels, a golf course, the body of water which separated the hotel strip from the mainland and yes, the city of Cancun.  Yep, it was a pretty marvelous view.

When we got to the room after dinner, the balcony lights were still bright.  I suggested I get our things stowed away, while he filled the hot tub.  When we finished our chores the lights were still bright, but Bill was eager for a little hot tub action.  So, he rigged up a wall with some towels and assured me that since the hot tub was in the corner we’d have plenty of privacy.  Thankfully, that’s just about when the lights decided to go out, so we were able to fully enjoy our time in the hot tub.

Thoroughly relaxed, we drained the hot tub and headed to bed.  We had to be on our way to Chichen Itza just after seven the next morning.  Please come back next week and join us.