Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Una Boda Mexicana en Marzo

I hit four countries in 60 days at the beginning of 2010. Mexico was #2, for Nate and Rosie's wedding!

I'd never been to the Yucatan, so I was pretty excited to see that part of Mexico, since everyone and their dog has been there.  Nate and Rosie's blog updates added to the excitement.  They are one of the most photogenic couples I've ever seen.  Christian, one of my best friends would be in attendance, not only as Nate's HLP (heterosexual life partner), but as best man as well.  And since Christian and I tend to take non-romantical trips to tropical locations every year, it was shaping up to be a great reunion.

I flew into Cancun on Thursday afternoon and had to make my way south to tiny, peaceful Puerto Morelos, just between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.  I had read that there was a bus from the airport that heads south, and the driver would stop on the highway near Puerto Morelos, at which point you take a cab a couple miles towards the shore and the town.  While I was waiting in line to collect my luggage and go through customs, I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman who offered to let me share his private shuttle that he had booked to Playa del Carmen.  He and his wife have a house there, he's been making the trip for 20 years, and he wanted to make sure I got there safely - bless his heart, he's Canadian, of course!  After some haggling with the shuttle driver (I guess if you only book 1 person, you can only take 1 person - insurance rules or something, even though it was a HUGE van with room for 20 people), me and my luggage were on board.  The driver pulled over on the side of the road after about half an hour, pointed to the 7/11 and told me there would be a cab there soon.  Sure enough, there was, and I paid a couple bucks for the 2 mile ride into town.

My roommate Julia (we met via email during wedding guest coordination; girlfriend of a groomsman) was already checked into the hotel, but had left me a key.  I knew that most of the family and wedding party were going to be out and about, so I promptly changed into my swimsuit and enjoyed the last rays of the day poolside.
Pretty soon I spotted a couple that were probably Patrick and Julia.  Sure enough!  We were fast friends and hung out watching the sunset while we waited for everyone else to return to the hotel from their day at an amusement park of some sorts.
Dinner that night was at a small restaurant next door to the hotel - filled with luchadores to the max.  And Manzanita Lift!  Tipping in other countries is always hard to figure out - so we left 10% or so and were followed out the door after they realized it was not enough.  Really?

We took a nighttime stroll thru Puerto Morelos to see what we could see.  Other than the famous leaning lighthouse, it's pretty small.  We found a school playground, next to some barbed wire fence that we crawled through, avoiding the broken glass scattered around.
On Friday, most of the wedding group planned to go to Tulum, but with a mix up of departure times, sleeping in, and lack of rental car spaces, I was maybe out of luck, it seemed, when I was ready to go.  Luckily Christian volunteered to go with me, since I was really eager to see the place (mostly the really pretty water, next to the temples).  We caught a cab back to the 7/11 on the highway and bought bus tickets south.  I think it took nearly 2 hours to get there, and we had to endure a really awful movie dubbed into Spanish.  But we made it!

We skipped the tour guide, which probably would've helped me appreciate things a little more, but oh well.  It was pretty hot and dry around there, and fairly brown.  Until we got to the beautiful water!

Outside the ruins, on the walk back into town, we stopped at a street vendor and ordered a coconut.  Um, disgusting.  We tried to be nice and drink/eat it, since the guy who gave it to us was sitting right near us.  But seriously - gross.
Some tribe did a performance across the way with men climbing to the top of poles and hanging upside down while spinning round and round and going lower to the ground while some pan flute played in the background.  Once again, a tour guide with some extra information may have been useful, but it was nonetheless entertaining.  Pretty soon we grabbed a cab into the little town, found an outdoor restaurant and ate some lunch before catching the bus back to Puerto.
Friday night was the rehearsal dinner.  I don't know how much rehearsing was needed to stand on the beach and say some words, but at least the dinner in Playa del Carmen was going to be great!
We rented a dinky little car and piled in - total clown car that the boys picked up once we parked in Playa.

The food was amazing.  Seriously - they grilled up a ton of meat, threw out tortillas, pico, avacados, and pina coladas galore.
We ate and ate and ate.  Until the singing cabellero showed up.  It was fun at first.  He stood there with this little speaker and microphone and sang his heart out.
Nate and Rosie danced, we enjoyed.  Except an hour later, he still hadn't stopped.  Finally someone told us we needed to pass the sombrero and fill it up quite well, and then he would go away.  The singer himself made no indication of this, just started up a  new song as soon as he finished one.

After dinner, we drove into the heart of the tourist area and I kind of fell in love with Playa.  If I do ever go back, I'm staying in Playa.  It's beautiful, not over run like Cancun, and has more going on than Puerto (which I did really like, I just need a little more action).
We hit a club, started up the dance floor, watched some fire dancers, and tried not to get blown away by the windy season.
Saturday - wedding day!  I wondered where all the girls were getting their hair done and dresses pressed in such a small village.  Julia and I didn't have much to do, so we slept in then walked around town to find some lunch and capture some photos.  The guys were tasked with finding something to create an aisle for Rosie to walk down on the sand; Julia and I were thinking flowers or palm tree leaves, which we searched for.  The boys ended up finding blue bricks.  Uh....

Rosie looked amazing, as usual.
NVIII and X10 spend their last few moments as single brothers goofing off.
And then Rosie walked down the blue bricks, we stood in a semi circle, they said sweet words that we couldn't really hear over the wind, and voila!  Beautifully done.
We headed back to the hotel for a reception, where the guestbook area was filled with all sorts of props, a Polaroid camera, and and little print out machine for us to print and stick our photos in a book.  Great idea - I may have to steal it for the next part that I throw.
The food and music were great; the only thing weird was the cake which tasted kinda burnt and had a weird flavor.  I've found that other countries can't really do cake/cupcakes like we do.  They excel at pastries; we do well at cake.  Minor point.

On Sunday morning we went to church at the tiny building in the town.  I love going to church in other countries, especially Spanish-speaking ones.  Praying is more beautiful in Spanish.  We found the small, concrete building and sat down with the 40 or so other people there.  It's really humbling and everyone was so welcoming.  Maybe I should try that every Sunday, popping down to Mexico.

After an hour of church, we hopped a bus up to Cancun proper, where I wanted to spend our last night.  And here's where things started to go downhill and I have since vowed not to return, cause I got Mexico'd.
First things first, I had booked a room at one of the hotels on the touristy hotel strip.  I booked directly through the resort since they had a package that included a room upgrade and some resorts credits for shops and food.  Yeah - I received none of those things.  Friend Rebekah booked last minute through another website and we had exactly the same room, except she paid half.  Upon check-in I was told that none of the resort credits were available right then; I needed to come back and get them from manager. A few calls and several trips back to the front desk got me nothing.  They wanted a print out of my reservation.  I walked to the business center to get on a computer to print it out.  Of course I can't purchase web access there, I have to get it from another store in the hotel that wasn't open at the time.  A few hours and 10 dollars later, I had my sheet printed which still got me nothing.  And since we were leaving fairly early the next day, this was all for nothing.  Not what I signed up for.
At least the view was pretty, though it was too cold and windy to swim.  I think we snuck into another hotel's hot tub later on.

We took the city bus back into town to eat somewhere a little less tourist trap.  I didn't go to Mexico to shop at Louis Vuitton, eat at Outback, and party at Senor Frog's.  We ended up at the city's version of tourist trap, but it was pretty great.  Top floor and private dining room to ourselves, even though the place was pretty busy.

After dinner we explored some of the Cancun neighborhoods and cool graffiti.
I'll kick your Az-tec.
We stumbled upon this outdoor carnival that had quite the mix of things going on.  First up, a huge stage and fashion show of teenagers, I'm assuming quinceanera/prom garb.  Little kids were driving these vehicles with wild abandon while parents chased them.  There were homemade crafts and lights and food stands.
The best part had to be a Spiderman trying to get money in his jar to raise money for something.  The Black-Eyed Peas were playing; Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night, and the gringos jumped on the stage and attracted a crowd faster than fruit flies on rotten bananas.  Weird thing was - instead of trying to get money from the new crowd that had gathered, Spidey wanted us to fill the jar., we're doing the work here to get you new people with money.

The next morning I had a bit of time beachside before packing up and heading back to AZ.  At least the weather cooperated and rain departed.  The water there really is stunning.

So - trip back.  My master plan was to take the city bus back to the airport for a couple bucks instead of shelling out $$$ for a taxi.  I planned out the time I needed, and hopped the bus into the city (after leaving that damn hotel.  Christian stayed another night and smartly checked into the Marriott. Lesson learned).  I got off the bus in the city center and went to the main bus terminal to catch a bus to the airport.  Except that the airport bus ticket counter was closed and I couldn't get a ticket for the bus at the time I needed.  I couldn't miss my flight, I was so ready to get out of Cancun (once again, Puerto and Playa - lovely places).  I sucked it up and hit an ATM to pay another ATM fee and take a cab to the airport.  At least I smartly asked all the cabbies outside and negotiated a price before just jumping in.  I was pretty mad at this point.  Except I jumped into a sketch cab, based on the advert on the back of the seat.  I did NOT ask about the Adult Spa for my next visit.

We get to the airport, which I guess has been under some construction recently.  Cabbie lets me off at the wrong terminal....which I didn't know until I walked in.  Ugh.  I had to wait and take another airport bus to the next terminal over. When I arrived the check in line was enormous!  There was no way I'd make my flight.  Except I barely did and they didn't charge me to check bags like I had on the way down.  US Airways, for once you redeemed yourself.  I even found a way to spend the last of my pesos, almost to the exact cent.  Get me outta Mexico!

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