Monday, March 9, 2015

Mexico: A Tourist's Tales of Tequila, Temples and Tableaus

Hola amigos.

I would like to apologize to all of my loyal readers for my absence from the interwebs recently. (Hopefully you both found something else to read during my hiatus.) 

The reason I was MIA here: I took a trip South of the Border last week. (And by "South of the Border," I mean "Mexico." Not "Illinois.")

Riviera Maya Mexico

I have wanted to go to Mexico since I was 16 years old and my high school Spanish class went there without me. (I would curse them all en espanol right now, if only I could remember how.)

Technically I did venture into Mexico one time when I was in college, but that was an accident, so it doesn't count. I was driving in Laredo, Texas, and was looking for the mall there when I missed a turn and ended up in a lane of cars that was crossing the border whether I wanted to or not. Turns out it was easy to get into Mexico back then (1989 -- no passports needed); getting back out proved to be a little more difficult, but that's another story.

Riviera Maya Mexico

On this trip, I crossed the border -- on purpose -- with my husband, our travel agent and 157 other sun-starved Wisconsinites. We stayed at the Iberostar Paraiso Lindo resort in Riviera Maya, which was lovely.

Riviera Maya Mexico

It was 80 degrees and sunny everyday. And the views were breathtaking. 

Riviera Maya Mexico

But the wifi was terrible. You had to be in the lobby to get any internet access at all. And even there, it moved at a crawl. 

Riviera Maya Mexico

I trekked down to the lobby to check email most mornings and found myself suffering from 1999 dial-up flashbacks as I waited for web pages to load. It was awful.

Try as I might, there was just no way I could write blog posts under those conditions. I'm sure you'll all understand the hardships I was facing and take pity on me.

Riviera Maya Mexico

I don't know if I'll ever recover from the trauma. But in the interest of science, I would be willing to go back again next winter to judge if there are any improvements in web connection speeds over the course of the year. Because I'm selfless that way and just want to do my part to make the world a better place.

Riviera Maya Mexico

In the meantime, let me fill you in on a little of what I was doing last week when I wasn't blogging. Mostly, I was hanging out at some of the spots pictured above. But we did get off the Iberostar campus a few times. We went ATV-ing in the jungle and speed boating in the Caribbean one day. Jim's idea. I am more of a coffee-shop-and-museum kind of girl, but I make a point of doing at least one thing that scares the Starbucks out of me when we are on vacation.


Don't worry: Guides gave our group a five-minute tutorial on boat operation/maritime law before they strapped us into life vests and turned us loose into the Caribbean riptides. I'm sure we were all (more or less) perfectly safe. As far as I know, everyone who went out to sea in our group made it back alive. (Although I did notice when we were docking at the end of the day that one guy forgot where "neutral" was and rammed into the boat in front of him.)

On another day, we took a bus trip to a few historic sites on the Yucatan, including Hubiku, a "cenote" or sinkhole with a natural spring in it that the ancient Mayans considered a sacred place.

Mexican sinkhole with a natural spring

Visitors are allowed to swim in the spring water. But, frankly, as it was in an underground cave, which was a bit dank and musty (the smell reminded me of the dirt-floor cellar in the old farmhouse that I grew up in), we passed on the swimming. 

Mexican sinkhole with a natural spring in it

After not swimming, we toured a small tequila museum, where they gave out free samples. (We did not pass on those.)

Mexico tequila museum

I tried the chocolate-flavored tequila. And then the cherry. And the mango. And then the chocolate again.

tequila museum

Then we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant and watched people dance with trays and bottles on their heads, which is actually more entertaining than it sounds. (Especially after four shots of tequila.)


After lunch, we got back on our bus, where our tour guides passed out more tequila to us while we rode to the famous Leaning Temple of Chichen Itza.

Mayan ruins

No, wait. I think it was the photographer who was tipsy there, not the temple. Here's a better angle:

Mayan ruins

The temple is called El Castillo or the Temple of Kukulkan. It's the centerpiece of the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. Tourists were allowed to climb the steps to the top until eight years ago, when the powers that be finally decided it was causing too much wear and tear on the ancient stone.

Mayan ruins

Just looking at the ruins was awe-inspiring. Chichen Itza is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and it's the first one I've seen in person. (If I continue at my current pace, I should be able to cross all seven off of my bucket list by the time I am 336.)

Mayan ruins

A woman in our tour group had an apple with her that she shared with one of the locals who was also spending the day at the historic site.

Mayan ruins

The apple soon attracted the attention of several others who had been lounging nearby.

Mayan ruins

Vendors lined up tables full of souvenirs flea-market style in between the ruins (and the iguanas).  A lot of the items were handmade, and everything was cheap: $1 for most of the smaller trinkets, $5 for T-shirts.

Mayan ruins

I would have loved to have spent more time looking at the crafts, but my traveling companion was cursed with a bout of Montezuma's Revenge by the end of the tour and was in no condition to stand in the hot sun while I picked out tchotchkes.
 

He felt better after we got back on the air-conditioned bus. But judging by the blurry finger he appears to be preparing to raise, I think he was a little annoyed with me for waving the camera in his face all day.

After Chichen Itza, we stopped briefly in the city of Valladolid to see an old Spanish church. Then we were on our way back "home" to Riviera Maya.


En route, we got to see a whole different side of Mexico: lots of cinder block buildings, narrow streets, corrugated tin (or straw) roofs and small stores and restaurants.


And Coca Cola signs everywhere. (Mmm. Mexican Coke. So much better than the corn-syrupy swill the company sells up here in the States.)


As you may have noticed, I took lots of pictures on our trip.

Riviera Maya Mexico

It couldn't be helped. Everywhere I looked, there was something begging to be photographed.

Riviera Maya Iberostar Paraiso Lindo

Like the adorable little coatis. (We called them Mexican raccoons.) They are wild animals, but have obviously adapted to living amongst the tourists at a luxury hotel.

Riviera Maya

 They were very friendly. Especially if you had french fries.

Iberostar Paraiso Lindo

On our last night at the resort, we took a picture from the balcony in our room.


Then we went out to dinner, and afterward, we took a moonlit walk down to the beach, where we came upon this happy little tableau:

beach wedding

How romantic is that?

beach wedding

It reminds me of an image from a Pottery Barn catalog. (If Pottery Barn ran poorly lit, slightly out-of-focus iPhone snapshots.)

Linking up to: