Well, well, well… look who finally decided to show up. Me.. I know, I’m sorry. These past few months have been a little rough in more ways than one, but I’m happy to report that I’m much happier now than I have been in a while. Thank goodness! So let’s get down to business. The plus side of not being active on the blog is that I’ve had a lot more time to get myself back to my normal self. The downside is that I have SO MUCH to catch you up on. So, I’ll start with my trip to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico back in January, here goes:
I booked an all-inclusive trip to Playa Del Carmen via Expedia on my 28th birthday after a rough day and a bottle of cheap wine. A month and a half later, I was heading to the airport bright and early on a Saturday morning. When I arrived in Mexico, it felt like a world away from the frigid city I had just come from. Everything was warm and vibrant, and there were palm trees everywhere. A few steps outside the airport, my amazement at the scenery was abruptly interrupted. Men and women in polo shirts jumped out at me from every angle, offering tours and taxis and timeshares. I made a beeline for the Super Shuttle stand to hop on the bus that would take me to my hotel.
I was grouped with four older travelers (two couples, its seemed), They were very talkative, but also super negative; grumbling about everything from the traffic to the suburban scenery. When the driver got in the front seat, he told us to buckle our seat belts, and one woman replied “Why? Because you’re such a bad driver? I know you people like to drive fast”. Oh lord. I sent up a silent prayer that he knew I wasn’t with these negative nancies. Another small mercy: I was the first one dropped off. I was staying at the Grand Riviera Princess, which was in a line of other resorts along the coast. A gentleman greeted me with a clipboard to assist in check in. He asked me my name and marital status, which tripped me up a bit – literally. I tripped. After making my signature clumsy first impression, I worked my way over to the front desk where they offered me a glass of welcome champagne. They gave me a map of the hotel grounds, a schedule of events and my all-inclusive wristband which I was cautioned never to lose.
I was told I needed to make reservations for dinner each night or I wouldn’t be able to eat, so I made my way to the reservation desk and chose the seafood restaurant for my first night. It sounded fancy, and I wanted to get dressed up for my inaugural meal. I bought a Free People maxi dress for the trip and I was very excited to wear it out. Unfortunately, it was wasted on a sub par Mahi Mahi in a glorified snack bar. Not one to wallow in a bad situation, I drank enough house wine to make the food taste good and ordered dessert for good measure. Afterwards, I went back to my lovely room and sat on the porch with my free mini bar beer to read “Big Little Lies” (the PERFECT beach read, by the way).
On my first full day in Playa Del Carmen, I woke up early and headed to the breakfast buffet as soon as it opened – eager to properly start my vacation. Again, the food was kind of meh, but they did have an impressive variety of breakfast delights. I ate what looked halfway decent (fruit, bacon and toast) and then headed to the beach to walk along the shore. I’ve always loved being by the ocean, so despite the cloudy skies, I was just so happy to be there. The hotel staff was grooming the shoreline and there were few other people out and about, so I had the beach mostly to myself. I spent the rest of my morning relaxing and reading. It’s so rare that I take a vacation that’s purely calm, no rushing around to see the sights, so this was perfect.
I decided to hop on the shuttle to downtown Playa Del Carmen to explore for the afternoon. The line was long to get on the shuttle, but I snuck on and sat in the front seat – one of the perks of traveling alone. When we got off the shuttle at 5th Avenue, we had to walk through a jewelry store to get to the pedestrian-only main drag. The shuttle driver had warned us that there would be a lot of solicitors on the street; that they’d see our wristbands and say “oh do you remember me? I was your waiter last night at the Grand Riviera”. Even though he told us this, I was still taken aback by the intensity with which they offered me tours and souvenirs. I made my way up and down the street, popping into stores but not really buying anything. It was crowded and hot, so I ran into the nearest restaurant to get some lunch.
The restaurant was completely open to the street, so the sunshine streamed in. I picked a table slightly in the shade and ordered a locally-brewed pilsner and some arrachera tacos. The tacos came with the spiciest salsa I have ever tasted. They were delicious, and so was the pilsner. It was such a nice break from the bustling street that I lingered a while, people-watching and slowly sipping my beer.
After lunch, I was more interested in eating some more than buying souvenirs, so I stopped at a cute little gelato store and got a gelato bar dipped in chocolate, white chocolate and sprinkled with nuts. It was so delicious. I had walked down 5th Avenue to each end and back again, so I grabbed a coffee and headed back towards the meeting point for the shuttle back to the hotel.
Once back at the hotel, I changed back into my bathing suit and laid out by the ocean to read and drink cocktails like a drunken slug. The hotel had waitresses taking orders from all of the loungers on the beach, and I got promptly ordered mojito. After some liquid courage, I left my things on my chair and attempted to go for a swim. I stubbed my toe as soon as I walked into the sea (typical), but, despite the new pain in my foot, I bravely moved further in and dunked my head under. The water was warm enough, and I jumped around in the waves for awhile, enjoying the beautiful beach.
I spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool, drinking mojitos and making new friends at the swim up bar. I met a couple from Marengo, IL, which isn’t too far from my hometown. I was wearing my Bears hat, so I was immediately pegged for a Chicagoan. I also met a couple from Canada that I wound up spending a good amount of time with, chatting about travel, politics and the difference in our separate countries’ health benefits. It was weird banter for the poolside setting, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. We parted ways and I ran back to my room to change for dinner. This time, I was headed to the one Mexican restaurant on the hotel grounds. The food was significantly better than the night before. I ordered a grapefruit/lime/tequila concoction that was better than any other drink I’d had on this trip, or ever. For dinner, I couldn’t decide between the shrimp tacos and the steak, so I got both (yay – all-inclusive!) and it was all so good.
I stopped by the hotel bar to take in the salsa lessons happening on the dance floor. There was such a fun mix of people participating and the music was so festive. I stayed and watched for a while, too beat to join in. Either way, it was nice to sit in the warm night air and enjoy the scenery. I slowly made my way back to my room to get ready for bed, and to my delight Hombres Misterios was on TV. I fell asleep quickly, which was a good thing, as I had a full day tour the next day. Mexico had already made an impression on me, and I was excited to see more of it.
Have you been to Playa Del Carmen? What was your initial impression?