After surviving an unseasonably cold Atlanta winter, the land of turquoise beaches and palm trees was very enticing! We had our beloved flip-flops, T-shirts and other SoCal gear with us and were ready for the warmth.
Our 2 1/2 hour flight was easy and we landed in Cancun International Airport with no hitches.
Either bravely or foolishly, we’d booked a one way ticket, since frankly, we aren’t sure when we’re going back! I was hungry and considered going out for a nice Mexican meal. Instead I cheesed out and had lunch at an American fast food joint before leaving the airport, since I wasn’t sure about diving into local cuisine just yet. Maybe I’ve read too much about catching diseases when I went in for my vaccinations.
Emerging from the air conditioned building, the moist 80-degree air hit us like a blow dryer. Ahhh, warmth! We were welcomed by a myriad of transportation peddlers, and twenty minutes later were in downtown Cancun.
When I stepped out of the van my adventurous spirit was in full swing. Looking around at the busy, eclectic city I wondered – will I be the same when I leave Mexico? Maybe. But my perspective will change, which I think is good. Isn’t that what travel’s all about?
Suddenly I had an epiphany. I had neglected to write down the address of our hotel, the Art Deco Suites. To be fair to myself, that’s because I’d grown dependent on navigating with our phones. So here we were in a different city populated by 750,000 people we don’t know, dragging our suitcase down the street to who knows where. At this point we were glad we packed lightly. After about a half hour of disjointed wandering, we happened to find the place.
Then came our second surprise. The entry gate was locked! Although its’ an extended stay hotel, where was the manager, and why would the entrance keep its’ visitors from entering freely? In a fit of over-reacting, I had visions of losing our deposit and trying to find a hotel for the night so we could regroup. We’d selected this place carefully so I was panicked and bummed. Maybe you’ve been there before, when you hit crisis mode and you question your every move.
Still, you might smartly advise me to simply call the hotel. Except that I’d forgotten to write that down, too. Rich gave in and turned on his phone. I should note that due to the high cost of international calling plans, we’d decided against using them while here. Anyway, he walked around searching for an open WIFI signal, while I sat grumpily on our suitcase, sweating in my winter clothes. What seemed like an eternity later, I sighed with relief as we reached Seth, the hotel owner, who let us in. Apparently he’d emailed us that morning with instructions, but my phone was off!
Note to self. I need to brush up on my international travel skills.
Once inside our room, we noticed it was smaller and darker than the online photos depicted. Still, it was clean, safe, and cost-effective. Plus it had air conditioning. I must confess that I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to sticky weather. Another thing I liked was that we were right near the entrance to its’ peaceful little courtyard. It had lighted palm trees, chairs and a picnic table and had a magical feel. I especially got a kick out of the recorded-but-realistic sounds of a trickling fountain, which added to the peaceful atmosphere.
In a city of hodgepodge architecture and crumbling streets this hotel is just what we were looking for. I’d go so far as to call it a retreat. Fellow travelers wander throughout the place, providing a nice built-in sense of community and opportunity for conversation. There are people here from Russia, Montreal, Chicago, Brazil and any number of other places. Many of them have traveled without benefit of a home base like we are, for 5 -10 years. Maybe we’re not crazy after all, or at least we’re in good company!
We’d booked the room for a month to start, as Cancun makes a nice home base for exploring. We also decided that downtown is better than the touristy Hotel Zoneria, since we can live amongst the locals at a reasonable cost. We spent the afternoon settling in, and since it was a nice evening for a walk we changed into our trusty flip-flops. Rich and I love our flip-flops and consider them to be our primary footwear!
Here’s a side note for all you would-be vagabonders: managing your weight can be challenging! You see, while exchanging my winter clothing for shorts and T-shirts should have been fun for me – but it was quite the opposite. You see, I stopped weighing myself six months ago, in favor of using the way my clothes fit as a method of keeping my weight in check . The problem is that while my roomier winter clothes fit just fine, I now felt like a stuffed sausage squeezing into my more form-fitting summer clothes. Whoops, time to cut back.
Our hotel is located on a cross-street with a nice little park sitting at one end. On the opposite end, Yaxchilan Street provides a vibrant party scene. Both locals and tourists dine, dance and hang out until all hours- and a mix of energetic melodies fill the air wherever you go.
We wound our way down the tangle of endless spaghetti-like streets. The drivers are intense, and provide a stark contrast to the pedestrians who seem to enjoy a relaxed, strolling pace. In the Yucatan, many of the streets and cities are named in Mayan words, owing to the region’s indigenous, pre-Spanish settlers. These hard-to-pronounce names can both help and impede the process of finding your way around.
We stopped at the local WalMart store to pick up some household goods. Now we’re not WalMart fans, by any means. We normally prefer to shop locally. Plus we don’t care for the large quantities of cheap, Chinese imports they sell to Americans, contributing to a hyper-consumption lifestyle.
Putting our principles aside we decided to go there because they’re a familiar retail face. Since downtown Cancun is predominantly Spanish-speaking, we figured that this familiarity might offset the potential challenges of shopping. Turns out this was a good move, since Mexico uses the metric system too, so your food is sold in pesos per kilo and such. Maybe I was jet-lagged, but exactly what are you spending in U.S. dollars when you see a sign that reads, “ONIONS…$15 pesos/kg”??
While the store design was similar to WalMart in the U.S., the atmosphere was another story. It felt like a giant marketplace, where vendors roamed the entrance selling tours – and totally cool music played at random throughout various departments. I had the urge to start dancing! Plus the free food promos resembled a lively family reunion, and I can honestly say I was entertained by shopping there.
On the way home we stopped for a bite of dinner at a local spot. The menu was in Spanish and I wanted something meatless, which can be a challenge in this meat-centric culture. It wasn’t the best eggs and beans I’ve had, but at least Rich’s food was yummy. (I’m Pescatarian – meaning I eat fish, eggs, and some dairy, but no meats.)
Overall we had a great first day here in Cancun! I’m looking forward to living in a city, as I’ve never done that before. Rich has lived in downtown Boston, but this is obviously quite different from a northeastern city. Plus we have no car, so we’re excited at the thought of getting in some extra walking to the markets and street fairs, as well as the beaches and tourist spots. This should also help with getting more fit, and since one of our goals here in Mexico is to work on our health and fitness some, this is a perfect setting.
Signing off for now, Buenos noches, and stay tuned!