The Time By the Sea

In a way, I hate vacations, because when I come home everybody wants to hear all about it, and I never know what to say. Yes, I had a great time. I went to the beach, got a sunburn and a tan that you wouldn’t know is a tan if you couldn’t see the line around my neck from my bikini top, and I snorkeled for the first time and had my hair braided into cornrows, that looked frizzily awesome when I finally took them out. I drank two piña coladas in coconuts, and became pleasantly tipsy. We swam in the pool at our house, and drank mimosas and wine and beer. We visited Parque Garrafón, where Halen and I zip-lined, and drank strawberry daiquiris in and out of their pool, and Dylan and I sat on swings at the bar and I finally had a cup of beer that tasted like water to me but at least it was cold. I was hot and sweaty almost all the time when we were out, but I was on an island, and everyone else was, too, so it didn’t matter the way it matters when I’m home in the U.S. These are all the things I should have said when my parents asked about my trip, but I don’t know, I just didn’t. So now I’ve written it all down.

Do you know what a seashell wind chime sounds like? It’s not like the cheery, jangly tinkle of normal wind chimes that evokes Christmas bells. It’s softer, more muted than that, and carries more the tone of wood, with tiny tinkles to it. It’s very pretty, and, as Dylan’s mother suggested when I texted her the picture of the one I’d purchased earlier this week, will remind me of the time by the sea. She bought one, too, from the same lady who spoke mostly Spanish on the side of the road where I bought mine. It feels, and is, more authentic than the ones for sale at the tourist trap shops in town, and I paid 120 pesos—currently the equivalent of six or seven dollars. I can’t explain how, but that whole experience just feels as authentic as the chime itself. Think about it, and I hope you’ll understand.

At the airport yesterday, there was a Harley-Davidson shop, and I bought T-shirts for my parents, because that’s their tradition whenever they travel. The shirts say “Cancún” but I didn’t really spend any time at all in Cancún, because my vacation was on Isla Mujeres. I think it’s probably best that way: a more authentic experience of Mexico. Not a resort, less of a purely tourist experience.

I didn’t send postcards, but I took lots of pictures, and walking into the tiny, abandoned airport for a couple of shots was scary, but I’d do it again.

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Thank you to Jeff and Kim and Dylan for the trip. Thank you to Mexico, and to Isla Mujeres.

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Now that you know about mine, I want to know about your exotic vacation. What stories do you have to tell?

Beach Day Birthdays and French Toast

This is the third year in a row that Dylan has had a birthday on a family vacation. The last two summers, he blew out the candles at Lake McQueeney, in a house owned by one of his father Jeff’s friends. This year, however, he celebrates in Mexico. Would everybody please wish him a happy birthday! 🎂

It must be nice to turn a year older in a different country. One of my friends had her sweet sixteen on Spring Break while we were in France. We spent most of that day at Versailles. Unfortunately, my birthday falls in the middle of February. No beach day birthday vacations for me!

Today we ran into some trouble with one of our golf carts; the second time we’ve had golf cart trouble, actually. The first was on the first day before we even reached Casa Cristal; the golf cart that had been rented to us just more or less petered out. This morning, we notice a flat tire on one of our two, with no idea as to how that happened, because we took both carts out for dinner last night and had no trouble. Well, whatever; we had to have breakfast, so all six of us piled onto a cart built for four, and whizzed up the street at a much slower pace than normal.

For breakfast? Mango Café’s “famous” coconut French toast, of which I failed to take a photo. No matter. By the end there wasn’t much to take a picture of, anyway. I will say, though, it wasn’t quite as tasty as the “Dark n’ Stormy” stuffed French toast from yesterday morning at Lola Valentina’s. I’ve had a lot of French toast this week…

Back to the house after breakfast to have the flat tire switched out. After this, we’re supposed to zip-line over the Caribbean at Parque Garrafón. I love zip-lines; they’re the closest I ever get to really flying.

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Parque Garrafón

On Island Time

…which means it’s okay that this is our third full day in Mexico and I’m just now writing about it.

Our plane touched down Saturday afternoon and we were picked up at the airport and taken to the ferry from Cancún to Isla Mujeres, and our rented house. Casa Cristal is a beautiful two-story villa that is white inside and out, with many windows, two stories, rooftop patio and bed, and a relaxing pool that did much to refresh me after our day of travel and my one to two hours of sleep. We spent much of that first day in the pool, ordered pizza for dinner, and then went to bed.

Sunday, however, was our first full day on the island. Two golf carts were delivered in the morning for our use during our stay, and Dylan’s dad and siblings and I took one out immediately to find breakfast and explore.

Confession time: whenever I traveled to France, I expected to hear, either in the streets or in my head, the serene music from Disney’s The Aristocats whenever I went out. The kind of French music that plays in movies. I didn’t, of course, and wasn’t surprised not to, but that didn’t stop that same part of me from expecting to hear lively Spanish music everywhere in Mexico. Needless to say, I’m not disappointed that I don’t hear it. It doesn’t take away from the experience for me. What I do see that I expected is color. Residences and buildings painted in bright, cheerful colors; some other vacation homes for rent like ours are the same white, and all of it is set against a backdrop of Caribbean blue.

Breakfast on Sunday happened at a café called Rooster—“World Famous Benedictines,” advertised the street sign—a stone’s throw from Playa Norte, and it was delicious. Jeff, Nate, Halen and I all had mimosas, and after that, they each ordered a Bloody Mary; I declined one, but tasted Halen’s, and it was a yummy spicy. My crème brûlée French toast tasted more like simple French toast and less like crème brûlée, but still, I ate every bite. The service was as excellent as the food: everybody was very polite and helpful, and afterward we were given first one voucher for four free margaritas from a new place down the street, and then a little while later another voucher for five free margaritas from a person who seemed like a manager or owner. He first assumed that I was under 18 (the legal drinking age in Mexico), so he offered us “three free margaritas, and… [looking at me] a smoothie, yes?” The four of us laughed, and when he discovered that I’m 22, he upped the voucher to five, saying that I get two. The next morning, we returned for breakfast with Dylan and his mom, Kim, and I think they enjoyed it as much as we had.

Grocery shopping in any country is still grocery shopping. Did you know that Mexico has Walmart? I didn’t, though the store we shop at on Isla Mujeres is actually called Superama By Walmart, and isn’t quite the same. Of course not, of course not. Jeff, Halen, and Nate and I stopped there after breakfast and loaded up on some groceries and snacks for our stay: pineapple, bananas, and cantaloupe, cereal and milk, water bottles, suntan spray for Halen, beer and wine, etc. We’ve still eaten out for most breakfasts and dinner, and the food on the island is yummy, just like at Rooster.

Yesterday after breakfast was spent at Playa Norte, and it is the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen—

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I think I would have liked to have spent today there, as well, except that I’m already sunburned, much as I tried to avoid it, and ought to stay out of the sun as much as possible now. Playa Norte is the kind of beach I wish our Surfside was: white sand, and the bluest water I’ve ever seen. We lounged under umbrellas with cold drinks, cooled off snorkeling in the water, and Halen and a sweet lady braided Halen’s and my hair into cornrows. Everybody napped in the afternoon; Italian for dinner.

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Cornrows, and more freckles than ever before…

Today, Dylan and I took one of the golf carts in the morning and went out on our own. We ate breakfast at this little café called Lola Valentina, just across the street from Rooster, and I had the best stuffed French toast with fruit. Dylan ordered the blue corn pancakes, and they came with sliced plantains, the way pancakes would with bananas at home! We did some shopping afterward, and met a guy from the island who has visited Austin, TX; we purchased a couple of small items from him, mostly drawn in by the fact that he spoke to us more as people and less as tourists.

Everyone has returned to the house now, after our various activities. I missed out on the turtle farm, but tired as I was, I probably made the right decision for me. A hot shower, and relaxing in pajamas as I finish this. Halen and Nate are in the pool. Dylan is nearby.

Time to make a sandwich and read my book.