Tuesday, November 11, 2014

After Trip Miscellaneous Thoughts

Pet dogs are a new thing here. In my past experience with Mexico it was unusual to see a cute dog on a leash (maybe a mean one on a leash). Most dogs were mangy, flea-bitten mutts running loose. Now it’s like Carmel. There’s tons of dogs, mostly small, with fancy collars and some are even dressed up. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but to me it’s remarkable. I never thought I’d see the day! 

Cats still run amuck, but they do it with more style, and they catch mice. A couple of stores have a pet cat. You can tell because they’re not skinny and they have all their fur. This cat met us at the door and seemed to be giving us a personal tour. It stopped at key points and looked up at us as if to say, “Here is the grassy area with tables for you to sit at,” and “this is the receptionist’s desk, she’ll be right back.

We first saw this man a couple of years ago. He was old then, now he seems ancient. The music he produces with his homemade instrument is mediocre at best, but you’ll occasionally see some kind people pay him to play. This scene touched my heart. The old man sitting exhausted off to the side while the young bucks garner the ladies interest.

Beach bars are a favorite for Joe and me. We love to sit and watch the world go by, especially on the sand. There are completely different styles and we like them all. Mamitas is the high-end, classy place where you sip your beer while sitting above it all on beautiful tile floors. Zenzi’s is great at night for their live bands and free Salsa classes and you can choose between sand and tile.
Canibal’s is a quirky sand bar with a little informal marina out front, but it’s a long walk from the old part of town.

As you know from past blogs, our other favorite past time is people watching from terraces. We found several with a great birds-eye view of the hustle and bustle of 5th Ave (Quinta Avenida). It can be a little overwhelming to be down on the street amongst the people.

Musicians wander the beach all day. Some are solo, while others are fragmented Mariachi bands. We normally tell them “No thanks,” but there is one artist we like a lot. His name is The Bronco. He has a romantic strong voice and can sing either modern or old songs.

Food! As stated before we loved the fish taco’s at Hotel All Riviera. Also liked Barbaqua del Tulum for their quesadillas and tacos. Aldea on 5th was excellent for their fajitas and amazingly romantic atmosphere in the jungle. Don Sirloin had great cheap tacos pastor on 10th ave. Breakfast at the Imprevist is a must . . . I loved their chicken enchiladas divorcados.

A highlight of the whole trip was our friends 30th wedding anniversary. We celebrated it at a Brazilian steakhouse called th near Coco Bongo. If you’re not familiar with Brazilian steakhouses, it is an all you can eat meat extravaganza. Ipanemas handled our party of 8 as though we were the only ones in the restaurant. The level of service was outstanding. Every time I sat back down after going to the salad bar, my chair was scooted under me and my napkin replaced on my lap. Water glasses never went empty. The meat was presented at table-side at an alarming rate. We had to remember they would be happy to return with the filet mignon, not to worry.
Ipanemas Grill. It is located on 10

I had told the manager, Santos, when we came in that it was their 30th anniversary. He treated them like royalty. At the end of the meal (hours later) they came out with two slices of cheesecake, side-by-side with some sticks on fire (presumably as makeshift candles). They wrote a charming little note on the plate. Then they placed a figure-eight made out of straws around the couple. A wine glass full of weird red fluid we were told to NOT drink was set before them with paper towel roses stuffed into straws. The edges were burnt slightly to give them a gilded look. All-in-all it was adorable, albeit hokey. We loved the effort.

On another note. Did you read my blog about bed bugs? It was an interesting battle won by a simple product called DE (diatamacous earth). I brought it with us on this trip in a little shaker. I was telling our friends about it and I demo'd how to sprinkle it on the floor in our room. That night an enormous cockroach ran across our floor and under our bed. After I asked Joe if they bite (they don't), I went to bed. In the middle of the night I went to the bathroom and took my flashlight because I was afraid I would step on the little monster. Guess what? It was dead next to the powder!!! So now I'll add cockroaches to the list of things DE will kill.
Girl holding baby monkey
Halloween Decorations
American Savages

We’ll talk next year sometime. Not sure yet where we’ll go, but I suspect it will be language school J

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hotel Comparison

We’ve changed hotels today. It was a bittersweet move. The staff at Hotel All Riviera has become friends, especially Antonio and Jose (or Gordo as they call him). They took good care of us, and kept us fed and hydrated. The ice chest of Negra Modelos would appear almost like magic next to our beach chairs. A hand in the air would bring one of them running to our side to take our order for fish tacos, or what they would jokingly call tacos Nemo. We even felt comfortable leaving our stuff on our chairs while we swam. During a downpour we’d all huddle under the giant umbrellas, laughing and talking.

There was some pretty hilarious quirks though. The skeleton key that fit through a hole drilled into the metal frame of the sliding glass door was bizarre. It was so unsafe because you had to leave the key hanging (visible through the window), or set it on the table near the door where you’d desperately fumble to get it in the hole right-side-up in the case of an emergency.

Even a good mattress is hard on a block of cement. And this wasn’t a good mattress.

The TV was fine, but made us laugh at the lack of concern regarding the way it looked.

At one point bags of cement were placed at the point where the tile patio met the sand because of erosion. Now it’s part of the slippery stepping stones (they’d long ago solidified) to get to the beach. Not really a good plan for the elderly who needed help from the staff to get down safely.

Our bathroom window had those old fashioned louvered panes of glass. Two of the five panes were missing, the bottom one being the most inconvenient to us. We rolled up a towel so we weren’t visible from the outside. This brings me to the other problem . . . Bad Boys Bar was next door. They had a large crowd for their live music night . . . right outside our bathroom. The cool part was they were usually great bands and we would just chill with a glass of wine and a beer. Even better was they stopped playing at 9:30 or 10:00. After that, all we could hear was the sweet sound of the ocean waves all night.

Then we moved to the fancy-pants part of town. El Taj is our new home. It was designed by an architect who greatly influenced this entire communities’ beach town vibe. His work can easily be seen by the rolling curvature of the balconies, and the narrow central space that creates a shady oasis from the blazing sun, and the unique pools.

The rooms are spectacularly decorated with unusual pieces of furniture and light fixtures. The kitchen has marble countertops and wooden cabinetry. Our condo takes up four floors; the entry floor with the front room/kitchen/guest bedroom (which is on the second floor of the complex), the second floor with the master suite and guest room, the third floor with a bathroom/massage table/huge deck with BBQ grill and large whirlpool, and the fourth floor has a loft bedroom with a half bath. Nate said it’s 46 steps to the loft . . . yep he counted them, but that’s not counting the steps just to get to our front door!

That brings me to an important travel point. When you pay rock bottom prices, your expectations are rock bottom too. 69 bucks compared to 233 dollars a night is a major difference. You should get what you pay for. Our new place is gorgeous, but functional it’s not. If you are planning on building a house or remodeling, come here first and get ideas for what to not do.

Our bathroom has no drawers and no shelf, so all our toiletries sit on the floor. Except the master suite each bathroom is outside of the room, so you have to walk out into the hallway in the middle of the night past ceiling to floor plate-glass windows (no curtains).

Two of the rooms don’t have a closet to hang up your clothes. There are really pretty lights in our room, but no bedside reading lights. The bedside table is concave so you can’t set a cup on it. The bed is amazingly comfortable though and that counts for a lot in my book.

Unfortunately hot showers are also pretty important, so the cold shower in the master suite didn’t go over well. They came and fixed it. Now my room’s air conditioner doesn’t work, so the maintenance guy is on his way. The stove isn’t hooked up to the gas line properly, so it has to be lit in a way that scares me. Maintenance has been busy with us J

At first we thought the rooftop Jacuzzi didn’t work, but it was operator error. We have enjoyed sitting in it more than I would have expected because it’s been a bit cold lately. There’s even a rinse shower up there and the view is awesome.

Did I mention the bed is super comfortable? They put a soft pad over the mattress. The down comforter is overkill, especially since our AC doesn’t work.

A great feature here is breakfast. You can choose from two restaurants and both are excellent. At the Imprevist I recommend the enchiladas. They also give you a complimentary beer or wine, and appetizer at the elegant restaurant, The Plank. A membership at The Gym is also included, and that’s a big deal because it’s a great gym. Really popular and has tons of good equipment and workout classes.

All in all I’d recommend them both, but to different people. Having eight of us stay in one place has been great. We all congregated in the pool and attached whirlpool today, which was awesome after a long day at the beach. Three of us got a massage today . . . an absolute must for a Playa Del Carmen trip. We chose El Faro hotel for our massage because the owner is Vicki’s daughter. We stayed with Vicki for language school in Oaxaca. I had Hugo do mine, and he was excellent. It was $30 and worth every penny.

Well, I’ll write an end-cap when I get home. Until then Hasta Luego!!!