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North America » Mexico » Quintana Roo » Playa del Carmen
October 3rd 2021
Published: October 3rd 2021
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"The bad news is times flies, the good news is you're the pilot". ~

I think I gave you all enough time in between blogs not to bore you too much. 😊 Since my blog of Sept. 12th, I can say this work & pleasure trip to the fab Riviera Maya, Mexico, has had a little bit of everything mixed in. Kind of like a tasty jambalaya; a one-pot comfort food that satisfies the soul. That is what this trip felt like for us. Being away from our second home for so long due to Covid made it all the sweeter to return.

It felt like a dream after the past year & a half when our world had become so small. No family visits, no hugs, no holidays with loved ones... So to be able to enjoy paradise once again was intoxicating. Al was finally able to get back to his scuba diving, & while he was in his glory under the sea, I spent time working. But my office was welcoming (the terrace overlooking the ocean) & some days my trusty assistant (margarita) made the work day more pleasant. 😉

One evening at the villa we'd booked before we moved to our condo which is comped by my work. I had a wonderful group of ladies I work with (Sarai, Giselle & Noemi) to thank them for their ongoing support. So we enjoyed wine & cheese on our scooby-doo terrace overlooking the ocean & got caught up. I'd met Sarai & Giselle before, but not Noemi who is sharp, & amazing at her job. All 3 of them are good friends, so it was a lively & fun dinner.

Sarai was born in Puebla City; it is the 4th largest city in Mexico, & it enjoys colonial architecture & is among those chosen by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. It lies at the foot of one of Mexico's highest still-active volcanoes & it's situated in the central highlands of Mexico, between the Sierra Nevada & the Sierra Madre. This part of Mexico can get really cold & can receive snow, especially in the mountains. It's also known for its amazing mountains, especially Pico de Orizaba, one of the 3 highest mountains in North American & the highest in Mexico. Sarai told me that many climbers train at Pico de Orizaba before heading off to Mount Everest.

Puebla is a colonial city, and boasts over 365 churches; there's a church for each day of the year! It's becoming quite a tourist destination known for its art, culture, those churches 😉, history, & gastronomy.

Sarai is fluently bilingual as her family moved to New York City when she was a child. She lived there for many years till her parents returned to Puebla, & her brother stayed & lives in Texas. She recently visited home & brought back a beautiful handmade wooden pestle bowl & mortar for us in a beautiful handmade bag. A very thoughtful gift.

Unfortunately two of the ladies were both going through a rough time and both of them were dealing with ill health/death of family members.

However this one night the wine flowed, their problems were put aside & the dancing began after dinner (& after the wine kicked in!) Al sat back & took it all in, & took many photos & videos of us. They are all in their 30s & love the Dusty Springfield song, "I Only Want to Be With You" which was remade into a hit again by the Bay City Rollers.

Anyhow, they LOVE the Spanish version of this song which has totally different lyrics. The original version is a very passionate song about a young girl finding the man of her dreams. The Spanish version translates to "You Can Go Now". Basically the man is a no-good lying cheating dog, & it's time for him to leave now as the woman throws him out the door! Hilarious!

Well if they played that song once that night, they played it a hundred times till they cleared out at 3:30am. We were dancing on the terrace, & at one point we saw a flash light being pointed at us by a security guard. We're in a hosh-posh beach community with luxury million dollar villas, & I guess this song could be heard all the way down the beach! It was so much fun it felt illegal! The guard was great, & I think I saw him singing along to the song. 😊

Good lord, the next morning (or same morning?) I woke about 7am & asked Al if he got the licence plate of the truck that hit me. OMG. I can't remember the last time I had a hangover; I had to wear my sunglasses just to open the fridge 😉 I don't need another drink said NOT me that night. I felt like I had a bad case of the 'wine flu'. Noemi doesn't drink so she was good. Giselle & Sarai were hurting as much as I was the next day! What memories we made that night. (I'm wondering how much work we'll get done with us laughing over our antics...)

About a week later once we settled in our condo, they wanted to cook us dinner, so they brought steaks for a BBQ on the rooftop. We met Oscar Giselle's boyfriend, & Sarai's 2 little boys & her Mom Lina who was visiting from Puebla. Oscar & Al BBQ'd the steaks, & the 3 ladies laid out all their ingredients on the patio tables & made guacamole & pico de gallo (for those of you who haven't had it, it is traditionally made from chopped tomato, onion, serrano peppers, with salt, lime juice, and cilantro.) They also then took freshly made tortillas & stuffed them with Oaxaca cheese which is a stretchy, stringy, creamy cheese that would remind you of mozzarella, & then threw those on the grill. It was so enjoyable to watch them make their scrumptious food & what food it was! What a feast.

While having a drink with William our fave beach server earlier in the day, (he calls me "honey" & Allan, "Mr. Allan"), we asked if he'd like to earn some money to bartend our party. So he said he and his 'primo' (cousin) would come at 5PM & set up our bar etc. They showed up, masks on & got everything ready. It was so helpful as we could be upstairs on the roof & they would run drinks up to us. Not only that but they brought up & down dishes, & cleaned the kitchen as they went. We told them they could enjoy a beer while on the job. We had a lot of fun with them, & it made for a relaxing night. We made plates of food for them too; so we all got to enjoy some wonderful food & drink. We paid them handsomely, & they were so happy! William has 2 little children, so everyone benefited. I will highly recommend William to our guests for his top-notch bartending services!

We would love to visit Sarai's home town one time with her. Giselle & her boyfriend Oscar are planning a trip to Colombia in November & invited us along. That won't be a possibility due to commitments, & I'd actually be afraid for myself as Giselle can party with the best of them & I'd probably wake each morning as if that truck had another go at me. I told her to get a DNA test because I'm sure there is some Irish in her & we're related somehow. The night at the villa she enjoyed Prosecco, then margaritas, then beer, then white wine & I think the cooking wine! The night of the BBQ we introduced them to Bloody Caesar's which they'd not had before, so they lapped those up & once again poor Giselle felt rough the next day. I, on the other hand learned my lesson the first time. We had another amazing night with these friends who always have my back. (Which came in handy later on, which I'll get to.)

GOOD ADVERTISING IS A DIALOGUE WITH PEOPLE

Our adventures at the beginning were curtailed due to the weather, but also because of the professional photo shoots I had arranged with the number 1 photographer in the Riviera Maya. Each day we'd have to wait to see if this was the perfect day weather-wise to do the photos. It was not only contingent on weather (mostly) but also if the condos were occupied or not. It was a juggling act as I had guests in different condos at different times, then I have to wait until the condos were cleaned so lots of scheduling. It pays to be friendly with the managers as they can turn a condo around in a day if you have a last minute guest or photos to do. If they don't like you, they can drag their heels.

Allan helped me stage all the condos with flowers, wine & cheese on the balcony, etc. to create a picture of what it would feel like to stay in each condo. All the lights have to be on, the curtains & blinds opened, etc. It took about 3.5 hours to photo each condo. Finally we got all the condos done. Ivan & his staff went above & beyond for me. Instead of charging me an excessive rate per picture, he gave me a flat rate. When I got the photos sent to me, I was beyond thrilled. And he sent me 60 photos to choose from for each condo! I love you Ivan.

Many of the owners don't want to spend money on advertising and/or photos, especially after the downturn in tourism due to Covid. As I mentioned, these owners are a particular breed & I'm gently brining them around to my perspectives on marketing & advertising. The evidence unmistakably indicates you have to spend money to make money dear owners. I've gotten the photos uploaded & almost immediately I got reservations for Christmas. Right now I've got reservations into next summer. (Pat on the back!)

The owners are strict with their cancellation policies but since I've taken over the company, I'm now making the decisions come what may. I had a guest who booked a condo for last June. She contacted me & said she had to cancel as her Mother's brain cancer had returned. 😞 She realized it was too late for a refund, but was there any chance I could help her out? I decided to allow her to re-book for early September even though she was outside the refund/cancellation window. She said her Mom's treatments would be done & the specialist felt she could travel by then. So I rebooked her. I could've just kept her payment, & re-booked the condo, but I chose a different route. They left the complex the day before we arrived & the manager said they had THE best time ever despite her Mom still recovering.

They were so happy that they've rebooked a future stay. So owners - see how things can run if you have some compassion for your guests & allow for some wiggle room on policies. We catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I can't intervene every time for guests but I will do my best to help anyone I can. This is why I emphasize to our guest to buy trip & medical insurance to protect themselves. But I slept great that night hearing how happy they were. It's the customer service I want to offer. The other guest who I made the gift basket for (for his Mother's birthday- see previous blog by hitting "Previous Blog" at the bottom of the page) was over the moon. He's rebooked 2 condos for March. These gestures & attention to detail are paying off.

I love my work, despite my jokes. I meet a lot of interesting & wonderful people from the staff I work with, to the guests & everyone in between. We have forged some amazing friendships here. Our beach manager/attendant Abdias has become almost a part of our family. He has worked for the company for a number of years & he takes great care of our guests. Two years ago when we were here, his wife had their first baby; a little girl. We had been sponsoring a girl in Ethiopia who is now an adult & the sponsorship ended. So we decided (along with our friend Martha who also knows Abdias) to contribute to Abdia's little girl's education on a monthly basis. It's not a lot of money, but it's very helpful to them.

One day he texted me & offered to hand out my contact info to anyone inquiring about our oceanfront condos & a stay there. I was touched by that & asked if he did that for any other listing agents & he said no. Just me. Awww Abdias. I told him I would pay him for each booking I got via him. He didn't want to accept this as he felt we are doing enough for him. However, I explained business is business & what we were doing was separate. And we met his little princess this trip, & we are looking forward to seeing her grow up.

I'm so grateful to have such great work relationships as they can help me resolve some conflict reservations. A guest I booked in a condo next to us during our stay showed up as a party of 10 guests. The condo only allows 8 guests. So I get an email from Edith, another manager of the condo telling me this is an infraction, & they cannot have 10 people, & that there will be a penalty & the owner will be charged. I didn't want the owner being charged as it wasn't their fault & I didn't want to charge the guest as he booked it with 10 people & the stupid booking site allowed it. So I agreed to pay it. 😞

I contacted the booking site to complain & they were useless, & now we've dropped them. In the end, the head manager (Nora) of the complex waived the fees as I'd never had an incident like this before. It may have helped that when I arrived the week before I gave her a thank you card with some money in it to thank her for operating the complex at a high level. I don't know her well but I appreciate what she does. That was a very lovely gesture on her part. I also think my three colleagues might've intervened on my behalf. I love these gals & a great friendship has formed

MEXICO INDEPENDENCE DAY

We were excited to be here during their Independence Day on September 16th. They are as proud as us Canadians on Canada Day & the decorations, & the uniforms of the restaurant & bar staff is different leading up to the event. All the streets are decorated, & its swathes of green, white & red everywhere. This holiday celebrates Mexico’s declaration of independence from Spain in 1810, & it’s filled with national pride, colorful parades, mariachi concerts, & food, food, & more food. And don't forget the tequila and mezcal. Many non-Mexican people think Cinco de Mayo is their big holiday but that is not the case. Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s May 5, 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. But Mexicans don't do much on that day. It seems to be more of a day to drink margaritas for us gringos.

So the night before Independence Day, the town was hopping with music & fun in the air. Many international tourists were there; many from Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Netherlands, the USA & Canada.

We went out to our favorite bar to listen to our favorite band. Every time we walk in they yell "Hey Canada", or "Canada's in the house". And sometimes it's Sallee (they emphasize the E sound in my name) & Allan are in the house! If they know we are coming, they reserve our two bar swings for us. We know & love all the staff from the bartenders (hiccup), to the wait staff to the cleaning crew. We like this place especially during Covid as it's an open air restaurant/bar. They all wear masks & treat us like gold. But the main draw is the band. There are three guys who play from noon till 8 PM. And while we know most of their playlist by now they will surprise us with a traditional Mexican song we've never heard before. One of the main guys, Carlos is an amazing guitarist & singer; and he also plays the Peruvian pan flute while he plays guitar & it's magical. He's not too hard on the eyes either; he's a handsome guy. (I hope Al skips reading this blog 😉 I see many women swooning over him; I'm sure a few fall off the bar swings when he starts to sing romantic Spanish songs.I wear my seatbelt on the bar swing when he starts to sing just to be extra safe. (HEH HEH).

Their other lead guitarist Gustavo is an amazing guitarist & singer as well. He can do the jazz skat like nobody's business, especially Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon". (One of my all time favorites.) Skat for those of you who don't know what it means is a vocal style using emotive, & nonsense syllables instead of words which allows for improvisations on a melody. Like "Dee doop bop boo, bee, yadda yadda yadda...")

This band can play anything, & their versions of Carlos Santana's songs are dy-no-mite! They do an amazing version of "Dust In The Wind", & some CCR. So for the price of tips & buying them a round of beer, Al & I enjoyed some amazing nights with music filling our ears & hearts. As the quote goes, "Life is a song; love is the music". So true for Al & I.

ALLAN'S BIRTHDAY

Two days after Independence Day was Allan's birthday. We had been busy with the photos; however, I managed to reach out to 4 of our favorite places to let them know it was his birthday. After we were done our photos, we swung over to the beach club next door where the staff, in particular William (our bartender from our party) who wished Al Happy Birthday. William is quite the artist & makes jewelry. So he presented Al with a handmade necklace made of leather & amber beads. He made me one too. Then came the free beer, Tequila shots & food on the house. Good lord I was thinking, we have 3 more stops & all this booze may derail my plans. It made me think of the old joke, " I need to cut down on my booze, so I only drink on days that end in a "Y".

After we left William & the staff, we headed up to 5th Avenue to see our buddy Enrique & more birthday wishes & margaritas. By 6 we hit the bar with the band. They too knew it was his birthday. Ally who is a traditional Mexican folklore dancer; she wears the long dress & flowers & ribbon in her hair & entertains the patrons when the band takes a break. So she brings over this huge fake cake with a big candle burning on it. Then she gets Al up to dance. Al doesn't dance. But there he was swinging his hips & getting jiggy with it! OMG priceless. Then the band comes back to play & they start yelling SHOT SHOT SHOT. So Ally & the bartender make Al sit in a chair in front of the band while they prepare his birthday 'shot'. They start by flambeeing coffee Tequila, & then pour it down a funnel full of ice into his mouth! So this seemed to go on forever; & I'm filming & at the same time yelling stop! I thought Al would be drunker than a skunk at 6 PM. Turns out it was pretty harmless!

Once that was over, I took the stage to sing an acapella Happy Birthday to him. As nervous as I was, Al loves to hear me sing, so I did it. I got quite the round of applause. Since then the band keeps inviting me up to sing with them. I've not yet taken them up on their offer...

Thereafter the big surprise awaited Al at one of our favorite dinner spots. We sauntered up there & they had all these balloons decorating the table with Happy Birthday Allan signs! The staff sang Happy Birthday, the guitarist who plays at night sang Happy Birthday & I got up & sang again. Then came the Tres Leches cake with sparklers. I tell you, it was quite the night after such a busy day. How busy was it? I was busier than a one-toothed man at a corn-on-the-cob eating contest. 😊

We will enjoy looking back on this night with the videos & pics I took. Could be very incriminating for Al. 😉 Let's just say he was high-stepping it back to our condo which thankfully was only a block away. Al tried to say no to more alcohol but it just didn't listen to him. 😉

THE LAST TWO WEEKS

After a week of on & off bad weather, it finally turned around. The sargassum (seaweed which I mentioned in a previous blog) disappeared, the ocean turned its magical turquoise color again & it was sunny & hot every day thereafter. The beach was the best we'd seen it in 5 or 6 years. What a transformation.

We had grandiose plans for going to new places, but in the end we decided we didn't want to go too far as we just wanted to sit on our balcony, read, listen to music while listening to the ocean, or just staring at it with wonder. We were so happy to be back after Covid that we had an appreciation of being in the moment. We'll never take travel for granted, nor a hug from a family member or friend. We were so used to steering away from a hug as if the person were carrying a nuclear bomb. Like many of you I'm sure, I realized I took for granted the simple, beautiful moments in life; and we are slowly savoring the moments that come our way as life returns to a new normal. I was reading an article that said, just like 9/11 changed travel forever, so will Covid. We will have to adapt to new policies & procedures in our every day life. However, if it allows us to travel, enjoy dinner with friends, or even hug, or having to have another booster vaccine, please sign me up.

We had planned a trip to Bacalar, but unfortunately it just didn't happen. We were so settled, & busy that it just seemed easier this first trip out of the gate to stay where we were. We had our friend Teresa offer to drive us & be our tour guide, but we will do so the next time. So many people have offered to take us to so many different places; nice to have our own tour guides.

In between work, Allan & I read a lot, ate some amazing meals, watched two series that are a MUST! If you haven't seen Mare of Eastown you must. Mare Sheehan, an office police investigator in a small Pennsylvania town, investigates a brutal murder & a missing person as she tries to keep her life from falling apart. Kate Winslet is freakin' fantastic in it & won an Emmy recently for Leading Actress as well as a few other co-stars. (The new title should be Mare of Emmy-Town! The other riveting show we watched is Hacks. This has Jean Smart (from Designing Women) as an aging legendary comedian in Vegas who forms a dark mentorship with an entitled, outcast 25-year-old comedy writer. OMG the dark humor & touch of drama makes it for a binge worthy marathon.



“THE MAGIC THING ABOUT HOME IS THAT IT FEELS GOOD TO LEAVE, & IT FEELS EVEN BETTER TO COME BACK.”

After over a month of being away, home was calling us. About 10 days before we were to leave, we did a trial Covid test to be extra cautious. Then 2 days before our flight we did our PCR Covid test. Obviously all tests came back negative.

When we were having to rebook our tickets due to the flight being cancelled, we got into business class due to the rate being so good. And...drum roll, we got on the Airbus in the BUSINESS BUSINESS SECTION. It's the Business Section on steroids. What this means is we had our own pods & lie down beds. OMG, what an experience.

I felt like we were Prince William & Kate. So knowing we were having this opportunity I looked up the pods to see what it entailed. Well not only does your seat recline, it also extends like a recliner. & has a foot stool. Then you have a big screen to watch the latest movies. You have all this storage space to yourself. A phone charging section, a section to store your books or headphones, & there's a remote to move your seat any which way you want it, & then it has massage features! I had more fun with that remote moving my chair this way & that way, & adjusting the massage settings. There are also 8 bathrooms on this plane. When you enter the plane instead of going to the right to first class, you actually go left. There are 36 pods in that part of the plane. Only about 9 were occupied. Then after that section, comes the business section with 24 seats & then premier economy with 96 seats, & then the economy section holds 128 people. Let's just say it's a huge plane. And our butts were on it.

Al & I were like 2 grinning donkeys trying to contain our excitement. It reminded me of the movie Shrek with Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) when he & Shrek journey to Far Far Away Land & when they get there Donkey is overwhelmed by the luxury of this new land. He says to Shrek “It’s gonna be champagne wishes & caviar dreams from now on!” (If you haven't watched Shrek, you need to get on that right away.) This is not a kid's movie; it is a movie for all ages. Let’s start with the music, because every track in the entire movie is pure fire. Not only do the tracks perfectly capture the mood of the scenes, but they’re also so much fun to listen to. It’s also got a fantastic plot & contains some valuable lessons about how to treat others. We see this big green ogre, who’s outwardly quite intimidating, & then we realise that he’s actually sensitive once you get to know him. We learn that despite his looks, he has a heart of gold, & he cares a lot more than he lets on. Sniff.

OK sorry, back to our flight... 😉

Allan & I were next to each other in our pods. There's a divider between the pods, but fortunately we were able to put it down & clink our glasses. The meal was very good; a chicken in a porcini mushroom sauce with a pasta/rice with broccoli, with a mixed salad with kale, orange & peppers. Fresh bread, & finished with a blueberry cheesecake. Our steward would walk up the aisles with a bottle of white or red wine & kept refilling our real wine glasses. Real glasses! Refills without asking. Woot woot! I tried to look like I was a 'regular' in this business-section-on-steroids, & kept my grinning like a lunatic on the down low.

For 4.5 hours Al & I were living an episode of Rich & Famous. I have no idea if we will ever have such a flight experience again, but boy oh boy, we were lapping it up. I was sad to see the flight end!

Then due to mechanical issues, we missed our flight to Ottawa from Montreal. I was however impressed to see an agent waiting for us when we got off our flight with a hotel & food vouchers. We skipped waiting for the shuttle & cabbed to our hotel. The bar was only open for an hour after we got there, so we had some food on Air Canada. The bartender was kind enough to package some drinks for us in our room & we spent a laid back night watching our TV show s& then enjoyed some zzzz's in a very comfortable bed.

The next day at the airport, I was flagged going through security. (Yes this is a common theme for me. Sigh.) First I dinged going through security, then they patted me down from front to back. Then they swabbed my hands. I am thinking I must look like a criminal... Or at this point this whole business of flagging me every time I go through security is going to drive me to a life of crime, then then can finally catch me up to no good. I'm a security-risk celebrity at every airport now (might be posters circulating with my mug on them.) Allan got flagged too; made me feel better. 😉

They did their usual search but something totally unusual happened. Once they swabbed my hands, they found a 'chemical' on my hands. Chemical? Gentle sweet heart of Jaysus what is this all about now? $%^&*@.

They then re-scanned my bags, & then went through my items, & checked my laptop. After they checked me, checked under my hood, they told me they had to file a 'report' on this incident. This took a while. I was very inquisitive about what in hell was going on. The agent says it happens all the time. Could've been medication I took that was on my hands, or my hand lotion set it off. I did take a Tylenol at the airport so that could've done it. I don't do drugs, (well I felt like I needed some after that debacle.) In all honesty I truly don't mind being checked; it keeps everyone safe. However, this security check was a new one for me...

The agent who filled out the report was great & told me not to worry. The report he had to fill out was for their end only; it wouldn't cause me any issues in the future. Famous last words. (Insert eye roll right here.) When the guy asked me what my occupation was, I told him what I did in Mexico. He looked up & said, really? I'm from Oaxaca, Mexico! So we had a jaw flap over my work in Mexico & he told me he was moving from Montreal to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I had to fill out what medications I take etc., and in the end, he moved it along & we were on our merry way. Al looked at me & laughed... Deja vu.

We had free passes to the Air Canada Lounge which was very relaxing. We enjoyed free drinks & food and the lounge is huge with different sitting areas, lazy boy chairs, big screen TVs. Our reality TV show of the Rich & Famous continued...

Life is very interesting if you travel with me! Which means don't - you will be delayed at security! On the other hand, maybe it pays to travel with me? I got us on the airbus in pods with massage chairs, a free hotel stay with free dinner & drinks, then access to the Air Canada lounge for free. You are welcome Allan. 😊

So that concludes this long awaited trip. (Sorry for the long blog; with all the delays, I had plenty of time on my hands.) I am grateful for the opportunities that have come my way & I'm so happy to share my adventures with my best friend & hubby, "Mr. Allan". 😊 We make a great team & his support of me is unwavering. I look forward to going home, & I look forward to when we can return.

I especially feel immense gratitude for this adventure after Covid turned the world upside down. We're living in unusual times, & I am trying to let go of things that stress me. That don't matter. Feeling grateful is not a cliche; feeling grateful puts things into perspective for me. After losing Allan's mother suddenly during Covid, seeing so much devastation in the world, we're just going to keep on trying to remember how blessed we are. And we are.

Thanks for following along. It's nice to know we can travel safely during Covid, & return safely. I can't wait to see our girls & Mom. Mom's birthday is coming up; we'll do something special. I missed you ma. xo

Sal ("Honey" & "The Birthday King" (AKA "Mr. Allan")


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4th October 2021
Penthouse balcony (one we stayed in)

Someone's gotta do it
Your obsession with Playa del Carmen is well understood in this pic, Sal. Stunning, stunning, stunning! And that the band plays on...priceless!
4th October 2021
Penthouse balcony (one we stayed in)

Someone's gotta do it!
So true; the photos needed very little editing as that is the true color; it's hard to explain how magical it is to those that haven't visited. And yes, the band plays on! I know how much you appreciate music too! It's an invisible cord that connects the world! Stay well Dave. Sal Gal :)

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