We Keep Rolling On Like the Tide...


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Published: July 20th 2015
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OPTIMIST - Someone who figures taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it's more like a 'cha cha'.

Top o' the morning to you all. Enjoying a cup of coffee on one of the nicest mornings we've had here so far. The humidity has lifted a bit, a warm gentle breeze is in the air, and I'm enjoying a cup of java while overlooking the sea. It's quiet enough to put thoughts to paper (or thoughts to laptop). The expanse of the ocean with the sun hitting it brings out a palette of colors which changes from second to second. In these moments I find total peace - just sitting watching life go by. And not being part of the rat race is wonderful. This "rat" (moi) just wants to hold this serenity in the palm of my hand till reality beckons me back to it.

We have panoramic views from our condo as far as the eye can see. So lovely to sit up on the 3rd level and get a bird's eye view of the beach activities - the cruise boats, the fishing and diving boats, the ferries criss-crossing each other taking adventurous tourists to the island and back for the day. It's perfect people-watching. The other night we saw a guy doing yoga on the beach and he did this gymnastic move - a handstand in the sand then took one arm away. We applauded after the fact. Surely that lad has not had ONE cerveza all day to be performing those cirque de soleil moves!

We're starting in on our 2nd week of holidays and as you all know, there's no perfect holiday. And if you don't know that by now, pack your bags and come with us on vacation and all your innocence will be gone once you arrive home. Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean you have a license to avoid headaches. Overall there's little to complain about but to make it interesting to those at home following my blog, I will report the bad along with the good so you won't be thinking we're living too high off the hog. You will be thinking, "Now that's why I DON"T go on holidays...

Our accommodations are top notch so there's no complaint on that part. The food has been great here as always & we are discovering more and more little "finds" or spots to grab an inexpensive dinner or to bring back food to the condo. Evenings have either been spent out walking, listening to live music, or playing a game of scrabble or farkle. We've watched some movies with the sliding doors to the ocean wide open, basking in the whispers of the ocean at night.

The weather has been for the most part great; the odd little rain shower will move in, then dissipate, but is just enough of a nuisance for us having to bring in our pillows and towels off the patio. (Oh lord have mercy we have 1st world problems.) But overall, not one day of full rain which is another reason to journey here on summer vacation.

We have met some great people to add to our collection of great friendships we've made here. And it's always nice to get to know the business/restaurant owners & staff because you always feel you're walking into "Cheers" where everybody knows your name, and then they know that you like ice water on the side of your margarita (the margarita that's on the rocks with not too much ice, with a top shelf Tequila and Cointreau, freshly squeezed limes, & especially NO naranja (orange juice that some bartenders like to add to your margarita here).

The condo complex isn't quite as busy as I've seen it here which means the pool isn't as busy, which the girls love. And there is a low turnout for 'weirdos' & the 'self-entitled', which is great. No one tossing a football over our heads in the pool, no one cursing up a storm or floating around with their cigarette hanging out of their mouth leaving a trail of ash for the rest of us to bypass. No one breaking glass in the pool, no one playing rap or Barry Manilow (sorry to any of his fans) loudly by the pool, no screaming kids that while seem to love the water, nonetheless scream like they are being tortured.

No one in the pool at 2:30 in the morning drunkenly warbling (and murdering) the popular song, "La Bamba" (those are the times I get up, and threaten to launch a bunch of limes at them). There is a young "get a room" couple here who tend to float around the pool gazing at each other with stars in their eyes, but give it a year or two and they'll be sitting side by side on the loungers texting & not giving each other the time of day (not Al and I of course, what a romantic he is floating me around the pool) HEH HEH.

Anyhow, given it's not a big resort & a small boutique condo hotel (sounds frou frou), you are in much closer proximity to others, so you still get some people who march to their own drum. Otherwise it's just about darn near perfection for my liking. So if the girls are happy, and can swim in the pool, mom's happy. And when mom's happy...chorus please - EVERYBODY IS HAPPY.

"Life isn't always a bowl of cherries on holidays"...

The Riviera Maya is known for its beaches. Spectacular powder soft-sand beaches that caress the turquoise clear waters of the Caribbean. People come from all over the world to enjoy these beaches, and to snorkel its waters and dive into its cenotes and swim in its lagoons. You could walk in water up to your hips and see your feet as it's that clear. Water that beckons you to go jump in the surf and body surf yourself crazy all day. Water so clear that it magnetically pulls you off your beach lounger to float in the surf like you're 10 years old again.

But Mother Nature has been in a bad mood recently, and this trip here is far different when I was here in April with my girlfriends.

A particular seaweed called Sargassum is inundating beaches all through the Caribbean including Barbados, Tobago, Anguilla, and Antigua and has found its way to the jewel, the Riviera Maya. (Texas has had its share of this seaweed too & has hosted conferences on how to deal with it).

While small amounts of this seaweed can always be found floating in the ocean and washing up onto beaches from May to September, due to the change in currents & temperature of the water, the amount of seaweed the Caribbean is facing is unprecedented. And it's hurting the tourism business. The seaweed lines the beach, and let me tell you once it starts to decompose, you can get some real whiffs of a horrid smell. While there seems to be some attempts to clean/rake it up, we've come to see that it's a feeble attempt as it's all over the ocean wafting in. So while they try to clean it up, it's still floating out on the water.

We've (and darn near everyone else in Playa) has all had our "ideas" of what they could do; have nets to catch it and drag it away - bulldoze the beach, rake it up, and take it out in trucks (that would be great to have trucks on the beach - NOT) but it's not going to make much of a difference. You can remove the seaweed parked on the sand, but probably within an hour, it's back.

This brown algae originates in the Sargasso sea in the Atlantic Ocean around Bermuda and it floats free in the ocean yet never attaches to the ocean floor. While it provides refuge for migratory species and is an essential habitat for some 120 species of fish and invertebrates, on the flip side, the negative effects this seaweed has had on nesting leather back turtles at various nesting beaches in Trinidad & Tobago has been devastating. (And if you're read my blogs before, I love my turtles).

The life of a turtle ain't easy folks... Throw in some seaweed to prevent the moms from laying their eggs on the beach then things go downhill fast (as if they aren't endangered as it is). Then if they do manage to get onto the beach and give birth, the little babies have to make their way through this new foe, this formidable seaweed, to get back into the ocean. Not like they don't have enough roadblocks like predators to go against to get their little fins into the water. These little baby turtles have to use cues to find the water including the slope of the beach, the white crests of the ocean and the natural light of the horizon. And then comes this seaweed that not even humans can deal with...

So when I think about having to tolerate the seaweed on my vacation, my thoughts go more towards the tortugas (spanish for turtles). Hang in there little tortugas!

For anyone thinking they will skip Playa for another Caribbean spot till things clear up here, good luck. It's all throughout the Caribbean and until the tides change and summer turns to fall there may not be much of a change. I still love my Riviera Maya regardless because we enjoy so much more than just the ocean here, but seeing the ocean murky and people not floating as lazily as they have in the past is just downright unfortunate. However, we shall remain optimistic that while we're here that perhaps the tides will turn and people will frolic in the ocean as they did even a few months ago. This condition is akin to a bad case of acne - in a few days it may clear itself up. We saw some of this back in 2012 and within 6 months it was all gone. (If this pessimist can garner up some optimism, so can anyone else that loves this part of Mexico).

When Patience is a Virtue

So to make matters a little worse after the "seaweed issue", we had a day trip planned on Friday that didn't quite turn out the way we hoped. Jaime our fantastic driver, picked us up at the condo. Then the by-law / transportation guy stopped him just as we passed 5th avenue to check his papers for transporting tourists. Nice enough guy with his little name tag badge, but due to the paperwork shuffle dance, he delayed us while checking Jaime's papers.

In the end despite my explaining I have a contract with Jaime, "Edwin" was adamant that Jaime needs some extra paperwork to transport us. The taxi union is outside our door and I think they get very annoyed with the private van service and probably contacted by-law. By-law/smy-law- you can all eat my shorts.

We will continue to use Jaime. I have drawn up a contact and we will meet him one street over. In such a hustling bustling town, with bad seaweed this week & tourism being lower than usual, really by-law??? Don't tick the tourists off, especially the ones who write travel blogs about here. (That would be me). I wrote a letter to the Mayor of Playa as on the municipal website they say the mayor really wants to "Hear from you"! Do you think they really meant ME? (Ahem. Eye rolling).

And then to make matters a little bit worse...

Lara ended up in CHEO with stomach issues but they ruled out appendix & she's on some medication & feeling better. Hard to be far away when your kid is sick even if they're 16. But auntie is on the job tending to her & they have been enjoying their time together despite the little set back. Good we have free calls home. I was ready to hop a plane & called to see what the flights were until we found out she was on the mend. Spent a night tossing and turning. To top things off, Al was feeling off the past day; too much cerveza (wink wink). He ate up a storm of chicken kebobs yesterday washed down by a Sol so I think he's just fine.

On a Good Note...

We've been really enjoying the artwork in Playa. We are almost getting immune to seeing things here because we've been here so many times, but I'm still determined to see things with a new eye as there are many talented artists here, and in particular the mural at the Hotel Cacao (Cacao named after the bean chocolate is made from). It's an eclectic feast for the eyes - the mural designed by street artist Eduardo Kobra is jaw dropping.

Once you pick your jaw up off the floor your eye goes on a kaleidoscope visual dance - swaying from one side to another. His technique is to repeat squares & triangles & it's a rainbow of colors. Your eyes have to really focus to see what he has created - it's so dazzling that when I first laid eyes on it, I felt I should have paid an entrance fee to see it.

It makes you realize how much talent the world holds. In his work he brings to life famous people such as John Lennon, Nelson Mandela and he is known for his vintage art. You just stand there and marvel at it. I've seen his other work on-line and it's totally amazing. A wonderful artist that we have been introduced to.

Further up 5th avenue near 40th street, there is a beautiful store with hand-blown glass, hand painted vases, and souvenirs to ooh and aww over. It's easy to get caught up on the flow of 5th avenue and not see the hidden gems inside a courtyard or shop that you pass by. There are beautiful art galleries to visit that have acrylic paintings, lithographs, photographs, sculptures and Mayan hand crafts.

For the foodies: we've enjoyed jumbo garlic shrimp topped with crab, amazing quesadillas stuffed with pollo (chicken), Greek chicken stuffed with feta & spinach & a Greek salad that made me weak in the knees. That rotisserie spot that we frequent happens to make a mean grilled panini sandwich with chunks of roast chicken, tomato, cheese, bacon, & avocado. We've had pulled pork on a fresh bun with pickled onions and black beans. All oozing with tasty goodness. AHHHHHH superb.

Well I've bent your ear long enough. The sun is setting, and we're having a nice drink watching the beach light the torches and candles at the bar next door. Pat & Ava went for a dusk massage on the beach. Grandmother & grand-daughter having some relaxing time together.

Sal & the "Temptations" (yes I love the rock n' roll - musical group names - have you seen a pattern?)

*Love to hear from you. I will even accept comments from the peanut gallery (and I know who you are) HEH HEH...gulp

PS lots of pics...2 pages of pics or what amounts to be 37 pics...


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21st July 2015

Enjoying your blog...
Hola Sally, I love your positive attitude and yes, you are so right, there is sooooo much more to Playa del Carmen then the beaches. For the most part of my 3 months last winter it was the same and I am a real beach lover and its was sooo disappointing to see the murky water and piles of seagrass on the beaches. I truly believed it was only temporary and this too shall pass, now I'm not so convinced we will ever see the beaches and ocean clear up. This will really hurt tourism and I myself have been torn about returning this winter. Do I go or do I stay???? I think I will give it one more shot but will shorten my stay this year and only go for Jan/Feb. the coldest months in Canada, but if things with the beach don't improve I doubt I will return. I was sooooo discouraged and upset last winter and tried to make the most of it, but we are just so spoiled with all the beauty we have known in the past. I see you are checking out new restaurants and would like to know where the "spa" with all the pedicure chairs is located and the "long" pool???? Did you notice Titi Panini is closed?? The owners closed after hi season last year and are traveling in Canada and the US. They may stop in a see me I invited them. They plan on opening another location in Playa when they return in Nov. I hope you continue to enjoy your vacation even thou the beaches look so deserted......I am sure the natives are restless and businesses are concerned about the future of playa with dirty water and smelly beaches....

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