Internal Staff Home Contacts Susan & John Patti & Al Sandi & Terry

 Riu Palace - The Playa Del Carmen Adventure! - 4/20/03 - 4/27/03
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Sunday (day 1) - 4/20/03:

After a long journey to Playa Del Carmen we finally arrived at our hotel in the early evening. This place is awesome, everything is all marble and stone, and the entrance has this HUGE chandelier… Very good first impression! They even brought us this yummy mango juice while we were checking in. We headed to our room, which was also very nice, and got ourselves ready for the first night.

Unfortunately we arrived too late to make reservations for dinner, so we decided to hit up 5th Avenue, the place locals live and hang out, for dinner that night. After changing into some cooler clothes (it was about 90 degrees and super humid) we grabbed $40 and went to get a cab. I told him to take us to Pancho's Mexican Café, but… well, with my Spanish we ended up at Panchovilla. Close enough! The food was really good and definitely authentic. We relaxed with some drinks and hung out with these three little white poodles that were running stray in the outdoor restaurant. And then… *dun dunnn dunnnn* the check came. We were five dollars short… turned out Terry's margarita was more then his meal… and well, I guess I shouldn't have had that extra beer! But I thought, "That's okay right? We're in Mexico… we can barter!" HAAA! Yeah, okay… so we told him our situation (the exchange rate that I was given was different from what it actually was) and he said… okay, one of you stay here and the other one can go back to the hotel to get the money. GEEEEZE! Only our first night and we're already getting ourselves into trouble!

Terry grabbed another cab and headed back to the resort while I sat there with the three little dogs and a mariachi band. Weeeeeeeeeeeeee! Four flea bites later Terry came to my rescue and we made it out of there spending $15 on cab fare to bring the guy his $5 and tip. Lesson learned: Always bring a credit card with you for emergencies, especially in foreign countries.

Monday (day 2) - 4/21/03:

We woke up fairly early this morning to catch Jorge, our FunJet representative, in the lobby before 9am. He set us up with our return transportation to the airport and let us know about different excursions we could go on. Jorge was a pretty cool guy and fortunately spoke pretty decent English. His favorite word: Exacto!

We actually made it to breakfast that morning before meeting Jorge. It was buffet style and they had everything from cold cuts to pecan pancakes. It was very good, and in an attempt to sample a little of everything (I wasn't even close) I managed to stuff myself beyond what I thought was possible.

After breakfast Terry and I got ready for our first day at the beach! Woot! The sand was white, there were palm trees everywhere, and the water was actually that bright turquoise that you see in pictures. I swore before this trip that no place with water like that actually existed… I mean, I know how much you can change images in Photoshop!

We pulled two lounge chairs out from the shade and dragged them to the sunny sand in front of the water. I lathered up in SPF 50 and 20 and Terry in SPF 8. We pulled out our books and finally began relaxing! Aaaaaahhhhh… the life. They even had a bar up by the palm trees in case you got a little parched. After reading for about… oh… 5 minutes, we were so hot we needed to take a little dip in the ocean. The water was AWESOME! It was like a heated swimming pool… but VERY salty. After about 2 hours of going back and forth between reading and swimming we decided to head back up to the room. I cracked open an orange soda from the minibar (which amazingly is refilled for free) and then started noticing… yes… the dreaded uneven sunburn! Terry, of course, was this smooth and even golden brown… and I was white with pink splotchies. How does this happen every time???

Lunch was again another great buffet (with very good soft serve ice cream) and we made sure to get into the lobby in time to make our dinner reservations with the main chef. From then on we would have dinner every night at 21:00 in Don Julian's. (It's much safer when all you need to do is show your wristband to eat and drink. No stupid taxis!)

Tuesday (day 3) - 4/22/03:

This morning we ran downstairs to grab a quick muffin before heading off to the ATV Jungle Tour! We arrived to meet our tour guide (who we never got the name of, but Terry ended up just calling him Argentina because that's where he grew up… he seemed to like that nickname). There were actually about 20 or so people on this tour, but we all got our own ATV and were off into the Mayan jungle. After about 20 minutes of riding we stopped near a little path. Terry and I were completely covered in dirt by this point, so it was a good thing that we were headed to the cenote for a little swimming and snorkeling. The cenote (an underground cave with fresh water) was beautiful and extremely clear and 100% refreshing. It was about 12 feet deep and you could see the bottom like it was an inch from the surface. There were some cute little guppies and catfish hanging around near the top… well, until one of us took a swing on the rope and cannon balled in. After swimming around for a while, and skinning my knee on an underwater rock, we were off to the ATV's again.

Our next stop was to another cave, but this time we walked down into the cave to see some cute little bats! The cave was actually fairly old, and had been used by the Mayans for some sort of ritual. It descended a bit and opened up into a wide stalagmite filled room that had water on the ground! Cool! One more ride and we were back to where we started. All in all we gave this tour two thumbs up!

The rest of the day was spent eating, lounging, sleeping and reading. This was mainly in part because our little tummies were not quite used to the southern Mexican food yet… *ugh*

Wednesday (day 4) - 4/23/03:

Today was another lounge day. We decided to walk across the street and do a little window-shopping. There was some cool stuff there, but because it was in the middle of the resort area it was "muy caro". We decided to buy some Chichen-Itza playing cards and we were off to the resort bar for a little gin rummy. By this time I had discovered their wonderful foofy drinks. Early on in the vacation it was all out the Pina Colada… Then for a short time I went to the Coco Rosa… after that it was all about the Kaluha and cream. YUM! Surprisingly I never had a corona the entire time I was at the resort. WEIRD! Terry stayed consistent with White Russians and Kaluha and creams.

By this time my four fleabites, and one mosquito bite (I'm going to say mosquito because I don't like the thought of a big spider sitting on my leg), were at full size. The one on the back of my calf was about the size of a half dollar (not exaggerating) and the fleabites were all BRIGHT red. I looked goooood in my shorts!

Thursday (day 5) - 4/24/03:

Today we decided it was time to try to get some sun again… but this time at the pool. I had to get some studying done *I'm such a nerd* so we figured it would be easier without the wind and the sand. Well… it turns out that when you take away the wind, it gets really hot. :) Imagine that! We hung out by the pool for a good part of the day (again in and out of the pool to avoid heat exhaustion) and Terry got to relax while I got caught up for my Economics class. I guess if I have to be doing homework there's no better place to do it.

I was a little more fortunate this time with the whole attempt at tanning. I'm not sure I really got too much of a tan, but the splotchy sunburn phase was over. Instead of a burn I had this beautiful heat rash (which at least was gone before dinner time). Terry again just toasted to a darker shade of gold. I swear I just can't win! What ever happened to the super tan skin I used to have when I was in college??

The rest of the day was spent either munching it up at El Patio (one of the many dining areas at this massive, sprawling resort) for lunch, sleeping, lounging, reading or playing cards in the bar until our special "Chef's Gala Dinner" at Don Julian's (the main dining room).

Friday (day 6) - 4/25/03:

We had to get up at 6:30 this morning to get ready for an all day excursion to Chichen-Itza (Pronounced Cheech-en eetsa). Chichen-Itza is an ancient Mayan city with some amazing ruins. The name comes from Chi (the word for mouth) Chen (the word for a water well) and Itza (the word for the spiritual people of the area). So put that all together and you've got "Mouth of the Well of the Itza people".

The tour was excellent. We had a tour guide named Rafael, and a tour leader named Eduardo. They were both extremely knowledgeable and very funny. Our first stop was at a little shopping area in the middle of the jungle (Isn't that convenient?). It was a chance for us to use a "nice" bathroom and buy some last minute snacks and water. The bus ride to Chichen-Itza was a good few hours, so the stops were nice. The next stop was in this tiny little town where we parked at a small village to visit an old Mayan women's house and see what their culture was like. The huts were made of a concrete base, wooden branches for the walls, and palm fronds for the roof. They always had their own alter and instead of beds they had hammocks. They had they're own chickens, vegetable gardens, water well and bee hive. Honey is the second largest source of income in this area besides tourism.

After visiting the cute little old lady we head off for the ruins. Eduardo took us through the major ruins for about 2 hours, telling us all about each of them and the crazy stories that accompanied them. Everything was made of large limestone blocks, and their rock query was 10 miles away! The stories were very interesting and all the ruins were detailed with carvings. The acoustics were also amazing… in one area you could clap and it would echo five times. In another area, near the large temple, you could clap and it would make this really weird twang at the end of the echo. Oddly enough they have installed lights and speaker systems (even lights at the tops of the temples) to hold concerts.

Most of the ruins in the area were restored. The large temple was only restored part of the way because locals would go to the site and take the stones to build their own houses with before the restoration began. Eduardo took us to a part of the site that was not yet restored. I've got to hand it to the archeologists… they took piles of rocks, measured each one and some how put them all back together.

After Eduardo wrapped it up, we had only an hour to run around and see whatever else we wanted to. This was my only complaint, as the site was enormous, I would have liked to spend 3 or 4 hours on our own. The first thing we did was go to the tall central temple. This was the only ruin that they were still letting people climb on (and it is soon to be roped off as well). On this temple there are 91 steep and narrow stone steps, on each of the four sides, leading up to a platform and temple on top (91 steps x 4 sides = 364 + 1 platform = 365. They were big on calendars!). Being somewhat afraid of heights, I decided that it would be a good idea to climb to the top. :) I at least figured I'd be able to get up the thing without problem, but about halfway up the anxiety hit and I ended up making the rest of the trek to the top on all fours. Terry of course had no problem and just jetted all the way to the top where he coached me until I crawled up the last step.

The view was absolutely amazing, and from here you could see that you truly were surrounded by nothing but jungle. After my oooing and aaaaing was out of the way I started to realize that what comes up must come down. Wow, it sure looked a lot steeper from the top. Hadn't the Mayans heard about handrails?? I saw an old man descending on his butt and thought… hmmm, not such a bad idea. But once I started my way down, I actually felt better about it then when I was going up. It took me a little longer of course, but I made it without falling! YEAY! Terry managed to zoom past me and get a picture of me about half way down.

We had about a half hour left so we took a short hike to their largest cenote. This one was rather muddy, but nonetheless pretty cool. Back in the day, this was where the Mayans would throw people who were sacrificed. When restoration began on Chichen-Itza, they dredged up over 3000 skeletons along with TONS of jewels and other stuff. When we got back to the main area we had just enough time to look at the temple of a thousand columns and take a picture of the statue in which they placed a beating human heart ever 52 years during their ceremony of life.

The ride back to the resort was bumpy, which made for some funny games of cards, and Terry and I seemed to be the only two people still awake.

Saturday (day 7) - 4/26/03:

It is our final day in Playa Del Carmen and I wanted to go snorkeling in the reefs on Cozumel. Unfortunately it was cloudy and very windy, so the conditions weren't too great. But Terry and I decided to take a trek down into town and take the ferry over just to see what it was like.

We packed our backpack and headed for town via the beach. We were probably about a half a mile away when we noticed that the tide was rather high and the waves were starting to crash on the building walls up ahead. Hmmm…. No pathway leading up to a road. We decided to try and make it without getting too soaked, but our timing was slightly off and we were both drenched by a crashing wave. Terry didn't get it too bad, but I somehow managed to get covered from head to toe with sand as well. FUN! After this little adventure we made it to a little street and managed to make it safely to the pier. After running around for 10 minutes trying to figure out how to buy tickets to the ferry, we finally manage to buy a pair.

The ride over was pretty bumpy, but we made it over okay. Cozumel was much different then I thought it would be. The pictures all looked so nice! I suppose if we were to pay an arm and a leg for a little day trip package we may have been able to find the places in the pictures, but instead we decided to spend an hour or so just walking and trying to find it on our own. No luck! We did manage to bump into a little old couple that was coming from the other direction looking for the same thing. Hehehe… we decided to walk a little longer and finally headed back to the main town area. By this time I was craving some American food so we went to Hard Rock Café (the smallest one in the world! No, seriously! It is the smallest Hard Rock in the world!) and had some ice cream and chicken fingers. Mmmmmmmm….

We got back to the mainland, did a little souvenir shopping, and started our trek back (this time making sure we walked far enough on the street as to not get so drenched). The walks on the beach were in my swimming suit as a last minute attempt at a tan, and guess what??! It worked!! I am now a slightly darker shade of white. Guess what color Terry is? Terry, of course, is now a nice shade of golden brown. *sticks tongue out at Terry*

One last session of cards at the bar and one last meal at Don Julian's for dinner and we were pooped. We walked down to the beach that night before heading back to the room to gather some souvenir sand. Once we got back to the room it was all we could do to stay awake… we didn't want to leave, but we also couldn't wait to go home in the morning :)

Sunday (day 8) - 4/27/03:

Today we got to go home... *sigh* We woke up early, grabbed some quick breakfast, and were off to meet Jorge in the lobby for our transfer to the airport. The ride was long and quiet (I don't think anyone on the little tram was quite awake yet) and our little FunJet guy hooked us up at the airport! Some how he managed to get us out of the car and practically running to the Continental line... at first we were like "Geesh! Chill out guy!" But yes, he saw something we didn't. As soon as he got us to the front counter he said "Adios!" and took off. We turned around to see about 50 people piling into the continental line behind us. Wow, 10 more seconds and that tour bus would've been in front of us!

The flight home was nice (a little bit of a pain in the butt going through imigration and customs) but we didn't once get searched... *HA HA MOM!* After a long day of travel we were out of the mugginess and back in cool Orange County. Yeay!

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