Monday, June 23, 2008

Mexico, part 2: Warming up

So having cracked open a fresh bottle of Sol (purchased last night at Mexican grocery store down the street) at 1 p.m. on a weekday afternoon, I now feel equipped to begin recapping the best of seven days and nights in lovely Mexico.

Gloomy, overcast weather welcomes us to Cancun. We also find out our hotel room doesn't have a balcony, and even more unthinkable, it has two double beds instead of a king. So we make arrangements to move into the Royal Beach Club, the VIP wing of the resort, where for the mere price of $60 more per day, we can enjoy a lavish daily breakfast buffet and happy hour with hors d'oeuvres. Oh, and a balcony, ocean view, king-sized bed, free gym access, and a private beach and pool area. We spend the next six days patting ourselves on the back.

Wanting to start out with something "easy," we board one of the teeth-rattling buses that zoom through the hotel zone and head downtown, where locals hang. Bus stops aren't marked, though, so naturally we get off too soon and must set off on foot toward the flea market. We survive three blocks of blistering heat before seeking shade at a dilapidated open-air restaurant with plastic tables and a Mexican soap opera blaring on the TV. But my lord, a cold beer never tasted so good. The bottles dripped chilly water all over our legs, and it wasn't the last time I'd appreciate this heat relief.

We head out again in search of food, ending up at a nice little cantina for more beers, steak tacos with housemade guacamole, and papas bravas drenched in a spicy red sauce. After lunch, I have my first (but, sadly, not last) unfortunate encounter with Mexican bathrooms.

First of all, many toilets here don't have seats. You must teeter on the thin porcelain rim, which seems super-icky if you are a girl, you know? So I decide to create a seat cover using toilet paper. I successfully place one strip. But while I'm straightening the second strip, the first one blows into the water. I lunge to grab it, and the second strip blows in, too. That's when I notice an oscillating fan mounted on the ceiling. Eff! So I start over with two new strips, only, a-ha! This time I'll outsmart the fan by holding the strips down with my hand until it goes the other direction, and then I'll whip around and sit down. Except while I wait, I am so still that a motion-sensor shuts off the lights. I panic. Bang the hell out of my shoulder trying to scramble out of the stall with, yes, my shorts around my ankles. Lights come back on. All right, screw the strips. I'll hover. So I assume the position, but fearing that my stillness will turn the lights off again, I begin waving my arms wildly above my head, an exercise I continued for the full three minutes it took for my poor freaked-out bladder to empty. After I tiredly stand up and drop the last wad of toilet paper into the water, I notice a sign that pleads "ABSOLUTELY NO PAPER IN THE TOILET!" I am deeply sorry, Mexico, for dropping like half a roll into that commode. And also for forgetting this rule 7 or 8 million more times.

We finally make it to the Mercado 28 flea market, and were entirely turned off by the high-pressure vendors. They all but drag you into their stores by the ear, and they yell at you if you walk away. Only high point is Sal negotiating a good price on a handsome Panama hat.

We take a ferry to Isla Mujeres, an easygoing little island full of colorful streets and friendly locals. It's easily our favorite part of Mexico. We spend most of the afternoon Miguel's Moonlite Bar, a shabby but comfortable tavern where VH1 Classic is playing on two TVs. We are served by Miguel himself, a delightful fellow who helps us practice our Spanish and supplies us with a dish of spicy red peanuts. And let me just say, four hours of laughing and drinking beers with my husband in Mexico, while speakers blare "Raspberry Beret," "Maneater" and "Red, Red Wine," is pretty much my definition of heaven.

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