Sunday, 25 February 2018

Our Holiday in Cancun

February 17 2018, we were flying to Cancun Mexico, at 5am for our first holiday in four years. We reckoned therefore we should go to bed at 8pm already showered, the night before, as we would have to leave at 1.30am, fine it worked for Marcela, but I just tossed and turned.

Once up I dressed, and moved the dogs beds downstairs so they would be close to Henry, they really didn't like that at all.

We didn't tempt fate, we took the Logan to the airport, after the problems I had with the Montero last time.

It was a smooth run,  we parked up outside the airport and they took us in. Unfortunately this is where out problems started. After a coffee and snack we made our way to International Departures, having dropped off our suitcases, we passed the Vigilante, who was  checking off our passports against boarding cards. No more than ten steps further on were three Policì­a Nacional de Colombia, supposed just chatting, and idly checking  the same documents, but as soon as Marcela approached, they glanced at her documents and pulled her out of the queue. There was no way we were being parted, so I flashed my documents and followed her out of the line, much to their surprise.

One of the Officers asked who I was, and he was told! at which he went through the motions and waved us on. Marcela explained that they had seen us in the queue, but because she was black, and in front of me in the queue, they didn't even give  a thought that we were together, saw her Colombian passport, two plus two made five. She was not happy and rightly so, because we watched, and nobody else was pulled out to be checked...nothing short of racism by her own countrymen.

We flew out of Medellin on time, and arrived in Panama a few minutes early, but as Copa Airlines is based there, it has it's own terminal, so we disembarked  only two gates from our connection to Cancun.

As we were called for boarding, there were two what looked to be Ground Engineers stood to one side, they pulled Marcela to one side, and apparently identified themselves as Policía Nacional de Panama, from where I was stood, I could see they looked officious, as I approached, they were obviously ready to tell me to go away, but one fortunately asked who I was, and their faces changed instantly from officious to friendly... They weren't youngsters, they should have known better than to prejudge just because of colour of skin, we were immediately waved on, and everyone else followed, again, no one else stopped.

Once on the plane, we took our seats and I started messing with the individual TV screens to see what was on offer during the flight. Suddenly I felt shuddering from alongside me, and found my 'Rock' in floods of tears, I thought Marcela had shrugged off the two episodes but she hadn't, she felt humiliated, she had been the only one singled out at both Airports, it had obviously been racially motivated. We talked it over, and the flight continued without further incident  in fact the Mexican Security were downright friendly, maybe because we made a point of holding hands throughout.

Having arrived in Cancun, I didn't want any problems here, so I had declared my prescribed medications on the landing form, this meant we had to leave via Customs, but on arrival at the entrance, Marcela asked, and the woman told Marcela to endorse the form with something that only they understood, and we were waved through.

We had booked our transport to the Hotel Occidental Tucancun, back in November  with Cancun Shuttle, they were spot on, and our Driver, Leming, gave us a guided tour on route, it took about 25 minutes.



At the Hotel, by which time it still wasn't midday, they booked us in, said we could use all the facilities including Restaurants of which there are four ( 1. El Mirador, 2. Claraboya 3. La Trattoria 4. Mexico Lindo), but as booking in time wasn't until 3pm, we would have to wait for our room. Our luggage was held in the Lobby entrance, which worried me a bit, but it was all bungeed together, and there were Staff permanently in attendance.

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We started by nosing around the Hotel, and Phil being Phil nearly walked us into the timeshare trap, thanks to my 'Rock', I soon realised what was up and we escaped. Here you have to watch out, the Timeshare companies are sneaky  you wont just get accosted on the street, they rent Hotel space, and wear Hotel uniforms, so it all seems official.

We took some photos, had lunch in Claraboya, by this time we had our 'all inclusive' bracelets so nothing to worry about, except if we lost them, they were $100 US each!!! because of the security implications of it falling into the wrong hands.

There was a nice breeze but it was still baking hot. By 2.45pm I saw others on their way to their rooms, I was totally flaked by this time, we went to Reception, sure enough we were in room 5021, fifth floor overlooking the lagoon at the back of the hotel, as it turned out this was a good choice, it is quiet, and has a balcony which many at the front don't, also we didn't get direct sun on the room. We were both more than happy with the room which is spacious, a huge bed, and a shower big enough for a family!



Having unpacked  and regrouped, we decided to go out and find somewhere to buy a sim card, and a pack of water, we went over to the Mall first, it was a Mall obviously built for the monied tourists, armed guards and Helpers everywhere we  sorted out where the Supermarket was, and one of the Helpers directed us to OXXO a chain of supermarkets that also sells sims cards, so we went up the road and bought one for $149 MX and another $80MX credit which  hopefully would last the week. It was then back to the supermarket outside the hotel to buy a pack of water.

It is funny how the little things stick in your mind, we had only just arrived in Mexico, we had no small change, well $1MX from the sim card purchase so I explained this and gave the lad a $500MX bill, he asked me if I had $2, but I only had the $1, without a blink the lad packing bags dipped in his pocket and handed over the difference, I was gobsmacked, $1 is nothing to us, but for them everyone counts, "Gracias muchacho".

Back at the Hotel we readied ourselves for dinner, and then went to watch the Show, which supposedly followed the history of the Mayan people, although I had trouble following it. Then we were grateful for our bed.

Sunday, we spent the morning on the beach,


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 then moving to the pool, Marcela wanted a dip, but due to very high winds and strong currents, the red flag was up almost permanently all week, we were grateful for the wind, it made the heat bearable.

I decided that I had better follow my skin specialist's advise, so whilst Marcela continued the afternoon by the pool, I went on our balcony, out of the sun and read. Again after dinner we watched the show, which they moved to the Lobby, it was a trio of women singers ' Las Divas' , they were good, and would have been better with better sound equipment.

Monday, our sixth wedding Anniversary, we had decided that the contract was definitely worth renewing!

Marcela wanted to go down to Mercado 28, she had read on TripAdvisor that it was the place to go for gifts... Don't believe all you read on the site! Firstly we walked down to the biggest Shopping Mall, La Isla, as we arrived it started raining quite heavily, so we took shelter, at the same time realising we were too early for the shops there, although the Tour Touts were already out in force, so as soon as the rain stopped, we headed back out onto the main road, and caught the No. 2 bus downtown it's only $12MX We jumped off outside Mercado 28, well it was actually Plaza 28, whether it is the same place, we aren't sure, but we wished we hadn't.



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 We were immediately pounced upon by Tour Touts, and then the shop owners followed, they were really desperate for sales, I am not surprised as you will discover in a minute. They went from being friendly to being sarcastic, once they realised they weren't getting a sale.

We asked a woman nearby for directions to Walmart, which was only a short walk away onto an industrial estate, there you could buy all your gifts for home, 75-90% cheaper, it might not have the same atmosphere as the gift shops, but it certainly saves emptying your wallet, for example a bottle of Techilla in the gift shop $238MX in Walmart $56MX. I am sorry but if these Traders are going to be greedy they don't deserve any business.

It was then time to head to the Money Exchange, and change the dollars we had bought to use in Panama, there was one over the road, so funds topped up, we again caught the No. 2 bus back to the hotel.

In our room was a new member of the family courtesy of the Cleaner, I don't know if it is because of our anniversary, or the daily tip we are leaving!



After lunch we rested, until it was time to go for our evening meal, as it was our Anniversary we had decided to go to the Mexico Lindo Restaurant which we had to book for, and had done first thing that morning, they knew it was our anniversary, and we were treated accordingly, it was  a nice touch. We finished the evening with 'The Show' which was supposed to be 'acrobatics' but personally I was a little disappointed.

Tuesday, I woke felling ill, but said nothing because Marcela was going on a trip to Chichen Itza and didn't want her worrying or worse still cancelling on my behalf, I wasn't booked for this trip, because we were told there was a lot of walking and climbing, which with my knees ruled me out.

I saw Marcela off at 7.15 and went for breakfast, which was a mistake! I then went and lay by the pool for a couple of hours, I wanted to give the Cleaner time to clean our room, fortunately I fell asleep, I woke at lunchtime, but had no intention of going for lunch, instead I went to the 24hr snack corner, and picked some fresh fruit, then headed to our room, and didn't / couldn't leave again, it may well have been my fault, on TripAdvisor we were advised to drink only bottled water, although someone mentioned that it was fine for brushing your teeth as long as you didn't swallow, so I had, and this was the only thing we had done differently.

Marcela returned about 9pm from her trip, three hours each way... no thanks! After she had done her mother hen bit, she told me about her trip, her new friends and their visit to a Cenote (deep water hole) where she had a swim before heading back.



After a night trudging back and to, to the bathroom, I then felt a bit better come Wednesday. This was to be a day of relaxation, we spent the whole morning on the beach. At lunchtime I went up to the room to find that the Cleaner had added to our swan family.

We had lunch in El Mirador, the afternoon I spent reading by the pool, whilst Marcela was in and out of the pool between cocktails.

We went to the Hotel's Italian Restaurant for our evening meal unfortunately the ossobuco I had the other day wasn't on the menu, so I had 'homemade' lasagne, nice but...

We rang down to hotel services as our daily supply of water had not come, the reply was... "possibly" I wasn't happy with that, as we needed it for teeth cleaning, however we were stuffed as it never came.

Thursday morning, I woke with pains in my stomach again, the problem obviously hasn't entirely cleared up, when we get home, I will have to go to the farmacia and get some anti-parasite tablets to clean my stomach out, we are nearly time for our annual spring clean anyway.

We had planned on shopping malls during the morning, but just as we left our room the heavens opened, and it turned into a tropical storm, so we had no option but to sit it out.

Once it eased off we left the hotel, first going to the mall over the road, to find the free internet connection the Receptionist told us was there, which turned out to be false, we needed it for the following day for web check-in for our return flight, so it looks as if we will have to buy  days internet access at the hotel, if as I suspect Marcela will have used up her sim card credit talking to 'mummy'!

From there we walked down to Fashion Harbour /  Mall La Isla, which was only 10 to 15 minutes away, pottered around, took a few photos, then had  a Hagen Dazs icecream which cost a bomb, $346 MX for two cones, I don't consider myself tight, but that seemed damned expensive, still it was worth every lick!




After being dragged around the clothes shops and buying nothing, we headed back to the first mall, where Marcela found a lovely dress in a shop supporting the Mayan women, so she is happy.

Time again to eat! again in El Mirador, but unfortunately not served by our favourite Waiter, Tomas, in fact, not served by anyone, just dumped at the table, and left to fend for ourselves! It was then time for a siesta. We slept longer than intended, so showered, and went down for a drink before our meal in La Trattoria, after which it was the Michael Jackson Show, which I had to admit was good.

Friday, our last day here, we woke and spent time trying to web check-in for our flight, but it kept saying we were too early, despite being less than 24 hrs, eventually, relieved, it let us book in, we sent a copy to reception, who printed the boarding cards off for us.

After our last breakfast, we headed for the beach, moving up to the pool about midday. We had our last lunch in Claraboya, as we could go there without getting changed, then it was back poolside, about 2.30pm I headed for our room, I'd had had enough sun, so I read for a while before starting my packing, Marcela came up about 4pm by which time we still hadn't been visited by the Cleaner, which was a bit disappointing!

We had our last evening meal in El Mirador, I was a little disappointed, I apologise to the Vegetarians amongst you in advance, but I am an avid meat eater, all week I had tried new recipes and thoroughly enjoyed them, but this time there was nothing that took my fancy, so I settled for a small piece of grilled chicken and a huge plate of assorted salads, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Also the Staff have been really disappointing in this Restaurant at night, unlike breakfast and lunch, where our favorite Waiter, Tomas, and his colleagues, were really attentive and friendly, if you didn't know better you would have thought you were in a totally different restaurant. The night Manager is just pig ignorant, as we were leaving, I held the door open for Marcela, and the Manger, who was coming in, pushed in passed her, he was lucky I didn't stick my foot out and trip him up!

We then had a drink in the Lobby (tea and coffee!), whilst we waited for the show, which was advertised as being 'Caribbean', but turned out to be a Magician, who in turn, turned out to be very good! He did a good turn....OK enough of that.

I have to say that the professionalism of the shows has been excellent only let down by the sound and lighting, we had trouble hearing any of the words sung all week, whether this was down to poor equipment, or the sound Guy didn't know how to use it, I really don't know, although I suspect it was the latter, from his horrendous efforts with the lighting, this was a shame, because it turned a professional event, into an amateurish one at best.

After the Show, we went to our room, finished packing, watched a bit of TV, then went to sleep, as we had to be up at 3.50am.

I woke once just after midnight, as if I was in a sauna, it wasn't the first time this had happened, and it was nothing I had done, the Hotel in their efforts to save their mattresses, use rubberised mattress protectors, which in that climate is ridiculous, I haven't slept on one of those since I was a child. I went back to sleep lying on top of the bedding.

We booked out, on time, and were taken to the airport, where we were met by legalised thieves! Two airport employees grabbed our cases, and disappeared with them, we were in hot pursuit! Fifty yards later they dumped us in the check-in queue, as it turned out the wrong one, and held out their hands for cash, like a fool I handed over $20MX, but the man said, "and for him as well..." I only had a $50, and wasn't inclined to hand that over, but the look on their faces told me not to make an issue of it, so that was the last of my 'propina' money spent, shortly after I saw them with a muscular looking black guy, he argued with them, I don't know what they said but he got his wallet out again. Next time, I will guard my cases with my life, no way am I paying them a cent... Yes, we will be back!

It was a brilliant week, the Hotel was excellent, most of the people friendly and respectful, the weather could have been better, but no one could control that, all that said, I was ready for home.
The journey home was totally uneventful, all I wanted to do on my arrival, after a rapturous welcome from the boys, was crash out, I'm getting too old for these early starts.

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