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Originally, this trip was going to be a return to Panama.  We were going to join Allen’s cousin Janet and her husband Bob on a Relocation Tour.  A tour geared for those considering becoming ex-pats in Panama.  It would provide information regarding the legal hoops, about the health care opportunities, housing, etc. as well as meeting various ex-pat communities and learning about life in Panama.  It was all very exciting and we were seriously considering it as a retirement possibility.

However, things did not go as planned.  When we visited Janet and Bob at Christmas, she had just come back from the doctor and was told she had some very serious health concerns that had to be taken care of before she could even consider traveling that far.  So, the relocation tour would be on hold until she had dealt with the issues.  Hopefully the spring of 2021.

Returning from that visit, I immediately got on-line and booked an all-inclusive trip to Cancun.  I was not real excited about another all-inclusive resort, but it was close enough to the actual city that I felt it would serve my needs to wander and Allen’s need to be pampered.  Win-win.  Allen also called our friend Nana in New York to tell her about our change of plans.  Nana also had a trip cancellation for the same time period and so she tried to make plans to be with us in Mexico.  As it turned out, she got ill not long before our departure and given her age and the spreading coronavirus, she went with her doctor’s advice to cancel, so she did.  It would just be me and Allen this year, for the first time in several years.

The whole week prior to our departure, I had had some problems at work with a program that allowed city employees to file their financial disclosure forms on-line.  The tech people of the city had made changes to the program that standardized how employees accessed the program.  Of course, there were glitches, and I had spent the entire week on the phone with the technical people trying to get them fixed.  It also meant a lot of angry emails and phone calls from employees who could not get into the program or for whom it was not working.  We were leaving on Friday, and it was not until mid-day Thursday that I felt confident we had overcome the problems and I could leave the city without major concerns about my job.  It had been tempting all week to simply call it off.

When I got home that Thursday evening, things got busy on the home front.  We walked the dogs and then I piled them into the truck to drive across town (at rush hour) to where they would board for the week.  Monkee recognized the place and we no sooner walked in the door than she wanted to head through the gate and into the back area where they have the beds, toys and other dogs.  She seemed happy to be there.  They always seem to have a good experience and will often resist coming home when I go to pick them up.

Back home, I had to put our mail on hold (that process has become a little more complicated than in the past), answer some wedding-related emails and then, finally, begin the process of packing.  I was using one of our carry-on bags with wheels and such, Allen for some reason known only to him, decided to pack his in a carry-on duffle – without wheels.  A decision that he would late puzzle about and come to regret (or I would, as it was left to me to pile his bag atop mine and wheel them both).  That done, I had to find and program the timers for our lights and help empty the fridge of anything that might spoil while we were away.  Our flight was at 7:50 the next morning, so the alarm would go off at 4:00 and so I was in bed early.

Our drive to the airport also marked Allen’s annual befuddlement at the fact that there were actually people out and about before sunrise.  It strikes him every year.  With so little traffic on the road, we managed to leave the house, park in the remote sections and get through security in only 65 minutes.  A record for us.  Then it was hurry up and wait.

The flight was flawless.  It took off on time, it arrived on time and all was well.  With all the Corona virus concerns we really expected to see more masks and gloves on people, but there were only 3 people on our flight wearing them.  Including the two people who were in our middle seats (we were in aisle seats right across from each other).  And, to be safe, Allen had prepared a baggie filled with paper towels soaked in Lysol cleaner with which we wiped down our seats and trays – how he got them through security is beyond me.

Who hasn’t heard of Cancun?  I had always heard about it over and over and over again, making me decide not to visit it during college or any other time.  It always sounded too crowded to me.  But, this was a last minute decision, a place neither of us had been and it fit our budget – Cancun it was.  Part of what is called the Maya Riviera, on the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Though the Maya people had lived in the area for centuries, when development of the area as a resort began in 1970, there were only 3 people living on Isla Cancun.  The city began as a tourism project by Mexico in the 70’s and was well known as a Spring Break “must” by the time I got to college.  And, apparently, it remains one.

Once we landed, it took about an hour to get through customs and passport control.  There were a lot of people.  Normally we take our vacation in February, sometime after Valentine Day and before Spring Break.  However, since these dates were not under our control, we ended up travelling with a lot of spring breakers.  At least it meant a whole lot more eye candy on the beach.

Passing through the luggage area, seeking to locate our van to the hotel, we had to make our way through an army of tour guides, wanting to sell us discounted tours of the various sites and activities in and around Cancun.  We were not interested, but I made the mistake of asking one of them where the vans to the hotels were located.  He directed us to his podium and launched into a sales talk about half price tours to the Mayan site of Chichen Itza and other excursions.  We had to say it several times, but then he seemed to get the point, we were not interested, we just wanted to get to our van.  Finally, he pointed the way and swooped in on other people equally as lost as we were.

Our hotel was located in the Hotel District of Cancun.  We traveled down a road which went down the center of a peninsula that paralleled the city itself, with the Nichupte Lagoon separating us from the main part of the city to one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other.  It is a 4 lane highway with coconut trees growing on the center meridian all the way.  The route took us past hotel after hotel after resort after resort, most of them located on the Caribbean side of the peninsula.

The trip was not long and as we got out of the van we were greeted by hotel staff welcoming us, taking our bags serving us a welcome drink and a fresh warm towel.  We were staying at the Omni Hotel and Resort.  We arrived before 2:00 and were told our room would not be ready until 3, so we had an hour to kill.  We were soon approached by a smiling, tall gentleman who introduced himself and asked if we wanted a tour of the hotel.  We thought that would be good.  Instead of leading us through the hotel, he took us to a table in the lobby, pulled out a map of the hotel and began schooling us on the location of the different amenities and restaurants.  He informed us which restaurants required reservations, had dress codes and the location of the various bars scattered throughout the place.  Having gone through that, he then began to give us the sales pitch.  He thought it would be a good idea for us to join the Omni club where we would be entitled to stay at any of their hotels throughout the world, access to special accommodations and the use of their exclusive club rooms.  It began to sound like a time-share offer, which he adamantly denied. 

We were told that if we sat through a 90-minute presentation, whether or not we bought into it, we would be given a free excursion to Chichen Itza as well as a special breakfast.  We cut him off after a bit and told him we really needed to find something to eat, but we would talk about it and let him know later.  He promised he would be around, that we could always find him in the lobby – and as we discovered, he kept his word and throughout our stay there he could always be found in the lobby, smiling and waving at us and asking if we would like to join that presentation.  He was so “present” that we found ourselves trying to avoid his notice when passing through the lobby.

We ate a light lunch at the buffet and then it was time to take possession of our room.  We were escorted to our room by a bellhop who proceeded to instruct us on the wonders or our room.  A bed, a dresser with a TV atop it, two closets, a mini-fridge and a coffee machine as well as two chairs a small table and 2 bed stands.  He made a point of showing us the view from our balcony where we could look up the peninsula and the waters on both side and the city itself in the background.  Finally, I tipped him and that shut him up and left us alone.  It was a nice room, but nothing a normal hotel room wouldn’t have.  We were not there for the room, we were there for the warmth, sunshine and the view.

After getting out of our Chicago appropriate clothing and into shorts and flip-flops, we headed down to take a live tour of the place to supplement our paper tour earlier.  The Omni is a good-sized hotel built into a slope and its ground are tiered, like a staircase until it gets to the beach level.  The slope is great enough that the lobby level is the 13th floor and the elevator starts with the 14th floor.  The main pool is right outside the lobby and there are a couple of other smaller ones on different tiers, a swim-up bar and a jacuzzi.  Several restaurants presenting different cuisines and a lovely, white sand beach fronting a gloriously multi-hued Caribbean Sea.  The beach drops off rather quickly when walking into the water, but the water was warm and the waves strong enough that you feel you’ve had a good massage when getting back to land. 

We found the workout room, the spa and the small stores that are part of the hotel.  We then walked down the hill to street level and decided to walk along the street for a bit.  Allen eventually had to turn around as his flip flops were not the best walking shoes, and I continued on.  I had noted what seemed a public beach on our drive to the hotel and it seemed only 20 or 30 minutes away, so I wanted to see it.  I was mainly intrigued by the large letters spelling CANCUN at the top of the beach.  I walked over there and found the sign, and what looked like a line of tourists from a couple of buses who were lined up in order to have their pictures taken by family members or friends while they stood behind the sign.  I avoided the line and just took a picture of random tourists standing behind it.

That evening we found ourselves, as we often do when away, in the main bar of the hotel.  We were rather surprised to discover that all the pool bars closed down at 6PM.  What with all the spring breakers and such, it seemed really bad business.  However, we were to learn in the days to come that there are some major entertainment centers a short bus ride away.  I am sure that is where all the younger, more active people were.

We sat across from a table of about 8 or 9 mature women that we were sure were lesbians and a couple of gay men as well.  Having not really been in Mexico in a number of years, this openness was quite the contrast from the Mexico I used to know when I would be warned that being too open could land a person in jail.  I guess the world is growing up.  One young man (in his 20’s) kept circulating through the bar like a politician at election time.  Circulating from table to table, saying hello, making friendly remarks each time he passed.  He was to be a constant presence throughout the week, especially among the young ladies – never being with the same one two nights in a row.  We would refer to him as the “mayor” for the rest of the week.

The buffet that night had been moved to the entertainment area.  Unfortunately we got there late and only managed to catch the last act or so.  We never did catch any of the shows that were put on each night at 8PM.  We always managed to be doing something else.  But from what we heard they were the same high school quality shows that we had seen at other resorts, so we never felt like we really missed out.

I needed to do some moving – and so I left Allen at the bar and did a ½ hour walk or so, just to get the blood moving.  Allen was feeling a bit beat up and so he was going to bed.  Returning from my walk, he was not in the room.

It seems he had been engaged by the mayor and discovered that they were both born in the same hospital in Tulsa, OK.  The kid also had some connection to Neosho, MO where Allen has family as well.  It is odd, but it seems everywhere he goes, Allen discovers these outlandish connections with people from the smallest of towns, it is always kind of surprising.

Anyway, the mayor and a crowd of other young people were trying to convince Allen to join them at the hotel disco.  He wanted Allen to help him get two of the girls from the group to join him for a menage a trois.  Allen begged off and instead joined me in the room for some sleep.  A nice first day.


I was up way before sunrise, sometime around 5:30 or so to go sit oceanside and watch the sunrise.  Despite the hour, the staff were a busy lot, cleaning pools, arranging seats, trollies of food and drinks being rolled to the various restaurants and food bars.  Not many of the young people were up at that hour, but there was a smattering of us older people wandering about.
I spent some time on the treadmill in their small workout room, sat and watched the sun come out and did my daily journaling. I returned to the room to grab a Coke-Light, but did not have my room key.  Had to wake Allen up, but my key was not in the room either.  I did eventually find it in the cup holder of the treadmill I had been using.

During this search for my key, I ran into the friendly Omni Club salesman who wanted to know where Allen was and were we going to join them for the morning informational session.  I told him I would have to wait until Allen woke up and then decide.  When Allen came down for breakfast, the guy caught us together and tried to get us to listen to his spiel.  Allen asked a few questions and soon realized what I had sort of thought in the first place – it was indeed like a time-share.  And though he continued to deny it, we told him we would not be interested. 

I passed the breakfast buffet on the way back to our room and overheard a woman giving one of the restaurant servers an earful – loudly asking “Where’s the bacon, I want bacon!  I can’t have breakfast without bacon!”  Rather rude.  I later found out that although they do not put it out, they will cook you some bacon if you would like some.  I do hope they did not tell that loud, rude woman that.

After breakfast, we made our way to the Costco travel agent to inquire about excursions.  We sat with one of the salesmen and went over what was available, what was popular, and what was the most bang for our bucks.  There was only one thing I knew beforehand I wanted to see - the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.  I had also heard some buzz about Isla Mujeres and inquired about that as well.  Among the many excursions they offered, nothing involved monkeys – for Allen’s sake, I had to ask about monkeys.  And, sure enough, the man pulls out a brochure for an animal refuge where visitors could mingle with the monkeys.  Sold!  We signed on for the full day trip to Chichen Itza the next day, a half day at Isla Mujeres on Tuesday and Wednesday  would take us for a day trip to the animal refuge.  We paid our money, got our tickets and headed back to the hotel.

Fortunately, for getting into the city itself as well as the entertainment districts, the city buses ran all along the major road and only cost a dollar.  We spoke with the concierge of the hotel and got a map and directions to Mercado 28, supposedly the largest market in Cancun.  The bus ride was not bad, nor all that long and let us off right in front of a large store, selling lots of tourist stuff called Market 28 (not, and this is important, Mercado 28).  This was not the market I was expecting, more  a large gift shop.  We wandered through it and then continued walking down the street as we passed Plaza 28, 28 Market, Mercado 2-8, etc. 

Passing by one of the deceptively named stores a young man stopped us and asked us to see his store.  We said we would on our way back and he replied “that’s what everyone says – but no one does.”  He then led us further down the street to show us the actual Mercado 28.  Not only that, he insisted on leading us to his uncle’s jewelry shop.  As we walked down the aisles of the market toward the jewelry shop several booth operators shouted out warnings that we needed to “watch our zippers” bringing an embarrassed smile to our guides’ face.

The jewelry shop was nice, and they had some beautiful pieces, but outside of being very intrigued by a stone that seemed to change color with changing light, there was nothing that we would wear.  Leaving that shop, we then made our up and down the aisles and booths of the market.  Of course, as in many of these markets, the salesmen are rather aggressive, can be a bit pushy and it is like running the gauntlet of hands inviting us to “come see my store”.  They would ask if we were interested in tequila, cigars or marijuana – no, no and no.

I had heard about the great deals on leather goods at this market and so we found our way to those particular booths.  I was looking for a fanny pack of sorts.  I had failed to bring mine with me and always find them helpful.  We wandered through a number of booths, but I did not see THE one that spoke to me.  They were in various leathers and styles, sizes and number of pockets.  I finally found one I liked – made of brown lamb skin.  The proprietor offered it to me for $75.  I thought it was too much.  We haggled a bit and I got him down to $48.  He wanted cash.  I did not have that much on me.  I took out all the cash I had, gave $2 to Allen so that we would have bus fare back to the hotel and that left me with $42.  He took it and I took the bag.

Typically, when we go on these annual vacations, the only must-buys are a cap for me, a magnet for the fridge and ideas about what sort of indigenous mask we might order on line.  Lately we have been seeking out magnets that have moveable parts (i.e. a butterfly that has flapping wings when jarred).  Telling the shop owners that we were looking for a magnet that moves tended to cut them short when they tried to get us into their shops.  Very few had anything of the sort.  This seemed to cut down on the aggressive sales talk. 

After an hour or so, the aggressive sales tactics were really starting to grate on Allen’s nerves and so we headed back to our bus stop.  We stopped in a few of the “faux” Mercado 28’s along the way, including the shop of the young man who said no one ever returns.  He seemed surprised that we came back, and disappointed that all we were looking for was a magnet with movement.

The day had started our pretty gray and breezy, but by the time we got back to the hotel the sun had made a grand appearance and so we headed to the beach.  We laid under some palm trees so as not to get full sun and sun-burned.  After several hours of sunning, and a long walk on the beach we moved to pool-side for more sun and laying around.  The walk was really nice, the beach was beautiful, the water moderate and the sand was soft enough that walking through it against the wind made for some real exercise.  I also stopped in at the hotel beach supply store where I found my Cancun ball-cap.  One of the three necessary purchases made.

We’d been puzzling over the lack of spring breakers, there just did not seem to be as many as we thought there would be.  However, as the afternoon rolled along, the kids started rolling in.  Once we thought about it, it made sense.  Finals would have happened on Friday and today would be the day of travel for most of them.  They were arriving, the beach and pool were slowly filling with virile young men and women looking for their attention.

As we laid out poolside, 3 sorority sisters came and sat near us – loud and foul mouthed and typical of kids set free with lots of free booze, they were already a bit looped.  Allen engaged them and warned them of the “mayor” who was making his way through the girls of the resort.  Right on cue, he passed by with yet another new girl on his arm.

With the influx of younger people, the bar was much louder than the previous night.  We ate that night at the beachside restaurant, one that changes its menus nightly.  That night it was Mexican food with an appetizer bar and we had fajitas for our main course.  After dinner, we returned to the bar which was now MUCH louder.

Allen struck up a conversation with a couple and their small daughters.  They were a Palestinian couple and the talk soon turned to politics and Lebanon.  I couldn’t hear much of it, given the noise, and simply nodded and smiled a lot.  We finally called it a night and went to bed, as we had to be at the pick-up point for our trip to Chichen Itza the next morning.


Chichen Itza – A large pre-Columbian city built by the Mayans.  Located in the present-day state of Yucatan.  It was one of the largest Mayan cities and seems to have had one of the most diverse populations in the Mayan world.  This diversity we were told, is one reason for the variety of architectural styles found at the site.  The site, with its pyramids, ball court, market place, observatory temple and other buildings was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.  It is a UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the most visited sites for the  Equinoxes when the play of light and shadow on the Temple of Kulkulcan gives the illusion of the feathered serpent god crawling down the side of the pyramid.

It was my only must-see for this trip and Allen indulged me.  The man who sold us the trip assured us that it was a 2.5-hour drive from our hotel and that we would be back by 6:00 that evening.  He also sold us on the bus upgrade.  Our bus would have WI-FI, serve snacks and drinks and have more leg room.  It was a minimal charge for the extras – so we took it.  It was going to be a long day, but not unbearable.

We were at the pick up point at 7:15 that morning.  There were a half-dozen others there as well, including some of the older lesbians we had noted the first night.  We got to talking with one couple from New York – Mike and Cynthia.  She was a hoot.  She talked of wanting to swim with the dolphins, but was afraid of touching them.  She loved being out of doors, but did not like birds, they kind of freaked her out.  Hilarious.  A shuttle bus picked us all up on time and took us to the regular buses where our crew was split up.  We were on the Deluxe bus, they were not.

The bus was as comfortable as a bus can be, though there were a lot of stops to pick up other people at other hotels and meeting points.  The landscape is really flat.  We traveled on a toll road that was cut through the trees.  It was like traveling down a hall way, the trees thick on either side of the road, occasional breaks in the trees allowing views of the trees behind them and the very flat landscape, no rises, no dips, simply more of the same.

Our tour leaders were good, offering a lot of interesting information about what was around us, though I have to admit I kept nodding in and out of consciousness.  We made a toilet stop, a large gas station – tourist shop – restaurant.  The bathrooms were at the far end of the complex, forcing us to walk through the gift shop filled with wall hangings, ceramics, tequila and other things that were quickly becoming the normal offerings.  Finally, about 3.5 hours after leaving the hotel, we arrived at Chichen Itza (it seems the promised 2 hour tip was timed from the last pick up on the way). 

The day was clear and sunny, quite warm actually, and the sights were amazing.  The Temple of Kukulcan seems to be the centerpiece of the site, and is the pyramid most often shown in pictures of the site.  It is a step pyramid that is about 100 feet tall.  It is made up of a series of nine square terraces, each about 8.5 feet high with a 20 foot high temple at the top.  Each face of the structure have stairways to the top, though they no longer allow people to climb any of the structures ( I guess a tourist fell off the pyramid and died a few years back – thus ending public access).  At the base of the pyramid, at each corner, are carved heads of a serpent (Kukuclan was a feathered serpent diety of the Mayans). 

Our guide had us, as a group clap our hands in front of the pyramid.  There was a definite echo to the claps.  We were told the echo of the clap is identical to the cry of the quetzal bird, believed to be the messenger of the gods.

The Great Ball Court is the largest and best preserved of the 13 ball courts in Chichen Itza.  The playing area is about 550 x 231 feet, with two stone “hoops” projecting from either wall about half way down the field.  The playing area is flanked by parallel platforms and at their bases are slanted benches with sculpted with players, including one who has been decapitated, blood in the form of serpents spewing from his neck.  The ball courts seemed to have been about more than a game… perhaps a game that was also a religious ritual.  At either end of the court are temples, a small one fairly well preserved and a larger one that is pretty much in ruins.  On the eastern wall is the Temple of the Jaguars, there is an upper and lower temple.  The upper temple overlooks the ball court, the lower temple opens behind the ball court and houses a jaguar throne.  There is much carving and murals throughout, but much of them are worn or in ruins.

It was this ball court that first intrigued me about Chichen Itza long ago in grade school.  I remember clearly that our history book had an illustration of the ball court in its glory day, showing the natives playing the game, running around the court and trying to throw the ball through the hoops on the side.  There was something about that picture (one I can still see in my memory) that was so intriguing.  I think it was because the half-naked players were so very hot.  It was funny, but being on that court brought back a flood of those memories and my infatuation with the site.  Not quite a fantasy fulfilled as there were no sweaty, half-naked, bronzed Indians running around, but I saw them in my mind’s eye.

Near the ballcourt is the Platform of the skulls a tall square structure made up of stones on which are carved a variety of skulls, seemingly impaled.  The Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars is to the east of the ball court whose sides are decorated with – wait for it – eagles and jaguars – eating human hearts.

At the other end of the site is the Temple of the Warriors, it is a complex consisting of a large stepped pyramid fronted and flanked by rows of carved columns depicting warriors.  At the top of the pyramid is the Temple of Chac Mool (the typical Mayan reclining figure, head turned 90 degrees with a bowl or plate on his stomach – maybe representing a warrior).

Along the wall of the Temple of the Warriors are a series of columns which, when the city was alive, would have supported an extensive roof system.  Some of the columns are carved, others are plain.  It is speculated that this would have been an extensive market area and it made me wonder if the ancient Mayans were as aggressive as their modern counterparts in hawking their wares.

There were many other buildings as well.  What may have been an early attempt at an observatory referred to as The Snail because it is a round building (very unusual for the Mayans) atop a large square platform.  Another step pyramid called the Osario, at the top of which is an opening into the pyramid and then into a natural cave 40 feet below.

After giving us the tour, we were left to wander on our own, visit some of the touist shops, revisit some of the structures and see others that we were not taken to.  It is a fascinating place, way too big and interesting for just an hour or 3.  Of course, there were the souvenir kiosks.  One thing that intrigued both Allen and I was a ceramic kind of whistle.  It was in the shape of a jaguar head and when properly blown into sounded like a big cat.  Not there, but later, at another souvenir shop, Allen would in fact buy one.  He said it was to antagonize our little dog Monkee.  I liked his thinking.

After our touring of the site, we headed back to the bus where we would be taken back to the souvenir shop we stopped at for the earlier bathroom break.  This time we were there to eat.  Again, we made our way through the maze of a souvenir store and took our places at long tables set up in their restaurant area.  It was a buffet affair, offering both very typical Mexican food as well as pizza and pastas.  The food was good and we were entertained by a trio of ladies singing traditional Mexican songs.  Ours was not the only bus load there, and we caught up with Cynthia and Mike whose bus had also made the stop.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves as well.

While at the restaurant, we were encouraged to change into our swimming attire at the restaurant because we were next heading to the Cenote Ilk Kil.  A cenote is a sacred well.  The cenote is open to the sky with the water level about 85 feet below.  There are vines that reach from the opening all the way down to the water along with small waterfalls.  To get to the water below we walked a carved stairway that led to a couple of swimming platforms.  The well is about 200 feet in diameter and the water is about 165 feet deep.  Although I had changed, I was not so sure I was going to actually go in.  But, asking myself when I would get this opportunity again, I made my way down with dozens of others and took the plunge.

The water was cold and refreshing with no sloping “shores”, it simply plunged down 165 feet.  There were those doing some swimming, others jumping in and getting out to do it again.  There were several levels of jumping platforms.  I chose to remain on the not-very-high one.  After floating around a bit, thinking I spied one of the black catfish that inhabit the water, enjoying the sunlight shining down from the whole above and making the vines glisten.  I headed back up.  We found out later that this was the sight of Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series for a number of years.  This was also a problem for the place, because plenty of people attempted to jump from the top of the well, some 85 feet above the water.  Signs warned us against it and the severe penalties involved if we tried.  I did not try.  Allen did not go in, but carried my stuff around as I took the dive.

After an hour or so, we were back on the bus and it was getting late, made even later by the fact that one couple did not keep to the schedule and we spent about 20 minutes waiting for them – despite the fact that we were clearly warned that the bus would leave without any stragglers.  It did not.  I made mention of that fact on the evaluation sheets handed us as we started back to Cancun.  Also wrote about the fact that we were told we’d be back by 6, but there was no way that was going to happen.

The guide must have read my comments.  He came back to where we were seated and said he noticed we did not drink the free beers or tequilas that they were passing out (neither of us are day drinkers).  It was an odd conversation, and he made no other comments after that.  Both Allen and I were puzzled about it.  We were also put off by the fact that the bus was going to make the many different stops it was going to take to drop everyone off, making us later and later (we had an 8:30 appointment at the Italian restaurant).  Allen gets a little more than “put off” when these things happen, and he was steaming.  However, after reading our evaluation and making a few phone calls, the bus made a stop and a number of us were put on a shuttle bus that made much faster time and got us back to the hotel just about 8:00.  That left us time to shower, shave and get dressed for dinner.  It was in the shifting to the shuttle bus that I received my first and only mosquito bite of the trip. Allen too.  It was as though they were waiting for us.

After a few drinks to calm down with, we had a very pleasant meal and were attended to by a very good and attentive staff.  After dinner, we changed back to shorts and hit the bar where we caught up with Cynthia and Michael.  We told them about what a good meal we had had, and they seemed interested, so I made reservations for the Tuesday night for the 4 of us.  We sat and chatted with them until almost midnight before heading to our rooms.


I was up late this morning.  I slept until 7 AM, something I hardly ever do.  At the gym, I ran into a gentleman that I had seen a number of times, maybe because he was housed on the same floor we were.  He and his wife are from Kansas City, KS.  We are regulars at the work out room and he is retired from something to do with the medical field.  We referred to him as Dr. Mike to distinguish him from the Mike from NY.  He was a very pleasant guy, and opened my eyes to the fact that despite the heat and sunshine, there seemed to be no place in the complex to get ice cream.  I hadn’t thought about it before, but spent the rest of the week paying attention and affirming the truth of his observations.

We had nothing planned for the day.  Allen slept in and I went to the tour people again and cancelled the monkey trip we had arranged with them on Saturday.  I explained that we had been misled about the travel times to the pyramids and that we did not want to take our chances with any of their other trips that involved a long bus drive.  They were a bit defensive, but made the refunds without too much fuss.  We kept the Isla Mujeres tour though

After he got up and going, we were going to walk over to the Maya Museum which was right next to our hotel.  But as we were heading over there, the cab drivers who were constantly parked in front of the hotel informed us that it was closed on Mondays.  So, instead, we hopped a bus and went to La Isla shopping center.  It was basically a large shopping mall.  Though there were the usual souvenir shops, it also boasted the clothing and department stores found in any mall.  They also have a full aquarium there, offering opportunities to interact with the dolphins, but we passed up on it.  Wandering through the shops, we did eventually find our moving magnet, so our shopping list was now complete.

After seeing what we could at La Isla, we then walked the mile or so in the direction of our hotel to explore the Kluklakan mall.  From the outside, it boasted of rather high-end stores.  It was either a relatively new or failing mall as many of the spaces were unoccupied.  We happened to run into Cynthia and Michael there, we waved, they waved and we continued on our separate ways.

After exploring the mall and taking some pictures in front of a restaurant with statues in front for this very purpose, we decided to head back to the hotel.  I asked Allen if he wanted to take the bus or walk?  He said we could walk until we got tired and then jump on the bus.  It was a very warm day, pretty much cloud free and the sidewalks all along the way made the walking easy and so we proceeded on foot.  Passing many of the other hotels and resorts that lined the area.  I was not wearing my hat,  and after a good 15 minutes or so, Allen started pointing out that my head was going to burn.  I think he was just getting tired of the walking, but he would not say “let’s get the bus”, so we continued.  The entire walk was only a little over half an hour.  When we got back, he needed to lay down a bit and cool down.

After recuperating, we returned to the beach, laid out a while and then had a very light lunch (we were going to the Brazilian-style steak house that night).  After lunch we moved poolside and laid out in the sun, watched the boys and read.   There were a lot of very pink and red bodies walking around.  It seemed a lot of these young people were 1) not used to the sun and 2) were not big fans of sun block.  Allen, always the medical man, was prescribing the use of vinegar to prevent peeling and help the pain. 

After the pool, I walked over to the convenience store next to the hotel (Coke Light – only $1.00 – Yes!).  It was about the time for shift change for the hotel staff.  There was small guard booth at the end of the drive way with an attendant who raised the gates to let cars or buses in.  But this evening I watched as employees lined up in front of the door of the booth and their bags searched and bodies “wanded” as they left.  I guess they take employee theft seriously.  I could understand it to a degree, but it still felt somewhat wrong.

 I had been dealing with some allergy issues and had not brought my pills.  Allen had me take a Benadryl before heading to dinner, thinking that might help.  The dinner was good – lots of meat – just the way I liked it.  Not as elaborate as the big Brazilian steak house, but the variety was good enough, the sides were well prepared and plentiful and the wine was flowing.  A really nice evening.  After dinner, we returned to the bar and sat in the lounge area.  Eventually we sparked up a conversation with another couple but the combination of Benadryl and alcohol had me drifting in and out of the conversation.  Eventually, I just gave up and went to bed. 


I slept well and woke up feeling pretty good and was on the Treadmill by 6 AM.  Dr. Mike was not there that morning.  We were supposed to have gone on a boat tour of Isla Mujeres, but Allen was begging off.  We decided he was sick and so would not be able to go.  So, I showed up at the meeting site at the time we were supposed to be picked up to let the driver know.  The driver really seemed to appreciate that I came to tell him personally instead of just not showing up.

After he got up and breakfasted, Allen joined me and we headed over to the Maya Museum next door to the hotel.  It apparently houses one of the Yucatan’s most important collections of Maya artifacts.  It is a modern white building with large windows  The ticket booth is located on the ground floor as well as a cafeteria and gardens with paths leading to the archaeological site of San Miguelito which is about 20 acres large.

The exhibition halls are located on the second floor.  There are 3 exhibition halls, two of which are permanent, the third is for temporary exhibits – there were no temporary exhibits while we were there.  The museum’s complete collection contains over 3500 pieces, but only about 400 were currently on display.  They range from sculptures to ceramics and jewelry, many coming from Chichen Itza.

Unfortunately, the signage next to each item was in Spanish and though I could make out much of what they were talking about, I really wanted an English guide book of some sort to help me out.  There were also larger signs that put the things in context, these were bi-lingual, so we were not totally in the dark of what we were seeing.  Also, they had 2 videos that also helped us understand the exhibits and their significance. 

It was there I learned that like the highway we took to get to the pyramids on Sunday, the Mayans would also cut very straight paths or roads through the jungles and then put crushed white limestone on them, so that under the moon-light they seemed to glow.

After the museum exhibits, we made our way to the archaeological site.  It was a Mayan village at one time and included its own, small (comparatively) pyramid (26 feet high).  We had not seen a whole lot of wildlife thus far, but the site was busy with iguanas who showed no fear of the humans walking in their midst.

We walked the meandering paths through this green oasis to the various ancient structures right in the middle of the Hotel Zone.  The Mayans lived here about 800 years ago and there were about 40 different structures.  There were some interesting carvings as well as ancient homes to see.  It seems to be an active site, excavations still going on.

From the exhibits in the museum, I was under the impression that another important site, Tulum, was not too far away.  I based that on the buses and the tour book map.  It looked to me that I could take the bus to Tulum and that it was a relatively short trip.  I was to be proven wrong.  I suggested we take that bus ride to Allen, but he said he really was not feeling real good, so he told me to go alone.  Man, if we would have hopped that bus at that time, I would have been way deep in the dog-house.

I walked him back to the hotel and then, just to make sure, I asked the ever-helpful concierge about it.  He straightened me out.  I thought the map in the book was showing the highway in front of our hotel.  He helped me to understand it was not.  I would have to take the bus to the city and then catch a ride on the Tulum Road (a major thoroughfare in the city). 

Well, I had nothing better to do, so I grabbed a bus and paid attention.  I watched as we passed Tulum Rd and got off at the next stop – right in front of Market 28.  I back tracked to Tulum Road, and walking up and down it for a ways, but was not able to locate a bus stop.  I decided to go back.  Instead of getting off at the hotel though, I headed to what was marked on the map (the proper map) as Dolphin Beach.   This was the beach with the big sign that I walked to earlier in the week.  Only this time, I actually went to the beach – not just the sign.

It is a beautiful public beach and a turtle reserve.  The locals were abundant and I sat and watched them for a while before making the 20 minute walk back to the hotel where I joined Allen on the beach.  I walked through the surf a bit, getting into the water and letting the waves batter me about.  It was a lot of fun, and eventually I found myself with Mike and Cynthia.  Mike was being battered about in the water as was I, Cynthia decided to just watch.  When we threatened to pull her in, she just pointed out a number of sand piles she had made with her plastic cup.  It was a clear warning that she was armed.  However, she did want to go para-sailing, Michael, like Allen, did not.  We thought maybe we would go without the husbands before the week ends.

That night we ate at the Italian restaurant again, with Michael and Cynthia joining us.  We talked about para-sailing and our trip to Isla Mujeres the next day.  I was sure I had seen a boat launch area not too far from the hotel, and the sign spoke of ferrys to the Isla.  The plan was that we would take the ferry to the Isla and walk around to see whatever there was to see.  I had overheard a number of people talking about it, so I was sure it would be worth it.  After dinner we gathered in the lounge for cocktails, but I was having a lot of trouble staying awake, so I went to bed.


I woke with a start at 5:00.  It hit me that the ferry service I was thinking about was on the lagoon side of the peninsula, not the ocean side.  Whatever ferry service they might offer was bound to be a commercial venture and so more expensive than we wanted.  This trip had to be re-thought.  I immediately got on-line to check into this.  There are public, state operated ferries and they have run on a regular schedule, and they are just a few bucks to ride.  I confirmed all this with the concierge.  He gave me directions and told me which stop to get off on the route.  Okay, back in business.

We met up with Michael and Cynthia at 9 for breakfast.  I explained the situation and they were very cool about it all.  So, we ate and then headed out.  We told our bus driver that we wanted to get off at Playa Linda.  After a relatively short ride, about half way to the city, our driver told us to get off.  We did.

Walking toward the beach we saw some large boats (could have been a ferry).  There was also some people at a booth of sorts willing to sell us round trip tickets.  The tickets would be $21 each, as expected, but then they told us that there was also a $9 each port fee.  No, that did not sound right.  These turned out to be a commercial venture running a private ferry of sorts.  We told them the port fee was not correct, and they simply dared us to find something without the fee.  One gentleman, not part of the crew at the kiosk, pointed us further up the road, he said it was about 6 blocks to find the state-run ferry.

We started the walk, Allen being a little upset about it all, until we saw a sign for Playa Linda ahead, in the direction we were going.  That calmed him down a bit – it was the bus driver who was wrong, not our information.  I wonder what percentage the driver gets from these people.

After a not unpleasant walk of about 15-20 minutes we were at Playa Linda and the Embarcadero.  It was easy to find the state-run ferry, purchase our tickets and within minutes we were off.  Before allowing us to board though, we had to stop at old-time ship’s steering wheel and have our picture taken.  We were on the observation deck of the boat, Allen and Michael choosing seats toward the rear, me and Cynthia more toward the front.

As we were traveling, a guy came to sell us a golf cart rental once we made shore.  Cynthia looked back to see Allen vehemently shaking his head, so we declined to rent.  Later, the photographer from the dock came round, showing us the photograph that was taken and encouraging us to buy one, in a fancy cardboard frame.  We sent them to Allen and Mike, claiming they held all the money.  Needless to say, the photo remained unsold.

Isla Mujeres is an island where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet.  It is about 4.5 miles long and about 2100 feet wide.  For the Mayans it was an island sacred to the goddess of childbirth and medicine.  The island also produced a lot of salt in the small interior lagoons – a major form of currency at the time.  Pirates made use of the island in the 1800’s, the shallow lagoon on the mainland side of the island was a good place to wait out storms.

There are many hotels and resorts on the island.  It is located to many coral reefs and so is a popular place for snorkeling and scuba diving.  The Cancun Underwater Museum is located off the western coast.  The island is also home to a sea turtle sanctuary and is supposedly one of the best places in the world to catch sailfish.  It’s proximity to Cuba also makes it one of the favorite stepping stones for those Cubans seeking to reach the U.S.

Well, we were not there for the boating, snorkeling or fishing.  We were there to wander around.  And so were hundreds of others, apparently.  The dock was packed, the souvenir stores next door and all along the street were packed.  The beach was packed.  I guess National Geographic had named the North Beach to be among the most beautiful in the world, but you couldn’t see much of the beach itself, as it was quite crowded with a sea of umbrellas and lawn chairs as far as the eye could see.

It’s a very busy place.  Golf carts and mopeds were the main vehicles on the roads, as well as taxis.  It was like a never ending parade of golf carts on the main street and a number of side streets as well – and not everyone was a careful driver.  It seemed every 5 minutes we witnessed one near miss after another.  I think it was probably due to the fact that so many of them were rentals and the drivers were none too experienced.

The dock is pretty close to the northern end of the island and its famous North Beach, crowded with hotels and resorts.  It is also the heart of its downtown area.  Restaurant after restaurant, souvenir store after souvenir store, and lots of artist shops as well.  It was a very busy place.  The clouds were minimal, the breeze was too, and it was hot.

We followed some signage to what was billed as the Artisan Market – it ended up being another Mercado where Allen, feeling the heat, purchased a wide brimmed panama type hat.  It gave him the shade he needed.  Michael and Cynthia bought some colorful blankets and t-shirts as well as some other small things.  Michael was very interested in the jewelry, but I can’t recall if he bought any.  We attacked this business area as a grid, walking up one street, taking a side street to the next one and then down that street, etc.  It was like an etch-a-sketch.  The sidewalks were sometimes so filled with other gawkers that we were forced into the streets where we had to contend with the golf-carts.

There was a lot of fun stuff to see, we looked at masks and other art works.  We were just starting toward the south end of the island when Allen informed me that the three of them had had enough, were tired and hungry and so they would catch the 1:30 back to Cancun.  I wanted to continue exploring, and they had no problem leaving me to it, so went our separate ways.  I continued meandering my way through the town, the now closed airport (more a dirt landing strip these days) and got to the south end of the island where there were more hills, more homes, the colonias where the locals lived and more resorts.

I returned on the Caribbean side of the island which did not have much of a beach, but rather more rocks and what looked like former beach areas now decimated (from Hurrican Wilma in ’05?).  There was a walk way along most of the coast, that weaved with the coastline.  I was about 10 feet above the beach/water.  Finally, I made my way back to the ferry.  The next one to the Embarcadero was not going to leave for another hour and half, but the ticket attendant informed me that there was a departure, for another beach, in 20 minutes.  Having looked up the boarding spots earlier in the morning, I knew that this would work, and in fact was closer to the hotel than Playa Linda.

Playa Tortuga, the docking spot, was not as built up or nice as the Embarcadero, but there were the usual tourist shops and dive shops, boat excursions, etc.  I got to the highway and thought I was much closer to the La Isla shopping area than I actually was.  I started walking, thinking it would be half an hour at most before I got to the shopping area.  After 40 minutes or so, I realized I was wrong, so stopped at a bus stop (or at least that is what the signage led me to believe) but 2 buses passed me without stopping.  So, I continued walking.  It was a pleasant walk, nice wide path that meandered through green lawns and trees.  Finally, I found a bus stop where buses did stop.  Because I was not paying close attention, I ended up getting off the bus about 3 stops too soon and so had more walking to do.

Back at the hotel, I got into swim trunks and searched for Allen, finding him on the beach rather than poolside, despite it being the time when he normally went to the pool.  When we did finally move to the pool, the water was refreshing and cleaned off the sweat from my long day walking.

We had planned on eating at the buffet that night, which was being set up outside around the pool area for Maya night.  Before supper, of course, we made our way to the bar and our favorite hostess Linda.  As he often does when we are vacationing, Allen made friends with  the server he enjoyed the most, and he really seemed to enjoy Linda.  They are even Facebook friends now. 
The tables in the lounge were pretty much filled with people talking quietly, playing cards or simply staring outside in silence – it was all very pleasant.  Until a 30-ish year old woman who seemed to be trying to fit in with the college kids.  She was bringing shots of tequila to a table of girls, trying to be a “party animal” I guess and was shouting to them, trying  to sing very loudly and yelling out “Tequila” for all the room to hear.  She was standing at the bar, not too far from where we were sitting.  Lots of the people in the lounge were giving her the stink-eye and being disturbed by her.  She was starting up again, and I turned around and loudly SHUSHED her.

She stopped, she looked at me in disbelief and asked if I had just shushed her getting into my face.  All the eyes in the lounge were on us.  I told her “Yes, I did, you are being very obnoxious.”  She looked at me for a few seconds and then walked away and the quiet returned to the lounge.  A lot of people smiled at me, gave me a thumbs up and were simply happy somebody had said something.  In some other setting they may have applauded me.

Ten minutes later, the woman returned, sat on the floor in front of us and apologized and tried to explain herself – something to do with her brother hooking up with the wrong woman.  We both told her she couldn’t run her brothers’ life and certainly is no excuse for such annoying behavior.  We then excused ourselves to go eat.  Linda would later thank us for saying something. 

The meal was good – meat cooked in a variety of traditional ways, quesadillas and re-fried beans and any number of other side dishes.  A band was playing for a while and then there were traditional dancers.  It was all very pleasant.  We ate, we had a glass of wine and then returned to the bar where Michael and Cynthia joined us.  They had been to an evening cruise for a lobster dinner, they both agreed it was a very good experience.  We laughed, we talked and Cynthia and I made plans to meet at 10 the next morning to look into para-sailing.


We had nothing planned for our last full day in Cancun.  I got up, went to the workout room and then Allen and I got together for a 9 AM breakfast.  I was to meet Cynthia at 10 to discuss para-sailing, but she didn’t show up (only five days into a relationship and I was already being stood up).  Allen was not up for much, just wanted to stay at the hotel and be leisurely.  I decided that I wanted to go find downtown Cancun.

I hopped on the bus and took it past Mercado 28, planning to take it to the end of the line.  However, about 30 minutes later, and no end in sight, I got off.  I was in a residential area, far from souvenir shops.  There were a lot of houses in various stages of dis-repair, small mom & pop restaurants and little stores being operated from the front doors of some homes.  I walked around a bit, there were not really a whole lot of people and I am sure they were wondering what I was doing in the “hood. 

After a while, I caught a bus and got off in the area of Mercado 28 and began walking away from there – trying to stay on the one street, noting corners I turned and the buildings around me to help me on my return.

I ended up in a business district of sorts – lots of locals walking about, fast food joints, car repair shops, clothing stores, etc.  I was hoping I was heading to downtown, wherever that was.  I kept looking for tall office buildings or municipal type buildings.  However, I learned later that Cancun really does not have a lot of tall buildings, most municipal buildings are 4 stories at most, so looking skyward was not going to help.  But I did not know that at the time.

I eventually found myself on a very broad boulevard with small and large hotels.  Broad sidewalks on either side of the 6-lane thoroughfare line with flowering trees, planters and benches all along the way.  The wide, spacious walkway I was now on led me past a couple of tourist shops, a supermarket, travel stores, etc.  As I kept going, I soon discovered that I had made something of a loop and was back to the main road upon which the buses ran.  Once I located the WalMart where we catch the return buses, I felt free to wander more of the side streets.

I found a number of small parks, well maintained and quite pleasant.  Then passed through a much larger park and plaza that was dedicated to the city itself, statues of dolphins jumping at its center.  Nice, quiet looking restaurants, colorful buildings and homes.  It was a real contrast to the neighborhood I had been to earlier that day.

It turns out I was in the downtown area after all, and had been when I thought I was going to go to Tulum the other day.  Oh well, the things you learn about where you’ve been after leaving.  After about 5 hours of this wandering around, I headed back to the hotel.  Once there, I joined Allen on the beach and then the pool.  I did spend some time in the ocean again, the waves were not as violent as the other day but still gave a rather relaxing massage.  I spent a bit of that time watching brown pelicans diving into the water.  I was never sure if they had caught something or not, but it was fun to watch.

We were going back to the Brazilian restaurant for dinner and Michael and Cynthia were joining us.  We met them at the hotel bar where a too-loud trio were playing, they were good, just too loud.  People were dancing and the mood was one of celebration.  This was a first-time experience for them, so we helped them navigate the protocols.

Back at the lounge, the trio had disappeared and so the four of us sat and drank and talked some more.  I didn’t realize that each night, the restaurant we were just in is turned into a disco.  Michael and Cynthia were going to go dance.  I was going to go with them, but I stumbled into the place (maybe too much sun and too many wines?) and was bombarded with the way too loud music and darkness of the place – really dark.  I immediately turned around and went to my room and bed.


Our flight was not until the afternoon, they would transport us about 12:30 or so.  We woke up later than usual, I did the Treadmill as usual, returned to the room and we both packed up.  Putting on our warm Chicago-weather clothing – YUCK.  We then spent the rest of the morning saying goodbye to Cynthia and Michael, walking around the place one more time and reading, surfing the web on our phones and waiting.

We had been hearing about the coronavirus all through the week.  Seeing stores being emptied of food and toilet paper, deaths, cruise ships being not allowed to come to shore, etc.  Our entire time in Cancun, nothing of the sort was happening.  I think, at the time, there were only 100 cases in all of Mexico, and none in our part of the country.  Allen was a bit anxious after seeing all the news stories about flight stoppages and stuff like that.  I was not as concerned but we both, unbeknownst to the other, had checked on the driving time back to IL (50 hours).  As I pointed out to him, we only needed to get to the border and get an in-country flight.

We were picked up on time, but as we got to the airport, it seemed like a mile or two of line.  Our driver took another route that was way less crowded and got us to the airport.  All was well.  There was a panic moment when we were asked for our exit papers;  the ones given us when we entered the country.  Allen said that if we had them, I had them.  I luckily, had mine.  When he saw what it looked like, he was able to discover his own in his bag and we got through.
            They did not display our gate until just an hour before departure.  Was not too bad, we had been waiting in the general hour for all that time.  We boarded, we took off on time, and we had a 4-hour flight.  Actually, it was a bit shorter.  We were at the truck and home just in a bit over an hour after touching down… pretty damn good really.        

We got home, unpacked, and because we had no food in the house, I ran over to the grocery store.  It was then that I was hit with just how much of a real panic this virus thing was creating.  It was a little after 8 PM.  As I was getting out of the truck, a woman pushing a cart passed me by and told me “You don’t want to go in there – it’s madness”.  Once I got through the doors, I understood what she meant.  There were very little vegetables there, just lots of empty boxes of the food taken away.  The parking lot was full, the lines for checking out, on all registers – manned and self-serve extended half way down the aisles.  I had 6 items, and it took me about 20 minutes to check out in the self-serve line.  People were doing carts full of groceries and other things.  It was a madness. 

We found out that while we sailed through customs and such when we returned – because we were coming from Mexico.  That same night, the airports were packed with people coming from Europe and Asia who had to have their temperatures taken and we being exposed because of how they were packed in, to whatever diseases might have been floating about.  We were lucky.

And you know what has happened since.  We are under stay at home orders.  We are both working from home.  We stay out of crowds as much as possible, have learned how to make a mask when we do have to go out.  We make a point of taking at least an hour long walk every day.  Sickness and death is the only thing on the news and a President who keeps giving patently false and misleading information.  I trust we will get through this, but it is going to be painful.  Cancun now seems like an unreal experience- peaceful, placid, warm and filled with fun.  A real contrast to the reality we came back to.  We are grateful to have had that small sliver of warmth and leisure before we entered the apparent apocalypse.