Polar Vortex is so far removed from Tropical Breezes that it seems incongruous to use the two in the same sentence. But when you arrive back from vacation and are promptly greeted by a cold snap cold enough for Jack Frost to lose an appendage, you really begin to appreciate (even if you mildly did while away) just exactly where you were a few short hours ago.
This was going to be our 6th trip down to Mexico in about the last 10 yrs and is one of those places where you begin to feel like it is a second home, with the bartenders hollering the equivalent of ‘NORM!’ when they see you belly up to the beach bar. This year we were trying a new place though, the El Dorado Royale, recommended by our travel agent (and hubby’s cousin) saying that if we liked the Valentin Imperial Maya, then we’d love the El Dorado. So that is where we were headed.
The last few nights before we left we (ok, mainly me) were too excited to sleep. Clothing, books, lotions, bathing suits and sandals were strewn across the spare bedroom. Hauling the suitcases out of storage, I was grinning from ear to ear…non-stop, like a kid going to Disney. Even my apprehension to flying was quashed by my eagerness to feel the heat of the sun on my face and the sand beneath my freshly painted toes.
We arrived late Saturday night, finally getting to the hotel at just past 10:30 p.m. and after checking in and being delivered to our room, we tossed our luggage in the corner, put our comfy sandals on and headed out to explore the resort and look for a much needed cerveza…or two or three. The resort looked stunning at night…around the base of each palm tree that lined the pathways were coloured LED flood lights casting their glow upwards to illuminate the fronds of the palms.
We followed the sound of music and came to the Guacamayas Bar, the main hub-bub for evening activities and shows. Since we were getting close to midnight, there were plenty of people ‘well on their way’ in their quest to having a good time. This bar had large wooden swings hanging from thick ropes that were wide enough for two people to share and swing back and forth on in front of the bar. Interesting I thought…swings..in a bar….full of tipsy people…maybe not such a good idea??? A young woman, 20 something or so, left the dance floor and made her way over to one of the swings and plopped down….wearing an inflatable inner tube. Your guess is as good as mine as to why she was wearing that at midnight…in a bar… but to each their own.
We grabbed a couple beers to go and wandered off down to the beach. The stars were faded from the brightness of the moon, but the sea and sky were picture perfect. Just like what this vacation was going to be. I turned to hubby and planted a smooch on him. “Thanks sweetie…thanks for taking me away from the bitter cold back home.” We continued on, but it was hard to see the beauty of the resort in the dark. Tomorrow we would have plenty of opportunity to explore everywhere, but for now it was time for bed as it was approaching 2 a.m. and we are a pair of old fuddy-duddies. It was hard to believe we were up at that hour to begin with. We went back to the room and collapsed onto the huge king-sized bed and promptly fell asleep.
Morning came and my stomach screamed… ‘BUFFET!!!’ If its one thing I love about resort vacations, is that the breakfast buffet’s are my favourite places to be once I haul my butt from bed. I am a morning person as well as a have-to-have breakfast or I am going to keel over by 10 a.m. person. The breakfast restaurant ‘Cocotal’ didn’t have the vastness of items like the one at the Valentin, but the quality was good. Fueled up and ready for the day, we grabbed our ‘bun o’clock’ items (a banana and 4 small whole wheat rolls in a ziploc) before we left the restaurant and headed back to the room to change into our suits and explore a bit before heading to the beach.
The resort was just gorgeous. At the back of the main lobby was a huge walkout patio with stairs winding down from either side, in the middle was a stunning waterfall…
We wandered around checking out the locations of the restaurants for dinner as there were 7 to choose from. D’Italia (Italian cuisine obviously), Cocotal (world cuisine as well as the location of the buffet breakfast), La Isla (Mediterranean), Fuentes (the culinary cooking theatre), Kampai (Pacific Rim cuisine), Jo Jo’s (Caribbean), Rincón Mexicano (Mexican) and the Sante Fe Grill (American). Yum Yum Yum. Our most pressing thought of the day was which one were we going to choose for our first night? Italian we thought, since we loved the Italian at the Valentin, we would give this one a shot first. More on dinner later….
We continued on exploring, always ready with camera in hand looking the typical tourist snapping pictures of anything that caught our eye…like this fella…
We named him Iggy and his home was a dugout hole under one side of the walkway heading to the Cocotal restaurant where every morning from the first day on, we would see him peeking his head out, waiting for the sun to reach over to where his home was so he could venture out and soak up the suns rays to give him the body heat he needed. he startled quite a few folks if they were not paying attention as they walked past him.
A huge variety of birds were everywhere too…this Hooded Oriole was playing peekaboo amongst the palm leaves…
The rest of the day was lounging, reading, doing crossword and sudoko puzzles, eating our squirreled away munchies for ‘bun o’clock’ (we aren’t big lunch eaters, preferring to eat breakfast then enjoying a light snack before noshing on dinner), watching the gulls and pelicans dive for fish and of course…people watching. Always a good sport while on vacation.
Around 4 o’clock, with the sun disappearing taking the heat of the day with it, we headed back to the room where I started my daily ritual for the week.
Sitting immersed in an over-sized whirlpool tub full of bubbles with a happy hour cerveza. The tub took a while to fill and this is the pre-bubble shot, I never took another as I was in it, but the bubbles were up to the top as I laid back relaxing the stresses of the day away…yes, stresses, it took a lot to figure out where we were going to eat every day.
Dinners in all the restaurants we went to were outstanding. Seriously, it felt like we were judges on Iron Chef. The originality, plating, flavours, were exceptional, day in and day out. This resort prides itself on pampering, from the rooms to the amenities, spa facilities, to the dining. Nothing was disappointing to us, if anything, we felt at times like we didn’t deserve to be pampered this much!
After our dinners, we would head out for a stroll and gaze at the stars, which actually were hard to see as the moon was in its’ full phase for the week and it lit up the night sky like a huge Chinese paper lantern. We managed to see a few cruise ships on our nightly strolls, lit up like Christmas trees as they glided by offshore headed either to or from Cozumel.
On our second morning there, I finally was energized enough to head out for a walk before breakfast, heading down to the beach to catch sight of the sun rising over the Caribbean…
The brown bumps you see in the water are a man made reef system. They are environmental sandbags filled with sand and placed strategically up and down the shoreline of the resort to minimize the damage to the beach from the waves. They are huge, each one being about 25-30 feet long. The gulls, pelicans and terns use them as resting spots in between dive bombing fish runs…
We would spend the afternoons watching the pelicans, always amusing, plunge headlong into the water from a height of 50 feet or so, sometimes coming up with a fish, sometimes not. The above birds are the Brown Pelicans (two adult, one juvenile at the left), a Caspian tern in the middle and Laughing Gulls on the far left. The sandbags start to grow seaweed and algae and basically are turning into a reef, one of the many environmental initiatives that the resort prides itself on.
They heat the water by solar energy, recycle water for different purposes and grow their own vegetables in huge greenhouses, which we took a tour of one day….talk about massive tomato and cucumber plants…take a look…
These plants were all well over 10 feet tall. Roma, Cherry and Globe tomatoes along with English and American cukes. They grow peppers and herbs and other stuff in another greenhouse on the other side of the resort but the tour only allowed us into this one. We had to ‘decontaminate our feet’ before entering via an airlock to keep germs out. The plants are pollinated inside by bees too.
Out of all the produce they grow, what they can’t use, they sell to other resorts as well as at a reduced cost to employees. Nothing goes to waste and all the cuttings from pruned plants in the greenhouse and the resort grounds goes to their composting program. We were very, very impressed by how they run the resort in trying to lessen their footprint on the environment. Very cool.
Whenever we head to Mexico, we make a point of heading to Playa Del Carmen for a few hours. We shop along Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), which is a long stretch of cobbled road lined with many shops and restaurants. No vehicle traffic is allowed on Quinta, but it does get very busy with people, especially when the passengers from cruise ships are in Cozumel and are ferried over from the island. The most challenging part of walking along Quinta is avoiding the time share hawkers – they are very, very persistent, to the point of major annoyance at times.
After rummaging through various shops along the way, we always head to Señor Frogs Restaurant at the Ferry Wharf for lunch. A lively place that has been around for some time and has franchises branching out into other countries, there is no shortage of funny, goofy things to look at in their décor…not to mention how they plate their food. Hubby ordered a monstrous burger and fries and this is how it came…
He was a little timid in wanting to pick up the burger, lest the wire sprung and the bar slammed down on his hand …too funny. I had a ginormous plate of chicken enchiladas, which were fantastic, both being washed down by the ever available cerveza.
While we devoured our lunch, we gazed out at the Caribbean and watched the ferries that were traveling back and forth between Playa and Cozumel. The beach in Playa is stunning, wide and long with sand as white as snow…thanks goodness it wasn’t snow…
Arriving back at the resort, we change into our bathing suits and headed back down to the beach for the remainder of the afternoon. Isabel, our beach mesera (waitress) was wondering where we had gone, but when she saw us, her face lit up and she was off to grab our orders. You know you are a regular when….the rest of the day was spent like all the other afternoons that week….beach side, staring out into the blue sea and soaking up the warmth of the sun.
Our last morning, after breakfast, we went back to the room to sit on the patio (or lanai, or whatever you want to call it) with our tea, coffee and the paper before grudgingly packing to leave. We had a stellar week and were sad to see it come to a close so soon so I grabbed the camera, set it to video and set it on the little patio table and recorded a snippet of peace and tranquility to remember it by. I figured I’d share it here too. There is no music, just the soothing sounds of the water fountains and a mockingbird. It is about 3 minutes long, so sit back, close your eyes and enjoy.
I would definitely recommend this resort to anyone that is contemplating a trip to the Mayan Riviera, if not here, then definitely the Valentin Imperial as well. Both resorts are top notch in our books, and I can’t wait to get back there next year.