Friday, January 13, 2017

Mexico 2017 – Day 10 – In flight head stabilizer

Our final day. I relished the delicious, sweet papaya I ate for breakfast and tried to imprint the taste of that wonderful fruit on my memory, as I likely wouldn’t be having another one like it for some time. We made a big bag of sandwiches for the airport, and then we gathered up all the rest of the food and supplies and took them over to Mom’s place. We had a short visit there and said good-bye to everybody, including Jose and Soani and family, who fortunately happened to be home at the time.

The airport shuttle showed up right on time and whisked us off to Cancun airport terminal 3. Our check-in was a breeze, and the security line was short, making us wonder why this always has to be such a torturous experience in Toronto. We entered the terminal and had ample opportunity to spend whatever pesos we had left in any of the dozens of shops.

The flight left on time at 3:15 and once we were in the air I strapped on the in-flight head stabilizer that I was to test for my friend Tony. It worked perfectly! The only problem was that the other passengers waiting in line for the toilet noticed my restful sleep and kept waking me up to ask where they could get one. I have 27 orders I will forward onto Tony when we get back. We landed in Toronto around 6:40pm and actually made it through immigration quite quickly, but then had to wait a very long time for the bags. We caught the shuttle back to the car park and were back home by 9:30, safe and sound, but still in the confused daze that results from the rapid climatic shift from tropical paradise to winter wonderland.

So how did we like Mexico? I think it always takes a few days after returning from a trip to figure out what you liked and what you didn’t because during a trip you are just so focused on taking it all in that you don’t really take the time to think much about it.

Ana and I talked about how this vacation compared to the ones in recent years where we’ve gone to all-inclusive resorts, usually in Cuba. When Ana used to work for WestJet we never went to all-inclusives and instead rented apartments or hotels wherever we went. So this sort of vacation is not at all new for us, but after not having done one for a while we were reminded of how much work goes into grocery shopping, planning meals, making meals, doing dishes, packing lunches, negotiating plans, driving around, and so on. At an all-inclusive this is all taken care of for you so the time available for fun stuff is maximized. Saying that, part of the fun of being in a new place is getting an idea of what it is like to live there, and you certainly get no sense of that while staying at a resort. The apartment we stayed in was not within walking distance of much at all, so we had to use the van or public transport to get anywhere, which is fine if you are staying for a longer time, but for a shorter vacation it is nice to be within walking distance of the action. We got an incredible amount of Spanish practice while in Mexico – much more than we get in Cuba, simply because you are forced to communicate with people to figure things out. So that part we really liked. The other aspect of this trip was we had Ana’s folks along, as well as my family, so we were a very large group. At a resort, this is super easy as they have giant tables at restaurants, and throughout the day people can basically do what they want and you don’t have to travel as a giant herd. This becomes a little tougher during an apartment vacation. During this trip we really didn’t have any problems with it, and we all managed to agree on what we wanted to do each day, but it is logistically more challenging.

Ana asked me if Mexico was what I expected and I had a tough time answering that. In some ways, it is much like the other Latin American countries we’ve visited - friendly people, a little dirty, music always playing, and we felt comfortable getting around and figuring things out. In other ways it was different – things seem to generally work very well, the traffic was rarely congested, the Spanish was easier to understand, and there were so many US style big box stores. Although we ate the majority of our meals in the apartment, we weren’t overly impressed with the food so that was a disappointment. I really enjoyed the tacos and the ever present sauces, but once you ventured outside of that food category it was hit and miss. I expect that we will visit Mexico again, but next time we might try a different location, perhaps somewhere on the west coast, so that we could experience another region and culture. That said, the idea of spending a lazy week lounging around Isla Mujeres certainly appeals to us.

The other big difference for us on this trip was that we traveled at peak time. This is something we NEVER do, but in this case we found a good price on flights and realized that the kids’ school break extended into January so they would not have to miss school if we traveled during this time. I’m not going to say we regretted this decision, but I will say that standing in lines, fighting crowds and paying top price for everything is not how we like to spend our vacations.

In the end, we had an awesome trip and got to spend quality time together with our parents and explore an amazing part of Mexico. I think we covered a great deal of ground in the short time we were there and got a decent feel for what the region has to offer. Above all we found Mexicans to be extremely friendly, helpful, thoughtful and fun loving. We will be back.

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