Cancun: Operation Relax

When my parents gave us an all-expense paid trip to Cancun, we weren’t sure how to plan for it. Cancun wasn’t really on our destination radar, so we didn’t have long-standing notions of sights we wanted to see or experiences we wanted to… experience. So in contrast to our very-researched-and-planned Hawaii honeymoon, we decided to go with the flow in Cancun, leaving any sight-seeing to be determined at the concierge desk.

Well that turned out to be a pretty good idea. As it turned out, in the days leading up to our vacation, various opportunities at work became very stressful at once, which meant that when it came time to hop on a plane to the beach, all I wanted to do was sit back and relax. And that’s largely what we did on our trip. We spent 5 days there, and on four of them, our ‘activities’ included laying out in the sun, swimming in the Caribbean, consuming lots of free drinks and food, and hanging out in the hotel room. On the 5th day, we also went downtown briefly to find some tacos, since the food in the hotel was by and large Americanized, and we were in Mexico, dammit.

My reference to free food and drink might imply that our hotel was an all-inclusive resort, but that’s only if you’re familiar with such a thing (we weren’t, before this trip). Indeed that was the case, which meant that lots (but not all) of the resort was available to us free of charge, as long as we flashed our bracelets and signed a bunch of checks promising to pay our full amount of zero.All-inclusive check Figuring out how this all worked was a bit stressful in the beginning (“We just got a bunch of food; are we going to have to pay for it??”), but once we figured it out, and what the hours for the various bars and restaurants were, we could sit back and enjoy!

In fact, we became regulars at the lobby bar, which was pretty neat. We rarely go to bars, and certainly have never become regulars at one (even if the atmosphere appealed more to us, the cost wouldn’t), but on our first day, we wanted our first taste of this free alcohol, and arrived at the lobby bar an hour or so before the dinner restaurants opened. It was extremely quiet at that time, and a bartender named Salvador made small talk with us and the other couple there. He also put some flair into our drinks; when we both ordered pina coladas, he made one of them a ‘blue cancun’, by putting some blue curacao on the bottom and dripping some (green) midori from the top, which as it trickled down through the pina colada, resembled the ocean outside quite nicely.A mostly finished Blue Cancun That same visit, he introduced Sarah to a mudslide, and she was hooked; it was the first drink she ordered from him every day.

Yup, we went back to see him every day. He’d treated us quite nicely that first day (and we needed it, after spending a few hours for a room in a *very* humid lobby), so I’d tipped him decently. And when we returned each day, he remembered what drinks we liked and continued to make conversation with us, even during busier times. One night Sarah really wanted to sit on one of the nifty couches that were scattered near the bar area, so I reluctantly left the bar-stools after ordering our initial drinks, but instead of sending out one of the waiters to us with peanuts, as was the normal case for the couch area, he brought them out to us himself. And when I ordered a refill of my drink, he came out again, with my drink and also one for Sarah, even though she hadn’t ordered one.

Remember those tacos I mentioned before? He’s the reason we could find them. I had remarked to him that the food in the restaurants was not very Mexican, and wondered if even the Mexican-themed restaurant would be lacking in tacos. He confirmed that the restaurant had finer food, so no tacos or tortas to be had, but a few minutes later he asked if I wanted to know where to get some. After confirming that I was talking about Mexican tacos (after all, as American tourists, we may have been looking for crispy u-shaped shells), he wrote down the information for how to find a place he liked in the downtown area. Not knowing the area we were headed to was a bit scary, but we found the place easily and had some delicious tacos de arrachera and tacos al pastor.Tacos al pastor

In the end, Sarah insisted we write Salvador a nice note, so after our last dinner, I spent a while translating to Spanish some nice thoughts she’d written down, and we gave it to him with his tip as we departed from the bar that night, as he gave us a nice handshake to say goodbye.

I know a lot of the post has been a tribute to Salvador, but the point is that we really did so little, and relaxed so much, that this kind of encounter was made possible. The beach was nice, with really soft sand, fairly clear-of-seaweed/shells, nice sized waves (perfect for bodysurfing), and even some nifty-looking fish. The hotel was very pretty, and had good-enough food in the buffets, and quite good food in the a la carte restaurants. And we slept, ate, swam, and drank the days away. And got some very much needed relaxation.

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4 Responses to Cancun: Operation Relax

  1. Laura M. says:

    That sounds like a nice trip! And those tacos look soooooooo good! :)

  2. Ryan says:

    One thing I’ve always wondered is how easy is it getting around at such a place if you only know English? I’m guessing most of the people at the hotel understand it, but what about the downtown venture and the airport-to-hotel part?


    I hope Bloggingbility, the Gila Monster, got fed.

    • Sarah says:

      Cancun at large is a very touristy place, so as long as you embark only on touristy things, you’ll find that everyone you encounter speaks enough English to communicate with you. The bus was the scariest part because, unlike most buses I’ve ridden, these didn’t broadcast the upcoming stop in any way. We were lucky enough to see the place that we were going; otherwise, we probably would have been on the bus all day :)

      Also, even though Jonathan happily talked to everyone in Spanish, we were still pretty skiddish about going off the beaten path anywhere. As soon as people figure out you’re a tourist, they try to sell you all sorts of stuff, and there are certain taxi companies that you’re supposed to avoid because they’re not trustworthy. I honestly don’t think I’m adventurous enough to travel without someone who speaks the language at least a little. Interestingly, I suspect that *I* might have known enough Spanish to get by, but I didn’t feel compelled to take responsibility for any conversations because I figured that Jonathan would be much more reliable. I’m a little disappointed in myself for missing the chance to practice (I feel like this every time I go to Mexico), but I have some practicing plans…

  3. Sarah says:

    I’m not sure which tenet of happiness it meets, but writing a thank-you note to Salvador represents one of those small disciplines that it might be rewarding to to do on a regular basis. There are a lot of people who make our lives better just by doing their job patiently and cheerfully, and while I do thank them, I’m not very good at making them feel truly appreciated. I bet that giving a note to one of them a week would be a happy thing for both us and them. And that concludes my obvious yet overlooked rumination for the day.

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