After nine weeks of living in downtown Cancun, we were looking forward to a change of setting. And having been to Playa del Carmen before, we knew it would provide some fun and relaxation. Plus it’s the perfect home base for working and exploring some ruins and cenotes over the next six weeks.
We’d scheduled a time to meet the Art Deco Suites (our Cancun home) manager at 9am on Tuesday morning, to turn the room over. Everything was looking good, and we saw him out front on time as expected, but he didn’t seem to be in a hurry to see us. Hmm. We’d grown to appreciate the relaxed way in which business is sometimes conducted in the Yucatan, but we had a bus to catch.
When he came in and looked around, he was pleased with the room. But then I noticed that our white sheets had several light streaks on them, which looked suspiciously like that red hair color of mine. Since it would cost us about $90 US to replace them, Rich and I spent the next half hour scrubbing them out – resigned to the idea that we’d miss our bus. If you do a long-term rental in Mexico, make sure to read your rental agreement.
As we checked out at last, we learned something funny. Our landlord happened to mention the time, and we realized that our clock was off by an hour. How can you function in a place for a whole month and not know what time it is? Well, when you work like we do online, you can. They’re not big on clocks down here, in fact I haven’t seen a single clock in a public place. Anyway, since that day we’ve had conflicting info about the time, so we’ve given up and put ourselves on Mountain Time. Something to watch for when you’ve got a flight to catch!
So we ended up on an early bus after all, and finally relaxed on the hour long ride to Playa del Carmen. It’s pretty much the opposite of downtown Cancun, and according to Wikipedia, it could be referred to as a balneario, or seaside spa town. Originally a fishing village, it retains some of its’ original feel today. And even with a population of 125,000 and growing, it still feels like a small town with pleasant parks, crisp white churches, and even a stylized lighthouse.
You can feel the jet-set, euro vibe the minute you step off the bus, as the smells of Italian, Mexican, and other international flavors welcome you into this exclusive scene. There’s an air of affluence that appears untouched by recession, drug wars, or any other pesky tourist deterrents. Playa Del Carmen is the fastest growing city in the Mayan Riveria, and I noticed the property development office is always bustling. (I did read that the swine flu has hurt Playa some, but it’s not evident to the casual observer.)
The high-end boutiques, polished jewelry stores, and tourist outlets are busy, too. They’re surrounded by Argentinian steak houses, tapas bars, latte shops, and gelato bistros. Great-looking globetrotters lounge around there, musing over the endless possibilities for spending their cash. Now I’m from Southern California and I’ve seen my share of tanned beach bodies, but there’s an unusual abundance of people who could be swimsuit models here!
Our gated condo is on the swanky 5th Avenue, and tucked in discreetly between these boutiques and eateries. It’s a cozy and efficient Studio, with ivory walls, dark beams and traditional Mayan accents. We have a full kitchen, and really appreciate having a stove top to cook on! The best thing is the gorgeous view of condos that sit directly across from us. They’re designed like beach palapas with grass rooftops, with curvy, rounded, ivory walls.
Our own four story condos have a private sunroof with lounge chairs and a nice view of the ocean. We’re plopped right into the middle of this urban oasis – surrounded by pools, palm trees, eucalyptus and a tropical lushness. Plus there are these two cenotes, or underground pools, with some friendly box turtles swimming in them.
Once settled in, the first thing we did was to check out the world famous beach. We sauntered along the powdery white sands, enjoying the gentle Caribbean waters that gently lap onto you. We’re accustomed to the more aggressive surf of Cancun’s beaches, but I like these waves better, since I’m a bit wimpy in ocean currents. Of course the water was just the right temperature, so we hung out there for awhile.
Lots of the prime beachfront here is owned by beach clubs, bars and private associations, which require some type of payment or membership if you want to sit there. That said, you can lay on a towel in front because all Mexican beaches are public. I hear they just spent a small fortune trucking in new sand here due to erosion.
We celebrated our move that night with a Mexican dinner on 5th. Rich and I shared a mix of quesadillas, fajitas, and a long-awaited chili rellano, complete with a margarita and cerveca. With a nice spot all to ourselves, we listened to a retro-singing musician playing his tunes in a nearby window. Pretty nice meal, but we weren’t happy to see that the waiter added the tip, or ‘propina’ onto the bill for us. Apparently, even though it’s illegal, restaurants sometimes do this in Playa – so watch your bill.
That night as we settled into bed Rich told me to look out our window. The quaint condos across the way were lighting up like a village you’d see in a Tolkien film (Mexican-style). A little later as I started to fall asleep, I did notice a downside to this slice of paradise; Playa is definitely a party town! We already knew this, but didn’t realize the level of volume that the clubs of nearby 12th street create. They turn it up around 11pm, and it stays super loud until 4am.
Well, I’ll get my earplugs or IPod out tomorrow. Like anywhere, location is everything – and there are several sides to location! In the big scheme of things, it’s no big deal. As any of us who travel know, it does require some adjusting. I’ll attempt to doze off for now – and buenos noches until next time!