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Observations del Carmen

A week in the popular Yucatan beach city of Playa del Carmen to bridge the gap between the rustic travel of Cuba and our localized lake life in Guatemala. No particular plan, no specific ambitions, just relax in the vicinity of one of Playa del Carmen’s best beaches, get caught up on internet stuff and eat a prolific amount of Mexican food.

Lazing in the shade on a comfortable lounger next to the small, raisin-shaped pool. Our tiny Bluetooth speaker struggling to compete with the thumping bass of the beach bar a couple blocks away. Eventually boring of this idyllic scene, moving inside to watch an afternoon movie, with our most difficult decision of the day being to make one, or two, bags of microwave popcorn.

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La piscina de Las Brisas

Using the theoretically erotic Jacuzzi tub in our room as simply a shower since, for whatever reason, it happily produced hot water on demand while our other shower (we don’t even have two showers at home) continued to prove far stingier with the good stuff.

Settling in at the communal kitchen island for an offbeat included breakfast of yoghurt, juice box, milk box, three varieties of bread, and pickling jars full of something resembling only the coloured pieces in a box of Lucky Charms. Having bananas later added to the mix, along with our own peanut butter and Honey Nut Cheerios, ultimately resulting in a nearly unbeatable combination.

Walking for ages down the long but narrow beach at high tide, gingerly negotiating small patches of dry sand while attempting to avoid the fiercely lapping waves and sticky piles of sea grass carried in with them, nothing to be done about the faintly rotten smell that came along for the ride. Discreetly working our way around the topless sunbathers, their leathery, mahogany bodies only recognizable as women due to the merest hint of curving side-boob.

What's left at high tide

Perched on a low curb, knees around my chest to aid the process of devouring several of El Rey del Tacos finest offerings. Carefully palming our bottles of Sprite with grease-covered hands while struggling to keep any of these terrific-value tacos from ending up permanently emblazoned my already well-stained travel shorts.

Tacos el Pastor at El Fogón, Sirloin Burritos at Don Sirloin, Pizza Diavola at Salento’s, a giant ice cream cone for a dollar from some anonymous cooler on 30th.

The relatively short day trip (2-hr drive) to historic Vallodolid, to this day one of our favourite Mexican cities. Amazing architecture, spectacular cenotes, a cool name.

Underground cenote

After the stark austerity of Cuba, revelling in the glorious abundance of Soriana shopping for ways to supplement our breakfast and assemble passable eat-in lunches, before impulsively buying a pair of new pillows. Pillows which we would go on to enjoy all week, and later even stuff into our already full backpacks very much against their will, to have them join us on our journey to Guatemala and have a chance to view the lake in all its splendour, or as much of it as they can see past my regularly reclining body.

Snorkelling slowly among the clear ponds and picturesque rocks of Cenote Cristalino in refreshing silence as the only people managing to complete the 20-minute journey from town by the apparently unpopular crack of 10 am.

Like a magnificent mermaid

Marvelling at our hefty, 4 kilo stack of pleasant-smelling laundry, freshly returned following a full machine wash and dry, not to mention neatly stacked and folded, for the very un-Playa del Carmen-like price of less than 3 Canadian dollars.

Strolling aimlessly down all twenty pedestrian-only blocks of Quinta Avenida in one of the top honeymoon destinations in the Caribbean, anonymous among the throngs of merry tourists passing countless restaurants, bars, 24-hour souvenir shops, festive-looking pharmacies mainly advertising sexual enhancement products, and convivial tour operators exuberantly offering the somewhat bewildering “couples snorkelling” .

Quinta Avenida

Experiencing a revelatory moment when we learned that Arena, Mexico’s largest gay and lesbian DJ festival, was currently taking place in a variety of venues around Playa del Carmen, suddenly understanding streets rife with nattily-dressed pairs of men sporting matching haircuts, as well as the rocking afternoon dance party on the beach where hundreds of shirtless men displayed not a single chest hair among them.

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