My parents are getting old. When they were young, they used to cart us kids all over the world with great ambition, covering an amazing amount of ground with diapers and carriages in tow. I don’t know how they did it.
But recently, when we asked our parents where they wanted to go for their fortieth wedding anniversary, they said they just wanted to be parked somewhere by the sea and be fed.
Well, I couldn’t imagine a worse idea, especially since they wanted us to join them.
The words “all-inclusive” make me angry. They represent a level of laziness at which I hope I never arrive.
But, it wasn’t my anniversary to celebrate. Forty years of marriage is quite an achievement. And in that time, my parents spent the lion’s share of it toting us to the most amazing places. If they now wanted to relax and be pampered, how could I say no? So, off to the beaches of Mexico we went.
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It wasn’t as bad as I feared.
I mean, the food could have been much, much better. And, I would have happily traded the excessive square footage of my suite for a faster internet connection (I hope you’re not taking me too seriously here). But, I was pleased to have the water to myself, since everyone else seemed to prefer sunning on the sand. For me, the beach is merely an annoying obstacle between the ocean and me. I’m there to swim.
I did persuade the family to leave the resort one day for a quick walk through Playa del Carmen (never again), and lunch at los Aguachiles, which my friend Adam (A Life Worth Eating) had recommended. If you ever find yourself in that area, the raw tuna tostada there is well-worth your trouble.
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I also convinced my family to join me for a day trip to Chichen Itza, the famous Mayan ruins located in the middle of the Yucatan peninsula, a three-hour drive from the coast.
There, we marveled at the Mayans’ mathematical prowess, and their astrological astuteness. We saw the famous pyramid, where the Mayan serpent god, Quetzalcoatl, appears on every equinox (its pleated body descends the steps, a shadow cast by the setting sun). And we experienced the amazing aural achievements inside of the pok-ta-pok court, the largest, known Mayan sporting arena of its kind.
Man, was it hot in the jungle. And it was only April.
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I cooled off at Ik Kil, a cenote (or sinkhole) near Chichen Itza, where it is said that Mayan princesses once bathed. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but I do know that this is where Brooke Shields was filmed swimming in “The Blue Lagoon.” The water was as clear as day, full of black, velvety fish swimming as far down as the sunlight reached into the inky depths. Water trickled in little falls over the edge of the hole’s opening. It was like swimming in paradise.
Back at the resort, I spent the remaining days napping in hammocks and swimming along the shoreline. I went south, where I found a fisherman, casting lines by hand – no rod – and pulling in quite the haul. He was cleaning his catch on a rock, with gulls circling above, waiting for a chance to poach.
It was like a glimpse back in time.
I was told that, before the resorts arrived, the Riviera Maya (the coastline from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, and south to Tulum), was once a quiet string of fishing communities, some of which still exist in pockets, here and there. If I ever return, I’d like to explore those areas more.
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Chilaquiles in the morning, umbrella drinks by the sea, and pineapple ice cream every night before bed. A brilliant sky stirring a million shades of blue in the glassy Gulf. It wasn’t so bad.
Happy anniversary, mom and dad. For you, I’ll go anywhere.
Photos: motorbikes along the road, near Chichen Itza; dinner for two on the beach, near Playa del Carmen; the pyramid at Chichen Itza; Ik Kil cenote; hammocks at night.