South to Mexico

"This reminds me of Walmart on a Saturday afternoon," I said to Heather, as I returned from running the gauntlet in search of freshly made guacamole.

It's a delicate dance, trying to swerve in and out of the salad bar, hot entrees, chef's table and dessert trays. Whether it is a full day of being roasted and toasted in the sun, or the general principle of having paid in advance for all-you-can-eat, these folks are intent on getting what they want, when they want and how they want; all principles of manners and patience don't seem to exist. As a right-out-of-the-igloo Canadian, I felt a little out of place.

This is my first experience with an all-inclusive and coupled with the fact that I was travel weary (we had left at 3:30 am for the airport) and that my digestive system was still adjusting to a full day of being on an airplane, it's understandable that it all felt rather odd. But after scarfing down some freshly fried calamari and some wonderful Mayan tidbits, I started to get the sense that things were going to be OK.

We first came down to Playa del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera last year. We stayed in a condo that we had found thanks to Andy on Facebook.

"You need to talk to Pierre," he started. "He's got a friend named Gerry. You've got to talk to Gerry."

We did. And that connection led us to Playa in April 2010 and a wonderful weeklong stay in this beautiful tourist mecca 45 minutes south of Cancun. As part of that adventure we got pulled into one of those "listen to our advertising pitch and we'll give you deeply discounted tickets to one of our theme parks" kind of things. That "pitch" happened here, at Sandos Playacar. Several hours later, they were pouring the bubbly and we were officially "owners", ready to commit to 25 years of travel in the lap of moderate luxury.

We are officially "Royal Elite" members, and as such get a laundry list of things that others do not. From the moment we walked in we were pulled aside to a preferential treatment area where they plied us with alcohol (us being me) and got us registered. From 24 hour VIP room service to access to the high end booze in the Royal Elite Club, we are in the minority in this resort overflowing with the sun-starved from around the world. They can tell us apart because of our respective black and silver bracelets, black for the adults and silver for those not of age to imbibe.

Our rooms (two adjoining) are on the second floor of the new wing at Sandos Playacar, overlooking a pool that is probably 100 metres from one end to the other. The oval pool directly opposite our suite links up to the bigger section, complete with a float-up bar, via a 4-foot wide canal. The main pool, where all the activities happen, is down the hill and nearer the beach. It is certainly walking distance, but with Dylan's limited tolerance for long distances and uncertain terrain, we will likely opt for the shuttle more times than not.

It is just after 8 am and both Dylan and Ben are started to rouse themselves. Heather left awhile ago to grab some fruit in the Royal Elite members' lounge. I am writing this, which I most enjoy doing early in the morning or in the evening. Our first full day in Mexico has arrived and we are ready to soak it all in.

"We are very lucky," said Dylan last night as we sat on lounge chair watching the sun set on the distant horizon of the ocean. "There are a lot of kids that wouldn't have the chance to do something like this."

It was a wise observation-one that really hit the nail on the head.

Popular Posts