Kinda hard to see what that says, I know, but NO color seemed to want to work there... so I'll tell ya what it says: "Azul Fives, Play del Carmen, Mexico," which is where Hubs and I stayed from 12-16 November.
This grassy-looking "AZUL FIVES" blue mat greets newcomers outside the drop-off location in front of the lobby at the all-inclusive resort. We were there for a "Happiness Vacationar" (seminar/vacation, as it was christened by the travel agents who planned it), having received a crazily killer deal that we couldn't pass up. Not only was the rate for the resort at rock-bottom prices, but everything - everything! - we consumed while there was included for nothing extra. Suh-weet.
On Wednesday morning, after we checked in with Maykent at the Front "desk," which was more like a series of four podiums in the lobby, we were informed that we could go get breakfast. So, we did! Mimosas were offered, and of course we said, "Heck yeah!" to that. I drank two sips before I called it quits. I mean, our early-morning flight to Cancun and 42-minute drive to the resort still had us eating breakfast at something like 0830, so while mimosas sounded splendid in theory, in practice they were more... impractical.
Our room was not ready yet, and having gotten less than two hours' sleep after dropping the kids off the night before in Fort Lauderdale with our friends, come home and packed as lightly as possible so as not to have to check any luggage, and briefly crashed... I was exhausted. So when we walked outside the breakfast restaurant, Flavours, after eating, and spied the round, white loveseat on which Rob is perched up there... well. I quickly made like Goldilocks in Baby Bear's bed and fell promptly asleep. ZZZzzzzz....
Only, it was too hot, so then we went back into the air-conditioned lobby to wait for our room and let me doze some more. I slept so long and so hard, it was embarrassing.
Our room was finally ready around 12 or 1 PM, and we made our way there straightaway. I don't remember much after that, until I woke up the following morning around 0500 or so with the sun streaming through our balcony windows! Uh. Oops. So much for making the most of our first free day...
Naturally, the first thing I did was step out onto that balcony and take a morning picture of the view. I had wanted to catch a sunrise photo, but I was too late. Sunrise came and turned so quickly into full-on daytime, that you'll just have to imagine it was as early as 0600 or so here. 'Cause it was.
The view outside our Villa 14, from the atrium of the villa
There were many times I said to Rob, "Go stand over there and let me take your picture, Babe!" and of course, ever the indulgent husband, he did just that. This was on the walkway between our central villa and the nearby villas leading to the front of the resort.
Outside the breakfast/shopping/spa area of the resort, up front, Rob took a picture of me. Yes, I know I look like gelatinous goo with all my extra weight-loss skin showing, but ask me if I care?! (Of course I care, which is why I want to get it all snip-snipped in the Spring...)
The first morning, I had a bunch of pastries and fruit for breakfast. Be prepared for lots of food pictures in this post, because I swear to good gracious that half the time we were there was spent getting our collective grub on!
This morning, Thursday the 13th, I visited the omelet bar and piled up baby shrimp, chopped onions and tomatoes, bean sprouts, and loads of cheese before handing my plate over to the cook. It was delicious, yo. So good, I had pretty much the same omelet the next morning, too. I finished most of it, and the oatmeal-and-coconut muesli with tropical fruits I assembled on the northeast side of the plate. And that's not poopies on my plate; it's refried beans. Not really my typical breakfast fare, but I was craving it. I was not disappointed, and right now, I am wanting it all over again!
The iguanas, tropical birds, and coati plaques on the property promised that we would see each of these in the wild, and we did! Except coati, which I couldn't find but got reports of sightings from other guests.
After breakfast on that Thursday morning, I was once again overcome with exhaustion (I can't help it; ever since my gastric bypass surgery, I get tired just from eating). I excused myself from our table and told Rob I needed to go lie down in our villa room. On the way there, I took a different route and found this spider monkey sign. Thinking to myself, "Yeah, right, there is no way I'm going to see a spider monkey in the 'wild,' such as it is, so I may as well just take the picture for posterity's sake. I did so and continued on my way.
(click to embiggerate)
Well, of course, not five minutes later, I rounded a corner and there was a spider monkey, walking along the edge of a pool on the property. Really?! I brought up my Nikon to start taking pictures, and as soon as Mr. Monito heard my click-whirring noise, he turned and hid his face. So I waited, he returned to his stroll, and I snapped away again. And again he hid. This went on for several long moments until finally he high-tailed it (literally!) right on out of there. I thought it was going to be the highlight of my trip, because it was super cool.
After a brief respite in the room, we decided to head down toward the beach. On the way, we spotted this life-size checkerboard and chess board set. Pretty cool! I wanted to play, but Rob wasn't feeling it, so on we went. We never encountered that again on this visit.
At the beach, we came upon the infinity pool facing the Caribbean Sea, so of course I had to photograph that! I wanted to get right in, but first we needed to head down the stairs to the sandy beach to find some chairs on which to rest our belongings. But ah... isn't it lovely?
Down by the sea, we watched a couple of kayakers pass by the long stretch of pier before finding towels and chairs. It felt, right then, like we were in Paradise.
Shortly after we sat down, we grew hungry again (something about the heat and humidity - and probably not having to pay for anything - expanded our appetites throughout the week!) and headed over to the Oriola Beach Club Grill for lunch.
While there, we watched a server leave a basket of nachos on a ledge, walk away, and let some birds swoop in to steal a few chips. After, the server returned, having realized what had happened, and tossed the whole basket of food in the trash. Wasteful, but funny... and this was just the first of several times we saw such things.
After lunch, we encountered a trio of hammocks and decided to take a quick lie-down. Even Rob lay down with me, which I'm proud of him for, because he's not the most steady, balanced fella right now, and hammocks can be persnickety!
See? He got in there, without falling on his butt or busting his face. Yay!
One more gratuitous hammock shot, because this is one of the few shots of the two of us together in Mexico.
This black iguana and I have something in common: We're both cold-blooded creatures. Don't believe me? It's high-70s or 80s here most of the time in Miami, and I am always sitting on a heating pad and still freezing. ;)
"Hey, Rob, go stand over there by that gazebo and let me take your picture." We were I was totally playing tourist on this trip, and I didn't care who thought what of it!
Alberto, our personal concierge, was always so thrilled to help us when it came to our several requests. He made sure our room mini fridge was constantly stocked with Coca Dietas for me, made our dinner reservations, and gave us plenty of help and advice when trying to figure out what to do with ourselves in our free time. Great guy!
We meandered up to the little shopping area of the resort to collect some souvenirs for the children. These brightly-colored pottery pieces, including Dia de los Muertos skulls, were intriguing and lively, but alas, I knew they would break in our suitcases on the return flight. I opted for smaller, sturdier pieces, along with a couple of postcards for my collector pal, Erin.
Some of the fun souvenirs we brought back for our kids, as well as for Victoria to swap in an autobiographical box with her cross-country homeschool partner (more on that in the future).
Another respite, probably for me to order a Diet Coke and give Rob a walking break
Our room in Villa 14
That Thursday night, we were due to have a welcoming celebration dinner party with our Seminar group. On the way there, by the fountain, I grabbed some passersby and asked them to take our picture. They weren't accustomed to my camera, of course, so the one picture the guy deigned to take was while I was in the middle of asking if he was ready. Ha! Oh, well. It works.
The Zky Bar where our dinner party was held
Honestly, our party wasn't until 1930 that night, so we were starving by about 1800. We snuck down and had dinner before our dinner party, which enabled us to duck out early when we felt out of place at the party, not being hungry. I'm just not the world's best small-talking mingler, and I couldn't wait to go. Call me what you will, but sometimes having a husband who has had a brain tumor removed and generally feels like crap quite a lot of the time... can be rather convenient in social settings!
The next morning, we met in front of the lobby for our tour bus to take all of us seminar attendees 20 minute north, to El Dorado Royale, a sister resort of Azul Fives. There were plenty of waters and teas set out... but no Diet Cokes. Uh-oh! Rob spied someone who had one, though, so I made a beeline over to her to ask where she got it. She was someone in charge and said she'd special-ordered hers and would get me one, too. Sure enough, I had mine in hand several minutes later. Thumbs up!
Rob and the gang, milling about waiting for the seminar to begin
Here we are taking a rapid getaway taxi back to Azul Fives, having decided that the Happiness Seminar was most decidedly not designed with Team Odette in mind. We listened to one show-offy name-dropping speaker, whose Powerpoint presentation kept failing, with feigned interest. The second speaker, Michelle LastNameEscapesMe, was much more vibrant and applicable to our lives, but not sufficiently so that we didn't desperately want to leave. Humph.
We ducked out during the break after Michelle, talked to the Dorado concierge about calling a taxi, and headed back to our home resort, claiming illness in Rob. On the way out, we spotted the Holy Grail of Diet Cokeness waiting in the lobby, which made Rob ask me if I wanted to change my mind about leaving, but I felt so supremely uncomfortable that not even that could get me to stay.
If you look carefully at the picture of Rob in the taxi, you'll see he's holding his prescription glasses on his lap. Somewhere between the cab and our villa, they disappeared and have never been heard from again.
So after that, he was relegated to wearing his Rx sunglasses everywhere we went, even at night (my man is blind, y'all), and combined with his constant cane use, he was elevated to Stevie Wonder status amongst the resort denizens. And I don't mean in the celebrity sense.
"Hey, Hon, stand over there by that vertical garden and let me snap your picture." Indulgent. He is.
Some of the lounge chairs seems to live in the pool, on a shallow ledge. The water was so freaking cold, though, that you didn't miss any swimming by not being there. I promise.
I know this is a horrible picture of a cat. Allow me to explain: My three wunderkinds are cat fanatics. We were walking to the beach in the pitch-blackness that night, when we heard some rather loud meowing. "That's a cat!" one of us exclaimed. I moved in for a closer look, and the cat, who Rob decided was a female in heat, just lay there mewling. I tried to take a decent picture, but there was absolutely zero light for my camera to use in focusing, and I'm not that talented a photographer. Long story short (i'm not good at that), I took this picture for my kids' sakes.
Dinner that night was the Japanese restaurant, Tsuki, at 1930. I prefer not to eat critters in general, but this trip was an exception to the rule, because (a) the seafood I still adore was so plentiful, and (b) I try to eat something novel (for me) every time I travel somewhere new. So for an appetizer at Tsuki, we ordered the Duckling Rolls. I had one of the four, and Rob polished off the rest. It's not without a little bit of guilt that I can say mine was absolutely scrumptious.
We debated on what to have for entrees, but when it comes down to it, the two of us are major sushi lovers who just can't resist over-ordering when the opportunity presents itself. And so we did. This was my platter; Rob's was identical. We brought a lot of it back to our room and noshed on it for a midnight snack. Mmmm, it was so good. Sushi for the win!
Of course, I can't keep sushi down, because I am unable to process rice, so I was feeling rather miserable after several quick runs to the ladies' room... I finally had to excuse mysef from our table and sit in the lobby to wait for Rob to finish. The walls were adorned with these three-dimensional metal flowers, which I found interesting, and so here they are for your viewing... pleasure?
Having mentioned I'd spent some time losing my lunch dinner in the restroom, I'll share that until that point, we didn't know there were nightly shows at the resort. I happened to find a newsletter in the ladies' room that listed the evening entertainment, and that night, Friday the 14th, was the Fire Show. Um, yes please! I am so easily entertained, and this sounded right up my alley.
That's Diego, one of the Entertainment Staff members at the resort. He was a cutie patootie who spoke both in Spanish and then in English, in a rapid-fire style in both languages that made him so difficult to understand in my native language, I had to translate from the Spanish to Rob on multiple occasions. But because he was so cute, I quickly forgave him.
(Click to embiggerate)
The Fire Show was the Bomb-dot-com. Aside from our culinary expedition through the week, this show was the highlight of the trip for me. I think. It was all pretty great!
The Gin Bar was still open late, as was the Zky Bar, but we didn't want to mess with the crowd, so we went to this one up at the front of the resort. It was our first of three trips over the remaining days of our trip.
The bar was cooly decorated in silvers and purples, and we found a spot in the corner. Oh, and everywhere we went to eat or drink something - even at breakfast in Flavours!!! - we were offered tequila. "Some tequila?" "More tequila?" Neither of us is very big on tequila, so no... but I finally ventured into one drink on this occasion:
I ordered a Caipirinha, which tasted like firewater. It was AWFUL. Rob ordered a pina colada; I brought up my belly burner of a beverage to the bartender and quickly requested a colada of my own. Whew. Thank goodness it was all included...
Saturday the 15th. Our ultimate day in Paradise. I ordered a whitefish ceviche for lunch, and of course because of my small pouch, I couldn't finish it. This happens all the time, and pretty much invariably, it upsets the server that I don't finish. They think I don't like the food; I just really can't eat more. But I would've if I could've, because this was Yum.
We really had no plans for that day, but it was raining, so there was either (a) go somewhere off-property with some resort umbrellas, (b) hang around in our room - boo, or (c) get electrocuted in the pool. We chose to hire a taxi to take us on the short drive to downtown Playa del Carmen.
I took a picture of this Buddha for no real reason other than I just wanted to, and when I was showing the children the photos from our trip last night, I asked if they knew who this was. "BUBBA!" was Chloe's quick response. Um. No. But I died laughing just the same...
Downtown, we first stopped at the big Plaza La Fiesta, a kind of outlet store for Mexican souvenirs. I needed a few things, specifically something that screamed "JACK!" to us, and some little trinkets and chocolates to round out our meager welcome-home offerings. Lots of great deals to be had there; I wish I hadn't shopped at the resort store, because prices here were much more budget-friendly.
Rob spotted this totem-like statue, and asked me to take a picture. Here you go, honeybunny-boy!
We spotted these handmade name bracelets, and I told Rob that if they were a certain price or less, I'd get one for each of our daughters. Well, they were under the mark, so we sat and chatted - entirely in Spanish for me, as I did for most of the trip - while they wrapped out bracelets for Sophia and Chloe. I picked colors I knew the girls would like and tried to get the dots over Chlo's "e," but they weren't able to do it. No worry, though, because they loved them.
Jack, obviously, didn't get and wouldn't have wanted a name bracelet, so I gave him all the Mexican pesos I came home with, instead. That sufficed.
There. There was a Haagen-Dazs on the opposite corner, and we saw a Starbucks and all manner of 7-Elevens in between Playa del Carmen and Cancun. But no McDonald's. I was oddly relieved about that...
I could not go to Mexico without getting some authentic Mexican chocolate, could I? No. We went in Ah Cacao for a treat. The samples were very dark chocolate, a mixture of sweet and bitter, and were excellent. However, I prefer a milk chocolate, so I bought this bar for $5 or $6. Well, two bites in, and I declared it, I think, "yucky." We finished it together before heading back to find a taxi "home," though, because I hate nothing more than wasting money!
I inveigled the taxi driver into stopping at a gas station, so I could get a Coke. (Hello, my name is Melanie, and I am an addict.) Honestly, I could've waited, but I wanted the cool bottles. Diet Coke, aka "Coca-Cola Light" on the left, tasted much sweeter to me but boasted zero calories, so I drank that. The "Coca-Cola Life," above right, was a mixture of cane sugar and Splenda. I got it for Rob... but he didn't drink it, and ultimately we forgot it in our hotel mini-fridge.
Oh, but when I got up to the counter, the cashier told me it was 18.70 or something near that. "WHAT?!" I exclaimed. "Oh... dolares," she realized. $1.45 for two 20-oz bottles of Coke isn't bad at all, y'know? (Little things like this interest me. Apologies if I'm alone in this!)
It was still raining when we returned to our Villa. Rob was carrying his cane in on hand, and his bumbershoot in the other. As for me, I had the umbrella, my Nikon, my purse, my sunglasses, my phone, my camera bag on my shoulder... and a slippery sidewalk. So when I stopped at the pool bar outside our Villa for a couple of pina coladas to take upstairs and drink on our balcony, well, you know that is just complete dedication to libation, right?!
After our beverage du jour, we were hungry for sumpin' to eat, so we headed back toward the beach. "Hey, Rob, let me take your picture with your umbrella!" He indulged me, yet again.
My boy Rob, walkin' in the rain...
Infinity pools in the rain... even more beautious?
We went in to the Sea Olive for lunch. Or Lunner. Dunch? Rob started off with an oddball Caesar salad of sorts, with tuna tartare and a poached egg. But he liked it, and that's what counts.
Another ceviche for me; this time it was shrimp, scallops, and I don't know what the other thing was. Some kind of mollusc, I think.
Rob's main course was a stuffed poblano-pepper seafood chili thingamabob. Not my tastes, but his were quite thrilled with it.
I had this salmon quiche, and I remember wishing it had significantly more cheese in it than it did. I found the best thing was that dark reddish sauce blob, and therefore I didn't eat too much of this dish.
This mascarpone custard was absolutely THE best thing I had to eat in Playa del Carmen. So much so that I'm eager to duplicate it at my earliest opportunity. Excuse me for a few minutes while I salivate over the memory of it...
There were several weddings going on during our stay at Azul Fives. I told Rob, when we deposited our umbrellas in the holder at the front of the restaurant before eating that there was NO WAY we were going to have umbrellas when we finished. I was right. This bride's wedding party swooped in, post-nuptials, and absconded with everyone else's umbrellas.
It wasn't really the end of the world, except that I didn't want my Nikon getting wet. Before heading to our room, I headed over to the towel boy's cabana to get some protection for my camera, which I wrapped and carried like a baby back to our villa. Hey, priorities.
The infinity pool was deserted, so the reflection was just perfect at that point. *snap, snap*
White roses discarded by the bridal party
I knelt down in the wet sand to capture this photo for you. No need to thank me. I did, however, climb into my bed with sandy shins, having forgotten that I had just done that. I think I still have sand on me. Oops.
Sundown on the pier
Back at our room, Rob decided to settle down for a long nap, while I read the magazines I'd brought, watched a little telly, and tried not to pace the floor. I was homesick for my babies to the point of tears, and I wanted to be home. Soon, but not soon enough. Then I became hungry (gee, surprised?) and decided to order up something for dinner. I found this chicken with mashed potatoes and seasonal veggies on the menu, and suddenly I wanted nothing more than some good ol' mashed taters.
And they were. Good, that is. I ate every delicious bite.
Sunday, the 16th, we checked out around noon but were still free to use all the resort facilities until our shuttle pick-up time at 1620. We sat down for a slow, leisurely lunch back at the Sea Olive, because I wanted another stab at that Mascarpone Custard before we went home!
Remember Diego from the Fire Show? The emcee? Well, he popped up again to MC another event while we dined.
They'd brought in a mechanical bull for a contest amongst our fellow resort-goers, and good gosh, but that was entertaining as men, women, and kids of all ages took their turns. (No, I did not.)
This woman was quickly thrown, as were most people. I think a tween kid won the contest in the end!
Back to lunch. I had an appetizer of "tomato tartare," which made no mention of the shrimp contained therein. Good thing I'm a huge fan of crustaceans!
Rob had some kind of Lebanese shish kebabs, and for the 2nd or 3rd time this trip, he exclaimed over how good was the chicken. Really? Chicken. Good for him.
I ordered a fresh mozzarella, eggplant, and hummus sammy, and it was just mediocre. Which was fine, because I didn't want to eat a whole lot anyway. I had mascarpone plans!
Rob ordered this chocolate banana cookie tart thing, and he liked it, but found it weird. But he did like it, so... okay.
This one, I ate ALL BY MYSELF. I don't normally partake much of desserts, because I just can't without becoming quite ill. But this... this was heaven on a plate. I was super-stuffed afterward, but the discomfort was worth it.
I needed to get vertical after that, to help gravity get the food moving out of my pouch. We went over to the infinity pool so I could snap a picture of the paint-your-own pottery available, but I didn't want to partake because of the aforementioned risk of luggage breakage.
Obligatory toes in the surf pose
We looked around in the distance ad realized we could see Cozumel from the coast. See the buildings there in the distance? They're there. I promise.
I had to lie down in a hammock after that, still exceedingly full from lunch. It's very painful and uncomfortable when this happens. Rob sat on a nearby branch while I did what I called "Hammaerobics" and "Hampilates" to get the gut moving. It worked. I was finally feeling better and could get on with my life.
Was the mascarpone really worth it?
I was thrilled to find these notices that Azul Five recycles all over the property. If you know me well, you know I'm a major supporter of the environment. You can't see it in the ashtray sand on top, but all of these also had the AZUL logo in the sand. That is, at least, until a cigarette butt marred the scene.
I've become quite enamored of photographing flowers in recent months. I did a lot of that on this trip, especially that last day, Sunday, while we waited for our transportation.
Foliage, too, not just flowers, has captured my attention.
We finally headed back down to the swim-up infinity pool bar to get a couple of the resort's signature drink, Azul Sueno. Only, Santiago, our master bartender, was on his lunch break, so our Azules turned out to be quite... Verdes instead. Ah, well. They tasted great and did their job. I'm surprised I managed not to fall on my face even once!
The Black Iguana popped out to say good-bye to us as we made our way toward the lobby to check out. I tried to approach him, but he wasn't having it and crawled under his favorite rock.
Then, guess what? Thirty minutes before our shuttle was due, this little spider monkey dude made an appearance about 10 feet from us. I sloooooowly approached him, taking pictures the whole time, while he monkeyed up and down the tree, alternatively posing for me and showing me his, um, derriere.
And then, lo and behold, he came down and sat 18" away from me. I'd have offered him a banana, but I didn't have one, so I booked a quick photo session with him. I sat down on the ground a foot away from him and snapped away. It was so... exhilarating! I could've reached out and touched him, but Rob warned me I might get bitten, so I just shot the photos. We stayed there for about ten long minutes, just him and me, with onlookers exclaiming about me sitting there taking his picture. I loved every second of it!
And then, just like that, he was gone. I think he enjoyed our session. I'll send him a disk, so he can mail out his holiday cards with them. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Hours later, we were landing in Miami. And now our family is all together, home, safe and sound again. I couldn't be happier about that.
Thanks for stopping by!