Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mayan Riviera, Mexico December 11 - 16, 2009

Grand Mayan Resort, Grupo Mayan, Quintana Roo

Early in December, we took advantage of the lull in the travel industry between Thanksgiving and Christmas to dash off to the Mayan Riviera for a few days of sorely needed sun and rest. We flew Jet Blue from NY to Cancun, and got a good deal on the price. We also paid the extra $30 to upgrade the seats to an exit row, which I highly recommend. Not only did we get a roomier exit row than I have experienced on larger carriers (e.g. Delta, United), but we also got to pre-board. Because my husband and I had booked a window and an aisle, we were also fortunate enough that nobody wanted to pay the extra $30 to sit in a middle seat between us, so we had one of the few empty seats on the plane between us for a little extra space.

Landing in Cancun, we picked up our rental car, and drove the easy 35 minutes down the main Carretera to the Grand Mayan - part of the Grupo Mayan consortium. The check-in area for the Grand Mayan was finally finished, after needing to build it a second time after it unfortunately burned to the ground after a year of construction. The new Mayan Sanctuary, is a great addition. The Grand Mayan now has its own swim-up bar (previously Grand Mayan guests shared the swim-up bars in the main pool area with the Mayan Palace guests), and there is a filtered sunlight pool with great plantings and bird song.

Checking in at the new Grand Mayan lobby (which we have witnessed under construction for the past two years since the first time it burned to the ground when it was almost completed) they give us a suite on the 3rd floor of Building 10. These are the newer buildings, with the golf course on one side and the jungle on the other. For the past three times we’ve been here, we have somehow always ended up on the 3rd floor of Building 1. The buildings are massive, with stark modern lines, and huge palapa roofs, which they light dramatically at night to chase away the darkness of the surrounding jungle. Building 10 we query? Surely there must be something closer. It’s a good 15 minute walk to just the main area of the pools and the beach is even further. Sorry, the sweet girl behind the computer tells us – we have no room in any of the closer buildings. We know this can’t be true, but we let it go for the moment since it is 4 pm and we are weary from travel and hungry, not having eaten since our 9 am breakfast snack at the Jet Blue terminal. There’s a peaceful quality to this building – far from the main hue and cry of the central area of the resort. The Mexican jungle, low scrappy trees that can handle the heat and the long dry spells, is just the other side of a chain link fence. It is an odd site – the manicured lawn, pathways and plantings on one side –the jungle pushing against the fence on the other. Dark birds of large wingspan float by occasionally, drifting across the top of the trees. From our 3rd floor balcony we look out across the jungle to the neighboring resort in the distance. We can only see the rooftops – oddly dramatic in contrast to their surroundings, some with spires and cupolas in imitation of the grand buildings of Europe.

The weather is as predictable as clockwork here. In the land of eternal summer, the only variation throughout the year seems to be how high into the eighties the daytime temperature reaches. It is hard to remember that it is December, with Christmas less than two weeks away. While far out to sea the winter storms rage, our only reminder of their existence is the strong wind blowing on the beach, and the morning clouds that make their way in from the sea, cross our path, and continue inland to the jungle. They laid these big buildings perpendicular to the sea, so their broad sturdy side would take the brunt of any hurricane or major storm. I can see the Caribbean and I can hear it - but all that reaches our patio is a gentle breeze that ripples the palm fronds and causes the tops of the trees in the jungle to dance occasionally. I contemplate a large grey heron standing sentinel at the top of a dead tree far out in the jungle. The tree is taller than the rest – easily twice as tall, and I wonder what type of tree it was, why it is so much taller than the others, and if this is what caused its demise in some way.

A call to the manager’s office had indeed produced a suite on the 3rd floor of building 1. However, in the end we decided to stay in our tranquil jungle facing unit, as the swap was complicated by the fact that there would be hours between moving out of this place and into the other, due to cleaning schedules and the need to turn over the rooms. Chalking up our refusal to move, on the heels of a request to do so, to crazy gringo-ness the manager good naturedly wishes us a pleasant stay at the Grupo Mayan. Our plans for our first full day in Mexico are simple, lunch and a swim up in Puerto Morelos and then a massage back at the resort. We are curious as to the effect of a recent NY Times article on Puerto Morelos, touting it as the last genuine fishing village on the Riviera Maya. (Do the reporters ever think about the outcomes of their articles?) Yet, not much has changed – we think we see more gringos than last time, but this could be coincidental, as could be the construction of a new restaurant on the plaza. Sitting outside at lunch with large margaritas in front us, facing the crystalline waters of the Caribbean and watching the fishing boats bob up and down as the gentle waves roll up onto shore, I ask Chun if he had to describe heaven, wouldn’t it sort of look just like this?

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