HOLA FROM THE REVIERA MAYA, MEXICO - JOCK PICHETTE
It's March 23rd, 2001 twelve noons, and Brenda is already at the front door.
A chip off the old block you might say. The inclement weather has brought us too much snow, a freak storm, but not unusual considering the climate changes throughout this world. It's definitely a motivator to reach Mexico as quick as possible. We managed to fight our way through three feet of snow piled up by the snowplow to reach Brenda's car parked on the street. The snow is almost rain, but steady. As we near Mirabel Airport, minor accidents are being tended to, with a huge truck off the road, and a bunch of cars with minor scrapes lined up behind each other. We reached the Airport, thanked Brenda gave her a hug, and she wished us a safe flight.
It goes without saying that the flight is delayed with our 16.15 departure time now set at 18.00. They tell us its something to do with the flight from Fort Lauderdale. So what's another two hour delay, once we reach Cancun all this will be behind us?
We took advantage of the time to relax in the restaurant, and from our vantage point we could see the snow letting up. We then walked off our barbecue chicken by roaming the vast territory of Mirabel Airport, and came to a stop at the magazine shop, and picked up the latest copy of Travel and some candy.
Off we go to check point Charlie, and into the duty free shop. With only an hour remaining, we parked ourselves and began a game of "Vacation Wear" and check the monitor. Zippers no doubt were the in thing, on pants coloured Khaki, black, and beige. The traveler can leave the cold of winter zipped, and un-zip at the airport for his trip to the tropics.
Finally, the call we have been waiting for, would all 225 passengers for flight 458, please meet at gate 47, and help push the plane to the tarmac. Karen turn to me and say's did you know Jock that the Tropic of Cancer bisects Mexico into a temperate north and tropical south? Not really, well I got more good news for you, "The Mexican Riviera" the West Coast boast warm, tropical weather -
Fantastic KC, but what about helping push the plane? Sorry, not finished -
were heading for the Gulf Coast, and pleasant beaches. This is the Captain speaking, will the last two passengers please board the plane, as we are ready for take-off.
The power of Air Bus engines smoothly jet's us to 31,000 feet, to a great flight into Cancun Airport. The transition from Airbus to Customs to Air Condition bus
With plenty of "Corona Beer" on board is fluid, now it's only a 45 Mexican minute ride to "The Copacabana" on the Mayan Riviera.
Stepping down from the bus at the "COPA" is special for many reasons;
Its holiday time and Felipe with a smile and warm greetings registers KC and I
We are assigned a room at the "SOL" complex, meanwhile a waiter comes by with a tray full of cocktails for us, welcome to the Copacabana. The reception and lobby area is massive with a water fountain dead center while all around it, beautiful sofa's and chairs await you. The colour schemes are Yellow-beige with sparkling marble tiles. As you look up into a reverse cone shape roof the height is staggering at 100 feet. Log's from the jungle of Mexico are used as support beams, just awesome. Some 50 feet up, you can see beautiful painted flowers
flowing along the walls.
The Copacabana opened in November of 2000, and the landscape is an Architects dream, because once we leave the lobby, you enter into a tropical jungle of splendor. Nature is very evident throughout this complex, with stone path's dimly lit, trees in place, and a bridge on stilts overlooking the lagoon stops you in your tracks. As you rest your elbows on the bridge, Latin American music awakens you, your body begins to move, and yes it's holiday time. But, were also tired, and we moseyed along to our tropical abode for the next seven days.
But, the beauty just won't stop, as we turn into our complex of three stories high
We are met with a gorgeous painted wall illustrating the beachfront and the Ocean. The entrance also has Mexican Olla's to each side, benches of design made for eight people, and no doubt opening your eyes to the Spanish traditions and culture. One flight of stairs, and we reach our room. It's a beauty; marble floor, marble bathroom, marble shower and all the amenities needed for a great stay.
Saturday morning March 24th and although we have a 10.30 AM meeting with the signature agent, it did not stop us from orienting ourselves with all the facilities. A total of six buildings exist in this complex, starting with Sol, followed by Brisa, Agua to our left while Palma, Luna and Arena were on the right side. Brisa and Luna were non-smoking units. The limestone type path was a bunch of esses strung together with Palm boxes, and benches in front of each building.
Trees were saved along the path to create a jungle environment, so on many occasions you would zigzag around these slim trees. After the Agua and Arena buildings, you meet a ronde-pointe, and then a Spanish style arch introduced us to a "Boardwalk", approx 75 feet long shaped much like a banana on stilts. From this point you begin to hear the Ocean waves, the music from the "Tequila Bar", and people enjoying life around a signature pool.
This idea deserves a 5 star rating.
Our tummies begin to rumble-hungry, so we hustled back to the main restaurant
"La Selva" located off the main lobby. Two huge Spanish style doors greet you before entering a well-organized buffet style restaurant with a seating capacity of at least 500 people, and you also have the option to eat breakfast or Dinner on the patio at the rear of the restaurant. We did just that on a few occasions.
Breakfast on the Patio
The food was above average, and a first for these eyes, on-tap beer
(Dark or Light) and to boot (Red & White Wine) I was able to
pour our own beer/wine. We considered this a classy touch to a buffet style
All-inclusive resort. Then you have Centenario Restaurant, Mexican food, but reservations were needed, and you had two dates available per stay. While you enjoyed dinner, mariachi band offered a touch of Mexican music.
Restaurant La Palapa served Continental Breakfast from 10.00AM-12.00 Noon, Snacks, Lunch-Grill 12.00 Noon - 17.00.
If you want a 5-½ star rating idea, you'll find it here located a Mexican micro second from the Pool, and beachfront. It was difficult to just sit and enjoy a snack, the action surrounding La Palapa was on going with such characters as Banana boat man, The Pirate and his chimp followed by Bubbles and Package not to mention an intriguing couple "laugh some more honey", somebody just might be taken our picture.
AGUA MAN, My new name for Jocko is "Agua-Man"
Never out of the water for more than one half hour at a time.
I can hardly keep up with my new Agua-Man
More powerful than an "Ocean Buddy"
More playful than an "Octopus"
Able to swim great distances in a single stroke
Able to hold his breath longer than Karen when trying to get rid of her hic-cups
Yes - It's "Agua-Man"
Beach walk adventure needs a pair of running shoes, because you will run out of sand and run into "Sheet Coral and "Giant Brain Coral" with an assortment of crevices. If you manage to reach the point, you will then see Barcelo Hotel & Resorts.
Karen and I found the Ocean water warm compared to the pool water, so when we ventured into the pool for Aerobics, it was just a mater of a quick
Rinse-shower, and walk in for some exercise
Our playground became the Ocean, and its variety of challenges.
Boogie boarding definitely created some great laughs, not to mention rides up to the shore. A sweater is a must if you enjoy boogie boarding, otherwise a wicked burn will follow you to bed. Thursday afternoon, we were sitting on our lawn chairs, looking towards Cuba. The wind was acting up; sand was blowing into our faces, when we notice a Doctor and his wife entering the water. Both were into their 70's, and we feared for their safety, so we kept a close eye on them. To our surprise not only did they reach the buoyancy area of the waves, but floated like a buoy. The next day at breakfast we talked to Dr.Jason and his wife Melanie about their venture only to find out that they were expert swimmers.
The pool was a signature piece of beauty. It was designed to give all ages a way to enter and retreat from the pool. From beachfront, we would take a shower rinsing off the accumulation of sand, and then enter the pool at the lowest end.
There were stairs of course at two locations, with the busiest located near the "Tequila Bar".
Another feature, which KC and I enjoyed, was Hammocks, approximately SEVEN were available just behind the Tequila Bar and Aquatic shack. It was so relaxing after a full day in the sun just to layback. You could literally fall asleep under cover or have a drink - your call. Water Aerobics took place at 12.00 Noon each day. Spanish lesson at 3.00PM, Movies at 6.00 PM, Gym just next to the pool was open all day.
Karen and I ventured on three occasions, first and most important
"Chichen-Itza", a must - The famous site in the Maya World, was founded in A.D. 445 and inhabited until A.D. 1204, when it was abandoned. The city is divided into two areas: Old Chichen, built between A.D. 600-900; and New Chichen, constructed in the 10th.Century.
The largest and most important structure is El Castillo (the Castle) with stairs ending in two large serpent heads. During the spring and fall equinox (March 21st and September 22nd) the sun casts shadows on the steps that create the illusion of a snake slithering down/up the face of the pyramid.
We had the luxury of an Air Conditioned bus and a very classy tour guide who knew is stuff about the Mayan people, as a matter of fact he was emotional about how nice these people were not to mention the suffering of years past.
As part of our tour, he selected a Mayan market place, which only last year burnt to the ground, and some of the companies such as his tour company were instrumental in rebuilding the market place.
The bus came to a stop and we had 30 minutes to acquaint ourselves with the market place. With our tour guides description of Mayan people, we could pick a Mayan person in any ball stadium throughout North America. What a wonderful group of humans, as we browsed through their market place politeness surfaced immediately, and has our guide informed us, they have a big heart. We now know what the Yucatan Peninsula represents. All along the route tiny villages would catch your eyes with children void of toys playing in fields of rocks, bottles, and scraps of wood. These were not homes, they were shacks, yet if you looked above the house a television antenna or Satellite dish provided that family with an inkling of how we live in North America.
Here's what I learned -Chichen itza's reputation as the Yucatan's prize cultural attraction is well deserved. The combination of faultless ancient architecture set to a backdrop of stunning natural beauty provides for an esthetic experience not easily matched. Yet this alone is not why Chichen Itza, capital of the Mayan empire at its zenith, continues to fascinate some 1000 years after its creation. The site's glaring paradoxes are intriguing: a civilization both intellectually advanced and brutally savage; a culture crushed by colonization, yet still thriving in the language, customs, and hearts of many present-day Mayans. You can't claim to have seen Yucatan without a visit to Chichen
We reached our final destination - Disembarking from our Air Condition bus we soon realized, this venture will require water, and more water. Luis our tour guide confirmed this felling when he began to find shade each time he had to describe "The Ruins". Unfortunately the entire site had minimal trees with each guide securing a spot of relief. Once we reached El Castillo, our guide bid us salut la visite, and hello sun.
EL CASTILLO, this pyramid built in honour of Kukulcan, rises in perfect symmetry from the neatly cropped lawn, culminating in a temple supported by pillars in the form of serpents. El Castillo stands as tangible evidence of the astounding astral understanding of the ancient Maya: the 91 steps on each of the four faces, plus upper platform, total 365 (the number of days in the non-leap year); the 52 panels on the nine terraced levels equal the number of years in a Mayan calendar cycle; and each face of the nine terraces is divided by a staircase, yielding 18 sections representing the 18 Mayan months. Even more impressive is the precision of El Castillo's axes alignment, which, in coordination with the sun and the moon, produces a bi-annual optical illusion. At sunrise during the spring and fall equinoxes, the rounded terraces cast a serpentine shadow on the side of the northern staircase. The sculpted serpent head at the bottom of the staircase completes the illusion. In March, the serpent appears to be sliding down the stairs precisely in the direction of the Sacred Cenote, while in September the motion is reversed.
Climbing El Castillo to the top is exciting, and I did so using my hands as leverage, once I reached the top I was totally scared, especially when I looked towards Karen. There is not much space at the top level, and because of the degree of steps, looking down created a sensation of a long slide. One lady was yelling, I will die up here, no way I'm I going down. Then the calm which helped me, was a young Chinese boy he was definitely out of it, alone I presume so I approached him, and said follow me, I'm going down. I sat on my but at the last step, and told him to touch me with his feet, being tiny there was no way he could see beyond me which was great for him. We began our descent carefully, and making sure he was ok. His voice trembled with fear, until about half way, when I asked him to turn around so that we can grab the rope, and return to earth with more ease. He said, it's ok, I'm fine now - Thank you. I brought the camera to the top, and instead of Karen taking my picture at the top, I took her at the bottom.
A light-and-shadow lunar serpent-god, identical to that of the equinoxes, creeps up and down the pyramid at the dawn on the full moon following each of the equinoxes. Twice a year people from all over the world converge on Chichen to see this incredible phenomenon, crowding accommodations with calendrical precision. The exact equinox dates and times vary slightly from year to year, but are always on or around March 21 and September 21.
We found the sun to be powerful, especially when you are enjoying Boogie Boarding on the Ocean. We both received more sun than we should have, so we took a day off, and headed towards Playa del Carmen, a taxi drive shared at a cost of 7$ per couple. It's a typical tourist town with plenty of options, from acquiring pure silver, walking the boardwalk, sitting on the beach watching the Crystal dock, and tender their guest to shore, shop, eat, or just relax under a shade tree.
We visited Barcelo Maya Hotels & Resorts only one Kl from our complex. Just curious visitors, because when we arrived in the region a few days ago, the bus first stop was at this complex. It was a spectacular entrance with its high white walls, signage and lobby. We were well received and escorted throughout the grounds on a Golf Cart with Freddie at the helm, he was so proud and did a great job describing the newly constructed complex of a year and one half.
1000 guest are accommodated each day with a sprawling beachfront with huts covering the majority of guest.
We will be taking home some great memories of the Mayan region:
Starting with the Architectural Landscaping of our complex, just awesome, beautiful, relaxing and romantic in more ways than one.
The Yucatan Peninsula, with its Quintana Roo drive through a Jungle, the villages but most of all the people - The Mayan People.
A most amusing incident occurred while having lunch at the local hotel in Chichen Itza. When I looked at a young boy dancing with his troop trying to raise a few pesos, he caught my eye. First because the dancers all had tray's on their head with glasses, a bad move would send glasses to the floor. All were dressed with typical Mayan cloth showing off the culture, gentleness, and pure beauty. But, this young lad all of 8 years of age, had beautiful dark eyes and although he performed his pirouette in unison with his partner some 12 feet away. I soon realized why he was hugging the corner wall, a swimming pool with some children of equal age were playing in the pool, and he was dreaming.