The Mexican police have been a far larger presence in our adventures than I would have liked. When we initially saw so many in SMA we felt safe, when we encountered them at the Merida airport ✈️ we felt annoyed but this time we just felt stupid & have absolutely no one to blame but ourselves.
We spent our last rainy Saturday in Chuburná packing & prepping for our return to Playa Del Carmen. One thing we have gotten pretty good at is meal scheduling & not over buying food 🥗 We don’t have to throw things out or leave them behind or figure out how to keep things cold in transport. All that to say, we had no food in the house for dinner, so we decided to head into Progreso as we finally had a chance to try Humo Bistro’s clam chowder 🥣 which is only available on weekends.
We arrived for a late lunch/early dinner, about 3:30 in the afternoon. We figured cocktails, a big meal & a last walk on the malecon 🏖️ would be a fitting ending to our recovery time here on the north shore of Yucatán & it would have been, if we had taken that walk along the beachfront.
We sat for a couple hours, enjoying the cooler Mexican winter day & talking about next adventures, both in MX & back in Colorado this summer. I had three glasses of wine 🍷 & Dave, two old fashions 🥃 over the course of two hours 🕔 This is when we should have taken that walk along the beachfront but alas we headed back “home” to finish laundry 🧺 So responsible in what would turn out to be our irresponsibility 🤦🏼♀️
We had been in this general area for about two months over the course of our Mexican travels. We had gotten to know our way around, main roads & back roads. This evening would have been a good time to take the slightly longer route through town & around the marina, but instead we opted for the quicker known route to the highway & the police check point.
We had been told several times that Mexico has a ZERO tolerance for driving after drinking, because to be super clear, neither of us was drunk. So as usual, long story longer… when we saw the flashing lights, we should have pulled over or turn down the next street but we did not & on we went to the checkpoint.
Dave blew into the officer’s breathalyzer & whatever it was, was enough for the officer to ask us to pull to the side of the road. As some may know, the legal blood alcohol level in the United States to be considered impaired to drive is anything over .08. In Mexico 🇲🇽 it is half that in a majority of the states, & although I couldn’t find anything online, I think it is even less than that in the state of Yucatán, like .02 (which is the equivalent of 1 beverage 🍸 ) Believe me, we are not proud of this situation, it does turn out to be a funny antidote (in hindsight) & for those of you who have had negative experiences in life regarding DUIs, I apologize in advance if you find this offensive. (maybe skip the rest of this post.)
The officers were very nice as they asked for our documents & keys & led Dave down the sidewalk for a second breathalyzer test. I sat in the car wondering if I should text our local friend for advice, help, bail money… when Dave & another officer returned to the car. Here were our choices, a hefty fine or 36 hours in jail 😬 Have we mentioned how much fun we had down in Mexico!
Not surprisingly, we opted for the fine. Remember how we had no debit card? Well thankfully, we got that sorted but unfortunately, I left my purse at the house two pueblos away. The police had kept the keys, docs & Dave’s driver’s license, that meant we had to get a taxi to the house, grab my card, feed the pets we were sitting, go to the bank, pay the fine at a specific police station & then return to the scene of the crime. The cars were stacked nearly a dozen deep as we got into our cab & negotiated a $700peso ride to &from & back. A brilliantly profitable operation they have going, I suspect in one evening they make over $10,000! (Dollars not Pesos) I don’t begrudge them, the law is the law & we were ignorant, now we are not, at least about this. So on we went.
These are the moments where the rubber meets the road, both in our marriage & on this adventure. It would be really easy for me to be mad at Dave, to overthink, woulda, coulda, shoulda. Take a walk on the malecon, make a different turn, any number of things that might have produced another more positive outcome. But what possibly is the good of all that?!
We sat in silence most of the taxi drive to the house, Dave beating himself up, me wondering when was the right time to make a joke 😉 “Muy divertido,” I said to our driver, “very fun.”
At the bank we got $11000 pesos, just enough to cover our taxi & fine. Roughly 19 to 1 on the exchange rate, plus the bank fees, that delicious clam chowder cost (including our cocktails 🥃) just over $600usd. An expensive meal & valuable lesson 🤷🏼♀️ After paying the fine, I decided the time for joking had indeed come & remarked, “🍻mas cervesas, ahora…” quickly followed by, “En la casa! 🏠” so the taxi driver didn’t think I was a total ass! We all laughed 😂
It was only upon our return to the car, retrieval our keys & docs that Dave informed me of his relief to see the car where we left it & his hopes that he had indeed made a convincing plea earlier for them not to impound it. Later research via the all powerful Google would reveal our $500usd fine could have been as much as $2500 and something about a mandatory car impounding & 24hours in the clink. Lucky again, dumb luck 😣🍀
Another exhilarating experience in this crazy life we have chosen. I think I can say with some confidence that, although the Mexican police seem to be doing a great job, I do not need to have any more interaction with them in the future.
So here is the thing about me… I want to do so many things. I love writing this blog & hearing from those who are reading it. I am also, highly distract-able 😬 Since my last post nearly two months ago, we have made seven transitions (2 international). As you might imagine finding a quiet place to collect my thoughts to look back & reminisce has been fleeting. So as I frequently do, I will begin again… Forewarning, this post is a bit random (hence Random Musings) & out of order. It feels disjointed & not quite finished, but like I said, to get back on the horse, I had to start somewhere… sorry if it sucks 😉
Even before our plans went south with our PDC Airbnb, we were finally beginning to gain traction on a new budget friendly accommodation strategy: house & petsitting 🏠🐶
House/pet sitting has been a way of life for many people for a long time. You might consider it to be high end couch surfing. I was in middle school, spending the weekend with a friend & her aunt, who I learned was a professional house-sitter. At 12 my interest was piqued. A person could have a job where they got paid to stay at someone’s house? That sounded like a pretty good gig.
Fast forward 30+ years, we have discovered how to incorporate house/pet sitting into our digital nomad/vagabond life. I had read plenty of articles & blogs about house & pet sitting. Before we sold our house, one of those blogs lead me to a website called trustedhousesitters.com
In hindsight, I wish we had done a little more research & preparation to build up our profile so we could have had access to more & longer sits in the early days of being a member. There are three tiers of membership, basic, standard & premium. All of those come with a background check & unlimited housesits. We originally signed up as basic sitters, but found we got much more traction when we upgraded to Premium.
I would certainly suggest if this is something you might be interested in or would like to explore, start with the basic membership & pick up a few short local sits to get a feel for it first. This is also a great way to garner reviews for future sits.
Whether as a homeowner or pet-sitter, if you use the link above, you get a discount & I get the benefit of added time on my membership 😉
The TrustedHouseSitters platform gives both the homeowner & petsitter ample space to describe themselves, their homes & their experiences. Pet-sitters can easily apply for listed sits & communicate in the TH messenger. As well, homeowners can scroll through all the sitters by location &/or availability. Homeowners can reach out to invite a sitter over posting for applicants. TH also offers a newsletter to help sitters write the best profile & homeowners establish a welcome packet of information.
Our experiences have been pretty good so far & worth the cost of the platform in exchange for free accommodations on the road. We have figured out how to work the system. Initially, I would apply for only one sit & then hope & pray. Now, I apply for multiple sits in a general area, in a general time span & see what hits. We have yet to do multiple interviews for an area over taking whatever comes first.
We have also discovered what we can do & what we’re not willing to do. Two dogs & two cats or any combo of that is our max threshold. I can’t imagine trying to wrangle 3, 4 & 5 dogs. It seems like then it becomes more of a full-time job & less of a trade-off to see a new area & live free. We haven’t had the chance, but we would gladly add in fish, reptiles, chicken & farm animals as those need to be tended to but are generally corralled, not underfoot & high energy like most dogs we have encountered.
Much like our Airbnb experiences, this retired professional organizer can’t help but see better design & organizing opportunities everywhere I go. However, unlike our Airbnb opportunities, where I always jump at the chance to ply my trade in exchange for free/refunded nights, I am certainly not going to dig into these strangers’ cabinets & closets without their permission. My profile does include info on my passion for organizing & an invitation to avail of it, as well as the guarantee that I won’t go snooping around to appease my own OCD.
Our very first house sit was back in Churburná, Yucatán. It was a nice respite after our travails in PDC. An American lawyer, who had lived in Mexico for about five years, had an incredible house right on the beach, with two cats & a little dog. This sit was actually through a different platform called HousesitMexico, same premise but only focused on Mexico 🇲🇽
Our next sit was in Colorado Springs when we were back in the US a minute. This time it was two dogs, one big, one little. The little was clearly the alpha.
As we enter into our second year of life on the road, we have five sits booked over the next four months & have applied to a few more in the new year in the direction we hope to go. As always, there is a learning curve & as always we are leaning in!
If you made it to the end of this one, thanks ☺️ In theory, this has primed the pump to get back to it ✍️ Thanks for coming along for the journey 💜 Until next time….
Well here we are, the post you have been waiting for, the reason we went social media dark & are over 2 months behind on writing about our adventures… grab a snack, this is a long one 😉 really long 📝
At the end of 2022, we left Yucatán & headed east to the coast, Quintana Roo & the city of Playa del Carmen, PDC. We visited PDC for the first time back in May of 2021. We fell in love with it. Sadly what we fell in love with was not what we found upon our return. Turns out visiting after high season, amidst a global pandemic is quite different from experiencing it with the masses.
We arrived just before Christmas with plans to stay in the area until our March departure back to the US. We had three Airbnbs booked to split our time along the coast. The first was a relatively new two-bedroom apartment near a grocery store & about a 2km walk from the beach. The bed was cozy, the water pressure descent & the internet, fast enough for both of us. It wasn’t as clean as I would have liked, especially the kitchen. So I did what I do, I contacted the host, who had been quite communicative upon our arrival. He offered his apologies, saying the unit had been vacant for a month or so. I, of course, suggested a refund on nights or an extended stay to give us a packing/moving buffer. He agreed to the extra night & offered to have the housekeeper come during our time. I was happy with that, I cleaned the kitchen & didn’t give it another thought. A week went by with no issues. We walked into town, along 5th Street, went to the beach & out to dinner, all was well. We even enjoyed over-imbibing as we celebrated New Year’s Eve at Señor Frog’s on the beach, where I can neither confirm nor deny that we possibly forgot to pay the bill. All was right in Adventureland!
Thankfully, it was after my hangover subsided that I got the first bizarre email from Airbnb on Monday, January 2nd. Our host sent a request through Airbnb to cancel our reservation. We had only been in the apartment for a week and had just over two weeks to go before moving along. I messaged our host via Airbnb & I got a single message, saying he wasn’t getting the correct funds from Airbnb & therefore needed to cancel our reservation. Then radio silence for five days. In the next five days, the real story would unfold. When I didn’t hear back from our host, I contacted Airbnb. The customer service representative was very nice & probably gave me information she shouldn’t have. She told me the host had failed to include some relevant tax information on his account & therefore they were not releasing the funds to him. She also said it was perfectly within my rights to decline the request as he could not cancel our reservation under these circumstances. So I declined. Once again, I didn’t give it much more thought.
In the midst of this special kind of crazy, we were in the beginning stages of getting our first pet/housesit back in Yucatán. As with many of these stories, there are many other stories. As such our adventures into housesitting is one we will have to circle back to. I will say, that story was beginning to grow legs on Wednesday evening, January 4th. We were in the middle of a zoom interview with the pet sit homeowner when there was a knock at the door. Dave & I both discounted it because we didn’t know anyone here, who could be knocking at the door? A few minutes passed, there was another knock at the door. I left Dave to continue the interview & answered the door.
It was our neighbor from across the courtyard whom we had never met, but I recognized. She introduced herself & said the owner of the apartment wanted to talk to me. To which I replied, “absolutely I have been trying to reach him, both in the Airbnb app & on WhatsApp.” What would be discussed & revealed over the next 10-minute conversation was a bit surreal. You hear stories, you empathize with people & you hope it never happens to you. But here we were.
“The owner of this apartment is a woman,” she said. 😳 The man you are renting it from is their renter!!!
All I could do was laugh. What little I knew was beginning to make sense. The neighbor showed me a picture of the owner & asked for my number so she could pass it on. Could they call us that evening? Most definitely!
I rejoined are pet/housesit interview, which we finish successfully & waited for the phone to ring. The owners were a lovely couple from Monterey, who were currently in Puerto Vallarta celebrating a family birthday. Turns out, our Airbnb host had rented the apartment from the owners some time ago. Somewhere along the way, our host decided to sublease their apartment on Airbnb, but told the owners, he just had some friends coming to stay 🤨
🏠 Note to landlords: Airbnb does not consider what our host did to be subletting. Airbnb does not call its customers renters, it calls them guests. Somehow, that is some sort of semantical BS. So if you are a landlord & you do not want your tenant subleasing or renting it as an Airbnb/short term vaca you should probably also put that in the contract.
We spent the next hour & some discussing the situation, comparing our host’s Airbnb listing to the actual owner’s AirbnbMX listing, all the while the owner‘s husband was on the phone with Airbnb & I had opened a support ticket.
By the end of our phone call, Airbnb had suspended our host’s listing & the actual owners had generously said we could stay through the end of our reservation. We also agreed to let the actual owners continue to try to reach out our host, who btw had failed to pay his current rent. This would be the first of several phone calls, all pleasant, some panicked. Once we were off the phone, I continued to log info into my Airbnb support ticket.
Note to people who use Airbnb: take screenshots of all platform threads. I am certain there was pertinent information missing when I revisited the tickets later. Also, take screenshots of threads between yourself & hosts if things become problematic because once you block them, you no longer have access to the threads. An additional piece of advice here is to stay in the Airbnb platform messenger & do your best not to communicate using an outside third-party app or texting. We were also messaging via WhatsApp, which I would later decide was a mistake.
We considered our options. l had already begun looking for other accommodations after receiving the first request to cancel from our host. As part of those efforts, l made a post in a PDC Facebook group seeking support, info & alternatives. I mentioned our general location, but not the name of the complex or the name of our host.
Thursday passed with no new insights. Friday, January 6th, I woke to a message from Airbnb. Our reservation had been canceled & our entire payment was refunded. WTactualF!!! I contacted Airbnb for information. I still had heard nothing from our fraudulent host. All we could do was rest in the confidence that the actual owners of the apartment had said we could stay. The only response we got from Airbnb was “thank you for confirming everything is sorted now.”We didn’t receive any kind of notice from Airbnb to leave or find other accommodations.
Saturday, January 7 we returned to the apartment at about 3 PM after a big day of reef drift diving & hanging out with some bull sharks. (Another story) Dave was cooking dinner before we both passed out from exhaustion when my phone blew up. Apparently, our fraudulent host’s Airbnb account had been restored, & I assume he could see that our money had been refunded. He had seen my PDC Facebook post & was pretty pissed.
This was when he began posturing & making minor, empty (we would later learn) threats. I immediately contacted Airbnb through the “I don’t feel safe” button & the actual owner of the apartment. I made two calls to Airbnb in a two-hour timeframe under the guise of an emergency & got no help. Again, Airbnb was useless. I had two options, call the local authorities or wait for a phone call back from the customer service rep handling my case, who I would later find out was somewhere in the Middle East. A seven-hour time difference, not so great for an emergency.
My phone call to the actual owner was more conclusive unfortunately not in our favor. This was when I learned the semantics of Airbnb. Airbnb told the actual owner that they don’t consider what was happening to be subleasing. The owner had also finally heard from our fraudulent host. Our fraudulent host said he had gotten a lawyer & knew his rights & blah blah blah, again, probably complete posturing & total nonsense. I was beside myself, I told the owner about the text the host had sent. I also informed the owners that Airbnb had reinstated the fraudulent hosts listing which was now once again showing the apartment available to rent. I asked the owner if they thought we should leave. They said yes if nothing else for your safety.
All the while I had been on the phone I was also packing, just in case someone showed up at the door as the text threats suggested. Interesting sidebar: that chair 🪑 under the doorknob 🚪 thing really does work. We sat down to eat our dinner & figure out what we were going to do next. Dave asked me if I thought someone was coming to “remove us from the apartment.“ Dave didn’t think so. I wasn’t sure but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to sleep a wink in that place. We finished dinner. We finished packing. We booked a hotel. Thankfully, we had rented a car the day before. We loaded up the car & took another round of photos of the apartment as proof we left it as we found it. I called the owner again to let him know we were leaving & told him we had left the keys on the dining table.
Luxury Apartment 😆
What happened next was a Mexican miracle. We checked into the hotel with perfectly wonderful staff who must have sensed we had had a really hard day. We had a comfy bed & a decent shower & we slept, hard! The next morning we had a delightful breakfast, delicious coffee & finally a message from Airbnb. Two days after Airbnb (not the host, not the owner) canceled our reservation, 66 hours later & another 7 messages asking for follow-up, Airbnb sent me a list of potential places to stay but no mention of the safety situation. We declined their recommendations & booked a return to Playa Chaca back in Progreso. We were headed to that area for the pet sit & it just made sense to get the hell out of PDC.
Sunday, January 8, we made our way back to what we would call our safe place in Progreso, Yucatán. The actual owner called to check on us. They also confirm with agreement from Airbnb that in fact, neither the fraudulent host nor the actual owners nor we requested the reservation be canceled on Friday, January 6. That was completely a decision made by Airbnb. The actual owners had really gotten a lawyer & were in the process of terminating the lease with the fraudulent host. They had also already changed the locks 🔐
Monday, January 9th I received a payment request from our host for $1021.84 🤔 After declining the request is when I may have poked the bear 🐻 Let’s get real, once the dust settled & I had regathered my resources, I unleashed only a tiny bit of my passive aggressive super bitch. I messaged the fraudulent host… ➡️➡️➡️➡️➡️
He messaged back & just began to dig himself deeper into a hole, showing his true ignorance. He started by saying he knew we were still in the apartment (which we were not) & that we would be liable for any days we stayed after the cancellation & made more empty threats about charging us with theft because we didn’t leave the keys in the lockbox. Having talked to the owners & knowing that the locks have been changed, I knew the kid was just blowing smoke.
This was also the morning, I finally received a phone call from the Airbnb safety team. Two days after leaving the apartment under threats of physical removal. I regaled her with this same story. Roxanne, the Airbnb customer service rep was appropriately mortified & apologetic about the situation.
Along with the story, I expressed my complete & utter disappointment in Airbnb’s mishandling of the whole thing. I think it is safe to say that the actual owners, the fraudulent host & ourselves all had completely different customer service reps “handling our situation” & never once spoke to each other about WTF was going on.
I spent the rest of the day & the next writing the longest email ever to send to Airbnb recounting moment by moment, even more in-depth than this, the ridiculous situation as it unfolded & Airbnb’s complete lack of its management. I also continued to check on the fraudulent host’s rebooted listing & received the opportunity to leave a review.
Soon after that, the listing was still live, but could no longer be booked. I had not yet blocked the fraudulent host on Airbnb or social media but when I looked at the Airbnb message thread all of the fraudulent host’s messages have been replaced with a block statement that said “this message has been hidden because the person no longer has access to Airbnb.“
I finished my email, collected all of the screenshots & downloaded the WhatsApp threads into a dropbox link, ready to send it off to Airbnb. Our fraudulent host must have caught wind that Airbnb was no longer on his side because, at roughly 4 o’clock on Tuesday, January 10, I received this lovely WhatsApp message…
But wait, there’s more… on Tuesday, January 10, I received our fraudulent host’s message implying he had taken a hit out on our lives. Thursday, January 12, I received a second request for funds in the amount of $1023.29. I laughed out loud & wondered, were we paying for our own hit? What benefits did that offer? Did that mean that he would honor our wishes to be cremated? Would he return our remains to the United States? Did I need to give a specific address for that? I wasn’t sure what that payment would include. Gosh, could I up the ante & just pay the hitman directly when he arrived to not kill us?
Not surprisingly I declined, sending a response saying, I felt the death threats voided any obligation for payment. I took more screenshots & sent them on to Airbnb. With surprisingly still, zero response.
Saturday, January 14, one week after the original threats to physically remove us from the apartment, I finally got a call from the Airbnb safety department. I told my story again, this time to Abel. I resent the email. Crickets… 🦗
Monday, January 16, I received yet another request for money from the fraudulent host this time for $6112.13. Where were these numbers coming from & what exchange rate was he using? I immediately declined, took screenshots & sent a message to Airbnb support. I would follow up three days later in that same thread, saying I had heard nothing from Airbnb. I would get one last support message from Airbnb before I finally resigned myself to letting the whole thing go. I made sure to block our fraudulent host on all social media platforms, while still finding a way to keep tabs on him.
You probably won’t find it hard to believe that this was our least favorite part of the adventure. We would return to Playa del Carmen, continuing to keep everything on the down low. We would move along, finishing our adventures strong, occasionally laughing at this poor kid’s expense. The stress of the entire situation would eventually subside but I won’t lie, especially in today’s world with the illusion of privacy, I wonder if we should be looking over our shoulder. Will we try to be more cautious in the future, hopefully? Will crazy shit like this continue to happen to us, probably?!
The caliber & breadth of the Mayan culture is quite indescribable. We had several opportunities over our time in Yucatán to visit a few of the many known ruins that dot this amazing landscape & give a peak into the past. 1500BC to 1500AD spans the significant rise & fall of the Maya.
Then like many a story of discovery & exploration, an entire civilization is dispersed or wiped out under the guise of conquest 😡 It seems not much has changed in a thousand years in the name of “progress” 😔 This vast, looming, once thriving civilization is now eerily empty. Looking deeper into the jungle, the Maya are still clearly present, continuing to fight for their land & way of life as the “progress” of the Mayan Train pushes through. I am not even going to pretend to give a history lesson here. The truth is there are no words only feelings of excitement, awe & wonder as you step into these ancient cities.
Uxmal is one of the largest cities of ruins, just south of Mérida. As we walked up the path & beyond the trees, the Pirámide del Adivino (Pyramid of the Magician) appears in all its grandeur. With every turn, around every stone wall corner is another breathe taking collection of pillars & petroglyphs covering over 160 acres.
You might think it would be easy to say, once you have seen one ancient city in ruins, you have seen them all… According to the map, there are nearly three dozen options (of the ones excavated & open to the public) just in Yucatán.
The larger more visited are a bit more regulated & you can no longer climb to the top or venture in very far. Whereas other smaller sites still allow you a bird’s eye view. Like Xcambo, NE of Merida & near the northern coast of Yucatán. Xcambo also offers an interesting juxtaposition, that commingles the Mayan culture & the later introduction of Catholicism, introduced by their Spanish conquerors in its Temple of the Virgin de Xcambo.
Mayapan, considered the last great capital, was another less visited, often overlooked site to the southeast of Mérida. Scaling this one was not for the timid 😬
Each city had its place & purpose within the Mayan culture, each slightly different. They were hard to compare. We could have spent our entire time in Mexico seeking out the next one.
In the near center of Yucatán, rises the most popular & most visited, that of Chichén-Itzá. The Temple of Kukulkán rises 100ft in the center of the grounds. If you stand in just the right place, when you clap, the temple echos out what sounds like the chirping of birds. Depending on the day & angle of the sun, you just might see the great Kukulkán slither its way down the side of the temple pyramid.
A 1935 Dibujos (drawings) on papel entintado y pintado (inked & painted paper) from Teodoro Zapata Mexico depicts the Great Ball Court of Chichén Itzá & displays two rival teams in a repeated scene: seven ballgame players on each side parade toward the center, where the fatal end of the defeated captain is recreated. He is shown kneeling before & decapitated by the victorious captain, who holds a knife & severed head of the loser. Interpretations blend history, myth & astronomy to exalt feats in war or to suggest battles between forces of darkness & light or between political groups linked to the Sun & Venus. (info panel & art from the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida)
If visiting the sites, touring the expansive grounds & being in the middle of history is not enough, Mérida also boasts an amazing Mayan Museum, the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida. The museum takes a deeper dive into the language & culture of these nearly forgotten people. Inaugurated in 2012, the contemporary building was designed in the form of a ceiba, a sacred tree believed by the Maya to connect the living with the underworld & the heavens above. (LonelyPlanet.com)
Perhaps it was Hunab Ku who watched over us through all our adventures because what came next certainly took some divine intervention & measures of faith 😬😉
So many little Mexican pueblos, so little time. We usually head off on adventures with a general plan, but we are always open to switching it up, especially when locals give us the skinny.
To the west of Progreso is a small coastal pueblo that offers a look into Mexico’s conservation efforts. Celestún, home to the Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Celestún, one of many preserves that seek to protect the 10%+ of the world’s total amphibian, reptile, bird & fish species that call Mexico home at least some part of the year. We headed to Celestún on the recommendation of several locals. Celestún, along with its neighboring pueblo, Sisal & another reserve further east, Rio Lagartes & quite honestly all places in between are the winter migrating grounds for the flamboyant flamingo🦩 You may or may not know that a flock of flamingos is in fact, called a flamboyance 😉
We turned off after the first bridge as you head into Celestún, where we caught a boat out into the pink waters. Have you ever seen a flamingo in flight? We had not, but now we have. Our boat continued through the mangroves & back to shore.
My mother will be happy to know, we pretty much stayed out of trouble, with the exception of feeding some furry little bandits that live near the boat dock. 🦝
The flamingos of Celestún were the draw, the bonus was the sunset & marquesitas 🧇 What is a marquesita, you ask? It is delicious, Mexican happiness in a paper wrapper. A man & his traveling waffle cart set up on the beach next to the sunset, for $50mxn pesos or the equivalent of $3usd, he pours fresh batter on to the piping-hot propane-enabled waffle iron. Then to decide on your fillings which are abundant, both savory & sweet. Nutella, lechera, queso, strawberries, bananas, mangoes, the list goes on & on. We chose Nutella & strawberries, slathered & sliced. Some marquesita masters fold others role, this guy added a crimping technique to the bottom so the goodness didn’t escape. A hot, crunchy, tasty treat enjoyed on the beach, watching the sunset, a sweet life.
This would be our last adventure in this part of Mexico, or so we thought. Next we would head east, toward the coast, discovering & exploring the colorful pueblos of Izamal & Valladolid.
Izamal is referred to as the Yellow City. We joked that Comex, the local Sherwin-Williams must have had a fire sale. Cobble streets of horse drawn buggies, sunshine buildings & beautiful people, that about sums up this hidden gem!
Our boat mate in Celestún, a Mérida local, suggested Izamal & a great restaurant, Kinich, named after the Mayan solar deity & local ruins. Like most places in Mexico, the simple facade opens onto a grand courtyard of ladies in traditional Mexican dresses, eager to serve you the delicious dishes of Yucatán… Poc chuc, a traditional wood-grilled pork fillet… 😋
After lunch, we wandered further into town to the Convent de San Antonio de Padua, where in the park below we also got to enjoy the holiday tradition of the Camino de Flores. Unfortunately, we were unaware of the Pirámide Kinich Kakmó just three blocks to the north. The truth is, we can’t see everything, 👀 I’m sure we have missed a few treasures but that doesn’t discount the beauty we have seen along the way.
Our next unexpectedly beautiful little pueblo, was that of Valladolid just the other side of Chichén Itzá. It doesn’t get old. Every little pueblo has a parque principal, colorful letters, painted to express the community’s personality & a rich history of its thriving people. As we do everywhere, we wander the streets taking in their beauty, when we’re lucky 🍀 getting an occasional glimpse behind simple doorways into the lives of beautiful Mexican families, lounging in hammocks instead of on couches, eating & laughing together.
Valladolid & the Yucatán peninsula are home to 16 stingless bees, one of which is the Melipona bee, revered in Mayan culture for its medicinal honey or miel. We had the opportunity to visit, Xkopek, a bee farm in the base of a dry cenote. If you didn’t know any better, which we did not, you could easily mistake these tiny bees for flies & under value their immense significance to the region. As if humanity wasn’t enough of a risk to these tiny pollinators, amongst the 16 species is an impersonating thief, that makes no honey of its own, but rather intoxicates other bees with its pheromones & steals their golden goodness. 🐝
We had a chance to visit their hives, watch them toil away & sample the tasty goodness of a hard days work. It would be a sweet, ending to our time in Yucatán. 🍯
I love my mother, so it makes me sad that I worry her so, but worry her I do & apparently a few other ladies in her over 55 community 😜 There has been more than one conversation that has begun with, “mom, we are okay!” She knows that means there is a fun story to come 🤷♀️ Or not so fun, as she would see it.
We headed off one bright sunny afternoon to the far west side of the peninsula, about 25km to the small pueblo of Churburná. We used an app to get a taxi for something like $20usd, thinking we would have no problem finding a return taxi when the night came to an end. The taxi dropped us in town, where we headed down to the beach to have a look around. The place we really wanted to be was another 3kms east & the shoreline didn’t look completely passable. We walked back to the town square & decided to grab a snack. Guacamole & World Cup hit the spot as we regrouped on the plan. We decided to grab a mototaxi, a motorcycle with a metal framed sitting area attached to the front 😬 Pretty sure the driver gave us one price at the start & another at our destination 🤷♀️ We paid the the latter with the agreement (we thought) that the driver would come back for us just after sunset 🌅
This area had no services or facilities, it was just one long stretch of beautiful Mexican beach 🏖️ We spent the afternoon watching the pelicans dive bomb into the water & follow along with the returning fishing boats.
The sunset did not disappoint as the tide made its way up the beach.
As the light began to fade, we made our way back to our agreed upon meeting spot. You will be as shocked as we were to find our man never returned 🙄 3km, it’s not that far. However it was a narrow, mosquito infested road that was growing darker by the minute. This is the point where you may begin to understand my mother’s concerns 😉 With every passing car, I began to convince myself, I would just have to flag someone down & ask for a ride back to town. We walked past the fishing boat yard & I thought, we just need one of those guys to stop & we can jump in the back of a truck. You know, safety first! Two seconds later a pick up pulled over & a young guy motioned for us to climb in. Dave actually said, “Can you imagine what your mom will say when you tell her about this?!”
It was a short ride back to Churburná where they dropped us. We said our thank yous & goodbyes & they were on their way. I think we like to believe that all people are good & helpful, that doesn’t mean we aren’t paying attention to our surroundings. We headed back to our guac spot & tried to call a taxi. No joy. We also failed to remember & ask about the Colectivos, although that would have made for a pretty long night.
In a moment of brilliance or desperation, I decided to text our new found friend Paul. A little about Paul… Paul left his job amid the pandemic 😷 & chose to start a family business & turn his front courtyard into a quaint dining patio. Paul & his family work together to bring true Mexican flavor to the neighborhood. It doesn’t stop with tacos 🌮 Paul drives folks around, rents bikes & scooters & pours into his community while loving every expat that stops by. He & many like him, that we have met along the way are why we come to Mexico 🇲🇽
Thank God for WhatsApp! This would be the first time Paul would come to our rescue but not the last 😂
Paul would later help us rent a car & send someone to help us when we locked the keys in said rental car 🤦♀️
So as things tend to do, all worked out! We are safe, we are okay👌🏼 We ended up back in the area about a month later. It was great to see Paul again & laugh about the continuing predicaments we seem to get ourselves into. Fun times!
We have been wanting to travel to Yucatán, MX for some years now, so it was high on the list of must-sees. It was not the easiest place to get to even before covid 🦠 It is just beginning to get a bit more accessible as the colonial town of Mérida is finding its way center stage. Mérida boasts an amazing mix of traditional Maya & colonial Mexican (Spanish) culture. Merida is on the rise with ex-pats, especially Canadians, with its growing art scene, amazing food, rich, abundant culture & breathtaking geography from the tops of basamental pyramidals to the unreachable bottoms of deep freshwater cenotes.
We planned to spend a month in the area, which was not nearly enough time to take it all in. So of course when the sh*t hit the fan later, it would become our “safe place” of return. Progreso, especially, will forever hold the memory of unexpected beauty with the incredible added bonus of quick & easy friendships.
Progreso is the largest pueblo along this Yucatán peninsula peninsula (no that is not a mistake.) Progreso sits in the center of the smaller pueblos of Churbaná, Chelem, Chicxulub, San Benito & Telchac Puerto, all amongst the Chicxulub Crater. The peninsula is separated from the mainland by a long stretch of state-protected swamps & mangroves.
Progreso was not nearly as walkable as San Miguel but once we learned how to flag down the colectivo, we were well on our way to discovering all this small pueblo had to offer. First & most importantly, we had to find a place to watch the World Cup ⚽️ What better place to be than Latin America especially as we neared the finals 🇦🇷
We found a great little Cuban place along the malecon, looking out onto the beach & across the Gulf of Mexico. Sarten Cubano became our go-to place for games & cocktails. Their Cuban sandwich was on point & it was one of the few places we found tostones (savory Cuban-style plantains as opposed to the more traditional sweet Mexican ones 🍌) In between matches, we took walks on the beach outside our condo, chasing the tide 🌊 ate tacos with new found friends & enjoyed the slow pace of Mexican time 🕰️
I think one of my favorite things about Progreso was the endless shoreline of seashells🐚 On our first long beach walk, we began to think this is where all the seashells must come from. Miles of beaches covered. Dave picked up one that seemed slightly different from the rest & handed it to me. “Oh, am I collecting these?” I asked. He said he thought I might want to, but I declined, figuring if I changed my mind, I knew where they were. 😉 A few days later I was talking to our daughter, Erin. We were discussing the upcoming holidays & she said, “I know what I would like for Christmas, something “hecho en Mexico.” 🇲🇽 I told her I would be on the lookout, but truth be told I was struggling with that myself. Most shops I visited, stuff was “hecho en Vietnam” or “hecho en Taiwan” Then a thought crossed my mind. “Do shells count?” I asked. She said, sure as long as I hunted them myself. I guess I was collecting seashells after all.
A few days later, Dave & I ventured out again for a beach stroll. My goal was to find a few dozen shells, maybe I could string a necklace or fill a small water bottle with sand & shells to send her upon our return to the US. Much to my surprise, not far from our apartment’s beach access we came across a sprawling pile of shells… I would spend the next days combing the beach, thrilled by each new find. Needless to say, I collected way more than a water bottle worth 😬
Now as not to let you all be lulled into a false sense of us staying out of trouble… let me assure you… It’s what comes next 😬
Due to its timeliness, I am once again breaking into our regularly scheduled calendar of events… Why? Because February is my birthday month & I get to do whatever I want 😛 Let’s be honest the month doesn’t really effect that. So a quick interlude about an impromptu girl’s trip in what we refer to as a month of Jessicas, you see it begins & ends with 2 of the best.
She is at least the second Jessica in my life to call a best friend. We met a dozen years ago when we found camaraderie in parenting & marriage. We have seen a lot of life in those dozen years, growing children, passing relationships, moves from here to there. We have worked for each other, we have worked with each other, then counseled & supported one another through exciting changes & tough times ❤️
Jess joined me for a minute on the beach 🏝️ in Mexico for our February birthday month. We stayed at The Reef Playacar, the same place Dave & I spent our anniversary a couple of years ago. The Reef is a cute & cozy all inclusive hotel/resort along the Playacar neighborhood beach. With the exception of randomly locking ourselves out of our bathroom because of a janky knob, our room was quite nice. Comfy beds, cold a/c & good water pressure – when traveling as a way of life these become priorities.
As a talker, it has taken me a lifetime to learn & cultivate the ability & enjoyment of sitting in silence. The best relationships are those where we do both. Jess & I share more than a birthday month & beautiful name 😊 although you can tell us apart by our preferred monikers, Jess & Jessica. We also share beliefs, values & experiences that make it easy to catch up on life & at the same time, sit quietly enjoying our books. Add some cushy beach loungers & we were stuck in for days. Read a little, talk a little, eat a little, drink a little (or a lot one afternoon 🥴) The days went too fast.
Sidebar: Some places in MX only use third party booking sites for their accommodations, others give you added benefits for booking with them directly. The Reef Playacar is one such place. The Reef is also sort of a timeshare something or other… that is how we originally discovered it when some friends of ours shared their bounty of weeks with us for a great 25th anniversary deal. This time I booked directly through the Reef website & by doing so received a gift of a 2 for 1 massage. (Those massages could have been free, had we sat through the 2 hour TS presentation, not surprisingly we passed on that.)
We did however avail of our massages & an afternoon in the spa steam room, sauna, cold plunge & relax room. Nothing quite like a little extra pampering on an impromptu girl’s trip.
As our visit came to an end, we booked the hotel shuttle to the Reef’s sister property in town, Cocoa Beach to enjoy dinner at their Japanese Samurai restaurant. We had an almost lovely evening of birthday laughs. We were joined by a family of four with two teenage girls who spent most of the time on their phones & a couple celebrating their 6 year anniversary, who pretty much argued the entire meal 🤦♀️ The restaurant put on a pretty good show, though there were moments I thought maybe our hibachi master was just learning the trade 😆
Another birthday in the books, another decade coming to an end (at least for me), another girl’s trip full of cherished memories made. Not to mention another half a suitcase worth of “stuff” she took back to the States for me! That is true friendship right there!
I think most folks would agree, the only good cockroach is a dead cockroach 🪳
So in a slightly better frame of mind than the night before, I set out to clean & negotiate. Now to be fair we are in the jungle tropics 🌴 There are bugs here. As much as I hate the creepy crawlies, I wasn’t going to overreact. AndI certainly wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to pursue a financially beneficial situation.
You can take the professional organizer out of COS but you can’t take the OCD entrepreneur out of me!
So as some of you know & many may not, I had a thriving & successful professional organizing business in Colorado Springs for 15 years. I loved my business. I believe I never felt more truly alive, in the zone, who I was built to be than when l was designing, creating & organizing space! https://www.facebook.com/MAS.Movement (If you are interested in more back story.)
I know a lot of people who are not big fans of cleaning & organizing. But even more so, hate the idea & cannot even bring themselves to ask for something when things are not right. I actually love doing both of these things! Not only am I all about bartering & negotiating, but I truly believe there is zero harm in asking. What is the worst they can say? No….better than not asking!
We have stayed in ten different AirBnBs over the last 11 months in a dozen different cities. Half of those have said yes to some sort of refund or stay extension. Almost every host has been eager to “make things right.” I infer that means they would rather give a little than receive a bad review. Which of course works in my favor! Some times I ask for too little, sometimes I asks for too much, but in the end there is a mutually beneficial resolution.
I should have asked for more here at the bug condo but got a quick refund for one night & the cleaning fee. I did give the kitchen a minor cleaning, including washing every dish before we used it & also bought a can of bug spray at the store.
Other AirBnBs have agreed to similar refunds, usually due to lack of cleanliness more than anything else. A “nice” resort place in Pagosa had hair every where & no vacuum 🤢 $100 cleaning fee refunded. Our AirBnB in Albuquerque was actually wonderful all the way around & as it turned out we were actually acquaintances & now good friends with the owners. NOTE: Always really look at the person’s name & photo, you might end up knowing them 🤦🏼♀️ & could contact them directly 😉 At their place, I reorganized the kitchen just for the shear joy of doing so & sharing some ❤️.
One of the worst was our AirBnB house in Colorado Springs. After collapsing on the couch from the exhaustion of moving in all our crap, I noticed all the trash under the beds I could see from my living room vantage point.
The host offered to resend the cleaners, which almost all offer to do. I always decline this in exchange for a refund of some kind. Why? Mainly because they didn’t clean it well the first time & I can do a better job better! BTW have I mentioned how much crap we still seem to have during this living on the road period of our lives?! I don’t need or want some random person “cleaning” around the melee.
Needless to say, this turned out to be one of my most lucrative negotiations. I spent a day doing a pretty thorough cleaning of the entire house & re-orged the kitchen. The host was so pleased, he asked me to check out his other AirBnB across the street. I spent a day there as well. In the end, we were refunded our cleaning fee & nearly an entire week!
What advice can I give to help you get a deal? Quick & easy… 1st thing, always when you arrive at a vacation rental, check everywhere & take pictures 📸 The 3 places I focus are:
Bathroom: 🚽 check the space behind the seat, check the seat & raise the seat – if there are any areas of concern, take a picture.
Kitchen: 🍽️ I start in the cutlery drawer, how does this drawer get so crumby? If it is overrun with crumbs or worse little black spots (roach poop) – take a picture. I check the fridge. I also check a few dishes to make sure they are clean, especially if there is no dishwasher.
Bedroom: 🛏️ have a good look at the bedspread, I don’t think these ever get washed 🤢 then pull back the covers. Grosser still, I found crumbs & hair in one place that was given no grace, we just left & got a full refund.
It hasn’t happened yet, but my goal is to create a “business” where I am able to barter stays in vacation rentals in exchange for design, organization & efficiency advice & implementation. Once again, remember, Dave is working 8-5, M-F. I have a lot of time on my hands 🤲🏼
Our other five AirBnBs have been clean enough not to warrant complaint. However in an attempt to garner my own own great reviews, I try to offer constructive criticism on how they can improve. Again most hosts have been very receptive. But as I ramble on, I realize this is a story for another time.
In case you were not counting there is one AirBnB I left out. This AirBnB is the reason why I am off track & this blog is out of sync with our actual location & timeline as well as why I haven’t been posting a ton on the socials. Hopefully you will stick around for that one, it’s a doozy 🔪 😬😉
Let’s discuss why you want to decorate the hell out of you luggage… because people do not pay attention! The pilot gift at Balloon Fiesta one year was a rolling carry on size suitcase, black with AIBF artwork embroidered on the front. We were one of 650+/- pilots that received these, so it’s safe to say at some point we might be traveling with someone with the same suitcase 😬 Our FIG bus to GTO, the Bajío airport was the day. I didn’t think much of it when we left our suitcases with the porter, I didn’t even think much of it as we exited the bus to retrieve our suitcases until… I reached for the black carry on with the embroidery of the front, not noticing the absence of my signature ribbons & our balloon sticky on the front.
What I did immediately notice was how light the wrong suitcase was, because mine was heavy as Ffffff… Only then did I notice the lack of identifying bits I adorn all our suitcases with much to Dave’s chagrin & this would be why! Panic set in pretty quickly. I called my girlfriend who was already gate-side & asked her to be on the lookout as I headed to security. Dave stayed back at the ticket counter scouring the crowd. Just as I was about to hand the guard my passport, Dave called & said he had the bag 💼 PTL 😇 Dave just happened to notice a Brazilian pilot at the counter looking confused as he lifted a way heavier bag than he expected 😬 Once again, crisis averted, well this one…
On to security, where we would discover that a metal comb apparently could somehow be used as a weapon so that got confiscated along with our channel lock pliers… Why do did we have channel lock pliers you ask? Well that would be because I brought a shower head with us 🚿 Yes, you read that correctly, a shower head. A shower head, channel lock pliers & plumbers tape. In nearly every bathroom we replace the shower head for our time there. Why, because I want what I want & I want descent water pressure! (The shower head has no flow restrictor on it, btw.) So, channel lock pliers confiscated because they should have been in a check bag, with that I can agree, metal hair comb, not so much. Not nearly a crisis, but certainly an annoyance 😣
On we went, we caught our flight to Mexico City after a lovely chat with friends in the airport. We landed without issue, we tried to rebook on an earlier flight but because we had checked bags, we had no joy. So we found a place for dinner, then settled into a spot near an outlet to watch Netflix for our 6 hour layover.
We finally boarded our flight around 730/8pm. It was going to be a late night. I had already informed our Airbnb host that we would not be getting in until after midnight, he recommended a driver to pick us up at the airport & we seemed to have all in hand. Little did we know the adventure to come….
We arrived on time into Merida, Yucatán, collected our bags & headed out to find our ride. My first clue for concern should have been the vague WhatsApp message that the guy I had been expecting was sending another guy. A young guy pulled up in a car I wasn’t sure would hold all our luggage but it did. We were loaded up & ready to roll when two police officers joined us as the car. My second clue should have been when our young driver asked if we spoke Spanish. Our reply as usual, “Un poco.” He then said to us in Spanish that we were amigos, si.? Si.? We then spent the next 20 minutes going round & round in Spanish, broken English & Google translate with the police officers. The officers were very nice, they were clearly trying to be both understanding & impart information to us, at no point did we feel unsafe or threatened in any way. So as it turns out, only licensed taxis are allowed to pick up at the airport & post Covid, Merida & most of Yucatán has continued to enforce a strict curfew & general licensing of other, non taxi drivers. Apparently our young man & us were breaking all kinds of rules 🤷🏼♀️ Long story longer & this is only the half of it…. we got out of the car & unloaded our bags. We were told by the police & our young amigo that we should walk to the corner & he would circle back around for us. 3rd clue!? We walked, we waited, we saw him drive by & on… I called him & asked if he was coming back for us, he said no. 🤦🏼♀️ It is now 1am 🕐 We walked back to the airport. I opened my Uber app & picked a new driver. $650mxn. Just to cover our bases, I asked a taxi driver their coast, $950mxn. Save $15usd, sure. So off we walked to our pick up spot, clue #4. As we stood on airport property, the taxi driver drove around to us & said he would take us for $650mxn & explained again that non licensed taxis were not allowed to pick up at the airport.
Have you ever heard that one about the guy who was waiting for God to save him in a flood? When the water was low, a truck came by, when the water got higher a boat came by, as the man sat on his roof along came a helicopter 🚁 All asked to help him & take him to safety, but alas his response was always God will save me… he drowns & goes to heaven, where he meets God & asks, why didn’t you save me? God says, “what do you think the truck, the boat & the helicopter were for?” 😬😉🤣
Nope, taxi-man, we got this! But just in case, we walked out to the main road & waited for our Uber. Uber stupid. Our second driver arrived, we loaded our bags, we got in the car, we almost got away & then 🚨 Poor Dave had held it together but was now at the end of his rope. The police were very nice & with little to no conversation, we got our bags & headed back to the airport. As I write this, I chuckle because it is as laughable now as it was then. Some how, some way we seem to keep our shit together 😝 Our $650mxn taxi-man was gone as was the offer. At 2:30am & $950mxn later, we were finally headed to our apartment in Progreso.
We arrived about 3:30am, still fully hyped on adrenaline 😳 After a little unpacking to calm us down, we headed to bed for the few short hours before Dave had to be up for work 💻 The next day, I would clean the kitchen & try to find & kill the giant cockroach 🪳 I had seen the night before but was too exhausted to care about. That of course, is another story, for another time, maybe next time….