Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Top 10 memories from Akumal

We got back from our 8 day trip to Akumal late Tuesday night thanks to a Mexicana airline screwup (they changed our flight from 2:45 to 5:35pm without bothering to inform us). With two overtired, junk food-fueled kiddos for traveling companions, our trip back most definitely does not make this top 10 list.

10. Getting a mani-pedi at the open air "Budha Spa," which would more accurately titled the Massage Hut. Frosted pink was probably the least offensive of the 5 polishes offered me, but that doesn't mean I like it. Z and A, however, thought the color was beautiful. My nails look okay, but the hand and leg massages plus 1 hour and 45 minutes of silence? Blissful.

9. Lunch on the beach at the Lol-Ha Snack Bar. I was fully expecting our day without my mom and Rick (who were on a bus tour to Chichen-Itza) would be stressful, but our kids were delightful from breakfast to bedtime, playing with us, each other, and the twin 6 year olds from Salt Lake City who moved into the condo next door. While our two angels devoured their hot dogs, Josh and I had the best shrimp and fish tacos.

8. Every meal we ate at the Super Chomak Loncheria. This counter outside the overpriced grocery store serves the best Mexican food you can buy wearing just a swimsuit and a towel.

7. Lunch in Playa del Carmen. Josh and I left the girls with their doting grandparents and headed north to Playa for a couple hours of shopping and eating. We started with dessert, Mayan drinking chocolate and a brownie at Ah Cacao, before having a healthy lunch of fresh-squeezed juice and fish sandwiches at 100% Natural. We read each other tacky tee shirt slogans ("I'm not a gynecologist, but I'll take a look" and "Take me drunk, I'm home" come to mind) and wondered how so many shops can sell the exact same tourist crap. While I comparison shopped for silver earrings, Josh got offered the chance to buy some "nose candy" by a street entrepreneur.

6. Snorkeling in Yal-ku lagoon. This really is as close as you'll ever get to swimming in a tropical fish tank. Josh and I took turns checking out the brightly colored fish with our rented snorkel and keeping the girls (who were wearing water wings) from getting pulled out to sea by an unusually strong current. Although we didn't go on the same day, the Italian restaurant (and small hotel) Que Onda is right next door to Yal-ku. If you're ever in Akumal, it's worth stopping there for their house made linguine, which is served with a variety of different sauces in a charming courtyard garden. We were lucky the restaurant has a gravel floor as A peed on it while wearing a sundress and no one was the wiser.

5. Reading The Book Thief, which was on loan from a co-worker. Oh. My. G-d. I couldn't put it down. Really, one of the best books I've ever read. If I had to choose between bringing this book and touring the ruins of Tulum for the third time (see wind-whipped family photo above), I'd choose reading. Hands down.

4. Discovering how much fun our kids can have with limited toys. We bought a few canisters of Play-Doh, some markers, a few sand toys and a bottle of bubble juice at the Super Walmart in Playa. That, plus the two Happy Meal My Little Pony toys we'd brought with us kept our girls (and Z's new friends Hannah and Emma) happily diverted for days. Of course, all you have to do is give A a plastic grocery sack and she'll "pack" it with random household items and play airport until she decides she'd rather play doctor instead. (Incidentally, her opening line for doctor is always "You so brave."

3. Watching Z and A play kissy-fish, a game of their own invention, which involves the two of them swimming into each other and kissing each other repeatedly on the mouth.

2. Dinner alone with Josh. On our second night in Akumal, we let my mom and Rick babysit and we walked down the beach to La Lunita, a romantic little restaurant we remembered being really good. It must have been an off night in the kitchen, as I was served a Sangria that was as sour as limeade and a poblano pepper stuffed with a giant wad of mozzarella and dried oregano that tasted like nothing so much as Domino's pizza cheese and catnip. We figured they couldn't mess up dessert, but someone had the bright idea to top a lime and cheese frozen pie (kind of Key Lime pie-y) with peanut butter drizzle. It was weird, but any oceanfront dinner date with free babysitting is going to score high in my book.

1. Hidden Worlds. Our one big touristy splurge was Ultimate Adventure packages to the cenote/eco-adventure park Hidden Worlds, where we got to ride the first-ever skycycle over the jungle (more challenging with a child between your legs), fly down a zip line and rappel into a ceynote, and snorkel/float through underground freshwater caverns where we saw stalactites and stalagmites, bats, spiders and a baby scorpion. There were probably fewer than 30 tourists in the entire park, which is huge, so we enjoyed lots of one-on-one attention from the guides.

Thanks, Mom for renting the condo, making coffee every morning and encouraging us to eat every last scrap of food in the refrigerator. Thanks Rick for being a doting grandfather (and jungle gym) to my children. Thank you Josh for putting the girls to bed as often as you did and for brushing the sand off your feet before climbing into our bed. And thank you to my kids for exclaiming "I'm having so much fun!" as often as you did.