Friday, February 21, 2014

Two days in Playa del Carmen

I've read that Playa del Carmen is a party town, so I was imagining myself dressed in a pretty sundress, high-heeled sandals, and a light tan, dancing away the night with a handsome, Latin stranger. Reality was a bit different, but I still enjoyed my two days in Playa. My hotel was adorable: the small boutique-style, La Tortuga Hotel and Spa. It was located a few blocks from the beach and one block from the main tourist street of Avenida 5, on a corner in a busy part of town.
Pool atrium of La Tortuga Hotel and Spa, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
January 2013
I was given a room on the third floor, which at first I was not happy about because there is no elevator and I hate climbing stairs (why is it sooo hard?!!). But then I found it the room came with its own private rooftop patio with a jacuzzi! Score! It was so pretty, and so private! I spent one late afternoon just sunning up there and it was so peaceful and serene.
Private, rooftop patio for sunbathing at La Tortuga
So I spent my two days in Playa del Carmen walking up and down the gorgeous beach and Avenida 5 (the tourist street with tons of restaurants, artsy shops, and touristy souvenir shops). My one mistake was walking in high heels for hours that first night and that mistake resulted in horrible blisters that put the kabosh on my late night dancing. Also, I wished I had gotten pesos from the airport ATM while I was there, because I did spend quite a bit of time walking around looking for a cash machine in Playa. Most places did not take credit cards, so having a lot of cash on hand was necessary.

I did get approached by random men a few times while I was walking around, but they were not the Don Juans that I had imagined. They were a little creepy, so I steered clear. One guy wanted me to come back to his place to look at his artwork! I'm serious! Would any woman really agree to that?! Crazy!
The beach in Playa del Carmen: gorgeous, soft sand, not overly crowded, even in January!

I tried several great restaurants, recommended from the Fodor's guide, including Cueva del Chango, and Chez Celine, and one beautiful night, I lingered over a seltzer - (I was a little too queasy for a cocktail) - my feet in the sand, and listened to a live Reggae band at the beachside bar, Fusion. The setting was perfect, but I did feel kind of wistful that I was alone and not with a "boyfriend." I think I was the only solo guest there, so a little bit of loneliness did set in. Afterward, I walked along the beach in the moonlight, then took a taxi back to my hotel. On the way back to my hotel, I passed a part of the street that was alive with throngs of people mingling, drinking and listening to loud music - it was the famed Playa "party scene!" For a moment, I considered jumping out of the taxi and joining the crowd, but my shyness, and the blisters on my feet deterred me. I continued on to my hotel and had dessert by the perfect pool, then turned in for an early night.

My time in Playa del Carmen didn't exactly turn out how I imagined it, but I did love it there and hope to go back some day - maybe next time with an outgoing, single girlfriend so that I can participate in the party scene. I'm probably too old for it, by most people's standards, but I still love the idea of dancing for hours in a tropical location, inhibitions lowered by delicious margaritas, flirting with a cute stranger, and just reveling in feeling sexy and being a woman.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Solo Travel in Mexico (from the perspective of an introvert)

There are many sites and blogs these days that talk about being a solo traveler, but one thing I haven't found are ones that come from the perspective of the introvert solo traveler. Articles talk about how to meet people, not feel lonely, and connect with other solo travelers. But to the introvert, this point of view misses the point of choosing to travel alone.
Approaching Cancun from the air. I traveled on American Airlines and was very excited to find no one sitting next to me on either side in the plane!
I love to travel by myself. In fact, it's my favorite way to travel. When I've gone on trips with other people, I usually am thinking, "I have to come back here, but next time, by myself." I feel the need to experience places on my own schedule and in a quiet, meditative way. It feels like my travel companions get in the way of really enjoying the destination. 
On the beach in Playa del Carmen. The word "gorgeous" can't begin to describe it!

Anyway, I suffer from S.A.D - Seasonal Affective Disorder - and this winter has been particularly bad in the Chicago area, so I decided to actually do something nice for myself and take a trip to Mexico. This was a very scary thought for me. I worried about the safety of traveling alone in a country that sees almost-daily headlines for kidnappings and other drug-related crimes. I worried that I would get lost or ripped off because I didn't know the language. I worried that I would have stomach problems from the water, and it would ruin my trip. I also worried that it would be cloudy and rainy, thus defeating the whole purpose of the trip. I worried constantly and gave myself panic attacks. Luckily, none of these bad things actually happened (though I did see partly cloudy skies on my last day there).
Relaxing and soaking up some Vitamin D on my private roof-top patio at La Tortuga Inn and Spa in Playa del Carmen.

I was able to use credit card mileage points and get a fairly cheap flight to Cancun for the last week in January. Then I did a bunch of research using a Fodor's travel guide (which was pretty lame because it only had a tiny number of hotel reviews), and mostly pouring over  TripAdvisor.I selected three hotels, one each in Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Akumal. I chose three different types of hotels because I couldn't decide which one would be best for me. First I stayed at La Tortuga Inn and Spa in Playa del Carmen. La Tortuga is a small boutique style hotel on a busy street just blocks from the beach. In Tulum, where I went next, I stayed at a bohemian style eco-hotel right on the beach. And then in Akumal, I stayed at a huge, all-inclusive resort right on the beach. In my next post, I will post pictures and reviews on all three ways to stay in the Riviera Maya, along with some reflections on traveling to this part of the world as a single woman in her 40s.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

La Mer: Creme de la Useless Waste of Money

Oops! I did it again! I fell for celebrity endorsements of a product, spent way more money than it is intelligent to do, and now rue the day! After years of reading in  US Weekly Magazine, InStyle, and the like, how celebrities are devoted to La Mer Moisturizing Cream, I plunked down the $155 for the smallest one ounce size and tried it out. My first impression was positive. The "Creme de la Mer" comes in a white glass jar with a luxuriously substantial feel to it, like something you might find on your glamorous great-grandmother's vanity table. It's heavy and smooth and gleaming. It also comes with a little plastic paddle/scoop-type thing so that you don't have to stick your grubby fingers in the jar to retrieve the cream. The scent is also very pleasant. An old-fashioned, faint, ladylike floral. The cream is thick and white - and that's where the disappointment began. When I applied it to my undereye area, it didn't blend in easily and I had to really press and rub it in for it to absorb. This felt wrong because I was rubbing the delicate skin under my eyes, which I try not to do, feeling it makes the sagginess of that skin worse. I also tried just patting on the cream and waiting a while to see if it would absorb by itself, but it didn't. It just sat their on my very thin under-eye skin, in a cakey, unattractive fashion.

So the thick consistency is a problem, but what about the moisturizing properties? Does it do what it's supposed to do, i.e. give the skin around my eyes a dewy, youthful appearance? No, it doesn't. After an hour or so, my skin looked just as dry as usual. I also tested the cream on my hands and cuticles, which are always horribly dry looking, and it failed in that respect, as well. Within a very short time after application, the skin on my hands looked just as dry as usual. The cream had no lasting properties.

So in conclusion, this cream is a big FAIL! Too expensive, too thick, not very moisturizing. Learn from my mistakes and don't buy La Mer.