Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chili today, hot tamale

Every year as the winter wind whips the cold into a bitter slap in the chops, Darrell and I high-tail it the heck out of Cleveland to destinations that have a high probability of warmth, sunshine, ocean breezes and beautiful beaches, but where we won’t likely be murdered, kidnapped or thrown in prison.

One year we spent Thanksgiving in the Bahamas. Fresh grouper for Thanksgiving dinner was just fine with me. We found a colorful and quirky little resort in Nassau called 
Compass Point. http://www.compasspointbeachresort.com/index.html
I remember our first day there was sunny and bright, but then we were surprised by a chilly turn in the weather, with high winds and rain. Whoosh…Snap!
Just a little Bahamian sunset.
That's me on our porch. See me waving?
Compass Point is where all the groovy people stay. Apparently there’s a recording studio nearby. Rock stars, Starniks, you get the picture. We had a spacious, comfortable oceanfront cabin, our own little covered porch, a fridge, and an unexpected television.
Always good advice.

The view from our porch.
Even under stormy skies, the water was utterly gorgeous – in wavy patterns of turquoise, lapis lazuli and violet. But, stray from the tourist areas and prepare to be flattened by the terrible poverty that is the life of the locals.  Hoo-wee! And not in a good way. The tourism industry is huge in the Bahamas. Oh, really? For the residents to not make a living wage is dreadful. Really. 

Having said that, we weren't quite ready to give up on that neck of the woods, so we ventured one other year to the British Virgin Islands and Jost Van Dyke
Not a real pirate of the Caribbean.
Holy Depp! The pirates of the Caribbean weren’t kidding. 

Stunning views with white sand, blue/green mountains, winding roads and sparkling sea. The Sandcastle Hotel, where we stayed, and its famous Soggy Dollar Bar were nothing to write home about, although the local cocktail, the Painkiller, was aptly named.

Some big BVI sailboat.
Some big BVI sunset.
Tortola, here we come!

Warning: when traveling to the BVI… it takes FOREVER to get there.
Big plane to Miami or was it Tampa. I forget. Then another plane to San Juan.  To get to Tortola requires squeezing into a tiny, tiny, plane made out of rubber bands, tin foil, bailing wire and chewing gum. They make you give your weight and don’t even think about lying about that because it could get you killed. I sat next to the pilot. I kid you not.  She ate sunflower seeds while flying the plane. I ate my guts out while peeing my pants. After we landed (quite safely actually but thank you Jesus anyway) it was a 45-minute cab ride to the other end of the island. Then a ferry. Then a cab to the hotel. We got to Sweden quicker.    

All in all, we enjoyed the BVI. The people were nice, the standard of living was pretty decent and the views were spectacular. If we could move the Compass Point resort there, that would have been nearly perfect.

One other year we drove down to St. Augustine, Florida and stayed at a nice B&B on the beach. The House of Sea and Sun. http://www.houseofseaandsun.com/. The weather was a little cool and a little rainy, but better than Cleveland in February. St. Augustine was nice for a day trip, maybe two days, but not worth it for five. Overall I rate it “meh,” but felt I had to mention it.

We found the best place to experience beautiful beaches with the best guarantee of great weather is in Mexico. I know, I know, the first thing you’re wondering is: what about the getting murdered, kidnapped and imprisoned part? All I can say is, fly into Cancun and go straight to Tulum. You can rent a car or take a cab. It’s a 9 0-minute to two-hour drive, so renting a car worked for us.

Tulum is a direct shot down the highway, just past the Riviera Maya. What the town lacks in charm is made up for by the resort area, which is full of good places to stay – from exclusive and swanky to just the basics.  And the beach is the best. Miles of white sand, clear azure water, peaceful and relaxed. Many vacationers come from Europe, and lots of college students traveling on a shoestring get back to nature in Tulum. It’s a very eclectic collection of people looking for a peaceful, non-aggressive, untouristy oasis.

The nightlife is fun as well. Zamas is a tiny resort with a big restaurant and is where everyone goes for dinner and entertainment. It used to have live entertainment every night - singers, acrobats, salsa dancers – but the last time we were there it was limited to the weekend. But the people-watching there is the BEST. http://www.zamas.com/index.html   

Doesn't look ruined to me. Ha-ha.
The Mayan ruins of Tulum are set against a dramatic rocky coast and are a must-see. Gorgeous. The Tulum ruins are smaller than Chitzen Itza and much less aggressive as far as the local craftspeople trying to sell you stuff, and much less stifling and hot. Can you tell we liked Tulum better?
My feet on the beach at Ana y Jose.

We’ve been to Tulum three times, each time staying in cabanas on the beach. In general the accommodations are nothing fancy, just simple and clean. The area is very eco-conscious; they ask you to not flush toilet paper, and that might not appeal to you. But don’t think it’s not hygienic, because the service and care is topnotch. The last time we went we splurged and stayed at the lovely Ana y Jose resort. Beautiful. http://www.anayjose.com/

Ana y Jose view.

As nice as Ana y Jose was, we still thought Compass Point was the best. So here’s what we’d like to do: Move Compass Point and the BVI mountains to the beach at Tulum. That’s it! Perfection!