Back in the day, Will would attend a yearly conference that met at a different place in the Caribbean each year. I was only too happy to accompany him. After attending for 4 years running it was also like a big reunion every year, and boy was it fun to escape the cold and get to see everyone again every February! The 4th year we went (in 2007) it was held in Mexico outside of Playa Del Carmen (which isn't exactly in the Caribbean, but I wasn't complaining). As you can see in these pictures, I was pregnant with Emily, and as you can probably guess, this was the last year we attended :-(
I was super-excited to go to Mexico, since Will had been before and loved it. He first visited on an explorer group/work trip back in August of 1998, when we had been dating for about 7 months. He was gone for 12 days, and I missed him with a passion that only a dramatic 17 year old can muster. My family still teases me about how I sat on the couch clutching increasingly sodden throw pillows and sobbed, subsisting solely on boxed mashed potatoes. Hey, it's still the longest we've ever been apart since our first date and if he ever left for that long again I might still be able to soak a throw pillow or two.
For the week of the conference, we stayed at the Fairmont Mayakoba, which was gorgeous.
|Oh, how I wish I was there now!|
|There's Emily poking out (and me getting the worst sunburn of my life because I thought those cloth umbrellas would actualy block the sun. Nope.|
|I had to miss out on all the tasty mixed drinks, but I did enjoy some virgin versions|
|Dinner on our porch|
|I repurposed the flowers the next day :-)|
|Will's family, minus Margaret|
|Daytrip to Tulum|
|The Mayans knew how to choose a location|
As lovely as our first week there was, my favorite part of the trip was when Will and I extended a couple days to set out on our own. We rented a car and headed into the middle of the Yucatàn peninsula to check out Chichén Itzà. We stayed at this idyllic little hacienda in the jungle just steps from Chichén Itzà itself (which allowed us to majorly beat the crowds and have the ruins to ourselves before the tour buses showed up in the mornings), and it was perfection.
|Our little villa|
|Our little poisonous snake friend right outside our villa (red touches yellow!)|
|The back porch, where we ate our meals|
Seeing the Mayan ruins was pretty amazing. The Incan ruins in Peru were cool, but since most of their decorative work was done in gold (which the Spanish obsconded with pretty quickly) the ruins, while amazing because of their locations and ingenuity of engineering, were mostly just steps and giant rock walls. The Mayans liked to carve designs into the actual rocks so I found them a lot more interesting to look at.
|Chacmool, an ancient Mayan figure, a smaller version of which can be purchased onsite as a convenient chip bowl holder|
|The observatory (possibly where they predicted the world would end this year?)|
|Will playing on the ball court (how on earth did anyone ever score with the hoop all the way up there?)|
Cancun reminded me of a classier and prettier Ocean City (until the sun went down...then it was much less classy).
|Will's too sexy for his shirt|
|I definitely "popped" while on this trip|
--------------------It was not tough to decide what meal to make to represent our trip to Mexico. First off, it HAD to include gazpacho! For one thing, gazpacho is just screams fun.
|How could this sight NOT make you feel happy?|
All my life I oscillated back and forth from the "gazpacho should be chunky" point of view to the "gazpacho should be blended until smooth" side. While we stayed at Chichén Itzà we discovered there was a third option which was clearly the best solution, a sort of "all of the above". Our hacienda served smooth gazpacho, but with little bowls of chopped tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers and onions so that you could decide the exact degree of chunkiness you wanted. We ordered gazpacho at every meal and enjoyed it so much that way so now it's the only way I make it
|Part chunky, part smooth, all delicious|
|Everyone loves options|
|Especially sour-cream coated 5 year olds. Tutu-wearing 2 year olds still won't touch it though.|
For our main course, I recreated a meal we ran into (and enjoyed the heck out of) a lot in Mexico, a kind of "build your own toastada" bar. I'm not sure tostada is really the right thing to call it, especially since ours were soft and not fried, but for lack of a better word that's how I refer to it. In any case, you start with a soft corn torilla and go to town, scooping delicious toppings on left and right. One thing I found interesting was that at these build-your-own bars, having a particular preparation of something didn't preclude its separate ingredients from being presented as toppings as well. So for example there would be refried beans, but also pinto beans. Guacamole, but also chopped avocado. Various sauce-y salsas, but also pico de gallo AND plain chopped tomatoes. And we almost always took a bit of everything until our poor tostada was smashed flat(er) under an El Castillo-like pile of fresh and tasty food.
|Corn tostata, refried black beans, shredded chicken, grated cheddar (didn't get a chance to pick up queso fresco), avocado, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime|
For dessert, I had to include papaya, because it was EVERYWHERE down there, but I was too afraid to eat it :-( I had read that eating underripe papaya was dangerous to pregnant women because it can be toxic to fetuses and it also contains enzymes that mimic oxytocin in the body and can make the uterus contract. Rather than trust that every papaya presented to me was perfectly 100% ripe, I just avoided every delicious jewel-like morsel. I later realized that it was probably GREEN papaya that was the biggest issue (and also that it didn't really work, when I purposely had green papaya salad to try to convince Charlotte to evacuate my premises) but by then I had already missed out :-(
I also found a chocolate bar with cacao nibs and chili peppers in it (and lots of X's C's and L's in the name so you know it's legit (-: ) to accompany my fruit salad of papaya (very ripe!), mango and pineapple. Not quite as good as having them fresh in Mexico of course, but a nice little end to my dinner nonetheless.
|I shared the chocolate bar of course, although the girls were disgusted|