The Artwork of Michael Divine

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Playa del Carmen, Snorkeling and the Last Meal

August 3rd, 2006

So we find ourselves sin Playa Del Carmen, an hour south of Cancun. The town stretches for a mile or two from the shore, but there is little to see in the rest of it and about twelve blocks of the coastline seems to be dedicated specifically to tourists. The bus drops us off somewhere a few blocks from the beach and we head for the hotel mentioned in the Lonely Planet, the bible of all travelers. It has never steered us wrong. Though many prices have changed since the one we have was published (a few years before), the maps and information and recommendations are invaluable.

The Hotel Barrio Latino, a few blocks from the beach is a little place of a little more than two dozen rooms and we find ourselves in 25. Designed in Mexican adobe style, with personal decorative painting in the rooms and our own room a warm sunrise yellow. The beds are clean and comfortable, the balcony has a hammock and we have a little refrigerator to chill our juice and fruits. The bathroom is impeccably clean and the whole place feel warm and homey, just the way we like it.

We go for a walk to the main promenade, a block from the beach. A sprawling chain of pedestrian only blocks and not much different than the Santa Monica promenade we looked around for a place to go snorkeling the next day. Sarongs and little Mexican figurines and butterflies and art and kitsch and tequila and cigars and silver and restaurants and everything for sale. That is the only difference between here and the promenade in Santa Monica- it’s longer and all in Mexican. Otherwise…

We find a place where we sign up to go snorkeling the next day and then go find some ceviche. It’s ok. Mediocre at best and we decide we simply aren’t going to find anything better than what we had at that upstairs restaurant on the edge of the park in Palenque. Delicious. We have a couple of margaritas and wander around a while longer before settling on a place for dinner. Another margarita and we head back to our hotel where we collapse into bed.

The next day we rise, have breakfast of mangos and papaya and banana and limes and, after a leisurely morning, head to the dive place where we’ll get a boat for snorkeling.

The waters are raging, the woman there warns us. Five foot waves. Kind of dangerous. A little murky. Hard to see.

We talk between ourselves a bit, already turned on by the idea of going out in the water and besides, who wants to spend the day, walking around Playa Del Carmen with it’s ten thousand tourists?

So we head to the boat where it is just Violet, myself, the guide and the boat pilot. The boat bounces over the choppy waters to the reefs flanking the beach. Sure enough the sea is rough and once in the water we are tossed about. But we see schools of brightly colored fishes, all sorts of coral, everything waving in the tumultuous ocean currents. Our bodies rise and fall with the five foot waves, sometimes hard to swim, the water splashes into our snorkel, hard even to hold yourself above the water. At one point, for a while, we loose violet and I have a picture of her chasing some fish out into open ocean where she gets swept away to sea! Dammit, Violet! Instead I find she has gone back to the boat for a bit. We swim for a long time. Get back in the boat for a bit which is rocking more than the water and our stomachs start to churn so we go back into the water.

We swim a while longer, pointing out some cool things now and again and finally make it back to the boat where the guide quickly ushers us back on board so we can get back to shore. It’s late in the day, later than he was supposed to stay out but we are happy- worn from the sea, a little nauseated and delirious, a tad dizzy but happy.

Back on shore we head back to our hotel, doing our best to stay above the water, even though there isn’t any. Our bodies feel like rubber, blown to and fro by the waves and ocean currents. Showering and then into clean clothes, I force violet back up so I can get some food into us. The heat of the afternoon is upon us of course and we are delirious in it’s sauna and sweat inducing ways.

I lead us to a juice place where we sit up on a balcony under a thatch-roofed ceiling sipping smoothies out of goblets. They revive us and we spend the rest of the evening wandering into art galleries finding some really cool art here and there. We tried to go to a movie theater to see Pirates of the Caribbean, but it was sold out, o well.

After a brief stop back at the hotel it is time for dinner. We had seen all kinds of restaurants offering the giant plate of lobster and steak and fish and potatoes and hawking their wares and offering free drinks and trying to sucker tourists in and we wanted nothing to do with it. I want, I said, a place with white walls, nice lighting, really good food, and someone who doesn’t want to sucker me in. Also, I want to be in an upper level.

We strolled and stopped in front of a restaurant with wide white stairs spiraling up into the warmly lit restaurant above us. Violet stopped to read the menu but I forwent it and we entered into exactly what we wanted. Wrought iron chandeliers set a warm tone over the softly lit restaurant. Our waiters were prompt and extremely helpful, trying their best to speak in English while we spoke in Spanish. We had a couple of mango pina coladas to take the edge off and then our delicate beef carpaccio was brought to us along with a fine heart of palm salad. We ordered a glass of wine. The heat died down a bit, our stuffed grouper arrived and the calm mood soothed us as we celebrated in our last meal of our sweet vacation. We languished in the sweet styled of this restaurant that we’d found, as we watched the tourists below butt heads looking for the next margarita.

Our chocolate mousse arrived. It was good. Not the best. It would have better if it had been colder. We are chocolate connoisseurs, you see, and not to be trifled with. It was fair, no doubt, but not the best. But, none-the-less, we felt we had found some sweet gems in this final stop of our tour and were satisfied to return home, knowing “home” was a relative word and would entail a full scale house hunting journey, as we had moved all our stuff into storage to San Diego just before we’d left since violet would be going to UCSD.

We returned to our hotel that evening, satisfied and happy. The next several hours found us rolling around in bed, showering, playing and finally and drowsily falling into sleep late.

But my internal clock was set for six thirty and I was up. I had to check on our ride from the airport, get a couple of bus tickets for the bus to Cancun, and also wanted to enjoy my last morning. Violet is a late sleeper and we had fallen into a pattern of me going for a walk in the morning, leaving her sleeping, if we didn’t have to go anywhere first thing.

I walked along the beach, finally turning at a pier where I found a little café, got an espresso and sat and drew some of the things I’d seen in my dreams the night before. A throng of tourists passed me, possibly just arrived off a boat. Their guide talked to them somewhat patronizingly and then sent them on their merry way to go spend their American dollars. I enjoyed the sun on me and, with my espresso done and the day getting on, was walking again. Through a little park, sweetly landscaped, back to our hotel, find Violet stretched out in bed, her tan naked body a stark contrast to the bleached white sheets and glowing in the sunrise mustard yellow of the room.

Cleaning and packing, we get out, have a sizable breakfast and get to the bus station. The bus takes us to Cancun, to the airport and then we are on a plane all of a sudden, as Mexico falls away beneath us and we spiral up into the sky and head back to the States.

Lots of inspirations, many dreams and memories… futures and visionary reveries…. Paintings and drawings and sketches all set and ready to go… Sweetness with my sweetness…

The Artwork of Michael Divine

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