Sure, I know what you’re thinking. You read, “Take a cruise”, and you immediately thought it was the Caribbean, or Alaska, or somewhere in Europe maybe. Not really my thing, to be honest, although I could go for Alaska I think. I’m willing to consider the Caribbean sometime though.
No, my goal was a little closer to home. I was thinking maybe just on the Rideau or Ottawa Rivers, maybe something on one of the larger canal areas. Or even a sunset cruise in the Muskokas or over the Liftlocks in Peterborough.
My wife made the decision for me. She wanted to do a Thousand Island Cruise and go by Boldt Castle. Nothing super long, maybe a couple hours or so, rather than the four hour or six hour options. On Mother’s Day, there was an early afternoon 2-hour cruise, and we had takers … In addition to myself, Andrea and Jacob, we also had Dean, Becky, Grace, Ron and Marney along. The whole famn damily, as they say.
We drove down from Ottawa in the morning, had lunch there with everyone (totally forgetting it was of course Mother’s Day and some of the local eateries were a bit pressed for space!), and then boarded our tour. At the last minute, I realized I had forgotten to bring a hat, so I ended up in a tourist store nearby to grab one.
Here is our cruise boat:
For most of the cruise, you are not too far from either shore of the river channel.
The area is full of nice little, modest cottages (hehehe) like this one:
Or this one:
Or even this one:
Along the way we saw some of the local residents:
Posed for some photos…
Reached out and touched the shore…
And were surprised by the colour of the water, although it is still early in the season I suppose and not yet completely fouled.
The highlight of the trip was, of course, Hogwarts. Err, I mean Boldt Castle.
We had a nice cruise, made it back to the marina, wished everyone Happy Mother’s Day, and then headed back home. After sampling the local ice cream, of course.
I’ve been to Newfoundland three times in my life…once for an APEC meeting (1997), once for some HR recruitment meetings, and once for a larger vacation with my family. Back in ’07, it was the HR recruitment meetings, my second trip to the province. I was participating in some broader recruitment, and I volunteered to be the one to go to St. John’s in November. Andrea joined me for the short trip (free hotel room for her!), and we added a couple of days of vacation to the end. With only two days, we didn’t go too far from St. John’s.
We were staying at a nice hotel near the one end of the downtown, with a view of the harbour and Signal Hill in the distance.
The reverse view from Signal Hill is kind of cool too.
Of course, like all good little tourists, we had to go Cape Spear.
We then spent the rest of the day driving around the area south of Cape Spear.
On the second day, we headed north towards Bay de Verde, and then wrapped down around the peninsula towards Dildo.
We were driving a Pontiac Grand Am or Grand Prix rental, and I decided to go off-roading so-to-speak. Somewhere around Grate’s Cove at the northern tip, there was a road on our map showing a connection to Daniel’s Cove, etc. Basically, we wouldn’t have to backtrack and take the same main highway we had gone up to get there. So we followed the map. And yes, I do mean a paper map. The road started fine, a little dirt road, no big deal. About half-way to Daniel’s Cove, it disintegrated into an access road. A little bit further along, and it started to become an ATV trail. We kept joking it was the type of story that would be mocked for years about those damn people from away who stupidly took a rental car down a rut with no place to turn around, but it was nervous joking. We made it fine, in the end, but it was a trifle nerve-wrackng. Particularly when we came to a very large puddle with NO idea how deep it was. Stupid tourists.
When we finished our little tour, and we did the proper dinner at a fish and chip diner in western St. John’s, we agreed it was merely enough to whet our appetite. We definitely wanted to see more of the province.
Day 10 was the day that wasn’t supposed to be, we were supposed to be home on day 9. The weather intervened, and we were stranded in Montreal.
Extra day 1
decent continental breakfast
hung out at hotel, played games
info about flight rescheduled to 3:30 p.m.
checked out around 12:15, got taxi voucher to airport
Since we didn’t get to bed until 1:00 a.m., it wasn’t surprising we weren’t too quick off the mark the next morning. But the hotel stopped their continental breakfast at 9:30, so A & J headed down just before 9, and I joined around 9:15. Short commute, about 20 steps. And it was pretty dang good. The room had been $180 the night before, and given the circumstances and the proximity to the airport (18 minutes away), that was a pretty good deal. Add in all three of us had breakfast the next morning, and the deal was looking better. Fruit, cereal, some hot choices, multiple juices, toast, etc. Not a bad start to the morning. And we snagged some fruit for later.
We played some games, repacked our suitcases, and tried to figure out what we were doing. We had received an email from Air Canada saying we were booked on a 3:30 flight, and while we would have liked some other options, it was all we had. I had hoped TripCentral would give us info about alternatives, car rentals, connections with Via, nada. I submitted a second ticket through their web portal, including mentioning I wanted to know the process for reimbursement, and I did eventually receive a response that morning. Telling me the process for possible but unlikely reimbursement, and nothing about any other support options. You know who sent me that email? Not the “help line” people, the travel agent. The request was forwarded to her. No wonder I didn’t hear anything the night before. There was no emergency service at all.
We figured we would just suck it up in the end, and just take the flights. Whatever. Just get home. I had talked to the hotel about a late checkout, and they were like, “Yeah, whenever’s good for you.” Definitely like these people.
Finally, around noon, I took the bags down to the lobby and started stacking them near the door. I asked the counter person to order me a taxi, they agreed, and I headed back to get more bags. They told me it would be there soon, and “oh, here is your taxi voucher.” A $26 voucher to pay for our taxi to the airport. Apparently they would have paid the night before if we had booked in advance too. Sweet. Great room, nice save, free breakfast, free taxi back. Honestly, they were the ONLY service people I saw in the time I was in Montreal who were helpful (A dealt with the info people at the airport who were helpful, but I never saw them).
checked in, no baggage tags again
check-in counter a disaster, luckily someone helped us
lunch at St. Hubert
through security, to gate
We got to the airport, went to the Air Canada kiosks, checked in, and again, the stupid system didn’t print our baggage tags. Again. Spoke to a welcoming agent, she suggested another machine. I mentioned it hadn’t worked in Cancun the day before either, and she said, “Oh, hmm, maybe just go to the desk then.”
Which we tried. And waited. And waited. Someone was on hold helping someone, and they were on the phone for about 20 minutes while we were there. Another desk was supposedly for helping our line, but then they took people from another line that already had two or three agents helping them. WTF? No one was serving our line?
There was a guy ahead of us, and one of the “baggage check” line agents came over, spoke to him, took him over, checked him in, and on he went. I hoped she would do the same for us, but she didn’t. So I gave it another couple of minutes, and honestly, my tolerance for bad service from Air Canada was dropping rapidly. I went over and spoke to her, she was doing nothing, explained that we just needed to check the bags but the machine didn’t work. She hemmed and hawed, said she couldn’t help us, and then while we were waiting, she changed her mind and helped us anyway.
Worked just fine. Someone else arrived to work, and was speaking to the baggage woman, and said she was assigned to the area but not a specific function yet. So the baggage woman insisted she start helping the people in our line unless someone told her otherwise. She was frustrated too! Whoever was in charge was running it like a gong show. We got checked in finally, and we headed to get some lunch. As we passed the lines, the guy was still on the phone with whatever that customer’s problem was, the other three agents were still helping the same people as when we were in line, and the people behind us hadn’t moved. Sheesh.
We grabbed St. Hubert, and I felt like it was manna from heaven. I just wanted simple, no complexity, no service problems, something that worked. Wasn’t perfect, but I got what I ordered and we ate. Went through security, got to our gate.
flight delayed until 4:00
flight cancelled, rescheduled to 5:35
Way up at the top of this post, the first entry from our travel diary said “Extra day 1”, and it stressed me out. A didn’t just write “extra day”, she numbered it. Like it was possible there would be a DAY TWO! And honestly, it started to feel that way. We were at the gate, well ahead of time, good to go. They even have these really cool “charging” lockers for e-devices that they’re trying out as demos. We didn’t use it, but it looked really cool. Basically like a little gym locker with three charging cables inside for different types of devices; put in your device, take the key, pick it up again in 30 minutes. Free while they demo it and test it, curious how much it is if it gets rolled out on a larger scale.
And our flight gets delayed. No biggie, but that was how it started the day before. Then it appears to be completely cancelled, but the woman at the gate desk calls “someone” and assures us that it is not cancelled at all, just postponed. It will be updated. So we wait, and the email still says “cancelled”. I check the Air Canada app, clearly cancelled.
The woman has left the area, so I wander down the hall, find an agent, tell him what’s going on, he pulls up our boarding info. Nope, definitely cancelled. We’re now on a 5:35 flight to Ottawa. Except, well, that flight coming in seems to be running late. Might be a bit later. I note there is also a 4:30 flight, but they don’t have room for three on that flight, hence why we’re on the 5:35 flight.
Then we’re rescheduled to 7:00, and this is starting to feel like a very familiar situation. I’ve already tried researching Via options, everything seems sold out, car rentals maybe. I’m willing to consider e-bikes if it gets us moving at this point. I even managed to threaten the TripCentral person with legal recourse enough that she called me, but she was no help whatsoever. So we decided that we were sticking with the plane option. Yet I’m in a booking dilemma.
The 7:00 flight is now a larger plane and coming from somewhere like Calgary where it supposedly left on time (not sure how it left on time if it is pushing the new flight by 90 minutes, but whatever, it’s “on time” and not likely to be delayed further). But there’s a Winnipeg flight coming in and connecting to the 6:30 flight too. And there’s room on that one. Yet one of the reasons it hasn’t been delayed yet is that they haven’t got that far yet, in my view. They’re basically bumping stuff once they are within 90 minutes of the flight time. It isn’t within 90 minutes of the Winnipeg/Ottawa option, so I’m worried they might change it to 8:00 for that one, leaving the 7:00 a better option. Dilemmas, dilemmas. The agent agrees wholeheartedly it’s a total crapshoot at this point. No help at all, but totally honest about it. The flight we were supposed to take had been a connector from Halifax that never even left their terminal, so the idea that a flight was in progress was at least inspiring some confidence. I also felt like if I bumped things around, we might lose track of our luggage, one of the things the agent did confirm when he found out we had checked bags, not just carry-ons.
We stayed the course. 7:00 came. 7:00 went. Not yet on board. Then we were boarding. We actually boarded. We had seats. A bigger plane than usual for the short hop, and as we left the gate (WE WERE MOVING!), they said flying time would be 27 minutes from tarmac to tarmac. Outstanding! But not positive yet.
Then we were IN THE FREAKING AIR. Arrived in Ottawa a short blink of time later, waited normal time for luggage, not too bad, just a little slow, taxi home, carried J over the big snowbank in the driveway and our luggage, and we were home.
Time for J to go to bed, but honestly, I was wired. I threw on warm outer clothes, started the snow blower, and cleared the driveway including the big frozen crusty stuff at the end from the snowplow. The whole time I was out there, I felt like I was DOING something finally. Moving. Not waiting for anyone else to do something. And the neighbours across the road were struggling to break up their snow with plastic shovels, and slowly making progress. But when I finished my driveway, I went over and helped them with theirs. Then I got in the car, drove over and grabbed some take-out for dinner, plus went to the store and bought milk and bread for the morning. And since I was doing that, I bought some fruit and veggies too. I can’t believe how “liberating” it felt to just do something, in part too just because I could do it on my own after 10 days of “group travel” (a stretch for me as an introvert), but mainly just to be TAKING action and making decisions that didn’t involve Air Canada.
28 hours we were stranded in Montreal. Probably about $300 in expenses. Could have been a lot worse, sure, but completely frustrated that Air Canada, Air Canada Vacations and our “support” from the travel agent, TripCentral, completely flaked out on us. Extremely frustrating considering the cost too. I tweeted some comments about it, never heard back. Thought I would at least get a number to call, nope. None of them cared, just as the resort had ignored us too. Our trip wasn’t “ruined”, but it sure killed the travel buzz for our return.
Day 9 was our departure day, with a flight scheduled to leave Cancun airport at 2:15 p.m.
Breakfast at Laguna
Photos by pools, beach, around resort, hotel room, returned towels
Took luggage to lobby, changed bills
Shuttle to airport with family from Montreal
We had set up our shuttle run earlier in the trip with the BD Travel people, and we were set for 10:30. So once we finished packing in the morning, we grabbed some breakfast and then started snapping some final shots as we did a last walk around the resort. We had to return our towels and get our “towel cards” back, so we headed down towards the big pool and beach, snapping away as we went. Many of the places we had been during the week were ones we hadn’t snapped pics of since we didn’t take our camera or phones when going to the pool or dinner. So we got some shots of pools, front desk, some of the restaurants, etc.
We did a video of the room, but like most cameras in small rooms, it’s hard to do it justice (one of the reasons real estate people use the fish-eye style lens).
I saw lots of people dragging luggage all over the resort during the week and I remember thinking, “Really? You’d rather do that than tip some guy a couple of bucks to do it for you?”. Yet for the final day, it’s funny, but it was just easier to go down when we were ready and take the luggage with us rather than calling someone to come get it. Plus we weren’t far from the lobby.
Lots of different groups departing, multiple shuttles coming and going, some pretty close in time to ours, bit of confusion. But then ours finally came and we climbed on board with another family. It was officially over. We handed in our express checkout tickets to the baggage guy, they cut the straps on our resort bracelets, and off we went.
Checked in to airport, no baggage tags, bought souvenirs (Delfin), pizza for lunch, got on plane as scheduled
Montreal – quickly through immigration, technical delay for our bags – about 40 minutes, through customs, no problem
rechecked bags, thru security, went to gate, got snacks
Once we were at the airport, we tried to check in using the kiosk, and for some reason it printed our boarding passes but not our baggage tags. So we had to get help with that as we were checking in, a little slower than anticipated, but no issues. We bought a couple of souvenirs, including a stuffie for Jacob (another dolphin!) and headed through security. We paid extortionary rates for lunch at a pizza place, but it was a busy area and we wanted to eat. Afterwards, we found a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant that had better food offerings for almost the same price as the pizza had been! Andrea’s stomach was a bit off, so it wouldn’t have been our choice, just confirmation that the pizza rates were high. Bit of a wait, we expected that, played on tablets etc and then it was time to board. Very sad leaving.
The flight home went smoothly, under 4 hours from tarmac to tarmac. We got our special food offerings again, although the timing and the choices were more limited. When we arrived in Montreal, we knew in advance there had been weather problems, but everything seemed to be continuing. We went through immigration quickly, the connecting line way shorter than the arrivals line, yet as soon as you exit that area, all the bags are in the same place. Weird. LONG delay, 40 minutes, for our bags, some technical delay, but eventually everything came out, we went through customs, got our bags rechecked and headed for our gates. Grabbed some snacks; a long day but we were nearing the end of the journey. Or so we thought.
Plane late arriving, boarded about 45 minutes late – waited at gate because of congestion at de-icing area — after about an hour (10:30ish), flight was cancelled
waited a long time for luggage – wet
Andrea booked hotel, needed credit card – no shuttle – took taxi to Comfort Inn, arrived around 1:00 a.m. – nice room, main floor, comfy beds
rainy and icy outside
Paul’s phone almost dead
Air Canada no help
Trip Central didn’t call back
Jacob was SUPERSTAR
This is where things started to go off the rails, but not for the obvious reasons. Not really. They were playing with flights, and merged another flight with ours, and since it was late arriving, we were about 45 minutes late to board. But we were at least boarding. Then, once onboard, and all settled in, they said, “Oops, there’s congestion with de-icing” and so we sat. And sat. And sat. Then they cancelled all flights and the airport shut down.
This wasn’t surprising. Not fun, but not unexpected. Where we started to go off the rails was the complete lack of any service from ANYONE in our travel team. Air Canada basically said, “Sorry, weather, you’re on your own.” No info about hotels, what we would likely have to do, it was like pulling teeth to get them to even give us a brochure with some basic info like phone numbers to call, etc. I wasn’t that worried, just annoyed, and quite frankly, they had agents at the gates who could have said, “Hey everyone, I know it sucks, but go downstairs, get your luggage, go see the exit area to get hotels if you need one, call Air Canada and they’ll rebook you for tomorrow.” Or said SOMETHING other than, “here’s a useless brochure with very little info.”
Now, as I said, I wasn’t that worried because we had booked with TripCentral. And TripCentral had given me an emergency contact number in case of, well, emergencies or problems with our flight. Being stranded in Montreal with a storm raging and nowhere to sleep sounded like the perfect occasion to call. Which I did. Now I was expecting an answering service, which I got, and a call back shortly. Everybody, and the brochure, was saying you had to talk to Air Canada as soon as possible to rebook, so A was on the phone to them, and I waited for the call back while we waited for luggage. Time passed, no call.
Now I was worried. We needed a hotel room, and we needed it booked soon before everything was gone. I briefly wondered about just renting a car and heading out for Ottawa, or taking a limo or taxi all the way, but that was obviously stupid with the weather. I really just wanted to DO something, DECIDE something, take ACTION, rather than sitting and waiting for luggage. And waiting. And waiting. Almost 90 minutes before the luggage finally came out on the carousel. Soaking wet. Great.
In the meantime, I had dispatched A basically to go find out something about rooms, somewhere, or on her phone, something. I would look after luggage, she’d find us a room. I gave her my phone in case TripCentral called. Off she went. And disappeared into the airport.
She had been gone just over half an hour when the baggage arrived. J and I grabbed it, got it all loaded up, and then tried to figure out what to do. A had my phone, couldn’t call her. It wasn’t obvious where she had gone, and she wasn’t back yet. We deduced she was probably in a line somewhere, which she was, finding a hotel room through an info service. Of course, once she got through, she had a problem — they needed a credit card to reserve, and I had the wallet. She put a temp hold on it, and then came to find me, we called back, gave the number, waited in line for a taxi and then headed over. Roads were terrible, further proof that any other movement that night would be ridiculously stupid. Not to mention it was now past midnight, and I was in no shape to try and drive. Super hyper with all the stress, but not capable of driving.
We got to the Comfort Inn in Pointe Clare, and honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. I didn’t care, we just needed a room. But it was an okay lobby, J curled up on the lobby furniture while A handled basic registration, and then I had to go sign because it was my credit card we were using. Two or three doors down the hall off the main lobby, non-smoking room, while other people had to go upstairs. The room itself? Fantastic. The beds were big, comfy, everything was just right. We got J into bed, noticed some big bites on his leg from the day before, he had been ravaged without noticing it, but no complaints, wasn’t bothering him. Off to sleep in seconds.
Did you notice anything in the list that you DIDN’T see? No mention of problems with J.
I mean, let’s face it, he’s 7 years old, he’d been up since 7:00 a.m., it was after midnight, no nap anywhere in there. I was cranky and stressed…for situations like this, it is mostly about control issues, not the disruption, it drives me crazy faster when I’m “stuck” with no levers to pull. We hadn’t heard anything from TripCentral, and when Air Canada found out we booked with Air Canada Vacations, they said, “Not our problem, deal with them”. Except ACV was just a recording and waiting on hold forever.
So it would be understandable if J had been cranky. Nope. He was a superstar. Wasn’t complaining, except it was a bit cold leaving the airport and of course we had no hats or mitts or extensive winter wear. Other than that, he was just plain awesome. Just as he had been the WHOLE trip. He was even joking around in the airport. Kept calm, stayed happy and upbeat, the perfect travel companion. Too bad he was stuck with Mr. Grumpy Pants.
But we had a room, and the next day we would get rebooked and head home.
Day 8 was our last full day in Mexico, and we had scheduled our last “packaged” outing for the day — a trip to Tulum (Mayan ruins), a visit to an estuary, and a visit to a cenote with underwater caves.
Tulum – took the shuttle bus
hot walk to entrance – J & P skipped tour and looked at ocean
tour described history, what it used to look like, etc. – VERY HOT – looked from cliffs near lighthouse, walked back to parking lot, no time for shopping, rushed, changed swimsuits, pay toilets, heat was brutal
We took the shuttle to Tulum, and while the ruins were impressive, it was INCREDIBLY HOT. I honestly can’t remember the last time I experienced that kind of heat. Jacob was wilting on the way IN to the ruins, so he and I quickly bailed on keeping up with the tour and wandered around on our own. Mostly we headed for the cliffs by the ocean, hoping for a cooler breeze. Definitely better than being out in the middle of the open area with no shade or breeze. Andrea did the tour, and then met up with us afterwards. We looked out over the cliffs, snapped some photos, and then had to rush back to the shuttle bus.
By the time we were back, I was almost done. I was definitely having problems with the heat (one of the side effects of my meds is greater susceptibility to heat, not great), and while I was trying to get J changed into his neoprene suit for swimming, I felt like I was going to pass out. I really wanted to just sit down but we were running late.
Snorkeling at estuary (Yal-Ku Lagoon, Akumal)
rained a bit, lots of colourful fish (*A)
J & P swam with goggles, J wasn’t going to go but decided it looked nice,
had to put shoes on while wet — yuck
At our next stop, Yal-Ku Lagoon in Akumal, the plan was for snorkeling. J’s experience at the ocean wasn’t encouraging him to go, so we thought we’d sit that part out next to the water. Until we saw it. It was calm, it was beautiful, looked great. J changed his mind, and I went back to the van to get a lifejacket for him, his goggles, etc. It was a bit of a gong show getting back to the van, getting the stuff by myself with keys that would only open one of the van doors, etc., but eventually we got in the water. For some reason, it never occurred to me to grab a vest or fins for me, so it was mostly me swimming around towing him in his lifejacket. We didn’t see a lot of fish, A did with the main tour, but we saw a couple here and there, and more importantly, J had a blast just being in the water. TOTALLY comfortable this time. We didn’t try the snorkel, just lifejacket and goggles and he loved it. (Insert arm pump, and a resounding declaration of YES!). We didn’t get any photos from the visit, but these are some from the web that show what it looks like:
drove to lunch, simple Mexican meal
drove to cenote, got lost! Bumpy road through forest, middle of nowhere
beautiful secluded cenote, “refreshing” water, swam under waterfall to cave, Fernando pulled Jacob on a floating buoy while driver Leo steered most of the others in group
lots of cool rock formations (*), sometimes shallow under water, semi-closed cenote
in open area, very high walls
lots of bugs
We left the estuary lagoon and headed “inland” to our lunch and the cenote. It literally felt like the middle of nowhere, almost 20-30 minutes off the main highway. I was relieved to see other vans near our lunch site, reassured me this isn’t a private dumping ground for tourists bodies! After a simple lunch, we then drove over to the cenote itself, and Leo (our driver) got lost. I don’t know if he was new, or what, but he went the wrong way down a road and kept compounding the error until it was clear to them they had gone WAY too far and we went back. Back at the turn, there was a sign giving directions to another cenote, but that wasn’t the one we wanted, so we took another road, and for a bit we thought we were lost again. Nope, this one was less “marked”, but no less beautiful. We tried taking some shots with an old-fashioned underwater film camera, we’ll see if any of the shots turn out, but it was quite beautiful.
Getting down the stairs to enter the cenote was no picnic though. Very steep, very slippery when wet, and I scraped my leg pretty good. J made it down with some trepidation and getting in the water was “refreshing” i.e. COLD. I wasn’t really sure what to expect for J’s comfort level, but one of our tour guides took him in tow, literally, and pulled him through the whole cenote. It was perfect. Again, as with Friday, J was the only kid in the tour group. As an aside, I would have thought that meant he was the “darling” of the group, with people fawning on them, but none did…we were pretty much all doing our own little thing, very little mingling in any of the organized tours. Not rude, or stand-offish, just not “bonding” either.
Our first test was going through the waterfall. I’ve swam near waterfalls but I’ve never had water dropping 30 feet onto my head swimming under them. J had already gone through, as had Andrea, and when the water was pummeling me, I thought, “ruh roh, J wouldn’t have liked that”, but he was fine. A told me later that the guide had pulled him through quick, so no big deal. Perfect! 🙂
There were areas of the little loop through the caves where it got quite shallow and I was wishing I had my water shoes on. It was hard to keep organized in the van with 12 of us jammed in, and have room to sort through our things when we needed them, so definitely a consideration for future visits with less organized tours and more “personalization” and time to adjust to starts, etc. It did feel a bit rushed at times.
Even without the shoes though, the cave formations were awesome to see. Stalactites mostly, some stalagmites, some columns. They also have wired lights throughout so not too dark, and rarely “small” enough to trigger any claustrophobia. I suggested turning off all the lights at one point, but J wasn’t too fond of that idea and it wasn’t an option anyway. We made our way back out into the open area of the cenote, climbed out, put our feet back into still-wet shoes (still yuck), and got ready to go again. Here are some initial pics from the web of the interior, close to what we saw, followed by our own pics with a cheap disposable camera.
Outside, the bugs were eating us big time at this point. Not horrendous, but worse than what we had seen up to that point and after two swimming outings, all my bug repellant was likely gone anyway. More black flies than mosquitoes, and some of the group got giant bites. We didn’t realize it at the time, but J ended up with bites all over his ankles and shins (we didn’t notice until the next night when he was changing).
drove back to highway and resorts
Japanese restaurant, reservations at 6:30
sat at table of 12 including people from Brazil, Barrie with cottage on 4 mile lake, Holland
miso soup, salad, delicious Dragonball cocktails (sake, white wine, 7-Up)
chef Alexander – did tricks with fork & knife (A), oil on grill, alight cooked rice and chopped & cooked veggies, spun and flipped and cracked eggs, served rice and veggies
cooked chicken, steak (P), shrimp, and served it – yummy!
fried vanilla ice cream and mango pudding
I mentioned in an earlier post that one restaurant at the resort did accept reservations and in fact required it, and we had booked it (barely) for our last night. Reservations were at 6:30 so we had to get ready quickly after our day touring around. The reason for the reservations is immediately obvious — they have a set menu, one set of options and everybody has their meal cooked on the main grill (i.e. no extra à la carte options) and thus everyone in the group starts and finishes more or less at the same time.
It was fun having brief chats with the people at the table, albeit a bit hard across the grill (big half-square layout, standard for a Japanese restaurant). The best part was that someone asked us where we were from, and when we said Ottawa, they said they were from Barrie. Of course, we then said, we were originally from Peterborough (which is of course closer), and the guy then randomly jumps to saying they have a cottage near Coboconk. Since A’s parents have a cottage five minutes from Coby, it was like a weird random mention. Very fun, very cool. It didn’t result in immediate bonding, but it was cute.
We started with drinks, and they poured a “blue” drink into our martini-style glasses. Careful sipping revealed it was quite tasty. Upon careful questioning of the waitress, i.e. we just asked, she told us they were called Dragonballs — sake, white wine and 7-Up. I don’t like sake, I don’t like most wines, I like 7-Up. Why did I like this? I have no idea, but it was gooood. The second one later had the proportions different and I could really taste the white wine which wasn’t as tasty for me. J tried it, for a sip (!), wasn’t impressed. A liked it just fine too.
Our chef, Alexander, came out and introduced himself and then started into the showmanship side of the cooking. Twirling fork and knife, spinning lifters, etc. We got to see another chef do it near us just before we left, and while the routine was the same, the other chef wasn’t near as accomplished as Alexander. He started cooking rice for us, and chopped and diced the veggies while the rice was cooking. There were some flare ups to impress us (J wasn’t that happy with those, covering his face due to the heat), but he liked the show. Particularly when Alexander spun eggs in the air, flipping them around, and then letting them crack on the side of the flipper as they fell.
While the show was fun, the meat was awesome. The chicken was good, the shrimp was great, and the beef? The beef was the best I’ve ever had. I’d be willing to put it above some of the great bulgogi beef that I’ve had, and that’s a high threshold. It just melted in your mouth, releasing flavour wave after flavour wave. I prefer the overall experience of the Mediterranean restaurant the night before with the open air, ocean, view, etc., but the food at the Japanese place was a full two standards above it. Simply awesome.
We finished off with fried ice cream and mango pudding, both quite good. It wasn’t a long dinner, and everyone finished at the same time, but it was really great. A perfect “last meal” at the resort. The best part of the night though, or at least the best line of the night, was commenting as we were leaving that A and I were a bit surprised that J had tried and really liked the miso soup. His thoughts? That the chef had probably used the Miso soup broth from Epicure, that’s why he liked it! 🙂 God, I love that kid’s sense of humour!
bought souvenirs, stamps, wrote postcards at Nest
mailed postcards, packed
J had been wanting two souvenirs from the store all week, and we had held off getting them partly as they were more expensive than they should have been, and secondly, we thought he might find something a bit more authentic or tied to his trip. Nope, he wanted a dolphin key chain (with small stuffie on it), and a notebook with a small stuffie on the cover. I tried to talk him into getting the turtle notebook as he had seen turtles next to Laguna all week, but he loves dolphins. I mentioned that at least he had seen turtles this week, not dolphins (we skipped the dolphin experience as A and I find it a bit too traumatizing seeing the direct touching of the animals as opposed to just seeing them play, etc.). But A did the cash out, and I never saw what he chose until we unpacked it. I was quite surprised he did get the turtle notebook, I was really pleased he did. I think it was because I really liked it too, so thought he should get that, whereas I didn’t care about the dolphin notebook. And he was great all week. We tried to get him a t-shirt earlier at the lighthouse with an iguana on it, but they didn’t have his size, and he didn’t bug for a whole bunch of stuff that he didn’t need or want. Nor even bug us about these ones. We just told him we’d see how the week went, and if we didn’t find other stuff, we’d get those and he was totally okay with that approach.
We grabbed some postcards and stamps, and filled them all out while we sat at the snack bar (the Nest). J liked choosing who got which card, but he also liked watching some raccoons running around the outside of the snack bar trying to get into garbage cans. I confess it was a question I had earlier…there are garbage cans everywhere and they are not animal-proof. I figured they must make a mess a lot, but I saw no signs anytime we were out walking around the resort. For this last night, while we sat there, we saw a couple of relatively small raccoons — or at least, almost lanky, if that is a word you can use with raccoons, compared to the ones we have back home. Looked almost like long-legged cats. They grabbed some food from the garbage can and kept wandering. They actually came within a couple of feet of us sniffing around. I think they’re cute, but only a small step above vermin, yet I didn’t want J seeing them as something you should be afraid of nor harsh towards. They skedaddled with some instruction, and then one of the waitresses scared them farther. Of course, part of the problem is people feed them too, so it’s not a “winnable” war in an eco-resort. Not problematic at all, though, and it was one of J’s highlights of the day.
We mailed the postcards and then back to the room…it was time to finish packing! I don’t think I would schedule an outing on our last day again, although we did it a bit as the travel people told us the main attractions in Tulum and Cozumel would be busy on the weekend so we avoided Saturday and Sunday, but it was a bit much for our last day.