Friday, January 08, 2010

Puerto Morelos and vacationing, reconsidered

So maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Puerto Morelos is, still today, just a beautifully small fishing village.

Late in the evening, Salvatore, a long ago transplant from Mexico City, or actually Venezuela, or you could also say Paris, and owner of the newest taco place in town says with contentment – this place will never change. There are only two streets running through the village. There's nowhere else to build. And the limit on height is firm. He should know, he’s an architect by trade.

Salvatore likes things small. His eating place has only three tables. It’s nicer this way. You get to see who comes in. Do you like the name? ( It feels modern, no?

In truth, I don’t think it’s a great name. I almost did not go in because of the name. It sounded to me like a chain serving fast food.

But that couldn't be further from the truth: I eat what have to be the best tacos of my life -- two with chipotle chicken, two with shrimp. A wonderful last dinner at this small... well, fishing village.


Because here’s another thing about Puerto Morelos. There are men here who do fish for a living. I came across two this afternoon – this in the space of a short expedition into town. One man was bringing in a morena (Moray eel)...



... the other? Well, flat fish with a bit of color to them. Purchased by a man who could have been a cook. Or not. (While the pelicans looked on.)



Unquestionably, there are fish to be had in these waters. I had a chance to see this early in the morning as Ed and I decided to borrow a kayak and some snorkeling gear and head out. In spite of the clouds and wind.


[That photo I just took? -- Ed tells me. It’s a typical “we’re on vacation” shot. But we are on vacation! For this one day, let’s please just do conventional vacation things!]

Where should we look for fish? I had asked the man at the Dive Shop.
You could head out with us by boat to the reef at the National Park.
That’s too long of a snorkeling commitment. We have a long list of vacation things to do. Anywhere within swimming or paddling distance?

Just stay close to the pier. You’ll be amazed what's under there.

The man knows his fish. Ed and I snorkel among thousands of darting fins. Oh, they are rather monochromatic, but still, the sheer volume is mesmerizing.

Our kayak expedition is equally close to home. The day is windy, the waves are choppy and we are told to stay by the shore. So we do. It’s a good thing that the water is warm. Waves have a way of washing right over you in their rush to the shore.

What else might I say about this day? Well, it started early. I was up watching the sun rise over the water.


And perhaps that was a first peek at what lay ahead -- plenty of gold, and even more of the color orange.

At lunch (which consisted of breakfast foods; papaya and huevos Mestiza for me):



People watching: kids, returning from school, a woman hurrying somewhere, resolutely:



Ed, buying a coconut cinnamon ice cream bar from a street vendor (with an orange cap):


...and so on.

But let me not forget to list the other components of "vacationing." I cannot neglect mentioning the bike ride: we borrowed one from the hotel and set out. One bike. For the two of us. Tall Ed and short-ish me. On a tandem. It was hell, particularly going over the speed bumps. (The grin was before we got on.)


I spent some hours, too, reading cases by the pool. And swimming a few laps. And in the evening, we took our second trip into town – this time, thankfully, on foot. It was then that we met Salvatore and it was then that we picked up evening pastry treats from a baker's van.


To experience a feeling of vacationing is, of course, to turn your back on the demands of a work day. Much like these young women were doing this afternoon on a stretch of sand in Puerto Morelos.


Over the years, Ed and I have developed concepts of vacationing that had very very little in common. Now that we spend so much time traveling together (occasionally), we devote not a small amount of time sifting through all that we cannot possibly share and figuring out where our overlap may be. As I listen to Salvatore and Ed exchange sailing stories (it is amazing how days on open waters can generate so many diverse stories), and then proceed to swap stories myself about Poland and Paris (Salvatore is quite familiar with both), I am again reminded that when Ed and I talk of our likes and loves to others, we rarely are speaking about the same thing.

And still, on a day like today, we can walk home in the dark along the water's edge thinking -- what a splendid vacation day this was. Truly. Down to the last taco bite and the last step over the wet sand.