Author Archives: Xari Farrar

About Xari Farrar

Retired grandmother of nine, voracious reader and unapologetic progressive!

Cozumel!

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In 2007, the Hillbilly and I took my daughter, Courtney (“Corki” to me), with us to Cozumel, Mexico. We spent a week in Paradise with a gorgeous three story home and a whole island to play on. It was our first trip to Mexico and we learned about Mexican grocery stores, tourist traps, snorkeling, and traffic. Mexican drivers treat all motor vehicle laws as if they were merely suggestions, and when you factor in the enormous motor scooter population, well, even Marv became a bundle of nerves. Yes, Mr. Unflappable got stressed!! Frankly, we’d have walked everywhere if I’d have had to drive.

We visited Mayan ruins and Chankanaab Parque, climbed the southern point lighthouse, made the acquaintance of Alex, the huge bull crocodile, and his wives in the habitat reserve, discovered snorkeling, ate in tourist traps and in places only the locals knew about, toured a tequila factory and rode in a submarine. We made two friends, Alex and Francisco (Paco) who were both quite taken with Courtney, and who showed us the sights and took us places where the tourists don’t go.

On the night before we left, we went to a new restaurant owned by an American ex-pat and had dinner with Alex (not the crocodile). Afterward, Marv and I headed back to the house, but Alex and Corki headed for Señor Frogs. The next morning when I went in to wake her at 7:00, I asked what time she got she got in. “About an hour ago,” she said. “Boy, that Alex can party – and he had to be at work at 8 am!”

We, however, had a plane to catch and Corki slept the whole way to DFW.

Playa del Carmen

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Aaaaah, Playa!! Was there ever such a beautiful place? The year before I retired, Marv and I spent a week at an all-inclusive resort just north of the city of Playa del Carmen called, the Ocean Maya Royale. As usual, we went during the “low” (“off” to gringos) season in order to get a bargain. And, what a bargain we got!

Playa is a fishing village that is now the heart of myriad ocean resorts. The trip to Cancun takes you through less and less natural landscape each year as the development spreads along the coast. With Cancun to the north 40 Km (25 miles) and Tulum to the south about the same, Playa is ensconced along the Riviera Maya along with its suburbs Puerto Moreles, Puerto Aventuras and Akumal. The whole coastline offers the most beautiful white sand beaches and best snorkeling and diving in the western hemisphere.

That stretch of coastline is also home to several of the amazing Mexican ecological parks, including Xcaret, Xel-ha and Xplor. Every park is unique and worth a day or two spent in them. You can swim, float or paddle your way through an underground river, fly over the jungle on zip lines, snorkel, skin dive, jump from a cliff into a lagoon, walk the trepachanga, swim with dolphins and much more.

Our package was “all inclusive” and the resort sported five (now four – the Italian one burned down and wasn’t replaced) restaurants inside its walls. We were there five nights and ate at a different restaurant every night. Our last night we ate at the Yookoso, a Japanese restaurant that makes wonderful sushi!! Every morning, we ate at La Hacienda’s breakfast bar, which served every kind of food – breakfast and otherwise. At one kiosk, you could get an omelet made to your specifications, but they had meat dishes, pasta, vegetables, salads, fruits, cereal, and desserts, too. You could eat dinner for breakfast, if that’s what you wanted.

As I mentioned, Playa has become very “developed” over the past 15 years, so if you’re looking for something slightly more native, head down the highway to Akumal, or better yet, Tulum. Tulum has not been as developed most likely because it’s an hour and a half drive from the Cancun airport. But, therein lies its charm. It still has a mercado, or central market, where you can buy food fresh from the garden, ocean or barnyard, along with any kind of merchandise you could want. A mercado is kind of like a modern department store spread out over several square blocks that sells fresh food and handmade clothing, instead of the processed kind. It is my favorite thing about Mexico. Playa’s mercado is long gone, replaced by Sears and Walmart stores.

Playa is, in essence, a beautiful, commercialized stretch of beach on the Riviera Maya – like Cancun, a wonderful place to visit. But, if you want to live in the area, I suggest you head a little further south – the beaches are still pristine and development hasn’t made it so far down the coast yet.

Xcaret!!

 

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Ah, Xcaret (“esh care Rhett)!!  What an amazing place.  If there is one thing that Mexico excels at, it is in their ecological parks, and Xcaret is one of the crown jewels.  We had no real idea of what to expect because this was our first foray into one of the parks (in 2009 on a Playa del Carmen resort vacation).  Just walking the park to get from one activity to another requires a certain level of fitness because it is huge.  And, it has a plethora of “things to do.”

Of course, we boated out to the reef to snorkel.  And, it was amazing!!   For another snorkeling experience, we went down into a maze of caves, where you can pick one of three underground rivers (cenotes) to snorkel in.  Or, if you like living on the edge (like we do), you can hand your fate to the muses and use the spinner found at the spot where the cave branches in three directions.xcaret-ball-game 2

They have an Ulama “ballpark” inside Xcaret where the ancient game was played (and, still is in a few places in Mexico).  They hold demo games several evenings each week.  It, too, is amazing and offers a glimpse into the ancient Mayan culture.

In addition to beaches, dolphins, sheltered coves, beach palapas, underground rivers, multiple restaurants, lockers, and equipment rental, they put on a glamorous floor show at night which is a fantasy of lights and music that is billed as a musical history of Mexico.

If you’re going to be in the area, then get a two-day pass because there is plenty more than one day’s worth of sights, sounds and activities!

 

 

WAR!! What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing!!Brady getting out of Army school 2

The year I graduated from high school, President Lyndon Johnson began ratcheting up the Vietnam “conflict” in earnest.  Since the draft was still in effect back then (1964), many of the 250+ boys (50% of 500+ seniors) I had graduated with were drafted and sent to Vietnam.  And, the next year, there were even more, and the next, even more . . . until by the end of the decade the country had become a dichotomy of “pro” and “anti” -war protagonists with the “anti’s” gaining in number and volume with passing time.  When these boys, my compatriots, came back after serving their country (whether they wanted to, or not), they were literally spit on, disdained, blamed for the war, marginalized and generally treated like shit – certainly, not like someone who had put his or her life on the line for this country.

It still makes me cry when I think about it – that we could be so horrible to our own young people, most of whom we demanded go to war on our behalf.  They came home with all the detritus of war: missing limbs, missing organs, the effects of agent orange, mysterious tropical infections and some horrible scars that we couldn’t see (and didn’t have names for).

It makes me cry because when one of my own sons went to Iraq (albeit voluntarily) twice, and I could not greet him on his return, a woman who was friends with his commander’s wife was there, called his name, and gave him a hug “from his mom.”  She was there every time a group returned to Fort Campbell, no matter what time of day or night.  If you e-mailed her your child’s name, she hugged them on your behalf.  If she didn’t have a soldier’s name, she hugged them on her own behalf.  She worked for one of Kentucky’s congressmen, and I’m ashamed to say that I do not recall her name.  But, when she sent me an e-mail telling me that she’d found Brady, and that he was safe and sound, I wanted to nominate her for a Congressional Medal of Honor.

It is this difference – in how we have treated our returning soldiers that now makes me want to throw myself on the mercy of my 1960s compatriots and beg their forgiveness.  There were some – a lot of them in politics today – who got one deferment after another until they aged out of the draft, and some – too many – who came back in body bags.  But, for those who went and made it back, we as a nation shamed ourselves in our treatment of them.  To those not-so-young men today, I say, “I am so sorry that I did not do more on your behalf.  You are a hero and deserve the best.  I hope you can forgive me.”

Not necessarily domesticated!