Monday, December 3, 2007

El Escape Dulce

One of the many things I like about New York is its wonderful proximity to warm and sunny destinations during the bleak winters. In a mere 3 or 4 hours, you can find yourself on a white sandy beach, staring at the turquoise sea while listening to the gentle sound of crashing waves.

I normally favour a more active and adventurous holiday, one involving a challenge (either physical or personal) or some kind of novelty. This year, I had planned to head to Cuba to listen to Jazz in Havana, or to take a whale watching trip to Alaska or perhaps to finally go Gorilla trekking in the dense Ugandan jungle.

But as the end of the year drew near, I realised that I just didn't have the strength to challenge myself anymore. That moving across the Ocean, taking on a new demanding role, making new friends and whole-heartily embracing the fanatical pace of New York had drained me beyond description. This year has been one of extreme and opposite emotions for me: joy and sorrow, excitement and fear, fun and stress ... some dreams achieved and others shattered. So much so, that all I wanted, to my shock and horror, was to lie on a beach with plenty of books and a good friend.

And so I found myself, a few days ago, on a plane heading to Playa Del Carmen on Mexico's Yucutan Peninsula, with my gbf Larry. Playa seemed to offer a slightly more rural alternative to Cancun's large all-inclusive resorts (which I despise) and we opted to stay in a lovely boutique hotel tucked in a small palm tree lined street, minutes from the Caribbean sea.
The town itself was a dichotomy, retaining the feel of a small place yet still touristy. Mexican joints happily cohabiting with trendy upmarket restaurants, tacky souvenir shops with sophisticated art galleries.

The whole short trip was exactly what I needed and I completely relaxed. Reading a book a day, on the patio of our villa overlooking the serene miniature pool while birds were singing. Interrupting my sunbathing on the beach only to swim in the crystal clear sea. Walking on clouds after having a facial and massage at the local beauty salon. Taking an early evening solitary dip in the sea to watch a breathtakingly pink sunset that seemed to have been staged just for me. Tirelessly enjoying guacamole and fajitas ...

Adventure was had however in the form of a wave-runner ride. I have an irrational but very genuine fear of deep water, where the sea turns a dark shade of blue ... which is unfortunately the only place where one is allowed to do wave-running, far away from swimmers. Facing my fear should have been enough of a challenge, had it not been for the additional adrenaline provided by Larry. He's very experienced and fearlessly rode the waves at alarming speed, creating higher ones so that we would literally be propelled off the seat and almost lose balance, swallowing gallons of salty water in the process.
I scarcely opened my eyes and gripped onto him so tightly that I was still shaking for 2 hours afterwards. It was exhilirating! I was petrified but loved it and even had a go at driving the infernal machine - eyes opened this time but screaming like the girl I am!

I should have been dreading going back to New York after spending a few days in paradise but instead found myself unable to stop humming "Start spreading the news ..." as soon as I boarded the plane. Not even the news that snow had fallen on the city (delaying our plane by a couple of hours) deterred my enthusiasm. You can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take New York out of the girl ...