Travel Trivia – Endless Surprises in the COVID “New Normal”
Half asleep and relaxed in my window seat, I’m suddenly jerked awake by a blaring announcement from the United cabin’s PA system: “Your flight is on its final approach into Cancún International Airport at Cancún, Quintana Roo, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. We encourage you to get your custom’s documents in order, and note that the Mexican authorities will confiscate your phones (surprise) if you have them on during the clearing process.”
Welcome to Mexico and the COVID World of Travel!
As we moved through customs clearing, I noted that the U.S. passengers wore protective masks, but those returning to their home country not so much. Getting dollars exchanged for pesos was a bit of a hassle; make sure you bring newly minted dollars…if they’re old and faded, the edges missing or folded, or if they’re torn you might as well pitch them in the trash. Many vendors, banks, shops and resorts will not exchange them for pesos.
While we are all concerned about the virus and staying safe, (creating a paranoid population) remaining within four walls of a house / office has never been on my bucket list. I’m always looking for the next adventure, usually outside of the country, and often in a third-world environment. These days, the further outside the better where there are less restrictions! Recently, to satisfy this craving, I decided to head south on a two-hour flight from Houston to Mexico.
There are 56 countries, at the time of writing this, where one can still visit with few, if any, obstacles other than a few political uprisings, perhaps a military takeover or terrorist attack in your luxury hotel. (This is starting to sound a lot like what the U.S. is experiencing.) However, Mexico is relatively safe. Specifically, Quintana Roo and the white beaches, the blue water, Mayan ancient pyramids, the friendly but nagging vendors, and those all-inclusive resorts with their gourmet restaurants. What I don’t enjoy, but tolerate, are the poor city streets that can bury a vehicle tire in one of its potholes.
My destination is 30 minutes northeast from the airport at the Atelier-Estudio Playa Mujeres, a three-year-old ultra-contemporary five-story resort with 450 rooms, currently at about 45% occupancy due to this world’s “new COVID normal.”
Upon arriving, I’m greeted by a charming and elegant Mexican gentleman professionally attired while sitting erectly behind a carved oak desk the length of a casket. It looks over acres of native tropical jungle with a lengthy wooden walkway that wanders aimlessly towards the Caribbean.
“Allow me to introduce you to the Atelier world and all its many services you will experience during your stay,” he smoothly announces in flawless English.
With the check-in complete, a bracelet is attached to my right arm giving me access to my room through some magical small chip that has been woven into the design. As I get up to leave, I inquiringly ask,
“Could I please have a map of the property so I can find my way to the dozen bars, the seven restaurants, three pools, the beach and the evening entertainment, etc.”
“Madam, we have no map as we are a 21st Century high tech facility and you will be using the app on your phone for everything.”
My response, perhaps in a voice that was an octave higher than what was necessary, “You don’t have a map of this huge property and expect me to use my phone to wander through this jungle I see through the 40 feet of glass behind you!?”
Like an anxious grasshopper jumping to a mating call, he rises, catches his breath and mumbles something about returning with a map. (Perhaps I was a bit too out there.) A few minutes later he returns with no map and an offer to assist me on how to use the hotel app. The next thing I was expecting was a ZOOM presentation, which I’d had more than my share of over the last year in meetings.
Once again, in that octave high delivery, I inform him, “I’m well acquainted with using apps, but I’m not using one on this trip. Will you please call a cab so I can find another resort that is not so high tech?”
Like magic, the gracious Hernández suddenly appears and, in a Mezzo-Soprano voice, says, “Let me take you on a personal tour of the Atelier world and I’m sure you will want to stay.”
TO BE CONTINUED…….