Tag Archives: Mexico

World Heritage Sites and Me

30 May

On our recent New Mexico trip, we drove to the Taos Pueblo, which is a Unesco World Heritage site. As we stood in the rain and looked at it, I wondered a couple of things.

First, why did this pueblo get picked over the Acoma Pueblo? In my opinion, there needs to be a recount.

Second, how many World Heritage sites have I visited?Unesco

I cannot answer the first question, but I can dang sure answer the second one. Here is the list by country.


Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison


Cologne Cathedral

Upper Middle Rhine Valley

Holy See

Vatican City


Historic Center of Rome, the Property of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and Sao Paulo Fuori le Mura

Venice and its Lagoon


City of Luxembourg: its Old Quarters and Fortifications


Pre-Hispanic City of Chichen-Itza


Seventeenth-Century Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam Inside the Singelgracht


Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church

Tower of London

United States of America

Mesa Verde National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

Independence Hall

Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek

Redwood National and State Parks

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Statue od Liberty

Yosemite National Park

Chaco Culture

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

Taos Pueblo

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Waterton Glacier International Peace Park



Cancun – Descending Into the Polar Vortex

17 Jan

While in Cancun, we kept hearing about the Polar Vortex, this huge weather system that was bringing frigid temperatures into Tennessee and everywhere else. First, I wondered where the term Polar Vortex come from? Do meteorologists sit around and come up with sinister sounding names for weather systems. In the old days, I thought it was an Arctic Blast. Second, we knew that at some point we were going to have to go home, and that meant going from the 80 degree average of Cancun to something completely different.

We woke up bright and early on the day of our leaving and prepared to make the trip to the airport. We dressed as we had dressed each day because we did not take any coats. My wife said that we wouldn’t need coats in Cancun. Unfortunately, we would need them in Tennessee. Luckily, I packed a pair of long pants to wear.

We took the ride to the airport and got dropped off into chaos. There was a huge crowd of people trying to check in. It was made up of people like us who were scheduled to leave that day, but it was also made up of people who were supposed to leave earlier and were trapped by cancelled flights. We talked to some people from Boston who had been trying to get home for a couple of days. This Polar Vortex thing was so powerful that it cancelled flights in Mexico.

We must have hit the sweet spot because our flight was on time. That gave us a chance to study the airport. There was basically a duty-free mall. There was a Johnny Rocket’s. There was also some dude dressed up like the Mask. Put together, it was kind of surreal.

We flew out of Cancun and made it to Charlotte. There we had to go through the hassle that is customs. Apparently, the United States does not trust the capabilities of other nations. We had to get our bags and have them rescanned. Once that was done, we made our way into the terminal. It was chaos all over again. Flights were cancelled. People were huddled in corners. Those who were coming in on delayed flights were barely missing their connections.

Once again, we were lucky. Our flight to Nashville was only 30 minutes late. However, the way people were dressed gave us an idea of what was happening outside. Heavy coats and hats were the norm. In fact, we stood out with our short-sleeved shirts.

The flight to Nashville was a little rough, and my window seat offered a glimpse of what we were descending into. As we got closer to the ground, the area just looked cold. Hardly any cars were out. The sides of the roads were white with ice. I can’t describe what cold looks like, but I know it when I see it.

Walking through the terminal, our summer clothes were looking really strange. However, we planned ahead. The guy picking us up brought heavy coats for us to put on. Despite those coats, walking outside took our breath away. The last time we were outside it was 80 degrees. Suddenly, we were hitting air that was 6 degrees. As we walked to the car, I tried to keep warm by thinking of this.Cancun - Poolside

And this.Cancun - Volleyball

And this.Cancun 216

Despite the temperature, we were glad to be home. One thing we all agree on is that it is good to travel, but it is also good to return home. It was also good that my mom had made up a big pot of soup.

Cancun – Dispelling My Ignorance

15 Jan

When my wife came up with the idea for this vacation, she had a certain vision in her mind. It was a vision of lying by the pool with the sunshine overhead. On our last full day in Cancun, this vision was fulfilled.Cancun - Poolside

We had a prime spot by the pool and basked in the sun as a waitress brought drinks to us. We read magazines and listened to music. My stepdaughter played volleyball in the water and on the beach. It was a day that vacations are made of.

After the day by the pool, we went back to the room to rest and get ready for dinner. We got cleaned up and went the steakhouse that we had visited on the first night. The place where they called me Ricardo. We had a good meal with a few drinks. Overall, it was a relaxing experience.

It was also one of the first times I have ever done anything like that. I try to learn something new as often as I can, and I learned something in Cancun. I learned the difference between a vacation and a trip.

When I was growing up, my family went on trips. We packed up the car and drove across the country. Along the way, we didn’t do much relaxing. We stayed in roadside hotels, and, each morning, we hopped in the car to drive. My dad used to refer to a late start as “burning daylight.” We saw all kinds of sights, and I am lucky enough to have visited each of the 50 states.

I wouldn’t trade those trips and those experiences for anything. However, I have missed out on the experience of a vacation. I can count on one hand the times I have gone to a beach town and stayed in one spot. That’s one of the reasons I enjoyed this vacation. It was a new experience, and I am all about new experiences.

It was interesting to see what people do on a vacation, and everyone at the resort seemed to do the same thing. They played by the pool during the day. They went to the room and dressed up. Then, they went out to dinner. There were probably a few variations to that theme, but they weren’t noticeable.

I am not sure where I am headed with this stream of thought, but there are a few things that I know. I am glad that we went on this vacation, and I hope there are more in our future. I am also glad that I have experienced road trips because there are a lot of interesting things out there to see.

I used to look down on vacations as a waste of time because I was ignorant to what they are really about. They are about getting away from the daily grind and recharging your personal battery. That is not a waste.

I am sure other people have thought that avoiding the beach to go on road trips is just as wasteful. They are just as ignorant as I was. Trips take you to different parts of the world and help you understand what the world is all about.

Ultimately, there is room in life for both. Vacations and trips can coexist. Some time can be spent relaxing, and some time can be spent exploring. Both can be fulfilling and fun. We just have to open our minds and realize it. That’s what I learned in Cancun.

Cancun – The Mayans Could Never Have Predicted This

11 Jan

I guess you could say that this day was for me. While traveling, I like to see things that are interesting, and, on this day, we would see Chichen Itza, the Mayan ruins that have been named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. A while back, I wrote a post about the Wonders that I have seen. Now, this one has been added to the list.Cancun 216

Now that I have looked back on that post, I realize that, last year, my wife and I added another Wonder to the list.

The adventure started out with a little drama. I knew that visiting the ruins was not high on my family’s list of things to do and offered to go by myself. However, my wife said that being that close meant that they should see it. When we told my stepdaughter, she went into a catatonic state while playing Rummy in the lobby. She absolutely did not want to go. She had learned about the Mayans in school and knew that they performed human sacrifices.

If that didn’t freak her out enough, then her teacher talked about her visit to some Mayan ruins. Apparently, her bus had to get on two wheels to keep from falling off a cliff. I don’t know where she went because the interstate we took was pretty smooth.

On Friday morning, we waited for the bus. I was excited, and my stepdaughter was sleepy. I am not sure how my wife felt, but I knew it wasn’t a good feeling when the bus pulled up to get us.Cancun - Bus

I am sure that we all thought the same thing. There was no way we were going to ride all day on that. Luckily, that was just the transportation to get us to the real transportation. Our other bus was nicer. It had bathrooms. They served breakfast. Plus, we had some interesting entertainment. I sat in front of a lady who spilled orange juice all over herself, and I saw behind a man who was, we think, spending his vacation with a male escort.

The trip wasn’t bad. I read a magazine about Pink Floyd and scanned the landscape as it went by. Before long, our guide was telling us all about the mysteries of Chichen Itza. The pyramid was the seat of power; a calendar; and a clock. He talked about the structure and the function of its parts. We walked around it and took pictures as he talked.

That’s when the unexpected happened. I was wearing my Cumberland University Cross Country t-shirt. A man walked up and asked if that was the Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. I said that it was and introduced myself. It turned out that he lived in Lebanon, too. We chatted for a few minutes, and he went back to his group. However, he came back to tell me that my teenaged nephew had taken his daughter on a date. Apparently, my nephew’s reputation with the opposite sex has gone international.

I think the guide was stunned by those events because he started talking about how aliens may have helped the Mayans. Here we go with the idea that those who were here before Europeans were not smart enough to do this themselves. They must have had help. Ridiculousness.

Anyway, we saw other interesting structures. There was the Temple of the Warriors where the sacrificing of humans took place.Cancun 218

There was the Skull Rack.Cancun 219

There was the Great Ball Court. The guide said that it was the site of theater and games, but no one knows for sure what those consisted of. It is known that this is the largest Mayan Ball Court ever discovered. Only the best performed here.Cancun 221

After spending several hours in historic nirvana, we headed to Valladolid, a Spanish colonial town that was founded in 1543. Along the way, we passed through several towns that were, to my eyes, the definition of poverty. This was what you don’t see at the resorts. Cinderblock houses with no doors. Burned out buildings. Stray dogs on the side of the road. People on the side of the road selling their wares. It looked as if the passing tourists were the only economy, and the tourists rarely stopped.

Valladolid was a bigger town, and every bus stopped there. We disembarked at the plaza, which looked a lot like the plazas I have seen before in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Sonoma. Without a doubt, the Spanish took the same building plan wherever they went.Cancun 226

Did I mention that it was raining? Anyway, we walked a few blocks to what they called an authentic Mexican restaurant. It wasn’t authentic. It was a buffet that included french fries. It was a decently decorated restaurant, and I found this just past the bathrooms.Cancun 225

After the meal, we walked to a farmacias, but they didn’t have what we were looking for. That’s fine because they say laughter is the best medicine, and what happened next was super funny.

The last stop of the tour was a sinkhole. That’s right. A sinkhole. They said that the Mayans used it for something, but I think they just needed another tourist attraction.Cancun 228

Like everywhere else, there were people around the sinkhole selling their wares. As we walked out, this little girl with big brown eyes walked up to show us what she had. Barefooted. Been in the rain all day. In a sweet voice, my wife said, “No, no. No bueno.”

I thought for a second and said, “What did you say?”

“I said, ‘No, thank you.”

“You didn’t say that. You said that her stuff was no good. You told that little girl that she had bad stuff.”

My wife was mortified. She hadn’t tried to use Spanish the entire trip. Then, she said that. I couldn’t help but laugh. My stepdaughter tried to get her to go back and apologize, but she didn’t know how to say that. Instead, my wife said, “We just need to get on the bus.”

Somewhere in Mexico, there is a little girl traumatized because a lady told her that her stuff wasn’t any good.

After a long ride home, we ended the day with chocolate filled crepes. It was the best thing we had tasted in a while.

It was an awesome day.

Cancun – It’s Irrelevant

9 Jan

Our second day in paradise didn’t start out very well. Apparently, being a second level VIP meant that we had to go through an orientation. In reality, that meant that they wanted to spend some time trying to sell a resort membership. We knew that going in and thought that we could handle it for a while. We couldn’t. I knew we were in trouble when the guy said that he has never sold anything. People always want to buy.

We thought it would be easier if we got to the point. We were not interested in becoming members and nothing he could say would change our minds. That didn’t stop him. He was trained to go through the steps, and he was determined to do it. It was back and forth the entire time. We said that we were not interested, and he would plow ahead. No matter what we said, he would come back with, “It’s irrelevant.” Over and over.

“It’s irrelevant.”

“It’s irrelevant.”

“It’s irrelevant.”

Before my wife choked him, we got away and on with the rest of the day. Later, I saw a sign at the pool and thought, “Why would they put that sign up? It’s irrelevant.”Cancun - Pool

We survived the ordeal and made it back to the room to wake up my stepdaughter. She and my wife went to the pool, and I met them a few minutes later. After getting some food and getting comfortable in our lounge chairs, some guy came up and said they were his chairs. He had gotten up bright and early to claim them.

Now, I’m not an expert in pool etiquette, but it is hard to imagine that you can claim a chair 5 or 6 hours before showing up to use it. After a while, your claim becomes irrelevant. I could be wrong.

We moved to the other side of the pool, and everything turned out fine. We were close to the beach bar for VIP’s, both first level and second level. We were also close to a bunch of people with different accents and different tattoos. I try to learn something everywhere I go, and I learned that the south does not have a monopoly on rednecks. They come from all over the United States.

We also heard an accent that I didn’t anticipate – Australian. There were people from Australia all over the place. Neither my wife nor I could figure out why they were in Cancun. It is summer in Australia, a nation known for its beaches. Yet, they traveled halfway around the globe to visit a beach that can’t be as good as their own. I am sure they had a good time. We just thought it was strange. Hopefully, a few Australian readers can enlighten me.

My wife and I were pondering the mysteries of visitors to Cancun, but my stepdaughter wanted to play beach volleyball. Not the 6 on 6 kind. The 2 on 2 kind that they play in the Olympics. She and I went undefeated. That’s right. Karch Kiraly and the rest of those guys have nothing on me.

There are no pictures to prove my beach volleyball prowess, but my wife took a picture of her daughter while I was recovering just out of the camera’s view.Cancun - Volleyball

While I basked in the glory of victory and checked to make sure I didn’t pull anything, I also watched the people around us. There was a serious game of volleyball going on next door. There was a young senorita trying to do yoga in front of us. There were waitresses and other workers going back and forth.

I have been to a couple of resorts similar to this one. Jamaica. Costa Rica. Now, Mexico. I always wonder what the workers think about us. What do they think about us spending the money to travel? What do they think about the food and drinks that we throw away? What do they think about our conspicuous consumption?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but that’s some of the stuff that goes through my mind. The guy we met with might say, “It’s irrelevant.” Personally, I don’t think that’s true.