Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Churros and Adios.

I'm innocently floating around the pool reading a book when I hear an American woman to my right screech;
'Oh my gosh! You're in the water with, like, paper!'
'Oh my GOD!' I screech back. 'You've brought your own drinking tankard to a free bar!'
I then stare mutely at her until she turns away and continue my paddle.
For every ten absolutely delightful people you meet there's always a universe balancing arsehole. The French and I made an agreement early on that whenever we witnessed somebody being shockingly awful we wouldn't get wound up but instead would stop what we were doing and give them a slow applause.
The people who dictate what they want and never say please or thank you. The people who never tip. That's the worst offence really. The logic being that its an all-inclusive and so tips are included in that. Surely! Am I right?! NO you're not fucking right.
Gilberto, one of the waiters who hasn't had a day off since we've been here and is always 100% on the ball, tells us (we ask, he doesn't offer the information freely) that he earns 76 pesos an hour. That's just over three quid. So when you see someone clicking their fingers or kicking up a fuss about something so puerile it makes your eyeballs sweat its hard not to physically attack them. For the most part its the English and the Americans who are guilty of this. The only people that are never ever rude and tip just because someone smiled at them are of course the Canadians.
I have never met a Canadian I didn't like. They learn all the waiters names too.
And my obsession with visiting Canada is just growing and growing. The fact that we flew over Canada to get here makes me feel a bit bilious. I came so close and yet still no cigar. I've spoken to quite a few of them in passing here and pretty much all of them have invited me to stay at theirs. Or recommended a great place where the trees are tall and the lakes wide. We went out to Bucerias for dinner again the other night and met a group of Canadians who were sat at the next table. Over the balcony there were lots of locals dancing away to some live music being played in the square.
Lisa is there with her husband and two other couples. She recommends a restaurant for us and suggests we come back on Saturday afternoon for a live music party on the beach.
'It's kinda the local happy hour between 3 and 6pm, lots of dancing, its fun.'
'Do you live here?' I ask.
'No, we just holiday here in the winter for 4 or 5 months.'
She kisses her husband, gets up and starts shimmying toward the street.
'Hey you wanna come dance?'
'Oh that's so kind but I'm afraid I'm British.'
She sashays off to the rhythm and I wonder once again what it must be like to be rich.
We've met a fair few people here who are on semi permanent holidays.
One elderly Canadian couple at dinner last night told us they were here just for a week on the back of a month in Fiji and before that New Zealand for two months.
'We couldn't face going back to the weather in Canada just yet.'
The French and I are very good at picking up languages and within a week of being anywhere can pretty much communicate with anyone. Where the French excels though is his ability to seemingly soak up the essence of a country. He not only speaks to everyone in Spanish, he does so with his whole body and makes everyone around him feel like he's a local and their long lost friend. He SOUNDS Mexican. I watch men swarm around him, changing his ashtray, making sure his drink is never empty and somehow discussing Arsenal with him. They see him coming and his drink is poured before he gets there. He hugs them all, asks them how that thing went the other day that they were talking about and how are the three kids etc. His achilles heel however is accents. He has a complete tin ear for them and its hilarious. He comes back from the bar and tells me he's just overheard some French Canadians and the way they speak is bizarre. I mooch over to eavesdrop and discover they are in fact from Birmingham.
Another prize winning occasion:
'So where in Scotland are you from?' He asks.

He's been eyeing the jet ski's since we got here.
'I went on one in Acapulco a few years ago. It was awesome.'
'Go on one then.'
'No, no, no. I'd rather spend the money on restaurants.'
A day later I find him watching the jet ski's yearningly.
'It's really cool if you stay on top of the waves...'
'Go on one then.'
'No no no. It'll be super expensive.'
Yet another day later I watch as he smokes a cigar whilst his eyes never leave the jet ski's skimming across the ocean.
'For the love of Christ just go book one!'
He strolls indifferently over to the hombres in charge of the jet ski's and starts chatting. He returns 5 minutes later having made blood brothers of them all.
'I got them down to thirty quid for half an hour. For both of us.'
The following day I get on my jet ski and think 'Yay! I'm saying YES to life!' And almost immediately regret it. Its the turning I found problematic. Anyway, The French satisfied his need for speed and I survived so it's another thing ticked off a bucket list I never wrote.
Body boarding was a lot more fun for me. I felt like I was 8 again, catching the back of a wave and shooting towards the shore.

There have been lots of highlights but the local fiesta two nights ago was one of the best moments, not least for the fresh churros that were so delicious I gave the woman a rose to thank her (I also paid for the churros...obviously). The reason I had roses in the first place was because a couple sat at the next table to us in a bar bought them for us. Just because. They were, of course, Canadian. And yes, they have invited us to British Columbia for a vacation and some fishing on the lake.
I've promised myself a trip to Canada if I ever get published. The French says 'when' not 'if'.
I find a booze stand offering a cocktail called 'Adios Mother Fucker' and ask the woman what's in it.
'Is Tequila, gin, ron, vodka and just tiny bit pineapple.'
I settle for a margarita.
We eat at a stand and pay less than you would for a pint in the UK. We watch huge fireworks which are set off in the middle of the square by a bloke with a fag dangling out of his mouth. There's no barrier, no health and safety. If you're stupid enough to stand too close you're probably asking for it. 

The holiday is over and we have to vacate the room in about thirty minutes. We haven't even packed yet. But we're ready to go home. We've had a ball, enjoyed it all. We now know we're not all-inclusive kind of people and won't do it again. But it was just what we needed this time round. The French is getting wound up by other holiday makers having the audacity to breathe near him. We're both done. We'll endure the 11 hour flight back, find a train and collapse in to the flat for a few hours kip before dinner at my mum's. I love travelling. I'd love someone to pay me to go places and write this stupid blog. The only thing better than travelling is probably coming home. See you soon Xx

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Pepto-Abysmal And Gyrating Raoul

Every day around noon Raoul, one of the swarthier members of the 'entertainment' staff can be found strutting around the sun loungers charming the ladies in to an aerobics session with him in the pool.
'Come on Signoritas! You's gotta work off the alcohol si!'
Gold rimmed shades, ponytail and snake hipped he sexually insinuates himself through a wall of liver spotted cleavages and plastic sun visors.
Sure enough ten minutes later the pool is a blanket of giggling American housewives staring adoringly at Raoul who stands on the side thrusting his groin in a slow circular motion and telling the ladies to follow suit.
The French looks up from his reading and mutters; 'Fucking Raoul.'
In the evening we're having some cocktails before dinner and discussing the much anticipated performance of the “Mexican Michael Jackson.” I never really understood the appeal of the actual Michael Jackson but I do find the world of imitators weirdly intriguing. The French however is uncharacteristically keen and is practising his moon walk in the middle of the plaza with a drink in one hand and his hat tilted Jackson style. I wave my glass at one of the staff and beg for another drink.
The build up is impressive. There's a big light show and a massive projection of Jackson's (Liz Taylor phase) eyes. Six dancers appear and start throwing shapes and even the table of drunken Scots (same table every day from 10am till 11pm) briefly look up from their drinks and make a collective noise which could be a heckle or some kind of approval. Finally Mexican Michael arrives in Thriller mode. He gyrates wildly, makes that squeaky noise and grabs his groin. The French grins, then frowns and finally squints.
'It's fucking Raoul.'
'Surely not.'
'I'm telling you – That. Is. Fucking. Raoul!'
I take a closer look at the groin rotation. It could definitely be Raoul.
He does all the big numbers, 11 costume changes and finishes with a dramatic 'It's your fault I'm dead' kind of blackout. The crowd goes wild.
A couple of hours later there's a conga line working its way around the fountain and yes, Raoul is leading it. The man's an animal.

When we arrived The French was pretty ill with a bad cold. He has since recovered and passed the baton to me. Our room is littered with half bottles of Vicks 44 expectorant, Tylenol, Ibruprofen and now Pepto-Bismal which I picked up yesterday at a Farmacia in Puerto Vallarta. The constant diet of chilli, lime and Amaretto Sours/Margaritas means heartburn is unavoidable. The woman in the shop gives me a quick appraisal and discreetly hands me a list of under the counter drugs available. Tramadol, Vicodin, HGH...the list is impressive. I start to enquire about the cost of the diet pills but The French grabs me and pushes me firmly out of the door.
I catch my reflection as I walk past the mirror. Cocktail in one hand, Pepto-Abysmal in the other. I pop an ibroprufon and a tylonel and wash them down with swig of pepto.
Admittedly I look like shit and I have a pretty bad cold but I'm on holiday and no one can take that away from me.
It's 30 degrees and the French can't take a step without breaking a sweat. My hair has reacted to the humidity and is eight times its original size. The French occasionally pretends its become sentient and says he can see a pulse. The novelty of constant alcohol has worn off but we're still very much working on the premise that if you're not sure what you fancy there really is no bad time for a Bloody Mary. We have located the one man in the hotel who knows how to make a decent coffee. He works in the 24 hour sports bar and every morning we shuffle in there with the other 6 people who have discovered him, request a hit, and give the obligatory half laugh when he suggests a shot of tequila in it.

Being constantly looked after and having to do absolutely nothing for yourself except wash is very seductive but also creates an inertia that makes you feel like having a nap every twenty minutes. To counteract this we've been making little trips outside of our cottonwool wrapped world, the first of which was to Bucerias.
The taxi dropped us off at the edge of a flea market. It looks like a shanty town and from the moment you step out of the car you're assaulted by dozens of people holding up bits of jewellery, rugs, skull mugs. One stand has gimp style superhero masks. The French points at the Dead Pool one and says he needs it.
'Take it mi amigo,' the man says. 'Make all your fantasies come true.'
Another big guy nods at us, 'Come see my cheap shit.' I don't think his heart is in it.
It's a bit overwhelming. You want to be polite and say “no thanks” to everyone but in the end we just push our way through the crowd and stop responding. We find a restaurant that's been recommended to us. Miguel Angel is a cool little Mexican place with parrots hopping around everywhere and palm leaves for a roof. Miguel himself is charm personified. He looks like Charles Bronson and The French calls him that for the rest of our visit.
'You like football?' Miguel asks.
'Of course.'
'Who's your team?'
'I got a sports bar upstairs, they playing right now.'
There's a small cloud of dust where the French once stood. Born lucky. I follow up the stairs and there it is, a hug sports bar with the game playing and various men staring fixedly at the screen whilst some disenchanted women shovel tortilla.
A smiling man brings a bucket full of ice within which are nestled five bottles of corona and a dish of lime.
'400 pesos amigo.'
The French is about to distractedly hand over the money and then does the math.
'400?! That's more than 20 pounds. For five beers??'
The man smiles nervously.
'Five buckets, amigo.'
'What the fuck do I want with 25 beers?!'
'Okay, 100 pesos for one bucket.'
He's tried it on, not succeeded and there's a slightly tense feeling in the air. Luckily the outraged French is an affable sort and merely gives him a friendly slap on the back which nearly floors the tiny chap.
'That's more like it!'
He watches the game and I watch the room. Everything is so colourful here.
His team wins and we head downstairs to eat. It's shady and lovely and the waiter brings me a bucket of passionfruit Margaritas. We eat fish tacos and giant fried prawns with the obligatory nachos and dip. There's an old boy playing a keyboard and singing in the corner. He starts 'What a wonderful world' and its just perfection. A small boy comes in and tries to sell us handmade bracelets with little dream catchers on them. He wants 100 pesos (about five quid). They're hideous but he's a pro and whilst the French tries to haggle him down to 50 pesos the kid refuses to make eye contact and insists on at least 70. We buy the damn thing and I'm forced to wear it. He's the first of about 60 people trying to sell us stuff. I wonder if there's a kind soul somewhere with a room full of sombrero's, rugs, dolphin wind chimes, marble face ornaments, skull head mugs, grains of rice with their name on it, cuban cigars...actually we did buy a box of cuban cigars but turned down the weed that was offered with it.
The second trip is to Puerto Vallarta where we find a colonial style shack on the beach called The Red Lobster. The food is fantastic and we just sit there for hours eating, drinking, laughing and politely refusing to buy a million things.
The third trip we've been looking forward to all week. We are headed to the 'Rhythms of the night' event at a little cove some miles away. We travel there by boat which takes about an hour and a half and involves a glorious sunset and a lot of rum punch. The team on the boat led by Julio are hilarious. They throw alcohol at you, play music and do little skits to keep you amused. There are about 40 of us and everyone is in high spirits. A man called Tom and his friend recreate the Titanic pose at the front of the boat, people are dancing and laughing. A hush descends as the sun sets and before long we are approaching the Las Caletas cove which is entirely lit by candles and flaming torches. It's a jungle and as we get nearer we spot a mermaid waving from the rocks. A girl dressed as an eagle perched in one of the trees. The water around the boat is clear and thousands of fish are shimmying in the light. We dock and start making our way up a candle lit path. Part of a tree unfolds and smiles at us, something that looks like a cross between a goat and a god plays a lute and a half naked man painted to look like a deer struts around on the rocks and watches us suspiciously. It's completely immersive theatre and not what I'd expected at all. We'd been told the show was influenced by Cirque du Soleil which I liked and not dissimilar to The Lion King which I fucking hate. When we reached the clearing the layout was much like an Ampitheatre with steep wooden stairs at one end leading up to a large skull surrounded by fire.
'It looks like a sacrificial alter,' I whisper.
'I hope it is,' The French says, looking pointedly at a woman just behind us who hasn't stopped narrating every moment since she got off the boat.
The show starts with a very entertaining Master Of Ceremonies who walks through the audience making guttural tribal noises before saying terribly politely “That means, excuse me please, I need to get through”. The performance lasts the perfect amount of time (40 minutes) and there's a giant butterfly in a tree playing a violin, a colourful bird woman on a wire zooming around overhead, giant stilt walking tree men, monkeys doing insane balancing acts using only one arm, fire juggling and dancing. The French keeps staring at the Deer man suspiciously.
“It's fucking Raoul. I'm certain of it.”
I have absolutely no idea what the plot is or why the deer gets killed and comes back as a dancing man but The French assures me its all about the connectedness of everything in nature and everything serving a purpose. I'm fine with that.
Afterwards we are taken to our table for two by the edge of the sea and served booze and food by candlelight whilst a man plays a harp for us. It's all ridiculously romantic and I can't help but think about the level of organisation it takes to make this many people feel so personally cared for. The beach to our left has been hung with dozens of cream hammocks and its an absolute scream watching couples trying to climb in to them gracefully for a kodak moment under the stars. One big chap looks utterly defeated before he's even begun but his girlfriend is bloody determined and so he folds himself on to an edge and braces himself with one foot in the sea for what looks to be ten minutes of absolute terror.
A bell rings and its time to head back. The journey is broken up by the crew dressing up as Kiss and performing for us. No, really. A Liverpudlian chap comes up to me and nods towards The French.
'Is that big lad with the hat your fella?'
'He had me and my girlfriend in bits all the way out on the boat. He was having a dance and rolling a fag at the same time whilst everyone else was holding on to the rails for dear life.'

'Yup. That's my one.'

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Mexico And The Scooby Snacks

A tiny Mexican woman hands me a pair of paper knickers the size of a tea bag and tells me to pop them on and 'jump' on to the massage table.
There seems to be a recurring theme of holidays and humiliating massage experiences for me.
'Um, I don't think these will fit me. I'm carrying a little extra weight...'
She grins.
'Ah, yes, Navidad – Christmas, si?'
'Yes, exactly. Approximately 42 years worth.'
'Is okay. Put them on. Stretchy.'
They are not stretchy enough. I contort myself in to part of them and hobble towards the table. I try to pull the sheet modestly over myself and roll on to my stomach. She whips it off.
'No, no. Sitting up please on edge.'
I surrender to the horror and haul myself up all the time thinking of that episode of Jerry Springer when they telecast a hugely obese man (basically a blanket of skin with eyes) in to the studio from his trailer - “Help me Jerry, I don't wanna die.” They cut him out of that trailer. My problems are comparatively small. I just need to stop drinking 14 cocktails a day and get back to my running regime and all will be well. As I'm thinking this the tiny Mexican woman rubs my entire body with exfoliating stuff and points at a shower.
'With the pants?'
All of this takes place with one lit candle and an acoustic arrangement of 'I will always love you' serenading us.
After this everything gets a lot better. She's small but she is fierce and the one hour deep tissue massage is painful and relaxing at the same time. Throughout the whole thing I have a towel over my eyes. She whispers 'terminado' and I hear her leave. A few moments later another woman comes in and starts trying to scrape the despair from my face. I assume its another woman, I still can't see a thing, so unless the first one has popped out for a costume change and is now posing next to me in a wetsuit taking selfies with me beached next to her with a fin stuck on my head...I try not to dwell.
The facial is really good. I know this because I am woken several times by my own snoring.
I pay cash, put my sun glasses on and leave with my head bowed.

We've been in Mexico for three days and once I'd managed to unfold the furious French from his economy sized chair after an 11 hour flight we both started having a lot of fun. He's a giant in the UK so over here, where the average hight is about 5 foot 2 he looks like a building.
It's hard to get your head around an all inclusive resort. I keep wanting to say 'I can have this too? For free??' I was worried it would be like some awful package thing with mandatory games and English breakfasts. But as The French pointed out, 'It's a five star resort, shut up.' As someone with absolutely no self control, accompanied by someone with very little self control, the notion of free alcohol 24/7 was a curious one. I found I have been able to avoid a hangover by drinking fairly steadily from breakfast onwards. There are four optics in the bedroom, Champagne and Bloody Mary's with breakfast, cocktails are delivered to your sun lounger, there's a bar in the pool and every time you think 'Steady on there, probably time for a coffee' a nice smiling person appears at your elbow and refills your glass. Horrific.
Some jolly young Canadian girls introduced us to 'Scooby Snacks' last night. A 50ml shot of vodka, melon liquor and something else I can't put my finger on. They are radiation green and it isn't until your sixth that you start to feel a burning in your chest. And as the young Canadians pointed out 'They don't even taste like alcohol! It's awesome.' I spotted them a couple of hours later cavorting maniacally around two waiters who stood there grinning and trying not to recoil as they gyrated and screeched in some tribal mating ritual. I saw them again at breakfast this morning. The French told them they were evil and they grinned.
'Y'all have a good day! Try the Banana Bamba today, it doesn't even taste like alc-'
'Fuck right off!'
There are very few kids here which is nice as we are the sort of awful people who don't enjoy the sound of children's laughter. But there's this one little person. Very small. Almost staggering around on wobbly legs age. What is that age? Anyway, she's beautiful. Mesmerising. She has eyes like black marbles and thick shiny black hair that curls around her cheeks and wherever the music is playing she is struggling towards it on tiny drunken legs like a little dark angel. I don't know if its the last gasp of an unused womb or just that she is the most precious little thing but every time I see her I just stop and stare. Her dad is now on nervous nodding terms with me.
The French has found the hat. The hat that completes him as a person. It's one of those 'man from Del Monte' hats. Makes him look some colonial fellow in an Agatha Christie. The staff call him Papi and he's really just missing the cigar to complete the look. Luckily there is a vast armoury of cuban cigars on offer so its really only a matter of time. I beat him at pool yesterday. He's still raging about it.
It's luxurious here, lots of marble and palms and a golden beach that we've only visited at night when it was empty and we could float on our backs and look at all the stars in the sky. The whole place is in the Art Deco style and amongst the frondy plants there are Tamara de Lempicka copies and walls full of Klimt. It's all very nice and very seductive and apart from the staff and the tacos you'd never know what country you were in. We quite like knowing what country we're in so this afternoon we're breaking out of the compound and visiting Bucerias, a town nearby with a flea market and a highly recommended seafood restaurant on the beach and on Tuesday we're taking a speedboat to a little island for the 'Rhythm of the night' party. The tiny beach lit by 3000 candles and there's fire juggling and music and a meal. I'm really excited about that. Despite the fact that I will unquestionably get eaten alive by mosquitoes. I managed to go two days without getting bitten and the moment I bought the “OFF!” repellant and sprayed it on they found me.
Our rep is from The Wirrall and her name is Julia Roberts. I shit you not. I've started calling her Erin Brokovich which she finds hilarious in a professional can't punch me in the face sort of way.

Everything is lovely and wonderful. Except the coffee. The coffee is fucking awful.