One good thing to come out of September 11 was cheap travel. John Barylick, a friend who knows how to live, told us about this 5-star resort near Playa del Carmen in the Yucatan. He said it was posh, gorgeous, a perfect place to relax and do nothing but be pampered. We looked at the website and were convinced. We tried several travel agents, several websites, and finally settled on Expedia.com, my new favorite travel site, which gave us the best price, about 60% off last year's prices.
The trip began auspiciously. We took a USAirways direct flight from Providence at 7:40 AM. Easy boarding, seats in the back of the plane. Today was a diuretic day, so I'm in the bathroom, and what do I hear? "Is there a licensed physician aboard?" Quickly, I zip up my fly, throw open the door, and announce: "Hineni!" A few rows ahead, there is a 77 y/o man from North Smithfield with cardiomyopathy. The lower oxygen tension in the cabin has brought on a bit of congestive heart failure. He is sweating, with a thready pulse, and an irregular heartbeat--he has atrial fibrillation. I call for oxygen, a stethoscope, and a blood pressure cuff. I can barely feel his pulse, and I can't hear a blood pressure with the cabin noise. Still, with the oxygen he starts to pink up and the sweating stops. He says he feels better. His wife says he's OK now. My medical mind is like a steeltrap; I ask myself: "Can I move this man to first class?" I decide that it is definitely in his interest. I tell the stewardess: "We must move this man to first class right now. I will get my wife, who is a nurse, and we will sit with him and his wife for the duration of the flight." I wear the stethoscope around my neck, which is like the Croix de Guerre, a badge of authority and command. The stewardess and captain thank me profusely. I ask if they can arrange for first class seats for the remainder of the trip. They say they will be glad to do so. Of course, when I get home, I will also write to my best friend, the CEO of US Airways, to remind him of how I put my license and malpractice insurance on the line for USAirways and ask for a couple of round-trip tickets for me and my nurse. Marty Hoffman, you are a worthy m'hutan, but Farklempt scores big on this one. When we get to Charlotte, they are ready to bump the guy and his wife of their connecting flight to St. Maarten, fearing for their liability. I tell them that life is short, the man is medically stable, and that I will sign any forms and releases they like to medically clear him for flying. They ask if he will need oxygen for the flight to St. Maarten, and I advise that it would be a good idea. They make the man and his wife pay for two tanks of oxygen at $75 a pop. Still, they are grateful to be able to take their vacation and not spend a week in Charlotte. We reboard our flight, transferred to permanent first class seats. Of course, first class is not what it used to be, you get no food, but you get cashews instead of peanuts. And the seats are nice. Everyone treats me like a hero. There is a fine line between being a hero and a psychopath.
The airport at Cancun has grown enormously since we were last here. But it is efficient. Customs and security were frighteningly fast--no questions, no eye contact, just a stamp of the passport, without even a glance at the photo. A van drove us down the road south of Cancun, past our old stomping grounds at La Posada de Capitan Lafitte. The road is now a 4-lane expressway, lined with honky-tonk signs for Señor Frog's, Carlos and Charlie's, and Burger King. Playa del Carmen is a mixture of construction companies, whorehouses, and, at the very end, luxury hotels, among them the Royal Hideaway. At the entrance, security is much tighter. Everyone is in uniform and greets you in English. You are welcomed into a lobby with champagne on ice, and you are led to sit down desk across from your own reception clerk.
I showed him my tacky Travel & Leisure Senior Editor business card (thank you, Marty Hoffman), and he said he would look into it. A bellboy led us to our hacienda.
Each hacienda has its own concièrge. Our room was hardly that shown on their website. There was an excellent king-size bed, a stereo, a jacuzzi, a shower, marble floors, but a balcony that overlooked two transformers and a walkway for carts and trucks delivering laundry and food to the beach.
A man on a ladder was painting outside our window. It must have been the worst room in the house. Guess I should have used better paper for my business cards.
I told the concièrge that I was certain that the Royal Hideaway wanted to show its best face on The Farklempt Page, and indeed they moved us to a larger quiet room with a lovely view of a two pools and a garden. We went down to meet our new concièrge, Rafael, but he was tied up with another family. We asked him to meet us on the beach. We went out to a gorgeous beach, which faces east to Cozumel. Nice sunrise, but not a good sunset. Fine sand, beautifully kept, beach boys circulating, offering you a drink. Plenty of toallas.They have Campari and soda, a sign of class. All the help address you in English. You can answer in Spanish, but eventually they lapse into English. Rafael joined us, and arranged for restaurant reservations (the resort has 4 restaurants and a nightclub), snorkeling trips, massages, a bicycle, movies in the room, and our return travel home.
We returned to the room for a jacuzzi and shower and went on to dinner at Spices, the Mexican restaurant on the beach. It is not your Providence Olneyville or Central Falls Mexican restaurant. It is elegant, with wonderful friendly formal service. The food was very good, not great, but very good indeed. The wines were a Chilean chardonnay and a Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, both excellent. Strolling mariachi musicians serenaded us at the table, choosing one song called, Carola (stealing a trick from John Barylick and his barbershop quartet):
Soy enamorada di mi mujer
Se llama Carola.
Back to the room, where we fell right to sleep.
On to Monday, January 14