In the future when people look and me incredulously and exclaim, “You went all the way to Mexico just to see Phish!?!” I wanted to be able to come back with something like: “Of course not. I also visited Mayan ruins, went scuba diving, sampled the local food and drink, spent plenty of time on the beach, and had the greatest sandwich of my life.
“What a silly question,” I’ll continue, crossing my fingers behind my back. “Who in their right mind would go all that way just to see some concerts?”
It took a solid week of adventure and relaxation to be able to say all that, but I put my nose to the grindstone and somehow managed:
Leaving Phish and the fancy resort behind we booked into a room above a bakery in a small funky hotel just off the main drag in Tulum, Mexico. On January 20th, 2016 we woke up and got out of the room straight away. We were interested in getting to the Tulum ruins ASAP so we could beat the crowds, so we shunned breakfast and coffees and hit the strip.
We hopped in a collectivo and soon we were at the Tulum ruins site. We walked a kilometre to the gate, paid our fee and declined hiring a guide.
Tulum means ‘wall’ and appropriately so; the ruins are surrounded on three sides by a large wall, the fourth side is protected by the ocean. It was these very walls that my countryman Justin Bieber tried to climb sans trousers just the week before, getting his sorry bare butt kicked out of the site. I can see the attraction in trying to scale the wall but without pants? Why Justin, why? (Though I tend to ask that question every time I hear about the kid, especially with regard to his music.)
We walked through a gate built directly into and through the wall and explored the site for a couple of hours. It’s just as you picture Mexican ruins: a handful of crumbling buildings with a pyramid for a centrepiece. I’m not really into ruins (I only spent about 45 minutes onsite when I visited Machu Picchu); I’m much more into seeing things that aren’t falling apart. Remember Coventry?
There were large iguanas (or were they monitor lizards?) all over the place, though they were easy to miss. We saw one really big dude climbing out of a ruined window; it looked like a long-lost Indiana Jones clip, and frankly that one image was enough to make the trip to the ruins worthwhile. We went down to the beach and got our feet wet but decided not to swim. Back up the stairs we found the ruins getting busy so we called it and strolled towards North Beach.
Our walk along the beach convinced us to change our lodgings; the place over the bakery was cool but it was in town and clearly North Beach was the better place to be staying. We ended up booking into a yurt on the beach for a few days before moving next door to a better, cheaper room with a back wall that opened entirely, facing the ocean.
We spent full days renting lounge chairs and lazily ordering drinks, lunch, drinks, snacks, drinks, dinner, and drinks while we watched the sun slowly snake it’s way through the sky. We went to a fancy-schmancy place for dinner one night and strolled along the beachside resorts. We even rented scuba gear and went cave diving, which leads me to The Sandwich.
When we were still staying in town, we woke up early one morning and got ready to go scuba diving. I had already packed my stuff so I had a bit of time to kill and a stomach to sate. I went downstairs and found the bakery just opening. My sleepy brain and questionable grasp on Español led me to randomly point at the menu with nothing but hunger and hope. The server brought me a coffee deliciously spiced with cinnamon and set a wooden slab on the table. Upon the wooden slab was a mini-sub with salami on it. There were two bowls containing sauces, the server warned me to be careful with one of them.
I took my chances and slathered the danger sauce on my sandwich. The bun was so unbelievably fresh…it was as soft as cotton and it tasted like candy. The freshly sliced meat was perfect as it blended with my palette, and the sauce was a heavenly blend of pleasure and pain. It was so, so very glorious. I’m glad I was sitting down for it, lest I might have fallen.
I don’t know if it was the surroundings – sitting in the groovy open-air foyer with lush greenery all around – or the excitement of my pending scuba adventure, but I enjoyed every crumb of that sandwich like it was, well, like it was the greatest sandwich in the world. Warren Zevon would have been pleased*. Frankly, when I think back to our post-Phish Mexico experience The Sandwich** is the first memory that jumps out. I’ll cherish the memory forever. For real.
Like I would go all the way to Mexico just to see some Phish concerts. Harrumph.
*When asked by David Letterman what he had learned about life since being diagnosed with incurable cancer Warren Zevon replied, “Enjoy every sandwich.”
**The Sandwich actually occurred on January 21st, 2016 but I have no ticket stub for The Sandwich so I had to piggy back it onto this ticket story.