trip to Cuba.
Then we were back in Cancun for one last night and day. We knew our way around this time, like where the airport ATM was located, which faux-security checkpoint en route to that ATM didn't really stop you if you just walked through, and what a reasonable price for a taxi from the bus station should be. ("So walk!" the first driver threatened when we rejected his price; one block later, the price magically dropped 25%.) We checked into the same hotel, ate another hearty lunch at the vegetarian place, Darma Cafe, next door (we ended up eating there three times), then hopped on a bus and went to the beach.
In the evening we walked through a plaza, which had a festival atmosphere in celebration of Benito Juarez's birthday. It was nice to see the "real" Cancun and not just the Vegas-like hotel strip (where most tourists stay, never having to speak Spanish or engage with Mexicans except as employees in the hotels). For dinner we went to a taco joint called Piknik, recommended on TripAdvisor specifically for their margaritas. (We had internet access again!) The tacos were very good, but our margaritas were surprisingly tasteless. We considered for a few moments whether to just accept them, but decided that, with their rave reviews, maybe it was a fluke. So Steph politely explained to the waiter that our margaritas really didn't taste like lime or tequila at all, maybe they made them wrong? And within a few minutes, we had two properly-made replacements, which were quite delicious.
The next morning was the last day of our trip, as well as my birthday. We had a good "completo de la casa" breakfast at Cafe Andrade, with eggs, tortillas, onion, pepper, etc (and a crazy hot sauce on the side). Then we took the bus back to the beach (the public Playa Chacmool). There were plastic beach chairs for rent for a "tip" + photo ID (as collateral). We had brought photocopies of our passports, not wanting to lose our real ones a few hours before our flight. The woman running the rental shop insisted that only the real thing would do. But Steph pulled off a masterful feat of Spanish negotiation, explaining that carrying our real passports was too risky, we had a flight in the evening, etc, promising to stay very close and return the chairs. Success!
The surf was really choppy - there was actually a surfer catching some nice waves - and we splashed around and body-surfed for a while, with the lifeguard advising us where to avoid rocks and drop-offs. (The Cancun coast is suffering severe erosion, and its beauty is sustained mostly by very costly repairs and sand restoration.) Then we sat on our hard-won chairs - Steph read 100 Years of Solitude, and I finally finished The Old Man and the Sea. (I had alternated between that short novel and Jon Lee Anderson's fantastic, 700-page biography of Che Guevara, which I am still only halfway through.)
On the bus back to the hotel, we were amused (and slightly embarassed) by a group of American tourists who needed a guide to use the public bus (to get from one point on the strip to another), had the guide pay for all of them, and then thanked the driver in English. A different kind of travel.