Feminism, Sisterhood and girl power are all part of the modern-day vernacular. But on a miniature tropical island barely 650 meters wide and seven kilometres long, the locals have been worshipping women for centuries. Purportedly, Isla de Mujeres earned it's name thanks to the Spanish pirate who after being rejected by one of the many beautiful Mayan female inhabitants, named it such (and then famously died of heartache shortly thereafter.)
Fittingly, more than 10 centuries later, I find myself here on a recent girls weekend. I snuck away from winter to meet my mother along the Mayan shores of this breathtaking beach. Cancun, the closest airport, is a short four-hour direct flight from Toronto.
Mi mama, a retiree, is now spending her winters under the Mexican sun, what better way to log some quality time together? The plan was hatched and we both booked flights to arrive as close together as international and internal flights would allow.
We checked-in to the Preferred Club at Secrets Resort in Playa Mujeres -- a pristine stretch of sand 30 mins north of Cancun directly across from the Island of women, Isla de Mujeres. The property is on the edge of a vast jungle, neighbouring an empty beach of protected land. In fact the whole development takes the pursuit of preservation very seriously. The beaches are unspoiled and much less groomed than most typical resorts thereby preserving the beautiful white sand beaches from erosion and protecting all the natural plant and sea-life below. A huge plus in both our books.
As a mom of two busy little boys, this retreat was all about pampering myself. Having left behind my 17-month-old who was teething like mad, and my busy little preschooler, the biggest reward for me were the full nights of sleep in a deliciously comfortable bed -- well that and being waited on hand and foot by the most attentive staff -- but more on that later.
A late afternoon check-in meant I had time to swim, relax and shower before my moms arrival and our dinner, which was served in the private wine cellar at Bordeaux restaurant. The courses were each more delicious than the last and the white Chilean Antares Chardonay tasted rich and luxurious -- I may have over-indulged -- same with the dessert. But no matter, I had my heavenly bed, optional pillow menu and comfortable quarters to look forward to retiring to. Had we had more energy, we could have taken in the expert magic show or had a glass of champagne at the little ride-up Veuve Cliquot bar, but we were just excited to be reunited and happy to collapse into bed for some girl talk!
I had the best intentions of partaking in the 8 a.m. Pilates class the following morning -- held under a breezy palapa by the pool, but after enjoying the superb sunrise, and comfortably ensconced in the luxury of our terrace (complete with a private swim-up pool) my robe was too comfortable and the views too dreamy, so instead we ordered eggs and coffee from the 24-hour room service and dined alfresco.
It would have been easy to wile away the day poolside but we were booked into a golf lesson at The Secrets Playa Mujeres golf course. The majestic setting amidst mountains and the turquoise sea took my breathe away -- having just arrived from a cold and barren winter landscape. Our instructors were sweet and patient and we had fun trying to pick up a few tips while practicing our Spanish vocabulary (mine much more limited than my mother's).
I love travel and vacationing for the opportunity it provides to dine on local specialties, taste new flavour combinations and inspire my own menus upon returning home. I was pleasantly surprised by the gourmet offering at Oceana. Many local dishes I had never come across on my Mexican travels and of course some old favourites, all served with fresh caught seafood from the salty ocean just in front of us.
We decided to spend the remainder of our day at the beach. The water was refreshing and we scored a sweet little palm leaf umbrella with two loungers. In and out of the sea, then painting the view with our portable water colour sets, trying to translate the azure sky and Aqua waters into picture perfection, but of course nothing is quite like the real deal!
With nightfall came another amazing meal -- this time a teppanyaki at Himitsu. The chef's showmanship and artistry made for an entertaining evening and the food was delicious, washed down with a lovely house blend of Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, 2014 Vistaña. Not having to worry about meal prep or bedtime felt like such a luxury, it also meant my mother and I could enjoy each others company without the external everyday stressors of family life.
One day we had the great pleasure of boating over to the Isla de Mujeres, for a tour via golf cart no less. The vibrant vistas of the blue-green hued ocean had us repeatedly grabbing for our cameras and a special lunch at Villa Rolandi was certainly a trip highlight. The chicest all white open-air dining room jutting over the sea brought visions of Capri, Italy to mind. And the Italian-born chef further endeared himself to us with platter after platter of the freshest local seafood, prepared according to his strong Swiss and Northern-Italian roots.
In the spirit of women supporting other women, we had the uplifting opportunity to visit Casa Hogar, a home for girls run by a group of incredible nuns. Secrets Resort supports the residence as part of their charitable initiatives offering up maintenance staff, food, furnishings or other support as necessary. Our timing was felicitous as the home needed help to repaint their chapel after some rain and environmental damage. We donned some spare t-shirts that were offered to us and spent a couple hours painting and getting to know the girls. It made me miss my babies and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all we have.
Not surprisingly, the days passed quickly in a haze of salty sea air, (too much) great food, sandy toes, mini bar raiding, beach frolicking, and so on. I was able to indulge in a daily bubble bath in our hydro-tub (thanks to the luxurious bath salts that the Secrets housekeeping staff replaced daily), spend some uninterrupted one on one time with my amazing mother and most importantly, put myself first, which doesn't happen as often these days.
I look forward to a return visit to Playa Mujeres -- as wonderful as it was to have some kid-free time, I kept thinking how much my boys would enjoy the magnificent beaches, tropical climates and local wildlife. Maybe next time I'll bring them along;)
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