Today marks the 18th out of the 120 days John and I will likely be away from home. We’ve slept in five beds, dined out 35 times, eaten in three, had ceviche more than 28 times and lobster four times. We’ve made ceviche twice; been on a boat eight times; seen two countries and five regions; and have snorkeled four times. We’ve slept an average of nine hours every night; have averaged four hours a day at the beach, pool, or on the water; belly laughed more than twice a day—once at something funny and again at ourselves for some reason or another. We’ve had one haircut [John]; ten changes in bed linen [now that’s another story]; fresh beach towels fourteen times and fresh bathing towels twelve times. I thought I’d dish with readers today about several of the Caribbean vacation hot spots we’ve visited.
Pillow Talk with Pandora de Balthazár
I’ve washed my pillows once and my shams five times—today will be the sixth and I’m proud to say I’m sticking to that every-third-day routine! In fact, my pillows just hugged me for joy, the clean, freshly sunned darlings so happy as they were being freshly dressed for bed! I’ve washed my nightgowns out every second night, having brought only two, but I’m thinking about wiring home for more because I spend at least twelve hours in them a day—sleeping, of course; then afternoon delights after the beach and lounging around before supper.
We’ve visited more than 40 properties and written reviews about every one that we have eaten in or slept in—we’ve had few negative experiences, I’m happy to say. You may be wondering why I would want to talk about these on the Pandora de Balthazár Experience. It’s because I know that everyday there are so many people considering vacations in the area we’ve chosen to spend time, and if I can help even a handful of them prepare themselves for things I didn’t expect, I will feel I’ve done humankind a very nice service!
Tips on Navigating the Caribbean Vacation
The heat: I have only been affected seriously by the heat in three instances—on two non-air-conditioned terraces waiting for food, usually with a group, where the air was stale. I’m not ready for seriously hot, non-air-conditioned atmospheres just yet. The most difficult for me have been the challenges of climate control in the bedrooms we’ve resided in, the inability to maintain equilibrium affecting my sleep, which is a very important part of my journey. No sleep, no happy girl. Here’s what’s up in many Caribbean homes, hotels and even the highest quality ones: many travelers like the open air, the sound of the sea, as do I. And because electricity is so expensive in most places in the region, the air conditioners are programmed for higher temperatures at certain times, including sleep temperatures. Plus, many hotels ask you to turn off your AC while you are not in your rooms or, worse yet, the maids do so when they are cleaning, as most are living in non-air-conditioned environments.
On days with less humidity, reasonable wind and lower temperatures back home, we will open up our home to the ocean breezes, but it isn’t just cooler air that comes from having air conditioning—there is also humidity control, which is important for furnishings of all sorts. Here, many of the hotels are using on-demand in-room units, some only in the bedrooms; others in public rooms, and rarely in baths. Few have humidity control so the result is going to bed can be a slightly sweaty affair—the optimal sleep temperature impossible to achieve, which often leaves me awakening in the night feeling chilled from the cooling moisture. Then, of course, I pull up the covers only to awaken feeling too hot. These events repeats themselves, and sleep does come but the deepest sleep is illusive, resulting in afternoon naps, which is fine if you aren’t maintaining a strict schedule.
Beds here are a challenge, as they are mostly underdressed, usually fitted with foam, latex or pillow tops and micro fibers that don’t breathe very well, each piece of the sticky puzzle making your core body temperature higher. Add to this the heat of the sun and your sleep temperature, which has risen, can swing unexpectedly depending upon your air conditioner’s setting, the level of humidity, the fabric of the sheets, and so on.
Nights in Akumal
My pillows really told the story. Arriving in Akumal, they were perky, soft, rebounding, just needing a sham wash, which was the first order of sleep business. We were right on the shoreline in a lovely beach hotel, and I mean on the shoreline. I simply loved the ease of reaching the sand in under a minute with an outdoor shower at hand. Given these elemental luxuries, we didn’t notice the humidity too much until we packed on our fourth day for Cozumel Island.
Villa Paradise, Costa del Sol
While unpacking in our first ever AirBNB at Villa Paradise, Costa del Sol, I noticed that everything in our bags felt overtaken by varying degrees of humidity (from damp to downright wet, almost soggy). It was a good thing they were only sealed for about eight hours because tragic things would have happened to our clothes and medications in that sealed sultriness—a serious note to self that I wanted to share with my readers. Even my pillows were unhappy little things, and if you know me you know my pillows are never ever saggy or small! Sunning didn’t help, and thank goodness our gracious hostess Jasianna Jaxon and her trusty housekeepers Mineli and Josephine, who were gracious to wash shams, pillows and nightgowns, and to seriously line-dry the lot to perfection—it felt like home.
So, by night two, I had my sweet bedding all perfectly plumped; had removed the duvet cover from the down duvet; and regulated my body temperature for a perfect 12-hour snooze. Now, that’s Island Slumber! My bed sits about 40 inches off the ground so upon waking, I can truly enjoy the palm trees waving at me from the Caribbean Sea, the jungle-inspired birdsong, and comforting leaves fluttering in variegated hues of green. Beneath the thatched roof that shades my 1000-square-foot tiled terrace are chaise lounges and umbrellas, and an indoor/outdoor kitchen that keeps me in hot coffee and cool water as I awaken slowly, reading my daily reader and thinking about my family. These exercises, which I have come to value so greatly, nurturing me from my perch in this beautiful country.
We’ve been here at Villa Paradise for six nights now, unsure where we’ll be next but safe in knowing our afternoon delight awaits us on this Caribbean vacation. We have already been Jaisanna’s guest longer than we thought and you are likely asking why if you have landed here hoping to find a lovely spot for some downtime. It’s the mix of little adventures focused around boating and dining, meeting new friends, maintaining great sleep, being given privacy, and being able to achieve the climate control required to greet us each day with a super smile, a happy face. Those of us who trek to the ocean longing for the privacy to sleep, the ability to reach a level of slumber that refreshes us, the quiet to read, the chance to swim, and the support to have adventures at our own speed are assured happiness in spots like this. In my book, that is worth sharing!
On our second night here, we were joined by a couple from London, who had just spent five nights in a hut in Tulum—the darling of the travel set just now. After finding a dead scorpion on the last morning, they determined that climate control was also their quest for the balance of their three-week journey. We may be in third-world countries—and we certainly are enjoying the great outdoors and all God’s natural beauty—but there is absolutely nothing like a great night’s sleep and knowing what’s necessary for you to be able to achieve it for yourself. Some people say they can sleep on a log, and maybe they can, but it’s not for me. I give my bed a five-star review every day so when I hit a string of nights when it’s not, it’s simply time to move on.
I urge everyone to practice this at home: add more sheets under you, draped over your mattress pads; remove duvet covers to lighten what’s over you; bathe before sleeping; and find your perfect sleep temperature. Ask me your questions to allow me to help you achieve a better sleep on your own, in your own bed. After all, regardless of where you are, the bed you make for yourself to slumber in should be the very best your money and knowledge can get you. It’s no less than your health and well being, not to mention the self-care will make you and those around you happier—just ask the people in my life when I don’t get a good nights sleep!
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