… and why going to Rome is worth it even if Cancun Airport sucks
“The worst part about travel is the travel part.” So said my dear friend and travel writer, Judith Fein, as I blithely assumed that my extensive preparations for this trip from Mexico to Rome would be seamless. I insist my travels always are.
I can report that I left San Miguel de Allende by BajioGoshuttle.com on time and arrived two days later precisely on time at Fiumicino (Leonardo Da Vinci) Airport to be met my Santa Fe pal, Richard Seager, whose dream it was to rent an apartment in Rome for a month and had invited me to accompany him. But, in between San Miguel and Rome, I was not spared aggravation.
Cancun. Can you say, “tourist trap?”
Cancun is this traveler’s nightmare. It is tourism run amok, exuding an arrogance that often accompanies success. While international tourists flock to high-rise all-inclusive resorts – which I consider “gulags,” safe from interaction with Mexicans and their deep cultural heritage; albeit sometimes accompanied with real poverty – those using the airport for any other purpose are left with no seating, no wi-fi and absurdly expensive taxis for transportation through a hideous commercial district to get to and from what is absurdly called an “airport hotel.”
A few miles and $15 later, I was deposited at the (Dis)Comfort Inn, the closest and cheapest hotel to the airport ($89 USD including tax) that I’d booked months before, thinking I’d spend my next day, before the overnight flight to Frankfurt and on to Rome, doing client work and relaxing in the sun.
The restaurant was closed at 9:30 p.m. as I stood in line to check-in with the single agent. Half an hour later I was in my room. Nice and clean like the chain hotel it is, but no wi-fi in the rooms, no pool, and no services. Stranded between a gas station and truck repair facility, the only food option was a Subway sandwich or Burger King, but at least a mini mart sold wine and I drank half a bottle and slept well.
The next day, having to check out of my room by 1:00 p.m., I was directed to an airless glassed-in cubicle where I could access wi-fi and do some work. I had until 8 p.m. before check-in for the Condor flight to Germany. The weather, windy and gray, at least did not taunt me with my fantasy of poolside tanning.
The Cancun Airport challenge: Could I ignore the crass tourism, the airport hawkers, the posh shopping mall through which travelers were force-herded before finding their boarding gates? Could I curb my judgments of the overly-tattooed and shabbily dressed sporting gaudy mariachi sombreros, the loud and obnoxious, the expensive nutrition-less slop called food, and my embarrassment of being part of this species? Could I remember I was on my way, my first visit, to the Eternal City?
Finally seated in the last row of a packed plane, grateful for an empty seat between myself and a dour fellow who ignored my greeting, I settled in to pass the 10 hours dosing and watching “From Rome With Love,” which I’d downloaded on my laptop, a new super-light MacBook that the brilliant Pinterest queen, Louise Cottrell, helped me set up before leaving Mexico.
Frankfurt Airport was a breeze – fast pass through EU immigration, good food and free wi-fi – and soon I arrived in Rome, was greeted by my friend, picked up my bag, walked through customs, met our driver and arrived at our apartment in Trastevere that was even better than the Airbnb description and photos.
The worst part of travel was over and, as is often said about childbirth, women forget the pain. I put mine behind me. It was another seamless joourney and the experience of Rome could begin.
Here are a few photos from our first marvelous day. Stay tuned for how I was frozen at the entrance to the Pantheon, the incredible 3-D trompe l’oile in Chiesa del Gesú, hanging out with Couchsurfers on a Friday night in Trastevere, my local vendors, new friends, Sunday at Porto Potense market and much more.
Have you been to Rome? Do you have recommendations or stories? Please share in the comments below.