International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year:
Art of Timeshare
story starts with a sailor landing on a lush Mexican beach. He comes
across a sun-bronzed Canadian cowgirl living in a palapa. The cowgirl
joins the lucky sailors crew, and in the time it takes to
down a bottle of tequila, the pair falls madly in love. The couple
sails away together singing folk songs as the sun sets, as all love
stories of the 1970s require.
In 1978, Cabo San
Lucas was just a little fishing village on the tip of Baja California.
It was here that my parents, the lanky sailor and poised cowgirl, spent
months anchored off the coast. My mom found a white Mexican dress in
the back of a shoe shop, and they made their vows to share a life of
When my sister and I were born they included us in their travels. You
know how people will tell you not to drink the water in Mexico? Well
my parents are not these types of people. Eat some dirt, sail in a hurricane,
brush your teeth with apples - this sounds more like my parents' style
of travel. As a family, we rarely stayed in a conventional hotel. In
Hawaii, we almost stayed in a mosquito-infested tree house. (I say almost
because the guide never arrived to pick us up, and we warded off suspicious
stares from the local "growers" in the valley all night.)
In the Caribbean, we were taken under the wing of a wacky shell collector
who shared with us homemade guava bread, and his home boasting of over
one million shells. In Canada, we hiked 15-miles to a remote mountain
retreat while singing, shaking homemade bear-scaring instruments, and
attempting to kill bird-sized horseflies.
years after my parents auspicious meeting, we are resting
on the same beach, at the massive complex that is Playa Grande Resort.
Euro-pop circa 1997 blasts over the central 7-pool area, while a
fit Mexican aerobics instructor leads six (pink) women in the pool,
chanting "Tequila, Margarita, Tequila, Margarita!" Enter
the "Timeshare Factor." In an action that defined the
word paradox, and to the scorn of all well-versed travelers out
there, my wild-loving, Mexican-water-drinking parents had
yes purchased a timeshare.
You are asking what
went wrong, but have you ever been on a timeshare tour? I witnessed
it. We were on a family vacation in Cabo to commemorate my parents'
20th anniversary, staying at a charming boutique hotel called the Bungalows.
Someone at the car rental dealership told us about this great deal -
free rental for a week if you sit through a little tour of a new hotel.
Always the budget-minded travelers, we immediately were in! We get to
the hotel the next morning, and a seriously, super-duper nice sales
person gave us the tour starting with an absolutely gorgeous lobby.
(This is where your defenses start to go down.) We are fed, liquored-up,
my sister and I start exploring the pools. And after two or ten extra
strong margaritas, my tall and handsome father turns to my mom and -
with the romance of the past on his side - says, "Honey, wouldn't
it be nice to come back here every year?" SOLD.
Our incredibly smart, incredibly manipulative sales person does the
impossible. She gets my parents to throw down money to buy 40 weeks,
one week a year, in a hotel that hasnt even been built yet! Bells
(literally bells) are rung and a bottle of champagne is corked and shared
in celebration. My parents stagger home repeating honey-thank-god-we-wanted-the-free-car-rental-or-else-we'd-never-even-know-about-this-paradise.
Of course, the next morning, the story sounded a little different. With
splitting headaches and a bad case of buyers remorse, they turned
to my sister and I. "What did we do??!!"
But we were stuck. Despite what you might think, it hasn't been all
bad. Aside from some loud and large neighbors over the years, we've
also gotten to know a side of Cabo that many travelers are not able
to see in one trip. Our first year, we stumbled upon my favorite restaurant,
Misiones de Kino. Take a walk past the old town square, make a right
at the street with the open aired laundria, and another right onto 5
de Mayo Pl., and youll find it! This open-air bungalow restaurant
was a secret ten years ago with dirt floors and a small menu, but good
things are hard to keep undiscovered for long. On our first visit, we
were greeted as family by Chef Israel and invited into the kitchen to
watch him make his famous Chilpalla sauce a rich combo of garlic,
cream, spices, and onions. The dirt floors are now wood, but year after
year, we are surprised by the consistently low prices and friendly staff.
Lit with candles and Christmas-lights, at Misiones de Kino, you will
find the freshest and most delicious seafood in all of Cabo. Because
of the blue crab appetizer with Israels special sauce, we usually
go twice each year. Some other treats on the menu are the Fish of the
House (seabass marinated in chipotle with fresh papaya sauce), the giant
coconut shrimp, the Seafood Soup (an explosion of scallops, crabs, fish,
and shrimp), and for you meat eaters, Teresitas Aracherra is a
flavorful beef dish cooked over mesquite wood. This past June, we arrived
later than usual, and after the meal as the restaurant started shutting
down, a travelling mariachi band got us all up, singing and dancing
around the dining room!
Weve learned over the years that a week of eating out for three
meals a day is not only horribly expensive, but when your week consists
of lounging around by the beach, extremely unpleasant. Our timeshare
units have pretty swank kitchens, so the day we arrive, we hit up the
local grocery store to stock up on bread, eggs, cheese, cereal, beer,
and juice for the week. Breakfast and lunch are pretty much "every
man for himself." Dinner, however, is a different story. While
were not deep sea-fishing for every meal, a lot of energy and
friendly banter goes into deciding which delicious restaurant to visit
each night. Pancho's Restaurant and Tequila Bar is a family favorite,
in part because of the unsurpassed menu of tequilas, but also because
of the colorful décor and divinely simple Mexican combo plates.
Mi Casa gets my vote yearly, as much for the spectacular gift shop as
the homemade warm tortillas and bougainvillea-decorated ambiance. An
evening or afternoon in the smaller San Jose del Cabo requires a stop
at Damiana with its striking outdoor garden. And this year, we
discovered the authentic Las Marias Restaurant at the still unfinished
Hacienda Encantada Resort and Spa. (At a tip from the waiter, we requested
the lantern lit VIP table, and found ourselves perched over the churning
ocean under a sky strewn with stars.) And if you are in the mood for
tortilla soup, my father, an expert, claims that the Shrimp House right
off Cabos main strip has the worlds best.
About timeshare year number two or three, I went through my rebellious,
teenage angst stage. Mooning over Indie rockers while pretending to
be Kate Winslet from Hideous Kinky, I envisioned a trip to Mexico,
not surrounded by beer-guzzling, shot-downing, boom-box toting fellow
timesharers, but one where I could learn about the local culture, sift
through markets of art, and explore the romance of Mexicos revolutionary
history. Luckily, my mother was a step ahead of me. With our rented
van, we drove through the stark and beautiful desert, past colorful
roadside graves and granddaddy-sized cactus, to a little town called
Todos Santos. Moderately famous as the home of "the Hotel California,"
Todos Santos to the untrained eye was just a few dusty streets and uneven
sidewalks. To me, it was an escape to heaven. With my imagination soaring,
we explored local artisan shops, conversed with ex-pats, drank hot chocolate
in the mid-day heat, and discussed the possibilities of me someday spending
my honeymoon at the Todos Santos Inn, a magical hidden world of lush
green leaves, old brick, and traditional Hacienda style décor
in the heart of the town. We still take the drive out to Todos Santos
some years, and I plan in the future to spend a week learning how to
surf at the Pescadero Surf Camp where there is private palapa camping.
we first started going to Cabo, it was just my little sister, mom,
dad, and me. However, this past year, my sister and I each brought
our boyfriends. At the begging requests of my sister and I, my goofy
dad managed to get through the week without having a frightening
heart-to-heart with either of them. The influence of sun, beer,
and sleep allowed the guys to chill out as well. We read and swam
at Chileno public beach (Santa Maria is also a lovely choice), took
a sunset sail on the catamaran La Princessa (where the open bar
and stunning sunset view of the Cabo Arch made up for the horribly
blaring music - why is the music always so bad?), and discussed
renting surf boards for $20 a day at Costa Azul surf shop (lessons
start at $85), but didnt manage to fit it in.
Every dinner, the
way only family can do, wed all tell the new fellows hilarious
and embarrassing stories of Cabo in years past! Laughing, eating, glowing
with health from the sun and rest, it was a common occurrence for us
to shut down the restaurants with the chuckling wait staff.
When they met, I doubt my parents envisioned Cabo San Lucas turning
into the massive beast that it now is, but ultimately the Cabo of the
1970s is still to be found you just have to be willing to get
a little lost in the back streets. Interestingly enough, taking a yearly
dip into the timeshare "dark side" has not dulled my familys
zest for adventure. It actually has taught us how to chill out and just
enjoy spending time together. We arrive every June with grand plans
to hike a mountain or go deep sea diving, but by day three, weve
eaten and slept ourselves into a comfortable oblivion.
Our exploration starts to limit itself to the culinary realm. Sure weve
got a hell of a lot more jungle treks and cave spelunking left in us,
but to our surprise, regular vacations with little hassle have allowed
us to continue the family tradition of travel, even as my sister and
I start to create our own lives and families. In my story, tequila has
had a surprising influence of wisdom on my unsuspecting parents, from
their first date, to their shocking timeshare ownership, to today. Once
youve been caught in the Timeshare machine, you have no choice
but to surrender; take the good with the bad. And with a shot of Patron,
that feels delightful for a change
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