One of the activities Maya enjoyed while on vacation was painting this ceramic fish which now adorns our kitchen bay window. Jeanine purchased a plate which she will add to her collection on the sun porch and Nico came back with a t-shirt.

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Our return to Boston begins at 5:45am this morning and ends at 9pm. As if to punctuate the end of our vacation we arrived home to discover 6 inches of snow covering our driveway. I opted to put off the removal task until the morning to extend the week of vacation just a little further.

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Our final day in paradise included a breakfast buffet at the resort (0ur first during our stay), pool time, reading, volleyball, family photography on the balcony of our suite and dinner in downtown Cancun. Everyone agreed that this vacation had the right balance of leisure and adventure and was a good model for future holidays. While I can see how some people like to return to the same destination year after year, I prefer to visit new places all the time. Perhaps we will return to Cancun in another 15 years but not until we work through a long list of other destinations that includes Alaska, Greece, New Zealand, Ecuador, Italy (again), Kenya, Vietnam, France (again), Egypt, Russia, Argentina, Rwanda, and Japan to name a few.

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At the request of the children and Jeanine, this vacation was designed to favor relaxation over adventure (a key component of most Calabria travel). Even so, with minor arm twisting, I was able to convince everyone to try cenote snorkling. The Gran Cenote features crystal clear water, underground extensions, and an abyss. It is regarded as the premiere snorkling cenote in the world and because of its great distance from Cancun we had it almost to ourselves. The cool water and Eden like setting was the perfect antidote for the mornings sun drenched excursion.

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After the tour we took a break to enjoy cool drinks and performances by modern Mayans recreating the ceremonies of their ancestors.

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Despite grumblings from the children, we got an early start this morning for the two hour trip to the ruins of Tulum. Unique as the only Mayan city to be built overlooking the ocean, it is protected by a coral reef and cliffs. We were fortunate to get another very knowledgeable and charismatic private guide who helped us understand the history and context of the Mayan civilization. Today iguanas rule the temples that were once occupied by a people who developed a more accurate calendar than the Europeans and developed a hurricane warning siren that still operates today.

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Jeanine was thrilled to have all her babies together again and we celebrated with a fancy dinner which was out of this world.

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It did not take long for Kyle and Nico to find a game of beach volleyball and only slightly longer for me to join them. With my torn rotator cuff I cannot spike or serve over hand but I can still bump and set fairly well. Few things bring more joy to a father than sharing a game he loves with sons who have become his equal.

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The most important priority for the day was picking up Kyle from the airport after he survived 3 nights alone, arranging to obtain an expedited passport renewal, and rebooking his flight to Cancun. Despite a 4AM departure for the airport he nearly missed his flight due to construction delays. Fortunately his flight arrived ahead of schedule and he cleared customs quickly. I collected him as he exited the terminal and had him on the beach before noon.

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Our next stop was Valladolid where we enjoyed a wonderful meal and visit to the Zaci Cenote. This sinkhole is 150 feet in diameter and 260 feet deep. Afternoon light did not favor photography and these images do not do justice to the beauty of this natural wonder. Our return drive to Cancun was by way of the slower, non-toll road which passed through numerous villages (which we categorized by the number of speed bumps – ranging from 2 to 14). The views into typical Mexican communities and life was more than worth the additional travel time. As we entered Cancun I was pulled over by the Policia for speeding (which I was not). My research prior to the trip proved invaluable as I was armed with a Xeroxed copy of my license and the necessary strategy to deal with cops who solicit bribes from tourists to supplement their income. After 20 minutes we were on our way with no ticket and having paid no bribe.

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We were rewarded for our early start this morning on our 2.5 hour drive to Chichen Itsa by beating the bus loads of tourists that arrived later in the day. Worth every Peso was the private guide we hired who brought the ancient Mayan ruins to life with his stories and knowledge of the history. Since Jeanine and I last visited, some 15 years ago, park patrons are no longer permitted to climb on the structures. Recent excavations revealed an entirely new layer to the main temple captured in the first photo. For me the observatory, pictured last, was the most fascinating structure, built with such precision and understanding of the celestial calendar it is hard to comprehend. Maya and Nico both enjoyed the ruins far more than I would have predicted (our guide Louis was a major factor, no doubt) and received lessons in price haggling as each purchased souveniers from the local artisans as we departed.

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It didn’t take Nico long to find a game of beach volleyball about a 1/4 of a mile down the beach at a resort which caters to college students. I could watch him for hours as he amazes everyone with his raw skill and determination. He was the youngest person on the court and probably the best player.

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Today was spent poolside and at the beach. Jeanine participated in a water aerobics class while I took advantage of the pool to do some rehab on my shoulder. Kyle made arrangements to get his passport tomorrow and will fly down to join us on Thursday morning. We got a preview of life when he leaves for college and it must be said that we all miss him.

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After dinner we set out to stock up on breakfast food supplies. Maya was in charge of bread and pasteries which are gathered with tongs and placed on a tray before a clerk wraps them up. For under $40 we should be set for the entire week.

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Our flights were uneventful and we arrived in Cancun about 3PM where we rented a car and proceeded to the Royal Sands. Our desire to explore the resort was overwhelmed by the need to eat so we headed out for downtown Cancun where we found a local seafood restaurant. The menu was in Spanish and the wait staff only spoke Spanish. Without Kyle, our only Spanish speaker, we were dependent on my limited command of the language to place our order. Jeanine enjoyed a seafood payaya. Nico and I were unsure if we had ordered shrimp or crab until our meals arrived (crab for me, shrimp for Nico).

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