Christmas in Canada this year? Nope…

Last year we decided to travel over Christmas for the very first time… So we packed up a few small gifts for each other, loaded our swim trunks and shorts into our carry-on bags and headed for Mexico for 10 days of rest in the sun… I’d like to tell you that it was a terrible idea and that we all totally missed celebrating Christmas in traditional Canadian ways and that we were miserable the whole time without eggnog and candy canes and a Christmas tree… But I’d be lying… The truth is we had an absolutely fantastic time and, while it was a bit weird being away from family and friends at Christmas, we didn’t really miss the trappings of Christmas all that much… Turns out margaritas and beer are a pretty solid substitute for eggnog… who knew…

We did have a couple of minor stumbles though. We’d arranged for a nice Christmas dinner at a really expensive Fairmont resort a half hour’s drive down the road from where we were staying in Puerto Morelos. We couldn’t afford to stay there of course but with all the points Marie has earned staying at Fairmont hotels for work – and the $200 in gift certificates that went along with those points – we could afford dinner… at their second tier restaurant… if we kicked in a few bucks… The food was good (not great) and it was pretty swanky and it was kind of fun to roam the incredibly luxurious grounds wondering who could afford the $1200 a night rate for just a standard room without any kind of food or activities… but it all felt a bit off for us after a couple of days hanging out in our little apartment eating tacos and drinking beers… In the end, it didn’t cost us much and we all left feeling pretty stuffed so no harm no foul but not something we’d do again any time soon.

A bigger stumble came on New Years Eve. We bought tickets (fairly expensive tickets by our standards) to a glitzy, 5 course dinner at one of the restaurant/bars down the road from our hotel in Playa (in retrospect the fact they still had tickets for sale on the day of should have been a red flag). It wasn’t awful… Okay it kind of was… The food was entirely forgettable. The glitz wasn’t the least bit glitzy. Their timing was off so we ended up ringing in the New Year about 20 minutes after midnight when our champagne, party hats and noisemakers finally showed up. And the all-night music and dancing didn’t hold much (any) appeal for any of us. There was an issue with a tip that was included in the price of the tickets but was somehow added to the bill a second time. The best part of the night was the fact they had managed to shoehorn us into a small table overlooking Playa’s main drag so we were at least able to watch the thousands of merrymakers doing their thing below us… We ended up bailing out after a couple of desultory toots on our noisemakers and then kind of aimlessly joined the throngs heading for the centre of Playa’s pub street area and wandered around with them for a bit before heading back to our hotel by way of the beach… I think Caitlin might have joined the throngs at some point along the way but graciously hung out with us and played a game or two of cards before we all called it a night. Not the most spectacular New Years any of us can remember but then again it’s New Years we can actually remember so there’s that I guess… But lesson learned… no fancy, 5 course dinner shindigs for us…

Aside from those two little rough spots, though, it was 10 days of sleeping in late, taking leisurely strolls, checking out the occasional ruins, riding bikes, and playing card games at the bar and drinking beer… lots and lots of beer… because nobody makes cheap, watery beer like the Mexicans… well okay the Americans do too but let’s face it, nobody really dreams of tossing back a cold Budweiser on a warm tropical beach… at least no one in this family…

Looking back on the great time we all had last year, traveling at Christmas again this year was looking pretty good to all of us – but we would have to wait for a lot of pieces to fall into place to see whether it would be possible… not for me of course… I’m a high school teacher… so getting time off at Christmas is pretty much a given… I was committed to traveling over Christmas again this year before we’d even left Mexico… For those of our friends who are reading this and who aren’t retired and aren’t getting much time off over the holidays… that must suck… But I once had to explain to a Grade 9 boy why it wasn’t acceptable for him to finger-paint the boys’ washroom with his own poop… so everything’s relative I guess…

Marie and Caitlin were a completely different story, though. Caitlin headed back to full time classes this year after 16 months of co-op work placement and studying in Africa so we had to wait a bit to see what her exam schedule would be… and although Caitlin’s scholarship covers the whole cost of her tuition (yup… that’s a totally shameless Dad brag…) she stilled needed to pick a part-time job to cover essentials like food, rent, wine and Amazon shopping… In the end it worked out that both her work schedule and her exam schedule would make it possible for her to travel over Christmas. Yay Caitlin!!

That left Marie… whose company (ISM Canada) is in the midst of a massive reorganization that will see just shy of 300 employees transition from ISM to another company that recently won the contract to do the work ISM has been doing… gotta love government outsourcing… And of course Marie – as Manager of HR for the BC operation – is pretty much the go-to person for the whole downsizing/transition thing while simultaneously trying to stay on top of the usual range of HR issues… She did manage to take a few days off this summer – a couple of them were even free of work related calls… Yay Marie! – but with the whole transition scheduled to take place sometime around mid-December, it was anybody’s guess whether or not Marie would be able to pack her bags and take off for sunnier climes for a couple of weeks over Christmas this year… So we kind of haphazardly looked at a few places and tossed around a few ideas but didn’t really make a firm decision… until about 3 weeks ago when Marie decided that whatever happens with the transition, she was taking time off and that we were going away for Christmas. Yay again Marie!

So that left us with absolutely no plans – or plane tickets – or even a destination with just over six weeks before we were planning to leave. No problem… We have quite a few Avion points saved up and we’ve got a credit card… we own our own home (well parts of it at least)… so how hard could it be? Right?

You can read all about how just how hard it was in the next post… I need to go grab a whisky… or two… reliving the memories is hard…