This was my seventh trip to Isla, Hubby’s third. Although the development is unsettling to us, we still love the place and this time it felt like a homecoming for both of us. We pretty much settled into a comfortable daily routine of waking with the sunrise at Punta Piedra, drinking coffee looking out at the waves, then having a simple breakfast of oatmeal, bananas or fresh orange/grapefruit juice, yogurt, or sometimes eggs and toast. We had congenial neighbors and spent many days alternating pool time with shade time and siesta time and beach combing at PP 1 - never trekking into Centro or Playa Norte until the evening. Our late evening routine often included reclining in lounge chairs for a “moonbath” and stargazing. This was truly a rest and rejuvenation vacation.
I did make notes this year because Board people ( including myself) seem to like detailed daily reports. So here is a day by day chronology of this year’s two week stay on Isla Mujeres.
Tuesday, March 4 - We took the ferry from Martha’s Vineyard to Woods Hole and the bus to Boston. Our son picked us up and we went out to dinner with him and our daughter-in-law and one year old granddaughter. We went to Zaftig’s, a wonderful delicatessen restaurant in Brookline. Then back to their apartment to rest up for our early departure.
Wednesday, March 5 - Flying is just the penance you pay in order to get to Paradise, the less said about it the better. Someday, when I win MegaBucks, I’ll fly First Class and it might be enjoyable. Our Delta flight was late taking off so our Atlanta connection was a frantic rush, but we arrived at the new Cancun terminal on time after flying through some spectacular turbulence caused by the usual afternoon thunderstorms that bloom over the Yucatan. We breezed through customs, got the green light and got on the ADO Cancun Centro bus using our pesos saved from last year. Taxi to Gran Puerto, ferry to Isla, taxi to Punta Piedra went slick as a whistle. Big sigh - we’re here!
Showered, changed, taxied to Jax for reunion with our friend Henry the bartender (irony noted: two nondrinkers’ best friend on Isla is a bartender who also is a nondrinker). But it was his night off, so we enjoyed fish and chips. Wandered down Hidalgo, stopped at Aluxes Coffee Shop for cafe con leche and banana bread - told Ivan about Holly Eats’ glowing recommendation of Aluxes. Watched some basketball, visited the ATM at the Supermercado and went home early in a taxi accompanied by a white toy poodle named Princessa.
Thursday, March 6 - Had breakfast at Elements (Nana had eggs with chaya, Papa had Mexican eggs). Did some grocery shopping and spent the day at Punta Piedra. Judy’s fish belly white skin got pink. Went back into Centro for a meeting, met some neat folks of the non-drinking persuasion and had dinner at San Cocho’s ( a grilled meats platter for two)
Friday, March 7 - Breakfast at home and a day at the pool ( J stayed in the shade nursing her sunburn ). Dinner at Olivia’s (Tapas, Moussaka for J, Moroccan stewed chicken with olives over couscous for D) - Fabulous! Coffee and carrot cake at Aluxes for dessert. Spectacular thunderstorm provided the finale for the evening.
Saturday, March 8 - A very windy day! After breakfast at home, we walked to town and checked in with the family via Internet. Had lunch at a Loncheria (Beef tacos for D and guacamole with queso fundido - melted cheese to scoop up with tortillas - for J). Dinner at Miguel’s Moonlight (J had arrachera steak, D had chicken fajitas) - very good.
Sunday, March 9 - After breakfast, walked to town, dropped laundry at a place we had seen on Juarez across the street from La Lomita, straightened out a flight problem via internet (Delta alleged that we were no shows, but we convinced them that we hadn’t gotten to Mexico by flapping our arms, so they reinstated our return flight reservations), picked up boneless ribs and fixings from the stand on Matamoros and brought them home for a lunchtime feast - Donald’s first taste of the ribman’s finest!
Nasty weather in the afternoon was perfect for siesta. Then back to town in the evening. Dropped in for mass and the church roof didn’t collapse on this former Catholic! Met some more friends at a meeting and then went to dinner at Fredy’s. J wasn’t hungry and just had sopa de lima, D had steak and cheese tacos. Fredy was cheerful (sometimes he’s pretty grumpy....)
Monday, March 10 - Nana walked to town to pick up the laundry and check on the Board (funny, when I’m at home I’m constantly reading the Message Board, but when I’m on Isla I only check in a few times a week). Took the bus home the long way round and was met by a semi worried husband because I’d been gone for so long. Spent the rest of the day around the pool and walking through the colonia - spotted Mango Cafe across the street from Super Ronco market, it is only open on weekends, we’ll have to try it next year. Went back to town for sunset at Sergio’s and met Larry and Beth from Tennessee. We all went to La Lomita for dinner. D and Beth had fish, Larry and I had Chiles Rellenos - yummy! And less than $40 (including tip) for four people.
Tuesday, March 11 - We had been invited to visit the beautiful home of a local expat with a group of friends, but on the way Papa (D) stopped in to see when he could go fishing with Capitan Tony. Tony said how about this morning, so we split up and Judy went on to Casa de Los Vientos for coffee, pastries and conversation. Donald went out with Tony for three hours of fishing. They had a great time, but caught nada. That’s why they call it fishing and not catching. Quiet afternoon, then dinner at Amigo’s with friends. Nana (J) had Enchiladas Suizas con Pollo and D had whole grilled fish. I found it disconcerting to have his dinner looking at me and baring it’s sharp little teeth, but Papa said it was delicious. I also discovered a great refreshing drink recommended to me by Kitty from Chicago - limonada is tasty.
Wednesday, March 12 - We had breakfast at M & J’s Cazuela, got on the internet, saw Bruce of Jan and Bruce on their last day. Bruce gave us some words of wisdom about the sorrow of leaving Isla: he said “you have to leave in order to come back”. Thanks for the positive spin, Bruce, we’d need it later when we left the island.
We took the bus to La Gloria English School to arrange a meeting with the young man we sponsor. Maggie offered to set it up and help us communicate - she had to go to the encampment where Felipe lives with his family because they have no phone. We went to La Bruja for lunch and met Zina there by coincidence. Her dog Lora was having an incorrigible day. After the pool/siesta routine, we met Larry and Beth again at Sergio’s and then bumped in to my old friend Jorge who was on Isla for a short visit. Naturally we had to try his family’s restaurant Justicia Social. Nana had fish fingers, D had a wonderful Parmesan encrusted fish filet. We recommend this restaurant highly.
Thursday, March 13 - Another relaxing day tanning, swimming, reading, beach combing, etc. until trip to Centro for dinner with friends at Vinales the new Cuban restaurant on Rueda Medina. Nana had the unappetizingly named Ropa Vieja (“old clothes”) which was delicious and Papa had a great Cuban sandwich. The limonada here was too sour for my taste.
Friday, March 14 - Today was the day for snorkeling at Garrafon de Castilla, but soon after we arrived the winds and seas picked up and one session in the water was enough for me. D, who is a stronger swimmer, stayed in the water and saw a lot of fish - he also got a wicked sunburn. When we were leaving we somehow missed El Pueblito, which I had wanted to try, and caught a taxi into town and a late lunch at Alexia & Giovanni (no notes on what we ate). Because of the late lunch, we had a light supper at Amigo’s. I discovered that a Mojito (sin alcohol) is a great cure for heartburn.
Saturday, March 15 - Today was our meeting with Felipe, the student we help afford high school. It was such a wonderful experience that I will write a separate report about it - stay tuned.
After sunset at Playa Sol and lurking around the fringes of a beautiful wedding being celebrated there, we had dinner at the Caribbean Grill where we both had tasty and tender filet mignons in a pretty interior courtyard with soft jazz music. D had flan for dessert from the taco lady beside the basketball court.
Sunday, March 16 - Shopping day! First I got my 2008 button from Marianne on the beach. We got presents for the grandkids and a gorgeous pendant of Chiapas amber for Nana - all bought from Miguel Angel on Hidalgo. He and his son are really artists and he spent a lot of time showing us his wares and explaining where the various minerals and stones come from and what the carvings represented. He doesn’t bargain much but his pieces are not the ordinary tourist trinkets. For the youngest granddaughter, we bought a little embroidered dress.
In the evening, after a meeting, we met our friend Henry, his wife Nora and little Henrito, as well as our new friend Arthur from British Columbia for dinner at Picus. The restaurant was filled with large dinner parties of Mexican nationals (there for Semana Santa). Everyone was avidly watching the Mexico vs Haiti futbol game while having dinner.
Monday, March 17 - Our last full day on the island. I finally saw dolphins from the deck at Punta Piedra - I had been looking for almost two weeks, having seen them on previous trips. Packed, straightened the studio, left gifts for the cleaners and our e-mail address with the friendly neighbors. We said our good byes to Henry, Donna Jane, Tony, Larry and Beth, Maggie and Tom and others celebrating Saint Paddy’s at Miguel’s. Had a nice dinner at Fayne’s and our last night gazing at the southern stars.
Tuesday, March 18 - Time for the “Trail of Tears” to the ferry, took an excitingly rough and salt-encrusted ride to Gran Puerto, shared a taxi to the airport, spent $8 for chips and 2 Coke lites at the airport, spent the day crammed with 100 + strangers in a metal tube at 35,000 feet and finally arrived in Boston at 8:30 pm. It was cold and spitting snow.
Last thoughts: The proliferation of condos, all-inclusives and mcMansions on what was once a simple island (as well the high-end tourist attitudes and expectations that come with that package) makes me worry for Isla. But as long as we can find like-minded travelers who return there year after year, and as long as our local friends are there, we’ll keep coming. See you next year!