: Done a lot of writing today, what with updating the website and this part of the trip report.
: Will try to put less burbling about the house in this section!
: Following a couple of nights at the ever reliable Posada Del Mar we moved south to Garrafon De Castilla. I had reserved this via the Internet and did not have to pay a deposit in advance. They take a couple of days to answer emails in English but they were helpful and efficient and there were no problems with our reservation when we arrived.
: At Garrafon all the rooms have sea views (fantastic ones) and balconies overlooking Garrafon park and the start of the reef. High season price was $66 per night for a good sized room with two queen sized beds. The rooms were beautifully clean, fully air conditioned, with a good sized fridge and the best hot showers I have had anywhere on Isla, good pressure and very hot!
: The little balconies have chairs to sit out on and get the sun most of the day. There is a key that hangs on the balcony door, remember to take this outside with you or you will be locked out on the balcony! Pretending to be locked out on the balcony is not considered funny by most people Ė take note Phil!!
: Entry to Garrafon beach club in included in the price as is bottled water delivered daily. Be prepared for guilt attacks though! The caretaker is a very elderly man and he sleeps on a camp bed in reception when not watching endless Mexican game shows on his little TV. He was often asleep when we returned at night and we would have to wake him to get in. He was always lovely about it and smiled and said hello, but I was wracked with guilt at disturbing his sleep.
: I know I am in the minority here but I love the south end of Isla so much more than the north end. Although I go north at least once a day I feel more comfortable at the south, I feel like I am on my own tropical island. I am never more at peace with myself than on quiet mornings watching the sunrise over Punta Sur. The south feels more private and peaceful and being British I stress badly over strangers approaching me and trying to sell me things, which you tend to get a lot on Playa Norte.
: The South feels like a tropical version of home, slower paced and with more time to drink in the scenery and watch birds and insects and hear the sounds of the island.
: One night we had a power cut. We were at Color de Verano working our way through buckets of Cafť au Lait and chocolate brownies when the power went out on the whole island. It was close to sunset and so we finished off our coffee and headed home to Garrafon. The power stayed off for 5 hours and the dear little caretaker brought us candles for our room. No problem with the power going off, it happens all the time here in Wales, and we made a lovely discovery. As night settled over Isla and the only lights were the distant skyline of Cancun we saw hundreds of fireflies come out to dance in the gardens below our room.
: I have never seen these before and theyíre enchanting. Multicoloured sparks that drift through the night, winking on and off. Sometimes floating like embers from a fire, sometimes dancing like fairies. It was lovely to see them.
: We made a point of looking for them every night after that. We found a good viewing place just south of the Seashell condos on the Caribbean side, far from artificial light. We would park up our golf cart and sit and watch the fireflies play over the short, shrubby, bushed hillside on that side of the island. Very peaceful.
: Just for info, the Seashell condos appear to be back in the building business. They are starting on the rear group of condos and the pool. No sign of anyone moving into the front buildings yet though.
: There was actually a lot of new construction on Isla, and we were amazed at houses that appeared in the few short months since we had last been on the island, especially at the south end, which has three other houses at similar stages of construction to ours. All different and individual but all look to be thoughtfully designed to be in keeping with the island.
: Onto some restaurant reviews. We tried as many new places as we could this time as we are building up a guidebook to be left in the house when it is ready. What an onerous task!
: At the north end Manolos wins hands down for us as a dinner location. The food is excellent, the service very efficient and thoughtful without being in your face and the location is quiet and romantic. We ate in the courtyard garden at the back of the restaurant and enjoyed shrimp starter with a spicy sauce, garlic shrimp main course with rice and vegetables and a generous slice of home made flan for dessert. The main course shrimp were a good size and well cooked. The flan was thick and with the top layer of caramel soaked well into the main body of the pudding. Flan reminds me of my childhood in Spain when CrŤme Caramel (as we called it) was the favourite pudding of my brother and I and we would beg our parents for it every night. We would eat it slowly with the smallest spoon we could find, carving slivers off and letting it dissolve on our tongues, saving the caramel juice until last, making our pudding last as long as possible.
: Phil is less impressed with Flan, which he calls egg custard and regards as nursery food suitable for invalids and babies!
: We tried Faynes for dinner one night and whilst Philís was adequate (although he was horrified to have discovered he had ordered a vegetarian option!), chilli relenos, I was less impressed with my pork loin in orange sauce, which I considered sickly and artificial tasting. Service here was somewhat irritating with plates and half finished drinks being whipped away as soon as one paused in the eating. I sensed an almost desperation for custom in the attitude of the servers.
: We went to Pizza Rolandis for a late snack one night. It was reliable as ever but Phil didnít like their minestrone soup, it was less than Italian in flavour and he wasnít offered Parmesan to accompany it as he is in Italy. I thoroughly enjoyed the linguini with clams and the pizza was lovely as ever. We drank gallons of their great cappuccino. Service was friendly and proficient. I always feel Rolandiís waiters are more secure and less inclined to fawn unnecessarily!
: We went to Casa Oís one night for dinner. It was very dark! Not romantic dark, pitch black dark! The waiter thoughtfully whipped a torch out of his pocket so we could read the menu. I know I look better in lower light but Iím not that ugly that I need total darkness to entice my partner! Maybe the power was still a bit low from the outage but it really was dark enough to be confusing. Phil and I immediately started giggling and earned reproachful looks from the waiter who had thoughtfully tucked a hibiscus blossom behind my ear. Iím impressed he found my ear; in the dark he could have stuck it anywhere!
: I think Casa Oís majors a bit much on the romantic atmosphere and at sunset I guess it is wonderful, soft light and great views. But we canít eat dinner at 5pm, itís too early, and by the time we arrived it wasnít romantic, it was silly.
: The food was good, Phil again had shrimp and I had lamb, which I had asked for medium, but which I think was served rare. Iím not sure, I couldnít see it on my plate, it tasted rare though.
: I really wanted Casa Oís to be great because itís the closest nice restaurant to our house and they probably wonít let me in again now. But I think it could be better, better lit and better menu, it wasnít as exciting a menu as I had expected but then it wasnít as expensive as I had expected either, so swings and roundabouts. I didnít even find it expensive for Isla, Manolos cost more.
: Service here was excellent though and the waiters were very thoughtful, even enquiring if we needed a taxi ordered to take us away Ė subtle guys! Sorry for the giggling, but the place was empty apart from us and we didnít disturb anyone else.
: Color De Verano was our favourite place for desserts and afternoon sweet snacks. I really like this place, their lunch menu is light and flavoursome (pates and an assortment of crepes) and their coffee choice is very good for someone feeling the lack of decent coffee on Isla. (Aluxes coffee shop did not reopen until the day we left but for info they are open from 6am for those coffee Ďholics in need of an early morning fix) I love the way Color de Verano is furnished, lots of lovely ceramic and wooden items for sale and the furniture is gorgeous. The owner has a shop in Kulkulkan plaza in Cancun selling his furniture. I keep meaning to go in and have a look but generally I avoid the hotel zone and the only mall I really go to is Plaza Los Americas which is quite fun for a country girl who never gets to see real shops.
: We enjoyed various desserts at Color De Verano, including chocolate brownie cake which was incredibly rich, amaretto icecream which was wonderful and mango crepes which were light and lovely.
: Do you find you eat about five times a day on Isla? We snacked our way through most days: Club sandwiches at Amigos, which were great and very filling. (By the way, the nice guys who run Amigos are opening another restaurant not far away, I canít remember what its called now but it will open soon). Burgers and fries at Garrafon De Castillo beach club, which are always great value and cooked to order. Nachos and guac all over the island from El Pueblito to Pinguinos.
: El Pueblito is a gorgeous little rustic roadside cafť by Garrafon park. In common with most things at the south end it opens late in the mornings (09.30 to 10.00) and service is slow paced by a gently smiling young man who has an air of incredible calm about him. We enjoy the great views of the turquoise water whilst waiting for breakfast omelettes and Nescafe made by serving you hot water in a cup with a jar of coffee to help yourself from. Itís worth the wait, the omelettes are fluffy and fresh and tasty and only a few pesos in price. Itís so cheap here you could eat the entire starter section of the menu and still have change from 100 pesos!
: There are quite a few new places to eat and drink in Centro. The new bar Om is very lively and very sixties looking with itís psychedelic colors and groovy dťcor. Here they have beer pumps with a gauge on them set into the table and you help yourself, paying at the end of the night. Seems a dangerous way to drink! This bar was packed every night following its opening just before Christmas (sorry pic is a bit blurry!).
: There is a new Chinese restaurant but we couldnít find it, apparently it is where 100% Natural used to be. La Pena was still undergoing refurbishment when we left on the 25th December.
: I think thatís about it on the food front for now. All thatís left is our Christmas Eve dinner at Pinguinos and that was funny too!
: Only one more of these to go! Bear with me!
: Off to drink the rather nice kahlua coffee my dear husband has just delivered to me, with an inch thick layer of cream on the top and a generous sprinkling of cocoa. What a nice man.
: Here's a nice little picture to end....couldn't think where else to put it.