(Please bear with me ... its LONG!)
FRIDAY, JULY 1: Left DFW early in the morning, and quite honestly, the only frustrating part of this journey took place at the AA check-in kiosks, where we encountered a very hostile agent. We opted to brush off her hateful demeanor (after all, she had to work - WE were headed to paradise!) and shortly landed in Cancun. Absolutely no problems finding the ATM at the airport, then heading through the timeshare shark tank (really tame compared to Cabo and PV), and found Best Day waiting to whisk us to the ferry. From ferry to taxi to our rental house, where we were met by Marcela the property manager. We settled in, unpacked - although we noticed that in spite of the A/C running, it sure was hot in the house. Oh well, we were anxious to head out and get our bearings. We walked a few blocks into Colonia La Gloria, caught a taxi to Playa Norte and found our way to Buhos where we enjoyed a couple of cold cervesas. Next we walked back towards the dock and hung out at a little local bar with swings (cant recall the name of the place.) We strolled down to Ballyhoo, which was to be the place we found the most cooling breezes during our stay, and had dinner. Then stopped in and met Miguel at Miguels Moonlight before heading home. The A/C is obviously kaput ... making comfy sleep impossible.
SATURDAY, JULY 2: Slept late. Took a taxi to Jax for lunch. Hubby had fish tacos, which he loved, and I enjoyed the chicken flautas. We then hung out most of the afternoon at Ballyhoo, catching that cool breeze! The bartender, Miguel, played our Del Castillo CD for us and we enjoyed talking about music with him. We walked down to Hidalgo and had dinner at Victors Cuba Libre, sitting out on the street. I had a Cuban sandwich, fried banana and baked yucca which was delicious! We stopped in at Miguels Moonlight and met a young man who claimed that he owned the building, and Miguel rented from him. He walked behind the bar several times and poured drinks with Miguel present, so we assumed he wasnt pulling our legs. We had cervesas, pomegranate margaritas and tequila shots. Stopped at a little tienda on the way back to the casa to pick up Bimbo cinnamon rolls for breakfast (gosh, I love those things!). We also came across a group of street cats and I foolishly attempted to pick one up that reminded me of one of my critters back home. Im surprised he didnt claw me half to death! See what cervesas, margaritas and shots will make a person do?
SUNDAY, JULY 3: Slept late again! Took a taxi to Playa Norte and had a beer at Sergios (35 pesos each; were already getting too cheap to pay that much). Then walked down to Chi-Chis & Charlies and grabbed a light lunch of cheese quesadillas and shrimp fajitas. Walked down the beach to Avalon Reef where a lot of families were swimming. Such beautiful, clear water - just like a swimming pool! Back to Buhos, where I sat on my favorite swing. I had a beer, hubby had tequila, and I then ordered a pina colada which was quite possibly one of the worst Ive ever had. I cleansed my palate by buying a yummy coconut popsicle from a beach vendor. Stopped into Jax for supper. Hubby had fish tacos again and I had nachos deluxe. We walked down the street where there was a big broadcast of some sort going on for the locals near the dock. Big crowd and quite noisy! Ducked into Ballyhoo where I had an amazingly good pina colada. Stopped into the 7-11 to pick up a few snacks for the house, and took a taxi back to the house. It was only around 7:30, so we hung out on the patio for the rest of the evening. The A/C is still not functioning properly in the house, and hubby attempted to sleep by making a bed on the kitchen floor. Still pretty miserable when its too hot to sleep though.
MONDAY, JULY 4: I got up around 7:30 a.m. (hey, thats early for me!) and strolled across the road to the beach and collected shells. Saw quite possibly the largest iguana of my life perched on a rocky cliff. Then home to put on a swimsuit and chill in the hammock under the palapa, cooling off occasionally at the outdoor shower. Tossed on my workout gear and walked almost to centro, which took about 1.5 hours round-trip. Stopped at a little tienda for water. Also stopped at a stretch of deserted beach and was bent over looking for shells when I was surprised by a sudden "goose" to my backside. It startled the heck out of me, but I had to laugh when I turned around and saw the friendliest big black dog wagging her tail, just begging to be petted. I played with her for awhile and then worried she might follow me home, but she trotted into the gates of a nearby villa which was clearly home-sweet-home for her. I was amazed at how many scooters I saw putting around! Even more amazed at how the locals transport even their tiny babies on those things! (I once even saw a little girl of about 3 years old sound asleep on the front as her daddy drove down the street!) Of course, there were also golf carts everywhere. (I wonder what its like in high season?) On my way back to the casa, I passed a small shack with mesh windows - a very tentative sort of shelter, but obviously someones home - and was pleasantly surprised when I heard a man singing from inside. I couldnt see him; could only hear the most beautiful, clear tenor voice rising out of that seemingly grubby little shack. That made my heart happy. Back at the casa, it was clear that something had to be done about our A/C situation, so we got in touch with Miguel and Sue (our local "go-to folks" for any property-related problems), and they proceeded to call on a mechanic and they worked tirelessly to install a new compressor. In the meantime, we got ready and headed out to Soggy Peso for the 4th of July party. We arrived a little after 4:00 p.m., and the place was already packed with folks! Hubby had a burger and I had nachos, and we just hung out and talked with a number of really nice folks (quite a few Texans, like ourselves!) We capped our night off at Faynes where I proceeded to flirt with the adorable bartender (while hubby just indulgently rolled his eyes at me), and then back to the casa. The A/C is fixed and the place is freezing cold! Hey, this is a GOOD thing!
TUESDAY, JULY 5: After last night, we slept REALLY late this morning! We finally got up around noon and went for a long walk, to the south end of the island and back. We passed by so many gorgeous houses (I got caught up in "selecting" which one Id like to be mine), stopped and got water at the little Caribbean village near the ruin and had some yummy homemade ice cream from a vendor while looking out over Garrafon. Watched the zipliners for awhile, but opted not to pay the admission to enter the park. Came back to the casa for a desperately-needed shower and had a wonderful lunch at La Bruja. Started out with guacamole, and it was hands down some of the best Ive ever tasted. Hubby had ceviche and beef fajitas and I enjoyed Enchiladas Suizas. The entire meal, including a few Superiors for hubby and soft drink for me, was $375 pesos. A bargain for the amount - and excellent quality - of food served. We walked around the neighborhood a little more, then back home to rest. Went out later to a little tienda around the corner for snacks. (I swear, were healthy eaters at home; on vacation? Anything goes!) We stayed in this evening, watching a movie that we found in the casa called "Which Way, Por Favor?" which was filmed on Yelapa and in Puerto Vallarta. Kind of a silly flick, but we enjoyed seeing the scenery, since weve visited that area a number of times. Were tired tonight!
WEDNESDAY, JULY 6: Got up and went to the Super Xpress for groceries this morning, then walked to Villa Vera and leisurely whiled away the afternoon at the pool. So very refreshing! As I said earlier, we really did miss not having a pool of our own, and when - not if, but WHEN - we return next time, a pools a must on our list. We had quesadillas, nachos and of course cervesa, and our bill with tip came to a little over $500 pesos. Not exactly cheap, but worth every penny to be able to lounge in the pool. Later that evening we took a taxi to La Luna, as wed heard that a Cuban band played there on Wednesday evenings. Walked in around 9:00 p.m. and were the only patrons in sight. Unfortunately, the band wasnt playing ("Maybe Saturday, maybe Sunday" was the response we got), so we stopped briefly in at Jax for cervesa ($60 pesos for a bucket of 5 - cant beat it), then headed down Hidalgo and stopped in at Island Eddies. Ill just say that Eddie had been drinking since early that morning (his claim, not mine) and seemed pretty inebriated. Also had some blaring house/dance music going on, which might appeal to the young uns, but I was eager to move on. Hubby wanted to stay because the beer was cheap, but I persuaded him otherwise. We finished off the night at Faynes, enjoying "The Band With No Name", and met Benjamin - or "Ben-Jammin", as he likes to call himself - and also a young man from Mexico City who played the didgeridoo. We got back to our casa around 1:00 a.m., so it was a late night for us!
THURSDAY, JULY 7: OK, I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later, and I apologize for the fact that this is entirely TMI, but this morning I woke up with a raging case of Montezumas Revenge. We also woke up to a steady rain which did not let up all day long, so I was more than happy to just lounge around the house, reading, watching the telly, and just resting. Nuff said.
FRIDAY, JULY 8: Still not feeling 100%, so we went to the farmacia for meds. (And yes, after confirming that the pharmacist spoke no English, I actually mimed the symptoms of diarrhea so she would know exactly what I needed. Desperate times, desperate measures.) We took a taxi into centro to hit the ATM and slogged through the pouring rain. I could hardly believe that I actually got a little chilly! (Probably because I wasnt feeling all that great in the first place.) We stopped briefly at Barlitos and spoke with Tiffany, who told us that Soggy Peso started its service of hardshell tacos around noon on Fridays. That sounded good to us, so we took a taxi there and hung out for the afternoon, chatting with Freddy, Chuy, and several other friendly folks around the bar. Soggy Peso just feels like a place where its impossible NOT to talk to people. Everyones so friendly and sociable, and we enjoyed it. Back to the casa fairly early and I went on to bed. Hubby walked around the neighborhood, and ended up helping Manuel, a man who lived behind Casa La Buena Vida, to move about 50 buckets full of gravel from the front of his house to the back. Hubby speaks even less Spanish than I do, and Manuel spoke no English, but apparently they became buddies as they worked together. Of course, it may have been the cervesas and "Mexican moonshine" they shared that assisted in the male bonding experience.
SATURDAY, JULY 9: Today we walked to the Turtle Farm (Tortugranja - I think I spelled that right?) and saw the sweetest baby sea turtles, only 9 days old! Somehow, they reminded me of baby birds. I held a sea urchin, touched a sea cucumber, and was rather grossed out by the slug-like creature that oozed out from inside a conch shell. Took a taxi back to centro and walked around, trying to decide where to each lunch. We strolled through the cemetery and storm clouds began quickly rolling in. We ducked into Jax JUST as the downpour hit, so we had lunch there. We ran into a couple that wed previously met at Soggy Peso so chatted for awhile with them, and then hubby and I decided to go to Chuuk Kay, hoping to hear a band play. As our luck would have it, "the band plays manana", so we just hung out for drinks. Then we went back into town, stopping in at Ballyhoo to chat with Miguel. The banos at Ballyhoo are in a separate building, so as I made my way there and walked down the hall, I failed to notice immediately the man who was mopping the hallway. I swear, that tile floor was slippery as ice and I did what must have been a cartoon-like feet-slipping-out-from-under-me routine and landed flat on my back. On the way down, I scraped the heck out of my left arm, but was just grateful I hadnt broken my neck because it was a very HARD fall. I mean - straight down, flat out on my back. The guy mopping just stopped to stare, and then resumed mopping. (Gee, thanks for helping me up, buddy.) I collected my wits and went into the ladies stall, did my business, and on the way back out, almost went down again. Im tellin ya - those tile floors when wet can be treacherous! I got back to Ballyhoo, where Miguel immediately went into action, breaking out a first aid kit, making an ice pack and practically insisting I use it. Was glad I followed his advice, because I did have a bit of swelling and a bruised elbow, but all in all, no harm done. In spite of that bit of excitement, we still made our way to Faynes and ended the evening listening to a solo guitar act, which we enjoyed very much.
SUNDAY, JULY 10: Well, today is hubbys turn to "not feel so well." And yes, we know WHY this happens and how to prevent it (dont drink so much, dummies) - but apparently our good judgment goes on vacation when we do. Anyway, we stayed around the casa today - reading, watching tv, napping. We finally got up and walked around La Gloria around 3:00 p.m., trying to find lunch. Stopped in at the pizzeria when we saw a young man hand-making the dough, and proceeded to order - only to be told, "We dont open til 4:00." We were surprised that nothing was open for lunch (we later learned why), except for La Bruja, so we enjoyed another meal there and it was every bit as tasty as the first time. Before I neglect to mention the roosters, there were two living behind us. Forget the notion that roosters crow only at dawn. I am not exaggerating when I say that these little dudes crowed NON-STOP - one would go off just about every 20 to 30 seconds, without fail. Eventually, it just sort of became like "white noise" - the unheard background soundtrack to neighborhood living. Well, on Sunday I noticed that they had suddenly STOPPED crowing. It had been hours since Id heard either of them sound the cock-a-doodle-doo, and I actually began to worry that they had become Sunday dinner. I must say that I was quite relieved when a little later in the evening, they both started crowing again. (I guess even roosters need rest too?) We walked back to the Pizzeria Michelangelo after dark and realized that THATs when the colonia comes to life. People were everywhere. Restaurants were buzzing, folks were shopping, visiting on the sidewalks and in the streets, kids playing, dogs roaming. Someone was even broadcasting a televised sports game (futbol, I presume) over a PA system from inside their house - LOUDLY - and everyone on the block was excited. When a goal was scored, the large group inside the house broke out into song. What fun they were having! Ah, but back to the pizza we ordered ... it was awesome! Amazing (homemade) crust, just piled high with toppings. The owner, who is also the delivery driver, hails from California. A large pizza was $150 pesos, and that was a bargain. Yum.
MONDAY, JULY 11: Walked to Zama Beach Club and spent the day. Wow, what a gorgeous place! We kinda felt like rock stars and could easily have become spoiled there. The pools, palapas and beach are lovely. Nicest banos I saw on the island too. We split an order of spinach and chaya quesadillas and had a few cervesas, and spent $530 pesos including tip. Yep, its pricey. But worth it. I got a bit TOO sunburned today, but oh well. Back to casa to shower, then took a taxi to Hildalgo. Once again, we ended up having dinner at Jax, on the rooftop. Obviously, we liked Jax. Food was good, prices were generally reasonable. We felt the bartenders could have been a bit more personable, but there again we were probably just spoiled by people like Freddy at Soggy Peso and Miguel at Ballyhoo, who were very outgoing and made us feel most welcome. Hubby wanted to keep the party going, but I was tired - so we went back home around 10:00 p.m.
TUESDAY, JULY 12: Walked to Playa Lancheros today, where hubby had the famous tix-n-xic and I enjoyed cheese enchiladas. (Im just not a seafood lover, unfortunately.) He really enjoyed the fish though. We hung out for quite awhile, people watching as the catamarans dumped daytripper after daytripper off for lunch, then picked them up again a bit drunker than they were before. ;-) We strolled down the beach where there was quite a bit of activity, including a rousing game of volleyball. In the late afternoon we strolled to Villa La Bella, just a little ways down the road from our casa, where the sign out front claims "Beer So Cold Itll Make Your Teeth Hurt." Well, it wasnt QUITE that cold, but it was a lovely place. However, there were two other couples at the bar who were WAY past the cut-off point and were very drunk and annoying. One of the women was making a blatant spectacle of herself, attempting to "seduce" the other woman in front of everyone, in a very aggressive manner. Um ... yeah. We quickly downed a beer each, then went on our way, leaving them to slobber all over each other and yell monosyllabic nonsense. (For the record, Im not a prude or a stick-in-the-mud, but I dont like to be around annoying drunks.) From Villa La Bella, hubby insisted that it was just a short stroll into centro, so we strolled. And strolled. And strolled. And strolled some more. Eventually it became kind of like a death march, but by golly we were determined to do it! And do it we did, although it wasnt easy in the heat and by the time we reached Hidalgo we just wanted to sit down and cool off. We ate at a pizza place (cannot for the life of me recall the name) which was quite good, and sat out on the street and watched the people walk by. After dinner we walked around the corner and into a small shop with a large display of those cute primitive-looking wool animals and bought two gatos - a large one and a smaller one. (Reminded us of a couple of cats we have at home - except the small one is the mama and the large one is her enormous male offspring.) We stopped by Ballyhoo for a nightcap and then took a taxi home.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 13: (The days are flying by! Noooooooo!) We ate lunch at Jax, then hung out on Playa Norte, swinging at Buhos. We met Eloy, the man who sells popcorn from his bicycle. Bought him a cervesa and a shot of tequila, and then somehow he managed to convince my hubby to give him 100 pesos "to help with rent." Ah well, who knows what it really went for, and who cares? It was fun to sit and chat with him, as he told us about his kids in his wife - at any rate, gave me a good chance to practice my limited Spanish. I bought a pretty shell and bead necklace for $10 from a vendor and cooled off several times in the ocean. We ended the night at Ballyhoo and left a Del Castillo CD for Miguel, who unfortunately was away for the day tending to a dental emergency.
THURSDAY, JULY 14: "Too much fun" yesterday, so got a late start after lounging around the casa. The heat just really takes it out of us, as does all the walking were doing in the heat! We decided to give Villa La Bella another try, and were delighted to find no drunken patrons at the bar. We had it to ourselves, with the exception of some guests lounging in the pool area. It was such a nice, "chill" afternoon just sitting there and taking in the lovely surroundings. We walked up the road a short distance to Casa Roca Caribe, Jimbos and Karens place, and were able to meet them and get a little tour of their accommodations. What luck that we stopped in (hubbys idea) before we had to go home, because weve found our place for next year. We loved it - itll be just perfect for us. And they have a lovely little pool which overlooks the sea! We took a taxi from there to Soggy Peso where we had HUGE burgers and chips, and chatted with Mel and Freddy (it was Freddys birthday, so there was a cake and of course, an off-key rendition from everyone at the bar of "Happy Birthday To You"), and several other folks who were touring around on yachts. (Lucky ducks!) We have to go home tomorrow (boo hoo!), but are too tired to pack once we hit the casa. Hubby spends some time lounging outside, and I fall asleep almost as soon as my head hits the pillow.
FRIDAY, JULY 15: Going-home day, so always very bittersweet. Bitter because we NEVER want our vacations to end, but sweet because home is, after all - HOME! We packed and straightened up the casa, took a taxi to the ferry, ferry to Cancun where Best Day met us, and then made our way to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Got home a little ahead of schedule, and now Isla is but a beautiful memory ... and a definite agenda item for 2012.
If youve read this far ... thank you! I jotted down notes every day so I wouldnt forget a thing, but I know theres still a lot Ive left out. Its hard to fully capture the wonderful, laid-back vibe in a trip report. Impossible to adequately explain the shy smiles of the children and the helpful, friendly demeanor and wonderful sense of humor of the men and women of Isla. We truly loved it, and are so very glad to have had the privilege of being there. May we all have many happy future travels back again!