Day 1 (Travel Day) – 12/13/02 (Friday)
Up at 5 am for a 9:40 am flight. Left my apartment at 6:40 am. Oops, have to scrape ice off the car (28 degrees out)! How could I complain, knowing I’d be in 80 degree temps in a few hours?? Landed in Cancun around 1:30 – pouring rain! And WARM. Wow! Got off the plane, got shepherded through Immigration – one stop immediately inside the airport, to check that documentation was filled out; then wait online for the official document check and the STAMP!
Walked into the noise of people at booths, shouting for attention. Most were ground transport vendors; one booth though was just for Information and he was very helpful. Changed to shorts in the ladies’ room; got my bag with no problem. Bought a shuttle ticket; breezed through Customs with no wait.
Walked into an even louder fray of vendors shouting at me (everyone) on the way to walking outside. Once outside I was greeted immediately by a man reaching for my bag. He wore a name badge, and a uniform as others did, and another man in uniform said “Yes go with him” so I did. He led me to the Green Line van, wheeling my big black dive bag for me. We had to walk out of the overhang, so I got wet, but it was WARM so I really didn’t mind!
The Green Line driver put me in the front passenger seat, so I had a great view as we drove through Cancun! We were off and running, leaving the airport, by 2:55 which had now become 1:55 due to the time zone change. It poured and poured and POURED as we drove through the hotel district. I didn’t mind at all, until we reached downtown and the roads were flooding. I was just excited to be there, excited to catch glimpses of the beautiful sea… At least, at first I was excited. Then it went on and on and on. And I saw Outback, and Houlihan’s, and Rain Forest Café, etc etc etc. It was really like being in Florida. I couldn’t wait to leave that madness and plasticity and get to Isla.
The rain finally stopped, and we finally got to the ferry dock. It took over an hour instead of 40 minutes because of the flooding and traffic tie-ups. On the way the driver worried me by saying he wasn’t sure if the ferry would run… the seas were so rough. But we pulled up at the Puerto Juarez dock at 3 pm, and the workers shouted to us and said the ferry was just about to leave. We left the dock right away, out onto those turquoise waters. Everything was happening so FAST and I just went with it. A young Mexican woman collected fares, and I was worried when I saw everyone pay in pesos. But it was OK that I only had dollars… and it only cost $4. I settled into the wonderful ride to the magical world of Isla. The ferry was decorated for Christmas – green garlands and lights strung all about. The ferry ride went very quickly. It was easy to get a taxi at the Isla ferry dock, and I was in my room at the Avalon by 3:45 or so.
“Dinner” was a bag of chips from the plane and an all-natural version of a Nutrigrain bar. I walked around outside to get the lay of the land and decided to wait until tomorrow to go into town. Got organized, unpacked, listened to the ocean as I wrote all this. I am glad I’m here. I can’t BELIEVE I’m here. Mexico!!
Day 2 - 12/14/02 (Saturday)
Woke up at 8:30 – very comfortable bed, very quiet room. Opened the drapes of the window and patio door to see my view in the morning… incredible! A beautiful, sparkling, sunny day. (I never would have guessed, because the drapes were so room-darkening – great!) I stepped out onto my balcony for a bit and took in the view… amazing dark-and-turquoise-blue water, the Caribbean Sea, practically at my doorstep. A beautifully bright morning in Mexico.
I grabbed a camera and took a bunch of pictures. Even the view from my bathroom window (yes, my bathroom has a window) was like a postcard.
I ventured out of my room to get my welcome package, some pesos, and some water. What an adventure… the Front Desk said Charlie the concierge could help me (but he wasn’t there); Mr. Head Honcho said the girls near the Front Desk could also help me. I went over to the girls and told them my name and could I have my welcome package. They said, No, not them, they couldn’t help me. I told them (I think this is what I said, it was in Spanish anyway) “but he said you could” – pointing to Mr. Head Honcho. They said No again, but one girl did go to find Charlie. I “visited” with Charlie, who gave me some brochures and some coupons. And, of course, he wanted me to take the tour for the Vacation Club. He was quite persistent, and thanks to my preparation from the IM board, I expected this and said No as many times as he pressed me. He finally stopped and asked me to at least think about it. I nodded and smiled and left.
I went back to the front desk to exchange a few dollars, and the clerk spoke to me in English even though I asked the question in Spanish – and told me they had no pesos. He didn’t seem particularly sorry, as usual. No one here seems to get too concerned if a guest’s expectations or needs are not met. At least they are consistent, so I will try to take it in stride.
I lingered on my balcony and stayed close to my room until around 6 pm. Then I was hungry, and I still had not gotten any pesos, so I decided to put on my jeans and walk into town in search of an ATM and coffee filters. I walked over the wooden bridge that connected the Reef to the rest of the Isla. The bridge was well-lit by street lamps… and mostly deserted. I looked down onto the shallow, clear water, and enjoyed taking a walk on a Caribbean island, in the dark evening, wide sky above and wide sea around.
Just past the Avalon bridge, the street was disturbingly quiet, and I wondered exactly how good an idea this was. Then a dog came up to me, and I petted it, and we both liked that. I kept going. I was on an errand to find coffee filters… very important because my very favorite activity when on vacation is to linger over coffee in the morning. Especially when I have a balcony and a view such as this one. I stumbled onto Mirtita’s small grocery store which I had read about on an IM message board. The store was very interesting to wander through.
Now I needed something to eat. I had passed many restaurants. I thought maybe I would wander back that way. However, shortly I came to the Town Square (el “Zocalo” I think they call it), and a show was about to begin. A children’s Christmas show. It was just before 7 pm. The show looked – was – delightful, but I was starving. Fortunately there were many street vendors. I wandered over to one stand, where they were grilling pork and chicken and placing it on soft tortillas with chopped lettuce. I wandered back over to the show and stood and ate my whatever-they-were. The kids were adorable – a 5- or 6-year-old boy dressed as Frosty the Snowman, the young girls in Santa outfits dancing around him – and the food was DELICIOUS. So flavorful! And what an awesome scene. The girls danced to Feliz Navidad, and they started throwing candy into the crowd. They had so much fun doing that!
The square was decked out in multi-colored Christmas lights, strung through the trees and on the main building. I was still hungry, so I went back for another taco-thingy. I ate it quickly; this time I had the pico-de-gallo on the meat, plus a little guacamole sauce, plus some lime juice, and it was WONDERFUL. I sat a bit, finished my beer, then decided it was time to go home.
Day 3 – 12/15/02 (Sunday)
Woke up at 8:30. Mostly sunny with warm breezes. I made cinnamon-hazelnut coffee, put yesterday’s clothes away, then sat on my balcony for a long time. I listened to Jimmy Buffett’s “Christmas Island” and was again in awe that I was sitting on the balcony of a hotel room, sipping coffee in my shorts and t-shirt, gazing out into the Caribbean. The sun was to my right, so I think my room faces North-Northeast. I’m guessing if I swam straight off my balcony I would get to Cuba (in about 75 miles).
I wandered into town. I wandered up to the top of Avenida Matamoros, to the sea wall. Found a beach, some kids playing ball, and what looked like a used, broken down brick terrace. Then I wandered back down the street and found an Internet Café, but decided I wanted to sip some beer while I wrote back home. I walked through town, enjoying the sites and saying “no, gracias” to the shopkeepers who wanted me to buy. I found a tiny store that sold cold beer to go. There were two kinds… I asked him “que es mejor?” (“which is better?”). He pointed to the Sol (the more expensive one) so I got it. He opened it for me, asked if it was to go and when I said “yes” he said “once.” I counted out 11 pesos and figured out later that it cost extra “to go” because of the deposit. I returned the bottle later and got 2.5 pesos back.
Then I went to Rolandi’s Pizza, where they sat me right next to their red, gold, and white-decorated green Christmas tree – like mine – and I had salad, pizza, and two delicious margaritas, one of them flavored with mango. The salad was also very, very good, especially the Italian dressing that was on it. After I finished eating my pizza with cheese, ham, artichoke (I think) and mushrooms, I sat for a bit, sipping my second margarita – a plain one this time, frozen, with salt. I was ready to go, and got impatient for the bill. Finally I remembered that one of the guidebooks said that in Mexico you must ask for your bill. So when the waiter came, I said, “la cuenta, por favor.” He brought it quickly – 160 pesos for a large-sized side salada, pizza, and dos margaritas. Good deal.
Time to go home, but first I wanted to see what the Town Square looked like on a Sunday afternoon. It was empty, except for some activity over by San Francisco’s. I took pictures of the Nativity scene, San Francisco’s, and the Palacio Municipal. I walked back to the hotel and was there by 5:30 pm
Day 4 – 12/16/02 (Monday)
Woke up at 8:15, opened up drapes and windows – another sparkling morning. I took more pictures from my balcony, the water was so beautiful. Made Caramel Pecan Roll coffee and sat to enjoy the view. Lingered on the balcony, for forever it seemed. The view is just so darn relaxing and addictive.
Finally, around 1:20, I grabbed an apple and wandered outside to take some pictures of the other side of the hotel. I walked out on the hotel’s pier and took pictures in all directions. Around 3:30 I decided to head into town. I walked across the Avalon bridge to the main island, and took some pictures. Then I walked to the taxi stand by the ferry dock, and took a taxi to Punta Sur. I arrived around 4:45 pm, right before sunset. I took a whole lot of pictures and then stopped taking pictures so I could just enjoy the view.
I walked up to El Garrafon Parque and took a taxi back to downtown. I browsed a couple of shops and bought some postcards. I visited Mertita’s grocery again and bought several small bottles of vanilla to take home as gifts. Stopped at the “Paleteria y Neveria” at the corner of Bravo and Hidalgo, on the other side of the square from San Francisco’s, and bought a “milkshake” that was more like a smoothie. YUM!
Had dinner at NautiPete’s – two Cuervo margaritas, guacamole (wow) and chips (also wow), enchiladas de pollo (three – couldn’t finish the third one). Put a smidge of the green jabanero sauce on them… very good. 184 pesos, including the 12% they automatically included.
Time to go shopping… went to the store across the street from NautiPete’s… spoke a fair amount of Spanish and ended up bargaining with the guy. On a swimsuit cover up for my niece he said 180 pesos and we ended up at 120… then I found a 100% cotton t-shirt that I liked for me, said “how much,” and he said “both for $20” so I said OK. Still seems a expensive for Mexico, but I felt like I got a deal, and that's what makes it fun.
Browsed more for Mom… Passed a shop with a lace tablecloth that he said was 400 pesos; then he said 380, then I said 300; I forget what he said but I said 320… he tried for more but I think he thought I was about to walk away so he said 320. $32, he said it was handmade and machine washable. Stronger because made by hand. Headed “home” to the Avalon… When I was almost to the Convention Center I was offered a ride by a friend from an Isla message board, returning to the Avalon in her golf cart. Fun!
Day 5, Travel Day (Tuesday)
Woke up at 8 am – sunny and clear (again). Cinnamon-hazelnut coffee, orange-pineapple juice, showered, packed. Left room at 10:15 am. Checked out at front desk; taxi to ferry. 10:30 fast ferry to Puerto Juarez – great ride – saw a storm near Punta Sur, directly over Cancun’s south end. Ate an apple. A man on the PJ dock asked me if I wanted a taxi, I asked “cuanto vale” (“how much”) – he said $20 so I said OK. Arrived at airport, changed from shorts into jeans in Ladies’ Room, no wait at the Continental counter – checked in by 11:33 pm.
Wandered through MANY shops looking for a souvenir for Dad… expensive… boring… nothing he would like. Looking around was a good way to pass the time, though. Used almost the last (except for a couple) of my pesos buying a bottle of water (11 pesos). Finally sat by my gate, A5, around 1 pm. Our plane was late getting in, so we boarded at 1:30 instead of 1:15. Everyone was seated etc, pulled back on time, but had to wait on the runway. Finally took off around 2:10 or 2:15 (instead of 1:50). We landed in Newark pretty much on time. An uneventful flight….
But oh what a meaningful trip! I learned so much, about myself and about this little island that I now love. Stay tuned, because I returned to Isla in December 2004, and have so much more to share!