Saturday, May 13th, 0430:
We are up and raring to go after a restless night. Shower, pack the last minute stuff. It seems wrong not to have Crunch the beagle underfoot or laying on the couch, but Tomas took him to “summer camp” yesterday. It’s a cool place. He has a corner room with an indoor kennel and an outdoor patio. They take him out to a fenced yard 5-6 times a day to run around and take care of doggie duties. We know though that he is one PO’d beagle as there is no way this is up to his usual standard of living. We miss him and feel guilty, but we are soooooooo ready to go!
Tomas makes himself a breakfast quesodilla, but no food for me. My gut is roiling and my nerves are twanging. I am so stressed I can hardly stand it. What if the car breaks down? What if someone crashes into us? Let’s GO!
My 1993 Escort is loaded up with about 800 lbs of luggage and we are out of there. We are ahead of schedule, but I just want to get safely to the airport. Off I drive with a death grip on the steering wheel. I am afraid to go fast, I am afraid to go slow. I yell at and hit Tomas a couple times to relieve the tension. Why does he always make me drive to the airport? Could it be because he cannot stand it when I tell him to “watch out” every 2 seconds? Or does he just enjoy watching my blood pressure soar to 350/200? The 40 minute drive seems to take hours. Every car that comes within a half mile of us seems to be trying to run us off the road. Paranoia reigns supreme!
Finally we reach DFW in one piece without any wrecks, flat tires, or major engine failure. We reach long term parking and proceed to argue about where to park. It is 6:30 am and the lot is crowded. I slap Tomas a few more times to relieve tension, and then park where he told me to. We drag our 2 suitcases and 2 carry-ons out of the trunk and slap the wheel lock thingie on (after all I am sure a thief will want my car that is 13 years old and has 150 thousand less than gentle miles on it). The totally useless aftermarket flashing red light is armed and ready. Off we go.
I am less tense now. We are 3 hours before flight time and on DFW land so I can finally relax a little. Hop the bus and off to Terminal D. Last year we were apparently on the terrorist list so we were cavity searched and had our underwear sniffed at every opportunity. After much hard work by Tomas we seem to be off the list now and check in is easy. This early in the morning there is hardly anyone in line and check in at American goes well……..until they weigh Tomas’ suitcase. A little too heavy so I slap my credit card on the counter and tell them to charge away. I am happy to pay the extra $25.00 because I am going to MEXICO! We need every little item in that dang suitcase and by now I am delirious with relief because I am in the airport and checked in and I am so dang happy I could cry.
We manage to amuse ourselves for 2 hours by strolling up and down terminal D. We check out all the cool sculptures and stuff and keep busy by checking the departure board every 2 seconds. Finally we load up the plane. We stroll by all the ugly slobs in 1st class that had to wait for all of us cattle to ever so slowly load ourselves and all our junk into steerage. We are off fairly quickly since this year the plane isn’t broken unlike last year. Owing to a really kind and good god we are not seated near any of the adorable screaming and seat kicking children who have been bored to death and have way too much bottled up energy. They really are cute kids, but if you are surrounded it can be painful. We wonder why the airlines don’t just have a section for all the people with kids so that they could all be concentrated in one area. Probably they are afraid the parents might attempt an early departure through the emergency exit.
Finally (2 hours and 18 minutes later) we are descending. We arrive in Cancun and are herded off the plane. Unlike previous years you now get off the plane directly into the terminal where all the sad people are waiting to leave. I try not to make eye contact as I know that it will depress them even more, and all too soon I will be one of them.
We moo our way through immigration which was much quicker then last year and arrive at baggage claim. I get in line with approximately 360 other women to use the only ladies restroom. Since I am now officially in Mexico I toss my TP in the waste basket and emerge in time to claim my luggage. Tomas and I make our way in a short line to play red light green light. My butt cheeks clench as I push the button. That extra weight in Tomas’s suitcase may be from the bottles of Canadian Mist that might be a teensy more than we are allowed to bring in. WHEW! Green light. Yahoo. We sail right on through the lobby and the time share sharks don’t even come close to us. They can see that we have done this many times before and are NOT going to fall for any offers of assistance no matter how nicely made. They save their energy for the poor suckers that don’t know any better.
Out the door and there is the hombre in the orange shirt. Tomas makes sure he knows we are going to Playa Linda and not the ferry dock. Tomas buys our expensive, but incredibly tasty airport beer. Now I am really feeling relaxed. It is hot, humid; there is a funny smell….ahhhhhhhhh MEXICO!
Tomas stops our driver from taking us to the ferry instead of Playa Linda and we are off zooming through traffic. At Playa Linda a nice young hombre helps us with our luggage and has us sit at the outdoor restaurant. 1 beer and 2 waters later the Cocoon (private boat transfer to our hotel) arrives and the captain loads us onto the boat. As we go up to the top deck he tells us to watch our heads. 1 second later I whack my head and Tomas starts laughing. He tries to be sweet and caring, but I know Tomas is laughing hard. Nice try babe. We have a beautiful 15 minute boat ride and arrive at the dock for Villa Rolandi hotel on Isla Mujeres at 2:30 pm. No less than 3 staff members greet us on the dock and welcome us. By 3:00 pm we are in our room and gazing at the beautiful view of water, water, water.
Tomas breaks out the MP3 and speakers and we listen to our 300+ tropics inspired random music mix. Tomas also breaks out some of that Canadian Mist and we enjoy cocktails and check out our room. Probably the most advanced Mexican room we have ever had. HD satellite TV, dimmers everywhere, all switches LABELED. Tomas calls for ice and 30 seconds later there is a knock on the door. Our hielo has arrived. Whoa! That is service. Can this really be Mexico? We do not expect fast service but the staff’s service has been the best we have ever experienced in Mexico.
The rooms at Villa Rolandi are simply gorgeous. The bathroom is all Tikal marble and the shower has 6 shower heads at strategic levels that get you clean in places you never even knew you had. The window in the shower looks out over the ocean in case the shower wasn’t sinful enough for you already. The next level down has the bed which is not too soft and not too hard. An actual comfortable bed in Mexico! That’s a new one for us. The bed has a down comforter covered in the nicest, whitest, softest white sheets I have ever had the pleasure to drool on. The pillows are little slices of heaven instead of the little slices of cement I have come to know and love in Mexican hotels. The next level down has a couch and love seat and table and a wall completely made of extra wide glass sliding doors. All you can see is the ocean. On the deck there are chairs, table, and a hot tub.
We unpack and enjoy libations and then head out with a to-go drink to scout out the terrain. There is a very nice pool with infinity edge overlooking the private beach. The beach is beautiful. The sand is soft and velvety and there are no rocks. The water is warm and gentle. We recline on a couple of chaise lounges under an umbrella and just enjoy the hypnotic effect of the ocean and the view of the boats going to and fro.
Finally, we shower and dress for dinner. Tomas and I going to dinner at this restaurant is like the Clampets going to Beverly Hills. We are fairly well traveled and sophisticated, but normally Red Lobster is about as fancy as our budget allows. Rolandi’s restaurant is on a deck with an inner and outer portion that hangs out over the ocean. It is beautiful and very fancy. And yet they welcome Tomas in his shorts and shirt as though he were a visiting king from an oil rich country. We request the farthest table so that we feel like we are actually sitting on chairs that are on the ocean. The tiki torches provide romantic lighting. The waiters seat us and put our lovely linen napkins in our laps because apparently rich and sophisticated people like Tomas and I must never, ever perform this service for ourselves. The menus are presented, the margaritas are served, and we peruse our choices. Hmmm………Tomas? Any clue what these yummy sounding things are? This is only the appetizer list and already I am clueless. I decide the best way to handle this is just to order the most expensive things on the menu. Tomas agrees with this brilliant plan and we start with Ceviche. That Ceviche was so yummy they must have brought it straight from heaven. Next came the grilled shrimp which I swear must have been removed from the water right when we ordered. We ended with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce being the really sophisticated and classy types we are. All is delivered to us with much pomp and ceremony and silver dishes and gold silverware. So this is how the other half lives. Finally the bill arrives. Tomas reads it and has a heart attack. JUST KIDDING! The gourmet meal is included in our daily room rate so we just laugh and tipsily figure out a 25% tip for our wonderful waiters.
We toddle off to our room and that heavenly bed and we are comatose before we finish 1 page in our books. Being the terrible people we are, we leave the AC on and the door open so that we can have the sound of the waves lull us to sleep.
This report is really getting long so I will try to be more concise now.
Sunday, May 14th:
We breakfast at our hotel and enjoy the meal. We request a taxi and head down to the town of Isla. We rent a golf cart ($45.00) for 8 hours from El Sol. We rented from them 5 times and they were always awesome. They allowed us to leave a $20.00 deposit instead of our driver’s license. Each time we rented from them it took about 3 minutes and was just the easiest rental experience we have ever had.
We drove all around the island to familiarize ourselves with it. There were always great breezes and interesting and beautiful things to see. Zooming around at 20 miles an hour on Isla is so much fun. Several times we would stop and give locals a ride. They were always grateful, and we really enjoyed being able to make their day a little easier. Visited the turtle rescue farm and that is a great place. They are really doing good work and we really enjoyed the turtles. We lunched at Zazil Ha (Shrimp tacos, fries, Sol beer) and just enjoyed watching family day at the beach. Later we turned in our cart and headed back to the hotel. We swam in the ocean and pool for the afternoon. Up in our room for 4:00 pm cocktail time and tunes. I loved sitting on our deck with books, cocktails, and chilling with the view of pangas heading to and fro. Wanted to try the hot tub, but it wouldn’t get hot. Several attempts were made to fix it by the staff, but it never got warm.
Dinner again at Casa Rolandi restaurant. Geez – we were really adjusting to this 3 course meal thing quickly. Tomas had a rib-eye steak and I had lobster pasta. The appetizer was the lobster cocktail (200 pesos), and desert was vanilla ice cream again. Gee – are they starting to realize that we are gourmet hicks yet? They still treat us like royalty even though now and then I just want to tell them to ease up. We are just middle class folks and we don’t really need to be catered to and pampered this much. I mean come on……..you really don’t have to throw away my TP for me – just kidding!
Monday, May 15th:
Beach day. Hung at our beach all day.
Ate Ceviche. Turn and repeat. Nice snorkeling right off our quiet and tranquil beach. Dinner at Casa O’s. Beautiful location, great service, wonderful food at a reasonable price. The owners Tom and Lynn are really nice people and really gave us the low down on island politics. The cleanest and most wonderful bathroom. You need to go here and eat and use the bathroom too !
Tuesday, May 16th:
Today we move to Ixchel Condos on the happening Playa North of Isla Mujeres. We throw our stuff in our bags and load into a taxi for the 15 minute drive. Ixchel condos (unbeknownst to us before we made the reservation) is a new 5 story condo unit that is very controversial subject on the island. We are the first non-owner guests and have the penthouse condo on the top floor. It has a 270 degree view and deck, and a sun deck and hot tub on top.
It was beautiful. All marble. The kitchen was not crafted with actual cooking in mind, but had marble counter tops and was very luxurious. The bedroom was gorgeous and the bed and linens fantastic. The shower has a view of north beach and the ocean.
It did not have simple things that are needed to actually cook and stuff. The staff bent over backwards offering to get us anything and everything our hearts desired, but Tomas and I are low maintenance and headed out to the local Super Express and bought these items ourselves. We enjoyed shopping with the locals and while it would have been cheaper to give the staff our list it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun.
The 2nd phase is being built and it can get very noisy with the construction. The 2nd phase faces the first so it is not conducive to hanging out on your deck. I find it hard to really relax with 6 stories of men risking their lives without any safety equipment to build phase 2. We heard they are paid the sum of $20.00 day for all their hard and death defying labor. They are probably happy to have the work, but I found it really stressful to see. I wish they would invest a few bucks in basic safety equipment for those poor hombres. The top deck Jacuzzi had the most incredible view and we sure enjoyed sending bubbles floating down to people on North beach, but it was never, ever hot.
On Friday’s and Saturday’s the beach club Chimbo’s blasts Mexican rap and dance music. It is so loud that it shakes the whole building and sleep is impossible. They were there before the condo, so I think the condos need to make it very worth their while to sell out, or resign themselves to offering weekend night stays at a very steep discount.
We loved staying there as it was an incredible place and location, but until construction is done and the Chimbo’s issue is resolved, they should not be charging anywhere near the rates that they are charging.
We did meet several of the condo owners and even though they could buy and sell Tomas and me with the daily interest from their checking account we found them to be extremely friendly, kind, and unpretentious. I learned that not all rich folks are jerks and we really enjoyed meeting them. Lunch was on the beach at Sunset grill. The best mixto Ceviche and fish tacos, couple of Sol beers were quite tasty also. About $35.00 for all and worth every penny. Great food, location, and service. Ate dinner at Ballyhoo restaurant and it was fabulous. The Captain’s plate for two with steak, lobster, and fish was so yummy it made my toes curl. The price for that and 6 (yep – 4 too many!) margaritas was 615 pesos plus tip.
Wednesday, may 17th:
Tomas made us breakfast and we rented a golf cart from El Sol. Headed to Castillo de Garrafon for snorkeling. $3.00 entry fee and awesome snorkeling. What a great bargain this place is. The bathroom was sparkling clean. Soft TP, soap, and did I say how clean it was? No toilet seats or paper towels, but no importa! Bathroom rating is superior, ambience excellent, snorkeling rating is incredible. After the morning snorkeling we are off to Playa Tiburon for swimming with sharks. Have I mentioned how fun it is to drive a golf cart all over the island? Muy, muy diverte! Arrived at Playa Tiburon and I chickened out, but Tomas swam with and held a big ass shark! Ok, it was a nurse shark, but it had many teeth and sure looked scary.
Recovered and celebrated the fact that Tomas still had all his parts with a Sol beer. Tomas gave me a hard time about chickening out so I agreed to do it myself manana…………. Off to Hacienda Mundaca park and enjoyed this very rustic little zoo and historical site. A very nice older gentleman who was feeding the animals gave us a little talk about their diet and generally was just really nice to let us practice our Spanish on him. Wasn’t looking for a tip. Just a typically friendly Isleno who was willing to share his world with us. Entry to the park was $2.00. Off to Playa Lancheros for the most awesome lunch. Tik N Xik is the specialty here and is just the most delicious fish ever. The ambience really rocked. We sat for a leisurely 2 hour lunch with our toes in the sand and enjoyed the floor show of Cancun day trippers being herded in and out. What fun. Those 2 margaritas didn’t hurt either. Tik N Xik, 2 margaritas, 2 beers, 2 waters 280 pesos plus tip. Entertainment provided by Cancun day trippers (Los Cancunistas)– priceless!
Dinner at Jax was grilled shrimp and veggie kabobs. Good enough, but taste and ambiance couldn’t hold a candle to other places we have eaten at so far.
Thursday, May 18th:
Breakfast cooked by my favorite chef – Tomas!
Ambled down the beach with our snorkel gear and snorkeled at Avalon’s cove. Very decent snorkeling, especially under the bridge and over by the rock house. Looked at a room at the Avalon. A little tired looking, but seemed like a good deal for the price and the location is great. Spent the rest of the day at the beach (North beach) at our condo. Lunch at Sergio’s. Ceviche, shrimp tacos para dos and a couple beers 315 pesos plus tip. Food very good, ambiance excellent, toes in sand makes Tomas and me happy campers. Bathrooms – average. Did a little afternoon shopping and back home for cocktail hour. Dinner at Angelo’s on Hidalgo. Shared our steaks with Larry the dog.
What s sweetie he is. Seems to have a pretty good life. All beach and steak. Lucky dog! Very good food and very good bathroom. Yes, I do rate all bathrooms in Mexico. Let me tell you – they have come a long way in the last 15 years!
Friday, May 19th:
Breakfast at Jax. Very good. $14.50 plus tip. Rented a golf cart from El Sol. Dropped some laundry off with the nice ladies at the lavenderia, and then headed back to Castillo de Garrafon for more great snorkeling. Then to Playa Tiberon and I swam with the evil shark.
On to Playa Lanchero for more of that great fish and 2 beers for Tomas, 2 margaritas for me. This long leisurely lunch with my toes in the sand and a cocktail is getting very addicting. Total for lunch 280 pesos plus tip. We tip 20 – 25% usually. Drove some more around the island. As always with our Map chick map in hand. Thanks Laura and Perry for the best map/guidebook ever.
Picked up our laundry – 54 pesos for 1 ½ kilos and gave the 46 pesos for a tip. Dinner was at Valasquez restaurant near the ferry dock. Ceviche, breaded shrimp for Tomas and grilled shrimp for me. Good, but not as good as other places. Bathroom score is a yucky, but not horrible. Ambled about town and bought some ice cream which we ate while watching the kids play kind of a basketball/volleyball mix in the square.
Saturday, May 20th:
Tomas made himself breakfast burritos and I enjoyed a healthy breakfast of tortilla chips. Today we decide to snorkel from our condo to the Avalon. It was about a 10 minute beach amble so how hard could it be to just snorkel the whole way? It took about an hour of wading and trying to snorkel straight out to get enough clearance for the Ta Tas so that I wasn’t beached like a whale. It is really, really shallow for a long way off North Beach. Now we proceed to snorkel for about an hour against the current down to the Avalon. We never saw a single fish. Just sand, sand, and more sand. We knew we had hit the Avalon beach area because we started seeing garbage. Sadly there was quite a bit of garbage in the water and I even saw what must be called a tampon fish. Double, triple yuck. Once under the bridge the garbage disappeared and we could enjoy the snorkeling again. We were exhausted after that and walked back to the condo along the beach. Hung out at the condo beach area and again went to Sunset Grill for lunch. It was very humid and the extremely nice waiter set a fan on the floor in front of our table to cool us down. Nice touch. The mixto Ceviche and shrimp quesadillas were delicious. I had 2 “kick my butt” margaritas and some water and Tomas had a couple beers. 357 pesos plus tip. Walked back to our beach area and just enjoyed water, books, and the occasional dip in the ocean. Dinner at Faynes on Hidalgo. We each had the steak and lobster special for 20 dollars each. It was awesome. Cooked perfectly. What a deal!
Total for appetizer, steak and lobster, drinks and tip was 600 pesos. Back to the condo and all is quiet No Chimbo’s music at all. Oops, 2 hours later the power had been restored and our building shook to Mexican rap. Finally stopped at about 2:30 am. Oh well, this was our last night at the condo. No problema.
Sunday, May 21st:
We rent a golf cart at El Sol after having breakfast at Pinguinos. Very good breakfast for 85 pesos plus tip. We headed out to do some shopping and island touring and then said goodbye to the nice condo staff. We threw all our bags into the cart and headed back to Villa Rolandi for the rest of our trip. We got many smiles and waves when people saw our luggage loaded golf cart.
Dropped our bags in our new room, and headed out to the Cuban restaurant for lunch. El Veradero restaurant can easily be confused with another restaurant with a similar name. We went to the wrong one first (Oscar’s) and they very nicely directed us to the one we were looking for. The Cuban gentleman was very friendly. The cook was late so after we waited about 30 minutes he started our lunch preparations himself. The cook showed up and about 90 minutes after our arrival lunch was served. No problema. We enjoyed watching the coming and goings on in the lagoon and the food was worth the wait. Tomas enjoyed the shrimp and I loved the ajo fish fillet. We also had 1 beer and 1 water each. 280 pesos plus tip.
Didn’t see a bathroom, and probably wouldn’t have wanted to use it if there was one! Great meal though. Drove through the colonia and other points of interest and returned our golf cart. Took a taxi back to VR. Had dinner at Casa Rolandi. Ceviche, rack of lamb, ice cream. All delicious and they once again treated us like visiting royalty instead of hicks.
Monday, May 22nd:
We decided to buy breakfast in the hotel restaurant instead of having the included continental breakfast. It was fine, but nothing special. $18.00 plus tip. We stuck with the very good continental breakfast after that. We walked over to Dolphin Discovery after breakfast and watched the tourists arrive from Cancun, and the trainers working to get the dolphins ready for the first swim of the day. Tomas particularly enjoyed the Sloths, and finally I had to tear him away. The swimming with sharks participants appeared to be putting on a snorkel mask and standing on a platform outside the glass wall of their enclosure. We managed to only spend money on water, but the people swimming with dolphins seemed to have a happy experience. The swim with stingrays no longer exists as they all swam away after the hurricane last year. Spent the rest of the day hanging out on the VR beach and snorkeling and frolicking. Had an excellent lunch on the beach. If you ever have lunch on the beach here we highly recommend the ceviche and the seafood pizza. Really great stuff. Dinner this night was at Casa O’s. Tomas had shrimp kabobs, I had ajo shrimp. We also had 2 margaritas. The bill was a very reasonable 450 pesos plus tip. Enjoyed a lengthy talk with the owners again. Used the bathroom twice just because it was so nice – LOL!
Tuesday, May 23rd:
Rented a golf cart from our hotel (convenient and easy). Headed out to Castillo de Garrafon for a morning snorkel. Decided to take the snorkel trip to the reef with Juan and Pablo. These are 2 very, very nice gentlemen who run awesome snorkel and scuba trips. We were their only customers today. They charged us $20.00 per person and that was one heck of a bargain for what we got. They took us out (5 minutes by panga) to Mancheros reef. Juan led us right on through the Cancun day trippers to the best parts of the reef. Saw tons of fish, barracuda, and reef sharks. Really just an incredibly beautiful example of a living reef. Sure hope they protect this treasure. Spent some time chilling in the shade with Juan and Pablo after the trip and found them to be really genuine nice guys. Look them up if you go to Castillo de Garrafon. Tell them Kim and Tomas say hola and gracias. Raced our cart to Zamas Beach Club for lunch. It was really hot so we took a pre lunch dip in one of their 2 pools overlooking the ocean. Ordered our lunch from the appetizer list. Shared ceviche followed by incredibly fabulous lobster quesodillas. 2 waters, 1 beer, 3 margaritas, ceviche, 2 orders of lobster quesodillas came to 530 pesos plus tip. The people at the next table were only here for the day, but they were loving their Mapchick map and planning for future visits. We did some more golf cart exploring for the rest of the afternoon. Dinner at Casa Rolandi was the seafood festival which included lobster, fish, shrimp, squid, and clams.
Awesome and included in our $300.00 room rate so we could really enjoy ordering things that would not normally be within our budgetary comfort zone.
Wednesday, may 24th:
Gotta leave tomorrow so we will just hang at the beach all day today. We are almost the only people on the beach today so we pretend we are on our own private island. Some guys go by on a panga and wave and wave to us. It’s Juan and Pablo! Hola hombres. Enjoyed ceviche and lobster pizza on the beach for lunch. Yummy and you cannot beat the ambiance. Very comfortable chaise lounges are great too. For our final gourmet dinner at Casa Rolandi we have the fried cheese and calamari appetizer followed by steak for Tomas and shrimp fettuccini for me and then waddle off to our room for a good nights sleep.
Thursday, May 25th:
We have a slow morning as we get ready to leave. We are sad, but it is time to go. We want to make sure the house is still standing, the pool still has water in it, and we cannot wait to get the beagle. Check out is extremely easy. No surprises on the bill. This hotel does everything perfectly and we could not a single suggestion for improvement. Tomas even figured out the plasma TV satellite thingie so I could enjoy my British CNN every morning. We were loaded onto the Cocoon and sped back across the water to Playa Linda. Our transfer was a few minutes late, but got us to the airport in a timely and safe manner. Lunch as usual at TGI Fridays at Cancun airport and the flight left on time. We were not chosen for random or luggage inspection so check in was very easy. Some airlines had horribly long lines, but the American Airlines lines were short and quick. We talked to a man who had just spent 10 days in Cancun and he said it rained every day almost all day while he was there. WOW! We had only one rainy day on Isla. Rock on Isla Mujeres! Quiet ride home. Customs and immigration at DFW seemed to take forever. New terminal and all, but not nearly enough staff. We raced to the car, and then flung ourselves into Fort Worth rush hour traffic so we could get the beagle before the kennel closed for the day. That was one happy reunion! Got home at 6:30 pm and got all our stuff unpacked and all the laundry done. We are no longer on Mexican time!
Got all our mail the next day and there was a certified letter from Tomas’ employer laying him off. Deja freaking vu. This happened 3 years ago while we were on vacation and was the reason we found new aerospace employment and moved to Texas. It’s okay though. We were just glad we didn’t get it until AFTER what has proven to be the best vacation ever. So far…………………
Our favorite pool:
Last - a couple of sunsets for you: