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Vacation Journal
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Christmas on Isla

By: debstm (View Profile)
Date: 1/2/2008

We had an interesting beginning to our trip to Isla this time. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare which was good because the Mexicana airlines ticket counter was the only one with a line. After getting our boarding passes, we went through security where I was told I was selected for a more extensive search. Lucky me. Standing in a glass booth with no shoes on was a little intimidating and humiliating, not to mention the pat-down I received from the female TSA attendant. Oh, well…I tried to shrug it off…after all, we were going to Isla! Interesting, though…while waiting for our flight, I picked up a newspaper and happened to read an article on how Americans rate TSA employees right up there with the IRS. Go figure…now I can personally understand why.

We had a connecting flight in Mexico City which we were afraid we would miss because our flight out was delayed by almost an hour. As we boarded, an attendant told us we would go through immigration in Cancun, which would save us time in Mexico City. The Mexico City airport was a madhouse with hundreds of people just standing around in an area apparently known as “Sala B” waiting for their gate to be posted. Gil asked a ticket agent where our gate was…fortunately it was in the same terminal just down the hall. We made it on time and were headed for Isla.

We landed at a different terminal than usual in Cancun. We didn’t have to wait for luggage, so we walked down the terminal to what we assumed would be immigration. Passing by the luggage carousels, we went in the only direction we could, which was out the door. Seeing my name on a card held up by our trusty Cancun Valet, we just looked at each other and said, “Did we just get to Mexico without going through immigration???” Wow…that was a first for both of us. A little unsettling, though, wondering what was going to happen on our return trip. We decided not to worry about it, though, and hopped in the van to Gran Puerto.

The sun was just setting and we made it to the ferry with only four minutes to spare. I grabbed some cervesas from the little store and we boarded. Since the prior two times I have been to Isla had been too cloudy for sunsets, I was finally able to get some shots.

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This was only my third trip to Isla, but I am amazed at how much it feels like going “home” when you’re on that ferry. After checking into the Posada, we headed for Jax for a bucket of Coronas, then on to Valesquez, where we had garlic fish and garlic shrimp. The portions were kind of small, but it was very good. There’s nothing better than feeling the sand under your feet and looking out at the water while savoring the island’s fresh seafood. (My apologies for not getting a single food picture this time…will work on that next time.)

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Day two involved a special treat. Maggie, from La Gloria English School, arranged for me to meet Isidro, the student I sponsor on the island. They met us in front of the Posada at 9:00 a.m. and we went to breakfast at Manana’s. It was a little strange because I don’t speak much Spanish so he and I needed help with translating. Gil speaks fluent Spanish, though, and was able to ask him lots of questions and we learned quite a bit about him. Afterwards, Maggie took us for a little tour through the Colonias and La Gloria. We dropped by Isidro’s house where we met his mom and brother, then Maggie showed us the school. We were very impressed and could tell that she is very dedicated to her work. Thank you, Maggie!

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After that, we had no agenda and just walked around taking pictures, eating and having a cervesa…or two…or three…okay, so I lost count. Maggie recommended Minino’s for ceviche, so we tried their ceviche de caracol (conch). Kind of a strange texture, but it was very good…even splitting one large serving between us was too much to eat. We did get some free entertainment while we were there, however!

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We decided to get one of Romi’s scrumptious Margaritas for Happy Hour and ended up getting three each. (Hey, they’re two for one, so what the heck?) We were just about the only ones there, so we had a nice talk with Romi and got some feedback about how the natives feel about all the changes on the island. It is a sad situation with the “Squatters” and I can only hope they get something out of this rather than having to give everything up. That was the subject of discussion as we went on to Picus for dinner and the view.

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Day three…first stop is Alexia & Geovanny’s for Huevos Motulenos…our favorite breakfast. Delicious as usual.

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Then off to the beach. The weather was absolutely gorgeous…mid to upper 80’s and not nearly as humid so my hair didn’t look like some kind of frizzy alien on the top of my head like it did the first two times I was there. Not a drop of rain and the clouds were great for picture-taking. We initially got chairs at Chi Chi’s & Charlie’s and then found out that they wanted 150 pesos so we moved on to Sergio’s. None of the waiters came down to ask us if we wanted anything (maybe because that part of the beach is so big now) so we stayed there for a couple hours without having to pay anything. We then took a walk along Playa Norte to see what it was like. Considering how much beach has been lost there, it looks kind of congested between all the chairs, sandbags and fenceposts.

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Playa Sol, however, has PLENTY of beach!

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Neither one of us had ever been inside the Avalon so we decided to check it out and were very impressed. Even though we don’t go for the all-inclusive deals, it would be a very quiet, serene place to stay. The condos in the back are gorgeous with spectacular views. We asked how much the rooms in the hotel were and she quoted $125 per person per night for all inclusive and $250 a night non-inclusive for just the room. Maybe someday.

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Maggie had told us that some people were getting together at Sancocho’s Grill on Sunday to watch the Bears/Packers game, so we stopped by to say ‘hi’ and watch for awhile on the world’s smallest barstools. It wasn’t a good day for the Packers. Considering how cold it looked in Chicago, it made us appreciate where we were watching it from.

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Back to Picus for lobster…and mashed potatoes??? What’s up with that??? You have to hand it to them for trying them I guess. They definitely have the best price for lobster on the island…and, of course, it’s yummo.

Day Four…our last full day on Isla…**sigh** More picture-taking and breakfast at El Meson del Bucanero’s. Gil has huevos motulenos again…I had huevos divorciados…”divorced” eggs with salsas the colors of the Mexican flag. I had never had them before…they were great. I wish I would have gotten a picture, but I guess I was too busy enjoying it.

Just walked around for the rest of the day. A big “Pirates of the Caribbean”-type ship was docked at the pier. No sign of Jack Sparrow, but it presented some good photo ops.

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More miscellaneous island pics…

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And Gil ran into some old diving buddies.

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We had Christmas Eve dinner at Viva Cuba Libre. Their Mojitos are great and we split a Cuban chicken sandwich for 85 pesos which was still too much for me to finish. Total bill was 200 pesos and that included two cervesas as well. The sandwich was excellent and very authentic…we would definitely recommend this place.

We had to get up early for our flight the next morning, so it was an early evening…or so I thought. Being Christmas Eve, the islanders partied heartily ALL night. Music and lots of noise, so it was difficult to sleep. But as Gil reminded me, it IS their island. There were still a lot of people on the beach when I walked down to the 7-11 for coffee at 6:30 a.m., so the party was still going strong on Christmas Day. It’s always a pleasure to see this friendly face while you’re waiting for “mas café” to brew.

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We didn’t know what was going to happen regarding our immigration issue so we wanted to get to the airport with plenty of time to spare just in case. We caught the 8:00 ferry and took the obligatory “Goodbye Isla” photos.

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The airport was almost empty, so Gil went up to the ticket counter and explained what happened on our way down to Mexico. The women asked another ticket agent next to her whether she should send us to immigration. This woman just said, “Nah…just let them through.” ????? Well, I wouldn’t want that to happen again, but it made for an interesting trip I suppose.

We flew out of the new terminal this time and were disappointed at the high prices. In the past, I looked forward to going through the gift shop in the old terminal because of the variety and reasonable prices. Not the case at the new one. We had breakfast at Johnny Rocket’s…definitely the WORST breakfast we’ve ever had anywhere. Cold potatoes, and their “sausage” was equivalent to a bad hot dog. All for $20.00. I guess we should have tried…

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…instead.

This time our connecting flight was in Houston. The TSA customs attendant asked if I was carrying any lotions or liquids in my carry-on. I’m sorry, but I ask you what woman in the free world is NOT going to be traveling with lotions or liquids excuse me very much???? So when I opened my suitcase to show him, I was apparently supposed to have all liquids in a quart-sized baggie and not the gallon-sized one I had. (Of course, the attendant who pat-searched me on the way down didn’t say a thing about my gallon-sized baggie, but I guess that’s beside the point.) So while I’m going through everything, he’s telling me that medicinal items and contact solutions don’t count, while the people in line behind me are impatiently waiting…aarrgghh!! I ended up having to throw some things away. Definitely not my best traveling experience with TSA this time. Gil, of course, didn’t have any problems…go figure. **sigh**

Oh, well, it was all worth it for another trip to paradise.

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