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Vacation Journal
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Remembering Isla

By: Diane in IA
Date: 11/10/2002

Isla Mujeres Trip Report June 7-14, 2002

¡HOLA! Mike and I made our third trip to Isla this past week. We are both teachers. Previous trips were June 2000 and June 2001.

Needless to say we had a great time. The only snag was that our can opener didn’t work on the bottles of deliciously chilled León Negra. This forced us to traipse all the way out to the pool bar (at least 40 feet!) to use the opener mounted on the cooler. How distressing! The beers surely warmed a few degrees.

TRANSPORTATION We used an MLT charter out of Minneapolis, direct and non-stop. Even got to Cancun early. Return was delayed a bit due to waiting for the mechanic to fix a broken latch on a tray table. He arrived with duct tape and scissors and made a speedy repair.

Best Day was not what I expected. We waited 20 minutes for a van to arrive and then ended up going through the hotel zone, wasting more time. We’d never seen the zone before and sincerely hope to avoid it in the future.

Taxi back to the airport was 140 p plus a tip. We arrived over two hours before departure and found ourselves at the end of a very long line. Only one group was behind us. They were searching all bags. Luckily for her, the lady was wearing rubber gloves. My return packing consisted of stuffing all the dirty clothes into the checked bag. Lo siento. We joked a little about nose plugs. We figured we would be seated apart, but the ticket agent told us “primera clase.” By some miracle we ended up in row two. ¡Muchas gracias!

Taxis on Isla were great. Ten pesos around town. It was 34 p to the Hotel Garrafón de Castilla. Very easy to flag down a taxi when we wanted one.

HOTELS We stayed at Posada del Mar the first night. They were not honoring the web-advertised solidarity deal. Still a good deal though. We stayed in a bungalow with a great bathroom. Very nice walk-in shower with pretty tile accents, especially around the doorway. Very clean, spacious, and lots of storage. We even had a slight ocean view. A mini fridge and some paint would be perfection.

We checked out the hotels along Playa Norte. Media Luna was doing some remodeling and offered a discount as a comp for the noise. We’d gain a fridge, patio, continental breakfast, and a great view by moving to Media Luna. The next morning Wizer drove us over to the Posada and helped us haul our luggage back on the golfcart.

Media Luna continues to make improvements. Water coolers are now on all three floors. New lamps above the two beds brightened up the room a lot and were great for reading. There was a phone and four new drawers below the safe. More comfortable chairs were on the terrace for relaxing to the soul soothing music of the crashing waves. We were on the ground floor (#12) this time. Turned out to be very convenient and still a great view.

The coffee was ready early, and I could slip out and get a cup to enjoy before sunrise. The resident kitty, Cindy, visited me almost every morning for the sunrise. Cindy was very sweet, but occasionally she’d yowl and roll about vigorously. Either she was in heat or had fleas.

The sunrises were great. The sky would be inky black and subtly change to hues of blue punctuated by low clouds. Gradually shades of yellow and pink sliced through the clouds followed by intense sunlight. Then Martin would make his rounds, unlocking doors and shutting off the security lights.

The continental breakfast was good: fresh fruits, sweet breads, toast, juice, and coffee or tea. Mike likes breakfast, so we skipped this some mornings in favor of heartier fare in town.

The shortcut down the dirt road to the lagoon by Avalon has been fenced off, but one can walk around on the beach. Just be sure to wear shoes due to some rough rocks.

WEATHER We were told that there was a lot of rain the three days prior to our arrival. It was hot and sunny on most days. The last couple days there were some afternoon showers and one very spectacular thunderstorm before dawn which I watched from the terrace as torrents of rain poured down and bolts of lightning arched across the sky. The waves doubled in size and competed with the booming thunder.

SNORKELING We took a tour to Contoy. (300 pesos p/p) This was a very nice trip. Well organized and lots of fun. The man at the official tourist office at #130 Rueda Medina recommended La Isleña Tours, just around the corner on Morelos.

We met TexGal and a young woman from England. They both had interesting travel adventures to share. Thirteen people had booked the excursion, so we went on two small boats. We enjoyed the scenery as we motored away from Isla and along the coast of Isla Blanca.

We snorkeled a Ixlaches Reef. There was quite a variety of coral and sea fans. Very colorful and seemed to be in pretty good shape. There were some huge starfish and a good variety of fish. I swear a small royal blue one had silver speckles.

Contoy looked like a tropical paradise. Lots of palms, white sandy beaches, mangroves, jungle, and small green hills all accented by the incredible blue water and circling flocks of birds. A pirate ship was pulling in which completed the scene.

We explored the trails, admired the small displays of marine life, and marveled at the many different lizards and huge hermit crabs. We lounged on the beach and watched the southern stingrays swim past. They brushed our calves like Cindy the cat but with creamy white velvet wings, smooth as silk.

Lunch was delicious grilled fish, fresh fruit, chips and salsa, rice, and great guacamole. After a siesta, we returned to Isla. The ride back looked like it would be a wet one, but the crew quickly pulled down a tarp. One of the guys was a lot like our nephew Nick...if Nick were a short Mayan guy. He had the same grin and impish eyes. We liked him immediately. Overall a very good deal for only 300 p each.

HOTEL GARRAFÓN de CASTILLA We spent a morning snorkeling at their beach club for 20 pesos p/p. Nice place to spend the day. Clean bathrooms, pretty gardens, loungers, and showers made it very comfortable. There were many fish under the dock and a few bits of coral growing on the dock supports. The sergeant majors were especially curious and swam into view whenever I looked through the camera. Maybe they thought the green camera was food.

Last year I had taken several pictures of their gardens. I had twin prints, so I gave the desk clerk some of those shots. It was an interesting reaction, similar to Lupe’s when I gave her the picture of Playa Sol. A curious glance, a surprised smile, followed by close scrutiny of the details in the picture noting changes from last year.

AVALON SHORELINE The morning of the big thunderstorm, we waded across the lagoon to the rocky shore. It was still overcast and the water was stirred up, so the snorkeling was not very good. A calm, sunny day would probably improve it. We did see a huge starfish and several spiny urchins, so be careful if you wade there.

MEALS We are both teachers, so our rating system consisted of letter grades based on our “gut” reaction. We might be easy graders with our students, but a meal had to be VERY outstanding to get an A.

DAYSAYUNO
Mike’s favorite meal of the day, especially when he had more than the continental breakfast at the hotel.
@ Amigos Popeye omelet, A-, 25 p; eggs Motuleños, B, 25 p
@ M & J Holbox omelet, B+, 45 p; Mayan crepes, B+, 40 p
@ French Bistro playa especial (3 eggs, roasted potatoes, toast, coffee, juice), A, 36 p; banana crepes con café y jugo, A, 36 p (Watch the specials board at the French Bistro for some great deals.)
@ Municipal Market Thanks to Freckles for suggesting the fresh squeezed orange juice from the juice man and the salbutes in the back food court. These made an excellent to go breakfast on our last day. We also bought small stacks of fresh tortillas. A half peso resulted in 10-15 tortillas. I usually shared with the cats and dogs.
@ Torta Stand pork sandwich, A, 12 p (Don’t know if this was the secret stand or not, but it was very tasty.)

ALMUERZO
@ Playa Sol hot dog and fries, B+, 25 p; ham and cheese burritos, B-, 35 p
@ Poc Chuc Cuban torta, B+, 20 p; panuchos, B, 18 p
@ Isla Tequila quesadillas, B+, 25 p
@ Playa Sol tik n xic buffet, A-, 60 p
@ Lonchería Alexía y Geovanny chuleta Mexicana, B, 35 p, pollo en verde salsa, A, 35 p. Both meals came with rice, tortillas, and black bean refritos, A+.
@ Contoy grilled fish, B+; chips, salsa, guacamole, A; rice, B-
@ La Lomita pollo en mole, A, 30 p; albóndigas aka meatball sopa, B, 30 p (Both came with rice and tortillas.)

CENA
@ Amigos steak with roquefort sauce, A-, 80 p; whole baked fish, A+, 70 p (The side dish of rice, A+, was possibly the best rice I’ve ever eaten.)
@ La Lomita shrimp cerviche, B+, 50 p; garlic shrimp, B-, with bean soup, A-, 45 p
(Mike ordered a beer and she went out and bought him a cold one.)
@ Isla Tequila chicken burrito, C-, 59 p; beef burrito, B-, 59 p, 3 cervezas del día, 30 p (Our 148 p meal came to 173 p, but the bartender adjusted it with no problems.)
@ Don Chepo chicken problano, C, 80 p; hamburger y queso, B-, con papa fritos, A, 35 p
@ French Bistro chicken coq au vin, A+, 50 p; filet mignon, A, 55 p (Both meals came with delicious baked potatoes, rice, and very good bread warmed on the grill.)
@ Tonyo’s garlic shrimp, B, 100 p; pizza, A-, 55 p

SHOPPING
Check the little shop connected to the church if you want religious items.
Visit Lupita’s store just north of the Bucanero on Hidalgo. She has some beautiful cats including a blue-eyed Burmese. Very sweet lady.
Naval store had añejo Bacardi for 20-30 pesos less than the grocery stores. A liter bottle of xtabentun was only 50 p.
Stop at Captain Tony’s house to buy shells from his mom or dad. The 200 p abalone shells in other stores were 80 p. We didn’t bother with bargaining. Tony’s dad gave us another pretty shell as we were leaving. The two little girls who helped their mom cat sit for us loved the shells we bought for them.
Try the cookies and crackers available at the grocery stores. We brought back several packages for our cat sitters.
Avocados were about 15¢ at the market. We enjoyed them smashed up and spread on soda crackers along with cold León Negras.

MISCELLANEOUS
Exchange rate ranged from 9.52 to 9.60.
The block with Red Eye Cafe is now solid with restaurants and bars including four tacquerias.
An AT&T prepaid phone card worked great for calling home.
Food was cheap, so we often doubled our 20% tip, especially for good service. Only one place added a propina and tax. Apparently the added tip is customary in Europe, especially France, so many Europeans expect the tip as part of the bill.
Lupe at Sergio’s Playa Sol really hustles and does a great job waiting tables and tending bar at the same time.
I have fairly long hair and found a braid kept things under control. In the mornings I would wet down my hair with conditioner diluted in fresh water. This prevented the straw hair I developed last year. The outside fresh water showers at Sergio’s and soaking in the pool after a day at the beach also cleansed some of the saltwater.
Church was in the evenings at 8:00. More times on Sundays. I packed a dress, so we could attend. There are lots of goodies available after mass, especially on Saturdays and Sundays.
The cats and dogs were not interested in us unless I was passing out tortillas.


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