10 Days of Isla Paradise – Day 1
Preface: John and I have been to Isla twice before, once for our 25th wedding anniversary and again seven months later for a quick four day weekend alone. The kids heard so much about our visits that they really wanted to experience all the stories and pictures we shared with them. Funny as it sounds, with only two visits under our belt we felt completely comfortable and looked forward to sharing not only our own experiences but to go and experience pieces of Isla that we had not discovered before.
We set off to Isla on July 16th with four of our six children in tow. Kirstyn, our oldest and her fiancé Raffy, Kevin and Tera. Kirstyn and Raffy graduated from Western Michigan in April and are going to be married in November. Kevin graduated from high school this June and will be an aviation student at Western Michigan in the fall. Tera will finish her high school career and graduate next June. Although we wanted this to be an all family vacation, our daughter, Kate (senior at U of M) and son, John (incoming high school freshman) were not able to attend. That will be another adventure, maybe next summer.
Although we are “newbies” we have had such wonderful experiences on Isla with the people that we feel very comfortable and accepted by the locals. My Spanish, which is very poor, is improving with every visit and the locals always smile and put up with my horrible mistakes. I think that it is the people of Isla that make the island such a wonderful and comfortable place to visit. Yes, the food is wonderful, and I honestly can say we have rarely had a meal that was not wonderful. But without the “tolerant” locals Isla would not be so inviting and such an amazing place to visit and return to time after time.
With that said, (blah, blah, blah) I will get into my trip report.
We left on Wednesday July 16th from Detroit Metro Airport at 7:30AM. We live 40+ minutes from the airport and so we were at Dunkin’ Donuts at approximately 4:30 for coffee, donuts and bagels. The flight was fine except that my hubbie, John got the red light at customs so we (the two younger children and us) were pulled to the side and our bags were opened. Gotta say the method of searching on this day involved lifting up a shirt or two and then closing up the bag so the experience was, overall, pretty simple.
We used USA Transfers ($75 round trip for up to 10 people) for our transportation to Juarez Puerto. They were right outside, very polite and organized. We were in our van and on our way to the ferry quickly. Gotta love the Mexican drivers! We were amazed at the amount of new construction since our last visit in February of 2007. We were also amazed at the SAME construction that we saw in Feb. ’07! John and I are old enough to remember when cars started coming with seat belts. The back of pick up trucks, full of men on the way, to a job still get our attention. As do the old VW bugs!
We were at the ferry by 11:30AM and made that boat! The kids were very quiet taking in all the sounds, sites and people. Kirstyn, a Spanish major and Raffy, who’s family is Mexican were not as fazed as Kevin and Tera who had never been out of the US (Canada is our next door neighbor, so that doesn’t count). The sun was shining and the boat ride was uneventful. The kids could not get over how BLUE the water was! New Jersey just doesn’t make the cut on water color here. Everyone was very excited to get our adventure started!
We got off the ferry and went to Playa Almendros to check in.
Sorry, this is small.....Im learning (the hard way?)
We were hoping, and happy to find, that one of our rooms was all ready for us. We put all our bags in that room and headed right for Picus. This is where John and I have started our Isla visit the last two times and the kids were excited to have the fresh seafood we keep bragging about.
We asked for and were seated in the sand right on the edge of the water. While we waited for our appetizers we watched three men in a fishing boat prepare fish for Picus. They were gutting (throwing the innards for the pelicans), halving and filleting these huge fish and then bringing them from the boat to the kitchen. Pretty amazing to watch! Now that is FRESH! The kids were in awe…… We had guacamole and pico (sorry, no pictures) while we waited (plus a couple of cervesa and a number of Cokes).
We ordered fish tacos,
two grilled garlic snapper (I cant believe I forgot to take a picture!),
steak tacos and breaded chicken. (Total bill, including appetizers, meals, cervasa and multiple Cokes, with tip, was $57)
As you can see by the pictures John and Raffy had a great time playing with the leftover snapper. Wow! They have big teeth for such a small fish! Everything was fabulous at Picus!
After lunch we returned to Almendros, where our rooms were ready. We spent some time unpacking, playing in the pool and getting adjusted to our wonderful 10 days of bliss! We went down to El Centro to the Super Express to stock up on water, beer, pop and some snacks. While we were there we walked up to the walkway on the Caribbean side and took some pictures of the kids, the water and Roca Mar which is in big time renovations. With our supplies in hand we walked back to our hotel, stashed them away and headed for North Beach. Everyone, with the exception of Sergio’s was charging for lounge chairs and umbrellas, even though we were willing to eat and drink. So we sat at Sergio’s with cervesa and drinks and enjoyed the water and sun. After a few hours we returned to Almendros to find Anna Douglas, from PEACE, at the entrance. We had been in contact with her and had brought down donations for LGES, LYSH, Isla Animals and PEACE. She was our contact person and had organized visits to all our destinations. Anna is wonderful and a great resource for activities on Isla! We talked, showed her our donations and (later) decided to meet with her on Tuesday to deliver our “goods” with her. We got ready for dinner and decided that Chili Loco would be our first night dinner.
I can’t believe I didn’t write down what we had but it was fantastic! If my memory serves me right three of the guys had enchilada suiza, which was spicy but good. Kirstyn, who is allergic to shellfish, had the chili rellenos san shrimp. That was great too!
After dinner we went across the street to Cool. We had sorbet and sherbet which were AWESOME! I had the strawberry and it was fabulous! After a lot of energy and an early morning, we went back to the hotel and called it an early night. (The kids spent A LOT of time at Cool. Bummer it was so close! I think Tera was there at least once a day!) The kids may have gone swimming but, to be honest, after such an early morning, even a hard “Mexican” bed was a joy! (Actually, Almendros has very nice beds and pillows. They are hard, but we have had harder!) Tomorrow, OK maybe the next day, I will continue our adventure.