These are things that would be helpful to know about me and February 2006. You may find reading my trip report as boring as hell because I relish in the simple things in life-a heart shaped stone that I may find on the beach, a subtle shade of purple that I might not have ever seen before in a sunrise, a new taste combination like the coconut, rum and fresh “juice man” orange juice cocktail that my sister Sue invented. God made life to revel in and I am so grateful for his attention to detail! The other reason I savoured was because this trip was an unexpected gift. My husband and son leave for a six week backpacking tour of Europe this month and all our family coffers were designated to this once in a life time adventure but my boss, an absolutely amazing woman, gave me the trip to Isla as a gift. I opened up every experience like untying the most precious present I had ever been given. The last reason and one that I suspect is shared by many board members (knowing of Big Jim and Carl’s recent concerns) is that I came to Isla for healing. The little group of us travelling together all required rejuvenation-healing of spirit, healing of thoughts and memories and healing of body and mind.
One of the many reasons why I love this part of Mexico is the accessibility from the centre of Canada. I woke up in my own bed (granted it was very early), took a ten minute ride to the airport, had my last Tim Horton’s coffee for a week, enjoyed an onboard movie, had some breakfast and before you know it I’m on Isla deciding what to eat for lunch! There is no time change from central Canada and so we did not have to cope with that odd sense of not knowing what time it was. As soon as Isla’s magic started to work on us, we ceased to care about time anyway. But knowing it was the same time at home; I was able to think about my kids getting off to school and work and was able to check in with my husband by email every morning. I loved this part of my day. I would make a pot of coffee, see the sunrise and then get caught up with my love of 24 years.
To and Fro
We were so impressed with the way the renovated Cancun Airport was laid out. We touched down at 10 :30 ish and it seemed as if we were on Isla in moments. I can’t say enough about AGI. I love the way they do business on a handshake and it is a handshake that you can trust. We shared the expense with another family from Winnipeg that we had met through the message board-Tom, Mary and their son. As we stepped out of the terminal, our driver was the first shining face we saw. When we got off the ferry for our return to the airport, it was exactly the same. Our driver waited for us right at the dock, loaded all our things and whisked us away. When there was a horrible traffic snare on the way to the airport he negotiated a side road that was a little bumpy and we were among the last to check in, but at least we made it. The ferry to and fro was spectacular as always. The first glimpse of the water is so astonishing. I wonder to myself why I don’t just get on the ferry while I am on Isla to enjoy the crossing for the shear pleasure of it. The water was just as exquisite on our return but I recall facing the sun to soak the last of warmth and vitamin D. Sure enough, we returned to Manitoba and the after effects of a snow storm. We dumped our luggage twice trying to push the cart through the snow to the car.
I was somewhat hesitant about staying on Hidalgo when last year I loved the tranquility of staying at Punta Sur. But as many of you predicted, I loved being in Centro. I could walk up from the beach for the comforts of my own bano and to pack up more beverages and snacks. And yet I could enjoy the solitude of Isla’s amazing sunrises and morning beach walks. It took me a total of three minutes to get to the sea wall in my pyjamas each morning. I would have to get the nice kid who slept behind the desk to unlock the front door for me and one morning the moon was still out. I enjoyed so many surprising comforts at Los Arcos; the security of the locked door and round the clock desk staff for one. As I have just begun that wonderful time of a woman’s life when I experience a sudden rise in my body temperature, I loved the air conditioning. I also appreciated the in room safe which the rest of my group who stayed at Roca Mar also enjoyed. The halls and rooms were immaculately clean -a tribute to the hard working housekeeping staff. There is a local girl who works the front desk who spoke perfect English who was particularly helpful-she even fetched ribs from the Sunday ribman for me when we decided to spend Sunday on Sac Bajo. The water pressure was perfect in the shower and the hot water plentiful. And who says you have to give up a view of the sea if you stay on Hidalgo? From my little third floor balcony I could see the ferries come and go to my left and see the sunset over Posada del Mar to my right. Being on the backside of the street also gave me a glimpse of local life. I loved my breakfasts of Brazil nut yoghurt with banana and mango from the market while sitting on my balcony and watching the world wake up. I shared the pleasure with fellow Canadians from Guelph who had the balcony next to me. I was so grateful that they had the same routine as me for the other rooms that surrounded me were another story. The shouting of F sharps till 3 am came from next door just in time to wake up the new born baby across the hall. Ear plugs did come in handy.
Since the rest of my gang was at Roca Mar I enjoyed the very best of both worlds. I was invited to breakfast on our first day when they had the corner suite on the third floor. The view and the sound of the crashing waves were exhilarating. I would also join them for lazy times swinging in the hammocks around their white washed pool area. They loved these attributes as well as the location so close to the square, the 24 hour coffee urn on each floor and the breeze that blew constantly through their room. They were willing to overlook the drawers and doors that would not close for the convenience to the supermacado and the lulling sound of the waves each night. They said it was like staying downtown and in the country at the same time.
The girls did not even hear the sounds from the square during Carnival. I on the other hand, thought that the sound of the amplified base would be permanently etched into my consciousness. It did not effect my sleep though as every day was so full of exercise and stimulation and liquor! We bought a table to watch the crowning of the queen and her attendants that is the traditional kick off to Carnival. Of all the sights and sounds that we loved about the week long celebration, that evening was our least favourite. It started almost two hours late, went on way too long and the crowd became really congested and we got claustrophobic. We were all amazed that so much work must have gone into costumes and choreography and then no one seemed to mind when performers sat right on the middle of the stage, congested the entrance ways and an intoxicated local tried to work his selling of seashells into a dance number. But, how does a community suffering the after effects of a devastating hurricane afford the costumes for Carnival, the likes I have only seen in a Vegas review or at the famed Copa Cabana in Havana? We were very generous when they passed their hat around after their street performances as we felt the burden of this expense. Those performances were our favourite part of Carnival. We had a perfectly elevated table one night at Pizza Rolandi where we sipped our wine, enjoyed sumptuous pasta and watched the most delightful dance pieces right in front of us. The older ladies in lime green and hot pink were our favourite. Their faces lit up with the delight of remembering their steps and grooving to the natural rhythms. They would take little breaks when they would remove their headdresses, wipe their brows, chug a coke and then do it all over again.
When my check into Los Arcos was detained that first afternoon, we headed right down to the Sunset Grill so that I could wait it out. We had our first ice cold beers, coconut shrimp, guacamole and shrimp fondue. Even though we probably would not recommend the latter, we were delighted with the rest. It was such a memorable time; we spent our last afternoon there as well. We repeated the food selections but quenched ourselves with Mojitos which we really enjoyed. There was a very talented band that serenaded us and I lingered after the others had gone home to shower so that I could see my last sunset, but I am getting ahead of myself. In between, we visited Lancheros, Zama and Dolphin Discovery. On my early morning solo walks I also loved the cove in front of Secreto to beach comb for the treasures that the sea was willing to provide. I found dozens of pieces of the old turquoise sea wall that had been worn smooth by the surf. I collected a handful of these and strung together a necklace that is a unique reminder of what the power of the sea can do both in a destructive and beautiful way. Another favourite day was spent on Playa Sol when we lazed under our umbrellas, feasting on pepitas and our special cheese sandwiches (made with that buttery Mexican cheese and lime mayonnaise) and buying cocktails to toast the stunning sunset and our comrades who had gathered in their favourite Mexican restaurant in Winnipeg to salute us at the same time.
We must admit that we grew weary of the shop keepers on Hidalgo who harassed us to enter their shop when we were just walking between hotels, but eventually we got smart. The shopkeepers were most aggressive when they knew that the day trippers were in town and were quite gentle with us when they knew we were not from Cancun. When one merchant called me cheap because I was not interested in making a purchase, I dragged the rest of the gang (who were about to make a purchase) out of there. When I returned on my own to shop at the end of our trip, he said “I remember you…”-I’m sure he did! We bought lime popsicles at the Navy Store and wonderful dips and kettle chips as well as breakfast and lunch fixings at the Supermacado. Three of us bought white gauzy blouses at PEER and emptied our purses at Hortenza's. We had many outfits made for ourselves and as gifts and loaded up on her fairly priced jewellery and purses. The other girls brought gifts for Hortenza’s girls and she had enormous hugs in return. Found a great liquor store that had a nice selection of foreign wines at reasonable prices.
The end of February was a perfect time to meet up with message board folk. Mary Law and I had been communicating since December when we discovered that we were checking into Los Arcos on the same day. She made the anticipation of the trip that much more exciting as we counted down sleeps and the stories of our lives were told in dollops. When we met up at Jax on our first night, even her husband thought we looked like sisters! When Mary and I individually met Jean (of Jean/Rich from the message board) she mistakenly thought I was Mary! Mary‘s family moved to Casa Mimosa after a few days, as it is owned by good friends of hers. We toured the Villa the following week. OH MY WORD! What an amazingly designed and decorated home. Some day in my wildest dreams…. Jean and Rich were at Los Arcos as well and we often visited in the hotel lobby. What a lovely lady. I could not believe that she has all those grandkids. Judy and Clyde also stayed at Los Arcos because they had just sold their condo at Garrafon. Judy was the first person we had met on the ferry to Isla the previous year. I purchased many of Clyde’s wonderful watercolour gift cards and framed them as memories of my 2005 trip. We had a great chat on the morning that they left Isla after a one month stay. I also enjoyed meeting Cheryl from Utah (who was also on her own) across the hall. I introduced myself to Doris (Doreese) and Kathryn from Kathryn’s Travel (the reason why I distinguish myself as Kathryne with an E) at the Fat Tuesday fund-raiser. In addition, we met Maggie (Magnolia) that night from our home town. She was also a cyber friend from the message board but we didn’t bump into her anywhere in Centro until that night. Other new friends were Sally and Gail from Oregon. We met them at Zama and asked them to join us to share a glass of Merlot from our golf cart before we headed back to town. We had such a fun time laughing with them at the side of the road that one of the staff from the spa at Zama had to come out and shush us up. I also loved meeting Magdalena from New Orleans. She had a lovely spirit and shared my enthusiasm for early morning beach scavenging. Her treasure was collecting lavender sea glass, a subtle colour I had never seen in glass.
Where do I begin? We tried everything!: Cazuelas at M&Js, French toast, fruit crepes and Spanish omelettes at he French Bistro, ribs from the Sunday Rib Man, rotisserie chicken from the stand on Hidalgo, tacos pastor at Tacos Campos, grilled pork on buns with all the fixings cooked right on the basketball court, Chiles Relleno and homemade fries at La Lomita, lobster tails at Manolas, mixed Ceviche and garlic shrimp at Miramar, ham and fresh pineapple two for one pizza from Pizza Rock, even the all you can eat buffet at Dolphin Discovery. There were a few disappointments-the burgers at Jax that may not have been fully cooked, that there was no lobster or octopus on the seafood kabobs at Manolas as promised and the shocking experience that Betty had when she mistook green chile sauce for guacamole at La Lomita. But the highlights more than outweighed the negatives. We were ga ga for the homemade banana and mango ice cream we had at the little gallery we found on a side street in Centro as well as the coconut ice cream with Kahlua at Pizza Rolandis. I also loved the chamomile tea with a squeeze of lime instead of lemon that was also served to me there. Other reflections in no particular order….
• the amazing colours that the locals paint their homes in Centro
• the mama who approaches the tourists on the beach carrying her palsied child in her arms
• the birds that look like crows that have such awful cries back home, sing like angels on Isla
• how fun it is and yet how silly you feel whizzing along in the back of a golf cart along the airport strip
• feeling like a local when riding the bus that winds through the Colonias
• how fast I could walk pulling my luggage on arrival day and how slowly I ambled to the ferry on departure day
• the tears that were shed while we said grace over our last Isla meal
• Isla gave me so much joy it overflowed into every part of my life
A Mayan friend gave me this phrase to say when we raised our first cervesas. We said it over and over and over again that week in February 2006:
Salude, Dinero, Amor!
Amigos para siempre...
Health, Prosperity, Love