TRIP REPORT – PART ONE
February 21 – March 1, 2005
Gail in New York State (NYS)
Monday, 2/21/05 - Departed NY in a snow storm. Though other planes departed on time, my flight, on US Air, left 1 ½ hours late. On top of that, we sat for ½ hour on the runway in Phila. Because there was no place to dock the plane at the terminal! Missed my connection in Phila. got a later plane, which took off 2 ½ hours late First, they waited for late coming planes to arrive. Then we sat on the runway until 35 planes took off before us – you could see them all lined up down the runways. What a mess!
I arrived in Cancun at 3:15 PM instead of the 11:15 AM I had planned. The airport was a ZOO. A conservative estimate would be about 1,000 people on line for immigration, coming in from both sides. It was the first time in 7 visits to Cancun airport I have ever had to take a shuttle bus to the terminal. When I got to immigration, I mentioned to the official what a busy day it was – he said it wasn’t that bad – they only had 60 planes in on Monday – they had had 120 on the previous Saturday!!! I have never gone down to the Yucatan in the winter before – only summer – so seeing the airport so crowded was quite a shock! By the time we got through immigration, all luggage was delivered and going through the stop lights was a no-hassle deal. My poor driver from Avicar had waited for me for two hours! Ferried over, had a wonderful bicycle drive take me to my hotel and CARRIED MY THREE PIECES OF LUGGAGE UP FOUR FLIGHTS OF STAIRS!!! I was so grateful, I gave him $10, which I have been told was a bit much, but I was so happy I didn’t have to carry all that stuff upstairs!
I think I finally arrived at Bucanero’s around 5:30 PM. By this time I was nauseous – tired, hot, hungry – sum total of food, since 3 AM that morning had been one apple, one protein bar and two Oreo cookies. (They don’t feed you on planes any more – except for the Oreo cookies!) My room was on the 4th floor (they call it the third – ha!!) I dragged myself up there and collapsed. It had been a long day!
Kathryn from Travelfrom.com was able to find me a room at Bucanero’s due to a cancellation – I was so grateful, as I only decided two weeks earlier to go down…and the island is, indeed, jam-packed! I had not stayed at Bucanero’s before; the place is lovely (except for being on the 4th floor). Evidently every room in the hotel is a little different size and shape. I can say the room was spotlessly clean, tiles and paint looked very fresh. Not fancy, fancy, but certainly had everything I needed – also a/c and cable TV…I would recommend this place if you want to be in the heart of El Centro…it was nice to walk out of the hotel and be in the midst of “the action”! And just a few short blocks to the beach….
After a nap, a shower, and some organizational time, I went down to find something that would not send my tummy in to a tailspin. Amigo’s Sopa di Lima, along with that great garlic-flavored puffy bread was the perfect antidote for my upset tummy. Mexico’s version of Chicken Soup for the Soul! I can’t tell you how much better I felt after that comforting, filling bowl of deliciousness! Amigo’s is a great place, BTW, we ate there last summer, I had two dinners and a breakfast there – I really like the place! By now I was pooped – to bed!
Tuesday, 2/22/05 – Determined to eat at places I had been hearing about on the board and had missed on our first visit, I walked down to the French Bistro for breakfast. Being sensitive to my stomach, which did feel so much better, I decided to be kind and had the yogurt, fresh fruit and granola. Wonderful, loved it. Their yogurt does not have that little bitter after-taste ours has. It was very good, as was the coffee.
Finally, TO THE BEACH! I walk over to Sergio’s and there, standing right next to his bar, is the famous Sergio himself! I had not met him before but had seen his pictures on the board. I introduced myself as a “message boarder” and he was most gracious and welcoming. I asked about Marianne, who had told me on the board this was the place where she could be found – he told me to look for the tannest person on the beach – and there she was! I felt like I had just completed a treasure hunt, finally meeting the Princess of Playa Sol – Marianne of Isla Button Fame! I had seen her picture, too, on the board…and I was anxious to find out how she had made out at the dentist! She was wonderfully friendly and introduced me to all the other message boarders who were there that day….many, many – Ms Isla (Darcy), her mom, Colleen, Arlene, Freckles and hubby, and many others. It was a great day. Again went easy on the stomach, though I was feeling so much better…Only one margarita today, lots of agua purificada and an order of chicken tacos for lunch. Beautiful beach day!
Back to hotel about 4 – shower and siesta. Met two message boarders, Rhonda and Jim from Syracuse, for dinner at 8 PM…it was their last or next to last night and we made arrangements to meet via the message board. Great couple, fellow NY Staters. They were staying at Ma Elena in the South End near Garrafon. They really loved the place and recommended it highly. I can’t remember the price, but it was very reasonable. It is family owned and they said they had rooms available. So those of you going on a moment’s notice, you might want to check this place out! Jim has a motorcycle at home, so he and Rhonda were very comfortable renting a motorbike for their two weeks on the island…which makes it easy to stay in the South, as well as more reasonably priced than golf cart rental. I think he said the bike was $20 a day and it was a nice one.
We had dinner at Bucanero’s – I had pollo con queso burritos and a margarita. Good food. We had a really nice visit together and hope to get together sometime in the future in NY…they walked me over to bank so I could get some pesos, then it was dreamland time for me…BTW, they roll up the sidewalks downtown about 10 PM – except for directly on Hildalgo, the side streets are deserted!!
Wednesday, 2/23/05 – Couldn’t help myself, back to French Bistro for breakfast, this time had the fruit-stuffed crepes – another great breakfast! Well, I promised myself no Hortensia this trip – I lied! After breakfast walked over to Hortensia for a beach cover-up. For those of you who don’t know, Hortensia has a little shop off the beaten track in the artisans’ market across from the Poc-Na Youth Hostel…on Carlos Lazo (?) (See MapChick’s Map!) She has all kinds of clothes you can buy ready made – but she will also make things to order and she has hundreds and hundreds of colors and patterns to choose from! I had three pants sets, two dresses and a beach top made last summer. I was on a budget this trip, but I am a Hortensia junkie and could not stay away! So, on my round-about way to the beach in front of Sergio’s, I make a pit stop at Hortensia’s for a new beach top – which she said she would have ready in the afternoon! Ah, paradise!
Back to Sergio’s - I am now in search of another message board friend. We had arranged to meet on the beach today…all I know is she will be wearing a hat that says “Christmas Tree Shops” on the top – my favorite store and her employer! We had commiserated with each other all weekend, fearful we would not get out of NY/Mass due to the snowstorm….and we both finally made it! Paula found me on the beach with Marianne and her entourage – and we never stopped talking for the next week! We heartily celebrate our accomplishment of arriving on Isla from the northern storms. I celebrate to the tune of 4 maragaritas and I am smashed on the way back to Bucanero’s.
Paula was traveling with hubby John, friend Marc, and Marc’s teenage daughters Page and Laura. Laura and Page were less than thrilled about the beach, the company and Isla Mujeres in general…they were bored – but all that took a DRAMATIC turn for the better as the days ahead unfolded! John and Marc go off fishing with Captain Tony…we convince the girls to get their hair braided on the beach…they love it, especially the price; they are astonished at how cheap it is! Score 1 point for Isla! Paula has the golf cart and offers me a ride down to Centro. Well, first she cannot get it into gear…then she can’t get it in to reverse…we beg the guy at the guardhouse at Nautibeach to let us make a u-turn in the circle, cuz Paula can’t back up…he laughs and lets us! I am now wondering if she will ever be able to turn the cart off, or will it be like that Kingston Trio song “The Man Who Never Returned”, riding beneath the streets of Boston forever – which we both burst out singing at the top of our lungs….with the embarrassed Page and Laura in the back seat!
I ask if we can swing past Hortensia’s for my beach dress….well, girls were quite taken with Hortensia – and it was Paula’s first visit to her, also. Girls each got little tiny wraparound skirts – of their chosen patterns - $5 each (of course they each wear size 2!!!) Hortensia gave each of us a little bracelet as a gift…Score 2 points for Hortensia…well, Isla not looking so boring anymore – we actually begin to see some teenage smiles! Yes, they do return to Hortensia at least two more times this week – and so do I!! Paula and company are staying at Big Jim’s house – so we plan on meeting there the next day, as we have been invited over by Jim via the message board.
I also gave Hortensia, her husband and brother pairs of the reading glasses I had brought down at Zina's suggestion. Zina said these are not to be found on Isla, and I got a great buy on them - the one in the metal tubes - for under $2.99 (with Paula's 20% discount!) at the Christmas Tree Shops here at home. Hortensia and the men absolutley loved them and I left a few more pairs for her friends. I had brought different strengths, so they could chose the ones best for them. It was such a small gift and yet so gratefully received. Stock up at the Dollar store and bring some of those to your Isla friends over 40 - they will love you for it!
Back to hotel, it’s now about 5 – siesta and shower – meeting another boarder for dinner at 8:30 PM – Kathryn from Iowa. We meet and again hit it off great. Another dinner at Bucanero’s, I had queso fundido – Mexico’s answer to fondue – loved it. Kathryn had organized a little mini caravan of other Iowans and Minnesotans to meet at the Ferry dock on Thursday morning. She did this on the message board, and I offered to share the cart with her….another meeting with someone who I felt I had known forever. It was wonderful! We plan to meet the next morning at 8:45 AM so we can go get the cart before things get too busy….off to bed about 10:30 PM.