Friday, January 23, 2015

The Price of Dreaming

White sand beach near Hotel del Posada - original lighthouse
Most of us like to dream about a holiday away, somewhere different than our home town or city, perhaps someplace warm to break up the chill of the winter months. 
Dreaming costs money!
Until a month ago our number three spot in readership was held by Russia, just behind the USA and Mexico. Now, with the ruble in a free fall against the American dollar and other world currencies, they barely register anymore on our daily and weekly totals. I guess their vacation dreams have been dashed by the economic downturn.
Tarzan's on the Beach
On the other hand, until a few weeks ago when France was attacked by terrorists we had very few followers of this blog from that country. Suddenly, the French readership has increased dramatically. You would think that they would be hunkering down at home, instead of dreaming of vacations in the Caribbean.

Harbour with Navy boats, and car ferry
Scratching our heads over the sudden shift in readership we compared, via various internet sites, wages and cost of living in Mexico and France. The average monthly wage, after taxes, in France is around $2700.00 (USD) but everything - except of course the nationally protected French wine and bread - is much more expensive than Mexico.
Kite surfing at Playa Norte
Then, when we compared the basic cost of living in either Mexico or Russia a few surprising details stood out. First the average monthly salary for workers in both countries was very similar, hitting around $700.00 (USD). The basic foods such as vegetables, meat, eggs, and bread are similar in prices, but the Russians pay much more for rental accommodation, entertainment, restaurant meals, clothing and utilities. If that's the case there is very little money available for vacations.
The public walkway on south-east side of island
Looking at our readership numbers again caused a bit more head scratching, the Czech Republic followers have also increased substantially in the recent weeks. So, once again we compared the basic average wages and cost of living. The average worked in the Czech Republic earns around $1000.00 USD, but their expenses are slightly higher than in Mexico. It's pretty much evens out.
Sand and sun and surf - Playa Norte
Figuring out why the sudden decline in Russian readership was easy. They have less money to spend on non-essentials. But deciphering why the followers in France and the Czech Republic have dramatically increased ….. not a clue! I guess they finally discovered this part of Mexico, this little island paradise.

Beautiful gate painted tropical orange
Weekly we write about living in paradise on a tropical island, and we love it here, but it is not about a place so much as it is about an individual paradise. Whether your paradise is spending time with family, friends, your favourite critter, a great glass of wine or just relaxing, life is meant to be enjoyed.
Where ever you live, keep dreaming! Eventually your dreams will materialize. We all have our personal notes from paradise.

Hasta Luego
Lynda and Lawrie
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Wbeymar & Karina, a new enterprise

Vivid colours of sunflower yellow, tangerine, and turquoise blue entice passersby into the newly opened Caribbean Brisas Restaurant. 
Recently opened - Caribbean Brisas
Located on the eastern perimeter road about four blocks south of our house, it's a great place for good food and fun people-watching.

Wbeymar Maldonado Silva and Karina Avila Gonzalez, owners of the original Brisas Grill, located on the beach on the west side of Isla opened a second locale this week. 
The new eatery features a simpler menu, with some of the favourites from their original restaurant: fajitas, ceviche, salads, grilled fish and pasta. Wbeymar also added a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich and other snack-type foods that can be enjoyed while basking in the afternoon sun on their large patio.
Wbeymar & Karina
Born on Isla, Wbeymar and Karina were high school sweethearts. They have been married for almost nineteen years and are still happily in love. 
They have three charming children, a son and two daughters. Other family members also live on the island: Wbeymar has two brothers and four sisters, while Karina has one brother.

Evening at Caribbean Brisas - photo from the FB page
Wbeymar has been in the restaurant business for most of his working career, starting at Na Balam as a dishwasher and working his way up to captain of the waiters. 
From there he moved on to the two Rolandi locations, the restaurant on Hidalgo Avenue, and the hotel restaurant in Sac Bajo. 
His next career was at Garafon National Reef Park as the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager.
My favourite Sopa de Limon - available at both locations
Eventually he decided to get involved with owning and operating a business, partnering up with Angelo in their original smaller location on Hidalgo. 
When they parted company Wbeymar and Karina took the plunge and started their own restaurant , Brisas Grill located on the beach a little bit south of Ballyhoo.  

Coming up to their 6th anniversary in business they decided to diversify a little and open a second location – Caribbean Brisas.
Evening at Caribbean Brisas - photo from the FB page
The original Brisas Grill on the beach is still our favourite place to sit with our toes in the sand, watching the boats come and go in the harbour while sharing a tasty meal. However the new location is a nice easy walk from our house, so this might become a new favourite of ours.
If you are touring around the island, stop in and give them a try.
Good food, and very nice people!
Hasta Luego

Lynda and Lawrie

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Unique souvenirs of Isla

A photograph of an iconic location on Isla - great souvenir!
Displays of delicate seaglass jewelery, stacks of quirky hand-painted signs, decorating accessories, greeting cards, and hand-crafted clothing overflowed the tables, that vendors had set up in the municipal plaza in centro.

Another great souvenir - bilingual book
This month the Artists' Fair was held on the first Friday of the month, instead of the first Thursday – that being New Year's Day this year. Since the all-night New Year's Eve party in centro didn't wrap up until late in the morning, not many vendors or customers would have been able or willing to attend an art fair.
On Friday afternoon, Lawrie and I packed up a stack of books, a display table, chairs, tablecloths, banners and assorted other paraphernalia to set up our booth at the fair. It reminded us of when we were still working for a living, attending big conventions and trade shows, lugging in heavy boxes and display items. At least here the location is small and intimate, and we didn't have far to walk. We even planned ahead this time and had a small two-wheel hand-truck for the heavier items.
Island Girl - hand painted fun signs
The fair was busy with friends and tourists, cruising around to examine the various displays. A number of local restaurants had samples of their food for sale at ten pesos a taste. Barlito's, Gringo Burgers, Sonny's Pizza and Due Torri were some of the ones that we noticed - serving up yummy samples of wings, fries, burger bites, pizza, lasagna, and even apple pie. The idea was a big hit with the roving crowd.
Souvenir hunting tourists and locals
In our little location we enjoyed a steady stream of fans dropping by to say hello, or to purchase our book: The Adventures of Thomas the Cat – Las Aventuras de Tomás el Gato

Lior, Isabel and Maya - young fans!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story line of this first book, it begins with our adoption of a tiny stray kitten, and ends on Isla Mujeres with the grown-up Thomas making friends with a number of the local animals. 
Written in both English and Spanish, it makes a unique souvenir of your vacation to Isla Mujeres, and is a purrfect gift for the youngsters in your life. 
One charming young lady by the name of Isabel, stopped by to inform me that she owned a copy of the book, and had read it all by herself - several times. Impressive! Being avid readers ourselves, it makes us smile to know that youngsters still enjoy reading.
Sandra showcasing her Yesterday's News handmade items
The second book: The Adventures of Thomas and the Pirate, is scheduled to be published in October 2015. (I have ideas for many more books in the series.) Now if I could only convince Thomas to do personal appearances …....
Whatever your preference for a souvenir, or a keepsake, the Artists' Fair is a great location to find that special item, for you or a friend.
Come join the fun at the next one: Thursday February 5th. We'll see you there!
Brenda LaMonica and Eileen Regn - lots of great ideas for gifts
BadAss Billy Greeting cards - he is the model all the cards

Hasta Luego
Lynda and Lawrie

This week's photo credits: Marcy Watt, Lynda Lock and Tiffany Yenawine Wareing

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Making kids, big and small, smile

Freddy Medina & Yadira Velazquez 
"Santa! Elmo! Mickey! Minnie! Batman!” dozens of little kids ran giggling and laughing towards the parade. 
Participants riding in the decorated vehicles tossed glow sticks, small gifts, and candies into the shrieking hoards.
This was the second year that Freddy Medina and Yadira Medina Velázquez asked us to participate in a Christmas parade wearing the Mickey and Minnie Mouse costumes that were originally purchased for a Hallowe'en party at Villa la Bella. 
Marcy and Chuck - our drivers
The costumes are hot, clumsy, and exhausting to wear but when we see the smiles on the faces of the kids it's well worth the trouble. Behind our foam mascot-heads Lawrie and I were grinning from ear to ear – not that anyone could see our smiles.
Our good friends Chuck and Marcy Watt again volunteered to be our drivers, plus enlisting their visiting friends John and Di Worhaug as the official candy-tossers for our golf carts. Numerous other friends joined in with decorated golf carts, or rode the funny bus. Too much fun!

A little Minnie Mouse!
The collection of vehicles assembled at a wide spot in the road, next door to our house. Everyone was on time! Wow! 
And this year we had two motorcycle policemen assisting at intersections, keeping the parade vehicles together. 

At six in the evening we started off with a flotilla of fifteen decorated vehicles and a collection of motorcycles.
No one had any idea where the parade route would take us. The bus driver and his navigator were responsible for deciding the route. 
It all depended on whether or not the bus could fit in a particular street, or if it would be too narrow. 

Dick, Tony, Paul and Mim
Even with these precautions the folks riding on the top of the bus had to duck a few times to avoid low hanging electrical wires. 
The excitement was all part of the fun as one of the bus riders would yell: Down! 
And then: Okay, clear!

Barlow, Brad, Tiff and Lior
We began by heading south, winding through the various neighbourhoods, up and down streets, around the Super X-Press, past the parks: waving, waving and waving.  Ahead of our vehicle I could see Freddy (Elmo) dancing and waving the entire two hours. That takes a lot of stamina!

Julie, Patty and Deb

Eventually we turned north along Rueda Medina passing the various restaurants and hotels, still waving and having a great time. 

Anna Karina and Lazardo
At the Soggy Peso entrance the parade came to an abrupt stop while one of the ladies on the bus made a mad dash for the baños! Upon her smiling return off we went again, winding our way through Centro, turning the corner at Jax Restaurant and finishing at Brisas Grill on the beach. 
Wbeymar Maldonado and his wife Karina Avila hosted an extended Happy Hour at Brisas Grill for the motley crew, allowing us to unwind, and rehydrate.
As I gave Freddy a hug, and a thank-you kiss on the cheek, I realized he was soaked with perspiration, right through Elmo's thick red fur. 

Have a couple of cold beers my friend, you've earned it!
Freddy and Yadira 
Thanks again for including so many gringos in your fun. Our faces hurt from smiling!
Happy New Year to Everyone
Lynda and Lawrie

This week's photo credits: Deb Rosa Sirenas, Diana Worhaug, Kevin Petty, Marcy Watt, and the Medina family.
More happy participants
Tonda, Tuggi, Kay and Kevin

Mickey, Minnie, Luz Medina 

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Isla from a different perspective (Lawrie's turn to write!)

Enrique Lima Marina - early in the morning
I know, most visitors fly into Cancun and take a passenger ferry across to our island paradise, but if you are one of the adventurous ones, come in by boat, it's a very different perspective. 
Yes, there are some great places to berth your boat and have a good time.  

Looking towards Ballyhoo Restaurant
At the north end of the island is the Enrique Lima Marina, home of the Isla Mujeres Yacht Club, and commonly know as the El Muelle de la Gasolinera: Gas Dock. This marina is central to hotels, restaurants, bars and the Super X-Press grocery store. Located at the head of the docks is the Ballyhoo Restaurant, serving good food every day of the week.

Nice anchorage at entrance to inlet
As you travel south on the waterways past the passenger ferries, and the car ferry docks, you will see a number of reasonably protected spots to drop the hook, and anchor for a few days. If anchoring is not your style, keep traveling deeper into the inlet and you'll discover more marinas, bars, restaurants and several small hotels.

El Milagro Marina
The El Milagro Marina has good docks, a small pool, community kitchen and several hotel rooms right next door to the fishing co-operative, where fresh lobster can be purchased in season. 
It is also close to three fun bars: the Bahai Tortuga, the Soggy Peso Bar & Grill, and Barlito's.

Barlito's at Marina Paraiso Marina
Right next door to El Milagro, is the Marina Paraiso Hotel, featuring great food at Barlito's Restaurant. 
Marina Paraiso also has a sports bar, two very large swimming pools, a dive shop and a twenty room hotel for those nights when you really want a comfortable bed and a good hot shower.

Am I starting to get your attention now? Good!
New name for Villa Vera 
As you motor up this inlet, on the west-side of Isla you will pass a number of restaurants and bars all with a dock to tie up your dinghy should you wish to investigate this area later. 
Then deep inside the inlet – wow, a really big marina Puerto Isla, comes into view. This is the recently renamed Villa Vera Marina that was managed by Raintree Hotels. 
It is a large facility complete with traveling boat lift, fuel docks, restaurant, bar, and hotel. This marina is very well protected from severe weather and is a favourite hiding place for boats during hurricanes.

Big yachts at Puerto Isla Mujeres
Just past the Marina Puerto Isla are more economical places to berth a boat for the night, or for a longer period. 

Affordable and friendly Marina del Sol
The Marina Del Sol is basic but well run by great folks who care about their clients. Next is Oscar's Marina with the best pizza restaurant on the island. 
As the waterway narrows there are many tiny facilities that will allow boaters to berth at their docks for varying amounts of money.

Oscar's Marina & Restaurant - best darn pizza on Isla!

For a change of perspective come on over and explore the island by boat. 
It's a whole other view of living in paradise.

Happy New Year to Everyone
Lynda and Lawrie

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas in the Caribbean

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Isla gave to me:

Twelve Boats a Bobbing:

I wonder if Santa Claus could fit one of these beauties in Lawrie's stocking?

Any Sunday afternoon at North Beach a collection of yachts and mega-yachts can be seen anchored just off shore while their passengers enjoy a dip in the warm aqua-coloured sea water. These yachts are a fairly recent phenomenon as Isla was originally a fishing community. Walk any beach on the west side of the island and you will see numerous small multi-coloured panga-style boats pulled up on the beaches waiting for the work day to begin.

Loungers Laying:

Starting at seven in the morning the employees of the beach restaurants and bars begin to get organized for the day, setting out sun loungers and umbrellas for potential customers. 

Every business has their own colours to identify their area. Waiters will deliver food and drinks to the loungers allowing holiday travellers to just relax and enjoy the sun, sand and surf. 

Lawrie tried to train me to do that at our casa.  It didn't work out so well for him.

Ten Taxis Racing:

Even though the island is only seven kilometres long and a kilometre wide, the taxis are always in a hurry to get somewhere - where ever that somewhere is. Taxis are reasonably priced and can usually be flagged down from anywhere on the island. The main taxi stand is located near the passenger ferry docks. It is still best to ask the price before you ride as the rates can be higher in the holiday season.

Nine Snowmen Waiting:

These nine little donut-snowmen lined up on a baking tray at the Chedraui Super Store made us laugh. 

Snowmen, in the Caribbean? Thank goodness they are not real, and are only in someone's imagination. 

We've done our time with snow: no mas.

Eight Palm Trees Swaying:

Nothing says “the tropics” like a sugar-white beach and stately palm trees swaying in the breeze. Beware – those picturesque, and very hard, coconuts hanging above your head can knock you out if they connect with your softer noggin. 

Usually around this time of year the city workers are out and about removing the almost ripe fruit from the trees in an attempt to prevent injuries. Still, sitting in the shade of a coco tree is just so darn romantic it's hard to resist – potential head injuries be damned.

Hammocks Hanging:

Swinging in a hammock strung between two coco palm trees, sipping on a cold cerveza: ah, bliss. 

We recently planted two little cocos in our small patch of sand on the ocean-side of our house. We daily check their progress to see if they are hammock ready. 

Unfortunately five feet high doesn't quite qualify. We have a few more years to wait. 

Six Massage Tents Ready:

Stressed from gift shopping or flying economy class? Why not hit the beach for a massage. 

Located on the beach, across from Jax Bar & Grill or the Posada del Mar Hotel, are five or six massage tents where the staff will give you a relaxing light massage, guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit.  

Alex, Daniel, Freddy, Inez, Joao, Pepe in back, and Gustavo

Five Freezing Coooold Beers:

Merry Christmas to our good friends Freddy, Joao Gustavo, Alex, Daniel, Pepe, and Inez and of course Sal and Mal Richards at the Soggy Peso Bar & Grill. 

They have the biggest smiles while they serve the best freezing cold beer on the island!

Four Trees in Centro:

The smell, the shape, the decorations of a real Christmas tree brings back great memories for anyone from northern climates, but I always wonder how did a Christmas tree become synonymous with Christmas in the Caribbean? 

As ex-pats we really enjoy seeing the trees, in centro, at the passenger ferry docks, and on top of the City Hall. It's a beautiful thing.

Three Church Bells Ringing:

Christmas time is very special to the islanders. It is the time of year when many children are baptized, or confirmed into the Catholic Church. It is also the start of a six-week-long celebration that includes The Feast of our Lady Guadalupe on December 12th, Posadas Navideñas December 16th to 29th, Noche Buena December 24th, Christmas December 25th, and ending in January with the Night of the Kings on January 6th. The three large Catholic Churches on Isla Mujeres are beautifully decorated and overflowing with worshippers during the holiday season.

Two Christmas Parades:

There are two Christmas parades: the official Municipal Santa Claus Parade, and the Christmas Golf Cart Parade organized by a local carnival dance troupe. Last year we participated in the golf cart parade for the first time, dressed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, tossing candy to the crowds of kids. This year the parade was scheduled for Saturday December 20th, but due to the high possibility of rain has been moved to Saturday December 27th starting at 5:30 in the afternoon. It is so much fun to ricochet around the island in a decorated golf cart, trying to follow the lead vehicle when the route is being planned just as the parade starts. The crowds of little kids waving and yelling hello make it all worthwhile. We'll be there again!  

On The Twelfth Day of Christmas Isla Gave to Me - One Brightly Lit and Noisy Party Bus:

It's bright. It's noisy. It's fun. Every year around this time the party bus, or as some people call it the disco bus, or the funny bus, comes out of storage and begins doing nightly runs around and around, up and down the island.
Loud music. Bright lights. And people have fun. It's become a favourite with Bachelor and Bachelorette party celebrations. 

It drives me nuts when I am trying to sleep, but it has become part of the annual holiday celebrations so we have learned to laugh, and go back to sleep muttering: “It's just the party bus.” We have plans to use it soon, and it will be our turn to be silly.

Feliz Navidad to you all – may your Christmas be Merry and bright!
Lawrie & Lynda

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