Blue Bally-Hoo, Isla Mujeres 2022 by Sister #3

May24

For many years the first stop we made on Isla was Ballyhoo.  Straight off the ferry, suitcases in tow, we would stop for a cold beer and a serving of fish tacos. So I was disappointed to hear of it’s closing. 

I was thrilled to hear that last December at the same location, Blue Ballyhoo opened it’s  doors. Totally different ownership, but the same great location. Aesthetically far more beautiful, the restaurant layout has been reconfigured. It now has a nice clean new bathroom, gone are the days of using the one next to the gas station. There are additional tables set out on the beach, that has filled in what used to be water next to the dock, allowing more seating. I love to sit with my feet in the sand when I eat seaside.

There are lovely turquoise lounge chairs where we spent an afternoon enjoying cocktails and yummy guacamole. 

It was wonderful to meet Lilly who is running Blue Ballyhoo. Lilly has deep roots on Isla. Her grandfather, Mr. Lima owns the dock on which the restaurant is located. He owned Zazil ha, now known as Mia, the first hotel on Isla Mujeres. Her dad, Captain Anthony runs their four sport fishing boats, the Lilly M, the Andrea M, named for Lilly and her sister, and the Keen 1 and 2, named for her mom, a well know hotelier on the island. Captain Anthony is all about making fishing a sport and conserving fish species. He works with the BBC, National Geographic, and Guy Harvey. 

Lilly is ever present in the restaurant, building relationships with her customers in order to create an experience that really delivers. She is so grateful for the fisherman who bring in their catch to be cooked up or just stop in for a drink. She enjoys the banter of both old and new fishermen sharing stories of the past and how it used to be whilst talking about the new destinations to go fishing. 

Having lived in Isla her whole life, Lilly is a font of knowledge when it comes to the island and life on the water. Her family is all about serving visitors and providing hospitality. 

On our first visit to Blue Ballyhoo we tried a cocktail called the ‘Mahaché’. Created by Lilly it contained gin, lemonade and blue curaçao. I asked her what Mahaché means and she shared it is a rain storm. I think this talented mixologist should also create a ‘norte’ and a ‘hurricane’ and make them her signature cocktails. Blue Ballyhoo prides itself on an excellent Margarita and of course, everyone wants a marg in Mexico.

For dinner we enjoyed fish tacos. Served with tartar sauce and spicy mayo. The fish portion was more than generous and the batter was crunchy and delicious. I had to eat some of the fish before I could attempt to roll it into a taco.

We also enjoyed the fish in red Guajillo sauce with rice and veggies. The fish was Wahoo caught the previous day. The sauce was flavourful and not at all spicy.  

As a smart restauranteur will do, Lilly has selected strong and talented chefs. You can hear the pride she has in their work when she talks about the food they produce and the impeccable kitchen they run.  The food is excellent! 

The ambiance is great, good music and the vibe is light and fun. Like establishments in countries around the world there is a shortage of serving personal available. The servers were attentive but pretty new to their roles. They were trying their best. You might encounter a bit of a communication challenge but with pointing to the menu and a few hand gestures, you’ll get by. I looked at it as an excellent chance to practice my Spanish. 

I’ve always wondered what Ballyhoo meant. Lilly explained; a Ballyhoo is the fish that is used as bait for Sail-fishing, and since Isla Mujeres is a big sport-fishing hotspot and the main customers are fishermen and captains, Blue Ballyhoo just seemed to suit the place .

I wish nothing but the best to this local family and the Blue Ballyhoo. They are now open for breakfast and from the pictures I’ve seen the food looks spectacular. 

Kath’s quote: “In the hands of an able cook, fish can become an inexhaustible source of perpetual delight.”Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Love-that is all.

Tiny Gecko, Isla Mujeres 2022-Sister #3

May18

The day we visited the Tiny Gecko there was an unusual event taking place on the malecon. A twenty four hour run that started at noon that day and had participants running through the day and overnight until noon the next day. As we waiting for our table we watched in amazement as the runners, now six and a half hours into their run, trotted back and forth the length of the malecon. I would think if the heat didn’t kill you the monotony would. There were other folks along the malecon cheering them on, offering high fives, which along with the music from the Tiny Ghecko must have helped lift their tired spirits. 

When we were seated the band was mid-set and the energy level was high as folks finished up their afternoon cocktails. 

We were warmly welcomed by the attentive staff and chef Paulino came out to meet us. This talented Chef from the Yucatan has lived on Isla for more than 30 years and has been with the restaurant since it’s opening four years ago. As a matter of fact Tiny Ghecko boasts a non existent staff turn over since opening, which speaks to the unity of the team and kindness of owner and philanthropist Raguel Rodriguez. 

Our meal started with an lovely amuse bouche of fresh bread rolls with a drizzle of blueberry sauce, Parmesan cheese and grated garlic. A delectable combination of sweet and savoury.

The next dish brought to our table was fried calamari rings served on a delicate tomato sauce encircle with thinly sliced beets. The squid was tender and the batter light and crunchy. 

Next came the coconut shrimp. The best I’ve had on the island. So many restaurants overcook them but these were perfect. The shrimp were huge and juicy and the coconut batter was golden and perfectly cooked. Served with mango sauce along side Chef Paulino’s signature turtle shaped rice, the plate decorated with beet mayonnaise. 

Our final dish was squid stuffed with lobster, octopus, shrimp and fish resting on a bed of little potatoes and vegetables in a pool of spinach sauce. It was so rich and delicious we took half of it home for a feed the next day. 

So while I think Tiny Gecko is a great place for an afternoon or late night cocktail and music, you are missing out if you don’t make a point to dine on the extraordinary food. The flavour combinations are creative and the product so fresh and high quality. A testament to the talents of Chef Paulino and the Tiny Gecko team. 

Kath’s quote: “A woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster, salad and champagne. The only true feminine and becoming viands.”-Lord Byron

Love, that is all.

Isla Mujeres 2022- Getting into Isla’s Rhythm

May9

We enjoyed the quiet of the morning, and then it was a day full of company!

Kelly and Moby were walking to town for a painting class but stopped by for a lovely catch up chat.

Later, friends Jan and Bruce joined us for Happy Hour. Unfortunately it was too windy in the back of our place by the water and too noisy with the traffic of the road so we made it a quick one and took roadies to watch the sunset and walk to dinner.

We never tire of watching the sun lower in the sky from Medina.

We met J and B on the island and have been close ever since. I mentioned that it was a windy day, well I had to settle for this pic of Bruce in mid-sentence because in all the others, Jan’s hair was completely blown off of her face. We girls stick together about those kind of things you know.

I wasn’t very impressed with pics of D and I either but decided on this one with only half of my hair blown off of my forehead.

The setting sun accompanied us all the way to our dinner destination. Green Verde (open the link to see pics and details about our great dinner).

Kath’s quote:

“Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table.”-Charles Pierre Monselet

Love-that is all.

Isla Mujeres 2022-Day 2 Surprising Hortencia

May5

Had a wonderful sleep and then we were up with the sun for coffee and pictures.

I love this quiet time on the island. The sun’s reflection on the water invites me to reflect on the blessings the island offers us.

This is our typical island breakfast. Even though we eat sugar and fat free yoghurt when we are home, we treat ourselves to creamy mango youghurt when in Mexico. Somehow the little bananas are sweeter there than in central Canada. I bring Almond Special Kay from home to top the concoction.

Next on the aggenda, we walk into Centro for cilantro and a couple of things forgotten while at Chedrui.

There are a couple of routes into Centro. We often choose the malecon for the shade and cooler breeze off the water.

We just had to scope out the new food offerings that had vacated the zoccolo and moved closer to the malecon.

I hailed a cab home and D stayed and reacquainted himself with Centro, looking intently for the spot where we could buy sour dough bread for sandwiches at home. I mistakenly thought we were looking for a bakery, whereas we were searching for a deli.

When D arrived home he ate the leftovers of the Rueben from Neal’s from the night before. I tucked into a cheese, cucumber, lime mayo and truffle sea salt sandwich. Delish.

We spent a lazy afternoon reading in the hammock and beachcombing.

The beautiful tree that acts like an umbrella over the front terrace at Luna D’Miel.

Over the years the years, we have met so many wonderful neighbours at Luna d’Miel-Gloria and Hue from Saskatoon, Iowa friends Kelly and Peggy, Jan and Michelle from PEI and Susan and Bruce from…. approximately 1 km awat from us at home, in the same neighbourhood we live in Winnipeg!

This year was no exception-Lorraine and her Husband (his name escapes me at the moment) reside in Austin, Texas and were there for a family wedding. Very little chance we will see them on the island again any time soon because their travel agenda is to never see any place twice, unlike D and I who love the familiar and the adventure of exploring a new place. I tried to do a Facebook search on our new Texan friends to no avail. Drat-they were lovely.

We walked to the other side of the airport strip and then took our time along Medina as the sun was setting. When I recount being able to walk everywhere, it is with an explanation mark and I sigh of relief. I have been waiting to have me second knee replaced, but Covid has prolonged the wait list. I consulted with my surgeon and he thought that a shot of cortisone would do the trick and he was right! I had the shot the Friday before we left and I felt like a spring chicken on the island. I am sure the warm sun and the vitamin D did wonders too. I am my best self on Isla.

When time was dwindling before our dinner reservation, we did hail a cab for the last leg of the journey to a new and fabulous restaurant-Rinconcito Kahlo (see this link for all the detail).

D and I remembered that we were just down the street from our Mexican family-Hortencias! Although the house looked dark, we timidly knocked on the door. Suddenly Mary and Sara burst through the entry way, laughing and crying and hugging and kissing us! After a couple of minutes Hortencia and Marcello emerged bleary-eyed. We realized that we had called too late for the matriarch and patiarch of the family. But they embraced us the same way.

Our entertainment for the rest of the evening were Naftali and Irma’s boys, especially Mateo was so happy to have an audience. He danced and did acrobatic tricks with his dinosaur. All the boys joined us when Mary and her husband borrowed Marcello’s truck to drive us home. It was a wonderful gathering with promises of other times that we could be together.

We realized that it wasn’t the sparkling turquoise water, the ice cold cervesas or the delicious fresh food that we had missed the 2 years as we waited to return to the island-it was these precious people!

Kath’s quote: “When old friends reconnect, there is a refreshing newness, after great memories wash over you, the stage is set for so many more.”-Tom Althouse

Isla Mujeres 2022, Day 1-Late Arrival & Full First Day

April29
Ferry Lighthouse

You may know that we live in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada where as I write this, we are still surrounded by snow. It has been an unusually cold, snowy winter but our original plans were to bi-pass the end of winter by spending March on Isla Mujeres. As we missed visiting in 2021 due to Covid, we were particularly anxious to get to the island. As (bad) luck would have it, we spent a very frustrating day and overnight in Calgary due to a equipment malfunction on an Air Canada flight. But now that the day is months behind us and we had such a long and amazing time on the island, the frustration has been forgotten.

We actually had a great sleep in Calgary as the night before in Winnipeg I was too excited to sleep. We caught a reasonably timed shuttle to the airport and then enjoyed movies, my book and snacks on board. We were delighted by the ease of which we made it through Cancun airport. D had befriended a lovely woman on the flight. She was traveling alone and was taking a bus to meet up with her son in Playa Del Carman. So we stuck around an extra while to ensure that she was able to make contact with her son.

Our room from inside looking out

When we finally arrived at the ferry dock, we found that we had just missed the 7 pm one and that they only run once an hour at that time of season/day of the week/time of day. As we were famished, D ordered tortas from the ferry restaurant. Unfortunately, they took so long to arrive, we ended up gobbling them down as our ferry arrived. Our lovely friends J and B met us at the terminal for hugs and kisses. We hopped into a cab, and had a nightcap under the stars.

As always on the island, we were so excited to finally be there, that we were awake before the sun and had enough time to make our coffee before our considerable wait for its rising.

Our first task that morning was walking to Chedrui with our provision list for breakfasts, lunches and snacks. I was amazed when we were able to gather beer, bread, peanut butter, limes, mangoes, bananas, mosquito spray, yoghurt, butter, eggs, ham, manchego cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, lime mayonaise, a baseball hat for D and two bottles of Chilean Merlot for $65 CDN. Just yesterday I bought fruit in Winnipeg to make a fruit platter for an event and that cost me $65!

One of the reasons we have stayed at Luna d’ Miel over the years is for the beachcombing. This photo is from our place to the south. Just to the right edge of the image is what I lovingly refer to as “our beach”. Even though there is a coral ridge right in front of us, there is a break in the coral to the south. Unfortunately the beach is not suitable for swimming but you can stand ankle deep in the waves and sift through gravel patches to find enough sea glass to carry home without paying a fortune in extra baggage costs. This is typically my past time while D is walking his Isla circuit or has his nose in a book. On this day and subsequent days, he joined me. The waves were strong and knocked sizeable rocks against our ankles. I was happy for his company in case I was bowled over by the surf.

The Cuban castaway boat that landed on Isla the month prior, still rested on that beach. Imagine making that voyage?

After lunch, I did something very unusual for me. I nestled into a beach towel, with a cushion and had a long afternoon nap on a lounge chair. I don’t normally indulge in naps because it means, I have to start my day all over again and sure enough I needed a coffee and a shower.

Another nice thing about our favourite room at Luna d’Miel is the separate living/dining room. The light is beautiful and I always try to open the curtains to let the glorious light fill the room.

I let my hair dry in the warm breeze

and by then it was almost time to crack our first bottle of vino tinto.

As the sun lowers in the west the shade from the buildings creates a shady/cooler place and we linger for as long as we can to enjoy it.

There was a time when we first started staying at Luna d’Miel that we could watch an unobstructed sunset from the communal patio in from of the suites. But the brush on the airport strip has grown high enough that we now have to walk a couple of buildings to the north, to get a better vantage.

We waited for a cab (which are fairly plentiful and unoccupied at that time of day) and made the pleasurable ride to Isla 33 ahead of our dinner reservation.

We walked the cliffs across the street from the condo complex. My first trip to the island , we stayed near Punta Sur and I have wanted since then to explore this neighborhood a little more.

Neal’s Irish Pub (click the link for all the details) was a lesson in our eyes being bigger than our stomachs. The cab ride “home” was a pleasure with the breeze off the water filling our senses. A lovely way to start our wonderful time on the island.

Kath’s Quote: “Vacation calories don’t count. Right?” – Unknown

The heart fairy struck the first time that morning.

Love-that is all.

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