Browsing: Isla Mujeres

What to Pack for Isla Mujeres

February4

I have been anticipating our annual sojourn to Isla Mujeres in an whole new way this year.  Since we will have access to a little house and we have stayed in this neighbourhood a number of times before, I am really looking forward to going “home” to Isla, as opposed to going “away” to Isla.  Perhaps the primary reason too, will be that our entire family will be with us including the Wee One.  I am almost organized and our departure is still almost two weeks away.  But getting out my flip flops and sun dresses adds to the joy of anticipating our trip.  Coincidently, Sister #3 must be in packing mode too as she sent this to me by email today:

 

What to pack for Isla Mujeres

Personal Items

Ear plugs (Especially if the person you travel with is a snorer but sometimes you can have noisy neighbours)

Kleenex packs, small hand sanitizer, wet naps (Carry with you as some bathrooms don’t have toilet paper or soap to wash up)

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Clear plastic rain poncho-dollar store variety (When it rains it comes fast and hard), easier and lighter to pack than an umbrella

Your toiletries (Most hotels and some casa’s provide shampoo and soap)

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Sun glasses, sun screen (Vital as the cost of sun screen if very high in Mexico)

Sun hat (It is very windy on the island so one that has a tie is a good idea)

Blow dryer etc. (I don’t bother with any of this stuff on the island.  I just let my hair go crazy – and it does.  I wear a lot of head bands and scarves to keep my hair out of my face in the wind.)

Bank card (there are lots of ATMs) You don’t have to bring pesos as it is easy to find an ATM. You don’t need to bring a credit card as you won’t use it except maybe at the airport. Don’t bring traveller’s cheques, they are next to impossible to cash these days.

Clothes

I typically pack the following for two weeks.

Three bathing suits, two beach cover ups

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6 sun dresses, two pashminas, jean jacket (It can get a bit chilly in the evening so I carry one of these so I have something to slip over my shoulders)

2 pairs of shorts

4 t-shirts or tank tops

2 nighties

something light to through on when I get out of the shower.

One pair of long cotton pants and a hoody to wear on the plane.

Flip flops, one good pair of walking shoes.  Don’t bring anything with a heel, the sidewalks are cobblestone and you can kill yourself.

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The restaurants are all pretty casual.  I like dresses as they keep me the coolest.  Remember you can always go see Hortenzia if you run out of things to wear.  She can whip up a light cotton dress for less than $20.00 in a day or two.

You can drop off a load of laundry at one of the many Laundromats and they will wash, dry and fold it for you for later that day.  It is a very affordable option and helps reduce what you need to pack.  Your clothes will come back smelling fantastic.  I wouldn’t recommend it for anything delicate.

Other things to consider

I scan my passport, bank card, travel insurance card etc and I keep a copy in the room safe.  Just in case I was to lose my stuff.

I put the address of the place I am staying inside my bag in case my bag goes missing it can be sent to where I am.

If you have a soft sided suitcase you might want to put the clothing in a garbage bag inside your suitcase as cases can get wet on the ferry ride over or on the airport tarmac.

Tag all your luggage even carry on.

I also bring

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A laptop or iPod to check email

docking station with speakers to play music

digital camera with charger

baggies, cutting boards, containers for food preparation

laundry soap to wash out bathing suits etc.

Clorox wipes for cleaning up the kitchen area

Peanut butter and jam packets to have on fresh buns from the bakery

Tea, hot chocolate packages, salt and pepper, granola bars, homemade granola (to go with breakfast of fresh fruit and yogurt or for a late night treat.)

Bubble wrap and masking tape (to pack breakable things for the trip home)

Beer sleeve, cooler bag (I like to fix sandwiches in our room to take to the beach and a beer sleeve keeps my water or beer cold on a hot day)

I bring tea towels to do my own dishes (I don’t like leaving them for the maid as I don’t want to attract bugs) and a small hand towel to take to the beach in case I get really sweaty. I don’t pack towels as they take up a lot of room and the casa we stay in provides them.

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Kath here to add a couple of things that I bring along:

my own folding/back pack beach chair so that I can pick my place on the beach instead of renting a chair,

water proof sturdy-bottomed sandals (like Merrels) to beachcomb and climb over coral

an insulated coffee mug (Contigo brand is my fave) because I like my coffee to stay hot as we watch the sunrise and I fill it with ice and water for my walk to the beach.

I pack more bathing suits and put one on as soon as I get out of my pjs.  Then I wear one of Hortenzia’s dresses over top and I am ready for anything the day throws at me.

Gravol, Imodium, polysporin, band aids because you just never know what may occur.

Kath’s quote: “14 more sleeps!”-me

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Love-that is all.

“Where the Sky is Born” by Jeanine Lee Kitchel

January6

I had reserved this book at the library years ago only to find that it had been lost in the circulation system.  I kept holding out hope that it would one day surface and so I did not cancel my reservation for a year or so.  After which, I conceded that it was unlikely that I would ever get to read it.  Then one day near the end of my time on Isla, I was in the lobby of our little villa (3 suites) and I spied it on the shelves of books that other guests have read and left behind instead of lugging home.  I have poured over every word because I have this gift of being transported to anywhere I am reading about (I have to be very careful with my selection of reading material).

The story is so intriguing to me as it is the story of a couple who decide to abandon their hectic life in America and opt instead for the laid back lifestyle of a little fishing village by the name of Puerto Moreles.  The book was published in 2004 and her memoirs of the building of their Mexican home went back as far as 1985.  I am sure life in the Yucatan was different then.  Very different.

This is one of the many reasons why we love the island of Isla Mujeres so much, because it feels as if it grew less quickly than Cancun and Playa de Carmen.  To my delight, Jeanine and her husband loved the island too and had this to say (p 137):

At that time, twenty years ago, the travel agent hadn’t heard of Cancun nor the nearby island of Isla Mujeres, and Paul had to convince her to get out a Mexico map so he could show her the location.  A month later we were on the a Mexicana flight, stopping only at the Cancun airport to catch a cab, then onto Isla Mujeres by boat, known only as the people’s ferry.

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We fell in love with Isla.  Adored North Beach with the shallow, turquoise ocean bumping up onto a white sand beach that stetched seemingly for miles (standard fare for the Mexican Caribbean we were soon to find out) and especially loved Maria’s, a small resort with French restaurant serving excellent cuisine.  Maria had only five rooms to rent, bungalows fit for a tropical highway paradise, with palapa roofs, and a bountiful exterior garden brimming with hibiscus, crotons, and areca palms.  A narrow cement walkway, etched with geckos and tropical flowers, wound its way down to two prized bungalows, close enough to the beach to hear the waves lapping at the shore at night.  Although we’d started out in the less desirable rooms closer to the restaurant, we stayed long enough to nab one of the sought-after bungalows below.  We spent long hour’s on Maria’s lonesome beach, sharing the ocean with her ancient loggerhead sea turtles that swam in the ocean by day and by dusk returned to a funky zapote cage that straddled the sand at the water’s edge.  We hunkered down in Mexican style Adriondack chairs, sun-bathed, talked, napped and dreamed, and I think it was right then and there on Maria’s beach, that we decided somehow we would escape northern winters and city life and life in Mexico.

I “get” Jeannine and so would my siblings and friends who are in love with Isla as well.  By reading this book though, I see that it is not specifically Isla that must have smitten us but the experiences of this laid back time that Isla still has managed to retain (p 7).

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Coco palms were planted in a line all the way up the way down the narrow two lane road.  Mangrove swamps with shallow brown water bumped up to the roadway, a few ducks in attendance.  Lazy dragonflies hovered aimlessly at the waters edge.  No cars passed us, only an ancient bike ambled by a young driver balancing a pot of tortillas on the handle bars.

At el centro my first impression was that of a rustic, unpolished little pueblo with a few shops.  The town square, known as el zocalo in Spanish, lacked foliage, either by design or lack of interest, except for a large almendon, or almond tree, dead centre and a couple of scruffy pinones or pines.  A basketball court, though off to the side, predominated, its backboards lacking hoops and nets.  Several concrete park benches donated by the town fathers lined the pathways.  One or two of the benches needed repair….

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…The handful of locals working that day nodded to us in passing, exchanging smiles and greetings.  Friendly.  No doubt about it, the place was authentic.  No gringos, save us.  We eavesdropped on conversations, thankful they were in Spanish.  Could this be the place we’d been searching for? It had just the right amount of funk.

Giddy, we decided to ground ourselves with a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants before finding Alejandro’s house.  We chose one right on the beach with a large thatched palapa roof .  The waiter dressed all in white, meandered over with menus and asked quietly if we would like something to drink.

“Let’s drink to our good luck,” Paul said. Then he ordered two margaritas….

After a Yucateca style lunch featuring the local cuisine-fresh camarones with garlic for me and pibil chicken, a Mayan specialty with the fowl wrapped in banana leaves for Paul, and zesty lime soup-we sat for a moment on the outdoor terrace and took everything in.  From the tiburonera fishing boats docked nearby to the rustic, neglected beach to the calm that emanated everywhere, this was certainly Mexico.

(page 15)

At night we walked into town along the dark jungle road, slowly becoming accustomed to finding our way without the aid of a flashlight, guided only by the rays of the moon.  In Puerto Moreles we were getting used to the streets, the people, the tempo of life.  We knew when to find the bank open; what day the vegetable vendor set up his stand; what time we could find the sporadic baker selling bread.

We noticed the friendliness of everyone from children playing in the street to taxi drivers to shopkeepers.  We started to become accustomed to the polite nods or the occasional “buenas tardes” from people we didn’t even know.  We were fitting in.

The story is primarily about the years that it took to muddle through all the illogical red tape of securing land in Mexico and the agonizing process of building their precious Casa Maya right on the beach, devastating hurricanes and all.  This too, we know is authentic.

Did they live happily ever after, in their little Casa? Apparently not. I was watching House International recently, which is one of my HGTV addictions and a couple from Edmonton made the adventurous decision to purchase an abandoned villa that was a shell its former self, to restore it to previous grandeur.  The property? Casa Maya.

Kath’s quote: Mi casa es su casa.”

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Love-that is all.

 

 

Isla Mujeres 2013-Day14

December3

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We were awake for our last beautiful sunrise from bed.

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Then we packed up and headed to Mango’s for Breakfast.   D finally got to taste the famed coconut French toast and I asked the server what she would recommend, without hesitation, she said the chile relleno that had been stuffed with eggs, ham and bacon (?) then rolled in a crunchy batter and deep-fried.

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She said that if she were to die tomorrow, she would hope that this would be her last meal.

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I love the décor of Mango’s complete with coloured different coloured barn board, heavy old tables and funky painted chairs.  I even loved the multi-coloured brick flour.  Polo is truly an exceptional chef, host and manager.

We headed back to the airport road to pick up our luggage to drop off at Casa el Pio while we still had the golf cart.  Once D returned it, we proceeded on foot back to Luna d’Meil for your last hours of reading and relaxing by our favourite scene of the crashing ways of the Caribe.  For sustenance along the way, we finally got a chance to stop in on our favourite liquid and popsicle place on the corner of the Casa del Pio street for lime popsicles.

D had stashed away two ceremonial beers for us to drink together and we had done so, sitting on a flat bed of coral.  My gaze went to the stony edge in case there was a heart shell or a nugget of sea glass that I had missed.  After scooping up another handful of beach glass, I was proceeding back the way we had come, when my foot broke through a shelf of coral and really surprised me.  I grabbed onto D and would have pulled him down, had he not been able to settle me and warn me that it would not be productive if we both lost our footing.  D had a couple of punctures around his ankles from the coral and I was pretty badly scraped up.  But we washed and bound up each others’ wounds and we not horribly traumatized by the adventure.

We gathered up the last of our snacks and beverages and left gifts and messages for Isobel.  We love this lovely woman and she was and always has been so kind and generous with us.  Just as we started our walk into Centro one last time, we saw her whizzing by to start her day on her golf cart.  Later that evening we saw her again with a golf cart full of family celebrating a Saturday night like the rest of us.  We tried to financial thank her for her rides in her retro golf cart and the extra trouble that she went to with white Christmas lights, tables, chairs and table cloths for our birthday happy hour party for Sister #2 and Brother #3. We also sent her an email booking for 2014.  We have also booked La Brisas, a couple of doors to the north, so that between the house and the two units, we will all have a comfortable place to stay.  I had also attempted to book the Roca Mar beach houses and the studios of Gladys’s new hotel but they had already been secured for 2014.    We had dropped in to visit Don Salomé, who had shown us with pride that at communal kitchen was being built at the east end of the swimming pool.  We couldn’t translate perfectly what the kitchen will be used for, but a communal kitchen would make sense.

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We also enjoyed a cold beer on the stools at the corner of the Argentinean steakhouse (there is a new one in the old La Luna that Jill from Casa el Pio recommended but we never got there).

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Being our last day, we realized that of all the beautiful photos we had taken, we had very few of the two of us so we tried this selfie.

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When we needed a light lunch to tie us over, we dropped in Poc Chuc’s original location where D had

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a traditional poc chuc torta

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and I a fish torta.  Both were so delicious that we mentioned buying another couple for the plane ride home.  In the end we opted for a couple of airport pizzas that were surprisingly good.

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Before dinner we had assembled at the old pier at Play Sol for our tradition of one last sunset.  D made kahlua cooladas and we finished up beer and wine along with snacks of Sister #3’s guacamole and chips.

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The three sisters and Brother #3 (Sister # 3’s twin, follow?)

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Here’s an out take of the photo taken just before.

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And here is our entire gang: front row-Sis in law, Moi, Newbie, Do-na, back row-Sister # 2, Sister #3, my D, Bro-in-law and Brother #3.  Table for nine please.

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As we took our last photos of each other and the setting sun, we ran into an acquaintance from the beach.  She was touched by the three sisters, as she had just recently lost hers.  I asked if she used to come to Isla too and she said no, but her sister was the person who first introduced her to the idea of holidaying in Mexico.

We celebrated my Bro-in-law’s birthday at Olivia’s with an amazing dinner.

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We love all the little touches of this Middle eastern Restaurant.  The owner/manager is a fantastic (handsome) host. Andrea was our server from Toronto and our wine and beverages were served by a singing server.

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Food was exceptional-starting with a Turkish dish called Lacmajun which when translated means “meat on bread”. Besides ground beef it included pine nuts, tomato sauce and parsley with a tahini drizzle over top.

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I had Shepherd’s Salad,

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D and many others Pastille,

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Sis-in-law, Moussakka

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and Bro-in-law, Moroccan Fish.

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The perfect  way to end our perfect vacation.

Kath’s quote: “Too much work, and no vacation, Deserves at least a small libation. So hail! my friends, and raise your glasses; Work’s the curse of the drinking classes.”-Oscar Wilde

Love-that is all.

Isla Mujeres 2013-Day 13

November29

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”  John Lennon’s words resonate with me at this time of year.  I try my darndest to complete the circle of tasks that I have started in the year before the holiday season comes around, so I can look back with contentment and look forward with excitement at the new journeys ahead.  So with just a couple of days left from our Isla tale, I am back at remembering (not always with clarity) our time on Isla in 2013.

Day 13-We got so attached to our golf cart that we once again decided to keep it for another day.  This meant that we could scoot around the island to start to say our good-byes and finish up some shopping.  First stop was Hortenzia’s where D had a play with her granddaughters.

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Next stop was at the shop of our old friend Gladys’s.  I did some shopping as I love everything in her shop, in fact, I loved the shop itself from the floor to the shutters, both pictured above.

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While in Centro we ran into my new friend Jackie who was on Isla because she had discovered my posts about the island on my blog.  She and her travel companion joined us for lunch at La Lomita’s.  The familiar little place (we often stay across the street) was getting a hand-painted spruce up.

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It was our friend’s first visit and she was blown away!

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I started with the chicken tortilla soup.

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Jackie ordered this amazing soup but I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the dish but, isn’t it exquisite?

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Her friend sampled the enchiladas.

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D and I split the chiles relleno, our all time favourite La Lomita dish!

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Except for their papas fritas of course.

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This lovely face belonged to our helpful server.

We spent the afternoon shelling the beach right in front of our apartment and then it was time to get ready for our date night that evening!

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We started off  with happy hour at Villa Bella with beer so cold, it makes your teeth hurt.  The place was quaint enough in what Doug described as a kind of Rotarian club get together from the past.

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But, the beer did indeed make my teeth hurt… assisted by the insulated cozy that it was served in.

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D had a lime margarita shaken, on the rocks and served in a coconut shell.

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We noitced that the sun had almost set and since it was near the end of our time on the island,we wanted to take in the last rays,

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so we stopped at Iguana’s before we headed back to Minioes to share a fish Veracruz style and a couple more very cold beer with our feet in the sand.

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It was too dark to get a really good shot of my fish but you would get an idea of the ingredients from this photo: tomatoes, Serrano chilies, green olives, capers, cilantro and fresh lime wedges. Omgosh, it was delicious.

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Next stop was Bastos where we shared garlic shrimp.  They split the abundant meal onto two piping hot plates.  The perfectly cooked shrimp was served alongside a buttery fettuccine and steamed broccoli, carrots and zucchini sticks.  With a glass of vinto blanco and tinto, I think that it came to $25.

On the way home in the golf cart, we stopped to visit our gang (minus one bro and sis-in-law who had gone to Rolandi’s on their own) at Mangoes.  They were dining with Isleno Ricardo and his new wife Patty.  Sister #2 and her husband first met Ricardo when they stayed at Chac Chi.  He was such a helpful staff member.  I even remember that he accompanied our gang including our daughter on her scooter through colonias to baseball tacos so that we wouldn’t encounter any of those surprising sidewalk gaps.  Both were born and raised on Isla and Patty worked hard to get her education by traveling back and forth on a daily basis to go to university in Cancun.

Last stop was at an authentic gelato shop in centro (authentic because we inquired with the owner and he shared that his family was from Bologna).  So I enjoyed a satisfying coconut gelato on a sugared cone and D a pistachio one.  We had also met another Italian couple on the island: Mariuccia and Carlo holiday every year on Isla, all the way from Rome.  We first became acquainted when she was speaking to another traveler about my beach skirt.  She had admired it, but put forth her opinion that it must have not been purchased in North America but somewhere in Europe, guessing Italy.  AND she was correct, as I had bought it in Positano when D and I had traveled there years earlier.  The funny thing is that the bathing suit that is an exact match was picked up at a little second hand store along Osborne in Winnipeg; about as far away as you can get from either Isla or the Amalfi coast.

Kath’s quote: “Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.”-M.F.K. Fisher

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Love-that is all.

Adventures with Family & Pizza

October18

Disclosure: This post was created for the Manitoba Canola Growers Be Well Blog .  I was compensated for my work.  My ideas and opinions are my own.

We have always held family pizza nights in our home.  When our now grown children were younger, it was Thursday evenings.  This was a time designated to “us” as a family.  Now though, we are influenced by travel and our favourite Chefs.

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Read my Adventures with Pizza and try my Quattro Pizza on Homemade Dough recipe on the Manitoba Canola Growers Be Well Blog and be sure to enter The Great Pizza Story Contest while you are there.  Great prizes to be won including a personal pizza making lesson for you and 5 friends with Chef Mary Jane Feeke of Benjamin’s Foods in Selkirk.

Eat Well.

Kath’s quote: “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”-Yogi Berra

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Love-that is all.

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