So my second day in London began with a roaring start by tripping over a freaking cobblestone while walking to the tube station. I was looking at Google maps on my phone and wasn’t looking where I was walking and next thing I knew I was on the ground. I was more embarrassed than anything, but I did bruise my ribs, so it was kind of a nuisance to deal with for the rest of my trip. I was able to function without any problems, but sleeping was a bit difficult.
One of the best things about visiting London is their transit system. I used the tube the whole time I was there and it was so convenient…and cheap! I bought a week pass for about $50 USD and it lasted me the whole time I was there…and I used it a lot. I’m a pretty assertive driver, but I would never rent a car in London…the traffic is crazy, the streets are narrow, and the parking is impossible. I lived in Washington, D.C., for four years when I worked at The Washington Post, so I had the advantage of having used the subway system there. It’s very similar to the tube in that it uses color-coded lines, so it didn’t take me long to figure things out in London. Like Washington, D.C., everyone is very much in a hurry, it’s jam-packed during the rush hour, and no one talks to each other. Pets are allowed on the tube. And they were sweet and very well-behaved.
I had scheduled a tour of the London underground that morning, but I was five minutes late when I exited the Baker Street tube station and no one was around, so I guess I missed it. So I checked Google maps and saw that the Sherlock Holmes museum was just around the corner so that’s where I headed. Here’s what you see when you exit the Baker Street tube station. (I’m glad I made it to Baker Street considering Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” was one of my favorite songs when I was in college in the late 70’s.)
The museum is a tiny little place…
…which had a line outside, so it must be pretty popular. It cost about $20 USD to get in, and it’s interesting but a little on the weird side.
These wax figures are very lifelike and it’s just kind of an eerie and macabre feeling. The rooms are super tiny, but I guess that’s the way it was back then.
This was just down the street, but I didn’t go in.
Interesting building in the area…
I then headed to the National Gallery. This is a HUGE museum and it was packed with people. There are so many different areas it’s almost impossible to see everything in one afternoon…especially when you have bruised ribs and you’re not feeling 100%. It was built in 1824, and the architecture is just incredible.
Here are a few of my favorites.
A view outside the museum…
As you can see, the sky is blue, but there are some clouds up there. Fifteen minutes later, this happened…
…the temperature dipped by about 15 degrees and everyone scrambled for cover. I crossed over the bridge…
…and sought warmth in an Asian restaurant where I could dry off. (By the way, I’m saving all my food posts until the end in case you’re wondering.) Next up…day three!
What a year 2020 is turning out to be, isn’t it? Certainly not in a good way, that’s for sure. Frankly, I don’t even know what the United States is anymore. It’s certainly not something I’m proud of right now, and I’ve never been more ashamed and embarrassed to admit I’m a citizen. This past weekend has been a horrifying experience with the death of George Floyd, and I can’t believe we’ve come to this. Between the pandemic, racism, alienation of all our foreign allies (except for Russia!), and the crash of the economy and loss of jobs, I simply cannot believe what this country has become. And I am very afraid for its future if things don’t change in November.
I will have to say that I’m very fortunate to still have my job and to be able to work remotely until the university goes back to teaching face-to-face. That’s supposed to be in July, but who knows what can happen before then. But it’s almost as if the Coronavirus isn’t even an issue anymore and we’re all supposed to act like normal again. The administration doesn’t even address it anymore. I see fewer and fewer masks when I go out, but I still wear mine…I figure better safe than sorry. Who knows when we’ll be able to travel safely again without worrying about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if no other countries want to let Americans in considering the number of cases we have.
With that being said, I was going to go to Portugal for spring break, but that didn’t happen. I was supposed to leave on Friday, March 13th, and I waited until the previous Monday before I finally decided to cancel. I was literally on the phone with Expedia for 2-1/2 hours to get this done. Fortunately, I had purchased full cancellation insurance for $100, and I’m glad I did because I received a full refund within three days, which was a great relief. I know people who cancelled later had much more difficulty doing so.
Being in quarantine, I really miss traveling, so I decided to change the title of my blog from “Random Mexico Musings” to “Random Travel Musings” so that I can post a trip that I took on spring break 2019 to London. It was a spur of the minute kind of thing that I got at a great price of $1,360 for a week at a nice hotel, so I couldn’t pass it up. Since it’s been over a year since I’ve been there, I had to try to remember everything I did, so I went on Google Maps to refamiliarize myself with the area. It’s so different now, because so many of the sites that I visited now say “Temporarily Closed” on the map. What a lifestyle change this virus has presented for the world. But posting the trip helps me relive it a bit, and it’s nice to have something to look back on.
This is the first trip I’ve taken “over the pond” so I was pretty excited…although I wasn’t too excited about the long flight since it’s impossible for me to sleep on planes. I was really hoping that having a few glasses (or bottles) of wine would do the trick, but alas, no. I arrived at Heathrow around 10:00 a.m. and took the train to London. Heathrow is a huge airport…this is my only shot of it which doesn’t show much.
But it’s easy to get around and the transportation to London is easy. I went right to my hotel which sits between Paddington and The Lancasters. It’s the Westbourne Hyde Park Hotel…here’s a picture of the outside and the lobby. There was no restaurant at the hotel, which was fine with me because I’d rather try restaurants in town anyway.
Here are a couple shots of the surrounding area. It was a great neighborhood and there were shops and restaurants within a block or two. There were also two Tube stations within a couple blocks, as well, one of which is the main train station (Paddington) that goes to locations outside of London, including the airport.
Of course I couldn’t check into the hotel that early in the morning, so I left my luggage there and went for a walk. The hotel was located within a block of Hyde Park, so that’s where I headed. It’s a huge park so it took awhile to walk all the way through it. Since I was there in March, it was still chilly (in the 50s), so the spring flowers hadn’t come out yet and it was a little dreary. I can imagine that it’s very pretty when all the plants and trees are in bloom. But I’ll have to say it was really nice to visit during this time because you don’t have to worry about getting too hot with all the walking that you do.
This is Diana’s Memorial Fountain which I thought was kind of odd. It’s a big circular fountain/stream that recirculates. It was pretty and peaceful, though.
I saw quite a few people riding horses in the area, as well, although I didn’t get pictures.
At the opposite side of the park is the neighborhood of Knightsbridge which is where Harrods is. You have to go to Harrods if you’re in London. I didn’t spend a lot of time there, but it’s definitely impressive…and expensive!! They were refurbishing the outside while I was there, but it’s a beautiful old building.
By this time, my jet lag was starting to catch up with me, so I grabbed a quick bite at Pret a Manger, which is a very popular place in London…they have them everywhere. It reminds me a little of Panera with soups and salads, but it’s more quick-serve, in that they have sandwiches already made up that you can buy.
Apparently Harrods also has a real estate business, so if you’re interesting in renting or buying in London, here are some real deals. The $20,000 pound rental is equivalent to $24,863 USD, and the $28,000,000 pound sale is equivalent to $34,809,000 USD.
My feet were killing me after all the walking, and I didn’t have the energy to go back through the park, so I took the subway back to the hotel. It was about 3:00 by this time, so I was so thankful my room was ready, and it was such a pleasant surprise. When I made plans for the trip, I checked a ton of hotels and so many of them were miniscule little rooms with barely enough room for a twin bed. I think the Westbourne Hyde Park hotel must have been new at the time and was offering reasonable prices because I’ve checked back since then and prices are MUCH higher. Here’s the room…I would highly recommend it for its comfort and good location. It had a fridge, cooktop, microwave, coffee maker, and the bed linens were very luxurious.
Here is the view from my window. I half expected to see Dick Van Dyke jumping from roof to roof right out of Mary Poppins.
Here’s the view at night. I was always surprised how everyone kept their curtains and blinds open at night. It seems like everyone in Texas keeps all their windows covered 24/7 year round. I seem to be one of the few here who likes sunshine and a nice breeze blowing through when it’s not 105 degrees.
I had scheduled a “Ghosts and Famous Murderers” tour for that evening around Covent Garden, but didn’t think I’d make it considering the way I was feeling when I checked in. But after a nap, I woke up just in time, so I went anyway. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy the whole time, so I only lasted for about half the tour because I didn’t want to catch a cold. It wasn’t conducive to picture-taking, but I got a couple shots of the area.
And a final shot of the day of the Lamb & Flag…one of the oldest pubs in England. Here’s what the website says about it:
Great London pubs don’t get much more historic than this. The very first mention of a pub on this site is in 1772, when it was known as The Coopers Arms (the name changed to The Lamb & Flag in 1833).
The building’s brickwork is circa 1958 and conceals what may be an early 18th century frame of a house, replacing the original one built in 1638.
The pub acquired a reputation in the early nineteenth century for staging bare-knuckle prize fights, earning it the nickname ‘The Bucket of Blood,’ and the alleyway beside the pub was the scene of an attack on the poet John Dryden in 1679 by thugs hired by John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, with whom he had a long-standing conflict.
So that was my first day in London. There is SO much to see and do in London that it’s hard to choose. To be continued…
Well, I’m a tad behind on my second post about Zihuateanejo from last July. I must confess that I’ve been in a politically stressed-out haze since the tangerine sociopath took over our White House. I’ve been through a lot of presidents in my lifetime, but nothing compared to what we’ve gone through the past three years. They say you shouldn’t include politics in your blogs, but, hey…what the heck. I mostly do this blog for my own benefit so that I can look back on my travels, but with the constant tension of what perversion this president will come up with next, it’s taken some of the joy out of life. Enough about that.
This will mostly be a picture post because I’ll have to say that my trip to Zihau was about the laziest trip I’ve ever taken. There’s not a whole lot to do there other than snorkeling and boating. There are no golf carts, so you have to take a cab wherever you go if it’s not withing walking distance. They have a small ruins just to the south called Xihuacan, but I never made it there. It was pretty hot while I was there, which is conducive to doing very little. Besides that, my hotel room was so nice, I spent a lot of time there.
The views are the best thing about Zihau. It’s such a peaceful, beautiful place, I just couldn’t stop taking it in. There’s a very nice walkway that runs along the beach…it took me about 15 minutes to walk from my hotel to the downtown area.
This was the restaurant at my hotel which was really nice…definitely the best restaurant that I visited while at Zihua. It was pretty pricey, but well worth it.
This was their salad and surf n’ turf.
Here are some pictures of the downtown area.
Funny beer signs.
More of downtown.
Since I was there, I felt I needed to check out Ixtapa, which is about a 10 minute taxi ride north. I could immediately tell that it was the higher end of the two cities with high-rise hotels and fancy restaurants. It was easy to see that this is where most foreign visitors stay, while most native Mexican vacationers stay in Zihua. I’ll have to agree with them. I found Zihau much more relaxing and traditional. And I preferred the bay views to the open sea views of Ixtapa.
I only stayed there for a few hours, but I did have an interesting lunch. I wasn’t that hungry, so I opted for the fish sticks, which I thought would look something like this:
The waitress brought me this, which I thought was some kind of ceviche or appetizer. I waited and waited for the fish sticks, until I finally realized that this WAS the fish sticks. It’s fish cut up into tiny little “sticks” to be eaten with chips…haha. It was interesting, although I don’t think I’d order them again.
Speaking of food, here are some other dishes I had on the Zihua side…
The tuna shasimi on the bottom right was wonderful.
Cute towel art…
I’ll have to say that the Aura del Mar was a fantastic hotel and I would highly recommend it. Every room has a view and the employees are extremely friendly and helpful. My departing flight didn’t leave until 7:00 at night, but I had to check out of my room at 1:00. They allowed me to use their hospitality suite at no charge until I had to leave for the airport. After staying in my beautiful room for the week, the hospitality suite didn’t quite have the same amenities.
In fact, it kind of conjured up images of a monk’s quarters…haha! But I was totally appreciative of their hospitality and just used it to store my luggage while I had a final margarita (or two) at the beach-side bar.
Adios, Zihuatanejo! Would I go back again? Most definitely. As my taxi was taking me to the airport, he went through an area behind my hotel that I hadn’t explored which looked interesting. I would prefer going when it’s not quite so hot, though. I do love the beautiful blue water of the Caribbean side of Mexico, but every location has its beauty.
With that being said, I have changed the title of my blog to “Random Travel Musings” because I’m branching out to locations other than Mexico. Last spring break, I went to London, but because my blog was titled “Random Mexico Musings,” I didn’t feel I could post about it. London is a hoot and I will eventually do a very late post about that now that I’ve changed my blog title. Like I said, I do these posts because I like to “revisit” my trips, so I want to memorialize London, too. That was definitely not a “relaxing” trip as you try to fit as much as humanly possible into a week of sight-seeing. And even then, you feel like you’ve missed so much.
On a final note, here is my destination for this spring break next month.
I wanted to try something different again this summer. I looked at the map along the west coast of Mexico and tried to find something not too big, but not too small. My last year’s visit to Mahahual was pleasant, but it was a little too isolated for me…especially for being so small. I hit on Zihuatanejo (Zihua for short) because the terrain was hilly and very pretty. There is another town just north called Ixtapa Zuhuatanejo…not within walking distance, but a short taxi ride. I stayed in Zihuatanejo, not the Ixtapa one. Here it is on the map.
I don’t know whether my cats were planning on coming with me, or trying to deter me from going.
You have to change planes in Mexico City, which is always an adventure in itself…especially when you don’t speak Spanish. The layovers can be kind of long because there aren’t a whole lot of flights to Zihua. In fact, they changed my return flight so that I had an eight hour overnight layover there, so I got a hotel because I didn’t want to spend the night in the airport. It’s not something I’d want to do again but all the hotel arrangements had been made in Zihua, so I didn’t feel like I had a choice.
The airport in Zihua is very small, but it’s very modern!
We were the only plane there.
The inside is very nice and new with shops and restaurants.
I had arranged with Best Day for transportation to the hotel, and they were waiting for me when I headed outside. They don’t have vans and SUVs like they do in Cancun…they actually arrange with local taxis for the rides to/from the airport.
The ride to the hotel was about 15-20 minutes. Like I had seen in the pictures, the area was very hilly and homes are built up high along the sides. The driver dropped off another passenger in the downtown area and then we headed for my hotel. Mind you, I didn’t see the ocean while we were driving around until we got to my hotel, the Aura del Mar. And the only thing I could say was, “Oh, wow.”
Get a load of that floor!
I asked the person at the desk what it was made out of. See the base of the check-in counter? It’s composed of tree branches…I wish I could remember the name of the tree. For the floor, these strange shapes are sawed off sections of the tree as you’re looking down at them, then grouted with some kind of plaster, I guess. I’ve certainly never seen a floor like this before. Think of the work that must have taken!
Okay, so I didn’t say, “Oh, wow” about the floor…it was actually for the view from the lobby.
When I’ve traveled in the Yucatan, I’ve usually stayed at very basic, clean hotels that normally don’t have much of a view. I’ve always figured I don’t spend much time in the room, anyway, so I don’t want to spend a lot of money on that. However, this trip was paid for by my Chase credit card points, so I decided to step it up a notch, although it wasn’t expensive by any means. When I was making the reservation, I chose the least expensive option which offered a “partial” ocean view. Even though my points were paying for it, this option was only $89.00 per night at the time I reserved it…I was there for seven nights.
So I thought the view from the lobby was great, but when the attendant took me to my room, my first thought was, “They’re going to have to drag me out of here.” If this was a “partial” view (I guess because of the palm tree?), I could totally handle it. The picture doesn’t do it justice.
Not to mention the fact that the room was awesome…and huge! Well, at least for me…I’m used to staying in pretty tiny places.
Those are real rose petals on the toilet and towel.
And my own outdoor tub…crazy!!
The woodwork in the hotel was amazing. Just look at the headboard and the doors.
I actually spent more time in my room than I ever have before on a trip. The grounds were so lush and green, it was just a very pleasant place to hang out.
And there was a Mini-Super just across the street which was very convenient for stocking the kitchen.
Not to mention the resident parrot named Carola…we talked almost every day, although she has a pretty limited vocabulary.
Okay, so there is a downside to staying in Zihua. While the hilly landscape is pretty, you have to climb to get up the hills. The hotel lobby is on the street level…then there are two more floors above that…and about four different levels below. There are rooms tucked in everywhere. My room was on the floor two short stairways below the lobby. Here are the stairways I had to climb from the beach to get up to my room.
One of the biggest draws of the Caribbean is the beautiful blue water. But that has changed in some places along the Riviera Maya due to all the sargassum. Not sure if that has changed since last year, but I wanted to try the Pacific side of Mexico this time, anyway. The water is definitely not blue here, but it is still very clear and the beaches are very clean although the sand is browner. Here is the difference in my “toes in the sand” pictures from Isla Mujeres (on the left) and Zihua.
I’ll end this first post on Zihua with a night view from my patio.
So, I had decided early this year that I wanted to go somewhere this summer since it has been about two and a half years since I’ve taken a real vacation. After some searching, I settled on Mahahual, Mexico. It’s near the bottom of the Yucatan Peninsula and not real easy to get to. Here’s a map:
I planned on renting a car while there, so now I had to decide whether to have a shorter flying time and fly into Cancun, then have a 4-1/2 hour drive to Mahahual. Or have a longer flying time and fly into Chetumal, then have a 2 hour drive to Mahahual. I decided on the latter. The Chetumal airport is a tiny little thing and you have to walk down those movable metal stairs from the plane to the tarmac. I haven’t done that in years! Since I landed at 8:30 p.m., I reserved a room at the Fiesta Inn in Chetumal for one night because I didn’t want to make that drive to Mahahual in the dark. I’m glad I did because I had to get used to driving a stick shift again, not to mention watching out for all the topes (speed bumps)…not fun in the dark. Here’s my spiffy little BAIC.
Since I had never heard of that model of car before, I had to Google it…it’s made in China. It was pretty nice, though. Much better than the one I rented in Coba to see the ruins. That one had a lot of wear and tear with a mere 160,000 miles on it. This one was just under 10,000 and in much better condition.
The Fiesta Inn was right downtown and it only took me 10 minutes to get there. It’s a very nice hotel…modern, with all the amenities.
I drove around Chetumal just a little bit the next morning. It has a population of about 150,000, so it’s not huge. I drove along the coast, but they just have a very narrow shoreline that’s lined with a low brick wall. It didn’t really look like a swimming beach. They may have more beach areas up the coast, but I didn’t want to take the time to check it out. After all, I needed to get to my next destination!
Yes…Walmart!! I’ve never been to a Walmart in Mexico before, but they’re pretty much the same as they are here. Since Mahahual is somewhat isolated, I decided to stock up on some necessities and snacks. When I came out with my purchases, I saw that there was a flattened cardboard box on my windshield. A guy came up and pulled it off and I realized that he put it there to protect it from the sun, and expected a tip for being so considerate! What the hell…I tipped him.
So, off I go to Mahahual. Highway 307 goes from Cancun down the peninsula close to the Belize border. I was speeding my way north, going 100 kilometers per hour, passing trucks and thinking I was going really fast. Then I Googled what 100 kph is compared to mph and it’s 62. Okay, so not as fast as I thought I was going. It’s a good highway and kept up well but, again, you have to watch out for the topes. Whenever you go through towns, you have to deal with a lot of them. Sometimes they have a warning sign in advance, but often they do not. And they have all different kinds of them
When I was doing my search for destinations, I also considered Bacalar. It’s much closer to Chetumal and sits on a fresh water lagoon. I decided on Mahahual because I wanted to be on the beach, but I stopped to take a look at Bacalar on the way. It’s a very small town, but very quaint. I wouldn’t mind spending some time there. The water is beautiful and it’s very peaceful.
They had some small ruins there, but I didn’t explore them because it felt like it was about 150 degrees out there.
A very small el centro area with some cute little shops.
Here is some information on Bacalar…
So, here’s what you see when you drive up to Mahahual.
Then you have to drive about a mile south to get to the main part of town. Here’s my hotel. Their rooms don’t have numbers, they have names. I had the Pelicano Room. It doesn’t sit right on the beach but is only about 50 steps from there.
It actually reminded me of my bedroom at home because I have a Mexican theme in orange tones. I just wish I had the saltillo floor instead of carpet.
Fortunately, my toothbrush matched the decor.
So, when I reserved my trip back in February, I didn’t even consider the problems of sargassum (seaweed) on the beaches. But as the trip was getting closer, I started to see news and posts of the extensive amount of it on the beaches along the Riviera Maya and Costa Maya. I checked out the Facebook page for Mahahual and saw that there was, indeed, a problem with sargassum. I actually considered canceling my trip, but then decided to go ahead with it. So, after checking in the hotel, I had to go to see what the beach looked like. Honestly, I was expecting the worst…so I’ll start with the worst first.
First, though, my obligatory “toes in the sand” photo…along with a little sargassum.
This is what the poor business owners have to deal with when there’s an excess amount of the stuff. Some establishments appear to be better equipped to deal with it, while others struggle with it. These businesses solely rely on the tourism industry, and business has been down due to the fact that no one wants to get in the water, so why go to a beach? Sad.
You know it’s bad when you have to use a backhoe to get it out. Most places were just using wheelbarrows.
But this was the worst. It was difficult to walk by this area because of the smell.
Mahahual is a very small community. The population is under 1,000 and it covers only a few blocks. There is a walkway that is in between the beach, restaurants and shops. It is starting to expand, but it seems to be pretty slow-going. There is a community just blocks away from the coast by the lighthouse, but it doesn’t appear to be catching on…it seemed somewhat deserted and there are some vacant buildings there. I drove through there and it was very quiet. I think most people want to be by the beach, so it can be hard to get visitors to go off the beaten path.
Now let’s get to some better beach pictures. The hotels and restaurants on the beach really were trying to do a good job of keeping them clean…it was definitely an on-going process for them.
“Don’t climb on my branches, I am fragile.”
There were a few vendors on the beach…not many at all.
These guys brought home the catch of the day.
This looked like a father and son team of woodworkers. I would think this wouldn’t be a popular item for tourists because it would be difficult to tote home!
There were quite a few dogs and cats running freely. Most wore collars and were well-behaved.
To the north of the lighthouse, there is a pier where cruise ships dock. They’re not the huge ones like in Cozumel…just the medium-sized ones.
I think this is where the local vendors get most of their business from. They would stream in for several hours and stop by the shops and restaurants. However, the Segways surprised me. It would literally take no more than 10 minutes to roll from the cruise ship south to the end of the walkway. Why not walk? But then I’m just not a Segway kind of gal.
It rained really hard for short times for a couple of days and the water really puddles! But I like how they make little bridges to get over to the beach…ha!
Local kids playing soccer. The World Cup was on while I was there and every TV was tuned to it. Maybe one of these kids will get there some day.
Now on to the food!! There aren’t a whole lot of restaurants in Mahahual and I’m sure I missed some really good ones. The thing about restaurants in Mexico is that you get really huge portions and it’s hard for one person to eat. So when I would only eat half of my plate, the servers would think I didn’t like it. I would have to say that I can’t eat for two people!
I found the best place for breakfast was my own hotel. A woman and (I think) her daughter made and served the meals. They were wonderful…made with care and were really good.
I had Huevos Motulenos at a restaurant along the walkway, but it wasn’t the best…and I love Huevos Motulenos. The Loncherias in Isla Mujeres have the best I’ve ever tasted.
Then I found this place.
Nohoch Kay Big Fish. It was wonderful. I love shrimp and got the following dishes for the next three days…Garlic Shrimp, Cajun Shrimp, and Shrimp in Pablano Pepper Sauce. They were all great. I liked the simple fresh salad they had with it.
On my last day there, I really felt like American food and ordered (not at Nohoch Kay Big Fish) what I thought was a plain burger. I guess they take the name “hamburger” literally, because it had ham on it…haha.
Okay…time to head back to Chetumal for my flight out. I was leaving at 9:00 a.m. and since I didn’t want to make the drive to the airport from Mahahual at 5:00 in the morning, I decided to stay in Chetumal the night before. I forgot to mention on the drive in that they have numerous fruit stands along the highway urging customers to stop. This is a frequent scene along the highway.
So this is the hotel I stayed in in Chetumal before flying out…the All Business Hotel. It is the strangest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Normally, hotels are busy with people coming and going…many have restaurants in the lobby so there’s always some activity going on. Not here. It was the most quiet hotel I’ve ever stayed in. There was an eerie, weird feeling that was just unsettling. The staff didn’t speak a lick of English, which I’m totally fine with, but they weren’t even talking to each other. I drove by the front three times before I could find it.
Even though it seems conspicuous in the picture, it’s not easy to spot when you’re on the street. The bellboy sat at a table in the corner of the vast lobby and didn’t speak to anyone. But he did help direct me to my room. Here’s the big lobby in which there are no people.
And no windows to the outside. So, beyond the right side of this picture where that glass wall is, is where the rooms are.
I’m sorry, but I got a really weird feeling and was conjuring up visions of horror or science fiction movies of people having organs removed from their bodies during their stay here…haha! I made sure my kids knew where I was staying that night in case they never heard from me again!
On the upside, their bed linens were to die for. They were very plush and comfortable. I would definitely give them an A+ on that score.
So, off to the airport the next day. The Mexico City airport is huge and you find yourself lost at times. I found it’s best to just cozy up to an electrical outlet and watch a movie to pass the time. But just when you think you’re just passing one gate to the next, then, bam!…you find yourself to a big mall where you can purchase all the things you’d ever need.
On one last note, my son just got back from Playa del Carmen last week. He took a side trip to Tulum to look at the ruins. This is the picture he took.
This is the same picture I took in March of 2010. So sad. Is it ever going to go back to that beautiful blue again??
And with that, I bid you adios, Mahahual.
I feel like everyone has merely been tolerating my posts so far on this trip because I keep getting e-mails or messages from people wanting to know what I thought of Isla Holbox. So here it is, and I have to give a warning…this is a very long post with almost 100 photos. I thought of dividing the post into several parts, but since I was basically on the island for only a day and a half, I just decided to do it all at once.
I had done a little bit of research before I went on my trip to see what the best way would be to get from Valladolid to Chequila, where I would catch the ferry to the island. I did find out that there is a bus from Merida that stops at Valladolid at 2:30 in the morning and gets to Chequila at 5:00 a.m. I may have considered that at one point, but my cold was at its worst on Tuesday and Wednesday, so there was no way I could handle that. So my plan on Wednesday morning was to take the bus to Cancun and then another one to Chequila. On my way to the bus station, I passed the taxis and collectivos where I got one to Ek Balam, and on a whim, I asked a taxi driver if he would take me to Chequila for 500 pesos. He didn’t seem at all interested, but then another driver came up while we were talking and said he’d do it for 800 pesos. I only had to think for a moment because I was not looking forward to two long bus rides which would have taken up much of the day paired with the fun of sniffling and sneezing along the way. By the way, 800 pesos is equivalent to about $45 US dollars, which seemed really reasonable to me since I’ve heard that taxi fares to Chequlia from Cancun are over $120 US dollars. So off we went.
The ride was about two hours and we got there five minutes before the ferry was about to leave. It cost 120 pesos and takes 20-30 minutes. I didn’t have time to take pictures in Chequila, but here’s the inside of the ferry. It’s definitely smaller than the ones that go to Isla Mujeres.
Unfortunately, it was raining that day.
Here’s what the outside looks like as we arrive at Isla Holbox.
And the pier…
Pier towards the island…
They use golf carts for taxis here…
My hotel (Casa Barbara) was pretty close to the ferry. It sits kind of in the middle of the island. (This is actually a picture I got from the internet because I forgot to take a picture of it myself. They’ve painted it since then as you can see in the picture that I did take below in which the courtyard shows it as being pink and blue now.)
They have a nice little pool…
And the grounds are very lush and green. It was a very peaceful and quiet setting.
Since my legs were virtually non-usable after climbing the ruins at Ek Balam, I was thinking to myself, “Please, please please let my room be on the first floor!!” when I checked in to the hotel. No such luck…second floor for me. I was just thankful it wasn’t the third floor. Here’s my room…
It was a nice room and a nice hotel, but after being in rooms that had big doors that opened up the room to the outside, I kind of missed that in this one.
I don’t know if that is meant to be a seat in the shower?? There was another area for toiletries, so if it IS a seat, only a 3-year-old child would be comfortable sitting there.
So it’s time to do some exploring. Just to give you an idea, here is the map of Isla Holbox. As you can see, most of the island is uninhabited and most of the restaurants are located in the downtown area.
I wanted to rent a golf cart to explore the island, but the rain put a damper on that. When I went downstairs to leave the hotel, I looked into the neighbor’s yard. That’s a little bit of water there.
And here’s a picture of a side street. It was still raining when I went out, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Water was everywhere. The streets are very hard sand that has been pounded down with the traffic. But when it rains, all that water puddles and the sand turns to silt and it’s very slippery…and such a mess! People are traipsing around in this stuff and tracking it into shops and restaurants. I have to hand it to these people for dealing with this every time it rains.
So I headed downtown and saw this on the way. It’s my favorite picture of the whole trip.
And here’s the beach. I was a little surprised to see that the water wasn’t a clear blue like it is along the Caribbean side of the Yucatan Peninsula.
I stopped for some lunch at this place which sat on the beach.
Nice view from my table…
The fresh fish was very good…
This pregnant little missy (or Mrs.) kept me company. She looked like she was ready to pop! [Update: After posting this, a reader informed me that the cat is not pregnant…she is just fat. Hahaha…my bad!]
So that’s about all I had the energy for my first day. My cold was at its worst, so I just went back to the hotel room to rest so that I would be in better shape the next day. I ventured out to get a pizza from here later in the evening…
But I forgot to take a picture of it before I ate it…very tasty.
The rest of the evening was spent watching old Mexican movies and cuddling with my box of kleenex.
I did feel better the next day and the sun was shining, so that was good! I took a lot of pictures because I knew I had to leave before dawn the next morning. So here we go. I’m not going to comment on every photo…I was just taking pictures of anything.
The streets were still a mess and you really had to be careful walking through the puddles because it was so slippery.
Something new being built on the main street.
Here was a place that was selling plants. If I lived there, I would be buying from this guy all the time.
No, the dog wasn’t dead…he just chose the middle of the street to take a little siesta. I saw quite a few Dachshunds on the island
The water looked a little clearer this morning.
Toes in Holbox sand…
Another favorite photo. This handsome guy was standing in this boat like he was the captain.
I saw him again later…I think he thought these guys had some food.
The seaweed was pretty bad here, too…just like it apparently is everywhere else. These boys were putting it in crates to haul away.
And these guys were piling it together to take it away.
What a job that would be…and it’s never-ending! It’s not like they’ll get rid of the seaweed one day and then it will never come back!
There were a bunch of these scattered around in the seaweed. They look alien-like.
And pretty ugly…
I don’t know what this structure used to be a part of, but it’s probably a landmark.
I stopped for breakfast at a little place…I forgot to get the name of it, but it was right next to Holbox Dream hotel. Huevos Mexicanos…muy bien.
The beach here has lots of little shells in some places.
This little cutie was having fun.
I walked out on a long pier to take these pictures.
And here’s a 180 degree view…
And now let’s head into town. There are lots of murals on the buildings.
There are a lot of dogs on the island, but they’re all very well behaved. Most of them seem to stay right where they live.
A rather strange one…
They had lots of things for kids in the zocalo…
The local church…
A beautiful door…
I could see myself living here…
I went back to the hotel to change clothes and found this. How sweet.
You don’t find that at the Red Roof Inn in the United States, that’s for sure. And they charge more!
I went back to the Amaite Hotel where I got the fish to get a shrimp cocktail because it’s a nice place to sit and watch the water and the activity.
While I was sitting there, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen a single beach vendor. Then this little guy walked by. There were a couple other women selling purses and jewelry, but that’s it.
I spent the rest of the afternoon reading an relaxing on the beach, but came back later in the evening for dinner at the place across the street from the Amaite Hotel, but it was too dark to get a picture.
The Amaite Hotel puts tables out on the piers at night with torches. How romantic!
Just some shots walking back to the hotel. As you can see, it wasn’t very crowded at all…especially still being the high season.
And the streets are finally all dry.
Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year!
My flight back to San Antonio was at 4:00 the next day, but between the ferry and bus schedules, I had to take the first ferry out at 7:00 a.m. to get to the airport in enough time. It was pitch black when everyone showed up at the ferry, but things went pretty smoothly. When we got to Chequila, the ADO bus was waiting. The girl at the hotel told me that the bus would cost 150 pesos, but when I gave the driver exactly 150 pesos, I got change back, so I don’t know how much it actually ended up being. Unfortunately, I was one of the last people to get on and I had to stand. UGH!! I stood for an hour and 45 minutes before two young girls got up and offered their seats to me and another woman standing. It was a three hour ride back to Cancun…then I had to catch another bus to the airport.
So that was my trip to Holbox. It was WAY too short and I wish I hadn’t had the cold. I’ve been traveling to Mexico for the last 10 years and I’ve never gotten sick once, so I guess I should consider myself lucky that this was the first time.
Holbox is very unspoiled, quiet and peaceful. It is not as expensive as other towns and cities along the Caribbean side of the Yucatan Peninsula. I wish I could have explored the island, but I really didn’t have enough time to do that, especially considering the rain. Next time, I would spend at least a week there to try out more restaurants and a different hotel, although I really did enjoy Casa Barbara.
All in all, my trip to Mexico this time was good, but a little different. On previous trips, I mostly ran into tourists from the US and Canada. This time, I heard more languages spoken than I’ve ever heard before. People were traveling from all over the world and I think the United States was the least represented. That’s not a bad thing…it was just different for me.
I’ll end with this shot from the ferry as we headed for Chequila. Adios, Mexico.
So I could feel myself coming down with a cold when I got to Valladolid. It wasn’t bad yet and I wasn’t going to let it come between me and Ek Balam. When I checked into the hotel, I asked the desk clerk where I could go to rent a car. He said that they didn’t rent cars in Valladolid. What?!?! What city doesn’t rent cars?! I guess that would be Valladolid. So I asked him how I’d see Ek Balam, and he told me to walk about a block down the street and there would be taxis and collectivos that could take me there. So that’s what I did. Since I was the only one so far, the driver had me wait in a vacant building until some other tourists came along who wanted to go.
Typical Valladolid street…
Bougainvillea grows everywhere down here…
Here’s the vacant building I had to wait in. I wonder when this place was built. I started picturing where I would put the kitchen and courtyard pool when I bought it and renovated it…haha! It sure had some history.
Quite a ceiling…
I’m not sure how this pattern is put on the walls…maybe stenciled?? I would like to have seen it when it was new. Who knows how long ago that was.
Okay, the driver rounded up three other people, so we’re on our way!
Here we are winding our way through town…
It took maybe a little over a half hour to get to the ruins and we passed through a couple of little towns, one of which was Temozon. I thought it was kind of strange to see these pretty white horses tied up to these pavilion-like buildings. But when I took the bus from Chequila to Cancun, I actually saw quite a few horses just tied up to trees or buildings along the way, so I guess it’s not that uncommon.
An old church in Temozon…
Gift shop along the way…
As well as these bikers. These guys would ride through Valladolid with sirens blaring so loudly that you’d think ambulances and emergency vehicles were going through town. I don’t know who or what they were.
Well, here we are at Ek Balam. There is no fanfare for these ruins. It’s a very low-key entrance, as opposed to Chichen Itza where there are restaurants, a huge parking lot for buses, as well as about a million vendors selling their wares. Not so in Ek Balam.
And they just have a few vendors at the entrance to the grounds.
Here are some of the structures…
There weren’t many people here at all, which made it so much more pleasant than Chichen Itza. I knew that you could still climb the main tower, but when I got there, I said, “Do I really want to??”
Because of my cold, I wasn’t feeling my best, but convinced myself that after coming all this way, what choice did I really have? Ugh. They have platforms off to the side on different levels with various “rooms.”
So after resting a couple times on the way up, I finally reached the top…yay! Thank the Lord Baby Jesus, there was a nice breeze up there, which certainly helped since it was pretty hot that day. There were some nice views. The forest seems to go on forever.
There were approximately 20 people at the top with me, most of whom were about half my age. As far as I could tell, I was the only American and the only one speaking English. I had to ask someone to take my picture because there was no way I wasn’t going to document this.
Oh, no…now I have to go down. Ugh, again. After breaking a wrist after a fall a couple of years ago, the thought of tumbling down this ruin did not appeal to me, so I embarrassingly went back down step by step on my butt the whole way. Oh, well, I’ll never see these people again, and at least I didn’t fall, so that’s a good thing.
Ruin guard dog?
Here is some info on some of the buildings if you’re interested.
I can’t believe I didn’t move the leaf on this one.
I’m thinking this might be the ceremonial area? Just a wild guess.
So I walk back to the parking lot thinking I would just hop on a collectivo back to Valladolid. Well, there were collectivos there, but they were all pre-arranged transportation and they told me that collectivos don’t come to pick up people there. What?!?! How the heck am I supposed to get back to Valladolid? So I go back to the area where you get your tickets to wait for the other people that were in my collectivo on the way to the ruin. (One was a woman who was born in Mexico but was currently living in France, and the other two were a couple from Italy.) They finally show up and I ask them how they’re getting back. Turns out they’re not going back to Valladolid but are getting a bus in the other direction. I must have looked kind of panicked because they started asking some of the staff how I’d get back. The woman from France spoke fluent Spanish and she talked to a taxi driver who agreed to take the three of them to where they’d catch the bus, and me and two other guys back to Valladolid for 50 pesos each. Mind you, these taxis are the size of a Kia Rio and they have a sign on the side that says the maximum capacity is four people. This picture isn’t the best for showing how crowded it was in that car, but there were four of us in the back and two passengers and the driver in the front. Crazy.
Fortunately, the three taking the bus only had a drive of about five miles, so it wasn’t too bad. The passenger in the front turned out to be an Indian guy from California who decided to come to Mexico by himself for two weeks. It was his first time there and he was so excited about his trip and adventures he had, and was telling me all about them. He arrived in Mexico City and traveled by bus up to the Yucatan and was flying out of Cancun. We shared stories about how people think you’re crazy to go to Mexico alone and how silly we thought they were. He mentioned that he had met a lot of other people traveling on their own, but that I was the only American one. Crazy woman that I am.
Back to Valladolid. Since I would be leaving the next morning, I set out to see Cenote Zaci, which was right in the middle of the city, only two blocks from my hotel.
Just like the “Hollywood” sign.
After climbing the ruins a few hours ago, my legs felt pretty much like Jello, so when I saw these steps down to the cenote, my only thought was, “Oh, Lord…I’m going to have to climb back up those.”
But I was there, so I felt I had no choice. *sigh*
These things are pretty cool. I’ve seen three so far, but I’ve never gone swimming in one. The water is always really dark, so it makes you wonder how deep they are.
This little girl took forever to talk herself into jumping, but she finally did it…then thought it was pretty neat.
This picture looks kind of upside-down, but it’s the stalactites on the ceiling.
A refreshing snack at the restaurant that sits at the top of the cenote. (The walk up the steps was very slow, by the way.)
And a final picture of the doorway on the opposite side of the courtyard from my room at the hotel…I think it’s a pretty picture. Adios, Valladolid.
Next stop? Isla Holbox!
I’ve been to Valladolid before, so I’m going to just do a quick post on the city. I’ve never stayed at the Meson del Marques before, however, and I’m glad I did. It’s a wonderful hotel right on the main square, so it’s convenient to everything. You can’t tell much from the front entrance, but that’s how these old Mexican cities are. The building facades are very plain, but there’s a lot going on behind them.
I loved my room with the tile floor and the big door that opened up. There wasn’t a porch there, but it made the room seem so much more open and light.
Looking the other way…
Here’s the bathroom. Even though I don’t use them, a bathtub is a real luxury in basic rooms in Mexico.
Here’s the pool…
And this is the view from my balcony…it overlooks the restaurant in the lobby. They had a female singer/flamenco dancer the first night I was there. It was nice to have that in the background while I was working on the blog.
When I looked to the left, I could see the main church in the square…
And here’s what it looked like at night. I could have definitely stayed here for awhile.
I love the architecture of these old Mexican cities…especially the vivid colors and the huge old doors.
Here’s the main cathedral…
And the altar inside…
I was lucky enough to arrive on a Sunday afternoon, so I was able to check out the local fare on the main square.
I have no ideas what these are…
I decided to have try dinner at this place…
And I had to try to cochinita pibil…the local specialty. It was very good!
The next morning, I went downstairs for breakfast to find these guys rearranging the gates in the garden area. They were having a hard time figuring out how to put them back so that they all fit in the right places…but they worked it out.
Here’s the view of my room doorway from my seat at the restaurant. I figured it was okay to keep the doors open while I was downstairs.
The hotel provides a complimentary breakfast to guests. I had the Huevos Mexicanos, which was very good…in addition to the excellent coffee.
My trip to Ek Balam is next!
Before I get into Puerto Morelos, I wanted to post a picture of the Chili Rellenos I had at Jeanie’s my last night in Cozumel. Jeanie’s seems to be a more local place which is just off the downtown area.
Here are the Chili Rellenos, which were really good. I have made these myself, and it’s not an easy job.
When I left the restaurant, I was parked next to the Zocalo in Cozumel. I am always warmed by the family feel you get when you see all the children playing here…and they are always decorated for the holidays.
When I arrived in Playa del Carmen the next morning, it was still very crowded, but not quite as bad as when I arrived on the 29th. The line at the bus station was long, so I opted to have some lunch in the hopes that the line would go down.
I enjoy the Mexican food when I go to Mexico, but sometimes I crave just a good ol’ American dish, so I got a club sandwich…
…at this place (picture courtesy of google maps because I didn’t get a picture of it). It was average at best, but what do you expect when you order a club sandwich at a Mexican restaurant??
As I was heading back to the ADO bust station, I saw this statue, which I had never noticed before. I guess it could have been new.
When I got back to the bus station, I saw that the line was outside the building now, so I just waited. Everybody takes the bus in Mexico.
Back to Puerto Morelos. As many of you know, I’ve been to PoMo a few times and really liked it. When I went there the first time, I found it to be a sleepy little village that only had a handful of restaurants and just a couple bars. I will always cherish my experience at the Little Mexican Cooking School there, which you can see on my old blog here:
You can also see the “old” Puerto Morelos on that blog here:
Well, it’s no longer that sleepy little village. The cab driver took me from the bus to the hotel, so I didn’t get to see the beach until after I checked in. My room wasn’t quite ready yet, so I told the owner I’d do some exploring. The Amar Inn is right next to the beach so when I walked out there, I was quite surprised to see this…
I walked closer to the shoreline and it was even worse. The times I had been here before, there were just a smattering of people on the beach and very few umbrellas or chairs. I know this was high season, but when I went back to the hotel and mentioned it to the owner, he said it had been like that all year, and that’s it’s been the most crowded he’s ever seen his whole life. He also said that people were coming from all over the world and not just North and South America. I was sitting in a hammock waiting for my room to be finished and two very sweet little boys came to join me…they and their parents were visiting from France. I’ll have to say that in my many visits for the past 10 years to Mexico, most of the people I’ve met have been from American or Canada. This was a very different trip.
So here’s the Amar Inn, which is about two blocks from downtown and right on the beach.
They have a very nice courtyard area which separates the rooms on the inland side…plus they have some rooms that go right onto the beach. It’s a very quiet and peaceful little haven.
Here’s my room. It’s very basic, but it was very comfortable. The owner is extremely nice and accommodating. He and is family live on the property so they’re always accessible.
While the fixtures may be dated, I loved this bathroom because the water pressure was very strong and the hot water came on almost immediately. That is a luxury.
Toilet to match the sink…
While I was taking pictures in the bathroom, it occurred to me that I didn’t see a sink in the kitchen, which seemed a little strange.
Oh, wait…there it is! It was hiding!
I headed downtown to see if anything had changed. The Zocalo looked to be the same. Here were the Christmas decorations. It seemed a shame that they had to gate the nativity scene…kind of takes away from the intent of the message.
And here’s looking towards the main pier where the crooked lighthouse is. When I’ve been here, there have been maybe three to ten people at the most on this pier. Not any more.
I looked for a quiet place to have dinner and ended up a La Sirena’s. Another picture from google maps because I forgot to take a picture of the front.
I sat upstairs so that I could get a view with a nice breeze.
I had a vegetarian pasta dish that was pretty good. I forgot to ask why the salt around their margaritas was red.
A long-distance shot from dinner of the pier…
And one of a pelican waiting for dinner…
After dinner, I went down to the pier to see what was bringing the crowds. The only thing I could see was this fisherman, who had netted some bait.
Other than that, there was more seaweed…
I tried to get at least one decent shot that didn’t have a bunch of people or seaweed. This was the best I could do.
Walking back to my hotel along the beach…
Just not the same feeling anymore.
Since Cozumel is a pretty large island, I decided that I needed to rent a car to see what it had to offer. A huge percentage of the island is protected, meaning that nothing can be built on it. I think the livable land is under 10% of the island, which is incredible since it is in a spectacular part of the Caribbean. Considering that the Yucatan coast is getting visited by more and more people from countries all over the world, you’d think they’d want to capitalize on that. I’m glad they’re not…and so are the residents of the island.
I was pleasantly surprised by Cozumel. For some reason I thought it would be more junky and crowded, but it really wasn’t. It’s clean and relatively quiet. I think some of that is due to the fact that they don’t have golf carts there to contribute to the noise and traffic congestion. I think that’s a good idea. Since it’s a larger island, it doesn’t seem as crowded, so people can spread out more. Since I was there right at New Year’s, I would think it would be a very crowded time of year, but it didn’t seem that bad. Playa del Carmen seemed much worse.
Anyway, back to the car rental. I asked the staff person at Villas El Encanto to see if she could find a car for me for New Year’s Day. She wasn’t sure anything would be available, but she came through for me. As I posted on Facebook, the rental company was ISIS (pronounced “ee-sus”), and I could go pick it up. Yay! It’s a family-run company and they’ll do you right. I would highly recommend them…unless you want a Lexus or BMW. Then you might need to go somewhere else. Here’s my car.
And it’s not the horse and buggy.
This was no luxury car, that’s for sure, so if you want to rent a cheap car on Cozumel, be prepared for this. It’s bare-bones, a stick shift, no suspension, no power steering, and no A/C. If you drive a stick shift, it might take you awhile to get used to the clutch. It cost me $45 for 24 hours and I paid cash. After I got used to it, I thought it was kind of fun.
So I headed south on the island to see what was there. There are a couple more docks for the cruise ships down that way. I don’t know whether the bigger cruise ships dock here, or if that’s just the way it was when I was there, but some of these things are HUGE! This picture doesn’t do it justice because it looked like a small city. I would love to have gone aboard one because I’ve never been on one before, but they probably wouldn’t let me just go on and look around.
So once you get past those other docks, things really start to thin out and there isn’t much to see. The sea is to your right and jungle area is to your left. There are occasional restaurants along the way, one of which I stopped at for lunch. I got a picture, but I didn’t get the name.
Here’s the view. There were snorkelers along the shore.
And a couple of parasailers in the distance.
And here are the fish tacos I had.
I saw a sign for a park and botanical gardens, so I thought I’d stop. I’m a big plant lover, so I thought it might be worth seeing. It was called Chankanaab Park.
The botanical gardens were just a lot of lush plants that grow in the area, and it was dressed up with replicas of various Mexican ruins and historical Mayan artifacts.
Hardly anyone was looking at this part of the park…everyone was interested in the beach, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, the buffet and Starbuck’s. It cost me $21 to get in the place, which was pretty much a waste since I didn’t use any of the water features. It’s geared more toward families and children.
As you drive along the edge of the island, you see an occasional restaurant or bar…like the one below…every few miles. They usually have the typical souvenir shops alongside, but that’s about it. There are no homes or any other kinds of businesses.
There was an area called Punta Sur, which I didn’t check out. According to the signage, it was supposed to have beautiful beaches, but it cost about $20, as well. After wasting $20 on the park, I didn’t want to spend another $20 on this. Maybe it would have been worth it…I don’t know.
For the most part, the coast is very rocky.
I walked up on that rocky bar that juts out on the upper right of the picture above, and it’s extremely rough and hard to walk on. I wasn’t going to go up there, but a family wanted me to take a picture of all of them so they helped me up, and then deserted me after I took the picture! If you fell on this stuff, it would not be a pretty picture.
Anyway, I got down safe and sound. Here’s another one that has the Mexican flag on it.
I wish I had more pictures to share of Cozumel, but I was only there for two full days, so I could only cover so much.
Here’s the ferry getting ready to take us back to Playa del Carmen. I’m just praying that it will be a better trip than the one to Cozumel.
Here are some pictures as I’m waiting to board.
Looking towards the Yucatan Peninsula…
Some views of the Cozumel shoreline…I wish I would have thought to drive the other way along the cost to check out the other hotels, but I just didn’t think about it.
So I discover that I DO have the option of sitting on top of this ferry and I’m very grateful because it’s a beautiful day. Instead of sitting on the benches under the roof, I opt for the open-air benches at the back of the boat.
I was able to stick my feet out under the rail and felt somewhat like Rose in “Titanic” as she’s leaning over the railing at the front of the ship. (Well, not really, and I’m at the back of the boat so it’s really completely different….besides the fact that Leonard DiCaprio wasn’t there.) But it was WAY better than the hot ferry ride over and I will take this any day.
And adios, Cozumel!
On to a one-night stay at Puerto Morelos next!
I’m being a tad lax in posting on the blog. While I enjoy blogging, it can be a bit time-consuming and when you’re trying to have fun on a vacation, it can eat into that time. So that’s my excuse for being late. I’ll just do a post on my first day in Cozumel…my first time there. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, so I had an open mind. It didn’t start out well, however, with an awful ferry ride from Playa del Carmen. I am used to the UltraMar ferries to Isla Mujeres that are air-conditioned inside, but you have the option of sitting on top in the open air…which I usually did. This ferry didn’t have that option. I went on board and found a seat while thinking, “Man, it’s HOT in here!” I thought that maybe it’s like plane rides in which they don’t turn on the air conditioning until the plane actually starts moving. I was certainly hoping that was the case, but it wasn’t. We were packed in there like sardines as it was a full boat, and it was hotter than…well, you know what. And it didn’t get any better. I was fanning myself with my printed out Booking.com room confirmations almost the whole time.
So when we got to Cozumel, it was pouring down rain so everybody waited for it to pass..which it did in about 10 minutes. I grabbed a taxi to take me to my hotel so that I could dump my suitcase and do some exploring. I stayed at the Villas El Encanto which I found on-line. I booked this trip at the last minute so I had to work with what I could find that was available during the busy time of the year. I lucked out on this one, because it was a charmer.
Here’s my room…
I loved the doors that opened out to a little patio.
The bathroom and shower…
They had shared kitchens which were fully equipped…
The grounds were very lush and they had two pools. And one of the room had its own private pool.
I would highly recommend this hotel. The owners and staff are extremely friendly and helpful, and it was a quiet and peaceful location. It’s a little bit of hike to the downtown area, but it’s do-able. If you hail a cab, it’s about 60 pesos.
El Centro is right on the water, but there’s no beach area. There is a malecon that runs along the shoreline, and you can walk down to the water, but there are no “toes-in-the-sand” restaurants.
I walked around town right away, and grabbed some chips and pico de gallo at Palmera’s. This is as close to the water you’re going to get downtown.
Here are some pictures around El Centro…
All the streets are filled with vendors begging you to come in their store. It seems like they all sell the same things. I wonder how well they do?
A few of them had more artistic items, but they were pretty pricey.
The zocalo was all decorated for the holidays…
As you can see in the picture above, there are cruise ships here. At least one was docked at the pier during the time I was here. The one pictured below is small compared to the ones that were docked further down the island.
I also took a walk in the neighborhood where my hotel was. It’s a nice area and very quiet.
This house for sale is across the street from the hotel.
If you click on the picture below to enlarge it, you’ll see that those are mallard ducks in the windows. That’s a first for me.
Some neighborhood murals…
And a funny one…ha!
And some pretty flowers…
The Bougainvillea are so lush and beautiful in Mexico.
Here’s my view at breakfast the next morning…
I had the “Poblano Eggs,” although I don’t know why they were called that since I didn’t see any poblano peppers in it. I can just about here the comments from everyone when you see this picture of them. They do look pretty awful. That’s mole sauce over the eggs. I always like to try something new, but I think I’ll pass on this one in the future. I like mole sauce, but not especially on eggs.
Obligatory toes-in-the-sand picture in Cozumel.
It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been to Mexico. I spent two weeks on Isla Mujeres in June of 2014 at that time, and was very disappointed in all the changes there. Between a ton more tourists and increased prices, it just didn’t seem like the same ol’ Isla to me. While I suppose it’s good for their economy, it made me kind of sad, so I wanted to try something different this time. I left yesterday and went to Playa del Carmen which is just a stopover point since I arrived in the evening. I’ve been to PDC several times before and I’m not a big fan. It’s too commercial and glitzy for me…I’d rather just have laid back atmosphere and a more true Mexico feel. PDC is all about shopping and expensive food. I know there are less expensive family-owned places, but you have to take the time to find them and I never wanted to take that time in Playa del Carmen. But I diverse…back to my current trip.
Here’s the familiar Best Day people scrambling to help their travelers, who I’ve never had a problem with. I think they’re trying to get away from “Best Day” and use “BD Travel,” but they’ll always be Best Day to me. For the life of me, I can’t understand why the airport wouldn’t put some benches out there for the travelers to sit on while they’re waiting for their rides. And the travel people always have to use the trash cans to set their paperwork on. It’s been that way for the past 10 years I’ve been traveling there, so I’m thinking it’s not going to change.
When we got going, it was dark, so I couldn’t take any pictures along the way…other than this one. This is a new feature for the shuttle rides for me…videos of things you can do on the Riviera Maya while you’re on the way to your hotel.
Here was my hotel in PDC…it’s the Hacienda Real Caribe. The entrance is just a block off of the main strip in PDC so it’s very convenient to everything. A sign in the lobby said that a regular room was $190 per night, but I got my room for $128 (taxes included) through Booking.com.
It had a very Spanish feel and I wish I could have stayed there longer…well, maybe if it would have been somewhere else besides Playa del Carmen.
It was a totally comfy bed.
With a little balcony outside that faced the street.
Here’s one view…
And here’s the other…
And here’s the bathroom…
I would highly recommend it…I could have stayed there a month or two.
On to Playa del Carmen. I first went there about seven years ago and thought it was commercial and glitzy at that time. Now it is doubly so. They’re building more and more shops and hotels and restaurants and they are very high end. It’s obvious that they are catering to wealthy people who expect the best. Here are just a very few…
I don’t know how well these shops do because I hardly saw anyone in them and I didn’t see anyone carrying packages. But it was just after Christmas, so that could be a reason. It sure seems to be growing, though. I was in Las Vegas in October, and it reminded me a little of that. It’s not my cup of tea, but I guess it’s good for Mexico.
There are also the native merchants who are selling the Mexican wares…
Here’s where I went for dinner. (This picture was actually taken the next morning because I forgot to get a picture of it that night.)
And I just got the chicken tacos because I wasn’t that hungry.
They were just okay…nothing special at all. I did like their tortilla chips and salsa, however.
These guys were making the rounds at all the restaurants. They were actually very good.
After walking around awhile, I decided to treat myself to a Margarita. Kind of a cute little setting, right?? Pretty candle holder and glass.
The next morning, I had to have my usual first fix of Huevos Motulenos. They were okay. I don’t think anyone can beat the ladies at the Loncherias on Isla Mujeres. They are the best.
After breakfast, I realized I hadn’t even seen the beach, so I took a side trip there.
Here’s what I saw when I got to the beach. Yuck!
And this was the other way…yuck!
I’ve read some posts on Facebook about how the seaweed has been a real problem on the Mexican coasts this year. I’ve never seen it this bad at Playa del Carmen. They were trying to clean it up, but it looked like a no-win situation. It is, after all, just nature.
And here’s looking out the window of the ferry to Cozumel. Adios, Playa del Carmen! More on that later…stay tuned.
Here are just some fun shots with my son’s GoPro camera on my last visit. This will be my last trip to Isla Mujeres. It has become “discovered” by daytrippers and HGTV, and it just isn’t the same to me. Adios, Isla…I will cherish the memories.
One of the best things about working at a university is that you get two paid weeks off over Christmas and you don’t have to use your vacation time. Sweet. Since it’s been a very busy fall semester, I am now finally able to get to a couple final short blog posts on my trip to Isla Mujeres this past summer. They’re just random shots I took in the last couple of days there.
I decided to have another beach day on my last full day there.
I mostly hung out at this place…which I can’t remember the name of now. It’s just a bit down from where Sergio’s used to be towards Privilege Aluxes. By the way, this is a screen shot taken from Google Maps. It is amazing how you can go almost everywhere on Google Maps now…it’s almost like being there yourself.
It never rained a drop while I was there for the whole two weeks. I wish it would have just to cool things off a bit. So as I was sitting on the beach, I noticed a lot of private boats go by…more than I’ve ever noticed before. I don’t know whether these are chartered or owned, but they sure were nice. And they seem to come so close to shore.
I stopped by Asia Caribe for an appetizer. These spring rolls were very good and the ingredients were very fresh.
This was a new (well, at least to me) gift shop along Rueda Medina.
I don’t know how authentic the items are there, but I liked this little lady. I’m not sure where a person would put this in a home…and it would be really difficult to take on a plane, so I had to pass it up.
I had an early dinner at this place on Rueda Medina, which was also new to me. This is also a Google Maps screen shot since I forgot to take a photo of the front.
I will have to confess that one of the main reasons I went here is because it was air-conditioned. After two weeks in the intense heat, I felt like I had become a puddle of sweat walking around on the island…gross, but true.
Here was the complimentary bread. The pesto/garlic butter was really good, but the bread was pretty crunchy and hard. More like big croutons.
I ordered a sampling of the pasta and it was really good. I wished I had the time to go back and try some other things there.
A final picture of the view from Bally Hoo…
It was nothing to write home about. I wish I could have gone to the loncherias for my last breakfast but, alas, they weren’t open.
I went back to the apartment to gather up my stuff and say ‘goodbye’ to the neighbor. He didn’t seem to care too much that I was leaving.
The sad final shots as the ferry backs away from the dock.
Lunch at the Cancun airport. Bleah!! And it made me realize I had completely forgotten to get a Bimbo Dog while I was on Isla…oh, no!!!
I will do one more post on the trip of some fun pictures I took with my son’s GoPro camera, so stay tuned for that.
I decided I needed a little R&R after a few rough weeks at work, so I took a drive down to South Padre Island. There’s really nothing special about South Padre…it’s just a touristy island with a bunch of condos and hotels that mostly cater to college spring breakers. There’s no quaintness or history and it is so built up that there is hardly any space between each building. The beach is better than Corpus Christi, but it’s nothing compared to Mexico. Once you go to Caribbean beaches, you’re spoiled, that’s for sure. But hearing the waves roll up on the shore always recharges my batteries and that’s what I needed.
It’s about a 5-1/2 hour drive from San Marcos, so I drove down one highway and then went down to the border to drive back up on another highway. Even though all the scenery looks exactly the same in South Texas, it just makes me feel like I’m mixing it up a bit when I take different routes.
Yes, that’s right…I said “went down to the border.” As many of my readers already know, I’ve crossed the border at Nuevo Progreso to do some shopping a few times. I posted my first trip there on my old blog, which you can see here:
It’s been awhile since I’ve been there, so since I was in the area, I thought I’d stop by for another visit. Highway 281 is literally right on the border and you can often see the border fence as you drive along. There are many homes in this area which have the border fence in their backyard which would seem pretty strange to me, but I guess they get used to it.
It’s a very Mexican influenced area of Texas, which is evident by the tiny colorful cemeteries you see along the way. They just appear here and there and don’t cover much ground. It kind of makes me wonder what the protocol is in deciding where a cemetery is going to be. You can’t just arbitrarily bury people anywhere, right?
You park in a big lot on this side of the Rio Grande River for $2.00 for the whole day. It was packed today. I’m guessing people were doing some Christmas shopping. There was virtually no one driving into Mexico as is evident here.
As opposed to those who were going from Mexico into the United States. The line was backed up all the way over the river and into the town.
You have to go through a turnstyle for 50 cents and walk over the river. I think Nuevo Progreso really values the winter Texans who aren’t afraid of crossing the border because there are a lot of them.
Here’s the river…
This is looking over the side of the bridge towards the Mexican side. People hang out here and beg for money from the people who pass over the bridge.
They put ball caps through the slats in the bridge hoping that someone will drop money into them.
Here’s the Mexico sign when you get into the town. Last time I was here, it was all gray. Now it’s the colors of their flag, which I like better.
I’ll have to admit that when I walk into Nuevo Progreso, I am so overwhelmed with streetside people bombarding me with their wares and trying to get me to buy drugs (the legal kind), dentistry and eyeglass services, that I just escape into one of the “normal” stores to get my bearings. Here’s one of those stores that has just about everything.
Michael Kors purses. (Well, I’m sure they’re not really Michael Kors purses for only $40.00, but who in the United States is going to know, right?)
Here’s another big store that I’ve gotten some things at. I would actually like to have this pig BBQ, but I wouldn’t want to carry it across the river.
Same with the sinks. Luckily, I have a Mexican sink in my bathroom, so I don’t need another one. It really does making going into your bathroom a little more pleasant.
These seemed to be a popular artistic trend. You would definitely need a theme for this somewhat depressing picture. And do they have Holland-like windmills in Mexico??
Another street scene…
Another street scene…
I decided to stop for lunch. I noticed the prices of drinks on the back of the menu. Considering how expenses mixed drinks have gotten in the United States, I couldn’t believe how inexpensive these drinks were.
I stuck with a Mexican basic, though, with my enchiladas verdes.
I was sitting on an outside porch area of the restaurant, which just invites all the young vendors to come by to sell their wares. I am just a wimp when it comes to this and a total soft sell. The only thing I ask from them is a smile. How can you say “no” to this?
And another sweetie. What a different life these children lead than what we’re used to in the states. It’s a whole different world.
This guy was trying to sell his wares to the cars in line to cross the border.
And my final visitor during lunch. I apologize for the fuzzy photo, but I had to include it because he was quite the character. He came up to me asking if I wanted my shoes shined.
Sidebar: After I had been walking around for about 15 minutes in town, one of my flip flops came loose at the toe and was basically unwearable. There I was, walking around dirty Nuevo Progreso with one bare foot. Gross!! I had to find a pair of shoes fast! I went into one shop and they had a “huge” selection of about five sandals, only one of which was my size. I didn’t have much choice because I had to have something! They wouldn’t have been my style of choice but when you’re in a pinch, you have to adapt. Luckily, they were very comfortable for tromping around town.
Anyway, it was pretty comical when the little guy came around to see if I wanted my shoes shined. I had to pass on that one.
He sat down and proceeded to tell me that he was hungry. I would have shared my enchiladas verdes (and chips) with him, but the waiter had already taken them away. I told him that maybe he needed to go home. I imagine these people have a very difficult life surviving here and rely very much on us gringos providing their meager wages.
Another street scene…
I wasn’t in the market for one of these…
These sure smelled good…
There are quite a few women who sit on the street with just a cup begging for money. Many of them have children in their laps. I don’t feel comfortable taking their picture, but just wanted to get one to show that this happens.
As in most Mexican towns, Nuevo Progreso has musicians. Another fuzzy photo, but these guys were very entertaining.
Lots of cosmetic and salon services available here…
I think I scared the heck out of this guy when I took his picture because he wasn’t expecting it. He was cutting up cactus to sell.
Decorative veggie cutters. I bought one of these last time I was there and have never used it once…haha!
They sell just about everything down here…
Tortilla presses and molcajetes…
Lots and lots of food vendors…
The side streets of Nuevo Progreso are much less traveled. I’ve never been down one and I never see any other visitors going down them. When I was thinking of coming here this time, I e-mailed the CEO of the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce to see if it was still safe. She told me that the outlying areas could be “tense,” but that there were no problems within the town. I hope that doesn’t change because these people need the business of Americans.
Lots of clothes available…
Here’s the main street. It’s a very noisy, dirty, dusty town, and excrutiatingly hot in the summer. There is not one blade of grass anywhere in the downtown area.
I don’t know whether this guy was making these for himself or selling them.
Shoe shining is a big deal in Mexico…
I have no idea what these are for and I wasn’t about to ask because if you do, then you’ll be pulled into a whole discussion of pricing and I just didn’t want to go there…especially since I knew I didn’t want one.
So here I am on my way back over the bridge. It’s only 35 cents to go back into the United States. I wonder how they figure that out…50 cents to get into Mexico and 35 cents to get out of Mexico. Weird.
The long line of cars going into the United States has gone down since I’ve been here.
On the side going back to the United States, the bridge is all fenced in…no open views to the river.
But the lines to go through customs were long! I’ve been here three times and this is the first time I’ve had this long of a wait. Oh, well, it was worth it. I always feel like I get good deals there and it’s always an adventure. I especially like to hear the reactions when I tell people I’m going to the border. “Are you crazy??” Haha..yeah, I guess I am. But that’s okay with me.
So now I’m back from Puerto Morelos and I just have a couple more days left on my vacation. I pretty much just totally lazed back and did nothing. The heat had a lot to do with that decision. Anyway, I will backtrack just a little bit before PoMo to say that it was kind of fun to be in Mexico during the World Cup. Not being an avid sports fan, I didn’t even know this was happening until I got down here and saw all the commotion. When Mexico was playing, it was a big deal. This is what I saw when I went down to the beach.
I had to google Platte River…it’s in Nebraska.
They had two huge TVs out on the sand…
This is the first group in front of the TVs…
And this is the second group behind the first group…
And this was the “band.” These guys/gals really kept up the beat between the drums and the horn blowing. There was not a moment of quiet during this game. Unfortunately, Mexico lost…I was bummed about that…along with the rest of Mexico.
Okay, so I didn’t really keep track very well of my photos on the last couple of days on the island, so the last posts on my vacation will just be a kind of collection of this and that.
More food! This is my mojito at Cubano’s. It’s funny, but when I’d take my computer to restaurants and work on my photos, many times I’d see that the servers were standing behind me looking at the photos I was working on. After all…it’s their home.
As most of you already know, Vivian moved from a side street onto the main drag of Hidalgo. As a result, Cubano’s is larger and offers more on the menu now, to include drinks. I’m a big fan of the Cubano sandwich, so that’s what I had. It was good, but I wasn’t a fan of the chips.
I was able to catch up with a regular of the area…
As well as a couple more locals that I hadn’t see before…
Here’s a shrimp cocktail at Muelle 7. Wonderful. I wonder why more places in the United States don’t offer this.
My favorite jewelry place on the island. As long as I’ve been going, it’s always been purple.
I was having fish and chips at Bally Hoo one day (absolutely wonderful)…
…and took these pics. I guess these women were from Cancun, but I have to wonder why someone would come to Isla and only buy something from Senor Frog’s. Other than going in to cool off because it’s one of the few places that has air conditioning, I would never buy anything from them.
This was the new popular T-Shirt…I’m not a fan.
I love the colors of Café Cito, but I never went there for breakfast even though it was across the street from where I stayed this time.
I had some spring rolls at an Asian plane on Hidalgo…I can’t remember the name. They were very good and they gave me a free sampling of the cabbage appetizer.
Back to the beach for some shots. I love the old boats on the island. I can just imagine all the miles they’ve put in out on the beautiful sea.
I switched settings on my camera on this one.
But the colors are too beautiful to ignore here. I like these better.
I was walking by the Mundaca real estate office one day and took the following pictures. They’re not the best because they were taken through glass and the sun was reflecting on the windows, but you can get an idea of what is being offered now.
I didn’t get the price on two of them, but none of them were cheap by any means. You can always call the real estate office for more details!
I still have more last-day Isla photos to share, so stay tuned.
I’m doing one more post on Puerto Morelos before I finish up on Isla Mujeres on my trip. Like I’ve said, PoMo is a very small town and this is the main square in the tiny downtown area. It hasn’t changed since the first time I saw it and the fountain with Chichen Itza in the middle still isn’t working. It would be really cute if they could get it to function, but it’s probably not going to happen.
This place has been under construction since my first visit. The manager at the Posada el Moro told me once that it was supposed to be a bar/restaurant. Obviously that never happened.
It must be used now for some activities, but I have no clue what they are. Maybe someone could clue me in as to its current use. I’m just glad it’s being used for something. It certainly is an unusual structure.
Here’s the pier off the downtown area.
And off to the right of that. There are no large boats here. They are very strict about protecting the coral reef offshore, so they don’t allow any big boats on shore.
But they do allow them out at sea. This is a very long-distance shot of a cruise ship going by, so it’s not a very good quality. I’ve never been on a cruise ship before. It has never appealed to me to be restricted to a boat…I’d rather explore on land.
Just some shots around town. Here’s a gift shop.
I’m not sure what this was, but I liked the tile work.
This is what I had for dinner the night before. It was okay. Kind of unusual to have turkey slices with a hamburger.
More musicians traipsing through the heat. I really have to hand it to these guys. I would never have the perseverance to do this.
An early morning shot of the beach.
I like this sidewalk.
These guys were anxiously hanging out at the doorway to the corner OXXO (a small convenience store).
They were happy when their owner came out.
Interesting wares for sale in this shop.
And some more unique concrete wall art. This time it’s anchors.
A colorful restaurant…
I really like this wall of wine bottles…what a unique idea. I’m going to have to assemble a collection to do something like this. More wine, garcon!
Here’s the local church. Like I’ve said before, I love the churches in Mexico. They’re peaceful, serene, pretty and welcoming.
I don’t know what the streamers mean, if anything.
Here’s a rear view. I love the round stained glass window.
Here’s a new OXXO that was built right as you get into the town.
So now it’s time to leave PoMo. Here I am at the bus stop waiting for my bus. You see all sorts of people at the bus stops. The Asian woman with the baby stroller was a tiny little thing, and she was wearing this shift-type dress that looked like it was about six sizes larger than she was. She sat across the aisle from me in the bus and her little toddler was the sweetest little thing ever. She didn’t make a peep the whole trip and just sat by mom quietly. I will have to say that I’ve taken lots of bus trips in Mexico and many have been with small children. They have always been quiet…I can’t remember a single time when a small child has been whiny, crying or obnoxious.
I took this picture on a bus trip to Valladolid a few years back. He, too, was quiet as a mouse the whole trip…and what a cutie.
Here are just some shots of the scenery along the way back to Cancun.