My little adventures south of the border.

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Cozumel – Day 2 & 3

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.

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And it’s not the horse and buggy.

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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.

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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.

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Here’s the view. There were snorkelers along the shore.

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And a couple of parasailers in the distance.

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And here are the fish tacos I had.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Anyway, I got down safe and sound. Here’s another one that has the Mexican flag on it.

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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.

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Here are some pictures as I’m waiting to board.

Looking towards the Yucatan Peninsula…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Viva Mexico!

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And adios, Cozumel!

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On to a one-night stay at Puerto Morelos next!

 

 

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Cozumel – Day One

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.

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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.

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Here’s my room…

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I loved the doors that opened out to a little patio.

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The bathroom and shower…

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They had shared kitchens which were fully equipped…

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The grounds were very lush and they had two pools.  And one of the room had its own private pool.

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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.

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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.

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Here are some pictures around El Centro…

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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?

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A few of them had more artistic items, but they were pretty pricey.

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The zocalo was all decorated for the holidays…

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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.

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I also took a walk in the neighborhood where my hotel was.  It’s a nice area and very quiet.

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This house for sale is across the street from the hotel.

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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.

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Some neighborhood murals…

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And a funny one…ha!

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And some pretty flowers…

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The Bougainvillea are so lush and beautiful in Mexico.

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Family love…

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Here’s my view at breakfast the next morning…

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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.

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Obligatory toes-in-the-sand picture in Cozumel.

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Back to Mexico – Christmas Break 2015

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It was a totally comfy bed.

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With a little balcony outside that faced the street.

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Here’s one view…

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And here’s the other…

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And here’s the bathroom…

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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…

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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…

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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.)

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And I just got the chicken tacos because I wasn’t that hungry.

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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.

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After walking around awhile, I decided to treat myself to a Margarita.  Kind of a cute little setting, right??  Pretty candle holder and glass.

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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.

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After breakfast, I realized I hadn’t even seen the beach, so I took a side trip there.

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Here’s what I saw when I got to the beach.  Yuck!

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And this was the other way…yuck!

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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.

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And here’s looking out the window of the ferry to Cozumel.  Adios, Playa del Carmen!  More on that later…stay tuned.

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