Friday, May 19, 2017

We hit a blog milestone this week!!!

Notes from Paradise - Isla Mujeres 500,000 page views!   
Thanks to all of our faithful readers, we rolled over to a half-million page views on our blog this week!  Woohoo! 

It is amazing how a funny little weekly email that we started sending to twelve people in 2009 has grown to a weekly blog with anywhere from four to eight thousand readers a week. (Some articles interest people more than others.)
June 2009 - we started writing weekly emails



When we started in June of 2009 it was to keep family members up to date on our newest adventure, our life in Mexico. The email list grew as family members asked if they could add their friends, and then those people wanted to add other friends. By September of 2011 the email list had grown to almost five hundred names.

When our neighbour Ronda Roberts started her blog, Isla Mujeres News, a translation of local news in June of 2011, she suggested that we switch over from a weekly email to a blog. Here's the link to Ronda's blog http://aboutislamujeres.blogspot.mx/

July 2014 - Sunset cool down for islanders
So we did, we created a blog page.  However, many of our readers objected, saying they didn’t want to search the internet to find the articles. They enjoyed having a personal copy sent to their inbox. From September 2011 to June of 2014 we posted the weekly blog, and also sent it via direct email to our readers. It was a lot more work, but it kept everyone happy and interested.

Then in 2014 Google labelled our emails as that dreaded word – spam.  They shut down our list, refusing to deliver the weekly articles to our readers. By our estimation we had sent out around seventy-five thousand individual emails over the five years, but never to anyone who hadn’t asked to be included in the list.   
1984 Great Horned Owl - who had an ambulance ride

In the meantime we also created two more blogs targeted to specific stories that interested us: European Adventure, and Animals and Other Family Members. As you can probably guess by the titles these are not Isla Mujeres-based stories, one being about our travels in Europe and the other funny stories about pets and wild creatures we have befriended. The links to those stories are listed under My Blog List, on this webpage.

About eighteen months ago Tony Richardson, editor of the popular on-line Mexico News Daily started re-posting our blog articles. In his publication our stories are reaching a wider audience, some having been shared thousands of times. Pretty heady stuff for two amateur scribblers. You can find the direct link to Mexico News Daily on our list of blogs that we follow.  Or at this webpage, http://mexiconewsdaily.com/mexicolife/caribbean-treasures-found-on-isla-beach/

Insider's Guide to the Best of Mexico - FREE!
Several of our articles have been included in two on-line anthologies; Insider’s Guide to The Best of Mexico, and the second Insider’s Guide which will be published soon. Here's a link for your free copy: http://sombrerobooks.com/?p=3908

The collection of feel good stories about Mexico are the brain-child of well-known novelist Carmen Amato. Check her Amazon page for a complete listing of her works. Our current favourites are the police procedurals featuring Detective Emilia Cruz in Acapulco. Here's the link to Carmen's webpage: http://carmenamato.net/

July 2014 Diego and I toasting arrival of books
In between the weekly blog articles, island friend Diego Medina and I created the bi-lingual book for children, The Adventures of Thomas the Cat / Las Aventuras de Tomas el Gato. Diego and I won a silver award at the International Latino Book Awards in Las Angeles for best picture book bilingual. The sequel is underway. https://www.facebook.com/TheAdventuresofThomasandSparky/

But wait there’s more!  In 2016, I wrote and self-published my first novel, Treasure Isla. Treasure Isla is a fun beach read, an adventure set on Isla Mujeres. The e-book sales on Amazon are doing well, prompting me to write the sequel, Trouble Isla. Trouble Isla will be launched in late August of this year.

Amazon E-books, Treasure Isla and soon Trouble Isla

All of this creativity started with a weekly email to a few friends and family members. We discovered we like to write stories and paint pictures with words. 

Most of all we like to entertain people, to provide a bit of information mixed in with light humor. 

Thank you all again for your on-going interest in our off-beat stories. 

Cheers 
Lynda & Lawrie 


Friday, May 12, 2017

An Indiana-Jones-trip to the cenotes and pyramids of the Yucatan

Las Tres Chicas swimming in cenote
Swimming in a cenote is a bit like being in an Indiana Jones movie. Slippery stone stairs lead to a dark cavern filled with crystal clear water.

The Tarzan-style vines, the roots of above ground plants, hang from the ceiling of the cavern. The slow drip of minerals forms stalactites, their whimsical shapes reaching for the water below. An occasional bat flitters past in the dim light. Dozens of swallows nest in the underground crevices, zipping underground via a hole in earth above. Exquisite and eerie.

Part of  Ek Balam pyramid and surrounding structures
Last week I posted a question on my Facebook page, asking for recommendations for a tour company for a day-trip to the Ek Balam pyramid and a swim in the cenotes. The response was immediate and varied. Many recommended either William Gonzalez, or Patricio Astudillo. 

We dithered, but in the end we went with William because a number of our close friends had taken his tours and really enjoyed the experience. In years past, when we owned a car, we frequently drove our visitors to the pyramids, but currently our only form of transport is a golf cart, and that just isn’t fast enough, nor legal, for a two-hour drive on a four-lane highway. Two great-nieces Lauren, Ellen, plus their good friend Amber, who has become a great-niece via friendship, and I decided to go. We left Lawrie and Sparky at home to enjoy some peaceful guy time.

Heading out on our adventure
We caught the seven-thirty UltraMar passenger boat from Isla Mujeres to Puerto Juarez on the mainland, and met up with Manuel who was our tour guide for the day. Settled into a comfortable seven-passenger van we headed towards Valladolid, and the less busy pyramid of Ek Balam. Lawrie and I have enjoyed several visits to the large pyramid of Chichen Itza, but it has become so crowded it is difficult to get good photographs without including several hundred strangers grinning inanely at their selfie-sticks.

Ek Balam, the Black Jaguar, is located thirty-five kilometers north-east of Chichen Itza, in the municipality of Temozón. The road turns off the toll highway #180, a few kilometers from the City of Valladolid in the direction of Tizimin. Tizimin is well-known for furniture handmade from tropical wood.  
Royal Palace at Ek Balam - 106 steps up, 106 steps down

The road between Cancun and Valladolid is straight, boring, and the flat vista is blocked by thick undergrowth. The secondary road is more interesting but populated by hundreds of topes, speed bumps, in the numerous villages increasing the drive to three hours instead of two. It’s a good time to let someone else do the driving, so you can doze in the warm sunlight or chat with your travel companions.


By ten in the morning we were at the pyramid. The entrance fee is $193.00 pesos for foreigners, but lucky me, I have an INAPAM card telling the world that I am old and a local. My entrance fee was $0 pesos. You do have to produce proof of residency, such as an electrical bill or water bill in your own name and proof of age, to obtain this Mexico senior’s card from your municipality. For Lawrie and me, the savings are helpful. 

Inside Ek Balam we hired a local guide to show us around. José was born in a nearby village, and his first language is Mayan, but he also speaks Spanish and English. 

  
Jose taking pics of my travel partners 
Our guide was well informed and interesting, telling us the history of each structure and the meaning of the various glyphs. I envied the ease with which José climbed the one-hundred and six stairs to the top of the Royal Palace, and then nonchalantly strolled back to ground level while everyone else baby-stepped their way down the steep pyramid. 

It’s a combination of vertigo and the insecurity of flip-flops on narrow slanted steps that make the descent more challenging.   
  
The tourist photo!
Next stop was the Samula and the nearby X’kekén cenotes in the town of Dzitnup. The cenotes are part of an underground river system that flows under the limestone base of the Yucatan Peninsula. Over time bits of the ground above has been worn away by rainstorms, animals, or humans creating entrance holes to the subterranean fantasy world.

In the aquamarine water small black fish laze; a type of catfish perhaps? Others nibble at our feet. They remind me of the fish imported from Turkey, used for pedicures in some of the upscale Cancun hotels. Hopefully no one would be foolish enough to populate the pristine Caribbean waters with another imported species of fish, creating a local ecological problem like the venomous Indo-Pacific Lion Fish. 

Wikipedia pic of doctorfish doing pedi
The little fish didn’t bite, but it was an odd feeling to have so many small mouths scouring my skin.

As for the cenotes, the entrance fee for each one is $59.00 pesos for visitors, and half of that for people with an INAPAM card. 

Some locations sell a two-day pass that cover all of the locations, but for us two in one afternoon was sufficient. We spent about an hour and a half lazing around in the water, before meeting up with our driver Manuel.
Restaurante el Atrio del Mayab
By now it was one in the afternoon, and we were starving hungry. Manuel suggested that we have lunch in Valladolid at the Restaurante el Atrio del Mayab. Wow!  

Beautiful setting right off the square in centro, near the cathedral, and diagonally across from one of our favourite hotels in Valladolid, the El Mesón del Marqués. The food was delicious, the cerveza cold, and the service excellent.

On the drive home our group was strangely quiet as our heads lolled against the vehicle windows. Full of good food and feeling sleepy we hardly talked until we were at the UltraMar terminal headed back to Isla Mujeres.

It was a fun adventure, and we highly recommend William Gonzalez. You can find him on Facebook. He’s not the Columbian fencer, not the private equity professional, not the sales associate at Victoria’s Secret, and not the movie director. This William Gonzalez   https://www.facebook.com/william.gonzalez.7545

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie





Treasure Isla by Lynda Lock
Amazon e-books $2.99 USD





Treasure Isla is a humorous Caribbean adventure set on Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the eastern coast of Mexico. Two twenty-something women find themselves in possession of a seemingly authentic treasure map, which leads them on a chaotic search for buried treasure while navigating the dangers of too much tequila, disreputable men, and a killer. And there is a dog, a lovable rescue-mutt by the name of Sparky.

Trouble Isla, the sequel will be launched August 2017. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

A little help for our friends

Sparky - at Clinica Veterinaria de Isla Mujeres
Pets occasionally need a visit to the bow-wow doctor, or as Thomas the Cat would say, the cat-doctor. 

Sparky, our almost-famous, island low-rider recently needed a few tests to diagnose his health issues. We took him to Clinica Veterinaria de Isla Mujeres where Delfino Guevara DVM, and soon to be certified DVM, Rossely Gonzalez expertly performed a chest x-ray and blood tests. The last time Sparky needed tests we battled with a car ferry ride to Cancun and back. Staying on the island for his tests, was much less stressful for everyone.

Sparky - about to be x-rayed.  What do I do now?

For analysis of blood samples Clinica Veterinaria currently uses a laboratory in Centro, but a fund-raising campaign for a blood chemistry analyzer will make obtaining results quicker and cheaper for the clinic. Part of the fundraiser includes the memory tile project, displayed on the entrance wall of the hospital. It is one of those things that we have passed time and again, briefly glanced at, but not really noticed.
  
Friend and artist, Julie Goth mounting Thomas the Cat's tile
The project was started by well-known islanders, Tony and Mim Gallagher, as a means to raise a little extra money for the animal hospital. 

They kicked off the program by generously purchasing six hand-painted tiles with the names of their grandchildren. According to Mim the kids get a giggle out of stopping at the clinic to check on their tiles every time they visit the island. 


Friends Julie Goth and Déanne Gray
It wasn’t until recently when two of our nearby neighbours and close friends, Julie Goth and Déanne Gray, became involved with the project that we really paid attention. Julie Goth created a beautiful image for our mutual friends, Chuck and Marcy Watt, in celebration of their Isla fur-baby, Sombra. Déanne Gray, on the other hand, actively promotes the fundraiser, organizing the placement of the tiles, and collecting the money. To order a memory tile please private message Déanne Gray (Day) on Facebook.

Bonnie Hamilton, Eileen Regn always helping the animals

If you are on the island you can either pay at the clinic, or arrange to pay Julie Goth, Eileen Regn or Déanne Gray, or pay online through Helping Animals Living Overseas (HALO).  The minimum donation is $750 pesos or $50 USD, and goes to helping island animals.

Please remember to add a note that your donation is for a memory tile, and include photos and personal details of the person or pet you wish to honor. www.helpinganimalslivingoverseas.org/donate

Book cover illustration by Diego Medina of Isla Mujeres

We recently purchased two: one for our seventeen-year-old Thomas the Cat who succumbed to kidney disease last April and the other for Princess Chica, another true-life character featured in my children’s book, The Adventures of Thomas the Cat. 

Chica passed away in 2014. Her tile will mounted on the wall adjacent to her best friend, Thomas. 



Princess Chica and her best friend Thomas the Cat
And in case you didn’t know, both Day Gray and full-time islander Bonnie Hamilton are the legendary cat-trap-ladies. Every week they voluntarily trap feral cats to be spayed or neutered at the clinic. Day has extended an open invitation for us to share the experience. However, she has mentioned on occasion that her clothes are quite odoriferous by the end of the evening’s festivities, giving us a reason to be otherwise occupied.


Delfino and Rossely, blood tests for Sparky
Funded by HALO (Helping Animals Living Overseas) Clinica Veterinaria’s current location is across the street from the original clinic. The new structure was purpose-built about three years ago to house the animal hospital, pet adoption centre, and cat sanctuary. We asked one of the founder members of HALO, Kit Lilly for little background information. Her answer was so detailed and well written, we decided to include it, as is, in this blog post.

~

The new clinic - before signage, and murals
From Kit Lilly:

“HALO (Helping Animals Living Overseas) was formed in October, 2013 as a US 501c3. HALO’s mission is to support select projects outside of the US that benefit animals.  HALO selected as its first project the construction of the new animal hospital and adoption center in Isla Mujeres.  In addition to the new building, the project added a small adoption area at the front of the building, a cat sanctuary on the land behind the clinic, and equipment such as stainless steel cages for hospitalized animals and an x-ray machine.  The project included providing ongoing operating support to help offset losses generated by the fact that much of the clinic caseload is caring for homeless animals.  In addition, the clinic rates are below market rates for vet services.  The rates are intentionally set this way because many of the island families cannot afford market rate care for their animals and the clinic did not want animals to go without care. 

The clinic entrance, today.
All of the initial founders of HALO had been to Isla Mujeres (several of us are property owners and all are repeat visitors) and admired the work of Clinica Chipie and its staff.  The founders wanted to be able to help improve the clinic facilities, provide a safe space for the “clinic cats”, and have a space to feature adoptable pets.  

Entrance way mural by Barbara Siebenlist
They recognized the clinic as a valuable resource for the island as the clinic, both for the quality of its care and also because it is the only 24/7 emergency care for animals on the island. It was also recognized that because of the free and subsidized care provided by the clinic, ongoing outside operating support would be necessary.  HALO was essentially formed concurrently with selecting this project as its first.   After learning more about the mission of Clinica Chipie and examining its financial statements, it became clear that Clinica Chipie was in all forms except legally, a non-profit.  We suggested that Delfino consider converting his existing business from a traditional Mexican corporation to an Association Civil, a Mexican nonprofit.  He applied to the government to convert it and was successful. 

Illustration by Diego Medina, from Thomas the Cat book
HALO raised funds for the construction of the new clinic building and it was completed in the fall of 2014.  HALO continues to provide operating support and hopes to fund the purchase of a blood chemistry analyzer to facilitate diagnosis later this year.  HALO continues to raise funds for operating support.  The sale of the hand-painted tiles to honor a loved one (human or animal) is one way people can donate and enables them to have a physical connection to the island.”


~

Sombra sharing a hug with her best friend 
Give it some thought. 

If you have a friend, family member, or a beloved pet you would like to honor, the purchase of a tile is a feel-good project. You will be helping out the island cats and dogs, plus keeping alive the memory of a special person or pet.  

Or in the case of Tony and Mim Gallagher, giving the grandkids a giggle when they visit the clinic and can see their names on the wall.


Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie




~


Available on Amazon e-books $2.99 USD 

Fun adventure series set on Isla Mujeres






Treasure Isla is a humorous Caribbean adventure set on Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the eastern coast of Mexico. Two twenty-something women find themselves in possession of a seemingly authentic treasure map, which leads them on a chaotic search for buried treasure while navigating the dangers of too much tequila, disreputable men, and a killer. And there is a dog, a lovable rescue-mutt, whose name is Sparky.

Trouble Isla, Book 2 in the Caribbean Adventure series is scheduled to be launched in August 2017.





Friday, April 28, 2017

“Long live Art, Love and Freedom!” Muralist, Barbara Siebenlist

Mural across from Casa Sirena Hotel 
Barbara describes herself as a nomad, a self-taught painter, a tattoo artist and muralist. 

Her creations on Isla Mujeres are all vastly different and stunningly beautiful pieces of art, many containing a message from the artist to the viewer.



Photo provided by Barbara Siebenlist 


One painting is splashed across the white, curved building that overlooks the malécon, across the street from Casa Sirena Hotel. It is an eye-catching collage of underwater creatures, land inhabitants and two dark-skinned beauties. To my eye the partially submerged goddess on the right represents mother earth, with fish swimming around her shoulders and lizards adorning her hair. 

New mural on Poc Na Hostel - L. Lock photo
Another mural with a diving theme flows along the street-side wall of Poc Na Hostel. 

Fish, jellyfish and sharks float past the divers. The ocean inhabitants swim among discarded plastic bottles, aluminum beer cans and plastic bags. 
Poc Na mural - Photo from Barbara Siebenlist


In the centre of one diver’s regulator is the green-arrowed symbol for recycling. Clever!

Two other murals decorate the inside refuge for stray kittens and the main entrance at Clinica Veterinaria, locally known as Delfino’s.  Grinning cats, big eared pups, and wide-eyed kittens play amongst colourful wildflowers and butterflies. Their expressions seem to say, “Please give me a home and love me forever.”

Clinica Veterinaria - L. Lock photo

Born in the city of Viale, Entre Rios, Argentina, Barbara’s passion for art began as a young child, it was her form of refuge, her secret obsession. 

After finishing her high school education, Barbara went on to study medicine. 

With little time for anything but studying and classes, Barbara let her artistic talents lie dormant for a number of years. 

In 2008, around the time that she first discovered Isla Mujeres, she created her first island mural for the Poc Na Hostel.

Clinica Veterinaria - L. Lock photo

For Barbara capturing images on murals allows her to convey her message to the public. Her creations are not locked inside museums or art galleries for a few people to enjoy. They are outside, available to all who pass by. Her paintings help her to continue traveling, discovering new stories, and ideas for future murals.

In a month she will be leaving Isla again, going on a trip.  But as she says, “I never go, I always come back.”

We’ll be waiting to see what’s next from Barbara Siebenlist and her dazzling creations.


Hasta Luego  
Lynda & Lawrie 




Available on Amazon e-books $2.99 USD
by Lynda L. Lock



Treasure Isla is a humorous Caribbean adventure set on Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the eastern coast of Mexico. Two twenty-something women find themselves in possession of a seemingly authentic treasure map, which leads them on a chaotic search for buried treasure while navigating the dangers of too much tequila, disreputable men, and a killer. And there is a dog, a lovable rescue-mutt.

Trouble Isla is the upcoming sequel .... and fingers-crossed will be ready for launch by August 2017.  Cheers Lynda 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The evolution of Bobo’s almost gourmet Bar & Grill

Bobo's Bar & Grill on Matamoras in Centro
Bobo’s Bar & Grill started as a pocket-sized, take-out location on Isla Mujeres; a place with fish so fresh it was swimming an hour before it hit the plate, and chips so yummy we couldn’t stay on our diets.

Now it’s a two-level eatery that spills out on to the street, with a quirky wooden sign ‘torn’ in half. 

On one building the sign reads Bo, and on the adjacent building Bo’s. The sign is a humorous improvisation to placate a neighbour.

Cocktail time with friends
In the summer of 2009, Brian Kerr leased the former location of Lolo Rapido on Matamoras Avenue in Centro. Employed as a wine sommelier at Sutton Place in Vancouver BC, Brian discovered this little piece of paradise while on vacation. He decided to take the plunge, to be an entrepreneur. Isn’t that every man’s fantasy? To be self-employed on a tropical island in the Caribbean Sea?

In the beginning the business was primarily take-out, until Brian managed to squeeze a couple of tables and eight chairs along the edge of the narrow, busy street.  Then he expanded to a neighbouring property to include a bar with additional seating, and the two-part Bobo’s sign. 

The newest expansion - upper level
A year later Ben Coleman and his partner Vicki Dupuy became entwined with island life. The boy from Birmingham Alabama and the girl from New Orleans had originally met at a Saint’s football game in her home town.  

Both worked for ATT, Ben in outside sales and Vicki as a manager.  Frequent visitors to Isla Mujeres, and regular patrons at Bobo’s they struck up a friendship with Brian Kerr.

One Sunday afternoon while immersed in the warm Caribbean water at Playa Norte, near Fenix Restaurante, Vicki asked Ben that life-changing question.

“Why can’t we live here six months a year?”

Almost gourmet!
Becoming partners with Brian Kerr in 2013, Ben and Vicki moved to Isla Mujeres and became full-time islanders. Bobo’s Bar & Grill went through another transformation. 

The rooftop junk-collecting, storage-area was converted into comfortable open-air seating. More stools were added along the upper edge giving patrons a view of the action on Matamoras Avenue.  The kitchen was re-done, and the downstairs bar enlarged, just a little.

Next, mixologist Lory Manzo was hired to update the beverage menu and train the bar staff. Bright and bold murals were painted by islander Barbara Siebenlist Palomar.  

Summertime special drink

And on Wednesdays and Fridays live music is provided by The Caribbean Beats Band.  With the recent addition of Chef Nick Altringer from Minneapolis, the modest little fish and chip take-out has become in Ben’s words, almost gourmet, and a very happening place. 

Check out their signature drinks and their tasty new menu.

We’re still fans of the fresh fish and chips.

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie




Summertime a muddled cucumber and vodka-based drink with a splash of Tabasco, adding extra spice and flavor.  It has become a favorite for Bobo’s regulars.



Fresh and Tasty it is a muddled mint and cucumber with brown sugar, vodka-based drink, topped with sprite and soda water.  


~

Treasure Isla - perfect read for a rainy day.


Treasure Isla is a humorous Caribbean adventure set on Isla Mujeres, a tiny island off the eastern coast of Mexico. Two twenty-something women find themselves in possession of a seemingly authentic treasure map, which leads them on a chaotic search for buried treasure while navigating the dangers of too much tequila, disreputable men, and a killer. And there is a dog, a lovable rescue-mutt.

$2.99 USD on Amazon e-books.  
Free App available for download, to read on any electronic device.