Friday, May 18, 2018

We’re signing off - with heartfelt thanks to everyone.

Us - a long time ago, 1980!    
It is time for us to take a break.

Our weekly blog Notes From Paradise started as an email sent in June 2009 to twelve members of our immediate families.   

Over the next two years the list of followers grew to 500, and then in September of 2011 we switched over to an internet blog page. 

We have had almost 630,000 page views, since 2011.  About a year ago we changed the name to Notes From Isla Mujeres Mexico, to make it easier for new readers to find us.

Hacienda Mundaca Park
We’ve written blog posts highlighting the island’s intriguing history and the enchanting Mexican culture. 

We’ve introduced ourselves to many of the old-time islanders to listen to and to recount their fascinating stories. 

We've traveled to several cities in Mexico and written about their history, culture, and attractions. 

Izamal near Merida 

We've described the lavish and laughter-filled quinceaños, weddings, and the baby's first birthday-baptism parties.

We’ve narrated some of our more memorable experiences like watching the chaotic Carnaval parades, or trying to stay awake for the New Year’s Eve bash in Centro only to be outlasted by the three-year-olds. 

We have written several times about being Mickey and Minnie Mouse in both the annual the Christmas Golf Cart parade and the Day of the Kings festivities. Putting happy grins on the kid’s faces is the best reward.

Mickey, Minnie and Sparky 

We've bragged about Isla’s sugar white beaches and the endless sun, and then grumbled about tropical storms and hurricanes. 

We’ve written about swimming with whale sharks, the sea turtles nesting on our beach, helping friends rescue a trapped mama turtle, the roaming crocodile, and our lounge of lizards lounging in our backyard. 

(Apparently a group of iguanas hanging out is called a lounge of lizards. I love that expression!)

We have promoted many of Isla’s hardworking charity groups, such as Isla Animals, HALO (Helpling Animals Living Overseas, Isla Has Talent, the diabeties clinic, the free dental clinic, Helmets for Kids, Ruben’s Kids, Plogging for Isla – exercise and trash pickup – and many more.

If we liked a new business or restaurant we happily gave them a free ‘plug’ in the blog. Neither one of us ever asked for anything – no discounts, no freebies, nothing. We enjoy the successes of our fellow islanders.

We were told several times that we should ‘monetize’ our blog and make some cash off of the advertisements, but quite honestly we couldn’t be bothered with writing articles that pleased our advertisers. 

We wrote what interested us. We did however try Goggle Ads, and are happy to report that in total we made about $109.00 in revenue!  Woo-hoo! Impressive!

 The Adventures of Thomas the Cat
The discipline of writing a weekly article has given me (Lynda) the confidence to self-publish four books. My first book was a bilingual book for children, The Adventures of Thomas the Cat, followed by the three Isla Mujeres Mystery series, Treasure Isla, Trouble Isla and Tormenta Isla. Book #4 Temptation Isla will hopefully be launched late in 2018.

And we’ve tormented our family and friends with being included, photos and all, in many of our weekly ramblings. We have had hundreds of people tell us they really enjoyed reading our weekly articles, but we are signing off with this post.

We would like to thank our families, friends, and faithful readers for your support for the last nine years.

Thank you all!

Cheers from Paradise

Lawrie, Lynda and Sparky


Friday, May 11, 2018

My Great Canadian Adventure – by Sparky

All set to go on a Great Canadian Adventure.   
My legs twitched, my eyelids fluttered, my lips pulled back from my fangs. I moaned and groaned in fear. It was awful. 

Then Servant reached down to pat me, to stop my nightmare.

A month ago my humans, Driver and Servant, started packing their suitcases – and then a dog cage appeared. I didn’t like that one bit. 

The last time a dog cage appeared my roommate, Max, went away and never came back. Now there is only me living with my two humans and I was pretty sure that this carrier was meant for me.

Good view from upstairs on Ultramar
I had been having nightmares for several nights wondering where I was going to be sent. I really like living here, even though I am a bit of a Divo at times. I am a very picky eater. I like to sit beside my humans on the sofa. However, I do come when I am called - most of the time. Well, okay, I come if it suits me.

But all of a sudden we are all leaving, with suitcases, the pet carrier and me! Driver and Servant kept telling me we were going on a Great Canadian Adventure, whatever that meant.

First step was a golf cart ride with some of our human friends to the big blue and yellow boat. It’s the same boat my humans drive our winter friends to every April and then pick them up again in October. 

I usually get to come along to woof goodbye, or greet them when they return. My buddies Skipper the dog and Jax the cat met us at the boat with their humans. All of us four-legged folks were given the nice upstairs view seats, while some of our humans had to sit inside on lower deck.

On the big tube stuffed with people
Next was a ride in a big white van to a large scary place called the Cancun International Airport. I pretended I was an experienced traveler, and not bothered by the crowds and noises. I wasn’t even afraid of the weird little room with the sliding door that moved us to a different area. I think it is called an elevator.

Servant had to carry me through the Security area so that the grumpy people in uniform could check my tummy for recent incisions. People have a lot of strange ideas. They should have had the other dogs sniff me and confirm I wasn’t carrying anything illegal in my stomach. As if! Famous dogs like me don’t do bad things like that.

My bed and blanket kept me warm
Then we walked inside a big tube-shaped thing stuffed with people. I was a bit nervous for a few minutes, but the WestJet staff made such a fuss over me, telling me how good and brave I was, I pretended it was nothing unusual. Oh sure, I ride in jets all the time.

Many hours later, after a long and boring time without even one pee break we landed in a dark and cold place. 

I was sure we had travelled to the North Pole for a visit with Santa Claus, it was that cold!  Driver and Servant said we were in a place called Kelowna, and would be spending the night at Skipper and Jax’s house. I was so relieved to get to their house with the big yard, where I could pee, and pee, and pee some more.

View from our place in Westbank
Next day we moved to another pretty house in Westbank. 

Servant and I walked all around the neighbourhood, but I had to be on a leash all the time. We went every morning to a special park where dogs are allowed to run free and play. 

I met many Canadian dogs who loved swimming in the lake. I put the toes of my right paw in the water, then quickly pulled it back. Brrr, they must be nuts! It was freezing cold.
This water is cold! Not going in there.

Canada is not like my colonia in Mexico where I can run up and down the beach visiting my friends Izabella and Luna.

The funny thing was, my good friend Luna who we waved goodbye to the week before on Isla, was also living nearby. I really liked Luna’s yard! I spent one whole day playing with her while my humans did things they called appointments.
One of their 'appointments' was lunch at Quail's Gate Winery 

Driver and Servant took me for lunch with Servant’s cousins, then we drove for an hour up a mountain so that they could introduce me to snow. 

I was excited because I thought Snow was the name of another dog, but no, snow is cold sand. Very cold sand. I sniffed and got back in the car. 

Shut that door please!

Open that car door, and turn the heat on!

After teaching me about snow, we drove to another city, where we stayed at the Days’ Inn in Penticton. Servant used to work there before she and Driver moved to Mexico. The people there were very nice to me and the owners invited me to their house! It must be because they know how famous I am.

I also got to meet two more dog that my humans have known for many years. Cleo and Sophie were friends of Thomas the Cat when he lived in the nearby city of Summerland. 

I met the family, plus Caitlin who is missing from photo
We stayed several days while Driver had more really boring appointments. 

The really great thing was while we were there I got to visit with more of our family, John, Maia, Caitlin, Ethan and Evan. 

It was really fun to see them, and to meet the younger generation for the first time. I liked them a lot, and I think they liked me too. They gave me lots of tummy rubs.

Brrr. Still cold. But at least I tried it.
In Penticton I finally had a quick dip in Skaha Lake. 

It had been a month since we had arrived in Canada and with weather had warmed up enough that I decided to try a swim. Once! Still too darn cold for this low-to-the-ground Mexican.

After our time in Penticton we drove back to Skipper and Jax’s house in Kelowna. Lots of people, plus my friend Luna, came to a fun party to say Buen Viaje.

Nicole, Lawrie, Linda G., Kara
The next day we flew from Kelowna to Edmonton, where I got to stay in a beautiful hotel. 

Then we went through the same procedure of being walked through Customs, onto the plane and home to Mexico. 

The WestJet staff let Servant hold me up to see out the window, once!  Wow! What a sight, seeing my home from a way up there. It’s beautiful.
A quick peak out the window.

I am now back on our island, I’m happy to be running on the sand, swimming in the warm Caribbean Sea, and settled into my Divo routine in our little house.

I would like to thank everyone for their generosity, hospitality, and love on my Great Canadian Adventure.

etuk twhered figure whoboat – tLynda and Lawrie

Caribbean Sea - flying into Cancun


Join Sparky on his Caribbean adventures 
in the Isla Mujeres Mystery series!

Available on Amazon as E-Books or Paperback.
Pirates, buried treasure, kidnappings, murder and mayhem on a tiny island in the Caribbean Sea.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Friday, April 27, 2018

Food, exercise and culture. What a great idea!

Getting ready to roll with tour guide, Jose.  

Hop on a bicycle and hit the road with Cultura Cruisers to discover the charms of Isla Mujeres in a very intimate way. 

You will experience amazing traditional Mexican foods and learn about the Maya culture. It’s a win-win situation. 

You can nosh your way around the island and work off the calories at the same time. 

Golf cart food tour with guide Jose

The adventure is a hundred times more fun than staring at a television or checking social media posts while your legs repeatedly pump the pedals of a stationary bike in your local gym. 

However, if you are not keen about the cycling idea they also offer the less strenuous version of touring in your own golf cart with a bilingual guide. 

We originally met the very personable creators of Cultura Cruisers while we were enjoying a yummy dinner at Javi’s Cantina on Juarez Avenue. 

The partners explained their vision of building relationships, educating people’s taste buds and contributing to a sustainable economy for the islanders. Their passion is connecting the love of people to the love of food and culture.
Tacos barbacoa, enchiladas verde and salbutes con pollo 

We think the following quote nicely sums up their business model:

“We often write #morethanjustafoodtour because Cultura Cruisers is more than just a tour; it’s more than just eating the foods; it’s bigger than that." 

"It’s an experience."  

"It’s about exploring the colonias, on a bicycle or in a golf cart, with a local tour guide who will share the authenticity and beauty of Isla Mujeres; who will explain the history, ingredients and flavors.”

Hacienda Mundaca  for history, with Liliana

“Bellies and hearts will be full as our guests eat delicious, traditionally made foods. Isla Mujeres is magical, such a rich culture with incredibly beautiful and kind people, so we hope our guests come cruise on the roads less traveled with us, enjoy the vibes and taste the flavors of Isla Mujeres. The tour guides also stop at various historical/cultural spots to share their knowledge and history of the island.”

“In our world today, Cultura Cruisers feels it is crucial to connect and learn from others while building authentic relationships.  

Although our tour guides are bilingual, food is a language without barriers and an awesome way to get to know people, places and cultures that differ from your own.”

“Cultura Cruisers is about contributing to the numerous locals who are part of the Cultura Cruisers team; everyone from our bike mechanics to our tour guides, the local who stores the bikes to the local owner of the papeleria, (the stationary store) who makes the weekly photo copies of paperwork, the numerous cocina economicas (inexpensive eateries) who prepare the delicious foods to the locals who share their homes and their kitchen tables with our guests to the panaderias (the bakeries) on the tour; it's truly about community.”

Here’s the link to their website

You can also find them on Instagram @culturacruisers, Facebook and Trip Advisor!

Chucho doing routine maintenance

What a great way to experience paradise.

All of the photos in this article are courtesy of Cultura Cruisers. 

Hasta Luego
Lynda, Lawrie and Sparky


Isla Mujeres Mystery series!  
Available on Amazon as e-books or paperbacks. 
Enjoy the adventure.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Plogging your way to a cleaner paradise and to better health

For several weeks we have been reading islander Kai Creamer’s Facebook posts about the next plogging day on Isla Mujeres.

Plogging?” I asked, “What the heck is that?”

Well, according to Kai, it is a movement that started in Sweden and the name of the activity comes from the Swedish plocka up or pick up. 

The activity combines picking up trash with jogging to create the fun and memorable name of plogging.  Many islanders had already incorporated the idea into their daily exercise routines but now they can also join the group for a laughter-filled workout. 

I’m pretty sure some of the items that are found along the streets can be pretty gross, and others quite entertaining. I have on occasion discovered discarded underwear, male and female, that I did not pick up but pondered the possible scenario that lead to the removal of their underwear among the scorpions, spiders, and ticks.

But back to plogging. Every Wednesday the next weekend's route and meeting place are posted to the group’s Facebook page. The distances range between 1.5 and 2.5 kilometers. 

The participants meet at 8:30 in the morning and are provided with gloves, re-cycled plastic grocery bags for the trash and water refills for their personal water bottles from a larger twenty-litre Garrafon

A number of the members bring their own grabbers, those handy devices that were originally designed for people with mobility challenges to reach and pick up items. 

The biggest challenge for the group is getting a supply affordable of the trash grabbers. In Mexico they are hard to find and are expensive. 

If any travelers from the USA or Canada have room in their suitcase for a few of the dollar-store variety grabbers the group would really appreciate your assistance. They each cost around $1.00 to $1.25, although the better-made variety costing around $10.00 each would probably last longer. 

As Kai says, the speed of the activity depends on the amount of trash to be picked up. Sometimes the group is stationary in one area picking it clean before moving on. They generally stop by 11:00 in the morning, and convene at a one of their local sponsor restaurants. 

Both Mango Café and La Tarima offer a complimentary refreshing lemonade for the ploggers. Some of the group will often linger longer at the restaurant to take advantage of the group members discount and enjoying a well-earned late breakfast or early lunch.

On average the plogging events attract around fifteen people but on occasion the group has swelled to as many as forty participants. Kai and the group members are planning a second route for Wednesday afternoons for the folks who for various reasons can’t participate on the weekends or in the mornings. 

Here’s your chance to have a few laughs, get some exercise, and help our island in paradise. 

Here's the link to their Facebook group page for more information.
Photos courtesy of Kai Creamer.

Hasta Luego
Lynda, Lawrie and Sparky

Join the adventure!
Now available as e-books and paperback

Friday, April 13, 2018

Time to take a breath

Just breathe!

Put your feet up, breathe in, breathe out, and relax! 

The high season crowds are starting to thin out giving everyone on the island a much needed break. 

Most of the schools are back in session in Canada, USA and Mexico reducing the thick masses of families traveling to sunny locations for the annual spring vacation.

Dropping off friends at Ultramar boat

There were many afternoons this year when we avoided Centro between the peak hours of eleven in the morning to four in the afternoon, when the fleets of golf carts are at their busiest. 

Sunburnt day-trippers from the Cancun hotel-zone pour off the tour boats and are caught up in the swirl. Typically most first-time visitors rent a golf cart, tour the island, snap a hundred selfies, and get back on their assigned boat by late afternoon. It’s a good way to get an overview of the island, but there is so much more to discover than white sandy beaches and spectacular viewpoints.

Even though the many islanders employed in the hospitality industry love the increase in tips, by the time high season starts to wind down everyone is exhausted and longing for peace and quiet. 

The tempo will ramp again in late June when summer holidays bring North American and European families to the island to snorkel, dive and swim with the manta rays and the whale sharks.

Participants of procession

Last week, just as we were dropping friends off at the Ultramar passenger boats to begin their trek back to their summer home in Canada, we got caught up in the annual re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

At least two or maybe three thousand worshippers were following the actor depicting Christ, who was dragging an enormously heavy cross. There were Roman Centurions, the Roman judges and officials, and a crowd of followers many who were dressed in period costumes. The event started in the morning and encompassed all three of the larger Catholic churches, ending around three in the afternoon at the large church in the square.

So hot many of the participants in procession used umbrellas
It’s a fascinating contract to see the participants of this solemn religious procession trekking six kilometers under the blazing sun and at the end intermingle with scantily-clad tourists. Just one of the many oddities of living in a tourist destination.

For a few weeks everyone can take a breath, spend time with their family and friends, and rest up for the summer onslaught.  April and May are our favourite months on Isla. The weather is usually hot, sunny, with little or no rain and the streets are somewhat quieter. It’s a perfect time to enjoy our island paradise.

The almost-famous Sparky

Hasta Luego
Lynda, Lawrie and Sparky


Isla Mujeres Mystery Series

Books 1, 2 and 3
 available in e-books, or paperback on Amazon.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Protect your noggin’

Four on a moto common sight on Isla

It’s always a huge surprise for new visitors to the island when they see multiple members of a family riding scooters or motorcycles – and frequently without helmets to protect their heads.

It’s pretty common to see mom or dad operating the moto with one child balanced in front of the driver, and the other parent tightly gripping one, or even two other children in their arms. 

We are so accustomed to the sight we hardly give it a second thought. 

However, not so with a group of caring individuals who decided to encourage a safer environment for the younger generation.

In June of 2014, long-time visitor Andrea Healey and her daughter Danielle Chesney brought much needed medical equipment to Giovanny Avalos for the Red Cross. When they delivered the supplies Andrea asked Giovanny what he saw as the greatest need for the islanders. He replied that it would be his dream to see all youngsters wearing helmets when riding on the family motorcycles.

After their vacation was over Andrea and Danielle returned home and gave Giovanni’s idea a lot of thought. They wanted to be culturally sensitive, and not be the bossy foreigners telling people how to live their lives. 

They started small asking people to purchase helmets at a local hardware store and leave them with at the front desk of Marina Paraiso Hotel. Managers, Brad and Tiff Waring, had generously volunteered to be the collection point for the helmets. The initial distribution was handled through the schools, with teachers helping to identify the students who urgently needed the safety gear.

The second phase of Helmets for Isla was to collect donations and order in bulk from a Mexican company. Their first order was for 50, then the second was 420 and recently another 400 were ordered. In total there has been close to 1350 helmets distributed through the schools, through Volunquest, and through the churches.

Every helmet that is handed out comes with a contract of responsibility signed by the parents. These contracts are all about safety, educating both the parents and children of the importance of a well fitted helmet while riding a moto. But frequently the children won’t use the helmets, because it’s just not ‘cool.’ It’s always a slow process to change the habits of a lifetime.

Islander, Jessica Contreras has recently mobilized a group of volunteers. These locals are not shy about approaching their neighbours asking why their child is not wearing a helmet and educating them about the program. 

Her brother’s company Prisma Golf Cart Rentals generously sponsored a huge banner to advertise the campaign.

Most recently Jessica has been into the high schools and those students are now very motivated to wear head protection since their friend Jorge died in a motorcycle accident on St Patrick's Day. He was not wearing a helmet.

Some of the students do not have helmets, some have helmets that are too small and they have removed the padding so they are large enough to fit on their heads, and some have helmets that are cracked, broken or damaged. Helmets for Isla now has a waiting list of two-hundred and fifty teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 years old, all of whom have made a written request for a helmet.

As Andrea said, “Our ultimate goal is to have a safe and well-fitting helmet for every child on the island, but are short-term goal right now is to get enough helmets for all of the teenagers who have requested them. We feel if we can get the adolescents on-board then hopefully they will encourage their younger brothers and sisters to wear the helmets too.”

Helmets for Isla is a worthwhile cause. 

If you would like to help out, below are the links for more information.

Hasta Luego
Lynda and Lawrie

Isla Mujeres Mystery Book #3

Murder and mayhem on a tiny island in paradise. 

Available on Amazon as an E-book for $2.99 USD
or paperback for $11.99 USD