Friday, April 26, 2013

Signs, Signs, Everywhere signs ….

Not far from our house, but mostly faded away now.
Waking up around three in the morning with a bright idea on what to write for our next blog, I scribbled a note to myself, a reminder for when I am fully awake.   Later while drinking my first cup of morning coffee I looked at a fellow blogger’s page.  Signs, she’d posted numerous photos of local signs.  I must have been channelling her thoughts.  During the dark hours of the morning I had scribbled: write about the art of hand-painted signs.  Weird.

La Esperanza - 2008 photo
For me, hand-painted signs are soulful expressions from the heart.  They are unique, individual, unlike the vinyl computer-generated signs that have almost decimated the traditional sign painting businesses in North America.   

Here on Isla one of my favourite hand-painted creations is the sign for La Esperanza, left over from a little gift store on Juarez that ceased operation long before we arrived on the island.  

The whimsical black cat still sits under a large shade tree patiently waiting beside the bright red door, hoping someone will let her inside.  Bit by bit the painting is disappearing.  Fortunately in 2008 I took a decent photo of the mural for my collection of Isla memorabilia.

Hotel Las Palmas - cheerful exterior
More recently I noticed the amazing canvas that decorates the street-side entrance of the Hotel Las Palmas on Guerrero Avenue.  It is a happy mix of peacocks, flamingoes, palm trees and tropical flowers.  

What a great way to sparkle up the exterior, and to fix the tropical experience in the mind of their guests.  How can anyone resist taking a photo or two of that entrance?

May 2010 Election sign
During federal, state, or municipal election campaigns local sign-painters find a bonanza of work for a few weeks, painting the colours, slogans, and promises on fences, and walls.  

Then shortly after the campaign has been won or lost the signs are covered over with a coat of white paint, waiting as a blank canvas for the next election.

Colegio de Bachilleres painters 2009 - Rob Bietting photo
For the most part the signs are created by one or perhaps two painters working together, but when the Colegio de Bachilleres (high school) decided to repaint the wall across the street from our house in March of 2009 they organized a work party.  

At one point we counted ten guys chatting, painting, clowning around and dancing to their I-Tunes.  

My cousin Rob snapped a dozen or so photos keeping a time-line of their progress.  Either it was good planning and teamwork, or luck; the sign turned out just fine – straight letters, and nice inside-the-lines painting.  Four years later it is still legible.

Between the centro mercado and a school

It may be a dying art in most of North America, but here on Isla Mujeres the incredible art of hand-painted signage gives the island a quirky and memorable personality.  

For next week’s blog, I wonder if I can tap into Becky’s thoughts again for more ideas?   

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie

Friday, April 19, 2013

It must be ratings week!

My favourite - the "crayon house"
Dang!  We’re good! 
Two weeks ago Isla Mujeres was ranked in the top ten islands of the world.  This week an article rating the top twenty-four locations to see colourfully painted houses ranked Isla as number seventeen.  

Fabulous creations like the “crayon house” are eye-candy for anyone toting a camera.   Deliciously covered in bright colours, designs, and scenery this multi-coloured house sports a meticulous paintjob.  Amazing artistry.  Think of the hours of detailed work required to create the effect.  The muscles of my painting-hand are cramping in sympathy

Hemmingway's Bar - for wedding photos
The Behr Paint Company judged Isla Mujeres against locations like Cinque Terre Italy, Cape Town South Africa, Barranco in Lima Peru, and a host of other gorgeous cities.  

Only one Canadian city, St. John’s in Newfoundland made the list.  Granted the paint company is hoping to sell more of its product, but the article still brings positive recognition to this sleepy little island.

Beautiful - Casa Zuzy
Most island visitors have photos, or at least have seen photos, of the very visible centro locations that have been photographed time and time again.  Places like the French Bistro, Mañanas Coffee House, Hemmingway’s Bar, Barlito’s Bakery, and Orsario’s Hardware Store to name a few.  

But if you wander around the diverse neighbourhoods there are many more examples of great colour combinations; orange and green, pink and blue, yellow and orange, pink and purple, and multi-coloured.   Another favourite of mine is the magenta-trimmed turquoise house, slathered with polka dots in hues of green, red and blue.  This one is located near the Salinas Grande, close to where the road changes from a tope-riddled, (speed bumps) congested street into the double-width road.

My second favourite - the polka-dot house
The colour extends into every part of island life.  Even the tombs in the two island cemeteries are painted pink, blue, purple, and mango-yellow.  Our Canadian cemeteries, especially the newer ones, resemble parks or golf courses with granite headstones flat to the ground, so that the grounds keepers can trim the lush grass with riding lawnmowers.  Somber tones of grey, brown, and black arrear to be the only acceptable hues in northern graveyards.  The local custom of painting tombs with palette of cheerful colours is, in my view, fitting for this bright and vibrant culture.

Beautifully cared for tombs
Perhaps the Municipality of Isla Mujeres should encourage more owners to paint their houses, and businesses, with wild and interesting combinations.  

Maybe the municipality could feature a different, well-painted building every month, and offer a small cash prize for the winner.  Over time the various neighbourhoods could become a draw for photographic buffs. 

Love this entrance!

There I go day-dreaming again.  

In the meantime, get your cameras out, and explore the various neighbourhoods.  

You’ll find lots of interesting photo opportunities – because, after all we are number seventeen in The 24 Most Colourful Cities in the World. 

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie


Friday, April 12, 2013

“Sugar and Spice” and everything nice …

Kate Abbott and Yazmin Aguirre Rivera

With a name like Sugar and Spice Bakery – we just had to stop at their booth during the Artist Fair in the Square on Isla Mujeres.  Yum!  Katie Abbott and Yazmin Aguirre Rivera had stacks of cupcakes in every colour, flavour, and style.  

I really wanted one of each variety; but taking photographs while eating icing-slathered cupcakes was a recipe for disaster.  Although photos shot through a smeared camera lens might have created an interesting effect; an ethereal soft-focus with a finger-licking-good taste.

One of the early Artist Showcases outside Barlito's

This colourful affair is the brainchild of Tiffany Yenawine Wareing and Brad Wareing.  It started modestly a couple of years ago, setup outside the Barlito’s Bakery on Hidalgo Avenue.  During the high season Tiffany invited a variety of local and visiting artists to sell their jewelry creations, or paintings, or photographs on the first Thursday of every month.  

Alison Sawyer Current - multi-talented artist
Eventually the municipality told Tiffany that she needed a permit for the successful art show.  She replied: “No problem.  What do we do to get a permit?  And by the way, why don’t you give us a hand with this?  We’ll make it bigger and better.”   After a few meetings, negotiating back and forth, the municipality joined Barlito’s Bakery as a sponsor, along with Fayne’s Bar, and Soul de Isla.  The improved event has been relocated to the square in centro.

As we roamed around the fair greeting various island friends we recognized familiar faces.  Always smiling, Alison Sawyer Current was there selling her books in support of the Isla Animals Society.

Damien Lemee -
Alison is better known as The Dog Lady, as she works tirelessly to improve the general health and well-being of local and mainland pooches.  Alison is a multi-talented artist.  Besides organizing spay and neuter clinics, and rabies inoculations, she writes books and makes beautiful pottery.  

When I think of Alison, I think of an old quote by Lucille Ball:  “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do the more you can do.”  That is Alison!

In other areas of the fair, we enjoyed seeing the other artists’ handiwork.  Damien Lemée from Montreal Canada dangled his quirky tropical birds created from recycled vehicle tires.  A few of our friends have his whimsical creations hanging in their homes, and on patios.  

Isla Beading Co-operative
Across the square from Damien, the Isla Women’s Beading Co-operative had a great selection of items for sale, all patiently made by hand.  I can hardly see the tiny glass beads, never mind actually stringing them into intricate creations.  Nearby, Eileen Regn showcased her sea glass and sea heart jewelry collection, while Gladys Galdamez and Gunther Hepner had a variety of clothing and jewelry to sell including earrings made from colourful feathers.  

Glady Galdamez & Gunther Hepner

The feathers were donated by their two pets: Codie and Rosa.  (Do the birds get an extra ration of treats for dropping such gorgeous feathers?) 

There were many more contributors – but Lawrie and I spent a bit too much time socializing. By the time I realized that I hadn’t seen everything the light had changed, making clear photos difficult.  Ah well, there is always next month! 

Check out their FaceBook page for more details: Isla Mujeres Artist Fair

Eileen Regn with sea heart and sea glass jewelry

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie

Friday, April 5, 2013

You know you’ve picked the right place when …. (Lawrie’s turn to write)

North Beach from a penthouse at IxChel Condos
Okay, I admit it we got lucky when we chose Isla Mujeres as our retirement destination.  Captivated by the turquoise water and friendly locals we jumped at the chance to live here.  Now prestigious Trip Advisor has named our little island #6 in the world for islands to live on.  Travelocity rated Isla as #4 for Value Vacations, and even Fox News and NBC have gotten into the act touting this little paradise.

Looking south from the IxChel Condos - 7 kms by 1 km
As most of you know, Isla Mujeres is a very small, 7 kilometers by 1 kilometer, island situated just off the coast of Cancun. It’s about fifteen minutes by passenger ferry across the azure and turquoise water to reach this little paradise.  Tourism is the #1 industry on the island, followed by fishing, although the locals are finding reeling in tourists far more profitable than fishing.  Tourism is increasing, more people traveling.  Fishing is decreasing, due to less fish available.

One of our favourite views - fishing boats
An abundance of island restaurants cater to every taste and there are many great watering holes serving up icy cold beer and frozen concoctions to help your vacation along.  And of course there are beaches, lots of beaches.  All very safe.

We are not the type of folks with what we refer to as a drawbridge mentality.  You know the type; once they have discovered a place they don’t want anyone else to discover it lest it might change.  Change is good.  It keeps the community vibrant and alive. 

And fishing nets ....
Some of the things that make living as an ex-pat in a foreign country easier are electronic readers that enable us to download the most recent new novels, magazines, and newspapers.  We and many of our friends have magicJack phones that allow us to call anywhere in the US or Canada – free.  The nearby Cancun International Airport gives us travel options with direct flights to many countries.  It’s all good.

Combo mini market and restaurante near Salinas Grande
So, if you are thinking of a great retirement location, or just a vacation slightly off the beaten path, consider Isla Mujeres.  If you are like us and dive right in to a new adventure, you will find professional real estate companies, good builders, and a very fun and affordable little community that will make you feel right at home.

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie