Friday, December 27, 2013

Disney comes to Isla

A group of twenty motorcycles parked along the curb with front wheels canted at a forty-five degree angle to the left.  Several golf carts with decorations fastened to every available surface gathered on Aeropuerto Road – pointing north.  A large decorated pickup truck, complete with a Christmas tree and a generator powering the Christmas lights swung into place at the head of the line!  It’s a parade!

And then the parade marshal arrived to tell us we were heading south first, not north.  Oops.

With the assistance of a local policeman, Sponge Bob (Jimmy Picuri) in his too-wide costume was stuffed into the back seat of his decorated golf cart, and then the parade participants were directed to turn their vehicles around and head south.  

The Christmas tree truck and Santa lead the way.  Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Elmo, Sponge Bob, two Santas, elves, a red-haired wood nymph, a pretty Disney princess, a reindeer-dog, dozens of kids and the motorcycles set off in a cloud exhaust, with horns honking.  Surprisingly we weren’t very late getting started – about fifteen minutes behind schedule instead of the normal one to three hours. 

Weeks before the parade date our friend Freddy Medina asked us if we would like to participate in the parade being organized by the dance troupe - Algeria y Pasion Carnavalesca.  He asked us to wear our Mickey and Minnie costumes.  He would wear our Elmo costume, and find two other friends to be Sponge Bob and Spiderman.  We readily agreed.  Then I started obsessing about the route, and the timing, and finding more friends to join in.

Daily emails to Freddy asking: “Do we know the route yet?  Everyone is asking.”  And the response was: “Not yet, or soon, or we have a meeting tomorrow.  Don’t worry.”   

In the end I stop fretting, and just trusted that someone would know what the heck was happening.  I worried for naught.  As it turns out the honking horns and backfiring motorcycles were all the notice that people needed to find the parade.  And find us they did.  The kids and adults came streaming out of houses and side streets laughing and calling out to the various participants.  Handfuls of wrapped candy tossed towards the crowds created giggling pandemonium. 

Those of us that were in costumes could not see very well.  I had to keep asking my friend and driver, Marcy Watt, which way I should be looking and waving.  Most of the time she couldn’t understand what I said; my words were muffled by the large padded head, sounding much like a mouse squeaking – or as we called it; mouse-speak.  But we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Marcy repeated over and over how this night would always be a favourite Isla memory for her.

The kids were everywhere, shouting: Minnie, Minnie, Minnie.  A few vehicles back, Mickey Mouse was experiencing the same reaction as we wound through small crowded streets.  One small girl shouted Mickey’s name, until he hopped out of the golf cart and walked towards her, then she turned and ran screaming into the house.  I guess the thought of a very large rodent hugging her was too much to contemplate. 

As we turned the corner onto the larger road that passes the Super X-press in the colonias a group of thirty-something-men having a pre-Christmas celebration near Zina’s Guest House, shouted Mickey’s name.  Mickey decided to get out of the golf cart and meet some of his fans.  Oh, oh. Mistake.  They whole heartedly embraced Mickey Mouse, tossing him into the air.  Fortunately for everyone involved they caught him before he slammed onto the concrete.  A hundred or so little kids watched in horrified suspense, wondering if their hero was going to be hurt. 

Then the route turned back towards the north end of the island, winding through the tight one-way street system in Centro.  We finished up on Medina Avenue lined up along the street, posing with locals who wanted to be photographed with the characters.  Eventually the parade participants disbanded.  We were exhausted, thirsty, hot, and soaked in perspiration.  Our right arms ached from two hours of waving to the crowds. 

However, Elmo, (Freddy Medina) was convinced to stay in costume and participate in the city parade, starting immediately after ours finished.  Poor guy, he was in costume for four and a half hours.  He likely lost ten pounds in fluids.  Another islander, Ashley Blogins, mentioned that she had once worked at Disneyland, where characters were strictly monitored and allowed to stay in costume for ten-minute increments, according to the temperature. 

Freddy my friend, you are a rock star!  

Thank you again for a memorable experience, allowing your Disney friends to meet your Isla friends. 

Happy New Year to Everyone
Lynda & Lawrie

PS: none of the parade photos are mine.  It was impossible for me to take pics while dressed in costume.  Thank you to Darren, Alexis, Deb, Francisco, Marcy, for letting us to use your photos for the blog this week.

Friday, December 20, 2013

It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas

My favourite photo of the garbage truck
“Basura, basura, basura!”  A deep voice disrupts the early morning quiet - shouting garbage, garbage, garbage - reminding us that Christmas is coming.  It’s time for the traditional propina for the garbage collection crews.  

We slip a few pesos into envelopes and hand them out to the individual guys.  Our first year on Isla we printed our own Christmas thank-you cards, but our attempts at creativity were quickly tossed into the trash as nimble fingers emptied the envelopes and folded the currency into secure pockets.   Now we just use plain white envelopes to hold the money.  The end result is the same.  They smile.  We smile.  We get great service for another year.  Everyone is happy.

2012 Santa Claus parade
The week before Christmas is also when the municipality of Isla Mujeres hosts its annual Santa Claus parade.  Perched on top of a decorated truck, Santa and his entourage of elves are escorted by a flotilla of cars, golf carts and motos. The cheerful beeping and honking of horns can be heard over the loud, thumping Christmas music as the group stutter-steps its way around the island.  

Stop. Go. Stop. Go.  

Evan and Ethan - 2012 candy from Santa parade
Eventually all of the vehicles pass by our house.  Most years we stand on our upper street-side balcony, waving and snapping photographs while the participants toss candy towards us.  

Last year the two grandkids, Ethan and Evan, were at street level and gathered up an armload of treats.  
Yep, just what they needed to re-kindle their over-active energy for a few more hours. 

Restaurants and music on chaotic Hidalgo Avenue
Walking through centro in the evening we notice the increase of visitors to the island.  They are wisely escaping the chilly northern weather.  Hidalgo Avenue is active and chaotic with music - from singers, performers, and instrumentalists - spilling from a number of restaurants.  Hucksters call out, attracting your attention for a minute or two: “Check our menu.  Here’s a coupon for a free Margarita.  Come in.  You’ll like our food.”  We shake our heads: “No gracias. We’re not hungry right now.”

Two unusually quiet students heading home from class
As the schools prepare for the holiday break there is the inevitable flurry of concerts, dances and parties.  Students and teachers are free until after the Night of the Kings in early January.  In the school yards public address systems, turned up to full volume, allow passers-by to eavesdrop on the pre-holiday ceremonies.  Our home is situated between a kindergarten and the high school.  We listen to the laughter and giggles as the students disband for the holidays.  Judging by the number of high-pitched squeals and shrieks, I am fairly certain Shrieking #101 is a mandatory school subject for female students.  Inevitably the shrieking girl is being followed, or teased by a giggling boy.  Good sounds. Fun sounds.

Algeria Y Pasion Carnavalesca 
This year we have been asked participate in another boisterous event. Weather permitting a sunset parade on Saturday December 21st will feature several of the Halloween costumes that we’ve purchased in the last four years.  Elmo (Freddy Medina) is the star, with supporting cast members to include Mickey (Lawrie) and Minnie Mouse (Lynda), Spiderman (Darren) and Sponge Bob (Jimmy P).  The Carnival troupe Algeria y Pasion Carnavalesca that Yadira Velázquez (Freddy’s wife) dances with is organizing the parade as a fundraiser for the group, and to entertain the island kids.

The Christmas Season on Isla is always a noisy chaotic time and we enjoy every minute.  But for us the very best sounds of Christmas are made by friends and family, sharing a meal, or snacks and drinks.  It’s a time to reconnect, to remember why we love living here on Isla.

Handmade New Year's Eve Pinatas - 2 blocks from our house

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings,
Best Wishes to Everyone for a Safe and Happy Holiday Season

Lynda & Lawrie

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Reeling for Ronnie ~ Annual Fishing Derby

Reeling for Ronnie ~ Annual Fishing Derby
June 14th to 17th 2014

The 4th Annual Reeling for Ronnie fishing tournament is a yearly fundraiser assisting qualified students on Isla Mujeres, Mexico to further their education. 

The tournament participants take part in some of the most exciting fishing in the world while enjoying the great camaraderie of the other anglers.  Experience the spectacular beauty of British Columbia Canada, while enjoying amazing food and lodging.

The raffle prize includes return air fare from anywhere in Canada, Mexico and continental USA, plus accommodations and meals at the beautiful North King Lodge.

The three days of fabulous fishing – a value of $3500.00 are compliments of the North King Lodge.    Return airfare compliments of Richard and Karen Lock.

Only 200 tickets being sold!  
Contact Lawrie Lock at to get yours today!   
Mexico cell # 998-218-5093
1 ticket  - $500.00 MX pesos
3 tickets - $1000.00 MX pesos

100% of donated funds go to the students
To date the fund has assisted seven Isla Mujeres students with completing their education.

The Ron Brown Scholarship Fund is a registered charity in Canada.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cruising the Florida Keys: Part Two

Cigar man at Schooner Wharf Bar in Key West
“We really don’t care what the rest of the world thinks of us.” - according to a local in Key West Florida.

Key West is the southern-most inhabited island of the Florida Keys, the last landfall before Cuba.  

The islanders are a motley collection of interesting and friendly characters that live their lives in keeping with their rules, and to heck with the rest of the world.  

Protected chickens

Key West is a place where six-toed domestic cats are revered and the descendants of the settlers’ household poultry runs free in the streets.  Roosters, hens, and chicks strut and peck their way around the downtown area.  

What would happen if one of the protected cats ate a protected chicken?  

Who would be fined?  Or sued?

On our second evening in Key West we popped into the nearby Schooner Wharf Bar for a sunset beverage.  We landed in the middle of a fund raising event, organized to assist a local woman who had lost everything in a house fire.  Her friends circulated around the bar selling 50/50 raffle tickets, and silent auction items.  

Fund raiser at Schooner Wharf Bar Key West

In the back room casino several Black Jack games were in progress.  The volunteer dealers were a little unclear on the rules of the game, good naturedly allowing the card players to advise them when to take a “hit” or when to “stand pat”.  

The event organizers also had a list of individual items contributors could pay for; items such as a toaster, or a microwave, or a coffee maker, or an item of lingerie.  Since we had never met the recipient, Sheere, we opted to buy her a new coffee maker instead of a new bra.  I’m sure she’d understand.

Conch Tour Train Key West

We also did the usual touristy things in Key West; enjoying the ninety-minute Conch Train tour of the historic downtown, shopping, eating, and drinking.  Everywhere we went people were very friendly.  For us, staying three nights in Key West was just about the perfect amount of time.

Turning north again, back in the direction of Miami, our next stop was at Sombrero Marina in Marathon.  

Marathon harbour - sunken and live aboard boats
The entrance to the harbour at Marathon is a little unsettling.  We motored past hundreds of anchored boats, in various states of disrepair, being used as live-aboards by retired or in some cases working people who cannot afford to purchase or rent in the Keys.  

The cost of living in the Florida Keys seems to be a common complaint.  Real estate values are astronomical, and wages about average.  

Local man and his dog heading home to a boat
We were also told by various business owners that finding employees was extremely difficult.  Workers could make considerably more money as a server in a bar or restaurant, as opposed to hourly wages in a store or a bank.  

The locals like to mention that the Florida Keys have more bars per capita than any other part of Florida.  I can’t confirm that – but judging by the number of highly visible drinking establishments it‘s probably true.  

For our final two nights cruising the Keys, we stayed at the Postcard Inn Beach Resort and Marina on Isla Morada; home of the world-famous Tiki Bar and creators of the original Rum Runner drink.  The entrance to the marina is clearly marked by buoys guiding boats through a shallow sandy area.  

It’s a bit disconcerting to look a few feet to the starboard side (right side for you landlubbers) and see people standing in waist-deep water sipping a weekend libation or two.  

On the port side of the boat (left) were numerous kite-surfers and para-gliders sliding across the shallows, enjoying the sunny weather.  Inattention to charts and depth sounders in this area can get a skipper into a fine mess.  

Fortunately we were paying attention and arrived unscathed at the docks, then went searching for the world-famous Rum Runner drinks.

On Sunday afternoon, sitting outside on the patio at Shula’s Restaurant and basking in eighty-five degrees (30 in Celsius) weather we watched a Seattle Seahawks football game.  

In the meantime, in Canada and the continental USA, our friends and family were shivering in minus something-or-other weather.  

With every news update as to flight delays, weather warnings, and traffic reports we would smile smugly – perhaps a little too smugly.   

The next day we arrived back in Miami at the home berth for the boat.  We celebrated the end to a fabulous experience; our family cruise through paradise.  And then it was time for everyone to head back to their respective homes; unfortunately for some that meant heading north to Canada to celebrate the Christmas season with other family members.

A seven-hour flight delay, bad weather, a non-functioning house furnace, and heaps of snow caught up with them!  It was the weather gods’ pay-back for our smug smiles.  It’s a lesson.  Never, ever, tempt the weather gods.  Not even in paradise.


You might enjoy the Fox News video – Watter’s World Key West segment.

As mentioned in the video, we also didn’t see any police presence in our three day visit to Key West.  However, further north at Hawks Cay Resort we did see the Sherriff’s car parked outside every morning while the driver popped in for a fresh Starbucks coffee.  Pretty laid back lifestyle.

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cruising the Florida Keys: Part One

Lawrie and Richard Grierson - set to cast off in Miami
Yes, I know, we usually write about living on Isla Mujeres in Mexico. 

However, right now we are aboard a 56-foot Carver yacht, slowly cruising through the Florida Keys with family members.  It’s another type of paradise.

A few years ago on our first, and very short visit, to the Keys we drove from Fort Lauderdale south to Key West.  It was an interesting but extremely long day driving to Key West and back again to our hotel in Fort Lauderdale, returning around eleven at night.  At first impression the Florida Keys from the highway route appears to be a long line of restaurants, gift stores, strip malls and forty-two bridges connecting the forty-three inhabited islands.  

Linda Grierson and Lynda in Key Largo
Our second time around, cruising in a yacht, we were able to enjoy more of the 1700 verdant islands that compose the Florida Keys archipelago.

Our first port of call, quirky Key Largo, was the background location for the 1948 movie starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Edward G. Robinson. (At this point of few of our readers will say: Who?  No worries. The movie was before your time!)  

The town of Key Largo originally had the rather unimaginative name of Rock Harbor.  In 1952 after the film's success, pressure from local businesses resulted in a name change to Key Largo. 

Pilot House Marina in Key Largo
Threading our way through narrow waterways we slowly eased into our berth at the Pilot House Marina.  

It was a fun placed to tie-up for two nights with the nearby Tiki Bar Restaurant a good place to enjoy dinner and live music.  

Walking up and down the streets that dead-end at the navigation canals gave us a good overview for this fishing-based community.  Many homes have work boats docked in front of the house.  

Lobster traps (pots) and buoys
There were several areas – yards - stacked high with heavy wooden lobster traps, a few nets, colourful buoys, and anchor odds and ends.  Each fishing company has their own colour of buoys to identify their traps. 

In the shallow waters between the reef and the mainland are thousands of buoys, marking the locations of the lobster traps.  

All those lobsters …. waiting to be eaten!

Entrance to Hawks Cay Marina & Resort
Our next stop was Hawks Cay Marina on Duck Cay.  It’s a beautiful location with one major drawback.  The entrance!  The channel is narrow, with a swift current, and features a jagged pile of rocks at the confluence of two waterways.  A sharp turn to starboard is required to enter the passage that leads to Hawks Cay Marina.  

Cruising along the front of the resort - past swimming pools, restaurants and bars - we finally reached the berth designated for our boat.  At this point the water was very shallow even at high tide, with our props kicking up sand and weeds as we docked the boat.
Lawrie cruising around Hawks Cay
Hawks Cay is beautiful, if somewhat constricted between the highway and the ocean.  We arrived at the beginning of the Thanksgiving weekend and the resort hummed with families; children everywhere.  The employees do a great job entertaining the young ones with cardboard boat races, crafts, and games.

Early one morning at Hawks Cay I walked up to Highway #1 and chatted with a couple who were fishing off one of the many highway bridges. 

Locals fishing off the bridge at Hawks Cay
“How far to Marathon?”  I inquired, thinking I might walk south to the next community on the map.  

The man looked at my sandals and said: “An hour, or two, in those shoes.  Or if you were had real shoes it would be an hour.”  

Okay, then.  Guess I’ll go back to the boat instead.

Coming into the harbour at Key West 
The next morning we headed out to Key West, planning to spend at least three nights at the Galleon Marina.  As we slowly cruised into the harbour at Key West we encountered a cruise ship, several working boats, sailing boats, plus dozens of tour boats.  Lit by Christmas decorations the harbour is active and interesting with marine traffic coming and going all day and into the early evening.  We enjoy people watching in an active location; there is always so much to look at.

One of the grand old houses in Key West

Our first week in the paradise of the Florida Keys is done.  We are looking forward to the second week of adventures!

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie