Friday, February 24, 2017

Where the heck are we? Tourist photo-ops,

Dance troupe at the whale shark statue on Isla Mujeres
We’ve all done it, posed beside a large decorative sign with a recognizable name.  The signs are memory joggers for photo-buffs, those of us who snap hundreds of pictures on a two-week holiday trying to capture all of the excitement, all of the beauty.  The signs remind us of the location of a fun experience, a quirky building, or an interesting street scene.

Sunrise side of Isla Mujeres

Recently we have seen an increase bright, cheerful signs simply proclaiming – Isla Mujeres.  We think the signs have been installed to help combat TCS, tourist-confusion-syndrome. Symptoms of TCS include an inability to distinguish between one city and another. Sufferers of TCS are usually oblivious to their surrounding due to the over-use of selfie-sticks and alcohol. Conversations with a visitor who suffers from TCS can sound something like this:

“This is my favourite part of Cancun,” the bikini-clad woman said. 

“Cancun?”  The islander asked, his eyebrows lifting, questioning. Then he noticed the woman was wearing identification wristband from an all-inclusive resort, located on the Riviera Maya.   

“Yes, we are on a day trip from the hotel zone.  This is my favourite part of Cancun.”

“Actually, this isn't Cancun.” He patiently replied, “We're a separate community. This is Isla Mujeres.”

“Oh! I’ve never heard of it.”       


Arriving on Isla Mujeres
If you are here on a day-trip, the first indication that you aren’t in Cancun is the enormous metal sign spread across the top of the Ultramar passenger ferry terminal – Isla Mujeres. Snap a phone pic of that one to help you remember where you were. Or just a few steps from the boat, at the head of the wharf is another photo opportunity – an anchor, a painted wooden sign, and the beautiful blue ocean. During the Christmas holidays an enormous inflatable, wooly bear complete with Santa hat and scarf sat beside the anchor. It is an ideal stop for a memory-jogging photo.

Whale Shark statue at night
If you rent a golf cart to tour the island, there will be several other visual clues that you are not in Cancun, you are on Isla Mujeres. There is a large whale shark statue, suspended over a sculpture of a small fishing boat, a panga. It is located about five minutes south from centro, on the western side where the Malécon runs along the water’s edge.  The statue is a popular place to stop for a touristy photo. Driving past this area can get dramatic at times when golf-cart drivers suddenly brake and swerve to the curb, pointing excitedly at the statue with their selfie-stick.

Sunrise side of Isla on winter solstice December 21st 
Back in centro on the eastern shoreline, the sunrise side of the island there is a newer, yet already rusting large sign proclaiming the name of our small community: Isla Mujeres, Island of Women.  The sign is located behind the Casa de la Cultura.  Abasolo Avenue will take you right to the sign – but please remember the Malécon is a walkway.  It isn’t a place to play dodge-em with dog-walkers, joggers, and parents walking small children. The Malécon narrows and ends at a wall, leaving you the obviously-not-an-islander, red-faced, and reversing to extricate yourself from the jam. 

For the folks that are only visiting for a few hours, and plan to walk around centro one of the newer tourist stores on the double-wide Rueda Medina Avenue, Plaza Don Agustin, has a perfect place for a memory-jogging photo inside their store.  On the wall is a depiction of a whale shark along with the name of our community.

In the same neighbourhood is the Miramar Restaurante, located on Rueda Medina Avenue and across from the Señor Frog store. After enjoying a snack, or lunch, or perhaps a cold beverage you can walk out on their dock for yet another Isla Mujeres photo op.

Islanders try their best to help cure TCS, tourist-confusion-syndrome.
Now, if someone could just convince the souvenir sales-people to stop selling Cancun printed t-shirts, and touristy gee-gaws, maybe we could make some real progress.


Lynda & Lawrie

$2.99 USD on Amazon Kindle e-book

By Marcia on February 4, 2017

Really enjoyed this fast moving and entertaining mystery. Loved her characters and since I read the book while on Isla Mujeres it was twice as much fun! I also really enjoyed all the background and historical facts about the island that was woven throughout the story. Can't wait for the next book.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Feeding time at the zoo

While typing out a list of ‘how to’ instructions for friends who are baby-sitting Sparky and our house for a few weeks, we noticed we had included a number of references to critters other than Sparky.  There are a myriad of instructions on the care and feeding of our free-roaming collection of pets that inhabit our small bit of the island.

Geek the Kitchen Gecko
We have Geek the Kitchen Gecko, who lives behind the fridge, and gives me a loud chuk, chuk, chuk greeting every morning when I turn on the coffee maker. Geek doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, except he likes a shallow dish of clean water to be available on the kitchen counter. A few times when he has tried to catch a drip from the kitchen tap it has resulted in a traumatic drop into a slippery sided enclosure with no traction for his Velcro-like feet. Rather than chase a panicky lizard around the sink, we have settled on letting him use the former-hand soap dish as a drinking bowl. Occasionally we pull the fridge away from the wall and vacuum his house, taking care not to suction him up with the poop. In return for our acceptance of his requirements Geek the Gecko does his best to eliminate mosquitoes and ants. 

King of the Beach - Thomas the Cat 
Before our famous seventeen-year-old Thomas the Cat passed away in April of 2016 there were a succession of kitchen geckos who had a brief and tension-filled existence.  We intensely miss our Tommy, but the household geckos had a disco party in celebration of his passing.

Stumpy the Iguana is about 15 years old 
While Geek patrols the interior of our house, the larger lizards inhabit underground burrows outside. There is a herd of about twenty five iguanas that mooch bits of fruit, veggies, and left-over pet food. They are similar to beach dogs, keeping a watchful eye on movements at Casa Rosa, Casa Luna, our house Casa K’aay Há, Casa Maravilla Caribe, and Punta Piedra. Any indication that someone might be willing to feed them, and the whole group will converge in a scurrying mass hoping to be the lucky one who gets the piece of mango, or papaya. They like to leave the boring broccoli or celery bits for the night-time beach-cleaning crew, the Hermit Crabs.

Hernando the Hermit Crab - we think ....LOL
The free-roaming Hermit Crabs number in the hundreds. They are probably the most labour intensive of our outdoor zoo critters. They require a daily supply of fresh clean water in dishes shallow enough to be accessible to small creatures, an assortment of scraps to dine on, and a steady supply of new shells to move into as they outgrow their current domicile. Hermit Crabs don’t create their own shells and must find larger homes on average every six months. Only certain shapes meet their requirements for comfort and accessibility. 

Hermit crab using a Pond's Cold Cream jar
The black and white turbo snail shells are their favourites, but the Hermit Crabs are in direct competition with tourists who also collect the beautiful and increasingly rare shells. Over the years we have purchased hundreds of substitute shells for the Hermit Crab shell exchange program at our crab-i-tat. The crabs take one – leave one.  We usually mark the purchased shells with red, orange or bright pink nail polish so that we can identify our frequent visitors.  And of course, since they are regularly swapping shells it is virtually impossible to recognize a particular Hermit Crab. You can never be certain of who you are chatting with!

Regular visitors 
And then there are the birds that visit every afternoon for a drink of clean water and a feather-cleaning bath. Soon after we moved here in 2008 we swept out the natural indents in the coral rocks just in front of our house. The birds quickly learned to rely on us for fresh water, happily congregating for a few minutes of social time in the late afternoon before heading to their roosting spots for the night. Even the iguanas, larger Hermit Crabs, or passing cats and dogs drink from the pools.

Sparky - star of Treasure Isla novel, waiting for the sequel
As for the instructions for looking after our almost-famous divo, Sparky, well those took up three full pages of computer printing.  We did mention he is a divo, a pampered, but we think very lovable, brat.

Being zoo keepers at our house is almost a full-time job.

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

Join the hunt for pirate treasure on Isla Mujeres

$2.99 USD on Amazon e-books

By sharon on February 3, 2017

I loved this e-book! It was an easy read, I loved the story line, the characters and reading a book about an island close to my heart was a bonus. The story was witty and full of fun facts about the island and its history. I'm hoping for a sequel!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Love is in the air!

Punta Sur, Isla Mujeres
It’s a perfect place for romance – Isla Mujeres.

Sunshine, white sand beaches, palm trees and dozens of locations where you can tie the knot, get hitched, walk down the aisle, go to the chapel, drop the anchor, or get spliced (two ropes woven into one). You could also celebrate your mutual weirdness, or blend your families.

Marry me?
First there are numerous options for the proposal, ranging in price from expensive with the fine champagne, an enormous diamond and dinner at a classy restaurant. Or a spur of the moment sign on the beach using pieces of coral and shells, asking his lady love to marry him. She said, yes! 

The Bachelorette!
Then there are the bachelorette parties frequently featuring the bride, maid-of-honour and bridesmaids wearing matching t-shirts. Hilariously happy, the women ricochet around the island flitting in and out of bars, nightclubs and restaurants, creating their own party wherever they go. Typically the bachelorette bashes are the advance party, celebrating the last few days of singledom for the bride. Occasionally the women celebrate for a week in paradise before returning to their northern homes for a large formal wedding.

Mariana & Chris, beach wedding
Guests arriving for destination weddings are recognizable by the amount of luggage and the fancy clothes draped on over-burdened arms. They disembark the passenger ferries in chatty gaggles of parents, in-laws, assorted relatives and close friends. The groups disembark the passenger boats heading to the host hotel, or perhaps an assortment of private homes rented for the occasion. Once the throng has settled into their accommodations they start the social whirl of gatherings, getting to know one another before the big day. By the time the event takes place everyone is relaxed and sociable, having finally settled into the slower pace of island-time.

Zama's Beach Club decorated for Carly & Simon's day
For venue choices there is everything from the large all-inclusive beach resorts, beach clubs, beach restaurants, or simply on the beach. You can arrange for your guests to arrive by boat, taxi, golf cart or whatever transportation method you can dream up. A few times we have seen a colonial-style, horse-drawn carriage transport the bride and groom from the church to the reception. 
Bodas Colectivas 2012
And for the economy-minded the municipality of Isla Mujeres traditionally sponsors Bodas Colectivas, collective weddings, group weddings around St. Valentine’s Day for residents who wish to be married in a civil ceremony.  A decorated bus drives the prospective brides and grooms to the chosen location, and everyone recites their vows together. It’s an affordable and festive event reserved for Mexican citizens.

Goddess IxChel at Punta Sur
And for the younger just-marrieds, a stop at Punta Sur a small gift for the Goddess IxChel is rumored to quickly produce off-spring. A couple of years ago, a thirty-something American woman told us her four children forbade her to even look at IxChel. Every time the woman visited the goddess, she became pregnant. The kids said, “Enough already!”

Golf cart decorated for wedding
We have attended an assortment of island weddings, everything from a handful of people to hundreds of guests joyfully celebrating the happiness of the new couple.  Isla Mujeres, is a romantic destination for the proposal, the wedding and of course the annual celebration of your unforgettable experience in paradise.

Lynda & Lawrie


By Isla Breeze on January 5, 2017

What a fun story about Isla Mujeres, Mexico, the island most people who have!
The story is intriguing, bringing bits of history into the fiction. The story also highlights many of the well-known individuals that live on Isla...if you know makes you feel as if you are a part of the story. The intrigue and the hint of a love tryst lets the reader know that there will be more in the future.
Sparky enters the picture and the dog's adoption reminds us that there are animals on Isla Mujeres available to adopt. Sparky becomes the wonder dog who learns so quickly. This is a fun and fast read for anyone, whether you are familiar with the island or not. It is hard to put down.

$2.99 USD on Amazon e-books

Free downloadable app to read on any electronic device. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Fleeting images

The bright, the beautiful, the colourful images that come and go are worthy of remembering.

I call this photo  - The Reading Room 
Over the years there have been several ‘authorized’ campaigns to paint murals on private and public buildings on Isla Mujeres. Many of those frescos have survived the salty humid weather, the over-painting of graffiti artists, or removal for new construction projects.  This week’s blog is a remembrance of some of the interesting ones that didn’t survive.

One of the malecon bollards when they were painted as flags
When we first arrived there was a collection of ocean-themed murals painted on the malécon, running along the eastern side of the island. There were turtles, and fish, and other ocean creatures. As those paintings peeled or faded, the next municipal administration repainted everything in a flag motif.  Flags from the countries of the visitors to Mexico. Canadian, American, many European countries, Israel, and all of the Latin American countries adorned the seawall bollards.

2012 Spear Art - La Perla Hotel
In February of 2012 a twenty-something Belgium backpacker, Corentin Binard known as Spear, decided to add his unique brand of graffiti to the island. Situated on the eastside of Isla the three-story tall La Perla Hotel was partially damaged during hurricane Gilberto, and finished off by hurricane Wilma in 2005.  It languished as a crash-pad for vagrants, an unsightly place littered with garbage and beer bottles.
More portraits by Spear Art
Arriving on Isla, Spear discovered the crumbling structure and decided he would leave his mark there.  For three wild days working in a frenzy of creativity he sprayed, splashed, dabbed, and painted. He crafted five large, animated portraits of friends on the south walls of the damaged hotel rooms, and two more the north end of the structure. About a month after his marathon of painting the damaged La Perla was knocked down and reduced to a pile of rubble. There are plans for a new hotel on the same location.

Inside roofless building 
Sometime in early 2014 an image appeared inside an abandoned, roofless building located at northern end of the seldom-used municipal airport, near the entrance for the malécon and the Aguakan pumping station. The image stares with a question in her eyes. Perhaps she is asking: why are you here inside this dank, derelict space? Still visible, the image is a faint ghost of the original.

2014 was on the wall at Gabriela Mistral Primary 
Then in the summer of 2014 a large group of artists arrived to embellish fourteen buildings in centro. Almost three years later the majority are still visible, a little paler, but attractive all the same. Two of the originals are gone. The long and colourful ocean creature that swam along the perimeter wall of the Gabriela Mistral Primary School in centro, was the victim of expansion.  The black and white whale-shark swimming with a woman on the Tourism office on Medina Avenue a victim of the hot afternoon sun and tropical storms. Flaking and faded, it was replaced this year with a conglomeration of brightly-coloured mythical figures.

One of our favourites - gone!
In early 2015 a collection of birds, iguanas, hermit crabs, whale sharks, turtles, fish, sharks, and jelly fish flowed along three sides of the retaining wall where the seniors play volleyball. During a tropical rain storm late in October of that year, the wall crumbled destroying the striking artwork. The replacement wall is a plain, vanilla-white structure. We miss the eye-catching images of our local wildlife.

Barbara Siebenlist painting - now at Villa la Bella

Another one of our favourite depictions of ocean-going creatures was painted by artist Barbara Siebenlist on a wooden fence at Antonio Fabre’s studio. Curtis and Ashley Blogin, the owners of the Villa la Bella Bed & Breakfast, fell in love with the artwork and quickly negotiated to purchase the piece for their lobby. Safely sheltered from the rain and sun, it’s a beautiful addition to a handsome facility.

Golf cart rental - mural on fencing
There are other images tucked away behind private walls, or inside hotel courtyards waiting to be discovered. Many businesses located in centro are starting to capitalize on the interest of visitors in the various murals, commissioning paintings for their lobbies, rooftops, fences and buildings. It's an interesting and profitable spin-off of outdoor art.

Now, if someone would start an island-wide mosaic project ….that would be cool, more permanent and just as colourful.

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

Get your copy today!
Fun adventure novel set on Isla Mujeres

$2.99 on Amazon E-books
free downloadable app for any electronic device

By Isla Breeze on January 5, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

What a fun story about Isla Mujeres, Mexico, the island most people who have!
The story is intriguing, bringing bits of history into the fiction. The story also highlights many of the well-known individuals that live on Isla...If you know makes you feel as if you are a part of the story. The intrigue and the hint of a love tryst lets the reader know that there will be more in the future.  Sparky enters the picture and the dog's adoption reminds us that there are animals on Isla Mujeres available to adopt. Sparky becomes the wonder dog who learns so quickly.

This is a fun and fast read for anyone, whether you are familiar with the island or not. It is hard to put down.