Friday, November 24, 2017

Isla Mujeres, Mexico’s luckiest island!

Sunset - looking towards Cancun.   
Luckiest island? Just because we are blessed with amazing beaches, fabulous restaurants, and gracious people?

Yes, but also because this year we dodged a number of natural disasters that devastated our surrounding neighbours. 2017 has been a hyperactive hurricane season in the Caribbean Sea with seventeen named storms including Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, and Rina.

Two of the hurricanes, Irma and Nate, were projected to ride right over our little sandbar of an island. Thankfully both storms changed their travel plans leaving us in peace. Our neighbours in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Cuba, Belize, Guatemala and Puerto Rico were unfortunately subjected to the wrath of several big storms this year.

Earthquakes in September 2017

In September, Mexico suffered a series of devastating earthquakes on the Pacific coast, and in central Mexico. Hundreds of people died in the huge quakes. The communities are still in recovery mode, with unstable buildings and damaged infrastructure. 

Thankfully we don’t seem to be in an earthquake zone here on the Caribbean side of Mexico. 

Most of the quakes are concentrated further out where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, near Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and the Virgin Islands.

Local policewoman and her daughter

On the more personal side of living on Isla Mujeres, we have a very low crime rate. Most of the problems are crimes of opportunity. A purse snatched. A pocket picked. A camera or electronic device taken from tourists in a rental property. With sixteen thousand residents and two million visitors a year the opportunities abound for thieves. They prey on people who assume since this is a small island they do not have to worry about any crime. Well, you do have to take precautions. Keep track of your valuables. Use the safes supplied in your accommodation for your passports, extra cash, and electronic devices. Lock your doors when leaving your lodging, even if you are just going out for a few minutes. Don’t leave any small electronic devices out on display. Someone will take them.

Sunrise on eastern side of the island
And sadly you should be aware of the possibility of a sexual assault. Twice in recent weeks a young woman has successfully fought off an attacker.

But on the up side of living here the weather is nearly-perfect, the environment healthy, and the municipality tries to provide a variety of cultural experiences for everyone. 

There is an abundance of beaches, restaurants and bars of course, plus ethnic activities on most weekends in centro. The Artist Fairs, located at the Casa de Cultura, are back in operation starting this week. The plan is for every second Thursday, but will likely change to weekly as the high season tourist traffic increases.
Folk Dancers in Centro

We have a reasonably good police force, and the large comforting presence of the huge navy base across from the passenger ferries. 

It’s nice to know those folks live here year around providing extra security, search and rescue for lost boats, and occasionally emergency medical evacuations. 

The two navy drug-sniffing dogs and their handlers frequently greet the passenger boats or car ferries, checking for contraband. We enjoy watching the dogs work.
Navy dogs and handlers at passenger ferry terminal

So yes, we think Isla Mujeres is the luckiest island in Mexico. 

It’s a beautiful island with friendly locals and resident foreigners. 

(That’s us! Resident foreigners.)

Cheers from paradise

Lynda & Lawrie


Isla Mujeres Mystery Series

Paperback on Amazon $11.99 USD

E-books $2.99 USD

Paperbacks for sale at the weekly Artist Fair on Isla Mujeres
See you there!

Friday, November 17, 2017

An explosion of new eateries on Isla!

Yummy salad with chicken and citrus dressing
These last few months have seen an explosion of new restaurants, cafés, and eateries on the island plus a few favourites are undergoing massive remodels. 

The foodie scene is just getting better and better every year.

We recently enjoyed a fabulous lunch at the North Garden, which is attached to the new Paradise Suites on Avenida Carlos Lazo, and across from Sea Hawk Suites and Dive Shop. The restaurant is operated by Fernando from Argentina and Brenda from Monterrey Mexico who are very hospitable hosts. Fernando didn’t even mind us bringing Sparky and Max to sit under the umbrella at a street-side table. 

Lawrie at North Garden 
He even arranged a drink of water for the boys. I had a delicious salad with chicken and citrus dressing. Lawrie opted for the amazing tacos camarón, shrimp tacos. I stole a bite of his lunch. Mine was very tasty but his was - wow!  Delicious.

Our friends Debbie Crinigan and Willy Chacón are opening their Rosa Sirena’s Restaurante and Rooftop Bar sometime in December. They describe their food as new island cuisine with a variety of creations by Chef Willy using local ingredients, plus fresh fish, arrachera, ribeye, New York strip, and filet mignon. When Chef Willy isn’t creating incredible dinners he will be entertaining the guests with his fabulous voice and guitar music.  

Rosa Sirena's Restaurante and Rooftop Bar
Anyone that has been the lucky recipient of Deb’s secret Santa parcels left on a doorstep will understand that my addiction will be the desserts. I’m thinking I might fall for the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie like my character Jessica Sanderson does in Book #3 of the Isla Mujeres Mystery series. Located on the corner of Calles Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez and Narisco Medina, it is easily found by driving south a block past Mango Café and turning right onto Calle Narisco Medina across from Caribbean Brisas. It’s the three-story building at the end of a short block.

Mango Cafe closed for remodeling
And speaking of Mango Café, it is undergoing a massive remodel incorporating the building beside the restaurant as well as adding another floor. Polo Avila says he doesn’t have a firm re-opening date as yet but the crews are hurrying to get it done as soon as possible. The busy season is just starting and every restaurant owner on the island wants to be operating at top capacity.

Chilitos by Ruben 2nd floor
One of our recent favourites, Javi’s Cantina, has also remodeled, expanding into their back lot. The new garden area has a second level, a stage for musical performers and a huge new kitchen. We are looking forward to more delicious meals and live music.
Then there is Ruben’s new second-floor eatery – Chilitos by Rubenlocated in Colonia la Gloria at #18 Mojarra Street. They are open from Monday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. We have already heard good things about the food.
Inside the Isla 33 condominiums on the eastern side of the island, south of Villa la Bella B&B, the new Topaz bar has opened to rave reviews for their food. And speaking of Villa la Bella, Slow Foods hopes to re-open at that location in mid-December. They make the best skirt-steak sliders we have ever had.
Tarima Food Park
Another new one restaurant is La Tarima Food Park, located on Rueda Medina out past the orange-coloured housing complex for navy officers and their families. The restaurant is near Oscar’s Pizza but across the street. It’s a funky outdoor space with lots of seating, interesting lighting and greenery. We stopped to check the menu. The baguettes and hamburgers look great, worth coming back to try it another day.
Then in chatting with Ben Coleman and Vicki Dupuy, we learned that a second location for Bobo’s, called Bobo’s in the Barrio will be opening up in the same neighbourhood as La Tarima. I can hardly wait!
Topaz inside Isla 33

With all of these amazing restaurants happening on the island, we just might give up cooking entirely. But then we would have to go get jobs to support our restaurant habits. It’s a dilemma.
Cheers from paradise

Lynda & Lawrie


Available for sale at the Art Fair 

November 23rd 3:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Also on Amazon as either e-books or paperback

Here's the link to Mujeres Mystery Series - L. L. Lock

Friday, November 10, 2017

Article by Carmen Amato author of the exciting Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series

Meet Lynda L. Lock, by Carmen Amato

While you are waiting for my newest book 43 MISSING, please welcome Lynda L. Lock, a Canadian blogger and author whose Isla Mujeres mystery series takes us to the fabled island on Mexico’s Atlantic coast not far from Cancun. First known for her popular blog from Isla Mujeres, Lynda’s charming new mystery series features pirate gold and an ensemble cast that hangs out at a restaurant called the Loco Lobo.

1. Carmen Amato: Lynda, thanks so much for stopping by. We’re both members of the incomparable Mexico Writers group on Facebook and you were one of the contributors to The Insider’s Guide to the Best of Mexico. I love your blog about life on Mexico’s Isla Mujeres, but you also write mysteries! Tell us how your writing career has evolved.

Lynda Lock: Hi Carmen, and thank you for the invite and for including me in The Insider’s Guide to the Best of Mexico. My writing career started with a Christmas story I wrote in grade five. It ended in a complete disaster as I nervously shredded the paper while trying to read what I thought was a hilariously funny story to my stone-faced classmates.

Over the years I wrote hundreds of stories for my own entertainment.  Eventually I was offered a position as a contributing writer for an American magazine, while at the same time I managed our bed and breakfast and worked in our micro-brewery. When my husband and I retired to Mexico I rediscovered the desire to write books. I started with a bilingual book for children and then progressed to novels. The Adventures of Thomas the Cat / Las Aventuras de Tomás el Gato won a silver award at the International Latino Book Awards in LA for Best Picture Book Bilingual in 2016.

2. CA: Your mysteries, TREASURE ISLA and TROUBLE ISLA, capture life on Isla Mujeres down to the smallest detail. How does setting influence your mystery plots?

Mary Jo P - tomb of Fermin Mundaca
LL: I am fascinated by pirates; their history, their stories, and their personalities. A few years ago our well-respected local historian, Fidel Villanueva Madrid, wrote an interesting account about the pirates that had visited and at times inhabited the Isla Mujeres.

Another islander, Ronda Winn Roberts, enjoys translating articles from Spanish to English and posting the translations on her blog to give English speaking newcomers have a sense of the island’s history. That’s how I first discovered the story of the blonde-haired Dutch pirate, Captain Laurens Cornelis Boudewijn de Graaf.

The possibility of the handsome, charming and apparently well-educated de Graaf, nicknamed the Scourge of the West, visiting Isla over 300 years ago was the spark for TREASURE ISLA. He reportedly sailed to Isla Mujeres in 1683 after the siege of Veracruz and buried his plunder here on the island. According to all accounts de Graaf never returned to the island but was killed in another battle. Alrighty then, let’s go find that treasure.

Inscription in garden at Hacienda Mundaca
Another pirate better known to islanders, Captain Fermin Mundaca lived on Isla in the mid-1800s. His empty tomb really is located in the cemetery in Centro, and his hacienda covers a large part of the center of the island.

The second book, TROUBLE ISLA begins with a kidnapping of one of the main characters from Treasure Isla. It seems that the pirate’s horde is just bad luck for everyone. 

The third book coming in 2018 explores relationships between the characters while they deal with murder, mayhem and a hurricane.

3. CA: One thing I love about the Isla books is the wonderful cast of continuing characters and the touch of romance. The population of Isla Mujeres is quite a mix--Mexicans, expatriates, vacationers, etc. How did this inspire you?

Lisa G. wharf at Miramar Restaurante with novels
LLLiving on an island is entertaining, no matter where the island is located. The people who inhabit islands are typically self-sufficient, resilient individuals, with quirky personalities that make great characters for novels. 

We lived on a similarly sized island in British Columbia Canada for 17 years. One day I intend to write a series of novels based on that experience.

Today, interactions and reactions are a never ending source of material. Everyone has an opinion on how Isla Mujeres should be managed and many discussions start with “my little Isla ...” 

Javi's Cantina - featured in Trouble Isla
There is an amusing rivalry between the born-on-the-island locals and foreign residents, between the home owners who live here six months of the year and the visitors who have been vacationing every year for 30 years, but everyone picks on the dreaded day-trippers arriving in hoards from the Cancun hotels.

4. CA: I wouldn’t call your books cozy mysteries, but neither are they hard-boiled crime fiction. How do you categorize them?

LL: I think they are humorous-adventure-mysteries. Is there a category for that?

5. CA: What is next for you as a blogger and a mystery writer?

LL: Book #3 TORMENTA ISLA is scheduled to be released in February 2018. The cast of characters still have a few more stories to tell. Meanwhile, the blog is a weekly labor of love and both my husband and I contribute articles. It’s a good vehicle to congratulate volunteers, to introduce old-time islanders to the newbies, to express our quirky humor, and to just generally get to know other people who love Isla Mujeres.

Ruben's Restaurante - Trouble Isla

6. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

LL:  Oh my, so many choices! I read a novel a day and have many favorite authors, but I will have to say Ken Follett would be my first choice. 

I am a huge fan of his Kingsbridge Series; Pillars of the Earth, World Without End, and the newest one just released A Column of Fire. His attention to historical detail, his characters, and his descriptions are breathtaking. 

I have read the first two books three times each and still discover things I missed in the previous readings. As for dinner, we are very basic cooks. We live on the edge of the ocean with sand drifting through our patio doors and the turquoise sea to enjoy. Our meals are basic and easy, giving us more time to soak up the beauty of our view. 

Assuming Mr. Follett isn’t a vegetarian, we would probably grill steaks and an assortment of vegetables like peppers, onions, baby carrots and broccoli, then make a crispy salad, and set everything on the table with a couple of bottles of good wine. 

If we were lucky the grocery store might have a freshly made baguette – not quite but almost as good as the baguettes in France. The fresh bread would go nicely with our stash of imported New Zealand butter. (Good butter is a rare find on the island! When a supply comes in we buy lots and stash it in the freezer.)

7. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

LL: “No regrets. No bad memories.” It’s a favorite saying we picked up from two friends who are slightly older than us and also on second marriages. What it means to me is enjoy life, learn a new skill, be open to new adventures and don’t worry about the past. Life is short, savour your time.

​Carmen's newest book!

43 MISSING, Detective Emilia Cruz Book 6, will be available to pre-order onThursday 9 November at the discount price of $1.99 for Kindle. The pre-order price will be in effect ONLY for a week. The price goes to $4.99 on 16 November when the book is published. If you pre-order the Kindle version, it will download to your Kindle on 16 November.

You’ll get a short reminder email on 9 November when the book is available to pre-order and another on 16 November when it goes on sale for the full price.

The preceding book in the series, PACIFIC REAPER, is also available for $1.99 until16 November. The action in 43 MISSING takes up where PACIFIC REAPER left off with Emilia at a critical crossroads that impacts every corner of her life, even as she delves into the strange disappearance of 43 college students.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Ruben’s Kids

Ruben and Sister Fabuola
He’s not a large man, the top of his head barely reaches to my shoulders, but he has a huge heart. 

Standing beside him in Casa Hogar, the orphanage on the mainland portion of Isla Mujeres, I watched as the tears streamed down his face. 

“They don’t have family.” He quietly said.

After surviving a life-changing event Ruben Chavez Martinez, the proprietor of Ruben’s Restaurante on Isla Mujeres, has a new goal in life. 

His mission is to give back to the community, and to make little kids shriek with laughter. 

/Mickey, Ruben, Minnie January event
He sponsors a Three Kings Day event held annually at his restaurant. January 6th is a very important date for Catholics in Mexico, celebrating when the three wise men purportedly arrived in Bethlehem with gifts for baby Jesus. 

It’s the day when children hope to receive gifts from the three kings, instead of on December 25th from Santa Claus. 

Same idea. Different culture.
Sign for the orphanage 

Ruben, until very recently, was also the main supporter of Casa Hogar. Every Friday afternoon he left his restaurant to cook a hot meal for the dozen or so children living at the orphanage. The number of kids he was feeding soon became twenty five youngsters, and then forty.
Nico, Terri, Ruben, Ricky and John arriving

He now has a small but dedicated group of volunteers working under the name of Ruben’s Kids who help by fund-raising and carrying out a myriad of other tasks all related to Ruben’s desire to make kids happy.

Every month the group purchases stacks of pizzas and grilled chickens to feed the Casa Hogar residents, plus all the kids waiting anxiously at the gate.
Kids eager to help

Once a month the volunteers go on a shopping trip to Costco to purchase a truckload of the essentials like toilet paper, beans, rice, cooking oil, and cereals. 

Quite recently islander John Pasnau discovered that the freezer at Casa Hogar is functional and he stocked it with meat, hopefully enough to last until the next buying trip.

There is a limited amount of living space and currently only twelve girls and four nuns live full-time at Casa Hogar. The girls, ranging in age from babies to teenagers, sleep six to a room in clean well-maintained bunk beds that are covered with brightly coloured bedspreads. 

Inside one of the bedrooms
There are about another two dozen kids who due to various problems at home are not living in a safe environment. 

They are daytime boarders, seeking a bit of love and comfort from the nuns. 

Waiting at the gates hoping for a meal
Two weeks ago I met up with islanders, Jeanette Laurence and Mikell Thompson, on the Ultramar passenger boat. We were all on our way to Casa Hogar. Once we landed in Puerto Juarez we negotiated with different taxi drivers finally finding one that knew (approximately) where we wanted to go, and gave us a fair price to get there. 

As it turned out he needed to ask for directions, twice, from the municipal police but we eventually arrived at our destination. He got a nice tip because it was a much longer distance than we had anticipated.

The four sisters do everything
Casa Hogar is located deep inside Rancho Viejo. It is an area of continental Isla Mujeres that I knew existed, but had never seen. The community appears to be depressed, with not much in the way of industry, commercial establishments, and seemingly no attractions for tourists. The area is poor. Very poor. 

As soon as the supply truck arrived at Casa Hogar dozens of youngsters eagerly tried to be helpful, carrying boxes of cereal, or tins of food inside the building. 

Everyone pitched in - Jeanette Laurence, Mikell Thompson, Terri Tywan, Nico Tywan, John Pasnau, Ruben Chavez, and Ricky Za’Ga - trying their best to ensure every child had something to eat.
Terri and I dishing up food

The dozen or so accompanying parents were hopeful, but in the end, hungry. There just wasn’t enough food to include them. 

By counting the pizza slices, ten boxes with eight slices in each box, we calculated we had fed seventy-some-odd kids and the four nuns who care for them.

As you can imagine this project is a never-ending labour of love for Ruben and his partner Ricky Za’ga.  

If you can help in any small way please friend Ruben’s Kids on Facebook.

Jeanette, Lynda, Sister, Mikell, John
Below is a recent posting from John Pasnau on Ruben’s Kids Facebook page for other ways you can be involved.

Three Kings Day, January 6th
"If you want to help make Sandwiches and lunches on "Sandwich Night" Jan. 5th contact Gail Marie Stewart.
If you want to work at the lunch table on Three Kings Day and are (somewhat) bilingual, contact Gail Marie Stewart.
If you want to help collect, sort and track toys from now to Three Kings Day or if you want to be a "Toy Soldier" on Three Kings Day handing out the toys contact Julie Andrews Goth.
If you are (somewhat) bilingual and just want to be in the middle of everything on Three Kings Day contact Rob Goth.
If you are not bilingual and would like to help on the ground during Three Kings Day we can still use you. Message me, John Pasnau, we are putting together a team of "Runners" who will zip down to aMar cocina peruana where all overflow toys and lunches will be staged.
And thank you to Bryan Benson for offering your restaurant's support, and welcome to Ruben's Kids!”

Mickey chatting with kids waiting for their gift

It’s a fun event. Lawrie and I will be there as always, dressed as Mickey and Minnie Mouse. 

The kids love it.

Cheers from paradise

Lynda & Lawrie

Now available in paperback on Amazon!

Trouble Isla and Treasure Isla Photo credit  Lisa Godfrey

Book #2 in the Isla Mujeres Mystery Series

By CA reviews on September 26, 2017

Yasmin and Jessica are back and the gold they found in Treasure Isla is still haunting them, especially when Carlos, their boss at the Loco Lobo, and Yasmin’s new lover, is kidnapped. No spoilers here, but his captivity and the girls’ efforts to free him, with the help of Carlos’s pals—including local Isla Mujeres fishermen and a Mexico City cop—are the crux of this fast-paced story. Lock has created not only a compelling and authentic setting, but a well-developed ensemble cast. The next Isla mystery can’t come fast enough.