Cozumel: a guide and a goodbye………

DSCF6306Well,  this is my 112th blog about what it’s like to live on the island of Cozumel.  I’ve covered everything from charities to beach clubs, ruins to coffee houses, safety tips, illnesses, and holiday events. Sandwiched in between those you’ll also find a few posts that are simply about life as an expat.  Some of those moments are humorous, some, well, not so much.  So, at this point it seems  to be a good time for this expat to move on to other writings for a while.  But, for reference purposes, I thought I’d list a few of the various activities I’ve had the privilege to participate in over the past two years, as well as include a few of my favorite pics.   If you want to know more about a specific location, or topic, on that list (and would like to see the related photos), simply type the name in the search bar on the top of this page and you will be taken to that blog.  Simple, yes?  And, finally,  before I go I want to take this time to thank all of you for your support.  Your often enthusiastic responses have been greatly appreciated and you’ve made my “job” fun.   So, with that said,  here’s to the very special island of Cozumel, Salud!

 

Historical and Environmentalflower1

  • Chankanaab
  • San Gervasio
  • Punta Sur
  • El Cedral

Beach Clubs/Hotels

  • Buccanos
  • Barracuda
  • Blue Angel
  • Hotel B
  • Paradise Beach Club
  • The Money Bar
  • Sunset Bar and Grill
  • The Caribbean Sunset

Nightlife/Barsbench

  • Wet Wendy’s
  • Woody’s Bar and Grill
  • El Volado
  • The Thirsty Cougar
  • Zocalas
  • Kelly’s Pub

Holidays/Festivities

  • Christmas in the Park
  • Fourth of July
  • Carnaval17
  • El Cedral
  • Day of the Dead
  • Thanksgiving
  • Good Friday/Passion Play

Charities

  • The Chrysalis Group
  • It’s All About the Kids
  • La Esperanza
  • The Horse Sanctuary

Coffee Houses/Restaurants

  • El Cafe
  • Starbucks
  • Bisbees
  • Rock n Java
  • Cha Cha’s Kitchen
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Neighborhood Lodgings

  • The Coral Reef Inn
  • Villa Zaztun
  • Alicia’s Bed and Breakfast

Local Artists and Openings

  • Mariano Petit de Murat
  • Sarah Williams Pritchett

Local Craftsmen/Home Improvement/Computer Repair

  • Carpenter Chris
  • Cozumel Home Improvement
  • Edgar Ch L (computers)

Exercise

  • Tammy Cervantes’ Yogayoga 1
  • Ego

Shopping

  • Mercado
  • Malecon

Illnesses and Doctor’s Care/Costs

  • Dengue
  • Parasites
  • Shingles

sunset fury

 

 

 

 

 

 

morningflower
doggies doing time
dscf6976.jpgegret going to work

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beach entrance
chey
going home
water colors
ladies under wraps
horse and truck

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Cozumel’s Passion Play

It’s Semana Santa (Easter week) here on the island of Cozumel.  And, with Mexico having one of the world’s largest Catholic populations, it is quite a sight to behold.  Between the crowds of tourists (I hear we have 90% occupancy) and the crowds of the faithful, let’s just say that it’s a good idea to give yourself some extra time before going anywhere.  But, in this case, I consider myself quite fortunate since I live directly across the street from a large Catholic church in the so-called Corpus Christi neighborhood.  That gives me the extra benefit of easily walking over to photograph one of the local customs, the Passion Play.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the Passion Play is a reenactment of the  trials and suffering that Jesus endured just prior to the crucifixion.  Now, this is not to be confused with “The Passion Play,” which, up north, is also a dramatic interpretation of the same events, but that play uses professional actors.  Our little production consists solely of devout parishioners dressed in homemade clothing to depict the historical time period.  These folks may indeed share the passion, but little to no formal training is either expected, or required, which leads to a sense of reality that I, personally, enjoy.  Picture this: altar boys, dressed in white and carrying candle, are then followed by Christ, joined by the two men who were crucified along with him, and all are led down the road by Roman guards while Mary and the devout walk behind.  The guards soon stop, flog him, and force him to wear a crown of thorns and carry a wooden cross.  Today this procession was also followed by well over a hundred local folks and a pickup truck with loud speakers that played somber music.  It really is quite an event to see.

Now, without me rambling on any further, I think I’ll just let my photos tell the rest of the story.  I’ll start with a few faces in the crowd, work up to the nervous antics of the participants just prior to the event, and will end with the Christ, himself.  I hope you enjoy and let me also take a moment to wish all of you a meaningful, and peaceful, weekend.  Salud!

 

 

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Back to Buccanos Bar & Grill

tin lizardMonday was my birthday and I decided to spend it quietly.  I might live on an island filled with possibilities, but it just seemed to be a day to spend at home.  So, after a morning swim,tree I lounged on my deck, did a bit of gardening, and a little light reading.  When it got a bit too warm  I went inside, put on the air conditioner and watched some classic movies with my dogs complete with a great big bowl of popcorn, we shared.   All in all, it was a good day!

fountainBut, when I woke up the next morning I had an urge to go to one of my favorite places,boat and chair  Buccanos.  A great little beach club located on the northern side of the island that has all the food and activities that one could hope for here on Cozumel.  I’ve been there before, and even wrote about it a couple of years back, but it is just such a lovely place that it seemed time to take another look and share it with you.  If you’ve been there, this will help remind you of why you went in the first place.   If you haven’t stopped there yet, maybe this will help show you why you should include it for your bucket list.

birdsNow this business is not new.  In fact, once known as Club Cozumelsign Caribe, they’ve been around for so long that they have a list of celebrities that have visited including Jackie Onassis and Princess Grace.  Yes, it really is that special.  Located on a quiet strip of land right next to the blues of the Caribbean, it has lots to offer including a lush view.  That view was what I was after so I grabbed a lounge chair on the beach under a palm tree for shade.  I could see both the ocean and the folks coming in from one of the seven cruise ships that had docked here for the day.

staffMy waiter was Tony and he was by my side in a matter of a fewmother and child minutes with a big smile and a friendly manner.  I started out with some coffee and settled back for a bit of people watching.  After snapping a few pics of the tourists, and finishing my coffee, I then headed off to take some photos on the grounds before the light got too harsh.

muralThere are lots of choices for photos at Buccanos, which is one of thegrotto reasons I enjoy visiting.  The owners really know how to make the day special with plenty of those little touches that combine the colors of the tropics with the beauty of the man-made.  Colorful murals decorate the walls, large stone arches give way to scenic walkways, huge vases are filled with flowers, and there’s even a grotto with a waterfall and a giant tin lizard.  In fact, everywhere you look there is something special that will make you appreciate island living.

poolNow, in addition to just wandering about snapping photos theremassage are lots of activities.  There is a large pool, snorkeling, massage options, great food, and cute little shops.  Oh, and that pic on your right is of my luncheon choice, lobster with mac & cheese, two of my favorite foods.  Pure genius was at work the day they came up with that combo, it was excellent!  I did everything but lick the bowl.  Once finished I did a bit of reading and then headed off for an hour of snorkeling.  I lobster mac and cheesewasn’t worried about my stuff since the staff makes sure to keep an eye on things for you.  So, without worries, I leisurely swam about checking out all the colorful fish and coral.  The current was strong, but I swim in the ocean a lot, so I wasn’t concerned.

Back in my lounge chair I spent another hour with a bit of reading.  Then the cruise ship dining roombenchcrowd was starting to thin so I just sat back and watched folks reluctantly pack up their things.  Another hour of that and it was time for me to go too.  I paid my check, reluctantly packed up my things as well, and headed for a taxi.  Like a little kid I shuffled down the road that takes you past a fountain, a wall climbing challenge, and more Bougainvillea than you could possibly imagine.  Finally, a cab stopped and I headed off to a friend’s home.  She’d promised me a free massage for my birthday and I just couldn’t say no.

wood benchNow, this is where I would usually sign off, but I have to say that after my perfect morning I also got the most relaxing massage I’ve ever experienced.  Yes, it was a free birthday gift, and, no, I wasn’t asked to write about it.  But, it was just wonderful so I’m going to mention it anyway.  For a deep tissue massage, let me recommend Barefoot in Cozumel, a local  business that can be found on Facebook.  That’s all I’m going to say since I really don’t accept suggestions, or compensation, but I do still like to pass on good experiences.  And today was  filled with just that, good experiences.  My birthday wish is this:  I hope all of you can have a day like I just did.  We all deserve it!  Salud!

p.s. I don’t receive compensation and I don’t write upon request, I just like to share good experiences!  And, if you’re thinking about going somewhere on the island and want to get an idea of what’s in store for you, just type the name of the place in the search bar above.  If I’ve been there I’ve written about it and included pics.  Happy hunting!

Special thanks to Lynda and Amethyst

 

 

 

More of what’s new: My day at the Caribbean Sunset

caribbean sunsetCozumel has so much going on that it can be difficult to choose, especially when so many great new places are springing up.  Yesterday I spent a day at one of those new hangouts, the Caribbean Sunset.  A wonderful little restaurant and bar that is just north of el centro on Melgar.  In fact, when looking for it, all you have to keep an eye out for is the first palapa on your left as you leave the downtown area behind.  For convenience, there is a little turn around just past it.  And, yes, it’s right on the ocean with  all the beauty one would expect from the Caribbean.   But, don’t just take my word for it, I’ll include some pics too.

best viewThe Caribbean Sunset has only been open for about five weekssunset side now.  With two floors, if you include the shaded, and sandy, beach area with tables and chairs, it’s a great place for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Now, I’ve not had their dinner yet, but their breakfasts are great and reasonably priced, including a discount for the locals.  Oh, and if you get breakfast, let me recommend the hash browns.  Real potatoes with chunks of onion along with lots of spices that were the best I’ve had in a long time!

The owners, Stephane and Odessa, are a lovely young couple.  You can see them in the pic on yogayour right, and they are pulling out all the stops to make their location a “must see” place to sunset ownersgo.  There is yoga in the mornings at 7:30, (separated from the breakfast crowd by curtains that wave in the breeze) and on Wednesdays there is a recovery based meeting at 9:00 (which we have over breakfast) that is then paired with a special yoga class to help get rid of the “issues in our tissues.”  I participate in that, and I’ve been amazed at how much stress my body will hold on to until it is released in that class.

But, yoga is not all, not by a long shot.  Starting this Sunday, the 30th of March, there will be live music at 1:30, yoga class endingthen again in the late afternoon, and then once again at night.  In fact, they are planning to showcase live bands throughout the day Wednesday through Sunday!  A great way to get to hear local musicians while dining casually looking out over the ocean.  Not a bad combination, yes?

pelican standingIf snorkeling is your thing, they have that too.  But, since I spent yesterday scouting it out, let me recommend you enter the water that reaches out directly in front of the staircase that leads up to the street.  It is quite easy there, but it can get tricky elsewhere.  Lots of little rocks and coral to check out once in the water though,army training which made the search worthwhile.  Oh, and they have modern facilities too, which are roomy enough to change in and out of your bathing suit.  And, while snorkeling, you just might find yourself alongside the young military guys who are getting accustomed to swimming in their fatigues.  There is an army base quite close and you can either watch their drills from your table, early in the day, or do what I did and swim alongside.  Let me tell you, I was so glad to have on just a bathing suit, they looked a little out of breath in their boots, fatigues, and hats, although I’m not all that sure why they had to have their hats too.  Just a thought.  Now, I’m not certain that they do that every day, but I have seen them the past two Wednesday mornings, so, if that’s something you’d enjoy checking out, that’s the day to do it.

But, for those of you who just want to relax, maybe play on your computer (they have free wi fi),watch the cruise ships come in, the pelicans more seating at the sunsetfeeding, or the occasional plane bringing in the next group of pelican and shadowexcited tourists, you can do all that too.  If you come in the afternoon, or evening, they also have a fully stocked bar where you can sip a margarita, or two, while watching the sunset and listening to the band.  Now, although I usually get those pics, I was already a bit tired after my morning mexican army trainingyoga and early afternoon snorkeling, so I didn’t get those shots, but the location is just far enough from el centro that you can enjoy the sunset without staring at the ferry dock, or a bunch of tethered boats, which, to me, is always a plus.  In other words, it’s a clear shot of the ocean all the way to Playa del Carmen, with maybe a yacht, or two, drifting by.

hostess at the sunsetYes, this expat would like to say, it was a great little place to spendtammy with coffee my morning and I’m going to make a point of going back to check out the bands.  It’s always nice to find a new favorite, especially when it comes with friendly people, good food, local music, and a spectacular view.  With choices like this, Cozumel really is paradise, don’t you agree?  Salud!

p.s. if you would like to know more such as: bands playing, dinner specials, or yoga times, just contact Stephane (for English) at 987 118 4100, or Odessa (for Spanish) at 987 126 0382……….and, I never receive compensation, nor do I write these at the request of friends, or businesses, I just like to share good experiences.  Following those simple rules helps to keep me honest!

plane landing

 

 

What’s new on Cozumel

P1030861Cozumel has two new hotspots that quickly became favorites of this expat.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I may not be a foodie, and I’m certainly not a food critic, but I can say that I’ve been a customer of both, repeatedly, enjoyed their offerings tremendously, and now would like to share that info with you.  So let’s go take a peek at a coffee bar called Bisbee’s and a home based restaurant known as Cha Cha’s Kitchen.  If you haven’t tried them yet, well, here’s some info for you along with a personal recommendation.  And, before I go any further, I never accept compensation and I only approach a business for writing purposes after a good experience.  Adhering to these simple rules helps to keep me honest.  So, with that said, let’s go!

bisbee frontBisbee’s Coffee Bar opened just about 5 months ago.  The location is great, they are on Avenida 11 michaelajust across from the Palacio Municipal park, which is how I discovered them in the first place, very convenient.  Michaela, the proprietor, is a former dive shop owner on the island who wanted to try something a little different.  That’s her in the picture on your right.  And, although she’d lived in various places in the states, prior to relocating, that are known for their coffee shops, she  managed to combine their offerings with a touch of the country she now calls home, and with incredibly reasonable prices.   In fact, not only do her prices put any of the major bisbee detailschains in the U.S. and Canada to shame, but some local places could take note as well.  And, in addition to her reasonable prices, she’s put together a great ambiance that is as welcoming as her coffee is delicious.  Although cozy, it is also quite colorful, which helps to remind you that this is a coffee bar in the Caribbean complete with local artwork and tropical flowers.

Along with Michaela you will find either Nefty, or her sister, Jen, two locals who prepare some great breakfasts and neftyearly lunches.  Yesterday I had a grilled Panini that consisted of scrambled eggs, melted cheese, along with tomato and avocado slices, and it was as good as it sounds.  I rounded it off with a large cappuchino topped off with cinnamon sprinkles shaken over a mound of foam.  A good start to my day, yes?  Then, Nefty, although shy, finally agreed to let me take a picture.  That’sdenise her standing in front of the chalkboard menu with the great big smile (you can check out the prices too, but remember, those are in pesos).   The woman on the right is Denise.  She helps out behind the coffee bar and is just as nice as can be.  They are pleasant folks to start the day with, which reminds me, they are open from 6:30 to 2:00, M-Sat.  Good hours if you are looking for something to grab before you start your day, or need a pick me up along the way.

coffee machineI sat and talked with Michaela yesterday and asked her why she’d decided to open a coffee shop.  She told me that she’d thought about opening either a bar, or a coffee shop for a long time.  She has a love for the island, in fact, she’s been here for 14 years now, so she knew she was going to stay.  But, still she mulled it over for a while.  Oncemore little touches bisbee's her decision was made she looked around the island, and spent some time in Florida as well, just to get some ideas, see what was successful, or not, and why.  Once the homework was done she just went for it.  And that’s a good thing!  Not much beats a good cup of coffee paired with a fresh Panini for this expat, especially when I don’t have to break the bank to get them.

cha cha's houseCha Cha’s Kitchen is another new place in town.  In fact, they just opened up about 10 weeks ago.  Owned by Kathy and her daughter, Kristina, it is, to put it simply, lush.  Kristina, whobeet salad cha cha's is both an artist and a chef, combines her talents to prepare food not found anywhere else on this island.  She keeps it simple by offering just one menu a week with an entrée, salad, soup, and dessert.  But, there is nothing simple about the food.  In fact, the elegance in both the preparation and the presentation reminded me of upper Manhattan, which, interestingly enough, is one of the places Kristina has traveled to in order to learn more about her passion.   And here is where I want to mention that, although I love Mexican cuisine, it’s just nice to have something available that is so completely different.

Kathy and Kristina originally intended Cha Cha’s Kitchen to be a take out restaurant.  But seating cha cha'sthat didn’t last long.  In the back of their house they have a lovely multi-level patio that includes an abundance of tropical plants, a lovely fountain, and many decorative pieces collected over the years.  Once cha cha's kitchenfolks expressed interest in remaining there while eating, they got busy, again.  At this point they can comfortably serve up to 16 people at a time, and can now offer special event dinners by reservation.  However, if you are simply someone who is looking for a unique luncheon experience during their usual hours you can stop by their home, which is located on calle Francisco Mujica, entre Xel Ha y calle 17, from 12-4:00, M-Fri.  You can also order home delivery through Room Service, another new business in town.  In fact, they worked together so well, Cha Cha’s and Room Service, that their delivery charges are now free, although a tip would be nice for the delivery man.

Kathy, another long term expat, is certainly not idle while Kristina creates.  Although she primarily handles the dark chocolate ganache and spiced plum balsamic reductionbusiness end of things,  she also helps cook, answer the phone, shops, waits tables, and is still currently working as a flight attendant.  Meanwhile, Kristina is, apparently, constantly on the lookout for new and exciting dishes that will be some combination of healthy, delicious, and yet still slightly sinful.  From what I gathered while we sat talking out in the back of their home on Friday, she (Kristina) has to combine her ideas with what’s availablecouch cha cha's on the island, make sure she brings something special to the recipe, as well as try to keep up with demand.  In other words, these ladies don’t get much rest.  Oh, and the reason I bring that up is that they may be looking for someone to help out very soon, put the word out.  To say their dream took off would be putting it mildly.  Just while sitting there someone knocked on their door for six more pieces of that week’s cake.  And, if you’ve taken a peek at some of the food pictures here (taken by Kristina, thank you) you will understand.  I’d try to explain, but there are all kinds of foodie descriptions like “reduction” and “balsamic” that I’d have to include. I’m, admittedly, out of my league.  Just trust me when I say, it’s truly delicious and, once again, at incredibly reasonable prices.

kitchenFinally, although camera shy, while talking with them both it was quite an insight into their relationship.  At one point, Kathy, when I asked her about the whole idea, had tears of pride when talking about her daughter’s accomplishments.  Kristina, when I asked her about her ambitions, just kept saying “it’s all about the food” and would turn and smile at her mom.  It was clear to me, at that point, why their little endeavor of love is taking off so quickly.

Well, this was fun, especially the research part.   If you are already on the island, or hope to visit soon, I heartily recommend you go ahead and check out Bisbee’s Coffee Bar and Cha Cha’s Kitchen.  They are just two more examples of why it’s great to spend time on the island of Cozumel.  Salud!

my sanctuary

As an expat living on the island of Cozumel I had quickly learned that, in spite of all the activities we have to offer, sometimes it’s just nice to take it easy at home.  So, about two years ago, as a woman on a budget, I rented a small apartment in a great location with a lot of potential.  My landlord is quite accommodating so he’s allowed me to paint and decorate the interior to my preference.  But, then I focused on the reason I rented it in the first place.  It has a huge ‘L’ shaped deck out front (and another smaller one in the back), which is good since I have four dogs, but it needed something.  It was long, white, and hot even though it has a nice little overhang in the center.  So, decision was made, plain and hot had to go.  I gave it a lot of thought, but almost immediately realized that the changes I envisioned would take some time due to said budget.  I love animals, plants, and tropical colors, and scratched my head for a while to figure out how to put it all together.  But, now (with the exception of the deck floor) it’s complete, thanks to muralist Mariano Petit de Murat, a wood craftsman who is known as “Carpenter Chris” (and his assistant), lounge furniture from Mega, and plants from the local landscape shops.  If you like what you see, and the work Mariano and Chris have done, I’ll put their contact info at the bottom of this piece.  Otherwise, this will be yet another photo blog that will show you how it all turned out from start to finish, including a towel covered couch for the dogs (yes, they’re spoiled).  It took two years, but I’m a happy woman with a pretty little sanctuary.  I also included some pics of my first guests, Dan, who came in on a cruise ship yesterday (carrying Miracle Whip and Butterfingers, huge thanks) and Jean, a lovely woman I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with lately, she’s been a great friend.  I hope you enjoy, salud!1

7carpenter chrisdeck toolschris's helpertrellis
deck chairs
best deck shot
nity on deck
view
cheetah on deck
first guests

p.s. the muralist and graphic designer, Mariano Petit de Murat, can be found on Facebook under his name, if you’d like to contact him for work just send him a message on his FB site…………..Carpenter Chris can be found on ave 10, across from a lavenderia with a blue sign, just turn onto ten from 11 sur, go past the graveyard and look for the blue lavenderia sign on the right and he is directly across the street……..they are both so nice, very talented and quite reasonable!

An eastside perspective

beach entranceThere is so much beauty on the island of Cozumel that words often aren’t enough.  Thankfully, I take a lot of photos.  We’ve had some lovely weather this past week and I’ve had the opportunity to go to the eastside, twice.  That’s where the beaches stretch for miles, the waves crash to shore, and there are enough little beach clubs that assure you won’t go hungry, but spaced far enough apart you can just enjoy the sound of the surf if you choose.  With that said, I’ve decided to make this piece a photo blog. I’ve included some pics of the scenery, the folks, the activities and, hopefully, captured some of the ambiance found on the “other side” of Cozumel.  Like I said, words often aren’t enough, but maybe these pics can help.  I hope you enjoy, Salud!ocean and rockscrazyguyswithsailswoodbeach sleepercoupletourist traplyndalynda on beach by woodmoped girlbetterflowerwater through woodguitar manbeach tent

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