Malecon Market Day

1The island of Cozumel always has much to offer both tourists and locals alike and today I found yet another 2example of how much fun it can be here.  You see,  it’s the last Friday of the month, which now means it’s “Malecon Market Day,” and I’d been looking forward to the experience of shopping along the oceanfront.  Now, for those of you who’d never heard of it before that’s because this idea is fairly new.  In fact, this is only the third month local artists and vendors have been able to set up shop directly on the main drag.  But, I’d not been able to make it before, so, come late afternoon I packed a bag, got on my bike and headed down to el centro.  While riding on the wet streets I became curious to see just how determined everyone was to participate because, right on schedule, the rainy season had officially arrived and we’d had showers off and on all day.

4Once I got down to the market I made a point of looking for Tammy Cervantes, a local yoga 3instructor who had invited me to her “Malecon Market Yoga” event.  Now, this wasn’t just a yoga class being held in an interesting location.  Tammy was also raising money for a halfway house (la Esperanza)  that is new here on the island for addicts who are turning their lives around.  Those who participated in the yoga class, and others, were able to contribute funds for this worthy cause and I was happy to participate in any way I could.  Kudos to her and the group, who, by the way, are all in ridiculously good shape!

While the class was going on others were still setting up tables filled with just about everything 16you could imagine.  First I came across a couple who had a stand just covered with painted bottles, plants in creative pottery, and delightful statuary, most of lounging animals.  I knew I’d be stopping back to see them.  Next to them was a friendly woman who had costume (and silver) jewelry of all kinds and, while I talked with her, she started to9 show me some great dresses she hadn’t yet set out.  Most seemed to be lightweight, I’m thinking cotton, and had very pretty patterns that were quite unique.  I can only hope she’ll be back next month when I’ll be more in the market for clothing.  Still, the experience was fun since her enthusiasm was contagious.

Now, I’d been told that the idea for the market was partially based on giving local artists the 18ability to display their works.  Since, unfortunately, many of the cruise ship passengers have such limited time on the island they often don’t make it past the shops in el centro.  That’s a shame because there is so much more to be seen.   But, with this new endeavor, the locals can now bring their art to the attention of more folks.  With this in mind I made sure to stop where original art was available.  One young man, originally from Mexico City, had some truly creative wall art for sale.  I liked the simplicity and stark designs that were both modern and yet clearly19 inspired by ancient beliefs.  Then, after talking a bit with him, I went over to  where a woman sat with her homemade Ju-Ju dolls.  They were quite colorful and detailed, but I had the feeling that they’d be blessed only with good after talking a bit with their creator.  She’s a wonderfully warm woman with one of the kindest faces I’ve seen in a while.  I can only hope my camera did her justice.

Now, as I’d mentioned, the rainy season had arrived.  Although there had been a respite, which was 13good for all those who had so much on display, the rain decided to come again.  Everywhere one looked tarps were being pulled out, plastic was put over top of the wares, and people were hurrying to get under umbrellas or tents.  But, one of the things that should be mentioned is that everyone remained in a good mood.  Suddenly the groups huddled together became mini parties with enthusiastic talk and laughter.  It was a great example of yet another reason I like living here, people seem to take everything not only in stride, but in good humor.  But, within a few minutes the rain stopped and the impromptu party was over.

11While I’d been hiding under a Coca Cola tent I’d noticed that the next table over just plain smelled good.  It 10seemed like an idea to head over and that was where I found a collection of, among other things, some lovely specialty soaps.  I stood there for a while just breathing it all in.  Then, while walking around just a bit, I spotted a group of colorful piggy banks with wild expressions that were just plain fun.  Besides being painted brightly, a few even had real eyelashes!

6That was when I noticed that a couple of women were set up to offer massages.  I stopped to talk with them and one, Rosie, told me she’d also been to the last two market7 days and that she’d had such a good time she planned to be at every one.  She was quite a happy person and fun to talk to.  Then, a little further past her, I saw a woman who had homemade salsas and dips for sale.  I pointed to my camera and she proudly struck a pose.  I decided to try a taste of the sample she had out with a nacho chip.  It was quite good, and very spicy.

14And that was when the rain started, yet again.  As had happened before, everyone started running, covering, and huddling.  But, almost as soon as it had started,  it stopped.

Once it was cleared up it seemed to me that it would be a good idea to grab a few last pics and start to head home.  Even though I’d been welcomed under both tents and 17umbrellas I was still quite wet.  A cup of coffee and my laptop was sounding like a good option.  As I started to head that direction I noticed a woman who was setting her 12things back out after the latest rain shower.  I noticed she had what looked to be painted eggs.  I went over just to make sure, but, yes, painted eggs.  And quite prettily decorated too.  I kept walking and came to the last table at the end.  It had conch shells and seashells that had been converted to candle holders and mini lamps and then I noticed the vendor smile as I hovered over top with my camera.    Finally, I looked out over the water and saw that a cruise ship just starting to head out was going through another rain shower, which gave it a ghostly appearance.  I decided that was to be my last shot for the night.  I found my bike, loaded her up, and pedaled alongside the ocean.  It was yet another great experience and I’m glad you came along.  Salud!

20p.s.  Look for the Malecon Market on the last Friday of each month from 5-11 p.m. here on Cozumel.   And, there were many, many other great items on display, but, unfortunately, I couldn’t possibly include a photo of them all.  If you are on the island in June, let me suggest you stop on down!

Sunset Sailing

DSCF4842Well, the time had come for this expat to experience one of the joys of living on the island of Cozumel, sunset sailing.  Now, although I’d heard many good things about the pastime since I’d moved here,  I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to it for quite a while to be perfectly honest.  After all, there is an awful lot to do here just on dry land.  However, I had no excuse since several friends who share May as their birthday month had decided to celebrate together in style and I was one of the lucky folks invited to tag along.  So, with the excitement of a kid at Christmas, I packed my bag, fed the dogs, and headed out to see for myself what everyone has been talking about.  And, yes, it was yet another good decision.

As I stood outside the house waiting for my ride I anxiously looked at the sky to see if it was getting too cloudy DSCF4579for photos. DSCF4572 But, there was still a lot of blue up there, which helped me to relax about that part and within minutes I was riding shotgun in a jeep heading north.  Once we got to the marina I started taking some pics of the people who’d be joining us.  I was happy to recognize quite a few and have to admit I’m a bit amazed at just how many folks I’m getting to know already.  This is especially surprising since I’m actually quite shy and a bit awkward when it comes to social gatherings.  But, that’s okay.  The folks here are very friendly and easy going, which has helped me to feel welcome at all the events I’ve attended so far in spite of my perceived handicap.

DSCF4569It looked like there would be about twenty people in the group, including some vacationers, and we all just stood DSCF4570around the dock for a little while chatting while the crew got everything ready to go.  That worked out great for me since it gave me the time to click away in between being introduced to those I didn’t yet know.  It was a very relaxed setting, but, within minutes, we started to board the sailboat, everyone picked out their spots, and we began to head out into open water.  Now, for the purpose of my blog, I asked a friend for some details about the boat and crew and she was nice enough to fill me in.  Cozumel Sailing is the name of the business (cozumelsailing.com) and the sailboat we were on is called the Tucan, which is owned by Dan and Karen Libbert out of Missouri.  Now I don’t know anything about boats, but it was big enough to handle all of us easily and had a nice deck area out in front, cushioned seating in the main section, and a bathroom down below.  In other words, all the comforts of home.  It was time to just sit and relax.

DSCF4585Juan is the captain of the Tucan (you can see him on the left) and there was an additional crew ofDSCF4598 three more gentlemen who were all quite nice and, after tying off all the ropes, they saw to our drink needs within just a few minutes.  I got my Pepsi, settled in, and started to look around for some photo possibilities and  I didn’t have to wait long.  Almost as soon as we pulled out of the marina I could see a few lovely hotels that were a bit further north from us standing tall with a backdrop of  some impressive clouds.  I focused, took the shot, and settled back down again.  Since we just started it was still full daylight, the breeze was blowing, and I could smell the salt in the air.  It was looking to be a good experience.

DSCF4617In just a little while it became clear that we were not alone.  I noticed a couple of kids windsurfing and moved over to the other side of the boat to see them more clearly.  I’dDSCF4621 never realized before just how fast they could go and marveled at their confidence.  But, one finally went down and we watched him struggle with the weight of the sail for a few moments.  Not to worry, he leaned backwards, tugged a few times,  got upright and immediately took off again.  In a moment he was gone.

Next I started to focus on the other boats we came across while sailing along.  The first was a Mexican military boat and, I have to admit,  it did DSCF4633look intimidating from where I sat.  And, the captain was even nice enough to wave a friendly hello, but that was one of the shots I just couldn’t get.  Next we passed a couple of guys in an old glassDSCF4649 bottom boat who were out doing some fishing.  They didn’t hang around long, however, and a few of us speculated on the reason for their rapid departure.  But, no matter, that was when  I saw a cruise ship heading northwest away from the island.  Now, the clouds had thickened, which made the sky darker in that direction.  Still, I like the shot since it shows just how small even something that big can look when using nature as a backdrop.  DSCF4657Here is where I should point out that while I’m busily pointing my camera everywhere I can, others are talking, laughing, and having a few drinks.  It seemed like a good idea to join in and I had the chance to get to know a few folks I’d never met before.  We chatted for a while and then the crew set out some snacks for everyone.  And they had some great choices.  There were pinwheels (very tasty) and chicken wings, guacamole, chips and salsa and they were all followed by cheesecake that one of the passengers had brought along to help celebrate the birthday folk.  And, almost as soon as we were finished, the sky started to get colorful and I quickly went for my camera.

DSCF4747Now let me mention that this is when my enthusiasm and my motor skills got completely out of synch.  As I’d mentioned before, the boat was rolling, and, in addition to that, some of the surfaces were a bit slippery and I wasn’t compensating well in my haste. After all,  sunsets are brief.   So, within just a few moments I managed to smack into one of the crew, grabbed the boat’s steering wheel while lurching sideways, and then sat down way harder than I’d have ever wanted to almost directly in someone’s lap.  No harm done, other than to my pride, but the passengers and crew did start to either give me a hand, offerDSCF4843 suggestions, or just plain got out of my way.  Still, the sky was lovely.  Although, if we were to get picky, it could be said  that there isn’t an actual sunset shot unless you count the tiny orange dot in the middle of the photo just above on the left.   The cloud banks made for great colors, but hid the sun well.  But, I didn’t mind because the changing colors and formations made for their own beauty, not to mention there was fun in trying to balance on a rocking boat while chatting and taking photos that were still recognizable.

Then, while busily clicking away, a couple of friends mentioned that I should turn around.   When I looked where they were pointing I saw a full moon still hanging low over the island.  And, once again due to my enthusiasm, people helped me down and around to where I could get a clear shot.   I have nice friends.   Once on theDSCF4828 other side I was able to take what would be the final shot of the evening.   Then the camera was put away and I just sat and watched the shoreline fly past,  marveling at how good life can be.  Now, while writing this, I can only hope the birthday folks (especially you, NH) enjoyed their evening as much as I did.   Many happy returns and thanks much for including me in your celebrations.   Salud!

p.s. I don’t intend to promote, and never receive compensation, but I do like to share good experiences.

A day at the Barracuda

DSCF4286Well, it’s been a good week here on the island of Cozumel.  It started with my decision to go offline and unplug for a few days.  Since the heat began to rise a few weeks back I’d noticed that I was getting a bit too comfortable just sitting in my living room with the air conditioning on and the laptop on my, well, lap.  As a friend teased, “the internet is strong with this one.”  So, after busily perusing social media sites for more days, and way more hours, than I like to admit it occurred to me that I was neglecting the island life.  I mean, I could be sitting with a computer just about anywhere, yes?  So, I temporarily closed up shop, went offline and went back out to see what I was missing and it was a great decision.

In the last few days alone I’ve had lunch with friends, swam with others, and was able to take enough bike rides and walks so as to remind myself that I do indeed live in paradise.  But, before plugging back in, I thought I’d return to one of my favorite haunts, the Hotel Barracuda.  And, since it was such a nice day, I thought I’d take a few pics and share the experience.

DSCF4289The Hotel Barracuda is located on Melgar across from the Mega a few blocks from el centro.  It’s a bright salmon colored building that houses not just hotel rooms, but also has a pool,  palapa,  sports bar,  restaurant and a dive shop on theDSCF4291 premises to guarantee that all your needs can be met.  It was one of my first hangouts when I moved here since the cost of using the facilities is cheap.  Get a cup of coffee and you can take a dip in the pool, or the ocean, the choice is yours.  But, let me suggest getting some brunch as well since their prices are reasonable and you simply can’t beat the ambiance.

DSCF4288Mimi, one of the girls who works the pool area, greeted me by name and got me a Coke withinDSCF4313 seconds.  That’s her on your left.  Her English skills are great and her smile makes one feel welcome.  I picked out a table poolside and sat for a few minutes just relaxing in the quiet morning breeze.  Then I grabbed my camera again and started to walk around.  It was still early enough that I could get the shots I like of the chairs and tables  waiting for customers.  The sun was just starting to peek out over the top of the building and it, too, made for some interesting possibilities.  For example, the pic on your right of the umbrellas reflecting in the pool is my favorite of the day.  It wasn’t taken in the broad sunlight that is customary when shooting pics of resorts, but I like the simple lines and the blues one can get when the sun isn’t yet out in full.

Next I headed past the pool bar towards the bathrooms and the sun porch built just DSCF4307behind the main hotel.  There I discovered a corner filled with some of those great little touches that let us know we are in the Caribbean.  It was tucked under the stairs and before I headed up you know I had to take a shot.  Then I DSCF4303went up the wooden steps and found the place to be when looking for a tranquil setting and a great view.  A sloping roof complete with lounge chairs and a putting green look out over the ocean and the property.  I took another photo of the pool from up there and then just sat for a few minutes to watch the fishing boats pass by.

After a while it was time to head back down and grab a bite.  The menu is interesting at the Barracuda and can be enjoyed by both carnivores and vegetarians alike, and, also, by folks like me on a budget.   After checking out both sides filled with food and drinks it only took a few minutes to make a decision and I ordered aDSCF4340 DSCF4337smoothie with mango, pineapple and ginger to go with falafels that came with hummus, very lightly browned pita bread and a tomato salad topped with onions and parsley.  Now, I’m not a foodie, as I’ve mentioned often, so the descriptions and photos will not do my lunch justice.  So, let me just say that it was good and, once all was said and done, I’ll repeat that it was very affordable.  In fact, the check, that also included my Coke,  came to less than twelve dollars usd,  including the tip.  I do want to mention, however, that I did receive the “local discount” of 10%.  One of the many advantages to living on the island  is that quite a few of the restaurants, and other businesses, give us a discount to encourage our patronage.  What a great incentive, yes?

After my brunch I decided to focus a bit of my time on taking shots of the scuba folk.  Dive Paradise can be foundDSCF4329 DSCF4316on the backside of the hotel and they seemed to be doing a brisk business.  Now, I’m not a diver so I don’t know about prices, times, or the locations of their dives.  But, I’m sure those can be found easily by the folks more in tune with the sport.  I simply wanted some shots and those were easy to come by since everywhere I looked there were people walking around with tanks and fins.   I was able to determine that there were several groups that seemed to be at varied skill levels.  Dive masters were hard at work with pairs, individuals, and whole groups both in and out of the water and, as is often the case down here,  they didn’t seem to mind having their DSCF4334pictures taken even though they were all focusing on events of their own.   But, the sun was getting strong and I was starting to get a bit warm so I grabbed one last shot of a guy out in the ocean and then I made my way back to my table.

Once there I paid my bill and started to pack up my stuff.  The pool area was starting to get busy and most of the tables were getting filled with vacationers.  I spotted a group of folks that, I’m assuming here, were visiting from Australia.  They seemed to be having a lot of fun and I thought that a shot of them might well be the one to top off my day.  So, never shy when it comes to taking photos, I DSCF4342asked one of them if it would be okay.  As always the answer was “of course” and they quickly maneuvered into position in the center of the pool.  With big smiles they struck a pose and I got my last pic.  I wrote down the name of my blog for them and, if they happen to find this,  I’ll take this moment to say “thanks guys.”  I grabbed my stuff, said goodbye and headed back home to write this down.

Now, this is where I usually end one of my pieces, but I wanted to take a moment to mention that I will be starting a new series this July that will be titled “Getting Cozy in Cozumel.”  It is going to focus on some of the many wonderful neighborhood inns and B&Bs that we have here on the island. Since the off season has fewer events I’d been scratching my head over what to write about and then, when visiting friends who own one of these little jewels, it hit me that there is a wealth of information that I would love to share.  As usual, there will be no compensation, or direct promotion intended, I just want to take a peek at a few of our hidden gems in the hopes of sharing more of what we have to offer here on the island of Cozumel.  Finally, if you happen to own a neighborhood inn, or B&B and would like to be included, please just drop me a line at M.Chero@Yahoo.com and I will happily come on over with my camera and notebook starting in June.  And, please tell your friends.  Until then, check in to see what it’s like to shop on the malecon and take a sunset cruise.  It really is paradise.  Salud!cruise ship

p.s. if you peruse former blogs you will find writings that also cover a variety of other hotels and activities.  I don’t intend to promote, and never receive compensation, but I do like to share good experiences.

A Day in Paradise

DSCF4203Although I have lived on the island of Cozumel for over a year now, it appears I haven’t come close to discovering all she has to offer and yesterday was a great example.  It was a Sunday, gorgeous outside, and I had the opportunity to join friends at a beach club I’d not yet visited.  I put out some water and treats for my two pups,DSCF4196 as well as their friends who visit from downstairs, and packed a bag.  But, as I was heading out, I noticed that,  although they have a large shady area to rest, for some reason the guys had lined up along the wall.  To say goodbye?  Who knows, but I grabbed a shot before I headed down the stairs.

Now, the folks I was going out with had been to the club on numerous occasions, which is always a good sign.  We have a lot of choices here on Cozumel, so when one becomes a favorite there must be something special going on.   And I quickly discovered what that is when we  pulled up to the Paradise Beach Club.  It’s located south of our little town,  just off the side road that DSCF4206meanders along the ocean, and it stands out simply because the well landscaped grounds are just  lush. No other way to describe them.  My friends  pulled up for a second to let me get a nice location shot of the sign and then we headed into the parking lot.  Excited now, as soon as we got out I pulled my camera back out DSCF4245 to start taking  more pics.   I began by focusing on the entrance.   A simple thatch roof with a wooden gable welcomed us.  Once past that there is a bar area and it is highlighted by a large pool in a half-moon shape that is surrounded by a lot of lounge chairs.  And, as if that isn’t enough, all along the path to the pool area are palms and flowers dotted over a well tended lawn on grounds that curve and dip.  It really is quite beautiful.

We picked out some chairs nestled up next to palm trees (that are everywhere) to get some shade.  But, once we were settled in, and our waiter had DSCF4211brought us some menus, I headed back out to see what else I could find.   Since it was so early there were few people about, which is a favored time for me, and it made for someDSCF4224 picturesque shots.  I focused on the pool for a while and then headed towards the beach area, which looked quite large.  Once there I saw chairs lined up just waiting for customers, the umbrellas hadn’t been extended yet, and the giant inflatable toys in the water sat empty.  To me, there is something special about arriving a bit ahead of the crowd, there is such a sense of expectation.  And, although the sun was almost straight overhead, which is not preferred for photos, there are enough trees to provide some interesting shadows no matter the time of day.  It looked like a good time to take a walk on the beach.

DSCF4219

Very quickly I came across some wonderfully painted Adirondack chairs clustered together under the palms.  The middle one has “Paradise Beach” painted on it withDSCF4256 colorful birds to help illustrate the point.  They are so lovely that I’m not sure I’d want to sit on them, but that’s just me. I went on a little further and next I noticed some kayaks laid up on the beach waiting for the adventurous types.  You know I had to grab a shot of those.  And, then there are the brightly colored flowers that can be seen just about  everywhere.  Not only are they sprinkled around the pool area, but they can be found tucked away here and there on the beach too.  This place really did look like my idea of paradise.  But, after taking a quick photo of an DSCF4236example of the colorful foliage it was time to head back to see what my friends were doing.

We ordered some food and drinks and they arrived fast.  Yet another advantage to getting some place before the crowds.  I had a plate of nachos and they came with side dishes of guacamole, sour cream, jalapenos, and salsa.  I was hungry so I didn’t think to take a photo until I’d almostDSCF4240 finished the plate so let me assure you, they were good.  We’re not talking gourmet here, but the prices are very reasonable and that’s a great compromise for me.  After a while of just eating and chatting it was time for a quick dip to cool off.  Then I headed back out to see what else I could discover.  But, first I stopped in the restrooms and then decided to snap a shot there too.  I don’t know about you, but I like clean and pretty facilities and I was not disappointed.

I headed around to the other side of the pool and bar and noticed a pathway.  I started down and saw that it was DSCF4243taking me to the area where folks could rent snorkeling equipment.  With all the choices it would be difficult to get bored in Paradise.  But, not in the market for snorkeling I turned back and noticed yet another pathway through the grounds.  However, this one was for staff only and it even had a feathered sentry guarding it.  That was okay, I still had more of the beach to explore and off I went towards the ocean.

After a short walk I saw a little palapa on stilts with hammocks hanging underneath.  It lookedDSCF4261 like a great idea, so I got in one and just relaxed for a little while.  It was far enough away that I couldn’t hear much more than  the breeze in the trees.  Then a thought hit me, why not grab a shot of the view from the hammock?  It’s nice to get a new perspective once in a while.  A bit fanciful, but that’s the shot to your right where you’ll see  nothing but palm leaves against a clear sky.  Not a bad view, yes?

Sitting up I noticed that kids were starting to play on the giant toys in the ocean.  I walked DSCF4262towards the shoreline and focused on a large, inflatable ball that had one rider carefully balancing while trying to help another to climb aboard.  It took his buddy a handful of tries, but no-one was complaining.  I could hear the laughter from where I stood.  Then I grabbed a pic of another toy that had already been conquered by kids. That one is absolutely huge and, it seemed to me, would take guts to climb the DSCF4268slippery surface.  But, in this case, youth won out.  I focused.  But, while grabbing the shot I saw that just in front I could see a grouping of small statues emerging from the water.  They seemed to be of dolphins, but I’m just guessing at this point.

Getting a little warm under the direct sun I knew it was time to head back towards the palms.  I was thinking that maybe I’d sit a while longer in the hammocks.  But, they had new guests.  A DSCF4271couple of small boys were trying to figure them out and they were having a lot of fun.  So, I just sat on a lounge chair and spent a bit of time watching to see if they’d ever get to sit in one.  I was there for quite a while and, when it looked as if they didn’t really care one way or the other, I got a shot of the one while he hung on with nothing but his arms.  Then, as I started to head back to the pool I turned and got that one last shot of the day.  Two little boys in silhouette playing happily on the beach among the hammocks.  It was a great end to my day and I packed my camera away.  And, as  I walked back to join my friends, I realized that I was  happy to have discovered there really is a paradise on earth.DSCF4272  Salud!

p.s. I don’t intend to promote, and I never receive compensation, but I do like to share good experiences.