Thursday, October 22, 2009

Saving my favorite tree

This is one of my favorite scenes in Mexico. This is the beach at Ana and Jose's restaurant and bar in Tulum. I just love the way this tree leans over the beach. The first picture was taken when we were in Tulum in 2008. As you can see there was a beautiful white beach below these trees.

This second picture was taken a year later when we returned in 2009. Notice how the beach at the base of the trees has been badly washed away during the fall when the weather is worse with more storms churning up the water. The owners of the restaurant have tied ropes to the trees and packed sand bags around the base of the trees to try to save them and keep them from falling over completely.

The beach area right in front of these trees is often used for weddings with an alter and chairs set up with the trees as a backdrop. It was very sad to see the trees in such a distressful state.

On our next trip to our condo in 2010 I look forward to returning to this location to enjoy another day at Ana and Jose's and to see what state the trees are in now. I'm hoping that they have managed to save the trees and that somehow or another the beach has been restored and once again everything is beautiful.

PS:  Want to come play in Playa del Carmen?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Interesting menu item found!

I was sitting here watching the local news this morning and they brought a story from L.A. to our attention. Apparently some restaurant has created a soup that is the latest rage. They are calling it Viagra Soup. Well sorry people but I have to tell you that the Mexicans beat you to it. We went for a stroll from our condo in Playa del Carmen one evening up to this beautiful restaurant, La Pesca Restaurant, on 30th Avenue right across the street from the Mega store. It's a great seafood restaurant. It has a large covered open air seating area in the front. The back part is open to the sky and there is a lovely area with plants and a waterfall that creates a very peaceful feeling with the sound of the water running down.

We were perusing the menu and I just had to take a picture of this particular entry and you guessed it - Viagra Soup! We all had a good laugh over it!

Our waiter brought out a platter of fresh lobster to tempt us but we all passed on the lobster because there were so many wonderful choices to be had on the menu - other than the soup, that is.

This is a restaurant I will surely visit again next time we're in Playa. I really enjoy finding a good place to eat close to our condo so we can have an excellent meal and then enjoy a stroll back home with a stop along the way at one of the many ice cream stands! That ice cream is SO good and makes a perfect end to the evening.

PS:  Want to come play in Playa del Carmen?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Maroma Beach

Very close to Playa del Carmen you can find this beautiful beach that has been rated as one of the Top 10 in the world by the TV program Travel Guides. We spent a day there with my brother Shawn and his wife, Suzanne and our friends from Canada, Donna and Eddie.

We went on a Sunday which was perfect for us as all the activities normally available here are closed on Sundays so very few people were there as you can see by the empty beaches. Lucky us! The rest of the week I'm sure is extremely busy and noisy because from what I could see there is virtually everything you could possibly want to do here. There are ATV's, horseback riding, seadoos (is that how you spell it??), boats, parasailing and I'm sure there's probably diving, fishing, volleyball and I have no idea what else but there's certainly room for everything.

They have beautiful spa beds set up high on platforms on the beach where you can get a massage without having people walking by because you are high above them enjoying the view, the privacy and a great massage all at once! Ah heaven on earth!

We had our choice of locations because as I said no one was there. We pulled up a piece of beach under one of the spa platforms so we could enjoy the view and have the option of sun or shade. We had our own personal waiter who kept us well supplied with Lemonade and then lunch on the beach when we were ready. I think he must have been pretty bored cause he sure wasn't busy!

The beach goes on and on and on and the best part is that it's only a 15 minute drive from our condo in Playa del Carmen. It makes for a great Sunday outing without a lot of effort!

PS:  Want to come play in Playa del Carmen?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

American Football Mexican Style

We have been hearing a lot over the past couple years about our nephew, Riley's, football team - the Caballeros ( which means Gentlemen or Knights) - and how well he has been doing as a player. We finally got the opportunity to watch one of his games while we were in Playa del Carmen this spring. Although it was only an exhibition game it was still great to get out and enjoy it. I had told Riley that I hoped I wouldn't embarrass him by cheering too loud from the sidelines but he didn't seem to be bothered by the thought at all. Once we got to the game I understood why. In Mexico the cheering rule is: the louder the better and bring whatever kind of noise makers you want. One of the team's sponsors is the Bahia Principe Resort on the Mayan Riveria and they have a drum show that they put on for their guests so there are always members of the drum group at every game with their big, loud drums - which are almost constantly being played along with chants to cheer the team. Even the little ones are being prepped to make lots of noise and get right into it all. One lady was there with a big, empty water jug and a ladle to bang it with! Too funny! As well as making lots of noise you better make sure you are wearing the team colors because the coach has meetings with the parents to make sure they understand the necessity of supporting the team in every way, shape and form. Fortunately for us my brother, Shawn, had extra team shirts we could wear so we wouldn't feel the wrath of the coach (HaHa).

Wouldn't you know that the game was scheduled for the middle of the day, under the bright sun with no cover on the stands to offer some shade. Oh well, we had Suzanne, my sister-in-law, taking care and making sure we put on our sunscreen, wore our hats, had lots of water and that we were yelling and cheering enough. We didn't quite get into the - get up and dance and chant and dance some more mode but probably when we're down there more often and are more comfortable with the people we will get right into it. There was so much happiness and fun being had by all, it was a real party atmosphere. My husband and I sat and reflected on how much more fun and relaxed it was at this game than at anything we've ever gone to back home. Our kids had played soccer from age 5 right through til their late teens and we were always at their games. There was never anything close to the cheering and team support as there is in Mexico. We were saying that at home we'd probably be asked by the refs and coaches to be quiet if we made even a quarter of the noise as they were making at Riley's game. I must say that we really had such a carefree, funloving feeling being at Riley's game. It was such a nice way for people to come together, have fun, enjoy the moment and just put their worries away for a while. I think more of the world needs to lighten up and take a lesson from the Mexican people on enjoying life and seizing the moment.

We look forward to our future time in Mexico where we will get to watch more games with Shawn and Suzanne. On our last visit to our condo in Playa del Carmen we found the local sports field which is walking distance from our condo so in the future we are planning to spend a lot of time at the local games. I'm sure before long we will be cheering, dancing and enjoying life with the best of 'em!

In the meantime here's a typical, reserved Canadian cheer for you, Riley!

Go, Riley, Go!! (HaHa)

PS:  Want to come play in Playa del Carmen?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Beach weddings in Mexico

I absolutely LOVE this picture. This was taken in Tulum. It is a totally awesome beach! There is a lovely restaurant called Ana and Jose's and they cater to weddings a lot. We had the chance to go there twice in April when we were in Mexico and each time we were there they were setting up for wedding ceremonies! I can't imagine how beautiful it would be to be married on this beach and it is actually set up right down on the beach.

They take 4 wooden poles and plant them in the sand on the beach. There is a beautiful natural wood podium set in the middle for performing the ceremony. Then they take white, sheer fabric and wrap and drape it around the poles and complete the decorating with curly branches and fresh flowers attached to the poles. Chairs are all set up in the sand for the guests. So Pretty! Unfortunately we had to leave before we could see the complete result.

They hose down all the sand with water and then rake it to look just pristine. They create a path in the sand from the back of the property to the alter on the beach and set white paper bags with candles in them along the edges. I can just imagine how pretty that would look as the bride walks down to the alter on the edge of the beach.

There is an open air, covered restaurant and bar to the back of the property. It's floor is all sand and they use that area also as the dance floor. One time we noticed a woven basket sitting on the ground filled with bright orange and hot pink flip flops with a little sign attached reading "dance shoes". How fun! All the tables are decorated and finished in such a beautiful manner. It's just like a dream wedding.

We also noticed a few resorts right on the beach in Playa del Carmen that were set up to perform ceremonies as well.

PS:  Want to come play in Playa del Carmen?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Getting to know the neighbourhood

Last year while in Mexico we bought a condo which will be our future retirement home. This April we were able to stay in our condo for the first time and it was such a treat. Everything was so close to our home that we were able to walk everywhere we needed to go. Of course when you buy a place there are usually little things that need to be fixed or repaired. We had lots of fun wandering around our new "neighbourhood" in search of hardware stores, plumbing supply stores and paint stores. What made it even more fun was our lack of Spanish communication skills. Oh well not to fear - my husband's solution was to get out the digital camera and take pictures of what we needed. That worked out well. Even with the language barriers we were able to locate all the things we needed and if the place we stopped at didn't have it they were always able to tell us where we needed to go to find what we needed. In one case we lucked out because we ran into our nephew, Riley, who was walking home so he made a perfect translator for us at the paint store. Hmmm, maybe in the future we should just arrange for him to be with us all the time when we're shopping. But then again where's the fun in that?? It's quite fun trying to get our point across and we always like to joke around and have fun with the people we are talking to as well. So sorry, Riley, guess you're out of a job before you even get it :o)

It's so interesting to walk around Playa away from the tourist area because you just don't know what you may find or where you will find it. On one outing we were going along 30th, which is 2 lanes of traffic in each direction so I guess that's a fairly busy road. Along each side are all manner of little restaurants and various stores so we happily wandered along checking them all out. We came to one which I think was a pet grooming and/or supply store. There were all these cages stacked up right along the sidewalk outside the store filled with roosters, chickens, some other large birds and some rabbits.

Then just a few businesses down would be an open air restaurant. We went past this particular restaurant and as you can see by the pictures it's quite open to everything, the sidewalk with people walking by and right next to that is the busy road. It's a little hard to see in this picture but on the right side there is a rotisserie with some pork meat stacked on a skewer being cooked on a spit type of cooker. The thing that amazed us was that it was right out there, in the open, cooking away. Can you possibly see that being permitted in Canada or the U.S.?? Hmmm, I'm thinking, no, the Health Authorities would be all over that. Funny how it is that what's perfectly fine in one country is totally taboo in another. Although we didn't eat at this restaurant we did eat meat that was prepared in this fashion and it was so delicious.

I think we also located all the ice cream shops within walking distance of our home too. Thanks to Suzanne and Shawn we are now addicted to a local ice cream which is made from fresh fruits and tastes simply incredible. I, like my husband, really enjoy the coconut ice cream which has shredded coconut throughout. Next time I want to try their mango - it wasn't available when we were there. The prices were unbelievable. 6 of us had ice cream for under $8. At that price we can afford to have ice cream a lot! Yippee!

I think the best thing about the location of our home is that we can walk up to my brother's house which is especially cool as we have never lived in the same town before. So if I time my visits right I can catch Suzanne taking something delicious out of the oven and I can offer to be her guinea pig and make sure that it turned out right. Suzanne is forever creating delicious treats in her kitchen. It's so cool being able to just show up for a visit, a treat and a dip in the pool.

PS:  Want to come play in Playa del Carmen?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Learning the Legend of the Aluxes

There's a wonderful myth or legend, if you prefer, that I've been learning about during my time in Playa del Carmen that I would like to share with you.

First allow me to apologize in advance if I don't get it exactly correct. I'm using information I found at a local Playa restaurant called the Alux and information I have gleaned from Wikipedia.

The Aluxes are a spirit in the mythological tradition of Mayan culture. They are spirits that are associated with natural features such as gardens, forests, caves and stones. I understand that it's considered good practice to build a little house, on your property, to honour the Aluxes. In so doing you are asking the Aluxes to help to protect your property. Legend has it that the Mayan farmers would build a little house in their corn fields and for seven years the Aluxes would help them receive good crops, bringing rain and protecting the fields at night by scaring off predators or crop thieves. At the end of seven years, the farmer must close the windows and doors of the little house, sealing the Aluxes inside. If this is not done, the Aluxes will run wild and start playing tricks on people.

The story goes on to say that they will occasionally stop and ask farmers or travellers for an offering. If the offering is not given then the Aluxes will start some trickery. If they are given an offering it is believed that the Aluxes will protect and bring good luck to the person.

So there you have a simple explanation of the Aluxes.

My brother told me of an incident that happened recently in Playa del Carmen. There was an overpass constructed over the highway near Playa del Carmen but there were problems with it. It began to sink. They had engineers come in and look at it. They made various repairs and improvements and tried all ways they could think of to correct the problem. Unfortunately nothing they tried worked and the overpass continued to sink. Then during a discussion someone asked if the ceremony to the Aluxes was performed (I'm sorry I don't know the proper name for this ceremony). Apparently there is a formal ceremony that is performed to appease the Aluxes. So having failed in every other way to solve their problem they performed this ceremony in the full formal manner, even building the little house for the Aluxes under the overpass along side the highway (it's not that little - I think it must be at least 5 ft. high or more maybe?). Well you know what - it seems to have worked because since that time they have had no more problems with the overpass.

The Aluxes are a very big part of the culture in the Playa area. There are a couple restaurants I have been to - one in Bacalar called the Aluxes (if I remember correctly) with great food, a beautiful garden and it overlooks the lake.

The other one is called Alux and is in Playa del Carmen. There is a TV program called Uber Guide and one program they had was on the Top 10 unique restaurants in the world and the Alux in Playa del Carmen was rated as #7. I had been to the Alux before seeing this program and as I loved it so much I was very pleased to see it appear in the Top 10.

I wanted to share with you some pictures of the Alux in Playa. This beautiful restaurant/lounge is below ground in a residential neighbourhood in Playa and it is a natural cavern. A truly unique experience. You can have dinner there or just go to enjoy a drink in the lounge. There are paths that wind through the cavern with clusters of couches or chairs tucked into the various openings along the way. The natural formations are quite spectacular - the pictures don't do them justice at all.

Next time I visit I must remember to ask if they created a house for the Aluxes.

The following is the information displayed in the restaurant regarding the restaurant and the Alux.

The History of Alux

This cavern was discovered in 1994. After years of planning and restoration with minimal ecological impact it was opened giving the public the opportunity to experience the unique stalactites and stalagmites in a restaurant/lounge environment.

These caverns were used by the ancient Mayan for protection against atmospheric phenomena and above all, to connect them to the inner world.

One of these mystical places is the Alux, a dwelling of small magical beings called "Aluxes" the great guardians which form part of this amazing culture.

The "Aluxes" are small imps, nimble and mischievous, who protect the houses and cornfields of those who present offerings and give food. Ancient objects of earthenware scattered around the archaeological sites give claim to their life and how they carried out their tricks. These small beings dispel bad spirits and chase away plagues.

PS:  Want to come play in Playa del Carmen?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Beach dreaming on a snowy day

As I sit here looking out my window at the snow that's falling once again I can't help but wish it was April already as we will be back in Playa del Carmen and the surrounding areas with the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. This particular picture is from a nice resort in Tulum. We had a great day there. It's a short drive from Playa del Carmen and Tulum is a pretty little Mexican town with a fantastic beach. We had these wonderful lounge beds practically right on the surf and the service was exceptional! Great food and drinks, awesome beach, beautiful day and all shared with the people closest to us - what could be better!

I look forward to our return to Playa so we can explore other little communities. The people are so friendly in Mexico and everything is so relaxed. Once you unwind and get in the right frame of mind it's a blissful way of life. No worries, no hurries - NO SNOW!!!! Just enjoying life and soaking up the sun!

Sitting on the beach with a bucket of cold beer at hand is certainly a hard way to spend the day but you know, I'm sure up for the effort. A bucket of beer, a good book, food delivered right to me and the surf just a couple of steps away - ahhh, what a life! I'm loving it - just wish I could love it more often and for longer periods of time. Oh well, a few more years and we can become snowbirds!

We haven't been down to the beaches in Cancun yet. I'm not even sure I want to see them. We really prefer a more natural environment with a different culture and I suspect that perhaps Cancun has become very Americanized. I know the one time we ventured to Cancun and checked out the town and the mall it was as if we were in America or Canada. Too big and too commercial for what we like when we travel. We'd much rather feel as though we're in another country experiencing another culture and lifestyle - otherwise we could just stay home if we wanted something that's the same as we have at home.

PS:  Want to come play in Playa del Carmen?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reef diving in Cancun

As the time for our next visit to Playa del Carmen draws closer I begin thinking of going for a dive in Cancun again.

Quite a few years ago we had met Lisa and Jesus. Lisa had just retired from the U.S. military (I think that was it) and they were heading down to Cancun to open a dive business since both she and her husband Jesus are certified divers.

I had never in my life even snorkeled but I have always loved to swim under water so when we were planning our trip to Playa del Carmen in 2006 I connected with Lisa and arranged to go diving. They start us off with a training lesson in a swimming pool making sure I understood how all the equipment works, know the hand signals and that I was totally comfortable before we went out in the boat. We went out to the reefs just off of Cancun and next thing you know, in the water we went - sitting on the side of the boat and flipping over backwards into the water - which really isn't hard to do once you realise how much those tanks on your back actually weigh! Then it's down we go following along a rope to the bottom - about 30 - 35 feet down. I still felt comfortable as I could look up and see the surface and the sunlight.

It was such an experience to be down there with fish all around - not zipping away as we approached never to return, but just casually moving far enough away for them to feel safe. I was really surprised that the fish didn't just disappear when we got too close but they didn't. On my first dive we saw a sea turtle - that was really cool - how graceful they look gliding through the water. We also played with a puffer fish and found a rock fish - but of course

we gave him lots of room as he has poisonous spines on his back and if you step on him you're in trouble! The colors of the fish are so vibrant - it would be wonderful to live in a big, open tropical house and fill it with the colors of the reef and the fish inhabiting it.

The vegetation on the sea floor was very interesting. Although you would see large, fan type plants flowing back and forth with the current looking very frail and delicate, it was surprising when you gently touched it to feel that it was quite coarse and rough. Then there were the fern type plants that truly were as soft and pliant as they looked. There were also huge brain coral and these are like a rough, sharp rock - I know because a current I wasn't expecting pushed me right into it so I now have a little scar to remind me of that dive.

It's easy to move along the reef once you coordinate yourself with the current in the water - it sort of feels like, one step forward, two steps back, so a see sawing type of movement through the water. The first time I dove it was a calm day and the water was so clear that my husband, who went out in the boat but didn't dive, could see us moving along the sea floor. However the next time I was in Playa and decided to go diving it was very windy and we weren't sure the boats were going to be allowed out of the harbour. We did eventually get out for a dive which was another fun experience although the wind caused the ocean to be more wavy which in turn stirs up everything on the sea floor so the distance of visibility was much reduced this time.

I have been comtemplating a cenote dive (diving in one of the many underground caverns that have water flowing through them) but I don't think I'm up for that. I like having the security of being able to look up and see the surface and daylight.

Another option would be a night dive. That could be interesting. I was speaking with someone who had done this and they said it was really cool. You go out with a flashlight and as you're swimming around all the sudden your light will pick up a fish and you'll see these little red eyes looking at you. Hmmm. I'm going to have to ponder this a while longer cause I'm thinking I could get a claustrophobic type of feeling - being surrounded by nothing but blackness. Perhaps after a few more dives I would feel more adventuresome.

Another type of dive that Lisa and Jesus have done is to dive with whale sharks - very HUGE fish but for this type of diving you have to go deeper and I believe have to be certified first. Maybe if I lived in a location where I was diving more than once every year or two I might consider getting certified and going deeper but for now I think I'll just stick with my reef diving. I really enjoy it and am quite comfortable doing it so why mess with a good thing?

PS:  Want to come play in Playa del Carmen?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Roadside treats to temp you

I love this picture - it brings back such great memories. This is the trip we took from Playa del Carmen to Bacalar with my brother, Shawn and sister-in-law, Suzanne (who by the way have the great fortune of living in Playa del Carmen - so make great tour guides for us) . Bacalar is closer to the Belize border and it's a beautiful, restful little Mexican town with a magnificent lake.

This gentleman has a wonderful nut stand set up on the side of the road. It is incredible. Some of the nuts are sugar coated, others are just natural, some we've never had before. The lower part of his display is made up of bags of all the empty shells - it makes a great stand for his product! He would give us a sample of anything we wanted to try before we made our purchases. We had great fun sampling, visiting with him and then selecting a bunch of different munchies to keep us happy as we carried on to the lake.

The journey to Bacalar takes you past quite a few typical little Mexican towns and along the highway they have put wide speed bumps to slow the cars while they travel through the populated areas. At every one of these slow downs the locals will be standing at the side with treats to temp you. They will hold up their offerings - sometimes it's whole Pinas (huge, ripe, juicy pineapples the likes you'll never see up north and for around $2 - $3 US!), sometimes it's bags of peeled and sliced fruits ready for eating. So if you're in the mood for a snack you can either just open your window and do business or pull over, have a chat and make a more selective choice. We picked up a pineapple to enjoy at the lake the next day.

We arrive at the lake not knowing what to expect and our breath was taken away. The colors are unbelievable! My brother and his wife always come to this little hotel and now we understand why. I'll give you an idea of the value of this hotel - when we were there in 2008 we had an air conditioned room (with this view), a microwave and mini fridge, for only $50 US per night. Had we opted not to have air conditioning (just a ceiling fan) it would only have been $40 US a night!

This lake is so warm. I have never been in a warm lake before. It is like stepping into a warm bath - a very different experience for me. I'm used to having to slowly work my way in as my body numbs to the water temperature - so what a treat this is!

In the evening we took a stroll in the center square; seems every Mexican town has one. The people all congregate in the square in the evenings to visit and have an ice cream (which is what we did) or just socialize and relax at the end of the day, enjoying the cool evening air.

At 8 am the next morning we are back in the lake and it is still warm - amazing! I could really get used to this. Remember that pineapple we bought on the side of the road on the way down - well guess what we had for breakfast while standing neck deep in water - you guessed it - fresh, juicy pineapple! Shawn took a nice sharp knife and sat under this palapa at the end of the wharf and fed us fresh pineapple. Of course we didn't realize we would be up to our necks until we actually got out to where he was. Don't think I've ever had breakfast in such an unusual manner before.

Our visit to Bacalar, this time was short and sweet but it is definitely something we look forward to doing again and often. Hopefully the future visits will be for a longer period of time as I look forward to wandering about the town exploring and meeting the people who live here. Until then I have my pictures and my memories to remind me of this lovely part of the world.

PS:  Want to come play in Playa del Carmen?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mayan Ruins abound

One of the fun adventures we have had in the Playa del Carmen area has been to visit some of the many ruins in the nearby areas. There are ruins in Tulum and Coba and I'm sure there are others we will discover on our future visits to Playa. It's an incredible way to spend the day as you wander along a path through the wilderness and then suddenly turn a corner and encounter a large open area with many ruins waiting to be explored. Pack a snack, wear a good pair of walking shoes, take a hat and your water bottle and off you go. Some of the locations offer a guide who will tell you the history of the area as you walk along or you can spend the day wandering and discovering on your own. At some of the ruins you can rent a bicycle and enjoy the area on wheels. Quite often there are sign markers giving you some history about the surrounding ruins. I believe it is still okay to climb among some of the ruins although I have heard people saying that you can not. You may want to research this before you go so if you want to climb to the top of a pyramid you won't be disappointed when you get there and find out that you cannot climb them. The nationals have been working diligently to recover the ruins from the jungle and reconstruct them in their original design. As you can see from the pictures there are a lot of ruins in any given area and we never encountered "crowds" of people.

PS:  Want to come play in Playa del Carmen?