Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Isla Mujeres, day two

There came a moment when I thought we would not leave the café. Notes of music coming through somewhere, the breezes blowing through the open spaces, the comfortable chairs, good coffee... why go?

There are deep navy clouds just off shore, but Ed is unruffled. Rain clouds? Over the Caribbean, they can sometimes sit for hours. We may never see the rain from that system. He should know -- he's sailed these seas often enough.

Still, our landlady is waiting (though I Skype her of our café delay) and we have our packs at our feet. Time to go.

The island is narrow (maybe quarter of a mile at the thick points) and long (maybe six miles). You can’t believe that a house, any house would be hard to find. I am given instructions: Leave the village, continue past the old airstrip, eventually, maybe after two miles you’ll come to Oscar’s Restaurant. Bear left then, one block, past something that looks like a church. Ours is the house with the hedge.

Okay. We set out. It’s colorful and completely beguiling at every step.



(At the Tortilleria Mama Lolita:)


(look closer:)




But we think we have walked for significantly more than two miles. No Oscar’s.
Where’s Oscar’s? -- we ask. It’s not well known. Maybe that way...
We walk some more. We don’t find Oscar’s, but we see a guy with a tin container waving at us.


He’s the fellow from the bus, with the delicious thin wafers.

And still no Oscar’s.

A golf cart pulls over (they’re not only for tourists). A man speaks to us in Spanish. Apartamento...He’s Miguel, our landlord (he and Sue rent out these terrific places).

I suppose it’s easy for locals to find us, even as it’s hard for us to locate them.

Miguel and Sue have just finished adding a lovely little studio to their handful of rooms. Perfectly placed, away from any tourist bustle (but you need to love to walk, as we do, or just go for the rental of the ubiquitous golf cart), we are happy as anything in our large, airy room on the top floor of this building: (At $35 per night, it is lovely in price as well.)


Miguel and Sue tell us where to eat, where to find the local market, where to pick up a taco if we have a craving, or a grilled fish, or roast chicken.

They drive us to their favorite bakery, we pick up some sweet rolls for the morning (there’s some fresh orange juice for you in the fridge – Sue tells us)...


...and now we are finally "at home."

We know we should wait to eat. We know that the village square comes alive late in the evening. People watching should be wonderful.

But I also know that if we linger, Ed will sleep and I’ll dig into the sweet rolls. I’m hungry – Sue said La Bruja Restaurant, just up the street, is open all day long. Let’s go now.

By 7, we’re sitting by the curb, eating grilled seafood and drinking Mexican beer and life feels so very good.


Next door, a family gathers around a sweet bread cart that has pulled up to the curb. The woman buys the kids sweet rolls and they grin with pleasure. Looking on, I try not to think about how long it will be before Madison sees any food cart outdoors.


This morning, the skies slowly lose their threatening clouds. We are only on the island until tomorrow. I am anxious to set out.

Mercado. Let’s start there.


We do. Juice – more of that wonderful juice, Ed says. (Ed can chug a quart down in no time.) The market is small, but it has a few fruit stands, plenty of meat vendors and, of course, a tortilla maker.

But no coffee. I find that Coca cola trumps coffee here as the drink of choice – mornings included.

We go back to La Bruja, where the kind people serve up a wonderful coffee with toast on the side.


Fortified, we hike to the southern most tip of the island, and, as they say, the eastern most tip of Mexico.

Let me say this about how beautiful it is here, in the center of the island: I am, at every corner, surprised with a splash (sometimes more like a burst) of color.



Well, yes, and coca cola adds...

(at our corner grocery store)

...and flowers...



...and people eating in secret corners at unusual (for me) times.


...and children telling you thank you when you take their photo.


...and water and sky – ostensibly both sharing the color “blue,” but letting you know that there are as many blues as there are people on this planet.


And let me not forget to say this: Isla Mujeres, at least where we are, is quiet (except for the morning rooster and the evening dogs) and uncommonly friendly.

In the afternoon, we hike back to the main town on the north end (just over an hour for us). We find our local waiter at our first café. He brings us eggs and beans and tortillas and a fruit milk for Ed and coffee for me and again we find it very very hard to leave.