Eating And Shopping On San Andres

We’ve had a chance to eat at several restaurants during our stay here, and most are very affordably priced. After noticing La Regatta on my morning walks, Scott and I treated ourselves to a nice dinner out.

We enjoyed the walk down the path leading to the restaurant, with it’s quirky decor.

We were seated at a table on a pier out over the water, giving us a great breeze as we ate our meal.

One of our neighbors here in the anchorage recommended Breadfruit, and it’s become a regular stop for us. They have a great assortment of fresh bread and pastries. I was reluctant to try their cakes, having that bar set very high from my beloved Sugarbakers Cakes back home (if you live within a 50 mile radius of their location…GO!) .

We can get two orders of scrambled eggs with toast, fresh juice, water and a large pastry for 10.00 (includes tax and a tip), which is not too shabby!

Scott discovered El Corral, along the promenade. It has been a welcome answer to his McDonald’s cravings. I passed on the burger, but the fries were pretty darned good. There’s also a Subway across the street from the marina where we land the dinghy. That’s been great as well!

As far as day-to-day groceries, there are two large stores with a great selection of fresh produce. We’ve been able to get broccoli, mushrooms, green leaf lettuce and fresh basil! Many fruit vendors with carts of all sizes can be found throughout the downtown area, selling avocados, mangoes, bananas, and some stuff we’ve never seen.

There are many small markets on the island as well. One in particular sells things imported from the U.S, and we’ve enjoyed finding familiar items, like Philadelphia cream cheese (we have found nothing similar to cream cheese in either Mexico or Central America).

Prices here are pretty cheap for soda, and even cheaper for beer. Scott wanted to stock up on Coke for his evening cocktails, so we did a big “can run.” He humped 102 cans back to the boat on his back….a man on a mission.

His months-long search for stainless steel chain finally came to an end on San Andres. After scouring several hardware stores in town (all of which have a great overall selection), we arrived at this one. Orders are placed at the counter, similar to an auto parts store in the U.S.

The man who waited on us spoke great English, and when the exact thickness of chain that we wanted wasn’t available, he told Scott to go across the street to the warehouse, and see if what they did have in stock would work.

The warehouse was a two story building packed full of stuff. The men inside showed Scott the chain, which worked just fine, and they cut it and carried it back across the street for payment. Quest complete!

Shopping “for fun” is big business here. If you’re looking for perfume, scented body lotion, linens, electronics, athletic shoes and clothing, liquor, luggage or candy, you’re on the right island! Everything is duty free, and some stores carry all of these items. La Riviera is one of the largest, and has locations all over downtown (and downtown ain’t that big!), with their “flagship” store along the promenade.

And, Under Armor is in the house! For those who don’t know, this world wide athletic clothing company is based out of my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland! (read how they got started – early history)

In the midst of the larger stores are many small stall-type shops, selling the usual beach-type clothing, woven bags and trinkets.

So there seems to be something for everyone here on San Andres. The many places to eat and shop have definitely kept us entertained. Here are many more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

Pancakes, Beach Bars And Fish

We left the boat early, to beat the heat of the day in town. I wanted to get some more produce, since the things we’d bought previously were so good. I also wanted to take advantage of the fact that Michelle, at Rudy’s, made pancakes. Since the smoothie we’d had the day before was so great, her pancakes had to be delicious!

Michelle was just arriving to open for the day as we tied to the pier. She chatted happily with us, while opening, making coffee for some local regulars and preparing our pancakes. They were, as expected, terrific! I know pancakes aren’t difficult, or necessarily special, but it was a nice treat to enjoy them by the water’s edge with such a friendly person. And, I didn’t have to put any additional heat into our boat to make them!

If you find yourself in West End, go to Rudy’s and see Michelle! Her personality, pancakes and skills with a blender will ensure more than one visit to the inviting smoothie (and more) shack.

On our way to the produce stand, I did a quick bit of shopping. The store we went into was crammed full of things, but Scott managed to spot painted bird feathers that had been framed. We thought them unusual and different, and chose one painted with a parrot and and iguana.

I then went into Rusty Fish, a shop selling items made from stone, bottles, metal and such. All things are made from local artists, using recycled or found materials. I chose two fish made from a stone that is locally known as Island Jade or Honduras jade.

It’s actually a type of Serpentine, and is a softer stone, making it an excellent material for artwork and jewelry. Island Jade is found on the hill tops of both Roatan and mainland Honduras, and comes in many colors. Some pieces we saw had four or five colors in just one stone.

The Rusty Fish had both carvings and jewelry made from the stone, displaying the work of eleven local stone artists. They also had many other neat things made from all sorts of materials, but we have limited space onboard and showed restraint. With full bellies, and a backpack full of produce and trinkets, we headed back to Sea Life for a break from the evil, mid-day heat.

Our afternoon plan was to dinghy over to some nearby beach bars. Scott didn’t want to go, as the heat and humidity were winning out over his want for a cold drink in the sand. I reminded him that we’d been talking of going to these places since first anchoring here, and if we planned to head for French Harbor the next day, this was our last chance.

We made our way to shore, and tied up near our first stop, Tita’s Pink Seahorse.

Yes, this place is open for business! We wandered past the pile of palm fronds waiting to be burned, and around the tarps. Inside, it was a typical tiki/beach-bar-type place, crammed with various “mementos” hanging from the ceiling and on the walls. We immediately liked it.

From behind the bar, Niki greeted us with a big smile….and delicious drinks! I tried a “Monkey La La,” (a frozen drink, much like a mudslide with banana added) and Scott had a killer rum punch. She also makes a great mojito! We now liked the place even more.

Niki had grown up in Guanaja, where we started our bay island cruising. We chatted with her about how much we enjoyed the island, and looked forward to going back. The bar was full of locals and tourists who were also taking a break from the mid-day sweltering heat. We all agreed that Tita’s was a perfect place to hide.

Just outside on the beach, some local school children were having a phys-ed class. Scott and I were surprised that the class wasn’t held closer to dawn or dusk. The kids were doing lunges in the sand, running sprints and practicing volleyball skills. They appeared less than happy about it, and we could feel their pain from behind our big glasses of cold drinks (sorry kids).

Feeling like we should give the other nearby beach bar equal time, we thanked Niki and her Aunt Tita (who is the owner) and made our way just down the beach to Ronnie’s Barefoot Beach Bar. Unfortunately, Ronnie’s didn’t seem to be as popular with either locals or tourists, as it was completely empty. We weren’t even sure that they were open, until a woman came from under a nearby palapa to wait on us.

While we were deciding whether to return to our boat, or to Tita’s, after our drinks, a local man came up to the bar from the beach and ordered a beer. He’d just come back from fishing, and invited us to see his catch. Back on the pier,  we watched as he started to scale and clean the fish.

Kevin and a friend had fished in 800 feet of water, using just hand lines, no rods. They take turns pulling the lines in, as it’s quite a job at those depths. He asked if we’d like to buy one of the fish. Scaled, cleaned and ready to cook…absolutely!

As Kevin worked on a fish for us, some local dogs played on the pier and in the sand nearby, hoping to get a treat from Kevin. Tired from wrestling with the other dogs, one took a break…on Scott’s foot.

Kevin bagged our fish, and we thanked him and headed back to Sea Life, glad that we’d pushed ourselves to come out in the afternoon heat. It’s now on to French Harbor for us, but first here are some more photos from our day of pancakes, beach bars and fish (and a few more of our surroundings in West End).

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

Pizza Night In El Bight

As you know, Scott and I loved pizza night when we were in Isla Mujeres. We looked forward to chatting with fellow cruisers, and then the yummy pizza and garlic knots at Oscars. As we left to head for Honduras, and Guanaja, we wondered when we’d get really good pizza again. Well, our wait was short!

As we checked online for reviews of local places to eat, only three showed up. Mi Casa Too, our place on the hill. Manati, run by Klaus and Annette, who helped us with our propeller. They moved here from Germany over 20 yeas ago, and run a beautifully casual bar, specializing in German food and beer. The third listing was for Hans’ Pizza. The reviews raved about his pizza, and stated that Monday was pizza night..”If you see smoke, he’s making pizza.”

There were no photos with the reviews, and we could see no visible evidence of a third restaurant in the bight. After scanning the shoreline with our binoculars, we caught sight of the top of a thatched roof, just down from Manati. We learned that it was indeed Hans’ place, when Klaus sent us there to talk with him about our propeller.

Hans is originally from Germany, but has called Guanaja his home for more than 40 years now. He owns a large piece of land here in El Bight, that sits on the water’s edge. There is a small bar, large outdoor kitchen, and several spots for enjoying shade, all built by Hans.

After meeting Hans, and talking about our propeller, we ended up staying for a few hours, enjoying cold beer and meeting the others who were gathered there.

He seems to have a group of regulars who come every morning and spend the day. Some are cruisers, who linger longer than planned at anchor before continuing on, and others call Guanaja home permanently. They pitch in with food preparation, tending bar and other things to help Hans around the property.

As we talked that first evening, enjoying his homemade red wine and bread, Hans offered to make pizza for us that Friday (and a loaf of bread for me!). We considered ourselves quite special, not having to wait for the usual Monday treat!

When Friday came, I arrived with dessert in tow, as a thank you for Hans’ extra effort. There were several of us gathered, and we chatted while he got to work. Hans makes his own dough, and the only ingredient that isn’t raw or fresh made, is the Hunt’s tomato sauce from a can, used for the red pizzas. We’ll forgive that. His oven is a large barrel, fueled by a roaring wood fire underneath.

Most chose to have half of their pizza with tomato sauce and half with white. The white sauce is a fresh made crema, that is sold in town. It’s similar in consistency to sour cream, but not taste. We followed suite with a half and half,  and our pizza was delicious! We left with full, happy bellies, and looked forward to returning on Monday!

When we returned for dinner on Monday, there were many more people. There was a large group of local residents seated at one of the long wooden tables, who were there to celebrate a 13th birthday. Inside the bar, and throughout the property,  other locals and “regulars” chatted and drank.

After the birthday group was fed, it was our turn. We were told that some evenings, the wait is quite long. John, a cruiser who’s spent a month of Mondays here, didn’t get his pizza until 10pm one night! Hans tries to accommodate tourists and larger groups first. Fair enough, we were content to watch and wait.

We chose to go with an all white pizza this time. Hans’ traditional way is topped with caraway seeds, onion and bacon…delish!!

He even whipped up some key lime pie in the oven, but we were too tired and stuffed to wait for it to cool. We will leave soon, to visit Roatan, and return here for a few more weeks. Hans has promised to smoke some fish and make us our first breadfruit, which will be in season when we return. Cheers to our chef and new friend!

Please check out more photos from pizza night, and of Hans’ property!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

A Evening Up On The Hill

There is a restaurant up on the hill here in El Bight, Mi Casa Too, which the owners run out of their home.

With it’s happy colors by day, and inviting lights and music at night, it has intrigued us since we arrived, so last night we headed up for a visit.

We tied up at the end of a local canal, and made our way up the many, many stairs to the restaurant. Enjoying plants and views as we climbed.

Once at the top, we discovered a large, wrap-around porch. At one end was a large open area with a bar and several tables. The owner greeted us warmly, and sat us at a table near the railing. We enjoyed the views of El Bight, and Sea Life at anchor below, while we waited for our food.

Our dinner arrived, with plates full of fish, salad, rice and french fries. At 12.00 US a person, it was more than we could eat. The music varied between island/reggae, country and Spanish, and we enjoyed listening to the locals at the bar sing along to many of the tunes. Eventually, we asked for our check. After several minutes, we got no check, but instead two more drinks…on the house! Well of course we’ll stay!

The owner came to our table, asking if we were having fun, and if the music was too loud. He told us, “the gringos don’t usually like the loud music.” We replied that the music was just fine, and that we were having a great time. So great of a time, that we ordered two more drinks and settled in to watch the people at the bar sing some more.

After some more time passed, we again asked for the check, with success. We were finishing our drinks and preparing to leave, when out of nowhere the owner breezed by, placing a full, chilled bottle of champagne on our table! Exclaiming that it was his birthday, he did the same at all the surrounding tables, and then placed four or five bottles along the bar. It seemed like we were destined to spend the entire night there!

Bottles were opened, and as glasses were passed around everyone raised a toast to the birthday boy. I saw a cake behind the bar, and was hoping that it would get the same treatment as the bottles of champagne, but we decided to make an exit while we could… who knows what might show up with the cake!

We said good-bye, happy birthday and a big thank you to our host, re-corked our champagne to go and made our way back down the hill. A warm glow of light shown through the bamboo and palms, lighting our way as we climbed down to the water, and to the awaiting Aluminum Princess.

It was a terrific evening, and we plan to return again. The owner, the food and the fun are too much to resist! Here are more pictures of our evening up on the hill.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Evenings In Isla

It was Friday, and that means only one things here in the anchorage…Pizza Night!! The Aluminum Princess is challenged when trying to get to Oscars Marina, where we meet for happy hour and pizza. The pilot house is not made for squeezing between the closely tied boats, and under the spider web of lines. So we left the Princess at home, hitched a ride with our friends on Angel Eyes and headed to the lagoon.

The weather was great for enjoying drinks and conversation on the pier.

While we waited for our pizzas, and awesome garlic knots that come with each order, there was time for a quick photo with some of our anchorage neighbors. Kevin and Marina, on Lucky Seven and Rick and Nancy, on Angel Eyes. We’re going to miss them, when we all head off in different directions soon!

Scott and I have been talking about spending an evening downtown. We have heard that it “comes alive” at night, with music and dancing in the square, and restaurants filled with people sitting down for dinner at 9pm.

On Saturday, we went to shore and walked into town. As we came past the car ferry terminal, there were many people waiting to board as well, which is unusual. Further down the road, we passed the two passenger ferry terminals in town. They were bursting at the seams with people in line to board,  with crowds spilling out into the street. It must have taken some of them hours to get on, as there were far, far too many crammed in line to fit onto one ferry.

There was also an incredibly long line of people waiting their turn for a taxi. The crowd wound down the sidewalk, and blended into the mobs waiting for ferries. We wondered…was there a big event in Cancun that we were unaware of?? Or, had the restaurants in Isla Mujeres run out of food??

We crossed the street, and headed for the square, expecting at any second to hear music, and meet up with a crowd of people. As we approached, things were much quieter than expected. A service for Holy Saturday was being held, so the music had stopped. We decided to go for drinks and food, and come back later for music.

Our first stop was El Patio. We’d heard that they have live music every evening, and had enjoyed drinks at their other location, The Joint. There was no room on the upstairs level, so we had drinks at the main bar, and listened to the music that traveled down from above us.

We then walked to the north end of the busy pedestrian street (which wasn’t nearly as busy as we’d expected). At the last cross street, we eyed a cart selling bacon wrapped hot dogs. We’d heard about this popular Mexican evening snack from a cruiser here, and they intrigued us. Some had cheese oozing out of them, and there were fried onions nearby. As yummy as they looked, we decided to hold off for tacos, and save the bacon dogs for another night.

Continuing on, we wandered back down the street, past the many stores filled with colorful goods for sale.

We stopped at a taqueria for some food, and nearby performers provided dinner entertainment for us.

We chose pastor for the meat in some of our tacos. This interesting looking pork is marinated, vertically spit-roasted and then sliced thin for tacos. It was brought to Mexico from Lebanese immigrants, and despite it’s looks is pretty tasty!

With our bellies full of tacos, we went back to the square, ready enjoy some music and dance. The area had cleared out, and there were just a few people milling around the booths that were still selling crafts. It was disappointing, as we’d been told that things really get going here after 10pm.

We decided to seek out our own music and dancing, and followed our ears to La Terraza, where music was spilling down from the second floor. We’d eaten here on our first day in town, and decided to head up the steps for a drink. The band was great, and we were mesmerized by the people dancing. I swear that their hips must have been on a swivel! We enjoyed some mojitos, and watched couples whirl around the dance floor.

Even though we missed the throngs of people in town, it was still fun to walk the streets and find some new places to eat and drink. Here are a few more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

A Taste Of Cuba In Mexico

Both cruisers and locals have raved about a local Cuban themed restaurant here on the island. Scott and I have had it on our “to eat” list for weeks, and finally got the chance to go last night. Our friends Ed and Elizabeth, on Skylark, brought a snack and joined us for happy hour drinks aboard Sea Life, before we all boarded the Aluminum Princess for shore.

Once we landed at Marina Pariso, it was a short and easy walk to El Varadero. The small waterfront restaurant is located in a quiet neighborhood, several blocks off of the main road.

The smell from the kitchen as we walked in was heaven…garlicky goodness!

The open air restaurant was made up of rustic wooden tables and chairs on sand floors, and hammock swings hanging from wooden beams. Photographs and art on the walls added to the Cuban theme.

The restaurant was full of boaters, tourists and locals, and we were told that the wait to eat would be an hour. Everything at El Varadera is made from scratch, and the kitchen was backed up with orders for the crowded tables. Wanting to eat some of what was coming from the great smelling kitchen, we chose to stay and wait it out.

We asked if it was possible to sit and have drinks while we waited, and were shown to a table. We chatted and waited for our food, enjoying fantastic mojitos, and great music from the band.

After enjoying some yummy guacamole and ceviche, We ordered a combination platter for the four of us to share. A huge tray arrived, full of shrimp, squid, fish, shredded beef and pork. Portions of carrots, plantains and rice were included as well, and we happily dug in. We were so busy eating, that I forgot to take a photo until we’d already ravaged the tray!

Everything was delicious, and we stuffed ourselves full. We were waited on by several of the staff, and everyone was polite and friendly.  It was a great evening…Viva Cuba!

*(Elizabeth and I shared my camera. She didn’t bring hers along, and I was too busy eating and drinking to take many, so we shared the load. Thanks to her!)

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

A Brief Stay In Puerto Morelos

We enjoyed the quiet atmosphere in Puerto Morelos. It was a nice break from the parade of booze cruise catamarans and fishing boats of all sizes, in the Isla Mujeres anchorage. The shoreline of Puerto Morelos is recognized by it’s leaning lighthouse. A new, third version is currently under construction. I wonder if they’ll leave the second one standing forever as well!


There were many panga boats lining the shore, but the few who passed by on their way out to fish  did so gently. Several snorkel boat tours also passed us each day, on their way to anchor at the reef, but they were hardly noticeable. Our mooring was right near the reef, and the colors of the water near it were beautiful. We enjoyed the sound of the waves breaking on it, especially at night.

The village was full of quirky shops and neat looking restaurants, but our food wasn’t nearly as good as we’d had in Isla Mujeres, and things were actually a bit more expensive here. This surprised us, as we expected prices to be cheaper in the smaller village. However, we did find terrific margaritas at Cafe Habenero! We also discovered some delicious hot sauce at Tacos@.com (weird name, I know). They even gave us a bag of it to take with us!

We had a chance to meet Ed and Elizabeth, who have been cruising for the last five years on their sailboat, Skylark. A mutual cruiser friend put us in touch with each other via email, and it was nice to finally meet face to face. They have recently traveled to Colombia, Panama and Honduras, so we picked their brains. We’re trying to gather as much local information as we can, in preparation for visiting these countries ourselves soon.

We enjoyed drinks, dinner and lots of conversation. Elizabeth and I broke off for a bit, to shop a local craft fair that was being held in the square. I found a great handmade basket, at a very nice price. It’ll be perfect for serving chips, to go with guacamole or salsa!

Our biggest, well Scott’s biggest, challenge came when he attempted to snorkel on the reef. He tied off his dingy to one of the many mooring balls meant for snorkel boats. After snorkeling for a bit, he came back to find that the dingy had been moved, and tied behind one of the tour boats. This was odd, as there were still balls available for them to use.

They gave Scott a hard time, and told him that he had to have a bracelet to snorkel (I think that they were upset to not be getting his money). The park ranger got involved, and told Scott that he could purchase a bracelet at the town dock. He also told Scott that he had to wear a life jacket while in the water. Scott came back to the boat in a huff, determined to win the battle.

The next day in town, we headed away from the town dock and the main square, knowing that anyone there would only want to sell Scott a trip, not just a bracelet. We came upon a woman selling dive trips, working away from the main square. She walked us to one of the booths, and helped Scott purchase just a bracelet. Success!

The next day, Scott headed back out to snorkel…..with his bracelet!

Again, the tour boats arrived and began to hassle him. He threw his arm in the air, and pointed out his bracelet. They tried to continue hassling him, but Scott loudly proclaimed, in his best fragmented Spanish: “I have bracelet, ranger says ok!” He turned, flapped his fins and continued to snorkel. Battle won!Unfortunately, the day was cloudy, so visibility wasn’t great. Scott did say that the coral there was healthier than any he’d seen in the Bahamas or Florida.

The weather forecast calls for stronger south winds to blow this weekend. We aren’t protected from the south on our mooring, and Scott doesn’t trust the strength of the ball in any wind. There is a marina nearby, but it’s a 20 minute walk from town, and is not in the budget unless needed. So, we’ve decided to head back for Isla Mujeres. We’d hoped to have more time here, to explore the town further, but weather now rules us.

Here are some photos of our brief stay in Puerto Morelos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Pizza, Pedaling and Relaxing

Our last week here in Isla Mujeres has been relatively uneventful. We enjoyed some relaxed time onboard, without going ashore. The weather still isn’t quite “tropical,” with continued cold fronts and winds, but it has been far better than our dealings with fronts at anchor in the Exumas and at Fort Jefferson! Here we’ve had more and more sun and less intense winds, and the shore is easily accessible with much to do, so things are definitely improving!

We ventured out to Pizza Friday. Each week, cruisers gather at Oscar’s, a local marina and restaurant, for a byob happy hour on the dock, followed by pizza at the restaurant.  Scott and I took a quick and affordable cab ride there, not wanting to ride our bikes back in the dark. It was nice to meet and chat with some of the other cruisers, and put faces with the boat names that we hear daily over our vhf radio. We also met Tim, and got to put a face to the voice of the daily cruiser’s net here!

Our dinner was great! The pizza and garlic knots at Oscar’s are terrific, and I now know where to head for a pizza craving in Isa Mujeres!

Afterward, the cruisers aboard Dayz Off, John, Becca and their daughter Zoe, offered us a dingy ride to their boat (John is flying to Houston for a visit, and offered to carry some mail with him. A huge favor, as getting things in and out of Mexico can take weeks!). We spent some time visiting with them, and then made the quick walk back to Marina Paraiso where we’d left our dingy.

We had a low key Valentine’s Day and spent the afternoon  on the Aluminum Princess, taking her out for an extended ride versus the usual back and forth to various local docks. There is a cut that leads to the western shore of the island, facing Cancun. The shoreline is dotted with homes, hotels and villas. Some are pretty impressive.

From there, we came back through the cut and headed to the north end of the island, passing by the crowded beaches of playa centro (central beach).

As we rounded the end of the island, passing by playa norte (north beach), the water turned a beautiful blue, from the more shallow depths and sandy bottom.

Monday’s adventure was by bike, circumnavigating the southern end of the island. We stopped at The Joint, which had been recommended to us more than once. As we approached I noticed this sign…with this sticker, which you Baltimore people will appreciate!

The Joint has a neat atmosphere, and the food was really good. Unfortunately, the prices were much higher than at other restaurants in the area, so with our budget this would be a one time visit.

Having had a rest, and renewed energy from food and drink, we continued on, rounding the southern end of the island and pedaling along the more rough and rocky eastern coast.

We stopped again at Villa Bella, for some cervezas at the swing bar. The couple next to us  were visiting from Texas (apologies for not remembering their names…I knew I should have written them down!).

We had a great time talking with them, before continuing on to the grocery store and then back to the boat. It was nice to go ashore for the day and move our legs a bit!

This morning  we had extensive rain…like rainy season rain, which was of course not in the forecast! We took full advantage, filling the water tanks. It rained a bit yesterday, which helped to wash a lot of the salt and such off of the boat, so today we could collect free rainwater. Scott sets up filters at the tank openings, and we just wait for them to fill…quickly in this case. Once the tanks were full, he pumped water up to the flybridge through our hose and filled the jerry jugs as well. We’re now full to the brim, saving us both generator and water maker run time…woohoo!

So that’s the last week in a nutshell. We plan to attend a craft fair today, and will do a bus trip to Chichen Itza on Friday…road trip!

Here are a few more photos from this past week.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

Our Days In Isla Mujeres

Catching you up on the last week at anchor here in Isla…

We started our week with, what else, A COLD FRONT! These are getting SO old! This particular one was going to come from the northwest. We were facing southeast with zero wind, and then like a light switch the winds shifted 180 degrees and came from the northwest at 30+ knots. Of course, it happened at night, when it’s more challenging to keep an eye on your location, and that of others around you.

Scott had been nervous about this front for two reasons. First, we’d heard that the anchor holding here was bad, and that boats regularly drag. Second, strong wind swinging you 180 degrees tends to dislodge an anchor. As the front slammed  into the anchorage, our iPad app that we use to track the anchor showed that it was skipping a bit. My stomach sunk at the thought of having to pull up and re-anchor in the dark with 30 knot winds. Scott decided to wait, and see if it continued. The Hulk skipped about 50 feet and then had enough, and dug in hard.

We stayed up until 1am, making sure that the Hulk was happy, and that others in the anchorage were safe and secured. Scott got some brief sleep in the pilot house until daylight. After listening to the cruiser’s net (no way I could sleep through that!), we crawled back into bed to catch up a bit. Since then, the week has been full of fronts coming through, bringing moderate winds and chop to the anchorage. Life as usual this winter!

Speaking of chop, as I mentioned before, we are anchored alongside the I-95 for tour, fishing and charter boats. All sizes pass by us, usually at higher speeds than they should. For the most part, it’s tolerable, but some of them really give us a roll.

What is amazing and entertaining is the amount of catamaran party boats that pass us, and how full they are! They are stuffed with people, so full that they are sitting on the roof and hanging over the sides.

It’s fun to watch the passengers as the catamarans go by, to see who’s already feeling the effects of the rum punch…we’ve seem some entertaining dancers! The music is also interesting. Loud, dance club-type music..all the time. We can hear them coming way before they pass by. Scott likes to say that it’s always 3am  here!

So the last week has been spent exploring the island, visiting  local restaurants and meeting some new people. We’ve found that that things are pretty darned cheap when you use pesos, while using the US dollar doesn’t get you the best price (up to 20% more than using pesos!), so we quickly made a stop at the money exchange store in town, and are now spending like locals!

We have left our bikes at Marina Paraiso, and when we dingy to the southern end of the island, they are there for us to go to the big grocery store, or to just ride the island. When heading to the downtown area, there is a dock next to one of the commercial fishing piers that cruisers can tie to. We have become pretty familiar with the downtown area, and are taking more time to explore the southern part of the island lately.

The town celebrated carnival, in the days leading up to lent. Scott and I went to shore on Sunday afternoon, to watch one of the parades. The costumes and dancing were pretty neat.

But what was more entertaining was the overall organized chaos of the whole thing. Beer was an integral part, with participants drinking it before, during and after the parade, usually while catching a ride to or from their place with a group. (Notice the beer in her hand)

Support beer cart..

We watched an entire fleet of dressed dancers on scooters ride up into the parade, get dropped off to dance and then picked back up and whisked away. Strange.

There was never an official “start” to the parade, with huge gaps between floats and dancers (luckily, that gave us plenty of time to run across the street for 2.00 beers, or next door to the ferry terminal for their restrooms). Outnumbering the parade’s numerous performers and participants, where the many, many “support” vehicles and people walking alongside on the sidewalk. We guessed that the people walking alongside must be parents…all of the parents, by their numbers. The support vehicles carried giant speakers blaring music at deafening levels and much, much beer. After awhile, the parade was randomly diverted by police onto a different street. I guess they’d used up the allotted time??

We decided it was a good time to head back to the dingy, as we’d been invited to meet other cruisers to watch some of the Superbowl at a nearby bar. The winds kicked up quite a bit while we were there, dropping the temperatures. Scott got downright cold, wishing he’d worn his foul weather coat to block the winds rushing into the open bar. As his shivering got worse, we called it a night and headed back to the boat, timing our climb back on board in between waves.

On Monday, Scott and I biked some of the southern end of the island. We had lunch at Oscar’s, where  cruisers in the area meet for Pizza Friday. Since we plan to do that this week, I enjoyed shrimp for lunch.

Afterward, we made our way to the eastern side of the island. While enjoying views of the coastline, I noticed Villa Bella. It appeared that there was a bar, and it was public, so of course we went to investigate.

our village

The small property is beautiful and relaxing (no one under 18, and no groups of people over four in number), with many “island” details.

They have a Cadillac margarita, that contains two shots of aged tequila, a shot of Cointreau, fresh squeezed lime and a shot of Grand Marnier on the side; there is a limit of two per person. Although Scott was very tempted, we opted for the regular margaritas, going easy on both the wallet and our livers. The drinks came in neat coconut glasses, and Scott soaked up some warmth from the full sun, as we’re still waiting for it to act like winter here in Mexico!

Oh, on a happy, happy note, we have solved our washer problem! Scott finally heard back from technical support. Based on the email, he was able to figure out that our washer doesn’t like Mexican electricity(??). If we run the washer on our inverter it works like a charm, go figure! So no more bucket washing for me, and we save many dollars not having to order a control panel! We just have to time washing on sunnier days, to take advantage of power from the solar panels…fair enough!

So life here at anchor is rolling…literally. Here are some photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Key West Favorites

During our stay in Key West, we called the Key West Bight Marina home. The historic harbor here is lined with restaurants and bars that offer great views of the many charter boats, catamarans and schooners and their constant comings and goings.

Just a few blocks off of the bustle of Duval Street, the harbor walk area feels completely different than being along the “main drag.” Sadly, most visitors don’t venture off of Duval. Don’t get me wrong, it offers plenty of fun bars and restaurants to spend time in, and there are days and days of stores for browsing and shopping. However, it’s definitely worth a turn to the right or left. If you have time and spare cash, rent a bike or scooter and explore the many quiet side streets and lanes. There are endless houses to catch your eye, and places to eat and drink in, or tour along the way.

We visited some of our regular spots, and found several new ones. I thought I’d share some of our favorites places to eat and visit.

Happy Hour:

2 Cents Pub:

2 Cents Restaurant & Pub - Key West, FL, United States

 

A relatively new place just off of Duval, and new for us as well. They offer endless bacon during happy hour!

2 Cents Restaurant & Pub - Key West, FL, United States. Free bacon at happy hour?! Yes please

We thoroughly tested this..we kept eating, and it kept coming! You roll dice to determine you drink price: 1 = 1.00. 2 = 2.00, 3 = half price and 4, 5 or 6 = full price. This is good toward any drink or cocktail in the place. We made out pretty well. Our 1.00s balanced out our 4s and such, averaging out to half price drinks and fun along the way. They also offer happy hour snacks.

Half Shell Raw Bar:

Half Shell Raw Bar - Key West, FL, United States. Outside & Eat It Raw Sign

Half Shell Raw Bar - Key West, FL, United States. From The Marina

Located at the far end of the harbor walk, they offer happy hour seven days a week, which is a plus! All types and brands of beer are half price, as are rail drinks, house wines and bar food. It’s a popular spot with locals, so go early for a seat at the bar.

Conch Republic Seafood Company:

Conch Republic Seafood Company - Key West, FL, United States

Along the harbor walk, they offer 2 for 1 beer and rail drinks. Meaning, if you buy one, you have a second one coming for free. You cannot share your free one with a friend, so you’re on your own for both. Outside of happy hour, they make great mojitos! Sadly, I have not been the happiest with their food, so we usually choose to stick to drinks here.

The Lazy Gecko:

Just down from Sloppy Joe’s, they have offer a longer happy hour, from 4-8pm. 2 for 1 beer and rail drinks. They also offer specials each day, and Scott and I are especially fond of Taco Tuesday…cheap tacos and 5.00 margaritas! The music during happy hour is always good, too.

The Smokin’ Tuna:

Another new one for us. Cocktails are 5.00, and they’re not limited to rail (which makes Scott happy!). They don’t skimp on alcohol in their drink.. and, they have COKE!! This is something that very important to Scott. He’s a not a Pepsi person, and we have discovered that Key West is a very, very Pepsi town (apparently, the Coke supplier isn’t reliable, which cannot be profitable for them here). Beer is half price. Happy hour munchies and music are pretty good.

The Boathouse:

Boathouse Bar & Grill - Key West, FL, United States. Love all the flags!

The Boathouse has been around for years, but we just heard of the great happy hour. It took some trying to find the darned place! Located under the Commodore Restaurant, along the harbor walk, it has no outside sign.  As you might imagine, it’s another locals favorite.  All beer and rail drinks half price. The half price food menu is great! We also met some new friends here. Locals by way of Baltimore!

Food and Drink:

Cuban Coffee Queen:

Cuban Coffee Queen - Key West, FL, United States. This place is small but packs a punch awesome pressed breakfast sandwichs on Cuban bread and of course amazing coffee!!!

Scott and I aren’t coffee drinkers, but we found this little place behind the harbor walk, and went there often for their sandwiches and smoothies. However, all of our visitors LOVED their coffee! Our friend Ted even threw away a cup  that he’d purchased somewhere else, and headed back to the Queen for theirs. Go early, or be prepared to be patient. This place is popular, but worth it.

McConnell’s Irish Pub:

 

We watched the Christmas parade from their elevated patio, and loved the Irish nachos! A yummy plate of crispy, homemade potato chips, topped with either chicken or corned beef (who wouldn’t choose corned beef?!?!??) topped with cheese, tomatoes, etc. We dreamed of eating them again, but sadly never had time to go back.

Willy T’s:

Willie T's - Key West, FL, United States. Lotta dollar bills hanging on the ceiling, and other parts of the building.

Easy to spot along Duval, as it is covered in 1.00 bills..covered. We have never eaten here, but love their mojitos. The list of flavors is extensive, and all that we tried were good. Their music is always entertaining….not always the best, but definitely entertaining!

Key West Bait & Tackle:

Our beloved tackle shop! Tucked in near the Half Shell Raw Bar, they have a small indoor and outdoor bar, with friendly people and cheap, cold beer. We made many many stop-ins, on our way out for the night, after running errands or just because.

Onlywood:

Onlywood Pizzeria Trattoria - Key West, FL, United States

The owner was raised in Napoli, Italy. The atmosphere is great. It’s intimate both inside and on the outside patio, but still great for a group of friends to gather and eat. We had pizza all three times that we visited here, and it was great. The pasta dishes looked terrific, but we never had a chance to go back and try them. They only offer beer and wine.

Paradise Pizza:

Paradise Pizza - Key West, FL, United States. Best Pizzeria in the FL Keys !!!

Sadly, Scott and I discovered this place on our last night in town. Located just off of Duval Street, and on our way back to the boat, they have awesome New York-style pizza…and, they’re open daily until 4am!

Santiago’s Bodega:

Santiago's Bodega - Key West, FL, United States

This off-the-beaten-path place came very highly recommended from our slip neighbor, Alex, and it did not disappoint! We went for a holiday dinner, and had a great meal. Their menu is made up of tapas, or small plates that your share. A wonderful change from fish sandwiches and pizza!

B.O.s Fish Wagon:

B O's Fish Wagon - Key West, FL, United States

B O's Fish Wagon - Key West, FL, United States

Probably in the top five for atmosphere, B.O.s is terrific! It looks like a shell of a place, until you look closer and see that it’s a quirky, cool location for the freshest fish! It ain’t the cheapest, but it’s well worth the dollars! They have live music on Thursday evenings (I was surprised to see that they could fit three people and instruments in there!), and half price beer every day at happy hour….GO!

Schooner Wharf Bar:

This place wins hands down for old-school Key West character. It sits along the harbor walk and is somewhat hard to spot. The bar and surrounding tables are almost completely covered with umbrellas and canvass, shielding patrons from the hot keys sun. If you feel like some vitamin D, or want to get a better night view of the harbor area, they have a rooftop deck as well. There is live music everyday that usually starts around noon, and you can hear all types of musicians and bands. We have come to love Michael McCloud’s mellow sound and quick, dry whit. The happy hour isn’t great, and their food isn’t stellar, but the atmosphere more than makes up for it. YOu can’t walk by and not want to go in. Seriously, this place is great. If you don’t go, you can’t say you’ve been to Key West.

Places to visit:

Truman’s Little White House:

Harry S Truman Little White House Museum - Key West, FL, United States

Most people are familiar with, and visit the Hemmingway Museum, and it is definitely a must-see. However, far less know about the Little White House. It’s located in a neighborhood blocks off of Duval, where you would never expect to find such a place. I toured it for the first time with my friend, Karen. We would both highly recommend it! If you missed my post about it, you can read it here.

Smather’s Beach:

Smathers Beach - Key West, FL, United States

Most everyone who comes to Key West is told about the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. In my humble opinion, Key West isn’t a “beach” town. Yes, it’s an island, but I feel that what makes the town special are it’s many neat restaurants, bars and houses. However, if I get the urge for beach time when I’m in town, I head for Smather’s Beach. The largest public beach in Key West, it’s sandy, versus Ft. Zachary’s rocky shoreline, and there is no admission fee. There are also several food trucks to grab a bite or a drink while you’re there, and chair, floats, kyaks and hobie cats are available for rent.

Turtle Races at Turtle Krawls Restaurant:

Turtle Kraals - Key West, FL, United States. Turtles!!

Turtle Kraals - Key West, FL, United States

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Turtle Krawls holds turtle races. You get a ticket with a food or drink purchase, and those with the winning turtle ticket get a chance to open a chest full of cash. An original and fun idea. If you haven’t already, read my post about it here.

Sunset at Mallory Square:

Mallory Square - Key West, FL, United States

Mallory Square - Key West, FL, United States. Unadulterated sunset beauty

Although this is something that attracts many many people, it’s still a must do. Head to the water’s edge at Mallory Square and check out the many performers. They all have a crazy talent, and are very entertaining. There are also many food and craft vendors. The edge of the pier attracts quite a crowd as sunset nears, so go early if you want a front row seat. I suggest you go a second time, to just wander the scene.

There you have it, just some of our favorite haunts and sights!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”