Magi Azul - Caribe Beach House

Enjoy my family's adventure living on a Caribbean island as they build a boutique vacation beach house. Get a peek at island living and join me in some mischievous musings!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Is There Anything To Do?

Whenever you say you live on an island people always have visions of a chapter from Robinson Crusoe. Then they ask me if there's anything to do?  I want to say, "No, I just sit around and talk to a soccer ball named Wilson." If you are reading this blog and you have never been to Isla Mujeres, let me allay your fears.  Isla Mujeres is not a deserted island with only a few shrimp shacks to eat at. It is a vibrant, culturally rich island alive with activity and things to do. Its cobblestone streets are lined with shops, restaurants and live performers. We have a Yacht club, assorted large hotels, countless shops, an underwater national park, and one of the top 10 beaches in the world!

We also have a turtle sanctuary, Dolphin Discovery, some of the best deep sea fishing in the world and the big draw in the summer are the whale sharks.  No where in the world can they be seen in as dense a concentration as in this area.

        Let's get back to shrimp shacks. There are myriads of dining experiences to choose from on the island. You can have a private French dining experience with Lolo Lorena,  Lebanese Food at Olivia's, Italian at Mama Rosa, pizza at Rolandi's, a great burger at Jack's, and some crunchy fish and chips at BoBo's. Theres Thai food, Mexican food, and French crepes at Cafe Hidalago. For dessert the most authentic Italian gelato you have ever put in your mouth is at Gelateria Monte Bianco. The owner, Stephano, will welcome you with a big smile and a thick Italian accent. They also have a wonderful espresso with a velvet smooth chrema that blankets the top. Ok, I'm going on too much about Monte Bianco - but it's so good!
How about festivals? On Isla Mujeres there is always something to
celebrate. In the spring is Carnival, there are Cuban Music
Festivals, sometimes a Lucha Libre Tournament, The Regata del Sol Race, Deep Sea Fishing tournaments, The Festival of the Caribbean, the Whale Shark Festival, the Isla Mujeres Artist Fair, and other assorted fiestas I can't think of off the top of my head.
So as you can see, you're not in danger of dying of boredom while visiting the island. At the same time, since the island is only 5 miles long by 1/2 a mile wide and too small to be taken over by large resorts, it still retains it's island charm. A sailor once told me he liked the island because, "it still had a soul," and I have to agree.  There is just enough grit and garish to make it a genuine Mexican island. So relax -- if you get tired of soaking up the sun on a white sand beach,  reading to your heart's content under a palm tree, floating in the turquoise Caribbean till your skin shrivels and doing all those things you are supposed to do on an island, there will still be something new for you on Isla. And if you still get bored, don't worry - there's plenty of soccer balls here too.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Marvels of the Deep

As whale shark season is approaching, it it time for me to do my annual repost of this article. Every year when these giants visit the waters off Isla Mujeres, we always go out to marvel at these beautiful creatures. It is an experience not to be missed. 

  I've had a pretty adventurous life so far. A few of my excursions have included:  whitewater rafting down the Snake River in Idaho, riding in a camel caravan in India, and tromping through the jungles of Indonesia on the back of an elephant. But of all the adventures I have experienced, I consider swimming with the whale sharks off the coast of  Isla Mujeres as the greatest wonder of all.  I can hardly believe it is possible for the general public to be able to take a boat ride out to sea and swim  in the wild with these gentle giants. During the months of June through September the whale sharks migrate through the area in swarms that the locals call afuera following plankton blooms created by the joining of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.  This migratory path was only discovered about 6 years ago by  local fishermen.  Nowhere else in the world do whale sharks gather in such numbers.  In the summer of 2009, 420 whale sharks comprised the largest number of whale sharks observed in a single aerial survey.   

It is not uncommon for me to hear of friends swimming with several hundred whale sharks.  Giant manta rays measuring about 10 ft. across follow the same plankton blooms and are often seen with whale sharks.  Since both are filter feeders they share the same migratory paths. The primary reaction to experiencing these mammoths of the deep is heart pounding awe.  Spanning up to 40 feet and weighing on average 36 tons these pescados are the world's largest fish species. There are unconfirmed reports of much larger specimens of 59 feet all the way up to 75 feet, but since they are aren't documented they are relegated to remaining fish stories for the time being. Despite their enormous size, these sharks pose no threat to humans.  They are very docile and seem undisturbed by any contact with people. Licensed tours do follow special rules to protect the whale sharks from harassment from over-exuberant tourists.  They are asked not to touch the whale sharks and boats are instructed to stay 10 meters from the whale sharks.  The later rule is a little hard to enforce since often the sharks swim right up to the boat as if to take a look at you.

These majestic sea creatures are still relative mysteries to the scientific world.  Their lives span between 70 to 100 years most of which is spent out of sight.  Capable of diving up to a mile and a half down into the ocean depths and migrating thousands of miles at a time these marine marvels still hold many secrets yet to be discovered.   Yet for ages the world over the whale shark has been revered and respected. To the Vietnamese he is known as a deity called Ca Ong  translated  "Sir Fish."  To much of Mexico and Latin America he is Pez Dama or Domini, because of the spots on his back.  In Africa he is Papa Shillingi.  To the peoples of Madagascar, he is called Marokintana meaning "many stars."  To me, he is  Magi - a wise king  wandering the deep.  Now is the time to see these wonders of the water while it is still possible to interact with these giants in such a personal, and profound encounter.  Feel the current of the water as they swim next to you, look them in the eye and feel the rush of a lifetime.  Visit Isla Mujeres now and experience the marvel of the Magi!  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Glory of the Tortilla

Right now I'm having anticipatory flash backs of standing at the counter of La Gloria Tortilleria, listening to the hum of the conveyor belts carrying golden disks of corn into the waiting warm ovens. The smiling senora behind the counter (whose name is unfortunately not flashing back) gives me a smile along with a stack of steaming tortillas.  She quickly wraps them in brown paper and takes my 10 pesos in her plastic-gloved hand.  I wrap my new treasure in my tortilla towel and stop to get my roasted chicken from Fannie right next door.  She takes a hot chicken covered is achiote seasoning and cuts it into pieces with her scissors.  I always marvel how her little hands have the strength to cut through those chickens and their bones like she's cutting construction paper.  After exchanging happy "Como estas?" Fannie  also bags rice, beans, slaw and some hot sauce with my charcoal roasted chicken. She knows I prefer an extra bag of rice instead of the spaghetti they usually put in the bag and makes the substitution without me having to ask.  That is what I call service!  All I need next is an avocado from the little Mayan lady across the street. Now this is one stop shopping Mexico style.
I can hardly wait the 10 more days I have left to return to shopping Mexico style.  It has it's pros and cons.

 But right now all I can seem to think about are the charms of buying venduras (vegetables) from Jelmy, who always makes sure I pick good pieces  and tucks a gift of some kind of fruit in my bag. Or Raphael a couple stalls away who always has the best selection of produce in the mercado.  Oh and how could I forget the fresh squeezed orange juice from Martivino. Grocery shopping in Mexico is an emotional experience of  textures, tastes, smells (some not so good) and smiles. It somehow makes pushing a cart at Super Walmart seem so hollow and mundane. Sometimes less is truely more.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What to Do When It's Raining on Isla Mujeres

I just saw this title on a video and I clicked it thinking, " Oh what a great subject." Well it was just a video of a deary rain storm on Isla Mujeres with no suggestions of what to do. I was so disappointed.  Ironically, I had just received an e-mail from a client asking me if there was anything I could do about the rain. Well, I may not be able to chase those rain clouds away; but I can give my suggestions of things to do on a wet and windy day. Here is a list of my favorite tried and true diversions.

1. Read - read -read! Pour a steaming cup of cafe and curl up on the double chaise sofa.  If you didn't bring a book we have some in the writing loft. We have:  A Thousand  Splendid Suns, Kite Runner or The Alchemist and many others.

2. Gin and Chocolate!  I have fond memories of my husband and I playing Gin (the card game) on our bed.while devouring a whole canister of tequila filled Turin chocolates. Of course I always won. Or at least that's how I remember it!

3. Great Excuse for a Candle Light Dinner! We have a professional commercial stove. Crank up your burners and get your iron chef on! (Candles are in the buffet in the living room.)

4. Bubble Bath Time - When it is cold and damp on the island a steaming bubble bath is a luxury you can take time to enjoy. Our jetted tub comes with a great view of the crashing waves. Pour a glass of wine and sit back and soak. Aaaah.

5. Get a taxi and go to Mi Secreto Salon and have a Coffee Mint Pedicure!  Seated on silk pillows, you can sip a cappuccino or glass of wine while enjoying a little bit of pampering with a beautiful view of the Caribbean while you are getting your feet massaged and beautiful. (Do this even if it isn't raining!)

6. Snuggle and Watch a Movie - Break out the the microwave popcorn and watch a movie!

7. Have an in house massage!  Call Armin and he can arrange one.

8. I know this is pathetic, but break out your Ipad and have guilt free Pinterest time! What else do you have to do?

9. Watch another movie! I know, I know I'm  cheating.

10. Last but not least - "All You Need is Love."  I'll let you figure that one out.!

This list has actually inspired me to make a Rainy Day Kit for my guests at Magi Azull. Well that is my list of my top 10 things to do if it is raining on Isla Mujeres. If I missed one of yours, share them with me!.