Cozumel, Mexico - January 2010

[Note: most of the pictures are Barb's; the underwater pics are from Katie; John contributed the "band on the ferry" picture.]
Coral PrincessThursday, Jan 7.  Winter in the midwest has been very, very cold with loads of snow, so it didn't really surprise us that the weather in northern Mexico was cooler, too. That's one of the trade-offs of going to places in the Caribbean area (for the best snorkeling) rather than on the Pacific coast (for better weather).  But it was still rewarding in many ways - after all, 60o is still way better than -20o!

This trip started off differently with a cab pick up at 8 AM (instead of 0-dark-30 when we usually have to leave).  It was snowing and VERY cold; took about half an hour or so to get to the airport and another half hour to check in and get through kitchensecurity but we still had time to have breakfast, walk around, refill our water bottles, etc.  The plane left about 45 min late due to weather and de-icing but made up most of it and we arrived about 2:30; customs was easy peasy. After dodging the time share people (that was worse than we remembered from previous trips) we got the van to the Coral Princess, a couple of miles north of the town square.

 The staff was efficient, very nice and we had a GREAT suite - actually it was connecting rooms: one with a kitchenette (left), living room, bath and a king bedroom; the other with double beds (Katie and Gail) and a separate bath.  With the connecting door open it made it a nice 2-bedroom suite.  There were 3 balconies (each bedroom and the living room), from the 8th floor we had nice views.  We used the stairs a lot but there were 2 elevators and we never had to wait more than few seconds for one.  

Barb and John on beachpalms on deckI knew from the weather reports that  we were in for a dreary week so, taking advantage of the remaining sun, I didn't even unpack, just grabbed swim suit and sunscreen and headed down to the "beach."  It's not a real beach - any original beaches having been destroyed by hurricanes in years past - but there is a nice sandy sun deck, several pools, a beach bar, lots of lounges, palapas and umbrellas and it FEELS like a beach.  Notice the palm trees (above) and the nice beach loungers!  There are a couple of stairways leading down to the water level for swimming or snorkeling. 

first night sunsetship in sunWe only had about an hour before the sun started down but it was delightful.  I took pictures (including the "dreaded" cruise ships on the right - I liked the sun rays), watched the lovely sunset (left), had a shower (good hot water and high pressure) then went to dinner downstairs.  Food there at the hotel was okay, not great.  I had fajitas and others had combinations of salads, fish, soup.  Cost for dinner was 700 pesos before tip for the 4 of us which was not bad.  And after the long day of travel we were not up to hiking into town or exploring yet.   The exchange rate is very favorable right now - almost 13 pesos to the dollar!  We spent most of our leftover pesos on supper and will hit the ATMs tomorrow.  Tired tired tired.

Friday January 8 

Deck early in the morningJohn on balconyThe beds here are quite comfy - not the "hard mattress on a concrete slab" we've encountered in other places. These were REAL beds.  The  AC units in the kitchen and each bedroom are nicely adjustable.  We have free breakfasts which will be delightful for all except John.  We get the "American breakfast" that includes tea/coffee, eggs (cooked however you want), bacon or sausage, hash browns and fruit plate or juice.  John doesn't eat eggs. frown  They don't allow substitutions, but there are some other options on the menu (yogurt, pancakes, etc.) that can be ordered and we just pay the difference.  On the left is John on the balcony and to the right is our view from said balcony of the pools and sundeck early in the morning before people are up and about.

along the malecontown squareThis morning we walked into town (it's about 2 miles but a nice walk along the well-kept malecon - left), visited one of the ATMs on the square (picture on right) and then walked down to the MEGA - a new (well, since we were there last) grocery store a block or so north of the Chedraui.  It seems there is quite a competition between the two.  From what I could see, they carry most of the same things and there were signs on many items comparing prices!  We stocked up on groceries and water then grabbed a cab back ($6 US - definitely worth it), had lunch and hit the beach.

 John and Katie snorkeled and Katie tried out her new underwater camera - she got some awesome pictures.  I have stolen some to share!  They saw parrot fish, sergeant majors, blue tangs, ocean surgeonfish (left), french angelfish (right), and lots of anemones, urchins (center) and other interesting sealife.   Gail took a quick swim dip but I just soaked up sun.  Until it went away!

  ocean surgeon fish coral and urchins french angel fish  

partly cloudyThis afternoon it clouded over and we even heard some thunder.  To the right is a picture looking south from the sun deck - I decided this is what they meant by "partly cloudy!"  We've had 2 sunny days so far, which was all we expected from the weather reports before we left.  From here on out any good weather is a bonus!

We decided this morning that it's not worth going into town until the late afternoon/ evening after the cruise ships leave!  There is only one ship in on Sunday but many of the stores are closed Sunday, too!  It is really sad how crowded it is and how 10-20,000 people a day can affect the town.  

John's dinnerJohn cooked tonight - he's not sure what kind of fish it was (a language issue!) but he garnished it with a great sauce and added fried plantains and an orzo mix.  It was quite yummy and it looks very Caribbean doesn't it?   We played banagrams for a while, then read and off to bed. 

Saturday January 9  -

Today is the windy, cold, wet day that was predicted.  It's VERY windy - see the pictures below.  Just minor rain but it gets blown around quite a bit.  The red flag is up (dangerous waters), dives are canceled so we're just staying in and reading.   Katie brought her small Lenovo computer so we take turns going down to the lobby or game room to use the WiFi, check email and play on Facebook.

stormy waves  too rough to snorkel  very windy

Late in the afternoon, I got very sick.  I suppose if one is going to be sick on vacation, the cold, wet, windy day is a good one to lose.  But I was very annoyed because I was so careful about water and everything I ate.  In hindsight, I wonder if it was something I picked up before we left and brought with me, because various other family members, friends and colleagues have also been sick lately.  Wherever it came from, I was violently ill for about 12 hours.  Not fun at all.   Katie made pesto pasta for supper but I didn't eat any or take its picture - in fact just smelling it made me more violently sick. sick  It was a very good thing that we had two bathrooms!

Sunday January 10 -

air force baseI woke up early this morning in somewhat better condition.  No speedy bathroom trips!  For breakfast I just had sips of water and half a banana;  they stayed down okay which I found very promising.

shore viewAn indicator of how much better I felt is that I was up for a walk downtown.  It's still very windy but not so threatening.  We took more time along the way to visit and take pictures of various monuments and the windy sea on the way down.  The plane to the right is one of several at the entrance of the Mexican air force base on Cozumel.   To the left is just a view of the shore that I liked because of the classic tropical setting!  Below are the marina, the lighthouse at the marina and the Jean Lafitte.

marina  lighthouse at marina  pirate ship

Some of the monuments that have been erected along the malecon are pictured below: Monument of Two Cultures (also known as the Mestizo monument) on the left, John and Katie posing with Gonzalo Guerrero, a sailor, and Fray Jerónimo de Aguilar, a Catholic priest, who were shipwrecked on the Yucatan coast in 1511 and are the first known Spaniards in Mexico; and John with the carnavaleros (participants in Carnival celebration).   Below those are just some other sights from the walk - flowers (hibiscus and trumpet creeper) and a view of the shore (notice wind and waves).

   monument of two worlds  John and Katie  John with carnivaleros  
  hibiscus  along the shore  trumpet creeper
After we shopped a bit at Los Cincos Soles,  I chose to walk back to the hotel for my chicken broth and cracker lunch;  Katie and Gail went to the Mega again and brought back lots of water; John got away from the "tourist" part of town and had a great time eating lunch in several of the taquerias back in the "real" town.

egretWe haven't seen too many birds this year - a couple of solitary frigate birds soaring around, some pelicans by the pier (below right), an egret (left) and a couple of smaller birds.  I don't know what they are - pretty, tiny, sparrow-like birds with yellow chests and long beaks.pelican

I wasn't up to real food yet so we didn't have a group dinner tonight.  Katie and Gail had some leftovers and snacks; John went down to the restaurant for a meal and I just had more chicken broth and crackers.

Monday January 11 -

Latin-Gaferry pierJohn went over to Playa Del Carmen, across the bay, today.  The water appeared somewhat less choppy (left) so it seemed a better day for the ferry (at least dosed with bonine).  They have fancied up the pier with a nice swallow sculpture at its entrance (right).  (Cozumel means "island of swallows in Mayan.)  Something else new was that, in both directions, a local band - Latin-Ga - provided entertainment (picture below left!   Being a musician himself, John always enjoys watching others perform.  And the music was good enough that he even bought one of their (homemade) CD's.

moderate wavesJohn had a good time in Playa del Carmen (seen from the island in the picture to the right), though his mission to deliver the "crystal ball" was a failure.  Playa del Carmen across bayA friend of ours had lived and worked in PDC for several months; when he went back to the US he promised a young Mexican friend (Angel) he would bring a special lucite ball (for doing tricks with) when he came back.  For various reasons, he hadn't gotten back to Mexico yet so asked John if he'd try to deliver the ball for him.  He found the place where Angel's father's shop had been but apparently he had sold it about 6 months ago and was now a cab driver.  The locals laughed when John asked if he could find him - apparently there are over 800 cabs in PDC.  They assured him that it was impossible. 
But he walked on further away from the water,  out of the tourist zone, and enjoyed eating with the local folks at a taqueria; then he went back into tourist mode, visiting the Chocolate Cafe and the Hagen Daz store! 

Barb on beachSunday night sunsetI continue to do well eating bananas and I had tuna salad on a tortilla for lunch.  It was still cool (around 65o F) and rather windy but sunny and quite pleasant to sit out on the beach!   Katie caught me lying there reading (left) before she and Gail ventured down to join me.  We also discovered that the internet reaches out to the beach, too. Awesome.   I made chicken pasta salad for supper and even ate a tiny portion of it.    And we end the evening with the mandatory sunset picture.  

Tues Jan 12-

This was a nicer day weather-wise.  I was down on the sundeck right after my banana breakfast, getting in lots of reading and sunshine.  Yay!  I had more tuna and tortilla for lunch and also made some smoothie (with pineapple, yogurt, banana) to sip on.

Gail enjoying sunGail went into town to get postcards and stamps.  The yellow flag was back up today (as opposed to the red one) and several people ventured into the water.  John snorkeled in the morning; Katie in afternoon (when it had gotten much rougher).  I did the spotting for both and took lots of wave pictures.  Apparently once they got away from the shore, it wasn't too rough and Katie got lots more great pictures.    John saw a Caribbean reef squid (Katie took its picture the next day).  

Pictured below are John snorkeling, Katie preparing to plunge and then snorkeling among the rocks.
  John snorkelingKatie prepares to plunge  katie snorkeling 

For supper we walked about a mile north to La Cabana del Pescador - across street from Playa Azul.  That would be roughly 3 miles north from the square.   (No credit cards but they are happy to take either pesos or dollars.)  In spite of the fact that their specialty is lobster, John had red snapper, Katie had grilled shrimp, Gail had fried shrimp. And they very kindly brought me a plate of herbed rice when I explained that I hadn't been well and needed something bland!  Then we had 2 servings of key lime pie to share and all agreed it was totally awesome.   This is not just a "slice" of pie but each was its own little tart,  actually a pretty BIG tart.  Total 940 pesos (72 USD) before tip.  

 Wednesday January 13 -

It's sunny this morning!  I spent most of the day on the beach.  Katie enjoyed being able to play on Facebook AND sit in the sun (left).  Katie, John and Gail all went snorkeling and saw amazing things.  The water was much less rough; the air temperature was still cool but in the sun it was very pleasant.  In the center below Gail prepares to plunge and then on the right heads out to find the fish!

enjoying the last full day   Gail ready   Gail snorkel

Some more highlights of snorkeling:

green moray eel  puddingwife  Caribbean reef squid
              Green Moray Eel                                       Puddingwife  Wrasse                                Caribbean Reef Squid

rock beauty  sharp tailed eel  smooth trunkfish
            Rock Beauty Angelfish                                   Sharptail Eel                                    Smooth Trunkfish

ship at sunsetship at nightAfter our last sunset (sigh), we walked down to the square for supper - on the way we passed this cruise ship leaving - they are rather pretty at night.  We actually we went to Kinta which is a couple blocks off of the square.  We were familiar with the chef and owner, Kris, who previously worked at Guido's - he said he has had Kinta for about two and a half years now.  It was on the expensive end for our budget but the food was very good and a nice treat for the last night.  I had an avocado and shrimp salad.  John had the signature black bean soup which he raved about, then red snapper in some sort of cream sauce.  The limomenta (limonada with mint) was so good that everybody had at least one refill.  I think we ended up spending more on the drinks than we did on the food!
salad   limomenta   snapper

Thursday January 14 -

Homeward bound. sad   John and Katie got in an early snorkel since we didn't have to check out until noon.  I sat out on the deck for a while but there wasn't any sun so in a way that was good - it made me feel better about leaving!  I know the weather got much nicer after we left, but that's okay.  We had a good time, relaxed, and it was definitely warmer than we would have been at home!

last sunset