Trip/Longer Term Stay Report
Posted 07 May 2012 - 04:34 PM
January - April, 2012
It had always been a dream of mine that the time would come where I could visit the island and stay longer term. I was finally in a position to do so, and after some searching and touring many places available for longer term rentals, I settled on a house very centrally located with a large pool. As others on this forum have rightly recommended, it really is a good idea to rent and experience the challenges, lifestyle, and costs before making the decision to purchase a property. I thought the 3 month time frame would be a good test and really provide me with a good point of reference to assist me in determining my next steps. I had been looking at homes for sale off and on for the past 3 or 4 years, but had felt they were all vastly overpriced, and while I am more than realistic about making some compromises, most needed at least some work and rennovation,(beyond just cosmetic) which also was an issue for me.I have been coming down to the island 2 - 3 times a year for the past 17 years for 2 or 3 weeks at a time, so renting longer term is a different experience.
I came to the conclusion that perhaps making the commitment on buying a home was not for me at this time. Renting helped me realize the constant maintenance that had to be done on a home and while the monthly rental in itself was not too unreasonable, the costs of everything else really added up - cable, phone, internet, pool and gardener, and of course the big one - electricity.This is on top of keeping my own principal residence. Luckily, I had done some research and received some very useful and helpful tips from my friends on the island - never once turned on the air,(which took a LOT of willpower), was able to have the time for the running of the pool pump reduced and had the hot water shut off. Thank you Charles for helping me out with the meter readings and explaining the mysteries.
It was so hot, that there was not a need for hot water for showers. I also realized that much as I love the island and feel blessed to have such good friends, I could not see myself living there year around. The time from during my stay (January - April) was much hotter than I anticipated and during my stay it only rained twice. I love the heat and sun, but even I found it to be a challenge a couple of times. Having said that, I loved being away for the winter and did not regret my decision to try out the longer term stay for one minute. The advantage to renting - you leave, you shut the door and that's it. No worries about being stuck with a home that may not sell down the road, or dealing with maintenance, repairs, hurricanes, etc. I am not ruling out buying outright - but I guess it has to be the right place for me, and I know many who have done just that and have no regrets.
The house I rented was in a very good location and extremely safe. Aided by the family who rented the house next door to me - heard 3 different versions of who they were - chief of police for state of Quintana Roo, head of security for Chetumal, attorney general - whatever, but there was security 24/7 guarding this family, so they hung out in front of my house a lot and I had absolutely no problems. They kept the area in front of the house along with the sidewalk passing my place spotless and I had no problems with kids ringing the bell and running away as has been the case at in the past. They seemed to be pleasant enough guys, but don't think I would want to cross them.
It is hard to break this down as a normal "trip report" but I will try and keep this as organized as possible, and hopefully, make it reasonably easy to read and follow.
I purchased a new bicycle at the bicycle place on 50 sur bis between 12 and 14th. The owner, Angel was wonderful and treated me well. I loved the ease of the new bike, and was out early every single morning. I also had a mirror installed on the left side which really came in useful. Now I could see the mopeds and taxis coming so I was prepared and ready for them to cut me off at corners and stop signs. The bike has a front basket and back carrier as well, which was great for when I was loaded down with stuff, and I had a couple of bungee cords so I was able to secure my packages, etc. I also had a bell attached and have detachable front and back lights. Always ensured I had an ample supply of drinking water and a good bicycle lock. I biked out to Playa Azul a couple of times, it is a 30 minute ride from Centro, but I did that earlier in my stay. I don't think I could have done that getting into later March and April as the weather was progressively becoming hotter. I did a lot of exploring of different areas and enjoyed watching the daily progress of Carey's garage from a shell to completion. She definitely had some good workers for this project.
I cooked a bit more than usual, but still went out a fair amount. Guess what I can do is break down some of the places I ate, with my impressions. Not all of you may agree, but these are my experiences and opinions:
Breakfast - Primas a few times, always consistently good and reasonable, with spectacular view
Rock'N'Java - Disappointing, a bit overpriced and poor service - had to ask for coffee at least 3 times
Miss Dollar - really good breakfast and reasonable (on 20th), very good coffee
Abuelo Gerrardo - on 10th - really good breakfast and reasonable (Eggs Gerrardo about 38 pesos)
El Torrito - 65 and 17th, really good and reasonable
Buccano's - lovely. Did not get charged a cover on any of my visits. Service sometimes a bit lacking and it wasn't that busy
Zermatt - coffee and integral biscuit - 15 pesos. Free refill on coffee
Guido's deli on 10th - lovely garden setting, but disappointing with service and portion sizes - not enough to eat!
Coffee - OXXO and Mega - both have good coffee for that morning "hit."
Museum - excellent coffee, nice breakfast and worth the view
Home - great bacon and eggs, both items purchased at Chedraui. Don't really eat bacon at home, but it is sure good in Cozumel
Lunch - Sabores - reasonable and good,really like the chil rellano
Popeye's - still very good shrimp cocktail
La Cocina Italiana (6th) - One of my favourites, ate there a few times, never disappointed. Also took their tiramisu out to try, and it was
excellent. (40 pesos). Wonderful pasta stuffed with pumpkin, or cheese canneloni. Cost for complete lunch ranged from about 65-85 pesos. A nice touch is the pitcher of ice tea with fresh mint or lemonada is included.
La Candela - good fixed priced lunches and daily specials, also serve the famous La Choza dip, very good pitcher of Jicama included.
Chen Rio - a bit pricey, but excellent shrimp cocktail and grilled fish
Can't remember the name, but on 20th sur near the church, same building as Fantasy Island tours/travel - fixed lunch prices for 50 pesos, owners name is Marlin, used to be a chef on cruise ship - very good, and one lunch is enough for 2 people, choice of 3 mains every day (Open Monday to Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Pick up only).
Playa Azul - not the best food, but OK, and worth it just for the beach and the music on Sunday afternoons. We stuck to the club house, burgers, etc. Between 70 - 85 pesos.
Rastas - Still great hamburgers for 5 dollars and a lovely ocean setting. Also great coconut shrimp for 160 pesos.
Punta Morena - a bit pricey, but we split a clubhouse and my friend had plan locale, and the beach is beautiful, so worth it.
Money Bar - food nothing special, but worth it for the snorkelling and beautiful surroundings and very clean washrooms and good rinse-off area.
Pascaderia San Carlos - ceviche - fresh and good
Tex Mex Grill on lower level of Mega - OK, but nothing stood out. My lunch was about 90 pesos. When I think of some of the other lunches that were priced similarly or less and their great food, (Cocina Italiana, Rastas, etc.) I don't see a need to return.
Roasted chicken - tried from a place on 65 at around 15 - very good, they had a special if you buy 2. Leftovers make a very good chicken salad. Rotisserie chicken at Chedraui also good deal for 59 pesos, but after the hot foods section being temporarily closed down, stopped buying them from Ched.
Dinner - Kinta - excellent (also tried a different salad - citrus with grapefruit and orange - light and very tasty)
El Moro - excellent - still the best grilled shrimp and shrimp on a wire, also make a good Sangria and Margarita
Le Chef - disappointing. Had a greek salad and it was warm and no greek olives and no feta cheese, also the pasta dish was a bit bland and was reheated in the microwave as the pasta was rubbery and hard on the ends.
La Terraces (former Primas - might have gotten the name wrong) - also disappointing. Service not great, had a lobster ravioli that was recommended and it was bland. The Caesar salad was OK, but nothing special. They did make a good Long Island Ice Tea.
El Torrito - very good for dinner as well - food is fresh, portions are generous
La Choza - consistent and reasonable, good place to take teenage boys who love to "dip"
Del Sur - excellent salad, empanadas a bit disappointing - skimpy on the fillings
HC Monterrey - there is a place to eat in, but they deliver, and the steak nacionale dish at 145 pesos is very good, comes with avocado and grilled hot pepper and baked potato.
El Pique and Mr. Taco - both very good and reasonable. Company raved about the taco el pastor at El Pique and they liked the vibe there.
Sonora Grill - Very good Mexican platter for dinner.
White fish (basa fillets?) purchased at Chedraui - very reasonable, excellent dipped in egg and crumbs and lightly sauteed and served with home made tarter sauce.
Shrimp - friend brought some from a fisherman and it was fantastic, just sauteed with butter and garlc and then a squeeze of lime - yum.
Lobster House - across from Playa Azul. It is very good and a wonderful setting. My friend knows the owner, so we get a nice discount. It is a bit pricey, but the lobster is wonderful and everything is beautifully prepared with excellent service. Lobster dinner for 2 including wine and a couple of cocktails worked out to about 85 dollars, and well worth it.
Best bakery treats (other than Linda Staton's) - not a big fan of Ched's or Mega for baking, but Mega has good bagels and multi-grain bread from the Great Canadian Bagel Company. The San Martin Bakery on 30th just off Calle 5 still has the best flan - 10 pesos a slice.
Zermatt's puts out the buns at 8 a.m., 2 pesos each. Very good when they are still warm with a cup of coffee.
Cozumel Bakery on 10th and Calle 3 - some kind of round sweet ball with cream cheese - very addictive, and thanks to Deb B. for that tip!
Consensus on best margaritas: El Moro and Kinta.
Supplemental food items: Brownies, orange cake, pineapple coconut pie, lasagne, chicken marsala, soup - Thank you, Linda Staton! My company inhaled the brownies, and as always - everything delicious and most appreciated.
Fresh squeezed juice - hooked on the grapefruit that is available for purchase and purchased a lot of fruit cut up in containers from the El Maharaj(?) on 65. Found that the fruit that was cut up was more practical and convenient for our needs. Really got hooked on the pineapple and mango.
So that pretty well covers it for the food. I probably forgot some things. Did a fair amount of grocery shopping, there were good and bad things at all stores - stuck to Mega, Chedraui, Soriana, and AKI on 65. I kind of chuckled remembering when I first started coming down, going to 65 was considered far and very daring. I was up and down 65 probably at least 5 times a week on my bike. I noticed many of the shops on 65 still close afternoons for siesta. Also found that the produce at Soriana was generally pretty decent.
The deli and hot food section/bakery at Chedraui had been closed down by the Health Department for a few days during my stay. I kind of had a chuckle, after it was reopened, I was watching one of the girls filling an order for cheese, had the plastic gloves on, face mask, etc. As soon as the customer left, she took off the gloves and was handling the cheese with her bare hands.
The grocery items I brought back were whole cloves and pecans - both are very expensive here, and half the price in Cozumel. However, I was on the island in November and when I returned in January - I did notice some prices had gone up. For example, there was a boxed juice I used to buy that would fluctuate between 9 and 10 pesos, it was now 14. Also brought back some dried chilis - one of these days, I am going to attempt the famous La Choza dip, and if my version is a success - I will certainly post.
I found a great little shop for beach cover ups called Cozumel Parello - something like that- 65 just past Salas, a real good variety of beach cover ups at half the price of those in the shops downtown. They also have some nice beach bags at good prices.
I have been collecting Day of the Dead items, and found a couple of really neat small condiment bowls with painted skulls at the shop at Rastas, and purchased a neat plate at one of the shops on Melgar. Brought a skull candle holder at Orlando's stall at Punta Morena. Also found some very inexpensive little condiment dishes right in the market.
Purchased 2 bracelets from Sergio's on Juarez - good selection of silver and good prices. Brought silver earrings at Los Cinco Soles.
One of the shops that has some really nice items in the square - The Mayan Pearl. I had been looking for the pounded tin stuff - usually just restricted to holiday ornaments, and I really lucked out there. Purchased a beautiful small mirror, a fish, a peacock, and an armadlillo. Everything is now hanging here in my home, they look great and I am thrilled.
Out and About:
Carnival: This was the second year in a row I was on the island for Carnival, and again, the weather was hot, but otherwise perfect. Costumes were spectacular, I especially enjoyed the street dancers. I think I enjoyed watching the children having a blast more than anything. They are so excited and it is great to see many of them dressed in costumes. The men in the audience seemed to enjoy the "Sol" float and dancers.
As I was having company coming to stay for a week, I bit the bullet and rented a car for a week. I got a good deal through my friend Alicia, and was very pleased. I ensured that I had all insurances, etc. and I am over my phobia about driving in Cozumel. I think all the biking I had done over the years had me well prepared. I was able to plan my routes, I knew where all the one ways were and which direction they were heading, and I did just fine. I saw some very bad driving. I did not get into races or games with the mopeds or taxis - I let them speed by every time, it just isn't worth it. I did observe blitzes of cops on 30th and 65th pulling over mopeds checking for papers, etc.
Having the car enabled me to do more, head out to beaches more frequently and allow for some independence. Prior to my company arriving, Linda took me to Sam's so I could purchase a few bulk items which really helped. Everything got devoured, the boys liked the breakfast sandwiches with egg and sausage and we went through a case of the soft drinks - the apple soda seemed popular.
Another thing we did which was a first for me - did the Kaokao Chocolate tour, Linda joined us. I have to say it was wonderful and well worth the 10 dollars. It is informative, interesting and interactive. It is an hour, which was just perfect, especially when you are with 2 active teenagers. Included with the tour is a chocolate bar of your choice which retails there for 3 dollars. They also sell their chocolates on the premises and much better priced than for the same product at Los Cinco Soles. I purchased a jar of honey with cacao nibs for 5 dollars, (had a sample of it there and it is heaven), a few chili chocolate bars and some chocolate infused tea leaves as a gift for a friend. They also charge the same rate if you pay in pesos or dollars - so if the honey is 5 dollars US, they will take 50 pesos, so that is very good. I am not a "tour" type person, but would highly recommend this one.
I have to share one funny story - when my company came, we went to eat at El Torito's on 65 one night. Adrian, the owner of Especias was there, so we had a nice chat and then went to sit down. He turned around to me and asked me if that was my red car across the street. I could hear there was some commotion, my heart sunk, and I said, yes. I saw that the people working in the kitchen had run out onto the street. Adrian also went running out - turns out there was a very inebriated man leaning against my car door, holding on to one of the door handles to keep himself upright, and with the other hand - well, he was whipping it out and preparing to relieve himself. Thank goodness Adrian went out and he moved away - Adrian called the police on his cell and they were there to pick up the guy in seconds.
One night I felt a pain on my jaw line. Felt as though I had been stung. Spent a bit of an uncomfortable evening, and by the next morning, my jaw had swollen, looked like I had mumps. My friend wrote me out a note in Spanish and I went to the San Miguel Clinic. I was taken in right away, and luckily, the doctor was originally from California and she was excellent, gave me a thorough examination. She advised that the area was inflamed and I should see a dentist. I also saw Dr. Cruz, the internest. I was only charged for one visit. Of course, being from Canada, I am not used to paying for medical care, but the two visits cost 400 pesos, which I would think is pretty good.
I called Linda, she came and picked me up and took me to her own dentist and he took me in right away and did his magic. He explained everything to me and I was very pleased. Also 400 pesos for everything. He had me come back a few days later to check, no charge for that. I had no pain whatsover and the swelling went down very quickly. What a relief and no problems since.
Money matters/Customer Service:
One other thing I found a bit frustrating - I was ready to pay for purchases at various establishments and ignored by the cashier, because they were either too busy texting to take my money, or too busy chatting with their work colleagues, or too busy eating their morning or mid-morning meal to bother with me. And I am not talking about little Mom and Pop tiendas or a hut on the street. It was evident to me that the economy was hurting on the island, and a little more attention to the customer would be a positive move. This happened at a tourist type shop right on Melgar, one in the square, and at more than one OXXO. The other frustration - I pretty well pay exclusively in pesos. I find overall, that works to my advantage - but some of the store help practically kicked me out of the store or turned their noses up at me. It seems I inconvenienced them by wanting to pay in pesos.
I purchased a couple of dresses - one was too long and I really wanted to have it hemmed to wear while I was on the island. I was on the hunt for a tailor, and ended up going to a guy named Facundo on 25 between 5 and Hidalgo. Very nice and competent. He is also known as "Madam." He did a fantastic job, hemmed the dress while I waited and made me a matching headband for 80 pesos. Would have cost me at least double to have this done at home. He also makes very good slipcovers for furniture.
Time with Friends:
I was able to spend some time with my friends, and it was great to have Charles just down the street. He helped me from losing my sanity more than once and was always ready and willing to help and give me helpful tips. We had some enjoyable breakfasts and nice visits in the courtyard at his apartment. Visited with Carey, Kandy, Paula, Jan, and would have loved to have seen all of you more, but time seems to slip away very quickly. Spent some time with Deb B - another excellent resource and we had a couple of enjoyable evenings and dinners. I visited with her at her great condo following her bicycle mishap. If I ever decided to purchase a condo, Las Ventanas would fit the bill - well built and designed, and nice pool area. Thank you Deb for helping me unravel some of the mysteries around TelCel - and thank you for the freezer pacs and bubble wrap! Mike, it was nice to see you and your wife walking the dogs early most mornings and I enjoyed our little impromptu chats.
It was lovely to meet some new people and expand upon my social circle. I attended a few of the ladies' breakfast which are held weekly and it was a great way to network, get tips, advice and recommendations.
Spent some time with Alicia, and enjoyed meeting her brother and hanging out. Spent a lovely afternoon with them at my pool and again at Playa Azul.
And of course, thank you to all who were able to take the time to meet my sister in law (Karen) and nephew (Jack), they are very dear to me, moreso after my recent losses. To Linda, I cannot adequately put into words how much it meant to me that you were able to meet Karen and Jack, spend some time with us, and for all your thoughtfulness and generousity. I know they loved meeting you after hearing so much about you over the years. Karen and Jack have travelled extensively, including many areas in Mexico. This was their first time to Cozumel and they are hooked, they loved the island and loved staying at a house with a pool as opposed to a resort. So we are back on for next year!
And to all of my special island friends - thank you for all you do and keeping it real.
I know this is kind of long, I always seem to write more than I intend. But it was fun to write and reminisce.
Peace to all.
Posted 07 May 2012 - 09:02 PM
Posted 08 May 2012 - 04:45 AM
Posted 08 May 2012 - 10:35 AM
Posted 08 May 2012 - 05:43 PM
Posted 09 May 2012 - 12:57 PM
What about the bus? Did you have any further aventuras?
All in all you describe a memorable trip - yay! Thanks for taking the time and posting. I know what you mean about reminiscing. It's hard to let it go once you've been there. I'll be there in mid-June for my own aventuras. Sorry to miss you, but we'll meet again, of that I'm sure.
I drink to forget, but I eat to remember.... so it all balances out
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Posted 10 May 2012 - 08:53 AM
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