PostHeaderIcon Day 1: Lunch at El Qubano

Once we had settled in at the hotel and cooled down enough, we went out for lunch to the Cuban restaurant I had researched called El Qubano in Isla Mujeres centro on Hidalgo Ave. It’s a cute little place run by Vivien. Vivien’s history is an interesting one.  She is an ex-New Yorker from Hungarian parents who emigrated to Cuba. Originally sent to New York to study, Vivien took up residence in the States until she had the chance to become, like yours truly, entranced by the beauty and simplicity of Isla Mujeres.

Vivien’s El Qubano offers quite an interesting array of dishes with influences from each of part of her heritage.  We couldn’t bear to sit indoors on such a gorgeous day, so we sat front and center at a little white picnic

The main thing of interest to us, obviously, is vegetarian fare, so we asked straight away about what was vegetarian. With a mild Brooklyn accent, and no hint of a Spanish one (unless you overhear her speaking with her staff or a Spanish customer) she quickly recommended her eponymous sandwich and salad.

In addition to her recommendations, the fresh cut fries on the brightly colored chalkboards menus above the seating area, caught our attention.  We wanted something light so we shared the salad and fries. They were both simply amazing.  Seeing the skin still on the potatoes clue you in that this is down home goodness, but the fries were so fresh that “fresh cut” doesn’t begin to explain the feeling on your tongue as the slightly crisp exterior gives way to the tender, perfect potatoey lovin’ inside.

The salad was so light and flavorful, with bits of flavor from the diced apple or almonds, occasionally lashing out at your tongue telling you this isn’t just rabbit food, this is an ensalada hecho con amor (salad made with love).  Appropriately, Vivien even has a little sign just inside El Qubano’s indoor seating area that says “we don’t make our food fast, the main ingredient is time, and love.”

Another nice little thing about Vivien’s place is that she accepts credit cards and saved us a few hard pesos for other places not quite so kind on the wad of dinero Mexicano.  The price was quite reasonable, as well.  These aren’t the tourist zone extortion prices one pays along the Zone Hotelera (Hotel Zone) in downtown Cancun.  With the peso at 14:1, these are the kinds of prices one pays at a Chili’s or Friday’s back in the States, with food so far beyond, it’s impossible to put into words.

When initially ordering our meal, I asked, knowing full well already from recommendations, if the sandwich was any good.  She directed me to a lady seated at the other side of the restaurant, reading a book.  “Ask her”, she said, “she’s comes back every day and has the same thing every time.”  We didn’t ask, since the patron seemed immersed in relishing both the book and the sandwich.  However, her claim and the lady’s aggressive nodding with too much of a mouthful to speak, was a fairly strong statement of the yummyness that the sandwich must have in store for us… The next time we visit Vivien, we’d have to try it.

This initial dining experience on Isla Mujeres, however simple, with the real and genuine people of Isla Mujeres made me realize that Isla Mujeres is more than just beautiful beaches, it’s a beautiful place with beautiful people who came to Isla Mujeres for a reason, to live life a little simpler and at a milder pace.

El Qubano Menu:

 

PostHeaderIcon Island Paradise

Sanibel_Sunset

With a late-breaking opportunity to travel and a fairly large family to accommodate, we opted against booking plane tickets to Mexico and for a Florida driving vacation, instead. Having heard great things about the beauty of the Sanibel and Captiva Islands, we decided to try our luck with a week’s stay on the beach at Sanibel.  A beach is a beach, right? Tropical paradise awaits! At least that’s what we thought at first…

Driving for a vacation made for much easier and cheaper packing.  We were able to pack all of our snorkel gear, our boogie boards, a case of water, laptops, and plenty of extra clothes… and all it cost us was a little more gas for the extra weight. We didn’t have to worry about missing our connection or waiting in long lines at immigration and customs.  There was a lot to be said for the convenience of the experience.  Given how worn out we were at the end of our week-long vacation, this convenience was certainly a good thing. Read the rest of this entry »

PostHeaderIcon Barlito Video Complete!

I am finally finished working on the Barlito video featuring Tiffany Wareing.  I think it turned out pretty well.  Actually working on the video itself only took about 4 hours or so, once I learned all of the proper techniques.

Here’s the finished product… enjoy the video (after the jump) first, before you learn more about how I pulled it together.

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PostHeaderIcon Videography – Lessons Learned

I’ve been fairly disappointed with how bad my raw video footage looks from my last trip to Isla Mujeres. For example, I had an idea to show people exactly how to get to some of the more out of the way locations that don’t really conform to addresses. Simply providing a point on a map doesn’t really show the best way to navigate to it if a rocky path is along the direct route, while a clearer indirect path might be available. So, I thought, “I’ll walk it from a major landmark, and show everyone exactly how to get there.”

However, when I reviewed my footage after this attempt, every footstep created so much shake of the camera, it almost made me sea sick to watch it. In fact, since I had forgotten to take my tripod, even the most basic of shots from around Isla Mujeres were subject to my ability to keep a dinky little camera completely still for anywhere from 30 seconds to 20 minutes. Sometimes I could find something to prop the camera up on, like a rock wall when I was snorkeling. But, a lot of the time, they ended up being low angle shots and provided a poor perspective of the environment.

Ugh! I obviously have a lot to learn about making better videos. I’d like to think I’m pretty good with a still camera, but video work is different enough that I feel almost novice at times. One of those times was when I reviewed my footage from Isla Mujeres to determine my next blogging topic. Read the rest of this entry »

PostHeaderIcon Life in Florida vs. Isla Mujeres

In making this blog, I’m doing a lot of research as I write each post: fact-checking, cross-referencing, and just plain old “connecting” with expatriates who’ve decided to move to Latin America.  This isn’t really much more than I would do for anything I have so much interest in, but I’m learning a ton about Mexico, Mexican history, trials and tribulations of expats to various Latin American locations, and general life in those places.

Cancun, itself, seems more than a little dodgy to me.  No matter how they get there or why they assemble, the congestion of people in a huge metropolis brings out certain primitive characteristics in people that I just don’t find attractive. Too much competition for life’s little things like a table at a good restaurant, pole position at a busy intersection, or the customer’s almighty buck can push people into a state where their decisions are purely selfish, creating a downward spiral of others doing the same to maximize their own quality of life, and then you end up in New York City with a beach.  Resort towns feel like this to me.  People come to enjoy the beauty of a place and are baptized by harsh reality of the world.  Cancun, Niagara Falls, and even Gatlinburg, TN have all fallen pray to this, to one degree or another. Read the rest of this entry »

PostHeaderIcon Isla Mujeres Day 1: Ferry Trip to Isla Mujeres

Ultramar to Isla Mujeres

The Ultramar ferry runs betwen Isla Mujeres and Cancun at Puerto JuarezOur taxi arrived at Ultramar’s Gran Puerto in Puerto Juarez just as a boat was unloading, so our timing couldn’t have been much better.  A boat leaves every half hour during the day, so it wouldn’t have been too bad of a wait, either way. There was no one in the ticket line, so I just walked up, requested “dos boletos por favor” (two tickets, please), paid in pesos with my credit card again, and whoosh… We were on our way to the cola de turistas (queue of tourists). We weren’t the only ones with luggage in tow as we waited in the queue just a few minutes for the rest of the ship to empty. This being the first time we crossed over with luggage, it was a little reassuring to know we were doing the “right thing” bringing luggage on to the ferry.

It was incredibly sunny and hot on this Mexican summer afternoon. To top it off, the half-hour cab ride from Cancun Airport to the Ultramar ferry wasn’t air conditioned, so we chose to cool down in the lower air-conditioned deck of the ferry rather than delight in the sounds of the guitar toting Mexican balladeer while baking on the top deck, as appealing the the idea was to fully immerse ourselves in the sabor de Mexico (Mexican flavor) that awaited us topside. Since we had smallish bags and we’re smallish people, we had little trouble getting all of our baggage in the three-seat row of bucket seats.  Read the rest of this entry »

PostHeaderIcon Isla Mujeres Day 1: Ultramar Ferry or Bust!

Immigration

We were given forms while on the plane to fill out for customs. Since we’ve been to Mexico before, we knew the drill. Even though the form says one side is for arrival and the other for departure, you must fill both sides out, even if you’re staying for a year. As soon as we made it to the top of the boarding ramp, we had our paperwork inspected to be prepared for the customs agents we would experience. Some people were busted for not filling out that second half who had to sit over on the side and fill our the remainder of their paperwork.

After a long haul down an otherwise nondescript windowed corridor with a view of the tarmac, we ended up at customs. He we are foreigners, so it took a bit to make sense of the signage directing us. Nearly everyone went in one line, despite their being two queues for foreigners. It was wound back and forth past hundreds of yards of retractable stanchion barriers even though there was no one in the queue, it took a little work to get through. The customs agent was nice, unlike the grumpy ones in Canada who seem to think that everyone in the US is up to something, and treat them all suspiciously.

So after barely a minute of scanning our passports into their system and kerchunking his little stamper on all of our paperwork, we were clear to enter Mexico.   Read the rest of this entry »

PostHeaderIcon Can’t Wait to get Back to Isla Mujeres

We pretty much just got back from Isla Mujeres, and I already can’t wait to get back. I have this dream that maybe I can retire there forever. The island matches my speed of life almost perfectly. I don’t want the non-stop raving ’til dawn of downtown Cancun. Sure, I miss the 80′s as much as any other Gen-X’er, but not quite that much. I’m ready to slow down. It’s time to enjoy the world around me, rather than the bright lights and big city. It’s pretty great that Cancun is so close to Florida, I just wish that Delta had more direct flights from Tampa, rather than their single flight a week. It seems silly to fly halfway across the country to get to a place that’s only 542 miles away as the crow flies. So, I’m searching… searching for cheaper flights to Isla Mujeres to feed my addiction. Planning our next trip.  Hoping to get from point A to point B with a minimal headache in a reasonable amount of time.

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PostHeaderIcon My First VLOG: Paloma Recipe

Yesterday, I decided to try something a little new and different.  Since I have so much video from Isla Mujeres and the Cancun Riviera Maya in Mexico, I needed to get a little experience doing some video editing and such on my PC (since I no longer have my work-provided Mactop), and thought I’d throw together a quick video and put it on the Paloma post I just made.

If you enjoy it, then please like it, thumb it up, or give it a plus, or tweet it, or whatever it is you kids do today with your newfangled gizmos and social media stuff.
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PostHeaderIcon Bohemia Obscura: A Tasty Descent into Darkness in Sunny Mexico

I like dark beer.  There, I said it.  I also like stinky cheese and sauerkraut.  Maybe it’s a man thing, maybe it’s my German heritage, maybe it’s my aversion to sweets from an Easter gone bad from many years ago that swung the pendulum to the other side, or maybe I’m just vile.  As a result, when I go to new places I like to to figure out what kind of dark beers they have.  Every now and then, I find something interesting, like in Colorado’s huge array of microbreweries.  More often than not, sadly, I don’t… but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up trying.

I realize that I just blogged about the Paloma (tequila and grapefruit soda), and me blogging about beer the next day runs the risk of making me look like a great big lush.  But, I didn’t want to lose track of my great find, and I wanted to share it with you, my loyal readers, just in case I have some.

I was wandering around the resort during one of the more relaxing days of our week along Riviera Maya, looking for somewhere to eat lunch at the resort that we had heard had good tacos.  Unfortunately, the tacos were a dinner thing, and at lunch it was more of a watering hole for the resident golf course. Mind you, this isn’t in Isla Mujeres, but further south down the coast from Cancun along the Mayan Riviera coast between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.  There’s not really room for a golf course on the island, which is ironic considering how many golf carts one sees on the island.
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