COZUMEL, MARCH, 2001
Shaw had invited Luigi and me, jointly and severally, to join her, Peter, and Winslow
for eight days in Cozumel, a potato-shaped island
off the coast of Yucatan, Mexico. Luigi could not go, but I could and did, with
Thursday, March 8. Flights from the U.S. directly to Cozumel are only
on Continental Air Lines and only from (or via) Houston. Shaw, Peter, and Winslow flew
there from Cleveland and I from Chicago. I had a couple of hours in the airport, but they
reached the gate in Houston as final call for boarding the 6:49 PM flight was issued. The
flight was dark and uneventful.
On arrival about 9:00, Shaw bought pesos at a currency exchange and paid everyone's fare
on the van taking us a couple of miles to the Hotel Playa Azul on the east side of the island,
where most of the hotels are. They were in room 304 and I in 306; both rooms were
identical: nice and large with balcony looking over the pool and across a sandy beach to the
sea. The Cancun coast was barely visible on horizon; the city lights at night and the taller
buildings by day.
Friday. Shaw and Winslow played in the water and sand.
Around lunch time the four of us took a taxi to downtown where ATM machines thrive.
According to the exchange rate on the Internet just before we left, 9.64 pesos = 1 dollar. We
had lunch at a modest restaurant recommended by Shaw's guidebook, Casa Denis. Lime soup
(chicken and vegetables with lime juice -- good) for Shaw and Winslow, cheeseburgers for
Peter and Winslow, but she would not eat most of hers, so Peter did. I ordered Chamorro
pibil, billed as mayan barbecued "pork calf." It turned out to be a small pig's lower foreleg,
and was very good. When I ordered it the waiter pointed to his forearm to show what I
On returning to the hotel we found that the elevator was being repaired. Uninhibited by U.S.
safety concerns, the workmen left the first floor elevator door open, even when they were
absent. Perhaps they wanted to show off how clean the elevator pit was.
Saturday. Shaw, Peter, and Winslow took a cruise on a glass bottom
boat. I read and went to the beach with mask and snorkel. A girl said that jellyfish were
about, so no one was swimming. I snorkeled about five minutes, saw one plain fish, felt one
minor sting on the left wrist, and returned to reading. Dinner at the hotel was good but the
service was too slow.
Sunday. Shaw rented a jeep for three days. The four of us went to the east
side of the island. Peter left Shaw, Winslow, and me for an hour while he looked at ruins and
we wandered along the black coral beach looking for shells, tidal pools, etc. Splendid waves
that had the entire Gulf of Mexico to grow in. We all had lunch at the Naked Iguana, a
thatch-roofed bar and restaurant on a sand beach a mile or so south. The beach was used
much by surfers, and the restaurant by attractive young women in bikinis. We returned to the
hotel by driving around the south end of the island, having reached the east side by the road
the crosses more or less in the middle.
After naps Shaw, Winslow, and I played on the beach and in the water. I pretended to be a
shark to which Winslow fed imaginary bones.
We had an excellent, prompt dinner at El Moro in San Miguel. The guidebook said to drive
north on Av Benito Juarez almost to the new Pemex Station, turn left, take the first right, and
then the first left down the bumpy dirt street. The decor was chromium and plastic laminate.
The Zacarias special for Shaw and me included three kinds of shrimp, octopus, fish, and
guacamole, all served in a segmented plastic tray from which we transferred the food to our
plates. Also we got fried plantain.
Monday. Shaw, Peter, and Winslow went to the mainland in the jeep and
ferry to observe sea turtle refuge. I stayed in bed late, fealing queasy for all the rich seafood
I'd been eating. Mostly I stayed in the shade and read. About 5:30 I went snorkeling in sea
in front of the hotel and saw many fish -- some big enough to eat, most small enough to use
as bait. Dinner at Guacamayo Restaurant across the highway was good, prompt and cost $18
US plus tip. Later Shaw called and said they were staying on the mainland and would be
here between 5-6 pm Tuesday because there are only 2 ferries per day.
Tuesday. Loafed all morning.
After a post-luncheon nap I hired a taxi to take me to the San Gervasio Mayan ruins.
Arriving about 3:30 and leaving at 4:30, I found the light good for taking pictures of stones
piled atop each other.
A few other tourists were there. Signs were brief and informative in English, Spanish, and a
language I presumed to be Mayan, though it looked a little like Hawaiian with liquid
consonants and double vowels.
Around 9:00 Shaw, Peter, and Winslow turned up. The 2:00 ferry was cancelled and the 4:00
ferry was two hours late. They almost missed this one because of a dead battery in their
jeep. Several Mexicans pushed the vehicle fast enough to get the engine started when Peter
let in the clutch. Shaw, Peter, and Winslow saw the turtle reserve and accompanying exhibits
and considered them worth an hour and a half.
Wednesday. Breakfast with Shaw, Peter, and Winslow, then swimming
and snorkeling with Shaw and Winslow. Peter went parasailing; a boat came to the hotel pier
and picked him up. Last we saw, he was signing a release form. Later we saw a parasail in
the sky, carrying an unidentifiable body. In time Peter returned healthy and dry. The boat
crew released him from, and retrieved him to, the stern without dropping him in the water.
He and I went to the hotel's beach bar with thatched roof where he had rum fruit punch and I
had coco loco (coconut milk and rum served in a coconut). I felt like a minor character in a
Lunch with Shaw, Peter, and Winslow was in town at Pancho's Back Yard, a very good
restaurant combined with a Mexican craft store. We saw much glass, pottery, papier mache,
and pewter. At first we chose to eat in the restaurant's lovely garden amid lots of greenery,
but a loud marimba band drove us back into the air conditioned interior.
In late afternoon I went down to a deck chair in the shade near the pool to read. On looking
up I saw Winslow playing in the pool with another little girl and apparently no adult
supervision. The other girl's parents were nearby and Shaw was in sea snorkeling.
Dinner in town in the Veranda Restaurant (our table was in the gazebo) was excellent with
Domecq Mexican cabernet sauvignon.
Thursday. Breakfast consisted of rolls in Shaw, Peter, and Winslow's
room. We drove to San Gervasio where Shaw and I walked west along an old Mayan
stone-paved road for most of a kilometer to a ruin I had not seen on Tuesday. Occasional
iguanas crossed our path. They and the ruins have been there so long that they look like each
other and can be distinguished only when one of the iguanas moves. Several busloads of
tourists stayed close to the ruin near the entrance and listened patiently to guides. After an
hour, Peter, via walkabout radio, announced that Winslow had enough and wanted to go
Lunch at the hotel's beach bar was good (I had two coco locos and seafood soup) but noisy
due to a loudmouth who claimed to be from San Antonio. All I had met from this city had
been quiet and well-behaved, so I suspect he was really a liar from Dallas. Naps and
swimming occupied the afternoon.
For dinner Winslow had wanted to go to Jeanie's Waffle House in town, but the kitchen was
closed so we dined in the garden at Pancho's Back Yard. The band was not there. I had fish
of the day, served on a small metal rectangle atop a metal box holding live coals. This was
on the upper of two wooden shelves; the lower held an elliptical ceramic plate in front and
bowls containing rice and black bean soup in back. With a knife and fork but no spoon, I
used the soup as a sauce into which I dipped the fish. It was very good.
Friday, March 16. I caught the 8:20 AM plane to Houston, and another to
Chicago, arriving two or three hours late in a snowstorm.