A Travellerspoint blog

ITS 2016 AND WE ARE BACK IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN

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After a month in Victoria and with lots of visits with friends and family we say goodbye to everyone, including our newest member, great nephew Alfie.

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Arriving back in Playa we are rushed to our home where we celebrate Christmas with our friends.

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This year we have decided to do a few mini trips and visit places we have always meant to go. Our first such trip was to XPU HA. (pronounced Spoo Ha), with our friends Eduardo, Pilar, and her daughter Yami.

If you blink you miss the turn off which is part of the reason we have never been there. This day, unfortunately, was the roughest day you would ever get in this part of the world. Nevertheless, the beach was beautiful and we and our good friends had a great day and picnic.
This is typical of the whole coast along the Caribbean side of the Yucatan which is lined with beaches, some more accessible than others.

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Izamal (pronounced Ishamal)

Izamal is a small town about two and a half hours south of Playa del Carmen. It is an easy drive and we take off one fine morning with our friends Denis and Carole. We arrive around lunch time and check into our hotel before heading to the town.

This is the first time we have stayed in a Hacienda, which is typical to this area of the Yucatan peninsula. Many plantations established in the 19th century by Spanish landowners have now been restored as hotels. Hacienda Santo Domingo sits on 33 acres at the edge of town, a 10 minute walk to city centre.

Checking in

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IZAMAL is known as the Yellow City and as we walked into town we saw that "Yes, it really is yellow" in most of the centre of the city. The yellow paint was used to decorate the city for the visit of Pope John Paul in 1973. The city is also dotted with Mayan ruins albeit not the largest we have seen. There was a great market, a very interesting small museum and in the centre there is the convent of San Antonio de Padua built in 1561. The atrium is second in the world only to the Vatican and inside is a statue of Pope John Paul the 2nd who visited the site. It must still be a convent today as there were Nuns all around the grounds. The centre is also dotted with good restaurants all with different names but all having exactly the same menus.

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Finding a Pyramid

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We found this house for sale but decided against it-------what do you think?

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Now, back to Playa del Carmen for a rest.

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Posted by keithandhelen 13:30 Archived in Mexico Comments (6)

STREET MURALS-------A LONGSTANDING MEXICAN TRADITION

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Mexico has a long standing tradition of using murals for social and political scenes dating back to the early Mayan civilizations and revitalized after the Mexican revolution. Today in Playa del Carmen the tradition continues. As we wandered through the city we marvelled at the beautiful art appearing in the most surprising places. From depicting the history of this State on a city hall wall to the fanciful garden painted on an individuals home here a sample of our favorite murals which we pass by on a regular basis. Enjoy them with us.

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In a weeks time we will be returning to Victoria as we have much to do there (including income tax), so there is no time to paint our own Mural on our house here. Maybe in the fall when we return------Adios for now

Posted by keithandhelen 15:59 Archived in Mexico Comments (3)

FEBRUARY FUN BACK IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN

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Back in Playa del Carmen our exciting (?) life continues. There is always something going on from great international festivals like the BPM (Beats Per Minute) to little events like the birthday party our neighbour held for his wife. From the Carnival (commonly called Mardi Gras) to the international Gay and Lesbian music festival. We didn't attend all of these but we thought that we would like to share some of our events with you.

CARNIVAL

Carnival (better known as Mardi Gras) is the celebration leading up to Lent. This consists of 4 days of parades through the city and ending at the City Hall for more partying.

Our friends Peter and Jane on their way to Cuba, arrive for a visit. Here we are waiting for the Parade to begin

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And we are off

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even the seniors have their place marching along

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Of course there are the obligatory Carnival King and Queen, but what we found particularly interesting is that there is also a special needs King and Queen.

We found the special needs Queen getting ready with her mother to go into the Parade.

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And she has her own float

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We are often entertained as we walk through town

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An upcoming event is advertised

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Sandcastle competition hits the beach

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Our neighbour has a mariachi band at her birthday party

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A get-together with our friends from over the last 6 years always produces a great evening

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My package of Cuban cigars make a reappearance

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And, if all else fails, there is always the Beach

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Posted by keithandhelen 09:12 Archived in Mexico Comments (2)

A TRIP AROUND VINALES

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Our first stop is the Indian Cave. The hills around this area are full of caves, some of them very large. It was an ancient indigenous dwelling was rediscovered in 1920. It is about a 200 metres walk and a little less in a boat ride at the end. The sometimes dark walk was a little creepy as we were all by ourselves and were not always sure which way to go. The little boat ride in the middle was more fun. By the time we emerged into the daylight we had had enough of spooky caves but also glad we went in.

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We also visited another cave system which was far inland behind a a very well equipped bar, however having gone through one creepy cave system we rejected this one. On hindsight, it was probably the best of the two as this one actually contained a little village in which escaped slaves from Africa lived.

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What we did see was this young girl who was preparing for her quinceanera. This is a celebration of a girls 15th birthday and of her coming of age. The father insisted that Helen be in a picture with her and speak in the video he was taking. She will now have a permanent record of Helen’s very weak Spanish

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About 2 hours out of Vinales we find the beach.

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The Botanical Garden. The guide book raves about it but we think it had seen better days. Please notice the very famous beer tin tree.

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Mural de la prehistoria. Taking 18 artists 4 years to complete, this 120 metre long painting on a 617 metre cliff symbolizes evolution.

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We drove in an old Lada but the local taxis was also available. We were not sure which one was better.

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We say goodbye to our hosts and head back to Havana. The next day we fly back to Mexico and our home in Playa del Carmen. We loved Cuba and will definitely return to look at more of the Island.

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Posted by keithandhelen 08:52 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

THE VALLEY OF VINALES----A World Heritage Site

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Three hours after leaving Havana we reach the Vinales Valley and the little town of Vinales. The Valley is renowned for rock climbing, deep caves, tobacco, baseball, and friendly people. We experienced 3 of the 5. There was no baseball being played and rock climbing is the last thing on earth that we plan on doing.

After finding our way to our Casa Particular, we started familiarizing ourselves in our new environment. This was easy to do as the valley was so tranquil and beautiful.

The view from our room

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The farmer in the field tends to his tobacco crop

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Tobacco is the main commercial crop of the area and the cigars are reputedly the best in Cuba. One day our host, Juan Carlos led us on a long (1 hour each way) hike through the trails in the valley to a tobacco farm that was owned by his long time school friend.

Harvesting the Tobacco

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Transporting the Tobacco to the drying hut where it dries for 6 months and then processed with his own special mixture of mango, guava, rum, and honey all boiled in water. It is then sprayed on the drying leaves off and on for another 2 years.

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Rolling the cigar

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Enjoying the final product

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Tomorrow we explore more of this great valley.

Posted by keithandhelen 13:47 Archived in Cuba Comments (2)

THIS AND THAT AROUND HAVANA

We wandered around Havana for a couple of days and these are some of the sites that caught our attention. Wandering around was amazing and fascinating and there was no restrictions on taking any pictures, even at the military patrolled areas. At one point I noted that there were not many police around, but I did learn as I looked more closely that there were lots of men in dark clothing around the various locations we visited, just not men in uniform.

After a long walk to the bus station to pick up our tickets for our trip to Vinales, we got a taxi to Revolution Plaza.

The heroes of the Revolution: Che, Cienfuegos, and Marti. These chaps are also in memorials all over the country. At the moment it is illegal to profit from the image of Fidel or make any representations of him.

Che

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Cienfuegos

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Jose Marti

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Tourists arrive in very snazzy old cars

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On leaving the plaza Helen notices the best dressed soldiers with their specially tailored uniforms

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We were always amazed by the old cars that plied the streets of Havana. The really good conditioned ones were rented to rich tourists, the middle of the road ones were also rented out as taxis, and the really stuck together ones were used as collectivos which means a really cheap ride. Here are just a few of the thousands of them on the roads.

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An around the world touring exhibit of “Buddy Bears” have been on tour since 2002 and have finally reached a square in Havana. They represent every
country recognized by the UN and the goal is to promote living together in peace and harmony (not doing a great job so far).

Canada between Cambodia and Cameroon

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Mexico

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Cuba

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Others

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Around the town

Just a few pictures of beautiful Havana, beginning with the National Hotel

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The Museum of the Revolution

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The Museum of the Revolution----guess who these guys are

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Replica of the Capital Building

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art deco, a common sight

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Tomorrow we are off to VINALES on the bus.

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Posted by keithandhelen 07:38 Archived in Cuba Comments (1)

A WALK THROUGH OLD HAVANA

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Old Havana is an old Spanish colonial style city and is the centre of the city's tourist trade. Not only are the tourists that are staying in Havana there, but judging from the lines of tourist busses the tourists from many of the country's all inclusive vacation resorts are also there. Both Helen and I loved the Old Town and walked extensively through it for 2 days. One day we plan to go back one day and see more of the things that we missed.

A typical street in Old Havana. Most of the streets here are pedestrian only.

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A Church square. There are many such squares in Old Havana

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Just another street

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Statues of every shape and size are scattered throughout

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Both sides of the harbour are guarded by forts

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A part of the Old Fort

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One square is surrounded on all sides by old book sellers

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The Harbour

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If all else fails?

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Posted by keithandhelen 12:55 Archived in Cuba Comments (1)

CUBA======A QUICK TRIP

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We discovered that travelling from Mexico to Cuba was a very quick flight of only 55 minutes, so we decided to beat the rush of Americans and join all the others who were trying too beat the rush of Americans, thus creating our own rush. Anyways, it was a wonderful and enlightening experience. Helen and I enjoyed every minute of the 10 days we were there and can hardly wait to go back.

Our first stop, of course, was Havana or what it is called in Cuba---------HABANA

The Casa Particular that was our home for the first 4 nights was a bit of a surprise as we rolled up to the front door. The building was big and obviously beautiful at one point in time but showed its age after 50 years of neglect. Actually 50 years of neglect is a common theme running through much of Cuba, especially in terms of roads and other infrastructures.

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Much to our surprise as we entered the house , we found an elegant oasis filled with antiques and collectibles and most in perfect condition.

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The inside also had a garden area and one evening our friends Jim and Sheila visited us there to pick us up for dinner in one of the many restaurants in the area.

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Tomorrow, we will visit Old Habana

Posted by keithandhelen 12:35 Archived in Cuba Comments (1)

A TALE OF TWO CHRISTMAS'S

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This past Christmas was celebrated by us in two different places. Starting in Playa del Carmen, we moved to Victoria, BC, and then ended up again in Playa del Carmen. It was very different in both places and we loved the whole experience. So. follow us along as we have a festive season in two parts of the world.

Decorating our yards

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Decorating our house

Playa del Carmen Casa Myers

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Victoria Myers Maison

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Christmas Day in Victoria

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Celebrating Christmas in Playa del Carmen

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This Blog is posted well after Christmas but we were busy in Cuba for the last little while. Stay tuned for our Cuba adventure.
We promise to be faster with this one.

Posted by keithandhelen 13:47 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

RETURN TO CAMPECHE

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It was fun to make another trip to Campeche. Our first one in February 2014 was with our friends Dave and Diana. This one in October 2014 was with our friends Eduardo and Diana and their 10 month old son, Erick. These Dianas are two different people, not just one that just runs around on our trips. Because I organized both trips we stayed at the same hotel and I got the Best Western points. We also went to some new places and ate in different restaurants.

A view from our room in the Best Western which I am now a gold card holder

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A WALK THROUGH THE OLD CITY

The old town and its narrow and meticulously cared for surroundings are now a UNESCO world heritage site.

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Even the licence plates celebrate this designation

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Campeche is really dedicated to the arts. Four Mexican sculptors had their work featured throughout the old walled city. This group will be on display for six month when they will be replaced with works of new artists. They were all a good mix of serious and whimsical.

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The town square is the historical centre of Campeche. The town was established in the early 1500's. The cathedral was built shortly afterwards. A walk through this centre is interesting and relaxing.

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Even Erick enjoys the centre

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Very few tourists are found in Campeche, however there are hourly tour trolleys running from the centre of town.

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After a busy morning in the city, we enjoyed a delicious lunch.

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As Campeche is situated on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico it is not surprising that industry is centered on water. There are a fifteen thousand Mexicans employed on the oil rigs offshore. Also, a large number of men are fishers. Octopus is the main catch and it wholesales for 85 pesos (about $8.00) per kilo. We figured out that one boat would have about $4000.00 on it. There are hundreds of boats in the fishing fleet. A stroll down the Malecon emphasizes this point .

The Malecon runs from one end of Campeche to the other.

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The fisherman holds up one of his catch. The truck itself is of course full of octopus.

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The money derived from fishing is very good but the boats and shacks are pretty shaky.

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On the edge of the shore stands a statue celebrating the three groups who founded Campeche; the Mayans, the Spanish colonists, and the ever present Catholic church. Notably absent were the Pirates who were responsible for Campeche being a walled city and helped increase it population.

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We had a fabulous meal at one of the many seafood restaurants on the Malecon. We all ate prawns, none of us had octopus

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We ended our visit to Campeche at Fuerte do San Miguel. Unfortunately the museum was closed but we all took pictures and then started home. The Fort and the walls around the city were built in the early 1700's after a series of devastating and vicious pirate attacks. On one of these attacks Henry Morgan led 1500 English, French and Dutch pirates to rampage through the town and also seize 12 Spanish ships with all their treasures and commodities such as wood and tobacco.

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Now, back to Playa Del Carmen

Posted by keithandhelen 12:53 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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