Springing forward in Quintana Roo!
We now interrupt your regularly (er...irregularly) scheduled blog post to bring you this important Public Service Announcement: As of 2 am, February 1, 2015, the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico will "spring forward" by one hour!
Yes, it's true. Mexico has a new time zone, called the "Southeastern Time Zone". This time zone affects only the eastern state of Quintana Roo, which includes the popular tourist destinations of Cancún, Playa del Carmen (where we are), and Tulum; along with islands like Cozumel and Isla Mujeres right offshore.
The new time zone corresponds with Eastern Standard Time; whereas previously Quintana Roo had been on the equivalent of Central Standard Time.
Why the change? The official word is that it puts Quintana Roo on the same time as the east coast airports that bring the heaviest amount of traffic to the area. The tourism industry had been pushing for the change for a couple of years as it also increases the amount of usable beach (and beach BAR) and excursion time with longer sunlight time in the afternoon. It boils down to more money for the huge tourism industry in this part of Mexico, plain and simple. An added benefit is that the change should also decrease electricity usage as the need to turn on lights at night is pushed back by an hour.
We're really happy about this change, because it will mean more daylight around dinnertime instead of so early in the morning when we're normally sleeping anyway. As it is now, it's completely dark by 6 pm. Looks like we won't be eating dinner in the dark any longer!
An interesting twist is that this change essentially puts Quintana Roo on "Daylight Savings Time" year round. There will no longer be a time change for DST in the spring and fall here in "the Roo". So during DST in the US, Quintana Roo will once again be on the equivalent of Central time (Central Daylight Time).
For further info, check out these links:
ABC News: Cancun Will Change to Eastern Standard Time
Travelpulse: Mexico's Quintana Roo Gears Up for Feb. 1 Time Change
GoMexico: Time Zones in Mexico
And stay tuned for Part 2 of our Day Trip to Isla Mujeres, coming up soon!
On Wednesday we finally took our first day trip since arriving in Playa del Carmen on November 1. We traveled so much in the US over the past two years that I think we were just ready to settle down for awhile and not go anywhere. Yep, these traveling nomads were just enjoying being homebodies for a few months.
But finally an opportunity presented itself and got us out of our travel doldrums.
Cara, a "virtual" friend of mine that I'd originally "met" through our Belize blog, was going to be vacationing with her friend Mary for a few days at Isla Mujeres (the "Island of Women"), just off the coast of Mexico near Cancún. She suggested that we come up and visit. We'd been wanting to check out Isla for awhile, and meeting a friend there provided just the motivation we needed to get off our duffs and take a day trip.
Barry took so many great photos, and the island was so colorful and pretty, that I'm dividing this day into two posts. So, here's part 1 of our day trip!
A six-minute walk from our rental took us to the 20th Ave. ADO bus terminal, one of two terminals in Playa del Carmen. Mexico has a great bus system, and we'd used it extensively when we visited the country for sixteen days back in December 2012. This was our first time on an ADO bus since then.
We took the 9:10 am bus up to Cancún. Our one-way tickets cost us $60 MXN each, or about $4.25 US, a great deal. The bus was just as comfortable as we remembered, and not even close to full.
Once we made it to Cancún (about an hour and ten minutes), it was a quick walk across the road from the ADO terminal to catch an R1 city bus to Puerto Juarez, where we'd catch the ferry to Isla. This bus cost the equivalent of about $.75 US each.
The quick bus ride took us to the Ultramar ferry terminal.
And while we waited for the 11 am ferry, I got to hang out with Spiderman!
In the waiting area we had our first glimpse of the absolutely gorgeous Caribbean Sea.
We'd be taking a big catamaran across to the island. The dock was massive!
We chose to sit on the upper deck of the ferry for the best view of the water and shorelines. And the A/C was cranking in the lower, enclosed level. Way too cold for us! The upper deck was packed; guess we weren't the only ones heading to Isla on this gorgeous Wednesday!
Here's the view from our ferry as we pulled away from the dock. Bye bye Cancún!
The water was so, so pretty and clear. This aquamarine is a color I never tire of!
In no time at all, we were within spitting distance of Isla. The entire ride is just eighteen minutes long, and the ferry seems to go pretty slowly -- probably so they can sell more drinks and snacks!
I was a little surprised at how developed Isla Mujeres was; I guess I was expecting something a bit more like Ambergris Caye, Belize, which is getting more developed all the time, but is still sleepy compared to Isla. I guess as close as it is to Cancún, I should have expected it to be as developed as it is, if not more.
Not quite the small "fishing village" dock I was imagining....
After debarking the ferry, we followed instructions to get to Jax Bar & Grill, where we were to meet Cara and Mary. We had a nice stroll down to Jax, with a beautiful beach to our left. We discovered that there are lots of golf carts here on Isla, like in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye in Belize, where we used to live.
There were quite a few similarities to San Pedro on a busy tourist day, in fact, but there was no question that this was Mexico -- different souvenirs, different food, and a different vibe. Not to knock San Pedro, which has charms of its own, but this beach was much nicer than the beaches on Ambergris Caye. Wide, with lots and lots of white sand -- and no sargassum, at least not today!
Did we find Cara and Mary, what did we eat for lunch, did we succumb to the lure of souvenir shopping, and did we make it back to Playa in time for dinner?!
You'll have to stay tuned for Part 2 to find out!
Since we arrived here in Playa del Carmen in November, we've gradually built a list of favorite restaurants. Recently we tried two different places, both of which proved worthy of adding to our "list".
PapaCharly Pasta Factory
This small, unassuming place is just a short walk from our rental. It's well-loved by visitors and Playa residents, and we could see why. Although its name sounds like something you might find in a shopping mall in the US, don't let the name fool you. The food is authentic Italian, prices are reasonable, and the rustic setting is simple and charming. PapaCharly (their Facebook page) is the real deal!
To start, the house vino blanco and vino tinto were very nice.
Lovely fresh-baked bread accompanied our meal. We normally prefer to avoid white bread, but this was so good that we succumbed to its charms. Mmmmmm....
The menu includes a variety of pastas that you can customize from a long list of fillings and sauces. If you order cannelloni, as I did, you can order two different fillings. I chose one with spinach and cheese and the other with mushroom filling. My sauce choice was pesto. The bubbling hot dish was absolutely HUGE, and I was able to take home half of it for another dinner, making the price I paid even more reasonable.
Barry tried the ravioli with spinach & cheese filling and a spicy Arrabbiata sauce. It tasted as good as it looked!
To finish off our Italian feast, we just had to stop at Amo Gelato (which I introduced in this blog post) on the way back; it's right around the corner!
La Cueva del Chango
I had to put the name of this charming place into the Spanish to English language translator to find that it means "Cave Monkey". Their logo includes an adorable spider monkey. The restaurant (their web page) is hidden among the jungly (a word?) trees, providing the perfect intimate setting.
I'd read such good reviews I was excited to try it, and it didn't disappoint.
The homemade salsas were all incredibly good. The red and green salsas were mild but with great depth of flavor, and a tiny bit of the brilliant orange habanero salsa went a long way!
Barry started with this gorgeous salad, which I think was my very favorite thing we tried; yes, he shared some! Chopped salad greens were topped with goat cheese, pecans, and a balsamic vinaigrette, and the entire salad was ringed with the sweetest little grapefruit sections I'd ever tasted. YUM! I will definitely be ordering this next time.
For our entrees, I tried a shrimp/chile dish served with fried plantain chips and a small salad. It was all very good, though I would have liked a few more shrimp. That was my only slight complaint about this very good meal.
Barry had the chicken breast mole with stewed beans and rice and seemed to like it very much.
Prices were quite reasonable for what we got, and the setting and service were both perfect.
Although we've been to this casual Mexican seafood place quite a few times now, we've been pretty much stuck on getting the delicious shrimp tostadas every single time.
The tostadas are really, really good, but wanting a change of pace, I decided to try the seafood "cazuela" this time. It wasn't like a typical US-style casserole, but more of a seafood soup. Served in a traditional Mexican cazuela (I wondered a little about lead), the flavor was very rich, and it was packed with all kinds of seafood -- shrimp, fish, crab, and even octopus! Some was in the shell, though, which made it a bit challenging to eat. I sprinkled it liberally with the fresh cilantro and chopped onions that accompanied it.
It was a nice choice for a cool night!
So, our restaurant list continues to grow; Playa del Carmen is a foodie haven, and we are loving all the excellent eating!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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