Monday, January 20, 2014

I could get used to this siesta concept.

A very laid back week in Cozumel, Mexico was a wonderful salve for Oregon's wounds of winter. (To be fair, our winter hasn't even been that bad.)

This was our fifth stay at Blue Angel Resort, a small hotel, dive shop and restaurant perched right on the ocean. They have some great shore diving right there (day or night). We really enjoy the small-family feel, and the opportunity to return year after year to staff that have over time become friends.

There have been some staff changes there as of late (including the departure of our beloved divemaster Jorge after being there 16 years). We experienced the same level of lodgings and service as we expected with our room. The owners continue to make small improvements (pool maintenance, upgrading tvs in some rooms, etc.)

The restaurant is still good, but we just felt there were some corners cut, and the staff has changed a bit. There's a different vibe there; something just doesn't feel right but I can't really explain it.

Dive shop management has changed. (Not ownership, just who is behind the counter organizing things.) The diving was a bit different. Instead of diving with one DM the whole week, it was someone different each day. Boats were a mix of levels/abilities. While none of the DMs were bad, if we dive with them again, it'll be with Tony -- he's fun, talkative, helps us find good stuff, and got us a little more bottom time than the others. We also enjoyed diving with Mateo.

As always, Alberto, captain of the Chiquimax, is big, gruff and pretty much never talks to you, but if you need something, he's there! And you might get a smile now and then. Maybe. I wonder if he's really a big bad ass, or if he's just a teddy bear under there. Regardless, he's my man -- I don't need a lot of pampering to get into the water, but he hauls my weights and BC out of the water for me before I climb on the boat, and he's always there to help me not injure myself in my antics to get on/off the boat.
We made some great new friends from Chicago, and they were renting equipment. The regs were not in good working order, which is a concern. The rental gear from the shop seems to be slipping. We don't rent, as we bring all of our own gear.

We did run into Jorge during a surface interval, and got a good chat in. He's happy, he's diving with Tres Pelicanos, and we were very happy to run into him, have a good chat, and press palms with promises to see each other soon.

We dove all our favorite sites. But there are really no bad sites. We like almost all of them, for different reasons. We saw many eagle rays, southern sting rays and turtles; nurse sharks and fish galore. So easy.

All things change. I'd still strongly recommend Blue Angel to friends.

This trip we spent more time relaxing. Our schedule was up at 6:30, breakfast at 7:00, on the dive boat at 8:00, back from diving around noon, shower and then lunch. By 2pm you're back at the room for siesta, which for us meant about 4 hours oscillating between napping and reading. And napping again. It was glorious.

When we ventured out for dinner we got more off the beaten path. We spent hours walking back through neighborhoods, looking for the more "typical" Cozumeleno reality. We smiled, chatted with locals and ex pats alike, ate in a few restaurants where they couldn't understand our limited Spanish and they had no English. A few awesome cabbies gave us more and more recommendations.

We enjoyed dishes that were total surprises -- Scot ordered SOMETHING as El Moro only to find it was basically shrimp fritters covered in MORE shrimp (YUM!), dishes that were awesome and made all the more by the warmth of the people serving them (Pescaderia San Carlos), and a unique twist on pizza at Pizzarocha, owned by some guys from Vera Cruz.

There is a FANTASTIC Chicago style deep dish pizza on the island at O'Hana's. No joke! Seriously! And there's also a dinky little shack pumping out some FANTASTIC hamburgers -- Hamburger House next to Hotel Villa Las Anclas. We stood and waited for 20 minutes, watching this big guy pump out deliveries to keep three guys busy on scooters, and the groups milling around.

And lots and lots of jamaica (hibiscus tea). YUM! Scot always surprises the locals by asking for it.

Aside from tipping waiters and cabbies, we bought nothing but some t-shirts and a little mobile to hang out by hot tub.

We were excited to go, reveled in every minute, but by Saturday evening were ready to head home on Sunday (a  little home and dog-sick, to be honest).

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