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Adventures in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Trying to Reason with the Hurricane Season

Posted by Tony & Cheri on June 5, 2014

It happens every year on June 1st: the annual hurricane season arrives. Officially, the hurricane season (or the tropical rainy season or storm season…whichever you want to call it) runs from June 1st until December 1st. And every year, many people ask us here at the Luna Blue about how this affects travel to our beautiful part of the world.

People unfamiliar with weather patterns south of the border often wonder if it is safe to travel at all during this time. They also worry that if they do visit, their vacation might be ruined by constant rain. The reality is that with some planning and precautions, travelers can enjoy summer in paradise. Here are some facts and helpful hints about visiting Playa del Carmen during this time of year.

Great Weather and Low Prices

Summer can be a great time to vacation in Playa del Carmen. The air temperature during June, July and August is generally in the high 80’s during the day and the mid-70’s at night. The water temperature is slightly less, with average temperatures in the low 80’s. In other words, the days are warm and long, the nights comfortable and the Caribbean Sea is perfect for swimming.

The summer months also see fewer tourists, so the beaches, restaurants, bars, and tours are less crowded. There are some days you may have a part of the beach all to yourself.

In addition fewer tourists means lower prices. Hotels and tours in particular will offer lower prices during this time period.

Of course, the downside of traveling in summer is the threat of rain and storms.  However it is important to remember that rain storms do not occur every day or even every week.

We Have it All…Rain and Sunshine

We do get summer storms which can last for several days. That can certainly put a damper on any vacation. However, the average number of days of rain in the summer months of June-Aug. is 16 days per month, only slightly higher than in the rest of the year.

In other words, these months have about the same number of sunny days as rainy ones. And of course a forecast of rain doesn’t mean there will be rain from morning until night. In the tropics we often have rain showers or a thunderstorm sweep in off the Caribbean Sea only to quickly pass though, leaving the rest of the day bright and sunny.

As for tropical storms and hurricanes, the truth is they don’t threaten Playa del Carmen very often.

These types of storms occur every year in the Caribbean Sea. Some years there are more than others. This year the prediction by the experts is that we will have fewer storms than normal.

Playa del Carmen Has Not Been Struck by a Hurricane Since 2005

There will absolutely be some large storms between now and December somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean sea. However not all tropical storms become hurricanes, and not all hurricanes grow to be major storms that threatens life and property (a Category 3 storm or greater).

Not all hurricanes will make landfall, and of those that do threaten areas of land, few if any will be in the area of Mexico’s Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen. The last hurricane to make landfall on Playa was almost a decade ago with Wilma in 2005.

The established historical tracks of summer storms in the Caribbean do NOT pass over Playa del Carmen in the months of June, July, August, October, and November. Storm tracks do cross the Riviera Maya in September, which is our wettest month of the year and the month when the vast majority of hurricanes and tropical storms happen in the Caribbean.

This is not to say that major storm will never hit Playa. We are simply saying that statistically it is a rare event.

Avoiding a Vacation Disaster

But what happens if a major storm does threaten to come ashore near Playa del Carmen? If you are already here on vacation you may have several options. The first is to leave town. As hurricanes build out over the ocean before moving towards land they are usually seen days in advance, allowing for evacuation of those who wish to leave.

Or if you are in a secure location, or the storm is not of great strength, you may be able to simply wait it out in your hotel or in a designated shelter area. Hurricanes are usually fast moving storms that sweep through in a day or two.

If you are planning a trip and a major storm is threatening before your arrival, you may want to change your travel plans. However be aware that most airlines, hotels, and resorts do NOT usually offer refunds for cancellations or changes due to weather problems.

Because of this we strongly suggest that anyone traveling to the Caribbean during hurricane season ALWAYS purchase insurance which will cover your costs if weather keeps you from traveling. That way, if you do have to cancel or change your vacation plans it won’t be a total loss.

Getting the Right Weather Information

No one can tell you with any certainty what the weather will be like in Playa del Carmen (or anywhere else) next week or next month. Trying to determine in June what the weather will be for the second week of August is simply guesswork. However you can keep an eye on the weather in the immediate future by checking several reputable weather websites:

These sites will provide you up to the minute detailed information about weather in the area.

We hope you now see that with a little planning and some basic precautions there is no reason you cannot plan your summer vacation in the paradise of Playa Del Carmen. And remember… a margarita sipped sitting under an umbrella tastes just as good whether it is rainy or sunny outside.

Happy travels!


Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

No Eye….No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 28, 2011

Hurricane Rina image by National Hurricane Center
Here in Playa del Carmen, we’ve been waiting for days for Hurricane Rina to appear.  A week ago no one had even heard of Rina. Then within the last 72 hours, we thought we might have a Category 4 hurricane, then a Category 3, then a 2, then a 1 and then….as it turns out….just a tropical storm. That’s life in the tropics!

It’s 5:30 pm Playa time, Thursday, and it appears the rain has finally begun.  Still no wind, and as of now still not all that much rain.  To our knowledge, no one here is without power. Now supposedly the brunt of what’s left of Rina is scheduled to pass by us around 2 am tomorrow morning.  The storm is much weaker than anticipated, having lost its eye (no hay – inside joke if you speak Spanish), and the latest word has it passing just offshore, to the east of Cozumel island.

That’s all great news.  Everyone prepared for a hurricane and are now facing just a tropical storm.  Ho hum.   The locals are all posting on Facebook about how bored they are.  But better safe than sorry.

But wait…there’s more!  A look at the tracking map shows Rina passing offshore tonight but then making a big loop out in the Caribbean – going up past Cancun then circling back down past us again (on Sunday) and then heading south to Belize.  This is quite unusual for a hurricane but is probably making those in Florida and the Gulf states pretty happy.  That means we’ll probably have some wet weather throughout the weekend but not the hurricane we had anticipated.

Stay safe everyone, and remember:  no storm is gonna keep us from throwing a kick-ass Halloween party at the Luna Blue Bar on Monday night.

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Hurricane Rina Weakens as it Nears Playa del Carmen!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 27, 2011

Hurricane Rina image by
When you’re sitting in the path of a hurricane, you hope for any little bit of good news. Today we got some. Hurricane Rina is starting to weaken!

Twenty four hours ago we were looking at predictions that a Category 3 or possibly 4 hurricane might strike dead center in the Playa del Carmen area. Since that time, weather conditions have changed dramatically, and Hurricane Rina has begun the slow process of weakening. She is now a Category 1 hurricane, and both and the National Hurricane Center are predicting that she will not regain strength before reaching the Yucatan. A category 1 hurricane is not considered to be a major hurricane. Weatherunderground is also predicting that once the storm makes contact with Cozumel it will diminish to a tropical storm as it moves northeast towards Cuba.

This is good news for all of us here on the Yucatan peninsula. However, even a category 1 hurricane is something to be cautious about. High winds and surging waves can still cause damage. We’d like to send the word out to anyone in the Yucatan coastal area to stay inside once the storm reaches us. High winds can turn any loose object on the street into a deadly missile, and surging waves can come onto the beach very quickly–faster than a person can react to get away. Please, under no circumstances should you go down to the beach to watch the storm.

Although this is all good news for the resort areas of the Riviera Maya, it must be remembered that a category 1 hurricane or even a tropical storm can have devastating effects on the rural areas of Mexico and central America. Eighteen people have already died in Honduras from flooding associated with Hurricane Rina. Massive amounts of rain in Playa del Carmen and Cancun may be an inconvenience to tourists but may turn deadly in small inland villages that are not equipped to deal with such storms. Visitors here should never think of Mexico solely as the popular resort areas. Our thoughts and prayers go to those less fortunate citizens of our adopted country who will be suffering as this storm passes through.

Before the news of the hurricane’s diminishing strength, Playa was getting ready for the storm. As we drove around town today, we saw a number of businesses with large glass windows beginning to put up plywood covers. In Walmart, supplies like toilet paper and large jugs of water were stacked prominently in the center of the store. We heard reports from friends that such diverse items as tuna and disposable diapers were in short supply. We ourselves only went shopping for dog food, flashlights, extra candles, duct tape and BBQ potato chips. We found everything on our list readily available.

We went down to the beach to see the preparations taking place at Mamita’s Beach Club. The building was closed up and had been covered with heavy canvas shutters over the entire front facing the water. The beach itself was empty. Normally it is filled with beach chairs, umbrellas, tables and scantily clad people sipping margaritas. Today it was just sand and surf. The water was actually pretty calm, and there were no waves yet. However in the distance we could see darkening clouds indicating that Rina was out there someplace.

Back at our hotel, we talked with some newly arrived guests about what to expect during the storm. We remarked again at how lucky we are at the type of people who come to the Luna Blue. These particular guests come every year and not only showed up today bearing gifts (a handmade necklace for Cheri and some boxes of See’s candy!) but also immediately offered to help if we needed any work done preparing the hotel for the storm. We love our guests.

In fact we didn’t need any help with storm preparation. Our amazing staff of Alex, Jaime and Julian had gotten everything put away. They stacked the stools in the bar and tied them down. They also tied down all the hanging bar swings so they didn’t crash into things when the wind picks up.

We collected our hotel cats, Frankie and Oso, and gave them the honeymoon suite for the duration of the storm. Litter boxes, food and water were supplied, along with a comfortable double bed to sleep on. Some cats have all the luck.

At this point we’re simply waiting for the storm to arrive. We’re receiving occasional showers, but mostly it’s humid and warm with a slight breeze. The eye of the storm is scheduled to pass near us between 2 pm Thursday and 2 am Friday. We should begin to feel the early effects of the storm sometime tomorrow morning.

We’re hoping if the storm passes through quickly and we are clear of winds and rain by Friday night that we will be able to host a “We Survived Rina” party in our bar with our friend Barefoot Skinny providing the music.

Without question, we’ll be holding our annual Halloween party on Monday night. If you’re in town, please stop by. It should be a lot of fun.

We’ll blog again when there’s more news. In the meantime, follow our regular updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Tony & Cheri

For our latest blog entry on Hurricane Rina, click here: No Eye…No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

Local businesses busy covering large glass windows with plywood

Large displays of drinking water in Walmart

Canvas shutters on Mamita’s Beach Club

Luna Blue Bar furniture stacked and secured

Bar swings tied in place

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Playa del Carmen Readies for Hurricane Rina

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 26, 2011

Hurricane Rina image by National Hurricane Center
Good morning. It is very quiet here in Playa del Carmen this morning–cloudy but no rain or wind. Birds are singing in the jungle and tejones (coatimundi) are scavenging in the street. It’s the calm before the storm. While we had a little rain early evening yesterday, it didn’t rain throughout the night as we had expected. In fact, it didn’t rain at all.

Hurricane Rina is slowing down and it appears she won’t come visiting until tomorrow afternoon. The bad news is most computer models predicting her path have now converged on the Playa/Cozumel area as the point where she will make landfall.

The good news is that this appears to be a small storm.
While the satellite shows clouds extending out over much of the western Caribbean, the actual area of damaging hurricane strength winds is very small. A slight variation or wobble in Rina’s path may spare us from getting hit with those hurricane force winds.

In fact, the image here from the National Hurricane Center shows that there’s a maximum of 50% chance of hurricane force winds anywhere within the storm!

Of course the area of tropical storm force winds area is much larger, and at 100% chance of the center of the storm receiving them, so we almost certainly will get those…meaning a lot of rain and wind. It all comes down to waiting and seeing what path she takes.

We have several guests in the hotel right now, and we have been talking with all of them about what to expect during the storm. We have given them all candles and flashlights (assuming the power will go out) and plenty of extra towels to help with the water coming in. During a hurricane, when the rain is blowing sideways, water seems to come in from everywhere.

The way our hotel is constructed and placed, it makes a pretty good shelter from any storm. It’s set back from the street and is surrounded by buildings on three sides. The concrete structure has been through Hurricane Wilma and some other pretty good storms without any damage whatsoever. Because of this, our guests feel pretty safe remaining here in the hotel rather than going to a public shelter.

We’re telling our guests they should stay in the hotel room their entire time and not try to venture out in the storm. There are many dangers during a hurricane, including being hit with flying debris. We’re making sure they have plenty of drinking water and telling them to have some snacks on hand. All of them seem calm and ready for the adventure. Of course they won’t be alone; our staff will be on hand throughout the storm.

We will get out into town and down to the beach later and report back anything of interest. In the meantime, like most people here, we’re continuing storm preparations while hoping for the best. We’ll be periodically updating our Facebook page throughout the day, so check there for up to date information.

For our latest blog entry on Hurricane Rina, click here: No Eye…No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

Hurricane Rina image by National Hurricane Center

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Hurricane Rina Approaches Playa del Carmen Mexico

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 25, 2011

Hurricane Rina is currently on a projected path to strike the Yucatan Peninsula and possibly Playa del Carmen in the next 48 hours.

We will be regularly posting updates on our Facebook page and on Twitter (@lunabluehotel, #Rina) as the storm nears. We’ll be offering synopses of what we think are dependable sources such as Dr. Jeff Masters at and the National Hurricane Center.

We’ll also be giving a locals’ perspective on what’s happening in Playa del Carmen and will offer comments about our own storm preparation at our hotel and at home.

We’re hoping this will not be a major hurricane. While the storm is growing in intensity, once it makes landfall in Mexico is is expected to diminish in strength. We are hoping for the best.

We’ll keep offering information until the storm arrives, at which point we expect we will lose power. Keep a good thought for all of us here in Playa and on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

Tony & Cheri

For our latest blog entry on Hurricane Rina, click here: No Eye…No Hay Hurricane Rina ~ Just a Storm for the Weekend

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

The Perfect Storm

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 8, 2009

If you’re like us, the phrase “the perfect storm” conjures up giant rogue waves and a tiny boat thrashing about on a wild, dangerous ocean. Tropical Storm Ida, which passed this area last night on her path up north, is our version of the perfect storm…one that never even occurred!

Despite all the preparations for a good sized tropical storm (our first of the season) Ida veered east at the last moment–as storms sometimes do–and managed to have very little impact on Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya last night. There was barely any rain, and certainly no high winds to speak of. It was never going to be a huge storm, but nevertheless people here prepared for it, just in case. But in the end nothing happened. It passed peacefully between the Yucatan peninsula and Cuba…probably the best place a storm can go to avoid impact on human lives.

Even though there was barely any rain or wind, for some reason at least one airline, Jet Blue, cancelled their flights for today. We know this because some guests called last night saying their flights had been cancelled for today and they wouldn’t be arriving until Tuesday. We have NO idea why this would be. Surely Jet Blue had the same information we all had, and we knew by early last evening that this entire area–including Cancun–was completely out of Ida’s projected path. It’s hard to avoid mass panic when even the airlines make decisions like this.

Ida was a relatively late season storm, since hurricane season officially ends December 1. It has been an extremely slow season for us. We’ve had no hurricanes, no tropical storms and barely any rain. We figure it’s about time we got a break down here. 🙂 We’re looking forward to the beautiful, balmy sunshiny weather that our winter brings, and the huge influx of tourists it brings with it. 🙂

In any event, we’re expecting another overcast day or so and then hopefully back to the warm sunshine and gorgeous waters of this magical place we call home, Playa del Carmen. Come and visit, if you can. You won’t regret it.

Posted in Weather | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Ida is Coming to Visit

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 7, 2009

Here’s a weather alert we’re giving to all of our guests of the Luna Blue Hotel today regarding Tropical Storm/Hurricane Ida, which is expected to pass through tomorrow:

Weather Alert
Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tropical Storm Ida is currently on a path to pass through this area sometime between 7 am Sunday morning and 7 pm Sunday night. A tropical storm will bring a lot of rain and thunderstorms, and winds are expected to be between 40 and 65 mph. It’s quite possible we will lose power during some portion of the storm’s passage, as Mexico sometimes turns off the power during storms for safety reasons. We will put candles in all of the rooms just in case. We will also be removing the outside furniture this afternoon in anticipation of strong winds. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

There is a small chance that Ida may gain strength and become a Category 1 hurricane. THIS IS NOT CONSIDERED A MAJOR HURRICANE. It will simply mean stronger winds and more rain.

At this point, there are no plans for closure of the Cancun airport. We strongly suggest that you check the internet with your particular airline if you’re flying out tomorrow. If you are unable to determine whether your flight is on time, come to the front desk and we will call the airline for you.

If for any reason you are unable to leave the area tomorrow, we have accommodations should you require or wish them.

We want to again emphasize this is NOT a major storm. There are no plans for evacuation, business closures or other safety precautions. It will simply be very windy and wet for about a 12 hour period. Please feel free to come to the front desk if you have any questions or need any assistance.

To take the sting out of the storm, we’re having 2 for 1 margaritas while the bar is open today (3 to 11 pm). 🙂

Tony & Cheri, Owners

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All Shook Up…Twenty Years Ago Today

Posted by Tony & Cheri on October 17, 2009

Twenty years ago today, the two of us stood in the middle of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, the second largest earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area history. Here are our memories of that day.

~ Cheri ~
I can remember October 17, 1989, as clearly today as I did two decades ago. Twenty years ago today, at 5:04 pm, I had just left my job at a law firm in downtown Oakland, California. I was armed with my little portable TV and all my softball gear. The plan was to meet Tony for a drink at our favorite watering hole in downtown Oakland to watch the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s. Then I was going to go on to my late softball game in Oakland (with the TV in tow so as not to miss any of the Series), catching a ride back to San Francisco with my brother afterwards, and Tony was going to go home. This was the first ever World Series between the two Bay Area baseball teams, and we, like most everyone else, didn’t want to miss it, so Tony left work early to save us some bar stools.

Fallen debris crushes a carI first heard glass breaking. My eyes followed the sound, and I saw panes of glass crashing onto the ground and others falling from the fifth or sixth floor of the large brick building I had just walked past. I jumped into the street and off the sidewalk to get further away from the building and the falling glass. What was going on?!? I looked at the little deli across the street, and the small sign in the window was swaying violently from side to side. I knew then that not only was this an earthquake, but it was by far the biggest one I had ever felt. I looked back at the brick building and saw it actually slither like a snake, only vertically. I was sure it was about to come down. Bricks started falling onto the street. I looked quickly to see if there were any people would be hurt by the falling debris, but the streets were amazingly clear for 5 pm. No one seemed to be on their regular schedules that day because of the baseball game. A guy on the street nearby yelled, “Earthquake!” and ran to hold onto a utility pole. I ran over and held on with him. The street I was standing on rolled like a magic carpet, rising about three feet up before coming back down again. That’s a sight I had never seen before or since.

When the shaking stopped, I just stood there, stunned. There was broken glass and bricks everywhere, and portions of the streets were cracked. I figured I’d better go to the bar and meet Tony, since he was waiting for me. I had no idea the extent of the damage, but I knew it had been a big one.

I got to Roy’s, but Tony wasn’t there. Roy, the bartender, said that Tony had been there during the earthquake but had rushed back to San Francisco to pick up his son from school. I sat down next to Tony’s Jack Daniel’s, ordered a margarita, and turned on the little TV. At that point the electricity was out, so everyone crowded around the tiny screen to get a glimpse of the news. The first news I heard was that the Bay Bridge had collapsed! OMIGOD!! I had a vision of the bridge falling into the water that I just couldn’t shake. Since the Bay Bridge is the only direct way to get from Oakland to San Francisco, I figured eventually Tony would come back to the bar to figure out what to do next. This was before cell phones, so we had no way to reach each other. I sat down and waited with the other people at Roy’s, our eyes glued to the little TV for news of how strong the quake had been and what other damage there was. Was this “the big one?” Everyone was clearly shaken by the experience. I know I sure was.

~ Tony ~
Twenty years ago today I snuck out of work early. The San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s were playing in the World Series in San Francisco. Knowing that getting back into San Francisco across the Bay Bridge back was going to be impossible for a couple of hours, Cheri and I agreed to go to a local bar near where we worked to watch the game and wait out the traffic.

The collapsed Cypress Structure between Oakland and San FranciscoThe game was supposed to start around 5pm, and so I went down early to grab us a couple of seats at the bar in front of the TV. By the time I got to Roy’s, there were seven or eight people already there with the same idea. I sat down and ordered a Jack Daniel’s and began to watch the pregame show while waiting for Cheri. Suddenly the TV screens went blank. Everyone in the place assumed it was Roy’s TV and began to groan loudly and yell complaints. Then the quake hit us.

The bottles and glasses behind the bar suddenly came flying off. People were knocked off their feet and off their chairs as the floor seemed to tilt one way and then the next.

When you live in earthquake country, it becomes second nature how to react. You get into a reinforced doorway or under a table. Within a few seconds, all of us in the bar were scrambling to fill the small doorway that led into Roy’s from the street. We must have looked like a circus pyramid group climbing on top of each other to find space in the doorway. As I clung to the moving wall of Roy’s bar, I looked out onto a terrifying panorama. The buildings around us swayed to and fro, and with every movement sent bricks, concrete and glass crashing into the street and onto the parked cars. For a moment, I really thought that my life might end there. Then after a few second that literally seemed like an eternity (they always say that, and it’s true), the quake ended. There was an amazing stunned silence broken only by car alarms.

As we untangled ourselves from the doorway, my first thought was of my son, Chris, who was in daycare back in San Francisco. I had no idea how great the damage was over there, whether he was in danger, or whether his mother would be able to find him and get to him. I told Roy to tell Cheri that I had left for San Francisco to find Chris. I jumped in the car but had only gone a few blocks when the car radio announced that a section of the Bay Bridge had collapsed. A few minutes later the radio also said that a large portion of the Cypress freeway (the freeway I would have taken to go home if I hadn’t stopped to watch the game) had also collapsed, crushing and pinning numerous cars beneath it. There was no way to get back across to San Francisco. I turned the car around, driving through rubble in the streets, and returned to Roy’s. When I walked in the door, I saw Cheri, pale and a little shaky, sipping a margarita at the bar.

~ Tony & Cheri ~
After exchanging stories of where we were and what happened during the quake, we agreed that our first priority was finding a phone and checking on Chris. None of the phones in the bar worked (remember, this was pre-cell phone), so we took off down the street. We each took a side of the street and began knocking on doors, stepping over broken glass and concrete as we went. We knocked on every door and asked at every storefront if they had a working phone we could use. Eventually, someone said yes. Through some electronic miracle, we were able to connect across the Bay to San Francisco and find out that Chris was fine, there had been no damage to his school and that his mother had arrived there a few minutes after the quake. They were both safe and sound at home. We checked in with Cheri’s mom and other family members who lived in San Francisco and the East Bay and made sure they were all fine.

Earthquake damage in the Marina district of San FranciscoHaving found out that the family had survived, we went back to Roy’s for another drink. It seemed like the thing to do. Roy was still sweeping up glass and replacing bottles but took time to give us another round. We didn’t stay long as it was beginning to get dark and there was no electricity. We wanted to go back to San Francisco but didn’t know how to do it. The Bay Bridge was closed, so no traffic could cross it and BART, the underground railway, was closed in case the tunnel beneath the bay had been damaged. Probably the safest thing to do would have been to spend the night in Oakland somewhere, but we both just wanted to go home to San Francisco.

Part of the problem was that we couldn’t get good information. We decided we’d drive around and see if we could find any part of Oakland that still had electricity, so we could find out what was happening. We ended up in a small section of the city called Rockridge and to our relief and delight found the main street, College Avenue, had power. We went into a small restaurant called the Rockridge Café (which is still there and still serves great food) and found a table. We joined a lot of other “refugees” watching the news on the café’s TV. It was pretty scary. The videos of the collapsed freeway, the damage to the Bay Bridge and the fires that had broken out in the Marina district of San Francisco (where the damage was the worst) were horrifying. The city was badly damaged, and in a strange way it made us want to get home even more.

Eventually, a news report said there was a way back into San Francisco. The northernmost bridge across the bay, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, was open. So was the Golden Gate Bridge. We could get home by driving over to Marin and then south across the Golden Gate into San Francisco. The only problem was that no one knew if the bridges were damaged or not. There were no lights on the bridges, and emergency teams were so busy in San Francisco that there was no one to inspect them for damage. People were being warned that they could use the bridges but at their own risk.

We talked about it for a few minutes and both felt the same way. We wanted to go home. It was worth the risk.

We drove slowly across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. There were a few other cars, all of us driving slowly, wondering if at any minute the bottom of the bridge would fall out beneath us. Luckily it didn’t. 🙂 Once across, we headed south over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Fires in San Francisco after the earthquakeIf you’ve ever driven across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, you know it’s a spectacular sight, even at night. The lights of the buildings lining the rolling hills make for a beautiful skyline. This night, we gazed in amazement at a San Francisco which was completely dark. No lights were to be seen. The hills looked like giant shadows against the night sky. As we headed across the bridge, Cheri commented that there was a huge fog bank on the bridge ahead of us. As we drove into it, we realized it wasn’t fog, it was smoke from the fires that had broken out from ruptured gas lines in San Francisco.

We drove slowly through the smoke and into the City. The streets were deserted, with electric buses stopped dead in the middle of intersections. There were no people or cars on the street except for the occasional police or emergency vehicle. The only lights we saw came from candles in people’s apartments and houses. It was sad and it was frightening, but at least we had gotten home safely.

The next day the City started its recovery. Everyone had a story. Friends who had been downtown had to walk several miles back to their homes in the surrounding areas. There were no buses, no BART, no way to get there other than to walk. In true San Francisco style, however, the pain of the hike was lessened as bars along the main streets, having no electricity to keep their beer cold, were handing out free drinks to passersby. Most of the City was without electricity for several days, and the downtown business area was virtually closed. The City was forced to slow down, and it gave all of us a chance to look around us and once again appreciate where we lived.

In the weeks that followed, life slowly began to return to normal. However, for several weeks there was no way to get to the East Bay and back again except by ferry boat. We would take a ferry in the morning, drift across the bay to our jobs in Oakland and return in the evening. It was a slower, much more inconvenient way of rush hour travel, but in the end, we actually came to love it. We were almost disappointed when the Bay Bridge reopened and we could drive to work again.

Of course, as with the first great San Francisco earthquake, out of the ashes came new beauty. The ugly old freeway that had lined the waterfront had to be torn down. The empty warehouses and rotting piers gave way to palm-lined boulevards, restaurants, stores and new apartments. The Embarcadero, the area along the waterfront, is now one of the prettiest and most vibrant sections of the City (and is now home to San Francisco’s new ballpark).

Our beautiful city by the baySan Francisco has had more than its fair share of tragedies–from the 1906 earthquake to Jonestown to the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake to the AIDS epidemic. The people of the Bay Area have had a lot of heartaches. They mourn and remember those who were lost in the Loma Prieta earthquake but also take pride in their rebuilding and survival.

San Francisco may sit on the shaky edge of the continent, but its inhabitants have long ago figured out that the pleasure is worth the pain. And they long ago realized it’s better to dance than to cry.

We may live in Mexico, but today our hearts are in San Francisco, which is still and always will be our home.

Posted in Friends, News & Politics, Weather | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Kalaka…A New ‘Must Try’ Restaurant in Playa

Posted by Tony & Cheri on June 21, 2009

Cheri at KalakaWe were looking for a new restaurant to try the other night and ended up at Kalaka. It was an instant hit with us, and it’s already become one of our “must recommend” places. We enjoyed everything about this restaurant and have already eaten there twice in the last three days.

Kalaka bills itself as serving Italian/Mexican fusion food. We were a little dubious about that description and were unimpressed when we first read the menu. The entrees offered are pretty basic, i.e., steak, fish, fajitas, pasta. Basic Playa style restaurant fare. However, it was cute and intimate with only eight tables in an open storefront setting on Calle 4 between 15th and 20th Avenues, and it got points from us for being outside the resort zone. We decided to give it a try.

As soon as we sat down, we had a cute little free appetizer delivered to the table consisting of cheese and olives in a pool of olive oil. There is an extensive wine list but unfortunately only by the bottle. Wine by the glass is limited to your basic red and white “Chateau de Sam’s Club.” There is a full bar.

The first night Cheri ordered chicken in a mushroom cream sauce. It was a large chicken breast completely covered in a thick cream sauce full of very large sliced mushrooms (no canned stuff). In our opinion, cream sauces tend to be too thick and a little bland in taste. This one was flavorful and delicious. The chicken came with rice and some steamed vegetables which had been perfectly cooked and flavored with a whole lot of butter. Tony ordered shrimp fajitas. Rather than getting the standard bowl of shrimp with some overcooked onions and pepper strips, he got a plate full of well-spiced shrimp surrounded by huge amounts of steamed vegetables. The vegetables were fresh, well-cooked and perfectly set off the shrimps. This was accompanied by homemade tortillas and some of the best guacamole in Playa. We were both extremely impressed with our meals.

The after-dinner tequilasThe next time we returned, Cheri had the shrimp brochette, which consisted of giant shrimps wrapped in bacon and grilled on skewers with various vegetables. This was covered by a light and very flavorful sauce. It was served with a baked potato and more of those delicious vegetables. Tony ordered one of the two filet mignons on the menu. It was a good sized steak grilled perfectly and covered with hollandaise and a tangy soy-based sauce. It was easily as good as any steak we’ve ever had in Playa. It was, frankly, better than the steaks we had at Chicago Don Jose’s and equal to the more expensive steaks we had at John Gray’s Place. It was served with fresh asparagus and a baked potato swimming in butter and sour cream. At the end of both meals, a small tray with two shots of tequila, lime, salt and watermelon chunks was placed on the table. It was a nice touch.

We met the owners, Sylvia and Max, who are from Milan. They were friendly and gracious and are obviously very enthusiastic about their restaurant. We really liked this place, as you can tell. The intimacy and soft lighting makes it a very romantic spot. The quality of the food makes it one of the better restaurants we have eaten at in Playa del Carmen. And because it is a couple blocks off of Fifth Avenue, the prices are not outrageous. The most expensive thing on the menu was the filet mignon Tony ordered at $225 pesos (about $17 US).

This place has style and is worth keeping around. We’re definitely going back (next time we’re ordering from the extensive pasta menu) and highly recommend that our readers give it a try when they visit Playa.

Shrimp Fajitas

Pollo con Champinones (Chicken with Mushrooms)

Inside Kalaka

And on a totally different topic…for those of you who have been worrying about the weather, the beaches, the sunshine, etc. (especially our friends, “the other Tony & Cheri”), here are some pictures we took this morning on Xpu-Ha beach. This is why we live here.

Posted in Activities, Dining in Playa, Living the Dream, Recommendations, Weather | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Thinking of New Orleans

Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 31, 2008

Tonight our hearts are in New Orleans.

We have loved New Orleans for many years. It is a special place for us. There is a magical devil-may-care spirit in that city, and we love to drink it in. Whether it is Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Halloween or just a spring weekend in the Quarter, whenever we go to New Orleans life gets crazier, stranger, freer and better.

We have partied with porn stars, danced with vampires and watched ghosts wander home in the pre-dawn darkness. We have been in the crowd to hear the greats of modern music play on the stages of Jazz Fest, and we have walked alone on a cobblestone street following the sounds of a solitary saxophone. We have dined with the social elite at one of the oldest restaurants in America and with transvestites at a greasy hamburger counter down the street. For us, New Orleans is soulful… in every meaning of the word.

We arrived in Playa Del Carmen three years ago as Hurricane Katrina tore our beloved New Orleans apart. And we watched in horror as the City That Care Forgot was herself forgotten by America. We were filled with anger and disgust as the politically powerful, Republican and Democrat, ignored the danger, abandoned the helpless and ran for political cover even as the victims of the storm ran for shelter. The shame should haunt all of us forever.

Statue of Christ, St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans LouisianaA short story by the wonderful James Lee Burke tells of a man who is drowning in Katrina’s floodwaters. As the waters take him away to his death he notices a wooden statue of Jesus is being swept along with him. He talks to the statue in his final moments and remembers the beauty of the place now dying along with him:

“That’s the way it was back then. You woke up in the morning to the smell of gardenias, the electric smell of the streetcars, chicory coffee, and the stone that has turned green with lichen. The light was always filtered through the trees, so it was never harsh, and the flowers bloomed year-round. New Orleans was a poem, man, a song in your heart that never died.

I got only one regret. Nobody ever bothered to explain why nobody came for us.”

~Jesus Out to Sea by James Lee Burke

We didn’t make it back to New Orleans for over a year. But as we started our new life in Playa del Carmen we never forgot the city we loved so much. When we could finally return for a visit in 2007, we found a city destroyed and a people in pain. Places that had existed for generations were shuttered. The empty wreckage of homes was tattooed in paint with the strange code that told other relief workers it had been searched and how many dead could be found inside. People we had known and seen for years were gone–disappeared or dead we would never know. And among those left was sorrow that could not be described. Friends and strangers would tearfully tell us their stories. Waiters and cab drivers would stop working to begin to cry with us, for their families, and for themselves.

Slowly and painfully New Orleans struggled to breathe. And the people stayed. They didn’t give up on themselves. They survived by their own strength and by the love and gifts of good people around the country. By the time we went to Jazz Fest this year, we saw the spirit of the place we loved starting to swell again. It was a joy to behold.

Sadly, tonight New Orleans again faces destruction. As we write this Hurricane Gustav is poised to strike the Gulf Coast just as Katrina did three years ago. Predictions are that it will arrive as a category four hurricane with its deadliest power centered on the levees of New Orleans which are built to only withstand a category three storm. Massive flooding and damage is expected.

Once the storm passes New Orleans will begin again. Of that there is no doubt. But they will need help. We hope that people will answer the call for help without waiting for the politicians and corporations who never came last time. There are many fine charities and organizations already in place. We will post some of them in the days ahead. We will ask the people who know us, or simply know of us through this blog, to try and help. Please help. Do what you can.

And tonight please join us, if only in your hearts, in New Orleans.

Obama/Biden in 2008

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