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Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Buffett’

Head to Mexico for Christmas…if only in song

Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 18, 2011

Photo by Ken Bartle.  Thanks to our models Mackenzie and AmandaWe love Christmas music. Over the years we have collected thousands of carols and songs on our ipod. We love it all, from traditional hymns to rock and pop standards. We even love the more esoteric music of the holiday, like Less than Jake’s punk rock version of Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, and Reggae star Eek-A-Mouse’s drugged out version of The Night Before Christmas.

Yet there is a small often overlooked genre of holiday tunes that is a favorite of ours: songs about running away to a tropical beach in Mexico and the Caribbean. We, and many others it seems, prefer our white Christmas to be made of sun bleached sand instead of snow. We like to hang our Christmas lights from our palm thatch palapas instead of storm gutters. Santa hats are worn with swimsuits, and on Christmas Eve we still remember to leave a little something for Santa… although we set out a margarita instead of cookies (the old boy seems to prefer them with a salted rim, over ice instead of blended).

Of course we know everyone can’t go on a tropical vacation at Christmastime, so as a present for our friends stuck in chillier climates, here are a few of our favorite “Christmas on a beach in Mexico” holiday tunes. We hope they bring a little Mexican-Caribe sun and warmth into your holiday celebrations.

Christmas in the Caribbean

First on our list comes from the King of the Tropical Troubadours, Jimmy Buffett. This song contains all the iconic images one expects from a holiday season in paradise: “snowbirds” filling the air, Santa on a dolphin, stockings hung from a boat’s mast. Most of all it reminds the listener why life, and Christmas, is better in the tropics: because down here “we don’t live in a hurry.”

All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan

Kenny Chesney convinces his girlfriend (and the rest of us) that two tickets to a tropical shore is the best present he can get. A new bikini, toes in the sand and grilled mahi-mahi are Kenny’s suggestions as the best way to celebrate the season.

Christmas in Mexico

Key West entertainer Brent Burns says the best way to get over a broken heart is to head south of the border for the holidays. Since he says, “I try never to offend anyone wearing a thong,” he fits right in. When Brent meets a “pretty señorita” he concludes that “dancing by the pool, it’s hard to go wrong.”

Santa’s Going South (to Mexico)

Toby Keith and Sammy Hagar let the secret out: Santa’s “too old to take this much cold.” He is heading to Mexico this year. It’s all about “jet skis, margaritas and palm trees” for Christmas. So the boys are joining him by grabbing a “first class non-stop down Mexico way.”

Ho Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rhum

Jimmy Buffett again; this time he is telling the story of poor Santa who is “tired of the whole reindeer scene.” Santa wants to turn into a pirate and “dance with a sword in the sand.” He decides he needs rum, steel drums and the Caribbean… and so away he goes.

We hope these tunes help brighten your holiday. And we leave you with one more song: Mexico’s very popular singer Luis Miguel singing
“I’ll be Home for Christmas” in Spanish. Home of course is where we all spend our holidays if only in our hearts and dreams.

From our home here in the paradise of Playa del Carmen on the edge of the Caribbean Sea to all of you wherever you may be, we wish all of you the happiest of holidays and a Merry Christmas.

Posted in Friends, Living the Dream, Recommendations, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

More Than Just Happy Hour….

Posted by Tony & Cheri on April 15, 2011

It's 5 o'clock somewhereThings are starting to slow down a little bit here in Playa del Carmen. The fast pace and the large crowds of the high season are disappearing as many of the snowbirds head home (probably to late spring blizzards!!!).

The locals can now find a seat at their favorite bar and a place on the beach. And travelers in the know will find less crowds and lower prices. Spring is a great time to be in paradise.

To celebrate our favorite time of year we are starting our own version of happy hour at the Luna Blue Bar.

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 4-8 pm we will have $20 peso beers, 2 x 1 house margaritas, and free chips and salsa.

As usual we will have Radio Margaritaville playing via satellite. And as an added bonus, Jimmy Buffett’s live performances will be broadcast on many of those nights!

And as always, any chicas contributing a thong to the bar’s collection will receive a free shot of our best tequila. It’s a tradition. 🙂

Cheap beer and ’ritas, snacks and a front row swing to hear Jimmy’s concerts. We don’t call it happy hour…we call it the “Buffett Buffet at the Blue.”

It all starts next Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at the Luna Blue Bar and continues throughout the spring and summer.

Stop on by and you’ll say–in the words of Playa’s popular singer/songwriter Mike Grabow–the Luna Blue is “Where I Want to Be.”

Posted in Activities, Dining in Playa, Events & Happenings, Friends, Living the Dream, The Hotel & Bar, What's New | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Party through Spring and Summer at the Luna Blue Bar

Posted by Tony & Cheri on May 3, 2010

With the end of spring and the start of summer, the calendar of events and happenings at the Luna Blue Hotel and Luna Blue Bar is beginning to fill up. Lots of parties and fun things are planned:

Luna Blue Bar Happenings for May 2010

On May 5 we will be celebrating America’s favorite Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo, with 2 for 1 margaritas, fun giveaways and the traditional music of Mexico. The party starts at 7:00 pm.

On May 7 we are proud to host the Peanut Pet Shelter “Another Brick in the Wall” Party. The Pet Shelter is once again giving away a holiday for two here in Playa del Carmen. This includes FREE FLIGHTS…. FREE AIRPORT TRANSFERS…AND A WEEK STAY AT VILLA BALAM. CLICK HERE to find out how to buy a brick and help build the new pet shelter clinic (and become eligible for the fantastic thank you gift of a FREE trip to Playa del Carmen). The party starts at 7:00 pm with live music by Mike Grabow starting at 8:00 pm.

On May 9 our friend A’ndrea Houston is hosting “Another Playa Bar Crawl.” About 90 of A’ndrea’s closest friends will be cruising the bars of Playa that night (be afraid!) and will be starting the festivities at the Luna Blue Bar. The bar opens at 3:00 pm and the Bar Crawl kicks off around 8:30. There will be music and surprises and fun. What better way to start a party night in Playa than at the Luna Blue?

On May 11 we will be hosting our own InkFest 2010 party, celebrating the art of tattoos. Anyone with a tattoo on display (which means uncovered for viewing…regardless of where it is located!) will receive a free shot of tequila from our lovely Bikini Shot girl. There will also be a tattoo contest with prizes for the best, the sexiest, the biggest, the most tattoos etc. And of course we will have live music with Mike Grabow, drink specials and all the usual craziness of a Luna Blue party.

Luna Blue Bar Happenings for June 2010

On June 4 the Peanut Pet Shelter and many Playa peeps are having a “Yappy Hour Peep Meet and Party” starting at 7:00 pm. There will be 2×1 margaritas, Papa T’s famous burgers (with proceeds to the Peanut Pet Shelter), live music and plenty of fun. Stop by and meet the folks from the Pet Shelter and some of the peeps that you always wanted to see in person.

On June 10, Sadie Elizabeth Infante will arrive in Playa for the first time. 🙂

On June 11 we are starting a new tradition here at the Luna Blue with our “1st Annual Rainbow Celebration.” June 11 is the anniversary of the day Mexico banned discrimination based on, among other things, sexual orientation or preference. The Luna Blue will proudly display the rainbow flag, the international symbol for tolerance and gay pride. Come and join us in celebrating the value of everyone’s life and love.

Luna Blue Bar Happenings for May 2010

We will also be playing the live Radio Margaritaville satellite broadcast of Jimmy Buffett’s concerts on May 15, 17, 20 and 22, and June 17, 19 and 26. Get 2 x 1 margaritas and swing beneath our newly-expanded palm frond roof while listening to Jimmy in paradise.

And as usual, every Tuesday and Friday night you can hear the great Mike Grabow sing about where he wants to be as Lenny the Wonder Dog races through the crowd and girls in bikinis sip free margaritas.

If you are in Playa del Carmen, stop by the Luna Blue Bar. Paradise doesn’t get much better than this.

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, Friends, Living the Dream, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Mexico is On Sale at the Luna Blue Starting at Under $50 per Night!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on April 17, 2010

Everybody needs a vacation…But in the current difficult times it’s tough to find something affordable. We understand this at the Luna Blue Hotel, so we have temporarily slashed the prices on all our rooms as much as 40%. ALL our rooms for the rest of the spring, summer and fall are currently on sale. Caribbean Mexico is safe, beautiful, and now affordable at the Luna Blue.

In addition to incredibly low rates, guests at the Luna Blue Hotel receive:

Breakfast at the Luna, tea and giant homemade muffinsFREE breakfast snacks with coffee, tea & giant homemade muffins served every morning in our beautiful tropical garden.

FREE use of three of the hottest beach clubs on Mexico’s Caribbean coast: Mamita’s, Wicky’s, and Blucacao. Our guests also receive a 10% discount at the new Canibal Royal beach club.

FREE welcoming margaritas at the popular Luna Blue Bar.

FREE beach clubs, FREE morning coffee and homemade muffins, FREE margaritas and a tropical beach vacation STARTING AT LESS THAN $50 PER NIGHT! What are you waiting for? You can’t afford NOT to vacation in Mexico!

Make a reservation at the Luna Blue Hotel to get started

This is a limited offer, and prices may revert back at any time. Book today to take advantage of these amazing low rates.

Limited only to NEW reservations booked directly with the hotel. Sale prices are not valid with other discounts or offers. All other restrictions and regulations set forth on the Luna Blue Hotel website and in correspondence apply. There are no hidden fees or charges at the Luna Blue. We don’t believe in that sort of thing.

Posted in Events & Happenings, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Party in Paradise….New Year’s Eve at the Luna Blue!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 18, 2009

Have a Tropical New Year!Some places seem to think New Year’s Eve is a chance to add on a hefty cover charge, double the prices on drinks and try to be super-cool. Not us. Down here at the Luna Blue we think New Year’s Eve should be all about margaritas and palm trees.

So this New Year’s Eve, we are having an old school “Party in Paradise” with Buffett, Booze and Bikinis…

* Start with a New Year’s Eve Happy Hour…2 for 1 Margaritas from 5-8 pm.

* Enjoy live music by Mike Grabow, who will sing about putting your toes in the water and your butt in the sand.

* Whenever Mike takes a break we will turn on Radio Margaritaville.

* Hungry? Spanish Tapas can be delivered right to your swing or table from Miguel at Las Cazuelas Restaurant across the street.

* And just to add to the beach party atmosphere, girls in bikinis drink FREE!

Enjoy Boat Drinks while sitting on a swing beneath a palm-thatched roof; stroll in a beautiful tropical garden; dance next to a waterfall; and join us for a complimentary champagne toast at midnight.

No cover, no reservations, no inflated prices and “no worries, Mon.”

Join us for New Year’s Eve at the Luna Blue Bar…Playa Style.

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, Living the Dream, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A Perfect Day

Posted by Tony & Cheri on May 26, 2009

What Should We Do Today?
Guests at our Luna Blue Hotel often ask our help in planning their activities. The questions we are most commonly asked are “What do you like to do on your days off?” and “What would be a perfect day here in Playa?” Those are difficult questions to answer. There are so many things to do and many places to visit, and of course, there is the whole Caribbean coast that runs from Cancun through Playa Del Carmen and on down to Tulum and beyond. A lot depends on the guests themselves and the type of activities they enjoy. Some folks like a day of strenuous activity while others like to be laid back and relaxed for the whole vacation. For us, the answer is a combination of taking it easy and something a little more adventurous. And of course, any “perfect” day in Playa Del Carmen has to include some time experiencing the beauty of the Caribbean Sea. With the recent slow down in Playa’s tourism (see our recent blog entry A Trip to the Beach and Some Thoughts on the Swine Flu Hysteria) we decided to take some time off from the hotel and have our own Perfect Day.

The Perfect Morning
the beach at Blucacao Beach ClubWe started out by heading over to Blucacao Beach Club. Since we added free use of the Blucacao for guests of the Luna Blue earlier this year we have heard nothing but rave reviews. And it’s easy to see why. Blucacao is an upscale, beautiful and sexy beach club for the discriminating traveler. It has two pools, a chic bar and one of the better restaurants in town, not to mention a classic Caribbean beach front. Check out the photos we have of Blucacao at Blucacao, Luna Blue’s Newest Beach Club. So when we decided to start our “Perfect Day” on the beach the Blucacao was an easy choice. Once we got there we laid down on a wonderfully cushy beach bed, shaded by an umbrella only steps from the water’s edge. As always the service was terrific. The waiters swarmed over us getting us drinks, snacks, towels and anything else we needed. We alternated between lying in the shade of the umbrella, admiring the incredible vista and wading into the calm water to float under the morning sun. Then, as the morning drew to a close we said goodbye to our friends at the beach club and headed back into town for the afternoon portion of our “Perfect Day.”

The Perfect Afternoon
Spa ItzaOver a year ago our darling “semi-adopted” daughter Sarah and her husband Adam gave us a gift certificate to Playa’s premier spa, Spa Itza. We have long recommended Spa Itza to our guests for their top quality spa treatments but had never found the time to make use of our free massages. So, as part of our “Perfect Day” we called Spa Itza and scheduled some time.

The spa is located in the middle of Calle Corazon just off 5th Avenue. It is a multi-level building in the style of an open-air tree house. The facility has flowering trees, small gardens, and decks. They greeted us warmly, gave us a chilled towel to cool off from the afternoon heat (ahhhhh!!!!) and took us to our third-floor massage room. We each received a towel, a pareo, a key to a locker and a robe before being directed to the appropriate shower/changing area. We then went to the massage room where we each had a fifty-minute massage that left us limp and content. Then it was up to the rooftop where we were shown the temescal (a traditional Mayan sweat lodge), the lounge area, a sauna and showers. The whole area is a pleasant blend of stone and wood with the open sky above and the ocean in the distance. There is even an intercom for requesting water or fruit juices if you want.

First, we tried the Mayan sweat lodge. The temescal is a short (about 4 feet high) rounded structure with a wooden floor and the steam source in the center. We crawled in and sat in the near darkness with the steam swirling around us. It’s a little like a sensory deprivation chamber with heat. After a while we crawled out into the bright sunlight and cooled off under the open air stone and wood shower stall. Then we popped into the traditional dry sauna for a few minutes. By this time we could not have been more relaxed. If we had wanted we then could have relaxed in lounge chairs on the roof top deck, but we had to move along for the final part of the “Perfect Day”… a sunset cruise on the Caribbean!

The Perfect Evening
Regular readers of this blog know how much we enjoy the Catamaya sailing trips. We recommend them to our guests as one of the best tours/activites in Playa. The boat itself is beautiful, and the crew is always attentive and loads of fun. Besides, the Catamaya owners are just good people. Fabio and his wife Elvie are always willing to help out and donate to any good cause or need, like the Bomberos and the Peanut Pet Shelter. And the way they treat their staff like family says a lot about what kind of people they are. On this particular evening, they were taking the boat out with some family and friends just to enjoy a little time on the water. We were thrilled when they invited us to join them.

We all met at the dock in Puerto Aventuras at 4:00 pm. Fabio introduced us to his other guests. Then we were off. As we cleared the channel leading from the harbor to the open ocean, the sky was a lovely shade of darkening blue. The waters were calm and the breezes gentle so the sail was unfurled and we were soon skimming along the waves heading north along the coast. The regular crew was serving and working that evening and soon everyone was enjoying drinks and snacks. We chatted with Fabio and Elvie about the rewards and difficulties of operating a business in Mexico. We traded some stories of outrageous events and funny happenings, a common pastime among foreigners down here.

We eventually dropped anchor and a number of guests (us included) dove overboard to take a sunset swim in the warm water. The Fat Cat catamaran, another Playa tour company and friendly competitor of Catamaya, was anchored not far away with a full boat of guests. Suddenly somebody on the Catamaya let out a loud laugh and we all turned to look. The folks on the Fat Cat had lined up on the deck, turned their backs to us on the Catamaya, and then dropped their swim trunks and bikini bottoms. A full mooning! We all had a good laugh and some good-natured cat calling went back and forth.

The crew then began dinner. The grill was filled with lobster, steak and sausage. Pasta, salads and pastries were also served. Fabio and Elvie could not have been better, or nicer, hosts. We anchored for a while, enjoying dinner and watching a large storm pelt Playa with rain and spectacular bolts of lightning that lit up the evening sky over the jungle. Then as we unhooked from the anchorage and began to motor home we ended up in a bit of weather ourselves. The wind picked up and the waves began to roll. A downpour eventually forced us all inside the cabin and we watched as lightning crackled in the skies above us. To take advantage of the rolling of the boat the music was turned up and salsa lessons ensued, with Alberto the newest crew member donning the infamous tiger bikini for his lessons! Eventually, the storm passed on and we motored back into Puerto Aventuras. Thank you, Fabio and Elvie for a thoroughly delightful time!

So there you have it…our Perfect Day. It started with floating in the Caribbean and ended up sailing upon it. This is why we live here. Of course, living in paradise means there are still lots of other perfect days yet to come. And if you make it down here to visit us, we can help you have one too. 🙂

Buffett Plays Playa Update:
Still no word from Jimmy. If you haven’t e-mailed Jimmy yet (or you want to send a second…or third…e-mail) go here for the whole story.

Tony at Blucacao

Cheri enjoying a mimosa at Blucacao

Cheri in Spa Itza robe

The temescal–Mayan sweat lodge– at Spa Itza

Tony relaxing in the Spa Itza garden after his massage

Cheri enjoying the outdoor shower at Spa Itza

Our massage room

Alejandro, Captain of the Catamaya

Tony on the Catamaya

Jose, the Catamaya’s bartender

The crew raising the sail

Alberto teaching the girls to fish

Cheri catching the last rays of the day’s sun

Fatcat Full Moon

Tatiana, Elvie & Fabio’s daughter, with her boyfriend Ivan

Tony & Fabio

The End of a Perfect Day

Posted in Activities, Living the Dream | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

A Letter to Jimmy Buffett

Posted by Tony & Cheri on May 11, 2009

Here’s an e-mail we sent to one of our favorite Caribbean troubadors, Jimmy Buffett. If you are not familiar with Mr. Buffett’s music or books go to the store right now and buy some of his CDs. After you listen for a while you will find yourself looking at maps and planning vacations on a tropical beach!

Dear Jimmy,

We need your help. More specifically, Mexico needs your help.

As you probably know, Mexico’s economy has taken a pretty bad beating lately with the swine flu scare. Although the flu was concentrated several thousand miles away in Mexico City, the media blitz about how dangerous it was to travel to Mexico kept people away from all of Mexico including the beautiful Caribbean coast! As a result, tourists are now simply too scared to visit us even though we never had a single case of flu here where we live in Playa Del Carmen.

In a way, the lack of crowds has been kind of nice for us locals since we have had the beaches and bars to ourselves for a while. But it is starting to affect folk’s lives. People are getting laid off and businesses are worried about whether they can stay open until the tourists return. From hotels to bars, fishing boats, restaurants, dive shops and more…everybody is beginning to hurt.

We have been trying to think of something that would show travelers Jimmy Buffett, live at Jazz Fest, New Orleans 2008that it’s safe to come visit Mexico’s Mayan Riviera again. The solution we came up with is…YOU! We can talk ourselves blue in the face about how safe, and beautiful it is down here, but nobody will listen. However, if JB says it’s ok to go then the tourists and the Parrotheads will return. We are sure of it.

So we would ask a favor of you…come to Mexico! A little weekend mini-tour of Caribe Mexico is just what is needed to let people know all is fine south of the border. You could do a show at your own Margaritaville Café in Cancun, and another in the Margaritaville on Cozumel. And since you don’t have a café in Playa Del Carmen, we would like to offer you use of our own little Luna Blue Bar for a show. It’s small, but it’s your kind of funky tropical place with palm thatched roof, swings instead of stools around the bar, and Radio Margaritaville playing on the satellite radio.

While we can’t pay your regular appearance fee, we can offer you a free room at our Luna Blue Hotel next to the bar. And we will pass the tip jar for you when you play. We’ll even throw in free drinks for you and the band.

Please think about it. You could help some people out and get some time under Mexico’s tropical sun. And of course…you do owe us. After all, it was your books and music that inspired us to run away to the tropics in the first place. As we always say when folks ask how we ended up running a hotel and bar in the Caribbean…”Blame it on Buffett.”

There are people who need help down in the Caribbean and we ask…”What would Jimmy Buffett do?”

Best regards,

Tony & Cheri Head, Owners
Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

Of course, Jimmy Buffett is a big honkin’ superstar and probably won’t have the time to run down to Mexico in the middle of his summer tour. But we figured it never hurts to ask. And if you would like to encourage Mr. Buffett to consider a little trip to paradise just drop him a note at Tell him: “Jimmy…Mexico needs you!” and include a link to this blog. Who knows what could happen? 🙂

Posted in Friends, Living the Dream | Tagged: , , , , , | 20 Comments »

Buddha, Target and the Blond Giraffe: Our Spring Break

Posted by Tony & Cheri on March 17, 2009

Tony in a garden Cheri at the Heron House with the beautiful Crown of Thorns plant

We don’t often travel without each other. It’s more fun when we do things together, and over the years we have defined our travel roles: Tony maps out where we are going; Cheri arranges the details of transportation and schedules; Tony packs for the trip out; Cheri packs for the trip back, etc.

However recently Tony took off on his own. His growing interest in the practice of Zen Buddhism had lead him over the past year to correspond and visit with Reb Anderson, a Zen Master, or Roshi, who lives and teaches at the Green Gulch Zen Center in Northern California. Reb, whose Buddhist name is Tenshin (meaning “naturally real”), is a renowned teacher who often travels to speak at other Zen centers and address groups around the world. A couple of weeks ago Reb was leading a four day Zen meditation retreat in southern Florida, and Tony decided to attend.

Zen is not a religion (it does not worship Buddha or anyone else) but is a discipline centered on meditation. And meditation is simply sitting quietly and looking within yourself, at your life and at the world around you…which can be a good thing whether done at the end of the day with a glass of wine, walking on a deserted beach or at formal sitting in a meditation hall under the guidance of a teacher.

The retreat was held at a small conference facility. Attendees spent approximately four hours each day in meditation and another three hours attending lectures on the teachings of Buddha. Attendees could also have private discussions with Tenshin Roshi if they wished. Meals were vegetarian (quite a change for steak-loving Tony), and the entire retreat was conducted under a vow of silence. No speaking except for exchanges with the teacher. Wow! What a difference from working at the hotel and bar where we spend the day talking with guests and friends.

The retreat ended on Sunday, Cheri’s birthday. We planned that she would fly to Miami that day and Tony would pick her up at the airport. Starting the next day we were going to drive through the Florida Keys to Key West for our own little spring break vacation. But on Cheri’s birthday, we were going to be in the Miami area. To celebrate, Tony suggested a night at a fancy South Beach hotel and dinner at some hip new restaurant…or any other thing Cheri might want. Cheri’s choice? She wanted to spend the night in Florida City, a small town that is the last stop south before entering the Keys. Why? It had a Target store and a couple of malls!

Key West: the end of Highway 1Life in Mexico is a life without the commercial rat race of the States. In some ways that is very good. We have learned to slow life down and to put “things” in a proper and less important space. Yet we still miss being able to go shopping for whatever we might need or want without traveling from store to store or even town to town to find it. And we miss the selection of items not often available in Mexico (clothes, personal items, English language books, meat marinade, cement screws, etc). So Cheri’s birthday wish was to spend some time shopping, starting with her all-time favorite store, Target.

After emptying Target’s shelves we headed for our hotel, the Florida City Travelodge. Yes, the Travelodge. Again, Cheri passed on some expensive place in Miami and went for the Tripadvisor #1 recommendation. The Florida City Travelodge is not a vacation destination but is a clean, comfortable motel for those traveling to or from the Keys. The next day there was a “little” more shopping (Macy’s, the mall, Office Max, Target again, JoAnn’s Fabrics and a few others) and then we were off to the Keys.

We know of two beautiful vista-filled roadways. The first is the Pacific Coast Highway in California as it winds along the ocean side through the mountains and forests of Big Sur. The second is Highway 1 in Florida as it meanders through the 100 miles or more of the islands known as the Keys.

The highway crosses the biggest keys first. Key Largo and Islamorada are large islands with plenty of development. Houses, stores and people are everywhere. It’s a strange combination of architecture and cultures. There are numerous strip malls, fast food restaurants and souvenir stores. But because of the nearness of the ocean and the gulf, there are also many dive shops and marinas. There are funky little docks filled with sailing boats and weathered cottages everywhere. The sense of being in a tropical, almost Caribbean, part of the world is added to by the sight of palm trees waving in the winds everywhere and the bright colors seen on buildings, boats and most of all on the art and crafts work that seems to be for sale everywhere.

Once past the largest keys the islands begin to shrink and the bridges between them start to lengthen. At this point you begin to have the sensation of driving on the water. To the left is the great darkening blue of the Atlantic Ocean while to the right is the blue-green water of the Gulf of Mexico. As we drove along in the late afternoon the setting sun bathed both bodies of water in a soft glow. If you are looking for a road trip with spectacular scenery, this is it.

The Heron HouseWe followed US 1 until it ended on the little island of Key West…the end of the road, the line and the rainbow for some. We had reservations at the Heron House, a very delightful Bed and Breakfast one street off of Duval, the main drag through the tourist zone of “Old Town.” The “other” Tony and Cheri recommended it to us as they stay there every year during Fantasy Fest. (BTW there will be a Tony and Cheri convention at the Luna Blue Hotel this August when the “other” T&C come to Playa for the first time!) And the management of the Heron House was nice enough to offer us an industry discount when they found we were also in the hotel business.

Our room at the Heron was ground floor and opened via French doors onto the central patio and pool. In the mornings they would fill a sideboard with breakfast foods (one hot dish…eggs one day, waffles the next… and fruits, cereals etc.). It really is a beautiful place. The staff was friendly and attentive and the location couldn’t be beat. Duval Street was just around the corner in one direction, with quiet walks through neighborhoods of lovely homes and flower gardens in the other direction.

In fact the Heron House was such a nice place some people just can’t leave it…ever! Cheri was talking with some of the staff about a beautiful plant in the garden (a Crown of Thorns it is called) when they mentioned that it grew over someone’s grave site! It turns out there are four people who, after cremation, have had their ashes buried in the garden there because they loved it so much. Now that’s customer loyalty.

We had last been in Key West in October for Fantasy Fest, the town’s crazy, adult, semi-dressed weeklong version of Halloween. This time we were looking forward to a less hectic, more laid back trip to visit some of our favorite spots. It was Spring Break, but even with lots of college kids wandering from bar to bar the town still kept its laid back vibe.

Duval Street is the heart of Key West’s “Old Town” with several blocks of stores, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Duval ends on the west side of the island at Mallory Square, a large open area dock/deck where each evening the crowds gather to watch the as the sun settles into the ocean, spraying the clouds and water with a pink coral glow. Food vendors, fortune tellers, craftspeople, acrobats, performers and hustlers of all kinds fill the Square to entertain, and make a little money from, the tourists. Stopping by Mallory Square for sunset is a must whether it’s your first or fortieth time to Key West.

In addition to long walks along quiet streets, we did some shopping on Duval where we got some great decorations for our bar and Cheri picked up what seemed like a dozen little sundresses perfect for Mexico’s coming summertime. We also dropped in a couple of times at the open air dockside Schooner Wharf Tavern to see one of our favorite musicians, Michael McCloud. Michael is old school Key West. He has a huge repertoire of songs including many he has written himself which he delivers with an easy patter of wry humor and comments. We have tried for some time to lure him to Playa to play at our own Luna Blue Bar, but Michael says he likes his quiet life in the Keys too much to disturb it. His wife jokingly says she can’t get him past the ballpark in Miami!

We also spent an evening sailing on the schooner Western Union. An aged sailing vessel, the schooner was built in the thirties and used to make runs between Key West and Cuba. Now it takes tourists out in the evening to watch the sunset from the deck of a rolling ship. The night we went the sea was calm and the sky clear. It was peaceful and sweet.

When we weren’t relaxing we were going to some of our favorite eateries. We ate at: Fogarty’s (which hosts “Red Night” during Fantasy Fest); Cheeseburger in Key West (a sister to another of our favorite places, the Cheeseburger in Paradise on Maui in Hawaii); Kelly’s Caribbean Grill (owned by actress Kelly McGillis and set in a lovely tropical garden…and home to Kelly’s Kinky Carnival during Fantasy Fest); Mangoes Restaurant ( right on Duval with a sidewalk level view of the nightly promenade); and Blue Heaven (the funky chicken roost of a diner made famous both by its breakfasts and the Jimmy Buffet song “Blue Heaven Rendezvous”). Tony also enjoyed stopping at the Five Brothers, a small grocery store out in the neighborhood that has a lunch counter known for its Cuban style coffee. Local workingmen gather there at 7 in the morning for the dark, thick, mud consistency espresso loaded with several heaping tablespoons of sugar and equal portions of steamed milk. What a great way to kick start your heart in the morning.

And of course, the Keys are not only famous for being one of America’s craziest and most beautiful places, but also for the Key Lime fruit which is used to flavor drinks, pastries, candy and above all else…the legendary Key Lime Pie. After much investigation and research on our part, we decided that the best Key Lime Pie in Key West is to be found at the Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Cafes. There are several in the area, and they all offer the same sweet but tart, flaky-crust piece of heaven. Sometimes we overindulged and ordered the Pie on a Stick version: a slice of Key Lime Pie, frozen on a popsicle stick, dipped in chocolate which then hardens. OH…MY…GOD. Believe us, it’s very, very good!

After thoroughly relaxing (and gaining more than a few pounds we suspect) it was time to head home to Playa Del Carmen. While we had been on vacation, two of our dearest friends, our almost daughter Sarah and her new husband Adam, were in Playa staying at our home and housesitting our many pets. After returning home, we got to spend a couple of days with the “kids,” which was a wonderful way for us to end our spring break. Now it’s back to work, even if work means running a hotel and bar in paradise.

The other Tony and Cheri on “Leather Night” at Fantasy Fest
The other Tony and Cheri at Fantasy Fest

A typical Key West garden
A typical Key West garden

The garden at the Blue Heaven restaurant
The garden at the Blue Heaven restaurant

The Heron House
The Heron House

Michael McCloud at the Schooner Wharf Bar
Michael McCloud at the Schooner Wharf Bar

The crowd at Mallory Square waiting to watch the sunset
The crowd at Mallory Square waiting to watch the sunset

Chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick. Mmm Mmm Good.
Chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick

Sunset over the Atlantic
Sunset over the Atlantic

Cheri on the sailing vessel Western Union, dreaming of key lime pie

Early in the morning at Five Brothers Coffee Shop
Five Brothers Coffee Shop

A sailboat silhouetted against the setting sun, taken from Mallory Square
A sailboat silhouetted against the setting sun, taken from Mallory Square.

By the way, HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!!! And if you’re in town tonight, be sure to stop by the hottest party in town, the Luna Blue Bar’s St. Paddy’s Day Party. 7pm to midnight.

St. Paddy's Day Party at the Luna Blue Bar

Posted in Living the Dream, The Love of Travel, Trip Report | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Recommended Reading: A Great Guidebook

Posted by Tony & Cheri on January 24, 2009

Click here to see 'Playa del Carmen, Tulum and the Riviera Maya by Joshua Eden Hinsdale' on Amazon.comWhen we first bought the hotel, we didn’t know a thing about marketing. We naively thought it was just a case of writing or calling up companies that published guidebooks and telling them we were open for business. Haha! We quickly found out that’s not the way it works.

Getting mentioned in a guidebook can be difficult. If you’re not already a known entity (which we weren’t) you might not be mentioned because there’s only so much space in a book and the writers already have their favorites. And, even if the book is updated, you may have to get on a waiting list for a couple of years to be mentioned.

We also discovered that reviews of hotels in the travel writing industry sometimes are the result of the hotel’s “generosity” to the reviewer. Many large hotels finance press junkets and pay for rooms, airfare, food and other perks for travel writers. We had two problems with that. First it seemed kinda phony that you could buy a good review in a travel book and secondly…we couldn’t afford it. So we resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn’t get much mention in the world of guidebook publishing.

However, in the early days of the Luna Blue Hotel, we had a young travel writer stop by to look at our hotel. Joshua Eden Hinsdale was working on a guidebook for the Riviera Maya with an emphasis on Playa del Carmen. Josh had lived in the area for many years, was active in the travel industry, and knew his way around the Mayan Riviera. He was enthusiastic about spreading the word that Playa was the hottest place to travel and wanted his guidebook to be as up to date and detailed as it could be. He wanted visitors to have the same insider information that locals have. Best of all, he wasn’t looking for a handout or compensation; he just wanted to write the best guidebook possible.

We spent a lovely afternoon talking with Josh. Several months later a guest in the hotel showed us a copy of his newly printed book, “Playa del Carmen, Tulum and the Riviera Maya: A Complete Guide” published as part of the Great Destinations guidebook series. In our opinion, it was everything Josh had said it would be. We were especially happy that he had done a very complimentary review of the Luna Blue Hotel. It was our first guidebook mention! We even stole one of his quotes from the review to use on our website: “The Luna Blue Hotel…has a lost in time quality that’s not easy to find in a modern resort destination.”

Over the next couple of years we couldn’t count the number of people who have shown up at our front desk with his book in hand. It obviously has been a real help for visitors to Playa del Carmen.

Then, last year, Josh stopped by again. He explained he was updating his guidebook and wanted to see what was new with the hotel and get our feedback on changes, improvements and additions to Playa del Carmen in general. He also asked if he could interview us for a sidebar inclusion in the book. Oh yeah, twist our arms! We spent a pleasant couple of hours with Josh sitting in the garden next to the waterfall and talking about one of our favorite subjects, Playa del Carmen.

Fast forward to today. This morning some guests in the hotel came to the front desk with a copy of the new 2nd Edition of Joshua’s guidebook which they had brought for us. (We have the nicest guests!!) We just finished leafing through it and have to say it’s even better than the first one. The information is detailed in a way that most guidebooks aren’t. It offers specifics about where to go, what to do, how to get there and how much to pay.

But what makes this book really special and different is the insider commentary about things in Playa del Carmen that visitors often don’t see or hear about. Joshua talks about our famous fire department, the Bomberos, and tells people how they can help support it. He offers a long list of items that are needed by the local Playa del Carmen Children and Family Services Department with information about where to bring such items. He also peppers the book with entertaining commentaries such as the “Top 10 Songs to Load on your iPod” before coming to Playa (Margaritaville tops the list of course); suggestions for walking tours and stories about Mayan history and myth. He even does a review of local “adult” clubs with pricing information! There are plenty of maps and lots of photos. He also tells the reader about other sources of local information, including the website which he notes is “favored by many locals.” (We might have put in a good word. 😉 )

Of course our favorite pages are 142, 143 and 192. It’s here you can find favorable reviews of the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden, the Luna Blue Bar (which he recommends) and almost a full page story about us which he called “Living the Dream.” It was pretty cool to see that. Now we’re just waiting for someone to purchase the movie rights. 🙂 🙂

So if you’re going to be coming to Playa del Carmen soon or just want a book to take you there on a cold South Dakota winter’s night (that’s for you, Tim & Ruth), pick up a copy or order it from and make the mailman trudge thru the snow with your copy. We think you’ll like it.

Here’s an excerpt from the book that shows Joshua’s spot on attitude about traveling south of the border:

It May be Paradise, but it’s Still the Jungle

Don’t forget, even though Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya are exotic and wonderful beach vacation destinations, they are still relatively undeveloped and are in close proximity to the jungle, and you should set your expectations accordingly. You should also remember that there are hassles and frustrations inherent to any travel situation. You’re on vacation to have fun and celebrate life, so try not to let little challenges you encounter bother you.

If a chicken walks into your beachfront restaurant and pecks at your crumbs, don’t get mad–take a picture. If a gecko streaks across the wall of your hotel room, don’t call the front desk–give him a name and consider him a pet. If your shower runs out of hot water, don’t complain to the concierge–it’s good for your sunburn. And most importantly, if you find yourself at odds with your travel partner, it’s time to hit the nearest bar, order a margarita, feel the warm breeze, and remember why you came here in the first place.

Posted in Living the Dream, Recommendations, The Hotel & Bar, The Love of Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Jimmy Buffett’s Back at the Luna Blue Bar!

Posted by Tony & Cheri on July 13, 2008

Parrotheads Party!!!

It’s about time. Jimmy Buffett has had his summer vacation break and, starting this Thursday, he is back on the road with the Coral Reefer Band and the lovely Reeferettes. Of course all of Jimmy’s roads lead to Playa Del Carmen via Radio Margaritaville’s satellite concert broadcasts. And as always, every time Jimmy is performing somewhere…anywhere…we will be playing the concert live at the Luna Blue Bar.

Our Luna Blue Bar-Jimmy Buffett Live Concert-Parrothead Parties were a great success in June and figure to be just as much fun for the second half of Jimmy’s “The Year of Still Here” tour. You can see a little bit of one of our Parrothead parties in the following video, courtesy of our friends at

So starting July 17th we will again be having our Parrothead gatherings. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in July the Luna Blue Bar will have “Dos por Uno” (Two for One) House Margaritas, the best cheeseburgers in paradise grilled bar-side by Papa T, prizes, giveaways and best of all, Jimmy playing and singing LIVE for your pleasure. All the parties in July start at 7:00 pm. In the weeks to come, look for some special happenings, including the Dos Equis XX girls as guest bartenders (dates to be announced…watch here for details!). And remember…if Jimmy EVER utters the words “Playa Del Carmen” during a concert…it’s tequila for the house on us!

So deck yourself out in your best, funniest, sexiest Parrothead attire (or come as you are), and bring that giant thirst for a boat drink down to the Luna Blue Bar. The Gypsies are in the Castle tonight. Fins Up!

Posted in Activities, Events & Happenings, Friends, The Hotel & Bar | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »