After Hurricane Wilma in October 2005, I was extremely anxious to return to Isla. I'd rebooked my airline ticket and rental at Luna Turquesa for a month beginning in April 2006, but didn't want to wait that long. I noticed airfares in early December were extremely reasonable from Seattle, so I decided to take a solo trip.
I booked a room at Suites Los Arcos on Hidalgo and arrived the first week in December, loaded down with donations. A friend decided to get rid of the Beanie Babies she'd been collecting for years, and Craig was working for a school supply company at the time and had accumulated all sorts of samples from trade shows. I got a green light at customs, but the agents still decided to search my bags. The man liked the pencils with NFL logos stamped on them, so I offered him a handful of those and was soon on my way.
Less than a month and a half after the Category 5 hurricane, the island was open for business. Pulling into the dock that December day, everything looked bright and fresh! Almost the entire island had a new coat of paint, and the streets and sidewalks had been scrubbed clean.
The island was noticeably quiet! Sitting at the French Bistro my first evening eating dinner with friends, we noticed Hidalgo was dark with few restaurants or shops open. Suddenly, a golfcart pulled into the intersection by the Bistro and stopped. Four drunk guys hopped off the cart, dropped their shorts, and mooned us. Seriously? They all howled with laughter, got back on the cart, and sped off. We'd been served.
Playa del Sol was open for business. Every morning, I'd slip into a swimsuit and head there. New mattresses and umbrellas lined the beach. The guys pictured below in the boat were rebuilding the dock.
Love this photo of two little brothers walking down the new dock.
The old wooden gates on the cemetery disappeared sometime after this trip, replaced by new metal gates.
Business may have been slow, but the island was decorated for Christmas. This was my first December trip, so I discovered the traditions unique to early December, including La Rama where the local children decorate tiny trees and sing for pesos on Hidalgo at night.
Life after Wilma had returned to normal. The fruit lady was selling from her Juarez corner.
One morning eating breakfast at the French Bistro, this group of school kids paraded by. I love the little fella who waved!
Fidel on his trike running his daily errands. I love his shirt. Tipping is not a city in China!
The sunsets were amazing. I'd take a stroll down Medina around 5:30 every evening so I didn't miss it!
A group of children on Hidalgo in the evening singing La Rama.
One afternoon walking through the old zocalo (pre-remodeling), these two girls asked me to take their photo. I wish I knew where they were today! So cute, and so happy!
Looking around the corner from my chair at Playa del Sol.
Another gorgeous December sunset!
That solo December trip was one of my all-time favorites. The pace was slow, and Islenos were so happy to greet visitors! Isla was alive and well, with a renewed spirit!