Tropical dreams in an Ottawa summer

Before the sweltering heat of the summer of 2011 is over, I wanted to give a look at a place we stayed in Mexico a couple of years back.

We have a soft spot for the island of Isla Mujeres, which is off the coast of Cancun, and relatively unknown to all the chain hotel afficionados and party lovers that frequent that noisy and busy spot.  Isla Mujeres, when we first visited it over 15 years ago, was almost deserted, except for locals.  Transportation was by foot, bicycle or scooter/moped; there were virtually no cars or taxis on the island back then.  The hotels were small and low to the horizon, and the restaurants on the beach were mainly snackbars, with fresh fish, guacamole and Corona — oh, and stirred, not whizzed, margueritas.  Nothing fancy here.

The beaches were roamed by dogs; no palapas, beach umbrellas or rows of lounge chairs.  No one tried to sell you anything and you felt utterly safe and in paradise.  Below is North Beach, and the buildings on the right (click on the phto to see them) are the condos that were built as part of the hotel complex that was known as the El Presidente.  

The El Presidente became a white elephant and is surviving by the skin of its teeth because, up until now (and perhaps forever), a hotel of that size was simply not sustainable on such a small island.  Here it is below — the pyramid shaped building at the right (again, click on the photo to see it).  It is now called the Avalon Reef Club and has had its share of ups and downs.

Anyway, enough of that.  The hotel we loved was called Elements of the Island and I wrote about it a little while back; you can read that article here.

With all the things that comprise our summers here in Ottawa — heat, sun, windows open to the breeze, white sheets and summery outfits — perhaps strangely, this image is what I keep in my mind’s eye from our stay at Elements and what I see when I think  ‘summer’.

This small, independently run hotel has three self-contained apartment units, furnished simply but with kitchenettes and a small balcony or patio. Just a few steps away on the second floor there is a balcony across the courtyard:  here, you’ll find peace and quiet where you can read a book, have an afternoon siesta or relax in the hot tub.

Lisa and Cesar, the original owners and creators of this wonderful place have moved on to other adventures but the place continues under the careful direction of two new entrepreneurs, Madgid and Jean, and the reviews continue to be very good!

The rooms are still priced at under $100 a night, the healthy, home-made breakfasts and brunches continue to be amazing, and yoga is still offered on the roof-top palapa.  A great place to dream about on our hot summer evenings, where tropical beaches will have to live on in our minds — until we visit them again in the winter!

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