Goddess Ix Chel: Exploring the Mayan Ruins at San Gervasio

Goddess Ix Chel: Exploring the Mayan Ruins at San Gervasio My feet slip, I can't seem to stay on the path. Perhaps I think, perhaps it's best after all to be barefoot.

My heel slips off the sole of my flip-flop, I'm pierced by a jagged rock. I take a moment to make sure I'm not bleeding. All is well, but I'm puzzled- how did the Mayan's function, barefoot, along these narrow jagged paths? Paths that seemed to stretch for miles uphill through dense jungle. There are so many mysteries surrounding the Mayan civilization, I think to myself.

During our recent trip to Cozumel, Mark and I decided to spend some time exploring the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio. This adventure turned out to be the highlight of my trip.


Surrounded by a steamy tropical jungle, full of aggressive mosquitoes and thick, moist air, lies the sprawling site of a series of two thousand year old  Mayan ruins including a temple dedicated to the  goddess Ix Chel (goddess of the moon and fertility).

mayan ruins



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A two thousand year old well.

The temple erected to honor the supreme goddess   . Women, well, I guess I should call them girls, from 13-15 years of age would make the trek and give offerings in hopes of finding a husband and being blessed with many children.

Ix Chel's temple. On first glance it looks dusty and white. But when you look really hard in the direction of the two columns you can catch a glimpse of the cobalt blue that was the original color of this temple. It must have been a true sight to be seen in its day.

I can't tell you how cool it was to be able to experience history in this way.

The ruins at San Gervasio are a true treasure that were discovered by accident. The land that holds the ruins belonged to a wealthy Spanish family. When the patriarch died, the family came to the island from Spain and blasted the land in search of gold. Instead, they found these ancient ruins which they didn't care much for and had no plans to maintain. The government of Mexico stepped in and facilitated a land exchange. In turn for the ruins, the family gained several acres of beachfront property which has now been converted into a successful series of resorts.

Many of the original structures were damaged in the blasting efforts, but what remains is truly remarkable.

It makes one think, how many other Mayan sites are buried beneath the massive estates owned by the early Spanish colonial families. I guess we'll never know.

Visit Cozumel: Six Reasons to Pack Your Bags Now!

Visit Cozumel: Six Reasons to Pack Your Bags Now! In moody turquoise waters, off of the coast of Mexico, there lies a sleepy island sprinkled with fine white sand. Atop a labyrinth of coral reef and beneath the brazen sun, lies the tiny island of Cozumel.

Cozumel Mexico

At first glance, non-pretentious, natural, somewhat secluded tranquility with plenty of local charm, Cozumel made me smile.

At second glance, water undulating in the distance, dilapidated cobblestone streets, hammocks swaying over a jagged ivory coastline, motorbike rentals, the astringent odor of tequila, I knew I was in a place I could get lost in.

Cozumel Beach

Lost that is, in a time altering, eye opening, space shifting metaphysical sense.


A mere 33 miles long from north to south, Cozumel's road is an exact loop around the island's periphery, making it pretty difficult to veer off course.

That is of course unless you decide to trek inland without a guide, towards the surprisingly dense jungle and get abducted by a boa constrictor (the island has plenty after two snakes were brought to Cozumel for a movie shoot in the 70's and were set free to multiply). Non-endemic boa constrictors aside, Cozumel meets every expectation when it comes to a sleepy, serene, Caribbean island getaway.



So without further ado, here's my list of reasons to visit the serene island of Cozumel.

6 Reasons to Visit the Island of Cozumel: 1) Cozumel has some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world! In fact, Jacques Cousteau put this island on the map in the touristy sense after exploring the reefs below. Cozumel's reef is second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. If snorkeling and diving don't appeal to you, you can always swim with whale sharks (don't worry, these gentle giants are neither whales or sharks, they're actually fish- ginormous docile fish) or dolphins. Whatever your pleasure, Cozumel is bursting with oceanic adventures.

2) Cozumel has a fascinating collection of ancient Mayan ruins! I'm a complete history nerd and I must say, the hours that I spent hiking through the mosquito infested tropical jungle to take in the ruins from the ancient Mayan civilization was my favorite memory from Cozumel. I loved learning about the shamans and musicians in particular whom played an integral role in shaping Mayan society.

3) Cozumel is a wonderful culinary destination! I love Mexican food, it's one of my favorite forms of comfort eating. The fresh ocean inspired Mexican food in Cozumel is some of the best food I've tasted in Mexico. Cozumel is so abundant with fresh fish and seafood, it's a pescetarian's dream!

4) Tequila! I mean, need I say more? I counted three fully operational tequila factories each with their own local spin and flavor. These factories are open for tours where sampling and tasting is encouraged. You can even schedule cooking classes to learn how the locals use tequila infusions to enhance the flavors of their cooking.

5) Cozumel is easy to navigate! As mentioned before the main road on the 33 mile long island is a loop. It is so easy to explore Cozumel on your own. The island is extremely safe and most locals are happy to chat- the majority of whom speak perfect English, if Spanish is not your forte. At the main port, where cruise ships come in, you'll find car and motorbike rentals. Traffic on the island is calm, I definitely suggest making your own adventure out of your trip. Taxis can get expensive, but a motorbike rental is only around thirty dollars a day.

6) Cozumel is a place for simple non-pretentious relaxation! If hammocks on a beach and a cold drink in your hand on a secluded beach is your idea of relaxation, then Cozumel is the place for you. Yes, there are a few resorts and yes, some of them can get busy and touristy, but in Cozumel, there is plenty of space for everyone. For every busy beach, you'll find a quiet one, where you can exist in a secluded state of suspended time. Hello gentle breeze, warm sun, rolling waves...

So there you have it. Cozumel, my friends is a gem. You can do as little or as much as you'd like. You can spend as little or as much as you like. You can stay on mainland Mexico and visit for a day or weekend, or you can fly directly in and spend the week in meditative relaxation.

Whatever your pleasure, whatever your pace, Cozumel, is worth a visit.

Mayan Sorrow Dolls


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In the median of a highway I spotted her. Beneath the shade of the scarlet flamboyant tree, dressed in the colorful embroidered clothes of the Mayan, she sat smiling, a woven tan basket on her lap. Curiosity piqued, I crossed.


“Hola,” she beckoned.

“Hola.” I pointed towards the basket in her lap.


She leaned the basket towards me revealing hundreds of tiny cloth dolls. Different shapes and colors, they were dressed in a fashion similar to hers.


“Que?” I asked.

“Mayan sorrow dolls.” She said in English.


Mayan sorrow dolls?


I asked what a sorrow doll was, but her English could carry her no farther, and my Spanish had done for me all that it could. I purchased three, thanked her and was on my way.


At the hotel, I shared my purchases with the woman behind the concierge desk.


“Ah, very beautiful. Sorrow dolls.” Her smile held my answer.


“What is a sorrow doll?”  I was bursting with curiosity.


“What is a sorrow doll? Ah, okay.” Leaning forward, bringing her elbows together, she rested her heart-shaped chin in the palm of her hands.


“The Mayan Indians made these dolls called sorrow dolls. They believed that the dolls got rid of human sorrows. If you tell your sorrows or troubles to a sorrow doll, it will worry or grieve in your place and you are free to be happy. These dolls are very powerful.”


The answer to my question came in the form of an inspiring story. I grinned.


“Thank you for sharing that with me.” I placed my dolls back in their bag, glad that I had noticed the woman beneath the tree in the median of the highway.


“Give one to your baby.” She whispered nodding at Ohm, who was nestled against my chest in his sling. “When he is older, and he has a bad dream, or is worried about school. The doll will help him. You’ll see.”


“I like that.” I beamed. “Thank you. I will.”


I walked away inspired by the story of the sorrow doll. The Mayans were true visionaries a world without sorrow, how about that?


Out of the three sorrow dolls that I purchased, I’m going to try my luck with one. The other I’m going to save for Ohm. I’ll share the story of the sorrow doll with him when he is old enough to appreciate it. The final doll I would like to share with one of you.


On August 25th, I will choose at random, an email address from my subscriber’s list, a simple thank you for reading and sharing my sojourns with me. If your name is chosen, you’ll receive an email from me letting you know that a sorrow doll is on its way.  It will be your turn to share the story.



Cancun, Mexico: Photo Essay

Cancun, Mexico: Photo Essay

Sandwiched between the rolling crystal waters of the Caribbean Sea and a murky green tinted crocodile inhabited lagoon, Cancun, Mexico is an easy-going destination with many personalities.

Immortalized forever, thanks to MTV's spring break specials as the place to go to engage in debauchery under the sun, Cancun is so much more than a place for undergrads to go to get wasted and wild.

Yes, there are endless strips of bars, there are designer shopping malls and cheap sleazy hotels; but there are also pristine stretches of serene isolated beaches, turtle reserves, iguana sanctuaries, lovely locally owned restaurants offering the freshest days catch, a simple and easy-going downtown area, friendly locals, crocodiles, and Mayan ruins.

Cancun is gritty, romantic,  family friendly, it loves to party, it offers solitude, it's seeped in history, it's slow and easy, it is so many things.

Mercado 28

In the heart of central Cancun, thirty minutes (more or less) past the hotel zone on the R2 bus,  you will stumble across the magnificent Mercado 28. Central market, social hub, the place to be seen, the place to eat delicious and simple local food, Mercado 28 is a little bit of everything.

It's easy to loose yourself in the romantic Spanish colonial architecture. It's easy to get caught up in the sights and sounds as you watch musicians wander the narrow cobblestone paths where local artisans sell their wares in cramped haphazard stalls.  Mayans in colorful woven garments quietly sell indigenous crafts, strolling past farmers proudly displaying freshly harvested produce. Mercado 28 is a special place and it's easy to get caught up in the magic of it all.





Live music at the Mercado



Lunch at the Mercado



Ohm dances at the Mercado



Finding Serenity in Cancun, Mexico

Cancun is so much more than a spring break party destination. There are several strips of beach that are secluded and peaceful.  

At the very end of the Hotel district, our stretch of beach was never crowded. The sand was clean, the turquoise water magnificently clear. We woke every morning to the roar of raw uninhibited ocean waves.


There is something so cleansing and soothing about water. Simply being near the ocean’s undulating roar can be enough to induce a coma of serenity.


Having a stressful day? Lean back, take a deep breath, and press play



“Don’t Drink the Water!” and other Mexico Tips

"Have fun, but don't drink the water!" If I had a peso for every time I heard this statement, I’d be a semi-wealthy woman right now.  Yes, fine, you shouldn’t drink the water, but when it comes to Cancun, there are so many other things to consider to ensure a great trip. If you're headed to Cancun, here are some tips:

  1. The locals are lovely. Very used to tourists and overwhelmingly warm,  local people are more than happy to chat with you. Ask questions! Ask for food recommendations, ask for directions, ask for shopping suggestions. Get in there and strike up a conversation.
  2. A simple Hola and Gracias go a long way. It’s fine if you are not a fluent speaker of Spanish, a little effort goes a long way. Anyone can learn a few key words or phrases and consciously use them when appropriate. It’s respectful and people are really receptive when you make the attempt to communicate in their language. If your attempts take a swan dive, it will be okay, most people speak English fluently. I never studied Spanish, I memorized a handful of greetings and phrases and improvised from there. Luckily for me, I can get by in Portuguese and many of the words were the same in Spanish.
  3. If you allow someone to take your bag, or perform a service such as walking you to your destination, make sure to tip. Tips are expected whenever someone goes above and beyond. If you are just asking for directions, you’re fine, no need to tip, but if the person physically walks you to the destination, a tip is expected. If you don’t want to tip or don’t need to be walked, establish firmly that you are not in need of any further assistance, offer a quick thanks and continue on your way.
  4. When shopping in any marketplace you are expected to bargain. Prices go way up, when Westerners are spotted. Go ahead, get in there and haggle.  If you are not satisfied with the price, you don’t need to settle, go ahead and walk away. One of two things will happen, the seller will put forth a counter-offer, or you will find an exact replica of what you wanted at another stall and will be able to bargain a price you are happy with. Most items can be found easily in duplicate. Shop around. Make sure that you are familiar with the exchange rate and be realistic in terms of what you want to pay. You shouldn't be ripped off, but local artisans also need to be paid fairly for their hard work.
  5. Taxi fare is negotiable. When a Westerner is spotted, drivers see dollar signs. If a fare sounds outrageous, it probably is. Bargain.
  6. Ride the public bus. The buses in Cancun are efficient, cheap, clean and easy to navigate. Don’t be intimidated. Most bus drivers will help you. If you ask, a driver will let you know when your stop has been reached. In many cases, you'll be able to get specific walking instructions as well. The bus is also a great way to check out Central Cancun and interact with locals.
  7. If you are going to eat in the market place or off of the street (and I hope you do), patron places that are busy. Lines and activity usually indicate good food. If you don’t see a line or other customers, chances are the food is stale or worse...
  8. The fish and seafood in Cancun is amazing. Be adventurous. There are so many flavors and textures out there. You will not like all of them, but some you will love. I now have a new appreciation for octopus and have re-kindled my fondness for ceviche.
  9. Get off of the resort! Go ahead and enjoy Cancun, it is so much more than a spring break party destination. Cancun is full of culture, is astonishingly picturesque, and is very safe. Cancun, Mexico is a family friendly and romantic travel destination.
  10. And of course, when all else fails, don’t drink the water! Don’t brush your teeth with the water. Ask for a straw. Beware of ice.