The biggest change in our lives was the visit of Honza’s 2 sons; Marnix aged 19 and Floris aged 17.
Marnix (right) & Floris (left)
When Honza and I rekindled our love 8 years ago we had spent a wonderful summer in Prague and in Honza’s summer house, his chalupa, where I met his 2 sons.
Floris (left) and Marnix (right) aged 9 and 11.
Immediately they fell in love with my Mexican dog Guapo.
Water biking on the Moldau with Guapo in the background.
Enjoying lunch in Prague along the Moldau. (check the light spot above Honza’s head)
Father and Son.
Father and Son.
We got along pretty good.
The following year we spent another beautiful summer in the Czech mountains.
Floris (left) and Marnix (right) 1 year later.
Preparing the nightly bonfire in front of our chalupa.
Hours and hours we talked staring into the flames and towards the stars.
Resting on a bench at the village of Vrchlabi. (Marnix calling his mom and Guapo came along again the 2nd year)
Father and Son.
Father and Son.
We always had so much fun!
Honza & Paula happy.
The Boys happy.
This summer we simply picked things up where we had left them, nearly 7 years ago.
At the family table of El Jardin.
We truly had a wonderful time getting to know each other again.
At Isla Mujeres enjoying a beer in crystal clear Caribean waters.
At WahWah’s after a long day at sea swimming with whale sharks.
At El Jardin seeing dad at work during a Noche de Divas.
At Rick’s birthday party at beach club Zenzi where the kids got a little drunk (including Paula) , but dad got us home safely.
In other words… we had a incredible time, and they’ll be back next year!
Another change was the decision of our Cuban soprano to choose a future that did not involve the family of El Jardin. A week after this photoshoot she decided not to return.
When this door closed, many new doors opened. Every week we offer more variety and more singers at the stage of El Jardin, and my dear old friend Ted Rhodes and newly discovered soprano Victoria Carpio perform with me every single week. We even offer an open mic after the 1st set and so far we’ve been surprised by a very lovely Argentinian soprano.
Ted Rhodes and in the background Victoria Carpio singing a duet.
Nevertheless, his uncontrolled alcohol consumption was affecting our business, so we had to let him go.
Within a week we had found another Mayan chef; young, talented and creative. His steady boyfriend of 3 years doesn’t drink, so chances are little we’ll encounter the same issues.
We also found the waitress we had been looking for all this time; a young woman with no experience, but a natural in this line of work. Together with our faithful Marce our team is complete to receive the high season.
Our new waitress Ana, with Marce in the background.
The last and maybe most important change is that we’ve found a new home. After 18 months moving from one noisy condo to another we’ve found a house in a quiet neighbourhood at the outskirts of Playa del Carmen.
I’m sure that, with a large private rooftop, we’ll do some star gazing and maybe… we’ll receive another visit from the Sphere Beings that Honza recently experienced. Hundreds of them. Here’s more information on this subject.
Honza said they look a little bit like this:
Oh, and 1 more change: Honza will be celebrating his 65th birthday this coming Wednesday, August the 26th, at El Jardin.
No way! 65 Already?
Lots of yoga and lots of sex with Paula will do the trick…
Anyway, you know we like our parties early, so we’re starting at 4pm at El Jardin with our well known DJ Greco for some sweet dance tunes. Chef Emiliano will prepare a generous Mexican buffet, and the bar will serve all beers for $20,- Pesos, and all wine and tequila for $40.- Pesos.
Faithful followers of my blogs may have noticed that the month of April went without a written report on our adventures. The reason is simple: starting a restaurant is a challenging and time-consuming business.
So, what are the latest developments at El Jardin?
In other words, we’re doing well and our guests are happy and keep coming back.
People are also coming back for the Noche de Divas. The 1st night was great fun and the place was packed.
We even have a little recording singing Hit The Road Jack.
Instead of a monthly event we decided to turn it into a weekly concert with a more classical theme, allowing our Cuban soprano Mayret Rosa Alvarez to shine and sing her classical repertoire like Puccini’s ‘O mio Babinno Caro’. If you are not familiar with this world famous aria, here’s a taste.
And now I could explore the classical repertoire I had been studying for many years myself. One of those arias was turned into a duet, and now Mayret Rosa and I sing together. Here’s an impression of that song.
Many people have asked me how I’ve found this lovely and talented Cuban soprano. The truth is; she found me.
But let’s first go back in history, the time when Mayret Rosa was born on the 9th of November 1987 in a small town called Media Luna in the South West coastal region of Cuba.
Media Luna Bay
Mayret began her musical career at the age of 7 when she started with guitar classes and eventually added piano classes as well.
Mayret at 3 years already showing her talent to entertain.
Mayret with her parents.
At the age of 18 she graduated from the Conservatorio de Musica Jose White with a degree in guitar.
It wasn’t until she had finished 3 years obligatory social services, where she worked as a teacher in musical history, that she started to study voice. After 5 years attending the ‘Instituto Superior de Artes’ in Holguin she graduated at the age of 26.
During those 5 years she first worked with ‘Ojare’, a group of musicians who presented traditional music of Cuba, then with the ‘Teatro Lyrico de Rodrigro Prats’ and eventually with a band called ‘Grupo Velas al Viento’, with whom she traveled to Playa del Carmen.
Then one night Mayret Rosa found herself at Le Lotus Rouge with her band, ready to play the keyboard after the performance of a lady she had never heard of before.
Natasha, the lovely and eccentric owner of the international restaurant and art school Le Lotus Rouge, had asked me to perform for the 3rd anniversary of her place, which fell on Valentine’s Day. I had prepared a beautiful romantic repertoire for her audience, and right after my show this little Cuban girl walks up to me and almost desperately asks, “Donde se puede cantar lyrico?” (Where can I sing classical). I smiled and answered, “Well, with me at El Jardin! But how do you know that I study classical voice?” She quickly replied, “I can hear from your singing technique.” The following week we met at El Jardin and talked about how we could study and work together. That’s when she told me about her personal living situation. The band with whom she had traveled to Playa had changed name and leader and from then on Mayret’s career went downhill. She got paid the equivalent of $60.- USD a month, no matter how many nights she played. She slept in a room with 2 men, not allowing her any privacy. But worst of all, they had taken her passport. You can all imagine my reaction when she told me all this, resulting in that Mayret opened her mouth demanding her passport back. The Cuban mafia, as Mayret called them, didn’t like a smart girl who starts talking and asking question, so she was basically kicked out.
Before we realised it she had found herself a small room and friends had already donated a table, 2 chairs and a few kitchen utensils. When I shared Mayret’s account with our audience they felt so touched by her story that more donations from our fans started pouring in: a bicycle, a refrigerator and even financial help. A week later she got married to a Mexican friend and her biggest fans were her witnesses. In other words; we kind of adopted her.
Since this wedding picture Mayret calls Honza a giant ET.
Admiring Mayret’s wedding pictures.
Having fun & feeling home.
For 2 months now we’ve offered the Noche de Divas to our Playa community and every week we receive a nice group of people who enjoy listening to opera, boleros, chanson and jazz. Some faithful fans never miss a concert.
We even bought a long gown for Mayret, the standard dress size when singing classical, because all her long dresses are still in Cuba. Since I’m studying Habanera from Bizet’s opera Carmen, I thought that this red one was a good match with Mayret’s coral.
We even sang Schubert’s Ave Maria as a duet on a special Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch at El Jardin. That was a dream come true. Glowing after our performance…
Mayret and I have also been pretty busy with our various voice students. Young girls, women my age, men in their sixties, we have students from all ages and all walks of life. We try to inspire and prepare them to join us on our stage.
And soon a few of our voice students will join us on our stage, so stay tuned.
With the birthday party our filmmaker Martin was able to shoot the last shot in order to finish the promotion video and here is the result. (The party starts at 2.10)
Needless to say that the day after we were finally able to rest and enjoy, and that’s what we did with quite a few mimosa’s, which we plan to offer at El Jardin.
But soon after we continued with the renovations of the kitchen.
The old floor went out.
A truck with construction materials was driven into our kitchen
The new floor is in and a new part of the bar is constructed
A new sink is being constructed
And there is our new ‘cocinita’.
Except renovating the kitchen we also had a solid floor placed where there used to be gravel.
And we had a waterfall with a little river constructed.
Then it was time to go shopping for a stove and pots and pans.
And before you know you have a fully equipped kitchen
Remember how we started?
And this is what we have now.
Now what’s a restaurant without a good chef? And where do you find one? As a true siren Paula had lured one in with her voice when she was practicing her Mexican boleros. Back in November last year chef Miguel stopped to listen to Paula’s songs and had asked if we needed a cook. Paula had answered, “Maybe in January we will need somebody.” Guess what? By the end of January he came back! But the best news is that Miguel turned out to be an excellent chef, more than we could have hoped for. Here we are checking out a new color ‘filipino’.
We also found a truly lovely waitress. Karla had been our yoga student for a few weeks, and one morning we asked her if she was looking for work. Guess what? Not only was she looking for work, she also had some experience.
For a week we practiced with a breakfast menu, which we serve all day, and next week we’ll add a lunch menu.
So, El Jardin is really opening it’s doors from Monday to Friday from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm for breakfast and lunch. What kind of food do we serve? Comida YucaCheca! What’s that? It’s the famous Yucateca kitchen from the peninsula Yucatan with a twist from our Czech chef Honza, hence YucaCheca.
So for breakfast you can expect typical plates like Enchilladas and Chilaquiles with all the sauces. Of course we serve organic coffee from Chiapas with organic milk, freshly squeezed orange juice and fresh coconut water. But we also have fresh fruit with organic granola or a variety of German breads with organic jam, and of course any style organic eggs.
For lunch we offer a typical Mayan plate called Tikinchic, which is fresh grouper served in a banana leaf.
Of course we serve a real Mexican chocolate mole made from scratch by our chef Miguel, and we have a vegetarian dish with eggplant, nuts and seeds.
Honza will take care of the daily menu, offering you a variety of his well-known dishes like the Czech goulash called ‘Segediner’, or his famous pork roast with red cabbage.
Unfortunately the liquor license is taking it’s Mexican time, and we keep hearing, “Mañana.”
It’s no secret that 2014 has been a rather interesting year for us. We gave up our home and business to bring Amarte Maroma back to life, only to be kicked out after 3 successful months.
Oh well, c’est la vie.
For the next 3 months we were homeless, our belongings stored at too many different locations and bodega’s, trying to make sense of it all. Finally, at the end of the summer we found a new home for ourselves and shortly after a new business opportunity presented itself: El Jardin.
The Universe works in mysterious ways. As you may remember, we had made a New Years wish; asking the Universe to help us find a bigger place and one a bit closer to the sea. The Universe gave us a little detour, because if it wasn’t for the experience in Amarte we never would have seen the value of El Jardin, and at this moment in our life that’s where we need to be.
Then sometimes these lyrics from Bob Marley pop into my head:
“Don’t worry about a thing.
Cause everything little thing gonna be alright.”
So what’s happening at El Jardin?
We’ve moved the weekly local market to the Saturday afternoon, offering people an opportunity to do their local shopping in the weekend. And we moved the monthly Bazar to every 1st Sunday of the month. The atmosphere is always great, old and new friends meet and I sing a few songs. Here’s an impression of those afternoons.
Taking pictures with a tablet
We’ve renovated the existing construction that held the pump, gas and water tanks that took up a lot of space, and moved the equipment up, creating an area for sinks and storage space. I know it looks scary when you suddenly find an enormous pile of construction material in the middle of your beautiful garden, so Honza was happy to only see the end result and that was shocking enough for him.
A big pile of construction material
Starting to mount the walls
Last finishing touches.
We’ve improved the stage even more and had the existing wood treated and the result is marvelous.
The existing wood removed for treatment.
The treated tropical hardwood starting to be replaced.
Don Jorge’s son learning the trade from his father.
The floor is finished and we are tired and dusty, but happy!
The same talented carpenter created a beautiful addition to our existing table, so we could fit more than 10 people on our table.
The reason why we needed to expand the table is because we were booked for an event, and that is one of the core businesses of El Jardin. A group of 13 French people had booked the table for a sit down dinner to welcome the New Year. They were familiar with Honza’s cooking skills and my French repertoire, and they were not disappointed.
Our carpenter created a seamless addition.
Paula singing to her French speaking guests.
The only eventful situation that presented itself that night was a power outage in the neighborhood, but within a minute the lights went back on. Except in the house, which we have promoted as a vacation rental. Our guests would return to a dark house with no running water. The next morning I assessed the situation. Nothing a seasoned property manager couldn’t handle. Except when it’s the 1st of January. I was so tired from working 2 months straight getting our place ready for guests, and the previous day having worked from 7 in the morning till 2 at night, I just broke down in tears. Oh well, shit happens. We gave them back their money and they left with a smile.
Another event we hosted was the yearly Christmas dinner for our company Star Condos.
Instead of choosing a fancy restaurant Honza insisted on cooking for our Mexican family and they were thrilled, cause Honza’s typical cuisine is well known with our team.
Honza’s famous caserolas
And Paula sang a few Mexican Boleros.
The last event we hosted was one for the charity organization Good Intentions
They teach English to Mexican children and offer them possibilities to develop themselves creatively and spiritually by giving art and yoga classes. Of course Honza cooked up a storm for 50 children. Giving back to the community feels good. Here’s an impression of that afternoon.
On their way to El Jardin – community center.
Receiving instructions for the art class.
A beautiful drawing.
And another one.
Honza ready to serve the buffet.
My fellow yoga teacher.
Soaked from a tropical shower.
So what’s planned for the near future? Since we’re still in the process of obtaining our licenses to legally open our doors, we can’t tell you when we’ll be able to serve you your 1st glass of wine. But we can tell you that Wednesday the 21st of January we’ll open our doors to celebrate Paula’s 50th birthday. We’ll be using the formula that has always worked in the past: Honza cooks an enormous buffet and you bring your favorite beverage of choice. Of course you can count on our famous DJ Greco to heat up the dance floor. And you know we like to start early, like 4 in the afternoon.
I had an idea for a picture for my 50th birthday invitation, but so far I’ll share with you the one that our friend Gary Wendt created for me 10 years ago.
The famous original from 10 years ago.
Sometimes Honza and I feel overwhelmed by the idea that we’re opening a restaurant, as we both know from experience what that entails. But then I think:
Second, this Sunday the 30th of November 2014 we’re hosting our 1st event. It’s a monthly Bazar, an alternative to the annual Andale Bazar, where you can rent a spot and sell old and new stuff. We’ve decided to introduce an extra Bazar on Sunday the 14th, giving people the opportunity to shop local for their Christmas presents.
Third, starting the 4th December we’ll be hosting the weekly eco-market. Every Thursday between 11 am and 1 pm you can buy local and organic products at our community center. As you can see the weekly markets have become a well-established tradition in Playa over a short period of time.
So, what else have we’ve been doing at El Jardin? Well, mostly cleaning, sorting out stuff, and taking care of the maintenance of the house. We needed to get ready for the high season. At times I felt like a construction worker, hauling and moving heavy stuff, my body achy and tired after a hard days work, but always with a big smile because there’s nothing more satisfying than shaping up your own business. The real fun part was redecorating the house, and some of you will recognize artwork and objects from Hacienda El Sol. Here are some before and after pictures, so you get an idea what we’ve done so far.
We still need to apply a few finishing touches to the house and then we’re going to shoot a few professional pictures, cause those tablets and phones are limited.
Is this all we’re going to do in El Jardin? Of course not! We’re continuing with the ‘vivero’ or plant nursery that the owner has set up, and in time we will expand this activity with an organic vegetable and herb garden and subsequent workshops.
And last but not least, we will soon open El Jardin as a place where you can enjoy your breakfast and lunch. You know our concept: fresh, local and organic when possible. In other words: Healthy but Tasty. We don’t have much of a kitchen yet, but this is a small start.
We’ve created a Facebook page for EL Jardin – Community Center with more up to date pictures.