Travel: MEXICO

Chichen Itza, lunch at Valladolid, & Arrival at Nah Uxibal ~ Mexico, December 2017

We couldn’t let Monica visit the Yucatan and not see at least one of the amazing Mayan sites. Chichen Itza is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage site, and was along our route to Tulum. The architecture is boggling, and if you are interested in the history, be sure and hire a guide – and if it’s hot, use an umbrella for shade! Photos by Jamie and Monica… http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/483

The last time Wally and I had been to Chichen Itza was on our honeymoon in 2000, and we got to climb the pyramid then!

Lunch was our next stop, and I had chosen Hotel El Meson del Marques on the Valladolid Square. We had stayed there in the past, and it’s a charming hotel with the restaurant in the interior courtyard. It was a Colonial mansion dating from the early 17th century, and has been operating as a hotel and restaurant for 40 years. http://www.mesondelmarques.com/en/index.html

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On the back side of the hotel is a lovely pool and bar area to relax.

Time for food and drink..and yet another amazing meal in the Yucatan! There are many cattle and pork ranches in the area, and their meats are a specialty. The marinated pork melts in your mouth, and is so juicy and flavorful.

I love all the bird cages on the wall and the big metal star… IMG_0433

We walked around the square, and Monica did a bit of quick shopping.

Now onward to Tulum…this is a typical home for the locals…IMG_0405We arrived in Tulum and stopped off at Chedraui to pick up some groceries. It’s always fun to explore groceries in other countries!

We arrived a Nah Uxibal “House of Good Energy”, our favorite beach destination, just before sunset. Soliman Bay is about 15 minutes north of Tulum, and about 15 minutes south of Akumal (an hour and half south of Cancun). This is Monica’s first visit, and she snapped lots of pictures… Visit their fabulous new website to learn all about it. http://www.solimanbayvacationrentals.com/

Drop bags and out to the beach!

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We reunite with owners and friends Skip and Jeannette and beach dog Sukie, hav a drink, and it was dark before we knew it. We’re all hungry, and after driving all day, decide on dining at Oscar y Lalo’s just across the highway for dinner. Owner Victoria was there, and she brought out some of their special tequilas to try. Their margaritas are large, tasty and powerful, and I love their chaya margarita. Healthy and not too sweet – just right for me! We ordered a variety of their delicious specialty dishes, and enjoyed a great meal with friends! Check out their great website! http://oscarandlalo.com/

Can’t wait for sunrise in the morning and our first beach day!

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Sunday in Merida, Mexico ~ December 2017

We awoke to a sunny Sunday, and I went next door to the little coffee shop and market called Deli Town for our early morning coffee fix.

We got ready for the morning out, and headed for breakfast in the hotel restaurant, which was delicious! You get to choose from traditional Yucatan dishes or American favorites such as waffles with a local twist.

Time to walk off breakfast and go check out the Sunday Market on the Plaza Grande. There’s vendors selling local products and souvenirs, and tons of food vendors. The churches were open to welcome Sunday worship, so we peeked in each one.

We had attended one of the music events in the courtyard of the Museo Casa Montejo the night before, and I wanted Monica to see the museum and lovely rooms of this 16th century former home. They had an exhibit featuring exquisite Mexican-made clothing.

This is the Public University of the Yucatan, where later in the evening we would discover a Christmas music presentation.

It was time to explore some new territory, so we made the short walk to Paseo de Montejo from our hotel. There are quite a few shops along the way, and even some antique shops.

On Sunday mornings, they close the Paseo de Montejo to car traffic, and residents flock to the famous mansion-lined street to bike, roller blade and congregate. There are bike rental companies along the way too! There are restaurants and boutiques, and many artists set up along the sidewalks working and selling their art. We realized as we saw several other stages along the Paseo that we had missed out on some of the entertainment the night before!

We had walked up an appetite, and La Chaya Maya back by the Parque de Santa Lucia was our lunch destination. We ate here the year before and absolutely loved it! We sampled many different dishes, and everything was so delicious! Dressed in traditional Yucatan style, the staff is courteous and friendly, and the open courtyard and garden make this a delightful dining experience. http://www.lachayamaya.com/index2.html

Hunger quenched, we stopped in the park, where a stage in the corner was filled with dancing couples swaying to the music. How fun! We watched and listened for a while before going back to the hotel to rest.

Later in the evening, we decided to walk to the Plaza Grande and we were surprised to hear more music, this time coming from the University of Yucatan courtyard! It was a Christmas show with wonderful singing and dancing!

When we reached the Plaza Grande, we realized the festivities were still going on! The market was still set up, and one street had a stage with a mc and dancing girls, and the street was filled with people dancing! From young to old and everywhere in between, they were having a great time. We swayed along and enjoyed people watching for quite a while. IMG_0363And here’s a little video clip so you can enjoy it too!

La Negrita Cantina was our next stop, so we walked back down Calle 60 and past the hotel a few blocks. This small building is deceptive as to how many people they can fit! The bar area was small and packed, and then you go back through a few rooms and it opens up into a large seating area with a stage for their live music and another big bar. The music was getting ready to start and we couldn’t find a table, so we had a beer and moved on. We were hungry again and those pizzas at La Tratto were calling again.

Eating at La Tratto is like being in Italy!

IMG_0208And we’re done… tired, full, and time for bed across the street to Hotel Casa Lucia!  Tomorrow we’re off to drive across the Yucatan to Tulum, and we’ll be making a quick stop at Chichen Itza for Monica to see the famous Mayan city. She’s been helping with the photography too!

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Casa Lucia Hotel Boutique & Lunch at Apoala ~ Merida, Mexico, December 2017

We had such a great time in 2016 visiting Merida and their La Noche Blanca “White Night” music and arts event, that we decided to go back again this past December. The first Saturday night in December, the centro comes alive with music and dance. Stages are set up around the historic centro in the main streets of the Grande Plaza, as well as venues here, there and everywhere it seems as you walk around. You’ll hear music coming from the university courtyard, the museum courtyard, and down an arcade. And it’s all FREE! There are very few tourists in town, as this is for the local people. You can’t find much about the event online – we happened to luck upon it in 2016!

Wally’s sister Monica had never been to Mexico, and we convinced her to come with us for a quick immersion to our favorite spots in the Yucatan. We flew into Merida, and it was a short cab ride to our hotel in the historic centro and Hotel Casa Lucia Hotel, across the street from Parque de Santa Lucia.

We arrived at Casa Lucia Hotel and immediately loved our choice in this charming boutique hotel. They have a small restaurant at the front of the hotel, and offer complimentary breakfast for guests. Just next door is a great coffee shop and little market for early birds, snacks and drinks. http://www.casalucia.com.mx/en/hotel

We had reserved through Hotels.com, and everything was in order for easy check-in. The rooms were lovely, spacious, spotless and the air conditioning worked great – very important in hot Merida! We loved all the outdoor seating, and especially the nice sitting areas on the stairwell landings. This became our lounge and gathering area. The pool area is also a great space to hang out (literally with hammocks) and comfortable seating.

Checked in and refreshed, it was time for lunch! This is a great location, as there are numerous restaurants surrounding the Parque de Santa Lucia, as well as many other options in surrounding blocks.

After surveying the menus, we chose Apoala with nice outdoor seating on the park. We ordered drinks, and I think they were some of the prettiest I’ve ever seen and delicious too! http://www.apoala.mx/

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When our food arrived, we were impressed with the presentation, and it was soooo good! Merida is definitely a town for foodies, and this was just our first stop!

We wandered around a bit, had a few drinks and got ready for our night on the town. As we walked towards the Plaza Grande there were street performers, artists creating murals and people everywhere enjoying the evening.

La Noche Blanca is held during the Pilgrimage of  Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the churches are amazingly bedecked with flowers for the weekend. Brides and grooms take advantage of this, and there are weddings held all evening in the churches! It’s such a touching event to be able to sit down and watch, and cheer for the newly wed couples – every 20 minutes or so! It’s a community celebration night!

We reached the Plaza Grande and there was music coming from all directions its seemed, and hordes of people waiting in line – especially young girls! We discovered later they had been waiting hours for the Mario Bautista concert – or Justin Beiber of the Yucatan! It was a full moon that night, and so beautiful to watch it rising over the Merida Cathedral.

IMG_0177IMG_0364IMG_0147Here’s a minute video on the Plaza Grande and the moon over the Cathedral of Merida.

IMG_0325We decided on La Tratto Italian Restaurant on the Parque de Lucia and just across from our hotel for dinner… LOVE this restaurant! Great food and service every time!  http://www.latrattomerida.com/

IMG_0138And home across the street to Hotel Casa Lucia…  What a wonderful day in Merida!

IMG_0167Stay tuned for Sunday in Merida with more great food, places to see and dancing!

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Nah Uxibal on Soliman Bay ~ Tulum, Mexico

 

The morning at Nah Uxibal and the vacation rentals along Soliman Bay begins with the caretakers raking their stretch of the beach. “Hola Javier”, “Buenos Dias” is our morning greeting. Mimi watches, then trots across the freshly raked sand to her favorite chaise lounge to survey her territory. http://www.solimanbayvacationrentals.com/

So what do we want to do today?? How about lie about and enjoy this tropical paradise a while? (Mimi has the right idea.) IMG_8675The neighbors to the right of Nah Uxibal, Casa Canciones and Casa del CorazonIMG_5142Around Nah UxibalIMG_8637IMG_8661IMG_8664Nile liliesIMG_8680My happy place…IMG_5187The “big house” of Nah UxibalIMG_8673IMG_5363IMG_5211IMG_5212IMG_8691For those feeling like a bit of exercise… you can kayak, swim, snorkel or walk in either direction to the points of the bay (wear sturdy shoes, put on sun screen and take water!).fullsizeoutput_3f96DSCF2783IMG_0644Tidal pools on the point to the north of the bay.

IMG_0644Sometimes the black birds rule the top of Uxibal, sometimes the buzzards… They’re airing out their wings! IMG_8698IMG_8700Mimi loves chasing kites and the kiteboarders, and will swim all over the bay after them! And if she catches them down she will SHRED THEM!

You never know what you might see from your hammock… IMG_5247

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How about a bottle of mid-day prosecco? Salut!  IMG_5259IMG_5260Hmm. Getting hungry and need a few supplies from Tulum. Off to Mezzanine for our favorite afternoon 2 x 1 margaritas and best Thai on the beach (anywhere I’ve been so far). Divine food and drinks, amazing view, attentive service, and you can take your beach gear and go crash on the beach afterwards – what more could you ask from a beach front restaurant? http://www.mezzaninetulum.com/

Back to the bay… low tide… you never know what you’ll see skimming along beneath the surface of the water. Below is a trunk fish, spotted eagle ray and stingray. Sometimes you can see the eagle rays leaping out of the bay – it’s absolutely astounding! And if you watch closely you can see the turtles poking their noses up for air!

Do a bit of kayaking or have a “Massage by Lucia”, with our Italian masseuse Lucia right on the beach. It’s best to email her for an appointment at: luciasi90@hotmail.comIMG_0654

Those ghost crabs keep skittering around teasing Sookie.

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My project for this trip is to make some driftwood and beach find mobiles. I brought string with me, and Javier let me borrow his drill. We walked around the point and collected driftwood, sea fans and seed pods that had drifted in from the Caribbean.

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The day is drawing to a close…

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For dinner, we chose Cetli, located a few blocks off the main Tulum Pueblo strip. It’s located in a cozy home type setting and has been there for years. It’s cash only and closed Wednesdays. This was our first time dining here, and the food was beautifully presented and delicious, and I loved our cocktails. The menus are hand made and so unique, and the restaurant is decorated with handmade Mexican artwork and local accents. Be sure and try the fried grasshoppers!

Back to the bay and the full moon is rising… we love to lie on the beach and watch the stars at night.

Another day begins and is pretty much a repeat of the day before… Why not? IMG_0639

fullsizeoutput_301eToday we went to have massages at Maya Tulum Spa down on Tulum Beach Road. I really like the hot stone massages and you can choose some of their Mayan treatments. You go into the reception lobby and choose your masseuse and treatment and make your reservation.

You never know what you’ll see on the Tulum Beach Road!

After our massages, we were starving and craving a burger and fish tacos, so decided to try Mateo’s, whose slogan is “Best Fish Tacos on Earth”. What have we been thinking not eating here before??? They’re on the new favorite list for great food and drinks, and you can watch sports here too! Their sunset deck is the happening place for cocktails in the evening. http://www.mateosmexicangrill.us/

This talented artist was set up in the restaurant and painting magnets, cards and pictures, and selling them at very reasonable prices. I picked out a magnet with a beach sunset. He was very funny and nice, joking and laughing as I tried to pick my souvenir!

fullsizeoutput_418cSadly, it’s our last day on the Bay, so we soak up the afternoon’s sun on the beach. fullsizeoutput_3067We say Hasta Luego to our friends, dogs and the bay, and head off to the Cancun airport for an early dinner at Guy Fieri’s in the airport before our flight. As you can tell by the portions, they don’t aim for you to leave hungry!! Beautiful presentation and delicious food. If you’re counting calories, avoid the burger and fries! They have an outdoor patio you can smoke on or just be outside, but you have to pay for the privilege (deducted with food purchase).  http://www.guyfieri.com/eat-at-guys/guy-fieris-american-kitchen-bar-cancun#

If you feel the need to get your feet nibbled on and cleaned by fish, you can do that too while waiting for your flight. Check out this trend in Mexico – I tried it, and it seems to work but tickles!

Winging north to NashvilleIMG_5944IMG_5945We’ll be back soon!

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Merida to Valladolid to Tulum

We needed a shot of coffee to get us going for our do on the road and I wanted to check out Cafe La Habana just a block from our hotel. We got these delicious frothy coffees and one of the servers showed me their coffee room. You can buy their coffee and we got some to take with us for the rest of our visit. I definitely want to try them for a meal next time! fullsizeoutput_415b

There were people all along the roads on their Virgin of Guadalupe pilgrimages. We felt like we were part of a moving festival! fullsizeoutput_4185fullsizeoutput_4183We arrived in Valladolid, walking past Casa de los Venados, which houses one of the best collections of Mexican folk art in the country. We had toured it before on a previous visit, so you can check out that link at end of this blog and their website to learn more at: http://www.casadelosvenados.com/

Having read up on restaurant reviews, we wanted to try a new one so chose El Atrio del Mayab on the main central park in town, Parque La Mestiza. We arrived late and there were just a few other tables, so we enjoyed their quiet garden.

IMG_0446It was time for a mid-day cocktail refresher and these were delicious!

Yummy, everything was delicious! I love fried plantains! fullsizeoutput_4172fullsizeoutput_4173fullsizeoutput_4174Next door was Yalat, a nice art gallery with high quality hand crafted Mexican folk art, linens and more.

I had read about a little co-op group that had sheds a few blocks away, and we found it! Only a few of the shops were open, and I found my perfect pair of hand made leather Mexican sandals, a wallet and some bracelets. I think all of it was under $20! The area around Valladolid is cattle country, and they are known for their quality leather goods. Many of the shops around the main square also sell leather goods.

Time to head to Tulum and Nah Uxibal, our next destination for the rest of our trip.fullsizeoutput_4186There’s a really nice rest area along the way for the tour buses, so be sure and make your pit stop here! IMG_5832

Here’s a link to our weekend visit to Valladolid in 2012, and loads more pictures of this pretty town:

https://busybeetraveler.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/a-weekend-in-valladolid-mexico/

We arrived at Nah Uxibal on Soliman Bay ready to dip our feet in the water and have a drink after the long day. IMG_5277IMG_5260IMG_8673More to come!

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Merida on Sunday, Progresso: Dec 2016

We slept in after our late night out enjoying “Noche Blanca,” and awoke to a beautiful morning in Merida. Our morning plan was to walk around town and see some of the landmarks, and check out the Sunday market on the Plaza Grande. Our Gran Hotel is very pretty in the daylight with a little park right in front of it.

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There were artisans set up around the park when we went out. The jewelry artisans had beautiful intricate designs at super reasonable prices. I ended up buying several pieces from them when we came back for Christmas presents and for me. fullsizeoutput_4128

I bought two necklaces from the artist above, and the lady he is showing a piece bought one too. He had wood burned images onto antler and added wooden beads. I treasure my mermaid and hibiscus necklaces he made, and wear them all the time!

I loved the beaded skulls below – bead work takes so much time and patience, and these were awesome!

I bought two of the turquoise pieces in the below right photo and just love them!

We made our way towards the Plaza Grande, and there’s a really cool store that sells rocks, minerals, fossils and other curiosities.

fullsizeoutput_4145Plaza Grande is just one block from the entrance of the Gran Hotel, so we couldn’t have picked a more central location for the event. fullsizeoutput_40effullsizeoutput_40f1La Catedral de Merida rises elegantly on one side of the Plaza Grandefullsizeoutput_40f0fullsizeoutput_40f7Around the plaza…

A nativity scene was the central focus of the plaza for the holidays.

I love their Yucatan linens – such nice quality and colors. We met this local fellow in front of the church, and he gave us an extensive history lesson on the cathedral. He then led us to his shop in the side street next to the church to show us his merchandise. Of course he wanted us to buy something in exchange for his history knowledge, and his shop had nice items.

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And then there’s the food vendors! So many divine smells and tastes! Where to start and end… you can get a snack, a drink or many meals.

The Cathedral of Merida – it was Sunday and the church was open and so beautiful! IMG_0294fullsizeoutput_40eaIMG_0244fullsizeoutput_414bfullsizeoutput_414aWe wanted to see what was in the museum where we had listened to the music in the courtyard the night before. We followed this lady across the street to it.

The Museo Casa Montego of Merida is a 16th century building and now houses a museum and bank. It’s filled with AMAZING antiques and rotating art exhibits, and it’s free to tour so be sure and stop by! Learn more at: http://yucatantoday.com/museo-casa-montejo/?lang=en

Lunch was next on the agenda, and we had heard that La Chaya Maya was the place for good authentic Yucatan food (the fellow that gave us the cathedral history tour recommended it). It was a short walk from the Plaza Grande, and when we walked inside, we loved their open air dining area and garden.

This lovely lady was making tortillas and the servers would pick up finished ones and put them in gourds to take to tables.

I just love their garden area! Time to decide what to order, and there are so many yummy looking dishes that we’ve never eaten before, so we ordered a variety. We’ve been visiting Tulum, Mexico for around 15 years, but this food is different – and soooo good! Check out their menu on their website and learn more at http://www.lachayamaya.com/index2.html