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Posts Tagged ‘mexico’

 

I went with my little family to Tulum, Mexico last month, and I have to say, it was one of our best trips–ever.

We travel to Mexico nearly every year, but always on the west side, I suppose because we know it and it’s closer. I didn’t realize the east side looked completely different, and thus always thought, why take a 5-6 hour flight to Mexico when you can get there in 3-4? However, the east side–at least the Yucatan Peninsula where Tulum is located, is really beautiful and very different from the west. Lush jungles abound and mangroves grow for as far as the eye can see. We saw manatees and a crocodile during our adventures, as well as ancient Mayan ruins, and everywhere turquoise-blue waters.

I love that most of the hotels in Tulum are relatively small and strive to be eco-friendly. I must admit they all run off diesel generators since Tulum is off the grid, but some people would like to change that, and the visionary owners of Be Tulum and Nomade–two gorgeous resorts on the far end of the resort strip, would like to bring clean energy in. I can imagine how a visit to visit Tulum would be even better without the noise or air pollution of generators running night and day behind every hotel? I can already see them powered by clean, renewable energy from the sun, of which there is plenty.

But let’s get back to the beach…

Tulum gives off a different vibe than many resort towns in Mexico. First off it’s relatively small, and because many of the resorts take an “eco” approach, many buildings are small, low to the ground, and nestled in the trees, so when you’re walking on the beach, the land retains its jungle-ness. As a health-conscience person, I also loved that many of restaurants offered salads from local and organically-produced gardens, acai bowls and vegan dressings. While I imagine a lot of people visiting the area while I was there might have over indulged in cocktails (mezcal is the thing to drink there), I never saw any sign of it. What I did see were people relaxing, enjoying good food and long walks on the beach (you can walk forever there), taking yoga and meditation classes, and generally “chillaxin.”

Our little haven off of our room at Be Tulum.

Gorgeous, stylish rooms at Be.

 

Every morning we received an amazing basket of breads, including croissants, “Mexican” bread (as I call it because I don’t know if it has a particular name), rye and sweet breads. While I generally shun gluten, I admit I relished the morning gluten fest. The bread in Mexico has a certain something about it, which I find irresistible.

We also received an incredible assortment of fruit along with granola and yogurt. In fact, after we had polished off the bread and fruit, we were always left wondering why we bothered to order other dishes like chilaquiles, omelets and pancakes. After breakfast, we had to roll down the sandy slope toward the part of the beach which housed the cabanas, where we slept off the big morning meal or read until lunch. And speaking of lunch, I always wondered how many days can one really eat tacos. And in truth, nearly every day–at least once a day.

 

 

One day we hired a boat to take us through Sian Ka’an, the nature preserve just a short drive past the hotels and resorts. That’s where we saw a family of manatees that swam up close to the boat out of sheer curiosity. We also saw a crocodile through the mangrove branches, but as I only had my iPhone on me at the time, I wasn’t able to get a decent pic. In the preserve, our boatman dropped us off on the side of one of the mangrove-lined channels, and led us over a 500-meter (roughly) raised wooden walkway to another channel in which fresh water flowed. It flowed fast enough that there was a decent current, so we donned life vests and literally floated through the channel several kilometers after which our boatman was there to meet us. It was an incredible experience I can’t recommend enough!

Snorkeling in Yal-Ku Lagoon.

 

On another day, we explored one of the many cenotes (natural pits, or sinkholes, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath) in the area. Most of the cenotes are filled with fresh water, but cenotes can have salt water as well. Yal-Ku lagoon in Akumal, just a short drive from Tulum, is a gorgeous salt-water cenote. There are incredible rock formations, underwater caves and channels, and numerous varieties of tropical fish. The biggest parrot fish I’ve ever seen were in Yal-Ku. We had a great snorkeling experience there, but I recommend going early when there are fewer tourists and swimmers around. The most famous cenotes in the area–Grand Cenote and Casa Cenote, are on the top of our list for our next visit to Tulum.

Tulum Ruins near Akamal.

We also visited the Tulum ruins just outside of Tulum. Right on the edge of the ocean, they were well worth the short drive and confusion over where to buy tickets. Note: Don’t stand in line to get your tickets from a person, go to one of the two tickets machines on the left before the long lines of people waiting to talk to a ticket agent, and use your credit card. It will take you 2 minutes instead of 20.

We chose not to visit the famous Chicheniza ruins–approximately a 2.5-3-hour drive from Tulum, out of sheer laziness and because we found the Tulum ruins pretty impressive in their own right. However, we might stretch our horizons next time we visit as Chicheniza is supposed to be pretty spectacular.

We heard great things about the Monkey Sanctuary (also just outside Akumal), but we were too late to join a tour the day we went there, and too short on remaining days of our trip. If you plan to visit the area, have your hotel book a tour for you in advance. Sadly, the only monkey we saw was a dead one on the side of the road as we drove from the airport to Tulum.

If you have the chance to visit Tulum, take it. It won’t disappoint. Just a simple 1.5-hour drive from Cancun Airport, it feels like another world. Just remember to say “hello” to the monkeys and parrot fish for me.

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You might be wondering where the food photos and recipes are, but along with wildlife, traveling is most decidedly my other great passion. As it happens, my family has done a lot of traveling this summer, and we’ve been lucky enough to visit some historically-rich and beautiful cities.

If you missed my post on Florence, please check it out here. Otherwise, take a minute or two to get at least a little familiar with the small but incredibly gorgeous town of San Miguel de Allende which lies 274km northwest of Mexico City. I had heard about it for years, and now wonder why I didn’t go sooner.

My husband travels to Mexico regularly for his work, and although it was very last minute, the kids and I booked to accompany him since it was the same week as his birthday. After spending a couple days in Mexico City, we hired a car to take us to San Miguel de Allende. It was certainly an adventure… Google Maps said the drive would take 3.5 hours, so we all looked forward to a little scenery, and a dip in the pool of our hotel when we arrived. Seven hours later… Yep, the predicted 3.5 hours turned into 7 hours. There is only one road between the two cities, on which a truck carrying some sort of fuel (gas or oil) crashed and spilled its highly flammable cargo. And unlike in the U.S., Mexico does not have a rapid response system set up to deal with such things, so they closed the only road between the two cities for hours. Based on the reports of others, it would have taken 10 or 11 hours that day, but we took matters into our own hands, and asked our driver to go off road in order to skirt the closure. Please be advised: this is not recommended!! When you leave the highway, you drive on narrow, unmarked dirt and rock roads through “rancherias,” which are entirely unpoliced areas considered very dangerous–particularly at night. We only took this desperate measure because we were losing our minds parked for hours on the highway, and because the SUV we were in happened to have “protective properties.”

Seven hours later we arrived in San Miguel de Allende, which is hands down one of the most beautiful towns, if not the most beautiful town, we have ever laid eyes on. Narrow cobblestoned streets are lined with buildings painted with rich colors of the earth–terra cotta, saffron yellow, burnt red. You see exquisitely-carved doors everywhere, and magical courtyards abound. Throughout the center of town you see Spanish colonial architecture, which greatly adds to the beauty of this small town. (In addition to being one of the most affluent cities in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende lays claim to the start of Mexico’s independence from Spain.) Beyond its physical beauty, the historic town boasts a thriving arts and cultural scene, and the food is phenomenal. In fact, the food is quite fancy, serving dishes similar to what you find in high-end NYC or San Francisco restaurants only using local ingredients. We actually bemoaned the fact we couldn’t find and didn’t have time to just eat some good and simple enchiladas or other “traditional” Mexican fare.

Another surprisingly aspect of the town was how lush and green it was. In fact, the entire area was incredibly green. It’s the rainy season now, but we were told it is green nearly year-round. And the rains come just in the afternoon for an hour or two–just enough to water all the vegetation and clean the sidewalks and streets. Very efficient.

One thing is certain… We will return to this memorable little town soon.

Happy sightseeing!

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