Although we only had three meals in Campeche on our way through, we made the most of our time and had some really delicious food. Walking from the bus stop into the centro historico, we came upon the #1 place in Tripadvisor, Chocol Ha. We planned to come back to try some goodies later as this dessert and treat place doesn't open until 5:30 pm.
At the moment, however, we were in need of lunch. We walked by a place called Chef Color in one of the lovely colonial buildings and decided to stop in. There was a mix of locals and tourists dining, which is usually a good sign.
Barry ordered his new favorite Mexican dish, Panuchos, while I decided on some fresh seafood ceviche. Both were delicious!
For dinner that night, we walked around for awhile looking for a place that appealed to us. We ended up at Luz de Luna. This place was decorated with vibrant colors that beckoned us right in from the street.
The proprietor of this place is a lovely Mexican lady who speaks excellent English, and the menus were in both English and Spanish, which was very helpful. I ordered vegetarian burritos, and Barry tried the chicken flautas. Both were delicious. If you go, be advised that the restaurant does not serve alcohol. We had the "water of the day", which was a limeade and very tasty. The glassware and tableware here was so beautiful as it so often is in Mexico.
The check (la cuenta) came in this adorable little bag where you could place your payment. Charming!
After dinner, it was time to hit Chocol Ha for a bit of dessert. What fun! I indulged in a chocolate frappe, while Barry tried the decadent chocolate crepes. A wonderful way to top off a meal.
Believe it or not, the sweet decadence of the crepes only whetted Barry's appetite for dessert, and he had to have some ice cream too!
The following morning brought us back to the irresistible Luz de Luna for breakfast. Anticipating a fairly long travel day with only a couple of snacks for lunch, we wanted to make sure to eat heartily enough to hold ourselves for awhile, and we succeeded.
They start you out with some delicious coffeecake-like bread. It would be really hard to eat low-carb here, so no need to try.
I had delicious French toast, and Barry had a great-looking omelet. We also shared a fruit plate but somehow didn't get a photo of that.
After all that feasting, we were well-stoked for another day of travel. But before we leave Campeche, stay tuned for more photos: there's even more to see!
On Sunday around lunchtime, we were walking around downtown Merida where a variety of outdoor food vendors cluster to serve the shoppers and walkers. I wasn't very hungry but was hoping to find some Sopa de Lima (Lime Soup), a classic Yucatecan soup I'd heard so much about. Although the booth we stopped at said they had it to lure us in, they didn't actually, though they had some other kind of chicken soup. Realizing it was probably too hot for soup anyway, I settled for a cooling Horchata (a traditional rice beverage) to drink, and Barry got a panucho.
Since we had such a light lunch, we decided to eat dinner early and tried one of our Tripadvisor picks, Amaro. Since we were eating so early, we had the place to ourselves. I started with a michelada, another specialty drink in Mexico, and Barry had one of their special cilantro/habanero margaritas. We also ordered some guacamole, chips, and salsa to whet our appetite as we perused the menu.
I still had Sopa de Lima on the brain, and we'd planned to go for sorbet after dinner, so I decided to have a light soup dinner. Barry had a chicken dish.
After our relatively light meal, we strolled back up to the Paseo de Montejo for some sorbet. We'd eyed this place the night before but had chosen fancy desserts at Hennessey's.
We neglected to get a photo of the breakfast Larry prepared for us on Sunday morning, but it was very good -- fresh fruit, granola, yogurt and toast. On Monday, the day we were hitting the road again for our next destination, we asked for a hearty breakfast (but sans meat) since we'd be eating only snacks for lunch.
Before heading to the bus station to be on our way, Barry was determined to stop at the French pastry shop, Cafe Creme, very close to where we were staying. A Frenchman owns and operates it, so it is authentic and lovely. We figured we'd pick up a couple treats for the bus ride, since we wouldn't be having lunch.
After meeting the owner and getting a few free sample tastes, we picked our poisons. It was all so delicious we could hardly go wrong with any choices.
Stay tuned as we travel from Merida to our next destination, Campeche!
One of our favorite things about visiting a new city is trying out new-to-us restaurants. Merida has a reputation for having great food, and we weren't disappointed.
Our first night in the city, we were too tired from our travel day and lots of walking for most of the day to do much for dinner. We decided to walk around the corner from La Casa Lorenzo to a pizza place Larry recommended and bring home a pie to eat in his bar area, which we'd have all to ourselves, since we were the only guests at the bed and breakfast. This vegetarian pizza did not disappoint. Of course Barry got my olives, and I got his mushrooms. Yum!
The next morning, Larry said that he would either serve us breakfast (included in our room rate) or take us to a very authentic Mexican place to eat, Wayane. Always up for something novel, of course we chose the latter, and it didn't disappoint.
Our juices -- Barry had chaya/pineapple (the green one), and Larry and I ended up with tamarindo, though we thought we ordered mandarin orange -- must have been our Spanish! No matter, it was delicious.
As with our juice orders, there were some misunderstandings with my food order. I though I'd ordered three different egg tacos (with various add-ins), but ended up with only one egg and two meat (chicken and pork). They were delicious but way more food than I really needed. Larry successfully got three egg tacos.
Despite the small ordering snafus, this place was a really fun experience, and the food was great. If we hadn't been staying at Larry's, we would never have known about it, and it was a bit of a drive in his car, so we wouldn't have gotten to enjoy this authentic breakfast. Thanks Larry!
For lunch we tried a place we'd read about on Tripadvisor, Chaya Maya, recommended for authentic Yucateca food. It is downtown and super popular with locals and visitors as well. The waiters spoke almost no English, and the menus were in Spanish as well, making it an interesting experience, but we did just fine.
We started with a cold cervasa and complimentary chips and sauces. Yummy.
We both tried the Turkey Panuchos, a traditional Yucatecan dish. They were really colorful and tasted great.
An interesting thing; there was a woman making tortillas on one side of the restaurant. Very cool!
After eating two very authentic Mexican meals, we decided to do something completely different for dinner. On Larry's recommendation, we strolled down the Paseo de Montejo and ate at an Irish pub/restaurant, Hennessey's. And even stranger, we ordered pasta! And it was actually very good! It was a light chicken and veggie pasta, leaving us room for a yummy dessert.
We shared two different (and very lovely) desserts, cheesecake and chocolate terrine. They tasted as good as they looked!
Please stay tuned for much more from Merida!
After two full days and three nights, it was time to hit the road again, heading north to Merida from Tulum. We'd be traveling to a different Mexican state today, from Quintana Roo to Yucatan.
We've neglected to include a map of our travels so far, so here is a map showing our route through Merida. We'll continue updating it as we travel along.
After breakfast, we headed to the Tulum ADO bus station, a very short walk.
Today's journey was to be made on a "luxury class" bus called an ADO gl, which is pronounced, we found out from watching ads on the DVDs in the bus, like "ADO hell". Ha! It was much closer to heavenly than hellish, however. A very comfortable ride indeed. We were given free bottles of water, earbuds for listening to audio, and there were multiple DVD players playing American movies that were dubbed in Spanish. We discovered that with most movies, even speaking just a bit of Spanish, we were able to figure out enough of what was going on from the video to follow along.
Unfortunately, this was to be our only ADO gl bus of the trip, though we didn't know it at the time. They just don't run that many routes, and most of them seem to run near Cancun. For the most part we were on regular first-class ADO buses from this point on, but they were still plenty nice, and a bit cheaper than the gl buses. There is a bus even more luxurious than the gl called the ADO Platinum, but we never even saw one that I recall. Wonder if they serve champagne and caviar?
The ride from Tulum to Merida was approximately three and half hours. The first thing we noticed when pulling into the Merida bus terminal was how huge it was. Merida is a much bigger city than Tulum; we felt like we had just arrived in New York City!
Even though we had a good Merida map in hand, we found ourselves a bit disoriented as we hit the city streets until we figured out the street numbering. Odd-numbered streets run east and west, and even-numbered streets run north and south. Streets are marked on each corner, making the Centro portion of Merida easy to negotiate once you know where are! And one thing was for sure -- we were not in Belize any more!
We gradually got ourselves oriented and pointed in the direction of the bed and breakfast where we'd be staying for the next three nights. It was about a two-mile hike north (though stil in the historic "Centro" area of Merida), but we'd be stopping for lunch part way to rest our shoulders. Carrying my pack definitely got a bit tiring, but catching a taxi takes all the adventure out of the journey, right!?
There were many parks along the way, so we stopped here for a rest and drink of water. All of Merida's parks are wi-fi enabled (though we didn't know it at the time), as well as many of the parks in other cities in Mexico. Very cool!
We didn't know where we'd stop for lunch, but a friendly man speaking English lured us into this cute "Margaritas Time" restaurant along the way with the promises of cold cervasas and good food at good prices, so we succumbed. The restaurant was pretty empty as Mexicans tend to eat lunch much later than Americans, and dinner too.
The lunch special of the day was just 50 pesos (approximately $4 US), which couldn't be beat, so that's what we had. Chicken, rice, and dessert were all included. The beers would cost us extra...but not much.
The friendly waiter took our photo.
These sauces were yummy -- spicy habenero and mild garlic cream.
The Pollo Pibil was delicious -- falling off the bone. This is a very popular dish in the Yucatan (for pork as well as chicken) and is traditionally cooked in banana leaves.
Creme Caramel for dessert - yum. All this (plus chips and dipping sauces) for $4 is just crazy! But in a good way, for us.
Well-fortified, we were able to continue on our way to La Casa Lorenzo, a bit north of downtown and on a quiet residential street. Perfect!
Stay tuned for much, much more on La Casa Lorenzo and Merida in the days to come!
We began our second full day in Tulum with breakfast a place that is quite popular with the locals, right on the main street: Don Cafeto's. It was good, but not our favorite meal of the trip, and we were downwind from heavy smokers sitting at the table next to us, so the experience was not the best. But it was reasonably priced and conveniently located right on the main drag. The coffee was really, really strong -- a bit too much for us.
They bring you this rather unexpected bowl of pickled vegetables and garlic (!?!) before your meal arrives. I don't know if this is supposed to be a hangover cure or what, but it didn't hold any appeal to us in the morning, and we left it untouched. The homemade salsa, however, was nice, and Barry enjoyed it on his omelet.
For lunch after our long bike ride, we were pretty hungry. We decided to try Charlie's on the main street through Tulum, which we'd heard was good. It really was! We had the place to ourselves as Mexicans tend to eat lunch much later than we do (like 2-4 pm, with dinner correspondingly late).
We started with a couple of brews and the complimentary chips with very, very piquante habenero salsa. Yum!
I liked this bottle wall behind Barry...what a great way to recycle and lets light in too!
For our last dinner in Tulum, we decided to splurge with a trip to Cetli, one of the fancier restaurants in Tulum. We'd read some excellent reviews and were really excited to try it. We had the place to ourselves when we first arrived to the candlelit garden, a beautiful spot for dining.
The beautiful setting....
The chef/owner, Claudia, does most of the serving as well and really makes this place a special treat as she explains each of the dishes. Everything is organic and so carefully prepared. It's a foodie's paradise!
Claudia first presented us with this lovely plate of starters. I couldn't begin to tell you exactly what it all was, but every morsel burst with flavor and sounds of "mmm...mmm...yum" could be heard emanating from our table again and again. There were a couple of homemade cheeses, delicious breads, and some tasty toppings.
Ordering was difficult as everything sounded amazing, but Barry decided to try the "Metzli", described as "Chicken breast roll with macho banana, covered with black mole sauce". The presentation was as special as the taste.
I selected the "Na-a-a", which was a grilled grouper fillet served with grilled vegetables. It was simple but perfectly prepared.
At a place of this caliber, of course we had to try dessert, because we knew they would be special too. We tried the "Cetli" (Corn cake with chocolate and kalhua) and "Tzopelic" (Bread pudding served over a layer of white cream sauce with strawberry and almond liqueur topping"). Mmmmmm...it goes without saying that these were amazing! We passed them around so we could both try each dessert, and licking the plates was oh-so-tempting, but we held back.
With our tastebuds fully satiated, we were presented with homemade candies wrapped in corn husks as well as a couple of bookmarks when the check came. This was our most expensive meal of the entire trip by quite a lot. With two glasses of wine each and the two desserts, we paid $80 US, which included the tip. We thought that was a reasonable price for a meal of this fine caliber and would have been much higher in the US or on Ambergris Caye for an equally fine meal.
Our final meal was a quick breakfast the next morning -- a travel day. We stopped in at a little natural cafe on the main drag on the way to the bus station and each had a lovely, large fruit cup with yogurt and granola, plus coffee. This was one of my favorite breakfasts of the trip. It was simple and delicious, and I especially liked that they had cut the fruit up very small, so it was easy to eat, no peeling or cutting necessary!
Stay tuned for one final Tulum post, then onward to Merida!
We'd heard raves for Tulum's food (thanks Rebecca aka SanPedroScoop.com!) so came here with high expectations, and Tulum delivered. It's going to take two posts just to cover it all!
Right after arriving in town and checking into the hotel, we stopped in at a little coffee shop on the main street. Rebecca had recommended their reasonably priced cappuccino, and I hadn't had one in ages, so it was on my brain. Yes, it was perfect at about $2 US and perked me right up after our morning of travel. Barry ordered a tropical fresh-fruit smoothie. Delish!
On our first evening, we walked down to El Camello, recommended by Rebecca and Joshua (who owns the Secret Garden Hotel, where we were staying). Supposedly it had the freshest seafood in town at the best prices. Nothing fancy, just good, honest food. You know a place is good if it's packed, and El Camello was certainly busy, even at the early hour we like to eat. Many of the diners were locals, another good sign. We both had the grilled fish with refried beans, salad, fresh tortillas, chips, and a couple of Mexican beers apiece. We walked out of there for a grand total of $300MX or about $24 US, including tip. Wow!
The next morning we tried a place for breakfast that had also been highly recommended by both Rebecca and Joshua -- Azafran. We arrived around 7:30 am and were surprised to find that they didn't open until 8, but they said we could sit down and they'd serve us coffee. They ended up taking our order after all, and we had an a delicious omelet breakfast with some wonderful grainy bread and the best coffee I've had in ages, all in a lovely garden setting that we had to ourselves. Service was excellent.
Our first lunch was at Puro Corozon, across from the beach. We walked there from the Tulum Maya ruins having no idea what the mileage was going to be, but it was a long and very warm walk. Barry later calculated that we walked about three miles (excluding our earlier walk from the collectivo to the ruins and the walking through the ruins!)
By the time we got there, we were sweaty, tired, and hungry. Joshua had told us this place had authentic Mexican food, and the menu alone made us drool. Our timing was good as well as they had Happy Hour beginning at noon, with half-price margaritas. Need I say more? We decided to try the mezcal margaritas, and they were so good (and potent!), we ended up lingering there for quite some time and drinking FOUR apiece! Not something we would usually do, but we were in full-on vacation mode!
We shared these delicious mixed veggie tacos, and Barry ordered a lovely chicken mole. I had a "Latin Tower", described as "a tower of sweet potato, pesto cream cheese, and fresh tomatoes". This may be Mexican, but it was certainly gourmet Mex! The flavors were as delicious as the presentation.
For dessert we splurged on the chocolate fondue with fruit. We were a little disappointed to receive only bananas and apples. Pineapple would have been a great addition, and of course we would love to be here during mango season!
We can definitely recommend this excellent restaurant to anyone staying in Tulum. It was one of our very favorites of the entire trip. And the garden setting is as delightful as the food.
After catching a taxi back to town from the beach and sobering up, we weren't all that super hungry for dinner, but I was determined to try the #1-rated Tulum restaurant in Trip Advisor, Altamar. They are only open for dinner and looked a bit fancy, but we didn't care; most people dress so casually in Tulum, we just went with the flow and walked right in. Both the service and food were excellent! Instead of going the entree route, we shared a trio of appetizers and got to try their delicious condiments. The staff took great pride in explaining each one to us.
I'm sure the entrees would be amazing based on the deliciousness of the appetizers, but we were craving some gelato, and this way we saved room. Next stop, gelato shop!
It was not on the level of Tutti-Frutti in Placencia but was still a yummy treat and a great way to end our first day in Tulum.
To be continued...
One of Ambergris Caye's much-beloved restaurants re-opened the day after Thanksgiving, and -- of course -- we were there. Ens and Cheri are our neighbors, and not only that, they really know how to do barbeque right. Although we don't eat a lot of meat under normal circumstances, when we want to indulge our inner carnivores, nothing but the Lazy Croc will do.
This is a sign we weren't sure we'd ever see again:
They're starting out simple with their basic menu of pulled pork, ribs, chicken, and a few sides. Prices are the same as before, and there is a choice of four sides with your meal. A limited drink menu is included but no desserts. They told us they might add to the menu again over time, but wanted to begin again with the basics. Makes sense to us! Prices are in Belize dollars (divide by two for USD), and only cash is accepted.
They're reserving their rear deck on the pond for private bookings, but they do have tables out front, or you can carry out.
Barry had a nice chat with Ens by the smoker -- where the magic happens.
While I talked to Cheri manning the kitchen. She's a stellar cook!
Since we live right next door, we just brought our grub (note my "cowboy lingo"!) back home. Barry got the Smoky Joe pulled chicken sandwich (on the left), and I got the Juicy Lucy pulled pork with coleslaw. We both ordered BBQ baked beans for our side dish.
Let me be the first to say, they haven't missed a beat. It was absolutely delicious, and I even broke my "no white bread" rule and ate every bit of it, just this once!
Here are the Croc's days and hours of business. We'll definitely be back...often!
You know you've been in a place for awhile when you start repeating yourselves! Like this time last year, we enjoyed a fine opening day lunch at Aji, one of our neighborhood restaurants, but since we forgot our camera last year, this time we came prepared to snap some photos of the great setting and delicious food prepared by Chef Hugo.
Unlike last year, when heavy rain forced us to eat at the bar, this time around we had a lovely table outside in the trees, with a beautiful beach-side view.
Like last year, they offered a choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert for a very reasonable $25 BZ ($12.50 US) and drink specials as well. I rarely get to indulge in wine here because of the high prices, but at $10 BZ ($5 US) a glass, this Sauvignon Blanc was a welcome treat!
We decided to order different things for each course so we could taste as many dishes as possible. For our appetizers, I ordered the Seafood Fritters, while Barry ordered the Hummus with veggies and chips. Both were fresh and delicious, and the fritters were HOT. Perfect!
For our entrees, I got the grouper and Barry the vegetable pasta. Again, delish! As I told Barry, I wish folks down here didn't make that high-carb white rice taste SO delicious by cooking it so perfectly in coconut milk, because I know it's not good for me...but I can't resist it cooked Belizean style! Mmmmmmmm.... And the fish was perfectly cooked.
We ordered one of each dessert, the Chocolate Rum Cake and the Caye Lime Pie. Both were yummy and attractive, but I think we both agreed that the tartness of the pie with its delicious lime glaze was the top choice. I wanted to lick the beautiful plate and would have if I'd been at home!
Right before our desserts arrived, our good friends and snowbirds Ruthie and Chunky, just back on the island from their six months in Minnesota, arrived on Forrest Jones' Hobie Cat from south of town. It was funny because I'd noticed the Hobie sailing up and wondered how they had enough wind as we could feel almost none from our table, sheltered by trees. Apparently they had plenty of wind out on the water. We were surprised to discover that the very boat we'd been watching was "crewed" by our friends. We greeted them with hugs and were truly delighted to see them!
After meeting Forrest and saying our goodbyes to Ruthie and Chunky, who should we run onto on our way out but Ben and Joanna Popik, island friends who run Island Films here on Ambergris Caye. We hadn't even seen them in the foliage of the restaurant. We all noticed that an extremely large black cloud was forming behind us to the north, and since they had farther to walk than we did, Joanna suggested that they better walk fast once they passed our building.
I'm afraid they didn't make it home without getting wet, because not long after we got safely inside our condo, the rain came fast and hard. Wow! We were imagining the folks at the restaurant having to scramble to get everyone sitting outside the palapa, and their food, safely under cover. We were so lucky that we had had perfect timing today!
Here is what it looked like just five minutes after we got home:
Once the storm had passed, we saw the Hobie heading south right outside our windows. With wind out of the north, they should be pushed right home. We waved from our dock, but I don't think they ever saw us.
This morning we decided to point our bikes southward. We usually ride north simply because it means avoiding all the bumpy cobblestone streets in town that make me wish I had never sold my full-suspension mountain bike in the US, but it gets boring always going the same way. And going south proved to be an excellent choice.
We were up early and got on the road around 7:30 am, if not a bit earlier (I always forget to look at my watch since I'm on island time!) This may be the earliest we've ever ridden through town, and it was dead. I mean, there is never this little traffic! Most businesses open as usual on Sunday, but not until 8 am or later. And September is the slowest month of the year for tourism, so some businesses are taking the month off to spruce up and to give employees some time off. We loved it.
When is Middle Street ever this quiet? (By the way, I had no idea Barry was snapping all these photos during our ride, although it did cross my mind to wonder why he was staying behind me the entire time!)
And this usually bustling intersection around the Tropic Air terminal -- dead, dead, dead!
Once you get south of town, it's always quiet, and today was no exception. The unpaved road was in the best shape we've ever seen it as the low spots had been recently filled, just as they have north of the bridge for a couple of miles. Hopefully they can stand up to the October rain. It does rain buckets every October, right? (I keep hoping last year was a rare exception.)
Once we got as far south as we could go (finally stopped by puddles across the road that hadn't been filled), we turned around and headed back. For the first time, we finally stopped in and explored the Marco Gonzalez Maya site, which I'll cover in the future, since it is deserving of a full post.
After quite a long detour at the site (which we loved), we continued riding back north into a stiff northeastern breeze. We had only a homemade oatmeal bar to sustain us to this point, and we were starved, so a breakfast in town was in our plans. Much to our surprise, even the perennially popular Estel's was closed (remember, it's slow season), and as a result, the Cuban place on Front Street I'd wanted to try was packed. So, we continued north, running on fumes, and stopped in at Ak'Bol, just down the beach from our condo. It's always one of our favorites.
Barry got his usual breakfast burrito, and although the coconut pancakes (the BEST!) tempted me, I saved some dinero and got the less pricey veggie-egg stuffed fry jack. I figure they're equally fattening, but this was definitely brunch as it was 11 am by this point, so at least I wouldn't be eating another meal before dinner time.
By the time we finished eating and hopped back on our trusty steeds for the short ride up the beach to our condo, the wind had kicked up even more, and there was actually the slightest bit of a chill in it (I kid you not!) It looked like it was about to pour. Although we did get a few drops of rain just after arriving home, the vast majority of the storm stayed out to sea. September has been quite dry and sunny so far, considering it is the rainy season. Not that we're complaining, but it was lovely to have a slight cool-off, as it's been very hot since we got back from our trip to the US on August 30.
Stay tuned for our Marco Gonzalez tour, coming soon!
Today I had the opportunity to meet a fellow expat and blogger who lives on Caye Caulker for lunch in San Pedro. I'm not saying her name or including any photos of her as her employer doesn't know she lives in Belize. As long as she is still able to do her job effectively, I can't imagine they'd even care, but I completely respect her desire to keep her identity private. So mum's the word from me!
She'd come to town to have her hair done at one of my favorite funky, dual-identity spots on the island, the Aquarius book shop and hair salon. I've exchanged books at Aquarius several times and always enjoy going in to see what I can find. I had several books to exchange, so while my friend sat in the stylist's chair, I had time to check all the shelves for juicy murder mysteries, one of my favorite genres and one of the easiest to find wherever I go.
We decided to eat at Hemingway's on Middle Street, in keeping with the bookish theme. I don't know how this restaurant got its name, because it seems a bit unlikely for a locally owned spot. But local it is, and during slow season, I know how hard it can be for businesses to keep their doors open, so I like to give my business to places less frequented by tourists. I'd never eaten here before, but our friends Debra and Bill liked it, so I was looking forward to checking it out.
My friend and I had an excellent conversation about our respective islands -- things we liked, things that concerned us, and the many changes we'd seen over just the past year. All in all, a great time, and well worth a trip to town on this very hot day. I hope we can do it again one of these days!