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Archive for March, 2010

By now those of you who read my blog on a continual basis have probably noticed that I review a lot of restaurants. My husband and I love to cook, eat out and generally discuss food. We have spent many a night taking turns in the kitchen being “chef” and “sous-chef” sharing a bottle of wine and trying out new sometimes exotic recipes and we especially enjoy it when we are able to go out to have a pleasant meal with great company. On Friday it was my Mother’s birthday and we decided to go to a wonderful place that I have gone to since it opened in 1995.La Palapa Belga features traditional french cuisine with Belgian specialities and can be found in the Hotel Zone in The Hotel Imperial http://www.palapabelga.com/yinicio.htm.

View from the dock at La Palapa Belga

One of the reasons I love the Palapa Belga is its location. It is situated along the lagoon and you can dine on the dock or in the more enclosed area. It boasts one of the best views of the Hotel Zone from across the water and their prices are very reasonable considering you are eating in the, often over-priced, Hotel Zone. The food is delicious and they have many tempting appetizers and entrees. From mushrooms au gratin or escargots de bourginon to duck breast in wild cherry sauce or rack of lamb you can’t go wrong. To date, I haven’t had a disappointing meal yet and unlike many restaurants here in Cancun they don’t just have one or two really good dishes but various great dishes to choose from and their specialties change from time to time which people like me who live in Cancun really appreciate.

Duck breast at La Palapa Belga

Friday night was no exception! My husband Cesar, my Mom and I had already started our night off first at my Mom’s place sharing a bottle of champagne to toast her birthday. We then arrived at La Palapa Belga at 8pm and we were seated by the ever friendly staff on the dock . We ordered oysters on the half shell and escargot de bourginon and we used the fresh, warm bread to sop up the escargot’s jus. Next our meals arrived, seared tuna for my Mom, grilled New York steak with herbs for hubby and one of my favourites the duck breast in wild cherry sauce.YUM! For dessert I had mentioned to the staff that it was my Mom’s birthday and they kindly brought us a slice of cheesecake with strawberry sauce and a candle and of course we all sang “Happy Birthday”  There was a warm breeze that night, we had a spectacular view, the food was great and the company… even better. All in all it was a lovely evening and it set the tone for my Mom’s birthday weekend as the festivities were not over yet as we had a party planned with friends for Saturday night.

The seared tuna steak comes with wild rice but my Mom wanted fries

If you are in the mood for a romantic evening, a celebration or a night out with friends or family La Palapa Belga has something for everyone and is a must if you are vacationing in Cancun. It is a true gem!!

Lis, Sylvia, my Mom, Lisa and Erika on Saturday for my Mom's birthday party

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I don’t usually use my blog to gripe as I consider myself a fairly upbeat person and there are enough negative blogs out there; however, I feel the need to bitch today. 🙂 Once again March has rolled around and it is time to pay a federal government  “car”  tax that was created in 1968 to help finance the Olympics that year being hosted in Mexico City.It was meant to be a temporary tax that somehow is still being charged 42 years later!! This so called “tax” hurts millions of Mexicans and foreigners who live in Mexico and far outweighs any supposed benefits. 

 Car insurance is optional  but “tenencia” is an obligatory payment thus many people after paying this tax can no longer afford to buy insurance. Tenencia is calculated based on the value of your car and also the year of your car. To give you an idea I have a 2009 Nissan Xtrail and my tenencia payment is $7, 321 pesos ( about $660CDN).Mexico is one of the few countries in the world that has this tax. The year before President Vicente Fox (2000-2006)  was elected to office he made a campaign promise to stop this unfair tax levied on Mexico but like so many political promises made in the past he did not keep his word. 

When people buy a vehicle in Mexico they are already paying many taxes. Below is a list of just some of them: 

  • VAT (Value Added Tax) applied to materials and parts for automobile assembly.
  • VAT to buy the car at the agency.
  • ISAN (New Car Tax).
  • Tax Royalty for plates, and circulation card
  • Payment for a driver’s license
  • Tax Verification  for car contamination
  • VAT gasoline, which increases at the beginning of the month, also over 40% of the price per gallon of gas is another tax (duty on production and services).
  • VAT for driving on highways.

Now what really gets my goat is that tenencia in theory is supposed to be used to keep our roads safe and well-maintained. Uhhh helloooooo anyone who has ever driven in Mexico knows that driving here is almost like playing a video game… but in real life. You have to be constantly aware of and navigate  baches (holes in the road) uncovered drains, huge cracks and uneven pavement not to mention all the unnecessary topes (speed bumps). So tell me where is all of our money going? No wonder vehicles don’t last here very long.

In the last few years there has been a growing movement to boycott this tax. There are several websites that enable you to add your name to a list in hopes that someone will listen to them…one day. I recently read an article that stated that as of January 1st 2012 tenencia will be eliminated  (assuming we are all still here since according to the Mayan Prophecies we won’t be maybe that’s why they picked that date LOL). I can only hope that for once and for all this bogus tax will be removed. How about making car insurance non-optional instead that way everyone on the roads will be protected and safe and when people cause an accident they don’t have to abandon their cars, the scene and their city to escape charges….as anyone living here has witnessed on at least once occasion in the past. 

Well, that concludes my tirade for now I would love to hear your opinion and I promise  that my next blog will be back to my lighthearted musings of life in Cancun. 🙂 

  

 

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When I moved to Cancun in 1995 I was a young fresh-faced Canadian who loved to hit the clubs and dance until the sun came up. My friends and I were on a first name basis with all the managers and staff of every club worth going to at that time. I saw clubs open, close down, close down and re-open under new names and change throughout the years. Some of my favourites were Christine’s (who always had a great light show at the beginning of the night and is now Bull Dog Cafe) Tequila Rock, Dady’O and my absolute fave La Boom.

La Boom has now been closed ever since Hurricane Wilma and it had started to go downhill long before that but I always remained a loyal customer until the end. I even had the second part of my stagette there just before the hurricane. I have many fond memories of late nights dancing with friends some of whom are no longer in Cancun and some who continue to be present in my life. When I met my husband in 2004 I began to slow down and we filled our nights with game nights and dinner parties and less club nights though on occasion we still went with our friends…until recently. 🙂

Grand Dubai Terraza

I have been pleased to note that in the last few years there has been a subtle change in Cancun. Finally there are a few better restaurants, cafes, bars and night clubs that have decided to take their chances on the people who call Cancun their home. Now, there are new places almost everyday popping up downtown that cater to the locals and the Hotel Zone is no longer the only place with a “happening scene”. Now don’t get me wrong I still enjoy getting out to the Zone;however, it is great that we now have more options that boast local prices especially when it is high season.

Group shot at The Penthouse

On Saturday my husband, Fredy, Erika and her two friends that were visiting from the US, and myself started our night at Grand Dubai, a fun place that is spilt into two. One side features pop and rock music in both Spanish and English and the terrace has techno/progressive tunes all night long. We like the terrace with its soft lighting and lounge-like atmosphere. After awhile we decided to go to the Penthouse (formerly Rush) at Plaza Peninsula which is also an outdoor terrace and has a nice mix of house, techno, pop and latin music. As always the staff there were great and we had a fantastic time dancing and meeting new people. Then it was time to move on to our last destination of the night ( umm or should I say morning as by this time it was 4:30 am) We swigged a Red Bull and off we went to Red (formerly Blue..I kid you not 🙂 ) to watch the sunrise and dance some more.

The Penthouse Terraza

At 6:30am we could dance no more–it had been a long night! We hailed a taxi and went home. We had had a fantastic time and it reminded me of that fresh-faced Canadian when she first came to Cancun oh so long ago. I may not hit the clubs as much as I used to but it is great to know that there are more places that cater to the locals now and that are closer to home and especially  to learn that I still have it in me to “party like a rock star” 🙂

Erika feeling playful with a hat at Red

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I recently went to Vancouver (my hometown) for a quick visit  with my Dad and I had a chance to catch up with my best friend and my cousin and his family. As always I enjoyed my time there and I even got to see some of the leftover Olympic spirit. It rained pretty much the whole time that I was there but as I had checked out the 10 day forecast before I left I was not surprised though I had forgotten how cold Vancouver could be this time of year.

My Cousin Graeme and I at White Rock-brrrr

I caught a couple of movies (Alice and Wonderland 3D and Shutter Island–both worth seeing) and also got to eat out a lot at some of my favourite restaurants and eat all the great ethnic food that Cancun lacks. I even had time to hit the Yale and listen to some great live blues–always a blast! No trip to Vancouver would be complete without also visiting Victoria to see my sisters and White Rock to visit with my cousin and his lovely family.

My sisters and my Dad

It was great to hear my native tongue everywhere and to observe the differences between Vancouver and Cancun and I am looking forward to going back in the summer for a longer visit with my husband.After 10 days it was time to go home again and now it  all seems rather surreal as I settle back into my life in Cancun. I am a proud Canadian by birth who makes her home in a foreign land who is equally proud to call Mexico her home and to be a Cancunense by choice.

Olympic torch lit for the Paralympics

We have lots planned for this weekend which definitely includes a day at the beach even though Cancun has been rather chilly this year so far I need some fun in the sun. Stay tuned for more blogs on life in Cancun and places to go.

Go Canada Go!

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 Only 3 hours from Cancun and 24 kms from Chetumal (Quintana Roo’s capital) Bacalar is Mexico’s second largest fresh water lake and still one of its best kept secrets. I first went to Bacalar about 12 years ago and I try to go at least once a year.

View from Hotel Laguna

 Bacalar boasts beautiful lush scenery and of course its main attraction is its lagoon of seven colours..and there really are seven colours I counted :)Of course a trip to Bacalar is not complete without visiting the Cenote Azul which is a large sinkhole of about 182 meters deep—a favourite among scuba divers. You can find a small restaurant there to enjoy a leisurely breakfast or dinner and perhaps an afternoon swim.

For several years now my husband and I always stay at a family run hotel on the edge of the lagoon with breathtaking views called Hotel Laguna Bacalar http://www.hotellagunabacalar.com/home.php  The accommodations are clean and simple that can accommodate from 1-10 guests and they have a nice restaurant with both outdoor and indoor seating. Make sure you try the conch steak—YUMMY!

Hotel Laguna Bacalar

We love to spend at least two days at Bacalar as we generally arrive in the afternoon after the drive from Cancun. After settling into our room we take our beach chairs out onto the dock and soak up the warm Caribbean sun and swim in the refreshing lagoon until the sun sets and then we enjoy a simple meal and play some cards until bedtime. The following day we often take a drive along the scenic coastline and then have lunch at the Cenote Azul and swim. http://www.cenoteazul.com/ On our last day we like to go to the “Balneario” which basically translates to public bathing area. It is located just below the San Felipe Fort that was built in 1733. There you can relax on the lagoon’s sandy beachside, eat in their restaurant, rent kayaks/canoes or take a small tour by speedboat. It is a very popular place and it can get quite crowded if you are there on the weekends. At the end of the day we pack up our stuff and bid farewell once again to Bacalar knowing that we will be there again soon.

Swim, anyone?

Recently there has been quite a bit of talk that Bacalar will be the next “big thing” in the Riviera Maya. There are plans to build a Safari Park and several new hotels and condos. I can only hope that this doesn’t change Bacalar from the place that I have enjoyed visiting for so long into another typical tourist destination but I guess you can’t keep a beautiful place like that a secret forever.

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