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Archive for October, 2010

Picking up from where I left off in my previous blog we headed over to 1 of Izamal’s 7 Mayan ruins called Kinich Kakmo which was built around 400 and 600 B.C. It was a hot day (36 degrees celsius) and as we climbed the stairs towards the ruin we started to regret not bringing a big bottle of water with us. We spent some time admiring the structure from days long past and took photos of it as well as the incredible view of the town which from our vantage point was very picturesque indeed.

View of Izamal

We then drove back to our B&B and relaxed by the pool before it was time to go for dinner.As we left the hotel there was a huge clap of thunder and the heaven’s opened up and dumped an ungodly amount of water on Izamal. I felt sorry for  the locals who had looked forward to all of the outdoor festivities in the town square because of the Festival de Cristo Negro. The streets rapidly flooded as people tried to cover their stands up as fast as possible and then seek shelter from  the rain. We had gone back to Kinich restaurant for a quick bite (as I mentioned in my last blog the food is fantastic there) in hopes that the rain would soon stop so that we could see the sound and light show at 8:30pm that is put on every night outside the Convent .At 8:15pm the rain tapered off and after buying our tickets we sat down in the seats provided and with fingers crossed waited until 8:30pm. We had been warned that if it started raining any harder they would have to cancel the show.

Part of the light and sound show

Moonlight over the Convent

 

Miraculously the rain stopped bang on 8:30 and a beautiful almost eerie piece of music started up as the outside of the convent was lit up and in the distance we could see 4 “monks” walking with heads bent down carrying lamps. I was transported back into time as I imagined what it must have been like in the 1500’s.Then part of the wall of the Convent jumped to life as a slide show began explaining the Mayan culture and how the Convent came to be built in Izamal. I was very moved by the show and as it came to an end  with the “monks” once  again walking around the entrance of the Convent it began to pour rain down. We had been very lucky that it had held off for the duration of the show.We made our way to the town’s square and ordered a beer hoping that the rain would  eventually stop. It did!

Paper mache workshop

Suddenly the square was filled with people of all ages  decked out in their finest. Adolescent girls and women alike all seemed to be wearing the highest pair of heels that they could find and as they teetered precariously and navigated the puddles and slippery cobblestone streets I couldn’t help but smile as we took in everything that was going on around us. Around 10pm we went back to our hotel and snuggled under the sheets until we fell asleep.

Cocoyol seed

Bright and early the next day we enjoyed a delicious breakfast and checked out. We made our way to the local Sunday market which was abuzz with people buying freshly cut flowers, fresh meat, vegetables, fruit and various spices and homemade sauces. There was also table after table filled with people while they ate local Yucatecan cuisine sold by the vendors.As we crossed through the butcher’s hall I was amused to note that there was a live band playing at full volume while people ordered their cuts of meat for the week.Definitely not your everyday occurrence.After buying various bags of local chilies and other local delights we left the market 

We had been told that Izamal was home to many talleres ( local art workshops) so armed again with our map we decided to visit two of them before departing this truly magical town. First off we stopped at the paper mache workshop which was part of Don Lorenzo Yanpech’s home but because it was a Sunday he wasn’t working that day but he happily showed us around his workshop and we left with a beautiful paper mache butterfly. Next up we went to a jewellery workshop where Don Esteban Aban specialized in making jewellery made from thorns from the henequen tree and the cocoyol seed. We were greeted by Javier,Esteban’s son, and led out back to the workshop where his father was working on some new pieces. Javier gave us a quick tour before his father took over. Esteban welcomed us with a very heartfelt greeting in Maya and proceeded to explain everything that there was to do with his craft. He was quite the character and I would need a whole blog just to do him justice. Check out this link of a video that we took of him when he sang a Maya song to us. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q23wY3Vp8yg

 After about an hour we were finally able to tear ourselves away and continue on our trip. It was truly fascinating and we had learnt a lot. He is a very proud and interesting man that has dedicated his life to being the best at what he does in his art form.

Polishing the cocoyol seed

Polishing the cocoyol seed

The final destination on our Yucatan adventure was to visit the Yokdzonot Cenote. WOW!! What a beautiful spot. It reminded me of Cenote Il Kil, which we had visited on our last Yucatan adventure in the spring, except without the cascading waterfalls and all the tour buses and people. We paid our entrance fee (just 30 pesos) and climbed down the steep steps until we arrived at the bottom where there was a small wooden “dock”. We were told that we had to wear life jackets 😦 and that it was absolutely non-negotiable…a bit of a bummer especially since I always love to dive down deep into  the crystal clear water of any cenote that we get the chance to visit in Mexico. As we floated on our backs and gazed around us completely alone  I couldn’t help but feel at one with Mother Nature.

Yokdzonot cenote

After drying ourselves off we hit the road. As we made our way home I became lost in my thoughts as I replayed the last 30 some odd hours in my head. What a trip! What incredibly kind and friendly people!What an adventure! What a learning experience! It had been a perfect weekend. But I must confess that before we had even pulled into our parking spot in Cancun I was already thinking of where we could go next…I just wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t!

Some fun with an underwater camera

What places have you visited in the Yucatan? Have you been to Izamal?

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We hit the road bright and early and as the odometer clicked off the  kilometers, leaving Cancun far behind us, I felt that old familiar rush of excitement as we headed into the unknown. Our destination was Izamal ,which is considered one of Mexico’s 35 magical towns, but first we had hoped to explore a pair of cenotes, that I had found on a map, called  Mumondzonot and Lununchan in the outskirts of the small town of Tunkas. After what seemed an eternity of driving down a very bumpy,pothole ridden, dirt road we gave up and turned around but not before we came across an Inukshuk which seemed very out-of-place in the Yucatan. We were disappointed that we hadn’t been able to find the cenotes but without any signage and unreliable directions from the town’s inhabitants it just wasn’t meant to be.

Inukshuk in the Yucatan

We got back on the highway and enjoyed a relatively smooth drive to Izamal.I had found a great little bed and breakfast online called Hotel Macan Che, owned by an American couple,massage therapists by trade, who decided to make Izamal their home. We checked into one of their cozy bungalows with an Asian theme and noticed that other bungalows had names like “Frida” and “Selva”.The bed and breakfast is a little jungle oasis surrounded by lush plants, bamboo, with pretty little dirt walkways and bridges that lead you to the “lobby” and the natural rock bottom pool.For 500 pesos we had a room for the night and a very generous breakfast served the next day, consisting of agua de melon (melon juice), coffee or tea, a fresh fruit plate, and eggs with bacon or chorizo or a la Mexicana. A very good deal indeed.

The grounds at the Macan Che Hotel

By 1pm our stomachs were growling and armed with a map and a restaurant recommendation by our hotel we headed over to Kinich, the largest restaurant in town and by far the most charming little spot to eat in Izamal.Since we were in the Yucatan we ordered several of the house specialties and we were not disappointed. Now, normally I would go into great detail about the food, being a foodie and all, but for this particular blog I would prefer to focus more on what we did and saw in Izamal rather than what we ate there 🙂 Though I must say if you ever find yourself in this magical town don’t miss out on a great meal and friendly service at Kinich

We parked our truck and set off on foot and noticed that there was a hub of activity more than what one would expect in a town with a population of around 15,000. There were lots of stands selling food, clothes you name-it, and rides for children and adults alike. We headed over to the Franciscan Convent of San Antonio de Padua, built between 1553 and 1561, and as I was taking photos from afar of this incredibly majestic building, I noticed a gentleman hovering nearby us. I asked him a question about the history of the building and before we knew it we were being led around the convent and treated to rich, colourful explanations and stories about the history of Izamal. I asked him why there were so many people and tour buses in town and he explained that we were very fortunate as it was the festival of el Cristo Negro (black Christ) and we were lucky because the effigy of the black Christ was currently being displayed in the Convent in Izamal.As our extremely  informative tour came to an end I nudged Cesar, as it had become quite clear, that somehow this very industrious tour guide, posing as a friendly citizen, had “kidnapped” us and was now awaiting some form of monetary compensation. We gladly tipped him as he did indeed provide us with a wealth of interesting information. He was even able to explain to us why the majority of the town’s buildings were painted in a mustard yellow colour, something that I had not been able to find out beforehand with my research on the web.I had found many references to “the yellow city” and sites stating that the town was painted yellow to match the colour of the Convent but nowhere was I able to find out why yellow had been chosen in the first place. Our guide explained to us that the colour yellow in the Mayan culture represents the Maize God (God of corn) and of course maize has always been and continues to be very important in Mexico in general, especially as a food staple; however, unfortunately, I neglected to ask when the Convent had been painted yellow and just how that belief tied in with the dogma of a  Franciscan Convent?  If you have any insight about this subject please share it here.

Convent

After our tour of the Convent we decided to check out one of the 7 Mayan ruins that are located within Izamal. I will stop here and hopefully leave you “chomping at the bit” for more details of our Yucatan Adventure.

Cristo Negro

Please do click on the highlighted links scattered throughout this blog to learn more about Izamal and it’s rich history. I would have loved to delve more deeply into this subject  but as always I am conscious of keeping each blog entry “short and sweet” and besides there are already many well written informative sources “out there” for your reading pleasure.

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A few weekends ago hubby and I woke up to a cloudless, bright sunny day and we  decided to head down to Playa del Carmen for the day to hang out at Wicky’s beach club. I had recently come across a blog called Dream Burgers at Wicky’s (this guy LOVES burgers!-check out his blog) that had left me with a severe hankering for a really great burger so after throwing a few things into our back pack we hit the road. We arrived shortly after 11am and settled into a couple of very comfortable reclining chairs under a nice big sun umbrella and gazed out into the ocean. As I mentioned it was a beautiful day. The water was unusually still and the beach looked freshly raked and clean. We ordered a couple of mojitos from a very friendly waiter and took him up on his recommendation to try the shrimp tacos as an appetizer. YUMMY!

The Beach

We then laid back and I cracked open my book while hubby looked through a magazine about cars and imagined himself behind the wheel of an Audi A-1 and Mazda RX-8. It was a warm day so we hit the water and splashed around for awhile until we had worked up our appetites again. It was finally burger time!!! We ordered two Gringo Burgers (cheddar cheese, smoked applewood bacon, mayo, ketchup and grilled onions) with a side of fries for hubby and the house chips for me.Each minute that went by seemed like an eternity while we waited and I wondered whether the burger would stand up to all the hype. It finally came all nestled into a basket with perfectly cooked crispy bacon and heaps of grilled onions atop a half pound of juicy, savoury ground beef molded into a perfect burger patty.The lettuce, tomato and red onion were nice and fresh and the pickles were  tangy and crunchy  My only concerns were how I was going to fit that huge burger into my mouth and whether I would be able to finish it all without exploding first.

Gringo Burger

We slowly polished off our lunch leaving nothing behind and waddled back to our beach chairs for an afternoon nap. We spent the rest of the day swimming, reading and talking about just how lucky we are to live in Paradise. It can be so easy at times to forget why I came to Cancun  to live especially when I get caught up in the day-to-day stuff …life in general but it only ever takes a fun day out away from home to remember why I am here.

The Almighty Gringo Burger..will it fit?

If you are looking for a cool beach club to hang out in Playa del Carmen Wicky’s is just one of the many places to go to for the day. The service was great they had cool tunes and amazing mouth-watering burgers just make sure that you go on an empty stomach.

Wicky's Beach Club

Where is your favourite burger spot?

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My husband and I absolutely love food. We are dedicated foodies.

 

Foodie:  an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink. The word was coined in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook.Although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, foodies differ from gourmets in that gourmets are epicures of refined taste who may or may not be professionals in the food industry, whereas foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news.[1] Gourmets simply want to eat the best food, whereas foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary, and about the science, industry, and personalities surrounding food.

Excerpt taken from Wikipedia

Mi Casa, private room

Last week we were invited by two of our friends  to join them at Mi Casa, an amazing restaurant just off Acanceh Ave.,for a degustacion (tasting) that consisted of 7 dishes.We eagerly accepted and at 8pm we promptly arrived at Mi Casa, which literally means my house and this particular restaurant is actually a house that has been converted into a restaurant.Cool! We were shown to a private room where a large table, covered with a pristine white table-cloth sat in the center, surrounded by hundreds of bottles of wine and the odd painting.

Kobe Beef Carpaccio

Our waiter brought us our menus and that is when our true culinary adventure began. We were told to pick 3 appetizers, 3 main courses and 1 dessert.They would provide us with the wine pairings. What was a girl to do with so many tantalizing choices before her? After quizzing the chef endlessly about each dish I finally made my choices but at that moment I knew that I would be back again and again until I had eaten my way through their entire menu.

 

Callo de almeja

We started off with a kobe beef carpaccio marinated in a balsamic reduction sauce sprinkled with sal de gusano (worm salt) and placed on a bed of peppery argula and mounted on crispy toasts that were lightly dressed with a  mustard vinagrette.WOW!! The meat was so tender that it melted in our mouths. It was paired with a flavourful Pinot noir.Next we had callo de almeja (small scallops) that had been “cooked “by marinating them in lime juice, served with oh-so-sweet cantaloupe balls, cherry tomatoes,cilantro and Serrano chiles. The freshness of the scallops and the sharp citrus taste of the lime juice went wonderfully with the sweet melon and chardonnay wine. So far we were thoroughly impressed. We asked the waiter to slow our food service down so that we could truly enjoy and discuss each dish as it came and to give our stomachs time to adjust to each new meal. We were handed a remote control that acted as an electric bell that would sound in the kitchen to let the chef  know when we were ready for our next course. Now that is VIP service!

Salmon Tartare

Next up salmon tartare with foi gras, fennel and avocado,  topped with crispy fried seaweed. Absolutely divine. The delicate flavour of the salmon blended exquisitely with the foi gras. More wine was served! That dish signaled the end of our appetizers. We took a short break and enjoyed each other’s company for a while. Our spirits were soaring partly due to such extraordinary food but also because our waiter was generously plying us with glass after glass of wine. 🙂

Lamb

Our first main course was duck confit sautéed with leaks and arbol chile,accompanied with tender shallots, green beans and potatoes in an epazote butter sauce. The duck fell apart and dissolved in my mouth.Hubby proclaimed, between mouthfuls, that so far this was his favourite dish. By now we were starting to get pretty full and I must confess also a little tipsy.Our next course was  rack of lamb that had been cooked to perfection and served with al dente vegetables and a small lightly battered ball  of pureed potato and cream. Once again the chef had hit another home run. I groaned as our last main course  was served -caramelized sea bass with a spinach risotto. It was almost painful to eat another bite but I pushed on. The risotto was creamy and soft as silk and the fish flaked apart at the slightest touch of my fork.I was barely able to finish the last course.

Duck

Dessert was next. We had originally ordered creme brulee with a mamey fruit sauce but we realized that we would have to forego any more food. There simply wasn’t anymore room. We asked our waiter if we could substitute our dessert course with a glass of Licor 43,a liquer with 43 “secret” ingredients from Spain,that I have often touted as drink fit for the gods. He graciously complied and as we sipped on our drinks with full bellies I  couldn’t help but exclaim ” I have died and gone to culinary heaven!”

Caramelized Sea Bass

Our dinner lasted 2.5 hours and was one of the most pleasurable evenings I have ever experienced. The company was great, the service was first-rate and the food was exceptional. I am often disappointed with the service , food quality and lack of originality in Cancun’s restaurants but our  experience at Mi Casa can only be described as sheer heaven. Our meal came to $750 pesos each plus 15% tip, just over $85 CDN.  We don’t often splurge like that on our meals but in this case it was worth every peso.

*Mi Casa offers regular dining options as well on their menu. Their prices are quite reasonable and comparable to other restaurants of the same calibre but in this foodie’s opinion their food surpasses anything that I have yet to sample here.

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It was 3am and we were deep into our REM sleep cycle  when all of a sudden we were awakened by a huge  “bang”, “crack”, “boom”!!I bolted up out of  bed and hissed at Cesar “I think someone  just kicked down our front door” We gingerly made our way into the living room with our two cats in toe where much to our relief we saw that our front door was still intact and that we were not in the middle of a home invasion. We turned on the lights to see if we could find the source of the noise, scanning for fallen objects, until my eyes  landed on our dining room floor where much to my dismay I saw a huge pile of uplifted tiles, almost volcano-like in appearance, under my dining-room table. CRAP! We stood there for a few seconds until we heard a creaking sound and then some popping as more tiles started coming apart from the floor. The cats freaked out and moved to higher ground as I exclaimed “great, just freaking great!” There wasn’t much else that we could do at that moment so we headed back to bed.
Volcano-tiles

Now, this wasn’t my first tile-exploding experience. In fact one could say that I have become quite the professional  in dealing with shoddy tile work in Cancun.My last apartment had tile- volcanoes (an expression that I like to think that I coined) popping up almost everday until almost all of our dining-room and living-room floor was more like a mine field rather than a home.In our next apartment (our current home) which we own…so no more being able to call a landlord and having them fix it on their dime…we have had our walk-in closet erupt as well as an area below the stairs that leads to our upper half-floor.So,this kid has been around the block a few times. Why does this keep happening you ask? Let me enlighten you. When one lays tile one should make sure that there is enough tile grout between each individual tile so that as floors “flex”, as they tend to do especially in warmer climates, there is enough space between the tiles to withstand the pressure.If there is not enough grout you will get tile-volcanoes! You would think that if I,a simple layman or laywoman,understand this concept then someone who dedicates their life to laying tile would  know this too! Apparently not!

Prep work

So what comes next? A trip to Interceramic where we try to match our current tile with what we already have or in this case find something that goes with our current colour scheme since they have stopped making our particular tiles years ago. After much discussion we settled on some tiles and put our order in for that day. Of course, we really only needed 1 box plus 4 more tiles for the job but Interceramic only sells by the box. We went back at 3pm to pick them up as they had to order them from Puerto Morelos and surprise surprise they sent the wrong colour. After arguing with the salesgirl for what seemed like an eternity, as anyone  who lives in Mexico knows- the client is always wrong, we finally decided that we would go to Puerto Morelos and pick them up.

Lorenzo chipping away

We now had our tiles and we had an albanil (workman) ready to work. Cesar had taped huge black plastic bags in our dining-room entrances to help combat the dust that would be flying around as Lorenzo, our albanil, banged away at our old tiles in order to remove them. Long story short dust was flying everywhere and the noise felt like chinese water torture as he chipped away for hours and hours. He laid the tiles and and we made sure that he put enough grout in between each one. Two and a half days and 2000 pesos later (around $170CDN) we finally have our house back to normal until the next tile-volcano explosion.

Finished product

I must mention that Lorenzo did a great job and arrived on time everyday..very rare. If you need a reliable handyman let me know.

Tell me about your home repair experiences.Have you had tile-volcanoes?

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I was recently asked by Go Overseas to write a post about Mexico.They are a great site that provide  valuable information about  either teaching, studying or volunteering  abroad. They also feauture many interesting blogs about expat’s experiences living in numerous exciting locations.

I was asked to give a short blurb about Mexico’s background, a few helpful tips and recommend some of my favourite places in Mexico. It was the first time that I have been a guest blogger and I really appreciate Andrew Dunkle (Senior Editor) giving me the opportunity to contribute. I must admit that I found it somewhat challenging writing a structured post and it reminded me of my school days. 🙂

Check out their site and if you are interested check out my post: Travel With a Purpose-Mexico

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