About Me

Living in the Caribbean is probably like living anywhere else, with the same ups and downs. But it does have its own vibe and flavour and gives me a unique perspective on most things. I'm often sarcastic, mostly funny, always looking for a new adventure. I have not boxed myself into any one category of life. I love a lot of things and dislike a lot more. I write about them all.

Bienvenidos a Mexico City - My Memories of Mexico, Pt 5

When I had planned my vacation, the plan was to do Mexico City first and then relax on the beaches of the Yucatan peninsula, but I changed it up – for a good reason . When I tacked on Mexico City to my vacation, there were raised eyebrows and some were outright aghast. “By yourself? You mad?” Surprisingly, one of the reasons it took me so long to visit Mexico, a country that for such a long time had been top of mind for my solo black girl adventures, is because everyone swore up and down it was too dangerous and I should not go alone.

What changed this time? I asked myself the question – Is anywhere safe these days? Less than 3 months after my visit to Paris last year, there was an attack on the City of Light. Of course, I did my due diligence and and did my research research research and I was convinced that with all the proper solo girl precautions, I would be fine.

The only thing that truly worried me about the city was whether I would survive the altitude. Mexico City, as most of you would know, is about 7200 feet or 2250 metres above sea level. High altitude is not my friend for a couple reasons, so those were the real concerns for me, but I survived – again, with solo adventurer precautions in place.

I was overly cautious with my transportation to the hotel and booked the hotel shuttle instead of taking a public taxi outside the airport. The first thing that struck me was how big everything seemed in the city. Driving from the airport to La Condesa, I passed massive office buildings and skyscrapers that loomed over us as we drove through the streets. Driving through the streets though. Mexico City has a population of over 21 million people, and surely at least 20 million have a car because the traffic is MIND NUMBING. I thought my daily commute was bad, but this was horrendous. On any given day, I was trapped in a taxi with a driver who would utter what surely had to be cuss words in Spanish under his breath.

I will admit – the mammoth metropolis that is Mexico City can be a bit intimidating which is why I was so glad I had booked a hotel in the leafy suburban paradise of La Condesa. This was the reason I changed my entire schedule because I really wanted to stay in this hotel and it was not available for my original dates. I did not regret the change because it exceeded my expectations. The neighbourhood, the people, the great array of restaurants within walking distance, the safe and comfortable environment, so much so that I felt indifferent to walking along the promenade after 11pm. Amazing. I was in love.

The fountain just outside my hotel door, along the Avenida Amsterdam


La Condesa is a great neighbourhood for pet lovers. I saw a LOT of pampered dogs during my stay here. 


Love the colour along the Avenida Amsterdam.


Green and serene in Mexico City - steps away from my room.

Secret Swims in Sacred Cenotes - My memories of Mexico, Pt 4


After ruins visiting and temple climbing, we had worked up quite an appetite. Lunch in Mexico is around 2pm, which for me, is late as my corporate body clock operates with a midday lunch alarm.

We headed to a Mayan community where lunch was waiting for us, and boy, did it smell good. What a quaint little set-up it was though – tables and chairs set up under a thatched roof, with some of the cooking being done outdoors in what may have been the traditional Mayan way, but which I am sure was done for the benefit of tourists. Still, it was nice to see the tortillas being fried right in front of us.

Inside our lunch area

Frying up those tortillas - which were really good, by the way. We had seconds and thirds


Lunch was delicious, lemme tell ya. We dove right in to the meal that was piping hot and in ready supply and included tortillas, honey potatoes (nom nom), black beans, lentil soup, chicken in a mole sauce and salads, and of course, there were three degrees of salsa - mild, spicy and muy caliente! lol.

Section of the lunch buffet

About to dig in - so hungry and this was all so yummy

After lunch, a post-lunch coffee (even the Mayan community understands the power of coffee) and a rock in the hammock, we were off to a nearby cenote. The most interesting part of this visit though was the welcome. We were given a traditional Maya shaman welcome, complete with chanting, sprinkling of water, and welcoming words. By this time, I was really a bit tired, but the cenote was calling.

A cenote is a natural underground river caused by the collapse of the porous limestone bedrock. It is cavernous almost, with cool (read: cold) water and which was central to Mayan civilisation, and which they believed was a portal or channel to the gods. These beautiful underground pools are great for swimming, if cold water and bats do not deter you. Shamelessly, bats are not cute to me, and my cenote adventure was quite brief but it was oh so lovely. There are about 7,000 cenotes across Mexico, some more popular than others and which are heavily marketed towards the tourist crowds. The quieter ones, like the one we visited, are just as beautiful. There was a rustic little outdoor shower where we could wash off our Sephora and Bath and Body Works products before getting into the cenotes which are environmentally protected and which generally are water sources for these communities.

Cenotes are environmentally protected so showers before swimming are a must
- to wash off sunscreen, anti-perspirants etc


View from ground level down into the cenote

Inside

Afterwards, we took a slow stroll through the rest of the village which was very different to what one is normally used to and where life is a hybrid of modernity and traditional Mayan culture, and where life is generally much simpler and less hectic. It was a long day, but it was a good day and I took a nap on the way back to Playa del Carmen to relax for the rest of my stay there.

One of the homes in the village - love the decor

Awesome Adventures: Tulum and Coba - My memories of Mexico, Pt 3



The next adventure would be a day trip to Tulum and Coba and a cenote. I would spend the day with a lovely French couple from Brittany, who spoke no English. Bad enough that my Spanish had been dismal throughout the trip, but then I am forced to speak French for an entire day, when I was really trying to focus on my Spanish. Well, the next day, I kept mixing up words with the hotel staff, and that was fun! lol. But what a great couple - we had so much fun!

It is an easy enough trip from Playa del Carmen, and so we were off.

Tulum - Beautiful seaside Mayan ruins. It was a crisp , warm day with blue skies and without a doubt, the best way to see the cliffside ruins of Tulum. While not as large as Chichen Itza, it surely does one-up it with its location, nestled above the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. If there was any Mayan envy, it had to be all aimed towards the guys at Tulum who had to wake up to this gorgeousness every day.

It was really a beautiful site and surprising that back in the day, people from other cities  across the seas steered little canoes or boats across the choppy seas as Tulum was an international trade hub. The walled city itself traded a lot of tuquoise, jade and salt - I mean - duh.  As with the Amerindians in the West Indies, European diseases via Spain, killed off the Tulum Maya and the ruins left behind remind us of a time when original settlers lived full and rich lives, with their religious practices and simple way of life.

The Temple of the Winds at Tulum - worship of the wind god happened here


One of the ruins scattered on the complex



While I did not take a dip in the waters down below, it sure did look tempting.



Coba -  Much larger and more extensive than Tulum is the Mayan city of Coba, which was an important trade link between the coastal traders and the inland cities. Where Tulum is believed to have a population of roughly 5,000, Coba's population was about 10 times that.  And unlike Chichen Itza, a lot of the site is unexcavated. The site sits against jungle, with much of the structures having been overtaken by nature. The time and expense of archaelogical excavations mean that the majority of Coba may sit undiscovered for years and years. An extensive network of roads linked the inland cities to Coba.


The Oval Temple


Now when I planned this little adventure, my main worry was actually about the cenote visit and the fact that I cannot swim. I did not want to have the adventure be wasted simply because I am a land baby. However, nowhere in the fine print did they say anything about having to ride a bike. The last time I had ridden a bicycle, I was 10 and while a BMX speedster and top (read: only) female rider on my street, quite a few calendars have been ripped up since then and so I am sure I turned white, if that is even possible for someone of my hue, when the man started talking about riding a bike to the ruins. He sold it as "you never forget" and while there was a pedicab option, he also made it seem that I would be the biggest chicken if I did not take the cheaper bike option. Needless to say, after five minutes of cajoling, I was perched on the seat of my rented bike, trying my best to not fall over.  It took me a good 10 minutes to finally be able to pedal down the path without 'breaking my ass' and I was reminded just how much I liked biking. I was soon passing people and snickering to myself about my reclaimed prowess.

Renting the bike or the pedicab is recommended as the site is quite extensive and if you like walking, then great - but it just saves so much time as well. The day was pretty hot and humid as well, so the bike ride worked out better than the walking.

I stopped along the path to look at some of the smaller structures on the site but of course, the main draw is the main temple known as Nohuch Mul. Unlike the pyramid at Chichen Itza, the temple at Coba is still open to visitors to climb. Yes, I decided I would climb it. The structure is about 130 feet high, with about 124 steep and narrow steps taking you to the top. It seemed like a good idea from the bottom but by step 20, I was regretting this decision. This climb is not for the faint hearted nor for someone who is not that thrilled at heights. It is a hard climb up but an even worse descent, and I saw many people literally on all fours going up, and scooting down on their butts. I however took the decision at step 20, that I had seen enough and there is a thick rope in the middle of the structure to help with the ascent and I guess more for the descent.

Visitors making the climb at Coba


Another view of the 130ft high temple at Coba


My female French travel mate, like me, also turned around when the going got rough. But please - do it, if you are so inclined. Where else can you climb an ancient temple? The view from the 20th step was pretty awesome so I can only imagine what the view was like from the very top.

Mayan village and cenote - in the next post. lol. Sorry guys.

Chichen Itza - My memories of Mexico, Pt 2

When I told some people I would be going to Mexico on vacation, everyone assumed I would just be sitting around on a resort drinking margaritas all day. Again, not my style.

One of the main reasons Mexico had always been on my bucket list was because of the many ruins dotted across the country. The Yucatan peninsula is no different, despite the mega resorts lining the coastline.

Chichen Itza is one of the new 'seven wonders of the world'. To get there, I lined up a guide and to get there ahead of the crowds, I was dressed and waiting in hotel reception at 5am. Yes. 5 o'clock in the morning. The struggle was very real! Special thanks to my hotel concierge for packing a lovely takeaway breakfast for me, which came in so handy as the breakfast provided by the tour was not to my liking.

The 5am start is so worth it though because we got there ahead of the hundreds of tourists who start really filling up the place around 10am. Our guide, Marco, an archaeologist , was a treasure trove of information about Mayan history and the history of the site, the excavation efforts etc.

El Castillo, or the Temple of Kukulcan, the massive pyramid which is the centrepiece of the Chichen Itza complex stands at almost 30 metres high and served as the temple to the god, Kukulcan - the feathered serpent god. Every year, during the summer and autumn equinoxes, as the sun sets, the play of light and shadow creates the appearance of a large snake slithering down the pyramid. The various stories recounted by Marco really gave us some insight into the mysteries of the Mayans, who were clearly so far ahead of their time. The engineering mysteries, including the very spooky but amazing acoustics are testament to this.

El Castillo or the Temple of Kukulcan - the highlight of Chichen Itza


Up close - with no crowds

One of the most interesting areas, aside from the pyramid itself was the large playing field with dimensions which make it larger than today's American football fields. Ornate carvings show images related to the game that was usually played there - a game consisting of 13 players, trying to get a solid, heavy rubber ball into a hoop at the far end of the court. The story as told to us was that the captain of the winning team was usually decapitated and offered as sacrifice, as he would have represented the best of the best. The carvings show such a decapitation - creepy. Whether this was true or not, the majesty of the ball court, the perfect acoustics aimed at helping the king 'suss' out his visitors and the carvings throughout the complex - incredible!

Of course, I can hardly share everything Marco told us during the 3-hour tour. I really recommend this tour as there is so much to learn, and the site is really stunning. The early morning tour was worth it as it meant I was back in Playa del Carmen just after lunch time which allowed me to sun and recoup the sleep lost from the early morning start.

Mis recuerdos de Mexico - My memories of Mexico, Pt 1

Roof top shenanigans!
It's been more than a little while since my last blog entry here. I really just have not been motivated to write. At all. This year has not been a very good year, and I guess it is easy to not bother. Then a few people asked whether I would blog my vacation as usual because apparently 'my' Mexico looks different to other people's Mexico. That was funny. I had not planned to but I will try and maybe I need the little push to write here again.

This was probably the first vacation that I did not really plan that much - it kinda just happened, but that can be a good thing. Not always good for the budget, but good for life.

Mexico has long been in my Top 20 travel spots and for years, I would look at it, think about it, make excuses why I should not go at that time, and forget about it. Well, this time I looked at it, thought about it, made the regular excuses, started planning a completely different vacation and somehow circled right back to Mexico, and then booked it.

Arriving at Cancun International Airport did not bode well for what the rest of the trip would have been like. The wait for baggage lasted over an hour, and this was followed by an almost brutal female Customs official firing away at travellers in rapid Spanish.

But from the moment I stepped outside, I was in Quintana Roo, Mexico - land of, what I would soon realise were many stories and mysteries. I had pre-booked transportation from Cancun airport to my hotel in Playa del Carmen and within 45-50 minutes, I was being greeted with a colourful, albeit sweet, tropical looking drink at The Palm at Playa Hotel.

I chose to stay in Playa as opposed to Cancun because I knew I would absolutely loathe Cancun with its mega resorts and all-inclusives. That is not my typical vacation. Cancun really is not my style - not my cup of tea. While Playa is not totally unlike Cancun, it still had more of a laid back vibe, villagey, community kinda feel and more boutique hotel options. I really did not envision sitting in a big commercial hotel, eating mass produced all-inclusive food for 7 days, surrounded by drunk tourists.

I really liked Playa del Carmen. Avenida Quinta is a pedestrian zone, with loads of shops and restaurants and bars. I literally could step outside my hotel and be in the centre of the action, and step right back in and be back in my own personal oasis.

My experience with this hotel was remarkable from start to finish. While making all my vacation bookings, somewhere in between my credit card was compromised and after an early morning notification from my bank, the card was cancelled. The hotel therefore could not charge the deposit for my room but Silvia - the greatest ever - held my room for the 5 days I needed to get a replacement card. After that, the service here was outstanding. I was upgraded to a suite, had the best team attending to my every need and was always surrounded with the warmest and kindest people.

Welcome drink and brownie at the hotel. That brownie was da truth!


So much living space for little ole me, but I loved it! The balcony was enormous and I spent
many an evening maccoing the sights from above

The best part - that bed was life!

Everyone had a smile and bent over backwards to make sure guests were comfortable. On the day one of my tours necessitated me leaving the hotel at 5am, the concierge, the amazing, amazing, amazing Sandra, ensured I had breakfast to go, ready and waiting. The hotel has the best rooftop pool and bar area, with excellent mojitos. Not to be left out is the restaurant on the ground floor, Aroma Cilantro, where I had breakfast every day and almost every dinner as well. The food here was so amazing. I guess you can call it a creative take on Mexican street food and typical dishes with chilaquiles for breakfast, tacos, quesadillas, and sopes.

Chilaquiles - my Mexican life had begun. Breakfast on my first morning.



I will not recount the story that comes with this lunch but will only say this was amazing


The Roof Club at the Palm was where I spent several hours baking in the sun and drinking (lots of drinking), while reading. The cocktails were fabulous and the service team - outstanding. Sadly, all my roof photos include yours truly, so you don't get one. lol. But take a look at this photo, courtesy Visitroo.com

Photo credit: Visitroo.com

Truth be told, the people I met during my entire trip were all wonderful. I always thought Trinis were warm but Mexicans proved to be our rivals in that category, outdoing us in the area of service by miles. I had read before I got to Mexico that there is a strong tipping culture and was advised to tip regularly. When you get the service I got throughout my stay, tipping was a no-brainer.

I'll take you outside the hotel in the next post but for now, this was my first dusk on my first day in Playa, as I sat thinking - boy, did I need this!

Sun sets on my first evening in Playa del Carmen

Related Posts with Thumbnails
 
Life in Heels and Flip Flops © 2012 | Designed by Rumah Dijual, in collaboration with Buy Dofollow Links! =) , Lastminutes and Ambien Side Effects