I’ve been writing quite a bit about my Asia travels lately, so I thought I’d mix it up a little by bringing it back to North America for today’s “From My Travels” post.
For my 40th birthday, I took a four day trip to the Yucatan Peninsula with two of my sisters; one a new mother, the other pregnant – so a peaceful getaway on a quiet beach was a perfect balance for all of us. We stayed at Maya Tulum Resort, an eco-spa known for its yoga retreats, luxurious spa treatments, soft sand beach, and definitely not for its food! The night we arrived,the buffet dinner consisted of dry spaghetti with a few watery looking sauces, vegetables that looked like they’d been in the freezer too long, chopped rommaine lettuce and not a whole lot else. We never gave it a second chance. Fortunately the fruit-centric breakfasts were another story – fresh coconut “shakes” for breakfast every morning… Yum!
By the time we (three foodies) combed the Mayan Riviera looking for a good Mexican/local meal, we were extremely frustrated and baffled to find that most restaurants there – a two hour drive from the closest airport – serve Italian food! I’ve done some research into this phenomenon and have turned up nothing other than the guess that it’s what tourists want to eat. (Really?) So, if anyone knows any more substantial reason why the Mayan Penninsula has more Italian restaurants than Little Italy, please share!
We did find a couple of places not far from our hotel that served fresh grilled fish, shrimp (a supposed local specialty) and octopus (really good!). We ate most of our meals at Zamas, a friendly, beachside restaurant with a great mix of well-prepared foods, gracious service and great drinks. This is, in fact, where we ended up having my birthday celebration after dinner at Ana y Jose (good food – fried whole fish – but we were the only ones there!). On our last day, we broke down and tried one of the many Italian restauants. Turns out the restaurant at Casa Violeta had just opened. It was operated by “real Italians” who also happened to be incredibly attractive AND good cooks! Go figure!
Yoga retreats, spa services, and “environmentally friendly” (read RUSTIC even in the upscale places) accomodations are the way to go in this area. For my birthday, I had a Mayan Chocolate massage that was heavenly – I smelled like cocoa, spices, and honey for hours. My sister did the infamous “temazcal” – a “cleansing ritual” that involved sitting with a shaman in what essentially looked like a very large pizza oven in the dark. She emerged smokey, a little freaked out by the claustorphobia, and feeling that it was worth the experience. I would definitely return – especially now that they are offering so many deals to bring tourism back to Mexico.