Friday, September 1, 2017

City Guide: Tulum

How do I explain Tulum?

Amazing food. Conversational cabbies. White sand beaches. Plenty of opportunity for adventure.
A place I'll be returning to soon.

It's not your typical Mexico beach resort town. It's not Cancun or Playa del Carmen or Cozumel or Cabo San Lucas. It's touristy, for sure, but I would consider it the Aspen of the Yucatan. A little exclusive, a bit pricey for Mexico, a curated experience. Expect to run into other millennials or hip ad-exec types from New York or San Francisco, or vacationers from various parts of Europe. You're not sticking to your resort. Instead, you're hopping from beach club to beach club, driving out to cenotes for a cool, mid-afternoon dip, and taking dinner in the jungle.

I met up with some of my favorites folks from Texas and we stayed in the neighborhood of Aldea Zama, about midway between the town of Tulum and the beach resort road. The Airbnb was a part of a beautiful apartment complex with a saltwater pool, and each unit had an outdoor shower and private plunge pool.

Each night, we dined out at some of the must-visits of Tulum: Hartwood, Arca, Posada Margherita and Gitano. Each morning, we started with yoga and smoothie bowls, or avocado toast and pool time, or an early beach club arrival to stake out prime lounging chairs. Afternoon activities varied from cenote hopping to a spa visit to bebidas at a new beach club.

Scroll for photos, and keep scrolling for Tulum recommendations.

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Where to eat:

  • Delcielo Tulum – local coffee and breakfast spot in town
  • Hartwood – it's amazing, lives up to all expectations, fresh ingredient dinner, if you eat at one place in Tulum, this is it.
  • Arca Tulum – great jungle spot, perfect dinner for two, definitely order dessert
  • Taqueria La Eufemia – tacos on the beach, can hang for awhile
  • Gitano – mezcal bar and restaurant, we ordered one of each appetizer and recommend this plan of attack, turns into a dance party on Thursday night so get ready to stay out late
  • Raw Love – the best smoothie bowls to get every morning, especially after ocean-view yoga. get rid of the bad toxins from all those beach club drinks and have a juice shot and smoothie bowl each day
  • Matcha Mama – super into matcha? if yes, then you have to stop by for drinks and the swings
  • Kin-Toh – modern mayan + mexican fusion, the restaurant is in a treehouse so major highlight, recommend for drinks and sunset-watching, dinner is a bit pricey
  • Nômade Tulum – we didn't get to eat here but it's a hotel with floor-seating
  • Casa Jaguar – we didn't eat here also, but it's supposed to be great and turns into a party on Friday and Tuesday nights
  • Posada Margherita – sometimes you're craving Italian food when in Mexico... handmade pasta you'll love
  • Chamico's – a local spot at Bahia Soliman, get a HUGE plate of fresh ceviche, chill in some hammocks

Where to beach:

  • Papaya Playa Beach Club
  • La Zebra
  • Coco Tulum – the bar has swings, are you convinced yet?
  • Hotel Be Tulum – probably the best beach in Tulum
  • Ahau Tulum – favorite place to do yoga, home of Raw Love

Where to venture:

  • Ruins at Coba
  • Ruins at Tulum
  • Dos Ojos Cenote
  • Sian Ka'an
  • Parque Xel-Ha


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Saturday, July 22, 2017

City Guide: Mexico City

Before I had even gone on my first trip to Mexico City, I had a second trip booked. After two years of telling everyone that I want to eventually live in CD.MX., I had a good list of people who wanted to explore the city with me. The first trip in March was an exploratory visit with no real schedule or guidelines. Mostly just aimless wandering in the neighborhoods of Polanco, La Condesa y La Roma.

For this second trip, sweet couple Kaity and David, and I opted out of traditional American 4th of July celebrations and instead took an overnight flight to the city of my heart. With a tentative 5-day plan, we arrived jet lagged, but bright-eyed, excited to put our rusty Spanish language skills to the test and ready for some street food.

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After checking into our cute Airbnb in La Roma, we hit up Lardo for some necessary fuel. Thus begins my daily breakfast diet of huevos rancheros. Sometimes I share with Kaity or David...

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With breakfast out of the way, we hit the ground running. Almost literally. Kaity and I tried to match David's long stride through the park and to Chapultepec Castle.

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Also located in Bosque de Chapultepec, Latin American's largest park, is Museo Nacional de Antropología, the largest and most visited museum in Mexico. Here you can learn about the various indigenous groups that have lived in Mexico over time, from the Olmecs to the Mayans to the Aztecs. Even if you aren't a fan of museums, this is one of the BEST.

After a full day exploring, we returned to the Airbnb to freshen up before our big dinner at Pujol. There are too many things to say about this experience.

First off, you need to watch Chef's Table if you haven't yet had a chance. Prioritize it. It's possibly the best show on Netflix for its cinematography, its storytelling and its depiction of food.

And about the meal... Pujol offers a sent menu of six courses for a great value, and almost each of the courses offers you four different options to choose from. The Benacs and I made the most of our night by ordering three dishes each course and rotating plates throughout the evening.

So what did we eat? Delicious street snacks housed in a smoking gourd. Appetizers included sea bass bathed in cacahuatzintle juice with celery, chayote squash with sea asparagus, topped with maguey worm salt, and octopus in habanero ink with ayocote and veracruzana sauce. For the third course, we split softshell crab tacos topped with meyer lemon, some flavorful wild mushroom soup with beans and Mexican tarragon, and a charred eggplant tamal.

Fourth course included a delicious cut of lamb with mint mole, lime and baby potatoes, along with melt-in-your-mouth pork chop with red chichilo and butternut squash, and for the third dish, a fresh-caught grilled fish with hoja santa chickpea. This was followed up with a fifth course of mole madre and mole nuevo. It is a plate with a new mole nestled within a flavor-packed 1000-day old mole. I don't really have words for this...

We finished the dish with a trio of desserts, some homemade churros, and chupitos of fine mezcal. The dinner took several hours, moving at a pace that allowed for rich conversation with two of my favorites, serious food appreciation because three year old mole, obviously, and an appropriate welcome to Mexico City.

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The next day, we went out to visit the neighborhood of San Angel. We stumbled upon brunch at a beautiful monastery-turned-hotel, and were hard pressed to leave this place. As fate would have it though, we ran into some fellow Texans and made plans to meet up later in our trip. We spent the afternoon wandering from San Angel to Coyoacan, taking photos of brightly colored walls and sampling delicious street food.

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On our third day, David organized a trip to Teotihuacan. Departing around sunrise, we drove out of the city and toward an archaeological landmark. Don't let anyone tell you Teotihuacan is not worth visiting because compared to Tikal and Tulum and other ruins, you get to scramble up and down pyramids, you get to understand the scope of this ancient civilization, and you get to touch everything. We spent the morning climbing the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, the Temple of the Sun, and the Pyramid of the Moon.

On our return to CD.MX. we made plans for churros. With single-minded determination, we found Churrería El Moro, an Instagram-perfect spot with its blue and white tile, multi-sized churro options and several dipping sauces, and your choice of several hot chocolate drinks. Churros make people happy. People need more churros in life.

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Planning for CD.MX.

Where to eat:

BREAKFAST

  • Panaderia Rosetta
  • Lardo
  • Eno

SNACKS

  • El Moro Churrería
  • Hueset
  • Yuban
  • Lalo!

DINNER

  • Pujol
  • Quintonil
  • Blanco Colima
  • Rosetta
  • Contramar

DRINKS

  • Limantour
  • El Palenquito


Where to venture:

  • Museo Nacional de Antropología
  • Chapultepec Park
  • Luis Barragán Museum
  • Frida Kahlo’s House
  • San Angel Inn
  • Teotihuacan Pyramids
  • Walk around Coyoacan
  • Xochimilco
  • Lucho Libre


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Friday, July 21, 2017

Homecoming?

One night in mid-July, I sat with a copita of mezcal, the sounds of Sufjan Stevens and Nina Simone, and a million Airbnb tabs open, and I decided to revive this here blog. After over six months hiatus, I guess I now have something to say.

For one, I don't want to give up on this thing. I've been documenting trips, moves cross-state or cross-country, new friends, meals shared and my evolving photographic style for nearly seven years. I don't want to quit.

Two, I have things I want to share, that I want to encourage you to go visit, try, do, buy, love. We're living in the age of the influencer, and while I want to avoid a vain and self-absorbed and personal brand-promoting approach to life, I do want to share things. I want to show you all the photos that I don't spam to Instagram and I want you to go to Mexico City and fall in love with it because of a trip to Frida's house and a meal at Lalo.

Three, I have limited knowledge to share with you, mostly just my experiences, but I think writing is a good way to hash out greater lessons, and I think looking back in a year's time at what I thought I knew is an ever greater learning opportunity. For the record, I don't know anything.

Four, writing is a muscle that I need to flex. Text messages and slack channels don't really cut it.

Over the next few weeks, I will be retroactively posting articles that I should have written during the first half of 2017. I want to share city guides for Miami, Vancouver and Mexico City. I want to write down my experience attending CES, SXSW and Coachella for work as a social media manager. I want to talk about how I'm planning for my trip to Europe this fall. And I want to just muse about other wanderlust adventures, I want to contemplate another photo series, I want to expand the limits of my own creativity.

Stay tuned. I could very well slip into another hiatus.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Field Notes: Mexico City

One of the constant questions I'm asked is "When are you moving back to Texas?" One of my favorite replies is, "I don't know, I'll probably move to Mexico City first." The follow-up question is always, "Have you been?" Nope.

For two years, I've been telling everyone I want to move to Mexico City, but no, I haven't been, so no, I don't know what I would be getting myself into. But... I have a good feeling about it. Finally, I decided to put my idea to the test and take an exploratory trip to Mexico. With trusty travel pal Kendra onboard, we booked a quick weekend trip and conducted some basic planning.

Going into this trip, I was nervous. What if my general expectations about Mexico City are too high? I tell everyone I want to live there someday and what if it's not the picture I've painted in my mind. I did not have expectations of Austin or San Francisco even, and both were huge surprises, huge blessings, and quite evidently, where the Lord wanted me to live life. For Mexico City, I have lots of questions. Will I feel safe? Will I be able to communicate enough to get by? Will I appreciate the culture and love the layout of the city? Can I envision a normal routine in this huge place? Can I picture myself having friends or community? Could I start again here?

Going into this trip, I tried to minimize my expectations. I tired to minimize the pressure to do and see everything because I already have a second trip planned for July. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ This trip is about walking around neighborhoods aimlessly, stopping by coffeeshops and boutiques merely because they're interesting, absorbing some culture and allowing Mexico City to speak for itself.

So with that, here are some glimpses of Mexico City, and my final thoughts at the end.

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So did Mexico City live up to the hype? Absolutely. Despite my high expectations, I think CD.MX. exceeded them. From the food, to the colors, to the plants, to the sights and sounds and smells, I feel like I have just discovered a new heart city. This concept of "heart city" was explained to me by a fellow wanderlust travel, though now nameless and faceless in my memory. Heart cities are quite simply put, "cities after your own heart," places where it's easy to connect, easy to live and breathe and be. Antigua, Guatemala was my first, San Francisco might be my second, and I think Mexico City is my third. When will I move there? We'll see....