Sunday, September 24, 2017

European Jet Lag

It's the morning after my return from a two-week trip to Europe, and I'm a little jet-lagged and wary of the work inbox that's awaiting me in two hours. My body doesn't understand what time it is, but rather than attempting to gain more sleep, it's time to process through my recent trip.

I'm excited to have made it home with five pieces of luggage, to be reunited with my needy plant collection. I have attempted to unpack some of the past two weeks last night, and now my bedroom/living room floor is covered with seven Moroccan rugs of various shapes and colors.

So what happened? Over the past 14 days, I moved from Barcelona to Morocco, through the desert and onto Lisbon before finally returning to Spain. I nearly missed all of my flights, all for different reasons, and I slowly accumulated more and more luggage as time went on. I rode in a car through Morocco for over 24 hours from Marrakech to Ouarzazate, from Puarzazate to Merzouga, and from Merzouga to Fes, and repeatedly hung my head out the window to watch this unique desert landscape stream by. I rode a camel for the first time up a wave of sand, and attempted to board down the same golden dune in Erg Chebi.

I fell in love with Moroccan cuisine. Now: Give me anything in a tangine, along with a cup of mint tea with sugar, please. We dined in riad gardens and on top of terraces with pet turtles, and we concluded our final night in Fes with a traditional Moroccan meal inside a family home. We sat in community and shared a dish of chicken and vegetable couscous, and then a large plate of lamb. Phrases of Spanish, Moroccan Arabic, French and some English all flew about the room as we attempted to overcome several language barriers. Still, laughter is easily communicated in most every language, as is hospitality and gratitude.

We surprisingly made it out of Morocco after jumping over a couple of barriers–canceled flights, multiple carry-ons, and an early-morning flight change. We arrived in Portugal and dragged said luggage for blocks and blocks, truly testing our strength and love for our Moroccan purchases. We found Lisbon to resemble San Francisco as we hiked hills, drank mojitos atop a parking garage while gazing at a near-familiar red bay bridge, and we found the local foodie spots. We made meals of wine and cheese, much cheaper than in the states, and we longed for more time in the country.

After a short stint, it was time to return to Barcelona. With more favorable weather, clear skies and no sudden showers, we adopted a more local approach to the city. Our hotel was comparable to the Ace Hotel of Palm Springs, but we mostly stayed out in the streets and hydrated with sangria. I turned 26 with ceviche for the bourgeois, a table full of tapas, drinks at Barcelona's oldest bar and a night/early morning of dancing with two close friends. I fell in love with Barcelona on this return visit, and should have stayed.

It will take me many months to come back and write about the joys and wonders and hardships of this trip. As a whole, it was a step out of my comfort zone, a trip of growth and self-reflection, and even had a dose of culture shock. I am tired, but also so full from this experience.

*Please forgive any typos and grammatically errors.

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
  • NĂ´made 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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