On Saturday morning we headed over to the nearby track to run and walk, but we found it closed to set up for an event. Sigh...that's the second time that's happened on a Saturday recently, so we're going to have to change our fitness activity schedule since we never know if it will be open to the public on Saturdays.
Anywho, I figured, when life gives you lemons, I'd make lemonade, and instead of running, I decided to take a long walk down to the beach and back.
Our rental is only five blocks from the closest beach, Mamitas, but we prefer to walk farther to Coco Beach, which is much less busy and developed. So, that's what we did. Barry ended up doing his run on the roads near there, while I cut over to the beach to take photos and enjoy a beach walk. Here's some of what I saw on the way there and back on a very beautiful morning.
One of our favorite birds in Belize, a Great Kiskadee:
Artwork on the road to the beach:
The beautiful beach in the morning...ahhhhhhh....
Nice and quiet this time of day.
This appears to be an unfinished condo project right along the beach with no signs that it had been worked on recently. Perhaps the developers ran out of funding. If it ever does get built, this will be an amazing location.
Even on the parts of the shoreline where there is no development and thus minimal to no maintenance, the beaches here are much cleaner than the beaches on our former home of Ambergris Caye, which are prone to a lot of trash washup. Must be the way the currents flow. There's just one little piece of blue plastic in this shot, which I didn't see until I processed the photo -- otherwise I would have picked it up!
Fishing boats near The Reef resort, where I had to cut back up to the road as I ran out of beach.
Big tree, little car.
And back to our cute little calle (street)!
All in all, pretty sweet lemonade!
There are so many restaurants to choose from in Playa del Carmen it can be almost overwhelming. There are 760 listed on Tripadvisor, and that doesn't even include some of the tiniest local places far from the tourist zone. Every week we've been trying one or two new places so we can develop a list of "favorites" for repeat visits. So here are the latest new to us places we tried over the last week.
We'd heard nothing but good things about this French patisserie, and since our little waiter friend Jose from our excellent Thanksgiving dinner at Salt Rock Grille said he worked breakfast there, we hoped to get him as our server when we headed over for desayuno earlier this week. Unfortunately, we didn't, but we did get to say hello.
We had a lovely breakfast with good coffee, excellent bread with homemade jam, and fresh-squeezed OJ. I chose the mushroom and parsley omelet, which was good, though certainly not the best omelet I've ever had. The hot sauce was a nice touch, though. Breads are their specialty, and that was where they really shined.
Barry had this fruit, yogurt, and granola bowl. Very pretty and healthy!
Service was excellent and very attentive. There were so many polite and well-groomed waiters and waitresses working, all in matching uniforms. This is a very popular place in the mornings and doesn't even open until 8 am, so I have read that there can be lines. That's one reason I wanted to be sure to try it before next week, when folks spending Christmas here start arriving.
After eating we went inside to grab a couple of pastries to bring home. Oh my! We got two large croissants (almond and chocolate/almond) plus a scone with raisins and nuts. We thought they were reasonably priced (especially for 5th Avenue, the tourist drag in Playa del Carmen) as we got our nice-sized bag of pastries for 73 pesos (a little over $5 US).
We demolished the scone when we got home because it was still warm and absolutely melted in our mouths! Since Barry had such a light breakfast, he then started in on the almond croissant, and seeing his weak-kneed reaction, I had to take a couple of bites even though I was as full as could be. Oh my! I don't even know how to describe these pastries except that I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
I managed to save most of my half of the almond croissant and bagged up the chocolate/almond one untouched for another day. We will definitely return to Chez Céline for takeout pastries again, oh yes we will!
This little local seafood spot gets rave reviews on Tripadvisor, so we were excited to try it. However, it was a bit of a disappointment.
The food was very good indeed. My shrimp ceviche couldn't have been prettier or fresher.
And Barry's giant shrimp diablo was very tasty and came with some nice sides, though the shrimp were in shells, which he was not expecting and didn't care for.
Where this place disappointed us, though, was the service. It was okay when we first arrived, not overly friendly, but competent. But after our food was delivered, nada. No checking to make sure we were okay, if we needed another beverage, nothing. This can happen at times at Mexican spots, and when they're busy, we forgive them, but this was a quiet Tuesday night with more employees in the place than guests.
There was one table of regulars, apparently, that they served over and over while they walked by our table without stopping many times. They also only had two of the eight or so Mexican beers listed on the menu. Not a big deal since the beers they did have, Modelo and Corona, were nice and cold, but a little surprising.
Based on the service we received, it looks like we won't be adding this one to our "gotta return list". There are just too many other places where you can get good food with good service as well.
La Bodeguita Del Medio.
Last but not least, we decided we'd better eat on Fifth Avenue one last time before the huge onslaught of tourists started arriving for Christmas and the unofficial start of high season this weekend. This Cuban place had caught our eye (and we love Cuban food), so we thought we'd give it a try.
They're well-known for their mojitos, so we tried them out. Delicious and very refreshing, they went down so easy we ended up having three apiece!
For our entrees, I ordered the shrimp fajitas, and Barry ordered Cuban Pollo (chicken). Both were tasty and portions were ample.
We also had guacamole and chips for an appetizer, which leads me to my only real beef with this place since the service was attentive and the food very good. My entree came with a side of guac, yet the server asked me if I'd like it first, as an appetizer. I didn't understand that that meant I'd be charged 55 pesos for it. I am sure it was a larger portion, but still; I think the server should have made that clear.
Also later in the meal, the server asked if we'd like water. I said sure, and it ended up being bottled water at 35 pesos (more than a lot of places here charge for a beer), when we got the bill. Once again, I think they are a bit less than forthcoming on the "extras" they "offer" that end up being an extra charge. I had read this on Tripadvisor, so we are not the only ones who experienced it. Definitely something to be aware of if you dine here.
We asked our server about the sign in the picture above my head as we were not able to translate it using our little pocket Spanish-English dictionary. He said it was Cuban slang for "Carry Your Drunks Away". Or something like that!
While we were eating, these cute little boys came up to our table and sang a little song for us. December 12 is the Virgin of Guadalupe Fiesta in Mexico, a big celebration day and a public holiday, so judging from the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe they were holding, that was what this was about. We were aware of this important day here from our trip to Mexico at this same time of year in 2012, so were happy to give them a few pesos -- they were really cute.
For dessert I couldn't resist this caramel flan. I had gone to el baño (the restroom) when it arrived, so Barry helped me save a few calories by eating half of it before I got back. Rude, eh?! Fortunately he took a photo before he dug in!
After paying our bill, we headed down 5th Avenue (Quinta Avenida), finding it hopping and festive. After a few drinks, the crowds don't bother us so much, and the vendors don't pay us much mind when there are plenty of other "victims" around.
We ended up stopping at Ah Cacao for Barry to grab a cup of chocolate brownie ice cream. I was way too full for another bite of anything!
We recently celebrated Barry's birthday here in Playa del Carmen, and what a FUN day we had, from beginning to end!
A delicious breakfast.
We started the morning off with a run at the nearby track complex. We knew we'd be consuming LOTS Of calories, so the extra calorie burn helped. After quick showers, we headed out to El Ceiba for breakfast -- even got our favorite table. Barry had his usual Mexican eggs, and we both indulged in their delicious "Emily" (yes, it's true!) smoothie: pineapple, coconut, blueberries, and blackberries. YUM!
I tried their Huevos Rancheros for the first time. Very good, and the fried eggs were perfect -- no runny white and not overdone either.
A little birthday shopping in the tourist district.
We spent the rest of the morning catching up on computer tasks and eventually ate a light lunch before heading down to Fifth Avenue to play tourists for awhile. There's some good shopping down here, but you do have to put up with all the proprietors trying to lure you into their shops and tour guides trying to sell you excursions -- so we generally avoid this area. Today, however, we actually did want to shop a bit, so it couldn't be helped.
Our timing was good: they were decorating the HUGE and very pretty Christmas tree. Can't wait to see it all lit up at night!
I bought Barry a couple of small birthday gifts. He picked out a Playa Del Carmen ball cap, since he'd only brought one running cap and really needed a second cap for when the first one is sweaty. Here's the handsome birthday boy in his new blue cap looking only a fraction of his age!
I also bought him this massive chocolate bar at Ah Cacao, made right here in Mexico and 72% cacao. He's been craving dark chocolate. It's bigger than my hand and should last him awhile!
We strolled down to the beach for a look. It was a beautiful day, but too many people thought so; there were quite a few tourists at this particular spot.
A memorable dinner.
After returning to our rental to hang out for awhile and get ready for dinner, we walked over to a close by place Barry had found on Tripadvisor, Mayan Bistro. It sounded great, and it turned out to be every bit as good as the five-star reviews indicated.
We had an absolutely delicious and beautiful dinner, and we had the place all to ourselves! There was one other couple finishing up when we arrived, but amazingly, no one else came in the entire time we were eating. There are SO many restaurants here in Playa, and since a large number of tourists went home after Thanksgiving, it's a great time to eat out if you don't like crowds. They'll be back in time for Christmas, but we're enjoying it now! It also helped that this place is not on 5th Avenue; many tourists don't look beyond 5th when choosing a restaurant. Their loss!
The bartender, Jorge, made the most stunning red sangrias for us. He is a true artist. These were huge, high quality, and packed a serious punch. For just 75 pesos (just over $5 US), they were also a incredible deal.
And the accolades don't stop at the bar: our fish entrees were to die for. Beautiful to look at, and the flavors were rich, multi-layered, and amazing.
My Fish "a la talla" was described as "a southwest Mexican dish prepared in an aioli sauce of ancho chiles, garlic, lime, and vegetables", but what I didn't know was that it came in banana leaves. It was absolutely delectable, and the portion was large enough to bring some home for the next day. The spinach and cheese mashed potatoes on the side were also yummy, and not pictured are the fresh from the oven rolls that melted in our mouths.
The birthday boy chose the absolutely beautiful mango fish with spicy red chiles and lime. Isn't this lovely? I love the art they add to the plates as well. All the little touches here are so special!
Our friendly and attentive server, Gaby, took this photo of the two of us. I only wish I didn't have a straw sticking out of my chin!
I'd mentioned to Gaby it was Barry's birthday, so the staff came out with this gorgeous dessert for Barry on the house. The cake portion is half chocolate brownie and half blonde brownie, thus it called the "50/50"! So delicious!
We also enjoyed after dinner aperitifs (Bailey's for me, Kahlua for Barry), along with a second dessert of "Banana Mexicana", similar to Bananas Foster. So so decadent. So so SO good.
Yes, we were living large alright!
A flash mob!
After all that feasting, it was time to burn at least a few calories, so we returned to the rental to change and get Paisley for her after-dinner walk.
We heard sounds of drumming and music very nearby; I thought it was a school marching band practicing, but Barry discovered this Mexican version of a flash mob right around the corner! It was really cool to see all the energetic dancers -- and the drummers really knew what they were doing!
Paisley attracted the attention of several Mexican boys who wanted to know her name and to check her out. I love the innocent enthusiasm of the boy in the white t-shirt and hope he has a pup at home!
There were quite a few kids in martial arts outfits, so this was probably something associated with their school, but some of the instructors and/or moms got in on the action too. There were some good moves out there, and their energy was infectious!
Here's a video clip, so you can see just how energetic this mob was....
Tranquility and holiday lights.
After we left the flash mob, we sought some peace and quiet by walking down to Coco Beach. It's almost always quiet and peaceful down in this area. Christmas lights are starting to be put up, and although my pictures are bad, you can get the idea.
Blue seems to be a popular Christmas color here and is very pretty to me.
Some goodies for the road.
On our way back to the rental for the final time on this long and fun day, we stopped in at our favorite Italian pasteleria, Tiramisu, for a couple of goodies to bring home. We devoured two tiny fruit tarts immediately (can you believe we could eat another bite?!) but saved this lovely chocolate pastry for the next day. It's just like a tiny layer cake with jam between the layers. SO delicious,
So I guess we better hop off the decadence train and get back to healthier living, but it was fun -- and appropriate, I think -- to indulge on a birthday!
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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