It's hard to believe we've already been in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico for a month. Time has just flown by, and it's been a blast.
In the past month, we've concentrated on getting acclimated to our neighborhood and the city that surrounds us. We've figured out where all the close grocery stores are and where to buy the things we like to eat -- with a few notable exceptions. Walnuts, coconut oil, and chocolate chips continue to elude us, but we haven't given up hope!
We negotiated buying cruiser bikes and pre-paid cell phones, all from people who speak no English. I'm attending a yoga practice twice a week conducted entirely in Spanish. We've eaten our way around the city, finding lots of great food from traditional street eats to swankier places, like the excellent place we ate Thanksgiving dinner. We've walked and bicycled miles in all directions. We've checked out the beach, though we actually haven't been swimming. We've purchased many gallons of purified bottled water from street vendors who bicycle by our rental several times a day. We've figured out how to use a washing machine and microwave oven with Spanish controls. And we've found a fantastic track where we can run.
Our Spanish (especially reading) continues to improve, though having conversations is going to be challenging for a long time. We purchased Pimsleur Spanish audio lessons way back before we went to Belize, but we haven't been super consistent about doing them in the past. Now we are. We devote some time every afternoon to studying the language. We've added the free online lessons offered by Duolingo to our repertoire, which help as well. Our housekeeper and many other people we've met here speak only Spanish, giving us ample opportunity to practice our skills.
And so, to sum up our month of November, I wanted to share some photos that I haven't posted on the blog, though many of them I've posted on Facebook already.
Laundry hanging out to dry is a common sight in all the local areas of the city. I always enjoy seeing it. (We're lucky to have a private back deck where we can hang ours out too!)
On the beautiful bike path enjoying my new cruiser bike. It's very similar to the one I rode all the time on Ambergris Caye when we lived in Belize.
Paisley enjoying the sunshine in the garden.
The building where I do yoga. The studio is on the very top floor and is huge!
Beautiful mural on the side of a building nearby....
Brightly painted buses that transport tourists to and from Xcaret park....
Coatimundis working the Playacar golf course....
Some of the lovely fruits and veggies we are able to buy here for great prices....
And in the past week, mango season has started!
A couple of Mexican delights I enjoy making: pickled red onions and guacamole....
This awesome little taco stand is incredibly popular and right outside the "Mega" grocery store, where we buy a lot of our food. It's a cheap and delicious lunch, and so convenient.
We got a "fruitside" seat for a great breakfast at El Ceiba de la 30.
Paisley always finds the sunshine. She's done a great job adapting to sleeping on this dog bed rather than the security of her crate, which we had to leave behind in the US.
Another of my creations: a burrito bowl! Hiding underneath are brown rice and black beans, and I made homemade pico de gallo. We've also been enjoying the crumbly fresh Mexican queso (cheese) on so many things, this included. And fresh pineapple and avocado too -- yummy!
More street art I loved....
Paisley enjoying the garden...
...and collapsing in the warming sun!
Exotic flowers in Xcaret park, one of the places we ride our bikes....
And last but not least, another thing we like about Mexico!
Over our many years together, we've had some memorable Thanksgivings. There have been many great times and delicious meals shared with our families, and we always treasure those. But we've also had Thanksgiving dinners in some more exotic locales.
We ate seafood in St. Thomas, USVI, en route to the British Virgin Islands to celebrate Barry's 50th birthday a few years ago (not saying how many!). We also had two excellent Thanksgiving dinners out in Belize, and we even ate one memorable turkey day feast in the cockpit of the sailboat we used to own.
Last year, we resorted to eating turkey sub sandwiches in a Subway restaurant en route from the Kansas City area to North Carolina, so we were sure that this year, no matter what it brought, would be a big step up from that.
And we were right!
There were several different spots here in Playa del Carmen serving up a turkey meal for the Americans visiting or living in the area, but we chose to try Salt Rock Grille on Fifth Avenue (La Avenida Quinta). Although we usually steer clear of this busy touristy area and its higher-priced restaurants, splurging a bit on Thanksgiving seemed fitting, and we were ready for a short break from Mexican food anyway.
One of the reasons we chose Salt Rock was because they started serving early. Some places didn't start serving Thanksgiving dinner until 6:30 pm or even later, and we like to eat earlier so we can get Paisley (and ourselves!) out for a long after-dinner walk without it getting too late. Yeah, we're old farts!
Since it was Thanksgiving, we chose to eat even earlier in the day than our usual and took the first reservation time offered, 4:30 pm.
A pleasant walk from where we're staying, Salt Rock was mostly outside and such a nice setting. We were one of the first ones to arrive at this hour. It was a coolish and breezy afternoon and evening after a Norte (cold front) had pushed through the day before, so it almost felt like Thanksgiving. Perfect.
Here was our view. Not too crowded up at this (north) end of 5th Avenue!
The salads were simple but delicious, served with balsamic viniagrette dressing and plenty of delicious bread with fresh chutney. Everything was beautifully presented.
Finally it was time for the main course. The turkey was some of the moistest and delicious I have ever had! I would have been happy if they'd filled this large plate to the brim with the tasty side dishes -- but servings do tend to be more modest in Mexico than in the "supersize me" US. And that's better for our waistlines, right?!
We had read on Tripadvisor that desserts were one of their specialities and not to be missed, so of course we had to indulge. We both ordered the Pumpkin cheesecake since it was Thanksgiving, but we will have to try some of the others another time, since they all sounded amazing.
We also indulged in after-dinner drinks. Salt Rock specializes in fancy martinis, so I tried the "S'mores" martini, while Barry had an amaretto on the rocks. My drink was definitely a dessert, so I actually had two desserts. Decadent, no?!
Yes, those are toasted marshmallows floating on top of my drink! I probably would have chosen differently had I known that the cheesecake too would come with toasted marshmallows atop! I like marshmallows, but that was a lot of 'em!
Holy moley was this cheesecake good, though. Super creamy and delicious. Heavenly!
During dessert we had a visit from this sweet girl. Too bad she missed the turkey course. Confession: I offered her a marshmallow from my huge stash, but after sniffing it, she didn't take it. Just as well; I knew it wasn't good for her but couldn't resist that face. Could you?!
By now it was very dark out, and they turned on the lights in the palm tree right beyond our table. Lovely.
Before we left, our waiter José confessed to us that this was his first night at Salt Rock, and that he'd been studying the menu at his home for two days! He did so well and was so sweet we asked if we could take his photo. One of the other waiters ended up snapping this shot of the three of us. Good times!
So, we had a fantastic Thanksgiving in Playa and are so thankful to be in such a warm and lovely place for the winter. It sure beat last year's turkey subs!
We hope you had a good Thanksgiving too -- wherever you happened to be!
We generally take our longest bike ride of the week on Sunday morning. The streets are less busy and the vibe of the city is just more relaxed since so many people have off work. Yesterday was no different, and the ride started out very good on a sunny, warm, breezy morning.
We so enjoy riding on this beautiful bike path into Xcaret park and did two out-and-backs on it before heading back into the centro area of Playa del Carmen.
The yellow flowers have been especially resplendent this week.
And I saw several gorgeous Blue Morpho butterflies along the path. Excuse the blurriness, but I took this photo while riding as she flew along beside me. I hope to get a better photo one of these days!
After a quick stop at Chedraui, a large department and grocery store, and dropping our purchases back at the rental, we rode over to the northern part of "Fifth Avenue". In the Centro area, this is the main tourist street, closed to vehicles and littered with shops, money exchangers, shoppers, vendors, and fashionable, pricey restaurants. So we typically avoid that part of the Avenida Quinta.
The northern end, however, is much quieter, flanked by local residences and businesses on the west side and large luxury resorts on the sea side. The cobblestone road is narrow and has a lovely bike path running alongside it. Also along the west side buildings and walls, there are lots of colorful and intriguing graffiti art murals. I showed some photos from there in this earlier blog post.
We were enjoying our pleasant ride, when all of a sudden, a very loud BANG exploded in our ears. My immediate thought was that it could be a gunshot, but Barry knew exactly what it was; his rear tire had blown out in an epic manner!
What a bummer. There are no bike shops in this part of town, so he'd be hoofing it back the two miles or so to our rental in the hot sunshine, pushing his bike along. I felt so bad for him.
I did, however, take advantage of the extra time as I rolled slowly along the path, to take a few more graffiti art photos. I just love these!
And this gorgeous clump of bougainvillea....
In the meantime, Barry wheeled his bike on and on. Poor guy!
When he arrived at our rental, he was amazed to see the state of his tire. It was literally shredded all over, not only in one place, as we expected. He had pumped it up before the ride, and with the pump not having a gauge, probably over-inflated it. Still, neither one of us had ever seen anything like the condition this tire was in.
I wish I'd gotten a better photo before the bike shop guys discarded it. In the dappled sunshine, it is really hard to see the damage, but right above my thumb is one of many areas that were completely shredded through the entire tire.
Fortunately the bike shop where we purchased our cruiser bikes is only a short walk away, and they weren't busy, so Barry was able to get a new tire and tube installed quickly. Hopefully this one will last a bit longer; there's no way to know how old their stock might be.
We also bought bike bells as we both nearly crashed head-on into a guy riding in our lane of the bike path near Xcaret around a blind curve yesterday. We'll be ringing 'em as we pedal through curves from now on!
We ended the day on a good note: a delicious "vegetariana" pizza from a close-by local place, Nino's. We only paid 120 pesos (around $9 US) for this large beauty. It was delicious!
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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