Here's hoping everyone had a great holiday! Ours was pretty low-key but fun here in Mexico. Instead of exchanging gifts, we treated each other to nice dinners out on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
On Christmas Eve went to a cute Italian place we'd walked by numerous times but never tried, Trattoria del Centro. It proved to be a great choice. Not crowded at all at the early time we eat dinner, we had a super friendly, attentive Italian waiter who helped make our experience delightful. He told us that everything they serve, including the pasta and desserts, is made in-house. Gotta love that.
Like pretty most restaurants here in Playa del Carmen, this is an open-air restaurant, which we love. There was a high percentage chance of rain that fortunately didn't materialize, since the roof is a thatch palapa and might not be 100% rain-proof.
Our waiter offered to take our photo, which turned out very festive, I thought. I could almost imagine we were in Italy!
The pasta was really special. I had these lovely homemade noodles with shrimp and asparagus in a perfectly seasoned sauce. Would you believe I ate the entire thing?!
Barry got homemade ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta in a beautifully creamy sauce. Slurp! Normally he's the red sauce person, and I'm the white sauce, so I am not sure how this happened, but we both enjoyed our choices. Sometimes it's good to mix things up, right?!
And of course, special occasions require desserts! We got two to share, including this gorgeous stacked napoleon-like creation. The luxurious creme fraiche and the crispy pastry were a perfect combination.
Our second dessert was this Tiramisu with more of the yummy, light creme fraiche. Mmmmmm!
On Christmas Day, we returned to Salt Rock Grille, where we'd had such a good Thanksgiving dinner. And our return trip was just as good. The owners greeted us personally once again and even gave us the same table!
Times like this, Playa feels almost like a small town, and being treated so warmly felt great, especially as we were so far away from our families on Christmas (and missed them!) We had another Italian waiter who was excellent.
We started with their special drink of the night, a strawberry daiquiri that looked unlike any strawberry daiquiri we've ever had. It looked and tasted like pink lemonade -- for adults! Catherine, the owner, explained that they use a fresh strawberry infusion to make it. The best strawberry daiquiri ever, and for only 40 pesos (approximately $2.80 US) on special, a massive bargain. They also serve a nice little bruschetta appetizer on the house.
For our entrees, Barry choose an Asian-inspired chicken and vegetable dish with peanut sauce served over jasmine rice. I had a bite, and it was yummy. Simple but perfectly seasoned.
I had a portabella napoleon with layers of spinach, mashed potatoes, and cheese. It was delicious! I just don't think you can go wrong here with any of the entrees.
And for dessert, we splurged with two to share again, a frozen key lime pie, which we always love, and...
...the special dessert of the night, cranberry pecan pie. Suffice it to say, I could have eaten about half the pie it was so delicious! Glad they didn't let me....
So, an excellent Christmas in eating, and not a cookie in sight!
Playa Del Carmen knows how to decorate for the holidays. It may not be cold and snowy, but it's festive and does look like Christmas!
Here are some of the colorful decorations in the municipal park downtown during the day.
Seeing how pretty it was during the day, we knew we needed to head down after dark to check out the lights. There's a huge lit Christmas tree and much other decor. Lovely!
Feliz Navidad from Playa Del Carmen!
As our blog title suggests, we've had an incredibly busy traveling year! The purple highlighted routes on the map below show where we drove our little Honda CR-V in 2014. We managed to hit most of the US aside from New England, southern California, and Florida!
The red line shows our flight path from Atlanta to our current winter abode on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. (The dark blue lines are highways added by the mapping software; you can ignore them!)
Following the map above, we closed out 2013 on the coast of North Carolina at Ocean Isle Beach. We then took a southerly route and headed west to North Padre Island, near Corpus Christi, Texas, for the month of January 2014. From there we drove to southern Arizona, where we spent February in Tucson and March in Patagonia. Monthly rentals save money and give us a chance to really get to know an area; but in most cases we're happy to move on when the month draws to a close.
After avoiding the worst of winter, we headed back to Kansas City area for April and half of May. We did see a brief dusting of snow once, but for the most part, we really did skip winter, and that was wonderful! We enjoyed our time in Prairie Village off and on over the course of a year, but it was time to move on.
From KC we continued eastward to Hickory, North Carolina to visit Emily's mother and step-father for awhile, then due north to Dover, Ohio to stay with Barry's parents for the remainder of the month.
In June we began a full "westward ho" month of short hotel stops, following the northernmost line on the map through the upper midwest to the central plains to the west and finally to the Pacific Northwest for the first time ever for both of us. Montana and Idaho were also new states for Emily. All along the way we did lots of bicycling, especially riding rail-trails and other paved bike paths we'd researched and chosen ahead of time.
We checked out the Seattle area for a few days before rebounding to our main summer locale, Walla Walla, Washington, in the eastern part of the state. We spent a full two and a half months there and really enjoyed it. After so much traveling it was great to feel somewhat settled again for awhile. The weather and the road cycling were both excellent. We rode our bikes nearly every day and actually both hit new lifetime mileage records here!
Finally, the days were starting to get shorter and the nights much cooler, and in mid-September, we headed back to the west coast while starting to trend southward as well. The Oregon coast was absolutely breathtaking! We spent a few days each in two great bicycling cities, Portland and Eugene, before continuing southward to the north coast of California to see and even cycle among the spectacular coastal redwoods. What a great experience that was!
From there we followed the center line eastward, through some other cities we'd never visited, like Salt Lake City, Utah and Durango, Colorado, briefly meeting up with old work buddies in both places. Next it was on to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a favorite city of ours, to take in the awe-inspiring International Balloon Festival. That was a bucket list item we recommend to anyone!
From Albuquerque we made a bee-line across the country, making sure to get to Arkansas as it was one of two remaining states we needed to visit to hit all fifty. (Alaska is the last!) We spent a couple of days in Little Rock, then continued east, riding more bike paths along the way in Mississippi and Alabama. We ended up in Atlanta for a couple of days (and more cycling) before returning to Hickory for some rejuvenation, family time, and re-packing before our winter travels.
Finally, we left our Honda, our winter clothes, and all our bicycles with Emily's folks in Hickory and drove back to Atlanta in a rental car for our November 1 flight to Mexico, with Paisley in tow, of course!
Our approximate mileage totals for the year:
By car: 15,000 (not including rental car to Atlanta).
By bike: 13,000 for Barry and 7500 for Emily
There are loads of posts and photos of our various destinations if you want to check out any of the places we visited over the past year. Just click on the locations and links in the right column.
We hope this missive finds you enjoying your holiday season!
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, and a very happy, healthy New Year to All!
With love from the Traveling Twosome, Barry and Emily
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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