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Exploring Abroad: Is Playa del Carmen "The One"?

Cynthia:  Playa del Carmen was certainly a different experience from Tulum, wasn’t it?

Edd:  I’ll say. To begin with, the “hotel zone” of Tulum is totally separate from the actual town. The design of Cancun is similar. In Playa it’s all one big happy family.

C:  Generally speaking there’s the beach area. Running parallel a couple of blocks from the coastline is the famous pedestrian 5th Avenue. Beyond that thoroughfare, the town becomes more residential with businesses to support daily life.

E:  Gotta mention the beach itself. Our review of Tulum was kind of gloomy, so we didn’t even bring up the tons of stinky seaweed there and again at Playa.

C:  It was disappointing to see our second expat destination in the Riviera Maya having the same problem. You’re quite the ocean lover and you never got close to the water.

E:  No way I was going to walk on that disgusting greenish-brown carpet. Seaweed...

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Exploring Abroad: The Two Faces of Tulum

Edd:  Since we were only in Tulum for four days and there were heavy rains a lot of the time, we can’t really give the place a thorough evaluation as an expat destination.

Cynthia:  That’s true, but we do have some snapshot impressions we can share. I think it’s fair to say when most people think of Tulum, they picture blue skies, crystal clear water, powdery white sand, and upscale hotels and resorts.

E:  Of course. Tulum has done a marvelous job of packaging its image as an eco-chic destination. But even though we were only there a short time, we quickly recognized there’s a night and day difference between the “hotel zone,” along the beach road, and the actual town of Tulum.

C:  It’s important for our readers to understand that throughout our travels we’re staying where expats might actually live, not in pricey vacation areas. And, boy, the Tulum we experienced was an eye-opener.

E:  I’ll say. As...

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Exploring Abroad: We're "Ruined!"

The second destination after Mérida on our Mexico “Magical Mystery Tour” was Tulum. Since the route between the cities passes by two important Mayan archaeological sites, we decided to hire a professional guide to provide transportation and help us make the most of our journey.

The first stop, Izamal, is located just an hour’s drive from Mérida. Overlooking this small town is one of the oldest monasteries in the Americas, San Antonio de Padua. The convent’s prominent position is due to the fact that it was built right on top of a Mayan temple.

In addition to the town’s religious fame, almost every building in Izamal is painted bright yellow. There are various reasons explaining this odd characteristic, and the locals seem to enjoy telling their own version of the story.

Right in the middle of town sit the ruins of a HUGE pyramid called Kinich Kakmó!

And when we say huge, we mean HUGE! See those two dots at the bottom?...

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Exploring Abroad: Parting Thoughts on Mérida, Mexico

Cynthia:  Our initial impressions of Mérida were quite positive--tons to do, friendly people, low cost of living. After two weeks exploring the city, has any of that changed for you?

Edd:  Not really. We’ve been so busy every day and there’s still a lot we didn’t get to do. Sadly all the museums remain closed because of COVID. We were really looking forward to visiting several of them.

C:  Let’s get the “elephant in the room” out of the way. The weather…

E:  Oof. No amount of forewarning prepared us for the heat in Mérida. We couldn’t bear stepping outside in the afternoons.

C:  Well, we were there during the hottest time of the year. Plus our bodies are attuned to a temperate climate after 11 years in Cuenca.

E:  Yeah, but as an expat candidly admitted, “Mérida has three seasons--hot, hotter, and hottest!”

C:  So true. It’s easy to understand why the city has...

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Exploring Abroad: El Palacito Secreto

You never know what’s behind the pastel walls of Mérida’s historic neighborhoods.

When we entered the front door of El Palacito Secreto Luxury Boutique Hotel it felt like we’d discovered a hidden treasure. The stunning architecture, mosaic images, and use of hand-made pasta tiles throughout the property reflect an attention to detail that’s rare.

All of the bedrooms are luxurious and uniquely decorated. We stayed in the magnificent Marie Antoinette Suite.

The antique furnishings, gorgeous fabrics, and artwork were tastefully opulent.

The suite’s large, private terrace overlooked the manicured pool courtyard.

A relaxing afternoon at the beautifully designed pool felt like being transported to a private, exclusive manor in the French countryside.

We joked that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Leonardo DiCaprio stroll by.

The lovely spa offered a wide range of treatments that were tempting. Instead we decided to enjoy our terrace and...

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Exploring Abroad: Day Trip to Progreso, Mexico

Progreso is a port town on the Yucatán Peninsula less than an hour’s drive from Mérida.

It’s claim to fame is boasting the world’s longest pier, stretching 4 miles into the Gulf of Mexico!

Since many locals own second homes in the area or visit the beaches there, we decided to take a day trip to check it out.

We hopped on an early morning bus from downtown. Our round-trip fare was so cheap (about US$2 each) we thought we misunderstood the lady who took our money!

 Our excursion was on a Mexico election day, and the beach was almost deserted when we arrived.

The government wants voters to have a clear head so no alcohol was being served that day. No problema. We plopped down under a big thatched umbrella with lemonades to enjoy the scenery.

It was kind of sad to see vendors with so much merchandise and so few customers.

We ate scrumptious seafood at a restaurant a block away from the beach. (Insider tip: same food, cheaper prices) Ever seen...

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Exploring Abroad: What our first month traveling has REALLY been like

Edd:  We’ve been posting on social media like crazy and blogging our brains out since leaving the States about a month ago.

Cynthia:  What a change, right? During the pandemic we pretty much sat at our computers in Cuenca for over a year. Not a lot of photo-worthy moments.

E:  Now we’ve flung ourselves out there visiting places we’ve never been. Seeing new things and meeting new people.

C:  And doing things we’ve never done. Like traveling to one location after another and living out of what feels like very tiny suitcases. It’s been a huge adjustment from our simple life in Ecuador.

E:  I’ll say. The pics we post show the sunny side of our global adventure, but we’ve hit our share of speed bumps over these first weeks.

C:  Sure have, but keeping it real, we’re making this up day by day and knew that we would have to be flexible.

E:  Ha! Flexible? That’s an understatement. Like the first place...

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Exploring Abroad: Food in the Yucatán Peninsula

Mérida, the capital and largest city of the state of Yucatán, is also the cultural and culinary center of the peninsula.

With over a million residents from a broad cross section of countries beyond Mexico, Mérida offers a dazzling variety of food options.

Yes, burritos, enchiladas, and tacos are everywhere. American chains like Starbucks, Chili’s, and Texas Roadhouse are around too.

We’ve had our share of wonderfully prepared Mexican meals.

Inventive, artistic dishes almost too beautiful to eat. Almost…

And one of the best pizzas ever at a small neighborhood restaurant.

Yet the traditional cuisine of the area is still very much present and quite unique.

Relative isolation from the rest of Mexico, the traditions of its Mayan ancestry, and exposure to the ingredients of European traders visiting its ports combined to create an amalgam of fascinating flavors.

Many dishes include the holy trinity of Yucatecan food--sour orange, achiote...

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Exploring Abroad: The Diplomat Boutique Hotel

We were thrilled to be invited to spend a night at The Diplomat Boutique Hotel, Tripadvisor’s #1 rated hotel in Mérida, Mexico.

Our stay confirmed why owners Sara and Neil have earned that lofty designation through flawless attention to detail in everything from design to service.

      

We were welcomed as old friends by Sara and escorted to our spacious poolside suite, The Paramount. With its tasteful furnishings, 20-foot ceilings and elegant bathroom, we immediately knew this was going to be an exceptional experience.

The Diplomat has an honor system bar with a variety of craft beers and wines, plus a complimentary tequila station. Wow, right?

  

After a relaxing afternoon at the pool and a lovely dinner out,

a tequila nightcap was the perfect ending to a wonderful day in this beautiful oasis.

Morning coffee and tea service was available in the lovely dining space next to the pool before our included breakfast. We were impressed they...

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Exploring Abroad: Must Do Sunday Event in Mérida, Mexico

After being sidelined for over a year by COVID-19, a beloved Mérida event called Biciruta was recently reactivated.

From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Sunday the east lane of the city’s most famous boulevard, Paseo de Montejo, is open for bicycles only.

Thousands of riders and pedestrians enjoy the beautiful views along this shady avenue patterned after the world-renowned Champs-Élysées in Paris.

At the end of the 19th century the outbreak of the Spanish-American War created a shortage of hemp, the fiber used in nautical ropes, from the Philippines.

This caused the price of henequén, a similar fiber produced in the Yucatán, to skyrocket. And for massive wealth to be created almost overnight. At that time there were more millionaires in this small Mexican state than anywhere else on the planet!

Paris was THE most envied city at the time, so newly-monied Yucatecans developed their own version of Champs-Élysées lined with massive...

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