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The Life of a Baron in the Hacienda Temozón

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The gate of the Hacienda Temozón functions like a time machine, transporting you to an age when the Yucatán was among the richest areas in the Western Hemisphere. The henequen boom was a period of unimaginable wealth for the Yucatán… if, of course, you were among the lucky few who owned land.

Hacienda Temozón

I’ve always wondered how the ruling elite of grossly unequal societies can justify the abject misery suffered by the common people. I mean, how do they reconcile it, within their private souls? The landowners of the henequen-era Yucatán were no dummies; they were aware that their grand mansions and dainty luxuries were bought and paid for on the broken backs of an oppressed people. How could they sleep at night knowing that?

Most likely, they slept very well indeed… we started to understand that at the Hotel Temomzón, where we lived like barons for one glorious day. In the evening, as the sun was settling down, I stretched out on a hammock overlooking the hacienda’s garden with a tamarind margarita. At that moment, if someone had approached me with the choice to return to the 1800s as either [1] a spirited revolutionary fighting for social justice, or [2] a filthy rich landowner grown fat off the labor of others, there can be little doubt which box I’d have ticked.

The main hacienda building has floors with original tiling, photos of famous guests like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, a billiards hall and a restaurant on the patio. Behind the mansion is a beautiful pool and an old factory, with ancient machinery still in place. We loved walking through these equipment rooms, especially as they’re covered in old-time photos of life during the boom years.

Our room was in the former carpentry building, and I don’t even like thinking about it. It’s depressing that I’ll never be staying there again. The bathroom alone was a thing of perfection. The room was cavernous in size, and had an incredibly powerful shower that immediately turned on at exactly the right temperature. Sigh. Don’t ask me to describe the bedroom… the memory may reduce me to tears.

Hacienda Temozón

We woke early enough for a morning trip to the hacienda’s cenote. Three kilometers away, it’s reached along old railway tracks previously used to transport henequen. Climbing aboard a creaky wagon hitched to a donkey named Paco, we arrived at the pool after a bumpy and fun ride through the jungle. A deep hole with a ladder reaching down about six meters to the water, this was the first cenote we bathed in, and it couldn’t have been more beautiful.

Our day at Hacienda Temozón was everything we had hoped it would be. It’s a luxury hotel, so you can’t expect to book a room on the cheap. But you can expect a relaxing stay in a lovely and historic setting, hearkening back to another age.

Link: Hacienda Temozón

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January 3, 2014 at 5:04 pm Comments (0)

Eating in Cozumel, Part 2

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During our stay in Cozumel, we adhered to a strict regimen of breakfast, lunch and dinner, every single day, always at a new place. By the end of the week, our bellies were beginning to squeeze through the buttons of our shirts, and we were happy to be done with all the eating. But the meals we enjoyed in Cozumel were among the highlights of our trip.

Eating in Cozumel, Part 1

El Muellecito

Loud music, rock-n-roll decor, and a young crowd hungry for both food and fun are the highlights of El Muellecito (Little Dock). Even though it was a Monday evening when we showed up, we almost couldn’t find a table. There are frequent drink specials which help bring in the crowds, and great retro-rock blasting from the speakers. Perhaps most importantly, the tuna tacos I ordered were incredible.

“What’s that?!” shouts Jürgen.
“The tuna tacos are really good.”
“The music! I can’t hear you! What?”
“I said that I like my tuna tacos! You know… never mind.”
“Okay!”

“How are your tuna tacos?”

La Cocay

La Cocay serves up the best modern cuisine in Cozumel. Actually, it’s the best modern cuisine I’d had anywhere, in a very long time. The creative dishes are tinged with a Mediterranean influence, and we had difficulty deciding which delicious-sounding meal to try. It was so much fun to read the menu that I called the waiter over to ask if there was a sequel.

In the end, we went with the sesame sashimi tuna and the roasted duck breast. The plates were little works of art which I (almost) felt bad about destroying. La Cocay, which is Mayan for “firefly”, is run by an American expat who’s lived on the island for years.

Rolandi’s

Found just below El Muellecito and actually run by the same family, Rolandi’s is much different in terms of style. No loud rock here, just wonderfully prepared Italian cooking. We weren’t that hungry when we sat down, and politely passed on an appetizer. But our waiter wasn’t having any of that nonsense. He first suggested and then insisted we try the octopus carpaccio. “Well, you can bring it out,” we suggested, “but we might not eat it all.” Minutes later, the carpaccio was gone and we were literally licking the plate clean.

The rest of the food was just as good. I had a colorful and rich pasta dish, and Jürgen went for pizza. Having forgotten all that crap about “not being so hungry”, we ordered dessert: Bananas Flambé. Fun to watch, and even more fun to eat.

Kinta

Since it’s owned by the same people who run Kondesa, the super-cool garden restaurant we had patronized on our first night in the city, we had high hopes for Kinta. The two restaurants are similar, both with excellent food and chic decoration, but Kinta is more subdued. While Kondesa might be better with a group of friends, this was perfect for a quiet date.

Kinta bills itself as a Mexican bistro, and its menu is largely based on regional ingredients. There’s grilled shrimp marinated in achiote, scallops served with tomato-corn salsa and cilantro sauce, roasted pork with chiles, mushrooms, almonds, fig marmalade and potatoes… and now my keyboard is covered in drool. Great.

El Mercado

We did a lot of fine dining during our week in Cozumel, at places which cater to foreigners and the island’s well-off locals. It was excellent and interesting food, but not our normal style. So it was almost a relief to have our final meal at San Miguel’s market. Quick and easy snacks like panuchos and empanadas served by no-nonsense women who aren’t the slightest bit concerned about charming us with their breezy style. Nope. Plop your butt down on a stool in this chaotic market where people are buying yucca root and papayas, and munch down delicious tacos as fast as you can.

One thing we realized here, and have noticed in other street joints as well, is that water isn’t always on the menu. I ordered a water, and the guy asked me what kind. Cola? Lemonade? Hibiscus tea? Orange juice? And when I insisted on normal water, he gave me a “weirdo” look, and then had to go to a different stand to fetch it. We would read later that the Maya, both in the past and their ancestors today, are unaccustomed to drinking straight water, always preferring to flavor it.


Jürgen and I were invited guests at most of these restaurants, but of course are sharing our honest opinions. We can wholeheartedly recommend the places listed above, without qualm. For such a small city, San Miguel has an abundance of excellent restaurants… just another reason to stay for an extended visit!

Great Hotels On Cozumel

More Pics from El Muellecito
More Pics from La Cocay
More Pics from Rolandi’s
Another Pic from Kinta
More Pics from the Cozumel Market
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December 16, 2013 at 12:54 am Comment (1)

Eating in Cozumel, Part 1

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During our week in Cozumel, we were invited to a number of restaurants. From chic to rustic, modern to traditional, we sampled a little of everything the island has to offer. It was an intense culinary program and there were times when, regardless of how delicious the shrimp ceviche or grilled snapper was, I almost couldn’t take another bite. Here are some of our favorite finds.

The Intercontinental
Intercontinental Cozumel

Immediately upon arriving, we drove to the island’s only five-star hotel for a taste of The Good Life. We relaxed on the beach, did a bit of snorkeling, and then sat down to a delicious meal. Turns out, The Good Life tastes a lot like fresh ceviche.

Ceviche is something I’ve always been too nervous to order. It’s marinated raw fish, so you want to be pretty sure about the quality of the place before you order. But we were at a five-star resort, so I figured, “now or never”. It was incredible. I’d say that it was my favorite new food, but quite honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel confident enough to order it again.

Kondesa

Modern food in a smart garden restaurant, it was almost a given that Kondesa would become one of Cozumel’s trendiest spots when it opened in 2011. Everything about this place is cool, from the music to the decor, and the food isn’t bad either. We sampled a few great dishes, and I’d say my favorite was the guacamole sampler: traditional, fruit and nut varieties.

Or maybe I best liked the cheese fondue. Or was it the lion fish crabcakes? I don’t know, I was in the mood to enjoy everything. It was Friday night and there was a DJ spinning music in the corner. A light rain fell, forcing everyone into the interior patio, and it was a conspicuously good-looking bunch to be crowded in with. For a casual yet classy night out, Condesa is probably Cozumel’s best bet.

Casa Denis

It took us awhile to realize that, in Mexico, torta means “sandwich”. In Spain, the same word means “cake”. So when I was told that the most famous dish at Casa Denis was Torta de Camarones, I almost got up and walked out. What kind of sick freaks…

But luckily I realized my error, and was soon devouring the most delicious shrimp sandwich I’d ever encountered. They’ve had a lot of time to perfect the art. With a history stretching back 90 years, Casa Denis is a Cozumel institution.

Palmeras

Found directly between the ocean and the main square of San Miguel, Palmeras has the most enviable location in Cozumel, so it doesn’t even need to try. Customers are going to flock here regardless. So, it was a happy surprise to discover that they do indeed try. Tourists and locals alike come for breakfast to order chilaquiles and enchiladas. Yes, you read that right: in Mexico, enchiladas are for breakfast. Chilaquiles, I don’t even want to get into.

Okay fine. Chilaquiles are basically nachos: tortilla chips covered with a rich red or green sauce, smothered in shredded chicken, cream and cheese. And served for breakfast! I’m guessing that they’re called chilaquiles because, nachos for breakfast? That would be crazy. But these are chilaquiles, so dig right in, breakfast is served.

La Cozumeleña
La Cozumeleña

A hip, downtown diner serving delicious food at unbelievable prices, dependably crowded with locals… You’d have to be miserable not to immediately love a joint like La Coumeleña. We had heard that it has the best huevos motuleños in the entire peninsula. That’s quite a claim, but after devouring my entire plate in about three minutes, I’d be happy to hand them the title.


It bears noting that we were invited to dine at all of these restaurants. We were under no obligation to write positively about them, and only chose our favorites to include in this list. Luckily, almost every place we visited was great. In fact, there were more than enough for a second full list of recommendations.

Cozumel Hotels

More Pics of the Intercontinental
Intercontinental Cozumel
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More Pics from Kondesa
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More Pics from Casa Denis
Casa Denis Cozumel
More Pics from Palmeras
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December 13, 2013 at 3:28 pm Comments (3)

Where to Eat in Puerto Morelos

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For such a small town, Puerto Morelos has a number of great places to grab a bite. There were a few we loved so much, we returned to them over and over again. Here are our favorites, and one that we would urge you to stay away from.

Our unofficial office for the week was at Restaurante La Pirata. When we’re traveling, it’s always difficult to find a comfortable place in which to work, so we were thrilled to discover La Pirata. Speedy internet, friendly service, and a pleasant and relatively quiet atmosphere. Great food, as well. Apart from our hotel and Wet Set, this is where we spent most of our time during the week. [Location]

To eat like a local, head to Mimi’s, where the tables are packed, decor is kept to a bare minimum, and the tostadas are delicious. Outrageously so. Seriously, outrageous. After biting into one of Mimi’s tostadas (which cost next to nothing, by the way), I was outraged. How dare they make something so good?! I was furious. Those incredible tostadas covered with insanely delicious beans and perfectly seasoned meat… damn you Mimi, where do you get off?! I’ll have three more. [Location]

For great value set lunches on weekdays, our favorite was Al Chile. For about $5 USD, you get an appetizer, main dish and drink. The place is cute and the food is great. And if you get sleepy after such a big lunch, grab a cup of the best coffee in town at nearby Cafe de Amancia, on the corner of the main plaza. [Location]

If you’re in the mood for amazing fish tacos, search out Caribe’s, a small and speedy cafe near the water. When we ate there, a group of kids was playing around our table and teasing us, but the fish tacos I was scarfing down were so good, I likely wouldn’t have noticed if they’d been smacking my head with baseball bats. [Location]

With so many good restaurants to choose from, you have no excuse to waste your time at Olé, on the “other side” of town away from the beach. Our hotel warned us that they have a reputation for ripping off foreigners, but we went anyway. It looked like such a cool little place! The food was alright, but unspectacular and, as warned, our bill was more than double what it should have been.

Great Place To Stay In Puerto Morelos

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December 5, 2013 at 11:15 pm Comment (1)
The Life of a Baron in the Hacienda Temozn The gate of the Hacienda Temozón functions like a time machine, transporting you to an age when the Yucatán was among the richest areas in the Western Hemisphere. The henequen boom was a period of unimaginable wealth for the Yucatán... if, of course, you were among the lucky few who owned land.
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