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303342_10101805959818849_409763547_nLet me tell you a tale of Mexico that has little to do with sun and sand, will never use the term all-inclusive, and has not a trace of guacamole or margaritas. This is the tale of Puebla, a colonial city about 75 miles outside of Mexico City.

Puebla, the fourth largest city in Mexico, is a city that is well-known by the avid traveler to Mexico. Its graffiti murals are local artistic expressions, it still hosts live bull fights, and its most famous ambassador is mole poblano (that heavenly mixture of chocolate and chilies). But to the tourist that only knows Cancun, Ixtapa and Los Cabos, Puebla is literally a whole new world. But this is why it is a must for anyone’s visit to Mexico.

Tiny colonial streets are flanked with candy stores, clothing shops and taco stands. Outdoor markets offer everything from candied peaches to peanuts to grasshoppers with chilies and garlic, and there are at least three indoor food markets that sell everything from chicken doused in mole to cemitas, which are fat sandwiches stuffed with meat, avocado and Oaxaca cheese.

733870_10101805959215059_1481572626_nHotel options are limited, but that’s the beauty of Puebla. You will be hard pressed to find more than a few other Americans. La Purificadora is, in my opinion, one of the best luxury boutique hotels in the city. The hotel plays with the boundaries of indoor and outdoor, as much of the hotel is open air and is decorated with slate, stone and wood. Bright purple chairs in the lobby accent the subdued, natural tones.

Be sure to visit the terrace, which overlooks the San Francisco cathedral, and has an above-ground, all glass infinity pool. (The best views are at night, when the cathedral glows warmly. If you’re lucky, you’ll see fireworks bursting in the distance.) Order a cocktail and breathe in the balmy air. You’re in Puebla. No need to worry tonight; there’s always mañana.

One of the other great landmarks in Puebla is the Popocatépetl Volcano, an active volcano that lazily watches over the city. In the evenings it is easy to see the heavy cloud of smoke that hangs over the mouth of the volcano. As the sun sets behind the beast, it is even more magnificent.

Puebla is not for everyone. You won’t find tequila shots being handed out on the beach, there is no cOcO bOngO, and everyone’s t-shirt manages to stay dry. This is not America’s Mexico. And this is why we like it.

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This could be you! Okay, probably not. But dream big.

This could be you! Okay, probably not. But dream big.

All-inclusive resorts are both a blessing and curse, especially for someone like me who is equally obsessed with eating and staying in shape. It’s easy to let yourself lose control when anything you could possibly want to consume is laid out before you at absolutely no additional cost. Why, yes, I will have another hamburger. Ohhh sure, throw in another Daiquiri. I’m on vacation!

Suddenly you have returned home 10 pounds heavier and you figure it’s winter, so what does it really matter? And then another five pounds creep on and you’re bummed out. Sound familiar? Don’t lie.

This weekend I’m checking out the newly rebranded Paradisus Cancun, a luxury all-inclusive resort in Mexico. My willpower is being challenged, what with eight delicious restaurants, a complimentary fully stocked mini bar and a butler on hand to bring me drinks whenever I please. If you are headed to an all-inclusive resort at some point this winter, here are five helpful tips to keep in mind in order to maintain your bikini bod.

1. (Just One) Cheeseburger in Paradise
Just because you CAN eat everything doesn’t mean you have to. While it’s tempting to go back for plate after plate to try the salad and the sushi and the carving station and dessert, try to keep it to one plate. Also, eat fresh vegetables before you hit the hot stations. You’d be surprised how much veggies fill you up.

2. Don’t Be Cruel to a Heart That’s True
In the age of calorie counting and the Heart Association, most hotels are now putting healthy options on their menus. These are indicated with little symbols like Hearts or Leaves or whatever the hotel feels best represents good health. You’d be surprised at how tasty fresh sea bass with a side of asparagus can be.

3. Pour Some Sugar on Me (or don’t, actually)
Okay. Here is a big one. You are on vacation…at a resort where alcohol is served in unlimited quantities. You are going to want to drink, and you should. But do so with caution. Sugar is one of the major components in weight gain, so that margarita or pina colada is going to kill your diet – and also give you a wicked hangover. Stick to light beers or mixed drinks like vodka sodas, which have very few calories. Of course, it’s okay now and then to treat yourself to a yummy fruity drink with an umbrella in it. Everything in moderation.

4. Don’t Drink the Water (but actually drink all the water)
Drink as much water as you possibly can. This is true even when you are at home. Water keeps nutrients moving throughout the body, flushes out toxins and even keeps you full and prevents excess snacking. Besides, if you’re drinking alcohol in copious amounts you are going to want to stay hydrated.

5. Let’s Get Physical
Most all-inclusve resorts have physical activities built right into their inclusive program. Paradisus Cancun has a complimentary personal trainer, yoga classes, Pilates and more. Other resorts include water sports and other fitness classes. And, of course, it’s always free to use the gym. I’m not talking going crazy here. Just try and get your heart rate up about 20 minutes a day. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel.

2012 has been an exciting year – one that has taken me to 11 countries and six domestic cities. Here are the top five posts that you all deemed the most worthy of reading throughout the year.  Allow me to get misty eyed and thank you for all the comments, “likes” and views this year. I look forward to more adventures in 2013 and cannot wait to share with all of you.

grand-oasis-cancun-21. the 90s are back in cancun

This journey from last January took us to Cancun of yesteryear, where girls strip down to the very bare minimum and beefcake dudes line up to drink tequila out of their belly buttons. It makes me smile that my readers found this to be the most popular post.

 

2. an affair with anthony bourdain

Not surprisingly, my encounter with my hero (and the hero of many of my readers, I’m sure) was worthy of your attention.

 

3. airport idiocy: top five pet peeves

We all have been to the airport, so we all know just how much of a hassle they can be. Plus, everyone likes reading complaint pieces where they get to say, “oh yes, that is soooo true!”

 

delposto4. five overrated restaurants in nyc

I don my snark cap and tell you that those restaurants with the $$$$ rating just aren’t that worth it.

 

5. summer of fun 2012

Every summer I make a list of the top 50 things in New York that I would love do between Memorial Day and Labor Day. You all came along on that journey with me this summer. I hope you were able to create some memories of your own!

 

Like what you have read this year? Follow me on Twitter at @tripptravelogue, or “like” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/trippintravelogue. Thanks everyone and Happy New Year!!

Okay…so it’s not really 80…but it is a substantial amount. I realize not all of you live in New York, so my posts on the New York restaurant scene can become a bit tired. Should you find yourself in these necks of the woods, here is where you can go to get some tasty snackage.

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Believe it or not, there is a limit to how much all-inclusive fun one can have. I know, I said it. Yesterday was spent in true fat-ass gluttony. I parked myself by the pool for what I think was about four hours and drank Sol beers (somewhat similar to a Natty Light) and potent margaritas.

After crisping myself to the point where every inch of skin felt like Snooki’s face, it was time to pull myself away from this alternate universe and check into reality for some lunch. Come on, you can do it, too. Get off the beach chair, put on your shoes and go get some culture. Don’t be scared…You’ll be okay. The beach will be there when you get back.

In the name of local cuisine and an ethnic adventure, JP and I headed off site to La Destileria, a local Mexican restaurant near downtown Cancun with a long, LONG list of fine tequilas.

If you are in town and looking for something away from the endless strip of hotels, this place ranks very, very high on my list. JP and I sat on the deck overlooking the water while sipping a fine tequila.  The brand name escapes me at the moment (too much tequila? What is too much?), but the waiters are incredibly knowledgeable and will recommend amazing, amazing tequilas for you to sip, savor or shoot, whatever your pleasure. (The waiters will give you a tomato juice chaser, but you look way more badass if you drink the tequila straight.)

We ordered shrimp quesadillas and marinated beef tacos, which came with a massive dollop of fresh guacamole and diced red onions. We were stuffed, we were sh*t-faced, we were happy. Welcome to Mexico.

**JP was determined to get back to La Destileria for another meal, so we made a point of it to visit again the following day. If we were impressed with our meal the first day, the second blew it out of the water. Try the tacos de la plaza, which are made with chorizo and chicharron. The molca de arrachera is a must as well – a steaming stone bowl filled with steak, beans, chorizo, avocado, fresh cheese and some sort of cactus. A.mazing.

For those of you worried about the well-being of the 90s, I am here to report that they are alive and well…at least, at Oasis Cancun in Mexico. How do I know? I’m living it, baby. I’m talking meat heads and bimbos both tanned beyond belief and showing as much skin as possible, playing water volleyball and beach soccer and grooving to Rihanna or the Black Eyed Peas. Okay, the music may have changed a little, but the scene is still the same.

This is Cancun on Spring Break, just like you remember from MTV, although slightly smaller in scale. There’s no Carmen Electra or Carson Daly, but there are 20-somethings impersonating horny barnyard animals in exchange for alcohol. Oh yeah, it’s happening.

The boyfriend (JP) is on a press trip to check out Oasis Hotels & Resorts‘ newly renovated properties and I get to tag along to soak up some sun and alcohol. Pretty delightful.

Last night we checked out Sens Del Mar, one of Oasis’ most recently renovated properties. THIS is my kind of hotel. It’s “adults oriented,” which weeds out a lot of the families with their…charming…children. Many of the rooms have private plunge pools on their balconies, there are infinity pools, fine dining restaurants and a sunset bar. This is the perfect type of hotel for those “I’m going to ignore the fact that you don’t want kids because this is paradise and maybe you’ll change your mind someday” moments with a significant other.

I’m not staying at that hotel.

Don’t get me wrong – just because Oasis Cancun isn’t my scene (with it’s all-inclusiveness and body shot mentality), there is a market for it. In fact, there are tons of families, couples and friends here who are all having what looks to be a fantastic time. Hell, I saw a Michael Jackson impersonator last night and JP and I danced and sang to “Billie Jean,” among other MJ hits. I don’t expect this trip to be our From Here to Eternity moment, but we are having fun.

Stay tuned for updates from this evening as we get treated to a special performance by Kool and the Gang (yes, of ‘Celebration’ and ‘Jungle Boogie’ fame).

Hey there, fellow trippers. Tomorrow I am off to sunny, Caribbean-esque Cancun on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. I haven’t been out of the country since September and needless to say, I am a little restless.

I’m off to Oasis Cancun, an all-inclusive resort that has just gone through a major renovation. I expect my days will be filled with sun, sand, surf-and-turf and probably a bottomless margarita glass (along with a couple of other surprises that I cannot wait to tell you all about). Until then, let me delight you with a tale from my last visit to Cancun.

It was August 2009 and I was in town visiting the Ritz-Carlton property there. (I was the plus-one for my gentleman friend, who is also a travel writer. Ahh, the true power couple.) After four days of wine tasting, cooking classes and spa treatments it was time for us to fly home, separately, unfortunately. I made my way through the terminal at the Cancun International Airport, looking for a spot to grab that necessary pre-flight beverage.

Look, don’t judge me for my airport behavior, okay? There is absolutely NO local flavor at an international airport, especially in Cancun. So don’t hate on me for stumbling into a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for a snack and an alcoholic treat. Anyway, I ordered some sort of meal, I really can’t remember, but I’m going to guess it had shrimp. And, of course, I ordered a margarita on the rocks with salt….

…BIG mistake. And I am telling you this story, partially because it is humiliating and also partially to warn you. Apparently it is customary at this particular Bubba Gump Shrimp, at the Cancun International Airport, for all patrons that order a margarita to get up and dance in front of the entire restaurant while all the waiters come out and shake the drink for you. Can you see where I’m going with this? I was alone, I was sunburned, and I was forced to shake and shimmy by myself in front of ladies and gentlemen on guys’ getaways, girls’ getaways and lovers’ getaways. F*ck. My. Life.

I mean, really? Really?! As if dining at an American chain restaurant in an airport isn’t depressing enough, you are stuck in a terminal waiting to go home from what I assume would be a fantastic vacation, most likely bummed out, and all you want is a drink to help ease the sadness you feel at returning to your nine-to-five desk job. And now you have to bounce around like an idiot in front of strangers while six Mexicans sing Mariachi music.

The silver lining is now I go into this a little bit wiser, a little bit calmer and a little bit devilish, because you know I am not going to tell my travel companions about this little secret in hopes that I can pass the shake-and-shimmy torch.

So I’m off to Mexico in January (more on that later), but please, don’t feel jealous. I have a deal this Frugal Friday that can get you there, too!

Excellence Playa Mujeres in Cancun is offering 35 percent off for 2012 travel. Book before April 30 for travel from August 14 to December 22, 2012 and receive 35 percent off. For more information visit www.excellence-resorts.com.

Have a great weekend! I return on Monday with tales from SantaCon, so you know you won’t want to miss that!

It’s not exactly easy to stay trim this time of year, what with the pumpkin-flavored drinks and cakes and the cold weather that renders your gym card useless. But if you need a little inspiration to get back that bikini bod, here’s a winter deal for you:

Barceló Hotels & Resorts is offering up to 35 percent off all-inclusive stays at beachfront properties in Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

Unlike typical “book by this date” promotions that limit the discount to a particular booking window, Barceló is giving travelers the freedom to make reservations on their own schedule.

Travelers can now book vacations to any all-inclusive resort in Mexico and the Dominican Republic for travel between now and April 30, or Costa Rica for travel between December 24 and April 30; and receive a percentage off based on how early it’s booked. The earlier the reservation is made – the greater the value.

Guests will receive the following discounts when reservations are made:

• More than 120 days in advance – 35 percent off

• Between 90 and 119 days in advance – 30 percent off

• Between 60 and 89 days in advance – 20 percent off

• Between 31 and 59 days in advance – 15 percent off

Enjoy, friends, and have a great weekend. I return Monday from chilly Schenectady with tales to tell.