April
20
2017

Tootling through Tulum (Quintana Roo, Mexico)

 

 

 

Beautiful Beach Drencher                                      We had just settled down for some after lunch beach time when the skies opened up and played havoc with our sunbath!                                                                                                         

 

Tulum is a treasure trove of fascinating and fun activities for the adventurous traveler. From bike riding to snorkeling, scuba diving, exploring Mayan ruins and kiteboarding, it is a haven for outdoor recreation.  And the sun! Such amazing sunshine and very friendly locals, too. We enjoyed the area immensely as there is never a shortage of things to do from sports and shopping to dining and tasting trendy new cocktails! Imagine hot peppers at the bottom of your mezcal margarita! And, it is a short hour and a half drive from the Cancun airport. This will be a completely different experience than your usual visit to Zona Hotelera (hotel zone) right near the Cancun Airport.

Kite Boarders out in droves after the storm.

 

 

Adorable beach vendors engage potential customers visiting the Tulum beaches.

The amazing white sand beaches along the Caribbean are ultra-fine and soothing on the feet. With miles of beach to cover, you can spend the entire day walking along the water, or even better, playing in it! There are literally hundreds of restaurants and bars to dip into along the way for lunch, cocktails or dinner. You can also find a few spots that serve microbrews, one of our favorite beverages! You will find that the bars are very friendly places to hole up when the skies turn stormy and the occasional downpour “rains” havoc on your plans! Hakuna Matata!

 

Nico and Mark’s Bungalow “Casa Los Amigos” in the city of Tulum                                                                               Our trip of five days began with a drive from Cancun to Tulum and dinner at El Asadero, a great little restaurant in downtown Tulum. After dinner, we finally found our rental house, a two cabana set-up with a pool in between and a bridge connecting the two units — all beautifully landscaped for privacy. It was so fun crossing the bridge each morning!

 

 

Snorkeling through the Dos Ojos Cenote just north of Tulum. We even ventured into a bat cave!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found this rental to be just perfect for us. Each unit has a kitchenette and a shared barbecue. The setting is lush and private and Nico and Mark provided enough bikes for all four of us! The only downfall was the noisy neighborhood, very close houses with lots of late night music, followed by babies, roosters, and brand new puppies! Still, a gem in the newly developing area of Tulum!

 

 

 

The cenotes provide great exploration and underwater entertainment. Our guide told us there are more than 3,000 cenotes dotting the landscape on the Yucatan Peninsula, forming an underground labyrinth and some reaching all the way to the Caribbean Sea. The name cenote means “sacred well” as these were revered by the Mayans as sources of fresh water and places to bury their treasure as well as the dead. But, not to worry, we never saw a single body floating up as we snorkeled through these swimming caverns formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock. There are stalactites and stalagmites a-plenty, and you only need protect your head as you return from your dip below to take in the caves and swim under arches and through tunnels. If you are lucky, your guide will take you into the amazing bat cave, where hundreds of bats line the ceiling of the cave. Not a single bat buzzed us, thank goodness!

Our wild and crazy bike riding adventure to the beach!

 

We didn’t exactly take the direct route the day we rode to the beach, but we truly had intended to! In fact, the new road never made it all the way to the beach and we wound up lifting our bikes over a barbed wire fence, crossing private property, discovering a whole litter of puppies, and finally getting stuck behind someone’s private gate trying to find the beach. Turns out a few dollars make a driveway crossing so much easier. When my husband offered Javier a toll, he let us pass through both gates and eventually, after our harry 2-hour, 5-mile excursion, we landed on the beach road and made our way to the beach. It’s always an adventure when scouting new territory with my husband!

 

 

There are so many great restaurants in Tulum and one of our favorites is Mateo’s Mexican Grill right on the beach road. It offers up Mexican fare and amazing cocktails. Other restaurants we enjoyed were: El Asadero, a great Mexican-style steak house, and for Italian, Restaurante Il Bocconcino, both in town. And for espresso drinks and a great breakfast, try Burrito Amor, right along Hwy. 307.

View from the Happy Hour deck at Mateo’s, one of our favorite dining spots right on the beach road in Tulum!

                                                                                                                                               

The lush journey through the Sian Ka’an Biosphere

As you drive south through Tulum you’ll eventually enter the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, where the roadway is a mere tunnel carved through the jungle. All of the sudden, the jungle opens up and you roll onto a bridge, with the sparkling aqua Caribbean Sea on your left, and the wetlands and mangroves to the right. This is the quintessential time for a convertible! Sian Ka’an means “origin of the sky” in the native Mayan language and the reserve is home to some 300 species of birds. It’s a great place to go “flats fishing” or boating in and out of the mangroves. We saw several iguanas crossing the road or sunbathing along our journey. Beware, the mosquitos can be fierce here, so be sure to lather up with plenty of bug spray!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Courtsie and Lis take a break to check out the view!

The Caribbean Sea meets mangroves right under this bridge with amazing views to both the east and the west.  And, beautiful smiles to greet you along the way from travelers that are so happy to be right where they are!

 

On the road from Tulum to Punta Allen, you drive right down an isthmus that divides the Caribbean Sea from the mangrove-filled lagoons. The view is magical as you look from left to right and back to see these amazing and sparkling bodies of water all contained within the Sian Ka’an preserve.

A pelican surveys his dining options as he scopes out fish along the shore.

Sneak peek at the beach from the road to Punta Allen.

A view of the Caribbean right from the driver’s seat!

Beautiful Caribbean Sea and white sand beaches!

Painted skies over the lagoon in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere.

Amazing sunset facing west over the lagoon.

May
10
2016

Savory Dill-Gruyere Waffles

Have you ever tried serving savory waffles in place of bread? These amazing waffles not only make a great accompaniment to grilled salmon, but they are amazing toasted and used for bread in a turkey sandwich! The recipe is easy, even though the waffle iron clean-up takes a few extra minutes! It is well worth it!!!

Dill, Gruyere, Sharp Cheddar Waffles

 

A little Gruyere, White Cheddar and Dill make these waffles an amazing savory option to bread!

A little Gruyere, White Cheddar and Dill make these waffles an amazing savory option to bread!

I just love the crunchiness of homemade waffles. The little cavities allow space for all sorts of delicious sauces, syrups or other condiments to pool for an extra burst of flavor. While we normally think of waffles with maple syrup, I once had a waffle instead of an English muffin for eggs benedict and it was surprisingly perfect! Ever since then, I’ve been wanting to make savory waffles and serve them with dinner in lieu of bread. This recipe, made with dill, Gruyere and sharp white cheddar, makes a delicious accompaniment to grilled salmon. I prepared the salmon with a little dill and lemon pepper, and served a lemon-dill-white wine sauce over both the fish and the waffle. It makes for a nice change from the regular baguette served with dinner.

And, if you’ve never tried using waffles instead of bread for sandwiches, this is a great way to use any leftovers you might have. I made too many waffles for the number of people we were serving, so I saved them in the refrigerator. The next day, I popped them in the toaster and made a sandwich with sliced turkey, Gruyere cheese and avocado in between two waffles, and voilà, a creative sandwich for lunch! It was one of the best, and easiest sandwiches I think I’ve ever tasted. I had that exact same sandwich for three lunches in a row! Next time, I am going to try adding bacon pieces for a savory breakfast waffle.

 (Makes about five 4-inch square waffles, double it for 10, or if you plan on making sandwiches later in the week.)

INGREDIENTS

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon dill (I used dried, but fresh would also be great!)

1 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 cup buttermilk (can also use regular milk)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup shredded cheese (I used half sharp cheddar and half gruyere)

Butter for greasing waffle iron.

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt and dill. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, or large measuring cup, add egg and milk and mix well. Stir in grated cheese and olive oil. Stir the wet mixture into the dries until well incorporated and no flour lumps.

Heat waffle iron. Spoon batter onto iron and cook until crispy and golden brown. Cheese will be melting and oozing a little bit out of the sides, so it makes for a bit of a cleaning challenge … not too bad, though, took me about 4 minutes to clean the waffle iron!  Save any leftover waffles in the refrigerator or freezer.

Dill-butter-wine Sauce

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon dried dill, or 1 tablespoon fresh dill

¼ cup white wine

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add dill and wine and heat through.

May
10
2016

Spello, Italy … a small, quaint hilltop village with really amazing food, local wines and spectacular hikes!

Italy is an amazing foodie place, but this town of Spello in Umbria, is also a sight to behold, as well as a fantastic place to hike or run! There is a hiking/running trail that runs right along the ancient Roman aqueduct from Spello all the way to the next village of Collepino, which is an uphill battle by the time you get within a half mile of the village. But, the views and vistas from the trail, not to mention the charismatic red Tuscan poppies adorning the hillside, are incredibly beautiful! The round trip is approximately 6 miles. There are also miles of hiking trails to be found on nearby Mt. Subasio, which has trails leading all the way to the town of Assisi.

For more on the Roman aqueduct trail

The hillside village of Spello in Umbria, Italy, boasts amazing vistas and delightful local restaurants. The local Montefalco wine is easy drinking and delicious!

The hillside village of Spello in Umbria, Italy, boasts amazing vistas and delightful local restaurants. The local Montefalco wine is easy drinking and delicious, no matter whether in carafe or bottle!

 

 

Tuscan poppies in full bloom are incredibly beautiful!

Tuscan poppies in full bloom are incredibly beautiful!

 

 

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View from the patio just off our room at La Bastiglia!

We stayed at a charming inn, La Bastiglia, in a room with a fireplace and a hot tub inside! The views from the windows and the patio were spectacular! The inn has a restaurant, which was good, but our favorite restaurant in the village was La Cantina di Spello.

 

La Cantina di Spello was our favorite restaurant. The owner greeted us at our table and explained the entire menu in English for us!

La Cantina di Spello was our favorite restaurant. The owner greeted us at our table and explained the entire menu in English!