Archive for the 'travel' Category

Best taco ever?

More on our trip to CA.

I think I had the best taco of my life at Los Arroyos in Santa Barbara. It may not be what folks would consider a ‘taco taco’ in that it’s probably super gringa, but it was delicious! DELICIOUS, I tell you.

As you can probably see, its first claim to fame is that it’s in a hard shell. And it’s clearly a homemade shell, so it’s interestingly, non-uniform in shape. And divine. It’s then filled with juicy, flavorful, shredded chicken, iceberg lettuce, crumbly queso fresco, and pico de gallo. Simple? Maybe. But perfect. I also got to eat it in bed while we chilled out after a long day of travel and enjoying the California sun. Dream-y. In fact, I’ve been dreaming about this taco since it came into my life. If you have the option of Los Arroyos, take it.



More on this soon, but I just wanted to give you the update — and a spoiler alert — that this latest trip to California was maybe the BEST TRIP EVER!

Except for having to leave World Headquarters at 3:45 a.m. to drive to Santa Barbara to catch a 5:30 a.m. flight. That’s borderline criminal.

But still. BTE? It’s more than a contender. It’s in the World Series of BTEs for me.

Tulum: the food

I’ve been bad about following up on travel posts in the past, so I bet you thought I was heading down that road again. Waha! I fooled you. See, here I am and I’m prepared to break down our culinary tour of Tulum. Or, I’m sort of prepared. I’ve got pics, but my memories have already faded so bear with me. Plus, it’s annoyingly cold outside so looking at these pics might make me more bitter than nostalgic. In any event, here goes. When you tell people you are going to Tulum, they will tell you many things, but frequently you hear that you simply must eat at Posada Margherita (on the beach) and El Camello (in the town). So, of course we ate at neither of these top spots. Oops. We decided that it just meant that we’d have to return.

Anyway, where did we go, you wonder? Well, here you go. We had absolutely delicious breakfasts at our hotel, Posada Luna del Sur. It’s true. They. Were. Amazing.



The second day that I ordered this delicious egg and salsa verde number, it came with crema, which made me sad. I suppose that’s what I get for not branching out.

Oh! I almost forgot! This breakfast shown above was actually our second meal in Tulum. The first came the night before at Charlie’s, which was a couple of blocks from the hotel. I had a quesadilla and AO had something I can’t remember, but I know that he didn’t think it was very good. The more memorable part of the evening, though, was when the restaurant was bombarded by some sort of postmodern avant-garde small theater troupe that put on what I can describe only as bizarreness. I know I’m kind of a cultural-stick-in-the-mud anyway, but this was just odd. There was a group of America’s Next Top Model contestants sitting next to us (ok, not really, but there was something going on) wearing weird hats and some of them seemed to think the whole thing was so awesome that they took out their phones and videotaped it all. I can’t really explain it except to say that the troupe was maybe five people and one skit (I’m sure that’s an offensive term for what they were doing but I don’t know what else to call it) was about selling shoes. There were possibly some political overtones to the whole thing, but I couldn’t tell you because it was all in Spanish.

Mostly we ate in town, though we had a few meals/snacks on the beach. In town, we had yummy nachos, fish and shrimp fajitas (we ended up taking almost all of the fajitas back to the hotel) at El Capitan.




One morning, we skipped our hotel’s breakfast to try breakfast in town. We settled on Don Cafeto and ended up more lunching than breakfasting.






We had a beer at Mateo’s, which is not on the beach but in the beachy part of Tulum.




On the beach, we ate chips and guac at Playa Paraiso, which were quite tasty. Plus, is there anything in the world like sitting on a warm beach in January and having someone bring you drinks and guacamole? I can’t think of much.


We also ate absolutely delicious Thai appetizers at Mezzanine, which is a really neat place. It’s up on a hill, above the beach, with great views, tasty food and yummy margaritas. For some reason, I don’t have great pics of it. I think I was too busy pinching myself for being so lucky.



Another highlight was La Nave, which is an Italian spot in the pueblo. This is where we had delicious pizza, toasted to 40 and listened to street musicians do a bang-up version of La Bamba.



Excellent, excellent pizza.

The number one spot that we hit, though, was here:


Antojitos La Chiapaneca. This place opens at night and gets crowded, which makes sense because the tacos are delicious and inexpensive. I’m really annoyed that I don’t have pics of the actual deliciousness. I guess we’ll just have to go back.

Tulum: to and fro

Before we went to Tulum, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we were actually going to get there. We had our tickets from Milwaukee to Cancun, but like Madison to Milwaukee, Tulum is about 80 miles from Cancun. So, we could (a) rent a car; (b) take a bus; (c) take a taxi; or (d) take a private transfer, as they’re called. At first, we thought we’d take the bus. We had read that they are safe and reliable, omnipresent and inexpensive. The fare would have cost us each under $10 each way, I think. But then we also read that it could take up to three hours with all of the stops. And that we would have to transfer in Playa del Carmen. I worried that if our flight, which was scheduled to arrive at 5:15 p.m. in Cancun, was delayed and if immigration and customs took a long time that we might not get into town until 10 or later. That did not seem like an ideal way to start off the trip. So we moved onto car rental. We thought, “Wowee!” when I found a car from Thrifty for $35 for Saturday through Thursday, which included unlimited miles. But then AO dug into the interwebs and discovered all sorts of horror stories of car rentals – from being shaken down by the police to being gouged with extra insurance costs to having credit card numbers stolen. Of course a million and one people also reported that they had had no issue with rental cars, that the process was a breeze, and that it was such a great way to explore. Still, we were sufficiently nervous that we took another look around. And we looked and looked and looked, but couldn’t make a decision. AO did some research and came up with Canada Transfers, which was highly rated on TripAdvisor. There are a number of other transfer companies that get great reviews, and there was another one recommended to us by the owner of the hotel at which we stayed, but we opted for CT because of its high rating and its willingness to have cold beers waiting for us upon arrival. In addition, the total cost for the two of us to get in a private van at the exit of the airport to our hotel doorstep in Tulum and then for the van to meet us on the morning of our departure and take us to the airport was $165. Seemed sort of like a no-brainer. I was worried, though, because our indecision meant we were booking the service within maybe 28 hours of when we needed it. In the end, there was no reason to worry. Everything went off without a hitch (unless you call CT having Coronas for us when we had asked for Sol a “hitch,” which I really don’t) and we would recommend them without hesitation. Oh! And an added bonus of the CT experience? The company advertises that they will meet you at the airport with a sign with your name on it. I was very excited about this, except also embarrassed, so I put AO’s name on the request. Well, we had been warned sufficiently not to make eye contact with the hundreds of people waiting outside of customs to sell us time shares (in reality, no one seemed very interested in us) and to just push outside, but to make sure that we did not fall victim to CT posers and to verify that we were getting a ride from the right people. I thought this would be easy enough because, after all, someone was going to be holding AO’s name up on a card. Except that didn’t happen. There were a ton of people waiting to transport people to their hotels, but no one was advertising that they wanted to escort AO. Boo. We circled around for awhile and decided to just stand near the two men who were wearing CT shirts. I wanted a closer look. Were these real CT people or were they the frauds we’d been warned against? It was hard to tell. They looked legit. Their shirts had the same logo on them that my receipt had on it. They had big clipboards with spreadsheets of what looked like hundreds of names and arrival times and hotel information. Hmm. I moved in closer. Soon thereafter, a man who can be described only as doing his best impression (and it was good) of Fred Armisen pretending to be a Mexican transportation wrangler turned to us and said, “Well, hello.” And then he found our names and we were sent on our merry way! It was a delight. Oh again! And one more thing … both vans we rode in had a child seat ready to go, which was great to see.

As for getting around once we were in town, transportation in the area could not have been easier. The town is highly walkable and we loved walking up and down the streets every day. It’s true that there are parts that have seen better days.


But there’s all sorts of greatness, too.



Our hotel, Posada Luna del Sur

Our hotel, Posada Luna del Sur

So, we did a lot of walking. To get to the beach, though, we did a lot of biking and a lot of taxiing. Both were super fun and inexpensive and easy peasy. We rented bikes from Center City Bikes (I think it was called) for 80 pesos each for 24 hours. The next day we rented bikes from iBike for 100 pesos each for a same-day rental. The same-day rental was all we needed both days because these two bike places were on the opposite side of town from our hotel so, if we weren’t keeping them for the week, it made just as much sense to drop them off at the end of the day and walk back to our room. Both bike shops provided bikes with baskets and a lock. AO told me that iBikes also offered helmets, but I missed that. The bikes weren’t in awesome condition, but they were functional. They were a little uncomfortable just because they were a little short, but the area is really flat so it wasn’t much of an issue.


On the bike path from town to the beach, there are all of these little rest stop thingees that have signs showing a parent holding a child’s hand or a person sitting down.


I wasn’t totally sure what the intent of these stops is – they look like bus stops, but I never saw anyone waiting at them or a bus stop and let someone off at them. They are kinda cute, though, don’t you think?


The above snapshot is a pic I took while biking on the path. Very fun.

What else was fun? Taxis! There is something super fun and yet relaxing to me about taking taxis in paradise. The windows are open, the breeze is flowing, it’s warm and sitting in the backseat makes me sleepy. Taxis from town to the beach were about $6 for the two of us each way.


In addition to walking in Tulum Pueblo, we did a lot of walking in the beachy town and on the beach. A lot.


A path to a beach club

A path to a beach club




And then sometimes we’d end up at a bar.



All in all, I’m really glad we picked the transportation options we did. Despite our initial worries about getting around, it was a breeze.

Tulum travelogue

The last time AO and I went away on vacation together, without a kiddo and without agenda (I.e., a wedding), was in March 2011 when we went to St Maarten. After some time touring around the island, we realized we should clearly be the ones to write a travel guide to the place. Hence, this, this, this, this, this and this. Similarly, in Tulum, we thought, “Let’s write it all down to share with the world!” Or, you know, the readers of this blog. All five of you. And anyone who can access the internet.

As far as I can tell, there are no guidebooks solely dedicated to Tulum. Most guidebooks that include Tulum are either guidebooks to the Yucatan Peninsula or to Cancun and the surrounding areas. This makes sense for at least two reasons. One, the place is small. It’s not teeny-tiny, but it’s small enough that it probably doesn’t warrant its own book. Though it does seem like you could make a moderate-sized book out of Tulum, Coba, Valladolid, Chichen Itza and the Sian Ka’an biosphere. But what do I know? The second reason, which we had heard about before our trip and confirmed on our trip, is that there can be lots of turnover of hotels and restaurants. Of course this happens everywhere, but could certainly impair the quality of a guidebook. You wouldn’t want to do detailed reviews on dozens of hotels if half of them won’t be there in a year, would you? Well, I would if it meant my job could be reviewing hotels in Tulum.

Anyway, even if we had had the best guidebooks in the universe (and I’m not saying we didn’t, I guess), I still think we’d want to write down all of our thoughts on our vacation. If only in order to relive the glory. So, over the next week or so I intend to post about the basics, lodging and travel, as well as food, sights and sounds, and the general loveliness of our days in paradise.

November 2018
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