Archive for North America

What to Do on a Trip of a Lifetime to Mexico

Whether you’re planning a round-the-world trip or donning your backpack for the very first time, Mexico should be on your list of must-visit destinations. The country is famous for tequila, fantastic food, Mayan ruins, deserts, excellent hospitality and beautiful beaches. And everything is at a very affordable price including some of the best beachfront homes in Mexico. Some come to relax or honeymoon while others for the adventure or to practice their Spanish. Whatever the reason, Mexico won’t disappoint.

 

The Best Things to Do in Mexico

Planning a trip to Mexico is difficult because there are just so many things to do and new experience to have. The beaches are some of the best outside of the Caribbean and crystal clear water makes a perfect spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. You can head to the resort areas of Los Cabos or Cancun for a relaxing vacation at an all-inclusive or find a vacation rental with a view. Or head along the coast to the smaller towns for a more local experience.

Next are the ruins. Mayan ruins are all around the country including pyramids, settlements and temples of which some have a very gruesome history. Check them out and learn about the unique culture that lived here and their practices of human sacrifice. Other awesome things to do include whale-watching, exploring some of the islands, heading into the desert and soaking up the atmosphere in the colonial towns.

 

Where are the Best Places to Visit?

 

Mexico is a huge country taking up about 20% of the landmass of the United States making a lot of ground to cover. The most popular destinations for those taking a holiday around the coastal areas are to places like Los Cabos, Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Fewer take the time to visit some of the areas on the interior and miss out on colonial towns and ruins. Let’s look at some of the less explored parts of Mexico to visit.

Mexico City, in the Valle de Mexico or Valley of Mexico in the central part of the country, is the economic and cultural centre of the nation. Highlights include museums, both Aztec and Mayan ruins, colonial buildings along with beautiful gardens and public spaces. The shopping district is unlike any other in Mexico selling the very latest accessories and fashion. Despite the humongous size of the city, it’s not that difficult or overwhelming to visit as most attractions are clustered in three or four districts. And any negative reputation for safety isn’t as bad as you may think after the government began cracking down on crime.

 

Mexico City Palace of Fine Arts

Mexico City Palace of Fine Arts

 

Tulum shares a stretch of the Caribbean coast and has some of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches. Tourists often come to relax in the high-end resorts and spend a few days lounging on the beaches soaking up the sunshine. Head a little away from the town, and you’ll find an ancient Mayan city that once acted as an important port. The complex has a series of ruins with the main building, a castle, sat on the cliff. Head to the north of Tulum Beach and you’ll come across plenty of other ruins, including the ancient Mayan city of Coba. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also worth visiting on a day trip from Tulum.

 

Off the Beaten Path

Perhaps you want to visit the lesser-explored parts of Mexico. After all, it’s big enough, and if you know where you want to go, you’ll have an incredible experience with warm and friendly locals.

San Miguel de Allende is in the central highlands of Mexico and is one of the prettiest colonial towns in the country. Spanish baroque architecture dominates the facades, and an active arts scene makes San Miguel a cultural centre. Expect cobblestone streets with lots of churches, such as the neo-Gothic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel and the Templo de San Francisco church. Most visitors typically spend a few days in the pretty town for the architecture, culture and the cooler climate.

San Pancho, or sometimes referred to as San Francisco, is a seaside town on the central Pacific coast. Beaches are quiet and many of the visitors are yoga enthusiasts. Apart from joining a yoga class, you can also visit the Punta Monterrey inside the jungle or follow the trails to very secluded beaches. You won’t find as many tourists here giving you a more authentic Mexican experience.

 

How to Get Around Mexico

 

The fastest and easiest way is to fly. Domestic flights connect major cities and depart on regular schedules making it convenient to get from one side of the country to the other. Alternatively, if you want to get to the smaller towns, especially in the interior, you’ll need to use the chicken bus. A chicken bus is a minibus taking passengers around the country with fares costing very little. This is the preferred method for visitors who want to slow travel around Mexico or are on a budget. You can also use the ferry or boat services to get from one destination to the next along the coast.

 

The Ingredients for a Trip of a Lifetime

 

What makes Mexico so special as a travel destination is its diversity, culture and your ability to get off the beaten path at affordable prices. You’ll see beaches, Mayan ruins and colonial towns or replace your wardrobe in Mexico City while enjoying their delicious food on a daily basis.

 

Tulum ruins Mexico

Tulum ruins Mexico

Why Mexico should be on top of your travel list

Fabulous Mexico is a must visit destination for keen travellers and sun seekers alike. A beautiful country full of contrasts, Mexico is packed full of surprises from the ancient Mayan temples to the powder white beaches and crystal clear waters.

 

4 reasons why Mexico should be on top of your travel list:

 

Beaches

You can find beautiful beaches across the globe but Mexico’s sands are some of the most incredible in the world. The soft sandy beaches which covet the Mexican Riviera are literally paradise on earth. From out of this world five star resorts where you can sip cocktails and watch the sunsets to hammocks strung from the trees on deserted stretches of sand, there’s a gorgeous Mexican beach destination for you.

 

Mexican Beach

 

Adventure

If spending your days lazing on a beach isn’t for you, there certainly much more to Mexico. For the adventurers there are amazing monuments to see like the Chichen Itza which is the home of ceremonial Mexican antiquity. A trip there is a definite must for keen explorers. There are lots of other amazing adventures not to missed in Mexico from the pre-Columbian architecture to the Oaxaca in the south where there are stunning markets and amazing woven rugs.

Mexico Chichen Itza

 

Amazing food

 

Authentic Mexican food is one of a kind and some of the tastiest cuisine in the world. There’s great food to be experienced in whatever area of Mexico you choose to visit. Be sure to venture out of your comfort zone and try something a little more adventurous than the traditional burrito (but those are great too!). The street vendors do some of the best Mexican food that you have to try, think lashing of salsa, spicy beans and rice so full of flavour that you’ll forever be disappointed with basmati afterwards.

 

Mexican Food

 

 

Culture

 

We all think of the stereotypical poncho and sombrero combination when Mexico comes to mind but once you visit you’ll be enthralled by the vibrancy of traditional Mexican culture. In Mexico City you’ll be able to find real Mexican music performances and enjoy a ranchera which is a traditional guitar song. Sit back with a margarita and soak up the amazing Latino vibes. If you’re planning on visiting Mexico soon, check out TrekAmerica which has some great trips exploring many different sides of a wonderfully diverse and exciting country.

 

Mexican Culture

 

*Images courtesy of iStock

The best restaurants in San Francisco

10 days in San Francisco were really enough to fall in love with San Francisco so much, it became my second favorite city in the world. It is also because its delicious food at every corner.

The best restaurants in San Francisco:

B44 Catalan Bistro

Definitely one of my top restaurants because I love Catalan cuisine. I had dinner there twice, even had my own cute little table by the window and left with a full satisfied stomach. The owner is always there smiling and he even gave me the best CD with SF and Barcelona songs! Both cities are my top 2 places in the world so I see there is no coincidence in this world 🙂

 

I highly recommend trying:

starters:

salad Empedrat – bacalao, baby white beans, salad olivada

Escivada Tapas – warm roasted vegetables, cabrales, pine nuts, roasted garlic oil – a traditional vegetarian dish which denominates the process of grilling the food, BBQ usually done in Costa Brava from February to April. Here in the restaurant charcoal is added to olive oil to make it taste like grilled.

Escivada Tapas in B44

 

main dishes:

Paella hortelana – saf from rice, mushrooms, vegetables, red bell pepper, pine nuts, currants

Paella hortelana in B44 Catalan Bistro

 

Ahi tuna – a la plancha, avocado, baby lentil salad, soy and cava vinaigrette

tuna a la plancha

 

desserts:

Lionesas del Penedes –  cream puffs, ice cream, warm cocoa sauce, toasted almonds)

Lionesas del Penedes in B44

 

tarta de chocolate y platano – warm chocolate, black pepper and banana tart, creme anglaise, candied walnuts

tarta de chocolate y platano in B44

 

Plouf

Just a few metres from B44. Very French and stylish with also some Italian desserts. I had 2 dinners in Plouf too. Fresh bread with butter and the lovely atmosphere (and if you drink a glass of delicious wine) are the best to start with. I really liked the lights and the candles on the tables and the energetic waiters. The owner is very professional too. And there’s a super guy working behind the bar 🙂

Out of many salads, sea food and meat Plouf specializes in, I chose my favorite quinoa with artichokes, also fish with a salad and very yummy dessert.

 

dessert in Plouf SF fresh bread, salad and fish in Plouf SF quinoa with artichokes in Plouf SF

Trattoria Pinocchio

For sure my favorite Italian restaurant in San Francisco. I was there twice as well, once for lunch and once for dinner with my friend Annette from Bucket List Journey. We also met with the owners Maria and Giovanni, they are both so cute! It reminded me of my days living in Brindisi, Italy –  the atmosphere, the best meals ever, and just everything Italian. Hard to say no to it.

We had A LOT of food here! Starters, pasta, desserts … all delicious and home-made. Giovanni brought really great recipes from his homeland back in Europe. And when it comes to desserts, you can choose from home-made cannoli, tartufo, chocolate mousse, tiramisu, vanilla creme brule or poached pear al cioccolato.

 

pasta plate in Trattoria Pinocchio with Annette and the owners of Trattoria Pinocchio yummy starter in Trattoria Pinocchio SF

 

Westfield San Francisco Centre

 I ate in the Food Emporium (vegan food and Buckhorn were my favorite ones offering huge tasty salads), Cupola Italian restaurant (one of the Restaurant Collection Under the Dome) and drank as many healthy Jamba Juice as possible there. Buckhorn restaurant for huge portions of healthy salads in Westfield shopping mall. There is so much to choose from in Westfield, all the different cuisines from around the world and surprisingly, the Food Emporium is not expensive at all.

 

huge salad from Buckhorn in Food Emporium Westfield San Francisco more meals in Cupola restaurant Westfield SF my salad in Cupola restaurant in Westfield SF

 

John’s Grill

This was the first restaurant I had dinner at in San Francisco, it’s also one of the oldest and most famous ones in the city. The walls inside are covered with photos of the city patrons, and furnishings from Old San Francisco. Many celebrities come to dine here. And of course me and my friend TJ from Mighty Travels had a yum dinner here too.

As the name suggests, John’s Grill offers mostly steaks and seafood but as I am not a fan of those, I picked fresh fish with veggies and potatoes. It was so tasty! And the heaven on Earth, the chocolate dessert with berries was just about to come!

 

John's Gril fish John's Grill interior yummy fish at John's Grill SF

the best dessert at John's Grill ever

Lovejoy’s Tea Room

There is no bigger tea fanatic in this world than me, trust me. So when I found out about Lovejoy’s Tea Room place, I was happier than a kid getting the favorite toy. I spent a few hours there with a friend of mine Monica I met at the hostel.

It already started as a lovely time when I saw our table – it said Reserved for the Queen. Yay! At least for a second I felt important 😀 But it was the name of the menu we ordered. We could choose tea, sandwiches, and a lot of sweet treats to go along with. Everything was finger-licking, trust me. Thank God for some fresh fruit and organic veggies too!

Tea Room is such a magical place with beautiful tea pots all around, lots of images and colorful tableclothes.

 

Lovejoy's Tea Room SF Queen's Tea at Lovejoy's Tea Room

 

Godmother

The most famous restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf – if you have your City Sightseeing bus ticket, you will get a free dessert with the best fish and chips in town for less than $10. I haven’t visited it myself as I do not eat fish and chips but heard a lot of prayers about it.

 

Looking for some chocolate in San Francisco? Try TCHO chocolate tour where you can sample different kinds of chocolate, all yummy, I guarantee!

Or how about Food Tour in SF to find other great places to eat?

Also check out my list of 47 things to do in San Francisco.

Dinner at Les Labours Hotel La Ferme

chocolate and nuts dessert at Les Labours Hotel La Ferme

After the massage at Spa du Verger at Hotel La Ferme, I was starving and really glad Les Labours restaurant was just a minute away in the main building.

 

Les Labours Hotel La Ferme

Les Labours at Hotel La Ferme

Les Labours dinner menu

Les Labours dinner menu

 

As soon as I walked up the steps and entered, I was welcomed by ”Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler, right? Miss Kovacova?” Obviously, it was an English way of pronouncing my surname which has nothing to do with the real Slovak pronunciation but as usual made me laugh and made it for a great conversation.

I sat down at the bar as I was alone and wanted to watch the cooks working from close (and maybe even learn something). I was served a slice of bread from a local bakery where they just buy seeds and make their own flour for bread. It was extremely identical to Slovak bread we have at home – brown bread with little holes in it. I was in shock because the waiter spent like a minute telling me how proud they are of the unique bread here. We had a laugh once I told him we have a very similar bread back home.

 

sat at the Les Labours bar

sat at the Les Labours bar

traditional bread in Charlevoix

traditional bread in Charlevoix

beautiful modern design of Les Labours restaurant

beautiful modern design

 

I sat there and just looked. The cook was throwing food on the saucepans and making it all jump like in a circus. Believe it or not, it was a lot of fun to watch. Such a different experience when you develop a certain relationship with food and the cook himself when he looks at you and smiles!

When I was dining at Les Labours, there were all male cooks only.

I found myself wondering … Personally, I would not be comfy cooking myself with people watching me but they must be used to it. Even though the cook looked a bit nervous, maybe because of me and my camera … Or maybe it was because I spent some time staring at his veins too 🙂

 

observing the cook preparing my dinner

observing the cook preparing my dinner

the cute cook in action

the cute cook in action

 

My first dish came very quickly – sweet potato soup and croutons without cream but a bit of milk turned out super yellow and yummy.

 

sweet potato soup at Les Labours Hotel La Ferme

sweet potato soup at Les Labours Hotel La Ferme

 

Then my main dish followed – gnocchi with fresh veggies – with amazing smell of herbs and fish (smoked spurgeon) and made of 3 colours. The fish was hidden under the veggies, such a tasty surprise with very exquisite taste of portobello mushrooms, radish and spinach and thus giving gnocchi more taste than simple ones I usually have.

 

gnocchi with fresh veggies

gnocchi with fresh veggies

 

My cook came to me for the first time and his small eyes looked at me from behind the brownish hat … he was a bit shy and even came to apologize to me that he was too busy to talk to me more.  I was not sure who was more shy at that moment, if him or me as he made me shy with his look 😀

Afterwards, I tried to look at him less to make him feel comfortable again.

 

I was recommended a dessert with different kinds of chocolate and nuts. It had the right amount of sweetness but not too much. Comparable to the cook, I’d say …

 

chocolate and nuts dessert at Les Labours Hotel La Ferme

chocolate and nuts dessert at Les Labours Hotel La Ferme

 

Well, as you can see, my time at Les Labours Hotel La Ferme was so worth it 🙂 So if you are visiting Canada, hop on Le Massif de Charlevoix train and visit Hotel La Ferme. They even have delicious healthy breakfast too.

 

my healthy breakfast at Les Labours

my healthy breakfast at Les Labours