10 Foods You Must Try in the Yucatan
The Yucatan peninsula offers a cuisine as unique as its culture. It is very fruit heavy, especially citrus fruits such as the sour orange. Its main proteins include pork and fish. Below are 10 of the best foods to try while visiting the Yucatan peninsula.
1. Cochinita Pibil
Traditionally, this dish is made with a whole suckling pig (as conchinita translates to “baby pig”), but many other pork roasts have been used in its place. It is marinated with sour orange juices, habaneros, and spices overnight, and then cooked slowly for an afternoon wrapped in banana leaves, traditionally in an earth oven. It is then served with tortillas. It is not spicy, but it is earthy sweet. This is perhaps the best-known dish from the Yucatan.
Served on tortillas that have been grilled and then deep fried. It is topped with pulled chicken, avocados, and limes.
Similar to panucho, only the tortillas have not been grilled before deep frying. This allows for the tortilla to remain softer.
Kibis are ground wheat folded around meats and cheeses, and then deep fried. They are served topped with pickled red onions, cabbage, and habaneros.
5. Pollo Ticul
Pollo means chicken, and this chicken dish is filled with the unique tastes of the Yucatan. It is marinated in achiote, sour orange juice, honey, and spices overnight. Then it is wrapped in banana leaves and baked.
Papadzules are similar to enchiladas, but they are much older. They are corn tortillas filled with hard-boiled eggs topped with the sweet and spicy sauce made with pumpkins and habaneros.
7. Tikin Xic
This is a fish dish, usually made with grouper. It is marinated, as with the dishes above, with sour oranges and spices, and then cooked while wrapped in banana leaves, traditionally in an earth oven.
Similar to tostada, the base is a tortilla that has been fried. However, the tortilla for sopes are only fried just short enough for the outside to be cooked. This makes them softer and thicker than tostadas. The sides of the sope are pinched to hold the toppings. They are topped with shredded meat, cheeses, and salsa.
9. Atropellado de coco
This is a traditional dessert made with sweet potatoes and coconut. It is served as a custard.
First, a drink similar to mead is made and mixed with anise. After the honey has been fermented and the anise added, rum is then added. It is either served neat, on the rocks, or either with tequila and lime or with coffee.
Cochinita Pibil – By Popo le Chien, CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons
Panucho – By Canibalazzo, CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons
Papadzules – By kevin from south boston, ma, usa (Papadzules), CC BY 2.0, from Wikimedia Commons
It is no secret that I have a soft spot in my heart for all things Canadian. This Saturday (July 1) will be Canada Day, or la Fête du Canada, for our friends in the Great White North. It was previously called Dominion Day until 1982. Canada Day celebrates the enactment of the Constitution Act of 1867, which joined the colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec (the latter two being split into two from the former colony of Canada) into the federation Dominion of Canada. Also, the new Dominion of Canada was given greater autonomy, with certain provisions, from parliament in London.
It is Canada’s national holiday. It is a day filled with outdoor celebrations, parades, and fireworks. Most communities and cities offer something in celebration, but the highlights happen in Ottawa, the federal capital. This year is special because it is the 150th anniversary. Events start on June 30, and will go until July 2.
Every year, the Opening Ceremony on July 1, the Prime Minister and Governor General officiate and give speeches, and occasionally they are joined by members of the Royal Family. This year, they will be joined by Prince Charles, and his wife Duchess Camilla. Around 11 PM, the fireworks will go off in a panoramic view, best seen from Major’s Hill Park.
Not only could you expect to find memorable celebrations around Canada, but there are even celebrations around the United States as well. Cities near the border, especially cities with cities directly across the border (such as Detroit-Windsor) will have joint celebrations that last about a week long, celebrating both Canadian and American national holidays. Also, Canadian expats in America (or Canadian friendlies, such as myself) host parties around the United States as well. The closest to me (Bloomington-Normal) will be in Millennium Park in Chicago.
Suggestion: find a Canada Day party near you, or even better if you can make it to Canada, especially Ottawa, get yourself a pint and poutine, and celebrate for our neighbours in the Great White North. It will be a great time for all.
Happy Canada Day!
Weekend at Hyatt
May 28 is my wedding anniversary, and when we went on our honeymoon last year, we have determined that our anniversary is a trip that only we go on. No tours, just us.
This year, we went to Chicago.
Some of the things we went to:
As a travel agent, I get the opportunity to test out cruises, tours, hotels, and the like, very much like the time I went to the Cayman Islands, and tried out the new Kimpton hotel there last December. For this trip, we tried out a Hyatt Regency, located near the Magnificent Mile on Wacker Dr.
The Regency brand is the Hyatt’s flagship, and is catered to luxury leisure and business travel. It is a full-service brand, with room service, on site restaurants, convention and meeting spaces, concierge, and more. In Chicago, they have over 2000 rooms between two towers, complete with the Regency Club, and boasts the largest free standing bar in the world.
My favourite accommodation of this hotel is not so much the hotel, but of its location. It is completely walkable from anything downtown we would want to go to. The Tribune Tower is a mere jaunt across the Chicago River, Millennium Park is two blocks south, and everything famous about Michigan Ave. starts from a block walk west.
The customer service was fantastic and attentive, the price was worth the luxury in return, and the location was great. I cannot think of better accommodations for a wonderful anniversary weekend. Thank you Hyatt Regency.
Road trip! and tips
When travelling as a group within the United States and Canada, it is substantially cheaper to drive to your destination instead of fly. Actually, I rather enjoy the drive. Since you lose a day or two of vacation after spending most of those hours in security check points, waiting at the terminal, etc. You might as well spend the time seeing the landscape, meeting the small town locals, and enjoying local cuisine along the way. As the Emerson stated, it is not the destination, it is the journey.
However, driving long periods of time increases your chances of driver fatigue, especially when driving at night. Driving fatigued is no funny business. Approximately 72,000 crashes, including approximately 800 deaths are to driving fatigued. The DOT tries to combat this by imposing regulations on commercial driving. Passenger drivers must have an 8 consecutive hour rest after driving no more than 10 hours.
Of course, being a group of friends or a family means the regulations do not apply to you, but it is a good regulation to live by. After all, nothing will derail the vacation completely than an accident due to driver fatigue. Here I have a few tips:
Having a “co-pilot” on any drive more than 2 hours is essential. This co-pilot should also stay awake with the driver, and help ensure the driver does not fall asleep.
- For any trip more than 6 hours, split the driving time with the co-pilot. Also, stay awake when you are in the role as co-pilot
- For any trip more than 12 hours, get a room about half way. Grab dinner there, and go to sleep, and continue your journey the next morning.
- Coffee is your friend. Good coffee is even better. Save yourself the crap the gas stations try to pass as coffee and brew your own iced coffee to bring with you. Fan of energy drinks? Try those as well, but be sure to watch out for the “crash” after it wears off.
Driving is a great way to not waste time at the airport, and to enjoy more of the journey to your vacation. It is generally cheaper, yet provides so much more in value. Drivers fatigue will ultimately ruin any good vacation, so do yourself a favour and rest.
Review of the Kimpton Seafire Hotel
I took a trip to Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. What initially brought me to Grand Cayman, and the official reason for be being there in the first place, was an invitation by Kimpton Hotels to see their new location there, called the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa; just opened in November 2016. As I am starting up the travel agency, this was a perfect opportunity for a site visit. I have been a fan of Kimpton Hotels since my first stay at Hotel Allegro in Chicago, and I was more than happy to come down and try out their new location. I checked in on Monday, and checked out on Friday.
The staff there when I first arrived were very attentive, and helped as much as possible. I had a small kerfuffle where my credit cards would not initially allow me to check in, but they allowed me use of the lobby phone to call one of my banks to push through transaction. Keep in mind, this call was an international call to the United States.
After getting over the banking issues, the receptionist, Kelly, was very accommodating. She would chat with me as I was waiting for time to pass before I could use my credit card to check in, giving me tips of where to eat and what to see during my 4 day stay (not including my Friday, travel day). On top of that, when I was able to check in, she upgraded my room to an ocean view. I am so grateful that she did that, because the view was outstanding.
One of my favourite perks of going to a Kimpton hotel is the wine hour they host in the evening. It is a great time to meet with the staff of the hotel and other travellers. Here, I met another staff member who ended up a friend for a week: Sarah. She also gave me tips on where to eat and what to see. She is a Caymanian born and raised, so she knew her stuff.
The wine hour, and the café bar in the morning, another favourite perk of mine, took place in the hotel library. I got conflicting messages on whether it was a take-one-leave-one library, or if it was take-one-return-later library, but they had Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, so I had to borrow it. I had never been in a hotel with a library like that, and it made me so happy.
They also had a bike program: you get to check out a bike. The bikes themselves where “meh,” but I did not have to pay extra for them, and they got the job done. I utilised this perk heavily, and saw most of my trip by bike because of this program. It was my cardio for the week, and also sparked a conversation in Fidel Murphys (Irish Pub in George Town) with a Caymanian resident.
As with all (well, at least most if not all) Kimpton Hotels, there were restaurants specifically associated with the hotel. With Seafire, there was Ave – their principle restaurant, Coccoloba – their beachside bar (my personal favourite), and the Seafire Poolside bar – the bar that served and waited upon the poolside cabanas, and even more food avenues as well. It was through these avenues that I was able to try Cay Brew (local beer) and Seven Fathoms Rum (local rum), and Cuban rum.
As I mentioned in the paragraph above, they had poolside cabanas that faced the Caribbean Sea. These cabanas were set up with electricity, and came with a floor lamp and a ceiling fan. It was the perfect place to sit and read Treasure Island outside and listen to the sea hit the shore.
And, of course, the view on those seats were amazing.
Part of my invitation to Seafire included a spa excursion, so I would have a fool for not to have taken them up on the offer. The spa includes a quiet room to sit and enjoy the water and tea, massage rooms, a sauna, and a whirlpool. After spending all my Tuesday morning in the spa enjoying its tranquillity, I came back Thursday evening, just to enjoy it again.
Things they offered, but I was unable to participate in for one reason or another: a children’s nursery, a fully stocked fitness centre with ocean view, a shopping centre, business centres and conference rooms, and water activity rentals.
In addition to amenities to enjoy, the Seafire is very environmentally conscientious:
- the landscaping of the hotel grounds contains over 32,000 native plants that were grown in a local nursery
- seawater is desalinated and is used to water the plants
- rainwater is collected in a large on-site cistern
- electricity is solar power generated
- LED lights are used exclusively
- the lights are turtle friendly so that the turtles have a safe place to lay their eggs and the baby hatchlings can return to the sea safely
- the books in the library were purchased from the local humane society for better care and treatment of abandoned or ill-treated cats and dogs on Grand Cayman
As with all Kimpton hotels, I absolutely loved this hotel. It was a very peaceful place to stay, and a relaxing environment. This is a hotel I would recommend to anyone going to Grand Cayman. I actually loved it so much, that I am trying to get my board to approve of it as the location for the annual board meetings from now on.