Mix It Up On Vacation In Mexico

Image by Lars Plougmann, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Lars Plougmann, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

According to latest tourism statistics, Mexico is attracting more overseas tourists every year. In 2014, nearly 12 million people flocked to the country – an increase of 20% in 2013. The reason? Mexico offers every kind of experience for every type of tourist. Pristine white Pacific or Caribbean beaches; lush tropical landscapes; vast canyons; ancient Mayan ruins and cities; astounding underwater reefs – it’s all in one country. Not to mention the array of rich food and tastebud-tingling tequila.

But how do you get the most out of your Mexican summer holiday? With a myriad of choices, you might want to ‘mix things up’ (like the perfect Margarita) and go for a hotlist that looks something like this…

History Time

Mexico is well-known for its Mayan archaeological sites. Dating from 250-1200AD, these sites – found across the Yucatan Peninsula and southern regions of the country – provide a terrific insight into how early Mayan urban communities were formed and how the Maya people lived.

Visit Chichen Itza (translation: “at the mouth of the well of Itza”), site of the temple-pyramid of El Castillo, an impressively-preserved structure built around 750AD.

Modern Adventure

If you’re looking for a more modern or family experience, Cancun is the best bet. The area offers a huge range of cultural experiences, jungle exploration and eco-park attractions. The adventurer in you might enjoy X Carat park – a vast, natural adventure park with every imaginable terrain and type of wildlife.

Xel-Ha Park, a natural aquarium and ecotourism development, is a hive for scuba-divers. If you’re a real water baby, visit Cozumel island (adjacent to Playa del Carmen), which is very popular with scuba divers and swimmers thanks to its stunning Mesoamerican Reef which stretches for 13 miles, underwater caves and the many dolphins and other sea creatures that can be spotted nearby.

Take it down a gear

Sightseeing, exploring and diving should be mixed with a bit of relaxing and sunbathing – and Mexico offers some of the most unspoiled stretches of white sandy beaches in the world. Tulum beach, 80 miles southeast of Cancun, is renowned for its beautiful sand, warm turquoise waters and you can even spot the occasional sea turtle.

Reward yourself

Once you’ve explored and relaxed, you’ll have worked up an appetite. Nothing beats authentic Mexican enchiladas and ‘Enchiladas Rojas’ is a brunch favourite of locals. Cooked with different peppers for a spicy kick, look out for dishes with Ancho or Guijillo peppers and a tangy top sprinkling of Queso Fresco (‘fresh soft cheese’).

Freshest refreshments

There’s so much to do in Mexico, from relaxing to sightseeing and adventuring, why not mix things up and try a bit of everything on your Mexican vacation? It could be the best decision you make this year.

Scenic Sunday

Along the Rio Grande, the border between the United States and Mexico, near McAllen, Texas, in March 2004. It was a gorgeous day. A friend of ours took us fishing in has speedy boat. This looking across the river to Mexico.

To see more photos from Scenic Sunday, click here.

Vacation III: Uncle Jr., Mexico and The Pier

The first order of business on Wednesday was to drive through the streets of Imperial Beach, going past the places where FabGrandpa lived and played. This picture shows the entrance to the trailer park where he lived for several years with his parents and brothers. If you look closely, you may see The Wing sticking up there on the hill. The official name for it is the John J. Montgomery Memorial Park.

We went by Mar Vista High School, Emory Elementary School, the drive-in theater that has a flea market during the day. The water tank where there used to be a grove of eucalyptus trees, and past the place where he used to hide in a fig tree and eat until he was sticky all over. It was great to see him so happy that he could see this place again, and that so many of the places were still recognizable to him.

We also went by to visit Uncle Junior, as he is called by everyone in the family. He has lived here since 1979. His wife, Terry, died last year so he is living there alone now. He told us he is trying to get things in order so he can sell the house and move back to Georgia. He’s looking pretty good for 82 years old. We had a nice visit with him, then left on our way to Mexico, less than 10 miles away.

We parked at a lot on the U.S. side of the border, and walked across the bridge to Tijuana. It was a pretty long walk compared to other places where I have crossed into Mexico. There were lots of people walking over that day. In the picture below are cars at the border stop going into Mexico:

After we crossed the bridge, and went through that revolving gate, we stopped to take my picture with this cow statue. Just because I thought it was pretty. There was also an information booth here where we were able to find directions to the places we wanted to go.

We didn’t stay very long–we only wanted to go and get my prescription for metformin ($6.00 for 100 tablets, for my diabetes type II), some amoxicillian ($7.00 for 100 capsules, we like to keep some on hand) and a couple of Z-packs($6.00 each). I know when I get an ear infection that is the only thing that will knock it out. We also got a 5th of Herra Dura Reposado Tequila. It was $32 in Mexico, and unaffordable here. That 5th will last me 2 years.

Then we walked back over the bridge, showed our passport cards, and went home. Easy peasy, and no gunshots were heard. All the cars in the picture below are people entering the United States through Tijuana. There are armed border agents down there inspecting the cars and checking passports and other documents. It looked like a pretty long wait.

We got back to the inn just around lunch time. FabGrandpa was wanting to walk over to the pier, which was good news to me because he hadn’t wanted to do anything until that day. So we walked over there, and went to the Tin Fish Restaurant at the end of the pier for lunch.

He had a fried fish and shrimp combo, I ordered grilled shrimp. I could eat shrimp every day, and I did while I was on vacation. It was really good, and the atmosphere on the pier was excellent.

Yep, here I am in my signature orange traveling shirt. It is not the same one I usually wear, I have three, but still, it IS orange.

These guys were out there surfing every day, from morning til sunset. Mostly they just sat on their surfboards waiting for ‘the wave’, but when they did get a good wave they rode it all the way in.

This picture shows just how close to Mexico we were. If you click on the picture to make it larger, you will see that the top arrow is pointing to the bullring in Tijuana, and bottom one is pointing to the end of Seacoast Boulevard in Imperial Beach.

After lunch we walked back over to the inn, and just relaxed on the deck for the afternoon. This sea bird just sat there posing for me.

More of the beautiful flowers. These were actually growing on the sand dune below the deck of the inn, and climbed over the railing.

Another one by the pool. I don’t know the names of these but they are gorgeous.

And again, the sun sets on the Pacific Ocean, bringing us the end of another day.

The lights on the pier seen from the deck outside our room:

Gluten Free Mexican Seafood Soup

When Jim and I were working in south Texas, one of our favorite restaurants, Las Margaritas, served a delish soup made with a white fish and shrimp. I asked Margarita for the recipe several times, but she wouldn’t share it. I want to believe that it was because she was one of those cooks who “just knows how” to cook something, and really didn’t have a recipe for it.

After we left Texas, I experimented for months, trying to reproduce that soup. This is as close as I can get without driving for three days.

Mexican Seafood Soup

Olive Oil
3-4 stalks of celery, coarsley chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 (or 3 if you dare) jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1 16 oz can diced tomatoes
3 carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
3 medium potatos, washed and cut in chunks
3 cubes Shrimp bouillon (Caldo con sabor de camaron) w/ 1 cup water
OR 16 oz seafood stock
6 cups water
2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 shakes of tabasco sauce
1 bunch fresh cilantro if desired
1 lb tilapia or other firm white fish, cut in bite size pieces
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1 lime

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven. Saute the celery, onion, garlic, and jalapenos until the onions are clear. Add tomatoes, cumin, basil, red pepper, tabasco, carrots, and potatoes. Put the bouillon cubes in 1 cup of water in a microwave safe container. Microwave for 4 minutes, until the water is boiling. Stir well to make sure the cubes are dissolved. Add to the dutch oven. If using the seafood stock instead, add it now. Add the rest of the water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down, cover the pot, and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the fish and shrimp, cover, and simmer another 10 minutes. Slice the avocado and squeeze lime juice over to prevent discoloration.

Ladle the soup into bowls, add a few slices of avocado, and a squeeze lime juice. Serve with corn or flour tortillas.

Or, just drive down to Pharr, Texas, walk into Las Margaritas, and order a bowl.