My trip got off to a little bit of a rough start when I got a some kind of bug or food poisoning or something the night before my 6:30AM flight. A 24-hour bug had been making the rounds through my family, so I am assuming that is what it was, but thank god it didn't last a full 24 hours. It stared around 7PM and cleared after about 5-6 hours. The thing that sucked was that I wasn't completely done packing, so I had to finish pulling myself together between vomiting my guts up. It was not pretty. But, by 6:30 the next morning I was on my way to the airport, feeling a little wobbly, but with the worst of it behind me.
I flew into Cancun airport where I received a 180 day tourist Visa, even though I didn't have my return flight booked. The customs agent gave me a little bit of a hard time about that, but I just told her that I would be backbacking around and then flying home from Belize and she finally let me through. Phew! From there I took a bus directly to Playa del Carmen where I was to meet GVI, Global Vision International, who would be hosting me for my internship/volunteership. But first, I had 3 days to spend around Playa.
I stayed in a little hotel, several blocks from the very touristy 5th Ave, called Hotel Casa de las Flores. It was gorgeous and authentic, and the shower was heaven, which is exactly what I wanted before I went to a place with no running water.
Staying off of 5th Ave, I explored around the city, and to tell you the truth, I don't have much to say about Playa. I mean, it's an okay city, but nowhere I would want to stay for any length of time.
I did however find a few awesome local eats that you should definitely check out if you are ever in Playa del Carmen. One is a killer pizza spot called L'Osteria di Playa. I know, it sounds strange to be touting a pizza restaurant in Mexico, but this place had some of the best pizza I've ever had, and is very inexpensive. I actually never would have gone there, except I was walking by and this fat, tan Canadian guy flagged me down and insisted I try it. My thoughts: why the heck not. This guy looks like he knows good food. So, on my first night I enjoyed an amazing pizza and a couple of beers with my new Canadian expat friend, and it was definitely worth it. The next place is a Venezuelan restaurant called Kaxapa Factory, that you would probably pass right by if you happened to walk past it at all. The empanadas were incredible at this place, and so were the kaxapas, which are basically empanadas with a sweet corn breading shell. The drinks were also awesome and the server was really friendly. The woman who owns the place serves the tables and she took the time to explain the whole menu to me. I went back to the place a few times during my time in Mexico, and even after a few weeks away, the woman still remembered me. There is also a German restaurant called Manne's Biergarten, run by expats that has really great food, but the best part is the beer garden in the back, and the giant mojitos for only 70 pesos, or $4 dollars. And next to that a hole-in-the-wall Falafel place with excellent food as well.
I know what you're thinking....Kristen, you are in Mexico, what about the Mexican food! Well, there was a bit of that too, like a place where I was served an entire roasted chicken, rice and about 20 tortias for about $3, but the best Mexican food I ate was definitely not from Playa. Playa is not really authentic Mexico at its finest. It's more of a party town, filled with expats and Mexicans all trying to make a buck off of the gullible tourists. Fine for a few days, but I was very happy to be moving on. I did return a few times over my 5 month stay, but I;ll get to that later.
Well that's it for now, but I'll definitely be updating you with many many more stories soon!