Between our regular dinners at the taco stand around the corner and the Italian place with $50 peso lasagnas, sometimes Jorge and I like to mix things up with a date night somewhere special. Last week we discovered a place that offered the perfect mix of charm, service and great food. I’d heard plenty of great things about La Habichuela Sunset and seen some beautiful pictures of it online, but it shames me to admit that I hadn’t been there yet.
Jorge’s birthday seemed like the perfect time to finally try it! After all, it’s impossible not to celebrate with this handsome guy.
We walked in, and it was stunning. The entrance is on the restaurant’s second floor, so you have this amazing view of the entire restaurant, staircase and 2-story windows toward the garden and lagoon.
Jorge and I wanted to see the Wednesday night Mayan show, so we requested a table in the garden. Magical.
I’m a sucker for twinkle lights and lagoon views.
Before the show, some of the performers went from table to table to do some face painting. This is the closest I will ever come to looking like a Mayan, by the way.
The Mayan show was pretty fun! The performers even came out into the audience, so it was easy to get caught up in the atmosphere.
As cool as the whole atmosphere was, we loved the food just as much! We got Yucatecan tamales to start… lobster, duck and shrimp! The lobster was my favorite.
Jorge’s main course was the chicken Veronica, and I had the amaranth fish filet (with tamarind and mango sauces… wow!). Both items were the top recommended dishes by our waiter German, and he sure knew what he was talking about!
And my favorite part… dessert! What a fun experience. German brought all the ingredients right to us and prepared tableside crepes for Jorge, which he was kind enough to share with me. I gave him half of my tiramisu in exchange, so it was all fair.
I’m always surprised that despite its Mayan history, the city of Cancun doesn’t have nearly as much Mayan/Yucatecan cuisine as you would expect. I’m so glad La Habichuela Sunset gives tourists and locals alike the chance to try an upscale version of local recipes. This restaurant is located in the Cancun Hotel Zone at Kilometer 12.6, almost across the boulevard from Plaza Kukulcan.
To see their full menu and find out more about the restaurant, visit the La Habichuela Sunset website or Facebook page.
Cancun is a pretty cool place to live. I could lie and downplay things and say, “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” And sometimes there are tough days… but then I get to go on a bachelorette party yacht cruise to an island and it hits me that life is pretty good here in paradise.
My friend Jessica is getting married soon. She lives in Puebla, but she often comes to Cancun or the Riviera Maya for vacations, and her bachelorette party was no exception. Jessica’s a fellow Mexico blogger (check her out at MexicanAtHeart.com) and she brought a bunch of her family to Cancun to celebrate her last days of “freedom”. A few of us Cancun bloggers/friends joined her and her family for a Saturday afternoon bachelorette party on board a beautiful yacht called the Sea Horse from Sunset Marina & Yacht Club. The clouds were looming overhead all day, but we didn’t get rained on once.
We even ran into a bachelor party group at the marina, so of course we had to take a group shot before we split into our separate boats!
And guess who else was there? Fellow Cancun bloggers like Kelly (CancunCanuck.com), Kristin (WhatAmIStillDoingInCancun.com) and Marhu (MarhuBlog), plus one of my favorite Cancun tweeters Rebecca @BeccaMex. Yes, we’re all friends and if you follow our Twitter feeds you’ll see we hang out quite a lot!
First the Sea Horse took us through the mangroves of Nichupte Lagoon, then out to the Caribbean Sea. We were heading to Isla Mujeres! Along the way, we played some bachelorette party games and of course took some pictures of the amazing scenery.
I freely admit to getting pretty excited when the yacht anchored at North Beach on Isla Mujeres. We all know about my North Beach obsession, but very rarely do I get to see it from a boat. (I think this was the 3rd time.) Some of us couldn’t resist a little swim in the Caribbean Sea, and everyone had fun just hanging out on the boat with snacks and drinks. Just… oh my gosh, heaven.
Above photo by Kelly McLaughlin @CancunCanuck
After a few hours playing on the yacht, it was time to head back to Cancun, where I just napped for the rest of the afternoon. What a day!
After a day like this, it was easy for me to see why so many people choose Cancun for bachelor parties, weddings, honeymoons and anniversaries. My city has so many unbelievable ways to celebrate a special event!
Big thanks to the Sunset Marina and Yacht Club in Cancun… Beautiful place, beautiful boats and a beautiful event, as always!
In a few months, I’ll be the mother of a child who is part Mayan.
How cool is that?
This civilization that I learned about throughout my childhood history classes will soon be the ancestry of my very own son or daughter. Maybe my kid’s ancestors helped build the pyramid at Chichen Itza. Maybe they traded with the city of Tulum. Maybe they carved the statues at Ek Balam. Maybe they lived their lives in small villages in the jungles of Yucatan.
Everyone I know in Cancun is fascinated by ancient Mayan culture, locals and expats alike. We go on day trips to visit the massive ruins and post selfies from the tops of Mayan pyramids. We watch colorful Mayan shows at Xcaret or at our resort. We take pictures with the guys in the huge Mayan headdresses on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen.
So if we love Mayans so much… why do we hate Mayans so much?
During my years in Cancun, I’ve heard the phrase pinche mayita thrown around quite a bit. I guess it would translate to something along the lines of “little f***ing Mayan”. Sometimes people will just say mayita (“little Mayan”), which sounds like it might be nicer, but it never is. The term is typically used as an insult, or to refer to somebody who might be in a lower social class, or just based on their appearance. (The Mayan people tend to be shorter and have darker skin.) The phrase always rubbed me the wrong way, but even more so when I started dating a guy of Mayan heritage then married into his lovely Mayan heritage family.
Over the past few generations, the Mayan people of the Yucatan region have even stopped speaking the Mayan language. My husband’s grandparents speak fluent Mayan, although I’ve only ever heard them speak Spanish. My husband’s parents speak some conversational Mayan and occasionally teach me little phrases, but I never hear them use these phrases in actual conversation. My husband speaks no Mayan, except for a few curse words that his uncles and friends taught him. When I asked why their native language was never passed down, I was told it’s because people are now embarrassed to speak it.
I hope this next generation of Mayans can overcome the pinche mayita mentality and realize just how important and amazing they are… including my kid.
By now it’s no secret that Jorge and I loooooove Isla Mujeres for a beach day! It’s so close to Cancun, the ferry ride is gorgeous, and the waters at North Beach are super calm for wave-haters like us.
So of course, we couldn’t start 2015 without a day on the island. Unfortunately, the day was very, very windy and even the pool-like water at North Beach had waves! We were disappointed at the rough-ish water, but that didn’t stop us from chilling on the beach all afternoon.
Not much new to say here, but I had to show you guys our pics from this weekend. From the Ultramar ferry to North Beach, Hidalgo Street and the Malecon.
I’ve lived in Cancun for almost 10 years now, but through all that time, the USA was always still “home” to me. I anxiously awaited every trip back to the States, and I closely followed the news back home.
This year, things changed.
Jorge and I just spent 2 weeks in the States (Christmas with my sisters, and New Years in Orlando). We had such an amazing time, but it seemed strange when I realized that I was anxious to get back to Cancun. When we arrived back in Cancun, I stepped outside the airport and smiled as the hot, humid air filled my nose while I pulled my suitcase through the parking lot. I was home. Cancun was home.
Throughout 2014, I also stopped reading news stories from the USA. Something inside me said, “These social problems aren’t your problems now. You don’t live in the USA. You haven’t lived in the USA since 2005. You need to focus on Mexico, now.”
Maybe it’s because my parents moved to South America this year. Maybe it’s because we’re having a kid that will grow up here and have Mexican heritage. Maybe I’ve finally just been here long enough to let go of another life. But I’m happy. I love Cancun.
This must just be another stage of expat life.
And now… Bonus pictures! Thanks for reading. Here are a few of our Orlando photos… it was so weird being a tourist! We’re used to being the cool locals, so making the transition to nerdy tourist was tough.
Jorge and I wanted a special way to tell his family about the baby, especially because it will be the first grandchild for his parents and the first niece or nephew for his brothers. My wonderful mother-in-law has been throwing out not-so-subtle hints for years that she would love grandchildren sooner rather than later. I think she was surprised to find out we weren’t planning on having kids right when we got married 4 years ago!
Since we were announcing a few weeks before Christmas, I came up with the idea to make some personalized ornaments as an “early Christmas gift”. We NEVER give out Christmas gifts so early, and honestly I was really, really surprised that they weren’t even a little bit suspicious.
I won’t go into too many details. Instead, here’s the video!
Note: The “tia” ornament was for my brother-in-law’s girlfriend, who had to work that night.
My side of the family is equally excited, but since we’re spread out between 3 different countries, it’s hard to organize a big surprise!
So whenever I have an announcement to make, people always assume it’s a pregnancy announcement. That’s just one of the side effects of being a 20-something female!
But this time… it’s true!
Jorge’s a big gamer, so we made this for our Facebook announcement:
I’m 3 months along with Baby Mendez, and Jorge and I are both very excited! I’ll be keeping you guys posted here and/or on my Facebook page.
My first clue was 9 years ago at university here in Cancun.
In 1st semester, my Mexican classmates would frequently ask me, “Laura, where are your earrings?” “Laura, why didn’t you do your hair today?” “Laura, why do you have huge bags under your eyes?” So for the past 9 years, I have made sure to never leave the house without earrings and concealer. The comments have almost entirely disappeared. (I still don’t “do” my hair, though, because I’m not sure what that means. Now that it’s super-long, nobody says anything, so I think I’m ok.)
On Saturday, Jorge and I went to a wedding. I put on a pretty dress, strapped on some nice sandals and covered my face in exorbitant quantities of makeup. This time, I was determined to get it right.
And yet, once we were at the reception, I looked around me and saw scores of Mexican women with beautifully crafted makeup designs. We were surrounded on all sides by immaculately blended smoky eyes, perfectly glossed lips and expertly placed lashes, all complemented by skin-tight cocktail dresses, push-up bras and sky-high heels. These women are good. My makeup looked bland and colorless by comparison. So what is a girl to do? I rushed to the ladies room, where I had to wait for two tween girls to take some selfies before I achieved mirror access, then I put on as much eyeliner as my eyes could handle. Better. But still not enough. Eyeliner was all I had in my arsenal, so it would have to do for now. I swore that for the next big social event, I would attempt a smoky eye.
Today, it’s happening all over again. The internet at my house is down, so I had to rush to Starbucks this morning to start work at 9am. I barely had time to wash my hair before I left the house, but I did manage to shower and miraculously iron my shirt. So here I am right now, sitting at Starbucks, with a naked face and damp, tangled hair. This Starbucks, however, is a fancy Starbucks. The people who come here are Cancun’s elite… or at least, they pretend to be. The women here have perfectly straightened hair and brightly colored wardrobes that look anything but effortless, or sometimes expensive workout gear paired with a full face of makeup so they can look spectacular during a session at the nearby gym. When the men walk past my table in their tightly-fitting button-up shirts and overly gelled hair, overpowering scents of Lacoste and D&G reach my nostrils for a brief instant. My ears are filled with the sounds of the baristas preparing Pumpkin Spice Lattes, the giggles of 30-something Mexican trophy wives, and the over-enunciations of Mexican businessmen trying to impress their colleagues. It’s a fashion show, and I showed up unprepared.
And surprise, surprise… once again, I’m the only female in the room with no earrings.
Arriving at social gatherings in Mexico is a true art form. For Mexicans, it comes naturally. They know exactly when to show up for parties, coffee dates, dinners, etc without offending anyone or being offended by others.
For expats, we need a few years of careful cultural study before we finally stop checking our watches in annoyance every time we plan a meetup at Sanborns. When an American says a party starts at 7pm, you can be sure that all guests will be there at 7pm (and leaving at 9pm haha). In Mexico, parties start whenever and end some time before everyone has to go to work the next morning.
Hopefully I can help you jump ahead in your quest to being on time in Mexico by laying out what I’ve learned as an American in Mexico over the past 9 years.
So you’re in Mexico, and you’ve agreed to meet someone for coffee, or maybe a late dinner. If you made these plans more than one day in advance, I’m sorry to tell you that your plans do not exist. It’s useful to check ahead to make sure the other person doesn’t already have plans for that time, but your plans aren’t official until you call or text them the day of the meeting to confirm. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Tell the person you would like to meet up with them the following day. Mention the general time (morning, lunch, dinner, night, etc), but don’t bother with an actual time just yet.
Step 2: The morning of said meeting, text or call the person with something along the lines of, “Good morning! Can you still meet me today? Does 8pm at Sanborns sound good?”
Step 3: Now we’re getting into expert level. This is my secret to saving yourself a lot of headache… Text the person 30 minutes before the scheduled time with something like, “Getting ready now! See you in half an hour. Can’t wait!” This will help ensure they don’t forget or back out. It also gives them an opening to let you know if they will be late.
Step 4: Arrive 10 minutes later than whatever time they plan to arrive. It’s ok because they will be 15 minutes late.
Step 5: If for some reason you arrive after the other person, even if it’s 30 seconds after, you have to give a lame excuse. You can just quickly say, “Sorry, traffic was bad” or whatever you want, but you have to give some reason. Otherwise it would be awkward. I don’t know why. It’s just what you do.
2. Small groups of friends
The lead-up to plans with groups of 3 – 10 friends is the same as with a one-on-one. (Confirm the day of, etc.) However, things get a little tricky because the time is likely to be pushed back further and further the closer you get. With modern technology, I recommend a text chat group with this group of friends so you can get a play-by-play. Be ready to leave your house at the set time. If you planned to meet somewhere at 8pm, that’s the time you should be putting your shoes on to leave. BUT… don’t actually leave your house until you get a text from someone saying, “Ok I’m here. Where are you guys?” This way, you won’t be the first to arrive, but you won’t be the last, either.
3. House parties
If you show up within 30 minutes of a Mexican party’s scheduled start time, congratulations: you have just earned a spot on the planning committee. If you’re a family member of the host, you’ll be asked to run to Walmart to pick up soda, paper plates and tortilla chips. If you’re not a family member, you will have to help set up chairs and tables, then sit around in awkward silence waiting for everyone else to arrive. I try to arrive 1 hour after the scheduled time. That way you’re not the first person to arrive, but you’ve still made it in time to score the best taco ingredients and see the piñata. If you have close friends or family attending the same party, you can always call or text them to see when they plan on being there.
- While Mexicans are rarely on time for social events, they always try to be on time for business meetings, interviews, class, doctor’s appointments, exams and movies.
- Never, ever make plans with a Mexican on a Sunday. Sunday in Mexico is strictly family day, and unless they’re inviting you to their cousin’s birthday party or their nephew’s baptism party, there’s no way they’re going to make time for you.
- The Mamá Factor: Even if you follow all the proper steps, keep in mind that a Mexican may still cancel on you at any time if their mom calls and asks them for something. (I’ve had friends cancel on me at the last minute to go to the grocery store with their mom… more than once.)
In summer 2005, I left my family and friends behind. At age 19 I had moved to Cancun, a place where I didn’t know anybody. My first memory of the city is riding in a van from the airport to the downtown bus station. The van passed through the entire length of the Cancun Hotel Zone, stopping to let off other passengers along the way. The city had me hooked immediately. From that first van ride from the airport, I was mesmerized by the glittering lights of the huge beach hotels. This was where I belonged.
This week, 9 years of exploring, writing and learning have culminated in something pretty cool: one of the biggest travel publications in the world has named me a Cancun expert.
I’m thrilled to announce that I’m the Travel + Leisure Cancun Local Expert!
It’s every travel writer’s dream to write for a huge publication like Travel + Leisure, and I’m beyond happy to be working with them. I’ll be sharing my Travel + Leisure articles periodically on the Gringation Blog Facebook page so you can see even more of this city that I love so much.
They also have an extensive list of other great travel experts in different cities across the globe, which you can see here. I’m in good company.
From confused teenage American in 2005… to top Cancun travel expert in 2014!
Thanks to my parents for going along with my crazy move to Mexico, to Jorge for always being there to convince me I’m superwoman, to my boss Michele Kinnon at BuyPlaya Real Estate for recommending me to Travel + Leisure, and to all of my Mexican friends who have showed me what this culture is all about over the past decade.