Good Morning Playa del Carmen!

On our first morning in Mexico we were up with the birds to watch the sunrise over the Caribbean sea thanks to our still-confused body clocks. It was an auspicious start to our new adventure, and a wonderful way to welcome the day.

With a few other early birds we waited for the orange ball of light to emerge from the silvery grey horizon.

 

At the exclusive beach-front resorts, men in crisp white uniforms prepared tables with freshly laundered linens and shining glassware, stopping their duties to snap photos of the day break with their phones. We weren’t the only ones who thought it was pretty special.

But we weren’t having half as much fun as the pampered chihuahua in the pink dress who skittered around the pier in an excited frenzy.

Oh to have that much energy so early in the morning!

The previous evening we collapsed into bed at our hotel, expecting to sleep through to the alarm, our bellies full of delicious Mexican food.

For although we had only just arrived in Playa del Carmen that afternoon, we managed to find (and I’m not-so-quietly chuffed about this) The Best Tacos in town.

She’s jumping the gun a little, you may be thinking considering I’d been in the country a mere four hours before making that bold statement. But sometimes things are just meant to be, sometimes you just know when you’ve found the one, and I now know that love at first bite truly does exist.

The food gods directed us to calle (street) 38, and into the culinary embrace of the aptly named Exquisita de la 38. It’s a good thing the menu was small as it was in Spanish, the lovely owner kindly translating it to us in tantalizing detail.

He had me at hola.

His colourful descriptions like “the chillies are burnt until they are black,” were delivered with expectant eyes to see that we understood and an obvious passion for the food of the local region he tried to educate us about.

We tried the two specialties of the day along with some tacos, and the flavours were welcomingly unfamiliar. The mole, a paste of meat and spices was served inside a sweet bun, or conchas, a subtle flavour of cocoa permeating the savoury filling.

The sopecitas layered with beans, chorizo and potato, finished with pickled red onions, coriander and lime were beyond good.

And the tacos that looked so simple compared to the layered concoctions we make at home were unbelievably flavoursome, the tortillas soft and earthy.

THE taco.

Sopecitas. Isn’t that a great word? Sopecitas, sopecitas…

It’s hard to look good eating a taco…

“Oh my god,” was all I kept saying through mouthfuls of deliciousness, unable to believe our luck at stumbling upon a gem of an eatery away from the main drag on our first night.

I nearly choked on my hibiscus-infused agua when the bill arrived, weighing in at about $10 for the lot.

Needless to say, we were back the next night. When you’re on to a good thing…

I think I was just glad to find such a wonderful, authentic eatery amongst the tourist restaurants of PDC. When we first arrived in the searing heat of early afternoon and had to run the gauntlet of shops, bars and restaurants of 5th Avenue (the busy commercial strip), I was a little worried.

Playa is certainly no unassuming coastal village, it’s an ostentatious beach resort. Beautiful young things in not-very-much decorate sun lounges at the many chic beach clubs along the coast. Chill-house beats drift from stylish bars, through the billowing fabric canopies of large white day beds.

Along 5th Avenue, the paved pedestrian walking street, stores selling everything from sombreros to tequila to Viagra and everything in between compete for the international tourist dollar with icy air conditioning and calls of “Hola amigo!”

But thankfully there is also a beauty here. Playa is a real, living, breathing town. Blue and white taxis deliver short, stout ladies to and from the Mercado. Away from the beach, it’s business as usual for the local shops and restaurants who seem oblivious to the glamorous water-front establishments just metres down the road.

We have rented a lovely little studio in a great location, close to the beach and town but far enough away from the touts (and just a few blocks from our new favourite restaurant). We are adjusting to the summer heat with early morning swims in the ocean and lazy afternoon siestas under the whirring fan.

Tyrhone joined the gym and I’ve started researching Spanish classes and diving courses (though I’m baulking at the cost!).

I think I might get used to life here for the next couple of months, but it’s going to be tough…

Someone’s gotta do it…

I began my taco research today to substantiate my earlier claims. The pockets of spicy goodness served by the vendors along the main pier were also really good. But not as good as Exquisitas.

Sigh. The research continues…

If at the end of these three months I can’t speak Spanish or submerge myself in depths of water greater than a metre without feeling like my head is going to explode, then at least I’ll have a pretty solid taco thesis to show for my time.

And that I can do.

I can also peer out from behind cactuses.

 

Comments

Good Morning Playa del Carmen! — 21 Comments

  1. We were pretty lucky living in Nashville as there was a rather large Mexican population there so we got to indulge in authentic tacos… and indulge we did! The ones you had look wonderful, and it’s always nice when the service and ambiance backs up the food! Although the food in Japan was great, there were a few days when taco craving struck us hard… alas, at $20 a plate for 2 tacos, it wasn’t something we could indulge! :)

    Looks like you are settling in well and having a wonderful time! Can’t wait to hear about more of your adventures, perhaps en español?

    • Ha! I think I’m a long way off that Steph! Yes, I think the Mexican food in the states is definitely better than the fare in Australia – all sour cream, cheese and salsa! Very different from the refined flavours here… We’re pretty lucky with the variety of cuisines here, no chance of getting sick of anything, we even have sushi!

  2. HI Sarah. glad to know that you that you made it Play del Carmen safe and sound! Keith and I are jealous about the excellent taco joint you found. WE hope to track it someday. After following you in Asia, it feels strange seeing you in Latin America! But we’ll get use to to it and we’re so excited for you both! Have a safe and wonderful travels.

    • Ha! I know I was just looking back at some posts, and it definitely seems like one minute China, next minute Mexico! I’ll definitely be up for some slower travel next year, this year I’m a bit like a kid in a candy store, to excited to slow down!!! Thank you Marisol, hope you are both well xx

  3. I am not too sure how to put this, so I will keep it simple…. ENVIOUS is the only word that comes to mind :) It looks awesome and I can’t wait to read more about your Mexican adventures :) Stay safe and eat more tacos xo

  4. I’m hungry now. That looks amazing. I hope you find a good Spanish class. If you keep working on finding the local spots around town and take your Spanish class, you’ll have a great working knowledge of the language by the end of your trip, I have no doubt. Now if only I can find a few hundred bucks to come visit while you’re there… hmm….

    • Oh you would have loved it. Unfortunately we strayed onto the main strip last night in a moment of insanity and had HORRIBLE, tasteless tacos, so NEVER AGAIN! I really want to take a class but it’s so expensive! Oh, and I bought what I thought was an English-Spanish dictionary today which was just an English one!!! Stoopid. We’ll be here two months at least, come on down!!!

  5. Make sure you get to Aguachiles, you can thank me for it later. All the locals know it just ask around.

    Also if you want a great taco stand where you’ll only see locals, ask for the Red Cross, it’s out front and there’s a line. Get the chiles rellenos.

  6. Hi Honey sounds amazing. wow those tacos look good. we always thought our tacos were pretty good but to have the real thing is so much better.

  7. Yeay – I Looove PDC! So gorgeous there, and what an amazing place to stay for a few months…. We took our diving courses there as well – no wetsuit needed :) Actually we took the ferry over to Cozumel to do them, there are LOTS of dive shops on the island, if you look around you can find a decent price too…

    • Hey thanks Dana, would love to do it on Cozumel! We haven’t been yet, but I hear the snorkelling/ diving is great! Still hunting around for a good deal, for two people it certainly takes a chunk out of the budget, but totally worth it I would imagine :)

  8. Those sopecitas looks incredible! (Going to remember that word). I have so many great memories of Playa del Carmen, particularly the food. I remember exploring the backstreets and finding a cute little restaurant with the best griled octopus I’ve ever had in my life.

    Another perk of Playa del Carmen- Isla Mujeres is so close!