Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gran Bahia Principe: La Gran Tortuga and Ristorante Tequila

In my previous posts regarding our stay at Gran Bahia Principe in the Riviera Maya I covered the Sian Ka'an section of the resort and the Alux and Maiko restaurants.  I have also previously covered our stay at the Coba section of the resort in 2012, including dining at the buffets and drinking at the bars, dining at Le Gourmet, and dining at Don Pablo and Mikado. On this most recent trip we spent a fair amount of our dining time at the buffets, because the food at them is actually quite good and we get a good variety for two people who have very different tastes in food.

La Gran Tortuga

La Gran Tortuga is a one of the ala carte restaurants in the Tulum section of the resort and is therefore available to guests staying anywhere in the Gran Bahia Principe resort. Make reservations either at the customer service desk or via the Bahia app upon arrival at the resort.

The style is Brazilian BBQ and in a style similar to Fogo de Chao they will bring skewers of meat to the table for service. In order to tell the service staff whether or not you wish to have more brought to the table they have cards with green on one side and red on the other. Green means "bring me more" and red means "no more at this time". You can always flip the cards over one way or the other during the course of your meal.

Just like Fogo de Chao there is also a lovely buffet of appetizers and sides.  I'm rather partial to the fried plantains and yucca.  If you imbibe they will also bring you a delicious and refreshing caipirinha as a welcome drink.  You may order more if you like.

So how was the food?  Fantastic. The skewers of meat had some sides that were well done and others that were more medium or more rare. Specify what you want when they come the table.  The chicken, beef, and pork were all delicious.

Green means "more please", red means "none for now".

The restaurant is open air, however there was talk about adding air conditioning. 

Grilled veggies and a variety of sauces, including chimichuri, brought to the table.

Fantastic table service. 

Where the magic happens. 


I didn't cover the desserts because we really didn't have room for them. There are desserts, including chocolate truffles, on the buffet. We have always had a lovely experience at La Gran Tortuga and return there every time we visit Gran Bahia Principe.

Ristorante Tequila

I feel like I have to specify Tequila the ala carte restaurant versus tequila the drink.  For the purposes of this post I will be talking about the restaurant at the Gran Bahia Principe resort.  This one is also located in the Tulum section of the resort and any of the resort guests may dine here.  It's one that most travel agents specify as child friendly.  I believe this is because of the relaxed atmosphere and buffet featuring a wide variety of dishes that are approachable to a wide variety of palates.  Kids are sometimes difficult to please, so variety is a good thing. 

This restaurant is a hybrid sit-down restaurant and buffet.  Order your entree and soup from the menu and then go to the buffet for everything else.

This restaurant was open air. There was a wedding reception in there at the time we visited. 

The buffet included a large variety of Mexican foods, including desserts. Dolce de leche empanadas, anyone?

A selection of different ceviches. Ceviche is the local dish in the Riviera Maya. I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy fish. It's light and refreshing.

Tortilla soup doesn't really photograph well. The lime soup looked the same so I didn't include the photo.  Both were quite delicious and a nice start to the meal.
Chicken Yucatan was a chicken breast stuffed with veggies. I would have preferred more spice in the sauce, but this may be how this particular dish is supposed to taste. 
Mole (pronounced mole-ay) is the Lovely Spouse's favorite food and the mole at Tequila did not disappoint. It's a rich, savory sauce that, when properly made, takes several days to simmer and prepare. The sauce is made with chocolate, chilis, and a wide variety of other spices.  Every Mexican chef has their own version.
The food was very good for Mexican casual fare. I would definitely go back because it's nice to have Mexican food while in Mexico. However I still wish there was Mexican fine dining at the resort. We get Mexican fine dining in both San Antonio and in Austin and while it's not what people think of when they think of Mexican food, I believe most world travelers would enjoy the experience.

In case you were wondering, yes, you can get tequila at Tequila. They have a selection available. I personally prefer the sipping tequilas so I usually go for an anejo or extra anejo (those are tequilas that have been aged in wooden barrels).  They also had margaritas and other tequila-based drinks.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nutella Stuffed Pancakes

Normally Buzzfeed videos are entertaining but don't make me drool.  Today they posted a video showing how to make Nutella stuffed pancakes.  Oh Em Gee, this looks delicious.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ball Courts, Vultures, and Pyramid Climbing at the Coba Ruins in Mexico

The resort where we stay in Mexico is lovely, but it's also great to get out and see the other wonderful sites that Mexico has to offer. The hotel and various travel agents have all kinds of tours and trips available, but this time we thought we'd challenge our comfort zone just a wee tiny bit so we ventured to the ruins of Coba on our own.

Where the Colectivo drops you off in downtown Tulum. There's a taxi stand on the right and the ADO bus station on the left.
We did a bit of research before venturing out and decided to take the Colectivo from the hotel to Tulum and the ADO from Tulum to Coba. First we took the hotel trolley to the Hacienda. We then walked towards the highway to catch the Colectivo we were stopped by a taxi driver offering to take us to Coba himself for around 1400 pesos. That's about $93 with the current peso to dollar exchange rate. We declined then crossed the street to catch the Colectivo in front of the Gran Bahia Principe Sian Ka'an arch.

Colectivo (in the shop) and taxis in Tulum.
Colectivos are white and red vans that run a route along the main highway between Tulum and Cancun. They only accept pesos and are the cheapest, most consistent form of transportation in the region. The locals use them heavily.  To catch a Colectivo, stand or sit at one of the stops (most have small overhangs, like rural bus stops) on the side of the highway going the direction you want to go.  The driver will ask where you're going. Sit down and enjoy the ride. Pay the fare when you arrive at your stop and thank the driver for the ride. If you go South from Gran Bahia Principe, be aware the bus goes through Chemuyil, so it will make a slight course off the highway. No worries, because it will resume the course south. Be aware that Colectivo drivers will not accept any currency other than Mexican pesos. [It has been pointed out to me that some Colectivo drivers accept US dollars at a conversion rate of 1 to 10. Right now  you'll do far better paying with pesos.]

For 35 pesos, or about $2.33 US, we traveled to Tulum Puebla. Make sure to get off at the second Tulum Puebla stop. The first stop is on on the outskirts of town. The correct stop will be near the ADO bus station.  Unfortunately, when we arrived, we discovered that we missed the ADO bus by about 30 minutes.  Had we been able to catch the bus it would have been 66 pesos, or about $4.40 US) to go to Coba.  So we got some cash from the ATM at the bus station (best rates we saw in the region) and approached the taxi stand.  The rates are posted at the taxi stand, however we negotiated with our driver for a round trip.  For the round trip, with him waiting 2 hours for us at the ruins, we paid around 800 peso, or about $53 US. Insider tip: you get better rates with taxis if you pay in pesos versus dollars.  They do a 1 to 10 conversion for dollars and right now the exchange rate is about 15 to 1. Pay with pesos.

It takes about 45 minutes to get to Coba from Tulum. Along the way you get to see much of the every day life of the locals.

Entrance and where the restrooms are located.

Coba is a sizeable park. We ended up only see a small portion of it.
Once we arrived at Coba, admission to the archaeological park was $8 for non-Mexicans. As soon as you enter, you're approached by tour guides offering their services, as well as services for bikes and trolleys to the sites.  We had limited time and didn't feel it was enough for a tour guide and wanted to walk.  So we did.  The walk and sites were lovely.

Unlike other archaeological sites in Mexico, Coba has trees and shade.

We found some turkey vultures sunning themselves on one of the small pyramids. This one is the closest to the entrance.

There are two Mesoamerican ballcourts at Coba. The first is next to the pyramid shown above, near the entrance. The other is on the way to the large pyramid.

Only a small fraction of the site has been excavated. Much of the other ruins look like this.

I call this picture "Leg Day". Climbing the pyramid is a serious leg workout.

Climbing up. The Lovely Spouse counted 120 steps, ranging in height from 8 to 100 inches. 

This is called the "Diving God".

The view from the top. It appears the the Yucatan is enduring a drought. The jungle doesn't look nearly as green and lush as it should. 

Me at the top. I'm very sensitive to sun and thus cover up.

In the center of the photo is the first pyramid, that had the vultures on it.

The way down is somewhat scary. The rocks are slick from lots of feet traversing them over the years. 

Ice cold drinks at the base of the pyramid.
Mayan limos along the path to the pyramid.
After climbing the pyramid, we conceded that it was hot and time was limited so we hired "Mayan limo" as the cyclist called it and returned to the park's entrance.

The lake outside of the archaeological park. 
Then it was time to return to our taxi for the ride back to Tulum, and then the Colectivo back to the resort. In all our excursion took about half a day and was a lot of fun. If you go, look up the ADO times before leaving.