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Category: travel (page 1 of 15)

Staying in Playacar

obligatory summer toes and pool

Okay, I’ve finally figured out how to break down the rest of these posts from our two week trip to Playa del Carmen. I’ve already covered the resort. This post will be about staying in Playacar hanging out in our condo. Then future posts will cover being out and about. So pics of the condo, food we made and ate there and crappy pics of some of the wildlife.

This part of the trip was kind of a working vacation. We specifically rented a spot that had decent internet. And a pool. Because pool breaks are the best. Oh, and a kitchen so we could cook. We paid a little more for amenities, but then spent less eating out.

playacar condoOne of the banana plants in the backyard.

playacar condo

No, really, bananas and everything.

a condo, staying in playacar

getting work done

pool break

working from the porch

Sunday after we got checked in, we headed to the grocery store. One down side to this space is that there was salt and a carton of orange juice left for us. Usually you can expect some spices, condiments, etc. But no. So we were starting from ground zero.

Sadly, the health food store was closed, so we went to Mega, which is basically Mexico’s Wal-Mart. There’s an actual Wal-Mart, but fuck that. I’m not encouraging that shit.

This first grocery trip, I was mostly concerned with making some staples. Pinto beans, rice, tortillas, avocados, onions, garlic, green vegetables. Oh, and coffee. Non-dairy milk. Tortilla chips. Cereal. Bananas! It was a bitch carrying all this stuff back.

When we got back, I cooked up the whole 1kg bag of pinto beans. First a quick soak, and then simmered them with onions, garlic and dried peppers. These beans lasted the rest of our stay.

pot of vegan pinto beans

Rice I cooked about half a pound at a time and didn’t do anything fancy with it. Just salt to season it.

Oh, let me tell you about the avocados there. The Haas avocados were at least twice the size of ours and they lasted so long! You know how avocados turn brown pretty much the second you put a knife to them here? They lasted days there before a hint of brown. I think most of the produce is grown in the region. So they’re probably just much fresher.

While this place had an awesome kitchen set up, there was no oven. Not a problem, but I kind of wanted cake. Given the circumstances, I didn’t want to buy all the ingredients to make it from scratch. So we got some accidentally vegan cake mix and frosting. But wait, there’s no oven! No oven, no problem! Mug cakes. Combine 2 tablespoons of cake mix with 3 tablespoons of water in a mug, microwave for 1 minute. Slap some frosting on it. Mug cake.

vegan microwave mug cake

Can’t forget breakfast! We mostly had cereal with an occasional peanut butter and banana pizza.

vegan cereal for breakfast

vegan peanut butter and banana pizza

Another day Kevin ended up walking up to the health food store on his own and brought back tofu, vegan  wheat gluten and vegan ham slices. We fried up the wheat gluten in a pan with some onions. It was, okay. A little bit rubbery. I had the same feeling about the ham. It really wanted to be slapped between two slices of white bread with some yellow mustard.

seasoned wheat gluten in mexico

frying up wheat gluten in a pan

The tofu was made a little differently than what we’re used to here. They used citric acid as the congealer, so it had a slight tartness to it. Which was fine, but it’s not the 100% blank canvas of the tofu we’re used to. The texture is also different. More crumbly. It made a fine tofu scramble though. And I’d packed nutritional yeast and black salt, because, vegan.

seasoned tofu in mexico

seasoned tofu in mexico

seasoned tofu in mexico

vegan tofu scramble mexican style

Another convenience food that came in handy was aseptic containers of molé sauce. You can actually find them here at grocery stores with a large Latin American section. So one of our meals was mashed potato enchiladas with molé sauce.

vegan potato enchiladas mole

And then, here are more food pics. We pretty much at the same things just in different configurations.

vegan mexican food bowl

tortilla chips and salsa

inside my vegan burrito

One day the woman minding the property brought a coconut into the backyard. She busted it open and we drank the fresh coconut water. Then she and Kevin peeled out the meat and she gave it to us. I ate that fresh coconut meat like it was candy. So good!

fresh coconut water

Our place backed up to the jungle which ran along a golf course. So we got to see an assortment of animals. And I didn’t get good pictures of any of them.

The coati are reddish animals with pointy faces and masks. They also have a ringed tail. They’re basically raccoons, but not as destructive, at least here.  They would dig in the jungle floor for tasty treats. One time they had three baby ones with them. So cute!

Another animal that we saw last year too is the agouti. Last year someone in our group nicknamed them “scrabbits” because they look like a cross between a squirrel and a rabbit. But more the size of a big rabbit. There was a shy one that would come through the back yard from time to time.

A few times we saw some red deer. We saw both a male and a female at separate times. And apparently there’s a baby too, but we didn’t see it.

There were several different kinds of lizards. Iguanas, a bearded dragon looking thing and then some little geckos. The geckos were inside the house. And they make this noise that sounds like someone rapping on glass with a ring, which was terrifying the first night. There were 2 or 3 in the house the entire time we were there. This little guy lost his tail somewhere.

lizard lost his tail

Oh, one night we were watching tv with the sliding glass door open and a fruit bat joined us. Luckily he decided to go back out without too much coaxing. I do wish I had video of him flying around the house.

And one day there was a turtle in the yard. It just looked like a slider, so it probably used to be someone’s pet.

There were a few pretty birds and then some plain chacalacas that I took to calling jungle chickens. And here is their blurry picture.

common chacalacas

So that’s about it from the condo. Staying in Playacar is really quiet and relaxing. Definitely a different experience than staying in town off the main drag. As you can see, getting vegan food to cook was not a problem. The final post about this trip will be about eating out and our flash flood experience. Hopefully I’ll manage to get it posted before we visit Mexico again.

Paradisus Playa del Carmen, Day 3

See Day 1 & Day 2

Normally we’d use this free day to go diving, but our attempts at arrangements failed. We did end up diving on Monday though.

I completely failed to get a picture of breakfast from the buffet at Paradisus this trip. Breakfast usually ends up being one of the easiest and most satisfying meals. There’s always lots of fresh fruit, cereals, bread, and peanut butter. There was a smoothie station, but I just stuck with the fresh green juice they had. There wasn’t any out, but the server brought us soy milk for our coffee and cereal.This is usually how it works at resorts and on cruise ships.

daiquiri on the beach

beach playa del carmen

We spent the morning at the beach and the afternoon at the pool. I may have had this daiquiri before noon. Sue me. In between, we grabbed a light lunch from the buffet. As I’ve probably said before, the buffets are often your best bet.

vegan salad guacamole chips

We had dinner with the company the last night. We were greeted with trays of margaritas. I had a standard one or two but then the guy somehow pawned off this electric green one on me. It was green apple, I think. It was too sweet but I drank it anyway.

electric green margarita

Like the first night, we went up to the buffet to get salad. They had jicama this time, yay! Also, Guacamole. Every. Meal.

vegan salad, jicama, guacamole

And then they brought us a “special” vegan main dish. A vegetable lasagna. It was .. okay. It’s just disappointing when you know they have a nice array of ingredients to choose from and yet they choose a pretty boring dish to make.

vegan lasagna

In general, I’m just glad there was enough food we could eat. But these resorts aren’t cheap. A quick search of the resort’s site quoted me $340/night. Who knows how much Kevin’s company is paying. Unless we were both heavy drinkers, it just isn’t worth that much for us to ever consider staying at one of these resorts on our own dime. Especially when you see in upcoming posts what we got for less than a third of that.

Anyway, the bottom line is that as a vegan if your company takes you to one of these resorts, you will be fine, but the vegan food is generally not at the same level as what they serve everyone else.

 

 

Vegan Meal at Molé at Paradisus Playa del Carmen

Near the main lobby and all the bars, there are pools filled with Koi and turtles. Little Koi and huge Koi. Apparently they get fed a lot of scraps by guests. If you stood on the edge the water would roil with them. I’m not pro keeping fish, but I did enjoy their antics.

koi fish

koi fish

The second day at Paradisus, we had a breakfast “meeting” then the group activity. It was a crazy long day. We took a bus ride for about 45 minutes. We were outfitted with snorkels and masks and then we headed to Akumal Beach where we got to snorkel with big ol’ sea turtles and rays. It’s a protected area for the turtles. The people are roped into an area, but the turtles are free to come and go. So there’s no danger of them being harassed; they can just leave.

We went back the jungle area, changed clothes, and ate lunch. Sadly, the beans weren’t vegan so we ate tortillas and guacamole with some steamed vegetables. Not too bad.

Then we climbed up a huge, rickety tower and repelled off the side of it. You know who went first? The ladies. The first four down were all women. Yeah.  After that we climbed more rickety towers and zip-lined around. It was my first time repelling or zip lining. Honestly climbing the tower is the worst part.

After that we cooled off in a cenote, a fresh water river under ground in a cave. The cave was full of bats. I love bats. The tour we took last year was a much longer tour of a cenote. We wore wet suits then. We did not have on wet suits this time and it was cold! But refreshing after the day’s activities.

Oh yeah, no pictures of all this. But the company got pictures from the tour company, so maybe I’ll get my mitts on those at some point.

One of the reasons why people book resorts like Paradisus, other than the all-you-can-drink plan, is the food. The resorts usually have an assortment of specialty restaurants serving all kinds of different fare. If you’re lucky, one of them might actually have the cuisine of the country you are in.

Eating at Molé

Friday evening, after all the activities, the company people split up into groups and had reservations at the various restaurants. Our group went to Molé, which specialized in contemporary Mexican cuisine. Woohoo! This was the only time we went to one of these restaurants this trip, but they went out of their way to take care of the vegans.

In addition to guacamole, that was prepared at the table, the kitchen sent out this off-menu appetizer for us. It was beans and maybe a squash pureé on tortillas, I think. It was tasty whatever it was.

vegan appetizer at mole paradisus

guacamole at mole paradisus

Oh, and margaritas. Cucumber margaritas.

cucumber margarita

Next, this gorgeous salad with an agave dressing.

vegan salad at mole paradisus

Our main dish was black bean enchiladas. Sadly, the molé contained chicken stock so they substituted this red sauce. It was delicious, but I’d hoped to have an authentic molé. That’s okay, I got it later after leaving the resort.

vegan enchiladas

Before dessert, I think, we got a little dry ice show. It was pretty dramatic.

dry ice show

dry ice show

At first, our server thought that mango sorbet would be our only vegan dessert option. But the chef whipped up something for us so we got two desserts! It was a sweet nut mixture wrapped in phyllo dough. Pretty much a Mexican baklava. And it was awesome.

mango sorbet

vegan phyllo dessert

The vegan meal at Molé was the best we’ve had at a resort, so I highly recommend it. Even though that’s a pretty low bar to clear.

And thus ends day two. For me at least. Kevin went back out to hang out with work people and a bunch of crazy shit went down. Because alcohol. But you’ll have to ask him about that.

Vegan at Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla, Day 1

soy vegano - i am vegan

Kevin got to go on the company club trip again this year, which means I got to go, which is pretty cool. They decided to go back to Playa del Carmen this year, but booked a different resort, Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla. There are actually two sides to this resort and La Perla is the adults only side. Thankfully.

Last year when we went, I made a few posts about vegan food in Playa del Carmen. This year’s visit will also generate a few posts. Especially since we were there for two weeks. Let’s get back to the resort though.

At check-in, we got these nifty cards to show wait staff. “I am vegan.” And I will say that unlike last year, the staff generally seemed to understand what that meant. So that was awesome!

paradisus playa del carmen la perla room

Since I’m really terrible at getting good pictures of the room, I just took one. There you go. It’s huge and ridiculous with a sitting area, a tub you could host a party in and a two-sided shower that’s about the size of my current whole bathroom. If you want pretty pics, check out their site.

After we got checked in, we got on our bathing suits and headed to the little grill next to the pool. Or, a pool. The one nearest our room. The pickings were a little slim on the menu but we weren’t starving so we were okay with chips and guac, fries and fruit. The fruit was super fresh and tasted amazing. I hadn’t had it served with lime and chili powder since I visited Mexico back in 2006 and had forgotten how amazing that is. I recall it being standard on the breakfast menu at the Mexican hotels we stayed in that trip.

french fries

fresh fruit with lime and chili powder

vegan chips and guacamole

The next big decision was what was going to be my drink this trip. The resort is all-inclusive as they are pretty much every year, so that’s a situation I like to take advantage of, just not to the point of illness or verbal diarrhea. So I started with a gin and tonic. It went down okay, but I switched to frozen lime daiquiris. I can make a gin and tonic at home, but I’m way too lazy to make a frozen daiquiri.

gin and tonic

After spending all afternoon at the pool, it was time to go get dressed for the opening reception. The theme was blue. Everybody wear blue. Blue isn’t a color I generally wear, so I found the cheapest thing I could at Old Navy that looked reasonable, a dress for about $12. Score! To be extra ridiculous, Kevin raided their promotional items for a racing shirt with the company logo on it. There’s a picture. If I get a digital copy, I’ll add it to this post.

The company dinners are usually buffet style. We eat salads from the buffet and then they bring us a vegan main dish. Here’s what we ended up with the first night.

The salad assortment. The dressing was really nice for the green salad, a hibiscus vinaigrette, I think.

vegan salads and bread

And this is a vegan ratatouille, I think. I’m not a big fan of eggplant, so this was pretty meh for me. It tasted fine, I just hate when you come to another country and you get some random dish like this. But that seems to be a running theme in these resorts.

vegan ratatouille

Oh dang, the drink of the night was some blue drank. I have no idea what was in it, but I drank a couple. Sadly, no picture.

Thus ends day 1. I got sun burned a little. And didn’t get drunk. So it was a good day. I’m probably going to post day by day at the resort and then maybe two more posts. That should be plenty.

 

 

Eating Vegan on the Road: 500 Miles Atlanta <--> Central Virginia

Sometimes when we travel, it’s more about the food than the trip. Asheville, I’m looking at you. But sometimes we need to travel somewhere for other reasons, usually involving relatives or maybe work.

Eating vegan on the road used to be a little more challenging but with chains like Chipotle stepping up it’s become so much easier. And if you have time to veer off the highway, Happy Cow can help you find vegan friendly spots along the way.

On this recent trip to Virginia, I decided to pack a small cooler with food for the way there. A Tofurky cold cut sandwich, some chips that I got at a gas station when filling up and maybe some Oreos ended up going into my pie hole. I really wanted a Chick-O-Stick, but none of the convenience stores seemed to have them. It’s definitely less than a perfect road trip without Chick-O-Stick.

I brought Tak along. She’s a pretty good traveler but on the way there she’s so excited that she doesn’t want to lay down and sleep. Which wore her out pretty good. And that was fine.

boston terrier on a road trip

Normally when I go visit my mom, I make every effort to go into Richmond and eat all of their vegan food. But this time was more about family, so I brought some provisions and stuck close to home.

Since I was driving, I hauled the Vitamix with me so I could have smoothies every morning. I also used it to make a raw cashew cheesecake that I took to our Passover dinner. Other provisions included Soy Curls, BBQ sauce, tofu, nutritional yeast, black salt and some Earth Balance. I knew my mom would have vegetables, so this was plenty to keep me fed.

The first night, my mom and partner wanted to go out to dinner. And they didn’t want to go to Richmond. So I got on my phone and started searching around for something. A Mexican place called Don Pepe popped up and they had a vegetarian section to their menu. That’s something I can work with. By the way, this place is right off of I-95 if you’re ever passing through.

As you can see, I was a bit hungry and attacked this before I remembered to take a picture. It’s a bean burrito with rice and I got an order of guacamole as well. It was really good. The sauce on the burrito was fresh and flavorful. And the guacamole wasn’t filled with a bunch of filler like some places do.

eating vegan on the road mexican  food in chester, virginia

The next night, I made BBQ Soy Curls with sautéed kale and a couple of pieces of toast. Soy Curls make an excellent provision since they don’t require refrigeration and they’re light. As a matter of fact, I’m making a mental note right now to pack some when we head to Mexico in a couple of months. My mom was pretty adventurous this visit and tried the BBQ Soy Curls and really liked them.  Whenever I cooked something, she pretty much ate what I ate.

vegan bbq soy curls, kale, toast

For Passover, I made up a batch of tofu scramble and took a little box with me. It was packed with veggies too so it could be a full meal. There were various munchies around I could eat as well. I’m assuming you’ve seen a tofu scramble and also I forgot to take a picture, so here’s a lovely haggadah.passover

The next day, we met some family at the cemetery to visit relatives.

grave stone at Blandford Cemetery

Then headed to Old Town Petersburg to walk around. This is a good side trip from Richmond.

old bricks in petersburg virginia

old brick facade in petersburg virginia

After that, my mom and I grabbed lunch at Wabi Sabi. The menu is a mix of sushi and sandwiches. With the sushi option, I knew I could make something work. That something turned out to be veggie sushi with a side of sweet potato fries. My mom may or may not have learned an important lesson about wasabi when she accidentally scooped up the whole dollop with a piece of her sushi. Ouch!

vegan sushi

sweet potato fries

wabi sabi petersburg virginia

Finally, my last day in town, we did make it to Richmond for lunch. There was a new place I was thinking about trying, but they were closed Mondays, so we went to an old favorite, Ipanema Cafe.  It’s a vegetarian sandwich place with lots of vegan options, including a jackfruit sandwich, and more importantly vegan pie. ipanema cafe richmond virginia

My mom and I both got the tempeh reuben. Delicious and only a little messy. My mom really liked it which is pretty impressive. Tempeh can be a hard sell.

tempeh reuben at ipanema cafe richmond virginia

And pie could not be resisted. My choice was the cherry pie which I had with the soy ice cream because it was the right decision to make. It had a crumb top and shortbread crust. Yum!

vegan cherry pie from ipanema cafe in richmond virginia

After that fine dessert, coffee was necessary and Harrison Street Coffee Shop, another favorite, is right around the corner. They also have simple sandwiches and vegan breakfast items. Plus it’s one of my favorite coffee shop spaces. Oh, it’s also vegetarian. Yay!

eating vegan on the road harrison street coffee shop iced latte

On the drive back, I didn’t want to worry with packing anything. I decided I’d just wing eating vegan on the road. This time I hit the old standby, Taco Bell. I learned the lesson long ago, to always check the innards of a wrapped food before biting unless you’re in a vegan restaurant. Taco Bell is no exception. Save yourself some grief and open them up at the counter before you take off. Even though my ticket was right, both of my burritos were wrong. They put some ranch sauce in my modified 7 layer burrito that doesn’t even come on it and there was cheese on my bean burrito. No worries, just had them remade and was on my way. Why did I go to Taco Bell rather than Chipotle? Because you can hold a Taco Bell burrito in one hand while driving.

taco bell bean burrito

How do you handle eating vegan on the road? Do you carry food, research spots along the way and plan or just wing it?

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