In today’s episode, I chat with Catriona Brown, who is originally from Australia and now resides in Puerto Morelos. Catriona worked in the film production industry for many years; she met a fellow who was going to be producing the Olympics in Sydney. Catriona worked with him on managing major productions, including Sydney’s New Year’s Celebrations and the Olympics. She visited the Yucatan region in Mexico to explore the archeological ridge. On January 2, 2002, while in Puerto Morelos, Catriona read “Travel Warning! Be careful you may never leave” on a pamphlet. She thought to herself “yeah right, I am going back to my high-society living in Australia”. Long story short, it’s now 14 years and she is still in Puerto Morelos. Catriona built properties from scratch and owned a dive shop at one time. She started a cooking school after the recession hit, by way of one of her duplexes she had owned, called the Little Mexican Cooking School. Catriona is also the administrator for the town charity and she loves to play polo in her spare time.
The Little Mexican Cooking School
The school is designed for adults, with a plethora of information packed in these classes such as the history, culture, and geography. The school’s capacity is about 16 people, so you need to call in for reservations two weeks in advance during the high season.
The chef runs the whole class; he demonstrates, and then you get to work making delicious salsas and snacks. The chef takes you into the kitchen where you will learn how to make a three-course meal, there are seven different menus, so you can attend more than one cooking class and get a variety of choices, including his brand new menu called The Mexican Seafood Fiesta.
Catriona’s Favorite Dish
Chiles en nogada is usually made on Independence Day because it is the color of the Mexican Flag. This tasty meal consists of poblano chillis (green) stuffed with meat and veggies and covered in a walnut almond cream sauce (white), sprinkled with pomegranate seeds (red).
Where is Catriona’s Favorite Place?
After working full days during high season, Catriona likes to go to El Rey Polo Club, hop on a horse and lose herself in the jungle with only the sounds of the birds singing in the background.
What changes have happened since Puerto Morelos became its own municipality?
Catriona works at promoting tourism; she works hard to keep the sense of the community. People who live there want to keep it small, low level, and getting rid of the greedy. The town spits out the ones that don’t belong there. The city council is made up of the people that have been in that area all their lives.
On Valentine’s Day, they had a free event in the town square right in front of the ocean where anyone who wanted to get married could, whether same-sex marriage or not; the town provided the music and good eats.
What are some of the tips tourist should know about when visiting Puerto Morelos?
It is pertinent that you wear biodegradable sunscreen, don’t swim in the cenotes with any creams on, the water is connected to people's homes in the area. Also don’t support the Dolphinarium; those are prisons for dolphins and by going to see them, you are supporting this tragedy.
After Hurricane Wilma, it took the town at least a year for most of the city to recover. However, there are still areas that need people's help. A tourist could help out the El Mundo para, which is a charity that helps schools, hospitals, clinics, fire stations, etc. with rebuilding.
Tune into the podcast to learn more about Puerto Morelos and Catriona’s story.
In today’s episode, I chat with Kristin Roehmer, who is originally from Arizona. She and her husband Marcus made a home in Playa del Carmen. Kristin and Marcus went in on a 50/50 investment with their friend Randy to purchase a condo down in Playa; this was back in 2004 when the real estate market was starting to flourish. Kristin and Marcus never planned on starting a family there or living there for more than a year. 11 years later, they still have their place in Arizona and are residing in Playa del Carmen full-time with their beautiful 8-year-old son. Listen to the intriguing story of how Kristin and Marcus made it to Mexico.
How did they fall into the property management arena?
Kristin and Marcus kind of fell into it. They had some clients from their businesses in the states and started investing in properties in Playa. Kristin and Marcus became the liaison; one thing led to another, and before they knew it, they had a property management business.
How did they get involved with the Bric Hotel?
Things just evolved organically. Kristin and Marcus's friends owned the hotel at the time and asked them to run it. It’s a small quaint boutique hotel located on 28th St between 5tha and 10th; it’s in the center of Playa del Carmen. The Bric Hotel offers 15 rooms, each with en-suite bathrooms, breakfast included, air conditioning, WiFi, pool, beautiful gardens, and spa.
Can you give us more information about the Spa?
They converted some of their old office space to an Organic Spa in the Bric Hotel. Jacqueline is the General Manager of the Spa. You can sit by the pool and have lunch, massages, manicures, pedicures, and many other treatments.
Did you go back to the States to have your son?
Kristin and Marcus couldn't be happier with the care and services they were provided in Cancun. Marcus jokes that life couldn’t be better; he had a glass of red wine, fillet, and his newborn son in his arms.
Where do you like to go for long weekends?
Kristin and her family like to go to Uxmal, Punta Laguna, and Isla Holbox. Marcus and Randy are out today experiencing a couple of cenotes.
Do you have any secret destinations you would like to share?
Kristin loves Isla Holbox; located an hour and a half from Playa and a quick ferry boat across to an island where the wildlife is spectacular, no cars, it's all dirt roads, tiny hotels, great restaurants, and friendly people. She likes to see the whale sharks, in season from May to September. When they have family or friends visiting for day trips, they like to do yoga on paddleboards down in the lagoon, South of Tulum. Once you get out in nature and stand on a paddleboard on the calm water surrounded by mangroves and bright blue sky, it is a whole different experience than yoga indoors.
In today’s episode I talk with David Sterling, who was born and raised in Oklahoma City, OK. He was always intrigued by art and food even at a young age. David was obsessed with Julia Child. His partner Keith and he moved away from New York City after 9/11. Their place was just 5 blocks from the World Trade Center. David had been to Mexico many times throughout his life and both he and Keith loved it there. They found a place to call home in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. They bought an old ruin complete with trees growing out of the ceiling and floors. It took them 14 months to renovate the whole place to get it up to inhabitable standards. David started the only cooking school in Mexico called Los-Dos in November 2003. He is the author of the cookbook Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition. In 2015, David won a few awards: James Beard Foundation for The Best Cookbook of the Year, James Beard Foundation for Best International Cookbook and The Art of Eating Prize for Best Food Book of the Year. He has been on shows with Martha Stewart and Rick Bayless. David’s passion is Yucatecan Food.
Cooking Classes at Los-Dos
The cooking classes have a variety of range; anyone from an avid home cook to a gourmet chef. Every class focuses on the Yucatan Peninsula’s Mayan Culinary Culture. Los-Dos offers one day workshops that are a full intensive day of cooking and eating. There are three day and weeklong packages as well, which also include food excursions to different places.
Tasting Tours at Los-Dos
Los-Dos also has tasting tours that do not involve cooking. The tours are about 3 to 4 hours. One of the tasting tours is a Cantina Crawl, on which you will be taken to a range of different Cantinas, where you pay for the drinks and the food is free. This will give you a great taste of the Yucatan Culture. There is also another tour called the Street Eats Tour.
What is a Solar?
There are several families in Uxmal who manage what they call a Solar, best described as a kitchen garden. This common practice in the Mayan world is a way of supplementing their regular diets consisting of corn, beans, and squash. These Solars have all kinds of chilies, tomatoes, and things you might not find on the farm like turkeys and pigs just running around. They have edible and medicinal stuffs in these Solars as well, all very fascinating to see.
Where did the idea for your cookbook, Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition, stem from?
It resulted from those years back in New York City. He likes stories about food and wants to know where it came from, who made it, and where it originated? He complied many of the stories he came across and started posting them on his website. Finally, in 2009 he received a call from an English lady named Diana Kennedy. She is the authority of Mexican food in the English Language. David and Keith got to know Diana pretty well and she introduced David to her editor Casey Kittrell at University of Texas Press. He then submitted his book proposal to Casey and after 3 years of putting his nose to the grindstone, his cookbook got published.
Do you have two or three typical foods that people need to try to appreciate the culture?
Go check out the Sigueff in Merida and order the Huevos Motulenos, it is a refried bean smeared tostada with fried eggs, tomato sauce, ham, peas, and grated cheese. While in Valladolid, you need to go to the El Meson del Margues and try the pickled turkey. It’s so delicious, tart, and tangy.
Please tune into the podcast to learn more from Chef David Sterling about his interesting endeavors and to gain more in-depth knowledge on the uniqueness of the Yucatan Cuisine. Also listen in as David discusses being featured on Rick Bayless’s Show called Mexico-One Plate at a Time. The new season starts in September 2016 on PBS.
Welcome to Loco Gringo Mexico, the place where we transform a tourist into a traveler. Because you deserve to see more of the world than just what is in a guide book. Each week we talk with amazing locals who know the Riviera Maya and Yucatan like only a local can and get them to share their tips and insights on the local scene, culture and cuisine from a locals’ perspective. So pour yourself a Margarita, grab a comfy chair, and let's get the show going. In today's episode I talk to my friend Matt. He is a big German guy with tattoos and some piercings. He might look like an intimidating guy at first, but he is a big teddy bear. People call him Matt Chupa or Uncle Chupa. Matt does not suck he has a heart of gold and I am flattered he took time to be with us today. His passions are photography, sailing, and motorcycles. Matt loves cave diving and even made a business out of it. He is one of the owners of ProTec Dive Centers in Tulum and Playa del Carmen, offering the highest quality of standards with the most complete cave diving, Sidemount diving, and CCR Rebreather diving services.
Does your company train people to do cavern diving?
They do the full thing, including cavern tours. Matt’s company is certainly qualified to take people into the caverns and explain in-depth about geology, mythology, and the Mayan culture. The cavern training or cavern course itself, most people don't do. Most people want to go to the dark zone, the womb, like mother earth.
What is your favorite place outside of Mexico?
The huge island of Sardinia located off the coast of Italy. It is not highly populated and it has curves everywhere. The motorcycle riding is excellent, weather and food is great. There is cave diving as well.
What is your favorite place in Mexico?
The colonial history in the villages surrounding Mérida. The Yucatán food is some of the best food in Mexico. There are plenty of cenotes there for cave diving. The culture and the history of the state of Yucatán are incredible. It's underappreciated and now it is becoming a little more well-known and popular.
What is your favorite thing to eat?
Cochinita pibil, pork with tomatoes and onions wrapped up in banana leaves and it is slow-roasted in a pib, which is in the ground. They take it out of the banana leaves after hours and it is shredded like pulled pork, you put it in tacos with pickled purple onions.
What are some of your secret places?
Matt’s favorite cenote is Casa Cenote, there is not much diving and caves, but you can dive underneath the mangroves. When Matt wants a change of scenery he goes to Bacalar, which is 3 hours south of Playa. Isla Holbox, Aculo in Yucatán, or Zelan Bravo. He takes his motorcycle there and gets lost in the little villages on the gulf coast. San Felipe and Rio Lagartos are great destinations as well.
Have you gone to Isla Holbox during the whale shark season?
Matt says the best time to go is when the whale sharks are out of season, because nobody is there. Cars are not allowed in the village. There is a food festival in October or early November each year as well.
Welcome to Loco Gringo Mexico, the place where we transform a tourist into a traveler. Because you deserve to see more of the world than just what is in a guide book. Each week we talk with amazing locals who know the Riviera Maya and Yucatán like only a local can and get them to share their tips and insights on the local scene, culture and cuisine from a locals’ perspective. So let's get the show going.
In today’s installment I talk with Kelly Fitzgerald who shares on how to live sober and still be the life of the party in Mexico. Kelly is a social media manager and a contributor to the Huffington Post Blog. One of her biggest accomplishments and most admirable work is her blog The Sober Seńorita. Kelly wants everyone to know you can lead a fun and adventuresome life while being sober.
Kelly grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and graduated college in 2007. She always wanted to party and was known as the “social butterfly”. She learned of her love for Cancun, when she worked for a spring break company two seasons in a row. They would pay for her flight, meals, room and board. In the last year, Kelly realized she wanted to live in Cancun. She became cognizant of the fact that she was partying too much in the spring of 2013, and has been sober since May 2013. She started her blog in January 2014. Kelly wanted to incorporate her decision to become sober and her new way of life that she was now living. Her sister came up with the name of the blog. Kelly waited a whole year before she wrote anything about being sober on her blog. Kelly wrote a very inspiring blog in May 2014. It was so awe-inspiring that she got an email from the Huffington Post; they wanted to re-publish her blog in the paper.
What are some of the challenges that you have experienced or hear other people experiencing when you are inundated with the party style of Mexico?
She noticed right way that it was hard; everything revolved around drinking. Cancun is a tourist destination and so people on vacation want to let loose. Society in general revolves around drinking. Because of the partying, Kelly never realized all the beautiful things that Mexico had to offer such as history, culture, and food. Kelly did more in the one year sober - she traveled to more places and saw more Mayan archeological sites - than she had in the previous 4 years.
Do you have some favorite areas where you would suggest going to capture the true essence of Mexico?
The Chichen Itza is just breath taking. Tulum is another place; the cliff overlooking the ocean, where the Mayan archeological site is, seems just like a dream. You need to check out the local restaurants in downtown Cancun. Don't be afraid to explore out of the hotel zone. Some of the best tacos and tortas are in downtown Cancun. There are so much more to Mexican food than the US Mexican chains. There is elote, mole, tostadas...food helps define what a country and its culture has to offer. Coachinita and Agua de Jamaica are both wonderful. If you are coming from the US, you will probably never hear of these delicacies. The beautiful Xel-Ha Park, which is an all-inclusive water eco park. Go beyond Cancun and explore.
Tulum is a great place to go. Kelly loves the hippy beach town vibe where everyone rides bikes there. It has beautiful palapas and hotels that turn their electricity off at 11pm to save energy. She says it is a great place to visit; however, being technology based, she wouldn’t be able to live there. You need to take a few days and visit the Ruins of Palenque in Chiapas is absolutely magic.
How can someone keep their strength to stay sober?
The good thing about all-inclusive is they will make you “mocktails”, you still feel like you are included. You can get fresh coconut water right out of the coconut. Always ask what they have to offer, which is very important. Look for English speaking AA meetings in Cancun. There is one every morning at 8am in downtown Cancun and there is even a website http://aaenglishmeetingcancun.com.
How to manage spring break and not drink yourself silly.
You have to be careful, because at spring break you can find umpteen parties. Limit yourself or drink in moderation, and just know you don't have to go all out on your first day. Alternate those drinking days with a relaxing day on the beach. If you need a drink in your hand to be part of the crowd, there are other options; you don't have to go to that alcoholic drink.
@kellyfitz11 on Twitter
Welcome to Loco Gringo Mexico, the place where we transform a tourist into a traveler. Because you deserve to see more of the world than just what is in a guide book. Each week we talk with amazing locals who know the Riviera Maya and Yucatán like only a local can and get them to share their tips and insights on the local scene, culture and cuisine from a locals’ perspective. So pour yourself a Margarita, grab a comfy chair, and let's get the show going. In today’s episode I chat with Keith Heitke who shares some tips on real estate in Mexico and secret gems he knows of, from being in the Yucatán for 13 years. Keith and his partner David Sterling moved to the Yucatán in 2003 from Manhattan, NYC. The biggest reason for the move was because of 911. They considered living in Spain, however, the real estate was really expensive and the weather wasn’t what they were expecting. They moved to Mérida with no job and didn’t speak a lick of Spanish. Keith is a senior sales agent for Mexico International Real Estate. He specializes in luxurious homes in Mérida. Keith’s partner David is the founder of Los Dos Cooking School and the author of the James Beard Foundation 2015 Cookbook, the Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition.
Can I own anything in Mexico?
Real estate in Mexico is pretty straight forward, there aren't any tricks. Mexico has a very old law; they basically don't want another Spanish Invasion. If you want to go anywhere in Mexico and buy something from a Mexican and you are a foreigner, you can just go do that. However, if you are 50 km inland from any part of the coast, there is a Fideicomiso Trust. You are only allowed to buy a certain amount of land, unless you are a corporation. If you don’t pay the fees they collect, the penalty if about $1 a year. So don't worry too much. Before you sell a home, you have to have those fees paid. It can be confusing when your fees are due. Unlike in the US where they tell you every year when your property taxes are due, in Mexico your Fideicomiso is due whenever. That is why the penalties are so low, which they don't remind you of either. Some places will hang a banner to let you know your Fideicomiso is due.
What are some of your secret spots?
David wrote a book so they have been traveling more on the book tour. They absolutely love Mexico City. That isn’t really a secret spot, but it is a place they would visit often. There are really two different Méridas: the one most of the tourist see and a hidden gem. You can get into the car and go to high class restaurants. Keith says the beach there isn’t his favorite, but he is glad it is there. There are museums and galleries. There is an event almost every day. You have to come on Sundays, the town blocks off the streets and they have a big bike ride through town. The main square comes alive with different vendors and things.
I am a foreigner; how do I meet people?
It is the easiest thing possible. You go to two parties and then you get invited to everything else, and then you get invited to their friends’ parties and then you pick out which ones you like. It is very easy to make friends here.
Funny stories Keith has been privileged to witness:
It is very warm in Mérida, when the temperature drops to 70 degrees you will see the Yucatán people wearing scarves, hoodies and gloves, because they are freezing and not used to the colder temps. Keith said he saw a Canadian lady that same day in a tube top walk by the locals, and she was sweating.
Keith was walking home the other day and saw a broken down Volkswagen. There was a young family standing at the side of the road. They were enjoying themselves waiting for help to arrive. Keith said, just seeing that family having a good time instead of yelling at each other about why their car broke down is one of the sole reasons they moved to the Yucatán.