Eat here: Lola Valentina, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Lola Valentina
Hidalgo Norte, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lola-Valentina/223565384385551

Let’s keep the international sunshine eats going for a bit longer and head over now from Thailand to Mexico 🙂 Lola Valentina couldn’t have been more different to everything else on Isla Mujeres…

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Going back to Isla Mujeres in January was so exciting for me, because although my last visit had only been for a day, I had the fondest memories of the place. One of my main regrets in not having longer there the first time around was missing the opportunity to try more of the food on offer; not this time!

While we stuck mostly with the dodgy looking but outstandingly delicious, mom-and-pop style corner stores and mobile eateries (read: tacos served off the back of motorbikes), Lola Valentina caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. It looked way too nice, too hipster even, for this little Mexican Island. The menu was incredible – at first glance, it struck me as something like a Mexican Californian fusion kinda thing… anyway, it got my attention. We visited a few times over our Mexican sojourn, with the first visit being dinner:

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We have the chorizo manchego bombas on the left (perfect little starters that packed the biggest flavour punch), some sort of chili cheese stuffed chicken on a bed of mashed potato (husband’s) on the top right, and the piña colada chicken salad (mine) on the bottom right – highly recommend this one if, like me, you’ve spent a month and a half eating your way around cities like Chicago and New Orleans where deep fried, heavy, fatty foods are king! It was massive, fresh, and the coconut pineapple dressing was insane!!

 

We went back again two days later for breakfast, because the breakfast menu looked every bit as good as the dinner one. Husband’s breaky in the top photo below was a slightly spicy chorizo avocado taquito dish in refried beans – really, really tasty, but a bit much for me for breakfast! I had the very delicious and perfect on-a-hot-Mexican-morning yoghurt, granola & fruit bowl (bottom left) – some of the best granola I’ve ever had! And bottom right was THE THING to order – PB&J empañadas. Seriously. Inspired by a request from the owner’s daughter, Zoe, this is pure magic – creamy peanut butter, punchy jam and perfectly crispy deep-fried empañada shells. Best end to a breakfast and a 6 week international adventure ever!!

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Also highly recommended – the cocktails! Particularly the pineapple and ginger one – super refreshing for those hot afternoons, and it’s clearly healthy, too!

Honestly, looks can be deceiving – this place didn’t look like it really belonged from the first quick glance, but it quickly became a favourite. Incredible and creative food, the friendliest service, and only a few steps away from the beach; the beach which you should make your way to after you’ve eaten, for a nice, digestive relax in the sunshine…

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Colours of Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Tuesday morning. Melbourne. Middle of winter. Bloody cold. I like the cold, for the most part, but yesterday I was thinking how nice it’d be to just go back to Mexico for a quick winter break, cruising around in a golf buggy, eating tacos, and being around sunshine and pretty colours. But I can’t, so I’m gonna have a take-me-back-Tuesday session instead… enjoy 🙂

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Sunday dreaming… Old Fisherman’s Village Night Market, Koh Samui, Thailand

Old Fisherman’s Village Night Market

Koh Samui, Thailand

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I can’t remember how this came up, but husband and I were reminiscing about some of the best markets we’ve visited on our travels, and this one was close to the top of both our lists. If you find yourself in the very fortunate position of being in Koh Samui on a Friday night, do yourself a HUGE favour and hail a tuk tuk, and ask your driver to take you to the Old Fisherman’s Village Night Market. They won’t need an address, just that name. If you’re staying somewhere along Chaweng Beach like most visitors to Koh Samui do, you’ll find it a pretty quick 10 – 15 minute ride away, in the Bophut area of the island, and it’s the absolute best way to spend a night!

The market is incredible, full of the best street food on the island, which you’ll be wanting to wash down with a freshly mixed cocktail, which you can sip on while you’re shopping for little trinkets and souvenirs. There’s occasionally live music and heaps of little bars and restaurants you can stop at if the heat and crowds get a bit too much to deal with, as well as super easy access to tuk tuks when you’re done and ready to head back to your hotel. Remember to bring cash (notes in smaller denominations will serve you best), comfy walking shoes, and an appetite to try some strange but delicious stuff you might not ordinarily see on the restaurant menus!

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Eat here: La Catrina, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

La Catrina
corner of Madero and Av. Hidalgo, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Catrina/460133244113146

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Finding this place again was fate. I first ate tacos and drank strawberry daiquiris here a few years ago on a trip I took with my work colleagues, and it was my mission to find it again in January when I returned to Isla Mujeres. I had no idea how I was going to find it – my sense of direction is useless at the best of times, and I’d paid absolutely no attention to street or restaurant signs the first time around. We arrived on the island and took the same route to walk to our hotel as I took with the girls when we visited together – I recognised the Senor Frogs shop and pretty much ran towards it! The plan was to dump the bags, then look for this place; we didn’t need to – turns out it was on the same street as the hotel and we walked past it on the way!! I could not believe my luck!

Anyway, we dumped the bags and turned around to head back for lunch. We proceeded to visit daily, for the incredible food, crazy happy hour deals that lasted all day long (2 pina coladas for under AUD$6.00? Yes, thanks!), and the wonderful service.

The tacos above may look familiar – I ordered the same thing for our first meal here as I ordered on my last visit, and they were every single bit as good as I remembered! Another visit saw us order the tasting plate (below) which did have a bit of everything on it! Their pico de gallo was magnificent, and a little bowl of it came with everything you ordered there.

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The service was fantastic – everything came with a smile, it just felt like pulling up to your Mexican grandmother’s house for a feed. The prices were also phenomenally good considering the quality of the food – three tacos and two beers for AUD$7.20, are you kidding?! You can rarely even just get the one beer for that price in Australia! When you visit Isla Mujeres, make this your first stop, too 🙂

 

Pure freedom: cruising Isla Mujeres : )

Tuesday. AKA first day back to work after 6 weeks of gallivanting on the other side of the world. Bleh. What makes it harder? This time last week, I was cruising around Isla Mujeres in Mexico on a little golf buggy, wind in my hair, not a care in the world… damn…

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If you’re visiting Cancun and need a break, do yourself a favour and jump on one of the Ultramar ferries that’ll carry you over to Isla Mujeres. It’s only 20 minutes away, and it’s a lot quieter and more beautiful than Cancun. It’s also perfect for someone who’s a little neurotic and control freaky like me, someone who’s typically too caught up with what has to be done and the deadlines and the appointments and all that crap. It’s suffocating! But for around USD$40, one of the island’s little golf carts is yours for the day, to drive around and explore at your leisure. No where to be but where ever the road takes you  : )

Some of our stops included some little road side taco “restaurant” – I saw a little sign with a pig on it, so we pulled over and walked behind an old building to check it out. Amazing tacos!

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We also stopped by the turtle farm, the main strip where the locals live, and Punta Sur, a gorgeous cliff top park area…

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It’s a beautiful way to spend a day, with no plans, no stress, no phones, no appointments, no deadlines, no one to answer to, no obligations to meet. I guess it can get a little tough day to day, when it feels like there is no escape, when you just don’t feel free chained to your responsibilities and obligations – it was a nice lesson to learn that it’s ok to take that time when you need it, it’s ok to escape, you’re allowed to free yourself for a little while from the daily grind!

 

USAdventure days 39, 40, 41, 42 & 43: Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Stayed at: Hotel Plaza Almendros

Ate at:
– Lola Valentina
– Las Comadres
– Poc Chuc
– La Catrina
– El Burrito Feliz
– Velazquez seafood

Got up to:
– taco eating. A lot of it.
– rented a golf buggy and drove around the island for half a day
– visited Punta Sur and the Temple of Ixchel
– visited the turtle farm
– Playa Norte beach
– did a whole lot of sweet FA really, and it was fantastic!

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USAdventure days 19, 20, 21, 22 & 23: Toronto

Stayed at: Novotel Toronto Centre

Ate at:
– Momofuku Noodle Bar & Milk Bar
– peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery (St Lawrence Market)
– Wvrst
– Marchè
– Kanga

Got up to:
– St Lawrence Market
– Niagara Falls
– Hockey Hall of Fame
– Kensington Market
– one hell of a New Years Eve with a good, old friend who we haven’t seen in 5 years, and some fantastic new friends, who kindly invited us to their apartment overlooking the Air Canada Centre and the CN Tower!
– Toronto Island
– Nathan Phillips Square
– Eaton Centre

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