Last week, Adam and I had the fortune of living the dream on Isla Mujeres, a small island off the coast of Mexico near Cancun. Before this, I hadn't been on a beachy vacation in my adult life - the only traveling I have put my money and effort into has been the adventure kind (Europe, the Pacific NW) or the thrifty kind (camping, long weekends on the North Shore). It took me a while to come around to the idea of spending my limited money and vacation time to relax on the beach for a week, but let me tell you - it is awesome.
There were so many good things about our trip, and most of them you can expect - white sand, ocean waves, cans of Sol and Coronas on the beach with a slice of lime clanking around inside, being utterly away from everything. Beyond this, though, what tickled me most was dining on some of the best cheap food I've ever had. If you step off of the main tourist stretch of the island, there are tons of tiny mom and pop shops to eat. Incredible shrimp tacos - 3 for about $4. Fresh lobster, chopped down the middle and thrown on the grill, caught by the man who waited on your table. The lightest calamari I could ever wrap my mind around. A new salsa at every stop. So much guacamole. Chicken pitas, served with apple chutney, that you can smell roasting from blocks away. A simple white fish fillet in butter, served to you on the beach at night, where you're overlooking the dark waves and digging your feet into the sand floor of the beach-side dining room. It was really something.
Have you had chiles rellenos? I had this for lunch one day, recommended by a Canadian man who was sitting at the table next to us. He visits the restaurant we were at every year when he stays on the island. People! It's a poblano pepper stuffed with cheese and ground beef, coated in some kind of eggy mixture, pan fried I'm sure, then smothered in a tomato sauce. Holy. I ate this - for lunch. - before going to the beach. - where I wore my two-piece bathing suit. Let me tell you, I did not regret a single bite. I did, however, lounge on my beach chair longer than usual that day before I was willing to lose my little beach dress and tip toe into the water. The price you pay.
One night, after a fantastic meal, we went out for a drink and I decided to order myself an after dinner taco. What?? It was roasted pork and had a grilled pineapple slice on it - totally worth it.
We didn't hold back much on this trip, no siree. I think we went to the ATM four times, each time underestimating the extent of our "eh, who cares!" attitude when deciding how much to spend on dinner and whether to order another round. It was exactly what we needed.
And now I'll be dreaming of lounging in a beach chair with a cold margarita in my hand, a white plastic table with chips and guacamole at my side, trying to keep myself tucked in the shade of the umbrella, Adam bobbing way out in the ocean far from shore raising his arm to wave to me - until a trip like that comes my way again.
In the mean time, I've got a chiles rellenos recipe to figure out. Or maybe it's best if I don't.