Saturday, October 23, 2010
Most Like Me
Last night I visited the little fishing town of Puerto Morelos, located just south of the bustling tourist city of Cancun, and known for it’s spectacular coral reef just off the coast. One of my Mexican friends, an aspiring distributor of Mexican Mezcal was on his way there for business and invited me along for the ride - a thirty minute ride north of Playa del Carmen.
I first visited Puerto Morelos last June with my daughter. We arranged a snorkelling excursion through the Snorkel Shop in Playa, and into the minivan we climbed for the ride to Puerto Morelos. I’m told that the residents of this town are very protective of their area - preserving the coral reef and limiting developments. It was nice to see a city that looked as though it was still pretty much in its natural state. You’ll find no glitz or glam here - the feel is more small, natural, real. I loved it. The beach was beautiful.. and empty. Quite the contrast from the crowds along the beaches of Playa del Carmen and of course, Cancun. Small, colourful fishing boats lined the beach as we sat and ate lunch that day.. It was lovely and the snorkeling excursion off the coast, with the beautiful schools of fish, conch, barracuda and many other wonderful underwater creatures, was definitely the highlight of our trip.
As we pulled into town last night, we passed a park where families were milling around, their small children chasing each other and happily playing. We stopped at La Panza es Primero for dinner - a chain restaurant housed in a large palapa-style building that sits facing the beach. (Click on the link to see their very cool website.) Even before I stepped out of the vehicle I could smell the fish (it is a fishing town after all). Decorated in the Mexican wrestling theme, we took our seats in the restaurant on blue and pink plastic chairs, facing the peaceful ocean. The service was friendly and attentive, and the fish fillet I decided on (I had to have the fish!) smothered in mango sauce, rice, beans and vegetables was delicious and filling. A mojito complemented the meal nicely (don’t they always?). My friend ordered a caramel cake dessert but I was too stuffed to partake.. He finished it off, no problem.
We were soon off to our second stop of the evening, a little bar called Bara Bara. Filled with what looked like locals, there was a real community feel to that bar which made you instantly feel at home. For such a small out of the way bar, I was struck by a few men sporting stylish hats.. It somehow felt out of place but at the same time fit perfectly. Bara Bara reminded me of some of the bars I visited years ago in Trinidad - a local neighbourhood bar that pretty much stays the same, year after year. (I have to make mention of the service, which I have found all over Mexico - while I was sitting and happened to reach down and scratch an itch on my leg, a man quickly came over to me and offered me bug spray. Can’t say that has ever happened to me in any other country I‘ve visited!) While a couple of patrons played foosball just outside the entrance, I enjoyed another mojito and some good conversation with my friend. A perfect bar on a perfect evening.
Earlier in the week my Canadian-living-in-Mexico girlfriend asked me where in Mexico I would choose to live , if given the opportunity. I gave it some thought, and although I have visited some really beautiful and special spots in Mexico over the past year and a half, I couldn’t pinpoint one particular area as my favourite. It wasn’t until last night that I could answer her question. Puerto Morelos feels most like me.