Strolling on our way from Roma to Polanco, we passed the Hotel Camino Real. It has an awesome facade by Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta and I’m sure an equally mod interior to match.
Most exciting was the fountain in the entry. It was unlike any we had previously seen. Instead of the normal geysers and sprays, this was an homage to the oceans power; a constant swirl of motion and just mesmerizing to watch.
The much hyped and reviewed Condesa DF in Mexico City (DF) easily lives up to its reputation as a top design hotel. From its prime location, adjacent to a lovely art & tree filled park, in the chic Condesa district – think NYC’s West Village – to its distinctive triangular form, everything about the Condesa DF sets it apart.
The main interior is an open triangular courtyard looking up 5 flights to the happening roof-top bar and the sky above. White shutters line the interior catwalks, creating an openness during the day and a protective barrier when closed at night. Dangling down the center is a vine of silver horns, splaying out like the bells of a foxglove, emitting a low murmuring of ticking and tocking – with a grandfather clock’s steady comfort rather then an alarm clock’s annoying reminder of time passing. The restaurant’s elegant white tables fall within this surrounding whiteness with a few protected rooms along the sides for enclosed dining. One of these contains an excellent shop filled with some of the choicest jewelry seen in all of DF – at surprisingly good prices. A second side room is a library filled with photo & design books dedicated to Mexico’s deep cultural and art scene.
We stayed in a Balcony-View Room. It was small, but well appointed with a very comfortable bed and excellent pillows (something often lacking!). The balcony turned out to be a window overlooking the tree’s that filled the street below. It was quite lovely to wake up, throw the curtains and gaze upon the flowing leaves while gathering in the fresh air and listening to DF’s ever-present songbirds.
The shower was like standing under an 80 foot water-fall – pressure that would give a Japanese Onsen competition. Fantastic! Interestingly the toilet was the only ‘industrial’ item to be found in the entire hotel. It could have come from a high-school or hospital. Once again the bathroom was on the smallish side, but nicely laid out and cleverly hidden behind folding partitions.
If there was anything to pick on at the Condesa DF, it was that the room seemed designed more for a single person then a couple. There was only a single key that combined as an electrical shut-off and the safe-box was locked via credit-card over code. This made it hard to be on separate schedules. One night I ventured out to meet a friend at a local night-club. We wound up having to take apart the key ring so the room had power and I need not wake anyone on returning home. But these were small inconveniences and easily managed.
The staff was pleasant and consistently polite and helpful. Our night’s stay included one of the more expansive and impressive continental breakfasts seen to date; containing a self serve bar of home-made granola, cereals, fruits, yogurts, along with honey, milk and cottage cheese. The was also an excellent selection of breads, alongside quality portions of smoked salmon, prosciutto, salami, white and hard cheeses, tomatoes, compotes, hard eggs, butter and creamed cheese. Decanters of fresh orange, carrot & grapefruit juice offered a vibrant start to the day. The coffee was as good as anywhere we found in Mexico – which means not great, but drinkable (There seems to be a tendency to dilute and over-boi)l. There is also an a-la-carte menu with huevos rancheros and other delightful Mexican dishes. Be sure to take a substantial breakfast to start your day, as you need the calories for the never ending activity that is sure to follow in the wonderful city of Mexico DF.
The steam room and “spa area” are the weak point of the Condesa DF. They seem an after-thought, a requirement tossed in to earn an extra star rating. Luckily, the tempest-like shower more then makes an adequate “spa experience” and is conveniently located right in your room!
A quick note on taxis:
We have never encountered a city where the rates and hustling in taxis is so widespread. This is something that should really be better regulated. So if this is the kind of thing that annoys you, please keep in mind to specify you want a ‘taxi-meter taxi’ when you order a car service AND to specify to the driver to use the meter. Otherwise the hotel (and every business in town apparently) will order what they term ‘a more elegant car’ – which is really the same car without the taaxi paint – and the rates can be up to 7 times the taximeter rate. We paid between 20 & 120 pesos for the same ride, until we got our head around the costs. Do not be put off by this, just know it.
Mexico City (DF) is a safe and amazing city, full of grand architecture, strong design and culinary artistry. The Condesa DF is a lovely home-away-from-home to base yourself. Centrally located on a quiet block in a leafy section of town; each evening we were happy to return, get cleaned up and every morning we awoke excited and energized!
The Piedre de Agua Hotel in Merida has cute little rooms with the tiniest bathrooms ever! If you find yourself in Merida and need a well priced, central located and comfortable bed look no further. The staff was kind and helpful, as they are pretty much every where in Mexico. The Piedre de Agua is conveniently located a half block from the main square and is surrounded by colonial churches and is an easy walk to the hand crafts market.
There is courtyard dining area, as well as a lovely back patio with swimming pool and bar. Most importantly Piedre de Agua is around the corner from Las Quekas!
Calle 61 between Calles 58 and 60
across from the Cathedral
10:00 am – 8:00pm Daily
The beauty of Mexican dining is that everyone seems to just do it right. Taking the time and effort to combine the ingredients in perfect order and letting them combine as long as needed. This patience is something declining in today’s immediacy.
While in Mexico, we dined in some of the finest restaurants in the world (Biko, Pujol) and ate blue-corn tortillas made by hand in the street. Somewhere in between these two lies Las Quekas, who, just like everyone else, takes the time to do it right.
While we were walking through downtown Merida looking for a calling, just across from the cathedral, we stumbled onto an unassuming little place decked out in orange and yellow. It was such an unwavering duo-tone that the instant thought is “franchise”. As we watched a steady crowd brought us in for a closer inspection. Once in nasal proximity, the fresh smells of steaming huitlacoche and melting cheese got us through the door and into a lasting relationship.
With other 5 locations throughout the city of Merida, Las Quekas is a sort of franchise. One that offers exactly what you want at times; Practically instant quesadillas that feel more like a guilty dessert then the hearty meal they are. We were in Merida for only 2 days, but at 5 different occasions we found ourselves lifting the mouth-wateringly good quesadillas to our lips. Crispy tortillas with steaming fillings of Rajas Poblano (strips of poblano peppers with onions in a creamy sauce), huitlacoche and corn, zucchini blossom, and of course the requisite meats stewed chicken or shredded sausage. Each combined with the beautiful soft white cheese that melts in a smoldering bliss.
At a little less then $1 each Las Quekas’s Quesadillas are just about the perfect meal, Healthy, Hearty and Happy.
42° Raw closed in 2013 & Papaya Playa Project has lost ALL its cool.
Avoid staying at Papaya Playa – it is now overpriced, under-whelming, dirty and haughty.
Original Post from 6/30/2012
Next to the reception at the Papaya Playa Hotel, a member of Design Hotels™, is the super yummy 42°RAW. This is a branch of the raw food bar started in London and Copenhagen by Jesper Rydahl. What a great surprise it is to find modern raw cuisine right in Tulum!
The 42° Raw bar has a botanic selection of fresh juices, and staple mains such as the raw Thai noodles and raw lasagna. This is perfect beach dining, starting with the raw hummus appetizer, one of the big salads and ever-present aguas. As always, the beauty of raw food is the guilt-less dessert! Decadent, rich, full of flavor but instead of bloating that bikini bod you’ve been working on for months for your trip to the beach, they are the nutritional equivalent of a protien supplement!
Unfortunately, we were not able to get inside the Papaya Playa Hotel, but we did get a look at their events schedule. There are all sorts of activities perfect for vacation – from movie nights under the stars, to sunset bar-b-que on the beach, to packages at the well known Spa. The trip we really wish we had time for, was the visit to the Tulum Ruins via catamaran! You arrive by ocean in style, like the 14th century Spanish – except this trip comes complete with champagne! Next time!!