FRIDAY FINDS // The Last Bookstore

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased). Hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

The Last Bookstore

It’s official.  I’m a book hoarder.  It’s causing problems in my interpersonal relationships and ruining my home’s feng shui.  But I’m also not ashamed to admit it, which is the first step towards recovery, right?  Right guys?  RIGHT?

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SPRING MIX

The Vacation Mode OOTD 4:22 eC-c-c-color?  It must be spring.  My wardrobe consists of about 98% neutrals – of which I’ll usually have the same 10 items on rotation until exhaustion.  I just know which pieces feel best, and I reach for them every time.  But every once in a while, it’s ok(/essential) to mix it up.  Party tiiiiiime.

Lovers + Friends romper.  Karen Walker shades.  ASOS slides.

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EL GRAN CENOTE

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If you’re planning a trip to the Mayan Riviera, make sure you make time to visit at least one of the famed cenotes that are native to the area.  Cenotes are limestone sinkholes – stunning natural wonders that formed a gajillion or so years ago from an intricate system of subterranean rivers.  Erosion and other elements caused the earth above parts of these rivers to cave in over time, exposing this mysterious underground ecosystem to our world in the form of gorgeous, mineral-rich swimming holes.

Located less than 10 minutes from town and easy to spot from the freeway, El Gran Cenote is an absolute no-brainer for anyone visiting Tulum.  Entrance is 150 pesos per person, with an additional 80 pesos for snorkel gear rental (scuba tours are also offered).  All in all you’ll pay the equivalent $15 US for a pretty priceless experience.

Once past the entrance, you walk a few yards inland along a little sandy path with well-manicured gardens.  As you approach, the cenote reveals itself sunken deep into the earth.  Gazing down from above, it’s kind of wild to see this shockingly blue amazingness that lies just beneath the ground at your feet.  Once you descend the manmade platform into the water, you’re greeted by a labyrinth of mind-boggling underground caves, stalactites and stalagmites, bats, birds, little fish and turtles…exploring a cenote can make you feel privy to some secret place that’s not of this world.  But that’s probably just the nerdgirl in me talking.

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TULUM GUIDE Pt. 2 // Playa

Before we begin, if you’re interested in reading about Tulum TOWN – make sure to read my Tulum Guide, Pt. 1 here!  And prepare yourself for intense food fomo (foodmo?), I definitely got some while writing.

Shifting focus now to the beach zone, ie, the sexy, relaxing, white-sand, resort-y aspect of Tulum.  We didn’t spend as much time here as in town, but I can’t wait to come back again and bliss the F out.  It’s the laid-back, eco-friendly yin to complement the grittier, pseudo-bustling yang of downtown.  As I mentioned in my last post, the Playa is about 15 minutes inland from downtown by car.  As you turn off the main highway and enter the environs of the beach, the decompression begins to take hold.  Tons of sleepy/stylish hotels and palapas are sandwiched between the ocean and jungle along one main road among unique boutiques, inventive restaurants, and nonchalant bars.  There’s a big emphasis on eco-friendliness here, with a majority of the properties boasting solar power (and lacking in electricity at certain hours of the night). There’s even an entire “yoga zone”, if that’s your thing…  the whole area maintains an atmosphere of supreme chicness without coming off as over-pretentious.  Just like me.

Here are a couple must-see’s (must-eat’s, really) while exploring the Tulum Playa:

Posada Margherita

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I love the peaceful, Italian-riviera vibe at this beautiful hotel & restaurant.  The friendly and well-informed staff ensures that you feel at home, whether you’re stopping in for a quick coffee or spending lengthy hours over dinner with friends.  There’s a very un-rushed, homey attitude here.  Their little boutique is very well-curated and it’s also fun to explore the impressive garden.  Also, their (HUGE) fresh-squeezed juices are a welcome afternoon reset between al pastor binges.

Hartwood

If you so much as breathe “Tulum” to anyone who’s been there, “Hartwood” is usually what you’ll hear in response.  It’s word-association for the wining and dining generation.  No bones about it, Hartwood is a pain in the ass to get into.  Reservations are only accepted in-person, day-of, and you’ll more than likely need a reservation.  But, if you don’t mind lining up in the afternoon to put your name in, the oh-so-fresh, wood-fired fare and vibey ambiance (owner/chef Eric Werner is a Brooklyn transplant) are well worth the trouble.

Casa Banana

Contrary to Hartwood, they don’t accept reservations but do invite you to have a seat and enjoy a handmade cocktail while you wait for your table.  The influence is Argentinian, think amazing skirt steak with chimichurri sauce and whole roasted fish served with mashed sweet potatoes and local vegetables.  Bonus star for the eclectic house music, complete with an acoustic George Michael cover that was all-too amusing after mucho mezcal.

Thanks for reading!  What are your favorite spots in Tulum?

 

TULUM GUIDE Pt. 1 // Pueblo

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Tulum.  There’s a reason everyone is obsessed with it – within one municipality exists all the components you need to design the vacation of your dreams.  It caters to the fashion-y crowd and budget backpackers alike, all while remaining so very relaxing.  I just returned and already can’t wait to go back.

Tulum town (“pueblo” en español – isn’t my Spanish great?) is about 15 minutes inland by car from the beach (“playa” – I’ll show myself out) and a fairly different experience.  The beach zone is chic to death but manages to maintain a very unassuming vibe throughout.  You’ll find most of the luxury hotels here lined up side-by-side with a plethora of intimate restaurants and bars.  The town offers tons of eateries and shops as well, but in less of a resort-like atmosphere.  In town is where you’ll enjoy a slightly more “local” (/economical) experience.  Since we had a rental car at our disposal, we opted for an insane Airbnb in town (more on that later) and took daytrips to the beach area.  ‘Twas the best of both worlds, and I’d advise doing the same if you’re a bit more on the adventurous side.  If you have the pesos to spend and are seeking a bougier, sexier experience, stay in one of the many gorgeous boutique hotels along the beach instead and never leave.  I think I’ll try that next.

The town is excellent for spending a morning or afternoon wandering on foot.  It’s pretty teeny, so you can likely eat your way through enjoy it in one go, or, like we did, explore on separate occasions throughout your stay.  Before embarking on this trip, I’d done a bit of research between knowledgeable good friends and (my most knowledgeable and bestest friend) the Internet, but my favorite discoveries are always the places I’ve found via my own trusty feet, eyes, nose, and mouth.

So, with those resources in mind, here are some of the standout spots in Tulum pueblo (IMHO).

Ki’bok Cafe

Stop in here before you head out on a daytrip or tour to fuel up on your artisanal crack of choice.  This place is run by fellow Californians and serves up a mean cold brew coffee.  It was one of the only spots we found cold brew in Mexico and really, who wants a steaming cup coffee when it’s 90 degrees at 9 am?

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Flor de Michoacan

Satisfy your sweet tooth here with one (or more) of the dozens of fresh fruit “paletas” (popsicles!  Bet you needed the translation this time) offered.  There is such a large and delectable assortment here you might want come back on multiple visits to ensure you get to try everything you wanted to.  I won’t judge you.

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Local Artisans

There’s an eclectic selection of art, textiles, and knickknacks from Mayan artists and artisans on display along the main strip.  Prices are a bit higher if you buy from here vs. a bit outside of town, but you have the convenience of knocking out all of your gift shopping at once.

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Pick up freshly cut mango from this dude while you shop.

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Burrito Amor

This spot was brand new during our stay – still working out their alcohol license so we stopped in for a breakfast machaca burrito.  I can’t vouch for the cultural authenticity of said burrito, but it was definitely appreciated after a night of enjoying the local bars.  You’re served popcorn while you wait and every order comes with a set of homemade salsas (the coconut one in particular is, uh, bananas).

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El Gourmet

A fresh Euro-style panini joint that boasts a little market for imported cheeses, charcuterie and other yummies.  This might sound weird but the lettuce and tomato they used gave me a new appreciation for local produce…it’s like I’d forgotten what these vegetables are truly supposed to taste like when doing all my shopping at Trader Joe’s.  Also, they bake their own bread here so if you’re going to indulge in some gluten on vacation, this is the spot.

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El Capitan

One of the many, many excellent places to go for seafood.  The ceviche was so sensationally fresh that my mouth is currently filling with saliva at the memory.  Bonus: cute kitty as dining companion.

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Antojitos La Chiapaneca

This place is always packed with locals and GOES OFF at night.  Get your tacos al pastor, tortas, and other classics here for el cheapo.  And warning, go easy on the orange-colored salsa if you’d like to retain any tastebuds for the remainder of your trip.  Seriously, your whole face will thank me.

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Not pictured, because tequila:

There are lots of eclectic little bars lined up along the main strip.  I don’t remember most of their names but you can start at one end of the strip and wander down on foot til you find the vibe you like.  Or, stop in for a drink at each and see what happens.

Have you visited Tulum pueblo?  What did I miss?  Add your favorite spots in the comments!

PS – If you’re visiting via the Cancun airport, be sure to stop through Akumal on the drive!  Check out my tips from Akumal here.

ROAD TRIPPY // Akumal, Mexico

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Ahh, Mexico – the ideal getaway for Californians looking for an international adventure without spending days in transit or months in debt.  Olé!

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We took 6 beautiful days to explore the Mayan Riviera.  Not as long as I would have liked but when it comes to adventuring, I’ll take what I can get.  The ultimate destination was Tulum, via the Cancun airport and a 2-hour drive in a temperamental Volkswagen rental.  I would begin with Cancun, but our time there filled me with such loathing that it couldn’t defensibly account for its own post.  I’m sure it has tons of appeal for some and all due respect to those individuals – but alas, not me.  Massive Vegas style-hotels, giant luxury shopping centers, wasted Spring Breakers, and commercialized restaurant chains (I can go to Outback Steakhouse in my own town, thankyouverymuch) are not really my travel/life vibe.  The beach was nice, though?

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So, upward and onward to Akumal.  It’s a quick trip south from Cancun, but feels like worlds away.  We stopped through for the afternoon to enjoy the proverbial white sand, palm trees, and also look into this sea turtle snorkeling situation I’d been reading about.  We’d been a little too leisurely to make it in time for the snorkeling – rentals/tours end around 4pm there and we were too busy doing nothing to make that deadline.  I was dying to see a turtle up close but didn’t let it get me down, as we were still early in the trip.  The main heartbreak occurred from not being able to make good use of my new fancy underwater camera.  Akumal is gorgeous and refreshing – all the views and vibes you’d expect from the Mayan Riviera without (or at least less of) the commercialism of Cancun.

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Akumal Tips:

– Snorkel tours from the main beach run $25 US per person, but are completely unnecessary.  Rent snorkel gear from one of the dive shops (or better yet, BEFORE you enter the beach area altogether) and swim out to all the same spots that the tours go.  You can literally just watch them move in their crowded, cattle-driven groups while you sip a cervesa from the beach, then wander out to the same spots at your leisure.  So much sexier.

– Skip the overrated beachfront restaurants packed with (other) gringos and walked the 50 feet into “town” for some amazing tacos from sidewalk spot El Comal De Akumal for 65 pesos (about $4) a plate.  You can also BYOB practically anywhere.

– When restaurants in Mexico say a salsa is “spicy” – they mean it.  Heed warnings.  Don’t be a hero.

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BOOK REVIEW // The Selection

FullSizeRenderIf you happen to follow me on Instagram, you might know that I’ve been in Mexico for the past week (conjuring up MUCHO new content to post soon).  Since I’ve been on real vacation (not just vacation MODE, haaaa) – what better time to indulge in some guilty pleasures?  Which brings me to The Selection.

I think I spotted this book for the first time in a bookstore about a year ago and the whimsical nerd in me was immediately drawn to the princess-y, YA-screaming cover.  You may have heard that we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing if the thing you are judging is pretty and frilly and intrigues you to no end.  It’s been on my TBR list ever since and in honor of my vacay, I thought I’d give myself a little break from life (and from Dragonfly in Amber) and see what all the fuss was about.

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