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San Miguel De Allende, part 2

San Miguel De Allende, part 2

By on Nov 3, 2014 in Adventure, Food, Interior design, Luxury, Mexican, Mexico, Reviews, Travel | 0 comments

San Miguel De Allende is a vividly coloured historic town that sits approximately 270 km north of Mexico City, and has been made famous at various points throughout the last centuries for events such as being the birthplace of Ignacio Allende, a freedom fighter and national hero of the Mexican people, and by virtue of the fact that in 1810 the municipality of San Miguel was the first to be freed from Spanish rule by the Mexican army. San Miguel is steeped not only in history but also in creativity, and has been a hub for artists throughout the last eight decades. We were venturing there to experience the whole spectrum of sensations that such a site offers, and to admire the town’s UNESCO world listed heritage architecture. Our vehicle headed out at dawn, as the sun rose over the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt, a mountainous strata of land that sweeps east to west, featuring various snow-dusted peaks. As the jeep drew closer to San Miguel, a gap in the mountains revealed a cluster of hot air balloons floating peacefully eastwards. For those with an appetite for adventure travel, Mexico is a land of plenty. We rumbled off the main freeway and trundled into the steep winding cobbled streets of the main city, at which point the atmosphere changed almost instantly. High walls painted in shades of ochre and umbre create a maze framed all around by views out over surrounding hills and mountains. Bougainvillea and Wisteria grow bountifully in trellises and along the tops of walls, while the usual suspects aloe, cacti and various ornamental succulents pop up in terracotta pots that dot the door frames and flagstones about the town. It has distinct old world charm and a relaxed pace that feels at once homely. Our lodging, the Rosewood hotel, is a veritable palace that I was awestruck to learn has only been built, from scratch, in the last three years. Observing the fabric, and the style in which it has been constructed, you might justly suppose the building has been stood here for decades if not centuries. Stone has been quarried and timber felled locally. Fittings, fixtures and furniture are also from local craftsman and designers. This ethos of contextual and cultural awareness and empathy encapsulates the Rosewood...

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San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende

By on Oct 20, 2014 in Adventure, Drink, Food, Hotels, Luxury, Mexican, Mexico, Mezcal, Reviews, Travel | 1 comment

Food wise, Mexico has an incredible amount of variety to offer the gourmet traveller, and whilst Oaxaca is known as the culinary capital of Mexico, there are a number of distinct regions with their own unique dishes, celebrating native produce, forming a base of traditional Mexican recipes that have been handed down over generations. Whilst there are understandably some influences from America, notably in cuisines in the North of the country, as well as significant influences from the Spanish who of course infiltrated Mexico, bringing animal husbandry and butchery with them, in fact the majority of Mexican cuisine is just that: Mexican. Provenance of some of the more notorious dishes such as the burrito can be ambiguous and most Mexicans will tell you the burrito is an American invention, whereas the taco (perhaps surprisingly), is an entirely Mexican staple. Signature ingredients include chilli (of course), achiote, lime, coriander, rice, eggs, avocado, corn flour, maize flour, beef, pork and chicken. However, as I discovered on a recent trip to San Miguel De Allende via Mexico City, there are many more styles of preparation and ingredients to explore, ranging from the exotic to the frankly bizarre. Preparation of Mexican meals can often be a painstakingly slow labour of love, resulting in a table that groans under the weight of food, at which the entire family will sit to dine. I will never forget the first meal I saw taking place in Mexico, in a big old rustic diner in the Yucatan with a high vaulted ceiling, timber beams and wagon wheels bolted to its stone walls. I had just arrived in Mexico for the first time, with a couple of London lads and a Swedish girl. We were agog at the vast frozen Margaritas that were brought to our table, in glasses the size of hollowed out footballs and swimming with premium gold tequila. Although we were four young and excitable travellers, freshly arrived in this magical land of mountains and deserts, soft sand beaches and palm trees, Mariachi bands and Mezcal, it was in fact the table of twenty or so Mexicans opposite us who commanded the most attention. This was an entire family, out to dine and mingle on Saturday night,...

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Mexico City day 2

Mexico City day 2

By on Mar 2, 2014 in Adventure, Airlines, Food, health, Hotels, Luxury, Mexican, Mexico, Reviews, Travel | 2 comments

Awaking at 7 am, I drew back the curtains with eager anticipation for the day that lay ahead. The previous day’s exploration had felt epic, and our platoon were all pretty whacked by nightfall. Of course it’s always good to start the day with exercise, so I took a swim in the rooftop pool at our hotel, The Sheraton Isabel Maria. It was a special feeling to be swimming in a heated pool with amazing views out over Mexico City, and I pushed myself in order to build an appetite for a big breakfast. Our group chose to eat in the lounge on the 20th floor so we could appreciate the urban cityscape as we tucked into another hearty meal, which on this particular morning consisted of fried plantain and tamales with salsa. I chose plantain not just because it was delicious but also a good slow release energy food for the day ahead. They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it certainly feels like it at the Sheraton Isabel Maria. Our hosts for this trip were various and as well as Starwood hotels, we were also accommodated by the Mexico City tourist agency and of course Aeromexico, who were naturally keen to show us seasoned travellers their new fleet of Boeing 787-8 planes which were awaiting inspection at their brand new hangar. In spite of the fact none of the group seemed too excited at the prospect, I was very keen, as it’s not often one gets to experience such unique aviation gold. Once we had cleared security we entered the hangar, and within a millisecond the group’s tune changed. It was quite breathtaking, to enter such a vast space, still gleaming in all it’s newness. The hangar is also used for events, including a mass (of course!) and opened out naturally onto the airfield and runways, where the planes stood waiting. We ventured out, cameras poised, and quite literally had a field day, snapping away at the inside of the turbines. Much to our surprise, we were given permission to pose inside the jet engines. This was a photo-opp not to be missed. Each of us took it in turns to shoot...

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Mexico City, day 1: Teotihuacan

Mexico City, day 1: Teotihuacan

By on Feb 19, 2014 in Adventure, Food, Hotels, Mexican, Mexico, Travel | 0 comments

After a sound sleep on the flight, we arrived in Mexico City at our scheduled arrival time of 0600 and were met by our tour guide, the delightful Mirta, who escorted us to our home for the next  two nights, the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel, situated in the heart of the city, immediately adjacent to the famous Angel of Independence monument, essentially Mexico’s equivalent of Nelson’s column. The column forms a centrepiece to a vast roundabout, encompassed by palms as tall as the 14 storey hotel itself. The immediate feeling was one of immensity; even though the city was just waking up, as were we, it had a gentle buzz to it. As early morning light cast hypnotic shadows through the dense foliage and settled in mottled patterns on glass and concrete of the urban landscape, I was immediately taken in. Our hosts greeted us as we sat down to breakfast, and although we had been on Mexican soil for just a couple of hours, it was already time for some culinary exploration. The breakfast options included English, American, continental and Mexican, so naturally I went for Mexican.   In the centre is cactus, which I really enjoyed. When asked to describe it, the best explanation I could give was a sort of dense, bitter-sweet courgette (zuchini). At 1 o’clock is mole, at 6 a spiced maize cake steamed in banana leaf, at 9 a Mexican cheese and 11 is some sort of pounded pork pattie. A recurring theme on this trip was that I ate a lot of food I couldn’t identify, and when I asked for help in identifying it, the response was a little vague. However it didn’t stop me eating my way through mountains of the good stuff, and of course taking pictures of it. Culture beckoned, so we drove over to the Basilica de Guadalupe. This is Catholicism’s answer to Mecca, with as many as 6.1 million people having made the pilgrimage here in 2009. The Basilica was designed by Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, a notable Mexican architect. There was a hushed reverie in spite of the vast crowds, all assembled to pray and find forgiveness. It’s an amazing building and like a lot of the structures...

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Mexico City

Mexico City

By on Feb 16, 2014 in Adventure, Airlines, Food, Mexican, Mexico, Travel | 0 comments

Way way back in 2010, having returned from a sojourn across South East Asia, I took stock of my career and direction, endeavouring to work out next moves. I was at a crossroads you see, a bit like Dorothy when she meets the scarecrow, only I didn’t meet any scarecrows, although I did once dance with a scarecrow who was drunk on scrumpy and smelt strongly of garlic, who in fact turned out to be Damon Albarn, in the Pig’s nose down by the coast at East Prawle  in Devon; but that’s another story. The decision to start a blog about food and travel was born quite simply from a love food, travel, writing and photography. Culinary World Tour was the title of an advertorial feature I’d written for The Mirror’s entertainment supplement and included write-ups on world food restaurants in London. I never really knew exactly where it would take me, so naturally I was delighted when an offer came through in October last year to visit Mexico City on a press trip organised by the airline AeroMexico. Mexico City! The mind boggles at the mere mention of a city so vast, and as for the cuisine, well. Find me somebody who doesn’t love Mexican food and I will cure them, or at least shoot them a look of withering bewilderment. It should come as no surprise that in 2010, UNESCO recognised Mexican cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and having visited Tulum on the east coast of the Yucatan in 2000, I was more than keen. The next few posts will detail this exciting trip, including such highlights as a visit to a brand new aircraft hangar, preview of a new fleet of 787-8 planes, cultural insight into the pre-Spanish indigenous Mexican people known as Mexica (Meh-hee-ka) and inspiration for culinary exploration of this exciting megalopolis. Thanks to careful planning by the marketing team at AeroMexico in collaboration with the Mexico City tourist board and Starwood hotels, there was quite literally never a dull moment, hence describing it is going to take several posts. You could hardly do an ancient city with a population of 21 million justice in a couple of paragraphs. However before...

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