Last week I was notified that I’d been selected as a writer in residence at the Akumal International Artist Residency! I am beyond thrilled. Having spent zero time in Akumal I’m looking forward to falling in love with it the way I have with Tulum, its southerly neighbor.
I’ll be heading to Mexico in late January, where I’ll reside for six weeks while finishing my manuscript, Island of Swallows. I’ll be blogging regularly from Akumal while living at the residency, so please add your email to the bar on the right for the latest updates on Mexico, poetry, and what I’m up to.
I’m incredibly excited to be going on yet another journey to my beloved Mexico, and invite you all to join me on this endeavor!
More dispatches soon.
Pardon my hiatus from Loose Gringa!
Mars’ continual retrograding has caused me massive technological glitches, but I think — cross fingers — things are better now.
And it’s summer, and at the end of this July I’ll have marked a huge TWO YEARS since my epic move to the Yucatan. It seems like yesterday, and yet, and yet…
While I was in Mexico the last time, staying at Tulum’s wonderful Azulik, I invested myself in really scouring the local shopping scene. Tulum has pretty much been colonized by the chic set, so pricier boutiques are popping up alongside Tulum’s handicrafts market.
Below is my hit list of must-sees for those on and off a budget.
Splurge: Coqui Coqui
Not my finest hour at this uber-popular boutique hotel/spa/restaurant/perfumer, as I proceeded to knock down a massive display of jewelry. (At least I didn’t freak out at spying Kim Gordon in a yoga pose on the beachfront!) The shopgirl was less than enthused with us already, and even snootier after my clumsiness. No, the staffers aren’t the nicest, but the boutique is worth your while if you’re into hard-to-find, cult perfumes, which I am.
Now with three locations — Tulum, Coba, and Valladolid — Coqui Coqui has staked an empire in Mexico’s beauty and hotel industry, which is why tons of celebrities make their way through here.
I’d visited Coqui Coqui years ago in Tulum, but regretfully never bit the bullet on one of their scents. This time was different. Their rosas secas perfume drew me in, while my shopping partner opted for the tabaco; but the lovely Coco-Coco fragrance is suntan lotion meets coconut meets youthful misty beach memories, and a bestseller. I got the candle in Coco-Coco and light it during the winter. Perfection. Candles are around $50, if I remember, and perfumes top off around $80. One of a kind jewelry, clothing, and accessories can also be had here, if you’re operating with some mega bucks.
Tip: Coqui Coqui is across from delicious, amazing, must-go Hartwood. So shop first, and have the best meal of your life.
Save: Plastic Flamingo
Situated in a dirt lot in an airstream bus, Plastic Flamingo boasts the kind of kitschy look and goods that are a breath of fresh air against Tulum’s wallet-crushing hotels and stores. Screenprinted t-shirts, jewelry, and other knickknacks can be found here — all made locally and by hand and with a Mexican flair.
Splurge: Posada Margherita
This boutique hotel/restaurant is a fantastic option for staying or dining, and they have a small boutique off the restaurant, to boot.
Filled with bikinis, gauzy dresses, creams and potions, and perfumes by model Leilani Bishop, this mid-priced boutique is sparse, but smartly curated. I wanted everything! Definitely worth a browse on your walk by, or after your breakfast, which Posada Margherita does so well.
Splurge: Mr. Blackbird
A tiny beachfront shop (also beside Coqui Coqui and Hartwood) but THE place for gorgeous jewelry. I wanted EVERYTHING.
Photo stolen from Mr. Blackbird’s Facebook page!
Mixik is my favorite place to shop in Tulum. Bike or drive to Tulum’s center and you’ll undoubtedly stumble onto this shop featuring every Mexican handicraft you can image. From notebooks, matchbooks, mirrors, and more emblazoned with Frida Kahlo’s face, to lucha libre masks, to Dia de los Muertos jewelry, to rugs, blankets, home goods, dreamcatchers and more, this place has EVERYTHING and it’s all crafted in Mexico. The prices are totally fair, and you’ll walk away with gifts for all your friends and money left over for lunch, and maybe something for you, too.
Where’s your favorite place to shop in Tulum!?
There are some places that — no matter how artsy or what kind of camera you have — just cannot be captured accurately. Azulik is like that.
Yes, that is an OUTDOOR BATHTUB.
When Marco, the front desk extraordinaire, first showed me my room, my mouth was agape. Then I was squealing. Was this my life?
Located on Boca Paila, Tulum’s beachfront road, Azulik is a hotel with entirely no electricity. Their focus is on nature, enjoying the surroundings, and it’s hard not to do just that when you’re there. (You can charge your phone at one plug in the room, at certain times of night, but otherwise you’re best bet is the front desk, where there’s plugs a plenty and the wifi is strongest.)
Azulik is simple — complimentary breakfast is served every morning, consisting of mostly pastries, toast and jams, fresh fruit, and plenty of coffee — but special. It truly is a place to go to feel removed from the world, any outside pressures, and just relax. I’ve experienced no other place quite like it.
Taking daily baths was one of the highlights of my stay. It really slowed me down and calmed me. I would return again tomorrow, if I could.
As you can see, Azulik is muy romantic. Go with your partner. There’s no showers, just bathtubs. It’s fabulous.
Here’s my tips for your stay at Azulik:
- Lots of reading material; little wifi means that it’s book time, and reading in bed via flashlight is so pioneer of you!
- Keep an open mind. Azulik’s beach is clothing optional. Lots of German scrotum to upset you, or not. Bare it all or just enjoy, but leave the snark behind!
- Rent a bike. Azulik is within a reasonable riding distance to the ruins.
- Go to Mateo’s. Azulik is close to two great bars, one of which is Mateo’s. Their fish tacos are truly good, if a bit pricey. The chile margaritas are TO. DIE. FOR. Puro Corazon is beside Mateo’s, and both feature live music, both are laid back, with delicious food. There was something about Mateo’s that made me like it more, but both were great, and within walking distance to Azulik.
- Go to Hartwood. It’s down Boca Paila, almost to the biosphere. We met two foodie friends at the front desk and they’d never heard of the place, so we invited them along. It turned out to be a dining experience to remember, and one of the best meals of our life. Everything is the freshest, and the waiters are superb eye candy.
You know you’re headed someplace good when it’s before noon and the music is blasting while you board the plane.
And you also know it’s time to drink!
And so I boarded my Merry Christmas-to-me flight to Santiago, Dominican Republic, where a driver from Coco Tours waited to receive me.
Shout-out to Coco Tours: not only are they the most reliable and highest TripAdvisor-ranked tour and airport transfer company in the DR, they were more than flexible with my travel arrangements and super communicative. If you’re traveling to the DR and need transport from an out-of-the-way airport (like me) or want to hire a private bus driver for the day, Coco Tours is the best. Tell them Loose Gringa sent ya!
I got into the taxi van and we proceeded down Santiago’s mountains to Cabarete, a small beach town in the Puerto Plata province.
Santiago’s Christmas celebrations were beyond crazy — everyone was in the street, gallons of Brugal rum dangling from seemingly everyone’s wrists, music and parties happening all over.
The mountains enveloped us — hairpin curves and drop-offs I hadn’t experienced since driving the Road to Hana in Maui. With no lights, strays everywhere, drunken motorcyclists, and pedestrians darting from the brush, I was glad we were in a Catholic country, in the hands of a God-fearing man at the wheel, on Christmas day.
Greetings from snowy Boston!
Thank you, readers, for a phenomenal past year. 2014 looks to be even more superb, as next week I embark on an 8-day sojourn to the Dominican Republic’s north coast.
And three weeks after I return from the DR, I’ll be heading back to Tulum for a rollicking stay at Azulik and for another adventure in the Yucatan.
I can’t wait to share with you all my stories, pictures, and places in 2014.
There is SO much more to come and I’m thrilled to share it all with you.
Thank you for reading Loose Gringa and, as ever, stay tuned!