Suitcase and World: Playa de Veracruz.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Playa de Veracruz.

The first thing we did after settling into our hotel rooms was to hit the beach.

Although it is summer holidays and I would have expected the beach to be crowded, it was actually relatively people free.  I think that's because Veracruz is not known for its beaches; it's not got the powder white sand of the Mayan Riviera and the surroundings lack beachy charm.
But, there's something about seeing the waves that just begs us to take our shoes off and dip our toes in.  It was nice to also breath in the salty air.  I miss being by the sea!  

Palapa huts.  Directly across the street from our hotel was a short boardwalk of sorts. A vendors selling wares and a slew of touristy restaurants, housed in palapa huts, selling the seafood meals that Veracruz is so famous for.  We would be having dinner with Francisco and Juan Jose later on so we declined every single offer to enter a restaurant and eat.  Got to be pretty tiresome saying "no" repeatedly.

It was a hot summer day and we're on the beach.  What a better way to cool off than with ice cream!  In Mexico City and Puebla, my favorite place to go for Mexican ice cream was La Michoacana.  Thanks to that place, I developed an obsession for paletas which is the Mexican version of popsicles but they are so, so much better.  I'm going to have to a posting just on that topic later :-)

Güero, güera.  In Veracruz, there's a word that's popularly used by the locals - güero which is a slang term for a person with blond or red hair or of fair complexion.  Güera is the female equivalent.   Perhaps because I'm not blond and so I didn't hear it but apparently, it's common to hear ice cream vendors shout out the words "güera, güera" to women passing by.

So, a local chain of ice cream stores decided to pay homage to the favorite slang word of Veracruz and named themselves "Güero, Güero, Güera, Güera".   Quite a mouthful of a name for an ice cream store!  Lucky for them, they have great ice cream!

I know this may sound weird but I absolutely fell in love with the peanut (cacahuete) flavored ice cream that my brother ordered.  It had that this intense flavor of roasted peanuts.  I could have eaten the entire tub of that stuff.  When I get home, I'm going to try and recreate that flavor.  Ayşe had the Mexican lime which is intensely tart and flavorful; much more than their American cousins.  It's no wonder that anything flavored with lime here tastes so darn good.

After our ice cream break was over, we decided to walk back towards the hotel but we would take the beach route.  We had to ward off more restaurant guys trying to lure us into their dens of tourist seafood dinners.  We still weren't interested. 

Local treats.  Food is everywhere in Mexico.  In Veracruz, vendors ride their bicycles all the way out to where the surf meets the sand!!

And you can't escape coconut in Veracruz. If you were an enterprising vendor, you could just pick the fruits from the trees that line the boardwalk and sell the juice.  We came across a vendor selling fresh coconut juice.  You know, the kind that comes inside the green coconut with a straw inserted so you can suck up the juice?  Ayşe had never had one before so she wanted to try.  She plunked down her pesos, they handed her a coconut from their cooler, she took one sip and made a face that clearly said, "Yuck".  I took a sip and told her that they had given her a bad coconut so she took it back to them and told them so.  She did not ask for her money back.

A popular street food on the beaches of Veracruz are raspados and glorias.  Raspado is basically shaved ice that you can top with a variety of syrups which are basically sugared fruit syrups.  I think glorias are a variation of raspados.  Francisco said that the shaved ice is topped with condensed milk before the syrup is swirled on top.  

We marched on.  We soon got to a pile of rocks and it was great place to perch ourselves and watch the waves.

The sun was slowly beginning to set and we needed to scurry back to the hotel to meet up with guys.  They promised to take us for a dinner of local seafood specialties and I was not about to miss out on that!

A bit of culture.  We met up with Francisco and Juan Jose at 7pm.   Before dinner, we would be going to see a folklore dance performance in the zócalo. We piled back into the van and headed back towards the center of town. There, Juan Jose parked the car and we got out and walked a few short blocks. I could hear the music before I saw the stage. A performance was already going on when we arrived into the small square.  The sun was beginning to set.  It was a warm (but not hot) and humid night....actually a nice night to catch an outdoor performance.  There was already a small crowd of people standing in front of the stage. 

We found spots for ourselves and watched the show.  It was a local troupe performing regional dances.  Very enjoyable especially the dances where the dancers had to balance bottles and trays on their heads!

We left after about 5 performances....we had probably been there about an hour.  By now, the sun had set and hunger was calling.

Hungry or maybe just greedy :-) We followed the guys over to a fancy schmancy restaurant near the square.  We took a look at the menu and when we realized there was not a single seafood dish on the menu, we wanted to leave.  Who wants to be in a town known for its seafood and not have any?  Not us!  Juan Jose knew exactly where to take us but it would require a drive to a nearby town called Boca del Rio.  We were all game so back to the van we went.  It was about a 20 minute drive to Boca del Rio which true to its name lies at the mouth of where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

It was dark by the time we arrived at the restaurant, a family owned establishment where Juan Jose knew the owners.  Oh yeah.  It was a good dinner.  My brother had the octopus served Veracruz style (which is onions, tomatoes and capers).  I had the grilled shrimp and we both shared the river crab salad which was so good, it was as my friend Kiat would say, to die for!  The salad was served warm and the crab had that sweetness that you only get when the crab is fresh.  The octopus and shrimp were delicious as well.  Between the two of us, we had three entrees and we left nothing on the plate!!  So greedy because it was so good.

Ayşe wanted to have fish and so just right after she ordered, the waiter came out with a plate that had two snappers on it.  The fish to have in Veracruz is snapper.  Typically, it would be served Veracruz style but
Ayşe had it just steamed.  I think she was a bit disappointed by that but she thoroughly enjoyed the fish.  You can't beat the taste and texture of fresh fish!  Just divine!

Adios playa de Veracruz!