Street Food Eating our Way Through Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

Across Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, we set out to sample as many street delicacies as possible and got off to a jumping start at a weekend street fair in Cancun.

In the Yucatán, many of the favorite foods can be traced back to Mayan times. In addition to building incredible cities, the Maya people grew… CONTINUE READING >>

Thanks to the folks at Ensure we felt secure that we could venture into this epicurean episode without risking any nutritional repercussions. They were kind enough to sponsor our video, and provided a supply of their new Ensure Active, which kept us hydrated throughout our escapades. All opinions are our own.

Mobile street food vender in Piste, Mexico

The inclination to grab a bite to eat on the street is not something new.

Most likely the first time two roads crossed, some enterprising chef set up a cart at the new intersection to provide passersby a mobile snack.

The idea of fast food is not a recent development; it’s the culmination of centuries of selling food on the fly. We saw it in Pompeii, where corner cafes had counters right on the curb.

Fruit and vegetable street stand in Valladolid Mexico

Chapulines, or crickets is a street delicacy in Mexico

Across Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, we set out to sample as many street delicacies as possible and got off to a jumping start at a weekend street fair in Cancun.

Before we made it to the mass of vendors in the Parque de las Palapas, we encountered a young man with two buckets. One was obviously filled with spiced peanuts; the other looked to be brimming with bugs.

David eats a cricket in Cancun Mexico

“Crickets,” he informed us. Known as chapulines, these buggers are traditionally found in the nearby state of Oaxaca.

In summer and early fall, the insects are harvested out of the corn and alfalfa fields, cleaned, boiled, and then baked or fried with plenty of spices. Never ones to back away from trying something strange or new, when offered a sample we both popped one in our mouths.

Not bad, the chili overshadowed any bug-like flavor. Not a new favorite or anything, but way better than a silkworm.

WATCH: We eat our way through the Yucatan – calorie count not included, for your guilt-free viewing pleasure!

An elote cart in Valladolid
An elote cart in Valladolid

In the Yucatán, many of the favorite foods can be traced back to Mayan times. In addition to building incredible cities, the Maya people grew corn.

The grain was a staple of their diet, just as it is for their descendants today. Good old corn on the cob, called elote, is one of the most popular street foods all across Mexico.

Elote from a street vendor in Cancun

Elote in a cup in Cancun
Esquites in Cancun

Dressed up with cheese and chili pepper it is a tasty treat, but down in the southern sections of the country we came across a variation we had never seen before.

Esquites is same ingredients, only served in a cup. The corn is cut off of the cob and a wild array of condiments is offered as toppings, and then eaten with a spoon. Not as fun, but definitely not as messy.

Carrying wares on the street in Piste, Mexico

Tamale cart in Valladolid Mexico
Tamale cart in Valladolid

While exploring the inland town of Valladolid, one of the more intriguing offerings we encountered curbside were the charred, leaf-wrapped packets we kept seeing in the Mayan neighborhood.

They looked a lot like the dim sum sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves served in China, but were obviously cooked over fire. Our guess was — even though they were much larger than we had ever seen before — that they were most likely tamales.

Made sense since the Maya people invented tamales, and have continued making them for thousands of years.

Tamale in Valladolid Mexico

Unlike the corn husk wrapping we are used to seeing (or the scary grease soaked paper of the canned versions), these tamales are cooked in banana leaves, which does wonders for the flavor.

The sweetness, mixed with the smoky flavor from fire roasting and the spicy filling, made for the best we’ve ever had. Much of that unique goodness is a result of the cooking over coals in underground ovens known as pibs.

That is so much a part of the process that pib has become the slang term for tamales across the Yucatán.

Conchinita pibil street food stand in Valladolid Mexico
Conchinita cart in Valladolid


Another regional dish that can be traced back to the ancient Mayans, and is also cooked underground, is conchinita pibil.

Cochinita means baby pig, and pibil is the Mayan word for buried, which perfectly describes the dish.

While it has become less common to roast a whole suckling pig, the method remains the same; marinate pork in the juice of bitter oranges and achiote, wrap the meat in banana leaves, and slow cook it over coals underground.

Panuchos conchinita pibil in Piste Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula
Panuchos conchinita pibil in Pisté
Conchinita pibil sandwich in Valladolid Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula
Conchinita pibil as a sandwich

The end result is tender, flavorful pulled pork that instantly became our new favorite.

Not a day went by that we didn’t have some conchinita, several times at breakfast!

It is almost always served with pickled onions, and often on bread, but we also had it on tortillas and even saw it advertised as a pizza topping.

Lime soup or Sopa de lima in Piste, Mexico
Sopa de lima in Pisté

At a sidewalk café in Pisté, the small town that serves as the gateway to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, we were introduced to one of the most popular dishes of the region, sopa de lima.

Being soup, it is not generally served on the street, but lime soup is available pretty much everywhere else in the Yucatán. As the name implies, lime is a key ingredient, but this is more of a traditional chicken soup, with tortilla strips taking the place of noodles. Freakin’ YUM.

Cooking street tacos in Cancun Mexico

Speaking of tortillas, we certainly cannot overlook the importance, and abundance, of tacos to the street food scene in Mexico.

There are variations common to the different parts of the country, but they have all permeated the entire land and beyond.

The name taco is thought to come from silver miners in the 1800s, who thought that the explosive charges of gunpowder wrapped in paper they used to blow holes in rock looked similar to their lunch. The food had been common for centuries before that, but no one seems to know what it was called.

Street tacos in Cancun Mexico

Nameless or not, tacos were around well before the Spanish arrived.

In fact, in his 1568 book, A True History of the Conquest of New Spain, Bernal Díaz del Castillo wrote a first-hand account of a 1520 dinner party where conquistador Hernán Cortés ate tacos with the Aztecs.

He went on to repay their hospitality by double crossing them.

Tacos dorados in Cancun Mexico

Ground corn, cooked into tortillas, is still the delivery system of choice for almost any filling imaginable.

We may not know what the Aztecs or Mayans called them, but they go by many names now.

From the basic tacos al carbon, where the meat is grilled over live coals, to tacos dorados meaning golden tacos, because they are deep fried to a golden brown.

Tacos al pastor in Cancun Mexico

One of the most popular taco types in all of Mexico is not descendent from the ancient natives at all, but from Lebanon.

In the first half of the twentieth century many Lebanese immigrants came to Mexico to escape the Ottoman Empire and brought with them their traditional foods.

However, some of the ingredients were not readily available in their new home and dishes had to adapt. Tacos al pastor is a perfect example.

Tacos al pastor in Cancun Mexico

The lamb used for shawarma, the spit-grilled meat common throughout the Middle East, just wasn’t around in the Yucatán, so pork replaced it.

New seasonings, including pineapple were incorporated, and when served on tortillas instead of pita… presto, tacos al pastor.

Tacos Rigos in Cancun specializes in tacos de cabeza or head tacos
Tacos Rigos in Cancun specializes in head tacos; David needs a moment to adjust to the idea.


After a few days of taco tasting we were feeling pretty adventurous, so we decided to try the possibly disgust… rather, shall we say, somewhat exotic tacos de cabeza, or head tacos.

The process involves steaming a whole cow’s head and removing certain parts to use inside of tacos.

The most common portions are Sesos (brains), Trompa (lips), Cachete (cheek), Lengua (tongue), and Ojo (eyes).

Cheek, tongue and eyeball tacos in Cancun Mexico! GypsyNester.com

We went for the cheek, tongue, and eyeballs, after all, there’s only so much cabeza a person can take… and we wanted to save some to try later… yeah, right.

The cheek was fairly normal meat, perfectly good, and the tongue was not too unusual either. We had tried it through the years on sandwiches and other dishes. But the eyes… let’s just say it was not a pretty sight.

Eyeball taco in Cancun Mexico! GypsyNester.com
Are you looking at ME?!

The eyes are chopped up after steaming, and then braised on a grill, which helped slightly.

In fact, had we not known what we were eating we may have thought it was just a really fatty, grisly cut of meat.

But we did know, which brought new meaning to the saying watch what you eat.

We were diligent though, and managed to consume a fair amount of the bovine peepers, until it hit us… what if they were watching us back?!?!

It was easier to get past eating a bug than thinking about that.

Gory taco in Cancun, Mexico
We were, however, somewhat petrified to try our luck in this place!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Thanks to the folks at Ensure we felt secure that we could venture into this epicurean episode without risking any nutritional repercussions. They were kind enough to sponsor our video, and provided a supply of their new Ensure Active, which kept us hydrated throughout our escapades. All opinions are our own.

See all of our adventures in Mexico!

YOUR TURN: Fire away! What looks good and what wouldn’t you eat in a million years (we would never ask that you are as crazy as we are!)?

The Angelic Aura of St Michael’s Mount

When is an island not an island?

Perhaps when there is a cobblestone path leading to it.

The thought was so intriguing, and the castle topped hill so inviting, that we could hardly wait. However, the tide… CONTINUE READING >> 

A big thank you to Country Walkers for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.

When is an island not an island?

Perhaps when there is a cobblestone path leading to it.

Considering our first view of St Michael’s Mount at the end of our coast to coast trek over St. Michael’s Way, it was hard to imagine that we would be able to walk to the mountain we saw rising out of the sea about a half mile offshore.

The thought was so intriguing, and the castle topped hill so inviting, that we could hardly wait. However, the tide, which can run as high as twenty feet in Cornwall, insisted that we wait until the morning.

The mount has been the site of legends and lore, as well as a prized piece of real estate, for thousands of years.

There is evidence of inhabitants as far back as 5000 BC, and by the time of Christ this may have already been a major port for shipping tin from nearby mines.

Around the year 500 AD it is said that the Archangel Michael appeared sitting upon the summit to guide boats through a storm, giving the mount its name. A few hundred years later monks laid claim to it and a series of monasteries followed.

Somewhere between Michael and the monastery, the giant Cormoran was said to rule the mountain. The monster terrorized the region, stealing livestock and eating children until a young man named Jack had had enough.

Sneaking up the hill one night, Jack dug a pit, lured Cormoran into it, and disposed of the menace with a pickaxe to the head. Gruesome and effective!

The feat earned him the name Jack the Giant Killer. While very similar stories, we learned that this was not the same Jack that climbed the beanstalk.

For centuries St Michael’s Mount was sought as a stronghold by a string of various British royals and nobility, until around 1650 when the St Aubyn family moved in. Now it is managed by the National Trust, but the family continues to hold forth in the castle.

Marazion Town Hall

With our history lesson learned, and a good night’s rest in the picturesque town of Marazion behind us, we were ready to walk on water. But alas, no need. The tide had receded and a granite causeway had appeared.

Arriving at the fortified entrance to the village by the mount’s harbor, we were met with an unhappy revelation. It was Saturday, and the castle is always closed on Saturdays in order to give the St Aubyns a day away from the crowds.

Disappointed that we would not be able to climb to the top, we made the best of it and found that there was a lot to be discovered down at the base of the hill.

Our exploration began by walking around the port, which was bone dry because of the huge tide. Even though we had seen this at several places around Cornwall, it still seemed strange to see boats sitting on the dry bottom of the bay.

The lack of water made the stone sea walls look more like a fort than a breakwater. At the stairway up to the entrance we looked down and found a bronze footprint of Queen Victoria commemorating her visit in 1846.

Up near the walkway entrance we discovered that Queen Elizabeth & Prince Philip, as well as Prince Charles & Camilla, also have their footprints immortalized in metal.

A little village is clustered around the waterfront, so we walked the cobblestone streets up and down… both of them. It didn’t take long, especially since it was Saturday and none of the island’s handful of shops or cafes were open.

Undaunted, we poked around and found some interesting features.

The mount actually has a subway built to haul things up to the castle. It’s not something they advertise to tourists, but by standing on our tiptoes we could see it hidden behind a fence.

The single car looks a bit like a coffin on wheels and dates back to Victorian times. For some reason, they chose to dig a tunnel instead of going overland, so it makes the entire trip underground.

Passing a row of homes, obviously inhabited, aroused our curiosity as to who lived here. We speculated that they must be people who work up in the castle, or perhaps own the businesses.

At the end of the road we found a lychgate leading to the parish cemetery. The misty gray day seemed perfectly fitting for the scene of moss covered headstones and Cornish Crosses.

Perhaps it was a day like this that inspired director John Badham to use St Michael’s Mount as the setting for his 1979 movie version of Dracula.

On our way out we were surprised to see an unexpected car pulling through the entrance gate of the causeway. The gatekeeper was standing by so we inquired and he filled us in on a few interesting tidbits and confirmed some of our theories.

Cars and small trucks are permitted to drive across the walkway, but only for delivering items to the homes and shops, and only for boat owners or people who live on the island.

The population is currently about thirty five people, in addition to the St Aubyn family, and he was quick to add that he was not one of them. Normally he works on the mainland and was just filling in.

Residents must work on the island, no vacation homes or getaways here and, not that we were in the market, out of curiosity we asked if there are any rentals. No Air B&B allowed, there is no way a tourist can stay the night.

Even though our timing was bad for seeing the castle, and the weather didn’t really cooperate as far as getting good shots of the mountain, we walked back to Marazion ahead of the tide happy that we had made the pilgrimage.

On the train to London the next day we met Matt Thatcher, a student who is also a photographer. When he showed us his shot of the mountain crowned by the Milky Way we were blown away and had to ask if we could share it. He was happy to oblige.

Matt Thatcher Photography

Seeing his shot we could tell why people felt there was an angelic presence on the mount.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See more from our Cornwall walking tour here.

Marfa My Dear

We found ourselves in the middle-of-nowhere West Texas and discovered some WEIRD stuff!

The mysterious Marfa Ghost Lights (fact or fiction?), strange pig like creatures (with a little nursing baby!) and a really, REALLY strange work of art.

Join us on the journey into weird and wonderful West Texas…CONTINUE READING  >>

The Marfa Lights Field at sunset

We ventured deep in the heart of Texas with an eye on viewing the legendary Marfa Lights, hoping to see the mysterious ghost lights from the official viewing area built by the nearby city of Marfa.

As a bonus, the area allows overnight parking for hardy paranormal activity seekers’ RVs.

We pulled in at sundown and found a spot overlooking the famous field where the illuminations are said to appear. After looking around, checking the horizon for possible sources of light and reading the markers explaining the phenomenon, we put some dinner on the stove, cracked open some vino and waited.

The first public account of the spook lights was in the July 1957 issue of Coronet Magazine, but the article claimed that they had been reported as far back as the 1800s.

People have described them as glowing spheres floating above the ground or high in the air. They can vary in color from white to yellow, orange or red and zip around in a strange manner, sometimes merging into each other or splitting apart to form new balls.

Marfa Lights Viewing PlatformThey are known to hover, or shoot around at high speed and disappear and reappear. We were very excited, but knew our chances might be limited since reports say that they only materialize about twenty times a year and seem to be completely unpredictable.

As dusk fell, we stood at the viewing platform scanning the horizon but spotted nothing unusual.

There were some lights that seemed to float off in the distance, but these were headlights of vehicles coming down a hill on U.S. Highway 67, which many skeptics say are the source of most of the claimed sightings. We weren’t falling for those, we wanted basketball-sized dancing orbs to show themselves.

After half an hour or so of wary watching, we began to get a bit chilly and decided to continue our observations from the comfort of BAMF. Through the window behind the couch, we kept an eye out for floating, glowing blobs but saw nothing but darkness.

As our interest faded, I decided that a cheesy horror movie might help the mood. Lucky for us I had found “Attack Of The Monsters” in the dollar bin at a Wal-Mart a few days earlier. Perfect.

Attack of the Monsters!

“Attack” is a classic film from the Japanese Kaiju genre where Gamera, the jet powered flying turtle protector of all children, must save a couple kids from both brain-eating alien babes and Guiron, a knife headed dino-monster.

It turned out to be a strong contender for the worst movie ever made. I highly recommend it. Really, with great dialogue like “You’re right, we’ll eat their brains after we’ve fixed the ship,” it is so bad its good.

Veronica couldn’t take it and crawled up into the loft to catch some z’s, she’s simply not the connoisseur of bad cinema that I am. I was determined to see this stinker through, but at some point, while men in rubber monster suits did ferocious battle, I nodded off. When I came to, I saw a light outside the window.

Was I dreaming? Have I talked myself into seeing things? I watched for awhile. It wasn’t moving, but it seemed awfully close and I was positive it wasn’t there earlier. I woke up Veronica with a friendly little Poltergeist-esque “They’re here.”

She was half asleep and fully scared out of her mind, but agreed that the light hadn’t been there before so… that was it for sleep that night.

In the light of day we discussed our encounter and decided to rate it a ” definite maybe.” Our attempted photos just looked like darkness but we were sure we had seen something.

We needed to return for more research, but in the meantime, wanted to check out a couple other nearby attractions, The Davis Mountains and The McDonald Observatory. Base camp for these would be Davis Mountain State Park, just a few miles up from the town of Marfa.

The state park sports some serious mountain bike trails, wonderful views of the high desert and most importantly, lots of Javelinas. After an aborted attempt at riding a rock-strewn trail on our trusty two wheelers, we decided to explore the park via paved roads.

Along the way we spotted a pig-like animal in the brush. We didn’t get a good look, but it was definitely the fabled Javelina. A New World Pig sometimes known as a Musk Hog, which is really not a pig at all, but a Collared Peccary.Don't Call Me a Pig!

This was even more exciting than a maybe vision of a paranormal light, but it was going to get better. At dusk, as we headed up the mountain to the observatory, we encountered a whole herd of the buggers. Javelina are social animals that like to hang out in groups of a dozen or more.

Javelinas! Musk Hog! Skunk Pig!We jumped out of BAMF for a closer look as the peccaries grovelled around for some grub. Later we were informed that Javelinas, when in a group, have been known to turn nasty on humans. Luckily for us, ours were friendly skunk pigs.

The McDonald Observatory has telescopes perched high and dry atop 6,791 foot Mount Fowlkes and 6,659 foot Mount Locke. The location makes for some dark, clear night skies, excellent for astronomical observations.

We crashed, after calling ahead for reservations, one of their triweekly star parties, where in addition to an introduction to the observatory, we were treated to views through several telescopes. Awesome images of the Moon, Jupiter and, coolest of all, the Orion Nebula where new stars are constantly forming.

All of these celestial sights got us thinking about the Marfa lights again. We wanted more, needed to know for sure we had seen something. The following evening we returned to our spot and waited anxiously.

This time, being the weekend, there were more people around, so we chatted with a few of the other curiosity seekers. We conversed and waited with several first time visitors, then a couple of old hands stopped by.

These two explained how they stopped here every time they were headed to a bar up the road in Alpine. They had clearly partaken of some mind altering substances.

“Dude, look at that!” And there they were. The Marfa Lights.

The stoners took it upon themselves to convince us that the lights could not be headlights or folks a hoaxin’. We have to admit the whole show was pretty eerie.

Some skeptics theorize that the source of the lights is a mirage caused by sharp temperature gradients between the cold and warm layers of air, citing that Marfa is at an altitude of 4,688 feet and temperatures easily vary 50-60 degrees from high and low. Others point to cars, campfires or ranches as possibilities.

A four-night study by UT Dallas students focused on headlights and reached the conclusion that vehicle lights do look mysterious to many visitors, especially with the help of some wacky weed. Sorry, we just threw in that last part, but it would seem that many Marfa Lights observations can be dismissed as auto headlights.

Another study conducted in May of 2008, lasted twenty nights. Scientists from Texas State University found that a number of the mysterious lights “could have been mistaken for lights of unknown origin,” but in each case the data from their equipment showed the movements of the lights could be easily explained as automobile headlights, or small fires.

The researchers did stress their study did not disprove the existence of the Marfa Lights, only that the lights that appeared during those twenty nights could be fully explained.

We left feeling basically the same way. It’s hard to wrap a brain around a strange light in the pitch darkness, it’s just too creepy and weird.

The West Texas weirdness wasn’t through with us yet – the tests of our senses of reality didn’t end as we drove off into the desert.

Prada MarfaWas that actually a Prada store out in the very center of nowhere? We wheeled around to have better look. It WAS a Prada and it IS truly in the middle of nowhere.

Turns out “Prada Marfa” is the work of artists Elmgreen and Dragset. A “pop architectural land art project,” as it were.

There really is no telling what we’ll see next out here.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Honing in on Hondarribia

As a home base for a few days, we settled into the normally sleepy town of Hondarribia on the Spanish side of the border with France.

We say normally sleepy because a wakeup call had shaken the city into a flurry of activity… CONTINUE READING >> 

A big thank you to VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.

As a home base for a few days, we settled into the normally sleepy town of Hondarribia on the Spanish side of the border with France.

We say normally sleepy because a wakeup call had shaken the city into a flurry of activity.

The Alarde, a huge festival commemorating the city’s survival of a siege by the troops of King Louis XIII of France back in 1638, happened to coincide perfectly with our arrival.

Read all about our Alarde adventure here.

Canon fire announced a parade of horses and riders, riflemen, tool toting men in huge sheepskin hats and long black beards known as hatxeroak, numerous fife and drum corps, and throngs of townsfolk sporting red bandanas that seemed to fill the entire city.

This also happened to be our guide Txaro’s (pronounced like Charo of Cuchi-Cuchi  fame ) hometown, so she helped us feel like locals with a couple of insider activities that would elude the usual visitor to this historic Basque community.

She was our exclusive expert guide through the city. We began at our hotel, Obispo, which means bishop. The name is for the square that the hotel shares with the church of Our Lady of the Assumption and the apple tree.

A statue of Don Cristóbal de Rojas y Sandoval, who served as the Archbishop of Seville, and chaplain to King Charles V, stands facing the hotel.

Both the church and hotel date back to the fourteen hundreds, and are contemporary with the defensive city wall. The hotel even incorporates the wall in its construction.

Moving on through the town we made a stop at the city hall, where the ancient walls bear the scars of many cannon balls that have bounced off of the stones over the centuries.

Nearby, we found a sixteenth century home where the wedding between Louis XIV of France and Maria Theresa of Spain was arraigned in 1659.

Although the planning for the royal nuptials took place here, the ceremony was held across the river in France at Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the Church of St. John Baptist.

Later, we found ourselves in the midst of a most wonderfully weird continuation of the Alarde festivities that we had encountered the day before. Suddenly we were engulfed in another parade, this time with giant dolls and creatures with enormous heads, the gigantes y cabezudos.

Taking our cue from the locals, we chased the odd figures into a large square where hordes of children mocked the scary looking cabezudos. In return, the kids were chased around and “beaten” for their mischief. Traditionally the cabezudos carry whips, but here in Hondarribia a netted, nerf-like ball is used.

Our evening was to be a truly unique experience. Txaro took us to a txoko, which is a very common members-only, private gastronomic society type of club that in the past were only open to men.

The idea is get together to cook, and of course eat, while trying out new recipes and ideas along with a healthy dose of socializing.

When Basque culture was suppressed under the reign of Francisco Franco, txokos became safe havens where members could share their language and traditions as well as their love of cooking.

Times have changed, so now many of the clubs welcome women and Txaro is a member of the Sociedad Klink Elkartea, so she could include us as guests. This meant that we got to spend an evening in a most quintessentially Basque fashion.

Believe it or not, too many cooks did NOT spoil the tortilla!

We all pitched in making dinner, sticking to fairly simple dishes, beginning with salad. Then Txaro showed us how to make tortilla de patatas, egg with potatoes, that is much more like an omelet than what we think of as a tortilla.

We finished with two main courses, chicken with carrots, leeks, and garlic, along with salt cod in a cream sauce.

None of this required being a gourmet chef to prepare, but we still had one of the best meals of the trip, and like the old Shake-N-Bake commercials, it was even better because we helped.

By our third day in Hondarribia we were actually starting to know our way around and felt a little like locals. We began with a morning walk to the marina with a history lesson along the way detailing the fishing and whaling traditions of the region.

The practice of heading out to sea in search of fish goes way, way back around here. In fact, there are stories of Basque fishermen sailing as far away as the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland hundreds of years before Columbus ever dreamed of heading west toward the New World.

The afternoon turned out to be perfect for a climb up to the Hiruzta winery. What better excuse for a chilled glass of rosé than a bit of a hike on a hot day?

So we sipped the most common white wine of the region, txakoli, and partook of some pintxos, especially the gilda – peppers, anchovies, and olives on a skewer.

Unlike much of what we had been seeing, Hiruzta is quite new, only being here for about the last ten years.

We whiled away a couple of hours enjoying the perfect spot for gazing out across the vineyards in the valley and reminiscing about our adventures across the Basque Country before heading back down the hill for a farewell dinner.

Bittor Alza, the owner of the Hotel Obispo that has felt like home for these three days, treated us to an amazing meal. Better yet, he not only cooked, but gave us a detailed demonstration in their open kitchen.

We learned to make the classic Basque green sauce for hake, and how to skin and de-bone the fish. He also showed us a trick or two about sautéing onions just right, so that they caramelize evenly without burning. These will go with some duck breasts that turned out good enough to make us all daffy.

And anything but dessssth-picable!

See more of our adventures in the Basque Country here.

Read about all of our travels in Spain.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Rocky Mountain High

When John Denver was singing back in the seventies, for me it wasn’t about some mythical and groovy Shangri La, it was about my life.

But that life took its twists and turns that took me away. Now I don’t get back as often as I’d like… CONTINUE READING >> 

Even though I haven’t lived there in nearly forty years, the Rocky Mountains still feel like home. When John Denver was singing back in the seventies, for me it wasn’t about some mythical and groovy Shangri La, it was about my life.

But that life took its twists and turns that took me away. Now I don’t get back as often as I’d like, but when I do get the chance to venture back up in the mountains I don’t want to stay in some sterile hotel room, I want to feel like I’m at home. That’s where tripz.com can come in.

By bridging the gap between travelers and owners of available rental properties Tripz can offer a truly personal experience, as opposed to just another vacation. On top of that, eliminating booking fees to travelers and commissions from owners assures that the price is right.

That way, when I visit Colorado I can stay in a classic Log Cabin tucked away in the mountains of Cripple Creek instead of a motel just off the highway. There’s no better way to enjoy the excitement of the gold rush that lives on in that historic gambling and mining town.

Taking advantage of the comforts of a home allows a level of engagement with the local lifestyle that is simply not possible in a typical room. Whiling away an alpine evening on the deck, or waking up and walking into the midst of a mountain morning are close encounters of the best kind.

The West is packed with these sorts of exhilarating opportunities, and a quick look through Tripz reveals an amazing array of basecamps for some unforgettable Rocky Mountain explorations.

In Wyoming, a mountain retreat near Jackson Hole is perfectly positioned for visiting two of America’s most spectacular National Parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone. In fact, there is hardly a need to visit Grand Teton since the house already sits in the shadow of the peak.

If somehow that’s not enough scenery to blow our minds America’s first National Park, with its astounding geothermal features and breathtaking waterfalls, is only an hour away and sure to do the job.

Many of the nation’s most incredible destinations are within a stone’s throw of homes we found. In Utah, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park await, and from there it is an easy drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Much less crowded than the South Rim, the north side offers sensational views for hundreds of miles beyond the canyon and is the starting point for the mule trains that carry daring sightseers down to the bottom.

Across the gorge, and for a slightly more cosmopolitan adventure, we found a lovely location to spend a few days soaking up Sadona, Arizona.

Nestled in among the vibrant rock formations, Sadona has become one of the country’s premier art communities with dozens of galleries featuring southwestern and native art, along with pottery and turquoise jewelry.

Of course the homes-away-from-home on Tripz are not confined to the wide open spaces of the Rocky Mountain West. There are over 60,000 rental properties to choose from worldwide, always offering the live-like-a-local lifestyle that makes a vacation more of a life experience than just another trip.

We also love the idea of providing direct and open communication between guests and property owners, because no one likes surprises when they travel. The home owners can answer any questions before the booking, and then offer the very best insider tips and suggestions for the stay.

That way we will never miss a great local eatery, out of the way hide away, little known fishing hole, or perfect spot to savor the sunshine on my shoulder.

Now that makes me happy.

David, GypsyNester.com

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