Mexico is one those places that have always fascinated me - the delicious food, its Mayan heritage and architecture, and the upbeat nature and kindness of the many Mexicans I met in the UK over the years helped to pique my curiosity about the place.
In winter, the climate is warmer than in the UK wherever you stay, but Mexico City is rather chilly because of its high altitude. The Yucatan peninsula on the Caribbean is however reliably warm all year round, and that is where I headed for my first trip to Mexico. A number of people advised me to minimise my time in Cancun in favour of the more historic towns in the area. However, most flights from the UK land in Cancun, and with an arrival just before midnight, I decided to stay a couple of nights to acclimatise.
|Delicious Tostada - crispy tortillas, re-fried beans, shredded chicken, lettuce, goats cheese and red onions|
The city, rather like Miami, is split into a downtown area on the mainland, and a long beach which hosts the 'Zona Hotelera' where there are kilometres of all-inclusive resorts one after the other, with shopping centres and a few restaurants dotted around.
Where to Stay
Le Blanc Spa and Resort
Considered to be the most luxurious hotel in the Zona Hotelera, the Le Blanc Spa and Resort is where we decided to stay while in Cancun. It has a minimalist and elegant white and cream decor befitting its name, creamy natural stone, and dark wood furniture.
A top, all-inclusive, adult only resort and a favourite location to couples on their honeymoon, it has infinity pools, a large spa, and boasts of having nearly one member of staff per guest allowing very personalised service. I can vouch for the service - during our two days, the staff were extremely attentive and very friendly.
The hotel has a butler stationed on each floor and staff who can help you pack on check out day, as well as an army of waiters and waitresses who constantly offer to bring cocktails, wine, snacks and pretty much anything you need by the pool.
Overlooking the sea, the infinity pool is impressive and has a large bar from which cocktails may be sipped between a swim or two. The hotel has two other swimming pools in different locations, so there are always loungers available.
The white sandy beach along the front of the hotel is also stunning and very clean, the hotel has a large number of loungers, covered gazebos and wicker sofas and chairs throughout its private sea-front.
Where to Eat
Most restaurants in Cancun are based in hotels. Downtown Cancun has a few restaurants dating back as far as the 1970s when the city was founded, but authenticity is not high on the list of priorities. There are many international, French and Italian restaurants in the city, but most claiming to be Mexican in fact serve 'Tex-Mex' adaptations of local dishes. Overall, while there is good food available in the city, if you are interested in finding excellent authentic national cuisine, Cancun is not a great place to start your gastronomic quest.
We were highly recommended by locals to visit the nearby restaurant Hacienda El Mortero for its Mexican food and live Mariachi music (sombrero-wearing singers and guitarists). Having walked through a tacky neon-lit strip that felt like Las Vegas with a hangover, we arrived at the restaurant, and after a quick inspection decided to return instead to the hotel for dinner, concluding that this really isn't the best area for sampling Mexican food.
Le Blanc Spa and Resort has 5 restaurants, including Mexican, International, French, Italian and Asian options as well as a great breakfast served until 11.30.
|French Restaurant at Le Blanc|
|Steaks at International Restaurant at Le Blanc|
|Aquilino in action -preparing my motuleno|
These included Motuleño (a Yucatan breakfast specialty of re-fried beans, fried egg, chilli sauce, ham cheese, peas and fried bananas on tortilla), and Tostada (re-fried beans, shredded chicken, lettuce, goats cheese, red onions on crispy taco). They were both delicious, with fresh, crunchy textures and zingy flavours.
|Fantastic Mexican spread prepared by Chef Aquilino - he is the man to know at Le Blanc!|
|The man himself - Aquilino!|
|Breakfast at Le Blanc Spa and Resort - best meal of the day!|
What to Do
If you are into sunbathing, swimming, eating and drinking whilst barely needing to move from your lounger (and who doesn't enjoy a little of that now and then?) you'll be well catered for (and in great style) at Le Blanc Spa and Resort. I thoroughly enjoyed spending a day relaxing by the pool working my way through their long list of cocktails and bar snacks. There are also watersports easily available including water-skiing, paragliding and diving if you are feeling energised by all that sunshine.
The Le Blanc Spa and Resort offers a range of activities throughout the day, ranging from yoga, spin classes and volleyball to wine and martini tastings. It also has, of course, a spa including the foot-nibbling fish which seem to be de rigueur these days, and access to a nearby golf course. There is also a massive gym with the latest exercise equipment.
|Probably the most under-used gym in the world!|
Direct flights are available from Gatwick to Cancun with Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, currently starting at around £620 return.
Le Blanc Spa Resort
Blvd Kukulkan KM-10
Zona Hotelera / Hotel Zone
Quintana Roo, Mexico
Our hotel room's rate, which was an upgrade from the standard, but not the most luxurious, was £378 per night on the hotel's website, but Thomas Cook had the same room available for a week at £287 per night. This may sound steep, but bearing in mind that includes all accommodation, meals and alcoholic drinks for 2 people, it isn't as dear as it might seem.
It is a 25 minute taxi ride from the airport, and the hotel will arrange complimentary collection from there.