HOL­I­DAY HUNTER: MEX­ICO

PHO­TOG­RA­PHER NI­COLA SE­VITT WAS SWEPT AWAY BY THE SANDY BEACHES OF MEX­ICO’S COASTAL TOWNS.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - WORDS AND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY NI­COLA SE­VITT

Pho­tog­ra­pher Ni­cola Se­vitt heads to one of her bucket-list des­ti­na­tions to ex­pe­ri­ence the sights, sounds and lo­cal del­i­ca­cies of Mex­ico’s coast.

WHEN SHE’S NOT busy work­ing in the Coun­try Style of­fice, Ni­cola Se­vitt can of­ten be found plan­ning her next trip. The lifestyle pho­tog­ra­pher has worked in Syd­ney and New York, and con­trib­uted to pub­li­ca­tions such as Home­life, The Ur­ban List, Vogue On­line and Condé Nast Trav­eller. Ni­cola’s trips through Europe, South Amer­ica, Is­rael and Mex­ico, as well as re­gional Aus­tralia, have fu­elled her de­sire to doc­u­ment un­told sto­ries, and con­nect with yet-to-be-dis­cov­ered artists and mak­ers. Here, she takes us on a tour across Mex­ico’s coast.

WHY DO LOVE TRAV­EL­LING? Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing new every day re­ally in­spires me and it’s the main rea­son I love to travel. From see­ing new land­scapes and ar­chi­tec­ture to tast­ing lo­cal flavours and hear­ing the sounds of for­eign chat­ter — trav­el­ling is truly a feast for the senses. I also love to slow down and soak ev­ery­thing in, which is why I tend to spend more time than rec­om­mended in most des­ti­na­tions I visit. Re­mov­ing your­self from your usual rou­tine and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a new cul­ture with­out the dis­trac­tions of ev­ery­day life is some­thing I think ev­ery­one should do.

WHY MEX­ICO? I had been dream­ing of go­ing there for a long time, so I was thrilled to fi­nally be ticking it off my bucket list. Tu­lum and Isla Mu­jeres on the east coast were very much on my radar, how­ever I hadn’t re­ally thought about where else I might go. My boyfriend loves to surf, so I did some of re­search and came across the tiny town of Sayulita on the west coast. It sounded a little bit like the Mex­i­can ver­sion of By­ron Bay and turned out to be a colour­ful little town, full of tra­di­tional hole-in-the-wall type eater­ies, bars and bou­tique shops. The pace is very slow, and the days re­volve around eat­ing, re­lax­ing on the beach with a co­conut in hand and surf­ing. Nearby, there are other towns and beaches to ex­plore, as well as beau­ti­ful jun­gle hikes to do.

WHAT WERE SOME OF THE MEM­O­RABLE PARTS OF YOUR TRIP? One day we took some vague di­rec­tions from a lo­cal to a beach near Sayulita, which was an ad­ven­ture. The path wasn’t clear and we got lost a few times, but after a cou­ple of hours of ar­gu­ing and at­tempt­ing to navigate the road, we ar­rived in par­adise: a to­tally de­serted beach, com­pletely un­touched. We had it all to our­selves. After five days in Sayulita, we trav­elled east to en­joy the Caribbean coast. Tu­lum is much qui­eter and even slower than Sayulita. I felt com­pletely at peace when we ar­rived. From our little ca­bana on the beach, all I could hear was the sound of the wind and the waves. Our days in­volved wak­ing up slow, eat­ing acai bowls in ham­mocks, read­ing on the beach and strolling along the jun­gle roads, pop­ping into shops and restaurant­s. We also vis­ited the Cenotes Dos Ojos [swim­ming holes formed by the col­lapse of lime­stone bedrock] and Tu­lum Ru­ins, both are must-sees. The his­tory is ab­so­lutely fas­ci­nat­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the beauty of the cenotes is so spe­cial. We spent the last two nights of our trip at Isla Mu­jeres, a tiny is­land off the coast of Can­cun. The wa­ter here was the bluest I’ve ever seen. Upon ar­rival, we hired a pink golf buggy — the best way to ex­plore the is­land! Ev­ery­one on the beach has a beer in hand and at sun­set, as the sun fi­nally dis­ap­pears beyond the hori­zon, ev­ery­one claps. Some­thing I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore and it was so beau­ti­ful to wit­ness.

WHERE DID YOU STAY? In Sayulita, we stayed a night at Casa Love ho­tel be­fore mov­ing on to a gor­geous Airbnb called El Stu­dio, run by a French cou­ple. The stu­dio has a min­i­mal­ist vibe and is lo­cated on top of the own­ers’ lifestyle store Révolu­cion del Sueño in the heart of the town, close to cafés, quirky bou­tiques and the beach. The cac­tus-filled bal­cony over­looks the town and is the per­fect spot to lis­ten to mu­sic and peo­ple-watch at night. In Tu­lum we stayed at one of Coco Tu­lum Ho­tel’s rus­tic ca­banas on the beach. It was such a treat to wake up, step out­side your room and be on the sand with the ocean right in front of you. Coco Tu­lum is sit­u­ated on the >

main street which runs along the back of the beach. The road is dot­ted with lovely little in­de­pen­dent bou­tiques, bars and restaurant­s and lush jun­gle every­where in be­tween. We could walk every­where we needed to go.

WHAT WAS THE FIRST THING YOU DID WHEN YOU AR­RIVED IN MEX­ICO? We had trav­elled from San Fran­cisco and our jour­ney wasn’t ex­actly straight­for­ward. We took an overnight flight to Mex­ico City, then had to get an­other flight to Puerto Val­larta, which we al­most missed — I re­mem­ber run­ning to the plane with no shoes on — and fi­nally a two-hour taxi ride to Sayulita. We were ex­hausted by the time we ar­rived but de­cided it would be a good idea to walk the length of the beach. The feeling of the sand be­tween my toes and the fresh salty breeze was heav­enly. It re­vived me and I was sud­denly on Mex­ico time. WHAT OTHER ADVENTURES DID YOU HAVE? We went on walks through the thick green jun­gle to de­serted beaches, hitch­hiked in the back of a ute to a swim­ming hole and took full ad­van­tage of siesta every day. On the west coast we fell asleep to the sound of lo­cal mu­sic and the noise of the vi­brant town, while on the east coast, it was the sound of the ocean and dis­tant voices of peo­ple danc­ing on the beach.

WHAT WAS THE HIGH­LIGHT OF YOUR TRIP? The food — ex­otic fruits, gua­camole, tacos, lime, co­rian­der, lo­cal seafood and meat, ac­com­pa­nied by a co­conut, Paci­fico beer or mez­cal cock­tail. What more could you want?

WHERE ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO VISIT IN MEX­ICO? I would love to travel to Oax­aca and Mex­ico City. I’ve al­ways wanted to visit the house-stu­dio of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. DO YOU HAVE ANY TRAVEL TIPS? Plan ahead, but leave room for a bit of spon­tane­ity. Prior to trav­el­ling, I do my re­search and jot down all the great places I come across. I then cat­e­gorise th­ese into the neigh­bour­hoods or ar­eas. That way, when I ar­rive, I have a go-to list of cafés, mar­kets and mu­se­ums that I can re­fer to. Some may say it’s ex­treme and geeky, but my boyfriend goes the ex­tra mile and plots th­ese on a Google map! I have to say, it is re­ally help­ful. As I men­tioned be­fore, I’d rather stay in one place and re­ally get to know it than jump around, so I al­ways plan to stay a little longer than travel guides rec­om­mend. Also, if you don’t know any lo­cals, chat to a stranger upon ar­rival or re­search blogs and In­sta­gram ac­counts for in­sider se­crets. Lo­cals al­ways know of the best places! For more in­for­ma­tion about Ni­cola, visit nico­la­se­vitt.com or fol­low @nico­la­se­vitt on In­sta­gram.

NI­COLA’S FAVOURITE PLACES TO EAT, DRINK AND VISIT IN MEX­ICO

• Mary’s Lo­cated on the main street that leads up to the town plaza, Mary’s of­fers tra­di­tional Mex­i­can cui­sine at its finest. With brightly coloured table­cloths and chairs, this little gem is con­stantly packed with lo­cals and tourists alike. En­joy their fresh gua­camole, and be sure to or­der the Tacos de Ca­marones Mary’s Way (prawn, roasted cap­sicum, melted cheese and avo). Their gi­ant em­panadas are amaz­ing, too. Avenida Revolu­ción 36, Sayulita. • El Ita­cate Come hun­gry. On the week­end, this place is bustling. An­other little hole-in-the-wall eatery with a few ta­bles on the side­walk, Ita­cate boasts Mex­i­can fare with qual­ity meat, seafood and veg­e­tar­ian in­gre­di­ents. Their sig­na­ture dish is the ‘Ita­cate’ and it’s a must-try. It’s ba­si­cally a bur­rito wrapped in fried cheese in place of a tor­tilla. Put your name down with the owner, grab a Paci­fico and en­joy the am­bi­ence of the vi­brant street scene and live mu­sic while you wait for your ta­ble. Calle Jose Mariscal 42, Sayulita. • Revolu­ción Del Sueño A bou­tique filled with hand­made home­wares, cush­ions, cloth­ing and a range of colour­ful ar­ti­sanal goods. Run by Parisians Nico and Léa Del Sueño (own­ers of the El Stu­dio Airbnb), this store has some­thing for ev­ery­one. Calle Manuel Navar­rete 55, Sayulita. Fol­low @rev­olu­ciondel­sueno • Evoke the Spirit A bou­tique that fo­cuses on tra­di­tional Mex­i­can hand­i­crafts, de­signed with a mod­ern edge. The store sells tex­tiles, wall hang­ings and dec­o­ra­tive skulls. Jose Mariscal 12A, Sayulita; evokethes­pirit.com • Posada Margherita Ho­tel and Italian Restau­rant This was one of my favourite spots, over­look­ing the beach. A charm­ing setting for lunch or din­ner, this restau­rant serves up grilled fish and de­li­cious pasta. I or­dered one of their spe­cials — home­made tagli­atelle with tomato, basil and fresh lob­ster and it was one of the best pas­tas I’ve eaten. Car­retera Tu­lum-boca Paila, Tu­lum; posadamarg­herita.com • Hart­wood A re­ally spe­cial place, and prob­a­bly the most pop­u­lar restau­rant in Tu­lum, all the cook­ing here is done in a wood-burn­ing oven and grill over fire. Hart­wood fo­cuses on lo­cal and sus­tain­able in­gre­di­ents and the food is ex­quis­ite. Get­ting a ta­ble is al­most im­pos­si­ble — try to book a month in ad­vance (when their reser­va­tions open), or just turn up and be pre­pared to wait with a cock­tail in hand. Re­mem­ber to take in­sect re­pel­lent! Car­retera Tu­lum-boca Paila, Tu­lum; hart­wood­tu­lum.com • Gi­tanos A good place for drinks, this mez­cal bar is sur­rounded by jun­gle and has a great vibe. Check out their live mu­sic on Sun­day, Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day, and make sure you get the Gi­tano Margherita! Beach Road, Tu­lum; gi­tan­otu­lum.com

“All I could hear was the sound of the wind and the waves.”

CLOCK­WISE, FROM LEFT The view over­look­ing Sayulita Beach from Casa Love ho­tel; Tu­lum Beach is known for its clear wa­ter and white sand; deck chairs out­side Posada Margher­tia Ho­tel and Italian Restau­rant. FAC­ING PAGE, CLOCK­WISE, FROM FAR LEFT Casa Love ho­tel; the shore­line be­neath the Tu­lum Ru­ins; day beds and palm trees on Isla Mu­jeres.

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