After a fascinating life that included working as a jockey, running a Mexican restaurant in England and selling hot dogs to Marines on the beach in California, Paul Lawrence came to Yucatan. He and his wife Carol opened up a restaurant where they live in Chelem, along the Yucatan Gulf Coast and have been happily running it for over three years at this writing...
YL: When did you move to the Yucatan and from where did you move?
Paul: I moved from California & Carol moved here from Atlanta
YL: Why did you move?
Paul: I had been looking for the retirement home on a beach somewhere in a warm climate.
YL: Why did you choose the city you now live in over other places in the world?
Paul: I spent a week in Merida before coming out to the beach, and I liked what I saw… bands playing in the streets, families out walking together, modern cinemas… in a word, culture.
YL: Did you buy a house right away or rent first? Do you think you made the right decision?
Paul: I bought a house three days after moving out to the beach and definitely made the right decision.
YL: Are you doing now what you intended to do when you moved here? If not, why not?
Paul: No, I originally intended to spend my days painting, fishing & lounging in a hammock. I found though that I can’t relax that much & usually need to be doing something more. Hence, TACOMAYA was born.
YL: What are the most interesting things about living here for you?
Paul: I love living close to nature and being on an almost deserted beach with an ever-changing view.
YL: What do you absolutely love about living here?
Paul: What I mentioned above, with the addition that we are only thirty minutes away from a modern culture-rich and increasingly cosmopolitan city.
YL: What do you miss from your "former life"?
Paul: Del Mar horse races in San Diego.
YL: What don’t you miss from your "former life"?
Paul: Reading the daily newspaper
YL: What is your favorite local food?
Paul: The burrito at TACOMAYA.
YL: What is your favorite time of year here and why?
Paul: Summer, actually! I don’t mind the heat and I love the colors of the sea and the clarity of the water in the summertime.
YL: Where do you take guests who visit you here to show them something really special?
Paul: I will take guests to the archaeological ruins at Uxmal, with a late lunch and a drink at Hacienda Ochil. I also like to take guests to Tulum with a stopover in Valladolid.
YL: The last time you went out to dinner, where did you go and why?
Paul: We went to Bruno’s Mediterranean Bistro in Merida. Some friends had eaten there and recommended it highly.
YL: How is the city where you live different for residents than it is for tourists?
Paul: As we live between two small fishing villages, that question doesn’t really apply. Although tourists out here usually need to know where to go to buy things (like groceries, sundry items). Once they know where our restaurant TACOMAYA is and our opening hours, they tend to spend a lot of time here and everything else falls into place. My day and their day converge!
YL: Do you have friends from the local community or do you pretty much hang with the expat crowd?
Paul: Both, but our business brings us in greater contact with the expats.
YL: If you are working or own a business, what is it like owning and running a business here or working here? How is it different from doing the same thing in your country of origin?
Paul: I find it easier, but that could be because of the type of business we are running. We have a casual restaurant and we know most of our customers, and we have found we fill a niche.
YL: Do you find it more or less difficult to make a living here than in your country of origin?
Paul: That is a deceptive question. I have known a couple of restaurants run by expats that went out of business. I have also known other expats with hare-brained schemes for making a living who come here, give up and then go home. That being said, if your plan is good and so are you, then you can make it here.
YL: Are your work habits different here?
Paul: Yes, we don’t need as much to live on, so I don’t work as hard as I used to.
YL: Did you speak Spanish when you moved here? Where did you learn Spanish (if you did)? Is the language barrier a problem for you in your daily life?
Paul: My Spanish is only slightly less terrible than when I arrived, I am ashamed to say. Carol’s native language is French, and she has tried much harder than I have to learn Spanish. So I just defer to her whenever I am in doubt.
YL: What interesting Spanish word or saying have you learned lately? What does it mean and how did you learn it?
Paul: Carol’s favorite word is entonces which means “…and then?” .
YL: Are you a Mexican citizen? Do you plan to become one?
Paul: I have dual British and US citizenship. If I could take a third, then I would. But I am happy with my permanent residency status.
YL: Have you traveled much within Mexico? If so, where and what has been your favorite location to visit? What did you see there that you liked so much?
Paul: We haven’t traveled through Mexico as much as we would like to. Last year we visited the state of Colima. While the hillside area was nice and the town of Comala was charming, the coastline was not to our liking. Our next trip will be to Chiapas, with a few days exploring Palenque.
YL: How are you treated by Mexicans? Do you feel resented or welcome?
Paul: I have never felt the slightest hint of resentment.
YL: How do you feel about the economic prospects of Mexico? Of the Yucatan?
Paul: All signs are positive, with new roads and money being spent in this once-forgotten area. In our small beachside community, both towns just got new grandstands for their baseball fields. The economy in the rest of the country seems to be on the upswing as well.
YL: What are some changes you are hoping for in the city in which you live? Do you see any progress towards these changes?
Paul: We would really like some organized garbage disposal!
YL: What are your plans for the future here?
Paul: Perhaps a small pyramid in my own honor.
YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone buying property and/or planning a move to the Yucatan?
Paul: Read everything you can. Go to the various expat sites, especially Yolisto.com. If you are moving out to the beach area, ask questions online and make at least one visit here. Do not buy blind. Rent for a while before you buy. I was lucky, but not everyone is. Find the expat hangouts, go there, meet people and ask more questions.
YL: If you could say something to all the people of Mexico, what would you say?
Paul: Thanks for having us.
YL: If there is anything else you would like to add for our readers (people interested in or considering moving to the Yucatan, former Yucatecans, people planning to visit for an extended tour…), please tell us...
Paul: Without wanting to make this sound like an advertising promotion I really do think this area has the best of all worlds. We have uncrowded beaches with safe waters. We have a clean modern city and an international airport within thirty minutes. We have easy access to all of the major sites and ruins. If you love the Caribbean (and who doesn’t?), it is an easy drive from here, and a great place to visit.
Paul Lawrence and his wife Carol run Tacomaya in Chelem, Yucatan. Besides running this popular hangout, Carol came up with the idea of the FUNKYMARKET, an equally popular event. They have permission to block off the street in between the restaurant & the baseball park, Coca Cola provide the tents and artists & artisans, cooks, bakers & candlestick makers come from miles around to sell their wares. The next one is September 9th from 10 AM to 2:30 PM.