School was closed on Friday, some inset day for staff, or something. Awesome. So we did what any sane family would do and headed to the beach. Oh, except it’s mid January and clearly far too cold for normal Mexicans to be at the beach!
We searched for ages for somewhere nice to stay. We decided that the Carribean coast was too far for a weekend (in retrospect, it really isn’t and that was a rookie error!) so we looked along the closer Gulf coast. We settled on Progreso, partly because it’s our closest beach area and partly because we found somewhere to stay that demonstrably had rooms where we wouldn’t have to go to bed at 8pm with the kids!
Our car was in the garage for its MOT equivalent but we’d been given no warning so our lovely estate agents lent us their car. Wow. It was way posher than ours – a Merc B class something or other. It might have been a bit beaten up (cheers David if you’re reading this!) but it was still ace compared to our teeny little car.
Progreso is about forty minutes from home so we left just before 11am and were at the hotel before midday. The hotel? Well, let’s just say I didn’t give it the best review I’ve ever given. It was a little bit out of town, which didn’t matter as we had a car but I’d have hated to stay there without one. Our room was ok. Two smallish beds with hilarious towel sculptures. I do love a towel sculpture (no, no I do not, I think they are tacky in the extreme but all cheap hotels seem to think it makes them look…less cheap), a living room with teeny kitchen and a tiny bathroom, oh and a balcony. The ENTIRE place, not just our entire room but the ENTIRE hotel was tiled in beige tiles, from floor to ceiling (well, ok, not the ceilings but right up to them). With no pictures or mirrors and very little furniture the echo was horrific. Every noise the kids made was magnified over and over. Ugh.
We got out of there pdq and headed in to town get some lunch. We drove past a place I recognised from reviews: El Toro. It had some great reviews as a place locals adore but tourists don’t know about. Sounds perfect right? Wrong. It was run by one of those people who doesn’t believe foreigners can speak his language despite all indications to the contrary. We had full conversations with him when we initiated them but if he initiated interaction he felt the need to mime and use single words. And then the food. Hmmm. We ordered a pork schnitzel for the kids. It was ok except he point blank refused to swap rice for chips. Col had revolting prawns and I had even more revolting fish and rice. Ugh. Neither of us could eat our meals. So we left, deciding it was too much hassle to demand a reduction in the bill when the man didn’t understand that he could speak to us in Spanish.
On our way to a restaurant we knew for cake we stopped to buy random inflatables: we got a lilo that doesn’t stay inflated (that’s what happens when you pay under £2 for a lilo), two swords and two tiger hammers. Then we had cake at The Milk Bar. The owner’s son came and accosted our two and soon all three were terrorising other guests by jumping off stairs and running around like loons. The kids loved it.
Somehow we then managed to spend about three hours on the beach. It wasn’t boiling hot so no one felt like swimming but we still had a good time. Mainly Col and I took it in turns to bury the kids’ swords in the sand while the other took the kids on a ‘treasure hunt’ around the beach before they had to return to dig up their swords. They loved it.
Progreso has the world’s longest pier so we took a walk under it. Yeah, we’re not walking 7km along a long busy road pier for no reason. There’s a short pedestrian pier on the other side though and from there the kids watched their first ever spectacular sunset. They absolutely loved it and begged to get up in time to watch it rise again. We are bad parents. We told them they have plenty of opportunity to get up and see sunrise when they’re bigger.
For supper we found ourselves in the Crabster, an absurdly overpriced seafront restaurant that looks amazing and was…ok. They were very helpful (and agreed we could speak Spanish!) in de-vegetabling a meal that SG wanted and de-interesting a burger, sorry, steak-hache for SB. Once again though, I spent a lot of time in the loo with the kids rather than sitting at the table. Col accidentally shoveled down what he thought was frijoles (beans) only to find it was an insanely spicey salsa. Whoops. Needless to say he wasn’t happy for much of the meal after that.
On Saturday, oooh no, I have to describe breakfast first!
My kids LOVE hotel breakfasts. They think they’re the biggest treat ever so they were super excited to see what this one would bring. They weren’t disappointed but we were, massively so. Just goes to show that kids don’t need much. It was meant to be an American breakfast but I’m pretty sure no North American would have been excited by this. We were offered cheap bread or cheap toast, a tiny plate of fruit, frijoles, Mexican scrambled eggs and half raw hot cakes. There was awful orange juice and pretty bad coffee. Seriously the kids thought it was fabulous. We are a little more discerning and did not.
Then we headed over to Chelem to meet someone with whom I’d been having a virtual conversation. She was lovely. We then had lunch in a Canadian run taco place called Tacomaya. We’d been warned that they were quite strict on timings and that wasn’t wrong. We got there just before 1pm, place closed at 2pm. We asked for an omelette for SB. ‘No, I just told you, breakfast is over’, was the response. When I asked if he could have a lunch omelette I was frowned at. But, the food was delicious and the owners nice, if officious. Col and I shared a massive beef burrito and a pulled pork panini, both delicious. SG had a massive hot dog and fries while SB consented to a grilled cheese sandwich.
Instead of going back to Progreso we decided to play on Chelem’s beaches for the afternoon. Col took the kids in the sea. I think I must be turning Mexican as I felt no need to go in the water at all. It’s January, people, it’ the dead of winter! We had a lovely time and even stopped in Chelem’s plaza so the kids could have a go on the bouncy castle we spotted as we drove home. Supper was a Yucatan delicacy of weird rolled up ice cream cones filled with savoury stuff – marquesitas: SG and I shared peanut butter and cheese. SB opted for the less savoury cajeta (goats’ dulce de leche, a local thing) while Col had the odd combination of cheese and pineapple jam. It was as disgusting as it sounds.
Sunday was wet and cold. I know, what’s going on? It was seriously chilly. We even put jumpers on. So instead of our planned trip along the coast to some more ruins and a look out tower, we only stopped at one place: Chicxulub, to see the plaque erected to note the town nearest to where the meteor that destroyed the dinosaurs, landed, 65 million odd years ago. Pretty cool.
And then we drove home in the rain and I saw flamingos. Bet it wasn’t raining in Tulum. We had loads of fun but we do miss Tulum’s beaches.
And this is a pic of me that SB took when we were mucking around in Chelem: