Monday, July 14, 2014

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Mexico's been on my top 10 list for about a decade, so I was extremely excited at booking this week away, last minute (though not on, which was a few hundred quid more per holiday than Teletext). However, I'd always imagined a back-packing exploration of the country ...culminating in a trip down the coast from Cancun via Mayan ruins, through Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and finishing up in Colombia. One week at an all-inclusive resort is pretty much the opposite of what I'd envisaged.

It was still an adventure, though. My first experience of the Caribbean Sea! And as it's the reverse of what I'm used to, the all-inclusive aspect was slightly adventurous if only because it was my first time.

  • Being permanently warm enough at night in sea breeze, without a jumper. This is a first for me, and very relaxing.
  • The beach: Incredible! White, soft sand; crystal clear, warm, turquoise sea; hot sun; palm trees; beach bar selling frozen margaritas.
  • Cocktails on tap for 'free'
  • Miraculously never feeling hungover, and getting up early each day.
  • Mexican food, of course.

  • Feeling ripped off for anything that wasn't all-inclusive
  • Ridiculous booking system for hotel meals
  • Suspect the drinks were severely watered down (hence lack of hangovers). They didn't taste boozy. I'd get the barmen to top up cocktails straight from the bottle, they'd put loads in and the drinks would still not taste strong.
  • Not enough 'real' Mexico, which isn't surprising.

Food-wise, I enjoyed having guacamole and salsa with every breakfast, every lunch and most dinners. The breakfast buffets were excellent, and I usually had refried beans, quesadillas (chorizo or chicken), eggs, bacon, tropical fruit (including unbelievably wonderful mango), sausage, stewed pork and more, along with the guac and salsa. Every morning I woke up not being hungry, but still managed to polish off a whole plate of buffet.

Example of breakfast

Note best mango possible at the back

I had ceviche every lunchtime, usually unidentified white fish at the hotel. The best one I had was on the beach in Playa Del Carmen, at Tarraya restaurant. It was octopus so not raw, but really tasty. The pre-ceviche homemade nachos at Tarraya came with a great scotch bonnet and lime dressing which could blow your eyeballs out.

Nachos with scotch bonnet salsa at Tarraya

Octopus ceviche at Tarraya

The 'à la carte' hotel restaurants (as oppose to buffets) were generally canteen style environments, with no open windows or outside space and lots of air con. The food was good, but not very interesting. The insane booking system meant we only ate at them a couple of times. The dinner buffets were good but quite samey, especially after similar breakfast and lunch buffets. 

One night, we took a taxi to '5th Avenue' (i.e. the strip) to eat dinner with another couple. The street in question was crazily touristy and the fajitas were more expensive than in London. They charged us $6 each for a shot of basic tequila, and that was after some serious haggling! The food was good, but I was itching to go off piste and find a normal Mexican café. On the bus back to the airport, we passed tonnes of such places (plastic tables and chairs, hand-painted signs and menus, cheap) and I had a pang of regret that I hadn't pushed my companion harder to go to these types of places at least on a couple of evenings.

On our last evening we had tried to go back to Tarraya for grilled lobster, but it was closed by the time we got there, so we had an argument instead.

I had hoped to go on a trip to a Mayan pyramid in the jungle, but after an extortionately expensive and disappointing boat trip to Isla Mujeres we were put off any other pricey tourist trips. We didn't have enough time there to get to grips with public transport options for going it alone. 

One thing that I got fed up about to the point of responding angrily was the sales technique of every type of vendor (streets, shops, bars, beach), who ALL asked us our names, nationality and whether we were newlyweds (not ideal during the last evening argument). It's none of your business, and telling you won't make me want to buy your goods or services! I lost patience in the end and rudely stopped interacting at all.

So, now I've experienced a 'normal' luxury holiday. It was a fantastic break and I loved most of it. I would definitely like to go back to Mexico, but I will also definitely avoid all-inclusive holidays. A week was not enough.

Beeeaaaautiful beach, perfect sea

No comments: