The Final Leg
We rounded our trip off with 10 nights in Tulum, split 3 on the beach and 7 in the town, then a night in Mexico City at the end.
We spent the first 3 nights staying at a fantastic hotel called Zamas, just on the corner of the beach. It’s a rare example of something that is better in real life than their website makes out. We were joined here by Kirsty’s bestie Becky, and her partner JR – and by this point of our trip we were keen to have a few late nights and drink more than our usual 1/2/3 per night. Becky & JR are the perfect company to do just that, and we easily doubled our usual figures on the first night! Poor little Elsie was confused and seemed disappointed to be going to sleep before us.
Tulum was great, if not a bit too busy for me. The roads are truly awful and there’s too much traffic. It spoils the place. Hopefully the local government can figure out a way to improve the situation. After reading this article and seeing a recent BBC documentary I also have worries about the eco-sustainability of such a beautiful place. Selfishly I wish i’d visited 10/15 years ago before it became Insta-cool, full of influencers and #squads. If we were travelling around Yucatan before Elsie we’d have gone further down south towards Sian Kaan Reserve and maybe just done a couple of days in Tulum, rather than 10. But I thought we needed aircon and other modcons for the Munchkin. We could have coped without them.
For the last 7 nights of our trip, which included our wedding anniversary, the anniversary of our first date, and my birthday, we decided to splurge and stay in a fancier-than-usual hotel. When I booked it months earlier I went to considerable length to check it was OK for Elsie and welcoming to families. It all sounded/looked good. But a month before departure I was double-checking things and noticed the hotel had changed it’s description on Booking dot com to “Coco Hacienda Tulum – Adults Only”. So I contacted the hotel to ask to cancel our booking and refund my deposit, but they said no, promising to make us welcome and accommodate us. After a long saga we ended up leaving after 2 nights. So if you’re going to Tulum Town I would not recommend Coco Hacienda, for these reasons…
- We’re travelling quite heavy. It’s dented our pride as normally we like to travel as light as possible. But on this trip we have loads of stuff! When we arrived there were 4 members of staff who watched us struggle with all of our luggage from the taxi to reception, then gave me the invoice for the remainder of our full bill, before finally smiling and saying anything welcoming to us. It was so markedly different to literally everywhere we’ve stayed on this trip. Instant dislike. What a way to welcome us to a hotel I already didn’t want to stay at.
- They cleverly describe the location as being “away from the noisy and crowded center of town” and allude to the luxurious “relax[ation] and rest” that you’ll get in their (admittedly nice) grounds. What they don’t tell you is that the hotel is actually sandwiched between 3 loud roads which are busy with heavy and noisy traffic all morning, all day and into the wee hours. In the witching hours there are dogs barking continuously. Sleep and relaxation are hard/impossible to come by. Even without Elsie in tow I think i’d have had to have been quite pissed to pass out and sleep through it all
- And the distance from the centre of the town is actually just annoying after the first couple of times you do it – it’s a 20 minute walk to the good parts of town, where all the bars and restaurants and cafes are. And the walk is not along well lit pavements. It’s a rubbish location, and they do well to trick people in to thinking it’s good, con you into paying a non-refundable deposit to secure a good deal, then refuse to refund you when you call them out on it.
- There were also no curtains in our room, so it was really bright all night thanks to the outdoor garden lighting which we couldn’t turn off. When we asked them to address this at 10pm, rather than turn off the offending light, the receptionist propped this up against the window. This stayed in place for the next 2 days, and I reckon would have stayed there all week had we:
- They have people who walk around the grounds spraying perfume or incense to take away a sewage smell
- On 2 separate occasions we got back to our room to find life-threateningly large and dangerous-looking spiders. They were scary for me and i’m still traumatised. Kirsty dealt with one compassionately, and I bravely squashed t’other with a bath matt after doing a 3am fire dance around our luxuriously large bathroom with it. Considering their location (in a luxury (their word) jungle garden), they really need to fit some seals to the bedroom doors to stop the easiest route in for these dangerous beasts.
- Apart from that it’s nice, but i’d never recommend it. There’s definitely better options in better parts of town.
I definitely would recommend La Palmita. It’s about a quarter of the price, with very friendly staff who go out of their way to help, they have nice clean and quiet rooms at the back of the property away from the road, are well located in the town, and generally a perfect little hotel for a family wanting to explore Tulum.
In Tune With Tulum Town
Whilst it was busy, slightly too touristy, very very hot and double the price of everywhere else we’d been, we had a great few days hanging out in Tulum Town. It was too hot to do much between 12-4pm so we used that time to chill in our room, play with Elsie & let her swadge oot, practice crawling and standing up, take naps, do writing (me) and work (Kirsty the breadwinner). We’d head off to visit nearby cenotes before breakfasts, take 2 hours to have breakfast and coffee, go to the beach around 4/5pm when it had cooled down, have sundowners around 5-7pm, have dinner, bath Elsie in her washing up bowl, read/sing/play/watch Peppa Pig (thanks to those who corrected my spelling of Peppa, unforgivable error), then go to bed around 10pm, and hope to be asleep soon after that. Repeated x 7.
Things change on a daily basis with Elsie – something she loved one day (Ella’s vege risotto, or me singing Five Little Speckled Frogs, or me) would get shunned the next – but we were totally in our groove now, 6 weeks of hanging out together 24/7 and you really get to know each other. There were moments of disagreement and minor no-factor stresses, like – where would we get lunch from, or the usual middle-of-the-night feeding/sleeping battles.
But we were chilled, and happy, and making plans for the future.
Some of the things we did, places we ate, drank or stayed that I’d recommend are:
- Zamas Hotel, Tulum Beach. Good vibes, lovely place, fantastic service from friendly staff – we enjoyed every minute at this hotel
- Tulum Ruins – worth going
- Hotel Zulum – on the main beach, we came here a few times for sundowners and guacamole. They are famous for their Margaritas, which are very good. Awesome views from their upper terrace and not as pretentious as some of the other places along the beach
- The market at Alumbra, check out Origen Coffee
- Best burrito we had all trip from this open roadside restaurant called Burrito Amor. They say to eat at busy restaurants – this one was always busy and for good reason
- Escondido & Cristal Cenotes – 5 minute drive from the town centre, they’re both much quieter than the other more popular and picturesque cenotes in the area. We were the only people there at 09:00, I was the only person swimming – it was the ultimate body and mind refreshment. I’d swim in them every day if I could.
- Kaan Luum Lagoon is also worth a visit, so beautiful but very hot even at 9am
- Raw Love cafe, Tulum Town. Newly opened (actually it’s within the Tulum Art Club), cool place with great food and relaxed atmosphere
- Top notch burger joint called Bonita for food indulgences, although you need two portions of chips per person
- After trying everywhere, we think that DelCielo is the best breakfast spot in Tulum Town. If you like your toast actually toasted then brace yourself for soft bread and long waits while you ask them to toast it. It’s nice bread though.
- The best coffee I had in Tulum Town was at Prieto on the corner of Satellite Avenue (8/10 for their espresso)
- If you’re looking for a healthy vege food option in really cool outdoor setting, go and spend some time at Co.ConAmor. A very interesting place, we were sad to only find it in our last few days.
- La Hoja Verde (a vege restaurant) is just off the main street and can be easily mistaken for just another touristy restaurant selling Mexican food, but don’t be fooled! The food is excellent, and they serve their beers as cold as I always want them to be
- Smoothie bowls seem to be a big thing in Tulum – think they should be a big thing everywhere. Delicious and nutritious. Matcha Mama did us a really good one that I devoured. Kirsty had claimed she wasn’t hungry as she didn’t really want to walk there the day we went, but she kept asking for spoons of mine, wishing she’d ordered one herself
- Cara Feliz is a coffee shop / library that is a nice hang out spot, they have good shaded seating out the back
As we packed up and said goodbye to Tulum we spent the next couple of days reflecting on our adventure. Like a qubit, time with a baby can be both excruciatingly long and drawn out, while seeming to fly by too. I feel like we’ve learned a lot about each other over the last 42 days. I’ve never spend this much consecutive time with Kirsty. Travelling with someone gives you a unique, no holds barred view deep into their psyche, their personality, how they react to and deal with setbacks and stress, how they relax, their bad habits (you have none darling), what they really think, what they really like and don’t like, their motivations, and what makes them happy. It’s been an honour to spend this time with my chosen one and our first.
In Kirsty i’ve seen more of what I already love about her – her quick wit and sarcastic sense of humour, her dedication to exercise and constant concern at her own eating habits, her indecision about what to have to drink each time, her gut instinct proving to be right (most of the time), her willingness to let me choose the music and put up with my infrequent grumbles and moans – and when to snap me out of them, our shared enjoyment of the simple pleasures of life. I could go on for ages. And i’ve seen more that makes me love her even more. Watching the bond between her and Elsie develop and grow, the mutual love, affection and enjoyment they give each other, is ineffable.
Our little family has bonded closely. This time together has been priceless and I know it’s been good for Elsie. Closely watching her develop, grow and thrive has been a privilege, and so much fun. In Tulum on the second to last day she was trying to clamber over 2 pillows, which were stacked high in an attempt to pen her in while we showered etc. She didn’t know I was watching as she battled with the pillows in an attempt to break free, taking ages, but she kept trying, making the cutest noises as she went about her mission. After a couple of minutes of relentless attempts she was almost over, but the bottom pillow slipped and she face-planted on to the floor. She started laughing at herself and her predicament, unaware I was watching.
What an awesome little munchkin. And what an awesome trip we had.
The Perfect Travel Buddy
It’s the night after we got home, it’s 02:46 – in the morning, the middle of the night, witching hour, one of your favourite times of the day. But you’re fast asleep this time. Your Mummy and I are up, both wishing we were with you in the land of nod. We were just discussing how annoying it is when you’re asleep and we can’t sleep. We’re also wondering whether, now that you’ve destroyed all semblance of our previously-amazing sleep routine, you’re going to now turn in to a superstar sleeper, leaving us to be the insomniacs. But i’m sure this is just a temporary blip – maybe jetlag? – but this is the third night in a row you’ve strung sleep cycles together – thank you and well done!!!
On the flight home (the 1st of your 3 good sleeps) you were a superstar! It was a 10 hour flight, 21:00 departure from Mexico City – Mummy Shark and I were dreading it a bit. There were nervous faces amongst our fellow travellers in the departure lounge – would they be sitting near us, or one of the other mobile landmines scuttling around the floor? But you slept on Mummy Shark for the first 8 hours (waking every now and then for a quiet feed), then you woke for an hour of play, then you went back to sleep for the last bit. Amazing!
We couldn’t believe our luck. We didn’t sleep a wink, too busy marvelling at your performance and taking advantage of some quiet time to listen to music, podcasts, while continuously commenting on how awesome you were, and getting regular visits from the flight attendant’s trolley.
You’ve been a game little Munchkin the last 6 weeks. It’s been a privilege to spend every moment of the last 42 days being smacked in the face, having my nose pulled off, carrying you, rocking & cradling you, lying next to you shush’ing and singing for aaaages, splashing around in pools, and learning all about you in every detail. I now know, intimately, the direct correlation between what I fed you 12-24 hours ago to what I have to deal with 12-24 hours later. I know when you’re tired and are about to fall asleep, and know how to get you to sleep within 10 minutes (usually!). I know what songs to sing to get you to sleep, which to stop you crying, which to make you laugh. I know what your favourite toys are, which page of your favourite book is your favourite, and what noises to make or faces to pull to make you giggle. I also know how to annoy you – snuggling right up as closely as possible to your face the second you wake up from a nap – it annoys Mummy Shark too.
Your trusting eyes are mesmeric, beautiful and adoringly cute. I feel like you trust me more than ever. It’s not like you didn’t trust me before, but I get the nonchalant “oh, you again” look so often now. It makes me smile. You still pine for Mummy more than me though – the bond you two have is nature’s finest, the pinnacle of life, and also the thing i’m most proud of. They say i’ll be your favourite soon though. And soon after that, they say, you’ll hate both of us 😂🥳
I’m glad we looked after you and got you home safely. A few mozzie bites was about as bad as it got, luckily. We looked after you well, i think. We’re pleased with ourselves. Apart from the one time in Week 1 when I found a super-massive cockroach-esque bug (c. 3cm long) in your tent one morning. Ooooops! Sorry darling. I was cool, calm and collected as I jumped on to the bed, holding you, and offering advice to Mummy Shark on how to get rid of it. Freaky! I bravely got my bug squasher to flatten it once Mummy Shark got it outside. I’ll show you the photo of the slayed beast one day. From that night onwards we zipped up your cot and avoided more episodes. Sometimes doing up the zip woke you up, after ages of getting you off to sleep. We can’t win.
As your Mummy knows, any signs of illness and out comes the thermometer. She hates getting her temperature taken. After almost daily testing you’ll be pleased to know you that your average body temperature is 36.2 degrees c. Perfect, well done! And we didn’t sunburn you (or me) once all trip – thanks for your help in winning the shade wars.
So Elsie, that was the first of (hopefully) many adventures together. Big one next. I have never been this excited about the future before.