The Gulf of Mexico in Veracruz

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May 8th 2010
Published: May 19th 2010
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Traveling first class on the bus lines is the only way to go in my opinion. It only costs a couple dollars more, it gets there faster, and you get movies and air conditioning to go with the comfy seats.
Even when I get up early, things don't quite seem to go as I planned. And these dang nails don't let me type very fast or accurately on this keyboard either, whose great idea was that? Isabel woke us up just before 8am so we could get a move on and try to make it to Puebla in time to catch the 9:30 bus to Veracruz. Although we kept things moving along, we still didn't make it out to the highway to catch a bus until 9am and it's a good 20 minutes into town with little traffic. Today didn't seem to be one of those days though as we didn't make it to Puebla CAPU until closer to 10am. Keep in mind, this is a huge bus station so the tickets sell out as each bus fills up and you just have to wait for the next one. By the time we made it to the front of the ticket line, the first available bus out wasn't until 1pm but I remembered seeing the GL (first class) having a 12:30pm departure so I got that one for us. Normally, children only have to pay for a half price ticket but
Pico de OrizabaPico de OrizabaPico de Orizaba

The Pico de Orizaba, or Citlaltépetl (from Nahuatl citlal(in) = star, and tepētl = mountain), is a stratovolcano, the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in North America. It rises 5,636 meters (18,490 feet) above sea level in the eastern end of the Eje Volcánico Transversal mountain range, on the border between the states of Veracruz and Puebla. The volcano is currently dormant but not extinct; the last eruption occurred in 1687. It is the second most prominent volcanic peak in the world after Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro. (Wikipedia)
I guess this is a limited offer for select seats. Our agent kept saying one thing and then it would change in the screen and she'd say something else. All this time I'm trying to follow her spanish while she uses all these terms that I'm not familiar with. In the end, we paid full price for 7 tickets, at least Mia rides free. Full price from Puebla to Veracruz, Ver. via GL costs $296 pesos each with a child getting a discount at $148 pesos so that's why I had hoped for a little savings. I probably could have rented a car for what it cost us in bus fare considering how many of us there were and the short distance, lesson learned. I need to figure out the streets and get over my fear and just drive. So we ended up having a couple hours to burn sitting in the bus station. Mia is still in the final stages of potty training which means that some days she wants to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes. Here that isn't a free option. Most bathrooms will cost you anywhere from 3-5 pesos per person with those under 2 being free but someone has to take them so you pay anyways. Here, there is a metal turnstile where you end in your 3 pesos and have to push through the barrier wall to come out on the other side. Very high security prison bathroom here, you are definitely not getting in without paying up first. I barely fit in the little opening with Mia and the clerk had to push on it to get us through. Every public bathroom you enter has someone attending it. They clean up the bathrooms, offer you toilet paper if it's not in the stalls, put your pesos into the turnstile to get in, you name it. If the money isn't required, there is usually a cup or a paper towel sitting on the counter to put your "donation" into. I can't imagine that they've got to have some pretty heavy turf wars over the nicer bathrooms to be found. This is the general policy EVERYWHERE you go except in a private home of course, lol, although I thought about leaving a peso on the back of my sister-in-law Maria's bathroom.

The ride itself was pretty nice, unfortunately not uneventful. Isabel's 10 yo
Baby Sand DollarsBaby Sand DollarsBaby Sand Dollars

This is the first time we've been to the ocean and had tons of baby sand dollars floating all over in the water.
son Lalo got carsick about halfway through and spent quite awhile in the bathroom. While it's grand to have the bathroom available and I purposely picked the seats in the back to be close to them for Mia's sake, it's not somewhere I'd want to hang out for any reason. There were lots of beautiful vistas along the way, it would be nice to drive this route some day and take more pictures. About half way through the trip, we passed Mexico's highest mountain, the dormant volcano called Pico de Orizaba. We ascended and then descended over a mountain range that I do not know the name of. I could see a good sized village on the floor of the valley as we wound our way down the hillside. We pulled into the bus terminal in Veracruz and decided to buy our return tickets now rather than wait and have to take a later ride home on Monday. The line here was three times as long as the one we had just left in Puebla. Isabel went to stand in line while I pulled more pesos out of the ATM. I found out that BofA has an agreements with some banks to
I Don't Want to get WetI Don't Want to get WetI Don't Want to get Wet

This is my suegra (mother-in-law) Sara who said that she didn't want to get wet, she'd just sit on the beach and watch us. We told to at least go and get her feet wet to cool off and she just keep right on going.
not charge for int'l currency exchange or use of the ATMs and Santander is one of them. I used a different bank at the airport and had to pay a $20 peso surcharge. While it's only $2 dollars to me, BofA also charges another $2 on their side for using an out of network ATM as well so it all adds up. After standing in line with her for 15 minutes, I looked ahead and saw a separate and much shorter line for Platino and GL customers so I made a quick exit and jumped in that line. Of course Isabel isn't as sure about these kinds of things so she continued to wait in the other line until she saw I had purchased the tickets before stepping out of line. This time we were able to get three childrens fares for the return trip on Monday on the 3:30pm bus.

The ticket agent told me that the beach was close and that I only had to walk out the door and head right down the street and I'd walk into it. Since there were 8 of us which translates to two taxis and we didn't have a particular
My First PedicureMy First PedicureMy First Pedicure

In preparation for this trip, Erika and I got our first pedicures. It struck me how bright my toes were as the waves came crashing up around my feet.
destination in mind, I made the decision to walk. I had lightened our luggage down to one carry-on suitcase with wheels and our three backpacks so it wasn't an impossible task. After a few blocks in the hot sun, I started to wonder how different was her idea of close to mine. I kept peering down the street to see where it ended or where the palm trees began but nothing. We kept plodding along about 10 blocks now and Isabel stepped into a store to buy a bottle of water. The rest of us continued walking on ahead until I finally saw a tall building a few blocks ahead that said hotel in big letters. When she caught up to us, she said that the clerk said that these streets were cheaper and the ones along the ocean would be more expensive. Now this is pretty universal anywhere in the world. I, on the other hand, don't really want to walk several blocks back from the beach when I'm wet and sandy so I'll pay a little more. Finally, the beach comes into sight and in good time too, I was thinking that the family was about to hold
Flimsy FlautasFlimsy FlautasFlimsy Flautas

I was not impressed by my order of chicken flautas at VIPS in Veracruz. The chicken filling was dry and lacked flavor.
a mutiny against me at this point. The air is very hot and humid which tends to feel pretty heavy after all those blocks.

When we hit the street that follows the coast line, I voted to head right as left appeared to be more commercial. The first lodging we encountered had marble flooring and the sign said $1160 pesos per night per double occupany so I pulled my head right back out and continued down the street. The next block held a large hotel that offered specials starting at $299 pesos per night, right on! I step inside and of course, they are completely sold out. Mexico doesn't subscribe to the No Vacancy etiquette that we do, at least not anywhere that I noticed. So now I decide to step back one more street and see if we can find any lodging right off the strip that has availability. Up ahead I can see a sign that says Motel Jardin and I make a beeline for it. When you walk into the driveway, there are rooms on both sides and each one has an enclosed garage with it. I'm thinking this can't do that bad, right? The clerk
Mexican DinnerMexican DinnerMexican Dinner

Erika's idea of a Mexican dinner was to order pancakes with ice cream, a first on the menu for me as well!
is outside helping her girls clean rooms so she beckons me into the shade to negotiate with me. I motion for Isabel and Sara to join me because they are still hiding in the shade by the street. (This should have been my first warning **motels and hotels in Mexico have a greater significance than they do in the US**) The lady offers to rent us the rooms for 600 pesos per night per room, only trouble is that they only have singles with king size beds. I'm used to sleeping squished in bed with both kids so no problem here and she didn't care that we were cramming four people in each room so I give her 2400 pesos and we're paid in full. And here's the funny thing, you don't get a key to your room. For security purposes and to prevent unauthorized access, you have to ask them to open up your room each time you return. My mother-in-law was not happy about this policy at all. To my way of thinking, regardless of whether you have a copy of the key or not, the management always has access to your room so they can rob you
Tonight's Group PhotoTonight's Group PhotoTonight's Group Photo

After a very long day, we return to our lodging for a good night's sleep.
blind either way. Also, the TV's have little signs right below them saying "Adult Channels on 100, 101, 102, 104, 105" etc and she flipped out again and demanded that they all be blocked before we entered the rooms.

The first thing we did was take off our clothes and put on our bathing suits. Well, that's the first thing my family did. Nobody in his family knows how to swim and they don't own bathing suits either. I had thought about getting them one but it doesn't really make sense for only two days at the beach and they'd probably never use them again either. I hadn't thought about it but they had never been to the beach before except Ilse on a school field trip and Jose says his mother probably went to the Pacific Ocean before when he was younger. I guess I take a lot of things for granted when considering the proximity of the ocean to their home but their idea of a vacation is traveling to visit family members and they stay at the house and don't really venture out. It's really hard for me because I want to do so much for them because I can and they have a very hard time accepting it. I can't stop my traveling and I want to share the world with them but it's going to be a very slow process I think. The beach itself was fabulous, everyone jumped right in with the exception of my mother-in-law and that just took a little coaxing before she was splashing around like another kid. The water was warm but wow, salty would be the underword! Can some oceans taste saltier than others I wonder? After playing at the beach, we headed back to shower and find some dinner.

I told each kid that it would be their turn to pick out a different place to eat at. Lalo got to pick dinner that night, Fernanda breakfast the next morning, Erika lunch the next day, and Ilse dinner tomorrow night. We asked the motel clerk on the way out and she recommended trying out VIPS which is down the boardwalk by the Aquarium. Lalo passed a sign in the street mentioning pizza and that's what he wanted. Most of these places are strictly seafood so we kept walking along in hopes of finding something otherwise with little luck. He finally decided to try out VIPS which was still aways off. When we walk up, it turns out to be a store as well and we can't seem to find the entrance to the restaurant. We walk all the way around the place and we can see everything eating but no main entrance. Finally we walk back to the front and ask. You have to walk into the store and then across it to the back to enter the restaurant, duh! We were seated at a table for 8 and not given menus. After waiting about 10 minutes, the waitress comes to take our order. I was a little snappy at this point and said that that was kinda hard to do without menus. The menus are sitting about 10 feet away where the hostess set them down when passing us off to her. Lalo is in luck because they offer 8 different small pizzas for only 39 pesos each. Erika ordered pancakes with ice cream, I got the chicken flautas, and Mia got chicken fries. They covered their pizzas in ketchup because they was no hot sauce aka salsa available, hmm. I wasn't that impressed with my food, dry and flavorless. That's what I get for going to a commercialized location instead of a street vendor. The service after we ate was worse. We got a to-go box for the leftovers and then sat there waiting for over 15 minutes for the waitress to reappear so we could request our check.

The walk home was pretty quiet, the streets weren't too busy at this time of night and the air was still warm enough that we didn't need sweaters or anything. Everyone seemed to split when we got back to the rooms and they hung out in the other room chatting while I emailed a bunch of pictures back home to Jose and Mom. All in all, a very long day but very fun.


19th May 2010

Love the baby sand dollar!
19th May 2010

Hola mujar
hey Krystal sorry i never comment but this is cool. i have and know alot of friends from veracruz. so im sure you know that i love their music is fun and festive, cumbias to the max. ya the food choice looks interesting woman and you are quite the international woman, shoot i have never ever been there. perhpaps one day i will tag along with you but we are staying at a hotel somewhere woman :) cuidate and talk to you when you get back ok. Love ya and erika seems so much in her element there haha go figure. Nena
23rd May 2010
Krystal, Glad you made it to Veracruz! If you want help in the future with getting settled, suggestions for restaurants/hotels, etc I will be glad to help. :-) Sometimes it's fun to venture out and explore, and as you are here more often you will learn to look out for signs that things aren't quite what they seem (like the rent by the hour motels). Also most chains here are terrible. Sambors, VIPS, El Porton are all awful. They are bland and overpriced, owned by Wal-mart and other American companies trying to sell the 'upscaled' atmosphere to unsuspecting Mexicans. Street food is much better and more authentic. There are some good restaurants around too. Again, let me know if you make it back through here!

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