Mexican immigration isn’t easy to figure out. No signs, no helpful assistants. There you are in the “touristas” line, without the right paperwork, and no one to find it for you. Getting all this sorted after groggily getting off an international flight is another challenge all together. In this chaotic line we were chatted up by another passenger from our flight from Dallas. She told us how much she loved Mexico — Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Veracruz… In passing she mentioned the name of the bus station in Mexico City we would need to use to get to Veracruz (TAPO Station for all busses headed East). Nice coincidence.
Coincidences are funny things. A few days later we get to Veracruz, which isn’t much of a stop on the “tourista” itinerary. It’s a large shipping port. It’s hot, humid and busy with commercial traffic. We heard that we could eat some good fish there and get a glimpse at the beach before heading back inland to Palenque.
We arrived in the late evening to the shrieking of exotic birds all around the bus terminal. A short cab ride dropped us in front of the Hotel El Faro, which is only a couple blocks from the town’s watery edge and right in the middle of the busy shopping district. We set out somewhat nervously to look for food. Veracruz isn’t incredibly nefarious, but a few dark alleys do make it less easy to navigate. Just as we stopped to look at a menu… “Do I know you? Did we meet at the airport?”
Sure enough, our same friend from the Mexico City airport. Finding dinner was suddenly a piece of cake, and it was nice to know someone in this otherwise hard to crack town.
Turns out, as the coincidences pile up, that Amanda wasn’t staying in Veracruz at all, but in Boca del Rio a few miles down the road. What brought her to our little neck of the woods is a surprise for us both, but a happy one regardless.
The following day we took advantage of Amanda’s room at the classier hotel chain in Boca del Rio by laying out at the hotel pool and watching the contestants of Little Miss Mexico strut their stuff (who knows? cameramen and everything).
Dinner was scheduled to be that awesome fish and seafood we had come all the way to Veracruz for. We walked down the beach a mile or so to Villa Rica (a local’s suggestion) and picked a pretty spot by the window. We tried some new beers (Indio) and relished our new friend’s company. It’s great to know that three people, two Californians and one Minnesotan, who come from such different backgrounds can get along so well over Mexican beer and ceviche.
I think we caught the ear of our neighboring table, because (coincidence, coincidence…) here were three guys who just happened to be the buyers of all the fish for Villa Rica. We made more friends and were treated to the most amazing little secret menu items: soft shell crab tacos and flame grilled octopus. Now, we like soft shell crab, but sometimes it sticks to your teeth and is a little funny to eat through, but these tacos were like a squash blossom — so light and explosively crispy.
If gratitude for the fun tapas wasn’t enough, our table-neighbor John shared his favorite “Secret Island” off the coast of Quintana Roo with us. Sitting at a beach hut and tossing back some cheap beers and seafood with the locals? You better believe that Isla Holbox is now prominently on our itinerary for later this month.
Check out a few more pictures from Veracruz here
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