Casa de Sierra Nevada
San Miguel de Allende is a heritage-listed Spanish colonial town in the Sierra Madre Mountains three hours’ drive north of Mexico City. Here, we stayed in the luxurious Casa de Sierra Nevada, set within several gracious Spanish Colonial buildings dating from the 16th and 18th centuries. We had lovely suites with private gardens and heated plunge pools.
The antique doors of the hotel opened directly to a cobbled street that led to the lively zÓcalo (central plaza) dominated by a fanciful pink cathedral. A market tour and cooking class for us all at Sazón, the hotel’s cooking school, turned out to be a highlight. Young chef, Manuel Cervantes, led us through the old streets to the busy, colourful markets to buy ingredients. Manuel was the perfect guide as we tried and tasted, filling our striped bags with produce. Returning to the spacious school we prepared a delicious Mexican lunch, with Lulu as master tortilla-maker using the old wooden press.
Many artists and creative people have settled in San Miguel and it’s full of galleries, boutiques, bars and restaurants. It feels like a constant fiesta with street performers, music, parades and fireworks every night.
Maroma Resort and Spa
This rustic but luxurious hideaway on the Yucatán Peninsula is about 48 kilometres south of the glitzy town of Cancún. Set on a pristine beach lapped by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean and backed by jungle, this enchanting resort was originally designed as a personal retreat by a Mexican architect. It became an exclusive honeymoon destination but after many requests, Maroma has now introduced a special programme for kids who are often the children of past honeymooners.
Rose and Lulu found gorgeous arrangements of petals and gifts on their beds including small versions of comfortable Mayan robes to wear to the pool or spa. Among the gifts they found a simple dictionary and a special bracelet to wear if they wanted to practise Spanish with the friendly staff.
Lulu bonded with Estralita, the resident macaw, who had her own designer casita in the garden. Slightly scary iguanas patrolled the garden paths and friendly racoon-like creatures came to steal the leftovers from breakfast on our terrace. We all loved the open-air beachside restaurant with its modern Mexican cuisine and its adorable tÍa (auntie) in beautiful traditional dress who made tortillas by hand with children and parents encouraged to help.
There were many things to do beyond the resort – and on one exciting day with delightful, athletic guide Silvia from 4 Worlds Expeditions leading the way – we swam in the pure, freshwater pools called cenotes that are unique to this area. Wearing snorkels and wetsuits we slithered and swam in an underground river lit up to reveal the stalactites and stalagmites overhead. We harnessed up and zip-lined high over a wide jungle river and later paddled canoes along its quiet backwaters.
Back in Los Angeles we had a farewell Mexican dinner before we flew home to Sydney and the girls went back to school. Dressing up like Frida and Diego (even Dad and Grandad wore token red bandanas), we set the table with all our new treasures and dined on fish tacos, guacamole and cactus salad.
Olé! To a wonderful family holiday in fascinating, fabulous Mexico!