Yucatán with Kids: A Travel Guide

Mexico Cassie has done it again. The author of Moving To Mérida: How To Successfully Move To Mexico As A Family has created an excellent guidebook to exploring the Mexican state of Yucatán with kids, naturally called Yucatán with Kids: A Travel Guide. 

This book includes pronunciation assistance for the Mayan place names you will be visiting. It highlights the best beaches, cenotes, and archaeological sites to take your kids. It does a great job of giving pertinent information, like how difficult the cenote is to access, so that you can plan accordingly. It also includes information on haciendas, natural spaces, caves, and inland cities and towns you can take your children, including Mérida and Valladolid. 

Towards the end of the book, Cassie includes two road-trip suggestions for traveling in Yucatán state and surrounding areas. There are notes on food, national festivals, safety and tips for traveling with children. As a guidebook for families with children exploring the area, it can’t be beat.

There were some editing issues that kept me from giving this book the highest rating, however. These are probably things that won’t bother the average reader, but I’m picky. First, the author says she wasn’t going to include pictures because most people would be reading an e-book version. What’s a guidebook without pictures? Since the majority of locations were places the author herself has visited with her family, I’m positive she has oodles of lovely images. And you can absolutely use pictures in e-books. It takes more time formatting, but it would have taken this book over the top.

Note from the author: Photos to accompany the book are on my website, a formatting decision that may not work for everyone but makes the book more affordable and given that most travel books are now sold as ebooks, works well.

Then there were some terms that were mistranslated, although they were understandable errors. The first was Río Lagartos which she informs her readers means Alligator river. No, it doesn’t. The word lagarto translates as lizard in English. Since the crocodiles that live there do indeed resemble very large lizards, Lizard River was an apt name. 

Note from the author: The story about crocodiles and alligators does not come from me but is something told by guides and locals in Río Lagartos.

Another term that caught my attention was the word sarteneja which the author said translated as cistern. The Spanish online dictionary defined sarteneja as another term for bache (pothole). Further research informed me that sartenejas were crevices of naturally found water deposits. So I expect this is a Mayan term that originally referred to areas where water collected and now is used to talk about the structures that hold water. In my area, these are called aljibes and in areas more central in Mexico, I’ve heard the term pila. 

The third mistranslation was concerning the local sun god, Kinich Ahau. The author goes through the etymology of the word, stating kin means sun, ich means face and ahau means lord or priest. However, ich translates as both face and eye in Mayan. As most representations of the sun god have a sun literally in the eye of the carving, k’inich is thought to be more accurately translated as sun-eyed, rather than sun-faced. 

There were also some proofreading errors that should have been corrected before this book was released. In some places río (river) and ría (estuary) were used interchangeably and lacked accents. Then, when listing culinary delights, she mentioned chicharra and castacán as pork dishes. Well, castacán is indeed a local pork dish. However, chicharra is the word for cicada. While cicadas are, in fact, a delicacy in Mexico, they taste more like shrimp than pork, according to sources who have tried them. I believe the word she meant to use was chicharrón, pork rind. 

Note from the author: It is necessary to point out that chicharra is, indeed, a correct term for chicharron in Yucatán.

Towards the end of the book, it felt like I was reading the author’s travel notes rather than a guidebook. Sentences were incomplete, months and days were abbreviated, capitalization and accents became randomized and well, it felt rushed. There were some items that could have been explained a little better. For instance, she mentions Pueblos Mágicos. Anyone living in Mexico would know that she referred to select towns that received revinalization money in recent years to encourage tourism. However, travelers to Mexico might not have that information. 

All of these petty little negatives should not take away from the fact that as a guidebook for families with children who wish to travel in Yucatán state, Yucatán with Kids: A Travel Guide is top-notch. Available on Gumroad and Amazon.

I received an ARC from the author.

Immersed in West Africa: My Solo Journey Across Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau by Terry Lister

africa book

I admit it, I’m a travel book junkie. I love reading about the experiences other people have had traveling around the world while I sit comfortably at home. Africa is one of those destinations that I love to read about but I am not too sure that I want to visit, ever. 

I picked up Immersed in West Africa: My Solo Journey Across Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau by Terry Lister and did a little virtual traveling the other day. The pictures that the author included were amazing! I have to say that there is nothing quite like the raw nature of those countries he visited. 

The story he told about his travels was interesting as well. I never thought that there might be monuments and museums about the slave trade in Africa. I suppose that anything can be turned into an attraction. With a little more dedication and money, I’m sure those remote places could become educational and even a profit center for the otherwise isolated settlements. 

I chuckled at the author’s horrible transit stories. I mean really, a vehicle with 15 people stacked three high (that was the image I got from reading the account anyway). The hassle with the ATMs, customs and police bribes, general miscommunication, and so on are quirky, real tidbits that make an adventure story ring true. 

lister

My favorite section was the description of the elaborate tea preparation in Chinguetti, Mauritania, and the Terjit Oasis. I also marveled at the villages that were only accessible by ladder in Djiakan. I could just picture women with babies tied to their backs ascending and descending those ladders. 

I would have liked to have a little more explanation about the author’s thoughts on certain items, like his opinion on renewable energy which he says he was “pretty sure you know how I feel”. Well, I didn’t. Or the thing he had for volcanoes and waterfalls. What thing was that? More details would have been nice. 

Regardless, if you are an arm-chair traveler by choice or circumstance, Immersed in West Africa: My Solo Journey Across Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau by Terry Lister will take you to distant lands.

four star

The World is Your Lobster by Lee Mountford

Lee and his wife Nicki decided to take a belated gap year in their 40s and travel the world. Beginning in Melbourne, Australia, they went to 27 countries, covering a total of 77,427 kilometers and sampling 276 domestic beers. Lee recounts the highlights and little adventures in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, with corny jokes, and nearly funny puns. You can’t say the man didn’t try. 

The adventure itself had some inevitable lows, including icky accommodations, being charged extraordinarily high prices, and one instance of denied entrance to the temple for the blatant display of knobby kneecaps. They met some memorable characters on the way, such as the Italian Hamster and Paul, the poetry reciting Russian. 

As I was reading, I kept thinking that I would love to see some of these pictures Lee was yammering on about. Lo and behold, midway through the book, there was a QR code above to view some of the pictures online. Since I may be one of the last remaining people in the world that does not own a smartphone, that feature wasn’t as exciting as the link to their Instagram account. (https://www.instagram.com/worldisyourlobster/). My personal favorite photo was of Lee carting around the hotel safe in Myanmar.

Roundabout the time when the Mountfords arrived in Europe, both trip planning and book proofreading went to the dogs. Random apostrophes appeared in places they had no business being (her’s). Muddled homophones confused the issue at times (who’s vs. whose). Enough inconsistent capitalization sprouted up to drive this English teacher bonkers. (Eiffel Tower, Eiffel tower, eiffel Tower, anyone?) Maybe Maggie-Jane, the orange Brazilian VW camper van that the couple was trundling around in, affected the grammar in some way.

Like all good things, eventually, the journey came to an end. Nicki and Lee took up the yokes of the middle-aged once again, albeit with a gleam of wanderlust in the eye from time to time. So if you are an armchair traveler and enjoy a good travel story, or in this case hundreds of good travel stories, then The World is Your Lobster by Lee Mountford is the book for you!

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.