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THE PHOTOS AND COMMENTS BELOW ARE PUBLISHED COURTESY OF PETE Y LYNN EN MERIDA


Friday we decided to have a seafood lunch on the beach in Progreso. This was our first time to venture out and use the bus to get somewhere out of town. We took the Auto Progreso bus on Calle 82 between Calle 27 & 29, the cost for a return ticket was 35 pesos each . The bus was new, clean and air conditioned. Progreso is less than 22 miles from our front door - so the trip is short. Progresso is a nice Mexican style sea port. The malecon is the waterfront area where the beach, palapas and restaurants are. Clean, white sand and sparkling turquoise water. There is a pier here that is four miles long - this is where the cruise ships dock and is a deep water port.

We had lunch on the beach overlooking the turqouise water of the southern Gulf of Mexico. We were eating lunch less than an hour after leaving our house. It was nice to get a breath of fresh sea air and escape the hustle bustle of Merida.

If you haven't been to Progreso, you should plan to visit sometime. PETE Y LYNN EN MERIDA

 

 

 

(01-25) 04:00 PST Progreso, Mexico

Ah, the good life.
   Lolling beneath a palm tree while serenaded by ocean waves. Sipping a
Yucateca Montejo beer and feasting on complimentary tortilla chips,
empanadas and ceviche in a thatched hut open to the fresh salt air.
Strolling a mile-long beachfront promenade.
   And not a Senor Frog's or Carlos 'n' Charlie's in sight.
   Progreso, a community of 45,000 on the Yucatan Peninsula's northern Gulf
Coast, has long been one of Mexico's best-kept secrets. Still is, except
during Easter break and in the heart of summer.
   Granted, the arrival of cruise ships from Galveston, Texas, and New
Orleans has spurred growth. Thousands of passengers disembark each week
onto what some label "the world's longest pier."
   But most passengers skip Progreso, making their way instead to buses
destined for Merida or the ruins at Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Dzibilchaltun
- all convenient and rewarding day trips.
   Overnight tourism is primarily the province of Mexican vacationers who
covet a budget-friendly beach escape. They congregate in Progreso and
neighboring Chelem and Chicxulub, joining smaller numbers of Canadians and
Americans drawn to the beach and warm temperatures, to restaurants serving
traditional Yucatecan cuisine, to markets specializing in Maya arts and
crafts and to a laid-back way of life.
   Above all - and especially significant now when every dollar is precious -
these visitors embrace Progreso as a bargain. 
   Dine at a good restaurant for $10 or less. Tour the town in a colorful
hop-on, hop-off bus for $2.
   Officials in the town's fledgling tourism industry hope that travelers who
arrive aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Galveston-based Ecstasy and other
ships are intrigued enough that they'll return for an extended stay. The
Merida airport is only an hour's drive away, and jets arrive from Houston,
Miami and Mexico City. Progreso's goal is to lure more of those
vacationers.
   So much for secret hideaway.
   Still, Progreso is not for everyone. The resort doesn't match Cancun for
nightlife and luxurious beach resorts. Divers will do better on Cozumel,
golfers in Cabo. Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Punta Mita are more idyllic
retreats for romantics.
   Progreso, however, better reflects the authenticity of the "real Mexico."
Visitors can feast on fish soup in a palapa  beside the clear
blue ocean. Savor chicken pibil and lime soup, both Yucatecan traditions,
in the open air . Enjoy chips and salsa and live music
at Eladio's, also on the beach.
   Walk the 14-block beachfront Malecon, pausing perhaps beneath a palm tree
to watch as some of the town's 900 fishing boats - the main industry here
- come and go. Arrange for your own fishing expedition or a water-sports
adventure.
   Service isn't always polished. Not everyone speaks English. You'll see
poverty, too; more evidence of reality in our neighbor country. But
hospitality here comes with a smile and an eagerness to please.
   All the Carnival Ecstasy's five-day cruises take 2,000-plus passengers
from Galveston to Progreso (and Cozumel), and you can accomplish a lot in
a few hours.
   Your first impression will be the length of the pier, about 4 1/2 miles.
Built in the 1930s, it was extended nine years ago beyond a limestone
shelf - only about 30 feet beneath the water's surface in some areas - to
allow large cruise ships to dock in deep water.
   Don't worry; you won't be forced to walk the length of the pier. It
doubles as a roadway, and free shuttles take passengers to the Malecon,
the main boulevard in town. This promenade is lined on one side by the
Gulf of Mexico and on the other by restaurants, bars and shops.
   For $2, you can board a multicolored bus and ride to Progreso's most
notable shopping venue, a marketplace about three blocks south of the
Malecon. Specialties here include handmade arts and crafts and Maya
artifacts.
   The shuttle also passes the Zocalo, the central square surrounded by
government offices and businesses. Dances are conducted here on Sundays,
and visitors are welcome to join in the fun.
   Lots of inexpensive places to eat overlook the water. Locals and tourists
mingle at Flamingo's for a fish fillet in banana leaves or coconut shrimp;
 
   If you like what you see and want to return, there are about 750 hotel
rooms plus oceanfront cottages and family-run B&Bs. But no Hyatts,
Marriotts or high-dollar luxury resorts.
   This is a slice of the real Mexico. For now.

Planning a visit
   Getting there: Fly to Merida, about 35 miles south of Progreso or Cancun. Transfers
to Progreso by bus or van are available for a minimal charge.
  
   Restaurant reviews: www.yucatantoday.com
   Don't miss: Cochinita pibil, the most popular Yucatecan dish. Marinated
pork is wrapped in banana leaves, then cooked. It's presented as a main
dish or in tacos or sandwiches and spiced with onions and habanero salsa.
   Tours: Cruise lines offer excursions to Maya ruins, including Chichen Itza
and Dzibilchaltun. Excursions to Merida also are popular. Other options
from Progreso include kayaking, a Jeep expedition and a beach break.
This article appeared on page E - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle