Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

So back to one post before the previous one..I am in Mexico..it’ s the 21st February. I took a flight from Mexico D.F to Cancun to meet Richard. I was super excited! I arrived at Terminal 1, he did Terminal 3 and the waiting time was only 1 hour for me. Dressed up as a Mexican cowgirl I was waiting for my cowboy in boots, denim shorts and sombrero. Just as in the movies..very emotional and happy meeting at the airport, then we took a bus to Playa del Carmen around 9pm. Upon arrival I couldn’t hide my disappointment..I totally thought that PDC was less touristy and it’s a perfect escape from Cancun but no..bazaar style main street with silver shops, souvenir shops, agencies etc. We got to our wonderful hotel which was booked by Richie as  a post-Valentine treat and roses allover..proper romantic. Again..as in the movies:)

roses on bed

1st full day in PDC we decided that on our route together there will be plenty of dive opportunities so Richard should do his open water certificate to be able to dive without limitations. After a tiring shopping around dive shops (which was quite off-putting for him) we found a very nice freelance instuctor, Diego (Argentina), and agreed he would start diving in a couple of days’ time, which then allowed us to have a mega night in Coco Bongo, the best nightclub in town (similar to cirque du soleil , crammed with shows) where you buy a fairly expensive entrance and have unlimited drinks throughout the night..fantastic night..super drunk:)

Video will be up soon. in the meantime so pics:

coco bongo spiderman coco bongo

Next day..absolutely dying of hangover we booked a tour to Chitzen Itza..7.50 am start..needless to say we did not find funny the Mexican guide’s forced jokes on the 4 hour minibus ride:) Once we were at the site we felt better. Had a stop at a little rather commercial Mayan village, then a guided and free tour on the archaeological site.

Chitzen Itza CI

On the way back to PDC we stopped in a ‘Gruta’ and swam in the natural pool …sadly it was packed with tourists but still was fun.

Gruta

 

Richard did his open water in 2 days which is pretty impressive..i was concerned if he would like it etc. but he did!

 

diego and ingrid

We made friends with Diego and his girlfriend Ingrid and we went together after the course to the world famous dive destination Isla de Cozumel and did 2 dives where we saw Eagle Rays, turtles, Nurse sharks, lobsters, sting rays, trigger fish, cow fish, angle fishes and many more..It was an insane dive! Just to name them, the first one was Colombia deep dive and the second La francesa. If you guys get the chance, this is the place to go! Also very big surprise at Cozumel..Hagar, a friend with whom I dived in 2012 in Cambodia was sitting in the Blue Magic dive shop!!! What a small world..

Reunited:

Hagar

 

We stayed only one night as we had a total of 17 days together and we had to move. Next stop was Tulum. This is an incredibly romantic place on the Caribbean coast..We stayed in Playa condesa in lovely little bungalow, visited the ruins, did some cave diving (Dos Ojos), and just hang out in the hammock sipping great cocktails. I truly loved this place..so did Richard.

Tulum IMG_2522

Next destination was Belize for us. We crossed from Mexico in a town called Chetumel by ferry to Caye Caulker. At least this was the plan, until someone told us how great the carnival is in San Pedro (neighbour island where the only transport method is by gold carts) Well..San Pedro was not my favourite place, because it took us ages to find accommodation and it was super expensive (all booked up because of the carnival..) not only booked we pricey accommodation which was about 15 minutes walk from the centre but there was no sign of the carnival…So next day we did a trip to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. In Hol Chan we dived and Shark Ray we snorkelled with sharks and a big rays..you could so easily touch them ..it was an adrenaline rush! Loved it! The only thing that I was not quite happy with was that the locals were feeding the sharks..but otherwise they would not be approachable ..meh..this is one of those things you can either refuse to go because of the ethics or..you just say whatever..I won’t miss this experience.

lobstercrab DSCN0673 DSCN0680

After the half day dive we took the ferry to Caye Caulker. I preferred it so much more! Smaller island and a bit less touristy and developed. Saying that..there was a Starbucks on the island where the only road available was dirt road. We booked a dive trip to the famous Blue Hole..

IMG_2644 blue hole

It’s a full day trip, as it takes 2 hours on a speedboat to get there..the journey is fairly rough, so consider taking pills if you are sea sick.  On the first dive we dropped down to 40 meter..sadly the visibility was not the greatest..you could just about see the wall but I managed to see 3 sharks as well so I was still impressed. The other 2 shallow dives were pretty good with turtles, eagle rays sting rays, schools of  jacks and snappers and lots of fun in the water with Richie. Truly amazing day!

I have to stop here for a second and share a fairly funny story that happened just before we left Caye Caulker on the boat. A lady in her early 40s had to go to the loo after breakfast (6am) but the dive shop (Frenchie’s) did not have a toilet. I was in similar shoes and I was told to return to my guesthouse, the boat will wait. As I was on my way to our guest house this lady was running and said, come with me, this local man said there is a hotel where you can ‘borrow’ the loo. This hotel was very close to the dive shop so I joined her. It was too early, so we literally broke into this hotel but there was no toilet. So this lady decided that she will use the garden..she also added that she needed to do a number 2. I only had to do a number one but was not considering using the garden of a hotel. Especially after I bumped into a few staff members of the dive shop and turned out it was the official hotel of the dive shop! 🙂 I was offered a lift though to my guest house so i could go to my own bathroom. As we left the shore with the boat this lady came up to me and said how bad she feels about having to do a number 2 in the garden and she was considering going back and confess her ‘crime’ just in case she would be arrested..I was entertained by this story along with Richard for the rest of the day..

I miss those stunning sunsets of Caye Calulker..

Sunset Caye Caulker

The following morning we left Caye Caulker and headed to Flores, Guatemala. We arrived well in the afternoon and we did not want to rush around to organise our trip to Tikal the next day and given that Flores was a lovely little town with a huge lake we decided to stay there next day. Great decision! We hired kayaks, visited a museum and a viewpoint, met some locals who offered us beers in the heat. First surprise in Guatemala for us was a super developed shopping centre by the bridge between Santa Elena and Flores..western standards..western prices.

Flores DSC_0851

We decided not to do Tikal in the sunrise and what a great decision! There was no sunrise the next morning. We left Flores at 8am and returned at 4pm. Tikal was wonderful..a bit like Angkor Wat in Cambodia but with less tourists. Loved it.

DSC_0949 tikal

We took the night bus to Guatemala..it was very smooth…we pretty much slept through the journey. From Guat we took a shuttle to Antigua which took less than an hour so we were there by 7am.

Antigua was the second surprise for us…I totally thought that Guatemala is still fairly undeveloped but Flores, Antigua and later on Lake Atitlan proved the opposite. We found some amazing bars and restaurants in Antigua but experiencing that our order at a place is taken by iPad…well..I can’t deny my disappointment. Antigua is expensive. A fantastic place to stay though is: Casa Jacaranda. Cheap and you get a choice of 5 different brekkies included. Has a superb garden with hammocks, and the owners when they are there love chatting to tourists.

Antigua

One day we climbed Pacaya Volcano, which is a still active volcano and you can burn your feet on the volcanic rocks if you stand there too long but you can easily get lost in the fun of melting marshmallows above the heat of the lava. On the way back you get to pick avocados from the tree.  It’s a half day trip..not demanding at all. The rest of our time in Antigua we watched the Sunday preparation for the Semana Santa (Easter), walked around, visited markets ,went to Pastores the little leather town nearby where you can buy cheap leather boots, belts, bags etc.

If you like eco-lodges, pay a visit to the Earth Lodge, fantastic hideaway from the touristy Antigua.

The morning of the 11th March was sad for both of us as the dream travelling together came to an end. I was tempted to go home with him but I thought I might not have another opportunity like this to travel and to be honest I kinda had enough of travelling alone. Now that I experienced how great is to travel with the one you love and share all these adventures, feelings, moments, I don’t really want to travel alone anymore. I am really grateful to Richard that he made such an effort to take almost all his holidays of the year off to be able to travel with me and that he let me share with him such an amazing experience !

In the next post I am going to continue with Guatemala as after the 2 most touristy and developed places we visited with Richard I got a good insight into the ‘real life’ in Guatemala.

After the hard but rewarding month in Cuba, I flew to Mexico City at 6am on the 3rd February. I was not planning on doing anything on that day given that for a month I  was cut off the world. I realised again how difficult is for me just to chill and do nothing apart from catching up with people and admin etc.
I needed that day off still I felt I was missing out. A great friend of mine Maszi introduced me online to her friend who lives in Puebla region so she suggested me to go first to Curenavaca. I was a bit disorganised and planned nothing at all for Mexico..all I knew was that Richard was arriving on the 21st February and by that time I should visit some great places.So I started with Cuernavaca as Ana suggested.
Cuernavaca is a lovely lively city only 30 mins south of Mexico City. It has 2 gardens, churches, a central plaza and palace. Each night of the week you can enjoy dancers, musicians, acrobats and a lot of locals who use the plaza both by day and night as a place to hang out, meet friends and be entertained by many local artists and entertainers. The square and adjacent area is full of street vendors selling everything from bead work to maize on a stick and tacos. Best juice in town can be found in front of Teatro Ocampo.

Cuernavaca_Palacio_Cortes

After Cuernavaca I went to Tepoztlan. The stunning ‘pueblo magico’ is surrounded by beautiful mountains- I climbed one to see the pyramid on top:

piramide
Oh I have to add a funny detail here about my iPhone. As some of you know on my first trip the second day of being in Brazil my phone died to I traveled a year without smartphone. On the second trip after 2 days my phone did not recognize any service in Cuba, but I thought it was just a ‘cuban thing’..well the problem persisted in Mexico as well and even though I made a couple of phone calls to my UK provider as well as Apple and tried to restore the phone it still showing me no service so please so not contact me on my UK number, and if you did and you are angry with me for not getting back to you now you know the reason why.
The other great iPhone illness that occurred was that first around 30% then 40 and finally 60% of battery the phone just switched off…again having spent a couple of hours online searching for solution, downloading an app and restoring my phone helped.

iphone-sucks
After Tepoztlan I went 2 hours south to Taxco. I will take my time here as Taxco was one of my favourite places in Mexico. Imagine a little white jewel built on a hill where the streets are so narrow that only tiny white Beatles can fit as taxis and normal car hardly any. People are very fit in this town as they have to go up and down with their baskets full of empanadas or ‘elotes’ (corn) or whatever they sell on a daily basis. The ‘zocalo’ as they call the central square in nearly every town in the center of Mexico is beautiful with a huge cathedral in the middle surrounded by silver shops. Taxco is nominated as ‘Pueblo Magico’ (Magical Town) with a reason.
taxco view taxco 2 taxco beetle
In Taxco I met a very nice local man called Evaristo and his sister Patricia. I just walked by their convenient store and we started chatting. In Mexico if you speak Spanish and are not from the US people are super friendly! They directed me to the highest point in town where a statue of ‘Cristo’ was guarding the town. A lovely lady joined me on my walk..just because she had nothing else to do. Again very nice chat. I had a private room with bathroom and kitchen 2 steps away from the zocalo for 200 pesos (9 GBP) called Hotel Casa Grande. When I got back in the evening, I had a pleasant surprise: Evaristo turned up and asked if I wanted to hang out. He remembered the hotel I stayed in and wanted to show me the town. So we went for a walk, got some beers and tequila and had a great night chatting. Next day I was walking around silver shops to get a nice memory from this beautiful town and I decided to order a ring that has a salsa dancing couple on it. Given that salsa and the latin culture is such a huge part in my life I wanted to create something that reminds me all time how much happiness Latin America, the people, the language, the
music and the dance gives me. I requested a ring from a silver shop by next day. I had to explain pretty well what I exactly wanted and even having done so, I was not confident they would make a ring exactly how I imagined. In the afternoon I went to a beautiful cave called:  Cacahuamilpa Cave where visitors are mainly Mexicans. Stunning place. It takes 2 hours to complete the visit of this cave..and this is what you can see:
IMG_2027 corona bottle
By the time I got back to Taxco my ring should have been well ready..sadly it wasn’t and it wasn’t even close to be.. So I had to look for another silver man to do one for me. I asked him to be ready for 11am the next day because my bus left for Mexico DF at midday..needless to say it wasn’t! Ended up running to catch the bus but I made it in the end. Moral of the story: Whoever want to have a ring done, STAY WITH THE MAN UNTIL HE FINISHES IT otherwise every other order will be before yours no
matter when they came in. Here is the art:

salsa ring

Upon arrival at Mexico DF I wanted to stay in the ‘Zona Rosa’ this time which is full of bars and supposed to be one of the nicest part of the city. Sadly they didn’t have a dorm but Line (from Quebec) offered kindly that she would share her double room with me. I was super delighted. This is the hostel where I met one of the nicest group of people that includes Line (mentioned above), Sean (US), Lucila and Flavio (Argentinian couple arriving a day after me). The day I arrived was a Saturday and I was dying to go out. Line and Sean were well up for it too so we went to the Condensa area crammed with bars and clubs and I truly had one of the best nights on this particular night in a Cuban bar and in a place called ‘Patas negras’.

aliz dancing on bar Patas Negras
The next day we wanted to take advantage of the ‘free museum Sunday’ but we were way too hungover so had brunch at Wendy’s then went to one of the most famous museums in MeXico DF :The Antrolpology museum. Sadly it was only free for locals so due to our hangover we opted for skipping the museum and visiting the Modern Art instead.
Good decision. Loved it. We bonded with the Argentinians who travelled with little money but great talent. Flavio is a musician and Lucila juggles with fireballs at traffic lights. The day after we went to one of the most important Aztec ruins near Mexico city : Teotihuacan. We spent a great day there climbing the Sun and Moon temples, fighting off the hassle of fake silver sellers..and had an average lunch..

Teotihuacan

Now I think this average lunch turned into a regret the day after when we went to Xiochimilco.I will explain why in a minute. Xochimilco is best known for its canals, which are left from what was an extensive lake and canal system that connected most of the settlements of the Valle de Mexico.These canals, along with artificial islands called chinampas attract tourists and other city residents to ride on colorful gondola-like boats called ‘ trajineras’ around the 170 km (110 mi) of canals.

xiochi 1 xiochi 2 xiochi 3
My breakfast was a melon juice..once we arrived at Xiochimilco my dear Hawaiana flipflops broke..along with my heart as those black flip flops walked a few miles around the world..oh well..sometimes you need to say goodbye. Flavio fixed it for the day anyway..if anyone has the problem here is a great way to a temporary fix:
flipflops
On the boat I started to feel weak and sick..I knew something was wrong so after the boat and museum I made my way back to hostel..sadly I couldn’t go anymore on the metro because i felt too sick to travel, so I took a taxi with Chervel …umm..I didn’t make it to the hostel without being sick in the taxi 😦
The coming evening was the worst on this trip..I had pain, I felt sick..if these guys were not there and the helpful staff of the hostel I would have suffered way more. They called the ambulance and I had blood taken, blood pressure measured, I had fever so they prescribed a medicine that sent me to sleep and the day after I felt much better. Very weak because I could not eat anything the whole previous day and the following 2 days either but I made sure to drink a lot of liquid. I am not sure if I had a bug..probably yes ..and also maybe the spicy Mexican food did not do well to my tummy ..but hey, at least I lost weight and felt superb after I
recovered!

I don’t usually like Latin- American big cities but Mexico City reminded me very much of Buenos Aires. Loved it!

Next stop was San Miguel de Allende. This little charming town (also Pueblo Magico) is a top American retirement spot therefore you hear more English than Spanish here. There are several hot thermal baths in the neighborhood to enjoy (Taxi is the quickest way to get to them but if you have time try the local buses! I boarded one and a national transportation control asked me if I was afraid to ride on this bus.), there is a huge handicraft market and design unit where you can get some inspirations, or just get lost in the bars and fine restaurants..I stayed in Hostel Alcatraz with kitchen facilities. Great staff and good atmosphere.

san miguel 1 san miguel 2 La gruta
After San Miguel I continued to Guanajuato. This town is slightly bigger than San Miguel but the centre is absolutely walkable. In Gunajuato you will find great street entertainment especially during weekends.

Guanajuato 1 guanajuato 2 guanajuato 3

To mention one and my favourite is to participate in the tradition of ‘callejoneada’ a type of “walking serenade”, during which local musicians dress up in traditional 17th century costumes and weave their way through the narrow alleyways of colonial Guanajuato while playing music, singing popular folk songs, telling stories and reciting local legends.

callejoanado
I was lucky enough to witness a proposal during the serenade which certainly doesn’t happen every day.
proposal
In Guanajuato I had a splurge by staying in a hostel called ‘Casa de Dante’..with superb breakfast, stunning views (it is on top of a surrounding mountain so a little bit far from the centre but great exercise opportunity!) and great company! I met Brian here, American photographer, reunited with Chervel again whom I met in Mexico and did Xiochimilco together and met Daisy from England with whom I spent a great day together visiting the Mummy Museum and the city and enjoying the traditional
serenade night.
Daisy and Brian
After Guanajuato I made my way to the last destination towards the West Coast: Guadalajara, the second biggest Mexican city. I found eventually my hostel stumbling around with my backpacks in the night: Hostel Tequila. At first glance I did not like this hostel even if it had a pool but as everything it needed time. First day I spent in the San Juan Market..This is the place to go if you want to buy cowboy outfit, leather stuff, cowboy boots, sombreros, or fruits, veggies, everyday clothes, souvenirs or if you just want to try the market food which is exceptional here..top quality shrimps and fish prepared in white wine or garlic. Don’t ask me why they offer seafood, Guadalajara is not by the sea. I bought a pair of boots for myself and 2 sombreros for the arrival of Richard in a few days’ time!
On the second day I went to Tequila with 2 Brazilan bankers. It’s a 2 hour bus ride from Guadalajara and then a tour in one of the tequila factories. Jose Cuervo is certainly the most traditional and biggest but I went with rubio and I did not regret it! If you happen to be here make sure you eat before because there is some serious tequila tasting going on and you DO FEEL THE DIFFERENCE between a smooth gold tequila with least taste or the very tasty but strong white tequila!

After Tequila we wanted to go to the famous Lucha Libre (Wrestling) but tickets were sold out for that day so I just chilled. Ont he last day I went to Tlaquepaque (another part of Guadalajara), I absolutely loved the creativity of this place. It attracts loads of wealthy tourists from all over the world, lots of wholesale merchants and curious ordinary tourists like myself. If you want to enjoy the great nightlife Guadalajara offers head to Chapultepec, a famous road full of bars, restaurants, live music and every Monday free salsa on the street (alcohol consumption on street is prohibited).

guadalajara 1 guadalajara 2 IMG_2269
I had a night bus back to Mexico DF at midnight. The journey is 6-7 hours. I slept ok. Once I was in Mexico, I had to change terminals and head to Puebla, where I finally got to meet Ana Karen and her brother (as I mentioned at the beginning, a good friend of mine, Maszi put us in touch). Now..this is a welcome!
Welcome to Puebla
I spent 1.5 fantastic day in Cholula where Ana Karen lives. We drank Micheladas (beer with spicy lemony sauce, sometimes with tomato juice added), walked to some of the tons of churches Cholula offers, one is very pretty but you cannot take pictures called:Church of Tonantzintla, which means “place of our little mother” in Nahuatl, comes from the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, the earth mother who became the equivalent of the Virgin Mary when the Spaniards conquered the pre-Hispanic world.

In the evening we drank some Mezcal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mezcal) with Ana Karen then headed home to sleep.Next day she prepared a fantastic breakfast:

BreAKIE
Tlacoyos with fresh orange juice then Memo brought down his tequila selection and the day has started very well! Ana saw me off to Mexico City Airport (Memo came with us as well half way) from where I flew to Cancun to meet my Love..but this will be a next story..guaranteed entertainment if you stay with me for the next time:)