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Mexico-part 2

Mexico-part 2

Mexico City and Guadalajara

A long time ago BF (before Freda), we visited Mexico City. Unfortunately it was when I was pregnant, so I couldn’t sample the delights of Mexican cuisine or their alcoholic beverages. The alcohol needs no explanation, but the food, just the smell of it, had a terrible effect on me. But, even with horrific morning sickness, we both really enjoyed Mexico City, so we decided to return.

Mexico City, I have been informed, is the worlds 4th biggest metropolis. A vibrant city, traffic clogged, filthy, but also truly beautiful and magical. We decided to stay in an area called Coyoacan, it’s a large southern borough and a small haven away from the rest of bussle of the City.

Founded in the seventh century by the Colhua people and later conquered by the Mexica, the “place of coyotes” retains its small-town charm. Last trip, we visited just for the day, this time we stayed for a whole week. This, however, was not the plan, as we had initially only 3 nights booked before we were due to fly down to Guadalajara, but then we realised, half way through our stay, that no one had booked that particular flight! Now I think that Mitch was meant to book it, got distracted, probably with the Lincoln City football scores and didn’t!! He denies this, and swears I was booking it. Anyway, no one booked it, we were just pleased we found this out before we turned up at the airport!

Luckily Coyoacan is lovely place to find yourself stuck with a few days to kill. With its narrow, cobbled streets, colonial churches, vibrant markets, world-class museums and sidewalk cafes, its historic center has a lot to offer. Including the oldest church in Mexico City built in the 1520s.

One of the main attractions for tourists is Fridas Kalhos Blue house. The house looks like it did when Kahlo and husband Diego Rivera lived there. At this location, just under 5 years ago, we both agreed we loved the name Frida and it stuck with us. I have to say I didn’t imagine we’d return, but our Freda was desperate to go, which was really sweet.

She has come away from Frida Kahlos’ house wanting to be an artist, luckily though for anyone who may have seen Fridas art, not paying too much attention to the detail. I think Mitch makes a good Diego Rivera!

We spent our other days wandering around the local markets (I’m obsessed with all things Mexican) and eating more great food. Although, we all had pretty bad stomachs for the whole of our time in the capital, which I put down to us eating in our first poncey eatery since being in Mexico. The raw scallop taco perhaps was a bad move, so it seems to be best, I think, to keep it simple and stick to street food. Tostadas Coyoacan being a firm favourite.

Another place close to us, was the beautiful area of San Angel. It holds a famous Saturday market, where you can wander around the Cobblestone streets through many plazas, eyeing into beautiful gardens and elegant estates, to see the neighborhood’s rich colonial past. There is so much I want to buy in Mexico, I have told Mitch I will need to come back with a suitcase and start a Mexican shop. However, there was one little lady who was getting a little bit fed up with markets, and I have been accused of spoiling her, as I keep buying things to appease her.

So, we took her to Mexico City’s children’s museum. It was excellent, much better than anything we have in London, there was so much interactive stuff for her to do, it didn’t seem to mater that it was all in Spanish, she was in heaven. They even had a supermarket, I don’t think Mitch realised the food was plastic!

Although, I have to admit, I got a bit annoyed with her when she bashed me over the head with one of these hard pot masks!

We did manage to leave the tranquility of Coyoacan and go into the historic centre of Mexico City to see its famous, massive and grand central square, the Zocalo……made even more famous since a recent James Bond film!

We also paid a visit to the Ministry of Education where Diego Riveras’ murals line the corridors. It was a beautiful place, Jacaranda trees are all in bloom in Mexico City, which is quite a sight.

Rivera was one the most visible figure in Mexican muralism, that emerged in the 1920s in the wake of the Mexican Revolution. His paintings often depicted social inequality in mexican life, with communist themes running through lots of his work.

Mexico City once again did not disappoint. It’s a fantastic city, full of culture and history, on every street there is always something that makes you think and wonder. The lonely planet summed it up as “the sun in the Mexican solar system.”

Finally leaving Mexico City behind us, we boarded our newly booked plane to Guadalajara. I didn’t delegate this time, that way there can be no mistakes! Guadalajara is Mexico’s second biggest city, and is quintessential Mexican, this is the birthplace of mariachi music and tequila.

We had two weeks and no plans and after a lot of driving around Mexico in “Part 1” we had little desire to do any more driving.

So, we choose to stay in Tlaquepaque, one of 3 separate towns that make up Guadalajara City. It’s a town in its own right, very up market and full of over priced boutique shops. But, the place has a lovely laid back atmosphere, especially in a town this size, and it’s bloody hot so with Freda, we became limited as to what we could do. This area and another more, the grassroots town of Tonala, are home to many artisans. From wood carvers, to sculptors and potters, there is a lot of amazing ceramic made around here, so it was right up my street. Unfortately I couldn’t get these in our bags!

We spent our next 3 nights in the centre of Guadalajara, but the heat kept beating us and we had to do things in the morning and take Freda back to the flat for the afternoon. Our flat was lovely, it had a hummingbird feeder and we got to watch them coming and going, which was pretty cool.

We still managed to get a feel for the city, just wandering around our area, Chapultepec. They have great idea here, every Sunday they close off a lot of the major roads to traffic, so all the residents come out on their bikes or roller skates, walk their dogs and they also set up little areas for kids with bouncy castles, games and face painting.

It was great being able to roam about a car-free town, I think London should give it a go.

We did attempt a tourist day and went to have a look around the historic centre. We managed to get to see another big hitter from the Mexican mural renaissance, José Clemente Orozco, considered by many to be the greatest.

His works is political and very dark paintings, we found out today painted all his murals with one hand, as he lost his other one when it was blown of by a firework! Pretty mean feat when you see the size of this chapel in the beautiful Hospicio Cabañas. An old hospital, now a UNESCO world heritage site. Freda unfortunately wasn’t at her best, so to ease the pain, I thought it would be fun to get a horse and cart around the city. What a bad idea.

This photo was just before we sat in 6 lane slow traffic, in 35 degrees heat, on a horse and cart. It was awful, we had to get out early because dripping with sweat, lungs full of pollution we could stand no more. We got in a cab and retreated to the flat to watch the hummingbirds.

We enjoyed our time in the city but felt it was time we moved on, so we went down to the lake. Lake Chapala is Mexico’s largest freshwater lake and is around an hour south of Guadalajara. We spent our first night in the town of Chapala, but we weren’t very keen on our hotel or the town. There aren’t many places that we have left early on this trip, but this place had a very unwelcoming vibe to it. So, the next morning we quickly found an Airb&b and checked out, fortune favours the brave.

This was our view from our Airb&b, a room in a 200 year old hacienda, in the hills of a little town called Ajijic. Because of the benign prevailing climate and attractive scenery, a substantial colony of retirees, including many from the United States and Canada, has established themselves on the lake’s shore. I sometimes feel out of place in Mexico because of the blond hair, but here its was because I was under 60. Not to be sniffed at, it was a lovely, charming town full of worldy North American retirees. The pace was slow, so we relaxed and enjoying the stories from our charming host. She had spent most of her life moving around various country mansions in Dorset and spent time in London in the 70s, where she lived in houses that are now the homes of multi millionaires.

I dragged them all horse riding, Freda was none the wiser that she was on a donkey and was very pleased with her ‘pony’. Too sweet.

Also just down the road there is a thermal spa area, so we visited a water park there, with slides and all sorts. All the pools were heated by the thermals, but when it’s this hot you long for a cool dip, not a 30 degrees pool! We had a great week by the lake, it was so peaceful, may be one to keep in mind when we retire, obviously we will have to think about going back to work first!

We fly out of Guadalajara early in the morning, so we have decided to come back to Tlaquepaque for a few days. We took a day trip out to Tequilateral, as it’s only an hour out of town. It was a great town and we had a really interesting tour around a distillery. I still have to say, I’m never going to be a neat tequila drinker, reminds me of previous misuse. However, we have learnt there are different qualities, and like all things the better it is, I think the less of a hangover you get……..apart from that it all tastes pretty nasty!! At the tasting, I think Mitch was regretting the amount of margaritas he’d had the night before!

But it was facinating to see the process. The story goes, that apparently while working in the field, lightning struck the blue agave cactus, along came a guy and saw that the heat had changed the plant, he tried it and it was sweet, took it home, fermented it, and tequila was born! So after being picked from the field the agave roots are cooked, this is how your tequila starts off.

We are both sad to be saying goodbye to Mexico, but we are very happy we decided to come back here, we’ve had a wonderful time. What I love about this country is its vibrant culture, the colours and the creativity. It’s a beautiful place, which I would advise everyone to visit.

 

Mexico – part 1

Mexico – part 1

 Guerrero and Michoacán

Mexico was an addition to our itinerary, we were going to go to the US mainland, but after it was Trumped on we couldn’t stomach the stench.
We left Kona, flew to Mexico City, hired a car and 18 hours later we drove into a little hilltop town called Taxco. Without much of a plan, we just thought we would head down to the Pacific coast.

Taxco is famous for its old silver mines and with white VW bettle taxis littering the streets (its too steep to walk), it’s an interesting, bustling place and a good town to adjust to Mexican life.

We had a few fun days hunting for Jewelery, becoming reacquainted with Margaritas and Freda learnt about her namesake. She now seems very taken with Frida Kahlo, whose image is everywhere we go, although there’s not much resemblance…our Freda needs to work on the brows!

After a lovely few days we left Taxco and drove down to the coast, heading for a place called Pie de la Cuesta. It’s a long drive, so we had to stop somewhere and this seemed like the best option. Just far enough away from the drug wars happening in Acapulco. We have come to realise, that while traveling in Mexico it’s not a good idea to read too much about the amount of crime that happens here, especially not from any American source. If you read the American DotGov websites, they advise against all but essential travel in most areas in Mexico. After reading such material, we found out that the two states we are travelling around at the moment have the worst level of drug violence in the country, super! We’ve taken it with a healthy, but wary, pinch of salt and I’ve only had a few sleepless nights after hearing what sounded like gunfire!

So, after pooing our pants driving through Acapulco, we made it to Pie de la Cuesta. It was ok, beautiful long sweeping beach, massive waves, and a nice hotel, made for a pleasant stay.

But, behind the scenes, the surrounding area felt very run drown, a little dodgy and unwelcoming. We got back on the road and headed up the coast to a little fishing village called Barra de Potosi. Unsure what to expect, we stumbled on a real gem. We booked 2 nights and ended up staying for 9, we eased into village life.

We stayed in a really intesting B&B in the village, our room was open, no windows or walls, an “insidey outsidey garden” room as Freda called it.

Freda played with the local children and visited the local children’s library.

We spent most days on the beach building sand castles, while Mitch relaxed!

I’m now old enough to be comfortable saying I enjoyed a spot of bird watching! Pelicans, Frigate birds, Boobies, and Herons all fished right on the shore line and Vultures cleaned up the left overs, it was quite a sight.

 We did find time in our busy schedule to round off the days with a well deserved Margarita.

We even managed to fit in a few extra activities.

Hiring a kayak on the lagoon one day was great, although Freda just wanted to jump out and swim so we didn’t get far.

Maybe just as well as we had a double kayak…..Mitch and I struggled to work as a team, basically he told me I had no rhythm and was rubbish, charming! I jumped in and swam with Freda instead, much more fun.

Our other adventure was hiring a boat, with our fellow guests Laine and Patty, an American couple, disguising themselves as Canadians. They had sold up and were taking a trip all the way down to Patagonia and back in a very well equipped car, mucho respecto. Laine was a bit of a fisher and caught a good sized Tuna, filleted it with what he called his 12″ bona and cooked us up a treat! Thanks Laine.

All of this was a life lesson to Freda as she had to watch it being bled over the side of the boat. At dinner earlier she said to me, whilst chewing on a chicken leg, “mummy is this chicken actually a dead animal, or not?” So I think something may have clicked. We went looking for Whales but failed, we did see two beautiful large Rays and an abundance of sea birds.

We also did some reef snorkelling, so overall a good trip.

So, Barra de Potosi was great, we met some lovely people and really felt at home there. It was very hard to pull ourselves away, but I think all this travelling has given us itchy feet, so after 9 nights we were keen to get back on the road.

By this time, after our 9 days of lazing about, we had just about planned our new route and decided to drive up through the state of Michoacán. The drive took us up though the mountains, where we stayed over at a town called Uruapan, known for its amazing botanical garden. Here they have made a series of very impressive waterfalls, all diverted from the river that flows through the town.

Also famous for its textiles, we visited a very fascinating old textiles factory, which is still in use today. We got talking to the owner who saved it from being knocked down. Amazing story, but I did feel sorry for him as it was such a project and was burning all his cash, but then I suppose it’s lucky that there are people in the world like him, to preserve history and traditions. All the old machines were shipped over from England………they came over and showed the Mexicans how to set up a textiles factory 100s of years ago!

Uruapan has had quite a bit of bad press due to horrendous drug cartel violence in the past few years, so we were a little disconcerted when coming out of a supermarket, we had 5 heavily armed guys looking at our car and taking pictures of it. We had already been stopped at a police road-block earlier that day and were getting a little concerned! I asked if there was a problem, apparently not, and they moved onto the next car. Hard to explain that one to Freda! Mummy, why are those men with big guns looking at our car!? Protecting us from the bad guys my love. I bloody hope so!

Unfortunately, there was a cruddy public swimming pool across the river from where we were staying. So, as Freda had already spied it, we felt obliged to take her. I didn’t know though it would involve risking our lives crossing a rope bridge to get to it!!

We left Urapan, which I was quite glad about, and went up the road to a town called Patzcuaro. When we rocked up at the hotel, I was shown to the smallest, darkest room I’ve ever seen! A little disappointed I fetched Mitch and Freda, and when the lady saw Freda she said the room was too small. I agreed and she found us a new one. We ended up with a beautiful little house at top of the hill, all for 40 quid a night!

That’s enough of just the room, the town is also a little gem. A beautiful colonial town, where time seems to have stood still. Wonderful churches loom over every street, out of our bedroom window, even the public library is an old church and the colonial mansions give way to beautiful inner courtyards.

We ate street food and had dinner each night for less than 4 quid, mustn’t grumble!

Freda is still excelling herself in the foods department, she will eat almost anything. Most of the time we haven’t the slightest idea what we are ordering, but as long as it’s not spicy, she’ll give it go.

We took a boat trip to an island on the lake called Janitzio, probably the most touristy thing we have done for a while. Everyone was selling you something or asking for money, even the fishermen just off the island we’re pretending to fish so they could then get money off you for watching them.

It was fun, but it’s a little sad to see a whole community completely dependent on tourism…..when local fishermen earn more money pretending to fish, something’s gone wrong!

Morelia, the state capital of Michoacan, was our last town before Mexico City. The colonial heart of the city is so well preserved that it was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1991.

We spent 2 days just walking around soaking up the history and marvelling in the architectural splendour.

Rich with history, as the Mexican inpendance hero José María Morelos y Pavón was born and lived here, the town was renamed after him. It truly is a wonder of a city, and I think wandering around I have maybe seen just a handful of westerners. Nobody seems to have discovered it yet (or maybe they have all been reading the horror stories from the press)!

We we’re lucky enough to be able to stop on our last leg to Mexico City at the amazing natural phenomenon of the migrating Monarch butterflies. I won’t bore you with the detail, if you are interested take a look at the link. This was perhaps, for me, the most wonderful natural spectacles I have ever witnessed. Thousands of butterflies hanging off the brances of pine trees, when the sun came out they opened up their wings and took to the skies.

We visited two areas of the forest over two days to view the butterflies. Both were well over 3000 meters above sea level. It was pretty tough going, so we decided to hire horses to take us up the sleep accent. Freda loved it.

But, one must also suffer to see such nature, we had to stay in the most grotty of hotels. Luckily I have my faux silk liner, so the worn, 100 year old bobbly sheets didn’t bother me one bit.

If you’ve managed to get this far along the longest blog ever, you’re in for a treat. I’ll share with you Freda’s best comment to date…….when I was buying shoes the other day, Freda saw a shoe with a plastic foot in it and said “How’s somebody going to buy that shoe mummy, it’s already got somebodies foot in it!” maybe you had to be there!

Freda’s finally got round to doing a new vlog, so have a look.