This quick trip to visit with family really got us ready to start booking some new travel. Stay tuned!
You know, one can’t help but filter travel experiences through the lens of your own culture and experience. You step into another way of life, observe the differences, and usually start out thinking “WTF is wrong with these people?!!” At least, that’s what I usually think. Seriously though, when observing things that don’t seem to make sense at first, I find it really interesting to find out the reasoning behind those different approaches. Sometimes those reasons are a window into a better way of doing things, and sometimes those reasons are completely stupid. Either way, here goes a random collection of thoughts and observations as we wrap up our time here in Mexico:
One of the first things that struck me, particularly in Mexico City, is the vast array of ways that people manage to scratch out a living here. Just like any major city in the U.S., there are plenty of beggars and panhandlers, but those are mostly unremarkable.** What I did find remarkable was just how ubiquitous and diverse the sale of random goods is. Continue reading Last Days in Mexico
Our hiking trip began catching a bus and bringing all our gear from Mexico City to Puebla. After overnighting in Puebla, we met our mountain guide “Oso” (Translation: The bear), who drove us to our first acclimatization stop in Tlachichuca. An interesting note on Oso, while he’s been professionally guiding on mountains for at least 15 years or so and climbing big peaks for much more, one of his prior careers was as a professional wrestler. Not sure if that’s where the nickname came from. The name works for him though. The man is a machine at altitude on the mountain, carrying far more, far faster than seems humanly possible. But alas, I’m getting ahead of myself…
The ride to Tlachichuca from Puebla was interesting, as all travel in Mexico tends to be. An example? Well, at most toll booths in Mexico, despite there being signs that prohibit selling items from pedestrians to cars (like at all red lights in Mexico) there are always people selling all sorts of things as you queue up. On the toll booth out of Puebla though, they were selling puppies! That’s right, puppies being held up for sale to cars as they pass through the toll booths. Weird and a little sad, although damn those puppies were cute.
As we started getting a little closer to Tlachichuca it became basically farmland as far as you could see. A lot of the cornfields unfortunately did not have any type of artificial irrigation. Continue reading Pico de Orizaba hiking trip
We stayed overnight in Puebla to meet our mountain guide “Oso” (The Bear) the next day to start our hiking trip to Pico de Orizaba. We were only there a short time but we really enjoyed the atmosphere in Puebla. The town is bustling, clean, and had more foreign tourists than any other place we’ve been on this trip. The town square (Zocalo) is blocked from auto traffic on the weekends, and it becomes a very festive, family friendly kind of carnival in the center of the city. The town is known for it’s candy shops, and there’s actually an entire street lined with just candy shops. The shops primarily sell traditional Mexican treats like candied fruit and nuts. However, there are a few treats that are unique to Puebla. One of them, and one that seems to be loved by many, is called camotes. Camotes are like little natural fruit tootsie rolls (except bigger), and I gotta say, they have a really disgusting gritty texture that I didn’t care for. They also tasted entirely too “natural”, that is, not nearly enough sugar, chemicals, and coloring. When I say I want strawberry, or lime, or orange candy, what I really want is “strawberry”, or “lime”, or “orange” candy. Another sweet treat to be found only in Puebla is called “Tortitas de Santa Clara”, and these things were an entirely different story. Continue reading Passing through Puebla
Visited a big museum today and met some more of Martha’s family who are also in town visiting. We visited the Dolores Olmedo museum, which is basically a collection of art and artifacts from a VERY rich lady. A large part of the museum is collections of art from Diego Rivera and Freda Kahlo, actually bigger collections than in the museums that carry their namesakes!
The museum begins with a tour of the founder’s actual house, which contains a lot of artifacts and photos from around the world. A large portion of items on display in the house are elaborate ivory carvings. Hence, Martha’s grandparents referred to it as “The Ivory Museum.” This part of the museum provided some real entertainment for me personally. One thing I’ve noticed in my brief time here is that Mexican bureaucrats absolutely LOVE crafting nonsensical ambiguous rules that they can choose to enforce arbitrarily. An example that created no small amount of drama yesterday was a sign at a museum that said no bags allowed inside, they have to be checked at the desk. Meanwhile, we’re in line watching multiple obese women with equally obese purses entering without a second glance. Continue reading Photography Gestapo & Mexican Hairless dogs
Started out the day in Coyoacan and browsed around a market there. They have a lot of the local crafts and such, but generally of a higher quality and without the aggressive sales tactics at a lot of tourist areas. There was an artisan there selling the traditional carved and painted animals from the Oaxaca area. They had a display of these at the Mexico area in EPCOT years ago and we’ve never seen one’s of that high quality for sale other than from this guy, so we picked up a couple small ones.
Also of note for a certain one of our friends that just can’t get enough of the stuff: every imaginable variant of MOLE!!!! The vendor’s name: “Gour-Mole” mmmm..mmmm =)
There’s also some museums in the Coyoacan area and we went to the Leon Trotsky museum…. kind of an interesting story. The short version is that he was a Russian exiled in Mexico City, who was ultimately killed by assassins from Stalin. The Google or The Wikipedia could do his story more justice than I could. Anyhow, it should be interesting as a reference when we visit Stalin related sites in Moscow.
Continue reading Coyoacan & Chapultepec
Got a fairly early start to go visit the ruins in Teotihuacan (about 45 min from Mexico City). Scorching hot but otherwise good weather. We traveled on the non-tourist local bus (less than $3 each) Interesting events during the trip included being stopped at a Federal Police roadblock and having every passenger and their luggage searched (including of course, the only gringo on the bus, me). After arriving back in Mexico City we braved rush hour in the Metro to get to Zona Rosa. When I say braved, I’m not exaggerating. They pack those subway cars tighter than Shinjuku station in rush hour. Actually, I’m gonna go ahead and say it: Mexico City subways are more crowded and crazier than Tokyo.
Continue reading Teotihuacan & Zona Rosa
Fairly relaxed third day in Mexico City. On the agenda: taking a Trajinera (elaborately decorated boat) down canals first used by the Aztecs. Our destination (sort of) was something called “Island of the Dolls”. It’s a bizarre area off a canal where a man started placing old and mutilated dolls everywhere to appease the spirit of a girl who drowned in the canal where he lived. Eventually locals joined the insanity and it added up to a really bizarre collection of dolls hanging everywhere from trees and such. Anyway, if you wanna see some good pics of that place, you can look it up in the Google because we didn’t get them. We managed to find a launching point for the canals, but our best guess is it didn’t access the island, and the last person willing to tell us that was the man selling us the boat ride. Only after we get going does the story change from taking us to Island of the Dolls to that place being too far away and we’re going to a “replica”. Hah! In any event, the boat ride still managed to be an interesting and slightly fun (albeit mega-touristy) little trip and made for a fairly relaxing day.
Continue reading The Trajinera Scam
We arrived in Mexico City a couple days ago reasonably well rested after a couple uneventful flights. I’m withholding my complete verdict on the “Cabin Comfort” pillow, but tentatively it seems ok and I managed a short nap on the way here with it. As usual, Martha snoozed most of the flight with her travel C-Collar on.
All our baggage arrived safe and we were pleasantly surprised to undergo a security check before leaving the baggage area that ensured the baggage we were departing with did in fact belong to us. They checked our check-in baggage receipts against those on the actual bags. Martha scooted through customs without anyone giving her or her bags a second look. However, as soon as I came through the baggage scanning area, security seemed to tense up and one guy started to divert me to the “random” baggage check. I think I set off the gringo alarm, but as soon as Martha said “he’s with me” en Espanol they waved me on. Martha’s grandparents were waiting for us past the threshold and THANK GOD they were, because we were gonna be descended upon by vultures with all the baggage we brought for the hiking trip.
Continue reading Mexico City: Downtown/Historic District