Armchair Travel Blog

Adventures from Paris onwards circa 2012

Month: July, 2013

Dolores Hidalgo // Escondido Place

Sunday morning came and went really fast.

I guess time flies faster when you really don’t want it to – and are anything but ready to leave Mexico after such a great time.

Either way, Sunday also means tlacoyos at the Tangis Market.

The Tangis is a huge open air market when and where you can get just about anything youre little heart desires from action figures to chinese knock-off versions of Nike shoes and all the fruits and vegetables that your heart desires.

The tlacoyos are also served somewhere in the mess, in between the fruit stands and the jeans.

My family has been going to this market long enough that everyone knows them by name, and they know everyone there too by name.

they’re also really sociable people.

Tlacoyos are traditional Mexican fare, and are masa stuffed with a variety of meats, vegetables, cheeses, or any combination therein.

While I was the lone one out who didn’t want chorizo in their tlacoyo, I settled on leg (which I am never sure if it is pig’s or beef) and had it covered with nopales and cream.

These are the sorts of things that I will miss the most heading back to the United States.

And after heading to Costo and the Supermarket to buy the family’s food for the coming week, it was time to say our goodbyes.

(With a little luck the whole of my USA family will be back for Christmas)

Packing everything into the car – and it would lead to be quite a pile in the end – we gave our kisses and hugs to the family. Not that it was an early or quick departure, for by the time we made our rounds it was past 14.00

As I heard it from my aunt “ya nos vemos, y si no, ya nos vimos” which can be translated to “we’ll see you soon, and if not, at least we saw each other”

We made a quick pit stop (haha “quick”) at San Gabriel with the intention to buy one wall pot for my aunt’s garden.

By the time we were through we had bought 3 pots, 1 vase to put candles in and send shadows across the wall, and a giant metal iguana (how I am going to take this home remains to be seen).

Frankly I am very happy that I got the iguana that I came looking for, and for a good price (not at all the 700 pesos they asked for in Playa Del Carmen, the theives)

My aunt wanted to show me Dolores Hidalgo but better than that would be the thermal waters of Escondido Place. Because we got there past 18.30 they were closed, but we decided to spend the night in Dolores instead.

And traveling with dogs – even if they are little proves to be quite a challange. So too would be finding a hotel.

We went to no less than 4 places to find a bed.

And the fourth place would leave me with something to remember it by, because if it wasnt enough of a rock for a bed – the mosquito bites have me looking like some redacted form of chicken pox.

I literally have 14 bites on my left arm and am bitten quite throughly everywhere else, from belly to ankles to nape and fingers. To say the mosquitos went to town would be understating it.

But the reason we ended up at place where we did – where once I have stayed before – was because twice we were turned away because of the dogs, (and they didnt take credit cards) and the third place – and this is where you my reader will drop your teeth – didnt have reciept paper.

Which to me is basically saying that the hotel doesnt have toliet paper. Not having recipet paper is unheard of, and we turned away a soft bed for my bug bites. So because there was no repicept paper, there could be no credit transactions.

(I still am bitter at this place).

So we landed on the fall back. The best part was smuggling the dogs in my backpack to the room so that they would not freeze over night in the car.

I am happy to report that the dogs made zero scandal or mess, and we were able to get them in an out without trouble or additional fees.

(Thanks for the memories!)

But dinner was great! Enough to say that it made the sleep ok.

Don’t let me dissuade you from a visit to Dolores, but be sure to bring ample bugspray if you happen to come during the rainy season.

While the restaurant didn’t have either the meat or the herb for the dish I had originally wanted, I was not disappointed in the least.

The beef was tender and high quality and smothered in some peppered cream sauce that even had my aunt – even though she should not eat red meat – nibbling a few bites. The dish gave the meal I had the El Cardenal last month a real run for it’s money, in terms of quality and finger-licking goodness.

The restaurant was right in the middle of the plaza with the doors and windows thrown open facing the plaza so we saw the nightlife and the band playing in the gazebo in the center of the park, and in the morning we would decide to have breakfast there.

I love the tempo of pueblo life in the morning because at 09.30 it is alive and people titter to and fro but it is not loud and busy and rushed like in the big cities of the world.

To me it strikes a perfect calm balance of time and freedom and Monday morning get-to-work.

Needless to say our breakfast was prolonged to simply watch the people go by.

But then the thermal waters were calling our names, and so after a pit stop to buy my aunt a swimsuit, we were headed off jubilant.

Even though the price had gone up from last year at 35 to today’s 100 pesos, it still is quite a catch because the place is as the name implies, and absolutely worth it.

Well tended gardens and footpaths lead to many a swimming pool or thermal bath where water falls from the walls and different chambers have different temperatures.

There are outside coves hidden from everything but the sunshine, and the water is so fresh as it should be on a hot day.

But the best bit?

The hottest cavern – or coupola – where they let the steam rise up in thick tendrils and the sunlight filters in through a central hole and you swear you have only that beauty in that moment.

The light is beautifully highlighted against the steam as it moves around the dome with the hours.

My aunt tells me that a long time ago there was a monastary and that the monks would come to this place to bath, sing, and meditate.

It’s easy to see why.

The dome echoes, and it must be beautiful with chanting but for me the best part was when I was alone in there, or there was perfect silence. It is this calm and beauty that washes over you and your troubles seem so far away.

Your muscles relax, your face relaxes, your mind strays to places and things far away.

We ended up spending five hours there, jumping from water to water, and finishing with a picnic – eating an avocado like a banana for lack of a knife – and being eaten alive by mosquitos.

The drive home was calm and fairly rapid, at which point I set myself to pack and write some of the last posts of my Mexican chapter of this blog.

Calling the family to confirm we had made it alive in one piece, and that departure is coming soon (and plenty of wishes for a safe and smooth flight)

Packing is interesting, what with all the hodgepodge I have collected – and it doesn’t really hit you until you see it all in one corner of the room and you mutter to yourself “dear god, how am I going to get this all into two suitcases under the weight limit?”

And if you do, youre some kind of modern-day Houdini. (A little help from the aunt doesn’t hurt either)

The question about my iguana remains to be seen – but he is coming home this time around, no questions.

And the list of things to do for and by tomorrow grows shorter, but laundry still needs to be done and my conch shell varnished.

So much to do so little time!

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Guachinmontones

Saturday was the trip (and a nod) to my history.

Well, in the Spanglish snese of the word, at least.

Rememeber how I said that there were few and far inbetween archeological sites in Guadalajara?

Well it turns out that since 1979 I have been wrong. This is a brand new site in terms of archeological discoveries and timelines, but if today is any indication to go by, it will go far and do well in the coming years.

The site, as the title of this post may tell you is called the Guachinmontones. Pronounced in a garbled the Spanish way – and you “Gwa-chiin-mon-ton-es” The name comes from a mix of Spanish and Nawatl which means the mountain of the “guachines”; which are a type of tree.

While the ticket is nothing like the tickets they give you in Mexico City or Cancun, their museum far outstrips any of the other arechological museums I have been too.

The whole family – save for one cousin – came along for the day trip, and my grandmother was able to hang out in the air conditioning while my aunts and I took our somewhat leisurely stroll around the site.

Which is nothing simple to get to, because after the 20 minute documentary of the site that the museum screened, it was a mere 350 meter climb to get to the site.

My grandmother was given permission to take a car ride to the top – the rest of us had to hoof it.

While Aunt 2 and Uncle 1 were in no mood to listen to the tour guide – Aunt 3 and 1, cousin and myself all stayed to listen to the half truths of the tour guide that was provided.

I only say half truths because the site is new and while they say things like the Guachintecos (i kid you not with the name) did not make human sacrifices and played the ball game to resolve their disputes, I beleive that we’re all human at heart, and we all need to and like to make war.

The tour guide also did not include a session about the astrology/numerology of the site, but I would find it a very hard pill to swallow if they too did not have superstitions about the number 52 and Tlaloc and Quetzacoatl – as it has been found in every (count that six) different site.

Still, she gave a good 50 minute tour and answered all of our questions as best as she could. Because the site has not been given full funding for restoration, we were allowed to climb one of the pyramids to take in the landscape.

Unfortuantely this pyramid was brought to its knees in the 1950s when the Mexicans were building their highway that cuts through the town of XXX. they stumbled across this big pile of rocks and thought, “hey free!”. At the moment it provides us with access to one of these cake layered pyramids, but on the other hand, its impressive to see the cut out of the stone. I also have a hard time beleiving these 1950s people didnt see the stairs and carefully placed stone surrounding the pyramid.

Or if they did, they just didnt care enough to do anything about it until the government stepped in.

The pyramids look like a lego cake, but circular. They are surrounded by 10 to 12 square platforms, which they say were other temples surrounding the major one, to get closer to their gods.

Here, the big god is not of rain, but of wind. And I do wonder why. (Questions, questions, always questions)

My theory is that Tlaloc stil reigns supreme.

So after our snapshots, (and as it turns out we were up there for almost 2 hours), we came down to a hungry family, who while we were drinking in the architectural history of Jalisco, had gone out to buy an assortment of goods.

We settled on a place by a lake not to far from the site and in town. They served seafood, and because I was feeling gutsy and because I believe you must try everything once with an open mind (and in this case mouth and stomach) I ordered frog legs.

And they were tasty!

The meat feels more like chicken, but while this doesnt say much, its a soft flavor that only comes through in the end. And with the garlic seasoning, I found it delicious. They are light and not greasy, and it turns out uncle 1 too loves them. the one odd thing I found was that the taste was more of fish, and a little damp, but in no way overwhelming or unplesant.

So now I can say that I have knocked that off my list of foods to try, and that it was for the better, and I would happily eat another plate. The best dish by far, however, was my aunt’s “coco salmon” which ate almost like a dessert.

We all piled back into the car and those in my car went to eat ice cream.

Specifically, gelato.

And specificaly a portion size equivilant to that found in Italy. (Huge).

Happy and full, I came home to a phone call with the parents, and would spend a good while talking to them about the last few days, and my impending departure to home.

The rest of the evening would be spent watching movies from “Calendar Girls” to “the Quartet” and rounding out the evening (at no less than 02.00) with “the best exotic marigold hotel”

if you notice a theme, you’d be correct, but I can say that while the British like to recycle their 20 different actors (and I feel sometimes its less than that haha) they are all splendid movies and I reccomend them to those who have not yet seen them.

turns out Aunt 2 has pretty good taste in movies,

and so sunday would bring our departure from Guadalajara.

It’s The Final Weekend

<Thursday was a slow day in the house, wherein which we camped out in Aunt 2's house watching movies and playing on the computer with the afternoon rain pounding on the windowsill

by friday things had picked up considerably, and the day was spent on the road – and somewhat in the style of ping-pong as of Wednesday.

Friday morning was spent going for an 8k run before it would get too hot with the sun out – I hear that the heat wave back home has finally broken

With breakfast in our bellies, and with the morning to whittle away before the fish and shrimp tacos that would come with the afternoon, we took the 40 minute drive to the Guadalajara Zoo.

What makes this zoo special is that there are certain areas where they allow people to come into close interaction with some of the animals they have there.

The two that we had time for was to get into the monkey walk and the kangaroo walk. The animals are kept free in the area, and you could in theory touch the animals – if they allowed you to.

The monkey pen had groups of ring tailed lemurs, doing what they do best – eating fruit and grooming one another. It was very special to see the animals so close and not within the typical confines behind glass or bars or wires.

There were two other small species of monkeys who got a lot closer to the spectators than the lemurs, but the signs outside telling you to ward your belongings was warranted, because monkeys are naughty.

And the kangaroo pen had about six different kangaroos hanging out in the shade and grooming themselves, closer than I had ever been with any kangaroo. Because they are so accustomed to human noise and presence, the animals were relaxed and allowed me to take some great photos.

The creme de la creme however, came in the form of the polar bear. The polar bear was hanging out perched on the ledge of the water, blowing bubbles through her nose, and watching us watch her. The glass gave a full view of the bear, and she was pressed right up against the window, allowing you to see the size of her paws, and the soft fur on her belly.

While I do feel really bad that such an animal has no place in Guadalajara unless it is kept in a special and icy climate, it still was really cool to be able to see and experience a polar so close and personal.

Even if there were about thirty other kids there all snapping photos, and even knowing that as much as you would love a good cuddle with the bear, the bear probably saw you as a morning snack.

It was really lucky to see the bear so closely as that too was something I had never experienced. She would later swim to another part of her pen and the hand-to-paw photo I got against her paw would be lost to other visitors.

I did like the zoo better because the animals looked much better fed and tended, and their pens were beautifully kept and maintained, even as the hippos and crocodiles were lurking in the water with only their noses poking out.

But then it was time for the rendezvous for fish tacos and we booked it home to have a family luncheon.
Most everyone came, with the exception of a few, and it was a first for shrimp tacos.

Greasy no doubt, but also lip smacking. The fish and the shrimp were breaded and lightly fried then tossed onto a corn or flour tortilla with a bit of lettuce.

There was a full condiment bar to put generous amounts of guacamole and tomatoes and all sorts of other sauces to spice up the taco.

And while it would keep me full for the rest of the day, I say that I was a true mexican with my beer and fish tacos sitting at the bar for lunch.

The afternoon brought a Woody Allen film – the name of which I don’t even know in Spanish – but it left me laughing. I think it is called “Whatever Works” but I could be wrong in this matter. I still do recommend it because it is Woody Allen at his ironic, cynical best, but always sweet at the end.

And I too have seen the Abyss but we can watch something else.

Then, even though the food had barely begun to be digested, my uncle came because I was promised tongue tacos that evening.

And so my cousin, uncle and I went to a little place that in the evenings gets packed with people and ordered a quarter of cow tongue to put in more tacos.

And man if the smell was anything to tempt me by, the taste is even better!

the USA is really missing out with these tacos because they are delicious, and a very honest taste of beef. It’s somewhat soft in the mouth but also tender, and goes very well with lemon and onion

(As all mexican food does)

I only ate a bit of it, for the fish had all but done me in, but it was worth it, and I hope to wat at least one more tongue taco before I leave. I know it may be a little weird, to eat the tongue, but I promise it is worth the try if you are adventurous with food – or even if you simply like beef.

(The diet always starts tomorrow, right?)

Coming back more than stuffed, Aunt 2 told me to get changed because we would be going out for the night.

so my aunt, Aunt 2 and I went to Leyendas Del Rock, a video bar. And while the music was way too loud to converse over, and we hodge podged ear plugs, it still was fun.

The music was from the 70s and 80s mostly, and was hit after hit and even I knew most of the songs, and everyone was singing right along.

But by midnight we had had enough so we went to La paloma for a nightcap and something softer to talk against.

There was more live music there, with a better singer than the band at the Video Bar, and while we missed all but his entire set, we managed to catch a few songs.

And we stayed there on the patio in the balmy weather until 02.00 in the morning when your eyes still and body numb from the tiredness.

Saying goodbyes we made it back to the house and collapsed into bed until 08.00 this morning when my Uncle made chilaquiles for breakfast and for my Aunt 2’s birthday, even if it was a week late.

And man can my uncle cook! They came out very tasty (I feel like most everything is tasty here) and he’s welcome to cook for me any day.

Then after the chilaquiles we went to the Guachinmontones – from where my people come from –

but that is for the next post.

Guadalajara (Week 7(b))

It’s as I promised: today I have found strength enough to give the rest of the update to this past week

Why you may ask? Because today we have done a lump sum of going out to eat tortas today and working hard at digesting the food in the form of a nap.

It’s raining hard against the glass window as i am writing this and it is our usual afternoon thunderstorm.

Where we left off was the evening where my aunt and I had arrived in Guadalajara and Aunt 2 was upset as us arriving so late. But road trips are exactly that and lie all in the journey and not the destination.

To recap this week:

Monday: We started off the week by having my Aunt 2’s birthday celebration.

In the morning we went to the Bosque De Los Colomos to hang out with ducks and see a Japanese garden as well as give ourselves an opportunity to stretch the legs.

The Japanese garden was designed by an actual Japanese landscaper and it has a wonderful peaceful zen vibe to it. 

We got lucky because there was a wedding photographer and we hung out a while while the happy couple were getting their wedding photos taken,

It was cute because a little girl – neice of the bride? – kept butting into the pictures and wanted to be photographed with the bride to the laughter of everyone.

The garden took me back to the when-we-were-in-Japan gardens and it was true to fact, even with fat koi fish.

the second half was spent at the duck pond and the ducks getting closer as i lured them in with false promises of breadcrumbs to actually take their photos. 

there was this big white duck with a horrible turkey face that my friends tell me is a mascovy duck. they certainly dont have them back in washington but i learnt they are common in Miami. either way the jerk wouldnt let me take a good photo but after some cooperative teamwork between my aunt and I, I got what I wanted which was a picture of his horrible red face.

but by then the time had run on the clock and because this time we wouldnt be operating on Mexican time we booked it to the restaurant that the whole family – all ten of us – would be celebrating my Aunt 2’s birthday.

The hamburger at Chili’s wasn’t all that great and while it may be that I don’t eat red meat I was left feeling slightly nauseaus by meals end. 

It did feel like being back home with the terrible club music playing and next door being all sorts of chain clothing stores and restaurants to make me feel like I hand’t gone anywhere.

We walked off the food by going shopping for new smartphones for my Uncle, and left the birthday couple to their afternoon stroll while we retired back to the house.

An afternoon storm later, and on impulse, my aunt and I decided that we would go to a 21.30 movie because we were rebels without a cause.

(My grandmother keeps nagging me about going about the house without shoes – but what can I say? I don’t like wearing shoes in warm weather)

The movie was Despicable Me 2 – or in Spanish – Mi Villiano Favorito 2 – and it was dubbed. Which suits me fine because it helps me practice my spanish and i understand most everything.

We also saw it because I was fairly certain that my aunt and I were the only people in Mexico who had yet to see the film, and if you havent seen it I do reccomend it for the antics of the minions which leaves you on the sticky soda floor laughing.

And it totally makes you feel like a teenager sneaking in past midnight not making any noise or turning on any lights to stumble in the dark towards the bed. 

Which at this point we had puffed up so sleeping was better.

Tuesday: On Tuesday we went to Tlaquepaque (Pueblito) and would you beleive it? My grandmother even came along for the ride.

Which a) made me generally happy to spend time with her and b) get her moving her legs because even if we didnt walk as much as we would my aunt and i alone, she did walk at least an easy 2k without complaining.

Today would be the day where I bought myself a super highquality leather hand suitcase – to put all manners of the things I have bought here in Mexico – and she is beautiful a dark brown leather and smells exactly like it should. 

I am really excited to pack the suitcase and take it home.

I also bought two bottles of really really nice almond tequila which if you are a close friend and reading this, I will treat you to a little bit of when I get home. 

Almond tequila is tequila infused with almond. And it is smooth and sweet and has left me rediscovering my Mexican love of tequila when it doesn’t burn a hole in your stomach.

The bottle is also beautiful, so I hope they will arrive safely back home because I am excited about these bottles as you can’t find them outside of Mexico and they are considered a specialty of Guadalajara.

Lunch was held at El Parian and while the food was okay at best – the chicken was juicy – it was more the atmosphere of the cantina.

Even if it was empty because the people dont come to drink until at least 17.00.

But with lights strung amongst the trees it really is romantic.

And to have an ice cream in the park too makes for a perfect afternoon with the children scaring the pigeons. 

my aunt was looking for a half pot to hang in her garden for a vertical garden but ultimately decided against it in favor of some almond tequila. 

I think it was a good choice. 

when we got back I went for an 11k run which felt good and just as I had walked in the door the thunderstorm began. if that’s not luck I don’t know what is,

even if i got treated to a 45 minute religious sermon being trapped in the kitchen I made a quick escape from one house into another until evening.

and even if they think that eating avocado with sugar is weird. which it totally is not and I think it tastes delicious.

It was also a good opportunity to get out of the house and spend some time in the quiet of a busy pueblo.

Wednesday: Yesterday we went into the Socalo or historical center and the governement’s heart in Guadalajara. The places that we actually went to were called Plaza Tlapatia and Hospicio Cabanas. In the evening my uncle invited me to go see Titanes del Pacifico, or as it is called in English, Pacific Rim.

Guadalajara is not famous for it’s original indian populations – and as such there are few archeological sites nearby. so when the the Spanish came they set up the town, and the cool part about it all is that even though the politicans are hard at work and their meetings, they allow the general public into the building and let you walk the rooms that are not currently being used. Which allowed me to walk into the room where Congress meets to make the laws of all the state. (Mexico is like the USA in that sense, in that it too has states) And I got to walk into the hall where the portraits of all the presidents of the city were.

Its interesting to see how the fashion changed from the 1850s up through today.And how some of those men had some of the best facial hair that really needs to make a come back in the style of USA President Van Buren.

The next place that we went to was the Hospicio Cabanas, which, over the years has served as a hospice, a military school, and an orphanage. Today it is a museum and a school dedicated to the study of the murals Clemente Orosco.

Orosco was one of the famed Mexican Muralists, and everything that comes with the title. So while the murals are not the most beautiful things in the world, there are plnety of people who love his interpretation of the human condition and industrialization and past cultures.

But more than the murals – which really do little for me – is his understanding of geometry, space, mathematics and illusion. The murals flip position or sides depending from where in the chapel you are looking at it, and while obviously it is you who is moving, it looks like the painting is alive.

His famous work is callled the Hombre En Fuego and it is painted on the cuppola of the building. What makes it cool is that as you walk around the cuppola the man seems to stand up, lay down, and is always facing you.

Again, it is not so much the artwork per se, but the method in how he did these optical illusions.

Aunt 2 is a dentist, and so after lunch I went to her office to get my teeth cleaned – one of the perks – it ended up also being a cavity filling, and my aunt put some glue and things on my teeth to kill bacteria. I dont understand, theyre doctor things but I did get a flouride bath that tasted like “bahnahnah”

Then that evening my uncle invited us out to see Titanes, and that movie is stupid good. It is Guillermo Del Toro’s production, and it leaves you with a smile on your face. Because while there is no real depth to the movie, its great CG effects, and has a human/romantic touch.

Basically I loved this film for no real reason.

I won’t spoil it, but it is all giant robots fighting giant sea monsters and I recommend that you see it immediately.

That and caramel popcorn that they sell in theatres made for a smile that wouldn’t leave my face the entire night.

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Week 7(a)

How quickly a week seems to go by when you are least expecting it. In this case, it is my last full week here and it has flown by in the blink of an eye.

The short of it? I am very much alive and well.

The long of it? Well this is why we are here, no? So read on friend.

And because of my terrible computer situation – I find that once again it has come to fill in the blanks for the events of last week.

I do apologize for my sudden and unintentional lapse into silence, but allow me to try to make it up with you as I walk you through what my life has been in these last few days (see: week)

Where we last left off, I had just come back from the castle of Chapultepec and the days have since blurred together. In honesty when I had come back from Friday’s adventure – which we will get to in a second – I was exhausted and so I resigned myself to falling asleep early.

And so on.

Friday: Friday’s adventure was to go to the Chapultepec Zoo. This is one of the largest zoos in the world, and the best part is that it is free admission to everyone every day of the week. Things such as the herpaterium or the butterfly garden cost a fee, but anything that is not in a building is free for everyone to see.

And what crowds! I am not sure if it was because we went on a Friday, or if it is because vacation season is upon Mexico, or some combination of them both, or if it really is that crowded every day of the week.

To say sardine like crowds would be exaggerating a bit, but it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch of the truth of the matter.

We arrived around 13.00 – again with the fighting for a parking spot, although this time we found free time for the small price of blackmail which rang in at 40 pesos.

That being that the street parking is very – and I mean with vulture like monitoring – closely guarded by groups of people who wave their towels at you into their parking spots.

And if you don’t pay you may ask? Well then expect to come back to find your car keyed, wheels punctures, glass shattered, and/or and of them above.

It’s a big fish eat little fish situation in a city where corruption and money under tables rules the day. I am not saying that the United States is any better at corruption – surely it is not – but the openness of the blackmail and the corruption is something I find drops my teeth.

Of course it’s a big fish eats the smaller fish situation and sad to say we are the smallest fish in the tank. And while it’s not the 40 pesos, it’s the notion of “this is my oxygen, this is my sidewalk and you must pay up or else” that gets me.

And when the “or else” isn’t made lightly, you do what you must.

But okay, we made it to the zoo in one piece, and began our tour of the animals we would find there.

While most of the animals look well enough fed, what was seriously disappointing – aside from the fact that you mostly come to see vegetation as the animals are all hiding from so many screams and eyes – was both how they kept the ostriches and the Capuchin monkeys. To a lesser extent to rhinosaurus too was is a sorry state.

If it is for want of money or experienced zookeepers, I am not sure.

What I am positive about is that the ostrich was beyond plucked. The ostrich they kept in a pen with some horse or another. But the shocking thing was that this ostrich was just about as naked as the day we arrive into this world. There were hardly any feathers on this poor giant bird, and it’s wings looked skeletal as only the long white tips remained. A ostritch is supposed to be this be intimidation feathered animal, and this one looked sickly with no feathers. If the horses were bothering it, or not, I am not sure. From what I saw, there was no harassment. But I do think that a bird of that size would not allow itself to be plucked like a turkey for Thanksgiving without a fight. I am inclined to say that it was sick – and whatever the zookeepers were or were not doing needed to change.

The Capuchin monkey was alone in his pen – remember these are animals that live in large social groups – and was pacing back and forth stressed and anxious from either the amount of people or his being alone. The other monkeys were kept in groups, but the Capuchin monkey was kept alone.

The rhino’s horns too had started to fuse into one, for the shorter one had grown and grown until is started to grow downwards and into the primary horn. I am not sure if this occurs naturally in the wild – but again I think that the zookeepers should have trimmed or taken care of his horn, at least.

But okay enough with the sad news.

The good news was that they had about 5 giraffe’s in a large pen, and I even snapped a cool picture of a giraffe bending down for a drink of water. (Giraffe’s are my favourite large animal) They looked well taken care of.

And while they didn’t have otters, this zoo did have two white tigers, which, although they were lurking in the back of their pen, were easy enough to spot against the green foliage. They’re such a rare sight – for they are not albinos – that to have two of these animals was a treat to see. I also have a few friends who love tigers, so I can imagine their jealousy.

The other best part was seeing all the big cats that were out – perhaps because it was close to their dinner time or because the high heat of the day and the peak of the crowds were thinning out.

They have black panthers and regular coated ones, so it fun to see them being cats and working hard – sleeping, that is.

After the zoo we wanted to go to the botanical garden but they too closed at a stupid early hour and by the time we left the zoo it was 17.30 and all we saw of the botanical garden was the plants kept close to the gates.

It did give a good opportunity to see the pictures by Miguel Ramos again, which together with the cactus’ nearby made for a happy me.

Dinner was a taco pig-out on the street of the hungry. Aptly named because on this street every building is inviting with their smells of cooked meat and tacos.

We had some of the best tacos al pastor eaten right there on the street, and washed it down with a juice from La Michoacana that was strawberry based.

There were also plenty of people eating cow tongue in their tacos and it is my goal to go back before I leave to have at least one tongue taco because it has genuinely piqued my interest.

And of course to go back for seconds and thirds of the tacos al pastor.
Saturday: We woke up early on Saturday and I went for an easy jog around the lake while my aunt and I waited for Alejandra and Jorge to show up – because they too had expressed in coming to see the giants of Tula.

In the end Jorge didn’t come with us – because being 16 and rebellious without a cause ended up with him getting into a spat with his mother. My aunt was just about thisclose to getting him to come along, but a phone call interrupted and in the end it was just us three girls.

So we got to Tula while they were open, and while the tickets that they gave us for this archeological site were from last year and not nearly as pretty, the site is not as empty as they would have you believe.

The indians who founded Tula were the Toltecas – although they too often mixed with the Teotihuacan indians. This made for the sixth archeological site that I have been too and while the stone giants were not as large as my aunt had made them out to be, they were still on top of a 15 meter pyramid and still about 3 meters in height.

One of the men who works INAH (the archeological types) gave us a free talk about the area and that before the Toltecs found the Aztecs there were no human sacrifices. But now in the middle of the site there is a lifted stone platform where the human sacrifices were made.

Additionally the Toltecs too looked toward the night skies, but did so by the means of a reflecting pool from inside one of their chambers. The palace was divided into various rooms, from where warriors were allowed to only the high priests.

And the giants?

Turns out that they’re some of the famous kings of Tula, who because they wanted to ascend into heaven were dressed up as victors of the ball game, but we can tell the difference between real players and the politicians by their footwear. The players wore knee-high boots, and the politicians sandals.

So because my aunt had a bridal shower to get to, we booked it home where Black was waiting for us, on all fours, feeling much better like a baby foal who just learns to walk for the first time. We are all very pleased at his recovery, in that he feels strong enough to walk!

My aunt went to the bridal shower – and Ale Jorge and I ate Mexican style pizza – which doesn’t come with tomato sauce on bottom – and then while we wanted to see a film, the seats were all sold out so we settled on fro-yo instead.

Which I don’t call a bad compromise at all.

And then we went the rest of the evening watching whatever was on TV – and my aunt came home long after they left, close to midnight, wearing a plastic diamond ring and an apron.

It seems to me that she had a good time.

But we would need our sleep because on Sunday the trek to Guadalajara would begin.

Sunday: To think that we had started out the road trip so well, only to need to double back after 30ish minutes on the road because my aunt had left her cell on the charger.

In the end it was okay because it meant that I could eat my tamale and not have to throw it out.

The drive was anything but direct, because we stopped at Queretaro, and Tequisquiapan. We had wanted to stop at the Pena De Bernal, but time ran out on us. And to see the world third largest rock? I don’t think I am missing out on much.

We brought the dogs with us, and you have never seen so many people croon over the tiny little dogs. The dogs of course were nervous but they behaved.

Tequisquiapan is a market place of joys and wonders, because there they sell a little bit of everything.

We bought caramalized walnuts and I bought myself another stone frog – the stone came from one of the mines nearby. My aunt bought place mats, and we just walked and walked among the stalls until hunger got the best of us.

We made friends with other Chihuahua owners and lunch was a nicely sized and seasoned salad full of slices of chicken breast and goat cheese and olives.

The next stop was Queretaro, and while it was less crowded – for we got there around 17.00 – we had shaved ice and watched as the estudiantinas called for people to follow them. The estudiantinas are more famous in Guanajuato, but I am glad that the culture is still alive.

In the end I liked Tequisquiapan over Queretaro, but both little pueblos I find charming. Plus when the weather is fine you can just keep going – especially when you know you have a 4/5 hour drive in front of you.

Mexico is a bigger country than you think it is.

The drive was pretty uneventful until the last leg where Tlaloc let it pour just as the night had fallen and our high-speed was reduced to a fair crawl.

They say that Guadalajara is number 2 in the world for lightning storms, and I believe it, for the entire ride was light up by cracks of lighting and the thunder heard far off.

When we finally arrived at the houses we are staying at, it was near 23.00 and aunt 2 was upset because tomorrow would be her birthday and she had to work, so she was expecting us earlier to hang out. (Sorry, not really sorry – we will be here through Sunday)

So we collapsed into Uncle’s house with a horribly hard bed that left me with aches in the morning – but would be later fixed with a plethora of blankets and sleeping bags.

And so the next post comes about my last few days here in Guadalajara, look to that this evening.

Today seems to be a fairly clam day, indeed it is 12.16 at the time of writing, but we may go bowling if I can convince my aunt to take me outside. And with the weather turned, it just might happen.

Castle of Chapultepec

Thursday brought us to the castle of Chapultepec.

This was the castle in which Maximillian and Carlotta lived, as well as the first presidents of Mexico, including Benito Juarez.

We were late getting out of the house – no surprise there, Mexican time and all that – but I will say that it was worth it for the fine breakfast we had of squash and bell peppers slow cooked, and then covered with goat cheese. This was had with some sweet bread and my morning smoothie and all was okay in the world.

I didn’t take my antihistamines this morning which turned out to be a mistake because my allergies are out of control here. I dunno what it is bit although I woke up free from colds, I spent the day cotton headed and sniffling.

But of course trying to find parking in Mexico City includes a prayer for something just short of a miracle – but I guess we were lucky in that when we were turned away from the Auditorium’s parking (Mexico’s biggest stage, where all the big names go) to find some street parking that only cost 20 pesos.

Even if it was wedged between tour buses. (Nothing happened to the car, thank you)

But we took the walk up to the castillo and left our snickers bars in the cubbies – which would come to be a lifesaver.

The castle is European in design from it’s garden to it’s interior, and it was here that the treaty between the United States and  Mexico was signed when the US took just short of half of the Republic of Mexico.

There are portraits of Maximillian everywhere, and even the chariots that he would use for everyday use and the big parades.

What makes the castle even better it it’s openess to the outside world.

It is wedged in the oasis from the city that is Chapultepec Park and all you can see for kilometers surrounding all sides of the castle is the tops of green lush trees. I can see why the castle was built here. In the not to far off distance the city looms as far as the eye can see, but I can easily imagine that during the 19th and 20th centuries why people chose to live here.

The funiture and design of the place were all European styled, and with plenty of money as even the door hinges were decorated with spirals and the MM that is Maximillian’s initials.

There are gardens within the walls in the French style, and beautiful winding staircases, and even an elevator that lead throughout the castle.

One of the best parts was the hallway of stained glass – that had roman goddess in each window between wall props – and the light that filtered through them. Not only were they stained glass, but too were painted ontop, for a special effect.

The castle too, at one point was used as a military school, and you can see the amazing detail – they dressed so sharply – of the uniforms.

The Mexican flag flies proud at the middle of the pavillion of the castle, and there is even a queztalcoatl or four to be found littered about certain staircases.

It’s funny about the castle because some of it is so antique, and then there are the more modern parts like flushing toilets, tucked away in small rooms next to the bedrooms.

The entire castle took about 2 hours – for it is that big – and by that point both of our stomachs were eating a hole in the other.

So we took the walk back to the car – and with perfect timing too for it just had started to rain as we approached the last 100 meters of the car.

We took the drive back to Satelite for lunch – which at this point was more like dinner – and if there is anything as good as easting hot food on an empty stomach, I have not found it yet. Plus the pan fried Oaxaca cheese as it soaked up the juice of the chicken was delicious.

Then because we are going to a bridal shower/party this weekend, we had to jump into the car again and drive to the mall. (At this point it was coming down in a steady rain)

I am not sure what possess the to be married happy couple to put furniture items ranging at 700USD on the list, but on our registry, there was one or two of the sort.

I also learnt today, that when you move into or out of a house, you have to take the washing machine, dishwasher, and refridgerator with you. They don’t come standard. I found this odd, but such is the culture here.

Either way, the lady who packed the blue glass starfish for us complimented me on my Spanish and we got into the merits of being able to read versus being able to talk.

I am glad that I can readily do both.

So with the gift in hand and plenty of pictures from the castle – of which is only one of thre sections of Chapultepec park, we headed home.

I think that vis a vis Chapultepec holds out over Central Park in New York City, for although the lake is smaller, it has a castle! And two Tlaloc’s!

In defense of the lake, there is a swan lake ballet performed there, against the backdrop of an illuminated castle. Which must be stunning to see. You too can rent paddleboats and take a tour around the lake.

I am very taken with this rain-god Tlaloc and his blue face and fangs, the giver and taker of life. Plus his name is pretty cool too.

Tomorrow is a trip to the botany gardens, and the Mexican zoo, which may be one of the only free zoos in the world – notwithstanding Washington D.C’s of course – and far bigger.

I will be happy to post some pictures when the time comes.

I also will never forget how excited my little cousin was to see a real wild squirrel the last time we visited – because for me squirrels are something I take for granted.

Speaking of squirrels, after we came down from the castle, we sat on a stair eating out snickers bars, and watched the squirrels.

The squirrels are weird here because they have red tails and red heads and grey bodies.

Either way stay still long enough and the woodland creatures get curious about you. One little brave guy even came close enough to knock twice against my water bottle which was right between my feet. He also inspected me from profile and came to greet my aunt.

The other’s watched from a somewhat safer distance. No doubt in search of food, but it was very curious to see his curiosty get the better of his fear.

Not that he had anything to fear, of course.

In other news, Black can now stand on his front two feet and even cries when the other girls are getting attention and he’s not. While we’re not sure if he will make a full recovery, it is nice and reassuring to see him with appetite and thirst and a want to be around people.

 

Ancient Societies

Sometimes, often, you can forget about the beauty of a summer storm. We were absolutely caught in one this afternoon; and while it was chilly at 13C – enough to see the thin wisps of your breath – I would not have wanted it any other way.
How many people will never have this same chance to walk in the perfect summer rainstorm in Mexico City along avenida reforma?

Today I had thought enough to bring my cachucha – or hat which I found ironic as we never even saw the sun today.

Unlike yesterday.

But still it covered my head and kept the rain out of my eyes.

The first stop of the day would be El Museo De Anthropologia E Historia.

Even if they shut down half of the street when we got there for some kind of march (there’s always a march) and parking led us 2km away from the museum and with a three hour time limit.

Still we spent those 3 hours learning about the origins and evolution of mankind and then the cool parts!

We visited the Mayan, Mexica (Aztec), and Olmec rooms before time ran out. But the museum had rooms dedicated to all the Mexican ancient societies.

I wonder if Mexico had the largest and most diverse collection of Indian societies in one state if not the world. So many different indians and all with their pyramids. But all also shared a common conscience – of tlaloc and the feathered serpent (representing both land and air)  

I got some nifty pictures of hieroglyphs and even the games Aztec sun stone.

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And an original Omlec giant head! (guy’s got a big ego)

Which fulfilled one dream of mine to see the giant heads as the Olmecs are one of the oldest civilizations around.

By then the time had all but run out and it was a race to get to the car before the meter maid did. (we did by the skin of our teeth)

Lunch was a bus ride in the opposite direction and we found ourselves in an artsy approach to food in a restaurant called “Coolinario”. They also made their own bread on the premises and if for nothing else, that was worth the wait. Their salads were also pretty damn good, and sometimes you forget how much you just want a salad.

(I love how bakeries, florists, butchers, etc still exist in their own right here.)

That’s when the rain really started to pour. Tlaloc must have been holding in yesterday, because today what started out as a drizzle became a downpour while we were eating, and luckily had tempered out by the time the check came.

Because we were rght across the street from the Museo De Arte Moderno, and my aunt wanted me to see the the paintings by Remdios Varo (which I wasn’t sold on). Of course we arrived five minutes before 17.00 and the museum closed at 17.30.

They allowed us in for free anyways – sometimes I wonder who would pay to see some of the so called “art” that is found there.

We were able to see “The Two Fridas” in all it’s weird glory up close though.

And warm up a bit from the cold of course.

But by then the time on the parking was running out, and we decided that we would use our feet even as the men called “Taxi Taxi” from the street corners.

And what a joy that turned out to be!

We stumbled upon a free exhibition called “Un Camino De Mexico” by a man who photographed various things he found from 1900-1940s. And the hats and the moustaches and cars! There were pictures of Pancho Villa and men with twirled moustaches, and buildings all light up at night with incandcent bulbs. Honestly not one picture was boring, and people were walking hurried past it, without looking at these pictures.

It came from another life. In the span of 40 years Mexico changed radically. From horses to classic cars was the most evident, and the architecture changed. We spent easily 40 minutes walking along the street evaluating the pictures.

By the time we got to the car we were chilled to the bone, lips purple but happy for the walk to digest the food in our bellies.

We then went to pick up the Chihuahuas from my cousin and even took my cousin’s chihuahua Black – who came down with something fierce – enough to maybe even think about putting him down – to take him to the doctor and get an evalutation. He had been sick since last Thursday, the poor dog.

(The most likely cause of his stiff legs and being unable to even stand is some sort of pinched nerve in the spinal cord, and he may make a full recovery; we are keeping our fingers crossed)

If I even had summer allergies before, they are in full force now; for as I sat with Oda in the waiting room as they checked out Black, my aunt turns to me and says my eyes were bloodshot. (I have also been sneezing more than normal, which is high to being with)

It meant a long hot – to almost too hot – shower to warm up my bones and a paracetamol to help the sniffles.

I will be right annyed if it means taking a sick day – from walking and staying in cold wet socks and shoes. All the more because in a matter of days we’re off to Guadalajara and I just only got over my ear infection.

Either way the best part of the day was hearing the plip plopping of the rain drops as it fell from trees and against pavement and the 50c impermeables we bought to take the walk back to the car. The photos documenting another time and place, even in the rain, were beautiful.

I am not sure what tomorrow brings – I hear it may be the castle of Chapultepec – but certainly it will mean more metro and less hassle of parking. Even if my aunt will need to buy a pair of walking shoes with all that we’ve walked to date.

Do people die waiting for or in ambluances for so much traffic in thie city? It only gets worse when it rains.

But between then and now I just hope that my sniffles mean allergies and not a cold.

(I won’t get sick, I won’t get sick!)

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2 Weeks And Counting

Arcos Del Sitio

Atlantes De Tula – pero se fueron de parranda

Computadora

13k que frege my cadera

Today – as will the rest of week before I leave for Guadalajara – was a tour around the local sites of The Estado de Mexico.

But the day began with a bird who thought it a fine idea to sing right outside my window at 06.00. This meant that aside from firmly shutting my window that I would wake up with enough energy to knock out a morning run – something I haven’t doe since last Thursday what with all the adventures – that would leave me feeling exactly how much I have missed training in the last few days.

Not that I am not proud of what I have accomplished. See my goal for the end of the year is to finish a half marathon; which ticks at 20k, or 13.1 miles. So this morning feeling like I could go the distasnce I did log a PR of 13k. I was feeling good at 9k and figured I could push a little better. While the high of the run lasted a good while – indeed until about 12.00, it has left me with something to remember it by.

Slow work takes time, no?

I guess this means that I had earned my molletes when I walked in the door and there was the bread all ready sliced up and the beans sitting on the stove. The only think missing was the pico de gallo to top it of with. And boy did these molletes deliver! For such a simple thing, the flavor had me leaving wanting more.

Or I may just have been famished.

(we’ll go with the former)

The molletes left me so full, that I took a meme for about 30 minutes while my aunt took the time to towel off the grime from her car (this is still a WIP)

And then we were off!

Today on the agenda was the Arcos Del Sitio and Atlantes De Tula. Unfortunately we only ever got to the Arcos.

The Arcos, or rather the aquaducts (yes Mexicans too had aquaducts!) is about 25k from Tepozotlan in the middle of grassland prarie and isn’t it just a beautiful thing.

The pamphlet says that they are the tallest Aquaducts in the American continents – and indeed they tower at 64m in altitude. Far below is there is a stream, and the silence is so profound that you can readily hear the gurgling of the water.

The amount of rain that we have been having also meant that the surrounding area was lush and green, and with the rolling hills, it makes a beautiful sight.

So much of this country is beautiful, I wish I had more time to explore it.

However the road getting to the site – built in the colonial era – is heavily littered with potholes and the 25k takes more time than you would think.

But is it totally worth it for the sight.

And far off in the distance there are hanging bridges and ziplines, all part of the area.

Then after we had drunk in enough of the sights – we were off to Tula for more ruins and pyramids – this time advertising stone warrior giants, at towering heights.

Alas, it was not to be.

For reasons unknown (see: economic) the site closes at 16.00. And wouldn’t you know it that we got there exactly at 16.30 thinking that at least it would have been open for another half hour if not more for summer times.

I think people just dont care enough to visit so they close early to keep costs down.

Bummed that we had made the 1.5hr drive to Tula for naught, we opted to stay in the city center for an hour walking (me more limping along on an aching hip) and eating our italian ice.

I had a nut flavor which was delicious and a mixtre of walnuts, almonds, etc. My aunt had a lime flavor.

So after we were content people watching, and visitng a church that looked more like a dark ages castle – we again were off to Maria Luisa’s to pick up my computer.

Which to date, is still defunct.

I am hoping that my harddrive is still under warranty to make my life easier.

We ended up staying at Maria Luisa’s for 2 hours, chatting about our trips about Mexico and Maria Luisa amazed at how tan we returned.

But by then it was past 21.00 and time to head home.

So we bid the little 2 yr old grandson of hers goodbye, (who was running around off the sugar in his system) and the rest of the crew until probably this weekend for yet another breakfast.

(I really have grown to love these breakfasts)

Tomorrow the idea is a museum tour – with perhaps a visit to the castle of Chapultepec instead of the modern art museum. 

Tonight also marks two weeks to the day that I will be back home in my dear United States. I am at once happy to be headed home, and sad that this vacation (and consequently this chapter of this blog’s life) will be closing.

This does not mean that from here until then the adventures will stop. On the contrary, I think they will be rolling along just fine.

My aunt says that we can return to Tula, but that it may have to wait until we are on route to Guadalajara – as it is not too far a detour from the highway that leads to somewhere where we need to be. (Curse these strange Indian names that make it impossible to remember where I have been and where I will go)

I do look forward to seeing stone giants, and getting to see more ruins. These they say, because we are in the state of Hidalgo – are Toltec.

(I am bummed I won’t be seeing Olmec ruins this time around. For the next trip, I suppose)

I look forward to seeing you all here tomorrow – although maybe at a more reasonable hour.