Armchair Travel Blog

Adventures from Paris onwards circa 2012

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.

 

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Just some photos in no particular order of my trip and playing with the mobile app

Veracruz and Beyond

Have you ever been fully immersed under a 35 meter waterfall which is found in a grotto of more than 145 meters? No? Well pleased I am to say that I have not only done this once – but four times! Before we get to this part, let me backtrack the last few days.

But first let me say that this whole not having a computer situation really stinks, and while I have manged to get my aunt’s picapiedra computer behaving for the time being, suffice it to say that I would like my Lenovo back where it doesn’t take 20 minutes to load a web page. (Honestly, this computer I am on could do with a good reformatting).

Back to more interesting things, lest I forget to write them down and they fade from memory.

Last that we spoke I had just arrived in Veracruz and was sitting under a torrent of rain.

When I woke up the next morning, I was treated to a Veracruzian (with Cuban influence) style breakfast, and I even was able to get my smoothie in the morning. Enchiladas in Veracruz are not the same as enchiladas here in Mexico but they are very tasty nonetheless.

Instead f them being doubled overe and stuffed with chicken or cheese, these lay flat and are smothered in a tomato and onion sauce and topped with some queso fresco. Very tasty even if the tortrillas are a bit thicker than what I am accostmed to.

This is because they are made by hand and now with the awesome tortilla pressing machine that leaves the masa oh-so-very thin.

Then the fried bananas! And if there ever was a food of the gods, then this might be their dessert because wow. The banana is a special kind, and one that matures on the tree so the falvour burst on your tongue leaving you happy. I know I have had grilled bananas before, but not like this. If you ever find yourself in a tropical place with macho bananas see if they cant fry them up for you because it is a joy.

So leaving Dinah’s house feeling happy and fed, we went to Tecolutla which is about 15km from where we were staying.

The beach there is an entirely different animal. This is gulf water and if the Caribbean water is a turqouise blue like you’ve never seen, this water is a deep green when the sun comes out.

But more interestingly than that – is the sand. What you have a hard time believing and I would not beleive it myself had I not seen it with my very own eyes is the color of the sand.

For those that know of chocolate Abuelita – this is the color that I am referring to. To others, the color is a chocolate/black that also sparkles at time from the tiny bits of broken shell. Black/brown sand! And very fine too, or at least the beaches – on the Emerald Coast – that we visited. This makes the color of the water look somewhat dirty up close, but the water is as clean and clear as it is in Cancun.

What makes the ocean so very nice is that the water is warm and there are hardly any waves or currant to thrash you about in. Even my aunt came in for a good spell and she likened it to swimming in a pool.

She’s not too far off the mark.

So after our half day at the beach, we went in search of some ice for our ice box full of beers – which to date have not even one has been opened – and some lunch.

We headed into the downtown bit, and a man with a bicycle took us exactly where we needed to be, because after lunch we would go take a tour of the mangroves that line the shores of Tecolutla another fish filet (what can I say? I like them a lot) and another fish that had a stronger taste, but not unplesant. I still dream of that place in Playa del Carmen with their fish, and one day I will go back.

Then a man named Kuko took us out for a 1hr 45min tour of the mangrove swamp and where the river meets the ocean – much like in Xel Ha.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a mangrove swamp in the United States but this swamp is absolutely beautiful. (I feel that I have seen many magical and beautiful things). To make it better, indigenous people with their boats came up to us selling us Maracuya sorbet that I have no idea what it looks like but it was just right to wash down the filet.

I also held and took a picture of a crocodile that they had fished from the swamp, and his belly was soft and tail was muscular. Even my aunt took a picture with Peter, and we’re now all friends.

The mangrove roots soak up water and become swollen with water when the water is good, and what makes it more interesting is that there are roots that hang from the air, and they go about growing growing until even these roots that stem from the branches touch the water.

The mangroves grow so tightly together that they sometimes meet overhead and when we entered the Pirate’s cove of magroves, the noise of the chicharas was almost deafening. We also saw turtles and tiny “frog crabs” which if you’re not sure what they lok like look exactly like the bark of the tree. They’re so many of them that until the eye adjusts to them, you’d never look twice.

There was also a row of pelicans that were perched out in the middle of the water because their nest was destroyed when the river rose, and it’s funny to see all these birds perched lined up one next to the other, something straight out of a book as they watch the fishermen and tourboats go by.

By the time we were through with out tour the sun was already setting and we were off to the land where my grandfather was born – in Tlapacoyan – and if these names don’t make your head spin a litle, you’re doing far better than I am.

I only remember this one off the top of my head because there is a mexican dish that is called “tlacoyos” and somehow it makes sense in my head.

Well we lodged in a hotel room that had a bed that was worth it’s price – or about 250 mexican pesos – if I thought the beds in Cancun were bad, they were plush by comparison to this. But we were so tired, that we fell like chanos viejos and I was able to sleep through most of the night.

The problem began when I woke up. I had goten water in my ear the day before, and with the sun and heat and perhaps not getting rid of it quickly – or so the theory goes – I woke up with enflammed tonsils and an ache in my ear.

So the tour of Tlanepantla began in the morning going to no less than four different pharmacies trying to find some sort of medicine that would help me feel better. (In the end what I feel helped the most was the day’s adventures).

Yesterday was all about the rapids of Filobobos. While they say they can get must bigger and faster come September I have zero qualms about what we enjoyed yesterday.

Because we arrived to the sales place by 10.00 (which is some sort of miracle, I think) after a heavy lunch – I really only like my smoothie for breakfast and also not eggs – we opted to wait for the people to arrive because the trip down the rapids was too expensive for two people to take.

So we split the difference – my medicine having taken effect by this point – and took a “safari” style truck ride down to the launching point where there is the cascada de los encantos is and the start of the river rapids.

The two of us were paired with Santiago – or el tiburon – and he took us on a “level 1” intro into the 200m trip into the cave of the waterfall. Because the cliffs are so high, the water is icy at first to the touch but it didn’t much matter after what we were about to do.

Santiago took us not once, but twice into the mouth of the waterfall, and I have never been so doused in my life. My lips and fingers turned blue, but it was worth it for the pleasure of the water splashing you until you can’t see straight whooping in pure delight of the waterfall. I think Santiago was taken by how we wanted to go back in again to get soaked because it is realy just so much fun.

And we were lucky: by the time we got out, a family of four had shown up to take the rapids tour, and we were able to start the whole tour again, which meant another 2 times being doused under this huge and wonderful waterfall.

We were all handed paddles and helmets and lifejackets, and we worked as a team going downstream finding many rapids and getting soaked in the process. The drop of the water over the rocks and the ensring waves leaves everyone soaked, and it filled me up with childlike enthusiam and joy – again! again! – of the white water rafting.

There was a halfway point, where there was a 2.5m rock where we could jump off of, and I jumped twice off that rock – even my aunt did – for the thrill of it. I say after the Xel Ha cliff of courage, this one was easy. But every good turn deserves another, no?

There was mud pulled from the banks where the two rivers meet – and the best rapids are at – and we all plastered it on our faces and arms and legs because according to legend its good for the skin. So team “intrepidos” became team “mapaches“. We got into a water war with another boat going downstream, and there was a grotto, that had it not been for the newy born snakes hanging out in there, led to another cliff in which to jump.

A girl in our group did jump, and the guys whom we waged war with, all jumped in. I have a general aversion to snakes, so I contented myself with swimming nearby letting the current roll me about, even if getting there barefoot was difficult with al the rocks.

The tour concluded with all of us jumping out of the boat and letting the current take us near the end, the water shallow enough to allow you to stand if you wanted it. Getting back into the boat was a spectacle and a half because it looked like beached whales as we struggled against the cordon and being hauled up by our lifejackets. Swinging one leg over butts trailing in the water, one after another.

If you ever find yourself near Tlanepantla – go to the rapids.

We had dinne in Tlanepantla, and then before it would get too dark – see 17.00 – we started the trip back home.

This time the winding mountains were not nearly as bad – and I’m not sure if it was the medicine I took against the nausea or what – but I managed to snap a few stellar photos of the greenery and the mountains and fog.

The interesting moment happened when we got lost just as we were arriving into the eastenmost part of the city.

In a blink and you’ll miss it moment – and really there were no signs – we went left when we should have stayed right. And we exited into Ixtapalapa which is not the best neighborhood to be lost in when it’s getting dark – according to my aunt. But my tonsils had flared up and we had a full tank of gas so I wasn’t – or couldn’t be too fussed about it. My por aunt was super tense the entire time.

So we churned and churned in that part of town – asking about nine different people for help; but they all gave us good directions and eventually we found our way back to where we should have been. It did cost us about an hour of travel time however. I just say that I got to learn a new part of the city.

When we got home I had more of those horrible drops put in my ear and quartz ying yang placed on my tonsils. the quartz wasnt bad; the liquid was. I shudder because I am facing another round tonight. (send help)

Which finally brings us to today.

Today Lucha, Arturo, his grandson Pablo who is visiting here from Germany, Ale, Jorge, Pilar, and I all loaded up into a mini van and went to visit the pyramids of Teotihuacan.

These made the 5th areceological site I have been to, and I am not getting tired of them.

People think theyre Aztec, but the truth is that these pramids were built 200 b.c and the Aztec’s weren’t around until 1500 a.d. So it definitely was not the Aztecs. And neither did Cortez find it because there is zero Spanish influence at the site. Furthermore, it marks one of the last sites where you can sill climb up the pyramids of the sun and the moon.

But what is endleslly fascinating to me is how these people too knew of Queztacoatl and Tlaloc in the same way that all the other cultures have come to know them. And bringing the stone to a site that is 25km long where there is no quarry nearby, and a 3m stone at this site weighs 6 tons is beyond me.

It could be aliens. (Maybe).

The walk to the sun and moon pyramids is 2km from the entrance, and in the heat of the high sun, the road called avenida de los muertos seems aptly named.

We didn’t climb the 241 stairs (out of an estimated 365 stairs) to the top of the sun pyramid, but this had to do with the fact that the line to get to the top was over three hours long.

No thank you.

(besides I have already climed it once, so I feel I have not lost too much)

we were able to climb to the top of the moon pyramid and my aunt, Pablo, and myself all did sun salutations in the direction on the sun pyramid (people were looking at us funny, oh well)

We got out just in the nick of time, as the weather turned on a dime (Tlaloc is busy these days) and just as the heavens opened up we made it to the car.

We were also treated to a much nicer version of the fliers of Papantla, and they came down amongst fat rain drops.

Lunch was an abundance of tacos with spicy saucy that I have not had yet – and the storm pounded overhead.

I fell asleep on the way back from the sun, and my throat acting up again.

I’m not sure what tomorrow brings, but I know with a little luck we’re off again (this time with Jorge) to Oaxaca to see more ocean.

I have an ocean fever that just won’t quit. Mexico is beautiful with a little bit of everything and I wish there were more time for everything.

Alas my time is whittling down, but it doesn’t mean the adventure stops!

Veracruz

Tonight as I am writing this, there is a huge downpour coming down in Gutiérrez Zamora Veracruz even as the mosquitos are trying to eat me alive and it’s the sort of stick hot that leaves you feeling semi uncomfortable all through the evening. But I woúld’nt change it for anything. Except maybe the mosquitoes lets be honest here. The downpour just opened up like a knob on a faucet and I am endlessly fascinated by it because it stops just as suddenly as it started, and the roads look now more like small rivers.

But I am getting ahead of myself. 

Yes today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and maybe even the day after that if I can convince my aunt to stay a little longer we are in Veracruz and the surrounding áreas so that i can get the whole tour of the country. (well as much as time and money will allow anyways)

Lets start with yesterday then:

Did I write about Luchá’s birthday breakfast? I had some tortilla dish with chicken and smothered in green sauce – chilaquiles –  which was totally spicy in a nice way for breakfast because Lucha’s month of birthday has now finished. I much prefer green sauce generally to red sauce but the enchiladas in red sauce were another kind of good.

This is a joke about how for years her birthdate was written inccorectly on her birth certificate so now she gets a month of celebration. The usual crowd was there – or I should say the crowd that I have seen the most of – and Lucha tells me we will go visit Mexico City when her Nephew who is German comes into town this coming Monday.

So then yesterday we woke up early (early being the operative word here) where we again took the metro into the city proper so that I could visit the Templo Mayor. I had already once visited before, but this time I took better pictures – grown up pictures! – and actually read what is on the sign outside the displays. It was the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the monolith of coyolxautly (something like that) the legend that while I am not sure what part it plays is a huge stone tablet.

More interestingly tan the giant temple is that the church that is spitting distance from the site reclaimed much of the stone found at the site and that it was even built ontop of the site. The whole archaeological site is far bigger than the slice offered. Which is big enough in and of itself, for the giant temple – which was expanded 7 times, every 52 years (this collective fascination with the number 52 I don’t get but it amazes me) for over 200 years of history in one monument. I also learnt that yes, the frog was the rain bringer, so I am pleased at my free souvenier from Chichen.

Also Tláloc – who hello is the best god out there that I have learnt of – again this collective knowledge and worshipping of Tláloc and such archaeological marvels that are so similar in so many ways. So many more questions than answers. 

We ate molletes – the first of this trip – at VIPS, and I think my mother makes better ones, where the bread is more crunchy. Either way we were starved from walking around in the sun all day.

Then we high tailed it to the Sumaya Musuem, which is the second one in the city and free to all people regardless of the day of the week – usually the museums are only free on Sunday – which was built in large part by Carlos Slim’s daughter and even had some of her private collection of Rodin sculptures.

The museum is shaped like a wine cup is the closest comparison, spherical and splays outwards near the extremities and thins out in the middle. A really interesting and beautiful piece of architecture.

We arrived at 1600 thinking we would only have an hour to view the museum, but they didnt close until 1900, so we were able to see everything at our leisure and pleasure.

The museum has a little bit of everything, from Mexican artwork, to religious motifs, to impressionism, to an expose of Asia told through ivory – which the intricate carving of the ivory would blow your mind. My fvourite of course were the impressionist paintings, and the likes of Rodin, Pissaro, Monet, and even Van Gogh – although they were far from his best works. The Slim’s private collection of Rodin’s is also mind blowing as it took up the entire space of the 6th floor.

Also noteworthy was that there was a bronze casting of Michealangelo’s La Pieta – of which only 12 are in exsistence. It’s as close to the marble one as it can be, but it definitely is missing something.

Which now brings us to today: And our Veracruz trip.

Again we woke up “early” – in my defense I was ready to leave by 0800. But okay we had to pay the pone bill and charge the mobile minutes. And buy beer and water and chips for the road trip. (The beer was never opened)

So really by just after 1000 we were on the road and to face our 4 hour drive into Verazruz.

Which was fine until we got to the mountains. While the greenery is absolutely beautiful and lines all the highway with rich greens and lots of trees, it gets worse. Way way worse. In the lose your lunch sort of way that made me pale and closing my eyes wishing it were over.

You know those rickety mouintain roads that twist and turn and it’s one lane with a Cliff on one side of you that makes your heart drop into your stomach? That’s what about one hour of this trip was.

Not good. 0/10 do not reccomend, even if the view of the jungle and the mountains scraping against the clouds is a heaven and Paradise all of it’s own.

Im just glad that a) we got out of there alive b) drove in broad day light and no rain and c) I had nothing in my stomach to puke up. I hear there may be another way around this mountain pass and I will be the first to jump on it because once is enough for a lifetime, thank you.

But okay, finally after about another hour of passing cars against traffic to get around the bus and the truck piled high with miscellaneous objects, we arrived at the archeological site of Tajin.

These indians were not Maya and not Aztec – but were totonacos – and slaves/rules/subjected by the Aztecs. They were the ones who paired up with Cortez but the load of good that it did them in the end. Their language is also different because I can’t explain it unless you say it written but it’s alot more consonants laced together and more X’s I think than Nauhuatl which is the Aztec language.

What makes these ruins unique is that theyre niched! There are actual niches built into the pyramid – and yes we bought a guide book – that make it unique in mesoamerica. Also they had an understanding of concrete. The stone issue didnt bother me here as there was two rivers that provided the building materials for the pyramids.

What is interesting is that there are no reliefs of sculptures of their gods built into the pyramids nor are there any motifs of any sacred animals. They too had a preoccupation with the number 52 and you can see pyramids build upon pyramid because of the start and end of a new cycle.

The best part? Was that the people here had some love of the ball game – I think we saw no less than 4 courts there – and that there are carvings into the corners of the biggest field. Did you know it was the winner who was beheaded? To be the link to his family with the gods. Crazy times, man. and I think it explains the number of ball courts because if you lost in one, go the the next to play to win.

But ok this carving. There is a depiction of who they think is Tláloc holding a knife in one hand, and his penis in the other. and he is self-sacrificing some sort of semen or blood who knows as its gushing into the mouth of a fishheaded figure who is submereged into the water. It’s really grotesque and too much and non of the guides wanted to talk about it, talking instead about another slab and how they played ball with their hands here as well. I really want to know more about Tlaloc’s – ahem – gift. And why of all places there? Like wouldnt the hand suffice? Or the cheek?? And all the while Queztalquoatl is above the whole scene being like “whatzzzup?”

We ate mole in the museum’s cafetería and it was really good. Another plus? Was that there werent half as many crowds as it’s not advertized as much nor is it as much as a market place. It feels more real.

What really got my goat was the voladores de papantla. This is supossed to be a celebration of life and happiness right? But here comes this brute of a man with his hand extended basically demanding 20 pesos from each person who stood there more than 3 seconds looking at the men fly headfirst into the ground tied by their feet. And the manner in which he said it was just so self-righteous and downright rude.

It was like “pay me money because you are breathing my air, and I dont have another way to live” I have more colorful words on the matter – but if hes so desperate for money go peddle tin cups or dresses first, no? And what does your religious and spiritual celebration , what you should be doing for yourself have anything with earning money? Also try humbleness?

Otherwise – stick it in your ear.

Im miffed that my aunt forked over 40 pesos for basically nothing and for a rude idiot who absolutely did not in my opinión merit the money. There was a dwarf in the metro yesterday, no feet and only one hand politely begging/asking for some help yesterday, and I would sonner hand him 100 pesos because he really needs my help, or to a merchant who gave me a fair deal on an objet, than this self righteous jerk who stood there with his hand out for merely wanting to ~look.

It bothered me, even as the flying men were interesting to watch. They must have a hell of a bloodrush.

So we spur of the moment arrived after leaving Tajin to the house of my half-aunt, or something theyre all family, and we were invited to stay. I have a feeling my aunt wanted the place to stay for the night free of charge, but I can’t prove this of course. Dinah lives alone, so I think she’s glad for the company.

And if it weren’t for the humidity that brings out the mosquitos it might be perfect. The house is all open hallways and Windows and doors to the ourside and a huge garden with magnolias and all other sorts of trees I cannot name. It’s really nice and rustic and nothing like I have really spent time in.

Dinah is the daugther of Tina, who was the sister of Clara, who was the half-sister of my grandfather. If you can make heads of that kudos.

So we spent the evening having a frappe in a place where they all know Dinah by now and then we took the short drive to the beach – even as the sun was setting to see where where we will be spending tomorrow.  

Tecolutla is the name of the place – and I cannot wait to tell you more about it tomorrow.