Sunday, August 12, 2012

Farewell Mexico!

It was sadly the end of our 14 month Latin American adventure and the time had finally come for us to leave Mexico after such an incredible 6 weeks.
We had a direct flight booked from Mexico City to San Diego in the US. Sounds simple yes?! Well, the reality was a journey that began at 4am, involved arguing with airline staff, a missed flight, 5-6 kms of walking around the airport, more arguing with airline staff, a flight to Tijuana, 4 hours in a border queue, arguing with US border officials and an eventual arrival into San Diego 8 hours later than expected. My, were we exhausted. On the plus side though, we had lots of time to practice our argumentative Spanish and finally get what we wanted!
Oh Volaris, what an airline. We were unable to check-in online for our flight to the US, so we lined up in the queue 2 hours before departure only to find that we were still in the line when check-in was closing. I asked a Volaris employee about my concern, only to be told 'tranquilo' - it's all ok, you'll make your flight. Finally 15 mins before the flight was about to leave they checked us in and told us to hurry to the gate. Rushing through security and running through the airport, we arrived at the gate just as our flight was taking off. Ridiculously, this airline, checked our bags in but did not hold the flight until we arrived! So we spent most of the morning trying to locate our luggage so that we could catch the flight to Tijuana - the slightly dangerous Mexican/US border town. It was a real insight crossing the land border into the US, as we got to experience first hand the treatment of Mexicans by US officials. Shocking. We were also treated badly, making it not the nicest welcome into the States. We were hoping that this was not going to be the sign of things to come.
the past 14 months in Latin America. We were faced with 4-lane highways, huge cars containing only 1 person, clean and modern buildings, copious amounts of fast food outlets, a slight feeling of emptiness. We had nothing against San Diego. We liked the city, its relaxed atmosphere, sense of space and clean coastal air. It was just such a huge contrast to Latin America, hustle and bustle, constant blasting music, colour, traffic, pollution, cramped spaces and sense of community spirit.

We stayed with John and Hayley, friends from Australia who have lived in Carlsbad, San Diego for the past few years. They were fabulous hosts and live on the most beautiful of Californian streets in a proper Californian bungalow with the gorgeous and feisty Chester! Thanks guys for showing us a fab time.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Muchisimas Gente en La Ciudad de Mexico

Ciudad de Mexico, what a place. We loved this city, definitely one of our favourites in Latin America and sadly our last. Despite its utter huge-ness (21 million people live in the metropolitan area making it the 3rd largest city in the world), it's easy to get around with a great metro system and there's oodles of things to see and do. We were there for 5 days and feel that we only scraped the surface on discovering the city, giving us the perfect excuse to return. We stayed in the Centro Historico for a few of the nights. When we arrived in the city at 9.30pm on a Wednesday night, the whole area was eerily quiet and we were doubting our decision to stay there. However, from 7am the district was buzzing with street vendors, business people and tourists milling around. Luckily for us we also got upgraded to a huge room with a balcony overlooking the street. The city, previously known as Tenochtitlan was originally built on the island of Lake Texcoco by the Aztecs in 1325. It was almost completely destroyed in the 1521 siege of Tenochtitlan, and subsequently redesigned and rebuilt in accordance with the Spanish urban standards and later known as Ciudad de Mexico. Eating a blue corn tortilla with cheese and mushrooms...yumm Making some fresh tortillas Plaza de Garibaldi and the fantastic Mariachis - tequila anyone? Found the tequila at the tequila museum...delish The ruins of Teotihuacan, about an hour away from the city by bus, are beautiful. It is thought that they were established around 100 BC lasting until around the 8th centuries AD. At its peak, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population of around 125,000, making it among the largest cities in the world in this period. Teotihuacan was even home to multi-floor apartment compounds built to accommodate this large population! It was hot hot hot walking to the ruins, which took a good 45 mins to reach after being dropped off by the bus. Luckily the temples stairs were accessible, so we huffed and puffed to the top to admire the view. You wouldn't want to suffer from vertigo though as coming back down is a little scary and a few people are hospitalised each year after rolling down them. Mexico City is one of the most important cultural centers in the world, allegedly boasting more museums than any other city. It also comes third after London and New York with the most theatres in the world. We were rushed off our feet trying to see all the great museums and galleries that the city has to offer. Luckily we experienced much of cultural Mexico during our first amazing couchsurfing experience. Our fabulous hosts, Brenda and Humberto lived next to the Corona factory 30 mins out of the city centre. They preferred to speak Spanish which gave us the opportunity for mucha practica of the language and advanced our speaking abilities by 100%. They were also awesome hosts - they took us to the lucha libre wrestling, a crazy 80's nightclub - Patrick Miller, fabulous tacos and empanadas at local markets, Freda Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition, Castillo de Chapultepec, Museo de Anthropologia, Plaza de Garibaldi and the list goes on.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

La Casa de Mezcal - Oaxaca, Mexico

Our final overnight bus ride took us to Oaxaca, the Mezcal (a spirit similar to Tequila) and food capital of Mexico. Oaxaca is particularly famous for Mole (a chilli chocolate sauce) and for its love of fried bugs! Oaxaca is also a beautiful artistic colonial city in its own right. We spent many hours wandering through the streets taking photos, popping into art galleries and chomping down a quick taco or two. A trip to Oaxaca is not complete without a visit to Hierves de Agua, which literally means boiling water - a little ironic given that the water comes from freezing mineral springs. The Springs create a pool that hangs off the mountain - the most perfect natural infinity pool.