Archive for February, 2010

The final Michael and Anita’s road trip blog for 2009—-I promise

February 15, 2010

The following thoughts and observations in no particular order.

This brass toilet handle was embedded in the wheel of our car as we searched for a hotel one dark Saturday night in the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez, state of Chiapis. The next morning (Sunday) I drove around town with a employee of the hotel where we spent the night (a lovely Best Western) until we finally found some guy open to remove the handle and repair the tire. On every adventure you will always have one unexpected troublesome event with the car. This was our’s which wasn’t much or very bad.

The most courteous drivers we found in our travels were in San Miguel de Allende. Believe it or not. They actually stopped and let you cross the street, even the taxis. The least courtesy drivers in Jalapa.

In our travels around, Mexican road construction is at a fever pitch throughout the country. Everywhere we went new roads were being built or old ones resurfaced Undoubtedly the Mexican government is spending money they had in the $100 a barrel oil days (2007-2008) on roadwork today. Surely after the allocated money for road work is used up,  any future major road construction will be done on Mexican time, and we all know what that means.

Mexicans drivers will pass you on the left or right, over and around  blind curves or hills, but rarely will they pull in front of you merging on the roads. When there is an automobile accident in Mexico it is usually bad.

Young Mexican women (this is universal constant for women I believe) are firm believers of style over function, hence they’ll wear 5 inch high heals walking on cobblestone streets. Men are just so much more practical when it comes to shoes. Stylish, no—practical, Si.

One Mexican woman told me there is NOT a glass ceiling for women’s advancement in Mexico— it is a reinforced concrete ceiling. There is a Mexican women’s revolution coming to Mexico and Mexican men are living on borrowed time.

San Cristobel de las Casas was our favorite city in the sojourn. You should check it out. We are going back for a two month stay in October/November.

Xalapa was our least favorite city—way too crowded, rude drivers and any charm the city possessed left around 1989. This city is a perfect example of what happens when an epidemic of new cars, driven by drivers with “me first” attitudes, populates a city with 19th Century wide streets. One good comment about Jalapa, they do have many really beautiful parks around the city.

Oaxaca has not come all the way back from the revolt and related troubles. The city is trying, but not there yet. We both liked the city, but it would be 5th or 6th on any list of Mexican cities to live in.

Vera Cruz was the surprise city we visited, if only for two days. It had a “hot sweetness” and if it was not 6 degrees colder than hell in the summer it would be a great place to live. It also had, unofficial count, the best looking women in Mexico.

Mexico City is not some vast overpopulated, choking to death megalith with bandito hiding in the shadows. Agreed, some sections of the city are way beyond too big, but many of the neighborhoods are just lovely. If you get lost driving in Mexico City, well, as we found out, you REALLY get lost. So do like we did for the most part, park the car and take the metro which is excellent. I suggest you rent a place in a good neighborhood and find out why this city is perhaps the City of the 21st Century.

Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast has not changed much. It is still a sleepy fishing/tourist/surfing village with no high-rise condos or hotels. The summers there are stiflingly hot and humid. The beaches are beautiful and deserted with strong undertows at most beaches. There are a plethora of places to eat. You can still find cheap land for sale right on the beach.

Nalolinco, 32 km outside of Xalapa in the mountains is one the quaintest small pueblos we found in Mexico. A must visit if you go near there. It is in the lush mountains and why it is not one of Mexico’s magic cities is a mystery. Maybe the people want it that way.  The coffee is great, the air is clean and it is a town of cobblers and has more boots and shoes than there are feet to fill in all of Mexico. OK, slight overstatement. This is an example of many places around Mexico that we stumbled on that were surprisingly lovely towns. You just never knew what you were going to find.

We took too much clothing on the trip. Twice as much as we needed or wore. For men you don’t need 10 pairs of pants, 20 shirts or a necktie (Yea, stupid me, what was I thinking, I took a tie) For women travelers, this will come as a surprise, solicit your husband for what to take. Some women, no make that all women, pack way way way way too much clothes.  You can always buy clothes along the way. An excuse to shop.

If you are driving around Mexico make sure you have almost new tires, the car’s fluids are topped and the car is in great (not good) working condition. Carry a can of air used to inflate flat tires.

Please be nice to the soldiers at all the military check points. A sense of humor goes a long way with bored Mexican soldiers carrying M-16s. If you don’t want to be pulled over at a military check point, get behind a car with four young women. They will ALWAYS be stopped. The soldiers will wave you through without looking.

Understand traveling in a car in a strange land will strengthen or break a marriage. You will have weekly heated arguments with your spouse, sometimes while driving in strange cities. It is OK. It is called working on patience. Also, you will get lost at least 10 times during the trip when you roll into a new city. We took a GPS and it helped most of the time, sometimes it was possessed by demons and gave directions from hell. We preferred the voice of the British woman on the GPS. We called her Mrs. Butterworth.

The variety and quality of food in most Mexican cities is about the same. There were some regional differences and dishes but the Mexican palate is….uh, Mexican, not international, except for pizza and that food is the most ubiquitous dish now in the world.  The best variety of places to eat (outside of Mexico City of course) was in San Cristobel. There is an Italian restaurant (name upon request) owner by an Italian woman from Florence with her mother cooking in the kitchen. The raviolis were the best we’ve ever eaten. The worse meal was a breakfast in a seaside town (the ordeal erased from my memory the name)—the simple breakfast of chilaquiles was over one hour in coming and the first two bits of food had hair strands and egg shells in it. Plus the coffee was a weak instant. I probably saved my life by not eating the food.

There are no stray dogs or donkeys in Mexico City. Traffic regulates their numbers with quick efficiency.

The city of Puebla had Chiles en Nogada to die for usually around September time. The dish originated there. We had it two days in a row at the same restaurant. Wow. I wish I could make the dish.

The city of Huatulco, near Puerto Escondido on the Pacific Coast, a favorite port of call for cruise ships has way too many gift shops selling the same old tourist schlock.

A most expensive haircut was in Oaxaca— 95 pesos. The cheapest was 35 pesos. Not much difference I could tell.

(insert picture of pawn shop)

This is another alarming trend in Mexico—pawn shops. They seem to be popping up everywhere in all the cities we visited.

We really hope you enjoyed the personal narrative and pictures of a small part of Mexico. We strongly suggest you too take some time out from paradise here in Lake Chapala or from the US and see the diversity of this wonderful country. Mexico is not Tijuana or any border city. We are continually amazed at the wonderful cities we have stumble on here in Mexico. With a little planning (No, make that some planning) you can secure places to stay in advance in many cities in Mexico. Small villages could be difficult. Go to Craig’s list Mexico for one, or search out any Yahoo gringo message boards for any city you might want to visit. We stayed a month in most cities and found that is just about the right amount of time. If six months seems like a long time to travel, try three months and three cities. Bon Voyage!

A last footnote from Anita, I give Michael full credit for the writing. I edited, did the photos and sent this blog out.