Beach time in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

by Christina

We flew out of Guatemala City on a Thursday direct to San Jose, Costa Rica, which was a short hour and a half hop. Immigration and customs were a breeze. I honestly don’t think we were addressed more than a single syllable, let alone a question, by the agents. There was an ATM in the baggage claim area and we stocked up on Colones, with a current exchange rate of approximately ₡574 Costa Rican Colones (CRC) for $1 USD.

After customs, a very helpful agent at one of the car rental agencies told us where to find the bus station. Just wade your way through the taxis out to the road and turn right, you’ll see it up against the parking garage (see walk through below). The taxi drivers tried to sell us a ride to downtown for $20 (best offer, others were higher), when we were able to get downtown on a posh air conditioned bus with free Wi-Fi for just ₡525 CRC per person, or under $2 USD total. FYI the airport isn’t actually in San Jose, it’s in Alajuela which is a 30 minute ride to downtown.

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Knowing we wanted to head to Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula, we headed to Terminal 7-10 to find Transportes Cobano. They run two buses a day to the southern tip of the peninsula, one at 6 am and one at 2 pm (as advertised on our hostel’s website). We arrived at the terminal around 11 am, so I went out shopping for eats and we snacked and worked on email while we waited to depart. The fare was ₡7515 CRC apiece, and was actually a bus to Punta Arenas, a ferry ride across to Paquera, and then another bus that got us to Santa Teresa.

We were told to ask the bus driver to drop us off at the Super Costa, a grocery store directly across from the beach access road where our destination, Casa Zen Guesthouse & Yoga Center, is located. So finally, quite travel weary, we arrived after 9 pm at our hostel, showered, and passed out. In the morning, we were delighted with the included breakfast, a generous serving of fruits, toast, and self-serve coffee.

Since Casa Zen is on one of the beach access roads, the water is just a minute walk away. There are two kitchens that guests can use, and the Super Costa is reasonably priced and as short a walk away as the beach is. We haven’t eaten out once this week, it’s just so cheap, convenient and pleasant to cook for ourselves. Casa Zen has beautiful common spaces as well, and is easily one of my favorite accommodations so far on the trip.

It’s rainy season, which translates to few people, and our hostel is incredibly quiet. It’s also occupied almost entirely by couples, which is amusing. We are staying in the mixed dorm for $10/bed/night, but there are a ton of private rooms for $25/night. But since it’s so quiet, we’ve had the dorm to ourselves most of the time.

The beach is beautiful and the water is cool enough to be refreshing, but shockingly warm for the Pacific from my central Californian perspective. The downside of the beach is that it is rather rocky, and the surf is rough at high tide, making surfing more of a harrowing adventure than we were planning for. But a few cuts and bruises later we are not too much worse for the wear, though we probably won’t be making another attempt here. The rockiness is evidently seasonal, with less sand on the beaches causing the rocks to be exposed at this time of year. We found that walking south a bit from the access road towards Playa Carmen gets you to some places that aren’t so rocky and are nicer to swim. And it’s great for shell hunting! I’ve quickly amassed a collection that I shall have to abandon shortly.

We’ve been getting some solid exercise in as well. Dan ran barefoot on the beach, but unfortunately it produced quite a few blisters; something to keep in mind if you want to give this a go yourself! I want to get in my own beach run, but I’ve been slacking on running lately. I found the perfect tree for ring workouts in the shade, but with a beachfront view, and I’ve been making good use of the yoga deck at the hostel everyday. One night I ended up getting confused for the teacher who was running late, while I had no clue there was a class at that time and wondered why people suddenly got mats out when I showed up.

The energy level of our visit here has been a nice change from the fast paced journey we made through Palenque, Flores, and Semuc Champey. Here, the most adventurous thing we did was rent the surf board (though to be fair, that ended up being more adventure than we bargained for). We ventured out on the main road for a walk, which is heavily laden with ATVs and motorbikes, as well as the occasional shuttle bus and pick up truck. Other than that, except for the beach and a laundry trip, the furthest we get is across the street to the Super Costa for beer and other necessities. Pura vida ;0)

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Fond farewell to Mexico, and hellooo Guatemala: from Palenque to Flores & Semuc Champey

by Christina

(This post delayed by having either slow or no wifi and cell service in Guatemala! But not full 1 week food poisoning delay, so yay, right?)

After chile en nogada and some computer time at MX Roma, we headed to the bus station to catch our over night ride to Palenque, MX. It is a 14 hour ride so after several hours of reading and writing, we settled in to sleep for the night. This bus by ADO was better than our first Greyhound experience (by a long shot), but not as nice as the Groupo Senda bus we took from Monterrey to Mexico City.

As we arrived bleary eyed in the morning, we made the short trek from the ADO dedicated bus station in Palenque to the city center. We looked around and ended up checking in to Posada San Antonio, which has no website, no WIFI, no AC, and zero frills, but we got a private room that was clean with a private bathroom for less than half the cost of the other posada we looked at ($170MX instead of $350MX). I’m not convinced that it’s worth the trouble of dealing with no WIFI when you have work to get done, but there is an internet cafe right next door for $10MX/hour. But San Antonio was comfy, cheap, and it was nice to have our own room.

Palenque itself is a very lively and colorful town, with lots of shops and restaurants on the main street. We got some of the local tamales (delicious!) and ate them in the central square, which was bustling with people.

But of course, we went to Palenque to see the ruins. And epic ruins they are. You can buy a tour package from any of the plentiful operators for ~$350MX which takes you to the ruins, a waterfall, and Agua Azul for swimming. But that’s a relatively expensive and an early all day affair. We opted to keep things simple and take the local transit out to the ruins (only) and wander without a guide, which suited us just fine. You can just flag down one of the local vans any time and for $20MX they take you out to the ruins (locals pay $10MX fyi). No reservation, no fuss no muss. There is also the $32MX park entrance fee, and then the $70MX fee for the archaeological site.

We wandered the ruins, ate our simple packed lunch, and sweated profusely as we admired our surroundings. Definitely worth the time and cost, it’s very beautiful. The greenery and jungle setting was in stark contrast to our dusty visit to Teotihuacan, though Dan and I are divided on this, with me preferring Palenque and Dan Teotihuacan.

Back in the city we booked our trip to Flores, Guatemala at the Kichan Bajlum tour company. We asked around several places, and no matter where you go, there are basically two options: leave at 6 am, take a van, a boat, and another van, and get into Flores at 4 pm OR leave at 10 am, take a van, then another van, and also arrive at 4pm. We opted for the 10 am trip, and shelled out the extra cash for it ($600MX/person instead of $500MX). On the ride over, it turned out some of our fellow passengers ended up paying $750/person for the same trip, so ask questions about prices when you book, maybe negotiate. Dan did find an account of how to do the border crossing on your own, but it seemed like a lot of work.

At the border, we got our passports stamped, paid our $500MX Mexican exit fee, and got into a second van, this one with Guatemalan drivers, who took us the rest of the way to Flores. The interesting thing is how much the scenery did seem to change after we crossed the border. There were suddenly a lot more people lounging in hammocks, animals strolling around (especially pigs), and people on motorbikes. Motorbikes seem to be super popular in Guatemala.

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And Flores is fascinating. Part of the city is a small island about 1.3 km in CIRCUMFERENCE on lake Peten Itza. It is connected to the mainland by a causeway that is about 500 m in length. Tiny. Tiny tiny island. There is some cheap food to be found on the west side of the island, with burritos going for $5Q a piece, and tosadas and soft tacos going for $5Q for three. We ate there a lot, but word of warning, it only opens up sometime in the afternoon, you won’t get an early lunch there.

Flores is also a roost of thousands of birds come evening time. Seriously. Thousands. There is a slow rain of bird crap beneath the power lines they prefer.

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We stayed at Hostel Yaxha, which we give a rating of “for shame”. The restaurant area is pretty, but the dorm room we were in was very cramped, there’s no kitchen for guests to cook in, and despite the fact that we paid for the dorm room with AC, we discovered it was auto-programmed to turn off somewhere around 3 am, and it got so hot that at 5 am I had to go complain. Fun. But it’s gravest possible sin was having crappy and unreliable WIFI. For. Shame. Don’t stay there. Maybe go there for the 2 x 20Q strawberry daiquiris during the 9 hour long happy hour from noon to 9pm, but don’t stay there.

We booked a trip to Yavin 4 (aka the ruins of Tikal). You have a variety of options for departure, including 3 am so you can catch the sunrise (no thank you), and we elected to take the 8 am departure, then returned on the 3 pm bus. Transit cost (no guide) was $80Q and was about 1.5 hours to the park, with a park entrance fee of $150Q per person, easily making it one of the more expensive tourist destinations we have visited.

This being our third set of ruins we have visited, the big difference was the scope of the site. Tikal is very jungle-y, even more so than Palenque, and you can see monkeys, toucans, and so. many. spiders. I exactly walked into a web a meter across and started screaming “Arañas! Arañas!” in terror (“Spiders! Spiders!”). Thankfully the enormous bloodthirsty proprietor of the web just gave me a dirty look for messing up its digs and moved on. Here is a photo of its friend eating dinner (banana (spider) for scale…?).

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Tikal is also enormous, we walked 8+ km seeing the biggest sites (the Gran Plaza being the most epic of these), and we did not see anywhere near the whole thing. If you really want to go for it there are campsites available, which would enable you to really see all of it. With the heat, I was totally beat after five hours of sauntering about. The amenities are good, plenty of bathrooms, but the signs and map situation is iffy. It’s highly likely that if I hadn’t been recording our hike on Strava we would have gotten lost getting out of the there. Maybe I also forgot to turn Strava off right away when we got on the bus…

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Upon our return from Tikal we got an inexpensive dinner at the stand in the Central Park in Flores. We then went to the steps near the tables with tostadas and such, and took a dip in the lake. We cooled off in the water while we watched the sunset, and it was a great end to our day. After that we headed back to the hostel to take advantage of the happy hour deals and had a daiquiri before getting ready for bed.

One of my favorite things we did in Flores was swimming across the lake to San Miguel and back, which we did the next morning. Though I desperately wanted to record the swim I didn’t have an appropriate dry bag and sure it says the phone is waterproof, but I didn’t want to take the risk. So! Instead, you get to see my skills of an artist tracing the route we swam. It took Dan and I about half an hour round trip with a detour around the island and short walk in San Miguel.

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After the swim our day was largely organizational: getting cash, setting up transit to Semuc Champey and away (through Onca Travel Agency, more on them later dun dun dun), working on projects, etc. Then we left Hostel Yaxha to spend our last night in the area with Maria, a couch surfer with an absolutely adorable daughter Mia. We spent a while relaxing with Maria and her family, then went to the store to stock up on supplies. We cooked dinner and hung out a bit before bed. Maria had just run for Governor of Peten, the region in which Flores and her home in San Benito are located. She lost, but she lost to a friend at least, and she was recuperating from the campaign. She also had really cool art on the walls, from various surfers who had stayed with her over the years.

We left early the next day on our shuttle to Lanquin for our visit to Semuc Champey, which turned out to be truly impressive. Much as mineral rich water can slowly form structures in caves so the pools of Semuc Champey were formed, but somehow they formed over the River Cohabón as they flowed down from the side of the mountain to meet the river. The swimming is delightful, and we were almost done for the day before we went up to the top of the pools and saw that the river flowed under them. Crazy. The water is clear and crisp, and we got lucky with the weather and it was sunny and dazzling all day. I’d also like to give a mention to Adventurous Kate, whose post on Semuc Champey was very useful. We agree with her on the hike to the mirador not being worth the bother.

We stayed at Posada Las Marias, which was within a 1 km walk of Semuc Champey, so that we didn’t have to do the long transit from Lanquin to see the pools. This gave us the opportunity to go to the cave tour and tubing they day before we visited the pools. The caves of Kan’Ba are huge, and the casual tour we did only barely touched the extent of them. The caves are full of water, and you are given a candle to light your way as you are led with a pack of tourists in bathing suits into the darkness to wade, swim, scramble up ladders, and even jump from several meters into the pools within. I took the risk of taking my theoretically water proof phone in a dry bag in to the caves, and got a few shots (so far, my phone lives! yay!). We then got to play on an enormous rope swing, and then tubed back to Las Marias.

A word on Posada Las Marias. Pros: the property is beautiful, and it has a restaurant with a reasonably priced menu, it’s walking distance to the caves and Semuc Champey, and it’s right across the road from the river with a dock where you can swim and use the roped swing. Cons: it’s remote, so you have to pack in your food if you don’t want to eat every meal from the restaurant (which we did, bean tacos!), we got eaten by bugs because there weren’t screens in our room (we even found a tarantula in our room one evening), and getting transit back to Lanquin at odd hours was difficult.

I would have absolutely recommended Posada Las Marias for the right set of people, however something happened that makes me cautious about doing so: one night I was sexually harassed by one of the young men that work there. Now, don’t worry, I’m fine. An 18 year old boy who I towered over and probably outweighed by 40+ lbs propositioning me in the dark while knowing full well that my husband was in my room a few meters away, and with dozens of people nearby to shout to for help if need be, seemed more ludicrous than anything else. In the moment I was mostly amused at the sheer audacity of the request.

But when it became hard to dissuade him, and he grabbed me and tried to kiss me, I got annoyed. When he finally took “En serio, la respuesta es ‘no'” (Seriously, the answer is ‘no’) for an answer and I went back the my room, I realized I felt rather shaken. Not so much by what exactly had happened, but that it might happen again and that it might escalate. It didn’t, but at the time I didn’t know that and I felt scared. The next day we spoke to the boss who said he would talk to the young man about it, and Dan also made a point to speak to him (things you never thought you’d have to do in your second language…). To the boy’s credit, he did apologize to Dan. Hopefully the lad has learned something for the better, but it was a definite low point of an otherwise gorgeous excursion.

Now, we get back to Onca. They messed up our ticket from Lanquin to Guatemala City. They didn’t accurately record what third party agency our reservation was with. When we discovered we didn’t have a reservation with the agency on the ticket (panic!) we spoke with Ronaldo at Onca he said it was an error, that he would let us know who we were supposed to travel with, and then never called back. Another Onca employee who I had contact with via Whatsapp told me we would depart at 8 am and to look for “Jarry” and not to worry, everything will be fine. Sure. We were able to catch a ride (at our cost) back to Lanquin and we began asking for Jarry. There was a last minute scramble while the local tour folks found a bus for us and I have no idea if it was the intended one, but we did eventually manage to get our butts on transport to Guatemala City. In short, don’t do third party bookings with Onca.

It was a long ride to Guate, but we made it and found our way to our couch surfing host’s home. William had three guests departing as we arrived, who turned out to be from Colombia, where we expect to be in the end of September. They were lovely and a total goldmine of suggestions for what to do, eat and drink in Medellin. Once they departed, William took us to his favorite pizzeria, L’Aperó where we gorged ourselves and had some lovely conversation. Back home we luxuriated in a bed that was something larger than a twin, and got some rest before our flight to Costa Rica the next day.

 

Mexico City, weeks 3 & 4: pyramids, food poisoning, and conference, oh my!

by Christina

Due to unusual circumstances, we did not get our weekly post up last week. What unusual circumstances, you ask? Food poisoning (boo!) and conference travel (yay!). Read on!

Our third week in Mexico City started out beautifully. On Monday, we headed to Teotihuacan, to see the pyramids. This is a city that rose and fell before the Aztec empire, and houses two large pyramids, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. In fact, the Pyramid of the Sun is the 7th largest and the 12th tallest pyramid in the world, depending on whether your preferred unit is length or volume.

Teotihuacan is about an hour bus ride from the city, and you can get tickets same day at the North bus station, which cost $100MX round trip, and entry fee is $70MX. Food and water are pricier there due to its relative seclusion, so come prepared accordingly. We brought hard boiled eggs and cookies, but ended up needing to re-up on water.

On Tuesday we went to tour the Museo de Antropologia. This museum is of truly epic proportions, and many people choose to get a mutli-day pass for it. While Dan and I have a fondness for museums, we aren’t what you would call “museum people” so we strategized, and knocked it out in an afternoon (I know, I know, we’re philistines, but you’re not the boss of me! Mua ha ha).

It is two floors, with ancient artifacts below and more modern crafts and textiles below, with the floor above corresponding to the same geographical region as the floor below. I spent the majority of my time in the lower floors, giving the upper only a quick walk through. Dan went relatively quickly through the full museum in order to determine the places he wanted to spend more time, and then returned to give more in depth attention to those areas. Overall, our favorites were the Mexica, Toletemec and Aztec exhibits.

Sadly, the only space available in Massiosare was a more expensive room, so we moved that night to another hostel (St. Llorenc which gets a solid “meh” rating from me). And then I got sick (for the record, I already was unimpressed with Llorenc before I got sick). Given my cavalier consumption of street food, it really could have been anything.

I’ve had food poisoning a total of four times in my life, and this was pretty mild in my experience (Nicaragua was the worst, hoo boy). I developed a fever during the night, and was sick during the night and in the morning. The next day I was confined to bed, drinking ginger ale and eating crackers (and reading Kushiel’s Dart, thanks Kali!), but my fever kept rising. Advil broke the fever and after another night’s sleep I was out of bed and on the sofa in the common room. Friday I was actually on my feet again! And while I don’t understand the voodoo of activated charcoal, it definitely settled the rumblings of my tummy. I didn’t attempt to take it while I was sick, only afterwards on the down swing, but it was very helpful. Others recommend taking it prophylactically and/or at the signs of first onset. At any rate, my course of Cipro lives to see another day!

So once again hobbling about, we paid a visit to the Frida Kahlo museum. Definitely, definitely buy tickets online in advance. It’s wildly popular at the moment, and you will be waiting in line for ages without the advance purchase. You will still wait in a line with the advance purchase, but a much shorter one, and if you show up late for your entrance time, you will get ushered more or less when you arrive (we were only 20 min late and the slots are every 30 min). The current temporary exhibit of Frida’s clothing is beautiful, and the permanent exhibition consists of living spaces maintained more or less as they were when the house was occupied, but not very much of Frida’s actual work, which surprised me.

That night we stayed with another couchsurfing host, Marco, who works as a translator and has two adorable dogs. We cooked a noodle soup for my tender tummy, and hung out at the house that evening. Saturday was travel prep day, as I was headed off for a conference in San Diego. A conference, you ask, aren’t you fun-employed Christina? Well, yes, yes I am. But. I volunteer a lot with my professional society, and in order to maintain my duties and involvement, I will still be attending three meeting a year.

In addition to writing and travel prep, the three of us, plus the pups, made it out to the park for a workout. I showed Marco my body weight and ring exercises, and we really wore ourselves out. That evening we went out for tacos and one of Marco’s favorite places, La Parrilla de Don Juan, and got ice cream on the way home. This is how I learned about the fruit called “mamey” which is pink with a sweet a creamy consistency, common in Mexico and Central America. I also discovered that the ice cream shop had given up on finding someone responsible, who wanted to work at an ice cream shop, they just had be under 35 years of age. Ha!

Sunday is where our story divides temporarily, as everyone hauled their butts out of bed to see me out the door at 3:30 am for my flight. I bid farewell to Marco (thanks Marco!) and kissed Dan good-bye, then I was off. In San Diego I went to find Mandy, who had very kindly stored my conference attire for about two months.

I will spare you the details of the conference, needless to say I was very busy all week with committee meetings, talks, networking events, and visiting the exhibition. It one of those events when it feels like someone stomped the accelerator on the passage of time, and it all passes in a blur. It was also strange to be back so suddenly in a professional setting, wearing a tie and loafers, feeling bereft without business cards.

I got to see a lot good friends, some of whom I don’t ever see outside of conferences. Several of my friends from work before I left DC were there, Slava, Floyd and Doruk (great to see you guys!). This conference more so than others I felt like I got to introduce people across friend groups, connecting people from different eras of my life and career which was very gratifying, though sure to generate confusion. In one such cross-pollination, Perla, Guillermo, Slava and I managed to eat the Earth Quake Sundae at Ghirardelli (8 scoops of ice cream, bananas, whip cream, the works!).

Meanwhile, Dan stayed with Marco for the rest of the week, which was very kind of Marco.

by Dan!

My main mission was to explore more pulquerias, go to more Lucha Libre, and ride a bike in the Olympic velodrome. I was able hit all of those goals with varying levels of success. The only thing that I missed out on was the Museum of Antique Toys. Next time, I’ll go there, and to Bamboo bicycles make a one for myself! I also feel like I got a lot better at speaking in Spanish. Not that my comprehension or vocabulary improved really at all, but I became more confident in using the words that I do know. I was able to get around and ask questions with a lot more confidence.

As to food, one day Marco and I went for Chiapas style tamales from across the street. I really like the ones filled with chipilin, a native plant that’s a bit spicy. I also had the opportunity to eat at his mother’s Yucatan style restaurant. That was amazing. We had cochinitas, tacos, and horchata. Cochinitas is a pulled pork with a spicy and slightly sweet red sauce, so similar to pulled pork in the US but of an entirely different genre.

For my part, in order to share my cultural food legacy with Marco, I constructed a nearly authentic Casey’s General Store taco pizza, in the grand tradition of Iowa gas stations. It was not so easy. I couldn’t make fresh dough, so my solution was just to buy a cheap frozen cheese pizza (which is about the same price as in the US btw, pricey by Mexican standards) and then top it with all the necessary parts of a genuine Casey’s taco pizza. I think Marco was amused by this process. I sure was. The only thing that I didn’t know how to make was Taco Sauce®.

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I visited several mercados over the course of the week. Mercado Merced is freaking glorious. There is a sweets market and when you enter this maze of vendors it’s just candy as far as you can see. Most of it is bulk candy so there wasn’t much opportunity to buy anything for just myself. There are also shoes, stereos, restaurant equipment, watches, movies, track suits… I really wanted to buy a track suit. It was a magical experience. I also made my way to Mercado Sonora, the local witch craft market. I had read about this and even had been warned to maybe stay away. I was super excited after wandering into witch craft stores in New Orleans, but it was actually pretty boring. Just a lot of dried herbs for sale alongside statues of Santa Muerte, which are really metal looking (I’m just borrowing this photo from someone, but it’s representative). But overall I was a bit underwhelmed.

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As for the other accomplishments, I plan to make much more detailed posts regarding pulque and biking in the Velodrome, stay tuned! Other than that, Luche Libre is the best. I went to Arena Mexico and got nose bleed seats for $45MX ($5MX more than Coliseo). I got to see Soberano Jr. team up with Valiente and Caristico again. They lost their match but it was definitely the most exciting of the night. One of their opponents (Sam Adonis) came out waving an American Flag with Trump’s face on it (scary). After that match everyone got upset at this Sam’s behavior and teamed up on him. The crowd went absolutely wild. The group of five who attacked him all declared themselves the victors of the match. Overall I liked Arena Coliseo a little better than Arena Mexico because it was smaller and I was closer to the action. But Arena Mexico certainly has higher production value and better interaction between the crowd and the wrestlers. But note that they are owned and run by the same company.

back to Christina…

After a long and gratifying week, I hopped back on a plane to Mexico City, where Dan awaited me in a proper hotel in belated celebration of our 6 year anniversary. Why belated? Well, maybe because I abandoned him in Mexico on our anniversary while I ran off to California. But don’t worry, he forgave me! Hotel MX Roma was hip and modern with a great terrace and breakfast offerings, though it was a little noisy due to limited sound insulation, and seemed like maybe it was trying to hard (see the koan of a neon sign).

We got one last very Mexican meal in CDMX on Sunday before hopping on the bus south: chile en nogada. This is a dish that is only served during a certain part of the year, and is tied closely with Mexican Independence. It is a sweet dish, with a chile pepper stuffed with a chili, topped with a while sauce and pomegranate seeds, the colors of the ingredients representing the Mexican flag. It was very good, though the sweetness is a surprising thing for what otherwise seems like a savory dish. You can find it most anywhere during the season (August through mid-September), and it tends to run about $180MX.

Then, packed and ready, we headed to the bus station to head south to Palenque, our last stop in Mexico before we head to Guatemala.

Mexico City, week 2: museums, fights and fiesta!

by Christina

After our last night a Hugo’s, we returned to Massiosare with plans to stay for the next week as we looked for more surfing options. And I finally got some nice pictures of the hostel. It’s at the top of an old building, with a great terrace and views of the city.

On Wednesday we went for a run again at Chapultepec, venturing a little further beyond the main section of the park, into an adjacent section where there were more fountains, lakes, abandoned monuments, and interesting sites.

Returning to the main section, we went on a tour of the Castillo de Chapultepec, situated at the top of a hill in the park. The hike up the hill is a little long, so be prepared to suffer a bit if you’re new to the altitude. The castle itself had a lot of beautiful exhibits, spanning a range of things from paintings, old currency, clothing, skulls, Maximilian’s carriage, jewelry, furnished rooms, and of course, the architecture of the place itself.

That evening we returned again to the couchsurfing language exchange, where I got some excellent recommendations for unique Mexican foods. It turns out there are lot of interesting dishes involving insects, like crickets, ant larvae, and agave worms being among them. It’s good to have goals right?

The next day we made a trip to Mercado de San Juan to pick up some cooking supplies. This place is impressive, it houses fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, cured meats, cheeses, and a whole host of prepared foods (the rumor is you can get tiger burgers there? I call BS). We also discovered the stand where you can buy a lot the interesting insects we had heard about, and I bought a packet of crickets to try. Crunchy! Overall though, for more basic items you’ll find lower prices at a standard super market.

Friday we headed back to Las Duelistas with Tony, a friend from the hostel. It was busy, so we ended up sharing a table with some kids who had all gone to high school together and were catching up. It seems we made another pulque convert too, Tony was into it. We got some to the food this time, and it turns out, it’s free! You pay to drink, they feed you for free. I like it.

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In the afternoon Dan and I split up, and I went to go see the murals at the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes. There was also an exhibition showing paintings of Picasso along side Diego Rivera. What I didn’t realize is that they knew each other, and that Diego Rivera also did a fair bit of cubist work too. The permanent collection (the murals) were beautiful, and “Liberación” by Jorge González Camarena was my favorite. And not to be overlooked is the beautiful art deco architecture of the building itself.

That evening we headed out to the famous dance club Patrick Miller, founded by a DJ of that name. At 11 pm there was a line around the block to get in. It was a huge warehouse space, lit with all kinds of disco balls and lights. It kept filling up until it was packed shoulder to shoulder, except for a handful of circles opened up for the brave and the foolish to bust moves for the entertainment of others. What was interesting is how chill the atmosphere was; most people weren’t very drunk, and it really seemed like they were there to dance. The beer was also very expensive ($40MX), which exceeded the cost of the entrance fee ($30MX). So, if you do want to be drunk at Patrick Miller, you probably want to precopear (“pre-cup” or “pre-game” as you would say in the US).

Saturday we went to mass at the cathedral so I could hear the organ played, which was delightful. Mass itself was a little odd, with tourists milling about and taking pictures as the priest, who appears to have been doing this job for a while, had trouble being heard over the hubub even with a mic.

That night we went out for an entirely different event: Lucha Libre! We went to Arena Coliseo and got nose bleed seats ($40MX per ticket), so none of my photos really came out, but the view was actually pretty good. Lucha Libra is a very acrobatic affair, much more than I expected (even having seen WWE live), with some lifts and throws that rival swing moves I’ve seen. My favorite was when a luchador would leap off the ropes (or through them) flying through the air to smash against his opponent who might or might not have been standing the ring. And the 3 v 3 fights were chaos, with luchadores snatching drinks from people in the front row and pouring them on each other, or being thrown in the laps of audience members as they get pummeled.

I took a rest day on Sunday, while Dan went out and romped about at “ciclotón”. The city shuts down certain streets for cycling every Sunday, but Ciclotón is a special event that happens on the last Sunday. For it, they shut down an extended route and you can bike a huge loop all over the city completely car free. There was also a half-marathon that day, and its a popular event, so he had to fight to get a bicycle from one of the accessible rental stations, but he did it and had a nice 38 km ride.

Coming up: pyramids, Frida, and more pulque!