Churches on Pyramids and Shipping Containers

Photo of a trumpet player seemingly sucking smoke from a volcano
Volcanic Trumpet

During the time we spent in Puebla I was desperate for a decent day trip out of the city. Fortunately the neighbouring city of Cholula has a quite spectacular church sitting atop an ancient earth pyramid. Oh, and is if that isn’t impressive enough, there is a view of the ever-so-slightly active Popocatepetl from the top.

I got there early in the morning, as that is when the views are best. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day and so I didn’t get that clear a view of the volcano. As it turned out, going straight to the top probably wasn’t the best way of touring the site. Unless you are eager to get to the top for the view of the volcano, I’d strongly consider doing the site in the following order.

  1. Zocalo – main square
    Cholula claims to have the largest Zocalo in Mexico (and in Latin America) and it is certainly a decent size. It’s worth starting here to have a coffee and snack under the (longest in Latin America, honest) arches that line the far side of the square. You can also pay a visit to the Casa De La Cultura. This has recently opened, as of October 2015, and I was given a free guided tour round the exhibition which included the photo of the trumpet player at the top of the post. The Ex Convento de San Gabriel, along the east side of the main Plaza is an enormous complex of three religious buildings. From the Zocalo, walk along Morelos to get to the site.

Continue reading Churches on Pyramids and Shipping Containers

Oaxaca: A city of galleries

Frida Khalo with a mohican
Frida Khalo with a mohican

One of the things I really enjoyed about Oaxaca was the number of art galleries and museums that there are close to the centre. I spent quite a time wandering alone (this was when Vicki had started to feel unwell) visiting different places.

I enjoyed a quick nose around Espacio Zapata, which was has a small exhibition space-cum-shop as well as a workshop with cafe. They did a nice line in Frida Khalo-with-a-mohican memorablilia the design being the same one as this graffito on the wall opposite.

One museum I visited, el Centro Fotogrfico Manuel Alvarez Bravo, was dedicated to photography, and had two exhibitions showing. The first was by an American photographer, Mary Ellen Mark, working in black and white. She had visited Oaxaca for a period of twenty years, right up until her death this year, and her photography consisted largely of portraits of poorer people in the region.

At the time I remember being struck by the downtrodden expressions of her subjects and wondered how representative they were. The overall impression I came away with was of a particular viewpoint that showed poor Mexicans as being immobile, helpless and pitiable. Continue reading Oaxaca: A city of galleries

Oaxaca: Take Me Out To The Ball Game

Vicki and Simon at the baseball game in OaxacaIn Oaxaca we rented a house share through AirBnB that was just a few blocks from the zocalo. Passing through an unassuming door on the street we entered a passageway that led to a small complex of houses belonging to two sisters, Sylvia and Olga, and their families.

Soon after we arrived we mentioned to Olga that we were thinking of going to the baseball to see the Guerrerros de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Warriors). It turned out that the rest of the family are big baseball fans and were planning to go to the game that weekend as well. So, on Sunday afternoon we climbed into the family car and were driven out to Eduardo Vasconcelos Stadium.

Oaxaca had got through to the playoffs and were in a series of games against the Tigres de Quintana Roo. It was 2-2 in the series and Oaxaca needed to win some of their home games before going to Quintana Roo for the deciding games later in the week. Continue reading Oaxaca: Take Me Out To The Ball Game

Dreadlocks and Dreamcatchers

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We made a long and bumpy bus ride down the country, but up in the mountains to St. Cristobal de las Casas (SCC). After a couple of short stops in Campeche and Palenque, I was ready for a week in one place again.

The bus ride was long and winding, and I had a lot of time to think. Although we had only been away for three weeks, it is very different to being on holiday. Knowing you are not going home anytime soon and that this is your life, at least for the next half a year, makes for a very different experience.

Before I came away I had written about my anxieties about leaving friends and particularly my sons. I miss them, but chatting on Messenger and Skype is actually ok and it doesn’t hurt like I thought it would. However, the biggest surprise is the feelings I have around helplessness. A strong word, but I can’t even ask for directions to the bus stop yet, let alone find my own way from point A to point B. Not knowing local customs and practice is a difficult thing to manage and heightens anxiety and lowers confidence. I went to a public loo the other day and someone gave me some loo roll as I went in, everyone else gave her 5 pesos, so so did I, but I really wasn’t sure if it was for before, during or after later, with wet hands, think it was for after!

So, although I am loving Mexico, it’s not easy getting tongue tied when someone rattles off some Spanish and waits for an answer, or being given magazines in the hairdressers and only being able to look at the pictures! You kind of forget all of the things you had to do and achieve, in order to experience this adventure. Continue reading Dreadlocks and Dreamcatchers

A week in Merida

We are travelling around on the bus, it seems quite grown up to be able to pull together a route from the internet and then actually do it. I really enjoy planning the route, researching, aka Googling, to see how long we might stop somewhere and finding places to stay. At the moment I love Airbnb and ADO buses, they make everything possible.

We found a lovely looking old colonial house in Merida, just off the Paseo Montejo. The pictures looked amazing and so we decided to book a week there. At just over £30 per night, it seemed affordable, although as time goes on I think we will reduce what is affordable! For now though, it looked perfect.

After a very basic stay in Valladolid, a pleasant enough apartment, but with none of the windows looking onto the outside, I was looking forward to more pleasant surroundings. We bought bus tickets and a couple of hours later, Ygnacio was showing us around Casa Mango and we were settling in for the week.

The house looked tiny from the outside and after a bumpy taxi ride down many, many side streets we lugged our cases in. Only then were we able to appreciate the hidden depths of the house, the high ceilings and thick walls, together with the tiny garden and the mini swimming pool under the avocado tree.

After so much planning and preparation, so many emotions and such anticipation, this was the perfect time to relax and take stock. So we took it slow, relatively. Continue reading A week in Merida

Valladolid, Chitzen Itza and Cenote Ik-Il

 

Us in front of el Castilo at Chichen Itza
Us in front of el Castilo at Chichen Itza

After the hustle and bustle of Cancun, the dusty sleepiness of Valladoild was a welcome relief. We chose it as a centre as it is close to the Chichen Itza archeological site and about half way to our next stop of Merida.

The apartments we booked were a significant shift down from the splendour of El Rey Del Caribe, but were perfectly decent, airy and clean. We were never going to cook much using the microwave and coffee machine that was provided, but the latter was useful to heat the water for my morning shave.

One of the things we are going to be looking for while we travel is accommodation that gives us somewhere comfortable to sit together, chat, plan and keep each other company. It’s not been too bumpy a landing in Mexico and the start of our travels has been easy enough, but we are each of us needing to find some equilibrium in our new lives and with each other. Having a pleasant shared space will be essential for us to keep going and support each other. Continue reading Valladolid, Chitzen Itza and Cenote Ik-Il