When we were younger, I can remember my mom calling us a “pitiful sick,” meaning a kind of whiny person when you weren’t feeling good. I’m not sure if was a pitiful sick this week or not (since there was no one at home to whine to), but let me make up for that now and say “WAAAHH!”
All I had/have (or, rather, “we” since D., thousands of miles away was afflicted to) was a strong cold, but man, those stink. Plus, no medicine, tea, potion, or witches’ brew was making me feel better. I’m telling you this to excuse myself for taking an extra week to finish the México blog stories, but the truth is I could’ve taken just this long not being sick, too.
Without further ado:
In the last post, I tried to lay out my general impressions and feelings of the place. My friend C. in Valencia asked me what my favorite part was and I said that it wasn’t one activity, just the general feeling of comfort, welcome, and inclusion that I felt while there. Aside from being asked how I learned Spanish, I didn’t feel like a stranger, I didn’t feel like the newbie, I felt like I was taken seriously. All of that was great!
So, impressionism aside: What are some of the activities we did?
Well, glad I asked…
We spent the vast majority of our time in Cuernavaca. Cuernavaca is a little town that has exploded into a city in the past few decades, so the cute colonial center has now been engulfed by an ever-growing circle of irregularly developed streets with everything from cinderblock houses, to the next great bilingual school, to houses with tall exterior walls topped with a barbed-wire crown.
This makes Cuernavaca a little strange for the tourist. So, we did see the center and the local markets, as I think I mentioned, but a lot of our time in Cuernavaca was spend at the condo, playing tennis and hanging out.
We did take a few half-day and day trips though. When D. (the brother) told me about the first place, I thought…meh! He described it as a nice river that had been developed with concrete everywhere. I was picturing muddy river water with unaesthetic and unpainted cement walls and docks…
What we found, however, was like a mini-paradise called “Las estacas.” You pay a whopping $20 to enter, which is roughly one sh*¡ ton in pesos. What this means though (fortunately or not?) is that the people who come in take care of the place and everything is beautifully and tastefully maintained.
The well-groomed entry…
Cute little bridge (see the green rocks in the water?)
The “concrete everywhere” actually was just a few walkways and pretty planters and GREAT bathrooms. The rest was pleasantly jungle-y, with the spotlight, of course, on the river sprouting at the bubbler (or, its real name: El borbollón). The water was CRYSTAL clear. I’ve never seen that in a river. And even better, as I backstroked upstream (exhausted from 10 strokes of my sub-par, ungoggled freestyle), I looked up into a canopy of trees and plants with leaves as big as my torso. And when I looked down into the water, no sharks! (Or snakes. Or other scary river creatures). The swim upstream to the bubbler was pleasantly challenging (and perfectly refreshing), but the reward is sweet: a little jumping platform where you can diver–or, in true roamin’ style shriek, flail, and safely plop into the water below. (Actually, my jump style was somewhere in between; no squealing, but no tricks either). The best part is on our way back, the river current essentially carries you; a few kicks and doggie paddles and PLOP! Back to square one.
Not the muddy river I was expecting.
Because I was traveling with a bunch of extreme athletes, D. (brother) and A. (wife of this brother) decided a round of yoga would make a good follow up. (Didn’t know you could do “rounds” of yoga? You can now.) I joined them, if only to distract myself from the ravenous hunger animal scraping the walls of my stomach….little did I know it would STILL be 4 hours before we sat down to eat (that’s when the real squealing and flailing began!).
On our way home, D. (bro) stopped for a roadside roasted corncob and A. for roadside coconut water (unlike the Hollywood variety, sipped out of a huge coconut with a straw). I, on the other hand, starting gnawing my knuckles. We finally arrived at a taco restaurant (actually a restaurant, not just a stand) later, but the way I chugged my horchata (this is like a REALLY sweet at cinnamony rice milk) to revive my below-zero blood sugar levels impeded much else from fitting in my stomach. So I ended up enjoying fewer tacos than I would’ve liked, thanks, somewhat ironically, to my gluttony (does gluttony work for beverages?)
Okay. So that was adventure one.
Adventure two was Mexico City. We went up by bus vewwwy early in the morning. And it wasn’t a big bus…just a 15 passenger little doo-dad. Learning from our previous mistakes…or perhaps just thanks to the time of day, our first stop was something to eat. D. (bro) had picked out a cute French café near our first destination, the museum of anthropology (“Anthropologie?“…Bueller?). The croissants at the café were out of this world. And, since we have hamburgers on the menu at Chinese restaurants in the States, it should be of no surprise to anyone that you could order huevos rancheros at a French restaurant in Mexico. I opted for the eggs benedict, though looking back, I think I would’ve done better with just an egg in one of those perfect buttery little Cwa-saunts (“Mah little cwassont!”).
The anthropology museum is duly famous.
It holds lots of cool artifacts (though blah blah blah it would’ve held more if those dastardly Spanish kids didn’t destroy all of them…My teacher voice had to say that. I’ll quiet her now.) My favorite will come as no surprise: the main room that holds the HUGE Aztec calendar and the headless god, Coatlicue. My one observation is that it felt so different being able to see a sculpture that a human hand has so clearly made rather than seeing the photo; it made me think “YES! Of course there was a real, developed civilization living here. This was their Rome!” Seeing their artwork made that seem real.
Coatlicue! And my not-so-headless partner…
Okay. Next stop was another part of the ridiculously huge city center…a $5 cab took the four of us to the opera house, from where we walked down to the crooked cathedral (crooked because of a sinking city center, not because of especially devious masses). Here, we met up with D.’s other brover and his vife and then Brother 1 broke off to meet with his people and we continued to wander with brother 2 to a shee-shee Thai restaurant owned by one of D’s Cuernavaca friend. It was in a cute hipster neighborhood across the street from the Galician association house, curiously. Also: hipsters in Mexico are indistinguishable from hipsters in Carrboro.
Leaving the museum with D., A. and D. (bro)
Hipster Mexico City and I. (aka: Bro 2)
After two nice meals and a few nice sites, we hit the buses, made it through three-quarters of a nicely dubbed “Captain Phillips” (I still don’t know if they save him!) and cruised back into condo world. That was trip two.
Trip 3 was on our last full day in México and we took out the faithful Toyota for a ride to Tepoztlán. This town is adorbs! Cobbled streets, cute Saturday markets stands, plentiful local ice-cream shops (adorned with welcoming calacas), and to top it off: a gorgeous colonial-era church and convent with stunning mountain views.
Arriving in “Tepos”-unfed and uncaffeinated.
Baroque-era interior designs (painted…not stirred)
Great views from the mirador.
There is even an indigenous pyramid there, but we were on a tight schedule (has to get back to the POOL!) so we could go visit it. What we could do was suck down huge fresh juices (mine was papaya, strawberry, orange, and something else) and eat fresh corn tortillas topped with little bits of heaven. I tried the “itacate”, the local “gordita”- a thick, triangular, tortilla with a leetle beet of lard in the masa, then split open, grilled, and stuffed with your choice of yum.
These expressions are signs of good food.
So, those were our day trips in México…
Lastly, there was the un-birthday party for D.’s mom. Required for entry was a special hat and special shoes…or shoe hat…
The [dreaded] song contest. Let’s just let the memory of this fade softly into the distance.
The un-birthday girl and D.
Thanks for reading along!
Peace and something good for dinner,