Mexico 2016 – Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morelos

The last three nights we slept in Playa Del Carmen in a small hotel Playa Natural. I guess there were no more than 6 rooms-  smart people buy a small lot or a house ant build a tall narrow building there with bathrooms in every room – and here you go, we have a hotel! We found it through booking.com. It is in a perfect location! Very close to the beach, by the main street that leads to the beach  -if I remember is St.r $38. And 2 blocks form their pedestrian main drag – Avenida 5. But the room we got was not cozy at all, too dark,though everything there was pretty comfortable. But I saw there are bigger rooms that have a balcony or a little yard. But there is a lot of choice in Playa. We wanted a quiet place and it was quiet. The street where it was at had plenty of place to park the car. Playa is also a safe resort area. And kind of busy, though restaurants in the evenings were almost empty…The good thing – you can walk to the beach and walk in the city here and there-  is is a city. Not like a jungle with a line of small hotels – that was Tulum. But there were two disappointments -the beach is so narrow, that if you walk in the wet part of it you may walk through someones legs…They built resorts immediately on the sand and roped their areas, even built tiny swimming pools like 6 yards from the super warm sea! Crazy. The second and worst thing was that  the vibe of the city certainly didn’t agree with us. Lots of greediness in the air, and I guess – corruption. And it trickles down to visitors like us – the infrastructure is bad as everywhere in Quintana Roo, everything is more expensive than in other places- vendors told me the rents are very high, and the lots are super narrow and overpriced – which leads to lots of empty lots that are not so empty, but filled with trash to the brim. I guess, it is not my business, but we are not going there again. So here is Avenida 5: The narrow beach: There are modern buildings here and there, but I found our street leading to the sea the most beautiful, between the sea and Av. 5. Here is some creature looking down to a real very small cenote in front of some hotel: This strange building is in Av. 5: The only oasis I found there that I really enjoyed was an Asian store Caravan, where the things for sale were beautiful, the music was very pleasant Indian chanting  and the girls that work there are also charming. So nice was my experience there, that  I ended up visiting that store for 3 times and buying dresses that I do not need :-). So here I dressed one of those dresses – I guess it is fit fro the coming Rooster year – and the next day we went to visit Puerto Morelos-  a town where we stayed 5 years ago: Here is a modern church in Puerto  -and we happened to see it while there was a wedding: In conclusion  – all this side of Yucatan peninsular is good for catching lots of sun, warm sea and high temperatures. It is good for busy people-  lots of hotels with all included. What concerns cenotes-  you may not have a car- so you can take an excursion or a bus to them/ There are lots of amusement parks. Some are for visitors with high adrenaline levels – like Xplore. There is even a cenote park – where you can enjoy  5 cenotes in one day, but be prepared to pay not 60 or 100 pesos but $60 USA. But if you have no more time, so it is good to have a choice:Will we go again – yes, we will, but maybe in January or February, sometime. when we have time during those months. Should you go – definitely!

Mexico 2016-Tulum

Well well, this will be a long blog – we liked Tulum, it has a lot to offer. First of all – the road from Valladolid to Tulum ir really wide, looks like and airplane can land there. I mean – in comparison with other roads we took. On the way there are signs to different cenotes. We stopped by this one and it was not for us – it is for divers, it has a map of  caves which go far away to different sides of the main hole:So we found our hotel Mango – it was not easy to find, only with the help of GPS-  not that it is iin a complicated area – but because Tulum has only the main roads paved. The others are dirt roads with huge potholes filled with water, big stones here and there and cars parked wherever. The GPS led us to a road. that was not a road any more – but a path through jungle with trash all along it. When we said to the manager how we came, she was shocked and scared- she said there are snakes in the jungle :-). But I don’t think snakes can live in the middle of the city. But that people through trash on a lot that is not built  -that is for sure. Then we found a better way to drive to the hotel. Yes, the hotel is perfect, and the view from the reception desk is like this:But this is a trick – on both sides of that wooden fence that you see from the path is nonsense…the whole Tulum looks like that – a nice hotel built in a neighborhood of trash – very strange! Here is the other side of Mango hotel and its cozy yard:     The owners of the hotel are British and the manager – Check! I found it peculiar that Mexican nation very often doesn’t have their own managers…And they say there are no good jobs in Mexico…But the housemaids are local – which can be seen from those swans…it is their tradition, I guess. So we didn’t waste time and drove to a cenote we knew from last time here – Crystal. It looks like a lake, but it also has caves extending far and beyond.  Still – it is a pleasure to be in peace and quiet and swim there, and I love those palm trees that have leaves like palms 🙂 Then we ate in a very popular – very full restaurant of Mexican food and were not impressed…No taste, except for one – Habanero peppers, but who has tried them – knows what I mean: And we even managed to drive (the drive is around 3-3.5 km) and stay by the sea and see the moon rising from the clouds: So the next day we drove the the best beach by far in that area – Playa el Paradiso – and it really is a Paradise, you can’t wish for more: There are plenty of hotels on that stretch of land by the sea, mostly for those who just like to be by the sea all days long and not do traveling like us. But when you think – you will always be sandy, it is glued to your legs at all times except if you into an AC-ed room and your legs dry up. Remember – in this humid air you are always wet…There are also beds of different kinds on the beach for rent  -very strange and unusual to my eyes. I guess the owners are creative!: That day the waves were just right. They did a good massage. And so warm: And here is one of the fancy beach hotels, where room prices start from $400, they don’t even speak “pesos”. I liked the design, so I am sharing:The next day it was raining , so we rested at home and went for a swim, snorkel  and a walk on the beach in the evening. We didn’t plan on snorkeling this time, but a very pleasant English speaking Mexican came up to me and talked us into – for God’s sake, they were only charging $10, it was uncomfortable to refuse:

The Tulum Pyramid’s ruins are behind us – they pass by the ruins and make a stop for pictures. Strange as it is it was not hard for me to breathe through the tube, and I saw some bigger fish and three very big sea turtles. The second longest coral reef in the world is going parallel to this beach – where you see the waves far away  -it is shallow there and therefore a good place to snorkel and see some life. The reef itself maybe it is very long, but not as impressive as the reefs in Thailand. But the trip was very pleasant. The boat guys told a lot about the reef, the sea and the ruins in English and were very helpful. They provided with the gear. Then as i mentioned-  we walked the beach and waited for the big moon to rise – it never did…The horizon at this Caribbean sea is mostly cloudy…But it was a nice walk, with some picture perfect people we saw: And the last day we had to get up early, because tourist books suggest to visit Tulum archeological site before excursions arrive – so we were there at 8 am. This is the extension path of the road you have to drive to the beach, a narrow one. This part is already for pedestrians only. On the sides of it – is wet jungle or mangroves, not passable at all: At the end of that long path there is a ticket office and a tropical racoon who was saved by one of the guides and now he has no family of his own so every morning he is meeting that guide, expressing his gratitude and then he is amusing the visitors: And then you walk around the wall and enter the site for the other side – the whole ancient city was enclosed in a tall stone wall. Once you enter – you just dive in to some very good energy: And I do not care which pyramid was for what, of course some were for religious ceremonies, some for a king to live at, some for arts and events. Nobody really knows what those rituals were or what kind of religion could gather people together and inspire them to such an extent that those impressive and huge pyramids were built! I heard the guides saying- everything is just a guess…But who cares – as if somebody in 1.5 thousand years will be interested how we prayed and what we believed in… If not for the bus excursions which increased the crowds after 9 am at once – I could stay there and walk and walk around. The pyramids were colorful, not as grey as they are now. But the paint was natural, so it didn’t hold for several hundreds of years: Here this beach underneath is protected from visitors – sea turtles come to lay their eggs in holes they make in sand and then little hatch-lings make their first trip to the sea:  But there are stairs to the next beach where people can swim if they want or just walk and enjoy: I think this is our best picture of this trip! 🙂 I liked those black birds in the tree behind the building: Here the simple houses where regular Mayas lived stood – but they were not as sturdy as the prominent ones: Leaving the site and going again to our Paradiso beach to swim some more! This time we noticed that those coconut palms are super prolific, they bloom (ironically   -the blooms are super tiny) at the same time as ripening their big fruits, which can be a little dangerous if you look for a shade, which you do: And we left Tulum for Playa Del Carmen, such was the plan…We had no clue tat Playa is not for us, at least not for Andrei. On the way there were lots of Amusement parks, so we drove to see how does Xcaret look like at least form outside. for if you go there – you have to go for the full day. The tickets to those parks are around $100 p.p. And you can snorkel there take different rides, see stalactites in the caves, etc. Some are more challenging, some less, but they are mostly for people who like to be entertained, which is good. So here is the entrance to Xcaret – when I saw it, me, the tree lover – I lost interest in adding to their pockets:

 

Mexico 2016 – Cenotes and Valladolid

On the way form Izamal to Valladolid, on that road that passes by Chichen-Itza, there is a lot of cenotes, but not enough time to check all of them. So we picked Cenote Yodzonot  – and were not disappointed:I saw cenotes from the airplane on our way back  -they look like a blue round eye in the jungle. I mean the ones that have an open roof like this. They are very deep and are connected by underground rivers. There are no normal rivers in Yucatan, only below the porous lime stone. Therefore all cenotes have the same pleasant temperature of 26C and very clean water, for now. They say that sadly, but  the pollution is getting underground, too: Here is the entrance and ticket office to the cenote, it is usually 60-80 pesos: The depth: I mentioned in the beginning of the Blog about Mexico that the views and feeling in the pictures are better than being there. What concerns cenotes is vice versa- no pictures can capture the pleasure of staying there and just looking, not speaking about swimming… Valladolid met us with especially colorful and unusual clouds: After checking in into our hotel Hipil – not bad, maybe even good had we not got a room Nr.1 in front of their reception desk and the kitchen…The hotel was an example how in a tiny itzy bitzy lot an 8 room hotel can be built and in its tiny yard a swimming pool can be included. Yes, and 8 room hotel and a person sitting non stop, even at night in the reception desk, doing nothing, but talking on the phone or with guests or friends, in front of our door (what a cheap work force)…Or the guests cooking an elaborate breakfast and jingling the dishes since 5:30 in the morning…So I didn’t have a knack to take pictures of the hotel :-). But since we have been to Valladolid 5 years ago, we headed to our last time favorite restaurant and were not disappointed: Here is how they serve burrito, with “a touch” 🙂 And here is what they have on their walls  -the first room is devoted to Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera, the other rooms do not lack in pictures also: So we continued having our dinners at Conato. Three nights, three dinners total. Those almost 3 days in Valladolid were just enough. Ther eis anough where to go and what to do for even longer stays. The main attraction is The Convento of San Bernardinos of Siena, and here is the long street that leads to it: Last time we only visited the church and one yard, this time we went to their museum and the gardens, here is their water supply – a cenote with a pump: Here are the geese who attacked us bravely: The altar of the church, there was a wedding and people were moving by the altar to pose for the pictures – for it is the main part of the ceremony, isn’t it? The other attractions are two cenotes down the road some 7 km from the center. We swam only in one – X’Keken. Last time it was marvelous-  it has stalactites and stalagmites which were lit with colorful lights that were changing colors. Not this time…The lights were just white and even not directed to the biggest stalactite, quite a disappointment, but still, it was a pleasure to swim there:THis cenote has a closed roof, only a tiny hole in it. You go down the stairs and start seeing this: This time we didn’t feel very safe – what if a stalactite dis-attaches while we are swimming underneath? :-). Here I am standing on top of the cenote – by its single small open window to the sky: But the biggest fun to us was Cenote Zaci – it is in the center of the city and you can go there several times a day if you want. They also charge a little for the swim  -like 40 pesos, but if you eat in the restaurant on top with this view – you can swim for free:See a little figure swimming by the waterfall: In addition I have to mention again – the air was very very hot and humid. So to jump into the water was like a very welcome and refreshing activity.

Mexico 2016-Izamal

Izamal is Ciudad Amarillo – a yellow town. Very very yellow. But pleasantly enough: We entered it and noticed a lot of white and light blue balloons in front of some houses and pedestals decorated with flowers in the front rooms, with some people gathering. Once we checked in to our hotel  -we found out what it is about. The very center of town was blocked for transportation because there was a huge fair even with merry-go-rounds. It was December the 8th – the day of Mama Linda – the beloved St. Mary of Yucataneans. So they were carrying Mama Linda in all glory through town and stopping in those decorated houses, placing her on a pedestal and maybe praying or just taking pictures with her. I guess it is a great honor for the house to have Mama Linda visiting it: Mama Linda is beautiful, and the ladies looking at her passing by were beautiful and I also had a dress of similar style, but mine was from Peru, not Maya :-): Our hotel was in the very very center of town – with the view to the Cathedral, it is called San Miguel Arcangel. We though – wow, how good, we will stay in the main square, can wander around till late and observe the celebration. Boy. how wrong we were…But from the beginning. They built this hotel by the side of an ancient pyramid. The whole town is built on an ancient city. So the owners of the hotel did quite a good job, if I can consider myself knowledgeable enough to say that. In the back yard one can see the ancient stones and at least it is neatly preserved, if not recovered from ruins. So here this palm tree grows already on the pyramid facing our rooms: So we didn’t waste our time and went to see the Cathedral  just a couple of steps form the hotel. It is also built on a Maya pyramid, like many churches in Yucatan. The cloisters seem very medieval, there is a museum and then the main church and a super big courtyard – as if it is the biggest in Latin world. Therefore it is convenient for big celebrations: Here is one of the corners outside the church where people were worshiping a very old and distressed icon of Virgin Mary – so I assume it makes miracles, I hope it does, for there were so many candles emanating peoples wishes and pains:Here is Mama Linda’s ‘bedroom – it is the altar where they keep her in a very separate room high up the stairs: A little lower there is a museum which houses mama Linda’s different outfits and also pictures how Pope Paul II visited Izamal and put a crown on Mama Linda! Then we walked in town looking for some more leftovers form the Maya culture. And here it was – you enter a gate in a regular street not anticipating such a view: Once you climb the first set of steps – a field opens and a tall pyramid at the edge of it. Not so easy to climb for the steps are not restored still, and even if they are restored- the steps are very narrow and very high- and Mayas were very tiny :-): Right down in the street by the pyramid is a rather nice restaurant, with those strangely cut bushes in front: What was inside those big fried “things”  -I will never remember their name – as if they had onions and cheese inside. Maybe even some mushrooms.   We walked a little more in town, saw some groups of “Gvadelupa bikers”:AS I found out later -young guys, some girls, too, make a promise to virgin Mary of Gvadelupa to drive form point A to point B, or to run. And so they were driving on all the roads ant highways. That would be not so bad, but once they get into a city – they start their sirens, exactly the ones that police cars have…Imagine the noise and the scare… So now is the fun part – when the darkness fell onto town  – some tiny guys started building a stage right smack by our hotel doors…The main part of that stage were super loud loudspeakers, a lot of them. As if their nation is deaf…And so we had a free music to the extent that the floors and walls were shaking till 4 a.m. Viva Mexico!

The next day we were not very happy people, but still visited the museum of folk art: It was hard to take a picture of the buildings around the 2 main squares, because of abundance of fair tents, but still: Buy buy Izamal!..

 

 

Mexico 2016- Baca

I found out that most of Mexicans do not know Baca. They would ask me – Baha? No, it is Baca, just 16 km East of Merida, a small town with a church and a square, like the other small towns: And here by this side of the church two smart American women bought  a casa, which I’d rather call Fazienda. They bought it in a depressed condition and did such a fantastic job that all three days we were there-  I couldn’t stop admiring! The feeling once we found from where to enter it was that I entered Bramasole From the book “Under the Tuscan Sun”  -it was like living in a movie, only better! Here is Casa Lunita from outside and inside:

The owners not only restored the Casa Lunita in its original style, the also built a pool and planted a real botanical garden around it and in every corner of the yard. Wit a big variety of plants. When I looked into hotel gardens in other places  they were just simple gardens, without much attention what grew there- everything grows in that hot and humid climate. But here my heart was in joy – you can walk around for hours and check – each plant was in some way interesting and in the right place, in some way very beautiful and unique. The owners even made a manual of all the plants that are there.  And then there was Azula – the dog. With whitish – blue eyes. She wanted to lie on our floors to get her belly petted :-). Here is how romantic the yard and pool looked at night in the dark, with the kitchen on the other side of the pool: There was also a small water Lilly pool on the other side of the arch but I forgot to take its picture. It was especially nice at night because three big toads would come out from their hiding places and sit on the edge. Here are the doors from our room -I am sorry. I didn’t take the picture properly, but for the idea:  We will definitely go there again – such a place! And in addition to all the pleasures-  we were there alone, except  for the housekeeper Sally. So we could enjoy the quietness of the evenings, the pleasure of cooking in that exotic and spacious kitchen and having our meals there. Sally cooked us very tasty breakfasts, so we enjoyed tat a lot! But again – nothing is perfect in life, situations do not let you be fully happy – being such an old style building with super tall rooms and with all those doors in rooms and  crevices in them – it cannot be air conditioned. So we slept with fans directed towards us and it was OK, but in that climate…I guess – the best time is January and February. And with all that – of course there were mosquitoes, but not many. Everything depended on whether I was tasty – which I was, o wasn’t  – like my husband.

Though Baca is small, but there is enough space for a big heart. We found it while driving to their celebrity Thai restaurant on the outskirts of the town. It is located or I should say – built on the grounds of hacienda San Jose-  and the sign sais: Fundacion para el Bienestar Natural, A. C.

Lots of lotus plants in Koi fish pools here and there, a couple of Budha sculptures, a spacious promenade to the restaurant and a park behind it. There is a Thai woman cooking, so it was good. But we were very lucky to meet the owner of the hacienda, who is of French descent and was sick with cancer three times. With the help of doctors and his own inner peace he healed, therefore he continues to create the surroundings of peace. He said he created it for himself  -but the park and buildings in it are for cancer patients, mostly those of low financial means where they can come during the day and walk in the park, get some electromagnetic treatment and consultations for nutrition and psychological help, also do some Chi-gong training in a special square  -all for free! therefore lay people are not supposed to wander in the park, so that the patients won’t be disturbed. So we were lucky that the owner took us around and showed us the big – i would say 1.5 m height amethyst he bought form Brazil for auspicious reasons and so on. Here is a Lotus seed pod, and the last lotus flower of the season: In the evening we went to a mass, it was close by, why not to go – everything was good and pleasant, only when it ended -they started exploding some fireworks and explosives so loud, that it was frightening to leave the church and on that note they got so excited that kept on doing their pyrotechnic fun all throughout the night…it is their Mexican blood, what can you do, Sally said.   Here is Motul -a the town next door which is known for their Huevos Motulenos- Motula’s eggs – made with lots of ingredients, but it was not the right time for us to eat more eggs after Sally’s good breakfast…We Left it for next time.  

 

 

Mexico 2016 -Dzibilchaltun and Progreso

Dzibilchaltun is an archeological site half an hour north of Merida. We wanted to see it because it was on our way and because it has a cenote on its site. Those archeological sights are ancient Maya cities of different periods. They are spacious and I look at visiting those sights as a chance to hike with a goal to see all remaining or restored structures. So here are the first views we saw once we entered: And once we saw the cenote- we just changed to swim suites and went swimming. forgetting the pyramids around – cenotes were the main goal of this trip. There is nothing better than immersing in cenote water  -it is everywhere the same 26C, everywhere hey are very clean and blue. And they are sacred to Mayas, to us – too.  The Xlacah cenote (meaning Old Town) goes very deep under the rock where the couple is sitting, but cenotes are for swimming, not standing in them – so the deeper – the better. While I was sitting on the edge and enjoying the Spa –  fish nibbling on my legs, mosquitoes were doing their own job…That made me a little nervous  -what if I got Zika…or Dengue Fever…But it seems-  I didn’t.  And from then on mosquitoes were biting me wherever I went. Maybe not so much right by the sea. But Andrei got only 2 bites. Not everyone is tasty enough.  After getting refreshed we walked and walked and investigated. This cenral structure in a square is built later, it was a Catholic church, built by Franciscans: Here I climbed a pyramid and the view from above: The birds that we saw while walking the the most interesting structure – were the most beautiful birds tat we encountered during the whole trip: This pyramid at the end of a very wide and long Ancient Maya road is considered the most important in this site and is called Dzibilchantun – the House of Seven Dolls – the research team found those dolls in the depths of the pyramid and therefore the name. Nobody knows for sure what do those dolls mean, only speculations float around. And they are not very elaborate figures, too: Then again we drove for half hour or so North, to Progreso, a small resort town  on the Caribbean sea, with the longest Pier for the ships and cruise ships  to land, called Malecone.  There we were lucky to see a really impressive sunset : There are beaches right in the town, but being it a port, the water was not s enticing for us, so we drove a little to the left and found endless stretches of empty beaches with white sand and greenish clear warm waters, peace and quiet: Fishermen are cleaning their catch and here is who enjoys i! The town itself was nothing special, typical provincial Mexican town, so I didn’t even bother to take a picture of it :-). What we noticed was that mostly Mexicans were vacationing there, with the exception of some Canadians who have their Bridge club. It is hard to tell why some areas on this warm sea coasts get built with fancy resorts, like in Quintana Roo, and why some-  not, like here. But that was the charm of this town. In two days when we left – we drove to the right of it parallel to the sea and saw a lot of individual fancy villas, lots of them for rent-  all of them just on the shore!In Progreso we stayed in this hotel – Maria’s Nicte-Ha – which means Water Lilly in Maya. It was very good, with a kitchen and a little sitting room, with a pool inside the yard: All in all  – it was  a very good stay in Progreso. But nothing can be perfect – there is a lot of mosquitoes there and the heat…There are a lot of swamps around where flamingos live and hatch, but we were not lucky to see them, or maybe we didn’t put extra effort to that reason. What I would suggest – go in larger groups to there, and rent one of those fancy villas on the endless white seashores! Though for shorter stays or for those who want to be in town and not to rent a car –  our hotel was really really good!

 

Yucatan 2016-Merida

Merida is the capital of Yucatan state in Mexico. It never dawned onto me, that Mexico is officially called Unites States of Mexico, though I never noticed that name, only while entering and filing the entry forms. So being sentimental people and loving to come to the same places that we have been and not explored enough – this December we flew to Merida, Yucatan.  The very first day of December…it was a mistake. Last time we were there at the end of January – the weather was perfect. This time-  not so much, too hot. So hot and humid, that while outside and some places inside – even our cheeks were sweating not speaking about the rest of us. It was hard to wonder around as we like and we had to take siestas. While organizing this trip I rented rooms with AC thinking it is a way to protect us from mosquitoes, but not from heat. It was from heat :-). But still we walked around in downtown Merida, which has nice buildings and views for pictures, and now while looking into our pictures  -I think that it is a very photogenic city, and not a pleasant as it looks:We lived in this street, but in another section of it. By Santa Ana Church, a very good place to stay and highly recommendable. Rented a very nice and sufficient King Bed apartment through Air B&B, with a well equipped kitchen, spacious and with a good AC. By the main street which leads to the center. Note how narrow their walkways are, and there are a lot of cars on those streets, so that is the feature which creates least pleasure: We lived in an apartment which we entered through this tiny garden:

The cathedral from Palacio de Gobierno balcony:It is built from the stones of an old Maya pyramid and adding an insult to injury -on its location. Or maybe that can be called “upcycling”  -depends on the viewpoint: Santa Lucia church – very similar to the Cathedral, and it is on the same stretch:Each church has a little square around it or in front of it and that is always a welcome oasis in those walled streets. A little further to the side of the main drag there is a Folk Art museum, this is their wedding dress back in Spanish times: Churches are usually connected with monasteries, and all that looks very medieval:  Here is a very special hairless dog, very Mexican, who was staying in an antique store. To me he looked like a kris-cross between a ig and a dog. Last time we saw them in Delores Olmeda Mansion by Mexico city, but they were closed from visitors. This time I could touch one!WE bought this mask to our friend Delores in that Antique store:As well as the last time, we were lucky  to “catch” a good Piano concert in the Theater of Jose Peon Contretas, in the very center of the city: Merida has its own Champs d’Elysee  – it is called Avenida Paseo De Montejo and is the widest street in the city. It would have been be nice to stroll on it back and forth if not that terrible heat…This avenida has the fanciest mansions in Merida, some restored some depressed:

After staying for a couple of days in the city, we rented a car and drove south to see Hacienda Yaxcopoil. at least to have an idea how did haciendas look like. All those mansions in Merida were built on the money that haciendas produced by growing a special sort of agave and manufacturing ropes from it. Who would have thought that ropes can generate such profits! So here is the gate to hacienda and then the mechanisms to work on agave leaves and make ropes, also the main quarters where the owners lived, prayed and thrived: Nothing different, I guess, than in the Southern states of US. The same slavery produced riches to the occupiers-  in this case – the Spaniards. Water was not a problem in Yucatan – you just dig a little and will get into cenote or an underground river, 7 meters deep…maybe more in some places. So usually Haciendas had a water pump and some reservoirs to keep it for dry months. This particular one has the whole cellar filled with water – I guess it was for cooling the main house. And the plants and trees of any kinds thrive in such a climate: Shameful as it is  – we tried to drive to some cenote south of the Hacienda on Ruta de Cenotes – but the road was so bad and so abandoned, that we kind of got scared and didn’t continue on it. When you think – you are very vulnerable in their bush. So we returned to the little town Uman and had a perfect dinner there at some canteen, popular among locals, which had two flat screen TVs showing different episodes of Mr. Bean. Strange as it is – Mexicans were not laughing at all and I found those particular episodes very funny. What a combination – maybe that made me laugh a full laughter I rarely find an opportunity! Mr. Bean in Mexico…

We did not return to sleep to the same apartment. though it was perfect. but because Merida is big, and to get into the center and out of it is a hazard. So we slept in Dubrovnik hotel in its outskirts, a good one, except that to drive into it you have to make a huge round trip on super bad roads because of their love to one side streets…This is a new big museums devoted to Maya culture:

 

 

 

Mexico 2014 – Teotichuacan

From Mineral country we drove closer to Mexico city, the trip was going to an end. The next stop was 90 km away – Teotichuacan, the town by big pyramids. We noticed the Sun Pyramid already from the road, so massive and impressive. But we left the visit to them for tomorrow. First of all we checked in to our hotel Olin Teotl?? – on a quiet street, at last we will get the peace and quiet we wanted!

DSCF1683It was 20 min walk from gate #2 which is right in front of the Sun Pyramid. The hotel was really nice, and very empty on those days. It had 2 big inner gardens, with lots of plants, flowers and a?? swimming pool for the summer guests. We got a big room with real original art – I enjoyed it a lot! Made the stay more perfect:

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DSCF1684And then we drove to see another monastery, Acolman, but instead of taking the highway – we took a small road and had to give up after an hour of driving through endless “topes”. So it is left unseen…Just saw some two other churches on the way:

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This one impressed by the abundance of live flowers all over – even walls were covered with them and they smelled strongly, lilies did…WP_20141221_019

On that road we were lucky to notice a fish restaurant – the food and service were very good! If you are going there with a car?? -drive from Teotichuacan to Acolman and on the right hand side you’ll see it. Right after you leave T.

The downtown of Teotichuacan is pretty nice, there were some people dancing Aztec sacred dances, lots of street markets, some nicer streets than the others. Lots of dentist offices, I guess it is a good idea to use their services in Mexico versus USA:

WP_20141221_030Tthe next day we got up early and rushed to the pyramids – on the way we saw one ancient palace of Tetitla, with some frescoes still left. The plan of the building is pretty elaborate, lots and lots of rooms, and then each room seemed to have a theme- it was painted in the same pattern or same picture: DSCF1492

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DSCF1515This last one-?? the bird – seemed to be the most interesting and unexpected. We entered the Pyramid park at 9 am through the 2nd gate and stayed there until 3 pm – never got bored, wanted to stay longer, but got tired :-): DSCF1520

Top is the Sun Pyramid, and bottom is the Moon Pyramid, which is lower, but not so wide, therefore it looks taller. All thso optical effects…DSCF1522

The long path that leads to the Moon pyramid is called Paseo de la Muertes – Aztecs thought that the structures along the road are mausoleums. But they are not, so it should not be a Road of the Dead:DSCF1525

The best part – we could climb the Sun Pyramid, to the very top, and also walk on its terraces around and enjoy the clean and dry air around, the space, the good energy and the views:

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DSCF1540I even did some yoga on the top terrace of Sun Pyramid:

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Then walking through the palace of?? Quetzalpapotl and admiring its central court, sculptures and frescoes that were still survived the ages: DSCF1618

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DSCF1579All those reliefs were painted, were colorful. This court is restored, some of the column stones are not originals.

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The serpent head by the entrance:

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Evidently the ancient people who first built the pyramids and the city had a sewage system installed, they had holes and underground canals and collectors and all drained into a small river running in the middle of the city. Here is their elaborate sewage system:

DSCF1597After the palace we again had?? more energy and climbed the Moon Pyramid – it is not restored to the very top, so they let you climb only the first part of it to a big platform. From there- the view is to the Sun Pyramid :-). On the left you can see a mound – it is also another small pyramid, still buried iin soil, this is how they all looked when Modern Ages came, by which I mean Spanish:

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WP_20141222_018There is a museum on the right side of Sun Pyramid – with all the treasures they found in their diggings, sculptures and bones of evidently sacrificed women. I liked the other artifacts more than bones :-). There is one room with transparent bridge over a small version of Teotichuacan:

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There is a small Botanical garden by the Museum, all native plants, and not very small ones. The biggest surprise to me was to find that Ruta or Ruth or whatever it is called in English – our national Lithuanian flower used in wedding ceremonies-?? is native to Mexico! DSCF1634One more view of the giant. It is to be said that the basis of the Sun Pyramid is the same as the one of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. But it is two times shorter, that makes it not so steep and easier to climb!

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DSCF1657Then we headed to the opposite direction than the Moon Pyramid is. The path was even wider but not so smooth – we had to go down some steps to some plazas, then up again, then pass a bridge over a poor sewage river and then again till the end of this big field of the park and on the left we reached another big plaza which was a trade plaza in historic times and a strange double pyramid at its end:

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Here we climbed one smaller pyramid and are looking towards the other, which still has some sculptures and reliefs left, even the shells still intact:DSCF1673

The restoration works are still going on:DSCF1676

Here is part of the plaza – how many people lived there, how many of them gathered in those big plazas…They think that at its best times Teotichuacan had over 100,000 citizens…And then something bad happened, an uncovered secret what, and the citizens destroyed what they could, especially the frescoes, and left. Only then the Aztecs came when the pyramids were overgrown with nature. DSCF1680Spending time in the Pyramid park was?? was beyond impressive! the feeling is so good that if I lived in Mexico?? – I would come there for fueling myself with good energy. As tired as we were?? after the Pyramids, we still managed to drive around the whole big fenced park and see another separate palace of Tepantitla – this one is known for its especially elaborate remnants of frescoes. The first one depicts joy and happiness, people paying games and spraying water. The second is of a priest:

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The next morning was our flight back home. We drove to Mexico city on highways. which was also tricky for we had to do a triangle maneuver and change 3 highways to get to the right one. And then once we got there – we missed the “Retorno” sign and got on the wrong road as we expected, no matter how much we prepared for it on Google maps…Luckily at least this time the GPS “lady ” helped us and we were even to early for?? our flight. Avis people provided us with nice service and I can only praise them! Thank you little Red Car to take us back safely!

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Mexico 2014 – Hot Springs and Mining towns

All things come to an end, we left Queretaro and headed again towards Tequisquapan, where we have already been. This time we were heading past T. to hot springs El Geiser?? – they are not by the main road. We had to turn right and drive 30 km on a small very desolate road, no cars or villages, just big cacti. Very big and impressive, and baren hills around, until we reached a valley and drove down into its bottom -to a?? resort , which was?? several hotels surrounding a pool area, all nice and comfy, and the only geyser in Mexico – harnessed into two pipes and throwing hot water and steam. The price to enter is 100 pesos and you can stay that day and the next morning:WP_20141219_050

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The spaces around warm pools were dotted with tents! That was peculiar.?? Lots of Mexican families come to have fun there, they bring their foods and are permitted to put a tent for the night.They seemed to be very neat and tidy!:

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It is nice to see places in Mexico where locals are having fun and spending their vacations or weekends. Versus Gringos…as is by the sea where we went last time. I spent quite a while with them in the Geyser steam and enjoyed their companionship. Their kids were behaving rather well. The steam from the geyser comes in portions – it’s stronger shoot is followed?? by a weaker one, and you have to go back and forth while trying to keep the heat constant. If you go away from the steam – it gets cold in the air, if you stay deeper in the chambers built for that reason – you can get too hot, dangerous.?? The steam smelled sulfur a little, amazing!WP_20141219_038 - Copy

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After getting clean and healthy we drove?? app. 12 km to Tecozautla – a small town in that area, far from main roads. The hotel Aquazul we stayed at was new , spacious, but lacked furniture to put stuff on. Maybe because it was new. But that was not a problem. The problem was a dog behind our windows who was barking at night for maybe 2 hours straight…it is a sad story about dogs in Mexico. You see little Chihuahuas?? beloved and dressed up, and you see packs of breed dogs running with their stomachs empty and you see many dogs tied on ropes. This was the case in the yard by the hotel – a nice bulldog tied to a shot rope, how sad and desperate he gets. No one seemed to care about him…Tecozautla itself had a downtown, with a couple of restaurants and a couple of churches:WP_20141219_056

WP_20141219_060and a dancing doctor, advertising maybe the services of a doctor, we were not sure:

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But all in all – it is better to stay in one of the hotels by El Geiser and not drive to this town at all. Better not to take the road we took the next day to cut through faster towards Ixmilquiapan. First of all – it was very hard to find the road out of Tecozautla- GPS was confused and sent us to a dirt road and then to dead end. We tried to figure out by just going south and trying roads and we found even like a state park – a sanctuary of their flora:WP_20141220_002

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WP_20141220_005Most part of that road was cobbled stones…There was a part where we were not sure if we manage to pass, needless to say there we no other cars on it and we felt scared. It took us 1 h to drive 26 km without stopping – I didn’t feel safe enough to stop and walk around which would be wonderful among those cacti! At last we saw some villages which meant we were close to the main road:WP_20141220_006

WP_20141220_009Speaking about agave?? -they are big, and sometimes them , sometimes cacti are used as fences. And the product they make from them – is really cheap :-). But we didn’t see any drunk people while there…

Driving on a main road towards and past Ixmilquiapan was much easier. but the road is not tolled, which basically means that there are intersections and ‘topes” all along and you can’t have any speed. Worth mentioning that there are many Hot Springs along that road – Balnearios as they call in Spanish – on the north side of Ixm. But we had no time for them. Or next stop was Actopan – a town known for its big church and monastery. The church itself was nothing very special:WP_20141220_013 - Copybut by the side of it there was a big arch – and the frescoes on it were amazing!

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Here you can see Adam and Eve by a tree with the serpent, and the scenes of expulsion:

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After the short visit we again hit the road and drove to Pachuca, a mining area center and the capital of Hidalgo state:

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It is a big city, lots of traffic to get into the center and after working on our patience a lot to get through, we lost the battle and stopped in the nearest spot we managed to park. It was a block form the central square which has?? a Clock tower built by Big Ben builders:WP_20141221_004High above all buildings we saw a sign Hotel de los Banos – and went to see if they really have toilets :-). Because up till now on our trip “banos”ment “toilets”. While we checked it we figured out it is good enough for us and stayed the night. Just were too late to eat in their buffet – it seemed good , lots of happy people eating in the lobby, but we took care of the car first and were late. The good thing about Pachuca was that there was a Huapango dance festival. A [picture of dancers wouldn’t play any role, you’d have to see the dancers! I guess there was some sort of competition. there were judges and maybe three musical groups, because one would get too exhausted to sing and play for two days non stop! The dancers were some very young, some older, different groups and from different regions – based on the girl’s hairdo.?? Some had very long braids, some had no braids but hair all wrapped around their colorful “head-bagel”. All very colorful and very seriously trying to do their best. When you think – it was only one dance, but the audience was sitting like glued to their chairs for hours1 I was watching on and off for 8 hours?? – it didn’t end…I wanted to see who won, but had to resort to rest before they declared. the dance is very elaborate-?? it has two parts- one is slow and dancers walk or turn around each other sometimes with their noses touching. Then there is that very fast part when they they work very hard and fast with their feet, beating the floor and the rhythm is amazing! It can get you into a trance! They hit he floor so hard. that at some point the venue was stopped to change part of the floors, they broke the boards! The girls mostly were very colorful and their clothes were nice and national, but their make up…it was so much too much – especially the kid-girls. Their eyelashes were freaking long, their eye shadows were shining and bright colors from far away -that I haven’t seen before – like on some “super dolls”. But I hope they will learn :-).

So in between watching a walked a little in Pachuca, was not mesmerized by it as in other places we visited, but there were still spots of creativity:

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WP_20141221_002 - CopyThe last one is the nativity scene in our hotel – isn’t cute-?? baby Jesus is still not there, it was before Christmas, and a pig with a bunch of piglets sucking here in the fore front . Those Mexicans’ – they never stopped amusing me! Even in details :-).

The next morning the traffic jams were gone and after seeing the Mining museum in Pachuca (it is good and is the first museum I saw chemical formulas written under each mineral they had mined there) we drove up the mountains to see Mineral del Monte – or Real del Monte – it has two names.?? Books were recommending to see it-?? it is known not only for its mining past but also a Cornish community – they came all the way from England to work in the mines and introduced “Pastes”???? -baked cakes with different fillings, and Football. The real football game, when a ball is kicked with feet only, not this very strange fighting thing American socker. And from then on Mexico is having really good football teams. Not only that – I stopped to see what is there in a Museum of Pastes?? -the lady explained that once you enter – you make your own paste and while waiting for it to bake- you walk om an excursion about how its history here was, but the excursion was in Spanish…So I didn’t go. Just saw a big picture of Prince Charles and Camilla?? making pastes-?? evidently they visited this corner of Mexico just several weeks ago and visited the museum! I think it is peculiar that they visit places somehow connected to England – of all the places they have opportunities to visit. Somehow we didn’t take too many pictures of Mineral del Monte. I bet we were already tired of intensive sightseeing. So here is one:

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One more post is left – it will be about Teotichuacan -the Pyramids!

 

 

 

 

 

Mexico 2014 – Queretaro

Because those three cities are so close together, we didn’t rush in the morning to Queretaro, but still enjoyed San Miguel a little, drove to Aurora, then to see the hot springs, which are within 15 km distance. More famous La Gruta is by the highway. but it is tricky to notice t. we had to turn around for several times until we got there – GPS was of no help?? :-). The price is 110 pesos and there are some pools and that famous tunnel with the light coming from its roof and making the “underground’ river very blue. But the grounds seems not so big as the Escondido ones. The latter was maybe a mile or two from the highway. almost the same exit, right by a drive to Shangri La – a fancy resort. Escondido is a big park with ponds and ponds and one filled with water lilies and a lotus! They also have a small under-roof tunnel, but it didn’t appeal to us much . The price was 120 pesos. And there were people enjoying the healing waters, no hope for solitude :-). But the main goal for us on that drive was to see the sanctuary of Atotonilco, a previous monastery, now just a church. (you don’t need a car to get there – a micro bus runs from San Miguel). It has an interesting story and is known for its amazing frescoes. Highly recommend! But I will show here only the paintings on its doors, that are especially appealing to me:WP_20141217_025

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There is a perfect highway around San Miguel, we drove it on our way to Guanajuato. But no, our GPS lady set us through the center of town?? – through tiny streets, up steep hills, it was scary. Especially before joining the highway again – we are standing on a 60 degree angle by a busy highway and the “lady” screams to us – turn left! Sorry, we are not listening to you, “lady”, any more!

It is only 70 km to Queretaro. The drive was fine, but once we got to Queretaro – it is huge! – we again switched to GPS “lady” and again she betrayed us…She got us into small one way streets ways away from where we needed to go, and so we had to figure our where we were and “do it yourself” to the very center and?? to “our” the street 16 de Septembre. Luckily – there was a parking space in the street, close to the house or more exactly?? – to the gate. This time we also rented through Air B&B, her name is Grace Walker and she is also Feldencrais practitioner. It is her home, not a hotel, she just rents one room with a bathroom. A very comfortable one. The entrance is from the inner garden, as always. There was also the roof for sitting and looking – but the stairs run through her living quarters, so we didn’t use it:

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That same evening we went out for a walk and for a dinner, and enjoyed the lively city. It was the most elegant city we saw so far. As everywhere – lots of churches, but they looked a little different, especially this one:

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There were several sculptures, several colonial streets – as if like in San Miguel, but not at all:

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We passed several squares, with Christmas decorations( how without them?), though I would have wished there was none :-). Lots of colorful people, Natives and Spanish,?? all a very colorful crowd:

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Creativity is on every step and emanates even from some plastic chairs :

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Lots of music here and there, and clowns doing their shows on available spaces. Not so many restaurants as in San Miguel, but enough. Not so many “pastes” shops as in Mexico city. But we found two :-). Only two. We used pastes for breakfast. And here is the ultimate picture of Queretaro – so I called it:

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On our way we saw an interesting Theater – Cinema. There was an ad about an Expressive Dance concert tonight. So we tried to find out?? – where to buy tickets and are there still tickets left…No way, we couldn’t understand nothing whatsoever what they said to us – I even tried to show with my fingers and body that we want to come to the concert – will there be tickets?-?? I mean I played the scene, but they were turning their heads as if saying “no”…Maybe because I never studied drama. So we went home, rested a little and decided to go for a risk and come back to the theater just before the show – maybe someone can’t come and will sell us the tickets. But there was scarcely anybody. So we bought them and went in?? -very few people were waiting for the show to start – and then it started, it was something about wars or revolutions, they showed terrifying scenes from different wars and world miseries and then the movies ended and 5 girls danced very expressively, expressing?? pain and suffering, also friendship -?? the choreography was original, some movements not seen before, the girls were good, but it all lasted 20 min only. So we sat and waited for the second part – no more, that was it…Those other people in the hall were all friends and family of the girls :-). Well, another experience. On the way back we stopped in an exhibit opening – Poetica Urbana – but the artist was so modest, that I couldn’t see his name well and maybe I saw at some point or not – I forgot. He is a very good artist, quite different that the ones in the rich Aurora factory. In fact, I liked him so much that we spent a long time enjoying each painting and also?? the dashingly beautiful crowd of art lovers:

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Queretaro has a totally different atmosphere that the previous two cities. Having spent so little time there maybe it is not fair to judge, but it seemed more of a real Mexican city with lots of high culture, not oriented towards tourists. But, their Art museum is not so impressive, the collection is small, only the building left a memory:

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Close by there is an Art Garden – maybe they some events there, but?? besides this cute fountain -lady(the water feature was not on) there was nothing more, just a quiet garden. The top picture shows how small the lady is and looks very sad, as if some rape victim…:

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Then ther eis a big square and Church Santa Cruz -worth visiting. They have some nice restaurants, antique shops and a very good pastry shop – all on the left side of the square, if facing the church. Here are some views of the square:

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WP_20141218_018Behind the church the street was being fixed, but passable. You reach an edge of the plateau – and see the city stretching far far away, and especially?? – their famous historical aqua-viaduct, as if the longest in Americas:

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As I said – you walk behind the church and you see it like this?? with “poetic” lines?? -I woder who fixes them and do they understand what they are doing when they have to fix them:

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Here is their Pantheon with a little chapel and the sculptures of their main heroes:

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And here is one more decor on the streets:

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