Mexico 2014 – Bernal & Tequisquapan

So that was it – we said bye bye to Mexico City, walked once more through the central pedestrian street:

WP_20141211_002and then took a bus to the airport Terminal 1, from there to the car rental place. Note – this part maybe interesting only for those who plan to rent a car in Mexico. Renting a car there is a little strange. Andrei spent no less than 2 hours analyzing their policies and matching with our needs. He reserved a car in National company, but when we came to them – they had no small car. The price that he found in the internet was far from the price they were offering us – it went up from $30/ per day to $38. After some negotiation they found us another rental company, the European, and we agreed on a price of $36, but when things reached the contract signing part – it was the insurance that we didn’t agree upon. They didn’t want us to use the optional insurance that AmEx is providing free of charge if you use their card. So we ended up leaving their place and walking to Avis close by (luckily they are all close by on the same street) and getting good service and a pleasant feeling there. We got a red small Chevrolet for $31/ day, insurance included. There are several types of insurance that one has to pay. Americans who enter Mexico with their cars also have to pay certain insurance, But part of it can by applied to AmEx, which is why you want to have that card. It is useful for travelers. All in all we were happy and luckily nothing happened, at the end of the trip we returned the red cute thing in order:

WP_20141221_025Another thought about renting a car in Mexico. We had a car while in our previous trip to Yucatan peninsular -it was very useful and I would highly recommend. This time in Colonial heartland – I highly doubt that it was a good idea. Yes, we had more comfort. Could park close to where we slept, most of the hotels and apartments had their parking places, could see a little more places. But driving in that congested area was tense. The toll highways are not bad, though with very many trucks and some traffic jams. But the GPS “lady” was not a very good one, she would tell us dubious directions, for example, she would tell us to turn left while we are on the right lane in an intersection, or send us through the middle of a town through tiny streets, versus some easier way around, etc. So we had to work every evening on the internet analyzing the roads and ways to get where we wanted. And our wants were not big – we drove bout 100 km the day of driving. I think our maximum this first day of driving was in the area of 250 km – is that a lot? We payed 253 pesos for the tolls and almost 500 pesos for gas that day. It took us 4 hours to do this driving…While driving on toll roads is pretty fast, once you get on any other road – you drive like a turtle. Yes, intersections, small streets, but the main problem – those damn “topes” or “lying policemen”-you have to stop every 50 m to go through it, all the time. You loose interest in driving somewhere further and seeing things…That part of Mexico is disgusting and I am not ashamed to use this word. Do they not have enough police, are they so disobedient to the law and don’t want to follow speed restrictions, I have no clue. And still – with those “topes” on roads -there are so many cats and dogs killed on their roads…Sad.

Here is another reason not to drive a car in the mainland. Consider me a little paranoid, but when you hear locals warning you not to drive here and there because of their mafia… The legal system is broken there, the law enforcement is also not very reliable. And we are just tourists with no Spanish, driving sometimes on roads in very remote areas. While most of Mexicans told me the area we covered is the only one not dangerous in that part of the country, but I still felt unsafe each time we were in the car, only in the cities I felt safe. Though I should be fare – nothing bad happened, not even close, we never got stopped, but as this blog is about giving advices to other travelers- I feel an obligation to share my feelings. I also want to share an advice given to me by a guy from Oaxaca -when I asked if he thinks it is dangerous there, for our next trip – he said you get what you ask for. You go with your energy you emanate and if you are afraid, if you expect bad things to happen – then you will get them. If not- everything will be fine and you will see wonderful things! To tell the truth – I worked a lot on myself to try to be in good energy and invite the good one, too :-). I guess it worked.

So here it took us 2 hours to rent the car and 4 hours to drive those 250 km, which is around 180 miles – and we found ourselves up a hill after passing a small cute town streets of Bernal. It was already getting dark, so we only saw a little of a really beautiful La Pena -the third biggest monolith in the world. But we found our hotel called Casa Celia easily and here how it looks:


DSCF1268It is up the hill towards La Pena hiking trail-head. Breakfast is included and they serve good food! The owner also owns a restaurant downtown, but he keeps it open only on weekends. He showed us his restaurant, it has an extremely old and big tree and good views as well as most places in Bernal:

DSCF1330The first evening we went out to get some dinner and witnessed an impressive procession that carried me far back into F. Felini’s times, when we were admiring his movies and this one was “8 and 1/2”. Very very impressive – some lights shining in a dark pebbled street, and here is a pipe orchestra coming headed by that big wide and funny pipe. And then some people with church flags, some dressed in white girls carrying the statue of St Mary of Guadelupa, then some walking behind their trucks following one after another and carrying very decorated with flowers and colors a picture of Guadelupa in each. We guessed that every family from this town has their most beloved Mary in their house and tonight was the night when St. Mary got a ride and “went” to see the world and her home -the church and get some energy from the worshipers. Consequently all those paintings were carried to the church in great honor and the church filled up. We couldn’t understand much. only when people were praying:



So we walked and enjoyed the town. Next day we climbed to La Pena – of course not to the top, only part of it. The top is for rope climbers. Cacti that grow at the bottom and the red flowers, similar to Calancoe – were most impressive.(And a lot of not bad properties for sale there :-):







Here was an expected carved bush – like an elephant. Mexicans left an impression of very artistic people:DSCF1275Then we spent some time in downtown and payed pretty much for parking our car in an empty yard…Got a lesson – though there were plenty of places to park in ta side street, we thought it will be less hazard for other cars to drive if we parked in what seemed a big empty yard. Nobody was there. But when we came in a couple hours -there was a man charging for parking. So it goes -they are trying of make money form every foot of land there, and maybe that is good. They also sell lots of locally mined minerals – some red opals, lots of others, already polished into different ovals. Here is how we saw Bernal in daylight:






DSCF1322And here is the restaurant in front of this peculiar house where we ate:




DSCF1318As there was still enough day-time left we drove to Tequisquapan, half an hour away. Our Mexican guest Angelica suggested to see it. And we were not disappointed. We parked by a big cemetery, then walked to downtown and were not as impressed with the main square, as the surrounding streets and especially some closed for cars district with a guard and such nice properties that we figured out if was were rich people lived. Each house was different – a bouquet of architectural decisions! Cobbled streets and squares, lots of them with a sculpture or a fountain in the middle, somehow imitating some old town plans or even built on one of them. Lots of gates like this:


To me it seemed like a fairy tale town, with lots of mysterious and happy lives. DSCF1368

DSCF1365 DSCF1356




Here we are on a bridge, but the river under it is dry, it is like a river bed all grown with grasses and bushes, plenty of places for kids to play or for adults to go for nature walks.

Here is how other parts of downtown Tequisquapan look. Note that their Church looks completely different from one side versus the other:



DSCF1340Worth mentioning, that they sell farm made cheese and home made breads, in something similar to our health food stores.One more piece of their creativity:

DSCF1387That evening when we came home to our hotel owner was sitting in the lobby and singing such good nostalgic songs that they reminded me of either Georgian songs or Lithuanian sung by Bards. A nice man the owner is, except that he doesn’t speak a word in English, so come to stay in Casa Celia with a vocabulary. Just a side thought: it is not so hard to be nice in Mexico’s hospitality industry – there are so many service people that they can hire and who do such a good job – that it seems one can eat from their floors :-).

After his singing we were heading out again and luckily he showed us the direction – up the hill there was a pool with fountains – and at 7 pm the show started- it was an amazing color-music-elaborately dancing fountain show. So impressive that my jaw went down :-). And I have seen many of them in Las Vegas by Bellagio – this one was better. It was 30 min non stop, with bright matching changing colors, very good music pieces, the fountains flowing, but the best part – we could stand immediately by the fountains. The crowd was very slim and we could feel the water and see the show “just for you”. At that time they even lighted La Pena -I guess there have to be big lights to light a mountain…

WP_20141212_008Next day we headed to Guanajuata.











Mexico 2012 – The Yucatan Peninsula-adjusting

This year we spent our winter vacation in the Yucatan peninsula, mostly in the northern part of it. We again betrayed our beloved Thailand…But the flight to Cancun is so much shorter and cheaper, that it made our choice. The trip started at night of the 21 st of January. We left our home in Rockville after 11 pm, did some mosquito net and repellent shopping on the way and reached Las Vegas pretty late in the night. Visited Bellagio, which had the Chinese New Year theme at its greenhouse Atrium. Just plain beautiful, done with taste, dragons and kids made of flowers…Wanted to take a short nap while in the car in the parking lot there, but the security came up and told us to leave…so we did, to the free long term parking place in South Terminal, it was cold, brrrr. but we took off the jackets and ran to the bus which leaves from there to the airport every 40-50 min. if at night, and every 15 min during the day. Also, Andrei registered our car at the office there, so we would be calm about it. Then the airport, the check-ins etc. and we still had to wait for more than an hour till our flight to Phoenix, then to Cancun. In Phoenix they have a strange order of flights… 4 flights were scheduled exactly at the same time from the same cul-de-sac in the terminal, so the crowd waiting for those flights was dense, we could hardly move to our gate through all those packages and people, and could only stand while waiting, not sit. Not much fun. Then, of course, with us inside all those planes were lined up by the air strip for almost an hour, until we took off. Yellow desert underneath was not very spectacular. Then Yucatan showed up as a dense jungle with very few roads, no rivers, nothing else. Landed to very warm and humid air. Took some money from ATM, a mistake, for they charge a steep fee (27 pesos), so it is better to take more at once, or a maximum and not worry about it till closer to an end of the travel. They call their pesos “dollars” in ATM machines, so when they ask how much do you want, have in mind they ask about how much pesos, not dollars you want to change. Bought a ticket to ADO bus to Puerto Morelos right close from the exit, 20 min in a comfortable bus and we were there, in a shabby little town…called Colonia of Puerto Morelos. Or Pueblo. There we found our reserved hotel Kin Sol quite easy:

but the area in which this German woman and a French man built their hotel was not the best, though safe… Poverty screaming with past ambitions…super wide avenues, with a green lane dividing both sides:

The plants are only in front of the hotel, I guess the owners got them planted, therefore this looks better, but still…we were sent to eat breakfast in that “Mary’s Cochina Economica” as seen in front…in a shack, literally. the owner of the hotel said Mary is very clean, thanks God! because while wondering and looking for dinner we were shocked about their way of cooking and taking money and food with the same hands and cutting a tomato on the same uncleaned board where they just cut raw meat and raw fish…So during the first days in Mexico we needed some inside adjustments to make. But still, I would never recommend to anyone to eat at that Mary’s place, to get two plain fried eggs without nothing, in Mexico, which is known for its tasty foods, spices, salsas…Unless you know Spanish and can explain better what you want, but still, the shabbiness of the place is very hard to deal with.

Our neighboring house by hotel was like this:

But the kids going from school were all dressed in sparkling white socks and bigger trees everywhere around were painted white, they just have another way of understanding cleanliness and tidiness, every culture has its secrets:

Based on the freshly and brightly painted houses I realized that maybe the most favorite occupation for Mexicans there is painting walls, frames, trees and stones. Not bad.

As I said, we needed to adjust. My mood at the beginning was foul:

No wonder I didn’t take pictures of the inside gardens and the insides of the rooms at the hotel. The rooms were kind of tree houses, I would call them, with narrow stairs. but very beautiful tile designs in the bathrooms and pretty beautiful rough interiors.

So the Pueblo was very dilapidated and trashed, but 5 km from there directly towards the sea (don’t believe that it takes only 20 min to walk to the sea, who can make 5 km in 20 min?) the resort
part of the town was nice enough:

But the wind was strong, to my amazement – the Caribbean Sea was rough and we didn’t swim the first evening. This is their landmark – the leaning tower:

So we stayed there for 2 nights, spent some time on the beach, I spent walking and looking at the villas:

and fishing or snorkeling boats:

Andrei swam a little and then read. I couldn’t force myself to get into the water, though the water itself was warm and blue, but the wind was very unpleasant. There were no big waves, they broke far away where the coral reef was making a barrier. They write in books that it is a good place for snorkeling, but in such rough waters, I would not enjoy that. But I guess the winds calm down at some point maybe in spring, when it gets really hot, so then maybe it is a good place for snorkeling. But the other problem there is a number of boats coming in and leaving, so it is dangerous to snorkel by yourself, you have to buy a trip where the boatman gives you some floating devices that warn boats about your whereabouts.

The church right by the beach is airy and fresh, supported by a big number of Canadians who escape their cold winters and spend them here:

I liked that they made decorations from shells. A real seashore church!

The town of Puerto Morelos is clean and nice, has a lot of restaurants and fancy villas, hotels, too. I was amazed by the imagination of the villa builders. There was one very much like a Gaudi building, again, didn’t take picture of it…Lots of rounded corners, lots of colorful tiles. Some restaurants even had vegetarian choices, not so easy to find in other places. I mean they had vegetable foods! There were taxis – 20 pesos to Pueblo, or Collectivo buses – 5 pesos to Pueblo. And it cost 64 pesos from the airport to Pueblo on ADO bus/ there are different kinds of buses running in Mexico and some are cheaper, some more expensive. I guess ADO is on the expensive side. It was very comfortable with AC and all. So the next morning we again took the bus and went back to the airport. Their we caught an agent from our car rental place – American-Economy, and took their shuttle to the office. There we got a car and left for adventures!