December 24, 2014

Mexico: Mexico City

I don't really want to admit this but I cried at the ETN ticket counter in Guanajuato. I cried because I was exhausted since my Casa de Dante dorm mates knew nothing about how to be respectful in a dorm and I got no sleep those two nights, but more importantly, I cried because I was hoping my tears would make the ETN employee feel bad for me and give me a refund, even though refunds were not allowed. My plan didn't work. 

Laura and I were staying at different hostels in Guanajuato so we planned to meet at the bus station and take the 11:10am Primera Plus bus to Mexico City. Since I was taking the local city bus to the bus station and I do not really speak Spanish I left early incase I had any trouble along the way. I arrived to the bus station at 10:00am and happen to know there was an ETN bus leaving to Mexico City at 10:00am. Buses in Mexico rarely leave on time so in a rash decision I decided to see if I could get a ticket for the 10:00am ETN bus (I know it sounds like I was ditching Laura but there was wi-fi on the bus so I could email her about the change of plans and knowing my luck Laura would never show up and I would have sat around for no reason). I went to the ticket counter and asked if the 10:00am ETN bus was still here, she confirmed and issued me a ticket. As I walked outside to the bus platform the bus drove away. Instantly annoyed I walked back into the ticket counter and asked for a refund since I was issued a ticket that wasn't valid. The manager said that he could not refund the ticket but that I could use the ticket for the next ETN bus at 11:30. Cue tears. I not only felt bad about messing up the plans with Laura but now I had 1.5 hours to wait at the bus terminal. Rash decision = fail. 

| Mexico City: Day One |

Has anyone ever mentioned that Mexico City is HUGE. A population of 30 million will do that to a city. There I was one in 30 million with my two backpacks and duffle bag navigating the metro system and praying that no one robbed me. Luckily, I was prepared for this metro trek and had downloaded the Mexico City metro app and already had a prepaid metro card, thanks to a  dorm mate in Oaxaca. Over an hour later, sweating in a grey tank top with my pants rolled up to my knees I made it to Mexico City Hostel.

After an emotional morning and a long travel day all I wanted was to be home. I was tired, figuratively and literally but laying in the dorm bunk bed for the next two days was not an option, even though I was hooked on Serial and all I wanted was to find out if Adnon would be found innocent.  I also wasn't looking forward to another dorm room since my two sleepless nights in Guanajuato made me hate them. However, my wallet won and I took my sheets up to bunk D and made my bed. Mexico City Hostel was not cozy at first glance but the four story building grew on me over the next few days. 

| Mexico City: Day Two |

{ "I'll be Diego" }
The following morning Laura checked into my dorm room and we were also reunited with a friend from San Miguel de Allende. The three us of got out our maps and opened our metro iPhone apps to find our way to the charming neighborhood of Coyoacan and to the Frida Kahlo Museum. We stood in line outside of the museum eagerly waiting for our turn to pay for an overpriced ticket into the blue house. I am sad to say the Frida Kahlo Museum let me down. I probably only have myself to blame since I didn't do any previous research but the museum was more a display of her house with Diego Rivera than her paintings. I thought, since the museum was named Friday Kahlo Museum I would be immersed in every one of her painting but instead I was surrounded by sketches and her kitchen. I can't say I walked out empty handed though, I learned so much more about Frida Kahlo than I had known walking in.

By late afternoon we met up with Laura's friends who live in Mexico City and we found ourselves eating seafood at the market and exploring Coyoacan. It was a relaxing afternoon sipping beers on the plaza as German, French, English and Spanish conversations were had at the table.

| Mexico City: Day Three |

After thinking the National Museum was the fine arts museum I made it to Palacio de Bellas Artes. Transaltion: Palace of Fine Arts. Like I've said, if only I spoke better Spanish. The Palacio de Bellas Artes was fantastic. I love when museums do that, surprise you with all of their amazing pieces.

There is an endless amount of activities, museums and churches to explore in Mexico City. People stay weeks. But after lunch I was ready to call it a day, I explored the neighborhood a bit more and made my way back to my dorm room for my final pack and listened to last episode of Serial. 

December 23, 2014

Mexico: Guanajuato

{ Hundreds of steps up to Casa de Dante }

Laura (from Luxembourg) and I took Primera Plus from San Miguel de Allende to Guanajuato. Once we arrived in Guanajuato we pulled out our printed directions to our hostels and found our way to the local bus stop. Laura and I were staying in separate hostels since I pre-booked the most expensive hostel on Hostel World, Casa de Dante. I don't know what came over me to book such a pricey place but unfortunately for the hostel when I am pay top dollar I expect a lot. Casa de Dante was definitely not worth the extra pesos but I did get to do my laundry for free and the breakfast was tasty. 

Guanajuato was beautiful but it was much larger than I had expected with the feel of working class city. One morning Laura and I wandered the small streets that wound up the hills stopping to take photos, sit on church steps and sip soup at the market. After a morning of exploring Laura and I both needed a nap. Man, there are a lot of steps in Guanajuato. If you ever visit make sure you have your walking shoes on, this city is not for the sitting. 

We also stopped by the Diego Rivera museum which was located in his old house not far from the University. The museum had an excellent selection of his paintings and the bottom level displayed his home. My one complaint was that the museum signs about Diego Rivera were not translated in English. I know, I should see this as an opportunity to practice my Spanish but instead I just wanted to learn about the art. 

When I was in middle school my family had Thanksgiving in Guanajuato. One night my sister and I stayed with our grandam, Meem, in the hotel room as my parents went to join the crowds and walk the streets and sing. Besides the fact that it was one of the most fun nights with my grandma, my parents came back with these white ceramic drinking vessels, which I have always remembered.  

Since I was finally back in Guanajuato (and allowed to stay out past dark) a few people from the hostel and I joined the Callejones to drink and sing through the streets. I paid my 90 pesos and got my weird looking drinking vessel (best 90 pesos I have ever spent). The residents of the callejones (small streets) must be exhausted by the nightly singing past their houses but it sure was fun to participate in a famous Guanajuato tradition! 

December 22, 2014

Mexico: San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende was only an hour bus ride from Queretaro on ETN (I know, I splurged again but I am a sucker for those plush seats). By early afternoon I was at the San Miguel de Allende bus terminal following the hostel's directions on how to take a local bus to town. The local bus is always an adventure especially when you don't really speak Spanish, have never been to were you are going and have two backpacks and a duffel bag in tow. Luckily La Catrina had straight forward, easy to follow directions and I arrived only slightly exhausted from hauling my stuff across town. La Catrina was an excellent hostel, I wish I had stayed longer. There was  also a chalkboard wall where another Seattlelite tagged Seattle. I seconded (is that a word?) the Seattle by adding a x2 :). 

My expectations for San Miguel de Allende were all over the place since I heard it was pretty much a more colorful United States. Yes, there might have been American accents around every corner but in no way has San Miguel de Allende lost its culture. And the town was unbelievably beautiful, I have never walked down more picturesque streets. The houses were painted the color of a sunset - reds, oranges and yellows.


I met Laura from Luxembourg at La Catrina and the following day we ventured out of San Miguel de Allende by public bus to Sanctuary of Atotonilco which is a World Heritage Site. A lady selling charms outside of the church told us (by "us" I mean she told Laura and Laura translated for me) that every Sunday over 5,000 people come to worship at this church. Whoa! Part of me was so glad I wasn't visiting on a Sunday, that would have been a little overwhelming. On the day Laura and I visited we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It seemed like a sleepy little town in the middle of no where.

From Sanctuary of Atotonilco we walked down back streets to the thermal pools at La Gruta. The thermal pools were a highlight to my time in the north. I absolutely loved it! There was hardly anyone there besides a few other Americans (of course) and we spent several hours swimming in the pools, working our way from the medium temperature pool to the hotter pool and then swimming through the tunnel to the hottest pool. The hottest pool felt like a sauna since it was fully covered resembling a cave. If you are ever in the area please stop by the pools and a take a swim for me. 

December 21, 2014

Mexico: Queretaro

Queretaro, don't even ask me how to say it but my advise would be to say it as fast as possible with a Spanish accent. I decided to visit this place I can't say (which, by the way, makes it really hard to buy a bus ticket if you don't know how to pronounce the town you are trying to buy a bus ticket for) because two people in the last week recommended it, calling it a smaller San Miguel de Allende. I looked it up and found that buses from Mexico City leave every thirty minutes to Queretaro, making my Mexico City layover short. 

{ Blue Bicycle House }
I took ADO from Oaxaca, which to my surprise was over an hour late getting into Mexico City (I've found ADO to generally be a reliable bus company). I was a little bit stressed on the seven hour bus ride up to Mexico City because the hostel I was staying at in Queretaro, Blue Bicycle House, charges a $70 peso fee if you check in after 22:00. At this point, I thought 22:00 was 8pm. I am usually great at converting military time to normal time but for some reason in these 24 hours prior to arriving at Blue Bicycle House I really dropped the conversion ball. I arrived to Mexico City at 5pm and was on the 5:30pm ETN bus to Queretaro, another three hours north. As a side note ETN is a rather plush bus company. They only have three seats across because the seats are so large. I was in lazy boy heaven for those three hours. If the ETN bus arrived to Queretaro on time I was going to miss the no fee before 8pm check in time. I had come to the realization that I was just going to have to pay up, I was most definetly not happy about this realization. Then about an hour before arriving to Queretaro a light bulb went off (FINALLY!) and I realized 22:00 was 10pm. You have no idea how relieved I was. I sat for the last hour with a huge smile on my face; I didn't even care that I was getting into an unknown city after dark. I arrived at Blue Bicycle House at 9pm, 21:00. 

The historical center of Queretaro has quiet streets, colorful houses and beautiful churches. I only spent the morning there but I would recommend adding this small town to your Mexico itinerary. At least for a night between Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende.  

December 19, 2014

Mexico: Oaxaca, Part III

{ I love this color }

Besides all the day activities that are available in Oaxaca I loved walking around exploring the small streets, artisan markets and food markets. The food market was the perfect place for dinner and I ended up going to the same food stall all three nights. The waitress was friendly and the chorizo tacos were tasty so I found no reason to mix it up. 

The main road in Oaxaca is pedestrian only which I absolutely loved and there were cathedrals on every block, or at least that's how it felt. 

After my cooking class I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art where I had a thirty minute conversation in Spanish. It was a simple conversation and I did more listening than talking but I still had a conversation in Spanish none-the-less. The museum was impressive along with the views of the pedestrian street. There was a parade that evening, along with every other day I was in Oaxaca, so there was band music playing in the background as I explored the many rooms at the museum.