The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Change of Plan

Funny story kids... Instead of parting ways in just over a week, Greg and I will now be parting ways TOMORROW. Scary stuff.

Basically, it turns out that getting from San Cristobal to Cancún takes a really long time, so for the sake of not wasting too many days, Greg has decided to head back to Mexico City to fly to Cancún from there, whilst I'll head on to stay with my friend in Chiapas. It freaked me out a tiiiiiiny bit, just because I hadn't quite mentally prepared myself for being alone in Mexico yet (by alone I mean without anyone from the UK) and I'm a bit nervous about having to start using Spanish full time. Plus saying goodbyes are always rubbish.

However, we're hoping to end our trip in the right way tonight with some Mezcal and drinking games, in the usual travellers fashion. And for our last day trip? Some frozen waterfalls in a village a couple hours away from here. Not too shabby eh?

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Mole and Mezcal


Yesterday, we arrived in our third to last destination of the trip, Oaxaca (pronounced Wahaca, like that yummy Mexican restaurant in London). It's an incredibly beautiful city, which is clearly popular with tourists from all over the place, as there is a hostel or hotel on just about every street corner. It's another colonial looking city, this time with all the buildings painted funky bold colours, and in true Mexican style, there are plenty of quaint yet rather impressive looking churches dotted around. Even the somewhat dilapidated ones manage to boast their own unique sort of beauty.

As always on our first day in a new city, we just set off exploring, the map under our noses and cameras in hand. It's not a particularly big place, so it didn't take us too long to get around and we had plenty of time to explore the markets. We ate an amazing lunch of chicken enchiladas and mole; mole being the famous sauce from this region. I don't exactly know what it's made out of - just spices and things I assume - but I had the red one today and it was GORGEOUS. There are seven different types so I'm on a mission to try as many as possible before we leave.

We also decided to try out some of the local liquors, the most famous being mezcal. I confess I'm yet to give it a go as its quite a strong one (from the smell it seems a bit like tequila or ouzo) but Greg seemed to enjoy it so much that he bought a bottle to take home, whilst I treated myself to a bottle of chocolate-mint creme liquor for just £1! It was super yummy too.

Later in the evening we headed out to a restaurant on the Zocalo (the main square) for some food and to watch the Argentine vs Bosnia game. I SO wanted Bosnia to win it too, but at least they put up a good fight! We were also lucky enough to catch a lightning storm from the roof of our hostel, which was pretty damn epic.


We decided to spend today visiting another archeological sight called Monte Albán, just a 20 minute bus journey from the city centre. It is in an absolutely stunning location, high up on a mountain top with incredible 360 degree panoramic views. The site isn't as big as Teotihuacan so doesn't take as long to explore, but in my opinion, is just as much fun to look around. I'd seriously recommend a visit, it is a truly beautiful place.

We compared leg tans whilst taking the rest at the top of some high steps... I think I have a special gift of being the palest person EVER.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Week in Mexico City

The last week in Mexico City has been really mad! Unlike us, my friend Edgar is super organised, so with his help we managed to pack a lot into just a few days.

Chapultepec Castle

The castle is at the top of a big hill in the middle of a forest overlooking the city, which makes for beautiful, if not a little smoggy, views over the greenery and the city. Inside you can see the museum which documents much of modern Mexican history and also contains preserved rooms of how the castle would have looked whilst it still served as a home.

The Zoo

Yes we went to another zoo! This time is was FREE and although not as big (or as lax on safety) as Guadalajara, they do have pandas which is awesome. Also quite a lot of the animals weren't actually there, a little odd perhaps but we figured maybe they'd just gone on their summer jollies.

Street Performers

I'm not sure how well you can make it out in this picture but in short, these guys are mental. They climb a 30ft (ish) pole with no harnesses or anything, tie themselves to it the swing around it in circles until they reach the bottom, WHILST playing music... It was both a bizarre and terrifying experience. 

The Anthropology Museum

If I'm honest, when Edgar told us that the anthropology museum was a must I was a little skeptical about what could be so great about it. However it turns out that it's actually pretty impressive, with all sorts of Mayan and Aztec etc artifects and a really detailed description of those periods in Mexican history, which for me as a history geek is super cool.

The Angel of Independence

This monument is literally right in the middle of a roundabout with no crossings and about six lanes, so you have to either get a taxi or run for your life to get there. Oh and also, Mexican roundabouts don't just go one way... Safe to say we decided to just appreciate it from afar.


On Wednesday we decided to be really touristy and headed to the ruins at Teotihuacan. It really is an incredible sight, with pyramids which are so old that nobody actually knows who originally built them or settled there. It's pretty hard to climb too, especially as we're a clumsy asthmatic and a cripple with vertigo. We survived though!

Frida Kahlo Museum

On thursday, we spent the day exploring Coyacan. We started out by visiting the Frida Kahlo museum, which despite my lack of knowledge about her, turned out to be really interesting. The entrance fee for students was just $40 (£2) and the museum is actually situated inside her house, in which she was born, lived and died. Part of the exhibit is home to some of her works of art, another part her house left as it was, so you could really get a sense of how she and Diego Rivera lived.

Hanging Out

That afternoon we met up with some of Edgar's friends for some tacos, beer and football, because (as you're probably aware) it was the first World Cup match between Brazil and Croatia. We watched the game at his friend Frank's house, then headed off to our friend Sofia's sister's place to chill on the roof, before heading out to her brother's pox bar (pox is a special type of spirit from the Chiapas region).

Being Ill and Eating Crickets

So yesterday was supposed to be the day we left Mexico City for Oaxaca, just six hours south of here. However, after a standard burrito lunch and a few days of not feeling so great, sickness finally hit me and we decided not to risk the venture until (hopefully!) today. In the evening some of Edgar's friends came round, so I forced myself downstairs to be social. They told me that locally they call my illness 'Moctezuma's Revenge', Moctezuma being the last Aztec ruler before the conquistadors came and took over, as it only really affects tourists, especially white Europeans. 

Despite my delicate state it turned out to be quite a fun evening, and I think I'm beginning to understand Mexican Spanish better... I also, after much faffing, managed to stomach one of the table snacks which was a bowl full of crickets. I feel like I should try everything once, and to be honest they didn't taste all that bad, but I don't think I'll be doing it again anytime soon!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

My New Home

You'll be happy (and some of you somewhat relieved) to know that I LOVE Mexico City. I won't lie, I'm not a huge fan of the north of Mexico, solely for the heat factor mind you, and I was starting to doubt whether I'd be able to manage living in this country for 8+ months. It turns out however, that Mexico City is much cooler, due to its high altitude and *insert other clever geographical sounding terms here*. Funnily enough, after my minor struggles in Peru and Bolivia with altitude sickness, I hardly even noticed it this time round, despite being over 2,000 metres up (good ol' Wikipedia).

We're currently staying with my friend Edgar, who is one of four Mexican friends I made in my first term at university as they were on exchange to King's. It's so cool to be able to see him again and catch up!! Especially now the tables have turned and I'm visiting his home country. He lives in an area called Xochillico, which is about an hour metro ride from the city centre and like the total babe he is, has offered to let me stay here until I find my own place to live.

In true travelling fashion, we spent our first day wandering around the city centre, visiting all the big land marks and tourist sights. One thing I wasn't prepared for is the sheer size of the city; it's SO BIG. Unlike London, there is breathing room in between buildings, as well as huge empty plazas and spacious parks to walk through. It is also clear that Mexicans are very proud of being Mexican, because almost every monument, official building and pub is adorned with one or more national flag (this could arguably be a world cup thing, but I do get the sense that this national pride goes beyond football). Unfortunately my camera decided to take the day off so the pictures aren't the best.

Close up of the front of the Cathedral.

Rather sinister-looking shot of the whole thing. I think you can still make out the grandeur though.

Palacio de Bellas Artes, super posh inside. According to Greg it's 1940's style Art Deco.

All the Mexican pride!

We also stumbled upon a tequila museum, which we decided not to venture into - how fun can a tequila museum be without tasters? However the gift shop was cool, with literally 100s of types of tequila covering the walls, which made me feel a little like a bull in a china shop. Luckily my clumsy nature took a back seat for the afternoon and disaster was averted.

I've never seen Greg's eyes light up like they did when he was surrounded by tequila.

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring more of the cities monuments, which is much more interesting when you know some of the background stories behind them (thankyouverymuch Edgar!). We also decided to take a trip to the 'Ciudadela', a traditional and rather touristy market to buy souvenirs and presents for people back home.

Rainbow flag crosswalk outside the Museum of Equality :D

Monumento a la Revolución.

I'm annoyed that this is blurry, but you can see some of the funky hand-made pottery.

In the evening we headed back to meet Edgar, who took us to a small town called 'Tlalpan' (I think/hope!) for the evening to grab some food and yummy Mexican beer. The area was really pretty, with a central park and a small bandstand, surrounded by beautiful purplely-blue lighting.

Naturally, we seized the opportunity to take a boyband shot.

Aside from the fact that the waitress didn't understand me when I asked for 'una cerveza', and laughed at me, it was a wonderful day and really exciting to explore my new home. And, I mean, lI have loads of time to get into Spanish before I start uni in a month and a half... Right?!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Breakfast Beers and Gay Giraffes

We spent just three nights in Guadalajara, but could have easily made it a week. For a city that didn't get the highest recommendations or write ups, we really enjoyed our stay there! Perhaps locals don't like to recommend such a touristy city, we're not really sure.

Most of our time was spent exploring the city centre and enjoying the local cuisine i.e. Tacos and Mexican beer.

Breakfast beers!

My first real Mexican tacos, yuuummy.

There's loads of stunning, colonial architecture to see, as well as quirky street art and sculptures. It's quite the city for travellers who don't really want to spend money, as most of the things to see are free and the museums cost mere pennies to get into. 

Giant squids just outside the university.

Loved this piece of street art, I'll upload a better picture when I get my camera photos online.

Mammoth skeleton in the Museo Regional de Guadalajara!!

On our last day we decided to take a trip to the zoo, which was A-MAY-ZING. Health and safety over here really isn't like back home; basically the logic is dont be an idiot and you'll be fine. This means that you can do loads of cool stuff like go into an open monkey enclosure and have them climb all over you, or stroke a giraffe over the fence of its enclosure (which was especially cool for me as they are my favourite!!) I would definitely recommend a visit to the zoo if you are ever in Guadalajara, it's just 7 pesos (35p) on the bus and standard entry is 95 pesos (£5) and it's the biggest in Latin America!

Greg's new monkey friend trying to steal his juice.


On the last night we also stumbled upon a huge celebration in the square on our way home, which turned out to be Guadalajara Pride! We didn't really hang about because we were so exhausted from our day at the zoo, but I was really moved to see such incredible support for the gay community in a country which I was warned may not be so tolerant. It was a really beautiful scene to see all ages, sexualities and gender identities just hanging out together and having fun, without even batting an eyelid. This country grows on me more and more everyday.

We're now in Mexico City (my new home for the year!!) and staying with a friend of mine from my first year at university :D

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Sonora, Sinaloa and Jalisco

Three things I've learned about North Mexico:

1. It's really hot.
2. Mexicans are the craziest drivers maybe ever.
3. It's really really hot.

Exhibit A: Heat makes Emily sad. No I'm not sweating, I ran through a fountain to cool down.

Since my last post we've moved through two more Mexican states, from Sonora, through Sinaloa and now were in Jalisco. Luckily for us it's slowly getting cooler and cooler, because (I promise this is the last time I'll say it) it was SO hot, and Emily doesn't thrive well in 47*C. In fact today it rained and I got so excited I ran out in my shorts and t-shirt to soak it all up.

Compare the unmistakable glee with Exhibit A above to understand the extent of my joy.

Our first destination after Hermosillo was Los Mochis, a place we were warned not to visit a little too late, as we were already en route. Apparently we were heading to the centre of narco country, which basically means drug cartels and very few tourists. This is partially the reason why I haven't blogged for a couple of days, as I didn't want to worry anybody, so decided to only reveal our whereabouts after we'd left, safe and sound. Mum and Josie, please don't kill me :D

We actually found Los Mochis to relatively pleasant; true there wasn't much to do, but our hotel was really nice and cheap, and we just wanted to chill out for a couple of days. If you're ever in the area, check out Hotel Fénix, just $545 per night for a twin double bedroom, en suite, TV and room service. That's only £14 for a cockroach free room, which we were happy to find after our not-so-cockroach-free room in Hermosillo. This also allowed us a night in with our first taste of real life Mexican tequila, which Greg loved perhaps a little toooo much. 

Most people tend to use the city as a stop over for the Copper Canyon railway that runs from there to Chihuahua, but due to time and money constraints we decided to give that a miss. Instead, we did our usual meander around before heading to the botanical gardens. Considering there is nothing listed under Los Mochis at all in the Lonely Planet guide, we were pleasantly surprised by the place. The town was small, mostly just shops and school kids but nice enough, and the gardens were really beautiful. Two nights is probably quite a long time to be there but I don't think it deserves all the bad rep it seems to have accumulated.

Arty pictures in the gardens.

I reeeeeally wanted to climb this but I've become considerably more clumsy in my old age.

The flowers there were really something else.

Self-timer photo of us being big kids on the swings. I have dirty knees and everything.

After a 13 hour bus drive - may I just interrupt that it was actually 13 hours, as in the bus company told the TRUTH, a first for my adventures anywhere in Latin America. I was amazed honestly. Anyway, after 13 hours we arrived in Guadalajara, which funnily enough, is another city we'd been told 'wasn't worth a visit'. However we've ended up here, not because I was just being stubborn and doing the opposite of what I was told, but in fact we didn't really have much choice as it is on our route to Mexico City and we didn't fancy doing the 26 hours all in one go.

Fortunately, we have again been surprised by just how lovely it is here. More so than Los Mochis, as it is Mexico's 'second city' and contains so much history and lovely architecture. Really we are very confused about why people be hating on so much of North Mexico (if this still counts as north? I think it does...)

This evening we're taking it easy with a couple of games of cards after a lots of walking and the bus journey. We'll probably stay here a few days then it's off to Mexico City where I finally get to reunite with my old friend Edgar from my first term of university. I'm so excited I might burst.

Greg doesn't like to lose...

So far it's been a great trip, but not without it's minor hiccups. Unfortunately about two days ago I started to get really down about being away from home; I think it finally dawned on me that I was going to be living in this completely alien country for the best part of the year. Of course I am excited for everything this year is going to bring, but no one said it was going to be easy. What terrifies me the most aside from the fact that I reeeeeally struggle to understand the Mexican accent, is the idea of not seeing anyone I love in physical person for such a long time. I even had to change my phone background from two of my besties because it was making me sad every time I looked at it (I'm a very emotional person, OK?) I've cheered up a lot now and Greg has been super lovely to me about it all, even with the crying in public, bless him. As always, onwards and upwards, I mean this country is stunning, I'm sure my time here will fly by, and before long I'm crying about having to leave.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Day in Sun City

Today was our first full day in Mexico. We arrived at about 6am to the Hermosillo bus station, jumped in a taxi and headed to set up our new camp at Hotel Washington, D.C. Although we had to wait in our groggy state for about two hours for the room to be ready, and despite the slight mix up of them trying to put us in just one bed, we eventually settled into our air-conditioned twin double bedroom for just 160M$ (about £8) for the night. BARGIN.

Apart from the fact that no one understands any of my Spanish - or my speaking in general, earlier on a taxi driver got a man to translate me when I said 'Hotel Washington', which is exactly the same in both languages... - it's been quite a pleasant yet lazy day. This was partially due to the bus-lag (that's a thing now) and partially due to the scorching 44*C heat. I mean just look at the weather forecast for the week, I don't know how anyone lives here full time. I suppose it's not nicknamed Sun City for nothing.

However between the numerous rest stops for drinks and our first proper Mexican meal of quesadillas and tacos and papas (OK chips...) we did manage to see some of the sights.

Loving our Mexican spread.

Hermosillo seems to be quite an authentic Mexican experience from what we've encountered so far. It would appear that we are the only none natives to the area, or at least that we've noticed seeing as hardly anyone speaks English. We are also starting to get used to being stared at, I'm assuming for our ridiculously pale/bright red skin tones (which will become an awesome tan in time, I just KNOW it) We really do stick out like sore thumbs. It's pretty cool though, to be somewhere off the beaten tourist track.

Plaza Zaragoza is the main square with a cathedral surrounded by beautiful orange trees. We had a wander around there with some super tasty fruit slushies, which Greg decided to have covered in chilli. Unfortunately despite the woman's recommendations, he discovered lime and chilli don't really mix to make the best concoction, especially not in refreshing iced-drink form...

Cathedral de la Asunción.

Palacio de Gobierno.

Blue skies and a big hill that we're thinking of climbing tomorrow. (@greghyne)

Now we're just chilling out in the hotel and considering watching a film to wind down for the evening. It's so hot here that I doubt we'll be staying very long, but hopefully we'll make it out to the zoo without melting tomorrow!