Monthly Archives: March 2008

Las Mañanitas Restaurant – Cuernavaca

Beautifully secluded restaurant and bar area. Relaxing escape in the middle of one of Mexico’s largest cities.

Albino peacock roaming the grounds. There are over a dozen “free-ranging” peacocks. They are beautiful but beware when they fly into the tree above your table or try to nibble off your snacks in the bar area.

Our night in Cuernavaca we decided to have a splurge for dinner and went to the world-famous Las Mañanitas restaurant (it is a hotel also – over $250 a night). If you ever go to Cuernavaca we would all highly recommend it and they have delicious pastas starting at about $14 US so it doesn´t have to be a big splurge. Even though it is on a busy street, once you walk through the entrance you feel like you are miles away from the city and can hear absolutely no noise but peacocks calling.

Luckily, we got there before it was dark which is a total MUST in order to wander the gardens and see the exotic birds, including toucans, colorful peacocks and even white peacocks. We sat in the bar first and enjoyed drinks while we watched the birds. The waiters (which there must be 2 or 3 for each guest) bring a little snack tray of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), peanuts and chips for you to snack on in the lovely open air patio while sitting on bulky-cushioned lounge chairs. The

Cheese cup salad sounded good, but for the expense I would choose the green salad instead

peacocks walk right up to the table and try to eat your snacks however, which freaked me out a little. When one flew into the tree directly over our heads I made Maren and Mex move because I did not want to be in his ‘line of fire’.

Ready to enjoy our seafood in the cool night air. Gorgeous outdoor dining.

Sinful seafood dinner for two.

Our menu recommendations are the salad that has goat cheese on it. The one with crab in the parmesan cup sounds good but is nothing special for the price. For dinner, if there are two of you that like seafood, the seafood platter to share is absolutely incredible! The

Shrimp pasta – also swimming in buttery goodness

mussels melted in my mouth, no fishiness or chewyness at all. There are shrimp and a sinful pasta. I can’t imagine how much butter and cheese went in to this dish but it was incredibly tasty. Great atmosphere and fabulous food.  It was dark by the time we ate so all the pictures turned out horribly.

On a side note… This restaurant (and hotel) are on the “1000 places” list. Check!

Las Mañanitas
Linares 107
from US – 1 (888) 413 9199

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Filed under Food, Mexico, Morelos State, Restaurant reviews

A day or so in Cuernavaca

For us, that was enough… Cuernavaca is called the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ and has been the weekend getaway for wealthy Mexico Citians since the time of the Aztecs and Mayans. However, in my mind, 95 degrees is NOT spring weather! It feels like Las Vegas in July but you can´t run into a casino to get the fresh air-conditioned feeling. They say the water has been disappearing from the city and the temperature has been rising but no one really uses the term global warming like in the US.

Jacaranda trees and mountains on road to Cuernavaca

The drive to Cuernavaca was mountainous but luckily we figured out how to take the toll road this time so we avoided the topes (speed bumps) that plagued us on the way through to his town the first time. In many spots the road was lined with trees that were covered in purple flowers, Jacarandas they are called. Beautiful and strange because they have hardly any leaves. We found our bed and breakfast, La Casa Mediterranea,  after not too many wrong turns.

Casa Mediteranea bed and breakfast in Cuernavaca

There is no signage on the outside because, according to the owner, signage = inspectors dropping by and collecting “fees” all of the time. It was on a side street about 3 blocks from a main road higher up the hills in the city so it remained somewhat cool there with a fresh breeze in the morning and evening. Our host, who spoke no English, told Mex it was only a 20 minute walk to the zócalo (downtown plaza) but I had read in my travel book it was at least 3 km (1.5 miles) so after walking a few blocks the three of us decided to hop in a taxi. I don´t know how fast of a walker our host is but the taxi alone took 20 minutes so I cannot believe there is any way to walk it in that time.

Sitting on the top level of the tour bus was a little nerve-wracking at times since you could almost reach up and touch the electrical wires.

We got out at the zócalo in front of the Cortes Castle at about 5 pm and saw some bus tours there so we decided to hop on and sat on top of the double-decker bus in the open air. Unfortunately, the tour guide talked non-stop so it was difficult for Mex to translate for us. It was fine since we had to keep our eyes open for tree branches, traffic lights, and electric wires which would have scraped the heads of people not much taller than us. We got off the bus at a park that had a small canyon in it. There are apparently 50 or so of these canyons all around the city… After interrupting a dozen couples enjoying ‘cuddle time’ our tour group went down about 70 steps to a platform and looked around. Sadly, there was not much water in the canyon and it smelled awful. We took some very, very steep steps back up and returned to the bus to finish the tour which went past the cathedral complex and some huge hacienda where they film a soap opera. I didn´t really pick up much else from the tour and didn´t enjoy it as much as the one in Aguascalientes because we were stuck in traffic most of the time.

Templo de la Asuncion de Maria - Cuernavaca

After that we walked around the zócalo which was crowded with people and actually not that impressive because it doesn’t have a cathedral on it. It is actually the only main plaza in all of Mexico without a cathedral. The three of us walked about 4 blocks to where the main cathedral and a few others are. There are two churches inside a big brick wall and three more nearby. Then we made our way back to the zócalo to have dinner.

On Tuesday (25th) we got up and tried to go to the Feria de la Primavera which is like the Morelos version of the State

Flower display at the Feria

Fair. We arrived at 10:30 only to discover it didn´t open until 12:30. Since it was a 30 minute taxi ride just to get there we decided to walk down the road to the flower show which opened at 11. We were almost the only ones there so it was fun to walk through all the gardens and enjoy the greenery. There are very, very little spots in this entire country that we have found to be green. It was welcoming to see grass and little ponds loaded with the biggest coy fish I’ve ever seen. There were even some bonsai plants and a flower fountain. It was nice and relaxing and not too hot.

Yep... we were the only ones at the Feria. Mexicans are late partiers unlike loyal MN State Fair goes who get there at dawn.

At about 1 we started to walk back over to the Feria, thinking the action had started for sure by now. Oh no… there were maybe 20 people besides us there that weren´t employees. The rides weren´t running and only a handful of the craft booths were even open. After walking around and buying some water and habas (the fried lima beans with chili and lemon that I love) we decided to leave. The security guards tried to convince us to come back after 4 when the palenque (cockfights) and other action starts and it supposedly fills with people but we had enough by then.

Mural depicting events in Mexican history by Diego Rivera - Cortez Castle

Tired and sun beaten, we took another long taxi ride to the zócalo and went into the Cortes castle which is actually small a Mexican history museum. It was difficult because there was very little in English and even though my reading in Spanish is better than my speaking, museums don´t hold my attention for very long. At the end of the museum there was a mural by Diego Rivera which was interesting since Mex just studied his wife, painter Frida Kahlo, this January for school. It was amazing to see the size and detail and story that is wrapped up in one of his murals.

Mmmm.... Elotes! Corn smothered in crema, cheese and chile. The ultimate Mexican street food!

Overall, our impression of Cuernavaca was ´big city.´It is definitely somewhere I am not interested in living or visiting very many times. The plaza seemed crowded, traffic was horrible and it was just too busy. Everything was very expensive by Mexican standards also.

We did go to dinner at Las Mañanitas. See review here.

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Filed under Morelos State

Friend from home

We are a little behind on the blog but hope to get caught up soon. Pictures will take a little longer since we are back to using an internet cafe and I need to copy them to a CD first and then put them on the internet. Luckily for all of you that means I´ll have to be more choosy so you will have less pictures to page through.

Maren's first Mexico pic - one of the hills near Mex's town. My favorite photographer!

Last Sunday (23rd), our friend Maren arrived. We had a small bus crisis getting to the Mexico City airport.  When we took the bus from Jonacatepec to Cuautla to get Maren we got ¨held up¨so to speak. There was a broken down bus and a group of guys just stood in front of our bus on the highway and asked our driver for gas. The driver kept saying no but some other guys ran over to the broken bus and grabbed a huge jug and hose and siphoned off the jug full. It was insane! It sort of freaked us out and made us realize the whole bandit thing could happen because what are you going to do when someone stands right in front of you? You can´t really run them over. Maybe nudge them a little but that would not be a good situation. After two extra bus rides we managed to get there about 5 minutes before she made it through customs. Perfect timing for everyone. Just in case any of you ever come here to visit us I´m going to type myself a reminder that the bus from Cuautla to the Mexico City airport only leaves at 5:30 am, 7:00 am and 2 pm. It goes from the airport to Cuautla at 3 pm or 3:30, 8 pm and I can´t remember what other time. I´m sure that means nothing to you guys but it will be helpful to remember and I keep forgetting to write it down.

Back yard of dad's house

After we met her at about noon we grabbed some slices of pizza (I know, I know…) and got on the bus to Cuernavaca. Then we took a taxi to another bus to Cuautla. Unfortunately, we just missed the direct first class bus (which I will ALWAYS recommend taking, especially in the heat of spring here in Central southern Mexico). We ended up taking the second class bus that was not air-conditioned, quite a bit dirty and anything but direct. The trip that took us 35 minutes on the way there took almost 2 hours back and we crossed dozens of topes (speed bumps) along that route. Maren declared she was tired of them after about 30 minutes and we just laughed. It is one very significant part of rural Mexico and definitely is doing a number on our car and our patience.

The family kitchen in Mexico

After another bus ride from Cuautla to Jonacatepec we finally reached our car and drove the 10 minutes back to Mex´s house in Tetelilla. His family was very welcoming and wonderful (as always) to Maren. Since Maren remembers very little of her years of Spanish classes Mex and, even I, translated for her. I did feel like my Spanish had improved when I was able to pull that off so that was a nice little boost for me to help with the frustration of not understanding everything.

After dinner we walked to his other two sister’s homes and visited for a little while and had tours. The next morning we had breakfast with his sisters and they pulled out all the stops… Sweet rolls, corn on the cob and even fresh grilled fish (the entire thing) to accompany our usual eggs and green beans. As a side note, one thing that I thought was weird when I got here but now really appreciate is the pan tostado. They actually sell bread already toasted since many people don’t have toasters (there is no electric in the kitchen at his family’s house).  It´s actually really good and we eat it all the time.

Neighbor's 4 day old baby burro. So cute!

Neighbor's adobe house. The kitchen at my in-law's house was adobe like this until about 2000.

Maren was taking pictures like crazy of his dad´s house and the kitchen in the morning light and I am going to plagiarise some of her pictures and post them as soon as I can because they really captured some of the charm of the place beautifully.We ran over to the neighbor’s house quick to check out their newly arrived little donkey. The woman tried to grab it and pull it closer to us and it bucked and kicked his little back legs just like a stubborn donkey would! It was funny but also reminded me not to walk too close to an animal’s back side no matter how cute it is. I packed our bags while my husband chatted with his sisters and then we loaded up the car about noon to leave for Cuernavaca which is the capital of his state, Morelos.

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Filed under Morelos State, Tetelilla, Morelos, Travel Tips

Good Friday Procession

Beginning of the Good Friday Procession in Tetelilla. One man walks barefoot carrying a large wooden cross, while a statue of Jesus follows, carefully shaded.

On Good Friday (21st?) we participated in a procession around Tetelilla, Mexico. Mex had only done it once before so it wasn’t really a tradition for him but I wanted to see it. It was very hot so we only lasted for two of the about five hours it takes, from 10 am to about 3 pm. The people from town lined the streets holding lit candles and marching. In the middle of the street walked a guy (“Jesus”) with no shoes and a crown of thorns carrying a cross. In front of him walked five men, three of which held candles on tall gold poles, one held a cross, and one carried a cross with Jesus on it. Then “Jesus” was followed by men carrying a very large statue of Jesus in purple robes kneeling down while carrying the cross. There were other men who carried a tent-like thing to shade the statue. However, the guy carrying the cross had no shade… At the end of the procession were women carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary, shaded, similar to the Jesus statue.

Shaded stations were set up all around town for the cross bearing “Jesus” to rest while everyone sings and prays.

It seemed like almost the whole town was participating. They set up different “stations” around town that were shaded, had red carpet laid down and were decorated with streamers and an altar. The procession went from station to station, putting all the statues under the shade at each one while everyone sang hymns and prayed. They all ended up at the church but Mex and I did not last that long. We stopped because it was incredibly hot and there was no shade at all. I felt so sorry for the guy carrying the 80 pound cross with bare feet but I guess his suffering was the point…

There was also a procession at night during which no one is allowed to talk. We did not go to that one because Mex started to feel sick and we were still quite exhausted from the morning. The heat here is very intense but at least when the sun goes down around 7 every thing does cool off very well. The breeze is fresh and it makes you want to sit outside all evening long. We usually spend about two hours every night sitting in his family’s open air kitchen sipping hot chocolate or tea, having

Leaders of procession and people walking

a snack and getting caught up on 13 years of stories. I stay focused for the first 4o minutes or so but then my brain starts to hurt and I begin to stare  at all the fun pots on the wall. His family is wonderful and I am loving the opportunity to meet them and get to know them. They are all so nice and welcoming. It will be hard to leave but it is reassuring to know that soon we will be able to come back and visit whenever we want too!


Filed under Family, Holidays and Celebrations, Mexican culture, Mexico

Natural water park – Las Estacas

On Thursday (20th?) we went to Las Estacas which is a water park about an hour from Mex’s town.

River swimming area at Las Estacas

The water park was beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It was tropical with 120 foot or higher palms and green grass.

Giant palms at Las Estacas

There weren’t really pools but instead a river with crystal clear spring fed water that was slightly on the cool side but definitely tolerable and refreshing. There were places to dive off, places to swing like Tarzan into the water, a walking area, mini golf, an outdoor pool table… tons of stuff. We got there around noon and swam for a while then went to the head spring. It is really deep and you can dive from this 15 foot high rock. It was incredible. The path was covered in palms and banana trees and I felt like I was walking through a jungle. We floated down the river in parts because there was a very slight current. Similar to a park in Minnesota, it has open spaces for picnicking and grills set up. We brought salads and cecina which is one of my favorite Mexican meats. It’s very thinly sliced, cured beef.

Deysi preparing cecina (thinly cut steak) to grill for lunch

Right as we were leaving they were starting this contest and Mex, his nephews Jaime and Ernesto, his brother-in-law Leonardo and Leonardo’s nephew Candido made a team. They competed against two other teams and had to do a bunch of activities like tying all there legs together and running, diving for rock things in the river, swinging into the river, and finally a jump from the diving rock. They did end up winning the contest even though their average age was about 40 and the other teams were teenagers or early 20’s. They won thanks to Jaime’s backwards somersault dive into the water where he got the most applause from the audience. It was a very fun but exhausting day.

Mex getting his “Tarzan” on

Absolutely beautiful and amazing to know such natural places exist. Even the kiddie pool was fed by natural spring water only. There is a small hotel on the grounds and lots of people camping. We totally recommend going here if you are ever in the Cuernavaca area. It is about $24 US for a day pass so go early and bring enough pesos because they don’t take credit cards! Great fun!

(I did read a blog post from Midwesterner in Mexico who went there and the water was dirty so maybe it depends on the time of year. March was great.)

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Filed under Mexico, Minnesota vs. Mexico, Morelos State, Travel

Feria – fun stuff and purse slashings

Sofia "making a deal" on a stone rolling pin used to smash corn or beans.

On Tuesday we went to Huasulco, a nearby town, for a Feria which is basically a street market. They had all kinds of wonderful things there. Mex bought some things to send home with our friend Maren for his brothers. We bought a mortar and pestal that is shaped like a turtle and some little coffee cups that look like miniature Mexican jars. There was lots of candy and people selling fruit on a stick. I tried sugar cane for the first time. I liked the flavor but I didn’t like the fact that you chew it and then end up spitting most of it out again. It’s very fibrous and tough but Mex’s dad loves it. We tried to go to the Feria early in the day and were there by 10am but by 1pm when we were leaving it was very, very crowded.

"Sweets" for sale - mostly nuts pressed into bars with honey, sugar and other sticky substances. Chocolate is hard to find =(

Sometime in the last hour I ended up getting my purse slashed. I was lucky nothing was stolen. Mexico is infamous for purse slashings. I should have listened to Mex better and kept my purse in front of me but, when we were leaving, my hands were loaded with stuff and I forgot, letting it fall behind me. I never really took the threat seriously in a small town like we were in, probably less than 2000 people. I thought it was mainly a concern in bigger cities but I guess you need to watch out all over. So far that’s been the only bad thing that’s happened to us on the trip (stomach bugs aside). I was very sad since it was a special “travel” purse from the AAA store that was supposed to be more secure but they must use really sharp knives because it went through all five layers. Mex’s sister, Filogonia, had her purse slashed in Mexico City and they actually slashed her hip, too! I guess I’m “fortunate”!

Crafts for sale at the Feria in Huasulco

Purse slashing - all 5 layers of my expensive "tough" travel purse from the AAA store

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Filed under Holidays and Celebrations, Mexican culture, Mexico, Morelos State

Tlaxcala is cool… literally

Last Monday (17th) we took a side trip to a small town called Ayometla in Tlaxcala state where Mex’s brother-in-law is from (Sofia’s husband). We drove thru Puebla city and had some great views of the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, Mexico’s 2nd and 3rd highest peaks. The drive was only a little over an hour on the toll road and the city of Puebla seems like the nicest large city we’ve been in. All the roads were well-marked and the areas we saw on the south side were very clean. There are lots of modern malls there. We did not have time to go downtown and see the plaza (zócalo as they call any city’s central plaza.

We had lunch with his brother-in-law Jose’s family and it was tasty; these gordita looking things that had a very hard name I can never remember, bean tamales and wonderful green salsa. They

Parroquia de San Jose - Tlaxcala

had this sauna-type structure that looked like a cement igloo. We did not go inside because I can’t imagine the need to add extra heat to yourself here. It was also in the pig pen so I was unsure exactly what would be inside. Tlaxcala state is higher in the mountains than Mex’s town and it was probably at least 10 degrees cooler there. A very welcome relief since Saturday and Sunday (15th & 16th) were at least 95 degrees with little shade and no AC.

Palacio del Gobierno on Plaza de la Constitution - Tlaxcala

After lunch we drove about 45 minutes north to Tlaxcala City which is fairly small for “big city” standards at around 90,000 people. Most of the city is in a valley and very near the volcano La Malinche. Just to the northwest side of the zócalo, called Plaza de la Constitución, is the pinkish orange stucco and brick  Parroquia de San José with many fountains in front.  The zócalo, is surrounded by 16th-century buildings with very European architecture. These include the Palacio Minicipal and Palacio de Gobierno on the north side, and the Palacio de Justicia on the north-west side. If you look around the doorway you can see a two-headed eagle, the seal of the Hapsburg monarchs who ruled Spain while these buildings were being built.

Pottery and Crafts for sale in Tlaxcala

Capilla Abierta - Tlaxcala

We were there with our nephew Ernesto, Mex’s sister Sofia and her sister-in-law, Carmella. We took a short walk around the Plaza Xicohtencatl, which adjoins the zócalo, looking at the talvera pottery, hand-woven rugs, and other items in the perpetual craft market. We walked past a chapel (Capilla Abierta) with three Moorish style arches and a 19th-century bull ring. We walked past a former monastery called the Ex-Convento Franciscano de la Asunción, and the Museo Regional de Tlaxcala, both of which I would have loved to enter, but Mex’s family is not in to “tourist” spots. Then we wound through the streets pausing for Sofia to look in furniture shops

Old Plaza de Toros next to Capilla Abierta

finally, climbing the 300 stairs back up to the car. There are fountains all the way down the center of the stair case but unfortunately they were turned off for cleaning.

One thing Tlaxcala city has a lot of... stairs!

After a quick stop at a market we made our way back to Ayometla where they generously fed us another meal before our trip home. Unfortunately we got a little lost going through Puebla city but we ended up getting out of the city limits before dark. We had to drive the hour back to his town in the dark but we made it all right.

I would definitely recommend Tlaxcala City as worth a trip from either Puebla or Mexico City. It has a “small town” feel compared to either of those two and lots of interesting architecture.

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Filed under Holidays and Celebrations, Mexican culture, Mexico, Tlaxcala State