Tag Archives: 1000 places to see before you die

Day of the Dead







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

Route 66 to the Rockies

So I did forget one little story about the night we left El Paso. About 20 miles from El Paso we passed through a border control station and they stopped us. Mom rolled down her window and the guy asked us where we were headed to. Then he was looking in the windows and saw Mex and made mom roll down the back window (he was sitting behind her). Next he asked if we were all citizens. Mom said yes right away out of habit and then I said, “actually, he is a permanent resident.” The agent then asked to see his papers. Mex handed him his passport and the agent squinted at his visa for a minute and then let us go… The ink was hardly dry yet and he got to test it out!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Anyway, back to the trip home. We drove on Route 66 through Albuquerque but it didn’t seem to have a lot of historic buildings. Mostly hotels and a few filling stations. Then we headed north and drove through Sante Fe which was a really pretty city. All the buildings were the “adobe” style and very southwestern. We then drove all the way north and ended up in Loveland, Colorado, at about 8pm. My throat is miserably sore but I refused to go to the emergency room and pay another wad of money so I held out until this morning and went to urgent care. They gave me some heavier pain pills and antibiotics (even though they say it’s a virus and they probably won’t help). At least these pain killers dull the pain for 40 to 60 minutes. I feel terrible because we should be so happy (which we still are) but I’m a big wet blanket with my throat. Oh well…. I guess we’ve now got FOREVER to be happy =)

So happy to see snow!

So about 12 we set off for Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park (another “LIST” item). We spent about 3 hours driving around the park which is completely beautiful and we saw lots of snow which Mex and I were thrilled about after our weeks of hot weather. It was cloudy so my pictures didn’t turn out that well. Now we are back in the hotel and are preparing for a long drive home tomorrow. We were maybe going to stop another day but I feel terrible and Mex and I are ready to get home and sleep in our own bed. Yesterday marked the 8th week that we have been gone! Crazy to even imagine that it has been so long because the time really flew by!

Can’t wait to see everyone!

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Filed under Travel outside MN and Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns

Mom and dad a 1/2 mile under ground in Carlsbad Caverns

Well unfortunately I’ve come down with one heck of a sore throat. I can hardly swallow or talk but somehow it doesn’t dampen my happiness one bit.

Cactus by Carlsbad Caverns

Saturday, after a night in Carlsbad, New Mexico, we got up and backtracked about 20 miles to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park (just keep checking things off the “1000 places” list). There we went 750 feet underground to walk around the biggest caves I could ever imagine. They were so amazing and gigantic. Mom and dad wanted to do the tour where you crawl on your stomach through the little openings but I didn’t feel up to it =)

There is a nice paved path through there and it actually wasn’t cold at all. I was sorry I had brought my jacket. Mom and dad were champs

Carlsbad Caverns

and walked almost a whole mile even though they took the “short cut.” Mex and I went the whole way around but actually most of the good stuff was on the shortcut route. In some places the ceiling was 90 feet high and you could see a 1/2 mile of open space. Pretty amazing.

We went back through Carlsbad and my throat was terrible so we ended up going to the hospital emergency room since it was Saturday and no clinics were open. That took a three hour chunk out of the day but they gave me some throat numbing stuff, although it doesn’t seem to be working this morning. We ended up in Albuquerque, NM and are going to take a quick jaunt on Old Route 66 (to check that off the “list” too!) before heading up through Sante Fe and into Colorado.

Sunset near Albuquerque

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Filed under Travel outside MN and Mexico

And down comes the rain

Too bad it wasn´t in Mex’s town since the rain would have been a relief from the intense heat. We are in Zacatecas City and there is a major thunderstorm going on outside. Luckily we´ve gotten to enjoy some of the city already although not the silver mine (which Mex didn´t want to see anyway so he lucked out). At some points in the 18th Century, Zacatecas mined 20% of New Spain’s silver.

Last night we went tried to go to dinner at a place listed in my Lonely Planet guidebook (which I would totally recommend over Fodor´s because I have one of those also and we never, ever use it) but it wasn´t the same place anymore. Our taxi driver had advised us of this place called Dorado de la Villa which is a tiny restaurant where you have to knock on the door to get in. The inside is dimly lit, crowded with tables and an overabundance of decorations on the wall. It had really awesome food. We tried sopes with chicken in red mole and the sauce was fabulous. Neither of us like the chocolatey mole poblano at all so we weren´t expecting to like this but we did. Mex had pozole and I had poblano enchiladas. Both dishes were excellent. We were going to walk around the town but we were so stuffed we went back to the hotel instead since we had been driving all day and were exhausted.

Teleforico

This morning I must say we were very lazy and just dozed on and off until about 9:30ish. Tomorrow we have to get up early to start our 11 hour drive to Chihuahua city and then his interview is so close we won´t really be getting much sleep. It´s like there is a giant clock going ¨tick tock, tick tock¨all around us. Hard to imagine that more than two years of waiting is almost over for us.

Anyway, we did finally get out of the hotel about 11 and went to a cafe by the cathedral for lunch. We couldn´t really go inside the cathedral since there was a service going on but I did peek. It is a beautiful pink cathedral and the inside has enormous pink stone columns. We´re going to try to see more later. After a leisurely lunch we took the cable car to the top of the hill (that’s on “the list”) and enjoyed the view. As we were up there we saw rain clouds start to roll in so we hurried and got in line to go back down. We managed to get into the last car that was going down before the rain, wind, thunder and

roof top view from the teleforico

lightning started. Thank goodness because it´s been over an hour and it´s still raining so I don´t know how those people got down. We were going to try to walk around in the rain and find a cafe but everywhere is closed for the afternoon or for the rain… I don´t know which… so we came back to our hotel to enjoy a nice siesta and some TV in English and watch the lightning.

Zacatecas cathedral

Our hotel has a very nice internet lounge so I was optimistic I could put my pictures online from here but for some reason they have the picasa web album site blocked which stinks. oh well… I did put some of them on a CD so if i find an internet cafe that will let me post them I will… Otherwise you´ll all see them when I get back and have my dumb computer fixed. ugh!

Our free rock-hard chips, pickled veges and salsa

Enchiladas poblanos

NEWLY UPDATED AT 8:30 PM
Once the rain stopped this evening Mex and I hopped back in a taxi to go out to dinner. The place we wanted to go to was closed however, so we went to the same place as last night. We had to huff uphill to get there this time though since we got dropped off at the cathedral to go to the other restaurant. I say huff because at 8200 feet it doesn´t take much for us to huff. It is quite chilly here (although no snow) but we refused to wear jackets and decided to revel in our chance at being chilled since my parents informed me that the temperature in the El Paso area has been in the 90´s.
 A quick sidenote about food… don´t get sucked into ordering chips (totopos) and guacamole as an appetizer here. The chips are NOT the same as the US. They are usually oil soaked, rock hard or even slightly burnt. Sometimes you´ll get them free anyway… more so in the north than in the south in our experience. Also, malteados are NOT malts! They are slightly cool milk (I stress the slightly) with malt powder mixed in. Get corn when you see it (if you like corn that is) on the street and DO get the mayo even though your instincts may say not too (or I prefer crema- which is a thin sour cream- if available). I recommend the not-so-spicy chile or squeeze of lime, however, over the light-your-pants-on-fire chile. 

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Filed under Food, Mexico, Restaurant reviews, Travel Tips, Zacatecas State

San Miguel de Allende

Wow. After this entry we’ll actually be caught up!

Beautiful pink cathedral overlooks the zocalo

Today (Wednesday, although it is almost over) we spent wandering around San Miguel de Allende, one of Mexico’s most famous colonial towns. There are about 150,000 people in town and about 149,000 real estate companies. Well, ok, not that many but, holy smokes, there were at least two on every single block we walked on. I guess it’s easier to be an agent here because there are no real classes to take. I did go into the RE/MAX (in honor of my current place of work) which is right on the plaza but the agent was by herself and with clients (both agent and clients were American). I am curious how mortgages work here because I was under the impression you had to pay at least 50% cash and the house prices are ridiculous here! In US dollars we saw homes from $175K for a 756 sq ft place to $5 million for another place.

Beautiful colored buildings on every street.

This town has a lovely colonial, artsy feel. I am not an artsy person however, so probably don’t appreciate the atmosphere as much as others may. There is a beautiful cathedral – Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel –  on the plaza which has nice shade trees. One thing that is obviously different here is the number of Americans… From what I read, I think there are probably a lot of Canadians here too but it’s hard to tell the difference without hearing the “ay” as they speak =)… Hey, I’ve heard my fair share of Minnesota “OOOOO” jokes so I have to point the accent finger at someone else once-in-a-while. Since the 50’s it’s been the Mexican mecca of artists. We’ve had quite an American day… We had lunch at about 10:30… I had a soy burger with spinach, onion, and blue cheese while Mex had crab cakes with Thai cucumber salsa at El Buen Cafe. Excellent food, small cozy cafe, reasonable to medium high prices. The food is not “traditional” Mexican but, hey, it’s food and it’s in Mexico, right?

Then we walked around the mercado although we didn’t really find any crafts we liked. There are some very beautiful clothes here and lots of stores selling “all the fixin’s” for your colonial palace, from painted tile sinks to iron light fixtures. On our way back to the hotel for an afternoon break we just couldn’t pass up a stop at the Starbucks! mmmm mango tea! I’m sad to report that, yes, Starbucks is just as expensive here as it is in the US. We strolled by dozens of stores catering to Americans such as mail shipping services and phone message services to the US.

After an hour rest and 20 minutes of “skyping” with my mother, we rushed back to the plaza to take the trolley tour of town. Sadly, we were about five minutes late. Instead we wandered down to the Benito Juarez Park and then strolled around the neighborhood looking at houses. We popped into a place for dinner and did have some Mexican food this time (with really good salsa) at Ten

Vendors fill the zocalo all day and evening

Ten Pie. This place was great people watching because the seating is outside on an intersection with lots of pedestrians. Then we walked down the street to Villa Jacaranda where they were playing “Zodiac” in English on a big screen. We got beer and a mini popcorn included in our $7 movie tickets and we were the only ones there. Originally we planned on

One of the many beautiful homes we saw on our walk

stopping off at the town’s Irish pub but decided to come back to the hotel instead. As we walked by the plaza we enjoyed the groups of mariachi’s for a few minutes (but not long enough where we had to tip them) and then came back about 10:30 to find our laundry done and folded on our bed. I’m starting to get used to this life! =)

I think the next two days we are going to take day trips, one to Guanajuato and one to Querétaro which are both supposed to be nice cities. We’ll be taking the bus since we’d prefer to leave our car here in the secure parking than carry all the stuff up into the hotel room. Plus, we still don’t trust the starter completely and don’t want to be stranded in another city. We’ll hopefully be back in the evenings with enough energy to go out and enjoy the live music that is playing all around town and still have time to update all the pictures since I’m very behind and would like to have them finished before I get back to the US and actually have to work again (gasp!)!

Good night everyone and keep hoping and praying for us as the 17th nears!

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Filed under Guanajuato State, Mexico

Acapulco… for real this time

Now that's the way to take ocean pics!

Ok, so we didn’t spend all of Thursday in Acapulco… We did spend the morning relaxing in hammocks, strolling along the beach (making sure not to touch the foamy, brown water), and taking a dip in the pool. Finally, about noon we hopped on a local bus to go to “Old Acapulco” for the afternoon. There is also the Costera area and Acapulco Diamante which are the areas with nice hotels, fancy shopping and night clubs but we only had a limited amount of time so we skipped those “typical” tourist areas.
We walked down by the docks to see some of the yachts and then had lunch along the water. Afterwards we strolled through the zócalo, bought some ice cream and took photos of Mex in front of the cathedral since the patron saint of Acapulco is his birthday saint. It didn’t really seem like a cathedral since the sanctuary part was completely round, white and had a beach-like feel. None of us really felt like buying souvenirs so we decided to try to take a boat ride and see more of the bay.

View of Acapulco Bay from the boat cruise

After some negotiating by Mex we ended up on a somewhat party boat with live music and free drinks that cruised the harbor from 4:30 to 7 pm. We spent a few ear-splitting minutes in front of the live bands speakers before Maren found some seats in the front of the boat where the music was background noise and we could enjoy full views of Acapulco Bay. Mex and I are both total suckers for any kind of boat ride and I think we won Maren over. Especially by the end when we started to enjoy some Victoria beer. Don’t order a Corona or Modelo when you come to Mexico, order a Victoria, a light beer with smooth flavor and no bitterness. Mexicans value it so much, you can’t get it in the States (that’s coming from a girl who doesn’t like beer at all). In fact, Maren went to the boat bar and asked for some and she was given Corona instead. only when Mex went up and ordered Victoria were we finally given the golden goodness.

When we got done with our boat cruise we decided to make our way over to La Quebrada where the world famous Clavadistas (cliff divers) have been jumping off cliffs from 25 – 35 meters high since 1934. They dive at 1 pm, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 pm daily. There is a free viewing area that you must get to very early to get a spot or a place closer to the dives where you need to pay $5 to see (I’m sure the price goes up frequently).

One of many houses built on a cliff. This one was the filming location for one of Mexico's telenovelas (soap operas)

We opted for dinner at La Perla Restaurant which is built on a cliff and has a pre-set price during dive shows of around $35 US for a three-course meal (see review here). Maren and I both took some videos of the Clavadistas diving. I believe you can also just have drinks at the bar.
Since we are a little old and boring (or maybe older and wiser) we opted for taking a taxi back to the hotel instead of spending a night on the town drinking and dancing. One interesting fact about Acapulco is that over 80% of the tourists are actually Mexicans. Probably because there is a nice toll road linking it to Mexico City making it a quick five hour trip for at least ¼ of the countries population. We actually didn’t see very many US spring breakers around town at all. I suppose they would all be lounging around their all-inclusive hotels not strolling in the slightly grungy old downtown area.

The road in between Pie de la Cuesta and Acapulco was littered with garbage. People stood on piles of garbage waiting for the bus to stop and didn’t even seem to notice. I read that the

In downtown "Old" Acapulco

government has spent millions and millions of dollars trying to clean up the bay to keep tourism strong but it seems like there is a long way to go. When we were on our boat ride there was a kid who was holding a Styrofoam plate and he asked his mom if he should put it in the water. Thankfully she said no and he set it on a chair instead. I was honestly surprised she said no because after seeing the trash lined roads I felt like no one in the country must be conscious of the environment. As you go around a curve you look back and see the trash spilling down the cliff into the ocean. It is terrible but just a sign of poverty and lack of education I suppose. People who can’t afford to pay for garbage service either burn their trash or dump it wherever they have a chance. Seeing things like that makes me feel that there is little hope to “save the environment” without education and financial help to poor places. Tsk, tsk…Enough from my political soapbox for now.

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Filed under Food, Guerrero State, Restaurant reviews

Taxco – Mexico’s silver mecca

Cathedral in Taxco

How could I forget to mention Taxco? (Especially when it is on the “list”) I have wanted to go there since I saw a picture of the rose-colored baroque cathedral perched dramatically on a hillside. In person it wasn’t sitting as dramatically as I remember, but it was still beautiful. Taxco was a slight detour from our Cuernavaca to Acapulco route and, unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to enjoy much of the city. Luckily, as we approached the city there was a nice pull off with gorgeous views where we snapped a few pictures. Most of the buildings are white with red tile roofs, a style I once thought of as Mexican but now realize it really a Spanish influence. The cathedral, Templo de Santa Prisca, was completed in 1758. The Churrigueresque facade towers above the stores along Plaza Borda and homes and has elaborate paintings and gold leaf sculptures inside. It is difficult to capture it all without the use of a flash or tripod. Very dramatic and intricate compared to what we have seen so far and very European. Most of the gold leaf has thick layers of dust. They are in the middle of a multi-million dollar restoration process for the entire cathedral but, from my interpretation of the signs, they have run out of money so efforts are currently on hold.

Set on a hillside with white-washed buildings and red tiled roofs, Taxco is beautiful from first glance.

The city is famous for silver production and you can’t walk more than a dozen steps without stumbling upon a silver shop. More accurately, you can’t walk more than a dozen steps without somebody coming up to you and trying to “guide” you into certain shops. I don’t know if it was the combination of two gringas walking around with Mex (whom they assumed spoke some Spanish) that drew the guides to him like bears to honey, but they relentlessly followed us everywhere. We would walk out of one store and they would immediately try to guide us to another. It got to be so oppressive that we started looking out the door first and then darting to the next store when the “guide” wasn’t looking.

Looking out over the rooftops of Taxco

The city seems to be entirely uphill with cobblestone streets that are so narrow in some places I felt like the three of us couldn’t even walk side by side. Somehow, little green and white slug bug taxis relentlessly zip up and down like mice in a maze. However, if you drive, I definitely recommend stopping at the very first parking lot you see and taking a taxi in to town. There are many one way streets and it is a very old city with very old roads and limited parking! If you are in Acapulco, Cuernavaca or Mexico City, you could easily do Taxco as a day trip on the bus. Just make sure to take the air-conditioned first class bus if you’re here during the hot months!

We gave up after about 20 silver shops which either had nothing we liked or what we liked was too out of our price range. At one store there was an intricate silver bracelet with small sapphires and matching earrings. The woman let me put it on and I had Mex talked in to it, assuming the set would be about $200. Nope! $6000! That bracelet flew off my wrist so fast I’m lucky that it didn’t break!

We ascended five flights of stairs to eat on a rooftop café with a view of the cathedral and plaza. Even

Dust-covered inside of the cathedral

though we were walking towards the staircase on our own, a guide still managed to come up to Mex and had us follow him up the stairs to the restaurant. I’m not sure what the point is in all that but I’m guessing there is some kind of commission involved. The stunning view of the cathedral and surrounding hills from the restaurant was almost worth the price for the not-so-tasty food. People had laundry hanging on rooftop clothes lines just like I remember in Jerusalem. I guess when you have no yard and no dryers you find the only space available. On the taxi ride to the car we saw a street a block from the zócalo that had some very nice non-silver crafts. We’ll save those for next time… and maybe some silver, too.

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Filed under Guerrero State, Mexico, Travel, Travel Tips