Tag Archives: travel Mexico

Life’s Unexpected Treasures

15 Oct

I wish I could say that arriving in the colonial city of Puebla was dejavú, but the truth is, nothing looked familiar. I first visited Puebla in 1973, staying in a boarding house for the first month of studies at the University of the Americas in nearby Cholula. In August 2017, it is a bustling modern city that’s kept much of its old-world beauty and charm. We were pleasantly surprised.

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The convent of San Francisco one of the oldest churches in Puebla circa 1535

I had reserved an Airbnb in the historic district and spent a bit more money than usual. We were not disappointed. In Mexico it is common to walk an unremarkable street of high privacy walls and intriguing doorways. We stepped through one of those doors to inner city paradise.

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During our stay, our hosts directed us to the best mole (MÓ lay); is there any OTHER reason to go to Puebla? We wandered exquisite old churches, artist markets, homes converted into museums, and even a free concert. I did not expect to fall in love with Puebla. This city is definitely a contender for retirement locations.

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Tres moles – poblano, rojo and my new favorite pipian (pumpkinseed)

No trip to Puebla would be complete without a visit to La Estrella de Puebla, the Star of Puebla, a very large ferris wheel. After some deep breathing I joined Lisa the adventurer and I’m so glad I did. No fear!

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The weather made this adventure challenging, but we did not give up.

Puebla was so much fun and worth the time. Our AirBnB hosts certainly added to the experience.

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Luis and Malu (who fed us many local delights).

The world is filled with many delightful people and places. Puebla unexpectedly is near the top of our list.

DOS TORTAS 

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The Crying Tree

10 Sep

Just to be clear, the tree wasn’t crying, I was. Day one of our visit to Oaxaca in Central Mexico, about five hours south of Mexico City, we joined a tour with a bi-lingual guide to visit the archeological site of Mitla, a place I had visited over forty years ago.

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The step-fret designs are individually cut stones. No mortar is involved.

We took a couple of tours while in Oaxaca. They were cheap, $20 each for the entire day, cold water provided. The guides were very knowledgeable. We stopped for lunch at great local restaurants and the groups were small, maybe eight people. It helps that we were visiting during the slow season.  It rained most days, but it never slowed us down.

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I kept forgetting to bring my “before” pictures with me.

When I visited Mitla in 1975, it was located off a dirt road in the high dessert. I was in awe as I walked the archeological site. The site hasn’t changed much but boy have the surroundings. It is now situated in the middle of a large community that services the many bus loads of tourists arriving daily. I can’t even imagine it during high season.

On the way to Mitla we stopped at the Tule Tree. I had never heard of it. It is the tree with the largest circumference in the world, 137 feet around!

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Located in the Zapotecan village of Santa Maria del Tule, Oax.

For some reason I was overcome with grief looking at this beautiful 2,000 year old tree. She knew the ancients, saw the slaughter of the indigenous people, lived through revolution after revolution, and now stands witness to the insanity of our times. Maybe it was me, but I sensed sadness and wept. I wonder if she knew an earthquake was coming to her land two weeks later that would kill many people?

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Feeling emotional.

One more stop to see a petrified waterfall. We didn’t quite beat the rain, but it was worth the  trek.

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Sulphuric spring pools to the left.

We had a full day with eight more to go. There was so much more to see and do. Stay tuned. DOS TORTAS

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The Long Trip Home

30 Apr

After a twenty hour return trip from our vacation to Austin Texas, the Tortas are very glad to be home. No, it doesn’t normally take that long, but we had a five-hour layover in Dallas. It’s a long story.

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A great find tucked away at the end of a hallway in the Dallas airport allowed us to work out the kinks. Every airport needs a yoga studio.

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Lisa is a veteran so we checked out the USO.

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What a welcoming spirit and comfy chairs to pass the time!

A shout out goes to our house sitters Paul and Natasha. We returned to healthy, happy dogs and a home much as we left it.

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Puppy kisses from Luna who was very happy to see us.

After sailing through customs, we met up with Lisa’s mom in Cancun. She was arriving from California. Our travel was not particularly stressful, just long.  It is great to be home.

DOS TORTAS

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Mexican Expat Life

18 Dec

Sometimes adventure is not WHAT you visit, pyramids, churches, mercados, etc. but WHO you meet along the way. Join the TORTAS as we venture out from our home in Bacalar along the Costa Maya to explore parts unknown (at least to us).

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To celebrate a Torta birthday this week, we visited the pueblo of Puerto Morelos nestled between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Little did we know that this cozy fishing village is an exploding tourist town and expatriate destination.

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Guatemalan boys walking the beach looking for tourist pesos.

Something lacking in the far reaches of southern Mexico that we call home, is an English language bookstore. What a surprise to find Alma Libre Bookstore. 

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Rob and Joanne Birce

Not only are Rob and Joanne long time residents of this sleepy little town, Rob went to school with our friend and fellow Bacalar resident, Mitch! We were immediately family and Joanne told us all the best places to eat in Puerto Morelos.

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Visit their website for all things Puerto Morelos.

At Joanne’s recommendation we dined at La Sirena and met the owner Anthony Chalas from my home state of New Jersey. Greek food in Mexico, yum!

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Great artwork for a photo op.

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Caribbean sea turtle mural.

On our two day tour of Puerto Morelos, we got to visit the local mercado and meet Ann Trépanier, French Canadian and artist extraordinaire.

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Making art from recycled plastic. My kinda gal!

Ann makes “fabric” from heating together layered plastic bags. She is passionate about the environment and the changes she sees in her precious little town due to unregulated tourism.

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I wish I’d bought all her bags. Contact her at welovepuertomorelos@yahoo.com

There was one more astonishing encounter with a restaurant manager, but that is a story for another day. Travel in Mexico is full of opportunities. Do venture out of the all-inclusive hotel compounds. Not only will you meet lovely Mexican people and fellow fearless travelers but expats from around the world who live, love and fight to protect Mexico’s resources. Do tell them “hello” from

DOS TORTAS

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A Day In The Life

24 Jul

Living on Laguna Bacalar, three kilometers (2 miles) from the pueblo of Bacalar makes for a vida muy tranquilo

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We didn’t know about the magnificent sunrises when we moved here.

Up with the sun about six thirty. Lisa starts the day making coffee while Luna and I walk down to the dock to photograph the sunrise. It’s been our ritual since she was a puppy. She waits at the back door impatiently every morning.

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We watch the fish, listen to the birds and watch the day come alive.

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Our rickety dock.

Meditation and exercise play a daily part of the routine. On this day it was an exercise video with Alice, Lisa’s mother. Luna likes to join in.

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On alternative days we’re off to the gym. This week we had a visit with blog follower Heather and son Jonathan. What a treat when people travel to Bacalar after reading the blog.

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A trip to the pirate fort and picture in front of the mural is a must when visiting Bacalar.

We visited shops featuring local art and sampled snow cones shaved from a block of ice right before our eyes. We had our choice of homemade tropical fruit toppings, pineapple, lime, tamarind, nance and more.

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Light and refreshing, not like the syrupy sweet snow cones we’re used to.

What day would be complete without a parade!

I’m not sure what the parade was for, but we never need a special reason to celebrate life in Bacalar. DOS TORTAS

Be sure to follow us on Pinterest and Instagram at dos_tortas.

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Mother-in-Law Adventure

29 May

I’ve been wanting to take my MIL to Mahahual since she arrived to live with us in December. It’s an hour and half drive to the Caribbean coast, around the top of Laguna Bacalar, here in the southern-most part of Mexico.

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From Bacalar we traveled around the Laguna to the yellow square that is Mahahual.

A friend gifted us a night in a hotel which was the perfect opportunity to pack an overnight bag and catch a one pm. shuttle from Bacalar.

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Porto Coral on the beach.

Mahahual used to be a sleepy little village. The addition of a huge pier to accommodate cruise ships changed everything.

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We cruised the malecon, pedestrian walkway, lined with restaurants, vendors and shops. Alice, who lives to shop was in heaven.

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A creative way to display glass hearts for sale.

We found Restaurante Las Chiquitas on Trip Advisor and had a lovely dinner.

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And then there was breakfast on the beach the following morning.

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The town is pretty deserted when the cruise ships are not in port.

It was just the right amount of time for people-watching, swimming, eating and shopping. A perfect bonding trip for Alice and me. Catching the combi (shuttle) was easy. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day we find a note on Alice’s door that says “gone to Mahahual, back whenever”. DOS TORTAS

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Aqua-Terra Firma-Cuisine

20 Mar

Visitors think that three to five days is about right for a trip to Laguna Bacalar Mexico. Of course USers never have adequate vacation, so they exhaust themselves trying to relax and do it all. There is a British couple and their three children renting next door for two months. Now that’s a vacation!

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AQUA
Topping a to-do list is all things water. Swimming is obvious, but kayaking, boating (motor and sail), stand-up paddle and wind surfing are readily available. There is also a must visit to Cenote Azul, a unique swimming experience.

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Cenote Azul also provides a cuisine destination.

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Sunrise Kayaking

TERRA FIRMA

If water sports are not your favorite, maybe land activities such as climbing pyramids (with monkey viewing) bird watching, visiting a museum in a genuine pirate fort or a walking tour of small town Mexico will interest you.

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Howler monkeys rocked the jungle when we visited Dzibanche

CUISINE

Let us not forget activities of the culinary sort.

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Chema, owner extraordinaire of La Playita, eat-drink-swim, best of Bacalar

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Eating at Hotel Laguna, best view in town.

The most important activity by far is not an activity at all, it’s spending serious time DOING NOTHING. Whether it’s kicking back on our roof, sunning on the dock or taking a nap in the hammock, a trip to Bacalar must include time to listen to the quiet and enjoy the breeze.

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Luna knows the fine art of siesta

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Up on the roof

So you see, a visit to Bacalar can not possibly fit into 3-5 days. And this isn’t ALL of it. Please share the blog with friends on Facebook and as always, your comments are appreciated. DOS TORTAS

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Ciudad de México – Part Dos

19 Jul

In preparing for my layover in Mexico City, I searched Air B&B for someplace simple and near the airport. I found a small hostel and booked a room for the night. We have had a few experiences with hostels. In Turkey we met travelers from all over the world, a range of ages and in various states of jet lag. A hostel usually has kitchen privileges and breakfast provided. Rooms can be shared in bunk bed fashion with bathroom down the hall. I read the reviews, booked a private room for a few more pesos and was glad to have a reservation. I got a taxi at the airport when I landed and was off.

Aguascalientes #33

Aguascalientes #33

I arrived at an attractive entrance and offloaded my bags.

Stairs to upper rooms.

Stairs to upper rooms. Hostels are always funky yet interesting.

Everything appeared clean and bright. I was offered my choice of two rooms and selected the lower level to avoid climbing stairs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. At that point things began to go downhill for me. The owner smoked in the common area. Not great, but not a deal breaker. I then noticed the strong smell of cleaning chemicals in my room. My asthmatic lungs began to resist. Not sure what to do, I left the room open to air out and headed to the Frieda Kalo Museum.

Brushes hung from the easel.

Brushes hung from the easel.

Inspiration for the studio we are building.

Inspiration for the studio we are building.

The entire visit to the museum is chronicled In Mexico City – Frieda Kalo Museum. The rain became heavy as I left the museum but I knew I wasn’t ready to return to the hostel. The taxi driver had told me that the surrounding neighborhood of Coyoacán had restaurants and arts and crafts vendors. That was all he needed to say for me to brave the elements and throw my jacket over my head.

Typical baskets of Central Mexico.

Typical baskets of Central Mexico.

I LOVE the surprises of turning down an alley and finding a huge colorful mercado full of people searching for dinner, shopping or getting out of the rain. The colors and fragrances from the many stalls made me a happy Torta.

Wouldn't you love to have this in your neighborhood?

Wouldn’t you love to have this in your neighborhood?

I wandered up and down the aisles, poking my head in the shops to ooo and ahhh.

Some stalls had organic produce.

Some stalls had organic produce.

I wish I had taken more pictures, but sometimes it is necessary to breathe in an experience without recording it. I found a food stall for dinner and reluctantly returned to the hostel as I was getting tired and still had a trip to California waiting the next day. The room was ok. I managed to sleep and make my early flight. I have made reservations for my return at another location. On Tuesday I return to Mexico. It’s been wonderful to visit my daughter and her family. It’s time to finish our house so that we can be here in the fall for the birth of our grandson. Besides, I miss my sweetheart Lisa.

Healdsburg, CA

Healdsburg, CA

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Show And Tell – Art Purchases

14 Jun

Life rarely turns out the way we plan. Sometimes it is way cooler. Our three-week road trip to explore the Yucatan was originally conceived to search for repurposed doors, windows, and hardware for the home we are building along the Laguna of Seven Colors in Bacalar, Mexico. The design for the house is Pueblo or village style. It has stucco walls with arched wooden doors and lots of rounded corners. There are palapa overhangs for shade and a large screened porch. We like the look of concrete floors and persianas, (louvered windows) and open indoor/outdoor living. It is small compared to the mansions being built along the laguna, less than a thousand square feet. Perfect for Dos Tortas.

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We managed to find old wood doors, but unfortunately they were made of soft wood and not the hard woods needed for building in the jungle. The purchases we did make were local art for decorating our home. So much fun!

In Valladolid we found a “bazaar” which means – used items. We spotted this wooden panel deep in the back of a room. She spoke to us and was the most significant purchase we made. I have a collection of Guadalupe’s. She will get her own wall in our home.

This piece is made of wood by a local artist.

The panel is made of wood by an artist from Tizimin.

A mestizo mother and baby will be a garden piece, when we have gardens someday LOL.

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An iron sun will be incorporated into a roof railing to welcome the daily sunrise.

Here comes the sun.

Here comes the sun.

Next were hemp baskets. Before synthetics, hemp was a major industry in the Yucatan. I bought a colorful tortilla basket in the convent store in the magical city of Izamal. Perfect for keeping the tortillas warm on the kitchen table.

Basket of many colors.

Basket of many colors.

I broke my own rule and purchased this basket in a tourist shop. The price was right and I hadn’t seen another like it.

I paid less than $20 for this 9" tall basket.

I paid less than $20 for this 9″ tall basket.

No one traveling to the Yucatan can resist the beautiful pottery. I know we will return to Ticul after the house is complete. At the moment, we have nowhere to store the really big pots that I adore.

Mayan Goddess

Mayan Goddess

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I was told that this small replication was a bruja or witch. Usually women who were known as witches were midwives or healers. Needless to say, she had to come home with us.

Bruja.

Bruja.

The last small pot was made by ceramics artist Roger Juarez. Visiting his Mayan studio was a highlight of the trip. By this time the truck was quite full. Only promises to return kept me from blowing the budget.

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We were happy to get home to Bacalar. House construction is now in full swing. It is hard to be patient at this point, but knowing I have such lovely pieces to decorate the house…will be worth the wait. DOS TORTAS

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Flamingos Flamingos Flamingos

17 May

Our guide book is either really outdated (2010) or Celestún has seriously gone downhill. I believe it’s the latter. The “quaint” little hotels described were even below our standards which are pretty basic. However we did find what we came for – flamingos!

An evening walk on the beach to find the palapa, a palm frond covered hut where tours are scheduled, found a family from Mexico City negotiating for a morning boat ride. The captain told us their’s was a private tour when I inquired as to the possibility of joining them. One thing Mexico teaches is patience. After a bit of friendly conversation and some whispering between them, we were invited to join their group. Who can resist the Torta charm?!

Visiting Celestun from Mexico City.

Visiting Celestun from Mexico City.

Off we went the following morning to the Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Celestún.

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Seeing these majestic birds is truly breathtaking. The majority were pale pink indicating young birds. Celestun and Rio Lagartos are breeding and nesting grounds and one of the few places flamingos can be seen in the wild.

Next we were off to the mangroves.

A ride through the mangrove tunnel.

A ride through the mangrove tunnel.

We stopped to visit a fresh water spring.

Clear reflection.

Clear reflection.

You can see the water bubbling up in the middle of the photo.

Natural fresh water spring.

Natural fresh water spring.

For those of you who know the avid swimmer I am, it didn’t take long to climb into the pool.

One way of swimming my way around the world.

One way of swimming my way around the world.

The family from Mexico City, who didn’t appear to be the adventurous type, stood by in amazement as this gray-haired grandma reveled and played in the stunning water. They inquired politely about the presence of cocodrilos, crocodiles, and after some not too gentle intimidation from me, all got in the water. I’m quite certain if we hadn’t been there, they’d have returned home with a far less interesting story to tell. Haha.

Of course you can't pass up the lovely sunset photo.

Of course you can’t pass up the lovely sunset photo.

After an evening walk collecting shells, we packed our bags for an early retreat. It was sad in a way to find this dingy little town surrounded by so much natural beauty. Such is the enigma of Mexico. We were certainly glad to have stopped and if the opportunity arises to return, we will be better prepared and more wary of the expectations created by guide books.
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