Mexico Log Day 9

The four of us awoke early so that we could go find the famous waterfalls of Xico. I was dressed first, so I went on a walk around the grounds as Beth, Lalo and Sydney got ready. I ended up walking the outer perimeter of the resort checking out the cows and farmland as I went. I found myself by the barns and stables and in behind where guests are normally allowed to go. Luckily, there was a short gate that was easy to climb over to get myself out from the forbidden area.

Just as I entered the far end of the parking lot, a truck pulled up and dropped some workers off at the main entrance to the resort and continued onto the grounds with several workers to the entrance through the private gate to the house and barn area I had just come from. I was glad to have not been confronted for being in the wrong area – especially since we wouldn’t have been able to communicate.

We then jumped in the car and headed to the town. We found the smaller cascades just outside of town, but were not sure how to locate the larger falls we had seen photos of. After two times of asking the locals for directions, we figured out the way. The road to the parking lot for the falls, travels thru many fields filled with rows and rows of coffee plants growing among huge plantains. We finally were able to really see how the plantain stalks create the flower and then grow the bananas on each plant.

The streets were stone. There seemed to be quite a few men going to work with shovels and machetes. Handsome cowboys on foot, four wheelers, horses and mules. One could swear we were straight out of a National Geographic with the beauty and character of the place. These photos don’t show it, but most all those that we came across were free with their smiles as we would pass by.

We were the only car to park in the lot and we started the descent to the falls. The path down to the falls was well maintained and with a steady descent. The amount of flowers, lush plants and trees everywhere we looked just filled me with the calm and joy that resides in all nature, -but was more plentiful than I had ever experienced.

I could have stayed in the mist of this falls all day.

Back to resort for brunch with entire family.

We stopped back Into Xico so that I could visit the main cathedral on our way out.

We went to the next magic town of Cuatepec. We did some shopping at some artisan shops in town. I finally found a few post cards and a few blank cards as well. The central square was closed off for some work, but we we walked around the block and bought some ice cream for the kids and I got some of the favorite street treats of fresh churros.

Drove back to Veracruz, and finished off our wonderful day with a seafood meal at one of their favorite restaurants and then some time out on the malecon.

Mexico Log Day 8

The days of Magical towns.

The Pueblo Mágico (Magical Town) designation is awarded to those communities that over time have maintained their original architecture, traditions, history and culture. As well as to those that have been of great relevance to the country’s history.

This was the day that we were going with the family to Xico (pronounced Hico). We began our day with a stop at the cafe de la parroquia and had cafe lechero and ordered a bombas and enchilada suizas. I had previously had this dish on Isla Mujeres and it was one of my favorite dishes there. Sadly, these were nothing close to what I had on the island. Still, we had a blast as there was a gal ahead of us in line that we thought might be a model as she was tall, thin, had perfect posture. A young guy met up with her and the two more older gents met up with them at the table next to ours. We made up stories of who and what they were doing. People watching and devising stories of others lives is fun anywhere. This town has some of the largest espresso machines I have ever seen.

We went to the house and Syd and I went up on the roof for the view. We could see the pools in the yards, the park across the street and the skyline with the crazy building that looked like someone had fashioned it after a half played Jenga Game.

The road trip to Xico had us passing through Xalapa and Cuatepec – which is another magic town and deserves some time to see. We decided then that we needed another trip just to spend some time in this part of the state and explore. We did drive down some of the side streets to get a taste of the town, but alas, we had a destiny and needed to motor on. The region is very lush and beautiful.

We made it to Xico and it is the most magical of the towns. We drove through the streets a bit and then headed to the place we were staying at. It is a beautiful resort with farm grounds surrounding the well groomed multi palmed area. This area is abundant with cattle ranches and coffee/plantain plantations. The resort is called Agua Bendita. The plant life there was just amazing. The leaves on many of the plants and trees were larger than I had ever experienced.

We then went into town to have dinner at the Campanario restaurant. I was filled with wonder ever since entering this town. Combine the beauty of the land with the old world cobblestone streets and the historic buildings and streets, and this is a town that feels like it is a treasure from another time. One that the inhabitants know they are blessed to know and live within.

The restaurant had it’s own internal wall of lush plants, historic photos on the walls and as like everywhere in the state of Veracruze, a gal making the fresh home made corn tortillas. Most of our table had some form of steak after the standard appetizers and I had rellenos. We had a dessert tamal that like a sponge cake with light filling in it wrapped in corn husk.

It rained off and on during dinner and was sprinkling when we left. We drove a few streets over and walked up one of the main streets toward one of the churches of the town. We stopped and purchased coffee and mole and Paola bought us each a Chile sec

I went to a honey shop and bought some pollen stuff for Ted

We went into another coffee shop where they were roasting the beans and bought more coffee.

It was getting late and dark and the church at the top of the street was closed, so we made it back down to the cars and made our way back to where we were staying. We joined up with the family in their bungalow – which was really a bit more like small two bedroom house. They had a jacuzzi in their place which they filled for the kids to enjoy as some of us watched Thursday night football of NY Giants and Washington Redskins. Lalo’s father was once a professional soccer player, so sports was always available to watch with Don Lalo.

Enjoying the foliage at night was just another lens to see the beauty.

We then went back to our one bedroom two bed bungalow that the four of us shared like the one big travel family that we are.

Mexico Log – Day 4

Day 4 was a a restful and beautiful river boat ride day.

Lalo had showed us how to use the coffee grinder in the hotel so that if we were the first ones up, we could go ahead and make coffee. This is the hotel that has been in the family for a few generations and they only use the kitchen for family and some staff meals. Lalo actually grew up in this hotel in one of the rooms with his parents. His Aunt and Uncle currently live in a few of the rooms. Rosaura (Chagua) , Lalo’s Tia (aunt) and younger sister of Luzma, was up and made traditional Veracruz style enchiladas with eggs and beans, salsa, and queso. Enchiladas Veracruz style are the ever present home made corn tortillas but instead of being filled and rolled and covered, they just fold them over, the sauce on top, then whatever fillings and cheese are thrown on top or off to the side. It was delicious.

We walked down the beach for a quick morning look and ended up walking all the way down to the breaker where the river meets the ocean. Not thinking that we were going to be out so long, we of coarse forgot to put on sunscreen and since this was not tourist season, there were none of the carts trolling the beach with all kinds of inflatable toys, sand buckets or sunscreen. We walked on beach and out on the first sandbar – there are generally three sandbars along each portion of this beach. We found some shells and three complete sand dollars.

We ended up leaving the sand dollars at the end of the beach for someone else to find. We then walked up the river side of town and saw hurricane destruction that was more prevalent or just hadn’t had the time to be completely repaired or cleaned up. Most buildings are concrete, so it is in the roofs, windows and downed trees that you notice the damage. I can see why some of the poorer sections of town have makeshift roofs and do without windows. It must be hard to try to replace them after every bad storm.

We Walked back thru town, stopping to see a few of Lalo’s friends along the way. Walking through town with Lalo feels like you are walking with the mayor. He stops to shake hands/fist bump or just greet just about everyone. Even when he isn’t stopping on his own, someone will see him and pull over their car to talk, or run out from nowhere and greet him.

Lalo’s cousin had been in town with his girlfriend, so we headed back to spend a bit more time with them before they were to leave that day.

To cool off, we sat with our feet in pool for a bit. I had been watching the kids nanny braiding and caring for Meranda’s hair every day, so I asked if she wouldn’t mind braiding mine for something different and to keep it out of the gulf breeze as we took the river boat ride later. Breeza (sp?) who is just sixteen or so and lives with the family, made quick work with my hair and had it complete in no time. Paola’s husband died a few years back and so live in help became a must so that she could continue to work. Anyone would want Breeza in their home though as she is a lovely hard working young lady who, much like most people I met on this trip, would brighten any room.

After saying goodbye to Lalo’s cousin and his lovely girlfriend, we then walked to the malecon on the river side. This is where we met Lalo’s friend Luis Eduardo (el gordo) and took a boat ride on the river with Ricky (Rickytin). We learned about the three types of mangroves (manglares) – red (roots anchored from top to bottom, closest to the water), white (roots from bottom to top, middle) and black (roots from bottom to top, farthest from water) and the conservation efforts of certain groups in the area. We saw a spotted turtle (tortuga pinta), five crocodiles (cocodrilos), spider crabs, red crabs, black crowned/white crowned/yellow-bellied egrets, vultures, an eagle and a royal duck. We got 32 oz micheladas from the party boat and would troll up to the tourist boats to provide refreshments and treats.

We came back to the hotel and ate pozole and talked with Luis Eduardo. I took a nap while the others talked politics, then came back and we played Unstable Unicorns which is a card style game that is a fun way to end any day.

Mexico Log Day 7

Beth, Syd and I arrose for sunrise on the roof of the hotel. It was a beautiful spot and just seeing the town as it was waking up and the small fisherman boats coming and going was serene and lovely. Very few seemed to be up in the town except for the roosters we could hear in the quiet of the dawn.

We then went on a walk thru town thinking we might find the coffee and bake shops open. Neither were open, but wanting to walk some of the side streets, we traversed down to the river side and back up other streets to the ocean side and back to the hotel. We saw more beautiful flowers, boats parked in and out of the water – and what happens when someone has seen English language use contraction of n’t and didn’t get it right, shouldn’t have tried, and now I don’t know if you actually eat there or it’s not really a restaurant since it is spelled restauran’t.

I missed buying some cinnamon bread from one of the street vendors, so when we saw a dude selling bread, we stopped him to see what he had. He didn’t have my cinnamon bread, but he did have rolls that were like our Hawaiian bread we get. We purchased one of his rolls and walked in the surf back toward the hotel’s street.

As we got back to the hotel, the night shift guy was just receiving a delivery from someone. It turned out that it was zacahuil for us for breakfast. It is like a tamale stew in a banana leaf. It included a bag of the pickled onions, japs and carrots. We had some of that with our Hawaiian roll and coffee.

It was getting hot again, so we then headed with our coffees to the pool to hang out with out feet in the cool water.

I went in search of a post card in the shops in Tecalutla. None were to be found. It would seem that no one sends post cards or letters much in Mexico these days. Not sure if that is due to instant communication through phones or what.

We went into Gutirriez Zamora looking for the cueritos tortas (pig skin sandwich) that Lalo loves and wanted me to try. This is again a city built with hills and countryside to one side and the river to the other. Some hills were so steep that the photos we took make us look gravity defying.

The places he knew that sold the sought after sandwich, were all closed, so we went back home. As we passed through another street in the town, I recognized that it was where the cemetery was, so they stopped so that I could have a visit. I find the history in cemeteries fascinating in any town. We also visited another of the family hotels and some fun spots around the town.

We got home in time for the family big meal. Today it was tortilla soup. Followed by plain and adobo thin pork chops with beans and rice with carrots and potatoes. One of my favorite meals. So good, I forgot to take any photos.

We were heading back to the city of Veracruz for the night and everyone was anxious to get us on the road so the we wouldn’t be driving on the “scary highway” at night. We said goodbye and gave hugs to the Aunties and Willie with promises to return to see them again sometime.

This highway is the one with all the little towns/stands/little farmers markets along the road. This highway also has long stretches of countryside where people speed along as fast as they can. It also has it’s share of potholes and it is a route for seemingly every double tandem tractor trailer rig in the state. So, picture a two lane highway curving up and down the countryside, people going at various speeds along the way and everyone passing even when the views of oncoming traffic cannot be seen. It was a bit like a roller coaster ride that sounds and feels unsafe and you wonder if you should have gotten on that ride. Actually, I always felt safe with Lalo driving. It was seeing the acts of the other drivers that was astounding. I mean. I might have held my breath a few times when we were overtaking a tandom trailered semi that was weaving all over the road ahead of us. It was definitely not the all day site seeing non-hurried drive that characterized our drive to Tecalutla.

It was dark by the time we made it into the city. We checked into our hotel and dropped off our bags and headed over to the family house there.

It was Mexican Independence Day. We watched the speech and toasted with a lovely tequila. I had looked up a bit about their Independence Day and unlike ours, where we celebrate when we signed the documents as a done deal, in Mexico, the day is the beginning of the struggle for independence. It is the day of determination, hope, and togetherness.

Miranda went and put on her Independence Day dress she wore to school that day. So cute.

The Plans for the next day is onto some of the Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Towns)

Mexico Log Day 6

Lalo went out first thing and brought back Atole morado (it was a purple drink) and mixed it with a horchata he also brought -the mixture called campechana. I prefer the straight horchata, but I do always appreciate his desire to show and share the tastes that he grew up with.

Today for breakfast, we were fixed Infladetas (inflated tortillas) mole. Onions, Queso fresco, and eggs with chorizo. Delicious as always.

We sat around the family table and talked. Lalo went and got out family photo albums. It was fun to see the aunts and his mom chiming in on some of the pics. Lalo’s other aunt showed up today. She is other sister to Luzma, Chagua and Willie. She is Estela. Watching and listening to them all recalling certain photos and talking about the locations, antics, making fun of some and seeing the closed eyed remembrance of being in a time and place of others was so fun. There are no cultural differences when sitting with families as they look at family albums.

We sat by the pool and talked there for a while and threw in a load of laundry. Once the load was complete, we hung the clothes on the line on the roof of the house to dry.

Beth and I were headed up to the room to chill out for a bit as it was hot and humid again and we thought we could rest and make notes of our travels in the comfort of the air conditioned room, but the hotel staff was cleaning our room. Beth headed back downstairs and I headed up the stairs to see what the other floors were like and to see if I could find the roof access – as Lalo and Sys had said it had a great 360 view of the town. I found the access and indeed you can see the ocean to one side and the river to the other side.

After a quick nap, we hung out in our room for a bit and then went downstairs to sit with the family as they had their main meal -3:45 pm lunch meal. We didn’t eat with them as we were going to a friends auntie’s restaurant for the shrimp and seafood cocktails.

I had the everything seafood cocktail with shrimp, conch, octopus, crab and oysters. Vuelve A La Vida (bring back to life) it was called. All very fresh and delicious but the sauce was on the sweet side for my tastes.

The place was not air conditioned, so I was sticking to the table and chair and feeling quite uncomfortable by the end of the meal.

Welcoming a walk and the gulf breeze through the streets, we went looking for some zero beer for Sydney to make a michelada for herself later. Watching us have those big ones from our river boat ride the prior day with the tamarind around the top had given her a craving for one.

We all went to the beach for an evening swim – super fun and refreshing. Syd, Beth and I went out to the first sand bar and bobbed in the waves. The first sand bar was about chest high today. The current would quickly transport us down the beach and we would fight the waves and current to try to stay near/even to where we had left our belongings on the beach. We were sucked under by a few waves and came up laughing and waiting for the next. Lalo was out on the second sand bar and body surfed like a pro out there for a while.

We then slogged back to the pool in the hotel and hung out there for a while before heading to bed. Luzma went with us to the beach and in the pool and it was great.

I showered in the shower by the pool with my suit on. Beth waited to shower in our room. When she got her suit off, she found that there were strategic pockets of sand plastered to her body like someone had slapped mud pies to her (sand pies in this case). I guess she had taken more tumbles and had gotten really blasted by the ocean waves earlier and the pool water only seemed to solidify it. It was pretty hilarious looking and left us giggling in our own beds as we said goodnight. I drifted off with another appreciation of a great day.

Give to others to improve your wellbeing | Mental health

Mexico Log Day 5

“The release of Fred”

The Aunties had said that we could go release baby turtles into the ocean as part of a conservation project if we got up early enough.

Beth and I arose early and went to the beach and listened to the talk of saving the turtles. It is said that this area would now be devoid of a few of the species had one man not started this project nearly fifty years ago. Lalo and Syd awoke and joined us just as we were getting some baby turtles to release. They said we could name our turtle, send them good wishes and let it go at the edge of the beach. I named mine Fred and while he got washed back into shore with a few of the first waves, he finally made it out far enough to begin his grand journey in life. I hoped for a long one for him/her.

We came back and went and got coffee and then jumped into car and went to check out El Tajin which is an important archeological site. It was closed, but we got to see the Tajin Fliers – Voladores de Tajin. They perform an amazing ceremony atop a 100 foot pole. The ritual consists of dance and the climbing of a 30-meter (98 ft 5 in) pole from which four of the five participants then launch themselves tied with ropes to descend to the ground. The fifth remains on top of the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum. This is an ancient ritual that was created to ask the gods to provide rain and protect their crops. It was amazing to watch and while I have a video of the ceremony, it doesn’t seem to be loading well and so you may just have to google it to see the entire thing.

Back thru the countryside we drove to the nearby city of Papantla which is big cityfounded in the thirteenth century built up and down the cerros – steep hills – it resides within. It is also considered the heart of Mexico’s vanilla growing region.

We circled up and down the streets of the hillsides trying to find the route to get up to the statue of the indigenous guy that was the flute/drummer in the Tajin fliers. The streets are so narrow and even when sometimes designated as two way, you needed to just approach it as a one way street.

We found a parking space one hill over and walked up and down and up to where the statue resides. It gives a great view of the city. We could see the main square and all of the other hills that make up the city.

After walking back to the car, we stopped for lunch at the restaurant called El Pardo. If you go, know that there is a parking lot behind the restaurant accessible through a small opening between the buildings. It cost us 40 pesos for our parking – two dollars very well spent in a town with little extra space. Beth and I split the Molcajete de Mar Y Tierra – chicken, pork, chorizo, queso asada, nopales (cactus), tortillas and salsa. I tried the local brew cerveza Totonaca – a porter and then tried the ale. I had tried my first Molcajete in Denver not that long ago and was blown away with how good it was. This one also did not dissapoint.

We then drove to the vanilla factory and took the tour and learned of the vanilla species and propagation and process. It hotter than hot and we were all feeling as if we might just melt into the walkways as we walked along.

We purchased some vanilla and I also got some honey. I mistakenly bought all vanilla paste instead of extract but luckily we hadn’t left yet and Lalo and Syd went back in and got it exchanged out for me.

We then were just happy to jump in the car for some welcome air conditioning and the beautiful ride back to Tecalutla.

The family had already eaten their main meal when we returned, but the food was still out, so I had a tamale and a relleno which was stuffed with cheese and chicken. I never wanted to miss the opportunity to try the foods as they were prepared by the family or in terms of the regional influence.

We talked for a bit then went down to the main zocolo (town square). Lalo got a jobo (sounds like Hobo) water, another new type of fruit for me. It was good.

We sat in the park talking and the birds were just wildly active in the nearby tree. Beth and Syd were sitting on a bench near, but not quite under this tree with all of the birds. As fate would have it, one bird still managed to get above Beth and defecate on her head. I assured her that is was a sign of good luck. At least that is what I have always told myself since I had the same thing happen to me one year while camping.

We laughed and Lalo cleaned it up and we moved to a safer bench on the other side of the park. I was somewhat uncomfortable from the meal and decided to head back to our room. Rosaura and Luzma were sitting at the table when I returned and invited me to join them. I sat but wondered how the heck we could have a conversation without my interpreters. It is amazing what can be given and gotten with hand gestures, a bit of google help and trial and error. I shared what happened to Beth in the park and we talked of some of our travels that day with the help of some pictures, a bit of google and Uncle Willie doing some translation as needed as he had come in and sat down to eat during our conversation. Rosaura began teaching me the feminine and masculine of some of the words (Rica and Rico). It was a fun exchange to be taught some basics and with several examples, I finally started understanding. I had mostly felt my way through many of the conversations between the family members, as many times, there were multiple conversations happening when everyone was gathered around the table. It always amazes me how much you can gain from a discussion by the movements, tone and expressions of the speaker and audience.

Lalo, Sydney and Beth arrived back and we talked some more and then headed to bed. It was another great day.

Mexico Log – Day 3

We had a lazy morning of just hanging out in the hotel room, talking and laughing and enjoying the view.

I kept saying we are on Ragutzo time to Beth’s hilarity. Lalo’s family name is Ragazzo, but for some reason, I butcher it every time I say it.

Lalo’s mom had given up her car for us to use. It was a Kia that she had won at one of the casinos of Veracruz, so we called it our Luckia.

It seemed hotter and muggier than the previous day, and soon our motto was: “Walk like normal, Sweat like you’re running”

We went thru the coffee shop drive thru that had the same type of coffee lechero like we had enjoyed the previous morning, so we ordered that along with molletes (bread with beans and manchego cheese). I have promised to try all the local cuisine and according to Lalo, this is a fairly standard breakfast. It actually was nice and went well with the coffee.

Our destination of the day was to get to Lalo’s home town of Tecalutla, but there were some stops that we wanted to make along the way. We first drove to La Antiqua which is an ancient town.

A little history first: In prehispanic times, La Antigua was populated by a totonac settlement called Huitzilapan, which in Nahuatl means “in the river of the hummingbirds.”

The town of La Antigua was first known as Vera Cruz Vieja (Old “Vera Cruz”), as it was the settlement for the city of Veracruz from 1525 to 1599, when the settlement moved to the actual place where the port stands. The place was chosen due to its better protection from the north winds and the inhospitable sandy areas of the area of San Juan de Ulúa. The oldest church in the Americas was founded here by Hernán Cortés in the early 16th century.

The majority of the commercial traffic of the Iberian Peninsula and New Spain arrived through La Antigua for approximately 75 years. At the end of the 16th Century, when the Spanish returned to the settlement in San Juan de Ulúa, the town entered into decline and was renamed to “La Antigua” to avoid confusion with the new city.

I definitely felt like I had gone back in time as we walked the cobblestone streets and past the ruins of Cortez’s home and the main cathedral as we made our way to the river that was once the center of it all.

Along our walk, we encountered the Kapok/Ceiba tree that was in the main area – and where it might be that Cortez tied his boat up to – the river once came farther into the town than it does in current times. This was truly an amazing tree – doubtful that it was the exact tree, but lovely just the same.

We went across the walking bridge (puente – our word for the day-once more – or at least until I could remember this bit of Spanish vocabulary ).

On the other side, I was looking for a spot that I could take a photo of the bridge, and beneath the bridge was a young man with a beautiful smile that matched the sparkle of his eyes. Lalo began a conversation with him and he had a boat and could give a tour of the river. We had already scheduled a tour in Tecalutla, so we said no. He then offered Lalo a cold coconut water to which Lalo said yes to. We followed him to a spot outside a home that had a few chairs set out. We sat while he took a coconut out of the old fridge on the porch and cut a hole in the top, stuck in a straw, and handed it to Lalo. We all of coarse wanted something cold and delicious, so he cracked open three more. We then met his twin sister who, once we had finished the coconut water inside, would pull out the coconut meat and put it in a togo plastic bag seasoned with lime or chili powder or combination. Their names were Victor and Victoria – definite twin names. Their Mama was there as well. She had a cast on her arm and they joked that she liked to spend time on the floor. (Poor gal had fallen more than once I guess)

I got to see what my beloved guanabana tree looked like as there was one just across the street from Victors family home. It was past it’s fruiting time, but good to say hello to it just the same.

We made our way back across the bridge and to the main square and toured the remnants of the house of Cortez. We had a guide to take us through and tell us of the times and remnants of the structures. Some walls were just still standing due to all the roots of the trees growing up and around the deteriorating walls. The original walls still had the coral that was used in the making of the walls. Amazing how preserved it was. Cape fig and Florida strangler Figtree are some of the species growing there with their roots so predominate.

Also in Antiqua, we visited the aforementioned first church ever built in Latin America. It was not open, but it felt significant and had so many beautiful plants and flowers in the surrounding area of it.

We tried to go to Quiahuiztlan, Veracruz – The spot where the natives first saw the Spanish ships coming into Veracruz, but the entrance to this was closed. Something for next time.

So we instead went to villa Rica Playa which is the beach area where those first Spanish ships had been seen. It was pretty deserted on the day of our visit, so we got to play around with a panoramic picture where we end up being in both ends of the photo.

We drove over many more Puentes on our drive that day.

We stopped at a cheese farm that had horses, peacocks (pavo reales), and cows. We bought queso for later and and palates (popsicles) to enjoy now. They had many different exotic sounding fruit flavors, but I opted for the guanabana. We had to eat the popsicles in the yard under one of their many fruit trees as they began to melt the moment they hit the air. Just along the fence where we were, they had several orange and lime trees and many others that I forgot to document. It was a lovely farm.

On down the road, we stopped at a little cremeria and had tortes (sandwiches) and purchased plantain chips of different flavors. This was in the town of Carranza. All along the stretch of highway between Veracruz and Tecalutla, there are countless little towns that consist of a block or two of shops and roadside stands. Some would be prone to be fruit stands at one town and the next could be the town where everyone had a stand out front selling tamales. Some had regular storefront enclosed buildings, but many were simple roadside stands.

The road we were taking had toll booths along the way and as the traffic would slow, street vendors would walk up to the car with bags of home made goodies. We purchased some of the fried plantains and what Sydney called tostaditas – super thin round wafer like sugar confections – so good.

We passed thru Gutierrez Zamora on the way to Tecalutla. Gutierrez Zamora is the competition town to Tecalutla. GZ has the bigger stores, the banks, more services, but tourists only stop there and opt for the smaller tourist town of Tecalutla to the dismay of those in the bigger city.

On our way to the family home and adjoining hotel, we did a drive around to get the lay of the town and get the feel for it.

That evening, we ate traditional antojitos of Tecalutla. Molotes (football corn balls filled with chicken tinga),sopes (smaller, thicker version of picadas),empanadas de queso, Bocoles – chicken tinga corn sliders, and part of a chilies n nogales – stuffed relleno with cream sauce and pomegranate seeds on top. Also tried pastel de elote which was basically a corn cake with a milk custard bottom layer.(leche bottom)

We then walked to the beach to see the gulf and walk off some of the food. I was pretty sure that flour tortillas were sacrilegious in this part of the country and Nebraska has nothing on the state of Veracruz for their uses of corn.

We stayed at the beach until it began to get dark and then headed back to spend some time with the family and then headed to bed before they decided they wanted to feed us again.

It was another great day.

Mexico Log Day 2

We arose not as early as we had thought we might- at 8 am -to see that we were indeed just at the waters shore. There was a beautiful pool down below, gathering clouds above, and the ever present ocean breeze.

We headed into downtown Veracruz with our first stop at a famous coffee shop. Here, they serve a shot of espresso in a glass and then the waiter comes by and begins the pour of milk into the shot of espresso. A perfect froth is created by starting the pour of milk from a tea kettle like pitcher close to the glass, and then raising it several feet high from the glass as he performs a continuous pour. We had sweet buttery buns with the coffee along with the standard rolls and pickled carrots, onions and jalapeños that get served with many meals.

After coffee, we walked across the street to the downtown main cathedral. Lalo provided harrowing stories of how the town’s people had once all locked themselves into the church when the Spanish invaded and over the weeks that they endured in their self captivity, people became desperate and climbed to the highest windows and jumped to their death. The original verses of the song LaBamba depict this experience.

We then took in the main square of that part of town, enjoying the feel of the trees, fountain and the architecture of the buildings.

Lalo and Sydney then took us to a favorite spot of theirs to eat. It was an outdoor spot by where the Newspaper building use to be. It is an example of a business plan of “do that one thing that you excel at, and that will be enough”, as you don’t get a menu when you sit down. You only say how many you want. You see, everyone is eating the exact same dish. It is rolled soft tacos filled with chopped pork and placed in a bowl and covered in the juices of the pork and adorned with fresh red onion. It was delicious.

We then took a drive to the other side of the bay hoping we could get admittance into the old fortress that protected the entrance of the bay. It was closed due to Covid, so we headed back toward the town side of the bay. This portion of the bay is fenced off and secure as it is where cargo gets unloaded. We stopped and went thru an opening in a broken area of the fence for a quick look and got yelled at by the guards at a shack just down the road.

Not far from that spot, we saw a Pelican, who wasn’t as lucky as we were and was stuck in barbed wire fence that ran along the inner wall around the shipping area. So many of the birds in the area looked like they could have come out of Jurassic Park that our conversations went from cartoons to talk of Dino extinction, to ecosystems, to politics and back to the amazing plants and birds we were seeing. All the while, Lalo would point out spots of history and interest.

He took us over a Crazy bridge. It was so steep and wonky – it was as if it had been built during an earthquake and so was set in a twisted form one sees happen to big bridges when earthquakes happen. – sometimes you must just experience the craziness and not get photos.

We made it back to the town side and parked and walked the malecon for a bit. The Maritime buildings are all there.

As we walked, Lalo pointed at some boys horsing around by the edge of the water. He explained that if you throw coins into the water, they will dive in and get them – kinda like a street performer, but in the water. We tossed some Pesos into water for the divers and true to the story, they’d dive the 8 ft drop to the harbor water and locate the coins as they drifted down and come up with a smile and the coin. One time, they also brought up a couple of Sea urchins for us to hold. They prickled their way across our hands before we gave them back to the ocean.

At one point on our little walking tour. Lalo procured for us some Ice cream from a bike vendor: guayavana, coconut and mamaey were the flavors we tried. Guayavana was my favorite.

We then drove to a place called Anita’s for picadas. We had mole, salsa verde, salsa roja and gordita – all delicious. Lalo and Sydney wanted us to try all of the specialties of the region and it was becoming quickly apparent that corn Masa in various forms is the main delivery system for meats, cheeses and sauces that are served with the various forms.

We then headed back to hotel for some pool time that included hand stands and swimming the length of the pool underwater. I wasn’t sure it was something I could still do, but Lalo challenged me, and well, sometimes you can’t back down on a challenge. Thanks Lalo, for showing me I could still hold my breath longer than I had thought.

We showered and then over to Lalo’s sisters place to meet up with his parents and niece and nephew for a drive to the small coastal village of Mandinga for seafood served right on the lagoon. I had cazuela de mariscos which was a seafood stew of sorts. It was delicious, but very filling. (I forgot to take a photo of the food here – likely because it felt like we had been eating all day). I was so full at this point that I seriously thought I could burst.

There was a tiny bridge (puente) across the lagoon that we went on and saw a guy pulling up something out of the mud – mussels or oysters or something.

We stopped on the way back and got ice cream again – none for me. This time it was packaged in the rind of the fruit that the flavor was. The Orange was in the rind of the a frozen orange. We also had Mamae again and it is like a small papaya. We also were behind a truck loaded to the gills with watermelon. I personally think they could have gotten 4 or 5 more on top. LOL

Matias road back with us and kept us entertained and laughing with his antics. He would contemplate a question with a hmm and tilt of his head and grasp of his chin. Soon, he had us all doing it.

We then went back to the house and played with the kids and visited with the family some more.

Lalo Sr. Could not stop himself from continuously offering us more drinks and treats. We joked that he was like the people walking thru the restaurant all evening trying to sell us treats and play us tunes.

Just when the family was about ready to go out and eat the night time meal, – they eat a nightly meal at around 10:00 pm – we went back to the hotel.

We met out on the balcony to enjoy the wind and see the lights of the boats and as we turned to each go back into our neighboring rooms, Lalo and Syd realized that their slider door had locked behind them and they did not have the room key on them to hand across the balcony for us to let them in.

Beth went down to the main desk and tried to explain the situation in English to a Spanish only staff. They sent her back with a key card that did not work on their room, so she went once more. All the while, we laughed about it and enjoyed a bit more balcony time. The next key worked and so back into the air conditioning we went and slumber-time it was.

Mexico Log – Day 1

The trip: Ten days in Mexico

The travel companions: my friend Beth, one of her delightful daughters Sydney (also my friend and nearly six months pregnant), and her Husband Lalo who is born and raised in the main places we are to visit in Mexico.

The trip began with a trip down memory lane, as right there in the Denver airport concourse, there are photos and memorabilia of airlines and their staff over the years. We took a moment to stop and take a photo of three generations of Adam’s women as Beth’s mom is there in remembrance as large as life.

The plane ride to Mexico City was good. We flew AeroMexico airlines and like much of this trip, it was a mix of the past and ‘the now’ combined. All the seats reclined and there was free food and free full beverage service as well. Not that I often drink on a plane, but I can’t even remember the last time I was offered a beer on a plane and wouldn’t have to pay stadium prices for it. The plane was not full and I had entire row to myself. Everyone on the plane was good with masks (I have flown in the past year where people were taken off the plane for not abiding). They also unboard the plane by rows and everyone actually sat until their rows were called and it wasn’t the free for all that is always the case on domestic flights. Quite amazing.

Flying into Mexico City was jaw dropping at how big it was. I can only imagine that living in Mexico City is like living in your own small country. You could never explore each corner and area. It is a high plains city surrounded by mountains, so it is cooler there than the coastal regions. The view shown in the photo below would be the same no matter which direction you were viewing as you literally cannot see the entire city no matter what your viewpoint is.

We had a two hour layover in Mexico City and found a nice little bar and ordered Margaritas for Beth and I while Lalo had coffee and Syd had a little cheesecake. The flight from Mex Cty to Veracruz was only just short of an hour, but again there was a quick snack and beverage service.

Lalo’s parents picked us up and took us back to the house that Lalo’s sister Paola lives with her two delightful children Matias and Meranda. It was after 10:00pm, but They had procured many different meat tacos – pastor, different porks, some kidney and something else that I couldn’t identify and they couldn’t think of a translation for – but still delicious – and salsas and onions with cilantro and limes and fresh corn tortillas. It was fantastic.

Paola spoke some English with us, but Spanish was the main mode of communication. I had never taken any Spanish classes in school, so my immersion into Spanish had begun . Meranda, who is almost five and doesn’t speak any English, would come over and speak to me so earnestly. I would try to discern what she was conveying, but alas I always needed one of my interpreters. I decided that given time, I could likely learn Spanish much more quickly being with her – as those dark beautiful eyes conveyed so much on their own and well, she, being young, spoke much simpler than all the grown ups with their rapid fire conversations. Lalo and Sydney translated most everything that Beth and I couldn’t catch on our own. (which in my case was everything)

After catching up with the family, we headed over and checked into a nearby hotel that they had booked for us. We were told it was on the coast and facing the beach, but it was dark and cloudy and we couldn’t see anything as it was now 1:00am and the hotel did not light up the back of the space. Luzma, Lalo’s mom, had given us her car to use, so we said we would wake whenever it naturally happened and then go explore Veracruz in the morning and some of the afternoon. We would then meet up once more with the family for the main meal – 4:00 pm or so.

Slumber came easily after a full day of travel.

My New Favorite Place and Bartender

Recently, I took off with the car loaded to the gills for camping.

I was headed up to a high altitude lake at the top of Poudre Canyon.

One of my sales guys from work, had implored me to stop and eat or at minimum, have a beer at a place called Mishawaka as I was to drive right on by it. This is the guy to give me a hug when I need it and shares in a love of rocks and outdoors.

Mishawaka is a concert venue and restaurant that was on my way, so I mentioned it to my pals also heading up camping.

I was ahead of the other two vehicles also coming up to camp, so as I made the turn off up into the canyon where cell service is not attainable, I let them know that I was 13 miles from my pit stop.

I realized as I parked on the side of the road, that it likely had never occurred to me to stop here prior as the outside looks like it could be the log cabin of just a small country store or bait shop. Once inside, the bar area that I had stepped into, was rustic, eclectic and still not veering far from my original thoughts of a hole in the wall. As I stood taking in my surroundings, I noticed they had a makeshift hostess stand, and I was asked if I had a reservation? I almost giggled – or maybe I did and didn’t catch myself doing it. I said that no, I didn’t have a reservation and I might have people joining me.

I was seated in the “sun room” indoors instead of out on the deck outside because I did not have a reservation and I had no real idea if and when my friends might be there to meet me.

The bartender came over to take my order of a beer while I waited or at least just parked myself for a bit to really get the feel of this place that was nearly demanded that I go to.

The sunroom was a small four table area built out slightly over the water with plexiglass windows enclosing it in. From there, I could see a larger patio area built further out over the River that held many more tables.

There were signed pictures of bands and entertainers who had played here on every wall space that wasn’t a window.

I decided to take a pic of myself in the sunroom to show the sales guy that I had made it, but found that there was no service for which to send it.

I asked my server/bartender Brian (I has asked his name and introduced myself so that we could address each other by name and not by a ‘hey’) if there was WiFi there that I could tap into. “Nope, you’re not going to Snapchat from here”, he said unapologetically. I laughed and said that I don’t have Snapchat, but ok.

A few minutes later, he came over and sat down and asked if I was wanted to order something from the menu I had been reading. I asked what was good and what did he like? He said the Reuben was good, the fish was popular, he liked the French dip and the fish taco wrap was actually really good as he had recently had it by chance. I think I was making some faces of ‘yeah maybe’, ‘not today’, ‘not sure’, and scrunched my nose and said that I wasn’t really a French dip kinda gal. He looked me square in the face and called me on my statement. “Well Sally, you didn’t ask me what you like, you asked me what I liked”. I laughed loudly and knew that I now had a new favorite bartender. You see, I love a person who can be honest and throw back at you the little bits of ludicrous that we all try to absorb without offending. And by no means had he offended or been disrespectful in his tone. It’s like the people who won’t tell you that you have spinach in your teeth. I am thankful for the people who take the moment to point out that I’m making myself look ridiculous.

So, I ordered the fish taco wrap and said I was going to now explore the place. I really didn’t know if my co-campers would stop by or not as they had said that they would eat in Ft. Collins before heading up the canyon.

The room away from the bar area had a rustic wooden stage that looked like something the Blues Brothers may have performed on. The room also had a fairly wide open area for dancing and six or so tables off to the other end that had lunch patrons starting to fill. I wouldn’t consider the space a concert venue though as it only would hold maybe 50 to 75 patrons.

I then walked past the small bar that was meant to help serve that room and out onto the highly desired eating deck. Twelve or so round tables with happy orange big umbrellas sat atop the rushing River below. Off to one side there were fly fishermen casting into the aerated waters caused by big and little rapids, and occasionally you’d see white water rafters and kayakers navigating the creek and yelling their greetings to the folks on the deck.

Walking out further, I found the concert space. Here also along the river, hidden from the road by a wooden fence, was a larger stage, much bigger open area to hold the masses and bars along each edge to keep everyone from having to go into the restaurant for refreshments during events. This was no Red Rocks, but I could see a couple hundred of my closest friends happily jamming out to a concert in this hidden gem.

To one side of the stage was the equipment tent that by chance – or not- was decorated with the paintings of an artist that I had just met the year prior in his shop in Boulder as I was scoping out his paintings. And as threads go, the friends that were to meet with me have one of his prints in their home. I was feeling more and more at home in this place.

This is his wild animal art
This is the print my friends have

To the other side of the stage was a metal sculpture of a woman with wings. Her arms and one leg up reminded me a bit of the crane kick pose in the Karate Kid.

After taking it all in, I went back to my table. Brian came over and asked if I’d like another beer. I said I had been admiring how the bloody Mary’s were going out as it had enough garnishments to qualify as a salad. Yeah, he said as he walked back to the bar, but you need to try this beer and poured me a sampler. He gave it to me and said that it would go good with what I ordered for lunch. I tasted it and it was delicious albeit several degrees lighter than my first beer. I mentioned this to Brian and speculated that I probably should have started with the lighter beer and then moved to a hoppier variety as a second choice, not the other way around. He started pouring the beer and said that in three swigs the change will be complete and I’ll love it. He admitted that it was his new favorite beer as he sat the tumbler on the table. (No glass to be broken over these beautiful waters).

Well, Brian was right again and in three swigs, I no longer had a taste for the first delightful beer at all.

My food came and it too was better than I had thought it might be.

My friends showed up just a few bites in and tried my wrap and beer and soon we were all eating and drinking in triplicate.

I relayed the stories of Brian thus far and they too were giggling at this big dude in shorts, long socks, hiking boots and the required Mishawaka T shirt. After they had eaten, I asked if they thought that I could get Brian to pose for a picture with me. He was just finishing up with the table behind me and so I jumped up with my phone before they could even reply.

I said something like, “Hey Brian, would you mind taking a photo with me?” I held out my phone in the ‘selfie’ pose and went to put my arm around him. He said sure, put me in a choke hold like a brother would do and that was our one pic. It actually felt perfect.

My friends and I joked that if the weather was too crazy bad while camping, we could just come down and spend time at our new favorite hangout.

We didn’t of coarse, as while it did rain and was colder than anticipated, the beauty of our spot was too much to give up until we had to leave.

Once packed up and heading home though, we did stop back at the new hangout, sat out on the outdoor deck under the sun and once again enjoyed the ambiance of the place, service and food. No, Brian was not there that day.

I hope you are getting out and meeting some of the great restaurant people who have been hobbled by Covid and are now getting back to a regular scene.

Love Sally