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.