The End of a Journey

So here’s where the story gets real gritty.

We flew into Mexico City from Mérida. We got a lovely Uber drive for two bucks to the sandwich shop where we were meeting our Airbnb’s mom. We had a delicious (and I mean really delicious) sandwich, followed by some caramel covered pancakes. It was a perfect meal for two empty stomachs.

It was lovely meeting Luz (which happens to be one of the prettiest names in Spanish, I think). She greeted us with kisses on each cheek and took good care of us. We were escorted to the house a few blocks down the road by her daughter. We were shown to our room, and we excitedly settled down since we were tired. Soon we were asleep.

And then, at around 2 am, both of us separately, and forcefully, woke up.

Billy beat me to the punch and ran to the toilet. I paced outside the door, squeezing my cheeks for all they were worth. I will forever thank him for finding a break point and giving me a turn at the maroon toilet.

Hell hath no fury like an angered bowel.

We spent several hours taking turns. At some point I energetically vacated my stomach from the other end. Billy was suffering from some fever symptoms and the chills. A lot of the night went by before we finally got some sleep.

We blame it on the sketchy tacos from that luncheria (which suspiciously sounds a little like diarrhea) back in Mérida.

When the sun rose the next morning we were feeling pretty awful. But we didn’t want to waste the little time we had in this amazing city, so we got on with our plans for the day – hiking Teotihuacan.

Maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing, but we made it out alive and we have the awesome pictures to show for it.

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Again, when we first got here we were surprised to find that there was more than the one iconic structure. It took about a mile and a half walking (with other cool buildings off to each side the whole time) to reach these two huge pyramids. The whole pathway was uphill, but the ancient Aztecs disguised the elevation gain by building steps and platform, one after another, with long courtyards in between each, until you’d reached the pyramids (the goal being you don’t feel all the elevation gain). It was really ingenious. I wish this picture showed it better.

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What wasn’t ingenious was us. I can’t believe we did this. We walked a bit, and then we’d have to stop and rest. I think I moaned the whole way there and back. If we walked too many steps in one go my body would start to feel really squirmy and achy. Billy took ten years in each bathroom on either side of the place. When we were actually climbing the pyramid, we would stop halfway up each stretch and pretend to take pictures to rest. We were sneaky that way.

Along the way there were lots of pretty things to look at.

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Here is a really cool 30 second video I took.

https://youtu.be/mceokn1sUaQ

Eventually we mustered the energy to leave. But first we took a few cactus pictures.

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We took a bus to get here, and we took a bus to get back to the city. It was hard for us to wrap our heads around how sprawling and packed this city was.

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These are just crappy photos out of our bus window, but it kind of shows what we were seeing for miles and miles as we traveled to and from the pyramids.

We went home and took a nap. When we woke up we went to the historic downtown, Zócalo. The whole square was surrounded by stunning buildings. By the time we got there it was pretty dark already.

They had a busy street off the main square that reminded me of our Times Square, just really busy, loud, lots of people, lots of places to eat and shop, and iconic buildings in plain view.

Down that busy street there’s this really amazing taco place. We didn’t know if we were really in the mood for tacos after our night of torture, but there were a lot of people there and we were hungry so we went for it. The tacos were dirt cheap. I was surprised because you tell the guy the five tacos you want, and he takes off the towel on top of these large metal buckets, and inside are hundreds of soggy, delicious tacos. They were so surprisingly good.

We walked down the road until it was completely dark. We ended up in a sketchy part of town where scary people were selling stolen phones and tablets. A foreshadowing of our future we chose to not take heed of.

We rode back home on the metro and slept well.

The next morning we got up early and went to church, and then we walked over to the beautiful LDS Temple that happened to be right next door.

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Oh. I also want to point out that all the taxis in Mexico are pink. Cute, am I right?

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Then we hopped over to the bus station and bought tickets to Guanajuato. They cost $50 total for both of us. Kind of costy, but definitely worth it.

After the station we headed to the metro again. These are the stairs down to the station. You had to do this every time you wanted to get on or off the train.

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We got recommendations to go see the Basilica de Guadalupe. The amount of people there was astounding. We were told that it was the second most traveled mecca destination for Catholics. There were mile-long lines of babies in white, waiting to be baptized. Surrounding all the buildings and the gate around the whole block were vendors selling the catholic candles and figurines. We first went to a big welcome center kind of thing where you enter the door, hop on a conveyor belt (not even kidding), and you are moved along like cattle to see everything. Then you have the option of staying and listening to a sermon – but we left to see the cathedral.

The cathedral itself was huge. It’s also sinking into the earth.

From the entrance to the other end of the room there is an elevation gain of around ten feet. I feel bad for the kids that drop their marbles. I loved looking at it from the outside though, because one corner is so far sunken in compared to the other.

Soon we left there for our last bit of time in the city.

So this is actually the part where Billy gets his phone stolen. And it’s all my fault (not really). I forced us to go back to the Zócalo because I wanted better pictures and I wanted to see everything in the daytime. We could’ve bought our bus tickets for an earlier time, but I was enamored with Mexico City and I wanted to see as much of it as I could.

The platform we were standing on was pretty crowded. We waited for the next train to come up (their trains are cute and on quiet little rubber wheels). When it arrived, this barrel of a dude started shoving me and Billy and everyone around on the train. It was really rude shoving. Billy almost fell over. And it totally didn’t make any sense because as soon as he stopped shoving we realized that we had tons of space on the train.

So Billy was fuming the whole time, glaring at the bulldozer and saying mean things about him under his breath. Suspiciously, at the very next stop (the stops are really close together on this train) we watched him get off.

We didn’t think anything of it until we got off on our stop and Billy started freaking out. I looked at his face and we both knew his phone was gone. We spent a few minutes panicking, praying, and trying to track his phone from my phone (which is a really dumb idea – what were we going to do? track down this thug and demand our phone back?). After a bit we kind of accepted the fact that it was stolen, but neither of us felt very good.

We headed up to the historic square again with dejected hearts.

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Here’s their Times Square street.

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At this point neither of us liked Mexico City much. We headed to the bus station and waited there.

The drive to Guanajuato took four hours, but it was really pretty and we had movies and games on the little TVs on the backs of the seats.

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Guanajuato was probably my absolutely favorite place we went to. We got in pretty late by Uber. Our Airbnb was this really nice, two bedroom apartment that we had all to ourselves.

The next morning I woke up to this. We immediately added another day at this Airbnb.

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We went hiking (you don’t walk in this city – you’re either hiking up or down) and came across a panaderia where we loaded up for breakfast. We hiked up and down and all around. I can’t get over how beautiful this city it.

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If you follow this man you will end up with a beautiful overlook of the city.

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I loved all the little details that people put into making their city a place of beauty. Old ladies were out sweeping their sidewalks. People would break up china and embed it into their brightly painted walls on the outside of their homes. The city hired people to trim their trees and keep things clean. The people themselves were a lot classier and clean than a lot of the other cities we’d been to on our trip.

Of course, when you left the main square of the city, everything was still bright and colorful, just not always as nicely clean. But even then I kind of liked the grittiness that coincided with the cheery homes and bright flowers. I absolutely loved this city.

In our wandering we came across the university.

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We walked into this courtyard and immediately we were surrounded by the sound of an ethereal French horn chorus. It took us a long time to find the room they were practicing in because the sound was bouncing around and there were three floors of potential rooms. And it was frustrating because when we finally found where they were practicing, there was a guy sitting out front that shooed us out when we tried to go in, saying they were professional horn players, and they practicing and shouldn’t be disturbed. Billy was really brave and went back to him determinedly and talked to him for a long time, trying to get him to let us just go in and listen to the rehearsal. But still the guy was adamant. We wandered around the rest of the school, but I could tell Billy wasn’t content. Eventually he turned to me and said, “What are the chances that we came here on this day to this school and professional horn players are rehearsing here?” And I agreed. It was very weird that this was happening. So for a third time we went back and lo and behold, the guy wasn’t there. We gently snuck in again, excited to have gotten around him but nervous because if he came back and caught us, he’d have a good reason to be really mad at us. We’d already been told no twice. We turned the corner and saw all four of the horn players rehearsing when we were stopped by another guy. Billy explained our situation and that we just wanted to sit quietly in the back row and listen, and they guy hesitantly said yes.

We did it! And even better, we only had to listen for like five minutes before they called it quits. Which led to what Billy really wanted – a chance to talk with them.

We hailed the young blonde dude (out of the four of them only one was Hispanic, the rest were from the states) and talked with him for a long time. He’d graduated from Manhattan School of Music, then went down to Florida and was doing a lot of gigs down there. He wanted out of Florida, and he had a friend from Mexico that wanted out of Mexico, so they kind of did a swap. He landed the job at the Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra. They were randomly having their sectional at the university at the same time we chose to wander into it. He was really nice and we walked with him to a cool coffee place. Now my dream is for Billy to get into this symphony and we live in Guanajuato for a while.

We went touring around again.

Of course there were several beautiful cathedrals throughout the city.

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I loved all the narrow alleyways with great views.

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I was finally able to fulfill my dream of eating elote.

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I almost forgot to mention another cool thing about Guanajuato. The city was founded as a silver mining town. They had tunnels built to help divert the Guanajuato River and prevent flooding. Now they are used to divert traffic from the city center and prevent traffic jams. Cool, right?

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There was an active night life scene; a lot of theaters and young people and places to hang out and eat. And of course the city is just as pretty at night as it is in the daytime.

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We spent another night in our wonderful apartment. The next morning we went back to some of our favorite places we’d seen the day before. Then we ordered an Uber back to the bus station. It was hard for me to leave this place. The only way I could was by telling myself that I’d be back.

I loved everything about Guanajuato. Maybe the only thing I would complain about is the food. We had some of the nastiest food on our trip there (I’m looking at you, touristy taco place), and the whole time we were there we always had a hard time finding good food. But other than that (and we were probably just too dumb to find the good places) this city was the stuff of dreams.

Our bus took another four hours to get to Guadalajara, the final destination of our trip.

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Again, by the time we got to the main square of the city it was dark. But still pretty.

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There was a woman march going on through the city. That was kind of crazy to stumble upon.

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The next morning we did a lot of walking. In my opinion, this city was the weirdest. Don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoyed it – it was just really different than all the other places we’d been to in weird way. For example, there was a Chinese buffet on every street. And a lot of the times we’d be walking around and it almost wouldn’t feel like we were in Mexico anymore. Maybe it was because I was just getting really used to being there. I don’t know.

I loved Guadalajara though because they were serving ice cream everywhere. Every third store they would have a little softserve stand where you could buy a cheap cone of deliciousness. They also had frequent full-sized stores dedicated to the art. We tried a few of those as well. But my favorite was the frozen yogurt place. We went there twice. They filled it with sweet frozen yogurt on top of a bed of crunchy chocolate cereal, and then they poured melty chocolate on top with roasted coconut and almond bits.

Another thing I thought was weird about this place is that all the same kinds of stores were in the same place. So all the book stores in the whole city would be on one block. Which seems annoying to me, because if I wanted a book then I’d have to go from wherever I was in the city to only that spot. And then I’d be overwhelmed with tons of stores selling the same thing. Whereas in America I think we do a better job of spacing our stores out for convenience. It was kind of fun though because we’d be walking, and suddenly we’d switch from all the stores selling electronics to selling shoes or something like that.

Which brings me to another point – this is true of all of Mexico, but they really love their shoes.

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I think the biggest of all the stores throughout our entire trip was always the shoe stores.

There were also a lot of beautiful cathedrals. Again.

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There was another market here that was huge. It was three massive floors, jam-packed with things to buy. The main floor was dedicated to selling food. As everything else in Guadalajara, the same types of things were sold right next to each other. So you had the fish meals, and then the traditional Mexican menus, and then the squeezed juice section. A lot of really good smells were happening, but there were enough bad smells around too that we decided not to chance it. Especially since we still weren’t 100%.

The top floor was really sketchy. All the people were selling things like cheap clothes and shoes, and pirated movies. They all stared at us threateningly.

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Another thing I liked about Guadalajara is all the statues. They had fountains and statues and ice cream everywhere. They’re a good kind of people.

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We took an Uber over to a national park. It was more of a view point than a park. But it was still pretty.

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Here’s some more pictures of our meanderings.

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To show you what we used for our entire trip:

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Our very last hour in Mexico we spent our last pesos on ice cream. Then we hopped on another Uber to the airport where we quickly checked in and left for JFK.

We couldn’t believe what an incredible trip we’d had. Besides the few mishaps, we loved every minute; all the variety, all the people, especially all the yummy food. In total, here is every dollar we spent on our trip (including three flights each and traveling across all of Mexico for two weeks). I totaled a “regret percentage” of 6%, which is all the things we regret buying or spending our money on. (In case you can’t read it, the four things are foreign transactions from ATMs, the taxi from Cancun, that “Italian” pizza in Tulum, and the tacos we had in Guanajuato). Other than that every dollar was well spent on having the best time of our lives.

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I’m so happy that Mexico was my first international trip. It makes me excited for all our future travels!

 

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