Quarantine Dreams: Mexico Bucket-list

There are 32 states in Mexico. As I sit here, stuck inside my apartment on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon due to the circumstances the world finds itself in, I was thinking about which states I next want to travel to while I’m still living here. So far, I’ve been 9 of Mexico’s 32 states: Baja California Sur, Ciudad de México (yes, Mexico City is considered a state), Coahuila, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Nayarit, Nuevo León (where I live), Quintana Roo and Tamaulipas. 

Here’s my bucket list of the top 5 states I want to visit in Mexico after this pandemic ends and travel (at least domestic) is once again an option.

5. Chihuahua

Chihuahua is the largest state in Mexico and is actually bigger than the U.K. It was the eleventh most dangerous state to travel in Mexico in 2019 based on an International SOS report. That’s likely because it shares a border with the middle of the U.S, and all border states are cartel hotbeds.  If you’ve ever seen the film Sicario that takes place in Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua, then you can get the picture of how dangerous border cities can be.

Its landscape is dominated by deserts, forests and mountains, including the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range which is an extension of the Rocky Mountains. In the mountains, it has a canyon system called Copper Canyon that I would love to see, as it’s deeper and bigger than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. To get there, it’s easiest to fly to Chihuahua City and take a train through to the canyon. It’s suggested to exercise caution in the area when you’re passing though, but I think that’s needless to say when you’re travelling through a foreign country with security issues, especially a border state.

4. San Luis Potosí 

This is the closest state to me, just a state below Nuevo Leon. Potosí means fortune, and it was added to the name because the Spanish discovered a lot of gold and silver there.

The historic centre of the city (of the same name) looks worth checking out, with a cathedral dating back to the 17th century, and a couple of museums on science & art, and masks & costumes. It seems like a nice place to explore a mix of culture and natural beauty.

The Tampaon river in Huasteca Potisina looks like the perfect to do a little river rafting, and check out the 105-meter tall Tamul Waterfall.

Xtilitla has a Pueblo Magico (magical town) that I’ve seen a ton of photographs of but never known anything about. It’s probably best known for the Las Pozas garden, created by English artist Edward James. It’s an area well known for producing coffee, which I’d love to try out firsthand.

3. Yucatan

Yucatan is home to Chichen Itza, which was one of the greatest cities in the Mayan civilization. For that reason, it’s a huge tourist attraction (also one of the new 7 wonders of the world), though you can find other pyramids and ruins all over the state that are also impressive and are known to be less crowded. 

Yucatan’s coastline makes up part of the second biggest reef barrier in the world, so it’s world renowned for its swimming and snorkeling. You can also thank the asteroid that killed Earth’s dinosaurs 66 million years ago for the cenote network all around the Yucatan Peninsula. I’ve swam in one in Quintana Roo but would like to try a few out in Yucatan. 

In Yucatan, I’d love to explore some cenotes (Ik Kil and Suytun being two of them); visit some Mayan ruins; and check out Laguna Rosada (pink salt flats). There are some ruins nearby Laguna Rosa called Xcambo. The Mayans used the salt from the flats to preserve fish for export. That would be worth checking out too.

2. Oaxaca

I love the smoky flavor of Mezcal and this is the home of it. It’s actually Tequila that is a type of Mezcal, and not the other way around. Tequila can only be made from Blue Agave, whereas Mezcal can be made from over a hundred different types of Agave.

Oaxaca sits in the South of Mexico, along the Pacific Ocean. Being so far South, it’s home to a lot of indegenous people (32% of all inigenous people in Mexico) and their cultures. In Oaxaca I’d love to visit Monte Albán, one of the better preserved pre-hispanic cities in Mexico. It’s about 10km away from the state’s capital of Oaxaca City, which has an airport reachable from other major cities in the country.

Quite a bit further away (69 km) from Oaxaca City is Hierve el Agua, which are the only petrified waterfalls in Mexico. You get a great view of the mountains and the valley, all with the added bonus of chilling in the natural pool.

I’ve wanted to spend a couple of nights in the beach town of Puerto Escondido too. 

1. Chiapas

Chiapas is the state that’s been on the top of my list since I first started living in Mexico. It is the southernmost state in Mexico and shares a border with Guatemala. Unfortunately it’s a pretty neglected state as far as infrastructure goes. I’ve heard it has poor roads, a lack of access to drinking water and poor sanitation.

It’s largest appeal for tourism is its Mayan cities and the Lacandon Jungle, which stretches from Chiapas over to Yucatan and all the way down to Honduras. Like Oaxaca, Chiapas has a large indigenous population (36% of its population). 

 The top things I’d like to see in Chiapas are the: Agua Azul Waterfalls, which are famous for their turquoise color; Sumidero Canyon, which began to form around the same time as the Grand Canyon did in Arizona; and Zona Arqueológica Palenque, which was a Mayan city-state dating back to the 7th century. 

My First Eurotrip: Part 2

Here’s the second and final post about the trip I took to Europe this past July. It was nice to look back on it one last time. I actually learned quite a bit about some of the things I saw that I didn’t know about before.

I’m looking forward to my next trip somewhere in Mexico in April. I’m going to make a list of the top 5 places I want to go in Mexico and try to cross at least one of them off the list during the two weeks of vacation I’ll have.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy. Please feel free to send me a message or leave a comment if you want to talk to me about anything you read. I’m always open to having a conversation.

Paris, France

“We’ll always have Paris.” That’s the line that was famously spoken in the 1942 film Casablanca. Hollywood romance is completely out of touch with the reality of love, but it’s a nice one liner from the black-and-white days of film. The meaning of the quote is simple, memories of Paris never parish. I’m too young to know if that’s true, but I’ll do my best to remember the visit I paid to the French capital 7 months ago. 

Paris is a hectic city, unsurprisingly, as France is the top tourist destination in the world, hosting 89.4 million international visitors in 2018. TripAdvisor listed the Louvre Museum and the Eiffel Tower as the fourth and fifth ranked tourist attractions in the world. Add those numbers up and you get a city that’s constantly filled with tourists. As in many cities, the summer months are the busiest, which makes sense because the weather was beautiful in July. I’m still nursing a tank top tan from the burns I suffered while walking around each afternoon.

A cancelled train from London meant a late arrival in Paris. As in most major cities, Uber is the most convenient option to get around an unfamiliar city, especially when you can’t be bothered with the time and energy that taking transit often requires while you’re carrying heavy luggage. That’s the option I’d recommend if you ever arrive late in the evening to any city you’ve never been in before. The hotel was nice, it was located south of the Eiffel Tower, if I remember correctly. The room window had a nice view of the streets outside, making it nice to open in the morning as you sip on your coffee, and to watch the sunset in the evening with a glass of wine. The concierge spoke, who was an older man and a grump, spoke broken English. The next morning I mentioned the grumpiness to the next concierge working the desk and he kindly apologized.

The following day was the first time using Paris transit. It’s easy enough to get around when you use Google Maps as a crutch. It essentially does all of the work for you, telling you which train or bus to catch and where and when to catch it. Guiltless selfies in front of a damaged Notre-Dame Church happened. 

As in any major city beware of scams. If you search on Google you can find the top ten most common ones in most cities. Making the top of the list of one I searched for Paris was the “gold ring” scam. I experienced it firsthand, as an old woman stumbled towards me with a gold ring in her hand. I didn’t understand a word that she said and ignored her and continued walking. It wasn’t until I searched for scams on Google back at the hotel that my suspicions were confirmed. I think if you’re going to be spending some time exploring any big city that it’d be worth quickly checking out what common scams you might encounter. 

The metro blasts announcements, warning travellers to keep an eye out for pickpockets. Some of them are blatantly obvious. I saw a young man staring at the back pockets of people buying metro tickets. In the evening I saw some guys who sell souvenirs on the street shouting that a woman who was looking to buy something had been pickpocketed. You need to be cautious about that, which sucks. It does subconsciously stay with you as you walk around through foot traffic.

The Eiffel Tower really is a beacon of energy in the city. Whether it’s day time or night time, people surround it with bottles of wine and crepes. Rather than watching the sunset beneath the tower, I’d definitely recommend paying the entry fee and watching it from atop the Arc de Triomphe. You get a beautiful panoramic view of the city and the sunset was one of the most memorable I’ve experienced. Maybe I’m romanticizing it because it’s Paris, but I won’t soon forget that one. After the sun does set, it’s worth going to the tower and watching it light up at night. Grab a crepe and enjoy the view.

On the first day I walked something like 23 kilometers. The second day was more relaxing, and the afternoon was spent at Jardin de Luxemourg. It’s a perfect spot to spend an afternoon, really. Although it’s busy, there is space to be found to relax and take a break while enjoying some beautiful gardens, statues and fountains. People freely hold picnics there, something I’d definitely partake in on my next visit. Souvenirs are a lot cheaper if you buy them from the guys who make their living selling them on the street. That’s an easy way to avoid overpaying for miniature towers and trinkets. 

All in all, things never seem to be as bad as they were in hindsight. I honestly didn’t think Paris was that great while I was there, but looking back now I have fond memories and would return some day if the opportunity comes.

Rome, Italy

Rome must be one of the most adored cities in the world. It’s historic, as one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe. It’s also home to the smallest country in the world in Vatican City. Upon arriving in the afternoon at the train station, the hotel was a walkable distance. The hotel was in an old apartment building, where apartments have been renovated in a way that they contain a few separate rooms and a hallway as the lobby area. It’s a bit of a strange setup, but it’s essentially not much different than the experience you get from a hotel while you’re travelling. They’re pretty much just used as a place to store your luggage and to sleep, not really a place to spend much time in. The entire city is quite walkable so you won’t spend much time on the train as you would in other cities.

I’m not sure when or if it was resolved, but in July there was an issue with trash collection in Rome. Trash wasn’t being collected due to shutdowns at some of the local landfills. There were health warnings, rat infestations, and people began to resort to lighting dumpsters on fire to get rid of the trash. It was a pretty embarrassing problem for a city that must see a ridiculous amount of tourism money. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t leave an impression on me about how nice of a city it is. 

Rome has 280 fountains, none more famous than Trevi Fountain. Over 700,00 euros worth of coins are tossed into it each year. I don’t know if that’s enough money to cover the cost of making the wishes made in the process come true (mine hasn’t yet). Good luck getting a good photo of yourself there in the afternoon, it’s filled with about 500 other people trying to do the exact same thing. I think it’s better to just enjoy the view and snap a picture of it from an angle where less people will be visible. The same TripAdvisor list that ranked Paris’ main attractions as the 4th and 5th most popular tourist attractions in the world also ranked the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums as the numbers 1 and 2. If you’re going to get into the museum, be prepared to wait in line for a long time (I wasn’t prepared for that so I didn’t). The Colosseum, though, is pretty incredible. I preferred how it looked at night as it was illuminated and there was much less foot traffic. I got some nice night photos of it.

The Spanish Steps were built early in the 18th century to connect the Trinità dei Monti church that was under the patronage of the king of France, with the Spanish square below. Nowadays the Steps are popular for painters, artists and poets. People also love to sit on them. I’ve noticed this in pictures I’ve seen of the Steps, but that didn’t appear to be allowed anymore, as officers blew whistles and chased away those people who were making attempts to sit down to either eat their lunch or have a photo taken. They’re worth seeing as there’s a certain romance to them.

Everyone told me you have to visit Rome once to say you’ve been there. That’s the exact feeling I got from it. I don’t feel the need to ever go back, but I’m glad that I went. 

Milan/Lake Como, Italy

I’ll start by saying aperitivo is pretty much the best thing ever. It’s like happy hour, but with food involved. You pay a certain amount of money per head, and get a nice cocktail and access to a buffet for a couple of hours. Milan is supposedly the best place in Italy for it. Bars and restaurants fill up and the nightlife begins. According to some articles that I read, the food and drink selection for aperitivo in Milan is known as the best in the country. It’s the only place I got to experience it in Italy, but I have to believe that opinion. Apparently the more south you go in Italy, the more difficult it is to find an aperitivo that’s comparable to the ones you can find in Milan.

Milan is one of the “big four” fashion capitals of the world (London, New York and Paris round out the list). It was settled 2500 years ago by the Insurbes (a Celtic tribe of the Italian peninsula) under the name Mediolanum. It was conquered by the Romans in 222 BC and subsequently renamed Milan. Milan was ruled by the Spanish in the 1500s and by the Austrians in the 1700s. In the Second World War the city fell victim to bombings carried out by the Allied forces, and following the war in the 50s and 60s, began its growth into the city you see today in the 50s and 60s. Urbanization became a global trend at that time, so Milan wasn’t unique beginning its sporadic growth in the middle of the 20th century. 

You can’t visit Milan without paying a visit to one of the largest cathedrals in the world, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente. The locals simply call it Il Duomo. The interior is strikingly different from the exterior. The exterior has 2,245 marble statues. The roof has 135 carved stone pinnacles that give it its unique look. The entry fee gives you access to the roof and the interior. The walk on the roof gives you a nice view of Milan and gives you a close look at the details of the marble and carved stone. The interior is dimly lit and home to the largest stained glass windows in the world. 52 large pillars act as a skeleton to Il Duomo. You can access the crypt, the tomb of Gian Giacomo Medici. Mercidi was an Italian Condotierri (contractor in English), who captained Italian mercenaries and was named the Duke of Marignano at one point. Mercidi’s life story is worth reading about if you’re going to view his tomb. You also get a view of the treasury where you’ll see gold and silver work that dates back as far as the 4th century. 

Upon leaving Il Dumo, you can walk to the left and quickly access one of the most luxurious shopping centres in the world, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. You can grab a gelato (ice cream) and window shop at stores that you’ll never end up actually venturing into. When it was finished being built in 1877, it was the largest shopping centre in Europe. It’s utterly impressive to look at when you realize the date of its construction. It’s thought of as the beginning of modern architecture in Italy.

Lake Como is the perfect spot for a day trip while staying in Milan. By train from Porta Garibaldi you can get there in just over an hour. Upon arriving in Lake Como you can take a ferry that has different drop-off points all around the lake. If you’re into Hollywood, George Clooney’s villa sits lakeside. As you walk along the quiet roads you see amazing houses and luxurious sports cars parked in their driveways. When you finally find a beach to relax on, you likely won’t be impressed by its size. The sand is littered with weather glass and the water is chilly, but tolerable. I can’t imagine how many wine bottles have been tossed overboard from boats over the years. The ferry might run a little bit late so many sure you get back in time to make the train back to Milan. I remember running through the streets of Lake Como trying to cut a ten minute walk into a five minute run in order to make the train, which ended up being delayed anyway. 

So long as I have friends in Milan, I’d gladly go there again to join them for aperitivo, and an espresso at Lake Como.

London, England

London was the first and final stop on this Eurotrip. Spending three weeks constantly moving cities did get exhausting, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The train from Edinburgh to London was just under 5 hours and was a comfortable and relaxing ride. The accommodations in London were very close to Wembley Stadium, and quite a long train ride from the centre of London. I think the train ride was roughly 40 minutes each way. It was a nice area, though, with a shopping centre around the corner. The Yankee Candle store made some money off of me as a result.

I was immediately surprised by London’s size. It’s the third most populated city in Europe and covers a huge geographic area. Getting around can take awhile depending on where you want to go. It’s important to plan out which attractions you want to see and map them out so that you’re not going back and forth to different destinations, or too far out of the way. 

The first afternoon was spent exploring the city centre and photographing some of the main attractions like the London Eye and the Tower Bridge. Big Ben is still under construction so it sadly wasn’t exactly worth photographing. The weather was nice for the entire three days, with sun or variable clouds during the day. The evening was spent having some pints at a couple of bars and then heading back to the hotel. It gets cold at night in London and the climate reminded me of back home on Vancouver Island. The breeze off the water is cool enough that you’d be uncomfortable without a light jacket or sweater when the sun goes down.

The second day included a visit to Buckingham Palace. I’ve been seeing the Queen’s face on every piece of cash I’ve ever spent in Canada, so it was nice to finally get a look at where she lives. It’s quite incredible how much attention the royal family gets. I don’t blame Prince Harry for moving his family to Vancouver Island, very near to my dad’s house. It’s so much quieter and I think the people are more respectful of privacy back home. The evening was again spent with some overpriced London pints. The Anchor pub on Thames River was a beautiful spot to chill out and watch the sunset. I took advantage and grabbed some nice night photos of the river.

By the final day, the exhaustion had hit and it wasn’t worth going back down to the city centre. On a long trip, and on the 20th and final day, I don’t think you’ll regret spending a day doing nothing spectacular. Flights between Vancouver and London are typically cheaper than I see to anywhere else in Europe, so there’s a good chance I’ll be back there sooner rather than later.

My First Eurotrip: Part 1

Since the film Eurotrip came out in 2004, I’d always wanted to spend a summer travelling around Europe. That dream finally come true in July of 2019. In the end, I visited 6 different countries and a bunch of different towns/cities. It was the best trip of my life so far.

I’ve reflected in my mind about each place, but haven’t written those thoughts down yet, so I figured this would be a good chance to do just that. Some cities I enjoyed more than others, but now that some time has passed, I appreciate each city that I visited in a different way. I think I’d return to most of the places I visited on my trip, but I also have a bunch of new ones I’d like to go to first.

My next Eurotrip will likely come next Summer and I’ll eventually make a list of which countries I want to visit on that trip.

Dublin/Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

My family history includes a brewery in the town of Revelstoke, B.C.. It was the first one to exist there. It’d be hard not to connect the art of beer brewing to my Irish ancestry. The Irish love their beer, and it’s easy to see why if you make a visit to Ireland. The days I spent in Dublin reminded me very much of Victoria back home. A mix of the architecture and the style of pubs might be the reason for that. The pub culture in Dublin, where a stop off for a pint of Guinness after a day of the office seems like a ritual enjoyed by Dubliners both young and old, makes it hard come up with an excuse not to grab one yourself. I don’t remember exactly how many pints I had there, but it must have been quite a few.

I arrived late to Dublin one night. The next day I woke up early and the day on a bus operated by Paddywagon Tours, which brought us on a journey to the Cliffs of Moher. The cost was 45 euros, and it was well worth the price. The buses have WiFi, but I spent most of the journey listening to the tour guide/driver and looking out as we weaved our way through the Irish countryside. We stopped in a typical Irish village called Doolin Village along the way, where I grabbed an Irish lunch and a pint, then continued onward to the Cliffs. The Cliffs are truly a must see if you visit Ireland. They’re 66% the height of the Empire State building in New York, and make up part of the edge of Western Europe. If you take a tour bus, you sadly only get to spend 90 minutes there, which didn’t feel like enough time. It’s a long journey to and from the Cliffs, but it was definitely memorable.

I spent the next day in Dublin on foot, walking around the city and checking out some attractions. Trinity College, founded in 1592, is the oldest university in Ireland. Oscar Wilde is probably one of the most well known alumni of the college. My favorite quote of his is, “Keep love in your heart, a life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.” He has some other great quotes about the relationship between men and women.

St. Stephen’s Green is a nice park in the city centre. I walked through it in what must have been lunch hour. The park was filled with men in suits and women in business attire, who understandably grasped the opportunity to escape from the office and eat their lunch while they sat on a bench or on the grass.

I walked by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. The evening ended in the local tourist trap, Temple Bar, which is a fixture in the neighborhood of the same name. The pubs are crowded, the beer is overpriced, but it’s a necessary stop on a visit to Dublin. I had a couple of pints and listened to a nice cover of Castle on the Hill by Ed Sheeran. I loved Ireland and can’t wait to return.

Edinburgh, Scotland

I’ve never been in a more beautiful city in my life. Being in Edinburgh almost feels like jumping into a storybook. In some way you can attribute that to J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter books while living in the Scottish capital. You can see scenery all over the city that was likely used as inspiration for the visuals you see in the films. There are lists all over the internet of attractions for Harry Potter fans, and stores and tours cater to Potter fanatics. I really can’t compare it with any other city I’ve been to.

I arrived by train into the city centre, where the AirBnB host kindly took took my luggage so I could explore the city. Edinburgh Castle highlights the skyline of the city centre. The castle sits on a rock (known as Castle Rock) that is an extinct volcano. Castle Rock been occupied by a royal castle since the 12th century. An interesting fact about Edinburgh Castle is that it’s been attacked more than any other castle in the world, including during the Wars of Scottish Independence. Aside from being a popular tourist attraction, its now used as a military base. “The Defender of the Nation,” they call it. I don’t remember how much time I spent walking on the first day, definitely hours, but it felt like I walked the entire city.

Hiking up Arthur’s Seat is a must if you ever make it to Edinburgh. It’s an easy climb and you end up about 250 meters above the city and get an excellent panoramic view of both the city and the coast. Like Castle Rock, Arthur’s Seat was also formed on an extinct volcano system. It’s mainly a hike through hills. When I went up it was very windy upon reaching the peak and my jacket almost blew away over the edge of the summit.

If you’re into exploring cemeteries, Edinburgh would intrigue you. Greyfriars Kirkyard, which dates back to the 16th century, is a popular one. If you believe in ghosts, go for a yee wander.

The weather of Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, is what I’m used to from growing up on Vancouver Island. Wet and windy. I was blessed by two beautiful sunsets over the ocean. It’s a sweater city, meaning you should bring one for when the sun goes down. Edinburgh is a city I would definitely return to again.

Jungfrauregion, Switzerland

I come from British Columbia, Canada. If you asked me last year, I would have told you that it’s the most beautiful place in the world, with the Pacific Ocean always at reach, an abundance of wildlife, snow-capped mountains and dense forests. After visiting the Jungfrauregion of Switzerland, which is home to the towns of Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken and several other small villages, my answer is now different.

The train journey from Paris into Switzerland via train is something I’ll never forget. My eyes lit up as we passed by turquoise lakes and rivers, towering mountains and green fields. The first stop was Interlaken, which is a well known tourist destination in the region and the main transportation hub to popular lakes and mountains in the area. It became a tourist destination in the beginning of the 19th century thanks to its representation in paintings by Swiss landscape artists. By the end of the 19th century, it had luxury hotels and railway systems that connected it to the large city of Bern, and to other smaller towns. It has a population of less than 6000, though that number surely rises in the summer months. The native tongue of the locals is Alemanic Swiss German (I don’t know how much different it is to standard German). Anyone involved in the tourism or service industry understands and speaks English, though.

The next train was from Interlaken onward to Lauterbrunnen, one of, if not the most, photogenic towns I’ve ever been in. Lauterbrunnen has a population of just over 2200 and is named for its numerous waterfalls. Staubbach Fall is the most well known, as it can be seen throughout the Lauterbrunnen Valley and even from up above it in Wengen. It’s one of the highest unbroken falls in all of Europe. The main language of Lauterbrunnen in German, though in restaurants English was spoken. One surprise was that in one restaurant we went to, they didn’t accept credit cards, only cash.

The last train transfer was to Wengen, which is nestled along the Swiss Alps and overlooks Lauterbrunnen Valley. Wengen has 1,300 year-round residents, and sees its population grow to 5,000 in the summer, and then balloon to 10,000 in the winter, as it’s a popular skiing destination. The hotel we stayed at felt more like a lodge. The bathrooms were separate from the rooms, which felt very much like rooms you’d find in a cabin. The room had a nice view of the church and mountains and I got a nice photo of a sunset there. There aren’t really any roads in Wengen as it’s a car-free town, so it’s extremely quiet and chilled out. The restaurant selection is small, but I got a discount at one of them as it was owned by the hotel. One funny thing that happened was when I asked for a plate for the pizza I ordered. The waiter basically told me he’d have to charge me extra because they don’t like washing dishes. I think he noticed I thought he was joking and decided to give me it anyway.

The best part of the stop, though, was taking the five minute lift up to Männlichen from Wengen. When you get up there, you’re surrounded by mountains and are able to watch waterfalls pouring from the melting snow. You can walk in complete isolation among the cattle that are lucky enough to feed on the grass that grows there. The way I’d sum it up is that you can get lost for hours and completely disconnect. It’s a hard feeling to explain, being lost and knowing you’re right where you’re supposed to be at the same time. When the path was finally rediscovered, thunder could be heard in the distance. You don’t want to get stuck in a high up valley when there’s a lightning storm. I slowly made my way back to the hotel, and five minutes after arriving, watched one of the biggest downpours of rain I’ve ever seen. It was a lucky day.

In this world, it’s hard to find places that flirt with perfection. The Jungfrauregion of Switzerland is one of those places.

Top 5 Places I’ve Been in Mexico

Since this is essentially for friends and family back home, here’s an update. I started writing this earlier in the week on Monday after my last trip, but on Tuesday I went to work feeling extremely tired. I then went to a weekly appointment and realized something wasn’t feeling right. I spent Tuesday night tossing and turning and couldn’t get to sleep. At 5 a.m. I texted work and told them I wouldn’t be coming in as my body began to ache and my stomach began to feel nauseous. I didn’t go to work the rest of the week and spent it on my couch recovering from an apparent stomach virus. I would assume that I caught it in Mexico City.


Oddly enough when I speak to many people from Mexico, I find that I’ve visited more places in their own country than they have. I can see how that would work. Back home, I’ve only been in B.C. and Alberta and have never been to the eastern provinces of Canada. I’m actually a bit embarrassed sometimes when people ask me what Quebec is like and I have no answer for them. I generally tell them they have poutine and speak French. The next question that they ask me is, “what’s poutine?” 

I wanted to write a list of the top 5 places I’ve been in Mexico just as a way to reflect on some of my past experiences and maybe give myself an idea where I’d like to go next. I’ve been to some of these places more than once and I’m just basing it off the experiences I’ve had at each place. 

5. Cancun, Quintana Roo

Like many tourists, this was the first beach I visited in Mexico (for spring break, shocker, I know) and it didn’t disappoint. The first time was with a group of around ten friends. We rented a villa and took turns rotating who would sleep on the floor each night (I somehow ended up on it a couple of nights in a row). We went to a different nightclub every single night and it was one of the most memorable and hilarious weeks I’ve had in all my years in Mexico. Four of the guys in the group ended up on a documentary titled Crime, Carnage and Cancun that aired on the BBC in the UK (that should tell you how the trip went).

The second time I went was pretty much the same deal, with a smaller group of us renting a house again for the week-long bachelor party for one of the best friends I’ve made while living in Mexico. Being in our 30’s, we had to take a couple of nights off in that trip. Anyone who’s in their 30’s knows the hangovers last a little longer. The groom lost his wallet on the first night out, and then proceeded to donate the new pair of sunglasses his future wife bought him to the Caribbean waters on what I think was the third day. I’m not sure at which point he lost his dignity. He’s still happily married, luckily.

4. Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

I was torn between putting Puerto Vallarta or Sayulita on this list. I decided on Puerto Vallarta because I’ve been there twice now and it’s a place where my late grandmother would drive her motorhome down from Canada and spend her winters, so I have a connection it.

The first time I went I spent most of my time in Nuevo Vallarta for the wedding of one of my best friends from my hometown. It was a special week because it was the only time all of my childhood friends have all gathered together outside of our own country. Growing up with the Pacific Ocean always a five minute walk from where I slept at night, it always feels nice to get close to it again.

The second time I went was with my mom last year during spring break. Puerto Vallarta has a large expat population, with a lot of Canadian snowbirds calling it their part-time home (beer is expensive in Canada), which makes it pretty easy to feel at home there. The airport is a lot more central to the city than some of the other beach cities (Cancun, Los Cabos, Playa del Carmen), so it’s nice for a quick visit. I would say it’s also the least expensive of those aforementioned beaches. You don’t get the Caribbean water, but I found that it’s a more relaxing atmosphere than Cancun or Playa del Carmen. 

3. Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo

I’ve been to Playa del Carmen twice now and I’d describe it as a mini-Cancun. Part of me actually prefers Cancun because you can walk along the beach in isolation because it’s so much larger than the beach in Playa. What put it ahead of Vallarta and Cancun on my list was the experience I had when I was there visiting Mayan pyramids at Coba and riding through the jungle on bicycle to swim in a cenote (an underground cavern of fresh water). I also got to visit some Mayan ruins at Tulum that trip. That was an awesome experience and one I’d like to try again.

The second time was for the wedding of my friend from the bachelor party in Cancun. It was a beautiful wedding and very memorable. I even donned a traditional Scottish kilt (my friend is Scottish) and won’t soon forget the bagpipes playing while his wife walked through the white sand to say “I do” to him. A beautiful wedding and some beautiful memories.

The nightlife isn’t as wild in Playa del Carmen as it in Cancun, which is fine for me these days. We ended that trip with a night out at Playa Del Carmen’s branch of Coco Bongo, which essentially offers the same show as the one you get in Cancun.

2. Tequila, Jalisco

Most of my friends and family back have a love/hate relationship with the gift provided to us by the blue agave plant: tequila. Generally, it’s from some rough nights out they’ve had with Jose. I guess it’s called a tequila sunrise because you can still taste it in your mouth long after the sun rises the next morning. 

The town of Tequila in Jalisco is certainly more pleasant than a hangover. Guadalajara, the second biggest city in Mexico, and one I’ve visited numerous times is just under an hour and a half drive away from Tequila. Alternatively, you can take one of the express trains from the center of Guadalajara which cost roughly the equivalent of $100 Canadian that will get you there and back. The train ride includes several stops along the way at distilleries and restaurants. I’ve never done it this way, but next time I’m in Guadalajara it’ll be on my list of things to do.

When I visited Tequila it was only for an afternoon, but I explored it on foot and went around to various stores and asked for a taste test of their tequila. Some of them were the best I’ve ever tasted and I would have grabbed a bottle had I not had a carry-on only ticket booked to return home. Something about sipping a tequila cocktail while walking around its hometown felt very Mexican, and it’s something I think everyone who loves the spirit should experience at some point. 

There’s a great Mexican series on Netflix titled Tequila worth checking out if you’re into foreign language television (this is a recommendation for my grandpa). It gets into the sometimes brutal nature of doing business in Mexico, as it revolves around a wealthy family whose tequila based corporation has roots planted in the town I’ve written about here.

1. Guanajuato City, Guanajuato

Celebrating the Mexican independence in Guanajuato was a very special experience. The city is found in the state of the same name, which happens to be the state known as the birthplace of Mexico’s independence. Guanajuato was the site of the first battle in the war for independence, providing a just reason for it to be named a World Heritage Site in 1988.

Cinco de Mayo is probably the most well known celebration outside of Mexico, but it doesn’t hold nearly as much significance inside the country. The independence celebration is easily the biggest celebration of the year and takes place every September 16th. Based on its history, Guanajuato is understandably a popular spot to celebrate the occasion. When I attended it, I somehow managed to get a great hotel room that overlooked the iconic yellow church by showing up without a reservation (I wouldn’t recommend doing that). If yellow church is too difficult for you to say you can call it by its real name, Parroquia de Basilica Colegiata de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato. It’s the largest building in the city and was built in the 17th century. The city has an awesome market named Mercado Hidalgo where you can find local crafts, souvenirs and food.

The city itself contains dimly tunnels that run underneath the city that I experienced firsthand when I drove through them. It’s easier to find a parking spot on the outskirts of the city, which is quite common, and leave your car there and spend your stay walking around on foot. I don’t think there’s a better place to celebrate Mexican independence.

40 Hours in Mexico City

I went to one of the world’s great cities for 40 hours this weekend. I’m not sure about the exact number of times I’ve visited Mexico City (CDMX), but I would imagine the number is now somewhere between five and ten.

The first several trips there were essentially bar hopping visits with friends. They have great bars in Condesa and very nice restaurants in Polanco. I was a younger man then, which probably explains why I chose to go that route, rather than actually sight-see and experience the plethora of culture CDMX has to offer.

Prior to this weekend, the last time I visited was in November to watch the NFL Mexico game, where my beloved Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Diego Chargers at Estadio Azteca. It would be cool knowing I watched them live in their Superbowl winning season (fingers crossed).

NFL Mexico game on November 18th, 2019.

I didn’t see much else that trip, as I wasn’t in the mood to, but I did manage to visit the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, which was incredible and is often thought of as the golden hen of museums (there are over 150 of them!) in Mexico City. You’d need multiple visits to even come close to actually soaking in all of the history there, and even then I don’t know if you’d be able to fully process what’s to be found in the 11 rooms of permanent exhibits, not to mention the temporary ones.

This time, though, with essentially only a Saturday to be spent in the city, I decided to dedicate the time towards crossing off some tourist attractions that I’d skipped in prior visits. While sitting at work on Friday, I did some research and decided on three attractions that I could fit in on Saturday: Museo Frida Kahlo, Parque La Mexico and Palacio de Bellas Artes in the Centro Historico.

I flew in on Friday night, met a friend at a house in the area of Coyoacan, which is in the southern part of the city, and ordered in some tacos al pastor (my favorite tacos in Mexico). I was dead tired from a bout of insomnia the night before so we didn’t do anything noteworthy on Friday night.

Tacos al pastor.

Museo Frida Kahlo

I woke up fairly early on Saturday and decided to make Museo Frida Kahlo my first stop, as it’s located in Coyoacan and was $50 peso Uber ride away from where I was staying, making it the closest of the three attractions. When I arrived there was a line that stretched around the corner of the museum. I ended up waiting in line for a little over an hour and paid $270 pesos to enter. Aside from knowing Frida was a famous artist and had one eyebrow, I entered without knowing much else about her. I listened to some of the other English speaking visitors and overheard them about her marriage to fellow artist Diego Rivera and found their love story to be very interesting. One woman pointed out an image of Diego and said he looked like such a nice man, while her friend said that he most certainly wasn’t. He was constantly unfaithful to Frida, even by having an affair with her younger sister, yet she stuck by him for some reason (I guess some people might call that love). She accepted his cheating and then became unfaithful to Diego in return, and had a well-known affair with Leon Trusky — an exiled communist from the Ukraine (she knew how to pick ’em).

They lived in the house where the museum is located from the year they were married in 1929 until 1954. During those years they divorced in 1940 but remarried the same year. Their love for each other seemed toxic when you read about it, but they were clearly never able to fully quit one another. A lot of Frida’s work are self portraits that reflect her personal trials, which if you read through some famous quotes by her, probably included bouts of depression.

Caza Azul was Frida’s childhood home and it’s where she was born and where she died. Walking through the property you get to look at not only her paintings, but personal objects that give a very close look at what her life was like and how well respected she was by fellow artists as her personal items included a lot of gifts she’d received from them. I walked through each room and soaked in as much as I could. The gardens outside were beautiful and on a pleasant January morning, were a nice place to sit and soak in the sun. It was more expensive than any other museum I’ve been to, which was surprising for its size, but it gives you such a close view of one of history’s most appreciated female artists, that it’s worth the price of admission.

Parque La Mexico

I did make it to Parque La Mexico in Condesa, albeit briefly. I was hungry when I arrived and my friend wanted to try some tacos al pastor himself (I have no idea how it was even possible he hadn’t yet). We ended up getting some which weren’t the traditional take on them, but were tasty nonetheless. A quick look at the park actually left me underwhelmed as I couldn’t help but compare it Parque Chapultepec, which is easily superior in size and attractions. A quick walk through, however, reminded me of the parks you’d find in Europe, with stone pathways, fountains, waterfalls and ponds. I’d compare it to some that I waked through in Paris and in Milan in the summer. If you’re staying in Condesa, it’s definitely worth checking out for a bit of an escape from the concrete jungle.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Palacio de Bellas Artes is thought of as the “Cathedral of of Art” in Mexico. It’s an appropriate name when you see it in person. The architecture is impressively beautiful. I won’t pretend I know much about art styles, but I can say that it’s a fairly recent construct, with it being inaugurated in 1934. One thing I found interesting is that the palace has sunken 4 meters into the ground since it was built, all thanks to Mexico City’s construction on top of the drained lake bed of Tenochtitlan, the former capital of the Aztec empire. That’s the same reason the city is so prone to earthquake damage.

If you enter, you’ll see murals painted in the early-mid 20th century that pay tribute to the creation of Mexican identity (the mixture of Spanish and indigenous). The capacity of the theater is 1000 and it is the home to ballet and orchestra groups that perform there regularly.

While I was there snapping photos, I witnessed a few hundred Mexican women protesting the murders of a couple of other female activists earlier in January. They threw red paint at police officers (who were ironically mostly women as well) and chanted for justice in a country where, sadly, such a thing is hard to come by. One sad statistic that I read while researching what the protest was about stated that 10 women are killed in Mexico every day, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman.

Wallace Whisky Bar

This is the first bar I ever visited in Mexico City, I think back in 2015 or 2016. It’s located in Condesa in an area full of bars and restaurants, making it a good spot for a night out. We stopped off after sightseeing for a couple of pints. It’s darkly lit, has a wide genre of music on its playlist and is a nice place to grab a pint or a cocktail. We had a couple and ended Saturday earlier than I normally would, but it was a nice way to end the day before the flight back to Monterrey the following day.

Wallace Whisky Bar in Condesa.

No matter how many times you visit Mexico City, a single day is an opportunity to make and tick off a list of a few things to see or do.