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Hiding in Puerto Escondido

24 Nov

Just the time to get a shower, pack (again) and we jumped on a taxi directed to the area of Zicatela looking for a new accommodation.
That morning I met Giorgio for breakfast, he helped me to take a look around and find a place to stay while Soo as usual was looking after the backpacks sipping a nice coffee at Cafecito. We have different roles in this trip and this is actually one of my duties. We are a good, equilibrated team.
Apparently in November Puerto Escondido is quite full of events and it gets very busy, with few available accommodations. That week was time for surfers and fishing championships, two of the many tourist attractions.
We saw few options, some were really crumbling but we finally found a nice available cabana for me and Soo at “Rockaway Hotel” just in front of the beach. We didn’t want more than that: a cozy, clean dark wooden cabana with barely any cement, all around a swimming pool and a little bar with thatched roof.

Puerto Escondido in English means “hidden port”, the legend says that a young woman escaped her pirates’ captors and hid there. She jumped overboard the ship to get to shore and hide in the jungle just beyond the beach.
Since then, the pirates referred to the woman as “La Escondida” (the hidden one) and every time the ship returned to these waters, the captain ordered his crew to search and area around the bay, however, they never found her. Hence, the area became known as the Bahia de la Escondida.
Tourism in Puerto began to flourish in the 1960s when mostly surfers from different parts of the lobe began to appreciate the beautiful Oaxaca coast; and I know why: this place has an average annual temperature of 28°C, nice beaches, bars and hotels, as well as a big variety of cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, craft shops, Internet cafes and scuba diving rental spread out through the long promenade.
Nevertheless, Puerto Escondido tourism is not as much exploited as Acapulco for example, due to the fact that bus rides from the Oaxaca capital take seven hours over windy turns as the roads descend the Sierra del Sur mountain range. I did it during the night and it was not the best experience ever. Furthermore, there is no direct flight from abroad but only domestic flights.

Sunset in Puerto is always breathtaking from wherever along the promenade. I had promised Giorgio I would go and watch him surfing in the afternoon and afterwards we would enjoy the sunset together.

And so it was, me and Soo went to the beach and relaxed until he would come out of the water and greet us with his usual charming and big smile. Soo and I agreed that with those blond curly hair and blue eyes he just looked like a little angel!
The three of us laid on the sand for a while taking a look at the people staring at the sunset taking romantic or funny pictures, while we were talking about our next travel plans, our life when not travelling , especially Giorgio’s exciting job on yachts in every part of the globe’s waters, our common love for Ibiza etc.
I was having a nice time but I also felt the need to go and write for my blog at Casa Babylon.
I ordered the usual ginger tea and spent few hours on my own very focused on my stories to tell.

I was surrounded by books, Mexican masks and inebriated by fresh tea smell.

I couldn’t desire more, I was enjoying my solitude a lot, and I was so lost in my thoughts when l I felt my arms shaken and turning on the right I saw that tall and tanned young boy of that previous night who had came there at the Babylon to say hi.
I shifted from sipping a lovely tea to taste a Corona. we had a few ones, talking about many things, especially our common love for Stockholm and Swedish culture in general. He had been there six months for study, and I have been there few times and consider it as one of my favorite cities in Europe.
I am glad that Soo knew were exactly to find me in case we got lost: while getting my cheeks red on few of Tarik s wisecracks I saw my lovely travel mate with her usual glasses and funny smile entering from the main Casa Babylon door.

After few minutes also Tarik’s friend Victor joined us and we kept drinking few beers and before going to a reggae party on the beach we stopped at the usual taco place few blocks away.

The party was just on the beach, a big bar with thatched hut, very exotic, I really liked the venue but that music after 20 minutes bored me, plus the barman were so slow… it took 20 minutes to prepare my favorite drink: mojito de tequila.

Fructas y verduras is not just a sort of food in Puerto Escondido. The beach there is very appealing for surf lovers. I got a ride back to the hostel. Ya tienes casa en el D.F. or “ya nos veremos en London” were the last words before to slam the door.

You never know whenever those are circumstantial sentences or if you will ever see that person again in life.

I am normally quite good in keeping in touch with people; last year I met again a Turkish couple I had met with Giuliano in Capri ten years before, and two years ago I went to visit to Stockholm one of the girls I use to hang out with in Barcelona when I studied there in 2003.
I like to take a little bit of every single person I meet, and each of them in this trip or in life in general has brought something awesome to me.
The sun was burning, that morning I found Soo at the usual Cafecito having breakfast so we went straight to a beautiful small beach called Carrizalillo: white sand and cobalt blue, calm waters on a small bay; There are no vehicular roads to this beach, and the footpath descends a steep slope; you might find it not too good to walk up the stairs on the way back, but the positive thing is that the difficult access reduces the numerous / annoying beach vendors you might find in other beaches. While relaxing in carrizalillo with your eyes shut and trying to get a nap you will be often surprised by sporty locals who want to convince you to try to surf: even though I find it a super cool sport I don’t feel minimally attracted to try it.

So far I enjoyed just swimming and lying on the sand letting the sun kiss me while I listen to my favorite music.
On the way back we stopped at Playa Marinero and enjoyed a nice sunset while walking to the hostel.

We chilled out at the cabana until Giorgio and David came to pick us up there and went to a lovely Italian restaurant called Bananas, where the chef is a nice and funny guy from Sardinia.
Apparently there is an increasing immigration from my citizens to Puerto Escondido as well. I don’t normally like to order Italian food abroad, but his vegetarian lasagna was awesome, as well as the salad he prepared just for me with a homemade tasty and juicy burger.

We went to Oxxo for cigarettes and I found out they still sell Cremino , one of my favorite chocolates when I was a baby; I think I have not seen them at least for the past 15 years and it was nice to try again that childhood flavor so far away from the place I grow up.
Soo and I decided to spend our (supposed) last night in Puerto Escondido by going early to bed and relax. I wrote quite a lot as well.
We woke up well rested, packed our things and left our backpacks at the reception while we would go for a (last) swim. I lied nearly all day on a white sun bed at Kabbalah bar while enjoying nice chill music, fresh fruit and juices. Afterwards I decided to go and try Fish tacos, one of the most popular and fancy taquerias in the area, I ordered a chicken and avocado one and I found it amazing.
When I went to collect my backpack at the reception I bumped in a funny Australian guy who was just arriving instead; maybe I was not really happy to leave this place, but afterwards I discovered that he would have not let me do it. It was not difficult for him to persuade Soo as well to stay, and so it was, again changing our plans last minute. We went to our agency to change our bus tickets. Andrew is a surf fanatic from Sidney, travelling Mexico with his Hawaiian friend Maika and an occasional travel mate from Ireland met on the road.
We had few drinks at the hotel and spent a lovely night with Bag Raiders as a soundtrack. I didn’t know that band was actually Australian until then.
I had many difficulties to understand his accent, and I felt lost in translation when, while talking about his love for wine he suddenly exclaimed: I love cokkein. I don’t know why but to my hear in that bizarre Australian accent sounded exactly like ” I love cocaine”
It took me at least a minute to me and 4 times to him to feel glad I had not been persuaded by staying one more night in Puerto Escondido for a guy who would tell loud and enthusiastic to a stranger about his love for cooking delicious meals instead of drugs.

We would spend the following day all together and enjoying the last sunset on the beach, where the only view interruptions where from other surfers with their table ending their sporty day and from few horses galloping in the shore.
That night I farewell my lovely travels mate Soo after about two weeks heading to San Cristobal while she would go back to Oaxaca capital.

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(Home) sick

23 Nov

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I woke up feeling so weak and with a lot of nausea. I was still wondering which could have been the cause of my sickness. The beers, the oaxaca cheese, the chipotle, guacamole, the british ladies farts, the precarious market food and drinks; i also remembered that on the way back to the hostel the night before we had stopped to drink a mezcal with a worm inside. i know it couldnt have been this one the cause, but still i had a ripugnant feeling. i would have never imagined to try a similar thing.

Contribuiting to my sickness could have also been just a homesickness; it was exactly 30 days far from comfortable life, food, family, frienda and ordinary life. I googled the word homesick and i sent my twin sister some funny pictures.

I was still feeling half dead, but if i wanted to proceed my day i had to get a move and stop thinking about unpleasant things, so i tried to reborn and joined my new travel companions at a cafe in the Zocalo, another area that was declared cultural heritage site by Onu. Beautiful. A big square with alongside cafes and restaurants. Whateverkind of food and gadget vendors, amatorial and professional singers, a whole family celebrating a 3 year old boy birthday with loud music and other people celebrating an ordinary Sunday with their beloved.
My three travel mates were sat at a cafe, from far away i could see them and greeted them warmly, and the closer i got, the closer i saw this 50 something man smiling at me enthusiasticly. He stood up and when i looked at him concerned he realized i was not actually looking for him. He said to me : i thought you would have made my day today and thought you were greeting me. Now, it was bizarre but i couldnt avoid to return him the smile, saying buenas tardes and sit down with my people instead.
Before to sit down at the table with the guys i went to buy a gatorade hoping it would help me to feel better after the horrific night. At the counter, again a 50 something man started to ask me questions and said: did you go to hierve el agua? I replied not, and that i was about to leave the following day to Mazunte. He replied : you should stay in oaxaca, you have way much better beaches in brazil!
I would have loved to hug the old man just for confusing me as a brasilian, but it is crazy how often this has happened to me in this trip, both in US and Mexico. I have never looked italian, people around the world has always confused me for a spanish or a latin american, i guess this is nice. Actually i wish i have been southamerican in another life.
Going back to my current beautiful life: an italian traveler loving Mexico.
We walked towards the Santo Domingo church and its former convent, now a great Oaxaca-related museum; where You could find artifacts from various pre-Hispanic temples (including Monte Alban) and other Oaxacan archeological sites are.
The patio was amazing and full of colorful big, long worns. I took beautiful pictures of this strange animals.
inside the museum i particularly liked an actual human skull embedded with turquoise, unique in its genre. The lower teeth were natural, but the upper teeth, eyes, and nose were made of shell, and it was used for magic and religious aims.
I was fascinated by the jewelry: beautiful collars and objects that had been found in the tumbs by archeologists, they looked simply amazing. I would have loved to wear one of those collars at least for one hour of my life.
Walking through the tombs I stopped at the number 7, my lucky number, where the main topic was death.
Lately maybe because of the closeness to mexican culture, I am seeing death differently. This doesnt mean that it doesnt scare me, but it is like probably im getting concious of the fact that we all have to die at some point.
I always think that egoistically i would like to die before anyother close member of my family because i dont want to suffer. But then i try to be realistic and think that this is life and i have to try not to be so scared.
I had a huge loss many years ago, when i was about twelve years old and had the most beautiful and energetic grandmother as a second mother.
I called her a morning to tell her happy birthday, she told me that she would bake all the morning for me and my twinsister since we were going to her birthday party.
We bought her a nice present and after school we waited as usual to my mother to come and pick us up to go and celebrate her.
We waited so long that afternoon at the school entrance, i still remember the vivid orange color of the public telephone trying to call my grandmother and tell her we would be late. Anybody would answer. Later we found out that my mum would have never came to pick us up that afternoon. She was crying her mum’s death in a hospital, just the day of her birthday.
That is why i probably am living this topic with special sensitivity in mexico, and because i so wanted to celebrate my birthday here, to understand this mystic thing that makes all us human fragile and vulnerables.
Birth and death seem quite peculiar in my family. I was born on the day of the death and my beautiful grandmother died on the day of her sixtysixth birth day. Kind of bizarre, i believe.
I dont even know why i started to talk about this matter, but now i want to be back again to write about my beautiful mexican adventure.
We went to Casa Oaxaca in the afternoon and i loved it. Stylish, good food and nice ambiance. We enjoied a marvellous sunset from its terrace, with tall cactus making it even more exotic.
Once back at the hostel we tried to convince Jeremy and Martin to leave to the coast with us in the following morning, but we ended up packing at 10 pm that night and taking a 11.30 pm bus to Pochutla, the main bus station to get to the beach of Mazunte.
Again this is the beautiful thing of not booking in advance. We were supposed to leave the day after but we preferred to continue the trip with our lovely mates and it was actually a funny ride.
We had about 6 hours journey, we slept a little bit and talked as well, arriving to Pochutla quite early in the following morning; a taxi took us straighht to the Posada del Arquitecto, a lovely spot recommended by Diana, the nice girl met in Cholula.

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Traveling with locals and no rumbo

23 Nov

The wonderful thing about traveling without “rumbo” – with no fixed direction in your mind – is feeling a beautiful freedom, enjoying the possibility to change plans at all times, crossing people who might tell you about places and direct you to see some places with the eyes of a local.

I decided to make a stop to my way to Oaxaca in Puebla and visiting Andres, one of the lovely neighbors I had met in Patscuaro for my birthday.

He is one of those people you get along with immediately; we had danced and listened to our favorite songs as pure music passionate. Among tequila and a mescal we had promised ourselves to visit each other soon. And so it was.

I took a two hours bus from Mexico City Tapo autobus station, and a lovely taxi driver took me to Cholula, where Andres live.

During the ride, it was nice to listen to the proud of the driver about interesting facts of one of the five most important Spanish colonial cities in Mexico: Puebla.

Andres was waiting for me at his place with a cool, funny guy named Guillermo. We sat talking about my trip, Andres’ passion for photography and graphic design as well as Guillermo’s love for fashion and New York.

We went to Oxxo, the most important convenient stores in Mexico, we bought some beers and a bottle of tequila and brought them at Gui’s place: an amazing house full of cool, bizarre and unique art pieces and architecture.

As usual I enjoyed playing the dj, I played the “Patzcuaro playlist” adding some new entries like “Miura” from Metro Area, which Andres liked a lot. Who knows me understands that there is no me without music, no me without any kind of sound. And for me showing my new friends my music is somehow like talking about myself. And the same works when I listen to other people taste in music, it is always a way to understand who you have in front of you. A great people connector!  We danced from 6 pm until few hours later when we decided to head to Cholula main street for tacos al pastor: a kind of “mexicanized” doner kebab made of pork meat cooked on a vertical spit, served with onions and cilantro and wrapped in tacos. Sometimes it is also served with pineapple. Delicious. It was one of the best foods tried in Mexico and one of those things I had never seen in any Mexican restaurants abroad. It was kind of disappointing to find out that burritos are not Mexican but gringos, and that guacamole is not that popular, as I had imagined. But I think whatever you try in Mexico is absolutely tasty, with corn and chili flavor on any dish.

After have enjoyed a bunch of tacos al pastor, we went to a bar called Voodoo Mama and met other friends. I met a funny Italian guy, Mario, who was working at that bar while studying at UDLAP, one of the most prestigious universities in Latin America where also Andres is studying. He seemed quite happy to meet somebody from Italy, since in that area you can’t really find any.

We had (not) few drinks there together with Elena, Guillermo’ s friend and Maria, a beautiful Mexican friend of Andres who could speak some Italian learnt at school. We had fun and we all ended up again at Guillermo’ s place for few more drinks. I woke up there the day after in a room with a quite unusual but super cool multicolor climbing wall. Yes, a huge climbing wall in front of the bed. I went downstairs in search of  a “normal” bathroom, all the others had  transparent glasses and doors which, even if I am a quite easy and flexible person, still founded that too bizarre for me.

While descending the stairs I bumped into different embalmed animals, but also a real big dog that looked at me wondering who I was. It was kind of scared, but a beautiful red piano attracted my attention immediately. I wish I could still play as I did when I was a kid.

Andres and Guillermo finally woke up. It was time for some tourism in the city but first we went to drop my laundry near his house. Living with few clothes while traveling is good so you don’t have to carry too much weight but you need to make laundries as soon as you see one. Sometimes is like a mirage! I washed one kilo of clothes  (It was the first time I washed my stuff based on weight) and when I collected it I discovered the pleasure of simple things like freshly laundered clothes. It reminded me home.

We first had delicious tortillas (again) for lunch and then drove to Puebla: a classic Spanish design city, centered on a main plaza called like most of the main squares of Mexico: “the zocalo”, with a huge Cathedral from the 16th century with inside two wonderful huge organs. I don’t remember to have seen a bigger one in my life.

We walked through the historic Centre of this really nice and colorful city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987. The historic centre is filled with numerous churches and buildings decorated with multi-colored tiles with hints of Baroque, Renaissance and Classic.

We visited a small shop where two men were producing cigars. I am not sure if this is an important activity in Puebla, but I had never seen that process and the lovely man inside gave us a really interesting explanation of the manufacture process. I can still smell that flavor.

We couldn’t miss to visit one of the oldest cantinas in Puebla, where you can delight the “pasita”: a sweet raisin liqueur served with a cube of salty cheese and a grape on a toothpick in the glass.

Not really my taste, but worth to try such a special thing here. I could see it was a popular antique bar, with lots o pictures of fans of that place. Actually, on the wall there were different pictures in black and white with men drinking a glass of pasita back in 1916.

We passed a cozy and beautiful boutique hotel called Mesones Sacristia and decided to visit it; Colonial-style architecture and rustic furnishings mirroring Mexico’s rich cultural heritage. I loved the pink stairs in its patio and we took many pictures, including one with Dora the explorer, whose shirt matched perfectly with the surroundings.

Walking through the handcrafts market we bumped into colorful skulls, mariachis dolls, as well as typical food: mole and many chapulines vendors. For those who are not familiar with this funny word, chapulines are grasshoppers toasted and eaten as a snack.

There was no hope for Andres to convince me to try those toasted insects. I kept saying him: “no Andres, los grillitos no, porfavor!”.

We also visited UDLAP and BUAP museum, both amazing but I definitely preferred Udlap colorful painting to the embedded newborn and an embedded behead of BUAP.

While going back home, we stopped for a snack at a cozy trendy bar called Ocho30 in Cholula with a unique Mexican colorful and flowery style. I had a bunch of Edamame beans, my passion.

At night we went to Andres’ friend place for dinner; I met lovely people such as Pablo and Luis Pablo; I had a nice and long chat with Diana, a lovely girl from Cabo who studies at Udlap as well. We talked about my trip, and gave some tips. It is amazing how people encourages you and even though doesn’t know you, express all the enthusiasm for your trip. I think that all this people I met randomly gave me a great energy and power to move on, therefore I would like to thank all the people I crossed during this already month and a half on the road. I appreciated the precious suggestions for my forthcoming trip to Oaxaca and the coast.

After  dinner we all went to another house party, which was ok, the good thing was that I could play some music and enjoyed seeing funny drunk dancers. We ended up in a club with electronic music. Seeing again Andres dancing and putting his hands in the head while moving is one of the funniest pictures I have in my mind.

The following day we finally went to one of the most important cultural spots in the region, the great pyramid of Cholula, also known as Tlachihualtepetl. Yes, this is the right spell. It is the largest archaeological site of a pyramid in the New World, a temple that has traditionally been viewed as having been dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl.

Today the pyramid appears to be a natural hill surmounted by a church built by the Spanish in 16th century on top of the prehispanic temple. Many ancient sites in Latin America are found under modern Catholic holy sites, due to the practice of the Catholic Church repurposing local religious sites.

We climbed up to the top of the church enjoying breath-taking views on the city on one of the most active Vulcans in Mexico and in the world, the Popocatepetl, called Popo by the locals. We also had the chance to walk inside the pyramid through tunnels excavated by archaeologists. I was lucky enough since these tunnels were opened again to the public just two weeks ago, after many years of closure. It reminded me of “subterranean Naples” for its tiny passages and tunnels.

I had such a lovely time: nice food, music, easygoing people and incredible cultural sites. What else Giordana needs to be happy? Andres was a great host and companion, he took me around every single corner of his area as a perfect guide but also letting me live an authentic Mexican life with his people. I am so looking forward to host him soon in the old Europe. I wish we didn’t have the same sex tastes so he could be my perfect boyfriend: he’s beautiful, funny, smart and relaxed. We gave ourselves the same nickname: Africa. We are both warm-hearted, passionate and smiley. Far away from those who we nicknamed Antarctic, you may guess why.

It was time to proceed with my adventure. On my own. After a walk in Cholula food market I went to the Puebla Capu autobus station to take my 5 hours bus to Oaxaca city. I had some rest and surprisingly there was an old Italian movie playing on a tiny vintage bus Television. I even recognized, among the secondary actors, one of my best friends’ ex boyfriend. Fair enough.

Tacos, books and dancing in Puerto Escondido

23 Nov

Getting helped from three spanish macho strangers to load our backpacks on the back of the pick up truck is such a relief, especially down a burning sun and having to surmount other passengers onboard with their bags and backpacks.

Giorgio is the guy who had replied to my, “is there enough place for two”, directed to the driver, with an”sure, come i will make space for you”.
A curly blond haired, light blue eyes, lovely smile and naughty boy look; it took a while to understand his multi cultural roots : argentinian-brasilian parents, with lebanese blood and conceived in Milan therefore named with such an Italian name, Giorgio. He is also yacht capitain, like the guy met in Mazunte, Andrea. At the moment he is based in Puerto Escondido, but he will be wandering around Mexico with two lovely friends, David and Eduardo.
They had all spent a night at Mazunte for the jazz festival and were returning to Puerto Escondido with us. Just outside mazunte we took the bus ” trasportes delfines” and had a funny 40 minute journey with no other tourists than us, the rest of the people were mostly locals with large bags with food or clothes, who probably all were beach vendors. I had a big woman beside me with a big bag full of corn and various other stuff. Despite the dirty appearance, the corn looked fabolous and inspired me for a corn on the cob later.
When we arrived at our destination, the guys, all so nice and easygoing, offered to help us in finding accommodation but we finally decided to go to a hostel that had been recomended by Elisabeth, the austrian girl who was with me in Patzcuaro and who had stayed there few nights before.
While finding a wi-fi spot to find the address of the hostel, i found this beautiful, cozy bar called “Casa Babylon”, a cool little library/ bar with many mexican masks hunged and a big selection of books to exchange.
This is another interesting topic. Even if i love reading, I did not take any book with me first of all because in my spare time i knew i wouldn’t have had time to write my blog, but also because i didnt want to carry more weight in my mini backpack.
But most of the travelers I met, they were carrying at least one book, sometimes rather big, and often they exchange it in bars like Casa Babylon or at the hostels.
It reminded me of the “Bookcrossing”, i wrote about it in one of my first entries, it’s defined as “the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise”. i found this book exchange kind of romantic too.
While looking at the books and observing the different languages offered, i tried to imagine the stories behind those, not the one described by the authors but those of the persons who had decided to leave their books in the hands of strangers.
I was totally absorbed, but i was interrupted by the waitress with my amazing cinnamon, ginger and honey tea. I felt so comfortable in that place, it was so cozy, and i liked it so much that i would go back to that bar at least twice a day in the following days, either for a coffee or tea but also for its popular mojitos at night.
Once I found the hostel address, i joined Soo who was waiting for me on a bench looking after the backpacks, we took a taxi to Tower Bridge Hostel, 10 minutes by taxi from Zicatela, the happening life in Puerto Escondido. It was funny to find out it was located in a street called calle oceano antartico; few people might find it hilarious though…
The hostel was ok, but me and my lovely canadian\travel mate, Soo, had spent nearly a week in a very quiet and wild place and we decided that we would spend just one night there and the day after we would have moved to Zicatela.
We first had a tequila at the hostel but then headed to zicatela for some food and for a possible meeting with Giorgio and his friends.
I was craving tacos al pastor but since i had been sick lately i was a little bit concerned of eating them or not.
I was just in front of the Taco place, looking at a small guy cutting the meat from the spid; a guy from behind was observing the scene and listening to my doubts. He came closer, and told me i should eat them since they were amazing and he had it thousand times. I turned to see him and i found a lovely handsome young guy with a huge smile. You could tell from miles away he was a surfer: long hair, sporty outfit , kind of wild appearance and very tanned. Hunter was his name, but i would call him Hubert for the rest of the night. He bought lots of tacos and invited us to try them before to decide if having them or not; we crossed the street and sat on a low wall on the beach.
The tacos were buenisimos, nearly as good as those eaten in Cholula with Andres, and me and Soo went to buy a dozen more while Hunter went for three Dos Equis beers. We cheered up and once again i was enjoing that easy way to meet people when traveling. To listen and enjoy their stories, Hunter was from Canada, and since he was born his parents would drive to Puerto Escondido all the way from Canada, and stay there at least one month every year. I immediately imagined this happy canadian family driving thousands of miles in a big car with surfboards on the top listening to folk music and talking all together about whatever topic. I wonder if it happens to other people to fantasize on peoples other stories and doing it so well that it suddenly seem true. I am actually one of those persons.
While having a lovely espresso coffee after the tacos at the best cafeteria in Puerto Escondido called Cafecito, we bumped into Hans, a norwegian guy that me and Soo had met at the posada del arquitecto in Mazunte. Again, what a coincidence. But just when we were talking about this matter, i saw walking on the street three familiar faces: Justin, Paul and Kevin, the three guys i was writing about in my entry “a walk, a fly to Michocan.Frida”; i had met them at the Barefoot Hostel in Mexico City ( about 750 kilometres away).
I dont know if it is simply normal but i find it amazing to bump into other travelers i have met in other cities and places, days or weeks before. I had a quick chat with them about the recent travels and i kissed them goodbye, and the three of us, Soo, Hunter and I went to Casa Babylon.
We played Jenga and had a delicious mojito. Seriously, delicious. There was nice music but we crossed the street where we were supposed to meet the spanish guys at Kabbalah, a cool bar with white beds and tents on the beach.
Latinamerican music: again, i am not a big fan of this but i fascinate seeing good dancers moving sensually and perfectly syncronized to the music, and at the same time have fun looking at the clumsy ones! Soo delighted us with a great performance with a local aged dancer. So funny!
I had a drink there, but i was so badly craving to dance something more of my style, i wished for some electronic music. He who seeks shall find: I asked to a guy on the street who suggested to us, Bar Fly: another popular spot in the Puerto Escondido nightlife.
At the beginning it sounded too commercial to me, but more and more the two djs really similar between eachother, probably brothers (skinny and with long hair and similar features) started to play cool music.
Might have been the forced abstinence from dancing in the past weeks, but i started enjoying music and dancing on my own. When i dance on my own i dont really see anything around, Soo didnt really appreciate that kind of music but tried her best, while being stopped from different weirdos asking her ( as usual ) if she was from China or Japan. I lived that moment so many times: people look at her as an exotic doll, and everytime she would reply to them: i am canadian, but my roots are Korean. And everytime she would look at me annoyed and frustrated. She would say: there is not just China and Japan in Asia! I would smile at her saying she is exotic in mexico, making her smile again. In fact, i did not really noticed many Asian people in Mexico.
I did not receive those kind of weird types of questions, but a cute guy came and told me he had just recognized the same dance move and the enjoyment on my face at Casa Babylon. Sweet eyes, tanned, big smile, tall and athletic body. He had driven from Mexico City with his nice friend and surf fanatic Victor, for a long weekend in Puerto Escondido. From his name, i would bet he had some arabic roots and he told me his dad was lebanese, showing me his name in arabic tatooed on his shoulder. I told him about my lovely lebanese friend in London called Farah, one of the funniest persons i have ever met. I wished she was there with the other “parrots” (girlfriends) and we would have fun talking about lebanese “deliveries”.
Those two guys from D.F. reminded me a lot of the Patzcuaro neighbours, for the way they speak, they dress, their taste in music, and for instance their similar age… Again!
I learnt some new mexican slang words this night, which i’d better not repeat! But we danced and talked until the club closed doors and the djs delighted me with “Bombay” from El guincho as the last track of the night.

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Random travelers in Oaxaca

23 Nov

I arrived quite late at Oaxaca, during the five hour trip i was able to write on the blog, and I was satisfied to have been able to go on with the writingafter few days off.

I realize that i dont have any summary skills, once i start writing, i just cant stop, and i feel the need to wrote every single details, since are details i am living so intensely like never in my life and i want somehow to keep them forever.
From the Oaxaca bus tation I went straight to a hostel called Cielo Rojo, i found a place in a dorm but luckily it was only two of us.
I had a nice chat with a spanish psychologist from Alicante; observing his stuff on The bed and coming out from the backpack i had the impression that he was very much into yoga too. It is incredible the hostels world. People that has never seen eachother suddenly share intimacy as normally as ever, sharing bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms and often life stories.
Often the rooms have no keys and no lockers, but still you feel safe. If you never lived it you cannot know it, as well as me, before this experience.
once in your life you have to try it, even if you can rent the most luxurious room in the world, it is just different, it is just amazing how you get rid of your insicurities, complex and fears by sharing life with people that often has nothing in common with you but the passion for travelling and meeting new people.
i cannot even remember the guy from Alicante’ s name, but his voice was extremely peaceful, he talked slow but comfortably and i liked that familiar chat on my first night on my own again. He had also been fascinated by mexico like me and had enlarged his stay of a month, linking pleasure with professional enrichment. he had found a place where to practise his profession, with no salary but that he was sure he would have enjoied. He transmitted me a lot of postive energy, it is nice how people can really transmit positive feelings and make your days nicer and lighter.
That night i decided to write some more for the blog and i went down in the common area and i found it more comfortsble to write on a pc.
I was really focused, i was craving a cigarette and some food, but i was so lazy and probably i wouldnt have found any place opened, it was past midnight.
Suddenly i heard voices with marry tones coming in, and a lovely guy said hi and i replied with a smile and a request: a cigarette. I told him ” thank you” and he just replied ” enchantee”. I was not sure if my effort in hiding my italian accent failed or that he was french. He asked me if he could join me smoking a cigarette.
Jeremy is again one of those guys you like at first sight; he is not only a hadsome guy, but also sweet and funny, he is a reporter from new york. He also just arrived to Oaxaca to join one of his best friends, Martin, who had left 2 months before travelling central america. They had a rendez vouz in oaxaca and would spend a week together in Mexico. Martin is also from new york, i didnt really get what he normally did before traveling for a while. He told me he couldnt bare new york life and stress anymore and was having a break and hopefully find himself.
Most of the people travel for pleasure, for passion, for egoism, but most of the people is also pursuing a path and some answers they cannot find in their ordinry lives.
I just think that it can be helpful, but also confusing.
Traveling is too good but it may drift you even further away from stability if you wish to find one. You suddenly live a simple life where you can be happy and alive and when probably the city traffic stress will be replaced by the stress to decide in which town, ruin or beach you will spend the day. Hilarious.
Me, Martin and Jeremy had a tea and went to sleep, we were all tired.
I woke up listening to foreign voices and someone preparing the breakfast.
while waiting for my coffee i bumped into an asiatic girl i had seen at the Barefoot hostel in Mexico City, called Soo. I had actually spoken to her just for few minutes, when i had asked her to help me with knoting my two bracelets with skulls that my twinsister Rubina had given to me before to leave.
soo had been very helpful even unfortunaly after few hours i lost one of the bracelets probably while dancing in Pata Negra or while singing Eminem in the car.
So, meeting her again was a surprise and even more to discover that she was sitting for breakfast just with Martin and Jeremy, the two guys from new york i had met the night before. I joined their table and had breakfast with them; we decided to all go together to MonteAlban, a large pre-Columbian archaeological site few miles from Oaxaca.
We spent the day together enjoying the beautiful views on oaxaca from the hill, going up and down the numerous stairs of pyramids, walking by the tombs, numerous ceremonial altars and stelaes from a population who lived in Oaxaca Valley since about 2000 BC. Incredible.
We stopped on one of the impressive long stairs taking pictures, some funny and hilarious with Dora the explorer or the guys jumping on the altar, but also we tried to imagine how that place could have been so many years ago.
Once back in town, us, four random travelers, went for a “comida corrida” nothing more nor less than a full, fixed price lunch in the center. We all just met few hours ago, but it was super natural to share that day. We laughed a lot.
We walked very much through the artesanal and food market, we stopped by a popular chocolate factory called Mayordomo. We saw employers grinding cocoa beans and we tasted the flavour of just made chocolate, delicious.
I tried the famous Mole of the area, from Nahuatl molli, “sauce”.
it is really popular in mexican food especially in Puebla and Oaxaca. There are different version of Mole, with different colors and tastes like black, yellow, green, almendrado, and pipian.
We spent a beautiful afternoon getting lost in oaxaca streets, and getting inhebriated by the fruit, corn, tortillas flavours that we wanted to try all so badly. But the most beautiful part was when I helped Jeremy to choose a rug for his house, the whole purchase process was so funny, i will remember it with a big smile on my face.
At the food market we bought all the necessary to prepare authentic mexican tortillas at the hostel. Each of use prepared something, me preparing little bowls with guacamole, corn, oaxaca cheese, onion, coriander and being careful in not cutting other ingredients with the same knife of tomatoes, due to a special refuse to the red round vegetables from Jeremy side.
We also bought some beers and stayed until quite late talking about so many topics, sometimes going into the more ridiculous or intimate details.
We were supposed to go to some close bar to get tequilas but one by one we decided to go to sleep.
The Only inconvenient for that night was that i had to share the dorm with two middle age rude british women, who delighted my night with truckdriver snores and noisy farts.
I dont know if it was the unknown provenience of market food i had eaten during the day, the mole, the beer, or those foul ladies, but my body had one of the worst times ever, and i spent all night throwing out.
It was just the day of my first month on the road, such a coincidence, and it was the first time I felt extremely homesick and needing my mum’ s hug and help.
But luckily it was soon over, after have cleaned perfectly the bathroom, i could finally sleep for one hour or so.

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Chapulines and Chapultepec

16 Nov
I am not  trying to make your reading complicated. The two words I used for this article title are extremely important in the Mexican culture.
The name “Chapultepec” means ” grasshopper hill” in Nahuatl language and “Chapulin” stands for grasshopper.
To me,  the word grasshopper, cricket, or grillo in Spanish makes me just think of the musician Paco Fernandez’ marvellous song.
Listen to this beautiful flamenco s” grillos” whenever you want to chill out, specially at night.
I am not a big fan of this jumping animals and I had never imagined  eating them as a snack, which in mexican slang  is called “botanas”.
There is a record for spanish conquistadores to eat chapulines back in the 16th century but it is now really popular among young and old locals as well as curious and brave tourist, except for me.
 The idea of biting the insect and feeling its crunchy noise makes me not want to be opened, just on this occasion, to the mexican culture.
After being  cleaned and washed, chapulines are toasted on a comal (clay cooking surface) with garlic, lime juice and salt with extract of agave worms; sometimes they are also prepared  with chile,  lending a sour, spicy taste.
On my last day in Mexico City I woke up early in the morning to go and visit the Chapultepec park, one of the largest urban parks in the world.
Bosque de Chapultepec is considered the biggest green urban area in all Latin America: it has 40.000 trees of about 100 different kind, especially Ahueuetes, the national tree of Mexico known worldwide as Montezuma Cypress.
At the park main entrance I found a really cool art exhibition dedicated to hearts;
I enjoyed it very much especially one heart called “corazon frito“, in english fried heart. I think I felt that feeling sometimes in my life.
In the park there are two big lakes, I saw just one and it reminded me of Hyde Park. Again, a big surprise from this city.
I have to admit that at very first sight I had not liked this city at all. I had committed the mistake of judging it too much at first sight. We should all give a second chance to things or people.
I crossed the park walking towards Polanco, listening to the XX’s Cohexist album and finding myself suddenly in a beautiful area in the northern part of Paseo de la Reforma.
In Polanco there are cool restaurants, embassies, boutiques, art galleries and corporate businesses. The streets look really tidy and clean with nice trees alongside.  I found it quite different from many other parts of the city.
Avenida president Masaryk is the street with the most upscale boutiques in Latin America; a kind of Sloane Street in London, via Montenapoleone in Milan or New York City’s 5th Avenue with brands like Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Brunello Cucinelli, Chanel, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tiffany & Co.,Ermenegildo Zegna, Brioni, Burberry, Bulgari, Gucci, Hermès, Frette and Marc  Jacobs.
I had a nice coffee in a cozy patio surrounded by white arches called Paseo Polanco, with smaller shops and cafes. I set a little bit there observing the people wandering through the  streets of Polanco.
It’s official: I’m in love with Mexico City!

A walk, a fly to Coyoacan. Frida

16 Nov
After a recovering breakfast with vitaminic fresh orange juice and an Italian espresso at “Giornale Caffe” in Santa Fe, i headed back towards La Condesa.
I tried to get some rest at the hostel and went to visit Coyoacan, one of the sixteen boroughs (delegaciones) of Mexico City Federal District.
Many locals had recommended it to me and I really wanted to see it not only because last year it was designated as “barrio magico” – magic borough.
I decided to make my own way there by public transport and getting there in the simpliest way. I did not have any map as usual, but i normaly enjoy getting lost and find the way again, it is a nice satisfaction when i realize i did it right as well when i get wrong. It is always productive somehow.
The journey was not short but at least i had just one metro line change. Once out of the train i found myself in a great avenida full of shops, including Starbucks and a big shopping mall too.
I had expected Coyoacan to be different, but then i realized that the nicest part was actually the city center, located about 15 minutes walk from the metro station or few minutes by a bus.
A girl on the street suggested me to hop on one of the colectivos: little decadent buses with opened doors.  After less than a minute arrived one with a faded “coyoacan centro” sign. I took it. I was initially wondering whether it was a  gangster  taking around his family and friends or actually a small public transport driver with ordinary people on it.
I dont mean to sound snobby because i grow up in Naples not in Switzerland and i have seen bizarre bus drivers, but that one was too much: broken glass in the middle of the window as there had just been a gunshooting. Very chubby 30 something years old standing  guy with striped shirt and visible hairy belly. Very unpleasant. Horrible and crap loud music, so loud that i couldnt even ask if he could advise me when we would get to Coyoacan centro. He was rude and looking bothered to see an italian tourist wanting to hop on “his vehicle”. The driver was smoking a cigarette and making circles with  smoke while  singing on the top of his terrifying music;  just behind him there was  a young mother with a few months baby in her arms, such a shame.
But in the end it was just part of the journey; a journey to another unexpected beautiful corner of the big mexican capital: Coyoacan. It reminded me a lot of the Borne area in Barcelona for its bohemian, relaxed atmosphere.
It is here were Hernan Cortes and the Spanish were firstly welcomed and it was actually the first capital of New Spain between 1521 and 1523.
Actualy, it really felt as I was in  a spanish town. Even if i no longer live in spain since two years, it has been very important for my growing up and personal development. I lived in Barcelona for about 7 years and it is probably for this reason that Coyoacan Seemed so familiar.
the area has conserved original layouts, plazas and narrow from 16th century, and does not surprise me that the great mexican artist Frida Khalo spent all her life here.
Frida was not only an accomplished artist — revolutionary, lesbian, rebel, communist, bisexual, patriot, lover, wife, disabled person, surrealist but also the “personification of Mexican glory”.
Among the bizarre things this extraordinary woman did, she changed the year of her birth from 6th July 1907 to 7th July 2010 in order to coincide with the year of the beginning of the Mexican revolution. She wanted her life to begin with the birth of modern Mexico.
Her work has been celebrated in Mexico as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form. I am sure she has been an inspiration for many women. I am happy that my lovely friend Marita who gave birth last August decided to call her beautiful daughter Frida. I can’ t wait to see her again once back to Italy and I hope she will make treasure of the beautiful name she has been assigned to.
She is acclaimed and loved in her country but also all over the world; In 2001 she was the first hispanic woman to be honored with a U.S. Postage stamp and in 2010 the Bank of Mexico issued a new mexican 500-pesos note featuring Frida and her painting entitled Love’s Embrace of the Universe”.
I personally love her famous and beautiful quote: “pies, para que los quiero si tengo alas para volar?” ( feet, what do I need you for when i have wings to fly?). i totally agree with her, I had a magical afternoon on my own in this place, it was one of the best walks ever even though i was extremely tired from the late night before.
It is just true, there is no tiredness that can stop you flying if you are happy. And i am happy in this city, in this country every day more.
Plaza Hidalgo with its wonderful Jardin Centenario, with rounded grass decorations and flowers, the fountains with its iconic coyotes; actually Coyoacan means “place of coyotes” in Nahuatl language.
Bohemian cafes, cantinas, wonderful buildings and arches alongside the square, the 16th century San Juan Bautista church and its adjacent ex monastery. The “Casa Municipal”, a precious colonial building used as the government seat of the modern “delegación” was headquarters for Cortes during the indipendence. I love this magic place!
Then I walked calle Allende – a quite busy road with cafes and restaurants- towards “la casa azul” in calle Londres, where is situated the Frida Khalo house-museum.
Unfortunately it was closed, but i am happy somehow to have so many things left to see in this city where I definetly want to come back. I love Frida Khalo but I am sure i will have the chance to see her house soon.
I passed through an old traditional cafe from the fifties called “el jarocho” where there were many locals queuing for delicious coffees, hot chocolates, “donas” and churros. There was also a beautiful vintage grinding coffee machine
If i ever decide to live in D.F. one day, i might definetely look for a flat inside one of the beautiful colonial buildings of Coyoacan.
Looks like it is also quite safe: In 2004 it was ranked from United Nations Development Programme as the third best place to live in Mexico and the fifth most livable neighborhood in North America. I would suggest all of you to go there when in D.F.
Looking on how to return to my hostel in la Condesa, i saw a bus directed straight there, with no changes of metro. I had no plans for the night, i was on my own and the driver this time looked really funny. It took 40 minutes to get back but i enjoied the ride having a pleasant chat with the crazy driver, observing ordinary people coming back from work, two french tourists and me, a traveler writing down on a notebook memorable details for the first blog of her life.
I loved looking out the window enjoing every single bizarre detail.
While on the bus i was happy to realize that night would be finally a relaxed night going to sleep tight and early.
But when back at the hostel I met a funny spanish guy called Felipe, Justin and Paul, two friendly australians starting their 6 months trip through central america and Kevin, a canadian guy biked from Vancouver to Los Angeles and just landed to mexico city .
They were chilling in the outdoor space of the hostel and invited me to share few tequilas with them; i was not able to refuse.
But this is exactly what I wanted to do in this trip, to share funny and interesting life stories with strangers and laugh, laugh a lot, and I feel lucky i am being able to do so.

D.F. Esta’ padre, wey!

14 Nov

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After a few, intense days in Patzcuaro, here we are back in D.F.

It’s being such a nice experience, the country is treating me very well and I am getting more and more into the culture; I have to admit that I am fascinated by the Mexican capital.

In Mexico if you want to say that something is cool, you just say: esta’ (it is) “padre” – you will listen to this adjective everywhere and in different socio cultural contexts together with the word “wey”; in Anglo-Saxon countries its translation could be dude, bro, while in Argentina could be used as their “che“.

I moved to a newborn hostel: Stayinn Barefoot: a lovely and with a cool design cozy place located in one of the best areas in D.F.: La Condesa.

Both Colonia Condesa and Colonia Roma have fascinated me. Colored houses, a bohemian hint and lovely bars and shops. But the experience at this hostel was overwhelming. A happy traveler must travel lightly so I decided to ship the rest of the stuff to Italy. I reduced my initial 20 kilos luggage and left all my stuff in DF from now on I would travel with just a little 10 kilos backpack.

What I liked most of Barefoot was the colorful environment, the young and energetic personnel, always ready to help and giving precious local suggestion on what to do and up to resolve the most bizarre questions.

The style is minimal, the design is cool and it is not how you would imagine a place where you can sleep for about 15 dollars, with decadent bathrooms and drunken teenagers. At this hostel I met amazing people from all over the world running away from their own routine and comfortable life and living the jungle for a while.

The energy is super strong. Even cleaning ladies are smiling and buena onda; they work all day long cleaning all floors and is thank to them that dorms, bathrooms and the kitchen are always immaculated. Of course they are helped by the help of educated and respectful travelers.

And usually backpackers are. It is not just wanting to travel cheap. Travelling with a backpack is a state of mind. Is wanting for real an experience who let you live far from luxury, comfort and plans. I am glad that nowadays more and more hostels are becoming more frequent and nice decorated.

But few in the world are as nice as Stayinn. It is simply unique.
The common area is decorated with 60´s and 70´s pieces, with a vintage LP player where you can listen to many of the vinyl hung on the walls. there was one from Lana del Rey and some more old school.

 

From the staff I first met two lovely Mexicans: Enrique and Diego, just “the guys next door”, with trusty and warm smiles. And Delphine, a lovely girl from channel island, UK. She is realizing her dream of living in Mexico City: working at the hostel is helping her to make it.

 

I was feeling so much at home in that place that I finally decided to stay some more days in Mexico city. I had already changed more than 10 beds and cities and I really needed some rest. I am sure this hostel is giving me the proper great energy I need to keep on with my trip.

Finally, I m enjoying wandering around D.F., a city where I had been warned not to go to from most of the people especially in US. My first impression on D.F. was actually not that good, but I am sure it was influenced by previous comments.

You can really feel that, despite being considered among the most dangerous capitals of the world, D.F. is changing a lot, you can see that there is the desire to be a better city, for what I could see in the different signs: “ciudad en movimiento”.

I can assure you that it has much potential, I rarely felt such an energy in a city, comparable to a city like London or New York’s vibe.

First of all I was surprised to see that in the center has been implemented the bike sharing system; most of the European capitals have adopted it as an important mean of transport, but it was still surprise to see them here, and even better that they are exactly the same of the Bicing in Barcelona, same shape, red and white.

In the street you will see so many shoe shiners, called ” los boleros”, often chubby men with moustache giving a nice aspect to men shoes in exchange of few pesos.

Meanwhile the client would be offered to read a big newspaper. I have seen the same scene many times, often with red and white tents or with a simple wooden box. It is quite an old tradition that started during the 30’s, when Mexican gentleman wouldn’t be allowed to enter anywhere without a perfectly shining shoe.

Communication in D.F. is very unique. Walking the streets and observing the walls you realize that whatever you want to express in this city, you just write it, even if you would not expect to read them black on white painted on a street wall.

If a shop or restaurant were having legal problems, you would find it written as a big graffiti just beside the entrance. “Este local esta en litigio”.

At the entrance of a parking you can find a threatening sign warning that if you leave the car parked in the wrong place, ignoring others spaces, you may have to care for deflated or broken wheels afterwards. Bizarre !

Also, at the main entrance of the Universidad del Valle in Colonia Roma, I saw an unusual forbidden a sign: ” shorts are not allowed” – with two pictures of girls in mini skirt and shorts and a big cross on it, indicating that you cannot wear them when at school. I had never seen it before.

The “traffic light people” are also bizarre. In big and small avenues you can find man or woman dressed in flashy yellow indicating you whenever you can cross or not the street, doing the job normally designated to traffic lights. It was nice though, I liked it. Most of them were really kind and nice, and helpful when have to cross those crazy roads with crazier Mexican drivers.

While walking back to the hostel I came across a street called Naples, that as you might already know it is my native city in Italy. It is actually another Colonia; I took some funny pictures to send to my Neapolitan friends.

I walked down the streets with no map, and bumped into the Cybele’s fountain that made me remember of the one in Madrid.

I also passed by a big mall called Palacio de Hierro, a kind of Selfridges in London and the Spanish el Corte ingles.

Another bizarre thing I saw was the first pizzeria francese ever saw in my life.

I come from the city of pizza and laughed when I saw it, especially for the name: le pizzaiolo. What do you think about using the French article ” le” and the Italian name for the guy who makes pizzas?

Mexico City is full of art. Paseo de la Reforma was full of multicolored monsters, an ancient traditional competition called “concurso de Alebrijes”.

I particularly liked one called “el gran viajero”‘ from Spanish the big traveler. You might know why. I read that its artist had dedicated it to the great- grandfather, thanking him for having transmitted this great passion and art.

I was impressed by the metro in D.F.: it is clean, really efficient and I can assure you that has nothing to envy to the underground in London or the one just seen in NY, with the difference that here it is extremely cheap, with a one way ticket for 3 peso less than a quarter dollar.

A morning I decided to go for a nice walk in la Colonia Roma, coming across little squares and green areas.

I stopped at a place where you can have a fresh, organic and healthy meal named Zumo y Sazon. I had a carrot, apple and orange juice and a salad, but broke my minimal effort of eating healthy by going for a coffee and a corncake with walnut ice cream at Belmondo Cafe: a lovely one, with nice atmosphere and decor.

Shops around that area had nice display windows; I specially loved the one from American Apparel, which reproduced a tomb with flowers and skulls with a lady dressed in black at its feet. Of course the rest was full of colors.

” Eat like locals ” is my favorite quote when time to food when traveling. I enjoy trying new tastes. But I think that “Eat with locals” is even better, eating with those who might bring you to places where no guide would suggest you to go.

He took me at “Bonito” restaurant, a fancy place really close to the hostel: a great choice. Everything was really tasty, but guacamole and cochinita de pibil tacos were simply delicious. I am glad at the end I didn’t have to delight a cow tongue; I wouldn’t have felt comfortable not to respect the “eat like locals ” rule. Few Corona´s and red wine just anticipated the rivers of mojito with tequilas I would drink afterwards, while dancing all night long at Pata Negra playing on doing and receiving “postdated” promises.

Singing Eminem and trying to get all “Stan” precious lyrics from Dido while he was driving home was challenging, but I guess it was worth.

 

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Love (and) Tequila

12 Nov

I had never appreciated Tequila in my life until I tried the real one in Mexico. I can assure you that it is totally different from the one you may have tried in Europe or in other parts of the world.

As a new Tequila fan, I tried to gather as much information about this new discovery.

I found out that this beverage is among the biggest Mexican prides, and that it is produced mostly in its homonymous town Tequila and in some other places in the Jalisco state, processed from “Jimadores”, name for experts people who harvest it.

Tequila is distilled from the blue agave, a plant that was already popular among the indigenous for its healing properties, especially to cure wounds. And there might be something true in this theory: nowadays Mexicans believe it that Tequila is really efficient against flu.
I hope I will be able to test this belief and share it with you later on.
I wouldn’t mind having to turn into a real Mexican by using whatever excuse to have a shot of this fabulous drink in a “caballito“, a dedicated small glass for tequila.

I found this new discovering quite interesting, and even more interesting is the fact that with alcohol, as well as in life it is nice to find out that our tastes change at all times, or better everything changes, like “my philosophy” says: panta rei.

I tried Tequila with the classic salt and lemon, with fresca – a mexican soda- and I also tried it with chile, upon suggestion of Pablo or Daniel, one of our neighbours.
And frankly it was really good, until I decided to bite the chile which was not really a good idea.

Tequila is widely used also as a cocktail called “Paloma“: tequila, soda, grapefruit and lime juice and some salt on the glass.
I am sure it will be my favorite drink from now on, it is super fresh and tasty.

I loved it in every variant but I am sure this taste will remind me from now on of a cold, “Antarctic” flavor. I had it during three nights in a row starting from my birthday, living a dejavu every night and never getting to sleep with the dark.

I would have never imagined my birthday weekend like that in Ihuatzio, a town where there is anything but dogs, frogs and few “cabanas” and the closest sign of civilization is at 20 minutes away. Life is a continuous surprise!

Later that day me, Zitaima, Elizabeth, Daniela and Luis headed to Janitzio, an island situated in the lake of Patscuaro, a magical and emblematic place where big celebrations happen for the day of the dead.

Janitzio was full of tourists but mostly Mexican, we actually barely saw any Europeans apart from a group of Catalan guys on the boat. But i enjoyed the fact to be in an authentic Mexican spot.

We drove to the embarcadero, the pier, and hop on a boat that took about 30 minutes to get to the island.

It was quite dark and cold but it was nice to see the bow of the boat getting closer and closer and see thousands pf little lights spread on the island shining incessantly. The only unpleasant fact were the very dirty and stinky waters.

From the launch you could see a huge statue of Jose Maria Morelos, situated on the top of the hill, representing one of the most important Mexican patriots having been fundamental for the independence from the Spanish.

Once arrived to the island of Janitzio, we saw flowers everywhere and you could immediately perceive a smell of burnt meat and corn, as well as listening to traditional music and loud voices.

Celebrations were about to end but you could still live that magical atmosphere. Of course we visited the famous cemetery, a must see during the popular holiday of the day of the dead.

There were many puestecitos – stalls in spanish – with drinks and food, there was even the “agua loca”, a very sweet punch made with sugarcane, mezcal or tequila mixed with “aguas frescas” (normally agua de Jamaica – hibiscus tea – or horchata – a tradtitional drink made of almonds, sesame seeds, rice and barley).
I looked fascinated at all of those typical products but my attention was on female vendors, not only for their magnificent folcloristic clothes but above all for their long black hair-braids linked one to the other with laces.

After the deserved refreshment we came up to the top of the island and we layed there for a little while.
We sat on the stairs underneath the Morelos´statue and on the way down to the pier me and Elizabeth enjoyed a ride on a swing while having a quick chat far from the crowd. We agreed on the fact that swings make you feel free and young in such a simple way and that it would be a great anti stress having one at home.

The stairs were definetely better downhill, but it was funny to bump into some of the many begging kids of the island.
” Un pesito por una tortilla” – literally one peso (coin) for a tortilla, was the one i most remember but when one of them decided to turn to Zitaima and say: “Doña” – which in spanish means “lady” we all started to laugh.
Luis made fun of that to that advising the kid that it would be more succesful if he direct to a young lady calling her señorita instead.

I am glad that that he didn’t call me “lady” just on the day I was turning 31; I don’t really mind my age but I realized one those days that I was the oldest of the whole group.
We gave some pesos to the kids and took one of the last boats to the mainland.

We first had a wine at home and then went to say hi to the neighbours.

That night also my gipsy doll Dora the explorer found a nice company at Ihuatsio; we called it Juan Gonzales ( a more mexican name impossible) : a traditional mexican male doll, a tall and thin guy with not even a shadow of moustaches (how stereotyped we all are sometimes, we would imagine a typical mexican as a chubby, small and with moustaches mariachi).

Juan first offered a Tequila( what else otherwise?) to Dora, then they started to “placticar”, lighted a cigarette and my little innocent doll ended up spending the night with him. Pablo even found a red drape for them so they could get their intimacy.

This story might sound childish but the picture I have on my mind is hilarious. And the one I have in my i-phone, even more.

While Juan and Dora were “placticando” and enjoying, we all danced on every surface of the house, on the Jacuzzis, on the chairs, and with a wide range of cool music. If there is something we were not missing at all that night, it was good music.

If there is an official music playlist for that holiday in Patzcuaro, it would be the one below, enjoy it!

  • El guincho: Bombay
  • Feist: My moon my man
  • Matias Aguado: Minimal
  • Lykke li: I follow rivers
  • Asaf Avidan & the Mojos: One day
  • Two door cinema club: Something good can work
  • Bag raiders: Shooting Stars
  • M83: Midnight city
  • Nicolas Jaar: El bandido
  • Xx: crystalized remix
  • The temper trap: sweet disposition
  • Empire of the sun: we are the people
  • Soda stereo: Cuando pase el temblor
  • La Union: Lobo hombre en Paris
  • M.i.a.: Paper Planes

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Canta y no llores (on the day of the dead)

10 Nov

I was born on a really special day,  the only day of the year when it is celebrated dead people: the second of November.

In Italy and most of the catholic countries it is normally a day where people go to cemeteries and pray for their beloved.

When I was a kid, I hated being born on such a sad day, I hated that I couldn’t celebrate my birthday at school with schoolmates because on that day everything was normally shut in order to commemorate the dead.

By growing up, I started to change my mind. I was just considering that being born on the day of dead was somehow special, because every year I celebrated life instead.

And few years ago I discovered that if you ever want to celebrate the day of the dead somewhere in the world, that place is Mexico, where the deceased come back to visit their beloved during the month of November

A place where on 2nd of November people would cry of course, but would transform such a mystic fact as death into something to enjoy and celebrate. Celebrate the fact that when somebody dies, is actually going somewhere better.

Last year I had met Zitaima, a lovely Mexican girl at a birthday party in London, she had suggested me once again to go to her country on that date because celebrations were great and there was probably not a best time to enjoy Mexican folklore.

She convinced me immediately. I said her goodbye and promised I would go and visit her soon. And surprisingly, it was quite soon and my wish was going to realize soon. It is not coincidence that I landed in Mexico City on the 30th October, directly from Los Angeles.

I spent just one day in D.F. (Distrito Federal – Mexico City) and the following morning I left to Patzcuaro, in the state of Michoacán, a trip of about 5 hours driving from the capital.

In the car there was me, Elisabeth – an Austrian girl I had met in London through Sandrine and Zitaima with her flatmate Luis. None of us really knew the other much, but it sounded exciting anyway. Luis took care of all the girls during the trip, he was really sweet.

We arrived at destination with the dark; on the way we stopped at a few OXXO ( one of the most popular Mexican marts) for a break. Michoacán was rainy, and we found lots of traffic to get there.  It is a   popular destination for day of dead celebration but not only for that. The state of Michoacán is also known for being dangerous for Narco Traficant attacks; it was quite awkward to find military cars with men and tommy-guns outside supermarkets and public areas. We actually found a big Walmart and bought some food and alcohol to bring at home. Tequila for sure. I lost my friends in there. Was wondering where they were hiding, I found it why only few hours later.

We arrived at our cabaña in Ihuatzio (20 minutes from Patzcuaro) around 9 pm, while entering the town we passed through an arch full of orange flowers called Cempasuchil.

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People was decorating the town including that arch to be ready for the following day. Apparently this is a typical flower of the day of the death. And you can literally find it everywhere, outside the houses, in the streets, and even in some fashionable hairstyles.

Our cabana was located in a complex of wooden cabanas on a lake. Incredibly beautiful but a little bit scary at the same time; none of the other cabanas had lights on, everything was pretty dark and silent that at some point we were even making fun of the fact that it was  Halloween and that ghosts would have probably pop by to say hi.

Nevertheless, it was comforting to be welcomed by two lovely dogs: a Labrador called Estrella and a Beagle named Madonna, as well as a little frog in the kitchen who would be rescued from Luis and left into the grass again.

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We had some wine and decided to go for a tranquil night, we were tired from the trip and it was really cold. A totally different weather from DF.

As I was in the mood for cooking, as usual,  I prepared pasta for the new community. Spaghetti all´arrabbiata – spaghetti with spicy tomatoes, a typical Italian dish.  Simply and easy. It was actually delicious, I am sure the Mexican chilli was of a great help.

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The following day we woke up in a nice landscape with views on the lake, we had breakfast outside on a massive wood table, there were the two lovely dogs as well and we started making plans for the day.

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While driving towards the city we bumped into many cars transporting the cempasuchil , maybe on the way to decorate an arch, an altar or a whole square.

We went to the capital of the State of Michoacán, called Morelia, a lovely colonial city about one hour from our cabana.

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We parked and spent the day wandering around the city. In one of those streets I had a dejavu; that place reminded me a lot of Uruguay, especially Colonia and Montevideo.

In Morelia we had the first approach on dia de muertos in Mexico: there were skulls and flowers everywhere. We looked intrigued at the first ofrendas: celebrations consist in family and friends gathering at the altars honouring the deceased using sugar skulls, candles, marigolds and the favourite foods and beverages of the departed – often mole and tequila.

I bought a spongy and buttery pan de muerto, typical sweet bread for this festivity at a lovely bakery called Trico in the historic town. 
Morelia is really nice; close to the huge Hispanic cathedral there were many decorations, also a giant skeleton with a video camera; this town is also very popular for its international cinema festival that would actually happen just during those days.

On that day I saw for first time in my life two policia municipal on wheelchairs. I found it unusual but also surprised me because I had not seen any before even in countries like Great Britain and United States, where disabled are 100% integrated into the society.

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While working for the London Paralympics last summer I had realised how disabled people with willing power were able to do things that not even the half of capable would do.

After a long walk we stopped at a nice café with the excuse of an espresso, but most of us also wanted to find a Wi-Fi spot to feed our social network addiction. Then we headed towards the station to pick up the fifth member of group: Daniela, a half Mexican half Austrian sweet girl friend of Elisabeth that was also around for holidays.

Daniela got immediately integrated with the rest of the group. We went straight to Paztcuaro to see its popular artisanal market and live the atmosphere. The town was quite disappointing and surprisingly not as authentic as i expected, people around were not very recommendable neither. They kept staring at us all the time.

Plus, there was a lot of police with tommy-guns and I felt a little bit unsafe, it was not a pleasant walk.

The good thing is that I bought a corn on the cob with chilli (one of my favourite street food) from an old lady’s cart and I also bought a calaverita, a plastic skull empty inside: kids use it on this day to go and ask for candies in the street. A kind of Halloween “trick or treat”.  I would find a funny use to it few hours later, but not for candies …

During the late afternoon in Italy it was already my birthday due to the time difference, so I started to receive sms and calls from family and friends. I got just a little melancholic for not being with them. But as a proper gipsy, I try to learn more and more how to deal with emotions far away from home.

We went to buy some more food and drinks and we started to get into the” birthday”, my birthday mood. Our favourite artists of the night: Nicolas jaar, XX, El guincho, Feist, Lykke li etc. Music helped to warm up the atmosphere as usual. 
There were probably other 10 cabanas around us, this time they all nearly had lights turned on. Such a difference with the previous night when we were literally the only ones in the complex. And by the way, no ghost passed by.

There was a cabaña in front of us that had loud music on and surprisingly they were listening to the same music as us. Not the typical smash-hit of the month, and that made us quite curious to know who’s there listening to our some tunes.

Elizabeth and I are great fans of music, especially electronic and of course got immediately excited. From the window we could see that they were quite young so our male representative Luis decided to go and check it out.

He came back saying that we were right about the age but that those guys sounded funny and cool, and when he told them there were 4 girls with 4 different nationalities in that hidden place in the world, they got  intrigued and told him to bring us there for a drink. A drink, just one he may think. We were an Italian, a  Mexican, an Austrian and a German girl. I can’t blame them,  I guess it sounded quite exotic to them !

I grabbed my new plastic skull  (calaverita) and us girls put some of the many zitaima’s aunt’ hats. We crossed the 
grassland and joined the new neighbours. Their house was the perfect place for a party: there was even a bar with hundreds of bottles on the shelves , the sound system was great and there was even a Jacuzzi in the middle of the house. I was offered some tequila from one of them. I replied: “no thank you, I don’t like Tequila”.
They would make fun of this statement few hours later.

Carlos, Andres20130121-021534.jpgs, Pablo and Daniel: they were all so friendly and welcoming.

 

After few drinks, we decided to go together to the biggest party of the weekend, where major celebrations happen:  at Tzintzuntzan cemetery. Please try to say this name loud if you can, because it took me quite a while to.

It was for sure our favourite name place for the millions of way we called it during the weekend, and for the Chinese sound we associated this place. We went back at our cabana to take our things before to go out, so I went upstairs to get a suit. After not even  1 minute Luis started to call me saying we were late and that I had to hurry up.

I was surprised and kind of  pissed off because I had just gone upstairs, but didn’t want them to wait and I run those wooden stairs  quickly.  Lights were down and all was silent.

I had not realized that it was midnight in Mexico and they were there in circle holding a cake for my birthday! Now I knew where they had been hiding in the Walmart!

I was so far away from home, far from my friends, my family and especially from my twin sister Rubina. Few hours before I had felt a little nostalgic about it but suddenly I had forgotten that bad feeling.

It was such a special birthday. Luis had in his hands a cake. They sung happy birthday to me in Spanish and English. And German. So emotional and unexpected. Of course I had a tear.

Mexican tradition wants that the “cumpleanero” – the birthday girl/boy – must bite the cake, and so I did. Straight after we joined the new neighbours so to all go together to the cemetery.

While in the car I was holding a  calaverita full of tequila,   we sang few Jovanotti songs  (thanks to Zitaima) and parked behind the cemetery. We lost the neighbours in the crowd.

In the parking there was an adorable 7 years old kid, he was not there to celebrate but to work with his older brother. I hugged him and thank him, I wish I could bring it with me to celebrate at the feast. His name was Bryan. Elisabeth could delight you in imitating my declaration of love to this sweet boy. I was upset and felt guilty for playing with a candy skull in my hand while he was working instead.

At Tzintzutzan cemetery we found a magic atmosphere. I had never experienced anything similar in my life.

Thousand of  flowers, tombs and altars and a crowd made of familiars of dead people but also tourists and curious arrived to this place to experience this unique moment.

It was a contrast of candlelights, dark sky, people crying and people laughing, life and death together for a mysterious celebration. Mariachis singing. They say that even the deceased come and dance with us on that day.

Music and voices. And it was my birthday. I started to cry for the emotion followed by the others. It was not sad but difficult to describe the situation. It reminded me of the person whom I have been missing for every single day since 19 years now and I got a little bit sensitive.  I swear I felt like she was there. Ciao Fortuna, I said loud.

If somebody would have told me one day that I would spend my birthday in a cemetery I would have found it impossible. But  I assure you that it was really emotional. I suggest you all to go once in your life to Mexico for this date. Because you can feel your beloved close wherever you are, but probably that special place in the middle of nowhere has been designed for us to feel them closer.

On those tombs there is normally the favourite drink, food and sometimes just an object that the dead used to like in life.. For  kids it would be common to leave them a toy or a doll.  Wishing they are still playing with them somewhere above the clouds. It was quite tough but what is death if not the physical separation. We all know that we will meet them again, maybe under another shape, another body. But we will keep meeting those beautiful souls.

Many people also decide to overnight with their beloved on the graves and tradition say they would expect the food or drink to disappear on following day.

Once back at the cabaña we turned again the music, lights and spirits on, celebrating my amazing birthday.

All around in the other cabanas there was people having fun, with bonfires, singing and dancing. Is it the celebration and acceptance of death the ultimate step to be able to love more life? Maybe yes.

Our 4 neighbours came back to our place to continue the party together. One of them was apparently “dead” in the car and we had to go and rescue him. 
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We danced on the big wooden table and chairs outside. My partner in crime Andres  was the best dancer ever. We enjoyed swapping hats and glasses grabbed from everywhere,  there was the best energy I could ever desire from a birthday far away from home.

I can tell now, that it was the most emotional and beautiful birthday of my life and for that I want to thank Zitaima, Elisabeth, Luis, Daniela, Carlos, Andres, Pablo and Daniel.

At some point we all sat and starting to chat. In Mexico they call it placticar; I loved it, speaking with a stranger and finding so many things in common even being from the other part of the world is always fascinating.

Positive attitude is always the key. When you stay positive you can transform a sad day into a good one, and a birthday celebrated thousand kms away as the warmest of your life. And Mexican are the masters in it.

Their most popular song  is “Cielito Lindo” – known all over the world and played everywhere in Mexico especially from mariachis; it is often as a theme song in international events like FIFA World Cup. Who has not these lyrics in their head:

“Ay! ¡ay! ¡ay! ¡ay!, ¡canta y no llores!

Porque cantando se alegran, cielito lindo, los corazones ”

(Sing, don’t cry, because singing brightens up the hearts)

 

 

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