Tag Archives: mexico

The people’ s car. For Love, Peace and War.

6 Feb

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The Beetle is probably the most popular car in the world. Actually, it is the most produced car of a single design platform with more than 200,000,000 models sold.

Its production lasted more than 60 years, starting in Germany in the early 30’s, when Adolf Hitler ordered the designer Ferdinand Porsche to develop “a car for everybody” and change the idea of the car as a privilege. He wanted to give a shape to an idea of a Volkswagen – ” the people’s car”, from German volks (people) and wagen (car).

The production of this car ended up in 2003 in Puebla, Mexico, being this city home to one of the biggest VolksVagen factories in the world after the german one in Woflsburg.

The Beetle has been used in so many different contexts, countless are the times it has been utilized in leisure as in movies scenes and commercials; who doesnt’ remember Herbie, featured in several Disney motion pictures starting in 1969 with Love Bug?

During the Second World War, its production was mostly aimed for military objectives and even became the symbol of the economic rebirth after the war, but at the same time it is now considered an icon for “peace and love” hippie movement during the 60’s.

There is a model called ” escape from Berlin”.   AS all of you may already know, from 13th August 1961 to 9th November 1989 a 155 kilometers wall divided East Berlin from the West. This special model with a wider coffer so to hide people  must have been very much appreciated from lovers or families divided by the wall. My innate romanticism makes me  imagine romantic scenes such as a blonde tall  girl  getting anxious seeing that  funny curved car to arrive , and that coffer to get opened and finally hug and kiss a tired out – but happy – tall and blonde, auburn-bearded guy.

The Beetle must have been a very reliable vehicle , being the car which has been most used as a Police car.

And you might not know that it won the first prize in different rallys, the one in Montecarlo in 1954 above all.

Many peculiar features charachterize this amazing car, but the fact that it is the only car able to float, it’s absolutely amazing. Probably not even his designer Porsche meant to, but must been a great satisfaction when two italian Beetle fans crossed the 7 miles of sea of the Strait of Messina that connects Sicily from the Calabrian coast. And not only in Italy, because some other brave fans reached the English coast from the Isle of Man with a Beetle, as well as in the bay of Hong Kong, in Lake Michigan and the Strait of Singapore.

The Beetle has thousands and thousands of passionates and fans who prefer to call this iconic car differently in their country. Please find hereby some, but it would be great if any of you reader could add any other one commenting below!

  • Maggiolino or Maggiolone in Italy
  • Beetle or Bug in United Kingdom and United States
  • Vocho or Sedan in Mexico
  • Escarabajo in Spain
  • Bubbla in Sweden
  • Fusca in Brazil
  • Carosca in Portugal
  • Kever in Belgium and Netherlands
  • Käfer in Germany, Switzerland and Austria
  • Coccinelle in France
  • Buba in the ex Jugoslavia

If in Europe it is more a vintage object just used sometimes to have a nostalgic ride, or used to attend the many Beetle gatherings across the continent, in Southamerica it is absolutely normal to use it on a daily basis as a mean of transport. I saw many of them during my trip to Argentina, but I am sure that I saw more Vochos in Mexico in a week than in all my life. Red, fuchsia, yellow, spotted or with the typical Mexico city taxi colors: golden and red. Zipping through the busy Mexico City avenues or parked in a tranquil colonial street in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Once in Oaxaca city I saw 3 beetles in a row: one was red, the second white and the last one green: the tricolours of the two flags of my current favourite countries in the world: my native Italy and my adored Mexico.

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Who said there is only one Mexico?

17 Jan

What is the first image you have when hearing the word ‘Mexico’?

“Beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters with summer temperatures almost all year-long”.

“Big sombreros and Mariachis”.

” The famous mouse Speedy Gonzales saying: andale, andale, arriba, arriba

Tulum ruins and beach

Tulum ruins and beach

Mariachis y sombreros

Mariachis y sombreros

 

“Mezcal and Tequila”. Right. (But probably you don’t know that it is actually considered the best cure for flu and other illnesses. Mexicans drink it at all times and with whatever excuse; it doesn’t matter if the day after they will have to go to work with the strongest hangover, which they call “cruda“).

A cactus might appear in your mind when someone says “Mexico”. And you might be right again, but you ignore that Mexican enjoy eating it with eggs, meat and tacos, and they call it “nopal“.

Cactus in Mexico City

Cactus in Mexico City

Cactus at sunset in Oaxaca

Cactus at sunset in Oaxaca

Guacamole with nachos is a combination loved all over the world; but don’t ask a local to get some for you, be aware that this is the North American translation for their beloved “totopos“.

You think you know Mexican cuisine until you arrive to Mexico and discover that its traditional flavours are kept hidden in the street markets.

I am not a burrito :-(

I am not a burrito 😦

Love for Food. In mexico, for sure. Lunch at "Delirio" in Mexico City

Love for Food. In mexico, for sure. Lunch at “Delirio” in Mexico City

You might feel disappointed to find out that burritos are not Mexican but you will fall in love with a huge variety of tacos and tortillas: Mexicans cannot delight a meal without this round flatbread made of corn or flour.

I loved to walk to the supermarket and observe locals queuing outside Tortillerias – old shops for handmade tortillas to be filled at home with the most delicious ingredients, especially meat, onion, corn and tomatoes.

A “torta” in Mexico is not a cake as in its usual meaning in Spanish. It is a popular, often cheap sandwich you might find both at the street vendors and restaurants, filled with res (beef), chicken, vegetables and so on.

Mexicans don’t put lemon in a Corona bottle as most of Europeans think. This is just a way to detect gringos – tourists. They would rather drink a michelada: a beer, which they call “chela” mixed with lime and tomato juice, salt and chili.

In Mexico they like to celebrate it all, even death. But I wrote an article dedicated to it, called Canta y no llores (on the day of the dead) , for if you want to know more about this peculiar celebration.

On 2nd November the most important woman in Mexico is actually the icon of death: an elegant female skeleton with a hat called “La Catrina”; here people “smile” at death with music and festivals, as no other culture might probably do.

La Catrina de Diego Rivera

La Catrina de Diego Rivera

Mexicans say “joven” – young – to a 70 years old waiter and “viejo” – old – to a 20 years old one.

But Mexico is in general a land of infinite contrasts, mysteries and surprises; between future and past, tradition and avant-garde, luxury and extreme poverty.

I took this picture in New Years Eve 2013, but the sign said Feliz 2012. I wish it was a better year for them

I took this picture in New Years Eve 2013, but the sign said Feliz 2012. I wish it was a better year for them

 

Different kind of landscape and environments meet in a 2 million square kilometres country of more than 110 million people spread out into 32 federal entities ( 31 states and a federal district ).

Chihuauan deserts, Yucatan and Chiapas jungles, stunning Caribbean beaches, beautiful colonial cities: Puebla, Oaxaca, Valladolid, Merida, San Cristobal de las Casas. Ancient Mayan and Aztecs pyramids. And so much more…

Me and Sandrine at Chichen Itza, Yucatan

Me and Sandrine at Chichen Itza, Yucatan

 

Playa de Mazunte, Oaxaca

Playa de Mazunte, Oaxaca

 

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You can never forget the first night sleeping in the jungle

Colonial house in Puebla

Colonial house in Puebla

When thinking about Mexico you might not associate it to “museums”; but Mexico City hosts more museums than any other city in the world, above all the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, the most visited in the whole country.

It contains significant archeological and anthropological artifacts from the  pre-Columbian heritage of Mexico, such as the Piedra del Sol (the “Stone of the Sun” or Aztec calendar stone)

Me and THE  Sun Stone

Me and THE Sun Stone

In this Museum there is also 16th-century Aztec statue of Xochipilli:  the god of art, games, beauty, dance, flowers, and song in Aztec Mythology. As well as in modern times, bon-vivants, life lovers are usually more open minded to diversity and people with diverse tastes and way of seeing life; Xochipilli was actually also the patron of both homosexuals and male prostitutes , a role possibly resulting from his being absorbed from the Toltec civilization.

Going back to museums and Mexico City, I can tell that this city has fascinated me with its beautiful buildings from several centuries ago and the most avant-garde architecture, full of contemporary art galleries, theatres, large avenues, upscale stores, trendy restaurants, exclusive bars and nightclubs;

The statue of Angel of Indipendence, Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City

The statue of Angel of Indipendence, Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City

A lovely cafe in Polanco, Mexico City

A lovely cafe in Polanco, Mexico City

 

 

Mexico City downtown

Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City

And Bosque de Chapultepec is right in the middle of the town, it is the largest urban park in Latin America, as big as some of the greatest in the world, such as Bois de Boulogne in Paris and Central Park in New York City.

There is just one thing you can’t do in Mexico and that is skiing; unfortunately this amazing country lacks of snow.

But you can’t have it all in life, in general. You have to make do with what you have. No one or nothing is perfect and believe me, you will still need many months to visit and experience the big variety of wonders that this country has to offer.

And through my travel experiences in Mexico, I hope I will let you discover the most hidden secrets and surprises of this mysterious country called MEXICO so that you can fall in love just like I did.

 

 

View from my 15 USD cabana in Mazunte, Oaxaca

View from my 15 USD cabana in Mazunte, Oaxaca

 

A walk in the jungle nearby Palenque ruins, Chiapas.

A walk in the jungle nearby Palenque ruins, Chiapas.

Gran cenote, Tulum

Gran cenote, Tulum

Street vendor at Oaxaca local market

Street vendor at Oaxaca local market

 

Canyon. Canon del Sumidero, Chiapas

Canyon. Canon del Sumidero, Chiapas

Guadalupe Church, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Guadalupe Church, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Making new friends in Cholula, Puebla

Making new friends in Cholula, Puebla

Afternoon laundry in Tulum

Afternoon laundry in Tulum

 

Cataratas de Agua Azul, Blue waterfalls in Chiapas

Cataratas de Agua Azul, Blue waterfalls in Chiapas

Valladolid mexicana

6 Jan

Me and Sandrine left Isla Mujeres in the early afternoon, we wanted to catch a bus to Valladolid and be there before the sun would go down; we decided to visit this town for a day so we could be close to the Chichen Itza ruins the following morning.

We had about 3 hours ride from Cancun to Villadolid, in a quite dirty and uncomfortable bus by a company called Mayab.

It was not like ADO, much cleaner and professional. On this bus every now and then a street vendor would board the bus trying to sell food or bags or whatever. Even though most of them were quite annoying, we found a very funny original one, who pretended to sell a special oil to cure so many illnesses in one that me and Sandrine burst out laughing like dumbs.

We arrived to Valladolid quite late in the end and while grabbing our luggage we bumped into an italian guy traveling on his own, Federico. “Are you also italian? ” we said. Typical clichés, and we left.

We found this colonial town quite nice at first sight, we started walking towards a hostel that had been recommended, called Candelaria Hostel but we had not booked any space.

We bumped into a beautiful red church with white edges and a moorish hint from the 17th century, the Candelaria: beautiful. And there was a blue sky that even if was getting darker was a marvelous contrast with the church.

On the way to the hostel we met again the italian guy of the bus, who told us that the hostel was unfortunately fully booked. We went anyway to see it, it looked really cool and smart and we had a look to its famous garden in the backyard.

As we were told from the receptionist that there was no space, we finally went in a hotel.

I had not been in a proper hotel for a while and I have to admit it was really clean and comfortable, I probably needed it, even if we were welcomed from the worst staff ever.

We joined Federico for dinner, he took us to a hidden corner where to enjoy authentic Yucatan food, as he feels kind of local in this area. He is a great traveller but is now living in Yucatan peninsula and often comes to Valladolid.

Few years ago he attended a master in England where he met a couple who moved to Mexico few years later. He decided to join them for an important project and so he is now living in El Cuyo. A place that is still very far from tourism, close to a biosphere reserve.

This place is apparently famous for hosting the majority of the pink flamingo of Mexico as well as being considered one of the most important beaches in the world for the nesting of the hawksbill turtle.

We had a lovely meal with Federico, drunk a few beers and enjoyed his really interesting life stories. He was really funny and smart, it felt like we knew him forever and we keep talking to him during our pleasant walk after dinner.

We passed through the Zocalo, “main plaza” and crossed a park with the fountain of the “Mestiza”.

On the southwest side of the Plaza there was the majestic 16th Century Cathedral of “San Servacio”. Beautiful: we took some pictures, commented on the cathedral and read somewhere that it had been scene of a bloody crime and had been demolished and rebuilt in the 19th century.

We got tempted from a churros seller on the square and bought a few. Unfortunately they were not really nice and probably cooked with an old oil.

Luckily it was the only bad choice of the night, since the rest was really good, there was a nice moon, a lot of tranquility and fresh air.

We walked a beautiful colonial street called ” calzada de los frailes” all the way to the Convent of San Bernardino di Siena, built by Franciscan missionaries in the 16th Century.

We wandered around enjoying the beautiful colonial architecture of this lovely town and when we finally got to the hotel all we wanted was having a rest and sleep.

The best of traveling is just meeting nice people as Federico, bumping into places you had never heard of and being far away from the conventional things you would do at home.

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Cenotes, Bikes and boundaries in Tulum

30 Dec

30th November 2012

I woke up, took off my lovely fuchsia eye-mask and saw out of the window a white sign saying “Tulum” – a good relief after about 15 hours bus journey.

I did not have any idea where to go nor where to stay. Actually, I didn’t even know much about this place but the fact that it had stunning Maya ruins, beautiful white sands and turquoise waters.

At the taxi queue there were 4 people I had seen on my bus from Chiapas, they also seemed not to know where to go, they wanted me to go with them in the taxi, but the driver seemed not to agree in carrying 5 people + backpacks so I gave them a warm smile and thank them anyway; That is one of those sliding doors situations. The people you meet will obviously change the rest of the trip. I imagined to have hopped on that taxi with those strangers, but I realized to be more happy to have stayed. No taxi around, so I decided to go for a nice breakfast first.

It was 830 am, there was no rush. I ordered a fresh orange juice and a coffee. I wrote Elisabeth on whatsapp,  
she suggested me a place called La Cigana, 400 metres from the bus station and Just after the last juice sip I walked still a little bit lost and sleepy, to find this place.. 
I knocked few times at the hostel door until a nice Australian guy opened me, I thought he was working there but I found out he was just a guest. It was good news to hear from the staff that there was availability for me. 
I left my backpack in the room, put my belongings in the safe and joined few other people that were having breakfast outside. 
Among them, a pretty girl from the Italian Switzerland. She had just arrived to Mexico and was heading to Costa Rica, where she would work in a community as the previous year. She had a mysterious and a fragile look, but she was sweet and I even funny. Nathan, the guy who had opened me the door was there with his travel mate Steven: two students from Melbourne travelling South America with Rio de janeiro as final destination, as me;  then, a lovely couple from New Zealand, Julie and Ben were having a coffee and talking about their next stop  Belize. 
Me, Martina, Nathan and Steven decided to go and rent a bike and go to a cenote. 
We all rent a playera bike, stopped at a fruit dealer (delicious fruit) and  headed to the Big Cenote. I was not familiar with this word neither.

I loved biking, enjoyed and felt a baby scampering for those wide long roads feeling the air and sun on my face. We even improvised a race to see who was the fastest, I won one. 
We finally arrived to destination: I had never seen something similar, we rented the snorkelling equipment and swam into that quite big Cenote, a kind of large open water pool; technically it is a type of sinkhole that contains water coming from the rain that infiltrates through the ground. When driving from a town to another in Quintana roo and Yucatan, you will see many of them; they are very popular in this area. 
At the cenote we saw many turtles and fishes, it seems to be suspended in the air while you re down there. We all enjoyed it, including my little doll Dora, who took her first season swim among frogs, turtles and huge leaves floating in the water. 
There were also many iguanas, one of which was huge and laying undisturbed on a branch observing the divers and the swimmers in the cenote. 
The only thing I really didn’t like was seeing beautiful colored peacocks pent up in a cage, it was horrible to see them there while the rest of his similar were enjoying their freedom in a wild context.

We left the cenote with a great desire of jumping in salt Caribbean waters. Biking through the coast we decided that the four of us would rather move to the beachside rather than staying at La Cigana in the town. 
We had a swim and the guys went back to the town while me and Martina enjoyed a delicious fresh fruit juice at Mezzanine lounge bar.

For dinner we went with the kiwi couple, Ben and Julie at a Tacos place: nothing good compared to those of Puebla. (I will keep comparing them during all my trip, but so far I didn’t have any better)
. Then we all gathered at la cigana after dinner. Our Saturday night fever in Tulum ended up with tequilas for all of us, and while getting to a cab that would get us to the beach we sang ” one day baby we ll be old” from Asaf Avidan.

When I found myself on soft and white sand while listening to cool electronic music I woke up again from the amazing dream I am living; tequilas might help but I just believed once again that Mexico makes me happy.

There must be a special energy in this country! 
We danced all night long and met few Spanish guys living in D.F.

Mosquitos were quite a pain, but it was still a magical night, we even saw a shooting star and I nearly fell asleep in a beautiful paradise bay.  My travel friends had gone back to the hostel.

Hotel Diamante was a paradisiac spot, but not worth to remember or recommend. 
That morning we decided to go to a 40 minutes colectivo to Akumal, a town halfway to playa del Carmen considered one of the most important turtle-spotting place. 
We were all with a “cruda” – hangover in Mexican Spanish. So I could not really enjoy that day as I might have wanted, but lying on the sand listening to Martina life stories while Steven was dealing with about 8 giant turtles was nice.

Once back in town we looked for a tacos place and had tequila shots on our hotel beach. Singing, talking and making time trying to be a good company for the kiwi couple who had to leave to Belize during that night. Our effort lasted until just midnight, when we kissed them goodbye and wished them safe travels.

If sleeping without windows was incredibly fantastic, hearing cucarachas under the bed was definitely frustrating; I am glad I was with a lovely company of three, most of them so friendly with cockroaches. They were even upset for having to disturb them and taking them out. I really envy the kind of people who deals with any kind of animal and don’t get nervous when meet one of them. 
Maybe it is because I always lived in a city and never really had the opportunity to become tolerant towards them. I always thought that this would be a great limit for me when having to travel, but I am sure that with this trip I improved a lot is aspect. And I am more than keen to get it better.

Boundaries are always good to overtake, even if sometimes it takes time. Willpower helps,  if you have any, and it is a good point of start.

The morning after we woke up quite disturbed for the humidity, noises and general uncomforting feeling, but we had a nice breakfast on the rocks with nutella and bread and then walked all the way to the Tulum ruins.

They are situated on quite tall cliffs and it is one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites. There is a big castle and several other buildings: those ruins are quite small but they are the only ones overlooking an unbelievable turquoise sea, one of those images you will keep in your eyes forever. A postcard.

We probably bumped into more than 30 iguanas during our visit of the ruins, hidden and camufled among the precious rocks. I like them a lot, and remind me a lot of Maldives, where is very populated by them. 
We enjoyed our last stop at the delicious ice cream shop “Panna e cioccolato” before to say them goodbye. 
Nathan, Steven and Marting were heading to Merida but I needed to keep my way on my own and headed to playa del Carmen.

I stopped with my right hand a crazy collectivo driver while holding the backpack with the other hand. While placing the backpack on the little bus I couldn’t stop observing those three smiling and enjoying guys who made my last few days trip more pleasant.  The driver said: “rapidito senorita”. 
 Time to leave.

Again on my own, always the same feeling. Nostalgic for the goodbyes but with the adrenaline of starting a new adventure.

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Fear and Love. D.F. again

10 Dec

Sometimes we fall in love at first sight, others it takes time to appreciate something or somebody; some other times we see somebody and we just disregard it, to discover few hours later that we like it instead.
That is what happened to me with Mexico City. It has worldwide a bad reputation, that I am sure it will not last long anymore, but it is true that it is known for being polluted, trafficated, corrupted and even ugly. A scary city where walking alone can be often a problem and not recommendable.
I feel so lucky to be here now writing about this amazing city; it enchanted me and that is probably why I am still here after 40 days instead of couple of weeks, among the not so many young foreigners to have decided to discover a little bit more the Mexican capital.
I have been here few days last month before to start my adventurous trip through the country, passing by Puebla, Oaxaca, Mazunte, Puerto Escondido, San Cristobal de las casas, Palenque, Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres.
I enjoyed the tour so much and every day I was kind of falling more and more in love with the culture and the places I was seeing.
I think that Mexico has it all: a megalopolis offering all kind of leisure every big city in the globe offers, stunning white sand beaches with turquoise Caribbean seas, waved oceans, mountains, hills, unique waterfalls; crazy nightlife, music, art and literature; innumerable arqueological sites, thousand years of history and civilization. Yummy food and exquisite drinks.
And this is why I felt the need to go back to Mexico City and have a break from the continuous movings and changes. I needed some rest; some home feeling and I knew for sure that I would have found it here.
Of course I came back to my favorite place ever in Colonia Condesa at the Stayinn Barefoot hostel. I found it even more beautiful than when I left it about a month ago, this time decorated with a lovely Christmas tree with multicolored figures of the holy crèche replacing the skulls and Day of death adornment.
Plus, it has now opened a cozy little bistro where also people not accommodated at the hostel can eat. And there is a new entry: Carlos, an anti-Mexican prototype – 1.92 tall guy who you would bet that comes from Bergen or Goteborg, who would cook exquisite food inspired from the different countries he has lived in as a chef.
Furthermore, just beside the bistro inside the hostel they are opening a “mezcaleria”, or canteen, and the roof terrace is going to be soon a hangout place with a cool bar, all opened to the public.
If before I was loving this place, now I seriously find it unique and a must see place where to stay when in Mexico City.
It is still a hostel, with an excellent location and service but of course limited facilities not being a proper hotel. But I wish you all would come here once. There are spacious dorms with 6 comfortable beds and stylish, simple and shared bathrooms, but there are also private bedrooms for those who might be skeptical towards sharing.
I was welcomed again from the pretty smile of the two guys at the reception: Delphine and Enrique, it was nice to see them again and tell them all sort of stories lived during this month travelling and sharing with them my increased love for Mexico.
I visited marvelous places and met gorgeous people, but DF was calling, and I could not resist taking the first flight from Cancun and coming back.
Even if there was a “colder” weather here, I still wanted to move from a beach paradise to this crazy busy city.
It is like with people. You might meet and like different ones, but normally there is one who deserves a place in your heart, no matter if it was just an adventure, that feeling exist, and you have to follow the instinct.
Shame for those who live not expressing themselves for fear or for thinking not to be able to love or deserve to be loved. It makes me think now of a beautiful song from Morcheeba – ” Fear and Love: Fear can stop you loving, love can stop your fear”.
If I would have continued to be fearful towards DF I wouldn’t have loved it the way I do now, and since I love it, I am enjoying it with no fear. It is still risky but worth it.
I am not convinced that the way I am is the best one, I am a big romantic and an endless dreamer, and if I like something or somebody I will not hide it.
So, Even though I had “met ” DF at the beginning of my Mexican trip, I had been faithful to her somehow in the heart and although the other places were amazing, none of them had really given me that little fluttery feeling in the stomach.
So, referring to cities, DF made me want to return, and like a Gotan Project song says: “vuelvo al sur como se vuelve siempre al amor” and here I am, back and happy.
I found the city even more beautiful, I had left it one month ago in a rush because I was excited to see new places but also because it was rainy and cold. Luckily I found a warm December here, with an average temperature of 20 degrees. Awesome.
This time I felt much more confident walking on my own, I remember my first night here when I was inexplicably frightened even to be smoking alone outside a building door.
With this I don’t want to say that it is the safest city in the world, but it is like major big cities with good and bad aspects, where it is true that you can hear story somebody who has been robbed or assaulted, which is horrific. But I have been walking alone even at night, always watching out and careful, but in the end it is definitely not that scary.
I have lived many years in Barcelona and I have never seen more bags snatching than there, even more than the so much maligned city of Naples, my hometown. While travelling, when I say to the people that I come from Naples there’s few one who don’t reply: “really? I heard it is very rough over there! ”
Come on, yes, it has bad reputation because it is not that unusual to be robbed there but that not happen everywhere, there are certain areas to avoid, a little common sense and codes to be respected; but if you never try you will never know that it is one of the most beautiful cities with a heartbreaking views on the sea from nearly wherever in the city.
We have to give chances to the places and to the people, as well as to the movies for example.
Has it ever happen to go to the cinema to watch a movie everybody told you not to or vice versa, but once you go out from the hall you find it just the opposite of how the others has described it?
It worth’s a try in this life, it worth to make some effort sometimes. It worth to live it with no fear, you might not regret about it.
Sometimes can happen that you change your mind. That for example you are in a bad mood and watch a movie finding it ugly. Then after few years you see it again with the lovely company of a friend or partner and you find it amazing, like it was another movie.
It happened many times to me.
And I am sure that it happens when we visit places. We might love a place more than the usual because we found an amazing sun shining instead of a cloudy grey sky. We might have fun at a party even if the venue is crap, but you talk with somebody who makes your night more pleasant.
It is the case of what happened on my birthday in Patzcuaro, I had an amazing fun time in this little hidden corner of the earth and had more fun than the one I had in the fanciest club in New York few weeks before.
Most of us have probably travelled a lot, seen many things; most of us live in beautiful countries, our eyes and our heart is used to beauty, but we keep looking for genuine, real things, places and people who have a soul and emotion us. And we find a compatible soul only rarely. That is why we should catch it when it happens, and always listen to the heart.
I am probably turning too romantic now and as always lengthy. So I would like to go back to my love for Mexico City especially of my favorite areas, Colonia Roma and Colonia Condesa.
This morning I prepared a nice playlist on my iPhone, I walked on Juan Escutia, then Mazatlan, turned on Michoacán where I could see appealing bars and restaurants that made me want to stop to any of them.
But this time I was not just wandering around, but actually looking for a specific place that had been recommended me by Carla, one of the five young guys who run the Stayinn Barefoot Hostel.
I had asked her a local tip on a cozy cafe where to chill, have some drink or food, and she suggested a place that through its description sounded like similar to my favorite place in Puerto Escondido, Casa Babylon.
But this one in Mexico City was named “El pendulo” defined as a cafebreria, a mixed word between cafeteria and libreria, bookshop in Spanish.
Thousands of books spread on shelves and counters on two levels, with homey and comfy armchairs and smiley “meseros”, waiters in Spanish, welcoming you and giving you great service.
The menu is wise: has a vegetarian and light option, with vegetable crepes with cheese and tamarind sauce. Then soups, salads, sandwiches, gyros, strawberries Shiva lassies, espresso cafes and juices.
The menu offer pasta, with a “lassagna” in the list, which was not really appealing just for the fact that it was misspelled. Come on chef, even if you are not Italian you might have noticed the error! For lunch there is a 140 pesos (about 10 us dollars) daily fix menu with 3 different options to be chosen, a fresh water of the day and a cafe. Good deal.
I had just delighted a breakfast at the hostel so I only ordered a cafe and a delicious “narahoria” juice, a mix of orange (nara- nja) and carrot (zana-horia) juice. Fresh and savory.
I loved that cool place, I relaxed and enjoyed it, I wrote few lines on my EDF orange notebook, given me as a gift on my last day working at the Olympics, and I really care for it.
After “El Pendulo” I walked few meters to reach a place specialized in filled baked potatoes.
You might not all know that it is among my favorite meals, and I really wanted to try it. I went to a little bistro called “Papa rellena” just off Nuevo Leon, and ordered a potato filled with Gouda cheese and beef.
The filling was really tasty. Such a shame that the potato was too hard and not really good. I prefer it when it is so soft that you can eat it with a teaspoon.
Nuevo Leon is a street full of fancy bars, bakeries and restaurants, and accidentally came across Bonito, a place I had been for a nice dinner last month; I took a look at it, had a nice memory but I proceeded the walk.
I spotted a trendy restaurant called “la Capital”, I was captivated by its design and good ambience.
I might have to go and verify the reliability of my first nice feeling on it.
While walking Parque Espana I saw a funny vintage car parked outside a fancy boutique hotel called Condesa DF. I walked in and saw a nice restaurant in a whitey patio with warm colors; I also visited the sushi bar situated on the roof terrace decorated with green and white modern furniture and offering the guests nice views.
Apparently on Sundays there is a dj playing until late.
I left the hotel and continued my walk.
I stopped in the front of a nice French bakery called La Balance with succulent products displayed, just to take a look at the route and look for Colima, a street I had walked last time and I had liked it a lot. It was just few minutes from there, I saw one of the popular men who polish shoes in the street corner, and it was nice to notice that he was barefoot and was cleaning his own shoes.
I walked a big part of Colima Street, finding on the pavement a lovely graffiti “I love Mex”. I took a very cool picture with my red all-star matching the red heart. Colima has trendy clothing, design and antique shops and restaurants, and actually I stopped by an Asiatic restaurant called Omiya, mainly Japanese and fusion food. It had really high ceilings decorated in a tangible Asiatic style. I might want to go there as well before to leave.
Another spot I wanted to see in Colonia Roma was a gallery called Border: I had read nice things about it so while getting to Zacatecas street I came across another familiar place: Belmondo, a lovely sophisticated cafeteria and restaurant I had been last month, when I enjoyed a corn cake and a superior cafe. I could not avoid stopping again.
It was disappointing to figure out that Border had no exhibition at the moment and that wouldn’t have any until February, but the space itself looked cool.
On the way back to the hostel I remembered that at Palacio de Hierro, a popular Mexican department store last time I had noticed a nice Spanish delicatessen. I was craving familiar tastes and I bought some Jamon Serrano and provolone cheese. Spain and Italy together better than ever, also among my favorite food combinations.
And here I am, exhausted, on the colorful stylish sofas at the hostel, surrounded by vinyl, a small guitar and a vintage LP player. Delphine is reading a book, speaking with people and whenever she laughs I love it, it is so hilarious and contagious: it makes me laugh even if I don’t know why she does. Enrique just arrived to swap the shift with Delphine, they are now laughing together for some funny reason. They are lovely!

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Food, tattoos and whatever makes you happy in Chiapas

27 Nov

On our first day in San Cristobal we had breakfast in a nice colonial place and reached the Zocalo, the main square of the town with gardens and a big Kiosk in the middle.
The historic center of San Cristobal has a Spanish colonial layout, with Baroque to Neoclassical style, beautiful buildings painted in various colours with Moorish hints.

The majestic yellow Baroque Cathedral with its red ledges and the big white building as the City Hall are the main attractions of this square.
I loved that fresh mountainous air of San Cristobal and the fact that wherever you are you will notice to be surrounded by hills.
Even if it is situated in a tropical zone, its climate is temperate and humid due to the altitude thus you need to carry some winter clothes, which I didn’t really have. I felt like when walking in February in Barcelona, when it is pretty cold there, I looked at the North European tourists walking with Havaianas and other flip-flops. nd I used to find it ridiculous.

Well, I am sure somebody has thought the same of me when walking the street with spring clothes with 7 degrees. What goes around comes around, no?
That morning we walked through the large open-air crafts market, with colourful and nice stalls mostly of textiles, amber and food and I saw many “sabrosas” – macadamia nuts vendors.
I had fun taking pictures of Dora with the ” Marcos”, little dolls representing the Zapatista activists with their typical black dresses and also a nice photo with a bunch of artisanal dolls that would be considered new little friends for her.
Paul and I noticed a tattoo shop, walked in and we both decide to have one. All happened so fast! I change my mind often but I surprise of myself that I never regret things. That’s why I love tattoos. I will always consider special regardless what could happen “tomorrow”.
I finally had a tattoo I was about to do in London few weeks before to leave, ” Fernweh “, a German noun that means, “crave for travelling, homesickness from a place you have never been”. I had always loved that word which apparently has never been properly translated with the same meaning.

Some would translate it as ” wanderlust” but that did not convince me. So I decided to keep it as the original noun.
Paul wanted to write on his arms “whatever makes you happy” but he finally had it in Spanish so to give more value to it being in Mexico. His tattoo was finally “lo que te hace feliz”. One has always to do whatever makes us happy. And I have probably chased this need all my life.
We were both happy and satisfied for our new inscriptions on the body and went back to the hostel for some rest.
At the Iguana hostel we met nice people, we first had some beers and then went for a walk and to a popular “Tacos” place. We talked about random things and even played cards, Asso. I don’t like cards but enjoyed it anyway.
We were a group of people from Italy, Australia, Germany, Holland, Canada, Usa and Israel.
That night I started to feel my cough was getting worse, and since I didn’t feel in shape I decided to stay at the hostel writing the blog and having a nice conversation with a nice Dutch guy who perfectly spoke Italian.
Of course he reminded me of my lovely other half and friend Sandrine and I imagined her to be fluent in Italian soon after the big efforts and Italian classes she is taking.
The day after we decided to move to another hostel; we had seen it just in photo when we had arrived at the bus terminal: Puerta Vieja hostel, and actually it turned to be an incredible place! We loved it immediately.

It had opened since few days, you could smell the brand new flavour everywhere, the dorms were amazing, rustic, country-style with colourful blankets.
We had a huge room for us and slept in mattresses that had never been used before. It was like being on a family trip, and I loved laying on the clean, fresh and comfortable bed and listening to Paul or Kevin playing the guitar just outside the room.
The kitchen was amazing and I was glad I could cook a little bit since I was missing it.
I cooked for two nights in row pasta for dinner for the five of us and a lovely German girl friend of the guys called Greta.

She had just been in Brazil for an interchange and was now travelling Central America. She had such a sweet smile, incredibly funny and looked really smart too.
In the morning I prepared often breakfast with my (modestly) delicious scrambled eggs.
I was happy to taking care of the guys in terms of food and I was also the official guide of the tour. But they were taking care of me so bad. I like the fact that I am independent from any human being, and I learnt to live on my own and do things despite the fact you have company or not. But I love good company, I love to forget how good I can stay alone when there’s good people to protect me and taking care of me. They were always taking care of me and never let me alone especially at night.

They started to call me Mamita thinking that it was a name for a mum but on their side they were
I felt so protected and safe at all times. It was nice to notice that if I ever stopped to see a shop or taking a picture, one of the guys was always waiting for me with a smiley face.

One day I woke up later than usual and I found the breakfast done by all of them for me with wonderful croque madames. I felt lucky! They said I deserved it J
That hostel helped our experience in Chiapas to be even more magical. It was supreme, with wide common space, a huge and functional kitchen and many bathrooms. There is about a bathroom every 2 people with great and warm showers, which is not to be given for granted in hostels.
Its majestic patio with long white arches and beautiful pictures on the wall, the big large wooden table where to have a nice breakfast while listening to music, is just few of the great aspect place where everybody can feel a home.
There is also a bar on the top of the house, it is still under construction but I can assure you that it was already beautiful like that, with stunning 360 degrees views on the town.
There is a soul at Puerta Vieja hostel; it is a beautiful project of few young entrepreneurs with the help of a great young architect called Daniela.

I wish them all, especially Dani Fernando and another lovely guy (who helped me not to freak out when none of my travel companion came back to the hostel a morning after partying) the best of luck for this project and that they will be able to fill all the 50 people capacity hostel.
Puerta vieja location is great, being situated on one of the main street called Diego de Mazariegos: full of shops, a big supermarket and a couple of minutes walk from the Zocalo.
In the back of the hostel there is a big garden where every night people would gather and sit all around a bonfire, with an external sauna made of stone and a beautiful antique door hanged on the walls increasing the magic atmosphere of the place.
At night we had a lot of fun at the hostel especially for Daniela – the architect – it was her birthday, and the guys organized a surprise party with usual bonfire, a piñata and a lot of food and drinks.

There were people from different part of the world; I enjoyed talking to a sweet and easy-going nice guy from Israel called Itamar. He had beautiful, kind of grey eyes.

There were also 2 nice hippy girls from New Zealand and a vegan Australian who were sat in circle meditating and after that all of them jumped on the fire in order to “leave the past behind”.
Meantime Justin and me prepared delicious jacket potatoes that took about 3 hours to cook. But it was worth to wait! Patience is golden !
One day, wandering through the town we found a lovely cultural center called ‘Tierradentro’ and it would become our favourite spot in San Cristobal: a large patio with autonomous “Zapatista” cooperatives in inside.

I loved the giant world map at the entrance, I probably never saw such a big one and we had fun taking pictures kissing Mexico and the Aussies indicating their so far away country.
We would go there on a daily basis, sometimes up to 3 times a day delighting its amazing coffees, salads, meat and a delicious authentic pizza with Nutella, which would be my little daily whim.
In San Cristobal there is a great food choice; many foreign residents have opened up restaurants with specially Italian and French meals.

There is an amazing French bakery on Calle Guadalupe called Oh-la-la where I strongly suggest you to go and feel like you are in a patisserie of Les Marais in Paris.

In terms of shops there is a good variety going from the basic cheap artisan things to the most sophisticated handcrafts of a beautiful shop called Eklektic.
I was very sick during the entire stay at San Cris, taking antibiotics and syrups instead of the rivers of alcohol the guys were consuming all day long. But it was special anyway.
More than once I was told by locals to drink tequila and all the pain would leave, or at least it would help to forget about it for some hours.
It is so bad but frequent while traveling getting sick, maybe for the change temperature, the sometimes cold showers in the hostels, travel stress (yes, it exist), tiredness and the long rides in buses with air conditioning and no open windows, with easy access to viruses.
In Chiapas lives a large indigenous population, made up of mostly Tzotzils and Tzeltals, the most important ethnic groups. It was bizarre to find out that the two languages are pretty different and they don’t understand each other.
We were so comfortable at the hostel that we all turned into lazy, even more for me, as I was feeling pretty sick.

There’s a nice garden inside the Casa de la Cultura de Chiapas. It is worth a walk inside with big handlooms on a side, and big colourful Mexican canvas on the other.
It is very close to San Cristobal Church, situated atop a long staircase up the hill: 300 steep stairs. About its half way there’s a sign ” no tirar basura,” do not trash bins and on its right a little hut made of recycled bottles and its tops and corks: very original.

Also, we bumped into many chickens on the stairs and a lovely about 2-year-old kid that, as soon as Paul said “hola” started to scream and cry, as you would see in a candid camera show.
The church was closed but the panoramic views of the city were amazing.
Plus, we had fun among the vintage yellow gym tools in the backyard.
As during the previous day we had been quite lazy we decided to make a double effort and walk all the way to the Guadalupe Church on the Guadalupe hills. Quite a long walk but less stairs though.
We walked by many shops during the long walk; especially a winery called Proyecto 25, then a marqesita shop where I had one filled with Nutella, a nice “casa de te” called Lum and different homemade chocolate shops.
While walking by the cathedral I met again Lena, a young German girl I had first met at Cielo rojo hostel in Oaxaca and after few days by chance at Posada del arquitecto in Mazunte. Many many km away.

Again incredible to meet randomly travellers met before.
At night we made a rendez vous with her at another favourite spot: la Vina de Bacco, a kind of tapas concept bar, where you receive some little dish whenever you buy a bottle of wine. Its owners are Italian.
We had a lot of fun, and met other people from the hostel; we enjoyed some minutes of live music from a smiley and funny Romanian traveller.
I got a bizarre proposal from an American murals artist who offered me consultancy for my blog in change of some afternoons to spend together. He said he was also an editor. He might have been useful for my blog but he was a little bit awkward, I didn’t give him my email on purpose but he gave me his. I never wrote him back. I thought: I would never meet him again. But puff…. I didn’t know that I would bump into him face to face a week later in the streets of Palenque, 6 hours bus away.

The world is little, I felt a little bit guilty but I acted as I had not seen him.

And Chiapas is a place I would strongly recommend you all to visit.

 

 

 

 

 

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A paradise called Mazunte

24 Nov

The taxi left us in the main corner of Mazunte, a small beach town on the Oaxaca state, on the  Mexican Pacific coast.

We had thought about  staying there just one night and then proceed towards Puerto Escondido, but we ended up staying for 6 instead. Reading below you will understand why.

All of us were so excited to have arrived in such a magic paradisiacal place: a very wild place with few people, many dogs and unfortunately thousand of mosquitos, that would be the only nightmare during the entire stay at Mazunte.
There is no way to be safe from them, they kept devouring us, especially my legs and ankles.
My travel mate Jeremy , from NYC told me that his granddad once had  told him to marry a girl who would be mostly bitten by mosquitos, probably for its evident sweet blood characteristics. I don’t know if I should consider it a good thing though.
We were all so relaxed, we spent a lot of time laying on the sand  considering ourselves so lucky   to have decided to travel together and enjoy that dream place.
We had just meet up, but we got along together well. Sometimes it’s difficult to share 24 hours a day with other people, but it all run smoothly with them.
During those days I had the chance to be on my own ( few people can resist the sun like I do ) but I enjoyed listening to Mannarino, an artist discovered through a lovely guy met in London just before to leave for this trip.
He told me it would have been a good company for my trip and it actually was. During my long bus journeys it was a great way to feel home.
It has been funny to listen to Mannarino when walking in the crowded streets of Manhattan, in the car while driving from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, wandering through the Colonia Roma in Mexico City, on a hamac in Mazunte and so on.
It’s amazing how music can be the soundtrack of your life, trip, loves and friendships.
During this trip I have also listened to the XX a lot, Devendra Banhart, Feist, LCD Sound system, RHCP, Jovanotti, Lykke li, Giovanni Allevi, and many others.
One day at the Posada del arquitecto’s cafeteria I listened to a song from Zoe, a Mexican rock band and I adored their song called “Sone”. (I used Shazam to detect it and I immediately bought it on iTunes, listening to it thousands times a day.)
When not on my own, I enjoyed my travel mates company and magical sunsets in Mazunte, especially an afternoon we had lovely chats drinking mojitos oaxaquenos with mescal.
One day we all walked through the jungle up to the top of the mountain and arrived to Punta Cometa for sunset time: a small mountain that juts out from the shoreline, also called “Cerro Sagrado”, in english Sacred Hill. It’s the southernmost point of the state of Oaxaca and an important stopping place for migratory birds and whales.
We enjoyed the sun getting down in the sea from there. Magical.
I loved Mazunte and its surroundings. Before the mid 20th century, this place had nearly no population, the area was isolated and not even accessible by other means than boats. It started to change when a market for sea turtle meat and eggs developed in the 70’s, and when the first curious travellers started to arrive in this beautiful place.
Nowadays it is still mostly a rural village and its architecture based on the use of natural materials only.
The first night we stayed in a two floors cabana with swing beds and basic but cool decoration at Posada del arquitecto: a place recommended by Diana, a lovely girl I had met through Andres in Cholula.
It is run by a smart and funny italian man named Guido, “the architect” ; he arrived at this magic place as a visitor in the 80’s and decided to settle down by building many of the eco-friendly cabanas made up of palm fronds, adobe, bamboo, shells stones coconut shells and wood.
Many other Italians immigrated to Mazunte in the 80’s. This is the reason why you can often listen to italian people talking at the posada.But surprisingly, there were no Italian tourists.
One of the Italians settled there opened a small take away pizza that I totally appreciated, since I was getting a little bit sick of corn tortillas and tacos: his focaccia with rosemary had nothing to envy to the ones I like eating in Campo de fiori in Rome.
An afternoon, while having a delicious fresh orange juice at the beautiful cafeteria of the posada, I met a funny guy from Brescia, in the north of Italy. He was also named Guido,  he was there on his own as well: he had decided to go to Mazunte since it was a place where his dad wanted to come before to die, and that he was actually Guido (the architect)’ s classmate. I was fascinated to hear that story; there is always a reason for our trip, sometimes might be sad and sometimes funny, but i am curious and excited to hear them all.
It was soon time to sadly say goodbye to my travel mates Martin and Jeremy, who headed  towards Mexico City.
Even if I love the beach life, I still consider myself a city animal and there were some things I was missing, most of all an Atm to withdraw some money: in Mazunte there is no place where you can pay by credit card nor a cash point; so if you need it you have to drive 30 minutes to Potchula.
I took a ride to Potchula from Olga, a lovely and smiley girl and her boyfriend Jacob, a funny swiss tall guy: a great couple that both me and Soo had previously crossed at the Barefoot Hostel in Mexico City.
A coincidence. Isn’t it bizarre that with all the places and hostels you can visit in Mexico, it was already the second time I bumped into the same person in a different place miles and miles away from each other?
Guido took us to see one of the most beautiful and virgin beaches in Mexico: Mermejita. We also met a funny guy from Alessandria, Matteo: he was living in Mazunte working as a jolly wherever he could and enjoying life.
We took beautiful pictures of the sun going down while leaving beautiful orange colors in the sky until the moon would replace it with its beautiful stars.
 We laid  on the sand taking a look at the stars until late hoping to be lucky enough and see shooting ones.
Me and Soo enjoyed the stories and explanations about constellations given by Guido. He seemed quite informed and passionate about the topic and he tried to show us bizarre images in the sky that we often couldn’t see.
It is nice how sometimes we see different things from the others, and as it happens with people, sometimes I might see special things in a person that for a another is just an ordinary one;
We returned to the posada quite late, just on time to get a shower and get rid of the sand spread wherever on the body; we joined Guido again, who invited us out for dinner at an Argentinian restaurant. A  pretty good one.
Among the nice people met in mazunte there was Andrea, a nice naval captain from Milan, who had come to Mazunte to visit a couple of friends who were opening a very beautiful posada in Mazunte called “Oceano Mar”.
I had the chance to visit the property even if it was still with works in progress.
A special thanks goes to Martino, a nice guy from Milan and one of the hotel owners; he took me up there in that stunning spot with his crazy motorcycle: i think I had never been on such a precarious mean of transport, but I enjoyed a lot speeding the likewise precarious streets of Mazunte.
The posada had stunning views on Mermejita beach, provided with  a nice pool overlooking the ocean, decorated in a stylish and refined Italian touch.
This hotel has just 5 rooms, a bar and a restaurant with a wood stove; it is situated in the middle of the jungle in a priceless peace; I was so grateful to Martino until that moment, but even more when he  prepared for me a Lavazza coffee with the typical neapolitan moka. It was one of the simple habits I have to admit I was missing a bit.
I wish Martino and his nice and friendly business partners  the best of luck for this great project.
On our last night we went with Andrea to  another beach town just beside Mazunte, called Sant’ Agustinillo.
On the way to that little town we finally had a natural coconut. We first drank its milk and then a young girl cut it for us in small pieces. While walking we saw a lovely hotel called Pan De Miel, one of the few proper hotels in the area with higher starred service and with an amazing pool on the ocean.
We had  an aperitif at a popular nice beach bar called Mexico Lindo and took many pictures ( as usual)
That night it was the first day of the popular annual international jazz festival of Mazunte.
 The owner and chef of a local italian restaurant called Cangrejo Azul prepared a delicious lasagna that we had just on the sand while enjoying the concert.
We had to leave  Mazunte, but we couldnt’ without delighting our favourite treat,  the “Chocolatin”: a delicious pastry prepared by lovely young guys who opened the first bakery shop in Mazunte, called actually “la primera”, in spanish ” the first”. No other bakery had ever opened before.
It is definitely one of those things you cannot miss in Mazunte: the smell of “pan relleno” and “chocolatines”,  wrapped in a red checked cloth and carried in a basket by beautiful and smiley girls: one of the most desired and awaited moment of the day.
A big congratulations goes to the bakers, a funny skinny mexican guy and his austrian girlfriend.
The bakery is situated beside another important spot in Mazunte, the “cosmeticos naturales de mazunte”‘, a community enterprise dedicated to making high quality make-up that is 100% environmentally friendly.
This business began about a decade ago with the sponsorship of The Body Shop and the Mexican federal government. It definitely worth a visit to enjoy the amazing natural flavors.
We enjoyed our last chocolatin at the Primera bakery while waiting for the collectivo that would take us at the bus stop to Puerto Escondido. We had to wait few of them because they were always overcrowded. Finally arrived one that looked a little bit ( just a little bit) more available. We were again afraid we wouldn’t make it, but a curly blond nice guy shouted us to go onboard anyway as he would make space for us.
It began another adventure, but would leave it on the next entry.

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