Things we’ve learned about Mexico so far:
- Everything comes with chilli on the side, even fruit salad.
- Churches and seedy bars have screens inside the doorways, so no-one can see who is praying and who is drinking.
- People tend to be friendlier to Europeans than Americans (not looking at anyone in particular, Mr Trump).
- Lots of dishes have delightfully vague names on menus like ‘Yellow’ or ‘Chicken’, so you’re never really sure what you’re ordering!
Yucatan Peninsula, the best bits:
The cities of Campeche and Merida are crammed with free art exhibitions, culture and music. We saw a virtuoso jazz harpist from Columbia, a New Orleans brass band and an ‘ancient’ game of fire volleyball among many others. In the evenings the plazas fill with families strolling, dancing or watching videos projected onto colonial buildings, as gentlemen sit on twirly metal thrones to have their shoes shined at the edges of the park. The level of refinement is furthered by seeing police officers going about their duties ON SEGWAYS! We also saw and used our first escalator in 7 months. Turns out it is like riding a bike. But easier.
Cenotes are ancient underground swimming holes, thought by the Mayans to be gateways to the underworld. In Samula and X’keken we floated on our backs looking up at the stalagmites, sunlight streaming through holes in the roof and tree roots growing down from the surface to the water. One open air cenote we visited was 90 meters deep and Nick freaked himself out diving down as far as he could go to see only blackness!
Flamingos look awesomely mad, rather like day-glow walking sticks and are extremely ungainly when they are taking off. We took a boat out to see a few thousand on Lake Celestún, and found that they’re unexpectedly orange rather than pink in Caribbean areas.
Beaches of Tulum and Puerto Morelos are beautiful stretches of white sand with ruins perched on cliff tops. We went snorkeling on the barrier reef off Puerto Morelos in ancient snorkeling gear and mismatching flippers. We visited a sea snake, moon fish, barracuda and hundreds of colourful fish among the coral. Our favourite was a pitch black fish with a yellow tail and glowing blue stars on its head.
Yucatan’s Mayan ruins are covered in carvings of birds, animals, and everyone’s favourite amusingly named deity, the ‘Long Nosed God’. One of the most atmospheric and abandoned sites was reachable only by boat up the river that forms the border with Guatemala. It was surrounded by forest and the only sound was howler monkeys roaring agressively (think Jurassic Park dinosaur sounds!).
Bacalar lagoon is called ‘The Lake of 7 Colours’. It was gorgeous to swim surrounded by stripes of colour from bright turquoise to deep greens from the wooden public ‘beach’ which extends out into the most clear and turquoisy bit. One day the ‘beach’ ended up being used as a wrestling ground for excitable local teenagers, with spectators of all ages howling with laughter whenever one of them was thrown into the water. It is refreshingly undeveloped compared to the rest of the coast, and little stalls that set up in the evenings sell the best cactus quesadillas.
How to eat a taco (Advice courtesy of Sergio, uber-food enthusiast and lifelong taco eater).
Having disgraced ourselves several times trying to eat messy but delicious tacos in public places, we asked a Mexican foodie we met how on earth you’re supposed to enjoy tacos without getting disgusted looks from those around you. This was his invaluable advice:
- Reinforce your tortilla! Pick up the edges of the tortilla and hold them together, supporting the weight on your palm. If given 2 tortillas, use them to reinforce the strength of the wrap.
- It’s all about the little finger. Always keep your little finger at the back of the wrap to fold the tortilla up and stop filling falling out.
- Don’t move your hand until your taco is finished, or your beautifully gathered tortilla will start to disintegrate and the insides will go EVERYWHERE.
- Know your fillings to be able to tell your pastor (marinaded pork) from your cabeza de res (cow’s eyes) and the many sauces and spicy pickled veg to add to them.
More of our photos here
Hasta la proxima!