21 May - Mexico City, Mexico
Swine who? Besides the need to wear a mask at the National Museum of Anthropology, there has not been a sniffle or sneeze of swine flu in sight. Good news for a couple of backpackers who intend to travel the world for another 5 months. Great news, in fact.
The flight into Mexico City a few days ago was fine, only that we were lucky to even get on our flight. The American Airlines lady at check-in was refusing to let us fly with our tickets saying that we were supposed to have flown in March and that our ticket was no longer valid. Sure, our ticket did state that we were flying out of Miami on 16 March, but that was simply because we have a round-the-world paper ticket with the flexibility to change flight times and dates if need be. The flights simply hadn't been released when Tim had organized our tickets and an airline is not going to reprint a 20-page ticket each time you make a small change. No amount of explaining or convincing was enough. Even the fact our booking was on the computer didn't help. She simply didn't know her stuff, which would have been fine had she not have been a condescending little you-know-what. But Tim handled it and answered appropriately with a big smile - "perhaps you need more training" or something to that effect. But we did finally get on the flight, just. My first experience with AA has not been a pleasant one (and I think Bek would concur!).
Once we flew into Mexico City, we really thought there would be a whole lot of craziness going on about the swine flu, to the point I was paranoid about even clearing my throat fearing alarm bells would sound. But in fact, the only thing we had to do was complete a questionnaire asking whether we had any swine flu symptoms. No problem! My only problem was with a lovely young lady at customs. She started speaking to me in Spanish, to which I responded in Spanish, "I'm sorry, but I don't speak Spanish. I speak English". You know what she said to me in English? "You should learn to speak Spanish, you're in Mexico City". I was shocked! Not only should she be happy that we're even traveling to this city with all the crap that's been going on, but the reason she even has a job is because people like us travel! I was so angry and wished at that point I had the guts to swear my head off at her in Spanish.
The following day, Ricardo (a friend living in Mexico City whom we met traveling in Malaysia a few years ago), took us on a walking tour around his city. His English is phenomenal and his city, beautiful! I really expected a lot less of this place after hearing horror stories of peoples' stays here (including bullet holes through hostel windows!) but it was the exact opposite. The streets around the main squares and surrounding areas are so clean and it seems all the buildings have received a face lift. Ricardo told us that the man who owns the main telecommunications company in Mexico (I forget his name now) has pumped in a lot of pesos into restoring the city and its streets. What a guy! And I certainly didn't see anybody walking around with a gun or trying to sell us cocaine. Perhaps the police are tougher now, even though, as Ricardo confirmed, there remains mass corruption at this level. Whatever it is, it's working. I'm sure if you go out looking for trouble you'll find it, but isn't every city like that?
Ok, lets get to FOOD! Tim and I finally tasted real tacos. And its not just the fact that hard shell tacos don't exist here, it's the fact that proper tacos (soft shell) are filled with tender barbecued meats, not mince, and maybe some sautéed onions and then as much lime and chilli as you can handle! That's it! None of this lettuce, tomato and cheese crap. It was amazing to finally try some traditional Mexican flavour and to know we can now do away with Old el Paso when we get home. That's just not going to cut it anymore.
Did I mention Coronas here cost 70 cents? And the Mexicans have never drink it with a slice of lemon or lime. That's just pure marketing. Plus, this beer which we hold so close to our hearts and mouths and which dwindles our cash supplies at places like The Brisbane (an up market Perth bar) is the 'commoners'' beer here. Mexicans simply don't get what all the hype is about. In any event, Tim was more than happy to fork out 70 cents for a Corona, over and over and over again. Who wouldn't (besides Mexicans of course)? And oh - if you bring the bottle back to the shop you bought it from, you get half your money back. Booyeah!
Our tour started on the 19th and we're tiny! There is only 6 of us - three couples. It seems a lot of people cancelled their travel plans to Mexico. And our tour leader, Ernesto, is an absolute nutcase, but in a good way! The fun has already begun…
You wine taste in Australia. You tequila-taste in Mexico. Simple. After our tour of the Teotihuacan (another ancient civilisation killed off by the Spanish) ruins and the magnificent pyramids of the Aztecs, we did just that, only we were also introduced to mescal which, according to my memory, is another derivative of the cactus juice from which tequila is made. It was actually tastier than tequila. And boy, is the tequila on a whole new level here! There is none of that disgusting aftertaste we have grown to love in Australia. After sampling some 5 or more different tequilas and mescals, we were escorted into a gift shop. Does anyone sense the 'free' booze was simply a ploy to get us drunk so our decision-making skills with respect to purchasing expensive souvenirs would be diminished? Ernesto confirmed that it indeed was. Its so clever, its laughable isn't it?! The even funnier thing was we were brought here before lunch and by now everyone was ravenous. Shooters whilst ravenous = instant intoxication. Ernesto told Tim and I that the guide who brought us here receives commission for every purchase made by the group he brings by. Ok…cheeky, cheeky. Decision made: no purchases. Except maybe just one thing - a little gift for Annie's (Tim's Scottish cousin) birthday. Done.
Saving the best 'til last - it was Tim's birthday yesterday (and a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you too, Ala!) and what a fabulous night we had. I say 'night' because the day, I'm sure wasn't such that Tim would have written home about, with a riveting visit to the National Museum of Anthropology (escorted by Ricardo, of course) and NO visit to the Corona Brewery. Unfortunately it was closed, much to Tim's dismay. But we did go out for delicious tacos for lunch! But anyhow, after being picked up in Carolina's (Ricardo's gorgeous girlfriend) new Mustang, we were whisked away to the hottest bar in Mexico City. It was a rooftop bar by the name of Condria df and it was incredible! Once you got over the hot tubs dotted around the place, you could appreciate the view over all of Mexico City! It was the best night, with much sushi and alcohol consumed! Ricardo and Carolina introduced us to Mexican Flag shots as a treat, which basically involved three shots - one of tomato juice, one of tequila and one of lime juice - whose colours make up Mexico's flag, of course. They were deeeeelicious! Stumbling home some time after 4am wasn't a good idea, since we had to be out of the hotel by 6.30 this morning to catch the bus to Puebla. But here we are. Hungover. Again. But it was well worth it and I know the birthday boy had a fantastic time. Love you, bebe!
P.S. Our laptop won't turn on. It just died a couple of days ago. It was on and then it wasn't. All our photos are on there, most of which we hadn't yet backed up. To lose all those precious memories? I don't know what I'd do!