A Travellerspoint blog

March 2013

Mexico - Mexico City

sunny 24 °C

Our last Latin American city! We both have mixed feelings and like anything amazing, we don't want it to end. However, it has been a long time on the road, so some routine will be nice as we venture to a new city to look for work and live in Vancouver, Canada.

Mexico city is massive. One of the largest cities in the world and we had just 3 days to explore it. It's safe to say we jammed loads into our 3 days and despite being completely wiped by the end, loved Mexico City. We stayed in Mexico City Hostel, a great hostel in a large, restored old building situated on the corner of the main plaza of the old town. Our first day was spent wandering the old town and tucking into some famously tasty soft tacos. They city surprised us by being very clean and full of fantastic old colonial architecture. The Cathedral Metrapolitano was impressive and the largest we've seen on this entire trip, the old post office was also beautiful, and the building of education, with it's walls inside covered in all sorts of murals.

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We booked in a couple of day trips through our hostel to visit some of the sights on the outskirts of Mexico City. The first was to the Mexican "Pyramids." The vast Teotihuacan ruins are comprised of two large pyramid structures, amongst ancient houses and large roads. It was constructed around 250AD, from red volcanic rock and was once home to over 100,000 people. The altitude and dry weather this time of year in Mexico meant it was hard work climbing the pyramids, but well worth it for the great views out across the ruins.

Xochimilco was contrastingly different trip which we took on our final day in Mexico. We discovered that Mexico city used to be a large shallow lake, drained by the Spanish invaders 500 years ago, which explains why a lot of the city is slowly sinking! There is a small area which remains as a network of canals, 80km long that you can float down in a colourful wooden boats whilst being served traditional Mexican food and Corona beers of course. The rivers are used by many locals and are a lovely place to spend a few quiet hours. We also visited Latin America's oldest university and the Olympic stadium.

On the way to Xochimilco we stopped off in the suburb of Coyoacan - which used to be a small town, but has now been engulfed into the sprawling Mexico City. It was full of gorgeous cobbled streets and plazas, and we visited the Casa Azul (Blue House) which belonged the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The house has been turned into a museum honoring the memory and work of the artist, a great place to spend a couple of hours.

The view from the 44the floor of Torre Latinoamericana was a great way to see just how big Mexico City is. We loved the view at sunset, and after the sun went down we got to watch the city light up beneath us.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 10:29 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

Cuba - Varadero

23 °C

Varadero is on the north Caribbean Coast and draws tourists visiting Cuba on pre-packaged holidays to relax in the sunshine and resorts. Although there is a beautiful beach and many nice resorts, Varadero doesn't have much else going for it except for the weather. And yes you've guessed it, the day we arrived it turned stormy and rained constantly, so we didn't see a glimmer of blue Caribbean sea. We were confined to the hop on hop off bus which took us down the long peninsular, lined by numerous complexes and resorts.

Sally and I headed to a great salsa class, where we learnt some moves with our very enthusiastic instructor. Meanwhile Paul went to explore some caves on the peninsular where he discovered hundreds of bats hiding out! In the evening we headed into a nearby resort and enjoyed a cabaret show and some ridiculously cheap cocktails...mmm! On our way back to Havana Paul stopped off at Matanzas to explore, where he was lucky enough to stumble across a local baseball game which he loved watching with some enthusiastic supporters.

We then returned to Havana for our last couple of days in Cuba. We stayed in a different Casa Particular, with another friendly family and explored the city a little more, including some restaurants, live music and lots of trips in the old car colectivos – 50 cents to go anywhere in the city they're headed!

It's been a great few weeks in Cuba with Paul's sister joining us on the road! However, we're pretty excited about getting back to modern-day conveniences and our next few days in Mexico City...

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 10:17 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Cuba - Santa Clara

26 °C

We headed back west again, and to break up the journey we stopped for the night in Santa Clara. This town is the place where Che Guevara took down an ammunition train, and therefore began the control of the Cuban Revolution along with Fidel Castro. Although this happened a good 50 something years ago (in December 1958), it is a hugely important part of Cuba's history, as they continue to be governed by Fidel Castro's brother Raul. The majority of Cuba's population are living on extremely low wages and rely on ration shops for the bulk of their food.

We were able to visit the site of the train derailment and battle, which has been turned into a place marking the uprising of the Cuban Revolution. Next we took a horse and carriage to the other side of town, which is one of the main modes of public transport in Santa Clara. We jumped out around the corner from the Che Guevara Monument and Mausoleum, and we visited the interesting museum which is housed underneath the statue.

We were also in luck when looking for a place for dinner, and got directed around corner and up a few flights of stairs by a friendly foreigner living in Santa Clara. We found ourselves on a small terrace overlooking the town in a restaurant called El Sol, where we had some of the best food we'd had since arriving in Cuba.

After a few days of sunshine we decided to head to coastal town of Varadero to check out the Caribbean coast.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 10:16 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Cuba - Camagüey

28 °C

A few more hours on a bus and we arrived Camaguey, as far east as we were going in Cuba. Camaguey is a beautiful bustling town with old buses puffing out fumes down the narrow windy streets. We took a cyclo ride to explore the maze of streets, and our friendly driver Christian showed us around the numerous hidden plazas, winding streets and parks in Camaguey. Although it is inland, the complex streets were designed to confuse invaders, in case the town was taken over by pirates (as was the case with many coastal towns at the time!)

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The house and art gallery of Joel Jover and his wife Ileana Sánchez, on the main plaza (Parque Ignacio Agramonte) was a nice spot to pop into, and the large church on the opposite side of the plaza was a peaceful spot to sit and relax amongst the bustling town.

One night we unassumingly bought tickets to the theatre, with no idea of what was actually on, it turned out to be one of Cuba's largest pop stars (Carlos Varela). The theatre turned into a pumping venue full of young Cuban music fanatics. The band was great, with some very skilled musicians, including his astonishing pianist (see video clip below)!

Posted by TheNomadWay.com 13:51 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Cuba - Trinidad

26 °C

Trinidad is a quaint Cuban town on the southern coast of Cuba. It's 500 year old town with Spanish Colonial architecture is one of the most preserved in the country with cobbled streets and old colourful houses lining the narrow streets. The houses are covered in red tiled roofs and we had a great view across the town from the top of Convent San Francisco de Asís.

Trinidad has a quiet central plaza with several steep streets leading away from it. Around the corner from the central plaza is a sloping street full of steps, and a stage, used most nights for live music and salsa dancing (Casa de la Musica), and we found it a great spot to sip away on Mojitos and enjoy some live Cuban music. There were also some fantastic and affordable dinner combinations on offer, mains with drinks and all sorts thrown in. Plus in practically every restaurant, there were very talented musicians playing away from a corner.

One day we took the rickety old Russian train ride out to the Valley of the Sugar Mills, over a few bridges and through gorgeous green hills, with great views out across the valley. It was a peaceful ride including visits to a couple of old mansions which used to operate as sugar mills. Cuba was the largest exporter of sugar in the world during the 18th and 19th century.

Trinidad is a great town to aimlessly wander and soak up the fascinating Cuban lifestyle of relaxing in the doorway of your old house, in a rocking chair, cigar in hand just watching the people go by.

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 13:39 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Cuba - Cienfuegos

27 °C

After the beating city of Havana, Cinefuegos was a bit of a shock. It's pristinely clean streets and well preserved French buildings felt quite un-Cuban. Cinefuegos has a small town vibe with a gorgeous central plaza which houses a small Arc De Triumph, and is apparently Cuba's answer to Paris!

The town is situated at a bay with beaches and mountains nearby. We spent a day taking it easy and explored the giant peninsula, which the town spreads down, and discovered a couple of interesting old buildings, including the Palacio de Valle. We climbed to the top for a great view over the town and the bay. At the tip of the peninsula sits a small park, with a pergola where we sat and looked out into the calm bay surrounding us. One of the highlights was our charming Casa Particular, another beautiful old building, with a lovey room and en-suite, and a fabulous Cuban breaky (eggs, bread and fresh fruit).

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Posted by TheNomadWay.com 13:36 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

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