Thursday, June 08, 2006

Discovering Mexico

Sorry for the long absence... We were busy visiting Mexico! And what a blast we had! We spent 3 days in beautiful Guadalajara with our friend Maite then we flew to Cancún and drove accross the Yucatán peninsula all the way to Mérida, visiting ancient Mayan cities, spanish colonial buildings and colorful pueblos along the way. Ten days to forget all about work, stress, fatigue and routine. This was a last minute trip and we didn't choose the best time temperature-wise (it was the hottest month of the year : over 90F every day and the air was very, suffocatingly humid) but the good thing was: we were all alone! No tourists at all. And the heat didn't stop us from enjoying every moment of this wonderful trip. I am still under the spell of this incredibly diverse country. The harmony and peace of spanish-style haciendas, the energy and life emerging from markets and off-the-beaten-path streets. Children playing everywhere. Flashy bouquets of flowers on the trees. Miles and miles of green tropical forest. Breathtaking centuries- old pyramids and sculptures. And so much more.

Food-wise (since this is the topic of this blog) we made many very pleasant discoveries. In the Tlaquepaque district of Guadalajara we drank fresh coconut juice directly in the shell. When we brought back the empty coconut to the street merchant he cut the flesh into quarters, flavored it with lime, chili and salt and gave it back to us in a plastic bag. So good. Earlier that day we had eaten Mamey (a delicious tropical fruit), tequila and limón ice cream. Limón has almost nothing to do with what is called lime in the US. It's much sweeter. Amazingly refreshing. We also ate flan at the Mercado Libertad, which was litterally a beehive of several thousand square feet downtown Guadalajara. I really enjoyed eating chilaquiles in the morning at various occasions. We didn't miss the famous Yucatec specialties: sopa de limón (a chicken broth with tomatoes, tortillas and limes), pollo pibil (chicken breast marinated in a red sauce), alambres (was it goat meat?)... A waiter in Valladolid's market almost refused to serve me menudo (I think it was a beef tripe soup) that I had seen someone else eat. "I don't recommend it", he said. "Why?", I asked. "Because you're French" (meaning non-Mexican)... He finally gave me some to taste. It was a broth with a strong tripe flavor (the full size portion had pieces of tripes in it) and you had to add green onions, lime and of course jalapeño pepper to spice it up. I liked it! But I could see the waiter's point... It's kind of strong and different. We drank lot's of limonada, agua mineral and cerveza clara (Estrella, Superior, XX) in an attempt to rehydrate our sweating bodies. We had little veggies and fruits (because we didn't trust our ability to overcome potential germs), lots of frijoles and tortillas. I'm sure we could have been more adventurous but we ate exclusively Mexican during the whole trip, which is already honorable (ok, we had very good pizza one night).


We flew back last Sunday night. It's around 70F in Sunnyvale these days with a nice and refreshing breeze. That's a relief. On Monday night we shopped at Whole Foods and bought lots of greens. This is nice too. But since we're back I feel overly uncomfortable in what now appears to be a blend, standardized, too practical and even too soft environment (what I mean is that everything here is made to be easy to live with, not necessarily enjoyable or beautiful or exciting). I miss the crowds in the streets, friendlily talking to anyone (including us, perfect strangers) at any occasion about anything, relaxing on benches of cities plaza's at dusk when the air is cooler, playing with their kids, buying snacks or toys from street merchants, enjoying life. I miss the beautiful colors of the houses, the masterfully sculptured stones (whether carved by Mayans or conquistadors), the sense that material comfort is not the secret to happiness. I do realize, though, that I am just idealizing what I've seen with my tourist eyes. But hey, it was good to see something different. Learning is the true key to happiness.

Don't hesitate to contact me if you want info on hotels, restaurants, car rental, sight seeing or other travel tips. If you read French you will also soon find more details about this trip on Nouvelles de Californie.

3 comments:

Susan in Italy said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time! I just love fruit sprinkled with chile, salt and lime! I'm glad you liked it too.

Estelle said...

Hi Susan!
We did have a wonderful time. Too bad we're back already....
What other fruits do you eat with chile, salt and lime? Sounds like something I want to try!

Susan in Italy said...

Hi Estelle,

Oh, almost anything! Mangoes go particularly well, but also melons of all types, oranges, but try anything. They even sell (in Mexico and Chicago and most certainly in California) a fruit condiment with chili, lime and salt. It looks like a salt shaker. They even sell fruit-flavored lollipops coated with this powder. I bought some for my students when I used to teach Spanish in the States but they were mostly grossed out.