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roadtrip

Mexican hotels

After sleeping almost 2 months in hotels, I start to grave to have my own room again. Luckely you can find cheap hotels almost everywhere, starting from 180 pesos (10 EUR) up to 350 pesos (20 EUR). Prices are always higher in touristical cities.

The best thing is to go and have lunch or dinner in the city/village you will stay. Get some energy before you start your search! ‘Cause it really helps to check 4-5 hotels to get a better price. Some Mexicans dare to ask too much money for a crappy room! And if you want to be sure, ask to see the room. It’s the same as asking the menu before you enter a restaurant. It’s pretty common here!

If you the hotel has stars, please keep in mind that stars are given easily. As for my experience, one star stands for:

- a curtain in the shower (yes, loads of rooms have the water spread all over your toilet and basin!)

- an elevator (didn’t got any hotel with an elevator up to now!)

- two towels if you ask a room for two people (and if you’re lucky, two of these “rosa” soaps!)

- and half a star for a small pool

- and half a star for a restaurant that closes at 6pm! (made us drive up to the next town for a decent meal!)

A (safe) parking space is really important for me too. I don’t want Pabo the Beetle standing outside on the street, and wake up the next morning without mirrors or wheels! It’s very common that Mexicans steel parts from your car. So if you travel with a car, make sure you get free parking space in the hotel. Otherwhise you can pay 100 pesos (6 EUR) or more for a pension at an ‘estacionamiento’.


Dead people in Oaxaca!

Two days ago I arrived in Oaxaca. For me it’s the place of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). It’s a big thing all over the country, but mostly only the 2nd of November. In Oaxaca it’s party-time a few days in advance!

Today they started with the sand-tapestry. And I already saw parades of dressed-up kids at the zocalo. There are altars and skeletons in every shop. And exhibitions of skulls and skeletons in different places. Casa de las Artesanias organises several things (2 blocks from the zocalo). But just walk around, and you see colours everywhere! And this year, it’s even better than last year!

Stay tuned for more pictures and updates later this week!


Puebla

After the verification was fixed, it was time to head to the South. First stop: Puebla.

I left very early in Mexico City to be on time for the meeting with Volkswagen de México. A trip of 2 hours took me 3,5 hours, without too much traffic! So I was too late for the meeting. Luckely I could postpone this important meeting to Tuesday.

With the weekend ahead, there was loads of time to discover Puebla. Cholula is an amazing town nearby, with loads of churches. The most important one stands on top of a pyramid. The Spanish conquistador Cortès covered the pyramid to show the native Mexicans that the Catholic relegion is the only true one. Besides this church, you can find more than 270 other ones!

Another interesting attraction is the Africam Safari. Of course it mainly has African animals, like the name suggests. I just spotted a few ones to answer a question “Are there wild animals in Mexico?”. A pitty I couldn’t get a good shot of the crocodiles! It’s a great place where you can drive with your own car through the zoo and see the animals in wide spaces. It’s a must see for (foreign) travellers with kids! For the adults, some signs are hilarious. In Belgium they would make a big fuzz to have signs like these!

Puebla itself is a nice city with a nice zocalo and colourfull tiles. A mixture of the tiles in Portugal. The cty is too big to meet children in a relaxed way or to find answers on the questions. So we left asap more to the South.

 


Quick stop in Mexico City

I had to go back to Mexico City last week to get the car verified. I wasn’t expecting anyp problems because almost everthing was replaced just one month ago. Including the catalysator.

Having a Mexican friend joining us, we head downtown. Pablo did it well, the first step. When they handed over a paper, they gave us back some money. Pablo didn’t pass because the catalysator wasn’t new?! We should fix it with a recognized dealer nearby.

After waiting for hours and paying 2300 pesos (135 EUR), I picked up the car. And saw the other catalysator. The previous mechanic replaced just a part and not the catalysator itself! Full of confidence, I headed back without the friend. After 30 min they gave back another paper. He still didn’t pass?! “The gasoline and CO is too high, because it’s new.” For me, this was a sign to bribe. But it didn’t work. They send me back to the mechanic to finalize the engine.

Totally desperate due to a lack of time, I went back home. The mother of my friends new some other friends that could help me out. Next day, a Mexican took him alone to another verification centre. Pablo passed without a problem!!! TIP: pay a Mexican mechanic to get this job done!

In the mean time there was another problem. I checked before our trip with the insurance GNP if everything was active. They assured me there wasn’t a problem, the police was temporary but I would receive another one soon in my mailbox.

I never received this. The mother proposed to check with another friend the status of the polis. Result: we travelled one month withouth insurance! I couldn’t believe it. Why can’t they just give you the right information?! Luckely they could fix the issue. I am safe with the good papers on my hand!

I had loads of things to do in Mexico City, but again I waisted the time in waiting and fixing things that should have been ok. I hope later to find an opportunity to shoot kids at Lucha Libre!


Acapulco – Mexico City

There are a lot of rules in Mexico, most of the people don’t apply them. But because I am a foreigner here, I can’t take any risks. So we have to get back to DF to get the verification of Pablo. Otherwhise we’ll get a big fine.

A bit improvised, we decided to spend more time to discover the area between Acapulco and Mexico City.  Our first stop in Chilpancingo was fast. Too big city, too hot, too crowded and little to see. We drove some more kilometers to get to Iguala. Just a quick stop to move on again the next day.

In Iguala we hoped to see something interesting. It’s the birtplace of the flag. We saw a few statues in the city centre. But no tourists at all. Well, that’s because there’s nothing much too see!

The next stop was exhausting to find our way in the city, Taxco. With steep hills and curved streets, it’s hard to figure out where the centre is. The loads of beetles and nice atmposhere around the main square during the night, make this city worth to see!

Nearby, there’s a town Ixcateopan where you can see the dead body of Cuathemoc. It’s a though and dangerous trip, luckely I didn’t used Pablo the Beetle to get there. If you’re curious to see how an important Mexican (the last Aztec emperor) is honoured in a disabandoned, humid improvised museum. It’s a must see. But probably you don’t have the time so you can better leave behind this dissapointed attraction!

I heard that Cuautla is the place to find out about Zapata. Because there are several questions about sombreros, I hoped to find some information and some hats to take to Belgium. It was another big dissapointement. OK, there is a museum with the steam train that Zapata used. The lady of the tourist information looked suprised when I told her the city is the place of Zapata. She told me his house stands in a little village about 10 km away, in Anenecuilco. But the museum there was closed! It does has a nice big rural painting about the live of Zapata.

Next day we left to Tepoztlan, the place where Cuetzalcoatl (the feathered snake) was born. There are a lot of ‘spiritual’ people stranded in this place, believing that there is a special energy coming from the earth… But it’s NOT the birthplace. It’s another town Amatlan 6 km away. I was curious to check out this ‘energetic’ place. But there’s only a statue, hidden under a tree, refers to this other special item of the Mexican history…

I also stopped in Cuernavaca. Yes, another big city with little sightseeing. There’s no shopping centre, the nice stores are spread all over the city. The only reason to go there is the good weather, if you can afford a hotel with pool or has Mexican friends with their own!

I am looking forward to visit the South of Mexico. Let’s hope the colours, food, traditions and people can charm me more…

Oh, tourists in Belgium shouldn’t be dissapointed anymore when they see Manneken Pis. Believe me, it’s more worth a visit than the things I saw the last week! #Zapata #Cuathemoc #Cuetzalcoatl


Ajijic, Jalisco

The last week was full of waiting, making back ups, discovering Guadalajara and getting ready to get enough camping stuff to camp on the way!

Tequila was great to make latest movie, as answer on a kids question. I shot at Jose Cuervo, one of the worlds’ most famous brands. They were really nice, giving us free access and arranged to have an El Jimador giving us the last missing shots of harvasting the agave plant!

Guadalajara is a nice city, but too big to find enough stuff for the project of Pablo the Beetle. I like the most Tlaquepaque, a suburb right outside Guadalajara. They have loads of beautiful streets with shops where they sell art, crafts, tequila. Of course they are plenty of nice restaurants, although a bit more expensive. I did enjoy the lunch/dinner (the time I get to eat is something in the middle!) at the restaurant Casa Fuerte!

In this place we managed to have mariachi’s singing for Pablo de Kever. I couldn’t believe we didn’t had to bribe the police to park Pablo in the middle of the pedestrian area! The mariachi’s were not that nice. They would support the project to play 2 songs for the price of one… 130 pesos (9 EUR) for one song isn’t that cheap!

On Sunday we headed to Chapala. A city next to a big lake which should be a great place to have breakfast with a view over lake. Unfortunalety, that doesn’t exist. They serve only fish and strong meals overthere! We did find Plaza de Torres nearby. And spend 5 hours in the burning sun to make a video about the charros (rodeos) catching the bulls. The children who ask me these questions have no idea how much effort I do to give them a response ;)

For the rest, there is not much to see in Chapala. Only expensive hotels… So we headed to Ajijic. And I just love the place! Ok, you need to deal with the elderly American community (compare it to Benidorm in Spain!). But the streets are so full of atmosphere, with lovely painted houses! When we had amazing pizza in our Hotel (Hotel Atilo, with an Italian owner), and afterwards we found a nice European coffee place (La Prensa Francesa). We decided to look for schools here to work on the project, which welcomed us with open arms! Great, this allows us to stay a bit longer!

Oh, also the view on the lake Lago Chapala is amazing. It feels a bit like the seaside, but the mountains surrounding the water give a surrealistic feeling! Which gets reinforced by the fact we stay in an Italian hotel in a American community inside Mexico!


On the road: Mexico City – Guadalajara

The last two days we spend on travelling to Guadalajara, the first important stop to find answers on some questions! There should be toreadores and it’s close the national drink: Tequila!

Pablo drives smooth, even in the mountains. So I am very happy I spend money and time on replacing the tires, steering box, clutch, etc The whole trip is about 500-600km, which is too much to drive in one time. Especially when you avoid the highways!

We made a first stop in Ciudad Hidalgo, but left soon to Morelia. Nice historical city centre, but not so much what I am looking for. We decided to take a break in a hotel, Portico. But the room, service and breakfast was not that satisfying. You expect a bit more when you pay 775 pesos – 50 EUR. And I took the room for internet, which wasn’t working… I took of pretty pissed…

The next stop was nearby, Patzcuaro. I spend a few days overthere 2 years ago for Dia de Muertos (Day of the Death, november) in a nice hotel: Best Western – Posada de Don Vasco. Kilometers before we so announcments on the road. So it was easy to find the way. It’s an old Hacienda they turned into a nice peaceful place, inclusive swimming pool. The weather was too bad, loads of rain. Yes, it’s still rain season here! People first seemed to be nice, and they have wireless internet. But it stops there.

We had lunch, dinner and breakfast and I can’t recommand them. I dunno what’s going wrong with restaurants here in Mexico, but they can’t please meandupset my stomach! Yesterday’s dinner I took spaghetti to have a light meal. But the spaghetti was hard. For the first time in my life I send my plate back to the kitchen. After a few minutes I got it back, after they put it in the steamer. I can’t believe such an exclusive hotel has such little standards…

We also just figured out that the breakfast wasn’t included in the room, what should be for 4 stars. They charged us 155 pesos (9 EUR) per person. I don’t like to bargain, but before checking out, I will! Mexican service is pissing me off that it makes it easier to negotiate!

It’s weekend, so I won’t find easily kids to make drawings or interview. I really look forward to kick of more shooting in Guadalajara! And I look forward to stay at a friends place. ‘Cause for the moment I had enough of Mexican bad service!


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