Gisteren fotograferen. Morgen exposeren. Hoe oud nieuw kan worden.

travel

Das Auto. Magazine

Ik had al eerder aangekondigd dat er veel beweegt achter de schermen… En eindelijk kan ik al ietsje tonen! Namelijk een wereldwijde publicatie van de iconische groene kevertaxi’s door Volkswagen “Das Auto. Magazine”.

Je kan het artikel en de foto’s hier bekijken. Maar als je nu toevallig in Mexico bent, of Zwitserland spring dan eens binnen bij een VW dealer. Daar liggen de gedrukte versies!

Schermafbeelding 2013-02-25 om 14.26.05

En nee, zo’n dingen komen niet vanzelf en zeker niet snel. Aan de reeks Vocho Verde begon ik in 2008. Tijdens een taxirit van 2 uur door Mexico Stad genoot ik van het panoramisch uitzicht. De volgende dag hoorde ik van vrienden dat de kevertaxi’s snel uit het straatbeeld moesten verdwijnen van de Mexicaanse overheid.

In 2009 vertrok ik gepakt en gezakt met mijn Pentax67 en een hoop rolletjes Fuji Pro160S 120mm. Ik schuimde de straten af, sprong in tientallen taxi’s, ging tussen de straatverkopers staan aan het rode licht in gure buurten,… Met een warm hart keerde ik na dit avontuur met al mijn materiaal, zonder schrammetje, terug naar België.

Uitgeput en opgelucht stapte ik van de Thalys in Antwerp-Centraal, de laatste halte van mijn reis. Het spannendste moment maakte ik mee op dat moment. Mijn valies met mijn fototoestellen en al mijn filmrolletjes viel tussen de trein en het perron… In mijn hoofd zag ik alle filmrolletjes al rondslingeren, metershoog boven de sporen terwijl de trein in volle snelheid wegrijdt. Toen is een jongen razendsnel op zijn buik gaan liggen en heeft snel mijn valies gered. Hij was verdwenen vooraleer ik bedankt kon zeggen. Ik stond daar maar een beetje te schuifelen, vol ontlading en jetlag in mijn hoofd…

Mexicanen zouden direct een kruisje slaan en hun patroonheilige Guadalupe eeuwig dankbaar zijn. Na mijn 11 bezoeken aan Mexico ben ik wel warmbloedig geworden, maar nog niet zo heftig. Na het voorval in Antwerpen-Centraal heb ik me voorgenomen om de fotoreeks en de VW kevers te koesteren. En om door te zetten om het verhaal van de Vocho Verde wereldwijd te delen.  Misschien is het daarom dat Pablo de Kever vandaag zo’n belangrijkere rol speelt in mijn leven…


Pablo de Kever in Belgium

Very good news, Pablo de Kever is almost in Belgium!

You can meet him for the first time in Belgium on Friday the 11th of February at 11am at ‘t Steen in Antwerp. Afterwards I’ll be using him as my personal transportation. So you can bump into him while driving on the Belgian roads!

The childrens’ blog will continue. Kids can ask questions about any subject. They will challenge me to answer with images! It gives them the opportunity to discover the interaction of blogs (social media) and educate them with visual inputs.


Pablo de Kever to Belgium!

The last two weeks have been busy and stressfull! I felt a bit sad of the unfortunate news that none of the companies I contacted want to sponsor in getting Pablo to Belgium. Without knowing anything about international transportation, I asked friends, Facebook and Twitter for companies.

Only 3 of the 10 companies I found answered my requests, most with pretty high costs for such a small car! By Wednesday little time was left… So I headed to the office of Wallenius Wilhelmsen here in Mexico City. In 90 minutes Pablo’s ticket was fixed! For a darn cheap price! The good news was that the boat leaves already on Monday (10th of January). Which meant that he had to be in Veracruz fast to get Pablo registered on time!

So Thursday I woke up before sunset and headed for Veracruz, 409 km. The customs agent was really nice. I paid all the costs for him and the port. He would take care of putting him on the boat. So I had to leave Pablo behind, feeling sad and happy at the same time. The only thing I can do now is wait…

I have one week left in Mexico City to take my flight. Yes, after months of trying, calling and e-mail I fixed the flight with KLM (for the ones who didn’t know it yet!). And yes, I fly in Business Class because they had no other space left, bummer for them!

I still got loads of adventures and pictures left to share. Which I will do in the next weeks. Once Pablo gets in Belgium, a new adventure starts. To begin with getting him registered to drive on the smooth Belgian roads!

Boat that will take Pablo to Belgium!

Last image of Pablo de Kever in Mexico

 


Mexico City

The roadtrip is finished. I am back in Mexico City to finish up the project “Pablo de Kever”. And Mexican friends ask me which place I like the most… Well, for me it’s Mexico City!

There’s just no other place like this city. You can find anything here: food an every corner, all kinds of typical dishes, cheap labour, fancy bars, big markets,… Once you step out DF, you leave a magic place behind. Of course, there are many problems this city faces, from heavy smog to extreme poverty. But the mixture of having everything together makes you fall in love with this place for the rest of your life…

During the trip I missed to cups of cheap fresh fruit you can buy all day long. The music that fills up the streets early in the morning. Or the street scenery that changes 3 times a day. In the morning you find street venders selling “tamales” under their bright coloured umbrella. In the afternoon a lady sells fresh quesadilla’s using white or bleu tortilla’s. And in the evening a guy sells pirata CD’s on the exact same spot.

After visiting Mexico City 11 times, I got so used to the overload of colours and food. It was a disappointment to discover that many places have much less to offer. If you spend time to get to know this city, you can bump on anything else you can find across the country! And it makes sense. Mexico City hosts everybody and everything this country has, and even more.

One of the things I adore the most is the kindness of people! It’s common strangers say “Buen provecho” when you’re having lunch at a restaurant. Can you imagine that in the biggest city of the world that hosts more than 20 million people kept that country-stile mentality? Forget about finding that in touristical places such as San Cristobal or Cancun!

It would have been easier to find loads of answers for the project “Pablo de Kever” in this buzzy capital. I often had to wait days or weeks to bump into something usefull for the childrens’ blog on the road. Of course I don’t regret the trip I made. ‘Cause I did see amazing nature and beautiful traditions. But the next two weeks I’ll enjoy absorbing the hundreds of impressions you get when wandering around in Mexico City!


Happy New Ears!

I just got back in Mexico City. To be honest, getting back save with all my photo equipment and an (almost) unharmed Pablo de Kever is a big achievement! All the adventures and images are like the cherry on top of a cake.

For sure, I got some more stories and tips to share with you (later) about Mexico. But first I need to spend time to find out how I can transport Pablo to Belgium. Doesn’t he look cute with his moose-ears? I just can’t leave him behind! Any tips about export Mexico-Belgium are welcome. Happy holidays to everybody!


Posada

I love today! A great season started in Mexico: los posadas! This means every night children dressed up as Maria and Jozef go on the streets. One of the houses provides a party, including drinks, food and piñata’s! The church was providing bags full of candy in this one!

I am curious to see the big party that Christmas will bring!

 


Havana, a city of contrasts

The moment I noticed how close Cancun is from Cuba, I wanted to make a citytrip to La Habana. Do forget to find a boat bringing you to the other site. At night, I went down the airport to check the possibilities. The only option is the airline Cubana, which is fully booked most of the time… Luckely one of the guards new someone of Cubana who arranged some tickets for the next day! While dropping off Pablo the Beetle for some repair at the VW agency, she came down to hand over the tickets and get the payment (310 US dollar, damn monopoly!) Waiting for an houre at the check-in together with dozens of luggage of the ‘mulas’. Passengers taking goods to import: flatscreens, clothes, toilet paper, antennes,… A trip to Cuba seemed already a bigger adventure than Mexico!
I booked online 2 hotels to gain more experience in these 4 days. This tip I can advise everybody! The Kohly hotel is clean and includes a decent breakfast, only the restaurant and little shop are expensive. I liked the most that it’s far from the city centre. Well you end up paying too much money for a cab to the hotel (7 CUC – 6 EUR). But you see a totally different part of the city! It’s great to get overwhelmed by the dozens of old cars being used as taxi. Or see the local stores, hardly offering a few packages of sugar… The other hotel, Saint Johns, is a big dissapointment. It’s a bit closer to the centre, so I could get there by walking 1 hour and enjoying more parts of the city. But I can’t bear the crappy eggs, poor bread and lack of other food for breakfast! The room is too crappy to mention!
I got the advice to just walk around and enjoy the atmosphere. Being with a lack of money, I grabbed the idea. And after 3 days walking I keep on stonned by the contrast… One building is turned into a fancy restaurant, and right next to it other building is about to collapse. But still there live people, having their laundry drying in the window. Locals queue in the big line to get a slimy pizza as snack, while tourists pay one street further 8 CUC (7 EUR) for a fancy dish. These great old cars, that makes the city so famous, are cramped with passengers that share the cost. And next to it a brand new Mercedes stops at the traffic light. You can see these old fashioned clothes in the shops. And you do start to wonder where people bought these sexy dresses!!! I expected the old cars and buildings. But I never imagened they do have expensive hotels, art galleries, cars, Nestle icecream, Heineken and even the real (imported) Coca-Cola!
As a tourist you can get anything! If you pay enough… They do charge up to 2,5 CUC (1,75 EUR) for 25cl Coca-Cola, 5 times more than the national ‘TuKola’. And you can take a tour to experience the Cuban Cigars, if you hand over 41 CUC (36 EUR)! And be ready to pay about 10 CUC (8 EUR) to take a Cuban cigar as souvenir! Or get poor by paying 50 CUC per person to watch a concert in the style of Buena Vista Social Club! You can save a lot of money if you leave these touristic side behind. Here are some do’s and dont’s:
Do’s
- Walk around in the centre. Walk slowly and open your ears when you see a live group playing at a bar!
- Put away your expensive belongings and head in the small streets behind.
- Take a quick look at the shops of the musea (Cigar factory nearby Palacio Nacional – Club Havana in the Old Havana)
- Buy a fancy Cuban cocktail at the bar of Hotel Nacional (4 CUC – 23-La Rampa, neighbourhood Vedado)
- Take a swim at Hotel Nacional and order the best hamburger in town (15 CUC entrance)
- Watch a movie at a local cinema and have some ‘rositas’, a funny name for popcorn! (2 CUC – I had bad luck of having all the cinema’s closed at Street 23)
- Exchange your money in the airport or one of the expensive hotels (you don’t want to be queueing at the local banks!)
- Enjoy a refined meal for a good deal at restaurant Europa (5 CUC main dish – Street)
- Take a look at local art at Taller Experimental D Grafica and see their view on the city and Cuba (free entrance – in the corner of the square Plaza de la Catedral)

Don’ts
- Eat at the restaurant A Prado y Neptuno, on the corner one block North of Palacio Nacional. They charge twice the money for an imported Coca-Cola, while they didn’t ask you if you wanted to local version. They let you pay for unwanted bread and their bathroom is not free and unclean! At the end your bill doubles. There are better places downtown to enjoy La Habana!
- Pay for a taxi at the airport to get to the centre (25 CUC – 22 EUR). But well, you have to because there is no other way to get away!
To finalize the trip, they make you pay 25 CUC (22 EUR) airport tax on top of the regular taxes you already paid. For some countries it’s common. But being from Europe, it just seems like another attempt to rip of the tourists and make some Cubans rich… The infrastructure and life of the Cubans would look much better if they used these tax for the community!

San Cristobal de las Casas

I was very eager to get to Chiapas. In my 10 previous visits to Mexico, I never made it up to there. After hearing so many good stories, I had high expections!

My first stop was Tuxtla. The main city of the state. Feels like Mexico City on a smaller scale. So I headed soon to San Cristobal de las Casas. There I got totally shooked up…

During my 3,5 months I was free to take pictures. Suddenly the people started to ask money to shoot their bananas on the market?! I got stunned by the high amount of tourists. I saw about 50 Flemish people in 2 days! Which I normally never meet on my trips to Mexico. Having all their camera’s pointed to the Indigenas, I felt embarrased to use my camera.

Everyting made me wonder… The bunch of tourists, plenty of Indigenas in traditional clothes, busses of tourists overwhelming nearby villages, paying to visit a church, not being allowed to take pictures of their traditions,… For me, it’s the perfect example of how tourism has a (negative) impact on a society. It’s a good thing that the Indigenas keep their knowledge of making craft. But if they start inventing objects, it’s too weird. Like a cover to keep your tortilla’s warm, or a traditional cuddle in the shape of a giraffe or lion – which can’t be found in Mexico!

At the end I felt very sad for the Indigenas. I’m sure there’s a more constructive way for them to keep their traditions and make a living. This kind of tourism is exhibiting them. San Cristobal feels like a zoo where tourists gaze to the locals and fling by very quickly.

Of course, San Cristobal de las Casas has some nice things to offer. Loads of places offering good coffee, freshly roasted and grown somewhere nearby in Chiapas. And for me thé place to spot VW Beetles! I will miss these colourfull cars and their smiling face a lot! And if you love nice shops and coloured houses, it’s definitely worth a visit.


Mosquitos

As a well-prepared European travel, I also brought mosquito repellent from my pharmacy at home. To have some extra protection, I already bought one of these spirals that keep away mosquitos for about 8 hours. (You can buy them in any big supermarket in Mexico.) These do a pretty fine job, especially inside a closed place.

Since yesterday I am enjoying the beach and open cabaña in San Agustillino (nearby Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca). In the other village they sell natural products ‘Cosmeticos Naturales – Mazunte’ (a reference of Lonely Planet, including mosquito repellent). I love natural products. In Europe I rely on Lush. So I was open to give these Mexican natural cosmetics a try, especially with their repellent to keep the Mexican mosquitos away!

But it’s a big failure… I am covered by around 100 mosquito bites… I can tell you, it’s itchy! The Mexican product will go straight to the trash. Well, at least I made a Mexican family eat for a few days!

Now I am covered with (European) cream to heal mosquito bites. Yes, I am happy I bought that at home!

So take your own mosquito repellent and all other kind of medecines! Don’t trust on the local stuff! I have a big bag stuffed with medicines and bandages. I’ll share the list of content later on this blog!


Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca

One of the reasons I have the childrens’ blog of Pablo the Beetle, is to digg deeper into the Mexican culture. I am happy I succeeded to find a child and her family to follow them during several days at the important event Day of the Dead.

Following people so close is such a different experience. It includes a lot of waiting and let go of control. OMG, the last thing wasn’t easy for me! But I enjoyed the warmth and kindness of the Mexicans, which attracted me so many years ago. Especially after so many Mexicans taking advantages of this ‘Gringa’! Calling me this does make me angry. They consider me an American just of my white skin. I’m always fast in shouting ‘Soy Europeana’!

It’s hard to share these 4 days briefly. Loads of impressions and feelings stroke me. One of the things that hit me the most was their real believe of the death family members visiting them.

Every 1st of November there’s a strong wind around 3pm. Their sign of the souls moving back to their houses. I was inside so I didn’t notice the wind. But all the family members were excited that they felt the wind and their loved-ones where back with them. I sat their next to them and the impressive altar. Watching them drinking tequila and beers, cheering on the death family. They never considered me as a foreigner. And they had no idea how honoured I felt being able to share this moment. My camera was quiet for a while, out of respect.


Mexican roads

After driving Pablo the Beetle 4400 km on the Mexican roads, it’s time to share some tips!

- People warned me never to drive at night. They are so right! Roads have to many wholes, roadworks without announcing trucks or people cross the road without watching, etc.

- I advice to drive with 2 persons. 4 eyes see so more than 2! And you need these extra eyes to detect the holes. It’s especially tiring when the sun sets hards and blinds the details in the shadow!

- Be aware to have ‘topes’ everywhere! These bumps never come alone. When you seen one, be sure you have another one right behind it. If you see the sign of a small town, for sure you can expect some. If you see a (small) street on the left or right, it’s another warning to get one! The same counts for areas marked as 30 or 40 km/h. Little of them are painted bright yellow, most of them are hidden well. And loads of them just stand there, without any reason. So keep your eyes open to track them on time!

- Drive behind a Mexican car. They know the road. If they suddenly drive at the left side, this means there’s a big hole at the right! Or check their stop lights to detect one of these crazy ‘topes’!

- Always expect upcoming traffic in (narrow) curves up the mountains. Mexicans don’t respect the road signs and overtake whenever they feel like it. Yes, even in dangerous curves!

- Be prepared to kill loads of bugs, some lizards and even iguanas. They love to bath in the sun on the road. And most of them are too slow to get away on time! Just be happy if you don’t hit a dog! Most dogs love to come up, bark and follow your car!

- Stay calm when a police officer makes you stop. (I am not so good at that, but it’s the best thing to do.) Most of them want a mordida (bribe) for an invented delict. When you have to show your documents, hold them and don’t give them away. Although some insist of letting your papers go… Than you just do that, especially when they carry an automatic shotgun. Two tips. 1. Say your Embassey knows you’re travelling and you will give them a call. Most of the time, that scares them. Do make sure you have the emergency number of your embassy, just in case you need it! 2. Keep a ‘fake’ wallet where you have about 100 pesos to bribe them (if they don’t care about you mentioning ‘embassey’). If they see more money, they will take it.

As for now, the free roads (libre) in the North are in a better condition than the South. I don’t take the highways (coata) because I want to see smaller places and the Beetle goes slow anyway. But the coata is a good option to drive safe and fast!

In general, the Mexican government is doing a lot of effort to improve the roads. They have loads of work left to get everything safe. And they could use some advice in road signs and safety clothes to make the works more visible. But yeah, it’s Mexico. Don’t expect things are than in an efficient or decent way!


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!


Pablo, almost ready to hit the road!

The last days have been extremely busy:
- fixing newly discovered failures (catalysator, steering box,…)
- find a painter to put the name “Pablo” on the beetle (I felt soooo excited, like he finally got real!)
- obtaining a declaration at the police station of my boyfriends robbed wallet (after visiting 5-6 different stations, only a bribe worked :( 35 EUR is expensive!)
- photographing the 200 years of Independance (at a school to show later on Pablo’s blog!)
- …

After some adventures (see below) we managed to get Pablo the Beetle ready for the roadtrip tomorrow! I am so excited and nervous! But I love the way he looks! I hope to post a small video of his whole transformation soon. I need to go and pack first for the trip!

The stereotypes of Mexican did kill our schedule last week… A friend of a friend didn’t show up after being late for 4 hours. So I wanted to check Lucha Libre for kids and we took the metro with too many documents (which I normally never do). Due to that we lost a lot of time. Not only trying to find another person to take Pablo into the crazy centre of Mexico City to replace the tires. But also to find a decent police officer to make a declaration of the robbery.

Until now I never got in touch with the Mexican police. Yes, I am very proud I never had problems in visiting Mexico for 10 times! But this trip is different… The moment of the robbery, the police didn’t do anything (only complaining we were too loud!). We asked several police officers and police stations to make a declaration. They always invented a new excuse to put us through: it happened in another district, the other side of the street is not our responsibility, your boyfriend needs a translator,… I exploded after 4 days trying to just make a simple declaration! The emergency number of the Belgian Embassy didn’t work, so we felt very alone facing the police officers trying to get rid of us.

A Mexican lawyer, who was helping a friend, approached me and told me the Belgian Embassy should join us and force the police to make the statement. If not it would take us a long time, being transfered to other places. And it would cost us money.

An officer, a friend of him, showed up and said he would call to his boss to see if they could help. And than you know… only a mordida (bribe) can make things work. He fixed the papers, we payed him all the money I had left in my wallet (600 pesos =35 EUR) and that was it! That’s how things still go in Mexico (City), even after 200 year of Independance!  #sad

But I don’t feel bad about the bad “service” in Mexico. Corruption and bad workers are all over the world… Also KLM still didn’t fix my problem of my return flight (still 5 weeks to wait for a standard answer! #fail #customerservice).

Conclusion. If you bump into the Mexican police, try first to avoid them! If you need to, pay them a mordida so you fix your problem fast. So you might better have the help of a Mexican. Call your Embassy for help (I dunno how much they want/can help). Or you can also try one of the Police Stations  for Tourists. (I couldn’t try them myself because we live 1,5 hour away from them.)

Historical Centre
Calle Victoria, 76 Colonia Centro, Delegacion Cuauhtemoc
Phone: 53 46 87 20 Ext 20 (24/24)

Zona Rosa
Calle Amberes, 54 Delegacion Cuauhtemoc
Phone: 53 45 53 82 (9am-5pm)

Reforma
Paseo de la Reforma, 42 Delegacion Cuauhtemoc
Phone: 53 46 87 40 (9am-5pm)


Waiting

“Waiting” is a keyword in Mexico. It takes a while to get to another place in Mexico City due to a lot of traffic. People are late so you wait for them and loose half of your day. And it takes some time to get Pablo ready for the trip!

People who know me can confirm that waiting isn’t my strongest point… But I have to be strong right now and try to be good at it, in waiting!

Only 10 days left to start the roadtrip. Mentally, I am totally ready to kick off. The last days I will use to show some parts of Mexico City to my boyfriend: Casa Azul of Frida Kahlo, Xochimilco, Lucha Libre…

We are also finishing Pabo itself. And he needs more attention than expected: 2 new front freigns (18 EUR/each), one rear freign (25 EUR), bougies (12 EUR for 4),… Luckely all his parts are cheap! But all these little bits are killing my budget.

So I was very happy to eat Comida Corida for 40 pesos (2,5 EUR) at the market. It’s a “homemade” meal including soup, maindish, drinks and sometimes desert. My daily budget is set on 15 EUR per day, which is possible. But at the moment I spend much more. Thousands of pesos dissapear every day… I’ll be happy to have this expensive part behind me and enjoy cheap food on the markets!


Review Hotel Room Mate Valentina

I booked two nights at a trendy hotel to surprise my boyfriend: Room Mate Valentina in Zona Rosa, the heart of Mexico City. A trendy area with open-minded people and loads of bars. It’s the only place in Mexico where you can see so many gay people together. It’s a great atmosphere! The Angel de la Independencia, the park Chapultepec and the metro Insurgentes are very close.

The hotel is indeed trendy with spacious rooms (35m2). One of the most fancy places I slept in all my visits to Mexico!

The hotel has no extra’s like a swimming pool or decent restaurant. They do serve breakfast (130 pesos – 8 EUR), but there are cheaper places nearby. But it’s ok if you’re in a hurry: juice, coffee, mini-croissants, bread, yoghurt and some (tastless – but healthy) eggs.

I suggest to go down to street “Londres”. I found a nice place C’apisci where you can have breakfast for 35 pesos (2 EUR), including juice, fruit, coffee and main dish!

We also ate in the restaurants Sanborns and Vips. Both our stomachs ached afterwards… I am sorry, but I don’t understand why Mexicans like these places. Ok, they are clean, but the quality of the food is so low compared to local markets!

Luckely Sushi Itto (Street “Hamburgo” just around the corner) saved our day! Eating sushi always helps to calm down my stomach! And the nice candies and tasty fortune cookie made my day!


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