Tag Archives: Mexico

Yes We Cancun!

9 Dec

A couple of months ago James and I went to Cancun to attend Luke and Madeleine’s wedding. We went for a week, which was perfect – enough time to catch up with friends but not long enough to get bored of the resort (which was so lovely – just look at it!).

01

image from Valentin Imperial Maya

This was really different from our usual holidays; normally I like to be a bit more active, and spend months researching the best things to do. But since it was a resort and the main reason we were going was for the wedding (and seeing our friends!) I was happy to just go with the flow this time.

The most exciting part for me was that it was all-inclusive. You know how I pig out whenever I visit James at work? Yeah, I went nuts. I had 10 cocktails the first day. We arrived in the afternoon so it wasn’t even a full day.
IMG_20151030_185119
James: (when taking the photo) Try looking a little less drunk.

A lot of stuff happened that first day though. For instance, Quincy got stuck in the women’s bathroom (the door jammed) and the guys had to sneak in and help her out.
IMG_20151030_231932Also James found a cat.
IMG_20151030_184209And he found another one a couple of days later. Finding vacation cats is like his lame superpower.
IMG_20151101_132929
No James! That’s not a cat!
IMG_20151103_120517
We were really excited by the coatis. We saw them wandering around the grounds but this is the best photo James got of them:
IMG_20151030_182051We found out later from Mike that if you rustle a bag of chips you can get this photo:
IMG_20151105_075427
I kind of cheated with this photo, because this is Pancho and he lived at the outdoor buffet restaurant.
IMG_20151101_131648He looks happy because he’s basically the coati equivalent of a billionaire; the waiters fed him a lot. I know this because whenever you said his name he would perk up, turn his head and then look disappointed.

It was such a weird experience being able to order without paying. We could get room service whenever we wanted and raided our room’s mini fridge.

At the breakfast buffets they would make omelettes to order, and there was a fajita station at the lunch buffet, which is basically what I had every day because they were amazing. James also made many visits to the breakfast crepe lady.
IMG_20151102_095918This is the baked Alaska from the fancy French restaurant we went to on (I think) our second night there.
IMG_20151031_194828Guy in the orange top is so jelly. You know he’s totally going to order one.

And here is the hibachi grill that we went to for Madeleine’s hens night.
IMG_20151101_214212

I have two cups of sake in front of me: one hot and one cold. Also some sushi.

IMG_20151101_213020I think my favourite restaurant experience was actually the last night. We went to the Mexican restaurant and the food was great! We also had the best waiter – he was so funny and took great care of James when he found out he was lactose intolerant. Here he is preparing my fajitas:
IMG_20151105_225359We had 10 people so our group was split in half. We sent tequila shots to the other table, because why not! Jenny had the idea to make three of them tequila and one water and when they drank them we could hear Quincy say “I don’t think mine was anything!”

Other than gorging ourselves we also went to the beach a lot. My favourite thing to do was feed the fish. They would leap out of the water to snatch bread from your fingers!
IMG_20151031_110049Even when James went back in the water later (breadless) the fish swarmed him.

James: Noo they recognise my brightly coloured shorts!
IMG_20151104_090353The breeze from the ocean made the beach one of the least humid places to hang out and the umbrella chairs were quite coveted.

The regular umbrella chairs weren’t good enough for James; he decided to take the lifeguard’s spot.
IMG_20151031_121032Plus of course there was booze service. I think we had some big tippers in our group because sometimes the waiter would just bring us impromptu tequila shots.

The pool was also popular because it wasn’t sandy, was faster to get to,  and had two swim up bars.
IMG_20151031_162903Mike had a fancy suite with a pool right next to it, so sometimes we’d swim at his pool then order a crapload of room service (quesadillas and burgers and nachos, oh my!) and booze.

Of course, you can only hang out at the pool and beach so much. So here’s James at one of the shooting activities with a (BB?) gun in one hand, margarita in the other.
IMG_20151102_111824We also went snorkeling one day, which was kind of meh because it had been raining and the visibility was poor, but it was cheap and I was going a bit stir crazy. We also tried some hookah that was in the cigar bar at the resort. Verdict: interesting, but not for us.

After the wedding we did a big group trip which was super fun. First we went to the Tulum ruins:
IMG_20151105_152206James at one of the temples (I want to say it’s the God of Winds temple?) with our ponchos in his pockets:
IMG_20151105_151356Afterwards we had lunch and drove ATVs through the jungle to get to a bunch of hidden cenotes (cave pools).
IMG_20151105_180604Then we ATV’d to a cave that we had to zipline into, which was really fun. The only slight bummer was that we started late in the afternoon so by the time we hit the cenotes it was dark outside and starting to get a bit cold. Luckily the life jackets kept us warm enough as we snorkeled around in the cave. It was pretty eerie and we had to be careful not to snag ourselves on the rock formations.

And here we are at dinner: homemade tamales!
IMG_20151105_194056The all-inclusive format really worked well for a group trip since we could just eat and drink and hang out. It was so great to see all of our Seattle friends and I’m looking forward to the next wedding (which a little birdie told me might be in Bali next year!).

Getting our E3 Visas Renewed in Mexico City!

21 Aug

Whew! James and I just came back from six days in Mexico City.
IMG_4465

It was an unplanned “holiday” because we needed to go to get our visas renewed (much like an H1B, James’ E3 visa is tied to his employer). Most people go to Canada but apparently this time of year is really busy – Vancouver had no available appointments and Calgary had an 84 day wait, so Google suggested that we go to Mexico City which had a mere 14 day wait.

I was pretty freaked out – all I knew was that parts of Mexico are extremely unsafe – I’ve read news stories of entire buses getting killed by drug cartels, people getting kidnapped, and friends have told me about how their parents were driven around in armoured cars with bodyguards. But after doing some research I found that Mexico City is one of the safest parts of Mexico and it’s no more dangerous than any large North American city. And (aside from the stress of not speaking the language!) we had a really great time!

The first awesome part was finding out that the seats I’d selected were actually bulkhead seats. Normally airlines make you pay for these seats and now I can see why. Soooo much room!
IMG_4300I could straighten my legs and still not touch the seat in front of me! It didn’t make any real difference in comfort to me but James was pleased which made me pleased. =)

Monday

Straight to work! We had to go to the Applicant Services Center in the morning to make sure all our documents were in order – Mexico City is the only place that makes you go through this step. You can’t do it on the same day as your visa interview so we had to arrive a day earlier to get everything taken care of. There was a huge crowd of people outside the building waiting for their appointment times. It was a pretty stressful experience because all the announcements were in Spanish and we had no idea what was going on (this would be a common theme throughout our visa process).

We were put in a special queue because James’ documents were missing his middle name so we first had to get in line to fix that before getting in the proper queue. We were told that we’d need to bring a photo to our visa appointment (something we didn’t know beforehand!) so we had to get emergency ones taken around the corner. Even at local rip-off prices (250 pesos/$19 USD) they were still well worth it for the convenience.

Afterwards we dropped everything back at our AirBNB place, grabbed some street tacos (amazing and only 12 pesos each) and headed to the Zocalo and the Metropolitan Cathedral.
2014-08-15 09.50.40Unfortunately for us most of the square was taken up with a huge installation teaching people how to ride bikes so we didn’t get to see Zocalo in all its glory. The cathedral was beautiful, but since neither of us are religious we just kind of wandered around feeling vaguely out of place while we looked at the architecture.

Also, the metro system in Mexico City is fantastic. The trains come very frequently (the one time we had to wait 5 minutes for a train we were like wtf?!) and it costs 5 pesos (40c!) to travel with unlimited transfers. Rush hour was the most squished I’ve been in my life, but overall it was a super cheap and convenient way to travel around the city.

On the walk home from the metro station we stopped by a cafe where James ordered some mescal.
IMG_4309(James: when we move to California we should buy some mescal and oranges)

We also got to try maguey worms!

IMG_4316They were really expensive (I think over 400 pesos/$31 USD) but eh, you don’t get to try worms very often! Also I may or may not have realised how expensive the worms were before I ordered them.

James didn’t like them but I did. They were kind of like meaty french fries (and apparently they have heaps of protein!)

Tuesday

This was the day of our visa interview. It was also raining really heavily in the morning so we got soaked walking 30 minutes to the consulate. In hindsight I should have picked an AirBNB place that was closer to the embassy instead of in a cool neighborhood (I’m normally better about that but in this case I was seduced by the photos).

As far as I could tell we were the only E3 applicants. James thought it might work in our favour because maybe there would be a dedicated E3 agent but no such luck. The main stress came from not knowing what was going on and getting in the wrong line (individual employees spoke excellent English, but all the general announcements were in Spanish) but once we got on track the actual visa interview was very straightforward – we were easily approved and told to return on Thursday to retrieve our passports.

We spent the rest of the day visiting the Museum of Anthropology, which is this beautiful modern building in the middle of an enormous park (over twice the size of Central Park in NYC).
IMG_4327

The bottom floor seemed to focus on ancient ruins and the top floor more on the different Mexican cultures. We explored the whole museum but if you only have a short period of time I’d recommend focusing on the Aztec section. There’s some really impressive stuff there, like the Aztec sun stone (originally buried in the Zocalo), and a huge collection of stone figures.

Wednesday

On Wednesday we went on a private tour to see Teotihuacan, which was an ancient (100BC!) city in Mexico. We left quite early and got there at 7:30am, just before everything opened. The first half hour it was pretty much just us (and the workers) there, and it was pretty cool seeing the citadel and the Avenue of the Dead completely empty.

We saw these stone heads at the citadel:
IMG_4377Which they’d had a restored portion of (or replica?) at the Museum of Anthropology.

IMG_4350It was strange trying to imagine everything with colour. There were some well-preserved murals so we could get a sense of how everything must have looked.

Here we are in front of the Pyramid of the Sun (seriously, try to picture it in colour – bizarre!)

2014-08-13 09.51.30Other people were starting to trickle in by now. Given its size I thought the pyramid would be more challenging to climb (maybe if you do all the levels at once? We kept getting distracted) but the views were absolutely spectacular.

2014-08-13 09.37.38In the background you can see the Avenue of the Dead leading to the Pyramid of the Moon. We also climbed the Pyramid of the Moon (though you weren’t allowed past the first tier) and the view was also gorgeous.
IMG_4429Here I am carefully descending the steps. You get a much better sense of how enormous the pyramid is by seeing how teeny tiny everyone looks against it.

2014-08-13 10.25.50Afterwards we looked at some palace ruins, well-preserved murals, and a museum. We also had lunch in a cave.
IMG_4461It was super overpriced, but how often do you get to eat inside a cave?!

Thursday

In the morning we spent some time looking atDream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera. It’s so stunning in person and I regret that we didn’t see his other murals at the National Palace. It was 12 pesos each for entry and there was a guy in the room (James and I are divided on whether he was a museum employee or just a Diego Rivera enthusiast) who explained parts of the mural to us.

Then it was time to pick up our visas from the US consulate. We had to get there at 3pm where everyone waited outside in a confused huddle until they started calling out names. Our names were never called (!) but the guard let us through anyway cos we had a piece of paper telling us to be there. We were taken to a special waiting area which freaked us out because everyone else got to go inside. We watched everyone else leave with their passports and visas until one of the employees told us that they couldn’t find our passports (!!!). Eventually they did find them and from there on everything went smoothly although we were by far the last to leave. =(

Friday

In the morning we went to Templo Mayor, which is this Aztec temple that some workers randomly discovered underneath Mexico City. There were 7 pyramids built over one another, and you can walk around the ruins and see the various layers.
2014-08-15 10.35.32The museum afterwards had various relics that were retrieved from the site as well as a model of the 7 layer pyramid that we were previously walking through:
IMG_4491The disk of the dismembered Coyolxauhqui is probably the crown jewel of the collection (I think the one on the level below is Tlaloc, who was everywhereat Teotihuacan, Templo Mayor, everywhere):

IMG_4498And this is their reproduction of how it looked originally:
2014-08-15 10.16.19I kind of love how gruesome a lot of their art is and how huge a theme death is. Case in point:
IMG_4489After the museum we picked up my pottery and went to a market to buy some Otomi bark artwork (I love death themed art but not on my walls. I bought cut-outs of friendly little seed spirits).

Then in the evening it was time for Lucha Libre! We went with a tour group – we could have done it cheaper on our own but I think going with a group was more fun. Our guide was awesome and explained the rules to us and taught us Spanish phrases to yell out.

2014-08-15 21.52.01He was friends with a couple of the wrestlers and we got photos taken with them which was cool.

Afterwards we picked up a lucha libre t-shirt for James (110 pesos or $8.50 USD). The t-shirts had really cool designs and I kind of regret that we didn’t buy more, but we were running out of cash towards the end and didn’t want to go to another ATM. Then we took the metro home, had 1am tacos, packed, and got an hour’s sleep before taking an Uber to the airport.

We arrived back in Seattle around 4pm with fresh US visas. =) Overall I’d recommend getting your visas in Mexico (especially if you speak Spanish!) It was scary for us because we didn’t know the language, but everything went well and we got to explore an amazing city that we never would have visited otherwise.
2014-08-11 15.19.36(Drinking a mescal cocktail and feeling very cosmopolitan in trendy Condesa)

Adios Mexico! I know how to say that at least.

Also lo siento, no habla espanol.