The cutest little spot in Mexico
I fall in love with every place we go. It's kind of become my thing, I guess. Better to have loved, right? Enthusiastically telling Spencer how a town is the perfect place has now become a watered down expression used many times too often. But...now that we've been in Mexico for over seven (seven!) months, I will use my "favorite place" card this one time and say that above all other spots, San Cristobal de las Casas is the best. Why? It's surrounded by mountains, it's a smaller town, it is the cleanest place I've been in Mexico, there are four long pedestrian only streets, Chiapas is the coffee and chocolate region of Mexico, while everywhere else is raging hot at the moment, SCDLC is a perfect temperature, the artisan market is incredible, everything is cheap, and there are more cute bistros, cafes, boutiques, and wood fired pizza restaurants here than anywhere I've seen. It is fantastic! The only thing that is not fantastic is the internet speed and reliability. Which makes it a tough choice for a long term stay, but regardless, it's worth it.
Come on Palenque, seriously?
There's this moment of walking into any site of ruins in Mexico that I think of as "the big reveal." It's that moment when you push through the turn style, walk down a pedestrian path, and look out at the scene in front of you for the first time. I always like to pretend I'm discovering that particular set of Mayan ruins, what would that be like? Would I tell anyone else? Maybe not.
We arrived at the Palenque ruins at 8am on a rainy morning, ready to race the crowds unloading from the giant buses for our 5-10 minutes of uninterrupted silence and wonder. When I first saw these giant stone buildings, I felt immediately overwhelmed with amazement, they are simply the most strikingly beautiful ruins. The light rain added incredible visual drama to this vacant stone city in the jungle. I've seen so much over the last 7 months, but this was something else. These guys knew how to build a ding-dang city!
Over the last six and a half months I've swam in the aqua ocean, explored Mayan ruins, snorkeled through cenotes, hiked up through the clouds at the Monarch butterfly reserve, run down cool cobbled streets, sang karaoke with much needed encouragement, and ate some of the best tacos/mole/tostadas/helado ever. And it has been ah-mazing, for sure.
But regardless, sometimes it just creeps up and takes over. That thought "ugh, Mexico. I need a break from you." Sometimes I just want to drive to Whole Foods, pick out exactly what I want from the salad bar, go for a run on a well-maintained trail, spend three hours at Nordstrom Rack and buy nothing, then go see a movie and eat Swedish Fish in the dark.
Sometimes, being so far away from home, missing friends and the normal routine of a day, Mexico can feel like an island - and it's difficult to feel connected because well, I'm not. I'm here and going out means walking down a narrow sidewalk in a beautiful old town, passing the central plaza, saying "no gracias" to the ladies selling belts and bags and honey. It means sitting down at a cafe and ordering in Spanish, wondering what might show up. It's wonderful! But once in awhile, it's kind of tough. Because it's not effortless. It requires patience and attention.
This might be kind of a weird effect of home-sickness, yeah, it is weird, but needs explaining. Anyway, we shop for most of our groceries at Chedaraui (the large supermarket here). We go to the market when we run out of stuff or need a specific item, but the grocery store is easy and it's got everything. The grocery stores in Mexico are interesting. They are huge, but every aisle has just one or two options for every item. For example, if you want to buy pasta, you get to choose between two types. There will be an entire aisle full of those two types - no one is going to leave the store without their pasta, but it will either be the blue box or the red one. Compare this to our experiences in the US - walking down the pasta aisle there are so many choices! Do you want whole grained, do you want gluten free, rice pasta, organic, USDA-organic, local, etc?
For the most part this system in Mexico is totally fine. It's actually pretty easy, once you know exactly what you need. Now I don't spend 15 minutes deliberating what yogurt brand/flavor/size/packaging I like best. I just buy that one plain greek yogurt. But for some reason, I have a massively difficult time in the cracker section. There are three options for crackers at every Chedaraui in Mexico: Ritz, Crackets (imitation Ritz) and Integral (whole grained cardboard). When I look at the entire shelf stocked full of Ritz and Crackets, nothing can make me feel farther away from Boulder, Colorado...but once in awhile...there will be a huge victory hidden on a random shelf at Chedaraui.
And although I still can't find that ash-aged chevre in the cheese section, and I would love a patio happy hour with every person I am missing, life is a tiny bit brighter today.