Travel

Week three in San Luis Potosí, Ixtapaluca and Cusco (LATAM 2019) – Part 1

I have a bit of a whirlwind romance with San Luis Potosí, I must admit. The first time I went there was in December 2017. I remember being so excited about it at the time.

The journey was actually a complete surprise to my itinerary. Originally, I was supposed to be completing a company project management course at home in Prague. Then, quite suddenly, the course was moved to Mexico a few weeks before the start.

I had an Indian wedding in Jaipur a couple of days before, so my travel schedule was pretty hectic. Nevertheless, I relished the opportunity to go visit a new county and add it to my bucket list (not to mention my new Mexican beau promised to come visit too – thank you for that unexpected opportunity my dear universe!).

I was travelling with my two favourite colleagues Jana M and Jana B. That really made the trip even more special for me. I still have the greatest memories of us all landing there and taking a look around.

We walked the town, ate wonderful food, did some shopping and also managed to explore the neighbouring towns of Real de Catorce, Dolores Hidalgo, San Miguel de Allende, and Guanajuato. What a trip – I don’t think I will ever forget it!

That being said, you can imagine that this part of the trip evoked some great memories in me.

 

Day 15 – Girls night out and the universe’s solution to too many flautas

It’s Friday today! The day I’ve been greatly looking forward to ever since I booked my trip to San Luis Potosí. I’m going to see one of my all time favourite Potosinos (aka people from San Luis Potosí) Gaby again!

Gaby and I go quite a way back. Originally, she was on one of my project teams, so we spent a significant amount of time working together.

After Gaby moved roles, our paths later crossed again when she joined the Project Management Organization as the Head of Change Management. Change Management is an area I find absolutely fascinating, so it’s no wonder we struck up our connection again.

To be honest, Gaby is one of the women I have absolutely adored working with over the years. Not only is she dedicated, professional, ambitious and definitely puts any “lazy Mexican” stereotypes you may have heard to shame.

She is also one of the most genuinely warm and helpful people I have met in the workplace to date.I promised her last year that I would visit San Luis Potosí the next time I was in Mexico. I’m glad to report, I have kept that promise too!

An added bonus today is that another ex-colleague of mine Erika is at dinner. I haven’t seen Erika in forever and the last time I heard from her she was about to give birth to her second child. It seems her baby is now more than a year old. Crazy how time flies, isn’t it?

 

Catching up at Gran Central

Logistically speaking, we start out with a bit of a challenge. Our original restaurant doesn’t have any space for us and the waiting time is around 40 minutes.

There is an option to lounge at the bar with drinks. However, believe me when I say, you don’t really want three very hungry women waiting around for that amount of time. That can only end badly…

Instead, we decide to head to one of Gaby’s favourite restaurants instead – the Gran Central. It’s a stylish, upmarket kind of place and Gaby knows all the waiters by name (I’m impressed!).

I have a moment of feeling quite underdressed. I comfort myself with the fact that I’m wearing something halfway presentable underneath my hiking jacket (!).

// Note to self: This is what happens when you only pack one jacket… //

We select the most delicious Brie cheese and bread as a starter, followed by some absolutely divine stuffed pasta pockets. It’s a real shame I’ve been on antibiotics or I may have tried the wine. It does look delicious, mmmm.

We catch up and discuss everything from work, to home, to future plans. We have a good laugh, share the latest gossip and enjoy the novelty of sitting together around the same table again. Before you know it though the night is over and it’s time to get back home.

As Gaby drives me back to the hotel, I’m left with mixed feeling of definite endings and new beginnings. It’s funny to see how much can change in a year and yet… it’s a distinct reminder that life goes on and we flow with it. Interesting…

 

The story of too many flautas…

For anyone watching my Instagram stories yesterday, you may have noticed I had a slight food mix up. Instead of ordering three flautas, I ended up ordering three portions (of five flautas), adding up to fifteen!

At a price of 75 pesos (~3.50€) for all, you may understand how that error could happen. It did leave me with enough food to feed an army though, and I had no idea what to do with it all.

At dinner last night, I asked Arturo if he knew anywhere I could go to give the food to the needy or the homeless. After he said no, I went back home and felt slightly dejected.

I really and truly dislike unnecessary waste, especially when it comes to food. I consider food one of the world’s greatest blessings.

So, as I lay my head to rest and said my prayers last night, I prayed I would find a way not to waste any of it. Incredibly, my prayer was answered this morning when I got a visit from my hotel’s cleaning lady Gloria!

To start we just had a conversation about my stay in SLP. While she was cleaning my room, she also told me of her two daughters and how the city has changed across the years.

As she was about to leave, I remembered the food, and asked her if she knew anyone I could give it to. She actually told me, herself and her family could very much use it. I was ecstatic!

Without hesitation, I wrote a note to the hotel letting them know what I was gifting and left a small tip for Gloria as well. The smile and hug she gave me upon receipt were absolutely priceless.

I think it’s true what they say about helping yourself by helping others…

 

Day 16 – The San Luis Potosí walk about and heading back to to Mexico City

My flight back to Mexico City is heading out this evening and I have some time to spare before I go. I’ve decided I want to take one last spin around SLP and enjoy what it has to offer.

My taxi driver Martin told me to try some Enchiladas Potosinas while I’m here. So, as I pass by a small Mexican restaurant on the outskirts of town, that’s the first thing I order. (I am not disappointed!)

A crispy, crunchy exterior with an oh so delicious filling – mmmm. Accompanied by a freshly made lemonade and my tastebuds are singing with delight!

As I sit in the restaurant and stare at the pretty wall murals, I think to myself how I made it here. I think of all those little moments that had to come together for me to be sitting in this place. It’s quite amazing.

I think how fortunate I am to be where I am in life right now. So much has changed in the last year, not all pleasant. Yet it’s not every day you get to quit a job and go gallivanting across the globe either.

This city of San Luis Potosí is also really something. It’s got a charm that’s hard to explain. It’s like time hasn’t quite caught up with it yet. It certainly doesn’t feel like you’re in the 21st century. It’s so… pleasing? pleasant? whimsical?

Heading back to the hotel later, I pick up a few trinkets for Itzel and her family. I’ll be staying with them for two nights. I’ve just realised though… I don’t know how many siblings Itzel has. Hmm… let me guess…

Memories…

 

Welcome to Ixtapaluca Claudia!

Landing back in Mexico City, Itzel, her father Armando and brother Giovanni are waiting for me. Literally engines revving, as there’s no time to stop the car for longer than two minutes. The traffic police are in full swing!

I feel a little bit awkward at first, as I’ve never met Itzel’s family before. My first impression of her dad and brother are that they are two distinctly masculine men. Possibly the strong and silent types? I’m a little unsure as to where to start the conversation…

I’ve actually only met Itzel once before. We have been in contact on and off for about a year, but our friendship is pretty new.

As we settle in for a longer drive home though, Giovanni starts to show off his charms. He gets the conversation going and keeps the mood light with his jokes and DJing skills. What a lifesaver!

It turns out Itzel’s family lives in a place called Ixtapaluca. It isn’t actually in Mexico City itself. As we arrive home I’m introduced to Itzel’s mother Elena, her sister Denisse and her grandfather Alfonso.

They possibly have the most unusually constructed house I have ever seen. I find out it’s because it used to actually be two houses and they’ve been building above and around it over time. It exudes a feeling of ‘home’, which is something I take to immediately.

Strangely, I’m reminded of my Austrian grandmother’s house. Itzel’s house has the same kind of traditional vs modern mix to it. After some consideration, I think the corner dedicated to catholic religious memorabilia may have something to do with it. My grandmother had one of those too.

Again, I’m reminded of the value of a good dining table. Living alone I’ve never really needed one much. With this much family around it though, it definitely becomes the centre of entertainment.

As we sit down for dinner together I can already tell: it’s going to be an interesting couple of days!

 

Day 17 – Visiting the city of the dead (Teotihuacan) and touring Mexico City

This morning starts out like almost all of my Sundays in Mexico. Sitting around a family table enjoying tacos! The big difference here in Ixtapaluca is that I’m not automatically offered Barbacoa tacos, but am greeted with a mix of soup, tea and local meat tacos instead.

I must admit we got into a bit of a debate over tacos last night. My loyalty to Monterrey tacos still stands, but I’ve got to say these Ixtapaluca tacos are definitely giving them a run for their money!

I find out that Itzel’s parents have specifically taken the day off from their store to be able to come visit the Teotihuacan pyramids with us. I feel amazingly honoured and humbled by this gesture and ever so thankful to Denisse and Alfonso for looking after the shop (on a Sunday!) to allow this.

Itzel tells me her parents generally work 7 days a week. This is a shock for me and once again drives home how privileged I am to live and work under European conditions.

Denisse is only 16, but has been helping out in the shop since she was 10. To think I only had my first job at 17… and everyone thought I was young then!

 

The journey to Teotihuacan

After breakfast we all pile into the car to make our way to the pyramids of Teotihuacan. This has been a “must do” item on my list. I’m immensely grateful to be sharing this experience with this beautiful family, instead of going by myself.

I’m very thankful for my constantly improving Spanish skills too. They have come in ever so handy with Itzel’s parents, since they don’t speak any English.

The journey to Teotihuacan takes a little under two hours. It takes us away from the cityscape, to literally rock and dirt lined roads. I see horses with carts, fields and fields of plants, dryness, stray dogs and those charming old Mexican villages I’m such a fan of.

When we finally arrive, we pretend I’m an adopted Mexican for the day. Apparently foreigners pay a much higher fee than Mexicans to visit the pyramids, and if they’re found to be with me the whole family pays more.

That being the case, I dutifully rest my eyes for a minute as we sneakily drive past the guards. When asked if we are all Mexican, the answer is of course – Siiiiii.

I quiet my conscience by telling myself it’s technically not a lie… I am actually part Mexican on my grandpa’s side. The only thing missing is the passport!

Memories…

 

Scaling the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan actually has a number of pyramids. However, the two most popular ones are the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.

The weather is scorching today and I must say, I’m not actually looking forward to scaling either pyramid right now. My cough hasn’t left me and so breathing is quite difficult. I’m also prone to sunstroke, so the heat isn’t being too kind to me either.

I’ll be honest, I’m a little worried as to how I am going to fare at Machu Picchu right now. Especially, considering I’m flying to Peru tomorrow!

Putting on a brave face (and not wanting to miss out on a possibly once in a lifetime opportunity!), I brave the trek up the Pyramid of the Sun. There are literally hundreds of people wanting to climb it, so it’s a slow process.

A line of steps allows us to move up gradually, growing steadily steeper and narrower as we climb each level. Itzel and her family are apparently champs at cutting lines, so we (luckily) arrive at the top much earlier than anticipated.

Admittedly, I’m feeling ever so slightly ashamed for cutting in line though. When travelling, I’m always acutely aware of what impression I may be leaving the locals with as a foreigner. I really don’t like to draw too much attention and I try to follow the rules where I can.

This being the case, you can imagine that cutting in front of about 40+ waiting people (especially after a local lady saw and told me where the end of the line was) felt downright painful.

Nevertheless, it wouldn’t help me if I lost Itzel now and then found myself stranded on a pyramid in the middle in nowhere. So, I do my best to quieten the opposing angel/devil voices in my head and push on up the pyramid.

Reaching the top, the views are striking. I can only imagine what the original settlers must have felt!

Itzel’s dad has brought some traditional Mexican masks along to christen the event. Apparently they are used in a lot of Mexican movies. (To me they just look like weird superhero masks though – oh well!)

Memories…

 

An evening in Mexico City

Before we return home to Ixtapaluca, the family and I end up doing a mini tour of Mexico City. We go to the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral and walk around the area a little.

There are street dancers and shamans everywhere. I have long been tempted to get a cleansing done by a local shaman. I’ve heard great things about the ones here in Mexico.

However, I don’t really trust these street shamans to be the real deal. I’m pretty sure they’re just here to persuade tourists to spending their hard earned money on them.

One thing I haven’t eaten since I got here is churros. Some of the best churros I’ve ever eaten were in San Luis Potosí. I didn’t really feel like churros in San Luis Potosí though, so I passed this time.

Now I’m feeling churros, I ask Itzel if we can get some here in Mexico City. Her and Giovanni apparently know just the place!

We go on a bit of a hike to find the best churros in town. Unfortunately, the line for the store is about 10-15 people long though.

Since our parking garage closes in less than 30 minutes we have to admit defeat and head home for now. Such a shame 🙁

I am determined to get a churro on this trip though. Just watch me…

For now it’s time to turn in though. We’ve all got an early morning tomorrow. I didn’t get to bed before 2am last night either, so I’m definitely tired.

Better catch some sleep tonight before my epic trip to Cusco tomorrow. I best you that will be an adventure to remember!

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