Travel

Week two in Monterrey and San Luis Potosí (LATAM 2019)

For me, visiting Monterrey always feels a little bit like coming home. I have so many memories here with people that I love and care about.

Every time I visit, new memories, bonds and ideas are generated. I think a large part of that has to do with the circumstances under which I first arrived here. Yet, another is the reason for which I keep coming back each year. To see and grow the love for my tribe on this side of the world.

Growing up I often felt lonely. In Monterrey I rarely have. This city and the people in it have taught me a lot about family, relationships, love and healing. It is something I will be grateful for until the end of my days.

Day 8 – Walking in a Monterrey Wonderland

One of the things that has been on my personal Monterrey bucket list for a while, has been to complete the walk around the Santa Lucia.

The Santa Lucia is a man made river construction, which starts in the heart of Monterrey. The birthplace of the city.

I am told this place originally held the mouth of a small river that was found by the original settlers. It was considered an oasis in the desert, and became the center of civilization, in this area surrounded by arid landscapes and mountains.

Personally, I love the bucket fountain at the other end of the Santa Lucia. The point at which you can look across at the gushing water, gaze at the beautiful mountains in the background and dream of all life has to offer. It’s my favourite place in Monterrey.

I remember two years ago, I day-dreamed of walking down the Santa Lucia with (my now ex) Angel hand in hand. We never made it there and it was always something I slightly regretted at the back of my mind.

Interestingly, I find that life almost always has a way of presenting you with opportunities to accomplish the things you hold near and dear to your heart though.

In this instance, Angel helped make my wish come true when he asked me how I wished to spend the day. I told him I wanted to walk the Santa Lucia. He swiftly agreed – win! 😄

 

An old face, a new memory and the Santa Lucia river walk

On the way to Santa Lucia, Angel and I go for lunch at a wings restaurant and pick up his good friend Roberto. It’s been almost two years since I’ve seen Roberto. I wonder if he’s changed since moving to the US?

The first few moments feel a little awkward. I figure that’s quite normal given we all have memories of us together in a similar (and yet very different) situation almost two years ago.

As time passes though, catching up with Roberto feels more and more like a blessing. We find our rhythm and all awkwardness between us evaporates.

I always liked Roberto. He’s good people. Time hasn’t changed that at all it seems. It’s so great to see!

As we head to the Santa Lucia, Angel focuses on training his Pokémon and Roberto keeps me entertained with all sorts of topics, including some history on Monterrey.

All the while I enjoy the sights, smells and exercise offered along the way. I may not have imagined my walk down Santa Lucia being quite like this two years ago, but I’m grateful for the opportunity and the laughs along the way.

Memories…

City streets, exotic pets and ice cream

Once we’re done with the Santa Lucia walk, we head to the city center. I haven’t been there before. I also have a sudden craving for ice cream which needs to be tended to…

As my valiant companions accept and face the challenge of finding me the best ice cream in town, Roberto points out a gigantic pet shop. It looks exotic. It looks intriguing. We must go there!

As we walk into the store, I simultaneously feel entranced and disturbed. The first thing that catches my eye is the fact there is a woman standing near the entrance with a baby panther on a red leash. A baby panther I tell you!

It’s an interesting experience walking through a pet store and seeing anything from a puppy, to a python, to a duck chick, to a monkey, to a crocodile looking up at you from behind their glass enclosures.

It’s definitely not something you would see in Europe. I want to say I have strong negative feelings about it. That’s how you’re supposed to feel when you see caged living beings, isn’t it?

If I said that though, it would be a lie. I actually feel a strange mix of curiosity, pity and resignation instead.

I know enough of this world to know there are many customs, practices and activities in it, which I don’t necessarily agree with.

Yet, I know I do not have the pull nor the power to be able to prevent all these things from happening either. That being the case, for many things, including this, I simply choose to grow my awareness to know that it’s happening and then try not to actively support it.

Different worlds, different customs. You never know how the world may change in the future. I can only hope it’s for the better.

 

Taco trucks and missed conga lines

Later that night we all head out to meet David and his new girlfriend Mariana. I love David to pieces – he’s like the little brother I never had and it’s a great pleasure seeing him again!

I’ve been looking forward to meeting Mariana for some time too now and I’m not disappointed. They are just so adorable together! ❤️

We meet at a street food taco truck parade with live music. It’s the kind of place I really enjoy going to.

The venue gives me some nostalgia. It really reminds me of my teen years. Back when I would travel around with the high school band and watch their performances.

At first we have some issues finding a table, so circle around a few times. Once we find one, we settle down to drinks, chatter and some playful banter.

A little while later a song comes on. It’s a catchy tune and one by one people start standing up and forming a line. Oh my goodness. It’s a conga line – yaaay!

Angel and Roberto steadfastly refuse to join me in the conga line and David and Mariana are on their way out. I’m feeling unusually self-conscious tonight and don’t want to go alone.

David and Mariana see my hesitation and convince Angel to go dance with me. We make our way to the front, but by this time the song is closing. I can’t help but think it was a missed opportunity for fun. I don’t like that feeling.

Not one to stay down for long though, I decide to entertain myself with some shoulder dancing at the table instead.

It might not be quite as fun as the conga, but it makes me smile nonetheless. 🙂

Memories…

 

Day 9 – Ice Skating in Parque Fundidora

Saturday starts out as a chill day for me. Angel and his brother Fer are out doing their own things for the day.

Mama, Papa and Aunty J do a great job of keeping me entertained. We go shopping, eat together, have some (comparatively!) deep and meaningful conversations, watch a bit of TV and just enjoy being in each other’s company again.

I get in touch with David and Mariana to see if they want to hang out and we agree to go ice skating together.

I’ve not been ice skating in years, so this is quite the adventure for me. What’s more, as we arrive and get our ice skates ready, I notice the ice skates are in fact hockey skates!

As a die hard figure skating ice skates kind of gal, this is quite possibly my greatest challenge of all times. I mean… where’s the front break pedal (aka toe pick) when you need one?!?

This results in some hilarious near falls and accidents. Whilst David and I egg each other on as we meet at the sidelines, Mariana glides around like a pro.

Oh well, at least we look somewhat cool in the pictures. That’s got to count for something, right? 😂

 

Day 10 – Mexican Independence Day and the art of La Lotteria

It’s the day before Mexican Independence Day today and also the day I move over to my friend Anahi’s place.

I’m very much enjoying breakfast this morning as it’s one of my favourites: Tacos de Barbacoa!

For those of your who don’t know, that’s a traditional Sunday breakfast food. Hermanito Fer was telling me how Papa J used to get up suuuuper early every Sunday to have Barbacoa ready for the family. Today breakfast is around 11am though. (Totally works for me!)

Before leaving, Angel and I head to the pharmacy to get me some more cough syrup (I can’t seem to rid myself of that blasted cough just yet!). A short heart-to-heart and Pokemon Go round later and it’s time to go.

Anahi and her boyfriend Hiram come to pick me up around one o’clock and we head to her aunt’s place for the afternoon. She’s having a Mexican fiesta and we’re celebrating Anahi’s sister Mariana’s birthday, which is on Monday, too.

For the first time ever I get to play “La Lotteria”. It’s a game, kind of like bingo, that I’ve seen Angel’s mom play many times. I’ve always been curious, but I’ve not had the opportunity to play myself before, so it’s pretty exciting!

I learnt a lot from playing:

  1. I have terrible luck when it comes to La Lotteria
  2. My Mexican family are total gambling enablers (they love me so much they keep bailing me out of financial ruin – love it!)
  3. Abuelita (Grandma) is totally the La Lotteria queen
  4. La Lotteria is a great way to increase your Spanish vocabulary
  5. Playing old school games with the family absolutely rocks!
  6. I apparently am a big fan of food, drinks, inter-table gossip and La Lotteria

What a great afternoon!

Memories…

 

Day 11 – Family time in Monterrey

Today most of Monterrey has the day off to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. It commemorates September 16, 1810, which was the day that Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo urged Mexicans to rise up against the Spanish-born ruling class. It started a great revolt.

For us mere mortals 200 years later though, it’s a day of relaxation. We spend the day eating good food, watching tv together, sleeping as the day gets too hot and laughing all the while.

It’s a good day. Sometimes, it’s the quiet days that really bind you the most. They give you an opportunity to just talk and be. To help each other, love each other, heal each other and encourage each other.

As someone growing up with a single mom and without sisters at home, I really appreciate this togetherness a lot. Four girls, a mom and a dad in a living room full of love.

The girls tell me how much they appreciate having Melissa at home today too. She moved out recently to move in with her husband Paco, so the unity makes a welcome change.

Sometimes spending time together really is all you need to feel happy. I know I feel very happy today.

 

Day 12 – Staying in with my girl Anahí

I wake up this morning with an awfully bunged up nose and a feverish feeling again. Uh oh, please not.

The girls and Mama C put their emergency “SOS Claudia” hats on and rally round with tea, a weird eucalyptus humidifier machine to sniff and plenty of cough mixture.

It seems the air conditioner may be at fault this time. After coming off antibiotics your system actually gets weakened, which can make picking up further bugs easier. Looks like that’s what has happened. Shoot.

I feel bad for not making the most of my last day in Monterrey. We wanted to head out to the museum and get some fresh manicures today.

Instead, we spend the day together in the bedroom. Watching chick flicks, dosing up on medicine, sleeping, eating and talking. I’m told not to feel too bad about it – apparently Anahi likes rest days too.

I choose to believe that that’s the truth and we make the most of the day by sharing plenty of smiles and laughs together. For dinner we have the immense pleasure of enjoying the new dining table that just arrived.

I have a moment where I stop in wonder. Who would have thought that something as small as a table change, could feel so exciting?

I think I’ve just learned something new about myself.

 

Day 13 – Goodbye Monterrey, hello San Luis Potosí

It’s travel day again and a long one at that. Papa C drives me over to Angel’s place for one last breakfast with Mama, Papa and Aunty J.

They take me to our favourite tamale place. We went there last time we were all together and the tamale lady remembers me. She’s very impressed by my improved Spanish and I continue to be impressed by her amazing tamales!

After breakfast we head home for a short respite before it’s time to head to the airport and say goodbye.

I put up a valiant fight against the tears and actually make it to the airport (mostly) tear free. The moment it’s time for final goodbye’s, I can’t help myself though.

The lady at security looks at my streaming face as I fumble around trying to find my boarding pass and passport. I apologise feebly for the delay.

With kind and loving eyes she looks at me and says “No te preocupes. Te entiendo señorita” (Don’t worry, I understand you miss).

It’s utterly human reactions like this which make me fall more and more in love with Mexico’s people and culture each time I visit.

I’m making my way to San Luis Potosí next. I have a flight to Mexico City to catch and then a flight to San Luis Potosí from there.

My eyes are watering, my cough is roaring, my nose is stuffy and my journey is going to take 7 hours. I think it’s going to be a long day…

 

Boarding pass terror in Mexico City

Arriving in Mexico City, I have approximately 2 hours to get myself sorted for my next flight.

I come in at Terminal 1 and need to leave again from Terminal 2. Anyone who hasn’t been to Mexico City airport will not be able to appreciate what issues this can bring.

After about an hour of looking for boards, figuring out the airport train and going through controls, I finally arrive at gate 75-C. My flight is nowhere in sight.

Departure time comes closer and closer. The gate is boarding an AeroMexico flight to San Luis Potosí… nope not mine. Oaxaca? Nope. Acapulco? Nope.

My boarding time has come and gone and I’m getting nervous. I finally ask the man at the desk if I’m in the right place.

“Yes miss, you’re fine, just wait a few more minutes.” Comes the response.

My flight should be leaving at 6:10. At 6:04 there’s still no sign of boarding. At 6:08 we get called to the gate, only to be held in a room to wait for a bus to take us to the plane. This flight is definitely not on time.

I’m fumbling around my bag, making sure I have everything, when I realise my boarding card isn’t there anymore. The steward is ushering us to the bus to board the plane. Ugh!

I panic… and breathe. Feel like crying… and breathe. I explain my dilemma. The lady let’s me on the bus after asking about my seat number. Luckily, I have this memorised.

On the bus, I find my pass. Phew. Then the next shock. The plane.

Oh my goodness, the plane is a propeller plane! One of those small, whispy planes that rattles around at the smallest sign of turbulence. I’m really not a fan.

Breathe. Get on the plane. Sit down.

Luckily, I arrive in San Luis Potosí with little issue. I guess it was just one of those wobbly days. I’m so happy to be back on firm ground.

Thank you universe for looking out for me!

Day 14 – Reunions and bonding at the El Mexico de Frida

Today I’m taking it easy. I have a dinner planned with Arturo and JLT in the evening. The last time I saw those two was in Prague. It’s so surreal to think how much can change in a year.

Arturo picks me up from the hotel to take me to the restaurant. It’s called El Mexico de Frida. You know how I was talking about missed opportunities and the universe providing you new opportunities?

Looks like I have another prime example of that here. The last time I visited San Luis Potosí was in 2017. I was coming off a trip from India where I caught a horrible stomach bug.

Work had a dinner at the El Mexico de Frida and I couldn’t come as I was feeling very green at the time. I remember everybody raving about it the next day at training. I felt bad for missing out.

Yet here I am two years later and very much enjoying the potato skins and Arturo’s meat dish recommendations. JLT comes in around an hour late – I guess some things never change 😉

He’s been promoted to a new role and is managing a team now. I feel so happy and proud for him.

As I get home I think to myself what a week it’s been. A week full of family and reunions.

I suppose you could say it’s been a quiet week. Yet somehow, I feel rich. Rich with memories, friends and people who feel like family.

(Admittedly I have a moment where I also feel a little poor for sitting in my hotel room unable to shift my health issues right now. Yet I tell myself: One day at a time Claudia. One day at a time…)

I’ll be spending a couple more days in San Luis Potosí and then heading back to Mexico City. I’m definitely interested to see what the next week will bring… only further good things I hope!

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