When we set out in our little van 17 whole blogs (8 months!) ago, we really had no idea how long this would last, when we would have a home again, where we would go, what we would do … Our plans have been fluid, as we’ve all come to learn they HAVE to be in this weird pandemic/post-pandemic world, so what’s next?
I don’t mean to be a complainer, or put a downer on anything, but, let’s be honest, the price of living is going crazy, isn’t it? And need I mention the price of fuel?! (Quite high on the list of necessities for van life!)
After our little stint of volunteering, we would honestly have happily stayed around in the UK for a while, seeing family and friends, but we also knew we didn’t want to get caught up into a long rental contract, wanting to keep ourselves flexible for whatever would come next. So we scoured AirBnB, all over the country actually, to try to find something reasonably priced for a few months, but that was honestly an impossible task! I know, of course, that when something is a short-term rental, there will be additional costs for the privilege, but this was just not something we could afford … in the UK anyway …
Let me cut a few days of discussion, deliberation and calculating short and tell you – we’ve decided to come to Central America!
In the years of 2014-2018, I had done quite a bit of solo travelling in Central & South America, visiting Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Argentina (and Uruguay & Brazil, but only for a day each!), and honestly, as much as there is a whoooole load of world out there to see, this place has my heart, and I feel very comfortable and at home in this area of the world. I speak Spanish fairly well, so everything doesn’t have to be the full-on tourist, am-I-getting-scammed, am-I-being-understood, is-this-safe experience, which can sometimes get a little tiring! Although not the cheapest, we knew our cost of living here would be considerably less than the UK – and let’s not pretend that the sun wasn’t a big old factor in this!
Some of my best friends are now fully living in Panama, as residents, and so the plan was to just come here and chill for a few months while we figure out the next move. And it is – but we’re taking a bit of a detour and visiting my friend in Mexico for a week first!
My friend Maddy was my travel buddy for 3 years, and she’s now living in Mexico City with her husband, and running a super cool sushi business!
So we’re off to stop number 1 on the Central American leg of our journey – Mexico!
Our first flight was just a short hope over to Paris, where we had a 6.5 hour layover in the airport. I don’t know if you’re into games, but we are, and we have recently been playing a lot of Catan online … so once I’d finished with my work for the day, that was how we spent the remainder of our time! The Charles de Gaulle airport is really well equipped with plug & USB sockets on each of the seats at the gate, and excellent wifi, so if you’re looking for a layover where you’ll be able to work, I’d recommend this one!
Next was our 11.5 hour flight to Mexico City! I love a long-haul flight; the movies, the blanket, the multiple meals … it’s just so much fun! This flight was very good (recommending Aero Mexico) and they got the tequila and coke’s flowing nice and early! The timing of this flight actually worked out really well too – we left at 11pm(ish) France time, and arrived 5am(ish) Mexico time … so go to sleep a couple of hours into the flight, and you’ll avoid most of the jet lag! And I must say, I think this is possibly the best I have ever slept on a flight – maybe it’s because I had someone to lean on this time(!), but, although of course you do wake up quite a bit, I was mostly asleep for the best part of 8 hours!
My friends met us at the airport, and we were able to experience the madness of Mexico City as we drove back to their apartment. This is roughly the 5th largest city IN THE WORLD by population, a similar size to Sao Paolo, Brazil, and almost twice the size of London! This city truly lives up to the Mexican vibes you would expect – with colourful buildings and graffiti everywhere, and endless street vendors selling tacos, tamales & empanadas!
Arriving at the apartment, we were treated to our first of many authentic Mexican delicacies – mango with chilli & lime. We came to learn that there are not many fruits that Mexicans want to eat without chilli and lime … personally, the lime part I am all for, but the chilli, not so much …
Luckily, we were trying to keep ourselves hungry for our dinner – we were going to experience Pozole.
What I love about Central & South America is the fusion of cultures – you can feel one minute like you’re in the Caribbean, turn the corner and find Spanish-style flamenco dancers in the streets, cross the road and find beautiful, European Colonial-era buildings, and then look behind you and see the ruins of a huge Aztec or Mayan temple … Something we don’t often get the chance to experience in the UK or Europe is that – the food and culture of the ancient indigenous peoples. So we were very excited to go to try a traditional ‘pozole’, which is close to how the Aztecs were eating it almost 1000 years ago (only we would have it with a little more pork and a little less actual human flesh…)
So Pozole is basically a soup, and there are 3 main varieties – rojo, blanco & verde. Apparently it’s often served on special occasions, and there it a bit of a show surrounding it, so we were taken to a restaurant where all the ingredients were brought to the table, and then the waitress basically constructions your soup in front of you.
Now, Pozole is one of those things that you will just have to try, because if I list you off the ingredients, it’s not going to sound too appealing (even without the human meat!)
Here we go, ingredients include:
- A raw egg that is cooked as it’s stirred in,
- Pork skin (similar to pork crackling),
- Cilantro (coriander),
- Mezcal (tequila),
- Lime juice,
- Hominy (kind of puffed corn kernels)
I don’t blame you if that hasn’t got you salivating, but hand-on-heart, this is a bowl of yum! I probably could’ve done without the pork skin, which is kid of the heroed ‘meat’ of the dish, not because I don’t like it, but because the soup itself with its many herbs and added extras honestly it just tasty! And even if you’ve not been to Mexico before, and had no real expectations, you’ll taste it and you’ll know – ‘this is Mexico’!
For the rest of the day, we mooched around the city, enjoying the sights of the colourful flags, the smells of the street food, and learning about where tequila comes from (agave!)
We’ve really only covered one day in this blog, but it feels like it’s been long enough already, so I’ll leave it there! There is just enough space to show you our delicious breakfast made by my friend & her husband – enchiladas with refried beans (which has always been one of my favourite foods!).
Next time, we’ll continue our Mexican adventure when visiting Tepoztlan & Xoachicalco…