Well everybody, if you want to know if it’s possible to fall in love with a country in 7 days – the answer is most definitely si! We had such an amazing time in Mexico that although this blog usually cover a week in one go, I’ve had to split it into 3! But, the Mexican adventure sadly comes to an end here. Here’s how we spent our last few days!
You will have seen that a big part of this trip revolved around food (no surprises there). I mean, I always would’ve said ‘yes, I like Mexican food’, but let’s be honest – what we get is very much ‘Tex-Mex’, and, although yummy, is quite an adaptation from the real deal. Trust me. Go to Mexico and try it all. Buy the street tacos for less and £1 each, go to the meat market even though it’s a bit smelly(!) – just don’t be afraid! I know that in some places it’s true, it can be risky to eat the street food etc, but we had no issues whatsoever, and this food is absolutely some of the cheapest and tastiest I’ve ever had (on a level with those £5 Polish dumplings!) So yes, this final Mexico blog will include a little more food chat – starting with tamales!
Tamale is probably a word we know, and have heard of, but it doesn’t tend to be something that makes it onto the menus of UK ‘Mexican’ restaurants. I’m presuming that a big part of this could be the lack of availability of corn husks or banana leaves .. and also because this is a little bit of a different meal than our palettes are used to.
So, a tamale is basically a soft dough of maize or corn, filled with anything from spicy chicken mole, to a sweet dessert option of fruits, or even Nutella .. and then it is wrapped in a leaf and steamed. This does mean that the dough doesn’t crisp up, and so done badly, this can be a pretty soft and sloppy meal (from experience, yes I have had a bad one a few years ago, which is why this was not on the top of my list to try!) My friends told me that I was wrong about tamales though, and took us to a lady on the street who had about 10 different flavours she was offering. We took a chicken and a pineapple option, and yes, they were very good – actually something really nice for breakfast. Because they’re steamed, you can stock up from the lady, and re-steam in the morning and they’ll be just as good. So yes, my view on tamales has changed and I would recommend trying them!
After our yummy breakfast, we headed into what is definitely the tourist zone of Mexico City, planning to go to a famous castle there. However, the line was suuuuper long, and we saw signs for a zoo there instead. And guess what! – the zoo is FREE! Having been spoiled by living in Colchester, and having an excellent zoo at our doorstep, my expectations weren’t high for this free zoo (I was expecting more of a petting farm I guess!), but honestly, this zoo rivals Colchester, and any zoo experience in my memory. I really liked the way the enclosures were designed. I guess there is a big drop between the wall and the pasture for the animals, meaning they can’t cross it, but you are actually on a level with the animals, and there are no gates or bars blocking your view! This was the same for all of the animals – from the native Mexican guanacos (similar to llamas) to the ostriches, hippos and white tiger! I do think my highlight was the hippo (full-sized! Not pygmy like the ones in Colchester…), just because when will I ever get a chance to see those up close again! And they are HUGE.. and stinky.. but yeah, the size is just incredible!
And, the day wouldn’t be complete without some tacos now, would it! We went to the infamous ‘Super Taco’ in the evening – where you park up on the street and get served in your car!
The next day (our last ☹), we were up bright and early for a 2 and a half hour drive out to Michoacan to see something very unique, and something that I didn’t know what to expect.
Firstly, let me tell you about our arrival at ‘the place’. We obviously needed the loo after our drive, and paid roughly 5p (one thing I miss about the UK is free toilets! Here, and even in Poland, you have to pay everywhere!) for the pleasure of using the bathroom you see pictured below…
It was not unclean in any way … but as you can see, it was an open-air, breeze block structure, with a curtain that doesn’t quite cover the whole opening, and a bucket of water to slosh away your business – all part of the fun of travel!
Next priority was food! And there’s nothing wrong with 7am tacos, right?? Now this was my personal favourite meal. Just look at it!
I think it was a perfect storm for my level of enjoyment of this meal – we were in the middle of the mountainous, Mexican countryside, the sun was shining, there were brightly coloured stalls wafting delicious smells into the air … and my quesadilla was BEAUTIFUL!
It’s black due to the so-called ‘blue corn’, which does actually look blue in its raw form, and then darkens as cooked I guess. I had never had a zucchini flower, but I do see it used a lot on MasterChef so I thought I had to give it a go. Needless to say, it was delicious with a hefty sprinkle of fresh cilantro on top, and I had 2.
Bladders emptied, bellies filled, we started on our activity of the day – seeing the Monarch butterflies! This is an annual migration, with some flying as far as from the north of America and Canada, to come here to these Mexican forests to hang out for a bit! (Guess we all need some winter sun!) As we started our little trek up the mountain to the forest, we did begin to see a few bright orange butterflies here and there … but nothing could prepare us for reaching the butterfly hot spot. Estimates are that roughly 1 billion butterflies migrate here every year, and I can believe it! We were asked to walk through in silence, but nothing can stop you from endlessly whispering ‘wow’ under your breath.
And I guess what else I learned is that butterflies are pretty lazy in the morning – they are not early risers! On our way back down, the whole pathway was still filled with butterflies, when we had seen literally a few on the way up .. and actually, arguably the most amazing part of the experience was as we were driving on the road out to our next spot, they were just swarming the road too – no need to trek up a mountain for an hour!
There is still so much more I could tell you, but this is getting long! What I will say though, is that for our final meal, we were treated to some sushi, which is actually what my friends do as their business in the city. They have a few locations where they sell on the street. This sushi is beautiful to look at, and such a cool fusion between the Japanese and Mexican flavours (for example, their strawberry and habanero dipping sauce..!) so if you ever are in Mexico City, please do seek out Listo Para Sushi and give them a go (incredibly reasonable prices too!)
And that’s it! We’re off to the airport, leaving a part of our hearts behind I think.. Mexico – we’ll be back!