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Category Archives: Central America

  • 14

Mexico City, Mexico

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The capital of Mexico and with an estimated population of 21 million people, the Four Friends embarked on exploring their biggest adventure yet, Mexico City.

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With only 2 full days to explore the city, the Four Friends squeezed in as much as they could.

MEXICO CITY DAY 0.5

Arriving into Mexico City International Airport in the late evening, it was straight to the Hotel Krystal Grand Reforma to catch up on some sleep before our first full day of adventure.

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MEXICO CITY DAY 1

When we began planning this adventure, we very quickly realised that we would not be able to fit everything in our first visit. We stumbled upon a website, ToursByLocals.com that offers private personalised tours by local members of the community. With over 30 countries on offer for tours, this is a great way to meet the locals and create the type of tour that you want to do rather than be bused around with 100 other people and little time to visit the sites. We decided to try something that we have never done before and booked a sightseeing, market tour and cooking class.

It was an early start to the day, meeting our guide Heike at the San Juan Markets. These markets are over 150 years old and has a variety of gourmet, exotic and imported fresh ingredients. Here, we wandered through the stalls and learnt about local fruits, vegetables and meats that we had never seen before. We then each picked out 1 item each that we would like to try, and this gave us the opportunity to interact with the locals (try to anyway!)

We then headed off on the next part of the tour. We walked through to Chinatown, known locally as Barrio Chino, which is said to be only only the the smallest Chinatown in Mexico but in the world (only 2 blocks). As we continued we saw some amazing architecture sure as the Palacio de Bellas Arte (Art Museum) and the Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de México (Mexico City Cathedral). The Cathedral is a stunning piece of architecture. Building started in 1573 and finished in the 19th century, it sits opposite the Republic Square. The cathedral is open to visitors. Be sure to check opening times before you visit. We learnt about the food culture in the downtown core and also how the city has grown and changed over the decades.

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Then it was off to the 2nd part of the day – a cooking class. We entered through a small non-marked door on a bustling street, down a long hallway that opened up into a beautiful courtyard. We were now in a small housing community. Over the next 3 hours, we immersed ourselves in what a typical day of Mexican cooking would be. This still remains to be one of the most amazing travelling experiences we have had together.

In true Four Friends fashion, the day was not over. We had yet another tour to take in that would take us into the evening hours in the city. This tour was a Cantinas, Mariachi & Lucha Libre adventure! The evening started at the top of Mirador Torre Latino (TV Tower) which is a skyscraper in the middle of the downtown core with stunning views of the entire city. Here the group drank, of course, Tequila!

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Next was a short walk through to Plaza Garibaldi which is a square that is filled with budding Mariachi musicians ready to serenade you (for a fee of course). After some more tequila, it was onto the main event. We arrived at Arena Mexico to a sea of Lucha Libre masks. The arena is the premier wrestling arena in Mexico and was filled with people of all ages. Everyone was hyped and ready for the wrestling to begin. Although we couldn’t understand what was being said, the energy in the building was electric and it didn’t take long before we were on our feet chanting the names of the heroes and villains. If there is only 1 thing you must do when you visit Mexico City – Lucha Libre is a must do. One thing to note – no cameras of any kind are permitted into the arena. You must check them at the door.There are many different tours available or you can purchase tickets at the door.

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MEXICO CITY DAY 2

After a good night sleep, it was up again early for our next tour. This time, we were heading South to Xochimilco.

On the way, we stopped at the National University of Mexico. Apart from being the largest University in Latin America, it is a UNESCO World Heritage after being designed by some of Mexico’s best-known architects of the 20th century. The main campus features a huge open courtyard that is full of murals that were painted by some of the most recognized artists in Mexican history such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siquerios. 

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Xochimilco is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is best known for its extensive canal system the area attracts tourists and residents where you ride “trajineras” which are colourful gondola-like boats. These boats are brightly painted and almost all of them are adorned with a female name at the front. There is a long table in chairs on each boat which allows you eat and drink and you cruise down the canal. The canal is full of other trajineras that have merchants that sell a variety of things such as corn on the cob, cold beers, candy, flowers and children’s toys. There are even Mariachi bands that will float up to your boat and play a few songs.

On land, the area if filled with vendors and carnival rides for you to wander and pick up some locally made goods and food. We couldn’t resist grabbing a bag of fried crickets and palanquetas (a candied pumpkin seed and nut snack)

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Our evening continued with a visit to the Monument to the Revolution. This is a monument to the Mexican Revolution of 1910. It is considered to be the tallest triumphal arch in the world. It stands 67 meters and construction was completed in 1938. Today, visitors to the monument are able to go to the top and visit the observation deck with panoramic 360 views of Mexico City. If you are feeling adventurous, you can climb the stairs to the summit.

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The surrounding area of the monument has many restaurants and patios available for some authentic cuisine. We decided on Taqueria Fonda Argentina Revolucion. A traditional Argentinian restaurant that specializes in meat dishes. Although no one spoke English, we managed to order some delicious dishes including empanadas, stuffed peppers with cheese (find name) and grilled meats.

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MEXICO CITY DAY 3

With an early afternoon departure to our next destination, we were limited with our time. We took an early morning stroll down the Paeso de la Reforma to the Angel of Independence. Probably one of the most famous monuments in Mexico City, this monument commemorates Mexico’s independence and is topped with the goddess of victory.

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It was then time to pack our bags and say goodbye to Mexico City.

adiós hasta que nos volvamos a encontrar

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  • 11

Cancun, Mexico

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Our few days in Mexico City were jam-packed, so the idea of heading somewhere for a little downtime was refreshing.  We’ve all heard of Cancun and its general association with Spring Break, college students, drunkenness and the like.  Now we couldn’t have been further from Spring Break, but it was early January and still holiday season, so we were a little anxious as to the level of rowdiness in the air.  Sigh of relief, it was peaceful, quiet and perfect.

CANCUN DAY 0.5

As our shuttle pulled into the steep driveway of the Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe we got a sense of just how colossal it was, only that wasn’t even half of what was on offer.  We were unsure of what to expect at our first all-inclusive hotel but were ready for the experience.  There was a slight (beneficial) hiccup at check-in that saw Moosh and FT upgraded to a beachfront villa for the first night.  Hello, short-lived awesomeness! (Although, have you ever sat in a first class seat and then been directed back to economy? #supersadface).  That night we had dinner at The Cocay Restaurant and for a buffet style, complete with some cooked to order options, it was fairly decent with loads of fresh choices.  Once Vade and FT had finished round 3 of desserts, we bought some beer and went back to the villa.  Cue music and twilight beach views, the perfect setting to plan the days ahead.

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CANCUN DAY 1

Good morning Mexican sunrise, balcony, camera – selfie time!  We readied ourselves for the day ahead and set off on the Chichen Itza tour (12 hours return) booked through Viator.  The experienced guide allowed us to learn more about the history of Chichen Itza.  The tour also included lunch with traditional dancing and a couple hours at Ik Kil Cenote (giant sinkhole).  Unfortunately, we were not aware that you could swim in the cenote so our swim gear was back at the hotel, nonetheless it was still beautiful to visit and see the surroundings.  The cenote is 60m in diameter, 26m below ground level and has a carved stairway leading down to a platform.  Note that the stairs are slippery when wearing flip-flops, so slow and steady as they say!  After cenote time, it was bus time, go time, then Chichen Itza time.  

The most recognisable structure at Chichen Itza is most commonly known as El Castillo (Spanish for Castle) and is also known as the Temple of Kukulkan.  The temple has four sides of 91 steps, comprising 365 steps total, each step represents a day of the year, with the 365th step at the top of the platform.  We took so many photos but it just didn’t seem enough, every angle provided another perfect shot.  Thankfully you are not allowed to climb the ancient monuments, not only preserving them for future generations but allowing you to capture some excellent photos without having someone’s accidental front bum in view!  There are many more sacred temples, columned arcades, and other stone structures within this World Heritage Site which absolutely blew our minds and when you visit – we are sure you will agree.  After walking around in the searing sun learning about the history, culture and meaning of the Mayan ruins, we had to check out the market stalls.  As with most tourist spots there are masses of locals selling souvenirs, but thankfully it didn’t detract from the amazingness of Chichen Itza.  In fact the handmade pottery pieces, in varying forms and so colourfully painted, were a joy to look at.  Our slight concern of ‘fragility in transport’ was overcome by the want for some of these handicrafts, and not long after we walked away with plates/platters and day of the dead skulls.  After a full day out in the sun we were beat, and of course, the bus ride home always seems longer.  We missed our dinner reservation at La Concha seafood restaurant, so a buffet feast was the only option.  Given the long day out, albeit sensational, we were dog-tired and hit the hay nice and early.

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CANCUN DAY 2

Some days it’s a treat to have no alarm scream at you to wake up.  To allow yourself to lay in until whatever time, then prepare yourself for a day of nothingness.  Our day had arrived. Pool time, Cocktail time, Sun time!  The pool was calling our names and with our boardies and bathers on we made our way there, after breakfast of course.  It is said you should wait 30-minutes before swimming when you’ve eaten, but nothing is said about consuming Margarita’s for that bench warming duration.  So we did, and did some more.  The un-measured ‘free pour’ drinks had serious gusto, and thankfully they went down just the way we wanted – smoothly.  The sun was shining, the water was a pristine blue and the view of the beach beyond was a postcard (do people even still send postcards?).  Added to all that perfection, the company of Four Friends – well let’s be honest, it could not be beat.  We were lucky to see a few Iguana’s near the pool and soon realised they had the same idea as us, just chillin’ in the sun.  In total we spent 5 hours getting kissed by the sun, leaving a gentle tan for Moosh and FT but serious ouchies for Vade and Sherri.  Even with copious lathering’s of SPF they got extremely burnt, for their Vancouver skin was not used to the sun.  So much so that Aloe Vera gel and moisturiser simply dried like milk on hot pavement (will let you picture that one).  It was not comical, they were in serious pain and as a result Sherri could not make it to dinner that night.  Vade pushed through his soreness and we dined on Italian food at El Mirador.  The food was delicious and proved to be an outstanding treat for the senses, looking ever as wonderful as it tasted!  So even though Four Friends were Three Friends it was still a great evening.  Our fingers were crossed for dear Sherri that she would be feeling better for our last day together.

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CANCUN DAY 3

Tour booked, time for snorkelling at Puerto Morelos.  Sherri had never been snorkelling before and we knew she was in for a real treat.  The water was nice and cool, the perfect temporary antidote for Vade and Sherri who were rather burnt from the day before.  Kids….pay attention, Wear extra sun lotion or as we say in Australia “slip, slop, slap!”  (Although it’s not always possible to follow the other two S’s – seek & slide – what if there’s no shade to seek? And slide on sunglasses….all day? Helloooo….tan line!)  We saw a myriad of colourful fish and coral of all shapes and sizes and had an epic time.  Sherri had a blast declaring, “We need to incorporate snorkelling into every vacation!”  We worked up a serious appetite as the current had pushed us around a bit and fortunately for us the guide took us to La Playita, a small family restaurant not overrun with tourists, with delicious well-priced food.  What made the lunch even more special was the seating on the sand, bare foot and natural, unlike many others with man-made deck’s hovering in the air.  Puerto Morelos is a cutesy little town, not huge which is nice but just enough to allow a walk around and give a sense of small time Mexico.

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Dinner was booked for a place called Pik Nik which came highly recommended by Trip Advisor.  The restaurant was Downtown so we jumped into a taxi and away we went, ready for a night of great food and great company.  We ordered up a storm and had to get some margaritas, after all it was our last night together, right?  When the drinks arrived Sherri turned to Moosh and said, “I have something to tell you”.  

Moosh replied with excitement, “You’re moving back to Oz?”  

Sherri laughed it off and exclaimed, “No, we are coming to New York with you!!!!!”

Well, Moosh started crying, her joy manifesting as tears.  That moment made the night and the holiday – “Another round of drinks then shall we?”  Just so happened that 3 of the 4 had united to surprise Moosh, and surprised she was!

So our food arrived and it was AAAHHHHMMAAAZZZIIINNNGGGG, everything was traditional, delicious, full of flavour and the service was spot on.  Thank you Trip Advisor for pointing us to this place.  Pik Nik does not have a website, relying purely on reviews and we could not recommend highly enough that this is a ‘must-do’ when in Cancun.  The owner gave his time to speak with diners during the course of the evening and was even kind enough to walk us to the main street (60m away) and flag a taxi.  He gave the destination to make sure we were taken direct, as the taxi on the way to Downtown took a longer route.  Back in Cancun, we took a stroll of the nightlife zone to see ‘where it’s at’.  We walked past Congo Bongo and a few other clubs, with no intentions of going in but it was a nice night for a walk, until the rain started.  

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Knowing that we now had extra time all together was very exciting.  To be sharing the streets of NYC once again as Four Friends, we would be sure to experience it very differently to last time.

 

TIPS for Cancun

Be prepared and buy Aloe Vera lotion before departing – you don’t want to pay resort prices

Pedestrians DO NOT have right of way in Mexico

Negotiate your taxi fare upfront

Buy bottled water

Get up early and walk along the beach – it’s too nice to not do this


  • 11

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Raise your hand if you’ve ever wanted to go to Mexico! You can bet our hands flew up when asked, and what better way to start a vacation than in the country of sun, guacamole and Cerveza! Cabo San Lucas was the place to be and we decided that ringing in 2015 on the beach was exactly what we wanted to do.

Cabo San Lucas Map

Cabo San Lucas is often the hot-spot for celebrity spotting (not that we actually saw any….sigh no Angelina) but this certainly was not the main draw-card for our choice to visit.  We had seen amazing pictures, heard great things, and knew it was a must visit even with the short amount of time we had available.  With only 2 nights planned, we made the most of the scenery, the food, the cocktails and the culture.  The Bahia Hotel Beach Club was our choice of hotel and we certainly chose right.  It was boutique, close to the beach, had great food and drinks and wonderful service – we couldn’t fault it, it was perfect.  See our review of this hotel.

 

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CABO SAN LUCAS DAY 1

Our first point of call was of course the hotel, but more importantly (yep, you guessed it) where to go for dinner and beer.  We took a stroll down towards the beachfront for an inquisitive look-see and were drawn to the colourful façade (and convertible Kombi) of Mango Deck Restaurant, Bar and Beach Club.  This is a ‘crazy place’ during Spring Break (YouTube it, if you’re not at work!) but fortunately on that night it was less Beach Club and more of a fun restaurant.  Moosh had been dying to try the guacamole and tortillas, she is but a simple girl.  Imagine the best you’ve ever had….well, this was better, tears of joy better!  The guacamole was made by our waiter in front of us and we eagerly watched to see what secrets went into said ‘perfect guacamole’.  Ultimately it was just the love put into it!  We ordered a Mexican feast to share and wow-o-wow it was super delicious and definitely set the bar for what was to come, plus the beers were cold and priced to please.  

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Bellies full of goodness, we set off down the beach front and stumbled upon an outdoor bar on the beach, Baja Cantina.  A novelty bar, adorned with swings as seats to three sides.  Picture it – swinging gently, sand on your feet, cocktail in hand, friends by your side, how awesome is that?  The evening weather was calm, we were reunited with our besties and the cocktails were going down rather agreeably.  Cabo had already begun to exceed our expectations and we hadn’t even really got out and explored.

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What a true delight to wake up and step outside the hotel room door, smell the sea breeze, see dozens of palm trees and more excitingly the pool, quietly waiting and begging us to take a dip.  But the pool would have to wait….for now.  We had organized a whale watching tour with Whale Watch Cabo and were due to set off from the Marina.  Arriving with plenty of time for breakfast we thought we could squeeze in a quickie, but how wrong we were.  We found a restaurant with an inviting outdoor area and, as there were no other patrons, we assumed our food would arrive rápido.  However, I guess Mexican time is somewhat slower paced than what we are used to.  Our food was still nowhere to be seen after 40 minutes, so we tried to cancel our order.  But we were hungry and so our waiter offered a solution.  The solution?  We left the restaurant, boarded our tour boat, and somewhere between the safety induction speech and the starting of the engines the waiter brought our food to the boat.  Unconventionally (and rather comically looking back now) we paid for breakfast pulling pesos from beneath our life jackets and attempted a rápido feasting of Huevos Rancheros.  We set out on time with a small group (nothing worse than a discounted tour on an overcrowded boat) and the team was led by marine biologists who are very supportive of whale conservation and research.  Many tour boats get too close to the whales, invading their space and this actually scares them away.  It was wonderful that our Captain held back to a distance that still provided great views but respected the whales and their environment.  The photographer took some great shots and she was quite generous to email the photos through to us.  We were fortunate to see some Gray Whales breaching, it truly is a sight to behold.  The tour took us past El Arco (a.k.a Lovers Arch, Golden Arch) and stopped for a photo opportunity of what truly is a remarkable rock formation.  As an added bonus the area is frequented by sea lions, adorably chubby and noisy, and there were plenty of them basking in the gorgeous Mexican sun.  Fantastic experience, fantastic tour.  We would 110% recommend Whale Watch Cabo and will definitely use them again.

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We walked back to our hotel along the beach (approx. 20 to 30-minute walk depending on which part of the Marina) and geared up for a big NYE night of celebrations to bring in 2015.  We had pre-booked a dinner package on the beach at The Office and boy-o-boy what a fantastic choice!  The tables were dressed very colourfully and fairy lights adorned the surroundings, providing a majestically Mexican atmosphere.  We saw a stage in our zone and were unaware of what was to come, but we knew we were in the right spot as the adjoining restaurants on the beach had no colour, no vibrancy, and only a small band or DJ set-up.  The food was good overall, and watching the waiter hand whisk a Caesar dressing from scratch at the table was an unexpected delight.  Drinks were an additional cost to the dinner package, but the Margarita’s were strong, delightful and worth every Peso!  We spent the last hours of 2014 enjoying a magical evening of entertainment. The stage now came into its own boasting performances such as Mariachi bands, traditional dancing, Lucha Libre wrestling, break dancing, dancing competitions for some adults and kids from the crowd, and of course a DJ to spin the night home.  You know you have picked the hot-spot when everyone else at the other restaurants are looking over at your zone, your stage and you dancing!  Beachside fireworks were launched right on cue only metres from the gathering crowds (safety regulations followed to the letter….hrmmm….maybe not so much?!?)  Sure it was an expensive evening, but what NYE isn’t?  We had a fun and fantastically unforgettable night at The Office, there was no place we would have rather gone.

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CABO SAN LUCAS DAY 2

New Year’s Day, Hangover, Pool time.  What better way to cure self-inflicted ailment than to spend time at the pool, relax and get back on it!  Without a care in the world we laughed, we ate, we drank.  The friendly staff took care of us with a variety of cocktails and pizzas, whilst the tortilla chips and guacamole orders kept flowing.  Thankyou Bahia Hotel Beach Club!  

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We took a walk through the backstreets of Cabo to get a feel for the humble dwellings, the culture and livelihood of the locals, away from the glitz of the resorts and tourist traps (or perhaps we just get lost?).  Our next mission was to find the Mecca of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Mezcal, with no trip to Cabo San Lucas complete without a duty call to Cabo Wabo, founded by Sammy Hagar.  Cabo Wabo is adorned with Rock ‘n’ Roll history, photos and memorabilia.  The quality Tequila and Mezcal they serve will give even those opposed to Agave liquor an appreciation for superior smoothness.  After a couple of drinks, we made our way back to the hotel, to eat some more, drink some more (it was a holiday after all!) and to collect our luggage.  We thanked Cabo for the memories and bid farewell to 2014, the New Year had started with a bang.  

Time for Mexico City.

Cabo San Lucas Sand


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