Journey Around the World

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Archives - North & Central America

 

04/06/12

Update June 2011 - April 2012

Honduras, Costa Rica, Bulgaria, and USA

It is holy Friday in GOOD OLD USA and I am writing from our rented condominium (Tracy’s Treehouse condo, link http://www.vrbo.com/321892) in the community of Bayou Liberty in Slidell, Louisiana. The condo is surrounded by Bayous Bonfouca and Liberty. Yes, we are near the Bayou!!!. The city of Slidell is a small city located at 40 minutes from Downtown New Orleans. We arrived here on December 1, 2011. The condo like the places we rented previously is fully furnished and has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. In addition, it has an awesome backyard where Angel & I eat breakfast and/or lunch almost every day. The owner is a fantastic lady named Tracy. Spring season has been mild here and the temperature ranges from 68 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit. Great weather for being outdoors! Also, there is the Tammany Trace bicycle/pedestrian trail (27 miles) where we have been walking five days per week. There is a lot of nature to watch, feel, and admire here. This condo is our “base camp” from December 2011 to June 2012.

Let me tell you how we arrived here. As I told you on my previous update (dated 05/31/11), we were at the beach in Sambo Creek, Honduras, where we spent three months and on July 24th, 2011, we left Sambo Creek towards the City of Grecia in Costa Rica. In our way to Grecia, we visited my family in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and spent one night in Granada, Nicaragua. In Granada, we stayed overnight at the Dolphin Hotel where we stayed previously for three months. It was nice to see familiar faces such as Karolina and Carl (the owners of the Dolphin Hotel) and to go out to eat to my favorite restaurant called La Gran Francia.

During our three months stay in Granada, Nicaragua, last year (February, March, and April 2011), Angel and I researched regarding temporary car permit duration in Costa Rica because we were planning to stay six months there. What we encountered was that the Costa Rican government only allows a personal vehicle with non-national car plates, 90 days temporary car permit and only once per year. After this huge discovery, we continued our research of temporary car permit duration for several countries in South America since we were planning to stay in several of them for more than three months. To our surprise, several countries have the same policy as Costa Rica and some others have shorter duration (30 days).

After these findings, Angel and I realized that our plan to drive to South America with our car and stay longer than three months in several countries was not feasible, so we modified our plan. We decided to return to USA driving our car, sell it, fly to Europe, and tour that continent; postponing our trip to South America for a later date. This is the reason why we are back in the USA and I am writing from the community of Bayou Liberty in Slidell, Louisiana.  

To continue with my story of our travel to Costa Rica, after spending one night at the Dolphin Hotel, we drove from Granada, Nicaragua, to the Costa Rican border and late evening we arrived at the community of El Cajon in the outskirt of the City of Grecia where Dave and Marcia gave us a warn welcome. They are the owners of a beautiful house (called guest house) located in a small coffee farm and across from their home. It is fully furnished, has one bedroom, one bathroom, and a terrace where Angel and I spent many mornings eating breakfast while looking at the green mountains cultivated with coffee trees. This house was our “base camp” in Costa Rica from August to October, 2011.

In Grecia, Costa Rica

The next day, Dave and Marcia brought us to the farmers market where we bought fresh fruits, vegetables, sweets and baked goods (of course!), and showed us around the City of Grecia and its surroundings. They are great hostess!

Sadie and Cristina (my step-daughters) joined us four days later after our arrival in Grecia. They knew our travel schedule and planned their vacation trip to Costa Rica while we were there. It was fun having them for ten days. We visited Poas Volcano National Park (an active volcano), its crater and Botos Lagoon (a rain filled crater). We also tasted liqueurs made of coffee at the park’s gift shop. In addition, we visited Doka Estate Coffee Farm where we tasted their various coffee brands. The next day we went down to the city of Grecia where we ate lunch and shopped.

We visited the Arenal Volcano National Park area (Costa Rica most active volcano) and lodged in a hotel called Arenal Paraiso Hotel, Resort & Spa in the outskirts of the town of La Fortuna. We rented a cabin set in beautifully landscaped grounds and with direct view at the volcano. The hotel has 13 swimming pools with hot springs where we relaxed and enjoyed after all the activities we did in the area. We hiked Los Puentes Colgantes del Arenal (The Arenal Hanging Bridges) and La Fortuna River Waterfall, and went white water rafting in the Sarapiqui River for a stretch of 14 kilometers (Levels 3 and 4) where Angel and I fell in the river and our muscles and bones were aching afterwards. Also, we explored the subterranean Venado Caverns which have a river flowing through them. Other activities that Sadie and Cristina got to enjoy were horse back riding and canopying near the volcano.

 

We visited Playas (beaches) Hermosa and Herradura along the pacific coast. Playa Hermosa is a surfer’s paradise. We enjoyed our time on the beach watching the waves and surfers riding them. We lodged at the Hotel Terraza del Pacifico and ate at Punta Arenas Restaurant.

 

Also, Angel visited San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital, with Sadie and Cristina and he visited it a second time to attend a classical music concert at the beautiful Teatro Nacional (National Theatre).

 

Flying to Honduras

 

Four days after Sadie and Cristina’s departure from Costa Rica, my mother who lives in Honduras was hospitalized due to a sudden drop of her blood sugar level and other related complications due to her diabetes. I immediately flew to Honduras to be with her and spent six weeks with her in the hospital. She is out of the hospital now and doing well. Thank to God, the life experiences that I gained in this journey around the world travel, and several books that I had read along my life journey prepared me for this very spiritual, emotional, and physically intense experience. I practiced love, patience, humility, compassion, forgiveness, and sisterhood during my stay. My mother shared a large room with ten other women patients. We helped each other, prayed together every night, and listened and talked to each other. It was a group of intelligent, brave, and loveable women who I will never forget as long as I live. I take my hat off to Tania Melisa and Doña Maria who I admire and respect deeply. This was a great experience in my life; it reinforced my belief in our creator.

 

While I was in Honduras with my mother, Angel stayed in Grecia, Costa Rica and one night while he was surfing the web, found an Apart-Hotel in Bulgaria called Lucky Pamporovo Apart-Hotel & Spa (Lucky Pamporovo) in the Pamporovo Ski Resort. One week after I arrived in Grecia from Honduras, Angel and I flew to Sofia, Bulgaria’s Capital, in our way to Lucky Pamporovo.

 

In Bulgaria

 

The apartment that we rented in Lucky Pamporovo Apart-Hotel & Spa was fully furnished with two bedrooms, one and one half bathrooms, balcony, and a gorgeous view of the Rodopi Mountains area. The manager of the place, Jivko was very helpful, nice, and spoke Spanish. He also invited us to his apartment to drink, eat, and dance (yes!!! Angel and I danced Bulgarian traditional music, check out our Adventure Videos Section).We had a blast!  Our favorite beers were Zagorca and Kamenitza Dark. In addition, we drank the traditional homemade grape liquor "Rakia". This liquor is made of grape, plum, or apricot. We ate the traditional salad "shopska" made of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and sirene cheese (white cheese). This salad is often eaten as an appetizer with Rakia.

 

Also, we visited the small town of Smolyan, twenty minutes by car. The town has a long pedestrian walk area, where the locals gather at restaurants and cafes, and shop at local stores. We spent a day in Plovdiv, the country's second largest city.

 

After five days in Lucky Pamporovo, a young man named Tony drove us to the City of Sofia where we spent two and a half days before our flight back to Costa Rica. We visited some historical landmarks that are considered a “must see”  while in the city, and took a city center free walking tour with a group of young Bulgarians who spoke English and volunteered to give free city tours (www.freesofiatour.com). After the three hours tour, the group led by Kris (our tour guide), ate in a small restaurant that serves traditional Bulgarian food. The tour was excellent and we had a lot of fun sharing with these young Bulgarians.

Back in Grecia, Costa Rica

The rest of the days that we had in El Cajon, Grecia, we spent them visiting Hecho en Casa Café located in the community of San Luis, Espiritu Santo Coffee Farm, and the towns of Grecia, Alajuela, and Sarchi, a town best known as the “Country’s Capital of Handicraft”, its specialties are making wooden  furniture and typical oxcarts.  In addition, we were invited for lunch at Carlos & Xenia’s home, a Costa Rican couple. Xenia cooked Costa Rican style fried arepas made with flour, milk, and bananas topped with natilla. They tasted delicious!

 

Well, it came our departure day (October 25, 2011) from Costa Rica towards USA to implement our new plan, to visit Europe instead of South America as I explained above.

After a big hug and many thanks to Dave & Marcia for their hospitality, we left El Cajon, Grecia, Costa Rica early morning and arrived in Granada, Nicaragua late afternoon. The next day, we left Granada and arrived in Tegucigalpa, Honduras that afternoon. We stayed with my family for 16 days.

 

On November 12th, we left Tegucigalpa and spent the night in Copan Ruinas; a Honduran town located 15 minutes from the Guatemalan border. We crossed the Honduran-Guatemalan border the next day. In Guatemala, we spent one night in the colonial town of Antigua where we stayed before for four months. The following day, we departed Antigua and arrived in Quetzaltenango (Xela) where we spent two days visiting our friend Marta Esperanza. After Xela, we planned to cross the Guatemalan-Mexican border and spend the night in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, but our trip was delayed by one day due to a labor strike at the border so we spent the night in Huehuetenango. The next morning, we left very early (6:00 a.m.) in order to avoid another strike. In Guatemala, people on labor strikes usually start to block roads at 8:00 a.m. and stop at 5:00 p.m.; we got this information from the locals. We crossed the Guatemalan-Mexican border without any delays. We arrived to the colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico early afternoon, where we stayed previously for five months. We spent one night there and the next day left towards the city of Minatitlan where we also spent one night. The following morning, we departed to the City of Veracruz where we spent two days sightseeing the city. From Veracruz, we continued to Tampico (spent one night) and from there to Ciudad Victoria. The following morning, we left Ciudad Victoria at 6:00 a.m. to cross the Mexican-USA border at Heroica-Matamoros.

 

We crossed the Mexican-USA border without any incidents on November 23, 2011. Once in USA, we continued driving until San Antonio, Texas, where we spent one night and celebrated “Thanksgiving Day”. I contacted my step-son Troy and his wife Rachel earlier; we spent two nights at their home in Austin, Texas, and got to see my step-granddaughter Elizabeth. It was great seeing them again. We went out to eat to the famous County Line Bar-B-Q Restaurant and devoured its delicious baby back ribs. From Austin, we drove to Lafayette, Louisiana, where we spent the night, and ate the typical Louisiana food such as shrimp po-boy, gumbo, hush puppies, and red beans and rice with sausage. The following day, we departed to visit my God-child Carolina, her husband Jose, her daughter Isabella, and her mom Reyna in Brandon, Mississippi for one night. The next day, we left Carolina’s home and drove to Harvey, Louisiana, where we spent four days with my step-daughter, Leticia, her boyfriend Maurice, and her children Jasmyn and Caleb.

 

On December 1, 2011, Leticia brought us to our rented condominium in the community of Bayou Liberty where I am writing this summary.

 

In Bayou Liberty

 

Angel and I decided to return to Bulgaria and spend a white Christmas and New Year in Lucky Pamporovo Apart-Hotel & Spa in Pamporovo Ski Resort. On December 12, 2011, we departed to Bulgaria. We arrived at Sofia’s International Airport, Bulgaria, and Tony who works in Lucky Pamporovo, picked us up. Three hours later, we arrived at Lucky Pamporovo and checked in the same apartment that we stayed during our trip in October. Four days after our arrival, it snowed for several hours. It was cold for us (12 degrees Fahrenheit) but we were prepared for this trip and had purchased outdoor clothing, gear, and footwear for snow conditions and cold temperatures at our favorite store REI (www.REI.com). So Angel and I adventured outside for a while, walked on the snow, made snowballs and threw them at each other, built a snowman, and had a good old time. We were the only people outside enjoying the snow.

We celebrated Christmas with Jivko (the manager) and his staff. In addition, we welcomed 2012 with Jivko, Verka, Svetos, Kalina, Tony, Rossi, Basil and others at Lucky Pamporovo’s New Year’s Eve Party. We ate, drank, danced, and said cheers in Bulgarian “nosdrabe” many times through the party. There were fireworks at midnight. Check out our pictures and videos of Lucky Pamporovo.

The following link is for booking an apartment at Lucky Pamporovo Apart-Hotel & Spa in Pamporovo Ski Resort: 

http://www.booking.com/hotel/bg/lucky-pamporovo.en.html?aid=311088;label=lucky-pamporovo-CXZtV_b9M29q*NlMWq_jaQS7360103883;ws=&gclid=CMmu

Back in Bayou Liberty:

On January 5, 2012, we returned to Bayou Liberty, Slidell, Louisiana, USA, from Bulgaria and stayed one month at the condominium until February when we flew to Puerto Rico to visit Angel’s parents for one month.  We stayed at Angel’s parents and visited several towns around the island with them. Also, we celebrated Sara’s birthday (Angel’s sister) and had several gatherings at his other sister Maria’s apartment on the 18th floor of a high rise building where we had a gorgeous view of the surroundings. 

While in Puerto Rico, Angel and I celebrated our 4th anniversary of our Journey Around the World (JAW) and ate at my favorite restaurant, a Spanish restaurant called Siglo XX (Twentieth Century) in old San Juan. We asked each other if we want to continue our JAW and we said “YEAAAS!!!”

After our return to Bayou Liberty from Puerto Rico, we have been visiting family and friends in New Orleans, Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas.

In addition, we have been going out to eat to several restaurants such as Joey Ks Restaurant and Bar on Magazine Street in New Orleans; Zea Rotisserie & Grill, Southside Café, and Osaka Sushi & Hibachi Grill in Slidell;  Abita Brew Pub Restaurant in Abita Springs; and Morning Call in Metairie. Also, we bought boiled crawfish, potatoes, and corn at Veras Seafood and at Kenney’s Seafood in Slidell.

We attended a National Football League game of the New Orleans Saints vs. Detroit Lions (December 4, 2011) and a National Basketball Association game of the New Orleans Hornets vs. Los Angeles Lakers (April 9, 2012).

 

If you want to know where in the world we are right now, check our section “Where are Angel-Mireya?”

 

I say,  So long ! from bayou country, Bayou Liberty in Slidell, southeast Louisiana.

 

Hugs!

Mireya 

 

5/31/11

Update November 2010 – May 2011

Honduras - Guatemala - Nicaragua

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems that the universe wanted us to make a circle in our travel plans. Last July, we stayed in the community of Sambo Creek, Honduras, for one month and we are back again. We are staying in our favorite place, Helen’s Hotel & Restaurant (www.villahelens.com), where we are renting a cabin with a fully furnished kitchen, dining/living room, two bedrooms and one bath. It is located in front of the beach. I am writing while looking and listening to the ocean waves, surrounded by colorful vegetation, and feeling the breeze of the ocean. It is 93 degrees Fahrenheit but with the ocean breeze it feels deliciously cool. As I told you in my previous update, we would be in Honduras until February 1, 2011 when we depart to Granada, Nicaragua. We stayed in Granada for 3 months and then returned to Helen’s in Sambo Creek, Honduras.

In Tegucigalpa, Honduras and Coban, Guatemala:

While in Tegus, we flew to the beautiful Island of Roatan, famous for its location (a mecca for scuba diving and snorkeling). It is the largest of the three islands that form the Bay Islands (Utila, Roatan & Guanaja). Roatan is located about 50 Km off the north coast of mainland Honduras and it is surrounded by a living reef. Its reef is part of the world’s second largest barrier reef (Meso-American Barrier Reef System) after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. In the island, we celebrated Gaby’s (my niece) and my birthday at the Mayan Princess Beach & Resort where we lodged for four days. We did a lot of outdoor activities in Roatan such as snorkeling; swam, hugged, and kissed a dolphin at Anthony’s Key Resort; took a ride in a glass bottom boat (saw hundreds and different types of fishes); rode a banana shaped inflatable boat; drove around the island; and swam in the clear turquoise ocean.

I also contacted and met with a few of my high school friends. It was fun talking and seeing them again after so many years. In my opinion, their faces have not changed much. I also met with my dad for a while.

We went to listen Melina Pineda, a Honduran singer who sang zarzuelas, tangos & boleros, and to a concert of Juan Manuel Serrat.

We visited the old colonial town of Comayagua which was funded in 1537 by Spanish conquistador, Captain Alonso de Caceres. It once was the religious and political capital of Honduras. We took a tour of its historic cathedral that has the oldest working clock in America. The Moors built the clock during their occupation of Spain around 1,100 AC and King Phillip III donated it to Comayagua. It started working here in 1636. Its bells ring every fifteen minutes.

Around Coban, Guatemala:

While in Tegus, we went to Guatemala in early December to renew our car permit. We stayed at Ranchitos del Quetzal and Gucumatz Ecological Park, Purulha, in a cloud forest. Ranchitos is located at kilometer 160.5 in the road to the town of Coban. We stayed at this lodge because we read that the rare and elusive Quetzal (national bird of Guatemala) could be seen at this place. The owner of the lodge Don Julio showed us photos that he took of this bird and a feather that he picked up from the ground. He told us that we were at 1,730 meters above sea level (no wonder why it was cold in the upper 40’s and low 50’s degrees Fahrenheit) and that the best months to see the Quetzal are May and June. So every morning for three consecutive days, we got up at 6:00 a.m. to look for the bird and we also look for it from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. We had not such luck, we did not see the Quetzal but we gave it a try and enjoyed talking to the owner, his assistant Flori, her little girl Andrea, and a lodge guest who saw a Quetzal the morning of the day we arrived. A couple from Canada who stayed at Ranchitos made a video of Gucumatz Ecological Park and the Quetzal on April 2010 (mgdtasie.blogspot.com; Tour Du Monde).

We visited the town of Coban, ate a delicious meal in Hotel Posada, and listened to the traditional musical instrument of Guatemala, La Marimba.

Another site that we toured was The Rey Marcos Caves in the town of San Juan de Chamelco. The cave tour guide provided us with a hard hat with an attached flashlight and a pair of rubber boots knee high. It was truly an adventure because once inside the cave we have to cross an underground river by holding from a rope and stepping onto rocks. I thought I would not be able to cross it because the first step I took onto the rocks was not steady due to the strong current of the river. Some parts of the cave were narrow and low and only one per person at one time could pass through. Once I crossed the river, I realized why we were wearing rubber boots and hard hats. Inside the caves, we saw beautiful shaped stalactites and stalagmites.

In the way back to Tegus, Honduras from Purulha, Guatemala, we made a stop in the town of Copan Ruinas, Honduras for two nights so I could visit Copan Mayan Ruins Archeological Park and its underground burials (www.copanhonduras.org). In addition, we visited the Mayan Ruins of El Puente Archeological Park. We also met with our Guatemalan friend, Marta Esperanza, who was going to visit Tegus and stay with us for a week.

In Tegus, we celebrated Christmas and welcomed the year 2011 with my family. I also started to prepare myself to leave my family after sharing thirteen months with them and to continue my nomad life, which I still love.

On February 1, 2011, we departed Tegus and headed towards the colonial town of Granada, Nicaragua.

In Granada, Nicaragua:

Granada is Nicaragua’s oldest colonial town and it is located at the foot of Mombacho Volcano and on the northwestern shore of Lake Nicaragua. This colonial city was our “base camp” for three months to travel throughout Nicaragua. We lodged at the Dolphin Hotel whose owners Carl and Karolina were excellent hosts.

In Granada we attended the VII International Poetry Festival (www.festivalpoesianicaragua.com) that was held for one week on February 2011, where poets from all over the world read their poems in their native language and then they were read in Spanish by another person. Music concerts followed the poetry sessions each night. We listened to Katia Cardenal, Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy, Carlos Mejia Godoy, and watched the Nicaraguan Folkloric Dance Group of Blanca Guardado called Tepenahuatl.

In addition, we attended several events in the cultural center of Casa de los Tres Mundos (www.c3mundos.org ). We listened to Anima Mundi World Jazz Group and to the Nicaragua National Youth Philharmonic Orchestra whose members ages range between thirteen and twenty four years old. They are high school and university students that meet regularly to play classical music and they play for free for their love of music. We watched a clown and acrobats show in which Angel was picked by the clown to participate in the show. I enjoyed the show and laughed so much until my stomach ached and I cried. Also, we attended classes of Sahaja Yoga (www.sahajayoga.org) and for the first time in my life I was able to meditate (quite my mind) thanks to our yogi (teacher) Martin. We met weekly with the Sahaja Yoga group until we left Granada.

Our favorite restaurants in Granada were La Gran Francia, El Tercer Ojo, Mona - Lisa Pizza with its great dark German beer, Mombacho, and Casa Campo located at twenty-five minutes from Granada. We discovered a small neighborhood coffee shop that we visited frequently in the afternoon to eat dessert and drink cappuccino. Also, we took a horse drawn carriage tour of Granada, visited the Old Convent San Francisco Cultural Center, and climbed the steps to the top of the towers of La Merced Church and the Granada Cathedral to view the entire city of Granada.

A tradition that “Granadinos” have as the evening approaches is to pull their rocking chairs from their homes into the sidewalk and talk to family members and friends or just watch people go by. Angel and I like this tradition very much because it keeps people outdoors, keep them away from TV, and they get to share among them.

From Granada we visited, Laguna de Apoyo, the handicraft town of Masaya, the capital city of Managua, San Juan del Sur, Leon, and Masaya Volcano National Park.

Laguna de Apoyo is a crater lake. Its waters are great for swimming, diving, and sailing.

Masaya is Nicaragua’s epicenter for arts and crafts. There is a large arts & crafts market where you can buy all kinds of gifts and souvenirs.

Managua is the capital of Nicaragua and we went there often to the movie theater. Our favorite movie theaters were located at Galerias Santo Domingo Mall which is located forty minutes by car from Granada. We also went to the Ruben Dario National Theater to listen to the Spanish-American singer Vicky Carr and to watch again the Nicaraguan Folkloric Dance Group of Blanca Guardado called Tepenahuatl.

San Juan del Sur is Nicaragua’s main beach resort and is located in a horseshoe-shaped bay. A giant concrete statue of Jesus can be seen on one of its cliffs. It has great views of the bay. There are many expats living in San Juan and it looks like a small beach town in U.S.A.

Leon is a colonial town that once was the capital of Nicaragua. We visited the town twice. The first time, we visited its cathedral and climb to its roof to view the entire city of Leon and visited the Ruben Dario Museum. Dario was one of the greatest poet of Latin America and Nicaragua’s National poet who is buried there. In addition, we went to the Museum of Legends & Traditions Colonel Joaquin de Arrechavala (Old Jail #21). The site was once a jail where prisoners were tortured during the regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle.

We took a tour to the active volcano of Cerro Negro where we did the extreme sport of sand boarding. We hiked to the top of the volcano with our sand boards and we sled down sitting on it for a drop of approximately 400 meters (1,312 feet). It was an adrenaline rush. After we finished, we ended up with our cloths and faces covered with black dust.

The second time, we went to see the colorful and elaborated wood chip street carpets that the locals built on Holy Friday during Holy week. Our favorite restaurants in Leon were Cocinarte, a vegetarian restaurant, and Puerto Marino Restaurant in the Garden Plaza where we ate the best plate of octopus. We lodged in a small and charming hotel called Enrique III centrally located three blocks from the central park.

Another trip that we took from Granada was to the Masaya Volcano National Park. The park has two volcanoes and five craters; they have erupted several times. We drove up to take a peek to the active volcano crater, and climbed the steps to the Bobadilla Cross (La Cruz de Bobadilla) on the craters lip overlooking the volcano and its surroundings. The Spanish conquerors and indigenous people called the active volcano “the Mouth of Hell” and they placed a cross on the crater lip to exorcise the devil in the 16th century. The cross was named after Father Francisco Bobadilla. Be ready to smell the sulfur gases that depending on the wind direction the smell may be strong. Two days later, we came back to the park to take a nocturnal tour to the caves where a large number of bats departed; to visit an underground tunnel that was formed by lava streams; and to visit a viewpoint where the red glow of hot lava can be seen. The park has a well equipped visitor center that provides information about the Masaya Volcano, its flora and fauna, and information on other volcanoes in Nicaragua and their geological processes.

Hasta luego from Sambo Creek, Honduras!!!

Mireya

 

 

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10/15/10

 

 

 

Update February – October 2010

Honduras - Puerto Rico - USA

It has been a time for family and friends. Angel and I came to Honduras to spend time with my family and also sightseeing the country. On December 19th, we’ll have one year of living in Tegucigalpa (Tegus), Honduras. Time has gone fast. When we arrived in Honduras, we stayed at my sister’s home for a while and later we rented a two-bedroom furnished apartment that it is centrally located to pretty much everything.

I feel inspired tonight to begin writing after so many months. My nieces (Gabriela, Valeria, and Camila) who came to spend the weekend with us went to sleep and I felt like writing tonight.

In Tegus, Honduras:

We visited El Museo de Identidad Nacional (Museum of National Identity) where we got to learn about the geological formation, geography, government, and history of Honduras and took a virtual tour of its ancient Maya civilization in Copan Ruins. Another museum that we went was a museum located in the town of Yuscaran, where we also took a tour of an old air conduit of closed silver mine. Yuscaran is famous for its aguardiente “Yuscaran” (alcoholic beverage).

Angel went to an old style Russian circus show given by Moscow Circus. The Russians performance was excellent. The show also included bears, giraffes, and Siberian tigers.

On February, we continued our membership in the Tegus Chapter of the cultural organization called Nueva Acropolis (N.A.) (http://www.acropolishonduras.org/). We had joined N.A. during our stay in Antigua, Guatemala, last year. We joined it since this organization is international, and it has a local chapter in Tegus. We are presently taking classes of philosophy in N.A. We traveled to the town of Siguatepeque with the N.A. group for their 2010 annual members meeting. We did volunteer work and Angel got to play soccer. Also, during February we constructed a fence around a lot that I have in a residential area in the mountains. For one moment, we talked about building a house in this gorgeous place BUT our nomad souls kept us from settling down. We want to continue our World Travel as planned.

We spent the weekend at my sister’s friends Rita & Jaime’s country house in the town of Santa Ana for one of their great parties.

We visited the southern towns of San Lorenzo and Coyolito, and the city of Choluteca. We drove to San Lorenzo and took a tour boat of their swamps. We ate fresh seafood for lunch at “La Playa Restaurant”, a German-Honduran owned place. In addition, we drove to the fishing village of Coyolito, and toured a shrimp farm. We attended a municipal workshop in Choluteca where we both got to utilize our civil engineering skills. This was part of our volunteer work. We learned a lot about Choluteca.

While in Tegus, we took a side trip to Puerto Rico, to visit Angel’s family, and USA, to visit Angel’s daughters and some of our friends. We traveled from March 31 to June 14, 2010.

In Puerto Rico:

We stayed at Angel’s parents and visited his sisters, nephews, nieces, and college friends Meca and Perkings. One day we drove up in the central mountain range with Meca who has driven this range with his Harley Davidson motorcycle previously. We ate lunch at a restaurant called Guigui in the town of Adjuntas, where their specialty is serving a very large pork-chop (chuletas KAN- KAN) well seasoned and delicious! Also in Adjuntas, we visited a butterfly farm. We also visited Toro Negro State Forest that covers 7,000 acres of mountains and that includes “Cerro Punta”, the highest peak in the island, raising to 1,338 meters (4,390 ft.) above sea level. It is said to be “the best view in all of Puerto Rico and that in a clear day it is possible to see the entire island”. In our second car trip with Meca, we visited Perkins, who is a Christian brother and lives in the eastern town of Humacao. We ate Red Snapper and arepas (fried flour dough) for lunch in Villas de Pescadores at Palmas del Mar, Humacao.

Angel’s nephew, Bertito, and his wife, Ciomi, are members of a Jeep Club and ride their Jeep with the club members every other weekend. Bertito invited us to ride cross country with them for two days. It was a lot of fun. We rode through creeks, muddy dirt roads, and hilly terrain; there were a couple of scares along the dirt roads. After one of the rides, we went to eat at Salitre Meson Costero Bar & Grill where we ate fresh fried fish and Ceti (very tiny-tiny fish). Ceti is transparent in color, no bigger than an inch and it is only fished at night when the moon is waning. It belongs to the Goby family. (See picture on photo section)

We visited Mayaguez in the western part of the island, where the XXI Central American and Caribbean Sports games were held in July 2010. We ate the traditional Mazamorra ice cream made of corn.

In old San Juan, we visited El Capitolio (the capital building), La Fortaleza (the Governor of Puerto Rico’s residence), and the famous La Bombonera Bakery. The Puerto Rico House of Representatives and senator’s offices are located in El Capitolio. Despite all the policemen at the entrance, tourist can visit certain areas of the building. The building faces the ocean and its interior facades and mosaics are an architectural and artistic masterpiece. Its dome roof has mosaics that show different scenes such as the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish –American War, and the abolishment of slavery. We took a tour of La Fortaleza that has acted as the governor’s residence since the sixteenth century, making it the oldest executive residence in continuous use in the Americas. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After, touring La Fortaleza, we had dessert at La Bombonera Bakery. We ordered coffee with milk and their specialty, “la Mallorca” bread, sweet yellow bread, toasted, with butter inside, and sprinkled powder sugar on top.

Another place we visited and shop was Plaza Las Americas Shopping Mall. One of the biggest and most beautiful malls I have ever been with over 300 retail stores. It is worth shopping there.

We spent Holy Friday in the town of Gurabo with Angel’s parents, watching an enactment of the crucifixion of Christ.

We paid a visit to Meca’s family and got to see his two antique cars (MG and Ford pick up) that he brought back to life. We took Angel’s mom, Lucila, with us to the USA mini tour.

In USA:

State College, Pennsylvania (PA) – We visited Angel’s daughter (Cristina), who is working on her PhD, while she was two weeks off from her busy schedule. This is a very nice college town. We ate at Bill Pickles Tap Room restaurant and drank an excellent tap beer. During our stay with Cristina, we went to Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery and Otto’s Pub & Brewery. In addition, we traveled to Philadelphia, PA, Gaithersburg, Maryland (MD), and Washington D.C.

Philadelphia, PA - We visited the Independence National Historical Park where USA began their quest for independence. The park houses the Liberty Bell (an international symbol of freedom); the Declaration House where Thomas Jefferson drafted the declaration of Independence; the Independence Square where the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were created; and the First USA Bank. It is worth a visit.

Gaithersburg, MD – We visited Angel’s “compadres” (close friends), Jorge and Arly, on Mothers day and we had such a good time that we left their home at 1:30 a.m. While in Gaithersburg, we stayed at Spring Suites by Marriot, located in an area with walking trails, a man-made lake with ducks, a strip mall and restaurants at walking distance. We also paid a visit to Angel’s dear friends Fidel and Carmen in Fairfax, Virginia.

Washington D.C. – We arrived at D.C. by metro. It was exciting for me to take the metro and learn how to go around in a big city such as D.C. even thought this is the 3rd time that I have visited. In addition, we toured “Petersen House where President Abraham Lincoln died across from Ford’s Theatre. We could not leave D.C. without saying Hello! to President Barrack Obama so we stood in front of the White House in a rainy, windy and cold night but it was worth seen the White House at night. After the White House, we got hungry and ended up eating in a great restaurant called Old Ebbit Grill.

Atlanta, Georgia – Angel’s daughter, Sadie, lives in the outskirts of this large city. We visited the Underground, a national historic site. It offers retail shops, food, and entertainment. Another place that we toured was CNN where I got to see and photographed my favorite CNN host and international weather anchor, Guillermo Arduino and his producer. He hosts two shows, World View and Clix. In World View, he presents international good news and in Clix, presents the latest electronic and digital gadgets. They are great and cool shows to watch. In addition, we went for a walk at the 1994 Olympic Park where we listened to a concert and watched the dancing waters of a fountain.

New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) – We visited our home town, New Orleans, where Leticia, Angel’s daughter, lives with her two children (Jasmyn and Caleb) and some of our dear friends. The night after our arrival, we had dinner at Dick & Jenny Restaurant in the uptown area with Candida and her husband Joey and Robin and her husband Joey (two Joey’s). It was a great dinner. Afterwards we went to have a couple of drinks at the Columns Hotel & Restaurant on Saint Charles Avenue. Another day, we ate breakfast with Leticia, her friend Maurice and Angel’s grandchildren (Jasmyn and Caleb) at Russell’s Marina Grill by Lake Pontchairtrain area, where we ate egg benedict on crab cake, it was delicious! We took a round trip in the streetcar (trolley) along Carrollton and Saint Charles Avenues. There are gorgeous old southern style homes along these avenues. We attended my friend Claudia’s daughter (Celeste) graduation party from High School. We ate lunch with our friends Kasey, Toni, and Lisa at the Galley Seafood Restaurant on Metairie Road. It was nice to converse with them. Our friends Lourdes and Regmar invited us to their lovely home for lunch where we met for the first time their adorable and beautiful daughter, Lourdes Marie. We took one day to visit our old job, where we met with our friends Lamar, Clorey, Judith, Wayne, Ed, Annette, and others. It was nice seeing them again.

We could not leave NOLA without paying a visit to the Morning Call in Metairie where they serve fresh and hot beignets and café au lait. One afternoon we took a stroll at my favorite park, Audubon Park. It brought me a lot of pleasant memories.

Brandon, Mississippi – After our NOLA visit, we drove to Brandon where my God child Carolina and her husband Jose and daughter Isabella live. We stayed with them for one week and went to eat at Cock of the Walk Restaurant where they serve typical southern food. From Brandon, we traveled to Vicksburg to meet our dear friend Bernard at the Battlefield Hotel & Restaurant.

Orlando, Florida – We took scenic highways to get from Brandon to Orlando, and we enjoyed the drive. We visited for the first time Universal Studios and Adventure Island Theme Parks. On June 10th, we visited Adventure Island, and during our visit we had the good fortune that the Harry Porter theme area opened for half a day in preparation to their official opening date on June 18th. This was a soft-run because they were testing the public’s reaction to the park before their official opening date. It was a lot of fun! Angel and I drank butter beer (non-alcoholic) and ate in the Hogshead Restaurant. Also, we visited Angel’s friends, Gladys and Nazario, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Kennedy Space Center. It was an honor and pleasure to visit a place with such scientific and technical accomplishments. Being at NASA facilities made me feel that any goal can be reached.

In Tegus, Honduras:

El Salvador – After returning to Honduras from USA, we left to the Central American country of El Salvador to obtain a new car permit by crossing the border. We stayed in El Salvador four days and we visited the towns of San Miguel and Alegria, and the beaches of El Cuco, El Icacal, and Costa del Sol. Angel ate miniature lobsters in Hotel Izalco Cabana Club & Restaurant in Costa del Sol.

Following our trip to El Salvador, we returned to Honduras and took a vacation from our permanent vacation to spend a month in the north coast at Sambo Creek (located 20 kilometers from the city of La Ceiba).

All I can say is that it was an unforgettable vacation. We got to do the following outdoor activities: walk on dirt roads, hiking in the forest, white water rafting, snorkeling, jungle canopy, swim in hot springs and water park, and others. We rented a cabin in Helen’s Restaurant & Hotel (http://www.villahelens.com/) located 200 meters from the entrance to the Garifuna community of Sambo Creek. It had a kitchen, dining/living room, two bedrooms and one bath. My sister and her three daughters, my mom, my brother, Angel and I lodged in Helen’s hotel. This hotel also had a restaurant where we ate fresh seafood. After a week, my sister, mom, and brother went back to their home in Tegus and my three nieces stayed with us in Sambo Creek. It was a month full of outdoor activities and adventures.

The Garifuna communities are scattered along the Atlantic coast of Honduras. They have been declared Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO. The Garifunas arrived in Honduras at the end of the XVIII century. They originated as a mixture of shipwrecked African slaves and Caribbean Indians who were expelled from Saint Vincent Island by the British, and abandoned in the Roatan Island. Later, they settled along the Caribbean coast of Central America from Belize to Nicaragua. Today, the Garifunas communities are a rich blend of cultures, food, music, color, and joy.

We ate fresh seafood several times in Sambo Creek at Kabasas Restaurant at the beach and Corozal Restaurant, a family run restaurant in the town of Corozal.

We took a half a day tour to hike the Pico Bonito Cloud Forest National Park (http://www.picobonito.org/) where we got to eat terminates and place a gecko as earring. We also visited and ate lunch at the Pico Bonito Lodge where we saw two Toucans eating up on a tree, a snake and several hummingbirds. Another day we drove to Pico Bonito Lodge to visit its butterfly, iguana, and snake farm.

A small train took us from La Union to the Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center in Salado Barra where we rode in a boat to tour the area. We got to see a troop of Howler monkeys eating at the tree canopies.

We went white water rafting (Class I thru IV rapids) at the Cangrejal River with La Moskitia Ecoaventuras tours (http://www.lamoskitia.hn/). Victor and Marcos our tour operators made our trip safe and fun. We liked it so much that we ended up going two more times and Angel went one more time and did Class V rapids. It was an adrenaline rush!!! for all of us. In addition, we took a one day tour to Cayos Cochinos to snorkel with Garifuna Tours (http://www.garifunatours.com/). We liked it so much that we repeated this trip one more time. For lunch we ate a large whole lobster for $25 US Dollars (the seafood was fresh and cheap). Cayos Cochinos are a group of two small islands and thirteen small coral cays located 30 kilometers northeast of the city of La Ceiba on the northern shores of Honduras. They are part of the world’s second largest Barrier Reef system known as the Meso-American Barrier Reef system. It was designated a Marine Protected Area in 1993 and it was declared a Marine Natural Monument in 2003. The reefs are the least disturbed ecosystem in the Bay Islands complex (http://www.cayoscochinos.org/).

One day, we drove to Glenda’s Paradise Hot Springs where my nieces and I swam in the natural hot springs (105 degrees Fahrenheit, 40 Centigrade), while Angel went next door to take an eighteen zip lines canopy tour of the mountain and afterwards he swam in the crystal clear soothing hot springs to relax his muscles. In another occasion, we visited a water park named Water Jungle Aqua Theme Park in the community of Roma where we got to enjoy pool games, waterslides, a wave pool, etc.

We visited La Ceiba’s Mega Mall several times and the city’s main plaza. La Ceiba is located 25 minutes from Helen’s Hotel. Also in La Ceiba, we took a visit to the Butterfly and Insectarium Museum where we allowed a tarantula spider to crawl on our chest and held some other insects. It was exciting and uneasy at the same time but fun. We were surprised of the different shapes, sizes, and camouflage of the insects in Honduras and world wide. It was a learning experience.

After a month, it was hard saying so long! to Sambo Creek/La Ceiba area but it was time to return to Tegus.

One Sunday, we drove to the Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School to enjoy their annual festival. We ate food, listened to music, and watched folklore dancers from different countries of Latin America. In addition, we met with two of our ex-coworkers (Candida & Joey), who were visiting Tegus, at La Cumbre Restaurant in El Hatillo, up in the mountains.

October is opera season in Tegus. We attended the opera called “Cavalleria Rusticana” by Pietro Mascagni and listened to the Honduran Philharmonic Orchestra.

I attended the 100 years anniversary of my elementary and high school, “Colegio Maria Auxiliadora”. My school originated in the city of Turin, Italy. Sor Maria Mazarello and three other nuns had the courage to travel from Italy to Honduras to open a catholic school for girls and I am glad they did. The Centenary festivities were an all day event. It was a joy to see my first grade teacher “Señorita Hilda” like we used to call her. She was a great and kind teacher who I love and will always remember!!!

Angel joined the group of Nueva Acropolis, Tegus Chapter, on a trip to Copan Ruins to take an in-depth and updated look at the Mayan civilization. It was conducted by an archeologist, a Mayan linguist, and a physicist. On the first day, a lecture was given on the Mayans based on the latest archeological and ethnological discoveries and theories. A full day guided tour of Copan Mayan Ruins Archeological Park with its underground burials followed on the second day. On the last day, the group visited a Mayan museum and a photo exhibition of the 19th and early 20th century archeological expedition and exploration of Copan Ruins called “Fragile Memories” by the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology.

Well, this is the end of my story of our world travel adventures for now. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, lovely Christmas, and a very prosperous 2011!!!

Hugs and kisses!

Mireya

 

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01/14/10

 

 

Update September 2009 – January 2010

Guatemala - Honduras

With this update it comes along a Happy 2010!!! Angel and I hope that you had great holidays and the year 2010 received you with abundance.

CONGRATULATIONS!!!  to the fans of the New Orleans Saints (go “who dats”) that won the National Football Conference and will be playing at the Super Bowl XLIV  in Miami, Florida, on 7 February 2010, and  to the fans of the Honduras National Soccer  Team that qualified for the  2010 FIFA World Cup Competition in Johannesburg, South Africa in June. We are following on TV both teams.

We left Antigua Guatemala (our 2nd “base camp”), Guatemala, on December 18, 2009 (www.aroundantigua.com, www.revuemag.com, www.visitguatemala.com ). At the present, we are in the city of Tegucigalpa (Tegus) the capital of Honduras with my family. Tegus is our “base camp” in Honduras.

While in Antigua Guatemala (Antigua), we visited Guatemala City, the towns of Esquipulas, Rio Dulce, Flores, San Juan Alotenango, Retalhuleu, Champerico, and Copan Ruinas. Also, we toured Philadelphia and La Azotea Coffee Farms (www.cafeazotea.com); Lakes Petén Itza and Izabal; Tikal and Quirigua Mayan archeological ruins; and Belize Coral reefs.

During the month of July, we visited my family in Tegus for 10 days. In addition, we visited my family the last two weeks of October and the first week of November to attend my twin nieces’ first communion and my eldest niece’s confirmation and 15th birthday. We made these trips in two days since we do not drive at night for safety reasons. We stopped in the town of Copan Ruinas in the way to Tegus, where we stayed in Hotel Acropolis Maya one time and La Casa de Café B&B (www.casadecafecopan .com) another time. In another trip going back to Antigua, we stayed in Hotel Hacienda El Jaral in a town next to Copan Ruinas, called Santa Rita.  Crossing the Guatemala-Honduras border at El Florido, the process was very smooth with no complications.

Guatemala City is the capital of Guatemala at an altitude of 4,897 feet (1,493 meters) above mean sea level. It is a large metropolitan city with a population of approximately 4 million. It is located at 45 minutes from Antigua during peak hours and 25 minutes during non-peak. We visited it several times to go to Ixchel, Popol - Vuh, and the National Archaeology and Ethnology Museums; to shop and watch movies at Oakland, Skala, and Miraflores malls; to go grocery shopping at Hiper Paiz supermarkets (Wal-Mart owns them, Wal-Mart might own the world one day); to take our Toyota Corolla (“caballito de hierro”) for maintenance at the Toyota dealer; and to attend a ballet performance at the Cultural Center Miguel Angel Asturias.

Esquipulas is a small town where hundreds of travelers visit every day from all areas of Central America. They come here in a pilgrimage to pray to the miraculous Black Christ. We visited it with my mother and brother while they stayed with us in Antigua. They spent two weeks with us.

Rio Dulce (Sweet River) is another small town located between Lake Izabal and Rio Dulce. We stayed in a very very ecological hotel called Hacienda Tijax Jungle Lodge. Our room did not have air conditioning only a portable fan; we had a mosquito net which covered our bed, and the room was built over the waters of Rio Dulce. To reach the hotel we had to walk on several hanging bridges. It had a restaurant and internet. The food was excellent. At Hacienda Tijax, we met two nice Spaniards (Virgilio and Xen) who joined us in a boat tour to Rio Dulce canyon, town of Livingston, and the San Felipe de Lara Fort. In the way to the town of Livingston, the boat stopped at a hot springs area located along Rio Dulce and from here we hiked to a cave. The boat tour took us to the town of Livingston (www.livingston.com.gt) that it is accessible only by boat and where the population is made of Garifunas Culture. The Garifunas are Afro-Caribbean people. They speak Spanish, English, and Garifuna (a mix of French, Arawak, Yuroba, Swahili, and Banti) languages. They are famous for their music and dance named “Punta” that has West African influences.  In the way back from Livingston, we stopped to eat lunch at one of the restaurants adjacent to Rio Dulce, where we ate fresh shrimp, fish, and conk. We also visited the San Felipe de Lara Fort, a Spanish fortress built in 1652. 

Tikal National Park – Along the road to Tikal ruins, we stayed in the town of El Remate, on the shores of Lake Petén Itza. Our hotel named “La Mansion del Pajaro Serpiente” (www.30minutesfromtikal.com) was built on a hillside overlooking Lake Petén Itza. From our hotel room, we could watch a beautiful sunset over Lake Petén Itza. The American-Guatemalan hotel owners, Nancy and Jorge, made our stay pleasant and memorable. From here, we toured Tikal National Park which was declared by the UNESCO a World Heritage Site since 1979. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the Mayan ruins, flora, and fauna of the area.  Another small town that we visited while we were in El Remate was the colorful town of Flores, a small island located on Lake Petén Itza. It is connected to the town of Santa Helena, on the mainland, by a causeway. Its buildings were painted in very bright colors.

 I spent an unforgettable birthday in “La Reunion Antigua Golf Resort”, an awesome place located fifteen minutes from Antigua near the town of San Juan Alotenango. The resort is surrounded by the Agua (Water), Fuego (Fire), and Pacaya Volcanoes and has a gorgeous 18-hole golf course. Our room had a private heated swimming pool facing the golf course, a whirlpool adjacent to the swimming pool, an outdoor shower, a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, a terrace, and a gorgeous view of the Agua and Pacaya Volcanoes. We watched lava coming out of the Pacaya volcano and gases from the Fuego Volcano (both are active volcanoes). We watched the sunrise from our bed.

Belize Coral Reefs (the second largest coral reefs in the world) - We sailed from Rio Dulce in the sailboat “Las Sirenas” (a catamaran) to snorkel in the Zapotillos Cayes of Belize. Our first stop was Nicolas Island followed by Tamons Island, and White Reef. The coral reefs and the fish that inhabit them were gorgeous. The highlight of our snorkeling adventure was in the White Reef when we snorkeled along an underwater canyon filled with amazing corals of all sizes and heights and colorful and beautiful fish. The coral reef in the canyon looked like an underwater forest. We spent 4 nights at sea and 2 nights in Rio Dulce. It was an adventure because to take a shower we had a 32- ounces bottle of fresh water per person per day and showered at the back of the boat. The two-toilets were at the front of the boat, so we have to leave our cabins to use them. What I learnt was that at sea nobody stinks since we went into the water everyday. We spent seven days with eleven wonderful, polite, funny, and caring young people who confirmed that there are good people in this world and that the world is not as bad as it seems because there are still great people living in it. They came from USA, England, Finland, Norway, and Australia. Since we had no connection to internet or cell phones, we spent our days and nights snorkeling, swimming, talking, reading, playing games, and some nights drinking. The crew members (Raul, Saqueo, and Carlos) were very attentive to our needs. Most of our meals came from what the crew caught at sea (fish, crabs, and lobsters). The Chef, Saqueo prepared very delicious meals and deserts like apple pie. You can see pictures in our World Trip Photo II album of the huge lobster that the crew caught and the apple pie that Saqueo prepared. It was an experience that enriched my heart immensely and gave me hope for a better world. We met Jenny (an amazing lady who swam the English Channel to raise funds for a charity cause). She told us about her experience crossing the channel.

In the way back from Rio Dulce, we stopped at the Mayan site of Quirigua where the tallest (11 meters) known Mayan stela is located.

To renew our Guatemalan’s tourist permit, we drove to the Mexican border at Ciudad Tecun Uman. We stayed the night at Retalhuleu and the next day went to the border to get our tourist permit. In the way back from the Mexican border, we visited the beach town of Champerico in the pacific coast. Here we took a ride in a tricycle along a dirt road next to the beach.

We lived in Antigua for four months. We rented a very nice and large apartment that had a terrace where we ate breakfast and sometimes read afterwards. From our apartment we could see the Agua Volcano. We were located seven blocks from Parque Central so we walked everywhere. We attended several cultural events and parties.

We visited a homeopath, named Marta Esperanza, while in Antigua. She treated us with homeopathic remedies (www.abchomeopathy.com) for a minor illness and after a while we felt great. Marta Esperanza recommended for us to read two books of Dr. Deepak Chopra (“Synchro-Destiny” and “Power, Liberty, and Grace”) and suggested to meet her every Tuesday night to discuss the books. We decided to do this at our apartment and it was a lot of fun because we cooked, drank wine, and discussed one of the books with our friend Marta. Deepak Chopra is an author of self-help books on spirituality and alternative medicine; he is also a philosopher and public speaker. His books are published in several languages and are a treasure. Marta Esperanza also introduced us to a school of philosophy and cultural association called “Nueva Acropolis” (www.acropolis.org) where we took a course titled “Philosophy to live better”. We met a lot of good people at Nueva Acropolis and attended several of their activities such as philosophy day, lunada (gazing at the stars), a Sunday picnic, members’ birthday celebrations, and our graduation day from our philosophy course in Guatemala City. Our teachers Hernan, Vilma, and Alvaro were excellent philosophers and communicators.

On December 18th we left Guatemala and arrived in Honduras just on time to spend the holidays with my family. We traveled to the towns of Santa Ana, Valle de Angeles, Marcala, San Lorenzo, and Coyolito (www.hondurastips.honduras.com).  We went to a party at the weekend house of my sister’s friends Rita and Jaime in Santa Ana. They have a swimming pool but it was too cold for a swim (51 degrees Fahrenheit). One afternoon, Angel and I decided to take a ride to Valle de Angeles, a small colonial town 30 minutes from my sister’s house. It is famous for its variety of arts and crafts.

We accompanied my sister to a meeting for one of her projects in the coffee-growers town of Marcala. It is located high in the mountains and its temperature was 51 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the managers of a local coffee company took us to view the beautiful waterfall of “El Chiflador” with a water drop of approximately 197 feet (60 meters) and drove by biosphere reserve “El Jilguero” at elevation 5,400 feet (1,650 meters) mean sea level.

We took a day trip to San Lorenzo, home to the Port of Henecan, with my mother and brother. It is located in the Pacific coast of Honduras and approximately 60 miles (95 Km) south of Tegus. We ate lunch in a Honduran-German owned restaurant called “La Playa” where we ate fresh seafood, took photos of the mangroves, and asked a tour guide the costs of a boat tour around the mangroves and birds island.  Angel and I decided to return and take the boat tour at a later day. In addition, we visited its main town plaza, which exhibits statues of crab, alligator, turtle, and seahorse.

We also visited the beach town of Coyolito where you can hire a boat to take you to the small volcanic island of Amapala. We gathered information about lodging and boat costs to the island. There is a small seafood processing and packaging plant in Coyolito where you can buy fresh seafood to cook at home. We decided to visit Amapala and purchase seafood later on.

Check out our new photos in our albums World Trip Photos II and Our World Garden. The previous summary updates can be found under section “Archives”.

Well, I say so long! and many hugs! from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Mireya

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08/22/09

 

Update February 2009 – August 2009

Mexico-Guatemala

Good morning good people! I am writing while looking at “El Volcan de Agua” (Water Volcano) on a beautiful sunny day in Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala. Several months have gone by since our last update and we have so much to tell you but I’ll summarize our adventures as much as I can.

In our last update we told you that we were leaving the city of Guanajuato and we were moving to our third and last “ base camp” while in Mexico, San Cristobal de Las Casas (San Cristobal) in the state of Chiapas. It took us three days to arrive at San Cristobal. We left the city of Guanajuato on February 9 at 7:00 a.m. We were ready to adventure into a new town. We stopped that night at a large metropolitan city called Puebla and the following night in a small port town called Salinas Cruz. It was an industrial port town where the excitement was that we ate fresh seafood (crustaceous) that the locals called it “cucarachas”. Sooo!  We ate fried cucarachas (cockroach). The next day we got up early and drove until we finally arrived at San Cristobal. The compound of apartments where we stayed is called “Kukurutz Residencia” (www.kukurutz.com) and it is a large compound with 8 apartments. When we arrived, we were welcomed by a nice Tzotzil family (Mateo, Remijia, and their children, Manuel, Margarita, Rebeca, Paola, and Adolfo), who live there and were hired by the owner’s nephew Thomas from Switzerland, to work and maintain the place, which they do very well. They spoke the indigenous language Tzotzil. We planned to live in San Cristobal 2 months but after a month we decided to stay 3 more months. We had several neighbors who we socialized with and attended their parties. It was a lot of fun because we met very nice people from USA (Julie & Czy; Betsy & Steve and their 3 children, Ella, Thea, and Joey; Mexico (Fernando); a couple, Karla from Honduras and her husband Axel from Guatemala, and their son Axelito who was born in Mexico. Also, we spent time reading, enjoying Kukurutz beautiful gardens, talking to our neighbors, and improving and strengthening our relationship. We ate breakfast daily in the garden while listening to birds and bees; and watching butterflies and hummingbirds fly. The “Jardines (Gardens) of San Cristobal” was our favorite restaurant with outdoor tables. The best Mexican beer for us is Bohemia Negra (dark).  In addition, we met Teresa from Mexico, a lady who treated Angel with acupuncture for his sinuses problems and used heat on some key points of my body to release the aches/pains that I had; and Karin from Swisszerland, who gave us Thai massages every Saturday. Tere and Karin are unforgettable and very special ladies.

San Cristobal de Las Casas – At elevation 2,160 meters (7,085 ft) above Mean Sea Level (MSL) and with a temperature between 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the months that we lived in it (February 10 to July 9, 2009). It has San Francisco, California’s weather. Perfect for us! We still lighted up the fireplace during the months of June and July. This colonial city is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage for Humanity. It seems that we have picked cities that belong to the UNESCO World Heritage for Humanity and have colonial style architecture. We liked them very much!

We visited the Na Bolom, Ambar, Coffee, and Regional Costumes museums, produce and arts & crafts markets, attended a musical-dance performance called “Palenque Rojo” at Zebadia Theater, and Angel took a tour by horse to San Juan Chamula among other things.    

From San Cristobal, we traveled to San Juan Chamula, San Lorenzo Zinacantan, Tuxtla Gutierrez (Chiapas’ state capital), Chiapas de Corzo, Rancho Nuevo, and Amatenango del Valle, indigenous Maya settlements of Las Guacamayas and Lacanja Chansayab in the Lacandon jungle, the archeological Mayan ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilan, Bonampak, and Tonina.

The state of Chiapas is “indigenous country” where 60 % of its inhabitants are indigenous from Maya groups. We listened to indigenous people speaking Tzotzil and Tzetzal languages. These two groups wear colorful clothing. Also, we visited another group called Lacandones who live in the Lacandon jungle and wear white tunics and long black hair. Other Chiapas indigenous groups are the Choles, Zoques, and Tojolabales. All indigenous groups follow their traditions very closely and profess a religion that is a mixture of their traditional and catholic or some evangelist.

The state also has an active Zapatista movement (www.globalexchange.org , www.ezln.org.mx).The movement pursues equality for indigenous people. The Zapatistas actions have caused a raise in the standard of living, rights, and equality for the indigenous community.

San Juan Chamula - a Tzotzil town where men are polygamist and a yearly carnival is celebrated seven days before Ash Wednesday (similar to Mardi-Gras, a lot of drinking, singing, eating going on).  Also, it is famous for its temple “Templo de San Juan” where worshipers bring candles, chickens, eggs, incense, and chant their traditional religious songs/prayers to cure sick people, and/or ask for health, love, and money. We saw statues of catholic saints with a mirror around their necks, no benches for sitting-down, there was pine-needle-carpeted floor for kneeling and sitting. It was a unique experience that we will never forget (you have to be there to appreciate it; words can not describe it well). Photography is banned inside the church and photos can not be taken of the town people either.

San Lorenzo Zinacantan – called Zinacantan by locals, located 10 minuets by car from San Juan Chamula. It is a Tzotzil town where men are monogamist. This town is famous for its flower industry which is exported nationally and internationally.    

Tuxtla Gutierrez - The time came to bring our Toyota car for service and we brought it to the nearest Toyota dealer-service which was located in the city of Tuxtla. The city is modern and has movie theaters, malls, plazas, etc. We took a second trip to Tuxtla to attend a flamenco dance performance at the Convention Center.

Chiapas de Corzo – it is a very small colonial town located on the north bank of the Grijalva River, a very hot and humid town like New Orleans and at elevation 450 meters (1,476 ft) above MSL. It has tour boats that bring tourists to El Cañon (canyon) del Sumidero. The tour boat navigates along the river which flows through the canyon. The boat took us from Chiapas de Corzo to the Chicoasen Hydroelectric dam. We admired great views of the canyon rock walls that stand 800 meters (2,624 ft) above us, saw a Virgen de Guadalupe sanctuary, a river alligator; and ate fresh fried mojarra (perch fish) at a restaurant across the dam.

Rancho Nuevo – a recreational park is located 15 minutes by car from San Cristobal where the Grutas (caverns) de San Cristobal are located. These caverns have a concrete path and are lit.

 Amatenango del Valle – A Tzetzal town is famous for its pottery. One of our favorites is the dove clay figure.

Indigenous Maya settlements of Las Guacamayas and Lacanja Chansayab in the Lacandon jungle (www.aventurachiapas.gob.mx) –YES!  we went to the Lacandon Jungle, had a great time, and they “all asked for you”. I prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally for my trip to the jungle and it was easier that I expected. The people who manage the cabins and the tour guides at both places made it easier for us. At the Guacamayas, we stayed at a cabin and took a walking tour of the jungle (2.5 hours) with Cesar. We saw spider and howler monkeys, guacamayas birds (Scarlet macaws) in their natural habitat, spiders, butterflies, termites, etc. The Guacamayas is a sanctuary for the scarlet macaws. We learned that termites are good for the jungle ecosystem balance because they eat DEAD wood only. We saw several dead trees and the termites were doing their natural job, EAT DEAD WOOD.We also took a boat ride along the Tzendales and Lacantun Rivers. We ate delicious food at the Guacamayas’ restaurant which was adjacent to the Lacantun River. From las Guacamayas, we traveled to Lacanja Chansayab where we also stayed in a cabin in the jungle. We still laugh when we remember how we were dressed for our walk tour of the jungle. Our tour guide was an indigenous lady called Patricia. Well, it came the day of the walk tour of the jungle and met Patricia at 9:00 a.m. after a good typical breakfast (scrambled eggs mixed with chorizo (sausage), beans, tortillas, cheese, and coffee). We wore hiking boots, long pants, long sleeve shirt, and hat, sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellent and suntan lotion protection, and carried a bottle of water each. Patricia showed up wearing a skirt below her knee, short sleeve shirt, and sandals (flip-flop style). She gave us a great tour. I’m still amaze how she can handle the walk so well with her flip-flops and dressed like she was. We saw many birds, butterflies, waterfalls, and a Mayan ruin. Her tour was mainly focused on the flora of the jungle. We ate wild fruits with her. I bought a necklace for my sister made of seeds from Patricia’s aunt.

Archeological Mayan ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilan, Bonampak, and Tonina – In Palenque we stayed at “El Panchan”, a place where a lot of young, middle, and old aged visitors stayed and party. The place is located 5 minutes by car of Palenque’s archeological site and is set in the jungle. The nightly entertainment is awesome, we heard Peruvian, jazz, and pop style music and a young woman who danced with fire. The food was excellent. We slept (Margarita & Ed Hotel-Cabins), party, and ate (Dos Mucho's Restaurant) in El Panchan. It was a lot of fun! We took a tour of Palenque ruins and museum. Palenque is inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage of Humanity site.  The ancient Mayan cities of Yaxchilan and Bonanpak are located southeast of Palenque in the Lacandon jungle. Yaxchilan is located on the Mexican side of the Usumacinta River which divides Mexico and Guatemala. The only way to reach the ruins is by boat.  Bonampak is famous for its colorful frescoes. It is located 10 minutes by car of the Maya settlement of Lacanja Chansayab. Tonina was a ceremonial center and we climbed to the highest point of the acropolis with its seven platforms (80 meters (262 ft) above the surrounding valley). We recommend taking a tour of any ruins with an official guide; it’s worth it even if you have read a lot about the ruins.   

We finally left Mexico on July 9, 2009 after a 10-month stay. We planned to stay in Mexico for 3 months and we extended it to 10 months. It was worth every minute! We crossed the “Mesilla border control” with Guatemala and spent one night in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala. The next day we traveled to Panajachel (Pana) our first “base camp” in Guatemala (www.visitguatemala.com; www.revuemag.com ) where we stayed for one month. Panajachel is Lake Atitlan’s main tourist town. Our hotel called Vision Azul was located adjacent to the lake. From our room we could see the lake and 3 volcanoes (Atitlan, Toliman, and San Pedro). The manager of the hotel Eduardo along with his assistant Marcos provided us with great accommodations. The first week, we visited the villages of Santiago Atitlan and Santa Cruz La Laguna, where we enrolled in scuba diving lessons and we found out after one day of class that “scuba” was not for us and that we will continue snorkeling instead. After 10 days in Pana, we decided to visit my family in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, since we were so close to them. So, we went to Tegucigalpa to visit my family and stayed at my sister’s house for two weeks. We went to several parties of my sister’s friends. We enjoyed being with my family and being in Honduras. We returned to Pana and during our last week we visited the Reserva Natural Atitlan( www.atitlanreserva.com)  where we rode steel cable lines above the forest canopy and visited a butterfly farm. Our favorite restaurant in Pana was located in the terrace of the “Hotel & Resort La Riviera de Atitlan” where we ate, drank (delicious Moza beer and lemonade with mineral water), navigated the internet, and had a gorgeous view of Lake Atitlan and its 3 volcanoes.

On August 15 we departed Panajachel to move to our 2nd “base camp” in Guatemala, the city of Antigua Guatemala. Today, I am writing from this beautiful colonial city that once was the capital of Guatemala.

Angel created a section called “Our World’s Garden Album” where we placed photos that we have taken of flora, fauna, and natural features along our world trip. We hope that you like it as much as we do. Also, check out the new photos of Mexico and Guatemala in our photo section called World Trip Photos II.

Love and hugs!!! Mireya

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02/21/09

Update December 2008 – February 2009

In Mexico

Living in Guanajuato: Our second “base-camp” while we travel in Mexico.

 We lived four months in Guanajuato (GTO) and it was very exciting and interesting. Our apartment was located fifteen minutes walk (by the Temezcuitate Alley) from the historic center. The Temezcuitate Alley is not only a quick way to get to the city center (going down) but a way to get your exercise done for the day. Temezcuitate is a very steep alley (45 degree inclined) that we had to walk-up in order to get back to our apartment. We could take a taxi to get back but we enjoyed our daily exercise. Everything was very close to our apartment such as a shopping mall, 10 minutes by car through tunnels where MM cinema theatres and MEGA supermarket were located. Most of the restaurants were located in the city center. Our favorite restaurant was “Casa Valadez” located at our favorite plaza Jardin de La Union where we ordered our favorite dessert “flan de Cajeta” every time we ate there. Jardin de La Union (the city main plaza) was surrounded by several restaurants, had a beautiful garden, a water fountain in the middle, and mariachi bands played every night. Our apartment was completely furnished, a woman named Luz cleaned it every week and a man named Jose washed our car for a fee. Mission del Sol (www.missiondelsol.com) had everything we needed: great neighbors like Andrea & Michael (a retired couple from Florida), great service from Luz & Jose, a loving pet dog named Frida, washer, dryer, internet, a great view of the city, and a GREAT host like Gerardo (the owner).

 

While in GTO, we participated in a GTO tradition called Las Callejoneadas. In addition, we participated in Mexican traditions such as Virgen of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration on December 12th, and Dia de los Reyes Magos (Three kings’ Day) on January 6th.  Las Callejoneadas (callejones means alleys) are performed by a group of singers and musicians of all ages that dressed in traditional costumes. This tradition came from Spain. The group meets on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays at 8:00 p.m. in front of San Diego church by El Jardin de La Union and a crowd joins them then the whole group walk through the alleys of the city center, singing and playing.  To celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe’s day on December 12th, we walked up on Calzada Guadalupe to a church located on top. We walked along with a lot of people who had their children dressed with traditional costumes (dressed as Juan Diego and indigenous girls). The story goes that the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to an indigenous man named Juan Diego and she became the religious patron of Mexico. Several religious altars were displayed along the way, bands were playing, and fireworks released. For the Three Kings’ day on January 6th, we ate the traditional “rosca de Reyes” (Three Kings cake). This is a round cake with several small plastic figures baked inside of it; it is very similar to Mardi Grass’ King Cake in New Orleans. Whoever gets the small plastic figurine is the chosen one to host the next year’s party on Three Kings’ day. Also, children released balloons with their written wishes attached to a string the day before, and on the 6th they received their wished gifts (toys).

We visited the birth place of the famous painter and muralist Diego Rivera, the Mummies, Alhondiga, and Don Quijote Museums, University of Guanajuato, and several beautiful churches such as Templo de la Compañia de Jesus, Templo de San Francisco, and Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato.

From GTO, we traveled by car to the towns of Dolores Hidalgo, San Miguel de Allende, Zacatecas, and the cities of Leon and Guadalajara. We visited Mexico City by bus. Our silver Toyota Corolla S turned to be a very reliable vehicle and we named it “caballito de hierro” which means little horse made of steel. It seems that we have chosen to travel cities and towns that are inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage of Humanity sites such as GTO, Dolores Hidalgo, San Miguel de Allende, and Zacatecas. All these cities and towns have well preserved historic centers; colonial architecture, cobbled stone streets, and they remind us of small cities and towns in Europe.

Dolores Hidalgo is where the Mexican independence movement began on September 16, 1810; priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the church bells to gather the town people and to issue the Grito de Independencia (the independence movement). Hidalgo is Mexico’s most honored hero. The town is also the birth place of Jose Alfredo Jimenez, a famous mariachi singer (country/western singer-composer Mexican style). We visited the homes that are now museums of Miguel Hidalgo and Jose Alfredo Jimenez.

San Miguel de Allende is the birth place of Ignacio Allende who joined Miguel Hidalgo and other revels to initiate the Mexican independence movement. It has so many USA retirees that it is needed for the local Mexicans to speak English. With so many retirees living here, the real estate is expensive compared to other towns and cities in Mexico. There are lots of art galleries, real estate offices, very nice old colonial homes, nice hotels, restaurants, outside sitting cafes, etc. Web site of San Miguel de Allende is www.turismosanmiguel.com.mx

Zacatecas is another UNESCO World Heritage of Humanity town. Its historic center kept well its colonial architecture. We rode an aerial cable car to the Bufa Mountain and park ;  visited  El Eden Mine where there is an underground disco called “El Malacate” that opens Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at midnight, the  Rafael Coronel Mexican Masks Museum,  a Roman aqueduct, water fountains with lights and music. Took a city tour bus of course!

Leon is an industrial and commercial city where we found Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Sam’s stores, large malls, and a historic center where there were colorful sculptures  of cows on display, and where we saw a contest of piñatas. Leon is located 45 minutes from GTO.

Guadalajara is a very large city, population 4 million, the home of the mariachi bands, tequila, and Mexican hat dance. It has a historic center with a lot of pedestrian streets, plazas, water fountains, churches, and outdoor cafes. We toured the historic center by horse carriage and by Tapatio Tour bus.  We went to eat lunch at Marisco Chilo restaurant where a comedian-singer was performing jokes and songs. After 5 drinks of tequila sunrise, Angel decided to leave his retirement life briefly and became a singer. You can see Angel’s photo singing along with the comedian in the photo album of our website.  Angel went back to his retirement life with a hangover the next day.  We admired Jose Clemente Orozco’s famous murals displayed on the ceiling of the Museum Instituto Nacional Cabañas. The three dimensional perspective murals are listed in UNESCO World Heritage of Humanity sites.

We visited Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara, which kept its colonial architecture and was a charming town to visit and shop. It has a lot of stores that sell very unique wood carvings, furniture, ceramics, paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and leather items. The stores merchandise is unique because it is made by locals and other Mexican artisans and artists. We ate lunch and drank a drink called Cazuela. It was served in a clay soup bowl and a glass of tequila accompanies it.

From Guadalajara we visited the towns of Ajijic and Chapala located at Lake Chapala and where large portions of their population are USA and Canadian retirees. Ajijic is a very small town with cobbled stone streets, galleries, and real estate offices. Chapala is located 5 minutes drive from Ajijic (next door).  It has a very nice pedestrian walk with benches adjacent to the Lake shore where we watched the sunset. Local boat tour operators give tours of the lake. There is a Wal-Mart between the two towns.

We traveled to Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, by first class bus (Primera Plus) because it’s a very large modern metropolis and we did not want to drive in it. We took the 6:00 a.m. bus that we almost missed and after a breakfast meal, watching two movies, a couple of trips to the bathroom, we finally arrived to Mexico City’s Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte. It was a huge bus terminal; it had all the facilities that a small airport has. We took a taxi into the historic center where our hotel was located. The city is a livable and vibrant place with 22 million inhabitants. It has culture, architecture, and history. It combines scenes of industrial and developing worlds. It has  high rise buildings, large shopping malls, metro  system, plazas, parks, water fountains, grand  avenues, monuments, modern sculptures, very rich and very poor neighborhoods, archeological site in its historic center, museums, theatres, churches, murals, street vendors, outdoor markets, bazaars, etc.  There is so much to see in the city that probably it would take several months to see it all. We recommend taking the “Turibus” (www.turibus.com.mx), a tour bus that you can hop in/out of it at the designated stops all day for one price. The bus had an uncovered second floor and earphones were provided to listen to descriptions of the areas, monuments, plazas, etc, that we were passing by. It toured the main areas of the city and gave us an idea of the places that we wanted to get off and visit for a while. One of the areas that we got off was the neighborhood called Condesa, where we ate dinner at a local restaurant and we got back in the Turibus after we finished. Another area where we got off from the Turibus and ate lunch, was San Angel neighborhood, where we listened to Salsa music played by a Cuban band and visited its  Saturdays’ arts &crafts outdoor market.

We watched  the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico performed, visited the National Museum of Anthropology (NMOA) which was  impossible to see it in one day, took the metro system  to visit the Virgen of Our Lady of Guadalupe basilica, visited the Czars of Russia exhibit at the NMOA, and many more places.  

Check out the photo album for new photos and on the next update I’ll write about San Cristobal de las Casas our third base-camp and our three day road trip to get there.

We added a new section for the latest photos called “World Trip Photos II”.

God bless you! Mireya

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12/06/08

Update October - December 2008

In Mexico

We arrived at the old colonial city of Guanajuato in the state of Guanajuato on 10 October 2008 around 6:30 p.m. We rented an apartment for 1 month at the Mission del Sol (www.missiondelsol.com). We communicated by email and phone, prior to our arrival, with the owners, Sonia and Gerrardo, to request information on how to get to their apartment complex. After traveling along gorgeaus Copper Canyon, we arrived to beautiful, romantic, exotic, and mysterious city of Guanajuato. I read in travel magazines and watched many Mexican soap operas and movies filmed in this city but never like being here. Guanajuato is a colonial architecture style city which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. Its narrow cobbled stone streets going around its hillsides, its small alleys, and its underground tunnels make it a fascinating city to explore. We were planning to stay one month in this city but after enjoying the Festival Internacional Cervantino 2008, walking, and sightseeing around it; we decided to extend our stay three more months until February 9, 2009. Guanajuato became our “Base Camp” for the next few months. We arrived during the Festival Internacional Cervantino 2008 (www.festivalcervantino.gob.mx) and we fully enjoyed it. We attended opera, music, theatre, movies, dance events, and other activities, etc. The festival takes place every year in the month of October and last 19 days. This year was the 36th year anniversary of the festival and 24 nations participated from October 8th to 26th. The entire city was a vibrant and party town. People from all over the world, Mexico, young, and old attended the different cultural events. When the festival ended, we thought that the city will not be as much fun as during the festival but the University of Guanajuato students give the city a youthful environment and a cultural life.  

We stayed one month in our apartment in Guanajuato (www.guanajuato.gob.mxbefore we visited the cities of Queretaro and Pachuca and the towns of Bernal, Jalpan de Serra, Xilitla, Huejutla de Reyes, Molango, Mineral del Monte (Real del Monte), Mineral de El Chico, El Chico National Park, Tecolutla, Papantla, El Tajin Archeological site, and the five Franciscan Missions of Sierra Gorda.

Queretaro a large colonial city is the capital of the state of Queretaro. We stopped here to eat lunch and walked their historic area in our way to Bernal.

Bernal is a small town in the Sierra Gorda where the third-largest monolith in the world is located. This rock is approximately 10 million years old and stands 350 meters high. The Pena de Bernal attracts thousands of visitors each year during the Vernal Equinox and who dress in white to take in the rock’s positive energy. We climbed the rock and took photos, and attended an opera event at the base of the rock. It was a very unique experience. At approximately 13 kilometers (kms) from Bernal in Ezequiel Montes, we visited the winery Cavas Freixenet of Mexico (www.freixenetmexico.com.mx) where we took a free tour of their facilities, ate lunch (Paella), and drank their white wine of course. We had a very informative, food-wine filling, and relaxing afternoon.

Xilitla a small coffee-growing town is located at the hilltop of Sierra Gorda Madre Oriental. It is famous for the surreal garden “Las Pozas” and museum of the English eccentric Sir Edward James. We visited Las Pozas gardens where there are concrete and stone structures some finished and some half-finished such as temples, pagodas, bridges, sculptures, spiral stairways, and pavilions built adjacent to natural waterfalls. This is a great place to play “hide & seek” but it may take several hours or perhaps even days to find somebody.

Sierra Gorda Franciscan Missions: In the mid-18th century the Franciscans arrived to Jalpan and built five missions with the aid of the Pames Native Indians. The five Franciscan Missions are Santiago de Jalpan, San Miguel Conca, San Francisco del Valle de Tilaco, Santa Maria de Las Aguas de Landa, and Nuestra Senora de la Luz de Tancoyol located in the towns of Jalpan, Conca,Tilaco, Landa de Matamoros, and Tancoyol respectively. The five missions have been restored and inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2003. Their colorful facades are carved with religious, plants, flowers, and animal figures. In Jalpan we stayed at Sierra Express Hotel & suites.

We visited the city of Pachuca from where we drove to Mineral del Chico, El Chico National Park, and Mineral del Monte. We stayed in Hotel Emily (www.hotelemily.com.mx) in the heart of the city, in front of the Plaza of La Independencia where a 40 meter-high Clock Tower is located. The clock was English made; it has the Roman numeral IIII instead of IV. We took a tour in Mineral de el Monte in an English style two-deck bus and ate the original “pastes” (a meat with potato pie, delicious!!). We visited Mineral de el Chico, which reminds me of small European towns and drank Pina Colada in El Chico National Park. Pachuca’s temperature ranged during our stay from 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to 40 at night. It was cold but we enjoyed it.

We drove from the cold weather of Pachuca to the warmth of Tecolutla. Tecolutla is a small beach town located at the Gulf of Mexico. We stayed at the Santa Luisa Finca and Resort (www.fincasantaluisa.net) located in Gutierrez Zamora 10 kms from Tecolutla. We slept in a room overlooking the Tecolutla River. We woke up early the next morning to visit a place in Tecolutla beach where they release turtles into the ocean from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. The place is a small private conservation site that the owner, Fernando Manzano Cervantes, called “papa Tortuga”, has been protecting and releasing green and Kemp’s Ridley turtles for 34 years (www.vidamilenaria.org.mx). By giving a small donation, we purchased two t-shirts. We adopted and released two turtles. I named my adopted turtle, “Ed” after my co-worker in New Orleans who loves turtles and Angel named his “Jasmyn” after his grand-daughter. After making a wish and releasing the turtles, we received a certificate of adoption. The same day, we took a boat tour along the Tecolutla River and we saw mangroves, wild birds, and alligators.

We drove 30 kms from Tecolutla to visit the small town of Papantla, important market town for the Totonac Native Indians. Papantla is famous for its vanilla products and Vanilla Festival. Six kilometers from Papantla, there is the Totonac Native Indian Culture archeological site of “El Tajin” where we visited its museum, took a guided tour of the ruins, and watched with amaze the Totonac Indians performed their traditional “Voladores rite” (volar means fly). The performance consisted of five men climbing a 30 meter-high metal pole and four of them tying their ankles to a rope attached to the top of the pole while one danced and played ceremonial music on a tiny platform. Later four of them slowly descend to the ground by allowing their rope to unwind from the pole by revolving. It was a goose bumps experience. They performed all of it without safety net.

We will continue to visit from our base camp Guanajuato, the cities of Leon, San Miguel de Allende, Zacatecas, Guadalajara, and San Luis Potosi that are located in central Mexico. Stay tune for the next update.

NEW SECTION in our web site: We added a new section called “Country Travel Itinerary”. It is intended for those of you who want to see the location of the places we visited and/or plan to visit in Mexico with some additional information.

Hasta Luego and God bless you!

Mireya

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11/10/08

Update September – October 2008

In Mexico

We planned to leave El Paso, Texas on September 16 at 7:00 a.m. but the excitement was so high that we left at 6:30 a.m. We crossed into Mexico quietly through Ciudad Juarez. At the border, we got the “green light literally” (at the border there are car lanes where there is a traffic light with green (go ahead) and red (stop, need to check vehicle and papers). We drove quietly since everybody was sleeping after the Independence Day celebration which took place the day before. We drove from El Paso to the city Chihuahua the capital of the state of Chihuahua. Mexico is divided into states.

I was a little bit nervous because of all the negative news and information that I heard.  NO! NO! NO! Mexico is nothing like you hear from the news or from people who never traveled to Mexico. You have to visit it to see the beauty of its land and feel the warmth, kindness, and friendliness of its people.

We left Chihuahua City towards the town of Creel (Copper Canyon and Tarahumara Native Indian’s country). Creel became our base camp for three weeks. We stayed at the Korachi Hotel (www.hotelkorachi.com) which had rooms and cabins. We took a cabin. The hotel was centrally located. The train station of El Ferrocarril Chihuahua Pacifico (el CHEPE) was located across the street from the hotel.  Cybernet sites/cafes, abarrotes (grocery stores), restaurants, laundry mat (you pay for your clothes to be washed & folded), and others hotels were within walking distance.

In Creel, we met extraordinary people such as Eric and Adriana. This couple adopted 39 homeless children from ages 7 months to 14 year old. Believe me there is no mistake!  They have 8 kids of their own and 39 adopted. Check out their web site www.fundacionmanosunidas.org.  If you want to donate to Casa Hogar Manos Unidas use the information below:

SWIFT: BCMRMXMMPYM
INTER-BANK CODE: 012767001555404025

If you have any questions email Eric and Adriana at [email protected]

Also, we made friends with the owners of a hotel called “La Posada de Creel”, www.laposadadecreel.com.  Moli, Luis Enrique (Moli’s husband), and Moli’s son, Mario Alejandro, were wonderful with us. Several nights we visited them, played cards, ate dinner, and drank wine. We had a lot of fun and learnt two new table games. 

We visited the Tarahumaras Native Indians’ museum, Copper Canyon (the view of the canyons from Divisadero, Cumbres de Sinforosa and Bufa are outstanding), San Ignacio de Arareco Mission, San Ignacio de Loyola Jesuit Mission/Museum in Cusarare built in the 1741, and Lake Arareco. We went horse back riding to the valleys of the monks, mushrooms, and frogs. In addition, we visited the towns of Batopilas, Satevo, Guachochi, San Rafael, Basaseachi, and Madera.

We rode el CHEPE from Creel to the city of Los Mochis. Our journey started in Creel at 2,230 meters above sea level and ended at Los Mochis at approximately 60 meters above sea level. Angel went to the train station to purchase tickets two days before our trip and while at the station he met a couple from Belgium (Paul and Vera). They told Angel that they will be traveling in el CHEPE. Two days later, Angel and I boarded the train at Creel at 11:50 a.m. and to our surprise at the next station (Divisadero), we saw Paul and Vera boarding el CHEPE. They were going to Los Mochis like us. We talked, ate, and decided to travel together. We arrived at Los Mochis at 10:30 p.m. The following day, the four of us took a public bus to Topolobampo bay, where we took a boat tour to small bays, estuaries, and mangroves. During the boat ride we saw a dolphin family. The boat operator brought us to a small bay surrounded by mangroves where a dolphin named “El Pechocho” lives. The operator called on el Pechocho by making waves in the water with his hands. Well! All of us started making waves and after a few minutes Pechocho showed up. It was an amazing experience. It was awesome because none of us had pet a dolphin in the wild. Pechocho made our trip unforgettable. We stayed petting it for about forty minutes. After our encounter with this beautiful dolphin, we decided to be dropped off at Marivi beach where we ate lunch (seafood) and we took a bus back to Los Mochis.

We spent some time in Creel before we headed to Batopilas, Satevo, Basaseachi, and Madera by road.

We rode a public bus to the mining town of Batopilas. The trip lasted 6 hours to cover only 139 kilometers but approximately the last 40 Kms. were on dirt road with a decent from an elevation of 1,800 meters to 462 meters above sea level traveling through the Copper, Urique, and Batopilas canyons. The view of the canyons from Bufa is outstanding.  Visited the Jesuit Mission of Satevo named Santo Angel Custodio de Satevo. Met Adanely Fierro Corrales a young artist who is 13 years old and suffers from epilepsy but she always has a smile. She gave us a tour of Satevo and showed us her paintings and crafts.

While visiting Basaseachi waterfall (246 meters drop), we stayed at a cabin in the national park where our neighbors, native Indians from Mayan descent, invited us to participate in a fire ceremony. This ceremony has been celebrated by native Indians in North, Central and South America since the Mayan civilization. We participated in the ceremony, which lasted four hours (from 10 pm to 2 am). It was an outstanding spiritual experience.

Afterwards, we drove to Madera where we ate in the best restaurant in town, “La Cueva del Indio”. We met its owners Fernando and Elida who have excellent food and service. We highly recommend it.  

A 45 minute drive from Madera took us to “Las 40 Casas”. These are cave dwellings of Indian civilizations similar to the cliff hangers dwellings found in Mesa Verde, Colorado, USA. Archeological and scientific evidence supports the conclusion that an early semi nomad Indian civilization settled in the nearby valley around 4,000 BC while some archeologists believe in the possibility that places other civilizations as far in time as 9,000 BC in the same valley. The cave dwellings belonged to Indians from the Paquime culture.

Creel gave us a little treat with “La Vuelta a Chihuahua International 2008” a bicycle tour on its 3rd year (http://www.vueltaachihuahua.com/). We watched with excitement as the exhausted cyclists reach the last meters of the race. 

After 3 weeks, we left Creel, the canyons, and the Tarahumaras Native Indians and headed to the City of Guanajuato in the state of Guanajuato which is our next base camp.

Hasta Luego! Mireya

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09/14/08

Update August – September 2008

In USA

While staying in Bellechase at my sister-in-law Claudia’s home, we went to watch a prelim football game of the New Orleans Saints against the Miami Dolphins. It was a nice treat that Claudia & Guy gave us. We left Claudia’s home one day earlier due to the arrival of hurricane Gustav, and arrived at my God-child Carolina’s home in Jackson, Mississippi. We spent one week with Carolina, her husband Jose, and daughter Isabella . While in Jackson we heard a couple of tornado warnings due to Gustav. It was scary but everything turned out to be ok.

We left Carolina’s home and arrived at my step-son Troy’s home in Austin, Texas. I did not expect that Austin was a very big city. Like everything in Texas, Austin is very big and nice. Troy, his wife Rachel, and daughter Elizabeth Grace brought us sightseeing around Austin. We went to the State Capitol building downtown, Mount Bell which is the highest Point in Austin at 780 ft above mean sea level, and viewed a great sunset from the balcony of the Oasis Restaurant at  Lake Travis. Also, we saw millions of bats leaving their home to search for dinner under the Congress Avenue bridge downtown Austin. Underneath this bridge lives the world largest urban bat colony (www.batcon.org).

We left Austin and arrived in El Paso, Texas in our way to Mexico. In the way to El Paso, we stopped for lunch in the town of Fredericksburg which was founded by German immigrants in 1846. While I write this update, we are staying in El Paso in an extended- stay hotel. We already crossed the border into Mexico twice to obtain visas and a permit for our car. The trips were successful because we obtain visas and a car permit for 6 months. We are planning to travel throughout Mexico for 5.5months. We will cross the border into Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on September 16 (the independence day of Mexico from the Spaniards). The Mexicans are going to be celebrating their independence day and we will join them in their celebration.

Hasta luego! and check out NEW photos

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Update 8/25/08

Update June – August 2008

In Puerto Rico

I have been sightseeing a lot, doing so much, and traveling from Puerto Rico to Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and back to LA that I could not keep up with my updates but here it is.

In early May, Angel and I made a list of things that we have not done and that we wanted to do before leaving Puerto Rico (PR). On May 15, we moved from my in-laws’ house to a condominium in the ESJ Towers in Isla Verde which is a tourist area with a lot of hotels (Ritz Carlton, Marriot, Ambassador, Holiday Inn, etc), beaches, and the Muniz Marin International airport. We lived on the 14th floor where I can view the beach on the left and the airport on the right. We lived in this place for 2 months and 1 week. We did not use the air conditioner at all because we had 24/7 wind from the beach. It was awesome! As always you can see photos in the photo album in this web site.

We went snorkeling to the west of the island at Guilligan Island and I did not see “Ginger” neither “Gilligan” BUT I saw different types of fish that I never had seen before. Also, we hiked to the highest point of El Yunque National Forest (east). This tropical rain forest is managed by U. S. Department of Agriculture and it has 28 miles of well maintained trails. Hiked one of the Trails of the Dry Forest in Guanica (west) where the temperature was 105 degrees Fahrenheit, oh Yea! it was hot!. The trails are maintained by Department of Recursos Naturales in Spanish or Department of Natural Resources in English. Took a passenger ferry from old San Juan to Catano area where we ate in an excellent restaurant named Don Tello. They serve great PR food and had a trio singing traditional PR songs.

We had Angel’s family reunion at his sister Maria and her husband Tua’s house. She cooked a HUGE pot of pigeons peas and rice (it is a traditional dish in PR). Angel and I visited again Angel’s friends Jose and Tati in Cabo Rojo.  We rode in Jose’s boat  around Cabo Rojo stopping and swimming at different beaches. In the way back to the marina we rescued a family whose boat ran out of gasoline. I learnt that is MANDATOY to rescue people who are stranded at sea. Visited the City of Ponce with its beautiful water fountain and attended a track and field meet. There were participants from Canada, USA, Mexico, Central, and South America.

Visited Gienell’s parents and her sister in the town of Dorado where we ate delicious food and received great hospitality. Gienell works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is a Civil Engineer, graduated from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, and was recruited by Angel last year along with four more engineers.

We spent two days researching for information on Angel’s great-grandfather (Angel G. Mislan Huertas) who was a brilliant and famous music  composer and musician (1864-1911) at the General library of the Instituto de Cultura de Puerto Rico (Cultural Institute General Library) in San Juan and at the San Sebastian library. We found his bibliography written by Helen Santiago.  

Visited Tamarindo beach, town of Patillas , Florida, and Guayama, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. We rode the metro train.

Our favorite bakery was  “Panaderia y Reposteria La Madrid “ in Bayamom, where they serve hot meals, sandwiches, pastries, wine,  beer and the most delicious bread called Pan Sobado” at low prices.

My favorite beautician was Celimar who is very talented fixing hair and with her singing. She sang while she was working on my hair.

 

In USA

We lived in Puerto Rico from February 8 to July 23. In the way back to New Orleans, LA,  on July 23, our airplane made connection in Newark, New Jersey. When we arrived in the Newark Airport all the evening flights were cancelled due to bad weather (strong thunderstorms). Our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:30 p.m. that night. Well! it did not happen! We scheduled a flight for the next day at 7:30 a.m. and spent the night in a Raddisson hotel near the airport. When we showed up at the airport the next day at 5:30 a.m., Continental’s counter employee said that our flight was cancelled again and that they rescheduled a flight that will leave at 10:30 P.M. Well, like good traveler that we are, we decided to buy tickets for the train that left to New York City at 9:30 a.m. In New York City, we ate breakfast/lunch meal in Chinatown, ate Din Sum, and went sightseeing for a while. At 4:00 p.m. we took the train back to Newark Airport and at 10:30 p.m. took off to New Orleans. It was a nice delay!

We arrived in New Orleans and left for Baton Rouge where we spent three weeks at Cristina’s apartment (Angel’s daughter). Later, we left for Atlanta to spend a week at Sadie’s house (Angel’s daughter) and her husband Andy.  We met with his other daughter, Leticia and her husband Mike and their children Jasmym and Calib in Metairie. Also, we met with Cristina and her boyfriend Alejandro in Gretna.

While I’m writing this update, we are visiting my sister-in-law Claudia (from my previous marriage), her husband Guy, and children Celeste and Connor in Bellechase.

Check out the photo album, I have the NEW photos at the top.

Hasta luego and God Bless!

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Update 6/8/08

April - May 2008

In Puerto Rico

YEAAA! We have been doing so much that it will take me a week to write everything we have done. I’ll update on the most memorable of events.

We celebrated Angel’s mom birthday in Hipodromo El Camarero (racetrack). Bet at the horses and lost but we had fun.

Holy Week in Bayamon - We spent Good Friday watching a parade. The floats of the parade were very realistic and dramatic.

We took a day tour of Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve.  All visitors to the reserve have the option to fill out an information form so we did. The tour was great. We saw red, white, black, and button mangroves, iguanas, crabs, ocean, beaches, a lighthouse, and the most northeast corner of the Island and much more. As we were leaving the reserve, the assistant director of the reserve called us and invited us to attend a two-days wetlands work-shop for free that included breakfast and lunch. Of course, we said YES! We attended the workshop where we learned about the different types of mangroves, identified birds and their singing; went snorkeling where we saw crabs, fish, corals (brain). During the workshop, our team presented what the word "Mangrove" meant with a drawing and text. We also went into a bioluminescent lagoon, one of the three bioluminescent places that Puerto Rico has.

Luquillo Beach – East Part of the Island. We stayed for a week. Went to the beach and saw a baseball game.

Las Croabas – Ate a whole fried fish. Fresh fish! It was caught that morning.

Mayaguez - We visited Angel’s alma mater, the university where he graduated in Civil Engineering. The University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus (on the west part of the Island).

Vieques Island - We went sailing and snorkeling with Captain Bill and met our friends Eddie & Barbara and Meko & John from Long Island, New York. Captain Bill allowed me to steer the sail boat for a while, it was a great experience. During the sailing trip, Barbara invited us to join them at her sister’s beach house called  El Ensueño (the enchanted) where she, her husband Eddie, and her friends Mico & John were staying. That afternoon, Angel & I joined our new friends. Later that evening we went to eat dinner at La Esperanza, a town in the south side of the island. It was a lot of fun meeting new people. We met Abu (from Africa) & Cristina a couple who lives in California while we were snorkeling in  Red Beach at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Refuge . Also, we went kayaking one night in  Mosquito Bioluminescent  Bay at La Esperanza. The named “Mosquito” says it all, we were eaten by mosquitoes while standing at shore. Angel cooked the biggest fresh lobsters I have ever seen in my life at the kitchen of Las Olas Beach house where we stayed for a week.

Cabo Rojo - Visited Angel’s close friends Jose & Tati and stayed a long weekend. We also visited La Parguera (a bioluminescent bay), drank the most famous sangria Coño (Coño means “shit” in Puerto Rican language). After drinking a couple of sangrias you start saying bad words. Visited El Faro (the lighthouse) with its salt flats and beach.

 I uploaded new photos, see World Trip Photos album.

Hasta luego and God bless!

Mireya

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Update 3/12/08

In Puerto Rico

We celebrated Angel's niece (Margarita) baby shower. We visited the town of Ciales where Angel's dad was borned and raised. Also, we visited the town of Baranquitas, Guajataca beach, Arecibo Observatory, and City of Mayaguez.  we wachted an eclipse of the moon.

See new photos. hasta luego! 

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Update 2/18/08

In Puerto Rico

We visited a small town called "San Sebastian" where the town square was dedicated to Angel's great-grandfather, Angel G. Mislan Huertas. He was a musician and a composer.

We also visited Utuado, Lake Guajataca, and Lares (west of the Island). You can see photos in the World Trip Photo folder. We'll leave for Luquillo beach to spend a week on Sunday, Feb 24.

Hasta luego!

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