Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Adventures at Coffeebucks!

In the latest chapter of our saga of the baristas vs. Autumn's name, she ended up with the ever-so-feminine "Aaron" today.

In a related story, I got "Andy" the other day, and Eric is a regular name in Spanish! Perhaps this indicates that the real problem is that the employees don't listen to anyone and just write whatever name they feel like. I'm thinking of rotating through Alejandro, Juan, and Rodrigo as my new coffee-names, just to see what they say.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Washington DC Trip

Autumn flew out to DC for some training this week and came back with a single photo. National monuments be damned! Beef barbecue was apparently the only tourist activity she had time for.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

El Grito

For "El Grito" (the day where the president yells Viva Mexico from his palace), we had a non-authentic burrito bash starring flour tortillas, cheddar cheese, lettuce and other non-Mexican / American burrito ingredients. We had a few friends over for dinner and drinks and watched the Televisa "Gritos Around the World Spectacular".

 The bar including my signature margaritas! 
Luckily we had Friday off to recover...

 More bar fun with tablecloths from the pyramids!

Our super-colorful tablescape!
I think that Sandra Lee would be impressed!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Busy September

You may have noticed a shortage of blogging this September. Well that's because Autumn had to spend all the government money before September 31st! She was very dedicated...

Calculating how many beans remaining!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Progreso, Beach Time Estilo Mexicano

After Celestun, we headed out to Progreso beach on the Gulf for a little R & R in the sun.

Here we saw a double rainbow on our way out.  Good omen!

This pier is the longest pier in the world.  It goes out to a port that receives cargo and cruise ships from Texas and Alabama.   The water here is extremely shallow, thus necessitating such a long pier.

 Here's Progreso from the water.  This beach was very, very Mexican.  It was a great way to wind down our vacation.

After swimming and enjoying the afternoon, we went for a walk as the sun started to set.  Gracias por el bienvenido!!
Fishing boats tied up for the night near the fishing pier.


The sun setting over the Gulf.

After sunset, as the sky turned colors, we got some pretty amazing photos.  Here are palapas and the pier by twlight.

Horizon on fire...

 The last colors of the evening...

 After our fun afternoon on the beach, we went back to Merida for dinner at an Irish Pub..then on a whim, we hired a horse and carriage for a midnight tour of Merida.  It was really fun!  We didn't have a camera, so no pics, just good memories!  Thanks B, for everything, this was a super fun weekend away from the DF!

Finally, Celestun!

We got up Sunday morning determined to make it to Celestun.  Celestun is in a bio-reserve where hundreds of flamingos live, and I really really wanted to see them.  To me flamingos have always been some strange oddity that live in zoos and in Las Vegas.  But here in Mexico, they live in the wild (!!) and tourists can hire a boat to see them (!!!).  We made our way (on the highway this time) to Celestun, paid our $750 pesos and took a private 1 hour boat ride.  Upon embarkation, our guide informed us that the tropical storm in the Gulf had scared all the flamingos away, so we wouldn't be seeing any today.  NOOOOOOOOO!!!  I guess I have a good reason to come back.

Here is a map of where we were headed, minus the flamingo attractions.

Venturing out into the Ria, we get our first glimpse of the mangroves.

Here we are at Bird Island.  See them circling and plotting??

Here the birds are sitting in a tree having a secret meeting.  The water is very shallow in this channel,  and according to our guide, it is red because of the rainy season.  Interesting. 

Mangroves against the red water.

I'm on a boat.  Oh yeah.

As we floated along, our guide, whom I might add was operating the motor on the boat by touching loose wires to a car battery whenever he wanted to go faster, took a sharp left into that small opening, and took us straight into the mangroves...shortly after telling us that the crocodiles go into these types of openings to hide from the boats...hmmm....

And here we go onto our mangrove adventure.  The guide said this was a completely natural path through the mangroves...perfectly boat-sized, and not at all suspicious.

In here the pictures got really interesting.  The water is no more than 3 feet deep, and the color of blood.  Mixed with the starkness of the mangrove roots, it makes for some pretty haunting imagery.

Kinda spooky....

Alright, here we are back on the open water.  Here there are 2 giant birds that look tiny in the picture.  Do not be fooled!

Here we stopped at the Ojo de Agua.  This is a natural freshwater spring, one of many in this interesting biosphere.  People (not us) were swimming in the coffee colored water here.  They were drinking heavily while doing it, probably so they could forget that they might be eaten by a crocodile at any moment.  Even the Ojo de Agua sign has a picture of a flamingo on it.  :(

There's the Ojo right there!

This is a termite house.  Yuck!!

Many tiny fish babies lived in the warm shallow red waters surrounding the Ojo.  Seemed like a pretty protected little spot for them.

Here we are in the mangrove forest!

One last view straight up before we head back to the docks.

After the boat ride we headed to the beach for some lunch.  We encountered this sign as we walked out.  An important reminder for everyone.  It also begs the question, if a sign such as this is not present, is it okay to "do your needs" on the beach??

I would like to note that no one ordered the "Conch blue crap".

The white sand beach at Celestun, on the Gulf of Mexico.  Beautiful!

Here is a delicious Gulf white fish taco, prepared Yucatecan style.  Unfortunately...this taco, and others like it at the table, would give all three of us gnarly food poisoning on Monday night/Tuesday...but in the moment, it certainly was delicious. 

B and I enjoying the beach before heading to Progresso (a different beach...this beach was clearly just for show and not swimming!) to enjoy the rest of our afternoon.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Failed Adventure to Celestun

From Uxmal, we consulted out "trusty" Guia Roji (Mexican road atlas) and saw what appeared to be a shortcut to Celestun.  It appeared as a yellow road on the map, and yellow roads are generally okay...or so we thought.

Here is a Google map of what we were attempting.  We had no idea that Google classified this as a nearly-invisible-gray-road. This is how Google classifies the dirt road my family lives on back home...and that dirt road is of way higher quality than this road was. The town of Sinkeuel sounds oddly like the English word Sinkhole...interesting foreshadowing....

Here we are just bouncing, literally, down the one of Mexico's worst back roads.   We came across a local on a bicycle who flagged us down and told us we should turn back because the road was flooded ahead.  He said it went all the way up to his ankle (oh the horror!).  Laughing, and comfortable in our SUV, we continued, laughing at the guy on the bike as we splashed through puddles which we mistakenly thought he was referring to.  Then it appeared in the distance....

That looks a lot like a flood in the distance.....

 Well crap.  We watched a local cross this flood on a bicycle, and thought maybe the SUV could manage...we made it about to that island before we realized it was way too deep, backed out and headed back, ashamed and defeated.  This was about 20 miles into the terrible road, and we are pretty sure that the highway to Celestun was just on the other side of this flood.  Curses!

On the way back we saw one of these massive birds.  It was at least as big as the car.  We didn't get a picture because we were all in shock.  It landed about 10 feet from the car, poked around in the swamp for a minute, then flew away.  Further research determined that this was a rare Jaribu Stork (not a goose, as an "expert" tried to tell us later).  They are rarely viewed on that side of the Yucatan, so at least we got to see a weird bird, right?

After our defeat, we returned to B's house to regroup, when the tail ends of Tropical Storm Lee hit Merida.  It was only about 40 minutes worth of storm, but it was enough to flood some streets, knock out power, rip off some branches and scare away the flamingos, as we would learn the next day.  We were all just happy not to be on "that road" when the storm hit.


It's Labor Day Weekend!  The first long weekend since 4th of July, and boy are we ready for a vacation.  We were going to go home to Washington to celebrate Eric's mom's birthday with family, but the tickets ended up being ridiculously expensive (since it was Labor Day weekend, of course), so we decided to unwind domestically.  My friend B lives out in Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula, so after a quick plane ride, we arrived at sea level, where the air was thick and hot, and where the Mayans thrived.  We got up Saturday morning and headed out for our first adventure, Uxmal, royal city of the Mayans!

Oh how exciting, I cannot wait!

This topiary is an example of what we will see later.

Ta-da!  As the topiary predicted, there was a huge pyramid that we could not climb.

Here it is from the side.  It looks so steep!

Uxmal was super interesting mainly because of all of the intricate carvings everywhere.  Hardly any surface was just left blank, unlike other Mayan sites.  The trunks here are apparently asking the rain god Chaac for more rain.

Here's a view of the courtyard.  It is rainy season all over southern Mexico right now, so everything is green and lush.  B says that the site is very brown and dried up when it is not rainy season.  I think these colors are very dramatic!

I wonder if the Mayans had a word for cheese...

More buildings on the courtyard...

Even more buildings...this truly was a massive city.  FYI, it is super hot and stinky inside those little doors.  I would not want to live in there.

Close up of some carvings.  Look out, it's Kukulkan, aka Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent!

Staying hydrated and looking awesome all at once.

This picture is incredible for a reason you may not realize.  Here we have a guy using a real lawn mower.  !!!  He is not using scissors or a weed-whacker or anything weird and labor-intensive such as that.   He is actually pushing a lawn mower.  It's a miracle.

Requisite ball court of doom.  I could make a picture book of all the ball courts we've photographed in Mexico.

One of the spectators waiting for the ball game to start.  There were hundreds of lizards here, you could hear them in the grass and you had to watch out for them (and their droppings) underfoot.

 As the uber-helpful sign indicates, this is the Governor's Palace.  It had pretty awesome carvings too.

This is the Jaguar Throne that the king would sit on and rule.  (Don't you dare think about sitting on it now and pretending to be king.  NOT ALLOWED!)  We all decided it seemed more like a punishment chair, though.  It was probably nearing 100 degrees, and the king had to sit there?  In the blazing sun?  No thanks!

They even had little monuments to Chaac underground. Que interesante!

 Here's a view of part of the ruined city, including a pretty clear outline of the ball court on the left.

The view out into the jungle.  It's so fun to think about what remains to be found out there...

Here's another temple, this time climbing was allowed.

From the top you could see another temple poking out of the jungle.  Let's get some machetes and explore!!

Close up of the intricate carvings at the top of the temple.  It is so detailed and amazing!

View from the top!

 These stairs were crazy steep, as you can see.
That's me, the purple dot in the middle, slowly but surely (and safely!) making my way back to earth.

Here is an in tact Mayan roof comb.  B tells us that the light does weird things here during the solstice, casting down shadows of a serpent.

Ruins in the jungle.

On our way out, we met this well camouflaged friend.  So fancy!

After Uxmal, we set out for Celestun to see flamingos.  More on that in the next post...