Mexico: Two of My Favourite Places.
Some views of unique placesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cuernavaca and La Paz...Unforgetable
Mexico: Sunshine and good living
From the interest in some of the hub articles I have written on the country, as well as the modest sales of my book on my years as a journalist there, it is obvious more people from the UK are looking towards the Americas - and Mexico in particular - as an alternative to more traditional places in which to take a holiday or even retire.
This writer lived and worked in Mexico for some 15 years and has traveled all over the vast Republic, so feels somewhat equipped to offer advice as to the places to visit or even live.
Mexico is well known to many North Americans who have been visiting for years or living “south of the border” in contented retirement. However, apart from Cancun and environs, Mexico is little known to most Brits., which is a shame because this area, although very lovely and worth-while for sun seekers, is hardly representative of the “real” Mexico. It’s real value, of course, is its comparative nearness to Europe and ease of getting there, plus the many package holidays available in Quintana Roo (Cancun) and nearby Yucatan.
The best way to get to more northern and western destinations in Mexico is either to fly directly to Benito Juarez International airport in Mexico City, (now excellent and modernized), or to fly into the United States and get a connection south from there. An excellent alternative is to take Air Canada’s pleasant and economical flights to Toronto, (their hub), Quebec or Montreal, and connect on to several Mexican destinations, principally Mexico City, which is situated more or less in the middle of the country and the ideal stopping off place to continue to all points: (excellent local service with Mexicana or Aeromexico). Both beleaguered British Airways and Dutch airline, KLM, fly London or Amsterdam direct to Mexico City, but they are no longer cheap, and the Air Canada option is almost 40% less (as of December, 2009).
There is a lot to do and see in and around Mexico City: wonderful restaurants, much less expensive than London; you can go to the world’s largest bullring, the Monumental; watch several local, top class soccer teams right in the city; visit the pyramids one hour north or just meander around this megatropolis of more than 25 million residents, seeing how these busy, friendly and happy people go about their lives.
Just south of Mexico is my first pick of a city to visit and, if you do what about 5,000 other Gringos do, live. This the place with the best climate in the world, according to many polls by people in the know (hubbers!). Cuernavaca, which means “cow’s horn,” has been a playground for the influential and wealthy of the nation’s capital, Mexico City, since the time of Moctezuma and the Aztecs more than 500 years ago. The Conquistador, Hernan Cortez, fell in love with the flower-filled pueblo about 1550 and built a handsome palace their for HIS retirement: unfortunately, he died of gastric problems in Spain before he could finally take up residence. So many are the local and foreign celebs, artists and film stars who have owned homes there, no one has bothered to put up plaques…just about any of the colonial homes has been owned by one or more notables in its history.
Yet Cuernavaca - where I also lived and worked for some years - has little snobbery about it. It’s residents are mainly lower income workers, many whom arrived after the 1985 earthquake which devastated the capital and sent millions seeking a safer life elsewhere - Cuernavaca just happened to be - at just about 80 miles distant from Mexico City- the easiest refuge to get to and so captivating a million stayed.
Cuernavaca has a rural feel about it; every day is sunny, apart from some brief and thrilling storms which have thunder crackling around the 18,000 foot volcanoes to the north of the state (Morelos). As it is at more than 3,000 feet in its valley, the climate is never sweltering - about 70 to 80 degrees F. ever day is the norm. There are lots of good reasonably priced hotels, some very luxurious. It is a great city for walking with a zocolo and plaza filled with life and bird song (well, the starling-like Grackle-cackle anyway!). You can get your shoes shined, have a coffee, visit the huge market about a mile away (taxis are cheap and plentiful all over Mexico). Sanborne’s café is a stroll away. Properties, for those who say “this is it!” are not cheap…probably about half what you would pay in the UK for something of equal value. The place is just lovely: bougainvilleas everywhere, large trees, stream-filled barrancas (canyons) and a colonial feel to the center. Well…you’ll just have to go and see this unique place yourself.
La Paz is the capital town of Baja California Sur, or south. It is situated about 800 mile from the United States border and about 100 miles from Los Cabos at the end of the Peninsula. La Paz avoids the hedonistic tourist at Cabo San Lucas and also the high prices. It is a place for the traveler and resident rather than those bent on living it up with “high times” tourism: for that, keep on going south, the Cape area is where it’s at.
This town is enjoying - or suffering from, depending on your outlook, rapid growth and escalating prices. I haven’t been there since 2008, so I expect many changes on my visit later this year.
The town-like city, if you get the drift, is situated on a lovely bay and mainly faces west. As it is also on the east side of the Peninsula this confuses many people as they face the sunset each day which their minds tell them should be rising from that direction and setting behind them. They soon forget their muzzy orientation as the glorious sunsets blaze across the darkening sky.
La Paz is the home of a beautiful race (the girls!!!) of happy Mexicans who have fierce pride in their town and try to protect their natural heritage. This is the lovely quiet bay, hemmed-in by the sand island of Mogote; seven decent beaches to the south, (including Balandra, featured in pics, a world-class and little visited beauty spot). If you are curious about the sagacity and business acumen - not to mention sanity - of this correspondent, note that I once had permission to open a restaurant on Balandra and am now in Essex. Say no more, please! (son, Alex, if you are reading this, step up to the plate!).
La Paz has huge snorkeling and scuba appeal and plenty of boats at very reasonable hire cost. There is a sea lion colony on a nearby island and all sorts of marine creatures regularly stop by, including whale sharks and even the occasional Blue Whale. That Orca Gladiators (killer whales) are also around from time to time shouldn’t worry you.
Most of the game fishing is done further south at the Cape - it seems to much effort in laid-back La Paz to get up at 4 AM and go chasing all over the place to kill a bloody game fish. Yawn! No, let’s just get up, have a wander along the lovely Malecon (promenade) and settle for a spot of brekky in Carlos and Charlie‘s, or in the cafes in the Callejon (alleyway by La Perla hotel) Say hi to Rainbow Hawke, the bearded artist with the sun hat on who will be in his “office” (café furthest from Malecon) by the time you get there. And shed a tear for this poor fool listening to aircraft taking off from Stansted and dreaming of Balandra!