|Xalapa was a short three hour jaunt from Puebla which really felt like cake after some of the bus rides we've had as of late. Like Puebla, the bus station is five to ten kilometers from the town center, so we had to catch a cab. This is such an agreeable experience here (since I often find catching cabs in cities I don't know to be incredibly annoying): they have a booth outside of the bus station that says "Taxis Controlados" where one says where one wants to go, pays and receives a ticket to hand to the driver. This removes that feeling of having NO CLUE how much a trip from one area of a city to another should cost. Any which way, Hotel Limon is pretty damn nice, and has a wonderful open area with a table and a couple of rocking chairs for hanging out.
When we arrived on Friday, we immediately headed to a restaurant called La Fonda which is tucked back in this alley called Callejon de las Diamantes, which is named after a man who killed his wife after he was alerted to her infidelities by a darkened (magical) diamond that he had given her. This added some serious ambience to the meal: Sam had chicken and mole (hmmmm) and I sampled the cactus and egg soup, which was awesome! Other than that, we spent the rest of the day wandering and exploring the city, doing a posting and reading in our hotel.
We are both still in a fairly anti-city mood, which can make us a bit hostile in our way of going about the city. People don't tend to move out of the way when walking toward you on the skinny sidewalks in Xalapa, but it appears that if you don't waver your course and just crash into people a bit, people start to step aside. Maybe it's a crazy glint in the eye. Don't know. Anyhow, to alleve a bit of this anxiety, Sam and I caught a bus to the Parque Ecological Matuilcapetl on the north side of town to hike around on the nature trails a bit (bus driver: "I don't understand what you mean by Parque Matuilcapetl . . . there's a Matuilcapetl Hill") This course of action actually turned out to be fantastic - there are four kilometers of trails that climb to the top of this hill where you can see the whole city and the mountains beyond. Also, at the top there was a group of predatory birds on display, and we got to watch them get fed and exercised.
Last night was another example of city-angst. We decided that we didn't want to walk around much, due to the Red Cross benefit concert going on outside of our window, and felt much more eager to drink some wine and read in our hotel. So, I headed out for some wine and to make a couple of phone calls. The phone calls were impossible because I didn't have the correct prefix for the calls and it was amazingly noisy outside anyway. I bought some wine and asked the clerk at the store if he had a corkscrew. No, why don't you try the store up the road. The store up the road said no, why don't you try the store across the street. The store across the street was three stories of crap, but no, they didn't have a corkscrew, only one store up the road would have one, but it's closed. I returned to my hotel determined to either break the neck of the friggin bottle or push the cork down through the neck. I think the young guy at the front desk saw the telltale glint in my eye, and he and I proceeded to unscrew multiple screws from the hotel's front desk, screw them into the cork and pull the cork out with pliers. I offered him a glass of wine, but he declined.
So, Sam and I are trying to make our way to an area of the Gulf Coast called the Emerald Coast that is supposed to be exceptionally beautiful. This knowledge has been obtained primarily from hearsay, since we've found nothing in our book or on the web, only heard some things from different people we've chatted with in Xalapa. Our plans last night were to head to the coast and take our chances with finding a place to stay, even though right now is Semana Santa in Mexico, a crazy time of year where everyone has two weeks off. Fortunately this morning, we had our first break. I tried five phone numbers that I found on the Internet in some incredibly poor Internet listing of hotels on the Emerald Coast. I was really surprised that the numbers were actually current. Each hotel I called said that they had no rooms available tonight, but one hotel clerk added "But we have space tomorrow". So I asked her a few questions like what was the cost, where were they located and how in the Sam-hell do you get there. She gave me a few pointers and said she would hold the room until 3:00 tomorrow. I then stopped by a place called Ticket Bus (pronounced teekayt boos) to talk about how one would get to mile marker 81 on the coastal highway. The guy at Ticket Bus was AWESOME and helped me figure out the best way to get there: apparently there is a first class bus that cruises up the highway and stops at ONE hotel along the way. We can walk from there. I chatted with Sam and we both decided to stay in Xalapa for another day for a little more security in our landing point tomorrow.
So today became a very relaxing, chilled out kind of day. We walked to the Museum of Anthropology, which houses tons of artifacts from the sites around the state of Veracruz (of which Xalapa is the capital), including some ten giant Olmec heads, which were very cool to see (check the pictures). Afterward, we grabbed some food at a crazy-no-menu-having place along the walk and then went to see Finding Neverland, or Descubriendo el Pais de Nunca Jamas, at a local theater. The most notable part of this experience, aside from the fact that this was the first good movie we have seen in months, was the fact that when the previous movie (Hitch) ended, no one in the theater got up and left, they just stayed on and watched the second movie. The movie cost 13 pesos (about a buck thirty), and there was no one checking the tickets of the people that stayed in their seats. Pretty strange.
Okay, this is getting long, and we have some wine to finish. Tomorrow we head to the Emerald Coast, so who really knows if there will be newfangled Internet connections out there. May be a couple of days before we write again . . . talk to you soon!