Snate's Six-Month Sojourn travel blog

Sam chillin' in Cafe Brasilio

The mountains over the Gran Plaza in Monterrey

The palace on the Gran Plaza

Fuente de la Vida

Old church in new Monterrey

Monterrey was a really cool city, though if we had to pre-judge the city by the trip there, it would have been a bubbling cesspool. The two hour trip to Ciudad Valles from Xilitla was actually pretty damn relaxing and easy. However, some of the really swass bus lines didn't run between Ciudad Valles and Monterrey, so we ended up taking a somewhat ghetto bus for the eight hour overnight trip. Sam's seat was downright broken, so if she put any weight on it, it fell backwards into a reclining position. They showed Spiderman 2 again, so both of us decided we'd sleep, rendering the dysfunctioning seat issue moot. However, a few minutes later, the people in front of us lowered their seats, and these seats literally came all the way to our laps. Literally. We were pinned under these seats for the duration of the night, neither of us being even slightly subtle when we shifted position. This repetetive kicking and shifting didn't even phase the polite couple in front of us - they never once lifted there seat up a little bit, resulting in some very stiff legs when we arrived in Monterrey at 5:30 on Tuesday morning.

We had called ahead for a room from Xilitla, and once again we stationed ourselves really close to the bus terminal for convenience and cost. The area around the bus station in Monterrey was a little seedier than the bus station area in Tampico, though. There were several gentleman's clubs announcing their needs for bailantes and when we came back in the evening, there were some interesting folks strolling about. However, it was perfect the morning we arrived because we simply walked over, they let us check in VERY early and we went to sleep for several hours.

When we finally got up, we walked down to the Gran Plaza, which is a gigantic plaza in the center of the city with statues, fountains, churches, government buildings and the whole shabang. On the east side of the Gran Plaza is the Barrio Antiguo (the old neighborhood) and to the west is the Zona Rosa, the crappy area of shopping centers and malls. We ended up spending quite a bit of the afternoon in a cafe in the Barrio Antiguo and wandering around a bit. This area was a lot like San Cristobal with nice cobblestone streets and colorful buildings, really a cool place to spend some time. In the evening, we wandered a bit searching for a non-Mexican restaurant, having reached our fill of non-stop Mexican food. A bar owner in the Barrio Antiguo recommended a Greek restaurant around the corner, so we headed over there and had a DELICIOUS (expensive) Greek meal. Sam actually teared up a bit with emotion.

At this point in our trip, we were getting very ready to get out of Mexico. The north (Tampico, Xilitla, Monterrey) had a definite tough-guy feel to it, and we got very tired of trying to crack through the pissed off facades of the people we ran into. Up here, we had quite a bit of trouble getting any service in restaurants, and when we got service, it typically was with attitude. I'm 100% positive my Spanish wasn't perfect, but many times we had serious difficulties getting what we ordered in a restaurant (a problem we had almost never encountered further south and in Guatemala), which got a bit frustrating. I would blame it perhaps on a regional dialect if it weren't so sporadic. It really started to feel that people didn't want to take the time to deal with my broken Spanish, and this just got old. Perhaps a bit of this was weariness from being on public transit and in Guatemala and Mexico for three months, but either way, it was time to break out.

So, Wednesday morning we grabbed some breakfast, and then got on an early bus to Nuevo Laredo on the Mexican side of the US border. We were contemplating whether it made more sense to stay in Nuevo Laredo as we had originally planned or just cross the International Bridge immediately and hang out in Laredo, Texas for a night before journeying on to Austin. This quandary was exacerbated a bit when the asshole cab driver quoted us ten dollars to get from the bus station to downtown (border town, what do you expect). We said this was ridiculous, walked inside the bus terminal and chatted with some of the workers there who pointed us to a bus that would take us downtown for 90 cents. Hell of a lot better deal. On the bus, we contemplated for a bit and realized that it would probably be far more irritating to walk to the bridge with our backpacks midday, unsure where it was exactly, then try to find a hotel (hopefully) on the other side of the bridge in a city that we knew nothing about. At least we had a book that listed a couple of hotels in Nuevo Laredo. So, in the end we decided to stay . . . and this short adventure is covered in the next posting.


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