A Flat Bottomed Boat Fiesta in Xochimilco

Have you been to Xochimilco? So sings the Mexican pop band Mariaxibit. The song, Boyfriend from Mexico, is silly and cheeky. I “discovered” this particular song when someone who wanted to be my boyfriend (from Mexico). Unfortunately – well, I guess it depends how you look at it – I did not want the boyfriend from Mexico. But… I did learn how to properly pronounce the party that is this series of canals and wonderful, colorful, flat bottomed boats in the southern part of Mexico City.

A long standing CDMX bucket list location for me, upon my first full day in CDMX I set out to experience these canals and spend part of a day in Xochimilco once and for all. 

Xochimilco is affectionately called the “Venice” of Mexico City. You might also hear people talk about the “floating gardens” of Mexico City and they are referring to here. While two’s company, three’s a crowd, and anything more is a fiesta or a brawl, my solo venture was a party of one. And that was mightily alright by me.

xochimilco

And party!

Yes, Xochimilco is one heck of an awesome party.

Yes, it is a monstrous tourist trap. But!! A visit in Mexico City would be incomplete without at least one ride on these boats drinking beer, eating street food, and partying to music by mariachis. In fact, I have it on authority that locals – chilangos – even venture here on weekends to unwind. Go prepared, and you can avoid paying an arm and a leg for the experience.

There are several boat operators who will be vying for your business. Most boats can be rented for around 350 – 450 pesos per hour. This is by boat. The more people in your party, the lesser cost per person.

xochimilco

I negotiated down to 150 pesos for an hour long ride in the canals. Now, that is quite low – ridiculously low and truth be told I don’t know how I pulled off that negotiation! The afternoon threatened rain and the canals weren’t very busy. In fact, the sky did open up almost immediately upon me getting back on land. I totally pulled a pansy move and rang an Uber, and trust me when I tell you the metro is mich cheaper and faster. Traffic doesn’t move quickly in Mexico City. And rush hour in CDMX makes LA’s 405 look like an efficient traffic movement system. At least I had quite the captive intercambio partner to practice my Spanish with for the nearly two hours it took to drive to my apartment in Condesa! 

But back to the cost of the boats…. Generally, if you can get a boat around 350 pesos per hour, you have a good deal. You may be able to negotiate the hourly rate down more if you plan to be on the boat for a longer time.
When you rent the boat, that is what you are getting. The boat. You can bring a pre-packed picnic of food and beverages (don’t forget the beer or wine, y’all) and you can purchase at Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas before boarding your boat. You can purchase from vendors on the canals on boats but it’s more expensive and limited to sodas, cervezas, and elotes.

xochimilco

Once you are on your boat, it is all about the canals and collective celebrations! Mariachi bands float by on passing boats and you can hire them to come onto your boat and perform for you. I say do it! You can also bring your own speakers, or find some to rent in the stalls along the waterfront. Then, chill out and wave and call out to the other boats passing by.

I had far too much enjoyment playing with my selfie stick and dabbling in the water in between calling back and forth with the different mariachi bands and boats. I still hadn’t quite become accustomed to people taking pictures of me. That continues to be an awkward experience. They definitely aren’t taking pictures of my spectacular street fashion. I’m not ending up in any fashion blogs anytime soon unless as a “don’t.” 

Xochimilco

There are shops and greenhouses along the canals as well as a replica of the famous doll island, Isla de las Muñecas. The real island is several hours away, but the replica is a few minutes from the boat launches. You can request the driver of the boat to stop while you explore and shop.

Getting to Xochimilco

xochimilco

Mexico City is huge and traveling by car can take forever. You can get to Xochimilco very easily by metro, though! Wherever you get on, take the train to Tasqueña which is, literally, the end of the line. You then take a second train by following the signs to Tren Ligero which drops you off directly in Xochimilco.

When I went, Tren Ligero was under construction but there’s an easy fix. From the stop at Tasqueña, take a shuttle bus (bonus – it’s free) to Azteca Stadium. From there you can get back on a train to Xochimilco.

Now, from the station you can walk or grab a quick cab. It’s important you specify you want to be taken to Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas. This is important! Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas is the main launch area and parking lot. Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas has loads of food stands from where you can purchase food to bring into your boat. Ignore the signs suggesting other entrance points. Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas is where you need to get your party started!

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Okay, guapas, tell me… have you ever been to Xochimilco? XO, Jennifer

 

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My Favorite Coffee Shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

I found my favorite coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas. Two things for which San Cristobal de las Casas is known: alpine chill in the air and out of this world good coffee. San Cristobal de las Casas is the heart of Mexico’s coffee industry.

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

For real, I thought the local coffee in Oaxaca was delicious. Chiapas has best coffee on lock! Cold nights lead to chilly mornings that warm into exquisite days… It’s like a perpetual mid-March/early-April even when not raining, which is another climate specialty of this sky high city. Both elements contribute to a perfect environment to drink hot coffee and chocolate to my heart’s content.

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

Whether a frequent tourista or a digital nomad, us wanderlust afflicted ladies know the value of wifi. One of my first searches upon finding a new city landing spot is where is the good wifi. And just as importantly, where is the good coffee?

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

If you have to sacrifice some of your vacation, or “vacation,” to work, it might as well be in a beautiful space with fast wifi, spectacular coffee, and a jamming play list. Frontera has all of this in spades…

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

While I call it my favorite coffee shop in San Cristobal, it is possibly my favorite. Coffee. Shop. Period.

Reclaimed wooden and glass doors function as tables. Linen upholstered wingback chairs frame a bookshelf stacked with board games and books. A Chippendale sofa upholstered in cobalt blue offers a perfect vantage point for people watching or reading up on the history of Zapatistas. Windows and skylights ensure the lighting is perfect for selfies. And working. Circa 1994 Counting Crows meets Bel Biv Devoe meets Cigarettes After Sex’s cover of Keep On Loving You. And the patio… … …

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

Oh, but the coffee, right? In addition to the tried and true espresso press, local artisan coffee can also be extracted by Chemex (my favorite), Aeropress, French Press, and Dripper. All of the coffee beans are from Chiapas, fair trade, and organic. And delicious! Holy roastery Batman. Amazing!

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

United Airlines is going to need to forcibly remove me from my seat. Frontera is the coffee shop of my dreams and for the time I have remaining in this magical little city, is hands down my favorite coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

I love to say the name of this city so much… San Cristobal de las Casas. You know, it wasn’t part of my original plan when I moved to Mexico. I’m so glad I cut into my Oaxaca time and came here. My regret is I only have one week.

The artistic and creative energy that this place emanates is crazy strong. If I were a better and more inspired writer, I think I could write a novel here. At least, I was able to finish my dissertation chair required edits here? Committee approval and defense, I’ve got you locked in my cross hairs. Finally!

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

What elements do you look for when seeking your coffee mother ship? XO, Jennifer

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My “Secret Garden” | Centro Cultural San Pablo Oaxaca

Have you ever stumbled onto – or into – a space and immediately inhaled in quiet glee and adoration of of whatever it is you find particularly beautiful? Such a moment occurred when I happened upon the Centro Cultural San Pablo (San Pablo Academic and Cultural Center) in the center of Oaxaca.

On a random Friday afternoon I found myself wandering through the Zocalo wondering how I wanted to spend the rest of my afternoon before my date with Mr. Tall Dark Haaaaaaandsome and Speaks Great English. I was floating high on the purchase of my new hat, which I still love.

I remembered the Textile Museum was close, so headed in that direction. Because I’m a get-lost-in-a-shoebox kind of gal, I wandered into the San Pablo Academic and Cultural Center by accident.

I allowed myself to be temporarily distracted by the herringbone bricks inlaid in the grass. By the succulents climbing a facade to make a wall of cacti. By the exquisitely curated art exhibit inside the center. And I haven’t even mentioned the cafe with the super fast wifi. Or the glass enclosed library which became one of my regular hot spots…. I know I mentioned the super fast wifi.

If you need a quiet space to focus and work with fast wifi, SP is definitely a space to consider.

Centro Cultural San Pablo Oaxaca

My selfie session was interrupted by a photography student who took some pictures of me. I like to think it’s because of my hat and not because he was horrified at the indignity of a selfie stick.

The interior exhibit of fine arts included a small collection of beautiful huipels. The skill and amount of dedicated patience that goes into the making of these gorgeous garments is beyond any I possess… of either.

Centro Cultural San Pablo Oaxaca

I walked through the photography exhibit documenting, through magnificent pictures, the relationship between the people of Oaxaca and chocolate. Chocolate is indigenous to the area and has been traded and consumed, even used as currency and in rituals since pre-Hispanic times. Heck, during my Temazcal I was instructed to pour chocolate on my body. Side note: THAT was an overwhelmingly outside my comfort zone experience!

Even though my Spanish is only good enough for me to read approximately one quarter to a third of what is written, the photographs were so dynamic I could understand the story and the importance.

Centro Cultural San Pablo Oaxaca

In the matter of a single functional space I found: two fine art exhibitions, a highly functional library, a restaurant, a cafe, an art space, a public performance forum (beautiful concerts by the week), a respite from the busy bustle of Ave. Indepencia, a creative work space, and a cafe with beautiful local coffee and many chairs for reading or gathering and talking with amigos. Look at their website or Facebook to see numerous workshops, concerts, and screenings they offer, definitely by the week and seemingly by the day.

Centro Cultural San Pablo Oaxaca

How have you encountered your “my little secret” spots, whether traveling or in your own home town?

Centro Cultural San Pablo:

Hidalgo 907, Centro Histórico
Oaxaca, Mexico

XO, Jennifer

Centro Cultural San Pablo Oaxaca

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A Wedding in Oaxaca | How to Crash a Calenda

Okay, no, I am not actually advocating crashing a wedding. But when the wedding, as with many celebrations in the state of Oaxaca becomes a community event, well, why not partake in the fun? If you’re in the area, consider yourself invited and welcomed to join in the celebratory wedding processional known as a calenda.

Oaxaca Wedding Party Calenda

My late lunch of guacamole and chardonnay was interrupted with the every present fireworks. Here, they love to blow things up. The occasion could be “it’s Thursday – let’s shoot off firecrackers… the dog had puppies – let’s shoot off firecrackers….” Well, do you get my drift? When they are directly overhead? Aiyee…. I jump like I’m ducking for cover.

Oaxaca Wedding Party Calenda

I’m getting to where I can now hear the whistle and anticipate the boom. But I still cringe and jolt like a manic pup on the Fourth of July.

Oaxaca Wedding Party Calenda

So…. when there is a celebration, such as a calenda – wedding parade – the firecrackers are in force!

From the interior courtyard patio perch where I was celebrating the successful language exchange of my new haircut and blowout with a glass of vino blanco, I could hear a band. I missed a calenda two weeks ago, and this time, I was not about to snooze and lose.    Oaxaca Wedding Party Calenda

Sure enough, as I approached Santo Domingo, I could see the float and the giant human-like paper mache puppets – monos de calenda – of a bride and groom. Bridal party and wedding guests were dancing along with colorfully costumed dancers and a brass band. Fireworks and fireworks galore!

Tourists gawked and anyone who had a camera suddenly was furiously shooting like it was 2004 and they just saw Brit-Brit and K-Fed. And this is the day I don’t have a camera with me. Of. Course. The wedding party fashioned into the order of the calenda and down the steps and onto the Alcala began the procession for the parade!

Women were dressed in traditional, brightly colorful skirts swirled and swayed with baskets of flowers on their heads. The bride and groom proceeded down the street surrounded by their family and friends. The parade would stop and there would be more dancing, then the procession would continue on down the Alcala.

Oaxaca Wedding Party Calenda

Musicians’ songs were punctuated by firecrackers whistling and exploding overhead. Mezcal bottles were passed around and everyone – old and young – danced. Bystanders joined in marching alongside and behind the band. Anyone not joining in the actual celebration was stretching and scrambling to take pictures and videos.

Oaxaca Wedding Party Calenda

Oaxacanos know how to throw a celebration. They can pull off crowded, colorful, loud, and proud without the slightest obnoxious or guise. If you happen to be lucky enough to come across a calenda, stop your agenda and partake in the pleasure of this celebration. 

Oaxaca Wedding Party Calenda

In Oaxaca, every day can be a cause to celebrate. The verve and enthusiasm for life embodied by Oaxacanos is extended in invitation to visitors. You’re only a stranger if you insist on being strange. Otherwise, bienvenidos a Oaxaca!

And congratulations Gloria and Gerardo!!

XO,

Jennifer

 

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The Travel Whispers Blogger Challenge

The Whisper Challenge is all the rage on late night TV (thank you, Universe, for Rebel Wilson) and appears to be the hottest new way to announce pregnancies. Some travel bloggers got together and we are having fun with each other – since there’s a lot of travel involved, headphones are kind of a moot point. Or mute point – whichever pun is less groanable to you…. A host of other travel bloggers and I are bringing you the Travel Whisper Challenge!

Thanks to the initiative and inspiration Stephanie Fox, who created these questions and rounded our motley crew together, we are sharing our travel stories and inspirations with each other. Check out the end of my post for links to some other bloggers (with less bad jokes, I promise), and spark your own 2017 travel plans! You can also find more across Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #TravelWhispers.

White Sands National Monument Dog Friendly

If you had to move to a country that you’ve NEVER been to, and live there for ten years, where would you go?

I’m going to double down on Chile. I never can choose whether I love mountains or the beach more, and this way I will retain access to both. I also love the desert. And wine! From the fashionistas in Santiago to the brightly colored buildings of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, I’ll be able to continue to indulge in many of my loves.

If you had to live in a hotel for the rest of your life, which hotel would you choose and why?

I’m going to make a hard right, here, and deviate from my love of the Americas. I’m going full on SATC fan girl and calling out Hôtel Plaza Athénée. Because… because it’s Paris, and because of all the Carrie Bradshaw moments, and because if I could live in Hôtel Plaza Athénée for the rest of my life, perhaps then I’d also be in the same alternate universe in which I have the wardrobe I still envy, after all this time. Always.

If you could only eat the cuisine of one nationality forever more, which would you choose?

Easy! Mexican food. It is so much more than enchiladas and tacos, although I love both of those, too. Study regional Mexican cuisines and you’ll be gob smacked at the variety and abundance of options. Holy mole!

Who has given you ‘holiday envy’ this year, and how?

One of my friends, who lives in Cusco, went to Salar de Uyuni in March this past year. She planned her visit during the rainy season so the entire salt flat had a gigantic mirror effect. When I saw her pictures, I just – wow, wow, wow!

If you had to look at the same sunrise or the same sunset every day, where in the world would you never get bored of seeing? Please don’t say sitting outside Cafe Mambo in Ibiza.

Ha! I’ll have to Google Café Mambo because I have no idea what that is. A sunrise and sunset I could watch over and again every day is in a corner of the Last Best Place AKA Montana. Specifically… southwestern Montana. Let’s just say, they don’t call Montana Big Sky Country for nothing! I know this is not a sunset, or a sunrise, but tell me you did not just say to yourself “double rainbow all the way around!”

Double Rainbow Big Sky Montana

If you were taking a ‘staycation’ in your home town, where would it be and what would you recommend others to do?

If I were staycationing in Phoenix, I’m waking up in a supremely sublime bead in the Montelucia and start my day with a hike up Camelback Mountain’s Cholla trailhead. But, I would not recommend that for someone who is not already very fit because the hike is strenuous so I’ll recommend the 32nd St and Lincoln trailhead (8A) for out of towners. It’s a great out and back trail that provides fantastic views of the city skyline. For lunch, I’ll head into the center of the city and grab a market fresh, locally sourced salad and mozzarella sandwich at Pane Bianco with a coffee from Lux Central next door. Lux Central is more or less my dissertation writing mother ship (or was before I moved away last month). Sticking with the Central vibe, I’d take advantage of my museum memberships and go to the Heard Museum for their latest exhibits and permanent collection of indigenous art. It never disappoints, even if you are paying your entrance fee; this museum is world class and I consider a Phoenix Must Do! Then, since it’s right next door, I’ll also flex my museum membership pass and go say “hi” to Phoenix Art Museum’s latest fashion exhibit, pause and give my respects to the Frida, and stand among Yayoi Kusama’s electric fireflies. Back at Montelucia the rest of the afternoon is lounging at the spa pool after a facial so good it took at least three years off my face. I’ll end the afternoon with a sunset happy hour at R Bar at Camelback Inn for live music, a great patio, an even better margarita, and a choice setting for a sunset. But not dinner. For dinner, we are obliterating all of those calories burned hiking by indulging in a Sonoran Hot Dog – yup – a hot dog stand. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it! And a late night cap poolside at Prado before heading upstairs for another Montelucia dream. Hmm… I might be feeling a wee bit homesick, now!

Hiking Camelback Mountain

Describe your perfect travel day of the year?

In July I packed Edie and an overnight bag in the Volvo and drove out to Salvation Mountain and Joshua Tree National Park. I knew my days were numbered in Phoenix and hadn’t yet visited either of those two sites. They were close enough they were always considered but just barely far enough away to be slightly inconvenient for a day trip. When I arrived at Salvation Mountain, it was 11:00 am and the sun was already blisteringly brutal. A monsoon flood created a two hour detour and delay so my 4:30 am departure plan to avoid the height of summer sun was foiled. Nonetheless, although my visit at Salvation Mountain was shorter than I wanted – it was so hot – I felt nothing but gratitude and happy overwhelm to finally be standing at the side of Leonard Knight’s testament to his love of God – and love of love. You do not need to be religious – in any way – to recognize that there is something incredibly beautiful and significant about Salvation Mountain. Edie and I went to Salton Sea where the little mongrel delighted in rolling in the mummified tilapia on the shoreline (dogs can be so gross, at times). The mercury kept rising and we kept rolling. I was delighted to come across a fresh fruit stand on the side of the road in Mecca, CA, and even more delighted my re-immersion into Spanish lessons enabled me to navigate the entire transaction en Español! After we drove through Joshua Tree (too hot for hiking plus it’s not very dog friendly – delicate eco system), I stopped at The End, a vintage shop in Yucca Valley I have been Instagram stalking for over a year – my only disappointment is I swore to myself no budget for buying – I could have spent hours and DOLLARS shopping there. Kime Buzzelli’s collection was that good! Not even the slightest nonplussed with my blathering fangirling, Kime let me know about and invited me to head up the road to Pioneertown for a large community chili cook off. Helloooooo, yes, ma’am, and thank you! Although I did feel terrible about dribbling the habanero chili on little Edie’s head…. Huge dog mama fail! The day ended with a late night patio and hotel in Palm Springs. Just my smelly mutt and me, and I wouldn’t have had that day. Any. Other. Way. Ok, I totally could have gone for the day to be about 30 degrees (F) cooler!

Salvation Mountain

What have you ticked off your bucket list in 2016?

Oh my gosh, where do I begin? There were so many! I didn’t get to defend it but I finally finished writing my dissertation (early 2017 is when I’ll get to my defense – finally). Big yay! I backpacked and camped in Havasupai. It was as incredible as I hoped it would be. I hiked to the top of Half Dome. Solo. I even packed a mini bottle of champagne to celebrate that summit. I finally left my job. I broke out of the golden handcuffs, sold or gave away most of my belongings, and am taking a year, perhaps a little bit more, off of work. I finally made it to the Big Easy and sat across from Jackson Square while drinking chicory coffee and munching on steaming hot beignets from Café du Monde. Also solo. It was a big year for changes!

Havasu Falls, Havasupai Grand Canyon

What is top of your travel bucket list for 2017?

I’m currently scoping out which apartments in Ciudad de Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido I want to rent for my long term stay in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. I finally intend to follow through on my goal to achieve fluency and full literacy in Spanish. No more bad grammar for me – and oh, btw, did I mention improving my surfing? Because I love it – well, both – and I am horribly unskilled at it – well, at both.

Joshua Tree National Park with Dogs

Share your favourite Instagram photo of 2016?

Instagram and I disagree on my favorite photo of 2016. This photo was the basis for my holiday card this year. I get it, my round rump and Edie in a cat sweater is unlikely to compete with yoga, a horse, and Costa Rica…. But this one – it is my favorite! It took me three passes through Tunnel View and Glacier Point and requests of strangers to make this photo for me. The third person was really game to help me capture the image I wanted. Because this year was full of so much change and because Edie is my littlest and best ride or die companion, I wanted to visually create how I felt about my excitement looking forward to 2017 and creating closure of 2016. If you must look back, may it be to remember love and friendship….

 

 

Rhiannon of Wales to Wherever is frigging hilarious! Check her out, particularly if you are an Anglophile like me and can’t get enough of that fabulous Brit Wit (they do it better).

Natalia of Go with Talia also has some amazing photographs and a really neat accomplishment from 2016 with her own 12 Trip Challenge. Talk about #TravelGoals….

Katie at Creative Travel Guide also shared with us some great nuggets and photographs so sharp and beautifully composed I may need to throw away my camera for good!

And if you’re looking for little bite sized nuggets to read at a time, Pete of A Thousand Flights will give you a rather fun and novel approach to his Whisper Challenge.

Check back soon for an updated list on other Travel Bloggers who have taken part! If you want to get involved join the Facebook group.

New Orleans dog friendly

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