Coffee in Guatemala

I’m writing this in the early morning from a sweet little coffee shop near my flat – Bella Vista Coffee. I love a place that opens early and this place opens at 6:00 every morning except Sunday (7:00). Sweet.

Bella Vista Coffee, Plaza Diez, Guatemala City

It’s very modern and they’re playing classic tunes from The Police.

Okay… 🙂

The barista is a sweet young thing. She gave me a pretty nice smile, but then, I suppose she’s paid to treat customers well.  She’s one of those people who speaks by barely opening their mouths. The Guatemalan accent throws me just a little. I’ve never heard it before. This girl spoke so fast with an almost closed mouth and with a slightly different accent – I struggled to catch everything she was saying. I need more practice with the local Spanish dialect.

Bella Vista Coffee; clean, modern, free wifi, not busy. This is my kind’a coffee shop.

I wanted to try some local café cuisine. I didn’t recognize anything on the menu, so I just chose something at random; “muffin huevo”.  They brought it to me a few minutes later.

Muffin Huevo. Not really my style, but it’s fun to try something different.

Gotta say – Guatemalan coffee is excellent – of course 😉

Guatemala

Well, I made it 🙂

Zona 10, Guatemala City, Guatemala

Guatemala City is nice! I like it here. So green! I guess that’s expected since this area is basically all jungle.

As you may have read in my last post, my travel day didn’t go quite as scheduled. I had decided early on that it would be fun to walk from the Guatemala City Airport into the city itself to my flat. On the map, it looked like a fine idea 😉

Here I am just as I was walking away from the Guatemala City Airport. It had just rained.

Despite all the warnings I’ve read, it wasn’t dangerous at all. It was perfectly safe. A rainstorm had just drenched the city, but it was done by the time I walked out of the airport. Everything didn’t go as planned. Because my day had been upended a bit, I had forgotten to download a map of the city. I was walking blindly with only a general idea of where I was headed. I asked a lot of locals along the way for directions, but nobody seemed to know where my street or my building was (Avenida Novena and Edificio Aria). Sheesh. I could picture a map of the area in my head, but my memory wasn’t detailed enough. I walked all over the place and almost gave up. If I had to, I was going to grab a taxi. My feet were getting very tired. The problem with getting a taxi was that I only had Mexican pesos and U.S. dollars in my pockets, I didn’t have any Quetzals, which are the national currency. Would a taxi take dollars? I dunno. I doubt it.

Sexta Avenida, Guatemala City, Guatemala

Yes, I could have found an ATM, but the other thing my hectic travel day had interrupted was my planned notification to my credit card companies and my bank that I would be in Central America. Oops. I was afraid to use a credit card or a debit card for fear one of them might be declined, resulting in problems. Hmmm. No money, no map, no local phone card and lost. Damn!

I was getting very tired. I checked my iPhone and it said I had walked over 16 kilometers 🙁

I decided to give it one more try and I struck out in another direction.

Gold.

Zona 10, Guatemala City, Guatemala

After zigzagging around a few more city blocks, I eventually found my apartment building. Sweet!!! I was dead tired. Remember, I had gotten up at 3:30 and my sleep had been rudely interrupted. I was sleep deprived and hungry. I needed a shower and a bed.

The view from my penthouse, Edificio Aria

My penthouse condo is awesome! It’s tricked out with wood paneling everywhere and it’s super-modern. The views of the neighborhood are excellent and I’m writing this from my balcony outside. Today I had lots of coffee and great food. Life is good again 🙂

Puebla to Mexico City to Guatemala City

Today I’m traveling to Guatemala City after two months in Puebla. The day was more challenging than I expected. For starters, I checked a few internet sources and they all said the distance from my flat in Puebla to the center of Mexico City was a matter of 2+15 hours in a car. I figured with traffic, maybe three hours. 

Wrong.

Everything I need to live abroad is inside my small backpack 🙂

Just in case there were delays, I pre-ordered my Uber the day before and scheduled a 4:00 a.m. pickup. That meant I had to prepack my backpack and get up no later than 3:30 in the morning. I went to bed early.

Shortly after dozing off, I was awakened by my bedroom light. There were two people standing in my room.

What the hell???

Driving in Mexico City. Is this a street or a lake?

It was the husband and wife team who are owners of my Airbnb rental. They were curious why I was still in the flat. I gotta tell ya, it’s not easy engaging my Spanish from a cold stop dead sleep into having a conversation I’ve never practiced and never expected to have.

I said (in Spanish, of course), “Uh, I have the flat until 31 October” (they woke me up on the evening of the 30th). They were doubtful. I insisted, yes, it was mine until then. After they figured out their error they offered profuse apologies. What a ridiculous situation. I was extremely irritated. You just don’t do something like that. But I stayed calm, which was made easier since I was still trying to wake up.

They promptly left the flat, red-faced. I went back to sleep and woke up at 3:30.

My brave driver picking his way through the morass.

I’m super-happy I left Puebla at 4:00 a.m. The drive was 5+30 hours long! I expected the traffic into Mexico City to be bad, but this was unbelievable! It was a mess! It hadn’t rained in Puebla the night before, but it had rained in Mexico City. The streets were completely flooded everywhere. It was controlled pandemonium.

In case you aren’t aware, Mexico City is located in the bowl of a valley that’s surrounded by mountains. The water from rainstorms has nowhere to go. It has to evaporate. So, if it rains hard, the valley turns into a shallow lake. A nasty, polluted, shallow lake.

My flight wasn’t until 1:00 p.m., so I wasn’t stressed about time, but my arse was very tired after being sat upon for far too long. I finally got out of the Uber and stretched my legs near the Ángel de la Independencia in downtown Mexico City, then I took a taxi to the airport.

Ángel de la Independencia in downtown Mexico City

My friends Raminta and Dennis will probably remember hanging out with me near the Ángel de la Independencia. This is probably the fourth time I’ve been in Mexico City? Yeah, that’s it. Four visits there. Great town to visit. Love it there.

Once I was at the airport, everything was a breeze. I stopped by a Starbucks, got a latte and sat down to enjoy it. Then I found a sweet little restaurant in the terminal, “Sala 21”, complete with electrical outlets. Very nice.

The Mexico City airport has been remodeled since the last time I was here about 10 years ago. I couldn’t tell it was the same airport.

The Average Nomad and the Ángel de la Independencia in downtown Mexico City

I had pictured the flight to Guatemala to be on a small, old, cramped airplane since it’s such a short flight on a route between poor countries. It was surprisingly modern with a fair amount of leg room. Either way, no matter. The flight was less than two hours long. Two hours goes by quickly.

And, here we are in the 78th nation I’ve visited – Guatemala. Nice. Did you know if you visit 100 nations, you can join the Century Club?

I hope my Airbnb is as nice as advertized. It’s a penthouse and comes with rave reviews. If everything goes to plan, eight days after landing in Guatemala I’ll be arriving in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. Fun, fun, fun 🙂

From México to Guatemala

In just a few days, 31 October to be exact, I’ll be in Guatemala. This should be very interesting. It’s my first time to Central America. Eight days after arriving in Guatemala I’ll be on a bus to San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. After that, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Ooh la la 😉

Guatemala City (not my photo – I haven’t been there yet 😉

I’m reading a lot about safety in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Man! The warnings about crime in these cities is a little daunting. But, what the hell. I’ve been to three war zones already. What’s the worst that could happen?

Right? 🙂

San Salvador (not my photo either 😉

Cholula is chill (and some comments about racism)

Normally I get up at 5:15 in the morning, get out of the house by 5:30 and do at least 1+30 of walking/running. Yesterday I decided to walk from the city of Puebla to the city of Cholula. It took me about two hours to get to the Cholula Starbucks and I was ready to sit down and have a coffee break.

Nuestra Señora de los Remedios overlooking Cholula

Cholula is a beautiful city. The population is a little over 100,000 and it’s much more relaxed than the big city of Puebla. There’s much less auto traffic, the parks are large and the people have a chill demeanor.

Zócalo de San Andrés Cholula

After resting and having my coffee I walked around the city. By day’s end my iPhone told me I’d clocked over 23,000 steps. Ouch.

Plaza de la Concordia, Cholula

I found a great little restaurant off one of the city plazas and I treated myself to pizza and three beers. Total cost: 250 pesos or about $12.50 USD. That seems very inexpensive to me.

Restaurant Ocho30, Cholula

After lunch my feet said they were tired of walking, so I ordered an Uber. The fare was only 80 pesos or about four bucks USD. So cheap. An Uber ride is a great way to practice Spanish. My driver told me he spent 15 years in Texas working in the oil fields. To me, that sounds like a hard way to make money. He said it was a little too long. He couldn’t wait to come back home. He’s like many of the Mexicans I meet here. Quite a few of them have visited and worked in the U.S., but they just want to make some money and go back home as soon as they can.

I gave Rodrigo, my driver, a 100 peso tip. He was a good guy and it was a good conversation. It got me to thinking about the U.S. and how mean spirited so many people there are about foreigners.

I don’t want to say never, but right now I can’t imagine living in a country where so many people support the racist, bigoted words and views of the current president. How can people support his hateful, malicious lies?

Trump attacked an Indiana-born federal judge. He said the judge could not be impartial because he was “Mexican”. This federal judge is not Mexican. He’s an American. Trump is a racist based on the words that come out of his own mouth.

Trump said about immigrants to the U.S., “These aren’t people. These are animals.”

Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Currently, a group of people are marching north to claim asylum in the United States. Trump made a wild claim that there were “Middle Easterners” in the group. Later he admitted he had no proof of this. Why did he make this claim? Because he wants to stoke fear and racist attitudes in the U.S. What difference would it make if there were “Middle Easterners” in the group? What difference would it make if there were Asians, Africans or Canadians in the group? Why mention “Middle Easterners” at all? Because he’s a bigot and he wants to play on the fears of small-minded U.S. citizens.

Donald Trump called for, “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. How much more blatantly bigoted can a person be?

If you support this bigot, how can you live with yourself? How can you look yourself in the mirror knowing you support bigotry and racism? How can you face your family? How can you expect me to live in the United States?

The United States has changed into something I do not recognize.

 

New crib in Puebla, Mexico

I took a chance and rented an Airbnb for a month. It came with a 40% discount  since I was willing to stay for 30 days. Nearly half-off is a compelling argument. The place is great. I’m within a 10-minute walk to two posh shopping malls, tons of fancy restaurants and a number of parks with walking/running trails. This is great. Price? $1,300 USD. I think it’s a steal.

Popo Volcano blowing off some steam

This place even has a gym! It feels so good to warm the old muscles up again. I do miss being in a penthouse. I’ll have to search closely for one wherever I end up going to next.

Angelópolis, Puebla

In my current building I bring the door guys cookies every 3-4 days. They seem to like that. I don’t know what a security guard makes in Mexico, but I’m thinking it ain’t much.

Near Parque del Arte, Puebla

I even have my choice of four Starbucks locations. Not too shabby!

My current flat is inside the red rectangle. Two volcanoes in the background.

My rental here ends on 31 October. Where to next? Mexico City? Guatemala City? Havana? I’m not sure yet. I need to think it over.

Puebla

I’ve decided to stay in Puebla until the end of October – I think.

Loosely translates as, “coming soon”.

Then, I might just head on south to Guatemala or Belize.

The ferris wheel in this photo is named, “La Estrella de Puebla”.

The life here is good. Perfect weather. Excellent food and coffee.

The stage being set up for the weekend party downtown.

I was living in a penthouse overlooking the city. It was good, but I wanted to move around.

I chose a hotel in the heart of downtown; near the Zócalo.

The block around the city center known as the, “Zócalo” is packed with excellent restaurants.

Once I checked into the hotel in the heart of downtown I discovered, 1) it had no wifi 2) it was being remodeled and you could hear hammering and electric saws all day, and 3) the only reason I chose the hotel was for the gym and it was off limits due to remodeling as well.

I moved out after one night.

Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Puebla, México
The view from the hotel where I only spent one night. Hustle and bustle!
I was surprised to see this downtown. I remember thinking I hoped nobody was hurt. Ten minutes later ambulances, police and even the military showed up. It was a staged practice drill 🙂

Instead, I moved into a place that couldn’t be more different. Now I’m very far from the city center – well into the suburbs in a gated community. I didn’t realize it was in a gated community when I rented it online, but…okay. It’s not my style either, really. I rented this place for the gym. Turns out the “gym” is a tiny room with two treadmills.

Great.

Part of the gated community, “Las Lomas de Puebla”. Posh streets and posh restaurants. Very nice, but not really my style.

No big deal. I’m only here for 11 nights.

The area is nice tho’.

 

 

 

Not too hot and not too cold

Look at the average high temps for the year in Puebla. Only two months, April and May, break 80°F and then they only barely do that.

It never gets hot. It never gets cold. Amazing. Just amazing.

The main drag where you have super-wide sidewalks and dozens of first-class restaurants.  I wonder if these guys were angry I took their photo 🙂 Avenida Juárez, Puebla, México.

What’s that noise, Puebla?

Like I said in my last post, my condo rental in Puebla was awesome. The first two nights it seemed perfect and it was only half a block from the main strip with brand-new, super-wide sidewalks and dozens of first-class restaurants. I decided to extend for an additional two weeks.

I almost got run over by a train. I need to watch where I’m going.

But, its perfection was deceiving. The first two nights were, importantly, Monday and Tuesday nights. On the third night I noticed some loud disco music around 8 p.m. I figured a neighbor must be having a party. It wasn’t too loud.

I almost got run over by a tank. I need to watch where I’m going.

Then it got louder and louder as the night progressed. By 11:00 I could feel it in the walls. Then it got even louder. What the hell??? I went to speak with the doorman. Apparently some restaurants in Mexico really like to blast the music until 3 or 4 in the morning. On weekends the door guy says they really crank it up. That was a long night without sleep 🙁

I moved to a new place to avoid the noise. The view here is much nicer.

I got online with Airbnb and started looking for something else. I got lucky. I found a place four blocks off the end of the major strip, it’s a penthouse (meaning it’s on the top floor), it’s in a seven-storey building) and it’s a little cheaper. Sweet 🙂

Panoramic view from my dining room

To my surprise, Puebla has elevated pedestrian/bike trails. One day I took a 40-minute walk to a big mall. I love avoiding cars any chance I get. Cars are evil.

Here I’m on the elevated pedestrian/bicycle path and you can see more of it behind me. Up here you’re waaay above it all.

I’m liking Puebla. It’s overall very chill. My penthouse rental is super-quiet and I have fantastic views. There’s an organic food store across the street. A few gyms close by and I think I spotted a likely language school. This is good 🙂

Shortly after taking this photo, a car drove past me, slowed down, turned around and parked. I kept walking. Two German Jehovah’s Witnesses got out of the car and chased me down. I did not live up to their expectations 😉

 

Land of volcanos and earthquakes; Puebla, México

The bus trip from Cuernavaca to Puebla took about three hours. I bought two tickets so I could spread out and relax. It was a fast and relaxing ride.

My last day in Cuernavaca. Can you spot the misspelled word in the photo? Parque Alameda, Cuernavaca.

I made sure to book seats on the left side of the bus because I had a feeling we’d have some great views of Popocatépetl Volcano from the highway – and we did!  What a beautiful volcano. I might take a trip to see her up close while I’m here.

It’s good to have lots of coins on you. Every day includes someone begging for spare change.

The area I’m staying in Puebla is sweet! Super-wide sidewalks, relaxed atmosphere, a Starbucks 15 paces from my flat and about a dozen first class restaurants along the main boulevard. I love this. I might have to extend my planned two-week stay here.

The view from my bus. Popocatépetl Volcano is sublime. Colloquially known simply as, “Popo”, she’s been in an active eruption cycle since 2004. Popocatépetl is a Nahuatl word meaning, “Smoking Mountain”.

The condo I’m renting is fantastic. It’s new, all the furniture is new, the finishes are new, I’ve got two bedrooms, a gym and a 24-hour receptionist at the door leading into the building.

Rolling into Puebla on the Línea Oro bus.