Having returned to work back in London having had an awesome 2.5 weeks on the Pacific Coast in Puerto Escondido, I was massively suffering from holiday blues. So much so, that I realised that I needed to go back! Now, that might sound a bit dramatic as holiday blues are pretty normal, but I was in a stage of my life that something needed sprucing up and needed a new challenge, so I found a school and was offered a place to study Spanish starting in that September.
My next problem was, how was I going to tell my work ( I worked for local government at that point) that I wanted to take a sabbatical so soon having returned from holiday!? In actual fact, they were 100% supportive of it and allowed me to take 5 months and return to work thereafter. How amazing were they!
So, with a new challenge looming (of learning Spanish), I packed my bags for a 3rd time and hit Mexico.
My folks are no strangers to Heathrow airport and sending me off on my way these days!
I was full of so much excitement on the plane and could not wait to touch down in Distrito Federal as the City was previously known. It has now (2016) been rebranded as ´CDMX´ (Ciudad de México – City of Mexico).
When I arrived, I stayed at my cousins swanky bachelor pad in Polanco, which is what I would describe as the Mayfair of Mexico City. Full of expensive houses and flats, bars and restaurants and designer boutiques. It as a large Jewish population here too, as well as wealthy expats.
I had a week or so before my classes started at the Frida School in Condesa so I made the most of my free time by visiting Coyoacan (home of the famous artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo) for churros ( a churro is basically a long fried-dough pastry – similar to that of a donut), they can be plain, or filled with a number of different things such as lechera (condensed milk), cajeta – this is so popular here (its like dulce de leche but made with goats milk), fruit flavoured fillings, and so on. They are so good, but not for the waist line!
Also I visited a very dangerous part of the city called Iztapalapa (which I didn´t realise until after!) with a cousin to an enchilada festival. I died and went to food heaven! Just look at all the colours and deliciousness:
Once I had gotten the touristy stuff out of my system again, it was time to start the Spanish classes. I made the 1 hour walk to Condesa (and back), which is a hipster neighbourhood of overpriced rents, old houses converted to flats, art deco styled architecture, an abundance of cool and trendy bars and restaurants. In fact, it´s just like Shoreditch/Dalston in London!
La Condesa (which translates to ´The Countess´), is home to 2 lovely large green parks, Parque España and Parque Mexico, the latter is by far bigger. It seems that if you do not own a little (or a big) dog and you don´t dress it up in awful dresses or shoes, then you do not quite fit the bill for being a local (not really, but you see these dogs all over the place and in the park they even have dog hangouts/schools where they socialise with other furry four legged canine friends).
Little did I know that 1 month later, I would be residing in La Condesa having found a nice little flat share with 2 others. Even though it is over priced (that said, it is still cheaper than London) and can be a bit ´too hipster´, I loved it! There is so much to do and a great buzz about it.
I made many new friends (and connected with a lot of new family) and had a lot of fun whilst living in Mexico, so much so that I really wanted to find a way of staying here permanently. I was contacting companies and enquiring whether there would be any work opportunities. In hindsight, I did not try that hard as I had the comfort of knowing I had my job to go back to in London.
I was teaching a few school children who lived locally English and helping them with their homework or playing games with them, very easy money and mostly fun at times, but by no means was this going to be sufficient to allow me to survive. Even if I thought full time after school etc, it would be pretty poor money. So that idea was out of the equation.
During my time (just in case you have gotten lost in my Mexico adventures, the 3rd time :)), I visited parts of the city and the country that I had never been to. Some of the adventures included:
- Guanajuato: Guanajuato, the capital of Guanajuato state and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a charming colonial-era city situated in a picturesque valley surrounded by the Sierra de Guanajuato mountains. It has some beautiful colourful buildings amongst the quaint cobbled streets.
- San Miguel de Allende: As quoted by visitmexico.com, San Miguel Allende is a most original destination for romance. A unique colonial town with a vibrant multicultural artistic community.
- Tepoztlan: Mexico is home to a number of ´Pueblos Magicos´, of which Tepoztlan is one. Located in the state of Morelos, to the south of the city. To have experienced this spiritual place is not complete if you do not visit its market and its tianguis (outdoor markets), as well as making the climb up to the top of the Tepozteco hill. To be honest, I consider myself a fit person who exercises regularly, but. oh boy, did I struggle with this ascent! I blame it on the altitude.
- Tepotzotlan: Why you would name two towns virtually identical (see the name Tepoztlan above?!) which are almost impossible to remember for simple Brits like myself is beyond me. Plus they are located at different ends of the City. Anyway, Tepotzotlan is located in the north of the city in the State of Mexico and is another ´Pueblo Magico´. The name Tepotzotlán is of Nahuatl origin and means “among humpbacks,” referring to the shape of the hills that surround this area. Points of interest are the church, the tianguis, the aqueduct and the Parque Ecológico Xochitla (ecological park).
- Laguna de Manialtepec: This is an absolute hidden gem on the coast, lying just to the west of Puerto Escondido. If it wasn´t for my good friend Casey, a gorgeous Canadian chica who lives in Mexico and from whom I took the room in Condesa from, I would never have come across this haven. Water sports are bountiful here, if wake boarding, jet skiing or simply sitting back and relaxing on the beach or boats is your thing, definitely worth a visit. What makes it magical is that not only is it surrounded by the jungle and mangroves, the lagoon becomes phosphorescent due to a type of algae that lives in the lagoon. Sometimes in the darkness of night, streaks of light can be seen due to the movement of fish (and humans) in the water – how cool!