Sunday Special – Xalapa, Mexico


We are nearing the end of the alphabet and are up to the letter “X”. Today we will go to the “birthplace” of the ever-popular jalape√Īo pepper: Xalapa(pronounced ha la pa) in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Yep, that spicy pepper has been cultivated¬† in this highland state capital since the Aztecs. Used widely in its cuisine this mighty pepper has left its impact on the city (and the world). Though there is more to see and learn about than just the jalape√Īo.

The state of Veracruz is rather hot and humid though due to the higher elevation of Xalapa it has escaped the searing heat, offering cooler temperatures. It is located below the now extinct Cofre de Perote volcano, approximately 101 km / 63 miles northwest of town of Veracruz. Being in such a location gives it its milder temperature and at times brings about abrupt weather changes. Although a sprawling city with no seeming logic to its layout  and notable traffic congestion it is still considered by many to be a very attractive city. Culture thrives here with many forms of music, art, theatre, and history. Street art and performing musicians thrive alongside anthropological museums and classical symphonies throughout the city. Fine dining and trendy bars are in abundance. As a university city the has a pulse all its own. This Mexican city does seem to be a great place to get lost in. Wander on!

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Xalapa Cathedral or Catedral Metropolitana de la Immaculada Concepción de Xalapa РPhoto credit: Soundtrckk, Catedral Metropolitana de Xalapa, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Cofre de Perote volcano seen from Juarez Park in XalapaРPhoto credit: nAShE, Cofre de Perote desde Xalapa, CC BY 2.0

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Fried Jalapeno peppers – Photo credit:¬†Koffermejia,¬†Chiles xalape√Īos capeados,¬†CC BY-SA 4.0

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Sunday Special – Mexico City Centro Hist√≥rico (Historical Centre)


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Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City – Photo via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

I have been to Mexico 5 times. All of those have been to resort destinations. I enjoyed all my vacations as I was able to unwind and get a tan. That being said, I do claim that I have never really seen Mexico as I have only encountered that one particular aspect out of all that this country has to offer. For today’s feature I thought focusing on North America’s largest city would be the place to start to learn more. Mexico’s capital has plenty of history so let’s begin on “where it all started”, so to speak.

The oldest area in Mexico City is the neighbourhood of Centro Hist√≥rico¬†(or Centro). It dates back to the Aztec town of¬†Tenochtitlan (1325 CE) prior to the Spanish conquest. The heart of the Centro is the 240 m / 787.4 ft Plaza de la Constituci√≥n, commonly called the¬†Z√≥calo. One of the world’s largest squares it is home to numerous concerts, fun events, demonstrations and the popular Festival de Mexico. Adjacent to the¬†Z√≥calo is the stunning Metropolitan Cathedral – the largest one in the Americas with its twin bell towers housing 25 bells each. To the north-east of the square is the Templo Mayor, a large museum built on a former Aztec temple and showcases many of its ruins. These few places barely scratch the surface of what this single area of Mexico City offers. With copious amounts of history, churches, museums, architecture, food, stores, and vendors I would say it is evident that the Centro is a place where one can wander for a couple days.

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Mexico City’s Zocalo – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned¬†By Flickr user schlaeger (http://www.flickr.com/photos/schlaeger/51220620) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

What Travel Means Series – Week #3


Hello and welcome to week 3 of the of guest authors. As I mentioned here, the authors are friends of mine, people I know and like. I asked them to sum up in their own words and style what travel means to them and a favourite place (or two).
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Today‚Äôs guest author is Jean Lehmann. Jean is another friend I have made through Vancouver’s Couchsurfing community. I met her and her husband Richard at a weekly event several years ago. They had returned to Canada after living for several years in Chengdu, China. Jean has a sense of adventure and a wonderful outgoing spirit.
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Travel means ADVENTURE.  Nothing beats going to a place and the unexpected occurs.

My first trip was to the Mayan Rivera. I did the 5 star resort and it was beautiful. I paid $100 per mini excursion that always ended In a gift shop.  On the second last day we were out of money, bored, sitting on the plastic lounge chairs watching a group of people do water aerobics.  As the drink server walked by we asked him if we can get to Tulum cheaper than $75.00. He stated we just go to the end of the road then catch a 20 peso bus ride directly to Tulum.  Since then I have never stayed at a 5 star resort and am always looking for adventure.

I went back to Mexico this past year, rented a car and drove to the mountains. Tasted great tequila.¬† Met an employee of the tequila tasting who needed a ride into the city to play a soccer game.¬† He makes 500 peso a game. I gave him a ride. I was so nervous and don’t recommend it unless you have great judge of character.¬† However, he was great. He taught me about Mexico’s politics and his relationship with the mob.

I don’t have a favourite country – I have adventures and great memories that will be with me forever.

Puerto Vallarta region, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta region, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta region, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta region, Mexico

Photos taken and owned by Jean and Richard Lehmann. Used with permission.

‘Tis The Season of Giving


For those who celebrate it (as I do) the Christmas season fast approaches. Often touted as a ‘season of giving’ it seems that the modern holiday season is more apt to be the ‘season of buying’. Enticing commercials give proclamations of need for this product or that. Stores boldly announce that they carry items for everyone on your list. The¬†list they announce includes everyone you may¬†possibly¬†encounter in your daily life. It truly is the ‘season of buying’ even with the intention of giving. I find this time of year a bit overwhelming in that aspect. I prefer to make memories, share laughs, break bread and partake in merriment with my friends and loved ones.¬†


Now I am not posting this to pass judgement or tell you how you should spend your money or what to buy. I am just sharing a bit of how I have seen the season in recent years. I enjoy aspects of the holidays yet part of me is concerned of the effects of such mass consumerism. That is why I delight in the initiatives and ideas that I have heard of over the years. Giving in a different way. Two examples come to mind. One I have been aware of for several years as it is a campaign put on by Metro Vancouver. The other I learned of the other day as it making its debut in Canada on Tuesday December 3: Giving Tuesday.

For the past several years, Metro Vancouver’s Holiday Campaign promotes alternatives to buying products as gifts. With the burden of mounting garbage and environmental damage that occurs during Christmas, their clever campaign sets awareness to creating memories and being a “green angel”. Using light humour they cast ideas of all sorts. Here is just one example:


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I learned of Giving Tuesday in one the daily papers in Vancouver. It announced its arrival in Canada this very year. What began in the USA in 2012 as counter-measure to the consumer buying frenzies of Black Friday and Cyber Mondays is now making its way to countries worldwide. As part of the UN Foundation, Giving Tuesday has now added Australia, Canada, Latin America, Mexico and Singapore to its roster. This global movement is an incredible opportunity for people to give back to charities of all sorts: local, national and international. A time for us to learn of these varied and needed charities and if able, to give to them. There are many ways to help: money, time, spreading the word and so much more.  Below I have listed the links to the country-specific websites. Please take a look, learn and if able, give in whatever way you can. I know I will. If you would like to promote Giving Tuesday please use the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #UNselfie. Post pictures of yourself and why you want to give. Post it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook along with the hashtags. It is good to give back. Giving Tuesday USAAustraliaCanadaLatin AmericaMexicoSingapore