Viva Mexico

This post is long overdue, but it’s never too late to share travel adventures, right? 🙂

This time last year, my parents were secretly planning a family vacation, much to the delight of my younger siblings and me. We’d be spending Christmas with family friends in Houston, Texas, and then together with them we’d fly to Mexico for 5 nights to ring in the New Year.

Mexico was something else, it definitely exceeded my expectations. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, I try not to have high expectations when I travel, but let’s just say that the media doesn’t do a very good job of portraying this country and its people (in my opinion).

We arrived in the capital, Mexico City, around noon and immediately went to check in to the Holiday Inn. [Note: We had rented a mini-van and driver for our stay in Mexico, so that’s how we got around]. After checking in, we were pretty hungry so we headed to a local restaurant called Arroyo for lunch. This was my first culture shock in Mexico; their local food is nothing like Tex Mex! What I liked about this restaurant besides the authentic Mexican cuisine was that they provide entertainment to guests while dining. Mexican singers and dancers pranced around the stage and everyone clapped and cheered on which was really nice. After lunch we headed to Constitution Square which was wonderfully decked out in Christmas decorations. This is where I saw traces of the Spanish settlers that had come to Mexico so many years ago. The architecture of the buildings and Cathedral surrounding the square mirrored those of Europe, and for a second I could have sworn I was in Italy.  We decided to go inside the Cathedral (which was breathtaking) and afterwards spent several hours roaming the streets. We came across several street vendors selling local arts and crafts, as well as groups of street performers dressed in traditional clothing. Having seen enough for one day, we decided to return to the hotel. Some of us went to the Plaza Universidad shopping center located right across the street from the hotel and did a little shopping while others stayed to take a nap. For dinner, we went to Puerto Madero, a fancy Argentinean restaurant where I had one of the best meals I’ve ever had. It certainly didn’t disappoint.

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We began our second day in Mexico at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an important Mexican icon and major Catholic pilgrimage site. After visiting the Basilica, we trekked up Tepeyac Hill after hearing that at the summit you can find one of the most gorgeous views of Mexico City. There were many booths adorned in sombreros for tourists to have their photos taken, and we gladly obliged. Afterwards, the plan was to go to the Teotihuacan Pyramids which were a 1 hour drive from Mexico City. These pyramids were constructed around 300 AD and are among the most important ruins in the world. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see them because some people in our group weren’t interested in going. That’s the downside about travelling in groups; everyone has their own travel preferences. We instead made our way to Santa Fe, the business district of Mexico City where we spent the remainder of the day. Although this area was very nice and modern, I was so glad our hotel was located on the other older side of the city to get a more authentic experience.

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On our third day in Mexico, we got up early and made the 4 hour drive to Acapulco, a Mexican beach town south of Mexico City where we’d be celebrating New Year’s Eve. The reason we decided to go there instead of Cancun or Cabo is because there aren’t as many tourists so we thought it’d be more enjoyable. The drive was wonderful; Mexico has a beautiful landscape filled with big mountains and green plains. We got to Acapulco in the afternoon and checked into The Fairmont Acapulco Princess Hotel. The hotel is situated on the other side of the Acapulco bay known as the Diamond zone which is a much calmer and relatively new area. It’s a very large Aztec-inspired hotel, equipped with several pools, a beach, tennis courts and golf course, as well as many restaurants and a health-spa. It’s so easy to get lost in this place, and we spent the rest of the day lounging by the pool and beach.

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The next day, we wanted to check out the other side of Acapulco bay so we made the 10 minute drive to the main plaza where I did a little shopping and bought some cute hand-made beach bags and dresses. In the late afternoon, we went to La Quebrada to witness the famous La Quebrada cliff divers that put on daily shows for the public. The divers range from 5 to 60 years old and jump from a cliff as high as 35 meters (115 ft). They climb the cliff themselves with no support whatsoever (real-life Spider men) which creates suspense for the audience, then proceed to plunge into the sea below usually accompanied with tricks. It was truly spectacular. We returned to the main plaza afterwards for dinner before returning to the hotel.

Our last day in Mexico happened to be New Year’s Eve. The hotel was setting up tables and a stage on the beach so we reserved a table for the party and spent the rest of the day by the pool/beach where I got a full body massage done for only $4! I still dream of that moment till now. When the sun set, we went up to the hotel room and got dressed for dinner, then made our way down to the beach. There was a buffet set up with live music and a dance floor. All tables were equipped with party supplies, a bag of grapes (Spanish tradition, see below), and lanterns which we would light up and let loose (something I’ve always wanted to do) just before midnight. By 1 am the adults were tired so they went up to sleep while us teenagers took to the dance floor and danced the night away because we knew that when the morning would came, we’d be flying back to reality.

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Keeping up with Time Zones

11 AM. Like clockwork, the phone rings. Caller ID shows it’s an Australian number, most probably one of my aunts or uncles calling to check in. I’m still in bed, semi-awake. My mother answers and proceeds to have a gossip session on the latest family drama. When I decide to get up and check my cell phone, I’ve got a bunch of messages from cousins and friends in Australia who have been up hours before me. Fast forward to the afternoon, my phone buzzes again. It’s a message from my friend in California who has just woken up and responding to the message I sent her in the morning. Fast forward again, it’s late evening and my cousin from London is calling on Skype. After talking with her and her husband for an hour or so, I hop into bed, say a prayer, and eventually fall asleep.

That’s more or less a typical Sunday in my household. I hate to state the obvious, but distance sucks. I wish there was a way for all the important people in my life to be close to me because I feel like my heart is split into many pieces and scattered across the globe… Some might consider it advantageous to have friends and family around the world due to the travel opportunities it provides, but that’s probably the only benefit. Nothing hurts more than missing significant milestones in the life of someone I love, and them not being there for mine. Birthdays, weddings, graduations, Christmas, the list is endless. I guess you could say I have separation anxiety because the thought of someone being away from me freaks me out. In a few months, I’ll be graduating alongside the solid group of friends I built over the years after moving to Lebanon, meaning we might have to separate. Alas, c’est la vie, and I’m just going to have to accept it as much as it hurts.

One thing separation has taught me is valuing the physical presence of someone. It’s made me so much more appreciative of the time we have together, whether it’s long or short. I’ve also become so much more grateful for modern day technology that allows for quick and easy communication. Despite having to work around time zones, I can’t imagine having to wait months for a letter to arrive in the mail to hear from someone (though I don’t mind a nice handwritten letter sometimes, especially on special occasions).

Do you have family or friends abroad? How do you deal with separation?

And so it begins…

It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, forgive me. I’ve been living under a rock the past two weeks trying to get through final exam period, and I can finally say that it’s over. Today marks the beginning of my summer break and I can’t tell you how good it felt waking up this morning knowing I won’t have to open a textbook or type out another essay.

Although technically the semester has ended, I’m going to be spending a lot of time at university this week preparing for the annual outdoors festival. I’m part of the decorations team and this year’s chosen theme is New York city so you can only imagine how creative we’re going to get. Stay tuned for a post next week!

In June I fly over to London for 8 days with my sister. I’ve always dreamt of going there and we’ve never travelled on our own so I’m really looking forward to being the ultimate tourist. Leave a comment if you know of any places I must see 🙂 I’m happy to take any suggestions.

Once I’m back from London I’ll no longer be a tourist but a tour guide because one of my best friends from Australia and my cousin along with his Italian wife are coming to Beirut. They’ve never been here before so I can’t wait to show them what Lebanon has to offer; one of my favorite things to do is show people my country through my eyes. Then after they’ve left I have to plan a surprise 21st birthday bash for one of my closest friends, and what remains of the summer I’ll hopefully spend doing an internship before I go back to university.

My summer in a nutshell. What do you guys have planned? Any of you travelling?