April 17, 2006

The Beautiful State of Veracruz

Press HERE to see a slideshow from the Beautiful Veracruz State

One of the Herons' Trees
Fisherman on Lake Catemaco
Cruising the Lake
A Baby Monkey
Pastoral Sontecomapan

In truth it was a long drive from Huatulco to the beautiful state of Veracruz. For me Veracruz is the best of all the Mexican states as will be come evident as you read this entry. I have driven further, but not when I was not feeling so great. The first two hours were the worse as the road wound back and forth. Still on the Pacific coast in Oaxaca, as we approached Salina Cruz, the highway finally straightened out. About six hours after departing we finally arrived at Lake Catemaco. It is a very large volcanic lake with a circumference of sixty-five miles. It is truly a wonderful place. We found a good and inexpensive ($33/night) hotel right on the lake and in the town of Catemaco. The Hotel del Brujo was great, save one flaw: like so many other places in Mexico, the plumbing was not vented. This means that you must leave the bathroom door shut or enjoy the wafting sewer gases. The hotel was probably named after the annual of convention of witchdoctors that visit the area every March.
I cannot say that we did all that much. I crashed right away after checking in. I was bushed from the driving and being sick. The next day we again did not do much. We enjoyed the tree full of Herons that was right in front of our hotel. As I looked around, I saw many more. I could hardly believe that so many big birds could be living in a single tree. We wondered around the town visiting the usual places: the zocolo and the main church. Later in the day we took a lake tour on a boat. It was great. One anomaly on the lake was the monkeys on the little islands. They were imported from Thailand years ago for a University of Veracruz psychology experiment. They are still studying them, but they have become quite the tourist attraction.

Los Tuxtlas Beach
Public Art on the Pier
In a Working Port
Veracruz as Sunset
Children Frolicking in Fountain
Public Art
and More Public Art
Old Naval Buildings

We took an unconventional road to Veracruz city. It winds down to beautiful Laguna del Sontecomapan that is really a bay that cuts deep into the land. The pastoral scenes were wonderful. Soon we were on the coast. There are some beautiful beaches in Los Tuxtlas. And the area is totally undeveloped. True there is a town here or there where people come to camp or enjoy a day on the beach, but by-and-large the cows control the coastline.
The city of Veracruz is a nice place to visit for a few days. The city is growing rapidly and there is quite a bit of development on its south side along the coast: new hotels, beach resorts, condominiums, restaurants, shopping centers. There is a historic district that is nice, but nothing special. We stayed at an ordinary hotel on the beach, just a kilometer from the town's historical center. We wandered around enjoying the crowds of holiday (Easter) vacationers, and the ambience of this very old working port. It is a pleasant and green city, and it is very humid. I am sure that it looks a lot like Miami did years ago.

Park in Xalapa
Child in the Park
A Busy Alley
Hotel Cantón Juárez
Strong Families
Fun People
Ancient Civilization
Tampico's Zocolo

Last Thursday we headed to Xalapa (or Jalapa). It is only sixty miles away, but what a different place. There is low humidity. It is at 4000 feet and thus quite cool. It is the capital of the province and has a university. It too has seen quite a bit of development lately. I love the place and I was surprised when Betty agreed with my assessment. We found an extremely nice hotel just block from the Zocolo and cathedral. It was the cheapest of the places we have stay at, just $23 per night. It was the cleanest. There was a TV with cable. The town and the hotel were so nice that Betty decided to stay an extra day. Not that we did all that much, I guess - if you really enjoy a place - you don't have to do all that much. We hung out in the parks, enjoyed good meals, went to a movie, and visited a great anthropological museum. The only thing that I regret is that we missed seeing my friend, Hélè ne Peclers. She is from Xalapa, but she has been studying in Spain. She was due to return today, but we just could not stay longer. We hope to see her on our next visit. Yes, Xalapa is a city that we will definitely be returning to.

Yesterday was a very hard day of driving. We drove to Tampico and it took all day. We saw some beautiful scenery: from cattle farms to banana plantations on a road that wound on and on and on. When we finally got down to the coast we discovered a number of great beach towns near Barra de Nautla. We were determined to make Tampico. Not far from this area is Papantla. We stopped in Papantla to buy a pound of vanilla beans. It is the vanilla center of Mexico. We had planned to visit El Tajin, which was five miles from Papantla. It is one of the largest archeology sites in Mexico. We were not the only ones with this thought. Based on the cars in their lots more than 5000 people had decided to visit El Tajin on this beautiful Easter. So rather than fight the crowds we decided to skip it this time and save it for the next time we go to Mexico.
We got to Tampico about seven in the evening. First, we searched for a place to stay at the expensive beach hotel on the Miramar beach. There had been tens of thousands enjoying the sun and surf that days, most of whom were on their way home just as we were arriving. We spent too much time looking and eventually decided to skip the beach where the only decent hotels cost about $140 per night. We ended up in an old hotel on the Zocolo downtown. From what we saw, we can say that we do not care much for Tamipco.

Today we drove to Matamoros, which on the border just across from Brownsville, Texas. The roads were great on this stretch and we made very good time.
After nearly three months in Mexico, we will drive across the border tomorrow, heading north and eventually to my dad's home in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Well, that's it until next time.

Posted by bill at April 17, 2006 05:12 PM


Certainly, you won't rememer me. My lover and I had the opportunity to visit your home in BsAs only once just a couple of weeks before you blasted back to Minn. It was your last or next to last grill fest before you all left. I met Betty a couple of months earlier as we suffered through taking some language classes at a small place on Junin, in BsAs. Unfortunately, I didn't get to hang with Betty very much, but we did make a quick, short bond. I've been interested in reading your travel blog on MÈxico, my favorite country and favorite Spanish acccent.

I'm back in BarÁelona apartment, sitting as my squeeze and I continue to rent out our own apartments (we own them) for embarrassingly large monthly rents. They go for 6,000 Euros a month, but can accommodate 4 to 6 people. We're booked through January 2007.

I'm still waiting to read more of your thoughts on Buenos Aires. I've lived there for 16 months and Hugo and I may just bite the bit and move back for another 6 or 10 months. My experience of living in Argentina is substantially different than most. My only complaints were the food (sorry, but I'm not a big meat fan) and the lack of anything picante. Argentina has to have the worst pizza in the known universe, but that's just my opinion.

As for your current adventures in MÈxico, Xalapa is my favorite comfort zone in the MÈxico, (execpt for an upscale residencial neighborhood in D.F. where the homes are built into a lava flow). You probably didn't have enough time to notice, but Xalapa has a COSTCO. Very civilized. Great place to buy tires because the are 10-ply or greater because of the rough road conditions in the country.

Tell Betty "Hello" for me. And when you get time to continue committing your thoughts on Argentina to your blog, please let me know. I'm interested in hearing the negative things you had to deal with. The only real negative thing I encountered was www.baexpats.com. The last thing I ever want to be seen with are Brits, Americans, and other Canadians (I'm Canadian). Out of all the English speakers I met, almost all were interested only in criticising and complaining. Granted, there is a great deal one can complain about, but compared to the hysteria of FOX Network News, I found Argentina sublime.

Keep me on your blog list. You do a good job of getting your perspective across.

William Nash

Posted by: William Nash at April 18, 2006 07:18 PM