Tag Archives: ruins

It’s a South of America Thing

I’m not going to pretend that I know everything about South America. Having only been to Argentina, I know I have only scratched the surface. Although I only experienced Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls, it left me with a strong idea of the place and a desire to go back and explore more of the country.

I remember dog walkers, steak and potatoes and the Obelisk on Avenida 9 Julio in Buenos Aires. Drinks that were too strong, underwear that was too skimpy and streets that were too long. Real cowboys, dancing the tango, the colour of La Boca and visiting Evita’s grave.

Iguazu Falls were the widest, reddest and most naturally beautiful waterfalls I had ever seen. You can’t help but be impressed.

There are many more places I must return to see in South America. The the wildlife of Patagonia, the beaches of Brazil and the national parks of Chile. Manchu Picchu of course, the legendary Amazon and Angel Falls in Venuzuela. Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the Galápagos Islands in Equador and the Cartagena coast in Columbia.

Now, Mexico, I feel I know a bit more about. I have explored ruins in the jungle, on the desert plain and by the beach. I’ve swum in a cenote, eaten a cactus salad and swung on a swing in a bar.

I’ve seen lots of main plaza’s with cathedral, government palace and town hall. I’ve experienced the heat of the day, the cold of the buses and the feel of a freshly made tortilla. I’ve seen protestors, markets and a Luche Libre wresting show in one of the biggest cities in the world.

I’ve climbed forts, snorkelled next to 500 sunken statues and been amazed by how blue water can be. I’ve sampled the local mescal as well as traditional arts and crafts. I’ve learned what real guacamole and fish tacos taste like.

I want to go back to see the beaches of Jalisco, the waterfalls in Chiapas and the rock formations of the Marieta Islands. I would love to return to Oaxaca, the island of women and the ruins of Teotihuacán. I know I saw a lot, but there is always more to see.

And we never did make it to Guatemala, Belize or Costa Rica….

Related posts: Isla Mujeres and Cancun, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011, Argentina, 2005, Buenos Aires, 2005

Tulum, 2011

My husband and I arrived in Tulum and went straight from the bus station to the beach.

We stayed in one of the separate huts on the beach in a hotel that had a mini statue of the Tulum ruins near the beach bar. The image was very familiar to me as it featured on the cover of our guidebook.

Tulum had the bluest water I had ever seen along with the whitest sand. I understood now why everyone raves about the Caribbean.

We went to an Italian restaurant in the fancy hotel at other end of beach as I had heard it was famous for it’s fresh lobster pasta. We took our sunset cocktails at the deckchairs on the beach before we headed inside the restaurant for dinner, where the floor was also sand. The waiter made us a prawn made out of palm leaves.

Thinking it the safer option, we walked back to the hotel along the road instead of the beach, but it was a creepy deserted country road at night. By day, there wasn’t much to do either, except to go to the local shops for supplies.

I discovered what a real taco was when we had the best fish tacos I have ever had on the beach. No Old El Paso hard shell tacos here, just small soft fresh tacos with fresh fish and some special sauce.

We spent a couple of days lazing on the beach, listening to the other travellers talking loudly, trying to outdo each other; and the regular fruit seller passing by with cries of “Piña, mango, coco.”

One night, we met a group of young Aussie surfers at the beach bar; and on another, an old surfer dude from America who had been living in Tulum for a number of years now. He introduced us to some local friends who proceeded to drink us under the table with double strength tequila happy hour cocktails. We declined their offer to head into a nightclub in town for further drinking.

Instead we went into town the next day for the freshest, loveliest tortillas I have ever eaten at a local restaurant near the bus stop, made while you eat. I really didn’t know what good Mexican food was like until I had been to Mexico. Even the guacamole is made differently here.

On our last day we went to explore the Tulum ruins. While definitely not the most culturally significant ruins, being the newest in Mexico; they are definitely one of the most picturesque as they overlook the beach and the blue waters of the sea.

There were huge iguanas everywhere that roamed around the tourists and the stones. Walls surrounded the site and a small cenote could be found in one of the ruined houses.

We saw the Temple of the Wind God, the famous El Castillo and walked down to the beach. There were many temples, platforms, a palace and a guard tower.

Next stop to continue our Caribbean adventure was Isla Mujeres, and if I thought the water of Tulum was blue, we hadn’t seen anything yet!

Related posts: Chichen Itza, 2011, Campeche and Merida, 2011, Palenque, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011

Palenque, 2011

At the end of the longest bus trip I’ve ever been on, my husband and I arrived at Palenque. I was glad that we hadn’t decided to include Guatemala and Belize into our trip as originally planned, as we definitely wouldn’t have had enough time.

We were so tired after the overnight bus trip in temperatures that could only be described as fridge like, where I was still cold despite having two backpacks on top of me for warmth. If you did actually get warm enough to sleep, there was always the loud snoring local to disturb your sleep further, the speed bumps as we went through each small town and the fact that they had filmed us on when we got on the bus as this was a notorious kidnapping route.

When we got there in the morning, we discovered that it was too early to check in. And in typical Mexican- time- style, noon check in became 2pm check in, and I resorted to snoozing on the reception couch. When we were finally permitted to check in, we were happy to discover that we were in our own private house with the luxury of a TV with movies in English.

The hotel also had a swimming pool and a restaurant on the river overlooking now flooded river bars. We were in the middle of the jungle and the only reason most people come here is to to see the ruins.

The ruins of Palenque themselves were amazing. The towering Templo de las Inscripciones greeted you as soon as you entered the compound and was just as awe inspiring as expected.

The Palacio was the largest building with many structures, lots of steps and a big indoor courtyard with surrounding patios. We saw the Tomb of Red Queen inside one of the many temples and the Temple of the Sun with its stone panels.

I climbed up Temple of the Cross which had a fantastic view of all the ruins. After that we saw the large ball court in Group Norte and went for a walk into the jungle to see the Queens Bath of limestone waterfalls and the Bat Group of buried ruined houses.

Seeing ruins in the jungle was an amazing experience where I could really imagine what it must have been like back when the people lived here. I was so glad we had made the long trip to see it all.

Related posts: Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011

Italy, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to Florence

In Rome, Sarah and I stayed with Seneka, a Sri Lankan relation of sorts. He drove us to modern Rome and the beautifully floodlit Ancient Rome by night where we saw the statue of Romulus and Remus and threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure our return to the city. The fountain itself seemed too big to fit in the narrow square and was quite overwhelming.

On our first day, we went to the Colosseum which was in the process of being rebuilt, so it was easy to see through the non-existent floor to the underground tunnels that led to entrances to the ring and imagine what it looked like when it was still in use. We climbed to the top for a fantastic daytime view of Ancient Rome and its ruins.

Back on the ground, we went to the Roman Forum where we saw the third triumphal arch Septimius Severus next to the Rostrum Forum and the House of the Vestal Virgins. We walked through Caesar’s Forum, the Imperial Forum, past Trajan’s column and the market.

I liked the Pantheon with its hole in the roof for light and the cute elephant statue by Bernini in the nearby Piazza Minerva; but was a little disappointed with Circus Maximus which just looked like an ordinary park overlooked by the ruined Palace of Augustus.

We visited a few Piazza’s and saw lots of fountains: the Piazza del Campidoglio with long wide steps designed for horses; the Piazza Venezia with the new style Monument to Victor Emmanuel 2 also known at the wedding cake- so big it can be seen from miles away; the Piazza di Spagna which had amusing statues posed on park benches and the Piazza Navona which I loved even though the Fountain of Four Rivers was covered by scaffolding.

My favourite place was the Spanish steps. I had a gelato, soaked up the atmosphere and watched the locals pass by.

The Vatican museum was closed when we went to The Vatican City, but we went into St Peter’s church and the square. I still remember the huge angels on the bowl of holy water and the Pope appearing in the window- so small that it could have been anyone.

We met up with my friend Kim- an Australian born model who now lived in one of the three hills overlooking the Vatican City and had a job translating Italian books. She took us to Castel Sant Angelo where the view of the River Tiber and to Rome beyond was a sight to see.

Kim drove us out of the city down Via Appia and took us to a restaurant in the olive groved countryside where I had pasta with truffles for the first time. We drank too much wine that day and never made it to see the Catacombs. On a more sober day, she took us to Hadrian’s Villa who added a wing to his house after each of his travels- my kind of guy! Real swans were in the Poikile water lily lake and the Canopus pond was lined with alligator statues.

On his day off, Seneka drove us to Florence where we saw the strange multi coloured Duomo of Santa Maria patterned green, red and white and the imitation statue of David in the square outside Palazzo Vecchio.

We visited San Marco monastery for some peace and quiet and had a gelato in Piazza San Marco from the biggest gelato bar I had ever seen. I had to go back for seconds.

Crossing the interesting Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno, we wandered through the lovely Giardino di Boboli. On a hill behind Palazzo Pitti we took in the views of Florence and the hills of Tuscany with their freshly harvested vineyards.

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Related posts: Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond BarcelonaSpain, 1997, Part 1: BarcelonaFrance, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, Belgium, 1997, Holland, 1997, England, 1997, I first started travelling, By special request, Home is where you make it, I first started writing