As is usual, this post is long overdue, but Tess felt it only fair that we give Mexico its rightly deserved spotlight and share/expose stories from our latest girls’ trip in Mexico (what happens in Mexico, does not stay in Mexico apparently). Anyone who knows us Boyer ladies knows that we love, love, love to travel. We travel together well and we try to do it often. So, as much as we love Peace Corps and are grateful for the experience, it has kinda thrown a wrench into our mother-daughter tradition of bi-annual vagabonding. For this reason, this trip was exceptionally important. It was our first trip with the three of us ladies since Khalan and Tess left for the Peace Corps, AND Khalan’s first time to Mexico with Tess as the tour guide, muahahah. We had a lot on the agenda and only seven days to do it all. This is how it went…
As is true with any large country, there are many aspects – cultures, traditions, cuisines, dialects, and political, social and economic situations – that differ between regions and states. To get a true and honest sense of Mexico, and not just the touristy Cancun-like experience, we started our trip in the heart of Mexico, in Tlaxcala, arguably one of the least travelled and touristy states within the country. This also happens to be where Tess lives. Having her own Peace Corps experience in a large city in northern Nicaragua, in the lush mountainous region, Khalan was curious how Tess’s site differed. She’d seen the pictures and videos, and heard the old-western like soundtrack of wind and old church bells ringing in the distance, but like only having a few pieces of a puzzle, wasn’t able to imagine it.
Our day started with food, as is only right and is terribly predictable for us. We got up early, dressing Khalan much to her dismay, in “layers” fit for this unpredictable Mexican weather, and took a walking tour of the town. It was unreasonably bright and crisp, a perfect day for walking. And naturally, Khalan who loves her small, quaint towns was “oo-ing and aw-ing” at everything – from the flower carts, bread bakeries called “panaderias,” the ranchero music coming from every passing car, her perfect Chai frappe from Tess’s favorite cafe and the crowded zócalo, or center/park, which was packed with affectionate couples, kids playing, food trucks for the upcoming fair, and of course, the best of Mexico’s street dogs. Walking around, waving and saying hello to all of her local friends, while visiting all of her go-to spots, it was really evident that Tess had made this town her home. It was such a treat to see and a reminder just how unique the Peace Corps experience is!
And then, the most Mexican thing happened. We bought tamales. And while that is quite the Mexican thing to do, it was what happened next that was fitting for Khalan’s first experience. We were walking through the park and a local store owner, who happens to be the sister of Tess’s landlady, invited us to her home for a “snack.” Unable to say “no,” which would be rude, we went with tamales in hand. Tess knew what they were in for, unlike Khalan and our mom, Felicity, who were happy to meet an acquaintance of Tess’s and experience a new aspect of her community. As is custom for small town Mexico, she treated us like family, which meant sharing her hearth, and home, and food…four courses of it. BIENVENIDOS A MEXICO!
After indulging in way too much food, food with tons of chili and spice, which greatly differs from that in Nicaragua, we did the only thing we could…sleep. And sleep we did, or tried to as Tess’s dog Sirius had a rather fetching time jumping from one sleeping body to the next. And round and round he went. Upon awakening, to Sirius’ excitement, we decided to venture out of town to visit Tess’s other site, Lagunilla, which is much more of the old school, ranchero cowboy vibe. Arriving by bus, we entered town walking down the dusty unpaved roads while being greeted by passing cows, horses and chickens, waving to Tess’s students (one of which was a very persistent four-year old), looking at some of her projects and seeing where she works. But most importantly, we met Don Pollito, the local chicken vendor who jokingly embraced Khalan and our mom, while calling them sister and mother-in-law (Tess clearly has made quite an impression with those little dimples of hers!). Very charming man. But it was the community that was so charming. And it was perhaps the smallest, country western-like town Khalan had seen. Dusty, with a downtown about 2 square blocks big, and with more farm animals than humans. It was quite a different experience than Tlaxco but charming in its own way. We only had one full day in Tlaxco and Lagunilla, but it was…something, something truly special all on its own.
While we were very, very sad to say goodbye to the rapidly growing Sirius, Tess’s #1 pal, we packed up and headed on to the next leg of our adventure — Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita.We welcomed the sun and sand (Khalan and Tess were more than gleeful to rid themselves of the “layers” in exchange for a towel and swimsuit), good food (like salads, good salads are a rarity here) and divine piña coladas (Tess was in heaven, really) that one finds in Puerto Vallarta, a resort town located on the Pacific coast in the state of Jalisco. Unbeknownst to all three of us, we learned from a very chatty taxi driver (former boxer and singer), that it wasn’t until its debut in a Hollywood film in the 1950s that it became a hot spot for North Americans, drawing many artists and writers.
While Puerto Vallarta has much to offer, we opted to venture a little way north to spend some time in the nearby beach town of Sayulita, a little hipster gem with a big surfer vibe, which is tucked away in a beautiful cove along the coast. We were in heaven, a picturesque heaven, and couldn’t believe we had never heard of this place. While there were many travelers (and even spotted a celeb or two) visiting from all over the world, this bohemian beach town maintained its relaxed, down to earth vibe. We walked back and forth and up and down (10k feet to be exact, thanks to Felicity’s step app) the colorful little streets, snapping pictures and admiring as many charming stores and art galleries our feet could handle before we ultimately stopped at a cafe for chai lattes (of course) and then a beach front restaurant. Really, what could be better than food with a side of beach? A beach full of jewelry vendors, surfers, locals and travelling hipsters. A place where there are no high-rise hotels like those one finds in Puerto Vallarta, but rather boutique hotels and bungalow style buildings with thatched roofs – quaint like that. It was almost as if you went back in time, a vacation spot unlike many other touristy coastal spots. We cannot wait to go back, and if you’re reading this, we hope you have a chance to experience it yourself!
The last leg of our trip brought us to the one and only Distrito Federal, also known as Mexico City, the largest city in Latin America with over 20 million people! Tess has been several times, making it her unofficial “getaway” spot when in need of a taste for an urban setting, and after this trip, we all understood why. We stayed in a beautiful boutique hotel in Condessa, a neighborhood that made all three of us so nostalgic of our old hood in NYC, the Upper West Side. There were cafes, restaurants and dogs galore. And people walked quickly! It’s really the little things that you miss. We ate to our hearts desire, bouncing from cafe, to restaurant and dessert/hookah bar until Khalan’s pants were bursting and Tess could hardly walk. We definitely overindulged but everything was so satisfying (the truth of any true foodie). And this occurred on not one, but two days. After visiting two very different Mexico’s prior to this, it was such a contrast to see this city center, one of the largest in the world. We couldn’t help but imagine ourselves living there – the best of both worlds…a foreign country, exotic with so many cultures, in a quaint neighborhood and yet with a taste of home. And it got us thinking about what life holds for us after we finish this next year of service…. only time will tell!