Saturday, July 16, 2016

Puebla - Day 1

"Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose."
- Yoda

I woke to the un-mistakeable sound of a steady rain hitting neighbors plastic patio coverings which are right outside my window. I have 4 days off and a bus to catch so the last thing that is going to bother me today is a bit of rain. Hell I like everything about the rain including walking in it and maybe splashing in a puddle or two. It is cleansing, therapeutic and the most sober fun you can have with your pants on. Hang on, what about being drunk and walking naked in the rain how much fun would that be? Maybe that is an adventure and post for another time.

In the Zocolo
Before I left for the bus station I walked to the laundry to pick up my clothes. It was closed and it being 9am that was not unusual because it appeared so were all the shops in the area. Who knows, it was probably some tribute to a random Catholic Saint that gave them half a day off and trust me when I say stranger things have happened here in the land of Speedy Gonzalez.

I arrived at the ADO bus station downtown and without checking the schedule online my bus was leaving in 15 minutes. A quick 140 pesos or C$9.75 and a window seat later off we went. Next stop Puebla. It was an eventful and smooth 2 hour ride and I fell asleep with ease. ADO as do most Latin American bus lines put North American bus services to shame. When I arrived in Puebla I took a minute to adjust because what looked like the inside of a modern airport terminal was indeed a bus terminal that was easily the largest, cleanest and most modern I have ever been in. Do you hear that Belize City? A quick 40 peso cab to the Centro and I was at Hotel Rio in no time. I decided to splurge on a clean and quiet $18 a night room instead of the $4 a night shared dorm because sometimes I just like living large!

The cab driver, being the wealth of information that most cabbies are, made sure to let me know about the "mujers en la calle". Well because sometimes it takes a bit for me to understand Mexican Spanish because they speak so quickly and the fact I am just dumb at times I did not "entiendo" until I walked the block to the hotel. Lining the streets at random intervals and in between shop entrances were made up young ladies plying their trade and nobody took notice...well except me as they are right outside the hotel door. Mind you this is not some seedy Hollywood drive slum, this is a working class street filled with restaurants, pharmacies (ironic) and other shops. You can see the in action here.

First stop in any trip to a new town in Latin America, the Zocolo or town square. This was an easy 10 minute walk down Cinco de Mayo street which is a walking street with no cars. Stephan Avenue Mall in Calgary, Sparx Street in Ottawa or Whyte Avenue in Edmonton are all the same. Street vendors, shops, performers and food, lots and lots of food leading down to the Zocolo which was a nice easy way to start the day.

After a quick beer and some touristy photos I spied an open air city tour bus operator. For $80 pesos for a two hour tour of the city and its neighborhoods, something I really like doing when I get to a new city, so off I went camera in hand. We went through various neighborhoods including the artisan area, candy street and the oddly named Frog Street which comes to life on the weekend. There were stops at a pottery factory and the Cinco De Mayo Fort with fantastic views of the city. Two hours was plenty and our friendly guide stood hand open at the end for the prerequisite tip. $20 pesos seemed about right, he was good and informative. Oh and the churches that are everywhere he had a story for each one.

All that glitters is indeed gold
I jumped off back at the Zocolo and headed into The Rosary Chapel, famous for being lined with gold. As I have said my times in the past, sometimes pictures do not do any justice to what you experience. I have seem scores of Catholic Churches in Colonial towns and each can be beautiful in its own way but this church, the priests had their "Liberace" on when they designed it. I can not explain it the absurdity of it all as peasants were starving and the church was being lavish upon itself but history is filled with incidents such as this. Garish for sure and of great historical significance but I can honestly say I am "Colonial Churched Out"  and yes I just used the noun church as a verb in the past tense.

A bit more wandering and following the tell tale smells of an open air market  (think fish ) I was hungry and knew that I could get something delicious there and I was not let down. After wandering aisles and rows of food and fish I came across a family selling "Tortas" or Mexican Sandwiches which turned out to be as big as my face. I washed it down with a cold Victoria, chatted to the family a bit, paid my 70 Pesos and headed in. I had a quiet clean room with hot water and it was time to snooze in my big comfy hotel room bed. First stop was the hotel patio where I exchanged pleasant small talk with a few people but then settling into a huge comfortable chair with a few more Victoria and watched "Casualties of War"  
* As an aside this hotel has amazing WiFi and I am a torrenting mad dog right now.

The colorful and aptly named neighborhood of artists
There were no barking dogs, no roosters and no heavy bass beats from any near by dance clubs. I drained my beer and quickly went across the street for a few more. I knew there was a bar just down the street because I passed it a few times during my journey. The devil on my left shoulder said "go, have some fun" while the angel on my right shoulder said "go back and enjoy the peace and quiet". The Angel won this time but I know the Devil is making alternate plans.

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