Mexico Travel Journal Weeks 6 & 7: Morelia, Mariposas and Montezuma’s Revenge

Guanajuato from El Pipila

“I am so sick to my stomach. All I want to eat is KFC or McDonalds,” said no one ever.

Well, not quite. 

For travelers, eventually we get stomach sickness from a food-borne illness. For Kristi and I, it happened at the start of our 6th week in Mexico, on the eve of our visit to Guanajuato. When I was in Guanajuato 12 years ago, I got violently ill to my stomach, so history was repeating itself. After a few days of eating nothing but yogurt and bread, my appetite started to return and all I wanted to eat was something familiar. I had no desire to eat chiliquiles, tacos, enchiladas or huevos rancheros.

So I ate at KFC twice in one day. In my entire adult life, I have probably eaten KFC twice in the United States, and I am pretty sure I had a massive hangover both times. Never do I look at a grease-soaked chicken wing and limp french fries and think, I gotta get me summa that! But chicken strips with mashed potatoes and gravy totally hit the spot and put me back on the road to eating solid food.

On our last day in Guanajuato, we started to feel better and decided to stay another day in the town since we didn’t get to enjoy it. Since our hotel had been completely empty all week, we rolled up to reception and declared that we’d like to stay another day. The clerk, who is the fastest talking Mexican in the country, said they had no rooms. Incredulous, or maybe thinking we misunderstood, we looked on the web to find out that every room in Guanajuato was indeed booked. It was a long weekend for the school and everyone was on vacation, evidently.

So we packed our bags and went to Morelia, and like those chicken strips and mashed potatoes, it totally hit the spot. Although Morelia is as grand as any other colonial city in Mexico, it is off the tourist trail. How much longer, I am not sure, because surely the word is getting out that this spectacular city is among the friendliest and most beautiful in Mexico. Of course the mere fact that I’m writing about it on this blog means that it will explode in popularity.

After a few days in Morelia, we traveled to the Monarch Butterfly Reserve, and saw one of the great wildlife spectacles on Earth. After hiking high into the mountains with a local guide, we saw literally millions of butterflies clustered high in the pine trees. As the sun warmed up their wings, they started to fly around, and eventually the forest and sky was aswirl with monarchs. As a bonus, we were the only people there. The reserve didn’t officially open for the season for a few more days, and we had it all to ourselves. It was nothing short of magical.

From there we ventured to Mexico City for two days and caught a flight over to Campeche in the Yucatan. If Morelia is still off the tourist trail, then Campeche is being discovered in droves. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and walked around the deserted, perfectly preserved colonial town. We saw almost no locals out and about, a sharp contrast to the Saturday before in Morelia where the city was packed, but we did see quite a few pale northern Europeans.

After sunset, like vampires, the city folk emerged into the darkened streets and filled the parks, squares and sidewalk cafes. Seeing how it was 91 degrees with a heat index over 100 during the day (see footnote), the smart locals were all having a bit of a siesta. In addition, bands of package tourists, armed with cameras and iPads, began roaming the streets, shooting photos of the colorful buildings all lit up at night. So far we’ve been traveling in the low season and haven’t seen too many tourists. That is all about to change now that we are in the Yucatan and nearing the holiday season. And if I see a group of tourists eating at McDonalds, I won’t scoff at them. I have no idea what kind of hell their stomachs may be going through.

Week 6 and 7 Photo of the Day

Guanajuato from El Pipila

Day 36, Guanajuato – Guanajuato is arguably the most beautiful city in Mexico. This view, however, is hands down the best city view in the country.

Guanajuato mariachi

Day 37, Guanajuato – Mariachi musician.

callejoneada

Day 38, Guanajuato – The streets were abuzz with mariachi, parades of fire dancers and callejoneadas (roaming street parties). The cause for celebration? It was a Thursday.

Guanajuato church

Day 39, Guanajuato – the famous yellow church.

Morelia Plaza de Armas

Day 40, Morelia – Two lovers in the Plaza de Armas.

Morelia chihuahua

Day 41, Morelia – Girl with her chihuahua.

Patzcuaro

Day 42, Patzcuaro – We took a day trip to the beautiful colonial town of Patzcuaro and visited the lake of the same name.

Morelia clowns

Day 43, Morelia – The central park was full of street performers, lovers, families, musicians, and art installments, but free of tourists.

Angangueo

Day 44, Angangueo – the cutest house in Mexico.

Mariposa reserve

Day 45, Mariposa Reserve – This was the one and only time on the trip that I wished I had my telephoto lens! There were huge clusters of butterflies on the branches that all took flight as the sun warmed them up.

Mexico City Street Photography

Day 46, – Mexico City – A flirting couple having a cigarette break in Zona Rosa.

Mexico security system

Day 47, Campeche – Mexican security system: bars on the window, and ferocious dogs to protect the house

Campeche cathedral

Day 48, Campeche – The stunning cathedral at night

Next up: we will be exploring the Yucatan peninsula, seeing more of Campeche, Merida, Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Valladolid. 

To follow along, like the Planet Bell Facebook Page


 

Footnote: 91 degrees Fahrenheit= $%^&ing hot in Celsius.

 

 

46 Comments on “Mexico Travel Journal Weeks 6 & 7: Morelia, Mariposas and Montezuma’s Revenge

  1. You’ve got like the greatest street photography luck. You just happened to find a mariachi member with the same color jacket as the maroon shades on the building??? Those travel angels favor you, Jeff Bell.

      • Yeah, or called the rest of the band who were probably just around the corner eating tortas. Have you tried tortas there? Good for alimentary track issues, also in case of future issues, rice is a good clogger. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to speak on our favorite topic again here.

      • or just make the rice yourself if you have a pot, so there’s no worry of other stuff in there, and no spices

  2. Staying out of the heat of the day sounds like a great idea! I did your conversion in my head and came up with hot as well!

    • I did that conversion for all my non-American readers. You all are crazy for using celsius and the metric which is based on the absurd notion that everything ought to be organized in groups of 10.

  3. wow your blog makes me want to quit my job, sell my studio and roam the planet…after I pay off my school/credit debt of course. Need those credit cards for hotels and fights. 😉

  4. Thank you Jeff and Kristi for sharing the beauty of Mexico! Now I want to visit and enjoy some of the beauty you have shared with us all! Happy Thanksgiving wherever you will be.

  5. Yikes about the illness. No fair for history to do a double take. I will say in all my nursing career I never suggested KFC as a treatment plan. Who knew? Tremendous photos as always Jeff.

  6. The little pink house is so sweet! Sorry to hear you had to deal with stomach issues. Eating KFC would pretty much give me Montezuma’s Revenge!

  7. Thanks to you now Morelia is on my wishlist. 🙂 I’m now seriously considering Mexico as one of the countries I should visit in the near future. Superb photos, as always!

    • Thanks Bama. Mexico is a great country – it has a little of everything. Morelia was great. Hopefully people will discover it – they can handle some more tourists there for sure.

  8. That photo of Campeche is magnificent! I can’t wait to visit Morelia now.

  9. Jeff, I can totally relate to this post. I developed the same issues at the tail end of our time in Myanmar and landed in India with a sick stomach! It only got better after several days of good vegetarian food in Hampi. One of our hosts in Kerala warned us that the food in Tamil Nadu wouldn’t be as tasty, and I have to admit that she was right. It’s been 10 days and Bama and I are both getting bored of having South Indian thali and oily dosas or vadais.

    I’ve been craving pizza the past couple of days – the last time we had one was over two months ago in Indonesia. So you can imagine how elated I was to hear about a wood-fired pizza oven at a place not too far from our homestay here in Pondicherry. Problem is, it’s way over our budget (1,000 rupees for a big one!) so I am just as happy indulging myself at Pizza Hut.

    Anyhow, your photos from Mexico are stunning and I can just imagine that view of Guanajuato going on a magazine cover or a double page spread. Every recent post of yours is pushing the country closer to the top of my wish list – kudos for updating regularly while on the road! I can’t wait to hear about your visit to Uxmal.

    • I preferred the indian food of the north – it is spicier and heartier. I didn’t love the southern food either. The bad thing about pizza on the road is that it is so inconsistent. Pizza hut may not be the best, but you know what you will get and it will be good. We had a really terrible pizza a few days ago in Mexico and it made me sad.

      I got sick before heading to Hampi too, come to think of it. That is a great place to be sick, though. We ate almost every meal at a place overlooking the river that you had to walk through a field of banana trees to reach. I can’t remember the name, but do you know what I’m talking about?

      Thanks for the compliments on the photos. You’d love Mexico – it has a little of everything: beaches, mountains, great cities, excellent food and beer, nice people, ancient culture and it is actually really easy to get around in. You will want to learn a bit of Spanish first though. For a polyglot like you, no problem.

      • Well Jeff, it turns out we just didn’t know where to go for good Tamil food. Madhu took us to a fabulous place in Chennai with the best masala fish fry and mutton. Pizza Hut in Pondicherry was ridiculously expensive (especially after service charge and two kinds of tax) but you know, it was kind of worth it. We ordered the only non-Indian pizza on the menu, which was called ‘El Mexicano’. It came topped with corn, onion, tomato, chicken, jalapeños and even nachos!

        I think the place you mentioned in Hampi was the old Mango Tree. But people told us a gold mining company bought the land by the river so they had to move to a new location in the heart of the village. We only heard about it the day before we left Hampi and wish we’d got wind of it sooner! But we did get to try their superb mushroom kofta and eggplant curry.

        And thanks for the tips on Mexico… Bama and I are already thinking of going there for our next big trip!

      • That is a shame about the Old Mango Tree. That was a sweet spot. Hampi was one of our favorite places in India.

        It is always great to have a local who can show you were the good stuff is. Once, I went to Hong Kong and we got shown around by a local. I forget his name, but he was a great guy and gave us an excellent tour.

        That is awesome about the pizza. We’ve had Mexicano pizza here too, and it is about the same, but with Mexican sausage.

  10. I love reading about your roaming through Mexico, and totally agree about the view of Guanajuato, but it’s your photography that gets me – fabulous especially: the first three of Guanajuato, the flirting couple and the cathedral at night.
    Alison

    • Thank you Alison. There are so many flirting and kissing couples here I am bound to get a good one from time to time 🙂 I think the couple flirting is my favorite in the set. Guanajuato is such a great place for photos since there is so much color and activity. I am sure you will visit a time or two when you stay here.

  11. Your Day 38 photos is incredible ~ there is something about night shooting (and getting a great shot) that always excites. Guanajuato is one of my favorite places in Mexico (although I have not been there in such a long time), your photos show more of the place than I remember which is fantastic. As for a KFC/McDonalds craving, I’ve felt the same many times in China/Asia. When I am back in the States, I do not eat fast food ~ but there are times when overseas there is not a better sight. Comfort food at a time when comfort is needed. Cheers and safe travels ~

    • That Day 38 photo was fun. I am not sure why, but there were fire dancers and drummers parading down the street. Guanajuato is a really fun city – a lot going on and it isn’t too touristy. I visited 12 years ago and it didn’t seem to change much.

      I haven’t been back to KFC since getting better, but I did find the Mexican equivalent. I got a two piece chicken meal and they brought tortillas and salsa to the table. You have to love this country!

      • I remember having my first bowl of chicken soup there…basically a whole chicken & veggies in broth ~ simply amazing 🙂

  12. Your experience seeing the migrating monarchs has me green with envy. I am really hoping I get to see that before too long. How was the photography of the spectacle? I am assuming pretty difficult. How much more time do you have in Mexico?

    • Yes, photography of the spectacle was really hard. I needed a telephoto lens because they were high in the trees in clusters. Also, it was a slightly overcast day with flat light. None of that diminished from the spectacle though. We have 3 more weeks here. We visited Chichen Itza today.

  13. Great recap. While I’ve never seen the monarchs in Mexico, I did get to see the tail end of the butterfly migration in Florida once. So cool to see so many butterflies in motion all at once. I had to do a double take on the Mexican security system. At first I thought one dog had gotten tangled int he bars, then realized it was two dogs. They look soooo vicious. I’d hate to get licked to death by them.

    • Hahahaha. I think licked to death would be the punishment. The monarchs should come through New Hampshire. You need to plant milkweed in your yard – they like that, I hear.

  14. Interesting, Jeff, we also got deathly ill in Guanajuato, after traveling for many weeks. We didn’t find the KFC, but we did find a great little falafel shop that fit the bill. We loved Guanajuato and Morelia, but missed the monarchs. Guess we’ll just have to go back. I am so enjoying your Mexican travelogue. ~Terri

    • HAHAHA! We found that same falafel shop and went there the rest of the week after KFC. Morelia is really great, isn’t it? I am surprised that there are so few tourists there.

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