Welcome to the Mexico Travel Awards Show presented by Planet Bell. Last fall, I traveled for two months through 13 Mexican states, from the north to the south, from the Baja to the Yucatan, and points in between. Here is a map of where I went:
Now that the dust has settled on the trip and I’ve had time to reflect, it is time to give out awards! By the way, I am wearing a tuxedo and will be your host for this event. Please put on your formal wear, get a beverage of your choice and settle in for an evening of awards and entertainment.
The Best of Mexico Travel
Prettiest Colonial City
(I am now opening the envelope to reveal the winner)
And the winner is: Guanajuato!
Mexico, it could be argued, has the greatest collection of cities outside of Europe. The Spaniards, aside from mining silver, decimating local populations and destroying their temples, were also very good at erecting striking colonial cities. Although all of them are beautiful, colorful Guanajuato, which is shoehorned in a narrow valley and is dotted with plazas and squares, is the most bewitching of them all.
The Most Impressive Natural Wonder in Mexico
The winner is: The Monarch Butterfly Reserve!
In this very competitive category, The Monarch Butterfly Reserve emerges as the victor for one reason: it is unique. Each winter, huge swarms of butterflies migrate to central Mexico for the winter. Standing all alone in a forest with literally millions of butterflies flying around is truly magical and cannot be replicated anywhere else on Earth.
Best Park or Plaza
- Plaza de Armas, Morelia
- Zocalo, Puebla
- Zocalo, Cuetzalan
- Plaza de la Independencia, Campeche
- Plaza Girabaldi, Mexico City
And the winner is: Plaza de Armas, Morelia
Mexican parks and squares are full of activity, but the Plaza de Armas in Morelia was my favorite. During our visit, the beautiful square was packed with street performers, dancers, musicians, families and lovers. The park is surrounded by lively cafes, bars and restaurants and the massive church that rises on the east side of the square is one of the most impressive in Mexico. Moreover, there were hardly any tourists there.
Best Mexican Beer
- Negra Modela
And the winner is: Victoria
In an effort to report back to my readers on the quality of Mexican beer, I tried to sample all of them. Normally I am not a fan of watery Mexican beer because I like my beer to have flavor. But in the heat, with a lime and muy picante food, a Mexican beer totally hits the spot.
I should note that Negra Modelo is clearly the best beer in Mexico. No one with a palate could deny that. The reason Victoria wins is that it was usually 5 pesos cheaper, and if you are
a cheapskate frugal traveler like me, every bit counts.
Best Mexican Food
- Fish Tacos
- Enchiladas for breakfast
- Guacamole by the truckload
- Chile Relleno Taco (yes, there is such a thing).
And the winner is, what? Okay, and the winner is: Fish Tacos?
I know what the audience is thinking: that is maybe the most boring food you could pick, but hear me out. Fish tacos were usually just a bit of fish or shrimp on a corn tortilla, but what made them delicious was the accouterment. Often, there was a condiment bar with peppers, avocado, pickled onions, tomatoes and salsas that ranged from fire to toxic on the picante scale. Once the taco is properly decorated it is transformed into a cheap, flavorful and filling pocket of goodness.
Note: always take a tiny taste of any salsa before loading up your taco or dunking your tortilla chip in it.
Best off the Beaten Path Destination
And the winner is: Zozocolco!
The owners of our guesthouse in Cuetzalan invited us to go with them to the state of Veracruz to a festival. It turned out to be the most fun adventure of our trip. In addition to getting to spend a day with a Mexican family, we got to see a colorful, lively fiesta that was free of tourists. Giant balloons made of thin tissue paper were filled with hot air so that they would expand and take flight. Between each balloon launch, there was live music, dancing and this being a Mexican fiesta, much drinking.
Favorite Ancient Ruin
For this category, lets look at a photo of each nominee.
And the winner is…WOW! This one is a surprise. Uxmal wins in an upset!
Obviously, Chichen Itza was the clear favorite to win here, and admittedly, it is more impressive than Uxmal in many ways. Chichen Itza is truly a wonder of the world. But Uxmal is also incredibly impressive and is smack in the middle of the jungle. It receives a fraction of the tourists of Chichen Itza and you can enjoy it almost all to yourself.
Best Place to Watch a Sunset
And the winner is: the La Paz Malecon!
The seaside promenade of La Paz comes alive at sunset when the temperatures finally drop and the intense tropical sun slips below the horizon. The malecon becomes a playground for kids, families, joggers, bikers, skateboards, and partiers. The restaurants that line the avenue are reasonably priced, offer great food and people watching. Speaking of which…
Best Place for People Watching
And the winner is: Zona Rosa, Mexico City
With drag queens, tattooed bikers, fashionable youngsters, men in suits, girls in impossibly high heals, random indigenous women in traditional clothes and punks with piercings and green hair, the Pink Zone of Mexico City is a people watching, and street photography, dream. On our last visit, at 5pm on Friday, all the sidewalk cafes and bars were packed with people fresh off work, starting the weekend early with heavy drinking, dancing and fun.
Overall Mexican Highlight
Okay, now it is time for the big prize, the Very Best of Mexico.
Drum Roll Please…
And the winner is: Day of the Dead, Oaxaca!
Overall, our best experience and favorite thing in Mexico was the Day of the Dead celebration in Oaxaca. We experienced five days of colorful parades, wild fiestas, and raucous concerts juxtaposed with somber gatherings in the cemeteries. I have never seen anything like it. Mexicans really know how to fiesta!
That concludes our evening of awards. I’d like to congratulate all the winners and nominees.
Have you been to Mexico?
What are your favorite places?
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