Xalapa was everything we’ve come to expect in a big city. Cab drivers who honk when you don’t need a cab and cannot be found when you do. Hot dog stands on every corner. Falafel and Shwarma for dinner. Sears was having a sale just down the street from our hostel. Oh, did I mention, we are still in Mexico?
After the surreal gardens in Xilitla we needed a little break and headed further south to Veracruz and Xalapa. To get there we took a two hour bus from Xilita back to Ciudad Valles where we had gone kayaking. Then needed another two hour bus from there (somehow this bus was $1 extra and was “grand comfort” which means it had food, water, half as many seats, tons of legroom, and free wifi) to the big city of Tampico. Then needed an 8 hour overnight bus to Veracruz where we spent the day before getting on another 2 hour bus to Xalapa. Phew, ok we were still in Mexico.
On our layover in Veracruz we wandered the Malecon (sea wall, like a boardwalk, but not in New Jersey and made of cement), grabbed some ice cream (yay!), wandered into the (surprisingly large, cheap, and enjoyable) aquarium, were accosted by English speaking waiters demanding we choose their restaurant, and ultimately made it back to the bus station in one piece. Veracruz is definitely a tourist destination, we haven’t seen so many signs in English or souvenir shops since… Tijuana? Needless to say we were glad to be only passing through…
Once in Xalapa it was like we’d walked out of Mexico and back into Washington. The streets were full of unique boutiques, restaurants and cafes. The crowd was young and we heard multiple languages on the street (English not being one of them!). For dinner we strolled around and happened upon an middle eastern restaurant. Their Taco Arabe (Shwarma) was our first truly non mexican meal, not one chili pepper to be seen. Seriously. And it was amazing. Coming from a place like DC where there is every time of cuisine imagineable, even from cultures that you don’t expect to have “cuisine”. As we said before, having mexican everynight has begun to wear on us, thank you el bedouin for reminding us about non-mexican food!!
As Xalapa is home to the best archaelogical museum in Mexico, so we checked it out and learned about the peoples who populated the state of Veracruz, many of whom actually predate both the Aztecs and the Mayans. We also learned that the river we went kayaking on (our next post) was the same river used by Cortez when he landed in Mexico and started making his way inland to Mexico City. Pretty cool!The museum was full of artifacts from around southern mexico including huge heads from the Olmetec period. The heads are really famous here, after going to the museum, we saw a replica at the bus station!