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During our first 100 days of travel, which we spent in California, Arizona, Nevada and in Mexico, we have had some amazing ups and (luckily only very few) disappointing downs, and share with you here our tops & flop moments, experiences and recommendations below.
Top travel moments
These are our own personal top travel moments. While of course we would recommend them, these were the unexpected, spontaneous experiences that make us love to travel.
Baseball in San Diego
We caught a San Diego Padres baseball game during our one-night stop on the way to Tucson. We had nachos and cheered and soaked up the all-American experience, while discovering a city we both would visit again.
Street Food in Mexico
We love it! Bah Humbug to anyone who doesn’t try the street food in Mexico. Sure, we eat it partially because we are on a budget, but the street food is the truly typical food in Mexico. It varies by region and is the perfect way to immerse yourself.
We took our little Chevy Aveo rental car and headed south on the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica to Laguna Beach early in the morning, stopping for coffee in Huntington Beach. As we laid on the beach on a still-chilly Monday morning in May, this was the first moment where we realized how free we are on this trip. We can go anywhere we want to at any time, there are no rules.
We had read about Plaza Garibaldi, the square in Mexico City which is famous for its mariachi gatherings, and sure enough, we found ourselves surrounded by the hundreds of Mariachis in dozens of different bands sprawled out along the Plaza, playing songs for couples and families there on a Saturday night. After hanging out for a little while, we were about to leave, but our hungry eyes scanned the plaza for food. Through a door we discovered an entire indoor market area lined with over 15 restaurants. We chose one, sat down, and easily had some of the best food we’ve had so far on the trip.
After passing through the commercial and very touristy main street in Sedona, we drove down to Oak Creek, which was originally for Dani to get some great pictures of Oak Creek Canyon. At the spot, we found families and locals hanging out along the river, hunting for crayfish or riding on inner-tubes down the natural lazy river. This was the truly beautiful Sedona we will always save in our memory.
A strange mix of WWF/WWE wrestling and the bad acting of the Jerry Springer show, Lucha Libre is nothing but entertaining. They LOVE Lucha Libre here in Mexico, and it is in fact listed as second only to football (soccer) as the nation’s favorite past-time. Sure, the masks and the faker-than-fake fight action is entertaining, but it is the chaos in the stands that make Lucha Libre worth it. Fans take sides and bring drums and horns and taunt the opposing fan-side, while vendors sell Pepsi and plates of freshly breaded fish complete with lime and salsa on the side. Children and adults alike rush the stage (okay, officially it’s still a ring) for autographs before and sometimes during the fight, and afterwards they chase down the wrestlers on their way out for pictures and more autographs. These near-rockstars comply with almost every request, and are, despite their hulky size and obviously aggressive nature, more approachable than any other group of celebrities. A night to remember for sure.
Worst Travel Moments
The worst moments were going to be both the breakfast and the see-through shared showers in the courtyard (free p*rn for the male employees walking extra slowly past the door and travelers who were having their breakfast not five feet away from it) at the Casa de Don Pablo hostel in Oaxaca.
This was the worst accommodation we had had, until our 99th night when we ended up at a hostel by the name of Colibri in the beach town of Mazunte. Our room had puddles of water on the floor and it might have been months since someone had last stayed in the room. The ’en-suite’ bathroom was created by knocking some of the cement brick out of the wall and installing a toilet which flushes only when you pour a bucket of water into it and came with brown ‘marks’ on the seat. For those without the luxury of a private room (*sarcasm*), there was a shared shower located outside in the main walkway to the beach which did not even have a curtain. Turns out the place was abandoned and taken over by a self-described ‘Pinche Gringo’ (f!cking Am!rican) three months ago. A quarter of a year later, the place is still falling apart, and the room was by far the worst we have seen so far. For travelers who are on a really tight budget, the dorms are only $5 (U.S.) a night and the terrace really does have amazing beach views.
Top Travel Mishaps
Dani lost an SD Card which contained over 600 pictures of our fabulous week in Los Angeles, including the beach trips, the Griffith observatory and an MTV show being filmed at Venice Beach, BEFORE uploading them on the computer. Lesson – upload pictures onto the computer immediately and store your SD cards somewhere much safer than a jacket pocket.
Weary after a day of exploring San Francisco, Dani happened to leave her dSLR camera on the seat at a diner after dinner. Miraculously, after realizing the camera was gone and sprinting back to said diner, the camera sat right on the seat where she left it. Crisis luckily averted and lesson learned: Check constantly that you have everything with you.
Top food moments
Dani: Quesadilla de flor de calabaza from everywhere, but specifically inside the Mercado de Abastos in Oaxaca and also Agua de Guayaba (guava fruit blended with water).
Jess: Potato Taco in Calle Uruguay in Mexico City and the Quesadilla from the first of many indoor stall/restaurants on De la 5 Poniente road in Puebla.
Favorite stop so far: San Francisco
We both agree that in spite of having visited some amazing places, the city by the Bay is hands-down our favorite place – from the Mission District to the Castro, up the hills on the cable car and down to waterfront and up and over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Least Favorite stop: Chinle, northern Arizona
The problem is that in order to visit Canyon de Chelly you have to not only come through Chinle, but most likely you are going to spend at least one night here. There are three hotels. Book one before you get there to get a good deal. Chinle is a very run down, poor small town on the edge of Canyon de Chelly. You won’t find any restaurants outside the hotels except for a Burger King and a Subway.
Top Travel Recommendations
Canyon de Chelly, Chinle, northern Arizona
Located on a Navajo Indian Reservation in Northern Arizona, Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon de ‘shay’) is a stunning canyon which can be visited by stopping at various overlooks on two drives along the northern and southern rims. There is no entry fee to the canyon. Half and full-day jeep tours drive along the bottom of the dry canyon (fees vary) and there is one spot where a 1.5 mile path leads from a look-out point on the north rim across to an ancient Anasazi village built into the canyon wall on the south side. This is the only unguided walk allowed and is also free.
Red Rock Canyon in Vegas rather than the Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam is an important structure, and Las Vegas and much of the West could not exist without it. But that doesn’t mean you have to drive there, if you ask us. Look it up online if you want to see pictures and then head to Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas. Yes, the rocks are red, and they are gorgeous, and the 13-mile Scenic Route Drive ($7 per car) is dotted with amazing rock formations, thrilling colors and demands immediate respect for the rich variety of the landscape of the Southwest.
As Mexico City’s urban sprawl connects otherwise unrelated towns throughout the Valley of Mexico, the area of Xochimilco is now the last stop on the ‘Tren Ligera’, or Light Railway, which leaves from Tasquena, itself the last stop on Line 2 of the subway. After an easy hour’s trip, make your way to one of the 7 embarcaderos for a ride on the colorful Trajinera along the canals of the former Lake Xochimilco. Bring as many friends as you can fit on the boat, along with some rum for a do-it-yourself booze cruises as the Mexicans do, or just enjoy the scenic and Mariachi-filled three-hour ride along the canal.
Whether you are one of our fellow round-the-world travelers or just looking for an original vacation option, you should seriously consider doing a housesit. Sign up with Housecarers.com or Mindmyhouse.com where homeowners post ads to watch their house for anywhere from a week to over a year. The stay is free in exchange for taking care of the house and (almost always) a housepet or even farm animal while they are gone. We have done two housesits now, and especially the three weeks in Tucson, Arizona were some of the best times of our trip. We stayed (rent free) in a great house with a pool, took care of a lovely dog, and got to know a city we never would have visited on our own. We learned about the pattern of daily life in the desert (up at 5:30 and get everything done before 1pm, when temperatures soar up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit – 43 Celcius). We’re on the look-out for our next housesit somewhere in Central America in the coming months and can’t wait!