Teotihuacan, El Tajin (pt 2 of our 2007 trip)


Our next stop, northeast of Mexico City, was the massive pre-Aztec ruin site Teotihuacan.  The pyramids there are some of largest in the world.  They could easily be mistaken for mountains at a distance.  If you go here bring plenty of water and a lunch.   It's a huge site and takes all day and lots of walking to see.  We ate breakfast that morning that a fantastic restaurant that was facing the Pyramid of the Moon and dinner that night in a restaurant inside an enourmous nearby cave, where I tried the huitlacoche, the black corn fungus.

After leaving Teotihuacan, we headed East to Papantla, which is the vanilla growing capital of Mexico and is also nearby the ruin El Tajin.

 I got a bag of 10 vanilla beans in the Papantla market for $2 and also learned that the vanilla bean is the seed pod of an orchid. From there we spent nights at Xalapa, Veracruz, and Acayucan. Continuing further south we arrived at Villa Hermosa only to find that all of the roads leading into the Yucatan were closed due to flooding. We ended up retracing our path north while waiting for the floodwaters to subside. It was frustrating, but we got to see something we would have otherwise missed- and what ended up being one of my favorite places on the trip, Las Pozas and Xilitla.


DIY bath products: aloe and jojoba anti acne facial lotion, lotion for dry skin

I've made my own facial products for several years now.  It's fun, you save a ton of money, and they work better than most things you can buy in a store.  Here are some recipes I've had success with.

Moisturizer for Acne Prone or Oily Skin:
1/2 C aloe gel ( Lily of the Desert works well)
1/2 to 1 t jojoba oil. 

After three months of using this recipe, my acne was gone.  I had been battling fairly severe acne for 6 years and was amazed at how well this worked.  I was totally sold on making my own bath products  after this.  Jojoba oil "tricks" your skin into not producing oil because it resembles your skin's natural oil closely.   It works better than soap to clear clogged pores.  The aloe calms irritation and very hydrating.

Moisturizer for Dry Skin:
I made this body lotion with a mix different oils I had lying around, and I found it works well on my face too.  This recipe has a lot of oil, but for whatever reason doesn't make me break out.  I found the cobalt glass jar at the Alberta Co-op. 

1 C cooled brewed herbal (calendula) or green tea
1/4 C safflower oil
scant 1/2C olive oil
spoonful of virgin, raw coconut oil
spoonful of shea butter
2 T grated beeswax
8 drops ylang ylang essential oil
5 drops sweet orange
4 drops lavender
1 drop rosemary

Heat the oils and beeswax in a double boiler (or a pyrex mixing bowl placed over a pot of boiling water) until the wax melts.  Remove from heat and let cool for 2 min.  Blend the water on high in the blender, remove the stopper on top and slowly pour in the oil/ wax mixture.  Blend until it's emulsified completely.  Add essential oils when cool and jar it.  (Mason jars are great.)

Fill a spray bottle (available in the travel area of the toiletries section) halfway with water or cooled herbal/ green tea, halfway with witch hazel, a squirt of honey, and a drop of rosemary, mint, or sweet orange essential oil.

I buy french green, red, or white clay from the bulk section of natural food stores, which can be rehydrated with water, green tea, milk or soy milk.  Yogurt, honey, or egg whites are all edibles that make great masks.

I also keep several aloe plants around my house.  Nothing beats fresh aloe!


Real de Catorce, San Miguel de Allende (pt 1 2007 trip)

In 2007 my boyfriend and I took a road trip though Mexico and Central America.  We spent several weeks driving down the gulf side of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula.  We left our car in Playa del Carmen (a town an hour south of Cancun) and then spent another month traveling by bus through Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala.  It was a really awesome adventure though sometimes stressful (don't try this in a low clearance vehicle. . .)  The mix of indigenous and European cultures makes these countries fascinating places to travel.  Many places feel like Europe, with old colonial buildings and outdoor markets.  The food is great- corn tortillas (flour tortillas origintated in Texas- you won't find them in Mexico), chiles, avocados, chocolate (still only found as a drink, as it was in precolonial times), mole, nopales (prickly pear), tamales, empanadas,and abundant fresh juice.  Most areas have a year round growing season, so the produce is really fresh, and there is delicious and cheap street food everywhere.  Most Americans are surprisingly unaware of the great things the countries south of the border have to offer, outside of the heavily touristed coastal areas. 

After crossing the border at Laredo, our first stop, several hours south of Monterrey, was Real de Catorce, an formerly abandoned silver mining colony high the desert mountains.  We drove for an hour up the old cobblestone road, passing by donkeys, prickly pears, and many crumbling buildings.  We arrived at a tunnel, which was so narrow only one lane of traffic can go through at a time and was only lit by our headlights.  The town is nestled in a little valley on the other side of the tunnel.  The hotel we stayed in had a rooftop patio, and I remember being woken at dawn by the roosters.  I was glad we had sleeping bags, as it was very cold there in November. 

Our next stop, 5 hours south, was the beautiful colonial town of San Miguel de Allende.  We stayed at the fantastic hotel San Sebastian, which was an old masion.  Our room was only $20.  San Miguel was one of my favorite places in Mexico.  It has wonderful architecture, panaderias (pastry shops), and there are hot springs just outside of the city.  We soaked at a place called La Gruta.   There were many vendors selling freshly pressed juices, an apothecary with herbal tinctures, and a great artisan market.  There is a large American expatriate community living here.

view from our hotel window.  lots of traffic in this town!

my boyfriend, Robert

 tilework in our bathroom

that's me!

After two days in San Miguel de Allende, we drove an hour east to Guanajuato, another beautiful colonial city famous for it's pastel buildings and maze of tunnels underneath the downtown area. Driving here was especially challenging, as we'd completely lose our orientation after going through a tunnel. I forgot to take pictures here, but it's a beautiful place and well worth a side trip from San Miguel.