2017, Mexico, November, travel, Uncategorized

TEMPLO MAYOR

Templo Mayor, Mexico City, Mexico

The Templo Mayor (Spanish for “Main Temple”) was one of the main temples of the Aztecs in the then city of Tenochtitlan which is now Mexico City. The temple is dedicated to two gods, Huitzilopochtli, god of war, and Tlaloc, god of rain. Each of which had a shrine at the top of the pyramid. Rain god on the left, war god on the right. The temple was originally constructed in 1325 AD. Each time an Aztec emperor died, they constructed a new outer layer. The pyramid was rebuilt six times after the original layer, 7 emperors, 7 layers. The temple was destroyed by the Spanish in 1521 to construct the cathedral from the materials. Originally it was thought the cathedral was built over the top of the temple. The temple was discovered on the right-hand side of the cathedral, in 1978 by accident. Workers for the electric company were digging when the diggers struck a pre-hispanic monolith stone, although oddly earlier than this period a sewage pipe was run straight through the centre of the temple, how or why the temple was missed then, nobody knows. The temple is gradually rising due to an underground river. The temple currently is higher than the surrounding pavement and roads. It’s believed the temple spreads out under many of the surrounding buildings.  The attached un-edited video and photographs are from my visit…

 

 

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2017, Mexico, November, travel

MEXICRÁNEOS

Day of the Dead Art, Mexico City, Mexico

Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico. This year it was November 2nd. The skulls are a project to promote the culture and art of Mexico…

click image to view in gallery mode…

 

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2017, Nicaragua, October, travel

Las Isletas Tour, Granada, Nicaragua

When the Mombacho Volcano erupted thousands of years ago, it threw huge rocks into Lake Nicaragua. As a result of this violent eruption 365 islets were formed in front of Granada. The islets differ in size between a hundred square meters and over one hundred hectares. The islets serve different purposes. There is a community of about 1200 people living on the islets. Most of the people living here are fishermen. Other islets accommodate hotels, bars, and restaurants or luxurious houses mostly owned by foreigners, who only stay for a few days of the year. There are islets containing spider, howler and white face monkeys plus uninhabited islets with only some palm trees growing on it. This was a $20 tour lasting approx four hours with a stop off at one of the islets bars where you could have a relaxing drink or go swimming in the lake. It was a beautiful day with a funny episode when one of the monkeys boarded the boat unexpectedly and wouldn’t leave. It was particularly funny when another tour boat pulled in front of our boat trying to spot the monkeys not realising there was one behind them !!!

 

 

 

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2017, Nicaragua, October, travel

Granada, Nicaragua

For those of you who are unaware, I left the US, LA on the 27th September and flew to Managua, Nicaragua via Houston, Texas. I was strongly advised against traveling to Mexico or Cuba for the time being until they fully recover from the earthquakes and hurricanes etc.

Cheapest flight on Expedia was too Nicaragua so hey why not. I spent my first two weeks with a Nicaraguan family (casa familiar) which I hastily left after a couple of weeks when I discovered I was sharing my room with the local fruit bats (not pleasant).

I’ve since moved into an apartamento very close to Parque Central, Granada. It comes with luxury items such as swimming pool, hot and cold running water, cable tv and a washing machine.

Granada is remarkably cheap compared to the US, typically a beer costs $1 with a meal costing between $2-3 dollars.

My first full week I spent at Casa Xaltave Escuela, having intensive one to one Spanish lessons with Gabriella. I obviously still have a long way to go but I’m more confident in speaking etc to staff in the restaurants and bars asking for the bill etc. I would highly recommend learning Spanish beforehand though. (there are slight variances from Spain, Spanish vs Nicaraguan, Spanish)

The Nicaraguan currency is the Córdobas. $1 = C$30 Córdaba. Restaurants, Bars, and shops etc accept both currencies or a mixture of both. The actual exchange rate is something like C$30.4 but everyone for ease uses C$30. ATM’s issue either currency and there are many street corner vendors who will change dollars to Córdoba at the above rate.

The pavements in Granada are extremely dangerous. Potholes are everywhere. I swear if you never hear from me again I will be stuck down a man size sewer somewhere in Granada. You have to constantly watch where you are going at all times. The pavements are not on the same level so many people resort to walking in the road which has it’s own hazard’s, as the locals seem to forget which side of the road they should be driving on. Having said this it all seems to work, I’ve yet to see a single incidence.

The Nicaraguan people though are so friendly and welcoming. It’s quite a contrast to the US. They are not glued to there phones,  they talk to each other, are very proud of there country, and often ask you if you like there country, where are you from and how long you are staying etc. There are certain no-go areas, particularly at night which the locals will warn you against, always stay vigilant of your surroundings. Heed the warnings!!!

Mosquitos!!! Be prepared to be bitten, multiple times. I’ve had huge blisters from mosquito bites. The only effective repellent is ones containg DEET. Apply it thoroughly, if you miss an area they will find it. Allegedly, the more times a person has been bitten by mosquitoes, the more likely they’ll become desensitized over time. This I’ve yet to confirm !!! The best treatment after being bitten is Aloe Vera, it reduces the swelling and speeds up recovery.

Surprisingly the internet is very good here. I’m able to watch Netflix no problem. The only issue I’ve had is with uploading videos, hence the delay in uploading this one….

 

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2017, September, travel

My thoughts on the US

I thought I would put together my thoughts on my recent travels around the US…

Driving: You quickly get used to driving on the right-hand side of the road. Actually, after a while, it felt more logical and sensible than the UK, particularly with the stop signs system. The American’s I found to be very conscientious drivers. When you come to a stop sign, you take it in turns to move off so you have to keep a check on order of arrival so you know when it’s your turn to pull away.  You can turn right on a red light, but you have to give way to on-coming traffic on your left and pedestrians crossing. Interstate highways and Freeways are another experience altogether, with often 8 to 10 lanes criss crossing each other. Brilliant fun. 🙂

Coffee: The US has a very big coffee culture, particularly first thing in the mornings. Most people can be seen carrying cups of coffee as they head to work. I soon learned early on to buy myself a thermal cup and pay refill prices instead of full price. Refills tended to cost $1 whereas the full price tends to be around $1.95. Every shop, gas station and supermarket has coffee on tap, with a minimum of 3 varieties/strengths including decaf. In the morning’s cars can be seen queuing outside places like Starbucks drive-through for morning coffee. I love this part of the culture as I myself drink several coffees during the day, particularly strong coffee which the Americans love. In the afternoon the trend is to have iced coffee/teas such as mochas, lattes, frappucinos, chai with whipped cream amongst many other toppings. A new trend (not sure if they have this in the UK yet) is they have nitro coffee, which is super cold coffee on tap, it looks like guinness the beer when pored and has a head and everything Click here to see.

Food: The food in the US is amazing. It’s very much a consumer market with endless choice. Everywhere you go theirs food being advertised, on the TV, radio, billboards, and shops. You have endless choice’s, if you like food done in a particular way, you can have it, nothing is to much trouble. The portion sizes are immense. I had a greek omelet one day at a dinner I went to. It said “three egg omelet”, I’m not kidding you it was enormous, they must have used Ostrich eggs. Unbelievably It should have come with toast, oatmeal, and fruit which I declined. Whilst eating my omelet, I was watching a girl demolish four oval plate size blubbery pancakes with bacon of all things. So I thought for tea the next day I will ask for a small portion, no bacon, obviously (weird). They bought me two, very large oval plate size, pancakes, topped with blueberries, and ice cream. I managed one, and that was tough going. I think they thought I didn’t like them or something was wrong because they offered me a replacement or to make them again. 🙂 It didn’t help that every time I took a mouthful of coffee they came over and topped it up, I thought I’m never going to get out of here alive, I’m going to need a crane to lift my stomach up to walk out the place. To order anything it’s 20 questions. Be aware they ask you to repeat your order. In the UK  you order a burrito you get a burrito, you have no choice, it comes as it comes. Here you can have it any way you want, with whatever you want. One time I was in a queue there was a girl ordering a burrito in front of me. Her boyfriend had obviously texted her his order because she was reading it from her phone. She was telling the lad, she didn’t want this and she didn’t want that etc. He eventually said “so basically you just want a Burrito with just meat in it” and she said yes !!!! Brilliant. Only in America. All three of us just couldn’t stop laughing. Do not buy pre-packaged sandwiches (often they are frozen because they keep them in the freezer). Most shops, gas stations and supermarkets make sandwiches to order. My favorite sandwich is cheese, tomato and avocado on wheat with mustard. And boy do the Americans know how to make a sandwich. They are immense, very reasonably priced and obviously fresh.

Gas and Hotel: The gas stations do not accept the UK or any other country debit/credit card payments at the pumps. Instead, you have to go to the kiosk and pre-pay. Which means you have to guess, how much to pre-pay, to fill your tank or never fill it. If you should overpay, the difference is automatically refunded to your card, but be aware this can take up to 30 days (I found it was usually within a couple of days with one exception which took 14days). Hotels take a deposit (sometimes per day!!!) along with payment for your room. The deposit can be more than the cost of the room. These deposits mount up particularly when traveling and can again take up to 30 days to be refunded. This I found on average took longer to refund, usually about 10 working days (at one point In my journey I was awaiting $1400 to be refunded). If you use Hotels.com for booking your hotel, I found it better to wait until after 5pm to get the best deals.

Coast to Coast: The east coast is way cheaper than the west coast. To fill my rental car in Chicago I was spending approx $20 with hotels costing around $60 per night. As I drove westward the gas and hotel prices increased to $40 for gas and $130 for a hotel. The exception being hotels around Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Monterey Bay where prices doubled/trebled for a basic hotel. When I mentioned this price increase to people in LA they say “it’s the price you pay to live in California”. My favorite cities have to be Chicago (loved it) Lodi and LA. Lodi is a city located in San Joaquin County, California, in the northern portion of California’s Central Valley. You could tell from speaking to the people in the town center, they loved their town and were extremely proud of it. At night the town center was all lit up and had a really amazing vibe even though it was midweek, people were out and about enjoying themselves, it was such an amazing atmosphere.

Favorite States: I love Illinois obviously because of Chicago, route 66 memorabilia, and just some of the most scenic towns. Although I only drove through a small part of Texas I found the people to be incredibly friendly and had a really great time talking to all sorts of interesting people. So much so It will definitely be on my list to visit again and spend more time in southern Texas. My number one state has to be Califonia. Wow, California just has everything. It has the contrast of Death Valley and Yosemite National Parks, amazing coastline and beaches, the huge sequoia and redwood forests, mountains and fruit and vegetable groves. It has makeshift stalls on the roadside by the groves selling fresh fruit and nuts which was amazing, nothing was to much trouble and you could taste anything. Places Like Lodi, Santa Rosa, San Francisco, San Jose, Monterey,  Carmel, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Malibu, Santa Monica, LA, Long Beach, San Diego to mention a few.

Expensive: The US is expensive. The GBP to USD exchange rate is currently 1.32 (I remember when it was $2). I found food, drink and eating out to be very expensive although fast food outlets which there are many are extremely cheap. Gas is cheap but less so in LA. Electronics such as iPhones etc. were way cheaper than the UK even after tax. You need to be aware that the price you see is not the price you pay. In some states there can be upwards of 4 tax’s added on top of the price you see (till receipts can be very long), oh and don’t forget 10-15% tips even when the service is poor.

UPDATE……

ID: I forgot to mention ID Cards. The hotels, gas stations, and many shops ask for photo ID with confirmation of your address. so even if you don’t drive or have the old style driving licence I would recommend you obtain the new style driving licence. A further querk is when asked for your zip code at an ATM or shop input 99999 (five nines) which is accepted (many shop assistants were not aware).

Overal though I absolutely love the US and cannot wait to go back….

Phillip Ward

 

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2017, Cars, September, travel

Petersen Automotive Museum

Whilst recently stopping in downtown LA in a Vintage AirStream caravan, I visited, probably one of the most beautiful automotive museums you can imagine. Founded on June 11, 1994, by magazine publisher Robert E. Petersen, and his wife Margie, the Petersen Automotive Museum is owned and operated by the Petersen Automotive Museum Foundation. This really is a must-see attraction on any visit to Los Angeles. It just blows you away, not surprising when you find out they recently splashed $125 million dollars on refurbishment. It costs $15 to enter, but it’s worth paying the extra $20 for the vault tour where you get to see a “behind the scenes” of some of the most unique cars in the collection that are not on display (unfortunately but understandable you are not allowed to photograph these cars as many are privately owned). For me though the cars that really stood out was the Bugatti collection in the main museum.

 

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2017, September, travel

Venice Beach

Venice residential neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, is known as a buzzing beach town. Venice Boardwalk is the site of funky shops, street performers, and colorful murals. There’s also a skate park and Muscle Beach outdoor gym. Stretching about one a half miles along the manicured sands of the Pacific Ocean, the boardwalk is a large part of what makes Venice unique. On the west side of the “walk” are hundreds of street vendors and performers. You can see everything from break-dancing to broken glass walking. Mimes to musicians, jugglers to jesters and everything in between. The Westside offers unique arts and crafts, odds and ends and one of a kind only obtainable here. In addition, skate and surf shops, medical marijuana dispensaries would you believe and more. This is all in addition to the large selection of restaurants, juice spots, and bars. I’m literally staying a stone’s throw from the beach. Tomorrow a film crew is setting up outside to film Goliath 2. Alec has lent me his bike for the week, so I cycle around the beach which I love, but believe me, it gets very chaotic in the mornings with so many people, you need eyes in the back of your head.

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