Author Archives: Carrie
Havana is a paradise for music and art, and on our Sunday there we decided to check out an amazing little spot for both! Callejon de Hamel is a short block in central Havana that’s also the center of Afro-Cuban culture in the city. Eclectic and artsy, it almost seems like the Burning Man of Cuba. Funky art galleries, rapping buskers, recycled street art, Santería icons, performers, and wall-to-wall people enjoying the lively atmosphere.
At the end of the alley was a whole rumba group. The crowd was thick but we gradually made it close enough to see most of the action. The rhythms were free-flowing and improvisational, each drummer vibing off the others. The singers chanted, and other percussionists danced maniacally with maracas. Check out the video below! We loved it!
Hotel Temazcal is a cozy refuge in Creel, easily accessible to all the Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) activities. The friendly staff can help you arrange tours and recommend local restaurants. They also offer periodic “temescal” sweat lodge ceremonies, which we sadly couldn’t try out because we weren’t there on the right day.
Our room had a comfy queen bed, ample storage space, an awesome loft area with a large mattress (would be great for kids!), TV, bathroom, and super-nice floor heating to keep it nice and toasty.
The hotel has a DVD and book library you can browse, as well as a common kitchen for cooking and always-available coffee and tea. Added bonus: two super-cute chihuahuas, Nacho and her baby Hueso, who will follow you around trying to convince you to play!
Free coffee and tea
Book and DVD exchange
TVs in rooms
Sweat lodge once a week or for groups of 5+ people
Address: Bakusuki S/N
Barrio Campo de Beisbol (Detrás del Centro Avanzado de Salud)
Creel – Municipio de Bocoyna
Phone: +52 635 4560990
Prices: Single or Double- 500 pesos
Family Suite- 700-1200 pesos
We woke up at the crack of dawn without getting much sleep because we were so excited to finally put our backpacks back on and do some adventuring!
I feel like I’m finally doing what I am meant to do again! It’s been a long year and half of helping other people travel (my job is Assistant Manager at a hostel), feeling a little bit more bored by the routine of it every day. I’m happiest when I have a light pack on my back and a plane ticket in my hand!
There is now a pedestrian bridge (Cross Border Express) from the San Diego side of the border into the Tijuana International Airport. The cost is $15 per person, but it’s super convenient as opposed to crossing on foot and having to take a Mexican taxi to the airport. I slip in and out of sleep on the flight from Tijuana to Chihuahua, catching glimpses of the turquoise-blue passage over the Sea of Cortez, then dry, craggy, cardboard-brown mountains jutting violently out of the flat, barren desert.
Chihuahua at first glance seems like the Wild West of Mexico. Lots of men wearing owboy hats and giant belt buckles, very few gringos. We had to use an ATM to withdraw pesos because there was not even a “casa de cambio” in the airport.
Chihuahua is close to Juarez and the landscape reminded me of the scary, violent scenes from “Sicario” as we rode into town on a taxi. I think it’s much safer, although not very touristy. Our friend from here warned us to stay in the main tourist town of the Copper Canyon (Cañon del Cobre), Creel, and not spend any nights in the small villages, as that’s where we could get kidnapped. Creepy.
Our taxi quickly dropped us off at the office of Autotransportes Turisticos de Noroeste. The ticket saleslady said something about our trip being slow but our Spanish was not up to par enough to understand why at that moment. On the bus, the city ended quickly and we rolled through open desert with mountains in the near distance. About an hour outside the city at the first toll plaza we saw the protest. People and trucks were blocking the highway in both directions. Apparently the price of fuel had been raised 20% overnight and everyone was mad. We had to wait about an hour before they let our bus through. The bus was slow and we had to wait at another roadblock; the mountains got bigger and trees started replacing the cacti as we got higher. It looked a lot like northern Arizona.
After roughly seven hours (should have only taken 4.5) we rolled into Creel, a cold and sleepy town after dark. Hotel Temescal was welcoming and warm, with super-cute Chihuahua pups to play with! Some authentic food at Restaurante Veronica was exactly what we needed. Zach got “El Norteño”, a cast-iron skilled of beef, cheese, and veggies, a traditional local dish.
We dropped into bed early, happy to have made it through our first big travel day and ready for more adventures!
We needed to get out of town and breathe some open air for a couple nights, so we settled on a hastily-researched camping getaway in Anza Borrego State Desert Park. Boy, did it deliver! The stars our first night out there were shining brighter than any I’ve seen anywhere else in California! Breathtaking!
We camped at Tamarisk Campground, which had spacious spots, clean bathrooms, and water spigots, basically everything you need for a good campout! The temperature dropped to around 50 F at night so the campfire was much needed! We spent the next day driving around the massive park getting our bearings. We didn’t do too much hiking because we had the dogs with us. They weren’t allowed on many trails and it was too hot to leave them in the car in the middle of the day. We’ll definitely have to come back to explore the Mud Caves and do the famous Palm Oasis hike.
We did check out the awesome visitor’s center, drove to the Ocotillo Sand Dunes, and then ate great cheap Mexican food in the tiny town of Borrego Springs. There were huge rusty animal sculptures all over the town so we had some photography fun with one of those.
The road home took us through Julian, so naturally we had to stop for some famous Julian apple pie! I’m so glad we were able to get out in nature for a couple days. My soul always feels refreshed after some time in the middle of nowhere!
I’ve never been super into Italian food. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really found the good stuff! We CHOWED down in Italy! Italian food is based on simple, fresh ingredients and exquisite craftsmanship. Every restaurant worth its salt makes their own pasta and menus change seasonally. Thank God we walked so much to stave off too much weight gain.
Breakfast every day was cappuccino and “cornettos”, which are Italian croissants filled with Nutella!!! Yummers!
The antipasto was also amazing! Here’s some bruschetta and prosciutto with melon before lunch!
“Suppli” are basically breaded deep-fried risotto balls. I want to eat these every day for the rest of my life!
Cured meats, bread with gorgonzola truffle spread, tapenades, and veggies at the Mercate Centrale in Firenze. Definitely go there for the amazing local food choices!
The most epic meat and cheese board in the world from La Prosciutteria in Roma.
Pasta made from scratch is SO MUCH BETTER than dried boxed pasta. The pasta was really thick and rich! I tried spinach-ricotta ravioli with garlic sage cream, spaghetti a la pesto, and many more!
Last but not least, dessert! Authentic tiramisu is not very sweet with a very strong coffee flavor. This one was pistachio flavored, hence the green color.
Gelato was also a daily occurrence. This one was from Perche No! in Firenze, which I had dreamed of visiting since hearing so much about how good it was from a high school history teacher. He’s now retired and I half expected to run into him there! I can’t wait to go back to Italia with Zach someday and try all the goodies again! Until then, I’m on the hunt for suppli in California!
Climbing Il Duomo di Firenze on top of Santa Maria del Fiore is a must-do in Italy! We stuck it out through a three-hour-long line to get our chance. The good thing about waiting in line with a group is that you can do shifts. A couple of us would hold the place in line while a couple of us would wander off to explore the Piazza del Duomo, drink cappuccino, go to the bathroom, etc. It was still a looooooong and slow-moving line!
The humongous and intricate Gothic cathedral was begun in 1296, and the dome was engineered by Brunelleschi. The church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can climb the dome, climb the belltower, or visit the baptistry. The views from the top of the dome over Florence are amazing!
Fresco of “The Last Judgement”
Florence is beautiful! I can’t wait to go back someday and see more of Tuscany!
After a few days in Rome we managed to secure a hotel in Florence (“Firenze”). This was not an easy feat, as it was Holy Week and everyone and their mother was flocking to Italy’s famous cities. But we found a cheap room and made it to the Trenitalia station bright and early, despite staying up waaaaay too late drinking and chitchatting the night before. Hey, you only live once!
On to Tuscany (Toscano). Due to our pathetic condition, we didn’t get to enjoy the scenery on the train ride as much as we’d hoped. By the time we got to Florence it was cold and raining (these SoCal kids are NOT used to that!) and we were desperate for food and a nap. Several pizzas and several hours later, we were back in shape and ready to go look around the slightly wet city. Florence had a lot more varied food options than Rome did, strangely. We stuck to Italian food though; it was just too good! Florence was much smaller and easier to walk around than Rome, but still packed with gorgeous architecture and history!
Basilica di Santa Maria Novella
The (fake) David, by Michelangelo, in the Palazzo Vecchio. The real one was is inside the Academia Museum (Academia di Belle Arti di Firenze), but tickets sell out months in advance and we didn’t think that far ahead.
Perseus killing Medusa.
Battling the Minotaur.
Ponte Vecchio, super old bridge covered in jewelry shops.
Stunning view over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Tomorrow we’ll get to Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, one of the most famous churches in the world, and climbing it’s beautiful dome!