Your world can only be viewed in black and white like you have been transported down a worm-hole to 1940’s Britain, rationing is still stalking the nation. You have been asked to cook a Michelin star meal for Winston Churchill with no alcohol, only three ingredients and a broken oven that uses marsh gas – You might kill yourself by accident, or on purpose. I’m painting a picture, an Alan Partridgesque picture for dramatic effect, but not with oil paints, sat a modern desktop computer. Then you are transported in the opposite direction through another worm-hole, what are the chances – ‘improbable’ would be a layman’s evaluation. You are now in a hotel in Mexico City, the capitol city of Mexico, that has all the internet in the world, you are tired after travelling, it’s late at night and you order a green ensalada tortilla, you put a spoonful in your mouth and you literally explode in ecstasy, fragments of you are stuck all over the walls, blood, sinew, brain and viscera drip everywhere, it’s that good (well, it is after a month in Cuba), you want to cry – happy tears, not sad ones, and the world turns from black and white into Technicolour.
You’re in your own heavenly scene from the Wizard of Oz, but not being attacked by deranged monkeys and the nasty witches are all dead – Ding! Dong”!
That’s what it felt like, an epicurean delight. A friend once told me that he went for a posh meal on a significant birthday, and the sticky toffee pudding was so good he cried. If I had not received an Alan Partridge book for Christmas, that’s how I might have explained it! Another friend told me that when her grandma came over from India in the 1970’s she looked behind the tele to try and see the little men inside. This is how having the internet for the first two days felt like, the last two times in Havana, where you have to go to a public space to use the internet, it had either not worked or been so slow, you just gave in.
Mexico City is great place to visit, we are only here for three nights, mainly as it is the cheapest way to fly out of Cuba. The only thing that is disconcerting about the centre is the groups of armed riot police. On our meanderings we spot three lots of about twenty police-officers. Normally bored, playing on their phones. I ask many people why? I get variations on a theme, to protect the people, protect property, for reassurance, it has the opposite effect on me – It all adds up to the same thing, Mexico can be a dangerous place! Although we never saw any trouble, between 15,000 to 25,000 people die every year in the drug war related deaths. Take the average of those figures, and it’s a fifth of a million people in ten years!! This is the reason we will be flying over El Salvador, which is even worse than Mexico. What is worrying and quite eerie is how fast the centre of the heavily protected Mexico City shuts down on an early evening, by nine it’s dead. One instant all the shops are open, crowds of people throng the streets, and then virtually nothing, a few convenience stores and a smattering of restaurants. It is so spooky we decide to eat in the hotel the second evening, we are just behind the main cathedral – The Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven – if she’s not got in, there is little chance for anyone else! The reason I suspect there is such a large visible police presence on the streets is to protect tourists. A dead foreign tourist is bound to make the news back home, another dead Mexican is very unlikely!
Due to time restrictions we take two bus tours. The place you have to visit is the Anthropological Museum, always in the top ten of world museums. It’s a spectacular building, filled with the most amazing Mayan, Incan and Aztec collections. The Sun Stone (The Stone of the Five Eras) at 24 tons and 3.5m in diameter is a must-see. Due to time constraints it is the only museum we actually visit – less is definitely more in this case.
The Wife has been here before. Towards the end of our visit to the anthropological museum she casually says. ‘Yeah, I’ve been to this museum before with the Chicas.’ ‘The Chicas’ are set of her female friends that go away most years to drink cocktails in hot countries. ‘You leave it until now to casually tell me this?’ ‘Yeah, if I’d have told you earlier, you would have expected me to know a lot more, and where things are.’
I am glad we have visited Mexico City, it was much more invigorating and exciting than I envisaged. We are flying to San Jose in Costa Rica. The rich-coast country is top of my list for the two and half months we are away, simply for the wildlife. It’s early in the morning at the airport, we have our outbound tickets out with Interjet, but they are scamming us, and many others. Telling us we need some proof of leaving Costa Rica, The Costa Ricans don’t care and don’t enforce this, but it is an easy way of Mexican airlines making a lot of money. We have to change our tickets from 9am to 8pm to sort out what to do – a full day in an airport. When I ask where we change our ticket with their airline, the attendant casually points to the terminal next to him, ‘This is our travel agent!’ This is very annoying curveball and in retrospect, quite easily avoidable, happens in other South and Central American countries regularly, so, beware. Two options are either to buy a cheap bus ticket over the boarder out of the country you are flying to, even if you don’t use it, or another great alternative is FlyOnward.com. This company basically lets you rent an onward ticket for US$9.99. They purchase it in your name, send you the confirmation via e-mail, and you can show / print to convince the airline. (Fly Onward cancels the ticket after two days – you can’t actually use the ticket.) It is quick to do, and great if you are actually undecided where to go next. The beauty is you don’t spend hours trying to get a refund for a ticket you don’t actually use.
Like I’ve said, Mexico is the cheapest way to get out of Cuba, and if you’ve never been to Mexico City – go, it’s wonderful. We went before Mr Trump was elected and the talk of an enormous pantomime wall to be paid for by the Mexicans themselves was not an imagined reality. If you are an American at the airport pretend to be a democrat, even if you’re not, and when they look suspiciously at your passport and then accusingly back up at you, get in first blow with ‘The wall is fake news!’ (Don’t do the accent, or sex-pest any women, or call Mexico a shit-hole, nothing good will come of that,) if that fails, pretend to be Canadian!
Next Time: They come in threes.
Ian M Pindar writes books, and also about himself in the third person sometimes, so it looks as though he has a large team of dedicated professionals working around him. His latest book is in fact a novella and has the strange title of: ‘Foot-sex of the Mind’. It is not a Mills and Boon, but about finding out what is important in life far too late.