Powder and poutine

I made my first trip to Canada earlier this month, all for the eternal search for powder.  The White Russian and I were prepared to be slightly disappointed, after initial dumps of snow at Whistler Blackcomb earlier in the season hadn’t continued to the weeks immediately before our departure.  However it was a stroke of luck that the weather forecast changed as soon as we arrived and we saw 5 consecutive days of snow.

Whistler Blackcomb snow Whistler Blackcomb snow

With loads of fresh powder, the skiing was fantastic.  There ended up being 10 of us in our group, with some travelling from the UK to join us for some snow action.  We were constantly on the hunt for powder stashes, which we managed to find off piste and particularly some of the steeper black runs.

The visibility was fairly poor most of the time due to the layers of cloud that seemed to constantly sit at mid-mountain level, and then there were the snow flurries as well.  Sometimes you could barely see more than 10 metres ahead, resulting in some hairy near-collision moments.

Whistler Blackcomb snowboard Whistler Blackcomb snow Whistler Blackcomb snow Whistler Blackcomb snow Olympic ringsWhistler Blackcomb gondola

We decided before we arrived that one of our snow days would be a onesie day.  I came prepared with a suitcase of onesies for everyone.  Needless to say, we drew a lot of admiration (or was it just curiosity?) on the slopes that day!

snow animal onesies

Being my first time in Canada, I was eager to try the poutine, Canada’s (un)official national dish of chips, cheese curds and gravy.  We even found a version with pulled pork!  Absolutely delicious.  Some of the other delicacies we found on the slopes included a Mexican bulldog, which consisted of a frozen margarita with an upturned Corona.

frozen margarita corona cocktail poutine pulled pork toffee applescheese fondue

All in all, Whistler Blackcomb was a fantastic mountain, with some really long piste runs, lots of light and fluffy powder, some challenging steep terrain, fairly fast moving lift queues, delicious selection of food at the restaurants, and lots of friendly faces and smiles (a lot of them Australian!).  It would probably be some of the best skiing I’ve experienced.

On the way home, we spent one night in Vancouver, wandering around Gastown, Chinatown, and the shopping along Granville Street.  Thankfully I had lots of room in my luggage after clearing out all those onesies!  We also had brunch at the Granville Island Public Market, where one could easily find themselves spending hours ogling at all the charcuterie, cheeses, cakes, seafood and fresh meat.  We got a tasty selection of cheeses (ossau iraty, comte, epoisses, goats cheese), some wild boar proscuitto and duck proscuitto, and a flavoursome duck and fig pate.

pasta Vancouver Granville Island markets charcuterie Vancouver Granville Island markets Japadog Japanese hotdog Vancouver

As we were leaving, we were already discussing next year’s overseas ski trip!  It’s always good to have the next trip to get excited about.

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Fat Mexicans

There are not many skinny Mexicans around, and when so much of their lovely food is deep fried and/or stuffed with cheese, it’s not really surprising.  And if it isn’t the cheesy morsels that tempt, the hot weather means that ice cream is always available and beckoning.  Thank god I’m nearing the end of the Mexico leg of my travels because I’m quite sure I’ve put on a couple of kilos since being here.  I must learn to say NO, rather than thinking “aah, but I’m on holidays!” because, for the sake of not only my figure but also my arteries, I can’t keep saying that for the next 5 months.

Of course, this was slightly relaxed for my 30th birthday, when I treated myself to a lovely, juicy ribeye steak at the fanciest place in Cozumel.  Heaven!

I did a couple of great dives in Cozumel off Punta Sur on the morning of my birthday, seeing a turtle, an eagle ray, and gorgeous reef fish and colourful corals.  I also tried to dive on Christmas Day, however it was pretty blowy out so the dives were cancelled.

All in all, the last few weeks in the Yucatan peninsula – Cancun (awful, awful place), Isla Mujeres (planned to stay here for 3 days and ended up here for 6 days) and Cozumel (nice diving, shame about the cruise ships) – have been pretty relaxing.  I arrived in Tulum yesterday to try some cenote diving, which were completely different to any diving that I’d done before and were a great experience.  The first dive was in Angelita, where we went through a halocline of hydrogen sulphate around 25m.  I couldn’t even see my buddy a metre in front of me through the cloud – really eerie feeling!  The second dive was in the cavern of the Grand Cenote, where the water was gin clear and we weaved our way through hanging stalactites.  Breathtaking dive!

Tomorrow is my last day in Mexico before I head off to Belize.  Adios amigos!

No mezcal for me, thanks

After a manic week of people and pollution in Mexico City, it was a welcome relief to spend a few days in beautiful Oaxaca.  It’s a beautiful Spanish colonial town in the middle of three valleys, with a laid back and relaxed vibe.  There was a lot to do in the area – I wandered around the ruins of Monte Alban and Mitla, refreshed myself in the freezing cold springs of Hierve el Agua, saw the world’s widest tree (not as exciting as it sounds), and drank mezcal with a bunch of crazy Aussies from the hostel (the expensive golden stuff is OK, the clear stuff is like drinking paint stripper).

From there, I travelled to San Cristobal de las Casas, high up in the Chiapas mountains.  Being coffee country, I supercaffeinated myself and explored the hippie stores and lovely streets with alfresco dining and bars.

Despite desperate pleas from the Mexican manager of my hostel for me to change my ticket and stay in San Cristobal another night of salsa dancing (I’m clearly breaking hearts all over the country…ha!), I headed off to Palenque to see the amazing jungle ruins.  I had pretty high expectations of Palenque, since everyone told me how amazing they were, and I was not disappointed at all.  Our Spanish guide took us into the jungle to show us some unexcavated Mayan buildings, and gave us some fascinating background into the medicinal plants and the worshipping of Mayan deities.

 

For the last week or so, I’ve been chilling out in the Yucatan town of Merida, exploring the beautiful cenotes, the ruins of Uxmal, and indulging in some of the best pizza I’ve ever had (by Raffaello from Italy).  It’s a welcome break from the hectic travel schedule of the last two weeks, and is a bit of recuperation break before I head to the party towns of Cancun and Playa del Carmen next week.

Well, Merida is known for its all-weekend festivities, so I’m off to find some beer!

Men in lycra and other DF sights

Mexico City is just buzzing with people.  Just when I thought that there could not possibly be any more people crammed into the streets or the metro, the weekend arrived!  I try to ignore the similarities to London’s Oxford Street on a weekend.

There is no shortage of interesting things to do and see in a city this big and with a history and culture so rich.  I’ve managed to cram in a lot of great tourist sights, such as awesome Teotihuacán, the National Palace, the Museum of Anthrolopogy (one of the best museums I’ve ever visited), the Catedral Metropolitana, the Templo Mayor, and the incredibly massive Chapultepec Forest and the Chapultepec Castle.

Some interesting or cool observations about Mexico City:

  • The mo’ is definitely still in!
  • Mexican men LOVE the “wet look”, and I have seen some absolutely enormous tubs of hair gel for sale in the markets
  • The Metro system is brilliant – regular and clean, and at less than 10p to anywhere
  • The smog and pollution here is slowly killing me
  • Looking like a backpacker, who doesn’t speak any Spanish, is enough to feign ignorance at all the touts or people trying to beg for money.

This evening, my mate Paul and I went to check out a fun family night out – the lucha libre!  It was much more entertaining than that WWE stuff that you occasionally glimpse whilst channel surfing (noone really admits to watching it right?), just because they don’t take themselves as seriously.  The star performer of the night was Místico, and he got us all whooping at his amazing acrobatics and amazing leg throws.

This was my super sneaky iPhone shot after my camera wasn’t allowed into the fight.

Of course, I was more than a little excited at all the lead up to the actual fight, with the wrestlers strutting out in their shiny jackets and capes, and then tearing off their velcro pants and tight tops, which had me swooning and squealing like a teenage girl at a Backstreet Boys concert.  At only 40 pesos, or less than 2 quid, for balcony tickets it has to be the cheapest strip show ever!

Tomorrow I am off to the beautiful city of Oaxaca.  Must remember to charge the iPod for the 6 hour bus ride.

‘Gators and tacos

I spent my last few days in Miami soaking up the sun and hanging out with the fantastic people that I met at my hostel.  There are always some interesting characters that you meet when travelling – the strangest person I’ve met so far was an American bloke who fancied himself as a bit of a Che Guevara, anti-establishment type.  He was in Miami to buy a yacht so that he could sail to Cuba, despite not knowing at all how to sail.

But mostly, it’s been great meeting people from all around the world that I will probably never see again, but thanks to Facebook, we can keep in touch and perhaps cross paths in the future.

 

I also took the opportunity to visit the Everglades national park, since I’ve always fancied going on a ride on those air boats!  The trip to the Everglades was quite fun, getting up close and personal with alligators, seeing on of the park guides jump on top of a 6 foot ‘gator and the air boat ride out into the marshlands, zooming sideways over the shallow swamps and spotting turtles, little alligators and a few different varieties of birds.

I am now in Mexico City, enjoying the constant sounds and rhythms of this populous city.  There is music blaring constantly, drum beats, vibrant colours, and smells of street food!  I tried my first street taco yesterday at only M$10 each (less than US$1), which was was packed full of flavour and heat.  Being constantly surrounded by this amazing food, I think I will struggle to leave Mexico any less than 5 kilos heavier!!