Monday, November 9, 2015

San Cristobal

After climbing my way up the curvy road to a cool 7,200 feet, I pulled into San Cristóbal de la Casas to meet up with Nancy, whom I'd met at the hostel in Oaxaca. She lived in San Cristóbal for six months a few years ago as part of a medical internship, so she was eager to return and I was eager to have a guide for the city.

It was refreshing to treat my visit to a city more like I would if I lived there and had a few days of free time, rather than as a tourist.
We'd decided to split a hotel to save some money, but I'd failed to mention to Nancy before she made the reservation that one of my criteria for where I stay is secure parking for the motorcycle. On arrival, I discovered that there wasn't any at the hotel, so after dumping my things in the lobby, I went in search of a place that I could leave the bike for a few days. I found a few places close, but ended up paying almost as much for the parking as I did for my half of the hotel room! I won't make that mistake again.

After meeting up, we wandered out into the town so she could show me some of the good spots and grab some food.
One of the main pedestrian streets.
One side of the main square.
San Cristobal isn't the easiest to navigate in a car on on motorcycle due to a number of confusing one-way streets (who puts in multiple one way streets in the same direction right next to each other??) and a couple of streets that are open only to pedestrians. But the upshot of all that is that walking around the central area is pretty easy. We wandered all the way down and back both of the pedestrian thoroughfares before deciding on an Argentinian restaurant for dinner - primarily chosen because I wanted an enormous steak for dinner.

Afterwards we made the rounds of a couple of the coffee shops that Nancy used to frequent when she lived there, grabbing a pastry at one and ogling the chocolates at the other. Both had live music playing in the background as well - a guy singing with an acoustic guitar at one, and a solo violin player at the other. As the night got later, it seemed like almost every place had some sort of musical act, despite it being Tuesday night. The pedestrian areas were pretty crowded as well, which is a sight I haven't seen much. I'm used to being the only one in a restaurant half the time on weeknights.

As we wandered, we eventually saw a place that caught Nancy's attention - because it hadn't been there when she'd lived in the town. We walked in to check it out, and I immediately demanded a closer look upon noticing the word "cerveceria" (brewery) at the top.
Sports on TV, beer bottles lining one wall, "cerveceria" on the sign: you have my attention.
I'm a bit of a beer snob. From when I lived in Illinois and my roommate and I collected 500 different bottles of beer, to my trip around the US where I sampled beers at any breweries I could find, to living in San Diego where there are nine breweries (not bars, breweries) just in my neighborhood (and over a hundred nearby), I've made a habit out of finding and trying new, good beers. In Mexico... well, Victoria doesn't really make the cut. But I've gotten lucky on a few occasions (like in Oaxaca at the Mezcaloteca, or Colima at 1800) and found some good, Mexican microbrews. This was another one of those nights.
A few that we tried.
The next morning, I was craving bacon, so we went to a place that had hot cakes and bacon - except what came out looked more like turkey bacon than real bacon. I was a bit confused, since I'd gotten real bacon in Puerto Escondido, but the hot cakes were still good.

Afterwards we went out to explore during the day - though I was lax on taking pictures. We wandered through a few markets and saw the amber jewelry that the area is famous for - there's a lot of fake amber for sale, but I learned how to distinguish the real amber: never cold, never heavy, and produces some static electricity when rubbed.

It was overall a pretty lazy day - some wandering, some sitting around in coffeeshops with the laptop, and not a ton else. Nancy had a lot of information about the town and its history, especially about the Zapatista rebellion in 1994, where San Cristóbal was one of the cities that they took over before getting pushed out by the Mexican military a few days later. You could definitely still see the influence of that in the city, as there are to this day quite a few supporters of the rebellion in the town.

As it got a little closer to evening, we wandered up a hill on the west end of the historic district to get a view of the city.

The church at the top.
The view of the city.
Looking down the steps we came up. Given the altitude, it was actually a little strenuous to get up here.
Reminiscing about her past times here.
We wandered back down into town and got a good sunset view of the cathedral in town, went to a reggae themed restaurants for what turned out to be some pretty good burgers, and then got a night time shot of the cathedral.

Just barely caught it as the shadows crept up.
Such a cool building.
We then went and sat in a coffeeshop and I worked on cranking out some blog posts to catch up a bit (always behind). As I was sitting there, I caught sight of some curly hair out of the corner of my eye... it was the Italians that I'd met in Puerto Escondido wandering down the street!

I ran out to greet them, and they came and sat with us for a while. We talked about what we'd done the past few days, and what our plans were - I'd completely forgotten that the only reason we hadn't planned on meeting up in San Cristóbal was because I wouldn't be there at the same time, but I'd since moved my plans a day later.

We stayed at the coffeeshop a bit longer, and ended up catching sight of a Jack Sparrow impersonator out the window.

Afterwards we headed out to the bar "Revolucion" for some drinks with the Italians, with a good mix of live music, dancing, and (yet again, my luck is amazing) some craft beers on the menu.

The next morning I got up, and after some eggs benedict (with more of the not-quite-bacon - is this a thing in this part of Mexico?), I headed over to a nearby hotel to meet up with some other riders who were in town. We'd messaged back and forth a bit previously, and I knew they had been a little behind me in Baja (and even heard about me in San Ignacio as the guy who hurt his foot... I'm famous!). They'd caught up by skipping a few of the places I went to, and were now stuck at a hotel doing some repairs on their bikes. I stopped in and talked for a bit, and even got some mechanical advice from them as well - I now know how to do my doohickey adjustment!

After that it was onward to Palenque, where I planned on staying at what I'd heard of as "the legendary travelers hangout" - El Panchan.

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