Teotihuacán

In Ecatepec, Estado de México, one hour and a half away from the busy Mexico City, are the ruins for the ancient city of Teotihuacán, a political and religious centre for the teotihuacanos. The city is said to have been found abandoned by the aztecs, who claimed it as theirs and probably used it as a political centre too, though much about this ruins remains a mistery.

Last weekend I went to see (and climb) the pyramids for the third time. Despite being rain season, the morning was sunny and warm; if you visit Teotihuacan, I definitely recommend starting early, since there are barely any shadowy spots and the afternoon sun can be intense.

The pyramids are located in Ecatepec, and you can get there easily by bus or car, as there is a road that connects the city with the archeological site. Once there, the best thing is to start at gate 5, right behind the Pyramid of the Sun, and make your way through the Avenue of the Dead towards the Pyramid of the Moon. You can climb both pyramids, but as the best view is from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, I recommend leaving that for the end.

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On our way to the Pyramid of the Moon.

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View from the Pyramid of the Moon.

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We were in Teotihuacan on a Saturday in July, although it might sound like a bad idea to go there on a weekend during the summer holiday, there was not many people around until like 1.00 pm. I have been here on October too and honestly I didn’t notice much difference in the weather.

Overall, Teotihuacan is a must visit if you’re in Mexico City. Walking around and climbing both pyramids won’t take more than 3 hours, counting many picture stops, and visiting the site museum at the end will provide you with more information about the ancient city. There are guides you can hire at the entrance; it might be a bit expensive if you’re not in a big group, but a good idea if you’re interested in prehispanic culture and would like to know more about the pyramids that meet the eye.

For more information you could also check out Teotihuacan: An Experiment in Living by Esther Pasztory, which incorporates some of the latest theories on where the teotihuacanos came from and what happened to them, as well as speculations on what their mural paintings and architecture might have mean back then.

Have you been to Teotihuacan? What did you think of it?

My Scottish Road Trip

Last year, after a brief time in Ireland, some friends and I took a plane to Glasgow to start a ten-day trip that would forever transform everything I thought I knew about traveling. Although I had loved Ireland, a couple of bad experiences had dimmed my excitement for the Scottish adventure— what if the mountains were not as impressing as I imagined them? Anyhow we made our way north, leaving behind rows of green hills and castles, to come across… more green hills and castles. In Ireland I had noticed some thorny shrubs with small, bright yellow flowers that grew everywhere (they’re called gorse). They were heavily abundant in Scotland too. I had expected similarities between the Irish, English and Scottish landscapes, but nothing I had seen before prepared me for the northern parts of Scotland.

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Photo: Julia Karmel. Arms open to adventure.

I had being in Edinburgh before, but Glasgow was new to me (everything I knew of the city came from ABBA’s Super Trouper). Our plan was to get a car there and start driving north, through Oban, Kyle, Skye, Inverness, Cairngorms, Perth and, finally, Edinburgh. We had listed some places we wanted to visit, mostly mountains, lakes and castles, and we had made an itinerary of the Youth Hostels we’d spend a night or two in, but the road and how that would turn out remained a mystery. In the first place, none of us was used to driving on the left side of the road; in the second place, none of us had much money to spend; and to top it up, we had known each other for just some months (I had never even met one of the guys before), so how we’d get along remained a mystery too.

After doing some exploring in Glasgow, we finally hit the road. That first day was mainly a familiarization with the road, buying supplies and leaving the car every time a landscape seemed interesting. Once we made it to Cairngorms National Park, the stops became constant, we explored the areas around the lake, walked without a fixed direction, talked and ate under the trees, took pictures. The park is beautiful, cool but sheltered from April rain.

Loch Ness

After that we kept going north. We had planned to spend a few hours in Inverness and take a look at Loch Ness. The little Airbnb we got at Inverness smelled like curry and we didn’t spend much time in it, except for sleeping and preparing food. The weather here was a bit cruel, winds blowing strongly and freezing nights, although Inverness Castle and the cathedral, lighted up with yellow lamps, gave the city certain charm. Our nights there were calm, there were many pubs and restaurants, but they closed early and those we managed to find open were almost empty. I believe the most exciting night was when we had the terrible idea of buying Chinese takeaway and eating it on the banks of the River Ness. Fifteen minutes after we had sat on some monuments we couldn’t feel our hands, so we decided to go home. The food was no good either.

The same river, though, guided us next morning all the way to Loch Ness. That day was clear and the wind blew playfully, strongly when we arrived tho those silvery black waters. A lake that seemed to extend towards the horizon, indefinitely, and could have been mistaken for the sea. On the opposite bank, visible from where all the visitor points and shops are, stands a small castle, or I should say what remains of a castle, Urquhart, some ruins from the 13th century. To get there we got on a boat called The Nessie Hunter, whose owner told us a great deal about both the Loch Ness Monster and the history of the castle. Once we were on the boat the wind became colder and stronger, the water looked pitch black, reflecting the sun’s light with little, cold white circles that fluttered with the waves, almost hypnotically. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look for Nessie in every and each one of those ripples of water, that strangely dark water, impossibly cold.

Eilean Donan Castle

When we left Inverness we made our way to Kyle, driving along the shores of Loch Carron and Loch Alsh, and found another fortress dated back to the 13th century, at the shores of Loch Duich: Eilean Donan. As it often happens with many castles in Scotland and Ireland, Eilean Donan has been restored and it is now a museum with tea rooms and restaurants, you can even hire the place for a wedding. We obviously were satisfied with just sitting next to Loch Duich and eat the sandwiches we had brought with us, looking towards the castle.

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The days in the road were long and both tiredness and the lack of alone time made us want to spend some time in silence, wearing headphones in the car or, in my case, find some time to read. The only book I kept from my trip to Ireland was Joyce’s Dubliners, and I read a story every once in a while. I was not upset I barely had time to read though. The long drives with no phone signal, the harsh democracy when choosing what we’d play in the car and the short nights in hostels made me aware of many different kinds of company, besides of that of books, to which I was accustomed to. We listened to each others stories about our countries or our plans for the future, about places we had been to, bands we had seen live, stupid things we had done. We listened, too, to the stories of anybody who wanted to tell us theirs; the boat owner from Loch Ness, the hostel workers, the barmans from those little local pubs specialized in whiskey. We talked much and listened even more, during brief stops on the road, on some broken boat at the shores of some lake, covered in scarves and sweaters, our pockets full of Cadbury chocolate.

Isle of Skye

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Photo: Julia Karmel. Neist Point, Isle of Skye.

After Kyle we crossed the Sound of Sleat channel to get to the Isle of Skye. The fascination that Scottish landscapes had awaken in me was exacerbated there. Wide extensions of land, all the shades of green and a new one for use, a lighter green than that of the main island, gigantic stones of an almost black grey, washed white at parts from the roaring sea. One day we made our way to Portree to spend a couple of nights there. Portree is the largest town in the island and it wasn’t hard to find a hostel near the bay. The hostel was the perfect location between Neist Point Lighthouse and The Storr, the two things we most wanted to see in Skye.

The Storr is a mountain located in the north of the island, in an area known as Trotternish, some twenty minutes by car from Portree. The name of the most famous pinnacle of the mountain is “The Old Man of Storr”, because its gaunt, tall structure resembles an elderly can with a cane. The walk to the top takes around an hour and it becomes more and more challenging as one ascends. We were there in the last days of April and we didn’t find more than five people there. I had a brutal cold then, but the view from the top pinnacles was something I will never forget. Land, water and clouds spread before me, mixing, melting, the deepest green, indigo and grey. I thought then I must have been at the very top of the world.

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The crew at The Storr.

Skye exemplifies the intimidating majesty of nature, a grandness that inspires both admiration and fear. After  days among mountains and lakes, I could not but realise that we often misunderstand nature— we read the the creases of the land, the waves of the water and murmurs of the wind through the trees and bend them to our docility fantasies. Here though, I had before me a hostile land, a dangerous land, with its own will and a stout refusal to be tamed or even understood. And it was much more beautiful than the best tended garden.

After Skye we got back in the car, this time west bound, hoping to find something like The Storr there. Neist Point is in Durnish and the walk towards the lighthouse begins near Glendale. The first part of the way is a path surrounded by ligh green hills and from there we had our first view of the lighthouse: a simple white structure on top of which rests a small column, all on top of a cliff against which the waves crashed violently. The closer one gets to the lighthouse, the more dangerous it is to approach the sea, the path disappears and gives way to a series of rocks of different sizes, some half submerged, from which we hopped to see a bit of the lower part of the cliff. The lighthouse itself is around a hundred years old, filled now with old furniture. From the top of the cliff the islands that are between Skye and the Atlantic are invisible, so it looks as if an infinite extension of sea divided Neist Point from America. On the way back we stopped over the giant rocks to rest, taking advantage of the little sun we had that day, lulled by the sound of the sea and the occasional squawks of the seagulls.

Glenfinnan Viaduct and the end

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Photo: Julia Karmel

Then we made or way back to the Main Land, where our first stop was Glenfinnan, specifically the viaduct, close to Loch Shiel. We stopped there because that’s where the Hogwarts Express goes through in the Harry Potter films. There is actually a train passing in mid May, sadly we were too early to see it. After Glenfinnan we drove along the banks of Loch Eli all the way to Fort William, were we rested before making our way to Oban, where we would sleep.

Oban is a little town close to the Islandof Kerrera. It was our penultimate stop of the trip, afterwards we’d make our way to Edinburgh, from where each of us would continue our separate ways. In Oban we walked around the town and learned to drink Scotch in a small distillery where dozens of Scots had gathered to watch a soccer match. What I remember the most about the town is the bay, a half-moon on whose shores were piled up boats in all conditions, of all sizes and colours. Even when Edinburgh was the last stop, Oban was the end of a way of traveling, with no big cities to go to for comfort, a way of traveling in which a lake or a mountain was never too far off and in which we could look at the stars every night.

Where to have coffee in Vienna

Last February I had the chance to explore Austria’s capital guided by my local friends. Having been there before, I was surprised to see how many different layers the city has. There’s something for nature lovers, something for classicists, something for alternative crews… and for all kinds of foodies and coffee lovers. Here are my top coffee places in Vienna, awesome to go to for a quick bite and a caffeine fix.


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Sweet potato omelet at Tanzen Anders 😍[[[[[[[[[[[[

Tanzen Anders

This is a wonderful place for breakfast or brunch. It is in Margareten (which is also a great area to stay, full of cafés and young people), and their manu is both simple and tasty. With its minimalistic decoration and great window panes, it is a cozy little place to have your first coffee or chat with friends. I had a wonderful sweet potato omelet there, and the hot coco is also very good.


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Chicken curry and Viennese beer at Augustin.

Das Augustin

A very chic place for dinner and drinks, dim lights, comfy chairs and really good food. It is a little expensive, but worth it. They have everything from burgers and pasta to gnocchi and curry (which I had and was very tasty). Specially good for large groups of people.


Wonderful carrot cake at Motto.

Motto am Fluss

This place is cool because it’s on a boat on the Danube. Although the interior is very pretty (long, shared tables and glass ceiling and walls), it is better to go here when the weather is good, because the terrace overlooking the river is closed in Winter. However, as the prices are a bit expensive, you can just try it for coffee and cake, they have really good cakes (try the carrot cake!).


Gerstner K.u.K. Hofzuckerbäcker

If you’re looking for a very Viennese coffee experience, this is the place. This “konditorei” has it all from coffee to fancy food and exuberant cakes, all in an elegant three-store store building that’ll take you back to the Imperial days. Whether you’re going by yourself of with a small group, this place will make you feel instantly at home with their cozy corners and cozy chairs. As it is in the centre, you might get pretty cool views of Kärntner Straße from the upper floors.


Vollpension

This place claims to have the best pastries in Vienna. They probably do. This place’s food is prepared by grandmas and grandpas and they have all sorts of cakes and hot beverages, and the decorations and atmosphere are both great. Walls full of pictures, large sofas and low tables. The only downside is that it is usually booked for brunch, so plan ahead.


Justizcafé. The café at the Palace of Justice

This is a place not many people know about, because it’s on top of an official building. You’ll have to go through security check and then climb all the way up to the little terrace where government employees have their lunch. The coffee and food are alright, but hey highlight of the place is the view. On summer there are tables on the terrace and in Winter, if you can stand it, you can still look at the city from the balcony.

Following the Lee: Notes from Cork, Ireland

On April 2017 I took a bus to Cork from Victoria Coach Station in London. It was a fifteen-hour journey, leaving at dawn and arriving almost at noon the next day. It was my first trip completely alone—no friends to stay with, no acquaintances to meet once I was there, and a pretty tight budget—. When I got on the bus I was excited, but excitement soon gave way to tiredness when I realized the bus would stop almost every hour, we’d have to wait for new passengers or wait while there was a driver change. Nevertheless, I had two whole seats to myself, some food, music and a book with me. After ten days I would be leaving Cork to join some friends in Dublin, so I took Joyce’s Dubliners with me.

The bus would take a ferry from Fishguard, Wales, to Rosslare, Ireland, instead of going from Holyhead, near Liverpool, to Dublin, which I’ve been told is much faster, although more expensive. The way to Fishguard was about five hours and before we arrived there, almost half of the passengers had gotten off. At one stop we got to take a break outside the bus for some minutes and the few of us who were left, tired and hungry, started talking. An elderly lady who was sitting in front of me asked if that was going to be my first time in Ireland and, when I said yes, she told me she was from Cork. She’d been living for almost thirty years in England though, and now she was going to visit her nephew during the Easter holiday, in some small city near Cork. She looked happy to be going back.

Even before I arrived in Ireland, I noticed a distinctive nature among the Irish people on the bus, a kind of closeness and introverted warmth, a discreet friendliness. My new friend kept asking me things about Mexico and once the bus entered the ferry and we finally got off, she told me that het mother had served as a nurse during WWII. That’s why she had decided to become a nurse too. I made many fleeting friendships during my time in Ireland, all of the with very interesting stories to tell, but this one I still remember clearly.  This lady also told me to go to Cobh and spoke for a long time about the Titanic.

Once in Cork, neck aching and a bit confused, I decided to walk all the way to the place that would be my home for the next ten days, just to get familiar with the city. The bus station is right in front of the River Lee, which crosses the city and flows to the East, into the Celtic Sea. So the first thing I did in Cork was to cross the Lee, with a giant backpack on my shoulders, to go north, towards Dillons Cross. From there, passing through St Luke’s, I directed my steps towards down to the river everyday. The city centre is literally embraced by two thin arms of the Lee, right before they unite again, running West, towards the limits of the county Cork.

The centre, at first sight, did not look very appealing. But the more I went through its wide streets and narrow, crooked alleys, gardens and decks, the more I realized that it was really quite different from other European cities I’d visited. There was some weird irreverence about it. The nickname of the city, I learned later, is “the rebel city” because of its support for the House of York during the War of the Roses. And this defiance is notorious, like an effort to set itself aside both from Dublin and Britain. Cork is what we call now  “alternative”, with walls filled with street art and stickers everywhere, bars and pubs that promote indie bands, a great diversity of urban characters in outfits that range from punk and goth to quirky. It is as if a second city, a grunge one, positioned itself on top of the religious, gothic architecture, as if a coat of colour covered the grey vestiges of the middle ages. And the city is vibrant, even under the ever-cloudy, almost-always-rainy sky.

Not very far, following the river east, there is Blackrock Castle, a military fortress that later became an observatory, looking northwards. The castle has been modified and reconstructed plenty of times since its construction in the 17th century and, more than a majestic structure, it simply looks like a part of the landscape, with its grey, almost black, bricks agains the grayish blue of the river and the even grayer blue of the sky. Close to the castle (and inside the castle itself) there are many restaurants, cafés and tea rooms from where one can get a nice view of the castle and the river, which is bursting with life during spring.

Going further to the West, still following the river, there is Cobh (pronounced, I was told, like Cov), a little port town, the last place in which the Titanic called before sinking. I arrived there by train and it took like 20 minutes or so. Cobh looks like a little mountain, and on its top stands a spectacular gothic cathedral, the kind you only see in Ireland, and around it lie hundreds of little colourful houses. Here the river flows into the Celtic Sea and hundreds of boats and ships crowd the docks. When I visited Cobh, the sky was clear and the sun shined, although the wind didn’t stop blowing. Cobh’s beaches are of large stones that the sea strikes furiously, there is little sand and walking there is a bit tricky since there are many broken glass bottles among the rocks. But the view makes it worth it. After walking for a while, I went back the centre of the town, full of children and their parents buying ice cream at the many colorful stands near the beach. Only a few minutes from the city of Cork, Cobh seemed to me a very different place, calmer and, despite the vocational atmosphere, more formal (or perhaps just a bit less rebellious) than Cork.

Time after, very far away from Ireland and the cold seas, I read Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In the book, there is a part in which Stephen Dedalus and his father walk through Cork, among pubs, restaurants and theaters. The impressions of the city that Stephen gets are always related to blooming trees and sun streets, and he ponders over his father’s rebellious youth. Certainly I cannot think of Cork as a sunny place— while I was there the weather changed constantly and almost always the wind blew with playful strength. However I do remember it as rebellious, filled with laughter and people drinking wine in the park. A city of carefree beauty, careless and almost defiant.

When I left Cork to go north, I realized it was a unique place, even in Ireland. It was different from all the places I visited near Killarney, near the beaches of Bantry and Kenmare, different too from Dublin, which beats to a different tempo. And different too were the people I met in Cork, friendly, just rightly extroverted, always looking for things we had in common, with a national pride that didn’t seem to impose barriers between us and, with a particular talent to tell stories or, rather, to tell of any event as if it was the most interesting thing in the world (and some of them were, too).

While I stayed in Cork I also visited some other parts of the centre and south of Ireland, but apart from a long trip along the coast towards Killarney National Park and back, I preferred to stay in Cork, get familiar with it and save money for the next adventure, a road trip around Scotland with five friends and a complete stranger. While I was in Cork I though that the worst that could happen would be that we’d end up hating each other. I did not think of the dangers of going north in early spring without a clear plan or no phone signal, or of the frightening freedom of not knowing exactly where we’d end up next, or that my sneakers might not be appropriate for the weather and the roughness of the Highlands.

However, my time in Cork gave me a discreet confidence in traveling alone, as well as it taught me, quite cruelly, about the disadvantages of traveling heavy. I arrived there with a 20 kilogram backpack and left with around 13 kilograms, having had to get rid of uncomfortable shoes, books and shampoo bottles to board the train being able to carry my backpack. Since then I believe I am more careful with shopping, although not as much as I’d like. So I took a train from Cork to Dublin, the meeting point and last stop in Ireland, to then go north in search of some mountains and some more adventures.

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Blackrock Castle
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Some houses across the Lee
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Cute cat in Cobh
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Welcome to Cork
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Boats in Cobh
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Cobh
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St Lukes and Phoenix House, a Chinese restaurant, in the morning
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St Finn Barre’s Cathedral

Places to visit in Cork City:

  • Blackrock Castle

  • St Finn Barre’s Cathedral

  • Cork City Gaol

  • Crawford Art Gallery

  • Sin É

  • The English Market

  • Filter Café

If you’re in Cork you could also do day trips to:

  • Cobh

  • The Ring of Kerry

  • Killarney

  • Bantry

Have you been in Ireland?

What did I miss? Would love to hear from you on the comments!

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Cambridge

“They say the sky is the same everywhere […] But above Cambridge—anyhow above the roof of King’s College Chapel—there is a difference. Out at sea a great city will cast brightness into the night. Is it fanciful to suppose the sky, washed into the crevices of King’s College Chapel, li-ghter, thinner, more sparkling than the sky elsewhere? Does Cambridge burn not only into the night, but into the day?”
—Virginia Woolf

Of all the cities I’ve visited, Cambridge is still one of my favourites, and a place very close to my heart. Its colleges, its trees, going punting in river Cam, the orchards, the sheep, the libraries, the bikes, the markets— Cambridge is just as soothing as it is inspiring for any fellow lover of literature or art. Its streets and alleyways are poetic in themselves; bricks and chimneys on one side, monumental gothic structures on the other.

Cambridge is one of the oldest cities in Europe and the University of Cambridge was founded in 1209. The University includes 31 colleges with different buildings all over the city: King’s College, Queen’s College, St. John’s College, Trinity College and Clare College among them.

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Morning coffee at Bennetts

The city is both vibrant and mysterious, full of life and yet strangely whimsical. It seems to go back in time a century every morning, with its traditional cafés and shops, its stone streets, old willows and wooden bridges—and then to come back to the present at night, its main streets filled with music and laughter, kebab places, international students everywhere. Some people say Cambridge is very similar to Oxford, both very old university towns, both undoubtedly pretty — but I think there are some things you can only see and feel in Cambridge.

My Cambridge

Having been before in many cities that became books, I was amazed to see in Cambridge a book made into a city. Although perhaps it was just a city that made me feel I was in a book. Thomas Hardy said about Cambridge, “What institution is more majestic than Trinity College? […] There are towers and battlements and statues, and beside these things there are cloisters and gardens and bridges”. And certainly, towers, turrets, battlements and  green extensions of grass compose the landscape surrounding river Cam. The cobbled streets almost always shine under the rain, and the yellow reflections of the street lamps and the chapels baths almost every building in its glow, even in the mist.

The heart of the city seems to be King’s College Chapel, gathering all the light around itself. A few blocks away, buried in bikes tied to every surface, there is The Eagle, the famous pub where Crick and Watson discovered the DNA structure in 1953. The whole city guardes important memories for knowledge and science; it was here where Stephen Hawking studied, worked and wrote his most important theories on relativity and the cosmos. And it is not hard to imagine it, with the amount of unkempt students that wander about the pubs, or that spend hours in Costa with no more company than a laptop and a pile of papers.

 

Cambridge is a good place to look around. People watching here turns almost always into a contemplative experience. The people, the tea rooms with fogged windows that cast an eerie glow on the street, the yellowish grey of the buildings, brick by brick, only interrupted by the sudden green of the trees and the grass. Every few streets there is a park, wide extensions of grass maintained in a perfect balance between neglect and artifice, or some shrubbery with eternally damp little flowers, trees that seem older than the colleges.

The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209, being the fourth oldest university in the world. In its many colleges studied some of the most brilliant minds, like Newton, Darwin, Hausman, Keynes, Stern, Thackeray, E.M. Forster, Nabokob, Malcolm Lowrt, Sylvia Plath and Terry Eagleton. Many times, specially when punting, I wondered about what it must feel like to study in a university like this— are there any vestiges, any aura or atmosphere, around places where art has happened, where so much poetry has been written? There must be. However, the whole city seemed submerged in this kind of atmosphere for me, a timeless bubble where people were safe to contemplate and write and learn.

Not far from the centre, 20 or 30 minutes by bike, there is a place called The Orchard. It is a little cabin with outside seating where they bake the best scones in England. There, it is said, between apple trees and tall grass, Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster sat to write. And it is hard to think of a better place to write, although Cambridge is full of them: riverside cafés, underground coffee shops, little tea rooms in every corner, giant trees perfect for reclining, comfortable benches in front of beautiful buildings, semi deserted pubs with thick wooden tables and huge chimneys.

 

Much of the time I spent in Cambridge, I spent in places like that. The rest of the time I was probably around Market Square. Old Market Square, where dozens of stands appeared every morning; fish, fruits, baked potatoes, kebabs and, above all, second-hand books. Two big stands had my attention, offering treasures buried beneath hundreds of best-sellers and paperbacks of all kinds. This is where my Agatha Christie collection started. Before, I had read Sparkling Cyanide and so the first book I bought in Cambridge was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, where I met Hercule Poirot. Later I bought At Bertrams Hotel, where I found the best detective of all times, Miss Marple. Almost every week I would buy a paperback for one pound, which resulted in tremendous difficulties when going back to Mexico.

Apart from my Christies, in Market Square I found a beautiful edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass from 1971. A beautiful brown book with golden letters on its back and yellow pages. Later I also found a sixties edition of The Italian, a gothic novel by Ann Radcliffe, basically unknown now but very famous in its time, a red book with its title almost unintelligible. Radcliffe is one of the authors mention in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, one of the books I read before arriving in Cambridge. Some weeks after finding The Italian among piles of old Grisham’s novels, I decided to look for The Mysteries of Udolpho, the novel which Austen’s heroine reads. I spent many months hunting for it among second-hands books, and I finally found it in Waterstones, a new Penguin edition, around a thousand pages long in tiny letters. This literary founding only increased my love for both the city and literature, so much I decided to get my degree on literature. Some other loves were also found, among them afternoon tea with lemon and milk, Chelsea buns and cycling.

Because Cambridge is a city to cycle. The place where I lived was about two miles away from King’s Parade, where I went almost every day, so a bike seemed to me the best transport. The city centre is completely covered in parked bikes and the number of cyclist is by far bigger than that of the car drivers, two facts that make me think of Cambridge with nostalgia now that I live in Mexico City. And having a bike there was a good idea… until November, where I started reconsidering after falling a couple of times due to the frozen streets. But my budget would not allow other types of transport, so reconsideration didn’t last long. I have always thought one can get used to anything, from two pairs of socks (the second over my jeans to avoid trapping in the wheels), to carrying a chain and lock and remembering where among that vast sea of bikes I had parked mine.

Still now I remember what it felt like to ride a bike from Parkers Piece to Hills Road, then through Cherry Hinton Road and Coleridge Road… even when much time passed until I knew who Coleridge was and how important his poetry would be for me. Much time passed, too, until I had to say goodbye to that grey bike that kept me company and whose little front basket carried my books so many times.

 

 

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Have you been to Cambridge?

What do you think of it?

 

Nottingham

I arrived in Nottingham not knowing what to expect. Before this trip I had spent some time in England—in Cambridge, London and some other places north and south—,but the Midlands remained unknown to me. I had heard of the city only in relation with Robin Hood, Richard the Lionheart and Sherwood Forest. When I arrived, on a bus from London in the middle of the night, my first glimpses of the city were not quite the best. A dirty bus stop and an empty street. And damp cold. However, my first morning there made me realise that Nottingham is one of those cities that transform from day to night and from weekdays to weekends.

On Market Square, a modern explanada with fountains and a few slender trees in front of the City Hall, a big ferries wheel occupied most of the space and that’s now one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of Notts. Even though it’s there for just one season, the wheel against the grey skies and the white building behind is a charming sight. During my stay, the wheel was my friend’s meeting point when exploring the many cafés and tea rooms in the city centre. Though the streets that encircle around Market Square are filled with fast food chains and phone repair shacks, a short walk in any direction will lead to more colorful, narrow streets where pubs, little cafés and handicrafts shops abound. My favorite street is Pelham street, even when it’s dangerously close to Primark.

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Coffee and food favorites

Fox Café

Boy, did I spend time here. It’s a small and cosy coffee shop that also offers cakes, breakfast and lunch. The service is great. This is the perfect spot to have lunch with friends or a quiet time by yourself with a book, some tea and banana bread (which I specially recommend). It is also a great spot to look around; one of my favourite things about Nottingham was the variety of people that live there and that walk past Pelham Street (where Fox is) every day! Guys in black leather outfits, girls with corsettes and piercings, tattoos everywhere, guys with cardigans that looked out of the Hamptons, girls that look Instagram-famous, elderly couples in the most British jumpers, loud children, young couples with several Primark bags, slender cyclist and lots of university alumni in jumpers.


Homemade

It’s a little bakery almost in front of Fox Café, which serves some of te finest cakes I’ve tasted in my life. They have a huge variety of cakes (even vegan and so on) and they’re all really good. I used to go there with two or three friends and each one of us would ask for a different cake, then we’d share. The place is small and a bit crowded during weekends though. You can also have a good brunch here.


The Hockley Arts Club

I wish I had spent more time here, it’s a fancy bar beautifully decorated and with a cool terrace. It’s good to start a night out (though a bit expensive) or play some board games over drinks, if you’re in a quieter mood.


There are plenty of traditional pubs in the city centre and close to the Castle (like Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, supposed to be the oldest pub in England, or The Pit & Pendulum, named after Poe’s short story, an eerie kind of place).

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Hockley Arts Club

Other favourites

Wollaton Hall and Deer Park

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Okay, so this place is famous because of Batman. This Elizabethan country house was featured in The Dark Knight Rises as Bruce Wayne’s mansion. But apart from that, it’s a magnificent piece of architecture and currently a creepy taxidermy museum. There’s a gift-shop and a restaurant where you can hang around once you’ve walked around one of my favorite jogging and reading spots in Notts: Wollaton Park. There are plenty of trees, a trail and a lake. It is beautiful during Winter and Summer, and there are red deer hanging around. In a sunny day, this is the perfect place for a picnic and even during the colder months you could walk around or sit on the benches and do some deer-watching. I had never been so close to deer in my life and they are such beautiful, graceful creatures. So yes, this is a must.


Sherwood Forest

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This is the famous forest where Robin Hood and his Merry Men lived, as the story goes. It is also the home of the Major Oak! A very huge and very old tree where Robin Hood supposedly slept. Legend aside, the tree is like 10 meters high and between 800 and 1000 years old. Nowadays it is supported by some metallic structure, but it’s still majestic. The forest in general is a quiet, nice place. There are many species of birds flying around, as well as rabbits and squirrels. There are also camping and dining areas with tables and a gift shop at the entrance.


You can also take a look around the University of Nottingham, University Park Campus, a vast extension of land around period buildings, cafeterias and cafés where you can get very good chicken curry (at Portland Building), or head to the Lakeside Arts Club to see a play or listen to some live music.

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