Luxury hotels make us sick

6 Dec

PD, Cholula, Mexico

Happy birthday Jeremy!

So the last week or so has been one of contrasts. We spent much of it in a luxury hotel, and some of it in busy hostels, in Mexico City. Some of the contrasts with van life were not what we expected. We felt worse, for one thing.

We were at a posh hotel because we were working at an international union conference there. And of course we accepted the gratis king size bed and deliciously tasteful en-suite, as well as the limitless supply of coffee and cakes, with gratitude.

Jeremy at Trotsky's house, Mexico City

A Trot pays tribute, Coyoacan, Mexico City

But the thing is, we missed the van. I know, I think we are weird too. And by the time we left that hermetically-sealed air-conditioned hotel four days later we were head-achey, bleary eyed and feeling rather lethargic.

Some might say we are just allergic to work these days, or that the altitude of Mexico City – at 2,240m – was the problem. But I’m sticking to the original theory – luxury hotels just make us sick. On the upside, we are now stocked up on enough soap and body lotion to last us until 2013.

After the conference we spent the rest of the weekend exploring. Mexico City fizzes with energy – walking around involves weaving through packed avenues of shouty street-food vendors, political protesters, musicians, shoppers, tourists and – at the moment – Christmas shops. Preparations are in full swing and we were around for the big festive light switch-on on Saturday, with a tree the size of a skyscraper in the Zocalo.

We structured our sight-seeing around the inspirational Diego Rivera, Frida Khalo and Leon Trotsky set. Gazing at the murals, artwork and homes of the three takes you to astonishing buildings and one of the hippest suburbs of the city, but also illustrates so much about the cultural, political and social history of Mexico – and beyond – as well as the incredibly alluring times the three lived and died in themselves.

We paid a second tribute to Trotsky at the house where he was finally murdered, having visited 10 years ago – well, it’s not possible to have too much of Trotsky. Unless you’re a Stalinist, I suppose.

Much as we love the city, it was a relief to navigate our way out of it, hit the road again, and feel the wind on our cheeks.

We have spent most of the last month or so in towns and cities. We are currently camped near Cholula, which not only shares a name with our favourite Mexican condiment, but is a suburb of the beautiful multi-coloured city of Puebla.

And for a couple of atheists we are spending an awful lot of time in churches and cathedrals. As anyone who has visited a Spanish colonial-designed town will know, they are the literal and cultural heart of every village, town and city.

Christmas lights switch-on, Zocala, Mexico City

The Zocalo was packed for the big festive switch-on

They are, almost without exception, beautiful places to visit and an important part of Latin America’s history. But they do stir up the same old questions time and again. How did the colonisers manage to convert, on such a breathtaking scale, the indigenous people of an entire region? Those that they didn’t kill or enslave, or both, I mean.

There are still some communities that reject Catholicism, but proportionally very few.

And how does the Church justify the obscene opulence of so many of their places of worship, while so many of their worshippers still languish in abject poverty? If this is not too simplistic, are those things necessary for prayer or perhaps – maybe – could some of those gold-adorned statues, blindingly shiny chandeliers or priceless paintings be utilised to help people in some way?

It’s not only churches we are seeing in their hundreds. We’ve noticed a few other things that are prolific in every town. Mexicans must worship shoes too. We’ve never seen so many shoe shops. And wedding dress shops. And dogs in clothing. In one incident, near Mexico City, we saw a dog in a dress and pink bootees. The dog looked mortified – if I’d known the number for the Mexican RSPCA I would have phoned them.

There is no photographic evidence so you’ll have to take my word for it. Talking of pictures, one friend emailed this week to say she was boycotting our photos because they were depressing her more and more, as the Scottish winter closes in.

So it’s just as well I’ve fallen so far behind on uploading any photos onto Flickr. You won’t believe me if I say I’ve been too busy, so let’s just say I’m being kind.

Days: 64
Miles: 3,100.6
Things we now know to be true: It doesn’t matter if shoes are a national obsession, that’s no excuse for putting them on a dog.

14 Responses to “Luxury hotels make us sick”

  1. Jeff December 6, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JEREMY! I was thinking of you today.

    Did you get my recent newsy email?

    Nice pics. I’m not a = Trot – or a Stalinist but I do real non-sectarian left unity against the real enemy! More another time.

    How’s Paula? Her pics are great.

    Take care,


    • jeremyandpaula December 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

      Hi Jeff, I’m very very well thanks! And thanks for enjoying the pics. If only I could get organised enough to put the next massive batch online. Don;t know where the time goes, ha! lots of love, pxx

  2. Steve Cavalier December 6, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    Swanky hotels. Hope you made full use of the mini-bar. Barckley, Jonathan and I would expect nothing less. Remember Anderlecht and Milan…..

  3. lyndacuba December 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Hahaha! That poor dog – did the dress and bootees match?

    • jeremyandpaula December 14, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

      Depends if you advocate wearing lilac and pink at the same time. 🙂

  4. ruth December 6, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    Have you got a copy of lacuna by babara kingsolver, lots of mexico, freida and trotsky – worth a read. Know that missing the van feeling 😦 xx ruth

    • jeremyandpaula December 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

      hi R, I just finished that book two days ago and loved it! Was great to read it while seeing all these related things. Hope you well. Have you flogged your van yet or decided to keep it? xx

  5. erika December 7, 2011 at 1:40 am #

    you’ve cheered me up today though by giving me a mention in the blog. Yeah!

    • jeremyandpaula December 14, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

      hurrah! and it might cheer you to know we’ve had some torrential rain recently 🙂

  6. Gary Rubin December 7, 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    Maybe the dog was in drag and happy about his ‘look’? Thanks for the insights into Mexico City and with all respect to the Scottish pal, we want to see pics! Opulent dogs and overstuffed churches……….must be a theme here…………………glad you are happy ensconced back in the van!

    • jeremyandpaula December 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

      promise to upload some soon!! Thanks for reading…. more soon. p xx

  7. Derek Jolly December 8, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    Hi Folks,
    Hope Jes had a fabulous birthday! We’re indoors today with the storm hatches battened down. Forth Bridge closed – school closed – wheely bins jammed against outside wall on side – Fiona’s extra shift cancelled – movie rental downloading – roof holding steady – just!

    I don’t think I can ever remember the schools being closed due to wind – except maybe that time I parped against a warm plastic chair in first year biology after a night on the Brussel sprouts…

    Must go – I can smell filter coffee & cinnamon bread – must be time for threeses. What can I say – I’ve just finished four nights – Fife’s finest were most definitely out in force 🙂

    BTW – on the subject of needless opulence – I read today that a guy in the UK bought a dessert in a Windermere restaurant for a whopping £22,000 – what the fuck is that all about??

    Keep up the good work 🙂

    • jeremyandpaula December 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

      Cheers! Was it one of those desserts laced with gold?! Mental. xx

  8. marie December 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    That dog’s got should see our cocker spaniel in nude high heels. his paws are so massive, they only just fit him but he looks a treat. ah, the fun you can have mixing pets and booze.

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