First and Last Impressions of Puebla

Perception Is Reality, But Not Really

Back before I arrived in Guatemala, I remember vividly what I was going to expect. From all the blogs, everything you see from the media and the government warnings, I thought Lake Atitlan would have muddy, unpaved streets and rampant poverty that would breed dangerous situations around every corner. My experience was entirely different.

So, when my first class bus rolled into the CAPU Station in my new destination of Puebla I explicitly remember what I was thinking… this place is a dump and I’ll be out of here by tomorrow.

Shanty shacks that lined the freeway, graffiti EVERYWHERE, and traffic is just a hot mess. It reminded me of driving through some of the bad areas of Los Angeles several years back, only much worse! For the first time, I felt like I was over my head as I arrived in Mexico’s 4th largest city.

Anyway, the bus pulls into this enormous (and rickety) station, I get my backpack from underneath and am suddenly nervous about all this internet talk about how “everyone that’s ever got into a cab in all of Mexico has been kidnapped” nonsense.

I shake it off, get to the ATM for some Pesos for a cab and for a hotel for the night, then ask some girl what I should pay for a cab (so they don’t rip me off). She tells me 60 Pesos (~ $4.50) and I feel I’m ready to negotiate. Only, I don’t need to because there are set prices and you pre-buy your ticket at a booth. Cool! So, I take my ticket and go out to the sea of taxis and not one person runs up to me trying to sell me the ride. Another attendant points me to the first one and I get in. I then head off for a 10 minute ride with this totally cool cabbie. He settles every single concern I throw at him. And to top it off, when I got to my destination I gave him a tip and he lets me know that I already paid. I had to tell him it was a tip. All told, that was the most convenient taxi kidnapping ever.

So, I’m staying at a budget hotel called, El Hotelito. It’s $30 a night for a private room with bathroom and it’s located in the heart of Puebla’s historic central district (which seems far more quaint and charming than what I saw from the main freeway). Puebla is a steaming pile of hot garbage? Hmm, let me get back to you on that one.

El Hotelito Room a.k.a. Love Motel

El Hotelito Room a.k.a. Love Motel

El Hotelito Room View

El Hotelito Room View

Excursions in Puebla

I’ve ventured out many times already from my hotel since I don’t have the luxury of making friends (like in a hostel or at a school). It’s structured like any downtown area, with a grid system of numbered streets. The only problem is that I’m not entirely familiar with how these work here and today I was lost for just over an hour and contemplated hailing a taxi to take me home.

What’s cool about getting out and about (and lost) is that I learn my way around AND I always stop by some small hole in the wall restaurant (of which there are tons) that sell something delicious that I’ve never tried. I’m not gonna lie, though. I don’t even know what I’m ordering half of the time but one thing is definitely for sure… Puebla has THE BEST food I’ve had on my travels so far. Everything is great. Everything. I’d take pictures of it all, but I don’t really want people looking at me more than they already do.

Here was my breakfast two days in a row. It was so extremely delicious. They’re called chilaquiles and they’re basically lightly-fried corn tortilla chips, smothered with hot, melted cheese, green salsa, topped with freshly cut onions and a light drizzling of something that looked like melted sour cream. Soooo good.

Chilaquiles, Bread and Coffee

Chilaquiles, Bread and Coffee

The Zocalo in Puebla is where it’s at. This is like a large park setting in the middle of downtown (with a main fountain in center, green grass, lots of trees and an enormous church off to the side – shocker) where people get together to people watch, hang out, breakdance, whatever. Since Puebla’s Centro Historico is more of a downtown setting, its park is surrounded by crowded boutique shops and fancy restaurants (and McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway, of course). It’s happening and, at first glance of this area, made me feel like I was in Paris, or something. It’s extremely busy here and fun to just be around.

And, for the record, this church may not even be the most impressive here in Puebla. There are some really cool looking churches in the city streets.

Puebla Zócalo

Puebla Zócalo

Clowns Performing at the Zócalo

Clowns Performing at the Zócalo

Church at the Zócalo

Church at the Zócalo

My original plan was to maybe set up shop in Guadalajara for 5 months or so to get some work done. However, I nearly secured myself an apartment here instead. At the last minute I decided that I’d miss out on several other cities I had planned to visit. So, I’ve decided to move on in a few days, although I’m absolutely positive I’ll regret leaving.

It’s also weird that I haven’t seen one tourist here.

 

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