Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Breakfast at Café Quiptic again. There couldn't possibly be anyplace better. It's fun to watch all the activity in the square while we're eating. We saw Juan Valdez and his three burros caravanning down the street. It's another beautiful morning, and the fountain in the Zócalo is on today.

The combi driver for our trip to San Cristóbal de Las Casas was playing "let's see how many people we can cram in the minivan," a very popular game. The combis rarely leave before they're completely full, but this guy must have been a clown in a former life or something - always room for one more! We were loaded with 18 people, three of which were large (ranging from about 5 to 10 years old) lap children.

Just out of town the driver had to stop at an immigration checkpoint. They were looking for illegal Guatemalans and questioned one man, a mechanic traveling with a greasy, grimy autopart in his lap, but he was legal and we all went on our way.

The Mercado Municipal madhouse

Our hotel in San Cristóbal is the Hotel Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, 180 pesos, no TV, hot water from 7:00 to 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. More expensive rooms have a TV and hot water around the clock, but we can live with the restriction, and I don't need Spanish-language TV every day. The rooms are centered around an attractive patio courtyard, and we're about two blocks from the Zócalo.

The multicolored mercado

We went for a wander and ended up at the Mercado Municipal, which extends for several blocks. San Cristóbal's market is said to be the most extraordinary bazaar in all of southern Mexico. You name it, they sell it - pots and tools and clothes and produce and meat and CDs and more. The colorful Chamula and Zinacanteca Indians in their traditional clothing with babies and bundles on their backs are a sight to behold. It was really something to see and experience.

Uh, what's in the chorizo?

You really have to be on your toes when you go walking in San Cristóbal. They're tearing up the sidewalks to do sewer work, and they don't have any of those sissy warning signs we have in the U.S. No caution tape, no orange cones, no closed sidewalks, and no suing if you get hurt. Apparently they actually expect you to - get this - pay attention to what you're doing! The holes are sometimes very big. Tom saw a dog fall into one, but he managed to escape. Whew!

Walk at your own risk

We ate dinner at the Restaurante Tuluc, just up from our hotel. Their specialty is Italian and Argentinian cuisine. I had some delicious onion soup and spaghetti bolognesa. Tom had tacos dorado. The only thing that could have made it better is if they'd laid off the cheesy easy listening music from the '70s. Tom knew all the songs - Ha!

The gringos of San Cristóbal are a strangely unfriendly lot. We've never witnessed so many people make such an effort not to make eye contact. What's up with that? Are they each trying to pretend they're the only gringo in town and they discovered the place?

Jana and her new friend outside his vegetarian restaurant

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