Last month I had the fun opportunity to travel with my friend Debbie to Mexico! Debbie had been invited to be a bridesmaid in her friend Diana's wedding, and knew that her husband would not be able to attend with her due to his crazy work schedule. Not wanting to go alone I was the lucky friend who was invited to be her travel companion - she said she wanted to travel with someone fun, and it helped that I also conveniently knew Spanish.
The invite came unexpectedly via a text conversation:
Debbie: So.... I've got a question for you.
Though in my brain it was more like "uh oh...what did I do?"
Deb:Got any plans Dec. 28-31?
Deb: (say no say no say no)
Me: Um, right now I was planning on being in CO, but flights can be changed......why??
Deb: Want to come to my friend's wedding in Puebla, Mexico with me? I'll pay for your flight with miles...
Deb: (say yes say yes say yes say yes)
Queue the massive excited freak out that ensued.
Me: Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!! Really?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Plus several excited bitmoji characters.
Which was shortly followed by a nearly two hour hunt through every shelf, drawer, closet, and box that I owned in desperate search for my expired passport. I searched under my mattress, in shoe boxes, through my bookshelf, under my stereo, record player and TV...I knew it was expired, and remembered that I had moved it from its old home, but I could NOT remember where I had moved it to! Debbie tried to calm me a bit and said I didn't need to find it right away, but I knew if this was going to happen I had to send in my passport for expedited renewal right away. I found it at last, looked up all the information online of where I needed to go and what I needed to do, and early the next morning I was at a drugstore getting my photo taken, and then at the post office filling out forms.
You would think that a place that has forms that require only black ink in order to be accepted would be able to provide a pen with black ink.
Luckily I spotted a woman in line who had brought her own black-inked pen and I asked to borrow it. This awesome woman wrapped up what she was doing, smiled and just gave it to me! She said I could keep it, and then headed out the door.
My passport came back quickly, Debbie booked my flight, and before long I was flying back to LA after a short 3 day Christmas weekend in Colorado with my family in order to repack my bag for Mexico. Debbie and I met up at the airport before dawn on December 27th, and began our adventure!
We were collected from the Mexico City airport by the groom Andrew, and the bride's brother Oscar. We spent the afternoon visiting different places in Mexico City; a castle in a giant park, voladores performing in said park, statues, fountains, and visited a restaurant for a dinner of pozole. We then drove about an hour and a half to the west to stay at Diana's family's home in Toluca. We saw Diana only briefly as we dropped Andrew off in town where they had dance practice; Diana's sister Estefani joining us for the drive home. Debbie and I were exhausted by this point, so we headed to bed.
The next day we got to sleep in a bit, and then had a yummy brunch prepared for us by Diana's mother. We met Diana's other brother (I'm totally forgetting his name right now), and her friend Miyuki (another bridesmaid) who had arrived that morning from Japan. By early afternoon Oscar, Estefani, Miyuki, Debbie and I were squeezing back into the car with our suitcases to drive back through Mexico City and beyond to Puebla. We ate tacos in a small hole in the wall restaurant, walked around the plaza next to the giant cathedral where the wedding would take place, and headed to the hotel. Debbie had booked a hotel room for the two of us to share, but earlier in the day upon learning that Miyuki hadn't found a hotel she was invited to join us since the room had plenty of space. We settled in, and poor Miyuki discovered that she had forgotten her bridesmaid dress in Japan!
Friday morning the three of us decided to do some exploring, and took an Uber (yes, really) to the town of Cholula. With the volcano Popocatepetl rising (and smoking!) in the background, we wandered through some excavated tunnels of an ancient pyramid, and then walked around the ruins that were visible above ground. We met a man who made beautiful pieces of art out of colored grass that depicted how the pyramid and volcano may have looked before time and elements had buried the man made structure. I bought one. After seeing the ruins we walked through part of the city, and visited one of many cathedrals that stood out along the skyline. The outside of the cathedral was visibly damaged from the large earthquake just a few months prior; pieces from the top of the building had fallen down and left holes in the surrounding pavement.
The afternoon was dedicated to shopping in Puebla. Specifically, for a substitute bridesmaid dress for Miyuki. We headed to a mall, and immediately asked a department store employee for help. If store employees here helped as much as these people did, I'd never have a problem shopping. I explained what type of dress we were looking for, and a couple of ladies flew into action pulling dresses off racks, and shooing Miyuki into the changing rooms. Debbie mentioned how glad she was I spoke Spanish, as it made the entire process smoother. Unfortunately the first store didn't have a style in Miyuki's size that worked with the bride's style, so we popped into another smaller store (not much luck), and grabbed lunch in the food court before making to the other large department store at the far end of the mall. Again there was an employee ready to help pull dresses off of racks, and this time we found a winner.
We at a fancy, well reviewed restaurant for dinner; Puebla is where mole (the sauce) was invented, so Debbie found a restaurant that offered a lot of it. It was. AMAZING. I'd tried mole a few times before but didn't care much for it. Knowing that tastes can change, and knowing that I now like dark chocolate (chocolate is sometimes used in moles), I was open to trying again, and I'm glad I did! My dish had 5 different moles and each one was yummy. One had what I think were pumpkin seeds and was kind of green, another was peanutty, one was lightly sweet and tasted like it had pineapple juice in it, one tasted more like red enchilada sauce, and the last one had so much chocolate in it it could have passed for dessert. Except we also ordered desserts too. We were sooo full afterward!
Saturday morning Miyuki opted for some solo exploring (she loves traveling solo), and Debbie and I went to the Amparo Museum. We wandered the galleries, had lunch on their rooftop (cathedrals as far as the eyes could see!), stopped in a couple of shops for pottery for Debbie and a flag pin souvenir for me, and then headed back to the hotel to get ready for Diana and Andrew's wedding! The cathedral had a wedding scheduled every hour, so we only had to show up a few minutes early, wait for the previous wedding to finish, and then find seats. I guarded Debbie and Miyuki's personal belongings as they lined up for the processional. Once everyone was inside and in their seats we quickly realized there wasn't a translator as we had been told, so I quickly leaned forward and did my best to keep up with the priest and translate what I could for Debbie and Miyuki. Nothing like an on the spot translation job to show you how incredibly rusty your Spanish is. And a translator I have never been. I got enough across so they could get the basic ideas of what was being said, and they said they were grateful they had me there so they could understand some of it. My brain was quite tired afterward!
The couple looked very happy, and at the end of the ceremony everyone filed back outside to take photos and let the next wedding party take their places. The reception was a short walk away; we were served dinner, listened to a singer, followed by a string quartet, followed by a DJ, (with lots of dancing), followed by a mariachi band (who didn't even start playing until 1:30am!). We kept the dance floor alive basically the entire night; Debbie and I seemed to have a gift of getting people to dance each time the dance floor started petering out. I even used one of the long balloons they'd brought out to start a limbo party at one point. It was a big hit.
We said our goodbyes as the waitstaff was breaking down the tables, went back to the hotel to shower and pack, set our alarms, and slept for only two hours before Debbie and I got up to head to the airport. We had scheduled an Uber to pick us up, but the first driver who showed up couldn't commit to the 2 hour trip to Mexico City (and the 2 hours back). We requested a new ride, and to make sure we wouldn't get ditched again I sent the driver a text in Spanish from Debbie's phone letting him know where we needed to go. He agreed as long as we could pay the tolls to and from the city. We made it to the airport with time to spare, and relaxed until we boarded. I was able to nap a little on the plane, but spent more time helping the lady next to me with her immigration paperwork since she didn't speak or read any English.
Back in LA we went through the shortest customs line we had ever seen, picked up Debbie's suitcase from the carousel, and hugged goodbye at the curb before taking Lyfts in different directions. I refused to let myself nap during the day so that I could get back on a normal sleep schedule, and even though it was New Years Eve I was asleep just after 9:15pm and didn't get up until 8am the next day. It was a fantastic trip, and an excellent way to end the year!