To Market, To Market, Again

Before we left the United States we really weren’t that familiar with the concept of a city market. Back in Maine we often shopped at our weekly farmer’s market during the summer, but it wasn’t until we traveled to San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico that we experienced our first “real market”. Markets that sell everything from spoons to live animals all packed tightly into one space. We were amazed and a bit overwhelmed by all the colors, sights, and sounds of so many people coming together to buy their food, clothes, and household goods. The crowds and closely packed space of the market along with the many types of meat displayed out in the open made the San Cris. market a bit of a challenge for our family of claustrophobic, vegans. However, we loved the convenient location and the super friendly vendors.

DSC03936-picsay

When we arrived in Italy we discovered that Lucca is home to a street market as well. Every Wednesday and Saturday just down the road from our rental apartment vendors would park vans and trucks along a closed off street to sell clothing, flowers, household supplies and produce. We were particularly surprised to discover that most of the vendors were selling socks and underwear. If you were in need of undergarments you could buy anything from fancy lingerie to sensible dress socks. Alas, with our SmartWools and Fruit of the Looms holding up well we didn’t do much business at this market.

DSC06711-picsay

Now that we are in Split, Croatia we are once again experiencing a city market. In fact Split has two market areas. The market to the East of Diocletian’s Palace is quite large with vendors selling clothing (lots of underwear vendors here too), produce, meat, and household goods. To the West of Diocletian’s Palace is the fish market, or in Croatian the Ribarnica. This market is super easy to find due to the smell, and it is housed in its own building. While the smell of the fish market is hard to miss the Younger Fives were excited to find that the rest of the meat sold at the Split market is kept behind refrigerated cases. They will probably never get over literally coming face to face with dead chickens in Mexico.

Guest Post: Vegan San Cristóbal

Te Quiero Verde

We are pleased to report a first for the Fives. We have just completed our first guest post, an article at Anywheretraveler.com on eating vegan in San Cristobal de las Casas . We first came across the couple behind the site about a month ago while researching vegan eating options in Italy, and we contacted them with a few questions. They were very friendly and generous in answering our many inquiries, and we have stayed in touch ever since. We plan to share some of their many insights about Italy here on our blog before we travel to Rome this fall.

We hope you check out the full article using the link below.

http://www.anywheretraveler.com/vegan-cristobal-mexico/

Palenque Fever

DSC04245-picsay

We knew that the Younger Fives were hot to visit their first Mayan ruins, but we didn’t actually think they would get a fever. In fact that is just what happened. By the time that we boarded the bus to Palenque from San Cristóbal de las Casas all three kids were running fevers. Of course stepping off the bus into 90 degree temperatures with super high humidity didn’t help. Coming from the much cooler highland climate of San Cristóbal de las Casas, our bodies were given quite the shock as we emerged into the jungle. Luckily the allure of scrambling over the Palenque ruins was enough to induce the kids into taking some fever reduction medicine and hopping on a Collectivo (small passenger vans that run throughout town) to go explore the remains of the ancient Mayan city.

DSC04220-picsay

Considering they were all pretty sick, the kids did an amazing job of site seeing. In fact most of the tourists that we saw walking around Palenque looked pretty miserable (hot, sweaty, and sometimes bored) so the kids in their condition didn’t stand out. We had already planned on breaking up our visit into multiple days so we weren’t worried about rushing through the site, which worked out wonderfully. Instead each day we let the kids choose what they wanted to explore and in between we lounged, picnicked, and even napped under the huge trees that dot the landscape. One day just outside of the Temple of the Cross we found ourselves in the company of a group of howler monkeys hanging above our heads. So, for the next hour we sat in the shade of the jungle trees and watched the monkeys swing and eat.

After spending the last month reading books and watching documentaries about Palenque, it was really a trip to actually be standing at the base of these amazing structures. Five Ball was especially surprised to find out how small the ball court actually was. We found the following documentary to be particularly useful in getting a sense of what Palenque looked like in its heyday, and it really helped us appreciate even more all the structures we saw.

The Fives 5 tips for visiting Palenque with kids:

Visit early in the morning before the mid-day heat becomes too oppressive.

– Dress in very cool and comfortable clothing (tank tops, thin shorts, and sandals).

Drink lots of water (vendors sell cold water near all of the entrances).

– Plan to move slowly and take lots of breaks under shade trees or along the jungle paths

– Break your visit to this massive archaeological site into two days. We visited the south section the first day and the north section of the site the next day.

What Are We Doing Here?

DSC04137-picsay

We departed San Cristóbal de las Casas early yesterday morning and in truth we were all really glad to be leaving. Honestly I think that as a family we murmured, thought, and even yelled the phrase “What are we doing here?” more often this past month than we ever have before. So, why did we decide to live in this area of Mexico  for a month in the first place? We really wanted to experience the region of Chiapas and get to know a different way of life from what we experienced this past winter in Baja California. We intentionally picked a Mexican city that has less of an expat community and chose a rental that was removed from the tourist areas.

Unfortunately in doing so we neglected to research how family friendly the city would be. A mistake that we will be sure not to make in the future! While San Cristóbal de las Casas offers so much in terms of super friendly people, wonderful culture, and a great night-life (for the older crowd), we found that it falls very short as an enjoyable city to experience with children.

DSC04138-picsay

There were very few places for the Younger Fives to get out and play. The only functioning playground that we did find was a good distance from our house. The streets surrounding our rental, while safe, were littered with garbage and a never ending supply of dog excrement making it impossible for the kids to play on the block. There was a field behind our rental apartment where the kids really enjoyed spending time. However, 9 times out of 10 times the gate would be locked, which just added to everyone’s frustration. In addition the sidewalks of San Cristóbal de las Casas are very narrow and the streets always full of cars. This made walks through the city unenjoyable for us all as the car fumes made the kids sick, and we were a bundle of nerves trying to keep the kids out of the path of cars.

So, needless to say after living in San Cristóbal de las Casas for just a week we were all pretty much ready to throw in the towel. However, with a fully paid month-long rental this just wasn’t an option. So, instead we sat down together as a family and brainstormed how we could make things better. And in the end the process of sticking-it-out and working together as a family to come up with fun things to do ended up being a great experience for our family. While we probably spent more time inside this past month then we have since the kids were very young, it was fun to divert our attention with board games and World Cup soccer as a change.

Most importantly our time in San Cristóbal de las Casas made us appreciate what it means to live in an area with a lot of green space and very little pollution. We all came to fully realize how spoiled we have been living so close to nature in many of our past rentals. This past month again reminded us of how much we have to be thankful for as a family. Part of this adventure is finding out how other people in this world live and experiencing new areas of the world for ourselves. While everyone was excited to move-on from San Cristóbal de las Casas, we will all take with us the many lessons that we learned this past month.

Slip Slidin’ Away at the Parque Infantil

DSC03955-picsay

The rains here in San Cristóbal de las Casas have been off and on, but we have made the most of the dry spells to get outside and explore the city. We had heard about a large playground at the western edge of the city and decided to walk across town to check it out. The Parque de Convivencia Infantil (located on the Pereferico Norte Poniente, 1 block south of the Pemex Station) did not disappoint; while the puddles were plentiful, the great collection of slides and climbing structures made us at least feel all warm and sunny.

Tips for Your Visit:
* The Park is closed on Mondays, and opens at 10:00 all other days. The opening time is definitely not set in stone (it didn’t open until 11:15 the day we visited), so you may have to wait a little for the gate to open.
* While we did walk to the playground from our apartment, it was a long and exhaust-filled walk. We gladly shelled out the 30 pesos for the cab home and would use the cab both ways the next time we visit.
* The entrance cost, for both adults and children, is 2 pesos per person.