The simple things in life.

I could grow to love this place. Many of you will be familiar with my penchant for keeping things as simple as possible. Mexicans seem to share that attitude.
Take the roads for example. There are no give way lines or stop lines on the junctions. There are no pelican crossings – unnecessary or otherwise. The streets are not cluttered with signage like they are in the uk either. Most urban streets seem to be one way, and it took me a while to suss out how you tell which way they run, other than noting the direction all the parked cars are facing. Look carefully at the top pic, see the little arrows above the street names?
The only traffic lights I’ve seen so far were on the highway close to Cancun airport. Overtaking can be done either side of the vehicle in front, and lane discipline seems to consist of basically not hitting anyone else whilst changing lanes. At junctions you just work your way into the traffic stream. At particularly busy (or tricky?) ones on the highways there are speed bumps close to the turning; serious speed bumps that you are definitely going to slow down for regardless of what you’re driving.
In urban areas the only speed bumps are some of the occasional pedestrian crossings. The same applies; hell, some of the kerbstones in Tequila are 18 inches high…
The net result is you have to pay attention to the job of driving. And as far as I’ve seen, it appears to work.

This relaxed, (but attentive) attitude seems to permeate all aspects of driving. It’s not unusual to see people riding in the back of pick up trucks, or whole families on a motorbike, kids squashed between parents, not a crash hat between them. Then there are the mobile adverts; not mobile hoardings such as we see at home, but vehicles (yeah, usually battered old pick ups) with loud speakers playing adverts for who knows what. The UK noise police would have heart attacks; here it’s just one more aspect of a bustling, thriving, but chilled out city.

Addendum: I’ve just watched a young woman in a battered old Toyota turn the wrong way into a one-way street – then force her way across the oncoming traffic to park on the forecourt of the first building on the left. Not only do I think that she knew exactly what she was doing, I think everyone else knew too! In the UK such action would no doubt produce a torrent of horn blowing and abuse. In Tequila it warranted no more than a gently shaken head and a couple of smiles…

Safety first

“In a safe area of downtown Cancun” said the advert. My apartment isn’t so much “downtown” as “out of town”.
I spent a couple of hours exploring the area this evening. It appears to be a largely residential grid hewn out of otherwise inpenetrable woodland. The street parallel to mine is tarmaced, and has the occasional street light. The rest are unlit and characterised by pot holes that even the biggest 4x4s drive carefully around. There are no pavements, nor indeed any pedestrians. There are lots of compounds with imposing gates and high walls, often topped with razor wire. And there are security guards. And dogs. Loud, vicious sounding dogs. It’s obviously a very safe area if you’re the right side of the walls…
The restaurant on the edge of that area that I was looking for was closed by the time I got there, just after 7pm. Another telling sign methinks. The evening is drawing in rapidly by now. I decide to stick to that one tarmaced road, because I know that at the other end of it I’ll come to Alfred.V.Bonfil, and if I turn right I’ll be about a mile from the Amma Food Park Experience again. Not only that, but this (main) road does have a pedestrian pathway – albeit down the middle of the wide central reservation, which can only be reached by braving the onrushing traffic!
Shoulders back, chin up, stride out. My body language says “Bring it on”; I figure it’s the only defence I’ve got.

The view from the other end of my street, in daylight!

The route takes me past the end of my street. My apartment is 10 minutes walk down that darkened opening in the pic at the top of this post.
I’m no wuss, but I think after a couple of beers tonight, I’ll splash out and get a taxi back to my nice safe apartment.

Jesus has heeled my boots!

Jesus has heeled my boots!
I spotted the local cobbler while meandering through Mercado 28.

I was in two minds but I hadn’t had time to get my boots heeled before leaving Hull, and like any good market trader Jesus spotted my hesitation as an opportunity, and invited me into his workshop. Feeling vaguely honoured I ventured into Jesus’s inner sanctum. He was clearly a busy man; so busy he hadn’t had time to clean up in years. The floor was filthy – conveniently matching the walls and the furniture. Scraps of material / leather / rubber littered every surface that wasn’t covered in shoes. Nice shiny shoes, shoes desperately in need of serious repair, and shoes in every imaginable intermediate condition. I suspect Jesus has a sideline in re-manufacturing shoes abandoned by their original owners. I want to ask him, but I think I lack the linguistic agility I need.
We haggle briefly, and a price is agreed. Jesus points me to a chair and for my benefit redirects one of the big floor-standing fans that are obviously covering for the broken air conditioner.
Watching Jesus at work is fascinating. Having ripped the heels off my boots he reaches for the sheet of thick rubber he showed me earlier, and carves off a chunk with what looks more like a scalpel than a knife. He dips his fingers in an open jar of what must be contact adhesive and spreads it liberally on boots and repair material.
Conveniently, at this moment an important looking man with an even more important looking folder in his hands appears. The conversation must have been just long enough for the adhesive to dry; big lump of rubber is slapped on one heel and the excess carved off and slapped on t’other. It looks slapdash. But a few deft strokes of the scalpel and a couple of minutes on the machine in the corner, and my boots are as good as new.
Jesus has heeled my boots; amen.

Seasoning for the Heart

Breakfast Mexican style! With ham, bacon, chorizo, spinach, cheese, mushrooms. Served with soft warm tortillas, a bread roll, orange juice, coffee and three types of chilli dip – all for around a fiver.

I’m at Casa de Nana, in Mercado 28. Cancun’s famous downtown market is a riot of crafts, colours, fragrances and food choices. Casa de Nana’s strapline, “sazón de corazón” translates effectively as “seasoning for the heart”; I couldn’t put it better.

Actually breakfast wasn’t my first experience of Mexican food. Last night I wandered the mile or so from my apartment to the Amma Food Park Experience, a permanent street food market with big screen sport / film nights, music (lots of indie rock playing over the sport last night) and a bar. The choice ranged from pizza or burgers to Argentinian or Venezuelan specialities. I went for a huge Argentinian sausage baguette (with chilli dips) and a couple of bottles of Modelo Negra.

I’ve never seen anything quite like the Amma Food Park Experience at home, though to be fair, the revamped Trinity Market is definitely a step in the right direction.

I so wish I had a bigger appetite!

A Flight Of Fancy?

I’m high. 38,000 feet high to be exact, charging through the air at 567mph.
My seat is comfortable, I’m taking a break from watching a classic movie, and my complimentary three course lunch is settling nicely.
I’m on my way to Mexico for an orgy of Mexican street food and tequila, and the weather promises to be superb.
Yet I have a growing sense of unease. I’m not feeling guilty about flying long haul. Sure, aviation is a dirty business, but rightly or wrongly I rationalised that it will only get cleaner with investment and development, and that can only come from successfully selling the idea of flying to ever more customers (and therefore investors). No, my problem started with lunch, or rather the small mountain of plastic that accompanied it. The plastic tray came with a plastic cup, the obligatory plastic cutlery – all wrapped in plastic, a plastic pot of dessert, a plastic pot of water and so on. Thats a lot of plastic when you times it by 300 passengers.
But it doesn’t end there. I’m flying in a plastic aeroplane. Seriously. The Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” has plastic wings. And a plastic fuselage. And plastic seats. And a plastic curtain between “premium” class and cattle class. I, naturally, am on the wrong side of the curtain tracks…
I’m sitting in a 250 ton, 50% plastic, behemoth, producing more waste plastic for the planet to deal with.
Somehow I doubt that the magnificent Dreamliner is the product of a gazillion recycled milk bottles, crisp packets and plastic forks, and I wonder how much of it, at the end of it’s service life, will itself be recycled (apparently German recycling company ELG is working on this).
I’m not going to suggest we return to building aircraft out of wood and canvas, but surely the aviation industry could show a little compromise? Almost all that plastic packaging could have been paper. Recyclable wooden cutlery is readily available (we use it for take-away customers at Chilli Devil’s bar). The trays could be made from similar material. It seems almost trivial at first glance, and perhaps on an individual passenger basis it is. But an industry wide initiative to replace all unnecessary plastic throughout a worldwide industry transporting millions of people a day, would be anything but trivial.
I’ve never been so glad to see a cup of tea served in a paper cup.

Feast Nights are back!

Feast Nights are back! Starting Wednesday 12th June, @ 7.30pm for 8.00pm.
Our menu this month will be:
Salmon Ceviche with chipotle and orange.
Served on a bed of fresh salad leaves with salsa and guacamole.
Pork stuffed with orange and pistachios Served with chilli bubble & squeak, mixed mushrooms and bacon wrapped asparagus, with an orange and tequila sauce.
Orange & tequila sorbet.

Tickets ordered online (here) will be available for collection at the bar (you will receive confirmation of your booking via email)

Chilli Devil’s Bar
11a Manor Street
(We’re just beyond The Land of Green Ginger, between The George and The Burlington Tavern, opposite the side of Essex House).

PS. Fancy a free Sunday lunch? Sign up for a chance of winning one (or two even!)

Traditional Sunday Lunch @ Chilli Devil’s – Chilli Devil’s

As from this coming Sunday we will be offering traditional Sunday roast dinners! That’s going to make it interesting in our tiny kitchen… so, we’re planning a dry run (a stress test?) for Friday 25th January. All we need is a few of you lovely people to come and enjoy some DISCOUNTED roast beef or roast lamb! Just £4 on Friday for a roast dinner with all the trimmings! (Normally £7.50 / £8.50)

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