Hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend; I had a great one. The best! You know I love seeing amazing things that are of historical significance to our planet (AFAR magazine calls in Experiential Travel), but Zack and I got to see some of our best friends and just relax–truly relax–for a few days. No schedule, no agenda, no priorities. I don’t think I’ve had that since our honeymoon!
We flew into Houston last Thursday and spent the day exploring Houston with Casey and Melissa–more on those adventures later (including one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had!). After spending Friday road-tripping down to South Padre Island, we went to pick up our other friends, Will and Ryann, at the Brownsville airport. Brownsville happens to be the sister city to Matamoros, Mexico. We figured since we were only about a mile from another country, let’s go for it. So we popped 75 cents into a turnstile and walked over the Rio Grande. We have all read about the unrest in border towns, but our experience couldn’t have been better. We had a great lunch where Ryann ate a baby goat shoulder, walked around the Juarez Mercado for a couple hours and had some great churros from a street vendor, and then spent some time in the town square before walking back over to our homeland. It was a great afternoon and an adventure I’ll always remember!
The 3 photos on the right-hand side are of Cathedral De Nuestra Señora del Refugio (Cathedral of Our lady of Refuge). It was a really pretty and peaceful place, and very different from the centuries-old cathedrals I’ve seen allover Western Europe. The walls were all stark white, and it had a very modern feel to it. I think it’s fascinating to try and see things, parts of other cultures, through the eyes of the people who live there, so it was neat to see a local lady praying at Mary’s feet with her arms stretched to the ceiling.
The photo on the top left is the Jaurez Mercado, which is clearly the epicenter of Matamoros. It was packed, and only with locals. We didn’t see a single other “gringo” there, or anywhere for that matter! Which again was really interesting. Maybe seeing 6 white kids enjoying their city, after the media has shooed everyone away from border towns, was like a sign of hope for them? Everyone from our waiters to our cab drivers to street vendors were as nice and welcoming as they could have possibly been.
The middle photo is the open kitchen in the restaurant where we had lunch, with little goats split open and hanging from hooks. Ha! Crazy, isn’t it? I have to say, I had a bite of Ryann’s goat, and it was pretty gamey and oily. But it didn’t deter Ryann, she ate the whole thing down to the bone! She’s my hero.
The bottom photo is the famed Mexican dish of corn roasted over an open flame, then slathered with butter, chili powder paste, queso fresco, and fresh lime. The street vendors I got this from (who again were as lovey and pleasant as anyone you could hope to meet) used bundled corn husks to brush on the ingredients. He even gave me a pineapple-flavored sucker for dessert and had the cutest grin on his face while he did so!
Ha, ok, I really didn’t mean to go on and on about this part of the trip, but I guess after hearing all of the negativity surrounding border towns, I’m frustrated that Americans have stopped giving them a chance. These towns depend on our tourism to keep them alive, and we should be smart enough to know that in this economy, there is civil unrest anywhere you go. Birmingham is in the top 10 most dangerous cities in the USA year in and year out, but does that stop us from living our lives? I’m not naive, I know shady things happen in these border towns and sadly much of Mexico and really the world over, but if you have your wits about you, you’ll be fine. We were nice, pleasant people who interacted with the locals like they are human beings. There was a mutual respect there, and I hope that visitors to South Texas will start to take the time again to go on little afternoon adventures in other countries.
Yep, so that’s that! I’m pretty sure I have work to do now 🙂