The Regent’s Park and My First Night in London

Being as knackered as I was late Saturday afternoon London time (having been up nearly 30 hours), I didn’t want to do anything that would require a ton of mental energy. The Regent’s Park was on my list of things I wanted to see and super close by. A stroll through a bit of it would kill some time. So I took the Bakerloo line back to the Regent’s Park station.

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Gorgeous tiles at the exit to Regent Park’s station.

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My plans weren’t too ambitious. I would just walk in a generally westerly direction (ie. back towards Kensal Green) to the Marylebone or Baker Street stations and return home from there. I saw some gorgeous flowers on my walk.

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And a lovely fountain.

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I found a toilet with an interesting flushing mechanism.

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You have to pay 20p to use the toilet. Similar setup and price to Mexico!

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I found paradise. What more could a gal want?!

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The burger prices were very reasonable by any standard. The hot dogs, though, wow!

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Very good soft serve!

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I don’t want to admit how long I stood at this map trying to orientate myself. My brain was fried!

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Lovely gate.

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Then, came the roses, each prettier than the last! I thought these would be my favourite…

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What is this bird?! Its feet were really odd.

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These turned out to be my favourite roses. Look at their name! I fell in love with them before I saw the sign.

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So pretty!

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I passed the wedding party that belonged to this monstrosity…

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Not sure what church this is.

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Out of the park and walking the famous Marylebone Road. I only know how to pronounce it (Mar-leh-bone) because I heard the name mentioned a few times on “Sherlock.”

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Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. I went to the one in Las Vegas in ’07.

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I was going to end up seeing a lot of this station…

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Found a sushi restaurant I want to try…

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Won’t be hard to find again as it’s right in front of 221B Baker Street, home of the Sherlock Holmes museum. I’m not a fan of the books (just the modern series) and know the museum is a complete rip off, so I wasn’t temped to visit.

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I had reached my limit by this point,so I rode home from the Baker Street station. I got in at 6:30 and promptly went to bed with my computer. By 7:00, I was seeing double and gave up. I shut down and promptly passed out, waking up just shy of midnight.

I ended up being awake for nearly three hours even though I was exhausted. I wound up researching afternoon tea and found one that seemed suitable for me in terms of location, price, and dress code, so I booked it for Tuesday afternoon.

By the time I was ready to go back to sleep, my phone was almost dead, so I decided to try my new power converter, which has a USB port. It works great!

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I woke again around 5:30 and then for good around 7:00. It had been a super quiet night (even quieter than at Haven!) and the bed was comfy, but that combined with my exhaustion wasn’t enough for my confused brain to let me sleep straight through. I was still in better shape than I thought I’d be.

I opened the window to get some fresh air, noticed a weird sound, looked out and saw… a fox! Wow!

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I have access to the kitchen, but decided to forgo making my own coffee in favour of going out for breakfast. So I hung out for a bit, made a rough plan for my day, and headed back to Baker Street to start on my first day of adventures in London…

Cairn Spotting: Hiking Arches National Park’s Primitive Trail

Today was what I hoped my Arches experience would be! Perfect hiking weather (not too hot and just enough cloud cover) and great scenery!

I went to bed super early with the plan to breakfast at McDonald’s so I could use their wifi. By the time I’d dressed, packed my lunch and day pack, and made it down the road, it was just past 6:00. I caught up on some online stuff over some hot cakes and sausage (knowing I would work that off soon enough!) and a really good cup of coffee.

This would be my last day in the park since tomorrow’s forecast is cruddy, so I could fit in only one major hike. A popular one is to the famous Delicate Arch, but it just looked like an uphill slog to me. The most difficult and longest hike in the park, the Primitive Trail, sounded like a lot more fun and would let me see several arches that are not otherwise accessible. I’d spoken to someone at the visitor’s centre yesterday about the difficulty level of the hike and told him I found Angels Landing at Zion easy. He said that absolutely nothing in Arches compared to that hike and that the Primitive Trail would hardly be a challenge for me as long as the weather was good (rain would make the trail slippery). So that helped cement my decision.

I drove straight to the Devil’s Garden parking lot, arriving around 7:30. It is about a half hour drive from Moab to that parking lot! Since I was early, I was able to park right at the trailhead.

The hike did end up being pretty easy except for one section. You have to follow cairns to make sure you stay on track and I had bits where the cairns were pretty far apart, so I was moving with caution to make sure I didn’t get lost and could get back to the last cairn I’d spotted.

Well, I got to the first fin I had to cross and the cairns were confusing. I crossed a very narrow and steeply sloped ledge on my butt to find myself faced with a very steep climb up. That just didn’t seem right. It look positively impossible and I felt a flutter of something I hadn’t really faced at Zion: fear. If that was the trail, I was done. I started to scoot back across the ledge and realised as I looked at the sheer drop down that I was truly afraid, bordering on terrified, and coming back across felt like it took forever. I was really glad to reach a wider section where I could get back on my feet. I’m glad to know my survival instincts work and that I know when to turn back! But I couldn’t believe that that was truly the trail, based on what I’d been told.

So I took a look around and up and finally spotted a tiny cairn at the top of a steep slope of bare rock! The second cairn I’d spotted that I thought was telling me to go across the ledge was actually telling me that this was a good spot to step up onto the first foothold of the slope. From there, I could just barely see the other spots where I could get decent footing and pull myself up. This wasn’t quite as bad as watching someone climb a vertical rock face without any equipment (think Kirk at the start of “The Final Frontier”) since I was on a slope, but there was zero room for error as it was a tumble straight down if I slipped.

I got a comment yesterday about my footwear that I want to address. I wear Keen Newports on hikes like these. They are a cross between a sandal and a closed shoe and the absolute perfect thing to wear for scrambling around sandstone. The guy at the visitor’s centre commended me for having them and said that they are his favourite shoes for hiking in Utah parks. The sandstone can get slick if there is sand under your shoes and the way the Keen tread is made, sand doesn’t really stick to the bottoms unless it’s really wet. They do suck in sand, but I still wouldn’t want anything else, not even proper hiking boots, when scrambling around sandstone. I really trust my Keens to not slip out from under me.

Once I got over the two fins, the rest of my day was rather uneventful. Some bits were harder than others and I had to sort of throw myself up stuff (my knees are black and blue), but there wasn’t really anything that was particularly challenging.

I really liked the spur to Private Arch, where you get to the end of the trail, turn a corner, and there’s an arch!

Dark Angel is a column of dark sandstone jutting out of the northern end of the park and the northernmost thing on the map. So I took the spur there and back, but found it wasn’t really worth the energy I had to expend compared to what was at the end of other spurs. But what can I say, I’m a completist. 🙂

Double O Arch, at the end/start of the primitive trail was pretty anticlimactic. Further down, at the end of a spur, I found my favourite arch of all, Partition Arch.

The end of my hike was the start of the Double O Arch trail, also considered difficult/strenuous. The final bit (first bit if doing the trail in that direction) was a bit of work, but nothing like what I’d experienced so far.

With all the spurs, I hiked a total of 7.2 miles or just shy of 12KM by the time I got back to my truck. I did the hike in just under 4.5 hours, a very good time considering that I stopped to eat and enjoy the view.

I actually still had stamina to do the Delicate Arch hike, but my knees were done. How the damn knees feel compared to how much stamina I have is just incongruous. I’ll just push on through the pain as long as I can…

The trailhead parking lot was very full as I pulled out. Arches is definitely a park to enjoy early in the day. Even if I had decided to try the Delicate Arch trail, there was no parking at its trailhead.

And now, pictures. With blue sky!

I’ll probably head back out on the road sometime tomorrow, but today was so perfect that another day in the park, especially in crappy weather, would be a disappointment!

A Sea of Rust and Sage: Exploring Arches National Park

I have mixed feelings about Tuesday. I’ll get the unpleasantness out of the way first. The weather was absolutely terrible and I was not equipped to be out in it. While we did get some patches of sun, most of the day was needling rain and slush. I wasn’t too badly off top-wise, with a good rain coat over my fleece hoodie, but sandals and jeans were not appropriate for my bottom half. I spent a lot of time in my truck looking out a amazing views, only running out for brief(ish) hikes during clearings. Last time I checked the forecast for the week, it was supposed to be sunny and in the high 60s to low 70s. The high today was around 50.

And despite this, I managed to spend six hours in the park and take over 200 photographs! Arches National Park is as amazing as I thought it would be!

I started the day after a second good night of sleep in a row. The cabin was super quiet, the temperature perfect (I had to run an oil filled radiator all night and sleep in fleece pants with socks), and it was dark. So when I woke up around 5:45, I was ready to start my day, which including schelpping down the hill to the bathroom in the dark in my jammies. Thankfully, no one else was up. 🙂

I then came back to the cabin, dressed, and put together my coffee stuff before going to the main building to use the kettle in the kitchen. There was only one other person and she was doing her own thing, so I sat at a table and composed my blog post from yesterday. By the time the dorm started to wake up, I’d done my most pressing online stuff and headed back to the cabin to get ready for my day.

I had picked up lunch stuff that didn’t need to be refrigerated, so I was able in the cabin to put together a few peanut and strawberry jam sandwiches (something I can eat several days in row without getting sick of it), a bag of nuts, an apple, and a granola bar, as well as water.

It was about 7:00 when I headed out and just shy of 7:30 when I hit the visitor’s centre at the park. The rain was really starting to come down so I made the decision to just drive the entire park road and visit all the view points without committing to any hiking. I had planned to only do short hikes today anyway and then do a longer one on the second and third days.

One thing I was very disappointed about was learning that I would not be able to do the ranger-led Fiery Furnace hike I was so eager to do. I had checked availability weeks ago for the morning hike you could buy online and they were full. The other option was to show up at the park in person and try to join a hike that afternoon. As I understood it, the afternoon hikes were first come, first served. So I thought that being so early today would get me in. Nope. All the hikes clear to next week were booked. 🙁 I’m just not made for this sort of travel where you have to book six to twelve months in advance. It’s the same thing with the Canadian national parks system.

My tour of the park is below in the gallery. When I was done, coming out of Landscape Arch with needling sleet falling, I’d been in the park for six hours and decided I was done. I went into Moab and found the museum. It’s pretty small, but I learned a lot about the history of the area. Post continued below the gallery.

I went back to the hostel for a rest after and paid for a third night. I think that will be it because today, Wednesday, is the only clear day and it’s back to crud for the rest of the day. Two days in the park is going to be plenty. I’ll decide this afternoon.

Even though I spent a lot of time in the truck yesterday, I also hiked closed to 10KM (it adds up!) and I needed a proper stick-to-my-ribs dinner. I settled on the Moab Diner where I had an adequate hamburger steak dinner at a reasonable price. Service was very fast and very friendly. I can understand why it’s such a popular spot!

Since internet access is dismal at the hostel, even right in the main building, I decided to call it a night early and get up extra early to have breakfast at McDonald’s, where I am now. I’m trying to decide on which of two longer hikes I’m doing today and about to head out. The weather is already lovely at just shy of seven!

Finding the Shortcut

Lazy Saturday here in Maz.

I had the first massage of my life yesterday and between that and a giant glass of wine, I got to bed early and slept almost ten straight hours! The massage was fantastic, with the guy obviously knowing what he was doing because he applied just enough pressure to loosen the muscles without causing me pain. I was warned that I’d be sore today but other than feeling it a little in the neck, I just feel better today. I’ve had a bad kink in my back for ages and he got rid of it. Needless to say, I’ve booked him again! I like that he comes to your house with everything he needs, including a fresh set of sheets for each of his clients that day. My riding pals recommended him and now I know why.

It was very cold by tropical standards this morning, only +10C, so I wasn’t in any hurry to get up and only did so when the call of coffee was too loud to ignore. My house was like an igloo, so I bundled up before getting the water on. I love these cooler mornings because they are super quiet. I didn’t even hear the water guys, but I know they passed since there was a new bottle waiting for me at the curb. I don’t bother waiting for them like I did last year, instead putting my $10 on the bottle and setting both on the curb before going to bed. The other day, I only had a $20 bill so I taped it to the bottle and when I went to get my new one the next morning, there were two $5 coins sitting by it. I love that the honour system works here.

After coffee, I got dressed (including a cardigan even though it was already starting to warm up!) and went to the bakery to get a breakfast treat. I got in and promptly made another coffee to go with the pastries! Chris, Juan, and Mike got me some Veracruz coffee beans when they were here and I started on those since I was running low on my Rico beans (I would have done a run for those today had I not had this extra half pound the guys got me!). I normally buy the dark roast Veracruz and these were a lighter roast, but they still had tons of flavour and made a really good cup of coffee!

I spent some time doing bookkeeping and other online tasks, then decided to go for a walk in Maz since I haven’t been across in a week. There was absolutely no purpose to the trip other than to get exercise, so I decided that I would try to find the shortcut from Gutiérrez Nájera to Ejército Mexicano and then continue on to the aquarium to check out something in that area.

The shortcut isn’t spectacular, but it would save me ten minutes roundtrip when I go to Scotiabank and there are days when I need those ten minutes. Plus, the shortcut is through a quiet residential area rather than super busy avenues. I’ve tried to find it before, but none of the streets are marked, so I missed my turnoff. I still got to Ejército Mexicano, but through a more meandering route. The first turnoff, that from Gutiérrez Nájera was easy (it’s right across from the Red Cross (Cruz roja) building), but the first left wasn’t. On Google Maps, it really looked like turn left just before the street I’m on takes a sharp right.

So when I got to that corner, I looked around for landmarks before reaching for my phone when a lady asked me what I was looking for. I replied that it was a street called Josefa (it actually has a much longer name, but that was the first part of it). She told me it was a little further ahead. I continued another block or so and came to another fairy large cross street, so I figured I was there. Nope, the lady was behind me and said one more! There wound up being a little mercado on the corner, so I’ve got a good landmark. That brought me exactly where I expected to be, on Ejército Mexicano at the Instituto Mexicano de Gastronomía (Mexico culinary institute), so I’ve got a good landmark for the trip back.

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I crossed Ejército Mexico and continued on Ángela Peralta, which terminates at Avenida Rotarismo. I crossed that road and was then on Calle Rio Baluarte, which would take me all the way to the aquarium while paralleling Avenida del Mar. I’ve done this route many, many, many times in taxis!

So here’s a map of what would end up being my 10KM walk:

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I went around the block at the aquarium to check out the Bosque de la ciudad (city forest), known as the lung of Mazatlán. It butts up against a lagoon and there are major development plans for the area. It boasts kilometres of walking trails but, really, right now there isn’t much there.

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Many things are forbidden, including walking your pets:

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It’s a good thing I read the papers here or I would have wondered what these guys were doing with that Christmas tree!

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As it turns out, this is where Maz residents drop off their trees after the holidays. They are turned into mulch!

The lagoon is rather pretty:

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Lots of trees, sand, and children’s play structures.

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I read an article in the paper the other day about how there is a jaguar living in the Bosque de la ciudad. I didn’t see it and am glad of it since the article made mention of how its living conditions are ‘not ideal’, although it is treated with dignity and provided with care and adequate food.

After a bit of poking around, I headed out to Avenida del Mar in search of lunch. It was my third time looking for food before 1PM in that part of town and my third time having a very hard time of it. I turned towards the Golden Zone and walked for a bit before giving up and deciding to walk back towards Centro until it got to 1:15 (it was 12:50 when I turned around) and then get on a bus for a part of town where I knew I could get a meal at that hour.

I had no sooner passed Avenida de los deportes (on which is located the aquarium), when I found an open restaurant… which just happened to serve sushi! I think the walking gods were looking out for me. 😀 I can’t remember the last time I had sushi!

They were doing a brisk takeout business, so I knew I was in a good spot. I ordered iced tea, which had an unusual and delicious flavour (and came American-style with free refills), and sat to peruse the very huge and intimidating menu.

I started with an order of two octopus nigiri. They were only $35, so I knew I wasn’t going to get much octopus on them. They wound up being a giant ball of rice with cream cheese (what is it with Mexicans and putting cream cheese on everything?!) and very thin slices of super tender and fresh octopus. Perfectly adequate for the price, but, like all sushi restaurants in Maz that I’ve been to, I could have done with some real soy sauce to dip them in. I don’t know why sushi restaurants don’t have real soy sauce when it’s such a common and easily obtainable ingredient.

As my main, I decided to forgo any attempt at finding an authentic Japanese item and went with the ‘Miami roll.’ The eel sauce (not made from eels, but meant to be served on an eel roll!) that came drizzled over top was a disappointing flavourless syrup, but the rest of the roll was fantastic. The centre was cream cheese (LOL), avocado, cucumber, and real crab (not that fake crab-stick crap), and the outside had mango slices and both dark and light sesame seeds. Again, I could have done with a little real soy sauce to cut the sweetness (or at least some pickled ginger), but it was still very yummy!

Total for lunch with a tip was a very reasonable $150. I’d go to this place again, but with a bottle of soy sauce stuck in my purse! Get this, though, I didn’t make a note of the name and I can’t find it online! Thankfully, I know it’s just a little ‘south’ of Avenida de los deportes, so I’ll be able to locate it again.

I then headed home, going back to Rio de Baluarte and retracing my steps from there to firmly cement the shortcut (pitiful as it is) in my mind.

My favourite part of living on Isla is the lancha ride. I always enjoy it. Sometimes, I find the bit from the embarcadero in Maz to wherever I’m going is a bit of a drag and wish it had better bus options, but I never mind the boat part of the commute.

So that was my Saturday. Hope you had a good one as well!

Paseo Túnel de Minería, Calle Constitución, and Barrio de Analco, Durango

After the city museum, I crossed the street to enter the Paseo Túnel de Minería, a mining tunnel reproduction and museum.

Here’s one of many tourist maps you can find around Centro:

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Tunnel entrance elevator at Plaza de armas:

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It’s quite a ways down!

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I was once again told that the museum is temporarily closed and that there is instead an exhibit on child exploitation and sex trafficking. I said I still wanted to go in and they let me go down the stairs. But at the bottom, they had an English speaker (sort of — I think my Spanish was better!) make sure I really did understand what I was getting into.

The special exhibit has you start at the end. Most of the mining information stuff has been blocked off, but you can still get some of the info. Really, I wanted to do this just for the tunnel itself, so there was plenty there to make the journey worthwhile.

The tunnel was actually pretty spooky!

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There were information panels and displays all along it. Very disturbing information, of course, but informational.

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You can see here how they covered up some of the mining stuff:

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Near the end, there, there was a very powerful animated film about a young girl getting recruited through her Facebook account. I was very lucky in the early days of the Internet to never get into a situation like this! After the film, there was a man handing out information on resources for women and children caught in a bad situation and how witnesses can report things.

This wasn’t a fun part of the day at all, but I came out knowing that Mexico is working to protect the rights and liberties of its women and children, and that is something that was well worth knowing.

I came back above ground at Plaza de armas, so I decided to stroll down the pedestrian Calle Constitución to go check out the oldest neighbourhood in Durango, Barrio de Analco.

I couldn’t get enough of this building at the corner of Constitución and 5 de febrero! Love the flying buttresses!

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And the church bell!

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This bit of Calle Constitución is modeled after the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with stars for all the famous actors who have filmed something in Durango. It is a lot more attractive and cleaner than the original walk of fame. 🙂

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Finally, an actor I really like!

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There was a craft market as well as a man selling tacos from a cart. They smelled divine…

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Ah… the best actor of all time. So happy to see his name here:

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There was a bit of a park at the end of the street:

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And a pedestrian overpass that no one was using!

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The main street in the Barrio de Analco was lined with well preserved old houses, a real feast for the eyes:

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But get off the main road, and you pretty much have slum, not unlike in Maz’s own Centro:

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It still has its own charm!

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Coming back to Constitución, I thought that it would be nice to have that apartment upstairs!

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The crowd around the taco guy had dissipated a bit, so I got in line! I just wanted a snack since I had big plans for lunch. But it was just past noon (I swear time stood still in Durango) and I had a long walk to lunch, so sustenance was required! $8 for a carne asada (BBQed beef) taco, with lots of different salsas and toppings, including chopped cabbage. I liked that the seller wore a face mask and changed his gloves to handle money. I eat from carts all the time in Maz and have never been ill, but sometimes find the hygiene standards could be a bit better.

I was just about to take my first bite when a man said in perfect, but heavily accented English, “Oh, you didn’t get to Mexico yesterday!”

I turned to him, a little bewildered, and asked him what he meant. “Number one, you’re eating from a cart. Number two, you just ordered; didn’t care what he was selling. Number three, you just started piling on toppings without examining anything and when we warned you that the green stuff was spicy, you added more!”

We had a chat as I ate my very delicious taco and he asked why I picked that cart, only because it was, in his opinion, the best tacos in that part of Durango! “Easy,” I told him. “It’s the one that had the biggest crowd!”

Sated, I headed back towards 20 de noviembre for the very long walk to the Emir restaurant. I was surprised to pass a truck that had a parking ticket!

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The restaurant was very easy to find, just well past the Soriana and 5KM from my hotel according to Siri (I doubt it was really that much…). Emir is an ‘Arabic’ restaurant, the only one in Durango. Went for their mysterious (no description) ‘Lebanese platter’ (not quibbling over the fact that the Lebanese are not Arabs). Some time later, this arrived:

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Growing up in the Montreal-Ottawa corridor with its huge Lebanese population, I’m very familiar with the cuisine and disappointed by attempts made to recreate it away from that region. Oh, I sometimes scratch the itch, but I really need to go back east to reach full satisfaction. So imagine my surprise that this was by far the best, never mind most satisfying, Lebanese spread I’ve had outside of Montreal-Ottawa! In Durango, Mexico! My only disappointment was that the fried ball that looks like an American football wasn’t a falafel (but it was still delicious). I was amazed by my willpower when I turned down more pita, but caved at the offer of baklava and Turkish coffee! This was a meal I will remember for a very, very, very long time. Total cost was something like a mere $220 with the tip.

The walk back to the hotel was rather necessary and I had a nap when I got there, but that was mostly because I didn’t get much sleep the night before because of all that coffee!

My day was far, far from done!