I hop into an Uber where I manage to communicate a little in broken Spanish to my driver, who couldn’t speak any English. Thankfully my host spoke English, but I was looking forward to practising my Spanish with the locals.
In order to immerse myself into the city’s culture as quickly as possible, I decided to attend a free walking tour. Before I get into the sights and sounds of this new city, I need to mention before leaving San Antonio, I visited the Alamo and the River Walk, which is a 15-mile long winding waterway that offers visitors loads of options in the way of food and shopping. Sadly, I didn’t have too much recorded for those two visits as I didn’t really get a chance to run into a local who could share much of the history. So, imagine my surprise when I met Brent before the walking tour here. And he’s a guide himself – from San Antonio.
SAN ANTONIO RIVER WALK
I told Brent about the last few spots I visited in San Antonio, and I was gifted with some really great insights, especially about the River Walk. “The river is the whole reason the city began in that region because it was called Yaniguana, meaning ‘refreshing waters’….”
When Brent isn’t proudly showing people around his wonderful city, he has a full-time job in finance.
He began guiding because it offered him a creative outlet and a way to meet people from all over the world, so we got on just perfectly. Brent went on to tell me that…
“San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the US, in terms of population. We’re around 1.4 million people in the urban area. Urban downtown, we are ranked 31st in the US. What really sets it apart is the history you have there, in terms of what took place on the land but also the history that you see every day walking on the streets. We’ve become the top tourist section in Texas because of the things people can see and do there. Austin is making a great stretch towards that”
We went on to speak about the music and the unique weirdness that made up Austin, another great Texan City, and Brent told me more about the differences between San Antonio and Austin. Specifically that San Antonio number 1 industry is ranching and cattle drives. Brent is a great guy, and if you ever find yourself in San Antonio, contact Amigo Free Walking Tours to have Brent take you on a guided tour of the city he loves so much.
SIGHT-SEEING IN MONTERREY
Our guide on this tour is Clarissa, who like Brent, also has a very different day job.
“I’m a geophysicist so I work from Monday to Friday, and on weekends I offer this kind of tour because I want to improve my English and because I want to know people around the world and know something about the cities where they live”.
During our two-hour walking tour, we visited 13 important places in downtown Monterrey Clarissa explains that the old town, where I was right then, happened to be the area that is the most representative of this charming city’s culture and history.
She grew up in this vibrant city, and as she explains, with it being such a big city, you need to adapt to a very different pace. Everyone is always in ‘hurry up’ mode, and if you want to live here, you’ll need to get used to this chaotic rhythm. “We’re the third most popular city to visit in Mexico”, explains Clarissa – but that’s more visitors for business.
She also confirmed my suspicions that English wasn’t as common in this city as one might think: “Education in this part of Mexico is not too good. A lot of people don’t speak English very well.”
Clarissa was an excellent guide, and if you’re looking to take a great tour through downtown Monterrey you can find her here on Facebook – Free Walking Tours Monterrey and meet her at the meeting point every Sunday. Remember to tell her I say hi!
MUSEO DE HISTORIA MEXICANA
One of the things Clarissa pointed out was the Museo de Historia Mexicana is a magnificent building by the Canal Santa Lucía and one of the most important places to see in Monterrey.
As I mentioned, everything was interactive, and I found myself on an old train and where the windows should be, were screens with landscape displays that took me right back in time as we were told the story of the city’s beginnings from 1915 to 1940. It’s an experience you should simply not miss.
When you purchase a ticket for the museum, you get an additional ticket for a second museum next door. And that’s an even more impressive building.
MUSEO DEL NORESTE
The second museum is in the building next to it. This one is the museum about the northeast of Mexico called Museo del Noreste, and is well worth the visit too. So, when you come through, make sure you bank on enough time to see both, and if your Spanish isn’t up to scratch (like mine – haha), you may want to get an English speaking guide.
CANAL BOAT RIDE
It was quite beautiful and dedicated to the city’s history with steel manufacturing. I do enjoy visiting museums in different countries because it helps give me a true reflection of the history and culture.
IT’S TIME TO HIKE
My week in Monterrey had seen some very rainy and overcast days, but I met up with my guide Luis this Thursday despite a few rain clouds in the sky. He was going to take me on a hike to see the beauty of the natural landscape around Monterrey and visit a waterfall.
I found Luis off of Airbnb Experiences, and he was a little late (Mexican time, as he humorously explained). Still, he was excited to take me on the hike, with a warning that the poor weather would make it a muddy experience but that it was one of his favourite hikes.
It’s hard to imagine that you are treated to the most beautiful foliage, a river, and some exceptional waterfalls just outside of the city. The mountains around Monterrey are beautiful, but this was not the hike we were doing on the day. That day we made our way to Lastanzuela waterfall, and in fact, this was the first time I had used the Airbnb Experiences product, and I was pretty pleased with my experience.
Luis explained that he had started doing these experiences to help pay for his paragliding lessons. At the time, he was studying Entrepreneurship in the city, and he told me of his dreams to become a digital nomad:
“I’ve always wanted to have my own business and then travel the world.”
MONTERREY WEATHER CHANGES A LOT
As we continue along our hike, which was muddy and very slippery, Luis told me that the weather in Monterrey could be quite extreme because the weather changes a great deal. I was there at the beginning of winter, and I was pleased to hear that I was missing the coldest of months. The biggest issue drivers may find in this area is the very dangerous ice on the roads.
MEXICANS ARE NORTH AMERICANS TOO
I asked Luis how he felt about the Trump campaign to ‘build the wall’, and he said it was very upsetting for some people because “we are like brothers.”
Luis also spoke about how the previous Mexican president had quite a lot to say about Trump’s campaign and that within the Mexican community, they find his English quite amusing. I took some time to find you a clip: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto speaking English. It is quite funny.
MORE TO COME FROM MONTERREY
That’s all for this episode, but in the next episode, I continue to chat to Luis as we go on our hike, and I booked another Airbnb experience – watching a big football match with a local. So make sure you tune in next week to hear more about the fun I had in Monterrey. There’s also a bit of mystery around the next episode, all to do with a message I received from someone I met in Bosnia Herzegovina. I know you’re curious so let’s make a date for next week where I reveal all.
Until then, my name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving.
Either way, I would love to hear from you. It’s so nice to know who’s on the other end of this.
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