Monthly Archives: June 2015

Hotel Hostal del Cafe, Xilitla, Mexico

A long and winding road brought us to Xilitla, a small town perched in the mountainous jungle of the Sierra Madre. The journey had been long, and hairy – tight, tight corners with nothing but hard desert rock or, later, steep and abundant jungle to capture the incongruously large bus as it toppled over the edge. Thankfully, it was not to be and our B&B was close; so close, the taxi drivers laughed at the prospect of a lift uphill.

Into the Hostal and it was like arriving at an old friends’. Set up by Alejandro and his wife, the building was full of family photos, brightly coloured rooms and interesting ephemera, Mexican quotes about the richness of life on the walls and fantastic B&B rooms set into the (practically) vertical, verdant tropical garden.

This being the jungle, the air was thick with moisture and nothing dried (the backpacker’s pants wash in the sink all for naught); the town, however, was a wonder, with rooftop bars looking to the mountains, excellent taquerias and cowboy-only establishments (even a hoe-down in the local square).

The next morning, breakfast was served by locals in the great dining room, one long table set up for the handful of guests. From the kitchen came chicken and spicy maize, baked in a banana leaf and served with beans. Coffee was local – next door’s, to be precise – and flavourful, if a little less strong than the Bristol palettes were used to.

After such a feed, we were set for our adventure to Las Pozas, unaware then that this wholesome feed would see us through a more convoluted experience than we could have imagined…

Price: from $465 MX. Breakfast $70 MX per person.

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Filed under B&B, Intrepid Breakfasts

Hospital Medicine, Ciudad Valles, Mexico

An unexpected breakfast.

Ten hours from Mexico City, having tested all class of bus – from WiFi on board to chicken bones in the footwell – we reached Xilitla, a beautiful hillside town deep in the jungle of the Sierra Madre mountains.

After an evening of drinking beers on another rooftop (watching the clouds pass through the canopy above), the best tacos yet and being serenaded across the vast and haunting valley by Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’, we were ready for the next day’s adventure. We set off early the next morning for ‘Las Pozas’, a monument to surrealism set deep in the jungle.

We scaled stairways to nowhere, watched pillars sway in the breeze, looked down to the pathways far below from narrow bridges, no bannister in sight. Edward James, creator and friend of Dali, Picasso et al., had seemingly opened his brain into the jungle, with stunning – and dangerous – results.

So it was somewhat ironic that it was a wet paving stone, metres from the exit, that was to create my own surrealist adventure. My weight went from under me, directly on to my right wrist. I felt the blood drain from my head, rushing to the pain – and a glance at the new ‘s’ shape between my arm and wrist told me something was very, very wrong.

The Egg Poacher went for help, bringing in his wake a confused looking first aider and a queue of intrigued holiday makers. A nurse was found amongst them, who made fast work of setting my wrist with paracetamol packets for a splint, feeding me a host of drugs I could only feebly nod to.

Then followed a flurry of transport – battered 4×4 to the local hospital, a taxi to the doctor in town who owned an x-ray, a long and bumpy bus to the hospital a few towns over. We were met by the most wonderful doctor – Santa Claus with a stethoscope – who had employed his teenage daughter to translate. A general anaesthetic for me, to reset the bone, and yes, the Egg Poacher could stay overnight, too.

And so to breakfast, once awake – a pile of fruit and yoghurt, toast and the requisite Jello, all happily wolfed down as the relief set in. The staff, all lovely, were kind about my bad Spanish and brought EP blankets, and a pillow. So, despite it all, the breakfast fared pretty well. And we left feeling very, very lucky.

Price: don’t ask. Travel insurance required.

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Chilakillers, Escandon, Mexico City

There seemed no better way to get to grips with our arrival in Mexico City than to head straight for the local brunch spot. Our hosts, Kerry & Bernie, had mentioned Chilakillers the night before, so armed with our directions (‘left out the front door and forward 100 yards’) we set off in search of our first Mexican feed.

Chilakillers is hard to miss. The frontage matches the interiors, in that all the colours, patterns and icons you can imagine jump out, all at once to capture you as you pass by. Skeletons in top hats mingle with Yoda Christmas lights, an empirious golden lion and a bird cage full of plastic tigers. There are bright murals on the walls, including Frida Kahlo smoking a cigar, and skull plant pots that add the only semblance of a general Dia de los Muertos theme. To add to the chaos, pop and rock music blares, apparently trying to drown out the traffic noise coming from the msin freeway just outside. It seems to capture the essence of Mexico City itself: vibrant, loud and a whole lot of fun.

And so to the menu. With our basic Spanish we manage to point to the Chilakillers we’re after – chicken and green salsa for the Egg Poacher, chorizo and mole for me. Feeling pretty pleased with ourselved we sit back and survey the scene; pleased, that is, until EP’s Americano comes back as a glass of orange juice and my glass of water is a long drink of…something. Nonetheless, the staff are lovely and soon bringing great stacks of fried tortilla chips, kidney beans and cheese, replete with the toppings we were hoping for. We’re relieved we opt for the ‘media’ option, as the ‘complete’ may have seen us off before the trip had properly started.

As it turns out, it’s an excellent start – the perfect fuel for a days’ getting lost in Mexico City.

Price: Chilakillers from $65 MX.

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Salt Cafe, Morningside, Edinburgh

To unite the Egg Poacher and Brunch Hunter clans, a suitably smart breakfast venue was required – up stepped Salt Cafe in the heart of leafy Morningside. The stretch of shops along the main road haven’t always fared well, but Salt seems set to stay, offering excellent coffee and a simple brunch and lunch menu for the well-heeled masses.

Inside the interiors take a nautical theme, with great hulls from old rowing boats on the walls, a central bar of wood and metal, and great rolls of brown paper listing the daily specials. Bulbs are fashionably exposed, tables neat and hewn from burnished metal, all built to seat a reasonable number of covers for a relatively small space. Staff are few and very friendly, quick to deliver an excellent flat white while menus are perused.

For brunch the offerings are reassuringly familiar: Eggs Benedict, Florentine and Royale, granola, a selection of pastries – and there are daily smoothies, milkshakes and wicked sounding breakfast cocktails to clear the weekend’s fog away. There are local sausages, Scottish fruits and beers from nearby breweries; flavours are fresh and perfectly seasoned.

Salt was doing a roaring trade on a Thursday morning so will fill up fast at weekends. Head there early (brunch starts at the very reasonable 10am) and grab a table by the window to watch the day trundle by.

Price: from £5 (granola) to £9.95 (full Scottish breakfast).

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