Posts Tagged ‘ Mexico ’

Don’t Go There – Six Places to Avoid Before You Die

According to people who travel, everywhere is brilliant. They return home with tale after slightly-irritating tale of mind-blowing experience and unforgettable adventure. “Oh you must go!” they say. And sometimes they are right. But sometimes they are not…

Travel photography from Ensenada and Tijuana, Mexico by Fat Tony.

Tijuana, Mexico

Every year tourists go missing in Tijuana. They wander off the beaten track, disappear, and become a statistic to be downplayed by the Mexican Tourist Board. Serves them right, you might say – those reckless enough to stray into the dark corners of a crime-ridden Mexican border town deserve everything they get. This criticism has some merit, but fails to take into account the hideousness of Tijuana’s beaten track, which is enough to drive anyone into the welcoming arms of a drug cartel.

Avenida Revolucion – Tijuana’s gringo epicentre – specialises in providing a certain type of fun: the type that really isn’t. Everything on the ‘Revo’ takes place within a miasma of throbbing neon and hysterical hawkers for whom ‘no’ does not mean ‘no’, it means ‘please follow, annoy, and ultimately insult me’.

Those who attempt to take refuge in a bar may be confronted by Tijuana’s esoteric approach to pricing, whereby visitors enter an establishment having been promised ‘Ten Beers for Ten Dollars!’ and leave having been charged fifty for five. Other highlights include drunk Americans, loud Americans, puking Americans, and hapless donkeys painted to look like zebras.

In fairness it’s not all bad – the city boasts an excellent cultural centre, and just to the south there’s a rather splendid country called Mexico. Tijuana also succeeds in making nearby San Diego look slightly better in comparison, which is not an insignificant achievement.


Naples, Italy

First impressions are notoriously unreliable. For example, wisdom and experience would tell a person exiting Naples train station to ignore their initial misgivings – areas around rail termini are always a bit depressing, right? It can’t all be this bad. Unfortunately on this occasion wisdom and experience would be wrong.

Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi – a sprawling, chaotic void of ugliness – offers those arriving by train their first confrontation with Naples. As with elsewhere in the city, cars rule the roost here – the cacophony of horns muffled only slightly by the polluted air – and within a couple of Italian profanities visitors will learn that Neapolitan drivers stop for nothing, including red lights.

Those who forge deeper into Naples in search of the ‘nice bit’ will forge in vain. Its wilful disregard of cleanliness and civic pride is almost admirable, but ultimately the incessant battle of crowd and vehicle, the noise, the ubiquitous graffiti and dirt just prove sapping.

“Sapping?” I hear a dissenting voice say. This is the famous Napoli ‘pazzia’ – the crazy spirit of the city that seduces visitors and makes them rediscover life! And admittedly if rudeness, grime, pickpockets and rubbish piled metres high in the streets make you feel alive then Naples will be nothing short of an elixir.

As redeeming features go, Napoli’s pizzas and ice creams aren’t bad. Unfortunately the city’s culinary attractions also had the misfortune to feature heavily in Eat Pray Love, without doubt the worst film this side of Gigli, and are therefore now as sullied as the rest of this Mafia hole.


Santa Cruz, USA

In a way it’s reassuring to know that Americans can do tacky, soul-withering seaside towns just as well as the Irish and Brits. The word ‘California’ usually conjures up images of beautiful people doing beautiful things in beautiful places – a semi-mythical zone where dreams supposedly come true. And if you dream of grim beaches, morbid fairgrounds and motel monotony then Santa Cruz will confirm this stereotype.

Some say that Americans struggle with irony, and those of us who reject this thesis should not rush to call Santa Cruz as a witness for the defence. While the Blackpool’s of this world bask in a kiss-me-quick, self-mocking kind of tawdriness, Santa Cruz is woefully bereft of such European cynicism, and apparently genuinely believes itself to be good.

It is not. The pride of the town is its boardwalk, which is meant to revive rose-tinted memories of a different era, a time when vacations were all about dance halls and candyfloss. Unfortunately it just comes across as a sickly cliché, restored to within an inch of its life in order to extract the sentimental dollar – in short the kind of pre-packed nostalgia created on a boardroom flipchart.

But then again, if there’s one thing small town America does well, it is bars with all the personality and atmosphere of a doctor’s waiting room. Santa Cruz supplies an ample number of these establishments, complete with the dreaded karaoke machine. And while karaoke can be entertaining, in Santa Cruz it tends to involve earnest renditions of Tammy Wynette or Garth Brooks songs, rendering it about as much fun as the rest of the town.


Townsville, Australia

A well-trodden tourist route, the East Coast of Australia offers stunning scenery, adventure, picture-postcard beaches and buzzing towns. How Townsville managed to crash this party is anyone’s guess. For those departing Cairns this is the first stop on the road to Sydney, and most will wish they hadn’t.

There is nothing particularly horrendous about Townsville – it is simply a place where it is difficult to imagine anything happening. Ever. Perhaps being given such a stunningly generic name has, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, rendered the city a stale, characterless non-entity.

But while its real name is appropriate, its nickname more poetically captures the aesthetics of the place:  ‘Brownsville’ largely consists of dust, industrial estates and closed shops. There is a massive army base, which gives a military edge to the stagnant nightlife, and a waterfront area – which is notable for being near some water.

For many young European backpackers, bedazzled by Australia’s sparkling, lush cities, Townsville will be the first realisation that, yes, even Australia has crap towns. In fact those heading south will soon find themselves in another one – Rockhampton takes all the mediocre bits of Townsville, adds a couple of ugly bridges, and does it all over again. 


Lima, Peru

Apparently the Dickensian sea fog that squats over Lima does occasionally lift, and on such occasions the city may well be a more appealing prospect. Unfortunately, for the rest of the time, Peru’s capital is murky, claustrophobic, anarchic and miserable.

Wildly overpopulated, Lima creaks under the strain of 8 million souls. A constant boom of traffic fills the downtown air, while negotiating the crowded pavements requires an exhausting level of vigilance.

Coastal zones, such as the affluent Miraflores district, seem to represent more standard tourist fare, but the skyscraper hotels and designer outlets are so bizarrely incongruous to Lima’s overall feel that these areas feel more like some ghastly Hollywood backdrop transplanted into a seething South American sprawl.

Most of Lima’s architecture is brittle and foreboding, and what remains of the original colonial streetscape has long since capitulated under a mask of pollution. Glimpses of greenery and beauty occur, but their fleeting presence is but a sad, soulful chord in an atonal symphony of chaos.

And all the while, the fog keeps rolling in….


Oslo, Norway

It’s entirely appropriate that this selection of disappointments should end with a damp squib – a damp, dark, extortionate squib. Oslo is quite within its rights to offer little in the way of excitement, but when it compounds this with the highest prices in Europe we are surely entering biscuit-taking territory.

Oslo is one of those places that, struggling to fill even the flimsiest of city guides, shamelessly promotes anything within a 500 mile radius as an ‘attraction’. Ski slopes, fjords, stunning Scandanavian scenery: all part of Oslo’s appeal apparently. Once you get out of Oslo.

Within the city limits recreational options dry up pretty quickly: a couple of fusty galleries and a museum or two. One such building is dedicated to Edvard Munch, the man responsible for perhaps Oslo’s most famous export – The Scream. This painting depicts a man standing on one of the city’s bridges, omitting an existential shriek of despair. Perhaps his flight out of Oslo had been cancelled.

The Case for the Defence

“Tijuana, the town on the ‘most crossed border in the world’ remains a remarkably friendly jungle, a fascinating, vibrant cocktail of cultures that’s fun for people-watching even if you’re not planning on participating.” Lonely Planet

“Naples is not so much a city of sights as just a great place to be, particularly its dense Centro Historico. Spend a couple of days here and you’re likely to be as staunch a defender of the place as its most devoted inhabitants.” Rough Guides

“The beautiful beaches and the year-round summer-like climate play a central role in local culture. Most visitors leave Santa Cruz amazed by the city’s beauty and ambiance.” Wikitravel

“Townsville boasts an average of 300 days of sunshine each year. Combining this glorious sunshine with a relaxed lifestyle and a diversity of attractions, Townsville is the perfect choice for a North Queensland holiday experience.”

“Unfairly undervalued, Lima is a warm and vivid city with much to offer, from magnificent museums to a sparkling nightlife. Above all, Lima’s gastronomic scene is, simply put, superb.” The Peru Guide

“What sets Oslo apart from other European cities is not so much its cultural traditions or its internationally renowned museums as its simply stunning natural beauty.” Fodor’s

San Patricios – Mexico’s Fighting Irish

If there’s one thing that the Irish are known for, besides potatoes and heavy drinking, it’s spreading ourselves around the world. Since the days of empire, Irish emigrants have found homes in America, Canada, Australia and India, even as close to home as our English neighbours. But one particular country that doesn’t really spring to mind so often would be Mexico.

By the 1840s, much of the US army was made up of Catholic immigrants, mainly from Germany and Ireland. When the Mexican War (1846-1848) broke out, which had its roots in the annexation of Texas and the westward push of American settlers, they were sent as part of General Zachary Taylor’s invading force to invade the bordering country. The Mexican government, aware of the prejudices in America against such immigrants, began a campaign to win them to their cause. They were urged by Mexican propaganda to throw off the yoke of Protestant oppression while it was insinuated the America intended to destroy Catholicism in Mexico.

Dubious about why they were fighting a Catholic country in an army where their superiors mistreated them, the Mexican propaganda campaign was very effective in turning these men’s minds and loyalties, and hundreds deserted Taylor’s army. “The San Patricios were alienated both from American society as well as the US Army,” says Professor Kirby Miller from the University of Missouri, an expert on the history of Irish immigration. “They realised that the army was not fighting a war of liberty, but one of conquest against fellow Catholics such as themselves.” In November 1846 General Antonio López de Santa Anna organized American deserters with other foreigners in Mexico to form the San Patricio Battalion, or St. Patrick’s Company, a name it quite probably received from its Irish-American leader, John Riley who had been a member of the Fifth United States Infantry. The company saw action several times throughout the course of the war; at Monterrey, Saltillo and Buena Vista, each time receiving praise for their fighting.

Following the failed defence of Mexico City, the San Patricios found themselves back in the hands of the United States Army. John Riley was one of the lucky few and as he had technically deserted before the war between Mexico and the United States was actually declared, he escaped death. Instead he received fifty lashes while the letter “D” was branded on his cheek. Though some members of the San Patricios escaped death, many weren’t so lucky. The sentences imposed on the San Patricios outraged the Mexican public. In Toluca, for example, Mexican authorities prevented rioters from trying to retaliate against American prisoners of war.

The story of the fighting Irish in Mexico didn’t end there. By March of 1848 the Mexicans had found enough original San Patricios combined with fresh deserters to form two more companies while they continued bargaining for the release of those members in American custody, who weren’t released until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The San Patricios actively continued as a group, patrolling across Mexico and protecting the people from bandits and Indians. They later became involved in revolts within Mexico until a presidential order from General Herrera stopped them under which Riley was arrested under suspicion of his involvement in a plot to kidnap the President. The San Patricios were recalled to Mexico City so the government could monitor the group and their actions at a closer range. In the end, Herrera, in order to end the problems with the San Patricios as well as an effort to cut the post-war budget, dissolved the company in 1848. Most members remained in Mexico as they couldn’t return to the United States.

Some US historians still regard these men as traitors who deserted their army. Mexicans, however, see them as heroes, and so they honour them in a commemoration held each September. In 1993, the Irish began their own ceremony to honour the Irish soldiers, in Clifden, Co. Galway, Riley’s old hometown. While being held as a prisoner in Mexico City, Riley wrote a letter to a friend in Michigan in which he said “Be not deceived by a nation that is at war with Mexico, for a friendlier and more hospitable people than the Mexicans there exists not on the face of the earth.”

Sheamus Retains WWE Title In Controversial Finish

Dublin native Sheamus has retained his WWE title by defeating his adversary Alberto Del Rio at the 25th anniversary of Summerslam.

Sheamus, real name Stephen Farrelly , endured a brutal contest with his Mexican opponent who has been a torn in his side in recent weeks. Del Rio has launched numerous surprise attacks on the Cabra native and has gone out of his way to try and break the arm of Sheamus, a man he refers to only as a peasant.

The champion, who has held the belt for 141 days since winning it at Wrestlemania, went out of his way to ensure the match went ahead after his opponent’s recent actions caused WWE to call the match off. However Sheamus was determined to get his hands on Del Rio and convinced WWE to reinstate the bout, which he won after hitting his patented Celtic Cross backbreaker.

The finish was somewhat controversial as the first ever Irish born WWE champion removed his opponent’s foot from the rope before the referee could see it. Despite Del Rio’s protests the result stood and the Dubliner got one over his fierce enemy.

Speaking after the match a jubilant Sheamus said “ I knew I had the beating of Del Rio and that’s why I got the match reinstated. It was tough going out there but I knew I would pull through it and the era of Sheamus lives on”.

News in Brief-Noonan Hops To Mexico As Mock Up Merkel Flag Rakes In A Fortune

Michael Noonan has been in Mexico to talk about the eurozone crisis at the G20 summit with other world leaders. Why Mexico? Well, why not? Obviously the minister has not heard of Skype, or email, or the telephone, letters, carrier pigeons, smoke signals! No wonder we’re in such financial trouble. The Minister is also attending the Eurogroup and the EcoFin (not to be confused with Eurovision) meetings in Luxembourg on our behalf. There is one way Mr Noonan could have saved some cash – on his flights – Ryanair must fly to Mexico by know, don’t they? Sorry I mean Ryanaerlingus.

 Michael O’Leary is once again trying to take over the airline, and the WORLD! Although it may not be as, plane sailing, as he would hope. Aer Lingus have deemed his offer of €649million euro as, undervaluing the company and the worth of the seventy percent of shares they do not own, but once you add on taxes and charges, admin fees and insurance, that figure could be closer to €700million, bargain!
      The “Angela Merkel Thinks We’re at Work” Tricolour as seen at the Euros and on the internet has been auctioned off for charity. The Tricolour was bought by Antrim-based Glendun Group and Iris RD, who submitted a joint bid totalling €15,800. All the money raised will go to Oscar Knox (3), a Belfast boy with neuroblastoma, a cancer that develops from nerve tissue.
      Oscar became popular online with his own flag that read, “My Ma Thinks I’ll Be in Bed Early” during the matches. If anyone watched last nights match between Germany and Greece they would have spotted Angela herself in business attire, cheering on her team. I thought she was at work . . .
      Spirit Radio, a Christian radio station based in Dublin and broadcasting across Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford has claimed an 11% share of the national radio listenership. The station, which is not part of the Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) claims that two independent surveys have confirmed 11% of over 15 year olds listen to Spirit for fifteen minutes or more each week, in comparison 2FM only received JNLR results of 8%. When asked if he believed Spirit has a bigger listenership than RTE’s second station, chief executive Rob Clarke said it was “not possible to make a direct comparison” across results. You’ve just got to have faith.
      MAGNETS! Aaarrgghhhh! Sorry I didn’t mean to scare you I just saw a magnet. Parents are being warned of the increasing danger of MAGNETS! After two cases of children swallowing them in the UK within the last eighteen months. In both cases the children had to have surgery to remove the magnets, leading to health officials publishing a letter of warning in medical journal, The Lancet.
       In the letter Dr Anil Thomas George from Queen’s Medical Centre at Nottingham University Hospital, wrote, “Parents should be warned of the risk of magnet ingestion, particularly in small children. We believe that improvement in public awareness about this risk will be key in preventing such incidents”. The letter also warned of the increased availability of cheap magnetic toys, hinting the accidental ingestion of magnetic elements will become more common.