Mexico City

Trip Start Jan 12, 2007
Trip End Nov 19, 2007

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

After leaving Guanajuato we spent 1 day/2 nights in Queretaro, another charming colonial city that gets favourable reviews but that, in our view, didnīt compare to Guanajuato. We then continued on towards Mexico City, arriving on May 15.

We weren't keen on driving in the big city so we left the van at a campsite about 40 kms north of the city, and then made our way to the historic city centre by way of public bus, the metro and walking. Our first night there, we opted for the all-you-can-eat Chinese food buffet...Grandpa Stan would have been pleased with the selection.

Although it was another "Let's Go Mexico " recommended budget number ($30 per night), our hotle - Hotel Isabel - was brilliant: the massive room had a double vaulted ceiling, reading lights beside the bed, a decent reading chair, and a balcony that provided great views of the bustling street life below. It was also only 4 or 5 blocks from the zocalo/main plaza (where the week before Spencer Turnick had set a personal record by convincing 18,000 Mexicans to doff their clothes for his photo shoot) and several of the other main attactions. The only downside was that this part of the city completely clears out at night, leaving us feeling a bit uneasy when we dared to venture out after dark.

For the most part, Mexico City was cleaner, more attractive and less disordered than we had expected, and had far more attractions than we could ever see in a week (we managed to get to 11 galleries/museums).

When the week was over, we retrieved the van and spent some 90 minutes (and $20 in tolls) circling the northern edge of the city so that we could reach the ruins at Teotihuacan. Those who study these things are not yet sure who the inhabitants of Teotihuacan were. However, before its demise in about 650 AD, it was occupied by some 125,000 people.

We arrived at the ruins early in the morning, before the inevitable tourist buses, allowing us to climb the steep stairs to the top of the pyramids (the same stairs that thousands of unfortunate people climbed before being sacrificed) and quietly contemplate the amazing feat of construction that these people pulled off some 2000 years ago.

Following our day at Teotihuacan, we headed east towards the city of Puebla.

Highlights of Mexico City:

- Temple Mayor, the partially restored Aztec ruins in the centre of Mexico City that were discovered in 1978. The Temple Mayor site, which was the Aztec place of worship, sits a stone's toss from the zocalo and from the Catedral Metropolitana, the largest church in Latin America.

- Going to a soccer game between Mexico City's own America (the New York Yankees of Mexican soccer) versus Santos, a team from Brasil, in Mexico's soccer shrine, Azteca Stadium. Luckily, as we entered the stadium, the guy behind me in line told me to stuff my belt in my underwear so as to avoid having it confiscated by security, as a possible weapon. As we made our ways to our seats, we both were both breathless for a moment because of the assualt on our senses: 110,000 fans, a sea of yellow shirts, scarfs, capes, headbands, etc., beating drums, clapping and chanting. The only downside of the night is that after dishing out $30 bucks for scalper tickets, we found out that tickets to the game had been given away for free to those who bought tickets for the next night's league game. Adrienne thought that some better planning could have been in order.

-In return for Adrienne having been such a good sport and attending the soccer game (probably one of only about 10 women), and enduring being sardined into a stiflingly hot subway car for an hour to get to the stadium, and having her butt grabbed by another passenger during the ride, I agreed to go a contemporary/interpretive dance performance in a small studio in Coyoacan, one of the city's nicer neighbourhoods. Still not sure what the message was, nor why the dancers threw hundreds of limes all over the stage during one piece, but it was far more enjoyable than I expected it to be.

- The murals by the Big 3 of Mexican painting - Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Siqueiros - that cover the hallways, interior roofs, and stairwells of several buildings throughout the city, and which depict Mexico's history including the terrible hardships suffered by the indigenous people.

- the La Condesa neighbourhood: a mix of restaurants and bars that spilled our on the streets and were full of after-work drinkers. This is definitely where the cool kids hang out.

- Starbucks: yes, it has found its way to Mexico City and, fully alive to the fact that we were selling out, we enjoyed drinking strong coffee and fraps in a vibrant "coffee bar" setting.

- the Metro system - it was clean, fast and cheap (20 cents a ride).


- we did the hop-on, hop-off, double decker bus tour on the same day that the city was virtually paralyzed by a (small) demonstration by some public sector workers upset over reforms to their social security system. Instead of seeing the highlights of the city we spent most of 3 hours driving through the barrios of Mexico City as the driver tried to find an appropriate detour. This "alternative" tour ended up including several stops so that we could ask for directions, being hit in the face by tree branches as we whizzed down side sreeets and almost being decapitated by low lying wires.

- once the bus tour finally got back on track we came across a second, less disruptive, but far more interesting demonstration - a hundred or so people - the women naked,the men in their tightie whities (and bluies, redsies, etc.) - parading down the medians and sidewalks of Paseo De La Reforma, the city's main corridor.
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