Mexico City – Week One

So we finally made it to Mexico City! It’s been four months and 15 destinations since we left New Zealand and longer still since we quit our jobs and left Australia behind. Needless to say all routine is gone out the window and we travel planning only a day maybe two ahead of ourselves.

The zocalo and the cathedral

The zocalo and the cathedral

Arriving by bus we drove through what felt like endless city before arriving at the northern bus station. Being one of the top 10 largest cities in the world it’s not surprising that it feels huge. So far we have had no issues with getting around; using the metro, tren ligero, bus and of course our feet we can get ourselves anywhere we need to. Straight after arriving we were off on multiple metro lines to reach our airbnb accommodation in the San Cosme area.

The city to the south west

The city to the south west

The metro was busy (as always) but we had no issue with our packs. Once off the metro it was a short two block walk to the apartment where we met our host, a cool American girl who was a similar age to us and settled into our room.

Turns out that Mexico City can be cold! So after over a month of beautiful sunshine we had returned to lower temperatures and rain. Out came the jackets and we disappeared out into the rain to stock up on our food necessities. Cereal, bananas, yoghurt and beers purchased our next stop was dinner. Not wanting to go far in the rain we dashed to the tamale eatery two doors down to try our first ever tamales. WOW tamales are awesome! They were piping hot steamed corn dough filled with various ingredients. I had frijoles and cheese and Tom tried the chicken mole. The shop also had sweet tamales so we couldn’t leave without trying one of those and decided on the blackberry and cream cheese one which was delicious.

Next day the first stop was too walk to the zocalo which was about 40 minutes slow walk from where we stayed. Of course we could have taken the metro but it’s nice to see all the things along the way. We stopped at the Revolution Monument a large structure housing a museum and a lookout. Tom is still deciding whether he is brave enough to go up the monument so I’ll update if we do go up it, (Update: visited the monument today and Tom didn’t react well to the height or the glass walled lift). Passing the gardens and Bellas Artes theatre we of course stopped to take photos of the stunning pristine white building. Still on our list is a night at the folkloric ballet so we can go inside.

Bellas Artes Theatre

Bellas Artes Theatre

We had been recommended to go inside the Torre Latino Americano building, a 1950 ‘s skyscraper for a great view of the city. Bypassing the observation floor and paying entry fees we instead went up to the 41st floor restaurant and bar. A drink each and a bowl of wedges ended up a similar price to the viewing fee but was more enjoyable to sit, drink and marvel over the 360 degree views. The previous nights rain had cleared the sky for an unpolluted vista as well.

Torre Latino Americano, what a view from the 41st floor

Torre Latino Americano, what a view from the 41st floor

Making it to the zocalo we went inside the cathedral. Every pillar is on a slight angle and all the floor slopes in different directions, it’s a little disconcerting. The building has been well restored though and hopefully won’t fall over any time soon.

The cathedral

The cathedral

The zocalo

The zocalo

After visiting the cathedral and seeing how much it leans we started noticing the same for a majority of the old buildings around the city. A mixture of the city being built on a drained lake as well as Mexico being on plate boundaries and therefore getting regular earthquakes was not a good combination for the well-being of many old structures.

Over the course of the afternoon we visited a few small museums and only got halfway through one before closing time. It’s still on the list of museums we need to visit as we haven’t been back to the zocalo yet.

A busy pedestrian only street leading to the zocalo

A busy pedestrian only street leading to the zocalo

Friday was the big day, the day we would visit what is potentially the biggest tourist attraction in Mexico (not for everyone I’m sure but there is no denying it’s fame): Teotihuacan!. Getting out the door early proved difficult and we ended up leaving at midday. Back in the metro and to the bus station we went so we could get the bus to the site.

It’s a funny sensation going to a place in real life you have seen so often in photos. For me it made the pyramids seem a little smaller perhaps than they would’ve without the prior knowledge. Regardless the site is massive and the avenue of the dead is quite a walk. We started at the far end where we entered and checked out all the smaller, less grand areas. I shouldn’t really say “less grand” as they would still be impressive even without the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon.

Us on the Pyramid of the Moon with the rest of Teotihuacan behind us

Us on the Pyramid of the Moon with the rest of Teotihuacan behind us

When you visit the citadel (the southern most part of the city) you climb that first small pyramid and surprisingly end up facing another pyramid covered with the remains of some gorgeous sculptural panels. These depict the feathered serpent and are quite impressive. Although the large pyramids are overwhelming I really like to see the carvings on the smaller temples.

Making our slow way through all the plazas, across the bridge and reading all the signs took a while. The whole time the Pyramid of the Sun loomed closer and closer. I couldn’t wait to climb it! The day so far had been a little breezy with scattered rain, it actually made quite nice conditions for pyramid scaling. Climbing the third largest in the world and 65 meter high pyramid wasn’t too challenging, but it seemed like a lot more than 248 steps. This was mainly due to the stairs themselves,  they were all different heights and depths. The depth of the steps made the descent difficult in particular. Tom tackled this by walking on an angles, zig-zaging down and I just clung to the rope.

Top of the world on top of the Pyramid of the Sun

Top of the world on top of the Pyramid of the Sun

Teotihuacan's Pyramid of the Sun

Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Sun

After descending the Pyramid of the Sun we decided to visit the museum before continuing to the Pyramid of the Moon. It’s a small museum but full of interesting artefacts from the site as well as a lot of good information, I can’t remember if there were signs in English or just Spanish as we whisked through it so we would have time to see everything.

Model of the site in the museum with the Pyramid of the Sun in the background

Model of the site in the museum with the Pyramid of the Sun in the background

The Pyramid of the Moon is smaller and you can’t climb the whole way to the top because it’s rubble. However the stairs are intense, much steeper than the other with at the same time higher and shallower steps. So you have to use your hands for balance on the steps in front of you. As it’s situated to the north of the site you get a spectacular view back over all the ruins. Great spot for photos!

How to climb the Pyramid of the Moon

How to climb the Pyramid of the Moon

Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan

With half an hour remaining until closing we wandered around some of the small ruins taking photos, selfies and self timer jumping shots just for a laugh. Overall it’s a fantastic place to see, we definitely recommend putting this one on your bucket lists.

Me with the pyramid of the Moon and the Avenue of the dead behind me

Me with the pyramid of the Moon and the Avenue of the dead behind me

Another day of walking, we headed south down Revolution, a major road in the city. The Angel of Independence is quite pretty and was obviously a choice place for the girls having their Quinceañera to have photos taken in their puffy dresses. That day we also saw many parties in stretch hummers driving the streets having a great time hanging out the sunroofs. After the monument we made our way to the Bosque de Chapultepec where a lot of places of interest are. Being late afternoon we didn’t have time to see anything major so we headed into the Modern Art Museum, the Anthropology museum would have to wait for another day.P1030943

Me being an angel near the Bosque de Chapultepec

Me being an angel near the Bosque de Chapultepec

Ready to tick off another big tourism sight in Mexico City the next day we headed to the National Museum of Anthropology. It’s massive, in 7 hours we only made it through a third of the rooms. We wrapped up the day before closing time in the Aztec exhibit with the huge sun disk on the wall. This room seems to be the highlight of the museum and a lot of groups seem to only go there to see this section so patience was key.

Museum of Anthropology

Museum of Anthropology

Aztec sun disk at the Museum of  Anthropology

Aztec sun disk at the Museum of Anthropology

Dragging our weary feet back to our accommodation was the toughest part of the day. A personal recommendation for the museum, if you want to spend the whole day there, wear good shoes!

Sunday was an exciting day because we were going to meet my extended family here in Mexico. We had planned to visit the Museo Dolores Olemedo which is a lovely old house, gallery and collection. We had a nice time browsing the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo artwork as well as marvelling (in awe or disgust, unsure which) at the quantity of ivory statues and artwork in the house. Poor elephants! The Aztec dogs were equally pretty and ugly, but the puppies fit firmly into the former category. All around the grounds were peacocks strutting their stuff for the ladies, proudly displaying their tails to our delight and that of the other tourists.

After the museo we had some beers and rounded the day off with a family dinner. It was so nice to meet a new part of my family, especially as the rest of them are so far away back in New Zealand. We would spend a lot of time with them in the coming week or so.

A majority of the way through our weeks accommodation we went out to the Zocalo even though it was not only a Monday but a public holiday. I don’t think I have said in previous posts but Mondays in Mexico are like Sundays back home. Nothing touristy which is government funded is open, that includes all the museums. But it seemed like a day for shopping and people were out in their masses.

Walking the streets around the centro we laughed at the crazy tilt on a lot of the buildings. They can only be described in the very Kiwi term of ‘on the piss’. For those of you not familiar with kiwi slang the easiest translation would be that we were calling the buildings drunk.

Wonky old church in the centro.

Wonky old church in the centro.

Walking north we made it to the Plaza de las Tres Culturas through (we later discovered) a bit of a dodgy suburb. Whoops, wouldn’t be the first time and surely not the last. On the way we stopped off to see a Museum dedicated to Mezcal and Tequila, included in the ticket price was a taster of each which we were quite happy about. Amazingly the Tlatelolco ruins were open so we could explore them as well as the plaza and the church also in the vicinity. This archaeological site is smaller than that of Teotihuacan or Xochicalco but it was one of the original settlements of Mexico City. There is also another great example of pyramid expansion there with six or eight sets of stairs and walls discovered in the same building.

Museo de Tequila y Mexcal, we were allowed behind the bar.

Museo de Tequila y Mexcal, we were allowed behind the bar.

Plaza de las Tres Culturas and Tlatelolco ruins. You can see the different walls from the same pyramid

Plaza de las Tres Culturas and Tlatelolco ruins. You can see the different walls from the same pyramid

I had a baking and chocolate craving (not surprisingly) so on the way back we stopped of at the supermarket. I purchased the cheapest pre-packaged brownie mix available ($17 peso woohoo!) and that evening happily cooked up a delicious gooey chocolate brownie.

It was our final day in our airbnb accommodation in San Cosme and we had a lazy day. We walked though the area, exploring it a little more thoroughly. Eventually we came to a small plaza with a pretty structure at the centre. Knowing we were close to the mall we went there on a mission to replace my leggings. Some how I had managed to leave them behind in one of our previous destinations. I’m still unsure how I manage to loose things I check the room before we vacate thoroughly; under the bed, in the bathroom and amongst the bed sheets. In my lost list with the leggings are also: two bras, my razor handle and many, many hair ties.

After replacing the lost/forgotten/stolen/disappeared leggings we realized that the day had run away from us. We were due at the home of my family that evening as we would gratefully stay the next week with them.

Grabbing our packs and writing a quick note of thanks to our host we left for the metro. An hour on the metro and 30 minutes by tren ligero was perhaps the most uncomfortable distance we had carried our packs so far.

Because we have been in Mexico City for over two weeks now I’m going to split up our adventures here. Hopefully this will allow me to write more thoroughly about this huge city in a way that isn’t just a list of places and events. So stay tuned for weeks two and three, who knows maybe even week four. Although our visa clock is ticking so after Easter we need to get a wiggle on.

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5 thoughts on “Mexico City – Week One

  1. Pingback: Mexico City – Weeks Three and Four | Two Stray Kiwi

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