Week two in Mexico City was spent in the south at the house of my extended family here. It was a fantastic week where we were able to get to know my mum’s cousin, her husband and their two gorgeous daughters. Over the course of the week we were looked after and spoilt. It was a lovely change to living out of our backpacks in budget hotels. I sincerely hope that one day we can repay the favour by doing the same for them in New Zealand.
In order to get there we had to take a Metro and then the Tren Ligero. This was an easy trip to make but with packs on it became quite uncomfortable. An hour to an hour and a half standing with our packs on wasn’t the most fun but at least the trains weren’t too busy at that time.
Our first full day staying in southern Mexico City we visited the house where Frida Kahlo and at times her family and Diego Rivera had lived. La Casa Azul (The Blue House), as it is known, is part gallery showcasing the artwork of Frida Kahlo and part house so visitors can see how they lived. The house is beautiful and through the artwork and the background information you could see that she must have been a tortured soul. There was also an interesting temporary exhibit which had a lot of her clothing as well as the plaster corsets she had to live in and the prosthetic leg she needed later in life. Overall I liked this casa museo (house turned into a museum) the most of all the ones we have visited so far.
Afterwards we took a quick trip into Coyoacan for a bite to eat. This area, as well as a few others, used to be small towns outside the reaches of Mexico City. Over time with the expansion of the city they were gradually engulfed by the outer suburbs but luckily still retain their pretty colonial buildings and streets.
Our week was very relaxing so we didn’t manage to do a whole lot of exploration as we mainly kept to the south.
As I’ve been really slack with keeping record of our escapades while being here in Mexico City a lot of our days have become a blur. The late starts where I would sleep in until 9.30 am didn’t help with productivity either.
The next day we returned to Coyoacan after checking out Anahuacalli. It is a fortress of a house designed by Diego Rivera with the idea of it becoming his and Frida’s home and studio’s. Unfortunately neither of them saw it completed and it is now a museum. The house itself steals the show but all his collection of Pre-hispanic art is very impressive as well. Luckily we had started taking our jackets with us because the wet season seemed to be starting early and we would regularly be caught out in afternoon/early evening rain. After arriving in Coyoacan we took shelter in the church and donned our jackets for our walk to the metro. We took the scenic route to a nearby metro station down Avenida Francisco Sosa. This passes through a beautiful area which feels like you are in Spain or Italy, very European. Or at least what I imagine is European looking as I have yet to see that part of the world.
We were lucky enough that we could get a ride to a nearby town called Tepoztlán on Saturday with my “Aunty”, or so I think of my Mum’s second cousin. This is yet another Pueblo Magico about 50 minutes from the south of Mexico City back towards Cuernavaca. Its a popular tourist spot and as well as the old colonial feel to the town there is a slight hippy, alternative vibe.
It was early when we arrived, before 8 am (yes I woke up really early that morning. ..yawn) and we hadn’t had breakfast. There is always food available in Mexico, at all times of day. The market was starting to open with the food stalls already doing a steady trade. We ventured out of our comfort zone and tried a new food called hurraches. These are basically large pan fried ovals of corn dough with toppings. Quite tasty actually, I had cecina (beef) with nopales (cactus) and Tom had chorizo. The stall we ate at had six (SIX!) different salsas to choose from as well, of course we tried all of them. There was red tomato, green tomato and avocado, pineapple, mango, tamarind and jamaica (Hibiscus).
The main town attraction is the ruins on top of the hill/cliff overlooking everything from 500 meters higher than the town. There is a track up to them and it’s always full of people on the weekends so we were lucky that we started early and were climbing at 9 am. Climbing is definitely the term to use here. I was expecting a gentle bushwalk but it’s a full on 2 km basically straight up. Much puffing, sweating and a little swearing was in action for the 40 minutes it took to make it to the top. But boy what a view! At the top the small ruins of terraces and a pyramid are completely overshadowed by the vista. This is probably a good thing as tourists seem to use the pyramid as a picnic table and sit all over the tiers; snacking, taking photos and catching their breaths. Tom was greatly entertained by the Coaties which are peculiar mammals that look a cross between anteaters, possums, raccoons and cats. They would climb in and out of the rubbish bins, follow people around stealing food and try get into bags and backpacks. Naughty Coaties.
The walk back down was much easier even though the track was full of people now being mid-morning and the bulk of the tourists had arrived. The descent is great because you get to feel smug at all the people climbing in the opposite direction who are huffing and puffing. I wonder what percentage actually make it to the top?
After wandering the town and exploring the pretty monastery we located a small bar and had a few drinks to revive ourselves. A jug of mojito disappeared quite quickly and we ordered a strange sounding drink of strawberry flavoured beer. It was actually a lot better than it sounds. The dark beer was sweetened slightly from the puréed strawberries. Tom kept telling me off for slurping up the strawberry-ish foam from the top.
After drinking a bit we needed some food in our stomachs so it was back to the market. We tried the local dish of itacates. Made with a similar dough to the hurraches, gorditas and I’m sure other Mexican street foods, they were triangles of dough pan fried then sliced in half. Served with a choice of fillings (some strange like corn fungus or fried crickets, neither of which we have tried) they are closest to a pita if the pita a bread was fully cut in half. They hit the spot and as it was late afternoon we needed to find the bus station and return to Mexico City.
As part of my family was away for the weekend I spend a messy Sunday morning baking with Little Miss 11, who is my second cousins daughter or my “cousin”. We made chocolate chip cookies and covered the kitchen bench in melted chocolate! So much fun! I miss baking a lot and have a list of baking recipes to try once we have returned to real, working life again. That evening we tried the house speciality which was lengua, or beef tongue in English, and surprisingly we both really enjoyed it.
As we kept having late morning starts we were only tickling off one place to see per day. Monday’s stop was Xochimilco or the floating gardens of Mexico City. We spent an hour or so exploring the small town where there was heaps of market stalls around the plazas. Trying on knock-off sunglasses and eating free tasters entertained us for a while before we got properly hungry. A HUGE slice of pizza for $15 peso each and a litre of coconut agua fresca did the trick very well. Then we headed towards where the canals are located dodging people trying to sell us the short trip by weird bicycle taxi things. So it was “No gracias!” every few meters. Once we made it to the water (which looked super grimy and polluted) we then had to turn the “No gracias!” on the boat guides. As the day became darker with the impending thunderstorm we headed back towards the tren ligero dodging raindrops on the way as we didn’t have our jackets.
Our last full day in the southern suburbs we headed back out to another of the small suburbs which was once upon a time a small town in itself. San Angel is another stunning colonial neighbourhood which appears to be just a little bit posh. We went to see the Diego Rivera Studio Museum which was where the studio of Rivera and Kahlo was located. It wasn’t as interesting as the Casa Azul or Anahuacalli and we got caught in some rain as we were leaving but nothing that a greasy chicken burger and chips couldn’t solve.
Leaving it far too late we did a fly by visit of the Ex-Convento del Carmen. It’s a beautiful old monastery where there are also mummified bodies (similar to the ones in Guanajuato). We arrived with 15 minutes to closing and managed to see the mummies but the rest of the complex we didn’t have time for. We are still yet to make it back to San Angel so we can check out the whole place.
So finished up our week staying with family in Mexico City south. It was a lovely relaxing time where we were able to see lots of interesting places as well as get to know my extended family. An experience which I wouldn’t have changed for the world.