A Travellerspoint blog

San Angel

The place to be on a Saturday

overcast 18 °C
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GO and I headed to San Angel, a neighbourhood of Mexico City, arriving just before 10 am. The crowds were already gathering, the artists were setting up in the plaza and the line for Saks, our breakfast place of choice, was growing quickly.

San Angel has a number of well preserved (or restored!) building from colonial times filled with restaurants and shops displaying arts and crafts of every type. Every Saturday, there is also an outdoor market so it makes a great place to visit if you are prepared for crowds.

It didn't take long to be seated at Saks (incredibly efficient staff and great service) we enjoyed a delicious, filling brunch.

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We then wandered the streets, popping into shops that held courtyards behind their facades, enjoying the live music and being constantly tempted to buy handmade artifacts. The display of artwork in the Plaza San Jacinto was incredible and I managed to find a small enough piece to fit in my hand luggage.

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At 1pm it was time for me to head to the airport, so GO drove me. It started raining heavily as we drove- hopefully the artists were able to cover their artwork in time! The main Dia de Muertos parade is also on this afternoon so hopefully that can still continue.

For me, though, its time to head home to Santiago. Have only spent 5 of the past 11 weeks with my husband so I'm keen to see him!!

Posted by sonjamcf 16:10 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Dia de Muertos celebrations in Puebla

Where you need to be when you want to enjoy Dia de Muertos!

overcast 21 °C
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Today was a holiday for OV so he and GO decided that a trip to Puebla would be a fun thing to do. It's a neighbouring city of Mexico City. The drive is about 2.5 hours but from the outskirts of each city its actually only about 30 minutes, both cities have such a large sprawl!!

We arrived just after 12 noon and visited a beautiful gallery, Talavera de la Reyna. This area is famous for its painted ceramics/tiles and this gallery highlights some of its best pieces.

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We then headed into the historical centre of Puebla. The celebrations for the Dia de Muertos (day of the dead) were in full swing. While I was in Tucson a couple of weeks ago. my host suggested that I watch the movie 'Coco' if I was going to be in Mexico during this celebration. I'm so glad I did as it gave me a great appreciation for what is being remembered at this time. The essence of the celebration is to remember those who have passed away because once no one remembers them, then they have truly died. The city was full of ofrendas - altars with photos of the loved ones who have passed away and items that they used to enjoy together with masses of orange flowers. Even the cathedral in the cenrre of town had an ofrenda which I found an interesting blend of religion and tradition. Many of the people wandering the streets were dressed up with faces painted. I hadn't planned my visit to Mexico to coincide with this celebration but I'm so grateful that it did. I felt a little like when we were in Rio de Janiero the week before Carnivale and were able to enjoy some of the festivities.

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We wandered the streets, enjoying the atmosphere. OV went to university in Puebla and took us to one of his old haunts, La Pasita, one of the most famous bars in Puebla. It is basically a hole in the wall and serves a liqueur made of raisins and served with a cube of goat cheese and a raisin on a toothpick. This drink was invented by the original owner and has been serving it for over 100 years. At only $USD 1.50 its well worth trying!

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We ate lunch at a restored house, Casa del Mendrugo from colonial times that also hosts a museum of artifacts that were discovered at the site during the restorations.

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After lunch we continued wandering, visiting shops with beautiful handmade crafts. I was so tempted to buy, buy, buy. Fortunately I only have one suitcase and a weight limit! The crowds continued to grow, a band was playing in the main plaza and it was clear that things were about to get really busy! We arrived back to the parking building around 5.30 pm and fortunately the road hadn't yet been closed off for the celebrations.

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On the drive out of town we passed by the Iglesia de Nuestra SeƱora de los Remedios, a church that is built on top of the great pyramid of Cholula. Not all the pyramid has been excavated but the base has been determined to be three times the base of the great pyramid of Giza. It is estimated that was constructed between 3 BC and 9 AD. As we drove there, the sun was setting and the church was lit up- quite spectacular.

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It was a long drive home, we arrived back just after 9 pm.

Posted by sonjamcf 15:40 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Riviera Maya and Yucatan

Playing a true tourist for a couple of days

sunny 29 °C
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Early Tuesday morning, GO and I caught an Uber to the airport. Our flight wasn't until 9.30 am but there was a protest planned for 8 am near the airport so we thought it was best to get going early.

GO had booked two 'all-inclusive' days for us at the Fairmont Mayakoba. On arriving at Cancun airport, it was immediately clear that this was a different Mexico to the one I'd experienced in Mexico City - humid, flashy and geared to tourists. I later discovered that Cancun and in fact the whole state of Quintana Roo wasn't granted statehood till 1972 and the tourist industry only started around that time also. It reminds me a lot of other holiday places we've been like Fiji and Bali.

The hotel transfer took us straight to the hotel (about an hour on the road) and we were greeted with welcome drinks and a room upgrade (from a hotel room to a villa so that was fantastic!). We spent the afternoon enjoying the beach and pool and the all-inclusive food and drink of course!

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Wednesday morning, we were picked up at 7.15 am for our day trip to Yucatan. It was a long ride, stopping along the way to pick up other tourists and of course stopping at the mandatory tourist trap souvenir spots. The many hours on the road were, however, worth it when we arrived at Chichen Itza, the Mayan site with numerous buildings to explore. There was a guide provided who became a little annoying trying to push his socialist agenda and personal religious viewpoints but regardless of this, it was still an amazing visit. We also walked the short distance to a cenote (sinkhole) that is on the site.

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Back on the bus we were taken to a restaurant (slight exaggeration, more like a cafe) and then to the Ik Kil cenote, another sinkhole. This cenote has been very commercialized, but regardless, it is a beautiful place to visit and swim- quite magical if you can ignore the hundreds of people down there with you.

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Once back on the bus it was another 3.5 hours travelling to the hotel.
We had dinner at the hotel restaurant that is on the beach and soaked in the festive atmosphere.

Thursday morning, we slept in and then enjoyed the breakfast buffet which was extensive- so much to choose from, Mexican and international food. GO then went to the beach and I went for a swim in one of the pools. At 10.30 am we met together to take a boat ride around the canals that surround the hotel. The Fairmont Mayakoba will be hosting the PGA golf tournament in a couple of weeks so we were able to see preparations for that. Most impressive was the view of the mangroves and other vegetation that surrounds the hotel. We also saw a couple of baby alligators!

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Once back in the room, we packed up and checked out. We took at taxi to Playa del Carmen and bought tickets for the catamaran to Cozumel. As we were boarding, we could see some storm clouds on the horizon and the 40 minute boat ride was definitely a rough one! We only had a couple of hours available on the island so we wandered along the foreshore and had lunch. This is a tourist hotspot, where the cruise liners come in. There are beautiful nature reserves, diving etc but unfortunately we didn't have time to see much of it. Fortunately the weather had cleared when we caught the boat back to the mainland so we sat on the upper deck enjoying the sun and breeze! It really felt like we were on holidays!

It was then back to the hotel to collect our bags and take the transfer the airport. Our flight landed back in Mexico City just before 10 pm but due to delayed bags and traffic (yes traffic jams at 11 pm!) we didn't get back to GO's apartment until 11.30 pm!

Posted by sonjamcf 14:34 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Teotihuacan - Mexican pyramids

One of those one-in-a-lifetime sort of places

sunny 23 °C
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I first learnt about Teotihucan in primary school - one of those far away places with ancient peoples and huge pyramids. I don't think I ever even dreamt that one day I'd be visiting here. Only 1-1.5 hours from Mexico city, its easily accessible so GO and I left home mid-morning and were on site just after 12 noon.

Rather than have to think, I'm going to summarise Wikipedia for those who don't know much about Teotihuacan:
Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city located 40 kilometres northeast of modern-day Mexico City. It is known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the first millennium CE, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population estimated at 125,000 or more, making it at least the sixth-largest city in the world during its epoch. The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest in the World after the Great Pyramid of Cholula and the Great Pyramid of Giza)

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We entered through the gate closest to the Temple of the Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl and then walked a kilometre or two along the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of the Sun. The steps leading to the top of both temples are steep and uneven so its quite a job getting to the top (a good way to get the heart rate up, that's for sure!). From the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, we could see the Pyramid of the Moon however we decided we'd done enough climbing by then so didn't ascend that one!

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It's hard to describe what is like to walk around such ancient sites. Crowded as they with people, who from a distance look like ants climbing the pyramids, it can be difficult to sense the significance of the place. Even though today was a Monday, supposedly a quiet day, it was almost impossible to find a quiet spot anyone to sit and think (unlike at Machu Picchu last year where I was lucky to be able to find a place to sit as the site emptied and became quiet as the sun set). Having said that, I'm so glad that we went. GO hasn't visited there for 25 years so it was great to be able to share the experience with her. She said that a lot of Mexicans haven't visited Teotohucan (including her son who is Erin's age and lived here many years) haven't visited the site even though they live in Mexico City.

After descending the Pyramid of the Sun, we walked to the nearby entrance where Gaby had heard there was a great restaurant, La Gruta. Once we arrived there we found out how great it was- needed a reservation to get in! We were told we could have a table in an hour (it was already 2.30 pm by then) and we decided it was worth it. Why? Because its an enormous restaurant built in a cave! Its so cool!! We were finally seated at 3.45 pm and were served a delicious spread of Mexican food.

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The centre closes at 5 pm, and as we had only left La Gruta at 4.45 pm we needed to get across the couple of kilometres to the other side of the site where our car was parked! We decided that we were cutting it a bit fine so grabbed a taxi (for approximately 50 cents) and got back to the carpark before it shut.

The drive home was a bit longer as we hit peak hour traffic and once again there was a dramatic thunderstorm. Tonight is an early night as we are off to Cancun early in the morning.

Posted by sonjamcf 20:37 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Sensory overload in Mexico City

Food, people, noise and colour on repeat

storm 20 °C
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After a week in Phoenix for work (and a few nights with friends in Tucson), I traveled to Mexico City, arriving at about 2.30 pm.

GO and OV picked me up and after dropping my bags at their apartment we drove to an enormous shopping mall, Santa Fe. By this stage it was close to 5 pm and we were all ready for lunch - with a population of over 20 million people in the city, traffic is slow, even on weekends so we had spent a bit of time in the car!

The restaurant was amazing, on the top floor of a department store at the mall, El Palacio de Hierro. There was a band playing - a few guitarists and a passionate singer- which set a great atmosphere, latin music to go with our Mexican food. Salsa was made in front of us from our selection of ingredients in a mortar and pestle and we sampled a broad selection of tortillas and toppings, and I had to have a margarita, being in Mexico and all... My tastebuds were buzzing! We went wandering in the mall after dinner (much needed after all that food, including chocolate cake which I had to try because, of course, chocolate is originally from Mexico!!)

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After an early night, I was allowed a sleep in while OV went to do the grocery shopping.
Around 9.30 am we drove towards the downtown area. We parked the car in the upmarket area of Palanco and started walking down one of the main avenues of the city, Reforma. We passed the main park of the city (much larger than New York's Central Park), and were also treated to a spectacular display of voladores de papantia (involves 5 men at the top of a 30 m pole - one starts drumming while the rest fling themselves off the top attached to ropes that slowly unfurl, spinning them, upside down, to the ground - google it as my photos aren't going to do it justice).

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We then caught a taxi to take us the rest of the way to the downtown area. Our first stop was the beautiful Bellas Artes museum - just a quick look inside as we had lots to do but would be worth a longer visit for sure- interior is mostly marble which goes a way to explaining why it is sinking (as is much of the downtown area as Mexico City was built on a lake- no I'm not kidding, once again, google it, much of the city is sinking, easily seen when you look down the streets and try to find a straight building!)

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By 10.30-11 am we were ready for breakfast which we had at a well known Mexican establishment, Sanborns azulejos. Let's count that as lunch as it was an enormous plate of what were basically chicken enchiladas.

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After eating we continued walking to Zocalo, the large town plaza. By this stage the crowds were building as today was the second of the parades celebrating the beginning of the week of the day of the dead (officially 2 November). After a few close squeezes (think music festival size numbers of people), we arrived at the museo de Templo Mayor. This is the excavated site of an enormous Aztec temple that was covered over once the Spanish arrived. It was only uncovered in the 1970's and in fact much of the site still remains under the surrounding buildings including the city cathedral.
We spent some time (along with hundreds of others) walking the site and visiting the museum itself. There are so many artifacts there. The Museum is well organised and it doesn't take too long to get through it- really recommend it if you can get there.

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Walking back to the main parade street was an experience in itself, but we eventually found a few spots where we could watch the passing parade. Lots of people, noise and colour, pretty much a summary of my experience in Mexico so far.

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Keen for a drink, we popped into a cantina, over 100 years old and one of Mexico City's most well known. Through the windows we were able to still keep an eye on the parade which was good. A tequila sunrise seemed an appropriate drink- I've never noticed how may cocktails are Mexican...

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On the walk back towards Bellas Artes it started to rain and by the time we reached the Museum of Popular Art it was pouring, together with lots of lightning and thunder! We only had time for a quick look inside before catching an uber back to where the car was parked. Due to the rain and the crowds, the 7 km trip took us over an hour!!

By this time, we were all happy to be heading home but of had to stop for food because that's what you do here- eat, drink, then eat and drink some more. We ate at La Cueva de Leon and I think I'll be dreaming about the Tacos al pastor that I ate there for the rest of my life, they were so delicious.

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I think I will need new jeans when I get back to Santiago.

Posted by sonjamcf 20:39 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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