Since leaving the U.S., we haven’t visited any major cities and that all changed when we finally committed to visiting Mexico City. We braved traffic for an hour and a half before arriving at our hotel near downtown and barely fit in the parking garage. After letting our nerves settle a bit, we didn’t waste any more time and set out to explore.
Our hotel was located very close to the Zocalo Square so that was our first stop. We both stood in awe as it is a massive city block completely open with the exception of an enormous flag pole in the middle. Our eyes then settled on the Metropolitan Cathedral directly across the square and the National Palace framing the east side. After touring for several hours on foot, we had a better feeling for what was near to us and we headed back to the hotel to solidify our schedule and take care of some badly needed personal hygiene.
During our first full day in Mexico City, we booked a tour to see Teotihuacan along with a few other activities but it didn’t start until 12:45 so we took time to visit the National Palace. The Palacio is a splendid building that creates a solid wall along its perimeter but has many large squares within its walls. One large section is a museum dedicated to Benito Juarez who was the president of Mexico during the mid 1800’s and led Mexico to establish its modern government. Another section of the Palacio contains many murals painted by revered Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Initially, we both assessed the artistic style as simple, which it is, but the stories portrayed within his artwork are very complex. We both became enamored with his style of painting and recognized it in many other places throughout the city. With our free time spent for the day, we left the Palacio and headed to meet for our tour.
Then Laughlin found the cats…
Leon was our Teotihuacan tour guide and the three of us instantly hit it off. He began giving us information about the city and answering our initial round of questions as we hopped on the bus to head to the ruins. Luckily for us, we were the only people who booked a tour for that day so it ended up being a private tour. Score!
Teotihuacan is an archaeological site which contains the ruins of an ancient city which had nearly 25,000 inhabitants at it’s peak. It is best known for the Temple of the Sun and the slightly smaller Temple of the Moon as well as the Avenue of the Dead which leads right through the middle of the ruins. Leon explained to us that the site was abandoned from around 650 AD until 1910. When it was discovered, the Mexican government saw it as a potential tourist attraction and began excavating it quickly with explosives which damaged much of the original structures. We climbed both the Temple of the Moon and Sun then headed to our next stop to check out some obsidian carvings and taste some Polque, Tequila and Mescal! After one more stop to try some jams and salsas made from many of the plants in the area, we made our last stop to enjoy dinner cooked by a Mexican family in their home.
Leon is showing Laughlin what the ruins looked like before it was excavated with explosives:
This is the view from the Temple of the Moon looking down the Avenue of the Dead:
It is called the Avenue of the Dead as people who were sacrificed to the gods would walk down this avenue to the Temple of the Sun where they would be sacrificed.
Leon explained that the entire city would have been covered with a red colored adobe mud and then painted to look like this original painting:
Here is the Temple of the Sun:
Our ride back was mostly uneventful except for me getting pick pocketed on the subway. As we were getting on for our last ride, many people began pushing and shoving to get on the train. On the very next stop about six men got off the subway and I immediately noted my wallet and phone missing. We concluded that the pushing and shoving was a way to distract us. Fortunately my phone was about four years old and barely worked and my wallet contained 20 pesos. unfortunately, my drivers license and credit cards were in there as well which will have to be replaced. As soon as we figure this out, we will do a blog post called “replacing your stolen ID and credit cards in a foreign country after being pick pocketed on a subway around 8:30pm at night.” Hopefully we will be able to come up with something more clever than that!
Our second full day was spent touring the city by using a hop-on hop-off bus. The buses were double deckers with open roofs and headphones with explanation for each location. It was quite relaxing and we got to see many trendy neighborhoods, the Chapultepec Forest and Castle, downtown Mexico City and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. The Our Lady of Guadeloupe churches were fascinating to visit, not only because it is the most important religious site for Catholics in the Americas, but also because the massive settling of the churches was so apparent.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadeloupe which houses Our Lady of Guadeloupe built in the 1970s’:
Here is one of the original churches to house the image of the Virgin. You can see how it is leaning to the left. It was also leaning towards the front.
And a smaller chapel. Note the huge crack in the ground just to the side of the church in the third photo below:
And since we didn’t see any signs about bringing beer on the bus, I made us stop by a convenience store before our ride back home.
Sunday was our final full day in Mexico City and which was started by taking a bike tour through the city. Our guide was Antonio who happened to be a professor at the university and gave us some great information as to the history of Mexico City and the surrounding area. Sunday was a great day to take the tour as most of the streets through downtown are closed to traffic and open to bikers, skateboarders, roller bladers, etc. and was quite eventful. We met Jos and Deborah from the Netherlands who are planning on traveling through the Americas for a year or two. We hope to meet up with them again in South America! After our bike ride, we toured the Palacio de Bella Artes and the National Art Museum, both of which offered free entrance while we were there. The Fine Arts Museum is a must see as we could have spent hours strolling through the exhibits.
Our final night in the city happened to be the Chinese New Year (we had no idea), and the sidewalks and streets were swarming with people. As we were walking to find a place to grab dinner, we quickly became overwhelmed with the huge crowds and decided that staying in after dinner would be best for both of us. Before we turned in for the night, we were able to find a restaurant on the top floor overlooking the Zocalo. It was a wonderful way to end our visit.
Finally, our time in Mexico City came to a close. We loaded up in our lonely truck and camper and escaped from the city without any incidents. After four full days in the city, we headed to the mountains and a couple nights camping at over 13,000 feet.