We had some time to kill in Zihuatanejo before the start of GuitarFest so we figured we would take an inland trip to Mexico City. We had a couple of choices. One, we could hop on a bus and spend between 8 and 10 hours riding through the country at a cost of about $40 per person or we could catch a direct flight from Zihuatanejo to Mexico City, be there in 50 minutes and the cost was only $60. Yup we flew.
Talk about culture shock. We have been alone on a boat or in small Mexican towns for months and an hour later we are in a city of 25 million people. What have we done! You know traffic sucks when Google Maps tells you your hotel is only 13 kms away but it’s a 32-minute drive. We have also discovered the shortest period of time known to mankind is the period between when the traffic light turns green and the car behind your cab honks their horn. At one point on our tour we were in 7 lanes of traffic all headed in the same direction and none of it was moving. That’s almost a good thing though, because it gives the vendors time to walk between the car with a captive audience.
We had 5 nights and 4 full days, and we pack a lot of tours and sight seeing in.
- Tlatelolco – which is the largest archeological site within the city. It was discovered in the 1970’s when they were excavating for a condo complex.
- Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe – This the site of the second largest Catholic gathering place after the Vatican. The original structure was built in 1709. It has been settling ever since and has been closed for many years while they try and restore it. They have actually cut the building in two to save part of it from being pulled over by the part that is sinking. A new Basilica was opened in 1976. Both are incredible structures in their own right.
- Teotihuacan – this ancient city and site of several pyramids is located about 50 kms north east of Mexico City. It dates back 2100 years and is believed to have a population of 100,000 at its peak. We climbed both the pyramid of the sun and the pyramid of the moon. We are at an elevation of 7600 feet and there are a lot of steep stairs to the top of these. At the top all of the tourists engaged in synchronized wheezing and panting. You take a lot of pictures from the top of these pyramids, it’s a good way to cover up the need to catch your breath.
- Frida Kahlo Cassa Azul – Frida is an iconic Mexican artist. She was married to Diego Rivera and the two of them lived in this house. It has been converted to a museum and gallery of her works. While interesting I don’t think I’m destined to be a patron of the arts.
- Xochimilco – A suburb of Mexico City that contains canals, the remains of the lake that used to surround all of Mexico City. Transportation on the canals is provided by brightly painted Gondola type boats. Vendors also use these types of boats to sell their wares along the waterways.
- National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) – a quick visit to the campus of this university to view it library building. This 10-story building is completely covered in a mural created entirely out of mosaic pieces. The mural was created by Diego Rivera and tells the story of the creation of Mexico. It is an UNESCO world heritage site as the world’s largest mosaic. There are very few windows in the building as the inner walls are lined with books.
- Chapultepec Park – A 1700-acre park in the middle of the city. Trails abound and there is a lake to sit beside or rent a rowboat on. Or visit the zoo. Or buy something from any of the hundreds of vendor stalls or food services.
- Chapultepec Castle. Built on the top of Chapultepec Hill in the heart of the park this magnificent building has been a military academy, imperial home, presidential residence (because Mexico has been both an empire and a democracy), an observatory and is now home to the National Museum of History. Amazing structure, opulence and views.
- Museum of Anthropology. Also located within the park, this museum houses an incredible number of artifacts from pre-Mayan and Aztec times to the Spanish conquest. We lucked out with our tours this day. There were supposed to be 6 people. Four did not show up so we basically had a private tour.
- Walking tour of the historic district. We started at the Metropolitan Cathedral and spent 3 hours with a guide that walked us through the area where she pointed out the highlights. We walked and talked about history, architectural styles and social customs. A whole city block was dedicated to La Quinceañera. This is the traditional girls’ 15th birthday celebration, more elaborate than their wedding or graduation. Its similar to a debutante ball or a coming of age celebration.
We stayed at a hotel in the Zona Rosa district. There was a large pedestrian mall just a block from the hotel and that provided plenty of restaurants, bars and opportunities to people watch as we relaxed after our tours.
Mexico continues to be a land of contrasts and we are thoroughly enjoying our time exploring this large and diverse country.