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Mexico City

January 8, 2012

For a while we have been deliberating whether to make the effort to go into Mexico City. In the end we decided that we couldn’t really miss one of the world’s top five biggest cities with a population of over 20 million people. One thing we were certain of was that we weren’t going to drive anywhere near the city – not least because the cops have a reputation of being very aggressive towards foreigners.

We spoke to Mina, the owner of the Teotihuacan campsite, and she told us that there was a bus from the town of Teotihuacan which goes into the North Bus Terminal of Mexico City and from there you can get the Subway into the centre. This didn’t sound too hard.

The bus station in Teotihuacan is only a couple of blocks from the campsite and is easy to miss as its just a corrugated iron roof over a roadside area and a small bare room inside. However buses to Mexico City (or DF as they call it here) are very frequent (every 15 minutes). The ticket is only 27 Pesos ($2).

Once onboard the bus it left town and then stopped and a whole load of people piled out. This was a bit weird and fortunately a passenger who spoke English told me that all the men had to get off for a weapons check. Everyone was patted down and we were then allowed back on board.  Inside Sarah was also searched by a woman who came on board.

This all didn’t take long and we were back on the road. Before reaching the Bus Terminal there are a couple of Stops and most people got off at the one before the bus station. We decided to jump off too, as Mina had told us there was a long walk between lines on the subway otherwise, at 18 Mar deportivo. The subway entrance was only 50 yards from where the bus dropped us.

The subway in Mexico City is great – its quick and efficient and no more crowded than its equivalents in other major cities. The major bonus is that its really cheap. It only costs 2 Pesos per journey (This is about 15 cents). We were at the Alameda – a big square in the centre of Mexico . This has been a park since 1592 and used to be an Aztec Market.

This is where we had booked a hotel for the night. We thought we would treat ourselves at splashed out on an expensive (100 USD for the night) boutique hotel. However when we arrived they told us check-in wasn’t till three so we dumped our bags and headed out to explore the historic centre of Mexico City.

We walked from the Alameda to the Zocalo which is the main plaza in Mexico City (often shortened to Mexico or DF). This is the third biggest city square in the world after Red Square and Tiananmen Square.  On one side is the Cathedral Metropolitana,  the largest church in Latin America, next to it on another side is the Palacio Nacional, where the President has his offices. The other two sides are composed of the Ayuntamiento, or federal district admin offices, and the last side is less impressive as it is only a row of shops.

In the Zocalo there was a huge Christmas tree and taking up almost half the square an ice rink. We were amused to see that next to the ice rink was a tent with real snow where you could pay to have a snowball fight – although helmets were required (health and safety even in Mexico!).

From the Zocalo we kept walking East and entered a commercial district that was zoned by type of shop – rows of shoe shops followed by a street of clothes shops or electrical shops. This felt like authentic Mexico and not the tourist area.

After hanging in this shopping area and discovering a few hidden churches we swung back towards the tourist zone and walked up towards the Latin America Tower.  For 40pesos you can ride the lift up to the 50 floor where there is an outdoor viewing platform with amazing views of the city. The only downside is that the viewing distance is a bit limited by the smog which shrouds the hills surrounding the city.

The Latin American Tower (Torre Latinoamericana), completed in 1956,  was at one time the tallest building in Latin America but has since been superceded by a number of others. It is on one corner of the Alemada. We headed back to our hotel from here across the park which was full of a big fun fair. This was great and we visited a few times on the way out and back to the hotel.

The most intriguing thing about the fair was a number of stands designed for a family to pose in for a photograph. They all had three actors depicting the three kings – always with one blacked up ! But the backgrounds were bizarre combinations – eg Toy Story and Smurfs mixed together. There were lots of them and they were very popular. We were quite surprised to see cuddly cigarettes as prizes at some of the fair stalls !

We checked in at our hotel and our room was nice – very modern with a big shower – it felt like a real luxury.

In the early evening we went out again and went up the Latin American Tower again (your admission is good all day) to see the city light up as it got dark.

The next day we got up early and jumped on the subway to go to Chapultepec park. This is a big park west of the centre which has a number of galleries and museums. We wanted to go to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia which has a reputation of being among the best of its kind in the world.

The museum consists of a number of halls which you can walk around anti-clockwise to get a chronological walkthrough of the various Meso-American cultures. The most stunning of the rooms are the Aztec and Mayan.

When we left the museum at around lunchtime the park was really busy with Mexicans spending their Sunday afternoon.

After this we headed back to the centre for lunch and then to check out of the hotel and get back on the tube heading for the bus station, Terminal del Norte. The bus station is massive with a really long line of different bus companies counters – each going to different places. It took us a while to find the one going to Teotihuacan but when we did we soon had tickets and the woman behind the counter told us the next bus was in 1 minute. We ran round the corner to the gates and jumped on the bus just as it was leaving. It was a very smooth ride back to San Juan Teotihuacan where we got off the bus in the main plaza and walked back to the campground.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 18, 2012 7:33 pm

    Sounds like it was a great decision!

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