Saturday, 10 August 2013

Mexico City Mexico

After just getting over our jetlag we both had a very restless sleep worrying about waking up in time for our flight, and by the time we arrived in Mexico we were both buggered again! After an eventful ride to our hotel (Hotel Catedral) we had a sleep in order to be best prepared for our first outing in Mexico. On first impressions Mexico (and we mean Mexico city) felt a lot like a south east Asian city - traffic, chaos, street stalls, heat and lots of people. A little overwhelming on the first outing but you know you will love it! Our first evening was pretty much wandering around trying to get our bearings and looking at some of the old buildings around our hotel, one of which we discovered was the Palacio Nacional (although we could not find the entrance). We were then led into a restaurant where we had an acceptable meal with friendly service and local beers - Tecate (no Caronas in sight).

The Catedral, behind which our hotel was located

Day 2 started a bit slowly and after struggling to find the and the entrance to the Palacio Nacional or the location of the metro station (Mexico is nearly add hard to get around as LA) we returned to the hotel to gather ourselves. On our way down in the elevator our spirits were lifted when an El Niño started talking to us in Spanish. Unfortunately we couldn't understand him but when we got out a Porter told us he wanted to know where we were from, we told him, then we asked back and he told us he was on holidays from Acapulco. We then shook hands and went on our way. Re-invigorated by our little encounter we decided to wander to the close by Diego Rivera museum via a fantastic park in the middle of the city. After such a busy morning we decided we had earnt a sit down with a couple of beers and a snack - the special tacos, which we later read described as '¿super picante'. Delicious.

After a revitalising break we visited the Belles Artes to see more Diego murals before making our way back to base via a $0.50c taco shop, what a great city! After a few beers on the rooftop terrace overlooking the city we headed to dinner at the nearby Cafe Tecuba, a popular Mexican eatery with the sounds of a 7 piece mariachi band. We had a great meal and enjoyed some cocktails, Paul tried a house specialty made with mezcal and pineapple... Delicious (again).

Diego's mural of influential people in Mexico

The Belles Artes
Paul just before tucking in to some 50c tacos
Rooftop terrace looking over Mexico City
Enjoying a Mezcal cocktail
Day 3 and we decided to use the hop on hop off bus services to see a few of the sites around Mexico city: The Museo de Anthropologie to see the original Aztec calendar and a stop by the Chapultepec Castle, then onto Frida Kahlo's museum house where she grew up. Unfortunately due to our relaxed start we ended up getting to Frida Kahlo's museum too late and instead saw a lot of Mexican traffic! We have vowed off ground transport during peak hours! All was not lost however as after our arduous journey (in a very comfortable bus) we found a great little pizza bar in the Condesa district with cool music and our second variety of mezcal cocktail, this time with mint lime and lemonade with a salt and Mexican spiced rim, an even better way to enjoy mezcal than the night before!
The Museo de Anthropologie

Aztec sun calendar
Day 4 and our final day in Mexico City, we decided to return to the Frida Kahlo museum and make it a proper visit, using the most reliable method... the metro. Once we found the elusive station located nearest our hotel we were set. The museum was fantastic, many of the rooms Diego kept preserved exactly as Frida had left them when she died. After the museum we headed back to the hotel for a rest (Paul was getting a touch of Mexican Man Flu) and to book the next part of our trip. Then we were off again to Condesa for another fantastic meal and mezcal cocktails at a pretty fancy place with an indoor garden. Our cab drive home was one of those little things that just capture why traveling is so good, the driver was a friendly older Mexican guy who didn't try to rip us off,  but instead immediately turned the meter on. On the way home we/he listened to some great music with him tapping away on his steering wheel and teaching us a few key words of Spanish, all while we are driving through the happening and gritty parts of Mexico city. When he dropped us off we gave him a modest tip and he gave us one of those great big and genuine thankful smiles. It is the little moments like these that really can define how you feel about a city or place.

The Blue House

Frida's studio, as she left it

In the gardens of the Blue House

Morning of day 5 we had a bit of spare time before our flight to Cancun, the jumping off point for Cuba. We decided to try again to check out the Palacio Nacional to see some more of the large murals done by Diego Rivera. We found the entrance but it was guarded by 3 military guys with machine guns and we thought 'well that is a bit odd' (although not that odd there is a lot of security around everywhere). After asking one of the very friendly guards found out it was closed and had been for 3 months due to protests by the teachers union! Oh well next time.

What we have realised: 4 days is not enough to see Mexico city! We feel like we have barely scratched the surface, so many more places to visit and food and drinks to enjoy. We missed out on going to a proper la mezcaleria... but these are all things for next time. The metro is definitely the way to travel, at only 3 pesos (30c) a trip and with trains every 3 minutes it is far easier than the bus or cab... if a little more crowded. Something that we enjoyed but I am sure locals would hate is the hawkers who jump on and of the trains blaring music out of backpacks in order to sell CDs, it certainly adds atmosphere to the journey.

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