Saturday, February 28, 2015

Discovering our Home Country of Mexico - Mexico City !!

Before heading out of town on our 2 weeks of vacation to explore more of our beautiful new home country, we went on a whale watching/sunset cruise that I had put together for 10 of us. It was coordinated through Thalia Martinez of SuperiorToursVallarta.com.  The very first one they've ever done. But what was even more fabulous was that it turned out to be a full moon, as well. A perfect trifecta!! A beautiful afternoon/evening on the Bay of Banderas!!


A whale blow!

A whale tail!

A different whale tail!

Another blow!

Whale tail!


Sunset....

Sunset....

Full moon rise!

Good friends!

Sunset & Marietta Islands

Full Moon!!

Double whale tails!
 
We flew to Mexico City to meet up with good expat friends of ours, Steve & Marti Owen, that we met when we lived in Granada, Nicaragua. They needed to do their 90 day out visa run and decided to come to Mexico to explore. We're happy they asked if we could join them. Steve is also a professional photographer and his mission is always to seek out the best photo ops of any location.  www.SteveOwenPhotography.net

Marti & Steve Owen

Our week's journey of this huge beautiful city was jam packed with site seeing every day. We did 3 days on our own and the other 3 days we had wonderful full day tours.

Mexico City has approximately 25 million people in a huge land mass of approximately 573 square miles!! Their main and largest street is called Paseo de la Reforma and is fashioned after the Champs-Élysées in Paris. There is green space from one end to the other with statues at every major intersection with round abouts coordinating the traffic pattern. Our hotel suites was very close to the Independence statue, US Embassy, and in the Cuauhtémoc neighborhood. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico_City

Day 1 we decided that we would take the Turibus (a nice double decker bus with on & off stops all day for one set price of 140 pesos each ($9.37US).  So off we went deciding to get off at the Zocalo (the city square) and explore that area of the Historical center of the city first.









Our first order of business was to find a quaint place to eat lunch.  We spotted a rooftop with umbrellas and set out to find our way up there.  We had no idea of what that would end up entailing.
Now that in and of itself was a bit of an education!!

There are numerous "hookers" on the streets trying to get you into "their" restaurant. So many that you can easily get dizzy from the bombardment and different menus shoved into your face. After a few trips up different elevators to different places, we settled on a rooftop that actually had 4 different restaurants available for ordering so even once up, you were still bombarded with menus from all of them with pitches about the best or cheapest food. It was quite comical actually.

Anyway, after a bite and time to have beautiful views of the plaza, we were on our way out to the Cathedral Metropolitano.  A beautiful church and a fantastic start for Steve's picture taking. 

 
















Due to protests regarding the 43 missing and presumed dead student teachers, the National Palace was closed.  So we meandered into the "local" Mercado area where there was a frenzy of activity.  We thoroughly enjoyed the architecture and diversity of the area and a drink before hopping back on the bus to see more of the city.













 

 








The bus tour route we took is a full 3 hour circuit allowing you to enjoy the ride and getting a handle on the layout of the Federal District.  The end of our ride brought us through the huge Chapultepec Park and into the Condesa neighborhood. Since it was late afternoon, we decided to get off and enjoy a drink and some tapas at a wonderful Uruguayan restaurant. It was then time to hop back on  and enjoy a quiet evening together in our suites.




Day 2 dawned early for us all.  Our guide, Vicky Rome, was picking us up at 8:30am for a much anticipated day out to the pyramid ruins of Teotihuacan and the Basilica of Guadalupe.  Vicky is a simply delightful person who, over 3 days, we became friends with.  It's so nice when you have a private tour with your own guide and car or van.

The pyramid's were incredible with the Pyramids of the Moon and the Sun. The layout of this true city so long ago is mind boggling!  A good place to get all of the history of it is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teotihuacan  So enjoy the photos and walk in our shoes for the day.





















After a wonderful true Mexican meal and a stop at one of the many artisan shops, we headed back into the city to see the Basilica of Guadalupe "complex". It's comprised of the old Basilica and the new extremely modern one. Certainly a vision of extremes but both are peaceful sanctuaries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe




 
 









One of the many facts about Mexico City is that it is truly sinking!! Yes, it's sunk up to 4 meters (13 feet) and is continuing to do so. Everywhere you look buildings are tilting and steps have been added to everything to keep them as level as possible.  So when I walked into the old Basilica, I became very sick to my stomach and got an immediate headache. It felt like I had just walked into an old time "fun house" at a carnival. 










Day 3 we were picked up by Vicky once again for a day touring the southern part of the city.

Our first stop was at the City University library with its beautiful mosaic murals and beautiful commons. The day was bright and warm to enjoy such beauty.











We then headed into what's left of the "old" Mexico City (actually only 56 years ago) with its canals and waterways in the neighborhood of Xochimilco. Another tidbit is that Mexico City used to be an island surrounded by a huge lake with canals and waterways linking the mainland to the city. All of the water is now gone with only 110 miles of it left in the former city (now neighborhood) of Xochimilco. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xochimilco  It's called the Floating Gardens because not too long ago, all of the boats were colorfully done in real flowers. Today, though, they are painted. This is absolutely NOT to be missed when visiting here!!








Our boat guide.


My hubby bought this for me from a canal vendor for 50 pesos ($3.50US).



Our tour guide, Vicky Rome. Fabulous!!











Our last stop and late lunch was in the neighborhood of Coyocan.  A sweet Bohemian atmosphere with many cafes around the square and families with children playing in the park.



Needing to spice it up?!

Steve trying on my hat ... not working well for him!










A tree trunk with thousands of pieces of gum stuck to it. Quite interesting!

Frida Kahlo's home/museum is also located here. An extremely popular museum in a bedroom community. Also, not to be missed!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frida_Kahlo_Museum










This was her death bed.








Day 4 we were again picked up by Vicky but with a driver and a larger van to whisk us away to the pyramid of Cholula and the City of Puebla. 

Along the way to Puebla, however, we stopped to get beautiful pictures of 2 volcanoes. One called the Sleeping Woman, which is snow covered, and the other, Popocatepetl, is active with good amounts of steam visible. It actually blew only this last week, February 25, causing delays and cancellations of flights in and out of Puebla.






The town of Cholula has changed drastically over the last few years and become quite a hip place to be. The pyramids on the other hand, don't seem to be as much of an interest to the archeologists so not allot of excavation has been done. The maze of tunnels that have been undug beneath and into the pyramid in the late 1930's are quite remarkable.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pyramid_of_Cholula


















YES! Mike ate grasshoppers!


We made stops to several of the churches in the area for viewing and pictures (some illegal) before heading into the city proper of Puebla. There are some 256 churches in the area and many are quite remarkable! Steve was in his element!!  Please note my illegal pictures taken in the first church. Hence, you see my upper body parts a bit.
































Puebla is a wonderful bustling city with great shopping and is known for its ceramic pottery called Talavera.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puebla,_Puebla  After visiting the cathedral and another church (and taking more illegal pictures), we made our way through town to the Talavera district. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to fine the platter I was looking for but managed to purchase a coffee mug and a Katrina to add to our collection. So not all was lost!

Again, a few illegal photos. Even though I sinned, I think I might get some dispensation for having been in so many churches over this vacation.




















Suffice it to say, we were pretty exhausted after 4 days of non stop sightseeing, so we decided to sleep in a bit on Day 5.  But fear not!! We were up and at em again by 10 that morning.  Off by taxi to the Panteon Civil de Delores (cemetery). This was a request of Steve but Mike and I enjoy walking through old cemeteries also.  It was quite interesting and a bit disappointing, at the same time.

It's very large and we found it to be beautiful in many ways but quite unkept with garbage, disrepair and abandoned graves. What surprised me most, though, was that there are separate completely locked off cemeteries for the German and the Italians. Don't know why but found it fascinating!










We then began a trek through the humongous Chapultepec Park (their Central Park).  We enjoyed the walks along some lakes and took pictures of wildlife there; made a stop in the Café Lago to see about lunch but they were still serving breakfast until 1pm (a norm here); crossed over an elevated bridge (there are a few of them); and, dropped back down on the north side into the financial district.















I found I really like taking pictures of buildings that have other building reflections. So take notice!


We did split up after going over the bridge, as Steve wanted to find another one for more photos, while Mike and I found our way to a very nice mall with a nice Spanish Tapas Bar. Some good tapas, glass of vino tinto (red wine), and a beer for Mike and we were back on the discovery road. Our goal was to meet back up with Marti & Steve in the Polanco neighborhood. This area is their version of "Rodeo Drive" in LA.

Our stroll took us through some beautiful neighborhoods and parks with nice but over our budget shops along the way. We met up with them on Presidente Masaryk, where they were finishing up a late lunch. Our communication was via an inexpensive Mexican phone that we have for family and friends for when they come. So much easier to just call rather than having to rely on internet when out and about.


Look at all that wine for me!







A Jacquarandes tree. We have them in PV, also.







We meandered the streets a bit more before we caught a taxi and headed back to our place for another relaxing evening. And, since we had plenty of leftovers, we ate those rather than going back out. Oh, I think I forgot to mention that we were staying on the 6th floor and the only elevator broke down on Friday afternoon and didn't get fixed until late late Monday night. We tried minimizing the times we needed to go up and down. It's especially challenging when you're in a much high elevation but GREAT exercise!! However, more exercise was not a motivation since we had been walking miles and miles. Really wish I knew how far we walked that week!

Our last day (Day 6) was planned to take the bus down to the Anthropology Museum and then make our way by bus back to the other end of Reforma to the Palace of Fine Arts.

The Anthropology Museum is many days worth of discovery all by itself!! An incredible mass of antiquities and history not to mention that the central courtyard with its humungous water fountain and pond is something to see, as well. 











Trying to give you a size comparison. Mike is 5'10". These pieces are HUGE!










Again, a size perspective.








Meeting up at a predetermined time after we all went our separate ways in the museum, we caught another bus to take us to the Palace.  Unfortunately, the protests were still going on and it took forever for the bus to weave through the masses of traffic all trying to get around side streets due to the closer of the Reforma. So we made the decision to get off and walk. GREAT decision!!

We were able to meander through side streets and see things we wouldn't have seen otherwise - the Garden of Art and Monument of the Mother. Another couple of blocks through some old beautiful neighborhoods and we came upon the Plaza of the Republic.  This happened to be "ground zero" for tent city and the protestors who were bussed in from all over the country.






After a lovely lunch at a Spanish restaurant (allot of them in the city), we walked through the new "city" of many to see and feel the atmosphere. It was beautiful in its own way and although it was a somber reason for being there, the people were wonderful and welcoming.














Her dress was made out of newspaper with articles about the protest & the missing students.



Continuing on, we finally came upon the large park of Alameda Central.  Here is where many were killed during their purging era of witches. A somber tribute but a beautiful park.






Love the different architecture styles.


 
 


At the very end of the park was our final destination of the day - the Palace of Fine Arts. Steve was thrilled to be able to get pictures. We all were happy to just finally get there!!  Once going through the lobby and taking all of our pictures there, we made our way across the street to the Sears building. Yes, it was really weird to be in a Sears Department store!!  But, such beautiful photos we got from the patio café up on the 8th floor overlooking the Palace.

















 




On our way walking back to try and catch a bus, we made one final stop for a drink.  Suffice it to say, no way were we going to be able to find a bus that made any sense, so we walked all the way back to our place.  That alone was about 2.5 miles.  As I said, I sure wish I'd had an odometer for the week. So enjoy some of these random pictures.



All through the city, there are free bicycles. You check them out & then in at another location. Trying to promote bicycles vs. cars for pollution.


Nice dreds.

 

The local pharmacist. He liked us!





The Lottery building.




After one last quiet evening together, we hugged and kissed and said our "see ya laters".  They are thinking they might come visit us in PV this coming summer for their 90 day visa out. So excited!!

I'm going to end this update here, as I believe it's enough to absorb for now.  Mike and I continued on for another 6 days further north into the towns of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Leon before heading back to PV.  But, if you're still needing/wanting to see more pictures of this incredible week, here's the link to them all. https://app.sugarsync.com/iris/wf/D646513_91069994_279550

So until I can put that update together, thanks for coming on this journey with us!! Hope everyone is happy, warm, and well.





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