The World is a Book

Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Category: Mexico (page 1 of 2)

Mexico City/DF/CDMX

I knew it was a huge city but flying into this place makes you gasp at how enormous it really is. Circled by mountains, you fly over a huge valley that is just one entire city. With estimates that the city has about 21.2 million people, it is the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere. It was built on a lake and in the original Aztec times it was known as Tenochitlan. There are large ruins on the outskirts but also a more recently uncovered temple right next to the main cathedral in the zocalo. There is even an Aztec ruin in one of the metro stops that’s kind of neat to see. The name is in mid confusion right now with a change from the in-country name of DF (Distrito Federal) to the new acronym CDMX: Ciudad de México.

IMG_5168 IMG_5169

We arrived late at night but had pre-booked a large suburban taxi to take us to Coyoacan where we had booked cute two-bedroom apartment. This ended up being near the university and over looking a lovely little park. Sometimes you hit it just right with booking lodging and other times not. As I reclined on the purple chaise longue overlooking a park with a library of academic books around me, I thought this was a good one!

IMG_5154 IMG_5153

Coyoacan is one of DF’s 16 boroughs and was a separate village until early 1900s when the main city grew into it. Now it’s just one of the many areas but it still has a smaller charm to it with cobblestone streets and colonial buildings. It has a sweet town square with all kinds of restaurants surrounding it. Great coffee and pan/bread so it makes a good spot to people watch from. There were also loads of market stalls that popped up at the weekend but since we were there for Easter, I’m not sure if that is every weekend.

IMG_5186 IMG_5188

Getting around DF is no problem when you use the Metro. Really easy (one ticket costing 5 pesos (28 cents US) got you across the city. Taxis were about 200 pesos ($11) and Uber cost us a third of that – both for about a 30-minute drive. Since it’s so nice and cool there we did a lot of walking combined with Metro as that’s just more fun. We even found China town and ate bao (not that good sadly).

IMG_5171

One day we reserved for the big Museum of Anthropology. It was very good and we sure learned a lot but some reviews said reserve a day or two – 3 to 4 hours did us just fine though. Perhaps this was because we had visited the wonderful new Mayan museum in Merida a few weeks prior. It was neat to learn more about the cultures and places we had already been to and I think that made the kids more engaged in learning – doing the museum after the real places.

We also found the Trotsky museum/house which was interesting. One thing that intrigued me was the picture of John Dewey at the house and so I had to research their link. Turns out he was the chair of the “The Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials,” and travelled to Mexico to head this inquiry. I was possibly the only one interested in this but it’s that educator side of me!

http://www.publicseminar.org/2014/03/john-deweys-encounter-with-leon-trotsky/#.VvVHQGQrLL8

IMG_5151

More from Oaxaca area

It’s hard to stop sharing pictures of Oaxaca because it was so colourful and vibrant.

 

IMG_5122 IMG_5139

Roof top dining

Roof top dining

Mitla and markets. New built on top of old and yet “new” is still quite old!

 

IMG_5120IMG_5127 IMG_5125 IMG_5123 IMG_5119 IMG_5116

Nearby Oaxaca City

Just outside of the city is what was the capital of the Zapotec civilization from 500 BC – Monte Alban. This was our favorite ruin to visit and was huge with incredible views all around. Not sure pictures do this justice but it was so quiet getting there in the morning with this amazing view. The air is crisp and clean and it was so quiet. Very easy to just sit and ponder history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Alb%C3%A1n

IMG_5087IMG_5085IMG_5083

 

We also went to Mitla, which is another ruin about an hour away. Nice and located within a very traditional town. Glad we had a car and were heading that way because I don’t think paying for a tour just to see it would have been worth it; although there were some cool tombs to climb into. Stopping at Arbol Del Tule was a good addition when going that way. This is a huge and old tree reported to be anywhere from 1200 to 3000 years old.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81rbol_del_Tule

IMG_5103 IMG_5106

The markets were amazing as well. We went to a couple of huge ones and found just about everything for sale including live animals. It was funny to see tiny old ladies in traditional dress wandering around with a shopping bag and a chicken or turkey tucked in with it’s head out (live for now). Great food and very friendly people.

IMG_5067 IMG_5066

The small towns surrounding the main city are each known for varying handicrafts. One for green pottery, another for black and others for carpet weaving or tapestry and clothing. We went to Teotitlan del Valle a couple of times and had a demonstration of how they gather the wool, card it, dye it and then weave it into carpets. The dying process was all natural using little bugs from cacti and plants.

IMG_4995

We also went to a famous restaurant there called Tlamanalli. Run by three sisters who cook traditional Zapotecan food. It was “interesting” to eat. Not sure I’d race back but a lovely building!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teotitl%C3%A1n_del_Valle

IMG_5137 IMG_5134 IMG_5136

 

Oaxacan Food

IMG_4962

The offerings in food within the main city though were very good. Throw out all you think you know about Mexican food as this is nothing like Tex-Mex in the US. We liked the tlayudas (bit like a big pizza) and the grilled meats hall in the markets.

IMG_4977

Jicama, water melon, mango, and oranges are all available from the many street vendors selling bags as are grasshoppers – chapulines. Funny watching my kids play cards and snack away on a bag of these. Small ones are crunchiest and larger – well chewy! These are sold all over the place and on many menus so not just for tourist shock. They also grind up agave worms and mix it with chili which is served with mexcal. We tried it but can’t say have embraced it.

IMG_4980 IMG_4606

One thing we did embrace was the hot chocolate with milk or water coupled with a soft bun to dip is absolutely the best. I want some NOW. It’s drunk for breakfast or dinner but we broke tradition and had it whenever we could.

IMG_4967

This site has the best pictures and descriptions of foods there. Really worth browsing:

 

From Tlayudas to Tamales (Eating Our Way Around Oaxaca)

 

 

Oaxaca City

We decided to spend a few weeks in Oaxaca City (pronounced wa-hah-kah), capital of the same-named state as it’s renowned for it’s food and art. It’s about 300 miles south of Mexico City and quite high up – about 5500 feet. The mountains surrounding it and bright blue skies, low humidity and warm days/cool nights reminded me of southern California. This is another city that is heavily populated with indigenous peoples (about 50%) and the mix of traditional clothing and foods is lovely.

IMG_5030 IMG_5040

The town is very colonial with the main zocalo (main square) and big cathedral. Buildings are form the 16th Century and sport many bright colors. Walking is easy around the city but can get busy in the zocalo areas. Everywhere you turn in Oaxaca is colorful from art museums to street art and music plays everywhere. We saw multiple wedding processions with huge puppets and bands playing. Dancers with baskets on their heads encourage everyone to join in.

IMG_5039 IMG_5035

There were free ballet folklorico shows going on in outside temporary settings as well as other free dance shows in the multiple theatres around the city. It really is rich in culture.

IMG_4981 IMG_4985

 

Dancing and music and churches!

IMG_5046 IMG_5015 IMG_5016

Colonial Buildings and Color and even Mayan breastfeeding art!

IMG_4966 IMG_5019 IMG_5023

 

IMG_5057 IMG_5056

Flying with Interjet

IMG_4891

We had a few flights booked on this trip with Interjet as they were extremely cheap and had decent times etc. Never having flown with them before, we weren’t sure exactly what to expect but the website luggage policy was pretty amazing:

“In all national and international destinations, you can check up to * 75 kg of luggage per passenger distributed in two suitcases (no suitcase can weigh more than 25 kg). As part of your baggage you can carry your pet, surfboard, bicycle, or your musical instrument.

If you get to exceed your baggage allowance, the cost per additional kg is $ 50 MXN national stations and $ 5.00 USD on international stations. If you need to travel with additional luggage, please check in counter that no limitation of space in the cabin baggage.”

We have now travelled from Cancun to Mexico City and on again to Oaxaca, back to Mexico City and then to San Jose, Costa Rica. Each time we boarded in a very laid back and relaxed manner. No one rushed or pushed in the craze to be able to get their huge carry on in the tiny space that always runs out. In fact there was very little carry on luggage brought on. The flights were about ¾ full and we were stunned with the amount of leg-room. My 6’4” son could spread out easily. I have never had this much space even on international flights. This is from their website:

“You can be up to 20% more space between rows! For us it is very important your convenience so we decided to remove up to 30 seats in each of our aircraft.

The most comfortable space consists of 34 inches between rows of seats , this allows you to stretch your legs and travel in comfort. The passenger in front of you, you can recline the seat without bothering you .

You can also choose your seat at the time of purchase of your flight, at no additional cost .

In short, the more comfortable space and seat selection at no extra cost , what you see is what you pay.”

And then to top it off the drinks and snacks were FREE – including alcohol; wine/beer and liquor. It was a little early for my gin and tonic but it would have been free even on the 35-minute flights.

Flight attendants and check in people were friendly and polite too.

I can honestly say this was a wonderful experience and I am so glad to be flying them again. Oh and the flights from DF to Oaxaca were about $45 per person (remember all that includes loads of luggage/animals and FREE booze:)  They are flying from the US now so watch out for this airline.

And no — we don’t have any freebies for saying this!

https://www.interjet.com.mx/Home.aspx

IMG_4959

Leg Room!

 

Merida: Colonial Beauty

Merida turned out to be one of our favorite places in the southern area. It’s the capital city of the Yucatan and founded in 1542. It is about 60% Mayan and a big mix of cultures. We stayed in this amazing colonial house turned into a hotel. It was a little shabby and the bathroom perhaps Victorian in age but the ceilings and décor sure made up for it.

IMG_4826 IMG_4835IMG_4825

We were just around the corner from the wonderful theater and we got to see the symphony play one day.

IMG_4883

There are loads of museums and city squares loaded with outdoor restaurants. Perfect places to spend the afternoon people watching and evenings dining slowly.

IMG_4847 IMG_4832

 

There is also a huge new Mayan museum in the more suburban north side of the city. It’s an impressive building and houses fantastic exhibits about the region including dinosaurs as it was apparently built on the site scientists estimate the meteor hit and wiped things out then. Much of the information is in Spanish but it’s easy to get the main ideas of things just by looking at the wonderful exhibits.

And in the main city there are weekly classical dance shows (every Thursday for the last 50 years or so) and even Mayan ball games set up. Music is always happening and we got to see a big police band playing on the main square. If you are to look closely behind the Mayan ball players there is a familiar face — Jake photo bombing!

IMG_4859 IMG_4856

This is a great city to just wander in and take in the architecture.

IMG_4838 IMG_4841 IMG_4829

 

Izamal — A Yellow Gem

This city is fascinating place. All the downtown buildings for quite a long way are painted yellow. There is a huge cathedral/monastery in the main square that has an atrium second in size to the Vatican. Throughout the town there are multiple Mayan ruins just blended into the regular streets and easy to wander into. As with many of the other churches and cathedrals in the area, the huge main cathedral and downtown houses were actually built with stones from the Mayan ruins the Spanish knocked down.

http://www.tourbymexico.com/yucatan/izamal/izamal.htm

IMG_4807 IMG_4810

Touring the town by horse and carriage was our favorite transportation. Yes the horses wear sombreros.

IMG_4819 IMG_4813

I love windows and doors in Mexico. Details are important and they always seem to capture a more magical element than modern fibre glass inserts do!

IMG_4821

Valladolid and Ruins

IMG_4760

The town of Valladolid did not impress us much although others seem to like it. We found it lacking in good food and sadly, we ate Dominoes Pizza in our hotel TWO nights in a row (gasp). But it’s a great jumping off place for ruins.

First was Ek Balam. You can still climb up the long stairs with this one (Chichen Itza has stopped that) so many enjoy this. Jake and Charlotte went up and it was a haul. This was surprisingly the most expensive ruin we went to however still only a few dollars per person. It was nice and empty comparatively even in the afternoon.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ek%27_Balam

IMG_4742 IMG_4745IMG_4749

The other major site near there of course is Chichen Itza, which is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. It is a big area of ruins and there are loads of vendors who set up around the entire complex selling all kinds of handicrafts and gems to take home! Somewhat negates the beauty of the place but it’s just what it is. We went really early and the vendors were just arriving too so we had about an hour before crowds started to come in (thank goodness we did).

It was enjoyable and neat to see but I can’t say it was our favorite ruin of them all.

http://www.chichenitza.com/

IMG_4764 IMG_4766

 

The houses and some streets in Valladolid are pretty. We love the colors of houses here in Mexico. Everywhere you look there are bright colors and flowers and music.

IMG_4771 IMG_4796

 

There is also a great cenote there. Cenotes are basically sinkholes (a scary term when you own property in Florida) filled with usually clear water. Some are fully open and others completely enclosed. Lots of people like the cave ones underground with stalactites etc. but we prefer the half open ones as less daunting. The water is cold but clear and there are fish that nibble!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cenote

IMG_4799 IMG_4804

One last picture of the church in the town square. Pretty in the rain at night.

IMG_4754

 

 

Tulum Time

Tulum is another gem in Southern Mexico. Mayan ruins against a backdrop of turquoise ocean, cenotes to swim in, nearby inland ruins, and good food – what more could you want!

IMG_4663 IMG_4668

The ruins in Tulum are one of the few on the cliffs over the ocean. It is lovely and cool in the morning and before the cruise ship folks are ferried in so go as early as possible. Take water and sunscreen though.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulum

 

IMG_4686

A visit to the Coba ruins was also a fun day. It’s a large complex first settled in 50BC and spread over quite a few kilometers. You can walk, rent bikes or rent bike-tuk tuks with a driver. We opted for this last option given that two of us don’t manage to stay on bikes well! It was actually fun as our bike driver was Mayan and he chatted about current cultural situations in the area for indigenous peoples and share about foods and traditions etc.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coba

IMG_4716IMG_4695

 

Older posts

© 2017 The World is a Book

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑