Sunday, 13 April 2014

Ciudad de México

Chuck and I arrived in Mexico City around midday. After clearing customs, we made our way to the nearest train station and headed into the city center where the hostel we'd booked for a night was. Mexico City is absolutely huge (it's the third biggest city in the world with 21.2million people!) and we definitely had to squish in close with everyone else on the train there.

 

The hostel was well located, right in the center of town. It was a reasonably nice hostel and it was cheap, all things considered. That said, everything in Mexico is cheap. I literally spent less than $200 all up the entire week we were there. When we got into our room, Chuck and I had to have an awkward conversation. I knew from my travels with Chuck in Europe that he didn't like to stop and always wanted to go and explore. For my part, I try and do the same. On the other, the night before in LA had been a big one and we were both exhausted. We both wanted to have a nap (or a siesta, since we were in Mexico) but neither of us wanted to be the one to suggest it. In the end, I don't remember how but we both slept and it was much needed.

 

We woke up a few hours later and walked around the city. We found a nice little cafe with possibly the friendliest waiter of all time and had a few cervezas (beers).

Chuck appreciates all forms of sculpture

We were only staying in the hostel one night because we had decided to try couch surfing for the rest of the week. Couch surfing is where someone volunteers to let travelers stay in their house (usually on the couch) for free on the assumption that those travelers do the same for other people when they go home.

 

The next morning, Chuck and I explored around the city center some more, including the absolutely enormous cathedral and a whole complex of Aztec ruins. We also checked out an old building that now serves as the Department of Education but is covered in original Diego Rivera paintings, from back when painting murals on government buildings was a part time job and before his paintings where worth millions.

This is in the cathedral. Note the life-size man in the bottom left corner

 

I mentioned that we met Ana when we were in Cancun. She lived in Mexico City and when she found out that we were planning to visit, we made plans to meet up so she could show us around. We met Ana and her friend that afternoon for yet more cervezas and lunch. After lunch, we headed up to the top of the Torre Latinoamericana to get a view out over the city.

 

After we came down from the tower, we walked back to our hostel to meet Gerardo and his friend Laura. Gerardo was our couch surfing host so we followed him through the subway back to his apartment. Gerardo was an engineering student and an all-round great guy. He lived in an apartment with some other engineering students but there was a spare room with two beds for Chuck and I. Although his English was not perfect, it was a lot better than our Spanish and we understood each other fine. If you're reading this, mucho gracias Gerardo!

 

Again, it's been a long time and I might not have the exact order of things right but our time in Mexico City was awesome. It would probably in the top 5 places I visited on the trip and I would strongly recommend. We went out to different places every night, to bars and clubs, with either Ana and her friends, Gerardo and his friends or both. The Mexico City nightlife is fantastic.

 

Oh, and if you thought 31 people in a van was bad (which you should) get ready for how many people we fit into a smart car. Hint: it's way too many.

 

The next day, Ana, Chuck and I visited Teotihuacan the ancient city of the early Mexicans. Although its mostly on ruins today, it's still an impressive site, especially the great pyramids.

Contemplative Chuck is contemplative

It was a grueling journey to get to the top but it was worth it. It was like standing on top of the world because, apart from the other pyramids and temples, the Earth around is so flat.

 

Ana did a great job acting as tour guide, even pointing out the different coloured rocks and 'doorways to hell' inside the temples. I'm not sure she actually knew a single thing about it, but she sounded convincing.

 

The next day Gerardo took us on a cultural journey to the Royal Place and the National Museum. Mexican history is actually quite interesting, as are some of the artwork. Both were very nice buildings though and gave us a good view out over the city.

When you're tired of squirrels, you're tired of life.

In the large park around the palace, we found a clown who adopted Chuck into his act. Things escalated quickly.

Keep in mind, this came about despite the fact they did not share a common language

Our other major outing was to a town south of Mexico City called Xochimilco, which I had heard described as the Venice of Mexico. To say that description confused me would be an understatement, until I got there and saw why. Gerardo and his friends Erik and Laura took us. We arrived by bus and the first thing we did was buy two cases of beer which was a good start. Then we wandered down to the river where dozens and dozens of gondolas were waiting. For four hours we rode around the extensive canal system around the town, drinking beers and just chilling out. It was incredibly beautiful and extremely relaxed.

 

Except for Isla de las muñecas. That place was creepy. In English, it means the Island of the Dolls. We arrived at the island and found half a dozen old Mexican men sitting around drinking beer and tequila which was fine. What was less fine was the entire island was covered in disembodied, abandoned dolls. One of them (the men, not the dolls) tried to explain the story of how it came to be but between his broken English and the fact the story made no damn sense, it really didn't shed much light. It had ghosts and heart attacks and, apparently, compulsive doll hoarding. Seriously, these pictures don't do it justice.

Brace yourselves. Nightmares are coming.

 

I havnt even mentioned the food! In addition to being ridiculously cheap, Mexican food is excellent and even better when it's actually from Mexico. The high point for me though was definitely when I was offered a choice between a taco and a burrito and I got to say "¿por qué no las dos?". Anyone who knows me well will appreciate why this made my day.

 

The last night we met up with some of Ana's friends at a house party and ended up just kicking on all night. We said goodbye to Ana then made our way back to Gerardo's place to pick up our stuff and say goodbye then headed back to the airport.

 

After going to Cancun and seeing that it was essentially just an outpost of Americanism in Mexico, it was a great experience getting to spend a week in real Mexico. As beautiful as Mexico City is, the culture was the best part. It's just a really rich culture that really, you have to experience to appreciate.

Ps. We fit nine people in a smart car. Think about that.

 

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