We arrived into Mexico City in the late evening, and the traffic filled Uber ride from the bus station to our Air BnB feel longer than our long bus ride to get there.
Luckily our apartment was super cool, and the sight of a kitchenette and all it promised (ie cereal for breakfast) made it all fade to a distant memory.
Our search for dinner was short - right across from our apartment was a funky little food court, so we wolfed down some pretty decent burgers and hit the hay.
Zocalo and around
After a big ol sleep in and a much anticipated bowl of cereal, we made use of Mexico City’s amazing public transport system and caught the subway into Zocalo. We climbed out of the darkness and into a bustling city street. The main square was fenced off and surrounded with fairy lights and banners, although we never figured out exactly what for.
We managed to navigate our way around the barriers and down a side street to Palacio Nacional, home to one of Diego Rivera’s best known murals. Getting in was another matter. We climbed over some more barriers, had our IDs checked, got lost, and checked out some decidedly average other exhibits before finally finding the mural.
The History of Mexico (otherwise known as the Stairway Mural) is a sight to behold. Taking 6 years to complete, it depicts the history of Mexico (I know, how could you have guessed??) from ancient times to the present (or at least until 1935). The mural has four main sections, with some as large as 70m x 9m.
After climbing the staircase and checking out the big mural, we wandered around the balconies, checking out the smaller murals (although they’re still enormous).
All this culture was taking its toll - we were getting seriously hungry. As we went to leave, we found ourselves witnessing a training session with some kind of military group. They were practicing how to unfold and then refold a HUGE Mexican flag. It was painful, but they got there in the end.
After a stop for lunch, we headed to Templo Mayor, which was once the main temple for the ancient city Tenochtitlan. These unbelievable ruins gave us major Rome flashbacks, as they’re right in the middle of the city, surrounded by roads, multistorey buildings, and bustling crowds of people.
The ruins have been excavated to show the stages of the temple. Aztec temples were typically expanded by building over the top of the existing structure. As such, Templo Mayor has six distinct ‘layers’. The site was incredibly well maintained, with excellent pathways and signage, and a fantastic museum.
With our main sights seen for the day, we spent a half hour or so wandering the nearby streets checking out second hand bookstores, before heading back to our accommodation to regroup before dinner.
Dinner, incidentally, turned out to be a rather fancy affair. Zev picked, and perhaps underestimated the quality of the restaurant we were going to, but oh maaaannnnn it was good! We stuffed our faces with some swanky Mexican cuisine, and rolled home fat and happy.
Our next day was a very early start for a public transport adventure. Two subways, a bus and close to two hours later, we arrived at Teotihuacan.
Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city, and the huge site is absolutely breathtaking. As soon as we arrived, we made a beeline for the Pyramid of the Sun, the highest pyramid at the site, and one of the largest in Mesoamerica. At 75m high, climbing it was quite a challenge, but we were happy to get it out of the way before the sun made the climb unbearable. The views from the top were well worth it, and there was even a happy pyramid dog looking for pats.
From there, we headed to the far end of the site to check out the Pyramid of the Moon, a slightly smaller cousin. We sat at the top, looking out over the ruins, watching people take countless selfies, and most hilariously, watching two Mexican guys who must have been in their 50s race up and down the nearby pyramids. They were laughing like kids, but I couldn’t help but worry that it was only a matter of time until one of them fell and killed themselves.
Close by, we checked out the Quetzalpapalotl, or the palace complex. Lots of the original murals have survived, and in some areas, the carvings have been restored to give a good idea of what the palace would have looked like originally.
By now, the day was starting to heat up, and our energy levels were waning. Our early rise and two hour public transport adventure were taking their toll. We strolled down the main pathway, once home to the marketplace. We veered off to check out the museum (although really we were just looking for a cafe - no such luck).
We headed to the last main structure at the site, the Ciudadela, home to the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. Getting back there required going up and down so many stairs that by the time we arrived, I thought I might die. We climbed the final set of stairs up the last pyramid… Only to find that there were two more flights of stairs. I couldn’t do it. I settled for the view from where I was, while Zev went for a closer inspection. I spent the extra time making friends with a different pyramid dog.
Finally, we made our way back to the entrance to retrace our route back home. Obviously, we stopped for ice creams, but it was a long trip home to finally get hot dogs for lunch! We spent the afternoon recovering from our adventure, but managed to rally to head out for more tasty deep fried gorditas for dinner (deep fried street food snacks).
A day of art
We decided to stay local the following day, so we jumped on the subway and headed to Museo Nacional del Arte. The museum was a little underwhelming - apparently it can be amazing when there’s a good collection on display. The building itself was incredible though, and we spent more time admiring the architecture than the art.
We strolled through Alameda Central park and stopped for some lunch at Cancino Alameda. Suitably refuelled, we continued on to the nearby Diego Rivera Mural Museum, home to Sueno de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday afternoon in the Alameda Central). The 15m long mural was painted in 1947, and was originally housed in the Versailles Restaurant in the Hotel del Prado. When the hotel was irreparably damaged in an earthquake in 1985 and had to be demolished, the mural was taken apart and moved to its own museum. The mural depicts people and events from the history of Mexico, strolling through Alameda Central park.
We headed back through Alameda Central park to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It was definitely the highlight of the day! The building was incredible, with a mix of architectural styles, but primarily art deco and art nouveau. Housed within it though were some of the most stunning murals I’ve ever seen.
On our way home, we strolled some back streets to check out the street art, and stopped for yet another round of ice cream… Our evening however was taken up with some shopping! To cut a long story short, I had to fly home via Vancouver, and to get a flight with a checked bag (rather than carry on only) was going to cost me an extra $600! So to save some of our (rapidly diminishing) money, I booked a carry on only flight, and we planned to buy a suitcase that would fit both of our stuff in. We headed to a nearby department store only to discover that luggage is REALLY EXPENSIVE! But eventually we found exactly what we were after for a price that we were happy with (really, we were happy with anything that cost less than $600).
With our last day in Mexico, we headed to Coyoacan to check out the highly recommended Frida Kahlo Museum. We were bitterly disappointed to find it closed (as were the other groups of people waiting outside). In case it was opening late, we spent some time wandering around the cute tree lined streets of the neighbourhood, checking out a local market, and hanging out in the town square. It was bustling, filled with locals and tourists alike, and it was a great way to spend our last day! We headed back past the Frida Museum, but it was still closed, so we headed back to the hotel to pack.
The journey home begins
And then it was time. Our bag was packed, and we were at the airport. Of course our flights weren’t without some modicum of drama. Our single suitcase was overweight, so we had a last minute repack at the airport. We had to go through different screening gates, and neither of our phones were working, so we had to part ways, for the first time in months, in the check in area. Once we were through the other side, I couldn’t get wifi to work, so couldn’t get in touch with anyone to let them know what was going on. So you know - not a nice relaxing end to a wonderful holiday!
Zev’s return journey was fairly straightforward. He flew from Mexico City to LA, then transited to his flight straight home to Auckland. My journey was a little more meandering. I flew to Vancouver, Canada, and spent the night with my friends Ashley and Alan, and met their cute baby Rhys. I managed to squeeze in time for a haircut, and lunch with another kiwi friend, Craig in cute Kitsilano, where I lived briefly many moons ago.
Although the airport check in fiasco in Mexico City was a nightmare, this was a great way to wrap up a holiday! I headed back out to the airport in the afternoon, and checked in for my flight back to Auckland with no worries. Although the plane was PACKED, I was sat next to a lovely older couple from Dunedin, and I managed to get a few snippets of sleep against the window.
Landing back in Auckland was a strange mix of feelings. I was happy to be home, and looking forward to seeing Zev, and our cat, and catching up with all our friends and family. But it was definitely surreal to know we were home, and we wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon!.
We still have a couple of posts to go, even though we’ve been home for a while. We’ve got one last Status Report to do for September, and then we’ll probably write a little wrap up for the whole trip.
Lots of love,
S & Z