Our reality is very different to that of most people and we are aware of our good fortune in having the ability to lead the life we have chosen. This doesn't make it any easier when a trip comes to an end. We've had the winter of a lifetime, what with a week in Barcelona, Transatlantic Cruise, a month in Florida, three weeks in Puerto Vallarta and a three week trip across Mexico. However the van needs to be collected from store in Spain and all good things come to an end. A punctuation mark has been created during our journey and enables us to think about where we're off to next.
Our last day in Mexico was spent mooching about our part of the city and packing. Taking it easy was the order of the day as I had booked us a potential nightmare from hell with 4 connecting flights. Mexico City, Panama, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Frankfurt and London Heathrow. But it cost a third of the price, and we had the time. A German air hostess made fun of Mike's shiny hiking boots, calling him Mr. Boots and all went to plan, no lost luggage or delays. The journey was in excess of 32 hours, and I was so tired, the first night I went to bed on our return I slept right through and avoided jet lag.
Two more must see sites in Mexico City are the Museo Nacional de Antropología and the pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacan and fortunately we had the time and the inclination to go and have a look at both. The museum lived up to expectation and we spent a whole day there. It was a Sunday and very busy as Mexican citizens get free entry. Inexpensive, very interesting and the cafe was superb. What more could a girl want?
The alarm was set on Monday morning to get to the Pyramids 48km from our hotel, before the heat and the crowds. We wanted to use public transport. It was quite difficult to decipher how to get there using the Lonely Planet but the Wiki Travel Guide was excellent. Most tourists go there on a pre arranged tour but we like to do things independently. We took the metro to Potrero then a local bus. The metro was great. Very jolly music at the stations and lots of different hawkers on the train. I bought a CD, and I'm listening to it now, but that's making me miss Mexico. We didn't need a headset, lollypops, chewing gum, a cook book or any other assorted merchandise. It was easy to navigate on the metro as each of the stations had pictures as well as their names, presumably for anyone who cannot read. A passer by offered help to find the correct bus stop in Potrero. Entertainment on the bus was provided by a guitarist who sang three different songs very well, but if his cough in between was anything to go by our donation should have gone towards a chest x-ray.
Teotihuacan when translated, means the place where the gods were created. It was built between the 1st and 7th centuries A.D. and has huge monuments – in particular, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, laid out alongside the Avenue of the Dead. The Pyramids would have had a temple on top back in the day but they certainly provided enough for us to climb them. If this city had not fallen into disuse the StairMaster would never have needed to be invented. There was also a good museum on site which fitted in nicely with what we had learnt at the Anthropological Museum on Sunday.
The journey back to our part of the city was straightforward but only with the help of a Good Samaritan. There were many forms of transport around the city and as we had used taxis, the metro and the bus I wanted to complete the set and try the Metro Bus. This is a bendy bus network, providing a fast service through the city and has barriered entrances and a platform just like a train. The buses use their own lane and run on the major through roads. Unfortunately we didn't realise we needed a prepaid plastic card to get on. A guard told us the journey would cost 5 Pesos but we didn't want to get a card when we only going to do one journey. Up stepped Pedro, a fellow passenger who said we could pay him the money and he would swipe his card 3 times. We sat at the back and he chatted to Mike for the whole journey which took Mike's mind off feeling travel sick. It was a very bouncy ride, just like a fairground. Pedro got off the stop before us and raced away as I think we had made him late for work.
5 nights were planned in our last destination in Mexico before our return to Europe. As usual we asked the views of people who had been and just used the guide books as a back up. Our first day was a Saturday and we decided to walk to the Metropolitan Cathedral. The route took us along a wide avenue called the Paseo de la Reforma, every few metres there was another statue or roundabout commemorating a person or event. The cathedral is set on the edge of a huge square which was packed with health screening vehicles. It looked as though the authorities were looking for health problems such as diabetes, as well as providing dental care.
More photos from our Mexico trip here
Our wanderings continued all day around Zocalo, an historic area of the city and on the walk back to the hotel we stumbled across a dance competition taking place in a small square. It was a bit like an old fashioned tea dance and the participants were really getting on and enjoying themselves. This provided another example of why we found it so difficult to get our heads round why Mexico gets so much bad press. I know it sells newspapers and the violent, drug related crime make great headlines but we simply were not exposed to any of this in any of the places we visited. Mike and I are always very alert to opportunist thieves, it happens in the nicest of places. When we wandered into an area of Guadalajara where it was more expensive to park the car than hire a hotel room for a few hours, we realised perhaps this wasn't the sort of place we wanted to be in. We were shown clubs in Puerto Vallarta that are controlled by 'Mexican Mafia' but this didn't affect us, not only did we not go to the clubs, but even if we had these organisations aren't interested in us as Gringo Backpackers. Everywhere we visited people were kind, helpful and open. It was so difficult to see that we could ever have been in any danger. Perhaps you will think I'm naive when I say this, but all we kept seeing was a vibrant friendly country with people motivated by family values. There were a lot of armed guards, security and uniformed officers but again, they weren't interested in us. Dad took us camping in Sicily and Italy during the '70's when the Mafia were very prevalent, but we were never at risk from any kind of Mafia activity and he wasn't being negligent by taking us there. Why would they be bothered by us on a family holiday? The cities along the northern border with the USA are a different story and live up to their reputation. Unfortunately, the day before we left Mexico news of a gang rape in Acapulco involving tourists hit the headlines, so I suppose that blows all my credibility out of the window.
As is the norm with everything in life, you don't know what a place is going to be like until you get there. That's why I try hard not to let my imagination get going before I arrive. We had heard and read stuff about Mexico City. A population over 21 million, pollution, a large geographical area, crime, drug taking, fancy restaurants, cathedral, historic old town, museums, ancient sites. Looking at that list makes it no different to any other city we have visited, apart from the population, as the greater metropolitan area qualifies it as the third biggest in the world. As we approached the outskirts I could see the grey houses spreading out over the hillsides, mainly single storey dwellings made out of concrete breeze blocks.
More photos of our Mexico trip here
We pre paid our taxi at the booth in the coach station and as our driver spoke a bit of English and us a bit of Spanish he was able to point things out along the way and we all spoke Spanglish. Our hotel was in the Zona Rosa, a busy area with lots of bars, clubs, shops and restaurants. It was mainly pedestrianised and first impressions were favourable. For our first meal we found a restaurant packed with Mexicans called the Casa de Tono and when we saw that Cochinita Pibil was on the menu we were lured straight in off the street. This is my favourite Mexican dish, and we make it at home. To end this great start to the visit our hotel was located in a quiet street so we had the best sleep, in the place we least expected it.
Poor Mike has had toothache again, the same tooth he had filled twice in Spain back in October last year. He hadn't complained about it but after a day wandering around San Miguel De Allende and after visiting lots of churches he finally gave in and admitted to having toothache. He had hoped to hang on until we got back to the UK but the gum looked swollen and felt 'spongy' when he prodded it with his tongue. As we had another day in San Miguel we decided if he needed anything doing it would be better to get it sorted that afternoon to give him an extra rest day on day two rather than having to sit on the coach to Mexico City feeling rough. The concierge at the hotel was incredibly kind and helpful and managed to locate an English speaking dentist. The hotel overall had been a bit of a Fawlty Towers experience so I was very relieved when she got the dentist herself on the phone who agreed to see Mike that evening. Mike ended up having his molar extracted because it was beyond saving. This is really sad because the roots were healthy, the tooth itself in an advanced state of decay because a dentist somewhere had left a dressing in!
So, how was San Miguel De Allende? Different again to our other Mexican stop overs. The buildings were painted in lovely terracotta and yellow hues and the houses looked very Spanish. The town has been settled by many expats from Canada and the USA and is known for its artists and jewellery. Our hotel was an eclectic experience but that was not a problem.
Photographs around the town here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page when you get there.
The last stage of our Mexico trip has now begun. We arrived in Mexico City a couple of hours ago, our arrival delayed by roadworks. So far all looks good and it's Friday night, so we're out to hit the town.
I love travel, any type. There is always a buzz in finding & exploring a place for the first time, meeting and making new friends and if you return things are never quite the same.
Going away? Travel essentials from across Amazon
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