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Mexico City

Views from above: Mexico City

Torre Latinoamericano & Palacio de las Bellas Artes

The best way to get an overview of a city, especially one that sprawls like Mexico City, is to see it from above. So we headed to the top of the Torre Latinoamericano, the only skyscraper in the historic center of Mexico City. However, at only 183 meters /597 feet  and 45 stories high, the Torre does not compare to towers in the U.S. or Asia, though respect must be given for the fact that Mexico City is hit with many earthquakes. The Torre Latinoamericano certainly towers over the rest of Mexico City’s skyline – even though that since our first visit to D.F., it is NOT Mexico City’s tallest building anymore.

The views from the top are stunning – both daytime and nighttime, as long as the city is not too shrouded in smog:

Torre Latinoamericano viewsTo the West you see the Alameda Central, a public park with lots of street vendors.

The food stalls at the Alameda seen from the Torre Latinoamericano.

Torre Latinoamericano viewsLooking East you see the historic city center, the Zocalo (the main square), the Cathedral and the Palacio Nacional.

Mexico City’s Cathedral close-up. It is the oldest and largest cathedral in Latin America.

The Zocalo with the huge Mexican flag and the Palacio Nacional. The Palacio is the seat of the federal government and houses various murals by Diego Rivera, including one of his biggest and most famous, which depicts the history of Mexico stretching from wall to wall in an intricate, elaborate piece.

Torre Latinoamericano viewsThe view to the North offers vistas of the mountains that surround the city. The big building on the right side in the front is the Museo Nacional de Arte.

To the North you can also see the Plaza Garibaldi, famous for its Mariachi gatherings (especially on Fridays and Saturdays), when hundreds of Mariachi musicians congregate and bring the Plaza to life with their music.

Torre Latinoamericano viewsThe Palacio de las Bellas Artes is well worth a visit as it not only shows murals of Mexico’s greatest muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco, but also for the building’s interesting architecture itself.

Torre Latinoamericano viewsLocated East of the city center is the Zona Rosa, the business district of Mexico’s capital, with the only tall buildings in the city.

Torre Latinoamericano viewsThe buildings of the Zona Rosa and Paseo de la Reforma covered in smog.

Seeing the lights of the city at night reveals the entire dimension of this 10 million-strong metropole. The fluorescent strip is the Eje Central, the main 6-lane drag that goes from North to South through the entire city.

Mexico City view to the North at night.

West of Mexico City with Alameda Central.

Torre Latinoamericano viewsThe Palacio de las Bellas Artes at night.

The Torre Latinoamericano is open daily from 10am to 8pm and costs MXN140 (just under US$7) – certainly worth the price, even if you’re visiting Mexico City on a shoestring. The entrance fee allows you one hour at the viewing platforms and includes a museum on the 38th floor which gives more information on the history of Mexico City, the earthquakes and the construction of the Torre Latinoamericana. There is also a fine dining restaurant on the 41th floor.

Address: Eje Central & Avenida Juárez
Metro station: Bellas Artes

You can book your tickets online here.

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From bohemians & coyotes to flowers & floating Mariachis: A day trip out of Mexico City

Hombres de Xochimilco

Poets, painters and travel writers alike search for ways to express life in Mexico City; the layers of existence so dense and varied finding the right words or images to capture its essence is nearly impossible.

CoyoacanThere is one word that all of them might agree with – Mexico City is busy. Even for those of us city-loving culture-vulture folk, a day trip outside of the buzzing center was on the cards after our first 5 days in D.F., or the Districto Federal (Federal District). One very full but excellent day out combines a trip to Frida Kahlo’s ‘hometown’ of Coyoacán, followed by a trip further south to the pueblo of Xochimilco.

Coyoacan

Coyoacán, or ‘place of the coyotes’ in Nahuatl, is an enjoyable day out on its own and would even make a very comfortable base for travellers and backpackers if it weren’t for the higher cost of accommodation in the area. Served by three Metro stops on two different lines, the best option is to disembark at Viveros and take a stroll through the park – Viveros de Coyoacan, which then leads right to the heart of Coyoacan.

CoyoacanThough now centrally located after being usurped by urban sprawl, Coyoacan feels much more like a bohemian enclave far away from the bustle of the center. Here you find a mix of intellectuals, philosophers, ‘hippies’, backpackers and a comfortable upper-middle class attracted to the area for its quiet tree-lined streets, relative safety and security and quaint Plaza Hidaldo, the main square.

CoyoacanBars and restaurants for all tastes line the square. Anyone with a taste for churros can rejoice, as there are several stands and restaurants boasting various varieties of this popular pastry (Dani enjoyed the churros stuffed with nutella and cream cheese and peach, in particular).

CoyoacanHernan Cortes made his home here after the Spanish conquest, as did several high-profile 20th century artists and intellectuals. Among these were the exiled Leon Trotsky (whose house is now a museum), Diego Rivera, and one of our absolute heros, Frida Kahlo, whose Casa Azul is located just a ten-minute walk from the Plaza Hidalgo.

Frida Kahlo was born in La Casa Azul, she lived together with Rivera throughout their fiery marriage here, and she also died in the house. After her death in 1954, the house was converted into the Frida Kahlo Museum. The museum (MXN246) houses a small collection of Frida’s art, many Diego Rivera pieces, handwritten love letters and photos of the pair, and well-displayed finer details of Frida’s everyday life: both her bedroom and Diego’s are preserved, as are her books, the original casts she wore after her tragic trolley accident, and her wheel chair set in front of an easel, just as Frida would have painted throughout much of her life. The garden on the grounds is worth a stroll as well and a second building on the premises includes further personal photographs of Diego, Frida and people close to them.

Coyoacan Casa AzulUnless you are a mega-fan of Frida, give the nearby Jardin Cultural Frida Kahlo, or Frida Kahlo Cultural Garden, a miss. It is small and home to only three sculptures of Frida with no information for visitors.

XochimilcoMuch more of the works of Mexico’s most famous 20th century pair can be seen at the Dolores Olmedo Patiño Museum in nearby Xochimilco, though on the day of our visit, Frida’s 25 works normally displayed here were overseas at an exhibit in Berlin. In addition to Frida’s work, the museum and former home of the flamboyant female Mexican art collector, businesswoman and philanthropist also houses 137 works by Diego Rivera, a collection of drawings by Angelina Beloff (Rivera’s first wife), pre-Hispanic pieces, Mexican folk art and several photographs of Olmedo’s own globetrotting travels and meetings with the world’s elite, including Pope John Paul II himself.

From no less than ten rare Mexican hairless dogs (called Xoloitzcuintle, they were Diego’s and Frida’s favorite dogs) to scores of freely roaming peacocks, the grounds of the Dolores Olmedo Patiño Museum alone make this bizarre yet intriguing Xochimilco-based museum worth a visit. The museum is US $4.50, free on Tuesdays. (all but the statue are actual dogs, below)

Xochimilcoxochimilco

The town of Xochimilco, or ‘the place where the flowers grow’ is an hour ride from Mexico City or a short trip on the Tren Ligero (Xochimilco Light Rail) from Coyoacan.

XochimilcoCheck out the San Bernadino church, a vibrant and clean central market, or head straight to one of the town’s seven Embarcaderos to hop aboard a Trajinera, a colorful covered punting boat, for a relaxing ride along one of the 224 canals that remain from the ancient Lake Xochimilco. A ride through these  is an absolute must. Although often lazily compared to Venice, the canals of this small Mexican town are a completely unique adventure.

xochimilcoTrips last from an hour to three, or even longer, and while some Mexicans bring food and drinks on board, it is also possible to purchase from floating vendors everything from ‘street food’ like elote, tacos or full meals to Coronas, Micheladas, sodas and water. Also floating through the canal are Mariachi and Marimba bands who will serenade you for less than US $10.

A private ride on a Trajinera costs anywhere from $200 to $500 Mexican Pesos ($15-$50 US, bargain your way down), but on Sundays there are ‘colectivos’, or public rides, which cost only $15 pesos per person (around $1.20 per person).

Xochimilco

 

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Our journey through Mexico in pictures

chichen-itza-dani-jump-mexico

Mexico was  only the second country of our trip, but we (unexpectedly) fell in love with the country and extended our stay there again and again – in the end we spent 88 days there, and traveled more than 3600 kilometers (2370 miles) through the country.

Reminiscing (yes, again), we looked through our thousands of photos of Mexico and decided to take you on a photographic tour of our journey through this fabulous country:

Upon arrival in Mexico City, we were welcomed by Mariachi bands & folklore groups…

We discovered some great street art…

… and enjoyed the fantastic views from the Torre Latinoamericano.

In Xochimilco we enjoyed a ride in one of the famous trajinera boats…

… and in Coyoacan, we not only enjoyed the bohemian flair and the market, we also visited Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul.

photos of Mexico

The archeological site of the Aztec town of Teotihuacan was a Must on our list.

photos of Mexico

Soon after we headed to Puebla where  we were we discovered a town that had, until 2003, manufactured the famous VW Beetles…

… and we admired the many tiled houses throughout the city.

photos of Mexico

We got to Oaxaca in time for its famous Guelaguetza festivities in July…

photos of Mexico

… and spent a  great couple of weeks in this beautiful colonial town, not leaving without having visited the glorious Maya ruins of Monte Alban.

photos of Mexico

Our next stop was the sleepy beach village of Mazunte on Oaxaca’s Pacific coast, where we were met with a subtropical climate for the first time on our journey.

After a couple of relaxing days we moved on to neighboring Zipolite, before leaving the coast for our next colonial town: San Cristobal de las Casas.

Mexico photos

In San Cristobal we came across more fantastic street art…

Mexico photos

… and the large presence of Chiapas’ indigenous Maya people was noticeable throughout the entire town.

photos of Mexico

We visited the Mayan villages of Zinacantan and Chamula, where we were shown how the Mayan women weave their clothes and make their tortillas.

We visited Sumidero Canyon where we saw the breathtaking Christmas tree waterfall and dozens of crocodiles…

photos of Mexico

On our way to Merida we stopped at the beautiful waterfalls Agua Azul and Misol Ha:

… and one of our favourite Maya ruins: Palenque, tucked deep into the jungle.

photos of Mexico

In Merida we arrived in time for some heavy rains and floodings…

photos of Mexico

… but the August heat came back quickly and we enjoyed the town’s magnificent churches before…

photos of Mexico

… heading to Cazuma, where we explored our first of the many cenotes (underwater sinkholes) on the Yucatan peninsula.

Our next stop was Valladolid, which turned out to be our favorite town in all of Mexico:

We were intrigued by its friendly people…

Mexico photos

… and the mysterious hold that its charming architecture has over us…

Mexico photos

Chichen Itza was another impressive Maya ruin we visited…

Mexico photos

… and the Cenotes Xkeken and Samula are only a short bike ride from Valladolid.

Mexico photos

We settled for four weeks in Playa del Carmen, just up from the hoards of tourists where we had the beach practically to ourselves…

photos of Mexico

We did not leave Mexico before a visit to Isla Mujeres, a tiny, gorgeous island off the coast of Cancun, which had a great Caribbean feeling to it…

… although the cliffs on the southern end of the island reminded us more of Scotland and Ireland…

… and finally a stop in Tulum, maybe not the most amazing Mayan ruins, but definitely the ones in the most stunning setting, right by the turquoise Caribbean sea.Mexico photos

Our very last stop in Mexico was Chetumal on the border to Belize, where we took off in a speedboat to our next destination: Ambergris Caye, Belize.

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33 things I love about Mexico

chichen-itza-dani-jump-mexico

I spent around nine months in Mexico – a country I know I’ll visit over and over again. I have traveled along the Pacific Coast, done several road trips in the Yucatan, I’ve eaten my way around Mexico City, and visited more Maya ruins than I can remember. I have so much love for Mexico – and I’d like to share some of the things I love about Mexico with you:

things I love about mexico
1. Mexican Food – Mexican food is completely different to what we expected, but it turns out we love almost all of it! From Tlayudas and panuchos to bean quesadillas and potato tacos plus chilaquiles and tortas (filled sandwiches – Mexico City has the biggest ones) it has been amazing to discover the food here!
 
2. Driving golf carts around the island of Isla Mujeres. This little island in the Caribbean is one of the things I love about Mexico the most – one of my favorite places in the entire country.

isla mujeres mexico

3. Mexicans – Friendliest people on the planet!

4. Markets – Though at times they can be shocking (squealing pigs the minute before their eventual slaughter and large yellow chicken feet spring to mind) the markets in Mexico are amazing to explore. The 20 de Noviembre market in Oaxaca was our favorite for the best selection of food (including the hundreds of mounds of deep-fried grasshoppers!) and mezcal.

5. Huevos motuleños – Yes, yes, we already said we loved the food, but this all day breakfast food quickly became our favorite after we discovered them during a long wait in Palenque for a bus to Merida. Huevos motuleños involve a fried tortilla topped with black beans, fried eggs, sauce and plantains, plus ham for the meat-eaters out there. Heavenly!

6. Cenotes – considering we had never even heard of these underground waterholes, swimming in the cenotes on the Yucatan felt a bit daring and definitely refreshing.

cenote mexico

7. Victoria beer – There, we said it. We love Victoria beer!

8. Mexico City – It’s a magnificent mega-metropolis which requires some patience and understanding, but Mexico City is a hub of creative, forward-thinking groups and individuals with art, markets, and music everywhere you turn. Sure it has its problems, but what city doesn’t? It’s the combination of it all that makes the city so great: Posh areas like Polanco are offset by more run-down parts of the Centro Historico where culture and tradition seep into your soul. How cool to see Mariachis and Mayans catching cabs, Mexican rock bands headbang on a plaza next to a salsa club, sleek and stylish club-goers passing by happy families in the park until the wee hours and openly gay men and women walking hand in hand with their partners more often than in any U.S. city we know of. Frida and Diego (Kahlo and Rivera that is) can be found everywhere, and there are hundred of art museums, exhibitions and co-operations with institutes world wide. Mexico City is chaotic, yet quaint, crazy and creative. We miss you Mexico City!

Mexico City

9. The Caribbean coast – especially Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres, where you can walk 40 to 50 meters out into the crystal blue water and it only comes up to your knees… but there are so many beaches along the Caribbean coast that are stunning – including Tulum, Akumal, and our own private beach in Xcalak.. they all deserve their own spot in my list of things I love about Mexico, but I’ll try to keep this short 😉


10. Valladolid – we fell in love with this little Pueblo Magico (magic village) on the Yucatan, but we’d like you to please not visit Valladolid.

11. Mariachi Bands – always fun to listen to, even if they don’t quite hit the notes.

things I love about mexico

12. Agua fresca – We might actually be able to slowly wean ourselves off Diet Coke thanks to these giant one liter drinks of water blended with fruit. We especially like Cantaloupe and Guayaba ‘aguas’.

13. Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul – Stuffed with her art, personal belongings and pictures, it makes you feel like you really get to know her, plus the gardens are gorgeous.

14. The cattle in front of our house in San Luis Beltran, Oaxaca.

15. The colorful traditional clothes worn throughout Mexico, from the many wool variations to be found in Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas to the beautiful long white gowns embroidered with flowers that the woman of the Yucatan wear.  Oh, and real life cowboys!

Sure, we know this continues on from Guatemala down through South America, but there is also something so unifying about how even the non-indigenous men/women will wear very traditional Mexican clothing rather than identifying with global fashion. It seems like for many here, people are Mexican first, class/race/socio-economic status comes second.

16. Diego Rivera Murals in Mexico City – The murals are so insightful into Mexican history and culture, and you could spend more than a day hunting them all down throughout Mexico City. Diego’s influence as an artist was enormous here.

17. San Cristobal de las Casas – the prettiest colonial town we have seen so far.

san cristobal de las casas

18. The tacos from the taco vendor in Calle Uruguay – Near the bakery Pasteleria Ideal in #74  in Mexico City, you’ll see the large group of people crowded around the vendor – that’s the spot. Try an agua fresca here too – delicious.

19. Lizards galore! Mexico is filled with lizards big and small, from our pet gecko in our apartment in Playa del Carmen (and its subsequent tiny tiny little babies), to the giant iguanas in Tulum, Valladolid, Isla Mujeres and Chichen Itza. Plus we have come within a few feet of countless crocodiles, something we never thought was possible!

20. The historical ruins – The Mayan and Aztec ruins in Mexico are so majestic! We visited Teotihuacan near Mexico City, Monte Alban near Oaxaca, Palenque in Chiapas, Tulum and Chichen Itza on the Yucatan.

palenque mexico

21. Mexican bakeries  – Even just window-shopping makes our (read: Dani’s) mouths water. Cakes, fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits, cupcakes, sweet breads and freshly baked rolls are all delicious. Special shout-out to Pasteleria Ideal in Mexico City!

22. Cheladas and Micheladas –Beer mixed with tomato juice, salt, pepper and hot sauce. This is basically like a Bloody Mary but beer replaces vodka. Genius!

23. The tuk-tuks in Oaxaca.

24. Mexican buses –  The buses in Mexico are top standard, reliable and clean. ADO, OCC and Oriente all provide great service, though ADO’s films and air-conditioning are good for longer trips (more expensive, though).

25. Hostal La Candelaria in Valladolid. The best hostel we stayed at in Mexico. Clean rooms, two kitchens (one outside), a gorgeous garden, and very friendly owners. Plus two of the cutest little Chihuahuas of all time.things i love about mexico

26. Free wi-fi – In any public park or square in even the smallest city/town, at least a dozen people can be found with their laptops, not only using the free wi-fi, but also charging their computers. The parks have outlets for charging! Who needs Starbucks, when you can have free wi-fi in the park!

27. Lucha Libre – Mexican Wrestling rocks. Yes, it’s fake, but the crowd goes crazy and we loved it!

28.  Policemen, on horses, preferably with sombreros.

29.  Fruit in a bag, freshly cut and topped with spices & lime, for $1.00. One of the things I love about Mexico most!

30.  Getting our laundry professionally washed – For less than $4, a lady with a brand-new washer and dryer will scrub out stains, wash and dry your clothes and then iron them all down, flat as pancakes, leaving you with a stack of clothes a quarter of the size of the dirty, stinky ball you brought to her.

31. Mexican mannequins. How can you not love ‘em? 😉

things I love about mexico

32. The Beaches on Mexico’s Pacific Coast – the Riviera Nayarit is gorgeous!

33. Road tripping in the YucatanSpanish-colonial villages, fantastic food, beautiful Caribbean beaches, cenotes, Maya ruins galore, lush green jungle – the Yucatan is spectacular, and the roads there are in good condition, which makes it easy to drive there.

What are your favorite  things about Mexico?  Let’s reminisce together in the comments below!

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: El Patio 77 in Mexico City

hotel tip of the week

‘Is this it?’ Dani asked to no one in particular.

Without much trouble at all, the cab driver located the corner building, number 77, on Icazbalceta Street in the San Rafael neighborhood of Mexico City, but the house looked like any other in this local neighborhood.

A man in skinny jean cutoffs and long sleeves leaning casually against the brick next to the giant iron doors offered to take our bags inside.

‘Um, is this it? Is this El Patio 77?’ we both asked again.

‘Yes, of course, I am not just a friendly stranger,’ said Diego, the co-owner, charming us with his French accent. Carrying our heavy packs, he led us in to the first of two gorgeous patios of this beautifully restored colonial mansion which he and partner Alan renovated and turned in to Mexico’s first-ever eco-friendly hotel.

el patio 77 mexico city B&B

El Patio 77: Mexico City’s first-ever eco-friendly hotel

Within a few minutes of chatting with Diego while our room was prepared, we already had plans to visit the nearby Museo Del Chopo art museum, had a map in our hands with a self-guided neighborhood walking tour of the area and we felt completely at home. We knew right away that this was exactly the intimate experience we were looking for during our stay in Mexico City, a metropolis of over 22 million people. The quiet bed and breakfast is set in an assuming working class neighborhood that is just three short stops on the metro from the buzzing hub of the Zocalo, or city center.

What we came to discover throughout our stay is that El Patio 77 is a sophisticated layering of Mexico’s past, present and future.

el patio 77 mexico city roomThe past is represented in the high ceilings, wooden floors and delicious antique furniture sparsely decorating the 19th century building. Our room, the Michoacán, has a simple yet comfortable queen bed, an armchair, a wardrobe and a simple table in the center. Two sliding glass doors open to faux, wrought iron balconies and floor to ceiling wooden shutters inside are thick enough to keep out all noise and light from the world outside. I enjoyed the butterflies on the light fixtures around the room that glow in the dark.  Named after states of Mexico, each room is similarly furnished, punctuated by a collection of modern Mexican art by emerging young artists also featured in their on-site art gallery – The 77.

el patio 77 mexico city artThe colorful art reflects a modern-day Mexico weaving past traditions and current culture, while the service of the hotel staff provided a type of tourism geared toward travel-savvy guests. We were informed, not spoon-fed generic experiences, and the focus was on the local surroundings. Rooms are provided with a thick binder with information, maps of local restaurants (try as many of them as you can for deliciously affordable and authentic Mexican fare) and tours, including the free, self-guided walking tour through San Rafael and the surrounding neighborhoods. On Sunday morning, we set off with our map and walked through the streets as the city woke up. We dodged joggers in the parks, passed several churches already in session and watched street food vendors setting up on street corners and in front of those churches, ready to feed the devout as they poured out after religious services. Although we spent two weeks here in 2010, this walk gave us the most personal glimpse of the city we had ever had.

From Diego and Alan, to the next in command, also named Diego, all the way to the friendly woman who makes breakfasts and cleans the rooms, the staff is knowledgeable, welcoming and made us feel entirely at home. The rooms are spotless, as are the shared bathrooms, which are also decorated with creative artistic touches. All but three suites share bathrooms, which for the higher room rates might be a bit unorthodox for some. However, I suspect that the well-traveled clientele that makes up the majority of guests have no problem with that. While it would be unfair to label it a hostel for grown-ups, El Patio 77 has the feeling of an avant-garde bed and breakfast for American and Europeans in their thirties who have done the round-the-world, grungy hostel thing in their twenties and are now looking for original, independent accommodation. Breakfast is served daily in one of two cozy covered patios, and includes fair-trade coffee, homemade jams, toast, fresh fruit and a traditional Mexican breakfast dish.

el patio 77 b&b mexico cityThe discreet, almost unseen layer here is the future-focused eco-friendly policies of this Mexico City B&B. Solar panels on the roof heat the water for the showers, while water recollection tanks collect the water to be filtered and re-used in toilets and to water plants. Guests are requested to use a special shampoo/body soap combo which is easier on the filters, but other than that, the eco-friendly aspects of the hotel are present but non-intrusive.

Stand Out Feature: The Staff

We must have emailed fifteen times with the staff between our initial inquiries and their follow-up emails asking us about our stay. They genuinely care about the quality of the experience and providing a place where travelers feel at home. We felt welcomed, yet were given plenty of privacy and space. Anytime we had a question, there was someone there to answer it, fully and with an interesting story behind it as well.

Room for improvement: Breakfast

For all the thoughtful touches in all other aspects of our stay, we felt that, as a Bed and Breakfast, the breakfast came up a bit short. Though the ingredients are fresh and high-quality, we would prefer to see two main dish options, either potatoes or beans on the side to round out the meal in addition to toast, and a carafe of water with two glasses on the table in addition to the freshly squeezed juice and fair-trade coffee.

el patio 77 breakfast plate

Overall: El Patio 77 in Mexico City

El Patio 77 is perfect for travelers looking for a simple yet stylish hotel reflecting real life in Mexico City.

el patio 77 in mexico city

Location: Icazbalceta 77, Colonia San Rafael C.P. 06470, Mexico D.F.
Price: Starting at US$70.30 + tax per night for 2 persons breakfast included
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes
Amenities: Free wi-fi, complimentary breakfast, patio and big lounge room on the ground floor
Website:
www.elpatio77.com

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Viveros de Coyoacán – Mexico City’s green, flourishing…outdoor gym

Squirrel

On our recent visit to Coyoacán, we got off the Metro at Viveros (actually one stop past Coyoacán), to enjoy a morning walk through one of the city’s rare green spaces – the park Viveros de Coyoacán.

Viveros de CoyoacanWhile we expected a green oasis within this (unfortunately) overly polluted city, being nearly-trampled by hundreds of joggers in this oasis came as quite a surprise. Viveros de Coyoacán is used for daily work-outs for everyone fit athletes in training to seniors in expensive tracksuits, most of whom who looked like they could run laps around us.

Viveros de CoyoacanAs we quickly discovered, even the more secluded, shaded areas were heaving with personal trainers, entire yoga classes and what can only be described as a ‘Matador Training Center’ in the middle of the park.

Viveros de Coyoacan

A small group of aspiring matadors waved red robes as their partner attacked with bull horns held out front, pretending to be a bull. There was even an entire (fake) bull’s head on a wheel that could be pushed, like a wheel-cart – perhaps for speedier attacks for the more advanced matadors? (I later learned that these people were indeed practicing bullfighting).

Matador PracticeThough genuinely packed with early-morning athletes, Viveros de Coyoacan is great for a work-out if you stay in the university town (Ciudad Universitaria) or in Coyoacán. The park comes complete with workout instruments and even wooden distance markers on the side of the paths in 100-meter increments for runner to keep an exact kilometer count, plus fruit stands just outside the exits will mix any type of ‘agua fresca’ or fruit juice to taste – prefect for after a morning run. So if you want to run – pack your running shoes. If you want to relax, pack a blanket, a book, and maybe some snacks for a little picnic.

Workout in the parkOnce the morning fitness madness subsides, the lush, green and virtually tourist-free Viveros de Coyocan is an excellent picnic spot between palm and pine trees, or to admire the enormous plant gardens (the name Viveros is Spanish for nurse plantery), tree sculptures, or tame the black and gray squirrels that scuttle throughout the forest.

Viveros de Coyoacan

How to get to Viveros de Coyoacan:

It’s easy to get to Viveros de Coyoacan from the Centro Historico. You can take metro line 3 directly to “Viveros”. From the Juárez station in the city center, it’s a 25-min subway ride. Take a look at the subway map for orientation – it’s the fourth last stop on the southern end of the 3. Transferring in between subway line is easy.

If you prefer taking a car, there are a number of ride sharing apps in Mexico City. You can call an Uber, use EasyTaxi, Yaxi or Cabify. From the city center, it takes about 30 minutes to get to Viveros de Coyoacan, depending on traffic.

Coyoacan

What else is there to see around here?

The Callejon del Aguacate, a narrow and cobble stoned alleyway known for its intriguing history and a striking mural is only a short walk from the park.

Frida Kahlo’s house, the Casa Azul, is only a 20-minute walk from the park, but make sure to reserve tickets beforehand, or you may not be able to get inside.

Combine your visit to the park with a stroll around the beautiful Coyoacan neighborhood. There is a great artisan market near the Plaza Hidalgo every day from 11am to 7pm.

If you do add Coyoacan to your itinerary, walk down to Avenida Francisco Sosa and then walk east, and it’ll bring you straight to the center of Coyoacan. Avenida Francisco Sosa is one of the most scenic streets in Mexico City, known for its beautiful Spanish-colonial houses. Stop for some churros at Churrería General de la República, right outside the Jardín Centenario (where you’ll want to look out for the Coyote Fountain) at the end of Avenida Francisco Sosa.

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Mexico City on a shoestring

mexico city street art

No trip to Mexico is complete without spending at least a few days in this dense, modern yet traditional, culturally-rich, forward thinking gateway to Latin America. However, although Mexico is relatively cheaper than the U.S. or Europe, prices especially in its bustling capital of Mexico City (or Mexico D.F. in Spanish, although more recently, the D.F. abbreviation people commonly used was replaced by CDMX for Ciudad de Mexico) can be much higher than most of the country. Luckily you can take a cheap flight to get there and then good planning can help you make the most out of a trip to Mexico City without breaking the bank – read on for our tips to travel Mexico City on a shoestring, and the best free things to do in Mexico City:

Mexico City on a shoestring

How to visit Mexico City on a shoestring

1. Take the Metro

Mexico City’s Metro is clean, safe and very efficient – take it. Each ride costs a fraction of a taxi, and though there are no day passes such as in London or New York, each ride costs 5 pesos (US$0.23). There are warnings about taxi robberies or even kidnappings, but no such warnings exist for the Metro. Once inside, the Metro is much more well-lit than London, and the different lines are easy to navigate. Taking the Metro also allows you to explore several areas of the city in a day, with several stops on various lines bringing you right back home to the Centro Historico where your hotel /hostel is most likely located.

Mexico City on a shoestringNote: As in any major city, rush hour in the Metro is cramped. Very cramped. The busier stations have ‘women only’ sections to the platform, with separate entrances which are not always so clear. If you are a female traveler, make sure to keep your eyes open for any separation of women and children from the men and follow the parade of women to that section of the platform.
*5 Pesos per ride / US$0.23*

2. Catch the free performances on the Zocalo

As in any town in Mexico, the Zocalo, or main square, in Mexico City is a major hub of entertainment activity. On each side of the Cathedral there are locals selling Aztec artisan goods (bags, rings, bracelets, masks, etc), and dancers dressed in traditional Aztec outfits performing several dances throughout the day. Tips are welcome of course, but the performances are free. Grab some of the nearby street food and enjoy the organized chaos of traditional outfits, music and dancing.
*free*

Mexico City on a shoestring

3. Eat Street Food

Mexicans love to eat, and there are food vendors lined up in every possible space where people congregate – outside of the metro, on any square, in any park, we’ve even seen quesadilla and tamale vendors right outside of a hospital entrance! The food choices vary per region, and Mexico City was by far the most enjoyable for us Globetrottergirls. The best street food in the city was located around the Alameda Central (a beautifully designed park in the center) and the Zocalo. Foods include Elote (corn on the cob), Tlayudas (thin crunchy tortillas topped with refried beans, lettuce, salsa and cheese), Tacos, popcorn, cups of easy-to-eat pre-cut strips of fruit including mango, watermelon, cantelope, jicama, even cucumber, which can be sprinkled with as much lime and chili powder as desired.

The more we travel through Mexico, the more we realize that each sit down meal can take two hours from the time you sit down to the time you finally get ‘la cuenta’, or the bill – which is often much higher than you would expect.

Street food, on the other hand, is cheap, quick, ‘clean’ and so delicious, plus a great way to get a broad sample of Mexican culinary delights. Contrary to the Mexican food nightmare myths, after eating almost exclusively street food for all ten days of our stay in the capital, we did not get sick once. Grab a Tlayuda for around U.S.$1.00, two tacos for U.S. $0.40 or corn on the cob / fresh fruit for $1.20. Use this comprehensive guide to hunt down the best street food in Mexico City.
*$0.40 – $2.00, depending on food*

 

4. Visit Museums for free

Mexico City is overflowing with culture, and its hundreds of museums and galleries are already cheap compared to Europe of the U.S. However, with some planning you can visit several on their ‘free days’, which make them one of the best free things to do in Mexico City. (Side note: If you don’t happen to visit Mexico City on the day the museum you’d like to visit offers free admission, no worries – the museums in CDMX are all inexpensive, definitely within a Mexico City on a shoestring budget.)

The Palace of Fine Arts (Palacio de las Bellas Artes) features stunning murals from Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orozco and other muralists and is free on Sundays. Eje Central & Avenida Juárez, Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

The City Museum (Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico) displays archeological pieces that show the transformation of the Valley of Mexico from the Aztec capital to what the city is today (mediocre) and temporary art exhibitions (excellent) and is free on Tuesdays. Pino Suarez 30 & Republica de El Salvador, Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

The National Museum of Art (Museo Nacional del Arte) has 33 halls filled with Mexican paintings, sculptures and ceramics dating back to the 16th century and is free on Sundays. Calle Tacuba 8, Tuesday to Sunday: 10:30 am – 5.30 pm.

The Museo Dolores Olmedo in Xochimilco (Av Mexico & Antiguo Camino a Xochimilco) has a very complete once-private art collection (including 25 Frida Kahlo & 137 Diego Rivera pieces), archeological pieces and china from the Far East plus gorgeous gardens with free-roaming peacocks and rare hairless Mexican dogs and is free on Tuesdays. Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

free things to do in Mexico City

Other free museums include:

    • The National Museum of Popular Culture (Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares) in Coyoacan (Avenida Hidalgo). Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
    • The Museo del Instituto Geologico (Jaime Torres Bodet 176), exhibiting fossils and minerals. Monday to Friday: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.
    • Museo de Arte Popular (Revillagigedo 11) exhibits artisan works from cultural groups throughout Mexico. Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 – 5:00 pm.
    • The Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera located in San Angel (Av Altavista & Calle Diego Rivera) was the sometimes-residence of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and displays works, personal belongings and other memorabilia of the famous pair. Free on Sundays, otherwise only U.S. $1. Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.
 

5. Dance to Mariachi Music on Plaza Garibaldi

Dozens of Mariachi bands from several regions of Mexico congregate on Plaza Garibaldi, just north of the ‘Centro Historico’, serenading lovers and providing festive party music for groups who all gather to take part in the Mariachi Madness. For a fee (amount depends on your bargaining skills) a Mariachi band will serenade you personally, but just sitting on the Plaza, taking in the atmosphere and listening to the collective cacophony of Mariachi music is free and really very entertaining. This was one of my favorite free things to do in Mexico City – I returned several times to listen to the mariachi and to people watch.
*free*

free things to do in Mexico City

6. Palacio Nacional

The Palacio Nacional is located on the Eastern side of the Zocalo (the entrance is on its north side, in Calle Moneda) and it is used as a government building. It has been the seat of political power since Aztec times and it is here where on every 15 September, the President rings the ‘Liberty Bell’ and shouts the traditional !Viva Mexico! in celebration of Mexico’s independence.The Palacio is famous for its architecture and Diego Rivera’s grand mural “Epic of the Mexican People in Their Struggle for Freedom and Independence” which stretches over three walls in the main staircase, and several other murals. It also houses the National Garden (and a large number of cats!) which can be visited as well.
*free, bring your passport for entry*

7. Parque Chapultepec

The capital’s largest park doesn’t cost a penny and will keep you busy for hours. It spreads out over 1,800 acres (7.3 km2) and features several lakes, some of which rent rowing boats or kayaks, or just sit on the side and feed the hungry fish (fish food available around the lake). For your own hungry belly, there are food vendors galore throughout the park, so grab some popcorn, chips or elote and make your way to visit Diego Rivera’s famous fountain – ‘Fuente de Tlaloc’ or the Botanic Garden.
*free*

Mexico City on a shoestring

Close to the Anthropology Museum (extraordinary anthropology museum exploring all major cultures from Tolmecs to modern-day Mexico (MXN80 / US$3.70), check out the Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers), a ceremony in which four dancers launch themselves off a 30 meter pole on ropes in their traditional clothes, while a fifth dancer stays on top of the pole and leads the other four by playing a flute – great fun to watch, and one of the best free things to do in Mexico City.
*free*

free things to do in Mexico City

8. The Zoo in Chapultepec Park

Mexico City has a free zoo, located right in its most popular park. There are several ticketed sections, such as the insect house, but the main free parts offer a selection of animals as big as any other major free zoo, housing more than 250 animal species including panda bears, giraffes, seals, monkeys, polar bears, hippopotamus, jaguars and elephants. The zoo is open daily from 9.00am – 4.30pm. and particularly of interest for families visiting Mexico City on a shoestring.

Tip: If at all possible, avoid a weekend visit as Mexicans flood the park and overcrowd the zoo.
*free*

9. A stroll through Polanco

A visit to Polanco will show you a completely different side of Mexico City. Located west of the Zona Rosa, it can be combined with a stroll down the Paseo de la Reforma or a visit to Parque Chapultapec which lays to its south.

Polanco is Mexico’s luxury area, where its well-heeled inhabitents reside. Off the tourist track, Audis, BMWs and Lexus SUVs line the streets along with designer stores (including an Apple store), Starbucks and various high-class restaurants on and around Presidente Masaryk. Parque America and Parque Lincoln are small, very clean parks with interesting art sculptures, and Polanco is one of the few places in Mexico City where joggers, dog-walkers and even rollerbladers have the space and well-paved streets to enjoy a run/walk/blade in relative peace and quiet.

The architecture in the area is very different to the rest of the city, with well-designed two story ‘suburban’ homes, and the area is also much less polluted, congested and boisterous.
*free / 10 Pesos for a return trip on the Metro*

10. Visit Coyoacán

Coyoacán is the oldest part of Mexico City, and is well-known as Frida Kahlo’s ‘hometown’. Her Casa Azul is now a museum which houses the art and personal effects of both Frida and her muralist husband, Diego Rivera. The Casa Azul runs at MXN246/ US$11.50, and any Frida fan should not miss this mecca of one of Mexico’s most passionate female painters, even though the steep admission isn’t quite a Mexico City on a shoestring item. Make sure to book your tickets online to avoid long lines or no available slots when you get there.

A visit to Coyoacán is a peaceful pleasure, with quiet squares, churches, cobble-stone streets, parks, a clean, bright indoor market and great shopping and restaurants for a range of budgets. Artists, hippies and bohemians alike have been attracted to this area since the 1960s and 1970s and today Coyoacán is said to be one of the cultural centers of the capital. The Guardian has an excellent guide to Coyoacan beyond Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul.

The easiest way to get to Coyoacán is by Metro (Line 3, get off at Coyoacán or Viveros)
*10 Pesos for a return trip on the Metro*

 


Have you visited Mexico City on a shoestring? Feel free to add your tips in the comments below!

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: Chill Out Flat B&B in Mexico City

hotel tip of the week

You never know which small detail you ignore in the middle of a stressful day that will become an issue later.

Our backpacks were heavy and getting heavier by the minute as we walked back and forth along one block of Mexico City’s fabulously restored Centro Historico. According to the address and the map, the Chill Out Flat B&B had to be there somewhere, but where would the cozy little bed and breakfast we saw online be hiding amongst some of Mexico’s grandest historical buildings, we wondered.

Mexico City Centro HistoricoA female security guard in front of what appeared to be an office building watched us pass by, but gave me a knowing look when I caught her eye. When we wandered by a second time a few minutes later, I climbed the steps to ask her what I thought was a ridiculous question, about a little hotel. Before a word left my mouth she smiled and said in her Spanish accent – Chillout?

Why yes, yes, we are looking for the Chillout, we said happily. This way, she said, pointing us to the elevator in the back of the building. 1st floor.

It was then that a few words on a screen buried deep in my memory wiggled its way into my mind. Ah…yes…complicated directions in the confirmation email. I meant to have those up on my iPhone.

The building itself is a six-story building, with apartments and businesses spread throughout. Once we arrived on the first floor, we entered a patio surrounded by closed, private apartment doors. Sure this had to be wrong or the start of some strange adventure, one quick glance to the right down a short hallway revealed a sign, in colorful stick-on block letters: CHILL OUT FLAT B&B. Seconds later we were embraced by a ray of sunshine, Eloisa, who owns and operates the place with her partner David.

Despite being in the middle of cleaning, a mop in her gloved hands, she couldn’t have been more friendly as she led us into the apartment and chatted for a few minutes before rushing off to make our room ready.

If the Chill Out felt as comfortable as staying in a private home, it’s because that is essentially what it is. David’s mother bought the apartment years before the city center’s renovations, against warnings from friends and family about what was then an undesirable neighborhood. Thanks to her foresight, twenty five years later, she has let David and Eloisa run the B&Bl while she lives in a much more comfortable spot in Mexico City’s high-end suburbs. The living room is comfortable with two small couches around a coffee table filled with guide books, maps, flyers and pamphlets, plus a TV, DVD player and computer with internet access in the corner. The fully-stocked kitchen is available 24 hours a day to guests, so we immediately made ourselves each a cup of green tea and set about planning our afternoon in Mexico City while we waited for our room to get ready. Within minutes, the Chillout felt like home.

Mexico City Chill Out Flat B&BWe don’t meet David until later that evening, when we are busy writing and working at one of the kitchen tables. He popped over from the apartment across the hall where they now live. David could not be more friendly, and we talked travel for ages. A flight attendant for a few years, including the first year or so when he launched the bed and breakfast, David finally quit serving drinks at 35,000 feet when the B&B took off – thanks, in part, to the hundreds of five star reviews on Tripadvisor. Today, they have taken their success to the second floor of the same building, where they have opened a Chillout Yoga Studio.

There are six rooms here, so the feeling is incredibly intimate. Ours is outside the main apartment, with a separate entrance. The en-suite room is small and simple. Immaculately clean with a comfortable Queen bed, a bedside table and lamp, dresser and colorful Mexican paintings on the wall. It could be a room in anyone’s house, except that extra bit more comfortable which, along with warm, fuzzy towels and organic toiletries make it a quality bed and breakfast.

Mexico City Chill Out Flat B&B roomStand Out Feature: Community in the Kitchen

Every morning from Monday to Saturday, Eloisa prepares a full Mexican breakfast for guests. Unfortunately we are only there on Sunday, but in a way this gave us some great insight. Even on her one day off, the kitchen is fully stocked with homemade yogurt, fresh fruit, breads and jams, coffee, tea, a kettle, water and other little snacks available until 10pm. The kitchen is roomy, with three tables and unlike other B&Bs where the kitchen feels off-limits, the sense of community feels almost like a hostel, though the cleanliness, quality and privacy are definitely several levels up from that.

Stand Out Feature: Location

Normally we try to avoid choosing a feature that owners have so little control over, but it would be a mistake not to at least emphasize how incredible the location of the Chill Out Flat B&B is. A ten minute walk from the Zocalo, and we can see the Palacio de Bellas Artes from the window. After a few hours of exploring the city center, we hopped back upstairs and just had a quick lie down, maybe 30 minutes or so, before heading back out to find the famous Mexico City bakery and have a drink at a popular nearby restaurant. Later that night, when Dani ran out to get us tickets for the airport bus in the morning, she left the hotel and was immediately engulfed in a street festival. At 6am the next morning we snuck out and walked five minutes to the airport bus. Staying at the Chillout is like having an extremely well-connected friend with a coveted downtown apartment.

 

Room for Improvement: Being picky – Sticky locks

Magnified by being placed in this section, the issue of the lock is a small detail, it is just the only issue we had, so it bears mention here. The lock to the main apartment is old, sticky and complicated to open. We came in and out often and early, and felt we had to rattle, bang and scrape at the lock too much, once or twice feeling like we actually wouldn’t get in on our own and worrying at the same time about waking up the other guests. Although the whole experience is very personal and homey, nice, new industrial keys and locks would be a final little touch bringing the Chill Out to perfection.

 

Mexico City Chill Out Flat B&B

Update 2020: The Chillout Flat B&B has permanently closed.

Overall

A stay at Chillout Flat B&B is an intimate, personal experience unlike any other in Mexico City, a perfect combination of friendliness, quality and location at a completely fair price. The only thing you have to worry about is reading those directions in the confirmation email carefully. David and Eloisa take care of the rest for you.

Location: Bolivar #8, Apto #102, Centro Historico, C.P.06000 Mexico D.F.
Price: Starting at $90.00 for a double room / $63.00 for a single room; breakfast included.
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Great wi-fi connection and work space in the communal kitchen
Amenities: Free wi-fi, complimentary breakfast, excellent location in the Centro Historico

 

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Our Top 5 Favorite Destinations of 2012

buenos aires plaza de mayo

What a year! we really outdid ourselves in 2012, traveling to India, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, the U.S., Mexico, Costa Rica, Buenos Aires and now Santiago de Chile. We are putting together lists of our ‘top five favorites’ to help you with some inspiration for where to go in 2013. Earlier this month we looked back at our favorite beaches of 2012and now our favorite overall destinations of the year. We hope you get some ideas for your own travels. As always, we are happy to answer any questions in the comments about your trip planning for 2013.

5. Arenal, Costa Rica

I thought we knew Costa Rica up and down, except for the Osa Peninsula, which is a truly off-the-grid adventure deserving of its own dedicated trip.  That’s why, after our housesit on a small Costa Rican beach this year, we didn’t plan to travel much. We slipped in a short stint at one of our favorite nearby beaches, Samara, and headed to La Fortuna to see Arenal Volcano, which neither of us had been to yet. In a rare move for Central American travel, we rented a car and drove from the Pacific coast,through national parks and jungles, curved and swiveled around Lake Arenal and arrived in town, thinking the gorgeous ride would be the highlight of our stay. We couldn’t have been more wrong. We love everything about the set up in Arenal. Even though it hasn’t erupted in years, the volcano is an imposing figure you can’t miss from anywhere in town. At a certain point on the road out of town, practically every hotel has hot springs and we spent a day at the best choice of them all, Tabacon Grand Spa. There are massive waterfalls and a full range of day hikes around the volcano, depending on your level of fitness. Restaurants in town are overpriced tourist traps, but we opted to eat in the typical Costa Rican ‘sodas’ which offer great value for money and the healthiest option in town, a vegetarian casado.
Arenal La Fortuna Costa Rica

4. Kampot, Cambodia

This little city is not the first place you’ll hear about in Cambodia – that would be the ancient kingdom of Angkor Wat outside of Siem Reap. You would probably also hear about Phnom Penh, the country’s capital and the beautiful coastline of the Sihanoukville area (which we named one of the Top 5 favorite beaches we visited year). Somewhere further down the list is the sleepy city of Kampot, famous for its production of both salt and pepper. Kampot Pepper is served on the table of the finest restaurants in Paris, we were told on a day tour which brought us out to the salt fields, the pepper fields, a fishing village,and a gorgeous hike in the countryside. Everything in this quiet, riverside town is accessible by bicycle and the restaurant scene is surprisingly developed – we had easily the best coffee of our time in Cambodia right here in Kampot.
Kampot Cambodia

3. Mexico City, Mexico

We have spent quality time in Mexico City before, including two weeks in 2010, but there is a specific reason why it makes our list tin 2012. Mexico City has what only the greatest of all cities have, and that is the ability to be all things to all people and yet completely different with every single visit. We returned to Mexico City in August for a long weekend and managed to pound the pavement for hours on end and not retrace our old stomping grounds and favorite spots from our trip in 2010. We spent one day at an art market in San Angel, another in the suburb of Ciudad Satélite, where we stayed at the beautiful Casa Roa Bed & Breakfast,and another on a walking tour of the San Rafael neighborhood. Two months later, we ended up back in the city during a 12 hour layover, so with limited time we headed straight to the Centro Historico and scarfed down our favorite tacos on Calle Uruguay and hit up Dani’s favorite La Ideal bakery for some fresh pastries. As we walked through the streets back to the modern, efficient airport bus that evening, we couldn’t help but notice the smiles. For being such a big city in a country with such a dangerous reputation, the capital is packed with families, lovers, artists, businessmen and women, police, protestors, market vendors and tourists all going about their days and we loved every chance we had this year of dipping into Mexico City life.
Mexico City

2. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Popular with tourists and expats of all kinds, this northern Thai city has the magical ability to make its visitors adapt to its pace and style, which is a far cry from buzzing, booming Bangkok. Both within the brick square mile of its more touristy city walls and out into the more local neighborhoods, Chiang Mai incorporates all the things we love about Thailand without most of the mess we disliked in the capital and down on some of the overrun islands. For example, the city is practically littered with ornate, peaceful Buddhist temples and monks in their orange robes constantly sweep past on motorbikes and bicycles, in tuk tuks and on foot, always with a smile that feels both insanely exotic and totally normal at the same time. And yet, Chiang Mai is also stocked with modern coffee shops, really fun walking markets, super fast internet, fashionable locals and online entrepreneeurs from all walks of life. Most of all, we ate like Kings in Chiang Mai. Organic, healthy food at under $4 a meal, fruit smoothies for under a dollar…yes, we most definitely miss Chiang Mai…
Chiang Mai Thailand

1. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires takes the top spot by a landslide, miles beyond anywhere else we visited this year. If you remember, I wasn’t even that impressed with the city when we landed there in November, as it reminded me of anywhere I’d already loved in Europe – Lisbon, Barcelona, Paris. So, it may have taken a little while for Buenos Aires to win us over. It didn’t do so overwhelmingly, or all at once. Instead, it seeped in slowly…the romance, the food, the culture, the architecture, the street art, the hot-blooded protestors, the complicated history and complex politics of ‘isms’ and ‘ists’, the dinners at 11pm, even (and I swore I wouldn’t say this, but I am) the accent that makes ‘playa’ into ‘plaisha’, the rolling Italian speech rythyms and the hand gestures to match. The city isn’t perfect, with garbage on the streets, corrupt politicians, and rates of inflation we’ll never understand, but that only adds to the intrigue. Loving Buenos Aires was unexpected, but knowing it exists settles our wandering souls just a bit. Buenos Aires is our number one pick because it is the only place we say that you really have to go, a place where you could spend a year and not scratch the surface. It is definitely the city we visited in 2012 we could see ourselves returning to multiple times throughout our lives.
buenos aires argentina

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Polaroid of the week: Aztec performer on Mexico City’s Zocalo

polaroidoftheweekphoto11

polaroid of the week mexico city aztec performerWhen we visited Mexico City the first time in 2010, we spent nearly two weeks exploring all the major tourist sights the city has to offer. On our second visit this month, we stayed away from all the tourist sites and explored lesser known neighborhoods like San Angel and San Rafael instead. For our last day, however, we decided to return to Mexico City’s main plaza, the Zocalo, for some people watching and for some Tlayudas – a Mexican street food we had discovered on our first visit.

Returning to the Zocalo felt as if we had never left. We remembered how we used to watch the Soccer World Cup on a big screen with thousands of Mexicans, and how we gazed in awe at the Aztec dancers who are performing their dances here on the weekends. Mexico City is built on the grounds of the Aztec’s empire former capital Tenochitlan, and its main temple, the Templo Mayor, sat right where Mexico City’s Zocalo is today. The dancers recreate ancient ceremonies and the Aztec Dance (La Danza Azteca), performing in traditional dresses using long feathered headdresses and leather skirts. Music is played on drums, flutes and rain sticks, and little bells on their ankles jingle while the dancers move. The dancers also perform spiritual rituals with incents and herbs to remove bad spirits from people in the audience, worshipping their ancestors and keeping the spirit of the Aztecs alive – a big spectacle for Mexicans and foreigners alike.

 
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