Teotihuacan, Mexico

We took a day trip from Mexico City to visit the archaeological site of Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city believed to have been established around 100 BC (well before the Aztecs). It was the largest city in the Americas at its peak with an estimated population of more than 125,000. Today, it is the most visited site in Mexico and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Trying to capture the size of Teotihuacan’s 83 square kilometres. View from the Pyramid of the Moon of the Pyramid of the Sun (left) and the Avenue of the Dead.

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At the entrance:)

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View of the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Moon.

 

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Walking on the Avenue of the Dead heading towards the Pyramid of the Moon. The Avenue was once lined with ceremonial platforms topped with temples.

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The temple of Quetzalcoatl in the Ciudadela (enclosed compound that could hold 100,000 people) which was likely the city’s marketplace.

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Looking up at the Pyramid of the Sun, the third largest pyramid in the world after the Great Pyramid of Cholula (in Puebla, Mexico) and the Great Pyramid of Giza (in El Giza, Egypt).

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There were a lot of steps to climb!

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Proof we climbed the Pyramid of the Sun:)

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Close up of the Pyramid of the Moon. The upper portion is closed to visitors.

 

 

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We were fortunate to share our visit to Teotihuacan with our friends in Mexico. Our children and we were grateful for their friendship and company during our whole visit in Mexico.

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The reward after hours of walking and climbing:)

Visitors can easily visit the archaeological site on their own but we chose to hire a personal tour guide. One of the things we have learned in our travels is that sometimes a tour guide is worth the cost as it helps you get more out of a visit then you could on your own. This was true for our visit to Teotihuacan. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and made the history of Teotihuacan even more fascinating.

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Mexico City, Mexico – Highlights

If it wasn’t clear in my first post, Mexico City has a lot to offer. Here are some of the highlights from our first four days. A highlight that is obviously missing will be the food. My apologies, I was too busy eating to take photos;) Enjoy!

Museo Nacional de Antropologia (Museum of Anthropology)

I think we have declared this to be the best museum we have ever visited. The museum’s collection and method of displaying its archaeological artifacts provided an impressive interpretation of the anthropological history of the area upon which Mexico is founded. An aspect I particularly loved was the life size outdoor exhibits where visitors could walk within the exhibit.

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One of the impressive outdoor exhibits.

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The interior courtyard of the museum surrounded by exhibition halls.

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The single pillar that supports the large concrete “umbrella” in the central courtyard.

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The most famous artifact in the museum’s collection is this original Aztec Sunstone.

Museo del Templo Mayor

Templo Mayor is an incredible active archaeological site in the very centre of Mexico City of one of the main temples of the Aztecs. Construction of the first temple likely  began sometime after 1325. Mexican pyramids were expanded by building on top of the pre-existing one. Templo Mayor went through six more expansions.

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An active archaeological site surrounded by the architecture of the Spanish colonial city that was built from the destruction of this Aztec temple.

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It appears the temple had the means to channel water.

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The archaeological site also has an informative museum where we learned about the use of colour by the Aztecs and were presented with the idea of how some of the objects may have looked like during their contemporary times.

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Wall of stone skulls. Aztecs were big on human sacrifice.

Palacio Nacional

Even though the Palacio Nacional no longer houses viceroys or presidents, it still houses many governmental offices. The main reason for visiting here is to see the famous Diego Rivera murals depicting Mexico’s history and identity.

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The royal chapel.

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The many arches of the interior patios of the palace.

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Looking up at Diego Rivera’s mural “the Conquest” in the main stairwell.

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Looking at the left panel of the main mural.

 

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One of 11 panels Rivera painted on the middle floor. Note how he painted the Spanish.

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My boys in front of another mural:)

 

Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe

The Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe is a Roman Catholic church, a basilica and a national shrine of Mexico rolled into one. It was apparently built on the site where Our Lady of Guadalupe (Blessed Virgin Mary) appeared to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. Pilgrimages have been made to this shrine almost uninterrupted since 1531.

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The old basilica.

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Inside the old basilica.

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Old basilica with its gold dome on the left. New basilica with its blue dome on the right.

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Parade of offers to the lady.

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A photo op can be had atop one of these majestic mounts against the incredible background:)

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Steps leading up and down from the shrine.

Xochimilco

Xochimilco is a borough in Mexico City recognised as a World Heritage Site due to its famous canals and chinampas (artificial islands). They are what remains of what was once a vast lake and canal system during the pre-Hispanic period.

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The many boats waiting to take visitors through Xochimilco’s famous canals. 

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A boat peddler selling blankets and ponchos.

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One of the canals with chinampas on either side.

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This one is for sale and if you’re lucky it will come with these three fierce watchdogs;)

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Mariachi bands ply their services in the canals. For 100 pesos you can have a band play you a song.

Frida Kahlo Museum (The Blue House or La Casa Azul)

La Casa Azul was the birthplace and home of the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It is also where she died and her ashes rest. After the death of her husband Diego Rivera, La Casa Azul became a museum in honour of Frida Kahlo. It houses works of art from Kahlo, Rivera and other artists along with Kahlo’s personal items. Despite the hefty admission fee (200 pesos per person) and the long line to get it in (usually about an hour), it is worth a visit.

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The entrance to La Casa Azul with its famous cobalt blue walls. Frida Kahlo left instructions on how to create this exact shade of blue.

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The line of people waiting to get in against the backdrop of the blue wall.

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A little photo session against the stunning blue wall while we waited in line:)

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Looking up to Kahlo’s studio space from the interior courtyard.

Coyoacan

Coyoacan is another one of Mexico City’s 16 boroughs. It has a charming atmosphere that exudes a peaceful bohemian vibe. It’s well worth a visit and would be a great place to station for an extended stay. There doesn’t seem to be any hotels in Coyoacan but B and B’s and vacation rentals appear to be plentiful.

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Side view of the Parish of San Juan Bautista from one of Coyoacan’s twin plazas. 

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One of Coyoacan’s many small cobblestoned streets.

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A lovely church in one of Coyoacan’s many small plazas.

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Stealing a kiss from Frida Kahlo despite Diego Rivera’s presence;)

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Another one of Coyoacan’s streets.

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One of many schools or museums that one can simply walk in and have a rest in its gardens. This one even offered free coffee as they believed that “if there’s coffee for one there should be coffee for all”:)

Phew as you can see we managed to really get around Mexico City and see alot during our few days there! We even managed a day trip out of the city to see the great pyramids of Teotihuacan. Coming up next!

Mexico City, Mexico – Impressions

In our travels, there have been places that have failed to live up to their reputation as a travel destination and then there are those that have surprised us that more people haven’t travelled there. Mexico City is one of those places. When there is little first hand accounts (other than that of the travel book writers) we end up travelling to a new city and a new country with preconceived notions of what that place is like. So it may be surprising to you that Mexico, specifically Mexico City is not a dangerous place infested with drug cartels and dragged down by the desperation of poverty. Mexico City as I see it is a city that is misunderstood (or at least carries an outdated reputation). Don’t get me wrong, Mexico City has its share of poverty and crime but you (or Trump) may be surprised to know that the US has eight times more total crimes than Mexico and specifically six times more violent crimes (source).

The reality is… Mexico City is a city that prides itself on its grand architectural and cultural history. It is a city that celebrates art of all forms. It is a city with possibly more impressive galleries and museums than any other city in the world. It is a city with a myriad of culinary flavours that can cater to anyone who loves food. And who doesn’t?! It is a city that offers warm hospitality whether you speak Spanish or embarrassingly little. Here is the Mexico City we saw.

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View from our hotel room overlooking the Zocalo (main square or Plaza de la Constitución) on the right with its giant flag of Mexico, the Mexican City Metropolitan Cathedral on the left and Palacio Nacional (National Palace) across. Unfortunately not much of the 240 m X 240 m Zocalo can be seen due to a combination of tents set up for a festival and the ongoing restoration of the 700 year old square.

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A street in the historical centre.

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A street festooned with flags.

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Excellent public photography exhibit that sends a powerful message about the beauty of nature and the negative ways humans impact nature. This was found along one of the main roads – Paseo de la Reforma.

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Also along Paseo de la Reforma, located in the median strip, is a series of bell sculptures that can be rung in various ways (including this one by swinging). It’s perfect for keeping tired kids going.

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Artistic expression of green wall found in the historical centre.

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A Diego Rivera mural found on a random wall in the city. Do you see Frida Kahlo?

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From Diego Rivera to this street art from an artist unknown to me, Mexico City is overflowing with art.

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Another exceptional mural made by one of the talented street artists of Mexico City.

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From visual art to performance art. We came across this ritual and celebration of Aztec music and dance in an area that was considered the centre of the universe by the Aztecs.

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Incredible costumes of the performers.

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Including painting the face.

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Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). One of the “newer” architectural beauties in the city having been constructed in the 1930’s. It hosts art events of all forms.

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One of the doorways to the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. It is the largest cathedral in the Americas. Construction began in 1573 with the last section constructed in 1813.

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Chapultepec Park looking up towards Chapultepec Castle.

 

 

 

 

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One of the food markets in the city.

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An incredible bakery in the city. There’s practically a bakery on every block.

Next up on the blog is going to be some of the highlights from what we got up to in 4 days in Mexico City!

Travel Day – Mexico!

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Photo credit: https://www.mexperience.com/lifestyle/mexico-essentials/getting-to-mexico/

Here we go again! It seems so long since we’ve had a travel day! Of course we’re doing Mexico the C-family way. Unlike many Canadians, we won’t be headed to places like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco. Instead we’re hitting up Mexico City and travelling around the Veracruz region staying at a field station in the Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve. A little tree counting, a little monkey hunting and a whole lot of Mexican food and culture coming your way!