Published: April 9th 2010December 23rd 2009
Dec 21, 2009
As usual, we had a very early flight for our trip from Cancun to Mexico City. I was excited because I have always wanted to go to Mexico City, a place where some of family has spent a lot of time. However, both of us knew that this was our last stop on our trip, so we were both sad that the end came so quickly.
The one big thing we wanted to see was the great pyramids, and if we had time - go to the Anthropology museum. Our plane arrived around 9:00 AM and we made it to our downtown hotel around 11:00.
I was able to get some information on the pyramid tour from the hotel across the street and found it was too late to go that day. We scheduled the tour for the next day. Unfortunately, the museums were closed on Mondays, so we had the whole day to explore the city. The hotel gave us a map and recommended a good restaurant so we decided to head out.
Not having a guide, we used the hotel’s map to work our way to Mexico’s grand plaza, one of the
largest in the world and Latin America. Our first sight was the impressive Palacio de Bellas Artes (royal palace). Near the palace was Café de Tacuba, the recommendation from the hotel. It was probably the best authentic, high class, and original Mexican food you could find in Mexico City. The prices were not bad and the food was fantastic.
After eating we headed to some more plazas before reaching the main plaza with the National Cathedral and National Palace. There was a huge festival with Native American dances and craft markets. Also, we were very surprised to see a winter wonderland setup in the main square. There was an ice skating rink, snowmobile course, and an arena for snowball fights…in the middle of Mexico City. It really wasn’t that hard to believe for us because we were used to tropical weather and Mexico City was cold. It was the most northern place we went in the Northern Hemisphere and it is relatively high in altitude. The National Cathedral was very impressive, but it was under a lot of construction, so we didn’t get very good pictures.
After the plaza, we got some Latin American Helados (ice cream) which
was very good. The Italians and the Latinos know their ice cream. They are huge fans; even in cold locations in southern Argentina, they love helados. This was my birthday, so that's what I really wanted. Rumi felt bad (she shouldn't have!)about not having a present, but the awesome present she had for me was stolen in her pack in Potosi, Bolivia.
On the way back, we saw gigantic Christmas trees with Mexican poinsettias. We walked through a street market and saw elaborate Christmas floats/scenes where kids can get their pictures taken with Santa, Snow White, and even the Simpsons.
Before heading home, we stopped at a very touristy market that had some great prices for Christmas gifts. We decided to wait until what we might find near the pyramids the next day. We ended up eating dinner at the hotel because it was late and got ready for our tour the next day.
We had planned on making my birthday the Pyramid Day, but because we were in transit, we would celebrate that the next day! Regardless, Rumi took me all around Mexico City and we had a relaxed and wonderful day...Thanks Rumi for an awesome...Twenty
- ...Fourth ..um 27th birthday!
Dec 22, 2009
We got up early and had a good breakfast at the hotel before meeting our tour across the street. Being the only people in the van, the driver said they were going to another location to meet others. The only other people were a family from Belgium/Mexico. I could tell the tour guides were disappointed by the small amount of tourists (I guess the economy is to blame).
The first stop of the tour was the Plaza de las Tres Culturas (Plaza of three cultures). It was a really interesting place right in the middle of Mexico City. The inner plaza was dug up to reveal ancient ruins (called Aztec). The ruins were surrounded by a grand Colonial period church built from stone from the old city of the Aztecs. Surrounding the Colonial structure and the Aztec ruins are modern condominiums. Really interesting contrast… Modern day Mexico City was built on top of the indigenous “Aztec” city. The Aztec city was built on top of a lake, hence the reason for Mexico City to have a major problem of sinking. A lot of the colonial structures robbed the stone
of the Aztec city. Apparently, almost anywhere one digs in the city, they would find ruins or water.
Next we stopped at the Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe. This was a very good surprise. I was embarrassed to not know the significance of the religious site. When the Spaniards came to the area around 1530, they brought their faith, Christianity, and more specifically Catholicism. The native people did not understand the religion until a famous event took place - Juan Diego, a local native had a vision of a woman claiming to be the mother of God’s son. The woman had told Diego to build a church in the spot he was standing. The local did not know who she was, but told the Spaniards of his vision. The other locals and the Spaniards all claimed he was crazy. Juan Diego received another vision of the woman. He told her that he needed some proof of her existence because no one believed him. The woman told Diego to go to a certain desert mountain and bring back roses to the Spaniards. Diego replied saying there were no roses in Mexico and there was no plant life on the
mountain. Regardless, Diego went to the mountain and found hundreds of roses, a flower that was not native to Mexico. The woman appeared and told Diego to wrap the flowers in his colorless poncho and not to open the poncho until he reached the Spaniards. When Diego opened the poncho, there was a beautiful painting of the Virgin Mary, a perfect rendition impossible for an indigenous person to have seen previously. The Spaniards and the native people claimed it to be a miracle and built the church on that spot.
The original church is still standing, however, because of Mexico City’s structural problems, it is also sinking. U.S. engineers have been undergoing a massive project to stop the sinking and convert the church into a museum. A modern church was built beside it and it actually contains the real poncho from Diego. Very cool.
We also learned about Mexico’s relationship with Pope John Paul II. Born in Poland, he visited Mexico twice as much as his birthplace during his time as Pope. He had a very special relationship with the 90 million Mexican Catholics, 90% of the population.
Mexico is a very religious nation, so it’s surprising
to hear that the country legalizes abortion in the first trimester, gay marriage, and small amounts of marijuana.
**** tour continued to Teotihuacan (see blog before) *****
Dec 23, 2009
Our flights were around 3:00PM, so we thought we could see the famous Anthropology museum in the morning. The museum definitely deserves more time than the two hours we had, but it was the only time we could have gone. It was definitely world-class; the major attraction is the gigantic Aztec calendar. I liked the entrance with a strong pillar holding up a huge square concrete umbrella covering the complex. It doesn’t look structurally sound, but I’m sure its ok. We saw some prehistoric wildlife that was hunted off by the first hunters and gatherers who inhabited the area first. Different halls possessed artifacts and stories of each time period and ancient people in Mexico. We found the scenery and information interesting, but we found some conflicting info from what our guides told us…We are almost more confused now, but conclude that there is a lot of theory based on stories and little remaining evidence. Without a doubt, the ancient civilizations where very advanced in construction,
astronomy, technology, etc.
After our rapid tour, we quickly got a taxi back to our hotel for our departure. We got to the airport and discovered our terminals were separated by 30+min wait/bus ride. We also had to do pay a Customs departure tax before we could get our boarding pass. Rumi got checked in and decided she had enough time to get me to my terminal. I was getting worried because of the time-consuming unexpected events, but my flight ended up being delayed for almost two hours.
I got checked in and Rumi had to leave. It was not a fun moment. It was not the best circumstances to separate after a three month trip and I was worried because she had to go all the way back to her terminal, go through security, and catch her plane.
Having been delayed, I then began to worry that I wouldn’t make my connecting flight home. Stuck in Texas for Christmas Eve :(! The first flight was very eventful - the weather was horrible, and we dropped in altitude enough to scare everyone on the plane. As we were descending a sketchy old man in a trench
coat got up and started wavering around towards the back. Flight attendants got in a shouting match and everyone on the plane was edging on the seats to pounce on the suspected terrorist …Welcome back to the US!
Everyone was on edge for fear of making their connecting flight, so it was a mad dash to clear customs, and move to the next gate. My other flight was delayed, so I had no problems getting on my next flight. The last flight was uneventful and we arrived a little behind schedule. It was very nice to see the family and I got a phone call from Rumi saying she was back in Canada safe as well.
The trip was fast-paced, expensive, and exhausting at times, but it was an awesome experience. We were hooked on traveling before, but now we both cannot wait for our next traveling adventure. From speaking to other travelers, South America is one of the hardest places to travel for backpackers. We experienced some challenges, but also had great experiences and saw some very rare places. The people were a mixture of unwelcoming and the most generous-nice people one could encounter. Its
hard to describe a favorite place, but our time on Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, was fantastic (except when the horse tried to kill me), so that may have been our favorite.
Some highlights were:
1. watching Rumi improvise with communication in Santiago
2. running in Viña del Mar as Rumi was chased by dogs
3. having the Moais to ourselves in Rapa Nui
4. a wine tour in Mendoza, eating chocolate in Bariloche
5. low-crawling to view pinguinos in their natural habitat
6. playing with the sled dogs in the End of the World
7. Tango in Buenos Aires
8. getting soaked at Iguazu Falls
9. walking up to Christ the Redeemer in the clouds
10. being the only tourists in the odd city of Brasilia
11. a crazy bus ride to Sucre
12. getting a taste of the hard life of a Potosi miner
13. chasing a Rea (ostrich-like bird) on the Salar de Uyuni
14. mountain biking the Atacama desert
15. watching dogs pee on beach dwellers in Arica, Chile
16. eating ethnic food in the breathtaking (literally) La Paz
17. reminding Rumi of Japanese tango while on Titikaka
18. Watching an Incan lady butcher a llama
on our bus in Cusco
19. Trying to figure out the best way to Machu Picchu
20. Climbing Waynu Picchu with a view of Machu Picchu
21. Taking a 40-hour bus ride to a remote Mancora beach
22. Sneaking across the Ecuadorian border
23. Touring the Salt Cathedral in Zipa
24. Playing in the mud volcano in Cartagena
25. Partying on the Chiva bus with Panama Hats and Sloths
26. Seeing Rumi get attacked by Panama’s Crazy Linda (dog)
27. Ziplining through the jungle in Costa Rica
28. Splurging on the Pacific in Tamarindo
29. Coasting through the islands on Lake Nicaragua
30. Volcano boarding in Leon
31. Diving with turtles, Moray Eels, rays, and sharks in Belice
32. A perfect clear night sky with shooting stars on Caye Caulker
33. Sailing to Rendezvous and Tobacco Caye
34. Hearing the Howler Monkeys before sunrise in Tikal
35. Viewing the Mayan Tulum overlooking a fantastic beach
36. Watching a friend get attacked by vendors at Chicken Pizza
37. Getting recharged with energy on the Sun temple
38. Talking about spending Christmas with family/friends and our next travels!
There are more photos below