Mexico. Land of Speedy Gonzales, sombreros, moustaches, cactus plants, tacos, tequila and so much more…
First stop is Mexico City. The capital of Mexico which sits at 2,200m above sea level and is home to over 9m people. It is a sprawling place that, in 1992, was declared the most polluted city on the planet. But, like most things, those pesky Asians can now produce pollution cheaper and quicker so the title is now in China. Even so, things are still bad enough for the government to ban cars driving in Mexico City some days!!! That said, pollution wasn’t apparent. The air smelt fresh, the streets were clean and there were lots of trees doing their best to maintain the status quo. Maybe we were in the wrong (or right) places.
We stayed with Omar and Brenda (siblings) who we found through Couchsurfers.com. In a nutshell Couchsurfers is a website that links travellers to a community of people who allow you to stay in the their houses for free and, if they have time, will show you around their city. The hosts get to meet travelers and help them out (sort of ‘pay it forward for when they might travel). The travelers get to share their experiences and reduce their costs. All very altruistic.
I admit, we were highly skeptical but posted our needs on the site and were quickly invited to stay with 5 different people. Omar and Brenda sounded nice and quickly responded to our questions and so we chose them.
Being over twice their age we quite expected to have to bail if things didn't work out but, as it happens, it was a great fit. Our room was clean with its own bathroom. The location was good. Our hosts were generous and considerate and happily showed us about and we all laughed a lot and got on really. We are looking forward to trying this again and maybe delve deeper into the social groups that it opens up.
|Street life Mexico City|
Anyway. Mexico City is stuffed full of fantastic architecture. Palaces, imposing edifices, stately governmental buildings and huge squares. There’s an enormous park, museums, churches, a cathedral, dozens of cultural locations and places of interest all shouldering the bustling streets full of street hawkers and entertainers and beggars. Just outside of the central downtown area the towering skyscrapers of modern Mexico leap to the sky. Whilst at ground level the urban sprawl still has numerous examples of old style Mexico – bright colours, shuttered windows, crumbling plaster and painted signs boldly stating services in ROCKWELL TYPE. You can ride the subway for 5 pesos for any journey irrespective of length and 'Combi's' (privately ran vans with seats) run routes all over the city for about 4 pesos per journey.
Food is the main pre-occupation of the city. Stalls are squeezed into every nook and cranny and sell fabulous smelling Mexican fare that demands to be eaten. Restaurants and cafes vie for your business and tempt you with three course meals for 70 pesos (under 3 quid). Bakery’s and coffee bars fill the air with pleasant aromas. Highlights for us were the Frida Kahlo Museum (Home of an interesting Mexican artist who was a disabled, libertarian, ahead of her time and had an affair with Trotsky).
The enormous post office which was truly beautiful inside like a giant gilded bird cage, the National Museum housed in the Castillo de Chapultepec in the huge Chapultepec Park, The Anthropology museum full of Aztec history. the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Cathedral and civic buildings in Zocalo Plaza. Seen in the opening sequence of the newest James Bond film where crowds celebrate the Day of the Dead Festival – Bad news if this inspired you – they have no such festival here!!!
|Torture device. Guess how it works|
Mexico City is so much more than we expected. In reality the many other things we saw - Mariachi players, Torture museum (Never knew there were so many ways to torture people), quaint alleys and markets etc. all add up to more than the things we mentioned. Definitely a place to visit.