|Welcome to Mexico City
The famous Zocola in Mexico City
On a three-week trip to Mexico, we actually passed through Mexico City twice before coming back in the final few days of our trip to explore the city in greater detail. Well, apart from the airport and bus station north, in fact in any detail at all.
At first a little apprehensive of attacking a city of 23+ million people - more than the entire population of Australia - we found Mexico City nothing like you imagine. That probably being busy, noisy, poluted and dirty. Yes, it has its elements of that, but overall it is a very modern, well-organised and efficient place. That is of course when Swine Flu isn't on the rampage...
Staying in a nice, but quite bland business hotel, Embassy Suites (www.embassysuitesmexicocity.com) that allowed fairly easy walking access to most of the sights downtown and up towards Condesa and Polanco. Recommend the hotel as it's all suites so plenty of space, fairly cheap by European standards (around 130 euros pn) and a decent breakfast buffet plus 2 hour manager's reception each evening (including an open bar and snacks) is included. It's situated on Paseo de la Reforma, a huge avenue that is part of the spine of Mexico City, running from Alameda Central up to Polanco. It's very business oriented, with the buildings of large international banks, hotels and embassies on both sides, so during the week you can wander in amongst the Mexican businessmen and women who are all smartly dressed and must have the cleanest shoes in the world as there are shoeshine guys all over the streets touting their services (and they seem to do a good trade!).
The main meeting point is the very expansive Plaza de la Constitucion or Zocola, one of the largest city squares/plazas in the world. On one side there is the unmissable (for it's size) Metropolitan Cathedral, a stunning building that compliments the other spread around the square, and even city for that matter. Almeda Central features the Museum of Fine Arts alongside a large park that is full of market vendors selling...well pretty much everything. There was even a busker in there who was clearly out of his mind and was just spinning around and mumbling as his act! On the other side of the park is the Diago Rivera murial gallery featuring a truly magnificient painting the native Mexican did of various characters on a Sunday afternoon in the park next door. Definitely worth seeing and will take 30 minutes or so of just sitting and working out the relevance of everyone in the murial.
Museum of Fine Arts
Hemicilio Benito Jurarex, Alameda Park, Mexico City
As you can probably imagine, Mexico City is huge, so there is no way you are able to walk around most of the places of interest, and catching the metro and street taxis is not recommended for tourists. So we spent some time on the open-top tourist bus that has two routes across the entire city (be sure to take a hat, suncreen and water as it gets hot up there). The first, Historico, takes in most of the attractions around town and then heads up La Reforma and through the parklands to the Museum of Anthrology, the Zoo and into the high-end suburb of Polanco. This is where we jumped off for a coffee and browsed the high-end designer stores, but which are all the same as many other cities around the world.
Part of the business district along Paseo de la Reforma
The Angel of Independence forms the centrepiece of La Reforma
The second tourist bus route, South, takes you into more modern Mexico City and some way out to the national university, stadiums and shopping centres along Avenue Insurgents, considered the longest (and probably busiest!) avenue in the world. This is the part of the city that you get to see if you live there, where there are offices, restaurants, stores and apartment blocks. In saying that, there is also an classic bull-fighting ring and you stop enroute on the return to the city centre in Coyoacan, which is a nice little 'village' and hosts the home of another of Mexico's famous artists, Freida Kohl (excellent painter, not an attractive woman, so Rivera must have been drawn to her by artistic abilties...) If you do both routes, do them on separate days as it makes for a very long day otherwise and you have little opportunity to get off and explore.
You'll read on the other pages about Mexican food, but the capital city didn't offer much different, although we're sure there are loads of good restaurants. As a food bug had set in, meals ended up being much smaller and often room service, although we did have good Italian one night in Condensa. Not being able to catch street taxis, we used a hotel taxi which cost as a fortune (but not our lives) however getting home from Condensa was not easy, so after a wander through the streets, we stopped in another restauarant and asked one of the waitresses to call us a safe taxi, which she did (it was half the price back to the hotel!). Condensa has lots of eating, drinking and dancing establishments as it's Mexico City's openly gay area. Some of the boys don't mind showing their affection on the street either! Most parts are very sleazy at night, but fine during the day, and worth seeing some of the other sites. One thing about Mexico City is the very large police presence on the ground. They are everywhere and have the bizarre procedure of cruising around in their patrol cars with the blue lights flashing. We guess that, along with the pump-action shotguns and body armour, is in part for demonstration of capabilities, part necessity (from we you see on the news). As a tourist, it does add an element of comfort though knowing that a policeman (and a well-equipped one at that) is not too far away should anything go down.
Monument of Cuauhtemoc
The longest avenue in the world - Avenue Insurgents - with a rare brak in traffic
One of the many murals through Mexico City, this one at the World Trade Centre
Mexico City University Olympic Stadium, used in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics
Beautiful Coyoacan, one of Mexico City's southernmost boroughs. It means 'place where they have coyotes'.
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