Thursday, 4 October 2012

How I unexpectedly adored Mexico City


I have to confess: I wasn't expecting to like Mexico City much. I know it isn't in any way fair, but for me one big city tends to look like another big city - there's always plenty in do in the way of museums, eating out and symbols of national identity, but at the same time they are busy, noisy and very urban. I think perhaps it comes from living right next to a huge city myself.


So my hopes weren't too high as we stepped off the bus after a night travelling from Palenque during which the bus had been hit with wind and rain for hours. We pulled into the huge, bustling bus station, tired and still a little damp from the torrential downpour in the jungle town, but with a few helpful directions, an incredibly easy and beautiful metro system (seriously - the cosmos decoration in one station with the ceiling lit with constellations was the most incredible I've ever seen) and a nice hotel at the end, the city was already starting to win me over.


The central square is especially lovely - framed on all sides by stunning architecture, the cathedral and palace, it hosts a whole range of events and was never empty of diversions. Every afternoon Aztec dancers spent hours pounding the stone to the drum beat, blessing locals bringing offerings with thick incense, their bodies vividly painted in a rainbow of colours. Their position, right next to the cathedral, reflected the religious acceptance we'd noticed throughout Central America, as those coming in and out of the cathedral weaved through those waiting in line for an Aztec blessing. Walking through the maze of streets extending from the historic centre revealed more interesting buildings and architecture, alongside lots of restaurants, cafes and bars to wile away hours.


We visited the palace with its famous painted murals depicting Mexico's history (and were told off for accidentally taking a picture in a no photography area - whoops!) and tried not to disturb a mass in the cathedral. Unfortunately, we forgot about the altitude revelling in the cooler temperatures, and ended up with a distinct red glow to our faces after the first day...


The most impressive attraction was definitely the Aztec museum just off the central square, combining exposed outdoor ruins with a fantastic exhibit inside. It was a superb museum - not so packed that it became overwhelming, but still full of great displays, and just the right amount of information attached.


After a packed trip through Central America, it was also nice just to relax and unwind before the long journey home, and with a lovely hotel, it was the ideal location to stop for a few days. As for the reported problems in Mexico City, we were fortunate and didn't run into any issues, although it was interesting to see the streets completely cleared by around 10pm and the atmosphere changing dramatically. As with any other big city, a bit of common sense and following your instincts are the best protection.

There was just one more site on our list though, just a bus journey away from the city, that we were determined to see...

 

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