Mexico City – the holiday bit before our road trip

30 December 2019 – 7 January 2020

Mariachi at Xochimilco floating garden

So the clock has started ticking on our 9 months away in Molly our campervan – well almost. As I write, Molly is tucked in among enormous trucks and tractors on a ro ro ship sitting just outside the port of Veracruz. If it’s not too windy again, the ship may dock tonight. Once off loaded, she will be in the hands of Customs and, depending on how suspicious they are about the marmite and cod liver oil tablets on board, we may have her back and be on the road within a couple of days. Here’s hoping.

So in this limbo period when we are still hanging around in a hotel in Veracruz, here’s a look back at how Stuart and I started off our travels. It was with a week’s holiday in Mexico City, shared with my two daughters Ciara and Regan.

Still life with Ciara, Regan and cervezas

We left London on 30 December 2019….

Leaving London

…arriving just in time to ring in 2020. We hadn’t booked anywhere so were lucky to find a Thai restaurant with a free table to ring in the New Year…

…complete with props for happy snaps.

Our first impressions of Ciudad de Mexico or CDMX (as it’s officially called) is that this city of 21 million people is much more chilled out and manageable than we expected. But maybe that was because it was still the Christmas holidays and the city wasn’t as busy as usual. Or maybe it was the heavy police presence – which is quite startling to see. Whatever, we felt safe walking everywhere and also taking the Metro (which we took a few times and found easy to navigate). That was once we figured out that plastic doesn’t work on the Metro so we always needed small change to pay the standard fare of 5 pesos (about 20 pence) for fares.

Mostly though we relied on Uber to get around because it was so cheap. One local trip we took cost the equivalent of 68 pence. And longer trips like our pick up on arrival from the airport to our airbnb or our 20 minute journey out of the city to the Frida Kahlo museum cost less than a fiver.

Palacio de Bellas Artas

Where we stayed ..

We stayed in an Airbnb in the Roma district which, on balance, was fine though not exactly as the wording promised. Or maybe it was exactly as the wording promised. The blurb talked about the third ‘bonus’ bedroom on the roof giving ‘unprecedented access to nature’. Translated that meant there were a stream of bugs crawling under the bedroom door. At about 4.30 am, Ciara bailed and picked her way down the scary spiral staircase in the dark to sleep on the sofa in the living room. And there she bedded down for the rest of the week.

Seeing the sights in CDMX

We started off our touristy blitz in the Centro Historico where it was still Christmas time, complete with ecologically-sound fake ice…

Ice skating in CDMX
Ice skating in Zocala – the main square in CDMX’s Centro Historico

….had a wander around the lavishly decorated Cathedral Metropolitana…

….watched the Aztec dancers conduct what looked like a cleansing ceremony…

…and then strolled downtown stopping off along the way to visit one of the city’s institutions La Ideal Bakery.

There was a huge selection of cakes, bread and biscuits on show. We copied the locals, picked up a tray and tongs…

…and picked out a modest selection from the vast array on display.

The floating flower gardens of Xochimilco

We took the metro, bus and train to the floating flower gardens of Xochimilco. These waterways were used as flower and vegetable gardens by the Aztecs. Now gondala rides along the canals are a big tourist attraction and the area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We haggled for a two hour ride, thought we had a deal, then found ourselves being punted back to shore just over one hour later. Hey ho. It all goes with the tourist territory. We persuaded our boatman to give us a bit more time but actually, an hour probably is enough time enough to enjoy the experience of bumping along in a boat traffic jam boat…

floating market

….listening to the passing mariachi bands…

….buying snacks from passing traders (here’s Regan with elote, that’s corn on the cob, drenched with lime juice and chilli powder) …

…and enjoying the wildlife and weirder sights along the canal banks.

Doll trees along the canal bank

A trip to Teohiuatcan

From the Airbnb website, we went on Alejandro’s excursion to the temples of the sun, moon and snake of Teotihuacan, about an hour away from Mexico City. Here he is…

His family home is nearby and as a young boy he played inside the temples before they were protected as historic sites and laws were enacted to stop the kids trading their pre-Hispanic jewellery and carvings for sweets and pesos. It was well worth doing the trip with him. He knew to get us up the temple steps early in the morning……

The view from the temple of the Moon

….before the rush hour started when, by Alejandro’s account, it can take two hours shuffling in a queue to get to the top.

Ciara, me and Regan

Then it was back to Alejandro’s home to taste the delicious hot chocolate made by his wife and meet the local wise woman who offered us a cleansing just as we had seen in Mexico City. Couldn’t pass that chance up.

Ciara gets a cleanse

We saw art …

….at the Frida Kahlo Museum at Coyacan…

….except Stuart who had a haircut instead while we went inside Casa Azul…

…(to be fair he had been to the Frida Kahlo exhibition in London).

Ciara co-ordinates with Caza Azul

We saw the murals of Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional …

….and more at the modern art museum …

We only skimmed the surface of Mexico’s ancient civilizations at the vast anthropology museum.

We stayed a while outside the museum as well, enjoying the fire dancers…

…and the dance of the flyers.

Stuart sampled the deep fried crickets from a stall there – delicious with with lime and chilli sauce apparently. (Will take his word for it).

Viva Lucha Libra

We had a great night out watching wrestling Mexican-style….

….and dressed for the occasion..

Food glorious food

We’d heard that Mexican street food was good.

We didn’t expect it to be soooo good. Especially the tacos from this stand.

…..and we queued with the crowds to try another CDMX favourite, freshly made churros and chocolate sauce from El Moro.

A cooking lesson

We went shopping in Mercado San Juan with Mexican chef Diana.

I think we will all remember one tip she passed on from her grandmother. When going to the market for rabbit, check it has furry legs to be sure you are not buying cat.

Not cats
Regan makes salsa

Adios CDMX

And that’s a quick tour through our week in Mexico City….it was fantastic for me to be able to share the start of our big trip with Ciara and Regan. My son Conor will hopefully join us somewhere on our USA leg, as will Stuart’s son and daughter Callum and Mary.

Maybe they too can be persuaded (eh embarrassed into) co-ordinating outfits with their Dad!

Ladies in leopard print

So farewell then CDMX

Regan locks up the airbnb

After leaving the girls at the airport for their flight back to London, work and normal life, we took the coach to Veracruz to start our Mexico/USA road trip….

…when we finally get our hands on our van.

4 thoughts on “Mexico City – the holiday bit before our road trip”

  1. Great to be reading about your travels again, love the photos.
    Hope you have as much fun as last time, just sorry you won’t be dropping in on us this time.
    Julia and Steve xx

    1. Helloo both! Great to hear from you and have you along on this trip. Yep, was a great stopover for us last time – still remember your cassoulet! xx

  2. Sounds like an amazing start to your trip and great that Ciara and Regan could join you.
    Looking forward to following your onward travels.
    Delphine x

    1. Hullo Delphine – yes we had a great time and it was so lovely to have them with us at the start of the trip. Things not so fab this week though….can only get better! x

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