So we arrived in Mexico City on Monday and we have been running full tilt since – in a very good way. We had planned this trip with Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance who are also applying for a long stay visa (LSV) to French Polynesia. Shellie and Mary Grace have spent a lot of time together or via e-mail reviewing and preparing the paperwork for the LSV, and the four of us had appointments at the French Consulate on Wednesday morning.
Working together, Frank arranged for a private driver (thank you, Eduardo, for helping us!!) and Shellie and Randy arranged for a perfect VRBO.
Our first day was spent preparing the final pieces of our paperwork, getting the appropriate visa photos and checking against each other’s check lists one last time.
Oh the paperwork, the paperwork!
Wednesday we arrived at the consulate and had the first four appointments. We were all thrilled that we had every document required and now we only have to wait four weeks to (hopefully) receive our LSV.
Once the paperwork was submitted, we spent the remainder of our time in Mexico City celebrating and exploring some of the historical highlights. Tonight, Saturday, we are suffering from information overload so we are chilling at the VRBO and taking advantage of the excellent wifi.
Here is just a glimpse of what we toured. By the way I read somewhere Mexico City has more museums than any other city in the world.
Right after a celebratory lunch we headed to Castillo De Chapultepec, which translates into “the hill of the grasshoppers.” This castle was a summer home for Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez, who, for our Texas friends, also was instrumental in developing the port of Galveston. We hired a guide who inundated us with this and other information including how the castle became a military school which was once over thrown by the US Marines. For the “one minute” history of the castle, see this link.
Stairway entrance from the outside courtyard.
One of about eight stain glass windows of Greek goddesses.
A balcony view of the Promenade of the Empress, now Promenade of Reform.
Upstairs garden with and observatory building in the middle.
After visiting such high falutin digs , we had sundown celebration drinks at Sofitel, a brand new French hotel on the Promenade of Reform and right next door to the American Embassy.
Cheers to finished paperwork and exploring Mexico City.
Looking down the Promenade of Reform toward the castle.
Thursday was a BIG day. We started at the Teotihuacan Pyramids which are about an hour from our VRBO, then we had lunch in a darling town next to the pyramids and we finished the day with a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadeloupe.
At the pyramids, we again hired a guide and Joel was simply excellent! Plus his English was easier to understand than our guide at the castle.
A model of the Teotihuacan City uncovered so far. (Museum of Anthropology)
Honestly, the pyramids were amazing and extremely interesting. For instance, Joel said that if you cut a bag of sand and let it fall, the slope of the hill it forms will be 45 degrees.
Frank climbing up that 45% slope.
The pyramids were built at a 45 degree angle and the theory is that in the event of an earthquake, relatively little damage would occur. (Architects might disagree.)
View from the Temple of the Moon down the avenue of the dead; Sun Temple to the left.
Another interesting point, the steps, seats and walls of the colosseum were built with a 37.5 degree slant to make perfect acoustics! Joel would whistle facing one direction and the sound would carry counterclockwise all the way around the arena.
The huge colosseum with a sacrificial alter in the center.
Joel told us that a game was played on this colosseum field and the winner of the game was immediately sacrificed to the gods. This meant his heart was cut out and the heart and his blood were offered to the gods. YUCK
Perspective: one part of the colosseum and the alter wall to the left.
Joel quipped that in Mexico they say the reason they don’t win Olympic games is that all their best athletes were sacrificed. Macabre humor.
Walls of the homes where the upper class lived.
We saw remnants of some of the noble’s homes which had running water, baths and toilets, plus aqueducts, collecting pools, all kinds of interesting conveniences.
Inside were some beautiful colors and pictographs.
The Temple of the Sun behind us…. yes we did climb to the top.
The view from the Sun Temple required some time.
Another view from the Sun Temple looking toward the Colosseum.
So this is absolutely just a tiny bit of information about the pyramids which were supposedly built beginning in 100BCE and at its zenith had a population of 125,000. You can follow this Wikipedia link for a quick overview.
Tostadas, tacos and enchiladas – yum!
Walking the temples created an appetite so we went to a nearby town for some local food and we hit the jackpot! We sat at a local market and had delicious fare surrounded by locals eating and doing their shopping.
Colorful and clean, we walked the streets and poked about.
After all that pagan imagery, I was happy to stop at the Basilica de Guadeloupe. On this site, Our Lady of Guadeloupe appeared to a poor Aztec farmer, Juan Diego, who had converted to Catholicism a few years earlier. Long story short, on December 9, 1531 Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego and asked him to build an alter on the hill of Tepeyac. Juan Diego asked permission of the local Bishop who refused until Juan Diego received a miracle. A few days later, Our Lady again appeared to Juan Diego and told him to climb the hill and pick the flowers.
This was December and the hill usually sported cactus and little else. But Juan Diego found a bounty of beautiful red flowers he had never seen before. He gathered the flowers in his tilma (Aztec robe of sorts) and returned to Our Lady who arranged the flowers in Juan Diego’s tilma.
Juan Diego immediately went to the Bishop and dropped the flowers from his tilma at the feet of the Bishop. When the flowers fell out, an image of Our Lady Of Guadeloupe was imprinted on the tilma.
Juan Diego’s tilma: I was stunned by the beauty of this image.
Since 1531, the tilma has been on display and we saw it in person. Honestly, I was stunned by the detail and vibrance of Our Lady! A miracle indeed!!
And by the way, the Bishop recognized those red flowers as Castilian roses which were not grown in Mexico.
On December 26, 1531 an alter was dedicated to Our Lady of Guadeloupe.
One of the older churches erected on Tepeyac hill.
The interior of the oldest church.
Unfortunately I can’t find the reference but one article I read stated that after Our Lady’s appearance to Juan Diego, 9 million people converted to Catholicism!
Currently there are four churches on Tepeyac hill and I didn’t understand enough Spanish to determine which was built when but this appears to be the oldest, though it cannot be the original alter.
A statue depicting Juan Diego’s delivery of the roses and the image.
Sooo, that was our long and very gratifying third day in Mexico City.
Today we spent most of the morning at the Anthropological Museum which was recommended by no less than five different people.
The museum was beautifully done and filled with spectacular artifacts. However, my brain was overwhelmed from the prior days and the fact that all the information was in Spanish and I had to use a translator for every piece. In the end I just looked for things that caught my eye. Here are a few highlights:
A picture from our visit to the pyramid colosseum and…
A restored version at the Anthropology Museum showing how they looked long ago,
Perhaps the most fascinating city to me was the one built on muddy edges of Lake Texcono where the people built “chinampas” which are little artificial rectangular islands. The chinampas were made by planting aheujotes trees that were resistant to dampness at the corners. Then the edges were marked by logs and the plot created was filled with alternating layers of water lilies and mud which provided a fertile base for corn and other crops the Indians farmed.
A depiction of the city built on Lake Texcoco.
This city had canals connecting the chinampas making this a waterway city similar to Venice, Italy. Today the lake no longer exists and Mexico City has grown up all around it.
Most of us have seen the beautiful embroidery and bead work of some traditional Mexican clothing and the Anthropology Museum had displays of old looms and the clothing created.
Such detail and bright color.
This work is all tiny beads individually sewn in place!
I read a few surprising things about the Aztec culture. The upper class would adorn themselves with jewels and precious metals but if a lower class person was found wearing them, the crime was punishable by death! I guess jewelry isn’t always a girl’s best friend!
I thought COSTCO on Saturdays was bad, but 30K?!
Also, I thought this display of an Aztec market was interesting especially since I could see it closely and see the variety of wares on display. But what really surprised me was that the information stated that as many as 30,000 people would visit this market daily!
After a few hours of brain saturation at this museum, we walked back to the Polanco area which is filled with high end shops and sidewalk cafes.
Ahh, the view from a sidewalk cafe!
Today’s lunch was upscale, fat-filled and very tasty!
So we have another half day tomorrow before we fly back to Ticket to Ride. It has been a whirlwind trip and we are ready to get home. But we will miss Randy and Shellie. I cannot imagine two people easier or more fun to travel with and explore this fascinating, extremely large and diverse city!
If you have made it this far into this blog post, you are a champ! This really only covers a portion of our time in Mexico City. Hopefully I can share snippets on the Facebook or Instagram so you can see the lighter side of our trip.
Thanks for digging in and sharing this land adventure. We will let you know if/when we receive our long stay visa for French Polynesia. In the mean time, let us know if you have any comments. All the best from TTR.