Trip to Mexico: part 2 (Mexico City)

March 10, 2011 by MrEricSir

This is part of a series about my trip to Mexico City and the surrounding area. Also see part 1, part 3, and part 4.

Day 3

We met up with more of Alexia’s family and we headed down to a massive bus terminal to for a ride to the pyramids of Teotihuacan! On the way I was introduced to the concept of legal graffiti. Bands often pay to have legal graffiti billboards of sorts painted on public walls to advertise their shows.

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The Teotihuacan pyramids were overrun by “gypsy” style merchants of sorts selling whistles, hats, jewelry, etc. We headed down to the first and smallest pyramid, then quickly realized we needed a guide. We found a guy who spoke a bit of English (this was for my benefit only.) Before showing us the pyramids, he pointed out a group of four traditional Voladores de Papantla, or acrobats who were swinging in a circle off ropes on a 16 meter tall poll on ropes tied to their ankles. He claimed that traditionally, the poles were 40 meters high. Not for those of us with a fear of heights.

The tour guide (guy in the black baseball cap in the photo) showed us some traditional dyes made from insect eggs, paper, thread and needles made from cactus, and most surprisingly, the way the old city of Teotihuacan had been built.

According to our guide, every 52 years the citizens created a new city on top of the old city. So far archaeologists have only dared to go one level deep, where they found an earlier foundation for the buildings in exactly the same place, but with different decorations. There’s only one visible spot where it’s been dug up, and it’s pretty incredible. So far nobody knows if there’s another level deeper. Mysterious!

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After an hour or so, our tour guide left and wished us well, and we decided to go up the Pyramid of the Sun, which is the largest pyramid at the site. Here, I have to admit that I didn’t make it even halfway up, perhaps because of the already high elevation, or perhaps because I was coming down with a really bad cold that would haunt the rest of the trip. I hate to admit that I was defeated by this pyramid — especially because it was one of the main reasons I came to Mexico in the first place. The one saving grace was that the view from partway up was incredible. You could see the entire ruins of Teotihuacan from there.

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While everyone else finished scaling the pyramid, Alexia and I headed across the way to a small strip with some restaurants. Upon entering the street, we were assaulted by six young men carrying menus, each insisting we eat at the restaurant they represented. All of the restaurants essentially had the tourist-esque “please everyone” massive menus, so we decided on the restaurant we’d been recommended earlier. Eventually we were joined by our companions.

We ordered micheladas. If you’re not familiar with a michelada, it’s a Mexican beer (in this case, Indio) mixed with lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Clamato in a glass lined with salt and chile pequin. It’s one of my favorite cocktails, basically a Mexican version of a bloody mary. If you haven’t tried it you’re missing out.

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Day 4

On the fourth day we took the Metro to Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the world’s most visited Catholic shrine. It’s a lot like Disneyland except there’s no rides and you have to pay to use the bathroom.

The main cathedral on the site was built in the mid 1970′s. It contains an incredibly large church, a place to put flowers, a series of conveyor belts you can stand on while looking at a painting of the Virgin Mary, and (of course) a gift shop. From the outside, the building looks suspiciously like Space Mountain, but the closest thing to a roller coaster is the Virgin Mary’s conveyor belt.

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The grounds of the basilica contain several smaller chapels, Pope John Paul’s Popemobile(TM) and the old basilica, which is now fenced off due to problems with its structural integrity. The gardens have a bit of a mini-golf vibe, with a number of uncharacteristically painted statues here and there, and a few fountains. In the back there’s a cafeteria area with tortas, soda, etc. And (of course) more gift shops.

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The area around the church seemed a bit sketchy… definitely not the kind of place you’d want to be at night. And perhaps even dangerous during the day, as Alexia almost stepped on a snake.