People told us we were crazy for going to Mexico, and when we shrugged them off then they told us to at least avoid Mexico City, it’s sooooo dangerous. We went into it with low expectations not really knowing much, but figuring we’re so close we may as well at least have a look. We left Milton at the campsite about an hour outside the city and got ourselves a swanky hotel room near the center of the city. It really was nice, despite being very reasonably priced.
First impressions were of surprise, everything was in bloom. It was lovely. The buildings were old and there was food everywhere, what’s not to love? We set off first to look for a restaurant I had heard about and really wanted to try, it was further than anticipated and not serving lunch but you win some, you lose some. Interestingly the main road through Mexico City shuts down every Sunday so that people can bike or run along its length, I thought that was really cool and progressive. After that we walked to the main square and the cathedral. Both very impressive and large. As always when we visit main squares there was a concert on. Next stop, Bond, James Bond. Spectre’s opening scene was filmed in Mexico City and Jonathan was determined to get a shot in the elevator. We were outed by the doorman, but they still let us wander around which was nice of them.
The next day we set off to a completely different part of the city. Carlos Slim is a Mexican billionaire who owns some telecommunications in Mexico, I think it’s the cell networks… I’m not sure, google it. In fact, google him, his life story is really really interesting - it’s worth the google I promise. Anyways, he built a massive museum to house his private collection of art, not only does it hold an impressive collection but it also is housed in a very cool modern building. We wandered through the higher end parts of town in areas that you would never think were Mexico City, but could just as easily be Miami or Rome, and we commented that the people (as usual) were wrong - Mexico City was very much worth a visit.
Leaving Mexico City we were heading for Acapulco, I was flying to Ohio for some family time and Jonathan was going to sit on a beach whilst I was away. But, as we pulled into Acapulco, we quickly realized this was not the swanky holiday resort of the Frank Sinatra era, but was the Mexico that people had warned us about. It’s a city that time passed by and let fall down. It was not nice, we decided it would have to be an RV park and no where else (and to be honest it was relief, as it was bloody hot and we needed the electrical hook-up for the air con). I flew out the next morning and Jonathan was left to his own devices for two weeks. Exactly how he likes it.
Last week seemed to have it all, so there was a lot of pressure on this week to compete.
After leaving the waterfall, we headed towards Xilitla. To give a little bit of a back story, Xilitla was a place that Meg found on the internet a year or so ago. It’s starting to become a little more known - basically, it has found its way onto Atlas Obscura, but when Meg discovered it, it was a ‘we’re getting married there’ demand. It is a kind of semi-finished sculpture park set amongst the jungle (called Las Pozas). Unsurprisingly, it was an eccentric British artist/poet who built the place, originally as an Orchid playground in the 1940s. But, when they all died one winter, he decided to build concrete structures instead (it is like a skeletal version of Portmeirion - still one of my favourite places in the world).
If there was ever a place of High Hopes, Low Expectations, then this was it!
We arrived in the afternoon, and the place was closed, so we drove to a campsite (well, paying for the privilege of parking in someone’s driveway). As we got married in San Francisco instead (for ease & admin reasons) we had planned to keep some wedding attire with us, and at least get some photos done in Las Pozas. So the next morning I donned a suit & Meg her wedding evening dress, and we spent a good few hours wandering around taking a tonne of photos. It really was an amazing place, with narrow pathways, all leading to some other bizarre structure. You never knew what would be around the corner, with the main prize being a waterfall surrounded by all these stone & concrete walls and half buildings. It was great, and I really hope the photos do it justice?
The next couple of days were spent driving towards Mexico City. We hadn’t really ever planned on visiting the city, as we just had this vision of a mass of people & cars (I think it is still one of the biggest cities in the world), but we couldn’t really avoid it, so why not. Conveniently, there was an Aztec Pyramid an hour outside, so we headed for that as a place to camp up (well, Mesoamerican – is that not Aztec? Showing my complete ignorance here).
The 2 pyramids of Teotihuacan were part of some massive city in the 1st century AD. Who knew? Anyway, they were pyramids, and I’m guessing pretty impressive. It was nice to visit, but we did struggle to eek out more than a couple of hours. Heathens I think is the word…
At the end of the week, we took the bus into Mexico City. As we had some airmiles points that were expiring, we decided to treat ourselves to a hotel for a couple of nights (Chaya B&B by the way – great place, great location). For our first day, we wandered the streets to just get a feel for the place. We visited the Zocalo & took in the main sites off & near it; the palace of fine arts (fancy building & theatre), the Metropolitan Cathedral (big church), the National Palace (another Diego Rivera mural. That man got everywhere), Templo Mayor (a relatively recently discovered pyramid. Didn’t bother walking round it), and most importantly the hotel (the Gran Hotel) that James Bond walked into during Spectre - that was all I cared about, making Meg film & take photos of me in the hotel lobby. Even though Spectre was a pretty poor Bond film, I was more than in my element.
Apparently we walked 22,000 steps in that first day, so we took in a lot in. I must admit, on first impressions, a most impressive city, and definitely glad we visited…
As previously stated (it can’t be stated enough really) we’re happy to finally be on the mainland. This week was a good week, a very very good week. We started off the week in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city. It was the first real city we’ve been in in, well months (since leaving Phoenix really). We decided the best bet was to get an airbnb and park Milton in a safe place. Luckily the cities here are full of parking lots, and we managed to park Milton up two blocks away from our accommodation for just a few bucks.
We wandered through the city which was a lot nicer than we expected. Mexico has a very dark sort of surrealist undertone, in both it’s art and cityscape. We visited the art museum to see the famous, and frankly very horrifying, murals and then ate some local delicacies. We found out there were so many more overlanders in town, so we arranged to meet up with them over mariachis on a plaza. After being serenaded by numerous older, larger gentlemen we moved on to the Lucha Libre - Mexican wrestling. Jonathan had low expectations but I went in hyped. And it lived up to the hype. It was funny, exciting, hard hitting and pretty well acted. And as a bonus, the crowd was getting into it in a classic upstairs/downstairs argument. One man actually threw coins at people, I think yelling that next time they could afford better seats. They had some pretty serious stereotypes in operation, but I’d like to think it was all in good fun.
After leaving Guadalajara we moved on to Guanajuato. This city wasn’t even on our radar until all the overlanders in front of us kept throwing it up on Instagram - we felt like we couldn’t miss it. The drive in was… well it was pretty terrifying. When driving situations get sticky, Jonathan gets flustered and I just try not to throw-up. It was a very steep, very narrow, very slippery road up to our campsite. And what a campsite it was. Overlooking the colourful city, we felt very happy to have made the drive. It’s a charming city, full of coffee, tortas and singers. We took part in a callejoneadas, which is a speciality in Guanajuato, whereby singers lead crowds of people through the narrow streets, singing, telling stories, dancing and cracking jokes. We couldn’t understand everything, but we got the idea and really enjoyed ourselves. The city is built on a ravine and used to have a river running underneath it, but later the river was diverted and the tunnels underneath were turned into roads, so now the city is essentially carless which makes it even better for walking.
After the charm of Guanajuato we were heading back into the highlands, and stopped at a beautiful waterfall called Puentes de Dios, in a tiny town on our way to Xilitla. It was definitely of the gods. Gorgeous, colourful and as bonus, warm. I didn’t get in but Jonathan enjoyed himself flouncing about in waterfalls and swimming in bath water warm pools.
We couldn’t be happier to be on the road again and there’s lots more to come!