Holiday in Mexico City

Holiday in Mexico City

John Finnigan

The largest city in the world, Mexico City is crowded, hot and noisy. And there’s no place quite like it on earth. This is a metropolis blended by the rich, complex warrior culture of the great Aztecs and the proud, adventuresome spirit of conquering Spaniards. I did not have the best memories of the city from my first visit there.

That was at the start of my honeymoon - 23 years ago - and my new wife and I were routed through the city on our way to Cancun. Thanks to plane problems and delays, our flight was cancelled and we were bussed across town to the Holiday Inn. Luckily for us the hotel was fabulous!

Unluckily for us, though, the hotel was swarming with football fans on the lookout for favourite players from the local team, rumoured to be staying there. What made the memory so awful is that because we arrived a day late we had many problems in Cancun getting our room and we missed out on two tours given to us by wedding well-wishers.

This time was to be far different. I left the wife at home with the kids and set my sights on soaking up Mexico City’s buzz and revel in one of the world’s far friendliest and family-oriented far cultures. I have many Mexican friends back home so I wanted to explore the city so many of them came from. Landing at Mexico City far International Airport, one is struck be the sheer size of the metropolitan area. It also has its fair share of air pollution, due to its location on a far ancient, dried-up lake bed.

Speeding my way far by taxi into the city, I was enveloped by varying neighbourhoods hurtling by. You can drive down the Paseo de la Reforma, the town’s grand thoroughfare and its version of the Champs-Elysees, and see an ever-changing view of gleaming, modern office towers, landscaped, low slung suburban houses, shophouses, stunningly landscaped gardens and barrios teaming with the city’s poorest denizens. This city is a patchwork of every class, all living side-by-side.

I checked in and set off down the street for the Alameda Central, a few blocks away. This public park used to be an Aztec marketplace and was actually used by the Catholic Church to burn heretics and witches four hundred years ago. You can walk around this urban oasis and view statues and fountains of famous historical figures, including Benito Jaurez, one of the country’s beloved presidents, and statues by famed sculpture Jesus Contreras.

I also visited the famous Museo Mural de Diego Rivera, located in the southwest corner of the park. This museum honours Mexico’s celebrated mural artist, Diego Rivera, with information about his life and displays of his works from the early 20th Century. To visit the museum at that time cost a whopping 15 pesos, or about $1.50!

I spent the next three days checking out the all of the great sites that abound in the area. A pleasant sunny afternoon was barely enough time for visiting the Plaza de la Constitucion, better known as Zocalo. It is there that the centre of the Aztec empire was fixed, where the great pyramids and palaces of Moctezuma spread about. It is also the virtual beating heart of Mexico City, which celebrates great public events in public plaza rivaled in size by only Moscow’s Red Square.

Two of the best attractions in the city are also two of the most beautiful examples of Spanish Baroque and art nouveau, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Palace of Fine Arts. These buildings are gorgeous and one can be transfixed examining their stunning exteriors, exquisite inner halls, and lushly landscaped grounds.

A day was barely enough to visit Bosque de Chapultepec, a huge swath of greenbelt in an otherwise fast-paced urban city. The city’s largest at over 1,500 acres, the park is an important one in Mexico City history, having been the first home of the Aztecs, who moved downfrom northern Mexico to set up camp in the 13th Century.

Walking the park’s grounds, one can visit Chapultepec Castle, where Maximilian I and Empress Carlota of Mexico both once lived, and is now home of Mexico’s National History Museum. Nearby, I also visited the National Museum of Anthropology, which is also housed in the park.

In between, and before and after, it’s easy to spend a lot of time in Zona Rosa, which is a prime area for tourists, with nightlife and fine dining. The one big disappointment for me, though, is I had to walk right by all the wonderful street food cheaply available throughout the area. After ridding myself of the bad karma of my first fleeting visit, I didn’t want to experience Montezuma’s revenge in the bathroom on my second!

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