Tuesday, August 01, 2006


The highlight of our return trip through Mexico was undoubtedly the capital, Mexico City, which is known by Mexicans as D.F. (kind of like the U.S. capital is known as D.C., however D.F stands for Distrito Federal),

Mexico City is the largest city in the world, home to more than 20 million people!

From the top of the Torre Latinoamericano (Mexico City's tallest skyscraper), you can begin to get a feel for the vast size of the city. This view is only in one direction, looking out from the center.

This photo we snatched off the Internet shows the skyscraper where the previous photo above was taken from.

On our first trip through the country, we avoided Mexico City because we had the pre-conceived notion that it was little more than an over-crowded, over-polluted, crime-ridden, stifling sewer of a mega-metropolis, along the lines of Central American capitals such as Managua, San Jose and Guatemala City. How wrong we were!

Plaza de la Revolución, a couple blocks from our hotel

Mexico City in no way resembles the above-mentioned cesspools. Rather, it combines the best aspects of New York City and Washington D.C, with a touch of European flair. If you have a taste for museums (both fine arts and anthropology), Mexico City offers some of the best of both that we know of in the western hemisphere. It also offers a huge variety of stunning architecture (especially the colonial style), as well as beautiful parks and plazas, and a lively cultural scene. Mexico’s vibrant, hip middle class is more on display here than in any other part of the country that we visited.

A weekend crafts market in the central plaza of the pretty Cuyoacan neighborhood

Yes, the traffic can make driving a nightmare in the city, but the modern subway system (Metro) more than makes up for it, and is much nicer than its counterparts in New York and D.C. And yes, the city undoubtedly features its fair share of crime and slums, just like any big city. However, as much as we made our way around to various neighborhoods (mostly via subway, since the city is so huge), we never encountered anything remotely “sketchy”. They sure seem to have done a nice job cleaning this city up!

Mexican sidewalk snacks

As for the climate, it’s nothing like we’d always imagined. Situated in a large valley amid the mountains of Mexico’s central highlands at over 5000 feet elevation, the city enjoys pleasantly cool mornings and pleasantly warm afternoons during the summer, with the daily late afternoon thunderstorms usually lasting no more than half an hour. A light jacket was necessary for going out at night.

The one thing we didn't really do while we were in Mexico City was check out the nightlife. We've heard there's quite a varied and pretty hip club scene, but being almost 7 months pregnant, this was just not an option...at least not this time!

The most unpleasant part of our visit to Mexico City was the task of finding a hotel that would let Kina stay in our room with us. This was definitely the most dog-UNfriendly city we visited in all of our travels! Thanks to Google and a lot of persistence, we finally got settled in a modern 12-story hotel where the concierge badgered us to take a tour or a taxi almost every time we walked through the lobby. For anyone traveling in Mexico City with a dog, go to Hotel Fontan on Avenida La Reforma first and save yourself some trouble. You will have to arrange things with the manager first (we had to leave copies of Kina's papers), and you may have to leave a deposit.

Unlike most places we visited south of the U.S. border, “budget” hotels were almost nowhere to be found, and the few that we did locate were already completely full when we arrived. Instead, most hotels are miniature skyscrapers that seem to compete to be more “fancy” than the others, and almost all of them have their own restaurants, with bellboys to take your luggage to your room and a concierge to set you up with whatever else you might want.

The view from our hotel window, along Mexico City's most famous boulevard, Paseo de la Reforma. The giant yellow structure supposedly represents a horse's head.

We ended up staying 5 nights and 4 complete days in Mexico City. Our activities mostly consisted of checking out various art and anthropology museums, strolling through pleasant plazas, learning about Mexico’s fantastic history, and checking out the massive political protest that dominated the city the last day of our visit.

Continue on through Mexico City