We visited Mexico City exactly four years ago after spending a month at the beach in Manzanillo and then celebrating Christmas and New Year’s in Morelia. We spent only five days in this massive city because we were booked to fly south to Chile. Our plan was to return after four months travelling around Chile and Argentina, but our plans were thwarted by the outbreak of the H1N1 (Swine) Flu.
With people more than a little apprehensive about the possibility of a global pandemic, the schools, museums, tourist sights and many businesses were closed and those who could fled the city for the rural areas or other countries. We had booked a stopover in Mexico City, but instead we just flew in, passed through the health screening and boarded another plane bound for Denver.
There were several things we missed seeing and doing in the capital, so when we decided to return to Mexico in order to visit Oaxaca, we decided to spend a week in Mexico City before taking a bus south.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We were looking forward to staying at the new incarnation of the Casa Comtesse, the guesthouse on Tamaulipas Avenida in the Condessa neighbourhood. We had a chance to get to know the owner, Thomas, and he had shared his excitement with us, that after renting a three-bedroom apartment and running it as a B&B, he was almost ready to open his new venture.
He walked us the short distance to a beautiful old house that he had completely renovated. It had once belonged to a family with fourteen children, and had an abundance of bedrooms. He was able to remodel the building to provide ensuite bathrooms for each of the newly configured eight bedrooms. We made a reservation for our return trip but as I mentioned in the ‘Background’ above, we had to cancel due to the flu epidemic.
Thomas was out of town when we arrived, but the receptionist welcomed us warmly and showed us to our room on the third floor. It overlooked the interior courtyard and garden, and though it was quite comfortable, I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t chosen to stay in the ‘Le Oriente’ suite instead. After discovering that it was available after our first three nights, we moved into the larger room and settled in for a wonderful stay.
We set off our first day to visit the magnificent Museum of Anthropology. We had spent and entire day there four years earlier, pouring over the incredible stone artifacts so brilliantly displayed. We took our time and attempted to absorb as much as we could about the ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures so long that we ran out of time to visit the second floor where the textiles, pottery, and jewellery were displayed.
This time we went straight to the second floor and spent the better part of the afternoon soaking up the elaborate displays of indigenous cultural life. We had walked all the way from our guesthouse to the museum, taking about 40 minutes to reach Chapultepec Park where several museums reside. Once we were done at the museum, we walked all the way back again, stopping at one of our favourite eateries on Tamaulipas for a cold beer and our fill of local foods.
It felt really good to get some walking in once again, after all most six weeks in inactivity in Canada and the US. However, I was very surprised at how much the altitude affected me this time. I found myself very tired indeed, despite the fact that I was going to bed really, really early and sleeping throughout the night. When Anil complained of being tired as well, I knew it had to be the altitude. With a short flight from Phoenix to Mexico City, we climbed from 300 meters above sea level to almost 2500 m.a.s.l.
We decided to extend our stay by one day and then set about alternating sightseeing one day, with a rest day the next. That seemed to work well and by the time we were ready to move on to Oaxaca, we seemed to have acclimatized and felt more energetic. We managed to take in some of the sights at the Zócalo, the main square in the historical district, climb the Sun and Moon pyramids at Teotihuacán, gaze at many more of Diego Rivera’s massive murals, and even take a short boat trip on a section of the more than 180km canals south of the city in the Xochimilco district.
I don’t think a visitor can ever see everything of interest in fascinating Mexico City, but it was time to escape the hustle and bustle of over 20 million people and escape to a much smaller city, one that moves at a much slower pace. We’ve never been to Oaxaca, but have heard such intriguing things, that it was high on our list of must-see places. Anil has been keen for a visit for some time, and he is even threatening to take a cooking class, or two, during our two-week sojourn there.