I promise promise promise the written part of this post will be shorter. Clearly, I’m not off to a good start with repetitive promises. Okay, I don’t promise, but I’ll try harder. Much harder.Sometimes I wish I had a more boring life so that I would write less. That is so not true. Really, I just need to figure out how to write less. I’ll start now. I mean, now. NOW.
Day #4 Ciudad de Mexico
San Angel y Bosque de Chapultepec
Amazing, the cab ride to the San Angel SaturdayBazaar was at least 20 minutes and only 50 pesos. Much different than the 150 pesos from Bosque Chapultepec later in the day (only a 5 minute cab ride). Okay, we got ripped off. Note to self: Ask about the fare BEFORE getting into a cab. 150 pesos for a 5-minute cab ride. My stomach still churns (a week later) thinking about it. We could have taken the bus for 5 pesos each. We were tired.
When we arrived, there were just a few other curious spectators and shoppers trickling into town. By the time we departed, the place was jam-packed. For those who don’t like crowds, come early.
I bought myself a unique scarf for 100 pesos and we had a inexpensive meal (veggie sandwiches) at a dive diner type place, the name escapes me, which speaks volumes about the uneventful food and corresponding venue. San Angel is a charming town and certainly worth a look-see on less busy days. Despite all the beautiful art and crafts, the vendor overload wears on me.
I would like to return to San Angel one day, and if I do it will:
- not be on a Saturday
- be to explore the houses Frida and Diego lived in for a short while. I say houses (plural), because they each had their own house connected by a bridge. They called it the House-Studio, and it was designed and constructed in a progressive premise that included a roof garden and open floor plan. Click the link to learn more about the Museo Casa Estudio which was on Calle Diego Rivera.
- be to visit The Museo Dolores Olmedo Patino, which is reasonably close to San Angel in the southern part of the city, Xochimilco. Some of the world’s most famous Frida and Diego pieces are on permanent exhibition at Dolores Olmedo’s former home.The following photos were taken as we tooled around San Angel:
Bosque de Chapultepec aka Grasshopper Forest
Again, the taxi from San Angel to Bosque de Chapultepec was only 50 pesos. I’m still steaming that we paid 150 pesos to take the taxi from Bosque de Chapultepec back to Colonia Condessa. It was the shortest of all the rides. Serenity now!
Check out Lonely Planet’s short review and map of Bosque de Chapultepec. We were dropped off at Paseo de La Reforma and made a beeline to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. The only thing slowing us down was the chaos created by dozens of vendors lining the park entrance.
I took video footage of the vendor madness just to share with you this experience. But because my video sound quality isn’t excellent, you’ll have to turn up the volume full blast on your computer to better understand how it sounded.
Video: Bosque de Chapultepec Chaos (about 30 seconds)
Museo Nacional de Antropologia
Fee: 57 pesos/$4.56 US
Fee for videotaping (this is a waste of dinero IMO): 45 pesos/$3.60 US
There is no fee for using a camera – remember no flash photography
Exceedingly impressive place. Grand, stunning architecture, spacious, and well designed. With a palatial courtyard and open space behind each of the salas/rooms (which were really like small museums onto themselves), there were times I felt as if I were at a park, a beautiful, fresh air park. Learning that museum-goers spend a full day here, we came prepared to visit only two cultures: The Mayans and the Aztecs.
See reviews of the Anthropology Museum here.
If you’re in Mexico City, this is a must-do. At the very least check out the unique architecture, but once you’re there, ya gotta go inside. That’s where the treasures are.
Much like the Sala Aztec, this spacious museum within a museum was beautifully designed. The outdoor section housed a Mayan Temple, large patches of green grass, benches, and all the makings for a great picnic venue without the basket filled with food. I took a gazillion photos and have selected a few to share.
Their ears have big holes to accommodate jewelry. I had no idea that the ear gauging (stretching holes in one’s ears) I often see in young folk today is actually retro from a practice that began thousands of years ago in Asia, Africa, and South America. I wonder if the kids who stretch their ears even know they are following in the footsteps of 1000+ year old tribes.
The Stone of Tizoc is a sacrificial stone with a drainage system for the sacrificee’s blood. From Wikipedia: Around its side are depictions of Texcatlipoca, a major Aztec god, holding the patron gods of other places by the hair.
We returned to La Condesa about 5:30 and walked to Origenes Organicos. I had an awesome portobello sandwich and two salads. Scott got Veggie Pad Thai, and he was able to witness the spectacle I had seen just a few days prior. Wealthy-looking hipsters ambling by on their phones or with their dogs. I didn’t see any dogs jump in the fountain this time.
Day #5 Ciudad de Mexico
Tour guide (optional but recommended): 300 pesos/$24.00 US
Our tour guide- muy excelente:
Martin Robles Luengas
Arqueologe y Guia Oficial
From La Condesa, we took the following metro route:
Line #9 – Patriotisma station towards Pantitlan
Go four stops to Chabacano
Line #2 – Heading in the direction of Cuatro Caminos
Go three stops to Zocalo
Getting off at the Zocalo metro stop, we were less than a minute to the Templo Mayor (on the east side of the Metropolitan Cathedral at Seminario 8 Centro Historico). This is another must-experience in Mexico City. We were originally planning to visit the Teotihuacán Pyramids located about 30 miles outside Mexico City in a town aptly called Teotihuacán, but many folks suggested we check out Templo Mayor. We could only do one, and I’m so glad we chose Templo Mayor. It was one of my favorite places to explore in the city. It is in the heart of Centro Historico just around the corner from the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Walking to the Templo, one isn’t sure if she is at the correct location. It just doesn’t seem like a sacred setting from the outside. And when we were approached by a man asking if we wanted a guide, my first reaction was “oh boy, here we go”. Within seconds we realized he was legit and knowledgable. We took the risk to get the 300 peso ($24.00 US) tour and it was money well spent. What was only supposed to be 40-50 minutes was nearly an hour twenty. Our guide, Martin, was able to answer all of our questions. We ask a lot of questions. I feel he provided a college semester of information in that short time, and the information was all interesting, informative, and easily digested.
Seven city blocks had to be destroyed to unearth the section of the Templo you see above. It all started with the electric company back in the late 70’s. New cables had to be installed, and while digging, one of the workers hit an Aztec stone. He didn’t know at first what he was observing until he called for some help, but to me, he seems like a bright fellow to have inquired further. The stone was cleaned and the mystery unfolded.
The excavation occurred between 1978-1982 and was lead by Eduardo Matos. Eduardo and his team found 110 tombs with 7000 pieces. They know there are additional parts of the Templo beneath the city, but because they are beneath historical buildings that cannot be destroyed, their search is limited.
We had a most fabuloso guide, Martin Robles Luengas, an archaeologist who participated in that famous dig.
Looking at the photo below, one can see layers of stone. Martin explained how when new rulers came, they would build a tier and completely cover the previous layer that had been built by the previous ruler. But because the Aztecs built the tombs into the corners of the temple, they were easily recovered during the excavation; i.e., NOT destroyed by the Spanish when they destroyed the TOPS of the monuments. He also explained that the pyramids in Egypt were specifically designed to be funeral buildings (and tombs were found in the center) whereas in Mexico the pyramids were all about constructing an altar and to reach as high to the heavens as possible. It was all about getting close to the Gods. Teocali (sp) House of God. The first pyramid, 1325 AD had tombs around it, and that was covered by the second period leader, and so on. The pyramid at the top had double altars.
I took a ton of video footage, because it was just so darn interesting. And while there are nine (9) videos to view, these particular videos are 1) edited and 2) relatively short ranging from 1 minute to 7 minutes in length.
See Templo Mayor VIDEO Part I (6.50 minutes)
Our guide, Martin, describes:
- the lake that was once the center of Mexico City
- the economic power of the Aztecs
- the altars
- the snake symbolism
- the Spaniards attempt to destroy the pyramids
The last construction of the great temple made the templo 140 feet high (this was 1502). When the Aztecs first arrived in 1455, they were subjugated, they were slaves or mercenaries. They arrived in the valley and asked to live there paying rent for 100 years to live at the lake. In 1527 they obtained their liberty and gained power over the other tribes.
See Templo Mayor VIDEO Part II (3.44 minutes)
The Spaniards tried to destroy all evidence of the Aztec culture, but they weren’t aware of all the tombs and relics that existed within the temples.
Thanks to found manuscripts, Eduardo Matos, knew what he could find before the excavation. For instance, he was able to find the headquarters of the eagle warriors. On the left side of the great temple, the “most horrible” temple in the old Spanish, the Spaniards of the 16th century called these temples Cu. Plural Cues (many). Referring to the great temple as the most horrible Cu. This description helped Eduardo find it.
See Templo Mayor VIDEO Part III (4.06 minutes)
Aztec Civilization – In this video, our guide, Martin, explains the sacrificial stone, the symbolism of the jaguar and the eagle, and answers the question: Were there 20,000 sacrifices? We also learned that cannibalism was just for high-society folk.
See Templo Mayor VIDEO Part IV (1.12 minutes)
Martin explains the symbolism behind the colors the Aztecs used in their architecture.
See Templo Mayor VIDEO Part V (1.18 minutes)
Martin discussed the materials the Aztecs used to make mortar and stucco. He also shows us the different layers of the Templo, which represent the different periods of Aztec history.
See Templo Mayor VIDEO Part VI (7.16 minutes)
Our guide, Martin, shares the story of how two small temples were found beneath a building that is adjacent to the current site of Templo Mayor. He talks about the use of the lake that was prominent until the Aztecs and the Spaniards dried it up. But there is still water beneath Mexico City. Does it currently pose a problem? Watch and learn!
See Templo Mayor VIDEO Part VII (2.06 minutes)
Martin talks about the Eagle Warrior Headquarters.
See Templo Mayor VIDEO Part VIII (2.10 minutes)
Martin shows us the Aztec patio (of the elite) and explains how the Aztecs spent very little time indoors. Inside the home was for sleeping and storage, and most everything else was done outdoors including cooking. We also see the stunning skeleton altar.
See Templo Mayor VIDEO Part VIIII (4.51 minutes)
In this segment, Martin discussed the commerce between Aztecs and Mayans. How the Aztecs had Obsidian and the Mayans Jade. He talks about silver mining in Guanajuato and how the Metropolitan Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in the Americas.
If you’d like to learn more about the Aztecs, I found this article from (Unexplainable.net) Aztecs Speak: An Account of the Conquest of Mexico, informative.
The Museo de Templo Mayor was as equally impressive as the Templo itself. I’d even go out on a limb and suggest it was just as sophisticated at the Anthropology Museum albeit much smaller. We didn’t spend a lot of time in the museum, because Martin taught us everything we felt we needed to know.
Recommendation: If you make the visit to Templo Mayor, get the tour. I am confident you will gain so much more out of the experience than if you simply walked around and read the plaques. The plaques, while well-written and filled with information, do not do justice to having an actual human guiding and teaching.
I have been swept away (this expression borrowed from my Brotha Neal) by Mexico City. One would need a solid month to better explore this town and still only make a dent. There is so much more I wanted to do, planned to do, but it takes time to get from one locale to the next. Unless you want to run yourself ragged (something I prefer not to do as it detracts from the fun), then cut your expectations in half. If you think you’ll see four touristic places a day, plan for two. You will then be pleasantly surprised if you reach three.
Bussin’ it back home. We took PrimeraPlus back to San Miguel. It was less expensive than ETN and was only a 3-hour trip. It didn’t stop in Queretaro.
~Aztec adage from the 1500′s
(‘The Aztecs of Mexico”)
(‘A Scattering of Jades’)
*Photos and stuff* Please contact me for permission to use images and text for commercial or private use.
To see Mexico Post #19, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Colonia Condesa, Colonia Coyoacán, y La Casa Azul, click here.
To see Mexico Post #20, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Chapultapec y Centro Historico, click here.
To see Mexico Post #21, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Antropologia y Templo Mayor, click here.
To see Mexico Post #22, Living the Dream in San Miguel de Allende, click here.
To see Mexico Post #23, Viva la Independencia! click here.
To see Mexico Post #24, Adios San Miguel, click here.
To see Mexico Post #25, Valle de Bravo y Teploztlán, click here.
To see Mexico Post #26, Ciudad de Oaxaca, click here.
To see Mexico Post #27, 50 Shades of Green: On the road from Oaxaca to Chiapas, click here.
To see Mexico Post #28, San Cristóbal de las Casas, click here.
To see Mexico Post #29, The Almost Halloween Edition: Dark Mountains, Foggy Cliffs, Witches, Jungles and Shamans, click here.
To see Mexico Post #30, Veracruz, Tampico y Estados Unidos, click here.