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October 26 - November 12, 2001



Acapulco Cacaxtla Cholula Cuernavaca
Mexico City I
Mexico City II Monte Albán Oaxaca
Puebla I
Puebla II Taxco Teotihuacán Toluca Veracruz


The reason why we went to Mexico this year was an invitation to the wedding of our good friends Aida from Mexico and Didier from France. But of course we wanted to take the opportunity to see a bit of the country as well, so we went for two weeks all together. Our trip consisted of two parts: For the first week a bus had been hired and we toured the region with an international group: Aida, Didier and his family, their friends Myriam and Christian from France, Claudia and Kai from Germany and Jill and Steve from the US. During the second week Volker and I explored some more places on our own, travelling by public transport.

Saturday, 26th October (Mexico City - Puebla)

We all arrived in Mexico City on the same KLM flight from Amsterdam around 6 p.m. local time, except Jill and Steve from Chicago, who had arrived earlier. The view over Mexico City from the airplane was fantastic: the huge city, the skyscrapers in the center and the nearby mountains. It was early evening and the first lights had come on. It looked beautiful. We were met at the airport by Aida's parents. The bus was already waiting for us and we were driven to Puebla which took a couple of hours. We finally arrived there after a long day at 6 a.m. Central European Time! We checked into the Hotel Alameda (400 pesos), a beautiful colonial building, but we had a sleepless night as it was pretty cold and noisy. Our room faced the street and the windows didn't close properly. Well, at least we had earplugs! I didn't expect it too be so cold in Mexico at night. With only 5°C we were freezing when we came on the bus! But evidently there was a cold spell when we arrived and after a few days it got a bit warmer again. And it was much warmer down at the coast than up in the mountains.

Sunday, 27th October (Puebla - Cholula - Puebla)

On Sunday morning we were invited for breakfast by Aida's mother. We had the typical "tamales", fruit, hot chocolate and "dead bread", usually served on All Saints' Day, November 1st. In the afternoon the bus took us to the nearby town of Cholula. The pyramid there is Mexico's largest pyramidal structure. From a distance it appears to be a large hill with a colonial church at its summit. The still active volcano Popocatepetl can be seen in the distance. The tunnels in the pyramid's interior can be visited, which we did. Afterwards we went to see the church of Tonantzintla, a masterpiece of Mexican baroque. We had an early dinner at VIPS in Puebla and visited the artisan market El Parian. The evening was finished off with a drink at the bar of the Hotel Royalty on the Zócalo (main square).

Monday, 28th October (Puebla - Veracruz)

On Monday morning we left Puebla at 9 a.m. for the Caribbean coast. We crossed the foggy mountains and after three hours we arrived in Veracruz, Mexico's largest port and oldest Spanish city, founded 1519 by Hernán Cortés as La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz. We had 28°C and it didn't even cool down much in the evening. We checked into the Hostál de Cortés (530 pesos), 4 stars, with pool, at the beach boulevard south of the Veracruz Aquarium. We had a Mexican lunch at the "Café La Parroquia" at the Malecón with a view of the harbor. Afterwards we visited the aquarium where marine species from the Gulf of Mexico can be observed, including sharks and manatees. In the evening we went to the Zócalo for a drink. Veracruz is famous for its music (Remember the song "La Bamba"?) and its Caribbean atmosphere and of course the Carnival. After listening to the street musicians and marimba players we had a light dinner on the terrace of Sanborns.

Tuesday, 29th October (Veracruz - Puebla)

On Tuesday it was still warm (25°C) but the sun didn't come out. We visited the Spanish San Juan de Ulúa Fort and drove down to Mocambo Beach. Jill, Steve, Aida and I went horse-riding (30 pesos for 30 minutes), which was fun. In the early afternoon we returned to Puebla and checked into the Hotel Alameda again. This time we had asked for a room away from the street so it was more quiet. The room was also cheaper but it was just big enough to accommodate the one bed (the room we had before was really large and had two double beds) and it didn't have any windows. Well, I guess you can't have everything... In the evening we were invited for a three-course dinner by Aida's sister and brother-in-law. They had also hired a mariachi band who played just for us, it was great!

Wednesday, 30th October (Puebla - Cacaxtla - Mexico City)

On Wednesday we had a later start at 10.45 a.m. when we left for the archaeological site Cacaxtla about 45 minutes from Puebla. Cacaxtla is a pre-Hispanic ceremonial center known for its well-preserved murals, colorful frescoes of jaguar and eagle warriors. Before heading to Mexico City we had to return to Puebla to pick up Aida who had lost her passport and had to arrange for a new one. We had lunch at Sanborns and left for Mexico City at 4.30 p.m. We arrived at 7 p.m. and checked into the Hotel Metropol, 4 stars, one block south of Alameda Park. Mexico City is the largest metropolis in the world and it has severe problems regarding pollution and water supply, and the slums are spreading. But it also has green parks, world-renowned museums and a lively atmosphere. It is an ironic turn of history that Mexico City might become uninhabitable for lack of water, when originally it was constructed on a lake! And its historic center and the cathedral were built onto the ruins of an Aztec pyramid. The pyramids were destroyed for Mexico City, now part of Mexico City has to be torn down to excavate the ruins! We had dinner at Sanborns in the beautiful House of Tiles (Casa de los Azulejos), formerly called the Blue Palace.

Thursday, 1st November (Mexico City - Teotihuacán - Mexico City)

For Thursday we had arranged to meet Volker's penpal Marcela and her husband Roberto, who live in Mexico City. They picked us up at the hotel at 8.30 a.m. and we left for the pyramids of Teotihuacán by car. The 50km were approximately a one-hour drive,. The entry fee was 30 pesos. Built by the Toltecs, Teotihuacán was the capital of Mexico's first great civilization and probably had 200,000 inhabitants at its peak in the 6th century. It was a city the size of ancient Athens and Rome. It thrived as the primary center of learning and culture in America for over one thousand years, before it was abandoned about fifteen-hundred years ago, nobody knows why. We walked the Avenue of the Dead and climbed both the impressive, 70m high Pyramid of the Sun and the not much smaller Pyramid of the Moon. We had lunch at one of the tourist eateries surrounding the archeological site. Then we returned to Mexico City and visited the Zócalo, the Cathedral and the Templo Mayor. The historic center of Mexico City is the Plaza de la Constitución, more commonly known as the Zócalo, the world's largest square. The Zócalo and the Catedral Metropolitana were built with stones from the ruins of the temples and palaces of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán. The Spanish crown, led by Hernan Cortés, conquered the Aztec Empire in 1521. Tenochtitlán was built on a one-square-mile island in the middle of an enormous shallow lake, so many of Mexico City's older buildings and churches are sinking into the boggy ground on which they were constructed. The cathedral is probably the largest on the American continent, but it has been badly damaged by earthquakes. To prevent further damage its interior is iron-clad. Just east of the cathedral are the remnants of the Templo Mayor, the Aztecs' principal temple, and the museum that houses the artifacts discovered at the site, which we also visited (35 pesos). We got a good view of the Zócalo from the roof-top terrace of the Hotel Majestic. The usually empty square was crowded with people celebrating the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). There were many altars decorated for the dead who were said to visit that day. Indians were dancing and there were two stages for concerts. It was really a spectacle. For dinner we went to the American chain restaurant Tony Roma's in the World Trade Center of Mexico City.

Friday, 2nd November (Mexico City - Toluca)

On Friday at 8.30 a.m. we left for the Museum of Anthropology (35 pesos), which was very interesting, depicting the history of the entire American continent. At 12 p.m. we got on the bus again for our next destination Toluca, located 2600m high, some 70km from Mexico City. Instead of the usual one hour this took us two and a half hours due to a traffic jam, not at all uncommon in Mexico City. Finally in Toluca we visited the Zócalo, the cathedral, the market stalls of Los Portales and the botanical garden Cosmo Vitral (10 pesos). At 5 p.m. the bus picked us up at the hotel to take us to El Calvario, a pretty church on top of a hill, where the wedding was to take place. After the rehearsal of the wedding ceremony we were invited for dinner by Aida's cousin Carolina, where we enjoyed once again typical Mexican food. Afterwards we retired early to our hotel, Hotel Colonial (central location, 300 pesos).

Saturday, 3rd November (Wedding in Toluca)

At 10 a.m. the next morning the bus picked us up at the hotel. There was no breakfast at the hotel, and it was hard to find anything open early on Saturday morning, so we ended up at Woolworth's where we had an American breakfast. The wedding started at 11 a.m.. The ceremony lasted one hour  and was held in Spanish and French. Those of our group who spoke none of these languages had to content themselves with watching. After church the bus took us to Metepec, just outside of Toluca, where the wedding party took place in a garden. There was a buffet lunch, then traditional dances were shown and the mariachis played their traditional music. It was I who caught the bouquet! For a souvenir all the foreign visitors received an Arból de Vida, a colorful "tree of life", made from clay and used as a candlestick. After sunset it grew fairly cold but the fiesta continued inside with music and dancing until about 9 p.m. As the bus was gone by then, some family members were so kind to give us a ride back to the hotel.

Sunday, 4th November (Toluca - Taxco)

The next morning the group split up. As arranged the day before, a taxi arrived at the hotel at 9 a.m. to take us to the Terminal de Autobuses Sur (TAS) bus station in Mexico City. We shared the 350 pesos with Myriam and Christian who accompanied us. This time we needed only one hour to get back to Mexico City. While Myriam and Christian took a direct bus to Acapulco, Volker and I caught a (first class) bus (Estrella de Oro) to Taxco (78 pesos each) at 10.40 a.m. Even without a reservation it was no problem to obtain tickets. At 1 p.m. we arrived at our destination and for 15 pesos a VW beetle taxi took us to the Hotel Agua Escondida (500 pesos/53 US$), which we had booked in advance. This was the best hotel we stayed at during our entire trip. It was located right at the Zócalo, the rooms were friendly and clean and from the hotel pool we had a great view over the city and the Santa Prisca church. The old silver-mining town Taxco, 180km southwest of Mexico City, is probably one of the most picturesque places in Mexico, with its narrow, winding cobbled streets and colonial style buildings. The entire town has been declared a national historic monument. It is the silver capital of Mexico and jewelry and handicrafts can be bought on every corner. The Santa Prisca church is perhaps the finest example of baroque architecture in all of Mexico. Upon arrival we first visited the town center, then we took a swim and relaxed at the pool, just in time before the sun went down around 6 p.m. We had dinner on the balcony of a restaurant with a view over the Zócalo. From there we were able to observe Taxco's busy night life and the Volkswagen bugs and VW vans serving as small buses going round and round the city square...

Monday, 5th November (Taxco - Acapulco)

We had made reservations for the bus to Acapulco (120 pesos) at 9.10 a.m., so we had to get up early on Monday and take a taxi back to the bus station. The bus, however, had some technical problems and we already feared we were stranded. But eventually we were able to leave only half an hour later, expecting the bus to break down again any minute. For the first part of the trip we followed the course of a valley with a fantastic organ-pipe cacti scenery. After a short stop at Chilpancingo we rejoined the motorway and we arrived in Acapulco after a 4-hours drive without further problems. We took a taxi (35 pesos after some bargaining) to our Hotel Boca Chica (585 pesos/65 US$ including breakfast). The hotel is beautifully situated right across the Isla Roqueta and all the rooms have a seaview. But the area around it wasn't so good and the hotel itself, especially the room furniture, was quite shabby. The hotel has a pool and right next to it is a beach frequented by locals. In Acapulco it wasn't easy to escape the street merchants. It was very hot and very humid, quite unbearable really, and we were already late in the fall! We didn't do much the afternoon we arrived. We went swimming in the pool, took a bus to the Zócalo and walked up to La Quebrada where the clavadistas, the famous cliff divers, throw themselves from the seemingly suicidal height of 45m into a narrow crevasse. Not surprisingly, the divers pray at a small shrine before flinging themselves into the void. To be on the safe side food-wise we had dinner at Sanborns and we returned to the hotel by bus. The practical and cheap local busses, which run along the Avenida Miguel Alemán, also called Costera, the heart of Acapulco's resort strip and home to nearly all of Acapulco's resort hotels, non-stop nightlife, dining, and shopping, let you hop on and off any time for only 3.50 pesos. The Costera continues north along the bay toward Old Acapulco and the aging downtown area. The port of Acapulco has played a prominent role in world history. In fact Acapulco was a cornerstone of world trade as far back as the 16th century. Today the historic San Diego Fort overlooks the cruise ships and their terminal.

Tuesday, 6th November (Acapulco)

The following morning we had a lie-in and after breakfast we took a glass-bottom boat to the Isla Roqueta (30 pesos each for a return ticket), where we enjoyed a relaxing day on the beach. We rented chairs and snorkeling glasses and you could observe some colorful fish. From the beach we had a great view of Acapulco Bay. It was warm but neither too hot nor humid, just very agreeable. At 7 p.m. we actually went to see the cliff divers at La Quebrada (15 pesos each), and they were quite impressive. After dinner (at Sanborns again) we returned to the hotel. All in all we really enjoyed the day on the beach, but apart from that Acapulco was just too hot and humid and touristy and we were glad we didn't have to stay any longer.

Wednesday, 7th November (Acapulco - Cuernavaca)

On Wednesday we ordered a taxi (50 pesos this time) to take us to the Estrella de Oro bus station. We had bought tickets for the 10.40 a.m. bus (Servicio Plus) to Cuernavaca (190 pesos each) where we arrived four hours later. We checked into the Hotel Papagayo (513 pesos/57 US$ including breakfast), the taxi ride from the bus station was 20 pesos. We had a quiet room across the courtyard. There was a big pool, but we didn't have time to go swimming. As by now it was already 3 p.m. we just grabbed some pastry at a supermarket for a snack and headed downtown towards the Zócalo, the Palacio de Cortés, the Cathedral and the Jardín Borda. Cuernavaca; approximately 100km south of Mexico City, is known as the "City of Eternal Spring". Its mild climate has attracted the wealthy and fashionable seeking relief from Mexico City since colonial times. Many rulers chose it for their summer palaces, from the Aztecs to Hernán Cortés to Maximilian of Habsburg. It is also well-known for its Spanish-language courses. For a change from Mexican food we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. It was okay, but not as good as the Italian restaurants we are used to in Germany.

Thursday, 8th November (Cuernavaca - Oaxaca)

The following day we had breakfast as early as 7.30 a.m. Then we walked one block to the Pullmann de Morelos bus station, where busses to Mexico City leave every 15 minutes, so we hadn't made any reservations. We got the last two seats (48 pesos per person) on the bus leaving at 8.15 a.m., some two minutes after we got there. It took one hour and twenty minutes to reach the Tasquena (TAS) bus station in the south of Mexico City. We took a taxi (42 pesos) to TAPO, the eastern bus station, and purchased seats on the ADO first-class bus to Oaxaca leaving at 11 a.m. (246 pesos each). The trip through the mountains between Puebla and Oaxaca with large cacti everywhere was spectacular. Oaxaca is located in the southern state of the same name. The city has a large indigenous population and Indian markets meld with the city's superb colonial architecture. Once the center of the Mixtec and Zapotec civilizations, the ruins of their ancient cities can be visited at Monte Albán (10km out of town) and Mitla (some 45km). We arrived after six hours and took a taxi (25 pesos) to the Hotel Posada del Centro, with nicely renovated patios and friendly staff, only two blocks from the Zócalo. Room prices range from 220 to 480 pesos. As a special offer we got the 380 pesos room for 352 pesos. We had a very good, typical dinner (180 pesos including tip) at the "Casa de Abuela" at the Zócalo with a view of the cathedral. Upon our return to the hotel we bought tickets for a guided tour to Monte Albán the following morning (120 pesos plus 35 pesos entrance fee). We left out the tour to the giant tree of Tule, the artisan center of Teotitlán del Valle and Mitla because we expected it would be too stressful to do both on the same day. Besides we wanted to see something of the town as well.

Friday, 9th November (Oaxaca - Monte Albán - Oaxaca)

We were to be picked up by a minibus at 10 a.m. on Friday morning. The group consisted of two young women from Switzerland and an American couple as well as some Mexicans. The Monte Albán pyramids are perched on a flattened mountain top with a superb view of the Oaxaca valley. Over the centuries the site was inhabited by the Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec cultures, and also influenced by the Chiapas and the Maya, as well as Teotihuacán. The tour lasted 3 1/2 hours, then we were dropped off at the Zócalo from where we started our self-guided visit of downtown Oaxaca. From all the places we saw during our Mexico trip we liked Oaxaca best. Part of the town center is pedestrianized which serves as a welcome break from the usual noise and hectic of the traffic. We stopped by the bus station to purchase tickets for our return trip to Puebla the following day (183 pesos,
ADO). At our arrival the day before we didn't have enough money left and the ticket office accepted only cash, so we had to find a money exchange first. We also paid a visit to the Hotel Azucenas which still owed me money from my earlier cancellation. They gave me a copy of the confirmation from the refund and I had to trust that the money would be on my bank account when I returned to Germany - which luckily it was. Back on the Zócalo we stumbled across a fiesta with students celebrating and marching through the streets, bands playing and traditional dancing. They even produced some fireworks. We had a drink at one of the cafés and enjoyed the Zócalo life. For dinner we went to the El Sagrario pizzeria and restaurant and when we passed by the Zócalo once again afterwards, the fiesta still continued...

Saturday, 10th November (Oaxaca - Puebla)

During our last day in Oaxaca we met Claudia and Kai who were staying at the same hotel, so at breakfast we ran into each other! We went to the Zócalo together where I bought some necklaces for a souvenir. I found it wasn't so easy to bargain for the necklaces, besides they already were quite cheap and the local people have to make their living that way, so I think one shouldn't bargain too much. Nevertheless I'm sure we did pay a tourist price. Soon it was time to take a taxi (30 pesos) to the bus station to catch our bus to Puebla at 1.30 p.m. During the 5-hour trip we stopped once in Tehuacán. At the bus station in Puebla we rang up Marcela and agreed to meet once again in Mexico City the following day. We then took a taxi and checked into the Hotel Palace (370 pesos for a double room), which was more modern and more comfortable than the Hotel Alameda and they are the same price category. We had dinner at VIPS and I bought a CD from the Mexican band Maná which was offered at a discount as well as a children's book in Spanish to practise the language.

Sunday, 11th November (Puebla - Mexico City)

At 11.40 a.m. on Sunday morning we took a bus to Mexico City's TAPO bus station (70 pesos) where we were met by Marcela and Roberto. We got into their car and they showed us the University of Mexico City. We also went to Coyoacán, a historic part of Mexico City that still retains its colonial character. There were many market stalls and live music. It was a lively place and people obviously like to go there during their weekends. We had a late lunch together, then the two of them gave us a lift to the airport. Our KLM flight was scheduled to depart at 9.05 p.m., half an hour earlier than expected, but  as we were then delayed half an hour we finally started at 9.35 p.m. as originally planned. We had quite a bit of turbulence on our return flight but we landed in time in Amsterdam at 4 p.m. the next day and had to wait an hour for our Eurowings connection to Düsseldorf.


For additional information (accommodation, transportation, etc.) check out my tips for travelling in Mexico.


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