Mexico City Trip Report (long)

Apr 2nd, 2008, 05:58 PM
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Mexico City Trip Report (long)

This is a trip report for a trip my family and I took to Mexico City for March 20th through March 26th 2008. It is a pretty long report, so it is broken into sections. The first section is an overview of the trip and some brief impressions of the places we visited. The next section has (what I think is) some important information about travel to Mexico that I couldn’t really find in other resources. Finally I’ll explain in detail what we did there. If you have any questions about this trip, please feel free to email me at [email protected].

If you want to see pictures of this trip, go to http://pictures.mathewsweb.net. Once there, click on "Vacations" in the top left panel and then "Mexico City" in the bottom left panel.


Overview
For reference I am 42 and my wife is 44 and we live in NE Ohio. We have three kids ages 10, 12, and almost 14. We travel lightly (carryons and a single checked piece of luggage). In general we prefer meeting people and understanding cultures more so than sightseeing, although when traveling with our children we do a lot of sightseeing. We’ve been to Mexico twice before – Puerto Vallarta both times. The total cost for this trip was approximately $3800 – I’ll try to give specific details below, and all costs will be in USD and will include any applicable taxes.

We’re black and although we saw no other blacks (except a couple of Africans) we experienced no hints of prejudice at all.

Getting there: We took Continental from Cleveland, OH to Mexico City, laying over in Newark on the way down and Houston on the way back. Surprisingly all planes were on time. We paid approximately $470pp for the tickets. We could have gotten tickets for about $100 cheaper, but the more expensive tickets had perfect times and essentially zero layover times (i.e., once our first plane landed and we reached our second plane it was already boarding). We paid $30pp for trip insurance.

The food on the flight was fine. Going down movies were shown, coming back nothing. As previously mentioned, the flights were all on time.

The weather was perfect for our trip. Upper 70s each day except for one which was cloudy and lower 70s. This was the day we climbed pyramids so, again, perfect.

We landed in Mexico City and took a taxi to our hotel, The Red Tree House (http://www.theredtreehouse.com). Over the next six days we saw Chapultepec Park, Lucha Libre, the Anthropology museum, Papalote, Xochimilco, Teotihuacan, the Museum of National History (and the castle), and much more...

Mexico City was amazing. Not counting Disney, this was the best family trip we have ever taken. Mexico City might be fun for couples and singles, but it is definitely made for families – more on this below in the details. The food, of course, was excellent and the people were extremely friendly.

Our hotel was amazing. We could find no negative comments about it before we left and now I understand why. Searching for this on Trip Advisor will give you a lot of info on it. I have more below in the report.
alyssamma is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2008, 06:00 PM
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Important Information
This is a collection of things I found out (some the hard way) that I couldn’t find previously anywhere else.

- Sickness. None of us got sick. We brushed our teeth with tap water, but otherwise had bottled. We ate at street vendors, but didn’t have any fruits. We did eat some corn served in “hot” water and once ate a slush-pop. Again, no problems, YMMV.

- Limes. Mexicans love them. Hey, want an ear of corn? Sure, here’s some lime squirted on it. How about some potato chips? Sure, here’s lime flavored chips. Every food you can possibly think of from soup to meats to crunchy sidewalk vendor things gets lime squirted on it. And you know what…it’s pretty good. Of course, if you tire of this you can ask to not have it put on, but hey, when in Rome…

- Lines. Mexicans love them. They wait in lines patiently and without complaining that would make the average American cry for their mother. It’s a pretty amazing thing to see actually. The one time we waited in a line it moved pretty quickly (took about 30min where I would have expected an hour). It was, of course, the wrong line…

- Lines part dos. We never quite got the hang of this, so I can only advise you to be aware of it. Some places have a separate line where you order, and then another line where you pick up your food. But the lines are right next to each other, so it isn’t clear there are two separate lines. Anyway, we failed miserably at this, but the Mexicans were gracious and helped us out.

- English not as a second language. Amazingly the first time we go to a place where English really isn’t spoken it is a country that borders ours. I guess we have been spoiled by the Europeans and expected everyone to speak English wherever we went. Anyway, no problems, with some very, very rudimentary Spanish you can get by just fine. Just be prepared to pantomime, point, and occasionally write out things like numbers. Again, the Mexicans were incredibly patient and helpful with us, and we experienced no problems in this area.

- Sidewalks are…interesting. Not sure if this is true, but we were told that when people build a house they get to design the sidewalk in front of it. Regardless, there isn’t 5 feet of level, uncracked sidewalk in Mexico City. Also, the curbs are pretty high…some close to a foot high. So, be careful and watch where you are going. My wife tripped several times…

- Street vendors are cheap and good. Really good. Just look for one that has a long line and you’ll be fine. You can get a meal for about $1.50. Yep, $1.50. To give you a perfect example, our last night I ate two tacos with chicken fillets, covered with rice and fried potatoes. At the current exchange rate it was $1.38. Throw in a 2-liter bottle of soda for the family to split at $1.40 and our family of 5 ate dinner for less than $10 every night. Virtually every corner where we stayed (in Condesa) had these, so the variety was great.

- But…some vendors charge a “tourist” rate. To be honest, I believe these are the ones in Chapultepec Park. I never felt ripped off by any others. But, at the end of the day, instead of paying a total of $3 I ended up paying $4 or $5…not a big deal. This is an area where I think if I spoke Spanish it wouldn’t have happened, but hey…who cares about a dollar or two. Don’t let it ruin your vacation.

- Families. Mexico City is made for families. It is hard to describe as it is like the Matrix – you can’t be told about it you need to experience it. It seemed that wherever I looked I saw families out and about. Before I came here I never thought of Mexico City as a family destination, but nothing could be further from the truth.

- Crime. Mexico City is huge. Of course there is a crime problem. However, we didn’t see any evidence of it. Why? Because we were tourists and stayed in the tourists areas – and these are gorgeous. If you traveled to Washington, DC you would never guess it once had the title of “Murder Capital of the World”. You would stay in the areas for tourists and that would be that. We actually did venture into some non-tourist areas (like when we went to Lucha Libre), but didn’t feel any less-safe than we would have in a big American city.

- Red Tree House. I’ll give some details on this below, but for those of you who’ll skip the details, let me simply say: Believe the Hype. This place is the real deal and it is amazing. Simply put, the best place we’ve ever stayed in as a family. The owner, Jorge (or HorHay as my daughter spells it), is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet and he goes out of his way to make you feel as if you are staying at a relative’s house and not at an Inn.

alyssamma is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2008, 06:01 PM
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Detailed Information
Below is a detailed description of exactly what we did on our trip. It is long, but hopefully not too boring…

3/20 – Mexicans make fun of me

Mexico City airport is fairly modern and we moved through customs and immigration easily. Taxis were waiting right outside of customs. The people pretty much “attack” you as you leave customs, and with all of the “be careful with taxis in Mexico” I was a little worried. I shouldn’t have been. I found a nearby ATM, withdrew about $185 in cash, and got a taxi (a van for 5 people) to my hotel for a little less than $25. The ride was easy and quick. For the record, I don’t think driving in Mexico City would be a problem for anyone who has driven in a large city before.

In about 20min we were at the Red Tree Inn. I had directions in Spanish, but the driver still had a little bit of a problem finding it. Jorge, the owner, greeted us at the door and once we entered, his dog Abril greeted us also.

Let me tell you that I hate dogs. As a boy I kind of liked them, but as an adult I can’t stand them. But Abril was different. It was like she was a person “trapped” in a dog body. Very mellow (like all of the dogs in Mexico City) and friendly. She radiated…something…that just made you want to rub her and hold her. Over then next six days my kids spent many an hour playing with her and this was a highlight of the trip for them.

I gave a detailed review of the Red Tree House on Trip Advisor. You can also see other reviews there too – they are all 100% positive. I’ve reproduced my review here, but go there to see what other people think:

(see below for some specific information about this property after all of the gushing compliments)

Wow...I don't know what to write. I was determined to find something negative to say about this inn, especially since every post below this is so positive. After spending 6 days there all I can come up with is...I wish I had a larger mirror in my room.

This place is truly, truly, truly amazing. It doesn't feel like staying in a hotel (or B&B). It feels like you are staying at a close friend or relative's house. Words cannot describe the warmth and hospitality given by Jorge, the owner. The posts below are 100% accurate about how nice it is to stay here.

So, instead of repeating all of that, I will give some practical information. For more details about the inn, feel free to email me ([email protected]) or check out my website at (http://reports.mathewsweb.net) for our trip report which will include specific details about the inn.

We are a family of 5 - two girls ages 12 and 14 and a son age 10. We stayed here March 20th - March 26th, 2008.

Attached to my post are some pictures of the inn. A couple are of my kids dying Easter eggs with Jorge - a custom he wasn't familiar with, but attacked with gusto.

The Red Tree House is two houses in one. The first is the main house and consists of a living room, dining room, bedroom with ensuite bath, two bedrooms with shared baths, and a penthouse (there is also a very small extra bedroom). Behind the main house and separated by a small garden/patio is the garden house. This has two bedrooms on the first floor, and then another two bedrooms on the second and third floors respectively. All bedrooms in the garden house have an ensuite bath. There is a washer/dryer and stove that you can use. A light breakfast is served in the morning (juice, croissants/muffins/bread, fruit, and sometimes eggs or quesadillas). A lovely dog (see pictures) also inhabits the house.

The inn is about a 15min drive away from the airport. Because we were 5, we needed to take a van. The cost was 250 pesos.

Directly across the street is a small store where you can buy soda, water, chips, and ice cream. There is also a pretty fountain a couple of houses away. A grocery store is a 5min walk away.

The nearest metro, Chilpancingo, is a 5-10min walk away.

Chapultepec park is a 20-30min walk away. Park Mexico is a 10 min walk away.

Again, more details and some great stories in my trip report.

We paid $900 for six nights. We originally had a room w/en suite bath for the adults and a room with a shared bath for my daughters. For my son, Jorge had a small room (really just a bed). However, my son really wanted to sleep in the same room as my daughters so Jorge put a rollaway bed in there and offered to refund us some money. I asked him if he would simply cook us a meal instead and we’d call it even. He agreed. More on this later…

We decided to walk around the neighborhood to orient ourselves. We found the metro station and then decided to walk to Chapultepec park. The park is really amazing and really huge – almost 7sq km. We saw a clown doing a street performance and watched for a while. He had a large crowd watching and laughing, so we assumed he was funny even though we didn’t speak Spanish and couldn’t understand any of his jokes. When we went to leave he called out to me and asked me to come up. He found a lady who was visiting from San Diego to translate. For the next two hours, he dressed me up in balloons and big underwear, made me dance and carry some other Mexicans (never quite sure I understood that one), made me catch him, and yell various Spanish words to the audience. He also had some kids from the audience doing some dancing and a couple of adult guys too (they also had to carry each other). The crowd loved it and we got some funny pictures and videos. We didn’t understand much, but we learned that Mexico City was going to be a fun place. We also started to see how people went out with their families instead of by themselves.

Anyway, leaving was a difficult thing to do. He would yell at me to leave, wait until I was almost gone, yell some Spanish and then tell me to come back. Again, no clue what he was saying, but I could tell he was making fun of me. It was all in good fun, though, and when we finally did leave we were relaxed and ready to start our vacation in earnest.

For the rest of the day we explored parts of the park and saw the Los Ninos monument. We bought popcorn, cotton candy (which didn’t taste like cotton candy), and other “junk” food items from the many vendors in the park. We watched families playing together and decided we were going to like this place.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Park Mexico. This is a lovely little park with a great playground. My two youngest loved it, but my oldest was a little too old for the playground. You can rent “bikes” here (really things with wheels that two or more people pedal) or just sit and people watch.

We turned in early as we were all tired and knew we had a long day tomorrow…
alyssamma is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2008, 06:02 PM
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3/21 – I meet some nice Mexicans and they help me get Lucha Libre tickets

Today was Lucha Libre day. My son loves wrestling (both the TV kind and the real kind – he wrestles for our city team) so I thought it would be cool to take him to see some Mexican wrestling. He was very indifferent until he found out there was a chance we might miss it. Then he became a 10yr old whining boy who would do anything to get a seat. But, before all of that we were off to the Children’s museum (Papalote) and the zoo.

We left the Red Tree House before Jorge had a chance to make breakfast, so we stopped at a bakery along the way. We got some assorted items and were now convinced we would enjoy eating in Mexico. We walked back to the park (this time to the 2nd section that contained Papalote). Their website is only in Spanish, so it was difficult for me to understand. I thought it opened at 9am, but it was really 10am so instead of being a little late, we were a little early. The admission was about $8 for adults and $7.50 for kids 10 and under.

Let me just say that Papalote is huge. We saw maybe 40% of the exhibits. You need at least 2 full days to see everything. Although it was all in Spanish, we managed to understand everything (mostly) ok. And when they talk about “hands-on”, they ain’t kidding. You touch virtually everything in the museum. It isn’t so much made for kids as it is made for families with kids. In fact, people without kids are only allowed in on Thursdays.

In addition to the “normal” Children’s museum things, they had some things which I thought were a little special. There was a “game” room where they had a giant Chinese Checkers board and a giant Chutes and Ladders game. We played the latter by rolling a huge foam die. The game piece was your body. We also learned how to play a Mexican children’s game that is like “duck duck goose” but involves a wolf and some costumes. We did jump rope and played a game of giant pick up sticks. We also played “hot potato”, but it was called something else and when you got out you had to do a dance. There were many other games here too that we couldn’t understand and some that we could (Legos, yo-yos, etc.). It does sound a little corny, but until you see it you can’t understand it. The room is riveting and very fun to be in.

There were also two exhibits that instructed kids about handicaps. One was a pitch black room (really a maze) that taught the kids about being blind. After a brief discussion (which we were lucky enough to be in a group with a man who could translate for us) you enter a “maze”. There you need to feel your way around until you can get out. Some places you need to crawl and others you can walk. The groups are small – less than 10 people at a time – so the place is not crowded. My daughter’s best friend is blind, so she really enjoyed this room.

There was also an outdoor area where you could use a wheelchair. You had to get in only using your arms and then go around a track with various types of concrete so you could see the difficulties faced by people in wheelchairs.

Another “different” thing was a TV station. Families (again in small groups) put on an entire news show. Everything from working sound, lights and cameras, to being reporters and “interviewees”, etc. This was the only time we were completely lost as it was all in Spanish. My kids worked some of the equipment, though, and had a good time. Again, small groups and the show lasts about 30min.

Otherwise we made Mexican candy, became “hamsters” in a human-powered Pachenko machine that works with bowling balls, laid on a bed of nails, looked at the sun through a telescope, did some virtual reality driving, learned about different species in different habitats around the world, did some chemistry, etc.

We’ve been to many Children’s museums in the US and Canada and this was by far the best. In fact, we spent so much time here that we missed going to the zoo. No problem, we went back to the hotel, got some food from a street vendor, and made our way by metro to Lucha Libre.

But before we did I had to let my American kids get their butts kicked in soccer by some locals in the park. I encourage my children to interact with the children in other countries we travel to, and game playing is an area where there are few language boundaries. So, soccer is usually played. The results this time were no different than the results in other countries we’ve taken them too, but my kids had a ball nonetheless. So, with that out of the way, we really were on to Lucha Libre.

When we got off the metro, we saw some Mexican kids with masks on. We asked if they spoke English (one did) and asked for directions to the arena. They said we could just follow them which we did. When we got there, there were scalpers all over the place offering tickets. Long story short, we came on a day with an important match and they were completely sold out. The guys we met helped us buy some tickets from a scalper – at about $9/piece. The only problem was that they were in the seats at the very top of the arena. The guys we met told us we could still see pretty well there, but I wasn’t so sure. Also the tickets were about 2x what they should normally cost. Well, this is where my son, who previously was too “cool” to care about going made it very clear he didn’t care what seats we got as long as we got some seats. So, we took the plunge and it worked out great. We had to stand along the top row of the arena, but we could see just fine. In fact, given the gradient of the other “nosebleed” seats, my wife and I were glad we were standing on the top row. My son was in heaven (my daughters were not) and, as I said, we could see just fine.

Each match had 3 rounds. All except for the final match were teams of 3 vs. 3. The first match was women, the second was midgets. Then there were 3 matches with normal guys. Lastly there was the main event. Our match started at 8:30pm (although I think some start at 8pm) and lasted close to 3hrs.

This was my first time at a “professional” wrestling match and I have to admit it wasn’t as bad as I expected. In fact, it was even a little entertaining. Again, lots of families, people yelling, and normal sporting event music.

One tip if you go, all along the street where the arena is, they are selling Lucha Libre masks. They will cost anywhere from $10 - $25. If you instead go into Chapultepec park and buy one you will spend $5-$7.

Also, be prepared to be patted down (by a same sex officer) before entering. And, if you get the nosebleed seats you enter on the opposite side of the arena.

Lastly, I want to say thanks to the anonymous kids we met who helped us get tickets. They really went out of their way to aid us. They spent probably 30min talking to different scalpers for us and translating and helping us understand. In fact, they were willing to miss the beginning of the show to help us try to get cheaper tickets, but by that point we told them to go and we’d just buy the nosebleed seats. This is the type of friendliness that was we did not expect to find in a city of this size.

After seeing the event we went straight home and crashed.

alyssamma is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2008, 06:02 PM
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3/22 – Pandas and Tortas or, Mexican Zoos have One Way Streets

Today was our walking day. We were supposed to go to the Centro de Artesanías market, walk the entire Paseo de la Reforma and hit the murals and Cathedral in the Zocolo. But, it didn’t quite work out that way…

First, we slept in a little since we were out late the night before. This let us sample Jorge’s breakfast. When we arrived he said he had a “continental” breakfast that he served. Not really caring about stale rolls and juice we weren’t too worried about missing it. However, when we came downstairs what we saw was anything other than continental. There were croissants, donuts, pastries and eggs. There was a cook who would make quesadillas if you wanted and incredibly fresh squeezed orange juice. Later, after Jorge discovered my son liked churros, he made sure they were present each morning too.

Armed with this in our bellies, we decided to walk again to Chapultepec park and see the zoo we missed. I like zoos, but always feel guilty about seeing the animals cooped up in cages. Still, this zoo had pandas and I had never seen them before “in person”, so off we went.

The zoo was…interesting. First, while the zoo is free, some of the exhibits charge. Most notably is the area with the snakes and butterflies. We were “promised” that butterflies would land on our shoulders if we paid and entered. We didn’t. Outside of the reptile and insect house was a lady with spiders and huge cockroaches. She let my son hold the cockroach, thereby proving that while is a whiner about Lucha Libre, when it comes to bugs he is braver than his father. Again, we didn’t pay and kept walking.

Soon we found the pandas. It was cool, but not as cool as I was expecting. So, we turned to leave as we had a lot of other stuff to do. When walking out the way we came in, a guard yelled at me (politely) to turn around and go the other way. Actually, I only saw him pointing and understood the word “salida”, but I got the gist of what he meant. This is when we discovered that to exit the zoo you need to go through the entire zoo. Very funny.

Or not. The zoo is kind of convoluted and many paths turn back on themselves. Luckily we noticed some arrows on the ground, and following them we found our way out. On the way we passed an excellent monkey and cat area and then we found…a penguin. My son asked me how they could have a penguin in such a hot region. Not wanting to admit to my son I knew less than Google I mumbled something about cool water and refrigerators and told him to hurry up as we had to leave.

But then we hit the Polar Bear. Wow, it looked like it was dead. It was sprawled out on its stomach and looked mighty uncomfortable. I had to admit to all of my kids that I had no idea how this animal could survive here. We snapped a couple of pictures and hurried on our way.

Once out of the zoo we walked down the Paseo de la Reforma. The guidebooks said this was the Champs d’Elysee of Mexico. The guidebooks lied, but what they should have said is that it is better than the Champs d’Elysee. This is a great street with giant fountains and statues in its center, cool vendors and exhibits along its sides, and it closes down on Sundays for pedestrian only traffic.

To us, the highlight of Paseo de la Reforma was the artwork of Leonora Carrington. I had never heard of her before, but she is amazing (Google her…). They had her sculptures lining the center walk of the street and her paintings along one of the sides. Her scope of work is incredible and she was very prolific.

After walking for a while we were supposed to turn off and hit the Centro de Artesanías market but with all of the vendors we had already seen, we decided to skip this and head straight to Almeda Park. This was billed as a “Parisian style” park. I think people need to stop comparing Mexico to Paris. Regardless, this is a case where it fell short. While Chapultepec is simply amazing and Park Mexico is quaint and fun, we found Almeda to be a little lacking. It didn’t have that “family” feel the other parks had and seemed dirty. However, there was one cool thing about it…

We were starving at this point and across the street was a tiny (I mean tiny) restaurant selling tortas. The entire place was the size of an average American kitchen and the place where people were ordering and eating was the size of a hallway. And it was packed. We immediately deduced this place must have excellent food and we were correct. Summoning all of my Spanish skills I orders a few tortas for us to split and that became one of the best meals we ate on the trip.

With a full belly we caught a metro down to the Zocolo. When we arrived, there was some multi-denominational religious thing going on with cameras, dancing and lots of music. There was also a photographic exhibit of “Ashes and Snow” going on. We had hoped to see this, but the line was insane so we had to skip it. We had also hoped to see the murals by Diego Rivera but arrived too late and couldn’t get in.

We did get to see the Cathedral…it was ok, but not as impressive as European Cathedrals. Unless you are really into this type of thing, I would skip it.

We also looked at Templo Mayor from the outside. Again, unless you are really into archeology, skip this too.

We walked around a little and found some Aztecs putting on a show. In between sets they talked with my children and gave my son a feather. We watched them for a little bit more and headed home.

alyssamma is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2008, 06:10 PM
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3/23 – Our Boat Hits a Tree

Today we hit Chapultepec park yet again. We wanted to see the Voladores (the Flying Men) and get on the lake with some rowboats.

The Voladores are right outside of the Anthropology museum and do pretty much continuous shows throughout the day. It is pretty cool to see and I recommend it. No charge, but a cup is passed after each show for coins.

After seeing them we headed for the lake to get some rowboats. We wanted one for five, but they were all out so we took one for four and my wife stayed ashore. You need to leave an ID as a deposit (my US driver’s license was fine) and it cost us $6 for one hour. They also have paddleboats. The lake is big and it was fun to row around it and see all of the other people out and about. However, our destiny lay to the south with bigger boats. After circumnavigating the lake, we headed for Xochimilco (pronounced so-chee-MIL-co).

To me, Xochimilco was the highlight of our trip. Getting there was pretty easy…2 pesos for a metro to Tasqueña and then 2 pesos on the Tren Lijero (Light Train) to the last stop. Or almost to the last stop. The last stop is Xochimilco and it is under construction so you get off one stop before that. Lots of taxis are waiting for you there…we passed them all by. We saw a bus with the name “Embarcadero” and hopped on – 3 pesos (tourist prices?). Anyway, that was a waste as it is a 10min “L” shaped walk to the Embarcaderos (the places where the boats are tied up) from the place where the train lets you off.

I had done my research and knew the “normal” price for the boats was 160 pesos for an hour and that price was per boat and not per person. The first guy that approached me told me 160, but then once we were seated on the boat tried to tell me it was per person. We walked off.

We then got prices of 400, 300, and 200 pesos. Finally we met a nice Mexican woman who told us to walk down to the next Embarcadero (a 2min walk) and we could get a good price. We had barely begun when we met a man from there who offered us his boat for 110 pesos…a little more than $10. We were off.

Right before we left he asked us if we minded sharing the boat with 3 women. The boats are huge…ours could probably hold 15 people easily, so we said no problem, the more the merrier. That being done we were off.

It was good we had the Mexicans with us (two sisters and their mother, all older than us) as we had no clue what to do. Not speaking Spanish (and no one speaking English) meant we had to resort to hand signals and pantomimes. The ladies helped us signal the guys in boats for food and we enjoyed candy apples, potato chips (not exactly, but close enough), and corn on the cob (with lime!). The food costs between $1 and $2 for the “junk” stuff and $2-$5 for the “real” food (tortas, tacos, etc.).

The boat also stops at a “garden” where you get off, walk around for 15min, and get back on. Again, without the ladies there we would have thought this was the end of the trip.

It is hard to describe the experience. Picture huge colorful floating barge/raft/boat things floating down a narrow river. Now throw in smaller canoe type boats that zip in and out selling everything from food to flowers to songs (bands will serenade you as you float down the river). Now add in an inexperienced driver (they steer and row with a long pole that pushes off the river bed) and you have all the ingredients for a fun time.

Our guy hit everything – other boats, the shore, and a tree. That was, in my opinion, the best. The Mexicans with us seemed to enjoy it too. My kids got up on the boat and danced as mariachis sailed past us. They suntanned on the edges, they ran around and played. Again, it is hard to describe, but there are dozens of these boats floating around. Most are full with families. Some have hired “food” boats to trail them and cook for them. Others have band boats attached. Everywhere you look you see colors and people laughing, dancing, and having fun.

Note, we went on a Sunday which is when I recommend going. Other days (except for maybe Saturday) are not as busy and I don’t think you’ll get the true vibe of Xochimilco.

One last note – you’ll be offered drinks before you leave. Say how many you want and you’ll get a bucket with them in it. When you return, you’ll be charged for whatever you drink (ours were a little over $1 each – possibly a tourist price).

Total cost for the trip including food and drinks – just under $20. Hitting a tree – priceless.

With that experience under out belts we returned back to the Inn and went to bed as we had to get up early the next morning.


3/24 – I have a Heart Attack

OK, not a real heart attack but it felt like it after climbing the Sun pyramid. There are great resources online on how to get to Teotihuacan (pronounced tay'-uh-tee'-wah-kahn) by public transportation. I will merely add here that it is a) easy and b) cheap. A 2 peso metro ticket to Autobuses del Norte and then a $3 bus ticket to the pyramids ($1.50 for kids). The bus you want is all the way to the left when entering the bus station.

When standing in line for tickets I heard some English being spoken. Immediately I turned to find the source and discovered it was a couple and two kids. The relationships are complicated, but short version – man was an ex-Spanish teacher who was now a principal and the kids used to be his students at another school and he was taking them to Mexico. Oh yeah, they have their own kids (3 of them) who were left at home for this trip. Anyway, we hooked up with them and found we have identical travel likes and dislikes. They helped us barter with some of the vendors at the pyramids and we helped them…have nice company J

The pyramids were pretty amazing to me, although having seen no others I had nothing to compare it to. The view you get from the Sun pyramid is incredible. And when you climb back down you are like, “I climbed that?!?” For the Moon pyramid you can only climb halfway up, but since the steps are so high it feels like you made the whole trip.

There is a restaurant there called La Gruta which is inside of a cave. The food was the best we had on the trip, but it was also the most expensive. We just ordered appetizers and (with tip) it was $65. To put it in perspective, that was one-half of the total money we spent on food for the entire trip.

Anyway, we headed back to the Red Tree House to prepare for dinner. Remember way back at the beginning of this trip report where I said we had bartered a dinner from Jorge? I asked him to make it something small. Well, small it wasn’t.

But before dinner Jorge gave us a tour of the rest of the B&B because by that point we were the only ones left. He had more guests arriving the next day, but it was empty for now. The house is beautiful and we saw hummingbirds in the garden. After the tour it was dinnertime and we expected something small but good.

What we got was a two-course dinner (soup followed by a main course) that was excellent. Jorge’s friend Mario came over (we had met him the night before) and brought some special dessert. Needless to say, this was far more than we expected and we were overwhelmed by Jorge’s generosity.

After dinner, the kids went to play with Abril and my wife and I joined Jorge and Mario for a little wine. Well, a lot of wine. We had a blast and all shared some personal stories. I don’t believe I have the right to reproduce them here, but it was nice for both Jorge and Mario to open up about their lives and experiences. It was also easy to see the pride that Jorge has in the Red Tree House, and it is pride well placed. Part way through the night a woman came in who was living in Mexico and was looking for a hotel for her parents who were coming to visit. She left an hour later after some good wine and conversation.

That night, to me, was the epitome of the feeling you get while staying at the Red Tree House. I didn’t feel like a “guest” of Jorge’s, I felt like a friend. It is a relaxing sensation that is hard to describe, but it feels so good.

Eventually we said goodnight. Jorge had guests to welcome in the morning and we had to start our last full day in the city.
alyssamma is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2008, 06:11 PM
  #7  
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3/25 – Everything you every wanted to know about Indians but was afraid to ask

For the last day we had the Castle (with the Museum of National History) and the Anthropology museum planned. Of course this meant…back to Chapultepec park. We hit the castle first. It was modern (as opposed to the castles in Europe), and it was very cool. Like other things we visited, the path through was a little confusing (probably compounded by our lack of Spanish). The museum of National History (not to be confused with the museum of Natural History as I kept doing) is fascinating. We weren’t really looking forward to either of these but we were pleasantly surprised. I would recommend this as an “almost must see” for visitors to the city. The cost for both was $4.50 for me and my wife (children 13 and under are free).

We then went to the Anthropology museum. After standing in line for about 40min I found out I was in the line for the special Isis/Quetzalcoatl exhibit and not the line for the museum. OK, a lady behind me convinced me to buy tickets for this anyway ($4.50 for me and my wife, children 13 and under free) and she was correct. The exhibit was incredible. I am very much into mythology and know a fair bit about Egyptian as well as Mexican gods, and I still found it very educational.

After the exhibit we stood in the correct line for tickets to the museum (another $4.50 deal) and finally got to see what we came for. I know I will be in the minority here, but I found the museum disappointing. The special Isis/ Quetzalcoatl exhibit was great. But the main museum just had North American Indians. Every tribe, every point in history, every little detail. Honestly, it was a little too much for me. I had thought the museum would be broader in scope.

One highlight, though, was the Teotihuacan room. They had basically reproduced the city how it looked in its glory days. Having been there the day before, we found this pretty cool to see.

Anyway, by this point our feet were killing us and we were all ready to stop walking. So, back to the B&B we went. Jorge shared some movies with us (of a 60th birthday party he threw at the B&B for a friend) and we talked some more. Finally, sadly, it was time to turn in and say goodbye to Mexico City.


In Summary

Still reading? Wow, you made it through all of my ramblings to the end. Well, not much to say here that I haven’t already said. Mexico City is a gem. I would 100% recommend it to families looking for a fun and cheap vacation. When we return (and we will return within the year) we will stay at the Red Tree House.

Feel free to email me at [email protected].com if you have any specific questions.

Thanks for reading!

Kevin
alyssamma is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2008, 06:54 PM
  #8  
 
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Thanks for posting this great report. What fun to read about a family's visit to Mex City. Not many folks seem to think of it as a "family destination" yet, given how family oriented Mexicans themselves are, it makes perfect sense that the city is a good family destination. Really sounds like you had a great time - especially loved your report on Xochimilco, where we've never made it yet (we're just a couple of retired folk here). Also enjoyed your stories about Red Tree House. We're looking forward to staying there some day - they were booked both times we tried to stay there this Jan and Feb.
glover is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2008, 07:14 PM
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FYI There is a large Mexican/African population south of Acapulco in an area called Costa Chica. It was settled mostly by escaped slaves in the 18th century.
A fair number have migrated up to Zihuatanejo 4 hours north of Acapulco so you will not so unique there. My wife is African/American & on our first trip to Mexico City a huge troop of school kids followed her down from the Pyramid of the Sun offering to share their lunch with her & wanting her to pose for pictures with them which of course she was happy to do so.
On her first trip to Mexico with me she got a bit spooked in Guadalajara as we got constant long looks as I with a bit of a tan look rather Mexican especially like the average citizen in GLD. Nothing unfriendly but lots of curiosity. So She/we really enjoy Zihua & Costa Chica as we are not such an oddity there.
Stewbear is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2008, 05:26 AM
  #10  
 
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Sounds like a fabulous trip! Thanks for posting.
SusanInToronto is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2008, 08:26 AM
  #11  
 
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Dear Kevin, Thanks 4 posting such a detailed and interesting report. I have been to Mexico City many times as an adult, but the first time was at age 15 w/ my parents and I have fond memories of the murals at the university and eating in a drug store on the Reforma and a great day at Xochimilco!

Good on u for posting so soon after ur return I am still writing my report ( Our Wonderful Time in Argentina) in bits and pieces and we returned Jan 19!

cheers
AndrewDavid
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Apr 3rd, 2008, 08:42 AM
  #12  
 
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Thank you for posting such a detailed, excellent report. Many people will find it extremely helpful.

I had lunch at La Gruta too!

One thing though - I thought the cathedral was amazing.
robertino is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2008, 03:32 PM
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Enjoyed your report. Thanks very much. You have a lot of courage eating so much street food. After getting sick from some corn on the cob, I lost my sense of adventure.
annetti is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2008, 04:34 PM
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I'm so glad to hear that Mexico City worked well when you travelled with your kids. I met a family with three girls who were travelling in February, and they were all having a great time. What a nice report.
WillTravel is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2008, 04:39 PM
  #15  
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Thanks all for the kind words. I get a lot from these forums so I am happy to give back.

Kevin
alyssamma is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2008, 07:44 PM
  #16  
 
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Your report has me so convinced that Mexico City is such a family destination that I'm re-thinking going solo as an adult.

Just kidding. Thanks for taking the time to post your wonderful report. I can't wait to get back to Mexico.
Leely is offline  
Apr 4th, 2008, 06:22 AM
  #17  
 
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Thanks so much for this trip report! My husband and I went to Mexico City 5 years ago and it quickly became one of my favorite places in the world. Now that we have a son we definately want to go back with him we he gets a little older and see things from his perspective. I appreciate all the recommendations and details and we'll have to check out the Red Treee House- thanks once again!
scootie is offline  
Apr 4th, 2008, 07:05 AM
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I have always enjoyed my visits to Mexico City and have wondered why there is not more here on this board about the pleasures of visiting MC. Relatively speaking, it a quick jaunt from the US and once there you are immersed in an entirely different culture. We, too, have always found everyone to be friendly, the food great, and the museums interesting. There is more than enough to occupy a solo, couple, or a family for a week, in fact, we have returned about 5 times, always finding something new to explore, or a favorite places to return to. Thanks again.

PS In a future trip, try the Folklorico at the Bellas Artes. The costuming and dances are spectacular. Your children will love it. We saw a visiting group here in LA, but itin no way compared to what we saw in MC.
annetti is offline  
Apr 6th, 2008, 06:13 PM
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Your trip report was awesome. I loved it! Your kids are truly blessed! Keep traveling....
landineen is offline  
Apr 14th, 2008, 10:17 AM
  #20  
 
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Thanks so much for posting this! My husband and I have wanted to go to Mexico City for a long time, but we were thinking it might have to wait until our daughter is older, but now I think we're going this year! This was a great report, thanks for taking the time to post in such detail.
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