Our first trip to Mexico-It won't be our last!

Feb 22nd, 2017, 06:46 AM
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Our first trip to Mexico-It won't be our last!

DH and i spent 11 fabulous days in Mexico from Feb. 7-Feb. 16. This was our first trip to Mexico. We had thought about going there for the last 5 years, but had always been discouraged by friends who although never visiting Mexico, warned against kidnapping and danger.

So for the last 5-10 years we have spent our winter vacations in Asia or southeast Asia. We visited India, both Thailand and Vietnam twice, Myanmar, and Japan. This year I decided to ask advice from Fodorites , and with your encouragement and support we booked an 11 day trip to Puebla and Mexico City. This followed our 11 day trip to Columbia.

Thank you to all those who responded to my many questions concerning this trip. Your advice made our Mexico vacation much less stressful and much better than it would have been without your advice.

As background, DH and I live in the northeast of the US and try to get out of the snowy winter for at least 3 weeks every year. (It snowed 5 times in the 3 weeks we were gone). We are retired and thankfully have the time and money to travel when we want to. We are 71 and 74, and consider ourselves fit and energetic. We love to travel, and on our trips we like to walk rather than ride, experience other cultures and visit both art and history museums. We like good food, but this is secondary in our travels. We do not enjoy shopping and do not spend a lot of time shopping, though we do like viewing colorful markets.

Our trip consisted of 3 nights in Puebla and 6 nights in Mexico City. In Puebla we stayed at the Hotel Colonia. The hotel is well located a few short blocks from the zocalo. Our room was very large, had ceiling to floor doors which opened onto a small balcony, was very clean, and was quiet at night. I would recommend this hotel, if you are looking for a charming, locally owned hotel, as long as you don't need a hotel concierge to help with your travel needs. The front desk was "all business", but this in no way affected our enjoyable stay at this hotel and in Puebla. The hotel serves a decent breakfast in a bright, pretty room. We ate there twice and ventured out once. Our breakfast experience outside the hotel was such a disaster that we regretted not eating all breakfasts at the hotel.

Despite good reviews, the worst meal of our trip was breakfast at La Casa de la China Poblana. We arrived at 9am to find the dining room empty except for one other table. The eggs we ordered came out tepid, the coffee from a carafe was cold twice, and the server was slow and nowhere to be found between courses. All in all it was a meal to forget as soon as possible.

The best meal we had in Puebla was at La Casa del Mendrago. We arrived about 8PM. The room was filled. There was an opera singer who sang for about an hour and was excellent. My portabello mushroom relleno and DH's camarones al gusto (shrimp with garlic butter) were outstanding. The margheritas were very good and the apple strudel and molten chocolate cake for dessert were very well prepared. Service was excellent, and although not cheap, there was value for what we paid.

We also ate ate Sacrastia de Campania and El Mural de los Poblanos. The mole at the former was ok, not great. The duck at the latter was also just ok, but DH's tacos Arabes were excellent. Last, but certainly not least we had 2 excellent lunches at Las Ranas which is a no frills taqueria with the best Tacos Arabes we had on our trip.

While in Puebla we visited Museo Amparo, a wonderful museum filled with high quality artifacts where we spent 3 hours. . We also visited several churches, and although they were all beautiful, we soon had our fill of church viewing. One day we took a day trip to Chulula which we booked at the tourist office on the zocalo. Although the tunnels at the pyramid in Chula were closed, we had a good walk up to the church at the top of the pyramid,.

We also visited 2 very unusual churches outside of Cholula. The faces portrayed in the artwork, and the decoration in the churches, were both Spanish and indiginous.. The glitter in both churches were as Baroque as I've ever seen. Both churches were very different from what we saw in Puebla

It was on this trip to Cholula that I spotted 2 Talavira pieces which I bought, and I am enjoying them at home as reminders of our wonderful trip.

After 3 nights in Puebla we took a taxi to the CAPU bus station and took a "luxury" bus to Mexico City. The luxury buses in Mexico are clean, convenient and a wonderful way to travel if you chose not to fly.

Next stop: Mexico City.
shelleyk is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2017, 06:52 AM
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Correction: Our Hotel in Puebla was Hotel Colonial.
shelleyk is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2017, 11:46 AM
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Glad to hear that your first trip to Mexico has you thinking about returning. I have to admit that I had low expectations that were greatly exceeded. Looking forward to hearing your impressions of Mexico City.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2017, 04:04 PM
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Nice report! Looking forward to Mexico City installment.
Wonder if you were at all affected by/saw evidence of the volcanic activity?
sylvia3 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2017, 08:55 PM
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Wow, All the best for your trip, hope you will enjoy your total trip. As you planned the trip so you can't face any problem. we have gone Mexico in January and firstly we faced some problem for the transportation as we were new that place but then got Nasttransfers for the transportation. After that, we did n't face the problem.
RupertCanul is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2017, 10:47 PM
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Oh darn, I stayed at la Casona de la China Poblana and could have told you that while the hotel is excellent, the breakfast is poor.

Glad you had a good trip. It was at those churches outside Cholula that I realized, "there ain't no Baroque like the Mexican Baroque." They kicked it up several notches, didn't they?

Looking forward to reading about your time in the DF.
Leely2 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2017, 04:03 AM
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If you ever get a chance to go to Cholula on a market day, DO IT! Fantastic market. Locals come from the surrounding areas and set up shop on the sidewalks of several streets surrounding the large covered market. It's fantastic.

Also, Puebla on a Sunday is one of my favorite things in Mexico. Great markets pop up in the parks just outside the centro historico, with great food and entertainment also.

LOVE both of those places. Love the Hotel Colonial. I like the rooms on the side that abut the university. Very interesting to watch all the students going in and out of the university from the room's balcony.

Did you go to the Calle Dulce in Puebla? And the outdoor artist market area where artists have stalls and paint, draw, etc?
emd3 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2017, 04:49 AM
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Following along! So glad you ate at Las Ranas; I thought is was excellent!!

Good tip about the Cholula market, emd. I hope I can make it there in not too long!

Buses in Mexico are really supreme!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2017, 06:27 AM
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Love your trip report and loved Puebla, which I too went for the first time in June/July 2016. In my opinion, one of the great cities of the world! The mole poblano I had there was divine as were cemitas! Glad you made it to Cholula...I thought the view from the top of the pyramid was incredible (had a clear sky day)...you might find this funny, but I didn't realize I had climbed the Great Pyramid of Cholula until after I had done so! I thought I was just climbing a grassy knoll to get a better view of the surroundings!

Looking forward to your thoughts on el DF.

Best wishes, Daniel
Daniel_Williams is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2017, 07:08 AM
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Keep it coming. I had my first trip in 1986 seldom missing a year since with more than one some years,
One the the things keeping this ole guy going is my Mexico experiences!
So great you had a great time!
Stewbear is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2017, 02:26 PM
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In response to some of your comments/questions:

We were not impacted by any volcanic activity. We saw one of the volcanoes sending up plumes of smoke while we were on the bus going from Puebla to Mexico City. I did not think that there was anything unusual about that. There was no news in Mexico that there was any volcanic activity to be concerned about.

We were in Puebla and Cholula on week days, so we did not see any weekend markets, though if we return to Puebla, I'd try to arrange to be there on a weekend.

Our room at the Hotel Colonial was on the university side. We enjoyed watching the street activity from our small balcony. The added bonus was that despite the street activity, it was quiet because of the double paned windows. I loved staying at this hotel, and am so greatful to those of you who recommended it.

In Puebla, we did not make it to Calle Dulce or the artists' market. We did get to see the very old library that I think is the oldest public library in the America's.

The pyramid in Cholula is covered by a mound of earth, so it doesn't look anything like a pyramid, but the view from the top is spectacular. We were lucky and had blue skies and no smog, so the visibility was excellent. Daniel, I'm wondering if the tunnel was open when you were there, and if you went through it. We were told that they closed the tunnel 3 weeks before we arrived in order to "renovate" it.
shelleyk is offline  
Feb 24th, 2017, 06:21 AM
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On Friday we took a bus from Puebla to Mexico City. The ride was scenic, comfortable and uneventful. We saw 2 volcanic mountains from the window of the bus, one of which had plumes of smoke rising from the crater.

When we arrived at the TAPO bus terminal in Mexico City, we went to the authorized taxi kiosk, paid a fixed rate (I think it was the equivalent of $5USD) and arrived at our hotel twenty minutes later.

Our hotel was the Hotel Catedral, recommended by several Fodorites. We chose it because we wanted to stay near the zocalo for sightseeing reasons and to be near a metro station. In retrospect we could not have made a better choice for our purposes. As a matter of fact, when we return to MEX next year, I would stay here again.

I can't say enough good things about this hotel. It is well run, has a good tour desk should you want to book a tour, which we did not do, has a good cafe for a la carte breakfasts and informal dinners, is clean, well located, etc. ect. etc. My only negative comment about the hotel is that the buffet breakfast room gets very crowded at times. There are always lines at the egg station, and much as the chef tries to accommodate guests, I found it a major hassle. So after 2 days of waiting on line for eggs, we chose to give up on the buffet and eat in the hotel cafe from the a la carte menu. I found the cafe breakfast quiet and relaxing and a nice way for us to start our day. We had juice, made to order eggs, rolls and coffee, which is what we would have had at the buffet, so we felt we did not miss anything by giving up on the buffet.

On Sat., our first day in Mexico City, we took the metro to the Chapultepec metro stop, and visited Chapultepec Castillo and the National Archeological Museum. We followed my guidebook as to what to see at each venue. and spent about 2.5 hours at the Castillo and 5 hours at the Archeological Museum. We loved both, and seeing both in one day made for a very full day. We began our day at 10 am at the Castillo and ended it at 7PM when the Archeological Museum closed. We could not see everything we wanted to see in the 5 hours at the Archeological Museum, though we managed to hit most of the highlights on the ground floor.

Since it was a Sat. there were many families out and about in Chapultepec Park, and many vendors set up selling food and assorted toys for the kids. We walked from the Castillo to the Museum which took about 20 minutes. We enjoyed seeing all of the activity and being outdoors in the beautiful weather.

The metro was very easy for us to use and we used it many times on our trip, despite one unfortunate incident where a man pickpocketed my husband on a VERY crowded train. Fortunately, he got nothing but a plastic bag filled with some band aids, as neither my husband nor I carry cash in our pockets. Our passports were safely locked in the hotel safe and I carry our cash and credit card in a location which I consider more secure than a pants pocket.

We returned to the hotel at about 8 PM and were so tired that we decided to eat dinner in the hotel cafe. We began with 2 well made margheritas. DH had chicken fajitas and I had an enchilada. We both had flan for dessert. Everything was good, if not great. Incidentally. surprisingly the worst part of most of our meals in Mexico (and Columbia, also) was the lackluster coffee.

Tomorrow we head for Coyacan and the Frida Khalo Museum
shelleyk is offline  
Feb 24th, 2017, 06:57 AM
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Shelleyk-- Great start in Mexico City, also in my opinion one of the most amazing cities on this planet. I spent the whole day in the Museo de Antropologia in 2005 and only visited 2 rooms (ate lunch there); isn't the museum phenomenal?

The tunnels were indeed open in Cholula when I was there; truly though the best part of my day there was not the tunnels but walking around the handsome town, climbing the pyramid and visiting the attached museum (the latter I would definitely recommend as here one learns about the fascinating Cholulan civilization). There wasn't much to see in the tunnels and honestly being inside them made me sort of claustrophobic (narrow, dark and with ceilings only slightly taller than my 6 foot height)--you didn't miss much.

I'm so glad you went to Mexico despite warnings from others about kidnappings and danger. In my opinion, those who would never go to Mexico due to this are missing out on a great country. This said, sorry to hear about the pickpocketing, even if only bandages were stolen .
Daniel_Williams is online now  
Feb 24th, 2017, 07:03 AM
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Daniel-Thanks for letting me know I didn't miss out on much by not being able to go through the tunnels.
shelleyk is offline  
Feb 24th, 2017, 04:54 PM
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On Sunday we took the metro to Coyacan in order to go to the Frida Khalo museum, Casa Azul. The house/museum is about a 20 minute walk from the metro station. We had purchased timed tickets online several weeks before, and am I glad we did.

Our tickets were for an 11:30am admitance. When we arrived at the house at 10:45, there was a very long line waiting to buy tickets. I would guess that the wait was at least 1.5- 2 hours. When we left the museum at 2:30, the line to purchase tickets was just as long as it was in the morning.

We got to the house 45 minutes before our timed tickets and were told to return at 11:30. So we walked 3 blocks to a small park where they were having an art exhibit. We returned to the admittance line at 11:30 and were let into the house immediately.

We enjoyed viewing the house, and the artwork and photos by Frida Khalo. There also was a small exhibit of her clothing. The line into each section of the museum moved slowly (They only admitted a certain number of people at a time in order to keep the occupancy of each section at specified maximum.)

We spent about 2.5 hours here and when we left we headed to the main zocalo of Coyacan. Since it was a Sunday, there were numerous food stalls set up along the main street and in the zocalo. It was very crowded. We enjoyed the beautiful day, the music playing in the zocalo, and just watching the families enjoying their Sunday afternoon.
At about 5PM we headed to the metro station to return to our hotel in Mexico City.

We asked the hotel concierge for a recommendation for dinner and she suggested Cafe de Tacuba. We arrived there at 8PM without a reservation and had to wait a few minutes for a table. The ambiance in the restaurant is very lovely...think Spanish arches, murals and paintings, and tiles. There was a mariachi band playing which neither added to nor detracted from the experience.

The margaritas and the food we ordered were good. We had sort of a a tasting menu.... small portion of 4 traditional Mexican dishes. Desert was an excellent pineapple tart. Service was acceptable and the final bill was very reasonable for what we ate and drank.

We enjoyed dining at Cafe de Tacuba so much that we returned there several nights later. Unfortunately, our experience the second night was not nearly as good as it was on the first night. I am chalking that up to the fact that the second time we ate there it was Valentines Day. The restaurant was very busy, and the food and service were lacking.

Next up-The Pyramids
shelleyk is offline  
Feb 25th, 2017, 01:37 PM
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I also visited Coyoacan on a Sunday afternoon. Wow, was it busy!

Looking forward to your visit to Teotihuacan.
Leely2 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2017, 11:32 PM
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Funny, 2 years ago we were going to combine Colombia and Mexico, but it didn't pan out, So glad you enjoyed your time in Mexico. We love it. We went to the Frida Khalo museum a good 20 years ago and no one even heard of it, let alone there being lines. How the years change everything.
yestravel is offline  
Mar 4th, 2017, 09:52 AM
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yestravel-I expected a line based on what I had read, but the line we saw was ridiculous. I think Frida Khalo and her artwork become popular during the early 1990s, and the movie Frida in 2002 upped her popularity. If we had not had a timed ticket, i think we would not have wasted the day waiting on line.

My strong recommendation is that people go online and reserve tickets in advance.
shelleyk is offline  
Mar 4th, 2017, 03:09 PM
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I agree re Frida's popularity. What did you think of Colombia?
yestravel is offline  
Mar 4th, 2017, 05:37 PM
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We enjoyed our 11 days in Columbia, but not as much as the time we spent in Mexico City and Puebla. Maybe it was because we were with a tour in Columbia, and we were on our own in Mexico.

We were very impressed with the Botero Museum in Bogota, as well as with the Gold Museum there.

We also were quite impressed with Medelin, especially with the transportation system, including the cable car, which is attempting to link the poorer areas with areas where those living in the poor areas might commute to in order to find jobs. We' heard anecdotes about how the drug situation has markedly improved in Medellin compared to what it was just 5 years ago.

The coffee area was just ok. Cartagena's walled city was interesting, but it is very hot and humid in Cartagena (90 degrees but feels like 100 degrees) making a pool and a/c a necessity.

All in all it was an interesting 11 days in Columbia. I am very glad we went, but I would not return.
shelleyk is offline  

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