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Photo TR: Andy's 2015 Trip -- Un Viaje a México con TPR


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Mexico: now in technicolor!

So, does starting a report on an early-2015 trip in January 2017 negate this to nostalgia? Wait 'til you see how long it takes me to start work on 2016.

 

Table of Contents:

Prologue -- Travel and Culture (Page 1)

Day 1 -- La Feria Chapultepec (Page 2)

Day 2 -- Teotihuacan and Mexico City Culture Day (Page 3)

Day 3 -- Six Flags Mexico (Page 4)

Day 4 -- Guadalajara Culture Day (Page 5)

Day ??? -- Boblo Island (Page 6)

Day 5 -- Selva Mágica (Page 7)

Day 6 -- Small Parks of Mexico City (Page 8)

 

In March of 2015, I was able to attend a week-long trip to Mexico with Robb and Elissa. This was my first international trip with the group, and the first time I'd ever been to Mexico. Why did I choose this trip in particular? I'm a little bit interested in the culture and the history. I'm interested with stepping outside the comfort zone of domestic travel. I was definitely interested in proving that a trip to real Mexico is far more rewarding than a lay-on-the-beach lazy-cation at some culturally-bankrupt Caribbean resort. The roller coasters were just a part of the reason, and just a fraction of the experience. We spent time in both Mexico City and Guadalajara, and theme parks only made up about half of our itinerary. Along the way, there were pleasant surprises (Schwarzkopf was a madman), minor disappointments (Alicia, you let us all down), several fantastic "culture credit" tours, and one absolutely killer RMC.

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As is natural for a journey to Mexico, this trip report begins in Denver, Colorado.

 

Wait, what?

 

The Prologue

 

We're going to have to start with a little geography lesson. Mexico City, the first stop on the trip, is the famed and historic capital city of my native country's southern neighbor. The city is located within the Valley of Mexico, part of a high-based plateau, and formerly the site of Lake Texcoco. After the Spanish conquered the Aztecs, the lake was drained, leaving behind a dry basin surrounded by tall mountains. While this geography can lead to problems with air quality, the elevation is a bigger factor -- Mexico City sits at around 7,500 feet above sea level. Anyone who's ever dealt with altitude sickness can probably surmise that jumping straight from a typical lowland US elevation to that kind of height is a recipe for disaster. I've had issues with rapid pressure changes in the past, so I decided to take a stair-step approach to my trip, and headed off on my first-ever visit to the Mile High City on Thursday, March 19. I spent two days acclimating in Denver, getting lucky with some fantastic weather, and actually ending up on an 8,150 foot mountain summit near Boulder -- proving to myself that I'd handle Mexico City's rarefied air just fine.

 

On the morning of Saturday, March 21, I returned to the airport to make my trip south of the border. Also, I promise that's the only time I'll use the hackneyed phrase "south of the border" in this trip report. I connected through Dallas / Fort Worth -- not just a change of planes, but a complete "get your own luggage" change in airlines. From there, I had a direct flight into Mexico City -- and a new country credit to add to my collection.

 

Here are some pictures from the first leg of the trip. I'm putting up some pictures from Denver and the journey south, but I promise that there will be some theme park content mixed in!

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Departure gates. Get this show on the road. Or in the air.

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Arrival in Denver. This is public art in the airport, not a credit. But you were thinking it. Admit it.

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First visit to Denver. Wanted a good view of downtown. Found it across the street from what I think might have been a pay-by-the-hour motel.

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Just to the right? Elitch Gardens, closed for the season, because it was March. But hey, have some pictures anyway, because this is a theme park site.

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They've got water slides.

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They've got a freestanding observation tower. By that, I mean the type you can freely stand in. Those are my favorites.

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They've got a Ferris wheel.

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They've got a Vekoma SLC. Did I mention I was actually glad this place wasn't open?

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Oh, and a boomerang.

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Elitch Gardens isn't the only park in Denver. Too bad I missed Lakeside's job fair by only three days.

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Some interesting old architecture at Lakeside Amusement Park.

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Cyclone is a wooden coaster from 1940. Looks interesting.

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Here's a view from up on Inspiration Point, a small hill / park just northwest of Lakeside.

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Hazy as it was, this is why I really went up to Inspiration Point -- the first time I've ever seen the Rockies.

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OK, back to my semi-sketchy photo spot of Denver.

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Elitch doesn't look bad for the off-season.

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Fun with long exposures.

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Went into the mountains the next day. Took a pleasant hike around Evergreen Lake.

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This is how you use a frozen pond!

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Well, I guess they're bound to break down sometimes.

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That's a breathtaking view over I-70 -- first time I've seen anything like it.

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What's that on the hillside?

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We've got bison.

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Dangerous and unpredictable. Kind of like those Vekomas at Elitch Gardens.

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Went up to see the grave site of William "Buffalo Bill" Cody.

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There it is, at the top of Lookout Mountain.

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In memoriam!

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Noted.

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Nice view of Denver from up here.

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Downtown looks so far away.

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More amusement park content! Elitch Gardens from 12 miles away and 2,100 feet up.

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There's Lakeside Park from about the same distance and height.

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Got some more neat views of mountains.

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Then I went and climbed this one.

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The summit of Green Mountain in Boulder.

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Pretty cool view west.

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Pretty cool view east.

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Mountains make neat shadows. That's it for Colorado. Time to head to sleep and then head to the airport.

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This mural at the airport really got me in the multicultural spirit to travel to Mexico!

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This mural, on the other hand, is a nightmare wrapped in a disaster wrapped in a horror movie.

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Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba.

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Arrival into DFW and a quick pass over Six Flags Over Texas. I'll get you one day, NTAG.

 

A change of airlines later, I was on my way to Mexico!

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The First Day in Mexico

 

Arrival at Terminal 1 of Benito Juárez International Airport was relatively straightforward -- a long walk through the secured immigration area, a simple customs form, and few basic questions with a bilingual security officer. After that, it was time to play the "red light / green light" game. Upon arrival in Mexico, each passenger must press a button, which randomly activates a red or a green light. A green light means you're free to go, but a red light means you're getting searched. I saw a couple red lights while waiting in line, but I got green, and exited the secured area -- free and on my own in Mexico City.

 

I took some time to get my bearings and set up my phone for the Mexican network, and then headed off to find a taxi to my hotel. It was my first time trying to speak a little bit of Spanish, and it went rather poorly. I'd end up a little more comfortable with it later in the week. Nonetheless, I successfully described my destination, and hopped in the back of car #0042 for what would prove to be 25 white-knuckle minutes through the roads of Mexico City. I can barely begin to describe the driving experience in the heavily-congested capital, and my words will only go so far to explain it -- so we'll go with a high-speed free-for-all in which traffic laws cease to exist, roundabouts are traveled in both directions simultaneously, medians and curbs are an imaginary construct, and pedestrians only have the right-of-way if they're hawking vegetables and flowers in the middle of a freeway. I've never seen anything like this, and NYC's got nothing on it!

 

I arrived in one piece to the Hyatt Regency hotel in the Polanco district -- a great location close to several museums and the Bosque de Chapultepec -- Mexico City's gigantic urban park. I got to my room, dropped some things off, took a few minutes to assess my plans, and walked out onto the streets of Mexico City for the first time. It didn't take me long at all to feel comfortable -- the park was packed with people. Families boating on el Lago de Chapultepec, groups of people perusing the wares of several dozen street vendors, and people with their phones held up, taking pictures of the scenery. I pulled my camera out and did the same. I spent some time at Castillo de Chapultepec -- the historic castle and museum atop a prominent hill at the east end of the park. I then traveled just outside of the park to the famous National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología) and met up with some of the other trip participants. We explored the museum, then headed out for dinner before ending the first day in Mexico City.

 

Here's a batch of pictures from the park, the museums, and the scenery of Mexico's capital. If you're looking for theme park content, there's a quick preview in here for the next set. The first park review from the trip will be posted soon (within the next week).

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Coming out of the haze and getting my first view into Mexico City. Chapultepec Park is on the right; the central business district is on the left.

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A closer view over Mexico City's many modern skyscrapers.

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Spoiler alert: I might end up at this place.

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That's La Feria Chapultepec, Mexico City's urban theme park, and home to Montaña Rusa -- a huge mobius woodie.

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Coming down over the cityscape of Mexico City. It's kind of neat to see how different city streets look in another country.

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Out of the haze, Mexico City is a very colorful place.

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Nothing says "Mexico City" like a giant American home improvement retailer.

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About to land at the cramped-for-space Mexico City airport.

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On the ground in a new country -- and taxiing in to Benito Juárez International Airport Terminal 1.

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Trying not to die in the back of a taxi on the way to my hotel.

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This is home for the next few days!

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Walking to the park and expanding my comfort zone.

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A trail along the water's edge.

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Paddle boats were available for rent on Lago de Chapultepec.

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Despite the clouds, the scenery wasn't bad. You've got modern skyscrapers...

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...and historic buildings, like this castle up on the hill.

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This is Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle). Let's take a hike up there!

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It's a long pathway up the hill, but there are several nice views along the way.

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Such as this view of the nearby amusement park, La Feria! More foreshadowing!

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Montaña Triple Loop (or Quimera as it's now called) at the south end of the park. Also, a 40-foot-tall Chester Cheeto.

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The outbound spike of Cascabel -- the other of the park's two Schwarzkopf coasters.

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Montaña Rusa and the Pepsi-sponsored Power Tower.

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As I'd learn the next day, I was unbelievably lucky to actually get a picture of this ride in motion, considering they dispatch trains about once every ten minutes.

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The entry gate for Castillo de Chapultepec. Normally they charge a fee to get in, but I got there within the last hour that it was open, and they were letting everyone through.

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In case you forgot which country this is.

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Construction on the Castillo de Chapultepec began in the late 1700s, but it was not totally finished until 1863.

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The castle has served various purposes over its lengthy existence, but it's now the home of Mexico's national history museum.

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A mural near the main entryway to the castle.

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This carriage was used by Maximiliano, the emperor of Mexico from 1864-1867, who resided in the castle.

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I'm not sure I'm important enough to be in this stately meeting room.

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There are stained glass windows all over the castle.

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Here's a view of another one from outside.

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The east end of the castle is built over a steep hillside, with terraces that wrap around the building, providing excellent views of the city.

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Here's a view of the north, with some of the taller buildings of the Polanco neighborhood.

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This is one of the oddest buildings in Mexico City.

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There's our hotel again!

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A tree in bloom.

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Looking east over the main core of downtown Mexico City.

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The city's tallest buildings are right here, at the west end of the Paseo de la Reforma.

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This is the Monumento a los Niños Héroes, an important monument at the foot of the hill.

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Another look down the Paseo de la Reforma, which, to be honest, is probably one of the more Americanized sections of the city.

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The Angel of Independence (Monumento a la Independencia) in the middle of the Paseo.

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It's one of the city's most important landmarks and symbols.

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A view to the southeast. Just love how different it looks from what I'm used to in the US.

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Restaurants, buses, street vendors -- things you'll see a lot of in Mexico City.

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Mountains, also. But don't just look at the obvious one straight ahead -- cast your eyes at the top left.

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There's a glimpse of Iztaccíhuatl -- a completely-unpronounceable 17,160 foot tall volcano just over 40 miles from Mexico City. Taller than any mountain in the continental US by thousands of feet.

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A view south of the castle, and a reminder that mountains pretty much ring themselves around the entire city.

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If you're into old churches and cathedrals, Mexico City has you covered.

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Never thought I'd include J-Lo in a trip report, but here we are.

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Off to the south-southeast and shrouded in clouds is Mexico City's tallest peak, Ajusco. Six Flags Mexico is out that way somewhere too, but not in this picture.

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Chapultepec translates to "Grasshopper Hill" so enjoy this statue/fountain of the namesake insect.

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By the way, you're probably familiar with the US Marines' Hymn: "From the Halls of Montezuma..." and so on. Well, this is it. These are the famed "Halls of Montezuma."

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This was a neat place to visit. Great history, great views, and easy to get to.

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Time to head down from the hill to the next destination.

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On the way, I passed through some of the busier areas of Chapultepec Park, with more vendors than I could count.

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I passed by this "living statue" guy...

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...and learned that pay phones still exist!

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INAH is the National Institute of Anthropology and History (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia) -- a government organization that manages museums all around the country.

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This is their flagship museum, and the most visited museum in all of Mexico -- the National Museum of Anthropology.

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Or, the Museo Nacional de Antropología, if you prefer.

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The entryway to the museum, with a quote from Mexican President Adolfo López Mateos: "The Mexican people lift this monument in honor of the admirable cultures that flourished during the Pre-Columbian period in regions that are now territory of the Republic. In front of the testimonies of those cultures, the Mexico of today pays tribute to the indigenous people of Mexico, in whose example we recognize characteristics of our national originality."

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A huge roof/pillar/fountain structure in the central courtyard, known simply as the umbrella (el paraguas).

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It's really quite impressive.

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Also, you could take a shower in it, if you really wanted to. I think they kinda frown on it, though.

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After a little bit of wandering, I met up with some of the rest of the TPR group in the museum's most famous exhibit -- the home of the Aztec Sun Stone.

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Sometimes called the Aztec calendar stone, it's been described as the Mona Lisa of Aztec / Pre-Columbian sculpture. Alternatively, it's simply a spot for a horribly-cheesy photo op.

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Can you believe they found this thing /buried/ while doing repairs on the city's historic cathedral?

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This is /not/ the actual Sun Stone. It's the replica in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot -- and because I never actually went into the Mexico pavilion until a Disney trip in October 2015, I saw the real thing seven months before I saw the fake one.

 

But, uh, the replica version's got the better lighting package!

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Back to the real thing -- a closer view of the center of this spectacular work of art.

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It's attached to a huge slab of rock, and it's probably going to be safe in here for years to come.

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I really don't know how to caption most of the rest of this, but it was pretty neat to see a bunch of historic artifacts from numerous cultures.

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Probably only about 10-20 percent of the museum's text included English translations, so it wasn't always easy to interpret.

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Bones, skulls, weaponry, and what not.

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Old maps, too, which I'm kind of into. Mexico City was built on the site of an ancient lake (Lake Texcoco) which was drained after the Spanish conquest.

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Before the modern city was built, this location was home to Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire.

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This is a model of the Templo Mayor, whose ruins still exist very close to the historic center of Mexico City.

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Here's a raised map of Teotihuacan -- another historic site, but this one pre-dates the Aztecs. A bit more foreshadowing for this trip report?

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Another, much larger model of Teotihuacan. There will be more about it later, because -- if it's not obvious -- we visited the site.

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Teotihuacan, unlike the Aztec sites, dates back over a millennium!

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The two prominent pyramids at Teotihuacan are some of the most important in the western Hemisphere. Pretty neat to know I'd be visiting them just a couple days later.

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Some more stone art in the museum.

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A bunch of dragon lizard things. Sorry, I'm running out of caption ideas. OK, it's actually a restored / painted version of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, which is another historic structure at Teotihuacan.

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A tile mosaic skull? Now we're getting somewhere.

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Ritual cannibalism? Now we're talking!

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A cracked skull? Human bones made into tools? Welcome to Preclassic Mexico.

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A legit ancient human skeleton, which I believe is from at least a couple thousand years ago.

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Bones from a long-extinct Mammoth, found in Mexico.

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Cave paintings! Honestly, we probably only saw about half of the museum -- maybe not even that much. It's huge and well worth visiting for several hours. Now, how did I get out of here without a single picture of all the bead art?

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One of the last displays we saw was this rather disturbing video board in which faces morphed into skulls.

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This isn't creepy at all.

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In the gift shop, you can buy little trinkets like this!

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Or, you can buy Minialmaniques, little history books that celebrate important moments in Mexican cultural history, like ... the release of Pulp Fiction.

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Dinner at El Bajío, which was one of my favorite restaurants on the trip. If Tres Leches cake is your thing, oh my.

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Getting this picture of the fountain / statue behind my hotel was the second-to-last thing I did on my first day in Mexico.

 

The last thing I did was raid the nearby 7-11 and buy up a bunch of soda and candy, because everyone knows that's pretty much the most fun thing to do on a visit to a foreign country!

 

More to come -- including the first park day of the trip -- with the next installment.

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Mexico has such a rich cultural history and the art / architecture there looks incredible.

 

Mexico City is amazing - one of our favorite cities, for sure.

 

I really enjoyed my time there. There's another "culture" trip report segment coming up later, too.

 

...and the Illuminati being at the airport.

 

There's a book's worth of conspiracy theories about that airport. I liked the main terminal building, but overall found it to be just slightly better than average, not to mention it's basically in Kansas.

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So far so great! Fantastic photography. Love the aerial shots especially.

 

Some of those Denver airport murals are horrific. Never been there but I've read about them. If you google, there's all sorts of dark conspiracy theories about the art/murals in and around the airport. Not that I'm particularly into that sort of thing, but its interesting to me on some level.

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Alright, let's get to the first park of the trip! As foreshadowed in the last report...

 

Day 1 -- La Feria Chapultepec Mágico

Sunday, March 22, 2015

 

Scorecard:

 

Montaña Rusa (Right Lift)

Montaña Rusa (Left Lift)

Montaña Rusa (Right Lift)

Montaña Rusa (Left Lift)

Cascabel [back]

Los Troncos

Ratón Loco

Power Tower

Reptour

El Martillo

Nao de China

The Jules Verne Orbinaut

-- Lunch --

Cabaña Chueca

Cascabel [Front]

 

The Report:

 

The first park day of the trip required no lengthy travel. La Feria Chapultepec, located within the large Bosque de Chapultepec city park, was not even a mile from our hotel.

 

After partaking in our hotel's friggin' awesome breakfast buffet, we headed off to the park just after 9 AM. The first disappointment of the day came right when we walked up to the gate -- Montaña Triple Loop, the park's triple-looping Schwarzkopf, was in the middle of a painting/refurbishing job and clearly not soon to return to service. That didn't start things off on the best of notes. Figuring out how the morning was going to transpire was a little bit of an adventure, but we ended up getting into the park a little early, and opening our day with a guided tour of the property -- while it was still closed and the rides weren't yet operating. This makes sense, really. After that, we headed to Montaña Rusa for some early rides, and given how that ride was operated later in the day, we're very glad we got on as early as we did. We were all able to take multiple laps, earning the necessary credit for the entire mobius track. We went across the park to Cascabel next, before splitting off and tackling the rest of the park's attractions. The only other coaster, Ratón Loco, did experience some downtime during the day. However, we got on as soon as we saw it had re-opened. We also made a trip through the park's herpetarium (reptile exhibit), which included an opportunity to get pictures while holding a gigantic owl. There's something you don't see everywhere.

 

After riding (and filming) an assortment of classic / unique / ancient flat rides, we broke for lunch. I have gained a new appreciation for the difficulty and complexity of serving a handful of cut-rate burgers and frozen pizzas to a group of barely over a dozen people. Next time we'll call in some experts with PhDs and chef's hats to ensure the process goes a little more smoothly. Wait times aside, this was one unfortunate theme that popped up a few times on the trip -- in parks serving up plenty of interesting, great-smelling local cuisine, they insisted on feeding us burgers and pizza. Really, this group's adventurous enough for some tacos! Thankfully, I think we all ate very well outside of the parks, so these complaints should be taken with an appropriate level of snark.

 

After lunch, I split from the group to do some photography around the park, and I think I'm contractually obligated to make sure everyone knows I bailed on the haunted house because I'm a wimp. Once we re-united, we dodged a brief downpour near the park's train station, and indulged in some tequesitos. I don't have a picture of these high-class delicacies, so here's their Twitter account, so you can see them in all their fried-cheese-wrapped-in-dough glory. These shouldn't be good, but they are. They need to be in every US park as soon as possible.

 

Wrapping up our day at La Feria with a front-row ride on Cascabel, we headed out at about 5 PM, making the short trek back to our hotel before a little more fun in Bosque de Chapultepec in the evening.

 

Overall Impressions:

 

La Feria is known as a small, classic urban park -- one with elements of culture and charm amidst the giant metropolis surrounding it. Did the park live up to these expectations? Not quite -- in fact, the place probably leans more toward outmoded and old fashioned, as opposed to quaint and historic. The park's ride lineup is obviously a weak point, though to some degree, that's something that can be excused/expected for a park of this type. It's a strange mix of flats that range from legitimate classics to outdated curiosities. The coaster collection is small, with two relocated Schwarzkopfs and a giant woodie in need of some work. Cascabel is good for multiple rides, as I'd presume the other Schwarzkopf is as well, and Montaña Rusa's got the historic aspect going for it. Outside of those, there really aren't any other can't-miss attractions.

 

Unfortunately, getting through a handful of rides was a slow process due to the park's rather poor operations. We even had trouble with finalizing the arrangements for our group -- the initial plans didn't get to Robb until just a couple days before, and details were still being firmed up on the drive from the hotel. Dispatch / cycle times across the park ranged from acceptable-ish to slow, with the exception of Montaña Rusa, whose operations were hilariously awful. Here's a dual-station mobius-track coaster, which should be eating people like there's no tomorrow, and the park is running one train with a full queue. This is why I'm glad we got some early-morning pseudo-ERT-ish rides, because the wait was easily an hour long throughout most of the rest of the day. Had to skip a couple minor attractions in the interest of time, despite being at this relatively small park for almost eight hours. Also had to miss the Dolphin show (Exhibición de Delfines) but I figured since every Mexican park has dolphins, I'd catch a show at another park later in the trip. Oops -- never made it to a Dolphin show until Kolmarden in July 2016.

 

Would I return to La Feria? I'd love to spend more time in Mexico City in the future, including taking some time to explore the rest of Bosque de Chapultepec. If I did that, I'd probably stop in for a couple hours and ride the fun stuff, and maybe one or two of the attractions I missed. I don't think I'd plan a whole day here on my own -- if not for the operations, a quick run through the must-ride attractions might not take that long to complete. Contrary to some reports I'd read, I didn't find the park to be dirty or aesthetically unpleasant. It's not as well up-kept as it could be, and maybe some fresh paint or cohesive design elements wouldn't hurt the haphazard visual "theming," but it's not an ugly park. It does have some charm, but it would be selling the place way too high to put it in a class with other classic / urban parks in the US and Europe. So, that said, my usual disclaimer on a mixed review: any day at a park is a good day. Especially true while visiting a foreign country and experiencing everything that comes along with that!

 

The Attractions:

 

Montaña Rusa: When La Feria opened in 1964, Montaña Rusa was the park's star attraction, and in a lot of ways it still is. It's an iconic structure, a rare mobius woodie, and far and away Mexico's most historically important amusement park attraction. Unfortunately, even aside from my thoughts about the ride's operations, it was a little too rough to be enjoyable. Definitely not on a Hades / Son of Beast / Bandit level, and not rough all the way through, but with several very jerky potholes at various spots along the way -- particularly at the bottom of the larger hills. There isn't anything particularly interesting about the layout, either. I will say that I absolutely love the views over Mexico City from the slow curves at the top of the structure. It's definitely worth riding for that reason alone. Oh, and what's the meaning of the name? Montaña Rusa's literal translation is "Russian Mountain," but in Spanish, it's an idiom that means the same thing as "Roller Coaster" in English.

 

Montaña Infinitum / Montaña Triple Loop / Quimera: This ride, since moving to Mexico after stops in three different countries (Germany, Malaysia, UK), has been through three names in a decade. It also literally had a guy on a platform in one of the loops doing a paint job. A pretty clear sign that it wouldn't be opening. That's a shame, as it's a classic, and supposedly a pretty good coaster.

 

Cascabel: Thankfully, the park's other Schwarzkopf was running very nicely for us! Cascabel (or Cascabel 2.0) was clearly the best ride operating at La Feria for our visit. I'd bet most people on this board had their first shuttle loop experience at Knott's (Montezooma's Revenge), or maybe even Kentucky Kingdom (Greezed Lightnin'). Here's a fun fact: if you rode Laser Loop at Kennywood, then you've been on Cascabel -- the ride was moved from West Mifflin to Mexico City in the early 90s. See

for Robb's video of Cascabel in action.

 

Ratón Loco: This is a pretty standard Reverchon spinning mouse -- to keep the Kennywood connection going, it's the same model as Exterminator at that park. A decent ride, but we've all been on these before. Good for a spin.

 

Power Tower: This may be the only ride on the planet that's actually been themed to both Coke and Pepsi. To the chagrin of the owners of this website, I'm sure, La Feria seems to have settled on Pepsi. A rare example of one of these rides made by Maurer Sohne, it's not simply a drop ride -- they run a program with two or three cycles up and down the tower. Nice views from up top.

 

Los Troncos: I'm a sucker for classic log flumes, so I braved getting a little wet, even in Mexico City. This one is on the small side, and I won't say it's among the world's most aesthetically pleasing flumes, but it was fun. Also, I didn't get injured while riding it, so there's that. I'll never get down on a park for keeping one of these around.

 

The Jules Verne Orbinaut: Quite simply the most advanced motion simulator ride I've ever been on. This is a pioneering landmark in ride engineering. Universal and Disney have nothing on Julio Verne. From the life-like rocket we all boarded, to the advanced CGI on our trek through a land filled with dinosaurs and exotic creatures, it's truly an experience unlike any other.

 

El Martillo: Oh boy. A classic Loop-o-Plane, this was every bit as uncomfortable and headache-inducing as I'd feared. Laugh really hard while you're on it, then swear to never ride again when you get off.

, but you may want to pop some nausea medication before you watch.

 

Nao de China: After El Martillo, I was expecting to hate this, especially as I'm no fan of hangtime. Thankfully, this Weber Traumboot -- a ride type I'm not sure exists in the US -- was actually pretty fun.

. I'm sure the ker-chunk at 0:47 in the video is absolutely nothing to be concerned about at all.

 

Cabaña Chueca: I think there is a requirement that every theme park in Mexico must have three things. One: a herpetarium. Two: a dolphin show. Three: a wacky shack. They go under several names, but the concept is always the same -- a decrepit old house carefully constructed for maximum optical illusory confusion. The challenge with visiting one of these in Mexico is that they're guided, extremely fast-paced, and narrated entirely in Spanish. I'm not sure we had a clue what was going on, but Nozzy was selected to participate in doing the toughest sit-ups of his life, so I guess at least somebody got some exercise out of it.

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Day 1 -- The Pictures (Part 1)

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Good morning from Mexico City! A view from my hotel room.

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We have arrived at La Feria Chapultepec. Chapultepec translates roughly to "Grasshopper Hill," though that says nothing regarding to the anthropomorphic rodents and alligator.

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This is the park's main gate, which isn't particularly spectacular. You'll also notice their advertisement for a "pase anual" which might or might not be what you think it is.

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Bienvenidos! Anyone have a paintbrush?

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The first thing we see upon arrival at the park is that the park's triple-looping Schwarzkopf is out of service -- we didn't know about this in advance, since the park doesn't really communicate that kind of information anywhere.

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Oh, there's the paintbrush I was looking for. I would estimate a near-zero chance of coaster trains passing through these loops any time soon.

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The bright yellow paint did look nice. After the re-paint was finished, the loop supports were also changed to a bright red.

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It's a nice looking coaster, and it's a shame we couldn't ride. Also, note the Pepsi advertisement -- the first of many. Also, I'm pretty sure that "PEPSILINDROS" has nothing to do with the Philadelphia Flyers hall-of-famer. Also, that feels weird to type.

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A view over the rest of the park from the entry area.

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There's Montaña Rusa in action, behind ... a DJ'ing potato chip?

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Yes, a DJing potato chip.

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This post brought to you by Ruffles, PepsiCo, and what appears to be an awesome attempt to connect to youth culture circa 1995.

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On the other side of the entrance area, what's this monstrosity?

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This is La Cola de Chester Cheetos. It's a giant bouncy slide ... themed to another Frito-Lay / PepsiCo mascot. This slide was open for kids only, but we'd get another shot at a different park a few days later.

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If you're on the highway outside the park, your view will be consumed by the giant figure of this sunglasses-wearing cheetah. At this point we're a stack of pogs and a pair of roller blades away from this being the most awesome set of anachronistic park theming in existence.

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Enough from your sponsors, let's get to the rides!

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We went to Montaña Rusa first thing in the morning, entering this very colorful station.

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The station entrance is actually on a level above the boarding area, which is at ground level.

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Here's a view from near the exit, after a line had begun to develop.

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Let's all just stand around and look at an empty train. Maybe we'll put some people in there eventually.

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If I'm reading this sign correctly, Luis Felipe Santamaria rode Montaña Rusa 1,333 times between February 27 and March 8, 2006. He's never been seen or heard from since.

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To ride safely, attach your lego claw hands and get naked.

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I believe this sign is commemorating a reconstruction of Montaña Rusa in 1987. They're a little overdue for another one.

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Awesome art at the top of the station! If you're waiting in line like most people, you should have plenty of time to admire it.

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Robb and Ryan are obviously super excited for, what, maybe their 6th or 7th lap?

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Alright, let's check this thing out. Oh, and no rules were broken during the collection of these photographs, because that would imply that there are rules.

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Oh, so there /are/ rules: don't raise your hands, don't take off your legs, and don't go to the bar.

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A nice view of the pick-a-name-already Schwarzkopf across the park.

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Oh, and this thing. We'll get to this thing!

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This might be the best part of the ride -- a killer view of downtown Mexico City from the first big turn.

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Background: the TPR hotel.

 

Foreground: an operational lightning rod.

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Just across the park, the tallest buildings on Paseo de la Reforma. Chapultepec Castle makes an appearance in this shot as well.

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Now, the fun begins.

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It's a very nice looking structure, but the ride experience doesn't live up to its historic status.

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The red/green/white colors look great. I do hope they take care of this coaster in the future, because it's got the potential to be a lot of fun. But as for now?

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Well, the varied expressions kind of tell the story.

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Now for some off-ride shots of Montaña Rusa. Or, if you get bored of pictures of the coaster, just play "count the Pepsi logos."

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But really, don't raise your hands.

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One train goes up the lift.

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Just one train, because that's how Montaña Rusa rolls.

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A train of obedient riders.

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Cresting the lift and heading down.

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The hills on this ride delivered some airtime, but not necessarily of the comfortable variety.

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Here's a fun fact! Montaña Rusa was part of the inspiration for Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

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Making a big turn past the coaster's infield, which is filled (in part) with an upcharge go-kart track.

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When Montaña Rusa opened in 1964, it was the world's tallest roller coaster at 110 feet.

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This ride would be so much more fun to photograph if both sides were operating.

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Down the hill...

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...up the hill.

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There are a few good spots to get views of the ride, mainly from the back half of the park.

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Since it's a mobius-track woodie, it was important to ride both sides to complete one full circuit. They felt pretty much the same to me.

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Next up? Cascabel. Or is it Cascabel 2.0?

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The lego-slinky-robot snake seems to indicate that the ride's official name has been changed, but outside of some adjustments to the theming and a new paint job, I have no idea what's different.

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The lengthy queue ramp was thankfully mostly empty. To be fair, Cascabel had some of the better operations in the park.

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Better, but not perfect, I say while waiting for the gates to open.

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Cascabel's a classic Schwarzkopf shuttle loop -- a launched looping coaster with no horizontal curves.

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Cascabel was originally opened at Kennywood in 1980, but re-opened at La Feria in 1994.

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It's a Schwarzkopf, so you know the loop's going to be intense -- especially on the outbound leg.

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I'm not sure this one was launching quite as fast as it could, but it was still a lot of fun!

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From the front spike to the back spike.

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This might be the most fun part of the ride -- anyone in the back half of the train is getting some legitimate airtime!

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Montaña Rusa might have Cascabel beat on history, but at least during our visit, Cascabel was far and away the best ride at La Feria.

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The public seemed to love it as much as we did.

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The bright green trains look pretty nice, too.

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Off the back spike and coasting into the station.

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Day 1 -- The Pictures (Part 2)

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The park's only other coaster is Ratón Loco, a standard-issue spinning mouse.

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The ride did experience some downtime, but we got a lap to earn the credit.

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Los Troncos ("The Logs" or "The Trunks") is the park's small-ish log flume.

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This is one ride that required little-to-no wait!

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It starts with a calm outdoor section that passes the midway near Ratón Loco.

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From there, the ride winds its way through troughs and under walkways until reaching the lift.

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It's a small drop, so it's fun for the whole family.

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Fun for this guy, especially.

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The splash is augmented by plastic shielding, but I don't remember thinking it was an overly wet experience.

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Nonetheless, picking the wrong seat in a heavy boat might do you in.

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And yes, in case the question's popped up in the back of your head, I did indeed brave a water ride in Mexico.

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Not quite a Skloosh-sized wall of water...

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...but still a decent splash.

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Happy riders on log 13.

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Next up is a look at the park's tallest attraction.

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Here's the Power Tower, sponsored by...

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...well, yeah.

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It's a bizarre Maurer Sohne drop tower, the likes of which I don't think I've seen at any other parks.

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It runs a cycle with several ups and downs, none of which were especially forceful.

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It a huge gondola -- probably seats almost as many people as the Intamin gyro drops in the US.

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Stop. Hammertime.

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El Martillo is a classic Loop-o-Plane, and a great way to lose track of your grip on reality.

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Hope you like hangtime and awkward forces.

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Once was enough!

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Nao de China -- or La Nao China -- is a big looping boat thing.

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It was much less uncomfortable than I had anticipated.

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The bars on the top of the boat are presumably there to keep you from falling out if your primary restraint fails.

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I have no idea why your primary restraint might fail, because clearly these padded lap bars are in perfect shape.

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Also, I am 100% confident in the strength of the tape on these ceiling bars, which Nozzy is fully qualified to assess and demonstrate.

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Surely the bent ladder rungs on the ride's spine are also of no concern to the park's visiting clientele.

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To further prove this ride's worth and quality, you may enjoy this figure on the front of the boat.

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From pirate ships to rocket ships -- let's head up the hill.

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I present the Jules Verne Orbinaut X10!

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Only the finest in modern amusement technology at La Feria!

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The seven engines on the back of this rocket are soon to propel us on a breathtaking intergalactic adventure.

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These high-tech chains and wheels will help control the rocket's motion through space.

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At the controls of the rocket you'll find Jules Verne himself, which is great because he's an author, not a pilot.

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This state-of-the-art device under the rocket's nose will surely keep our environment comfortable during the spaceflight.

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On our way to ... Dino Island! Because nothing says outer space like erupting volcanoes and stegosauruses, rendered in Pixar-quality CGI.

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From one flying machine to the next. See you later, Jules. It has been fun.

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Oh, and that's a Lufthansa plane, which foreshadows another trip report I might eventually get working on in a decade or two.

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Cabaña Chueca is the park's wacky shack.

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The word "chueca" (or "chueco") translates to something like "crooked" or "not straight" -- though the first result I got on Google was "bow-legged" which could make this whole operation mean something else entirely.

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But at least somebody got some exercise out of this -- Nozzy proves that sit-ups are difficult when your gravitational frame of reference is askew.

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Casona del Terror is a year-round haunted house.

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Jason and Freddy welcome you to this fully-licensed attraction!

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I am again obligated to report that I skipped the haunt, out of whatever reason you want to assign to me, so here's a picture of some other TPR members who survived the experience. In all seriousness, they said it was a pretty good attraction, so if you're into haunts this is probably worth going through.

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Time for a lunch break and a view over the rest of the park's attractions.

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The double-decker carousel looked interesting!

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Not every park has one of these.

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Sadly, the horses have seen better days.

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Since it's a compact urban park, it's no surprise that there's a lot of concrete. There are also steps all over the place, especially in the front half of the park.

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La Feria has a Condor, which I actually would have liked to ride, as they're pretty fun and aren't easy to find. Unfortunately, the line was probably 30-45 minutes long.

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The music express was also very busy and lined up.

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This kiddie version was not as popular.

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Another must-have attraction for any theme park in Mexico is Las Burbujas -- the bubbles! Unfortunately, these are just for kids.

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I finally found a theme park train that I had no interest in riding, since it appears that this one takes you directly to prison.

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Along the way, you'll get great views of ... chain-link fencing and poorly-painted wood coaster supports. Pass.

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They did have a cute little kids monorail...

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...and a larger-than-normal bumper car platform.

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Carros Chocones = Bumper Cars.

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It's not Knoebels', so why bother?

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Here are a bunch of people waiting for some kind of show to begin at a makeshift stage. I presumed I was not the target audience for the event.

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I think I got some ice cream from here. I think it was good. But this is the challenge of not remembering everything when you're 22 months behind on trip reports.

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La Feria's finest souvenirs: Bicho Robots (AHHH!!) and Horrible Splat Balls (with horrible bugs inside!!)

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One last spin on Cascabel, and it's a front row ride just after the rain. Great way to end the day!

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Day 1 Continued -- A Walk in the Park

Sunday, March 22, 2015

 

Q: Why did three mostly-sane TPR friends willingly eat fried worms and ant larvae?

A: Because they were all out of grasshoppers.

 

Here are a handful of pictures from Bosque de Chapultepec after our day at La Feria.

 

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Took a little trip back into the park.

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No boats on the lake this time, but awesome colors with sunset approaching.

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Because no trip to Mexico is complete without meeting Spider-Man, Bat-Caesar, and Captain America.

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Who is this DC Comics bat person? Toss him overboard!

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Looks like some sort of stage show or play being set up on another lake in the park.

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The stage backdrop looks like an Escher print.

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What's at the end of the rainbow? Probably a homemade popsicle cart. Looks tempting. Don't do it.

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Vendors of all sorts in the park, selling clothing, snacks, and toys.

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Or, you can get a henna tattoo, like one of these. Maybe you'd like a bar code? A Hello Kitty? A crucifix?

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Or, uh...

 

Yeah, moving on!

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This is the Altar a la Patria (or Monumento a los Niños Heroes) at the east end of Chapultepec Park.

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This is another airplane, but I'm easily distracted.

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The monument (and the altar) are in memory of the Niños Héroes (boy heroes / heroic cadets) who died protecting Chapultepec Castle from invading US forces during the Mexican-American War.

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I've visited numerous monuments and memorials for US soldiers, so it's really kind of interesting to visit one on the other side of a conflict.

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The Día de los Niños Héroes (September 13) is a civic holiday in Mexico to celebrate the bravery of the Niños Héroes.

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A good evening to look at some artwork near the park, with Chapultepec Castle high on the hill in the background.

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The skyscraper boom in Mexico City hasn't let up since these pictures were taken! Several more are under construction.

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A rather colorful evening in Mexico City.

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At the east entrance gate to Bosque de Chapultepec, and there are the roller blades I was hoping to find earlier!

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Sitting on the steps in front of Mexico's Secretaría de Salud (Secretary of Health) national headquarters.

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Another monument -- the Estela de Luz (Pillar of Light), built in 2011 to commemorate Mexico's 200th anniversary of independence from Spain.

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Light evening traffic on a nearby freeway -- easily the least traffic congestion I saw in Mexico.

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A look east on Paseo de la Reforma.

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Torre BBVA Bancomer under construction -- now the second tallest building in Mexico.

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Torre Mayor, now the third tallest building in Mexico. The building under construction behind it is Torre Reforma, which (as of 2016) is the tallest building in the country.

 

After our tour of the city, we found a place for dinner that had some interesting items on the menu. Sadly, they were indeed all out of chapulines (grasshoppers), which actually means somebody else already ate all of them. So my group -- minus me, as I stuck to the filet, thank you very much -- was forced to settle on...

 

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Escamoles -- the edible larvae and pupae of ants, considered an ancient aztec delicacy...

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...and gusanos de maguey, a type of worm/caterpillar. Apologies for the stock images, but you really needed to see these up close and properly lit.

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All served up with corn tortillas and salsa verde, as demonstrated by Ryan, because this is Mexico. ¡Buen provecho!

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The world would be a better place if every amusement park served Tequesitos!!!!!

My own personal theme park heaven serves an unlimited supply of Tequesitos, Cinnamon Bread, Dole Whip, and Stroopwafels. Though, I might never make it on the coasters in that case.

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I meant to comment last week. . LOVING this, and brought back tons of memories (I was very well traveled in Mexico as a youth, thanks to my Dad being cheap, and we would drive down to Brownsville, cross the boarder, and fly from Mexico - where he could buy plane tix in pesos!).

 

the moment I saw the shots of the Museum, I flashed back to the Aztec Calendar stone. .and there was your pic.

 

really made me miss Mexico City. Last time I was there was before the big Earthquake (that was. . 85?). .so thanks again for the reminders!

 

looking forwards to the rest of your report.

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Last time I was there was before the big Earthquake (that was. . 85?).

 

Yup, it was 1985. That area has some tough geographic/geologic issues, between the threat of seismic activity and the fact that the city is on unstable ground and slowly sinking -- for real, not like Magnum or Vortex or whatever.

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Cool trip report so far. Mexico City is a place I would eventually like to visit, even if it is not the highest priority on my list. I've connected through their airport on the way to Cancun back in 2007, but's that's the closest I got to México D.F. I would love to visit all the historically sites (especially the Aztec pyramids) and try some of the crazy street vendors and tacos, as well as see the other interesting sites of the city. I'd definitely visit Six Flags Mexico just for the RMC Medusa, and I'd most likely visit La Feria even if its not that great just because its conveniently located in the middle of the city. I didn't realize Mexico City was that high up in elevation at 7382 ft, that's higher than the base of Lake Tahoe!

 

Parts of the city and that big park remind me of when I went to Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2004 (minus the amusement park of course). Certain big city parks in BA have a bunch of scattered vendors selling all sorts of stuff just like in your pics.

 

La Feria reminds me of a Rollercoaster Tycoon park, if they had corporate logos and mascots you could add to your park. That Jules Verne Orbinaut totally looks like the simulator you could add from RCT. It's a shame that mobius woodie was only running one train and that it was pretty rough, but at least it was running I guess. Its also too bad that Schwarzkopf Montaña Triple Loop was closed for painting, but that's the way it goes on these trips sometimes. I remember a couple of minor coasters like a Arrow suspended coaster being closed for painting when I was in Japan, its no big whoop. Not all Schwarzkopfs are good by the way (there, I said it ); I don't miss the former Zonga at Six Flags Marine World (Discovery Kingdom) at all, which is somewhere in Mexico I think. Anyways, looking forward to reading more on your report.

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Great photos of the park! I hadn't really ever seen much of it outside of Montana Rusa before. That's a really great setting for a park.

 

^ I agree it looks like a Roller Coaster Tycoon park. I finally know where that Chinese swinging inverter ship came from in the Wacky Worlds expansion. I love drop towers and while that one looks interesting, it's a shame it wasn't all that forceful. But at least the views were probably pretty good.

 

Also this park may have beaten Six Flags for corporate advertising. Power Tower is a work of art.

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  • 11 months later...

My trip reports don't die -- they just go into hibernation. And this one's waking back up and it's going to be finished!

 

After a day at La Feria, it was time to dig a little deeper into the spirit and culture of Mexico, present and past...

 

Day 2 -- Culture Day

Teotihuacan and Mexico City

Monday, March 23, 2015

 

The Report, Part 1 -- Teotihuacan

 

Our second full day in Mexico was our biggest cultural tourism day. If you're looking for theme parks stuff, you'll have to check in again in the next installment. If you like ancient pyramids and historic downtown buildings, plus a little sense of adventure beyond the rails of a roller coaster, keep on reading!

 

After another trip to our hotel's breakfast buffet, it was time for departure out of Mexico City to head off to the northeast. We stopped at some smaller ruins near the center of the city (Tlatelolco), and then got on the highway from there. About 30 miles (48 kilometers) from our hotel, we reached our destination -- the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan. Let's see if I can get this pronunciation correct -- TAY-oh-tee-wok-AHN. Something close to that. Here's perhaps the most important piece of history to get straight -- Mexico is famous for its Aztec and Mayan cultures, but Teotihuacan is not directly connected to either. In fact, while the Aztec culture thrived in the middle of the second millennium AD, Teotihuacan dates back as much as a thousand years before that -- maybe more! Teotihuacan is one of the biggest tourist draws in the Mexico City area, for obvious reasons. There are pieces of native art, ancient structures, and some pyramidal high points to climb and do some photography atop. That last part might be of interest to this trip report's author.

 

We spent about three hours at Teotihuacan before breaking for lunch at a nearby restaurant. I'll get into more detail about our visit in the photo captions, where it's easier to tell the story about the piece of history we were witness to. I did the best I could to cut this photo set down to a reasonable size, and I still probably failed, but oh well! Have some pictures, everybody!

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First, the most incredible ancient relic we saw all day! Can you believe it?

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Surrounded by concrete-structure apartment high rises, not even a mile and a half from the historic downtown of Mexico City, we made a quick stop at the ruins of Tlatelolco -- an Aztec site that dates back about 700 years. Here's a fun fact! In 2009, a mass grave was excavated at the Tlatelolco site.

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In addition to the Aztec remains, there's also an old church from the 17th century -- Templo de Santiago.

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There are also fountains, which I'd imagine are of more recent construction. Way off in the distance, you'll also see the Torre Latinoamericana -- one of Mexico City's tallest skyscrapers.

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Thankfully, our well-behaved group was of no concern for the bored Policia.

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We headed northeast out of Mexico City and it was fascinating to observe the landscape. Sharp hills with sparse vegetation, colorfully painted walls and building advertisements...

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...and hillsides covered in homes. Far different from anything you'd see in the US.

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Some of the hillside neighborhoods were extremely colorful!

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But here is what we came for -- the highlight of our archaeological-cultural tourism. This is the Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun), the third largest ancient pyramid in the world, and the cornerstone of the ancient city of Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

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Our tour guide, Sergio, introduces us to Teotihuacan.

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Off in the distance is the La Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon), but we'll get back to that a little later.

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Looking at one corner of the Pyramid of the Sun.

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A look at some detail on the lower side of the Pyramid of the Sun.

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The view way up to the top -- the Pyramid of the Sun is 216 feet / 65.5 meters tall.

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So tall, it looks like the clouds are coming out of it!

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As we make our trek toward the pyramid, Sergio explains way more of Teotihuacan's history than I can remember. Thankfully, I took enough pictures of the guide signs around the place that I can piece some of it back together!

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An assortment of other ruins we passed on the way to the pyramid.

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Our group makes a walk around the pyramid -- and a local merchant attempts a sale.

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Sergio explains the tunnel system within the Pyramid of the Sun, with a rather, uh, lengthy drawing.

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The tunnels aren't open to the public, which is probably wise. So why do the tunnels exist? It all has to do with the history of the pyramid. Originally thought to be a monument to the sun (which explains the name), further excavation and exploration provided evidence that it was instead a temple to the water deity Tlaloc. The tunnels represent both life-giving wombs and an entrance to the world of the dead.

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Sculptures originally adorned the panels of the platform at the base of the pyramid, and several are now on display near the entry to the stairway. The sculptures draw inspiration from both feline and reptilian animals.

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It shouldn't come as a huge surprise, but much of Teotihuacan has been refurbished, if not outright reconstructed. Pay close attention to the sections of this wall between the rocks -- reconstructed areas are marked with dark dots, while original areas are not.

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Here's an example of a wall we saw later in the day, which is almost completely a modern reconstruction.

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It's a long way to the top if you want to ... climb the Pyramid of the Sun.

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It seems like endless flights of steep stairs, but I'd just done some hiking in the mountains near Denver, so I was in good shape and ready to climb!

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Nonetheless, these steps are steeper than your typical staircase. Oh, and just in case you have any inclination of /not/ taking the stairs...

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...the sides of the pyramid are covered in rocks that jut out like video game spikes. So, lest you want to risk falling and playing plinko with your tumbling body, take the stairs.

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Like I said, it's steep, and this shot gives the right perspective. That's the Pyramid of the Moon in the background.

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Taking a quick stop on one of the pyramid's ledges. On the 2013 TPR trip to Mexico, which I wasn't a part of, I recall seeing from pictures that these queues were pretty much full! In 2015, we got here early enough in the day to beat the crowds.

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Stopping on another ledge closer to the top. Here's a fact about the pyramid's reconstruction -- the original pyramid only had four ledges, but it was mistakenly rebuilt with five!

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Just a couple more steep flights of stairs to get up to the top.

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Finally, we've made it -- a wooden platform that passes over the pyramid's highest point!

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Let's take in some of the views from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. Here's a look down at some of the other ruins in Teotihuacan.

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Teotihuacan was a well-planned urban city, with a population of over 100,000 inhabitants at its peak. Archaeologists discovered evidence of drainage/sewage systems, multi-family dwellings, and public plazas -- all hallmarks of modern civilization nearly 2000 years later.

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The ruins seen here near the pyramids are part of the city's center, which represents only about 10% of the total size of the original city.

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The Avenida de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead) stretches way off in the distance. One of the city's two main cross-streets, it runs essentially north-to-south.

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The south end of the historic area (seen here) is the Ciudadela, which was actually located at the center of the original city. We didn't visit here, but it's home to the Templo de Quetzalcóatl, another important historic site at Teotihuacan.

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Hills surround the Valley of Teotihuacan, including this hill just beyond the locality of Santa María Cozotlán.

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A look down the southeast corner of the pyramid.

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More views, now looking northeast from the top of the pyramid -- with the highest platform/landing also open to the public to walk around.

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Yes, this pyramid had a moat surrounding it!

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A look north toward the Pyramid of the Moon, at the north end of the Avenue of the Dead.

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The Pyramid of the Moon is the shorter of the two main pyramids at Teotihuacan, but it's otherwise no less impressive.

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These terraced structures along the Avenue of the Dead are an architectural style known as Talud-Tablero. It's commonly found in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica.

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This Talud-Tablero platform is at the base of the Pyramid of the Moon.

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A closer look at the top of the Pyramid of the Moon, which is closed to the public, as it's in much worse shape than the Pyramid of the Sun.

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Strapping on the zoom lens and taking a closer look around the pyramid. Somewhere down there is where we parked.

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The building at bottom center is the restaurant we'd be eating lunch at, called Mayahuel. I somehow got a decent picture of despite not knowing we were going there!

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A good view from the top into the nearby localities, including San Martín and San Francisco Mazapa.

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An interesting church located in San Martín.

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Another distant view from the Pyramid of the Sun.

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A closer look at the less-built-up area of Santa María Cozotlán.

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More ruins near the pyramids. Teotihuacan lasted for many centuries, but fell somewhere in 700-750 AD, and was essentially abandoned.

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When Teotihuacan fell, some structures (especially near the city center) were burned.

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Later cultural groups (including the Aztecs) regarded Teotihuacan as a sacred city. Today, it's protected under authority of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), whose flagship museum I'd just visited two days prior.

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Oh, and the rest of the tourists are starting to arrive, so maybe it's about time to head down!

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...and we're just gonna pretend this didn't happen.

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Here's a group who knows how to have a good time /and/ learn cool stuff!

Edited by The Great Zo
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Teotihuacan, continued...

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TPR makes the steep climb down from the Pyramid of the Sun.

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A final look up at the pyramid, as we head onward to the next part of the tour.

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The conga line to the top is growing!

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Quite the backdrop. Will these guys make a sale or two?

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For your convenience, they accept Visa and Mastercard.

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Making our way down into the Avenue of the Dead.

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Here, at the center of the avenue, is a really impressive view north. It's an odd feeling to be standing on this prehistoric road, flanked by ancient buildings, with a remarkable pyramid up ahead, and the mountain Cerro Gordo backing the whole thing up.

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A well-timed break in the clouds lights up the Pyramid of the Moon like it's an item in a video game I'm hovering my mouse over.

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Tourists are only allowed up on the first platform at the base of the Pyramid of the Moon, and the rest is roped off with ... police caution tape. Which doesn't look great in pictures, but oh well.

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Meanwhile, up atop Cerro Gordo behind the pyramid, I think I see a weather radar!

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The Pyramid of the Moon is 140 feet tall, so a little more than half the height of the Pyramid of the Sun. Archaeologists have found tunnels and tombs within this pyramid -- containing not just human bones, but animal bones as well.

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This structure at the front of the pyramid is bigger than the terrace that was found at the base of the Pyramid of the Sun.

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Let's climb up and see the view!

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Here's the wide view south along the Avenue of the Dead, with the Pyramid of the Sun featured prominently just to the left in the background. The area in the foreground is the Plaza of the Pyramid of the Moon, which is flanked by symmetric buildings, and is more open in design than the plazas further south.

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Some good timing, as I get the "lit object" view of the Pyramid of the Sun!

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The slope of the pyramid is pretty obvious from this angle -- it's steep!

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A whole bunch of tourists crowd the top of the pyramid. The open secret, though, is that the views are better from along the edge of the platform just below.

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This ruin, right at the base of the Pyramid of the Moon, is called the Quincunce. I legitimately can't make sense of the description of this, but it includes phrases like "four corners of the cosmos" and "the world's navel" so I guess that's pretty awesome.

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The Central Altar is in the middle of the plaza, so it was probably used as a stage of some ceremonious purpose.

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A distant view down the Avenue of the Dead, with the Ciudadela way in the distance.

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Another example of Talud-Tablero right next to the Pyramid of the Moon.

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Southwest of the Pyramid of the Moon is the Palacio de Quetzalpapálotl -- I'll get to that place soon.

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The side slope of the Pyramid of the Moon, seen from the edge of the terrace attached to the pyramid.

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The upper levels of the pyramid, as mentioned, are off-limits.

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So, let's head down.

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It's a shorter staircase, but just as steep as the Pyramid of the Sun!

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Sergio taught us how to make some art like the historic residents of Teotihuacan might have done. This piece of cactus is covered in white spots -- the home of the insect known as Dactylopius coccus

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When crushed, these insects (commonly known as cochineals) produce a deep red pigment!

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Add in some yellow and green from plants and you can get yourself a nice sunrise. Who know our tour guide was also an artist?

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Just west of the Avenue of the Dead is another important Teotihuacan site -- the Palacio (Palace) of Quetzalpapálotl.

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The layout of the structures outside of Quetzalpapálotl is really interesting -- multiple levels and passageways.

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I think there may have been some active work going on at this site while we were there.

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Quetzalpapálotl is best known for its murals, including this one of a very ornate jaguar. In addition to jaguars, the murals often depicted shells, starfish, and snails.

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Another nearby temple contains a mural to birds, believed to be quetzals.

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Another mural (found elsewhere on the Avenue of the Dead) depicts a puma. This is one of the more well-known murals from Teotihuacan. This mural wasn't discovered until 1963. Check out the size of those claws!

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Some awesome stone work detail inside the palace.

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We exited the palace and headed west, with some time to peruse the tourist shops on the way out.

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If you're looking for a hat, well, you're in luck.

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We departed Teotihuacan and stopped for lunch...

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...at a little place called Mayahuel.

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We were serenaded with some music...

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...and some free wi-fi.

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First course: aztec soup. Essentially it's what we'd call tortilla soup, but a little different (and much better) than you'd get out of a Progresso can from the supermarket.

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Main course: mixiote with chicken. It's mixed with spices and pieces of cactus, and cooked in what looks like plastic, but is actually the outer coating from the maguey plant.

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Oh, and bottled sodas. I think this is where I discovered Sidral Mundet, an awesome apple soda that's available pretty much everywhere in Mexico. I've figured out some places where I can find it here in Ohio!

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While you eat, enjoy the view of the Pyramid of the Sun, just off to the west of the restaurant.

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Next to the restaurant is their own collection of cacti...

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...and these fruit were actually served to us for dessert!

 

That does it for the first half of the day. Teotihuacan is probably not as well known as some other historic sites in Mexico and other Latin American countries, but it should be. It was a really great place to visit -- not too many places on this side of the planet with history dating back almost 2000 years!

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The Report, Part 2 -- Mexico City

 

After departing Mayahuel, we made our way back to Mexico City, for a walking tour through the city's historic downtown. We saw some of the city's most important landmarks -- the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), the Palacio Nacional (National Palace), and the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral), among others. After a nice group dinner at the Café de Tacuba, we headed back to the hotel and called it a night. As with the previous report segment, I'll get into all the details in the captions.

 

Suffice to say, this was a great day of seeing and experiencing some of the history of Mexico City and its surroundings -- from the really really old to the still rather historic but not quite as old. It was also, by far, my most interesting cultural day with TPR (at least up through this trip in 2015). Yes, there's more to informed tourism than roller coasters, and I'm glad this group is one that gets it!

 

Now, some scenes from an impressive city...

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Mexico City is not impressed with your city's two-segment articulated bus.

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We drove into the city on the Avenida de los Insurgentes. Got this picture of the Monumento a la Raza from our van!

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Entering the center of Mexico City, we passed the Hemiciclo a Juárez -- a neoclassical monument to former Mexican president Benito Juárez.

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Juárez is one of Mexico's most revered political figures, with more things named after him than I can count.

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Our first big tour stop was at the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts).

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It's a major art and cultural center and theater, and one of Mexico City's most architecturally important buildings.

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Across the street are two ... slightly less architecturally important buildings.

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Also nearby is the Torre Latinoamericana. Though there are taller buildings in the modern downtown area of Mexico City (closer to our hotel near the Chapultepec park) this was the first major skyscraper in the city, completed in 1956. It withstood the 8.1 earthquake in 1985. It's also got an observation deck up top, which will be a top priority for whenever I return to Mexico City.

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But anyway, let's head inside the Palacio de Bellas Artes. This building is an interesting mix of art deco, art nouveau, and traditional design.

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The building is also home to murals by Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros.

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This building was officially inaugurated in 1934

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Here's a security guard who is probably sick and tired of having his picture taken.

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A look up at the main dome -- the structure covered in orange as seen from the outside.

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This just looks cool, so it gets a close-up picture!

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We began walking east, heading toward the center of the historic section of downtown Mexico City. We pass the Avenida Cinco de Mayo, a street named -- as is the holiday -- for Mexico's victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

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Shifting one street north, our next tour stop was the Palacio de Correos de Mexico (Postal Palace of Mexico). Yes, it's a post office...

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...but it's the most ornate and spectacular post office I've ever seen!

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The Palacio de Correos was built in the early 1900s.

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It was damaged heavily in the 1985 earthquake, but restored.

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I can just about guarantee this is nicer than the local post office in your hometown.

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Even the ceiling tiles are ornate!

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Artistic venues call for artistic pictures -- even if the subject in this mundane shot is just "TPR people leave the post office."

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Kinda thinking these skeletons outside the Museo Nacional de Arte are being a little bit inappropriate. Then we learned that parts of the city were decorated for a film shoot for a James Bond movie (the opening scenes from Spectre) and it all made sense. Well, sort of.

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Hey, how about a meteorite? This was on display outside the Palacio de Minería.

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We walked through a busy alleyway, in which just about anything could be purchased, including some things you may not want to get caught purchasing.

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Next on the tour was the Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles), an 18th-century building covered in blue and white Puebla slate tiles.

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A closer view of the tiles.

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Inside the building? The flagship location for the Sanborns restaurant / drug store chain.

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Sanborns is pretty ubiquitous around Mexico, but this location is special -- it's a rather elegant location for a simple restaurant!

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A look across the balcony on the second level of the building.

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Detail on the ceiling above the restaurant space.

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A mural hanging in one of the stairwells.

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Lighting in the stairwell, which just looks kind of neat, doesn't it?

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I'm not sure exactly why I took this picture, but I'm going to presume there's a reason for it, so here you go.

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The upstairs windows provided a nice view through the dense city center.

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Here's a view west toward the Palacio de Bellas Artes, with some of the more modern skyscrapers behind it.

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Busy streets and historic buildings looking toward the center of the city to the east.

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To the west, it's much more modern. Just an interesting note on how the city's downtown is laid out!

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The facade of the Church of San Francisco, which I'm just going to say is really really old.

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Heading east on the Avenida Francisco I. Madero, we pass a ritzy looking hotel...

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...and one of many jewelry stores in the area.

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Also, a super-creepy head-coming-off creepy Peppa Pig wannabe.

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The bell tower of the Templo de San Felipe Neri, a church building that dates back the year 1720.

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Really enjoying the architecture even of some of the less-famous buildings, like this one which houses the Museo del Estanquillo...

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...or even this one, which doesn't seem to house anything in particular!

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As we approach the clearing ahead, we're just about to the center of Mexico City!

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Here we are at the Zócalo -- the main public space in the middle of the historic center of Mexico City.

 

Or can I call it ... The Great Zócalo?

 

Sorry, that was awful.

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More James Bond props! I'm wondering if that was why the main part of the square was blocked off to public access.

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Across the square is El Palacio Nacional -- the National Palace, the seat of the federal government of Mexico.

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Sorry not sorry for the weatherporn.

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The center balcony of the National Palace, which is used for ceremonial purposes.

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A side view of the National Palace, which is said to have been built at the same location as Montezuma's palace when he ruled the Aztec empire in the early 1500s! Mexico City is, after all, built on the site of Tenochtitlan -- the capital of the Aztec empire.

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Another street scene, with the dome of the Templo de Santa Inés (now the José Luis Cuevas Museum) in the background.

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This building may not look like much...

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...but it was the location of the first printing press ever used in the Americas! The first book printed anywhere in the new world occurred right here in 1539.

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The dome of the Iglesia de Santa Teresa la Antigua, a former convent from the 1600s, now used as an art center.

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Another view of the Santa Teresa church, but I'm going to point out something different. See how crooked this building looks? I should note that Mexico City is extremely unstable. Buildings are sinking. Earthquakes remain possible. Facades get tilted. That's just the rule of the land in Mexico City.

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Sun shot!

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Clouds and the Torre Latinoamericana in the distance.

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This is pretty fascinating -- the remains of Templo Mayor, one of the main temple complexes used by the Aztecs in the 1300s-1500s.

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Incredibly, the remains of Templo Mayor -- clearly a very important historic site -- did not begin to be discovered until the 1930s. Full excavation didn't begin until 1978!

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Across the street from Templo Mayor? A swanky-looking rooftop restaurant. The contrast might give you whiplash.

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Finally, we arrived at our last historic site on the tour.

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This is the Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María, otherwise known as the Metropolitan Cathedral -- Mexico City's main cathedral.

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This cathedral is the largest cathedral in the Americas. In other words, it's huge.

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Construction of the cathedral occurred in stages between 1573 and 1813, though restoration work has been done on occasion since then.

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The amount of detail just on the outside of the cathedral is remarkable.

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Let's head inside...

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This is the Altar of Forgiveness. It's very, very gold.

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Nothing like a few well-placed sunbeams to add some drama to a few pictures!

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Inside the cavernous cathedral...

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...and a view toward the main altar in the front.

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A view of the seating area in the middle of the cathedral, though the main aisle is not accessible.

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Big columns and arches -- this place is huge!

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Stained glass and sunbeams on the wall.

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An impressive organ.

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Detail in the art on the columns.

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Saints on the wall!

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By far the most interesting part of the cathedral -- hanging from the center of the roof, a pendulum used to track the seismic shifting of the position of the cathedral's foundation.

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This stuff is plotted out on a chart. It's crazy to think of how much the building has moved and tilted over the years!

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Walking up to the huge Altar of the Kings...

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...which just about spans all the way to the roof!

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Did I mention that pretty much everything in here is colored in gold?

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No matter your stance on religion, this is such a breathtaking building that it's worth visiting.

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With that, we finished our tour of the city, but still had a dinner stop left to go.

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So, we headed to Cafe de Tacuba!

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Chicken mole and sopes for everybody!

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Oh, and some pretty spicy salsa, if I recall correctly.

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That's all from the Cafe de Tacuba and historic Mexico City...

 

...and if you've been waiting for some roller coasters, we're gonna have a Six Flags Day (but a good one) in this trip report's next installment!

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Nice report Andy! I really like Mexico City, great mix of old and new. Now if they could just do something about those earthquakes and volcanoes I would feel more comfortable visiting again.

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