8 hours in Mexico City

We normally like to spend at least 48 hours in any city/national park we visit. But there’s always a first. Here’s a blow-by-blow account of our action packed 8 hour layover in Mexico City.

We discovered the art and history of the city and of course the food. And it all started with breakfast! This is us attempting to look awake and happy at Maque restaurant.

Walking through any city gives you a chance to discover places/sites that normally would go unnoticed. After breakfast we walked through Parque Mexico in the Condesa district. It’s a popular dog park and has a bust of the scientist Albert Einstein. To mark the centenary of the Armenian Genocide quotes were added below the bust. It reads, “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not a person or object”. Deep!

Listening to our better judgement (and the most sane person in our group) we eventually took a cab to the historic central square in Mexico City, Zocalo. It is a World Heritage site and houses government buildings and museums. It once was the center of the Aztec Empire and Mexico City was built out from this center point. This is also the place where the brilliant opening sequence of the new Bond movie, Spectre, was shot.

Highly recommend taking one of the free walking tours starting from Zocalo. We took the historic downtown one with Estacion Mexico. Run by university students and passionate CDMX residents, it was very informative.  Can’t miss those pink t-shirts.

We started just outside the Catedral Metropolitan. It is free to enter, is very ornate and has an impressive organ.

We spent time at this square hearing some cool stories from our guide. She talked about how the shops on the left were (in)famous for being the best at forgery. Apparently you could get a certificate or degree or passport expertly forged here. Also the church at the back, was unique, in that it only has one spire unlike most which have two structures.

We walked across shops with these elaborate dresses and informed that they were for Mexico’s equivalent of Sweet-16 parties, the Quinceanera. When a girl turns 15, there is a big party planned to celebrate her coming of age- including a stretch limo, fancy clothes and of course, lots of presents!

Looking at the door below, can you guess what this location was used for? Add your guesses in the comments section. 

More walking took us past the Chamber of Deputies (lower house of the Congress) and Palacio de Mineria – with the pieces of the meteorite that struck Northern Mexico outside it!

Finally, we ended at the iconic Palacio des Bella Artes. 

Next item on the agenda was: Food! We love Mexican food in the Bay Area, so couldn’t wait to try the real deal. Despite 2 existing and 2 previously upset stomachs, we braved the cramps and loved every bite! We tried chicken with mole and posole, washed down with horchata and tamarindo in a local restaurant where no one spoke a word of English and service was faster than its ever been in the Bay Area!8873_10102789301364556_1379929133039461484_n.jpg

Next we tried tacos on the street, which turned out to be a really good decision- they were the most delicious tacos we’d ever eaten and despite being quite full (and wary of the possible after effects of street food, especially on a long flight home) we indulged in just one more!

Our food crawl ended in what looked like the world’s largest, and possibly busiest, bakery! Pasteleria Ideal.

While we would’ve liked our flying visit to also include a brief stop at the Frida Kahlo museum, we were warned that the wait could be over 2 hours- which we didn’t have.

With heavy hearts, and with real exhaustion finally setting in, we braved the city traffic and took a cab back to the airport, promising ourselves that we’d be back soon!

Day trip from Cartagena: Volcan de Totumo 

Volcan de Totumo is a day trip from Cartagena. It is highly reviewed and recommended in TripAdvisor and other travel sites, so it first came across as a tourist trap. We resisted but in the end were very happy we tried it out. Let me start by saying it is touristy but well worth the experience.

Approximately a one hour drive from Cartagena, the “volcano” is a giant mound of mud. It is claimed that the mud has therapeutic qualities and hence is very popular. You have to climb up a few steps and then down into the mud using the ladder.  The locals help you into the “volcano” and offer massages. May sound creepy but it isn’t and they just help cover your body with mud. You can choose to decline and spend time on your own, like we chose to do. The feeling of weightlessness you experience is unique and for us the most exciting part of the day. The mud pit is quite deep and even though your feet never reach the bottom, you stay afloat and bob around. Great fun!

We were lucky it wasn’t very busy and so got a little more time in the mud. The locals limit the amount of time to keep crowds moving so recommend going early in the day. The locals also clean you up as you leave the mud pit in order to preserve the amount of mud. You can see clearly that the levels have reduced over the years.

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Once you leave the “volcano”, time for cleanup. Nothing can prepare you for the thorough cleanse the local ladies will give you to clean all the mud of you. They walk you down to the river and may even pull your swim gear off. Just soak in the experience 🙂

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