Location: Mexico City, Mexico
I knew nothing of what to expect from this gigantic, smog filled, dangerous, over crowded and rambunctious city except what people had warned us of. Thank goodness we didnt go off of the US media because we would have been seen as crazy to even enter the place. But this tall, slim, blonde, blue eyed, pale as a ghost, non Spanish speaking Gringo felt as safe, if not more here than in NY, and London as well. Yes you get some stares, some whistles and some comments (that I dont understand anyway) but what do I expect when Im walking around the worlds largest city with the least amount of diversity, not to mention I have an absolutely gorgeous wife that I would expect to turn heads anywhere in this world (blush). Our dear friend Cori was the one who with a twinkle in her eye said but you have to go to Mexico City, and Im sure glad we did.
There is no doubt that you are in a big city, with the smog, heavy traffic and the crowds of people. Having been desensitized a bit of city smells, my senses were a bit heightened, so whenever a whiff of garbage or potent unknown odor passed by my nostrils my face scrawled with disgust as the content in my stomach churned. So it is while in a big city!
Exploring the city we found ourselves heading into Zona Rosa, a fairly mixed crowd during the day that turns into the pink zone at night. The style in this zone is funky and original with the twenty somethings rocking asymmetrical, abstract haircuts with highlights of electric blue and purple. It felt like they were with the cool outcasts, the trend setters. These style idols gathered in packs at the back of stylish hair salons, dancing to the basing house music and conversating while they waited for their new client. Bricker Salon caught our attentions as we walked by, with our familiar Redkin product displayed in the window and a baby faced, red headed dyke at the door sporting a cute Mohawk stood out front. We were intrigued by the cool gang in the back and before she could say English speaking stylist, we were already in the door. I wish Id had more hair to work with; if only I hadnt got it all cut off in PV. I was like a kid in a candy store as I looked at the handful of over styled young assistants leaning against the back wall like girls in a Russian brothel waiting to be picked; only these girls were selling style and creativity. This would be my kind of work place 10 years ago (god how old could I feel).
As Jorge chopped and snipped at Marys hair she got the low down on the gay scene in MC. He told us the lesbian hang outs including Pussy Bar and Lip Stick, both in the Pink Zone and Pride and Living in the downtown area. As I heard more, I was getting thrills thinking of our night out on the town in MC, jumping up and down chapping my hands with excitement. Jorge broke it to us that the girls nights are best on Tuesday and Thursday; Friday and Saturday are guys nights. Shit, Ive been to enough guy go-go bars to last me a lifetime, how am I in the largest city in the world and the lesbians dont even party on the freakin weekends?
Side note: There is so much love, lust and physical contact in MC. Not like NY where people look at you like theyd rather shoot themselves in the eye with a nail gun than have to share a subway seat with you. Here, there are people hugging and embracing, kissing, even holding hands. From teenagers on benches locking lips to mum and pup passionately making out in the subway station, so intensely it was making me blush.
I love seeing a city on a Sunday and I have come to adore Sundays in Mexico, especially. I was shocked with the tranquility of the streets-the stores were closed and you could walk blocks without passing a single person. Let me remind you that this is a city of 32 million people and the streets are deserted; it can get a little freaky, like Independence Day in NYC. As it got later into the afternoon however, people started to emerge.
Monday morning came and it felt more like dawn that 8am. Today we were off to see the pyramids and ruins of MX. Only just over an hours bus ride into the desert where you are dropped off, and pointed down a dusty vendor-lined-road where you pay about $4 a person to get in. Im not going to indulge too much with commentary here, as the photos will speak for me. But to anyone who goes to MX, these ruins are a must see.
To save some trouble and space I have included my recommendations to the comments under each photo.
Location: GUANAJUTO, Mexico
I fell in love with this city the minute we pulled into the autobus station. I was finding it hard to imagine from David Stones description of a village in a crater. With a story and setting so extraordinary, I knew this city was going to be exceptional and I was definitely not disappointed.
Sitting on a park bench in GTO, you could easily feel like an exchange student in Europe. Everything here is beautiful. To explain it is like trying to describe a Van Goth painting-you just have to see it and immerse yourself in it to appreciate its thousands of hidden treasures. The layers of this city are like an acrylic painting with each multi-colored stone house like a thick brush stroke. They look like Lego pieces. Rows upon rows of Lego, yet none of them touching and each of them continuing to reach the highest peaks of this boat-like shaped city. Whilst exploring, you can feel like you are in a game of snakes and ladders, every hundred feet there are alley ways leading up a steep stair way or twisted steps going down onto another street level of cafés and restaurants. There are elegant public parks with clay fountains and black painted steel benches. Here you can people watch all day, and as the churches chime the city can go from still and tranquil to young at heart, and filled with youth within minutes. A handful of schools scattered on different layers of town, whose gates must open at the same time and release the children that run to the nearest park like they were following the pyde pipers whistle. If you are lucky you may even get a couple of confident lads asking you where you are from, shuffling their feet together in nervousness and keeping at a safe distance,almost expecting you to lash out and start a chase. The children here seem to have a unified joy and true appreciation.
Night times are buzzing with laughter and fun; couples enjoying dinner outside and teenagers gathering around cafés and ice cream parlors. I left wishing more people could have flash backs of this stunning part of Mexico. I wonder what would change if spring breakers came here instead of the tequila downing, wet t shirt contest, Senior Frog infested American made beach towns. What does the latter do for the impression of both countries? The people and their city is admirable and I felt honored to have been there.
Some thing we found out in Mexico City, whilst sharing beers with some new found friend, was that GTO is actually known for their mummies. We were shocked we missed them, not to mention that Lonely Planet and the information booths around town apparently forgot as well. To our surprise, this is their main attraction to the city. So if you wish, make sure you ask about the mummies.
I have saved my recommendations for my photo page, so that you can see what Im commenting on.
Location: GUADALAJARA, Mexico
As soon as the bus pulled into GU, I knew we were about to see a completely different type of Mexico. This historical city is filled with a buzzing energy unlike any city I have visited. We were dropped off in Centro, about thirty minute (and under $10) cab ride from the bus station. Staying in PV for a month I was shocked by the city sights and how memorizing the design and people of this city were. The buildings were striking, in size and architecture. A purple painted structure took up half a block and was at least three stories in height; its outer rim painted in white which high lighted every aspect, from the wooden window frames to the enormous door. I was completely taken aback by these buildings, each one more unique than the one before.
The city center of GU is over shadowed by a gigantic church, carefully built with each brick placed with purpose and meaning. It was probably the most meticulous and striking church Ive ever seen. Im not one to explore in places I dont feel welcome but this cathedral seemed to emanate acceptance and love for all. In fact, GU has around 300 churches scattered through out and they all shared the same energy.
Its the little details of a city that always catch my eye and take my breathe away. Here, the cleanliness of the streets and side walks, the precisely trimmed bushes that lined every road and park, and the clearly marked and easy to read street signs. This city was very conscious of making it as easy to live in and as pleasant as possible to explore.
You dont see many Gringos, as we are graciously referred as, which was markedly different from PV. Here, you definitely cant survive without speaking a good amount of Spanish, but apart from a few stares now and then, I felt accepted and appreciated
Centro felt historically old but incredibly youthful. Teenagers fill the crowded streets which were lined with clothing and beauty supply stores. I admired their style- fifteen year olds sported funky Williamsburg mullets and facial piercing. The girls dressed up, with full make up, exotic nails, and revealing tops, and nearly all of them on the hand of a stylish teenage boy.
There is an endearing gay youth that you get a glimpse of after dark, on the only gay block in town that I spotted. Girls make out in front of nightclubs blasting Lady Gaga whilst flamboyant boys dance on the side walks. I felt old but also proud of to see such an expressive, and beautiful group of young adults embracing and experimenting with their sexuality.
Sunday in the city
Sunday was a surreal day for me because every single thing in the city felt different, as if I had woken up in a different place. An overwhelming sense of community charm had surfaced. There was a energetic yet passive energy transferring from every living thing. As the light wind whistled and whispered amongst us, it was as if a spell was being casts around throughout the city, restfully, relax, take it slow
, seemed to be the undercurrent of everyones spirit. It was no doubt a day of rest in this city, although there was still activity. As we turned onto one of the more intimidating, four lane main roads with its store lined streets and hustling food charts, I was taken back by the silence. It was as if everything was on mute, yet we were surrounded groups upon groups of people. On bikes, there was probably twenty to thirty at a time. From toddlers on four wheelers to Park Slope-looking-women on roller blades holding on to a dog lead or the back of a friends bicycle seat. No cars, not even an engine sound in the near distance. It was so heart warming to see a community like this. So this is what Sundays are all about.
Overall, I left Guadalajara feeling like I had experienced a more true sense of what Mexico is really about-a great culture that works hard but knows when its time to relax and enjoy. It truly left a great impression on me and I would definitely love to visit GU again. I would recommend it to all; just dont forget to pack your Spanish dictionaries!
Here are my recommendations:
MADOKA- Café and deli
This is truly an old fashioned diner with flavor filled cappuccinos-under $2 US-that are served as lattes (note, there is no such thing as skimmed milk in GU, so get ready for the full fat). Great spot for people watching as you can really feel the vibe of this laid back city. Endearing old men gather to sit in silence and sip on espresso shots whilst looking out of the oversized window frames.
Theres no way a city girl could walk past this place without wanting to go in. It oozes coolness. Sooo Upper West Side meets Tribeca! Rich kids with stunning mothers and attractive fathers socialize whilst their three-year-old, dressed head to toe in Ralph Lauren and very European influenced hair styles, run around the tables, A very artsy feel, with retired models and artist/architect look alike share light conversation over wine and nibbles.
The décor is extraordinary with oversized graffiti style mural lined on the outside walls and chalk sketches with the days specials blasted on the bar walls.
We enjoyed two coronas and a bowl of crisps (chips for the Americans) for under $4
JOSE CLEMENTE OROZCO
If you have studied or appreciate art you must seek out these astonishing murals that are hidden in a number of buildings around town. They will leave you breathless, You can find them at the university and the governors office building. If you want an interesting and entertaining interpretation on the murals at the governors building, keep a look out for a 54 guy with a rolled winter hat and hand stitched trousers. He will approach you by telling you that they are all lies, referring to the story about Jose in the brochures that are given out at the entrance. If you show him interest he will lead you around the art work and give you an explanation of each character and meaning behind each painting. I really enjoyed his company and was even more impressed to here him speak eight different languages. Just be sure to tip him for his time and passion.
HOTEL SAN FRANSCO PLAZA
We made a pact to ourselves that the first night in a new city we would stay in a basic hotel instead of hostels so we could get are bearings. This was our first nights stay in GU, and it was architecturally the most stunning. The pictures will do it more justice than I could ever with words. It felt like a magical secret garden with waterfalls and lush greenery lining the courtyard, whichvsat in the middle of the two stories of balcony rooms. The rooms are very basic but well worth the price just to experience the uniqueness of what surrounds each room.
bathroom and two double bedsThe hotel is conveniently located only a few blocks from the city center so you can check in and immediately begin exploring. I would recommend at least one night here to anyone who is visiting GU for the first time.
HOTEL POSADA SAN PABLO
We stayed at this hotel/hostel on our second night from lonely planet. It is considered a hotel although it has the feel of a good hostel. A shared kitchen, living area, and super cute back yard with plenty of sunshine and umbrella filled patio furniture.
We opted for the upgraded private room which had our own . Luxury like this will set you back about $31 US, which is well worth it if you pee a lot in the night. We met a lot of travelers at the hostel, some who were staying in GU to learn and eventually teach Spanish. Everyone has a story to tell and advice on where we MUST go, but no one quite light David Anthony Stone though. We met David in the kitchen one morning and spent at least an hour talking to him, or more like listening to him. I felt an overwhelming feeling of appreciation to have met David- his wisdom, social awkwardness, high degree of intelligence, as well as his giving nature-had me in awe of his character. David is the reason we are in Guanajuato today.
All in all this was a great place to nest for a couple of nights. It includes all of your basic needs.