Saturday, 28 January 2017

Teotihuacan, Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende – Days 130 to 136

The Sun Pyramid of Teotihuacan

Louise got back in good time, to a rapturous welcome which was a joy to see, though they are very inclusive so we were also licked and bounced as mummy couldn't fuss them all at once! Beer and a chat before bed, OK for us, but all adding to the ridiculously long Saturday Louise has had. It felt a bit like Christmas, Louise did not return empty handed, three blocks of cheddar, tub of Birds custard powder, box of chocolates, bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, not to mention the sandals sent by my mother and a memory stick with the three episodes of Sherlock, sent by Sarah. After chatting and assessment and a lunch of cheddar and crackers that I had been carrying since leaving Cusco with a dodgy stomach, we headed off on Sunday, travelling light. It was a pleasure to stroll down to the bus stop with just a small rucksack for a few days away.

The Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City centre
Our huge bed in Hotel Fornos, Mexico City centre 1,200pesos (£48) for 3 nights
Bus to Mexico City and taxi to our city centre hotel, dropped the bags and headed out. Lots of stalls, street food, people dancing in the local park. Sunday's are great, as we drifted, soaking up the ambiance. Finally we returned to our huge king size bed, and what was the first comment? 'Shame we haven't got the dogs, there's space for everyone here!'

The Moon Pyramid plaza, Avenue of the Dead and the Sun Pyramid
Monday up early to find breakfast before meeting our tour guide at 08.00 for our trip to Teotihuachan, we went with Estacion Mexico who run free walking tours of the city, that we had also booked for tomorrow. This tour wasn't free (It was US$23 each, see:, and click on Teotihuacan tour) but was very good value, travelling by public transport. This served a secondary purpose as the big bus left from Centro del Norte where our bus to San Miguel de Allende was also leaving from, so we then knew the best way to get there was by trolley bus for 4 pesos, and we even had time to buy our return tickets to San Miguel. Fab.

Climbing the steps of the Sun Pyramid with the Moon Pyramid in the distance
On top of the Sun Pyramid with the Moon Pyramid in the distance
We arrived at the huge site which is actually pre Aztec, so little is actually known about it, though judging by its size, it has been decided it was the sixth largest city in the world at the height of its power, before the climate changed and people moved on. We had a great trip with our guide Ari, a couple of young men, one from Denmark and one from Austria, and two brothers from New York. We (Brian) may have been twice their age (actually over three times the age of one of them who was only twenty - I didn't tell him! B), but we didn't disgrace ourselves climbing the 260 stairs to the top of the Sun Temple, fortunately we are more acclimatised to the altitude!

Excavations showing the lower remains of a temple stairway. It is believed the level was raised following the election of a new leader. The fact is that no-one knows. The site was constructed in the first century AD by a civilisation unknown and was abandoned 700 years later for reasons unknown. When the Aztecs found it several centuries later they believed it had been constructed by gods as they did not believe any other civilisation was more capable than they of building a city this magnificent. It was they that named then the Teotihuacan people
The plaza below the Sun Pyramid
Back to the City in time for a wander around towards Downtown, enjoying a drink from a rooftop bar, one of many accessed through a set of jewellers on the ground floor, most strange. We then returned to the hotel and a bar we had found just outside the back gate. Great music, cold beer and a good value set meal. In fact the meal was free if you had 4 beers, but we didn't go for that option!

Looking down the steps of the Sun Pyramid. The site is vast, it is believed 200,000 people lived here at its height and it was the biggest city in all of the Americas at the time. Only a part of the site has been excavated, many more ruins remain buried, some beneath the nearby town. Tunnels have been found connecting the temples and providing a remote exit and we heard special light emiting rocks and water had been used to provide lighting. Where did they come from, where did they go and why did the build a geometrically perfect city, astronomically aligned? Some believe it is the work of aliens!
Mexico City cathederal
A more leisurely start before our City tour, which was also very good, though not the best we've ever been on. All in all we have a good impression of Mexico City, and we really saw very little of it and visited none of its many museums. We planned to go back to our little bar, and did for an early drink, but I'd found an Indian restaurant about 15 minutes away, so we had to give it a go. 

Mexico City has been built on a old lake that was drained by the Spanish after the conquest. The site was originally the Aztec capital on a small island in the shallow lake. It was virtually destroyed by the Spanish and their temples dismantled, however the soft soil under the old lake cannot support the weight of the buildings and most are slowly sinking. In this photo you can see the Sears building on the right separating from the building on the left. There are many other examples even more alarming, but no-one seems particularly concerned!
The Latino American tower. Hope they got the foundations right!
We had a very enjoyable meal, until the following morning.....! Fortunately we were both ok for the 3 1/2 hour bus journey to San Miguel de Allende, though I'm still suffering from stomach cramps! The bus was very posh (though Louise keeps telling us to enjoy Mexico as buses in the rest of Central America will be different) with both a ladies and gents toilet on board, our own private TV screens, though sadly there were no subtitles on the movies, and a choice of snack and drink as we boarded.

Excavated remains of two Aztec Pyramids next to the cathedral. The Spanish dismantled them to ground level and used the stone for their new buildings (now themselves historic monuments 500 years old).


Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel, San Miguel
San Miguel is an entirely different side to Mexico, an attractive little town with a plethora of churches, and many, many white faces with North American accents, I'm not good enough to tell the difference between American and Canadian, but everyone we actually spoke to was Canadian. Except the lady we spoke to over breakfast, who had an Edinburgh accent! When I commented on her Spanish, it turns out she and her French husband have lived in Spain running a restaurant for 30 years, in Altea where my father and Elizabeth live! Small world!


A big cactus in the Charco del Ingenio gardens
Having seen much of the town and many of the churches on our arrival day we went to El Charco del Ingenio a botanical gardens with many cactus and really nice walking paths. Had a great time culminating with meeting a Canadian guy who visits regularly as they have spent a number of winters in the area. He told us that if we exited differently from the way we came in the walk down would be a pleasant excursion, which indeed it was. Sunset on the roof terrace with a beer and crisps was shared with a very interesting Canadian couple, making us much later than usual for dinner. We found the place we were looking for eventually, only to be greeted by the Canadian guy from the gardens as he and his wife were leaving. All in all a very convivial day.

The luxury Primera Plus bus from SMA to Mexico City
Friday we returned to Tepoztlan, we knew we had originally come here from the southern bus station, while arriving from San Miguel into the northern bus station. I discovered the bus line ran three buses a day to Tepoztlan from the northern bus station, the middle one leaving at 13.30. Sadly our incoming bus was due in at  ........13.30 and actually it was late. We nearly messed up as we had seen buses to Tepotzolan, spot the subtle spelling difference? Which would have taken us back north! 
The Magnificent Seven being shown in Tepoztlan town last night
Oh well, line 2 of the trolley bus joins the northern and southern bus stations, going all through the city. How hard can it be? Not very hard admittedly, but an hour and three quarters long however! Still, many buses go to Tepoztlan and we arrived back 'home' about 17.30 to our own rapturous welcome from the dogs, and a cold beer from Louise, what more could we want? We went into town for some interesting street food, tamales and corn followed by icecream. Yum. Today Louise has gone, off to Ecuador, and it is as though we have never left, it's wonderful, so...... dog walking time.
Louise feeding her dogs before leaving for Ecuador today
This photo shows a constuction covering the Serpent Pyramid. It is believed (but no-one really knows) that the site was originally divided into four segments each having its own ruler. The ruler of the serpent sector attempted to become the overall ruler, but was opposed and overthrown. An attempt was made to dismantle the pyramid but it was found to be too robust so, instead this construction was built in front to hide it.
A panorama from the top of the Sun Pyramid (note curved distortion of the Sun Pyramid due to the panorama - its not curved!). Far left in the distance is the Serpent Pyramid, the long avenue is the Avenue of the Dead (so named by the Aztecs as they found bones of 260 humans - why 260, same as the number of steps on the Sun Pyramid? Something to do with the phases of the moon). To the right, at the end of the avenue is the Moon Pyramid

The Moon Pyramid plaza

An original Teotihuacan painting of a puma. It seems pumas and serpents were important symbols of the people (same as the Incas in Peru - any connection?)

Murals at the foot of an underground pyramid. The information board says: "The panels present a procession of green birds in profile. From their orange beaks streams water curving towards three petaled yellow flowers. This bird is found symetrically placed with respect to the central stairway and have been assumed to be quetzals, although the shapes of their bodies leads one to believe they could be macaws or parrots

Our guide on the right and our fellow tourists. The guy on the left is the 20 year old from Denmark


There is a huge cake shop in Mexico City (forgotten the name) and these are some of the special cakes they make for 'Quince Anos' (15 year old - its a major coming of age celebration in Latin America) and weddings. This one costs US$1,000!

The very beautiful old Post Office in Mexico City
The plaza de Santa Domingo. Our guide carries the pink umbrella. After we had left the square she told us quietly that you can buy forged documents in the building in the far right. If you wanted to become a doctor they can provide perfect official documents for you, for a price
A fountain the the Almeda Central gardens. Lights change the colour of the water
An example of the subsidence in Mexico City. This church used to be at street level (where the photo is taken from), now its about 2m lower. But it's still in one piece and has sunk as a whole without cracking - amazing!
Mexico City cathedral (left), the Royal Palaces (centre) and the Plaza de la Constitucion, now left empty and fenced off to stop demonstrations.
Inside the Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel
This is a view of the dome on top of the Templo de la Purisima Concepcion from the roof of our hotel. Its got scaffolding round and is being painted. There is a guy on top of the dome on the left up by the central tower. I'd have loved to have gone up there to have a look. Now look at this photo the next day:
This is the photo of the rooftop breakfast area at the hotel. In the distance is the dome now fully painted, yellow roof with red supports. Not a bad days work!
The rooftop area with views of the Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel. Not a bad place for an evening beer and nibbles before dinner!
This was our hotel in San Miguel de Allende, the Hotel Posada Maria Louise. Small but in a great location. We paid 1,239pesos (about £48) for 2 nights including breakfast
This was the house of the Allende family. Their fifth son was Ignasio Allende and the town considers him to be the instigator of the rebellion that led to Mexican Independence in 1821. After Napoleon invaded Spain and deposed the king in 1808 he started an uprising with Padre Hidalgo, initially to prevent French dominance in Latin America but then leading to an independence struggle in 1810. He was betrayed and was hanged by the Spanish, but the struggle went on for another decade before Spain finally recognised their independence in 1821. The town was remaned 'de Allende' in 1869 in recognition of him. So it all started in this house!
Live music in the Don Lupe bar/restaurant in SMA. Just a pity there were so few other people, but great Mexican food and good music
San Miguel de Allende (SMA) by night from our rooftop terrace
This was our plotted route from the CDI gardens (top right) back to San Miguel de Allende. Very, very easy and all downhill. We took a taxi ride to the entrance (60pesos - £2.40) and it was 40 pesos each entry (£1.60)
Wild cactus plants and the lake beyond
Down by the lake amongst bamboo
Down in the gorge beyond the dam
This doesn't look as dramatic as I'd hoped. I was standing on a small rocky peninsular jutting out into the gorge with a 20m drop all round me
The narrower part of the gorge. I don't know if gorge scrambles are done in there but it looks fabulous (and wet!)
In the wet season this is a waterfall, I'll bet it's very impressive
The Golden Barrel cactus, now almost extict in the wild
San Miguel de Allende from the Mirador in the gardens. The reservoir is fed from the gorge and is the towns water supply
More wild cacti in the gardens
More of those Golden Barrel cacti
The gorge from the summit. SMA in the distance
Looking back down to the dam, lake and gorge
The astronomical observatory on the summit (1938m). The yellow curved line at the bottom is the position of the sun in midwinter, the middle in Spring/Autumn and the top in summer. Note the light spot is near the winter line and to the right, so it wasn't quite noon and its near the end of January, so you can tell the time of day and the time of year with this
Our Canadian friend told us this is a 100 year plant. This one has about two more stages to its life:
This one that's turned into a tree is in its old age
Jackie hiding more plantlife
Walking back into the town centre through very a clean, affluent neighbouhood. Not cheap though, in an Estate Agents window these were going for between US$300,000 and 2,500,000!
We spotted this web with lots of baby spiders running about...
They haven't got their distincive black bodies with the red hour glass shape on their backs yet, but there's three or four dozen new Black Widow babies there! Sleep easy!