We came to Mexico City (Ciudad de Mexico, or CDMX as it’s known here) to spend a few days visiting our friends the Johnstons who we knew from the NL. They were very generous and kind to let us stay with them for a few days. While there, we got to see the highlights of CDMX. We broke the rule of not driving at night yet again. But driving in CDMX was very similar to driving in any other big city at night. Lots of traffic, confusing turn offs, and consequently, multiple wrong turns. Fortunately, the drivers were mostly polite and forgiving, and Google Maps has a critical “recalculating” feature, that we use over, and over again. (Click right to read more . . . . )
#1 - Zocalo Square and Templo Mayor
#2 - Anthropology museum and the Aztec sun stone (aka Aztec calendar)
#3 - Monarch butterfly sanctuary
#4 - Mexico City LDS temple
#5 - Spending time with good friends
#6 - Mexican dermatologist
#7 - Youth Seminary
#8 - Misplacing Tera’s iPhone
#1 - Zocalo Square and the Temple Mayor - Mexico City was built up in the 1320’s on an island, originally as the city Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire. It was placed there because of the Aztec prophecy that the imperial city would be built in the spot where they found an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its beak. (this image is found all throughout Mexico, on the flag and national seal) At its peak, it was the largest city in the Pre-Columbian Americas, was a Venice-like city of canals and bridges, and was described by Cortes as the most beautiful city in the world. The centerpiece of the city was the temple complex, with the Temple Mayor the focal point. Unfortunately, the invading Spaniards destroyed the city in the 1520’s, and rebuilt it according to their Spanish pleasure. Eventually the entire lake was filled in, and Mexico City evolved into what it is today, one of the largest cities in the world. We visited the main square of the city, comparable to Red Square in Moscow, and Tiananmen Square in Beijing, a vast open plaza surrounded by the church, the national palace, and a museum. The Catedral Metropolitana, being very old, very large and heavy, and built on the silt of a lake bed, was tilting in strange angles all throughout the building, made even more noticeable by the large chandeliers hanging down straight, showing off the leaning angles of the archways. The Templo Mayor ruins were also there, near the square, having been rediscovered only in 1978, and continually restored since then.
#2 - Anthropology Museum and the Aztec Sun Stone - We visited the city’s anthropological museum, which we read afterwards in a guidebook was one of the “great museums of the world”. I was impressed. The most treasured item was the enormous Aztec sunstone, a massive piece of art that was mistakenly known as the “Aztec Calendar Stone”. The collection of columns and art from all over ancient Mexico was impressive and interesting. There was also a fantastic depiction of what Tenochtitlan might have looked like back in the 1300’s. It was a little sobering to realize how little of the Mexican history we knew, especially given the fact that they are our nearest national neighbor. Of European history, I know much, but of Mexican history, so little.
#3 - Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary - While driving south from San Luis Potosi, we encountered myriad signs which talked about driving through the butterfly migration route. Once we arrived to our friend home, they spoke of their son having been to see the Monarch Butterfly sanctuary on a field trip. We decided to stay an extra night, so that we too could visit the forest where the hundreds of millions of butterflies congregate and spend the winter. It was about a 2-hour drive, and was much more crowded than we anticipated. After a steep 90-minute walk up into the forest, we were halted by the very long line of people waiting to view the butterflies. When we finally approached to the area of the forest where they were resting, we saw hundreds of clumps of butterfly colonies, hanging from the branches of the trees. It was overcast, so there were minimal butterflies in flight, but it was still beautiful and unique to see the natural wonder.
#4 - Mexico City LDS temple - While in Mexico City, we visited another temple, so the kids could do some baptism ordinances. It was very, very crowded, with large buses of bringing saints from all over Mexico City area to spend their day there. There were literally hundreds of youth there, waiting for their turn to enter the sacred house during the day. The visitor’s center was also large and beautiful, and we were able to speak with the director about their daily work.
#5 - Spending time with friends - It was certainly nice to spend three nights in the same place, and avoid the daily pack and unpack of the car. Eating home-cooked meals was also a pleasure, and the kids had a great time playing games with their friends that we got to know while living in the Netherlands. It was fun to catch up with friends whom we hadn’t seen since the past summer when they moved to Mexico City. They also took us to their favorite Taco shop in the city, which was a hit with everyone.
#6 - Mexican Dermatologist - We had visited a dermatologist in the US, just before leaving, for some issues that Nathan is having. Unfortunately, because of insurance problems (it has taken longer for our insurance policy to convert after leaving Shell than I had anticipated), we weren’t able to get the prescriptions filled. So we tried a pharmacy here in Mexico City. Luckily enough, we found one which had a resident dermatologist, who happened to be a Mexican health tourism highlight. He asked if we were staying in the hotel that catered to Americans, looking for treatments not approved in the United States. So Nathan is now being treated with an foreign non-FDA approved specialist drug from a Mexican dermatologist. Bring it on!
#7 - Seminary - Last year, Nathan, Anna, and Tyler were attending the early morning youth religion class in Wassenaar before we departed, even without attending school. Then, while in Texas, they attending the seminary class with the students there. Since we have been traveling, they’ve missed the last few days. However, while in Mexico City, they woke up early (5:00am) to catch a ride with our friends to the attend the seminary class for a day. A little early-morning religion is good for anyone, especially a teenager.
#8 - misplacing Tera’s iPhone - It seems that we always have something happen that delays us a good deal on the road. In Texas, it was that the battery died. In Nuevo Laredo, it was the forgotten visa payment. In Monterrrey, Anna forgot some things in the airbnb, and we turned back. Leaving San Luis Potosi, we forgot to get gas, and got stuck in traffic and lost a couple of hours. In Mexico City, our bad luck held . . . Tera gave Nathan her phone in the morning before they left for Seminary, but when we picked them up, he no longer had it. He had dropped it out of his pocket in the carpool that morning. So after a call, and a discovery in the backseat of his early-morning ride to seminary, we changed our route to head downtown, in the midst of morning traffic, to collect the phone. About an hour lost . . . .
Plan? What plan?
Our first Gap Year was a fabulous "2017-2018 School Year" of travel: from the Netherlands to Jordan to Texas to Hawaii to Mexico to Central America to London and back to the Netherlands. Our "2018 Summer Vacation" took us all around Western Europe, back to the USA on a transatlantic cruise, a road trip through New York and into Canada, and ending up in Utah. We have now kicked off the "2018-2019 School year" with a trip to Asia. Follow along with us on our visits to new places, as well as revisiting some of our favorite places from our time living there. It's going to be great!!