Showing posts from 2017

Alameda, Roma

After five days of intense sightseeing, and with a Mexican wedding coming up tomorrow, I wanted to take it easy today, so instead of a list of monuments and museums I chose instead to walk around nice neighbourhoods.

I began in the Centro by checking out the Shops At Downtown, which is an old hacienda that has been converted into a modern space with several shops, all of them selling Mexican-made artisanal objects, and it also has a branch of the famous Azul restaurants. I was a bit too early to eat, and at 11:00 it was a bit early for the shops too as many of them were just beginning to open! It must be a cool place once it's properly up and running.

Next, I continued my walk towards Alameda and stopped at the Palacio Banamex on the way. It's a restored 18th century palace, built with dark volcanic stone, which now hosts free art exhibitions. This time they exhibited religious Mexican art of the 18th century, during the colonial time. Really the space itself is more interesti…

Art Museums: Bellas Artes, MAP, Frida Kahlo

(I just noticed that this is my 100th entry in this blog. A hundred days of travel in four years!)

Today I got another high-octane culture injection: after working through the anthropology museums, today I went to art museums!

The first on my list was the Palacio de Bellas Artes, an impressive turn of the century building that sits on the Alameda Central park. On the outside it's an impressive stone Neoclassical construction with a colourful, tiled dome, but on the inside it's fully Art Nouveau. Indeed, it looks as if not a single nail has been touched since the 20s: from the wall fixtures to the lamps to the entrance signs, they would only need to clear the people and they'd be able to shoot a Great Gatsby movie right here and now.

The interior design is well served by the architecture, as the beautiful central lobby showcases the murals on all three floors that open to it. These murals, however, are the entirety of the museum's permanent collection: most of the three…


Today was another road trip day! Reader, I was just as excited about sitting for two hours as about the actual destination.

The mission was to go to Puebla, a city east of Mexico City notable for being one of the first towns that the Spanish founded from scratch. The city's historic centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site for its colonial architecture.
I took the metro, which again wasn't too bad for being rush hour, to San Lázaro. Confusingly, the metro station's called San Lázaro but the bus station right on top of it is called TAPO, and it's an enormous building with lots of tunnels and a big round central section. Once I found my way around, I went to the Estrella Roja counter and got a first class ticket to Puebla for $180 (€9). The first class bus seats are super comfortable, which was important because resting for several hours was to be pretty much the highlight of my day, but I was dismayed to find out that they play movies during the trip and they pipe the sou…

Chapultepec Museums

Today I took off to Chapultepec, east of the old town. It is an area with an enormous park, an urban forest, which is home to an impressive collection of museums.
I took the metro for the first time; at $5 a ticket (just €0.25!!) it is by far the most affordable way to move inside the city. There were no maps of the network or lists of stops per line, though, so I had to look up the itinerary I wanted to make on my phone. I was confused when I saw that once inside the crowded car, the line's list of stops was represented by pictures instead of names (like, Chapultepec was represented by the drawing of a grasshopper, with the name written in tiny font underneath) but the stations were labeled by name. Lots of double-checking, in short. But I managed to get off with my wallet and phone intact!
Getting from Chapultepec station to the castle hill isn't very straightforward, as you have to take the castle exit, then go right, into the park, and then cross a big bridge over a highw…


Most museums are closed on Monday, so I thought today was the perfect day to visit the great pyramids of Teotihuacán! Here's a picture just so it comes up first in the preview!

Initially I thought of going by myself (you go to the Northern Bus Terminal, take a bus, then buy a ticket to the archaeological site and come back) but I was advised to book a tour instead. The advantage is that tours pick you up and drop you off from the Zócalo in the centre, and the site is pretty expansive so it comes in handy to be shown around. I got on the 9:00 Turibus one (I swore I'd never take a Turibus because I objected to the name and I didn't even last 48h), which for $900 (€45) takes you there and back, and pads the tour with visits to the Basílica de Guadalupe, lunch and a visit to an obsidian workshop.
Annoyingly, the Basílica de Guadalupe is the first stop, so a precious morning hour is wasted on a site that is apparently very spiritually significant but not very engaging otherwis…

Centro Histórico

Our new adventure is... Mexico City!

I landed yesterday after an endless 12h flight, and I think I got altitude sickness (Mexico City is 2,300 m above sea level!); the very second I stepped off the plane I got a splitting headache and lightheadedness that didn't go away until I had an aspirin and a meal three hours later. Between that and the jetlag, I was thoroughly broken by the time I went to sleep!
I woke up a lot better today (albeit at 6:30AM) and set out to get my first contact with the city! I'm staying near the cathedral in the Centro Histórico, which my taxi driver yesterday gleefully informed me isn't the place to be; apparently the historic centre isn't the centre, we're supposed to stay in Roma or Zona Rosa which are the trendy places to be. I don't know these things, guys! I just got here! Don't call things that aren't the centre, centre!

Anyway, I began by visiting the cathedral right next door, a deceivingly large 17th century building w…

Izmaylovsky, Novodevichy

Alas, today is my last day in Moscow, and so today's mission was to tie up loose ends.

The first order of business was to take a long metro ride up to Izmaylovsky Kremlin, a very strange but picturesque recreation of a traditional Russian fortress that I think was actually built in like 2007? (It's so kitschy I assumed it was from the 1960s). It's a recommended visit because of the markets leading up to and surrounding the kremlin itself.

When we approached the place from the Partizanskaya metro station it was like 7°C, dark clouds all over, with freezing winds, and there were like old abandoned structures to the side, few people outside -it all felt very post-apocalyptic! But once we reached the market, we discovered two or three long, parallel rows of wooden stalls with hundreds of different souvenir sellers. I'm pretty sure this market boasts the highest rate of matryoshkas-per-cubic-meter in the world, but there are also lots of other popular souvenirs, such as sha…

The Kremlin, all of it, then the Bolshoi

Today was finally Kremlin day! Sooooo of course we woke up to 5°C and howling winds and cold rain. When I left the hotel it didn't look all that bad but I had to turn back for my umbrella and winter sweater. When I packed, mind you, the weather forecast announced 20°C and sun for Moscow. I never agreed to this!

The Kremlin is just one metro stop away from our hotel in lower Arbat but it took us several tries to find the right exit, because as you know by now you can't just take any exit and then find your way above ground, because roads don't have crossings ever. Eventually we made it to the Alexander Gardens, a beautiful park with trees and fountains that's right in front of the Kremlin walls, and where the ticket office is located.
The annoying thing about the Kremlin is that there's a separate ticket for each thing you want to visit, and each ticket is sold in its own ticket window for its own price with its own queue, so you can't just buy all the tickets y…

The Tretyakov Gallery, St Basil, GUM

We'd learned that the Kremlin closes on Thursdays, so our plan today was to visit the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow's largest collection of prerevolutionary Russian art. It is the city's best known art museum along with the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, which deals in European painters, especially Impressionists. When choosing which of the two to visit, we decided we'd overdosed on European art in St Petersburg and opted for the Russian side of art history.

Google Maps makes you think metro connections aren't very good because it thinks the differently named stations aren't connected even when they are, but in reality Tretyakovskaya is only one transfer away from Arbat (plan your itinerary looking at a map of the metro rather than by app!). We got out of the station and onto a cloudy morning with a chance of rain, just a few minutes after the gallery's opening time. There was a short queue to enter but once inside we had the entire first floor to ourselves -peop…

The Red Square, the National History Museum, Tverskoy

My first full day in Moscow came up cloudy but noticeably warmer than St Petersburg. As any tourist would, I went straight to the Red Square first thing in the morning!

From my hotel in Arbat, I can take the metro and alight at Revolution Square just two stops away, so already I am way better connected than I was in Peterburg. I tried to buy a metro card but was told in broken English that cards only come in 1, 2 or 20 trips. Do I have commitment issues, or is 20 trips a bit too much for people who are just visiting? I think I'll stick to single or double tickets, which at ₽55 (€0.88) each trip are cheaper than the Paris or London subways by several orders of magnitude.
The Revolution Square exit kind of pushes you out looking the wrong way and you have to go up some stairs and down some alleys to cut your way into the Red Square. When I finally stepped out onto the square, instead of elation my first reaction was dismay, when I saw that pretty much the entire surface of the squar…