So, does starting a report on an early-2015 trip in January 2017 negate this to nostalgia? Wait 'til you see how long it takes me to start work on 2016.
Table of Contents: Prologue -- Travel and Culture (Page 1) Day 1 -- La Feria Chapultepec (Page 2) Day 2 -- Teotihuacan and Mexico City Culture Day (Page 3) Day 3 -- Six Flags Mexico (Page 4) Day 4 -- Guadalajara Culture Day (Page 5) Day ??? -- Boblo Island (Page 6) Day 5 -- Selva Mágica (Page 7) Day 6 -- Small Parks of Mexico City (Page 8)
In March of 2015, I was able to attend a week-long trip to Mexico with Robb and Elissa. This was my first international trip with the group, and the first time I'd ever been to Mexico. Why did I choose this trip in particular? I'm a little bit interested in the culture and the history. I'm interested with stepping outside the comfort zone of domestic travel. I was definitely interested in proving that a trip to real Mexico is far more rewarding than a lay-on-the-beach lazy-cation at some culturally-bankrupt Caribbean resort. The roller coasters were just a part of the reason, and just a fraction of the experience. We spent time in both Mexico City and Guadalajara, and theme parks only made up about half of our itinerary. Along the way, there were pleasant surprises (Schwarzkopf was a madman), minor disappointments (Alicia, you let us all down), several fantastic "culture credit" tours, and one absolutely killer RMC.
As is natural for a journey to Mexico, this trip report begins in Denver, Colorado.
We're going to have to start with a little geography lesson. Mexico City, the first stop on the trip, is the famed and historic capital city of my native country's southern neighbor. The city is located within the Valley of Mexico, part of a high-based plateau, and formerly the site of Lake Texcoco. After the Spanish conquered the Aztecs, the lake was drained, leaving behind a dry basin surrounded by tall mountains. While this geography can lead to problems with air quality, the elevation is a bigger factor -- Mexico City sits at around 7,500 feet above sea level. Anyone who's ever dealt with altitude sickness can probably surmise that jumping straight from a typical lowland US elevation to that kind of height is a recipe for disaster. I've had issues with rapid pressure changes in the past, so I decided to take a stair-step approach to my trip, and headed off on my first-ever visit to the Mile High City on Thursday, March 19. I spent two days acclimating in Denver, getting lucky with some fantastic weather, and actually ending up on an 8,150 foot mountain summit near Boulder -- proving to myself that I'd handle Mexico City's rarefied air just fine.
On the morning of Saturday, March 21, I returned to the airport to make my trip south of the border. Also, I promise that's the only time I'll use the hackneyed phrase "south of the border" in this trip report. I connected through Dallas / Fort Worth -- not just a change of planes, but a complete "get your own luggage" change in airlines. From there, I had a direct flight into Mexico City -- and a new country credit to add to my collection.
Here are some pictures from the first leg of the trip. I'm putting up some pictures from Denver and the journey south, but I promise that there will be some theme park content mixed in!
Departure gates. Get this show on the road. Or in the air.
Arrival in Denver. This is public art in the airport, not a credit. But you were thinking it. Admit it.
First visit to Denver. Wanted a good view of downtown. Found it across the street from what I think might have been a pay-by-the-hour motel.
Just to the right? Elitch Gardens, closed for the season, because it was March. But hey, have some pictures anyway, because this is a theme park site.
They've got water slides.
They've got a freestanding observation tower. By that, I mean the type you can freely stand in. Those are my favorites.
They've got a Ferris wheel.
They've got a Vekoma SLC. Did I mention I was actually glad this place wasn't open?
Oh, and a boomerang.
Elitch Gardens isn't the only park in Denver. Too bad I missed Lakeside's job fair by only three days.
Some interesting old architecture at Lakeside Amusement Park.
Cyclone is a wooden coaster from 1940. Looks interesting.
Here's a view from up on Inspiration Point, a small hill / park just northwest of Lakeside.
Hazy as it was, this is why I really went up to Inspiration Point -- the first time I've ever seen the Rockies.
OK, back to my semi-sketchy photo spot of Denver.
Elitch doesn't look bad for the off-season.
Fun with long exposures.
Went into the mountains the next day. Took a pleasant hike around Evergreen Lake.
This is how you use a frozen pond!
Well, I guess they're bound to break down sometimes.
That's a breathtaking view over I-70 -- first time I've seen anything like it.
What's that on the hillside?
We've got bison.
Dangerous and unpredictable. Kind of like those Vekomas at Elitch Gardens.
Went up to see the grave site of William "Buffalo Bill" Cody.
There it is, at the top of Lookout Mountain.
Nice view of Denver from up here.
Downtown looks so far away.
More amusement park content! Elitch Gardens from 12 miles away and 2,100 feet up.
There's Lakeside Park from about the same distance and height.
Got some more neat views of mountains.
Then I went and climbed this one.
The summit of Green Mountain in Boulder.
Pretty cool view west.
Pretty cool view east.
Mountains make neat shadows. That's it for Colorado. Time to head to sleep and then head to the airport.
This mural at the airport really got me in the multicultural spirit to travel to Mexico!
This mural, on the other hand, is a nightmare wrapped in a disaster wrapped in a horror movie.
Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba.
Arrival into DFW and a quick pass over Six Flags Over Texas. I'll get you one day, NTAG.
A change of airlines later, I was on my way to Mexico!
Arrival at Terminal 1 of Benito Juárez International Airport was relatively straightforward -- a long walk through the secured immigration area, a simple customs form, and few basic questions with a bilingual security officer. After that, it was time to play the "red light / green light" game. Upon arrival in Mexico, each passenger must press a button, which randomly activates a red or a green light. A green light means you're free to go, but a red light means you're getting searched. I saw a couple red lights while waiting in line, but I got green, and exited the secured area -- free and on my own in Mexico City.
I took some time to get my bearings and set up my phone for the Mexican network, and then headed off to find a taxi to my hotel. It was my first time trying to speak a little bit of Spanish, and it went rather poorly. I'd end up a little more comfortable with it later in the week. Nonetheless, I successfully described my destination, and hopped in the back of car #0042 for what would prove to be 25 white-knuckle minutes through the roads of Mexico City. I can barely begin to describe the driving experience in the heavily-congested capital, and my words will only go so far to explain it -- so we'll go with a high-speed free-for-all in which traffic laws cease to exist, roundabouts are traveled in both directions simultaneously, medians and curbs are an imaginary construct, and pedestrians only have the right-of-way if they're hawking vegetables and flowers in the middle of a freeway. I've never seen anything like this, and NYC's got nothing on it!
I arrived in one piece to the Hyatt Regency hotel in the Polanco district -- a great location close to several museums and the Bosque de Chapultepec -- Mexico City's gigantic urban park. I got to my room, dropped some things off, took a few minutes to assess my plans, and walked out onto the streets of Mexico City for the first time. It didn't take me long at all to feel comfortable -- the park was packed with people. Families boating on el Lago de Chapultepec, groups of people perusing the wares of several dozen street vendors, and people with their phones held up, taking pictures of the scenery. I pulled my camera out and did the same. I spent some time at Castillo de Chapultepec -- the historic castle and museum atop a prominent hill at the east end of the park. I then traveled just outside of the park to the famous National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología) and met up with some of the other trip participants. We explored the museum, then headed out for dinner before ending the first day in Mexico City.
Here's a batch of pictures from the park, the museums, and the scenery of Mexico's capital. If you're looking for theme park content, there's a quick preview in here for the next set. The first park review from the trip will be posted soon (within the next week).
Coming out of the haze and getting my first view into Mexico City. Chapultepec Park is on the right; the central business district is on the left.
A closer view over Mexico City's many modern skyscrapers.
Spoiler alert: I might end up at this place.
That's La Feria Chapultepec, Mexico City's urban theme park, and home to Montaña Rusa -- a huge mobius woodie.
Coming down over the cityscape of Mexico City. It's kind of neat to see how different city streets look in another country.
Out of the haze, Mexico City is a very colorful place.
Nothing says "Mexico City" like a giant American home improvement retailer.
About to land at the cramped-for-space Mexico City airport.
On the ground in a new country -- and taxiing in to Benito Juárez International Airport Terminal 1.
Trying not to die in the back of a taxi on the way to my hotel.
This is home for the next few days!
Walking to the park and expanding my comfort zone.
A trail along the water's edge.
Paddle boats were available for rent on Lago de Chapultepec.
Despite the clouds, the scenery wasn't bad. You've got modern skyscrapers...
...and historic buildings, like this castle up on the hill.
This is Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle). Let's take a hike up there!
It's a long pathway up the hill, but there are several nice views along the way.
Such as this view of the nearby amusement park, La Feria! More foreshadowing!
Montaña Triple Loop (or Quimera as it's now called) at the south end of the park. Also, a 40-foot-tall Chester Cheeto.
The outbound spike of Cascabel -- the other of the park's two Schwarzkopf coasters.
Montaña Rusa and the Pepsi-sponsored Power Tower.
As I'd learn the next day, I was unbelievably lucky to actually get a picture of this ride in motion, considering they dispatch trains about once every ten minutes.
The entry gate for Castillo de Chapultepec. Normally they charge a fee to get in, but I got there within the last hour that it was open, and they were letting everyone through.
In case you forgot which country this is.
Construction on the Castillo de Chapultepec began in the late 1700s, but it was not totally finished until 1863.
The castle has served various purposes over its lengthy existence, but it's now the home of Mexico's national history museum.
A mural near the main entryway to the castle.
This carriage was used by Maximiliano, the emperor of Mexico from 1864-1867, who resided in the castle.
I'm not sure I'm important enough to be in this stately meeting room.
There are stained glass windows all over the castle.
Here's a view of another one from outside.
The east end of the castle is built over a steep hillside, with terraces that wrap around the building, providing excellent views of the city.
Here's a view of the north, with some of the taller buildings of the Polanco neighborhood.
This is one of the oddest buildings in Mexico City.
There's our hotel again!
A tree in bloom.
Looking east over the main core of downtown Mexico City.
The city's tallest buildings are right here, at the west end of the Paseo de la Reforma.
This is the Monumento a los Niños Héroes, an important monument at the foot of the hill.
Another look down the Paseo de la Reforma, which, to be honest, is probably one of the more Americanized sections of the city.
The Angel of Independence (Monumento a la Independencia) in the middle of the Paseo.
It's one of the city's most important landmarks and symbols.
A view to the southeast. Just love how different it looks from what I'm used to in the US.
Restaurants, buses, street vendors -- things you'll see a lot of in Mexico City.
Mountains, also. But don't just look at the obvious one straight ahead -- cast your eyes at the top left.
There's a glimpse of Iztaccíhuatl -- a completely-unpronounceable 17,160 foot tall volcano just over 40 miles from Mexico City. Taller than any mountain in the continental US by thousands of feet.
A view south of the castle, and a reminder that mountains pretty much ring themselves around the entire city.
If you're into old churches and cathedrals, Mexico City has you covered.
Never thought I'd include J-Lo in a trip report, but here we are.
Off to the south-southeast and shrouded in clouds is Mexico City's tallest peak, Ajusco. Six Flags Mexico is out that way somewhere too, but not in this picture.
Chapultepec translates to "Grasshopper Hill" so enjoy this statue/fountain of the namesake insect.
By the way, you're probably familiar with the US Marines' Hymn: "From the Halls of Montezuma..." and so on. Well, this is it. These are the famed "Halls of Montezuma."
This was a neat place to visit. Great history, great views, and easy to get to.
Time to head down from the hill to the next destination.
On the way, I passed through some of the busier areas of Chapultepec Park, with more vendors than I could count.
I passed by this "living statue" guy...
...and learned that pay phones still exist!
INAH is the National Institute of Anthropology and History (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia) -- a government organization that manages museums all around the country.
This is their flagship museum, and the most visited museum in all of Mexico -- the National Museum of Anthropology.
Or, the Museo Nacional de Antropología, if you prefer.
The entryway to the museum, with a quote from Mexican President Adolfo López Mateos: "The Mexican people lift this monument in honor of the admirable cultures that flourished during the Pre-Columbian period in regions that are now territory of the Republic. In front of the testimonies of those cultures, the Mexico of today pays tribute to the indigenous people of Mexico, in whose example we recognize characteristics of our national originality."
A huge roof/pillar/fountain structure in the central courtyard, known simply as the umbrella (el paraguas).
It's really quite impressive.
Also, you could take a shower in it, if you really wanted to. I think they kinda frown on it, though.
After a little bit of wandering, I met up with some of the rest of the TPR group in the museum's most famous exhibit -- the home of the Aztec Sun Stone.
Sometimes called the Aztec calendar stone, it's been described as the Mona Lisa of Aztec / Pre-Columbian sculpture. Alternatively, it's simply a spot for a horribly-cheesy photo op.
Can you believe they found this thing /buried/ while doing repairs on the city's historic cathedral?
This is /not/ the actual Sun Stone. It's the replica in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot -- and because I never actually went into the Mexico pavilion until a Disney trip in October 2015, I saw the real thing seven months before I saw the fake one.
But, uh, the replica version's got the better lighting package!
Back to the real thing -- a closer view of the center of this spectacular work of art.
It's attached to a huge slab of rock, and it's probably going to be safe in here for years to come.
I really don't know how to caption most of the rest of this, but it was pretty neat to see a bunch of historic artifacts from numerous cultures.
Probably only about 10-20 percent of the museum's text included English translations, so it wasn't always easy to interpret.
Bones, skulls, weaponry, and what not.
Old maps, too, which I'm kind of into. Mexico City was built on the site of an ancient lake (Lake Texcoco) which was drained after the Spanish conquest.
Before the modern city was built, this location was home to Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire.
This is a model of the Templo Mayor, whose ruins still exist very close to the historic center of Mexico City.
Here's a raised map of Teotihuacan -- another historic site, but this one pre-dates the Aztecs. A bit more foreshadowing for this trip report?
Another, much larger model of Teotihuacan. There will be more about it later, because -- if it's not obvious -- we visited the site.
Teotihuacan, unlike the Aztec sites, dates back over a millennium!
The two prominent pyramids at Teotihuacan are some of the most important in the western Hemisphere. Pretty neat to know I'd be visiting them just a couple days later.
Some more stone art in the museum.
A bunch of dragon lizard things. Sorry, I'm running out of caption ideas. OK, it's actually a restored / painted version of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, which is another historic structure at Teotihuacan.
A tile mosaic skull? Now we're getting somewhere.
Ritual cannibalism? Now we're talking!
A cracked skull? Human bones made into tools? Welcome to Preclassic Mexico.
A legit ancient human skeleton, which I believe is from at least a couple thousand years ago.
Bones from a long-extinct Mammoth, found in Mexico.
Cave paintings! Honestly, we probably only saw about half of the museum -- maybe not even that much. It's huge and well worth visiting for several hours. Now, how did I get out of here without a single picture of all the bead art?
One of the last displays we saw was this rather disturbing video board in which faces morphed into skulls.
This isn't creepy at all.
In the gift shop, you can buy little trinkets like this!
Or, you can buy Minialmaniques, little history books that celebrate important moments in Mexican cultural history, like ... the release of Pulp Fiction.
Dinner at El Bajío, which was one of my favorite restaurants on the trip. If Tres Leches cake is your thing, oh my.
Getting this picture of the fountain / statue behind my hotel was the second-to-last thing I did on my first day in Mexico.
The last thing I did was raid the nearby 7-11 and buy up a bunch of soda and candy, because everyone knows that's pretty much the most fun thing to do on a visit to a foreign country!
More to come -- including the first park day of the trip -- with the next installment.
Thanks for the cultural tour of Mexico and Denver! All I knew about Denver was the two amusement parks which you photographed quite well despite them being closed and the Illuminati being at the airport.
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Arthur_Seaton wrote:Mexico has such a rich cultural history and the art / architecture there looks incredible.
coasterer wrote:Mexico City is amazing - one of our favorite cities, for sure.
I really enjoyed my time there. There's another "culture" trip report segment coming up later, too.
Canobie Coaster wrote:...and the Illuminati being at the airport.
There's a book's worth of conspiracy theories about that airport. I liked the main terminal building, but overall found it to be just slightly better than average, not to mention it's basically in Kansas.
So far so great! Fantastic photography. Love the aerial shots especially.
Some of those Denver airport murals are horrific. Never been there but I've read about them. If you google, there's all sorts of dark conspiracy theories about the art/murals in and around the airport. Not that I'm particularly into that sort of thing, but its interesting to me on some level.
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