Great photos of the park! I hadn't really ever seen much of it outside of Montana Rusa before. That's a really great setting for a park.
^ I agree it looks like a Roller Coaster Tycoon park. I finally know where that Chinese swinging inverter ship came from in the Wacky Worlds expansion. I love drop towers and while that one looks interesting, it's a shame it wasn't all that forceful. But at least the views were probably pretty good.
Also this park may have beaten Six Flags for corporate advertising. Power Tower is a work of art.
My trip reports don't die -- they just go into hibernation. And this one's waking back up and it's going to be finished!
After a day at La Feria, it was time to dig a little deeper into the spirit and culture of Mexico, present and past...
Day 2 -- Culture Day Teotihuacan and Mexico City Monday, March 23, 2015
The Report, Part 1 -- Teotihuacan
Our second full day in Mexico was our biggest cultural tourism day. If you're looking for theme parks stuff, you'll have to check in again in the next installment. If you like ancient pyramids and historic downtown buildings, plus a little sense of adventure beyond the rails of a roller coaster, keep on reading!
After another trip to our hotel's breakfast buffet, it was time for departure out of Mexico City to head off to the northeast. We stopped at some smaller ruins near the center of the city (Tlatelolco), and then got on the highway from there. About 30 miles (48 kilometers) from our hotel, we reached our destination -- the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan. Let's see if I can get this pronunciation correct -- TAY-oh-tee-wok-AHN. Something close to that. Here's perhaps the most important piece of history to get straight -- Mexico is famous for its Aztec and Mayan cultures, but Teotihuacan is not directly connected to either. In fact, while the Aztec culture thrived in the middle of the second millennium AD, Teotihuacan dates back as much as a thousand years before that -- maybe more! Teotihuacan is one of the biggest tourist draws in the Mexico City area, for obvious reasons. There are pieces of native art, ancient structures, and some pyramidal high points to climb and do some photography atop. That last part might be of interest to this trip report's author.
We spent about three hours at Teotihuacan before breaking for lunch at a nearby restaurant. I'll get into more detail about our visit in the photo captions, where it's easier to tell the story about the piece of history we were witness to. I did the best I could to cut this photo set down to a reasonable size, and I still probably failed, but oh well! Have some pictures, everybody!
First, the most incredible ancient relic we saw all day! Can you believe it?
Surrounded by concrete-structure apartment high rises, not even a mile and a half from the historic downtown of Mexico City, we made a quick stop at the ruins of Tlatelolco -- an Aztec site that dates back about 700 years. Here's a fun fact! In 2009, a mass grave was excavated at the Tlatelolco site.
In addition to the Aztec remains, there's also an old church from the 17th century -- Templo de Santiago.
There are also fountains, which I'd imagine are of more recent construction. Way off in the distance, you'll also see the Torre Latinoamericana -- one of Mexico City's tallest skyscrapers.
Thankfully, our well-behaved group was of no concern for the bored Policia.
We headed northeast out of Mexico City and it was fascinating to observe the landscape. Sharp hills with sparse vegetation, colorfully painted walls and building advertisements...
...and hillsides covered in homes. Far different from anything you'd see in the US.
Some of the hillside neighborhoods were extremely colorful!
But here is what we came for -- the highlight of our archaeological-cultural tourism. This is the Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun), the third largest ancient pyramid in the world, and the cornerstone of the ancient city of Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Our tour guide, Sergio, introduces us to Teotihuacan.
Off in the distance is the La Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon), but we'll get back to that a little later.
Looking at one corner of the Pyramid of the Sun.
A look at some detail on the lower side of the Pyramid of the Sun.
The view way up to the top -- the Pyramid of the Sun is 216 feet / 65.5 meters tall.
So tall, it looks like the clouds are coming out of it!
As we make our trek toward the pyramid, Sergio explains way more of Teotihuacan's history than I can remember. Thankfully, I took enough pictures of the guide signs around the place that I can piece some of it back together!
An assortment of other ruins we passed on the way to the pyramid.
Our group makes a walk around the pyramid -- and a local merchant attempts a sale.
Sergio explains the tunnel system within the Pyramid of the Sun, with a rather, uh, lengthy drawing.
The tunnels aren't open to the public, which is probably wise. So why do the tunnels exist? It all has to do with the history of the pyramid. Originally thought to be a monument to the sun (which explains the name), further excavation and exploration provided evidence that it was instead a temple to the water deity Tlaloc. The tunnels represent both life-giving wombs and an entrance to the world of the dead.
Sculptures originally adorned the panels of the platform at the base of the pyramid, and several are now on display near the entry to the stairway. The sculptures draw inspiration from both feline and reptilian animals.
It shouldn't come as a huge surprise, but much of Teotihuacan has been refurbished, if not outright reconstructed. Pay close attention to the sections of this wall between the rocks -- reconstructed areas are marked with dark dots, while original areas are not.
Here's an example of a wall we saw later in the day, which is almost completely a modern reconstruction.
It's a long way to the top if you want to ... climb the Pyramid of the Sun.
It seems like endless flights of steep stairs, but I'd just done some hiking in the mountains near Denver, so I was in good shape and ready to climb!
Nonetheless, these steps are steeper than your typical staircase. Oh, and just in case you have any inclination of /not/ taking the stairs...
...the sides of the pyramid are covered in rocks that jut out like video game spikes. So, lest you want to risk falling and playing plinko with your tumbling body, take the stairs.
Like I said, it's steep, and this shot gives the right perspective. That's the Pyramid of the Moon in the background.
Taking a quick stop on one of the pyramid's ledges. On the 2013 TPR trip to Mexico, which I wasn't a part of, I recall seeing from pictures that these queues were pretty much full! In 2015, we got here early enough in the day to beat the crowds.
Stopping on another ledge closer to the top. Here's a fact about the pyramid's reconstruction -- the original pyramid only had four ledges, but it was mistakenly rebuilt with five!
Just a couple more steep flights of stairs to get up to the top.
Finally, we've made it -- a wooden platform that passes over the pyramid's highest point!
Let's take in some of the views from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. Here's a look down at some of the other ruins in Teotihuacan.
Teotihuacan was a well-planned urban city, with a population of over 100,000 inhabitants at its peak. Archaeologists discovered evidence of drainage/sewage systems, multi-family dwellings, and public plazas -- all hallmarks of modern civilization nearly 2000 years later.
The ruins seen here near the pyramids are part of the city's center, which represents only about 10% of the total size of the original city.
The Avenida de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead) stretches way off in the distance. One of the city's two main cross-streets, it runs essentially north-to-south.
The south end of the historic area (seen here) is the Ciudadela, which was actually located at the center of the original city. We didn't visit here, but it's home to the Templo de Quetzalcóatl, another important historic site at Teotihuacan.
Hills surround the Valley of Teotihuacan, including this hill just beyond the locality of Santa María Cozotlán.
A look down the southeast corner of the pyramid.
More views, now looking northeast from the top of the pyramid -- with the highest platform/landing also open to the public to walk around.
Yes, this pyramid had a moat surrounding it!
A look north toward the Pyramid of the Moon, at the north end of the Avenue of the Dead.
The Pyramid of the Moon is the shorter of the two main pyramids at Teotihuacan, but it's otherwise no less impressive.
These terraced structures along the Avenue of the Dead are an architectural style known as Talud-Tablero. It's commonly found in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica.
This Talud-Tablero platform is at the base of the Pyramid of the Moon.
A closer look at the top of the Pyramid of the Moon, which is closed to the public, as it's in much worse shape than the Pyramid of the Sun.
Strapping on the zoom lens and taking a closer look around the pyramid. Somewhere down there is where we parked.
The building at bottom center is the restaurant we'd be eating lunch at, called Mayahuel. I somehow got a decent picture of despite not knowing we were going there!
A good view from the top into the nearby localities, including San Martín and San Francisco Mazapa.
An interesting church located in San Martín.
Another distant view from the Pyramid of the Sun.
A closer look at the less-built-up area of Santa María Cozotlán.
More ruins near the pyramids. Teotihuacan lasted for many centuries, but fell somewhere in 700-750 AD, and was essentially abandoned.
When Teotihuacan fell, some structures (especially near the city center) were burned.
Later cultural groups (including the Aztecs) regarded Teotihuacan as a sacred city. Today, it's protected under authority of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), whose flagship museum I'd just visited two days prior.
Oh, and the rest of the tourists are starting to arrive, so maybe it's about time to head down!
...and we're just gonna pretend this didn't happen.
Here's a group who knows how to have a good time /and/ learn cool stuff!
TPR makes the steep climb down from the Pyramid of the Sun.
A final look up at the pyramid, as we head onward to the next part of the tour.
The conga line to the top is growing!
Quite the backdrop. Will these guys make a sale or two?
For your convenience, they accept Visa and Mastercard.
Making our way down into the Avenue of the Dead.
Here, at the center of the avenue, is a really impressive view north. It's an odd feeling to be standing on this prehistoric road, flanked by ancient buildings, with a remarkable pyramid up ahead, and the mountain Cerro Gordo backing the whole thing up.
A well-timed break in the clouds lights up the Pyramid of the Moon like it's an item in a video game I'm hovering my mouse over.
Tourists are only allowed up on the first platform at the base of the Pyramid of the Moon, and the rest is roped off with ... police caution tape. Which doesn't look great in pictures, but oh well.
Meanwhile, up atop Cerro Gordo behind the pyramid, I think I see a weather radar!
The Pyramid of the Moon is 140 feet tall, so a little more than half the height of the Pyramid of the Sun. Archaeologists have found tunnels and tombs within this pyramid -- containing not just human bones, but animal bones as well.
This structure at the front of the pyramid is bigger than the terrace that was found at the base of the Pyramid of the Sun.
Let's climb up and see the view!
Here's the wide view south along the Avenue of the Dead, with the Pyramid of the Sun featured prominently just to the left in the background. The area in the foreground is the Plaza of the Pyramid of the Moon, which is flanked by symmetric buildings, and is more open in design than the plazas further south.
Some good timing, as I get the "lit object" view of the Pyramid of the Sun!
The slope of the pyramid is pretty obvious from this angle -- it's steep!
A whole bunch of tourists crowd the top of the pyramid. The open secret, though, is that the views are better from along the edge of the platform just below.
This ruin, right at the base of the Pyramid of the Moon, is called the Quincunce. I legitimately can't make sense of the description of this, but it includes phrases like "four corners of the cosmos" and "the world's navel" so I guess that's pretty awesome.
The Central Altar is in the middle of the plaza, so it was probably used as a stage of some ceremonious purpose.
A distant view down the Avenue of the Dead, with the Ciudadela way in the distance.
Another example of Talud-Tablero right next to the Pyramid of the Moon.
Southwest of the Pyramid of the Moon is the Palacio de Quetzalpapálotl -- I'll get to that place soon.
The side slope of the Pyramid of the Moon, seen from the edge of the terrace attached to the pyramid.
The upper levels of the pyramid, as mentioned, are off-limits.
So, let's head down.
It's a shorter staircase, but just as steep as the Pyramid of the Sun!
Sergio taught us how to make some art like the historic residents of Teotihuacan might have done. This piece of cactus is covered in white spots -- the home of the insect known as Dactylopius coccus
When crushed, these insects (commonly known as cochineals) produce a deep red pigment!
Add in some yellow and green from plants and you can get yourself a nice sunrise. Who know our tour guide was also an artist?
Just west of the Avenue of the Dead is another important Teotihuacan site -- the Palacio (Palace) of Quetzalpapálotl.
The layout of the structures outside of Quetzalpapálotl is really interesting -- multiple levels and passageways.
I think there may have been some active work going on at this site while we were there.
Quetzalpapálotl is best known for its murals, including this one of a very ornate jaguar. In addition to jaguars, the murals often depicted shells, starfish, and snails.
Another nearby temple contains a mural to birds, believed to be quetzals.
Another mural (found elsewhere on the Avenue of the Dead) depicts a puma. This is one of the more well-known murals from Teotihuacan. This mural wasn't discovered until 1963. Check out the size of those claws!
Some awesome stone work detail inside the palace.
We exited the palace and headed west, with some time to peruse the tourist shops on the way out.
If you're looking for a hat, well, you're in luck.
We departed Teotihuacan and stopped for lunch...
...at a little place called Mayahuel.
We were serenaded with some music...
...and some free wi-fi.
First course: aztec soup. Essentially it's what we'd call tortilla soup, but a little different (and much better) than you'd get out of a Progresso can from the supermarket.
Main course: mixiote with chicken. It's mixed with spices and pieces of cactus, and cooked in what looks like plastic, but is actually the outer coating from the maguey plant.
Oh, and bottled sodas. I think this is where I discovered Sidral Mundet, an awesome apple soda that's available pretty much everywhere in Mexico. I've figured out some places where I can find it here in Ohio!
While you eat, enjoy the view of the Pyramid of the Sun, just off to the west of the restaurant.
Next to the restaurant is their own collection of cacti...
...and these fruit were actually served to us for dessert!
That does it for the first half of the day. Teotihuacan is probably not as well known as some other historic sites in Mexico and other Latin American countries, but it should be. It was a really great place to visit -- not too many places on this side of the planet with history dating back almost 2000 years!
After departing Mayahuel, we made our way back to Mexico City, for a walking tour through the city's historic downtown. We saw some of the city's most important landmarks -- the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), the Palacio Nacional (National Palace), and the Catedral Metropolitana (Metropolitan Cathedral), among others. After a nice group dinner at the Café de Tacuba, we headed back to the hotel and called it a night. As with the previous report segment, I'll get into all the details in the captions.
Suffice to say, this was a great day of seeing and experiencing some of the history of Mexico City and its surroundings -- from the really really old to the still rather historic but not quite as old. It was also, by far, my most interesting cultural day with TPR (at least up through this trip in 2015). Yes, there's more to informed tourism than roller coasters, and I'm glad this group is one that gets it!
Now, some scenes from an impressive city...
Mexico City is not impressed with your city's two-segment articulated bus.
We drove into the city on the Avenida de los Insurgentes. Got this picture of the Monumento a la Raza from our van!
Entering the center of Mexico City, we passed the Hemiciclo a Juárez -- a neoclassical monument to former Mexican president Benito Juárez.
Juárez is one of Mexico's most revered political figures, with more things named after him than I can count.
Our first big tour stop was at the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts).
It's a major art and cultural center and theater, and one of Mexico City's most architecturally important buildings.
Across the street are two ... slightly less architecturally important buildings.
Also nearby is the Torre Latinoamericana. Though there are taller buildings in the modern downtown area of Mexico City (closer to our hotel near the Chapultepec park) this was the first major skyscraper in the city, completed in 1956. It withstood the 8.1 earthquake in 1985. It's also got an observation deck up top, which will be a top priority for whenever I return to Mexico City.
But anyway, let's head inside the Palacio de Bellas Artes. This building is an interesting mix of art deco, art nouveau, and traditional design.
The building is also home to murals by Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros.
This building was officially inaugurated in 1934
Here's a security guard who is probably sick and tired of having his picture taken.
A look up at the main dome -- the structure covered in orange as seen from the outside.
This just looks cool, so it gets a close-up picture!
We began walking east, heading toward the center of the historic section of downtown Mexico City. We pass the Avenida Cinco de Mayo, a street named -- as is the holiday -- for Mexico's victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
Shifting one street north, our next tour stop was the Palacio de Correos de Mexico (Postal Palace of Mexico). Yes, it's a post office...
...but it's the most ornate and spectacular post office I've ever seen!
The Palacio de Correos was built in the early 1900s.
It was damaged heavily in the 1985 earthquake, but restored.
I can just about guarantee this is nicer than the local post office in your hometown.
Even the ceiling tiles are ornate!
Artistic venues call for artistic pictures -- even if the subject in this mundane shot is just "TPR people leave the post office."
Kinda thinking these skeletons outside the Museo Nacional de Arte are being a little bit inappropriate. Then we learned that parts of the city were decorated for a film shoot for a James Bond movie (the opening scenes from Spectre) and it all made sense. Well, sort of.
Hey, how about a meteorite? This was on display outside the Palacio de Minería.
We walked through a busy alleyway, in which just about anything could be purchased, including some things you may not want to get caught purchasing.
Next on the tour was the Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles), an 18th-century building covered in blue and white Puebla slate tiles.
A closer view of the tiles.
Inside the building? The flagship location for the Sanborns restaurant / drug store chain.
Sanborns is pretty ubiquitous around Mexico, but this location is special -- it's a rather elegant location for a simple restaurant!
A look across the balcony on the second level of the building.
Detail on the ceiling above the restaurant space.
A mural hanging in one of the stairwells.
Lighting in the stairwell, which just looks kind of neat, doesn't it?
I'm not sure exactly why I took this picture, but I'm going to presume there's a reason for it, so here you go.
The upstairs windows provided a nice view through the dense city center.
Here's a view west toward the Palacio de Bellas Artes, with some of the more modern skyscrapers behind it.
Busy streets and historic buildings looking toward the center of the city to the east.
To the west, it's much more modern. Just an interesting note on how the city's downtown is laid out!
The facade of the Church of San Francisco, which I'm just going to say is really really old.
Heading east on the Avenida Francisco I. Madero, we pass a ritzy looking hotel...
...and one of many jewelry stores in the area.
Also, a super-creepy head-coming-off creepy Peppa Pig wannabe.
The bell tower of the Templo de San Felipe Neri, a church building that dates back the year 1720.
Really enjoying the architecture even of some of the less-famous buildings, like this one which houses the Museo del Estanquillo...
...or even this one, which doesn't seem to house anything in particular!
As we approach the clearing ahead, we're just about to the center of Mexico City!
Here we are at the Zócalo -- the main public space in the middle of the historic center of Mexico City.
Or can I call it ... The Great Zócalo?
Sorry, that was awful.
More James Bond props! I'm wondering if that was why the main part of the square was blocked off to public access.
Across the square is El Palacio Nacional -- the National Palace, the seat of the federal government of Mexico.
Sorry not sorry for the weatherporn.
The center balcony of the National Palace, which is used for ceremonial purposes.
A side view of the National Palace, which is said to have been built at the same location as Montezuma's palace when he ruled the Aztec empire in the early 1500s! Mexico City is, after all, built on the site of Tenochtitlan -- the capital of the Aztec empire.
Another street scene, with the dome of the Templo de Santa Inés (now the José Luis Cuevas Museum) in the background.
This building may not look like much...
...but it was the location of the first printing press ever used in the Americas! The first book printed anywhere in the new world occurred right here in 1539.
The dome of the Iglesia de Santa Teresa la Antigua, a former convent from the 1600s, now used as an art center.
Another view of the Santa Teresa church, but I'm going to point out something different. See how crooked this building looks? I should note that Mexico City is extremely unstable. Buildings are sinking. Earthquakes remain possible. Facades get tilted. That's just the rule of the land in Mexico City.
Clouds and the Torre Latinoamericana in the distance.
This is pretty fascinating -- the remains of Templo Mayor, one of the main temple complexes used by the Aztecs in the 1300s-1500s.
Incredibly, the remains of Templo Mayor -- clearly a very important historic site -- did not begin to be discovered until the 1930s. Full excavation didn't begin until 1978!
Across the street from Templo Mayor? A swanky-looking rooftop restaurant. The contrast might give you whiplash.
Finally, we arrived at our last historic site on the tour.
This is the Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María, otherwise known as the Metropolitan Cathedral -- Mexico City's main cathedral.
This cathedral is the largest cathedral in the Americas. In other words, it's huge.
Construction of the cathedral occurred in stages between 1573 and 1813, though restoration work has been done on occasion since then.
The amount of detail just on the outside of the cathedral is remarkable.
Let's head inside...
This is the Altar of Forgiveness. It's very, very gold.
Nothing like a few well-placed sunbeams to add some drama to a few pictures!
Inside the cavernous cathedral...
...and a view toward the main altar in the front.
A view of the seating area in the middle of the cathedral, though the main aisle is not accessible.
Big columns and arches -- this place is huge!
Stained glass and sunbeams on the wall.
An impressive organ.
Detail in the art on the columns.
Saints on the wall!
By far the most interesting part of the cathedral -- hanging from the center of the roof, a pendulum used to track the seismic shifting of the position of the cathedral's foundation.
This stuff is plotted out on a chart. It's crazy to think of how much the building has moved and tilted over the years!
Walking up to the huge Altar of the Kings...
...which just about spans all the way to the roof!
Did I mention that pretty much everything in here is colored in gold?
No matter your stance on religion, this is such a breathtaking building that it's worth visiting.
With that, we finished our tour of the city, but still had a dinner stop left to go.
So, we headed to Cafe de Tacuba!
Chicken mole and sopes for everybody!
Oh, and some pretty spicy salsa, if I recall correctly.
That's all from the Cafe de Tacuba and historic Mexico City...
...and if you've been waiting for some roller coasters, we're gonna have a Six Flags Day (but a good one) in this trip report's next installment!
Loved that you guys visited some of the same places I remember from the 2013 tour. Including the meal by the pyramids; the meal in town with the musicians serenading you, along with that stained glass entry arch; culture, culture, culture! Mexico is a really amazing country to visit, along with the parks as well.
Great TR, Andy! Thanks for getting it to us....eventually. Looking forward to more.
I love Mexico, and I'm loving this report! Although my time spent in Mexico was in Sayulita, Mexico City is high on my "next to travel" list. The people and culture and food are easy to fall in love with.
Chi-livin. @adultswim @cartoonnetwork | World traveler, concert attendee, salsa connoisseur, comic reader, and theme park nerd. Snaps: photoboothezizi
PKI Jizzman wrote:I love Mexico, and I'm loving this report! Although my time spent in Mexico was in Sayulita, Mexico City is high on my "next to travel" list. The people and culture and food are easy to fall in love with.
I agree! I really enjoyed it and 2015 definitely won't be my last trip to Mexico.
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