Ok. If this seems like the longest blog post you've ever seen, know that it was edited down from 650 pictures taken that day. We did three things that could've been all day activities in themselves (well, two of them could've been) and then had three dinners. It was a big day. If you had just 24hrs to spend in Mexico City, this might be the itinerary I'd suggest for that day. If you're into getting totally worn out.
Ok, let's go.
First morning in Mexico City, first visit to the hotel's breakfast buffet. It proved to have a very intriguing selection each morning. You'll see. After breakfast we caught an Uber and got the heck out of town. First thing you have to do when you get to Mexico City: Leave.
You see, we were on a little trip to see the famous pyramids at Teotihuacan, but I made a little baby brand-new-to-Uber mistake and punched in our destination as the town of Teotihuacan and not the pyramids. Oops. Nice thing is it was a problem that could just be solved with a little more money and the whole hour-ish long, 30-something mile drive cost us less than $25. Guys: You have to Uber in Mexico. Let's look at the town a little before we see the pyramid stuff.
When you get to the pyramids you'll find that there are at least three entrances you can be dropped off at and people at every turn trying to get you to pay them for a tour and they can sometimes seem very official but you don't need a tour and you should get dropped off at entrance three, down by the citadel. Also: There's a good number of dogs roaming around the pyramid complex, this first one the workers called Blacky. But in Spanish. Blacky and his friend seemed to be on the payroll in a way, though. You'll see. One of the first things I saw at the pyramids was a sign explaining that, despite what you've heard, it wasn't built by Martians.
So the first place we went was called the Citadel and it was a good beginner's area with one little mini temple to just give us a tiny introductory taste of the stair climbing we'd be doing that morning.
Stop Two: The Pyramid of the Sun. 216 feet tall, 248 steps to the top. At the time, we thought it was steep and demanding climb.
Stop Three: Pyramid of the Moon. Like I said, 70 feet shorter than the Pyramid of the Sun and they don't even let you climb all the way up to the top. BUT it is an incredibly steep hike up the thing and the steps are must be all be more than a foot tall each. My leg was sore for the rest of the trip. It hurt to sit down it was so sore. And I ride my bike every day and thought my legs were strong and well-exercised!
Stop Four: These nice, small buildings. Where the priests and kings lived, or something.
Having seen all that it seemed there was to see we went over to where you catch the bus back to the city but first wound up having a lunch of huaraches and quesadillas under a tent that we went through a hole in a fence to get to. Mexico! And also we met another ambivalent dog.
Bus ride back into the city before jumping off at the Deportivo 18 de Marzo subway stop. A thing you might not know about Mexico is you can catch a bus at the side of the freeway there. Or get off a bus on the side of the freeway there.
We took the subway one stop to the Basilica. It would probably have been quicker to walk, but I think it was really important for us to get to see the subway and for me to get a little reminder taste of the Mexico City subway life. It's about 25 cents a ride, too. Just worth noting. Suddenly Mexico City Ubers seem super expensive. Also: the Rosario stop was just about my #1 stop during my time in Mexico City. We were going in the opposite direction, but it felt good to be on the same old rails.
Although we were headed to the Basilica I got distracted, briefly, by a railroad museum.
And then finally we walk up the street to the Basilica. Maybe you are asking "Why do you keep saying "basilica", what do you mean?" What I mean is "Basilica de Guadalupe" and what I mean by that is "the large complex of churches, statues, memorials and basilica dedicated to the Virgen de Guadalupe and her apparitions to the indigenous Juan Diego in 1531. While an appearance of Mary to anyone is pretty noteworthy, the Guadalupe event stands as a divine cosign on the place of the indigenous peoples of Mexico in the Church and the point where it began to stop just being a European thing and began to be a Mexican thing (in Mexico). This is a short and misshapen summary of the story and its historical impact.
The Virgin's appearance to Juan Diego left his robe imprinted with her image and that very artifact is on display inside the basilica. It hangs up high in the back behind the uh, podium? Rostrum? Stage? What do you call the part of the church where the priests are when they do their talking? Suddenly I can't think of a word for it. Anyway, it's back up there behind probably feet of bulletproof glass, hanging above a big beautiful Mexican flag BUT the cool thing is there's a set of moving walkways down below it and behind the stage for viewing it. The moving walkways keep a crowd from forming in that space, although if it's not too busy you can keep riding back and forth and looking at her.
Note in this first photo the man who entered the basilica en rodillas. There is a tradition of people coming on their knees to plead with the Virgin, and sometimes not just upon entering the basilica but for long distances of approach. Do a youtube search!
As a missionary I liked to imagine myself as some sort of holy terror and I had a pretty cavalier attitude towards Juan Diego and the Virgin of Guadalupe but since then I've mellowed or my mind expanded or whatever and on this trip it was rather impressive to look at her and think that this artifact is probably the most important thing in all of Mexico to the extreme majority of Mexicans, the keystone to a whole culture. Like in America what's the closest thing we have? The Declaration of Independence? But people don't come to Washington DC en masse to venerate it and if it were destroyed we would still have it. So this makes me wonder if there's an artifact, an actual physical single artifact, in the world, that's more important to more people than the Virgin's image at the Basilica. Help me out, is there? SO, by running the numbers, does that make Juan Diego's cloak imprinted with the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe THE most important/valued object in the world? Help me out! I'm open to counter-arguments! Someone explain Mecca to me, again.
Yeah, Mecca is probably more "important." Only 6 million people came to the Basilica in 2002 for the Dia de la Virgen.
Anyway, more Basilica sights. The Basilica complex is made up of a lot of old churches, some with very impressive cases of sinking into the ground (because, if you forgot, Mexico City is built on a lake and sinking down into that lake) all venerating some aspect of the Guadalupe Event and its figures, all noted for whatever portion of time they may have housed the image of the Virgin. But at the end of the plaza (or I should say the first plaza, because they've built an annex plaza for when the crowds are too gigantic) there is a giant solar clock containing and animatronic retelling of the Guadalupe Event. And when you look back from the clock you can really get a good perspective on the sinking.
The Basilica complex is at the base of Tepeyac hill, where Juan Diego encountered the Virgin. After conquering the pyramids a few hours earlier the prospect of another ascent was a little daunting, but the view was worth it and the hill not so bad. Oh and here I realize that I didn't get a photo of the view from the top. Oh well. Gotta go back.
Coming down from the hill, still plenty more Basilica stuff to see. We really went for it an left nothing unvisited.
Next, another Uber ride and my first return sighting of traffic jugglers...
Mom like Teotihuacan so much it seemed like she was going to convert to Aztec*, and then she liked the Basilica so much it seemed she was going to convert Catholic, so I had to rush her over to the Mexico City (LDS) Temple and try to keep her Mormon.
*The builders of Teotihuacan weren't Aztecs. I was just being simple.
The Mexico City temple has a visitor's center and the nice thing about a visitor's center is it doesn't matter who you are, member of the church, visitor, former Mexico City missionary yourself, the missionaries will latch on to you and you aren't getting out of there without a "short" thirty minute message (or two) even if you're just "looking" around at how much it has changed in twenty years.
Forgive the PM establishing shot, seems no one took a picture of the temple while the sun was still up.
Then we walked the grounds a little. The temple complex has lodging for visitors and missionaries, a cafeteria, a distribution center, TWO chapels, and a vending machine.
And another thing I don't have a picture of is how lively the temple grounds were. So many families, so many youth going in and out of the baptistry, so many kids rolling around on the grass in their nice clothes, so many happy people coming in and out of the temple. It was electric with small bits of life.
Our three destinations of the day visited, we headed back to the hotel to have our dinners. On our way to our first destination, a world famous, world class taco stand just a block from our hotel, we discovered an outpost of the world famous Pasteleria Ideal and popped in for a little evening look at the day's pastries.
He had our first dinner of the night at the above mentioned world famous, world class taqueria, Los Cocuyos. The menu is a pretty intimidating What's What of off cuts, so I ordered us a couple suadero (brisket) tacos and one campechano (suadero and longaniza [a sausage that is not chorizo]) for myself. Probably very easily the best tacos of the trip, these guys were just so delicious from sitting in fat all day. That's really the secret: all the greatest tacos have that bit of extra fat dripping off the end of the tortilla when you pick them up.
Next we kept heading down the street for a couple blocks and turned the corner and had our next dinner at Churreria El Moro, a famous 70 year old churro restaurant that does brisk fried dough business 24hrs a day. There was a line when we got there but we were seated in just a few minutes and fed only a few minutes after that. We ordered an order of churros, a strawberry milkshake, a churro ice cream sandwich, and a hot chocolate each. Excellent, excellent, excellent, and a very good place to be if you like the smell of sugar and hustle and bustle of people enjoying it.
One last dinner for me: El Moro had a little taco stand outside so I was like "don't mind if I do" and had my first taco al pastor of the trip.
After dinners we finished the day off with a little bit of a walk through our neighborhood
And that was day two, also known as "the first full day." Coming up: Day Three! Can you even guess what we might have gotten up to next?