Journeys » Mexico Colonial Towns (Journeys) » Mexico Colonial Towns - '18

MEXICO CITY  -  A PHOTOGRAPHER’S PARADISE 

This was not a Photo trip, but my Nikon d500 came along. The bad news is that Nikon d500 doesn’t like Fujifilm cards. It slowed down, would not fire, and skipped frames.

MY MAGIC MOMENT

Being in Cholula on the day of the 3 Kings!

Mexico City referred to by the locals simply as Mexico, is a big city, very easy to visit and quite safe. The Zocalo (Historic Centre) having been built on a lake is sinking in parts. If your photos show a leaning bell tower, think again, it’s not you…. Our excellent Hotel on the Reforma Avenue was right in the heart of the beautiful Financial District. See Mexico City Journey. There is so much to see in Mexico City that we decided to take a break and travel to the Colonial Towns by bus. Casa Gonzales, took care of our spare luggage.

From the Nord Bus Station in the City, we took long-distance Buses. They are reasonable, very well run, always on time, clean, with good entertainment on board, good security and strict luggage rules. Toilets on board. You are handed water and a snack before boarding. Tickets can not be bought online. The Stations are very good, safe, with plenty of cafes, and you can pay in advance for your taxi fare for an extra few pesos. Well worth for safety. 

The first trip was a 7-hour bus trip to Oaxaca. We crossed villages, hills of tall cactus-trees, country markets, and noticed police every few km, even in the most deserted spots.  We decided to go to Oaxaca (wahaka) first as it was so far, but decided to stop on our way back in Cholula, in Puebla, to break up the long journay back.

Oaxaca, a fabulous small town full of color, art, shops, cafes, museums, churches. The archeological site of Mont Alban is dusty, big but interesting. Hard to photograph. Do spend a good few days in Oaxaca. So much to enjoy!

Our very good Hotel Marques del Valle, was right on the main square and offered a hot shower. The Zocalo, is an amazing place, colorful, busy, stalls, vendors, living cribs, balloons, and bubbles! The nearby streets full of surprises. We were sorry we could not stay longer, much longer....

Cholula is a  delightful village outside Puebla where we experienced the real life. We were glad we had chosen little Cholula as a base. Our   Casa Calli Hotel was conveniently placed on the main square. 

Cholula commemorates Frida Kahlo who lived there for a short while and have a very unusual cafe shop devoted to her. Outside the Hotel, under the arches, you can enjoy breakfast in the sun. The beautiful Convent on top of the highest man-made hill in the world is a delightful sight and very easy to reach. The square, being a few days before the 3 Kings celebrations, was full of families, children, stalls selling the famous Cholula Three Kings Day Bread (Rosca de Reyes cake).  

Puebla is a busy town with buildings clad in ceramic and frescos, and famous for its Spanish Rococo style buildings. Very busy, lots of cafes, music, people ....but we still preferred Cholula.

San Miguel de Allende is an elegant and picturesque small town. Whatever your plans, don't miss this gem! The local square is full of music, fun, people, restaurants. Its quiet side streets have fab shops, exclusive little restaurants,  beautiful windows, exquisite balconies, and unusual doors. This place is to die for!

Guanajuato is a very busy University town, accessible only through a network of tunnels and famous for its ultra narrow streets and multicolored houses. Well worth visiting. Less than an hour drive from San Miguel. We booked a taxi for 4 hours and it all worked out very reasonable. The new building of the University in white stone is only spectacular and so is the main Cathedral. Beautiful inside. We visited the house where Diego Rivera was born. Beautifully kept. The cafes, pubs, restaurants carry an unusual skeletons-theme! Very busy city center, an air of an International city, flags everywhere. 

WHERE TO STAY

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • In December-January village squares fill with children’s toys in celebration of the 3-Kings Day.
  • Living cribs, children, costumes, food, cakes, a feast of bubbles and balloons.

In Cholula’s Zocalo’s square, in the days coming up to the 3 Kings Day, there are food and toy stalls, horse riders in old Mexican colonial style parading. On the day celebrating the 3Kings, a table the length of the entire square is set up to accommodate a string of the Cholula Three Kings Day Bread (Rosca de Reyes cake), as long as the table itself to be offered to the villagers. The beautiful Church to the Virgin of the Remedies is NOT on a hill as such but on the Great Pyramide of Cholula, the largest made-by-hand Mountain in the world. See Wikipedia-Great Pyramid of Cholula.

MY TIPS

  • No matter the price your Hotel room could still be very basic.
  • Earthquake damage is widespread affecting road surface.
  • Wear good walking shoes only.
  • Long-distance buses are exceptionally comfortable, well run, and safe. Toilet on board.
  • You cannot book bus tickets online.
  • Staying in hotels around/on the Zocalos - Historic Centre - is best. 
  • Museums are free at weekend but NOT private museums i.e. Frida Kahlo’s, book  early
  • If staying in the Financial District in Mexico City, look for the Garden of the Artists. 
  • Avoid the metro. Remember 1st and 2nd carriages are for women and children only!
  • Often there is a charge for cameras or for taking pictures..
  • If you carry a tripod  you will face high professional charges 
  • We found that booking on the internet with payment on arrival means that you get whatever room is available when you arrive. Best is to phone the hotel directly.
  • Meats are finely shredded, so you never get to taste the real thing. 
  • White corn, yellow corn, brown corn, black corn…..no wheat.
  • Cold tea, cold coffee, cold showers because water boils at 75degrees due to altitude.
  • No glass but plastic is on windows of restaurants. Possibly for a safe and quick evacuation in case of earthquakes, but unpleasantly cold at night.
  • Blankets are supplied.
  • You can pre-pay your taxi ride at airports and bus stations and be guaranteed safety.
  • Be prepared for massive Police presence heavily armed. Right through the country. Every few meters! Scary.
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