On Friday we left La Paz, a city on the Baja that means “peace” in Spanish, and flew to a city of 25 million people, named Mexico City. Mexico City translates to “big ass chaotic city” in Spanish. Don’t believe me? Look it up.
Going from a mellow beach town to one of the biggest cities in the world was a shock to the system, but in a good way. Walking around the city, my senses were on high alert – the sounds of hawkers, car horns, music from street performers, the smells of street food and garbage, the chaos and activity in the city – all conspired to shake me out of the mellow vibe of the Baja and put me back in travel mode.
We fell in love with Mexico City at first sight. Mexico City is the New York of Latin America, the Rome of the America’s, and has quickly become one of my favorite major cities. It is amazing that a city this grand and beautiful, with so much intriguing history, resides in the Central Time Zone a short flight from the US and so few visitors make it here. Indeed, it took me way too long to visit the capital of Mexico (see footnote).
Our first two full days in the capital, we visited the exceptional Templo Mayor Museum and the Anthropology Museum, and got a deeper look at the Aztecs and other native tribes and a refresher course on the conquistadors and the Spanish invasion. It is terribly sad to think about all that was destroyed and all the lives lost.
As much as we’ve enjoyed Mexico City, we loved La Paz just as much, but for different reasons. I could totally see myself retiring in La Paz. The area is home to some spectacular and deserted beaches and the town is fun and lively but without the tourist hordes of nearby Cabo San Lucas. The seasisde promenade was full of families, joggers, canoodling lovers, bikers, skateboards, and people just relaxing and watching the sunset – and most all of them were Mexican. Although tourism is an important part of the economy, La Paz isn’t a resort town and could survive on its own.
We were in La Paz with friends and rented a car to explore the area and found the perfect beach at Playa Tecolote. I was able to deposit my wife with our friends under a sun shade on the beach while I went off hiking. When I returned hot, sweaty, thirsty and tired, I was able to relax and enjoy the beach.
That is how we spent our third week in Mexico, for anyone who may be interested. During week 4, we will be in Mexico City a few more days and then Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead. This should be an interesting week.
Mexico Photo A Day
Footnote: in 2013, I arrived in Mexico City on a bus, walked out of the bus station, walked right back in and bought a ticket to Guanajuato. I simply wasn’t in the mood to be in a city of 25 million people.
Dear Jeff, Reading your post, I get a feel like, Mexico city is quite similar to some of the Indian cities…
It’s something to be experienced rather than seen, right?
Thank you so much for sharing and have a beautiful day ahead 🙂
Sreejith, yes, in may ways it is like Mumbai. It really does have impressive sites in the center – there are beautiful parks, grand colonial architecture and tons of life and history.
An incredible place to explore for sure, and taking photos too 🙂
La Paz was awesome. I found myself thinking the same thing – that I could pretty happily live there. Friendly people. Not overrun with obnoxious tourists. Lots of great activities around. Delicious food when you get away from the overpriced and Americanized places on the promenade. Big enough to have stuff, but not overwhelming.
I keep hearing great things about Mexico City, so someday I need to check it out.
When we retire in La Paz we will get a boat and visit Espiritu Santo often!
I like that plan
Jeff, I’m very highly in tune with your “footnote.” I went to Mexico City in the…uh…early 70’s…on business. I wore a wig because my real hair was to the middle of my back. I have been to Mexico MANY times since, and I never even thought of going back to Mexico City. I’m weird that way, though, I don’t go to cities. Not even NYC. I like Paris. And especially Amsterdam…but Amsterdam (the canal part) is more like a burg than a city. I agree with you about La Paz…peaceful place to hang, or live. Are you going south as far as San Cristobal de las Casas?
We don’t usually like Megacities either, but Mexico DF struck a chord with us. We enjoyed.
I think we will be skipping San Cristobal this time. We are in Oaxaca, but plan to back track up north of Mexico City and fly over to the Yucatan. We really wanted to be in Oaxaca for day of the dead so it has us on a strange route.
OOOOOoooo…Oaxaca! I have such a tail about Oaxaca. Which is where I was going on that business trip with my wig in Mexico DF. You are doing such a fine job of traveling and writing at the same time.
I need to hear this story…
yeah, it may not be one for the blog if I’m going to tell the whole story
I’m just not a fan of big cities. I’ll be happy to visit it through your eyes. La Paz is way more my speed!
I Understand about big cities. Mexico central was very walkable and the subway is very fast, efficient and safe, so it didn’t feel like a major city unless we were on a bus leaving town and then you see the unbelievable urban sprawl.
You’d like La Paz. It is a chill town. You’ll have to visit someday.
Not much of a chance to visit La Paz, my husband absolutely refuses to go anywhere in Mexico. Like so many others, he is firm in his belief it is a dangerous place.
Understandable. For example, in the market here they have grasshoppers fried in chili and garlic. I am sure they are delicious, but I can’t bring myself to eat them. If he is convinced Mexico is dangerous, it can be hard to get past.
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Brother always says Mexico is not safe because of the drug cartels 😦 What’s your opinion about it?
I totally disagree. With the exception of Jerusalem, I have never seen a stronger police presence than that in Mexico City. The city center – the only place you are going to want to visit – is extremely secure, clean and vibrant. I’m not saying bad things couldn’t happen, but the capital is one of the safest places you can visit. In fact, the murder rate is 1/4 that of Washington D.C.
In the rest of Mexico that we’ve seen so far, it has been very safe. The drug cartels are not concerned with tourists at all, and street crime, while it exists, can be avoided if you are careful.
Thank you for the advice. I guess you never really know a country unless you come for a visit. 🙂
Very true. There are no doubt places to avoid in this country, but almost anywhere a visitor would want to go is quite safe.
I love the photos of the Palacio Belles Artes (looks like fine art photography–such a beautiful building!) and the person dressed up for the Day of the Dead (Did you ask them to pose for you?). I bet being in Oaxaca for the big celebration is going to be amazing and will offer plenty of incredible photo opportunities. Can’t wait to see what you get. Have fun!
The Belles Artes building is stunning, and at a lively intersection where there is a beautiful park, skyscraper and tons of shops. The Day of the Dead person, known as a Katrina, was a street performer. I took the photo, then she did some sort of dance thing and I dropped a few pesos in her basket. I don’t normally pay street performers for a photo, but this was different.
Good to know your retirement plans are all in place.
It is nice to have that out of the way.
Jeff I am intrigued by how much you liked Mexico City. Even a friend from Mexico City suggests not going there due to the crime and chaos.
The several square miles that constitute the city center, which is loaded with great sites, is incredibly secure, clean and beautiful. Outside of that, there are miles and miles of ugly, dirty, urban sprawl. With the exception of Israel, I’ve never seen so much security or police. They have no doubt gone to great measures to make the city safe. In fact, the murder rate is 1/4 that of Washington D.C.’s.
Having said that, taking the bus out of town you pass so much sprawl and pollution that it truly boggles the mind.
Bib bombardment of city stimulus after remote Alaska!
Oh yes! I felt like I was in a movie about a person going to a city for the first time.
wow, I’m adding Mexico City to my bucket list and La Paz. Thank you!
And you should. Two great places. Thanks for commenting.
Out of the whole of Mexico, it’s Mexico City I’m the most excited about!
You will love it. There are great museums, incredible colonial buildings and a great vibe. It is a really fun and underrated city.
We too loved Mexico City, and I see we visited some of the same places there 🙂
Also I went to La Paz a few years ago, just for a day trip visiting from a little beach town we were staying at near Los Barrilos. I remember the lovely promenade.
I am glad to hear that you loved Mexico City too. It has a bad rep that isn’t deserved.