Tag Archive | sightseeing

The last leg- Mexico City, DF

After our wonderful time in Oaxaca we nevertheless had to move on, so as to be in Mexico City (referred to locally as Distrito Federal or D.F) for our flight home. We decided to spend a week seeing the capital city of Mexico ( with its mere 9 million inhabitants). I was slightly nervous about it, since many people had warned me that it’s very dangerous, lots of crime, etc. Even Mexicans said that we should not wander out at night, and that some neighbourhoods are out of bounds. Of course this is the case in many large cities in every country.

It transpired that the lovely Airbnb that we had booked was at the back of the American Embassy, the securest location in the whole city, judging by the number of armed police surrounding it. The neighbourhood, called Cuauhtémoc, is one of the most pleasant and safe in the city, and we had no problems at all walking  along the main boulevard the Paseo de la Reforma at night, eating and drinking there. It is near to the amazing Museum of Anthropology and the Chapultepec park and  had wide tree- lined boulevards and lots of lovely statues. On Sundays, the road is blocked off and filled with people on bicycles, skateboards, dogs and runners. It was a delightful place altogether, and far removed from what I had been expecting. However, we only went on the metro once, as it was incredibly crowded, and we actually saw two people fall out onto the platform once, when the doors opened. We took the bus once, which was easy, and otherwise walked everywhere. But we did not really go out at night except in our neighbourhood of Chapultepéc.

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Runners on Paseo de la Reforma on Sunday

Of course, as with any large city, the problem is deciding what to see without running around crazily and exhausting yourself. We had a few top sites we didn’t want to miss, and the first of these was the Frida Kahlo Museum. I also wanted to see some works by Frida’s husband Diego Rivera, and to see the Museum of Anthropology, which my cousin had told me was a ” not to be missed” attraction. We were also lucky enough to have some local people to meet up with, the lovely Francisco, whom we had met through Servas, when he was studying Hebrew in Israel, another couple from Servas, consisting of an Israeli called Anna and her husband and daughter), a girl called Cynthia, who is

a travel buddy from the now defunct Virtual Tourist, and a Couchsurfer called Sima, a Mexican who had lived in Israel for some years.

But we started off with a lovely day at the Chapultepec Park, a huge expanse of green in the heart of the city, which contains the Chapultepec Castle, several museums and lakes and other wonderful things. We didn’t manage to see the Castle, but we very much enjoyed walking around the lakes, and people watching in the park. You could spend days in this place as it is truly a relaxing and lovely spot. We especially enjoyed the secluded relaxation corner, which has benches for reading and  plays a different style of chillout music  for each day of the week.

The next day we ventured down to the Historic city centre where most of the big tourist sites are located. Here you can find the Zocalo, as in all the other Mexican towns we had visited, but here of course there is more of everything- more galleries, more churches, murals, theatres. We took a free walking tour with this company, which was extremely enjoyable, even if the guide did sometimes stand in a spot where we couldn’t hear her because of the traffic, it still introduced us to some sites that we decided to revisit at our leisure later on. The tour begins every day outside the Cathedral at 11am, and although it is 100% free,you are invited to give your guide a tip at the end if you are satisfied.( we were)

One of the tips that we got on the tour was where to have lunch. The restaurant on the walking street in the Sanborns department store, called Casa de los Azuelos,(House of Blue Tiles), had already been mentioned to me by Sima the Israeli- Mexican, and it looked like an amazing place to try, so we went there, and although the food was not the most amazing we had eaten in Mexico, the ambiance of the place was really something unforgettable, with a live piano and violin performance.

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Casa de los Azuelos

We went to see Frida Kahlo’s House the next day, and didn’t manage to book online for technical reasons. However, lining up outside, we were approached by an employee of the museum who asked us if we were over 60. When we admitted that we were, she queue jumped us inside, and also charged us only 50%, something which had not been clear to me from the website, so it was all good. You pay an extra (small) fee if you wish to take photos inside. The place is stunning, and well worth the wait, although many things are not labelled in English. There is a great video about Frida’s life and death (which you will probably know about if you have seen the movie) but it was still fascinating and intensely moving, especially for me the part about Trotsky, who stayed in the house while on the run, and which reminded me of the brilliant Barbara Kingsolver  book The Lacuna. The whole place was just fantastic.

After this we messaged Sima, who said that she lived nearby in Coyoacán district and would come and meet us in a restaurant. We waited for her for a long time in the restaurant, by which time we were starving, and not sure what had happened to her (traffic) so we had a soup and finally she arrived, declined to eat anything, poured out her long and involved life story to us, and took us on a walking tour of Coyoacan, which was great, especially the food market.

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Sima and D in Coyoacan market

In DF we saw murals by Diego Rivera, Frida’s husband, in the Palacio de Bellas Artes (with another couchsurfer called Miguel Noguera) and also in Tlalpan, an area of the city far from the centre, which our friend Francisco took us to by car. It seems that the whole city is full of artwork. It’s quite overwhelming. But we also did some more prosaic sightseeing, or so we thought. The market of Sonora, was in fact very weird. At first it looked like any other market, but at the back there are some stalls that sell witchcraft and voodoo items, which we were not supposed to photograph, but I managed anyway (hope I am not jinxed now)

One of the highlights of Mexico City, although everything was pretty wonderful, was the aforementioned Museum of Anthropology, which was our last day in DF, and appropriately took us back to Chapultepec Park, as on Day 1. I cannot emphasize enough how amazing this place was. We spent about 5 hours there, and could have spent another 10. It is just too amazing for words.So I will just leave you with a few photos.

And there endeth our 6 weeks in Mexico. Please feel free to comment- I love getting blog comments! And now to plan the next trip.. destination as yet unknown.

Jeju Island-deserves a separate post

Having read through the previous post I decided to do a separate entry about this wonderful island,especially for our friend Anne Hilty who has devoted several years to this place.IT is not very well known outside of Korea and I am not sure why. We spent a few days on the island travelling around and were lucky to have blue skies and pleasant temperatures,and we found it to be a very special and beautiful place.

So here goes. We arrived by plane from Seoul,having ascertained that the ferry was not cheaper and definitely not more comfortable.So we flew into Jeju city,the main city in the north of the island. We were intending to drive a hire car around but the companies had no cars,and anyway didn’t recognize our Israeli licence and we had no International licence.So we hired a driver for one day to see some of the sights and then discovered the wonderful airport limousine bus which tours the ringroad around the island and visits many of the main sights.So the first day our driver took us to several major sights,waited for us in the car or accompanied us and took photos,and even lent us raincoats for the Manjanggul Lava tube caves which we had not realized would be freezing cold and dripping wet!

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Manjaggul Lava tube

From the lava tube we drove to Sunrise Peak,Seongsan a beautiful cliff dropping down in the sea,which gives wonderful views of the island once you have staggered your way to the top.We didn’t do it at sunrise but I believe that’s what you are supposed to do.Anyway the view was certainly impressive and we ran into tons of Chinese tourists on the way up (as we did pretty much everywhere in Korea) and greeted them with Ni Hao! Zai na li, much to their surprise.

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Me and Mr Kim at Seongson Sunrise Peak

We then went to a beautiful bit of the coastline where apparently some very popular Korean TV show is filmed but of course we had never heard of it.The view was great so we didn’t care.Lots of Koreans and Chinese taking their photos in front of the lovely scenery.

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Next we visited a boring folk village which was an excuse to try and sell us some stupid juice made out of some berries or something which we refused to do at which point they told us they had to close for the day (!) and even though it was raining a little Mr Kim took us to one more place which I think was called Sangumburi a sort of misty crater rather wet but very beautiful and atmospheric.

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Next day we had lunch with Dr Anne Hilty a friend of a friend,who has helped write a book about Jeju island. She very kindly picked us up from our hotel and drove us to a restaurant where she introduced us to some delicious local specialities,and gave us a signed copy of her book on Jeju.Then she deposited us at the bus stop so we could go down to Seogwipo the city on the south side of the island where we THOUGHT we were staying.It turned out that the hotel I had booked was in fact another 180 minutes by bus from Seogwipo city.Nevertheless we arrived there eventually and found the guesthouse to be awesome and beautiful but in the middle of nowhere,right near Sunrise Peak the place we had visited the day before. The lady at the guesthouse kindly allowed us to cancel the second night when we explained we actually wanted to stay in Seogwipo city (the two hotels had the same name you see) and then took us by car to a nearby restaurant for supper and told the owner of the restaurant to drive us home when we were done! So charming.

From the hotel in Seogwipo city we discovered the airport limousine bus which travels around the island stopping at strategic points along the way. We took it to the beach near the Lotte Hotel complex where we enjoyed the views of the coast and relaxed a bit.Next day we took a cruise along the beautiful south coastline and reflected on how lucky we were to be in such a gorgeous place.

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Seogwipo coastline

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We also walked to Cheongjiyeon Waterfall only 15 minutes from our hotel in Seogwipo city (yet more Chinese tourists ni hao ni hao) and went back to the beach again one last time before flying next day to Busan…. but that’s another story.

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