A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Darell

1. National Palace Botanical Gardens

Centre. Metro Zócalo.

The idea for this part of the blog was inspired by ("shamelessly stolen from") a book I found in the US, called 50 Places To Find Peace and Quiet in New York City. It was an odd guide book to have as company, as I didn't really go to New York to find peace and quiet, but nevertheless it was an addictive read. Some of the places were obvious, some were obscure, some were frankly disappointing. But it satisfied the urge to go hunting for places that the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide, and probably a great deal of the city's residents, knew nothing about.

I'd forgotten all about this book by the time I'd arrived in Mexico City, until I found myself in the Botanical Garden at the National Palace, which reminded me of all the better out-of-the-way places in NYC. Anyway, below is a small handful of places which I think are worth the visit, if only to escape for an hour or so the relentless buzz of Mexican city life.

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I have no idea what the equivalent of a zócalo is back home. Do we have town squares any longer? Did we ever have them? Have I just made them up? If we did have them, and they were, say, enormous open spaces, right in the centre of town, with a church on one side and maybe a town hall on the other, and with hundreds of people milling about and generally thronging, then they have an exact equivalent right here in Mexico. The zócalo. The one in Mexico City is huge, and extremely busy at all times, and has a strange pull to it, so you will at some point find yourself there, perhaps a bit frazzled by everything around you.

So, head off the east side of the square into the National Palace. You'll still be accompanied by a fair number of tourists and locals at this point, as it's definitely on the tourist trail - the main draw being Diego Rivera's murals. But delve further inside and eventually you'll come across the Botanical Gardens. To be honest, it's probably best not to go there expecting rare orchids or exotic flowers of any description, because there aren't any. It's actually not much of a botanical garden at all. But it's still a garden, with benches and stuff, and is, considering its location in the heart of the city, ridiculously peaceful.

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Posted by Darell 11:38 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

2. Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Woods)

South West. Metro Chapultepec

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The main reason to head over here is the city's Museum of Anthropology, but if you wanted to avoid the crowds, or just weren't in the mood for yet more pottery, cross the Paseo de la Reforma and get lost in the park. It's apparently the largest urban green space in the whole of Latin America. It's defintely the place to come if you're running low on cheap Mexican wrestling masks or pork scratchings, as they're on sale about every four yards.

Anyway, one way to escape the visitors, and vendors of pig-based snacks, is to delve deeper into the wood and go rambling there. But a more rewarding alternative is to hike up the hill to the castle, which was once the summer house of Porfirio Diaz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porfirio_Diaz), then later a military training academy and now a marvellous history museum. It also has a superb mural by David Siquieros, one of Diego Rivera's contemporaries, who also became famous for his involvement in the failed assassination attempt on Leon Trotsky, in the south of the city, for (I believe) not being communist enough.

On the top floor of the building you come out onto a superbly maintained roof garden, with great views of the city. Here, especially mid-week, is where you will get your fix of calm.

In the park, but nearer to the Anthropology Museum, is where you'll catch the 'flyers' who practice every day.

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Posted by Darell 12:07 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

3. Post Office

Centre. Metro Bellas Artes

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All post offices should have a cat or two. They could help lick the stamps. The glorious post office in the historic centre of Mexico City has one - it's black and quite spry. Or do I mean sprightly? Anyway, they have a resident post office cat, and if they have one here, why not in every post office? It would provide a very calming influence to customers who find themselves at the back of an enormous queue. And you could call it Parcel.

In the sumptuousness of Mexico City's Palacio Correos, as it's called, you can't help wondering why a post office was ever decked out with so much stained glass and marble in the first place. Most customers just want to collect their pension and go, don't they? Surely wrought-iron bannisters and belle-epoque architecture will just encourage dawdling? Anyway, head up to the second floor and enjoy the palatial surroundings. There you can also learn more about the obscure, and somewhat under-praised, Rowland Hill, who had one of those simple but revolutionary ideas which helped reform the UK postal system that was, apparently, pretty dire.

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Posted by Darell 11:43 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

4. Torre Latino

Centra. Metro Bellas Artes

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Car horns in Mexico City can quickly turn you into a twitching, nervous pudding. They're used, it appears, to demand that other drivers, equally stuck in traffic, get moving. I sometimes wonder if there would be any point in telling a driver of the futility of doing this. I fear he would only honk his horn, no doubt with all the gusto of Marge Simpson, right in the middle of my complaint.

So thank goodness for the Torre Latino. From up here, 42 floors up, the sounds of car horns are faint, and strangely relaxing. And the ride up is interesting too. There can't be many lifts that still have operators.

Anyway, depending on smog levels, you can see a fair chunk of the city. It's not all that cheap to go up, but I guess that means there aren't too many people around, so it's blissfully quiet. And your ticket is a 24 hour pass, so in theory you could go up and down the tower all day, although the lift operator may get a bit suspicious.

The building below is the Palacio de Bellas Artes, taken from the tower.

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Posted by Darell 18:20 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

5. Paseo de La Reforma on a Sunday

Centre. Metro Hidalgo

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Strictly speaking this is neither quiet nor calm. But it could be, with a pair of headphones and bit of imagination. Cars, trucks, motorbikes are not far off, all honking their horns obviously, and the general hubbub of the city still swirls around you here.

But you don't care because you have the entire road, all 6 lanes of it, to yourself. By 'yourself' I mean you and your new family of roller skaters, cyclists and joggers, for whom the Paseo is closed off every Sunday from 7am to 2pm. There's a large-ish and helpful police presence, there's free water, medical assistance and even the bike hire is free. What's not to like?

This isn't a particularly new idea, to be fair. Paris has something similar, as does Bogotá, Quito, and, I'm lead to believe, Carshalton. But there's something quite satisfying in keeping at bay the traffic in one of the worst polluted, most vehicle-blighted cities in the world. Now if they could just stretch it out to every day, and the entire city....

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Posted by Darell 18:35 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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