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Central Mexico
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2014-01-29 19:20:08 | Oaxaca de Juarez, Oaxaca, Mexico
Keywords: summary
I spent about 10 weeks in the centre of the country. This segment of my journey began in the city of Guanajuato. I spent most of these weeks in high altitude and that impacted my body, but the natural and man-made sites I've seen were incredible. During these weeks, I've been in 8 different cities, travelled more than 2 000 km and I've visited a total of 13 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

First, the city of Guanajuato (picture above) and its historical centre are truly wonderful. There are so many things I like about the city I don't know where to begin. Let's start by the colours, since they are truly stunning both by their variety and intensity, the whole city is a huge camera candy. The city architecture is also very impressive with the tunnels going through the mountains and all. Finally, let's point out it's a cultural city being the Cervantes capital in the Americas, and that's visible all over town. That's part of why this city is my favourite in Mexico so far.

Map of Central Mexico

After my greatest surprise and enchantment from Guanajuato comes probably my biggest disappointment: San Miguel de Allende. Hopes were high for this town crown Best touristic destination for 2013, but it fell so short compared to Guanajuato. Biggest deception in SMA is the overwhelming presence of Americans, which totally transformed the city to make it a cheap Texan town South of the border. It's hard to find Mexican authenticity in such context, even the colours are dull, the architecture is polluted with Western designs, etc.

Then I went to Querétaro, which is a large city but in which the centre was remarkably preserved and it's a real pleasure to walk it, because of its architecture. But the city also has a very rich history and played a pivotal role in Mexican evolution on more than one occasion. I also tasted the local variety of Dori-Lokos, and compared it to others.

City of Querétaro

Then came my most anticipated stop in Mexico: Morelia. First, the historical centre, which presented me a new facet of the architecture giving it a special character, even if it impacts greatly the authenticity aspect. On many occasions they removed the plaster layer to expose the bricks on historical buildings and modern ones made to look like colonial ones. I also discovered the Mexican gaspacho, which is essentially what is named 'esquites' elsewhere in the country and very different from the Spanish tomato-based cold soup.

But my most anticipated reason to go to Morelia (and go in troubled Michoacan state) was to take a tour to go visit the reserves of the Monarch butterflies. Although I was there only two hours, it is my favourite natural location in Mexico. Being there in the mountains and seeing tree branches bent by the weight of thousands of butterflies and look up to see a blue sky with hundreds of orange moving spots was really an experience of a lifetime. I already knew how a Canadian found this rest spot for the only butterfly known to do a migration, but it was equally impressive to realize some of these butterflies made the same journey I did all the way from Montreal, flying more than 4 000 km on their own to return to this very special area.

A few of the Monarch butterflies that surrounded me.

Then it was the planned pause of four weeks in Mexico city, to mark my six months of travel but also to give me time to explore this megalopolis and five of the six UNESCO sites in and around it. Overall, I can't say I enjoyed Mexico City because it's way too crowded and way too polluted. But it's still a valuable experience and a good place to base yourself to visit around since all roads lead to the capital. Besides, I want to visit every national capital city of the countries I'll be visiting.

Aerial view of the old Mexico City

While in Mexico City, I attended an event of lucha libre and I went to a corrida. I've seen my first pyramids ever as I visited the sites of Xochicalco and Teotihuacan. I visited the historic city centre, explored all this vast city using the cheap and extended metro system, including the Xochimilco area with its old canals representing the way of living in the area of Mexico City was before the lake was drained. I also explored the main campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, with a graduate student. I saw how Mexicans celebrate Christmas and enjoy skating on artificial ice in various plazas while it was 20 C. I've meet with Hugo who explained me his job of custom printer on a big plaza of the megalopolis. I've also published articles about the food including the wide variety of milk available the cousins dishes that are Elotes, Esquites and Gaspacho.

Ancient city of Xochicalco, where I've seen my first pyramids.

Then I left for Puebla, from where I had other magic moments admiring the Popocatepetl volcano and eating the most famous mole of Mexico, as well as many other local specialities. I discovered and participated in the Epiphany celebrations with the sharing of the king's crown pastry.

After almost three months in high altitude my body was very happy to return at sea level in Veracruz and enjoy the ocean a bit as well as the local food. I made a day trip to see the unusual colonial city of Tlacotalpan, which is located about two hours South. Very interesting little town with a very unique architecture for its columns.

Unusual city of Tlacotalpan.

I then took trip of two days North for my last stop in Central Mexico to visit Papantla. My main reason to go there was the old city of El Tajin, which is impressive because it's very dense and richly decorated. I had the pleasure to be there early on a weekday and had virtually all the site to myself allowing me to take tons of pictures without any tourists in sight.

Wonderful city of El Tajin.

But while I was exploring the rich centre of Papantla, I discovered lots of products about vanilla, and that triggered my curiosity. After some research, I discovered it's in fact a Mexican plant that grew only there until it was exported with success about 170 years ago in other tropical environments. The fruits of the vanilla orchid used to be dried in the streets of Papantla which yielded a smell all over the valley.

From each of those cities, I've published many daily pictures presenting you a funny side of the city or lifestyle. I've improved the presentation aspect of these cards to give them a more postcard-like look. Amongst the most viewed ones from Central Mexico, you have: Smallest police vehicule (from Querétaro), Kids playground (from Mexico City) and Auto-Hotel (from Veracruz).

Auto-hotel in Veracruz.

Along the way, I shared with you my thoughts about life: How do you measure success? and Keep your expectations low and most importantly The Asynchronous Man. I exposed you a bit of what kind of traveller I am too, just after I celebrated my first six months on the road.

I also kept on working on improving my Web site and encourage people to become member of my Web site in order not to miss my posts (if you just like my Facebook page, you'll probably receive notice of about 25% of my posts because Facebook decides who reads what). I've launched in late November a monthly draw amongst my Web site members offering them to receive a physical postcard sent from one location I visit. I've had 3 winners so far, will you be the next one? I also began offering customized desktop (or for your mobile device) calendar where you can select the image you want, include my itinerary or not, etc. There will be more additional contents reserved only for members... so if you're not already a member join now, it's FREE and you won't miss anything!

Related posts:
100 different cities
One year already
My six months in Mexico
February 2014
6 months on the road


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