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No more museums, please - you're killing us

sunny 24 °C

We have hit the museum tipping point in Mexico City. For over a week we have set out, map in hand, to discover as much of the city as possible, and much of that discovery has been through museums. Every day has felt like a perfect treasure hunt - the old, the new, the people, the dogs, the parks, the art, the food...the Pope! Today, we set out to Chapultepec Park (home of many museums) to visit the Castillo de Chapultepec, which houses the National Museum of History, and it may have been the endless portraits and gilded furniture, but we hit a wall. Stephen had to go outside and sit down.


Let me back up to a couple of days ago when we visited the renowned Museum of Anthropology, set in Chapultepec Park. If you are in Mexico City for 36 hours - this is the one you don't miss. We had been there five years ago, but couldn't wait to revisit - you simply cannot see it all in one day. The entrance grounds and setting are spectacular - cut stone, a centre waterfall feature and a wide pond filled with grasses and a handful of fat and lazy koi. (it is so much fun watch the excitement a dozen fish can elicit among small children and their parents.)


Waterfall feature outside museum


The museum is divided into two sides on two floors, and the displays are in both Spanish and English. The first floor begins with pre-Hispanic Mexico, at its evolutionary stage, and follows around to show the transition to agricultural communities, Teotihuacan, and how the people of Oaxaca, the Gulf Coast, the Mayas, the west and the north influenced those regions. The corresponding upper floors illustrate how contemporary indigenous cultures developed and are practised today. Hunting, gathering, domestic life, warfare, music, art, costumes, and many other artifacts are presented in a logical, chronological and easy-to-follow format.

We began at the beginning:


The serpent pyramid, where victims were sacrificed (their skeletons are displayed in the back)


Great Big Head (Olmec, from the Veracruz area)


Burial shafts. The deceased were buried with artifacts, significant to them and to helping them enter the next world.


Jewel-encrusted teeth - a sign of wealth and status. So there, Kanye - nothing new about the grill.


Small children praying for family members. In some indigenous communities, the church floors are covered in grasses or pine needles. Different candles indicate varying degrees of illness.


This display shows the clothing and toys typical of this indigenous group. I just love the face on this beautiful child.


Five hours later, and we left the museum, wanting more...but not at that time. Lucky Mexico City residents who can pop in (for free) on Sundays and spend an hour or two at their leisure. On the subject of museum admission costs in Mexico - they are often free to nationals on Sundays, and many have no charge at all. We have gained free entrance to a number of lesser museums by showing our passports (to prove our senior status), but even a major museum like this one is just 60 pesos - less than five dollars. Another of Mexico's delightful contradictions - the water is undrinkable, but the art is for everyone.


Today, we had two goals in mind - to see the Castillo de Chapultepec, which houses the National Museum of History, and then head over to the Condesa neighbourhood for their Tuesday market. The Castillo has had a few incarnations - set high on a hill, it was a military academy, then home to Emperor Maximilian and Empress Charlotte, and became the presidential residence until it became a museum in 1939. The Castillo and grounds are as grand as you might expect of regal residences, and the panoramic view of Mexico City is worth the climb. First, you have to get there:


Views of the Castillo, front and back



The Castillo is surrounded by tiled terraces on one level. This is a view from one of the piazzas.


A portion of the garden


The tower in the middle of the Castillo


Inside the Castillo, one of the main staircases


The upper-level terrace


A disturbing painting that combines ancient and modern struggles


Almost as disturbing to me - the ubiquitous selfie - because there is no sight, natural or man-made, historical or priceless,
that cannot be improved by one's own image


That first photo we started with, of Stephen having a time out on the bench? That was the end of our time at the Castillo today - he simply could not look at one more portrait or another display case of old swords. I joined him a bit later and we agreed we both had a serious case of museum fatigue. We walked over to the Condesa area, and headed for their Tuesday food market.


Along with the many stands of unrefrigerated meats and chickens, sitting within spitting distance of passers-by, dogs and flies, we came upon this curious sight. Chopped vegetables were piled up in great mounds, occasionally straightened by the vendor's ungloved hands. Since we've been cautioned to wash all veggies carefully, and avoid strawberries altogether, would we be flirting with Hep A or E coli?


Our lunch - some delicious concoction created by taking corn tortillas, moving them around on a grill until they are a bit blackened and crispy, topping with mushrooms and grilled vegetables and cheese - so good.


Our friends Joy and Oscar are also here for a couple of days - on their way home after over five weeks in Puebla. We've met up for dinner and swapped stories. We all share a love of Mexico, and they have been a very welcome connection to home. Tomorrow is our last day in Mexico City - it has been an amazing experience to be here but we're ready to leave the (unbelievably enormous and all-encompassing) big city and switch gears again. On Thursday we'll spend the day in Teotihuacan, and then move onto Real del Monte - an old silver mining town that was largely populated by Cornish miners. There will be hiking and rivers and cold mountain air. See you in a few days.

Posted by millerburr 18:37 Archived in Mexico

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Say Hi to Oscar and Joy from us.

by Hawkson

Gracias for the photos, the comments, and the chance to experience that wonderful city again, via your blog! Safe travels :)

by Marilyn Horn

Ha ha, the picture of Stephen having a time our says it all...cultural saturation point reached! Time for a few cold ones.

I was last in Mexico City when I was 18...from a tiny village (350 people) in the NWT. It was so overwhelming, but I loved the Museum of Anthropology, Chapultepec Park and the mosaic buildings at the University.

Time to go back...thanks for the wonderful tour!

Safe travels,
xo margy

by Margy

I understand Stephen's response to museum overkill - we experienced it ourselves while travelling in Europe; but that was years ago, and here I am now, lapping up every word and photo of your visit to the Museum of Anthropology! Thanks so much for sharing!

by Heather

Loving your travels- I feel like I am in Mexico City with you. I could spend days in museums but I get the fatigue too! Carry on Stephen. Burial shafts- creepy! Awaiting the next installment, Nattalle

by nattalle tessier

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