Holbox

From Chichin Itza, we took a taxi to Cancun airport to pick up our daughter Maude who was in Mexico City – you could hire a car, but we felt it was easier to take a driver. remember that distances are quite big, but the fares are at least half the price it would be in the UK, and in some cases a third of the price. It’s another 2 and half hours from Cancun to Holbox ferry, which I guess is why it is not yet innundated with tourists; from the ferry you pick up a public ferry or a private taxi boat, which costs about £12 more. The boat journey takes about 20- 25 mins and then you hop onto a buggie taxi to your hotel. The island is not too big, but it still took about 20 mins to walk from the town centre to the part of the beach we were staying at, which was at the furthest end – much quieter, less built up and fewer hotels and bars. I would definitely recommend that end – it was the end away from Punta Mosquito. The crystal clear waters are just so warm and make the journey worth it. We usually go to the less touristy west coast, Costa Carayes, but the sea is the Pacific and much wavier and not so clear and calm, but nonetheless beautiful.

A lot of the places that you stay offer bikes to get around, but its actually lovely to walk into town once the sun is going down, along the beach to the town. We stayed in 2 places, Ensuenos Beach Club and Puerta Azul – the first is more family orientated and the second is adults only. Both are very close to the sea, the 2nd being right on the beach and both not overly expensive. The first place offered a nicer communal area, pool and rooftop terrace, but the rooms can be dark.

There are lots of local places to eat along the beach front, but definitely more choices in town. We loved the food at Luuma – Mexican/Oriental fusion but very tasty. There was also a very good wood burning pizza close to our hotel, otherwise the food is the typical Mexican tacos etc… unfortunately as we were at the least tourist and more beautiful part of the island we did have no electricity at times and no running water in the bathrooms – especially at Luuma, where they had to use the pool water to feed the toilets – this happens when there have been big storms, which had just happened the day we had arrived. Apparently water is pumped from the mainland, but some hotels do seem to have their own back up. Remember that this is a Robinson Crusoe type island – and fortunately the sea is crystal clear so bathing in the sea became a several day habit.

We left Holbox for Cancun airport to return to Mexico City for the night; in hindsight we should have just flown directly back from Cancun to London, but we had already rebooked our tickets before planning our trip, but in fact it was nice to get back to the city, see some more sights and unlike our last time, not have to deal with the stress of missing a connecting flight. we stayed at Downtown Hotel, which is so central to the main square, its a perfect place to stay for one night. Caracol de Mar is a modern Mexican restaurant serving mainly seafood, but beautifully presented; it is set in a courtyard of a historical building and is a very pleasant place to sit and enjoy the good food. in contrast, the Churreria El Moro is a noisy busy cafe that sells churros and chocolate. From the 1930’s, its where the locals queue for their cinnamon churros – long tubes of sugared donuts dipped in chocolate – even vegan for Maude…… it’s very difficult to not resist those sweet local treats.

All in all the trip was a great adventure – fast moving – and ideally it would have been great to have stayed an extra night in each place, but if you want a taste of Mexico with its culture and beautiful seas, then I would highly recommend this journey we took.

Mexico City

it’s actually my fourth time to Mexico, but as Mexico is so big, there is so much to see without ever getting tired of visiting.  I remember the first time was when I was pregnant with Maude, which must have been over 23 years ago.  Mexico City has definitely changed since then, a thriving city where design and culture just seem to grow with each of my visits. 

Maude had just graduated from Uni with a modern language degree and decided to spend the summer in Mexico;  we had some flight vouchers to use up since 2020 and Covid prevented travel, so we decided to join her for part of her trip.  we arrived in Mexico City late in the evening, staying at Hotel Casa 9.  we didn’t know what to expect – usually we book bigger hotels with all the usual facilities of concierge, restaurants, but this was house in a palacio style old house in the Condessa area.  as Maude had booked an airbnb with a family, it made sense to choose somewhere close to her.  this was a different experience, more like staying in an apartment, but sharing with 3 other people.  there is one large enrrance salon, probably triple height with large windows leading onto a balcony overlooking a beautiful tropical garden.  the rooms were around the courtyard.  it was beautifully designed with retro style furniture and there was a lovely collection of books and an hono bar for coffee and drinks.  breakfast was served on the terrace or in the lovely big room;  it really suited us because the area is made for walking and taking coffees in all the numerous trendy cafes.  

it felt like New York with its juice bars, coffee shops, but the wide boulevard streets were lined with tress and tropical plants – its a suburban area full of locals walking their dogs, so felt very safe.  we had fresh juice in Ojo de Agua  – sitting on the sidewalk watching life go by – its very different to downtown Mexico with is much more tourist driven.  we ate lunch in the Green Corner, which was also a health food shop on Avenida Mazatlan – I was amazed how much stuff you can get in there from the well branded herbal teas, chia seeds, etc…   it was especially great for Maude who is vegan.  i did notice that now most menus offer at least a few vegan options, and several vegetarian too.  i think that worldwide veganism is making its mark, and especially with the younger generation. 

We visited 2 museums, the Gallery Museo Tamayo – a wonderful brutalist designed space showing contemporary art and then the Museo de Arte Moderno, which is set in the nearby Chapultepec Park.   There is some amazing Mexican art in the Modern Art gallery and just nearby is the circular library, which is hosting the diaries of Frida Kahlo at the moment.  You will find that on a sunday, a lot of the museums are free. Palacio de Bellas Artes has some amazing murals, including some famous ones by Diego Rivera. Museo Diego Rivera is a little private gallery that houses the Alameda park mural, which Diego paints 100 characters who represent Mexican society and tells a story of life in the park. All the murals are fascinating to see close up.

We have always visited the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera house, which is now a museum in Coyoacan, but this time we decided to opt for other things, but I would highly recommend them for first time visitors. we did try to get tickets for Luis Barragan museum, but as the tickets are now sold online a week before the day you require, it is so difficult to get tickets for a particular day. we missed buying them by a few seconds, managed to get them in the basket online, but then by the time we put in the credit card, they were all sold out….. next time…. Trotsky’s house and the Anthropology museum are also high on a must see list. we did do a boat trip on Xochimilcho though as the last time we did it, the children were very little. its very touristy, but its still a fun thing to do. Reminding you that Mexico City was once all built on a series of lakes – until the Spanish drained the canals and lakes in the 16C in their search for gold and treasure. I love that families take the boats to have their family get togethers, taking picnics or gathering their food from the passing boats who are cooking up local specialities. you can be serenaded by boats of mariachis – its a colourful bustling hour of fun. something the kids will definitely like.

what you need to work out is distances – Mexico is so big, it can take up to 45 mins to get to say Frida Kahlo museum – Ubers are very efficient, and are very cheap. the local yellow taxis are not that much more, but seem harder to get and apparently as uber drivers are regulated and you don’t give them any cash, its quite a safe way to get around. some of the Ubers we got cost only £2, and to the airport, we were only paying £3 – it all depends on the time of day, the traffic…… so if you are in a certain area, I would explore that area for food and culture, rather than spend another hour crossing town.

There is also a castle in Chapultepec Park which you can climb to the top and apparently have great views of Mexico City. I have never managed to do this. watching the indigenous peoples dance, and perform their ceremonies is very interesting around the main square Downtown and around the Cathedral – you can also see the ruins from cities and temples that have been discovered – one recent find was a circular wall built of skulls – many skulls, probably those who have been sacrificed in the belief that the next morning wouldn’t appear, unless they appease the gods.

We had wonderful food at Azul Condessa, Ave Neuvon Leon – fine Mexican style in a traditional setting.  You can watch the tortillas being made at the front of the restaurant.  There is also a branch of Azul Historical Downtown, set in a courtyard. Caracol de mar is a modern Mexican restaurant serving mainly seafood and fish, but all beautifully presented. Again set in a courtyard of a historical building, its a pleasant place to sit and all around are little boutique shops. Churreria El Moro is a noisy busy cafe that sells churros and chocolate. its been going since the 1930’s and its definitely a place that the locals queue for their cinnamon churros (long tubes of doughnuts that they dip in a thick chocolate sauce). Restaurant Tetetlan is housed in a horse stable in Jardines del Pedegral, an elegant suburb on the outskirts of town, restored recently by an art collector who still lives in the original adjoining house, which was originally designed by Luis Barragan – the acclaimed Mexican architect famous for colour, light, shape and form. there are a few private houses that you can go and see, we did see one last time we went, and they are worth the visit.

There are lots of interesting restaurants, from local cafes to high end fine dining – some are just great interiors with atmosphere worth popping into and even just getting a coffee and snack. Sanborns de los Azulejos has a great 50’s style interior, they are like mini department stores, but there are a few in Mexico City. La Opera Bar, which is close to the historical centre and Cathedral is housed in a lovely 19C building.

we were only there for a couple of days, but there is always so much to see and do, but like any city, it can be tiring.

Mexico

I have been to Mexico twice before – both times with kids and the first time pregnant with Maude, which definitely changes the type of trip you experience.  this time we are here to celebrate my husband’s big birthday – but really its any excuse to travel, explore and discover……its a long 10 hour flight, but it really transports you into a very different culture;  from the minute you leave the airport – where shanty living is literally alongside the airport walls, you can feel the life and spirit of Mexican seeping on the streets on the journey into the centre of town. there is so much to write, so I will do a day by day post of what we got up to.

we decided to stay centrally in downtown Mexico – right next to the famous zocalo square – which pre colonial times was the ceremonial aztec city of Tenochtitlan.  usually the more upmarket hotels are in the suburbs, but recently a few more boutique hotels have opened up centrally.  remember Mexico City is a vast sprawling city and with the traffic, it can take a long time to get around from one area to another.  Downtown Mexico is a housed in an old colonial 17C Palacio centred around a large open courtyard, filled with trees which from the first level bedrooms looks like a floor of greenery.  the concrete walled bedrooms are vast and spacious and look out onto the courtyard. there are a few rooms with outside views, and these are what I would go for next.  its a great location for popping in and out of the main central sights and then be able to flop on your bed in-between.  in the main courtyard the restaurant Azul Historico is very good and popular with the locals too;  interesting Mexican food that includes several dishes of grasshoppers, which seems to be their delicacy.  after a while you realise that these specialities are commonplace on most menus.  there is also a roof top bar and terrace and swimming pool to relax by. due to the the time difference of 6 hours, you inevitably wake up at dawn, which is a great time to explore the surrounding area.  walk across to zocalo square, see the ruins of the aztec temples that Mexico was built around ;  pop into the cathedral filled with people on morning mass – they also provided breakfast for the hungry in a courtyard – you will see that there are lots of homeless people, just as there is in London, all lining up waiting to be fed –  watch street life come alive with portable food stalls, buskers turning their organs releasing the wailing sound that was once the popular sound of the city and out of town indigenous Mexicans dressing in their feathers and bells to perform their native dance.  its a busy jostling city……

Mexico is a big sprawling city and traffic is bad, so you need to plan your day with sights and restaurants so that you are not going round in circles.  we continued our walking up to the incredible Bellas Artes Museum, high Art Deco style with its incredible ceiling and murals by some of the great Mexican painters including Diego Rivera.  we also saw a wonderful retrospective of Brassai’s street photography.   Mexico apparently has the highest number of art galleries and museums in one city.

  

walking the streets is a great way to soak up Mexico City – we passed the beautiful old post office, again high Deco in style, beautifully preserved but only functioning for parcels in one section.  one can only imagine how exciting it must have been in Mexico 100 years ago.   next to the museum is the Alemeida Park – full of locals enjoying the sun and green space, children splashing in the fountains, a group of locals dancing on the bandstand.  at the opposite end of the park is the mural museum of Diego Rivera – a small museum especially built to house this mural of Rivera which he had originally made for a hotel and was relocated to this spot.  its stunning and includes people of all ranks and sorts, including a younger self portrait and his wife Friday.

  

we ate lunch at La Opera – a viennese style restaurant serving typical Mexican food.  opposite is an incredible blue porcelain tiled building Sanbornes – pop in and see the 1970’s style cafe – so many great interiors.  for dinner we went to Maximo bistros in Roma Norte – a more upmarket restaurant that specialises in local grown vegetables and sustainable fish – it was very nice, but definitely attracted more tourists.  Roma is about 20 – 30 mins drive out from the centre, a more affluent suburb, its where people go for a quieter life and seems full of restaurants.  its definitely worth visiting to see the more gentler side of Mexico City.

as we have  done most of the important sightseeing trips before, we tried to see other new things instead and discover different areas.  however a trip to Frida Kahlo’s blue Azul house is always a must – not just to see the beautiful house and gardens that she created, but to appreciate her exquisite taste.  everything that she and Diego collected was of impeccable craftsmanship – from the bowls and pans in the kitchen to the furniture and objets around the house.  sadly in the last 10 years, Frida has become somewhat of a commercial icon for women artists to the point that the saturation of souvenirs with her face emblazoned onto absolutely everything makes you not want to like her – but I still do…..  her art may not be as powerful and iconic as Rivera’s but her personality, individuality and strength against all her pain only makes you admire her all the more.  there are now huge queues to get into the house, so its best to book in advance, which we did, and you still have to queue for at least 20 mins.  fortunately timed tickets makes it not too overcrowded – its still one of my favourite galleries in the world.

walk a few blocks down towards the main square Centenario Maguey Parque passing a couple of garden squares on the way.  one was full of budding artists, the other with organ grinders, stall holders selling balloons, woven bags and rugs, flowers, sweets – absolutely everything. my favourite bit was watching the locals learning to dance, first in couples then in formation – they danced in a small space on the borders of the artists, in the bandstands and in the squares  – its full of life and colour and especially as it was a Sunday, so there were particularly a lot of young families enjoying themselves.

we ate in Corazon de Maguey – just on the edge of plaza centenary – very good local food and more typical delicacies such as cactus fruit and sprouted leaves.   we were actually told to take Ubers around the city, apparently the safest as they are all traceable;  Ubers in london are a dreaded word, but here they are widespread, very efficient and extremely cheap.  we took a taxi to the nearby museum of Diego Rivera, which was a shock/surprise to see – we didn’t know anything about this museum , but think of Aztec pyramids.  it was Frida and Diego’s dream to build a museum dedicated to the origins of Mexico;  it now houses Rivera’s massive collection of Aztec art, sculptures, bowls and the vast first floor studio is dedicated to the drawings for Rivera’s huge murals.    definitely worth seeing.

we then returned to our hotel just in time to catch the 6pm daily ritual of taking the enormous Mexican flag down in zocalo square.  a regiment of soldiers march around the square in unison and then watch them catch the flag and roll it into one long tube – I think it would have been far more exciting watching the 6am daily unrolling and erecting the flag and then seeing it blow in the sky.

colourful boats

i keep hearing about the flotilla of boats along the thames, but keep missing them- colourful boats lining the river are such a wonderful sight!  it reminds me of our trip to mexico city some years ago.

mexico city is just an amazing colourful city;  the kids will not only love the culture, but also the history that is evident wherever you go.  we started off in mexico city for 3 nights,  then travelled to San Miguel Allende and then onto the coast.  it was the most perfect holiday.  we travelled with Journey Latin America, who organised our trip immaculately – what could have been a big organising headache,  turned out to be a dream trip.  read more about our holiday.

Boats of xochomilcho; where locals rent one of the colourful boats, eat their lunch that they buy from the floating cafes  buy their plants and are serenaded by the wonderful mariachis, who float up and down the waters.  its such a colourful and wondrous experience.  its not just a tourist affair, so dont be put off by taking a boat – its a good way to see life along the waters of mexico city.

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