Mexico Journal - February 2006 

This is the "narrative" of the Mexico trip, which could take some time to read. The Photo-Journal pages are included next to their paragraphs, but indexed on the left, for convenience.

Feb 11 Sat - Danbury to Mexico City

Drove to Newark NJ airport, parked at valet parking. Flew AA to DFW then to MEX, cleared customs/immigration, changed dollars for pesos, and rode airport cab into town. I paid attention on the drive since I would need to repeat it with a rental car 4 days later. Checked into Calinda Geneve hotel in Zona Rosa. Requested a move to a different room to avoid the noisy air-conditioning units outside, and the potential all-night party music from a nearby disco. Sharon caught a nasty headache, so we stayed in and ordered dinner by room service. Note: No photos posted for this day.

Feb 12 Sun - Downtown Mexico City

Sharon's birthday. Made the in-room coffee and sat inside at our table by the window which opened onto a nice little courtyard. Breakfast at Sanborn's (Calinda Geneve), walked to Reforma, rode $2.50 peso bus to intersection of Reforma and Eje Central, walked to Garibaldi Plaza. Nothing much going on. Walked to intersection of Juarez/Madero, saw Bellas Artes, Torre Latino-Americano, Sanborn's House of Tiles (Azulejos). Visited a touring Rodin exhibit, with a copy of the "Thinker" and more. Stopped into a church. Shopped at Dulceria de Celaya on calle 5 de Mayo. Walked to the Zocalo. Went into the Palacio Nacional to see the Diego Rivera murals. Walked to the Templo Mayor site, toured the ruins and saw some of the museum. Bought some chocolate. Came out of the Templo Mayor into the zocalo's market areas, ate a chicken tamale from a local street vendor. Watched some guys dressed in classic aztec costumes dancing. Sharon lost her glasses somewhere, so we bought two pair. Rode the Metro from Zocalo to Pino Suarez to Merced. Came up into the market and bought some Mole. Looked for fresh vanilla beans, found some but too expensive, so bought some extract. Rode back on the Metro to Insurgentes station, walked to hotel. Later went out to the Chalet Suizo restaurant, ate the cheese fondue, dropped a coin in the old music box and heard and watched it play. Finished supper with a couple of great capuccino coffees made with Kahlua and brandy. Last minute a wandering minstrel (guitarist) came in looking for business, so I hired him to sing "Las Mananitas" for Sharon. Link to Mexico Day 1 Page

Feb 13 Mon - Teotihuacan Tour

Breakfast at Sanborn's (hotel). Saw on CNN TV in the lobby of the hotel, a news report about the blizzard that buried NYC, started the day we left. Lucky we got out. Booked a tour that included a stop at "Plaza de las Tres Culturas", the Basilica de Guadalupe, and the Pyramids of Teotihuacan. Met Bob and Diane, Chris and Esther, and Sabrina(sp?). At the Basilica, got to see the "relic" (image of the Virgin of Guadalupe). At Teotihuacan, saw a demonstration of the uses of a Maguey plant; tried pulque, mezcal, and tequila. Bought some obsidian pieces. Climbed the Pyramid of the Sun, walked along the Avenida del los Muertos. Went part-way up the Pyramid of the Moon. Toured the underground section with restored murals. Ate lunch at a restaurant just north of the Teotihuacan site. Rode back into town. Bought some bottled water. Ordered some shots of Tequila from the bar. Rode a cheap bus up to the corner of Mariano Escobedo and Reforma, then walked two blocks to have supper at "Los Panchos" restaurant, famous for their Tacos de Carnitas. Overall, wasn't quite as good as "Pancho's Tacos" in Danbury. Walked back to Reforma and found a bus that wound up going only one block to the end-of-route, but fortunately that was right next to the Chapultepec Metro station, so we rode down to Insurgentes station and walked to the hotel. Link to Mexico Day 2 Page

Feb 14 Tue - Anthropology Museum

Valentine's day. Breakfast at Sanborn's (hotel) again. Rode the bus out to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. Watched the "Voladores" (Flyers) re-creation. Toured the museum, ate cheese sticks at their cafeteria. Walked along Reforma next to Chapultepec park, saw decorated cows, and the Castillo (castle). Ate dinner at Sanborn's restaurant at the hotel. Link to Mexico Day 3 Page

Feb 15 Wed - Mexico City to Valle de Bravo

Ate breakfast at Sanborn's at the hotel (yes, one last time). Packed bags and checked out, but Sharon stayed at the hotel while I went by Metro to the Mexico City airport to rent a car. Drove back into town, into the Zona Rosa, found the back entrance to the Hotel along Liverpool street, and picked up Sharon and the suitcases. Drove via Reforma up into Lomas, past the old house and the small strip shopping area along Monte Athos at the foot of Antonio de Mendoza. Took some pictures. Rode up Virreyes to the Union Church. Went across into the Lomas Barrilaco, found Sierra Fria #384, and took several pictures. Headed up Palmas, connected to Reforma, and headed west out of the city up the Toluca highway. There are two roads now, the 'Cuota', and the 'Libre'... we opted for the 'Cuota', which took only about 35 minutes to reach Toluca. Continued on through Toluca and picked up the familar road towards Zitacuaro. Stopped at a Torta restaurant for lunch. Turned off towards Valle at the usual spot, about 30 miles towards Zitacuaro. Passed the site of Moises Solana's crash. Came down the long hill towards Valle and the lake, but missed the first cutoff towards the dam and the old Club Nautico Avandaro, connected by the arch on the coastal route. Didn't locate the old club for certain, though there are signs for CNA at a Spa-Resort facility called "Sanctuario", where the featured activities are horseback riding, tennis, and sailing. I took some photos at a yacht-club area that looked like the old location of CNA. We drove through Valle and up to Avandaro, found the old house and took pictures there and a few more down by the golf club. Next we decided to try to locate one of the hotels we'd seen on the web, but missed it and wound up driving out past Rancho Avandaro and back towards Toluca, eventually winding up heading down the road towards Temascaltepec. We only saw two hotels in Temascaltepec, and ruled them out, and found a better connecting road back to Avandaro. Asked for directions, and located the Hotel Finca El Reboso. 8 rooms, we had our pick 'coz nobody else was there. Ate dinner (Carne Asada), and came back to a nice fire in the room's fireplace. Long long day, it seemed. Link to Mexico Day 4 Page

Feb 16 Thu - Monarch Sanctuary

Ate the complimentary breakfast (chilaquiles) and drove back up the same road we'd covered the night before, towards the Monarch butterfly sanctuary at "Cerro Herrada". This morning the butterflies were already in flight, coming down off the mountain for water and nectar, so the police were on the highway requesting that everyone slow down to 10km/hr, so as not to injure the butterflies on the cars. We wound up stopping about 2km short of the commercial area, at a wide spot in the road, to take a few pictures. Approached by a local guide who told us of nearby areas to walk to. Took some pictures, and wound up hiring the guide plus two horses for the climb up to the sanctuary. Elevation where we started was 3100 meters (10,170ft), and the sanctuary starts at roughly 3400 meters (11,154ft) so we were very glad to have used the horses. The butterflies are beyond numbering. Among other wondrous aspects, we saw branches that had broken off trees under the weight of butterflies. And when they take flight in a group, they make a noise like a rushing wind. You can't really capture the experience on film or in a recording, it's just something you need to go and see for yourself. After the sanctuary visit we went into downtown Valle for lunch at the Cueva del Leon Hotel and some quick shopping for fruit at the marketplace, then wound up relaxing at the hotel. I had a long conversation with the 17yr old caretaker at the hotel, Fermin Estrada. He mentioned that his other job is working for Jose Luis Chain, still (after all these years) the owner of the Avandaro Golf Club and the Rancho Avandaro resort and golf facility. Fermin would like to emigrate to the U.s. and seems ready to cross the border illegally if he has to. Link to Mexico Day 5 Page

Feb 17 Fri - Valle de Bravo to Taxco

Ate another complimentary breakfast (huevos rancheros), then drove the same road for the third day straight, to get back into Toluca. Watched a horribly-driven old white bus traumatizing drivers in both directions (even took some pictures of it), thought we were going to witness a head-on collision between the bus and a tractor-trailer rig. In Toluca, went looking for the Juarez market, but got into a massive bus jam for about 45 minutes, and wound up calling off the shopping there. Made our way out south of town on the way to Ixtapan de la Sal and Taxco. Stopped at a WalMart in Metepec on the outskirts of Toluca, bought a couple of bottles of tequila, some groceries, and some breads - some of which we ate in the car for lunch. Drove through Ixtapan de la Sal, stopped at an overlook (Mirador), then made it up the hill into Taxco. We didn't have a reservation but had just one response from a hotel right on the Zocalo (Plaza Borda), called Agua Escondida. I couldn't manage the parking instructions, so we drove out of town for a few minutes and gathered our senses. Came back into town and found a room at the Hotel Santa Prisca, for one night. Great view of town. Went out walking, stepped inside the church (Santa Prisca) for a few minutes, and stopped into the Mercado de Artesanias (mostly silver stores) for a few minutes, bought a bracelet. Grabbed dinner at the Santa Fe restaurant just across from the hotel. Watched the town settle down from our room and up on the roof, and drank some tequila. Link to Mexico Day 6 Page

Feb 18 Sat - Taxco to Acapulco

Woke and packed our bags since we didn't have an arrangement for a second night. Ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Walked out onto the streets to visit some of the shops, and bought some amount of silver items for ourselves (Doug's money clip), and a rosary for Sharon's Mom. Visited the Silver Museum, which features some item crafted by noted silversmith William Spratling and his apprentices. Returned to the hotel by noon to move our suitcases to the car, and arranged to leave the car in the parking lot for a few more hours. Returned to shopping for more silver, locating more specific pieces. Bought bracelets for Sharon, Aaron, Elyse, and Chris, and some crosses for Geoff and David. Did we eat again in Taxco? Returned for the car and drove down the highway towards Acapulco, to locate the Spratling Ranch Workshop six miles south of town. Found it, but it was closed for the day. Decided to head for Acapulco for the evening. Drove down the hill from Taxco, through the northwestern approach to Iguala. Found the start of a 'cuota' highway towards Mexico City, but not the 'cuota' highway towards Acapulco - turns out it's miles to the east of Iguala, and there's no connector. Wound up driving the old 'libre' highway to Chilpancingo, where the 'cuota' highway connects, we got on it right away. Raced towards Acapulco, went through the new tunnel (not over the pass), and arrived in the bay at sunset - though it was too hazy to see the sun go down into the ocean. Got onto the Costera Miguel Aleman heading southwest from the Diana, and ate dinner next to the Condesa beach at a place called "Ika Tako" that specializes in seafood tacos. Delicious. After dinner we drove over the hill past Las Brisas to see if we could find a hotel out by Revolcadero or near the airport, on the chance that these might provide a better chance to swim the next morning. Not much out there now but big exclusive resort hotels (like the Acapulco Princess), and private condominium high-rises. Tried a couple of out-of-the-way places but no vacancy. We asked at one place where we might find a room, and they directed us to Puerto Marques, which after dark, looks like a very seedy town, and we didn't spot the hotel he mentioned. To make matters worse, the rental car began sounding a "high temperature" warning, and we contemplated getting stuck there. We escaped Puerto Marques. Stopped at a WalMart to get refreshments, and then headed back into the bay. Stopped at one big hotel (Calinda Acapulco) and were told that the whole city's hotel rooms were filled for the night. Almost gave up to return towards Cuernavaca, but decided to place a call to Hotel Los Flamingos, and thankfully they had rooms (Sharon had said this one sounded interesting to her). We were over there in 20 minutes. The bellhop asked if we remembered "Tarzan" - Johnny Weismuller, then explained that the hotel was once the club property of some Hollywood stars, including Weismuller, John Wayne, Tyronne Power, and others. It has a great view from the top of some 150 meter cliffs, looking southwest out over the Pacific Ocean. Nice pool. We watched some bad mexican TV channels for about 20 minutes before passing out exhausted. Link to Mexico Day 7 Page

Feb 19 Sun - Acapulco to Tepoztlán

Woke up and ate breakfast at the nice indoor/outdoor dining area at Los Flamingos. Went for a swim in the pool, relaxed in the sunshine. Checked the water level in the car, and the small overflow reservoir was low (causing the warning we'd seen the night before), so I topped it up and had no further problems with it. Headed down to La Quebrada to watch the cliff divers. Next, drove down to the beach, parked the car, and took a couple of photos of the beach and our old acquaintance "Queen Mary 2" anchored in Acapulco bay. Locked most valuables in the car, and swam in the ocean for about 20 minutes. Sharon wasn't going to go in, but I talked her into it. We returned to the hotel to take swim in the hotel pool - to get the salt off. Packed up, and ate lunch at the Los Flamingos restaurant again, ordered a grilled stuffed huachinango (red fish), and a shrimp/aguacate salad. Watched an eagle swoop past and land on a nearby tree. I took Sharon's picture in front of two nice wooden Flamingos. Drove around the bay area again, and up over the Las Brisas hill, then stopped once again at the WalMart out by the airport for provisions. Jumped on the new 'cuota' highway towards Mexico City, and drove for about 3 1/2 hours to Cuernavaca. Got off and had a small dinner at McDonalds next to the highway. Got back on the highway and went north to the turn-off for Tepoztlán. Went through Tepoztlán and on down the road to Amatlan (toward Cuatla), hoping to find some hotel we'd heard about. Stopped at one and got out to look at a few of the rooms. Didn't like them much, so drove off. Finally got a cell phone signal and managed to raise Hotel NiLaYam on the phone, and got some basic directions. Asked again on the street, finally got there. Booked two nights for the first time since Avandaro. Turned out to be a very nice place with big clean rooms and nice decor. We stayed in the "Vishnu" room. Even got some good TV for a little while. Drank a bit more tequila and got a good night's sleep. Link to Mexico Day 8 Page

Feb 20 Mon - Xochicalco, Las Estacas and Cuernavaca

Woke up and ate breakfast at the restaurant/dining room at NiLaYam. The hotel is some kind of "spa" and offers massages and a sweat lodge, but we didn't find time for those. Irritatingly, their atmosphere leans toward eastern mysticism, and the music on the house system was this whiny hindu spiritual pop-chanting, so it made breakfast hard to wait through. Not bad food, though - I had french toast and Sharon had huevos rancheros. We got on the road and headed back through Cuernavaca down to Xochicalco. Toured the visitor center there, then parked under a huge shade tree and hiked up to the ruins. Saw a road-runner. Took plenty of pictures of the ruins, including two ball courts, the Temple of the Plumed Serpent, and the Observatory. Saw several iguanas, and shot some pictures and videos. Drank lots of water and stayed in the shade when we could. It was a wonderful day, though. Hiked back down to the car. Took some back roads through several small towns and eventually got on the correct road for Las Estacas. Sharon bought some watermelon from a roadside stand and ate the whole thing. We parked at Las Estacas and left most valuables in the car (including the camera), and paid admission (200 pesos) to Las Estacas. Please see for some better photos. Rented a locker and changed into our swimsuits. Walked through the grounds around some wonderful natural swimming pools, and upstream to a spot called "La Borbollón" where a spring emerges from 20 feet down at the bottom middle of a pool 50' in diameter. There's a diving platform above the pool there, and you can dive straight down into the upflow from the spring. A bunch of mexican guys were daring eachother to dive, without much success. I dove in, Sharon jumped in from the ledge on the side. We swam across the pool and took the outlet to the river. Nice jungle, with enomous eucalyptus trees, palms, vines, and banana trees. We floated down the river, which has a gentle flow that reduces swimming efforts considerably. We walked back up to the Borbollón and ran the river again. This time, I pushed past the mexican guys, I spoke spanish with them and asked them which of them were chicken, and dove right in. That inspired them, and all but a couple dove in. We changed back into our street clothes, redeemed our padlock deposit, and headed for Cuernavaca. Parked right on the Plaza de Armas (Zocalo) and walked through the marketplace looking for some Taxco silver (not much there really). We bought some honey and a pottery plaque that said "Mi Casa es su Casa" (but that wound up breaking the next morning). We had a great supper at "La Universal", drinking 2 for 1 Margaritas, and listening to live music by "Miguel" (I spoke with him on his break - he later played a pretty good rendition of the Beatles' "Yesterday"). We drove back to Tepoztlán and the NiLaYam hotel. Someone had moved one of our suitcases and dropped it hard enough to break the bottle of Tequila we were meaning to take back to the US, so some things got soaked with it, and the whole room and hallway smelled like there'd been a big party going on. We cleaned it up pretty good. Link to Mexico Day 9 Page

Feb 21 Tue - Tepoztlán and Heading Home

Got up and packed into the car, then went into downtown Tepoztlán to do some last-minute shopping. Bought some "hippie" jewelry (we had fun calling it "Ippy", due to the silent H in spanish). Grabbed a local cheese-danish muffin for breakfast. Bought two pottery plaques to replace the one that was broken. Drove up the highway that connects Cuernavaca and Mexico City - still is a beautiful road through high pines and clearings, blue sky. Saw Popo in the east on the way up out of Cuernavaca, and later Ixta, on the way down into the Valley of Mexico, before descending into the haze. Got stuck in some slow traffic for a while, but eventually connected with the Viaducto and got over to the airport. Returned the car to National Car Rental, and got shuttled over to the airport. Bought some tequila to replace the broken bottle, plus some Don Pedro Brandy. Flew home. Got diverted into the agricultural customs search area when I declared the 6 limes we had. Connected to Newark airport, but found that the valet rental service had a very inconvenient pickup spot two levels up from the baggage claim, with the elevator on the opposite end of the terminal. Had to stop at an ATM to get cash to pay the tolls on the way home. Made it home to Danbury by 1am or so, and the cats were all fine. Link to Mexico Day 10 Page