Mexico City in a Weekend (Part 2)

On Sunday, N and I woke up around 6:00 so we could get to the pyramids before it became flooded with tourists. Yes, it was necessary and yes, it was worth it. To get there, we took a taxi to Terminal Norte (the bus station) where we walked down to Puerta 8 and purchased two roundtrip tickets to Teotihuacán for about $100 pesos each. You’ll see pictures of pyramids all over the ticket window so you know you’re going to the right place.

We were a little lost when we walked out to the buses but if you just look around helplessly for a minute, an employee will come over to check your ticket and point at the correct bus. (Thanks, buddy!)

Our bus driver arrived and we sat up front so I wouldn’t get car sick. A few minutes into the ride, our driver turned up the music and we spent the next hour listening to traditional Mexican tunes and our middle-aged driver singing his heart out. It was kind of adorable. I wasn’t even mad that this was happening at 7:00 in the morning.

As we drove out of the city, we saw rows upon rows of colorful crooked rooftops, stacked on top of each other up the hillside. It was kind of beautiful in the early sunlight. My eyes paused on the colors flying past us, the early morning street vendors, the group of kids sitting in a schoolyard, and the life-size airplane painted like a shark. Little pieces of the puzzle that make the city what it is.

The bus dropped us off in the middle of nowhere – also known as Puerta 1 of the historical site. We paid $70 pesos each to enter and wandered through the not yet open shops before stopping to read our first informational sign:

If you can’t read it, it basically says that the pyramids were built by humans, not by aliens. Seriously.

We were walking through the site by about 8:00 or a little after and kept exploring for several hours. I highly recommend making a whole day out of it, or at least planning a solid half-day the way we did (from the moment we left our hotel to when we returned it was probably about 6:00 to 13:30 or 14:00).

It was such an incredible sight to see. The pyramids were massive, the view amazing, and the history of the place mind-blowing. The stairs were also quite steep, at least a foot tall. You couldn’t even tell if there were stairs at any particular point until you got within a foot of them. It just looked like a sharp drop-off or the edge of a wall.

Back to the history of the place… How do you even comprehend a civilization that existed over 2,000 years ago? One that was thought to be divided into groups with some of them responsible for government and administration, some responsible for agriculture, for culture, etc. A civilization that had a huge trade network that allowed them to collect seashells when they were so far inland to be used as decoration and in their burial ceremonies. Granted, this was also a society that used human jawbones as necklaces for the dead and there was a lot of human sacrifice involved in their rituals… but hey, we all have our weird little things that we do…?

Read more about the ancient civilization here.

Looking up from the base of the Pyramid of the Sun – can you find the tiny humans at the top?
Upside down on the Pyramid of the Sun. In the background, you can see the Pyramid of the Moon.
Ancient mural found as part of The Puma Complex
Behind me: Pyramid of the Moon
Looking out over the Avenue of the Dead from the middle platform on the Pyramid of the Moon
Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Temple of the Feathered Serpent). On display at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, but originally part of Teotihuacán.

After wandering around for about four hours, we decided to go find lunch. We had read a blog post that told us where to find it, but we almost didn’t make it. We had no idea what the restaurant was called (it’s called La Gruta, if you plan to go), all we knew was that we should exit Puerta 5 and walk left. Cool.

We exited and walked left where we were promptly bombarded by beggars and street vendors. That was the only time I felt overwhelmed the entire weekend. We crossed the street because that seemed like the way to go, and found nothing. Something in my gut told me to keep walking down the path, and as we did we eventually came across a restaurant in a cave which was exactly what we had forgotten we were looking for. La Gruta! We found you!

View of the restaurant from above

We got a table and enjoyed sitting down for the first time all morning. They had a full Mexican menu and the hostess did speak English but none of the servers did. I’m always happy to challenge myself to use my Spanish skills, but I’m letting you know in case you go someday – I would recommend being able to speak a tiny bit of Spanish or you will be very lost. No, I’m not saying don’t travel if you can’t speak the language. I’m saying pick up a book or a tape or download Duolingo and expand your mind a bit 😉

La Gruta restaurant

At the end of our meal, the manager came over to tell us the story behind the restaurant. Apparently, a long time ago, a volcano formed the cave, and there was fire involved, and a man became immortal and if he became immortal then anyone can change and become a new person. That was the gist of it anyways… honestly, we were so exhausted we loved the story at the time and were really touched and then instantly forgot the details. The important part was that they lit a candle for us to carry over and leave with the others on the staircase as a symbol of new beginnings.

Tell me it’s cheesy and believe what you want, but both of us have recently made big life decisions since lighting said candle and we will each be starting new, exciting chapters of our lives very soon. Is it because we lit a candle in some cave in Mexico? Probably not, but it makes me smile knowing that that symbol of our new beginnings exists.

After lunch, we found the bus back to Mexico City by standing on the sidewalk outside of Puerta 2 and praying to the universe that we would figure out how to get back. A bus pulled up on the other side of the street that said Mexico City so we ran across and boarded. We had no idea if there was more than one major bus station in Mexico City but we figured if they accepted our tickets then we were in the correct place. We fell asleep pretty instantly once we were on the bus, and again in the taxi… and again when we got back to the hotel. So, okay, our itinerary was pretty full but we made it work! Naps are your friend when traveling.

After our nap, we walked the few miles back to the Anthropology Museum and got lost in the history and beautiful artifacts. It is such an incredible museum. I highly recommend making time for it if you ever go to Mexico City. You’ll want at least two hours. Also, they let us in for free on Sunday.

Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology) from the inside courtyard
Fountain inside the museum
The Aztec Sun Stone (also known as the Calendar Stone)

We left, reluctantly, right around closing time (19:00) and went back to the swings behind the Museo Tamayo to enjoy the sunset. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped for take out (“para llevar“) and brought our food back to the hotel with us. We lounged around and chatted about life before eventually going to sleep, dreading our wake up call at 4:00 the next morning.

Was it fun going to work the next morning after such a jam-packed weekend on very little sleep? No, not particularly. Would I do it again in a heartbeat? Yes, absolutely. Travel will always be a priority for me and I’ll squeeze it in where and however I can. Besides, you can sleep when you’re dead, right? (You can also sleep in the airport, on the airplane, in the taxi, and every other in-between moment you get to make it work!)

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