Viva Mexico

This post is long overdue, but it’s never too late to share travel adventures, right? 🙂

This time last year, my parents were secretly planning a family vacation, much to the delight of my younger siblings and me. We’d be spending Christmas with family friends in Houston, Texas, and then together with them we’d fly to Mexico for 5 nights to ring in the New Year.

Mexico was something else, it definitely exceeded my expectations. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, I try not to have high expectations when I travel, but let’s just say that the media doesn’t do a very good job of portraying this country and its people (in my opinion).

We arrived in the capital, Mexico City, around noon and immediately went to check in to the Holiday Inn. [Note: We had rented a mini-van and driver for our stay in Mexico, so that’s how we got around]. After checking in, we were pretty hungry so we headed to a local restaurant called Arroyo for lunch. This was my first culture shock in Mexico; their local food is nothing like Tex Mex! What I liked about this restaurant besides the authentic Mexican cuisine was that they provide entertainment to guests while dining. Mexican singers and dancers pranced around the stage and everyone clapped and cheered on which was really nice. After lunch we headed to Constitution Square which was wonderfully decked out in Christmas decorations. This is where I saw traces of the Spanish settlers that had come to Mexico so many years ago. The architecture of the buildings and Cathedral surrounding the square mirrored those of Europe, and for a second I could have sworn I was in Italy.  We decided to go inside the Cathedral (which was breathtaking) and afterwards spent several hours roaming the streets. We came across several street vendors selling local arts and crafts, as well as groups of street performers dressed in traditional clothing. Having seen enough for one day, we decided to return to the hotel. Some of us went to the Plaza Universidad shopping center located right across the street from the hotel and did a little shopping while others stayed to take a nap. For dinner, we went to Puerto Madero, a fancy Argentinean restaurant where I had one of the best meals I’ve ever had. It certainly didn’t disappoint.

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We began our second day in Mexico at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an important Mexican icon and major Catholic pilgrimage site. After visiting the Basilica, we trekked up Tepeyac Hill after hearing that at the summit you can find one of the most gorgeous views of Mexico City. There were many booths adorned in sombreros for tourists to have their photos taken, and we gladly obliged. Afterwards, the plan was to go to the Teotihuacan Pyramids which were a 1 hour drive from Mexico City. These pyramids were constructed around 300 AD and are among the most important ruins in the world. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see them because some people in our group weren’t interested in going. That’s the downside about travelling in groups; everyone has their own travel preferences. We instead made our way to Santa Fe, the business district of Mexico City where we spent the remainder of the day. Although this area was very nice and modern, I was so glad our hotel was located on the other older side of the city to get a more authentic experience.

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On our third day in Mexico, we got up early and made the 4 hour drive to Acapulco, a Mexican beach town south of Mexico City where we’d be celebrating New Year’s Eve. The reason we decided to go there instead of Cancun or Cabo is because there aren’t as many tourists so we thought it’d be more enjoyable. The drive was wonderful; Mexico has a beautiful landscape filled with big mountains and green plains. We got to Acapulco in the afternoon and checked into The Fairmont Acapulco Princess Hotel. The hotel is situated on the other side of the Acapulco bay known as the Diamond zone which is a much calmer and relatively new area. It’s a very large Aztec-inspired hotel, equipped with several pools, a beach, tennis courts and golf course, as well as many restaurants and a health-spa. It’s so easy to get lost in this place, and we spent the rest of the day lounging by the pool and beach.

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The next day, we wanted to check out the other side of Acapulco bay so we made the 10 minute drive to the main plaza where I did a little shopping and bought some cute hand-made beach bags and dresses. In the late afternoon, we went to La Quebrada to witness the famous La Quebrada cliff divers that put on daily shows for the public. The divers range from 5 to 60 years old and jump from a cliff as high as 35 meters (115 ft). They climb the cliff themselves with no support whatsoever (real-life Spider men) which creates suspense for the audience, then proceed to plunge into the sea below usually accompanied with tricks. It was truly spectacular. We returned to the main plaza afterwards for dinner before returning to the hotel.

Our last day in Mexico happened to be New Year’s Eve. The hotel was setting up tables and a stage on the beach so we reserved a table for the party and spent the rest of the day by the pool/beach where I got a full body massage done for only $4! I still dream of that moment till now. When the sun set, we went up to the hotel room and got dressed for dinner, then made our way down to the beach. There was a buffet set up with live music and a dance floor. All tables were equipped with party supplies, a bag of grapes (Spanish tradition, see below), and lanterns which we would light up and let loose (something I’ve always wanted to do) just before midnight. By 1 am the adults were tired so they went up to sleep while us teenagers took to the dance floor and danced the night away because we knew that when the morning would came, we’d be flying back to reality.

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