The two main sites that we wanted to see outside of Mexico City were Teotihuacan and Xochimilco. Both could easily have been done by public transport, but I was keen to get someone to show us around as well. Our friendly hotel arranged for us to take two tours with one of the larger companies in Mexico.
Day Tour 1
Our guide arrived on time. We were the last to be picked up, so that was a relief – we wouldn’t be waiting all morning for other people to emerge from their hotels!
We were dropped off at another hotel where we all sat around for nearly an hour whilst the guide had a coffee. He eventually wandered over and told us they’d decided to swap our tours round. We’d be doing the boating tour first and our private English tour for two was being joined by three new Spanish girls. That was pretty much the last time he spoke English that day.
Over an hour after leaving our hotel we re-boarded the minibus. The driver sauntered along 15 minutes later, wiping away the remnants of breakfast, then took us to the petrol station to refill the minibus.
Ninety minutes after the advertised tour time, we actually set off. The tour guide gave a long and winding description in Spanish, answered all the girls’ questions, and then said to us “This is San Jacinto”.
From what I’d understood of the Spanish we’d stopped in the artist’s district. San Jacinto church was built on top of pyramids and the beautiful houses dated from the 16th, 17th & 18th century.
He proceeded to give more information to the girls whilst we were hassled by artists selling their attractive, but luggage unfriendly works.
Just down from the Plaza San Jacinto is Diego Riviera’s house. An angular blue design, it’s surrounded by an impressive fence of tightly-knit cacti.
Whilst we took a few photos there was much whispered discussion between the guide and the girls, and he told us they’d be leaving the two of us at the main square for an hour. No mention of where they were going.
Bemused, but glad to get away for a bit we wandered the multi-coloured streets until we found a Tamale Fair.
The tamales came from all over the country and a decent lunch improved the mood a bit. A lot more than an hour later the guide appeared and took us for a long walk down to Frida Kahlo’s house, where we had to wait for the girls to finish looking round.
Apparently he’d taken a side contract of a private tour of the house, whilst abandoning us…the people who’d actually paid him for a private tour.
We stopped in a café for a toilet break. He told us we had to pay 5 pesos each, pocketed the money, and then spoke to the owner who allowed the girls in for free.
After visiting the floating gardens of Xochimilco, we were dropped back at the hotel (last) and in the first English he’d uttered to us for about 6 hours he reminded us to tip generously…
Day Tour 2
The following day we had a 12 hour tour of Teotihuacan. We set off at 7am, wandered aimlessly round the ruins of Tlatelolco, got left to visit the Basilica de Guadalupe (which was probably a lot more interesting than our visit would suggest), stopped at a craft shop until somebody gave in and bought something then finally reached Teotihuacan at 1pm. This left us to do all the climbing at the height of the midday sun. Finally we were taken to an exorbitantly expensive (by any international standards) restaurant where lunch was offered at 4pm. The food looked to have been sitting in the sun since midday so we declined, and were made to wait there until 6pm.
Anyway, not a perfect couple of days. The two actual destinations were both outstandingly beautiful, but the journey there was a horrible mess.
Those were the first and last organised tours we took in Mexico.
If you happen to want a tour in Mexico City, check that your tours aren’t being run by Monopolis Tour and Travel (www.monopolistourandtravel.com).