Exploring the Teotihuacan Pyramids in Mexico City

I have always been so fascinated by the history in Mexico, having visited the sites at Chichen Itza a few years ago, and so when visiting Teotihuacan was part of our itinerary during my trip to Mexico City, I was really looking forward to it.

The site is just 30 miles north of Mexico City, and the perfect place to spend a day exploring. Surprisingly the Aztecs or Mayans had nothing to do with it – it was built before their time. There is a mystery that surrounds the early settlers who built the city and multiple theories about it. Very little is known about them and this only adds to the charm of it and it attracts so many people to marvel at it daily. It was called Teotihuacan, which means place of the gods and remains an important part of Mexico City’s history.

After wandering around the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl, which has complex paintings, carvings and lots of ornaments, we started off at the Pyramid of the Sun.

img_9854

Now I somehow missed the memo that we were actually climbing the pyramids so when everyone started going up the steps I was panicking as I have a massive fear of heights! I am incredibly unfit (and lazy) but to avoid being a party pooper I slowly started to climb the steps up this 70m high and 215m wide pyramid.

img_9845-1

 

After having to stop several times I finally got to the top and collapsed for a few minutes while I gathered my breath. When I finally had the courage to look out from the top (I have a fear of heights too!), it was SO WORTH ALL THAT EFFORT. I mean look at that view!

img_2527

Also, the Pyramid of the Sun is the third biggest pyramid in the world! So you can add that to your list of amazing things that you have done in your lifetime 😉

Just like the Mayans, the Mexicans have a belief that the Pyramid of the Sun holds astrological powers. Every year, on March 21st (Spring Equinox), people travel from all over the country, as well as from abroad, to climb the pyramid, and charge their energies at the top.

After enjoying the panoramic view, we descended the pyramid, which was equally frightful for me, and walked down the Avenue of the Dead towards the Pyramid of the Moon.

I somehow missed the memo that we were climbing this pyramid too and these steps looked even more steeper than the Pyramid of the Sun!

img_9926
Photo credit: Mexico Tourism Board

This Pyramid was built in seven layers, (pyramid on top of pyramid) and is considered to be the starting point of the city.  This was definitely a more strenuous climb than the Pyramid of the Sun, but the good thing was that you could stop lots while you gathered your breath! This is the second largest pyramid in Teotihuacan and is 43m high.

img_9762img_9760

It was lots of fun, although made me realise how terribly unfit I was – something I am rectifying as part of my new year’s goals.

If you are interested in the historical aspect of travelling and love seeing archaeological sites, this is definitely one to go to! Even if you don’t have an avid interest in history, this is such a great excursion and activity to do whilst visiting Mexico City.

I thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring Teotihuacan, and it proximity makes it ideal for a half a day or day trip! If I can do it being a lazy person and with my fear of heights, anyone can do it! It is just inspiring and I am absolutely in awe of the cleverness of the early settlors and the precision with which they built things. The structures themselves are just magnificent!

img_9822

To read more about things to do in Mexico City, go here.

I was hosted by the Mexican Tourism Board, which I am very grateful for.

My Top Ten Travel moments of 2016 and travel plans for 2017

2016 was a year full of such varied travel and I am so grateful for all the experiences that I have been lucky to have. My top ten travel highlights, in no particular order, were as follows:

  1. A BBQ out at sea in Mauritius

Having a BBQ on a Catamaran in the middle of the Indian Ocean in Mauritius was one of those “pinch me, is this real?” moments and was an unforgettable experience. What made it even more special was that we saw some dolphins jumping in and out of the water whilst we were chilling on the Catamaran, soaking up the sunshine. I generally am happiest when on a boat, out at sea, so this was definitely a memory I will cherish forever.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. Exploring St Malo, in Brittany 

I had visited St Malo, when I was 15, as part of a school trip to spend a few weeks there, attending a school to learn French. In 2016, I was invited by Brittany Ferries, to experience St Malo again and it was just stunning! I fell in love with it all over again and ate all the salted caramel I could manage. It is such an easy trip from the UK and I highly recommend it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3. Making my own pizza in Naples, Italy

As part of our cruise in September 2016, one of our stops was Naples, in Italy and it happened to be during the Pizza Festival. We spent the day exploring Naples by foot, learning about the history and then went to a restaurant where we learned how to make the pizzas Naples is famous for ourselves! It was such a lovely experience and one of the top foodie moments of 2016 for me. The pizza was delicious too!

img_8188-1

4. Visiting Monaco

Monaco had been one of the destinations on my travel wish list for so long so when it was part of the destinations our cruise was going to I was ecstatic! I loved exploring Monaco and taking in the views and aspiring to own a yacht parked in the marina one day!

img_8792-1

5. The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in the world, and this was my third visit to the Catalonian capital and I can never tire of seeing the sights.

img_4361

6. Climbing the Pyramid of the Sun, Mexico City 

Climbing the third biggest pyramid in the world in Mexico City was also a top travel moment. I was very unfit and had to stop several times before I made it to the top! However, the view from the top made up for the exhaustion! If you ever visit Mexico City do not miss this out and make sure you climb it!

img_9769-1

7. Visiting my husband’s family’s Kesar Mango Farm in India

This year my husband took me to India to visit his ancestral home outside of Bhuj. They grow the famous Kesar Mangoes at the farmland close to his home and trust me those mangoes, when in season, are the best mangoes you will ever eat!

It was nice to have a (forced) social media detox and not be able to check emails and just immerse myself in the laid back culture and breath that fresh air every day.

PS: I know I look like a Kesar Mango myself in this bright yellow outfit LOL

img_4929

8. Seeing the Gateway of India in Mumbai

Another landmark, top of my list to see, was the Gateway of India, and in 2016 I ticked this off the list. It had always interested me, especially after reading about the Mumbai Terror Attacks, and the major plus point was it was right opposite the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which we stayed at and also ticked off our hotel wish list.

img_3133-1

9. Going to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

Although I have visited Dubai several times, we have never actually gone to the top of the Burj Khalifa until 2016 on a family trip there. It was dark when we got to the top at our scheduled time so we saw all the pretty lights making the city sparkle. I would love to go again during the day time on my next visit to Dubai.

img_3509-1

10. Attending The Latin America Top 50 Restaurant Awards

The final highlight of many, was attending the Latin America Top 50 Restaurant Awards in a very glitzy ceremony in Mexico City, as part of a press trip. This trip was especially confidence boosting for me as I had never travelled so far by myself before and with a lack of knowledge of much Spanish I did struggle a little. However, it has also led to one of my new year’s resolution being to learn Spanish as I would love to visit other parts of Latin America.

img_9540-2

So far in 2017 I have plans to visit Athens in January, Paris in February and a long trip back to Kenya in March to attend my youngest brother’s wedding as well as spend lots of time with family and friends.

We have yet to plan a trip for our seven (gasp) year wedding anniversary as well as a big trip for when I end my career at some point this year (tbc).

I would love to see more of Asia, Latin America, North America as well as some more city breaks in Europe.

Keep an eye out on my Instagram to find out as and when I make some more travel plans.

What is on your travel wish list this year? I would love to know in the c0mments section below 🙂

Highlights of 2016 for Binny’s Kitchen & Travel Diaries

2016 has been a whirlwind year where plenty of Mojitos were consumed, lots of new friendships were made, several destinations were visited, both in the UK and abroad, and lots of dining out occurred at various new and classic restaurants!

Best Mojito of 2016

First things first! My favourite Mojito was at the Langham hotel. Trust me I have had a lot of Mojitos in the name of research to come to this conclusion 😉

img_5127

Now we can carry on to the rest of the year. Here is my round up of my year with lots of photos.

January

The year started quietly as we had just returned from a trip back home in Kenya which had been pretty hectic with a wedding to attend and some family time split between Mombasa and Nairobi. The highlight of January however, was getting to meet Jason Atherton and getting a signed cook book. I somehow managed to win an Instagram competition on Jason’s feed and had won a meal for 2 at his restaurant Social Wine and Tapas, which was brilliant. I didn’t take my camera though and didn’t blog about it. A lesson I learned from and didn’t repeat for the rest of the year. That camera is permanently in my handbag!

img_0214

February

The shortest month of the year and we had our first staycation of the year in Nottingham. It was fun exploring the city and visiting the castle. The highlight of the staycation was visiting the Kitty Café because if you know me you know I am a super crazy cat lady!

img_2041-1

In London we also visited the Magic lantern festival and that was quite spectacular! I hope that there is something similar to see next year!

img_1651

March

March was the only month where I seem to have stayed in and cooked more than I went out for some bizarre reason. I did however go to Hoppers London for some Egg Hoppers, which has definitely been a very fabulous experience.

img_3813

I also had Bao, and fell in love with the Horlicks Bao. It is heavenly!

img_2509-1

April

April was a month of celebrations with my Blog having its first year anniversary as well as it being our sixth wedding anniversary! We celebrated both and went for meals to Bob Bob Ricard, famous for its “Press for Champagne” button/switch as well as one of my favourites, and evidently a favourite of Michel Roux Jr too, Michelin starred Gymkhana.

img_4284img_4334-1

With spring settling in we also visited the Cotswolds for a weekend trip and stayed at The Falcon, in the very cute and quaint town of Painswick.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We also celebrated our anniversary with a long haul trip to Mauritius where we stayed at the St Regis, which was out of this world.

img_5219img_5813

May

May was the UK Blog Awards 2016 ceremony for which I was a finalist in both the Food & Drink and Travel categories. My work bff Anne came to stay the night with me to attend the ceremony, along with Mandy, and we went to the ceremony in a chauffeur driven BMW 7 series which had massage seats! Thank you to BMW for that little treat!

img_7524img_7526img_7529

The next day we went on a road trip to Liverpool, and Amit and I explored the city and had a memorable meal at Mowgli Street Food. If you go to Liverpool it is a must try!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I went on my first ever press trip abroad too and to a destination I had visited when I was 15! It was to St. Malo in Brittany and it was such a lovely trip and I ate all the Salted Caramel I could, as well as some delicious pancakes. I got to go with my blogger friends Sandra, Omo and Eulanda and we had such a fabulous time.

img_9499

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

June

June was the start of good weather and I enjoyed the Taste of London festival, a food festival where you can try dishes from most of the restaurants in London.

img_0842

Got to catch up with one of my faves – Chef Vivek Singh too and got a copy of his book.

img_1237-1

I also got to meet one of my food heroes in June and had the opportunity to have a short interview with him – the legendary Antonio Carluccio. He is such a cutie! He did answer a very important question I had for him too. Click on the link on his name above to find out what!

img_1932

I also went for a fix of Asma Khan’s delicious food at Druid Street Market, where proceeds of her food went towards charity. Excited to have more of her amazing dishes in 2017.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

June was also the month I worked on my first big campaign with Nescafe! It was such fun to shoot and it is my favourite brand of coffee too so worked out perfectly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

July

In July we made the most of the gorgeous weather and visited Rye, were we stayed at the marvellous Gallivant hotel. If you are thinking of visiting Rye, it is such a gorgeous hotel!

I also took a day out to volunteer at the charity I wholeheartedly support, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Amit and I make it a point to do this yearly. To find out how you too can help have a read about it here.

img_4305img_4294

I had my fix of summer ice cream in Suffolk too with a dose of some much needed beach time and some fantastic Indian food at Sea Spice restaurant in Aldeburgh.

img_4134img_3836img_3792

The highlight of the month, however, (and I probably am showing my craziness here), was meeting Grumpy Cat! I stood by myself in a queue for an hour and a half and no I am not ashamed to admit it lol.

img_3721img_3743

August

August started with a super fun tea-athon with Starwood hotels and I later returned to review my favourite afternoon tea venue at the Sheraton Grand London.

The launch party of the much anticipated Symmetry Breakfast cook book was also in August and could not be happier for Michael Zee. It was an extra special evening as Michael proposed to Mark in the book and at the launch party and a few tears of joy were shared.

Amit’s birthday is in August and this year I treated him to a 3 Michelin star meal at the Waterside inn. We loved our meal and even had the opportunity to meet Chef Alain Roux as well as get a sneak peek into the kitchen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

img_5249

September

September was a month of travel for me and we started off with a Mediterranean Cruise with P&O where we sailed to Cadiz, Barcelona, Monaco, Rome and Naples. I also got to meet the lovely Karen from Lavender and Lovage as well as Amanda from Glamourous Glutton on the trip and we all had such a fantastic time!

14232639_10102276332568695_2670846383781526990_n

img_0679

As part of the cruise, we had a dinner date with THE James Martin and I am sure everyone is sick of me gushing about him now but I can’t help it. I love the man and especially love his monkey bread and snickers ice cream too.

img_6812-1

I bravely went to Mexico City by myself too to attend the Latin America 50 Best Restaurant awards and this was such a wonderful experience and such a superbly organized press trip. I got to experience the food, culture, arts and main sights in Mexico City.

October

I went to the glitzy Sheraton Grand London relaunch party with my blogger friends Em and Aftab and had a fun filled evening of champagne, good chat and fantastic food.

img_0859

I also went to a pasta making masterclass hosted by Theo Randall which was great fun. Most of the month was spent planning our upcoming trip to Dubai and India.

img_0855-2

November

November is always my favourite month as it is my Birthday month! This year I decided to have my birthday meals at Michelin starred Kai in Mayfair, a birthday brunch with my favourite bloggers Angie from Silverspoon London and Aftab from Fresh and Fearless in the Mirror room at Rosewood London and a very special meal with Amit at Vineet Bhatia London.

img_1785

We then flew to Dubai, where we stayed at the Sheraton Dubai Creek, and spent a few days on a family holiday.

img_2089

img_2376

We then went onwards to India where we visited Bhuj and my husband’s ancestral home, followed by a luxurious break in Mumbai at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which had been high on my list of hotels to visit.

img_2715

December

December kicked off with one of my favourite meals of the year at Jamavar. If you haven’t been yet it is a must! I have already been twice and already looking for excuses to go back. If anyone wants to go with me let me know!

img_3416-1

I was also lucky to meet another food hero, Eric Lanlard at his Patisserie ,Cake boy thanks to Meantime Brewing Company. To kick off the festive period we made some Mince Pies with a special ingredient – Cake Boy’s Hazelnut Ale. Utterly scrumptious!

img_3917-1

For the rest of the month I have spent some much needed time relaxing, catching up with family and friends and spending some time getting to know my brand new godson.

img_4109-1

2016 has been a wonderful year and I am so grateful for all the experiences I have been fortunate to have, especially in terms of travel, and for the fantastic friends I have made along the way. I am really looking forward to 2017, which is set to be a year of change for me in terms of career.

As for New Years Resolutions, I want to continually improve on my blog, spend some time improving my photography and getting to use my Canon 760D better and learn Spanish (Geri if you are reading this I am learning Spanish for my return to Mexico one day).

The travel priority is going home to Kenya as I didn’t manage to make it home this year. We have also booked a weekend in Paris so am looking forward to that too.

What have been the highlights of 2016 for you? I would love to know in the comments section below.

The Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel

The Sheraton Maria Isabel, also known as Sheraton Mexico City, is centrally located on Paseo de la Reforma, overlooking the famous Angel of Independence. The drive to the hotel was only 30 minutes from Mexico City International Airport. The hotel was originally built in 1962 by the Bolivian tycoon Antenor Patiño.

I was staying at the hotel as part of a press trip to attend the Latin America 50 Best Restaurant Awards, with a group of bloggers and journalists.

img_8928

The hotel has 755 rooms and suites, and is close to the Reforma 22 shopping mall, as well as Zona Rosa, where you can find many Mexican eateries and shops. It is such a convenient location and the subway station is really close by too. It is based in the financial district and close to major banks and offices.
img_8887
My room was on the SPG floor and was a club room. It had that wonderful Sheraton  Sweet Sleeper™ Bed, which is one of the cosiest beds I have ever slept in. What I love about staying at Sheraton hotels is that you get the same experience no matter where you are in the world so as soon as your head hits the pillow it feels like you are in the comfort of your own home.
img_3195img_3196
The room itself was large with a lovely desk, which I made my temporary office, as well as a nice spacious bathroom, with a lovely tub, which was very well used daily after long days of excursions. There was also a dressing table area, with excellent lighting, and a hairdryer, ironing board as well as massive cupboard space, in case you wanted to unpack your belongings.
img_3194
There were ample plugs dotted around the room, as well as a very handy full length mirror, which made getting ready that much more convenient.
The hotel had various restaurants and bars, including the Jorongo bar, where you could listen to live Mariachi music, an Italian restaurant called Restaurant Amici, a Japanese restaurant and a deli.

There is also a Sheraton Club Lounge for club level guests and SPG Platinum members where you can enjoy complimentary breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres and a variety of beverage options all with a lovely view from the 18th floor.

As it is a business hotel, it has ample amenities for meetings and conferences. There were several conferences going on whilst we were staying there.

The hotel has a swimming pool and fitness amenities as well, in case you fancy keeping fit whilst staying in Mexico City.
The room service choices are excellent and I treated myself to pancakes one morning, with a nice steaming hot cup of coffee, and some freshly squeezed orange juice.
img_3197
On my last day I also ordered in Pizza, as I was working hard from my room, catching up on emails and blog posts and it was so delicious! Room service is available 24/7 and is really quick.
img_9930
Needless to say I couldn’t resist the comfort of the bed and ended up working from it eventually!
img_3198
If you are planning on  visiting Mexico City, this hotel is just perfect in terms of location, the rooms, amenities and service. It is also in a safe neighbourhood, and at no point did I feel concerned about my safety.
My room was complimentary as I was staying at the hotel as part of a press trip, however, rates start from USD 98 a night.
To read more about my time in Mexico City, click here.

Things that surprised me and which I loved about Mexico City – You have to #Liveittobelieveit

When I was invited on a Press trip to Mexico City I was intrigued and also very excited about what it would be like. I had visited Cancun and its beautiful beaches before, which was very different to the capital city.

Everyone I spoke to prior to leaving for the trip shared their concerns about safety, crime and corruption and warned me to reconsider or if I was still going ahead, to be careful not to be kidnapped or to not get myself embroiled in a drug case.

Therefore I wanted to share my personal experience of Mexico City with you in the hope that I can clear up any pre-conceptions of it that there may be.

I did travel to Mexico City by myself, which was a major thing for me, especially as my knowledge of Spanish extends to Hola and Gracias (thank you Geri for being the best translator) and given the chance, I would go back in a heartbeat. My opinion is that the media makes it seem worse than it actually is.

The Stereotype of Mexico City vs Reality

When I arrived in Mexico City, the first thing that struck me was how lovely the people were, how clean and modern the city was and how it was just like any other city in the world. It is massive and is the one of the biggest cities in the world as well as the biggest in Latin America.


Just like any other city, as long as you stay sensible and in the safe areas, and in groups, you will be absolutely fine. At no point during my stay did I feel scared or unsafe! In fact I wished I had more time to explore as it was such a massive city with so much to see and do.

A city made for Instagram

In Mexico, you are allowed to paint your house any colour you want so it was a very colourful and bright city! I loved how all the different neighbourhoods were just made for Instagram, and enjoyed the pop of colour and vibrancy everywhere.

img_9424img_9423

I certainly enjoyed snapping away and observing all the different house types in their different shades.

So much Culture

Mexico City has the most museums in the world with more being added. We visited the Tequila museum, as well as the Museo de Arte Popular, which was my favourite.

At the Tequila Museum, we had a tequila tasting, as well as learned all about the process to make Tequila, and the upcoming Mescal, as well as enjoyed a wonderful Mexican meal on our last evening. I have seen Tequila bottles with a worm inside, so imagine my shock at seeing a snake! Safe to say I was not brave enough to try this.

img_9952img_9947img_9948

At the Museo de Arte Popular, we looked at colourful artefacts, art, designs and it offered an alternative way of learning about Mexico during the different times.

img_8959img_8948

There are also art galleries, theatres and concert halls dotted across the city.

We watched a Folklore ballet show at Palacio de Bellas Artes (Bellas Artes Palace), which I highly recommend. We were captivated in the three hours of entertainment with all the different beautiful folk songs and dances, the colourful costumes and the mariachi music.

img_9211

Housed in the same building are many famous murals and paintings too, so a good place to visit for some culture and especially to see the art as it was just amazing.

img_9310

Ancient ruins – The Pyramids of the Sun and Moon

I love that there is so much history in Mexico, and last time I visited Cancun, I was fascinated by the Mayan ruins.

This time I was fortunate enough to visit the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon at the ancient pre-Columbian city of Teotihuacán, which was only an hour outside the city and well worth the visit.

img_9842img_9845

I mean, how incredible is it to say you have climbed the third biggest pyramid in the world!

img_9769

Even though climbing the pyramids highlighted how majorly unfit I was, when looking down from the taller of the two, having climbed 234 steps up the Pyramid of the Sun, all I can say was it was just epic. I did freak out when the guide said we still had to climb the Pyramid of the Moon but I was a happy trooper and tried my best!

It is so worth doing especially for the views as you get an amazing 360 degree view of the site and all the Mesoamerican pyramids. It is just breathtaking and it makes you ponder and marvel at the hindsight and intelligence of the early settlers in Mexico!

img_9745

Calm within the Chaos at Xochimilco

Mexico City, with its hustle and bustle is a pretty chaotic city. It was so surreal to find an oasis of calm at the ‘Venice of Mexico City’, known as Xochimilco.

img_0043img_0351

You can hire a Trajinera and go along the canals, whilst eating delicious food, and taking in the beautiful surroundings.

I have dedicated a full blog post to Xochimilco, which you can read here.

The Food Scene

The food scene in Mexico is so special that UNESCO even recognized this in 2010 and named Mexican Cuisine a “World Heritage.” I feel so fortunate to have tried Mexican Cuisine during my press trip to Mexico City and it opened up my eyes about how different it was to the stereotypical Tex Mex vision of it.

img_9564-1img_9633

The food was always beautifully presented, cooked with the freshest of ingredients and I definitely fell in love with it.

We were lucky to try several restaurants which are featured on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, which you can read about here.

img_0012img_9360

I was also happy to have had a go at learning how to make Tamales myself at Casa Jacaranda, after a wonderful food tour at a local market – an experience I highly recommend and you can read about here.

Edible Insects

Yes. A subtitle I never imagined I would have in a blog post but hey! Life is short and you got to try everything once. Thanks to Geri, I was brave enough to try two types of insects at two restaurants on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. I know insects are probably not a priority ingredient when flicking through a restaurant menu, but in pre-Hispanic times, they were considered a valuable source of protein and still feature highly on many menus today.

Grasshoppers – Chapulines

At Azul Historico, Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita’s (who is considered as one of the pioneers of Mexican cuisine) third restaurant and one of the first high end restaurants that opened at the Centro Historico district, we tried Guacamole topped with Chapulines.

img_9514

If no one pointed out that they were Grasshoppers I wouldn’t have even known as they added a nice umami flavour to the dish. They tasted perfectly edible and I would eat this again!

Ant Larvae – Escamoles

At Quintonil, which was my absolute favourite of all the restaurants we dined at in Mexico City, I tried Ant Larvae, known as Escamoles. The restaurant itself is a must visit and the chef, Jorge Vallejo and his wife Alejandra Flores, source lots of the ingredients from their garden.

img_0440

Chef Vallejo cooks the Escamoles in garlic and butter, and serves it alongside charred, whipped avocad0. This is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes and after plucking the courage to try it, I can say it was delicious and not slimy, creepy or weird at all! The larvae is so small and not easily identifiable in the dish which is a really good thing!

I really hope that more people visit Mexico City, as it is a truly incredible city and you have to #Liveittobelieveit

My trip to Mexico City was complimentary but all views and photos are my own.

 

A Trajinera ride in the canals of Xochimilco, Mexico City

 If you are visiting Mexico City, or even live there, a fantastic excursion to do during the day is to visit the historic canals of Xochimilco, pronounced (So-Chee-Mil-Co), and known as the Venice of Mexico.

img_0043

The name Xochimilco means “garden of flowers” and is truly a very apt name. It is one of few places where historical Mexican culture, which dates back to the Aztec times, and agricultural practice which was in place centuries ago are still in force and use today. Back in the Aztec times, floating gardens, called Chinampas, were built on the surface waters of Lake Xochimilco. Cane was used for the exterior structure, and mud from the bed of the lake was filled inside the containers and anchored in place using trees. This was such a fantastic use of resources available at the time and the intelligence and foresight of adapting to harsh environments is really impressive. It remains a very sustainable and productive source of over 70 varieties of fruits and vegetables even today and it is still so successful that in 1987, UNESCO even named it a world heritage site.

There are actually three Xochimilcos. The first is the touristy Xochimilco in the area of Nativitas, which is full of colourful Trajineras (wooden boats). While you relax on the boat, you are serenaded by musicians and have a variety of food and drink vendors to purchase from. It is a very fun activity as well as an important source of ecological tourism.

The second type is a productive Xochimilco, in the area of San Gregorio, which is slightly more harmful to the ecological environment. This is where flowers sold in the markets in Mexico City are grown, however the methods used have evolved into industrial methods and sadly artificial fertilizers and pesticides are in use here.

The third Xochimilco is where we took a leisurely ride on a colourful Trajinera through the gorgeous canals in Cuemanco, whilst taking in the beautiful surroundings. The owner of De La Chinampa, Ricardo Rodriguez, was on the boat with us and he told us all about the Chinampas. We started our journey from the Cuemanco docks and our tour lasted around 3 and a half hours.

img_9566

It was hard to believe that this tranquil, idyllic place was part of Mexico City, as it was so far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. This part, where lots of produce is grown, doesn’t use any artificial fertilizers or pesticides at all and everything grown here is purely organic, from soil to table.

img_9617

We were treated to a delicious variety of food whilst on our Trajinera ride, which included Tamales, salad, cheese, tortilla chips and freshly made guacamole, using the produce from the Chinampas, as well as sipped on cafe de olla, which is traditional Mexican coffee served in earthen clay pots. If anyone knows where I can buy these clay pots please let me know as dashing for my flight on my last day meant I didn’t get a chance to shop!

img_0040img_0041img_0042

Some of the chefs from Mexico City’s restaurants featured in the Latin America’s Top 50 restaurants, list including Pujol, , purchase their produce from Xochimilco, as well as locals who are health conscious and into organic produce.

We soon made a stop to have a look at one of the Chinampas, where a farmer was plucking organic radishes from the vibrant green grounds. It was fascinating to see the farmland and the colour and richness of the soil.

img_9610

img_9606img_9608

The rustic, earthy feel and the look of the produce was enough for me to resort to purchasing organic produce when I got back to the UK. What is even more amazing is that they run an e-commerce type service where you can actually order the produce online and have it delivered.

img_9711img_9705img_9700img_9609

Fresh organic vegetables make a world of difference in taste and are so much healthier than non-organic vegetables. In Kenya, where I grew up, we are used to having a supply of fresh organic, and also sometimes wonky, vegetables available. I am so glad that wonky vegetables are being used more and more and not wasted in favour of perfect looking vegetables. At the end of the day they all taste exactly the same and once chopped up, you would not even know what it originally looked like!

A great deal of work is being done to preserve and ensure the ecological restoration of the Chinampas through selling the organic produce through e-commerce, the ecological tourism side, as well as raising awareness of the produce available and the Chinampas themselves.

As the generation who currently work in the Chinampas are predominantly slightly older, there is a threat that the younger generations will choose jobs in the city in favour of working on the Chinampas. Hopefully by raising awareness, as well as an increase in the demand for organic produce, this dynamic will change in the future.

It is truly a beautiful place within Mexico City – a real gem and I whole heartedly feel blessed to have been able to visit it. If you are visiting Mexico City, this, or the touristy Trajinera ride, is definitely a fantastic activity to do, and one which is slightly different in terms of excursions available in the city.

img_9616img_9570

img_0351

For more information or to book a tour, email to: ricardo[at]delachinampa.mx or go to http://delachinampa.mx/nuevaImagen/

My tour was courtesy of Mexican Tourism Board, however all views and photos are my own.