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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Needless to say I couldn’t resist the comfort of the bed and ended up working from it eventually!
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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A food market tour and learning how to make Corn Tamales at Casa Jacaranda, in Mexico City

One of the best ways to learn about the culture of a city, I find, is to immerse yourself in the food scene and I was lucky enough to be able to experience that during my press trip to Mexico City.

Thanks to Jorge and Beto from Casa Jacaranda, we first spent an early crisp morning exploring a local food market, called Mercado Medellin,which has over 500 stalls featuring specialties from all over Mexico and Latin America, where we saw various local produce and ingredients and also sampled a few different varieties.

Jorge explained what various popular ingredients were used for in Mexican cooking, and it was such an interesting tour around the market. He really enhanced the experience and it just would not have been the same if I had wandered around the market myself as I would not have stopped to appreciate the aspects he highlighted.

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Along the way he told us lovely stories about each part of the market and the different vendors. For example the gentleman pictured below, is Don Julio, and has manned his stall since 1968! Selling produce from the Yucatan province, he has some pretty awesome sauces in his stall, as well as lots of fresh chillies. How adorable is he 🙂

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We also had the opportunity to try Mexican chocolate, which was a real treat. I had never previously thought that Mexico was a producer of chocolate but you always learn new things.

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A very famous Ice Cream stall can be found in the market too and we had great pleasure trying a few different flavours. The owner of the stall is Eugenio Palmeiro Ríos, and he makes Cuban Ice Cream from real cream, fresh fruit and sugar. He doesn’t use artificial flavors or chemicals. The icd cream is so refreshing and delicious!

 

After the market, we stopped off at a local tortilleria, where the warm scent of toasted corn filled the air and the tortillas are made using the same ancient process as the Aztecs, and the same machinery. Nothing electronic here!

 

 

We simply ate them while they were hot with a little salt and oh my goodness were they delicious!

We then took a short walk through Colonia Roma and soon arrived at Casa Jacaranda, where we spent the rest of the day having a cookery class in Mexican food, as well as a cocktail masterclass.

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Casa Jacaranda is an early 19th Century home, which has been restored by Jorge and Beto. It is so gorgeous and the kind of house which would be a gem to find in an Air BnB search. It is also totally Instagram worthy.

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There is a stunning spacious cooking area in the house (pictured above), which is just fantastic.  We split into teams, and prepared dishes with very easy to follow recipes in our teams, and then all got together to eat the Mexican food we had made on the long black glossy table.

In my team we learned how to make Corn Tamales and had such fun doing it, from the mixing, blending and filling of the corn husks with the tamale mixture and then waiting for them to patiently steam.We had a great team too!

 

 

After cooking and then eating a fantastic meal, we ventured upstairs to the terrace of Casa Jacaranda, where we were treated to a fabulous cocktail masterclass  by Patrick Seppa.

Pictured below is the crafted Paloma cocktail, which is made from pink grapefruit juice, Altos Plata Tequila, lemon and agave syrup.

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We also had another delicious cocktail with Altos Tequila, which was equally as refreshing.

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The weather was stunning on the day s0 we had a great time relaxing on the terrace, right before we were due to attend the Latin America’s Top 50 Restaurant Awards.

The whole day was amazing, from the market to the cookery class, and just so much fun. Jorge and Beto are superb cooks and teach in such a engaging way and you learn real nuggets of information along the way, which you would never pick up in a book. This is such a great way to learn more about Mexican food and the culture in a unqiue way.

If you are travelling to Mexico City and are looking for something different to do, I can’t recommend this enough as a must do experience. I learned so much and this was one of my favourite days from my trip to Mexico City.

There are a variety of cooking classes available so there is bound to be one that suits everyone! The hosts are fantastic and you leave feeling like you have made friends for life.

For more information on Casa Jacaranda go here.

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Attending the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards in Mexico City

I have just returned from a week long press trip which was in the colourful, vibrant and fantastic Mexico City, where I was invited by the Mexican Tourism Board to experience the culture, food scene and also to attend the 2016 Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards ceremony, which was held in Mexico City’s Centro Cultural Roberto Cantoral on Monday 26 September 2016.

This was the fourth annual edition of the list, which is a subset of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, an important reference point for me whenever I am travelling abroad. When I first received the invite I was super excited and it has definitely been one of the most interesting and exciting events of the year!

The renowned World’s 50 Best Restaurants list is produced by the British magazine Restaurant and is based on a poll of  foodies which include international chefs, gourmands and restaurant critics. Most of the restaurants in the list have exceptional gastronomic twists and superb cuisine using unconventional and modern methods of cooking.

Our taster for the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants experience started on Sunday 25th September at the St Regis hotel, Mexico City, where we had a lovely brunch, filled with scrumptious Mexican food, desserts and ice cream, which was followed by the #50BestTalks on Latin Liquids.

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The 50 Best speakers, who were fascinating, included Leonor Espinosa from Leo in Bogotá, Enrique Olvera from Pujol in Mexico City, Kurt Schmidt and Chabi Cádiz from 99 in Santiago and Carlos García from Alto in Caracas. They talked about different drinks from their regions and it was a fantastic, interactive experience, whereby we got a chance to try various drinks and cocktails. My favourite was the Venezuelan Rum and Chocolate pairing.

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During my week in Mexico City, we also dined at several of the restaurants on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and some of these restaurants also feature in the Worlds 50 Best Restaurant List. My favourite from these was definitely Nicos, which had guacamole to die for, prepared at your table, along with scrumptious dishes and a family run vibe.

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The awards ceremony itself was a glitzy affair, starting with a drinks reception, featuring some of the sponsors, followed by the unveiling of the new list. I attended as part of the media, alongside bloggers, journalists, tastemakers and restaurant critics from around the world.


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Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016

Central, in Lima, Peru, was awarded the best restaurant in Latin America, and have retained their spot at the top for the third year running.

The full brand new list is as follows:

50 pure earth, Buenos Aires, Argentina
49 Andrés beef, Bogotá, Colombia
48 sweet homeland, Mexico City, Mexico
47 Tierra Colorada gastro, Asunción, Paraguay
46 la bourgogne, punta del este, Uruguay
45 tuju, São Paulo, Brazil
44 navel of the woods, Belém, Brazil
43 Osaka, Santiago, Chile
42 1884, Mendoza, Argentina
41 isolina, Lima, Peru
40 Harry Sasson, Bogotá, Colombia
39 heart of earth, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
38 Malabar, Lima, Peru
37 Nicos, Mexico City, Mexico
36 maito, Panama City, Panama
35 chila, Buenos Aires, Argentina
34 party, Lima, Peru
33 The Cabrera, Buenos Aires, Argentina
32 high in Caracas, Venezuela
31 Elena, Buenos Aires, Argentina
30 Rafael, Lima, Peru
29 criterion, Bogotá, Colombia
28 mocotó, São Paulo, Brazil (in the photo)
27 osso carnage and salumería, Lima, Peru
26 Aramburu, Buenos Aires, Argentina
25 Roberta Sudbrack, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
24 the house of the pig, São Paulo, Brazil
23 parador the footprint, José Ignacio, Uruguay
22 99, Santiago, Chile
21 Don Julio, Buenos Aires, Argentina
20 Ambrosia, Santiago, Chile
19 Pangaea, Monterrey, Mexico
18 lasai, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
17 Olympe, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
16 Leo, Bogotá, Colombia
15 Amaranta, Toluca, Mexico
14 gustu, La Paz, Bolivia (in the photo)
13 the learn some things, Buenos Aires, Argentina
12 the sea, Lima, Peru
11 South 777, Mexico City, Mexico
10 Biko Restaurante Bar, Mexico City, Mexico
9 Tegui, Buenos Aires, Argentina
8 Maní Manioca, São Paulo, Brazil
7 Astrid and Gaston, Lima, Peru
6 Quintonil, Mexico City, Mexico
5 Pujol, Mexico City, Mexico
4 Borago, Santiago, Chile
3 D.O.M., São Paulo, Brazil
2 Maido, Lima, Peru
1 Central, Lima, Peru

The whole experience in Mexico City, as well as the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards Ceremony awakened a desire for me to explore more of Latin America, particularly the food scene, so countries from this region now feature higher on my travel plans!

I am a strong believer that food and travel go hand in hand together and I have left Mexico City with a new love and appreciation for Mexican food, which is so different to the type of Mexican food we are exposed to abroad.

I tried things I would never try normally and I feel like I have learned so much! I now know how to make corn tamales too thanks to Casa Jacaranda in Mexico city.  If you are ever visiting, this is a foodie experience not to miss!

For more information on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, go to: http://www.theworlds50best.com/latinamerica/en/

Disclaimer: I was invited by the Mexican Tourism Board to visit Mexico and attend the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards. My trip was complimentary but all views and photos in this article are my own.

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I have some exciting travel plans to share….

Hola!

I have something super exciting to announce and share!

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I am flying to Mexico City (23 September) to attend the Latin America 50 Best Restaurants Awards Ceremony thanks to the Mexican Tourism Board, who have kindly invited me and are hosting me. I will be back in the UK next Friday 30th September.

The awards ceremony will announce the fourth annual list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016 on Monday 26th September at Centro Cultural Roberto Cantoral, which I absolutely can’t wait to attend and I stressed for weeks about finding a dress, which I have at last 🙂

The countries participating are Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guyana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

You can follow the live countdown on Twitter, join in the action on Facebook and Instagram and watch the livestream from 8:45pm Mexico City time. The time difference is 6 hours (Mexico City is 6 hours behind).

In preparation for the trip, I have been reading up lots on Mexico City in this massive book, by Lonely Planet, which is really good! It is my first time visiting the capital and I will of course have various blog posts about the trip on my return.

 

This is the second time I will be visiting Mexico, the first time being to Cancun in 2011 for a beach holiday. The beaches are amazing by the way 🙂

Here are some snaps from my previous trip to Cancun in 2011. You can read more about that trip here.

You can follow my trip on my Facebook page, Twitter @binnyjs and Instagram @binnys_kitchen (wifi dependent).

I have a fun and packed itinerary, organised by the Mexican Tourism Board, which includes dining at some of the restaurants on the top 50 list, which I am very excited about, sightseeing and even a tequila tasting!

My home for the week will be the Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel, and I will share some photos of the hotel too. If you have looked at my regularly stayed at hotel brands, you will know I am a die hard Starwood fan so am very happy about that.

This will be my first time travelling so far away (an 11 hour flight by myself) and staying alone so this is a major step for me going somewhere not knowing what to expect. I am very excited though and literally counting down!

Hope you enjoy all my updates and I look forward to sharing all my experiences in Mexico City with you.

Adiós!

Binny xx

PS: For anyone worrying, Mexico City has been declared Zika Free by the CDC, which was a major factor in me deciding to go 🙂