One Day Road Trip

Yesterday, we went on a one day road trip with our friends Steffanie and Teresa, and their friend (and our new friend) Vanessa. Steffanie and Teresa rented a car and we decided to head to see the Popocatépetl and Itzaccihuatl volcanoes and then the Great Pyramid of Cholula.  

Itzaccihauatl (which is dormant) and Popocatépetl, Popo for short, (which is not) are outside a town called Atlixco, which is about 3 hours outside of Mexico City. Well, more like an hour and a half outside of Mexico City, but it takes about an hour and a half just to get to the edge of the city. So all in, a three-hour trip.

We arrived at Atlixco at about 11:30 and quickly decided that it was time to eat. Vanessa found us a great place called Paraiso Palmira. We ordered a late breakfast/early lunch and enjoyed the lovely view of the restaurant grounds. After breakfast, we headed into the center of Atlixco, which has a cute little downtown and we wandered around the main square. Just outside of the center of town there is a large hill (500 feet or so high) and on top of the hill the Spanish quite generously built a very small yellow church that has great views of the volcanoes. Our first inclination was to walk up the hill, but then we remembered that it was in the mid-90s, it is a pretty steep climb and you can drive most of the way up. Steffanie guided the car over the single lane, cobblestone, switchback-laden road. Once we reached the end of the road (literally), we parked and walked the rest of the way up. It was a fairly easy climb with a combination of ramps and even stairs. The view from the top was pretty incredible. Popocatépetl’s last significant eruption was in 2000, but there was some minor “activity” last night.

After Atlixco, we headed to a Cholula, where somewhat surprisingly they do not make Cholula brand hot sauce. The city is home to the ruins of the largest pyramid in the world by volume (there is a great model of the site if you follow the link). We (and by we I mean Teresa) drove us into the city and we were very surprised by both the size of the city and the fact that the archaeological site was right in the center of it. The Spanish quite kindly built another yellow church on the top of the pyramid, perhaps on the assumption that putting a church on top of someone else’s sacred ground makes the church itself more sacred. The temple-pyramid complex was built in four stages, starting from the 3rd century BCE through the 9th century CE, and was dedicated to the deity Quetzalcoatl. We wandered through the ruins, which had very complete and interesting explanations. One of the things that made it so interesting was that you could see inside the buildings. At Teotihuacán, the pyramids have been restored, and so while you can see inside many of the living quarters, you cannot see what was inside the pyramids. 

It was now late afternoon, and we decided that given the temperature (still mid 90s), the fact that we had been out in the sun most of the day and the sun was over the yardarm, it was clearly time to find a place for a nice beer. We walked back into town and settled into a place called Calfie’s Brewing Company (sorry it is a Facebook link). We relaxed, cooled down, had a beer and discussed the next important activity. Dinner. We decided that it was too early to eat, so we headed back to the car to drive back to Mexico City and have dinner there.

Steffanie, once again, did the heavy lifting of driving back to and in Mexico City. If we have not mentioned driving here before, the easiest way to describe it is bumper cars, driven by the blind on roads that go from 2 unmarked lanes to 6 unmarked lanes, back to 2 unmarked lanes in any given 500 meter stretch and just to make it more interesting, the signs align to neither the roads nor to Google Maps’ description of the roads. Add to that, there is no required driving test to drive a car and EVERYONE in Mexico City believes that they need to be driving somewhere at every moment of every day. Yes, it is easy and low stress.  

We had decided that we would try an Indian restaurant for dinner. We arrived at about 9 p.m. and quickly order way too much food.  In full disclosure I ordered a whole bunch of food and then asked what else anyone else wanted, Sue is used to my ordering technique, but everyone else was a little surprised. The food was at best mediocre, but it was still a fun meal and we closed the place down around 10:30. We were all exhausted by this time so we said good night and went our separate ways.

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