February 24 Puebla City Tour

I went with Artur on the local HoHo which they call Turibus here and it was good. I hadn't been out of the Old Town since I got to Puebla.

I'm a little worried about my ability to keep up with all this and then losing all my motivation to name things...and I really like it when my pictures have names! (OK, here's my free Saturday and I'm going to try to name things!)
A view of one side of the Zócolo. The Cathedral is on the opposite side.
Another street just off the Zócolo. I'm crazy for this Old Town.
La Compania Templo del Espiritu Santo.
Looking back to the Cathedral. You can also see some reinforcements on a building in the foreground. There are a few others like this waiting for an earthquake retrofit.
There are plenty of murals around but not so much inside the Old Town, probably to maintain the UNESCO World Heritage certification...
...but they're good!

You can easily tell when you're inside the historic center because they have installed lovely historic lighting throughout and have put the electrical and telephone wires underground. It makes for a great look.
Outside the historic district here ... searching for the name. Anyone know the name?
Anyone know the name of this one?
I thought we were going to see the famouse forts here, Fuerte de Loreto and Fuerte de Guadalupe, but we'd have had to get off the bus to see them.

This area also has many museums including the Museo de la Evolución, Museo Imagina, Museo de Historia, and the Planetario. There's a short Teleférico (funicular) ride up here too.
One of the many craft fair streets in Puebla.
Commercial and residential buildings along the streets of the old town are so beautifully decorated and maintained.
These guys top the posts of the fence that surrounds the Cathedral as we return to the Zócolo to end our most pleasant Turibus ride around town.
February 25 Mariposa Migration and Valle de Bravo

Piedra Herrada Sanctuary, a tour to Mariposa Monarca Y Valle de Bravo involved getting up at 2AM for a 3AM departure. Yes, I did that and it was worth it!

Google translated from the brochure: "Live this natural spectacle visiting the largest sanctuary in Mexico, breathe while enjoying nature and live with this insect so peculiar, one of the great attractions of our Mexico. Then meet one of the most picturesque Magical Towns 'Valle de Bravo' and tour its lake and its streets."
We arrived at the kickoff site around 7:30, on the early side. We were about the 3rd bus in the lot and by the time we left there were 30.
This is one of four outdoor kitchens...
...serving amazing food, each kitchen having it's own offerings. Those barrels have wood burning inside and the smells were intoxicating. The clay jugs were bubbling up some delicious coffee.
You can get a horse for a ride about halfway up and a similar halfway down but there is still a very steep and strenuous climb up into the forest and down again.
Here come some butterflies.
We were one of the first buses to arrive but our tour operator allocated almost two hours for breakfast so by the time we kicked off to see the butterflies...
...the path was nose to tail with people. Children, abuelas, and women in heels made the trek so it was definitely doable, but a challenge for me nonetheless. Thanks to Artur for all his helping hands!
Here's a sandwich of two pictures, but it really did look just like this!
The warmer and sunnier it is the more the butterflies are out and about.
A trail guide.
Try to find the large clumps of brown hanging from the trees.
Here they are closer up, and the inset is closer still - they are made up entirely of butterflies! On a cool sunless day they all stay huddled like that and it is an unfortunate disappointment to the tourists when that happens.
We had a lucky day!
So many.
Back to the bus for the 40 minute ride to Valle de Bravo, a sweet little town on the banks of the large and handsome Lake Avándaro.
We had to try the local Michelada, which is made with beer, clamato juice, hot sauce, chili and salt on the rim, followed by a unique addition of a sweet, spicy, sticky syrup poured around the rim that then runs down the side of the glass.

It wasn't bad, and it certainly was interesting.

(several of these pictures are from Artur and I forget which but these two for sure)
Corn, one of my favorite street foods.
There's the lake and Artur...
...and we went buzzing off to try to catch one of the many boat rides on offer, but no, one by one we found them to be sold out.
So we decided let's rent 30 minutes on one of the speedboats which was a gas.
And then, why not, tequila! We went to the third floor of the building on the far right and drank shots (shots in the very plural!) of tequila. Wow, I haven't done that for a while!

Then off to the bus for the four hour ride back to Puebla.
February 28 Cholula and surrounds

The school includes two field trips in the price and this is the first, an afternoon outing to Cholula and surrounds.

Here's the Templo de San Francisco Acatepec, a total gasper both...
...and in. Every surface is covered with plenty of gold gold gold...
...and details like crazy.
Looking back into the compound.
Then we went on to the next amazement, the Iglesia de Tonantzintla, simple on the outside and...
...could it even be possible? even MORE ornate than San Francisco. This church has a particularly interesting history because when the Catholics came to convert this area they quite openly merged the local religious practices with the saints and stories of Christianity which is vividly displayed here.

Wow, it is aMAYzing in there. No pictures allowed inside so I took the overview and the inset off the internet because somebody out there didn't follow the rules.

The reason for coming out this way - the Great Pyramid at Cholula. Here's a little tidbit I got off wiki: "The Great Pyramid was an important religious and mythical center in pre-hispanic times. Over a period of a thousand years prior to the Spanish Conquest, consecutive construction phases gradually built up the bulk of the pyramid until it became the largest in Mexico by volume."

There was a model and a pretty interesting museum...
...and a walk through the tunnels that make it possible to see the various levels that were covered by each successive overlaying pyramid.

It's a 20 pager on Wikipedia so go for it.
Of course The Church had to build a church on top, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Church of Our Lady of Remedies). It was possible to walk up there and several of my classmates did. I didn't.
So long Cholula, it's been great.
March 4 Teotihuacan/Mexico City

The school sponsored a trip to Mexico City for a visit to Teotihuacan, "at its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the 1st millennium AD, the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population estimated at 125,000 or more, making it at least the sixth largest city in the world during its epoch."

Photo of the site from 1905.

In the parking lot!

From wiki: "The Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers), or Palo Volador (flying pole), is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony/ritual still performed today, albeit in modified form, in isolated pockets in Mexico."
The Wikipedia article tells many origin stories including that it was a prayer for rain, that they were birds reenacting creation, that the gods said "Dance, and we shall observe" and there might be others - the Church during the conquest did its best to eliminate any rituals from the past and the stories that went with them.

Now they fly in the parking lot for tips from the tourists.
In the foreground is the Pyramid of the Sun and in the distance, the Pyramid of the Moon.
A detail of...
...this place. Very cool especially considering the view from 1905.
Another shot of the whole scene from a different location...
...and another detail!
The guides and local people say this is 99% original but hmmm considering the photo from 1905, although it is possible the restorations might have been done with original material.
A view of the surrounding mountains.
One of the many platforms that edge the Walk of the Dead.
Our guide for this trip was Gustavo who also runs the guide program at the school. He is a total cutie and speaks very carefully, slowly, using words we might actually know.
A model of what is revealed of the ancient city.
We then drove into Mexico City and the bus dropped us off for a several bocks walk to the Plaza Central.

I was getting sick...and I'll talk about the smells of perfume and cleaning supplies later. I absolutely and gratefully cannot complain about smoke. Sure there was some smoke but smokers were very unexpectedly few and far between.

I did stop at a pharmacy along the way here for some antihistamines.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven (Spanish: Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos) is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico. Construction began in 1573 and it's been the heart of the church in Mexico ever since.
I'm enjoying using these old pictures.

So old...so many stories..."Over much of the 17th century, the Plaza became overrun with market stalls. After a mob burned the Viceregal Palace in the 1692, depicted in the famous 1696 painting by Cristóbal de Villalpando, authorities attempted to completely clear the Plaza."

We now each had a choice to visit a castle or The National Museum of Anthropology. I had already been to the Museum of Anthropology but I was so tired, so very tired, and that head cold was coming on strong so I decided to choose the museum.

It is an enormous amazing world class place well worth a second visit.

I took one picture. A picture of the death game.
There was a band and a dance troop in the plaza area doing a presentation...
...that was especially fun to watch. Then back to the bus, back to the school, and back home around 10pm.
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