Within Mexico, the town of Cuernavaca, capital of the state of Morelos, is just about 50 miles due south from Mexico City on a four lane, limited access, toll, divided highway, but over the continental divide, going through a 10,000 foot high pass between a range of mountains including the classic, 18,000 foot, snow fringed, once smouldering, now quite active volcano Popocatepetl.
Cuernavaca is the site of many beautiful homes with lush gardens. It was the summer home to Aztec king Montezuma, to Spanish conqueror Cortez and to Austrian/French emperor Maximillian. It is not described as the "valley of perpetual spring" for nothing! Check out the weather there today.
Lunching at the fabulous restaurant, "Las Mañanitas", located near the heart of Cuernavaca is another one of those totally laid back experiences. The peacocks and African cranes need to be watched when you are having drinks in the garden, as they will eat your hors d'oevres; they love peanuts. Check to see what a journalist in Mexico City thought in 1996.
If you want to learn some Spanish, very useful in Mexico, you should check out one of the best schools for that in the world. It is called the the Spanish School at Uninter, and is in the north end of Cuernavaca, just a 45 minute walk from the zócalo, the downtown square.
This tropical beach resort, on the Pacific coast, in the state of Guerrero, is renowned for its totally rain-free winter weather. It is located due south of Mexico City (and of Cuernavaca), at the end of a newish 4 lane divided toll highway.
Acapulco has grown from the original small sheltered Caleta beach to the trendy, more open "Gold Coast" beaches on the horseshoe shaped, natural, Acapulco Bay, to the newest extension, the Diamond Coast beaches, open to the full unprotected power of the Pacific Ocean.
This latest area, so far, boasts only the spectacular Princess and the even more over the top Mayan Palace hotels, but the beach runs all the way past the airport, about 30 kilometers to Barra Vieja, promising years of new hotel building.
Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco, but also the second largest city in Mexico, with a population of about 5 million people. The old historic centre is quite something to behold and very pedestrian friendly. Not too far north of the city lies the town of Tequila, home of Jose Cuervo and Sauza, surrounded by acres of fields of the blue agave cactus that feeds the distilleries.
Oaxaca is the capital of the state of the same name. A group of us had all driven down to Oaxaca in two cars. Down on Friday, and back on Monday, soaking up local Oaxacan culture and Monte Alban ruins. It is much quieter there and cleaner, a provincial attitude in a Spanish colonial setting. Lots of gringos in the square, and living in the area. Local crafts include black pottery and hand woven rugs. Food specialties include hot chocolate drinks, black mole for chicken and mescal from the blue agave cactus that grows there.
The city of Puebla is also the capital of the state of the same name. Puebla is a very dirty, busy industrial city. Both the old VW beatle (only available in Mexico) and the new jazzy one (being bought in North America like hot cakes) are made in this city. In the central part of the city, near the old Spanish square (Zócalo), there are many, many churches, which look a little worn on the outside, but are still dramatically beautiful on the inside.
On the day before Christmas, 1997, Popo, Mexico's second highest volcano, 18,000 feet, the one we see from Cuernavaca, and which my brother has scaled twice, had a small eruption. This halted air traffic in Puebla, as they had to clear 17 tons of volcanic ash from the runways. Fortunately for us, the prevailing winds always dump Popo's ashes on Puebla, never on Cuernavaca
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel lies north of Mexico City, in the mountains in the state of Guanajuato. San Miguel is characterized by a very large number of gringos learning, teaching and practising the creation of handicrafts and fine arts. The climate is pleasant, the streets are cobblestoned and the shopping in the handicraft shops such as Casa de Milagros is fascinating. You don't need much Spanish in this town!
Tepoztlán is a Mexican village that has been continuously occupied since before the time of Christ. It is located in the state of Morelos, about 60 miles south of Mexico City and about 20 miles east of Cuernavaca. It has been studied intensely by anthropologist Robert Redfield in 1926 and by anthropologist Oscar Lewis in 1951. While most residents speak Spanish, there are still quite a few left who prefer to speak Nahuatl, a modern version of the original Aztec language of Montezuma. We like the village for two reasons, one, it has interesting crafts for sale in its markets and two, it provides a nice 45-60 minute climb up an incline of about 45 degrees to an old pyramid where the Aztec priests sacrificed virgins in the time of Montezuma. Recently, the village has added some very good restaurants.