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Listen in, listen Ian!

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[Feb. 22nd, 2009|11:47 pm]
Listen in, listen Ian!
I booked a week off work in June to go on holiday somewhere. I can't decide where though. Possibilities:

New York - I've been there before, barely scratched the surface, love it loads and could easily spend another week there.

Spain - I've been to Barcelona and environs loads of times, but nowhere else in Spain. I'd like to go to Madrid, and historic places like Toledo and Granada.

Italy - I say every year that I'm going to go to Rome and Pompeii, and every year I end up not doing. I may end up keeping that tradition up.

Those are the three basic ones, but I had an exciting new idea from nowhere the other day: Mexico City! The biggest city in the world! I've briefly investigated and it looks doable - anyone been there, what's it like?

Or should I go somewhere else?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: monkeyssk8
2009-02-23 12:44 am (UTC)
Mexico is really dangerous right now - I couldn't get one of my family's mexican friends to go over there because of kindnappings and random killings... so maybe costa rica or cuba instead?
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[User Picture]From: ruudboy
2009-02-23 08:36 pm (UTC)
Costa Rica would be a possibility, but the flight is nearly 3 times as much(1600ish) as Mexico(600ish). Also, I laugh in the face of danger, didn't you know that?
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[User Picture]From: eyekiller
2009-02-25 09:34 am (UTC)
Don't go to Costa Rica for just a week, it's a huge waste. But you can get flights for £500 not £1600.
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[User Picture]From: glynnis
2009-02-23 03:38 am (UTC)
Like someone else said, Mexico is very dangerous right now. Most of the violence seems concentrated on the border because of drug-trafficking, but still. My boss went to Mexico City recently and he said parts of it are very beautiful, but everything is late and the air pollution is pretty bad.
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[User Picture]From: ruudboy
2009-02-23 08:36 pm (UTC)
Meh, danger schmanger, it's a big city!
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-02-23 06:57 am (UTC)
毎日おうちにいるルイスに毎日3回も食事をつくってあげるのは忙しいけど、やっぱり楽しい。
なんというか、すべてが日常アートの一部。つまりinstallation.
babyも泣き出したりするし、たいへんだと思うけど、みんなは経験していることだしね。
子育ても私たちの世界観やアート作品だと思う。

とっても素敵だと思う。ルイスだいすき。

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[User Picture]From: nja
2009-02-23 08:23 am (UTC)
Looks like it's Japan for you, then.

I don't know how accurate all the "Mexico's fucked" news stories are (I remember reading that during the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland it was safer than the rest of the UK and Ireland as long as you weren't a paramilitary or a police officer or similar), and if they are true that's very sad. I haven't done a lot of international travel, and my trip to Mexico was a week flying round university recruitment fairs, but I really enjoyed the few days I had in Mexico City (I also went to Guadalajara and Monterrey but barely saw anything of them). It's very high up so the air is noticeably thin, and it was very hot when I was there which I think was around this time of year. The national museum of anthropology was stunning, as were the pyramids at Teotihuacan (a white-knuckle minibus drive out of Mexico City), and we also did a bus tour of the city which was interesting even though I found out later that most of what the guide told us was grossly exaggerated. I have friends who did a more leisurely trip around the country a few years previously (taking buses between towns, finding little hotels when they got to places), and they loved the country too. So provided you don't get kidnapped by drug gangs and killed, I think it's a great place to go for a holiday.
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[User Picture]From: ruudboy
2009-02-23 08:33 pm (UTC)
Ta for that. I'll try and avoid any drug gangs.
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[User Picture]From: pookalso
2009-02-23 08:16 am (UTC)
I would leave Mexico for a while, unless you are into very realistic adventure holidays.

Pompeii and Herculaneum are both very good and can be reached from anywhere on the Naples-Sorrento trainline, giving lots of seaside places to stay (albeit seaside from up a cliff with private/paid for beaches). The train fare is very cheap, it runs lots and is mostly on time.

Don't stay in Naples though, but a day trip might be worth it (don't take anything with you that you don't mind having nicked.)

I have not been to Toledo, Granada or Madrid for ~20 years, but they were great then, no idea about now. Plenty to see though.

Some pictures here for Italy:

Rome: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pookalso/sets/72157608201880038/
Sorrento: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pookalso/sets/72157605337041329/
Herculaneum: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pookalso/sets/72157605335481497/
Pompeii: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pookalso/sets/72157605323600992/
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[User Picture]From: pookee
2009-02-23 08:52 am (UTC)
I'm with Sam on this one (unsurprisingly). Don't put Rome or Pompeii off any longer, they are must-sees! (Actually Herculaneum is loads better than Pompeii, but you should do both if you can. And Vesuvius).
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[User Picture]From: ruudboy
2009-02-23 08:32 pm (UTC)
I'll most likely do it later in the year - I suspect June in South Italy would be unbearably hot to be walking round Pompeii all day. And yes, I would include Herculaneum/Vesuvius in Pompeii.
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[User Picture]From: pookee
2009-02-24 05:17 pm (UTC)
You're right, Italy in June is pretty hot. Mind you, we went in May last year and we got an awful lot of rain!
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[User Picture]From: caramel_betty
2009-02-23 08:57 am (UTC)
I've been vaguely thinking about Spain. A day or two in Gibraltar appeals for some reason - perhaps I want to see Daily Mail Island Peninsula in action for real.
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[User Picture]From: eyekiller
2009-02-23 08:58 am (UTC)
Mexico City sounds like a nightmare. Elsewhere maybe but not there.

Do the Italy thing.

Or Cuba, you'd probably like Havana.
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[User Picture]From: ruudboy
2009-02-23 08:31 pm (UTC)
Can you do Cuba independently, or do you have to go on an organised tour?
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[User Picture]From: eyekiller
2009-02-25 09:27 am (UTC)
I shall ask Cathy who lived there.
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[User Picture]From: eyekiller
2009-02-23 09:47 am (UTC)
Yes actually go to Cuba. You can snorkel and see excellent fish, you can go to Havana, and you can go snorkeling in a nice cave, and you can go to the Viñales valley.

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[User Picture]From: nja
2009-02-23 10:11 am (UTC)
Is there snorkeling in the Viñales valley?
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[User Picture]From: eyekiller
2009-02-23 10:14 am (UTC)
Dunno. It looks so nice though
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viñales_Valley

I wanted to go there and didn't make it. Boo.
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[User Picture]From: bonyandidle
2009-02-23 11:34 am (UTC)
Although I've been to Mexico, I didn't spend much time in Mexico City; what time I did spend there I was mainly being driven around by locals (voluntarily). Sprawling doesn't even begin to describe it. I visited somebody in the suburbs whose house had actually been outside Mexico City until a few years earlier, and was now well within it. I think you have to keep your wits about you; stick to official taxis from official ranks etc. Some knowledge of Spanish would definitely be very helpful.

You can get some really swanky coaches around the country (ETN, La Línea Más Cómoda!); there were some superb mullets on display in the bus station at 3am when I was on my way to Michoacan. Generally, I loved Mexico, and people seemed to be particularly warm to Europeans, but this was in 2001 and I hear there's a lot more unrest there at the moment.
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-02-23 12:04 pm (UTC)
I drink ruibos tea everyday.
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[User Picture]From: argyraspid
2009-02-23 05:56 pm (UTC)
The danger in Mexico is overstated. Mexico is in the middle of a crime wave, but it's heavily connected with drug gang wars, and mostly applies to the US border and a few other distant locations. There's minimal or no trouble to the general populace or tourists.

I went there last year, including about a week in Mexico city. Yes, it isn't safe down dark alleys and in dodgy parts, but that's true of every city on the planet, and those are not areas tourists tend to (should?) go. There are apparently a few corrupt policemen or police impersonators who may try to extort money, but it's rare generally and even less likely in tourist areas. Generally it's the same common sense you need for anywhere. The big rule of Mexico City you need to know for safety is NEVER flag a taxi off the streets - phone for one if you need it. The Metro is pretty good though, covers most places you'll want to go.

Not that many locals speak English, although most tourist location and hotel staff have workable knowledge. If you don't speak Spanish, Americans usually do and from our experience tended to be very helpful. Many tours can be booked, but they can squeeze your time at the main attraction to little above the minimum you might want, instead driving you to vastly overpriced craft shops and restaurants which they have deals with. On the other hand, there's no other easy way to get to out of town places. You don't need to book in advance, any halfway decent hotel should be able to arrange one for the next day.

Ultimately Mexico City is a developing world city, so it tends to be dirtier, more run down and polluted. It's high up so the air is a bit thin, but you might not even notice (I didn't generally, although maybe alcohol hits you faster). However, there's a lot of beautiful stuff there, you could comfortably fill a week, taking your time, maybe 4 days if you rush it. The Museum of Anthropology is a must. I'd recommend a trip to at least one of the local sites outside the city such as Teotihuacan or Tula. Plenty more to do - decent art museums if you're into them. The Zocalo is an impressive plaza, the cathedral and the ruins of the Aztec Templo Mayor are nearby. Cathedral isn't the most exciting... Could try going to Xochimilco for a punting trip (spend a few hours, great to relax), but it's best at weekend and you'd probably want to go as part of a group. Museums are art galleries are plentiful, most charge a small sum (about £2.50) for non-Mexicans. You could go see some of the local football teams if you're into sport, or the Lucha Libre wrestling. Checking out some of the cultural art is great - typically they involve lots of bright colours, and a love of skulls. The Metro can get you pretty much anywhere you'll probably want to go, just about the only place you won't be in easy walking distance from the nearest stop are the Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky houses, both of which are ultimately missable.

You probably want to stay around Condesa region, which is the pub & club area. You can stay around the Zocalo, but it's pretty dead at night.
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[User Picture]From: ruudboy
2009-02-23 08:28 pm (UTC)
Excellent stuff, thanks.

The danger in Mexico is overstated. Mexico is in the middle of a crime wave, but it's heavily connected with drug gang wars, and mostly applies to the US border and a few other distant locations. There's minimal or no trouble to the general populace or tourists.

I suspected as much. And anyway, all the naysayers made me want to go a bit more.

Yes, it isn't safe down dark alleys and in dodgy parts, but that's true of every city on the planet, and those are not areas tourists tend to (should?) go.

While I lnow what you mean, I'm pretty sure that's not the case in Tokyo (and probably other Japanese cities) - I felt safer there than I have anywhere else, and I'd have happily walked down the darkest back alley at 3 am.

You could go see some of the local football teams if you're into sport, or the Lucha Libre wrestling.

I'd probably go to see some baseball, and the wrestling's a possiblity.

You probably want to stay around Condesa region, which is the pub & club area. You can stay around the Zocalo, but it's pretty dead at night.

Ta, though to be honest when I'm on holiday at home I don't spend that much time in nightlife spots.
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[User Picture]From: argyraspid
2009-02-24 10:53 am (UTC)
Excellent. It'd be a real shame to be put off by the fear of crime as it's really not a problem, and there is so much to see there. Another quick hint if you want souvenirs of indigenous art & crafts - there's an official government-run arts & crafts shop where nothing is cheap, but everything is genuine and fairly priced. I'm not sure of the name offhand (Fonart?) but there's a large branch about 10mins walk west from the Palais de Bellas Artes. If you buy from stalls and many shops, it's easy to get ripped off.
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[User Picture]From: ruudboy
2009-02-23 08:22 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but what if it's not as good as I expect? This way I'll always have the idea of it!

Actually, I might go later in the year - I've heard the hot months aren't a good idea for Pompeii, as it basically involves standing outside for the whole day and lots of walking.
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[User Picture]From: pookee
2009-02-24 05:18 pm (UTC)
If you're doing the historic stuff, Italy never disappoints. September is a good month, not too hot but still mild and sunny.
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[User Picture]From: eyekiller
2009-02-25 03:27 pm (UTC)
I've just thought of another one - Vancouver Island! Go there!
Sea otters, bears, and killer whales all in one place. It's got to be the best place in the world maybe.
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[User Picture]From: morrissesque
2009-02-28 03:53 pm (UTC)

Mexico!

Exactly what argyraspid said.

Mexico City is ruddy bloody wonderful. It's beautiful, there is absolutely loads to do, the food is great and it's all very affordable. I can't recommend it enough.
I've been there many many times (including the last few years) and I've never felt intimidated (and I'm a 5ft 3 girl). On the other hand, a friend spontaneously managed to get her throat slit in Havana, so I think there are a lot of factors that go into what makes a place 'dangerous' or not. Some places in Mexico do sound a bit scary at the moment, but it's mostly drug related and the majority of the really bad stuff is in the northern border towns.

There are some shitty places in Mexico City, but then again it's one of the biggest cities in the world, and as a tourist there is no reason you'd need to go to the nasty places. Except Tepito, where there's a huge market on the edge of a supposedly dodgy area where you can buy anything from guns to exotic pets.
As long as you don't wear shorts, a bum bag and a camera round your neck when you're on the underground, or hail taxis, you're unlikely to have any trouble.

And like everyone else said, try not to associate with any of the drug cartels.

Also, it's possible to fly to Mexico City for under £400 if you're prepared to change in France. It's very easy to get to places around Mexico City too and the public transport is brilliant.

As for places to stay - even if you're not particularly bothered about nightlife, Condesa/Roma/Zona Rosa are a lovely cluster of neighbourhoods to the west of the city centre. Another good area is Centro Historico which is right in the city centre and close to Alameda Central/Zocalo/Palacio de Bellas Artes.
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