Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Aids 2008 Conference in Mexico City: some advice for tourists.


About the Conference (text from the official site):

"AIDS 2008 will provide many opportunities for the presentation of important new scientific research and for productive, structured dialogue on the major challenges facing the global response to AIDS. Conference organizers are developing a wide variety of session types that meet the needs of various participants and support collective efforts to expand delivery of HIV prevention and treatment to communities worldwide. Central to many of these sessions will be the transfer of knowledge and sharing of best practices.

In addition to the conference sessions there are a number of activities, including satellite meetings, exhibitions, the Global Village and the Cultural Programme, that are integral to delegates’ experience at the conference.

The International AIDS Society is pleased to announce that the AIDS 2008 programme is accredited for 28 credits by the European Union of Medical Specialists-European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (UEMS-EACCME). The UEMS-EACCME, through an agreement with the American Medical Association (AMA), guarantees a transfer of CME credits for participants working and practicing in the United States.

As in accordance with their statutes, the UEMS-EACCME guarantees that all accredited CME activities at AIDS 2008 are of a high educational standard and that that they are free of all commercial or individual forms of bias. Delegates should claim credits only for sessions actually attended. A CME booth will be set up at the conference venue where certificates of CME credit can be obtained by medical professionals seeking them."

The news are that this year the AIDS 2008 Conference will be in Mexico City (3-8 of August 2008). As a Mexican I will like to share some safety advice and destinations with the tourists coming to Mexico City during the conference. Maybe the best approach for doing this is through an example; one of my blog's visitor emailed me asking for advice so I made a map with some places to visit and gave him some safety advice. Below is the map, click to enlarge:


For general security guidelines please visit one of my previous post. The example map is for tourists staying at the Fontana Hotel or any other hotel nearby (in the Av. Paseo de la Reforma vicinity). I painted some red dotted lines in the map, going beyond those limits will be a little dangerous, but if you stay at wide streets at daylight you will be ok. One of the most important advice is not to use regular taxis but "de sitio" taxis which are more expensive but safe. Arriving at the airport use only authorized transportation (buy tickets at international gate's exit) and ask hotel personal about these special taxis called "de sitio".

In the map, marked with numbers are:
  1. The Conference Venue, Centro Banamex, located at 311 of Conscripto Avenue.
  2. "La Condesa" district, there you will find many small restaurants and bars, gardens and some "Soho" like shops. At Mazatlan and Michoacan (and Nuevo Leon) streets you will find a bunch of bars and places to eat and a lot of night life. This district at daylight and until 10 pm is fairly safe.
  3. "Polanco" district is full of expensive shops (designer clothing and accesories), nice gardens, a lot of restaurants (expensive an inexpensive ones), and Masaryk Avenue is great for walking and visiting more exclusive and sofisticated places. Masaryk Avenue is quite safe at daylight and fairly safe at night.
  4. "Antara Polanco" Mall. Inside this Shopping Center you would find fine restaurants and a food court, a lot of different shops (Sony Shop, Armani, Sharper Image, Swarovsky, Body Shop, Zara, Berger jewlery, and more), a Cinema (movie theatres) and a electronic casino called "Playcity". Inside the mall you will be absolutely safe, stores close at 9 pm, but restaurants will be open till midnight.
  5. World Trade Center, Mexico, where you would find a Cinema, some small shops, some restaurants and few bars. This a very transited area and inside the WTC you would be very safe, an at nearby streets it is fairly safe.
  6. "Chapultepec" district. In this green area you would find the "Chapultepec Zoo", the Antropology Museum, a photographic exposition along Reforma Avenue (big images at the street with text insets about Mexico's History and Culture), the Chapultepec Castle, Botanical Garden, the Chapultepec Lake (and the "El Lago" restaurant). Nearby is the Hard Rock Cafe Mexico but I would recommend to visit this district at daylight and take good care of your camera and other belongings, visiting this area at night is not advisable.
Some general (and safety) advice:
  • At Reforma Avenue "Tourism Police" could be found, and could be identified by a white badge across their chest. They are supposed to speak English but I would not count on that one, however you could ask for help or information.
  • Avoid buying things at the street (these are illegal parlors) try to find a little stores like Seven Eleven, or the Mexican version called "OXXO" or "Super-K" if you need to buy some water, soft drinks, fast food or anything else.
  • Never count money at the street
  • Avoid "flashy" equipment or watches, keep your camera or video equipment in a bag and not hanging around your neck.
  • If you need to use the subway please research your route in advance, in order to have a safe trip avoid direct eye contact with people ( I know, sounds awful, but it works keeping you out of any trouble) or being noisy.
  • Never drink tap water, always drink bottled water.
  • Try to look confident and never look lost, you could ask for directions but don't tell people you are lost.
  • In general young wealthy (well dressed) people speak English and will be glad to help you, but if someone offers you to give you a lift wherever you are going maybe the best thing to do is to decline the offer politely; getting in to unknown people's car is always dangerous.
  • wash your hands frequently and before eating anything, try to carry a hand sanitizer.
Costs:
  • Authorized airport transportation to your hotel will cost between $20 to $30 dollars.
  • The one way trip in "sitio" taxi from your hotel to the Centro Banamex will cost between $4 and $ 6 dollars (regular taxis will cost between $3 to $5 dollars but are not as safe).
  • A complete meal will fluctuate between $6 to $20 dollars (or more, depending the type of restaurant, eat at the street at your own risk).
  • A 20 oz. Coca-Cola will cost about 70 cents.
  • A quart of bottled water about 50-80 cents.
  • A beer will cost between $2 and $ 4 dollars, other drinks are from $4 to $9 dollars
  • Marlboro or Camel cigarretttes (for smokers) will cost about $ 2.50 dollars.
  • A subway ticket is 20 cents of a dollar
During the time of the Conference we will be expecting a lot of tourism so I hope that police will be reinforced to protect everyone. Don't be scared or anxious about coming to Mexico City, it is a great place, full of culture and good people, I hope you enjoy your trip to my dear Country.

Don't forget to visit the Aids 2008 International Conference web page it is full of information about the conference and about Mexico.

For any doubt, or any feedback please leave a comment or send me an email.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tequila Exrpess: a train travel through time.


The spirit named Tequila is world known but not many people know the region were it is produced: Jalisco, Mexico. The name of the spirit actually came from the little town called Tequila in Jalisco, Mexico. The best way of knowing this region is by the tour called "Tequila Express". In this tour you will travel by train to the "Hacienda San José del Refugio" were Tequila is produced in the traditional way (since 1820). The train has 4 cars with a capacity of 68 tourists, all equiped with: AC, restrooms, music, security, medic service, English speaking guides and Live "Mariachi" music.

Itinerary:
  • 10:00 am - Check in
  • 10:15 am - A welcome with Mariachi
  • 10:30 am - Train boarding (at Guadalajara, Jalisco)
  • 12:45 pm - Arrival to Amatitán Station
  • 1:00 pm - Tour to Hacienda San José del Refugio in small groups, to the brewery (tequila tasting), to the museum of tequila brewing, presentation of a video explaining the tequila production process and a tour to the "Casa Grande" (big house).
  • 2:20 pm - Traditional food tasting buffet
  • 3:30 pm - Artistic variety: Mariachi, folkloric ballet, traditional singers, "charrería" tricks (like rodeo rope tricks) and open dance floor for everyone.
  • 5:30 pm - Trip to the Amatitán Station
  • 6:20 pm - Train boarding to Guadalajara, Jalisco.
  • 8:00 pm - Arrival at Guadaljara Station

Mariachi musicians


Traditional Tequila brewery


Folklore ballet


Hacienda San José del Refugio

Recommendations:

Wear comfortable cloths and shoes, have breakfast in advance, bring your camera and be at the Guadalajara Station (Washington Avenue and Independencia street) by 10:00 am with your tickets ready. Pets and weapons are not allowed in the train.

For more information visit: www.tequilaexpress.com.mx
(Phone number: 01800 5939720)

Tickets could be purchased at any Ticketmaster dealer in Mexico. If you are visiting Mexico City you could ask for information about a complete tour at this addresses:

Trenes y otros servicios S. de RL de CV
Praga 27, Col Juárez
México, D.F.
C.P. 06600,
Phone: (52 55) 52072258
Fax: (5255) 52077154

Cóndor Verde Travel
México Incoming Operador
Insurgente Sur 1833-4 with Juventino Rosas No 118
Colonia Guadalupe Inn. México, D.F.
Phone: 5255- 5663-3512, 5661 0925

Information in Guadalajara, Jalisco at:

Cámara Nacional de Comercio de Guadalajara, Delegación Centro Histórico
Morelos #395 altos with Colón street
Centro Histórico de Guadalajara
Phone: 0133-3614-3145 y 397

Costs (prices): about $90 dollars for each adult and about $ 50 dollars per child ( 6 to 11 years old), child under 5 years old without cost.

Hotels recommended at Guadalajara Jalisco:

Hotel Aranzazu Catedral serán atendidos por la Señorita Marisol Ribera
www.aranzazu.com.mx
mribera@aranzazu.com.mx
01800-9000900

Hotel Misión Carlton
Gerente de ventas, Señor Sergio Alarcón
www.hotelesmision.com
s_alarcón_j@hotmail.com
01800-9676400

Enjoy your trip.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Security guidelines for tourists visiting Mexico City


If you are planning to visit Mexico City maybe you have heard rumors or stories about Mexico being a dangerous travel destination. First of all Mexico City is one of the largest and most populated cities in the world so you may expect the inherent problems of a big city like New York for example. I have been a Mexico's City resident all my life so I believe I know one thing or another about keeping myself safe in the city, hence I will like to share some advice or safety guidelines to keep you safe during your visit to this great country:

- Arriving at the airport use only authorized taxis.

- Try not to look like a typical tourist: no matter the climate you would rarely see residents using shorts in the city, jeans and trousers are more common.

- watch your belongings at all times and try no to be too flashy about them, expensive equipment will be a big temptation for thieves. Place any camera or electronic equipment in a bag while not in use.

- walk on busy streets (not to busy though) in daylight and avoid walking in streets at night, if you have to, look for well-lit streets.

- Before exploring unknown zones of the city ask hotel personnel if those places are safe to visit.

- In daytime you may use hotel transportation or taxis parked outside the hotel, at night use private taxis called "de sitio", using regular taxis is not advisable for tourist. Public transportation like "MetroBus" and the subway ("Metro") are relatively safe during the day.

- On the streets never accept or pay for unrequested services. I sometimes call Mexico City the "gratuity land" because there are infinite unrequested services, like people in the street that will help you park and watch your car (suposedly), people thay will offer help carrying your shopping bags or luggage (very dangerous) or any type of service in exchange of money.

- when traveling by car, lock your doors and keep your windows closed.

- If you need to use a ATM machine or bank services try to use the ones inside shopping centers or Malls.

- If you want to party at night try to visit well known zones like "la Condesa", "Coyoacán", "San Angel", "Altavista", "San Jerónimo", "Insurgentes Sur", "Polanco" or "La Roma" and try not to drink to much.

- Never count money in the street, if you notice any strange situation or if someone is bothering you, just enter any store or shopping center and ask the shopkeeper for help.

- The best money exchange rate is at the airport or at international banks like HSBC.

- The best first approach for visiting important tourist sites is to use the "Turibus" (Touristic Bus) service.


I'll try to keep this post updated with new security advice. Soon I'll be posting about places to visit in Mexico City.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Arroz con leche: a clasic mexican dessert


"Arroz con leche" means rice with milk and it is a very common dessert in Mexico. It is easy to prepare and very inexpensive.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups of white rice (previously washed with fresh water)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 8 cups (2 quarts) of milk
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon (or grounded cinnamon)
  • raisins (optional)
Preparation:
  1. Put the milk to boil and add cinnamon sticks (or grounded, half a tablespoon), then add rice and stir constantly until the rice is soft, cook at high or medium heat, don't cover.
  2. Add sugar and keep stirring, cook on high until milk is reduced and rice could be seen on the surface.
  3. Put it on a serving plate, or in individual dessert plates and add some grounded cinnamon on top before serving (look the picture for suggested serving).
It will make 4 big servings and you could eat it warm or cold. I like it warm but all my family like it cold (try it both ways and decide which one you like it more) . It could be decorated with raisins on top or with a cinnamon stick.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site


This year UNESCO included San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in the World Heritage List. San Miguel is located in Guanajuato, Mexico, at 260 Km (about 162 miles) Northwest from Mexico City (between 3 to 4 hours by car or bus). GPS: 20°55′N 100°45′W / 20.917, -100.75. The municipality rests at 1,870 m (6,140 ft) above sea level and over an area of 1,537.19 km² (593.51 sq mi). According to the 2005 census, the municipality of Allende had a total of 139,297 inhabitants.

In the 1950s, San Miguel de Allende became a destination known for its beautiful colonial architecture and its thermal springs. After World War II San Miguel began to revive as a tourist attraction as many demobilized United States GIs discovered that their education grants stretched further in Mexico at the U.S.-accredited art schools, the privately-owned Instituto Allende, founded in 1950, and the Bellas Artes, a nationally chartered school.

American ex-servicemen first arrived in 1946 to study at the art school. By the end of 1947, Life magazine assigned a reporter and photographer to do an article on this post-war phenomenon. A three-page spread appeared in the January 5, 1948, edition under the headline “GI Paradise: Veterans go to Mexico to study art, live cheaply and have a good time.” This was possible when apartments rented for US$10 a month, servants cost US$8 a month, rum was 65 cents a quart and cigarettes cost 10 cents a pack.

As a result of the publicity, more than 6,000 American veterans immediately applied to study at the school. Stirling Dickinson thought that San Miguel, which then had a population of fewer than 10,000, could only handle another 100 veterans, bringing the student body to around 140.



La Parroquia, Church of St. Michael the Archangel


Local Camping Site in San Miguel:

This year I traveled to San Miguel and stayed at "La Siesta" hotel and RV Park, located at exit 82 to Celaya ( 20°54.005′N 100°45.12′W, phone number: (011-52) 415-152-0207). This campground provides facilities for tent camping, RV's and cabins. There are 60+ pitches that includes facilities such as: water connection, sewer connection and AC power connection, also in common areas you could find restrooms, showers, laundry, restaurant, swimming pool and some vending machines. There is no Wi-Fi but sometimes there are unlocked wireless networks that you can join to. Restrooms and Showers are cleaned twice a day so they are mostly clean. Pitches (or tent camping space) are $17 dollars for 2 persons , per night and hotel rooms are about $60 dollars per night. Dogs are allowed (restrictions apply), security available, very calmed and spacious place. Tourists staying at La Siesta are mostly Canadian and US citizens and behave respectfully and friendly.

La Siesta RV pitches

La Siesta swimming pool

For more information in english of San Miguel de Allende click here.

Chapultepec Zoo, Mexico City

This afternoon I went with my girlfriend to visit one of Mexico's City zoos named "Zoológico de Chapultepec" (Chapultepec means in Nahuatl "The hill of crickets"). It was constructed in 1923 by the biologist Alfonso L. Herrera. The Zoo had some good years between 1950 and 1960 but it became very popular since 1975 when China gave Mexico as a gift a pair of giant pandas. Since then 8 pandas were born in Mexico's Zoo, being the first zoo to successfully bred pandas in captivity outside of China. Between the years 1992 and 1994 the zoo was restructured as part of the project "Rescate ecológico del zoológico de Chapultepec" (Ecological rescue of Chapultepec Zoo). There are species from around the world and some local species (endemic species) like the Mexican wolf, Ajolote, Xolosquincle dog (hairless Mexican dog) and the Jaguar which is the zoo's logo.
The zoo has free admission, with about 5.5 million visits per year expect a lot of people, so getting a good spot for taking pictures is quite a task. There is a reptile section with a cost of $35 pesos (about $3.40 dollars) and the restrooms are clean but you have to pay $ 4 pesos (about 40 cents) to use them. Parking is nearly impossible but there is a subway station near the zoo entrance.

I took some pictures that I will like to share:






For more info and pictures visit this Wikipedia article of the zoo.

Official Chapultepec Zoo website.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tepoztlán: a small town with huge culture.

Tepoztlán means in Nahuatl (old Mexican language) "The place of the copper hatchet" and it is localized 71 Km (44 miles) South of Mexico City. This small town with a population of 36,135 + is full of culture and many places to visit. There are camping sites, restaurants, shops, museums , an ex-convent and some local attractions like carnivals, archeological sites and an ice cream parlor called "Tepoz Nieves" with a wide and exotic variety of ice cream flavors.



This is a nice view (above) from the "Exconvento de la Natividad" or Ex-convent of Christmas which was a convent and now is a museum with a great view of the "Cerro el Tepozteco" or Tepozteco Hill (below).



This is another view (above) of the central courtyard of the "Exconvento de la Natividad".

For more information visit Tepoztlán webpage or leave a comment with your questions.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My first MexCity View Post, Mexico City overview.

Welcome everyone, this is my first post to MexCity Views a blog dedicated to Mexico City. I will be posting about news and views of Mexico; Mexican culture, food, traveling destinations and more.

Meanwhile I will like to share with you this youtube video with astonishing images (from an helicopter) of Mexico City interlaced with general info of this multicultural city.