Eat giant ants in the jungle of Ecuador. Check.
Eat grasshoppers in the land of my ancestors. Hmmm, not sure about this one.
On my bucket list for our Mexico trip was–eat chapulines, yummy friend grasshoppers. I share at the end of this post if I actually mustered up the courage to eat them or not.
In case you missed this little tidbit about me, I’m Mexican. It brought such great joy to my to explore Mexico with my children and hubby. When I was engaged to my husband we went to visit my family in Mexico and then we returned with his parents a couple of years later and traveled the East coast over in Veracruz and the mountainous region of Jalapa. I loved Jalapa but not so much the sweltering hot weather in Veracruz.
Well, recently one of our many traveling adventures as a familia was to Mexico City and the surrounding area. Most of the touristy traveling magazines or website I read about had Xochimilco, Mexico featured as a must see. So we went to see for ourselves the colorful gondolas! It was definitely a cultural experience as we walked through the crowded streets of Xochimilco.
I loved learning about the history behind the gondolas called “trajineras”. These canals were created by the indigenous indians during the pre-hispanic era which were at the time used to get around from one island to the other, but they are now only used for entertainment.
It took about an hour to get to Xochimilco from the historical center. We stayed at a hotel near the Plaza Artes and there were subways readily available on all sides of the center for us to jump on and go somewhere. We took our trip on Sunday but if you read my article on the Must Know Trip when Traveling to Mexico City we would have done Xochimilco on another day.
Getting there by Metro was really easy. We just followed the maps that were located at the subway station and made our way there but if you’re feeling a bit hesitant right at one corner of the Plaza de las Artes was a little tourist kiosk and the ladies there were very helpful. We took two trains from the Plaza de las Artes we took the Blue line to the very end of the station stop called Tasqueña. Then we took the Tren Ligero to Xochimilco, the last station. Once we got out of the city the Metro quickly became empty the rest of the way. When we arrived, we had no idea where to go so we just followed all the tourist and then confirmed that road would take us to Xochimilico trajineras port called “embarcaderos”.
At some point a man on a bike in the middle of the street asked if we were going to ride the boats so we said yes and he just pointed to the direction we should be going. We noticed he kept meeting us at lights after that, and told us where to go. I thought he worked for the city, but he was an “agent” for the gondola owners and he made a cut from bringing tourist to a gondola owner. So don’t fret if someone leads you along, it’s very confusing once you get there how it all works but apparently the best way to get on a gondola is if one of these guys leads you to one. If the one he leads you to is full then just walk out of the line and find another one. We did and it was fine but as I mentioned a bit confusing.
Apparently, each gondola is privately owned so you jump on a gondola and you either pay for the–private trajinero/gondola or a group gondola. It’s cheaper if you do a group gondola because then the price is divided by the whole group. But if you do a private gondola you pay the full price. PLEASE NOTE that the price is set for all the gondolas, maybe you can bargain with them to go down but the set price is for all the gondola owners. This is also very important: the price for any gondola is not per person but per trajinera/gondola payed by the hour or 3 hours. This is where we saw the other tourist getting ripped off. Actually our gondola owner was honest and said you don’t pay this price per person it’s for the whole gondola.
So, you either do a private one and pay the full price or split it with complete strangers and wait for the gondola to get full so you can do that. We waited for others to jump on the gondola but after waiting for what seemed like forever, it was probably only 10 minutes, we decided we would just do a private tour since we had no idea how long it would take to get a group to walk over to our gondola (there are literally 100’s of gondolas).
Traveling Adventures with the Familia: Xochimilco Mexico
Okay so things to remember when traveling to Xochimilco:
- The weather while we were there shifted back and forth from warm to hot, we were there in December. So dress accordingly, maybe in layers if you’re headed back to Mexico City in the evening. We layered because we were headed back to the historical center of Mexico City and we knew it was going to be chilly on our way back.
- Take the Metro it’s fast, cheap (we went’ through tons of traffic and we were so thankful that we didn’t drive or took a taxi) and we felt safe during our whole Metro experience. Of course, it’s important to keep your things near you and not to take extravagant stuff on it which we didn’t so not once did we feel like we were in danger or could be targeted.
- Our children traveled on the Metro and other public transportation, pretty much our whole trip and they did fine. They were 10, 7 and 3. There were times that the Metro was overly crowded and we had to keep them very close to us because we were standing, but usually I didn’t stand very long with a 3 year old. There was always a kind man or woman who always gave us their seat. Which I was very thankful for and so was my little.
- Take food. On the trajineras/gondolas you can eat, drink and snack. Some people had huge feast on their gondolas. We didn’t realize this so we ate before we got on because by the time we got to Xochimilco it was lunch time and we were starving. Next time we will pack a lunch or buy food out on the streets before boarding. You can also get some food while on the gondolas as pictured above. These vendors float alongside of the trajineras and sell you food and drinks.
- Don’t get fooled into “the rate is per person” scam. The set rate is for the whole gondola per hour.
- You need pesos.
- There are some articrafts shops and stands throughout the little town.
- And you must try the “chapulines”. You can’t even tell they are grasshoppers.This delicacy is sold out on the street and they are friend and seasoned.
- The local restaurants had some yummy food that is specific to this area of Mexico. Of course, there are lots of street vendors but we were tired and wanted to find a place to just sit and enjoy our meal without a crowd around us.
Since you can’t visit Mexico without experiencing their tacos and mariachi bands we splurged and paid for a mariachi group to serenade our boat. It was so fun! The Mariachi bands float on their own gondola and row their way around the canal playing alongside of your trajinera.
Though Xochimilco was a lovely cultural experience, the town of Xochimilco is not in any shape or form touristy. We were there on a Sunday so it was packed with families and tourist. After coming from the beautifully landscaped historical center of Mexico City it was definitely a bit shocking to arrive to this crowded and unkept little town. Along the banks of the canals you’ll see there is decay, some run down neighborhoods, beautiful villas, flowers and foliage growing along the canal. but I personally didn’t mind as it’s giving us the full picture of this city. I didn’t realize this but further beyond the city canals there is a wildlife preserve in which the original character of the chinampas (Aztec-era “floating gardens”) may be seen.
Okay so after much debate–I ate grasshoppers. Traveling means venturing out of your comfort zone and trying new experiences and adventures, well this was mine. One does these kinds of things for the experience. Now I’ll be able to tell my grand children I ate giant ants in the jungle of Ecuador and grasshoppers in the pre-hispanic landmark built by our ancestors. And if my grandchildren are boys they’ll think I’m super cool!
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