Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico
From Merida in Southern Mexico, I flew to Monterrey, capital of Nuevo León in the North East of Mexico and the third largest city in this country. First of all, I found out that I had chosen the wrong hotel. I always try to stay in the same group of hotels whenever possible (to accumulate points toward free nights) and book ahead on the internet. My top priorities if there is a choice of hotels within this group and if prices are similar are 1) free shuttle from the airport, 2) free wi-fi internet in the room and 3) close to the business contacts I proposed to visit. The hotel I had chosen and booked in Monterrey claimed on its website to be closest to the airport and to have a free shuttle, but when I arrived I found this was not only untrue but that it was the farthest one of its group from the airport and was in fact on the complete opposite side of the city from the airport. You can imagine my disappointment. Nonetheless, in case I had made a mistake about noting my booking, I waited patiently for the free shuttle of the airport hotel of the same chain. In fact a shuttle from another hotel chain offered to take me to my chain's airport hotel and that hotel was in fact happy to put me up but did tell me I would probably have to pay twice as the time limit to cancel the booked hotel had expired. I opted instead to keep my original hotel and paid the taxi fare out there (luckily now reduced to about 2/3rds the price I would have had to pay, had I taken a taxi directly from the airport).
The next day, after visiting my business contact in the centre of town, beautifully surrounded by mountains on all sides, I booked the same, kind, taxi driver at a reasonable taxi price, to take me to the airport, again for a reasonable price, two days hence. I then set about finding out what tours were available from my hotel reception desk. Well, I was told, this was the off-season so there were no tours available for a single traveler on her own. So what other options were there for me, I asked. They suggested I take the metro into the city and explore some man-made steel park. This sounded like a drag so I asked what else was available. Well, there was a glass museum within walking distance... I asked, well, what is there I can see downtown? Finally, they pulled out a map of a walking tour in downtown Monterrey and again they explained I could take the metro. This sounded more my thing and to my delight the next day I found that the metro was dirt cheap (about 36 cents a ride anywhere on the system). I therefore arrived downtown at the Macroplaza and started walking along the route indicated on the map. The first stop was The Fountain of Life with Neptune and eight other figures and the walk then continued on through a grassed area called The Sunken Park containing the statues “Children in their early years” by Ponzanelli and “Maternity” by Federico Cantú among others. At the end of this park nearing the Heroes Esplanade in front of the State Government Palace (which was free to visit but you had to pick up a ticket) was a bronze horse by Colombian Fernando Botero weighing 3306 pounds or 1.5 tons and with a height of 11 feet or 3.4 metres. Then I stopped to take photos of three statues honouring Lorenzo Garza, a Monterrey native bullfighter (photos 1 to 9).
Next, I doubled back to the second section of the walking tour called The Santa Lucía River Walk and this in fact led me along a man-made jetty beside a canal considered to be the most important landmark in Monterrey. You can either walk the 1.55 miles (2.5 kilometres) or take a boat along the canal, which apparently looks lovely at night when it is all lit up in colour (according to my taxi driver), and is filled with various works of art and plays of water (photos 10 to 15).
I was surprised and delighted to come across a bird park, called the Parrot House, although there were more than just parrots, and so spent the bulk of my afternoon here photographing the birds, attending the bird, frog and snake show and cheering on the young people brave enough to try the aerial zipline ride (photos 16 to 39).
On exiting the bird park, I found that the Santa Lucia walk led into the former Monterrey Steel Foundry (founded in 1900) that had been made into a park after the company was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1986. Here, there must have been six or seven wedding parties having their photos taken (photos 40 to 42). It was a good walk so I doubled back along the other side of the canal to photograph what I had missed, noting the many sellers of seemingly very popular cotton candy and candied apples. Dentists everywhere must cringe when they come here, or think of all the paid work they will have filling cavities (photos 43 to 46)!
I then turned back toward the South through the Old Quarter, supposedly great for nightlife. There were a number of old, derelict buildings with façades painted in lurid colours, their insides mainly used as parking lots. I was glad to be walking through it during the day as I was not sure that I would feel safe there at night (photos 47 to 49)! My final photos were taken at the Metropolitan Cathedral where yet another wedding was in process (photos 50 and 51). I then walked down a pedestrian street selling a lot of Halloween stuff and saw two extra-long limousines ferrying 15-year-old girls in white or purple prom dresses celebrating their “quinceñera,” with the top half of their bodies poking up through the sun roofs, and cheering about their coming of age at the top of their lungs. Then I hopped back on the metro for another 36 cents and returned safely to my hotel feeling that I really had seen the best of what Monterrey had to offer, as the places I had visited surely seemed to be the places to be and to be seen in this city.
In Monterrey, the seat belts of the taxis I travelled in were all tied up so I asked the first driver, was it not the law to wear seatbelts? He replied yes it was and that Monterrey was the city that had the most accidents in the whole of the Republic of Mexico but that most people ignored the law and that, moreover, the police did not enforce it. Everyone talks about corruption in this country yet they seem to put up with it as being inevitable.
Interestingly enough, on the morning of my departure, I had to dispute my laundry bill again as I was once more overcharged for the washing of my t-shirts. However, this time the hotel (of the same chain as the one in Mexico City) recognized their error and refunded me the difference. On the way to the airport, I had a great conversation with my 26-year-old taxi driver, unfortunately a victim of the economic depression as he was actually a trained mechanical engineer who had graduated from the University of Nuevo León right next to my hotel. However, he had been laid off four months ago and was now sharing his father's taxi doing the late shift while his father did the early shift - although he had apparently made an exception for me.
Please be patient while our Flash file downloads.
For individual photos shown in this slideshow, please contact the photographer
Flash file, photography, text and layout by Angela Fairbank.
The above photos are copyright.