San Angel

Mexico City has the honour of twice holding the record of World’s Biggest City. Although technically speaking, the 250,000 strong population who lived here in Aztec times referred to their metropolis as Tenochtitlan. There have been other cities to have held the record more than once. Constantinople three times, Thebes and Memphis (of the Egyptian rather than Elvis variety) twice each. Of course, it’ll all depend on whose stats you choose to believe.

As far as city land mass is concerned, Mexico DF is actually smaller than London, but the Estado de Mexico spreads out into the valleys swallowing up countless hundreds of square miles. But all this space is consumed by millions upon millions of inhabitants, cramming themselves into box sized homes, with more arriving every year. Mexico City is many things, including suffocating and polluted. It’s not always easy to find a nice area of open land large enough for the continuous thunder of passing traffic to disappear. And when you do….you’ll often find hundreds, if not thousands, of people have had the same idea as you.

My advice? Monasteries. The Spanish came here hundreds of years ago and had lots of land available to build big monasteries, most with some pleasant open spaces. Most importantly from a modern perspective, they also sound proofed their new habitations with walls almost as thick as they are tall. They don’t tend to be high on the list of places to visit on a day out either, so you may well find yourself free of people as well as traffic.

There are bigger monasteries than the one residing in San Angel, but few with more history, more relics and more to see than El Carmen. I must have passed this place so many times over the years, without going inside. Till yesterday, anyway. Unfortunately photography isn’t allowed once you’ve stepped inside, but I managed to take a few photos of the exterior, and a few more from San Angel itself, which is in itself a very pleasant place to visit on a Sunday. Click here to see my set on Flickr.

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