The lush landscape is colorful and tranquil. It is the city of eternal spring. Cuernavaca is one of my favorite cities in Mexico. For centuries it has hosted royalty, celebrities, and inquisitive travelers. My cousin Dempsey married a woman from Cuernavaca and on my most recent trip I got to spend time with Alma’s family.
I flew in to Mexico City and hopped a bus to Cuernavaca. There’s a bus running about every 90 minutes and it takes about 1 hour 45 minutes along a road that takes you through beautiful scenery of the Tepozteco Mountains as you head south of Mexico City.
I arrived at lunchtime and Alma’s entire family (mom, sisters and their families) gathered to celebrate my arrival. On the menu, homemade enchiladas. They were phenomenal!
After eating ourselves into food comas, Dempsey, Alma, Alma’s nephew Emiliano, and I headed off to downtown Cuernavaca. We needed to get our walk on after lunch. One of the things I loved as we walked through the city was the colorful banners streamed across the streets.
We starting our stroll through the city at Cuernavaca Cathedral. The walled monastery complex of Catedral de la Asuncion, or Cathedral of the Asencion, dates back to the 1500s. It’s one of the oldest churches in the Americas. One of the highlights is a mural depicting Mexico’s first saint. Couple of other interesting tidbits about the cathedral: Cortés had it built to double as a fortress, with cannons mounted above the buttresses and unlike other cities in Mexico, the most important church is not on the main plaza.
The rose and ivory facade of the Tercera Orden Chapel (Capilla de la Tercera Orden) is intricate and stunning. Artistically this is the most beautiful chapel in the complex. It was built by Franciscan monk Enrique de Jeres in 1722. The style is Baroque and Churringuersque. When you walk up to it, look closely at the sculptures in the facade to see the angels and saints, some with indigenous headdresses. One of my favorite elements of the design is the curved concave entrance. The chapel is flanked with a the two-story bell tower on one side and seashell formation topping a portal on the other side. I had to take a few moments inside to admire the main alter decorated with colorful flowers, angels and saints. It was constructed by indigenous craftsmen.
Before leaving the cathedral complex, I made a quick stop in the Chapel of Santa Maria.
From there we headed over to Museo Jardin Borda. In the 1700s, Jardin Borda was a summer residence of Don José de la Borda, a miner from Taxco. When he died in 1778, it was transformed into a botanical garden. During the Second Mexican Empire in the 1860s, Maximilian of Hapsburg and his wife Carlota spent summers in Cuernavaca. As we strolled through the rooms of the hacienda, we enjoyed wonderful pictures captured by famed Mexican photographer Armando Salas. I was so intrigued by his photos of some of the lesser know Mayan ruins. Added a few more places in Mexico, like Palenque and Uxmal, to my travel wish list because of his photos! I loved the architecture of verandas and spent a little time just admiring their simplistic beauty as the sunshine streamed in.
We wandered through the gardens over to a lake with an amphitheater. It was one of my favorite spots in the garden. I could only imagine the grand concerts that must have taken place during the time Maximilian was there.
It seemed everywhere you turned there was something wonderful to look at including lush plants, beautiful fountains, stairways, and unique architecture. Don’t miss the pools and chapel. I noticed a French influence in the gardens. They were styled after French gardens of the eighteenth century. As you wander the grounds, you’ll likely notice the Versallesco, Mudejar and Italian Baroque architectural styles too.
On our way to Plaza de la Constitution, we passed a chapel with stairs on the outside of the dome leading up to the bell tower and then we passed Casa Hildago, where Dempsey and Alma had their rehearsal dinner when they got married. Plaza de la Constitucion was filled with people, musicians, and vendors.
Our walking adventure of the city ended at 16th-century Palace of Cortés. It is the former home of Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés. Now, it is home to a history museum featuring murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera.
Having sufficiently worked off our lunch enchiladas it was time for happy hour. Boy, was I in for an experience. If you visit Cuernavaca, Las Mañanitas is a must. The attraction – exotic birds. While I sipped on a Mojito Frutos Rojos, I delighted in the peacocks, flamingos, and other birds of paradise.
The birds were so enchanting to watch at sunset. Check out the video for more sights and sounds at Las Mañanitas.
For dinner we headed over to one of Alma’s sister’s home. I had never had bacalao, a traditional Mexican dish served during the holidays. The dish originated in Spain. Bacalao is a stew of salted cod with tomatoes, onions, olives, peppers, potatoes, almonds, and spices. If you ever get a chance to have bacalao, you must! It’s one of those dishes that takes days to prepare. That was a perfect ending to a day in Cuernavaca.