As my visit to the Casa Luis Barragan only took an hour or so, I spent the rest of the day visiting this area in the south of the city, which is part of a world heritage site with the historic centre of Mexico City. It is a half hour light rail ride, on a cute little two carriage train, beyond the southern end of the metro system.
Xochimilco is the only remaining place where you can get an idea of the system of canals and artificial island gardens created by the Aztecs to feed the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan, which those of you who have been paying attention will remember is the name of the city the Spanish built Mexico City on top of.
Now it has a protected ecological park as well as islands still used to live on and grow food and flowers. The canals have people on them going about their lives (we passed one boat full of sacks of cement and a wheelbarrow) but mostly the water traffic is brightly painted pleasure boats. These are haggled for and hired at the embarcadero, a not very well signposted hike through town from the station (a tourist guide on a bike pointed out the way to me).
Business was pretty dead when I arrived – I imagine weekends are their busy time – and I wasn’t sure I fancied going for a solo cruise. I had thought to find some other tourists and insinuate myself with them and sure enough, just as I was feigning disinterest as the offered price dropped, four people hoved into view. I asked the man who looked like an English speaker if I could join them and was enthusiastically welcomed into the fold. I found myself with an Argentinian couple and a retired Amercian couple resident in Mexico. They had teamed up just before I met them and had already conducted a brisk haggle, getting the price down to around £5 per person for an hour.
The day was sunny and peaceful as no one had given the floating mariachi band any money. We declined the many opportunities to buy food, drinks and souvenirs from the hawkers who bumped their boats up alongside ours. Our driver poled us along and told us a little about the area, although as it was in Spanish this was mostly lost on me and John the American – whilst his wife had picked up a decent amount of Spanish during their eight years in the country he had managed not to learn much at all. We spent quite a bit of the hour recommending places to eat and visit to each other – the Americans were particularly good at this as they seemed to have walked all over the city. They were all great company and I had a really perfect afternoon.