If you need a break from the intensity of Mexico City head 40 minutes south of the city and you'll witness the closest approximation to the Valley of Mexico (in which Mexico City lies) before the arrival of the Spanish.
Anon and I went early and midweek, our boatman was on his L plates and we pretty much had the canals to ourselves. I had wanted to head to the Island of the Dolls, Isla de las Munecas - an island of disfigured dolls - dedicated to the lost soul of a poor girl who met her fate too soon and in strange circumstances but it would have meant another couple of hours and our boy/captain was running out of puff.
The floating gardens are still producing fruit and vegetables to the restaurants of Mexico City.
These canals, along with artificial islands called chinampas, are navigated by colorful gondola-esque boats called trajineras.
Boats can be rented at one of the dozens of docking points throughout Xochimilco. You'll need a "boat captain," who, much like in Venice, will use a tall pole to navigate the trajinera through the canals.
Weekdays, are quite tranquil and relaxing, but weekends can get thronged with trajineras. Mexicans come to Xochimilco to celebrate special events, like birthdays, weddings, and graduations. And, like most good parties, it's the more the merrier—you might see 20 or more people together drinking and blast cumbias and reggaton on speakers. Buy beers and snacks before hopping on your boat or seek out vendors, which float on the water selling snacks tamales, elotes (street corn), micheladas, and pulque.
Xochimilco is not for those with limited time; it's far away from the city center, so plan a half-day excursion.
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