A Perfect Day on Vacation

Looking across at the Pyramid of the Sun from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan, Mexico. All photos in this blog were taken by Susan Ruff in March 1996.

What makes a perfect vacation day? I suspect every person has a different answer to that question.

My years of travel have provided many great experiences. Because today is Cinco de Mayo, it seems like a good day to write about my perfect day during a trip to Mexico.

I’m a big fan of organized tours. Letting the tour company do all the work makes traveling easy. Meeting other travelers is fun, and local guides can give you fascinating insights about a region that you might not find in a travel book or website.

But there is one drawback to organized trips. You seldom get enough time to visit museums and historical sites. (Or, at least, not enough time for me — I could spend hours wandering through a museum or archaeological site.)

So in 1996, when I read about a hotel located within an easy walk of the main archaeological zone in Teotihuacan, near Mexico City, I planned a different kind of trip. At the time, my job gave me more vacation days than John’s did, so I would spend the extra week each year traveling with my mother.

Mom and I flew into Mexico City in March 1996, spent a few days visiting different attractions in the city itself, and then headed down to Teotihuacan.

The archaeoloigcal zone at Teotihuacan is huge. The main avenue is more than a mile long. The site includes pyramids, murals, and stone decorations on the outsides of the buildings. Archaeologists have been making discoveries over the years, so there are probably even more things to see now than there were when I was there 17 years ago.

On the first day, we took a group tour of the site, which gave me a good overview of the complex. We went through the museum, bought souvenirs at the gift shop, and got a chance to climb the Pyramid of the Sun.

By the next day, my mom was tired and was happy to spend the day relaxing at the hotel, while I walked the short distance back to the archaeological zone.

The March weather was perfect, without a cloud in the sky. For the first time in my life, I had an entire day to explore a huge archaeological site with no time limits or interruptions. I had my camera with me (in those days, it was a 35-mm film camera). I spent the day walking, snapping pictures, and taking time to view the individual sights within the zone. At one point, I climbed to the top of the Pyramid of the Moon (the one I had not climbed the day before) and took pictures from the top. There was plenty of time for me to examine each of the stone carvings and murals in detail.

For lunch, I ate at a delightful cafe that was either contained within the complex or right next to it. Then I set out to explore again.

By late afternoon, the westering sun lit up the stone ruins with a golden light. All the other tourists had departed. It was just me, my camera, and a vast archaeological preserve. It was the perfect day.

-Susan 5/5/2023

p.s. Would you believe that, as of May 1, I have now been writing this blog for three years? WooHoo! When I first started, I wasn’t sure I would be able to think of enough topics to keep it going for sixth months.

Today’s post is a little more about travel and a little less about writing than usual. If you want to hear more about our writing each month, click here to sign up for our free author newsletter.

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