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el2995 Monterrey - A travel report by USC
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Monterrey,  Mexico - flag Mexico -  Nuevo León
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el2995's travel reports

Monterrey, Nuevo Leon

  11 votes
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A recent three week business trip to our south-of-the-border sister plant near Salinas Victoria provided my first exposure to Mexico, and two off-the-clock weekends enabled me to sample some of the culture and cuisine of the Monterrey area. report of the month contest
Dec 2009

Cerro de la Silla (Saddle Mountain) Viewed From the River Walk
Cerro de la Silla (Saddle Mountain) Viewed From the River Walk
Monterrey, Mexico’s third largest city after Mexico City and Guadalajara, is the capital of the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon. Founded in 1596, the city is known as Sultana del Norte (Sultan of the North). Following the 1810-1821 Mexican War of Independence, Monterrey became a center of commerce for the young nation, with ties to both Europe and the United States. Today, Monterrey is still an important industrial and business center, home to numerous companies (both Mexican and international). Monterrey is also a center for education, site of both the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Studies, and the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon. Much of Monterrey is modern and cosmopolitan and will be a good fit for those who seek shopping, the arts, fine dining and nightlife, while its museums and a well-maintain old town are sure to please those looking for a sense of history and local culture; the city also has venues for soccer, baseball, bull fighting and auto racing. Given its location in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains, Monterrey provides the traveler with a variety of nearby outdoor activities from leisurely nature hikes to extreme sports. The profile of the surrounding jagged limestone ridges (including the distinctive 1288m saddle-shaped Cerro de la Silla, which is perhaps the best-known landmark of the city and features prominently in the logos of some local businesses) is a sight to behold, particularly against the backdrop of a spectacular sunset on a balmy evening. Visitors will likely fly into Gen. Mariano Escobedo Int’l (MTY) located in Apodaca. Though it does not reach the airport (taxis are required to get into the city), the Metrorrey rapid transit system is very convenient way to tour the area, with a single trip costing MXN 4.50; the north-south green line (Line 2) connects Monterrey’s Macroplaza (perhaps the best place to begin your sight-seeing) with the cities of San Nicolas del los Garza and Sendero to the north.

Favourite spots:
River Walk and Museo de Historia Mexicana
River Walk and Museo de Historia Mexicana
Its ‘headwaters’ emanating from the Museo de Historia Mexicana’s fountain, the Santa Lucia Riverwalk is a 1.6 mile long man-made canal that connects the Macroplaza and Fundidora Park. The length of the canal can be cruised by boat accompanied by loud speaker narration, or walked via a paved and landscaped pathway that features fountains, sculptures, and a number of restaurants, bars, cafes and sweet shops, with the walk culminating in a picturesque view of the iconic Cerro de la Silla (Saddle Mountain). The Museo de Historia Mexicana is well worth a visit, with exhibits covering Aztec, Mayan and other tribal artifacts, colonization, the war for independence, industrialization, and even taxidermies of indigenous wildlife; an elevated walkway spans the canal and leads to another wing of the museum that concentrates on the history of the state of Nuevo Leon. The Museo y Palacio de Gobierno (at the north end of Macroplaza) recounts the founding and administration of Monterrey.

What's really great:
Cable Car to Grutas de Garcia
Cable Car to Grutas de Garcia
A ½-day trip to Grutas de Garcia (Garcia Cave) is sure to be a highlight of your visit. About a 40 km drive northwest of Monterrey, the caves are located in a region of scenic desert situated high on a hill at the base of a limestone cliff. Admission to the cave is MXN 60.00 if you take the cable car or MXN 45.00 if you walk the trail / stairs to the entrance. The cave consists of 16 chambers, and is outfitted with stairways, graded walking paths and interior lights; note that the guide spoke only Spanish. Food and snacks are available at the entrance, as are photo CD’s of the cave if your pictures don’t come out. Another worthy ½-day trip is to Cola de Caballo (Horse Tail Waterfall), about 35 km south of Monterrey near the town of Santiago amid lush forest-like surroundings. The height of the falls is 25 m; it is located on the grounds of the Hotel Hacienda Cola de Caballo resort and accessed by a walking trail, with horses, ponies and horse carts also available for hire.

Sunset Near Salinas Victoria
Sunset Near Salinas Victoria
In addition to the established tourist attractions, I also enjoyed the glimpses of everyday life and views of the landscape that I was treated to during the 40-minute commute to and from work via the company shuttle van, during the morning portion of which the environs would change from bustling modern city with unoccupied police cars or motorcycles with blue lights flashing at most intersections with their officers lazily waving traffic through, to rustic small town rich in local color with wandering newspaper vendors combing the lanes of traffic during red lights for a sale and people cued at bus stops to start the work day or roadside tailgate taco stands for a quick breakfast, to a semi-desert plains flanked by limestone mountains silhouetted by a hazy sunrise, with fenced tracks of grazing land sporadically interspersed with factories. The return commute would provide an impressive sunset and sometimes a local performing a Polynesian fire dance in the median during the red light.

Park Near the Anahuac Metrorrey Station, San Nicolas
Park Near the Anahuac Metrorrey Station, San Nicolas
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Monterrey Norte, which is located in San Nicolas de los Garza. It was convenient in that it was a short walk from the Metrorrey Anahuac station, a Soriana Supermarket, a 24-hour laundry and several restaurants within walking distance (with a little bit farther walk to the Starbucks down the street). The hotel's Astro Restaurant was not bad, providing a decent complimentary breakfast buffet but a small menu for lunch and dinner that quickly got old. The lobby bar had a small stage that featured a talented female singer/guitarist – male singer/keyboardist duo performing quality Mexican pop and ballads nightly, and as luck would have it was running a promo on Cazadores Reposado (MXN 32.00 per chilled shot) a portion of the time that I was there. If the lobby bar is a bit too sedate for your tastes, Papa Bill’s restaurant and bar is right up the street (a 10 minute walk north, in front of the Hampton Inn) and perhaps right up your alley, though it can get loud.

Faro del Comercio (Lighthouse of Commerce), Macroplaza
Faro del Comercio (Lighthouse of Commerce), Macroplaza
I didn’t get a chance to check out any of the night clubs or live music venues in Monterrey or San Nicolas per se, though an evening at La Fama and Papa Bill’s would fall into the San Nicolas ‘nightlife’ category, as would an evening of food & microbrews at Sierra Madre Brewing Company in nearby Escobedo (with other locations in and around Monterrey), especially with their 7-beer sampler tray paired with their appetizer sampler, which is practically a meal in and of itself. Monterrey’s Rancho Viejo gets the nightlife nod and thumbs-up, with its food, drink and lovely ladies supplemented by a legal 10-number roulette game (a MXN 100 buy-in can net you MXN 1000, of which MXN 100 is generally tipped to the hostess that took your winning bet with a friendly peck on the cheeks.) As for live music, mention was made of Manaus and Bar Rio in Barrio Antiguo (Old Town Monterrey), which (granted, sight-unseen / sound-unheard) could be a nice way to end a day spent touring around Macroplaza.

Desert Landscape Near Grutas de Garcia
Desert Landscape Near Grutas de Garcia
One of the staff at our sister plant took us to a cantina called La Fama for a quick beer before heading back to the hotel for dinner. Located in ‘old’ San Nicolas at the corner of Hidalgo and Juarez Street, the third-generation family-owned and run place is very popular with the locals, who come to share drinks, food and laughs over games of dominoes, and sometimes provide background vocals to the festive Mexican music emanating from the juke box. The motif is old-school ranchero, with B&W photos of cowboys on horseback, mounted deer heads (not to mention a deer’s backside over the juke box), and one wall with bull fighting-themed photos next to a mounted bull’s head. In typical Mexican fashion, when we ordered our beers, they delivered twice the number in a table-side bucket of ice (referred to as “los cubetazos de cheves bien muertas”) which, along with some tequila shots & variety of Mexican hors d'oeuvres (that ultimately became dinner), made for an enjoyable evening.

Cabrito at Restaurantes Los Cabriteros
Cabrito at Restaurantes Los Cabriteros
One of the best places to try the most famous regional specialty - Cabrito (young barbequed goat) is San Nicolas' Restaurantes Los Cabriteros, on Av. Universidad next to the S. Tapia Metrorrey station; though I had a prior bad experience with goat meat, the Cabrito was only slightly gamey and quite good (I kid you not.) Also in San Nicolas near the Holiday Inn (on Av. Universidad, south of the Anahuac Metrorrey station) is El Gusto de Puebla; housed in an interesting old brick and stucco building and in operation since 1960, the restaurant serves good food with both indoor and outdoor seating. For fresh Mexican seafood in Monterrey, check out Mariscos La Anacua No. 5 (Av. Constitucion 912 Ote. Zona Centro). If you get that craving for Italian while in Monterrey, try Iannilli Ristorate Italiano (Dr. Coss 1221, Sur Bario Antiguo). Check out Monterrey’s male-oriented Rancho Viejo (two locations) for their Arrachera Beef (a regional specialty) and lovely (…and rather shapely) hostesses.

Other recommendations:
Cola de Caballo (Horse Tail Waterfall)
Cola de Caballo (Horse Tail Waterfall)
I would have liked to have had more time to explore the town of Santiago on the trip back from Horsetail Falls (a local gentleman on the Metrorrey ride back from Monterrey suggested that it would be a good way to sample some of the local culture beyond the tourist zone.) On the drive to Santiago on the left side of the highway is a scenic reservoir (formed by La Boca Dam) flanked by lush green hills that would be worth checking out, as would the long stretch of markets and vendor stalls visible on either side of the highway (I don’t recall what the closest highway exits were or which would be best to take, but I did see a couple of pedestrian bridges to allow access to both sides.) The winding road leading up to Horsetail Falls was somewhat reminiscent of the road heading south out of Ubud, Bali, given the number of roadside cottage-type ceramics factories lining the road, with their goods neatly stacked curbside on display beneath covered patios attached to the front of the houses.

Published on Sunday January 3th, 2010

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Sat, Jan 16 2010 - 11:09 AM rating by mistybleu

A very interesting read, thanks for sharing.

Fri, Jan 08 2010 - 09:17 AM rating by louis

very well narrated, great photos

Wed, Jan 06 2010 - 03:33 PM rating by bootlegga

7 years ago, I almost accepted a job in that city...loks like I missed out on quite an experience...nevertheless, an excellent report!

Tue, Jan 05 2010 - 09:25 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Better than a tourist guide. Thanks for the info.

Tue, Jan 05 2010 - 09:23 PM rating by eirekay

Great pictures that really illustrate the text nicely! Great shot of the Falls!

Tue, Jan 05 2010 - 05:13 PM rating by krisek

Really nice and beautifully written report! Thank you for sharing... I still need to go and explore Mexico properly. A drinking trip to Tijuana does not really count, does it?

Mon, Jan 04 2010 - 04:39 PM rating by pesu

I enjoyed to read this very well written report much, great photos as well.

Mon, Jan 04 2010 - 02:23 PM rating by marianne

Very interesting and informative, great writing and great photos

Mon, Jan 04 2010 - 07:03 AM rating by jacko1

I found this report to be interesting, well written and informative, the narrative is quite visual, very well done!

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