Friday, July 8, 2011

A weekend in Mexico

We had not planned on venturing into Mexico City on this trip, but several people along the way have strongly recommended it. Plus, the bus to Mexico from Tepoz is cheap, easy and direct, and eliminates the need to find safe motorcycle parking. So, we went to the city for the weekend. While we were waiting at the terminal, Jill was approached by a guy from Minnesota while Mike was in the bathroom. Mike now calls him Señor Palin because he has a thick northern accent (a lá Sarah), talks excessively, and states ridiculous "facts". He was also good at rapid-firing kindergarden questions like, "Where are you going?," "What are you doing here?," Where is your bike?," "Who are your friends?," etc. He is married to a Mexican lady that lives in the city and they have kids somewhere in this country. He also has a home in Acupulco. Despite his obvious long term ties to the country, his accent was possibly the worst we have heard yet from a gringo (and Jill`s is pretty bad so we have a good comparison). When we arrived at the bus terminal in Mexico (he chose to sit in front of us, of course), he woke up the man sitting across from him and started asking for directions. Then he demanded that they travel on public transportation through Mexico City together. The last we saw as we snuck past the bus in an attempt to avoid getting stuck with him, the poor man was waiting for the Minnesotan to get his bags so he could escort him to the far northern side of Mexico City from the far southern side. Pretty entertaining.  Not for the Mexican fellow.

We found the subway and noticed that it is extremely cheap (about 25 cents) and easy to use. We got off at the Zócalo and found a nice hostel quickly, based on a recommendation from a friend we made in Guadalajara. We didn`t have a lot planned for our trip other than seeing the anthropology museum, so we headed that way. We got directions from the hostel receptionist and then went back to the subway. We were about to hop on when Mike was told he couldn`t get on the car because it was for women and children only. As Mike was heading to the other end of the platform, a train came, and it turned out that Jill went on her own, hoping to get off at the right stop and to not lose Mike forever in the mass of people getting on and off the subway. Apparantly, there are separate cars for women and children sometimes, but we are unsure of when and where these cars appear. There didn`t seem to be any signs to let you know, but we think it is to save women and children from having to deal with all the men during rush hour.  Strangely, though, men can easily board those cars at certain stations, so not quite sure what´s accomplished there.  Luckily, Mike was on the next train and got off right where Jill was waiting.

The museum is in a beautiful area of town with a bosque (forest) and several other museums. Before going in we had to try isquites, which is corn covered in mayo, cheese, limón, and chile. Que rico!

The museum was outstanding. It was open on the outside with separate doors leading to different native american civilizations in Mexico during different time periods, including Aztec, Mayan, Oaxacan, Occidental and modern day. It was amazing to see how much has been uncovered and how developed the societies were. Much more than what exists in the US.

(entrance to the museum)

(street art outside)

(Mayan writing)

(original headress given to Cortes by Moctezuma made of quetzal feathers)

(King Pacal´s burial clothing at Palenque)

We explored for about 4 hours until were were too tired and hungry to pay attention. Then we walked to Zona Rosa, another nice area that has a lot of embassies, restaurants, and judging by the amount of same sex people holding hands, is the gay district. It seemed like a pretty cool place to hang out, but we only stayed long enough to eat.

Then we went to the Alameda Central, a park where the Diego Rivera Museum happens to be located. Entry was only about $1.50, so we decided to check it out. There was only one of his paintings and one of his famous murals. There was a group of people singing in front of the mural, which sounded great, but not so cool because we were not able to look at the mural up close. The museum is worth seeing if you happen upon it like we did, but we probably wouldn`t make a special trip to see it.

Then we walked to the Zócalo, mainly on a pedestrian street the whole way. We knew that Mexico City was one of the most populated cities in the world with over 21 million people, but it is still a little bit of a shock to see this many people in the streets for no apparant reason.

We also discoverd that Saturday night must be the night to go shoe and jewelry shopping because both types of stores were completely packed with shoppers. And the Hostel Regina happened to be right in the middle of shoe and jewelry district.  Mike had no luck finding a pair of flip flops, however. We ended up grabbing a couple of drinks at a cantina that permitted women but had a sign strictly prohibiting dancing, despite the Guns & Roses on the jukebox. Back at the hostel we could see from our balcony that this taco stand was the place to be - there was a steady line all night.  These literal hole-in-the-wall type places seemed to always have a crowd, while many restaurants in the area remained empty.

The next day, on Sunday, we went to the Templo Mayor, ruins of a huge Aztec pyramid that was at the center of Tenochtitlán, but is now literally in the middle of downtown Mexico City, since the Spanish built on top of the old city. The outside wall was rebuilt a total of seven times by the Aztecs, making it larger and more ornate each time. The site was not rediscovered until 1978. It currently takes up a full city block, with evidence of ruins extending under the streets in all directions. The earthquake in 1985 forced several nearby buildings to be condemned. When they started tearing the buildings down, a massive amount of artifacts were found. It is quite amazing that all of this history continues to exist literally under the city. The museum was wonderful also and houses most of the artifacts found. We would highly recommend this museum if you get a chance.

(model of how the pyramid looked after its 7 wall rebuildings)

(outside wall with serpent)

(inner wall and outer wall)

(canal built in the early 20th century that runs through the site)

(inner area where sacifices and rituals were made, with two smaller pyramids on top, one for water/storms/agriculture and one for war)

(one of the structures was designed with exterior walls of skulls)

(artifacts found in and near the pyramid)

(mosiac made of 1500 jade pieces and depicting warriors)

(two large stone carvings found in the ruins, the one in the distance was unearthed in 2006 (!), weighs around 12 tons and measures almost 4m x 4 m)

After several hours there, we were really hungry. We walked several blocks, unable to find anything that met our criteria of being 1)cheap and 2)having a place to sit. Finally we found food inside a market on top of subway grates. Despite having to hold onto our food when a subway came due to the wind, the food was great.  We also learned that huaraches don´t always go on your feet, sometimes you eat them.

(you may be able to guess by now that Jill loves her some food)

Then we wandered aimlessly around the city, exploring more of the Zócalo:

and then finding a huge market. We walked all the way through it, only finding strange kids uniforms and childrens tuxedos. Very chaotic and surreal. Then we worked our way back to the hostel area where there is another pedestrian street named Regina. We wanted to drink beer and people watch. So, we went to a restaurant that sold beer and had an outside patio. Mike asked if we could drink the beer outside and they said yes. Once we ordered, however, the waiter directed us to a small interior room with no windows or TV, away from the rest of the restaurant, with plastic chairs and tables. There were two other people inside, also drinking a beer. The waiter said it was illegal to drink outside during the day. Strange because after our beer we walked about a block to another restaurant/bar that had no problem with us drinking outside during the day. That`s where we ended up until we caught the subway back to Tepoz. All in all, we enjoyed Mexico City quite a bit although we are very glad we didn`t have the motorcycle with us. We will leave you with this picture that is sadly as close as we got to a lucha libre.


  1. I was hoping you might have made it over to see (and post a picture of) the Estadio Azteca. It would be cool to see a game there.

  2. The kids at school serve up the corn/mayo concoction a few times a year as a fundraiser....sounds not so good but is really yummy!