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Historical & Hip: Mai Tai Tomás Travels To Mexico City

Historical & Hip: Mai Tai Tomás Travels To Mexico City

Old Jun 8th, 2023, 04:46 AM
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Thanks Pedro and Tom! We have two 2-bedroom apartments reserved for the week! I couldn’t get the 3-bedroom.

So … I guess this means you both really like the inn and neighborhood!

Hotels for eight of us in Polanco are a fortune but apartments are reasonable. I’d like to be able to retire someday LOL
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Old Jun 8th, 2023, 06:09 AM
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Yes, I loved Red Tree House and stayed there the my first two visits to CDMX. It was especially great as a new visitor because they really facilitated different activities, setting up drivers, hooking me up with other guests going to a particular attraction. The only reason I haven't stayed there on my subsequent trips is because none of them were planned particularly far in advance and they were all booked up already. Great place and I'd love to stay there again some day.
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Old Jun 10th, 2023, 07:22 AM
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Wonderful trip report--thank you! I'm planning a trip for November, so taking notes!
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Old Jun 10th, 2023, 10:29 AM
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Since many Mexico City attractions are closed on Monday, Tracy, Stephen and I took a little van excursion to Teotihuacan, home of the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun. First we saw the ruins of Tlatelolco and before hitting the pyramids we made an unannounced stop that cost me a few pesos. With a scorching sun overhead, we scoped out the ancient city and pyramids (where I embarrassed myself once again on vacation), stopped for a quick lunch and visited Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the miracle cloak. Once again rooftop dining ended an evening where Tim and Sheila provided us with a new word they coined to describe their day. Story with photos in link below (without photos below photos) ...


Next: Chapter Four: Pyramid Scheme

Day Four: Heading To The Pyramids, Drinking & Shopping, There’s Always One, Over The Moon, Under The Mexican Sun, Red Lobster, Hat Trick, Let It Slide, Sacred Site, People Mover Shrine, “Ambiancing” Condesa, A Very Confused Bartender and Zócalo View Dining

Standing in front of the hotel at 9 am, Stephen, Tracy and I waited for a van. That’s because, before heading to Mexico City, I had booked a tour to Teotihuacan, the site of old pyramids (outside of the Luxor, I can’t think of any relative new ones), with the two most famous being the Pyramid of the Moon and The Pyramid of the Sun. Speaking of sun, in the directions emailed to me it said to be sure to bring a sun hat and sunscreen (foreshadowing alert).

We hopped in the van, which included four others on the tour, our driver (Carlos) and our guide (Rafael). Our first stop was less than 15 minutes from our hotel. Tlatelolco is an archaeological site dating back to the 1300s with a violent history. For a while it was an Aztec ceremonial center, until it was conquered by a dissident indigenous group (Tlatelolco) in the 1470s.

They lived in relative peace until the Tlatelolco declared their independence, and the Aztecs invaded and regained total control. That is, until Cortés and the Spaniards came and much bloodshed ensued.

There are temples and pyramids that have been excavated here In the background, the Church of Santiago Tlateloloco, which was constructed on the site of previous Aztec pyramids to “make sure to destroy the previous culture and reinforce the Spanish way of life” stands. Cortés forced Aztec survivors to help build the church.

Back in the van it was on to the pyramids, or so we thought. On the nearly hour-long journey, Rafael plied us with non-stop tidbits of Mexico City history along the way. We passed some colorful towns and aerial tramways that transported citizens. I was going to see if Carlos might stop so we could take a photo, but Tracy said the “check engine light” had been on since we started, so I just wanted to get to our destination.

The pyramids appeared in close proximity when the van made a turn into a parking area at Taller de Artesanias Finas el Sol, which is not the name of a pyramid.

I had forgotten that often times on tours they stop at a place where they hope you will spend your money, and this fine crafts workshop was the place. The owner gave about a ten-minute talk on the shop, which would we find out is also a souvenir mecca.

I had nearly tuned him out until he said the magic words, tequila and mezcal. The shop held a dizzying amount of handicrafts that I had to admit were interesting (no photos allowed inside). But first, Stephen and I took part in a tasting of mezcal and tequila liqueurs. “Well, it’s 11 a.m. somewhere,” I told Stephen.

Meanwhile Tracy was nowhere to be found, so there was only one conclusion … we would not have as many pesos as we had before the tour. Sure enough, she exited with a colorful tablecloth that only cost US$50.

Not to be outdone, Stephen also bought a couple of souvenirs for his home. Ready to roll, the entire tour group boarded the bus … except for one. On virtually every tour I’ve ever been on, there is always one person who I would like to vote off the island. After about five minutes the guy’s friend went searching for him. Five minutes later he returned without his friend. “He’s still shopping.” Now, a more drastic punishment should be in order. The guy finally exited the store with something and told his friend he was proud because he was finally able to haggle the store down in price on whatever he bought. Tracy gave me a warning look of, “If you say anything to him, I’ll rip your throat out.” Silence was golden.

It was a short hop to our destination. Teotihuacan (“the place where the gods were created”) dates back to the first century. Over the next six centuries monuments were constructed, the two most famous being the aforementioned pyramids. Under the shade of a tree Rafael gave us the history of this magnificent site.

We set off on our own to explore, and it was about 15 minutes later I remembered I did not bring sunscreen nor a sun hat. Following directions has never been my strong suit. I knew that because my head suddenly started to feel like someone was breathing fire over it.

Carrying on, we walked over to the Pyramid of the Moon, which is the second largest of the pyramids. Construction took place between the second and the fifth centuries. It is estimated that the population of Teotihuacan ranged between 150,000 to 250,000 people at its height.

We took in the surrounding areas with Rafael sometimes gathering the group to impart more historical knowledge. He really did an excellent job throughout the day.

My head was now on fire as I stared down the appropriately named Avenida de los Muertos, the primary path between the pyramids. It’s called the Avenue of the Dead because it is said the path was paved with tombs.

Fortunately, the Avenue of the Dead now has vendors, and for a small price I was able to buy a touristy Teotihuacan cap at a paltry price, which saved my head, but not my skin. Tracy said I looked like a red lobster, and not the restaurant.

Heading down what I now called The Avenue of the Hat, we ducked into see some murals, and also listen to more history of the area. It was very interesting, but I think I’ve hit the traveling stage of life and have now joined Tracy in the club of “I don’t think we have to visit a lot of ruins anymore.”

Near the end of our Teotihuacan tour, we ventured toward the Pyramid of the Sun. The Pyramid of the Sun was named by the Aztecs after the city had been abandoned. It was built in the third century and is more than 700 feet tall. As of April of 2023, you were not allowed to climb on either of the two large pyramids. I thought I was safe.

In front of the Pyramid of the Sun is a structure that you climb, which Rafael said afforded a great viewing opportunity of the pyramid. I was about ready to tell Tracy and Stephen to capture some photos, when Rafael gave us the bad news that we would all need to descend on the other side in order to walk back to the van. Visions of the Lisbon emergency room danced in my head (see details here).

I carefully climbed up the very narrow, uneven and steep steps with nary a hand rail in sight, grabbing ahold of Tracy’s shoulder as to not plummet to my certain death, although it might have been a good story to have it all end on the Avenue of the Dead. At the top we all took a couple of photos, and now came the “going down” part, which I hoped would not have a literal aspect to it.

Holding onto Tracy’s shoulder, I took one uneasy step down and realized this was not going to happen. Short of ordering in a helicopter to airlift me out, I needed to formulate a descending plan. There really was only one option, one that would forever live in ignominy. Sitting down on my butt, I carefully slid down step after step (about 30 of them I believe) looking like a human Slinky (although a Slinky is more graceful), hoping there were no camera phone videos rolling. I navigated the steps without incident except for a rather dirty seat of my pants. My dignity now in shambles, I arose, dusted my rear end and walked back to the van pretending that didn’t just happen.

Gazing up at the Pyramid of the Sun, I asked Rafael who the person was on the steps of the pyramid. “He’s guarding against anyone trying to climb up.” He had no worries with me.

Next stop on the tour was lunch. Although the restaurant had “tourist” written on it, the food was very good.

Plus, we got to see a dance …

… and a fake Aztec Calendar.

Our final stop on the tour was the Nacional Basílica de Santa María de Guadalupe, one of the most visited religious sites in the world, and the second most visited shrine to the Virgin Mary. From various sources here’s one version of its founding.

In December 1531 an Aztec Indian (some say he was an Aztec prince) named Juan Diego was walking on Tepeyac Hill when he saw a bright light and a vision of a girl (the Virgin Mary … or in Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe). She told him to seek out the local bishop and tell him that the Virgin Mary wanted a church built in her honor on the hill. Diego tried to convince the local archbishop of his story several times, however the bishop didn’t believe Diego’s story and said he needed further proof,

Rivera saw the apparition again, and she told him to gather roses (this was not rose season) and take them to the bishop as a sign. Although it was winter, Rivera found some roses and put them in his tilma (cloak). When he saw the bishop, dozens of roses fell out and an image of Mary imprinted on the inside of his cloak suddenly appeared. Construction of a church started. The Old Basilica was finished in 1709. It was the first to display the tilma with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

While the others went to the Old Basilica, I stopped in a little side chapel for a moment.

The Old Basilica is where the tilma with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was originally displayed.

In 1921, a terrorist bomb destroyed much of the church, yet the cloak survived unscathed.

As we had learned from our guide, a lot of Mexico city was constructed on a dried lakebed.

Because of the soil the church began sinking, so a new basilica was built in the 1970s. The Old Basilica was closed for a number of years. From the outside, the Modern Basilica takes the shape of a basketball arena and it can seat just as many people as many arenas.

The complex holds up to 10,000 people.

Tracy was enamored with the light fixtures.

Now it was time to check out the miracle cloak. A moving people-mover like the ones they have in airports whisks you by the cloak, protected by bullet-proof glass. There was no one in line when we sped by and Tracy got a couple of photos.

About five minutes later, the moving sidewalk had more people on it than a Taylor Swift concert.

One fact has perplexed scientists. “After nearly 500 years, the tilma bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is still perfectly preserved, when it should have decayed.” They say the material should have decayed in a short number of years after going on display.

Unfortunately it was already time to return to the van, so we didn’t get to see some other things on my list.

The tour was fine, and our guide very informative. However, I think for future tours we might hire a private guide and go at a pace (and places) that fit our needs. This way, I never have to wait for “Mr. I need to get the price down guy” again. Plus, I got to the van at the pyramids in time for departure even after sliding down stairs on my butt.

Back at our hotel, just like every time we entered the lobby, someone was taking a photo of that magnificent ceiling. This might be the first time I’ve ever stayed at a hotel that was also a tourist attraction.

For dinner on this evening we would dine at the hotel where Tim and Sheila were staying, El Bálcon del Zocalo at the Zócalo Central Hotel. Not surprisingly we walked past the Zócalo to get there.

Walking by the Metropolitan Cathedral, the light was just turning, which gave it some beautiful color.

The cactus garden in front of the cathedral looked pretty cool at this hour.

I thought about stopping here for a quick taco appetizer on the way to dinner. It smelled wonderful.

Tim had texted to meet at Pata Negra Centro Histórico, a bar near to his hotel, for a pre-game cocktail (or two). It was a good-looking bar lined with books and booze, always a good combination.

The bar had an extensive list of gins to choose from, so while the rest of us ordered wine, Tim and Stephen decided upon a gin and tonic. Our personable server seemed perplexed with the order, but took it and went to the bar. Soon Sheila, Tracy and I were sipping our wine, however the gin and tonics were nowhere to be found. The server came back again and again, while Tim attempted to explain what they wanted, which seemed strange because with all its gins, you’d think gin and tonics must have been ordered here before. Finally, after a number of server trips to our table, the bartender came to the rescue and soon Tim and Stephen were drinking their gin and tonics, which afforded the rest of us the opportunity to enjoy a second glass of wine.

I asked Tim and Sheila what they had done that day, and Tim said they had walked around Condesa and Roma Norte. “Did you see anything of interest,?” I asked. Tim answered yes, and added, “We really just spent the day ambiancing in different neighborhoods.” That was a word I had never heard. That’s because Tim and Sheila had made it up, but it sounded great.

I asked them, “What does ambiancing exactly mean?” He gave a quite eloquent description, however I was on a second glass of wine as was my scribe (aka Tracy), so we asked if he’d send us something in writing when he got home. Here is his description of a word that will soon be used by travelers throughout the world. ”Ambiancing is easier to do than define. Any attempt sounds pretentious, which is antithetical to the concept. It’s the desire to catch a city’s vibe from street level. Visit city parks and watch children play on the swings, parents supervising, while having a glass of wine. Going to a great and celebrated well-known spot with the crowds is noteworthy; finding an off the beaten path locale is a memory. It involves few must-sees and even fewer set plays. It accepts that sights will be missed and forgotten, but the feeling of the place will last.” I’m not sure if sliding down some steps on your butt at some pyramids is ambiancing, but it is now.

In Condesa, Tim and Sheila witnessed another pack of those obedient dogs and something you don’t see every day, mariachis on horseback.

Plus they enjoyed both a relaxing breakfast …

… and lunch.

But now it was time for dinner. The interior of El Bálcon del Zocalo is quite lovely.

It also afforded us some scenic views (as you can tell, we like rooftops).

Looking at my red skin while Tim and I perused the menu Tracy quipped, “Perhaps you should try the lobster.” It didn’t help my look that she had lent me a pair of cheaters that, like a Greek statue, was missing an arm. There are times I should not be allowed in public.

As great as the views were, so was the food. Stephen and Tracy enjoyed an avocado risotto with Oscosingo Cheese and grilled shrimp that looked mouth-watering.

Tim opted for breaded mushrooms and Huauzonples, Oaxaca Cheese with poblano sauce.

Sheila went for the lettuce tacos with breaded shrimp in Coconut and Pipián with saffron.

Because mole is my middle name, I tried the beef ravioli in Mole de Olla with garden vegetables.

Dinner was fantastic, and we, along with others, did our own version of ambiancing afterward with the The Torre Latinoamericana building in the background.

One last look at the cathedral and the National Palace, and it was off to bed.

Tomorrow would be “Diego Rivera Day” in Centro Histórico. We’d start with a tour of Palacio Nacional and his famed second floor murals depicting the history of Mexico (Spoiler alert … the tour was incredible.) Then it was off to the Secretaría de Educación Pública, where Rivera’s murals are also the star. Lunch included a view overlooking the Aztec ruins in Templo Mayor, and Sheila gave us a momentary scare by something she said.

Afterward, while Sheila and Tim hit the Palacio de Bellas Artes and Stephen walked to the Museo del Tequila y el Mezcal, Tracy and I strolled through Alameda Central to the Diego Rivera Mural Museum to see the spectacular Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central mural. It was at this museum where something happened with Tracy and that both both happy, and a bit sad.

We’d end the afternoon at a bar where Pancho Villa supposedly put a bullet in the ceiling and then enjoyed one last rooftop dinner. Mexico City was rapidly moving up the charts as one of our favorite places to visit.

Next: Chapter Five: Diego Rivera Mural Day
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Old Jun 11th, 2023, 11:44 AM
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Food is looking great! Makes me think about planning a return soon.
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Old Jun 11th, 2023, 09:38 PM
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I love the tablecloth that Tracy bought! Beautiful!

Were there lots of tourists at the pyramids? I am planning a half day out to the pyramids as well and was planning to email the hosts at The Red Tree House for a guide and driver. I have not found an updated guide book but need to check out Amazon.

Have you tried Get Your Guide Tom? Do you have a suggestion for a guide?

Sounds like we need to hit some of the rooftops even though we are not staying in this neighborhood.
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Old Jun 12th, 2023, 07:25 AM
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"Were there lots of tourists at the pyramids?"

There were a lot of people, but not too crowded at all.

I did get our guide through Get Your Guide (there are a lot of them ... it was the 7 1/2 hour tour that cost $49 if that helps), and if you don't mind stopping for a tablecloth and tequila, it was good, although another 15 minutes at the Basilica would be good. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable. Maybe our straggler guy in the van threw off their timetable.

Oh yeah, bring sunscreen and a hat
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Old Jun 21st, 2023, 11:15 AM
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Murals, murals and more murals! This was our day to visit some of Diego Rivera’s most famous ones. We’d start with a guided tour (fantastic) of the Palacio Nacional, where Rivera’s The History of Mexico Mural is simply astounding. The we enjoyed more of his murals at the Secretaría de Educación Pública. After lunch we walked through the peaceful Alameda Central, the oldest public park in the Americas. Nearby we would see arguably Rivera’s most famous mural in the aptly named Museo Mural Diego Rivera. We’d also have time to enjoy cocktails at a bar where Pancho Villa shot a hole in the ceiling and ended the day with another restaurant with a view.
¡Viva México!
(story with photos in link below ... remember this is about murals story without photos below photos)


Day Five: Passports Please, No Dark Glasses, The History of Mexico In One Hour, Getting Rivera Public Education, Ruins At Lunch, What Piece Of Paper?, A Walk In The Park, Who Are These People?, Is That Mel Brooks?, Give Me A Shot and Our Last Rooftop Restaurant

Today would be our day to learn about the history of Mexico courtesy of Diego Rivera’s famous murals at the Palacio Nacional, which stretches across the east side of the Zócalo.

In an Estados Unidos lapse, I ducked into a nearby Starbucks and a Krispy Kreme for a quick breakfast. Don’t judge me, I was hungry and thirsty, and they were both open early. Tracy put a demerit on my world traveler card afterward. On the other hand, I was attempting to protect the environment.

After our unhealthy breakfast, the three of us met up with Tim and Sheila. I had pre-booked (a must) a 10:30 free English-speaking tour of the Palacio Nacional ([email protected]). But first we had to cross the street to the Museum of Art of the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit to check in. Security throughout the process was very tight, and we had to hand over our passport or driver’s license, which would be returned after the tour. Among many rules was “do not wear sun glasses, but you can have them on your head.”

Our guide called out our names and asked us to form a line. Mine was the first name called, I assume because they wanted to keep an eye on me. At 10:30 we entered the grounds of Palacio Nacional, which originally began construction in 1522 on the site of an Aztec palace. It was intended to serve as the second home of Cortés, but I don’t think he ever lived here. It became the residence of the colonial viceroys and was called Palace of the Viceroy (or Royal House of the Viceroys).

A lot of the palace was destroyed in a massive fire in 1692 and rebuilt over the course of many decades. After Mexican independence in 1821, it was renamed the Palacio Nacional and became the seat of the executive, legislative and judicial powers. Since 2018 the palace has been the official residence for the President of Mexico.

The group walked through an interior courtyard (one of 14) and into a cactus garden. We were accompanied by armed guards throughout the tour, so I decided to be on my best behavior.

Lots of gardens dot the palace grounds (many not accessible to tourists), and this one contains plants that are indigenous to the Mexican desert.

Next to the cactus garden stands the Capilla de la Emperatriz (Royal Chapel).

Entering the main courtyard we were told we could take photos of the fountain topped by Pegasus, however we could not take any photos toward the south of the courtyard. That direction must be the president’s quarters and with armed guards 15 feet away, I didn’t even dare to look that direction.

Palacio Nacional’s claim to fame are the second floor murals of Diego Rivera. The first one we would focus on is painted in a staircase, and it is a marvel. Rivera’s The History of Mexico is something to behold. It was here our tour guide stopped as she explained every detail of it.

The three-section mural was designed to depict a different era of Mexican history. There’s really no way to show the entire mural, so we start with the mural on the right (north) side of the stairwell. Our guide said this section focuses on the ancient Aztecs, hence it’s name The Aztec World. Coincidentally Stephen, Tim and I have often been described as ancient Aztecs. You’ve got everything in this mural from the volcano blowing to a pyramid to Quetzalcoatal (Aztec version of a feathered serpent God) taking off in the top right. The rest of the mural depicts Aztec life and their class and warfare struggles.

Our guide led us through at least a 20-minute description of the center mural entitled From the Conquest to 1930. There is everything from the Spanish Conquest by Cortés to French rule and Emperor Maximillian to the US Invasion in the War of 1847..

She shared that the eagle at the center reflects the center of the Mexican flag and shared many tidbits more about this panel and pointed out historical figures with a laser. As our friend Mr. Spock would say, “Fascinating.”

The panel on the left is entitled Mexico Today and Tomorrow, which was painted some years later in 1935. Rivera’s wife Frida Kahlo is shown behind the woman in red below. Kahlo is wearing a hammer and sickle pendant. Capitalists like John D. Rockefeller are shown and anticapitalists such as Karl Marx are conveyed as “pointing workers towards a vision of a future industrialized and socialized land of peace and plenty.”

The entire mural and the history our tour guide weaved made this one of the most impressive tours I’ve ever been on, and as informative as the tour had been up to now, there were still a few more Rivera murals for us to view before departing.

Painters and Dyers shows people preparing pigments and dyeing fabric.

The main food of Mesoamerican was corn, so Maize demonstrates the various methods of preparing it.

Featherwork Art and Gold Smith was followed by Festivals and Ceremonies.

Finally we saw The Arrival of Hernán Cortéz in Veracruz. Submission and destruction were depicted in this mural.

Rivera began his Palacio Nacional mural project in 1929. The last one he painted here was in 1951. It was his intention to cover the second floor with them, but he ran out of time.

We then entered into the parliamentary chamber, which at one time was the seat of government.

Even here, Tracy’s able to capture that ceiling.

Outside the chamber is a gallery of paintings.

They included the Allegory of the Constitution, the Allegory of the Homeland and the 19th-century Allegory of Peace, Justice and Law.

We thanked our fantastic guide, retrieved our passports and we were on our way.

Passing by Templo Mayor, I reassured Tracy that we wouldn’t be seeing any more ruins. Well, at least for a couple of days.

Passing by these jolly characters we made our way to the nearby Secretaría de Educación Pública.

It is here where Rivera painted a series of fresco panels in its courtyard in the 1920s highlighting life of the people.

It’s free to enter, but you must have a valid ID.

We toured the courtyard and its murals mostly depicting agriculture, labor and industry.

Here some people were raising cane.

I was perplexed that this mural entitled Santa Anita did not include any horses.

After a short while we realized we needed a “mural break” and since we all had pretty much decided this would not be our last trip to Mexico City, we could see the second floor murals on another visit.

As it neared 1 pm, it was time to look for lunch, forgetting that is not primetime lunch hour in Mexico City.

Sheila recalled seeing a restaurant called El Mayor, which overlooked the ruins. We sauntered up to the restaurant about 15 minutes before 1 pm. The patio looked lovely, but it would not open for 15 minutes.

We decided to wait, and scored an excellent table, probably because we were the first ones there, overlooking Templo Mayor.

Outside of Tim’s tortilla soup, it was Tacofest Tuesday in CDMX.

Midway through lunch, Sheila casually asked if we thought that slip of paper we received after immigration stating that it was needed to be able to return to the United States was really necessary. Tracy’s reply had me a little worried … “What slip of paper?”

As much as we were loving Mexico City, we did need to get back at some point because we have a dog and cat that miss us, mostly at feeding time.

Tracy frantically rifled through her purse. I have never known how you can store so much in those things. Yes, we had received the slip of paper and for some reason Tracy had not tossed it out yet. The pets were saved (although, truth be told, sometimes we think they like the pet sitter more than us).

After lunch we went our separate ways (but only for a short time). Tim and Sheila headed off to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Tracy and I started toward Museo Mural Diego Rivera (can’t get away from that guy) while Stephen eschewed murals for a taste of hooch at the Museo del Tequila y el Mezcal.

First, however, we had to stop for gelato.

One reason we felt safe throughout Mexico City was the police presence we witnessed throughout the city. Tim had said the same thing as he and Sheila had been ambiancing around the city.

That was certainly the case as we approached Alameda Central, which has been an integral space since Aztec times, when it served as a marketplace that hosted civic gatherings.

The park originated in 1592 with poplar trees abounding. Walking through the park, fountains, of which there are at least a dozen, were the order of the day.

We passed by old Neptune who we see around the world, unless we see one that is called Poseidon. It’s all Greek to me.

Venus was represented here, although she was not in blue jeans.

This fountain interested me, so I looked it up and learned that it is called Las Danaides, a fountain that “depicts two women representing the 50 daughters of Danaus,” who was a king of Libya. I’d hate to pay for all those weddings.

Children frolicked in the Fountain of Virgin, which is the central fountain of the park.

Nearby, we watched a person sitting on a bench make acquaintances with a furry friend.

The Museo Mural Diego Rivera is located adjacent to the park (across the street and down an alley). The star of the show is Rivera’s famed Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central. The museum was constructed in 1986 to house the mural, one whose existence is truly a miracle.

The mural was originally painted on a wall of the Hotel del Prado in 1947. In 1985 an earthquake caused so much damage that the hotel had to be demolished. Somehow the mural escaped virtually unscathed. The 16 1/2-foot tall by nearly 50-foot wide mural that weighs nearly 35 tons was transported (carefully) 165 feet. The short journey took 12 hours and was accompanied by mariachi bands. The museum was actually built around the mural.

The museum is free for seniors (60 and older), and for the first time Tracy received a free senior admission. She was happy to enter free, but now was feeling old. Welcome to my world.

The mural is an overload of color and characters. More than 100 characters from Mexico City’s history are displayed. From left to right “it is a dream: everyone ponders the past the present and the future from the Spanish Conquest and the Holy Inquisition to the modern days of the first half of the 20th century.”

Fortunately, there is an illustrated guide that helps identify the various characters. In the center stands the skeletal Catrina, shown to “critique the Mexican elite.” To her right is Catrina’s creator José Guadalupe Posada, who was said to have been a great influence on Rivera.. She holds the hand of Rivera (who is depicted as a child)) and behind him is Frida Kahlo, who affectionately referred to Rivera as “The Toad.” For the rest of the story, book a trip to Mexico City..

This is the mural that “catapulted the Catrina to Day of the Dead fame.” She is Mexico’s “grand lady of the afterlife,” and is the centerpiece of Día de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday that honors the lives of the deceased.

We walked upstairs to view the mural from a higher vantage point.

Outside of the mural, there are just a few other pieces of art …

… and photos.

Strolling back through Alameda Central Tracy saw a statue and asked, “Is that Mel Brooks?” From our angle did look a little like the director of the greatest comedy of all time, Blazing Saddles.

As we walked around the front, it wasn’t Mel and didn’t look like Mel. It was tThe Benito Juárez Hemicycle. The neoclassical memorial commemorates the man who was Mexico’s 26th president and the first indigenous president of Mexico.

Our next stop was the Bar La Opéra, a bar/restaurant where revolutionary general Pancho supposedly shot a hole in the ceiling. Hey, any excuse for a Manhattan.

And on your upper right, there’s Pancho’s bullet hole in the ceiling. I guess that’s one way to get a shot at a bar.

We asked Stephen, who had joined us along with Tim and Sheila, how he liked the Museo del Tequila y el Mezcal. He said it took him about an hour to go through the exhibits, and he also said the discussion of the origins of the mariachi was interesting. He walked to the nearby Plaza Garibaldi, which on weekends has lots of mariachi bands. On this Tuesday, it was virtually empty.

Outside the bar we saw a Volkswagen that looked like it was being compressed by Tracy’s finger.

On the way back to the hotel, we ducked in a church that I think was Iglesia La Profesa, but due to the Manhattans I can’t be sure.

We passed by Casino Español, a restaurant I had highly considered as a dinner spot and will probably go to on our next Mexico City adventure.

Tracy wanted to stop back into Azul Historíco to visit its gift shop, because Tracy had seen some things she might want to purchase. Our wallets were saved by it being closed, but we once again admired the space.

I have no idea how many tortyillas she makes in a day.

Speaking of restaurants, we all met for dinner at La Casa de las Sirenus, where once again we would dine on the terrace.

Once again, our dinner views were terrific.

We started with Guacamole with Fried Pork Rinds; guacamole with serrano chilies, coriander, onion and Farmer’s cheese.

Dinner was good and the wine was flowing, which might be why we couldn’t find our notes on what we had for dinner.

I think this was a cheesecake. I do know I ate most of it and it was delectable.

We admired the views one last time …

… and took the pretty walk back to the hotel.

When we got in our room we learned that there would be a citywide earthquake alert the following day at 11 a.m. Coincidentally, at about 2 a.m. Tracy and Stephen (not sleeping together) were awakened by … an earthquake, so the alarm would sound about nine hours too late. By the way, I did not wake up during the quake, proving the advantage of that last glass of wine.

The majority of the following day would be spent in Coyoacán. We’d start by exploring the museum in the house where a Russian revolutionary was assassinated and then follow that up with a tour of the home of a woman, who’s tough life was almost as famous as her art. We’d check out the nearby market and one of the oldest surviving houses of worship in Mexico City.

Then we would all Uber another half hour to a Coyoacán restaurant owned by relatives of our friends in Southern California. It was here that I learned I loved seafood, and even more importantly, discovered a drink I have been trying to replicate since I arrived home home.

Back in Centro Histórico we would see the rest of the Metropolitan cathedral, where once again I would make an absolute fool of myself. We’d end the evening at a historic restaurant complete with mariachis, where our light meal turned out to be not to be so “light.”

Chapter Six - Russian To Coyoacán’s Museums & Music To My Ears

Day Six - Hot To Trotsky, Axe To Grind, It’s Only A Drill, Feeling Blue With Frida, Strolling Through The Mercado, Where’s The Entrance?, Seafood Heaven, The Magical Mango Margarita, I Can’t “Handle” This, Even St. Michael Was Embarrassed and Enjoying Dinner (And Music) at One Of Mexico City’s Oldest Restaurants
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Old Jul 10th, 2023, 03:38 PM
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Enlightening, enjoyable and entertaining could describe this day in Mexico City. Also, once again, a tad bit embarrassing for yours truly, as well. We headed to Coyoacán to visit two museums, The Leon Trotsky House Museum and Casa Azul (Frieda Kahlo Museum). Both were fascinating. We took a spin around a local market and ducked in one of Mexico City’s oldest churches, Parroquía San Juan Bautista. After an enjoyable lunch in Coyoacán at some friends’ relative’s restaurant (spectacular fish dishes), we stepped inside the Metropolitan Cathedral where again my ineptitude was highlighted. Finally, we’d dine at a historic Centro Histórico restaurant, serenaded by mariachis. Still loving Mexico City! Link with photos below. (You know the drill)


Day Six - Hot To Trotsky, Axe To Grind, It’s Only A Drill, Feeling Blue With Frida, Strolling Through The Mercado, Where’s The Entrance?, Seafood Heaven, Magical Mango Margarita Meets Tuna Tower, I Can’t “Handle” The Truth, Even St. Michael Was Embarrassed and Mariachi Music at One Of Mexico City’s Oldest Restaurants

Upon awakening, we again read the note that the hotel had slipped under the door the previous evening about Mexico City’s seismic drill later that morning.

Today we were off to Coyoacán to visit the Casa Azul (Frida Kahlo Museum). Uber picked us up at 9:15, and I asked our driver to drop us off at the museum (about a 30 minute ride from Centro Histórico), but realized after exiting the car that I had forgotten this was not our first stop of the day. As we didn’t have reservations until 11:15 a.m., I had planned to explore the nearby Leon Trotsky House & Museum beforehand. I really need more caffeine in the morning.

Luckily, the Leon Trotsky House & Museum was only about a three-block walk from Casa Azul, and we arrived shortly after it opened at 10 a.m. A massive critic of the Stalin regime, Trotsky finally landed in Mexico City in 1937 (with many stops along the way) after his 1929 expulsion from the Soviet Union. He was helped in his relocation efforts by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Trotsky and wife, Natalie Sedova, lived with Rivera and Kahlo at Casa Azul for a couple of years. Frida is shown below as they arrived in Mexico City.

They moved to this house after a falling out with Rivera (one reason being Trotsky had a fling with Frida). Photo from Wiki Commons.

Entering Museo Casa de Leon Trotsky ($40 MEX … a little more than 2 bucks), there is a room chronicling Trotsky’s life throughout the years and also hypothesizing what might have been if Trotsky had won his power struggle with Stalin.

There were numerous photos and newspaper clippings. This photo shows him with a book about The Moscow Trials. The trials held in 1936-1937 were part of Stalin’s “bloody purge against the bolshevik Old Guard.” It accused Trotsky and his son of “serious counterrevolutionary crimes.” Nearly every Trotskyist remaining in the Soviet Union was rounded up and executed during the “Great Purges” from 1936-1938. They also condemned the exiled Trotsky and basically anyone related to him to be killed.

After reading about Trotsky’s life (and death), we walked through the gardens.

Inside the Guards Quarters we saw the route he and Natalie took in exile looking for a place to live. They ventured to Turkey, Norway, France and other European countries before eventually ending up in Mexico City.

We visited the dining room. In 1982, this entire complex was designated a historic monument.

La Cocina was left as it was in the late 1930s.

Three months before Trotsky was assassinated, there was another attempt on his life. In May of 1940, 20 gunman infiltrated the property and sprayed the house with bullets. Many believe that muralist David Siqueiros was somehow involved, as he did not share fellow muralist Diego Rivera’s viewpoints on Stalin. Somehow I missed the bullet holes that still remain, but fortunately The Taipei Times photographer did not.

Figuring the next attack would be a bomb, the house was fortified and watchtowers were added. It didn’t help.

Nearly three months later, Trotsky was in the yard feeding his pet rabbits and chickens when the boyfriend of one of Trotsky’s confidantes was allowed inside the compound. Trotsky and his soon-to-be assassin (carrying a pickaxe with a shortened handle under his raincoat) went to Trotsky’s study. There, the assassin pulled out the weapon and “buried its sharp tip into Trotsky’s skull.” Although doctors thought he might survive, Trotsky died the following day. His assassin served 20 years for the crime in Havana, and then returned to the Soviet Union and was received with great honor, even receiving a medal for killing Trotsky. The room, with all its books, looks the same today as the day he was murdered.

The bed that he rested on during the day is also in the study.

We viewed other rooms such as the bathroom and the office where Trotsky’s secretaries worked.

Back in the garden among tropical flowers, including rare cacti that Trotsky collected, we saw the tomb containing the ashes of Trotsky and Natalie, who penned a biography of Trotsky before her death in 1962.

A Hammer & Sickle on the tomb complete with the Soviet flag flying overhead. This is well worth a stop when in Mexico City. We spent about 40 minutes here.

On the short walk back to Casa Azul, we paused for a moment at a very colorful store.

Next trip we really need to do a mural tour.

We were back at Casa Azul shortly before our timed entry and many in that time slot were already queuing.

It’s certainly not hard to figure out how she came up with the name for her house.

Nearing the 11 a.m. time slot, the 11:15 grouping started to form a line, as well. As a dog laid in the shade protecting itself from the heat, the peaceful quiet of this Wednesday morning was suddenly pierced by wailing sirens. The earthquake drill had begun. I guess only the dog (who started barking) had not been advised of the impending drill. It’s something we should consider in California, but someone would probably sue due to the noise.

While waiting in line for entry to the museum, Tracy purchased two alebrijes from a street vendor. Hand-carved and brightly painted, one was a hummingbird and the other a dog which reminded her of our late corgi, Frankie. She was worried about getting them home in one piece but the woman showed her how the wings could be removed for packing and then wrapped them in bubble wrap for travel.

So what is an alebrijes? We only knew them from the Disney movie, Coco, but have since learned that they are Mexican spirit animals invented in 1936 by a Mexican papier-mâché artist, Pedro Linares. The alebrijes were made popular by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo who commissioned him to create alebrijes for them, some of which we saw in the museum. Senor Linares created the fanciful animals after a strange dream he had.

Tracy is now obsessed with these whimsical creatures and wants to travel to Oaxaca, home of the artisans who carve and paint these magical animals. Since I have read Oaxaca also has fabulous food, I’m in!

We entered Frieda’s courtyard, resplendent in blue. Frida did not have an easy life. She contracted polio as a six-year-old making one leg shorter than the other. Then at 18, she was traveling on a bus that was hit by a tram, which would confine her to bed for three months and caused pain throughout her short life

We entered the house she shared with Diego Rivera while they were married and looked at her paintings. Mi familia (Inconcluso) is on the left, while on the right is Viva la Vida, the final painting she would sign. She inscribed the words only eight days before her death.

This painting also led to a 2008 music hit. Coldplay’s Chris Martin told Rolling Stone that he named this song and album on this painting he saw, which translated means “Long Live Life.” He added, “She went through a lot of shit, of course, and then she started a painting in her house that said 'Viva la Vida.' I just loved the boldness of it.”

At one time, Frida had thought about being a medical illustrator. In her painting El marxismo dará salud a los enfermos (Marxism will give health to the sick) she shows herself in her leather corset “being cured by two huge hands, which are symbols of Marxism.” She once said about this painting, “For the first time, I am not crying any more.” The painting never was finished and was one of her final portraits.

There were also portraits of Frida by other artists.

Rivera paintings could also be found, like this oil on canvas painting La Quebrada (left), a place where cliff divers do their death-defying dives in Acapulco. He dedicated this painting to Frida two years after her death.

The patio looked just as lovely from the inside as from the outside.

Frida was also into photography and collected more than 6,000 photographs (roughly the same number I put in these posts).

This photo is of French writer and poet André Brenton, Diego and Trotsky.

We entered the kitchen where Frida is formed by miniature clay mugs on the wall. There’s one of Diego on the right side that our crack photographers failed to grab (although we were able capture most of the two doves on the left)

In Frida’s studio we took a glance at her art supplies.

Other artifacts include a bust of Diego (we were now on a first name basis with the two).

Although Frida and Diego had their difficulties, it was an affair of the heart.

Because of her polio, injuries and surgeries, Frida often painted in her wheelchair.

We then visited the room where she died in 1954. The first thing you notice is a skeleton looking as if he’s going out on the town near the headboard and a painting behind her that looks eerily like a dead child holding some flowers.

And, of course, her death mask.

Frida had two bedrooms, this one is was her night-time bedroom with a skeleton above her head.

And here’s the other bedroom, with an urn containing her ashes. You’ll have to take our word on that, but we did get a great photo of a bench. Rivera, it is said, wanted his ashes to be combined with Frida’s upon his death, but that didn’t happen.

We ran into more than a few interesting characters as we toured the home.

Then it was back outside to the patio area where we checked out pieces by Mardonio Magaña, a sculptor who was discovered by Diego.

Like Tracy, Frida loved her garden and it served as a creative refuge and inspiration for both her and Diego.

There are numerous native plants throughout.

In 2004, hundreds of Frida’s personal objects, including clothes, were discovered at Casa Azul. Mannequins in a nearby onsite building display a variety of her clothing representing “her authentic Mexican femininity.”

It also includes one her famous corsets. Instead of having this piece of clothing “define her as an invalid, Frida decorated and adorned her corsets, making them appear as an explicit choice, and including them in the construction of her looks as an essential piece.”

In 1953 Frida had her right food amputated. Afterward she uttered one of her most famous phrases, “Who needs feet? I have wings to fly.” Some of the implements that helped her walk are displayed in another room.

Her amazing life came to an end in July 1954 from a pulmonary embolism. I read, “Like the woman herself, Frida Kahlo's funeral was both traditional and out-of-the-ordinary. She was laid out for viewing in her favorite jewelry and Tehuana costume. It was artistic through and through. During the procession, a Communist flag was famously draped over her open casket.”

All in all, it was a very informative morning. Following our museum escapades, we walked down to the Mercado N. 89 Coyoacán.

Colorful does not half describe walking through this vibrant maze.

I think Tracy could have spent the rest of the day here exploring.

But we had things to do.

Walking past Jardín Allende …

… we passed a few places where we could grab a bite …

… but as we already had lunch plans, instead we stepped inside Parroquía San Juan Bautista (once we found the elusive entrance), one of Mexico City’s oldest churches (16th century) known for a blend of baroque and colonial architecture. It was declared a national monument in 1934.

This is certainly a gorgeous church (it has been renovated rather recently), however like most of the churches we entered on this trip, a service was taking place.

Not to fret, it was time for lunch.

Our good friends who we spend many holidays with and affectionately call the Chicas, have family in Mexico City. Xochitl’s (one of the Chicas) daughter Michele and son-in-law Jorge own two seafood restaurants, one in Coyoacán, so we Ubered about 25 minutes to Mariscos del Patio (Patio Seafood). (You can read the complete review here.)

Tracy and I were looking forward to seeing Michele again until I had a terrible thought … what if I didn’t like my meal? Not to worry, it turned out to be one of our favorites (if not the favorite restaurant of the trip). Crisis averted.

From its name you can surmise seafood is the name of the game here, and I am not usually a big fish eater. After this experience, that might change.

Thanks to the friendly staff who helped us with ordering due to our woeful lack of Spanish, we started with ceviche, an array of grilled shrimp and marlin quesadillas along with fresh chips, salsa and pico de gallo.

Having not paid attention to how much we were ordering, I ordered the taco patio; garlic shrimp scampi served on a cheesy freshly made corn tortilla with a side of mixed green salad. I always eschewed fish tacos in the past, but after devouring this flavorful taco I thought to myself, “Why have I not eaten these all my life?”

Then came mango magic. Our server told us that the mango margaritas were excellent, and true to his word they were wonderful. Not naming names, but let’s just say at least a few of us ordered more than one. I have to learn how to replicate this drink at home.

Fortunately none of us had really had much breakfast, because before you could say “stuff your gills,” more fish dishes arrived on the table.

Tracy, Stephen and I ordered the Torre de Atún (Tuna Tower) which Tracy described as “an explosion of flavors” … a jewel-toned fresh tuna tower with plump shrimp, avocado, red onion and cucumbers drenched in secret sauce poured over the top. Wow!

Tim opted for the tasty Tostada Mariana; cooked shrimp, cooked octopus, surimi crab and fresh fish, while Sheila enjoyed Sizzling Grilled shrimps with pico de gallo, served with rice and papas a la francesca, otherwise known as French fries.

What I really enjoyed, too, was we were not in a touristic part of town, so this was an authentic meal with some of the freshest fish I’ve tasted. We bade farewell to Michele and the gang, and it was time to head back to Centro Histórico.

Along the way, another mural stood out.

Soon we were deposited near the Metropolitan Cathedral, so Stephen, Tracy and I decided to see what we had missed when we visited during Sunday service. Entering the same area, we were immediately able to figure out what all the noise was on our previous visit. There is a contraption where you can make a medallion of your favorite saint. I only have one favorite, Saint Michael the Archangel, a saint who I have counted upon numerous times to prevent injury and, in some cases, death. It is here where Stephen and Tracy had yet another opportunity to video my ineptitude.

A woman showed me how to make and “take your souvenir coin.” It looked like all you have to do is insert the coin, crank the handle and, voila, old Mike would miraculously appear on your coin. Easy peasy, or so I thought.

Well, I started cranking that baby, and it was then I realized an arm with a partially torn rotator cuff was not going get the job done. By the looks of this photo, I was holding the handle in such a fashion that even a normal arm would find it difficult to turn (mechanical reasoning was never my strong suit).

Thankfully, the woman sensing the futility of my efforts (and the line forming behind me), came back as my “relief turner” and out popped a St. Michael medallion. Little did I know that on our last full day in Mexico City I would need to enlist his assistance once again (foreshadowing alert).

Sufficiently embarrassed and humiliated, I then rejoined my companions, and took a last look at the church.

We stopped for a few photos …

.. and started our return to our hotel.

Passing a bust of Samir Flores Soberanes, I wondered who he was, and why a statue of him was here. Turns out Soberanes was a journalist as well as an environmental and indigenous activist, who was shot to death in 2019 outside his home in Amilcingo, a couple of hours south of Mexico City. He was opposing a planned development project that included two new thermoelectric plants and a 93-mile natural gas pipeline in his home state of Morelos. Thousands of people in Mexico City protested. A replica of the original bust in his home town was copied and placed in the Zócalo a year later. As we had seen earlier on the trip, this was another Anti-Monument in Mexico, pieces that are traditionally installed during or after protests.

The wind was whipping the giant Mexican flag in the Zócolo, much to Tracy’s delight.

It was actually nice to rest for a couple of hours, but once again it was time to eat (it’s what we do). We met back up with Tim and Sheila, and walked to a Centro Histórico institution, Café de Tacuba (C. de Tacuba 28, Centro Histórico). Not only is this one of Mexico City’s oldest restaurants, it’s one of North America’s oldest restaurants. Speaking of old (not including our group), Calle de Tacuba is, according to what I read, the first road ever in Mexico City. The restaurant opened in 1912. If you are seeking a quintessential Mexican restaurant and experience, look no further than Café de Tacuba.

Located in a former convent, it’s a vision for the senses, one of those senses being hearing. I had read that on weekends mariachis stroll the room. I was hoping on a Wednesday, we might be treated to some music. We were.

Soon after sitting down, we were serenaded for about the next 20 minutes.

That's all we got on this night, but it started off the evening right.

Since we had participated in a rather hefty lunch, we were ready for drinks and a “light” meal, so we just ordered entrees. None of which could really be called “light.”

Jack and Tim ordered the Chiles rellenos de queso; poblano peppers stuffed with cheese.

I thought I’d be safe ordering Enchilada Suizas; oven baked with sour cream and melted cheese. “Great,” I thought, a meal of cheese enchiladas was perfect. Two problems, it just said “Suizas” on the menu, and I had totally forgotten that this dish also includes chicken. When it arrived, I stared at a large Suizas casserole. It was good, but had I attempted to finish it, they would have had to roll me up the oldest street in Mexico City.

Sheila and Tracy fared better with their dish of Tostada especial Tacuba de pollo dashebrado; tostada with chicken and Oaxaca cheese.

We washed this all down with a Mexican Barbera from the Valle de Tomás, which by its name must be a great wine region.

The food here was not the best we had in Mexico City, but it certainly was good, and just sitting inside this restaurant exudes historical Mexico ambiance.

We bid adios to our ambiancing friends Tim and Sheila, who would be departing for home the following day, and the three of us had a nightcap at Gran Hotel Ciudad’s rooftop.

Tomorrow, we would return to the charming Condesa neighborhood, but at different hotels than where we stayed before. After lunch at a busy and enjoyable spot in Condesa, Tracy and I walked to Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park) to wander a bit, taking in some of the park’s sights and sounds.

We would eventually hook back up with Stephen to take a step back in time at the Museo Nacional de Antropología, a fascinating museum featuring different eras in Mexico. It is here where we learned about an unusual game where the loser had his heart ripped out, and where, for a brief moment in history, a San Diego State Aztec was crowned an Aztec emperor.
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Old Jul 10th, 2023, 04:14 PM
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I should not read your blog before dinner. I have something light and easy planned and now want to ditch it and go get some Mexican food, but I know it won't be as good as what's available in CDMX.
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Old Jul 11th, 2023, 09:41 AM
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MT, there's a real sense of 'fullness' to your trip. The four of you clearly did the things you set out to do, and I'm glad that it all went so well.
Those murals, whew.
Frida's legacy endures, yeah? There were street art images of her on both of our recent trips: London then Montreal.
I'm with Leely---reading your report before dinner could definitely lead to disappointment with one's planned meal!

I am done. the SD state Aztec 'honorary Emperor'
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Old Jul 11th, 2023, 01:59 PM
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"MT, there's a real sense of 'fullness' to your trip."

"Fullness" indeed Z. Mexico City is a Frida and Diego wonderland. Her and Trotsky's museums were so informative. Plus I will never attempt to make a saint coin again. Keep me informed of your travel plans to the wild wild west. I'll be the guy with the Aztec shirt on (they made me leave the crown)
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Old Jul 12th, 2023, 02:01 PM
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MTT, nice report. Speaking of dinner, where was your favorite spot in centro? Our car's in the shop for a few days next week and we decided spend 1 night/couple days in cdmx. We're staying at the Gran Hotel. Haven't stayed in Centro for years. Usually Roma, & do centro during the day.
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Old Jul 12th, 2023, 02:27 PM
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"Speaking of dinner, where was your favorite spot in centro?"

Combining quality of food with ambiance, my two favorite meals were at Balcón del Zocalo and Azul Histórico, although I enjoyed them all. I love mole. By the way, they really need to put an accent mark above the "e" to differentiate it from the animal who lives primarily underground, and the brown thing that's on my back. The food at Cafe de Tacuba was a notch below the other four in my opinion, but the atmosphere and history more than made up for that. How can you be in a bad mood with mariachi music? I will check with my traveling partners to see if they concur. Stay tuned!
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Old Jul 12th, 2023, 03:19 PM
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baldOne - Azul Histórico is the consensus winner.
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Old Jul 12th, 2023, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by maitaitom
baldOne - Azul Histórico is the consensus winner.
Their menu looks intriguing. Looks good for ambiancing as well. We have been to Cafe Tacuba (the restaurant, not the rock band) but that was for breakfast over 20 years ago on our first trip to the then DF. We still have a souvenir copper pitcher from there that my wife talked the waitress into selling to us. Classic place. Thought about dinner at our hotel but probably just do drinks there.
BTW, it was your TR that enticed me to make the 2 day/1 night trip since our car will be out of commission for a couple of days.
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Old Jul 27th, 2023, 09:47 AM
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On Day Seven, we hustled (via Uber) back to our last lodging (Hotel Villa Condesa), and after a late breakfast visited Chapultepec Park. We took a quick look (we’d return the following day) of the park on the way to Museo Nacional de Antropología. What a museum! We walked through the history of Mexico, with the two galleries featuring Aztec and Mayan sculptures being the ultimate highlight. Afterward we witnessed a death-defying flying dance outside the museum, and enjoyed wine-time on the patio before we zipped over to hip Roma Norte for dinner. Tonight would be our only disappointing meal of the trip, if you could call Tracy’s entrée a meal. Story with photos in link below. You know the rest of the drill.


Chapter Seven: Exploring Chapultepec Park & Museo Nacional de Antropología

Day Seven: Charming Boutique Hotel, Who’s A Lardo?, There’s Trouble Afoot, Monument To Heroes Defending Mexico City, Be Sure To Come Here On A Weekday, Travels Through Mexico’s History, Going Out Of My Head, You Gotta Have Heart,, Hail Montezuma, A Happening Part Of Town and Our Only Restaurant Misstep

Moving day one more time. Tracy and I zipped back to Condesa at the charming Hotel Villa Condesa (Calle Colima 428 Colonia Roma Norte).

Villa Condesa is a boutique hotel with an onsite restaurant plus a shaded patio that we enjoyed each evening for wine. We checked in during the in-between breakfast and lunch hours, so we headed out into the neighborhood in search of food since we had not eaten before we departed Centro Histórico. Tracy blurted out, “Hey Lardo!” I knew I had partaken of copious amounts of food on the trip, but I thought that statement was a bit harsh. It was then I noticed the restaurant sign for Lardo (Agustín Melgar 6, Colonia Condesa.

We shared a Lemon Ricotta Roll (outstanding) followed by scrambled eggs, avocado and parmesan cheese served on a house-made English muffin. Lardo serves breakfast and lunch and also has a take-out window for house-made pastries and coffee. Judging by the line, this is a very popular restaurant.

From there, it was only about a 15-minute walk to Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Forest … better known as Chapultepec Park). Knowing Mexico City’s affinity for dogs, it was no surprise when we saw one driving. We prayed for its safety.

Entering Chapultepec Park, panda-monium nearly broke out when this guy nearly made me his sole man. We safely made it through the gate.

It seemed lots of prey were after me.

Next we came upon Monumento a los Niños Héroes, dedicated to six teenage boys who became heroes during the Battle of Chapultepec, which took place during the 1847 U.S. invasion. These young cadets were killed attempting to stave off advancing American troops.

One cadet, Juan Escutia, did not want the Mexican flag to fall into enemy hands. He draped himself in the flag and jumped to his death. The boys were eventually buried in Chapultepec Park and their remains were moved to the monument in 1952.

If you don’t want to walk through the park, there are other means of transportation.

On this weekday, the park was uncrowded, unlike the massive amount of people who were here when Tim and Sheila visited on a weekend.

We didn’t explore too much, because we were going to meet Stephen to see the most visited museum in all of Mexico. We walked by one the park’s three lakes, which I think was Lago Mayor.

Before traveling to Mexico City, we had been advised not to miss Museo Nacional de Antropología. We’re glad we didn’t.

This anthropology museum is recognized as one of the premier museums of its kind in the world. There are more than 20 rooms but unfortunately many were closed on the day we visited, however the rooms we wanted to see were open. The impressive complex of rooms were constructed in the mid-1960s, upon entering the courtyard we were wowed by El Paragua (the umbrella) fountain.

The first room dealt with the Introduction To Anthropology, and the second and third rooms took us through ancient history.

Although a popular museum, it was fairly quiet on a Thursday, which was great for viewing the artifacts.

Primates were shown in various stages.

I only wish the cave art we saw at Font de Gaume in France was this good.

A Neanderthal burial is depicted, as well as the grave of homo sapiens.

Although the museum has more than 100 murals, only about 15-20 are displayed at a time. The one below in the Peoples of the Americas Room was completed in 1964 entitled Las Razas y La Cultural.” This mural celebrates diversity where 14 goddesses represent different races of the planet. I’m sure it would not be allowed in Florida.

Hold on to your heart! In the Teotihuacan Collection, a grinning skull caught our immediate attention. It was found in a 1964 excavation very near to the Pyramid of the Sun. There are a number of interpretations of what it depicted, perhaps even of human sacrifices or the Teotihuacan God of Death. Some have even called it the “Disc of Death.” I thought he might have just been laughing at me for sliding down the nearby mini-pyramid on my rear end a few days before.

There were remnants of the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent.

The Terrestrial Water Goddess, originally resided near the Temple of the Moon.

I met up with my contemporary, The Elderly God of Fire Huehueteotl (left).

What I thought might be an ancient surfboard is actually Monolito de Chalchiuhtlicue named Stormy Sky while to the right is The Storm God. We weathered them both.

I read that this piece called El Creado (The Creator) “represents a kneeling adult, bearded and with fangs. He has two penises that are intermingled with cocoa leaves that go up behind his arms and run down his back until they end in a knot on his chest.” He is said to be linked to fertility. If they had X-rated films back then, El Creado would have been its biggest star.

Before entering the Mexica Room (6), in the hallway we read about something called Mesoamerican ballgame. It is too long to explain, but cutting to the chase, some of the competitors didn’t come home for dinner. A sign read, “When a play was made that went against the movement of the sun, a decapitation was carried out, and the blood vitalized the earth and sun.” I wonder if the term header came from that game.

The Mexica Room was one of the two most interesting rooms in the museum. If you are an (ancient) Aztec fan, this is your room. The first gigantic artifact you come upon is the Ocelotl Cuauhxicalli, a jaguar that was utilized as a “vessel for the hearts from sacrificial victims.” It was tough living back then. The Jaguar was an important symbol for the Aztecs.

We explored the rooms of ancient sculptures.

There were cylindrical monoliths and serpents.

I had been looking forward to seeing the “Aztec Calendar,” figuring it would San Diego State’s football schedule on it, but was surprised to learn this exquisite piece is actually named Piedra del Sol (Stone of the Sun), and Aztec Calendar is incorrect. It was used as a “gladiatorial sacrificial altar.” It was discovered in 1790 in the Zocalo when the Metropolitan Cathedral was going through restoration work.

Keeping with the gladiator sacrifice theme (probably tough to get life insurance then) we saw the Monument of Tizoc.

The Aztec Moon Goddess was beheaded by her brother, but lives on here in the museum.

He reminded me a little of Babe Ruth.

One of these might be Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain … or not.

I am fairly certain that this is the Aztec god of art, games, dance, flowers, and song, Xōchipilli.

For a brief period, I then became emperor of the Aztec empire as I (sort of) donned the headdress of Moctezuma II (known better to San Diego State Aztecs as Montezuma). This is only a replica of the headdress resides at the Weltmuseum in Vienna. That has caused much friction between Mexico and Austria. Give it back!!!!

As if on cue, I was feeling rather thirsty when we ran into Dios del Agua.

The Mexica Room is a must if you visit the museum.

Now it was time to head outdoors into the museum garden, where some recreations of Mayan temples take up residency.

They were pretty cool, but the weather was hot, so we headed back inside.

We were now at the gallery dedicated to the Mayans.

Chac-mool is one of the room’s most famous (and oldest) sculptures. It is from the pre-Columbian city of Chichen Itzá, which was constructed by the Mayans. You can visit its pyramid, El Castillo.

Don’t miss the big ticket item, which is located downstairs. Below is a recreation of the Tomb of Pakal The Great (original discovered in 1952 at the Mayan city of Palenque), who reigned in the 7th century, and was deemed by many as “the most powerful person in the entire Americas,” since overtaken by Oprah Winfrey.

Inside the tomb was Pakal’s remarkable death mask that now is at the museum.

We checked out some more pieces of antiquity, but after a couple of hours we had reached maximum sculpture overload.

This is definitely a museum where you could easily spend half a day.

As we exited the museum the sound of a beating drum echoed through the park. Nearby a guy in native garb was climbing a nearly 100-foot pole. Upon reaching the top, a group of others started to climb up as well. Eventually they started swing around upside down around the pole.

Round and round they went, getting closer to the ground on each rotation (Tracy video below).

Eventually they all made it down safely to the applause of passersby. But what was this death defying routine.

As we exited the museum we followed the sound of a beating drum echoing through the park. Nearby a guy in native garb was climbing a nearly 100-foot pole. Upon reaching the top, the rest of the group climbed up to join him. Tethering themselves to the pole with ropes, they started to swing upside down around the pole

Round and round they went, getting closer to the ground on each rotation (Tracy video below).

Eventually they all made it down safely to the applause of passersby. But what was this death defying routine?

As I found out after returning home, this ancient ritual is called Danza de los Voladores or Dance of the Flyers (there are a few names for it). If interested, there are a number of websites describing its meaning.

Even the squirrel was amazed by the performance.

We walked back to Hotel Villa Condesa, where it was nearing siesta time again. This was another great place to stay, but you might want to watch your shins at night.

After late afternoon showers (of the rain variety) Stephen joined us for wine hour (which for us really can mean any hour) before dinner in the courtyard.

Then it was off to hipster neighborhood also known as Colonia Roma and dinner at Blanco Colima (Colima 168, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc). Colonia Roma was bustling. Everything from the streets to all the restaurants were packed with what looked like well-heeled young people. Well, except for the three of us.

It started off well enough, because the building where the restaurant is located dates back more than 100 years.

It went downhill from there. I’m all for music at restaurants, but the pulsating, very loud music plus the noise from the patrons made it virtually impossible to hear the waiter.

Tracy ordered a Bluefin Tuna Tostada, which the waiter assured her could be a meal but turned out to be a teeny tiny tostada. Stephen was served his fish entrée while I had two unremarkable tacos. Stephen was served his fish entrée while I had two unremarkable tacos. We attempted to summon our server so we could order something else, but he somehow managed to not see us. Soon, Stephen and I were done with dinner, while Tracy had gone on an unplanned diet. When the waiter eventually arrived, my rather perturbed spouse said to me, “To heck with it (she might have used more colorful verbiage), let’s get out of here. Hey, you can’t pick winners every night.

Tomorrow, we would return to Bosque Chapultepec and visit Chapultepec Castle, which happens to be the only castle in North America to ever house real sovereigns. Then we would head over to Polanco to a lunch place that Tim and Sheila had ambianced to earlier in the week. We’d stroll through Polanco, admiring its beautiful buildings and go over to Parque Lincoln to check out a couple of statues we had wanted to see. Then we’d walk to Uruguay (the plaza, not the country) to see its unique cubist fountain. The previous evening’s dinner fiasco would be long forgotten after our terrific meal back in the Polanco area. Not only was the food good, but we would also receive VIP personalized service that included a mini-tour of a room that offers a prized tequila collection. That’s more like it!

Next: Chapter Eight - Chapultepec Castle & It’s Another Tequila Sunset

Day Eight - Where’s That Ticket Office?, Not A Bad Walk At All, Magnificent Murals, Stained Glass Hallway, Exploring The Grounds, It’s All Up From Here, Perambulating Polanco, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, A Quick Stop In Uruguay, VIP Treatment & Mas Tequila!
maitaitom is offline  
Old Jul 27th, 2023, 12:07 PM
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'...seeing the “Aztec Calendar,” figuring it would San Diego State’s football schedule on it.'

(amplified voice of referee booming across stadium)
"We have Sense of Humour on #72...ten yards. We'll repeat third down."

Tom, seeing some of your above artifacts, I thought to ask: do you and Tracy ever bring back souvenirs and if so, what might you have brought home from Mexico?
Just curious.
I am done. the Aztecs and the squirrel

zebec is offline  
Old Jul 27th, 2023, 07:50 PM
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"Tom, seeing some of your above artifacts, I thought to ask: do you and Tracy ever bring back souvenirs and if so, what might you have brought home from Mexico?"

Hi Z, From this trip we brought back a tablecloth purchased out near the pyramids and the little spirit animal from a woman outside the Frida Kahlo museum. I am Done ... The Shopper's Husband

maitaitom is offline  
Old Jul 27th, 2023, 10:14 PM
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Is it safe to visit now?
wilson93david is offline  

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