Happy St. Patrick’s Day from CDMX

Last year we were in Rome for St. Patrick’s Day. Wow, does that seem a looooong time ago. Our lives are packed with new experiences. Anyway, we tried to go to an Irish pub, but it had lost power and was closed, so we ended up at a wine bar. No complaints, but no green beer either.

This year we had more luck, although the pub, Wallace’s, is probably Scottish? Nevermind, the actual Irish pub a few doors down was crammed with Americans, some of them a bit obnoxious. Who would have thought? After deciding that wasn’t the scene for us, we went back to Wallace’s and lucked into a table.

I couldn’t bear the thought of drinking green Corona (maybe it was Modelo, but still) so we ordered a couple of Guinesses. We noticed a guy sitting next to us completely alone. He was waiting for friends, he said. St. Patrick’s Day and Friday of a three-day weekend (more on that in a minute) and the traffic coming from the south was rough. As he nursed his beer, he said it would be about another 40 minutes. It’s common in Latin America. Yes, time is flexible here.

An hour later, I asked again. One friend was having work trouble, but the other would be there in 40 minutes. She was getting ready. In Spanish, there’s a different word for getting decked out and just getting dressed. He used the word for getting decked out. Finally, Natalie did arrive and she was very gracious. She thanked us for talking to Abner and we all ended up chatting. They both spoke great English (although I tried to speak Spanish!). They had a lot of ideas for where we should go and Abner even invited us to his nephew’s 15th birthday party. Too bad we will be in Oaxaca (not that I’m upset about being in Oaxaca, but I would have loved to go to the party). They both had interesting life stories and we exchanged information. Maybe we’ll see them again before we go.

Side note: Everywhere I have been, I have heard “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and Wallace’s was no different. In fact, a whole contingent of revelers sang along with it. Can’t beat ’80s American hair bands, I guess.

Monday is a federal holiday here and while they don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo, they do celebrate the day in 1938 that President Lázaro Cárdenas kicked the gringos out of the oil industry here and created Pemex, the Mexican oil company. (My friend, Perla the librarian, explained it to me in Spanish: “Adios gringos, esta es nuestra dinero!” or something like that.) Oil expropriation day is technically March 18 and coincidentally the third Monday in March is the commemoration of the birthday of Benito Juarez. I guess you can pick which one to celebrate.

Sunday, we decided to get out of our neighborhood. We headed to Coyoacán, which is where Frida Kahlo lived, but we didn’t visit her home again. We started at Parque Nacional Viveros de Coyoacán. Viveros means nursery and the park is really a 38.9 hectare tree nursery for reforestation projects in Mexico City. It’s a beautiful, shaded park (as you can imagine) with lots of joggers and nature lovers.

From there, we wandered the area, stopping into the Mercado de Coyoacán, which is a food market, but also sells lots of clothes and Mexican tchotchkes or in Spanish, tanteria. In fact, there is a ton of tanteria for sale on the streets, in the alleys, and in bazaars cluttered around the main tourist routes. If you want churrios or elotes, you’re in luck here. We bought yummy chocolate and some all natural face lotion and shampoo. We like to support local business. There are some very touristy areas of Coyoacán, including its central square, but it’s also a neighborhood that feels more like old Mexico City with beautiful and colorful architecture.

When we made our pilgrimage to Casa Azul, Frida’s house, we ate at a tosada restaurant, Amatista Tosadas, and went back this time as well. It’s still delicious! Then we wandered aimlessly for a few blocks and found a small, peaceful square out of the fray. When we were tired of sitting (after about 30 seconds), I found there was an alley nearby that housed a shrine to the Virgin Mary (not at all an unusual find here) and a mural, but the real reason we walked over there is because it is supposed to be haunted. We found no spectral evidence, but the walk was lovely.

Notice the difference in height from the new concrete to the street.

By then we were ready to head home, so we called an Uber. We Ubered over there because it is a long walk, but somehow we still managed to get in more than 14,000 steps. I have no idea how that happened!

See those pieces on the side? They don’t fit the gaps. In fact, they are duplicates. So frustrating!

Side note 2: For some reason, a concrete platform is being constructed in the middle of the intersection on our corner. Anyway, the street is closed, which is nice from a noise perspective, but I’m not sure what the plan is.

Side note 3: I finished the puzzle and guess what????? There are THREE pieces missing. I would blame myself, but there are also two repeated pieces. I have complained to customer service and so far have not heard back. In case you are wondering: Don’t buy puzzles from the Italian company Clementoni unless you want to be sorely disappointed.

Daylight Savings Us from the 6 a.m. Gym

When you woke up this morning you had somehow lost an hour of your life. When we woke up this morning, we had not. Time is relative. I think it was Einstein who proved this, although I might be confused. Last year, the Mexican legislature decided to do away with Daylight Savings Time. It is kinda stupid this far south. The good news for us is that Steven will start working at 8 a.m. since that is now 9 a.m. Central Time. Does that seem like a good thing? It is! Do you know why? Because that means we can’t go to the gym at 7, which means we won’t be getting up at 6:15 a.m. Yay! There’s no way we’re going to the gym at 6 a.m., so we’re just going to suck it up and go at different times during the day that work for us since I still want to do morning yoga, but at the civilized hour of 9 a.m. instead of 7.

You may know that I am no longer taking Spanish classes except with our tutor. Finally, this week, I met with the mom of my yoga instructor. Silvia wants to practice her English and I want to speak to Mexican people in Spanish. We had a great conversation and are planning to do it again Tuesday. The only way to learn a language is to speak the language. I definitely think my Spanish is improving, but only poco a poco as the waiter said to me last night.

Where were we last night that a waiter was talking to me? I’m glad you asked! We had an eventful Saturday that ended with a night at Jazzatlan, a club close to our apartment. We thought we were going to hear a jazz singer, but apparently during the pandemic, they got a yen for the blues, so we heard a bunch of blues standards from singer Louise Phelan and Octavio Herrera on guitar. If you want your students to learn real U.S. history instead of the version being legislated around our fair nation, maybe send them to a jazz club in Mexico. The singer and lead guitarist explained Jim Crow laws to give one of the songs context.

Before jazz, I had decided I wanted Italian food because I had smelled garlic walking by a different restaurant. We looked up a place close to the jazz club and then learned that it’s best to eat Italian food where Italian people live. The pasta was passable, but I wouldn’t go back. We have had some good pizza, so maybe we just went to a not-so-great place with good reviews? At any rate, we had an OK dinner, it was beautiful out and then we headed over to jazz.

Rain clouds????

We were also witness to a crazy occurrence yesterday: A thunderstorm. It lasted about a minute and I saw two lightning bolts. Wow! Today, it’s so windy, a tree fell onto a power line and Zap!, we have no power. According to the landlord, this happens fairly frequently and will probably be fixed in about three hours. We decided to go for a walk and got rained on. What is going on here? The good news is that the landlord was pretty much exactly right. Power back in three hours.

So, back to Saturday: I want to make it clear that this week’s death march was not my fault. We had gone to the gym and then wanted to do something mellow since we knew we’d be out past our bedtime. I had seen that one of the world’s most beautiful libraries (No. 13), Biblioteca Vasconcelos, is here and I thought about going there, but it was about an hour long walk. I said: “Oh, that’s too far for today – we’ll do it another time.” But Steven said, “I’m game.” So off we went thinking that we would take an Uber back.

I started to worry that it wasn’t going to be worth the walk, especially when we approached the building, and it was surrounded by the bus station and a craptastic street market. I was wasting my angst. The library was beautiful and had an exhibit on the Divine Comedy with paintings of different scenes from the book and many examples of different printings (from back when a book was a physical object made from dead trees) dating back hundreds of years.

The building itself is hollow in the middle and the shelves are cantilevered up seven stories. You can see the Dewey decimal system numbers all the way up from the first floor. The lobby is divided into two with a staircase in the center. On one side a whale skeleton hangs from the ceiling. Between that reminding me of Sue at the Field Museum and the blues night, I was feeling a bit Chicago nostalgic – at least until I realized it was still snowing there.

Steven’s back has been a bit creaky, so I was figuring we would take an Uber back for sure, but he said, “Let’s just starting walking and see how it goes.” It was a bit cloudy, so that helped. You won’t be surprised to know that we walked all the way back. Just another self inflicted 10 mile death march.

Our first visitor in Mexico City

Last week my daughter Abi came to stay for a few days. She spent the prior weekend in Mexico City for work and visiting with some friends. Once all the fun had ended, she came over to our place and stayed with us. She lives in London, so we don’t get to see her that often; the last time was in August when Sue and I went there to visit her for a few days.

Monday and Tuesday were work days, so we mostly sat in silence and stared at our respective computer screens. We did manage to go out to dinner on Monday night to Páramo, where Sue and I ate the other week. We wanted to do something pretty fast and pretty close, both of which it was. The food was once again, delicious, and after a dinner we headed to Freddo’s for ice cream. We knew of Freddo’s from Buenos Aires. The store in Mexico City was much smaller, but the ice cream was just as good.

Wednesday we strapped on our walking shoes and headed back to Bosque de Chapultepec. Abi and I wandered through the Museo Nacional de Antropología while Sue hung out in the park and took some photos. After the museum, Abi and I visited the Castillo de Chapultepec. Once again Sue wandered the park as we had just visited there a couple of weeks ago. It is interesting, but apart from a couple of murals, it isn’t really worth a second visit. 

On Friday, Abi and I had a tour of the Teotihuacan pyramids with Roberto from Cyrviaje Consultores De Viaje. (For those who do not speak Spanish, Consultores de viaje translates to travel consultants.) Sue and I went there last year and so she decided to pass on this trip too. (I suspect she was letting Abi and I get as much father/daughter time as possible. True, plus it was nice to have a few hours to myself.) Roberto picked up us at 7 a.m., so that we could get to the site before it got too hot. It’s about 30 miles north of the city, which meant that it would take about an hour to get there and nearly two hours to return. Mexico City traffic is just unbelievable.

We started at the south end of the site, near the Temple of the Feathered Serpent and walked the 2km north towards the Pyramid of the Sun. The pyramids are magnificent and there was much more to see this time as things continue to open after the Covid shutdowns. Roberto is a great tour guide, he had lots of information and at every turn seemed to have something interesting and relevant to say. He has traveled all over the world and when we weren’t talking about Teotihuacan, we were discussing where else we should visit, both inside and outside of Mexico. The entire story of the city is amazing and also very jarring: How could a civilization that could solve complex mathematical and engineering problems leave no written history and simply vanish with no trace? It is eerie.

Saturday we didn’t do very much of any note other have dinner at a Thai/Viet restaurant called Kiin that is literally (and I mean that in the literal sense) around the corner from our AirBnB. They have a website, but it’s just their menu, so I have linked to their Facebook page — sorry if you don’t have access to it. Sue and I have eaten there before and their food is fabulous, and appropriately spicy. Abi had a 6:30 a.m. flight on Sunday so she was up somewhere around 4 a.m., but her terrible father said goodbye before he went to sleep, just so he wouldn’t have a wake up before dawn to do that.

A week or so before Abi arrived Sue bought a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle based on a 1594 map of the world. She dumped out the pieces onto our dining table and has been diligently working on it. I don’t have the patience (nor the eyesight) for such things, so with the exception of maybe a dozen pieces, she has done all the work. I figured this was a good time to post a photo of how far she has progressed and will post more as the work continues.

The map from the cover of the jigsaw puzzle box
Progress to date (This is from yesterday! There’s been some more progress.)

The worst laid plans

You may know that we walk. A LOT. And when we walk, we pass restaurants and other places and we say, “We should go there,” and then when we want a place to go, we have forgotten every one of them. No worries, we figure, we will just walk the way we walk and a restaurant that we have been meaning to try will appear before us. Except when we’re really hungry and tired and then all the restaurants are gone.

Apropos of nothing: This is the Mexican version of lawn chairs to save your parking spot.

Are you getting the idea that this may have happened to us recently? You’re correct! Friday night we went for a stroll without a dinner destination. Bad idea. One of us may get hangry and a little lightheaded if they don’t eat. Guess who that is (not me! I keep a sufficient store of fat with me at all times, just in case). I managed to hold off the hangry, but after wandering around and even sitting down at one place that Google said was Mexican but really wasn’t, we headed back home to a place we had seen that looked crowded.

Yes, it was crowded, but we’re really not sure why. I didn’t imagine that one could make nachos worse than the ones at the ballpark, but I was wrong. At least there was food in my belly. Steven said his burger wasn’t very good either, but the beer was fine.

Lesson learned: Always have a food destination in mind because if you do, you will pass a dozen other worthy places, but if not … bad nachos! (We have started to take pictures of places we see and hopefully, will remember to look at them the next time we need a place – like tonight.)

Friday wasn’t all aimless wandering. I met a woman who is also from the US and is here for a while and we went to Casa Lamm, a cultural center with a courtyard, art galleries, and a restaurant. We wandered around getting to know each other and then walked down the block to Casa del Poeta, or the former home of Ramón López Velarde, who is famous in Mexico. If you’re curious, his most famous poem is “Suave patria” or “Sweet Homeland.” When we walked by it, it looked like there was simply a salon and a bedroom (where he died), but the guide showed us through a hall of mirrors into a space full of art (see below). It was unexpectedly interesting. Thanks Catherine! I never would have known about it.

Saturday, we had an errand to do and I remembered that there was some kind of fair around the corner from us, so in we went. It was local, natural goods and mezcal makers plus a band. We tried a couple of the mezcals and bought one. Then, another woman roped us into trying beer made with heirloom (or pseudo-heirloom) recipes. We bought three. Gotta support the local economy! Oh yes, and I got six chocolates made with mezcal, too. Best purchase of the day.

I also tried pulque, which I figured I had to do because, well, I’m curious. No me gusta! Pulque is a fermented drink made from the sap of agave. Do not think tequila. NO. It’s nothing like tequila. It tastes and has the consistency of the juice from canned corn if you left it out a long time. I do not recommend. It was so bad, I spilled it into the sink. We did get to keep the clay cup, so I guess that’s something.

The plan for the day, before we got sidetracked, was to go to the Palacio de Bellas Artes to see the murals again. We had been once before, but we had a mix-up with the closing time (read about it here) so we wanted to go back. Did I mention that we went to the gym in the morning before all this? We did, but that did not stop us from walking 3.6 km (2 miles) to the museum. We didn’t realize it, but the route took us through Barrio Chino, which was VERY crowded and full of street vendors selling fried noodles and sweet bao. There were restaurants, too, but most were not listed in the best Chinese restaurants in Mexico City lists I perused.

We wandering around the museum, taking our time this time. The murals are well worth it and I don’t mean to pat myself on the back (but I am going to anyway), I understood way more of the Spanish guide’s explanation of the 1934 Diego Rivera mural “Man at the Crossroads,” originally commissioned for Rockefeller Center. Let’s not get too excited — I didn’t understand everything, but I’m getting there.

We also saw an exhibit of works by Federico Silva, who began as an assistant to muralist David Siqueiros, and became interested in kinetic sculpture and geometric art. I enjoyed that, too.

Of course we decided to take the slightly longer way home, turning 3.6 km into 4.6 (2.8 miles). Magic! We did stop at a tiny beer spot which, of course, was playing 1970s-’90s US rock. I’m not sure we would have made it the extra 10 minutes home without the carbohydrates from the beer.

Because we had not the best dinner Friday night, we decided to go for a sure thing Saturday night — Thai food kitty corner from our apartment, Kiin Thai-Viet Eatery. Delicious and spicy! Even the papaya salad was spicy delicious. I highly recommend the lemongrass soda as well.

We must be getting old because after a mere 10-mile Saturday (plus the gym!!!!), Sunday we mostly did nothing (preseason baseball!) and were happy about it!

Routine, what’s that?

Four switches among many on the walls in our apartment: What do they operate?

First off: We are loving CDMX. It’s vibrant. The food everywhere (on the street, in the fondas — or little stall restaurants — in the storefront spots, and even at the mercado) is excellent, and the people are nice.

We decided to stay here for so long partly because all this moving around means we never establish any sort of routine. Although we’re not really that big on repetitive activity, life’s little details can get confusing when you move every few weeks (and take weekend trips to boot). This may come as a surprise, but we’re not getting any younger and it’s tough to remember all the details of life when none of them are automatic. Where’s the light switch? is a question I ask often.

Humans are creatures of habit, even those of us who are easily bored, so it’s been a relief to go back to the gym (OK, that was a leap of logic. I was with her about being a creature of habit, but then to go to it is a relief to get back to the gym???? hmm…not sure I am onboard for that). Granted, getting up in the dark really stinks, but wow, do I feel better after just over a week of achy muscles.

Every time we go to a new place, we find that there are some systems we just don’t understand. How do we order? Do we wait at the booth for our food? Can we sit anywhere or are there designated areas for each establishment? How do we pay? How will we get our food? Do we get up to get it or will someone bring it to us? Do we have to bus our own tray? All these questions and more crop up as we sit waiting for our food in Latin American time. If you want fast food, go to McDonald’s (or Carl’s Jr. or KFC or Burger King or Subway or any number of Mexican versions).

Saturday we went to the gym and then had some boring errands (I needed new workout shoes — mine were so worn I was getting blisters on the bottom of my feet, but they did serve me we for many death marches). We went to an American-style mall not really a death march away, but plenty of walking after the gym. After acquiring Stan Smiths and Nikes for workouts, we decided to go to one of our favorite modern inventions: The fancy food court. This works for us because Steven can eat meat and I can get something delicious without meat. (Yes, Steven, food without meat is delicious!(oh the delusions she has!)) We hit up Mercado Roma, partly because we thought it had a spice shop. It didn’t, but that was fine too, because there were plenty of food options.

I asked if the sandwich I wanted was large, and the waiter said it was small, so I also ordered guac. Who knew the guac was gigantic and the sandwich was ample, too. I did not finish and I was very full. It was a vegan waffle with fake ham, lettuce, tomato, and more avocado. Plus syrup. Oddly delicious. Steven had meat (a hamburger with shawarma spices, which was great).

Old friends new again

Adorable, right?

Before we got here, we reconnected friends we had met in Guadalajara and we lucked out because they live here now. Woo hoo! On Sunday, Steph and Teresa headed our way and we had lunch and a drink. The food and drink are irrelevant (except that they ordered Aperol spritzes) because we remembered why we liked them so much. They are fun, interesting, and adventurous. AND they are getting married in September in Chihuahua. We basically invited ourselves 🙂 I mean, what are they supposed to say when I ask, “Are we invited?” Uuum, no, we don’t like you that much.

Plus, Teresa and I need to practice our Spanish, so we’re going to do it together. Steph is bilingual and has a cute English accent since that’s where she learned English. Teresa does, too, but she is English so it’s a tiny bit less cute.

Ciao Santiago, Hola CDMX

Plus: A Visit to the Dentist in STGO and From Summer to Winter in 8 Hours

While we never say we regret being in a place (mostly because we don’t), we were ready to leave Santiago. We’ve also mentioned why: It’s a little rundown and a little too quiet for us, although the people are very nice. Chile as a whole is a beautiful country and we would definitely come back … but not to Santiago. I hope it’s fortunes change.

Before we left, I had a little bit of excitement. We’ve been extremely lucky because in all our travels (except for one vacation in Costa Rica several years ago), we haven’t needed medical treatment — until now. While eating a bowl of oatmeal Wednesday, I heard a crunch and was thinking there was something really icky in my food. I was right: It was part of a crown on my back molar (I keep telling her that all this healthy food isn’t good for her). At first, I thought I would hold out until we got to Mexico City, but it was bugging me and I didn’t want to wait. I asked at my Spanish school and they suggested the clinic down the street.

In Chile, clinic means private medical care, including emergency services and hospital. Hospitals are public.

After school, my teacher walked me over there, helped me get registered and then took off since I was supposed to have an hour wait. An hour and a half later, I asked the receptionist what was up. Turns out the dentist had a real emergency, a dental surgery. I was really hungry and feeling like I should just go home, but instead, I headed to a food truck and got a gigantic seitan sandwich that I could only eat half of. When I got back, the wait was down to 20 minutes, so there I sat.

I managed to explain myself to the dentist in Spanglish and I mostly understood his Spanish. I was out of there five minutes later with a filling — all for about $150. Pero … two days later the rest of the crown fell out. Back I went to the clinic, this time for a 45-minute wait and a different dentist who spoke no English, he covered the rest of my tooth as a temporary solution. Tomorrow, I have an appointment with a dentist in Mexico City so I can get a new crown. Wish me luck (Good luck!).

All-in-all, the clinic experience was positive. Everyone was very nice and patient with my so-so Spanish, plus it didn’t break the bank.

The band at The Jazz Corner

Thursday, we went to The Jazz Corner, with Rania. We heard — kind of blues? Random American music.Steven’s favorite was a rendition of “UnchainS my Heart” and mine was “Moostang Sally.” I know I shouldn’t make fun of people’s accents, but it was funny. The band was pretty good, but the singer left a lot to be desired. It sort of sums up Santiago: It’s fine, but not great. Everyone is nice and trying hard, but only partially succeeding. The company was great, though (Rania is going on a road trip next week to Atacama and is taking a 24 hour bus ride from Atacama to Valparaiso!).

The airport lounge

For our last meal in Santiago, we chose to have the papas fritas with toppings at Papachecos again. That says a lot about the food there. It is a bit uninspired.

Saturday morning, we arose at 5 a.m. for our flight to CDMX. I didn’t realize just how large South America is, but it is about an 8-hour flight. (It is more than 4,000 miles.) Luckily, we upgraded to the comfy business class seats for not a crazy amount extra (but we do owe $$ to charity, Steven!). We stopped at the LatAm lounge and tanked up on coffee. On the plane, we dozed, watched movies, and ate. We were the second and third off the plane and there was no line at immigration. We were out of the airport and in a taxi, with the OK to stay here 180 days if we so choose in about half an hour.

We quickly unpacked and made it to about 9:30 p.m. (which was 12:30 for us) before we crashed for the night.


We forgot that we were shifting from summer to winter when we got here. We were particularly puzzled by the sunset time of 6:30 p.m. What? So early! In Santiago, the sun set around 9 and rose around 7-7:30 a.m. It’s a weird time zone because Lima, Peru, which is pretty much directly north, is two hours behind Santiago.

It is also chilly at night. Like, actually chilly. Not 70 degrees chilly. People here are wearing winter coats, which is a bit of overkill, but if you get up early and it’s 50 degrees and that’s the coldest you’re used it, maybe it’s understandable. It does get into the mid-70s, maybe 80 during the day, so no complaints here.

Sunday, we spent the day getting organized. Every time we move into a new space, we check to see what’s missing. This time, we needed a colander, storage containers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and spices. Plus, of course, food. We stumbled upon a street market with several restaurants and since we didn’t eat dinner Saturday night, we ended up stopping for brunch(?). You basically sit at long folding tables on plastic chairs and the food is cooked on portable grills right in front of you. The place we went had vegan meat. I ordered chilachiles and didn’t realize it came with the vegan meat, so I asked if they had eggs. The guy said no, but then one of the chefs went to another booth and got one for me. Nice! We managed to communicate in Spanish and he explained the 10 different kinds of sauces: three-levels of picante, ensalada, y dulce. Boy did we miss comida picante! Steven had chicken enchiladas that were also muy rico. We were very happy.

Afterwards, we walked to my school, signed up for a gym, and went to Mercado Medellin, an indoor fruit, veg, meat, fish, and random other stuff market right near us. We had an adventure trying fruit we’d never seen before (again, everyone was muy amable), and bought lots of fresh produce. We dropped that off and headed to the Asian market for more supplies. Finally, we hit the regular supermarket for the few things we still needed.

Still, we didn’t have a colander, so we tried the outdoor market, but it mostly had clothes, toys, and some makeup. Then, we went to the weirdest department store I have been in and I have been in department stores that sell motor bikes. Sanborns was one floor and had a tiny selection of about everything you would expect to find in a department store. One shelf of kitchen appliances, two racks of women’s clothes, one display case of electronics, etc. Weird. It was in a mall where upstairs there was a store called, “Canadian Store.” Basically, a dollar store where we were able to get the rest of the kitchen items we needed. Phew!

Getting all this done early helps us feel at home. Now we are sitting in our new living room watching football.