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.
Last weekend we decided to explore the city a bit. We started Saturday morning by going to the gym and following that, we ate desayuno (breakfast) at a little café down the street. We both had chilaquiles, which for those of you who don’t know, is basically breakfast nachos. Corn chips with salsa, and then some or all of the following: eggs, cheese, any sort of protein, refried beans, avocado and who knows what else. They are great, filling and the perfect food before our planned death march. Our goal was to walk over to the Bosque de Chapultepec which is a park in the middle of the city. It is huge, about 1,700 acres and is filled with museums, a zoo, lakes, a botanical garden and many monuments to Mexico’s history. The last time we were here, we visited a very small portion of the Anthropology museum which is fabulous.
Today, our target was the Castillo de Chapultepec, which is the former home of the Spanish viceroys, Emperor Maximillian I, a number of the Presidents of Mexico and is now a history museum. Interestingly, the emperor only ruled for three years before being overthrown and executed.
The castle is at the top of (you guessed it) Chapultepec Hill (really a rock formation) that was sacred to the Aztecs and one of the last places in Mexico City to be conquered. Of course, it’s up on a hill with an excellent vantage point.
I know you’re wondering what’s up with all the Chapultepecs, but you’re in luck because I’m about to tell you. Chapultepec means “at the grasshopper hill” in Náhuatl, a group of languages that includes Aztec and is still spoken by about 1.7 million people, mostly in Central Mexico. Nice that the hill, park and castle get an indigenous name since one of its claims to fame is that it is the only castle in North America to have housed royalty.
It is a beautiful building with gardens on multiple levels, lots of open space and beautiful architecture and furnishings. While we wandered in the upper gardens we found a quartet playing classical music, so we sat and listened for a while.
After a couple of hours in the park, we walked back through the city to our apartment. We always enjoy walking in cities, and Mexico City is one of the more interesting ones. There are lots of interesting buildings to look at, cool little shops and many, many, many street vendors selling everything from tacos to toys. We always talk about eating that the street vendors, but have not yet found the time to do so. Our path took us across a couple of other parks, which seem to dot the urban landscape, and they were all filled with people enjoying the beautiful weather.
Once we were home, we put our feet up, complained about how much they hurt from walking 10 miles, and then promptly started to plan on where to walk for dinner. Last week we attempted to find a restaurant called Páramo (sorry the link is to Google maps, because the restaurant has a Facebook page, and I don’t know if everyone has an account); however, when we found the address, it was occupied by a restaurant called El Parnita. We were a bit confused but figured, “What the hell?” and ate there. The food was good and we had a very nice meal. However, this weekend we were determined to find the right place. After reviewing the address more carefully, we realized that Páramo was upstairs behind an unmarked black door. This time we had no trouble finding it, and it was well worth it. We waited at the bar for about 20 minutes, and were then seated next to the couple who ad also been seated next to us at the bar. They, too, were Americans (although she is bilingual — I’m jealous!) and we struck up a nice conversation. The food and drinks were great, and we had a really enjoyable evening.
Sunday, we decided to take it easy by riding bicycles to fancy grocery store about 3 miles away. We have signed up for the rental bike program that the city runs (it is called Ecobici) and there is a bike stand just down the street from us. The way it works is that you scan the bike using an app, the bike unlocks, you ride it to your destination and then return it at one of their bike stands. Sue had used them before, but this was my first time, and lo and behold, I managed to screw it up. I scanned the bike, it didn’t seem to unlock, so I tried another one, but kept getting an error. Then someone else came by and took a bike. After a while (and trying another bike stand), I realized that my app was telling me I had a bike. We ran back to the bike stand but it was gone. It seems that the other person somehow got my bike from the stand and went off with it.
I am proud of myself because there was an Ecobici worker there moving bikes and I was able to communicate with him what the problem was and find out the answer, which, unfortunately was that we had to wait for the bike to be returned.
That caused two issues. First, I couldn’t get another bike so our plans were shot. Second, if the bike wasn’t returned, I was on the hook for it. I would have to report it stolen and fight with Ecobici about it. Using the app, I reported what had happened and waited. In the meantime, we decided to walk to Mercado Medellín, our local open stall market, to do some shopping. Just about the time we finished (and after many nervous checks of the app), whoever had the bike parked it back at a stand, and my app unlocked. Whew! We went home dropped our fresh produce and headed back out to the bikes to try again. I managed not to screw it up this time, and off we went to City Market. We did our non-produce shopping there and grabbed a cab home.
This has been a busy four-day weekend for us and I thought I would give you a quick idea of what our schedule was like. Sue will fill in more details in the next blog, but for now I just figured you might like to see a timeline and a few photos.
9:00 am – We grabbed an Uber to the airport – it was about a 25-minute ride. Our flight was scheduled for 11:25, so we got there quite early because we were not sure what security would be like.
9:35 am – Through security
10:50 am – Boarding starts. The boarding plan was kind of interesting. We lined up by seat number. First class boarded, then they boarded from the rear of the plane forward. We were row 10, so we boarded pretty late.
11:30 am – It is scheduled as a 90-minute flight, however, wheels up to wheels down was actually about 45 minutes. We barely had time to have our drink and eat a couple of empanadas we brought on board for lunch.
12:45 pm – We are at the gate and off the plane. We received a free transfer from the airport to the hotel, so we found our driver and headed into Mexico City.
1:30 pm – We stayed at a hotel called AR218 in an area of the city called La Condesa. The check-in went without a hitch and we quickly unpacked our stuff.
2:15 pm – We head out to walk up one of the main thoroughfares called Avenida Insurgentes. We relied on my brilliant reading of Google Maps, so we went about a mile an half the wrong way. Oops.
5:00 pm – We found a park called Parque España. It was a cute little park, and in the middle there was a young man giving massages. Sue decided that she wanted one, so for the grand sum of 80 pesos (about 4 US dollars), she had a 20-minute neck and back massage. (It was fabulous!)
5:30 pm – We started to get a bit hungry on the walk so we wandered over to a place called El Rey de Falafel. It was no L’as du Fallafel which you might remember from one of our posts from Paris, back in August. But was still really nice and filled the hole.
6:00 pm – Our wanderings brought us to Parque Mexico, which was busy but still an oasis in the middle of a crazy city.
6:30 pm – We returned to the hotel having covered about 9 miles.
8:30 pm – We strapped on our walking shoes again and head out to Baltra bar, a place one of friends suggested. It was a bit too hip for us, so we had a drink and then left.
9:30 pm – We walked over to another place near our hotel that was recommend to us called Felina. We sat outside and watched the evening go by for a few hours.
12:00 am – Back to the hotel and called it a night.
9:00 am – We booked a tour to the Teotihuacan Pyramids about an hour outside Mexico City. All in we spent about 5 hours getting there, learning about their history and getting home.
2:00 pm – Back in the hotel for a quick rest.
3:00 pm – Ubered to the center of Mexico City to see murals by Diego Garcia and others. We first went to the Government Palace, but unfortunately, we were not able to get in to see the murals. (Damn Covid!) In Mexico, opening and closing times for public access seem somewhat random. But since our language skills are not the best and we have trouble understanding what the guards are saying, we just shrug our shoulders accept the no, and move on.
4:30 pm – We walked from the Government Palace to the Palacio des belles artes that has murals by Diego Garcia, José Clemente Orozco and Alfaro Siqueiros. The website that we found said that the museum was open until 7 pm, so we figured we had plenty of time. However, when we arrived, they said it closed at 5 pm (see above comment on the opening/closing times). We knew we didn’t have much time, so we focused on the murals. The Diego Garcia mural was originally commissioned by the Rockefellers, but they had it painted over when they saw that Lenin and Soviet May Day parades were included; he then recreated the original here. We had seen other works by Orozco in Guadalajara (here is the link to the post) and the one we saw in Mexico City was being restored, which was pretty interesting in and of itself. I was taken by the work of Sr. Siqueiros, and we will stumble on his name later in this post.
5:30 pm-7:00 pm – We wandered from the Palacio over to Comedor Lucerna, a weird and wonderful food court that Sue found. It wasn’t very far from the Palacio, but we didn’t want to get there too early, so we just wandered. We passed by the Museo Nacional de la Revolución, which luckily for me was closed, as it has a glass elevator, and I am sure Sue would want to go up, so I would feel obliged to join her.
7:00 pm-9:15pm – We had dinner in the food court and relaxed . At about 9:15, we walked a couple of blocks over to a jazz club called Parker & Lenox. The had a really great trio playing and hung out for both there sets.
12:30 am – Ubered back to the hotel having walked just about 7 miles.
9:30 am – Somewhat surprisingly we woke up a bit late.. I wonder why😉.
10:00 am – Ubered over to the Museo Nacional de Antropología. It was amazing and overwhelming. We spent about two hours there and saw about one quarter of the collection when we both reached our limit. It is absolutely on our list of places to visit again. (I guess that means we’re coming back to Mexico!)
12:00 pm – We had somewhat of a deadline to leave the museum as we had reservations to visit Casa Azul (Frida Khalo’s house), which is in a southern part of the city called Coyoacán. Our plan was to Uber down to Coyoacán, grab lunch at a place that we found and then head to the museum. But the best laid plans sometimes go awry. The restaurant didn’t open until 1:30 pm, which is when our tickets were for, so we just wandered around the area and killed some time until we could get into Frida’s house.
1:30 pm-2:30 pm – Visiting Casa Azul was interesting and we will write more about it in another blog, but for now, here are a few photos.
2:30-3:00pm – Around the corner from Frida’s house is the house that Leon Trotsky lived and ultimately died in. For those of you who are not up on your revolutionary history, Leon Trotsky was a hero of the October Revolution but, for reasons that would take up too much space to write here, Stalin had exiled and then killed. Interestingly, there was an unsuccessful attempt on his life a couple of months before he was killed, and one of the assassins was Alfaro Siqueiros, the mural painter who I really liked.
3:30 pm – After getting our fill of Trotsky, we headed back to Amatista’s Tostadas (the place we wanted to go, but was closed until 1:30 pm). We had a wait about 15 minutes to be seated, but the food was delicious and quite truthfully, we were starving. After our late lunch we wandered through a little art market that was around the corner and then Ubered back to the hotel.
8:00 pm – Having recovered from the day, we had dinner at little cantina around the corner called Montejo. Once again, we sat outside, watched the world go by, ate, and drank some really nice tequila.
9:00 am – Our tour guide on Friday had recommended a “place” (really a food stand on a corner near our hotel) called La Esquina Del Chilaquil that served the city’s best chilaquiles. It is just a food stand on the street corner and the line goes up the entire block. What you get when you order is essentially a chilaquiles sandwich (torta). (Corn tortillas and salsa on a roll? Can’t be beat.)
10:00 am-2:00 pm – We Ubered to Bosque de Chapultepec. It is large park in the middle of the city with a botanic garden, a couple of art museums and the anthropology museum from yesterday. Our goal was to go to Chapultepec Castle which has a Mexican history museum in it and was supposed to be open all day on Sunday, only it wasn’t. No idea why, but that is just the way it is sometimes in Mexico. Instead we wandered the park and visited the Museo de Arte Moderno , not my favorite style, but is was very nice.
2:30 pm – We ubered back to the hotel and grabbed lunch around the corner a pizza place called Balboa Pizza. It was pretty good pizza for not New York.
3:00 pm – Back to hotel and grabbed our bags and took a 30-minute ride to the airport. Once again we left lots of time to get through security and once again it took 5 minutes. The flight left about 20 minutes late and arrived just a bit early.
8:00 pm– Back in our AirBnb in Gaudalajara. Maybe just a bit tired.
8:30 pm – I realize I left my phone in the cab. We track it via Find My Phone. Yup, it’s back at the airport. We called the taxi driver, who spoke no English, and managed with the help of translation (it’s hard to speak Spanish when you’re feeling like an idiot) to communicate. He graciously brought the phone back to us and we rewarded him with what was a lot of money to him, but was well worth it to us. There are good people everywhere!
11:30 pm – Finished writing the text of the blog and will add the photos and publish tomorrow.
I need to get back to work so that I can get some rest!