Planning time

I have a new spreadsheet, I am so excited! We are now planning our next trip; seven months in South and Central America. We will be leaving in early October and expect to be back in early May. Our plan is to stay for six plus weeks in each place as that seems to give us time to settle in, get used to the place and find a routine. If we had more time (or fewer places we want to see) we would probably stay longer. Even at seven months, we are finding we do not have enough time to visit everywhere we want to go.

Happiness is a good spreadsheet

Our plan is actually starting at the end of June, when we decamp from Baltimore. It looks like this:

July – We are heading back to Chicago for one of the two months when you can reasonably hope that there won’t be snow to visit Sue’s family and all our Midwest-based friends.  We are driving the (hopefully?) trusty 2006 Saab.

August – Our friend, Paul, from Paris, has asked us to cat sit for three weeks. Poor Seuss needs us, and we are not the kind of people to leave a cat without his favorite cat sitters. 😉. After Paul returns, we are going to take the train through the Chunnel and visit my daughter Abi, and perhaps (if we are deemed worthy) meet her boyfriend. We expect to spend about a week there, and I am sure we will be playing Dead Person Bingo at all the cool cemeteries and, of course, at Westminster Abbey. We are thinking we might visit Winnie the Pooh’s head and a few other odd museums if we have time. But mostly we are there to see Abi.

September – Our return flight is back to Chicago where we will pick up the (hopefully still working) Saab and drive to Washington, DC where we will be staying for the month.  We will spend more time visiting with my son, our daughter-in-law and, of course, the grandbaby. We are also trying to decide if we like DC or the environs to settle there once we are done with our travels.

Buenos Aires

October and November we will be in Buenos Aires. We are once again hoping that the (perhaps still running) Saab will get us down to Florida, where we are storing the car for the duration of our trip. During our time in Argentina, we are planning to head to Brazil and meet my very intrepid mother who has decided that she is going to visit my Brazilian brother (short version of a long story is that Vitor was an exchange student in high school and lived with us, so he qualifies as family) and his family. It is her 85th birthday and I am just amazed at her bravery at making this trip. A special thanks to my sister, Judie, and Vitor’s daughter, Alice, who have agreed to play Passepartout to her Phineas Fogg.  We also intend to visit Iguazu Falls, the wine region around Mendoza and perhaps cross over into Uruguay for a visit to Montevideo.

Santiago’s skyline

December and January – We plan to take a couple of weeks and go wandering in Patagonia. We will update with an itinerary once we have figured that out. The remainder of December and all of January we expect to spend in Santiago, Chile. That too is far enough out that we haven’t really wrapped our brains around what we will do with our time there, although I am pretty sure that we are going to spend a moment or two (or even more?) in the Chilean wine country.

I can’t believe they named a bean after this city!

February and most of March we will be in Peru. Once again it is pretty far out to have a firm plan in place, although we are in the process of booking a trip to Machu Picchu. Sue would prefer the four-day hike on the Inca trail. I would prefer to stay alive. So we have compromised and have found a trip that does a one-day hike and then you go on a train for the rest of the way. We are also thinking about going to Lake Titicaca, but have heard mixed reviews. If anyone has any thoughts on it, please let us know.

Mexico City – the final stop on this trip (unless we change our minds).

For our final stop, which will be for part of March and then all of April, we will return to Mexico City. We haven’t even thought about our plans for that yet. But we do have just a little bit of time.

I am hoping all my Spanish lessons will lead to my ability to have at least a first-grade level conversation with someone, somewhere on our travels!

Frida Kahlo is everywhere

Our first major encounter with Frida Kahlo was, oddly, in Istanbul. What is the artist and feminist’s connection to Istanbul? We tried to find out, and guess what? She doesn’t have one! But posters, T-shirts (including one with her wearing a Daft Punk T-shirt of her own), phone cases, you name it, her image was on it. Everywhere were turned, there she was. She also is the subject of one of the many immersive artist experiences traveling around the world. Hers will be in Chicago, but alas, not while we are there.

Less strange was all the Frida merch in Mexico. A beautiful 150-foot mural by Irish street artist Fin DAC graces a building on Chapultepec in Guadalajara. Fin DAC painted the mural over 11 days in July (the month of Frida’s birth and death) 2019. The work is called “Madgalena,” after Frida’s full name: Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón.

Of course, she’s all over Mexico City and we could not pass up a chance to go to Casa Azul, or the Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacán. This is the home where she lived her entire life and in addition to her art, you can see her home’s furnishings and the beautiful courtyard. We accidentally had another Dead Person Bingo session, too, since we didn’t realize until we saw the urn that Frida’s ashes sit on the dresser in her bedroom. Sorry, I didn’t take a picture. If you happen to be in Mexico City and want to head to the museum, get tickets in advance. They are timed for every 15 minutes and they are booked. Plus they don’t sell them at her home, as several disappointed people found out. If you’re looking for Frida bling, there’s plenty of it to buy on the street, which I am sure you assumed.

You probably know that she married Diego Rivera, Mexico’s second most famous artist, twice. He also has some murals and paintings you might want to see if you’re in Mexico. Diego painted the world around him, while Frida’s most famous and most common subject was herself as she explored identity, the body, and death. Unsurprising themes considering her attachment to a womanizer and her body’s failings due to polio and a bus accident.

Just a few blocks from La Casa Azul is another home turned museum, that of Leon Trotsky. Frida, Diego, and Leon were well acquainted. Trotsky is buried at this home, where he was assassinated in 1940 after being exiled by Stalin. Luckily, I did take a picture of his gravestone. His second wife, Natalia Sedova, is buried there with him although she outlived him by 22 years (A two-fer in our Dead Person Bingo game!).

You would think that we were done with Frida sightings when we left Mexico and headed to New York, but you’d be wrong. Here she is interpreted by Lady JDay in New York on the front of the Ridge Hotel at 151 E. Houston.

One last Friday encounter: the movie was one of the options on the plane during our flight to Rome, where we are now.

Having seen this article, I realize I am late to the game, but better late than never.

CDMX, parte dos

Steven gave you the roundup of all that we did in our short jaunt to Mexico City, but I want to do a deeper dive.

First, the Museo Nacional de Antropología cannot be seen in a day, especially if you are an American who grew up in a time when Latin American history just did not appear in the curriculum (unless you count how we took parts of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah in the Treaty of Hidalgo). Mexican history is rich with many ancient cultures who interacted and overlapped in ways I was completely ignorant of. One of the joys of travel is my ever-expanding view of history and the interrelationships among peoples, innovations, and beliefs.

The museum focuses on Mexico’s pre-Columbian history and houses the famous sun stone, aka Aztec calendar stone. We arrived soon after it opened at 10 a.m. and spent a couple of hours there. Maybe we saw a quarter of the museum. It was a lot to absorb; having gone to the pyramids at Teotihuacan helped. The museum is in Bosque de Chapultepec, which is kind of like Central Park. Definitely worth a trip on its own.

The interior of the building itself is worth visiting. The courtyard features a continuous waterfall over a massive stone column (see top right below). I also loved the rich ochers and oranges used as background for the archeological artifacts. We were both at our limit when we decided we were hungry and it was time to head out. When we were leaving, the line was much longer. I’d get there early if you plan to visit. Plus, maybe you’ll have more stamina than we did and you will get to see more. Don’t forget that here, before you enter any public building, someone takes your temperature, gives you hand sanitizer and, in this case, sprays you with Covid killer. At least I hope that’s what it was.

Since I mentioned Teotihuacan (As an aside: Is every place a UNESCO heritage site now or are we just prone to visiting places worth preserving?), I’ll backtrack to that. Steven had seen pyramids before, but I had never. The sophistication of the society is what really impressed me. Of course, the technological feat in a time with no wheel is nothing to shake a stick at. The unnamed people (one theory is that they were Toltecs, but others dispute that) built a small structure and then built over it to expand it, using the interior structure for support. From the first through seventh centuries, they created a huge city with apartment complexes, administrative buildings and worship sites. (On the other hand, the civilization also sacrificed animals and children to keep the sun shining [which clearly worked because it was beautiful and sunny – our friends in Chicago should take note] ). And then, at some point, they abandoned it all, reasons unknown, and left it for the Aztecs to discover and name the city Teotihuacan, which means “the place where men become gods” in Nahuatl.

I used a picture of us just so you believe we were really there. Also, you can’t see it really well, but the Pyramid of the Moon, which we are standing in front of and also appears in a photo without us, has misaligned steps. That didn’t happen when it was built. The archeologists restoring it messed up.

The three large pyramids (Sun, Moon and Feathered Serpent) are connected by the Avenue of the Dead, which runs north-south for more than 1.5 miles. The city extended to the surrounding mountains. Try to imagine the whole city covered in murals and colorfully painted walls. Unfortunately, Covid restrictions meant we couldn’t climb the pyramids (Steven and our guide, Ivan, seemed a little too happy about that) or enter certain areas, but just being there was incredible. Speaking of Ivan, I highly recommend a tour, first, because it’s about an hour drive with Mexico City traffic and, second, because it’s a lot more interesting when you know what you’re looking at. He’ll even let you skip the tourist trap stuff if you want to, because there’s definitely tourist trap stuff (and Frida Kahlo, but more on her in another blog).

Mexico City

Four days and just a little sleep

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.

Thursday

The now legally required Instagram sign for the city.

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.

Friday

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.

The Rockefellers didn’t like this one.

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.

The ceiling at Comedor Lucerna

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.

Saturday

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.

Famous Dead Person

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.

Sunday

The line for Chilaquiles tortas

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!