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.
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).
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!