Big Big City (In Fact, the Biggest)

Trip Start Feb 03, 2006
Trip End Jun 20, 2006

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Flag of Mexico  ,
Saturday, June 10, 2006

After leaving Xilitla, it was a slow second-class bus ride to Mexico City. Well, not really slow at first, but then there was the little blow-out incident. Our first near-disaster on a bus (not bad for travelling over 4 months). I was sleeping on Andrew's lap, and awoke to a loud BOOM, and then the bus swerving and shaking. I thought we had blown a tire, and frantically and fruitlessly groped for the nonexistent seatbelt. The bus driver got us pulled over, and half the men on the bus proceeded to get off to examine the problem. Andrew, of course, decided to join them. It was not a blown tire, but rather a blown air brake line. This caused the left rear tire to attempt to lock up because of the loss of pressure, and resulting in the bucking and shuddering. Fortunately, this occurred AFTER we had gotten out of the six or so hours of windy mountain roads with no guardrails and steep grades. The bus driver and his ayudante used copious amounts of electrical tape in an attempt to fix the hole. We were then treated to a 20-mile per hour limp through the desert for the next few hours. There aren't many towns in the desert. We finally got to a sizeable town and switched busses, and in the end we made it to the D.F. only about 3 or 4 hours later than we had hoped.

On Mexico City: we had, of course, been terrified of the city, being that all the guides and all the news is DANGER DANGER DANGER. We had decided, though, that it would be worth it to go for the anthropology museum alone, and so planned to spend 2 nights.

We ended up spending five.

Mexico City is GREAT (no! I'm not kidding!). We got a great hotel only a few blocks from the Zocalo (Hotel Montecarlo). According to our guide, DH Lawrence once stayed there. It has a great double spiral stairway all in cracked up marble (there are a lot of sagging and swaying buildings in Mexico City due to earthquakes, spongy soil, and building on top of Aztec pyramids--some of these buildings are shockingly and obviously crooked to the casual observer, yet are still in use). As a bonus, our hotel was really cheap--180 pesos per night. Most of the hostels in Mexico City charge 300 or more for a double room. Our room was small and narrow, but with high ceilings, a good bathroom, and scorching hot water. It had elaborate, old, and scuffed up furniture and really old crazy carpet. It was a bit worn, but immaculately clean.

Our first full day in Mexico City we did the Walk-n-Gawk, staring at all the amazing architecture. We conquered the Metro--the 3rd busiest, and the cheapest subway in the world. At 2 pesos for a ride anywhere in the city, including as many transfers as you please, it was too good a deal to pass up. And it is EASY, as well as reasonably clean and well lit (ignoring the gum on one of the grab-bars, of course). Of course, our guides warned of rampant pickpocketings as well as armed robbery and assault on the subway, but we encountered no problems at all, even travelling at peak hours when the car is packed. Fellow travellers, do not fear the metro! Metro is your friend!

We ate well in Mexico City, though not really what you might expect. By far the best meal we had was at a hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant in Zona Rosa. The sign outside was only in Korean. It was run by a Korean family, but our waiter was the Mexican boyfriend of one of the daughters. He had lived in Maryland for awhile, and greeted us with "hey man, how can I help you". We were a bit relieved, as the menu was in Korean with strange Spanish translations. The food was killer, with buckets of homemade kimchee and other garnishes covering our whole table. Our other major dining experience was at Restaurante Chon, a LP guide-recommended Pre-Hispanic restaurant. This means little or no Euro influence, and a focus on game meat, and grubs. Andrew had really been looking forward to it (he had read about the restaurant before in other sources), but they served our drinks in dirty glasses and microwaved his maguey worms--bummer. He was happy he got to try them, at least.

We went to the Engineering University Museum and saw an exhibit on Torture and Capital Punishment. It was pretty horrifying, and we both sort of regret going. There were thumb screws, head screws, racks, wheels, and an iron maiden, and more. Most of these were originals, from private collections, leading us to wonder why the "!$! you would want to have this stuff as your own. The descriptions accompanying the instruments (in English and Spanish) were a bit too gleeful.

We also, of course went to the Anthro Museum. It was great and fantastic, but oh my....we barely saw half of it. There is such an amazing amount of stuff there, your eyes eventually just glaze over. It was awesome. Outside the museum, we watched a demonstration of Voladores swinging upside down around and around an 80 foot pole, a reenactment of an indigenous vanilla harvest ritual.

We were so busy in Mexico City....lets see...what else did we do.....

Went to a movie (X-Men 3, with Spanish subtitles)
Found another place that sells Potro beer
Went to a few markets, ate street food and market birria
Went to the oldest cantina in Mexico, drank expensive beers there
Explored the Zona Rosa, (where the Korean restaurant is), the gay district of Mexico City
Explored the is sinking unevenly and cracking up. Don't build on Aztec temples, FYI.

Now we are in Guanajuato for the night, going on to Sayulita tomorrow night. We fly back to LA on June 15, and are trying to pack a lot into our last few days. Keep checking the blog; in LA we will try for a few culinary adventures, and put up a lot of Lists of Interesting Things. (ie best tee-shirt: "hand-job car wash")

See you soon!
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