Monday, May 30, 2016

2 Days in Mexico City (part 2)



Mexico City May 14-15, 2016

Arriving in Mexico City, my first thought is “I’m an Amazon”. I’m literally a foot taller than everyone around me. It helps that I’m wearing three inch platform sandals, that make my normally 5’ 8” frame suddenly near six feet thereby towering over the crowds at the airport that seem to barely best five feet. So - I stand out. But my comparative freakish length, rather than scaring or repulsing them, is curiously admired. People look me up and down with smiles and friendly glances. This is a happy alternative from other adventures (remember India?….)

Feeling positive and revved up, despite lack of rest, I pop into a cafe to have breakfast and formulate the day’s itinerary, mainly how to get to ruins and pyramids of Teotihuacan the best way. Teotihuacan is a 2400 year old holy site. It’s a small city really, with scores of buildings, but the most prominent are the two pyramids opposite one another, separated by a long, wide corridor. These are the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon dedicated to the those gods respectively. There’s speculation about the exact meaning of the site, but it is recognized as holy and as a community that thrived for at least a century. …But it’s 6am and it doesn't open until 9am. 

Next impressions, is the aroma that wafts into the airport terminal each time the sliding doors open. Chicken. Raw chicken. Super strong smell of raw chicken. Huh?

Breakfast: Menu completely in Spanish, so I play menus-roulette and hope that what I've picked is palatable. Success! SO damn good. Converted! I will now only ever make my scrambled eggs with Soarito.

Satiated, I hop in a taxi to the ruins. Hurrah - I beat the crowd. Have the ruins nearly to myself at first. I stay for hours enjoying the exercise, the view, the sun, the people, then make my way to the city bus to go back into Mexico City, aka the DF (Districto Federal - kinda like how we call Washington DC just "DC") to the central bus station. Armed soldiers board the bus at one point for what appears to be just a normal check. After wandering lost in the bus station for a bit, a couple of silver-haired gentlemen help me sort out a taxing about a half hour later, I pull up to the St. Regis hotel. First time ever that I'd booked myself into a 5 start hotel. Thought I'd treat myself for the weekend rather than stay at a backpackers hostel, as I usually do.Crusty and dusty from the hours hiking, in sure need of a shower, I alight from the cab into swanksville literally looking a hot mess - but knowing I have a reservation, I stroll in with confidence and take the elevator up to the third floor where Reception greets me with a glass of champagne. A page escorts me to my room on the 6th floor, carrying my "luggage" which is just a small knapsack. For this glamour treatment, I feel like I should be checking in with Louis Vuitton trunks... In the room, he shows me all the amenities and gives me a tutorial on how to use the iPad that operates all the electric things in the room (climate, lighting, phone, etc). Then, on his way out, he tells me my butler will arrive soon. Huh!? This is too much. I don't even know what to do with a butler, so I tell him I'm going to shower and don't wish to be disturbed. (I think I learned that kind of language from Agatha Christie novels.)

Showered, refreshed, napped and fed (best meal I had the whole weekend was room service! Grilled octopus in spicy mole... ohmygod! So so so good), I can't resist going up to the 15th floor infinity pool. Hell, that was the main reason I'd booked this place! I've done a lot in my life, but never swum in an infinity poo - so this had to be remedied on the spot. Well...it's not really the kind of infinity pool I'd had in mind, but it does overlook the city and has 2 soothing jacuzzis along side it. So.....there goes my afternoon. 

Evening neighborhood exploration helps me fall more in love with this city. It's got everything. Great food, drinks, music, smart chill people...

Next day, it's big buffet breakfast (one, it turns out, I wasn't actually authorized to have, but by the time we realized that I'd worked my way through the buffet - twice). Then back to the pool for spa time. Then off to Frida  Kahlo's house. I've always been drawn to her because of her tragic love story, but there I learn that Diego Rivera really did love her and treat her well, most of the time. He actually revered her and is responsible for preserving the house and making it a museum.
Suddenly, the heavens open up and a downpour begins the won't stop for hours. Still, I press on and explore Frida's neighborhood, then head up to the Zocalo. The humming center of the city. It's cool, but I'm a little underwhelmed - and thoroughly soaked....so off to have a drink. Or two. Mexico City pub crawl?

Only a few more hours 'til my return flight, no restaurants open for dinner, so it's back "home" to the St. Regis for a delicious dinner, the football match between America (Mexico City team) and Guadalajara.

A few more observations from this amazing weekend:
  • The airport is located in a residential neighborhood that is very colorful. Poor, but very colorful. The chicken smell was probably from the scores of mom and pop shops selling food everywhere.
  • Gaggles of school girls roam Teotihuacan asking to interview English speakers on film. Not sure what that’s about. I submitted to 2 interviews with two student teachers practicing their English.
  • Men in Mexico City have a sexy habit of leaning their ladies up against walls and kissing them on the neck. I saw this over and over and each time, I loved the sense of wanton abandon of  that moment. 
  • Restaurants close early on Sundays. Can’t get a meal after 6pm!
  • The citizens of this city are so polite and friendly. I never base this on how a people react to tourists, but how they treat each other. Queuing was done orderly and fairly, no pushing, no cutting, no rudeness. Prices were fair. walking down the street, people were courteous with one another. I remember in South Africa, how walking down the street, Afrikaners would never move out to make room, I was expected to move around them - similarly, on the train from Cape Town to Muisenberg on the day of a bike race, Afrikaners took up multiple seats for their bikes while Black and Coloured passengers had to stand. That was in 2013! Didn’t see any nonsense like that in Mexico City. People were practical and conscientious. 
  • The city is fantastically affordable! Friends asked me to describe it and I said, “it’s like NYC but 10x better”. All the amenities of big city life (great public transport, fashion scene, art, technology, music, chic and grit and everything in between for the hipster/retiree/rebel/religious zealot/committed atheist/geek/flower child and every thing in between….), but at a price that doesn't bankrupt you.
  • I was treated kindly. I say that specifically because sometimes in foreign places, I am pointed at, laughed at, stared at, followed… Being a solo woman with dark skin and big hair sometimes gets me negative attention. Here, no. People looked every now and then, but they smiled and treated me well. I didn’t see any other Black women all week (where are they?! Africans are everywhere, so I know they’re in a metropolis like DF, so why didn’t I run into any?…), but I was never made to feel like an oddity. Thank you for that!
  • Get to a football match. The stadium seats more than a 100,000 people!
  • So apparently, in Mexican museums, you have to pay extra in order to take photographs. I almost got kicked out of Frida Kahlo’s house for that.
  • They have Uber! God bless any place where I can take a cab without having to haggle!!!
  • I managed not to drink Tequila or Mezcal all weekend. Not sure if that’s good or bad.
  • Would I have had the same fun without the pool and hot tub?….. Thank you, St. Regis hotel!
  • The attached slide show should have 40+ photos. Just double check, please, because a couple of times when I’ve viewed it it only showed the first 10… If if does that for you, let me know and I’ll find another way to post the pics.

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