Saturday, October 24, 2015
Mexico City

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  How about an unforgettable holiday with us at  New Years’ Jazz in Italy?

Just one day for a first-time visit to Mexico City? Are you crazy? Well here’s why: Some of you may be familiar with the term ” mileage run”. Those of us who need to maintain our status on an airline sometimes need a few thousand more miles in a calendar year to do so. So we look for a bargain fare, and if it can be turned into a little romantic getaway, why not?!
We’ve got about 36 hours in Mexico, and hit the ground running, grabbing a nearly-midnight bite to eat (and café con leche mixed at the table – how much coffee, señor?) at El Popular (open 24 hours) after checking in to the historic center Hampton Inn (never saw one like THIS before – it’s in a renovated Augustinian convent from the 1800s!). 10241505 hotelWith its beautiful tiled corridors surrounding a stained-glass roofed atrium, it’s walking distance from everything we want to see this weekend. Add the fast and free WIFI, an extensive buffet breakfast (also included) and friendly helpful staff, and it’s the perfect choice.
Just a couple of blocks walk on Saturday morning and we’re at the Zocalo,10241501 Cathedral the huge square that, since the time of the Aztecs, has been the center of government and worship. When we asked about walking around last night, the hotel staff said it was safe, and that there were policemen all around – and yes, there certainly were, on every block. Today we see that impressive police presence again – in fact so many anti-riot shielded men in front of the ceramic – adorned (each one honoring a Spanish explorer)10241501 Ceramics honoring explorers federal district buildings, along with a large paddy wagon by the square, that we ask one of them if they’re expecting trouble. No, we’re told, this is just normal security!
The side of the cathedral is as beautiful, if not more so, than the front, 10241501 on side of cathedral sculpturesand the modern sculptures (see that upside-down profile?) in front are an intriguing contrast.
Just beyond, we walk along a rainbow row of buildings10241501 colorful row to see the ruins of the Templo Mayor, the Aztec temple begun in the 1300s. If you have just one day in Mexico City, how terrific to have THIS weather!  10241501 templo mayor We want to get to the other side, where we can look down on the site from El Mayor, and as we walk down the street by the Palacio Nacional, 10241502 down side street to round ruinswe’re distracted by the gardens visible beyond, and the very short line of people awaiting entrance – let’s stop here first!
Abundant with succulents, agave, 10241502 entrance sidetracks usand bougainvillea and poinsettia TREES (not just bushes or plants in this climate!),10241502 gardens trees of poinsettias the gardens, with traces of structures from the time of Hernán Cortés (the Spanish conquistador who overthrew the Aztec empire in the early 1500s)10241502 holes ruins from cortez time lead us to the main courtyard,10241502 multi tiered courtyard and the famed Diego Rivera murals surrounding the palace stairway. From the Aztec beginnings on the right10241502 Rivera history begins on right with Aztecs to pre-World-War II (a pensive Frida Kahlo watching the action),10241502 Rivera history ends on left at WW II pensive Kahlo on the bottomthe History of Mexico is portrayed in brilliant color.
Thoughtful, we continue around the remains of Aztec rule to the rooftop perch of El Mayor, where we pause for coffee-with-a-view10241502 then round the ruins to El Mayor for coffee with a view of the pyramids below. 10241502 traces of abundant pyramids in other places under plexiglass as wellPassing one street vendor after another, 10241503 enticing street food on sidewalks and in tiny holes in wallwe resist temptation as we fit in a bit more sightseeing before lunch.
Casa de Azulejos (House of Tiles), an 18th century palace covered in the blue and white  tiles of Puebla, 10241503 facade of tiles sanbornshouses one of the first Sanborns (a department store-restaurant chain) in the country. The beautiful tilework continues inside,10241503 more beautiful tilework and carvings where a gracious courtyard bustles with the Saturday lunch crowd. 10241503 interior courtyard bustling with dinersWe’re just looking, gracias. Our lunch destination is Los Girasoles (the sunflowers), 10241503 our choice girasolewhere we’re seated by an upstairs window,10241503 seated by upstairs window music with several friendly and knowledgeable waiters ready to bring us everything we could want. Kirk bravely tried the house tequila combo, 10241504 a tequilaand as he shakes his head in shock after each pepper-topped sip, I abstain from even a tongue-touch of the fiery stuff. We skip the pre-Hispanic delicacies of escamoles (ant eggs) and gusanos de Maguey (chilied worms) and order an array of small plates from around Mexico – shrimp tacos from Veracruz,10241504 culinary taste tour shrimp tacos veracruz Blue Quesadillas stuffed with squash flowers  – Oaxaca, 10241504 delish blue corn quesadilla with squash blossombanana and pork filled tortillas,10241504 flautas of pork and these banana things see menu and Yucatan suckling-pig flautas – served with – you won’t believe this – dog’s nose relish (which was actually delicious)! As we savor each marvelous bite a breeze flutters the tablecloth, and strains of an impressive street band (the vocalist sounds like Joe Bonamassa!) entertain us.
Walking towards the Alameda, a huge park that’s been an important center of town since Aztec times, we pass traditional dancers – the jingles on the guy’s leg (not very visible, sorry) remind us of the Morris Dancers we heard in Bath last month,10241504 mexican morris dancers jingles on legs like those we saw in bath link and the post office. No big deal, right? Well, it’s not just any old post office, but the Palacio Postal, a delectable example of Renaissance Revival design – 10241504 palacio postalone of the grand imitations of European architecture  from the time of Porfiorio Diaz’ long dictatorship (1876-1911). Wow – what a place to mail a letter!
Back to the Zocalo, we walk through the cathedral with its massive gold altars, 10241504 wedding goers fancy dresscrowds of wedding guests in evening dress waiting outside the doors,
then stroll through neighborhoods, some filled with outdoor markets, the vendors hawking their wares, some quiet, with tree-lined lanes and tilting belltowers – from the ’85 earthquake?10241505 tilt from earthquake or swampy land and are drawn in by the scent of baking to the busiest bakery we’ve ever seen – Pastelería Madrid. Candied sweet potatoes and chunks of pumpkin, anyone?10241505 pastry shop candied sweets and squash A busy tostada stand by the entry is ready to fortify customers for the job ahead, as the shelf-lined walls go on and on, from one room to another, and patrons carrying trays carefully choose their pastries,10241505 pastry shop choose racks go on for milesthen bring them to a counter where efficient uniformed staff wrap them up 10241505 pastry wrapped– I can imagine them on the Sunday breakfast tables tomorrow, a little Day of the Dead goodie alongside. 10241505 pastries day of the deadIt’s been a tasting tour of Mexico City – for the eyes as well as the mouth – and we finish off with a courtyard dinner at Puntarena Centro,10241506 dinner wall courtyard seated by a vertical wall of greenery. 10241506 dinner wallOne of the most delicious tostadas I’ve ever tasted, laden with sashimi tuna and fried leeks,10241505 dab of spicy mole tuna and leeks wisp top of volcano in am along with fabulous shrimp and avocado tacos,10241505 courtyard dinner makes me eager to return for more Mexican delights – 36 hours is just enough to tempt us to come back!