Sunday, November 18, 2018

Greetings from Puebla

Downtown Puebla on a Friday night

Alejandro and I arrived in Puebla yesterday afternoon at around 1:30.  Before checking into our hotel, we stopped at one of the city's newest attractions, the International Museum of the Baroque, which is quite impressive, and quite appropriate since the city is known for its Baroque architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries.  I will post more on that museum along with photos in another post.  Right now it is time to head for breakfast and more sightseeing in the city.  Hasta luego! 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Volcanoes Ahead!

Two weekends ago, I was disappointed that the clouds did not allow us to have a good view of the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl when we took Nancy and Fred to Cholula.  

This morning we took the same highway on our weekend trip to Puebla.  While we were still within the limits of Mexico City, suddenly right in front of us was Iztaccíhuatl!  The cold front that had passed through a couple days before had left the mountain covered in snow.

The road made a slight turn in direction, and there was Popocatépetl!

After leaving the city, at a rest stop along the toll road, I got a good shot of Iztaccíhuatl.

Along the highway I managed to get a shot of the two of them side by side.

Construction was being done along the highway two weeks ago, and traffic was snarled.  The road work is still being done, and the traffic is still crawling along for several miles.  But this time the slow traffic had a benefit.  It gave me a chance to get more shots of the volcanoes.

Looking back toward Mexico City's smoggy valley, you can see the traffic backed far behind us.

Three Day Weekend!

On November 20, 1910,  Francisco Madero, an opponent of the dictator Porfirio Díaz, called upon the Mexican people to rise up against the dictatorship.  Thus, November 20th is commemorated as the beginning of the Mexican Revolution, and it became a legal holiday.  Since 2006, Revolution Day has been observed on the third Monday of November giving people a three day weekend.

(Francisco Madero - image taken from the web)

Alejandro and I are going to take advantage of the long weekend and escape the big city to go to another big city.  This morning we will drive to Puebla which is about two hours away from Mexico City.  Puebla is the capital of the state of Puebla and, with a metropolitan population of over three million people, is the fourth largest city in the country.  It dates back to Spanish colonial times, and its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It's time for us to go have some breakfast, and then hit the road! 

Friday, November 16, 2018

"Fútbol" on the "Zócalo"

Today I went downtown, and as I headed toward the "Zócalo", Mexico City's main plaza, I could see that something was going on.  I sometimes get upset with the continuous events that are held there, cluttering up the plaza and distracting from the view of the historic buildings surrounding it.  There was a sign that said "Entrada Gratuita" (Free Admission) so I decided to cross the street and see what they were doing this time.

It turns out that Mexico City is hosting the 16th annual Homeless World Cup... something that I had never heard of.  The program helps young homeless people turn their lives around through participation in soccer.  This year more than 450 people from 42 countries are participating.  The competition began on November 13th and will continue until November 18th.  It seems like a good cause, so I guess I can't be too upset over the "clutter" on the Zócalo.

Three "mini-stadiums" have been set up on the plaza.  Games are one period long and last fourteen minutes.  I entered one of the playing areas as a game was about to begin, and I took a seat in the bleachers.  The game was between the women's teams from Mexico and Egypt.

There has been a women's competition for nine of the sixteen years that this event has been held.  The Mexican women have won that championship five of those years.  From the looks of this game it would seem that Mexico has a strong team again.  They defeated Egypt 7 - 2.

Delicious and Different

Yesterday I broke my rule about eating out at restaurants during the week.  There was a rather unusual place about which I have read and that I wanted to try out.

To get there I took the Metrobus north up Insurgentes Avenue to the Buenavista stop.  Walking a couple blocks from there took me to the heart of the neighborhood of Santa María la Ribera.  A few years ago I wrote about this neighborhood.  When the area was first developed in the late 1800s, it stood at the edge of the city, and it became a very exclusive, upper-class district.  As the Mexico City grew and surrounded Santa María, the wealthy moved to newer neighborhoods.  Once beautiful mansions became crowded tenements. Santa María became dilapidated and dangerous.  In recent years a slow process of gentrification has set in, although I doubt that it will ever attain the trendiness of Condesa or Roma Norte... and perhaps that's a good thing.

As I walked around Santa María la Ribera it seemed to have an authentic, small town atmosphere.  It is an odd mixture of run-down ugliness, picturesqueness, and flashes of beauty.  There were a couple of disreputable types about, but I didn't see any beggars or homeless people.  No one was sleeping on the sidewalks.  At least in broad daylight, the neighborhood seemed perfectly safe.

Many of the fine old mansions still stand in varying states of repair.

The jewel of the neighborhood is its central plaza, a lovely, green park.

Set in the middle of the park is an architectural wonder, the Morisco Kiosk.

The structure was built as the Mexican Pavilion for the 1884 New Orleans World's Fair.  It was then disassembled and brought back to Mexico.  Like the neighborhood, the kiosk fell into disrepair, but in 2003 it was completely restored.

But returning to the original subject... I came here to eat at unique restaurant that seems an oddity in this very Mexican "colonia".  Occupying a street corner, facing the park, is Kolobok, a Russian restaurant!  

I have been to Polish and Ukrainian restaurants back home, and I have enjoyed the food.  Russian cuisine is quite similar.

I started off, however, with something that is not Russian.  The restaurant has a reputation for its "empanadas", so I ordered one filled with cheese and potato.  (At least my choice of filling was sort of Slavic.)  It was very tasty.

I then had "solyanka" soup, an interesting combination of beef broth, ham, noodles and pickles.

 My main course was "golubtsy"... known to us as stuffed cabbage roll.

I won't say that it was the best cabbage roll that I have ever eaten, but it was very good.  The sides that I selected were cabbage salad... it was sort cross between sauerkraut and cole slaw... and "ensalada rusa" (Russian salad).  "Ensalada rusa" is actually a Spanish dish.  It's their version of potato salad.  However the addition of chopped pickles gave this a distinctive flavor.  

Finally for dessert... a slice of honey cake!

Decadently delicious!

I will definitely return to Kolobok on future trips!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Snowy Mexico

As I reported in this morning's post, yesterday's weather was quite miserable.  Today also began cold and cloudy, but by 11:00 A.M. the skies had cleared and the sun was shining.  The air was still a bit chilly, and I wore a jacket, but it was a pleasant day.  After being cooped up in the apartment yesterday, it was good to get out today.

As I passed a newsstand, I had to take a picture of the front page of one of the Mexico City newspapers.

"Wintry!" says the headline.  "Cold front lowers temperatures and surprises residents of the capital with persistent rain and fog; first big snowfall on Xinantécatl"

I had to do a little research to find out where Xinantécatl is.  It is the Nahuatl (Aztec) name for Nevado de Toluca... the volcanic peak which is Mexico's fourth highest mountain.  So that snowy scene on the front page was about 80 miles to the west of me, and several thousand feet higher.

As an update to yesterday's post about the monarch butterfly hanging from a tree branch outside my window since Tuesday...  This morning before I left the apartment, it was still there.  But when I returned this afternoon, it was gone.

Hopefully today's sun warmed up its wings, and it fluttered off to find its companions.

Lousy Weather

I suppose that after being here in Mexico City for a month, a day of ugly weather should be expected.  Even though by November we should be in the dry season, a cold front from the north came through, and yesterday was gray, rainy and cold.  At noon the temperature was only 41 F.  Alejandro told me that at his house it was 34 F when he got up in the morning. 

The battery to the mouse for my laptop died, so I had to venture out to the nearby convenience store.  Other than that, I never left the apartment.  I had to throw on a sweater because, of course, there is no heat in the apartment.  Even so, I felt chilly all day.  I am sure that those back home in Ohio don't have much sympathy however, because they have a weather advisory for freezing rain this morning.

I hope the forecast for the upcoming days is correct with a return to sunshine and temperatures in the 70s.  This coming weekend, my last weekend here, is a three-day holiday (Revolution Day), and Alejandro and I have plans to take an excursion out of the city.