Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Menu English

Last night Cliff, Jeramie and I had supper at Bellini, the revolving restaurant on the 45th floor of the Mexico City World Trade Center.  I had made reservations so that we would be there at sunset.  Unfortunately, it was a overcast, drizzly evening, and the view was not that good.

Cliff and Jeramie have been using English menus when they are available, and last night was the second time that we encountered a laughable mistranslation.

One of the items on the desert menu is a chocolate bomb, which in Spanish is "bomba de chocolate".  However "bomba" has another meaning beside bomb.  The English menu listed that item as a "chocolate pump".  I just tested "bomba de chocolate" on Google Translate, and I got "chocolate pump".  So that just goes to show you, take anything on Google Translate with a grain of salt!

On Sunday we went to El Cardenal for dinner, and according to the English menu, one of the dishes included "a touch of dad".  What they meant was that the dish included a bit of potato.  That error was less forgivable since "papa" means potato, but "papá" (with an accent mark) means dad.

Both of these restaurants are upscale and have tourist clientele.  Perhaps I should hire myself out as a menu translation consultant!

Floral Paradise

I have written several times here about Mexico City's Jamaica Market where you will find over 1000 vendors' stands selling more than 5000 different types of flowers and plants.  When I first went there some years ago, I thought that it was one of the most amazing places in the city... but a place that is rarely visited by tourists.

Last October I took my friends Nancy and Fred there, and they said that they had never seen anything like.  Yesterday, I took Cliff and Jeramie there, and they too were blown away by the place.  They could not get over the quantity and beauty of the flowers... not to mention the inexpensive prices.  Jeramie had me ask a vendor the price of one particularly large flower arrangement.  It was around $40 US.  Jeramie said that it would surely cost around $800 in a floral shop back home.

So here are a few photos from one of the great "off-the-tourist-track" sights in Mexico City...

Monday, April 29, 2019

Plan B

On Sunday we had planned to rent bikes and take Cliff and Jeramie on a ride down the Paseo de la Reforma.  The tree-lined boulevard is closed to traffic each Sunday, and is taken over by cyclists and pedestrians.  However Cliff was feeling a bit under the weather, so we decided to do something a bit less strenuous.  We went instead to one of my favorite small museums in Mexico City, the Museum of Popular Arts.  It showcases the rich variety of handicrafts from all over the nation.

A display of traditional attire from different regions of Mexico

An incredibly detailed "Tree of Life" clay sculpture from the town of Metepec

The larger than life size papier mache "Judas" figures that are traditionally set aflame on the day before Easter.

Decorations associated with the celebration of "Day of the Dead"

As an added treat, a folklore ballet troupe was performing in the courtyard of the museum.  We watched a good portion of the performance from the balconies above.

Conquering the Pyramids

On Saturday, Alejandro drove Cliff, Jeramie and me to the archaeological site of Teotihuacán, about thirty miles to the north of Mexico City.  More than fifteen hundred years ago, Teotihuacán was a city with a population of a quarter of a million people.  Its economic and political influence spread throughout central Mexico and southward into the land of the Mayas.

You may remember the visit we took with my friends Nancy and Fred last fall.  We followed more or less same route in seeing this enormous site.  Alejandro parked the car at the lot closest to the Pyramid of the Sun so that we could scale that structure, the third largest pyramid in the world, before we were too tired.

Cliff has a fear of heights, but he made it to the top with us.  The climb is rather physically demanding… the height of the steps, the altitude and the poor air quality that day all combine to make it more difficult.  The descent, while easier, is scarier.  Cliff admitted that he was terrified.

The view from the top

The crowds of tourists climbing the pyramid are now restricted by ugly, mesh fences that were not there when I visited last October.  I am not sure if these fences have been put in place for the safety of the visitors, or to protect the pyramid from damage.  Alejandro said that there are rumors that the Pyramid of the Sun is going to be closed to climbers.

After descending we then walked down the Avenue of the Dead, the main street of the ancient city.  The Aztecs were the ones who gave it that name.  When they came upon the site, centuries after the city's abandonment, they thought that dirt covered ruins along either side, were burial mounds.  The avenue leads to the smaller, but still impressive, Pyramid of the Moon.

Although you can only climb a portion of the Pyramid of the Moon, the steps of the section that can be climbed are quite steep.  Cliff at first said that he wasn't going to go up, but then decided to join us.  The view from there offers a majestic panorama of the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun.

Close to the Pyramid of the Moon is a heavily restored structure known as the Palace of the Feathered Butterfly.  It may have been the residence of the priests of the Pyramid of the Moon.

Behind that is another complex, which we did not visit when Nancy and Fred were here.  It is called the Temple of the Jaguar, and it features traces of original mural paintings and carvings.

Instead of backtracking along the Avenue of the Dead on foot, from the exit by the Pyramid of the Moon, we took a bus to go back to where the car was parked.  We took a break and went to a nearby restaurant for lunch.  We then drove to the final portion of the archaeological site, the complex of structures with the Spanish called the Citadel, because it reminded them of a fortress.  In the center is yet another pyramid, the Pyramid of the Feather Serpent (visible in the background).

That smaller pyramid is noteworthy because you can see where archaeologist cut away through the middle of the structure to reveal an earlier temple adorned with carvings of the Feather Serpent god and the rain god.

It was a tiring day, but a fantastic visit to one of the great archaeological sites of the world.  I give Cliff kudos for conquering his fear and climbing all the pyramids.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Gourmet Mexican

I had introduced Cliff and Jeramie to authentic Mexican tacos, but there is so much more to Mexican cooking than tacos.  It is one of the world's great cuisines. On Friday night Alejandro and I took them to our favorite restaurant, "Angelopolitano".

I had told them about "chiles en nogada", poblano peppers stuffed with a fruit and meat mixture, covered in a cream walnut sauce, and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.  I have written here on the blog many times about this exquisite dish which I consider the masterpiece of Mexican cuisine.  And "Angelopolitano" is one of the very best places in Mexico City to try this scrumptious delicacy. They both followed my recommendation and ordered the "chile en nogada".

They enjoyed their dinner very much, and the experience opened their eyes to a whole new side of Mexican food that is unknown to most "gringos".

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Doing "El Centro"

The first day of showing the sights of Mexico City to my friends Cliff and Jeramie was devoted to the "Centro Histórico", the historic heart of the city.  We took the Metrobus and the subway, and fortunately neither one was uncomfortably crowded.

Our first stop was the National Palace where we saw the mural paintings by Diego Rivera which depict the history of Mexico.

From there we passed the excavations of the base of the Aztec Templo Mayor (Main Temple), an archaeological site in the heart of downtown.

Next we visited the huge and ornate Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest in the Americas.

It was time to have a bit of lunch, so we stopped at Café La Parroquia, a traditional spot that is famous for its "café lechero", a shot of strong coffee with steamed milk.

After lunch, we walked down the main street of the "Centro Histórico", pedestrianized Madero Street.

At the end of Madero Street is the Latin American Tower.  When it was constructed in the 1950s, it was the tallest building in all of Latin America.

Our last stop was the observation deck atop the Latin American Tower.  In spite of the smoggy air, the view was still impressive.

There was much more we could have seen in "El Centro", and by this time it was 4:00.  Even though rush hour was approaching, the public transportation was not yet packed.  We made it back to their hotel, and Cliff and Jeramie were relieved that the air conditioning in their suite had been repaired.  After a hot day of exploring the city, the cool air was a relief for them.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Taco Night

There is so much more to Mexican cuisine than tacos.  However, they are very much a part of the food scene in Mexico City, and I had to take Cliff and Jeramie at least once to a "taquería".  So last night, for their first meal in Mexico City, I took them to nearby location of "El Huequito", a well known chain of "taquerías".  Cliff is something of a germaphobe, so there was no way that I was going to take them some greasy "hole in the wall" or street stand.  Ironically, "huequito" translates as "hole in the wall", but they were very comfortable at this clean, modern establishment.

We all had "tacos al pastor", made with pork sliced from the "trompa" or rotisserie, and probably the taco most identified with Mexico City.

It was the first time that they had eaten real tacos, instead of the travesty that Taco Bell serves up.  We ate outdoors on a warm spring evening, and they enjoyed their first taste of authentic Mexican food.

How Suite It Is

Yesterday afternoon I took the Metrobus to the airport to meet Cliff and Jeramie.  Their flight was about twenty five minutes late.  The two of them finally appeared through the sliding glass doors of the customs area.

We got an authorized taxi to take us to their hotel, and they had their first taste of Mexico City traffic.  

They are staying at a hotel just a few doors down from my apartment.  It's a rather fancy boutique hotel, but Cliff found a special price online, and it cost less than the nearby Holiday Inn.

Their "room" is a two story suite.  Downstairs are a living room and full kitchen.

Upstairs are the bedroom and the bathroom.

The two of them posing on their terrace.

The place seemed amazing except that the air conditioner did not work.  This is the hottest time of the year, and the suite was very warm.  The repairman came in, but he could not fix it.  A technician will come tomorrow.  In the meantime, I took the fan from my apartment over to their hotel, so that they will have some air circulation in their suite.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

On Their Way

As I write this, my friends Cliff and Jeramie are in the air somewhere between Cleveland and Newark.

It might seem counterintuitive to fly from Cleveland to Mexico City by way of Newark.  However the price was considerably lower than for the usual route via Houston.  Their flight left a few minutes early, and they are expected to arrive 16 minutes early into Newark.  They already had a scheduled layover of two hours, so there should be no problem with making their connection.  They are supposed to arrive in Mexico City at 2:15 this afternoon.  I will take the Metrobus to the airport to meet them there.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Scoping Out the Museum

Last week I made my umpteenth visit to the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City's premier museum, and one of the great museums of the world.

Tomorrow my friends Cliff and Jeramie will be arriving for a six day visit, and I will be showing them the sights.  Of course, the Anthropology Museum is on the itinerary.  The museum is too large to see everything.  When my friends Nancy and Fred were here last autumn, I gave them a tour of the highlights focusing on the Olmec, Mayan, Teotihuacán and Aztec civilizations.  I plan to do that again with Cliff and Jeramie.  My visit last week was a sort of dress rehearsal, reviewing once again the items in the museum that I want to show them.  

I started with the Olmecs, the oldest civilization in Mexico.  I was surprised to find that several of the important artefacts from that civilization were missing.  As it turned out in the special exhibit hall of the museum there is a presentation on the pre-Hispanic cultures of the Gulf coast (including the Olmecs) going on.  The exhibit includes not only pieces from the museum's own collection, but from other museums throughout the country.

However, even after going through the special exhibit, one of the most important works of Olmec sculpture was unaccounted for... the statue known as "The Wrestler".

(Image taken from the web)
This carving is admired for its realism, sense of movement and aesthetic qualities.  I asked one of the guards where it was, and he said that it was on tour, although he didn't know where.  So, I will cross that off the list of things to show my visitors.

The last time I was at the museum the Aztec hall was partially under renovation.  I wanted to check that out and see what progress had been made there.  Fortunately, the work is mostly complete.

However, work is still under way on the model of the center of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital.

I left just in time to see the ritual of the "flyers of Papantla" which is presented hourly not far from the museum's entrance.  The "flyers" are tied by their ankles to a rope connected to a tall pole.  They throw themselves back and slowly descend, revolving around the pole.

Hopefully, I can time it right so that Cliff and Jeramie will see this ritual after our tour of the museum.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Another "Torta" Joint

A couple posts ago, I made mention of "tortas", those delicious Mexican sandwiches on crusty rolls.  I am always looking at Google Maps searching for new places to eat, and I found a "tortaría" just a few block from my apartment.  Late one afternoon last week I walked over there to try out their "tortas".

The place is called "Tortas Suiza" (Switzerland Tortas)… don't ask me why.  As you can see in the photo it was very busy, and rather confusing.  I didn't know who was waiting to place an order and who was waiting for their "torta".  Finally, I was directed to one window where I ordered and paid.  I was given a slip of paper with a number and my order written on it.  After some waiting my number was called, I handed the paper to the cook, and he made my sandwich.

The place is tiny, just a counter facing the street and the cooking area behind it.  There are no tables, just an outside shelf along the wall and some stools.  I thought that I was going to have to eat standing up, but fortunately there was a free stool when my order came out.

I ordered a ham "torta".  On the positive side, it was very big (a meal unto itself), inexpensive (only 80 pesos - about $4), it was tasty and not too greasy.  On the negative side, it had way too much cheese on it (maybe that's why they call the place "Switzerland Tortas"), and it was very messy (the garnishes of avocado and jalapeños kept sliding out.  It was an interesting experience, but I'm not sure that I will return.