Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Saturday in "El Centro"

I mentioned the other day that we needed to buy some batteries for the electronic candles that I have for my "ofrenda".  We used that as an excuse (as if we needed one) to take a trip downtown.  We found batteries for some of the candles at the first store we visited, but a couple of the candles took tiny batteries that were hard to find.  Our search for those would take us through the "Historic Center" of the city.  Along the way we got to see plenty of decorations for the Day of the Dead.

We took the Metrobus to the Plaza de la República and walked eastward toward the "Historic Center".  There was a large banner on one of the buildings near the Paseo de la Reforma.  It was from Ferrari, one of the sponsors of the Formula1 auto race that was held in Mexico City on Saturday.


A few blocks farther, we passed this "Centro de Acopio" (Collection Center), one of many in the city, where people can donate food, bottled water, and needed supplies to help the people of Acapulco after the devastation of Hurrican Otis.

Our route took us past the Alameda, a lovely park in the center of the center that dates back to colonial times.  Funeza, a chain of Mexico City funeral homes, had set up a Day of the Dead display there.  A woman dressed as a "catrina" (an elegantly dressed skeleton) welcomed visitors.

One portion of the display was a series of large "candles" made, I suppose, from fiberglass.  Each "candle" was painted by a different artist.  (This is a variation on the "Mexicráneos", the fiberglass skulls which are individually painted by artists.)

At the end of the display there was a large "catrina" figure.

We continued down Madero Street, the bustling pedestrian street that goes through the "Historic Center" to the Zócalo, the city's main plaza.

Along Madero Street there were several stands where flower growers from the rural regions of Mexico City were selling marigold.  (Yes, believe it or not, there are actually rural areas within the city limits.

There was a small "ofrenda" in the colonial church of San Francisco.

I found these figures on the "ofrenda" rather amusing.  They represent "see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil", but instead of the typical monkeys, the figures are of skeletons.

A skull decoration outside of a restaurant just off of Madero Street

A couple of giant skeletons stood outside the entrance of a colonial mansion that is now a shopping arcade.

An archway of marigolds at the entrance to an optician

The American Eagle store on Madero Street went all out with decorating for the Day of the Dead with marigolds around the entrance, and the shop windows, and on the balconies above.

A women dressed as a "catrina" was welcoming visitors to the store.

The inside of the store was also decorated.  The large figure to the left represents a "xolo", or Mexican hairless dog.  In Aztec times these dogs were sacrificed and buried with their owners so that they could serve as guides on the journey to the underworld.

The balcony of another building was decorated with colorful skulls.

The Hotel Majestic always has an nice "ofrenda" in its courtyard lobby.

Madero Street empties into the Zócalo, the city's vast main plaza.
There is always a large Day of the Dead display which they refer to as the "mega-ofrenda".  It was supposed to have been completed by the weekend, but it was still being set up, not even close to being completed.

On the south side of the Zócalo the twin buildings of the City Hall were decked out with Day of the Dead lights.

We still had not found the small batteries that we needed for some of the "ofrenda" candles.  We had been told to go the El Salvador Street where there are a number of electronics stores.  So, we headed south of the Zocalo to a less touristy part of "El Centro".

To be continued...

A New Place for Breakfast

Before departing for Mexico, I was looking at my Mexico City neighborhood on Google Maps, and I found a few new restaurants.  On Saturday, Alejandro and I tried one of them out for breakfast.

The place has the rather unusual name of "Dulce Madera" (Sweet Wood).  It has received good reviews, and it is just a three-minute walk from the apartment.

The restaurant makes its own breads and pastries.  I tried something called a "cruffin", a cross between a croissant and a muffin. 

It was really good and very rich.  You could tell that they used a lot of butter to make it.

We both were intrigued by one of the more unusual items on the menu... a goat cheese omelet cover with a sauce made from beets. 

It was very interesting, although I wouldn't necessarily order it again.  There are more conventional items on the breakfast menu.  I will put "Dulce Madera" on my list of breakfast places to take friends when they come to visit me in Mexico City.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Another "Ofrenda"

I am not the only one who has already set up an "ofrenda" for the Day of the Dead.  Alejandro's sister has their family "ofrenda" set up in the dining room of their home.

They had the signs with the names of departed family members custom-made.  They look like the traditional banners of "paper picado" (cut paper), but they are actually made of wood.

Alejandro said that they have ordered a couple for me with the names of my parents.

Decorating for the Season

Just because I am busy unpacking and organizing my apartment does not mean that I am not going to decorate my place for my first Day of the Dead as a resident of Mexico City!

I pulled out the decorations that I had purchased in previous years.  I taped a cardboard picture of several "catrinas" to the window, and some "papel picado" (cut paper) skulls on the door.

I set up an "ofrenda" honoring friends and relatives who have passed away on the credenza in the guest bedroom.

Just down the street from the apartment there is a fellow who is always parked along the street selling house plants from the back of his van.  This time of year, he has potted marigolds, an essential element of the "ofrenda".  (The pungent aroma of the marigolds is thought to guide the souls of the dead to the altar.)  As Alejandro and I were walking back to the apartment late at night after eating at a nearby taco joint, the guy was still there selling plants, so we bought a marigold from him.

Some of the electronic candles need new batteries, so we will have to buy batteries before the Day of the Dead.

I will have to put salt in one of the bowls (for the purification of the souls) and water in the small clay pitcher (to quench their thirst).  I will also buy "pan de muerto" (Bread of the Dead) and some fruit and nuts to set out in front of the altar.

Last year, I bought a terra cotta jack-o-lantern made in Mexico.  I set it out in the living room.

Alejandro asked me why I didn't put it with the "ofrenda", and I said that I am not going to mix the two the distinct holidays of Halloween and Day of the Dead together.


Sunday, October 29, 2023

What a Mess!

In my last post I wrote that I was waiting for the movers to arrive with the household goods and furniture that I had shipped from Ohio.  The company specializes in international moving from the U.S. and Canada to Mexico.  Their headquarters are in San Miguel de Allende, a city that is very popular with U.S. ex-pats.  They stored my stuff at their warehouse there until I was here in Mexico City.

Since the former owners were leaving the condo completely furnished, there were only a few pieces of furniture that I was shipping.  Most of the shipment consisted of artwork, decorative items, personal memorabilia. and a few kitchen items.

A couple hours after I had written my previous post, the movers arrived.  They were very happy that everything fit in the elevator and that they did not have to carry anything up the flights of stairs.  They removed unpacked the pieces of furniture and put them in place.  They also hung some of the artwork.  However, all of the smaller boxes were left to me to unpack (which I guess is normal procedure with moving companies).  Many of those boxes went into the office.  The former owner had sold the exercise equipment that he had there, so that was the room that had the most space.  After I had unpacked those boxes, the room was a disaster area with packing paper piled high.

The living room / dining room area was also a mess, but at least I could see how I was starting to make the place my own.  With the black-framed mirror and the black cabinet for my DVDs and compact discs the space looked completely different.  You can also see to the left, one of my paintings hanging on the wall.  

The antique-style table under the mirror will eventually be replaced.  We are going to look for a small black credenza that will fit in with the other black furniture on that side of the room. 

It will take a while to get the apartment just the way I want it, but we are getting there!

Friday, October 27, 2023

On to Mexico!

After spending some time in the United Club at Houston Airport, I walked the short distance to the gate where my flight to Mexico City was scheduled to leave.  The plane was already there.  As you can see in the photo, it was raining.

It was nearly time to board, but the man at the desk announced that they were waiting for one of the flight attendants to arrive.  After about ten minutes the stewardess came, and the boarding process began.  Everyone had boarded, but then the microphone used for making announcements was acting up.  A mechanic was called in, and he quickly resolved the problem.  Still it was a about a half hour behind schedule when we pulled away from the gate.  Then it seemed to take forever for our turn to take off.

We finally were in the air, and before long, above the clouds.

For most of the flight there was nothing to see, but I did get some interesting photos of cloud formations.

We began our descent and mountains were visible.  I was seated on the wrong side to be able to see the volcanoes, but they were probably shrouded in clouds anyway.

Suddenly the sprawl of Mexico City was beneath us.

The mountain in the background is Ajusco, a 12,000-foot-high peak on the southern edge of Mexico City.

From the right side of the plane, I was not able to see the Mexico City World Trade Center which is located near my apartment.  However, I was able to zoom in on Torre Mítica, the city's tallest skyscraper.

The final approach to the airport

The structure with the spiked dome is the "Palacio de Deportes" (Palace of Sports), an indoor arena which was built for the Summer Olympics in 1968.  Below it and to the left is the Olympic Velodrome where cycling events were held.

On my last several trips I have been able to zip through immigration at the airport with almost no wait at all.  This time, however, there was a very long line.  Large numbers of tourists are arriving for the Day of the Dead festivities as well as the Formula One auto race that is being held this weekend. 

Alejandro had told me previously that now that I have a residency visa, I can stand in the much shorter line for Mexicans.  But since the sign said "Mexicanos" (no mention of residents) I took my place in the snaking line for foreigners.  After waiting for a half hour, I was finally reaching the front.  An employee was checking to see that we had our documents, and when she saw that I had a resident's card along with my passport, she told me to go to the line for Mexicans.  Alejandro was correct.

By the time I got to the baggage claim, my three suitcases had already been taken off of the carrousel.  This was the first time that I had ever grabbed a cart to carry all my luggage.  Fortunately, at customs I was just waved through.  I didn't have to open any of my tightly packed suitcases.  When I passed through the customs door, Alejandro was there waiting for me.

Usually, when I arrive in Mexico City, I spend a couple nights with Alejandro's family.  But today the movers are supposed to deliver my household goods to the condo.  So, Alejandro drove me directly to the apartment.  He and I had supper together at a nearby "taquería", and then he returned to his house.  I spent the rest of the evening moving things around in the apartment to make room for the few items of furniture that the movers are bringing.  

They were supposed to arrive around 10:00 or 11:00 this morning.  As I write this, it is 11:45.  But I have to remind myself, that I am in Mexico, the land of "mañana".  Hopefully they will show up later this afternoon, and not "mañana".    

Thursday, October 26, 2023

¡Adiós, Ohio!

I am writing this at the United Club in Houston International Airport during my layover before I board my flight to Mexico City.

This morning I checked out of the hotel where I had been staying since vacating my (former) home last Friday.  My friend Frank drove me to the airport and took this photo of me with my abundance of luggage.  I splurged on a first-class ticket, and, with my Silver Premier status with United Airlines, I was allowed three checked suitcases plus two carry-on items.

I relaxed for about forty minutes in the United Club lounge at Cleveland Airport before heading to my gate.  The flight boarded on time.  For a change, my departure was not before daybreak.  It was a partly sunny day in Cleveland with unseasonably mild temperatures. (Next week, however,

We pulled away from the gate a few minutes ahead of schedule, and we were soon in the air.  Lake Erie was visible on the horizon.

I was following the flight map on the screen in front of me.  So I knew that we were near the Indiana / Illinois border when we crossed the winding Ohio River.

We were just north of Memphis, Tennessee, when we crossed the equally winding Mississippi River.

By 1:00 P.M. (2:00 Eastern Time) the plane descended into the Houston area, where there it was mostly cloudy with some periods of rain (perhaps the remnants of Hurricans Otis?),

We deplaned at Terminal C, and my connecting flight is also departing from Terminal C just a six-minute walk away.  And, conveniently, in between there is a United Club lounge where I am comfortably passing my long layover.  The flight to Mexico is scheduled to leave on time,  Knock on wood, everything is going smoothly, and by early evening I should arrive in my new home, Mexico City.