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Our Huge Mexico City Adventure, Part II

Our Huge Mexico City Adventure, Part II

In which we explore the town and visit the Cathedral, Bellas Artes, la Casa de Azulejos, and Churros y Chocolates.  Don’t miss any of the episodes of our Mexico City adventure!

Mexico City is a lot like New York.  You can see Times Square, Macy’s, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and the Plaza Hotel in a couple of hours, if you keep moving.  The same in Mexico (well, you can’t see Times Square, but you know what I mean…).  Many of the best sights are just a few steps from each other, in the Centro Historico.

I've mentioned that sometimes Mexico City seems like it exists in another decade.  It is a very pleasant feeling.  Here a young man shows his excitement at being asked to pose for still another picture with his Harminipan.  Mexico City may be the only place where these hugely old grind organs are on the street, working, instead of resting in a museum.

I've mentioned that sometimes Mexico City seems like it exists in another decade. It is a very pleasant feeling. Here a young man shows his excitement at being asked to pose for still another picture with his Harminipan. Mexico City may be the only place where these hugely old grind organs are on the street, working, instead of resting in a museum.

This is Hedera helix, the same Ivy that graces the halls of my alma mater, Cornell.  I remember a professor saying that in wintry Ithaca, Hedera very rarely flowers.  Well, in tropical Mexico City, it not only flowers, but produces masses of fruit.

This is Hedera helix, the same Ivy that graces the halls of my alma mater, Cornell. I remember a professor saying that in wintry Ithaca, Hedera very rarely flowers. Well, in tropical Mexico City, it not only flowers, but produces masses of fruit.

English Ivy fruit.

English Ivy fruit.

La Casa de Azulejos--the House of Tiles.  Who knows how many hand painted, blue, yellow, and white tiles adorn this colonial building.  Inside is the first Sanborns, a chain of stores and restaurants now found everywhere in Mexico.

La Casa de Azulejos--the House of Tiles. Who knows how many hand painted, blue, yellow, and white tiles adorn this colonial building. Inside is the first Sanborns, a chain of stores and restaurants now found everywhere in Mexico.

The Casa de Azulejos restaurant is very popular, mainly for its beautiful setting.  The chicken soup is good.  The waitresses wear indigenous costumes.

The Casa de Azulejos restaurant is very popular, mainly for its beautiful setting. The chicken soup is good. The waitresses wear indigenous costumes.

There are columns and tiles and beautiful light.

There are columns and tiles and beautiful light.

We love the details.  This is the staircase to the (very busy) bathroom.

We love the details. This is the staircase to the (very busy) bathroom.

The Orozco mural on the bathroom wall.  There is art everywhere.

The Orozco mural on the bathroom wall. There is art everywhere.

Even the ceilings are beautiful.

Even the ceilings are beautiful.

The famous tiles.  An unfortunate bomb went off in the building about ten years ago, but everything has been beautifully restored.

The famous tiles. An unfortunate bomb went off in the building about ten years ago, but everything has been beautifully restored.

Omar enjoys the view.

Omar enjoys the view.

If you look carefully, you'll find Dan and his Evil Twin romping through this scene in their birthday suits

If you look carefully, you'll find Dan and his Evil Twin romping through this scene in their birthday suits

Near the Casa de Azulejos is aguably the most beautiful building in Mexico City, Bellas Artes.  It is a museum and theater, with a gift shop and small restaurant, and is the center for artistic life in Mexico.  Frida Kahlo was buried from here, as was Maria Felix.  When we went there was a wonderful Gabriel Figueroa exhibit, with photos and film clips of his incredible cinematography.

Near the Casa de Azulejos is aguably the most beautiful building in Mexico City, Bellas Artes. It is a museum and theater, with a gift shop and small restaurant, and is the center for artistic life in Mexico. Frida Kahlo was buried from here, as was Maria Felix. When we went there was a wonderful Gabriel Figueroa exhibit, with photos and film clips of his incredible cinematography.

All throughout the Centro Historico are new plantings and scrubbed facades, but none are prettier than here in Bellas Artes.  Under the dome is the theater, with a stained glass curtain by Louis Comfort Tiffany.  It is a scene of the Mexican countryside.  By the play of the lights, the scene goes from sunrise to mid-day to sunset--and then the entire curtain swings up into the roof, and the function begins.  It is extremely impressive.

All throughout the Centro Historico are new plantings and scrubbed facades, but none are prettier than here in Bellas Artes. Under the dome is the theater, with a stained glass curtain by Louis Comfort Tiffany. It is a scene of the Mexican countryside. By the play of the lights, the scene goes from sunrise to mid-day to sunset--and then the entire curtain swings up into the roof, and the function begins. It is extremely impressive.

Next to the Zocolo, the huge plaza with so much history.  It was full of pyramids in Pre-hispanic times.  It was been the center of city life for many centuries.  In the 70's, while digging for the subway system, they unearthed the Templo Mayor, to one side of the cathedral.

Next to the Zocolo, the huge plaza with so much history. It was full of pyramids in Pre-hispanic times. It was been the center of city life for many centuries. In the 70's, while digging for the subway system, they unearthed the Templo Mayor, to one side of the cathedral.

As a matter of fact, the cathedral was built almost 500 years ago with stones from this Aztec temple, which was then lost in the sands of time.  Now people do Pre-hispanic dances and limpiezas (cleansings, like exocisms Lite) here.  The site museum is well worth seeing.

As a matter of fact, the cathedral was built almost 500 years ago with stones from this Aztec temple, which was then lost in the sands of time. Now people do Pre-hispanic dances and limpiezas (cleansings, like exocisms Lite) here. The site museum is well worth seeing.

Inside the catherdal, the biggest and one of the oldest in Latin America.  Like much of Mexico City, it is sinking in the soft soil.  The bad news is, a big rock shores up the back end, while the front of the church keeps sinking.  For years the cathedral was full of scaffolding to keep it from collapsing.  It is now beautifully restored.  The crucifix is "El Hombre de Veneno."  It is made of chocolate.  Hundreds of years ago a faithful priest kissed Christ's toe every morning.  Someone who wanted to kill the priest put poison on the toe.  As the priest went for the kiss, the statue bent it's knees up as a warning to the priest.  That would put me off kissing, and maybe even off chocolate.

Inside the catherdal, the biggest and one of the oldest in Latin America. Like much of Mexico City, it is sinking in the soft soil. The bad news is, a big rock shores up the back end, while the front of the church keeps sinking. For years the cathedral was full of scaffolding to keep it from collapsing. It is now beautifully restored. The crucifix is "El Hombre de Veneno." It is made of chocolate. Hundreds of years ago a faithful priest kissed Christ's toe every morning. Someone who wanted to kill the priest put poison on the toe. As the priest went for the kiss, the statue bent it's knees up as a warning to the priest. That would put me off kissing, and maybe even off chocolate.

The cathedral has seen its share of big earthquakes, of course.  Here a pendulum measures earthquake strength.  The etching on the floor marks several historical quakes.

The cathedral has seen its share of big earthquakes, of course. Here a pendulum measures earthquake strength. The etching on the floor marks several historical quakes.

In the evening Omar and I went to a real Mexico City tradition, Churros y Chocolate, on the Eje Central.  Everyone goes for the long, crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside churros, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, and hot chocolate--sweet, bitter, and super bitter.

In the evening Omar and I went to a real Mexico City tradition, Churros y Chocolate, on the Eje Central. Everyone goes for the long, crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside churros, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, and hot chocolate--sweet, bitter, and super bitter.

The churros are extruded from a pastry bag into hot oil.  When they float to the top and are golden brown, they are quickly scooped out, hacked into six-inch pieces, and rolled in sugar.  The guys have to keep a move-on to satisfy the crowd that always shows up here.

The churros are extruded from a pastry bag into hot oil. When they float to the top and are golden brown, they are quickly scooped out, hacked into six-inch pieces, and rolled in sugar. The guys have to keep a move-on to satisfy the crowd that always shows up here.

Our bedtime snack.  Bitter chocolate, churros, and a chocolate milk (what can I say--I'm a chocomilk addict).

Our bedtime snack. Bitter chocolate, churros, and a chocolate milk (what can I say--I'm a chocomilk addict).

Boy we love to eat.

Boy we love to eat.

So how was it?  The truth?  So-so.  Like many "must see" spots the world over, you go to Churros and Chocolate to say you've been.  It's pretty, it is VERY Mexico City, and the chocolate is good.  But the churros were cold and tough and a bit greasy, and though we know our way around, we were a little uncomfortable with the table system.  At least when we were there, the place was packed, and there was no line.  You have to scope out a table where the people seem to be finishing up, station yourself over their shoulders, and hover until they surrender.  The help were of no help--it was a free-for-all to get seated.  Plus it was expensive.  Now I admit I'm cheap, but go back to the food picture.  Eight dollars.  In London, OK.  In Mexico City two people can eat a decent three course lunch for $8.

So how was it? The truth? So-so. Like many "must see" spots the world over, you go to Churros and Chocolate to say you've been. It's pretty, it is VERY Mexico City, and the chocolate is good. But the churros were cold and tough and a bit greasy, and though we know our way around, we were a little uncomfortable with the table system. At least when we were there, the place was packed, and there was no line. You have to scope out a table where the people seem to be finishing up, station yourself over their shoulders, and hover until they surrender. The help were of no help--it was a free-for-all to get seated. Plus it was expensive. Now I admit I'm cheap, but go back to the food picture. Eight dollars. In London, OK. In Mexico City two people can eat a decent three course lunch for $8.

The Hotel Toledo turned out to be just a block from Mexico City's Chinatown.  They were shooting a movie while we were there.  It is only a couple of blocks long, with lots of Chinese restaurants, but what a neat find!

The Hotel Toledo turned out to be just a block from Mexico City's Chinatown. They were shooting a movie while we were there. It is only a couple of blocks long, with lots of Chinese restaurants, but what a neat find!

At 11 at night, there wasn't much action.  These guys just wanted to close up and go home.

At 11 at night, there wasn't much action. These guys just wanted to close up and go home.

In our next episode we go to the market for a great breakfast (with an outstanding waiter!), to the Villa to the site of the Virgin of Guadalupe’s visitation to San Don Juan Diego, and to Coyoacan to visit Frida and another Diego, Rivera.  Stay tuned for Mexico City Part III!

We’re real folks, living and traveling in Mexico!  We love to hear from readers with questions and comments.  Write us at e365mexico@yahoo.com.

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Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.