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Our Huge Mexico City Adventure, Part III

Our Huge Mexico City Adventure, Part III

In which we go to the market for a great breakfast (with an outstanding waiter!), to an old-fashioned candy store, and to the Villa to the site of the Virgin of Guadalupe’s visitation to San Don Juan Diego.

Early the next morning we went looking for breakfast.  There are lots of places to eat on the street, like this stand serving goat head tacos.  The poor old lady just wanted to eat in peace, and I'm standing over her shoulder saying "Grab a goat skull for the camera, Granny!"  We wanted something more substantial, though, so I led our troop to a nearby market.

Early the next morning we went looking for breakfast. There are lots of places to eat on the street, like this stand serving goat head tacos. The poor old lady just wanted to eat in peace, and I'm standing over her shoulder saying "Grab a goat skull for the camera, Granny!" We wanted something more substantial, though, so I led our troop to a nearby market.

On the way we passed one of my favorite places, the chicken market.  For blocks upon blocks, all they sell are chickens.  Huge trucks pull up full of mountains of shaved ice, with yellow feet sticking out.  With lightning speed, boys throw the plucked chickens through the air to customers and vendors alike.  Green VW Bug taxis pull up, and they heave the chickens inside, packing the bug to the roof in the back seat and passenger's side, leaving just enough room for the driver.  No boxes, no plastic bags--just juicy, naked chickens.  I'd hate to be the next passenger to get into that cab, full of broken wings and hen blood.  The cabs rush to open grates in the sidewalk around the city and dump the poultry into restaurant cellars, to end up on your plate by lunch.  Vegetarian plate, anyone?

On the way we passed one of my favorite places, the chicken market. For blocks upon blocks, all they sell are chickens. Huge trucks pull up full of mountains of shaved ice, with yellow feet sticking out. With lightning speed, boys throw the plucked chickens through the air to customers and vendors alike. Green VW Bug taxis pull up, and they heave the chickens inside, packing the bug to the roof in the back seat and passenger's side, leaving just enough room for the driver. No boxes, no plastic bags--just juicy, naked chickens. I'd hate to be the next passenger to get into that cab, full of broken wings and hen blood. The cabs rush to open grates in the sidewalk around the city and dump the poultry into restaurant cellars, to end up on your plate by lunch. Vegetarian plate, anyone?

The market.  It is huge, with areas that sell vegetables and meat and flowers and household items, and of course tons of 'fondas,' the little stalls that sell food.  They aren't hard to find--in front of each stall is a hawker who tells you to sit down, "the soup is on" or "we have menudo" or "how many chiles rellenos do you want?"  You smile politely and say "Gracias" until you find a place you like (make sure it is busy for the best food).  Usually you belly up to a stainless steel counter, and watch the folks cook and plate the food.  It is magnificent.  In the background is a guy who specializes in fruit plates and drinks--you can see the papayas on the shelf behind him.  The whole scene is nerve-wracking until you get the hang of it.  It is very family-style.

The market. It is huge, with areas that sell vegetables and meat and flowers and household items, and of course tons of 'fondas,' the little stalls that sell food. They aren't hard to find--in front of each stall is a hawker who tells you to sit down, "the soup is on" or "we have menudo" or "how many chiles rellenos do you want?" You smile politely and say "Gracias" until you find a place you like (make sure it is busy for the best food). Usually you belly up to a stainless steel counter, and watch the folks cook and plate the food. It is magnificent. In the background is a guy who specializes in fruit plates and drinks--you can see the papayas on the shelf behind him. The whole scene is nerve-wracking until you get the hang of it. It is very family-style.

Antojeria Vic fit the bill--clean and busy, with just what we wanted to start the day--cafe de olla (with chocolate and cinnamon) and chilaquiles.  Know what the pillow-shapped object is on the grill?  It's a tortilla!  They often puff up like pita bread when you make them fresh from the masa (dough).  They deflate just as rapidly.  And look at the size of that egg!

Antojeria Vic fit the bill--clean and busy, with just what we wanted to start the day--cafe de olla (with chocolate and cinnamon) and chilaquiles. Know what the pillow-shapped object is on the grill? It's a tortilla! They often puff up like pita bread when you make them fresh from the masa (dough). They deflate just as rapidly. And look at the size of that egg!

The fondas always offer a communal condiment dish with roasted chile de arbol peppers (great toasty flavor and very hot), lots of limes, chopped cilantro, a green hot sauce, and minced onions.  The cook starts some sunny-side up eggs--we ordered the chilaquiles 'montados'--mounted with an egg on top.  Yum!

The fondas always offer a communal condiment dish with roasted chile de arbol peppers (great toasty flavor and very hot), lots of limes, chopped cilantro, a green hot sauce, and minced onions. The cook starts some sunny-side up eggs--we ordered the chilaquiles 'montados'--mounted with an egg on top. Yum!

If you aren't used to it, the cramped space and clutter can be off-putting.  But you will be amazed at what a huge variety of authentic, tasty food will emerge from such tiny kitchens.  And the prices can't be beat.  I ate lunch here once--a small plate of red rice, another of spaghetti, a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with oaxaca cheese and fried in egg batter with a side of beans and a half pitcher of lemonade.  I was stuffed and very satisfied--and it set me back $3.50 dollars.

If you aren't used to it, the cramped space and clutter can be off-putting. But you will be amazed at what a huge variety of authentic, tasty food will emerge from such tiny kitchens. And the prices can't be beat. I ate lunch here once--a small plate of red rice, another of spaghetti, a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with oaxaca cheese and fried in egg batter with a side of beans and a half pitcher of lemonade. I was stuffed and very satisfied--and it set me back $3.50 dollars.

Of course, good food is of primary importance when choosing a stall, but sometimes there are other, undefinable attractions that sway your decision.  This is Omar, who is happy to take your order and make suggestions.  365Omar is laughing evily because everyone thinks I am taking a photo of the restaurant.

Of course, good food is of primary importance when choosing a stall, but sometimes there are other, undefinable attractions that sway your decision. This is Omar, who is happy to take your order and make suggestions. 365Omar is laughing evily because everyone thinks I am taking a photo of the restaurant.

Chilaquiles.  This is Mexico.  This is what I miss when I'm in New York.  Chilaquiles are strips of tortillas, deep fried, and then covered with green tomatillo/chile sauce and cream, and montado with a huevo estrellado (sunny-side up egg).  Served with refried black beans and sprinkling of cotija cheese and drops of green chile sauce, this is heaven on a plate.  With a large orange or carrot juice and hard rolls, breakfast runs $4 dollars and fuels you for days.

Chilaquiles. This is Mexico. This is what I miss when I'm in New York. Chilaquiles are strips of tortillas, deep fried, and then covered with green tomatillo/chile sauce and cream, and montado with a huevo estrellado (sunny-side up egg). Served with refried black beans and sprinkling of cotija cheese and drops of green chile sauce, this is heaven on a plate. With a large orange or carrot juice and hard rolls, breakfast runs $4 dollars and fuels you for days.

Another plating.  Looks like Netzahuacoyatl is sticking his tongue out.  He is showing what he thinks of our caloric intake.  Chilaquiles can also be made with red sauce, or chile poblano/cream sauce, mole. or even mango/habanero sauce.  They are the perfect breakfast.

Another plating. Looks like Netzahuacoyatl is sticking his tongue out. He is showing what he thinks of our caloric intake. Chilaquiles can also be made with red sauce, or chile poblano/cream sauce, mole. or even mango/habanero sauce. They are the perfect breakfast.

Carrot juice washes it all down.

Carrot juice washes it all down.

Beautiful artichokes in the market.

Beautiful artichokes in the market.

This is the rather strange herb known as romeritos.  It is prepared with potatoes and shrimp tortas (croquettas) in a chocolate mole sauce.  It is spicy and hot and unusual and a real stomach bomb, and we just adore it.  Omar's mother makes it for Christmas.

This is the rather strange herb known as romeritos. It is prepared with potatoes and shrimp tortas (croquettas) in a chocolate mole sauce. It is spicy and hot and unusual and a real stomach bomb, and we just adore it. Omar's mother makes it for Christmas.

On our way to the microbus to go to the Villa, we stopped at our favorite candy store.

On our way to the microbus to go to the Villa, we stopped at our favorite candy store.

What gorgeous creations--this is a fudge-like confection topped with fruit and pink piñon nuts.

What gorgeous creations--this is a fudge-like confection topped with fruit and pink piñon nuts.

Pistachio marzipan.

Pistachio marzipan.

Mexico City often looks like Europe (but the dollar goes a lot farther here!).

Mexico City often looks like Europe (but the dollar goes a lot farther here!).

Can you imagine a classier setting?  Mexico is full of surprises.

Can you imagine a classier setting? Mexico is full of surprises.

A variety of sweets, beautifully displayed.

A variety of sweets, beautifully displayed.

Self portrait.  Sweets among the sweets.

Self portrait. Sweets among the sweets.

Lovely candied fruits.  This is what you need to make the mincemeat stuffing for chiles en nogada, described in a previous post.

Lovely candied fruits. This is what you need to make the mincemeat stuffing for chiles en nogada, described in a previous post.

A far cry from the artificially colored fruit in many fruitcakes!

A far cry from the artificially colored fruit in many fruitcakes!

We also stopped at El Fenix, one of the city's best drug stores.  I once was deathly sick in a hotel near here, and made it to within a half block of the Fenix when my stomach did the rhumba and I threw up right there in the street.  But being über-classy, I didn't open my mouth.  I turned on my heels, and started trotting back to the hotel, chipmonk cheeks full of last night's dinner.  I knew if I threw up again, it would be curtains--I was out of capacity.  And in that block and a half, didn't I meet everyone I had ever known in Mexico City?  "Daniel!  Daniel!"  People waved to me from cars, buses, taxis, and third floor windows (my feverish brain is exaggerating a little--but not much).  Familiar folks came at me with huge smiles and their hands extended.  I ran on past, nodding my head and making "Gotta run!" hand gestures.  Normally chatty at the reception desk, I just held out my hand and she gave me the key.  The elevator took a week and a half to arrive.  I was so sick for two days I couldn't even read.  But that isn't what this photo is for.  Regular 365 readers--does this scene remind you of anything?

We also stopped at El Fenix, one of the city's best drug stores. I once was deathly sick in a hotel near here, and made it to within a half block of the Fenix when my stomach did the rhumba and I threw up right there in the street. But being über-classy, I didn't open my mouth. I turned on my heels, and started trotting back to the hotel, chipmonk cheeks full of last night's dinner. I knew if I threw up again, it would be curtains--I was out of capacity. And in that block and a half, didn't I meet everyone I had ever known in Mexico City? "Daniel! Daniel!" People waved to me from cars, buses, taxis, and third floor windows (my feverish brain is exaggerating a little--but not much). Familiar folks came at me with huge smiles and their hands extended. I ran on past, nodding my head and making "Gotta run!" hand gestures. Normally chatty at the reception desk, I just held out my hand and she gave me the key. The elevator took a week and a half to arrive. I was so sick for two days I couldn't even read. But that isn't what this photo is for. Regular 365 readers--does this scene remind you of anything?

How about now?  The packages on the top are "Always."  See "Walking to Tequila" and you'll know why they are here!

How about now? The packages on the top are "Always." See "Walking to Tequila" and you'll know why they are here!

We took the microbus to the Villa, for 20 cents.  Walking up to the Basilica you'll find a forest of vendors.  Most sell food or flowers or religious articles, but this young man had a great display of Chavo del Ocho dolls--all the characters are here.  Chavo del Ocho is an acquired taste--part of it's charm is it's familiarity and repetitativeness--but it is one of the most beloved television shows in Mexico.

We took the microbus to the Villa, for 20 cents. Walking up to the Basilica you'll find a forest of vendors. Most sell food or flowers or religious articles, but this young man had a great display of Chavo del Ocho dolls--all the characters are here. Chavo del Ocho is an acquired taste--part of it's charm is it's familiarity and repetitativeness--but it is one of the most beloved television shows in Mexico.

The Villa--the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  It is located on a steep hill in the northern part of Mexico City.  It was here in the 1500's that the Virgin appeared to Don Juan Diego, a peasant who has recently become the church's first indgenous saint.

The Villa--the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It is located on a steep hill in the northern part of Mexico City. It was here in the 1500's that the Virgin appeared to Don Juan Diego, a peasant who has recently become the church's first indgenous saint.

The older churches are still standing, albeit at crazy angles.  The entire area is very beautiful.  The hill behind the churches is well worth the climb for the overview of the city and the gorgeous gardens.

The older churches are still standing, albeit at crazy angles. The entire area is very beautiful. The hill behind the churches is well worth the climb for the overview of the city and the gorgeous gardens.

People come here from all over Mexico and the world to see the image left by the Virgin of Guadalupe on the tilma, or cloak, of San Juan Diego.

People come here from all over Mexico and the world to see the image left by the Virgin of Guadalupe on the tilma, or cloak, of San Juan Diego.

The basilica is often packed to overflowing, with many crossing the wide patio and entering on their knees.

The basilica is often packed to overflowing, with many crossing the wide patio and entering on their knees.

The view from the altar.  The image of the Virgin hangs behind the altar.

The view from the altar. The image of the Virgin hangs behind the altar.

Full house.

Full house.

To visit the Virgin close up, you pass under the altar (which sits upon a crypt).  There are always lots of flowers.

To visit the Virgin close up, you pass under the altar (which sits upon a crypt). There are always lots of flowers.

Once behind the altar you find moving walkways--which go in both directions.  Everyone tries to pray and take photos and balance at the same time.  It usually isn't quite this busy.

Once behind the altar you find moving walkways--which go in both directions. Everyone tries to pray and take photos and balance at the same time. It usually isn't quite this busy.

The Virgin of Guadalupe.

The Virgin of Guadalupe.

The Virgin of Guadalupe.  It is really inspiring to learn the story of her visits here.  We posted much more on the Virgin in 'Mexico in New York.'

The Virgin of Guadalupe. It is really inspiring to learn the story of her visits here. We posted much more on the Virgin in 'Mexico in New York.'

Floral offerings.  Although these lilies are beautiful. roses are the most popular offering, due to their significance in the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Floral offerings. Although these lilies are beautiful. roses are the most popular offering, due to their significance in the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The moving walkway isn't really ideal--especially for older people, who have a hard time balancing while looking upward at the Virgin.  It sure does keep the folks moving through, though!

The moving walkway isn't really ideal--especially for older people, who have a hard time balancing while looking upward at the Virgin. It sure does keep the folks moving through, though!

In the 1920's someone snuck a bomb into the basilica and it exploded in front of the image of the Virgin.  Although the heavy metal crucifix was bent backwards, the image was not harmed.

In the 1920's someone snuck a bomb into the basilica and it exploded in front of the image of the Virgin. Although the heavy metal crucifix was bent backwards, the image was not harmed.

The bent crucifix.

The bent crucifix.

In front of the basilica, men carry in a new offering.  It must have been heavy--they were moving real fast.

In front of the basilica, men carry in a new offering. It must have been heavy--they were moving real fast.

The floral display was followed by these racing mariachis.

The floral display was followed by these racing mariachis.

They set up the flowers outside the basilica...

They set up the flowers outside the basilica...

Everyone from senior citizens to punk rockers came, some carrying their statues and photos of the Virgin.

Everyone from senior citizens to punk rockers came, some carrying their statues and photos of the Virgin.

Stay tuned for Mexico City Part IV, in which we climb the hill behind the basilica, and visit Frida and Diego (come to find out, they are dead, but their house is very interesting)…and tour lovely Coyoacan.

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

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