Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mexico City in (about a dozen) photos

I returned from the large and wondrous capital of Mexico on Friday, but haven't gotten a chance to blog about it yet because I was at home enjoying the less large, but still wondrous, joys of Texas. Now that I'm back in Astoria (or more specifically, right now: at work in Manhattan), I have the time to devote to chronicling my wonderful trip. I had a lovely time visiting friends in Mexico City who I hadn't seen in nearly 2 years. They were wonderful hosts and drove us all over the enormous city (for sense of scale: the city and metropolitan area are over 3,000 square miles, and the city has a population of nearly 20 million). I ate delicious food in unnecessary quantities all while foolishly promising myself that the next meal would be a "light" one. According to my friend Alex, Mexico currently surpasses the noticeably pudgy United States in obesity levels. I didn't seem to notice quite so many fat people as I did in Houston, but I could certainly see that if I personally spent too long there, I would likely balloon up with all the deliciousness around me.

But rather than speak about my trip and fall into the trap of only detailing what I ate, instead I'll give you what you really want---photos!

This is the lovely house of our wonderful friends. This is the interior courtyard where later in the week (when I probably should have photographed it again) they planted some beautiful rose bushes in the bed to the left. Also, I should point out the black square in the upper left side is not my fault--it's not a camera strap as it might appear, but rather the end of a wind chime. So I guess, by not framing the shot better, it really is my fault. I'm actually not sure why I'm drawing your attention to it...

One of our first stops on arriving was to the National Museum of Anthropology which is full of artifacts from the different cultures of Mexico. I took a shine to this bird man. Apparently, dressing up as a bird was a cultural trinket the Aztecs borrowed from one of the many cultures they conquered. Perhaps it added insult to injury when, after conquering them, the Aztecs took on their festival ways, but dressing as some sort of bird and dancing around is certainly a custom that is worthy of adoption.

The explanation (thankfully offered in English) disavowed the apparently previously thought theory that this intricately carved monolith was an Aztec calendar. But sadly that was the most memorable part of the explanation, and I have no idea what it actually was used for. Far be it for this blog to spread misinformation, so I can say with perfect confidence that at the very least this large artifact was never used as an Aztec calendar. It is, however, still known by many as "the Aztec Calendar." Those readers more familiar with anthropology and Aztec artifacts, or even those just willing to google, are free to comment with a more precise explanation.

I had heartily hoped to come out of this trip with a new facebook photo of me standing in front of some of the technological wonders of Mexico. Unfortunately, this one doesn't pass inspection because in my haste to get a shot without sunglasses, I ended up with some heavy squinting. It's hard to win with full sun pictures. At any rate, I've decided it's, at the very least, good enough for blogging. This photo is of me in Teotihuacan standing on the Temple of the Sun. The, somewhat smaller, Temple of the Moon is right behind me. These date to about 200 BCE (I think?). Also, and this is really neither here nor there, that hat only cost me 10 pesos.
Here's a picture of the Temple of the Sun (it's much easier to photograph when you're not standing on top of it). I took this one partially for scale, as you can see all the people climbing up it. You can also see the incredibly ominous clouds surrounding it, which about 10 minutes after this photo was taken would open a deluge on us. The people climbing up in this picture were probably the ones stuck at the top during the ensuing downpour and hail.
After escaping the rains of Teotihuacan, we were ready for lunch. We ended up driving through the torrents (or rather my friend Alex, who is an intrepid driver, did) in a circle for about 20 minutes trying to find a certain restaurant. At many points during the search, I wondered why we were passing by about 70 perfectly decent restaurants. When we finally found our destination, I understood why we had persevered. The resturant, called La Gruta, was inside a cave. Truly a magnificent eating experience. I'm not sure this picture really does it justice, but you get the idea.

On our next day, we went the opposite direction, to the far southern part of the city to an area called Xochimilco. This is the most fertile part of the city known for its beautiful plants. It is also home to large canals where you can rent boats to be pushed leisurely down river. During the trip, boats approach you selling everything from corn to chips and candy apples to music and jewelry. It's a very relaxing and enjoyable experience.

Here are Alex and I sunning ourselves on the edge of our boat, Lupita. She was a fine boat. Unfortunately, I was unperpared for this trip by not decking out in my "I heart New York" and Panama hat finery. So really, Alex is doing all the work in this picture.

This is another picture that suffers greatly to the real thing. We visited a former convent in the town of Tepoztlan outside of Mexico City. The structure was enormous, but the most memorable part was an enormous chapel in which everything was brightly gilded. Naturally, flash was not allowed. I did the best I could on my "museum setting," but a lot of the beauty is lost. Nevertheless, I like this photo a lot, so I'm including it. If you ever find yourself in Tepoztlan, this church is very much worth the visit.

I wish I could take credit for the glorious composition of this picture, but really it is one that Alex took. It is from the Plaza de las Tres Culturas (or Three Cultures Square), called such because you can see three periods in Mexican history there. In this photo you can see the remains of the pre-Columbian City of Tlatelolco (later, I think, conquered by the Aztecs), the church of Santiago Tlatelolco built in 1525, and of course the modern buildings of Mexico City. You can see them all nicely in this picture! For clarification, the wall in the foreground is part of the ancient city.

On our last day in town, we visited the historic downtown of Mexico City. Here is the Fine Arts Palace where they put on ballets, operas, and other cultural events. In addition to being stunning on the outside, there are a series of murals, by Diego Rivera and others, on the inside. There is also a magnificent crystal curtain made by Tiffanys on the main stage, but unfortunately, it was under renovation, so we couldn't see it firsthand. Oh well, that's just one more excuse to go back!

On our last night in town it was Isobel's birthday, so we went out for a nice dinner. Here you can see me, my mother, Isobel and Alex and Anibal up top. It was an enjoyable end to a wonderful trip, and fittingly, involved eating copious amounts of delicious foods.

Naturally these 12 pictures are just a drop in the bucket compared to the 200 odd pictures I (or Alex) took. I should have those loaded on a photo sharing site soon, so let me know if you want the link. Overall, I had a wonderful time and am thankful to have such generous and welcoming friends to visit in this beautiful city.


  1. Nice pictures! But where are the ones of your trip to Texas? You got all your readers prepped last post and now nothing?!

  2. Er, the only pictures I took in Texas were of Rachel's baby (and I feel weird posting pictures of other people's kids without their permission) and of Cuzco (and there's only room for one cat to be enshrined on this blog). I had no idea you were waiting for more shots of the homeland!

  3. Excellent recap of the trip!

    Carolyn, I don't think there are any Texas pictures, except for a couple of the fabulous Cusco -- who ran away every time he saw a camera heading his way.

  4. It looks like you had a fabulous time!! I like that you gave the highlights. Sometimes I get overwhelmed when there are a million pics, but this post gave good highlights and a history lesson too. Love it!! I want to go to that former convent and see all the gilded stuff. It looks sooo cool!