Monday, February 9, 2009

Mexico City

I arrived in Mexico City at about 5:30 I thought there were a lot of cabbies in Puerto Vallarta, turns out they got nothing on this place they were swarming.

I followed all of the guide and forum rules and purchased a ticket from the "official" taxi stand. They have set prices based on what zone of the city you are going to. From Terminal Norte to the Zocalo it was $85 pesos. Very cheap considering the amount of time it took to get here and the traffic which was bumper to bumper for the last 20 blocks. Turns out the largest market in Latin America was on the same route we were taking so tons of people and cars out on a Saturday night.

I found a hostel on the Internet before I left Patzcuaro, Hostel Moneda it is located 1/2 a block off the Zocalo (Calle Moneda #8) it faces the side of the National Palace. They offer free breakfast & dinner as well as Internet and WI FI. Can't beat the price for $205 pesos a night for a 4 bunk dorm and as it turns out I have it to myself so far. I went out for a short walk after dinner last night, you can't beet the location of this place and there is a 7-11 right next door so I can get my junk food fix.

Sunday I went in to full on tourist mode, I am now cultured LOL.. Sundays in Mexico City is environmental day, they encourage everyone to ride bikes, roller blade etc.. They close off the main streets leading to the Zocalo and the Zocalo which is the biggest traffic circle I have ever seen to cars, it was pretty cool to see so many people out on wheels. Most of the museums are free on Sunday's so I did my best to cover as many as I could. First up was Palacio De Bella Artes, they have some Diego Rivera murals and an exhibit by Navarro. I did manage to get a couple of pictures of the main gallery including the Diego murals but most of it is off limits to photography. The building itself is a work of art, I can't believe the architecture and history here, being from Canada we don't have anything older than a couple of hundred years old so something built in the 16th century is not something we see. The market is right beside the museum so I took a quick tour through while I was there, it is huge and they were just setting up when I went through so I am going back tonight to get the full effect.

Next up the National Palace, wow they lived good back then. The President doesn't live there now and what isn't open to tourist is used for government offices. Very high security here, they have army dudes everywhere and you have to show ID and go through a metal detector to get in, you have to go through one on the way out as well as putting your bag through an x-ray scan. Good thing I changed my mind on taking those little souvenir nick knacks from 1842 that I was eyeing :-) The size of the place in incredible and they have Diego murals everywhere as well. The presidential living quarters have been left intact and you can go through them, they are roped off but you can get close enough to see. I really wish I knew Spanish on this one there were lots of signs explaining what things were but alas I could not read them, I did take a stab at the constitution but other than a couple of words I was pretty much lost. You can take pictures here but no flash allowed

On to the Cathedral, according to the tourist info the largest and oldest one in the Americas. No expense was spared on this place there is gold everywhere and 5 story ceilings. It must have taken a lot of donations to build this, as well as the main altar there are corridors down each side with more altars off them, I counted 10 and all very elaborate. It is still used for services so lots going on today and parts of it you could only go into if you were there to worship. As I would probably burst into flames at the touch of holey water I didn't ever try to fake it to get in. You can take pictures but no flash allowed, it was a little uncomfortable doing so when people are sitting in pews praying and crying so I found someone else taking pictures and followed them around so I wasn't the only tacky tourist.

I made a stop at the square on the corner of Moneda on the way by where there are vendors and there was a native dance show going on. Great costumes those headdresses are something else. Kind of ruined the illusion when I ran into a couple of them carrying cell phones in 7-11 later.

Last stop on the tour was the museum 2 doors down from my hostel, have no idea what the name of it is (there is a sign today it is the Museo De La SHCP) They don't do anything small here this place is also huge with tons of little rooms featuring different artists, all of it was great but in particular there was a sculpture exhibit that was awesome. Mostly modern art. Again no pictures allowed and security in every room to make sure you didn't take any.

Although I wore my comfy runners my feet are letting me know that they are not happy. Wonder is I can find a broke backpacker willing to make some coin by giving me a foot massage.. Think I'll see if I can find one.

Day 2 - I never did find a foot massage.. Ah well maybe tonight.

Included with my Stay at Hostel Moneda is a free walking tour which I opted to take today. It went to a few of the same places I went to yesterday but the guide spoke English so he explained a lot of stuff. So Mexico City is built on top of a lake and Aztec ruins. The city is sinking and most of the buildings are tilting a little. There is some Aztec ruins by the hostel so that is were the tour started.

I also got into the part of the Cathedral that was closed yesterday and got some info on it. They started building it in the 16th century but it was not finished until the 19th century. I guess they had issues with contractors back then too :-) Got some more info on the Diego murals at the Palace De Independence as well, seems he was suppose to do all of the walls on the 1st floor but had a difference of opinion with the government on what to paint so only 1/2 the floor is done. If you look at his paintings he has snuck in government soldiers attacking the people, a swastika and other anti government things. Seems Diego has communist leanings and was a follower of Marx and he has also incorporated that into his paintings, he also put Frida in a few of them.

The tour also included walking around the neighbor hood were our guide Alex gave us tips on restaurants that were open late, 24 hour pharmacies and other local landmarks including the post office which is also a museum. Part of the tour included a stop at a bakery. I happen to love baked goods but I have never imagined anything like this place. They have been in business for over 100 years and it is the biggest bakery I have ever seen. It is called Pasteleria Ideal and you can find it on Centro 16 Septiembre about 4 or 5 blocks down from the Zolaco. They had cakes in there twice as tall as me so I took some pictures, these cakes are on tables but they are only about 2 feet high, the rest is all cake. The entire top floor is dedicated to just cakes. Guess where I'm going tomorrow.

I have to say that this is a beautiful city and the area I am in is very safe. I have been out for walks at night and the streets are full of families out having a good time. Not once I have felt uneasy or uncomfortable. Our tour guide Alex also told us that this area is very safe and not to worry about going out a night.

Palacio De Bella Artes

Diego Murals - National Palace

Living Quarters National Palace


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