Trip Start Sep 04, 2008
41Trip End May 19, 2009
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First Section - (kind of like a sampler plate of the good things to come)
AT, my roommate, joined the US Peace Corps last week, and as a member, he gets a Diplomatic Passport..
We figured out how to use the Metro system Tuesday night, and we quickly fell in love with it. I loved the sights and sounds, the people, the quickness and efficiency, the convenience, and best of all, the price! For only 2 pesos a trip (less than 15 cents), we could get anywhere in the city, including the Airport and the Bus Terminals.
Tuesday we visited the Embassy, a Subway restaurant, a huge park, the National Museum of Anthropology, the Botanical Gardens, the National Museum of Modern Art, and a great Italian Restaurant.
Wednesday was spent at the National Museum of Art, a used book fair in an alley, a chocolate shop, a cafe called (roughly) "house of blue tiles", the Torre Latinoamericana, the Palacio de las Bellas Artes, Alameda Central Park, El Caballito Monument, and a Wal*Mart.
Thursday we fixed our eyes on the Plaza de la Constitución (aka: Zócalo), the Catedral y Sagrario Metropolitano, the old college of San Ildefonso, our favorite park again (Alameda Central), the 7 monuments along Paseo de la Reforma, and the skateboarders outside of the Insurgentes Metro stop
Friday was spent at the Teotihuacan ruins an hour outside of the city via charter bus, where we marveled at and then hiked up the Sun and Moon Pyramids. That afternoon we went to the Alameda Central park a 3rd time, so Holland could see it. Come nightfall we got street tacos near the duplex, and enjoyed them on the roof, with an extended side of pleasant conversation.
Saturday morning I slept in, and then we made our way back to the National Museum of Art for Holland to enjoy... I first visited the Postal Palace (home of the Mexico Postal Service) and apparently missed a killer Opera concert at the Art Museum. I made my way in after the concert was over, and was pleasantly surprised by all the new things I found in a Museum I had already visited. We then made our way back to the (horribly unorganized) Mexico City Airport, and I was in my "own bed" in Oaxaca that night.
Second Section - (a bit of detail about my 2 favorite things from each day)
I spent over 4 hours in the Anthropology Museum, and I didn't even make it through half of the exhibits (not to mention that I didn't stop to read any signs, because they were all in Spanish). Its the biggest museum I've ever been to, with acres of floor space, and 10s of thousands of artifacts and recreations. I really appreciated the logical layout of the place, as well as the free bag check and the outdoor displays - including a legends of the hidden temple looking place
Pizza is my favorite food, and I'm not afraid to admit it. I love every kind of pizza there is, from every place I've ever been... it's a fail safe menu item, and no two pizzas are the same. AT and I were on our way to get some mexican food when we stumbled across Stefano's Italian Restaurant, and decided we could get mexican food any day of the week in Oaxaca. Stefano himself cooked us up an awesome pepperoni pizza, which completely hit the spot for me, and made it my second favorite part of the day.
Going to the top of the Torre Latinoamericana was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. For a while, it was the tallest Tower in Latin America, but it has recently been surpassed... nonetheless, it's still plenty high for seeing all of Mexico City (or at least attempting to see it through the pollution of a city almost twice the size of Beijing) and attempting to glimpse the beautiful mountains that surround the city, or Lake Texcoco on the outskirts
The National Museum of Art was my second favorite from the day, but I'll save it's entry for Saturday, which was a less exciting day overall. This leaves me with discussing a new event from the day, and I choose Wal*Mart. It's no wonder Wal*Mart is successful (financially), more people were walking into Wal*Mart (which practically had its own Metro stop) while I sat outside with my bag (didn't want to check the camera) than walk into Westerville North at 7:10 in the morning. (re-read that sentence without reading the things in parenthesis, and it will make sense I promise!) AT and I decided it would be fiscally savvy to purchase the five foundational blocks of the food pyramid (Jiff peanut butter w/ honey, Smucker's raspberry jelly, 2 loaves of wheat bread, a sack of oranges, and a bundle of bananas) and pack our own lunches at the kitchen where we were staying.
The San Ildefonso Art College and the gallery/exhibit they were displaying was fantastic. A photographer, Dave LaChapelle, had a huge exhibit, displaying over 100 poster size photographs, and 2 "making of" videos. I loved the way he (not-at-all-subtly) bashed on the elements of the modern selfish society that is the "American Dream". He bashed on materialism/consumerism, celebrity worship, conformity, nice car/nice house/pretty wife = happy life, the sex industry, new age religions, brand-ism and much, much more. I doubt I was even able to grasp 10% of the artists intentions with each carefully set-up photograph, but I still loved the exhibit
I also loved taking a long walk down Paseo de la Reforma, and just seeing all there was to see. Not only were the seven monuments impressive, but we met a few people along the way, and stopped on a modern-art park bench for 30 minutes just to people watch. Some of the sky scrapers in the Zona Rosa had incredible architecture, and I was able to get some really cool pictures. It was nice to take a break from the museums and just walk around for a while, and I can't think of a better road to do that on than Paseo de la Reforma.
The ruins of Teotihuacan were so incredibly cool they could have their own blog, but I think this paragraph will have to suffice. I recommend that anyone given the chance to visit them do so, because they are a sight to behold. There's something about the old Aztec/Mexica culture that I just find really exciting and interesting, so to be walking around where they once lived, climbing their pyramids and looking down their streets was really cool for me - my imagination was going 110% on what it must have been like to live there back in it's prime. We even found some underground tunnels and things, which I loved, because I honestly felt like Indiana Jones (I just pretended there wasn't a metal path to follow, guard rails, fluorescent lighting, or steel support beams)
I had a lot of fun at the Alameda Central Park on Friday with AT and Holland. AT decided to get his curls fixed into dreadlocks from some homeless mexican hippies hanging out around the dried out fountain in the middle of the park - and I'm pretty happy with the way many of my pictures turned out - (did I mention I love my camera, and I'm daily fighting the urge to become an idol worshiper?) I got two hoodies for $11, which are comfortable and practical, since the temperature seems to be dropping really low after the sun goes down... Honorary Mention: sitting on the roof eating tacos and discussing God, life, college and a great many other things with AT and Holland was definitely a highlight of the day (night).
Saturday started out well with sleeping in. The National Museum of Art was also a noteworthy place. It has a reception hall with the most intricately painted ceilings imaginable. There were all kinds of art in the museum from old mexican paintings, to old photos, to Catholic religious art, to modern art - all it needed was a little facebook graffiti and it would be good to go! We had fun doing watercolor painting in the little kid room as well. People watching outside the Museum on a Saturday afternoon is also a recommended experience.
My final favorite memory from Mexico City was riding the Metro to the Airport. First of all, it is so great that you can get from anywhere in the city to the Airport, both quickly and cheaply. I wish Columbus and most of the other places I visit would have a feature like that. Second, I had a fun time getting on at the downtown Metro station, which was the most crowded place I've ever been in my life, thanks to the fact that it started to rain right at we needed to head out to the airport.
Caution: proceed further at your own risk.
Third Section - (practically a play by play of my whole trip)
Tuesday - I set my alarm for 4:47 AM. After getting in a taxi at the house at 5:30 AM to go to the airport (cost 132 pesos) AT and I boarded an early morning Mexicana flight for Mexico City. When we arrived in Mexico City, we located the airport taxi stand (as we had been advised to do so) and we purchased a ticket to get to the US Embassy (cost 151 pesos). It took an incredibly long time to get to the (relatively close) Embassy, because of the incredible traffic in the city. I fell asleep in the taxi a few times on the way there :-) The taxi driver dropped us off in front of the Embassy, which was located on the nicest street in the whole city. AT and I were put through a series of security paces, which included me tasting my water in front of a guard, and leaving our bags and electronics in a secure room. I was impressed by the visitor control in the Embassy, and I got my first taste for the absolutely massive (and slightly absurd) amount of security personnel throughout the entire city. There must be 500,000 federally or privately employed security guards in Mexico City
We then left the Embassy, and headed down the road looking for food, and somewhere I could get more minutes for my phone. We found a subway, and decided we can eat Mexican food in Oaxaca whenever we want, so I splurged on a foot long Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki. We then found a TelCell store, where I got a 200 pesos top-up for my phone... I then called Dave and told him we made it to Mexico City (only a few hours late on that one...) Next stop: Sheraton Hotel guest services desk, where we got free maps, and lots of really great advice on things to check out while we were in the city. Ended up walking down to a park, and into the National Museum of Anthropology. What an incredibly cool place. It was so massive, that despite spending probably 4 hours there, I only made it through half the museum (and I wasn't even reading any of the signs, because they were all in Spanish). I really, really, really loved the section at the back of the Museum complex, which had a lot of information about the Mexica (Aztec) people, their ancient civilization on lake Texcoco, the temples they built, the gods they worshiped, and even the games they played. At one point, I called the guest house we would be staying at, and after getting through, I realized I didn't have any where to write things down, because I was sitting in the middle of a museum without my bag..
We found the Botanical Garden, but it was closing as we arrived. We moved on down the road until we found the National Museum of Modern Art, and checked out some seriously cool exhibits. My favorite was a liberal display about the abuses animals face in the domesticating, selfish world of today. The architecture of the museum was really great as well. It was now about to get dark, and AT and I decided we should probably try to find our way back to the guest house, which we knew to be pretty much on the far south edge of the city. We used our gratis Sheraton maps to located the nearest Metro (subway) stop, and then I figured out how to ride it to the stop I was told to get off at (I had to double check on the inside of my right leg). We then found the mini-bus we were advised to board (again, I had to check the inside of my right leg.) We rode the bus until the flower market, where we disembarked, and continued our journey on foot. With essentially no problems (thanks to the directions on the inside of my right arm) we located the gated street our guesthouse was located on. After fumbling through enough Spanish to explain to the security guard (one of the 500,000) that we were headed to the #37 house of Samuel, we found the place we would be staying
Our keys were in the lock box, and the code was written on the inside of my right arm. We removed our keys, and made our way through the gate... unfortunately that's about as far as we made it for a half an hour. We couldn't get into the door of the house, with either set of keys... and ended up sitting in the garage for 30 minutes, taking Advil, wondering why in the world we couldn't get inside. At that point, I remembered that we were staying in a duplex (one which turned out to be incredibly huge, with 26 beds, and enough kitchen/living area to sustain that many people.) We proceeded to the other side of the duplex, and voila, we made it all the way into the house no problem. We made our way upstairs, and after a fair bit of exploring the place, we found a nice big room that we decided must have been ours. We threw our stuff down on the beds, and went to the kitchen. The water jug was empty, so we were back through the duplex, opening every door, looking for some more water. AT ended up opening a door in a corner beyond the back kitchen pantries, and there was a tiny spiral staircase that made it's way up. He called me over to look at it, and I immediately remembered Dave saying (and demonstrating) "I hope you guys don't get the rooms up the spiral staircase. It's a tiny little thing, I don't even know if you'll fit, winding your way around that thing." Turns out or room was too good to be true, because the rooms up the closet staircase (assumably ex-maid's quarters) had the same names as our keys..
We asked the security guy where we could find some good grub, and he gave us directions to market where we could choose from a few different vendors... well, on the way there, we got distracted by an Italian restaurant, and ended up eating there instead. AT and I split an extremely delicious fresh-baked pepperoni pizza. Early up means early to bed, and after pizza we went home and crashed - too bad our bunk bed sent mad squeak waves every time I shifted .2% of my body weight, and my mattress was so worn out I could feel each bed spring... and for some reason I gave AT, who's a good 8 inches shorter than me at least, the bottom bunk, which was a full (actually the exact same red bunk bed that was in my room when I was in Cleveland - with additional squeakage factored in).
(I had to go to bed last night - 2/22/09 - and so now I'm continuing in the morning)
Wednesday - Woke up about 8 AM - read a really great article about the Mexica/Aztec history in a 1980 issue of National Geographic
Next thing, we were off to the National Museum of Art, via the minibus/metro system. This museum was awesome. The building was incredible, and on the top floor there was a large reception hall with a stunning ceiling. Someone must have spent over a year painting the ceiling in this place. We then looked at quite a few different art exhibits from around the museum, and each of them were pretty awesome in their own ways. There was a great deal of old Mexican art, a lot of old Catholic type paintings of Saints and Jesus and Bible stories, and even a wing with a lot of modern art (which AT and I walked through backwards, despite the fact that multiple security people tried to tell us we were going to wrong way..
After finishing our Snoop Art, we headed out of the museum, towards a cafe that was recommended to us by the Sheraton guy. On the way to the (blue tile) cafe, we walked through an alley where a few dozen vendors were selling used books. I wished I knew Spanish, because there were thousands of interesting used books being sold. We located our cafe, which was an impressive sight to behold - unfortunately, that was the only thing impressive about it. Our soups weren't anything special, and our service was terrible... we sat around for 15 minutes after we were done, at which point I started asking random employees for the bill - well 10 minutes and 5 employees later, the waitress finally showed up with our bill. We tipped 3 pesos. I then bought half price valentines day chocolate heart shaped suckers for AT and myself.
Across the street from the cafe is the old tallest building in Latin America - the Torre Latino. I paid 50 pesos to go up the viewpoint, which was impressive, because I had free roam over the top 5 floors, and the roof area. I bought a cherry Icee, and it was bomb for sure. I enjoyed taking pictures from the top, but it was a dreary day, and I was the only person on the roof who wasn't making out. Everywhere I turned there was a couple going at, and I felt a little out of place. We then found our way to the Bella Artes Palace, where we decided we weren't exceptionally interested in paying to see the inside. We decided instead to check out the (free) park, which was located right next to the Palace, in the heart of the city
Next on the list was a giant gold modern art horse statue, which AT wasn't very impressed with... but I thought it was super cool. Then it was off to the metro to head home. We hopped off at a metro station that had a Wal*Mart outside, and since I didn't want to check my bag with my camera in it, I decided to wait outside, while AT went in and purchased bread, peanut butter (with honey!), jelly, oranges, and some bananas. Once we got home, we unloaded, and then headed off to get food at the market we had been recommended the night before. After a short hike (past the yummy Italian place) we showed up in the centro/zocalo/town square of our suburb, and there where lots of yummy looking restaurants around. AT and I settled for a cheap looking place, where he had a delicious looking burger, and my quesadilla turned out to not have chicken, because they were ran out :-(
Thursday - up at 8 out at 9. Off to the Zocalo. Huge flag on the Zocalo, easily 300 ft. long, but that seemed to be the only thing interesting about the second largest town square in the whole world - it was more like a big expanse of boring concrete
We located the San Ildefenso Museum with relatively little problems after that, and we ventured inside, not really sure what to expect.... a massive facility with multiple courtyards is what we found. Most of the place seemed to be an art college, but there was a good chunk set apart as a gallery/exhibit of some of the work of David LaChapelle. He's got a really radical view about the problems of our society today, such as materialism, consumerism, celebrity worship... and lots and lots of other things along those lines. His photos bash on these characteristics in very unique ways. After the LaChapelle exhibit, we walked back to our park from the day before and enjoyed the lunch we packed four ourselves, consisting of PB&J and oranges. While we sat and ate, we had some conversation with some guys who lived in the park, and were hanging out on a bench across the path.
We eventually got bored at the park, and decided to walk up to Paseo de la Reforma - a street that runs through much of the D.F. (federal district - downtown) and has 7 or 8 large monuments in the middle of the road. We ended up at courtyard outside a Metro Station in the Zona Rosa (Gay/Business district) where we sat on a ledge and people watched for a while. We decided to go for a hike up a random street, because we were trying to kill time before we had to head out to the airport where we were going to pick up AT's friend Holland
Friday - We got up early, really early (ok, only 7 AM - but for vacation that's almost absurd) and started to prepare for a day at the pyramid ruins. I used some information I got from WikiTravel, and it turns out absolutely all of it was completely correct. We took the Metro to the Bus Station on the North of the city, and were able to locate a charter service that drove out to the ruins (about an hour away) every 30 minutes. AT, Holland, and I made our way out there, and were checking out the ruins by mid-morning. The ruins are super cool, and I really enjoyed hiking around through them. The Sun and Moon pyramids look really impressive from the ground, but they're deceptively high. I started climbing the larger one, and by the looks of it, I would have guessed that I was about a third of the way up when I reached the very top... nonetheless, they're still impressive structures considering they were built in the 5th Century (I think). I haven't looked through my pictures yet, but I'm pretty sure I snapped quite a few good ones..
After the ruins, we took another bus back to a metro stop, and then made our way back to the "hippie" park, because AT knew Holland would like it. I bought two woven poncho/hoodie things, (aka drug rugs) for a little over 10 dollars, AT got his hair dreadlocked, and Holland had a few beads put into her hair on some braided colorful string thing. We made our way home around dark, picked up some street tacos near the house, and then chilled out on the roof eating out yummy food and engaging in conversation for a good while.
Saturday - I got some sleep-in while AT and Holland went out to breakfast. We took the morning slow, cleaned up our mess at the guest house, packed up our stuff, and headed out mid-day for the National Museum of Art, a favorite of both mine and AT's, and we thought Holland should see it while she was in Mexico city
I wasn't sure how much longer AT and Holland planned on spending in the Museum, and since I'd already seen it, I decided to sit outside with my Pepsi and my gummy worms, and people watch - it was Saturday, downtown - every kind of person was milling around. Well, I was sitting on concrete, and my but started to hurt, and I finished my Pepsi, so I decided to pay the entrance fee again, and hit up the Art Museum a second time in hopes of locating AT and Holland. I did, and they had just finished their opera concert, so we did the entire museum together. I found it very interesting that I noticed all sorts of new things at the Museum the second time..
The flight back to Oaxaca flew by (pun intended). p.s. "punster" is a real dictionary word, check it out some time. Turns out Laurel was coming back from Arizona on a flight from Houston just an hour and a half later, so we waited around at the (empty) airport for her (and so we could get a ride home with Dave). I got yelled at for laying on the grass outside the airport... which made me pretty mad, because the grass sucked anyways, and I wasn't going to do anything to make it worse by laying on my back listening to Fareed Zakaria tell me about The Post-American World. We got some really yummy tacos on the way home, and I instantly got super hungry - aka I absolutely devoured them when we made it to the dining room and started digging in.
Secret Fourth Section - (a link to AT's blog, to see our trip in equally extensive detail, but through a completely different set of eyes, and a fairly different lens on life)