Friday, July 15, 2011

México, D.F. Dia tres.

Today we did not have a fixed itinerary though we had agreed on a rough plan. We walk back to the zócalo to visit Templo Mayor. From there, go to the National Palace and then to Chapultepec Park where would spend more time at the National Museum of Anthropology.

We left our hotel after breakfast and headed out to Paseo de la Reforma.  I remember the route that we drove on yesterday with Rodolfo so it was just a matter of convincing my brother that I knew the way.  He has a horrible sense of direction so there was no way that I was going to follow him.  

It was morning rush hour, Reforma as the street is referred to here, was packed with cars.  Policemen were all about, directing traffic.  The traffic in Mexico City is very orderly but there are a lot of cars.  Reforma is definitely not a street where you can just dart across so we only crossed at the crosswalks, patiently waiting for signals to turn green.





Sights and sounds of the city.  We passed the giant yellow Caballito statue and for a few minutes, we stopped to watch a man unlock a bicycle from the Ecobici rack. 

Ecobici is a bike sharing system sponsored by the city. The system was introduced early last year and from what we could see, popular.  There are racks located all up and down Paseo de la Reforma and apparently, in several of the city neighborhoods as well. 

We had seen people riding the bicycles but we were curious how people rented them.  I found out later that there is annual membership fee and then an hour rental fee.  The first half hour is free which is not bad if you need to just go a few blocks.

Following our car route, we angled off onto Avenida Juárez. A short distance later, we arrived at Alameda Central which is a small, city park.  It was early Friday morning so the park was pretty empty.  Vendors were starting to set up their stations.  Fronting the park is a monument dedicated to Benito Juárez.


It had been quite a walk from the hotel so we decided to sit a bit and rest our feet.  As my brother says, we must pace ourselves.





Back on our feet and a short walk later and we had arrived back at the Palacio de Bellas Artes....such a charming building.







 





A contingent of policemen, on horseback, passed us by.  Wonder where they were headed to?











We waited to cross the street to head back down the pedestrian only street that Rudolfo had taken us on.  As I looked around, I debated or not we should head inside the Correo Mayor (Main Post Office).  Officially known as the Palacio de Correos de Mexico (Postal Palace of Mexico City) the building is suppose to have a magnificent interior.  As the street signal turned green, I decided we should continue on our path.  I didn't want to spend time visiting the post office when we hadn't even seen all of the major sites in the city yet.  I'll put it on the itinerary for the next trip.







House of Tiles.  This time though, we did walk inside the Casa de los Azulejos,  an 18th century palace  built by the Count del Valle de Orizaba family. What makes this building so distinctive is its facade which is completely covered in the blue on white majolica tiles that the state of Puebla is famous for. The palace remained in private hands until near the end of the 19th century. It changed hands several times before being bought by the Sanborn brothers who expanded their soda fountain/drugstore business into one of the best-recognized restaurant chains in Mexico. The house today serves as their flagship restaurant.


We entered inside and there was a counter style restaurant that reminded me of the old time soda fountains that you find in the US.  Beyond that was a small department store and adjacent to that, was the more formal dining room, housed in what was originally the building's interior courtyard.  We quickly peeked inside. 

Back outside, we were on a pedestrian only street but it was not the same one that we were on with Rudolfo.  It was nice to see something different.  The buildings in this part of the city are just so charming; full of character.

Snack time! People were scurrying by us, presumably on their way to work.  None of the stores were open yet so there was no window shopping to be done.  Instead, we enjoyed a nice, leisurely walk.  Our peace was broken by the smell of food being cooked and the sound of a crowd.  Off on one of the side streets, a couple of empanada vendors had set up their stands.  Seeing the size of the crowd, I figured the food must be good. Of course, we had to check it out :-)


No point just checking out food.  Here the street food is plentiful, tasty and cheap. The perfect combination for any foodie.  We bought just one empanada to share.  We found a bench to sit on and dug into our buy.  Oh....it was so good.  The empanada was piping hot and filled with a very flavorful mixture of beef and tomato.

Morning snack done, we continued on our path towards the zócalo.  As we stood at an intersection, waiting for the light to turn green, I noticed the name of the cross street.  It was Palma.  I got so excited because the restaurant, El Cardenal, is located on this street; on Palma 23 to be exact.  El Cardenal was highly recommended by many different sources, as a place to go for an authentic Mexican meal.  More importantly, it's one of the few places in town that serve escamoles aka ant eggs or as the locals like to call it, "Mexican caviar" :-)  El Cardenal is famous for serving their escamoles scrambled with eggs.  Breakfast.  Of course, I wasn't going to come all this way and not check out the restaurant. Wouldn't you know, there were already people inside, lined up to get seated.  *sigh*   We had places to and things to do so no time to stand in line.  Eating escamoles.  Another *must do* that I will put on my itinerary for my next trip.

Back on our way, one block later and we were at the zócalo, just across the street from the Cathedral. 


Back to Grasshopper Park.  Since we had already been to the Cathedral, we just walked on by and headed over to Templo Mayor where we spent a couple of hours walking around the ruins and the museum.  After that, we took the subway and headed over to Chapultepec Park to go to the National Anthropology Museum where we spent at least two hours walking through the various collection halls. 

After we finished at the Museum, bro decided we should go to see the Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle) which is  located on top of Chapultepec Hill.  With the help of directions from friendly locals, we headed towards the castle.  Along the way, we took a short rest stop at the lake which was looking a little green.... from algae, I'm guessing.   A few paddle boaters were cruising around the small island in the lake.  In the distance, I could see a small beach.  I can imagine that would be a popular place to go on a nice, warm sunny day which it was not today.


It seemed like an interminably long walk before we arrived at the bottom of the hill that leads up to the castle.  We had been walking pretty much all day and my feet were beginning and I was starting to get tired.  But, we had come all this way so up the hill we went.  When we got to the top, we realized that it was 4:50pm and the place would be closing at 5pm.  So, no point going in.   Another must-see to add to my itinerary for the next trip.  That itinerary is getting long :-)

At the bottom of the hill, we asked for directions to the subway and we walked in the direction the man pointed us in.  We found ourselves on a walkway that was lined with vendors selling everything from food to balloons to DVDs.

The skies had been overcast off and on all day. Now, it was that time of day when the skies open up and unleashes buckets and buckets of rain.  The drops started to fall.  We scurried along.  The vendors were starting to dismantle their stalls.  More drops.  We stepped up our pace.  The crowd of people were all headed out in a particular direction and we followed them. Soon, we saw a sign that confirmed that the crowd and us were heading towards the Chapultepec subway station.

We entered the Chapultepec station which is on Line #1 and when we exited, we were at the Hidalgo station on Line #2.  When we exited the station, I recognized that were just across the street from Alameda Central and Avenida Juárez was just in front of us. I knew exactly how to get us back to our hotel.

We walked and along the way, stopped at a couple of ATMs to get cash.  Back at the hotel, yours truly was pooped.  I had to take a short break to rest my feet and relax a bit.

Dinner at Jorge's. Since this was our last night in Mexico City, it was only fitting for our day to end with dinner at another local taqueria.  This time, we decided to go to place that we had walked by on our previous dinner forays but because this place was located a bit further from our hotel, we never went.  Tonight, we decided to give it a shot.  I had a torta al pastor and I have to say, the food here was nowhere as good as the other place. Could be the reason why this joint was empty except for my brother and I and at the other place, we always had a hard time finding a seat.


But.....here is where we met Jorge, a Mexican of Chinese descent.  His family is originally from Hidalgo which is state in the north of the country.  He didn't speak any Chinese or English so we had to communicate in Spanish.  He was so friendly and we had wonderful time chatting....forgot all about the food.  He then got his wife to come out and insisted on having one of his staff take a picture of the four of us.  It was so cute!

We nibbled, we chatted, we laughed, we had an enjoyable meal at Jorge's.  Sometimes it really isn't about the food!

Jorge's place just so happens to be located across the street from the Michocana ice cream store.  I had to go for one last visit.  This time, I had the mango-chili popsicle.  Mango-y, a sweet, a little tart, a little spicy.  Definitely a taste sensation I had never had before in a popsicle.  I actually liked it but bro was not so keen.

Back at the hotel, we had to get packing.  It's our last night here and as I think back on the day, I really wished I had planned one more day here.  This city has so much to offer and we only got to nick the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.  Looking like there will need to be a return trip in the future :-)