Tuesday, July 12, 2011

México, D.F. Dia uno.


I woke up bright an early this morning at 4:10am, nearly half an hour before the alarm was timed to go off. In fact, I pretty much cat napped through the night. Too excited to sleep.

No point lingering in bed so I got up and got ready. SuperShuttle was due to arrive between 5:15a and 5:30a. I passed the time laid out on the couch, trying to cram in a few minutes more of rest.

The journey begins.  The shuttle arrived on time and there were already three other passengers on board. As we got on the Beltway, heading towards BWI Airport, I realized I was the last passenger. We were on our way. There was little traffic on the road and the driver made good time. In less than 45 minutes, we were at the airport and I was the first to be let off. Things were going well.

Last night I had checked in online so I already had my boarding passes but a little voice inside my head told me to go to the self service kiosk. The last time I flew on American, I had a seat towards the back of the plane. it took forever to board and forever to disembark. Not a problem if you are disembarking at your destination but it can be an issue if you have to make a connecting flight. I was determined to not miss my connecting flight from Dallas/Ft Worth to Mexico City so I wanted to see if I could get a seat as close to the front of the plane as possible. Lucky day!! There were two rows marked for priority seating, right after business class. It cost $29 for the seat but it was worth peace of mind.

With boarding passes in hand, I made my way through security and to the departure lounge. By now, my stomach was growling. Luckily, there was a PotBelly restaurant open and I filled up on a bagel with cream cheese and a 12 oz cup of really, really bad, super bitter, super hot coffee. Why is fast food coffee always so bad??

As expected, we were late taking off - plane trouble of some sort. Every time the pilot came on over the PA system to tell us about more delay, I kept thinking I need to listen to that inner voice of mine more often.

We landed in Dallas Ft Worth about half hour late and I was able to quickly bolt out of my seat and make my way off the plane.

Bienvenidos a México! Fast forward and we land at Benito Juarez International Airport on schedule. I breezed through immigration and customs and exited the terminal. My brother and I were to meet up just outside the doors. I immediately started scanning through the crowd to look for his face. Today indeed was my lucky day because within a few seconds of looking, I spotted him. Turns out his flight arrived half hour late so he exited customs just a few minutes before I did!

We started to look through the crowd for the guy who was there to pick us up and we quickly spotted Alfredo (we found out his name later) holding up a placard with my brother’s name on it.

Following Gabi’s recommendations, the first thing on our to-do list was to buy our bus tickets to Puebla. With Alfredo asking for directions, we eventually found our way to the Estrella Roja booth. I bought two tickets for the 10:30am, Saturday morning bus to 4 Poniente station in Puebla. $400 pesos lighter and two bus tickets in hand, we followed Alfredo out of the airport to wait for our ride to the hotel.

On our ride, Alfredo pointed out some landmarks to us – of particular importance were the ones near our hotel which we would later on use to help mark our rote back to the hotel.

No rest for the excited! We arrived at the Regente Hotel, got checked in and took a few minutes to get settled in. By now it was close to 4pm and my stomach was really beginning to growl.  We decided to hit the streets in search of food.

As we left the hotel, it was gently raining. Luckily, we had both packed in rainjackets. Our first find was a small corner supermarket. We made a note to come back later to buy bottled water and toothpaste – which I had my tube confiscated at BWI because it was too big i.e., more than 4 ounces.

Our next step was a taqueria type place that I had spotted on the drive to the hotel. There were two food sections to the taqueria. One side served meat platters and the other, small tacos with various innards as filling options. And I mean innards…..ojo (eye), tromba (lips), tripa (tripe), lengua (tongue) and a tried and true favorite, longaniza. With prices ranging from the equivalent of 80 cents to a $1 for a taco, we sampled a few different ones. We obviously stood out like sore thumbs though we both know enough Spanish to order our meal. Even so, people around us were very kind, helping with suggestions and one kind gentleman not only got us napkins but he gave up his table so we could sit and eat.

We also each had a 32oz cup of fruit juice- guava for my brother and soursop for me. $11 later and we were nicely stuffed.

We meandered our way back out to the main road- Paseo de la Reforma. Along the way, we came across a small ice cream stand and for $15 pesos, I had the best coconut fruit popsicle I have ever had. None of this fruit juice with shreds of coconut thing. This was coconut fruit that had been finely diced mixed in with enough juice so that it would freeze into a block and stick stuck in the middle. All coconut. So good!

We soon found ourselves on Paseo de la Reforma, a wide tree lined avenue. Art work dots the sidewalks as do bicycle rental stands. Commercial enterprises flank the road. We stopped and checked out a couple of banks to see if their ATMs would take our cards.

A golden angel to greet us.  We continued our walk down Reforma (as it’s known here) until we reached the Angel of Independence. Of course, I immediately recognized it from all the reading I had done leading up to this trip.


Neither of us had brought our cameras with us so all I had to snap photos with was my Blackberry – not the best photos but better than nothing. The view of this famous landmark was fine from across the street but we wanted to get up close so we did the death run across the roundabout to get to the monument.

Sitting on the steps of the monument, we took in the views. From one side, we had a view *up* Reforma looking towards the Centro Historico. In the other direction, we had a view *down* Reforma looking towards Chapultepec Park. We both agree we would return to this spot on Friday when we have a full day to explore the city.

We decided to head back to the hotel – we didn’t want to be out after dark as neither of us felt it safe to do so. On our way back, we came across a mall, Reforma 22, which has many of the same stores that you would find in a typical mall in the US including the ubiquitous Apple store and of all things, a PF Chiangs!

Before we returned to the hotel, we stopped in at the corner store and bought our bottled water and toothpaste.

Back in the hotel room, we unwound from the day and made it an early night. It had been a long day of travel for both of us and we have a lot ahead of us tomorrow. There was a last minute change in plans so instead of going to Teotihuacan, we’ll be going to Taxco and Cuernavaca instead and before the night is over, we will be seeing a performance of the Ballet Folklorico at the Palacio de las Belles Artes. Can’t wait!!