Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vistas de Cuernavaca.

Catedral de Cuernavaca

Today started out bright an early. The alarm was set to go off at 7:30a but I was wide awake at 6:30p. I lingered in bed for as long as I could but shortly after 7a, I was already in the beathroom getting ready for the day.
Good morning Mexico! While my brother was getting ready for the day, I looked outside our hotel window. Our neighborhood was coming to life. The owners of a bank of semi-permanent street vendor stalls were opening shop. Soon, smells of food cooking wafted up and fueled my desire for breakfast. I realized I was hungry.

We headed down for breakfast and soon found ourselves checking out the buffet options. I had expected the worse - dry, tough rolls, butter, jam, and the usual assortment of cereals, juices, coffee and tea. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself standing in front of a selection of eggs, chilaquiles, papas con chorizo and other typical Mexican breakfast food items. And best of all, there was a young woman making omelettes with *your choice of fillings*. Of course, we had to go with the Mexican ingredients which meant *flor de calabaza* which translates to *squash blossoms*.....a very pricey item to buy in the US if you can find them but an everyday food item in Mexico.

And we're on our way....not quite!  We finished breakfast well ahead of 9am and had a few minutes to wander the street while we waited for our ride to arrive.

Shortly after 9am, a gentleman approached us in the lobby. Our ride had arrived! Lo and behold, two other passengers were also waiting to be picked up. With four of us in tow, our guide led us to an awaiting van. The two women were visiting from Chile and were also going to Cuernavaca and Taxco.

Our van pulled out onto Paseo de la Reforma (or as it's called here, just *Reforma*) and a short distance later, it pulled off onto a side street. The driver turned off the engine and we waited. A short while later, a familar face appeared at the door. It was Alfredo! Nice to see a familiar face. Alfredo we had to wait a few minutes for some other vans to arrive. At the time I didn't know what was happening but later on I figured out we were in a meeting place of sorts. Once all the passengers were there, we would be reshuffled into vans that were organized by language and location e.g., all English speaking passengers going to Cuernavaca and Taxco in Van #1.

A very big, very cute, very yellow horse.  While we waited, I took a short stroll down Reforma til I reached the corner. There, on the diagonal corner stood Caballito.....a giant and very cute yellow horse. We had seen Caballito on our way from the airport to the hotel the previous day. When I saw it then, I smiled. Today, when I saw it, I smiled again. There's something very charming about this large yellow horse.

By the time I arrived back at our meeting spot, more passengers had showed up. A few minutes later and the entire group had congregated. Alfredo guided us to our vans. This time we were in a van with two women from Columbia and a couple from Costa Rica. Our guide was Rudolfo....a very charismatic Mexican who is so fair in complexion that you wouldn't think he is Mexican. Everyone in the van spoke Spanish except for me so there was a lot of habla-ing Espanol going on. I was happy to be lost in the chatter, watching the scenery of Mexico City whizz by my window as we made our way to Cuernavaca, our first destination of the day.

Now, we're on our way.  Mexico City is geographically so spread out it seemed like it took ages before we got to the outskirts of town. Soon, we were winding our way up hills. The scenery turned from tropical highland to pine forest. Clouds also seemed to thicken in the skies. Before long, we were enveloped by fog. I started my "clouds okay but please no rain" prayer.

About two hours after we left the city, Rodolfo shouted to those of us seated in the back of hte van that we had arrived into Cuernavaca. The sun had broken through the clouds and it was a picture perfect day to be in the Sierra Madre region of Mexico. Yay!!

Cuernavaca is an old Spanish colonial town and its streets reflect that - narrow and cobblestoned. Because of its proximity to Mexico City, it's also a popular tourist trap. So, take narrow streets and flood them with vans full of tourists and what do you get? A traffic jam. It was a very slow ride into down but eventually Eduardo, our driver, managed to deposit us outside the entrance to the town's cathedral. Of course, we were bombarded by souvenir sellers the moment as soon as the doors of the van open. It was my first taste of the souvenir sellers in Mexico and I must say that they're not a persistent lot; the instant you say "no", they leave you alone.

A charming little chapel.  Since it was a small group of just the five of us, it didn't take but a minute to get us all congregated. Rodolfo led us across the cobblestoned street to the entrance of the town's cathedral. We entered into a courtyard. To our right and left were two small chapels. Straight ahead was the main cathedral.
 
Capilla de la Tercera Orden (Tercera Orden Chapel)
Not hearing Rudolfo's instructions to stay together, I entered the small chaphel on the right - couldn't help but be attracted by the ornate pink and white stucco exterior. The first thing that caught my eyes were the enormous boughs made of dried white statice draped across the entry door as well as all along the church's walls.









Then my eyes caught sight of the magnificent gold altar and I gasped in amazement. There was so much detail, I had difficulty focusing on any one thing so I just took it all in.












I barely had anytime to wander the chapel before I heard my name being called. I rushed quickly snap a few more photos not realizing we would come back to this beautiful little chapel later.

The Cathedral. I rejoined the group and we headed towards the main cathedral. Fronted by a small garden, Cuernavaca's main cathedral is one of the oldest in all of Mexico. Construction was started in 1529 and completed in 1552.


Compared to the little chapel I had just exited, the cathedral had a comparatively modest facade. Inside was just as modest. Simple frescoes, telling the story of the Spaniards' arrival into Mexico, adorned the walls of the church. These were not paintings done by the hands of a skilled painter like Michelangelo so they look crude but you just know that they were done as a labor of true love and for that reason, they are just as priceless.

There was no grand gold altar here. Just a simple nave with frescoes; a figure of Christ on the cross hung from the ceiling.


I'm always mindful of the fact that there are people praying and so I try to walk slowly and lightly so as not to disturb them. Sometimes I wish my camera had a *noiseless* shutter so I remain quiet while I snapped away but unfortunately, that's not the case so I try to limit the number of photos that I take when I wander through the smaller side chapels.

 We exited the cathedral by the side entrance. Rudolfo told us that, back in the day, the cathedral's main entrance was reserved for the Spaniards and the side entrance was used by the Indians. Don't know if this was really the case or not though it would not surprise me that such a segregationist attitude existed back then. Adorning the entryway of the side entrance was a statue of Christ....maybe it stood as a reminder to the Indians of who they were coming to the cathedral to worship.
 














Back to the chapels. We followed Rudolfo back through the garden and back out to the entry courtyard. Now was our time to wander through the two chapels.

I headed back into the pink and white one to one again admire its ornate gold altar. I just can't believe the grandeur of an altar for such a modest little chapel!


Back outside, I walked across the courtyard and entered the other chapel. What contrast in interior to the pink and white chapel. In comparison, this chapel almost looked *naked* on the inside - stark white walls and ceiling without single fresco and a very simple altar. One thing that did catch my eye was its beautiful marble floor. I don't recall ever seeing such a floor in any other chapel I've been to. It seemed rather out of place and I think it was have been a recent addition to the building. I must admit, I prefer the simple stone floor.




I joined my brother back out in the courtyard and basked in the gorgeous, sunny weather while we waited for Rudolfo and the rest of the group to finish up. Just a half block away from the cathedral was Jardin Borda which is..... Rudolfo announced that we had 10 minutes left before we had to get back on the van so my brother and I decided to quickly dart into Jardin Borda and catch a quick glimpse of the gardens. By the time we made it across the street and to the ticket counter, we realize we only had about 8 minutes left before departure time. Neither one of us felt like plopping down $30 pesos for what might end up being just a 5 minute glimpse of the garden. Oh well. Maybe on my next trip back to Cuernavaca :-)

After a quick potty break for everyone else, we boarded the van and headed down the road to Taxco.  Can't wait to get there!