Friday, May 15, 2015

this is how we entertain - Part I

Guess what - we have visits from Hogtown! (that's Toronto, for you out-of-towners.) Two dear friends from Toronto decided to take up our offer to stay with us and see our home city! So happy! And, being the incredibly considerate people they've always been, they decided to organize their Mexico adventure to maximize their time with us, spending weekends here in Chilangolandia (slang for Mexico City) when I'd have plenty of time to spend with them, and using weekdays to explore other parts of the country! Totes amazing.

So, how did weekend 1 of 3 go by? Well, after our friends settled down at our place, we proceeded to...

Take one of them (our other friend was in dire need of a nap) for views of the Palacio de Bellas Artes from the 8th floor of one of the more emblematic Art Deco buildings in the city. 

Show said friend the local alternative to Starbucks - Cielito Querido. It's endearing how they make fun of the Starbucks lingo and their use of Mexican sayings and words, plus this friend really enjoyed her mocha with Mexican chocolate!

Drag them (went back home for our now well-rested bud!) along the now pedestrianized Francisco I. Madero street, cutting through the Historic Centre all the way from the Alameda Central to the Zócalo. Very very busy, but with countless old buildings and churches to show! 

Share awesome Mexican lunch-dinner (rather late for lunch to them, somewhat early for dinner for us, LOL) at El Mayor, with views of the Zócalo, of the Cathedral and of the Templo Mayor ruins. The first time our friends tried huitlacoche (corn smut)! and micheladas (beer with lime juice and a rim of salt, so refreshing)! And you could see one of our super shy volcanoes, the Iztaccíhuatl (yeah, our local names can be rather long and challenging)! 



And to finish that first day and let them sleep well and recover from their super early flight that morning, a couple of mezcals at our local undergound-ish drinking hole, El Bósforo. With some 60 mezcals to choose from, it was fun to simply tell the servers what kind of flavour or experience you were looking for, and let them suggest. The "verde mexicano" (Mexican green) mezcal was especially good, interestingly.

But that was just day 1. On day 2...

We made sure they started with a very Mexican breakfast. We had a number of places we wanted to take them to, but it being mother's day, we feared all of them would be packed, so we opted for a less fancy, but nevertheless very authentic, local place - El Hijo de Don Toribio. Freshly squeezed orange juice, huevos motuleños (fried eggs on a fried tortilla with a layer of beans, with a spicy tomato sauce, peas, and plantains), scrambled eggs Mexican style, and chilaquiles (for me)! Yum. Which allowed us to proceed to...

Go the Museo de Arte Popular (Museum of Folk Art) to see numerous crafts, like trees of life, alebrijes, masks, calaveras (playful skeleton figures usually made for the Day of the Dead) and whatnot.

Head for the Monumento a la Revolución for a coffee right exactly underneath it, in an airy and cool café with the ceiling of the monument exactly above our heads far far high up. And a chance for our buds to meet the motek! Double score!

Head to the Historic Centre again for those ruins of the Templo mayor, but not without a quick stop at one of the oldest churches in the city: the mid-16th century Templo de San Hipólito, where numerous people come to ask St. Jude Thaddaeus for assistance, as he's the patron of "difficult situations". 

Take a short subway ride (yay! showed our subway system to our friends too! and models of both pre- and post-Conquista Mexico City at the station we hopped off!) and then haul our friends to the day's pièce de résistance: the Templo Mayor - one of the main temples of the Aztec capital at the time of the Conquista. This place is really interesting, as it reveals how the Aztecs built their temples in layers. Once they had become more powerful or richer, they'd enlarge the temple simply buy building a layer on top, thus burying the previous building stage. This temple was enlarged six times! Should that not be enough sightseeing (and it could very well be), then there's the temple's museum, where you can see two huge monoliths excavated at the site, both reflecting a rather morbid culture with decapitations, dismemberments, and violent child-birth. Not to mention depictions of other beings, like Mictlantecuhtli (the god of death) and Xipe Totec ("the flayed one") that clearly reveal the unfathomable distance between the Aztec worldvision and ours.

Plus, the setting is simply fantastic - 14th-15th century Aztec ruins, colonial buildings, the modern city... all together in this one space.





Unsurprisingly, by now we were all so starving! But it's difficult to get to places without stumbling upon so much else! Like, we had to cross a very ancient square, the Plaza de Santo Domingo, where at some point the inquisition sentenced people, and where not that long ago people had public desks to offer their services to those who couldn't write or type, and where that day they were setting up some floating brain for a festival of lights.



After which we walked to a 140 year old confectionery (Dulcería de Celaya) where we loaded up on traditional sweets before catching a cab to another part of town: the Roma Norte neighbourhood! Why? Our friends have this tradition when travelling - to have a foreign kind of food to see the local take on it. Well, we took them to the Pizza del Perro Negro (Black Dog Pizza), a somewhat alternative place that certainly does the Mexican take on pizza, and does it incredibly well! I mean, who could pull off chile relleno (stuffed chile pepper) or chochinita pibil (pulled pork Yucatan style) pizza? And on top of that the place has two house brews, a blond and a stout? and they're both delicious? We were all more than thrilled!



Bursting from so much food, we took a stroll in hipsterland (the Roma Norte neighbourhood) along Avenida Álvaro Obregón. With a leafy median with statues and (non-working) fountains, around sunset, this was the best walk to relax after lunch! And then, we got to show our friends another public transport option - the Metrobús, which is a bus-system with dedicated lanes and specially designed stations. 

Now, we were sort of ready to call it a day, but I still wanted to take my friends for a craft beer at Crisanta, a nice bar by the Monumento a la Revolución, which is nicely lit at night. This we did sans habibi, because he was exhausted and headed straight home. It was cool to sit down, try out beers, relax, talk, and look at the monument...

Back home... it was a sweets-fest! Our box of sweets from Dulcería de Celaya and my habibi were waiting for us, and we had a go at every single kind of sweet we bought! Fortunately, everybody had their own favourite kind of sweet, so we managed to remain friends afterwards. ;-) 

Now, honestly, that was supposed to be the end. Our friends were travelling next day to Oaxaca, I was working next day too, so it kind of made sense to just go to sleep. Except my habibi wanted to go out and see FILUX (that festival of lights I had mentioned). We're pretty close to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which was part of the festival, and with my habib at the door with camera in hand, one of our friends and me decided we could use the last of our energy to go take a peek too. What did we get as reward? A fantastic 3D mapping show! Loved it! what a surprise!




And then, finally, it was time to go home. And get to sleep. And prepare for weekend number 2!

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