Thursday, September 21, 2017

19/09/2017 quake

Yesterday we lived through the scariest quake I can remember. In the one from September 19th 1985 I was too young, and none of us could foresee the terror that would follow. In the one from September 7th this year, the quake alert sounded like a minute before the quake hit and, though it was an 8.2 (0.1 magnitudes stronger than the 1985 one), it was some 700km away, so it wasn't felt as strongly. But yesterday's one? The epicentre was just some 110km away, so there was no time for the quake alarm to warn us – it caught us all by surprise. At a magnitude of 7.1, where I was at the moment it felt like a giant mace was repeatedly trying to smash the building by hitting it from above. The rumble was so loud and encompassing. Absolutely undeniably survival-instinct-level terrifying.

Buildings collapsed, including a school and apartment buildings in the most hip areas of the city. Civil brigades self-organized quickly, with apparently little or no government supervision at first. There are many lessons to be learned from this frightening and horrible experience, and hopefully this will serve as a really painful reminder to never let our guard down and always to step up our game.

09/23/2017 Update 1: A friend pointed out the gap between two buildings in my second photo was there before and remains the same. Hard to tell accurately, but this would mean that the centre of the city withstood the quake remarkably well.

09/23/2017 Update 2: The sister of a friend is a seismologist. She explained the ground acceleration registered at the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) during this earthquake was 6% of gravity, while the acceleration registered at the exact same point in 1985 was 3%. No wonder it felt so horrible, and it does speak incredibly well of the application of building regulations since 1985.  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

El Depósito

Because India Pale Ale's have made a place in our – overheated – hearts in Mexico City. One of our three favourite places for a beer in the city – El Depósito.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Oro exhibition at El Rule

As I've mentioned multiple times, the historic centre of the city never ceases to amaze. Last month, while walking along Madero street, we entered a sort of side square, only to discover that an old building called El Rule had been finally renovated and repurposed as an artistic space! Super interesting building – before the Spanish came, Moctezuma's zoo is supposed to have been there. Then, in 1524, the first Franciscan temple in the continent was built. In 1780, exactly where the building stands, the Santo Cristo de Burgos chapel. On top of it while still retaining some elements, the Lara Hotel was built in the 19th century. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Rule family added more floors and refashioned the facade into a Neo-Classical one. It was then an office building, then a cinema, then abandoned after the 1985 earthquake due to damage. And lastly, in the beginning of the 21st century, it becomes the El Rule Cultural Centre. 

See? So many layers to this city's historic centre! Wow! Anyhow, I'll have to post photos of the building some other time, because what I wanted to share – but which needed that lengthy introduction – was this exhibition by a Colombian artist. Called "Oro: espíritu y naturaleza de un territorio" (Gold: spirit and nature of a territory), by Pedro Ruiz, it's a delightful journey through Colombia's diversity in the shape of small paintings that showcase both the artist's poetry and skill with tiny details.

Alas, the exhibition is already over. But you should really pay attention to the Fábrica Digital (a space for lectures and whorkshops), an art gallery, as well as to the Casa de Colombia en México (Colombia's cultural centre), all of them housed at El Rule, for upcoming events. Well, of course, if you manage with the countless events taking place at any one time in a city of 20 million people or so! 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Andy Warhol – Dark Star

You know the art you're seeing was revolutionary and paradigm-changing when you realize it doesn't really impress you anymore – because it's become an essential part of the fabric of your everyday cultural experience. Few artists can claim that. Andy Warhol is one, and you've just this weekend left to enjoy this extremely well curated exhibition – Dark Star / Estrella Obcura – at the Jumex museum. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Kosher salami chilaquiles?

I just realized I've never posted about Klein's! One of our favourite palces for brunch!

If you wanna have that quintessentially Mexican dish known as chilaquiles, you must go to Klein's in the Polanco neighbourhood of Mexico City! When done badly, chilaquiles are nothing more than either too tough or really soggy pre-fried greasy tortilla chips with non-descript salsa. When done properly, the chips are real tortilla strips fried at the moment, and the sauce has so much flavour! And when done at Klein's? Then you can choose among eight different sauces, from mild to fiery, from the traditional red to the house's secret recipe, all of them deep and rich. And since the founders were a Jewish-Mexican couple, you can also have your chilaquiles with... kosher salami!? Nowhere else, my friends, nowhere else.

Sure, you can have plenty of other Mexican stuff, as well as more American-style (dollar pancakes with maple syrup anyone?) or totally Jewish ones (kosher corned beef or pastrami sandwiches in rye bread or a bagel!). 

So, yeah, you shouldn't miss this place. At all.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

El Bósforo for a post-Ecuador toast

I've mentioned El Bósofo in five posts already. That shows you how much I enjoy this mezcalería in the centre of the city. The light, the music, the mezcals, love it all. If there's one thing I'm gonna miss badly when we move out (whenever that may happen), it's gonna be this place and the unbelievably good music the owner puts. 

So, this was the perfect place to unwind the day we flew in from Quito and to toast for one marvellous anniversary trip. And with this, I'm really really done with talking about anything related to our Ecuador trip! Yay!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

16 south of the Equator – good bye, Quito, good bye, Ecuador

OK, time to finish this long series of posts about Ecuador, yeah? So, first, our flight from Cuenca to Quito? Amazing! Beautiful views of the mountains and the countryside, including views of Cotopaxi volcano and some very strange cloud formations that I guess were actually fumes from some other volcano? Super nice.

Once in Quito, since we arrived really early and hadn't had breakfast, we went to a place right around the corner of our Airbnb – Jürgen Café. Sure, not particularly Ecuadorian. But hey, we had been following a very local diet so far, so indulging in something more European wasn't that crazy either. Plus it was nearby. And we were starving. And it was pretty good. So there. LOL.

We took it easy the rest of the day. We had seem most of what we wanted, some other things we wanted to see were closed indefinitely (like the National Museum), and some weren't quite what we expected (like what we thought would be a very interesting café-book shop and ended up being a very posh restaurant! LOL). But one thing we did see, and which I enjoyed greatly, was the botanical gardens! What can I say, it seems your's truly IS a geek, right?

We saw lots of stuff, but among all that we saw was desert plants, which I find extremely beautiful...

An orchid exhibition, with orchids of all sizes and shapes, including some that looked like shrieking monkeys or priests (yeah, sorry, when talking about flowers, monkeys and priests could look similar), some that looked like very sleek spaceships, plus the usual very convoluted and pretty ones...

And something I had never seen: carnivorous plants! Incredible how much water/nectar they can hold to catch insects! How could these things evolve this way!? Really intriguing.

Oh, and just outside of a bonsai exhibition, this funny fellow, asleep, standing on one leg. Really cute, especially when it pulled out its other leg from within its feathers to scratch its head! hilarious!

I wanted to say goodbye to Quito from a place where we could have views, so we walked to a place called Bandidos del Páramo (bandits from the moor), a brewery with an extensive beer menu where I enjoyed a very nice beer flight with just what I was looking for – views of Quito and the mountains. There we enjoyed pizza, the beer, and sunset. And thanked Ecuador for such a fantastic and unbelievable trip.

Our last sight? Cotopaxi volcano, from the airport, the next (and final) morning. Man. Really. What a fantastic country. Like, if you're not making plans right now to visit, what are you waiting for???

Friday, September 08, 2017

16 south of the Equator – sunny Cuenca!

We arrived back from Sigsig to a surprising change in weather: it was sunny! Sure, not like clear skies sunny, but you could actually see blue skies here and there and receive the suns rays on occasion! That was so much more than we had had in the last couple of very overcast and cold weeks!

Our last afternoon and evening in Cuenca were the perfect cap to our visit in this part of the country. We enjoyed pleasant walks around our favourite parts, we enjoyed some ice cream, we enjoyed a quiet reading at a tea house (Télicioso), and we finished the day at the Parque Calderón, sitting on a bench, watching the world go by, together. So, so, so nice.

What a wonderful stay in Azuay Province, really. And this was basically the end of our trip – next morning we were flying back to Quito, and the day after we'd fly back home to Mexico City...

Thursday, September 07, 2017

16 south of the Equator – Sigsig

Like when we were in Quito, we decided to use Sunday to visit a Sunday market! There were many options from Cuenca – Gualaceo (where you could find textiles), Chordeleg (jewelry), Sigsig (in theory, toquilla straw hats), and Saraguro (everything?). Saraguro was way too far through winding roads, like four hours by bus! And we weren't really into textiles or jewelry. Plus, Sigsig was sort of at the end of the Gualaceo - Chordeleg - Sigsig "loop", so we figured it would be easier to catch buses to the other two from Sigsig if we felt like it.

So, we headed to the very indigenous colonial town of Sigsig, and after a very dizzying two hours (gorgeous views, but I really can't handle them mountain roads when I'm not the driver!) we got off and walked towards – what else? – the market!

As expected, there was lots of colour. Lots of local people (in fact, being the last town in the loop I mentioned, we were about the only visible foreigners around!). And the perfect breakfast for me to start the day: tortilla de choclo (a delicious baby corn patty, very different from the Mexican tortilla) and warm morocho (a corn, milk and cinnamon drink). We sat at a the most basic of places, and even enjoyed some chit chat with the owners and an indigenous woman sitting next to me, who was very curious about where we came from, where that was on a map, and so on! 

What a lovely introduction to town.

Near the market was a bakery where I spotted meringues. I was really curious how they'd taste in this corner of the world! The answer? I wish I could have brought way more with me! LOL.

We wanted to visit a toquilla straw hat factory nearby. We asked for directions. Several times (the town is very hilly, it's hard to tell which way you're supposed to go!). And we finally headed just out of town, down into the beautiful valley, only to discover the factory (set in a very old building) had closed early! Of course, Sunday, right? Well, since we were already down there, we came back to town via a different route – a green recreation area they called Playa Zhingate (Zhingate Beach), which was actually quite a pleasant walk along the riverbank, with nice views of the surrounding mountains.

Once back in town, the habibi made good on a promise I extracted from him before we went to the factory – to have lunch at another (open air) market we had seen! This one was as interesting and colourful as the other, with the added advantage of it being an open air one. So nice! If you felt so inclined, you could buy live cuy – obviously, to cook – for just 3 dollars. Of course, we didn't buy any. But there was flowers and leaves for tea, fresh cheese (that we did buy, the smallest  one we could, which was still ginormous!), and lunch – morcilla (morcilla usually translates as black pudding, but this one had no blood, had rice and lots of veggies), mote (cooked corn, similar to Mexico's pozole), potato and cured purple onion (yum!). A true indigenous Sunday market lunch. Followed by a sweet banana with a soft, orange-tinge... 

We were more than happy with our experience. My inner linguist was very surprised not to hear almost anybody speaking indigenous languages, though they did speak Spanish with an accent that I found very nice to listen to, pronouncing the "ll" like a French "j" and the "rr" as a hard "zh" (like a Russian "ж"). And the women with their hats and skirts? Plus the green mountains around? And the food!? Yeah, totally satisfied. We didn't visit any other towns, and took a bus back to spend one final afternoon in Cuenca before leaving for Quito...