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Published: October 13th 2010
My feet hurt, so it must be time to take a break and tell you what's been happening. Yes, we arrived safely after a long day of preparation and a red-eye flight into Mexico City. And no, we did not get enough sleep on the plane.
Sunday was a slow and uneventful day. We checked into Hotel Rioja on calle 5 de Mayo just one block off of the Zocalo (that's the main square). We stayed here last trip and found it to be just right for our needs when it comes to price and location. It's listed in the Lonely Planet Mexico guide. The staff is friendly and helpful, but Spanish is the only language spoken here. They put up with our broken Spanish pretty well.
We hit the bed as soon as we could get into our room. They took pity on us and let us in early. I think they wanted to get the 2 napping tourists out of their lobby. After our extended afternoon nap, we hit the streets and wandered until we were ready for dinner.
Aztec men dance and perform cleansing rituals near the cathedral that fronts the Zocalo. I
included some pictures taken last trip since we didn't stay around to watch them again.
The museums are closed on Mondays, so we headed over to Xochimilco to see the floating gardens. Being adventurous sorts, we took the Metro and a light rail kind of train from the Zocalo to the town of Xochimilco. About an hour's travel cost us only about $0.50 each for the one-way trip. For those of you who are math limited - that's about $2.00 for both of us round trip.
And no, taking the Metro isn't dangerous if you play your cards right. You go during the off commute hours or go against the high traffic flow. This worked well for us since we left late morning and returned to the city center late afternoon when everybody else was leaving for the outskirts.
Anyway, back to Xochimilco. A half mile walk took us from the train station to the canal boat launch. Actually, it was further than that going there since we had to follow the vehicle route signs that took us several blocks out of our way. Going back was much shorter. We stopped for a Fanta and a 7Up
at a local's tienda (shop) just before getting to the canals. The young man who served us was so enamored with us that we swaped e-mail addresses and he had Bob sign their autograph wall. I'm sure they don't get many gringos.
What you do at the canals is hire a boat by the hour. The boat comes with an operator who uses a long pole to propel you through the main tourist canal. Kind of like the gondoleers in Venice. Of course they don't miss the chance to sell you an ice bucket with whatever beverages you want for the cruise. Four Corona beers accompanied us. Our experience here was not all as we expecxted, but Bob will give his rendition.
Back before Cortes, the valley of Mexico City was a great lake. The Aztecs constructed their own islands by pounding tree trunks into the lake bottom and then filling the enclosed areas. The islands ,which became their city, were connected using viaducts. Today, Xochimilco is where the remaining islands still exist and have become mostly gardens - thus the name floating gardens.
We glided along having the boat to ourselves. It was relaxing and fun
watching the other boats and the goings on of the troubadors and vendors as they floated alongside to hawk their goods of all sorts. A great experience once. However, after watching the various party boats, I think this would be the perfect venue for a special occasion. After all, what could be better than meandering through the canals with your friends, eating and drinking your way through an afternoon.
As for me, I spent the time taking photos and drinking my beers. A lovely afternoon it was.
What a joy it is to be back in Mexico. We got here on sunday and the city was on weekend mode. Even though we were beat we went out on a stroll. Past the beggars, the chiclet sellers, and watched the street performers. Economic theory acknowledges the velocity of money. That is, if I have 100 pesos and keep it in my pocket there is no economy. If I spend a bit here and a bit there then everyone gets some action. I saw 4-5 year old accordian players chasing the peso.
Costumed frozen human statues, standing in the sun waiting for change, musicians, dancers, and many
others looking for some change.
That day I was most impressed with a troupe of people who specialized in jump rope. Have you ever seen someone in a push up position jumping rope? I have. Or 3 acrobats doing their thing all the while jumping the rope? Impressive! I made me so tired watching that I took Sue to a rock and roll club for a cervesa (That's beer for you gringos).
After all that Sue and I had to go to our hotel and rest. It was a great feeling being back in the 2nd biggest city in the world. And to top it all off we ran across a driver we had used on our last trip and he remembered us by name! Now that means we were most memorable suckers or he knows his business. I prefer the latter.
Speaking of suckers, last year it was an unwanted shoe shine; this year it was a boat ride. As Sue mentioned we went to Xochimilco for a 2 hour, overpriced boat tour. We were the only people on the boat. That explains why they overcharged us. But when pole pusher headed for the docks after 1
hr and 15 minutes I had to complain. Pagamos por dos horas! He, after some argument, grudgingly drifted aimlessly for another half hour. You have to take what limited victories you can get I suppose.
Tuesday was a relaxing day. We walked blocks to the Hilton to buy an English language Mexican newpaper, stolled back through the Alameda and met our good friend Jorge for dinner. And it was a magnificent dinner at El Cardenal. 3 course dinner with beer and the finest Mexican Cabernet Sauvignon I have ever tasted.
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