On the Road Again

Published: October 6th 2011
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Guanajuato - Mexico City

While Guanajuato has been beautiful, it’s time to move on. Thursday we packed our car and headed south to Oaxaca, stopping for a couple of days in Mexico City. I had been to Mexico City once before, albeit almost 40 years ago. I thought it would be a kick to stay in the same hotel I did when I was 14; alas probably to my old Spanish teacher’s chagrin, I could not remember the name of the hotel. I got the general area down, but that was about it. We stayed in a relatively nice hotel, the Hotel Metropol, just a stone’s throw away from the Alameda Central.

We first ate lunch/dinner at La Opera Bar. Its claim to fame was that once Pancho Villa rode his horse into the cantina and shot a bullet in the ceiling. The food was okay, but we had places to go!

Our next stop was the Zocalo. According to Lonely Planet, it is one of the world’s largest city squares. Back in the 1920s it used to have trees, but they got rid of them all and paved it. Around the Zocalo there are the Catedral and government buildings. All still had decorations for the Independence Day celebrations; in fact, the Palacio Nacional was where President Calderon rang the bell and shouted the ‘El Grito’.

On our way back, we checked out the Torre Latinoamericana. When built in 1956, it was the tallest building in Latin America. There is a museum on the 38th floor and one of displays showed the damage done to Mexico City during the 1985 earthquake. There were pictures of the totally demolished Hyatt Regency, with the Torre Latinoamericana standing tall in the background.

Our next stop was the Palacio de Bella Artes. What a stunning building! The building, both inside and out, is decorated in neoclassical and art-deco style all in marble. While we didn’t stay long, it was very impressive and took your breath away.

Across the street from the Palacio de Bella Artes was the Palacio Postal. Your local hometown post office has nothing on this post office! It was designed by the same architect that designed Palacio de Bella Artes. With its stained glass and marble staircase, it’s amazing that it took three weeks to get my mail from California!

Friday morning we had breakfast at Café la Habana. It is a local coffeehouse where newspaper journalists grab some quick coffee and stories to write before heading back to the ‘jungle’. It has been rumored that Fidel Castro and Che plotted strategy here prior to the revolution. After working in the newspaper industry, David really enjoyed this.

After breakfast we walked back to the Alameda Central and took the Turibus, a double-decker tour bus that makes 21 stops around the city. It’s quite hokey and cheesy, but it only cost about $10US and we didn’t have to deal with getting lost (one of our MOs) and/or parking. We got off in Chapultepec (Indian name meaning “Grasshopper Hill”). When we got off the bus, we noticed a HUGE pole in front of us with four guys walking around it. I didn’t know it, but they were the Voladares de Veracruz. They each had a rope; they then climbed the pole with the rope. Suddenly, all four kind of fell backwards! They by now had the rope tied around their stomachs. They swung around in a circle until their heads were just about to touch the ground. It was one of the most bizarre things!

After the Voladares de Veracruz, we walked to the Castillo de Chapultepec. When completed, the castle was a military academy until 1864, when the Emperor Maximilian and his wife Carlotta like it so much; they made it their permanent residence. More importantly though, occurred during the Mexican-American war, where 8000 US soldiers attacked 200 academy students and 632 soldiers from San Blas. It was there that 6 academy students, between the ages of 13 and 17, gave their life defending their country. When it was over, an American Officer said something like, they’re only children, and thus they became ‘Nino Heroes’.

Friday night we ate at La Bodeguita del Medio. This restaurant was inspired by Ernest Hemingway in Cuba and is a Cuban restaurant. We each had a mojito (delish!) and the house specialty, which was chicken, plantains, rice and black beans. Very filling and very good!

Saturday morning we left for Oaxaca. I only got us lost once! We were only lost for about 10 minutes and in a city of 21 million, I think that’s pretty good! We thought it would only take us about 3 hours to drive there. Five and a half hours later, we pull into downtown Oaxaca. Our new “house” is smaller than the first and a bit more basic; i.e., there’s no English-speaking TV, but for us it’s great!
If you want to see more pictures of Mexico City, please check out David’s Flickr page at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/18090511@N03/sets/72157627667047027/

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