Chapultepec, San Juan, y Polanco

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February 18th 2015
Published: February 19th 2015
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Tuesday was our first day on our own with Alex back at the Embassy. We did the normal morning routine, made some coffee and breakfast tacos, then headed out toward Chapultepec Park, just south of the Polanco neighborhood and the largest city park in Latin America. Chapultepec Park, whose name in Nahuatl means "at the grasshopper hill", is a vast tree-filled area full of jogging paths, a lake, and many important national monuments. One such monument is the Museo Nacional de la Antropología, which I've heard only rave reviews of - unfortunately we overshot it, so that was moved to Wednesday's agenda. Instead we walked along the interior lake before coming across the large Monumento a los Nińos Héroes, the monument to the child heroes. Turns out this is to remember 6 young Mexican cadets who wrapped themselves in Mexican flags and jumped to their deaths instead of facing capture by the Americans at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1847. Fun!

Next we headed up to the top of the Cerro de Chapultepec where the Castillo de Chapultepec slash National History Museum are located. The lovely castle was originally built as a country house for the Spanish royalty beginning in 1775. Later it fell into the city government's hands and then became a military college. In 1847 it fell into American hands as troops raised the American flag at the castle's top during the 1847 U.S. invasion, resulting in Mexico ceding much of its northern territory to us via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Later the castle was used as the residence of the Habsburg Mexican Emperor Maximilian I during the Second Mexican Empire, making it the only castle in North America used as a residence of a sovereign. Finally in 1939 it became the National History Museum. The grounds were beautiful, and as it's up on a hill the castle offers stunning views of all of Mexico City. Many of the rooms are decorated in period furniture and decor, while other parts feature various historical artifacts from the Meso-American age to modern-day Mexico. We spent a good hour or so there before we'd had our fill and started the trek back down toward Reforma.

Jetting out from Chapultepec Park is the Paseo de la Reforma, a wide European-style thoroughfare that goes diagonally through the city. Many of Mexico City's tallest skyscrapers dot Reforma, as do many monuments to Mexican History. We first came about the statue and fountain of Diana, the goddess of the hunt. Next was the famous Angel of Independence statue, which commemorates the victory of the Mexican revolution and contains the tombs of several key figures in the war. By this point it was noon and we were ready for lunch at Beatrizita, a small diner-like restaurant near the Angel. We were too early for the daily 3-course menu, so I had some chilaquiles with a fried egg, while Chris had a tostada with chicken tinga and a taco with mole de poblano. It was delicious and super cheap! From there it was time for us to brave the Mexico City metro, the 2nd largest in North America after NYC's. At 5 pesos a ride it is ridiculously cheap, approximately 33 U.S. cents. Apparently no one in the upper or even middle class rides the subway, but it was super easy and efficient. The lines and stops are all color and image-coded, designed with illiterate people in mind. Given how quick and clean it was, I felt truly incensed thinking about the $2.75/ride we pay for a metal shitbox in Boston that doesn't work.

The metro took us to the San Juan neighborhood where we had plans to check out the exotic meat market. The whole area was full of shops and markets labeled San Juan, so we had a bit of trouble finding the exotic meats at first. We did, however, stumble upon a nice artisan market with nice pottery and glassware, but we'd head back to Ciudadela for that later in the week. It didn't take too long to reach the market we wanted, and it was pretty clear based on the number of s laughtered animals that we had found the right place. The vendors advertised everything from armadillo meat to ostrich eggs, and we were surrounded by hanging turkeys and chickens, piles of skinned cabritos and baby lambs, and the seafood selection was equally impressive. We contemplated getting fish to bring back but I was a) overwhelmed and b) concerned about freshness on the hot metro, so we passed.

From the market we decoded to head back toward Polanco to explore the area a bit more and do some shopping. First we stopped for a drink, trying some craft Mexican beer, a Porter by Dos Palomas. A craft beer, at about 5 USD cost more than our lunches but that's fine, it was satisfying. From there we headed down Avenida Presidente Masaryk, named after the first president of the former Czekoslovaki and Mexico City's most high-end street. Stores like Louis Vuitton were guarded by men with rifles, and such horrifying sights as The Melting Pot restaurant were among the street's tenants. It definitely presented a different side of Mexico City. The end goal of this walk was to hit up Antara Fashion Mall, a newer shopping mall in Polanco. It was gorgeous - something I'd picture being in L.A. with fountains, two levels of open space, etc. I did some damage at Zara, where I only find good clothes abroad, and at Bershka. From there we hit up another mall, but the anchor was Sears so we moved on.

Before turning back toward Alex's we did want to catch a glimpse of the Museo Soumaya, a private non-profit art museum owned by a Mexican billionaire. Alex said the collections weren't worth it, but the outside is a stunning, metallic wave-like structure. That was sufficient. Next it was back near Alex's to get some snack and beverage provisions - mezcal, watermelon and kiwi juices, manchego, crackers, chili-dusted plantain chips, and some other things. Alex was home 6:30ish and we smacked on our stuff while she prepped a lovely dinner of Asian-marinated salmon with rice and asparagus. By the time dinner waa over we were all in a coma so we called it a night.

Additional photos below
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19th February 2015
More fun things at the market!

Oh, what a market!
I just love your commentary and photos -- especially of the market!

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