Cuban Sandwich

Published: May 1st 2012
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The ZocaloThe ZocaloThe Zocalo

McDonalds meets God.
Air conditioning, seats that are cushioned and recline to a level that allows even the average insomniac a fighting chance at a few zzzzzz. You receive a ticket for your precious backpack down below and they are punctual, a rarely observed quality in Latin America. You may even be dished up a couple of B rate American films, although they aren't great value if you can't understand the Spanish dubbing.

The Mexican 1st class bus system is a silver edged bonus to the pain that is long distance road travel.

Mexico is an expansive country that can require some exhaustive jaunts, day or night. Those minor luxuries mentioned above provide some pain relief from the general discomfort.The voyage times could be reduced significantly if the drivers took a leaf out of the Guatemalan chicken bus drivers handbook and ignored all sense of self preservation and road rules. However, we preferred the ethos of the Mexican drivers who are generally composed and observe some respect to the safety of the paying punter in the seats behind.

On one stretch, the driver even came to a complete halt to allow a duck to cross the road. I had to ask.
Temple of the SunTemple of the SunTemple of the Sun

Overview from near the top
The driver informed me that hitting any domestic animal incurred a fine of 1000 pesos. That seemed extravagant so I dug deeper and enquired on the cost of a human causality. I only received a snicker in reply so I assume plenty.

In Mexico City, the same conservative rules of civility don't necessarily apply.

Question number 1 on the drivers licence exam:

What do you do if you see someone attempting to cross the road?

Accelerate and focus on the eyes.

With more people inhabiting this city than the entirety of Australia, it's probably considered a few pedestrian casualties are acceptable collateral damage.With that many people, most foreigners view of Mexico City is a choked up, catatonic, polluted megalopolis. There is some credence in that vision but it's also a cosmopolitan, energised city with a vibrant arts culture, scrumptious eats (where did Oz go wrong with its attempts at Mexican cuisine) and a rich history, both colonial and Aztec.

If you ever want to know what 23 millionish people feels like, take the metro in this city. It's phenomenally efficient (take note NSW State government). The numbers it moves around is mind boggling. Not
Heads up!Heads up!Heads up!

I don't know what this guy was selling but I'll take a dozen
surprising it's popular with a price tag of 3 pesos, around 20 - 25 cents, to go anywhere on the grid. Our pensioners reckon they've got a bargain at $2.50. One word of warning though, the doors on Mexico City's Metro takes no prisoners. Get in and out QUICK! There are no second chances.

This throbbing metropolis is the political and arts nexus of the nation. Step back a bunch of centuries and it was the same for the Aztec civilisation. If you're looking to tap into a vein on Aztec history (or any other indigenous group of Mexico for that matter), then place a visit to Mexico City's Anthropological Museum at the top of the bucket. If it's something a little more in your face, the pyramids of Teotihuacan on the city's outskirts should fit the bill.

Whilst the structures of Monte Alban were buxom, the pyramids at Teotihuacan are monolithic. 4 klms from one extreme of "La Calzada de los Muertos" (the path of the dead) to the other. That entire Calzada is flanked by ancient living quarters and tombs. The complex is overseen by 2 gargantuan pyramids, The Sun and The Moon. It's 243 steps
Royal PalaceRoyal PalaceRoyal Palace

A small section of Diego Riveras murals at the palace
to the top of The Moon so pack the walking shoes. If you happen to carry a pound or two (OK, if you're fat), stay at the bottom and convince yourself that the view isn't all that spectacular anyway.

I'm now going to profess some ignorance (surprise surprise). I've always been of the idea that this complex was constructed by the Aztecs. Oops. They were merely squatters who stumbled upon Teotihuacan by accident. The actual civilisation who put these rocks together remains a mystery. My money is on extra terrestrials. The Aztecs added their own touches of interior decorating but the real kudos belong elsewhere.

Mexico City, Cuba, Mexico City. Cuba was the meat and the 3 days either side was the Mexico City bread that made up the sandwich. While the meat was always going to provide the real fibre of the sandwich, the bread either side proved far more enriching than we had imagined.

Most tourists tend to bypass the capital enroute to the glut of other offerings the rest of the country has on tap, but Mexico City more than justifies a few days for its cultural pickings, unless of course personal space is an absolute priority.


The Mexican supermarkets.

With a population of 23million living in Mexico City, you would expect plenty of large scale supermarkets scattered all over the city. Wrong, well not that I found in the centre anyway. I am sure they are there but not where this tourist was able to easily identify them. However, saying that, I don't know that the average Mexican really needs mega supermarkets.

On our initial visit to Mexico city we had Burch in tow who became the "Metro Maestro" navigating us around the many faceted tunnels of the metro system. On our return, we lost our third leg and had to fly solo. I can comfortably say we did quite a few trips on the metro and on each of these journeys I couldn't help but notice the volume of goods that came on board being sold to the stone faced commuters (and the occasional tourist). This is a summary of just some of the goods we witnessed being offered. Toy propelled helicopters, miracle face cream, removes wrinkles overnight ( so the 20 something salesman spruiked ), a set of 4 pens, children's books, travel toothbrush set, disposable
Mid town restaurantMid town restaurantMid town restaurant

Lunch time rush
razors, girls hair-clips, xylophone, socks, bubble gum, hair brushes, CD's complete with a backpack in the form of mobile speakers sitting on the salespersons back blaring out snippets of the songs on the CD, loud enough to deafen out even the underground train noise.

And that could explain while on one of our trips we finished our journey and headed back up to the street level, only to find lots of office workers on the sidewalk. Were they having a fire drill? Smoko break? No we found out later that night that we had just been in an earth tremor registering 6.8 on the scale. Yikes, that's some tremor, however with all the noise and commotion of the underground train, we were none the wiser, it's probably better that way.

So with all these travelling goods, I am guessing the average Mexican really never has the need to stop off at a supermarket. What you can't buy on the train you can probably get out on the pavement. Every street is lined with street vendors selling food, drinks and then every other item you could possibly need including shopping bags, underwear, hats, toys, makeups and so the list

The Temple of the Moon
goes on. It's probably much cheaper rent!!

Last night as we walked home from the train station ( after a very nice meal in trendy La Condesa) there was a guy outside the train station selling a kitchen sink. That confirms my suspicion, Mexicans living in Mexico City have no need for supermarket chains.


Ps dad. You can go straight to the pictures if you are finding there is too much dialogue!

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The only safe time to cross the road, first thing in the morning.

4th July 2012

...More blogs please...your getting lazy Yatesy..Regards Val
You and Penny write very well, you sound educated, but ! Minister Bob Carr did warn "people who communicate in sentences are treated suspiciously"

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