Welcome to the Adventure

Living in Mexico is often indescribable...you just have to live here. I have been journaling experiences for a while, and I hope you can get a feel for stupid-ass gringos trying to get it. But I am still here, and that says a lot for those of us sticking it out, as the payback is what makes life so good here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mexico City in a Taxi, Pt 3

“I've been everywhere, man.
I've been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert's bare, man.
I've breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I've had my share, man.
I've been everywhere.” Johnny Cash

Thought of Johnny Cash’s song, when Karen said to me “I’ve been everywhere, but never seen traffic like Mexico City”. Amen, Karen! Never have we seen traffic like Mexico City. Closest to it was in Bali, when 100 motos cut in front of us to get through a traffic light first, and maybe Italy’s roundabouts where getting off the roundabout gets standing ovations from observers and passengers alike, but they have nothing on Mexico City. We taxied everywhere, because we wanted to see everything...

We took our first big ride out to the pyramids at Teotihuacan. The hotel recommended a guide with nice taxi rather than just a taxi, because in the end it would be cheaper...hum.... What could we say? Our guide picked us up, and weaved his way through city traffic with such ease in face of chaos. He drove on the dirt roads like he was racing a street car on a dirt track, but we got there in one piece. He took us to a stone carving business on the way to the pyramids, as is custom, when you get into a taxi, you will be stopping by businesses that sell to tourists, no matter if you want to or not. Of course the workshop was amazing. The artists do the most incredible pieces of stone work we have ever seen. The prices were higher than we have ever seen as well. But we did learn to tell the difference between a "manufactured" artifact, and a true carving by hand.... But after our visit to the pyramids, it was the ride back that did us in.

Forty years ago the Basilica was out in the middle of no where, trust me, and is now surrounded by a city still growing, really growing. In front of the Basilica our car nearly kissed a bus, passionately, but our man was steady, calm, did not bat an eye professional, and with the hand of Mary surely helping, the bus yielded. I took my cues from the driver, and didn’t move, nada... In back of me were white-knuckled, ashen-faced, heavy-breathing husband and friends. We bought a rose petal rosary right where it happened, just to keep the juju moving toward positive. The Basilica itself is the most-visited shrine in the Americas. This is where the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego in 1531. The original church was built in the 18th century, but there is a spectacular new church, where the tunic of Diego with the Virgin’s body imprinted on it (as in a miracle), is displayed. I found it other worldly, and spiritual. Thank you tour guide/driver for that day.

In the evening, to go anywhere, even if it is in normal time a 10 minute drive, plan on 45 mins, and you may still be fashionably late. But we saw side streets, jugglers, traffic cops extraordinaire (doing that conducting a symphony thing), colonial buildings still standing, streets as old as Mexico, and parks, everywhere. Graffiti, poor Indian women carrying their goods on their heads, people at a Mont Blanc party that looked really, really rich (to say nothing of the cars surrounding that little shop) all danced before us.

Taxi drivers tend to end up being our tour guides, and we have found gems. Larry and I had split from Karen and Ed to go to Costco. (Hello, opportunity knocks!), Martin! We walked (pushed) up to the taxi stand at the Museo and snagged a driver, Martin, telling him we wanted to go to Costco. He laughed, opened up his trunk and displayed a “Costco” sign. Turns out he works there on his days off from taxi driving (because you need a break, truly). Has worked for them for 10+ years, his son works for them, etc. We got to the parking lot (in Sport City, an American-style mall, somehow stuffed between two freeways), and parked by the door. He went shopping too, and hung with friends until we were done. Where else, I ask myself, can you get a taxi driver who works at Costco, and made our experience there a hoot.

We did find the Liverpool, speaking of shopping. Karen and I agree it's a Macy’s (my love affair with Macy's has not ended) mixed with Nordstroms. We shopped. Prices same as in states, but designers from Italy and Spain... nice stuff. Plus we found sun-dried tomatoes, and our favorite, hard to find, tequila. We even tried to get cat treats from the pet department, but alas, cats aren’t so spoiled down here, no treats. We even found a Woolworth’s (when was the last time you were in one of those) across the street from Liverpool, and met the most charming elderly (even for us 60+ year olds and one 70 year old) lady latched right on to Karen, as she spoke English, and was dying to practice. We wondered how many tourists had even found this Woolworth’s to wander into it, but there she was, waiting for the likes of us.

Taxi driver to the National Palace was an educational ride. He pointed out buildings of interest, district names, and gave us our easiest ride in Mexico City. The National Palace is where Moctezuma’s palace was, then Cortes moved in, and now it is Mexico’s White House. Murals painted by Diego Rivera depict the revolutions, and his own personal take on the revolution. You can imagine, if you are familiar with Rivera’s history, what that point of view depicts. Those were fabulous, but the special bicentenial exhibit was still going on, and that had taken over half of the palace. What an experience. I hope it stays intact if it gets moved anywhere, because it is a very important exhibit reflecting on Mexico’s political history.

When we did finally get back to Huatulco, it was like being in alternative universe. The frantic pace slowed dramatically. We missed our quiet, sleepy little bay, but did not miss the traffic. Can’t say I have been everywhere, but Mexico City, was as exotic as any other city in the world, with much to offer. We had a lot of fun, as we always do with Karen and Ed. A lot of laughing are always involved. I cannot say enough how nice it is to have friends you can travel with, and still like each other at the end of it. We’re having fun back here in Huatulco, seeing the sights, socializing with winter people, and hanging by the pool, and we are still shaking our heads over Mexico City. Five days wasn’t enough to see everything, but it was long enough to want a break, so we already have a list of places to see next time.

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