Monday, July 16, 2007

adios DF

Today (Saturday) was our final full day in el DF, and although I'm really glad to have gone on this portion of the trip, I am feeling ready to head down to Oaxaca. Mexico City is the largest city in the world, and the air quality betrays that fact. I had a bloody nose yesterday, which, in all fairness, could also have to do with the dryness and the elevation of el DF. And although it's pretty cheap by US big city standards, Mexico City is much more expensive than Oaxaca.

I woke up earlier than the rest of my roomies today. I'm staying in a room with 3 other gals (there are 4 beds in two different rooms and one bathroom), so my earplugs have come in really handy. I woke up feeling pretty refreshed and I decided to head out with Adrien and Tomo (a Japanese grad student in design) to run some errands and grab a bite to eat. We found a pretty big marketplace about a block away from our apartment, and went for the first taco stand that had a bunch of locals hanging around it. I had two tortillas again this morning, one filled with cheese and mushrooms, and the other filled with cheese and squash blossoms. I think it was a dollar for each one, and my stomach was pretty much set at least until late afternoon.

We got back to the hotel soon after and found a few people sitting in the courtyard, deciding what to do for the day. One of the girls commented loudly that we were getting a late start because "people kept leaving," a comment that was definitely intended for me, Adrien, and Tomo. Oh well, such are the pleasures of traveling with a big group. It's been interesting traveling with a bunch of strangers and I am slowly starting to understand each person's unique quirks and personality traits. There are definitely some I get along with better than others. Once we get to Oaxaca, we will have much more autonomy, so I am looking forward to that as well.


We decided we wanted to go out to the Coyoacan area of el DF, which has a large outdoor market with vendors selling crafts from different regions in Mexico. We traveled via subway, and one of the interesting little tidbits about el DF is that almost every public sign has both a written and visual (i.e., logo or pictograph) component, as a majority of the population is illiterate. The logo representing the Coyoacan subway stop is a wolf or coyote with a hole in the middle of it, howling at the moon. Some of the logos are kind of strange. I saw another sign instructing people to crawl on the ground in case of fire. Instead, the pictograph made it look like you should lay down and do sit-ups if birds are attacking you.

When we got to Coyoacan, the majority of the group wanted to go eat, but since Adrien and I had already had our fill of tacos that morning, we decided that we were going to wander around and shop. I bought an embroidered purse (which subsequently ended up dying my shirt, skin, and pants a faint mustard color) for about $15. I tried to bargain him down further than that, but we were in a hurry, so I just took the price. Apparently we won't be able to get embroidery like this in Oaxaca.

Since we had our share of the market and we still had some time to kill before meeting the others, Adrian and I ducked into a cantina, where I tried the Mexican version of the black and tan: basically Victoria or Corona with Negro Modelo added. It was pretty tasty!

We met up with the rest of the group and headed towards Saint Angel, where the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo studios are located. Adrian and I decided that we wanted to grab something at the market so we told the rest of the group that we would catch up with them. Ceci, who is Raul's friend and a Mexico City resident, told us that we should turn right at the big cross and we would end up on the same street the rest of the group was on. Uh, yeah. Turns out there are crosses on every block in Mexico. We made our purchases and walked down the street...there was a cross on top of a building, but it wasn't very big, so we decided to keep walking. At the next street, there was an even bigger cross, so we figured we would turn there. We power walked for a good 20 minutes, and then we realized that we were probably ahead of the group at this point (the group as a whole walks pretty slow), so we asked a lady on the street how we should get to El Estudio Diego Rivera. We kept asking directions from people until we got there. I've been pretty impressed by my recall and comprehension of Spanish...though I definitely butcher a lot of the language, I feel pretty confident getting around on my own and have become the group speaker when Raul or his boyfriend Michael are not around.

Adrien and I got to the studios and waited for the rest of the group...and waited...and waited. After about 45 minutes, we figured they changed their mind about going to the studios, so we decided that we were going to do the studio tour and go back to the hotel afterwards. Luckily, we ran into the rest of the group inside the studio. I don't know what happened, but we somehow ended up getting there 45 minutes before them even though we had walked the whole way and they had walked about halfway and taken a car the rest of the way. I guess that's how much time it takes to herd cats.

After touring the studios, we did a little self-guided tour of some of the downtown cantinas. Apparently it used to be pretty nasty and dangerous downtown, but recently there has been a number of renovations on the old buildings by the owner of Sanborns. He is renovating a bunch of the gorgeous, European-style buildings into lofts and fancy yuppie apartments. It's kind of weird to think that there is gentrification in Mexico, too. The first cantina we went to, called La Opera Bar, was absolutely gorgeous. Very art nouveau, with tons of carved wood, luxurious booths, and velvet wallpaper. Wow, this place was stunning! We sat and had a beer and left to check out another cantina. The next one we walked into was considerably more run down, but fantastic nonetheless. I guess it was an homage to bullfighting, with large murals of bulls and glass-enclosed cases with mannequins dressed up in matador outfits engaged in various bullfighting scenes. Everything looked like it had about 10 years worth of dust on it, but the room had that kitschy charm that I tend to like. We sat down to eat and decided it might not be clean enough for our sensitive American stomachs (one gal already had her food poisoning incident come and go on the first day). We walked down the street to check out a restaurant that someone had recommended, and found it to be delightfully non-touristy. The entire place was packed with people drinking and eating tacos. I got a taco al pastor, a taco adobo, and something called salchicha pierna. I couldn't figure out what that was besides being made of beef. The food was outstanding and I think it only cost 70 cents per taco. We had a little bit of a surprise when the waiter came up and told Ceci that someone at the table had a secret admirer and that he was drawing her as we spoke...and when I got up to go to the bathroom, I found out it was me. This old man had drawn a portrait of me, which he very nicely gave to me on the way out. Kind of sweet and kind of creepy at the same time.Apparently I am very exotic here because I am so tall...but also, I look a little like southern Mexicans because of my slanted eyes. It will be interesting to see how confused people will be by me when we get to Oaxaca.

We ended our night by going back to the bullfighting museum cantina and taking tequila shots as we danced to a very eclectic mix of reggaeton, drum and bass, and bad techno. Again, I was amazed at how much we had accomplished in one day. We spend all day on the bus to Oaxaca tomorrow, so I was happy to spend my last day in Mexico City going out with a bang.

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