Friday, July 26, 2013

Mexico City

It has been nearly a year since I touched my blog. One of the reasons it let it slip out of my mind is that it felt quickly like too many things had happened that were worth sharing and it would be impossible to try to keep up. So I won't go into the last year. It's been a good one. I've got a great life: great roommates, good community, fun weekends, wonderful friends and lots of adventures. 

All of this culminated in a trip with Alfred to Peru from July 3 -23. When we first began dating, we went to an adventure vacation showcase fair in Long Beach. While we wandered from booth to booth, sampling adventures I felt I could never afford on my $400 per month Episcopal Urban Intern Salary, we found ourselves talking to a man from the G Adventures booth about Peru, Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. I decided that day I was doing it. Summer 2013. It was happening. And by God, I'm good at keeping to my plans. 

So I'm picking up again to talk about Peru for sure, hopefully more as time goes on.  

On the way down, we had a 13 hour layover in Mexico City. Not only was this one of the cheapest ways to arrive in Lima, but it seemed like being in a major metro city from 5am to 6pm wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. I was a little nervous about Mexico City, with all the horror stories and worries about the dangerousness of the city I have heard over the years. But after some research on where to go and what to watch out for, I felt pretty secure that it actually wasn't going to be all that bad. And honestly, Alfred and I both agreed, after riding the buses, trains and walking through the city, we never felt in danger, or singled out for being American tourists. We had our backpacks on, we were the only Americans in sight, and everything went well and was easy to navigate. 

The day started off early (after a few hours sleeping on the airplane and another nap in the airport while we waited for the sun to come up) and we jumped on the bus headed for the Federal District and downtown. We went to the main square at Zocalo, which is one of the largest city centers in the world, with a huge plaza in the middle of Federal buildings and the Cathedral. On one side of the square there seemed to be a soccer tournament with many corporate sponsors being set up, on the other shanties for some kind of protest. Below the cathedral was the remains of the Aztec temples and pyramids which used to stand here. The Spanish liked to destroy whatever non-Christian religions they found wherever they went and put a cathedral right on top, we found throughout South America. 

We spent a few hours wandering around this main square and the surrounding streets. They were not busy yet, but there were clearly a lot of street stalls that would appear in a few hours when the crowds of the city center would come out in full force. 

 The Mexican flag rising above Zocalo Plaza with the Cathedral behind.

A closer view of the Cathedral, with one of the many shoe shiners in the area.  

The streets surrounding Zocalo before the crowds came forth from the buildings.  

After we wandered the area around city center, we caught an hour long bus and train ride to the southernmost end of Mexico City to Xochimilco, where the last remnants of ancient canals that used to run throughout the entire Aztec capital can still be found. Hundreds of painted boats, really they are gondolas, are manned by locals with long sticks to drive them through the rivers. Apparently on Sundays this place is crawling with locals boating and celebrating with flowers and their best dress, but it was a slow Wednesday, without many crowds. We haggled around, and grabbed a boat.

One of the other gondola drivers.  

This was the food boat, which pulled up along and asked if we wanted to eat, then pulled up behind and cooked the food in a few minutes. We enjoyed tacos, rice, tacitos and plenty of sides. There were boats with mariachi bands floating by offering to play for you for a price as well. We rode along the canals for about an hour, but could have gone out for up to 4 hours if we had the time and money, out to forests and animal reserves. It was quite a cool side trip down to the edge of town. We wandered around the local markets afterwards, before making our way back north towards the airport.

When we got back to the airport, we found ourselves seeing white people for the first time all day at the gate going to Peru. It may have been the only day of the whole vacation where I truly felt like I wasn't a tourist surrounded by other tourists - more off the beaten trail, if you will. Our flight to Lima was from 6 to midnight, and I was able to grab a few more hours of sleep before we landed to meet Alfred's cousins at the airport.

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