That was one of the best vacations ever. It had its ups and downs, but it was mostly good days, and one perfect one. The trip started with Guanajuato, a city that is the ideal of what Mexico should be. It was clean, and a bit touristy, but I wouldn’t change anything, except the food. The only place with food as good as I’ve found in Guadalajara was the hostel, La Casa de Dante. It was the style of Mexican I’ve come to expect, but with more potatoes and carrots. From there, I headed to the bus station to go to Mexico City. The cab driver was a good guy, slowing down so I could take some pictures from the bridge and when we first entered the valley. I could live there for a while, but I can see that it would be easy to run out of things to do.
The trip to Mexico City was uneventful, and they put me on an earlier bus so I had more time there. The food there is wonderful, more like what I’ve come to expect. There is an endless variety of food in the streets and the markets to try. Even things I thought would be familiar could be surprising. My hostel was Casa de San Ildefonso, near Zocalo, a huge plaza in the middle of historic downtown. It’s just like the plaza at the Catedral de Guadalajara, complete with government offices and beautiful buildings, but on this day it was closed.
There were huge Mexican style skulls in the square, as well as a couple of skeletons and other Day of the Dead decorations. The signs said they were filming in the plaza, and they were keeping everyone out. The rumor was that it was the next James Bond movie, and from the helicopter fight I saw, I wouldn’t be surprised.
The next day when I passes I saw two well-dressed men clinging to the outside of a spinning helicopter having a fist fight. They repeated the fight a number of times before the helicopter landed and they reset. I was never able to get close enough to see Bond, but I’m the story is better if it was him. After that I walked up to la Plaza de Tres Culturas, where the Aztec temples sit next to the Cathedral of Santiago and the modern Foreign Affairs building. It’s a beautiful place, and it was almost empty. Everything was free to get into, so I wandered for a while before heading toward Parque Chapultepec.
It took me a couple hours to walk there, down Paseo de la Reforma, passing modern art, new buildings, and old statues. I wandered through some back streets, seeing the beautiful old buildings. I remember thinking, “I could live here.” The city reminded me of Guadalajara, beautiful, old, and tranquil. Then I remembered that everyone goes on vacation for Semana Santa, usually to the beach. I know I would hate the city when it fills back up, the traffic, the congestion, the people, make it just too much for me to enjoy. I noticed there are no public trash cans in the city, at least none bigger than the rare basketball net sized ones. It must get filthy quickly, with nowhere to throw away the endless garbage from the street food and deserts along the way.
Then I found it. There is a castle on top of the hill in Chapultepec. Traditional, not built for defense, but beautiful, like an old European chateau. It’s massive, filled with art and historical clothing. There is an amazing view of the city, and of the lake nearby in the park. I’m glad I was there during Semana Santa because it was still crowded, but you could see the beauty. You can almost feel the change in the era, like stepping into the past, walking through the gardens and around the ancient hallways. It’s been kept up to the point where it still feels old, but it looks new. It was definitely one of the high points of the city.
The next day I took a tour to Teotihuacan, which was a mistake. We went back to the Plaza de Tres Culturas, and I was bored because I had just seen it. After that it was on to stand around and wait for people to buy things outside the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was nothing I hadn’t seen a thousand times before in Guadalajara. The Basilica was awesome, but it felt rushed. There were other things to see and other churches there that we never got to visit. Next we went to Teotihuacan, well, close anyway. Some interesting presentations on Aztec art and mescal tasting, then way too long of a lunch. The people I was traveling with were really cool, groups from Argentina, Guatemala, and Colombia, but the trip was too slow for my taste.
The pyramids were everything I could have hoped, especially in Mexico. There are still fences and places where you’re not supposed to go, but no one really pays attention to that. The steps are huge, even for me, and they feel like something amazing would have lived there. I understand why the Aztecs found them and though it was the city of the gods. Looking up at the pyramids makes you feel how small you are, just as standing on top makes you feel mighty. There were almost as many vendors as there were tourists, but they still weren’t as pushy as the ones in Ensenada. I was able to climb one of the smaller pyramids and be alone, looking over the valley still filled with buried temples and ancient treasures. From the top of the pyramid of the sun you can see the entire valley, and you can wonder how men built such a thing without technology. I wandered past the orange fencing with everyone else, looking over the ancient city and the forest, imagining a time long past.
When we finally left the pyramids it was getting late. The guy at the hostel said we’d be back by 5:30, plenty of time to make it to the airport by 7. Unfortunately we got back after 6:15, and I had to take the subway back to make it to the hostel in time. Just after I hit the hostel, the storm started.
That storm helped me understand why people used to think there were gods in the sky, throwing bolts of lightning at the earth. The thunder had that sound you only hear in movies, the sound of the air burning, and the thunder felt like something was physically hitting me. I’ve seen plenty of storms in New York, but nothing with this kind of power. Everything was running behind, but I made it to the airport with enough time to eat at Sabarros, and I was hungry enough to enjoy it.
I had good times back in the States, dim sum with the Dancer, Easter dinner with the family, watching a couple movies with my mom, then the perfect day. I went out to dim sum again in the morning, then met some friends for lunch. One was a fellow teacher from Modesto, the other a new friend from Singapore. We wandered downtown, had a beer at Joe’s Crab Shack, the checked out Seaport Village. Then it was on to one of the best nights out with Chaos and Hotsauce.
We went to Escondido for Chinese, and the server was awesome. She brought us free pot stickers because of a dirty glass, and kept looking at the mariachi band figures I got for Chaos. She loved them, then asked if it was his birthday. He said yes because he was too lazy to explain that it was just a gift from abroad. We didn’t argue because we found it amusing. Then he got a free dessert for the whole table, because of his birthday. The server started singing, and we just joined in, laughing along. Chaos kept trying to get his way for the rest of the night because, after all, it’s his birthday. We went back to Hotsauce’s place to relax for a few hours and laugh. One of the best times I’ve had in a long time. That group hasn’t been together like that since high school, and based on some of the insanity that came out of that night, it might be a tragedy for all mankind.
I missed seeing a lot of people this trip out. Herald, Fire, Sifu, the Italian, Headbreak, the dnd group, the Treehouse, the Phantom, Home Depot. It was too short of a time to do everything I wanted to. I didn’t even make it surfing this time. Three days is too short, but so was eight at Christmas. That has become the sacrifice, to travel and see the world, or to go back home and share it with the people I left behind. I will always do my best to balance it, but I’m starting to see how some things never really balance.
I hate the wifi in Mexico. I’ll post the rest of the pictures as soon as I can.