Grant McWilliams

Mexico 2006 - Day 2

Today we got up late (10:00 Mexico time) and started walking to the historic center. It’s about a mile from where we are so it took a while to get there. On the way we stopped at Alameda Center which is a large park that reminded us of Parc du Luxembourg in Paris. There were many street vendors setting up their little carts in the park. They sold all sorts of Mexican food, jewelery and whatever else. We were getting really hungry by this time so we started looking around for food and all we could find were street vendors which we are supposed to avoid because we don’t want to get tourista. Down the street across from the beautiful Belle Arts museum was a 7-11 which turned out to be where lunch was. For 5 dollars we all got triple layer sandwiches that although didn’t taste any better than convenience store sandwiches in America did the trick.

We ventured on to the Zocolo which is the second largest city square in the world after Red Square in Moscow. On the way we stopped to try a Mexican dessert which I was familiar with having lived near Pasco WA. The kids thought it tasted “weird” so I ate most of it. We arrived at the zocolo to find many more street vendors set up in the middle of the square and Aztec dancers doing their thing to large groups of people. There is very few tourists here so the people watching are other Mexicans which seems a bit odd to me. The prices here are often so cheap you can’t believe it. I see other people haggling over prices but if the price is already one fourth what it would be in the States why haggle? I bought Natalya a stone necklace that is very pretty for about $6.

On the opposite side of the zocolo from where we’d come was a street market. I wish my system was used to Mexican bacteria because I really would have liked to try some of the street vendors food. There were several trikes with big barrels on the back standing up holding hot tamales. There also were vendors selling these little tiny pancake looking things that were made from a stiff dough that I guess was made from corn. It looked like it had the consistency of play-dough which they rolled out into flat discs about 1.5 inches in diameter. There were several hotdog vendors too. They sold fresh grilled hotdogs with the fixings for 3 for 10 pesos which puts them about 30 American cents each. On down the street there were more vendors selling remote control cars, clothing, jewelry and just about everything else. The prices were similarly cheap. There were jeans for about $6 and socks for about 50cents a pair. They had Nike shoes for $15 and shirts for about $2. We will definitely go back as soon as we get our money situation figured out which is another story. We pushed our way (literally) through the tiny market streets for about an hour before we realized the thing actually goes until the end of the earth and then some and we were getting hungry so we exited along a side street. While searching for a cafe or resteraunt we ran across the Templer Mayor which is the old Aztec pyramid. The whole historic center including the zocolo, Aztec pyramid and the church built on it’s ruins used to be on the old island in the middle of the huge lake. The Spanish drained the lake and built the rest of the city over it. The Cathedral on the zocolo is actually leaning and scaffolding has been built up in the inside and parts of the outside to strengthen it until something else can be done. It appears from the work going on that they are attempting to put a foundation under it. This may be a big job as the Spanish started to build it in the mid 1500s. It was completed about 300 years later. We also ran across the hostel that got rave reviews in Lets Go so we stepped in to ask questions.

The gentlemen behind the counter was real helpful and showed us a room. Our current hotel was costing us 900 pesos a night and the hostel was 560 a night which is quite a bit of savings. Also they included breakfast, dinner, free Internet and two tours so we decided to rent a private room for the next three nights. When he tried charging my card it denied him. I thought it was just a glitch since I had taken money out of an ATM at the airport so we went down the street to an ATM. The ATM said it couldn’t process my card and I should contact my financial institution. We proceeded to another ATM for a second opinion. It concurred with the first. I went back to the hostel and asked if I could call the 1-800 number on my card to see what was up so we tried and could never get through. Apparently an 800 number in Mexico is not free and Mexican phones don’t take change, only credit cards. Had the card been good I could have charged the phone call to my bank to the very card I was inquiring about but that’s not how real life works. You might be wondering why I didn’t just use my backup card since I’d be an idiot to go to Mexico City without one right? Well, the backup card got hot carded by my bank earlier in the week because they or someone that processes numbers for them had a security breach. I did bring that card along just in case I could get it to work because up until the day I left I could still access my account with it. Only problem was that card was in my backpack where all good backup cards should be kept. At this point we had no other choice but to head back to our hotel and see if we could make some phone calls there.

We had also realized that the food that we had gone searching for had never been found so we stopped at the coolest tiled building in the world and ate since it was also a cafe as well. Jade ate Fettechini which was surprisingly different than any he’d had before. Piper and Natalya had rolled up fried tacos which were good and I had enchiladas in mole sauce. This was the first time I had mole in Mexico and I have to say it’s quite a bit different than that stuff masquerading as mole in Seattle. This looked like chocolate syrup but was quite spicy. It definitely had a bit of a burn to it. The chocolate flavor wasn’t as strong as you might think considering it’s appearances. Overall I think it was low rent mole but since I’ve never had any other it’s the best I’ve ever had. It makes me anxious to get to Oaxaca.

After leaving the cafe we ran across the Hotel Catedral which we tried to get into. We figured we were already there we might as well go in to see what it was like. The place looks every bit as nice as our hotel but costs the same as the hostel. We decided then and there to stay there if they had room. They did (puzzling since they said they didn’t in an email response) and they spoke perfect english. I explained about my card and they asked if I wanted to call the number and I said yes and I’d pay them for it. She dialed the number and it said it was no longer in service. Arhg! We walked back to our hotel to get on the Internet and get the new number to call. Armed with the new number I took it to the reception desk and after three tries I wasn’t able to get someone there that could either speak enough english or knew how to dial a phone number while chewing gum. I emailed a few people back home to see if they could call my bank and tell them I’m in Mexico so I can have my money. I also emailed my bank telling them we can’t seem to get through. Now I wait. Since money is an object we went to KFC and ordered another $13 16 piece chicken bucket with 4 mashed potatoes, 4 biscuits and 4 cole slaws. A killer deal and we came much closer to getting it eaten. Since it was so nice out we sat on a bench on Paseo de la Reforma (The Mexican Champs Elysees) and ate our chicken. When finished we walked toward Chapultapec park and nearly made it before fatigued feet made other plans for us. We did stop at the Glorieta Angel de la Independencia monument built to remind Mexicans of their Independence from Spain. It’s really a beautiful monument in the middle of a roundabout. We sat at it for a while and watched the cars then walked home. Overall I think we walked about 8 miles today not counting all of our wanderings down strange streets, through markets and backtracking. Now I write this and wait for word from the bank….