I am certain that my parents instilled my love for travel in the months immediately after my birth. Before I could even learn how to smile my parents had me on airplanes jetting around Latin America. I am still discovering places I traveled to during those years that I cannot remember.
My ultimate goal is to become a Century Traveler, by travelling to one hundred countries. Ok, maybe one hundred countries is a bit much. Let’s change that to fifty. Fifty would be plenty. How far along am I? I am not quite sure, mostly due to Caribbean cruises. Seriously, all those islands that you stop at just start meshing together. So after a perfunctory list I just created I am at twenty-one, plus those Caribbean islands.
During this past Thanksgiving we met my parents in Mexico City for a week-long adventure of food and cultural discovery. I enjoyed every second of it, even those where we sat in a taxi in awful traffic with car horns honking all around us. I would just stare out the window and take in the scenery. Mexico City, in terms of metropolitan area, is the third largest city in the world, after Tokyo and Seoul. It feels like you are driving for an eternity and the city never ends. As a result, we were only able to see a microscopic amount of what the city has to offer.
One of our first stops was the art-deco Palacio de Bellas Artes where we saw the Ballet Folklorico. It was a lovely display of typical dances from different regions of Mexico. And the costumes were filled of color and vibrancy.
Another popular stop, and one we made, is the Museum of Anthropology, where thousands of indigenous artifacts are held, including a 30 foot Aztec sacrificial stone altar. On the steps outside of the museum we watched “El Baile del Palo” or the Pole Dance. It’s a ritual dance which consists of men climbing a pole, tying themselves to rope, and then slowly unraveling the rope while hanging upside down until they reach the ground.
There was also a visit to the Zocalo, the main historic square, where the governor’s mansion and other government buildings are located. And Teotihuacan, a city built by the Aztecs, filled with mind-bogglingly large pyramids. And a short stop in the church of Guadalupe. Let’s make that the four churches of Guadalupe. Yes, four churches have been built in honor of the Virgin Guadalupe all within 100 feet of each other. One on the crest of the hill were the miracle occurred. And three at the bottom of the hill after the priest was no longer able to climb up the hill. Well, originally, it was one church at the bottom of the hill, but that one started to sink because Mexico City is built over a filled in lake. Then they built another one, which also started to sink. And then a third one, which thus far is still standing straight.
We also made two more stops at locations that are worth mentioning. The first is the home of Frida Kahlo, La Casa Azul. La Casa Azul is where Frida and her husband, painter Diego Rivera, lived during their marriage, and also the home where Frida grew up. It is full of art, easels, indigenous artifacts, and pure loveliness. I fell in love with her kitchen where Frida’s name is spelled on the wall using hundreds of tiny teacups. Among all of the beauty of the home, you also discover all of the pain and suffering Frida went through due to a tragic bus accident that occurred when she was fifteen. Well worth the visit.
The second is the museum of art Soumaya. Soumaya is the personal museum of Carlos Slim. Yes, that Carlos Slim, a.k.a. the richest man in the world, with more dough in his pockets than Mr. William Gates III. I was hesitant about visiting, but at my father’s insistence, we went. The collection is impressive. There are paintings and sculptures from Van Gough, Renoir, Dali, Miro, El Greco, Botello, among many others. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece. The interior reminded me of Wright’s Guggenheim in NYC and the exterior is a perfectly metal clad sculpture. So, if you’re interested in knowing what the richest man in the world does with his money, go to Soumaya.
And then there was the food. Ahh, yes, the food. Enough food for me to gain 4.8 pounds in one week. I had a delicious plate of mole poblano—a rich spicy chocolate sauce smothered over a chicken breast. And some pozole. And a couple of chillaquiles. And I must mention the sopes. Oh, one more, the chile rellenos. I was so happy eating my non-Americanized Mexican food, without the Texan fajitas, burritos, and flour tortillas. Only corn tortillas for me. But my absolute favorite food discovery was a homemade candy which consisted of three ingredients, chili powder, tamarind, and sugar all mixed together and made into a ball the size of a ping pong. I brought home an entire bag of them. I loved the combination of sweet, sour and spicy. Maybe I’ll attempt to make you some. I was even more thrilled when at a stand I discovered a shaved ice with the same combination of flavors, titled “Diablitos,” or “Little Devils.” It was heaven. You must try it if you get the chance. And you must try Mexico City.