Arriving at the North Bus Terminal, Mexico City turned out to be surprisingly simple to navigate – as long as you didn’t mind a ½ mile walk underground between subway lines and the bouncy ride afforded by the rubber subway tires. Having a bit of daylight left after checking into the “Bed & Breakfast Mexico” hostel (which, aside from the telephone-booth sized shower and microscopic kitchen, was quite nice), we headed to the “Zocalo”: the city center, see video here (WMV Video File 7.7 Meg). A chaotic mix of tourists, residents and Aztec dancers, the Zocalo is the 2nd largest square in the world after Red Square. A huge Mexican flag adorns its center which, each night, takes six men 15 minutes to fold. The square is flanked by the cathedral LINK (one side is actually sinking), the national palace with cool murals and the shortest chairs we’d ever seen(picture of Warren here to the right in the palace grounds), and government buildings.
Walking from the square, we passed a beautifully tiled 16th century building and arrived at the white-marbled fine arts theater and national post office. Maybe in a country of short people, they are attracted to short gringos, but Cynthia, for the 1st of 2 times, was stopped by school kids assigned to do a video survey in English.
Mexico City has its own version of NYC’s Central Park which we left lots of shoe rubber in by walking miles avoiding the Presidents residence (at the request of the heavily armed guards), visited lakes, (impressively fluorescent green ones, in fact), fountains, monuments, people playing volleyball, picnicking (generally enjoying a weekend at the park) and the zoo. The zoo was actually very nice with lots of animals and plenty of space for them. Two things really stand out about our visit there. The first is viewing an endangered fox species which did a public demonstration of the new breeding program (No pictures! this is a family website). The second was Cynthia standing next to the monkey cage, saying “Look at that Monkey, he just spit a huge loogey”, and Warren replying “I don’t think that is spit” as the monkey proceeded to vomit repeatedly all over the side of the netting right next to usâ€¦maybe he drank the water…
Although we did two “outside the city” trips (see our next post Mexico City II- Surrounds), as a city finale, we succumbed to the tourist pull of the National Museum of Anthropology. Excellent museum: the whole bottom level is dedicated to the 12 pre-Hispanic civilizations of Mexico, and the top level is an exhibition of the current cultures of Mexico. Probably the “high point” of our visit was the big heads…
Enough of the touristy parts, in such a big city, we observed some neat and amusing stuff we thought we would share with you.
– A lot of the pedestrian crossing signs at intersections are animated and the little green guy actually starts running as the time gets close to zero (see the video 2.2Meg WMV file)
– Background music on the subway is provided by pirated CD vendors with backpack boom boxes. It’s rare to get on a car without a backpack bursting into song.
– You can actually buy anything when you are stopped in your car at traffic lights. Some examples are plants, lamp shades and even a woman walking between cars with two 6 ft. coat racks. We are convinced that you never really need to go to a store, because if you drive around enough you’ll find everything you need, even an evening’s entertainment. Check out the juggler in the street at a stop light.
– All Volkswagen beetle Taxis have the front seat ripped out to allow passengers access to the larger backseat. We’ve seen 4+ people stuffed into these taxis. Now we know where the clown car idea came from.
– In case you didn’t get enough of the ads in the subway stations, they now have panels in the tunnels that become animated as the train goes by.
– Public bathrooms have one roll of toilet tissue which is right when you enter, so you’d better grab enough because there’s no one to help if you didn’t plan well.
Check out the Mexico City I Gallery if you want to see more pictures..
More about the area surrounding the city in the next post.