Thursday, February 15, 2018

Mexico City

When Granny and Grampy are in town we take full advantage of their free babysitting services and we get out of town!! Last year we did a weekend in New Orleans, this year we went back and forth about where to go. Due to the fact we would be traveling in February and didn't want to deal with blizzard conditions it limited our choices. We ended up deciding to head south to Mexico. Not beach resort Mexico but Mexico City. We traveled on Thursday morning arriving in time to check in and walk around a bit before dinner. We stayed int he Condesa neighborhood at a small hotel called Maria Condesa.

We wandered the neighborhood until we found a restaurant I had heard about on a travel blog. It was called Merotoro and featured food from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. The menu was only in Spanish and none of the staff seemed to eager to try to help us figure out the menu so we had a good time picking out a few words we could decipher and used a little google translate to fill in the gaps. We stuck to what we could understand and good thing too because one of the appetizers featured grasshoppers which we thought for sure was a "lost in translation" but no, turns out it was accurate, they are widely eaten in Mexico as we would soon find out. 

I had a caipirinha to drink, which is sort of a Brazilian margarita made with rum instead of tequila. I was looking for a good margarita but they didn't seem to have one on the menu. This was almost better! 
I ended up with a beet salad starter and roast chicken for main course. Alex had lamb, and it was all very good
After dinner we made a dash to our hotel in the sprinkling of rain. It was forecast for on / off throughout the weekend. Considering how dry it is in LA we didn't mind the change. The next morning we were up and ready to take in the sights. Our hotel offered breakfast. We opted for the fruit and yogurt since we had a walking food tour booked for the day and knew we would be eating all day long. I could get used to have this served for me every day when I wake up. 
After making our way to meet up with our tour group our first stop was a coffee roaster. It was very authentic and old style. They don't brew the coffee, just roast and sell the beans. 

We got some to take home with us and are happy to report it is delicious.
The next stop was Pulqueria The Duelistas. Pulque is a drink make from fermenting the leaves of the agave plant. It is sort of like alcohol although we were also told it would not get you drunk, it was more of a high.
The drink is sort of....slimey. It doesn't naturally have a very good taste so they flavor it with other fruits and vegetables to make it palatable. Just barely. We tried samples of cucumber (the green), Oatmeal cinnamon (yellow) and guava (pink). 
You have to drink a fairly large quantity of it to get the effect. The gentleman at the bar was having a whole pitcher. I think our small samples were plenty. It wasn't really bad tasting but not something you could drink a whole glass of. 

Next was on to the main stop. Mercado de SanJuan. I guess there are two markets. One is more specialized with more upscale produce, butchers, etc. The other one is more of an every day shopping market with food stalls.
They were both vibrant and crowded, filled with stalls carrying everything you could imagine. The dried chiles were abundant. We were not too daring to buy any.
Fun fact: the country of Mexico is the largest consumer of insects in the world. I would have pegged Asia being a bigger market based on having seen them widely at markets there. Apparently they are a good source of sustainable protein and can be inexpensive depending on the insect. Grasshoppers are really cheap. 
The insects are deep fried and salted so they really just taste like a chip or snack of some sort. Not delicious but not horrible. 
Their affinity for insects also explains why there is sometimes a worm in a bottle of tequila. A free bite of protein perhaps?
After all our lovely insect tasting we needed something to wash it down with. In Oaxaca, MX they are known for their Mezcal which is part of the tequila family. 
 I won't pretend to have absorbed all the finer details of the differences but it tastes pretty much the same. Nothing like doing shots at mid day in a market. You actually slowly sip it, not shoot it.
No, we weren't sucking limes after our booze. We went to the produce stall to try some local fruits. The Mexican natives did not have sugar to bake with or sweets really so they had all kinds of wonderful exotic fruits to have as desserts. This was maracuya which is a relative to passion fruit.
This was Sapote. It was very sweet and sort of had the texture of an avocado but maybe more firm. It was tasty but I couldn't imagine eating a very large portion of it. 
We also had Guanabana which  they say is a strawberry, banana hybrid. 
We tried jack fruit which has many varieties but is usually very stringy. It is high in protein and nutritious so people think of a lot of ways to cook with it. 
Next up was a cheese shop. Mexico is not known for its cheese because they did not have a large dairy industry. Most of the typical cheese is very smooth and bland, like mozzarella. They are branching out into different aged varieties but it is not having great success with the traditional locals. 
Then we walked to a tortilleria . Apparently every little neighborhood has one and people choose their favorite that the family goes to for generations. How they are different from one another is a mystery.
The machine they use looks so old but it still does it's job and churns out fresh tortillas. I'm pretty sure the mass produced ones we buy at our local grocery store are an abomination.

Then our guide taught us the technique to roll up a tortilla to eat it. Looks easier than it is. 
We also toured the second San Juan market where most people do their day to day shopping. They have tons of food stalls that all look amazing. We had aguas frescas which are fresh blended fruit drinks and also a flauta. 
Our last stop on the walk back to our meeting point was at a papuseria for a Mexican version of a turkey sandwich.
After the several hours of walking and eating we decided to explore the area where the market was located called Historico Centro. The Diego Rivera museum houses much of his artwork and also one of his famous murals. It was a small museum so it didn't take long to browse and it wasn't crowded at all.
His artwork was very political and each person depicted in the mural was some sort of politically important person at the time.
We walked through a beautiful park towards the Palacio de Bellas Arts and carried on to the Plaza de la Constitucion.

The Zocalo is the main square where concerts and of course protests are held. Facing the courtyard is the Metropolitan Cathedral.

The cathedral has some fantastic intricate designs and architecture.
Just as we were leaving it started to downpour. Luckily our tour guide from earlier had mention a nearby building that had a restaurant with amazing views and good drinks. Mirador Torre Latino.
Even in the rain the views could not be beat.  I tried out the margarita on his recommendation but I think I will stick to the Caipirinha from now on. 
Once the rain abated we made one last stop before heading back to our hotel. The post office. We did not have any postcards to mail but we had heard the Quinta Casa de correo o Palacio Postal was beautiful. 
After a long day of walking- nearly 6 miles- we rested up and had dinner at a nearby taco restaurant. 
Saturday morning we had planned and purchased tickets to the Frida Kahlo museum. It is located in her home, La casa azul.
The house alone makes for really fun cool pictures.
You have plenty of time for selfies because the museum is extremely popular and even having bought tickets ahead of time you have to wait. 
We toured the exhibit of her clothing and personal belonging. She was a very fashionable lady and inspired a lot of designers with her unique feminist style. She also had polio as a child and had some serious health problems from a car accident so she had to wear braces under her clothing. 
The museum houses a lot of art from both Frida and her husband Diego Rivera. They also tell you a lot about the couple and their lives and marriage. It was fascinating, they led a very full and dramatic life, marrying, divorcing after he had an affair with her sister, and then remarrying again. 

The kitchen was my favorite room of course. I'm thinking of this design for our next kitchen remodel some day.
The wall designs and names were made with hand made pottery knobs, almost like small dresser knobs and then hung in this design.
Her artist studio had many of her own belongings exactly how she used to use them.
After all that culture we walked the neighborhood around the museum. We found a fantastic bustling coffee shop. We got a mocha with Mexican chocolate which has a hint of cinnamon and spice.
The nearby park was having some sort of local Aztec demonstration. 

We have no idea what they are celebrating but it was fascinating to watch.
We meandered through the streets and markets. There were lots of people out enjoying their Saturday and several weddings being held in a nearby church. 
We walked miles around the neighborhoods and also explored the San Angel neighborhood that was having a Saturday art market. We didn't end up buying any art but some cervezas and snacks.
We had already spent hours walking and exploring but our tickets to the Frida Kahlo museum also included free entrance to the Diego Rivera Museo Anahuacalli so we thought we might as well give it a look. 
The museum ended up being very worthwhile. The architecture and story behind it are fascinating. 
He was an avid collector of pre-hispanic artifacts and built the museum to house his collection.
The museum itself is built out of volcanic rock and is formed into a pyramid.
The views from the top level are fantastic. It was a long day of walking and culture.
Sunday was our last full day and we hadn't explored the neighborhood we were staying in very much so we grabbed a really good coffee at a local cafe we found. 
The place was beautiful and just look at how cute the coffee cups were.

We walked several miles to a local bakery we had heard of on a documentary about Mexico City eats. The line was out the door and the place was standing room only.
We got a few pastries to sit outside and enjoy. Of course the one I wanted the Conchas de chocolate y vanilla was sold out so I guess I will have to come back again.
We spend hours walking the neighborhoods before deciding it was finally time to try out the churreria el moro.
Of course we've had a churro before but these were authentic churros you dip in hot chocolate!
Or wear as a mustache to text to your children at home.
Of course you always have a random Mayan guy in the place begging for money don't you?
Well filled with sweets to decided on more culture at the Museo Nacionals de las Culturas. They are closed on Mondays so this was our big chance to go. 
There is a huge central park right leading up to the museum so we had a good wander around there before going in the museum.
In the center of the museum is a great water fountain. You can see how daring you are as to how close you get. 
The museum explores the culture of Mexico from it's earliest peoples to all the current modern states.
We learned a lot and there was beautiful artifact and art collections.
I'm not sure why Diego couldn't have combined his collection of artifacts with this museums.
Our last day on Monday we did more and more walking in the neighborhood around our hotel. We grabbed one last delicious bite to eat before heading to the airport to go home. We would definitely like to explore more of Mexico.

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