January 26, 2014

Dinner at Azul Historico

Our last night in Mexico City (which we often refer to as simply "DF") we had dinner at a nice, new little place around the corner from our hotel called Azul Historico. It is in an old building with a large center courtyard, which is where the restaurant sits.

When it was opened the chef was asked about the open air seating. He said he would build a tarp. Which he did.

They also used the LP gas heaters, which was good for us, as it was very chilly.

We had stopped by the night before to make reservations (which weren't really necessary, but you never know) and met Israel,  the manager.

He was very nice, and said it would not be a problem.

We arrived pretty much on time (8:00? I don't really remember) and were seated immediately.

We had read that their specialty was sea bass (huachinago) but Israel said, no, that their real specialty was the black mole sauce.

It turned out that they were having a festival of stuffed peppers, and he at first said that they would all be too hot for us. Ha! We may be gringos , but we eat hot food! (I have never had food too hot to eat in Mexico. A couple of times in Thailand, and once in my bad younger brother Matthew's kitchen, but other than that, I can eat and sweat with the best of them)

But we took a look at the menu, and chose the Cochinita Pibil and one of the stuffed peppers specialties. Both were delicious.

. (Those are the cochinta pibil. I don't have an image of the Chilies rellenos de queso y picada. But get it if you can.)

Then for the main course, Doreen ordered Duck Buñuelos with mole and I ordered a modified version of Chilis En Nogada.

 These are the Buñuelos. That sauce was outstanding.

These are the chilies:

They used macadamia nuts instead of walnuts. Very rich and delicious.

We ambled back to the hotel after this delightful meal.

The next morning, we didn't have hot water.

Oh, well.

January 23, 2014

Biking on Reforma

Doreen had visited Mexico City a couple of months ago for a Park Conference. While there, the city had arranged for them to use the local bike rentals (Eco Bici, I think it is called) to ride up and down Reforma Avenue (sort of like main street) which gets shut down every Sunday.

We wanted to do the same thing, but it turns out that EcoBici is only available to residents of Mexico City. But we read that sometimes hotels offer guests a card to access the kiosks.

Well, you know how our hotel was so far.

We asked, and they said (predictably) that they don't have such cards, but some people set up a stand across the street and rent bikes - they get their at 9:30.

So at 9:45 we head down to the street to find this stand.

The bell boy told us that, well, it's a Sunday, so they usually don't show up until after 10:00. Then a policeman standing nearby said that there may be another stand over by the cathedral (a long block away)

We walked down to the cathedral, and sure enough, there was a guy renting (actually loaning) bikes! He said we needed our passports, but I convinced him to take our drivers licenses.

He took our license and our name, and said that they would need to take our photos when we returned. I asked why, and he said that was in case we stole the bikes. I pointed out that it would make more sense to take the photos before we left, but he said that the system was down.


We signed the paperwork, and he said that we could used the bikes for free for three hours! Very cool.

The bikes were a little small:

But that didn't really bother us.

Doreen looked real cute in her biking outfit:

We rode down Reforma all the way to Chapultapec park, stopping at the Angel for a couple of photos

You can see how small the bike was for me

But the Angel did want to stand on my head.

It was a great ride. We were part of hundreds and hundreds of people riding along on a beautiful day.

We got to the park, and were thinking about going into the Anthropological Museum, but we were a little worried about the bikes. So we mostly just rode around the park

It was a lot of fun

 and worth every penny of the rental.
 The park was quite crowded.

Doreen said that this park was recently renovated as well. It is something like 740 hectares (1,829 acres) and used to have all sorts of undergrowth making it dark and unwelcoming. But you can see this it no longer the case.

This is the Alter to Patriotism

and it has a lake with pedal boats and row boats as well

and lots of vendors
 Then on the way back we saw some interesting buildings.
 and for lunch, we ate in the House of Tiles!

I might write more about that later.

January 22, 2014

From El Cid to El Moro

After a brief nap in our room, (too brief, really) we decided to walk down to our choice for dinner that evening - El Cid.

I need to explain a little about how our trips are usually organized:

1. We agree on a destination.
2. We agree on a time.
3. I get the plane reservations.
4. Doreen does everything else. (Hotel, restaurant, museum, shows, entertainment, you name it)

But for this trip, for some reason I was left (for the most part) in charge of restaurants.

This one didn't really turn out great.

It was only about a mile from the hotel, but it was dark. And the street we had to walk down was almost completely empty. In the middle of Mexico City! Now, it felt just a little uncomfortable, but we got to the place fine.

I chose El Cid because they offered Lechon, or suckling pig. (there is a much longer story here about suckling pig that involves Alex Jordan, Segovia, and kidney stones. But we don't need to get into that)

The place bills itself as a "medieval" restaurant, and they have "medieval" meals nightly. That is not what we chose.

We started with Sopa de Ajo, and then moved onto the Lechon:

It was fine, don't get me wrong. And we had a nice bottle of Spanish red to go with it. But nothing to write in your blog about.

The real show was downstairs, where the medieval meal was starting. They had jugglers, magicians, Lords and Ladies. It was fun to watch from above. We sat around there for a couple of hours.

But when it was over, Doreen (who really had done some work on this trip) suggested we go and get churros (fried dough) and hot chocolate at a "churreria" (Churro Shop) called El Moro.

(I liked the juxtaposition of El Cid to El Moro. Nice in a historical context)

It was a short walk directly to El Moro, but we decided to walk down to the Alameda Park on our way. (More light)

There were plenty of buskers on the wide sidewalks around the park. One was a clown, who saw me walking by (he had a large crowd) Called out to me:

"Do you speak Spanish?"

"Yes, a little."

"Me, I speak a lot! (much laughter)

"Where are you from"


"Paisano!" (countryman)

he then teased a little more, asked my name, and asked Doreen if she spoke Spanish.

She said no, and he asked her to go to the center of the crowd.

That is when I walked away - I don't mind them making fun of me (I often get hoisted on my own petard that way) but I didn't want to have him teasing Doreen.

But we did make it down to El Moro.

And what a sight it was! First, as we were walking to the shop, there was a line, probably 50 people long in front of the place!

Yipes. I don't like lines.

But luckily, the line was for the taco chop next door (and they did look delicious)

The line for churros and hot chocolate was much more chaotic.

There were probably 30 tables in the place, every one of them occupied. There were probably 15 people waiting to sit.

Rather than have a line where you sign up, what you did was just stand over the table you thought would be leaving soon. No sharing tables, either!

But we did get to sit down, and our choice really came down to churros (of course) and what sort of hot chocolate you wanted.

They had Special, Spanish, French, and Mexican.

Whenever I have a choice like that I will almost always take the Special. Because of its name, it must be, right?

But Doreen had in mind exactly what she wanted - the thick, rich, and sweet hot chocolate we have only had once before - and that was in Paris at the Marche aux Puces on a cold December day.

Interestingly, when we asked which of the chocolates was the strongest (el mas fuerte) we were told the Spanish.

So we got eight churros, one special and one Spanish hot chocolate.

The place was really hopping, even this late at night (I think it was about 11:00 PM or so). Mostly families, occasionally young couples on dates. I think we  were the only gringos there.

When the drinks and treats came, we were not disappointed. The chocolate was thick and rich (Doreen's thicker and richer than mine, though I was very happy with my selection) and the churros were hot and covered with sugar and cinnamon. 

It was a great way to end the night - which was a lot of fun in spite of the lackluster food at El Cid. The entertainment there was worth it.

January 21, 2014

The Cathedral and the National Palace

It is fun to walk in crowded cities. Especially when you can see over the crowds. You can't really capture the feel of it in a photo, but there was plenty going on as we walked back to the hotel.

But first we wanted to stop by the Cathedral and the National Palace. 

The Cathedral was stared in 1573 (there you go into the 16th century!) and it took about 250 years to finish. It is now slowly sinking into the ground.

But it seemed safe enough to walk around and through

Mexico City, along with Lima, was one of the administrative centers for the Americas for Spain.

Hence the money for such a cathedral

This is  the interior of the National Palace.

They make you walk through a metal detector, as well as take off your sunglasses and your hat. I think the hat is for respect, I think the sunglasses is because they don't want any shifty eye ne'er do wells wandering through the palace.
One of the most interesting things in the palace are the Diego Garcia murals. You can see a lot of Diego Rivera in Mexico if you want to.

And you should. They all tell amazing stories. (See his wikipedia page here)

The scale of these murals is huge. They have them across half of the palace, and in the big stairways near the entrance.

There are guides waiting there to explain all the imagery, or I suppose that you could get a guide book. Most of it is pretty self explanatory.  (A little Indian baby with blue eyes, for example)

 There is a fellow to give you some scale. For some reason, it is very popular to have your photo taken in front of the murals. This was the case in the Diego Rivera Mural Museum as well.

They still use Shank's Mare as motive force.

We went up to the top of our hotel for a drink that afternoon. Doreen had a tequila, I had a mescal.

Both were delicious.

And you can't beat the view. 


Doreen and Tequila:

January 20, 2014

Walking to Alemeda Park

We got a particularly late start Saturday morning. No real reason, but we just didn't feel the need to break ground trying to get anywhere, since we didn't really have anywhere to be.

I mentioned that the hotel was on the Zocalo, but I don't think I mentioned that its facing street was 16th of September street. The reason that is important is that it is a pedestrian street. And if you know how people drive in Mexico City, you can understand why that is important. 

The mayor of this part of Mexico City is a young (38 or so) man who really believes in making the city easier to live in. One of the ways to do this is to make it more pedestrian friendly. One way to do that is to boot the cars off of several of the streets. It really works.

 It works even on the cross streets, as you can see above.

This part of Mexico City still has many buildings that were built a very long time ago. Some from the 17th century, maybe even some from the 16th century. (but I don't think we saw any of those)

And old churches:

The street below is 16th of September street: 
It is starting to get filled with pedestrians. 

This building below was built in about 1630. It is now a bank (I believe) that hosts an exhibit space. The show in place was Mexico City architecture in the 20th century. No photos allowed.

The less said about this building, the better.

A really old church. Nuns were selling refrescos out front.

This is the house of tiles. We ate lunch there on Sunday (to come!)

This is the Palace of Fine Arts. As it says in the brochure, it was started in 1900, the revolution interrupted in 1910, and was finished 34 years later.

We spent a good amount of time in Alameda Park. They have many, many fountains. Doreen said that they have all been reworked. Most of them now have very fancy spray patterns.

Another old church.

We also stopped by the Diego Rivera Mural Museum. 

It was wonderful, built around a mural that would have been destroyed when a bank was torn down. You can look it up - I needed permission to take photos, and didn't want to go down that path.

But here is a great photo of Frieda Kahlo and Diego, I think it was taken at her studio. Look at her reflection in the half opened door:

This is a bench:

Throughout this part of Mexico City, we saw tens of organ grinders. They did not have monkeys. We gave this one some coins, and took her photo with her stuffed monkey. I am sure it is better for the monkeys this way. This was the only woman organ grinder we saw.

We bought some cool baseball caps at the Palace of Fine Arts for our bike ride on sunday:

We also saw some Aztec Dancers:
 Then we made our way to the Cafe Tacuba for some typical Mexico City Mexican food.

Chicken tacos, "special" tacos with ham and potatoes, and some chalupas.

We enjoyed it quite a bit

That is me on the balcony outside our table.
 I think we wandered back to the hotel after this meal.