2018, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Mexico City Day 2 Friday October 26, 2018

This morning we woke up and headed down to the bakery a few doors down. (There was one right below us too, but they were undergoing renovations into a more conventional restaurant while we were staying there.) We both ordered Pan de Muerto in honour of the upcoming Day of the Dead and because we had no idea what they were. We thus discovered the wonder of the Mexican bakery; they are wonderful and they are everywhere. Literally everywhere. We would eat at this bakery every morning because it was so good, but everywhere we went there were wonderful baked goods on display. I don’t know how the entire population isn’t obese.

After breakfast, we headed back to the Bosque de Chapultepec, to walk through it to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, which is located in the norther part of the park. 

I was introduced to the museum through Museo, a film I saw this year at TIFF. The little bits I saw of the building and its collection were fascinating to me but I didn’t realize how interested I was in seeing it until we were in Mexico City and it was a short walk from our place. 

If you go to one museum in Mexico City, I feel like it should be the Anthropology Museum. I don’t know of course, I’ve only been to three museums in Mexico City, but this one is something else. 

First of all, it’s the rare museum where the building itself is an attraction:

by Ziko van Dijk / CC BY-SA 3.0

This picture does not do it justice. Here we go:

This is an incredible building, and not just the courtyard you see here. Every part of it feels thoughtful and interesting, and the entirety is surrounded by gardens. In fact, as Jenn said, we’ve never seen a museum with so many gardens.

Then there’s the collection, which is incredible both in its size – there are numerous items from seemingly every era of Pre-Colombian Mexico. But the impressive thing is how many of the pieces are complete. I’m so used to shards and fragments, not completely preserved objects. Some of them really incredible.

By Adrian Hernandez [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Additionally, they’ve reconstructed what they couldn’t fit in the collection or otherwise couldn’t display, making many of the rooms feel more like you are in the old buildings rather than in a museum. It is just a remarkable, remarkable place. One of the best museums I’ve ever seen. Oh, and for some reason, the day we went in, it was free.

After the museum, we wandered up to Polanco, a high end shopping area. It was clear that we made the right decision, staying in Condesa/Roma instead of Polanco, as Polanco felt like another planet from the rest of the city. (It reminded me of neighbourhood we stayed in while in Bogota.) We found a small, popular flautas spot to eat, instead of the fancy restaurants on the main road, and then Jenn went shopping. I had never had flautas before; they are pretty tasty.

After Jenn finished shopping we headed to the Centro Historico. We got off the subway and were instantly harangued by people giving away things and selling things and begging. Downtown is totally different from where we stayed; way more crowded and with lots of hustling. We wandered around for a bit and felt so overwhelmed by the crowds and the constant yelling about “Mexican restaurants” that we found our way into a bakery to get Jenn a coffee, and where I had one of the most expensive Sprites in Mexico, probably. 

Once we recovered, we went out into the square and saw this:

by Carlos Martínez Blando / CC BY-SA 3.0

Well, it didn’t quite look like that, because there were tons of people in front of it and because they were making preparations for Day of the Dead celebrations, but it’s still an impressive building, surrounded by many other grand buildings. In one of my great regrets of the trip, we never went inside even though we were in this square many times.

We then walked up to the north and saw a number of other slightly smaller but still grand buildings. (The Centro Historico is full of them, as you might imagine.) We saw a nice old church and the Inquisition building, among other things. 

Church in Mexico City

We found these buildings because we were looking for the 
Secretaría de Educación Pública. Why? Well, because this massive government building – the size of an entire city block – is covered with murals by Diego Rivera.

Education Secretariat Murals

This picture does not do them justice. They ring both courtyards, and they are on all three floors. There are hundreds of feet of them. They are everywhere. He appears to have painted them over the course two years or so, and I’m not sure I’ve seen anything of this scale in my life. By the way, admission is free, though you have to give your ID in order to enter, which seemed weird until we realized that the building is still a functioning government building.

After the murals, we walked back towards the main square and we stumbled upon the Templo Mayor, an old temple that was just found under the city in the late 1970s. We decided then and there that we would go to it before we left (we did) but it was too late in the day to bother at this point.

We discovered there was a beer bar off a subway top on our way home and, as we were walking towards the subway, we found a beer bar we hadn’t been able to find on Jenn’s phone. They had a great selection of beer from Mexico, the US and Belgium and, better for us, one of the waiters spoke excellent English (basically the only time in our trip this happened), which was helpful since they didn’t have a menu. We had a few decent Mexican IPAs and then went home.

As we were watching the World Series we began to hear thunder. A few minutes later the skies opened up and it just poured. We waited it out – which was easy since the World Series was on – and then went out when it was still drizzling. We tried to find a famous fish taco place but it turns out it closes at 6. Instead we went to a Uruguayan restaurant – never had it before – and had our most expensive meal of the trip, which may have been about $40 or slightly less, with booze and tip included. 

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