Sunday, October 22, 2017

Bread of the Dead

In August on my previous trip to Mexico City the restaurants were all advertising "chiles en nogada", the scrumptious stuffed peppers covered in walnut sauce.  It is traditionally served in the late summer and early autumn.  The season for "chiles en nogada" is coming to an end.  I have only seen two restaurant signs saying that they still have the "chiles".  

However, now, as the Day of the Dead approaches, another seasonal specialty is being offered in the bakeries... "Pan de Muerto", Bread of the Dead.  I saw this banner on a bakery not far from my apartment.

Nowadays there are some bakeries that make fancy Bread of the Dead with fillings such as "dulce de leche", chocolate cream or hazelnut cream.  Those are very yummy, although purists would insist on the simple, traditional bread.  That is what this bakery sold.  I could not pass up the opportunity to go inside and buy my first "Pan de Muerto" of the season.

The round loaves have decorations representing cross-bones, and they are sprinkled with sugar.  "Chiles en nogada" is something that a few restaurants will serve all year long, but once the Day of the Dead season is over you will not find "Pan de Muerto" anywhere until next October.  So enjoy it while it is available!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Gifts for the Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead, that uniquely Mexican holiday which honors the dead and at the same time pokes fun of death, will be here in a couple of weeks.  I bought a couple of little presents to give to Alejandro's seven year old nephew.

I wrote that I was in a market a couple days ago and found a lot of Day of the Dead items already for sale in the stalls.  I purchased this little, clay jack o' lantern, handmade in Oaxaca.  It cost 20 pesos, just over one U.S. dollar.

I also bought one of the sugar skulls which are traditionally given to children.  I did not buy this in the market where these sweet confections are sitting in the open, exposed to any passing bee or fly.  Instead, I picked one up at the supermarket, where they are hygienically packaged in plastic.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Adventures in Bill-Paying

Yesterday I wrote that the city office where I usually pay the water bill is closed due to earthquake damage.  On the window there was a sign with three other offices listed.  After looking at Google Maps I found that one of those offices is accessible by Metrobus.  Line 2 of the Metrobus runs eastward.  If I get off at the bus stop near the corner of Rio Churubusco Avenue it is only a four block walk up that thoroughfare to reach the office.

So this morning I went to board the Metrobus.   But there was one problem... none of the buses listed as its destination the end of the line.  I am not familiar with all the stops along this route, so I had no idea if they were going far enough or not.  Finally I got on one of the buses to see where it would take me.

There was a reason why the buses were not listing the end of the line.  Somewhere along that route there was a protest march, and the buses could not get through.  We reached a stop where everyone had to get off. 

This was as far as I could go.

Fortunately it was only one stop away from where I needed to get off.  The area was not the greatest neighborhood... as a "gringo" I certainly stuck out like a sore thumb.  One of the other passengers who got off of the bus, a gray-haired fellow, started conversing with me.  He asked me where I was from.  I told him, and explained why I was in this neighborhood far from the tourist track.  He sort of took me under his wing and asked a couple of people to make sure that the office I was seeking was indeed nearby on Rio Churubusco Avenue.
When we reached that avenue, he pointed me in the right direction and said good-bye.

I found the office without any problem, paid the bill, walked back to the bus stop, and finally made it back to the familiarity of my neighborhood. 


Something to Look Forward To

One of our favorite places to eat in Mexico City is a chain of restaurants called "El Cardenal".  I have written about "El Cardenal" numerous times here on the blog.  The chain prides itself on serving traditional Mexican cuisine.  (I'm not talking about the tacos and burritos that so many gringos think make up the entire repertoire of Mexican cooking, but the wonderful and elegant recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation.)  Alejandro and I have eaten at three of their restaurants... the original one in the historic center near the main plaza, the one next to the National Museum of Art, and one in the picturesque San Angel neighborhood.  They have all been consistently excellent. 

Just a few blocks from the apartment there is a small shopping mall which includes a Superama Supermarket where I do my grocery shopping.  Over the entrance to the mall's underground parking lot I saw this sign yesterday...

Hurray!  "El Cardenal" will soon open a restaurant right here in the neighborhood!  There are plenty of restaurants around here, but many of them are U.S. chains, taco joints (some better than others) or little places that serve an inexpensive afternoon "menu of the day".  Soon we will have a place nearby that serves fine Mexican dining.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Venturing Out

Today was the first full day of this trip to Mexico City.  As usual, the first day consisted of running errands, such as going to the bank and to the supermarket.  Here in the immediate neighborhood, everything appears normal, and you would never know that one month ago today the city suffered a devastating earthquake.  According to the owner of the apartment, this area is built on bedrock and is rarely effected by seismic events. 

However, I had another errand that took me a bit farther afield.  I had to go to a city office to pay the water bill.  It is a pleasant walk of about fifteen minutes that takes me across Insurgentes Avenue into the neighborhood of Colonia del Valle.  I was only a few blocks away from my apartment when I began to see signs the earthquake... no collapsed buildings, but definite damage.

This building was cordoned off and had some serious cracks.

This upscale apartment building has lost some of the stone facing of its façade.

This apartment lost even more of its facing, and a pile of rubble sits at the corner.

I have no idea how serious the damage to these buildings is, whether or not they can be repaired or if they are now structurally unsound.  There are many buildings in the city which are still standing, but which will have to be demolished.

I arrived at the office where I was going to pay the water bill.  I found that it was empty and closed.  A sign on the window said that due to the events of last September 19th, this office will remain closed until further notice.

The sign also listed three other offices where the utility bills may be paid.  However none of them are within walking distance.  I am going to have to ask Alejandro if any of the locations are easily accessible by public transportation.  Or perhaps one of them is close to his office, and he can pay the bill for me.

On a more cheerful note, on my walk back to the apartment I explored a neighborhood market building.  Mexican markets are always interesting and colorful.

There were a variety of pumpkins for sale.  Halloween customs from the U.S. are merging with the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead (November 2nd), and jack o' lanterns have become more common.

This stall had a wide selection of the comical skeleton figures known as "catrinas" and "catrines" which are a big part of the Day of the Dead celebration.

These sugar skulls which are given to children are another traditional part of the Day of the Dead.

Flying Down to CDMX

Yesterday I flew to Mexico City... or CDMX as it is officially abbreviated. 

Going through security in Cleveland, I had to open one of my carry-ons.  The container of fudge that I was bringing for Alejandro's family had aroused their suspicions.  When they saw the fudge, one of the guys said, "That looks good."  I told them it was home-made, and he joked, "Well, we can't allow that to go through."  I often read complaints that the TSA employees are rude and unprofessional, but I have always found them to be courteous and, in this case, possessing a good sense of humor.  I suspect that the people who complain the most about TSA are the ones who have a snippy attitude themselves.

My flight from Cleveland to Chicago on United Airlines was typically cramped.  Fortunately it is only an hour flight, and the seat next to me was empty, so it was bearable.

At O'Hare Airport I made it to the international terminal just as Interjet Airlines had begun to check in passengers for their 1:00 P.M. flight.  As always, traveling on Interjet was pleasant with plenty of leg room.  The flight was not extremely full.  I always select an aisle seat.  The middle seat next to me was vacant.  However the window seat was occupied, so I couldn't scoot over to take photos of the take-off and landing.  We departed on time, and arrived in Mexico City a half hour ahead of schedule.

I do have one complaint about Interjet however.  This is the second time that they did not have the immigration forms to hand out on the plane.  Often referred to as a tourist card, it must be filled out by foreign visitors and presented at immigration at the Mexico City airport. 

When I got to immigration, the line was perhaps the longest that I have seen there.  Usually you will find immigration forms on the counters there, but there were none to be found.  While we waited in line, I finally got the attention of an official, and told him that there was an entire flight of passengers here that needed tourist cards.  He went and got the forms and handed them out to us.

After passing through immigration and customs, Alejandro was not there waiting for me.  He was stuck in traffic.  He finally arrived, and drove me to the apartment that I rent.  On our drive from the airport... crawling along in rush hour traffic... signs of the recent earthquake were not obvious.  I did notice one apartment building that was heavily damaged.  Alejandro said that it was one of the now uninhabitable buildings that was slated for demolition.

I am now settled into the apartment, and ready for another month's stay in CDMX.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ready to Go

Tomorrow morning I return for another month in Mexico City.  I have a bit more house cleaning to do and a couple last minute items to put in my bag, but other than that, my check list of things to do is completed.

My social calendar has been busy for the last several days with friends who wanted to see me before I take off again.  My high school buddy who endured hurricane Maria and its aftermath in Puerto Rico arrived in Ohio last week.  We had a chance to get together a couple times over the weekend.  He is definitely saying good bye to the island which has been his home for several decades.  He has to return to tie up loose ends, but he is not going to do that until electricity has been restored.

My flight leaves tomorrow morning at 9:20... not quite as early as some of my flights in the past.  Once again I will fly on United to Chicago, and then on Interjet Airlines to Mexico City.  I will arrive at around 5:15 P.M., and Alejandro will meet me at the airport to take me to the apartment that I rent.  

So, my next post will be from Mexico!