Madrid

Madrid

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Dinner for One

Usually on a Saturday night, Alejandro and I go out for dinner.  But today Alejandro was at the hospital with his mother, and I was alone in my apartment trying to get over the sniffles.  After spending the afternoon dozing and reading, I got dressed to go out and eat.  There are a lot of restaurants in my neighborhood, but the area is not noted for its fine dining.  A lot of the restaurants are U.S. or Mexican chains.  There was one restaurant a short walk from the condo that Alejandro and I have noticed on previous visits, and we have said that we should try it some time.  It is an Italian restaurant called "La Posta".  I decided to go there this evening.

When I arrived around 6:00 P.M. the restaurant was not crowded, and, by the time I finished my meal, I was the only one there.  The afternoon dinner crowd had left by then, and the nighttime supper crowd had not yet arrived.  


I started with a very good soup of roasted tomatoes, green olives and goat cheese.


 For my main course I had something that was a mixture of cuisines... fettucine Stroganoff. 


It was tasty, although the beef tips were rather chewy.

For dessert I had panna cotta.  I had heard of it before but had never tasted it.  I had it in my mind that it was made with bread since the Italian word for bread is "pane".  In fact it is sort of an Italian version of flan.  This panna cotta was flavored with strawberries and amaretto and was very good.


My meal was somewhat on the expensive side by Mexican standards... 370 pesos or around 19 dollars.  It was a good dinner, although not spectacular.  However, I might take Alejandro here someday to share one of their pizzas.

In Quarantine

I felt it coming on yesterday... the first signs of a cold.  This morning I was certain.  It's not a bad cold, and I have no fever, so it is not the flu.  Nevertheless, I didn't want Alejandro and his family to catch it, so I decided to go to the apartment for the weekend.  

This morning I packed a few things that I needed, and took the Metrobus to the condo.  The bus from Alejandro's house was not crowded and I had a seat.  However, when I transferred to the line going down Insurgentes Avenue the bus was jammed.  That surprised me since the stop where I transfer is only the second stop on the Insurgentes line.  

After more than an hour on the buses, I made it to the condo... and I hoped to resolve the problem of getting a key to the new lock on the front door of the building.  The owner of the apartment has been emailing the building administrator, insisting that I should be given a key.  The administrator finally responded and said that the doorman would give me the key the next time I come to the building.

I entered as I did before, using the garage door opener that I have been carrying with me.  I went to the doorman and asked him for the key.  He said that he wasn't authorized to give it me.  I told him to call the administrator.  He did, and I now finally have a key!  I do not care much for this new doorman.  I don't plan on bringing him coffee and donuts the way I did with the previous doorman!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Market Day

Thursday morning when I went out for breakfast in the Nápoles neighborhood, across the street from the restaurant vendors were busy setting up a "tianguis" or outdoor market.


The word "tianguis" comes from the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, and it has been a part of Mexico's culture for time immemorial.  Every neighborhood will have at least one weekly "tianguis".  In Nápoles there are two (if not more) markets each week.  On Sundays there is quite a large "tianguis" in which the street just around the corner from my apartment is closed to traffic and filled with market stalls.

On Thursdays there is a smaller market.  In this case, the street is not blocked off.  The vendors' stands are set up on the sidewalks on three sides of the neighborhood park.  Here you find not just fruits and vegetables, but everything from shoes to underwear to houseplants.  I know that I have written many times about the markets in Mexico, but whenever I see one, I cannot resist taking more photos.




 


This fellow was frying up "chicharrones" (pork rinds).



If shopping makes you hungry, the "tianguis" always has places where you can eat, such as this taco stand called "Tacontento"...  which is a play on words.  It could be taken to mean "Taco contento" ( Happy taco) or "Está contento" (He or she is happy). 



Thursday, January 18, 2018

Children of the Corn

After spending the night at the condo in the Nápoles neighborhood, I ventured out to have breakfast this morning at a nearby restaurant called "Hijos del Maíz" (Children of the Corn).  I have no idea if it was named, tongue in cheek, after the Stephen King horror story or not.


"Hijos del Maíz" is a chain of small, unpretentious restaurants that specialize in "chilaquiles", a typical Mexican dish that can be served for breakfast or dinner.  There are numerous variations of the dish, but the indispensable ingredient is "totopos", the fried pieces of corn tortillas that are the original version of our tortilla chips.  "Chilaquiles" are a common way of using up left-over tortillas.

The menu offers a variety of different kinds of "chilquiles", and I ordered the "cochinita pibil".. the Yucatan peninsula's version of pulled pork.  It was a tasty breakfast, and I will probably return to try some of their other variations.



A Change of Scenery




Yesterday a prepared meal was going to be delivered to the house, and I had also made a big kettle of soup.  I didn't have to worry about cooking for Alejandro's family, so I took off to spend the day and night at the condo that I am renting.  There were a couple of errands that the owner of the condo had asked me to do, and I needed to pick up some clean clothes.  (I had almost used up the clothes that I had packed, but I have plenty of clothes at the condo.)

Even though I didn't leave until 10:00 A.M. after the height of the morning rush hour, the Metrobus was very crowded... so crowded that I had to push my way off when I had to transfer from one line to another.  It took over an hour to arrive at my neighborhood of Nápoles.  The problem of getting a key for the new lock on the front door of the building still had not been resolved in spite of numerous emails written by the owner in Chicago to the building administrator.  However with the garage door opener that I had with me I was able to enter the building.  Inside the apartment, the temperature was cool but not nearly as cold as Alejandro's house.  The condo has a lot of windows that allow the morning sun shine in.

After doing the errands that I had to run, I went to one of the numerous restaurants that serve a "meal of the day" for the afternoon dinner.  I then did an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood.



Even though Nápoles is a modern, quite Americanized area, there are constant reminders that you are in Mexico...


...a vendor on the street selling cups of freshly sliced mangos...




...a lady along busy Insurgentes Avenue selling balloons...




...or the many stands along the street where you can get a shoe shine for the equivalent of about one dollar.

This advertisement for Guillermo del Toro's latest movie, "The Shape of Water" ("La Forma del Agua") is very unique.  There is actually bubbling water within the glass panels of the sign.



In many of the plazas and parks of Mexico City there are metal, sculptural pieces with the letters CDMX... the new official abbreviation for Mexico City (Ciudad de México).  However in a couple of the green spaces of the Nápoles neighborhood I saw similar displays but with the letters BJ.  I took me a minute to realize that the letters stood for "Benito Juárez", the "delegación", or city borough in which Nápoles is located.



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Getting Out of the House

Yesterday I didn't have to cook for Alejandro's family, so I ventured out on my own.

Fortunately, Line 6 of the Metrobus, the most recently completed line, passes just a couple blocks from the house.  As with most of the Metrobus lines, the bus stops are built in the middle of the avenue, and to each side are lanes reserved for the bus.


I took the Metrobus just a couple stops down the road to a nearby shopping plaza which includes a Walmart, where I did some grocery shopping.



After returning to the house, and putting the groceries away, I then decided to take a walk around the neighborhood.

Alejandro lives in a section of the city known as San Juan de Aragón which is in the northern part of the city about half way between the airport and the Basilica of Guadalupe.


It is not an elegant or beautiful part of Mexico City, but is more typical of the vast bulk of the city than the areas with which the typical tourist is familiar.

One of the commercial streets of the neighborhood is Camino San Juan de Aragón (not to be confused with Calzada San Juan de Aragón which is the thoroughfare along which the Metrobus runs).  The street is lined with all sorts of small businesses, from auto repair shops to opticians to corner grocery stores.  Many of them are little hole-in-the-wall establishments.

  
Along the residential streets, the houses face directly on the streets.  There are no front yards or back yards, and the houses are built right up against one another.  (This is typical throughout Mexico.)  Some of the homes look quite nice and are well maintained... others not so much.  Along the sidewalks there are bushes and small trees, some of them pruned into geometric shapes.


I once wrote in another post that the names of the streets within a neighborhood often have a theme.  Here most of the streets are named after Mexican port cities.


Puerto Acapulco is another commercial street.


Along Puerto Acapulco Street you will find the neighborhood market building.  


It is not an especially large market, but it has the typical variety of stalls selling food, clothing, housewares and many other products.  As always, the produce stands are the most colorful.


Hanging from the rafters are piñatas for sale.


All along the side street that runs by the market are outdoor stalls selling a wide variety of merchandise.  Alejandro says that this is technically not a "tianguis" (outdoor market) because these stalls are here all the time and are not just set up once a week.  On Monday, many of the merchants had not set out their wares, but on weekends it is a very busy place.
Although the street is open to vehicular traffic, it is the pedestrians who pretty much control the street.


Carry-out chicken (pollo) establishments are very popular.  KFC does exist in Mexico, but I didn't see one in this neighborhood.







A number of times Alejandro and I have gone to this bakery for bread and pastries.


But during my walk, I came upon this pastry shop which looked quite tempting.



The menu posted outside of this little corner restaurant made me hungry.  They had all sorts of tamales and crepes.


But I didn't try out the restaurant.  It was nearly 2:00, and there would be dinner waiting for me at the house.  

Monday, January 15, 2018

Shivering in the Tropics

Mexico City's location is in the tropics, but, as I have said before, its climate is moderated by its elevation.  Well, the last couple days the weather has "moderated" down to being downright cold.  This morning, for the second day in a row, the temperature has been 32 degrees Fahrenheit when I got up in the morning.

Yesterday the house never warmed up, and when I sat in the living room I was wrapped up in a blanket.  My feet never were cold all day. The high temperature was in the low sixties Fahrenheit (the afternoons usually rise to the seventies).  I went up to the roof to enjoy the sun.  Although the sun's warmth felt good on my face, there was a chilly breeze at my back.

Alejandro left very early yesterday morning to go to the hospital.  He won't be back until this evening.  His sister Sandra returned home later in the morning, and immediately went to bed.  She had not been able to get much sleep at the hospital the night before.  

For Sunday dinner I fixed penne pasta with sauce.  The sauce was from a can, but I doctored it up, and it wasn't too bad.  I had also bought some meatballs to serve with the pasta.  Meatballs are one of little Ezra's favorites.  They weren't like the ones his grandmother makes in a tomato broth, but he seemed to like them.  He asked for three with his pasta and he ate them all.  There was one meatball left over, and when I asked him if I should save it for him for his evening supper, he enthusiastically said, "Sí".

For some time a neighbor, who prepares home cooked meals as a business, has been bringing food to the house once a week.  Sandra has now arranged to have meals delivered three times a week, so today I don't have to cook.