Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Just one of those days.

This morning was an early start but not by choice, purely by jet lag - the UK is six hours ahead. However we decided to make the most of it and cram in as much as possible before the group meeting tonight at six.

Our first port of call was the hotel restaurant for a quick breakfast. I ordered an omelette which arrived with the statutory refried beans on the side! I wasn't exactly sure that was the kind if thing that appealed first thing in the morning and maybe not such a good idea for us both to be eating them three times a day, with the erm, 'repercussions', especially whilst sharing a room, but hey, I was starving and TC and I had travelled India together for two months and nothing could beat those 'repercussions'.

After breakfast we made our way towards the Latinamericano building. Completed in 1956 it was the tallest building in Mexico until the late 80's and apparently the worlds first skyscraper.  We were struggling slightly, both feeling a bit rough from the high altitude in Mexico City, with headaches, nausea and general irritability, so of course going up to the 43rd floor of a skyscraper is probably not the best remedy for altitude sickness?

We reached the observation deck and looked around at the stunning views through pained eyeballs, grunted at the vista, noticing the vastness of the highly populated city and lack of grassland - then slowly made our way back down.

The best thing to do was go for a walk to try to clear our heads, avoiding the crowds that were building up in preparation for 'The Festival of the Kings' that was being celebrated over the weekend which culminates with the children opening more Christmas presents on Sunday. A special cake is eaten over this period, it is wreath like in shape, covered in sugar and dried fruit and supposed to have a tiny image of baby Jesus in the middle. However, nowadays you can find miniature plastic baby Jesuses hidden in parts of the cake? Not sure how busy A&E is this time of year with choking incidents?

Feeling a bit better we then made our way over to the Palacio de Belles Artes (the fine art gallery), one of the 75 museums open in Mexico City (with more being built), to see the magnificent and world famous murals painted by Rivera, Orzoco and Siqueiros. 

The building is absolutely stunning - Art Nouvieux style, built in Italian white marble but it was the inside that captivated me, with its red marbeled Art Deco design: sweeping black staircases and long tall pillars with a touch of Aztec style at the top of each one.

Excitedly we climbed the stairs to wonder at the massive murals covering the walls, TC was getting overly zealous and then suddenly stopped in her tracks as she stared up at the wall in front of us. I followed her gaze, eager to see the famous artwork I had heard so much about, and there it was, one of the largest murals I have ever seen, completely covered in plastic!

Apparently renovations were taking place and every single mural was covered over for the next month! 

Completely disappointed we left the building passing under a statue of a giant spider - part of the Louise Bourgious collection that was on display for all to see. But for those of you interested in checking out her work, I found it quite dark and depressing and we were wanting to see the bright colours and lively music of Mexico, desperately in need to be drawn out of the High Altitude fugue still hanging over us. 

And so we made our way over to Plaza Garibaldi, a large square surrounded by cafés and bars and filled with hundreds of Mariachi Bands competing with each other.

As we approached along the boulevard, we could see various Mariachi stood around in the streets chatting and smoking with each other, their musical instruments slung over their shoulders as they passed the time of day.

We turned the corner and entered the main square, prepared to be pounced on by the hundreds of musicians performing for their audiences filling the tables outside the bars and cafés. 

But the square was empty, most of the cafés and bars were shut and there was a deathly silence that filled the air.

It really wasn't our day; no murals, no mariachi, not even the slightest sight of a Pinyata hanging from a tree branch for us to take our frustration out on. 

Fed up and starving, we sat down at the only restaurant serving food and drinks, took one look at the menu, then glanced over at the tiny kitchen and ordered a beer! Suddenly five Mariachi appeared and surrounded us, they said something in Spanish, my travel companion translated, I nodded and they sang us a song. Picture it dear reader, a huge square, devoid of people, surrounded by closed shops except for one small and slightly grimey restaurant outside of which sat one Mexican family at one table and two fed up English girls at another, drinking a beer whilst being serenaded to about love by five Mariachi ...

With about four and a half hours to spare before meeting the group back at our hotel, we thought it would be nice to do something different. And that involved getting onto the Mexican Metro and making our way over to Xochimilco - the floating gardens. We studied the map carefully and worked out it would take about an hour to get there via three trains, we could then take the hour trip on a boat, for what was described in the guide book as 'one of the most memoriable experiences of the city' and that would be a great way to end the day and turn it into something positive.

The metro system is not only complicated but imagine being on London Underground during morning and evening rush hour rolled into one! It was quite a scary experience but we managed to make it onto our third train before looking at our watches and realising we had 17 stops to go and had already been of the metro for nearly an hour!!

Worried we were not going to make it to the meeting in time we toyed with the idea of turning back, but having come so far and not managing to achieve anything else we had intended to that day, we refused to give in and thought that the least we could do was get to Xochimilco, admire the river and the flowers, have a quick bite to eat, listen to more Mariaches, then come back.

We lept off the train at the end of the line and hurried through the street trying to cut the ten minute walk down as best we could, pushing past the market stalls and street sellers and finally we reached the 'embarkation point'. But there was no lovely open river to look across, no river side cafés to sit at, no Mariaches (again), just what seemed like hundreds of red and yellow boats crammed next to each other moored up side by side floating on the water.

A man walked over to us trying to sell us a river ride, after a bit of bartering we agreed to squeezing in a thirty minute trip at a discount, still giving us time to enjoy it, have something to eat on the boat and get back to the hotel in time for the meeting.

Yet again things didn't go as planned: no food was provided on the boat, the river ride itself was far from relaxing and beautiful as the water, it was still crammed with other boats all trying to make their way through and we were running out of time, then suddenly TC realised she needed the loo, desperately!

Our 'captain' managed to turn the boat around and we headed back to shore, I was worried we wouldn't make it back in time to catch the train and make the meeting while TC was worried we wouldn't make it back in time for her bladder to hold out. I could hear here anxious breathing and groaning behind me and kept telling her to think of other things to keep her mind off a full bladder, but I guess that probably wasn't an easy thing to do when we were surrounded by water. This truly was a race against time. 

We got to shore, she lept off the boat, I lept at the Boat master paid him and hurried after my poor panicked travel companion who had managed to find a loo just in time! Passers by were laughing and calling out to her in panic - I think they knew!!

Once relieved, we walked back towards the train station, still starving hungry but laughing and exclaiming " It's just one of those days".

But at least we made it in time for the meeting ...

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