(Earlier post here. Belated best wishes to all during this season of wonder and hope.)
A stack of banana leaves at a vendor's stall at La Merced, Mexico City. Banana leaves are used as wrappers for steaming/holding together food, especially in the southern regions of Mexico. In person, these were various beautiful shades of dark green, but that quality didn't show up so well in the color picture; so the Mrs. switched the image to black and white and revealed these marvelous textures. Click on this and the following images to enlarge them. This and all images by the Mrs.
In yesterday's post, I said that our primary goals for our trip were "1) Visit the Basilica on the 12th; 2) Be a little more selective about where we ate some of our meals; 3) Relax." Yesterday's post was primarily about the Basilica, so here we'll sort of cover 2) and 3).
For me, at least, the two blur together more than I'd like. Thanks to some intrepid researching by the Mrs. we ate some very good food indeed, at prices that didn't exactly break the bank. In a couple of instances, though, these places were in parts of the city that were either brand-new to me or that I had not visited in many, many years (brief example here: all I remembered about my mid-'80s visit to the National University to see its famous mosaics was that I'd gotten off at the University's Metro stop and climbed a hill . . . I had forgotten the part about walking about a mile--important because by that day on this most recent trip, the Mrs. had developed blisters), and it so happened that I was without my trusty flip-map of the city. (It is in some box, somewhere, that I know it made sense to put it in at the time as we were packing for the move, but I couldn't find it the day before our departure.) The Mrs., however, had her equally-trusty smartphone with GoogleMaps and GPS, and more than a few times that did indeed come in very handy. One morning, when in search of a restaurant that, the reviews assured us, "everyone" knew (advice to Comp students: Beware of those absolutes!), we were able to use these marvels to help out our taxi driver when he got a little turned around in the neighborhood where the restaurant is.
But I still found myself missing my map's fixed scale and, for that matter, its much larger "screen." We'd look on the Mrs.' smartphone's screen at the little dots showing where we were and where we wanted to go (sometimes having to decrease the image to make both dots appear on the screen) and she'd ask me, "How far is that from here?" and I'd have to say, "I'm not really sure." Only the very oldest part of the city (the Spanish-built, mid-16th-century part) is laid out on anything resembling a standard grid, so it's pretty easy to estimate distances there; the rest is a crazy-quilt of self-contained colonias, each with its own autonomous determination of the shape and dimensions of a city block. Lots of fun if one is wandering through on foot--the way to really get a sense of this city, huge as it is, is to a good bit of walking in it; but it's not so much fun if one is looking for a specific place and one's feet really, really hurt.
Anyway. This isn't a criticism of GPS, by any means (I've done a bit of that elsewhere in other contexts, if you really don't have anything better to do this holiday season), but just an acknowledgement that having a traditional map would have been very nice, but it was in large measure thanks to GPS and the Mrs.' aforementioned research that we had some truly wonderful meals.
In lieu of pictures of said meals, how about some images of some of the ingredients for those meals from La Merced? First some general words about this place: It is a mercado, but it's no tranquil, adobe-walled place with humble serape-wearing folk with their wares (often made or grown by the sellers themselves) spread out on blankets. Imagine a space that's, oh, the size of at least three Super Wal-Marts, filled with, maybe, three times the amount of displayed merchandise of those Wal-Marts, the shouts of venders hawking their wares, the polite pushing (if that's not an oxymoron) of shoppers, and a fair amount of visual chaos: no signage; just merchandise stacked way north of 10' feet high and the sudden awareness that, "Oh--this must be the shoe section, and that over there [one peers down a very long aisle and sees lots of gleaming cylindrical aluminum and stainless-steel things] looks like the cookware section. Maybe foodstuffs are next to that?" One should not go to this place when on a schedule or when looking for something in particular, both of which rules we violated: We went on our last day in the city (we had several hours before our flight left that afternoon, but I was more than a little concerned that we'd have trouble finding our way back to the entrance to the Metro station), and we were in search of vanilla for friends and family back home. (I could write a whole blog post on our quest for vanilla, but I'll spare you. It was just yet another reminder that I need to stop asking the rhetorical question, "How hard can this be?") But we promised ourselves that the next time we visit, we'll go there when we can just wander.
Okay: enough food. Now, below the fold, some monuments.
If you've read this far, thanks.