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April 11, 2011

ciudad de mexico, continued ...

Another long, photo heavy travel post ahead ...Mexico5One of our favorite things to do in a city is go to markets.  And if you pick a good one - one the folks who live in a place actual use - it's generally a great glimpse into life where you're visiting.  Last Thursday we headed out on foot from the Zocalo towards the Mercado de la Merced - the largest food market in the city.

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It would have been a quick ride on the Metro, but we wanted to see the city on foot.  Like we saw on the ride from the airport the day before, there's a lot happening in the streets.  And noise.  Traffic, voices, laughter, and music.  Lots of music.  Blaring loudly from cars, homes, and stores.  Big life.  And police.  In cars, filling the backs of trucks, and on nearly every street corner.  I wasn't sure if that should make me feel good or bad.

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I'm not gonna' sugar-coat things.  The area was bright, colorful, folks were laughing (we saw a guy being held down on the ground while two others tickled him).  It was also grimey and dilapidated.  We saw a lot of trash.  But did it feel dangerous or threatening?  No.  I didn't feel unwelcome - and D and I stuck out like sore caucasian thumbs.  The camera got a little attention, but no more so than I'm used to.

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And it smelled like fruit - pineapples, mostly. 
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This is also where the prices started sinking in.  A kilo of limes for 7 pesos?   That's under a dollar.  A huge watermelon for 4 pesos?  Not much more than a quarter. 

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Vendors spilled out into the streets for blocks leading up the market proper (this was taken about a block away).   

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Inside the market, the smells were amazing.  Depending on the row, there were more fruit smells, peppers, and cooking meats from the food vendor rows.  Halfway through, my eyes were stinging and my nose running from the peppers.  But while the stinging might sound bad, it wasn't ... I love peppers and they smelled so good.  (And I was really wishing we had a stove to cook on.) 

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 More veg.

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 Meats.

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 And tomatillos.  Pretty. 

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The smell of cilantro and lime wafted down the aisles too.  I don't think I'll ever smell cilantro and lime again and not think of Mexico City.  And Tacos al Pastor.  Again.  This time from a stall in the market. 

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 With a squirt of lime.

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 This was the Nopales aisle.  Cactus.

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A whole aisle (and a long one) of folks cutting the prickly bits off or chopping them (which was nothing short of amazing to watch).  You could buy the chopped one in bags - they looked like little chopped sticks of celery.  Or whole.   I'm still not quite sure how, or what, you cook with 'em.  I wanted to try them and looked for them when we were eating, but never saw 'em.  Something I still need to look up the details on ...

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Aside from the fruit, veg, and meats inside, there was a half a row of huge pinatas and the stuff to fill 'em.  There were also some decorations.  Firecrackers.  Dish towels.  Underwear.  You get the idea.  And lining the market's outside walls were more frut and veg ...

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... cazuelas and other household needs.  Tortilla presses.  Juicers.  All sorts of pots and pans.  Another section seemed to be geared towards restaurants or street vendors, selling giant grills and huge juicers.  Tons of pans and baking supplies.  A real treasure trove.

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 We did pick up a few things here.  Mole paste.  Some spices.  A tortilla press.  A cazuela. 

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We wandered in the market and nearby streets for hours and by afternoon it had gotten pretty hot.  Tired and beginning to turn pink, we started back to the hotel, ducking into this church (nearly hidden in plain site), for a break and a double-check of the map.  And found folks sleeping.  We were sorely tempted to join 'em.

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We took different streets back.  Past stores packed high with cans and bottles of drinks.  Then fabrics and vinyl and foam.  And on past the church where Cortez is buried. 

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And bug after bug.

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 Back at the hotel we put the neighboring 7-Eleven to good use for bottles of much needed, cold water.  

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 We hung out in the hotel for a couple of hours.  Cooled off.  Showered.  And drank a lot of water. 

 

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And then we had an adventure.  Plaza Garibaldi.  Mariachi bands gather there to be hired.  (Or play for whoever will pay 'em.)  There were a lot of them!  Some were good.  Some not so much.  We found a place to eat with a table outside and listened.  And ate.  Then hired one we liked and they played.  It was fun - definitely an experience.  As was getting to the Plaza from the Metro stop ... 

 

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We knew going in that it was a "seedy" part of town and coming up out of the Metro I was immediately uncomfortable.  It looked like a war zone.  I've never seen anything like it.  Trash blowing, refuge piled - feet high - blocking the sidewalk.  Peep shows.  But even given the warning the neighborhood came with, and it's look, the closest we came to an "issue" was being propositioned by a tranny hooker - a first, though not really an issue considering "no, gracias" covered the exchange - walking all the while.  *chuckle*   BUT we knew what we were walking into before we did it.  So weren't surprised.  Had no wallet, not much cash, and no camera - just our phones.  And was it worth it?  Totally.

The next day Jose asked us where we'd gone.  He raised his eyebrows when we told him we'd been to La Merced and the Plaza.  He said  "Oh!  Well ...  " in a way that made it seem the two spots weren't tops on the list of sites he helps people see.  Then he shrugged and said "Ah, but that is Mexico." 

And that's what we wanted to see.

More to come ...

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Fabulous account. The house colors are amazing. Why do all of our house colors have to been beige or some variation? The pink house was my fave. And I am hungry.

more good stuff! my grandfather supported my mom and her five siblings in Mexico playing in a mariachi. My family is from Monclova, Mexico and he used to travel to Nuevo Laredo where the tourists were located.

Thanks so much for sharing your adventure. Your photography is breathtaking, as always!

You would think that my favorite photo in this group would be the lavender market stall, but no. I love the last photo. Can't wait till your next post.

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Hi! I'm Heather, and welcome to my blog! I stamp, I travel, I make stuff, I cook, I take tons of photos - and you'll find a little of all of that here!


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