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On being Bourdain: Mexico City

We left LoJo at the campground in Teotihuacan, and headed into Mexico City by bus and the surprisingly efficient Metro system. This is the second largest city in the world with over 20 million people, but it was a relatively easy journey in on public transit. Ben and Emma decided to go the same time as us, so the four of us rented an apartment in the trendy Roma neighborhood to experience Mexico City as locals…with the help of Anthony Bourdain. For those who don’t know Anthony Bourdain, he has a travel/food show we love called No Reservations, and his most the recent show on CNN, Parts Unknown. Each episode is in a different part of the world where he meets up with either an old friend who lives in that particular part of the world, or someone new who takes him around to meet people in their communities - and eat their food. He seems to have a genuine curiosity about people, their culture and how their cooking reflects both. John had us all watch the show he did on Mexico City, and that became our guiding force for a few days. Almost to our peril, I might add.

One slice of Mexico City life we had to experience, according to Bourdain, was to attend a Lucha Libre match. With street food, of course. Lucha Libre is the Mexican version of American pro wrestling (WWF), and it was totally worth the effort. The "arena" was in a seedy part of town and we walked there wondering what we were getting into. Before the match Ben, Emma and John downed some sort of mystery meat street tacos. Reluctant at first to try the 7 peso ($.45 cents!) mini tacos, they each went in for two more rounds before they were satisfied. Then we headed in to the Arena. Inside, we bought a beer (which they only sold as doubles,) and settled into our seats. In spite of the purely enterainment aspect, there is serious athleticism and acrobatics required to pull off some of the more impressive lucha libre moves. And unlike in the U.S., the true identity of the wrestler is kept secret - hence the masks. Oh, and leotards! It's sort of a Mexican soap opera played out in a boxing ring, with good guys and bad guys. Unlike much of life in Mexico, the good guys win in here most of the tim which might be why it's so popular. We watched several warm up matches, and each match got better in terms of choreography and stunts. By the end of the night we were fans!

(sorry for the crappy iPhone photos. We left the cameras behind)

The (un) impressive Arena Mexico

Negotiating tickets. Not so easy through bullet proof glass.

Luche Libre!!

Stands out front selling masks and stickers. Everybody has their favorite.

The brave ones...

We've had lots of street food on this trip, but this caldron of boiling mystery meat (in THIS neighborhood) was so Bourdain worthy.

Good luck with that, darlin'.

El Mystico. John's favorite.

Complete with dancing girls, bright lights, jumbo tron screens and grand entrances. Awesome.

The other recommendation from Anthony Bourdain was to visit a local cantina. These traditional watering holes are no-nonsense places with simple tables, long polished bars and old school waiters. Locals congregate at these places to hang out together, usually away from their women. They are strangely very well cafeteria bright. According to Bourdain, as more drinks are ordered, free food shows up and it gets better the more you drink. A powerful incentive. Unfortunately for us, the food never really materialized. So then we really tried to get free food. More drinks. All we got for our efforts was a bowl of pork rinds. By the time we understood no tasty morsels (a la Bourdain's depiction) were showing up, we were well on our way to blotto. The result of too many tequilas, followed by lots of domino games, was a very rough morning. However, we think Bourdain would have been proud.

Roaming around the Centro Histórico with Ben and Emma (pre cantina!).

Dominos and Mezcal. And no free food. Ugh...

Roberto took pity on us when he saw us being clueless with the dominos. Not sure if we remember much of what we learned.

We said goodbye to Ben and Emma the next day (proably best since we could all barely speak), who were headed out to the Yucatan. John and I spent the day getting our hair cut, and then roamed around the posh neighborhood of Polanco. A very different kind of local life. It was apparent that in this very big and vibrant city, there is no middle class. You are either poor or very, very rich. Call center jobs are considered a very good wage, and they earn $40 a day. We talked for a while with a waiter at one of the nicer restaurants where we had lunch, and he told us he clears about $10 a day (in San Francisco, a waiter in a nice restaurant probably makes a couple hundred dollars or more). The minimum wage here is $5...a day. Between the violence in many parts of this country and the lack of any opportunity to earn a living, it's easy to see why people look for a better life in the States. In every nook and cranny of this city, people are eeking out a living, many of them on the streets or in the markets. It was hectic and busy, but Mexico City surprised us by its character, too. We really enjoyed the little neighborhood bars and cafes, and think we had a good sampling of the city.

Street in the Condesa neighborhood.

Every street had anything and everything for sale. How about some goldfish...under a phone booth?

Local market. It was huge...with blocks and blocks of produce, meat, household goods, taco stands, you name it.

No idea. Absolutley no idea...

The Catedral Metropolitana

...mucking about in a gallery.

John and I got hair cuts at Alfredo's salon. The salon was preserved as if it was1976. So was Alfredo.

Our last day we did fit in the touristy side of things by spending all day at museums. Mexico City has an amazing number of museums. We hit the Museum of Modern Art, a 1960's building housing contemporary works from Mexican artists. We also hit the new Soumaya Museum, built by one of the richest men in the world, Carlos Slim, to house his personal collection - over 70,000 pieces. Talk about a guy with too much money. It is a hodge podge of just...stuff. The building is striking however. It rises up 150 feet, before it canopies like an oversized mushroom. It feels part NY Guggenheim and Bilbao. John also went to the Anthropology Museum (I was done).

We had talked about going to a soccer match while here, but the idea of manuevering our way out to a stadium with over 100,000 people just wiped me out. So, on our last night we hit a sushi restaurant that had the futbol game on - perfect. And with that, we closed out Mexico City.

Museo de Arte Moderno

Museo Soumaya Exterior

My take on Salvador Dali

Channeling Clive Custler at the Anthropology Museum

Food and fútbol...finally

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