Adventures–planned and unplanned–in Mexico City

Read previous: Independence Day Abroad

July 6, 1968

We got up at 8:30 and I had the experience of ironing a shirt and a dress on a round table. Despite the struggle, the pressed garments didn’t look too bad. It’s funny how, for years after, I would recall this experience and think about how lucky I was to have an ironing board with edges.

After breakfast, we headed to the San Juan Market on a bus where the sweetest little boy sang beautifully for tips from passengers. Everybody works in Mexico City.

When we arrived at the Market, we walked first through the colorful and naturally odoriferous produce building, which had fruits and vegetables of every description. Next, we walked across the street to the merchandise market. We were amazed at the number of leather goods, baskets, serapes, and silver pieces for sale. We wanted to buy most of what we saw, but we practiced restraint because there was so much more to see.

We left the San Juan Market and took a bus to La Merced, an almost indescribably lush marketplace. There was a huge building with nothing in it but fresh fruits and vegetables. Charles and I had to pray for willpower to keep from buying a tomato, a cantaloupe, or a watermelon. This produce was as beautiful as one could imagine.

Outside and all around the building on the sidewalk were men, women, and children of all ages selling everything from shoes to almonds and peanuts. We went to markets underground and found huge sections of clothes in the most vibrant and beautiful colors we had ever seen. It was almost overwhelming to the senses. In another section, there were more baskets to be sold than we could have imagined existed.

After so much sense stimulation from things to see and buy, we decided to go back to Chalpaultepec Park to visit the Archaeological Museum. Having never been to Central Park in New York City, we marveled at the fact that this Park with so much to see was in the middle of Mexico City.

We didn’t know which bus to take so we took a guess and, WOW, what a bus ride! We thought that if we took a bus on the main street near San Juan Market, it would eventually go back to the Reforma, the main thoroughfare across Mexico City. After we boarded our best-guess bus, the driver turned the bus around and proceeded to drive in the opposite direction than we thought we would be going. We had a map, so we tried to keep some sense of direction by following the bus route on the map. But as soon as we thought we had located our position on the map, our bus driver would turn the bus on two wheels and take off down narrow side streets, careen around circles, and on and on until we had no hope of figuring out our location. We were sure that we went places no tour would ever go and no guide would ever recommend.  

On our mad bus ride, we saw the beautiful University of Mexico and lovely houses near the university in an area appropriately named University City. While there were many shops here, as well, we didn’t get off the bus. Since we couldn’t locate where we were on the map and could not communicate with the driver, we decided to enjoy the trip and hope the bus would eventually retrace its route and finally take us to some familiar place.

To our horror, after a long ride, the bus went to the bus terminal with just the two of us left on a bus that earlier had been packed with people like sardines in a can. The bus terminal was a vacant lot that looked like the city dump. Near this place was a series of very small dwellings made of tin and rocks inhabited by some of the poorest people we had ever seen.

There were about five buses ready to leave the terminal, and our language handicap was more apparent than ever as we tried to figure out which one to board. Finally, after pointing at the place we wanted to go on the map, we were directed to a particular bus. Feeling some sense of relief after getting on what we assumed was the right bus, we realized that we didn’t know when or where to get off the bus. We were poor babes in the woods. Luckily, there was a young man on our bus who was at the terminal when we were trying to find out which bus to take, so he knew that we were hopelessly lost. Though he never acknowledged us during the bus ride, when he was getting off the bus, he called out to us and indicated where we should get off the current bus in order to catch another bus.

 It took more than half an hour to get on the next bus because of the crowds. We finally reached the Reforma, a place we knew. There, we took a bus back to Chapultepec Park, where we took a tour of the Archaeological Museum. Our tour was in English, and that made a huge difference for us.

It was after the tour when the effects of not eating for eight hours, having anxiety about being lost, and being on our feet for so long began to take their toll on us. We dragged ourselves aboard yet another bus to get back to the hotel. It was such a relief to shower since my deodorant and that of our fellow passengers on the buses failed very early during the day, not to mention having been puked on while on one of the buses.

In deciding where to go for dinner, we considered the fact that we were starving. Gambling on a good restaurant was just too risky, so we returned to the Chalet Suizo. Charles wanted to try a dish he had seen on the menu when we were there before. We arrived to discover that the menu had been changed and what his mouth was watering for was not available. We both enjoyed pepper steaks, however.

After dinner, we decided that there would be no more buses on this day. We walked back to the hotel, and I hand-washed my puked-on clothes in the bathroom sink before we went out again. We went to Las Gitanerias to see Flamenco dancing and to listen to classical music. We decided to splurge and take a taxi to the club only to find that there was no show on this night. We looked on the bright side and said that it was fine because we were dead on our feet.

Evidently the taxis were not empathetic to our plight: After waiting and waiting, we ended up walking back to the hotel. Needless to say, we slept soundly after an exciting day.

Looking forward to seeing a bullfight and moving on to Puebla!

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