201011 Mexico City DF – Guadalajara Day 4

Day 4 is split between DF and Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico.  We didn’t plan much for the day but ended up with a very satisfying experience.

We indulged a little bit of sleep in during the morning and then checked out a busy and upscale shopping area called Polanco in Mexico City DF.  In the past few days, we managed to sneak in some time to check out different shopping areas such as San Angel and Zona Rosa.  Compared to those two areas, Polanco is more approachable and more upscale, the shops are also more condense.  Randomly, we walked around, checking out the chic looking restaurants, car dealers and shops.  Sometimes a colonial style building will appear from nowhere.  We reached Liverpool, a big department store that is probably the equivalent of Nordstrome in the US.  The store has a food section where we found Mexican wine Casa Madero and Casa Grande.  Casa Madero priced at a reasonable 300 pesos range but Casa Grande easily doubled that.  No wonder it is not easy to find Mexican wines abroad, their limited production along with high prices make it hard to export outside.

In the afternoon, we navigated the airport to find the Aeromexico Airline terminal which has its independent location and takes longer time to arrive.  Although not the cheapest airline, Areomexico proved to be valuable when we arrived at Guadalajara. 

As we arrived, we were stranded.  Even Lonely Planet did not have any information about public transportation to downtown centro.  We asked an airport staff who advised us to wait for a free shuttle to Terminal Terestre, and then switch bus to Centro.  Striked by luck, we got on the Aeromexico shuttle and he told us that the airline offered service of taking us to the downtown office free of charge.  From there we have the choice of taking a taxi which will be only 70 pesos.  The full taxi fare from airport to Centro is 260 pesos.  It’s also a much faster service as taking a public bus would be a 3 hour ride. 

Sitting in the car, the ride to Centrol was boring and scary because there was absolutely nothing interesting, beautiful or descent to look at except a few restaurants and private school buildings.  I was shocked at the difference between the capital city and the second largest city. 

Our hotel is within walking distance to downtown, so we spent the evening walking around and hunting for good food.  The Centrol area was crowded and fun.  The Dias de Los Muetos decorations were still around, along the plaza in front of the cathedral. 

Dias de los Muertos deco in front of cathedral

We also saw an interesting fire ball game played by some Indian kids who were celebrating the pre-hispanic tradition.

Indian kids playing fire ball game to celebrate pre-hispanic tradition.

 Interestingly, within a two-block walking distance, we saw 5 Chinese restaurants, which was more than the total amount we saw in Mexico City DF in three days!  However, the food they are selling looked aweful and the menus are full of deep fried stuff. 

Dinner was settled at La Chata, a frequently recommended place by hotel and tourist information center staff.  The restaurant has quite some history and the interior was painted with bright yellow and lined with blue tiles.  Guadalajara sits in a different state called Jalisco and the famous dishes seemed to be quite soupy.  We ordered Zopole, the signature dish to try among other things.  Zopole is a thick soup with chicken meat and oaks, barley, like porridge.  With three days of spicy oily tacos in my stomach, Zopole felt like heaven to me. 

The heavenly Zopole.

 At night, we opened a bottle of Mexican wine, a 2008 L.A. Cello Petite Shiraz from Valle de Guadalupe.  The retail price was 986 pesos.  It was delicious beyond my imagination.  The body was meallow yet smooth, the flavor was earthy, strong yet well balanced.  unlike a lot of bitter petite syrah I tasted in the US, this one was very well composed and simply tasted great without much decantation.  It totally knocked my socks off!

Although not a lot happened today, I was very happy and content with good food and wine wrapping up in high notes.

 

 

201011 Mexico City DF Day 3

Day three is our excursion day and it was full of information and activities.  I have to say that sometimes joining a local tour is a better deal than doing everything on our own and today proved to be one of those days.  For 861 pesos, we joined a full day tour that covered 3 famous sights.  It was much easy for transportation arrangement and we learned condense knowledge about Mexico’s history and culture.  It was well worth the money and time!
 
Highlights:
  • Three Cultural Square
  • Basilica de Guadalupe
  • Tequila tasting
  • Teotihucan

We started the day bright and early with the first stop at the Three Cultural Square.  I have to admit that it isn’t a highlighted must-visit sight on most tour books, but this place builds a good foundation of knowledge for the Basilica de Guadalupe.  The Square contains pre-Hispanic (temple and pyramids), Colonial (the Santiago Church) and contemporary (the inside of the church) cultural elements.  The church inside the Square has the statue of Verdadero re trato de Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian who saw Virgin Mary and brought rose which is non-native to Mexico to show Franciscans that Mary wants to build a chapel. 

Three Cultural Square, the temple and the church

Our guide also gave us a bit broader knowledge about Mexico City.  The city was founded back in 1300 by the Aztecs, at the time it was called “Meshico,” meaning the world and the moon.  When the Spanish came, they couldn’t pronounce the word and changed it to “Mexico.”  The city was built on a lake, so every year it sinks about 2-3 cms.  So far it has been down 7 meters in the past 500 years.  The symbol that represents Mexico is the eagle (the sun), the snake (the sand) and the cactus (water). 

From the Square, we moved onto Basilica de Guadalupe, which brought me big surprises.  I thought it was just a modern church from the pictures most tour books show.  As it turns out, it is actually a group of five churches, old and new that honors Juan Diego’s vision of Mary. 

The original cape of Juan which was used to hold the roses and left Mary’s face on it was in display on the big round shape cathedral, built by a Mexican architect.  The cathedral can host 10,000 people in a mass; on the busy Sunday we visited, it was packed with pilgrims.  Next to the modern cathedral is the old cathedral, where we visited the painting of the event, which is also carved on the outside of the basilica.  The third church was built on a hilltop, with a boat shape structure to offer thanks to Mary for letting them sail safely.  The fourth church has Juan’s tomb, because Juan converted and served Mary until his death at 76 years old.  The last church is the Church of the Hole, where there is a hole that produces holy water from the underground lake.  Surrounded by these churches is a big plaza where we saw Aztec people dressed in their costumes and danced.  Although being Aztec, they are actually very Catholic.  Inside the plaza, there is also a monument with music programmed to chime 96 songs about Mary. 

The original cape with Mary’s face on display inside the contemporary basilica.

The basilica is so huge and crowded that pilgrims have to observe the cape via this electronic belt.The inside of the new basilica with tens of thousands of pilgrims in a mass.The old basilica next by.The story of Juan meeting Mary being carved outside of the old basilica.

 
 

The new and the old basilica standing on the plaza side by side.The faithful Catholic Aztecans.

 
 
Unavoidably, our tour included a gift shiop stop but it turned out not to be a bad thing.  There is a huge agave plant outside of the shop for demonstration and we learned that the leaves can be used to make paper.  After growing the plant for eight years, the core will be cut out and fermented to make Tequila.  We sampled some Tequila at the shop as well.  The Mexican way of drinking it is to first put some salt and lime juice on the rim of the lips and then take a shot of the Tequila.  In my first try, the flavor blended in perfectly well and I got scent of the refreshing hint of lime cutting through the hard Tequila.  The trick is to have a well balanced salt and lime flavor, which means good control on the amount of salt.  When there is too much salt, it’s simply a waste on tasting any Tequila or lime.  Besides plain Tequila, we also got to try other flavors and blends, such as Amereto, the sweet Tequila, which doesn’t need salt and lime.  Besides Tequila, we also saw beautiful natural stones, they are extremely colorful and amazing. 
 

The hollowed agave plant and paper made from its leaves.

After a buffet lunch, we arrived at Teotihucan, a site that was built 2000 years ago by the Aztec people, who were hunter gatherers.  They thrived for years until a two year draught killed trees nearby and dried all rivers and forced them to move down south to seek alliance with other tribes.  In their peak time, it was estimated that more than a quarter million Azetcans lived there.  They worshipped the sun and built the Sun Pyramid with 263 steps.  They also built a Moon Pyramid to worship fertility but it is only half the height of the Sun Pyramid.  Aztec calendar favors the number 3 and a year has 364 days.  So every year, there is one extra day used to make sacrafice to the Sun God with one human being. 

We spent two hours at the site, walking from end to end, exploring the Avenue of the Dead, climbing on both pyramids.  I prefer South American pyramids a lot more than the Egyptian pyramids because they are more approachable.  We first started with the Moon Pyramid, then along the Avenue of the Dead, we checked out the houses where the priest and royals lived.  Then we picked up the ultimate challenge and climbed the Sun Pyramid.  The Sun Pyramid was actually easier though it has more steps because the steps are short and broken out in a few sections.  The Moon Pyramid however has very large and long steps, causing my thighs to tremble.   The views from both pyramids are great!  On the Sun Pyramid in particular, a soft breeze accompanying the commanding view of the entire site makes the Moon Pyramid looked like a miniature. 

The Moon PyramidAvenue of the Dead, with houses along the road.The Leopard, painted with natural colors and the stones came from volcano.The Sun Pyramid.Miniature Moon from the top of Sun Pyramid.

 
By the end of the tour, my feet were completely soar but my spirit was high, for I had climbed pyramids, drunk Tequila and learned more than I could imagine about Mexico. 

 

 

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201011 Mexico City DF Day 2

Posted on by cctravelblog
Day two in Mexico DF, we were delighted surprised by some local affairs and checked out the touristy Xochilmico, the Mexican version of Venice.
 
Highlights:

We started our day with a Mexican breakfast at Taco Inn near Bella Artes.  The Mexican coffee was excellent, black with spices, tasted smooth and mellow.  The breakfast itself is another hands-on experience, stirfry eggs with BBQ pork in tacos.  Two sights tipped us off that something big was about to happen.  One, as we walked along the major road, it was completely sealed off.  Two, a number of well dressed authority figure people were having breakfast at Taco Inn, wearing a “delegate” badge. 

Delicious Mexican coffee

Besides Bella Artes, there is a fancy post office nearby that is worth visiting.  It reminded me of the grand post office in Barcelona.

 
 
 

Beautiful Spanish style post office.

Instead of taking the tour inside Bella Artes, we decided to join the mass crowd outside, waiting for the much anticipated parade.  We asked around and learned that it was the “100 Yr Revolution Anniversary Parade.”  For tourists, nothing beats a surprise local event.  We waited and waited, seeing police and military everywhere, bringing shields and guards.  

Bella Artes

 

Police safeguarding the parade venue.

 

 

After an hour’s wait, the parade finally came.  First with a truck, then horse riders, lots of them, then a few scenes of reliving in the past.  Military muscles was flexing with tanks and heavy armos.  Flight fighters roamed the sky, loudly.
 
 
 

After the parade, we headed to our second destination, Xochilmico, the water garden.  Xochilmico took a lon gtime to get to by metro.  Once we got off the train, there were staff (probably working for the floating boats) direct us turn by turn to the embaccadero.  At the last turn, the guide followed us on the bike and at that point, it was impossible to get rid of him.  He would wait for us even we decided to take a toilet break and make sure we talked to the right boat owner for our ride.   From that point on, it was all about price negotiation. 

They didn’t want to share a boat with multiple customers, so you had to round up your gang before you got to the boat.  There were laminated pricing guides on their badge as we finally found out, and managed to negotiate the price down from 200 pesos / person / hour to 500 pesos for 2 people for 2 hours.  The  process started with the staff asking for 200 pesos per person per hour for two hour tour.  The tour time could not be cut down, but their guiding prices was 140 peson and 160 peso per person.  In some boats, they had 200 peso per hour or 100 peso per hour written on it, we suspected that those were charges by the hour disregarding headcount. 

The boat sailed on the green canal and on weekends there were quite some traffic.  We saw families, partygoers happily feasting with their own brought food and music.  There were also small boats selling food, drinks, souvenirs and flowers.  There were also Mariarchi bands selling their music playing service as well.  To fit in, we ordered one fried chicken taco lunch (very oily taco shells) at a rip-off price of 100 pesos! 

The view around was beautiful, though not much going on except a few garden or green hourse stops on the shore.  We didn’t stop at those and the sail took 1.5 hours. 

Mariarchi band selling music service.

 

 

In the evening, there was special laser show events at Zocalo.  After fighting against crowds and crowds, we ended at the square but not understanding a word about the Spanish narration.  With twenty percent of the population being police in the plaza, it was also difficult to sneak into the nearby high rise balconies to enjoy a better view. 

All in all, it was a good day with a lot of accomplishments.  Participating into local affair certainly had enlightened our spirits.

Reading Tiger Mom

Posted on by cctravelblog

Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is an unbelievably easy read!  I was amazed by her candidness and relentness pursuit to perfection for her daughters. 

To be honest, my purpose of reading the book was to find out what trick and bargains she utilized to get her daughters to do whatever she wants, but as it turns out, she had her failures too while upholding one method.

My take away is that it does take two palms to make a clap; one way parental pushing will not work if  the child does not cooperate (in the case of Sophia).  For those parents that are so proud of their children’s success, consider that they are blessed with the luck element or the obedience character of their children.

As for the second child Lulu, I think although giving up violin seemed to be an ultimate failure on Amy, she had been successfully planted the seed of “no pain no gain” in her daughter’s mind.  I believe had Lulu not gone through the painful and lengthy practice regiment with violin before, she wouldn’t understand and be willing to devote so much effort into tennis practice on her own calling.  Overall, I think Amy’s failure is not able to get her daughter’s buy-in on a common goal; instead, she just shoved her own violin dream down Lulu’s throat.  To put it to my own practice, I agree that “nothing is fun until you are good at it”, but involving the child to select a common goal is an important first step before enforcing strict practice rules.

My favorite chapter is “The Birthday Card.”  Amy unconventionally rejected her daughters’ doodled birthday cards and demanded better efforts.  What a great inspiration to me!  The fact that she constantly upholds certain standards in things balances the traditional parental mentality of one way giving (My child deserves the best in birthday parties and I’m touched by whatever he/she does on my birthday is not a fair trade.)

My friend said that she was interested in a sequel to see if there is any damage of the daugther mother relationship when the daughters have grown up.  I think to make it a happy ending, good parenting is a combination of “Chinese parenting” and “Western parenting.”  To me, this means to do a job that rentlessly prepare the child to a better future and at the same time do not uphold the expectation of them taking care of our elderlihood when time comes.  This combination is not the same as unconditional giving because as we try to balance out the need to care for our own, we let the children take part in the responsibility of making decisions for their own lives as they grow.

Baby Gift Registry

Posted on by cctravelblog

For new parents, setting up a baby registry is no simple task.  This is because there are too many factors to consider: number of items, functionalities, the duration of products in use, the guests budgets, the fun element, etc. 

First off, not everything new is better.  When asked around my parent friends about pass-me-downs, they were very happy to get rid of their clothes, furnitures and toys that their kids have outgrown.  And for me, it was also a big money saving move.  However, we also had to do our own research and smartly steer away from expired (a 5 year old car seat) or illegal items (drop down crib).  In my opinion, car seats are the hardest to inherite because by the time the original user has out grown the limitations, there is not enough useful life left for the second kid to enjoy it fully.  So you still end up buying a new one for a shorter usage time.  The useful items I got include high chair, swing and bouncer and even a brand new crib (the original owner’s daughter refused to sleep in it and the indulging parents gave in = victory for us). 

The most useful items to inherite are clothings and there can be so many!  By the time I reached the third parent, I already got my little girl’s clothes up to 3 years of age.  Since babies can grow really fast, buying new clothes may be a waste.  Many times I inherite clothes where they are brand new with price tag attached and the regretful parents told us that their kids have outgrown them before they tried them on.  Besides, pretty clothes are for pictures and social times only, nobody cares when you just wrap your baby in a blanket or towel when he/she stays at home, so why waste the money to buy so many new clothes and then spending more money to wash them and store them?

So flat out on our registry and baby shower, we asked guests not to buy us any apparel items.  That doesn’t mean every guest will listen.  We still end up with a couple boxes of new clothes, but at least we didn’t sit through the entire baby shower picking up only baby clothes.

I also found taking hospital classes to be useful.  For example, during the baby care class, we learned that the hospital will give us a thermometer and that immeidately saved us a $36 dollar item on the list and a ton of research time to identify the most preferred product. 

We limited our registry to one vendor (Target) only and add gift card as an option.  For lazy guests, gift cards are the easiest for them and the most flexible for us.  It’s also a good way of hiding the fact that they may be subsidizing the new baby’s diaper and formular while we forgo getting certain items on the registry list. 

My cousin who has a two year old also taught me a lesson.  She explained that I should think about items that can last a long time, such as a nursing pillow that lasts 9 months with multiple uses (assist breastfeeding, help the baby with tummy time and sitting up) and diaper pail that lasts about 3 years until the baby is potty trained.

When we register at Target, the standard template started out with 75 recommended items which gave us a heart attack.  I could not imagine having 75 items sitting in an already crowded house and seeing them collect dust in 3 months when the baby outgrows half of them.  So we started with the super basic and make sure the items stay within $25-$30 price range so guests feel good about contributing while keeping their wallets relatively intact.  We threw in a couple baby entertaining toys that look cute and fun to satisfy some guests who needs to awe and arh at the cuteness of baby items.

We also thought about some friends who like to contribute as a group.  In those cases, they would probably come up with a bigger lump sum of money and be able to buy one big item.  So I put a couple >+$100 items in the registry, namely a car seat and a rocking chair. 

All in all, I registered 26 items, of which I received 16 of exactly what I wanted.  One lesson I learned is that bottle warmer is not a necessary item because I received 4 of them, with different vintages and different brands.  This is because the item seems to be thoughtful and falls in the right price range.  But really, running the bottle through hot water is all that is needed to get the job done.  Having to return and re-gift actually takes more work than I thought.  Luckily I only need to take one trip, for the remainder items that are not exact fits from the registry or without a gift receipt, they are sitting in a corner of the nursery waiting to be re-gifted.

Glucose Test

Posted on by cctravelblog

Before WK 26, the doctor ordered me a glucose test to make sure I am not at risk of Gestational diabetes.  It is basically a blood draw test to measure my sugar level.  Hearing from other experienced mothers, it is wise to conclude that passing this test is very important and essential to the next few months’ life styel.  How so?

The process goes that first, a one hour non-fasting blood test is ordered.  If it is not passed, depending on the level of failure, a three hour pre-fasting blood test is ordered subsequently.  If the failure persists, then a diet consult is in order and daily measurements of blood testing may be needed for each meal.  This means you have to prick your finger with a special blood sugar measurement pen before and after each meal to track what is driving up the blood sugar and to monitor the proper sugar level.  Imagine doing this six times a day for the next three months.  I was told that “pretty soon you’ll run out of fingers to prick.”  Yike!

As for my personal experience, I failed the first one hour test marginally but I passed the three hour test.  The three hour test was harder as the lab technician draws my blood once I arrive, then gives me a bottle of 10 oz sugar water to drink (have to finish in 5 minutes), then in each subsequent hour she draws my blood again.  With four needle holes on my arms, I also suffered from some side effect of the glucose water, namely nausea, vomitting and stomach gas. 

When I think back, I think I did some stupid things (that caused the failure of one hour test) and some smart things (that helps with the passing of the three hour test) that are worth sharing:

This exercise does make me sympathize those genetically diebetic patients.  There are so many limitations on what they can eat and without the diversity of food, life is just not as fun. 

At last, now I can resume to my normal diet with a careful indulgence in desserts!  Hooray!!

The Kicking

Posted on by cctravelblog

Twenty something weeks into the progress, I have started to feel the baby moving.  Although not very frequent, the movements can range from some minor bubble bursting to a strong squeeze.  The doctor said that until week 26, I’m not required to keep track of the movement or panic that it doesn’t happen frequently.

Frankly, I’m more annoyed by the movement than enjoying it.  First of all, most of the movements happen during night time when I am about to go to sleep, which makes me wonder if that means the baby won’t have a normal sleeping schedule when she is born.  The doctor told me that maybe because when I lie still I become more attuned to the movements compared to day time when I am constantly moving.  Regardless, I am not sure I like the movements, especially not knowing what they mean or have much control over it.

So far, the only way I find it working in containing the movements is deep breathing.  Just like doing yoga, once I start to breathe deeply in, I imagine my belly expands and giving more room to the baby and usually the movements stop, at least during the deep breathing ritual.  I heard that patting my belly also works, which I tried briefly and seemed to be OK.   But honestly, why would I want to hit myself constantly?

Any other tricks out there?

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