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Mexico City – no worries with guides
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Claudia and Bill Perozzi/The Edge
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Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013 10:12 am
Mexico City – no worries with guides
By CLAUDIA and BILL PEROZZI
Of The Edge
The Edwardsville Intelligencer
|
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[b][url=http://www.outlettiffanyonline.com]cheap tiffany & co jewelry[/url][/b] Editor's note – Former Glen Carbon residents Bill and Claudia Perozzi are living every retiree's dream – they are traveling the world. The couple resides in California now. Here's the latest from their most recent trip.
[b][url=http://www.outlettiffanyonline.com]tiffany jewelry outlet[/url][/b] Does a bargain trump a fear? Maybe for my husband Bill. But not for me.
As we planned a trip to Peru, Bill noticed that we could take a stop over in Mexico City for no extra charge. That wasn’t enough to entice me to a country currently known for drug wars and kidnappings. Even our State Department didn’t recommend going there.
Then we consulted our friend Hertha who was born and raised in Mexico City and had recently visited there. She told us that she had a wonderful time on her trip but, of course, she had family and friends there and she spoke Spanish. Figuring that contacts and language could make the difference for us too, Hertha put us in touch with her niece Karen, a Mexico City resident, who would become our guide and translator for two days. Knowing we had a guide lined up made a big difference for me and she trumped my fear.
As Karen advised, we took an authorized taxi from the Mexico City airport to our Gran Hotel in the midst of the historical district. This building used to be a market before its transformation into a magnificent art nouveau hotel with a huge Tiffany style glass ceiling over an open lobby encircled by balconies. Sightseeing started for us right at our hotel.
When we checked in we were told we had been upgraded to a suite because there was going to be a loud prom in the lobby that evening. Extended family is very important in Mexico and the whole family, from grandparents to siblings, attends the prom.
Our suite had a large living room lit by a crystal chandelier and included a dining area. Through a solid door we entered our bedroom and saw a canopied bed, elegant furniture and a marble bathroom. All this for no extra charge. After a complimentary lunch, we returned to our room to find two men inside. Not to worry, they were delivering a plate of chocolate covered strawberries and a basket of fruit. And still no extra charge.
This gracious reception emboldened us to start exploring on our own that afternoon. In a nearby archway we were entertained by a mother and her two children singing and playing guitars, performing, not begging. Across the street, spread over ten acres, we saw the huge central plaza, Zocalo, where in 1521 the Aztec Montezuma met the Spanish Cortez and native life was never the same. In September this is the focal point for the annual celebration of Mexico’s independence from Spain, gained in 1824. Surrounding the plaza on one side are shops, on another side are governmental offices, on another is the National Palace and on the fourth side stands the magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral.
At the cathedral we hired an enthusiastic guide who helped us better understand this amazing church with fourteen chapels. The silver altar in the back was only outshone by the gold altar in the front. In the center we heard a choir rehearsing heavenly music. Also in the center our guide showed us a pendulum which graphically demonstrated that this enormous cathedral is sinking because the ground under it is unstable. Attempts are under way to shore it up but success is not assured.
When the Spanish built the cathedral they did not allow natives inside so they congregated outside. Today, outside the cathedral, many watched indigenous healers as they chanted and danced around colorful displays of medicinal plants and herbs. We were happy to see this renewed appreciation of indigenous culture.
Next to the cathedral we found the ruins of Templo Mayor, an Aztec temple. Spanish conquerors had torn down this native temple and built the cathedral on practically the same site, as they did throughout Latin America.
Legend has it that when the Aztecs searched for a place to settle, their leader had a vision of an eagle sitting on a cactus and holding a snake in his mouth. The story goes that his vision came to life on the spot that became Templo Mayor, their new home, and now this image is repeated in the center of the Mexican flag. 
 The next day, after another authorized taxi ride, this time to Coyoacan, we were warmly welcomed by our guide Karen in front of the home of the artist, Frida Khalo. Touring Frida’s home was like wandering through one of her paintings. The blue house was shaded with lush green plants and accented with touches of bright red, orange and yellow in tiles and furniture. Her exhibited artwork and some by her husband Diego Rivera made the whole house into a museum of artists not afraid of vivid colors. 
  Frida’s bed was nestled in a nook and on it her death mask showed her trademark unibrow. A mirror on the ceiling above her bed allowed Frida to see and paint herself. Nearby, an old wheelchair and a pair of crutches also reminded us of her serious accident. Her injuries may have slowed her down but they didn’t stop her.
  Karen drove us to the main plaza of Coyoacan so we could see a phenomenon Hertha had described. Inside the church of San Juan Bautista, gazing up at the ceiling, we saw a painting of the Last Supper which seemed to be facing us. As we walked down the aisle toward the altar, at some point the image turned and seemed to be facing us from the other direction. Amazing! 
The next day with Karen we concentrated on urban Mexico City, first in the historical district, where we walked from our hotel to the Latin Tower. From the observation deck we could see the city with a population of over 20 million, sprawling under a light haze of smog. In the distance in Chapultepec Park was the site of our next destination, the Museum of Anthropology.
 The museum is free to Mexicans on Sunday, the day we visited, and the line to enter stretched for blocks and blocks. It would have been worth the wait but Karen directed us to a second entrance with a shorter line. This museum is spectacular with room after room of artifacts depicting the history of humans in the Americas. Most notable is the huge circular Aztec Calendar which happily didn’t herald the end of the world.
 As a fitting finale to our time together, Karen, Bill and I attended the Ballet Folklorico in the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts. This ornate, white building is capped off with a golden dome that glows at night. The art deco interior includes the amazing stage “curtain” of opalescent glass in the form of a window looking out onto snowcapped peaks. The show was equally spectacular with colorfully costumed dancers from specific regions in Mexico. Twirling dancers and mariachi musicians blended Spanish and native influences capturing the Mexico of history and of today.
 On our own again and on our last day we joined a tour group arranged through our hotel. In a small van with another fine guide we traveled north to reach the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. At this site it is believed that a peasant, Juan Diego, saw a vision of the Virgin Mary who told him to build a church. When the bishop required proof, Juan Diego gathered roses as instructed by the Virgin and they were transformed into the image of the Lady of Guadalupe on Juan Diego’s cloak.
 On one side of a huge plaza stands the old classical Spanish basilica which has developed serious cracks due to subsidence. Previously the cloak with the sacred image was displayed there but now it has been moved to a relatively modern, open design cathedral. Along with many other tourists, we lined up on a moving walkway for a brief view of the awe inspiring sight. Mexican Catholics’ devotion was further displayed by a large group of pilgrims gathered under a banner as they silently entered the shrine.
 From the Catholic Shrine we traveled on to the Aztec Pyramid, Teotihaucan. Actually this sight has many pyramids--tall ones to the moon and the sun and smaller ones for each day of the year. We began at the home of the ruler where we were surprised to learn that he had running water, a toilet and a tub in his highly decorated dwelling near the temples.
 Huffing and puffing, we climbed tall steps up the Temple of the Moon. This gave us the lay of the land as we saw numerous relatively small pyramids in two rows on either side of an open elongated strip of land. In the center on one side stood the Temple of the Sun, even taller than the Temple of the Moon. So, after a deep breath and a climb down, on we went to the tallest temple.
 We had seen in the movie about her life that Frida Khalo, injured as she was, still climbed up the Temple of the Sun. She was my inspiration as I took one step after another until I reached the highest plateau. Here, the climbers seemed to have a special reverence. Some stretched out their arms at each compass direction. The alignment was amazingly accurate.
 I realize I have often used the word “amazing” but from the time I arrived the word “fear” hadn’t entered my thoughts or feelings. I’m so glad my fear didn’t stop us from visiting the capital of Mexico with its friendly people, its rich history, its vivid colors, its strong family ties and its great spectacles--all at bargain prices.
  Geographically Mexico may be in North America but it is thoroughly Latin and it served as a perfect entry way to our next destination, Peru. 
© 2013 The Edwardsville Intelligencer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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