Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cuernavaca, Mexico

L. and I visited Chile last year over the winter holiday. The summer sun was intoxicating. We vowed to head South during the winter months whenever possible. So when L. got an invitation to give a lecture in Cuernavaca, Mexico, we booked our flights. We even used frequent flyer miles.

We left Boston last Wednesday and returned Sunday night, flying in just after the huge blizzard that had shut down the airport for most of the day. Good timing.

While Chile is gorgeous, I found Mexico to be even more interesting. The food, the food, the food. Did I mention how good the food was? We ate well. And the tequila was almost too good to be tequila. Our favorite meal was at a roadside restaurant where we ate handmade tortillas cooked right before our eyes, grilled meats, family-style beans, cheese and salsa. We asked our driver to take us there after we visited the Xochicalco ruins.

Cuernavaca may not have a beach, but our hotel was paradise. The city is filled with beautiful gardens, a stunning cathedral, and there are several worthwhile side trips. Our trip to the ruins was outstanding. We even got a tour deep beneath the ruins inside an ancient observatory. Luckily we had a Spaniard with us who could provide translation.

After just a few days, we headed to Mexico City where we spent Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning. We dropped our bags at the charming La Casona hotel and taxied down to the historic center. There we toured the cathedral and then saw the Diego Rivera murals in the National Palace. We ran into a Hungarian tour group viewing the murals and got to listen in to the descriptions. Small world. As it was Saturday and market day, we also got to stroll through the chaotic and teeming outdoor markets near the main square.

After a nap that evening, we again headed toward the historic center. This time we wanted to eat and then find some dancing. Even though the salsa club we had heard about "did not exist" we pushed on through the eerily empty streets toward the Plaza Garibaldi.

It was near 11pm when we arrived and the square was packed with fully decked out mariachi bands. Food stands surrounded the square and smelled divine. People were singing, dancing, eating and having a really good time. We stopped in a club (one of the many surrounding the square) and even did our own special brand of salsa dancing until 2am.

Sunday morning we strolled through the Zona Rosa, near our hotel. It is packed out with a more "refined" crowd and tons of very elegant stores and places to eat. It must have been lively there too Saturday night, but we are glad that we ended up hanging with the mariachi instead.

A few days in Mexico is not enough and I hope to return some day. Preferably during January or February!

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