Saturday, April 26

As has recently become my custom, as we set out for the airport, I slipped a CD into the player and played a relevant song to set the mood for the trip. The song I selected? "Mexico," by James Taylor. Of course. "Oh, Mexico / I've never really been, but I'd sure like to go." We were on our way. After a quick stop at IHOP for breakfast. Our last American food for nine days.

Before we caught our flight, I exchanged my dollars for pesos. The exchange rate these days is about 10 to 1, so my USD $300 became about MXP $3000. I felt rich. One interesting thing about Mexican coins - they apparently have a higher iron content than U.S. coins. I carry my paper money in a magnetic money clip, and all week long, every time I took my money clip out of my pocket...

picture of coins sticking to my money clip
Magnetic Money

After an uneventful flight, we landed at Benito Juarez International Airport, Mexico City (w) , Mexico (w) . Unfortunately, it was a gray, cloudy day, with a little rain.

After getting off the plane, it took us quite a while to get out of the airport. First, we had to go through immigration, and get our passports stamped. Next, we had to stop off at the office of the agricultural ministry and present North's paperwork (rabies certificate, etc.), so that he'd be allowed in the country. Then we had to get our bags, and go through customs.

They had an interesting method of selecting passengers at random to have their bags searched. Everyone who goes through has to push a button. When you press the button, a light lights up. If it lights up green, you go on through. If it lights up red, you get searched. Well, wouldn't you know - we got the red light. But the woman who searched our bags was polite, professional, and quick. A couple of minutes, and we were on our way.

So, when we finally got out into the public area of the airport, we found everyone waiting for us:


her parents, Benche and Jenny...

Benche's real name is Wenceslao (El Buen Rey...)

her brother, Alex (Alejandro)...

and Alex's son, Andy (Andrés)

Martha commented at one point that it sometimes gets confusing, having a nephew and a husband with the same name.

Also waiting for us, in addition to Martha's family, were...

Hector and Malena

Hail, hail, the gang was all there. I'll make a brief digression about language at this point. As I've already mentioned, Hector speaks English fluently. Malena and Martha also speak English, and so does Alex. Benche and Jenny, however, have only limited English (about like my Spanish). So Terry had to interpret for us.

At one point, when we were at Martha's family's house, Andy started talking to me - he was trying to show me some of his videos, I think - and I had to tell him, "No hablo Español - solo hablo Inglés." (I don't speak Spanish, I only speak English). Poor kid - I could see the gears spinning in his head. He just couldn't quite seem to grasp the concept.

End of digression. So anyway, we picked up our rental car, Hector and Malena got in the car with us, Martha's family all piled into Alex's car, and we all set off to a restaurant across town. And so began my first driving adventure in Mexico City. At this point, I hadn't yet acquired the atlas I mentioned earlier, so I had to follow Alex. I drove with my heart in my mouth, knowing that if I lost Alex, I would be well and truly LOST!

But we got to the restaurant with no trouble - Los Panchos, desde (since) 1945, the sign said.

Another digression, this time on food. Terry and I eat in Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles quite often - I sometimes joke that of all the Spanish words I know, at least half of them relate to food. But in Mexico, I found a lot of things on the menus that I had never seen in Mexican restaurants at home, and I had no idea what they were.

Case in point: molletes (mo-YET-ays). These consist of a French roll cut in half lengthwise, spread with beans and cheese, optionally topped with ham, bacon or sausage, and toasted. A very popular breakfast item in Mexico. Not to be found on the menu of any U.S. Mexican restaurant I've ever been to.

Of course, Mexico abounds with U.S. imports - McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Starbucks, Denny's, etc., etc. I absolutely refused to go to any of those places. I just don't see the point of travelling all that way, just to go someplace I can go to at home. (Although Hector continually asked us - with tongue in cheek, of course - if we wouldn't like to stop at Starbucks or McDonald's.) I also refused to eat anything resembling American food, even when it was on the menu (i.e., hamburgesas (hamburgers)).

With one exception. I'm a diet soda junkie - I usually go through two or three a day. I'm not aware of any Mexican brand of diet soda, so I drank diet Coke all week - except in Mexico, they call it Coca Cola Light. Same difference. But Coke seems to have the exclusive franchise on the entire country. Hector tells me you can occasionally find Pepsi, but I never saw it. At home, I prefer Pepsi to Coke, but in Mexico, it was Coke or nothing.

Anyway, at Los Panchos, we had our first of many delicious Mexican meals. Sopa de tortilla (tortilla soup), grandes platos (large plates) of carnitas, piles of tortillas, several kinds of salsa. ¡Ay, que bueno!

picture of us having dinner at Los Panchos
Festin Méxicana (Mexican Feast)

After dinner, we drove to Martha's family's house...

Casa Espitia

...on Calle de Manuel Carpio.

Calle de Manuel Carpio

And who was Manuel Carpio? Hector didn't know. I did a Google search, and I found this reference. Don't know if it's the same person, though.

Here are pictures of their back yard:

At the house, we were introduced to Alex's two dogs...


...and Duna (aka Frau Duna)

Martha's mother, it turns out, is a painter, and several of her paintings were hanging on the walls. Here are three of them:

She also made the metal frames.

And that was it for the first day. We visited for a while, and went to bed. Here's a map that shows the approximate locations of the day's adventures:

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