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D.F.

Shopping in the Mexico City Airport

As many of you regular readers may have gathered by this point, there are few things I love more than products with a Mexican theme and kitschy shops for hipsters. When these worlds combine, good things happen.

I certainly didn’t expect to find this combo inside the Mexico City airport. But as I wandered through Terminal 2 on Friday (en route to Oaxaca for the Mexico Today kickoff), I came across “DesignMX: diseño mexicano contemporáneo” located between the two Starbucks in the middle portion of Terminal 2.

Here's the low-key signage for the DesignMX shop at the MEX airport

The flurry of loud, colorful bags caught my eye as was trotting by in search of a sandwich.

I was drawn to the busy prints like a moth to a flame...

Everything in the store comes from local Mexican designers, or so I understood. The one pictured above is Sensacional de Diseño Grafico (their website is a bit hit-or-miss, but I do love the lucha computer bag in the lower right corner of the photo above). You can check out some more of the wares in the pics below– just click on the photos to see a larger version.

My old favorite itten is selling their laser-cut jewelry & decor, and my new favorite Rojo has some witty ceramic items.

T-shirts, bags, bowls, jewelry, and fun faux-crumpled plastic cups on that 2nd shelf down from the top in red/black/white.

I have always been tempted to purchase one of Mexico's popular chicken-shaped egg baskets, but I fear our dinner guests would be weirded out by our eggs sitting out at room temp.

I told myself that if I didn’t make any big purchases in Oaxaca (outside of the already-planned bottle of mezcal), I would make a return visit before my flight home. So on Sunday, I popped back in and purchased a wee gift for John:

This is such a Mexico City-specific gift, I couldn't help but spring for it.

If you’ve never driven a car in Mexico City, the above figurine (actually a coin bank!) will mean absolutely nothing to you. Those who have spent time driving, you should recognize an artist’s rendering of the bane of your existence- the “Viene Viene” dudes. To quote Noé’s packaging:

“Noé is one of the thousands of “Viene Viene” (direct translation: “come, come”) of Mexico City. These individuals claim the majority of free public parking spaces on the street in order to charge the person who wants to use it. When one decides to pay, the “viene viene” removes the bucket used to save the spot & begins to aid you in parking by saying “viene, viene, viene.” Noé  is the name of our character and its meaning comes from the play of words No E, which in Spanish translates to No Parking.”

“No E” is the abbreviation for “No Estacionarse.”  These guys were indeed on every street of even marginal popularity. Initially I found them infuriating– they didn’t own this street; how could they charge me to park on it! But eventually I became a fan– nothing ever happened to our car under their watchful eyes, and for a few additional pesos they would usually wash off all the DF grime by the time we returned. Anyway, this memorabilia was one I couldn’t resist.  (John was appropriately amused.) :)

If you’re entertained by the Viene Viene, I highly recommend checking out the designer’s site at www.arielrojo.com. They also have an awesome pig lamp that uses swirly compact fluorescent bulbs as the pig’s tail, and another bank shaped like a mattress.

As for the other designers at DesignMX besides Ariel Rojo, I’ve written about itten before, but you should also check out El Escobas & their Molote Art Toy, Liquen jewelry, MODO Museo, and the various other brands whose names I can’t read in my pictures. Check out DesignMX on Facebook, and allegedly a website is coming soon!

If you have more money to spend, the Tienda MAP (moda y arte popular) has some great souvenirs, but the prices are well above what you would pay at popular tourist spots like Ciudadela in Mexico City. They do have some great stuff though if you are running short on time; it is the wing with Gates 52-62.  Pineda Covalin also has some beautiful clothes & accessories with classed-up Mexican imagery incorporated into their fabrics, but be prepared to pay for the name/quality. (They have stores in both wings of Terminal 2 and also in Terminal 1.) Note- they do have an international website as well if anyone is inspired!

I do love this Pineda Covalin bag, but I think it was ~$200 dollars...

Finally, I would be remiss in not mentioning the best option for lucha libre kitsch at the airport– the Hijo del Santo store is also located in Terminal 2, but it is outside of the secure area near the food court by puerta 6. Don’t let this Christmas be the Christmas you come home without any Mexican wrestling-themed gifts for all your loved ones, people! Consider yourself forewarned, and happy airport shopping. :)

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  I was also invited to an all-expenses paid trip to Oaxaca as part of my role and for the launch of the program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

http://www.facebook.com/MexicoToday

The Burros are Back!!

Some things are so important to alert my readers to that I have to emerge from my 2-month blog hibernation to do so.  Any guesses what could possibly make that exclusive priority list? The Feria Nacional del Burro, of course!!

For any readers who had the misfortune of missing my live coverage from the National Donkey Fair 2010, rest assured that you can review both the emotional buildup to the event and the actual event here. Even though I knew it was unlikely that I would be able to attend Otumba’s premier annual tourist draw this year, I have been trying to monitor the innerwebs for further details to share with my many friends in Mexico City who will surely be dying to go. I was almost sidetracked from this quest by starting a new job (yipee!), but it appears I uncovered this year’s DonkeyFest just in time!!

You can review the full agenda for the 2011 Feria Nacional del Burro here. My instinct says that the day to go is this Sunday, May 1st, as that is the day of both the carnival & the burro races, as well as some burro polo. Sunday is the last day of the festival, and I have to say, all the other festival days seem heavy on bands/dance troupes and light on DONKEYS DRESSED LIKE AN AMERICAN TOURIST.  So choose your day wisely. Furthermore, do not dally or foolishly sleep in on Sunday– the good events (i.e. the burro polo) start at 10AM, and it will take you around an hour to get to Otumba from Mexico City.

The website http://otumbariam.wordpress.com/ appears to be the source of info for this year’s gathering (and they are also twittering up a storm). While it is not as witty as their now-defunct website from the 2010 event, I am going to give the Feria Nacional del Burro organizers the benefit of the doubt– surely they’ve chosen to invest their hilarity/sarcasm in donkey costumes rather than html coders. The below poster with a donkey in a frame also bodes well:

How could this event possibly disappoint you??

If you’re uncertain on how to get to Otumba, check out the ever-reliable Google Maps, or hire a taxi– Otumba is just a bit past the pyramids (a.k.a. Teotihuacan). I reckon you could negotiate a <$1000-peso rate for a taxi for the day. Once you arrive in town, just follow the braying & the clip-clopping of delicate hooves.

While I wither away this weekend in the donkey-less capital of Mexico’s northern neighbor, I am going to be relying on my faithful readers in DF to allow me to live vicariously through you. Please, report back on how the Feria has grown to be bigger & better than ever. Get your photo taken on a brahma bull. Purchase an inordinate amount of burro-themed crap. Adorn yourself in burro ears. I will be awaiting word. :)

Mezcalerias vs. Home Depot on a Friday night…

I hope to do a more reflective “my time in Mexico & how things are different here, etc. etc.” post in the near future. But for the moment, I wanted to share a snippet that really sums it up for me personally:

Average Friday Night in Mexico City:

  • get online
  • find address for hip new mezcalería/taquería/trendy bar/tasty restaurant in Condesa/Roma dripping with hipsters
  • gather together with MBA/Embassy/blogger/other random friends
  • head out for fun night
  • think to self, “This is great; I can’t believe we get to live here for two years.”

My Friday Night Tonight in Arlington, Virginia:

  • get online
  • find hours of operation for Home Depot
  • gather together my documentation for the lamp/faucet/towel rack/toilet paper holder I special ordered
  • head to Home Depot
  • think to self, “This is great, I can’t believe Home Depot is open until 10PM on a Friday.”

*sigh*

I’m not necessarily saying our lives are duller here, but let’s just say that finding this toilet on the street in DC was pretty much the wackiest photo opp I’ve had in the last month.

A toilet on the sidewalk probably wouldn't even merit a second glance in DF. :)

But I do have hope! I had my first street tacos last week from District Taco‘s cart set up in our Ballston neighborhood; they were solid, with tasty salsa verde. We discovered a restaurant/bar that sells mezcal (albeit for $14 a shot). I went to a craft show & found blugrn design, who sells paper products with lucha libre imagery (two of my favorite things). I’ve been practicing my Spanish with the guys from Bolivia who’ve been helping us with some home improvements. We haven’t moved back into our townhouse yet, but once we do, I think we’ll organize a belated posada to get our social lives moving again. And of course, my job hunt continues (any hot DC-area leads are welcome!). :)

So we’re making progress. Next on our list? Checking out whether the Washington Post food critic is a reputable source for advice on authentic Mexican tacos

Mexican food I’ve not yet tried…

As seen at Bar La Estacion across the street from Arena Mexico (the lucha libre venue):

Note: chair is not strategically positioned to block any additional letters... rather, La Estacion just wasn't the kind of cantina where there are a lot of gringas taking photos so I was trying to play it cool from a distance.

You’ll see a few common Mexican snacks listed (in varying degrees of spelling accuracy) in the white lettering. But peruse on down to that 4th line of white text. Pene en su jugo. For any non-Spanish speakers, that means pene in its own juice. (Once you click on the word reference definition, you’ll see why I’m eschewing the specific translation in hopes of avoiding further weird Google searches arriving at this blog.)

La Estacion was not serving any food the Friday evening we stopped in prior to the lucha match, so I did not have the opportunity to sample this gem.

Can any Mexicans tell me– is this a popular dish? A common dish, even? Perhaps some jokester removed some letters before pene, though I can’t think what they would have been? Your insights are welcomed.

Mexico City Airport- Terminal 1 Meeting Point

After 30 minutes spent on the innerwebs trying to find an answer to this question, I thought I would share it with any other impending Mexico City airport visitors. (Consider it a follow-up to my “Navigating the Mexico City Airport ” post from last year.)

If you are trying to either go pick someone up or meet another arriving friend at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport (AICM), Terminal 1, you will discover that there are two doors from which people arriving on international flights can leave the secured area. I am not 100% clear on how they differentiate who goes out which door (either E2 or E3, which are just on the other side of baggage claim & customs). If you get there early enough, the TV monitors outside the door should state which door people from a certain flight are exiting. However, if you get there after the flight’s arrival time, it probably won’t be on the TV monitor anymore.

So, you may be wondering, where is a good place to meet someone if you am not sure which door they are coming out of?? There is one restaurant on the lower level of the airport in Terminal 1 that is located BETWEEN the E2 and E3 departure doors. I thought I had this all figured out from the map on the AICM website, which is why I confidently directed my dad to come meet me at the name of a restaurant that I discovered no longer exists– it’s now called something different. :(

BUT NOW I know the name of this restaurant as well as location, so I can share with any inquisitive readers a definitive meeting point in Terminal 1!  And even if the name changes, you can at least describe with precision its location to any arriving friends and family.

So here's the map of the international arrivals section of Terminal 1 at the Mexico City airport. People will arrive through either E2 or E3 on the ground floor. You see the icon of the fork & knife, right next to the "You are Here" sign? That is where the restaurant is. At present, it is called Baron Rojo. Its entrance faces the E2 exit door.

The restaurant is Baron Rojo (at least as of July 2010). It has a bar, so you could go sit there & just order a soda if you don’t want to pay for food while you’re waiting. Or, you could meet right outside the restaurant. This would be basically right where the “You are Here” map is located (of which I took the above photo).

Here's one view of the restaurant, taken when I was standing in front of the E2 exit doors. You can see the restaurant is literally right next to where people come out of the E2 exit (those white glass doors on the right are in front of the secured baggage/customs area). If people end up arriving at E3, they just have to walk forward towards the long hallway & look for the overhead sign that says E2. It is a 1-minute walk.

And here's another dark shot of the inside of the Baron Rojo restaurant.

That’s my hot tip on an easy meeting place inside Terminal 1 of the Mexico City airport. Good luck & happy flying!

Tunnel art in DF: does it soothe or scare?

We went to Mercado Ciudadela yesterday evening to do a bit of Christmas shopping (FYI, it seems to closes by about 7PM). Good spot for both locals or tourists wishing to find a solid selection of Mexican handicrafts at reasonable prices (and for any visitors lacking in Spanish, several vendors speak enough English to answer questions you may have).

We drove home westbound along Avenida Chapultepec, which goes underground for maybe half a mile to avoid the messy intersection with Avenida Insurgentes (the main drag north/south through the city). As we were sitting in traffic, we had ample time to stare at the tunnel walls, painted a lovely ocean-blue. And I do mean “ocean” blue, as they are also adorned with numerous aquatic creatures who appear to be vigorously swimming along in the direction of traffic.

This open lane is a brief anomaly, because normally there is never that much space between 2 cars anywhere in Mexico City...

This open lane is a brief anomaly, because normally there is never that much space between 2 cars anywhere in Mexico City...

Every time I’ve been in this tunnel, I am torn between the following opinions:

  1. Good job you, Mexico City! How forward-thinking of you to support public art installations! Thanks for sprucing up this otherwise-crappy tunnel with these dolphin and tropical fish friends! They are so pleasant! If I stare at them long enough, I can almost imagine myself riding that dolphin to freedom- a freedom that does not involve breathing in copious amounts of exhaust fumes & listening to angry honking!
  2. So of all the options for perking up this tunnel, did simulating being trapped underwater really make the most sense here? If given enough time sitting in traffic underground, one’s mind can’t help but wandering to worst-case scenarios of either a) this tunnel collapsing, or b) this tunnel filling with water. Please, dolphin, signal the way to escape from this possible watery grave.
Flipper! Wait! Take me with you!

Flipper! Wait! Take me with you!

Good steaky-beef in Mexico City

I am not a huge steak eater, but every now and then, a big slab of meat sounds like the perfect way to create both a food-induced coma & feelings of regret over not wearing one’s “fat pants” out to eat. Conveniently, John is an avid beef fan, and has gone through the burden (?) of testing several steakhouses here in Mexico City so I can focus my beef desires on only the best. The top of his list so far is Cambalache, an Argentine steakhouse that has 6 locations in DF and Toluca.

The Cambalache closest to us is located in Polanco at Arquimedes 85 (between Horacio & Masaryk). It has a relaxed atmosphere that I imagine sees many a swanky business lunch, but also accomodates folks in jeans & a nice shirt. While it’s certainly not the cheapest place to eat in DF, I would argue that if you were somehow able to actually order *only* what you needed to eat, it would be quite reasonable. Unfortunately this is inherently impossible at a steakhouse that plops down a basket of amazing bread & herbed butter as soon as you arrive, and then has such amazing salads, veggies, and sides that you cannot help but order your unfair share. (It still turns out to be pretty cost-effective for a nice steak joint when you consider the extra meal or two you get from leftovers.) 😉

What are Cambalache’s other selling points?

  • The souffled potatoes, which is a magical, non-greasy pile of puffed-up potato slices served in a basket MADE OUT OF SHREDDED POTATOES! Thanks for the nod to carb lovers everywhere, Cambalache.
The magical souffled potatoes from Cambalache are a sight to behold. If you're feeling Euro, ask for some mayo on the side (because who's kidding themselves about being healthy here?)

The magical souffled potatoes from Cambalache are a sight to behold. If you're feeling Euro, ask for some mayo on the side (because who's kidding themselves about being healthy here?)

  • I guess the meat should get a mention. I put in a strong vote for arrachera (tender skirt steak on the English menu), but John is more of an lomo fan (tenderloin in English). Those of you in Mexico who have gotten used to ordering meat 1-2 levels more well cooked than you would normally take note– they know how to cook here so order exactly what you want (i.e. medium rare). I don’t recall 100%, but I think the 400g (1 person) orders cost $200 peos and the 800g (2 people) cost $400… I’ll double check on my next trip.
    • To look smart when the waiter asks you how you want your steak cooked…
    • rare = cruda or vuelta y vuelta
    • medium rare = un cuarto or poco hecha
    • medium = termino medio
    • medium well = tres cuartos
    • well done = bien cocida or muy hecha
  • They have a great selection of Argentinean wines at very reasonable prices for a nice restaurant. For instance, we’ve found several reds (including some tasty Argentine malbecs) in the $380 peso range. Of course for those of you wishing to spend more, the sky’s the limit!
  • If you’re not in a full-on-beef kinda mood, I might recommend a compromise– a salad with bacon sprinkled on it! The Cambalache salad is excellent, with lettuce, spinach, watercress, hearts of palm, mushrooms, sprouts, bacon, pecans & tasty dressing. I find the salads huge– I took half of that one home last time so I would have room for arrachera and free bread. 😉
  • On the dessert front, I would say that odds are low of you having space for dessert, if you’ve successfully executed the other courses. However, everyone has room for coffee. Especially coffee with booze in it. Especially coffee with booze in it that’s on fire. Peruse down to the Cafes Flameados section (aka Flambéd Coffees) for a dessert with a kick.
  • Finally for any visitors non-fluent in Spanish, Cambalache has menus written in English, so you should be able to successfully avoid accidentally ordering sweetbreads (unless your palate is fond of the occasional calf thymus and pancreas).
Bro Tim & hubby John prepare to dig into the meat & potatoes, accompanied by John's fav- creamed spinach.

Bro Tim & hubby John prepare to dig into the meat & potatoes, accompanied by John's fav- creamed spinach.

All of this said, Mexico City has a wealth of great places to eat meat. There are loads of Argentine spots, as well as the occasional Brazilian churrascaria. Additionally, it seems like almost all traditional Mexican restaurants serve a mean arrachera, which has won the honor of “Julie’s favorite cut of meat in Mexico” due to its low levels of fat, tenderness and marinade-induced flavor.

So readers, any favorite spots you would care to recommend for steaky-beef here in DF??

Who doesn’t like a good milestone like 100 blog posts?

Well kids, today marks the inauspicious milestone of the 100th blog post here at www.midwesternerinmexico.com. I am celebrating it with a wild Saturday night alone on my couch here in Mexico City, recovering from 3 final exams in one weekend & drinking a bottle of Chianti while watching possibly the dumbest movie known to man, “A Sound of Thunder”, also known as El Sonido del Trueno here on Cablevisión. For those not familiar with this timeless classic, it recounts the story of a business that sends people back in time to kill dinosaurs for sport. But then they screw up evolution by accidentally bringing a butterfly back to the present, so crazed plants and monkey-dinosaurs start taking over the world. (Ah how cliche, the old “butterfly flaps its wings” argument…) Anyway, I digress.

After exhausting my brain space on stimulating MBA topics like Competing through Strategy, Profit Planning, and Fundamentals of Managerial Finance, I am not fit to bring anything particularly exciting to my regular blog readers… But since “existence of end-user interest” never prevented any other blogger from generating new content, I will follow suit.

Two quick topics:

  1. REQUESTS: Are there any requests out there for Mexico-related topics that y’all would like to see in a subsequent blog post? As I’ve mentioned before, I am already delinquent on about 20 posts, but obviously reader requests rise to the top of the heap. 😉  (Reference recent über-popular Mexico City Airport post requested by reader Tori!) If anything leaps to mind, please give me a holler. For anyone who’s emailed me recently to no response, I promise to get more responsive… I will be back in the Midwest for 10 days as of this Monday, so I will have no excuse. :) Requests, feedback, comments, criticisms, please send them my way!
  2. BLOG BENEFITS THAT I DIDN’T REALIZE: As I’ve told several of you, I originally started this blog to serve as a venue for updates to my family & friends to demonstrate that I’d not been gunned down by drug lords. Besides accomplishing that goal (knock on wood), I have been pleasantly surprised by the following benefits (in no particular order…)–
  • New Blog Friends in Mexico City: Given the innerweb’s reputation for facilitating weirdo-on-weirdo conections, the possibility of discovering fun, normal friends in DF via a blog didn’t even really cross my mind. Luckily the innerweb’s reach has expanded as of late, and I would like to highlight a few of my recent acquaintances that I’ve had the fortune to meet in person:
  • Commenters! Who knew the excitement that could be generated by total strangers taking the time to write 2 sentences indicating they’ve enjoyed the random blather that you’ve shared with the world? Every time I joyfully read a comment or email, I remind myself to stop silently stalking other blogs & start posting comments. :)
  • Viewing Stats of What People Searched for on Google that Caused them to end up at my Blog: this is a constant source of amusement for me. After getting over my initial fascination that people were actually ending up at my blog via Google, I then began spending more time thinking “how disappointed/confused/annoyed did the person feel who ended up at my blog after searching for…”
    • reverse mullet
    • are there more pigs than people in iowa?
    • panda hunting
    • high cut leotard
    • americans in overseas prisons
    • bubble butt micro shorts
    • chihuahua kicked across room and video
    • do mexican prisons have toilets?
    • i had bacon last night, could i have pig flu?
    • is it bad to eat hot dogs while swine flu?
    • naked mexican women with sombreros
    • owl mannequins
    • what am I going to do with my life quiz
    • where can i get a mario kart drivers license?

While I realize that this post will likely simply lure in more searchers-in-vain, but at least they will find a post explicitly stating as much. 😉

Anyway, a much-deserved thanks to all of you who have followed this site & offered support over the last year+! I am excited to be entering our 2nd year here in Mexico City, and hope to see more of you down here to take advantage of all that DF has to offer!!

Saludos,
www.midwesternerinmexico.com

A Mariachi-filled Night Out in Plaza Garibaldi

You may have heard of Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City, best known as the local hub of mariachi action. I posted back in March about our visit there after the Cantina Crawl, but I thought I’d follow up with a bit more detail on how to spend a night out in Garibaldi (for those suspicious of/curious about the area).

Plaza Garibaldi: lotta dudes hanging out in a lotta tight pants...

Plaza Garibaldi: lotta dudes hanging out in a lotta tight pants...

We had heard rumors after arriving in DF that the Garibaldi area was a bit dangerous & best avoided at night. Based on our multiple experiences, we’ve had no issues nor felt remotely unsafe while hanging out in the Plaza. I do agree wandering off the beaten path onto sidestreets is best avoided. However, walking there on Lazaro Cardenas (coming from the cantinas around Calle Simon Bolivar) seemed fine (plenty of lighting/traffic around), and we’ve had no issues with getting a taxi from the sitio stand directly in front the plaza at the end of the night. John & I have taken both my brother & my parents there on separate occasions, so I would say it is an amusing, autentico Mexico experience for friends/siblings/parents alike. :)

Some of the gentlemen you may have the chance to meet at Plaza Garibaldi

Some of the gentlemen you may have the chance to meet at Plaza Garibaldi

We certainly have not explored all of the restaurants/bars/clubs around the Plaza, but what follows is a suggested Plaza Garibaldi itinerary based on what we have sussed out to date. Note: we have only visited on Friday or Saturday nights; you may want to stick with those nights for maximum bustle of activity.

Timeline A: best for visiting parents or folks who will be ready for bed by 11-12PM

7:30PM: Arrive at Plaza Garibaldi via taxi or metro (Metro Garibaldi station on line 8 or line B). There is an underground parking lot, but a) rumor has it that it’s fairly spendy and b) driving will limit your ability to drink tequila. Perhaps do a quick wander around the perimeter to suss out the available options for the evening. Head over to Mercado San Camilito for dinner. If you are facing Plaza Garibaldi from the street where the taxi dropped you off, walk towards the far left side of the plaza. You will eventually an encounter a passageway between the buildings, and the Mercado lines the left side of that walkway.

This was the stall we chose for our tasty dinner of birria, tacos, agua de jamaica, and amazing salsas.

This was the stall we chose for our tasty dinner of birria, tacos, agua de jamaica, and amazing salsas.

Upon finding the Mercado entrance, you will enter a very long hallway (or gauntlet, if you will) lined on both sides by fine dining options galore. At this hour, the vendors will likely be caught somewhat offguard by your arrival, so you may not receive “the full treatment” as you walk down the line. Being barked at by every waiter/waitress, handed menus, touched on the arm, and pleaded with to sit down & eat is not uncommon, especially later in the evening.

The colorfully-decorated ceiling at Guadalajara de Noche

The colorfully-decorated ceiling at Guadalajara de Noche

9:00PM: Walk over to Guadalajara de Noche, located at the far back of the plaza (when looking from the taxi-drop-off street) for their 9:00PM show (or espectaculo, as it is more glamorously known here). If you have a larger group/want good seats, ideally you called or emailed them earlier in the day or the day before to reserve a table. (This can be done here.) Since you are going there to watch a show, it’s worth having a table where you don’t have to crane your neck around someone to see the action.

You even get the chance to pose with a saddle, as my dad did admirably.

You even get the chance to pose with a saddle, as my dad did admirably.

This spot gives you a taste of Mexican music/entertainment at a very reasonable price with plenty of tequila options also at reasonable prices. If I am recalling correctly, the cover charge for the 9:00 show is $30 pesos (<$3 USD). If you have a quorum of tequila fans, I recommend buying a bottle of tequila which comes with 6 refrescos (I recommend Squirt to enable palomas). I think we paid around $600 pesos ($46 USD) for a decent bottle to share among 3 of us, which was, uh, plenty of tequila to go around. :) Guadalajara de Noche also serves food, but we have yet to test it out.

The entertainment consists first of a random cover band playing songs until the official show begins. Then a solid mariachi band steps out on stage, with trumpets & an assortment of guitars. (They take requests, but it is kind of a rip at around $90-100 pesos/song, I believe).  Dancers make appearances ~3 times (2 women, 2 men), clad in a variety of gorgeous traditional outfits doing a variety of traditional dances (or so we assumed). A female singer & male singer, both with impressive vocal chords, make separate appearances to accompany the mariachi band. And last but not least, a cattle-roper dude comes out with his lasso (not sure what the proper term is here… lazador,  perhaps en español??) and makes that rope dance like a varmint. The only thing you are missing at the 9:00 show that happens at the 11:00 show is the fake cockfight between two heavily-petted roosters. That is not an event to be taken lightly, but I suppose you can live without seeing it.

The mariachis make an appearance to get the crowd revved up.

The mariachis make an appearance to get the crowd revved up.

 

The dancers had these amazing, brightly-colored dresses...

The dancers had these amazing, brightly-colored dresses...

 

...but also managed a few costume changes during the performance.

...but also managed a few costume changes during the performance.

 

I too would like to be able to dance around a quickly moving rope.

I too would like to be able to dance around a quickly moving rope.

Reference aforementioned bottle of tequila & Squirts.

Reference aforementioned bottle of tequila & Squirts.

I am a fan of this place to bring visitors because a) it’s a little kitschy but not over the top, b) the music is pretty good, c) it combines the best of Garibaldi (mariachi music) with comfort (sitting indoors in chairs), d) the tequila seems reasonably priced, e) the actual show is only about an hour, making it quick & painless and f) there are generally no other loud gringo visitors, only tourists from Latin America. Between the 9PM & 11PM shows, the cover band plays popular Latin dance songs, and everyone gets up and dances on the stage. This is why having the Latin American tourists is key– they are all amazing dancers that I could watch for hours. Note: if you arrive at 9, it’s a little dead, but the audience fills in steadily as the show goes on & it’s usually full on the main floor by the 11:00 show.

10:30PM: After watching the impressive dance skills of the audience members for a while, settle your bill & wander outside back into the heart of Plaza Garibaldi. The crowd should be picking up a bit now, but this place doesn’t really hit its stride until midnight & beyond (and then goes until 5-6AM!!). Go hang out in the central bit where all the mariachis are putting out the vibe, and eavesdrop on a few songs or try to negotiate one yourself. The going-rate for a mariachi song varies widely, and seems to be driven primarily by # of band members and # of songs you buy, with a small variance for ‘quality of band’. Tip: If you are bringing guests here, look smart by doing some research in advance so you know the names of a few mariachi songs other than Cielito Lindo. I am a fan of Mariachi Loco and El Rey, to name two.

11:15PM: Head to the taxi stand and attempt to negotiate a decent rate for your trip home. For going to Polanco, we have come to be happy with anything <$100 pesos. Your visitors should be in bed by mighnight!

Timeline B: best for visiting friends, 20/30-somethings, or when you do not have plans to be functioning before 10AM the next day.

Brother Tim is well-entertained after 1/3 a bottle of tequila.

Brother Tim is well-entertained after 1/3 a bottle of tequila.

10:30PM: Arrive at Plaza Garibaldi & head directly to Guadalajara de Noche to catch some of the dancing prior to the 11:00 espectaculo. (If you’ve not eaten dinner, arrive 45-60 min earlier & hit the aforementioned stalls in the Mercado.) Order bottle of tequila ASAP. 

The more glasses you are holding in Plaza Garibaldi, the better of a night you are having. Left to right: random guy we were buying drinks from, random guy John befriended who bought John tequila shots, John

The more glasses you are holding in Plaza Garibaldi, the better of a night you are having. Left to right: random guy we were buying drinks from, random guy John befriended who bought John tequila shots, John

12:00PM: After the show wraps up, head outside to the now more-bustling plaza. You will be immediately solicited by a random dude to buy a beer/michelada/tequila shot. Plaza Garibaldi is one of the few places of which I am aware where you can drink outside while wandering around. Take advantage of this, ideally after you first find a good spot to stand & people watch. Order a huge michelada (you may want just a cerveza if you are not a fan of the added spicy sauce, or as for a michelada con limon y nada mas- just lime juice). Pause to consider your stomach strength before subsequently deciding to mix in some tequila shots.

Next, attempt to identify a competent mariachi band to perform for your group. Note: this will be challenging because all the good ones will have already been hired to go play at private parties for the evening, will already be playing for large groups of Mexicans in the plaza, or will be charging more than your tight-fisted gringo tendencies want to pay. You will be left to choose between 3 possibly-homeless men without any trumpets who are wearing trenchcoats, or 5 men whose outfits don’t match and are slightly intoxicated. Regardless of who you choose, it will make for a good story/pictures.

Despite Bertie's hopeful appearance, these guys sounded like dying cats.

Despite Bertie's hopeful appearance, these guys sounded like dying cats.

Alternatively, just eavesdrop on other mariachi performances and instead spend your pesos on the Balloon Dart Toss, the best game ever. This is located on the far right side of the plaza (when facing in from the street), near the building overhangs. Last month I finally broke my winning streak of “3 for 3 balloons popped”, thereby capping my number of horrible ceramic figurines at 2. Prices begin at $20 pesos for a chance to win the crappy ones, and increase to $40/50 pesos for the “good” ones, I think. Note: be prepared to win while using darts as sharp as a pillow.

Just look at all those amazing prizes I didn't win!! This certainly merits a return trip...

Just look at all those amazing prizes I didn't win!! This certainly merits a return trip...

Drink additional micheladas/cervezas until you realize that you have not properly assessed the available bathroom options prior to ingesting this much liquid. Momentarily panic. Then recall the bathrooms available inside & just outsidethe Mercado San Camilito, or sneak into Salon Tenampa to use theirs. (John claims there are bathrooms in the parking garage as well, but I vote for staying above ground level.) When people in your group start to complain about their feet hurting, consider going to Salon Tenampa for a drink & a sit. There is also a pulqueria in the plaza, but it closes at midnight. Over in the direction of the Mercado entrance, look for a grandma sitting on the ground with several baskets around her. These are filled with tamales; ask for a tamale verde. Alternatively, order some esquites from the corn guy in the same vicinity & try to figure out what happened to the rest of this chicken:

Esquites are an excellent street food choice of cooked corn covered with lime juice, mayo, powered chiles (perhaps Tajin seasoning) and cheese. Mmm. Shown here is some corn before the final, deliciousness-inducing steps, as well as the odd chicken foot.

Esquites are an excellent street food choice of cooked corn covered with lime juice, mayo, powered chiles (perhaps Tajin seasoning) and cheese. Mmm. Shown here is some corn before the final, deliciousness-inducing steps, as well as the odd chicken foot.

2:00AM: Consider going to one of the Latin dance clubs along the plaza or across the street. We visited one that is just on your right when facing the plaza from the street, where they tried to stick us with a fairly high cover charge. Be prepared to pay fairly high cover charge or convince some silver-tongued devil in your group to try to negotiate a hot discount. Once inside, you will witness more amazing Latin dancing that people from the Midwest are not programmed to be able to do. Try to dance to a few songs with your husband until you realize you might maim someone with your flopping around & you get frustrated because the ceiling is too low for him to actually spin you without whapping your arms on the roof. (Note: last directive may be unique to me)

3:30-4:00AM: Depart the dance clubs & make a final assessment of any additional purchases needed. Have you given sufficient consideration to a cowboy hat?

John & Ben drink their micheladas while assessing cowboy hat options.

John & Ben drink their micheladas while debating cowboy hat options.

Send your group’s most fluent/sober member to negotiate the taxi, and pile in to head home. Congratulations, you’ve just spend a nite in the land of mariachis.

El Chopo: Mexico City’s goth/metal/ska/punk mercado!

Last week my boss tipped me off to TWO new Mexico City markets with which I was previously unfamiliar:

  1. Tianguis Cultural del Chopo, a Saturday-only market dedicated towards all things rock/alternative/punk/ska/goth/weed/hippie
  2. Centro Artesanal Buenavista, “La Tienda Mas Grande del Pais con 100,000 articulos finos en 24,000 mts2″ (The largest store in the country with 100,000 fine items in 258,000 square feet)

These two mercados are located right next to each other, both fascinating in their own way & definitely worth a couple hours spent on a Saturday afternoon. Also, they are easily accessible via public transit– take the Metro to the Buenavista stop on the gray line B, or the Metrobus up Insurgentes to the Buenavista stop (just a bit north of Reforma).

The “cool” prize definitely goes to El Chopo. Their website (may I interject– well done you, tianguis [street market] with a trendy, informative website!) has a great history in Spanish. In a nutshell, the market’s been around for nearly 29 years and you can find “CDs, DVDs, records, goth clothes, sweatshirts, punk fashion, stickers, artsy stuff, live bands ploaying, emo, metal gear, urban, jamaican style, fotographic exhibitions, band members wandering around, and all that you’ve imagined in only one place!”  Additionally, the people watching (which is good in Mexico City to begin with) may rank on the “excellent” scale here. (On that front, my photos pale in comparison to one depicted above from their website, contributed by user “massiel”.) We did not have the priviledge of observing any dachsund-licking during our visit, not even dachsund-licking by flat-haired people. [Editor’s note: the Chopo website seems to have taken a dirt nap. Sorry…]

I discovered reading the website tonite that you are *supposed* to get badge to take photos in El Chopo, but we somehow managed to snap a few pictures without incident. Of course, their website also requests that drugs and alcohol not be consumed in the market, and a few sniffs of the air indicated those rules weren’t being followed tooo closely…so perhaps these are all just *suggestions*…. 😉

El Chopo pics below followed by Centro Buenavista.

Ahh ska... how you remind me of my college days, when I tried to learn how to skank (ska dancing) to impress my freshman year boyfriend, until finally I realized that everyone looks like an idiot doing it.

Ahh ska... how you remind me of my college days, when I tried to learn how to skank (ska dancing) to impress my freshman year boyfriend, until finally I realized that everyone looks like an idiot doing it.

John does his best, government-employee "tsk tsk tsk" glare towards the marijuana-decorated backpacks.

John does his best, government-employee "tsk tsk tsk" glare towards the marijuana-decorated backpacks.

It is basically only a matter of time before I break down and buy one (or more) of these lucha libre mascara keychains...

It is basically only a matter of time before I break down and buy one (or more) of these lucha libre mascara keychains...

On the end of the mascara spectrum, we have these slightly more severe masks... I will leave up to your imagination what is happening there on the left...

On the other end of the mascara spectrum, we have these slightly more severe masks... I will leave up to your imagination what is happening there on the left...

Third time's the charm: these were my favorite masks-- some enterprising merchant capitalizing on the conflicting need for healthy precautions + style with wittily-decorated flu facemasks (the sign read tapabocas de moda-- fashionable facemasks).

Third time's the charm: these were my favorite masks-- some enterprising merchant capitalizing on the conflicting need for healthy precautions + style with wittily-decorated flu facemasks (the sign read tapabocas de moda-- fashionable facemasks).

You can even find heavy metal vintage Playboy mags...

You can even find heavy metal vintage Playboy mags...

I was entertained by the "McMuerte" logo (McDeath) until I remembered that I don't have any clothes/bags/coats to iron decals onto...

I was entertained by the "McMuerte" logo (McDeath) until I remembered that I don't have any clothes/bags/coats to iron decals onto...

All the clothing you could possibly need for your next rave, seduction, or re-enactment of The Matrix.

All the clothing you could possibly need for your next rave, seduction, or re-enactment of The Matrix.

As well as all the studded bracelets and animal print belts you were hoping for...

As well as all the studded bracelets and animal print belts you were hoping for...

And as per usual, we blended in seamlessly.

And as per usual, we blended in seamlessly.

After buying some random purses made out of old records at El Chopo, we moved on to Centro Artesanal Buenavista. I was expecting another massive outdoor market, but this one surprised us by subtly lurking in the goddamn biggest low-ceilinged warehouse I have ever seen. The “What the Hell is Going On Here” prize definitely goes to Buenavista. 

First to clarify, this is not a traditional artisan market; rather a freaking-massive store. I still expected it to be bustling with people, the way every other artisan market tends to be around here on a sunny Saturday afternoon. NO. Not even close.

I think we were one of three other couples in the 250,000+ square foot store for almost the whole time we were in there. At least 50% of the overhead flourescent lights were off. If it hadn’t been for the occasional lurking store employee, I would have been convinced that we either had gotten locked in a 70’s department store afterhours, or we had walked into the movie Mannequin. Only the mannequins didn’t look like Kim Cattrall. They looked like this: 

Did someone install this mannequin's eyes upside down? And if this is a boy, should he really be wearing that much eyeliner?

Did someone install this mannequin's eyes upside down? And if this is a boy, should he really be wearing that much eyeliner?

and this:

I anticipate this mannequin being featured on the Mexican spinoff of "What Not to Wear: Your Kids"

I anticipate this mannequin being featured on the Mexican spinoff of "What Not to Wear: For Kids"

 and these two terrifying gems: a surprisingly tall hand-less male mannequin wearing what can only be described as a “doo-rag”, and a bald, handless female mannequin who appears to be in ecstacy despite that fact that her wig is lying behind her in a pile that best resembles a long-haired guinea pig.

As you can see, the well-lit clothing section was simply mobbed with people wanting to take advantage of this great assortment of ponchos

As you can see, the well-lit clothing section was simply mobbed with people wanting to take advantage of this great assortment of ponchos

I was also struck by the liberal use of space in a country where most stores fill every available inch with saleable merchandise. It felt both wasteful and luxurious (?) to see individual plates displayed on massive, astroturfed, Teotihuacan replicas:

It almost felt like I was at Aztec ruins...if the Aztecs had degrees in Turf Grass Management...

It almost felt like I was at Aztec ruins...if the Aztecs had degrees in Turf Grass Management...

and a whole wall allotted for merely this small a number of nightmare-inducing owls:

This Owl Wall scared the crap out of me. Though it appears that no actual owls died in the making of these Owl Replicas... Maybe this is where all that hair went that we damaged with hot crimping irons back in the 80's?

This Owl Wall scared the crap out of me. Though it appears that no actual owls died in the making of these Owl Replicas... Maybe this is where all that hair went that we damaged with hot crimping irons back in the 80's?

One thing I was impressed with was how the store tried to teach its customers about Mexican handicrafts, in case they are not familiar with Mexican culture. For instance, maybe there are some people who don’t know about hammocks. I know for me, this carefully, artfully-arranged display really helped to show me what a hammock might be used for:

This display certainly helped to alleviate my concerns of "Is this hammock strong enough to hold me". If it is good enough for a nude, limbless, plastic mannequin and a doll COMBINED, it should easily hold my bulk.

This display certainly helped to alleviate my concerns of "Is this hammock strong enough to hold me". If it is good enough for a nude, limbless, plastic mannequin and a doll COMBINED, it should easily hold my bulk.

Also, the store used fun characters like friendly frogs to help visitors understand proper drinking habits in Mexico:

Dear God: If these frogs actually died of alcohol poisoning, please forgive me for mocking them on my website. Amen.

Dear God: If these frogs actually died of alcohol poisoning, please forgive me for mocking them on my website. Amen.

The last thing we learned about was who we would have to talk to if we were caught shoplifting any of these little treasures:

So, uh, is this thing really for sale? Can I rent it for a Halloween party?

So, uh, is this thing really for sale? Can I rent it for a Halloween party?

And finally, we perused the housewares section, also full of surprises…

I loved this "Tequila Rack"... because who among us doesn't have 18 bottles of tequila to display in our home?

I loved this "Tequila Rack"... because who among us doesn't have 18 bottles of tequila to display in our home?

For those of you considering a bathroom remodel, perhaps you have not given fair consideration to a conch shell spout + 2 rock nubbins for handles??

For those of you considering a bathroom remodel, perhaps you have not given fair consideration to a conch shell spout + 2 rock nubbins for handles??

This decorative rooster helps to lighten the mood of any room...or at least when someone tries to emulate his mannerisms.

This decorative rooster helps to lighten the mood of any room...or at least when someone tries to emulate his mannerisms.

I don’t know that I would include Centro Artesanal Buenavista (open daily from 9 to 6) on your wedding registry per se, but I would definitely add it onto a trip to El Chopo….particularly as the store has free bathrooms that John indicated were “adequate”.  As for me, another trip to El Chopo is definitely in my future… After all, you can never have too many fashionista facemasks in a place like Mexico City. :)

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