Just outside Mexico City is Xochimilco. As our taxi driver reminded us, not outside DF at all, but within DF and an hours drive across part of this very large city. It felt as if it was outside because it was a different DF. We visited mid week when few other people visited and in two hours we saw only two other boats on the canals. It was very quiet and very peaceful. The boats are painted in vivid colours and punted by a fit local youngster. At weekends apparently the place is packed. In fact we knew this from our Spanish class on meetings (arranging, inviting, declining). Our fictional protagonists created by the Spanish text book decided to teach us nouns and verbs and polite methods of declining by, ironically, not meeting, at Xochimilco. The reason being; the weekend crowds. Ah the lesson we learnt that day was more than cita’s, it was the practical art of scheduling our visit from DF to the canals of Xochimilco.
Xochimilco is an area that was used by the Aztecs to grow food. Canals were dug in the boggy land and the mud and lilies used to build up garden beds that were very fertile and clearly very close to an abundant source of water. The cultivation continues to this day and I understand the cash crops to be flowers that are exported far and wide as well as the usual market garden plants. The canals themselves are transport for the farmers but their revenue stream is the tourists, such as ourselves.
One more fact to be repeated without research from The Taxi Driver Wiki is that DF has more museums than any other city in the World. It most certainly has a number and we have spent a time wandering their corridors.
The Anthropological Museum was reported to us as requiring six hours of our time. No museum will take six hours of my time I reassured the family. And so it was. But we did spend two hours here which makes it a very good museum using my duration tolerance index. It is in the Bosque Chapultepec , which was also visited by our text book friends from the Spanish class (who actually don’t exist). Bosque de Chapultepec is a large park, a very large park , that delightfully breaks up the congestion of the big city.
Art and left wing politics did flourish in this city and we adventured onto the subway to discover their heart one Friday. The subway itself was an experience. It was quite an inconvenient walk to get there from where we are hotelling and the destination subway station was also quite a distance from where we wanted to visit (our final destination). Nevertheless, with stout shoes, indomitable spirit and barley sugars we set off. The metro was poorly signed but very cheap at 50 cents a ticket to go where we wished. Blind people get into the carriage accompanied not by a Labrador but by a karaoke machine, speaker and microphone. They croon along as they move through the carriage and while I recognised they were not sighted I could only speculate that this impediment was also negatively impacting their hearing. They were not the finest singers I have heard. A red plastic beaker moves from side to side ahead of them and infrequently collects coins of small denominations.
The subway was efficient and very busy. Alex and Lauren braved the Mexican gropers by not availing themselves of the mujeres carriages and stood with their family (me and Lucas, who protected them from anyone with large stomachs, greasy hair and moustaches………we know gropers when we see them!!).
We arrived at the places of intellectual political wrestling and oiled canvas in the suburb of Coyoacan. Let me say that this suburb is just delightful. The security cameras and neat houses and modern clean imported cars everywhere indicate the residents are fortunate recipients of fortunate levels of income. We spent some time wandering around this suburb after visiting the museums and really enjoyed it. Parkland, colonial churches, plazas and ice cream parlours, as expensive, and as tasty, as any in Melbourne.
We were there to see how the comrades lived. We discovered they lived very well. Until they didn’t.
Trotsky was banished from Russia and came to live in DF which was his last refuge. The banishment was orchestrated by Stalin who was a very unpleasant individual. The pictures of each the members of the 1917 Bolshevik Council in Trotsky’s house indicated the, mainly, untimely demise of each. And the ultimate survival of only one, J Stalin.
Trotsky’s first home in DF was with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and was the next museum we visited this day, a short walk from Trotsky’s house. Frida and Diego embraced left wing ideals while living in a rather lovely house in the same rather lovely suburb of Coyoacan. I am not so keen on Diego’s work. But Frida Kahlo knocked out stuff that I preferred and had a fascinating, if tortured, life of pain and imagination. I have more time for her than him and the house was well worth a visit.
Finally, one of the things that is annoying me about DF. Tipping and service levels. In restaurants waiting staff have seen foreigners arrive and recognised the joys of receiving a tip for the service they provide. In my experience they have not yet recognised the joy of delivering a service that warrants the receipt of any such amounts.We arrived here from Las Vegas where service is just fabulous and I am delighted to provide a fee for such service. In Mexico City my experience of service in restaurants is that it entails delivery of food and drink within timescales the waiting staff consider appropriate and of a quality that is not appropriate. If you have dined in Canberra you will understand poor service and have an appreciation of my experiences here. I can think of no more damning an assessment than to pull out my Canberra analogy. I shall allow my keyboard to rest at this point, on this point.
In one place we did encounter great service from people who received no financial recognition for their service and expected none. I return, as I surely must, to the theme of supermarkets. I close with two shots of the supermarket next door to our hotel. Here a superlative check out experience was experienced. The check out chicks stand at their registers, they are quick, they are efficient and they have a positive, helpful disposition. They are all the things that waiters in this city should try to copy. The supermarket has no branding that was clear to me. The plastic bags says they are Walmart, but they may simply steal their plastic bags from Walmart.