Thursday, February 21, 2019

Mexican Muralists and Xochimilico

Wednesday, February 20th, 
In spite of the dramatic terrace view of the Zocolo, our hotel breakfast is starting to get old. I am not complaining because I can’t imagine wanting more than what is offered and I serve myself fresh papaya and pineapple, two pieces of bacon, steamed cauliflower and broccoli and a tiny fresh baked croissant. We seat ourselves and the waiter takes our coffee order; a cappuccino for me and a double espresso for Art. Our waiter asks if we would like something from the kitchen and I order a one egg omelet with mushrooms and cheese. I am more than sated when we leave and well fueled for another full day of museums. 
We start with the museums within the National Palace, just steps away from our hotel. We arrive at 9:30 A.M. but entrance to the Diego Rivera murals doesn't open until 10:00 A.M. We poke into several other nearby museums. A political cartoon exhibition is both interesting and amusing with satirical cartoons of Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and Netanyahu.

Trump and Kim Jong-up 
Michel Michka Political Cartoonist


 When we exit the line for the Diego Rivera mural is long so we head to the art gallery across the narrow street. We have this free museum to ourselves and motion lights switch on as we enter each gallery. There is a guard within each gallery and Art comments that it must be a government work program to keep people employed. Again when we exit the line for the Diego Rivera mural is still long so we walk in the direction of the Palacio Bella Arts in search the Franz Meyer Decorative Arts museum. It is tucked inside an unimpressive courtyard but the temporary Neo-Baroque exhibit is excellent and leaves us wanting more.  


Exterior of the Franz Meyer Museum
Exhibit, Franz Meyer Museum























Exhibit, Franz Meyer Museum
Most of the national museums are free and as seniors, the private museums offer discounted admission for seniors. I feel like a senior today with my legs still burning from pyramid climbing and my injured knee. Art steps into the men’s restroom and I rest on a bench nearby to wait. Suddenly two pretty young women wearing stylish museum uniforms with knee length skirts and high heels approach me and motion me to come with them quickly. I recognize the word “drill” and “not to worry” but they are insistent that I follow them outside to a breezeway and into a covered parking garage. I fumble for the word “esposo” and point to the restroom worried that Art will think that I have been abducted. A large dot with 4 arrows is painted on the garage pavement and they position me on the center dot as two dozen others are escorted to the “safety zone.” Gratefully, Art is among the others being corralled and within a few minutes the drill is over and we return to the museum.  


Safety drill at the Franz Meyer Museum
The safest spot!

















Since our taxi driver to the Condessa passed us counterfeit money, we have been enjoying the magic of Uber. Art enters our next destination as the Museo Tamayo and within minutes our Uber magically arrives to transport us to the park bordering the museum. We head straight for the museum café and Art orders the salmon and I order succulently marinated duck tacos. As usual, we share. The modern architecture of the museum is striking and the main exhibit is work by German Venegas. I try to find merit in his work but it’s a struggle.  This is the Tamayo Museum but there are only a few paintings by him. The modern art museum across the park and is excellent and we spend two hours wandering the four wings. Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, David Siqueiros and Ricardo Martinez are just a few of the artists represented here.

German Venegas
German Venegas


Paintings by Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo 
David Alfaro Siqueiros



We decide to give the Opera Café a second chance for dinner tonight. The interior could be out of a movie set and their claim to fame seems to be that Poncho Villa rode into it on horseback and shot bullet holes in the ceiling.  We watch nearly every customer crane their necks scanning for bullet holes on the baroque ceiling. The ornate carved wood and mirrored antique bar stretches the length of one wall.  We enjoy tonight’s dinner but much might be attributed to the liter of fruit filled Sangria that Art orders expecting me to share it. It tastes like fruit punch poured over fruit cocktail and I order red wine.  We linger some time listening to the mariachi music and enjoying the old world ambience and each other’s company. Although the food is good, we are getting tired of Mexican fare and take two of my four Chile Verde enchiladas to go with the intention of passing them to one of the many less fortunate who ask for a few pesos. We are less than a block away when a man approaches indicating that he is hungry and we hand him the well wrapped to go box and then worry that we have forgotten to ask the restaurant for silverware.


Opera Cafe
Thursday, February 21st,
We are looking forward to the day and have the perfect start at the National Palace. Yesterday the line for entry to the Diego Rivera Murals was long and we decided to try another day but this morning we arrive at 9:50 and there are only 30 people waiting.  We chat with a couple of Chinese American tourists who are foodies and reside in Albuquerque New Mexico.  They share foodie tips with us and their tips will influence our next couple of days. Entry to the National Palace is free but one must show ID and go through a security check. Security holds Art’s ID and we hurry into the palatial courtyard and towards the staircase with the murals. The Diego Rivera murals are impressive and we take our time trying to understand the historical characters and time periods of the various murals.

Diego Rivera Mural - The History of Mexico at the National Palace
Diego Rivera Murals - The National Palace
Diego Rivera Mural



Diego Rivera Mural - The Grand Tenochtitlan at the National Palace
There is a small gallery off the upstairs courtyard balcony with a few choice works from the period. We wish that we could spend more time here overall but we have an 11:30 A.M. entry to the Frida Kahlo Museum so we tear ourselves away and fast walk back to our hotel where Art calls for an UBER and within minutes we are magically transported to the Coyoacan district and to Frida’s Blue house. Although this is nothing like the Anne Frank House, the hype feels the same. One must purchase tickets in advance or suffer a 2-3 hour wait in line. The timed ticket line wraps around the corner and we insert ourselves time appropriately into the line. 20 minutes later we are granted entry and emerge into the lush courtyard of Frida’s Blue House. Initially, Art and I are unimpressed but we soon navigate towards a few rooms displaying Frida’s wardrobe, recently discovered and on display.  Art whispers to me that I already dress like Frida and I feel flattered and vow to do a better job of putting myself together. This was her home and painting studio. Her wheelchair sits in a light filled second floor room beside an easel along with an array of paints and brushes. I am gaining a new appreciation for her work. Prior to this visit, it was Diego who I most admired but her prolific work on display in various small gallery rooms are moving and impressive.  I am voraciously taking pictures when a guard stops me and inquires if I have a “photo permission sticker?” I tuck my phone away but return to the entrance to purchase a 30 peso sticker and I return to take photos. 


Courtyard
Line to enter Frida's Blue House Museum
















Frida's wardrobe on display
Frida's wardrobe on display























Marty beside a photograph of Frida
Title- Marxism will give health to the sick




















'


Frida's painting studio
Frida's easel, wheelchair and paints


















Hungry, Art map quests a local restaurant just a few blocks away. The restaurant is packed with locals and offers only set lunch menus for 85 pesos or about $6.00 each. The waitress brings us a large pitcher of Jamaica juice and gives us a form and pencil. We are to write down our choices from the set menu. Art pencils in our order and minutes later soups and salads arrive followed shortly by two different styles of taquitos. A strange dessert completes the ample meal and we ask to take the leftovers to go. Within minutes of leaving the restaurant, we pass the box off to a young man motioning to his belly in what we presume is a request for money or food. 


Prix Fix Menu
Restaurant Terminal






















The day has been perfect so far but I insist that we go from here to Xochimilico, the floating gardens where we will take a gondola boat along the canals. Art is not much interested but I am insistent. We take another UBER and are deposited at the boat dock. It is after 3:00 P.M. and the guide book tells us that the boats are 500 pesos an hour regardless of how many people are onboard and that we should find another party to share the boat. The boat launch is virtually empty except for a row of colorful boats and many bored gondola pole pushers and their “pimp.” We immediately run into a problem.

Xochimilico Gondolas
Xochimilico Goose


















There is one boat master in charge of filling the vacant boats and he sees Art and me walk in alone. We scan the boat launch for other passengers who we might join and there are none. The gondolas hold over 20 passengers each and it is not so much a matter of economics as it is of pleasure. We would rather enjoy this boat trip with company. Art spots a Hispanic family and approaches them. In Art’s best Spanish he asks if they might like to share a boat?  Eddie, a man in his mid 40’s who speaks perfect English is from Guatemala and he is delighted with the prospect of us joining his family of four. We will share the expense and bring along some beer. I scurry off to try to find both beer and a bottle of wine in anticipation of a delightful cruise along the canals with new and interesting friends. The dock side concessions have no wine but I buy beer plus a couple of canned mixed alcoholic drinks and return to our Guatemala friends only to find that the dock master will not allow us to share their boat because we are not a part of their family. We offer to pay full price to join their boat but he will not budge on his policy. Another larger group of Canadians and Americans have arrived and we try to piggy back with them. The dock master “Pimp” stands his ground and it is not until the woman who has pre- arranged their trip for 15 people calls the travel agent that we are allowed to join their group but we must pay the $750 pesos additional for the hour and a half boat ride. Art thrusts the money at the dock master and we board the gondola with this large family wedding party.
We share the gondola with a wedding party
Our gondola poler


















Local boatman
Canals


















Initially, we enjoy the company of this multi-cultural family until one member, an American bore, purposely moves himself to our end of the gondola table and decides to make Art and me his best friends. I surmise that the rest of his family is relieved that we have now taken on the burden of entertaining him and I watch Art visibly withdraw as the man spouts on and on. Although this experience might be fun with a group of likeminded friends, we spend an uncomfortable hour and a half simply wanting the trip to end.

The return UBER ride back to our hotel takes about an hour.  At about 7:00 P.M. we dress and decide to to walk to restaurant Limosneros, recommended by the couple we met waiting in line for the National Palace.  I tell Art we have little chance of getting a table but it is before 8:00 P.M. when we arrive and we are fortunate to be seated. The range of our meals in Mexico City has been all over the place and its’ time for us to enjoy a good meal. I suggest that Art orders the 7 course Prix Fix dinner along with wine pairing. I will order the sea bass entree and he can pass me tastes of his various courses. Although some of his courses are stellar, several are quite ordinary and even my sea bass is not exceptional. (We do not order the Pueblo beetle or ant egg appetizers.) We have an enjoyable evening and our bill with drinks and tip is less than $120 U.S. dollars. These meals with wine parings would have cost over $300 in California. 

Limosneros Restaurant
A fungi course




Limosneros Restaurant
Pueblo beetle and ant egg appetizers




















Tuesday, February 19, 2019

World Class Art Museums


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I wake up to my legs burning with every step. Scaling the Pyramid of the Moon may not have been a wise idea. My thigh muscles that have taken up the slack for my left knee are now screaming.

We know that the Frida Kahlo museum requires timed tickets and we ask our concierge to book us a time slot. My credit cards are in the hotel safe and Art passes the women his business credit card which is declined. She graciously tells us that it is certainly because we have neglected to tell our credit card company that we are traveling in Mexico. Our bill is paid and I believe this to be the case but she handles our embarrassment in the same manner that I handle declined credit cards from customers at shows. I tell my customers whose payments are declined that it is probably because they have purchased other items at the Art Show and the various artists are from all over the country. The credit card company sees charges from various cities and states and blocks the card for their own protection. She offers to use her credit card if we pay her the cash and we accept her kind offer and leave with printed tickets for Thursday at 11:30 A.M. Although Art is unconcerned about the credit card, I am worried since many of our automatic business expenses are tied to it and I don’t want there to be issues back at home. I call Alisha and tell her to test our two business credit cards by purchasing Endicia shipping. She texts back that all is good and Art and I walk several blocks to find an Scocia Bank ATM. A week ago, I gave Alisha a check to deposit into Art’s account so that we would have access to cash on this trip. Art makes a withdrawal and tells me there is no record of the deposit. This is not a good money morning and I call Alisha again. She sorts it out and discovers that the teller who made the deposit put the money back into our personal account, not into Art’s account. The bank manager remembers me mentioning our trip to Mexico and transfers the missing deposit into Art’s account. (I’m pretty sure that her doing so was not really acceptable on just a hearsay from Alisha, but we are grateful.)

We hope to join a FREE 10:30 A.M. walking tour of the city center and I fast limp to the meeting place in front of the Cathedral. It is not a great tour but we need some structure to our morning and to take our minds off the finance glitches. The free walking tour takes us to the Templo Mayor, at the far side of the Zocalo. This was the site of the Aztec City, the heart of Tenochtitlan and is partially excavated and restored. Our small group visits the sinking cathedral before walking along Cinco de Mayo Avenue and listening to our guide point out spots of interest. It’s not a great walking trip and at 12:30, we are relieved to be set free. At our guides suggestion we have an inexpensive lunch at a Taqueria with a young, Dutch/German man who arrived this morning and will be in Mexico for 2 months writing his Master’s thesis. His company is interesting enough but we part ways after lunch and retrace our steps to the Palacio de Bella Arts to see the museum.

Palacio Bella Arts
Palacio Bella Arts
Siqueiros 




















The Art Deco interior of the building is fabulous but unfortunately all the galleries are closed or possibly being renovated (this is not entirely clear.)  We glide along the polished marble floors, our necks craned to admire the soaring Art Deco architecture. Murals by Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Jorge Gonzalez Camarena decorate the first floor balcony walls. Seeing the Diego Rivera murals feels like visiting a familiar friend but it is exciting to see the work of Siqueiros and Camarena.

Man, Controller of the Universe or Man in the Time Machine, Diego Rivera
Camarena
Camarena signature
















Downstairs, there is a retrospective of Ricardo Martinez work, an artist I had not heard of and Art and I thoroughly enjoyed the show.

Ricardo Martinez de Hoyos
Ricardo Martinez de Hoyos
Ricardo Martinez de Hoyos










Before leaving, we have a drink in the Art Deco museum dining room. Well-heeled patrons sit savoring beautiful meals and I wish that we had chosen here for lunch instead of the taqueria. We walk back along the shopping promenade to our hotel and rest until 6:00 P.M. Our meals over that past few days have been awful and I read the guidebook carefully. Our restaurant of choice tonight will be the Hosteria de Santa Domingo, an upscale old world Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from the tourist and shopping area.

Hosteria de Santa Dominga Restaurant
Chiles en Nogada
The Prawn speciality



I order their specialty; Chiles en Nogada, stuffed peppers with minced fruit and meat filling that are smothered in a sweet walnut based white cream sauce and topped with pomegranate. This interesting dish is traditionally served at room temperature. Art orders House prawns wrapped in Bacon and stuffed with Manchego cheese.  Both meals are excellent although I doubt if I will ever choose to order Chiles en Nogada again.  A mediocre pianist and vocalist provide background entertainment and get little applause.  The service in this old world restaurant is a mixture of arrogant and accommodating and we pay the rather expensive bill (over 1000 pesos with tip) and return to our hotel overly full. I’m glad we had the experience but I don’t need to repeat it.

Wednesday, February 20th,

In spite of the dramatic terrace view of the Zocolo, our hotel breakfast is starting to get old. I am not complaining because I can’t imagine wanting more than what they offer and I repeat the past several mornings self serve plate of fresh papaya and pineapple, two pieces of bacon, steamed cauliflower and broccoli and a tiny fresh baked croissant. We seat ourselves and the waiter takes our coffee order; a cappuccino for me and a double espresso for Art. Our waiter asks if we would like something from the kitchen and I order a one egg omelet with mushrooms and cheese. I am more than sated when we leave, looking forward to another full day of museums.

We start with the museums within the National Palace, just steps away from our hotel. We arrive at 9:30 A.M. but the Diego Rivera mural isn’t open until 10:00 A.M. so we enjoy poking into several other adjoining venues. A political cartoon exhibition is both interesting and amusing with satirical cartoons of Donald Trump, Kim John-un and Netanyahu. When we exit the line for the Diego Rivera mural is long so we head to the art gallery across the narrow street. We have this free museum to ourselves and motion lights switch on as we enter each gallery. There is a guard within each gallery and Art comments that it must be a government work program to keep people employed. Again when we exit the line for the Diego Rivera mural is still long so we walk in the direction of the Palacio Bella Arts in search the Franz Meyer Decorative Arts museum. It is tucked down in an unimpressive courtyard but the temporary Neo-Baroque exhibit is excellent and leaves us wanting more.  Most of the national museums are free and as seniors, the private museums offer discounted admission for seniors. I feel like a senior today with my legs still sore from pyramid climbing and my injured knee. Art steps into the men’s restroom and I rest on a bench nearby to wait. Suddenly two pretty young women wearing dark museum uniforms with knee length skirts and high heels approach me and motion me to come with them quickly. I recognize the word “drill” and “not to worry” but they are insistent that I follow them outside to a breezeway and into a covered parking garage. I fumble for the word “esposo” and point to the restroom worried that Art will think that I have been abducted. A large dot with 4 arrows is painted on the garage pavement and they position me on the center dot as two dozen others are escorted to the “safety zone.” Gratefully, Art is among the others being corralled and within a few minutes the drill is over and we return to the museum.

Since our taxi driver to the Condessa passed us counterfeit money, we have been enjoying the magic of Uber. Art enters our next destination as the Museo Tamayo and within minutes our Uber magically arrives to transport us to the park bordering the museum. We head straight for the museum café and Art orders the salmon and I order succulently marinated duck tacos. As usual, we share. The modern architecture of the museum is striking and the main exhibit is work by German Venegas. I try to find merit in his work but it’s a struggle.  This is the Tamayo Museum but there are only a few paintings by him. The modern art museum is across the park and it is excellent and we spend two hours wandering the four wings. Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, David Siqueiros, Ricardo Martinez are just a few of the artists represented here.

We decide to give the Opera Café a second chance for dinner tonight. The interior could be out of a movie set and their claim to fame seems to be that Poncho Villa rode into it on horseback and shot bullet holes in the ceiling.  We watch nearly every customer crane their necks scanning for bullet holes on the baroque ceiling. The ornate carved wood and mirrored antique bar stretches the length of one wall.  We enjoy tonight’s dinner but much might be attributed to the liter of fruit filled Sangrias that Art orders expecting me to share it. It tastes like fruit punch poured over fruit cocktail and I order red wine.  We linger some time listening to the mariachi music and enjoying the old world ambience and each other’s company. Although the food is good, we are getting tired of Mexican fare and take two of my four Chile Verde enchiladas to go with the intention of passing them to one of the many less fortunate who ask for a few pesos. We are less than a block away when a man approaches indicating that he is hungry and we hand him the well wrapped to go box and then worry that we have forgotten to ask the restaurant for silverware.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Pyramid of the Sun and Moon and James Bond

Monday, February 18th, 2019
Breakfast overlooking the Mexico City Zocalo

We savor breakfast with the view and at 9:15 A.M. are picked up for our tour to the Teotihuacan Pyramids. The van is tiny and crammed with a half dozen passengers but we soon realize that we are being shuttled to a meeting place where we will be transferred to a larger bus. We wait for the transfer and are finally on our way at 10:00 A.M. Our first stop is the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, excavated Aztec ruins. Our mediocre but well intentioned guide speaks in length about the site in Spanish but his abbreviated English version of the history is unclear. His motivation however soon becomes crystal clear when he begins prepping us for the clean bathrooms and free coffee at the upcoming silver factory stop. There was no mention of a stop at a silver factory on the itinerary and I flash back to our trip to China where I felt held a hostage in cavernous gift shops while we waited for someone on our tour to complete a purchase (resulting in a commission for the guide.) Our bus deposits us on a city street lined with silver shops but we are ushered towards one in particular and directed towards the bathrooms in the back. This requires us to all file past numerous showcases filled with sterling silver jewelry. The tiny, three stall women’s bathroom is indeed clean but one can barely turn around in it and there is one sink shared between both the men’s and the women’s bathrooms. If this is to be the highlight of our tour, I am worried.

Metal workshop beside the authorized silver factory. 

There is a family of nine from Patagonian on our bus and they have taken the bait and are shopping. As a jeweler, I am interested in what motivates people to purchase these overpriced trinkets and I peruse the glittery displays with discerning eyes. Back on the bus, I try to be kind when Agnus shows me her purchases and asks my opinion. We still have an hour drive to the pyramids and we pass though miles of marginal houses, stacked and crammed together precariously on the out-skirting hillsides of Mexico City. The blocks of house are painted one of 9 different colors depending on the political loyalty. Apparently the politicians gift paint in exchange for pledges and the hillsides are paved a rainbow of colors; purple, yellow, salmon, green, turquoise, blue, orange and red.

The outskirts of Mexico City
We finally arrive at the pyramids at 12:30 and our guide explains the site (presumably eloquently in Spanish but with a minimal English translation.) We have 2.5 hours to explore the site. Art and I head first for the smaller of the two Pyramids, the Pyramid of the Moon and in spite of my injured knee, I manage to climb it, crab like, using only the muscles in my left leg and hoisting myself step by step using the cable hand rail secured from bottom to top along the steep stone staircase. My right knee is still too painful to bend but using different muscles, I scale this pyramid and am just slightly out of breath when I reach the top. There are of course fabulous views from this terrace which is actually not the top but as far as visitors are allowed to climb. A hundred awed tourists mill on this level with no barriers to prevent one from tumbling to ones’ death below. Everyone is taking selfies and we ask a German man to take a photo of us and return the favor. The entire city stretches below with the Pyramid of the Sun in the distance.

View of Teotihuacan from the Pyramid of the Moon

The approach to the Pyramid of the Moon
Pyramid of the Moon


Cable hand rail

Terrace of the Pyramid of the Moon




























We descend and walk the long promenade between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun. Ordinarily, I would climb to the Sun and back but find a sliver of a shade below an ancient stone wall and wait while Art sets out to conquer this Pyramid. He is gone nearly an hour and I catch sight of him once or twice.  His white shirt, floppy hat and shorts make him easy to spot even among the crowds upon the monumental pyramid.

Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun
Later, Art tells me that he tried to call me from the top but since I was hunkered down below a wall, there was no reception. At the appointed 3:00 P.M. we meet at the bus to go to lunch. Famished, most of the tour chooses immediate gratification at the buffet but this one looks awful and I dislike buffets in general. We have befriended two young Seattle women and one of them wishes to order from the menu so the two of us wait in solidarity for our meals. The stuffed chicken breast that choose arrives in time and is surprisingly good. I wash it down with a beer and we are off to the tequila tasting factory. This is the second non disclosed stop on our itinerary and is another tourist trap but I am mildly interested in the methods of harvesting the Agave nectar and we gladly accept the tastings of various tequilas.

On our return we stop at the Basilica of Guadalupe. Our guide explains that nearly as many pilgrims visit here as the Vatican in Rome. Again the Spanish and English explanation are vastly different in length but my understanding is that the original Guadalupe Cathedral has sunk along with the city and stands askew in the plaza.

New Basilica of Guadalupe
Exterior of the basilica

Alter of the modern Basilica of Guadalupe












Interior of the modern basilica

The sinking Basilica of Guadalupe


























A newer modern round basilica, built in 1974 is the one that we tour. Prior to entering, I hope for a Sagrada Familia experience but although the basilica is beautiful, I am not spiritually awed.  Art and I wander the vast plaza between the ancient Cathedral and the modern Basilica with views of the volcanos and the sleeping lady in the distance. As a geologists’ daughter, I picture Mexico City sinking into this lake valley and surrounded by volcanic mountains. As we exit, Art lights a candle and I know it is for his mother.

30 minutes later, we are the first to be dropped off at our hotel. Without a plan, we wander the nearby shopping promenade in search of dinner. We have still not grasped how inexpensive food is or perhaps how strong our dollar is so we are price shopping the menus and settle on what looks like a promising patio restaurant. The Caesar salad dressing is rancid and the pasta Art orders is mushy and inedible. I am desperate to save the evening and suggest drinks on the terrace of Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico. Having drinks at this hotel is on my Mexico City bucket list and is the opposite extreme from where we just ate dinner. Parts of the 2015 James Bond movie, Spectre were filmed in Mexico City and at this iconic hotel. These next few sentences are in honor of Nancie Allie who always told me to hold my head up high and act like I own the place.

Interior of the Gran Hotel, Mexico City
Interior of the Gran Hotel


View from the Gran Hotel
We arrive at the relatively unpretentious entrance to the hotel.  The doors are opened as we step close and we are welcomed into an architectural Art Nouveau masterpiece. Soaring ceilings of ribbed glass crown the vast foyer. I wish for daylight so that the stained glass would show its’ vibrant colors but there is something magical about the structural skeletal ribs of steel against the night sky. There is no one in the cavernous lobby and we approach the front desk and announce our intentions to have drinks on their terrace. It may be my imagination that they appraise us dubiously but they point us to the elevators and we ascend to the top floor. With heads held high we approach a kiosk attended by a lone women and request to have drinks on their terrace. She records our name, peruses the seating chart and motions us to sit and wait. We sit obediently and within two minutes are ushered up another flight of stairs to a table overlooking the Zocalo and the illuminated Cathedral beyond. I realize that this is the same view we have enjoyed for the past three days at our hotel but minus one star. The Zocalo shines and the cathedral glitters and my heart flutters slightly as I look at the drink prices on the menu. Pesos seem so much more because of the extra zeros but in actuality the drink prices are no more than at a good California restaurant. Art orders a margarita and I order a glass of wine and once we relax into our drinks; as the American Express advertisement says, the experience is priceless and less than $30 including a generous tip.