#2 Cuernavaca, Feb. 12, 2012

Everything was so quiet when I went for my walk on Monday morning. Upon inquiring, we learned that it was a holiday—Constitution Day. We decided to make an excursion out of town to the Hacienda Vista Hermosa, a 16th century old hacienda that had at one time been a sugar-producing enterprise, a monastery, and I don’t know what else. We hired a taxi to take us there, wait, and bring us back. Traffic was horrendous, and the multiplicity of twists and turns made me glad again that we hadn’t rented a car!

I had last been here about 35 years ago, so was eager to see if the old ambiance remained. Clearly they had expanded their rooms to incorporate other old buildings augmented with new construction, along with other expanded areas, such as the dining room. The pool still had the two ancient aquaducts running through it and the old carriages were still displayed on the first floor. The big old tree near the stables (they still had horses) remained, that had a rope swing on it years ago, which my grade-school-age children swung from. Beyond it the bullring was empty, as it was long ago.

We purposely didn’t eat there as we had planned a ‘Mexican Paella’ for when we returned. It included octopus (I’ve never cooked that before!) as well as shrimp and bass. I thought the octopus was very good and not tough, which I expected it to be.

 

 

The 1529 Cortes Palace in downtown Cuernavaca is now a regional museum, which Donna and I enjoyed. The highlight was a huge Diego Rivera Mural—so colorful, poignant with the sad lot of the Indians, and dramatic.

 

 

 

We came home and made Chicken with Garlic, which had a sauce made with ancho chiles, which we ate con gusto! We even used some of the sauce on our eggs with tortillas the next morning.

Wednesday we made an excursion to Mexico City to meet my son-in-law’s family. Ulises’ mother is 82 years old and greeted us with wonderful hospitality. Three of his sisters and a nephew joined us for comida, served on their terrace in a beautiful garden. Luckily Donna can converse in Spanish and I managed to haltingly say a few things. When the 14-year-old nephew came home from school, his knowledge of English helped out, too.

 

The youngest sister had had a really bad experience about a month earlier, being assaulted by a taxi driver with a knife, who stabbed her thigh seven times, gave her a black eye, hit her on the head and bit her thumb. She fought back and was finally thrown out of the taxi onto the road, but she survived and presented her strong spirit to us.

On the way back to Cuernavaca on the bus we were treated to beautiful late afternoon views of Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, the two volcanic snow-capped mountains that are just east of Mexico City. Popo smokes and burps occasionally, but Izta, The Sleeping Lady, is dormant.

An old colleague-friend of mine had put me in touch with a colleague of his who lives in Cuernavaca. Donna and I had dinner with Lourdes and her husband, Julio, at a wonderful traditional Mexican restaurant called La India Bonita. The name refers to Dwight Morrow’s mistress (he was the US Ambassador to Mexico in the ‘20s) and the restaurant was in a house where he had lived. There were pictures in the foyer of Morrow with his son-in-law, Charles Lindbergh. I explained that I had grown up in the small town where Lindbergh was raised (Little Falls, Minnesota-population 7,000) and that our high school band used to march down the football field in the shape of an airplane with the baton twirlers being the propellers! Yes, our teams were the ‘Little Falls Flyers!’

As we were seated in the restaurant, Julio ordered tequila and was served a small glass of tequila, accompanied by a small glass of a reddish liquid. The next day Donna and I were contemplating what that red stuff was; I reached deep into my memory and had a faint recollection of something served with tequila as a ‘chaser’ that was exotically Mexican. I hunted through all our three cookbooks and found it! It is Sangrita and is made from orange juice, ancho chile, lime juice, onion and salt. We made it and tried it—it was surprisingly good!

When Lourdes read my #1 Cuernavaca email, she helped me understand the meaning of the blessing of the dolls in the Cathedral. In Mexico, it reenacts Mary’s presenting the Baby Jesus in the Temple when he was 40 days old. People buy dolls representing Baby Jesus, have them blessed and then make an altar with them at home at which to worship all year long.

The Aztec Pyramid of Teopanzolco is right in the middle of Cuernavaca in a stunning setting. There are actually two pyramids, the old one that is 800 years old, and a newer one on top of it that was under construction when Cortes arrived in 1519, that was never completed. The remains of two temples that are on top of the pyramid are dedicated to Tlaloc, the rain god, and to Huitzilopochtli, the war god.

We caught a taxi to take us to an art museum that was listed in my (outdated) Lonely Planet guidebook, and after taking two different taxis (one simply dumped us) and consulting with several people, it became obvious that something wasn’t right about the listing. We went home and asked our proprietor about it and learned that it had been gone for several years. So it goes.

We spent Sunday in Tepoztlan, a (big) village near here that has an artesania history. There was very little of ‘old’ Mexico there, although there was a tortillaria going full tilt!  We did enjoy a wonderful food market where we stopped to eat our lunch by pointing to a dish that a man was enjoying. We sat down across from this family and learned that this was a blue-corn masa gordita that had mashed chicharon (dried pig skin) as a filling and then topped with nopalis (cactus leaves) along with cheese and crema (cream fraishe) and added salsa—green or red—which we enjoyed a lot! When we were ready to leave the Mexican man insisted on paying for our lunch! What hospitality!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did enjoy walking around the town, visiting the

Cathedral while a Mass was in session, and interacting with the many vendors. We stopped for ice cream at the most fanciful ice cream parlor that I have ever seen called Tepoznieves!

 

 

 

Dinner at home was Margaritas and tostadas—very satisfying! The weather is still pretty overcast and cool. Still, it is not a problem for us as we are enjoying everything we do.

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