“We’ve got a ticket to ride”

Moving around in one of the biggest cities in the world may be difficult and challenging. The everyday traffic is heavy and disorganized. It’s like the jungle, where the strongest and boldest will be the first. Maybe not the first to reach the waterhole, but the first to reach the other side of the crossing. That’s one of the reason why on the weekends, I enjoy taking the Metro to go downtown.

In one of my posts I told you about taking a cab (“Where to, señorita” in January 2015), and also mentioned the subway system in Mexico City.

This time, we took the Metro and got our senses full with sounds, colors and smells, that are not always nice…  It was early for our Mexican Saturday morning and therefore the booths with all kind of supplies in the Metro hallways and corridors were either closed or opening. Some of these hallways are on street level and can be very long with stairs going up and down, some electrical. This makes me wonder how older people or people with a handicap use the metro, the cheapest way to travel… And I really admire them the most.  We took the first train in a quiet station and had to make the first connection. We started walking one of the corridors and we noticed different offers on the sides of the corridors: coffee and ‘no name’ donuts, some “tortas” and “licuados”. Tortas are white bread buns filled with ham or cheese, avocado, tomato, salad, cream and jalapeño peppers. Licuados are milk shakes with fresh fruit.  We also saw some mini stores selling everything for making ourselves beautiful while on the train: mirrors, eyelash curlers, eyeliners, curlers, hair slides. Another shop was selling every gadget on earth for cellphones, but mostly ‘no name’ items and very cheap. For those who love pizza for breakfast, there were pizza slices from Domino’s close to the stairs. After a good walk we reached the next train and jumped in because there is almost no time to get in or out of the wagon.

We found two seats side by side and so we could enjoy the ride… if you are not very sensitive or picky. The cars and seats are not very clean, and as some are from the seventies and are a little bit shabby…

A Metro wagon

I remember the elegant U-Bahn (subway) in Munich and forgetting the colors and the elegant materials of the German counterpart, I personally find our version more practical. The wagons in the new Munich subway are like a long worm with almost no possibility of support. The only support rings are high up hanging down from the ceiling… This keeping in mind that the medium height for a German woman is 1.71 cm!  Some of the seats in the worm’s belly are light in a kind of triply wood in a long row (not in the picture), so that when the U-Bahn stops  the last person in the row starts sliding to the front of the car and remember, there is no halt. It’s a little bit like taking a ride in the fair. Sometime the rides are not nice, and I have to mention the bad smell of some U-Bahn (= Metro) users.  in Winter because they haven’t take a shower or washed their coats and in Summer because … I imagine you know what I mean.

ubahn- muc

The new U-Bahn in Munich

However, as I have mentioned before, Mexico is a very colorful country, and the Metro itself is orange with green, or blue seats while the station pictograms go from pink to dark brown. It’s a very good system with attractive designs and colors so that one can easily follow the lines. I imagine this is also very practical for people who cannot read. One of my favorite names of a Metro station is “Indios verdes” or Green indians… The native American folks were a lot more world and environment friendly, but I guess this is not the reason to name this station this way. Is it may be because some Indians turned green with the smell and the filth in the wagon? No, well, it’s because of the two sculptures depicting two Tlatoani or high political leaders in the Aztec empire standing in a big avenue in the Northern part of the city.

In Mexico the political situation, the economy and everything, according to Mexicans, is very bad… However, we don’t lose the good humor. I really had to laugh seeing the sign for the toilets in the Metro Station “Taxqueña”:

Public toilets in the Metro station

Continuing our trip, in the wagon, the first thing that caught my attention, was someone shouting “Fresas con creeeemaaaa” and then “con creeeeema las fresas”. I asked myself how can he manage to sell strawberries with cream in the subway?, and exchanged a surprise look with my daughter. When he got closer I understood, he was selling popsicles!  My daughter and I didn’t think that someone could possibly buy such a thing at 9:30 in the morning in the subway, but we were shown wrong. Two young ladies sitting in front of us bought one “strawberry and cream” and an “arroz con leche” ( rice pudding) one. Well, there are no rules for breakfast in Mexico…

During weekdays you can find all types of people using the subway, elegant businessmen or businesswomen, school children, students, policemen, doctors, nurses, tourists and more, all  representing many of the social classes in our city. Every single time I take the Subway to get to Palacio Nacional in the heart of our capital, I see women making themselves pretty for work. I’ve seen girls using their mascaras and eyeliners with perfection while being rocked and shaken by the Metro. I have never seen one getting down of the wagon like a Panda bear! They are really good at it. This last week I saw a mature women sitting in front of me, who took out a make up bag out of her purse between “Chabacano” and “San Antonio Abad”, two of the stations. With one finger she sustained the bag, with the other two she took out a make up brush and used it to brush creamy make up to her face. I was almost in awe at the procedure. I had to get out on the next station so I couldn’t see the last result, but I imagine it was flawless. Maybe next time I’ll take note of some beauty tips, without forgetting the young girl with the metal teaspoon curling her eyelashes!

In every trip you may jump at the opportunity to buy sweets, peanuts, combs, scissors, tools, books, even anatomy books and creepy legends of the city, maps, hairpins, ball-pens, colors and really everything you may need in your daily life… and maybe even more!  The merchants are also very flexible and sometimes with one hand they sell one thing and if no one is interested, they switch to another thing that they have hiding in their plastic bags or in their backpacks with the other hand.  There are other people who give everyone something, for example a bag of soft candy and a paper that explains why they want you to buy and contribute to their cause. Others simply sing to do something for a coin or two.

Reaching our goal, we got out of the subway system at the Zocalo, or Main Square in the Historical Center of the city. As usual, the wideness of the area and the monumental buildings surrounding it, amazed me. It’s quite a sight: the magnificent Cathedral, the Sagrario Metropolitano, that is the small church adjoining the cathedral, the Palacio Nacional and the huge Mexican flag in the middle of the square.  On one side of the Main Square or Zócalo, you see a very long Colonial building, The National Palace is the seat of the federal executive in Mexico.

We crossed the Zocalo to get to the Gran Hotel de la Ciudad the México to have breakfast on the terrace with one of the nicest views in downtown Mexico City and to exchange our impressions of this entertaining ride.

Zocalo y Palacio Nacional

The “Zócalo” or Main Square with the National Palace in the background

I hope you enjoyed the ride!

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