Sunday, November 11, 2007

Going to Mexico City

My cab was arriving at 7:30 Sunday morning to take me back to JFK for a 9:30 flight to Mexico City. Before I left the apartment I checked my seat assignment online in desperate hope that my last minute booking didn't result in a middle seat.

On my way to the gate I passed a moving sidewalk that was under repair.

While I was not looking forward to getting on another plane, I was very pleasantly surprised to see I had a seat in business class. I wasn't sure how that happened. I figured it was a mistake that would be corrected by the time I got to the airport. But the possibility that I would be flying in business class reduced my feeling of dreading to strong aversion.

My own person first class monitor.

My business class seat was not a mistake. I attained some kind of elite status with Delta, which entitles me to upgrades if there are seats available. Being in business class entitled me to a meal. Unlike Air France, whose food was pretty decent, the food on my flight to Mexico City was awful. Fortunately I had eaten something small at the airport before leaving.

Mexico City from the air.

When I arrived in Mexico City I went to get my bags. When I checked my bag in New York a "priority" tag was placed on it. I assumed this meant my bags would be first off the plane. That didn't happen. In fact, I (and about 1/2 the other passengers on the flight) had to wait more than 45 minutes for our bags to arrive.

After I collected my bags and went through customs (again, hardly a question was asked) I went to find a cab to take me to my hotel. This is when I first regretted not getting a Spanish phrase book. I literally had no time to get one. My trip was planned while I was in France. During the 14 hours or so that I was in New York but not at JFK I was unable to stop by a book store.

The cab driver started asking me questions, about what I have no idea. I took 8 weeks of Spanish in 8th grade. I remember basic greetings and numbers, that is all. This grasp of Spanish failed me at its first opportunity. In these situations I resort to sign language, and I am able to get to where I need to go.

Sun setting behind Six Flags.

Driving through Mexico City gave me my first view of Mexico. In 1992 I went to Tijuana for a 2 hour shopping trip, but I never considered that "going to Mexico". The area was beautiful. The land is very rugged. There are mountains all around, and the mountains are covered with trees. Mexico City is just as beautiful as southern California, only without the ocean.

Anything man-made is not so beautiful. It all looked dirty and in need of a good cleaning, paint job, or both. As we drove from the airport to Tlalpan we passed a great variety of neighborhoods. Some looked like crowded jumble of strip malls, chain stores and fast food that you see throughout the US. Other looked like shantytowns you see in movies, the neighborhoods foreigners get into trouble in when they wander too far off the beaten path.

The cab ride from the airport took about 45 minutes. After last week in Strasbourg at a hotel I didn't like I tried to find a hotel that would be decent. The office I am working at is far from the tourist areas, so I didn't have many options. There was only one American-brand hotel, Radisson. The online pictures looked ok (but don't they always?), so I went with that.

View from my room.

The hotel turned out to be a good pick. I was hoping to use "3 consecutive weeks of travel" as an excuse to get a really nice hotel. The Radisson wasn't fancy, but it was a perfectly good hotel. My room was clean and had a nice very out of the mountains. The staff was (for the most part) very friendly and helpful.

One minor annoyance was the clock/radio in room. It was attached to the nightstand and I really wanted to move it. Oh well.

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