Saturday, May 7, 2016

[MEXICO CITY] 007 Crashed a Chopper Here

Mexico celebrated Mother’s Day on Tuesday, which meant that there was no second day of class because it was suspended. National holiday! Lest Mexico City becomes the latest victim of my I-live-here-anyway-let’s-just-go-sightseeing-next-time syndrome, I decided that it was the best time to go and cross out one region from my touristy to-do list. And where else would you rather go but the Zócalo! After all, most of the important tourist attractions are located at this historic center of the city.

I took an Uber going there, which is totally fine because they are quite affordable here. I guess what I didn’t expect was for the trip to last half an hour. On second thought, it shouldn’t be weird because the place is closer to the airport than it is to my residence in the south. Traffic was moderate and not that headache-inducing. I was dropped off right at the center of the action, although the excitement was already building up as we approached the area thanks to that giant Mexican flag at the middle of the plaza.

The Zócalo is the third largest plaza in the world after Moscow’s Red Square and Beijing’s Tiananmen. That flag, man. It’s HUGE. I was staring at it for 15 minutes and I still couldn’t get enough of it. Taking a photo was rather tricky because it was really dancing with the wind, and waiting for it to show the eagle at the center was truly a game of patience. It’s a good thing that it wasn’t all too sunny, although that would have been better if only for the kickass pictures I could have taken with the sun’s help!

And so, what is there to see in this area? If you have seen the last 007 movie, the square itself is where Bond crashed the helicopter, if I remember the details correctly. But you won’t be seeing him here. That contributed a bit of confusion, though, because the square looked way larger in the film. You will also see the giant letters CDMX on the southern portion of the square, which looks like a wannabe IAMSTERDAM sign sans the camwhores. The letters stand for Ciudad de México, in case you are wondering.

The first structure that will catch your attention is the church. Again, I don’t know the difference between a cathedral and a basilica, so burn me at the stake. Suffice it to say that there is a really big church across the street from the plaza’s northern edge. In fact, there are two of them. The one at the right has a big dome but is smaller in size overall. It beats the bigger one to the left in terms of intricate façade design. The larger one has the typical twin tower motif and seems to subscribe to the Hispanic church template.

In my opinion, the best vantage point for a selfie would be from the southwestern edge of the square. From there, you can capture both churches, the giant Mexican flag as well as the undeniably Hispanic National Palace if you are good at aiming your camera. Oh yes, that palace makes you think for a second or two that you’re in Spain. I had Madrid and Salamanca flashbacks attacking my brain after glancing at it for the first time. No, I did not go inside because I didn’t feel like it. Sue me.

You don’t have to go inside every monument or building you see in this area, okay. Some of them don’t even allow you to enter. Even if all of them do, you will probably be spending close to a week just checking out building interiors because saying that there’s a lot to see in Centro is a gross understatement. Just walking around the vicinity will already take a lot of your time, so your best bet is to choose one or two of your liking if you want to check out some indoor attractions. Or maybe save that for the museums.

By the way, if you are looking for the Metro station, it’s on the northeastern edge of the square, where you should be headed to if you want to see the Templo Mayor, which deserves its own blog entry so we won’t be talking about it here. Skip! I did not really cover a lot of ground. If anything, I just walked around the church, and even then I had a smartphone overflowing with pictures and videos afterwards. It was almost 5 PM when I finished my stroll. I had to stop because I didn’t have lunch yet and I was about to collapse.

Yes, I guess that feeling is common at the Zócalo. You are, like, okay one last photo! And then you turn left or right at another corner and are suddenly face with the realization that there’s another truckload of interesting photo-ops. Adjust your eagerness according to your stamina, especially if you are not that used to so much walking. I eventually ended up in a narrow pedestrian alley that was cobble-stoned and lined with museums, and yet another church with a dome. By that time I already had to say no.

What? I was really hungry. Overall I spent around three hours sightseeing, around 2/3 of which was for the Templo Mayor and its museum. If you want to really explore the place and immerse yourself in it, I’m sorry to say but an afternoon won’t be enough. However, if what you’re after is simply that Been-to-Mexico selfie, then the main square should take care of that. Make sure you capture the Mexican flag in that picture to make it more legit!

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