Day of the Dead: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Expect  a lot more photos from me in the following weeks, as this is my third time to celebrate Noche de Muertos (or, alternately known as Dia de Muertos, De de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead) and I LOVE IT.

Today I went to the Mercado Jamaica — Mexico City’s gargantuan flower market — to pick up some zempasúchitl (marigolds) and the brain coral-like flores de terciopelo (cockscombs?)  Total cost: 30 pesos, or about $2.20. Check out this great photo slideshow to get an idea of show sprawling this mercado is.

When I got home, I made 5 bouquets from the two big bundles of flowers, including the centerpiece to my ofrenda, or altar:

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You know you live in Mexico when you have spare calaveritas (mini sugar skulls) in the pantry, and whip them out for the altar.

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Each marigold bloom is huge. I bought the type with more shredded like petals, but they have many varieties for sale. This weekend the flowers will bedeck altars, the cemeteries, and the entrances to peoples' homes, a way to welcome and guide back their dead loved ones.

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I had two quesadillas at the mercado after buying my flowers. One had huitlacoche (corn fungus -- it's delicious!) and the other, continuing with the flower theme, was stuffed with squash blossoms.

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These exquisite flores de terciopelo look great juxtaposed next to orange. Fuchsia and orange: so Mexican.

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Of course, Halloween is popular here, too. Costumes and themed pinatas were for sale, like this witch, who waited on a bench while her owner had lunch.

It’s a Rough Life, Visiting Gorgeous Spas in Mexico

Once, while on vacation a few years ago, Brendan looked over at me swinging in a hammock and sipping a beer, and said “you’re so hedonistic when you’re on vacation.”

At the time, I really wasn’t participating in anything all that indulgent, but he was right: I’ll go the extra mile if it involves pleasure and beauty.

Hence, I like getting massages in pretty places. And Mexico is basically perfect for that, no?

The massage last year in Puerto Vallarta during a steamy rainstorm wasn’t so bad, and I enjoyed the Thai Massage at Mision del Sol in Cuernavaca, and I’ll never forget the avocado hair treatment/neck massage at Cabanas Copal…but none of those (nor the others) so far, have topped Ollinyotl Spa in Malinalco, Mexico.

Let’s let the photos speak for themselves:

Circles are the main architecture element at the spa. (You can click all of these for larger versions.)

Circles are the main architecture element at the spa. (You can click all of these for larger versions.)

The entrance to the labryinth.

The entrance to the labyrinth.

Chrissy, who visited us this past week from New York City, went with me to Ollinyotl. We got one-hour Swedish massages for 500 pesos each. Then we sat under the hot Mexican sun in the labyrinth, soaking up the amazing good vibes that emanate from the place. This is definitely a photo to click on to view the large version!

Chrissy, who visited us this past week from New York City, went with me to Ollinyotl. We got one-hour Swedish massages for 500 pesos each ($38). Then we sat under the hot Mexican sun in the labyrinth, soaking up the amazing good vibes that emanate from the place. This is definitely a photo to click on to view the large version!

New age-y drum music is piped in, and when you lie on the ground in the labryinth, the sky takes on a fish-bowl perspective. It's transcendent, as silly as it sounds.

New age-y drum music is piped in, and when you lie on the ground in the labryinth, the sky takes on a fish-bowl perspective. It's transcendent, as silly as it sounds.

They have yoga classes here - right here in the middle - and I hope to take one when we return to Malinalco for Day of the Dead.

They have yoga classes here - right here in the middle - and I hope to take one when we return to Malinalco for Day of the Dead. In the center, it echoes. How great is that for chatting om namah shivaya?

Yours truly in heaven.

Yours truly in heaven.

Get here before its discovered. We were the only patrons at the spa on a Saturday afternoon.

Get here before its discovered. We were the only patrons at the spa on a Saturday afternoon. Otherwise, no, I don't normally take so many photos.

Like Thunderstorms? Then You’ll Love Mexico City

This is when I first started to think "Hmm, maybe I'll get my camera."

This is when I first started to think "Hmm, maybe I'll get my camera."

And it grew.

And it grew.

And grew.

And grew.

Then it started to get surreal, and I found myself staring at it, mesmerized.

Then it started to get surreal, and I found myself staring at it, mesmerized.

So many shades of gray.

So many shades of gray.

And blue.

And blue.

It took over the entire sky.

It took over the entire sky.

This was at about 7 p.m., right before sunset.

This was at about 7 p.m., right before sunset.

A helicopter amid the storm. What a view this pilot must have.

A helicopter amid the storm (it's the tiny dot to the right of the tree and left of the building). What a view this pilot must have.

Tales from an International Jetsetter

Minutes before my afternoon flight from Houston to Mexico City on Sunday, I decided to buy a Jamba Juice smoothie, since I hadn’t eaten the entire day and am always leery of Continental’s “snack” offerings.

As I approach my seat — 17C — I realize I didn’t think this through very well. I’ve got two giant carry-ons full of books (I always bring back books to Mexico, and never check them to avoid overweight fees) and a paper cup full of smoothie. I have to set it down somewhere to get the carry-ons in the overhead compartments. Damn.

Without a lot of thought (“story of my life”), I set it down on the seat cushion of 16C, and prop it against the armrest, so it won’t tip over. Instead, it tips over. And spills all over 16C. The frozen purple blob oozes and starts dripping down to the floor.

I muttered — no, gasped — a few adult words and pressed the flight attendant call button as quickly as I could.

Thankfully, the attendant appeared quickly, made no attempt to humiliate me, and went off to find napkins.

“But we’re going to get a new seat,” she tells me as she walks off, as if I understand what that entails.

Moments later, the ticketholder for 16C arrives. My humiliation came in the form of jumping up and warning him “don’t sit there!!!!” I explained, sheepishly, that I spilled my smoothie. For some reason, had it been a Coke or a plate of nachos, I’d been less embarrassed. A smoothie? Even the word annoys me.

“Uh, OK….Someone left their passport, too,” he says.

And, of course, it’s mine, I dropped it in the confusion. “Oh, mine! I’m not having the best day!” I try to joke.

He doesn’t laugh. I know at this point he had to be thinking “oh no, next she’s going to start crying about her cat.”

The flight attendant re-appears with a fistful of napkins, and asks Mr. 16C to wait at the back of the plane while they wait for maintenance. I apologize profusely and explain I’ll take his seat if they’re not able to fix it. It’s my mistake, but he has to stand in the back, among the lavatories, while I’m buckled in and pulling out my iPod.

Thankfully, a large man in a Continental uniform eventually appears, hugging a seat cushion. The removal and installation takes only a few seconds. He’s gone, and Mr. 16C is allowed to come back and join his family members. I finally start to relax a little, but I spent a lot of time looking around to see if anyone was shaking their head in disapproval as I sucked down what was left of my smoothie. Of course, most people were completely unaware of what had happened, and the only thing they knew from the incident happened later when the pilot announced:

“Sorry, folks, we’re a little delayed, we’re just wrapping up a last-minute maintenance report.”

Sigh.

For the first time ever, the constant crying of an ear-infected toddler in the row across from us was actually soothing for me. Surely Mr. 16C found that more annoying than my smoothie incident?!

After a Busy Week, to Texas I Go

I’m spending this week in steamy, hot Corpus Christi, Texas, chillaxin’ with my folks and attending a wedding. This comes on the heels of a week-long visit from NYC BFF Concetta and her man H, both of whom showed tireless energy to see as much of Mexico City as possible. In a week’s time, they:

-ate tacos al pastor (moments after arriving from the airport!)

-toured San Angel’s Bazar Sabado conmigo, then later were happy to tag along to have Korean food and chelas with 10+ foreigners (and me), despite being on a Mexican vacation

-walked all over La Roma, then walked west on Reforma to the Anthropology Museum and then boarded the metro to the centro and ate cabrito — in one afternoon!

-as every good tourist should, visited the Zocalo, and later had Yucatecan tacos (so fracking good, people), panuchos and beers with me and B

-climbed the pyramids at Teotihuacan, then had more tacos

-took an overnight trip to the breathtaking mountain town of Taxco, stayed at romantic/quaint Mi Casita

-had a humongous Argentinian meal with us, including steaks, fries and two bottles of Casa Madero cab sav

-One day I got to hoard Concetta all to myself, and we spent the day in Coyoacan, visiting Frida Kahlo’s blue house, before some fierce shopping and eating chiles en nogada at El Morral. (THEY HAVE REALLY GOOD CHILES EN NOGADA, YA’LL!) We also squeezed in cafes from El Jarocho, and gabbed while sitting/people-watching on a bench in the plaza.

-We spent one evening at my favorite restaurant in Mexico City, La Embajada Jarocha (comida veracruzana), where we ate coconuts and plantains stuffed with seafood, and Connie and her man joined in w/ the crowd, and danced to tropical music provided by a string of rotating bands.

Now I’m in slow-paced Corpus Christi, enjoying American amenities like safe drinking water, Target and salad bars.

Life is good, people. I’m a lucky lady to have good friends, good times and a great life.