Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Adventure to Cuicuilco

So, it had been awhile since we had an adventure in Mexico, but we didn't want to commit to a long road trip.  We both dove into our tourist books, and discovered a small archaeological site on the map in Tlalpan, in the southern part of the DF.   So we went!  We hopped into the Saturn, and headed south, Google Mexico Map in hand.  We followed those directions to the letter, and wound up at the end of a dead end, surrounded by hovels about 30 minutes from the safety of Polanco.  Not exactly the type of ruins we were looking for.  Undeterred, we found our way back to a major street, and wondered for awhile.  We found a mall, and bought some insane chocolate, but still no ruins.  We were in the process of giving up, on our way back to the Periferico when we spotted it!  There was an unmarked dirt strip with 6 parking spots, just before the on ramp that was the entrance.  Finally!  Cuicuilco, here we come!

 Did you know that the Valley of Mexico is the longest inhabited place on the North American continent?  This ruin site is the earliest known site in the valley, dating back to 450 BC.  This old-looking spooky lava sign is not that old though, do not be fooled.

 Here I am with an array of cactus and their brethren.

I feel very privileged to have been in the presence of this cactus flower.

As you can see, we were right in the thick of modern Mexico City while taking this trip back in time.  Also notice the scary dungeon in the center of this picture.  I would not want to go in there.

It's rainy season here in the DF, so things are lush, green and blooming.

It's kind of fun to imagine what life would have been like for the inhabitants of the site I'm visiting.  I imagine this might be a lot like what the unadulterated valley may have been like.

 Here are some primordial stairs leading to unseen secrets!  I say that because there was nothing at the top, so I imagine there's a secret there.

 Queso!  Here we are with the pyramid!

 And here it is!  It's a round pyramid, the only round one we've heard of in Mexico. 

The site at Cuicuilco was abandoned when the nearby volcano Xitle erupted, and the site was covered in liquid hot magma.  After this event the Cuicuilcan culture dispersed throughout the Valley, and the rest is history.  This painting is a dramatization of what the lava flow looked like as it approached the pyramid.  I'll thank you not to touch it! 

One last look at the pyramid before we head out.  It is small, but very pretty and fairly important to the Valley's history.

This is the chocolate we found on our adventure.  It was so good, it did not last long.

On a completely unrelated note, did you know that Rick Steves Europe is available on Hulu?  I think I am addicted...The guy is wacky, but he does know his stuff.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Happy 4th of July or How I Worked 20 Hours of Overtime in 1 Weekend

As part of our work abroad, we are expected to entertain, eat and drink for our country.  We host parties, dinners, lunches and cocktail hours for our contacts all in the name of representation.  Put on a dress and put on show!  Our premier event every year here in Mexico, and posts all over the world, is the 4th of July party.  This year two other junior officers and I were put in charge of bringing the host's vision to life.  The other 2 were the creative powers, and I was their practical go-getter who took their ideas, and made them possible...they only love me for my warrant and knowledge of the FAR (again, Federal Acquisition Regulations, c'mon, keep up!).  We will be henceforth known as the 4th of July Brain Trust...and given the nature of my work it's only fitting that we have an acronym...4OJBT it is! Since I was technically on duty, certain rules about photos apply, so I have inserted some measures to protect the innocent, but this was so crazy, I had to immortalize it for all time in el blog.

The preparations are underway!  We had an assortment of all-American appetizers for the party.  Here we have an out-of-this world cranberry dipping sauce for some fried chicken.  Cranberry sauce is not something that Mexicans eat.  I had to order 50 lbs. of it from the US to pull this off.
Here a fellow member of the 4OJBT and I are pondering what to do with these rad flower balls.  I thought we should play baseball with them, but was quickly overruled.  Little did we know, we were being watched by some scary ghosts.

Here we have the dessert artist working those tarts.  The desserts were amazing...more on that later!

This was one of my favorite sights of the day.  Look at all those figs.  I just want to jump in and swim around!  I should be careful what I wish for...

This photo shows my dedication to our country and patriotism.  I had to get in this pool and set all of those floating lanterns in place.  We tried just throwing one in, but each one had this sack of rocks attached by fishing line hooked onto it as a counter-weight, so when we threw them, they sank and were wrecked.  It was determined that someone had to get in and place each one.  Did I mention that this pool was not heated, and the water was about 40 degrees F?  Beings that my cold tolerance was deemed to be highest of the 4OJBT, I agreed to get in.  Despite my winning smile, I am freezing.  It took about 3 hours for my body temperature to return to normal, but the pool looked amazing, so it was worth it.

Here we have the dessert table, all dressed up and designed by Eric.  The 4OJBT acknowledged its need for a trained professional to help with our design needs.  Eric was called in to design the party layout in all ways.  He even whipped up some last minute curtains for some unsightly bathroom windows out of pillowcases!  The host was so impressed, he said that Eric would be called upon to design future party layouts.  Good work begets more work!

Here we have the finished product of the pastry chefs' hard work.  Those chocolate tarts second in from the left are covered in edible glitter.  I think I know what my next online purchase will be!

These decorations and others like them adorned the food trays as they circulated the party.  This particular one is made from 1 orange, and those rings are unbroken.  The guy making them tried to show me how to do it, but my mind boggled and could not compute the artisticness.

Finally, after the party is underway, and everyone is having a swingin' good time, Eric and I can relax and have our photo taken.  A job well-done by all!

A quick thank you to the other members of the 4OJBT for providing me with some of these pictures.

Monday, July 4, 2011


So, it was Friday night, the eve of the last 3-day weekend in sight.  We had returned from Kettle Falls just a few days prior, and we had nothing to do.  We had not planned that far in advance.  I, of course, was sitting on the couch whining about our lack of planning and our soon to be wasted long weekend.  That's when Eric took to the interweb.  He started with practical ideas...Mexican beach get-away...weekend in Houston...only to find out that foul weather had cursed all of these choices, with the exception of Cabo San Lucas.  It seems, though, that all other beach-seeking travelers had already figured this out, because every last flight was booked.  Undeterred, our hero broadened his search to other parts of the southern US, and finally stumbled across a screaming deal to Las Vegas!  After much hemming and hawing, and a hasty email to my boss, we were booked on a spontaneous trip to Vegas leaving the next day! 

I know I have said it before, but I love AeroMexico.  They actually still serve a full meal on board!  It's not 5-star dining or anything, but it definitely makes the weary traveler feel as though she's getting her money's worth. 

After a quick 3.5 hour direct flight from the DF, we arrived at our hotel, the Venetian at about 11:30 pm.  Don't worry everyone, our suite was equipped with a fax machine, in case of emergency.

I know this is blurry, but I couldn't leave it out.  Here we have Eric enjoying a midnight (2 am DF time, if anyone is counting) snack of the world's largest pastrami sandwich at the Carnegie Deli in the Mirage.  That pastrami was tasty!

Here we are on our way to bed.  Still looking fresh, no?

The Venetian was a great hotel to stay at.  I like it's central location.  I found out later that my friend from the DF was in Vegas at the same time in the same hotel, and we didn't cross paths once.

I, of course, went running to this gigantic Sephora to buy needed supplies, such as neon pink lipstick and shiny nail decals.

Here we are in the Bellagio's conservatory.  I always make a stop here when I visit Vegas.  That "painting" behind us is actually made of flowers.  So cool!

This one's for you, Eriko.

Here we have a replica of the Liberty Bell, only it's about 10 times bigger than the original.  Having seen the original in person, I have to say this one is much more impressive.

We stopped by the flamingo habitat in the Flamingo Casino.  Flamingos are my favorite animal, even though they are birds.  They can't help that.  I love how they rock the pink.

After much debate, and an extraordinary amount of walking (as you do in Vegas), we finally settled on lunch at this desert oasis.  We were not disappointed.  It was one of the best meals I have had in fact I want to go back there right now.

Happy birthday USA!  We were very happy to be in our country for its birthday.  I love being an American.

Next weekend is our anniversary (7/10/11 = 7 years *heart*), so we decided to celebrate in Vegas by making reservations at Aureole, a 5-star American restaurant in the Mandalay Bay.  We got all dolled up, and made our way down the strip to enjoy this 5-course, 2-hour meal.  It was divine.  Afterwards, we trekked up to the New York New York to finish the night with some gambling.  Here we are en-route in our finery.

Finery close up!

Yay!!  Though we didn't turn a profit in Vegas, we did win a few times.  I don't recall how much this particular hit was, but it was fun, I do remember that much!

And here we are saying our good byes to Vegas.  See you soon, Strip!