Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cuernavaca, the city of Eternal Spring

(All photos can be expanded by clicking on them)

The International AIDS conference is held in Mexico City this year. Every two years, this conference is held in a different city. Judith, my wife, always attends as do her students from Chile, Indonesia, China, and Malawi. The first one I attended with Judith was in 2002 in Durban, South Africa, then Bangkok, Thailand in 2004. I did not attend the one in Toronto, Canada in 2006. Unless we get a Democratic president, and even then its not a surety, there will be no AIDS conference held in the USA, thanks to Jesse Helms, who rode the rail of homophobia, and was key in preventing any AIDS infected people from entering the county. I say it’s not a surety because it will take a long time to undue laws passed out of fear and contrary to the American spirit. But I digress.

As always, any free trip for Judith to a foreign country presents an opportunity to venture out to surrounding destinations. And the first destination after we land at Mexico City is Cuernavaca.

Cuernavaca is 40 miles south of Mexico City at an altitude of 5000 feet, lower than Mexico City at 7300 feet, making it a little warmer. But to get there, the road first goes up, and then descends. We hired a driver named Imeldo who skillfully negotiated the Mexico City traffic out of the airport taking us to our hotel, the Hacienda de Cortes.

This property, also called Vista Hermosa, was once a sugar plantation and mill and home of Hernan Cortes and construction started in 1529, falling out of the Cortez family ownership in 1621. After a series of owners, Emiliano Zapata evicted the current owner in 1910 leaving it in ruins. Restoration was started in 1944 and it became a hotel in 1981.

Vista Hermosa has served as the backdrop for many films, including the dramatic final scene of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where Robert Redford and Paul Newman "died" in a bloody battle with the Bolivian army. Film star, Anthony Quinn, here for another film, wrote in the guest book: "Whoever has dreams that aren't fulfilled here ought to leave dreaming alone."

Indeed, I found the hotel to exude charm and romanticism. The original walls and columns still remain in many places. August in Mexico is not the tourist season and we found ourselves having the place almost to ourselves. We were told that Acapulco is the preferred destination for vacationing Mexican people in August. It rains almost every day but usually in the evening.

Inside looking towards the street.
Just outside the restaurant in the evening.
We taxi (cheap) to center of town and visit the Palace of Cortes or Cuauhnahuac Regional Museum. The Palace dates back from the colonial era, built in 1533 over an Aztec Temple. It served as the summer residence of the conqueror Hernan Cortes and actually houses one of Mexico's finest museums. Among others, you can admire one of the most famous murals of Diego Rivera painted in 1929.

Opposite the mural of Emiliano Zapata holding a sward, is one of the artist Rivera.
Looking up the street from the second floor of the museum.
The statue is of Morelos and up the street is the Guadalupe Church (1784) and at the very end of the street is the Borda Gardens built around the same time.

The Borda Gardens was built by the Don Jose Borda and has been the home of many rich families including the summer residence of two emperors.
During our walk around town, I purchased some Retin A which I have used for some years to rejuvenate my skin. I have found that it causes those little skin flaps that grow to disappear. And I purchased some Pravastatin at less than US prices with no prescription necessary. I checked out a couple of other medications that I take but found my US prices (with insurance) were slightly more. And I replenished by supply of Lomotil.

We treated ourselves to probably the best restaurant in Cuernavaca, Los Mananitas. We found the place filled with many ex-pats and many Mexican children running around the grounds (Los Mananitas is also a hotel) making gracious dining not too gracious. During the rest of the trip we found numerous incidents of Mexican children running amok without parental concern. I am assuming, sometimes a precarious position, that Mexicans think children are just being children as they shouldn’t be expected to control themselves so they won’t disturb others. We sat under an umbrella finishing our starter, when it started to rain, requiring us to move to a couch inside because the umbrella was not sufficient. Sometime during this process, the up till then outstanding service and attention, fell apart, but with some direction on our part, we finished our dinner. The food was excellent. All in all, we enjoyed the evening and we arrived back at out hotel just as the rain stopped.

We had intended to stay longer in Cuernavaca, but after our plans had been made, the AIDS conference changed schedules so we had to leave on Saturday for Mexico City. Imeldo picked us up and drove us straight to the Zocalo, the heart of the city, where Judith had a meeting just two blocks away. I checked into Marquis Reforma Hotel near Chapultepec Park.


'Bubbles' said...

Beautiful pictures! I can not attest for hispanic parenting, but I will say that when you don't have the little critters around you all the time they seem far, far more irritating! :-)

You have given me incentive to explore Mexico more, and not in a typical way.

GETkristiLOVE said...

You guys find the coolest places.