I've just returned from a week-long excursion to central Mexico. What an adventure! What an adventure and what a blessing! I have a million things to show you: chandeliers in caves... the sunset in Saltillo... a volcanic mountain hike... and so forth. But for now, let me drag out my pictures and show you my favorite part of the trip: Monterrey, Mexico. The City of the Mountains. Here she is, the way I saw her.
The Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de Monterrey. Began in 1770, this cathedral serves as the seat for the local archdiocese. As I laced my fingers through its ornate iron gate and gazed up to the tip-top, I realized I was hardly breathing. It's that spectacular in person.
Even from across the street.
On now to La Macroplaza, one of the world's largest plazas and the seat of cultural (and shopping!) goings-on in Monterrey.
Monterrey is second in size only to Mexico City. It's a capital city... the capital of Nuevo Leon. The city bustles, but in a siesta/it's-too-humid-to-move kind of way.
(Don't be fooled by the mountains in the distance. This place was not cool. And don't be fooled -as I was - by claims of "air conditioning". Two things, I learned, mean very different things in our separate cultures: "tacos" and "air conditioning". In Mexico, "air conditioning" is a one-bladed, wobbly ceiling fan or a rolled-down car window. And don't even get me started on the tacos.)
The shops and vendors along the plaza, however, are wonderful... lively and colorful and unlike anything I've seen this side of the Rio Grande. I browsed the market an entire morning, stopping finally at the candy booth for coffee-flavored nuggets. The atmosphere here tickled me... the candy booths look nothing like those in our malls. No plastic-filled bins of neon-colored balls or blobs here. In La Macroplaza, sweets seemed to revolve around sugar, nuts, grains and chocolate... although the chocolate isn't as tooth-bending sweet as we're accustomed to. But hey, chocolate is chocolate. I bought a piece, wandered out into the sun and squinted up at this - the Fuente de La Vida.
You don't see this in your town square every day.
By now it's early afternoon and we're tired and hot... too tired and hot to walk anymore. We descended to the depths of Monterrey and found ourselves in a cavernous monorail station. It was unbelievably well kept. I was shocked, to tell you the truth, having ridden the trains in New York City, Boston, and Dallas, to find a subway system this clean in Mexico. This clean and deserted.
Silly Americans. As it turned out, our destination was only two blocks from where we were. No matter the rail was deserted. Our guide laughed at us as we boarded the empty train and asked why no one was aboard. "Because," he grinned, "no one in Mexico would pay 460 pesos (about 45 cents) to ride two blocks."
Of course they wouldn't.
Back on the street, I took my time taking in the sights and sounds of Monterrey. After tasting some authentic Monterrey cheese from a sidewalk cart, my wanderings took me by this man, whom I've since affectionately come to call the Monterrey Man. Locals say he sits against this tree every day, feeding the pigeons.
Whenever I close my eyes and think of Monterrey, I'll always remember him... sitting there tossing out pieces of tortillas to flocks of strutting, multi-speckled birds. I'll remember him and I'll remember the mountains. Always the mountains....
Ah, Monterrey... you and your people have stolen my heart.