Blog 20 Mexico City's Escandon

Mexico City’s Escandón                                            11 March 2013

            Mexico City really seems like home. One of many, but home. We drove in on the road from Puebla up over the flank of the Volcán Ixtaccihuátl and down onto Calzada Zaragoza, and from there straight to Colonia Escandón, our neighborhood for many recent years, without having to make a single turn. Of course, it wasn’t by the route we had wanted to go, which despite following the signs we were unable to find, and we didn’t really know where we were until, miraculously, we were home. Mexico does that some times.

            The word Mexico, for the uninitiated has two meanings. Outside of the country it means the country of Mexico. Inside the country it means Mexico City. If we tell somebody in Huejotzingo we are headed for Mexico, there isn’t one iota of ambiguity. They may wonder about our good judgment, or our sanity, but not our destination.

            We settled into the Hotel Escandón, strategically located on Calle Martí, right across from the market, where the lady who runs the Comedor Los Tucanes greeted us with surprise and pleasure. The flower seller man saw Linda coming and wrapped up a gardenia plant. The Hotel Escandón, with its one gardenia-scented room, is close to almost everything we might need.

            There are two Michoacana ice cream stores within fifty paces, and 9 or 10 neighborhood groceries (a conservative estimate). There is a leafy park behind the market with lots of play equipment for kids, a public library, a skate board ramp, and tables in one corner where there are always community activities taking place. There’s a laundry up the block and it’s only four minutes to the Metro entrance. Everything just exactly where it always was, as it always is in one’s “home” town.

            Of course inside the Hotel Escandón, the lobby is stark and uninviting, the restaurant is moderately expensive and just OK. The rooms are lovely, large neo-deco in style, even if not all that well-layed out. And it’s 750 pesos a night, about $65. We spent a lovely five nights there while David occupied his days in the Archivo and Linda knit and toured the home neighborhood.

            The routes from the Hotel Escandón to the Metro pass by a couple of other hotels and one of them, the Hotel Patriotismo with its elegant exterior and unusual drive-in entrance, kindled David’s curiosity. True, it is situated on the Calle Patriotismo, the six-lane one-way speedway that marks the west boundary of Escandón. The lady in the hotel’s reception cubicle let me check out a room. Large, modern, attractive, spotless; good window light; a comfortable bathroom. And only 520 pesos per night.

            Done deal, three nights by credit card, thank you. We trundled our luggage two blocks down the Calle Martí sidewalk and around the corner to the Hotel Patriotismo.

            It wasn’t until we were settling into our 3rd-floor room on the side away from Calle Patriotismo’s Mississippi of traffic, that we began to notice some telling details. The mirror facing the kingsize bed. The fact that while the room has a small closet, there are no drawers for putting things in. The spectacular glass-enclosed shower stall protruding into one corner of the room, large enough for two people to shower together, with a showerhead on the ceiling and a button to unleash a spurting, bidet like fountain from the floor. The free additional channels on the cable TV. The pair of toothbrushes next to the soaps and lotions on the sink, along side the pair of combs, and the two packets of condoms printed with the name of the hotel. The “villas" section of the hotel

features drive-in mini garages with discrete curtains to mask the visiting cars from prying eyes.

            Yup, one of those hotels. Very much on the elegant side, but inexpensive. Unless you figure that for most folks the 520 pesos is for an hour or two, and not a whole night.

            Still, the staff couldn’t be more friendly and accommodating. Our large room is spotless and cheery and well appointed (except for the paucity of wall outlets and drawers). At dawn, before the rise of Mexico City smog, both Ixtaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl ,trailing a plume of steam, are visible from our window. And no street noise seems to penetrate the Hotel’s exterior walls.

            Inside those walls, though, there is a bit of an echo. The tac-tac-tac of tacones (high heals) sounds a little like the intro to one of Paul Simon’s African songs. And the ay-ay-ay-ay-sí-sí-sí, far into the night, is a cheerful reminder that love (though perhaps of the commercial sort) is alive and well in Mexico City.

            I suppose we may go back to the Hotel Escandón when we return in July for Max and Kyle’s wedding but still the Hotel Patriotismo has its charms . . . .

David & Linda (who fly to our northern home on Wednesday)