Sunday, March 11, 2012

Big Mexico: Chihuahua City

Arrival in Chihuahua City corresponded with La Comida, the two hour mid-day lunch and siesta. The cab driver was even headed home after he dropped me off at the hotel.  I asked him about the drug dealers, how much of a problem are they, and is it difficult to live in Chihuahua these days? He shrugged and said yes, they're a big problem, and every family is affected in some way, but in general the people don't live in constant fear. The cartels mostly kill each other, but unfortunately, some of those who get killed are related. That was reassuring since Chihuahua is the most murderous state in all Mexico.

From sweet to smoking hot!
Our hotel, arranged by Nichol's Expeditions was a beautiful B&B, Boutique Hotel San Felipe,  in the heart of the city. Fortunately I felt a bit better after sleeping most of the way on the plane, and since the tour group was off on a City Tour, I wandered around a bit looking for a place to eat. There was a seafood restaurant about a block away, so I ordered the shrimp and octopus cocktail. A nice assortment of condiments on each table ranged from benign American Catsup to raging hot habanero salsa with flames rising up the label. It was absolutely delicious and made me agree with the sign that said "To eat here is to eat in heaven itself."

Back at the hotel, I took a brief nap between coughing fits. My friends arrived and we had a nice little reunion as I'd not seen some of them in several months, including my room mate Lia. She immediately took charge of my health and gave me some antihistamines that worked amazingly fast. We took a long walk around the city. They showed me some of the sites they'd visited on their city tour including the mansion, Quinta Gameros, built by a rich man for his mistress but never lived in because of the advent of the revolution in 1910. Pancho Villa's home is now a museum too, and it was open. I explored over there while the others checked out the store across the street. I spent way too much time trying to decipher the labels on the exhibits which were in Spanish and something vaguely resembling English. The Spanish was easier to understand. The home is filled with period furniture, some of it actually belonged to Villa's widow who only died about thirty years ago. It contains the car in which Pancho Villa was assassinated, cleaned up of course! And there was the usual assortment of weapons, photos of generals, and other military paraphernalia.

The hotel had arranged for their cook to prepare a meal of local dishes for us that evening. I should have taken notes on exactly what we had but memory will have to suffice. Gorditas made of corn and stuffed with cheeses, nopales (cactus) and other vegetables lightly pickled, a spicy crumble of meats with potatoes, handmade corn tortillas, a lovely mushroom dish made with spices and tomatoes, and chile rellenos. There was something yummy for dessert but I was in overload by then.

We went to bed stuffed, tired and happy, ready for an early trip across the vast expanse of Chihuahua, Mexico's largest state, to Copper Canyon.