In many ways Japan is very normal. It is a land of hard working people that get up and go to work every day. On the other hand Japan is very different from the Western world. There are things that you will see there that you can’t even imagine back home. Case in point is the Robot Restaurant. I asked Denise to describe the place and she said, “it is proof that Liberace can still exist in the modern world.” The decorations are over the top but it is more than just decorations.
You really can’t miss the entrance to the restaurant.
Making the decision to go to the Robot Restaurant was one that I (John) hesitated on. It was for one thing kind of expensive, about $80 per person which included a bento meal. The second thing is it is located in the middle of Kabukicho (the red light district). It used to be that you had to be over 18 to get into the show and early reports said that it was not a place that any respectable person wanted to be caught in. Other reports however gave a different picture, saying that the show had changed and was now more family friendly. In fact when I was doing my final research I found that there was a discounted children’s ticket. Knowing that there were decency laws in Japan we decided to take a chance and buy a ticket.
Tickets for the show were very popular and we had to book several days in advance. The day we were able to get tickets just happened to be the same day AJ and I (John) were scheduled to return from our Mt. Fuji hike. The tickets we got were for 7:15 p.m. and we were scheduled to return from Mt. Fuji at 2:30 p.m., except it took us longer to get down the mountain than we thought and ended up getting back to Tokyo at 4:30 p.m. It was just enough time for AJ and I to take showers, get changed, and run out to the metro station. As a result of the short rest my feet were still pretty sore from the climb, but I was able to hobble my way to the show.
Shinjuku station is always a bustle of activity. At night it is even more so, as the night lights come on, the Japanese come out to see them. The short walk to the Robot Restaurant was very colorful. There was lots of people and lots of flashing lights, but there was no mistaking where the Robot Restaurant was. It was the flashiest of all the places in Kabukicho.
The stairs don’t have handrails but there is plenty of stuff to grab on to if you think your going to slip.
The waiting lounge was I think inspired by Liberace.
The outside of the restaurant was just a preview of what was to come. Inside the building was even brighter than the outside. The rules were very clear that there was no flash photography allowed but the lights inside were so bright, that taking pictures were no problem. The first thing we were told to do was wait in a lounge, which was very over the top decorated. There we were entertained by a guy dressed up as a robot playing an electric guitar. At the bar there was a little robot that would speak broken English.
After the man with an electric guitar finished we were let down some flashy stairs to the basement for the main show. The seating was assigned and was very compact. Denise and I got sushi bento boxes and AJ got a beef and rice bento that was heated with a built in heating element. The show is hard to explain but it is a high energy, in your face (literally), high volume show. It was broken into four acts in which there was a break so that they could set up for the next act. It was a very engaging show if only for the fact that you never knew what or who was going to show up. The show was catered mostly to foreigners in that the dialogue was all broken English with English and Japanese subtitles.
Here is a little video to give you an idea of what we saw:
This kind of show is kind of a once in a lifetime thing, I am glad we saw it once, but I doubt I would pay to see the show twice. Looking out to the audience it was hard to say that this was an authentic Japanese experience. I was told that the manager was an American. I only saw two other members in the audience that looked like they were from Japan. Yet, this was a show that I have never seen anything in any other part of the world and for that I will call it a Japanese experience. I am still sure what we saw, it was kind of like a dream, but a dream I definitely will not forget.
The drummers made a very dramatic entry to start the show.
One of many dancing robots.
For being robots, these two were very wobbly.
This lady on the left was the MC/Ringleader who gave an introduction for each set.
They pulled this airplane around before the show to show you how close the floats were going to get to you. That is to say when those wings head for your head you better duck!
AJ and Denise with their bento boxes.
When they put up the chains and the evil robots came out we knew the show was going to get crazy.
It was an expensive but the “Goraiko” (sunrise shot) was worth it.
Getting up to the top of Mt. Fuji was for me (John) a long and strange journey. 23 years ago I had been a California Youth Ambassador assigned to Japan. My job at the time was to promote California by going to different places in Japan. In the four months I was in Japan I went everywhere and everywhere I went was Mt. Fuji. On a clear day it dominates the Japanese skyline as it can be seen from almost anywhere on the main island and sometimes even on the smaller islands. As I traveled the land I saw Mt. Fuji over and over again. It seemed to call out to me and I remember starting to call it Fujisan (my friend Fuji). Even though I called Mt. Fuji my friend, it was a friend I didn’t really know and so I knew someday I would have to come back to visit.
The Yoshida trail is very well marked.
On July 1st, AJ and myself (John) set out from Toyko to go and climb Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji is 3,776 meters high, which comes out to about 12,389 ft. tall (half the size of Mt. Everest). It took us 24 hrs. to reach the top from the 5th station (the tallest point you can get to by bus). Our goal was to see the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji, which we did on July 2nd, 2016.
Even though we trained for three months, we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, even after summiting we weren’t quite sure what we had done. Despite that, looking into the rising sun struggling to break free from the clouds we knew instinctively that we had done something significant.
The beginning of our hike up to Mt. Fuji started at Shinjuku station in Tokyo. Transporting over 3 million passengers per day, Shinkjuku station is registered by Guinness World Records as the busiest transportation hub in the world. To give you a hint as to how big this station is, it has 51 railway lines that cross it. The bus station is on the 4th floor. It is amazing in itself to see how they drive these giant highway buses in some very tight corridors. It had already been a busy morning, since Denise and I had been to the Tsukiji fish market earlier in the morning. AJ and I arrived at the Shinjuku station at about 8 a.m. It took us awhile to find the right platform, but thanks to a tourist information center on the first floor we found our way to the bus ticket sales counter. I had prepared the day before by having the concierge service write down “I would like one adult and one child ticket to Mt. Fuji” on a piece of paper. I handed it to the sales lady and she responded “ie”, that means “no” in Japanese. At first I thought the paper was written wrong so I mustered my broken Japanese and muttered “Ni kippu kudasi Fuji”, which means “two ticket please Fuji”. Again “ie” but this time she handed me a timetable which clearly marked that all the bus tickets were sold. “Great!! All this way to be told I am idiot because I didn’t make a bus reservation.” I was told that there was a train that I could take but it would cost me double the amount of the bus and I wouldn’t get to the 5th station until 2 p.m. This was a problem. Starting a hike up Mt. Fuji at 2 p.m. would get us up to our mountain hut in the dark. Doable, yes, but not a fun way to start an epic hike. So while I tried to figure out what we were going to do, AJ decided he was going to do what he does best, twirl around like a mad man. I guess it worked because after a few minutes of him twirling a lady handed me a paper with the number 252 on it and said that if I came back at 9:52 a.m. I could try to get a cancellation ticket. I thought “what do I have to lose” so I took the number and we came back at 9:52 a.m. and to our surprise they called our number. We were very happy to get a seat on that bus. So happy that I made sure that I reserved and pre-paid for a 12 p.m. bus returning to Shinjuku station. I didn’t want to be stuck at the Mt. Fuji 5th Station without a return ticket.
At the third station there was an amusement park called Fuji-Q.
The adventure started at Shinjuku station in Tokyo to catch a highway bus.
This was our version of carbs-loading for the climb.
The Fuji Subaru line is a highway only open during the summer that leads to the 5th station.
At the base of Mt. Fuji there are many picturesque villages.
The 5th station kind of looks like the gift shop section of Disneyland.
A picture from the shrine at the 5th station.
My mom always told me “remember the day you left on” so we took a picture.
The bus trip was about 2 hours long. As we slowly headed into the interior of the country, things went from metropolitan to very green. At the base of Mt. Fuji are many different towns and villages. The side we were ascending from was from the Shizouka prefecture. The bus made a stop at the third station which is home to an amusement park known as Fuji-Q. From there we turned up a road called the Fuji Subaru Line. The Fuji Subaru Line is a road that is only open in the summer, which is the when Mt. Fuji is officially open for climbing.
The trail from the 5th station to the 6th station is mostly very gradual with lots of trees and shade.
The Mt. Fuji 5th Station, or as they translated it on the bus, the Mount Fuji Fifth Step, is kind of a weird preview for the hike that was about to come. That is to say, it didn’t represent at all the hike that was about to come. The Mt. Fuji 5th station is basically a tourist trap. It is like that part on Main Street USA at Disneyland where you walk through the shop just to find a door that opens right into another shop. There were hikers there, but there were also photo spots, horse rides, vending machines, and a very colorful shrine. They sold these souvenir walking sticks there as well. We had our own hiking sticks but bought a half a stick so that we could put it in my backpack and get branding stamps along the way. They also had ice cream at the 5th station. It was kind of hot when we got our hike started (at 12:30 p.m.) so we felt mountain berry (tasted just like strawberry to me) ice cream cones were the way to go.
The trail from the 5th station to the 6th station was kind of deceptive, in that it was very easy. It was a little bit steep in some places, but it was very well maintained, and it had lots of tree cover that offered nice shade. There were a lot of signs warning people not to go too fast and each sign had an estimated time of arrival to the next station along with the distance. There were also signs at the beginning telling people not to do a “bullet run”, go up and down the mountain in one day. The sign said we would get to the 6th station in a little over an hour which we did in about 40 minutes.
AJ waiting at the donation center at the 6th station.
There are lots of signs warning people not to try to go up and down Mt. Fuji in one day.
The first marker of the Yoshida climbing trail is very beautiful with the fog and the trees.
The first part of the 6th station trail wasn’t too bad, just a bunch of gravel.
The ranger had a 4×4, which he used to patrol the trails.
Getting to the 6th station we thought the hike was going to be a lot easier than we expected. We happily paid our 1,000 yen (about $10 USD) conservancy fee (completely optional, but who doesn’t want to protect the trails) and continued on our way. Right after we paid our conservancy fee, the trail changed dramatically. First of all, there were no longer any trees. Second of all, the dirt trail turned into a decomposed volcanic (Mt. Fuji is really a volcano not a mountain) rock trail. Then finally, we started to climb up the first of many steps on the trail. Despite this new development we pushed on.
About 200 meters (think two football fields) away from the 7th station we came upon two interesting things. The first thing we came upon was a television crew. At first we marveled at the fact that there was a television crew on top of Mt. Fuji and started to wonder what they were filming. Then they saw us and got really excited. We knew that July 1st was the first official hiking day of the 2016 Mt. Fuji season. What we didn’t know is several locals had reported to the ranger station a story about this little American boy attempting to climb Mt. Fuji. So, the local news station got a hold of the story and sent a crew to find this American boy. And so there, right at the cooled lava flow, which is the other different thing AJ spoke to a news crew. AJ was not at all shy, anyone who knows AJ knows that he will talk to pretty much anyone about anything. The news crew I think got a little more than they bargained for, not only did they learn that his name was “AJ” and that he was from California, but they also learned that he is “8 and a half years old and goes to Madison Elementary School” and that he “is strong and prepared for the hike because he does jogathon at school.” The news crew was a little bit confused about what a jogathon was but they smiled and thanked us for the interview. AJ was very excited about being interviewed and told everyone on the mountain how “famous” he was, which kind of turned out to be true, because pretty much all the hut owners and workers knew AJ’s name going up that mountain. Whether it was by word of mouth or because of that interview I can’t say for sure, but his fame did get him some privileges on that mountain.
Lunch break at the 7th station was sandwiches courtesy 7/11.
Getting close to the 7th station the trail got very rocky.
It also got very steep.
Going up the mountain, I had enough cell service on my phone to capture a few portals on Ingress (location based game).
AJ eating his sandwich at the 6th station.
On the way to the 7th station AJ was interviewed by a local news crew.
AJ made lots of friends along the way. This girl was from Winchester, CA (very close to Riverside). She climbed and spoke with AJ from the 7th to the 8th station.
After leaving the news crew we started to climb up several lava flow formations. These lava flow formations were very rocky and pretty steep. Steep enough that to navigate them you needed to use both your hands and feet. No rope was required, but they did have guide ropes that showed you the way up the trail. Starting at the 7th station, we started to pass by a series of huts, which we used as rest stops. At the first 7th station hut we stopped and had our lunch, which was some 7/11 sandwiches that I had bought for the trip. At each hut there was a bathroom that you could use for 200 yen (about $2 USD) and different things for sale. The higher you went, the more expensive things got. While at one of the 7th station huts, AJ made a friend of a 15 yr. old girl from Winchester, CA. Winchester is very close to Riverside, CA, so those two had lots of things to talk about. AJ’s friend walked with us a long time on that trail.Which is good because it took AJ’s mind off the constant pace of the trail.
As we were almost to the 8th station my legs started cramping pretty bad. I don’t know if it was due to altitude or the length of the climb, but every time I had to scramble up a big rock my legs started to spasm. AJ was like a billy goat and loved the big rocks, but not me. Just as I was about to get to the first 8th station my legs seized up so bad that I slipped and fell on a stairway. It was so sudden that I barely had time to break the fall with my walking stick and arms. I fell on my behind really hard and it hurt even more. It took about 10 minutes of rubbing my thighs with my hands before I got my knees to bend again.
There were a lot of very long tour groups climbing Mt. Fuji.
A shrine at the 8th station.
John arriving at the 8th station. Took me resting on both poles to stay upright.
Needless to say, my climb from the 8th station to the 8.5 station where our hut was located was very painful. At the Mt. Fujisan Hotel, which is the biggest complex on the mountain, but still a hut and definitely not a hotel in my opinion, AJ’s friend left us. It was just me and AJ going up the mountain together to get to our hut. It was very painful climb and just before arriving I experienced another muscle spasm episode and literally crawled up the last set of stairs to the Goraikoukan hut.
A view up to the 8.5 station shows how steep the climb was.
AJ and John at the 8.5 Goraikoukan station.
I chose the Goraikoukan hut for two reasons. The first reason was that it was the highest hut you could stay overnight in on the mountain. This would give us the most amount of sleep time and yet have the opportunity to make it to the top of Mt. Fuji by sunrise. The second reason is that as part of their package they offered a hot dinner (it was about $150 for the both of us). There was a little confusion about our reservation, but I had my pre-paid reservation number with me. Also, the hut owner recognized AJ and decided it was big honor to have him staying at his hut so while we were at the hut AJ got to stay in the fire circle, which is something normally only the workers were allowed to do, but for AJ they made an exception. Our bed for the night was a futon mattress on a tatami mat. It wasn’t anything luxurious but after a full day of hiking it was all that we needed and I slept with no problems.
At 1:30 a.m. I could start to hear the movement of hikers and AJ told me that he needed to use the bathroom. I told him that once we left the hut, we could not come back and that we would have to start our hike up the mountain. He was OK with that so we got our stuff together, went to the bathroom, and started to hike up Mt. Fuji in the dead of night. I had packed two headlamps, but decided it would be better to have AJ use his headlight, put him in front of me and we would both be guided by his light. I had my headlamp on standby in case something happened to his. Right when got out of the hut we were faced with a big gust of wind that blew both of our hats off our head. We found my hat later in the morning, but AJ’s pokemon hat was never found.
The top of the crater was EXTREMELY windy.
AJ and John at the shrine at the top of Mt. Fuji.
The crater was very foggy and windy. From our view it looked like if you fell in it would be instant nothingness.
Inside the hut it was warmer, but at 12,000 feet it was still cold enough to warrant keeping our cold weather gear on.
AJ put in a 1 yen coin at the 9th station tori gate for good luck.
AJ trying to touch the crater marker beacon.
Two guard dogs are said to guard Mt. Fuji at the 9th station by causing fire, wind, and thunder.
To get goods up the volcanos huts use little tractors up the down trail.
Going up in the middle of the night was slow progress. We were tired both physically and mentally, but there was nothing to do but to go up so we did. At the 9th station we found a 1 yen coin and decided to put it in the tori gate for good luck. I also saw what looked to be a memorial cross, a little reminder that you didn’t want to mess around too long at the top of Mt. Fuji or you could be next. At the 9th station we saw the stone guard dogs of Mt. Fuji that legend says protects Mt. Fuji by sending down wind, rain, and thunder. The legend says that they make sure that only those with real intent make it to the top of Mt. Fuji. We were tired, but at that point nothing was going to stop us from making it to the top.
The top of Mt. Fuji is marked by rocked carved shrine and a obelisk declaring the shrine the 10th station. We climbed a little more up to the crater and found another obelisk that we believe was marking the highest point in Japan. The top was very cold and windy. We were told that the weather was -23 C (-10 F). It was COLD! It was so windy that while at the crater I had to grab AJ because he kept blowing away. At the top there were some wooden pallet looking benches which we sat next to to wait for the sun to rise. It was very foggy and it looked like the sun, like us, was struggling to get through the clouds. We had wanted to get a branding stamp at the top of Mt. Fuji, but because of the wind and cold, all the structures (including the shrine) were closed. We took several foggy pictures and decided to start heading down the mountain.
A view of the 9th station tori gate on the way down.
The first part of the down hill climb was particularly slow because we had to use the up trail. Normally there is a different trail for climbing down Mt. Fuji as there is going up, but because of a mini avalanche a few days prior the first part of the downhill trail was inaccessible. We dodged all the uphill climbers and eventually got back to the 8th station where we were able to go down the downhill trail. The downhill trail is composed of crushed volcanic rock and is kind of slippery. It is also used by the hut workers to drive these little tread tractors up the mountain, which is how they get their supplies up and down Mt. Fuji.
The downhill was very long. After the 8th station there was no water stops and we ran out of water at the 6th station. AJ kind of lost it a little and cried just about 300 meters from the 5th station. I knew he was dehydrated, because I was as well, but I told him that there was nothing we could do about it until we got to the 5th station. It seemed like forever to get to that 5th station but we did. We finally got to the 5th station at 12:30 p.m., which means we were on that mountain for 24 hrs. It was a long time. So long in fact that we missed the 12 p.m. bus that I had pre-paid. Luckily, I had enough money and there was space on the 2 p.m. bus (it cost about $26 USD one way).
It looks like there used to be a rescue hut at the 9th station but now it looks like it needs rescuing.
AJ decided to take a stab at the ice pack on the way down.
These concrete structures are meant for you to run inside and shelter in the case of a avalanche.
Even though it was July there was plenty of snow to be seen.
The downward trail takes you through the heart of a very dusty side crater.
A downward view of the Fujisan Hotel at the 8th station. The Fujisan Hotel is the largest of the hut complexes on Mt. Fuji, but to call it a hotel is a stretch.
We got back to our hotel about 4:30 p.m. and you would think that after an adventure like that we would just crash in our beds, but that was not the case. We had just enough time to take a shower, get ready, and move on out because we had an appointment with the Robot Cafe for that evening, but that is another story all together.
Here is a little video of our thoughts while climbing:
As part of our continuing quest to visit all 50 of the state capitals we visited the Nevada State Capitol in Carson City, Nevada. Kind of like Arizona we found that the original State Capitol is old (built in 1871) and only houses the Governor’s offices. Originally, the building also held the Supreme Court, Legislature, and state library. All those functions now have their own buildings close to the State Capitol building.
The State Capitol building is currently undergoing refurbishment. Looking at the various plaques on the walls it looks like this has been done several times. Inside we met with a State Capitol Police Officer. He was very friendly and invited us to ask him any questions. He handed us a map and told us we were free to pretty much go wherever we wanted. You might be skeptical of that claim, but it was true. The building was really quite open. They let us go into the offices, sit in the old Supreme Court chairs, and even let us examine the inside of the state safe! Which by the way despite having very heavy doors was very ornate with murals on the outside and inside doors. The only place we couldn’t really go was the old assembly chambers because of the construction. Other than that though everywhere was open.
John at a Legislative Desk
The Assembly room was under refurbishment.
“Please arise for the Honorable Chief Justice Pedroza” (yeah right). At first Nevada had three supreme court justices, now they have seven.
Loved how they were able to reuse the door hinges when they remodeled.
A look into the Governors office.
The safe inside the Secretary of the State’s office.
They were really nice and let me look inside the safe. It has a beautiful painting on the inside.
The trim was interesting with all the different minerals found in Nevada.
AJ in front of the State Capitol building.
The old Senate chambers holds a little museum on the story of the Nevada Capitol.
Just outside the building is a park with many memorials and other government buildings. The main ones to note were the Nevada State Assembly Building and the Nevada State Supreme Court. The city of Carson City is kind of a mid sized city. Like all Nevada cities, there are casinos, but they are not outlandishly flashy like the ones seen in Las Vegas. The city still retains it’s late 1800’s charm and we enjoyed the short drive out to see the Governor’s Mansion.
Kit Carson is of course the founder of Carson City.
The Bliss Mansion is a great example of late 1800s architecture
Cactus Jack’s Casino kind of shows what the casinos in Carson City are like, lots of neon, but not like the crazy stuff you see in Las Vegas.
42nd St. Downtown retains the feeling of the old west.
The Nevada Fallen Peace Officer’s Memorial
The new Supreme Court Building is just next door to the State Capitol Building.
The Governor’s Mansion is not far away.
The Nevada State Legislature building is also next door to the State Capitol Building and is where the Nevada Assembly and Senate meet today.
Here is a little video of us walking the grounds:
The Nevada State Capitol Building is located at 101 N Carson St, Carson City, NV 89701 in downtown Carson City. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
We are moving and need to sell our two bicycles. Both bicycles have night lights on them.
The first one is a
White Electra Three Speed Townie Women’s bike. Like the name implies this is a good town bike. It has a gearless 3 speed changing system. It has a mounted basket on the front. It looks fine but it has not been used for over a year so it probably needs a bike tune up.
The second one is a
Black/White/Blue Giant Alux 6000 Series Butted Tubing Road Bike. This bike is made for off road biking. It has shocks in the front. It is 10 speed. I have installed a rack and baskets in the back. It has a flat tire. I have not used it for six months so it probably needs a tune up as well.
I will also include in the price the rack that we put the bikes on. It is a lean-to rack that allows you to stack two bicycles without any nails. You just lean it on the wall and can stack bicycles. Very nice for apartments.
I am selling both bikes as is and you must take both bikes or neither of them. Basically, I just don’t want to move them. The $300 prices is firm, the bikes are both worth way more than $300. I am accepting cash only, no checks, no rainchecks, must be paid all at once, and you must haul them away yourselves. We have no way to deliver them. We move April 23rd, if we don’t sell them by then I will put them in the moving van and then after I am done moving sell them to the scrapper.
You know your famous when they put you on the money.
When you think of Mexico, you might think of poor people. Or, maybe you think of super rich drug cartel owners. Both do exist in Mexico, but the reality is the majority of Mexicans are just a bunch of hard working people just trying to make a living. While Mexico may not be the richest country in the world, it is by no means the poorest either. The fact is that Mexico has a lot of natural resources and when you realize how functional the country is despite sometimes inept government structures, you start to realize how much the country actually has to offer.
The concept of money is a universal concern. The MIDE (Museo Interactivo De Economia, Museum Interactive of Economics) tries to not only explain where money comes from, but where it can take us. The museum lives up to it’s title by being very interactive. Getting caught up in all the different displays it became very apparent how money affects us. It also became very apparent that I did not want to be stuck on a deserted island with AJ because we all “died” when he refused to trade with us.
The museum was located very close to the Bellas Artes Metro station and didn’t cost too much. It was $90 ($5.06 USD) pesos per person or $200 ($11.25 USD) per family of four. For an extra $20 pesos ($1.15 USD) we were able to design our own money, which was a fun little souvenir.
Click to enlarge photos:
In this exhibit they showed you all the anti-fraud mechanisms used in money.
This exhibit had bags that represented amount of goods.
Mexican pesos are a lot more colorful than US dollars. These frames are made with shredded money.
For some strange reason the torture museum was next to the economics museum.
The MIDE is a very fun place for families to explore.
An old coin mint.
On the top floor you started the tour by learning about the enviroment
AJ and Denise enjoyed the fact that some of the displays were in English.
Mexico’s first pesos were printed by the Bank of London.
It is probably better we don’t have a place like this in California or I would spend too much money.
When people think of Mexico I think most people in the USA think of either beaches or ancient times such as Pre-Hispanic or Spanish Colonialism. Mexico is that but when it comes to Mexico City people need to understand that it is a major metropolis. As such, there is A LOT of new things in Mexico City. All of that gets incorporated into the cosmo of Mexican Culture.
Point in case is Friki Plaza. Friki Plaza is a four story anime/game/geek store. All four floors, plus the basement of the mall are dedicated to the pursuit of the Otaku culture. On the ground floor you have cell phones, DVDs, and Comic books. The second floor was dedicated to card games such as Pokemon, Magic, and Yugigo. The third floor had all sorts of Otaku snacks such as ramen, soft serve ice cream, okonomiyki, and takoyaki. The fourth floor had every game system you could imagine, which for a small fee you could rent and play. The basement was dedicated to cosplay, things like make up, hats, and wigs.
I liked this pokemon mural, very creative.
Denise like the Storm Trooper riding a horse.
AJ and I spent $25 pesos (about $1.50 USD) to play video games for an hour.
One of the many murals, this one was a of a green dragon.
On the second floor they had benches where players had non-stop card tournaments.
For $75 pesos (about $4.20 USD) you rolled two dice and could potentially win a very good card.
A lot of Magic the Gathering cards. Interesting was that they preferred English cards.
Describing it sounds very Japanese, but it somehow it wasn’t. It had Japanese stuff but the environment was somehow very Mexican. Once again Mexico took a modern idea and made it into their own.
Pasteleria La Ideal is locate at number 18 on Av. 16 de Septiembre Street in downtown Mexico City. About 4 city blocks from the Bellas Artes Metro Station. The bakery was opened in 1927 and was originally called the Ideal Bakery. Opened right in the middle of what is known as the Cristero War (Mexico vs. the Catholic Church) the bakery keeps things pretty simple. It makes a lot of classic bread at really cheap prices. The business model seems to be working because we went on a Thursday morning and they had already sold out of bolillos (mexican rolls), but there was more than an abundance of other bread to find. Also, not to be missed was the cake demonstration room on the 1st floor(as opposed to the ground floor). Some of the cakes there were 10 layers high.
Mexicans love jelly cakes.
A selection of filled turnovers.
Grab a tray and some tongs and pick away. Everything on this table was 5 pesos (about .28 cents)
The sign says a kilo for 75 pesos (2.2 lbs for about $4.50 USD)
I put AJ in this frame so you could start to get a feel as to how high these cakes got.
La Ideal keeps up to modern day with this Yoda cake. Basically, you give them a picture and they can make a cake out of it.
If you go to San Fernando Cemetery you will admire many things. You will admire the beautiful arches and impressive gravestones. You will contemplate time and it’s passing in the silence that only a cemetery’s ambiance can let you do. The cemetery is small, but has a lot of twists and turns that will make you wonder if you wonder if you are really in some sort of maze. Then at the end, right before you exit the cemetery gates that lead to the church, you are going to notice one last gravestone. Despite it being simple it will immediately catch your eye due to the last name being so different than all the rest.
The Mexico tombstone of Isadora Duncan
Isadora Duncan was known for her free flowing intrepetive dance style.
Yes, none other the queen of modern dance herself, Isadora Duncan. Or is it? A quick google search will reveal that Angela Isadora Duncan was born in San Francisco in 1877. It will also tell you that she died in Nice, France in 1927. The gravestone set before you is a year off on both ends. What is going on here?
The answer is extreme devotion. Apparently, Mexico in the 20s was obessed with Ms. Duncan. So much that when she died in 1927, the president of Mexico, Plutarco Calles, ordered that a tombstone be erected in the legendary San Fernando Cemetery in her honor. And, apparently also decided to make her a little bit younger than she actually was, hence the change of dates.
This story may seems strange to you, perhaps even a bit of a curiousity (well you at least stuck with the story so far), but upon further inspection it is by no means uncommon for the San Fernando Cemetery. A cemetery where people may or may not be buried.
Coronel Santiago Xicotencatl died defending Mexico from the 1847 invasion of the United States to Mexico.
The not permanent Miguel Miramontes grave.
These two sentries patiently waiting the milinium.
The tomb of Benito Juarez
D. Ysidoro Olvera, died July 28, 1859, the last President of the Congressional Constitution of 1857
AJ checking out Benito Juarez’s tomb.
Jose Urbano Fonseca. Chief Supreme Court Judge of Mexico.
The imposing tomb of Ignacio Zaragoza.
The tomb of Ignacio Comonfort
The empty tomb of Vicente Guerrero
In an impressive masolium on the grounds is a grave dedicated to Mexico’s second president Vicente Guerrero, who fought for the indenpendence of Mexico. As impressive as the grave is, he is not there, the remains were transferred in 1925 to rest under the Independence Monument.
There is the tomb of Ignacio Zaragoza, the famed General who battled the French on the 5th of May in 1862 in Puebla (sorry Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Indepence Day). He used to be burried in San Fernando, but he too was exhumed and reburried in a monument in Puebla.
Then there Santiago F. Xicotencatl, who is famous for dying in 1847 because rather than surrendering the Mexican flag to invading U.S. forces he wrapped himself in the flag and jumped off Chapultepec Castle (which back then was a military college) into a hail of bullets. He too was exhumed and reburied in a monument at the base of Chapultepec Park.
Exhumation and reburriel seems to be a common theme at San Fernando Cemetery. The names go on and on. Ignacio Comonfort, 25th President of Mexico used to be burried in the cemetery, Provisional President, Miguel Miramon was ordered executed fired (literally fired) by President Benito Juarez, had a temporary grave at San Fernando.
All these people buried, exhumed, and then reburried. It really made me rethink the idea of “final resting place.” Despite the many empty graves there are however some people still burried at San Fernando Cemetery. Ysidoro Olvera, the last Congressional President of the 1857 Constitution, who was imprisioned by Ignacio Comonfort got to stay. There are many generals of the different Mexican wars that are still there.
The most famous resident in San Fernando, who also consequentially has the biggest tomb in San Fernando is that of Benito Juarez. Benito Juarez was the 26th President of Mexico. Having died in 1872 of a heart attack while reading a newspaper in the National Palace. The sculpture in his tomb is made of marble and depicts a “Mother Mexico” weaping over the fallen Benito Juarez.
Indeed San Fernando Cemetery is a strange place to be, but definitely place worth a visit. Perhaps it doesn’t do it’s job as final resting place, but it does a great job in helping the visitor remember those that have passed on. It is pretty easy to get to, all you have to do is go to the Blue/Grean Hidalgo station and walk a few blocks. Admission is free and it is open as long as there is light outside.
On Saturday our Ward (church group) was going to Olivera St. for the day. Denise and I have been to Olivera St. at least a dozen of times. It happens to be my second favorite place in the world to get a churro and with my hispanic roots it is a good place for me to rekindle some of those roots without having to make a drive to the border .That said we kind of feel like we know the place, but as we discovered yesterday we really don’t.
Our walking tour guide Frank Lin.
While we were at Olivera St. we decided to take a walking tour and during the tour we visited two places that we had never seen before. One of those was the America Tropical Interpretative Center.
Siqueros was definitely a rebel rouser wherever he roamed.
The story of America Tropical starts with the famous artist David Alfaro Siqueiros. To understand the painting you need to know a little bit about Siqueiros’ history. Siqueros history starts as a muralist for the Mexican Revolutionist government in the 20’s under Alvaro Obregon. A firebrand painter, Siqueiros painted murals depicting the Mexican worker fighting for their rights. It was no surprise that he eventually joined the Mexican Communist Party. For this he was jailed in the 30’s and exiled from Mexico.
He eventually ended up in Los Angeles, California in 1932. Which just happened to be the year of the Olympics. At that time Olivera St. had fallen on hard times. A movement was going to restore Olivera St. as a historical district. Some business owner got the idea to paint this mural by this famous painter. The idea was to paint a lush tropical garden scene with birds and plants. With all the people coming for the Olympics it would work out great.
The first vision of America Tropical was a bit harsh for America.
What they got was America Tropical (“La América Tropical”). A harsh depiction of an Imperialist eagle overseeing the destruction of the Americas. To the right were Peruvian and Mexican revolutionaries trying to shoot the eagle down in vain. The business owners were shocked. Almost immediately the part with the revolutionaries was white washed. In 1938 many Mexicans were forcefully deported under the Mexican Repatriation Act of 1938, Siqueiros was one of the first to go. Siqueiros would go back to Mexico and continue painting famous murals in the Pallace of the Fine Arts (Palacio de las Bellas Artes) and the National University of Mexico (UNAM). As soon as his was deported Olivera St. white washed the rest of the mural.
The mural was then forgotten for many years until in the 1960’s some paint started to chip from the walls and someone rediscovered the mural. The answer apparently was to cover it up with more paint (they were not as radical in the 60’s as we thought). In 1982 records show that the mural was again rediscovered, but they decided to cover it up with plywood. Again forgotten.
What the mural looks like today. You can barely make out the colors. (click to enlarge)
This is a photoshop version of how I imagine the colors might have looked (click to enlarge).
And there it sat under paint and plywood until in 2012 The Getty Conservation group made a million dollar (actually 1.2 million dollars) offer Olivera St. could not refuse. After some very hard patient work, a mural forgotten for over 80 years is now uncovered once again. The colors are a bit faded but the mural can be seen.Which to me is funny because I have been to Olivera St. numerous times since 2012 and I never heard of the painting or it’s story until I took a free walking tour (thank you Las Angelitas del Pueblo).
Not only did the the Getty restore the mural, but they helped restore the Sepulveda house.
The interpretive center is a wonderful resource to understanding the mural. In addition to being a viewing area for the mural, you can learn about Siqueros and how the mural was restored. The best part about it is it is all FREE! Just walk in and learn for yourself. And when your done with that, you can visit the Sepulveda House (another place I learned about), which deserves it’s own post later.
AJ thought it was cool to take a picture with a movie star, but he wanted to know why she was famous.
Last week AJ and I took the Metrolink (commuter link train) into LA and took advantage of our season passes to Universal Studios. For just two people the Metrolink is far more convienant than driving. It only costs $10 and includes all transfers for the day. I figure for $20 I couldn’t beat the gas, plus parking, plus wear on the car, and most important frustration with LA traffic.
AJ enjoyed seeing all the animals.
We really didn’t have an agenda when we got there. The weather was a bit cold and overcast, but that was good because there wasn’t hardly any crowds. Not only did we see all the shows and attractions (except for Crusty Fun Land because we don’t really like the Simpsons that much), but we went on several of the attractions twice. AJ decided that his favorite show was the animal actor show.
Since there wasn’t a lot of lines and we were just wandering the park, we got to see a lot of the actors roaming the park as well. We didn’t ask for any autographs, but we enjoyed taking pictures.
AJ with a NEST (Transformers) operative.
AJ and I with Gru and a minion. I was dressed for the occasion, I don’t know why AJ didn’t read the memo.
AJ with the Bishop from Water World.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is still closed. We checked.
AJ hanging out with the dog that played in Evan Almighty.
After we left the park we went to Olivera St. to have some authentic Mexican food.