In Mexico City

Reports of crime in Mexico, including Mexico City, almost kept me away. That would have been most unfortunately. Crime happens everywhere, but on the ground, it did not seem particularly dangerous in Mexico City. The reality is it is on par with Chicago in terms of most crimes (yet being attacked because of your race or ethnicity is much less common in Mexico City!) The people here are friendly and helpful. We went in several areas which I am guessing are outside the typical tourist zones, and noticed people milling around at 3:30 a.m. when we left for the return trip.

It may seem odd, but leaving the airport it was like being in China. Now, you’ll have to understand the perspective here. Cities in China are busy with people, as is Mexico City. Dallas is providing the point of reference, and at any given time most places are void of people.

We arrived at the Hampton Inn about 11 pm. It’s not far off of the Zócalo, the main square. The hotel itself looked nice enough, but the route to it was less than direct, and the area seemed suspect. I looked out the third story window to see shuttered storefronts and wondered.

By morning the shops were open and the street was buzzing with activity. We set out for the Zócalo unaccompanied and felt completely comfortable walking the streets. Unfortunately, the square was covered with tents for an event and we did not get to see it.

There are many beautiful buildings around the Zócalo, including the Grand Hotel. You can’t just walk in and wander around, so we headed for the rooftop bar.

We joined a friend from Dallas and someone we had known through Facebook on a walking tour of some historic sites. Mexico City was built on Aztec temples and one building that now houses the Consulate of Spain has an area underneath where you can see some of the ruins and get a sense of what had been there previously.

Mexico City ChurchMexico City is filled with Churches. You see so many and they start to blend together in your mind. The most memorable with a Baroque-style interior. Our guide said it was a response of sorts to Martin Luther and reforms unfriendly to gilded decoration and statues. Anyone visiting gets the message.

Mexico CityThe most impressive building on our tour was the Palacio de Bellas Artes, which I had been incorrectly referring to as an opera house. The Beaux Arts exterior seems somewhat foreign to the Art Deco interior, however. It took a long time to complete due to political turmoil. By the time construction resumed, tastes had changed.

The other buildings worth mentioning are the Post Office and the building that houses the Museo Nacional de Arte, which I understand was built as a private residence (whoa).

It seems that most people visiting want to see the Frida Kahlo Museum, but with only a few days in the city, we decided to limit time spent indoors, and to stay in the historic center city area. We did head to see the Diego Rivera murals at the Secretaria de Educacion Publica and Museo Mural Diego Rivera.

Electric Bus Mexico CityAs far as street traffic, there is a lot. As far as transportation, not so many bicycles, a variety of bus service, both public and commercial including electric buses running from a pantograph, a subway (which I did not explore, and a variety of taxi service including uber (which was about half the price of the hotel cab return ride to the airport.) I have learned the hard way only to use official cabs in foreign countries, however.

The final thing to mention about Mexico City is the affordability. I don’t think we spent $300 on food in two days (for 3 people). That included several rounds of drinks. If you are looking for tourist items to bring home, we didn’t see much that was made in Mexico. The Popular Art Museum gift shop is one exception.

Now that I have a few days in Mexico City under my belt, I look forward to another trip. It is only a short flight from many U.S. cities, including just over 2 hours from Dallas (and the weather is way better in Mexico City).


Oak Lawn Really Does Need a Streetcar


Sustainable City News

I hear people say they would go to the Bishop Arts District, but then think about parking and skip it. That sounds like an “it’s so crowded no one goes there anymore” argument to me, but I’ve had the same thought.

Today I took the train.

It wasn’t a short trip. Leaving my house in Oak Lawn, I took the 15 minute or so walk to the Uptown/CityPlace station, then took DART to Union Station. I missed the first Dallas Streetcar and spend 8 minutes waiting for another.

The train arrives very near the center of the Bishop Arts District making that end of the journey very convenient. I’ve heard a lot about the construction/gentrification over there and so was worried I would find my favorite haunts replaced by Gucci stores. Alas from the Italian, Mexican and Greek restaurants to Hunky’s, they were all still there. Plus an amazing tap…

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A River Runs Through It: Changing Cityscapes in Oak Lawn

Sustainable City News

The view across Oak Lawn Avenue from the United Methodist Church would be much improved when the current big box Office Depot gives way to a new mixed-use apartment building. That was Masterplan’s Dallas Cothrum last night at a meeting of the Oak Lawn Committee conveying comments by a preacher at the church.

But unless street improvements accompany the project, residents in the new building would face the daunting task of crossing Oak Lawn Avenue should they want to hear a sermon. While the committee concerns itself primarily with zoning issues, members expressed frustrations with free-flowing traffic on the main thoroughfare saying the avenue “acts like a river” dividing the neighborhood and that crossing it was “like a game of Frogger.”

Other projects proposed for Oak Lawn Avenue recently including a new Starbucks (with a drive-thru) and a wine store seem to continue the suburban characteristics of the urban street…

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Easter in Oak Lawn Park

Sustainable City News

When Irving Belin wrote “In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,” the Pooch Parade in Dallas is probably the last thing he had in mind.

Easter in urban areas is much different than Easter in small towns. In most places, the holiday consists of church and family events. For many in Dallas, it’s a time to head to Oak Lawn Park and watch the Pooch Parade.

Men and women (but mostly men) wearing flamboyant hats and colorful outfits filled the grassy lawn in front of Arlington Hall in the recently renamed Oak Lawn Park. Food trucks lined Turtle Creek Boulevard, and pets wanting for homes watched from adoption areas as decorated pooches prepared to strut in the parade.

In my time in Dallas, the event seems to have morphed a little from a campy LGBT event into a family celebration. That may reflect the changing demographics…

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Clear Skies and a Stormy Weekend in Altoona

Sustainable City News

Hillary Clinton may have gotten more votes in the 2016 presidential election, but you couldn’t have predicted that from asking people in Blair County, Pennsylvania. More than 70 percent of voters here chose Donald Trump. That’s not as high of a percentage as Democrats in San Francisco who selected Hillary Clinton but still heavily weighted to the Republican side. The actual number of people here who chose Trump, however (39,135) is not far from the number of San Francisco voters who pulled the lever for the current president (37,688).

Before I left for the biggest city in Blair County and perhaps the most conservative city in the state, I emailed my sister “heading to Altoona to watch the Stormy Daniels interview.” My brother-in-law replied back “I would be surprised if Fox News viewers have heard of Stormy Daniels.”

We left 80-degree weather in Dallas and headed to snowy Pennsylvania. Driving…

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A Street-facing Dallas

Sustainable City News

For a long time, most of what was built in Dallas faced inward. It was expected that most people would enter interior lobbies through parking garages. Many buildings are still built that way or only given symbolic street facades.

Along Ross Avenue in downtown Dallas, one building from the 1980s is rearranging itself to accommodate street-level storefronts. Across the street, a new building is rising that will also entice people to enter retail storefronts from the sidewalk.

Also See: Ross Avenue remake will bring acres of new retail to Dallas

2000 Ross Hotel and Retail Building, Trammel Crow Center adapting ground floor for exterior-facing retail, Bikeshare helping to liven the once quieter Ross Avenue in Downtown Dallas.

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