Never having been to Mexico, I wasn't sure what to expect. Stereotypes based upon what I've seen on television or in movies were in the back of my mind, but not really what I thought I'd see.
The Monterrey metropolitian area, (with 3.7 million people, making it third most populous in Mexico) lies in a valley surrounded by mountains.
It's hot - 100 degrees yesterday - and today the rain clouds are concealing the tops of the mountains, though it's still going to be hot.
I'm here for the weekend with my husband, Sam, who's doing some work at the expanded Hershey plant. What struck me most was the dichotomy between old and new.
Here is a picture of the new office portion of the Hershey plant, a state-of-the-art candy-making facility with all the latest technology:
And across the street, parked along with all the other cars:
Monterrey was described to me as one of the wealthier Mexican cities - their per-capita earnings rank them rather high in North America (though I could not confirm this) and they've been recognized over the last 10 years as a growing industrial city and as a good place to live.
As expected, the people are friendly. Many take advantage of my lack of Spanish skills and say they'd like to practice their English by speaking with me. I did however, learn some very key terms like 'bathroom' and 'how much' ...
The food is delicious...some of the best pinapple I've ever tasted and they have a pulled beef that they serve for breakfast that is fantastic with scrambled eggs. The water is fine in the San Pedro area of the city. The hotels have filters as do almost all the eateries. Seafood is big here - lots of fresh salmon and shrimp - which surprised me in a 'desert' area. But the best thing I've had - which I'll definitely try to duplicate at home - is tortilla chips with salt and fresh lime juice squeezed on it. Technically, these 'limes' are actually small green lemons, but I really didn't care as I munched on this dish. Being a fan of club soda, I'm also hooked, already, on Topo Chico mineral water.
Two things struck me in my short time here. The city has a lot modern, minimalist influences in the buildings and designs. It's not just that there are tons of new buildings, homes and structures, it's the tendency toward the minimalist influence that I didn't expect. And again, the dichotomy of that style mixed with the wrought iron gates and fences, with the old-world designs and craftmanship. Wrought iron is plentiful and cheap and is used decoratively on almost everything.
The second thing is the horizontal size of the city. It seems as if the entire valley is nothing but houses and buildings and structures. Unlike in the states, where the growth is vertical, there is plenty of land here so there aren't that many tall buildings, though there are some. Driving down the streets you'll see zero lot lines everywhere, with what is obviously a private home sometimes sharing a wall with a business of some sort. And there are billboards anywhere space can be found.
Whenever I go to a new place, I like to check out the grocery stores. I think you learn a lot about a people by seeing what they shop for on a regular basis. I was amazed by the 'everyday' H.E.B. store we went to. There were more fruit, vegetable and pepper varieties than you'd find in any dozen gourment stores in the states - combined. The 'bakery' had magnificently decorated desserts and cakes and long shelves that formed aisles that had single servings of every imaginable bread, cake, croissant, pastry, cookie that you could think of. And that wasn't even the donut section...
The selections of cheeses and wines was also impressive. Their olive station put Krogers to shame. In the H.E.B. they also sold television sets, surround systems, books and movies, kitchen goods, and cell phones. There were probably 30 teens standing around in their khaki pants and white shirts waiting to bag and help carry your groceries for you - for a tip, of course. I was surprised when Sam tipped the bagger.
This morning I'm going across the street to one of the malls to see what that's like. While I learned to ask 'how much,' Sam wanted me to learn to say 'that's too expensive.' We'll see.
This afternoon, we plan to visit Marco Plaza, the city's center, including their famous St. Lucia Riverwalk and Cathedral. If it rains, probably one of their museums. Tomorrow, it's a trip to Chipinque National Park.
With so much fun stuff, I probably won't do any political posts over the next couple of days - I'll save it up for next week.