Friday, April 17, 2009

Trip to Norway - part 3

I woke up as we started our descent into Mexico City. DF (Distrito Federal), the capital of Mexico, is the second largest city in the world by population (18 million), after Tokyo (28 million).

I've been flying to Nevada for more than 10 years, and have seen the Las Vegas valley develop from desert to residential subdivisions that creep up the sides of the valley. But that doesn't compare to the view from the air of Mexico City and area. I couldn't get over how closely packed the houses were, and how little green space there was in between, if any. There are lots and lots of people, and they are living in tight quarters...about 8400 people per sq km, 27th in the world in terms of population density.

All I've ever heard from the locals here on Isla is that Mexico City is very dangerous and they will mug you for your shoes. "Don't go", they advise. Miguel lived in Mexico City during his days in the Mexican military, and he tells the story of his own brush with a mugging. Seems he was walking down the street and a bandido came up to him and demanded his money. Miguel didn't react, so the bandido asked him what was the matter with him, he was being mugged, didn't he realize it? Miguel just shrugged his shoulders and told the bandido that he didn't have any money, that he was a bandido too, just like him. (not true, but quick thinking). The bandido went on his way, looking for his next victim.

Anyway...I'm sure that, like any big city, there are places you shouldn't go, but otherwise, DF is a city rich in history and architecture, and safe if you stick to the tourist areas. One of my friends spent a summer there a few years ago and just loved exploring the city. One day I will go and see Mexico City from the ground.

Once we landed I was amazed at the size of the airport. The gate we parked at was in the new terminal, and it was lovely, although huge. Our connecting flight was in the old terminal, and although I wanted to stay and eat in the new terminal, I also wanted to get to the KLM counter where we could possibly upgrade our economy seats to seats with a little more legroom. I knew every minute would count in getting the better seats, and so we made our way to the old terminal, via the train.

Inside the old terminal was mass noise and confusion. We had to ask several times where the KLM counter was, and we ended up in the wrong spot more than once before we finally figured it out. The lineup was long, and it was barely moving. I figured we'd be there for most of the time we had in between flights, but an agent came along and when I told her that we didn't need boarding passes, we just wanted to see about upgrading, she moved us to the business class line, which was empty. I approached the agent who didn't even bother to look at me, and when I told him what I wanted, he arrogantly said that there was nothing available. He wasn't sorry, he didn't care, and he just wanted me to go away. Which I did.

Resigned to cramped seats, we entered security. I went through first. Miguel forgot to take off his cap and didn't quite understand when they told him to take it off and put it on the belt. I tried to explain to him but the security agent told me to move along, and for that he was frisked and they checked our backpacks and asked how much money we had. Finally we collected our stuff and made our way to a bench to reorganize our stuff.

I needed a bathroom but the only one in the area was closed, so we made our way to the gate. Across from the gate was a small lunch counter with a very limited menu, but we ordered sandwiches and I went off in search of a bathroom.

I can see why they needed the new terminal, because this old terminal just didn't have what it needed in order to service the travelling public. There was a line-up for the bathroom, there were only three stalls, and one stall had a broken door that wouldn't stay closed and nobody wanted to use it. Since I have lots of experience with lousy public bathroom doors and little modesty, I went in and put my hand on the door to hold it shut while getting ready to use the facilities. A lady in the line graciously came over and held the door shut for me, and after that it became the thing to do - each person in line held the door shut for the person inside.

Back at the diner, we ate our sandwiches and watched the proceedings at our gate as it was close to boarding time. A small line-up was starting to form, so I decided to go over and check to see if there was anything we needed to do prior to boarding. I was surprised to find out that the gate was no longer our gate. I ran back to tell Miguel that we needed to find out where our new gate was, and luckily there was an information booth right there and they were able to tell us where to go.

The new gate was a long way from the old one, and I can't remember how many moving walkways we used in order to get to our destination. By the time we arrived they were boarding, and of course Miguel had to use the bathroom (right at the gate). While I waited for Miguel, I asked the boarding agent about meals and what currency would be needed, but she smiled and told me that meals were free. Cool!

Finally we boarded. We were in the center bank of 4 seats, with Miguel on the aisle. We put our coats and one carry-on up above, and our other bags under the seats, leaving little room for our feet. We settled in and then Miguel asked why we had been so calmly eating our sandwiches when we almost missed our flight. I'm not sure he still understands about the gate-switch deal. Some things just take too much energy to explain. I saved my energy on this one.


jeanie said...

OMG I had no idea Mexico City was that big! That's more than 1/2 of Canada!!!(OK I googled it 33 million here) Looking forward to the next episode.

Ann said...

Can't wait to read more! Don't you just love it when they change the gates so close to the flight!

Life's a Beach! said...

I don't think I'd dare to fly through Mexico City. I've heard it's very confusing! Can't wait for Norway!

Bennie said...

My mom and dad took me to Mexico City for Christmas my senior year of High School. Least to say that was a long time back. It was a great trip and what I consider my first international trip other than just crossing at the border towns.

I was amazed at the size of Mexico City but I was not aware it was the 2nd most populated city. I know they have the most visited religious site in the world (even more visited than the Vatican).

When you decide to explore Mexico City let me know... We'd barge in with you and Miguel and explore as a group.

Sue said...

Funny how one week can make such a difference. After I wrote about Mexico City the darn flu thing blew up. Time will tell what will happen to that poor city.