Postcard from Mexico City: Bloomers trumpeting their presence

The promotional banner appears superfluous with birds of paradise pointing the way to the National Museum of Anthropology. A giant agave attracts attention in the midst of the Aztec ruins of the Templo Mayor adjacent to the zocalo. Trumpet flowers flamboyantly tout their beauty profiled against a royal blue wall in the garden of Casa Luis Barragan.

But, on the practical side as our balcony planters age, I want to remember the simple cinder blocks adapted as containers for succulents in the botanical garden in Chapultepec Park.

Postcard from Mexico City: Crazy about dogs

A decade or so ago, most dogs one would see in Mexico were barking rooftop guard dogs or skulking strays. In Mexico City, as in the United States, dogs have moved from that earlier working role to assume positions as cherished members of the household.

Crosswalks don’t feature adults holding children by the hand but show man walking his best friend. People appear to select their dining destinations by seeking the most pet-friendly patios.

Pet pampering is prevalent. As is school. Dog walkers and trainers fill the sidewalks of Parque Mexico in the Condesa neighborhood with their charges. Their canine pupils are required to abide by a strict honor code. Leashes lie on the ground as the dogs fail to break rank by leaping up to chase after even the sassiest of dogs parading by.

The lofty position of dogs actually is rooted deeply in Mexico’s past. The primary proof of this is the xoloitzcuintli, the ancient breed of dog known as Mexican hairless and often referred to as xolos. Clay figures of them were found in ancient tombs of Mayans, Toltecs and Aztecs where they were placed to fulfill their sacred duties of navigating their masters through the threats posed in the treacherous underworld. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were fond of xolos, and the grounds of the former hacienda of Dolores Olmedo still serve as a breeding preserve for numerous prized xolos who seem eager to socialize with a statue of one.

We think one would have to get to know a xolo well to fall in love with one….

Postcard from Sintra, Portugal: Royal Retreat

Only 15 miles from Lisboa but several degrees cooler, Sintra was a popular summer retreat for the royal family for centuries. King Joao I (1385-1433) began layering changes upon the Moorish base, and successive kings continued altering the National Palace to suit current styles.

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Major feasts must have been served, as the conical twin chimneys top enormous stoves and ovens in the palace kitchen. And, as always in Portugal, a multitude of tiles color the walls.