Friday, August 3, 2007

Driving the Jeep to Mexico - Part 6

With nothing else to do, I set off on foot to explore the city. Just two blocks north of the hotel was a pedestrian shopping zone. It took up seven blocks and every one of them had at least two shoe stores. It took quite a while to walk this and see everything, but I managed. I saw several stores that I made mental note to visit the next day. I was not carrying very much money on me and did not want to buy anything just then anyway. Then I started to get hungry. I had not eaten since the quick stop at the Golden Arches that morning. Unfortunately, there were no restaurants on that street so I set off, walking further north, to see what I could find. What I found was not what I was looking for!

Just two more blocks and I was again in a rougher area and being assaulted by beggars. Turn left, get away. Went one block east and then south again to the relative sanity of the pedestrian zone. So now what? I was hungry. Maybe something closer to the hotel? Remember, Matamoras is not really a tourist town and is in no way geared to that industry. Most of the people, including those in my hotel, did not speak English. I found out later that the population is artificially swollen because of all the people who come there hoping to find a way to cross the border. Thus all the poverty, begging and crime. On the way back towards the hotel, I spotted a Burger King. Not usually my first choice for a meal, but, even if they had made me wear that stupid crown, I would have gone in! A tasty burger later and my haut cuisine dining experience in Matamoras was over.

The town square was just a few blocks away so I headed for that. They are usually safe, well-lit gathering places. I bought a Coke and decided to check it out. And it was a very nice square. Laid out in the typical Mexican fashion, it took up an entire city block with a pavilion in the center. Steps led up to a platform area on it and the vaulted, round ceiling was covered with multi-colored frescoes. Really quite nice. The base, which was probably 12 feet high to the platform, was covered with painted tiles. It was a lovely piece of work. There was plenty of open space around it for gatherings, dancing or political protests. Radiating out from the pavilion were spokes of aisles lined with benches and topiaries. I spent a few hours there people watching, drinking my Coke, writing in my journal and virtually chain smoking! By then it was getting dark. While returning to my hotel, which was about 9:30pm, I passed the pedestrian zone again. It was dark and every shop was closed and there were very few people about. And they did not look like the types one would want to make friends with! Matamoras, it seems, closes down fairly early.

I returned to the safety and sanity of my room and watched several hours of TV. I finally fell asleep and had the best night’s sleep on the whole trip so far.

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