Friday, July 24, 2009

Hunting Treasures

My mom was the only person I knew, growing up in the 50s in Atlanta, who admitted to shopping in thrift stores. She bought what she called my ridiculous clothes—things I’d probably only wear once—at a nearly new shop that got discarded clothes from rich Atlantans and things that didn’t sell at some of the city’s most exclusive shops. The first time I remember wearing one of these dresses was to the coronation at the high school where she taught—I never know why but for some reason they wanted to have two elementary school students on stage that year, and I was one of them. Its origin embarrassed me but it was the most beautiful dress I’d ever worn. The high school girls agreed and all complimented me on my gown, prompting me to proudly announced that, My mama had found this dress, brand new, tags still on it, for only $5 at a thrift shop.

Once I started shopping for myself, I’ve gone to thrift shops, flea markets, and weekly markets, in the less industrialized places I visit, to find bargains and seek treasures. Last week-end, feeling the need for a big city hit and a little something, something to add beauty to the house, I went to Mexico City with a friend to check out the markets. I couldn’t spend much but Mexico is filled with bargains this summer, due to the decline in tourism, and the favorable exchange rate gives an added boost to anyone swapping euros, pounds or dollars.

We stayed in a small hotel on Avenue Alvaro Obregon in Colonial Roma, southwest of Historic Centro, close to several markets we wanted to visit. Our double room was only 530 pesos, less than $45, a night. Both nights, we ate at restaurants near our hotel. During the day we culled the markets. Some specialize—check out the Coyoacán market for great street food, Mercado Jamaica for flowers, La Ciudadela for traditional hand-made goods, Mercado Sonora for herbs, amulets and other necessaries to cast spells and mix potions, Mercado de Antiguedades for antiques and collectibles. But the big Sunday market, La Lagunilla, sells almost everything. If you’re staying near the Zócalo, you might also want to stop by city’s national pawnshop.

We took the bus back to San Miguel, late afternoon Sunday, with a couple of treasures. Energized from spending time in the big city and exploring its neighborhoods through the markets.