Mexico City. Hot, dangerous, polluted, poor and crowded, right?
I mean, I’m sure parts of it are dangerous, polluted, poor and crowded, it’s a big city (7th most populated in the world) — but I saw on my visit mostly manicured neighborhoods, 5-star boutique hotels, world-class museums, boundless parks, lively restaurants and art everywhere. And it’s temperate: the temperature rarely rises above 86 or dips below 37.
I LOVED Mexico City, easily the most colorful metropolis in the Western hemisphere. Loved it! But the exasperating part is, nobody believes me when I tell them how great the city is. Honest, Mexico City combines the sophistication of Paris with the sexiness of Rio de Janeiro. Hopefully I will adequately capture the allure of the metropolis in this photoblog.
I admit I had my doubts.
The approach to Mexico City went on, and on, and on.
What, I wondered — as I have wondered so many times before — have I gotten myself into? What exactly I was thinking when I decided that it would be a good idea to visit Mexico City, I could not remember.
Mexico City is divided into 16 boroughs and I stayed in fashionable Condesa (often compared to the Palermo neighborhood in Buenos Aires and New York’s SoHo). One walk around the block and my fears dissipated.
Although Condesa is a residential neighborhood (lots of art deco architecture) it buzzes with trendy restaurants, bars and shops. I felt comfortable walking the streets at 10:00 at night, which is Mexico City’s equivalent of 6:00 p.m. in Central: everyone’s out and the eating and drinking establishments are starting to fill. I played around with the idea of living here more than once.
Condesa encompasses Parque Mexico — one of the larger green areas in the city — and the borough is located within walking distance of every place I visited. With the exception of going to and from the airport, I never had to take transportation during my stay in Mexico City.
THE RED TREE HOUSE
Contrary to all the Tripadvisor reviews, the Red Tree House in Condesa didn’t look like anything special from the back of my cab.
I’ve stayed in literally hundreds (three hundred, four hundred, five?) of properties in my life and The Red Tree House ended up ranking among my top five favorites.
The perfectly decorated home is managed and maintained by a caring team, which includes amiable Abril, the house dog. A ridiculous rate of $95/night bought me a beautifully-appointed room overlooking a tropical courtyard, homemade breakfasts, personal concierge service and communal wine-sharing in the evening with my fellow fortunate guests.
The Chapultepec district lies east of Condesa. Chapultepec is one of the largest and most significant urban parks in the world. I dedicated an entire day to exploring it and managed to see only “the first section” (of three), which is home to a castle, lake, several museums, multiple fountains, and a zoo.
MUSEO DE ARTE MODERNO
I was disappointed that the famous Museo Rufino Tamayo was closed the day I attempted to visit it, as the collection includes both significant contemporary works by multiple major mid 20th century artists and temporary exhibits. Fortunately the Museo de Arte Moderno is located close by, was open, and also hosts an impressive collection of modern art.
Below: This painting amused me, but my favorite piece in the museum was by Frida Kahlo.
The most charming bookstore I’ve ever encountered, the Libreria Porrua, is found in Chapultepec. The indoor/outdoor space boasts modern furniture, fresh air, plenty of natural light and a snack/drink bar.
From Condesa I cut across Chapultepec to Polanco, an extremely upscale neighborhood comprised of luxury retail stores, embassies, swanky restaurants and homes that I’ll never be able to afford. The high-end chain hotels are locate here as well, but I prefer the more intimate and unique boutique hotels found in my adopted Condesa.
Carlos Slim (no relation to Mr. Danger), who rotates on and off the annual list of wealthiest person in the world, opened the Soumaya Museum in 2011 to share his 70,000+ piece, $700 million+ collection with the world (entry is free). The fish-like exterior is composed of 16,000 hexagonal aluminum plates and the interior shelters a Rodin’s The Thinker (more than one exist) and works by multiple other notable European artists. It seemed to me that the museum was overflowing with art, more than it could adequately display. You work your way gradually upwards to the top floor, a yard sale of more important sculptures than my mind could process and appreciate.
I walked north, traversing the delightful Zona Rosa, to reach Centro Historico from Condesa. Centro Historico deserves at least a day to fully explore the centuries-old history, architecture, artwork and crazy, crowded vibe.
PALACIO DE CORREOS DE MEXICO
Who knew a post office could be so stunning? According to Wikipedia:
Its architectural style is highly eclectic, with the building being classed as Spanish Renaissance Revival, Plateresque, a Spanish Rococo style, Elizabethan Gothic, Elizabethan Plateresque and Venetian Gothic Revival and/or a mixture of each. The building also has Moorish, Neoclassical, Baroque and Art Deco elements.
Don’t pass it by. There’s a naval (not navel) museum on the fourth floor.
Alameda Central, The public park in Centro Historico, teems with so much activity that I felt as though I was walking through a movie set. I can think of no other outdoor setting in all of the places I’ve visited that contains as much life.
Stop into the Museo Mural de Diego Rivera to drink in the Mexican artist’s elaborate Sueño de una Tarde Dominical (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon). In this shot you can spy Diego, his soulmate Frida, Diego as a child, and Catrina, an icon of the Day of the Dead celebration.
Is it just me, or does Catrina bear a striking resemblance to Carol Channing’s Dolly?
MEXICO CITY METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL
The Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral is Latin America’s oldest and largest cathedral. It should not be missed. I was partial to the mammoth pipe organ.
The remnants of one of the main Aztec temples in Mexico City, Templo Mayor, is open to visitors and its accompanying museum displays many of the artifacts discovered within the bowels of its remains.
The National Palace houses expansive Deigo Rivera murals, including the one below depicting the history of Mexico from 1521 to 1930.
So NOW do you believe me when I say GO TO Mexico City?
FINAL COLOMBIA & MEXICO CITY POST.