We started week two with a five hour mostly walking tour of the historical downtown area of Mexico City known as Centro Historico in Spanish. Our tour guide, Santiago, who we had chosen from Stylewalk MX picked us up at our front door and drove us to the Palacio de Bellas Artes and we walked from there. The Arts Palace is one of the most popular destinations in this city, being visited by over 10,000 people per week. It is a gorgeous building due to its elegant, ornate, white Carrara marble façade and shimmering, dragon scale roof tiles. It is host to The National Opera Company, The National Symphony Orchestra, a twice weekly Folklore Ballet of Mexico and is also the site of almost constant exhibitions about poetry, painting, sculpture, literature, music and photography. We were unable to go upstairs to view the murals by many of Mexico’s best known artists as the line for tickets went out the door and around the block.
We have noticed many long lines here. It seems that the Mexican’s are avid museum goers as we saw an even longer line to see a Kandinsky exhibit on Sunday when most museums are free. We will return here to visit the Museo de Bellas Artes and the Museo de Arquitectura and also to see the murals. We may even take in a symphony, an opera or The Folklore Ballet of Mexico.
Santiago then took us to Palacio de Correos de México, the main Post Office in the city, and also to the Original Sanborns soda fountain which is next door in an old historic blue tiled building. There is a long snaking counter in one large room and then room after room of other dining areas on numerous floors. We were there on a Saturday morning and the place was overrun with families and parties.
After Sanborns Santiago took us briefly into two churches, The Church of San Francisco which we had already been to during our first week and National Expiatory Temple of San Felipe de Jesus which was just ending mass.
Another interesting visit was to Nacional Monte de Piedad which is a not-for-profit pawn shop whose main office is located just off the Zócalo, or main plaza of Mexico City, It was established between 1774 and 1777 by Don Pedro Romero de Terreros, the Count of Regla as part of a movement to provide interest-free or low-interest loans to the poor. We went through one room of gold jewelry without finding anything that seemed to be a bargain.
We asked Santiago to stop at a small street side shop for a snack where we sampled huaraches, a sandal shaped corn taco filled with cheese.
We next walked by Templo Mayor which was the main temple of the Mexica Peoples in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. Construction of the first temple began sometime after 1325, and it was rebuilt six times. The temple was destroyed by the Spanish in 1521 to make way for the new cathedral. In 1978 electrical workers digging in the area came across a huge stone disc with bas relief depictions on it. Since then the area has been excavated extensively which involved destroying 13 buildings, some with historical significance themselves. 7,000 artifacts were uncovered which are now housed in an adjacent archeological museum.
The National Palace on the main square or Zocaló was our next stop where many of Diego Rivera’s murals were painted.
The smudging blessing is a ritual meant to purge the body of any illness and evils.
December 2018 Mexico elected a new president Andrés Manuel López Obrador aka AMLO. As part of his austerity drive he opened the doors of Mexico’s previously off limits presidential palace. He declared it a cultural center for the people while he continues to live in his own home. He also refuses to have a driver or security guards making the statement “the people of Mexico are my protection”.
Our last stop was The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heavens which is is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico. We had visited this cathedral during our first week. The cathedral is home to two of the largest 18th-century organs in the Americas.
We highly recommend Stylewalk MX and especially Santiago for tours of Mexico City.
After our five hour walking tour we Ubered back to our part of town and had an elegant meal at Bianco Colima in Roma. This remains Sandy’s favorite restaurant to date.
On Sundays the Main Street of central Mexico City, Paseo de la Reforma, is partially closed to traffic to allow for all sorts of recreational activities. We took a four mile run from home and down The Paseo de la Reforma enjoying all of the activities and people along the way.
We ended our run by exploring the Mercado Lagunilla which is one of the cities largest markets. We were looking for the outdoor flea market but the fixed market is so large that we never found it. This is a lower socio-economic area and has a dangerous reputation but is considered quite safe during the day.
We watched the Golden Globe winning and Oscar nominated movie Roma which is about our section of the city. We are in the Colonia of La Condesa and Roma is immediately adjacent. After watching the movie we took a run to Roma both to explore the area and to see the house where the movie was filmed.
For those of you who have not seen the movie we highly recommend it. It is not a movie of entertainment. This is an autobiographical movie set in Mexico City and depicts the depth of ordinary life during the 1970’s. It is more a meditation than drama, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón who chose the house across the street from his child- hood home for the setting of this movie. The main character, Cleo, is played by 25 year old Yalitza Aparicio. She was studying to be a teacher and had just graduated when the acting opportunity arose for Roma, as she had a 6-8 month wait for her test results. She opted to audition for the role of Cleo at the suggestion of her very pregnant sister who had to bow out. Without any acting experience whatsoever she landed the part of Cleo over 110 other actresses. She is the first indigenous Mexican actress to be nominated for a best actress Oscar.
We also had a Frida Kahlo immersion day in which we spent the morning reading about her, went to the Frida museum in the afternoon and then watched the Oscar nominated movie Frida in the evening.
Another day we focused on the Colonia of Polanco which is much more upscale and modern than the Bohemian hipster area of La Condesa and Roma where we live. We ran from our home to and through a part of Chapultepec Park into Polanco where we had breakfast at Saks. We then walked a good part of Polanco exploring a church and a very fancy upscale department store.
So, at the end of week two how are we feeling about living in Mexico City Mexico? We are actually loving it more and more every day. The weather is nearly ideal with very cool nights and mornings, 40-50 degrees. The days are sunny with temperatures in the high 60’s to low 70’s. The sun is strong and hot but the abundance of trees and shade keeps us very comfortable. The city is very alive with an abundance of street musicians, outdoor tables at restaurants, bars and cafes, and yet our home is very quiet and peaceful. We are rarely harassed by people begging for money or trying to sell us their goods. Uber rides are usually quickly available, clean and very cheap with 45 minute rides costing about US$5, tip included. There is very little smoking. It is rare to see anyone smoking at any outdoor venues and there are no cigarette butts littering the streets. We continue to be impressed at how clean, quiet, orderly, modern and sophisticated the city is. The history is every bit as impressive as that of Europe and Israel (although not quite as old as Israel). The only bugs we have seen are very tiny ants on our terrace. No rats, mice or cockroaches even in the street and no mosquitos yet. The biggest negative to date is air quality. There is visible pollution in the air most days and our outdoor terrace gets a fine black coating every day. The Weather Channel App today 1/29 said that “air pollution levels are very bad today” with Sulfur Dioxide and particulate matter less than 2.5 microns as very bad, well into their red zone. We went out and ran anyway. One last surprise, very few people speak English and many restaurants have no English menu.
Our first house guest arrives on February 6 and we are nearly fully booked after that. Stay tuned to see who is brave enough to visit us in CDMX.