CDMX week 2, immersion

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.

The Palacio de Bellas Artes.

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.

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A classic old Sears building directly across the street from the Arts Palace, still open and doing well in all of Mexico.  It is run by Grupo Carso which is totally owned by Carlos Slim Helú, one of the richest men in the world.

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.

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The design of the Post Office is an eclectic mix of styles, with Moorish, Spanish and Venetian Renaissance, Neoclassical and Art Deco details, all supported by a steel frame that has allowed the building to survive earthquakes and sinking that has claimed many other buildings.  This was one of the sets of a bank in the Bond movie License to Kill.
There is a maritime museum on the third floor of the Post Office.
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House of Tiles, or the Casa de los Azules, a major Mexico City tourist attraction and national monument which was acquired by Sanborn in 1916.
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One of many dining rooms.
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Murals in the stairway leading to the second floor.
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The main courtyard dining room from above.

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.

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Church of San Francisco which used to be a large influential church and monastery, now just a small church.  The architecture of the façade is referred to as Churrigueresque a Spanish Baroque style.
Impressive altar composed of gold leaf over wood.
Jim likes Mexican religious art better than Italian as it is much simpler and easy to understand.
Mass is just ending at the National Expiatory Temple of San Felipe de Jesus.

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.

The pawn shop building, three floors of pawned items for sale.  They were quite busy with shoppers and also a number of people waiting to pawn their goods.
Room after room of cases full of jewelry.

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.

The outside of the shop.
Our huarache being made.
Our waiter delivering a tasty snack.

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.

Sandy bought this hummingbird made out of palm leaves.  This boy’s brother made it.  This is at the entrance to Templo Mayor.
A huge rock serpent at the Templo.
Excavations with the museum in the background.

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.

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Front corner of the National Palace.
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This building was the site of the first University in Mexico City, The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico and was founded on 21 September 1551.  It is generally considered the first university officially founded in North America.
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Walking to the National Palace with Santiago.

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”.

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A small chapel in the outer courtyard of the National Palace.
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Entrance to the inner courtyard.
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Inner courtyard of the Palace.  It was so peaceful and quiet in here compared to the main square just outside the walls.
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Diego Rivera’s murals depicting the history of Mexico.

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Santiago explained many of the murals in detail which was quite fascinating.



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This was in a lovely small museum within the Palace.  The Goddess Diana the Huntress.  A 16 year old girl posed for this sculpture.  Her mother was fine with it but not her boyfriend.  She recently died at the age of 87.  A copy of the original sculpture stands high atop a pedestal in one of the glorietas or roundabouts on Paseo de la Reforma, see below.
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Pancho Villa, also in the same museum.
Senate chamber in the Palace.
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Ceiling of the Senate chamber.
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Closeup of the ceiling with an eye.
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Sandy just liked this succulent in the outer courtyard.

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.

Façade of the Cathedral as seen from the main square.
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This is a much smaller church immediately adjacent to the Cathedral where the common people worship and hold their religious ceremonies.  This is another example of Churrigueresque architecture.
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One of three altars in the Cathedral.
The Pipe organs.
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Relics of the martyr St. Vital.
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The main altar.

img_5605 (1)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. img_0578 (1)

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The restaurant is in an elegant old hacienda.

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The ubiquitous taco, so tasty, varied and at times an art form.
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The bar below us.
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Street scene in Roma across the street from Bianco Colima.

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.

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The main street of Mexico City closed down for us to run on.
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Along with a few other walkers, runners, rollerbladers, bicycles and kids.
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Goddess Diana the Huntress.  One of Mexico Cities favorite sculptures.
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There was still traffic from cross streets and these are the crossing guards.
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American Embassy, no pictures allowed.  The Policia caught Jim taking this and very politely had him delete it.  Apparently he didn’t know that Apple products save deleted pictures for 30 days.
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This is Mexico Cities first park with a view of their first skyscraper Torre Latinoamericana.  It was an engineering feat as it was built to withstand the many earthquakes here.
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This was an endless line for the Kandinsky Exhibit at the Arts Palace.  At least two blocks long.  Once you get tickets you have to wait in another similar line as they limit the number of people in the exhibit.
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It’s Spring in CDMX.  Nice shot of the Arts Palace and Torre Latinoamericana by Sandy.

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.

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Entering Mercado Lagunilla.
Very tempting and cheap street food everywhere.  Hard to navigate if you don’t speak Spanish.
There were dozens of stores with ball gowns and men’s formal wear.
Mexican sombreros.
These limos at the market were there advertising their services and giving tours of the limo.

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.

This is the house.


This is the house across the street where the director and writer Alfonso Cuarón grew up.
This is the street the two houses are on, only two blocks long.


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Who knew that David moved from Florence to Roma Mexico.


Street sculptures in Roma.
This is below street level in the largest roundabout in Mexico City, Glorieta de los Insurgentes.  This is quite a commuter hub for the Metro and bus transfers surrounded by a circular shopping mall.
We ended our Roma run with some high end shopping.

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.

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The front of Frida’s home, now a museum.  Aptly named Casa Azul.
Interior garden of the home.


Frida had two miscarriages and was obsessed with her inability to have children due to a severe injury to her pelvis.
Frida’s night bedroom.
Kitchen of the house which was Frida’s family home that she grew up in.
This is her day bedroom next to her studio.  She dealt with severe back and leg problems due to polio and a near fatal accident.  Her ashes are in the urn on the shelf.
The urn.

img_5639Another 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.

Chapultepec Park entrance.
A small lake in the park, another place for us to row.


Out of the park and into Polanco.
In front of Saks.
Mimosas and coffee after our run.
The interior of Saks.
Beautiful parks everywhere.  They even keep the dirt clean, raking up all debris quite often.
Parroquia de San Agustín, Parrish church of St. Augustine.
Altar in St. Augustine’s.
Sandy hanging a prayer request ribbon.
Our granddaughter Katia was in hospital with a severe pneumonia and our prayers have been answered as she is back in school now.
El Palacio de Hierra, the largest department store in Latin America, very high end, hosting many in store boutiques from all the most expensive stores in the world.
Bougainvillea in bloom.

img_0644So, 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.


2 responses to “CDMX week 2, immersion”

  1. This is like reading a book! A good book at that!! Thanks for sharing your “dream”! We are headed to MI for the memorial service of my “second dad” who died at the age of 93 and has lived in Berrien since ‘59. He went there as principal of the academy. My parents were friends with him before he was married-so I’ve known him as far back as I can remember! Glad to know that Katia is back in school! PTL! It’s hard for us to get away with David having PT regularly/2xweekly. Happy last day of Jan. ‘19! Love, Lynn

    On Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 9:00 PM Living the retirement dream wrote:

    > Living our retirement dream posted: “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” >

    1. We are happy that you enjoy reading it. It can be a lot of work but it helps us put all of our little jaunts into perspective and better focus as we research where we are going and where we have been.
      Enjoy your time in MI. Looking forward to seeing you in April.

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