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CDMX week 10, the O’Connors

We would like to begin this blog by extending wishes for a speedy recovery to Ann Duggan; a friend, former colleague and avid traveler who recently underwent successful coronary artery bypass surgery.  Here’s hoping you are on the road again soon Annie.IMG_3515.JPG (1).jpg

Donna and Mark had barely been gone an hour when we set out on our next adventure alone, trying out the Mexico City Subway.  We got on the first train going the wrong way but we easily corrected that.  Our first ride was quite crowded and hot with no AC.  The stops at each station were very long and we decided not to ride it again.  People were very friendly as Sandy was given a seat by a young man and another gentleman said “Welcome to México” as he got off.  We changed trains once and arrived at our proper destination.

Subway cars with rubber tires, reportedly the same design as Montreal.

We were headed for Museo de Arte Popular which has colorful folk and popular art displays.

Boston Globe gave this address as the scene of the Movie house in Roma.
An old VW beetle completely covered with beads at the museum entrance.
Interior courtyard of the museum.

The Mexicans love their skeletons as they feel that our present life is just preparation for the next.

After the museum we were ready for some food and perused the food stalls in Park Alameda Central.  Nothing struck our fancy there so we decided to go to the top of Torre Latinoamericana which was México Cities tallest building for many years. It is widely recognized internationally as an engineering and architectural landmark since it was the world’s first major skyscraper successfully built on highly active seismic land. The skyscraper notably withstood the 8.1 magnitude 1985 Mexico City earthquake without damage.

We walked through a small market in Park Alameda Central, México City’s first park, located in the city center.
Just can’t resist pictures of the colorful Jacarandas.
View of the Palacio de Bella Artes from the top of Torre Latinoamericana.
Park Alameda Central.
Tip top of Torre Latinoamericano.
We had a late lunch in the restaurant at the top, Miralto.

Due to a downtown demonstration and traffic jams we did take the subway home and it was much faster, cooler and less crowded.  On Saturday March 16 we welcomed the O’Connor family as our guests in CDMX for week # 10.  They were originally planning a family ski vacation but when Audrey broke her pelvis in a ski accident in December they took up our offer for a warm weather vacation in México City.  We met Audrey and Neil at Lahey Clinic where they are both anesthesiologist’s.  Sandy worked closely with them in the PACU where the friendship developed.  They have also joined us in Paris and London.  Their son Andrew lives in NYC attending law school.  Their daughter Kelly is presently living in San Diego doing a one year general medicine residency before beginning a Dermatology residency in Boston.  We had previously met Andrew in Paris but it was our first time meeting Kelly who arrived later that same evening bearing a gift of Tito’s vodka.  Off to a good start with these guests for sure.

The O’Connor’s arrival at Avenida Tamaulipas 115.

While waiting for Kelly’s arrival we took Neil, Audrey and Andrew on our usual post arrival tour of la Condesa and Roma.

Viewing the Roma house before Kelly’s arrival.

Kelly arrived and we had our first of many wonderful meals in CDMX with them at Mero Toro.  This is rated as one of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America.  Kelly diligently planned the family trip here and made all of our dinner reservations.  It was such a pleasure for us to be treated by them to many exceptional meals.The next morning Neil and Kelly joined us for a run to Chapultepec Park.  Once inside they took off and did a double circuit of the two mile Gran Avenida while we did one.  We returned home and the six of us gathered for our first of many memorable breakfasts on the deck.

After breakfast they joined up with a Lonely Planet bike tour.  Sandy is not very confident on a bike so we opted not to join them.  Their tour began in la Condesa and continued on to the Coyoacan neighborhood of Frida Kahlo with a VIP entrance to her home/museum Casa Azul.  The O’Connor’s found this tour to be one of the highlights of their trip.

Meanwhile back in la Condesa we heard bagpipes and motorcycles out in the street and Jim ran down to discover a St. Patricks day parade right out front.

Kelly discovered during her research of Mexican food experiences that it is a tradition to eat barbacoa on Sunday.  This is a preparation of meat that is steam cooked in an underground oven until tender and succulent.  You order by the kilogram based on the size of your party.  We ordered 1.5 kgs. for the six of us and the meat, lamb, was presented between palm leaves to keep it warm.  It was served with soft tacos and accompaniments of lime and sauces of varied heat intensity and flavors.  You can see from the big smiles on our faces that this was a very fun experience even with the Mariachi band blasting away!

Our Barbacoa at El Hidalguense.
Mariachi band on the left and kitchen straight ahead.

We followed this feast with nice long afternoon walk back to Roma Sur so Kelly could see the house featured in the movie Roma and then  proceeded to give her our usual Roma tour, stopping for ice cream before heading home for the night.

Kelly, Andrew, Neil & Audrey in Plaza Luis Cabrera.

We started Monday morning with a hearty breakfast on the terrace.  Sandy made bacon, Jim made toast and cut up fresh papaya and mango and Audrey made scrambled eggs with peppers, onion, tomatoes and cheese.  We enjoyed all this with fresh hand squeezed OJ purchased from the local produce market in our neighborhood.  The O’Connor family left for a private StylewalkMX tour to the Teotihuacan pyramids where they had a 45 minute wait in line to climb the Pyramid of the Sun. On the way home they stopped briefly at Our Lady of Guadalupe.Our Airbnb has been inundated with tiny sugar ants which an exterminator treated once and eliminated the problem on the terrace.  Unfortunately they  moved downstairs so we booked another treatment for today as we would all be out for several hours.  The exterminator arrived at 11am so we took a long walk to Artesanias Ciudadela, a traditional style market specializing in the sale of Mexican handicrafts and folk art.   It was the first of its kind here, established just before the 1968 summer Olympics, it is home to 350 vendors.  Sandy purchased a piece of Talavera pottery which is a type of Majolica or tin glazed earthenware from the town of San Pablo del Monte.

We walked through the Juárez Colonia on the way to the market.  We had seen this very British building earlier on one of our tours.  It’s at the corner of Calle Versailles & Berlin.
Plaza de la Ciudadela.

The penultimate shopper.

So colorful and very interesting.

We returned home in an Uber and coincidentally pulled up in front of our apartment at the same time as our house guests returning from their tour.  We all took the elevator to our fifth floor condo and as Andrew pushed open the door we were assaulted with an immense cloud of vile smelling chemical smoke or mist.  The exterminator decided, without consulting us or our Airbnb host, to set off a smoke bomb chemical to kill all of the ants.  We were furious as the chemical smoke was absorbed into our bedding and clothes.  The exterminator did not speak English so we had to call our host who was in California, to interpret that it was not toxic.  After a very heated exchange on the phone we had to vacate the premises until the smoke dissipated enough for us to return.  We spent hours cleaning floors and surfaces and washing clothes and bed linen.  That night we had dinner at Pasillo de Humo in la Condesa which specializes in Oaxacan food.  It is in an upstairs food hall setting.  We were underwhelmed but amused at the service as the waiter chose to bring appetizers and entrees at the same time without identifying them.  This left us confused as to who ordered what.  Kelly’s entree was mistakenly identified by Jim as an appetizer for the table.  We all dug into it only later to have the waiter correct us and plop the half eaten dish in front of her.  She took it like a trooper and finished eating it.

It was this kind of day.  Jim got the bottom of the bottle of Mezcal and the worm along with it.

Tuesday morning Kelly and Neil did another morning run.  Sandy and Jim, still upset over the ant bomb decided to continue cleaning, washing clothes and some shopping while the O’Connor family went to the Art Palace to see the Diego murals.  They also stopped into the Post Office to check out the staircase, then went to the Mercado de San Juan which we have not been to.  This market dates back to 1955 and specializes in gourmet and exotic food.  Audrey purchased some prawns which she brought home and steamed.  We all enjoyed them with hot sauce during our cocktail hour on the deck.  Andrew also contributed his market purchase of insect larvae.

Prawns with hot sauce.
Bugs on a cracker.

After our cocktail hour we went to dinner at Contramar, a seafood restaurant in Roma.  It is one big buzzy dining room flanked with floor to ceiling windows in the front and an iconic blue mural behind the bar.  Waiters in black bowties sped around the large tables draped in crisp white table cloths.  The crowd here seemed artsy and upper crust so we felt right at home and liked it the minute we sat down.  The meal did not disappoint and the overall experience: ambience, service and food was probably the best we had for the week.  Immediately on completing this great early meal the O’Connors took off for Luche Libre and we walked home to catch up on our TV series Victoria which we recently started.The next day we went for an early morning run ahead of Kelly and Neil who slept late after a night of watching Mexican wrestlers.  When Kelly and Neil returned from their run we all gathered for our usual breakfast on the terrace.  After breakfast the O’Connors headed to the Castle in Chapultepec Park and then on to the Archeological Museum.  We met them for drinks at The Four Seasons on Paseo de la Reforma.

Neil’s fancy cocktail presentation.  The cage over it is to keep the giant ants in.
Yes those are giant ants.  Not too tasty, “too many legs breaking off in your mouth” according to Andrew.
Some of our drinks were more traditional margaritas and wine.

After a wonderful afternoon respite at The Four Seasons we all took an Uber to the Zócalo to visit the National Palace to see Diego’s murals with a brief stop at the Cathedral afterwards.

The outer courtyard of the National Palace.

Inner courtyard of the National Palace.

A beautiful succulent garden in the outer courtyard.
We passed this demonstration on the way home.

Dinner that night was at Quintonil.  In 2018 this restaurant was rated number 11 of the worlds 50 best restaurants.  Quintonil is the name of a green Mexican herb which is featured in some of the dishes and cocktails.  We had all decided we would try the tasting menu with drink pairings before we arrived.  Much of the produce comes from a nearby garden.  The chef Jorge Ballejo and team keep their carbon footprint so low that many of their ingredients travel just 30 meters from origin to plate.  Thank you O’Connors for this very special treat and dining experience that we no longer spoil ourselves with since our retirement.

On Thursday morning Neil and Kelly squeezed in one last run for Kelly in Mexico City as she is departing early to return to San Diego and finish her last few days of vacation, skiing in Big Bear.  The rest of us went to Xochimilco for a floating garden boat ride.  This made for a perfect relaxing way to spend a beautiful afternoon.

So many boats to choose from.

There are even traveling salesmen who jump on board and push their wares.  He was successful in making a sale.

Nice houses along the canal.
Lots of greenhouses along the canal gives the name floating gardens.
Love on the canals of Xochimilco.

Later that day Audrey and Sandy did some boutique shopping in la Condesa.  Kelly had made reservations for us at a sushi restaurant that evening but it was in San Angel which is 30 minutes away so instead we found a nice little French restaurant, Cafe Milou, which was local.  We shared some tasty small plate servings.  It was surprisingly good and the waitress who was from Guatemala spoke excellent English.  She gave us the names of two of her favorite restaurants in México City for us to try.  Friday morning we went for a 3.4 mile run with Neil doing our usual route to the park and back then met up with Audrey and Andrew at Molino El Pujol for breakfast tamales and coffee which was delicious.

Tamales wrapped in corn husks.

After breakfast we walked to Chapultepec Park and visited the Presidential residence, Los Pinos which we have written about before.

On the terrace of this former presidential residence.
Walking through Chapultepec Park.

We have established a tradition of rowing on lakes with Neil & Audrey in Paris and London which we continued here in México City.  We had a fun one hour row on Lago de  Chapultepec where Andrew did most of the rowing very adeptly despite it being his first time.

We walked through the park to Polanco stopping outside the gate for Andrew to experience Doriloco.  These are made by cutting open a bag of Doritos lengthwise creating a serving pouch.  To this is added shredded cucumber, carrots, jicama, chopped onions, salted peanuts, gummy worms then squirting spicy salsa and fruity chamoy sauce on top.  It’s then finished off with fresh squeezed lime juice and optional grated white cheese.  We all had a taste and unanimously declared them to be very good, much to our surprise. Our next destination was Presidente Masaryk Avenue in Polanco.  This is México’s equivalent of Rodeo Drive.  It is where the ultra-cool and ultra-rich do their shopping.  Since we meet one of those two requirements we felt compelled to go.  The men walked but Audrey and Sandy wanting to make the most of their time shopping took an Uber, however the traffic in CDMX is so bad the men made it there first and were enjoying a drink at Pujol’s outdoor bar while Audrey and Sandy were still stuck in a hot Uber with the windows locked as the driver listened to an obnoxious talk radio station.  They aborted the Uber before the destination since they decided they could walk faster than the traffic was moving.  Their first stop was to purchase an obsidian skull bracelet for Kelly that she had seen and liked.  Audrey also purchased a bracelet for herself and Sandy was the shopping consultant.  We all met up on the sidewalk and returned to Pujol to try and charm them into a same day reservation.  The best they could do was number three on the wait list.  Needless to say we never made it in.  Pujol is a Mexican restaurant named by The Wall Street Journal as the best in México City and ranked 17th best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine.  The chef is Enrique Olvera who trained at The Culinary Institute of America.  The O’Connors were very disappointed at not being able to book a reservation here as they usually stay booked two months in advance.  Sandy and Jim managed to snag the only afternoon opening available the last week we are here.  After our ultra-cool person shopping in Polanco where Audrey also purchased a very nice turquoise calf skin cropped jacket.  We ubered back to la Condesa where Audrey, Andrew and Sandy went shoe and ice cream shopping. That evening we walked to Roma Norte for our final dinner together at Meroma which was one of the recommendations from our waitress the night before.  It was excellent and given that our total mileage that day between walking and running was 13.3 miles we deserved every calorie we indulged in.  Saturday morning Neil did a solo run while the rest of stayed in bed.  We opted to have our last breakfast together at Matisse which has now become a tradition.  We then said adios to our friends with hopes to reunite in Boston and NYC in the weeks ahead.If you didn’t notice, this week was all about the food.

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