1) El Angel, or the Centennial Monument in Mexico City
It is interesting when you tell friends/family you are going to Mexico City. Reactions typically followed a standard arc that ran from hesitation, to a sort-of confusion as to why we would want to visit such a place [as though visiting Mexico City was akin to visiting, say, Dhaka], to references to safety and/or corruption, to queries as to why we wouldn’t visit Cancun or Puerta Vallarta, and then, catching themselves, to best wishes for a safe trip (with a particular emphasis on safe).
Granted, the news filtered to Canadians, and, I suspect more so, Americans regarding Mexico/City tends to focus on the negative – murders; drugs; illegal immigration; corruption. All this is such a shame; more so – a shame since most visitors to Mexico cocoon themselves in touristy enclaves that cater to a certain North Americanized view of what Mexico and Mexicans are about.
So that said, if you find yourself with the opportunity to travel to Mexico take it! But go to places less traveled and for sure, get yourself to Mexico City!
Mexico City is big – its urban agglomerated population is now close to 22 million which makes it the largest urban city in the entire Western Hemisphere (New York is a close second fyi) and the third largest (after Tokyo and Delhi) globally. The city is built in a valley and ringed by mountains and you are very much at altitude when visiting so be aware of that for your first few days. Incidentally, before Cortez and his motley crew arrived on the scene (in 1519AD), Mexico City was essentially a city like Venice, with complex and beautiful canals. Cortez razed the city and subsequently its lakes were drained. You can still get a small sense of what it may have been like then by visiting the Xochimilco district.
We decided to stay at the St. Regis (arguably the best hotel in the city) located right on Paseo de la Reforma. We had a lovely suite that looked out onto the bicentennial monument, Torre Mayor (the city’s highest office tower) and the Chapultepec Park. Like all St. Regis hotels, service is in a word, exemplary, and comes with your very own Butler who is at your beck and call 24/7. Plus, you are greeted with Veuve Cliquot, so, say no more. While at the St Regis we had a car and driver/guide (a wonderful gentleman named Cesar) at our disposal. We did use this to drive down to San Angel (San Angel is home to the Bazar del Sabado [a Saturday only artist’s market]) and to drive out to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the onwards from there to Teotihuacan (the famed Pyramids about 40 minutes northeast of the city). The reality though is that Mexico City’s subway is reliable, safe, often entertaining (with every manner of person selling their wares on the cars) and cheap, cheap, cheap – 3 pesos (about 30 cents Canadian) can get you anywhere in the city. Do make a point if you visit of taking the subway once for the experience. We enjoyed a couple fabulous meals while in Mexico City – at Paxia and at Pujol (which is one of the Top 50 Restaurants in the World – go figure. It sits at number 36). More details on these meals in later posts.
2 & 3) our suite at the St Regis … which was decorated with balloons when we arrived for G’s birthday
4) the hallways at St Regis; 5) our bathroom had a soaker tub and a shower that also served as a steam room
6 & 7) the view from our suite … you can get a sense of the valley Mexico City sits in with these shots
8) every night wee treats are left in your room at turn-down; 9) the hotel’s 15th floor pool is a lovely reprieve from the heat of the city
10 & 11) we enjoyed the pool
12) and the view from the pool down onto Fuente de La Diana Cazadora; 13) G’s birthday gift from the staff at the St Regis left in our room
14) a night shot from our room with Torre Mayor on the right and the Estela de la Luz (or the Bicentennial Monument) to its left
15) Estela de la Luz in daylight; 16) a balloon sales girl hidden in her balloons outside our lunch at El Bijio, where we ate a couple times in Polanco
17) performers perform this high level act just outside the Museo de Antropologia
18 & 19) what was interesting is this chap on the left played his pipe the entire time he was falling!
20 & 21) the gardens inside Grand San Angel (in the San Angel area and near the Saturday Bazar) where we ate at D’Kirico
22 & 23) G wanders the Bazar de Sabado in San Angel
24) of course we toured the La Casa Azul, the home of Frida Kahlo and husband Diego Riviera which is now a museum; he lived on one side, she on the other and they wandered back and forth across the bridge in between; 25) me pausing to read
26 & 27) El Angel looking west towards the St Regis
28) inside the Mexico City Postal Office across from the Palacio de Bellas Artes
29 & 30) more of the beautiful Post Office
31 & 32) the Palacio de Bellas Artes and its dome
33) isn’t it pretty?!
34) what is interesting, is that inside the Palacio it is all Art Deco (go figure!); 35) the Latioamerica Seguros which was the first office tower in Mexico City
36) Plaza de La Constitucion (better known as the Zocalo) which is the true center of Mexico City (and the largest public square in the Americas and rivalled only by Vatican Square)
37) the Palacio Virreinal; home of the President of Mexico; 38) the president’s helicopter sits in the centre of the Zocalo
39) Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María in the Zocalo (built back in 1573); and sinking ever since; 40) G explores the interior
40) the church is sinking, sadly and engineers are doing their best to sink the back end of the church so it aligns
41) the Tiffany glass ceiling inside the impressive Grand Hotel on the Zocalo
42) inside the centre of the church is this pendulum which has been noting the movement of the church since the day it was completed; 43) more of the glass ceiling
44) isn’t it stunning?
45) there is even Tiffany glass bird cages inside with real birds, do visit and have lunch here for sure; 46) the streets just outside the Zocalo
47) here is the Templo Mayor, the true ‘heart’ of Mexico City. It was here that the Aztec’s main temple stood. 48) yummy baked goods!
49) more of the baked goods; 50) Mexico City has a store for – literally – everything, including this mannequin store
51) the carousel inside Liverpool in Polanco, a very upscale chain of stores in Mexico (similar to Holt’s in Canada); we rode this!; 52) tequila worms anyone?!