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Historical & Hip: Mai Tai Tomás Travels To Mexico City

Historical & Hip: Mai Tai Tomás Travels To Mexico City

Old May 24th, 2023, 11:10 AM
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Historical & Hip: Mai Tai Tomás Travels To Mexico City

After spending nine marvelous days in Mexico City, we absolutely fell in love with it. The infectious energy of Mexico City is hard to escape. Over the course of our trip, Tracy and I were joined by three friends and explored everything from the vibrant neighborhoods of CDMX to the pyramids located outside of the city. And don’t forget the food. Wow! Today’s installment covers our first two days. We stayed in the charming Colonia Condesa, a neighborhood we will surely return to again. On Day Two we take a walk (a very long walk) through a few neighborhoods taking in all the sights and sounds, along with a visit to a museum built by a billionaire in memory of his wife. Viva La México! Story with photos link below ... without photos under photos.


“You’re going to Mexico City? Aren’t you worried?” This was the response from many when I told them of our plans to travel to North America’s largest city for nine days. Let me begin by dispelling the notion that you are in danger in Ciudad de México. For us, Mexico’s capital city was nothing less than an immense joy to visit, and at no time did we feel anything but safe.

The people were fantastic, the food out of this world and the upbeat vibrant feel of the city has made us already yearn to return to this dynamic megalopolos that is so culturally intriguing.

Oh, and all those gorgeous, historical and controversial murals? Maravilloso!

Kim and Mary did not join us on this trip to a city where the capital of the Aztec empire was once located. We did, however, have three Aztecs (of the San Diego State variety) included in our group of five. Aztec Tim (who was the second person I met at SDSU … Kim was the first) and his wife Sheila would join us for part of the nine-day adventure, while Aztec Stephen zigzagged across the city with us for the entirety of the trip. Obviously, he didn’t get the memo from Kim and Mary.

Tracy, Stephen and I stayed in three different locales for our nine days, while Tim and Sheila made Centro Histórico their permanent base for six days. Thanks to Uber and massive amounts of walking (and more walking), we were able to explore up close a number of Mexico City’s interesting and vibrant neighborhoods (both hip and historic), plus we also worked in a day trip to Teotihuacán, home to the Pyramid of the Moon, the Pyramid of the Sun and a scene of total embarrassment by yours truly. And yes, we did take time to sample an array of mezcal and tequila cocktails throughout the trip. I had originally planned a five-day visit, but after learning all there was to see, I realized we would need more time.

I also nearly made it through the entire vacation uninjured, but alas, that would not be the case. At least I waited until the final day. Let the fun begin!

Chapter One: Hola México!

Day One: Redress Works For Tracy, That’s The Ticket, Staying In A Tree House, Our Friend Has No Reservations, Scoping Out The Hood, “Late” Lunch, Now This Is A Happy Hour, Tom’s Inner GPS Goes Awry and Memorable Merotoro

On the road at 4:30 a.m. we arrived at LAX 2 1/2 hours before our flight. The big question would be, “Will Tracy once again be mistaken as a terrorist and yanked out of line?” or “Will the redress number she recently applied for and received take her off whatever list she’s been on for the better part of the last decade?”

Drumroll please … she went through the TSA pre-check with flying colors. The same could not be said for her husband. My new knee once again set off alarms. Tracy asked the TSA agent whether we could get a doctor’s note for future flights, and the answer was “Nada.”

The flight from LAX to Mexico City was three hours and fifty minutes. As usual, American Airlines lived down to expectations. The only form of sustenance on our flight was one (small) cookie. In addition, no water was ever offered. For those wanting to lose a few pounds, I suggest flying American.

Getting through the automated border control in Mexico City was a snap. If you’re Mexican, American or Canadian, all you have to do is scan your passport, have your photo taken and it’s hasta la vista, baby! You are through. Well, almost through. I probably should have watched other people first, because when I attempted to exit, the doors would not open. Finally, Tracy, who had been in another exit, came over and looking at me like I was an idiot (that didn’t take long), told me to be still and let the machine take my photo. Shortly afterward, I was set free, and Tracy has the proof.

Tracy was handed a slip of paper by an agent, she crammed it in her purse (foreshadowing alert!) and that was that.

After grabbing our luggage (30 minutes) it was time to catch a taxi. I had read that to get an “Authorized Taxi” you go to one of the taxi kiosks located inside the terminal and purchase a ticket to your destination (priced by zone). We randomly selected one of the companies, received our ticket, walked outside to the line and within five minutes we were whisking our way to our first lodging located in the Condesa neighborhood.

Well, “whisking” might not be the correct word. Traffic, as we were to find out, is brutal in Mexico City. Although slow, the trip to the La Condesa neighborhood (which is located in the borough of Cuauhtémoc) was very enlightening. Lining the sides of the road were dozens of various types of vendors. Some were cooking food (those tacos and other dishes looked so appetizing to a guy who’d only had two cookies), while others were selling various goods.

In about 30 minutes, we were deposited at our b&b for the first two nights, The Red Tree House, a place that had garnered stellar reviews … and for good reason. We were met by our genial host (everyone that works here is terrific).

He asked how the taxi drive was, and I answered that the traffic here reminded me of Los Angeles. He smiled and quipped, “Yes, but Los Angeles has more Mexicans.”

Then came a quick moment of panic. We alerted him that our friend Stephen would not be arriving until around seven, and if that was going to be a problem. Our host looked through his reservations, but Stephen’s name was not on the list. We immediately called him just as he was boarding his flight to tell him he didn’t have a reservation. He said he knew that, and that he actually had reserved somewhere else in Condesa when he was too late to get reservations at The Red Tree House. Not to worry, he would meet us at the restaurant.

Then our host introduced us to the two Red Tree House dogs, Boss and Romeo. I asked, “Who’s the Boss and wherefore art thou Romeo?” I think our host now wished we didn’t have reservations either.

The Red Tree House contains interesting artwork throughout with a nice patio where guests enjoy a free breakfast and happy hour.

Now we knew why so many people had raved about this place.

It was time to explore a little of Condesa and grab some lunch. Around the corner from The Red Tree House is the beautiful tree-lined Avenida Amsterdam …

… an oval that includes lots of cafes and some very striking architecture. We stopped at the nearby fountain for photos, but decided that since we were going to stroll Avenida Amsterdam the following day, we’d go see where the next evening’s restaurant was located. I was a little worried about my choice, so I wanted to take a look.

We walked past more gorgeous buildings and shortly we were at Antolina Condesa. The menu looked great, and we made sure to reserve a table on the sidewalk for the following evening.

Nearby was Café Toscano. Who knew our first meal in Mexico City would be Italian? It was nearing 3 p.m., but there were lots of people eating. We would find out that lunch in Mexico City often doesn’t start until 2 p.m. I had some delicious Carpaccio, and the Bohemia tasted great on a warm afternoon. Tracy enjoyed her smoked eggplant with crostini.

We headed back to rest for a short time as Tracy had a slight headache, which we surmised could be from the elevation. Mexico City is more than 7,300 feet above sea level. Take that Denver! Before entering we saw some of the cool outdoor artwork that would be a constant on this trip.

Every evening between 6 pm and 8 pm, The Red Tree House offers a Happy Hour for its guests, and they know how to do it. In our experience, many of these hotel happy hours have small pours, and you have to go out of your way to find refills. Not here. Our host poured us two large glasses of wine, and he kept coming around offering refills while chatting with the guests. We loved the indoor/outdoor space, as did many of the guests who partook in this happy hour.

A little after 7 o’clock we headed back out on Avenida Amsterdam in search of Merotoro, Cocina de Baja California, which had been a recommended restaurant (we had 7:30 reservations). Our host said it was only about a five-minute walk. Luckily we left a little early, because even though I believed I knew where it was (our host had given me directions), there’s always a chance I’ll screw up. And screw up I did. This cat seemed to be trying to warn me that we might be headed in the wrong direction.

Avenida Amsterdam takes its elliptical shape from a race track (Hipódromo) that was here in the early 20th century. This part of the neighborhood is referred to as “the heart of La Condesa.” After about ten minutes Tracy said, “I thought Merotoro was only five minutes away.” Not surprisingly, I had somehow taken us in the wrong direction. Tracy had once again backed the wrong horse. Finally, after I got us all turned around, Tracy took charge and we arrived at the restaurant just in time for our reservation.

Merotoro (Avenida Amsterdam 204 between Iztacihuatl & Chilpancingo) is an upscale restaurant, but it doesn’t have the snooty vibe that so many similar-type restaurants have. The dining room opens out to a patio, and the ambiance is perfect for great dining.

Chef Jair Tellez previously had a restaurant in Baja California and Merotoro’s cuisine mirrors its owners roots and brings those Baja flavors to this restaurant. Our server was terrific and apologized for not speaking English well. We told him not to worry and we apologized for our pathetic Spanish. It all worked.

I had been in Mexico City for nearly six hours and not had any tequila. That changed rapidly as I ordered the spectacular Tequila Zo Coctele; tequila, Chartreuse, amarillo limón y jugo de mango. Fantástico! Tracy tasted two wines from Valle de Guadalupe (a future trip) before settling on the Sauvignon Blanc.

The house-made crusty bread served with olio and sea salt was a great start, as were the blue tortillas with spicy hot salsa. By now Stephen had joined us and also joined me with that wonderful tequila cocktail.

The meal was stellar. I had really wanted to start with the beef tartare with grasshoppers, but since I had carpaccio for lunch, and my entree was beef tenderloin, I prudently ordered the pumpkin soup with crabmeat, basil and pumpkin seed oil. The beef tenderloin with salt potatoes and roasted carrots rounded out an excellent meal.

Tracy started with Gazpacho with Spider Crab meat, and followed that with a braised short rib with creamy corn and grilled carrots.

Stephenopted for a grilled beet salad, broad beans, lettuce and sheep cheese. His entree of creamy rice with shrimp, pumpkin and sea urchin was also very good.

It was a great meal to begin the trip, although we were all too full to sample one of their desserts. I hate when that happens.

After a day of travel we settled into our respective b&bs after deciding we’d meet at the Einstein statue in Parque de Mexico the following morning. We would then traverse Condesa and its two parks with numerous four-legged friends, check out some interesting monuments and fountains and see a statue in Roma Norte that reminded us of our visit to an Italian city.

We also ducked inside a church with a recognizable name, plus a monument and an anti-monument very near one another.

After lunch, we’d Uber over to Polanco and check out the huge museum created by a man who was once ranked as “the richest person in the world.”

All this, plus a dinner that finally included chapulines made for a very, very fun and busy day.

Chapter Two: Checking Out A Few Mexico City Neighborhoods

Day Two - We’re No Einstein, Taking Abreast Of A Statue, Going To The Dogs, Welcoming Hands, Not That Frida, Are We in Madrid?, Are We in Florence?, Witch House Is It?, A Familia-r Church, Independence Monument, Massacre Anti-Monument, Battle Of The Bohemias, Slim Chance To See His Museum, Rodin Overload and Patience … Grasshopper

One of the best things about being on vacation? There is no dieting thanks to all the walking we do. Even after a big dinner the previous night, I was happy to settle into The Red Tree House Dining Room for the complimentary breakfast.

We enjoyed the artwork as we downed delicious red chilaquiles, yogurt, pastries and copious amounts of coffee.

It was now time to head toward where we would ostensibly meet Stephen at the statue of Albert Einstein. It was a beautiful morning as we skirted around the nearby fountain in Plaza Citlaltépetl and a very popular cafe.

Colonia Hipódromo in the Condesa district is Mexico City’s “hip” colonia (neighborhood), and as usual, we brought that hip quotient down quite a bit. Parque México (officially Parque San Martín) was developed in the 1920s on the location of a former horse racing track. Today, there weren’t any horse races, but there was a form of dog racing. Dog and their owners waited impatiently in line as one dog after another would get its exercise by sprinting along the walkway chasing after its owner. This Great Dane actually looked almost as big as a horse, and we learned she was only ten months old and still had some growing to do.

Dogs were everywhere, and this well-behaved pack was taking a rest before going to “Dog School.”

In a matter of minutes we were looking at an art-deco clock.

Next, we found ourselves in the Plaza Teatro al Aire Libre Lindbergh (Foro Lindbergh). It’s named after the famed aviator. The first Ford trimotor, bearing the name Mexico, landed at Balbuena Military Field in Mexico City and the pilot was none other than Charles Lindbergh. On this morning the only thing landing were rollerbladers and skateboarders falling on their butts. Love that bougainvillea.

Next to the plaza is the hard-to-miss and perfectly named Fuente de los Cántaros (Fountain Of The Jugs), a fountain built in 1927. Indigenous Mexican model Luz Jiménez posed for this structure.

Einstein was nowhere to be found, but we did finally run into Stephen. We all strolled around a duck pond. I had read some of the trees in this area are called Mimosa, but we did not find any champagne.

We never did find Einstein on this morning, but I guess everything’s relative.

We stopped by a children’s play area before …

… hitting another art-deco fountain in Plaza Popocatépetl (named after the volcano that is currently … in May 2023 … erupting outside Mexico City). Popocatépetl means. “Smoking Mountain.”

Although we had only walked a short distance, I was already falling in love with this neighborhood.

We headed toward the area’s other green space, the smaller Parque España, where a sampling of the city’s energy was on display. The joyfulness of people dancing in the park on a Saturday afternoon epitomized our entire stay in Mexico City. Parque España was established in 1921 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the Mexican War of Independence.”

This park is also known for its welcoming spirit. The Monument to Lázaro Cardenas salutes the Mexican president known for allowing thousands of Spanish Republican exiles who were escaping the Spanish Civil War and Franco dictatorship relocate to Mexico.

I wanted to put a down payment on this house.

In another ten minutes we were in the Roma Norte neighborhood (Colonia Roma) at a statue that looked familiar.

That’s because we had seen it when visiting Madrid in 2015. Fuente de Cibeles is a bronze replica of the 18th-century fountain of the same name in the Plaza de Cibeles which stands across from the Palacio de Cibeles in Madrid. Photos from our 2015 trip.

This fountain was a gift in 1980 from the Spanish residents of Mexico City to acknowledge the bond between Mexico and Spain.

Gazing at a nearby building we saw the mural of Mexico City’s most famous dog, Frida. The white Labrador, who was a part of the Mexican Navy’s Canine Unit, became a national hero while doing search and rescue work during Mexico City’s 2017 earthquake. Frida was able to search collapsed buildings attempting to find people still alive.

In Frida’s career she saved 12 lives and helped recover more than 40 bodies. She died of natural causes at the age of 13. Upon returning home, I learned there is a statue of her, so that’s on our to-do list for our next visit.

A couple of more murals, and we were on to our next destination.

In about ten minutes we had walked from a replica of a Spanish fountain to one of a famous statue from Florence, Italy, while we were standing in Rio de Janeiro … Plaza Rio de Janeiro that is. That is a statue of Goliath-killer David (not the only one we’d see today) in the middle of the plaza. Plaza Rio de Janeiro was originally name Parque Roma and then Plaza Orizaba, but was changed to honor Brazil’s 100-year anniversary of independence in 1922.

The bronze statue of David was placed here in 1976.

There are also some interesting buildings surrounding the plaza. I thought this might be the well-known Edificio Rio de Janeiro, but it was not.

However, I eventually did find that building dubbed, “The House of The Witches,” because it has a cone-shaped roof and its two false openings resemble a witches face. The trees were blocking the view of the house, so I had to leave it to my imagination.

Nearby was a church also with a familiar name. Although not as spectacular as La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (picture from 2017 trip) …

… this La Sagrada Familia isn’t too shabby either. The church dates from the first quarter of the 20th century. It took longer than expected to construct due to the Mexican Revolution.

The interior contains “art nouveau and art deco influences of the time exemplified by the stained glass windows and other decorative accents.”

Our walking tour continued as we headed down C. Génova toward our next destination. C. Génova is a pedestrian walkway, and I’m always interested in a building with shrubbery growing on it. If only the Knights Who Say “Ni” could have seen it.

We passed a bar that had our our names on it.

Making a left on Paseo de Reforma, standing tall at the end of the street was the Monumento a la Independencia. The monument pays homage to those people who lost their lives fighting for independence.

On top of the monument is a 23-foot gold plated angel that was cast in Florence at a cost of $2.5 million. The monument has become a focal point for both celebration and protest. It is said it resembles “July Column in Paris, the Berlin Victory Column in Berlin and Columbus Circle in New York City.”

Near the monument was a large number 72 that we thought would be a fun photo to send back to our friend Kim who would turn that number in a couple of days. What we learned was this 72 is actually an “anti-monument,” one of about seven in Mexico City that “serve as a reminder of a range of injustices that have occurred in Mexico.” The 72 memorial remembers “the 72 undocumented migrants who were killed in a massacre in Tamaulipas in 2010 that was allegedly perpetrated by the the Zetas drug cartel.”

By now we were looking for a place to sit down for a moment, and what better place to sit down than at a place serving gelato. The song Devil or Angel came to mind here.

Now that we had dessert, it was time for lunch, even though it was just a little after 1 p.m., we had to ease into this 2 p.m. lunch thing. We walked aimlessly for about ten minutes, and during our stroll we noticed the intricate electrical wiring that is everywhere in Mexico City. It reminded me of when my dad tried to do the electrical wiring at our house when I was a kid. Somehow I survived to adulthood.

We finally decided upon El Mexicano, which had outside dining, appeared to be favored by locals and, more importantly, served cold cerveza.

Stephen and I went for the dueling Bohemias, he ordered the regular (Cerveza Clara) while I tried the dark (Cerveza Oscura). I like the Clara better.

The food was fine, and Tracy went into the restaurant to take photos of the skull collection.

These skulls were quite colorful.

We planned to end our day at the Museo Soumaya, but it was an hour’s walk from the restaurant. Tracy gave me “the look” and I knew it was Uber or divorce. Soon we were in an Uber on the way to the museum.

MaiTai Tom Aside: The total cost for Uber including tips during our nine days? $86 U.S. Such a deal! We spent $150 U.S. just to go from our house to LAX.

Museo Soumaya is named for the late wife (Soumaya) of multibillionaire businessman Carlos Slim, who at one time was named the “richest person in the world.” The unique design of the building is said to resemble his wife’s neck. All the art is from Slim’s private European and Mexican art collection. I read that the exterior is covered in 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles from an aluminum plant Carlos Slim owns. The line to get in looked long.

While a man on an elephant trumpeted our arrival, we pondered if we wanted to wait. Actually the line moved quickly, and within 20 minutes we were inside this massive structure. It’s said that Slim built this museum “to provide a place for Mexicans who may never have the opportunity to travel outside of the country to see these more than 6,000 works for themselves.” To make things even better, admission is free!

MaiTai Tom observation: Almost everyone in line on this afternoon appeared to be either groups of teenagers or children with their parents.

Walking inside the expansive foyer there stood yet another statue of David. I was hoping no Florida school children were witnessing this.
Rodin’s Gates of Hell was also there, but we didn’t heed the warning from the three guys on top, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

As you ascend the six-story building we passed a bronze replica of the Piéta, one that has apparently caused much controversy. James Oles, a professor of art and expert on Mexican art observed, “Michelangelo's Pieta is a white marble sculpture. It's unclear to me why anybody would want a bronze version of it, and why you would display such a thing in an art museum, since it is neither a Michelangelo nor a close approximation of the Michelangelo.”

There are other famous statues by not-so-famous people including Apollo and Daphne (the original in Rome’s Borghese is my favorite sculpture) and The Three Graces.

There is also a Piéta made out of terracotta. You can never have enough piétas.

Artwork from famous artists like da Vinci …

… to lesser known artists like this Belgian artist’s rendition of The Tower of Babel.

Art is displayed on colorful backgrounds.

Fortunately (for me anyway) after the first set of stairs a series of ramps encircle the museum to lead you to the top floor. Here we see Miracle of the Tepeyac by Mexican artist Jorge González Camarena from above and in front.

There were a number of colorful paintings by Mexican artists.

We enjoyed this area …

… and its murals.

We ran into Thebes Seated On An Armchair before heading to the top level. That had to be uncomfortable

Soumaya apparently was a big fan of Rodin, so there are more than 300 pieces on the top of floor which is “Sculpture Central.” Here we see Rodin’s Les Trois Ombres (The Three Shades), who are the enlarged version of the guys on top of The Gates Of Hell.

This bust of Napoleón is by another Frenchmen.

As we headed back down, the museum was even more crowded. I’d definitely go back, as its layout is kind of helter-skelter, so we didn’t see everything we wanted to.

We did catch some more colorful paintings on the way down.

And even a Fabergé egg.

It was after 4 p.m. and the line was shorter when we exited.

This view from where we caught our Uber shows this museum from another angle.

On the drive back to Condesa, in a roundabout at Paseo de la Reforma, out of the car window Tracy captured the 1942 Diana, The Huntress Fountain. According to GPSMyCity, “Some sections of the population appreciated the sculpture while ultra conservative sections of society called the Decency League protested against the nude depiction of Diana and forced the artist to put underwear on the statue.” Sanity prevailed, and she is back to her natural self.

After disembarking near Parque México, we walked past Rojo Bistrot, which our host at The Red Tree House said was one of his favorites. Since it was about 4:45, we figured this was just a busy late lunch crowd.

Refreshed, we went downstairs for our last Red Tree House Happy Hour. After meeting and sipping wine with a nice couple from Southern California, it was off to dinner at Antolina Condesa (Aguascalientes 232, Hipódromo, Cuauhtémoc).

While Tracy started with a little vino, Stephen and I decided to go the mezcal route with a Papanila; mezcal, vanilla, orange liquor, tonic water and sparkling wine. Our first Mezcal drink was a success.

Not to be denied, I ordered the Guacamole “Antolina;” avocados, grasshoppers, pico de gallo and tomato. Grasshoppers are very popular in Mexico, a great source of protein and give you a great leaping ability (the last part may be false). In any event, the guac was great, with a little crunch.

It was now time for our “Wow” dish. A Nopales tartare; Napal cactus with cucumber, red onion, red onion, jicama, capers and avocado dressing was totally spectacular.

Dinner was good, too. Tracy had a delicious Duck magret in amarillito mole; with a corn tetela (masa treats) stuffed with cheese, while I also loved my Emoladas de mole negro mixe; tortilla stuffed with cheese bathed in black mole.

Stephen had the prettiest dish, a tasty Pescado Zarandeado; seabass with chipotle achiote sauce.

Once again, dessert was off the table as we were stuffed more than that corn tetela. Antolina Condesa has the perfect neighborhood feel, and when I move to Condesa (a man can dream), I will spend many an evening here.

We took the short stroll back to The Red Tree House. Even at night, this neighborhood proves it loves its dogs. The red-lighted tree told us we were home.

Tomorrow, we would switch bases to Centro Historíco, where we’d spend the next four nights. The hotel’s lobby was as dazzling as advertised, but before we could check in we’d hit a palacio that contains the works of three great Mexican muralists, stop by the gorgeous post office, duck into an azulejo-laden building, visit a museum showcasing the evolution of Mexican Art and admire Mexico City’s Cathedral. After checking in, we would meet our friends Tim and Sheila on our hotel rooftop bar/restaurant for some well-earned libations and gaze out on the expansive Zócalo before heading out to dinner in a restaurant with trees inside. I don’t even know why we sleep.
maitaitom is offline  
Old May 24th, 2023, 12:35 PM
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YAY! So excited that this report is in the works! I've been waiting for your amazing writing and photos from your trip. We are taking our three 20-something kids and significant others to Mexico City for seven nights between Christmas and New Year's, and staying the entire time at The Red Tree House in two 2-bedroom apartments. (Half of us flying from LA.)

I am apologizing in advance for -- what I'm guessing will be -- my many questions.

Did you plan out the path in which you walked on these two days or did you just roam freely? Your walks look beautiful! The landscape is so green and the architecture is so colorful!

And ... did you pre-buy tickets to Museo Soumaya?
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Old May 24th, 2023, 01:45 PM
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"YAY! So excited that this report is in the works! I've been waiting for your amazing writing and photos from your trip. We are taking our three 20-something kids and significant others to Mexico City for seven nights between Christmas and New Year's, and staying the entire time at The Red Tree House in two 2-bedroom apartments. (Half of us flying from LA.) I am apologizing in advance for -- what I'm guessing will be -- my many questions. Did you plan out the path in which you walked on these two days or did you just roam freely? Your walks look beautiful! The landscape is so green and the architecture is so colorful!
And ... did you pre-buy tickets to
Museo Soumaya?"

Ask any questions you like. I searched lots of websites to see what there was to see in Condesa, so as to have some sort of plan where to walk. Really wanted to see the fountain we saw in Madrid. Museo Soumaya is free, so no advance tickets. If you go, try not to make it a weekend as it was really crowded. Speaking of which, my friends went to Chapultepec Park on Sunday, which is terribly crowded. We visited on a Friday, and the park, plus the castle were very uncrowded. We also visited on Thursday when we also hit the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. Very cool museum, especially for an Aztec fan!
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Old May 24th, 2023, 02:28 PM
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Thank you! Yes, the Museo Nacional de Antropologia and the castle are both on my list.

We are headed to Madrid, Granada and Sevilla this Fall so I am anxious for a history lesson from their perspective on colonizing Mexico before we visit this largest North American city!
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Old May 24th, 2023, 04:20 PM
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Been waiting for this report, which as usual exceeds expectations. Looking forward to the next installment.

I am selfish though and regret Mexico City's growing popularity with (other) tourists. Could you throw in a few muggings or rants about pollution to discourage the masses? We do not want another Barcelona!
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Old May 24th, 2023, 04:38 PM
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Speaking of ... any thoughts on landing and taking an official taxi into Condesa at midnight on Christmas night?
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Old May 24th, 2023, 06:36 PM
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Nice report. Looking forward to more!
But how did you end up with 2 cookies? 🤔
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Old May 24th, 2023, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by lrice
Speaking of ... any thoughts on landing and taking an official taxi into Condesa at midnight on Christmas night?
As long as there are incoming flights, there will be taxis available.
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Old May 27th, 2023, 04:02 AM
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Excellent report Maitaitom. I have been vacillating on what to do for a month next year. A Mexico/Guatemala combo was on the cards but that seems more suited to a longer trip. Trains through Europe were another option as were revisiting Taiwan or Japan. Your report now has me wondering whether a month in Mexico City renting an apartment and "living like a local" may be a good option, perhaps with a few side trips thrown in might be a good option. Flights from London seem (relatively ) Inexpensive and we loved the time we spent in Mexico pre pandemic.
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Old May 30th, 2023, 11:12 AM
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"Your report now has me wondering whether a month in Mexico City renting an apartment and "living like a local" may be a good option."

Tracy and I have already talked about going back and stay in Condesa for a couple of weeks (we have pets we can't leave that long.) I'd have conchas every morning (you don't them like here). I'm almost finished writing about our first day in Centro Histórico, and it just makes me want to return to Mexico City.
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Old May 30th, 2023, 07:57 PM
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Churros and chocolate. Or chilaquiles. Or just some champurrado.
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Old May 31st, 2023, 01:55 AM
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I don’t have a sweet tooth so no churros or conchas. Our first morning in Mexican City we stumbled across a brilliant taco stall close to our hotel and went through their whole menu several times over. Reason enough for a return😉
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Old May 31st, 2023, 05:30 PM
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We shifted our base to Centro Histórico for the next four days at the gorgeous Gran Hotel Ciudad de México. We’d get started by visiting the Palacio de Bellas Artes and its marvelous murals by Los Tres Grandes, stop in a historic post office, walk through an azulejo-laden restaurant, visit Mexico City’s National Museum of Art and check out its cathedral. We’d meet up with our other friends for drinks overlooking the Zócolo and end our evening among the trees in a gorgeous (and delicious) restaurant. Story with photos in link below ... without photos below photos ...


Chapter Two: Exploring Centro Histórico & Los Tres Grandes

Day Three: A Gran Tiffany Stained-Glass Ceiling, Los Tres Grandes, At The Crossroads, Hey Mr. Postman, Azulejos Restaurant, Is He Taking A Selfie?, Waiting For The Room, Carnival At The Cathedral, Champagne Welcome, Cocktails With Friends Up on The Roof, Looking Out At “The Birthplace Of The Constitution” and a Historíco Meal

It was time to switch hotels, but not before gorging on another Red Tree House breakfast, this time some tasty enfrijoladas.

From breakfast to the Happy Hours to the artwork and stellar staff, The Red Tree House should definitely be on your list of places to stay in Mexico City.

We Ubered to the heart of Centro Histórico arriving near the Catedral Metropolitana, located on the edge of the Zócalo, Mexico City’s main plaza.

The Segundo Festival de las Flores was taking place on this weekend, making Zócolo even more festive and colorful.

La Bandera, the gigantic Mexican flag flying above the plaza, is raised every day at 8 a.m. and lowered at sunset. Tracy took this photo later in the week when the wind unfurled the flag.

Just around the corner was the Gran Hotel Ciudad México, where we would spend the next four nights. If you want a “wow” factor upon entering a hotel, Gran Hotel Ciudad México is the place. Looking up, we admired the stunning tiffany-style stained glass dome which is one of the four largest in the world. It was created by the workshop of Jacques Gruber, a famous French woodworker and glass artist, in 1908. The colors are dazzling. We met Stephen underneath this masterpiece.

Speaking of Frenchmen, Sebastion Robert purchased the historic building, whose origins go all the way back to the 16th century, in 1895 and turned it into Mexico City’s first department store. It became a hotel in 1968 and still maintains many of its original accoutrements, including the cage-like iron elevator which was the “first of its kind in Mexico City.”

It was too early to check in, so it was off to see the sights of Centro Histórico, many of them within a short walking distance from the hotel. At 10:30 the streets were full of people, while many others were going to church.

We passed the Iglesia Metodista Episcpal 1873 and the nearby Sociedad Bíblica de México, which had this sculpture out front.

As we walked toward the Museo Palacio de Belle Artes, we also passed Iglesia de San Francisco, which was located on the site of Mexico City’s first convent. Only the church remains.

Directly across the street is the Casa de los Azulejos, which was originally built in 1596. The façade is covered in those blue and white tiles (made in Puebla) that we loved so much in Portugal last year. It was occupied by the Counts of the Valley of Orizaba and their families from the 17th to the 19th century.

Dueling stories are told about its origin, but it is the one described in Altas Obscura that I like the best… “The tiling was the result of a dispute between a father and his son, who partied too much.” According to the story, “when the young man’s father told him he was good for nothing, he cleaned up his act, grew his fortune, and covered his family house with tiles to prove to his papa that he was at least good for making beautiful buildings.” I’ll go with that version. It now houses a Sanborns restaurant, which is a popular chain in Mexico City.

We crossed the street to the Museo & Palacio de Bellas Artes, a gorgeous neo-classical and art nouveau building from the early 20th century. In front of the building stands the Pegasus statue.

Another statue is situated between the palace and Alameda Central, the historical park we’d stroll through later in the week, of Francisco I. Madero, a revolutionary, writer and statesman in the early 20th century. He served as president, but only for a couple of years before he was overthrown in a coup d’état. Subsequently, Madero and his vice president were kidnapped, tortured and killed.

The revolutionary spirit still seems alive today as we read spray painted on his statue “No Vamos de Claudigar.” Although it needed some spell check, it means, “We are not going to give up.”

Entrance to the museum was free (minimal charge to take photos) since it was Sunday. It didn’t take long for Tracy to find the ceiling.

Downstairs was an exhibition of works by Federico Silva who began his career as an assistant to one of the Tres Grandes, David Alfaro Siqueiros. Silva painted murals …

… sculpted …

… and was also a pioneering artist in kinetic art.

I wish there had been some explanation of these. I did decipher that the one on the left is about Ezequiel Padilla Peñaloza, who was Secretary of Foreign Affairs during World War II. Many people disliked him because he was perceived as being “too pro-American.”

But it is on the next floor up is where you will find the murals of Los Tres Grandes … Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco, among others. Those three are the most important Mexican muralists in history. The first mural we saw was Rivera’s controversial and famous El Hombre Controlador del Universo (Man, Controller of the Universe). (The below photo is of the entire mural, which we got from Wikipedia).

The frescoed mural depicts the conflict between capitalism and communism, with the man in the center pondering which to choose. The mural was commissioned to be installed in the lobby of Rockefeller Center in New York City. After Rivera infuriated the Rockefellers by including a picture of Lenin, a Soviet May Day parade, and John D. Rockefeller holding a drink (gasp! he was a teetotaler), Nelson Rockefeller had the mural plastered over and destroyed.

One year later, in 1934, Rivera created a second version of the three-paneled mural as “part of the inaugural program of the Palacio de Bellas Artes.” Holding the red flag are Leon Trotsky, Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. We would visit Trotsky’s home where he was assassinated in a few days.

It’s an amazing mural, and we would be lucky enough to see many more Rivera murals throughout the week. The guy in the gray beard next to the skull is supposedly Charles Darwin, which proves how this mural evolved.

David Alfaro Siqueiros created Nueva Democracia in 1944. It commemorates the end of World War II and celebrates the Allied Forces victory. The model for this mural was Siqeiros’s wife. The mural has been interpreted as “liberation from oppression.”

Then it was back to Rivera and his Carnival de la vida Mexicana (Carnival of Mexican Life).

Originally, this was created to be placed in the Hotel Reforma, but was removed for its political content “satirizing the political and social landscape of the time.”

The big three was rounded out by José Clemente Orozco’s Katharsis, a “blunt criticism of war, mechanization and mass politics.” The descriptions shown near the murals give you a great overview of the thoughts of the artists.

Siqueiros had two more murals that we saw. The Torment of Cuauhtémoc is pretty gruesome showing Spanish conquerors burning the feet of Cuauhtémoc (the Aztec ruler of Tenochtitlan) and Tetlepanqutzal on the orders of Cortez. Cuauhtémoc is supposed have said to Cortez, “Now I understand your false promises and the kind of death you have had in store for me. For you are killing me unjustly. May God demand justice from you, as it was taken from me when I entrusted myself to you in my city of Mexico!”

The Apotheosis of Cuauhtémoc shows the Aztec ruler in a better situation, donned in shining armor standing victorious in defeating the Spanish. Siqueiros turned the emperor into a symbol of resistance and dignity.

We admired Liberacion o La Humanidad Se Libera de la Misery by Jorge González Camerena, which is actually a re-creation of a mural that no longer exists. It was originally painted on the Edificio Guardiola, where the Bank of Mexico placed it vault.

I’d read that the Belles Artes Theater where opera, symphony and Ballet Folklórico de México productions are held are only open for performances. It has a stained glass curtain depicting the Valle de México and a beautiful dome. Gotta see that sometime. (photo from wikipedia)

That was just the beginning of murals for our week …

… but now we had to find a post office, but not just any post office. The Palacio Postal took five years to complete (1902 - 1907) and combining Art Nouveau, Moorish, Venetian Gothic Revival, Baroque, Neoclassical and Spanish Renaissance Revival architecture, the interior is a sight to behold. The architect of this masterpiece was Italian Adamo Boari, who also just happened to be the architect of Museo & Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Beautiful staircases climb toward the ceiling. It’s the first office where I didn’t have to stand in line.

All this, and the post office still operates today. It’s a quick stop, but a worthwhile one. It received our unanimous stamp of approval.

There was still about an hour until our next stop opened, so we wandered for a bit. In an alley we listened as an older gentleman skillfully played Viva la Vida by Coldplay on his violin.

We decided to duck inside the Casa de Azulejos (aka Sanborns) to check out the interior.

In 1925 José Clemente Orozco painted murals on the staircase walls.

The place was packed, so we decided to go somewhere else for a quick bite to eat, but it was fun to give it a look.

We happened to walk by a historic bar I had wanted to visit (I know, shocking), so I made a note we needed to return later in the week.

Across the street from our next stop, Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL), was a little pastry shop called Maison Kayser, which is also a chain. Nothing says a healthy meal like a pastry and beer. Tracy was a little more normal, ordering a ham and cheese baguette.

Out in front of MUNAL is a large equestrian statue of Charles IV of Spain, which has been standing here for the past 220 years.

Since we needed to get back to our hotel to check in, we did not give MUNAL as much time as it warranted, but we did see a smattering of paintings and sculptures that represent the development of fine arts in Mexico.

These colorful paintings are from the mid-1900s to the late 20th century.

I think this is the kid who shows up at my local market every so often.

Desserts and treats were on our plate, and I think I overheard some snickers by some looking at the one on the right.

As much as the art, the building is also a star.

Designed by an Italian architect and constructed in 1911, the building was originally Mexico City’s Palace of Communication.

The Reception Hall with its decorative ceiling was not scheduled to open until 1:30 p.m., but the nice woman at the door took pity upon us and let us in 15 minutes early.

There were a couple of rooms located upstairs where we gave a quick look. It’s not often you see my friend St. Michael riding on a skateboard. He told me, “Don’t try this at home!”

You cannot escape Los Tres Grandes. These two were painted by Diego Rivera.

Siqueiros created what you could call a unique “Self-Portrait.” Perhaps the first selfie.

And Orozco’s “Arrowhead” … well, I don’t know what spearheaded him to paint this.. I do know that on our next visit to Mexico City we’ll spend more time here exploring all the art we did not see.

Across the street from MUNAL was a former Bethlemite church. Lined up alongside it are three statues.

They are located in the “Garden of the Triple Alliance.” According to Mexico City CDMX, “it’s a commemoration of the Triple Alliance agreed to in the year 1427 by the rulers of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan.”

We walked back toward the hotel, but before checking in we decided to quickly see the interior of Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María. Construction on the church began in 1567 but was not completed until 1788.

We were in one of the side chapels, and the noise sounded like a carnival (I’d find out in a few days why), while others prayed nearby.

The choir was much more peaceful.

Its Spanish organ dates from the late 1600s.

It has 59 reliefs of saints.

The chapel was off limits at this hour due to Sundaymass, but we got a couple of shots from the side.

Outside is the Monumento al Papa Juan Pablo II. It was created “entirely with keys donated by Mexicans to symbolize that they had given him the keys to their hearts.” Instead of the keys to the city, he got the keys from the city.

Across the Zócalo back to the Gran Ciudad, the flag was blowing in the wind.

After checking in, we rode the antique iron elevator to our floor. From here we got a different, yet just as cool, view of that spectacular ceiling.

We really couldn’t escape the ceiling since there was a picture of it over the bed.

Since Mexico City’s altitude is more than 7,300 feet, it’s important to stay hydrated. The Gran Ciudad helps out with free bottles of water in the room and stacks of extra bottles nicely displayed in the hallways. It was just one of the hotel’s many amenities including a glass of champagne on check-in and a chocolate covered strawberry platter with our name in chocolate in our room.

After one of our patented 25-minute naps it was time to freshen up and head upstairs to La Terraza, Gran Ciudad’s rooftop bar and restaurant, where we’d meet up with friends Tim and Sheila, who were staying at a nearby hotel. They had spent the day at Chapultepec Park (which they said had been really crowded) and exploring the Polanco neighborhood.

The view onto the Zócalo from the rooftop bar is hard to beat.

I ordered a margarita, and this was the only negative comment I have about the Gran Ciudad. It was pretty terrible, although large enough to share for the table. So when the going gets tough, the tough turn to Mezcal. That did the trick (or it at least numbed my taste buds).

One last look at the plaza and it was time for our first Centro Histórico meal. Azul Histórico (Isabel La Católica 30) is one of three Azul restaurants in Mexico City, and the dining room is stunning. With a retractable roof making you feel like you’re outside and candle-lit trees spreading over the dining room, I was glad we were eating at this branch with dishes having Mexican roots.

On our way to the table we saw a woman making delicious fresh tortillas. I would taste her work later.

Azul Histórico features a monthly festival menu. This month mangos were highlighted. Our chips with a mango pico de gallo was a terrific start. We did not have the special mango-inspired meal, but that fruit would play an important part on our trip in a few days.

Dinner was fantastic! Being a mole aficionado, I had to try the Black Mole Enchiladas; with super Oaxacan black mole and stuffed with cheese.

Tim ordered the Tikin Xic Fish Yúcatan; seabass prepared with achiote, accompanied with plantain, avocado, tortilla strips and X-ni-pek sauce, while Sheila had grilled shrimp with chipotle accompanied by rice and wrapped in seaweed.

Stephen opted for the enchiladas, too, but these were mushroom enchiladas with black mole.

Tracy also had chipotles accompanying her delicious steak, cooked to perfection.

Someone at the table was yearning for dessert (he shall remain nameless, but is a sucker for desserts), and he coerced the group into sharing a Sevilla Orange Cheesecake with fresh berries. It’s how I get my 5 A Day.

We bid Tim and Sheila “buenas noches” and would meet up with them the following evening for dinner on their hotel rooftop. Stephen, Tracy and I would catch an early bus to visit an excavated Aztec archaeological site, the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon including Avenida de los Muertos, plus a stop at the second most visited shrine to the Virgin Mary in the world. In between, we tasted some mezcal while making a purchase that Tracy does on almost every vacation.

Meanwhile, Tim and Sheila would explore the Condesa and Roma Norte neighborhoods. They would coin a phrase that will soon spread across the world like wildfire.

I almost forgot. While at the pyramids, I did something that might be the most embarrassing thing I have ever done in front of other people (not an easy feat). It’s one that I hope will never be topped.

maitaitom is offline  
Old Jun 2nd, 2023, 01:46 PM
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Catching up on your report on your blog--wonderful photos and descriptions of one of my favorite cities! Thank you.
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Old Jun 4th, 2023, 07:34 PM
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What did you think about staying in Centro Histórico vs Condesa?

I’m anxious to read about your next few days. Your pictures are beautiful!
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Old Jun 5th, 2023, 08:42 AM
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"What did you think about staying in Centro Histórico vs Condesa?"

They are completely different. I could see us hunkering down in Condesa for a week or two for a relaxing trip (or as relaxing as I can be). On the other hand, I really loved Centro Histórico, too. Staying across the street from the Zócalo, we were within walking distance of many cool sites and restaurants. Never, day or night, did I feel anything but safe in both places (and everywhere else we traveled in Mexico City). There is a large police presence we saw most everywhere that serves as a deterrent for would-be scofflaws. I loved the energy of Centro Histórico, combining the beautiful, the historical and adding in a little grittiness. I think Condesa is considered more hip (but they let me in anyway), and it has a real comfortable feel to it. Personally, I'm glad that in our nine days we stayed in both.
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Old Jun 6th, 2023, 07:35 PM
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Glad to hear that you felt so safe. Almost everyone I mention our trip to mentions safety. It is a downer!

Any other thoughts or details on The Red Tree House?

My young adult kids and significant others are starting to squawk about renting an apartment instead.

We initially were going to rent a house or apartment in Condesa closer to your other hotel or Polanco for all 8 of us but then I read about The Red Tree House on TripAdvisor. People there LOVE it!

I thought mixing with other guests at the Happy Hours would be fun!? Breakfast served would be easy. And I like the idea of hotel security, getting us a driver for the pyramids, New Years recommendations, etc.
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Old Jun 7th, 2023, 09:21 AM
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Hello Irice!

Some of the rooms at Red Tree House ARE apartments with complete kitchens, living rooms, etc. The have two and three bedroom apartments available. Have you checked out the pictures on their site?
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Old Jun 7th, 2023, 02:15 PM
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Pedro's correct. You can have your apartment ... and happy hour! The three bedroom has a queen in two of the rooms, and a king in the other.
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Old Jun 7th, 2023, 02:16 PM
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Great report--thank you!! We are hoping to go in November, so I'll be taking notes.
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