Travel: January 2004 Archives

We spent most of today in Coyoacán, walking around with David. We visited the Mercado Sabado (Saturday Market) with food stalls, toys, birds (pets and food!) and performers. We also visited (but didn't really go into) Leon Trotsky's house and went to Frida Kahlo's house. The latter is definitely worth a visit.

One of the tourist offices we visited had clocks for three time zones: Mexico City, Paris, and New York. Mexico has an interesting relationship to Spain, so I found it amusing that no Spanish city was chosen.

One observation: They really seem to like Mozart here. I hear his music on the radio, and in stores, everywhere.

Check out the photos by James from our trip so far.

We will add photos (and captions if you're lucky) as we go.

We spent almost five hours at the Anthropological Museum today. It truly is one of the greatest museums I have ever experienced, with many artifacts from the various cultures that exist or existed within the borders of today's Mexico: Olmec, Mayan, Toltec, Aztec (they called themselves Mexica), etc.. Interestingly, it chooses not to deal with cultures (such as the Anasazi) of the areas Mexico lost to the USA in the Mexican-American War, except peripherally. James has a few photos here.

It is a beautiful building with a concrete canopy and fountain over the main central courtyard. The day we went was very windy, so the fountain sprayed on people entering the courtyard, which is how one enters all of the galleries on the ground floor. As we walked through it between galleries, a large group of school children were shrieking with delight at the spraying water. I spotted a kid wearing a Washington Redskins jacket in the Aztec gallery, which seemed pretty funny to me.

The display cases are immaculate and more attractive than I have seen in any museum in the USA or Europe. The explanations are very good, and a lot of them are in English and Spanish.

We came back to the hotel for a rest after the Museum, and then took the subway to an art opening downtown. At 9:15 at night, the subways run every 3 minutes or less. Much better than NYC. They cost about 20 cents and are very quiet, with rubber wheels. The system was designed and built by the French. The stations have a lot of marble, and there was an excavated stone alter in a station where we transferred. There were also public art projects in that same station, with a painter actually working on a mural as we walked by. All kinds of people, from workmen in coveralls to students, stopped to look at the art before going down to the platform.

The opening was a show of Finnish artists called "Heavy Snowflakes" ("Pesados Copos de Nieve"), at a space called Ex Teresa Arte Actual. It is in a former church just east of the Catredal Metropolitana. Like much of downtown it is sinking, as the area was once a lake, then filled in by the Spanish. The slanted floors and dark atmosphere (all of the work was slides, video, or light/sculpture installations) lent a funhouse feeling. There was a pretty big crowd there, mostly of people in their 20s. Here is one photo a film we saw there by Jari Haanperä. It dealt with the creation of electronic music, using computers and machines meant originally for science, not art. It contained this great line:

Technology won't take control as long as man can misuse it.

We headed to Café de Tacuba for dinner afterward. We took a taxi home, which can be a stressful experience here. The driver didn't want to use the meter and wanted to charge us more than the meter would have calculated. He turned on the meter once we threatened to get out.

On a happier note, there is a level of elegance and style here which is quite wonderful. Mexicans are also more friendly than any Europeans I have met, and much more tolerant of an American trying to learn their language. I often have people correct me when I butcher a word, rather than insisting (which is sometimes the case in Italy or France) that they have no idea what I'm saying.

General observations: The air here is tough - because of altitude and pollution. I had the "I'm a New Yorker!" attitude about the latter, but it does slow me down a bit. I'm losing my voice.

The hotel is beautiful. It's huge, and the design is wonderful. In most cases of modernist architecture with which I'm familiar, the architects don't mix minimalism with vibrant colors. It's a great combination, rather than just using gray, black, and white. See photos that James took of it here.

We started with (a surprisingly cheap) breakfast at the hotel's La Huerta restaurant: huitlacoche omelettes with a sqash blossom sauce.

We walked around a bit, got connected with the hotel's wireless network, and then walked over to the Sala Siqueiros to check out the house, the Santiago Sierra show, and the murals by Siqueiros. Maria Alos is working there, so we met up with her and a friend of a friend (David) who lives in Mexico City. We grabbed a cab and went to lunch way out away from the center to Bajío. We got there a bit after 3, which is a typical time to eat lunch here. I love the schedule of Mexico City! Amazing food, check out the NY Times travel section on Mexico City to see a discussion of it. I'm glad we were there with a native Spanish speaker, since she and David ordered a whole assortment of wonderful things for us.

After lunch we all went to the Galería Nina Menocal with Maria to see the work, and to meet up with her husband, Gustavo Artigas. The best thing we saw at the gallery was in the project space, a sort of working studio with works pinned and taped to the walls, plus installations, by Fernando Carabajal. He is quite young, but already he is doing some beautiful, funny work. Nina will be at the Armory Show, so ask about him if you attend. The gallery is in Colonia Roma, a beautiful neighborhood with many late 19th/early 20th century buildings. Here is a page with some photos of the gallery building itself.

We then went to a couple of openings, after a drink at Casa Lamm, a cultural center in the area. The first was in a small ground floor space called glmutante (Orizaba 160) near Nina's gallery, with a one-man show of sculpture and video by Arturo Hernández Alcázar. Then we went to an opening of a one-night exhibit in the 41st floor observation deck of the Torre Latinoamericana. To be honest, the views (it was a clear night) and the attractive young crowd were more interesting than the show. As with everything in Mexico City, things start later. The openings usually begin around 8, but don't really get going until 9 or 10. Our taxi driver to the Torre downtown was pretty interesting - we ended up in a mixed Spanish/English conversation about Siqueiros, Trotsky, and Diego Rivera.

We ended the evening with a drink and light snack at Bar L'Opera. I couldn't find the alleged bullet hole in the ceiling from Pancho Villa.

UPDATED: I added the name of the artist whose opening we attended in Colonia Roma.

We had our first meal in Mexico City -- dinner around 9:30, which is not late at all. There were still people coming in at 11. I can't find a web page for it, so here is the info:

MP Cafe Bistro
Andres Bello 10, in Polanco, between Jorge Elliot and Reforma
5280-2506, 5281-0592

The chef is Mónica Patiño, and the food mixes Asian, Mexican, and French food. It was great. James had the duck taco (to be made with corn tortillas brought to the table) as a start, and I had lobster and bay scallop dumplings. We both had tuna with fois gras and a star anise and wine sauce as our main course. The wine list is great too, with French, Spanish, Chilean, and a few Mexican wines. We'll have to make sure we try some Mexican wine on this trip.

We asked the waiter (in fractured Spanish) about the ice cubes that arrived with our Pellegrino, and about the arugula that arrived with our main courses. He assured us that they used filtered water. So far we seem fine.

The crowd and the place have a nice vibe, and it's quite attractive. Recommended.


Updated: I fixed the chef's name.

My passport renewal has happened, and tickets have been purchased. We're going to Mexico City for a week late January/early February.

Any art/food/other recommendations (we already have a hotel: the Camino Real, designed by Ricardo Legorreta) can be left as comments or e-mailed to me.


UPDATED: I fixed the Camino Real link to get to a more specific page.

This page is an archive of entries in the Travel category from January 2004.

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