Travel: February 2004 Archives

I have made some minor edits to my Mexico City posts, to add names of places and artists that I hadn't taken the time to figure out while we were there.

James has added captions to the photo gallery for the trip.

In the taxi on our way home from the airport on Wednesday night, James turned to me and said, "I guess we're not on the no-fly list!"

I apologize for not being more interesting or analytical in my posts. I think I did a better job when we were in Germany. Several things were going on: We were both sick with cold/sinus things in Mexico City, and the 8,000 feet elevation and smog didn't help. The other was the exhaustion caused by sensory overload. There is so much to see, hear, smell, and taste in a place like Mexico City. That's a good thing, but it meant I felt too worn out to write well after returning to the hotel each night.

On our last day we explored more of the downtown area. We went to the Palacio Nacional (National Palace), on the Zócalo, to see the great murals of Diego Rivera, the rooms where Benito Juarez lived, and the parliament room (I think that's the right name). There are some images of the Rivera murals here. Oops, I just realized I never talked about the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). It is filled with great murals by Rivera, Siqueiros, and Orozco. It has halls for performances, like Lincoln Center, but it is amazing to see that the murals are all very left wing, with images of Marx, and attacks on capitalists. I think Lincoln Center could use a few of those.

We also saw the Cathedral (including women selling "relics", bits of a saint's skulll from a table set up inside, and the Templo Mayor. In the same area, and definitely worth a visit, is the Plaza Santo Domingo, surrounded by very old buildings. It is also the location of an arcade with "scribes", all equipped with typewriters to help people compose letters, or fill out official forms. I was surprised to see they were all (except one) using electric ones now. The last time I had read an article on the area, they talked about old manual ones.

We had a great lunch at Casa de las Sirenas, Guatemala 61, just behind the Cathedral. It is in 17th century building. James has some photos of it.

My post on Coyoacán was rather short, as I was exhausted at the time. I forgot to mention one of the really interesting dishes I had that day: Chiles en nogada (stuffed poblano chiles with walnut sauce). It's slightly sweet and very yummy. There is a recipe on the web site of Zarela Restaurant in NYC, so you can see all of the ingredients. We had it at Las Lupitas, a restaurant in Coyoacán on a beautiful square (Plaza Santa Caterina). One the plaza is a small church, Iglesia de Santa Caterina, with glass in its triple-arched facade, so that one can see all the way into the church from outside.

I saw a hummingbird on our room balcony this morning. My cough is better, but now James has it.

We walked over to Colonia Roma today, the area where most galleries are located. The only thing of note we saw was a show of wooden sculptures and "paintings" by a German artist named Stephan Balkenhol at Galería OMR (the web page is iffy on some browsers). The gallery is in a big rambling house on the Plaza de Río de Janeiro. Some of the floors are pretty slanted, so I'm starting to associated seeing contemporary art with fun houses. Perhaps that's appropriate.


Stephan Balkenhol
Relieve (mujer), 2004
Painted wood, 140 x 100 x 4.5 cm.

We then had a great nouvelle Mexican lunch at Tecla (Durango 186-A Col. Roma, Tel. 55-25-4920). For the foodies in the room, I took notes on our meal:


Jaibas rellenos sobre pimientos salteados con jengibre y jalapeño
(stuffed crabs on a pepper sauce with ginger and jalapeño)

Tlacoyo con puntas de cecina y nopal
(white tortilla with bits of cured meat and cactus)

Main courses
Filete de pescado rellono de flor de calabaza en salsa de cuitlacoche
(Sea bass stuffed with squash blossoms and a cuitlacoche (corn fungus) sauce

Rollo de camaron relleno de queso crema y nuez sobre salse de chile morita
(Shrimp roll - made of grilled shrimp and nothing else! - filled with cream cheese/nuts sauce on a chile morita sauce)

The sea bass also came with fried parsley and fried bits of beets. The shrimp roll came with rice and the beets. They looked like little red sparkly things, similar to the beetles used to dye traditional rugs here.

Mousse de guanabana con salse de mango
(Prickly pear mousse with mango sauce)

Crepas con cajeta y nuez
(corn crepes with dulce de leche - a caramel-like sauce) and nuts

We had a bottle of Diamante Rioja with the meal. It was a semi-dulce (semi-sweet) wine. I didn't know there were such Rioja wines.

Today we started at the Franz Meyer Museum, which is dedicated to decorative arts, mainly from the 17th-19th centuries. It is in a large building with a beautiful courtyard. My favorite part of the history in the brochure is that Emperor Maximilian decided it would be used for the medical care of prostitutes. There are some great pieces of art and furniture in the museum, and we were especially interested in pieces created in Mexico during the colonial period. There were some c.1800 chairs from Puebla that looked like mid-20th century modernist furniture. We also saw an outrageous painting titled El Niño Jesús by Nicolás Rodriguez Jauraez. It had a sad baby Jesus looking at the viewer after pricking himself with the crown of thorns. He was surrounded by implements of the crucifixion: the whipping post, the lance, a stick with the vinegar-soaked sponge, etc. Here is a different painting by him.

We also saw an Alvar Aalto show at Franz Meyer. Many of the museums and art spaces here devoted to "older" art also have spaces for more contemporary exhibitions. I think it's a great idea.

After the museum we walked to the Zócalo - the central square of Mexico City. Only Red Square in Moscow is larger. On the way there we looked at the Hotel de Cortés, in a 1660 building with a central courtyard (of course) on the Alameda Central. The hotel restaurant has tables in the courtyard, and there were bird cages on the walls and along the walks, with canaries, finches, parakeets, and parrots. The wild birds in the area (like sparrows or small doves) would fly up to the cages and "talk" to them.

We got to the Zócal just in time to watch the military come take down the gigantic Mexican flag that flies in the center. That's what the photos of soldiers in James's gallery are. We then walked around, looking briefly at the Temple Mayor and all of the vendors. My favorite sight was the one selling superhero dolls and crucifixes next to each other on the same blanquet.

At the hotel, when we were on our way out for tacos with Maria and Gustavo, we saw the crowd from a Jewish wedding. There was some serious couture on the older ladies.

We finished the evening with a drink at the "bar on the water" in the hotel. You'll see it in James's Camino Real gallery. I finally had a glass of Mexican wine, a Monte Xanic Chenin-Colombard, which was quite nice.

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

previous archive: Travel: January 2004

next archiveTravel: June 2004



3 latest

3 random