On My Way Home: Mexico City

In the end, the year in Albuquerque went by fairly quickly. When my apartment was all cleaned out and I had said goodbye to all my friends, I took a flight to Mexico City. We have close family friends that live in the mega city and that had invited me to stay with them for a few days. The last time I had visited them in Mexico was in 2000, so I was more than happy to swing by their place for a while.

I had three full days to explore the city and see it with more grownup eyes.
I arrived Thursday evening, so Friday morning I got up bright and early and took a cab downtown. The first destination was the Museo Nacional de Antropología. The National Museum of Anthropology was one of the things I remember quite clearly from my first visit.

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However, it was very nice to walk through it on my own in my own pace.

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The most well-known item in the museum probably is the Piedra del Sol.

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The ground level of the museum showcases mainly ancient artifacts while the upper levels show more every day items from the contemporary indigenous people.

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After walking through the museum on my own for a bit, my friend Desiree, whom I had met at the University of New Mexico and while working in Popejoy Hall, came to the museum to meet me.

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When we were done with the museum, my family friend Beatrix joined us and the three of us grabbed some lunch.

The Museo Nacional de Antropología is in the Chapultepec parc, so after lunch we decided to take a stroll through the park and up to the Castillo de Chapultepec. It is a castle, sat on the Chapultepec which translates to cricket hill from Nahuatl.

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The current appearance is largely due to the Austrian-born Mexican Emperor Maximilian I.

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One has the choice to walk up the hill or use transportation. As we decided to walk up which takes about 15 to 20 minutes, we arrived at the castle close to closing time. Thus, we only walked through some of the hall quickly and took in the view from up there.

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When the smog cleared a bit, we had a nice view down the Paseo de la Reforma.

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Back down at the parking lot, we parted ways. While Desiree drove home, Beatrix and I headed to Polanco on the quest for, you probably guessed it already: bread. I found it quite amusing to walk into a Le Pain Quotidien in Mexico City. Polanco is an interesting part of the city.

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I enjoyed it very much to walk through the streets. Even when it started raining like crazy.
On the way home, we stopped in a taqueria to get some authentic tacos for dinner. A few posts ago, I talked about Frontier’s  soft chicken tacos and may even have proclaimed them my favorite… well I guess they are my favorite New Mexican Taco. Because Taco Al Pastor are something else. In a weird way it combines a number of things that I am not too fond of: cilantro, pork and pineapple. Now take these, put them in a corn tortilla, add onions and lime and voila. It is amazing. I was so happy and my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

The next morning Beatrix and I headed to Coyoacan. This part of the city is well-known for the Casa Azur, or Frida Kahlo House.

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We started the day by walking through the historic streets and visiting a couple of markets and bazars.

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These are great places to acquire art from local artist’s or find a nice present to take back home. I found pair of ear rings for my mother and Beatrix got herself a saxophone pennant.

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After these successes we walked to the Frida Kahlo house. I was quite intrigued to visit it. However, once we saw the long queue we changed our minds and returned to the car.

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Instead we headed to the Museo Soumaya in Nuevo Polanco. This museum exhibits a large selection of different art.

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I had to turn to wikipedia for a better recollection of the several levels:

  • Level 1: Gold and silver: decorative arts. Collection of coins, medals and banknotes dating from the Viceroyalty to the post-revolutionary era. There are also objects in ivory, silk and precious stones for religious and civil use.
  • Level 2: Temporary exhibitions
  • Level 3: European and Novohispanic Old Masters. Works of European artists such as the Cranachs, Tintoretto, el Greco, Rubens, Artemisia Gentileschi and Murillo, with Colonial works by Villalpando, Juárez, Cabrera and Páez, among others.
  • Level 4: From Impressionism to the Avant-garde. Landscape and costumbrist works of 19th-century Mexico by Chapman, Rugendas, Egerton, Linati, Baron Gros, Löhr, Landesio and Velasco together with works from the European movements and vanguards, by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Vlaminck, Chagall and Miró.
  • Level 5: (temporary) : “Sophia Loren. México. Ayer, hoy y mañana”. Objects, scripts, clothes, awards, photographs and magazines from the personal collection of the Italian actress.
  • Level 6: Julián and Linda Slim / The Rodin Era. Works by Rodin and his pupils such as Camille Claudel and Émile-Antoine Bourdelle, together with surrealist sculptures by Salvador Dalí.
    (source)

I personally enjoyed the upper level the most, but that is probably due to my upbringing and personal preference of Dalí.

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The next day was one I had been looking forward to since the day I decided to return to Mexico City. When I visited Mexico in 2000, my brother, our family friends’ sons and I were not up to doing all the things the grown ups did. Because let’s be honest, if you ask a 9 year old “Do you want to go to the world largest McDonald’s and play some ball or visit yet another museum?” the answer is quite obvious. In the following years, looking back at the pictures and writing papers about ancient Mexican architecture I was curious to explore these sights in person.

We dropped the car in one of the suburbs and took the metro to get to the Zócalo. On the large plaza was a public intercultural celebration.

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So instead of heading there and grabbing a few shots of the impressive mexican flag, our first stop was the Templo Mayor and the Museo de Templo Mayor.

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The Templo was something that has held my fascination for a few years now so it was great to head through it and see all the different layers and details that survived decades of weathering and the abuse of the Spanish when they took the majority of the structure to build the nearby Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los cielos (yes, I had to google that one 😉 )

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Next to the Templo Mayor facing the Zócalo is the Palacio Nacional. After queuing for a bit we headed through a security check and entered the building. There are a few interesting things you can see in the National Palace.

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After passing the impressive flora, you walk up a great staircase and get to observe the murals Diego Riveras drew to represent the history of Mexico.

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You can also visit some of the rooms in the Palacio Nacional as e.g. this room that looks a bit like a parliament but I am not quite sure what the actual purpose of it is.

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While leaving the Palacio it started raining so we decided to grab lunch overlooking the Zocalo and the festivities. The food was rather disappointing to both of us but the view was great.

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When the rain stopped we walked down the Av. Francisco I. Madero and  visited the Casa de los Azulejo. The outside is entirely covered in tiles and the inside, though a store and a museum, is stunningly beautiful.

At the end of the street stands the Torre Latinoamericana.

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The rain had stopped and some of the smog had cleared up so we decided to give it a shot, bought tickets and took the elevator to the platform on the top of the 44th floor. Unfortunately, though expected, the weather was not well enough to see the volcanos, something that I would not see throughout my stay. But the view on the city was amazing. In a city of such gianormous extent it is hard to really keep a track on what is where and what the relations of one place is to another. So it was really great to have someone with me to tell me what roughly is where and to actually see it from up there.

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Across the street from the Torre Latinoamericana is the Palacio de Bellas Artes. The beautiful national theatre widely-known for its amazing Tiffany glass curtain. We were unable to get into the actual theatre but spent a while looking at the many murals and exhibitions in the rest of the building. To me, one of the most stunning parts of Bellas Artes is the roof and its contrast to the color of the building.

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From Bellas Artes we walked to the Monumento a la Revolución, passing the Torre del Caballito. Even though I grow up with horses I did not think it was very obvious that the yellow statue depicts a horse. After a while however, it has some similarity with well-known images of the trojan horse.

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The Monumento a la Revolución was the last point on our list. Unfortunately, it started to rain again, so our stay there was cut short and we took the metro back to the car.

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After 15 years I returned to a city that I made a lot of great memories in and that certainly left many impressions in my mind. Returning was a great idea. In fact, it refreshed memories, made new ones and I got to spend good times with both family friends and a university friends.

 

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