Adventures in Mexico City
Written and Photographed By Karen Loftus
Mexico has certainly come under the line of fire in recent months with its fair share of travel warnings. However don’t let that stop you from visiting one of the world’s most vibrant, culturally rich, diverse and historical cities. It’s Mexico’s capitol city, the largest city in Mexico and the America’s and the third largest city in the world by population with its 20-plus million inhabitants. It is a close third only behind Seoul and Tokyo.
As is true in most cases when travel warnings are issued, simply exercise caution when visiting, versus avoiding it altogether. Step out with that city stride and sensibilities and you’ll be fine. I often find it can be the best time to explore a place when a few warnings are issued as the crowds are off and the deals are on. So, if heading in there are a few can’t misses in this sexy Mexican Metropolis.
Start your tour by checking in to the sleek and ultra-chic St. Regis, one of the tallest buildings in all of Mexico and in Latin America. Open just over a year now, it is centrally located in the Plaza of Diana the Hunter above Plaza de la Reforma, but a few minute cab form the historic city center. It’s the great place to base for a long weekend as you will get the perfect balance of elegance and edge between the hotel and the city streets.
Before mingling with your 20 million Mexican neighbors, kick back and relax in this urban oasis enjoying all it has to offer. Who needs a cabana boy when you have a personal butler on call 24/7? Put the amenity to the test by getting your butler to prepare your bath or schedule a spa treatment in St. Regis’ signature spa, Remede Spa on site. Once your equilibrium is in order and jet lag released, it’s time to shake it up.
The outdoor patio overlooking the city streets is a great place to take in the urban sprawl, while sipping on your local tequila, straight up. Naturally the St. Regis has top shelf tequila brands, so you can savor the flavor. Once inside the Diana Restaurant, the Mediterranean cuisine will tantalize the taste buds. Meals can be enjoyed with an array of local Mexican wines as well as world wines. Remember when in Mexico…. Many don’t know that Mexico, aside from its booming tequila business, actually makes some gorgeous wines. Get in to the indigenous spirit and explore the local vineyards. You’ll be glad that you did.
Once properly revived and imbibed, grab a cab or arrange a car service through the hotel concierge and head to the National Anthropological Museum. Before you look at the city’s present or future, you will be fully informed of its past and its people. Start at the ground floor with the native cultures and societies of the Mexican people before the Spanish conquest. There are replicas of Aztec rulers and skulls of Mayan Gods. On the second floor it shows you how the descendants of the indigenous cultures are living today. Schedule at least a half day visit to fully explore this grand museum.
After digging through history, discover Mexico City’s more immediate past. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivers were not only two of Mexico’s most celebrated artists, they were also two of the country’s most compelling and colorful characters worthy of cinema stories and museums in their honor. Grab a cab to Coyoacon and head to the Blue House or Casa Azul where Frida lived as a baby when she was born and again later in life with Diego until her death. You will recognize the art and the atmosphere if you saw the film Frida. It’s an evocative spot, sure to stir the senses.
While you’re in the mood, get your driver (if arranged by the hotel) to scoop and drop you at Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli, which houses Rivera’s own extensive and impressive personal collection of prehispanic Aztec and Mayan art. There are four rooms within the museum, each representing the four forces of nature. The building, completed after his death, is a modern representation of Aztec architecture. It alone is a work of art.
While on a Diego and Frida roll, hop a cab or grab your driver, which you can keep on call to follow you around the city, all arranged by the hotel (a very nice amenity), of course. Get off at the historical city center, Zocalo, the heartbeat of the city. It is third largest city square in the world, behind Moscow’s Red and Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Upon arrival you will be completely taken as it is so European in style. You will feel as though you are in Barcelona or major metropolis in Europe. That or perhaps Buenos Aires, another European styled city in South America. It’s easy to see how cosmopolitan Mexico City was in its day, in the '50s and since. No wonder it is forever being revitalized and re-realized by international tourists and local artists alike.
Continue in your Diego vein with a visit to the National Palace to see the enormous floor to ceiling frescos done by Diego. They represent the “Epic of the Mexican People in Their Struggle for Freedom and Independence.” They are breathtaking.
Take the time to wander around the center as you will experience indigenous dancers in the square, religious cleansings taking place and hawkers selling both food and trinkets. It’s a great slice of Mexican life.
You could and should spend hours in Zocola, hitting the many historical spots and allowing time to simply wander and let the city seduce you. Be sure to explore Catedral, the Aztec ruins of Temple Mayor and of course Alameda Park, the perfect finish to a day of touring. There is no better window in to a city than though it’s parks. Alameda which dates back to the 16th century is filed with fountains, greenery, entertainment, street art and local lure.
For a foodie fix, best to find a local haunt while exploring the city or hit one of the many food markets. San Juan Mercado is a great example of one of Mexico City’s most colorful markets filled with fruits veggies, flowers, fish, poultry and meats. Not all stalls are for the faint of heart.
For a local bit of bohemia head to Condesa an arty, intellectual and edgy neighborhood developed in the '20s. Today it remains one of the best representations of Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the world. Check out the Panaderia and the Condesa buildings or simply grab a drink, a café or a bite at one of the many restaurants or bars in this inspired local neighborhood.
For late night libations, be sure to squeeze in that disco nap before heading out as Mexico City like many European cities doesn’t kick its heel up until late at night. Many locals are just heading out at midnight or later to start the evening’s events. Check with the concierge as there are a number of small to large establishments from cocktail bars to clubs for dancing, music and or ambiance. Get ready to dance as everyone takes the music and the movement seriously.
After a few days of running through the city’s streets you’ll see why Mexico City continues to intrigue.
GIRL TALK — Even though Mexico has a very religious and typically Catholic culture, it remains a very gay friendly place. Jumping on the gay marriage bandwagon, Mexico City offered the first same sex married couple from Argentina a free honeymoon in Mexico City. They municipality of Mexico City has been performing same sex marriages since March, but Argentina was the first Latin American country to legalize it.
Make yourself at home at many of the nightclubs on the weekends as the crowds tend to be mixed or head to Zona Rosa or The Pink Zone, Mexico City’s gay neighborhood filled with hip restaurants, cafes, bars and shops.
JET & SETTING — There’s an excellent public transport in place in the city that is easy and cheap. Cabs are also available and reasonably priced if shared. Final option is of course the car service, which can be arranged by your butler at the St. Regis if you’re feeling the need to exercise your Eloise.
CHIC SLEEPS — The St. Regis is one of the chicest retreats in the city. If you don’t stay at the hotel be sure to slip in for a libation at the King Cole Bar which is stylled in a James Bond meets Mexico motif. Supoer sexy and the cocktails are truly intoxicating and innovative. (stregis.com)