The Mind-Blowing Museums of Mexico City – Mexico City, Mexico

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Article taken from: http://trans-americas.com/blog/2010/10/themuseums-of-mexico-city/

The Mexican government has recently started bragging that Mexico City has more museums than any other city in the world. We haven’t done a scientific head count, however, we are inclined to agree.  Here’s our roundup of the museums we’ve visited in Mexico City, a few we still hope to enjoy, a helpful tip and one burning question.

 

The only place in Mexico where you’ll see a sculpture of Chac Mool, the Mayan god of rain, of this quality is in the Museo Nacional de Antropología.

Museo Nacional de AntropologíaThe mother of all Mexico City museums (and one of the largest, most comprehensive and most respected anthropology museums in the world) sprawls over 100,000 square feet and includes eye-popping artifacts from every epoch of Mexican cultural development. Fuel up for the culture onslaught at the Super Tortas stand near the museum entrance. Just follow the crowds for a great sandwich. Note: this is one of the few museums that does not allow foreigners in for free on Sundays—just Mexican nationals.

One of the many treasures in the Museo Nacional de Antropología is this Aztec Sun Stone (Piedra del Sol). This 25-ton intricately carved basalt slab describing Aztec life is 12 feet in diameter and was carved in the late 1400s, then lost until it was discovered buried beneath the Zócalo in 1790.

The Olmecs created some of the most distinctive art including this emblematic colossal head, seen in the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City and practically nowhere else.

 

Museo Rufino Tamayo – Not far from the Anthropology Museum lies this tidy museum houses the artist’s collection and rotating modern art exhibits. When we were there only one small, thin exhibit was open but when all the exhibition spaces are in use this is a great place for cutting edge contemporary art.

 

Museo de Arte ModernThere’s not an artifact in sight at this museum, also within walking distance of the Anthropology Museum, making it a nice way to look into the future after you’ve gotten your fill of gawking at the past.

 

This partial reconstruction of the massive Temple of Quetzalcoatl from Teotihuacán is a highlight of the Museo Nacional de Antropología. For scale, note the young girl walking past the display in the lower right hand corner.

 

Museo Mural Diego RiveraDiego Rivera’s famous 15m x 4m mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park” is displayed here along with a small collection of surprisingly traditional and contemplative religious art.

Diego Rivera’s famous 15m x 4m mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park” is displayed at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera in Mexico City.

 

Museo Templo Mayor – Located just off  the Zócalo, Mexico City’s main plaza, this indoor/outdoor museum takes visitors along a series of walkways over, through and around areas of excavation which reveal a treasure trove of  Aztec artifacts found beneath what is now modern Mexico City. In fact, this was the great city of Tenochtitlan, the seat of the Aztec empire, and the very reason why Cortes and the conquistadors built their church (the Catedral Metropolitana which still stands) and their main city (now Mexico City) on this very spot. It’s an unusual feeling to be admiring ancient artifacts and art with the modern Mexico City skyline all around you.

 

Mexico City’s Castillo de Chapultepec Museo Nacional de Historia looks like a European castle for a reason.

Castillo de  Chapultepec Museo Nacional de Historia – The Castillo de Chapultepec (castle of the grasshopper) is eerily European looking, and for good reason. Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph of Austria lived here with his wife after being put in charge of Mexico by the French (who were angry that Mexico had refused to pay its debts) with the support of Mexicans eager for better government. Now the hilltop castle is a wonderful history museum with fantastic views over Chapultepec Park and right up Avenida Reforma into the city center. The archduke’s swanky living quarters are a treat to see too.

This “Retablo de la Independencia” mural by Juan O’Gorman adorns one of the walls inside the Castillo de Chapultepec Museo Nacional de Historia in Mexico City.

 

Galeria de Historia  Museo del Caracol – Just below the Castillo de Chapultepec National History Museum this clever building, which curves in on itself like snail shell (hence the name), is full of chronologically arranged dioramas depicting major moments in Mexican history. Great for kids and anyone (like us) who could use a crash course in Mexico’s complicated past.

 

Museo del Palacio de Bellas ArtesThis beautiful theater in the centro, worthy of a visit just for its architecture, is also a wonderful place to see some of the most iconic works from some of Mexico’s most iconic muralists (including Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros) which adorn the theater walls.

 

This wall gives you some idea why the other name for the Museo de Frida Kahlo, in the artist’s home in Mexico City, is Casa Azul.

Museo de Frida Kahlo (Casa  Azul)For every one thing that Frida Kahlo revealed about herself in her art she seems to have hidden 10 more. Walking around the house she lived in, including her bedroom, almost feels like an invasion. The collection includes  pieces of Communist propaganda that Kahlo and Rivera did in addition to the work we know and love. Tickets include entry to the Museo Anahuacalli (see below).

 

Museum of Mexico City – When we were there this small central museum had an awesome retrospective of memorabilia from the world of lucha libre including information about early female lucheras. There was also a great collection of models and photos chronicling some of architect Luis Barragan’s work in the city.

 

A whimsical modern take on classic catrinas at the Museo Arte Popular in Mexico City.

Museo Arte Popular Playful takes on classic Mexican art forms and iconography make this museum, near the Alameda, the perfect antidote if you’re suffering from artifact-overdose. The museum gift shop is also full of affordable and adorable gifts as well as collectible investments in silver jewelry or handmade shawls and other traditional fabrics.

We like to call this piece “Frijole Jesus.” It’s just one example of the playful take on Mexican artistic techniques and imagery on display at the Museo Arte Popular in Mexico City.

 

Museo Franz Mayer – In addition to the stunning and wide-ranging personal collection of Franz Mayer, when we visited this museum was also exhibiting the 2010 World Press Photo Award winners including awesome work from from photojournalists around the world.

 

An art car version of Mexico’s national car, the Volkswagen Beetle, at the Museo Arte Popular in Mexico City.

 

Museo Casa-Estudio Frida Kahlo & Diego RiveraThese connected houses/studios in a lovely affluent neighborhood of Mexico City were both home and workplace to the power couple of Mexican contemporary art. It’s full of atmosphere plus you get to see things like Frida’s bathtub–one of the few Frida moments that feels truly intimate. Diego’s studio is bohemian enough to inspire even the most un-artistic among us. Maybe it’s the power of his size 14 shoes left on the floor in the studio…

The exterior of Museo Casa-Estudio Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera in Mexico City.

 

Museo Nacional de la Estampa A collection of historically and artistically important pieces of graphic art (estampa means print in Spanish) are housed in a gorgeous building near the Zócalo. We loved the collection of tiny illustrated children’s books.

 

The sculpture-filled grounds of the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City.

Museo Dolores OlmedoDolores Olmeda is said to have been one of Diego Rivera’s lovers but her eponymous museum and collection reflects a love of Mexico, not just a love of Rivera. The gorgeous and tranquil home and grounds are bursting with pieces from Rivera (and Frida Kahlo) and other classic Mexican artists as well as a pack of  Xoloitzcuintlis, an ancient hairless dogs, and a fabulous and informative collection of top-shelf examples of crafts from around Mexico. For us, this museum provided a better (and certainly much more relaxing) overview of the work of Rivera and Kahlo than any other museum we visited in the city. The gift shop is exquisite.

Diego Rivera maintains a commanding presence at the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City.

One of these hairless Mexican dogs, called Xoloitzcuintlis, at the Museo Dolores Olmeda in Mexico City is a statue. Can you tell which one?

 

Labortorio Arte de Alameda Near the centro you will find an old church which is now a cutting edge temple to boundary-pushing multi-media art installations that gleefully tackle taboo subjects.  It’s by far the most avant-garde museum we visited in Mexico City and it feels like a gallery/art space that would fit right into the Manhattan or Brooklyn art scenes.

 

Ones that got away…

Though we’ve visited Mexico City three times (for a total of over three weeks) on our Trans-Americas Journey, most recently to take part in the Bicentennial celebrations including fireworks, President Felipe Calderón’s Grito and other highlights, we have still not manage to visit all of the museums we want to see in the city.  Here are a few that got away but which we hope to get to one day!

Though we visited the Guadalupe Basilica (more on that in an upcoming post), the Museo y Santuario de Nuestra Señora Virgen de Guadalupe was closed by the time we got there.

We never made it out to Museo Anahuacalli, the dramatic pyramd-inspired museum designed by Diego Rivera to house his collection of more than 50,000 pieces of pre-Hispanic art.

We managed to be in Mexico City in between shows at the La Coleccion Jumex. The ubiquitous Mexican juice company has an impressive private art collection and hosts temporary shows that are open to the public in a big space just outside central Mexico City as long as you make a reservation and time your visit to coincide with one of their temprorary shows. Otherwise there’s nothing to see as their private collection really is private. We hear Jumex is planning a new museum in town which will be more easily accessible.

And we didn’t call to make a reservation far enough in advance (they require two weeks notice) to gain entry to Casa Luis Barragán which is famous as much for the architecture as the contents. This UNESCO site is the former home of ground-breaking architect Luis Barragán and it’s a must for art and design buffs.

We didn’t make it to the new museum from the world’s richest man (Mexico’s Carlos Slim) for one very good reason: it’s not open yet. But we did drive by the construction site and get an eyeful of the enormous mushroom-like shell of the structure (being designed by Slim’s son-in-law) in the chi-chi Polanco neighborhood of Mexico City. The $750 million new branch of Slim’s Museo Soumaya, named after his deceased wife, is expected to open in November though that seems ambitious to us.

 

TIP

At most museums in Mexico Sunday is free day for all citizens and often even for foreigners. Pro: the chance to save some money. Con: huge crowds at the most popular museums.

 

And now, the burning question we promised you: Art or commerce?

Post a comment and let us know what you think about the fact that the Mexican government just issued a brand new 500 peso note—picturing Diego Rivera on one side and Frida Kahlo on the other.

 

Article taken from: http://trans-americas.com/blog/2010/10/themuseums-of-mexico-city/

Roma rises again @ Mexico City

July 9, 2010 1 comment

City travel

Roma rises again

Article taken from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/travel/roma-rises-again/article1630610/

Colonia Roma is loved for its beaux arts style homes, wide leafy  streets and public squares.

Colonia Roma is loved for its beaux arts style homes, wide leafy streets and public squares. Keith Dannemiller for The Globe and Mail

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A revolution and an earthquake haven’t been able to flatten the creative spirit in this Mexico City neighbourhood.

David Agren

MEXICO CITY — Special to Globe and Mail Update Published on Tuesday, Jul. 06, 2010 4:03PM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, Jul. 06, 2010 6:21PM EDT

The Colonia Roma unfolded early in the past century as an aristocratic haunt of wide boulevards and stately homes built in the beaux arts style – until the Mexican revolution of 1910 halted development.

A less bourgeois set arrived shortly thereafter, which included many artists, writers and politically minded folk (Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs and retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro among them), earning the neighbourhood a lasting reputation for well-cultured denizens. Then, in 1985, a devastating 8.1 magnitude earthquake rocked La Roma, flattening buildings and displacing residents for years.

La Roma gradually rebuilt. Many of the old families moved back, while a new wave of creative types followed.

Today, slightly more than a century after its founding, La Roma is coming full-circle, rediscovering its aristocratic roots. Socialites and the moneyed set are returning – bodyguards in tow – chic restaurants and lounges are opening, and speculators have ignited a real estate boom.

Much of the appeal owes to its central location, leafy streets, architectural gems and several expansive squares – including Plaza Rio de Janeiro, home to fountains, a replica statue of Michelangelo’s David and soccer-playing youths.

The appeal is also thanks to an eclectic mix of lowbrow and highbrow establishments, easily visible when strolling Calle Colima. This street is book-ended by a funeral parlour and a smoke-belching hamburger cart, and is home to flower shops, a skateboard store, boutiques bursting with blue jeans and funky T-shirts, chi-chi restaurants and several public and private art galleries.

All the changes in La Roma invite comparisons to the adjacent Colonia Condesa, a fashionable and popular neighbourhood at risk of becoming overrun with cookie-cutter developments, Argentine grills and Starbucks.

Roma locals worry that their neighbourhood will move upmarket too quickly and become another La Condesa, which many artists abandoned because of rising rents. But antiques dealer Emmanuel Picault, owner of the shop Chic by Accident, is more sanguine about La Roma’s future. “It’s evolving,” he said.

At La Valise you'll find a truly random assortment of unique  curios.
Keith Dannemiller for The Globe and Mail

At La Valise you’ll find a truly random assortment of unique curios.

Re-Pack your bag

As the name suggests, La Valise draws inspiration from items stuffed into a suitcase. This bazaar delivers a truly random assortment of goods, which includes classic books, Spanish-language vinyl records and pink boxing gloves. Zacatecas 126; 52-55-5564-9013

Eclectic artwork and furniture for sale at the interior design  store, Chic by Accident.
Keith Dannemiller for The Globe and Mail

Eclectic artwork and furniture for sale at the interior design store, Chic by Accident.

No accident

French expatriate Emmanuel Picault has scoured markets and private collections across the capital – and beyond – for the past decade in search of rare finds inspired by Mexican designers. Current items on display at Chic by Accident include armchairs designed by famed architect Luis Barragan, an oversized papier-mâché skull and clay arboles de vida (trees of life), which depict the story of creation. Alvaro Obregon 49; 52 55-5511-1312 www.chicbyaccident.com

Surrealist pop art fills the shelves at Guru boutique.
Keith Dannemiller for The Globe and Mail

Surrealist pop art fills the shelves at Guru boutique.

Get smart

Guru, a design store and gallery, promises “lowbrow, surrealistic pop” and retro offerings – and it largely delivers, stocking everything from ceramic unicorns to notebooks adorned with lucha libre imagery to World Cup-inspired tarot cards. Colima 143; 52-55-5533-7140

Mexican fashion sense

Dime – pronounced “dee-me” and meaning “tell me” – highlights the creation of young Mexican fashion designers, whose inspiration is frequently culled from national icons, landmarks and myths. Examples include oversized bags emblazoned with Our Lady of Guadalupe and T-shirts featuring images of temperamental soccer star Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who’s considered a demigod in some areas. Alvaro Obregon 185; 52-55-2454-6790; www.dimetienda.com

Tough name, cool clothing

The boutique Sicario draws its name from the Spanish word for the toughs employed by narcotics-trafficking cartels. Little about the merchandise – jeans, funky T-shirts, loads of sneakers and even vintage bicycles – suggests criminal links, however. Sicario also promotes DJs and provides information on shows. Colima 124; 52-55-5511-0396; www.sicario.tv

A popular hamburger cart serves burgers with roasted pineapple.
Keith Dannemiller for The Globe and Mail

A popular hamburger cart serves burgers with roasted pineapple.

Street fare

Perhaps the best street food in Mexico City, hamburguesas a la parrilla are served at a popular grill parked on Calle Colima. A double cheeseburger with a roasted pineapple ring costs about $2.50 and is best washed down with a bottle of Jarritos brand pop. The tamarind flavour is sublime. Corner of Colima and Morelia

All in the family

The arrival of Sobrinos (nieces and nephews) marked La Roma’s upmarket ascent and it quickly became popular with the young and wealthy – known locally as “fresas” (slang for “snobs”). The most recent outlet in an empire of bistros named for family connections – including Primos (cousins) and Tios (uncles and aunts) – Sobrinos has won as much fame for catering to the glitterati as its Spanish-inspired fare and decor. Alvaro Obregon 110; 52-55-5264-7466

Keep it simple

A long-time La Roma favourite, NonSolo occupies a hole in the wall across from the fountains of Plaza Luis Cabrera. This Italian eatery boasts a simple menu of paninis and salads and a pleasing wine list. Another location one-block north on Alvaro Obregon offers more tables and larger menu, along with a cozy upstairs lounge. Plaza Luis Cabrera 10; 52-55-3096-5128; www.nonsolo.com.mx

First a bank, then a brothel, Hotel Brick opened earlier this  year.
Keith Dannemiller for The Globe and Mail

First a bank, then a brothel, Hotel Brick opened earlier this year.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotel Brick Orizaba 95; 52-55-5525-1100; www.hotelbrick.com. Once the abode of an English banker and later a brothel, this boutique hotel has drawn fawning reviews and a clientele of socialites since opening earlier this year. Guests can belly up to a lobby bar, sip cocktails in the ground-floor lounge, nosh on wood-fired pizzas in a lonchería (lunchroom) or dine in the brasserie, which specializes in Provençal cuisine. The 17 rooms and suites are modern in design. From $230 per night

Hostel Home Tabasco 303; 52-55-5511-1683; www.hostelhome.com.mx. A pioneer in the Mexico City hostel scene, Hostel Home sleeps 22 (there are no private rooms) in a former mansion with hardwood floors, spacious common areas, free wireless Internet and a kitchen. Owner Juancho Nunez moonlights as a DJ and always extends performance invitations to guests. $12 a night, breakfast included.

Categories: Uncategorized

Mexico City’s rich heritage welcomes lovers of culture

June 26, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ellen Creager, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Visitors on Mexico City's main Zocalo, or town square, crowd into  the National Palace; in the background is the Metropolitan Cathedral,  built by the Spanish in the 1700s.
Visitors on Mexico City’s main Zocalo, or town square, crowd into the National Palace; in the background is the Metropolitan Cathedral, built by the Spanish in the 1700s.
Photograph by: Ellen Creager, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

MEXICO CITY – Go ahead and use Diego Rivera as excuse. Mention murals as the reason you’re coming.

But get down here right away, art lovers, and soak in the atmosphere of one of the most interesting cities in the world.

Mexico’s capital city is buzzing with 22 million people. Known for its restaurants, nightlife and traffic, it is surprisingly clean, dignified and gracious, its intentions serious, its attitude worlds away from tourist spots like Cancun or Los Cabos.

It also is 500 to 2,000 miles south of Mexico’s dangerous U.S. border towns.

“Mexico City is the real Mexico,” says Fernando Ledesma, arts expert and guide in the city. “It has four cultural World Heritage sites — more than any other city in the world. It has 160 museums. It has the richest cultural heritage in all Latin America.”

In the 1920s to 1950s, muralists flourished here, their astonishing paintings covering buildings and walls all over the city. They told stories of dictators and emperors, Indians and gods, elites and rebels — all depicted in muralists’ art as swept along by history as this nation spun from ancient cultures to the Aztecs, Spanish and revolution.

The most famous muralist, of course, is Diego Rivera. He is known in the United States as the creator of “Detroit Industry,” the towering four-wall masterpiece painted in 1932-33 at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

But here in Mexico City, you can see so much more.

The Dolores Olmedo Museum has 150 Rivera works, including masterful paintings he did in Europe and Russia. The National Anthropology Museum has stunning ancient art of the Americas. Here in the city, you can see Rivera’s studio, his paintbrushes, his first mural, and his wife Frida Kahlo’s house. You also can see the work of other muralists who put Mexico on the art map.

The city also has a fine artists’ bazaar, modern art museum, colonial architecture and scenic churches (many tilting due to the alarmingly soft ground).

Let other people go to Mexico’s beaches. For those who love art, this is the place.

In Mexico, arts tours usually focus on places such as Oaxaca and Chiapas (textiles and folk art), Jalisco (pottery, blown glass and artists’ markets) and Mexico City (murals and archaeology).

Stephanie Schneiderman of Ann Arbor, Mich., who grew up in Mexico City, runs art and textile tours of Mexico through TiaStephanie Tours. Her clients want to be educated, not just entertained, she says. She runs tours for museum, art and textile groups — but also for art lovers.

“They are artists or collectors or just appreciators,” says Schneiderman. But not necessarily experts.

Mexican muralism was supported by a fragile government that had just overthrown its dictator. The art was big, and so was its message.

“The murals were public, political and monumental,” says Schneiderman. “It was a move to recapture Mexico’s national identity, with the idea that the real people of the country were the rural, indigenous population. It glorified and even romanticized these elements.”

Rivera may have been an art prodigy, but his forte was the broad canvas of the mural. He learned fresco painting in Italy and applied it to subjects back home that spoke to him as a Mexican outraged by injustice. Yet he also was a commercial painter. He hired himself out for everything from murals in Detroit and San Francisco to portraits of rich Mexican women.

When Rivera was alive, female tourists came to Mexico to meet him and hope for more intimate contact. Today, his celebrity hasn’t dimmed.

One popular starting point is “The Creation” at the Colegio de San Ildefonso school auditorium in Mexico City’s historic center. It was Rivera’s first mural, in 1922.

“Every day, people come to see that mural,” says curator Eri Camara, who describes the semi-religious mural as lacking Rivera’s later blatant political tone and with “a freshness; the ideology is not overt.” In addition, tourists who have seen the movie “Frida” visit because it’s the spot where Rivera and future wife, painter Frida Kahlo, met when she was just 14.

Another painting with a story behind it is “Portrait of Dolores Olmedo” at the Dolores Olmedo Museum. She was a wealthy arts benefactor who took a shine to Rivera and collected his work in the 1950s — after she had him paint her as a whimsical Mexican maid holding a bowl of fruit. (Note to academia: Somebody should investigate why women had a huge soft spot for Rivera, even though he was approximately as handsome as a frog.)

With 150 fantastic Rivera works and 26 from Frida Kahlo, the Dolores Olmedo Museum is an imperative.

The most famous mural s in Mexico City are at the National Palace and at Palacio de Bellas Artes. As politics, the murals’ unwavering theme is the glory of ancient man, brutality of empire and mistrust of capitalism. The murals contain lots of blood, swords, a cast of thousands and naive socialist symbols. But as art, they are amazing; my favorite is the Rivera mural “The Great City of Tenochtitlan” and the Jorge Gonzalez Camarena mural “Liberation of Humanity.”

Drive by the UNAM, Mexico’s national university campus, and see the library designed by architect Juan O’Gorman. Its entire exterior is a mural, a pattern that looks a little like a textile weaving. Over at the National Museum of Anthropology, you can see the major piece of art of ancient Mexico, the Sun Stone.

And, oh, I forgot. Did I mention that Mexico City has an ancient city just north of town? Teotihuacan, with the Sun Pyramid and Moon Pyramid, thrived from 100 to 750 AD. It was already a huge ruin when the Aztecs got there in 1300 AD. Unearthed in the 1960s, its art and architecture show a rigorously planned city where as many as 200,000 people lived. That is pretty humbling to the modern man who thinks our own civilization will last forever.

Civilizations don’t, of course.

But art does.

——

IF YOU GO:

Mexico City is nothing like you imagine — it’s better. Its downtown is clean, culturally rich and hip, with elegant shopping, museums, churches, gracious tree-lined boulevards, colonial architecture, busy streets and Aztec ruins beside modern buildings. Its Zona Rosa district is popular for nightlife. Its Zocalo, or town square, is the largest in the Americas.

LODGING:

KH Suites: Apart-Hotel services at Polanco and Lomas de Chapultepec. 1 to 3 bedroom fully Furnished and Equipped Suites, as well as houses. Perfect for families traveling (www.khsuites.com)*

Hotel Maria Cristina: Moderate hotel popular with business and leisure travelers in good location. (www.hotelmariacristina.com.mx)

Casa Gonzalez: Famous budget bed and breakfast in good location in the Colonia Cuauhtemoc neighborhood. (www.hotelcasagonzalez.com)

El Emporio: Small luxury hotel on Paseo de la Reforma. (www.hotelesemporio.com/cdmexico)

The Four Seasons: Expensive but high quality lodging. (www.fourseasons.com/mexico)

RESTAURANTS: Stephanie Schneiderman of TiaStephanie Tours grew up in Mexico City. Her favorite restaurants:

Fonda el Refugio: Traditional Mexican food, best margaritas in the city. (Liverpool 166, Zona Rosa)

El Cardenal: Elegant old-fashioned service; two branches, one in historic center (Juarez 70, Col. Centro) and another at the Hilton Alameda Park.

El Bajio: Traditional Mexican food; now a chain with several branches around town. (www.carnitaselbajio.com.mx)

Restaurante Pujol: Very high-end contemporary dining in the Polanco district; chef is Enrique Olvera. (Francisco Petrarca 254, Col. Polanco)

Los Panchos: Best carnitas (pork tacos) in the city. (Tolstoi No. 9 Entre Leibintz y Dante, Col. Anzures)

Sanborn’s: For breakfast. Old department store in the historic House of Tiles downtown has elegant, high-ceiling restaurant. (Calle Madero 4, Col. Centro)

SHOPPING: El Bazar del Sabado: Open only on Saturdays, fantastic for high quality art, crafts, jewelry and textiles.

MONEY: About 12 pesos to the Canadian dollar. Plenty of ATMs available.

SAFETY: Take the usual precautions you would against pickpockets. Don’t take gypsy taxis; have your hotel or restaurant call one for you. Like in any large city, stay in well-trod tourist areas, and don’t wander around alone at night.

HEALTH: Mexico City has a mild climate because it is 2,200 metres above sea level. Some people take time to get acclimated to the elevation. Don’t drink tap water; most hotels provide bottled water. Pollution levels have improved; as long as a breeze is blowing, it’s pretty clear and you can see the gorgeous mountains that encircle the city.

© Copyright (c) McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
*Info added by this blog editor
Categories: Uncategorized

10 Can’t be missed in Mexico City

May 25, 2010 Leave a comment

By michael

Article taken from our friends at GotSaga

10 Can’t be missed in Mexico City

1- Xochimilco

Xochimilco is to the south of Mexico City, and gives a glimpse at the effects of rushed urbanization over the years. It’s a great place for tourists.

At the Nativitas (not to be confused with the Metro station) embarcadero, take one of hundreds of boats (trajineras) through the canals which is all that is left of the lake on which Mexico City was built. This activity is widely enjoyed by Mexicans, so it’s one of the more authentic tourist experiences available. The boats are colorfully painted and often bear the name of the owner’s female child or other relative. There are set prices depending on the size of boat and length of the ride, though if you speak Spanish this can be bargained on. You can bring your own food and drinks for a picnic lunch on the larger boats, as they have a long table down the middle. As you travel down the canals, music boats float by with bands, mariachi trios, and marimba players, and for a fee you can have them float along beside you and play the songs that you request. As you travel you will see city life, restaurants, and greenhouses where flowers and plants are grown. Further beyond the city canals there is a wildlife preserve in which the original character of the chinampas (Aztec-era “floating gardens”) may be seen.

2- Coyoacán

This relatively large area in the southwest of Mexico City has always been a counterculture hotbed. This is where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived, a few blocks away from Leon Trotsky (their houses are now the Frida Kahlo Museum and the Leon Trotsky Museum, respectively), and the tranquil residential area, with parks, squares, and cobblestone streets, is now a favourite spot for the bohemia set.

3- Chapultepec

A district of Mexico City. “Chapultepec” means “Grasshopper Hill” (Chapul – Grasshopper / Tepec – Hill) in Nahuatl, the language of the “Aztecs”. The hill and surrounding district has much significance in Mexican history. The Bosque de Chapultepec (Náhuatl, “hill of the grasshoppers”) is Mexico City’s principal park and, with an area of 4sq.km/2.5sq.mi, its largest.

4- Chapultepec Castle

Once the home of the Spanish Viceroys, a military college scene of historic battle during the Mexican-American War, and the palace of Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota. It is now a museum. You can walk up the winding hill road, or take the tram that departs every twenty minutes for a fee of 13 MXP. There are two parts to the museum: the historical building itself, and the Museum of National History. Don’t miss the Roman-style gardens and observatory on the roof of the building. The castle also boasts a fine view of Mexico City and its surroundings. Admission to the Castle is $51 as of May 2010. A fee is charged to use a video camera and flash photography is not permitted.

5-  Templo Mayor

The site of the main Aztec temple of Tenochtitlan, it was destroyed by Spanish conquistadors in 1521, who then promptly erected the Cathedral roughly over it–but not quite. Centuries later, nearly completely forgotten, its actual location was discovered by accident in 1978 when electrical workers found a piece of a large stone disc depicting the goddess Coyolxauhqui. This sets off a few furious years of archaeological digging, resulting in a rather surprising (and extremely significant) discovery that nested underneath the original Aztec temple was six distinct smaller, older temples. You can see each layer walking through the dig site, and after that is the Museo del Templo Mayor, a four-story museum showcasing the many artifacts found on the site.

6- Plaza de las Tres Culturas

So called because in one city square you can see three different time periods of Mexico City’s development mixed together: the pre-hispanic Aztec temple grounds of Tlatelolco, the 16th-century Spanish Church of Santiago, and a modern 20th-century skyscraper, now home of the University Cultural Center Tlatelolco (CCUT) for UNAM. The temple, like Tenochtitlan’s Templo Mayor, was built in several layers and is now the site of continuing archaeological exploration; it occupies the largest amount of area, on the north and west side of the plaza. The entrance is on Lázaro Cárdenas; admission is free and there are English speaking tours each day at 1PM. If you’re not around for the tour, you can guide yourself along the path (complete with English plaques) that takes you through the ruins, which deposits you in front of the Church of Santiago, on the east side of the plaza. The colonial church, built by Spaniards immediately after destroying the temple in their conquest of Aztec lands, was constructed using stones “borrowed” from the temple itself. Despite its weathered appearance, the interior is well-maintained and should still hold regular Mass, although doors may not always be open to the public. To the south, you’ll see the modern-day tower and its adjacent buildings, which were built originally for the Secretary of External Relations (SRE), now headquartered across the street (though they still have offices in the church’s adjoining cloister). Currently, UNAM runs the building as a conference hall and cultural center, and has a few exhibits open to the public: Memorial 68 (see Museums, below) and the Blaisten Collection, showcasing modern art.

7- Take a Turibus

The double-decker hop-in and hop-off tourist bus that runs along Paseo de la Reforma, and throughout many other areas of the city. You can depart Zona Rosa at the Angel de Independencia for connections to the pyramids, the south of the city and the normal tourist route. Be sure to check the schedule at the tourist information booth a few steps from the stop.

8- The Pyramids of Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan The City of the Gods, is an Aztec archeological site 40 km northeast of Mexico City. Náhuatl for “the place where men became gods”, Teotihuacan is home to some of the largest ancient pyramids in the world. According to legend, it was here where the gods gathered to plan the creation of man.

Teotihuacan was the largest Pre-Columbian city in the Americas, reaching a total population of 150,000 at its height. The name is also used to refer to the civilization this city dominated, which at its greatest extent included most of Mesoamerica.

Construction of Teotihuacán commenced around 300 BC, with the Pyramid of the Sun built by 150 BC. 150–450 AD.

It is said that the descendents of this city abandoned this city and relocated in Tenochtitlan because it was thought to be a more sacred location.

9- Museo Leon Trotsky

Marxist theorist Leon Trotsky was granted asylum in Mexico after being expelled from the Soviet Union, where he settled in Coyoacán in 1936. He continued to be vocally critical of Stalin’s policies, however, and four years later he was assassinated in his home. The museum preserves the house in much the condition as it was in Trotsky’s last days.

10- Plaza Garibaldi-Mariachi

The square is surrounded by cafés and restaurants much favored by tourists, and in these and in the square itself groups of musicians play folk music. Most of these groups are “mariachis” from Jalisco, dressed in Charro costume and playing trumpets, violins, guitars and the guitarrón or bass guitar. Payment is expected for each song, but it is also possible to arrange for a longer performances. People set up lemonade stand style bars in the evening to sell you cheap cocktails while you listen. A visit to Mexico is not complete until you experience the fantastic Mariachi Bands, but the neighborhood is a bit sketchy.

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Travel destinations: Chapultepec Park, Mexico City

April 27, 2010 1 comment

A trip to Mexico City would not be complete without a visit to the famous Chapultepec Park. Located in the Reforma and Polanco area this park has something to offer any visitor including a castle, zoo, lakes, and many small vendors selling their goods. Although it is a prominent tourist destination now it is also a very important part of Mexican history and culture. 800 years ago the Aztecs once made a temporary settlement in Chapultepec and since that time it has also been home to the Spanish, French royalty and the military of Mexico.

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Castillo de Chapultepec

The Chapultepec Castle is located in the center of the park at the top of Chapultepec Hill and is one of the famous attractions of the area. It was an important part of the Mexican-American war when cadets of the military academy located here died defending this castle. The “Boy Heroes” are honored at this castle with murals and monuments. In addition the castle was also the residence of Emperor Maximilian I and his wife Empress Carlota and it still contains much of their design and artifacts. The castle has audio and video in certain areas which discusses it’s history, both good and bad. The walk to the top of the hill can be quite tiring so make sure to take advantage of the small train that you can take for a small fee.

Animal lovers will need to visit the Chapultepec Zoo which has over 2000 animals in numerous beautiful exhibits. The zoo is very large and a full day can be spent walking through this portion of the park alone. There are also numerous restaurants inside of the zoo where you can relax and have lunch during your visit.

Numerous vendors are also inside the park selling anything from ice cream to lucha libre or wrestling masks. They often will negotiate with customers allowing you to get a great deal on a unique souvenir. While you browse the merchandise you can also enjoy local shows including Aztec dancers, Mayan ceremonies, and local street performers. One of the best things about Chapultepec Park is that it doesn’t cost you anything to walk around and enjoy the area.

The park is also located close to a number of high class hotels located along Reforma. Some of these hotels include the Hotel Nikko, The Presidente, Hotel Marquis, and The JW Marriot. Across the street from the park you will also find the National Museum of Anthropology and History and also the National Auditorium.

Learn more about this author, Dave Stanford.

Article taken from: http://www.helium.com/items/1805861-mexico-chapultepec-park-zoo-castle

Images added by this blog editor.

Categories: Uncategorized

Andar en bicicleta a ciegas

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Escrito por Transeúnte, el 25, Enero, 2010

El grupo Bicitekas organiza, a partir de este mes y hasta marzo, una serie de paseos en bicicleta para invidentes y débiles visuales, dentro de los cierres dominicales de Reforma.

La actividad titulada “Paseo a Ciegas” tiene como objetivo que las personas con esta discapacidad puedan vivir la ciudad desde la bicicleta, señala Ernesto Corona Vázquez, coordinador de la iniciativa.

Por otro lado, “queremos que los paseos se instauren de forma definitiva todos los domingos. Deseamos provocar que los débiles visuales comiencen a asistir por ellos mismos”, agregó el entrevistado.

La dinámica de “Paseo a Ciegas” consiste en recorrer aproximadamente 5 kilómetros en bicicletas tándem (dobles), en las que se sube un invidente junto con un voluntario de los Bicitekas o algún familiar que lo acompañe.

Si la persona con discapacidad viene con alguien más que si puede ver, “nosotros le enseñamos a esa persona a utilizar la bicicleta y se van ellos juntos. También les prestamos cascos”, explicó Ernesto.

El paseo no tiene ningún costo y quienes estén interesados pueden asistir a la glorieta de la Diana de 9:00 a 13:00 horas. El también biciteka explicó que “hasta la fecha se cuenta con tres tándems, lo que permite que podamos pasear a 12 personas cada domingo”.

De acuerdo con Ernesto, este es el primer año en el que se lleva a cabo la idea, por lo que esperan que las personas que acompañan a los ciegos comiencen a considerar la bicicleta como un medio de transporte cotidiano e incluso que las empresas fabricantes de tándems ofrezcan un descuento a las personas con algún problema visual para adquirir una bicicleta de este tipo.

Más información contacto@bicitekas.org

Travel Experiences: Mexico City

April 12, 2010 Leave a comment

by Dave Stanford

Mexico City is truly one of the most amazing cities in the world with a mixture of both the old and new world. From the moment your plane starts to descend into this vast city with millions of inhabitants, historical locations, and wonderful scenery you know that your trip will be quite an adventure.

It’s important to always use authorized taxi’s when leaving the airport and of course make sure that your driver knows exactly where you’re going before you leave. Once in your taxi and the moment you leave the airport you are amazed at the massive amount of traffic and the seemingly non-existent traffic laws. The speed of traffic isn’t high, but the sheer volume can be stressful to some.

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The “Paseo de la Reforma” is one of the major tourist and business areas in Mexico City with many high quality hotels only walking distance from great restaurants and other tourist attractions. The only problem you will have is trying to see all of these sites during your vacation time.

When you arrive at your hotel the first thing you should always do is lock up your valuables in you room safe and only take as much money as you need for the day.

One of the most popular attractions in this area is the National Museum of Anthropology. There are thousands of artifacts on display showing the history of the area and numerous items found from the many Aztec sites in the area.

Across the street from the museum is the Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle) which was once inhabited by Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota. It later became a Military Academy which was a prominent site in the Mexican-American war. It’s also a good idea to take the train up the hill to where the castle is located as the hill is steep. It’s important to keep in mind that Mexico City is over 7000 feet above sea level and some it difficult to breath when walking.

The Mexico City zoo is also located along Reforma is a great place to spend an afternoon, just be careful not to carry too much cash or credit cards as the children that wander around the zoo are often pickpockets.

If you want to visit a traditional Mexico market you can take a taxi to the Coyoacan market during the evening on a weekend. It’s a great place to get some cheap souvenirs to bring back home and to enjoy some traditional Mexican cuisine such as tacos al pastor. These are tacos with pork, onion and pinapple. However, make sure you are careful where you eat and that the meat is well cooked and there is refridgeration on

Learn more about this author, Dave Stanford.
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Article taken from http://www.helium.com/items/902950-adventures-in-mexico-city