If you haven’t already read about our previous weeks in Mexico City click the below links for week one and two.
Our remaining weeks in Mexico City went by in a blur. We stayed at an Airbnb apartment in the trendy suburb of Hipódromo. Squished between La Condesa and Roma, it’s super convenient to food, Metro/Metrobús and right beside the Parque Mexico (or Parque de los Perros as we think of it). One major observation about this area was that everyone seemed to own at least one dog. The park was always full of them out for a walk at all times of day. They are some of the most obedient and well socialised dogs I’ve ever seen. Lots of super cute ones as well!
I’m surprised that we spent a total of five weeks here in Mexico City. It is a big city, but I’m just not entirely sure where some of the days disappeared to. In that respect I’ve become a little confused about the order in which we visited things so I’ll describe our favourites in detail but breeze over some of the others.
First on our list to tick off was finishing the Anthropology Museum. We had started and only managed to see a third of it more than a week previous. So with an early-ish start we walked through the park to the museum and finally finished it. Personally I thought the Pre-Hispanic parts on the lower floor we had seen first were the more interesting areas. The upper floor mainly tells the stories of modern indigenous populations throughout Mexico. While interesting stories there are a lot of similarities given the way the Spanish dealt with the native peoples. It was getting dark when we walked back to Condesa and as a reward for finishing the museum we had burgers for dinner.
Chapultepec Park is another area full of sights. The main place we wanted to visit was the castle; and it looks like a proper castle. The interior is split into two areas; one part is set up like it would have been lived in and the other is a history museum. The rooms were stunning and really beautifully executed. The highlight was the stained glass in an upstairs gallery. The only down side to this tourist attraction was the lack of English translations for anything. There was obvious places where translation guides for each room should have been but they were all missing. We make do with our limited Spanish but it’s tiring not to mention time consuming to read everything in what is a very distant second language. A temporary exhibit of clothing (mostly woman’s) from the 1800’s forward was enjoyable, perhaps more for me than Tom.
We rounded out that day with a quick stop to the Museo del Caracol (a national history museum, also only in Spanish) followed by the Museo Tamayo, a contemporary art museum. Both of which were intriguing but didn’t take our interest as much as other places.
Having seen all the places of interest around the park we moved our attention back towards the Centro. In a day that ended up themed around heights Tom decided that he could go up to the viewing platform on the Revolution Monument. The glass lift goes straight up inside the dome where you can walk around the exterior viewing areas. The exterior platform was fine and we got lovely views in all directions (not nearly as high as our visit to the Torre Latino Americano on our first day in Mexico City though). The height issue was only getting to and from the lift which required walking over the dome and therefore over high empty space.
Shrugging off the dislike of the monument Tom lead us to our next place of interest which was the Biblioteca Vasconcelos. In an entertaining way we had somehow planned two places which had heights for the same day.
The library is by far the coolest library I have ever seen. It’s about nine glass and metal floors which feel like they are suspended off the sides of the building. We spent quite some time in here just checking it out from all angles and floors, snapping heaps of photos. Tom spent the time testing his dislike of heights and creeping around staying close to hand rails and bookshelves. Heights don’t bother me too much and I ventured out onto the most overhanging floor at the highest level. But even I have to admit, I wouldn’t want someone to bump me while being up there.
Around the Central Alameda park in Centro we first visited the Museo Mural Diego Rivera. We were seeing a lot of this famous Mexican painter and it wasn’t close to our last murals by him either. The museum had an interesting mural depicting heaps of famous historical figures from this country as well as some toy themed modern art by other artists. The mural was by far the stand-out and the reason people visit. Afterwards was another art museum, the Museo de Arte Popular. Full of types of art we had seen a lot of before it was OK and well displayed but didn’t captivate me.
With the day disappearing we finished up inside Bellas Artes. A gorgeous building with an art deco interior as well as murals, some by Rivera again. The most famous is the work that was originally commissioned to be in the Rockefeller Centre but was too controversial and was destroyed. With the permission of the Mexican Government he repainted a slightly different version here. There was also an exhibit on architecture as well a large exhibit on Henri Cartier-Bresson. The architecture one was up around the highest gallery. Tom again wasn’t impressed by the height but cautiously prowled around looking at the displays and keeping his distance from other people.
The photography exhibit by Cartier-Bresson was really interesting and very busy. We only made it through a small amount of the images before getting hustled out of the gallery at closing time. It would take us another two visits to complete.
Deciding to walk back to Condesa was my bad idea. It was an achievable distance and took about 45 minutes but shortly after starting it grew darker and darker. The sky flickered with lightning in the distance and we could hear thunder. About 15 minutes to our accommodation the sky opened with crashing thunder and we got soaked. Running through the streets flooded with about 10cm of rain water soon made our shoes squelchy and we arrived back at the apartment looking like drowned rats dripping all over the floor.
Apart from getting soaked we have had locals think we are crazy for walking everywhere. Apparently we pass through some dodgy suburbs occasionally.
In total we took three days to investigate all the places of interest around Parque Alameda and Bellas Artes. The Museo Franz Mayer is a great museum which took me a little by surprise. It houses a collection of art, furniture, ceramics and silver, a lot of which was very beautiful. The building was cool as well and had the usually cracks and leaning floors/walls that old structures here tend to have. The day was rounded out with another unsuccessful attempt to finish the photography exhibit in Bellas Artes.
Still working closer to the Zocalo we took a day to explore the National Museum of Art. It had a great exhibit of British landscape artists such as Constable and Turner. I really liked the 18th century ones the best. I find the more modern art techniques such as cubism or impressionism a little confusing (…ugly). Or maybe I’m just not cultured enough to understand it.
Not to be left out the permanent part of the art museum was very good as well. Lots of religious art, (which Tom loves…) in a great building. Sometimes we enjoy the spaces around us as much if not more than the art. A favourite exhibit was showcasing the work of Mexican landscape artist Jose Maria Velasco.
With time to spare we (finally) finished the photography exhibit and decided to go to the market. Markets are so much fun, full of fresh produce and friendly helpful people. We enjoy the simple act of searching for all the ingredients we need for our meals.
There is a Tuesday market in Condesa which, although not as cheap as other markets, has beautifully fresh fruit and vegetables. Every few steps you will be offered a sample of melon, mamay, mango, papaya or avocado amongst other fruits. Much to Tom’s delight we brought 2kg of sweet ripe mangos for $20 Peso and have been eating them every day with breakfast or in smoothies.
Finally we reached another big site in central Mexico City. The Templo Mayor is the ruins of the original city of Tenochititlán of which the pyramid is located right beside the cathedral in the Zocalo. Other bits of the ruins can be found all around the Centro as well. Although not in as good condition as other archaeological sites we have visited this one has a lot of history due to the location and the Spanish arrival in the city. The site museum was a real highlight for us with great signage (almost entirely translated to English too). We actually enjoyed it more than the Anthropology Museum because of this.
With another lot of Diego Rivera murals on the list we queued to visit the National Palace. The murals were cool but what we enjoyed more was the changing of the guard that we by chance witnessed. Three groups of soldiers assembled in the courtyard where one group performed a drum and trumpet selection of marching band music (really bad description but I can’t think of how else to describe it). Soon after the groups marched out of the palace, around the Zocalo and removed the giant flag before re-entering the palace to finish their shifts.
Over the next few days we also visited some other sites around the centro. More murals were seen in the Secretaria de Educaccion Publica building as well as in the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso. Inside the Spanish cultural centre we also saw some ruins from the Tenochititlán Temple Complex.
All these visits have been in a rough order that I think is correct. As I mentioned earlier in this post, our days have flown by and I’ve lost track of exactly what we saw each week. We also had a few lazy days where we hung around Condesa going for walks, watching the countless dogs in the park play as well as food shopping and cooking.
I should also mention that we spent two lovely days back in the company of my family here (they just couldn’t get rid of us). One was a BBQ with the extended family from the other side of the family. It’s so nice to expand your family, if you are travelling and have the option to meet some extended and unknown family members while doing so then I highly recommend it. The other day we took the girls to see Cinderella (yay Disney!, even Tom liked it) with pizza for lunch afterwards.
Overall we accomplished a lot of things over these two weeks, we were almost done with sightseeing in Mexico City. At this stage we probably could have moved on but we felt that we need some time to forward plan our next steps and were enjoying staying in Condesa. Also I had heard good things about the folkloric ballet in Bellas Artes which was only on Wednesday evenings (or usually Sundays but being Easter it hadn’t been on the previous week).
So we extended to a fifth and final week here in Mexico City. This week ended up being very worthwhile for mysteriously coincidental reasons which I’ll tell you all about. So stay tuned and I’ll shortly post the last blog on this city!