Two “full” days in Mexico City

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Hola Mexico City!

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We have heard so many great things about Mexico City, and were so excited to finally check it out.  We figured that since we were already in Mexico for the MFC Conference,  why not stop for a few days on our way home?  We did a lot of reading and research to find out what hotel we wanted to stay at and (unfortunately there is no Ritz-Carlton – at this time Xavier worked for the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, CA) decided on the Four Seasons.  We were originally considering either the Four Seasons or the Hotel Condesa DF.  We had a chance to see the Hotel Condesa DF during our trip, and we were so happy we chose the Four Seasons.  Not that there was anything wrong with the Hotel Condesa DF, but we found it a bit too trendy for us….however, many people might find this to be exactly what they are looking for, it just wasn’t the match for us.

Obviously Xavier and I stay at many hotels around the world, both for work and pleasure, and I have to say The Four Seasons Mexico City is now on the list of one of our favorite hotels.  The hotel is located quite close to the hot Condesa and Polanco neighborhoods, and off the Boulevard of Paseo de la Reforma.

We immediately loved the design – which is hacienda with a modern twist.  You would never know that the hotel is over 21 years old.  It looks new and fresh, and is definitely a place where you feel comfortable, and want to come back to at the end of a long day.  We loved the inner courtyard that all the rooms look into which creates the hacienda feel.

 

We enjoyed drinks each evening at their courtyard bar – they make a great Spritz!  How cute it this little “secret” spot?

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Cleary I am gushing about the design of the hotel, but probably even more impressive was the first class service we received.  Everyone from the front and concierge desks, to the director of public relations who we met while getting a coffee, was friendly, engaging and hospitable.  The hotel’s website:  “here”

Here are a few photos I took of the hotel

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Front Desk/Lobby Check in (above)

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Corridor to courtyard and guest room elevators (above)

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One of the lounge areas off corridor (above)

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Coffee shop (above)

We arrived late in the afternoon, and after we got checked in headed for the courtyard bar for a “drink and think” about our plans for the next day.  Xavier had of course already made our dinner arrangements for the evening at one of Mexico City’s top restaurants, Quintonil.    I think Xavier was considering Quintonil or Pujol as our more high end meal option and decided on Quintonil.   Ouintonil is number 22 on the World’s Best List, and is known for contemporary Mexican cuisine.  Jorge Vallejo is the Chef, and is actually a protege of Pujol’s Chef Enrique Olvera.   Our dinner was great, and we tried so many “different” and unexpected things.  It was definitely an elevated dining experience and we were happy with our choice.

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DAY 1

As I am sitting here writing, which is long, long after this trip, I am glad I took some good notes and photos to recall our trip highlights.  As you will see there were many.  I really can’t believe we squeezed in as many things as we did in 2 1/2 days.  There is so much to see and do in Mexico City and we wanted to absorb as much of it as we could.  Here is our first day and some of our favorite moments.

Before we officially started our day we wanted to stop for an authentic Mexican breakfast at a Restaurante El Cardenal which was recommended to us by our dear friend Rosi.  They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but apparently are well-known for their traditional Mexican breakfast specialities.  Here is their website: “El Cardenal”

We were told that we have to have the Doña Olivia hot chocolate – OMG!  This cup of hot chocolate was silky, rich and simply delicious.  As you can see in the photo below it is prepared table side with a milinillo, a traditional wooden chocolate whisk, with the best Mexican chocolate, Doña Olivia.

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We enjoyed several dishes;  Huevos revueltos a la cazuela (Scrambled eggs covered with a hot red sauce ground in a stone mortar) – below

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As well as the Chicken Chilaquiles Verdes with Tomatillo Sauce (below)

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Our first stop after breakfast was the Roman Catholic Cathedral Metropolitan which started construction in 1573 and was completed in 1813.  It is situated on the Plaza de la Constitución in Downtown Mexico City, and over the centuries has survived fires as well as sinking structure, and was once one of the world’s most endangered historic sites.   An interesting fact….The cathedral is home to two of the largest 18-century organs in the Americas.

 

While walking to our next stop, we passed these amazing larger than life sculptures by Spanish artist, Xavier Mascaró.  The temporary exhibit was located in the Historic City Center’s Plaza Seminario.  Here is a bit more information about the artist “Xavier”

 

Up next was a stop the prominent cultural center of Mexico City, the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Place of Fine Arts).  It is often referred to as “The Cathedral of Art in Mexico” as it has hosted some of the most notable events in music, dance, theatre, opera and literature and has held important exhibitions of painting, sculpture and photography.

The exterior of the building is primarily Neoclassical and Art Nouveau and the interior is primarily Art Deco. The building is best known for its murals by Diego Rivera, Siqueiros and others, as well as the many exhibitions and theatrical performances its hosts, including the Ballet Folklórico de México.  We had a chance to quickly go inside to see the some of the paintings and famous murals, as well a special Rivera/Picasso exhibit. 

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If you are Catholic  or religious you won’t want to miss the Villa de Guadalupe, a former separate town, now a neighborhood in northern Mexico City which in 1531 was the site of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the most renowned Marian apparition in the Americas.  She can be venerated in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, located in the villa (town).  This town is considered one of the holiest places in Catholicism.   It receives about 40 million pilgrims and tourists a year.

 

Here you will see where the old meets new with the more recent construction of the Basilica, which was designed to accommodate 10,000 worshipers.

 

So….it’s now lunch time and we of course plan to hit one of the many markets here in Mexico City.  Markets are the lifeblood of this city and come in all sizes, and are filled with everything from food to antiques.  Of course, we were on the hunt for good food, and as always, love to immerse ourselves in the local colors, sounds, smells, and, of course, taste!!

 

We decided on the Mercado Coyoacan, which is a classic public market located in the upscale neighborhood of Coyoacan.  I should add that this is also the neighborhood of the DO NOT MISS, Museum Freida Kahlo.  This traditional  two-story market has produce, meat, handicrafts…basically it has it all.   We decided on Tostadas – and had a choice of so many different options.

 

Before heading on, we got tempted by some nearby street food.  Corn is major ingredient in Mexican cooking.  It is used for many, many things such as making tamales, tortillas, and beverages, and soups.  In addition, Esquites and Elotes are also very popular street food snacks.   Esquites is generally made from mature corn, not fresh or dried.  Oftentimes the grains of corn are first boiled in salted water. Then they are sautéed in butter with onions, chopped pequin chiles, epazote and salt. It is served hot in small cups and topped with varying combinations of lime juice, chili powder or hot sauce, salt, and mayonnaise.  Elotes on the other hand is basically grilled corn on the cob, typically served on a stick.  

 

Of course there were Churros!  We could’t miss out on this sweet treat.  Churros are a fried-dough pastry—predominantly choux—based snack. They are traditional in Spain and Portugal, from where they originate, as well as in Mexico.  You can find Churro stands, stalls and store fronts all over Mexico City.  We hit one of the top recommended Churro locations; Churreria General de la Republica (Website Churro)

 

So….The DO NOT MISS Museum Freida Kahlo was our next stop.  This was definitely a trip highlight – actually we still often reflect back on visiting this special museum.  Located in Coyoacán the 1950s house La Casa Azul (The Blue House) is where Freida spent most of her life, living there until her death. The house was donated by her husband, Diego Rivera, with the intention of making it a museum in her honor, the Museum of Frida Kahlo. Here, Khalo’s, Rivera’s and some other artists’ work is on display, as well as photographs, artifacts and personal items, opening the doors on the life and history of the celebrated Mexican artist.

 

As the day is nearing it’s end we decided one last stop before heading back to the hotel before dinner.  Having had heard about the neighborhood of San Angel, we decided to stop for a drink at the San Angel Inn.   Unfortunately we did not have time to explore this lovely area (next time for sure), as we could tell driving to the Inn it was a very nice.  It is considered one of the best neighborhoods in Mexico City brimming with beautiful architecture, grand homes and historical buildings.  Many have been converted into galleries, high-end shops and restaurants.

The San Angel Inn  “INN” was an old Monastery and is now home to a stunning restaurant, decorated Colonial Mexican style.  Sitting in a flower-crowded garden, I ordered a margarita and was so surprised at the beautiful presentation.  Like I said earlier, we definitely want to return to explore this area a bit more on our next visit.

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Dinner this evening was at a restaurant called Huset Cocina de Campo “Huset”   It was a nice evening, with country style cooking in the heart of this vibrant city.  Chef Maycoll Calderón, who has quite the resume, is considered one of Mexico’s most talented chefs, cooking simple seasonal dishes cooked over fire and smoke.  We enjoyed our meal sitting in their outdoor terrace.  The cuisine and menu matched the description;  rustic, casual and approachable food paired with  great service and nice dining ambiance.  Here is menu:

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Our last stop of the day was to a Mexican Speak Easy called Hanky-Panky.  Who would have guessed that Speak-Easys are a big thing in Mexico right now.   Hanky-Panky is situated in La Juarez, one of the Mexico City’s most emblematic neighborhoods that is currently experiencing a renewal of business and culture.  It’s not the easiest to find, but Xavier has determination and is fluent in Spanish, so this really helped us find this hidden location. Hanky Panky is sure to take you by surprise even though you’ll be expecting it. Reservations are a must in order to receive directions to the bar. You’ll be led from the empty taqueria through what appears to be a storage closet with a coded keypad before emerging into the lively and glamorous cocktail bar on the other side. Inside it’s dark and glittering.  Cheers!

DAY 2 

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Good Morning Mexico City – Day 2!   Today we decided to start off our second day at another great Mexican market.  Mercado Medellín is a public market located in the Colonia Roma district of the city.  It is known as the market in the city where one can find produce and goods from other countries in Latin America such as Colombia and Cuba, whose flags hang from many stalls, as well as from Yucatán in Mexico.   We really loved this market and enjoyed sampling many local items, such as nopales (cactus) Mexican coffee, moles (traditional Mexican sauce), salsas (all degrees of hotness), and much, much more .  I especially loved the fresh juices available with all the wonderful fruits.

 

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We could have spent much more time here, but as usual we had so many things to see in such a short period of time.  We actually didn’t make it too far….basically, we made it outside of the market where we found this local street vendor who was making fresh Tlacoyos.  I had never seen or hear of these before, but let me tell you, they are delicious!    Tlacoyas are torpedo-shaped, and made of masa.  They are fatter than fresh corn tortillas and stuffed with cooked ground beans, cheese, fava beans, chicharron or other ingredients and fried or toasted.  These were pan fried on a grill and made one-by-one to order.  The woman making them must be well-known because she had a constant line.  They were well worth the wait.

 

 

 

 

 

After we finally made it out of the market – Guess what?  It was time for lunch.  I can’t remember how Xavier selected our lunch spot, (my guess a chef   recommendation), but we went to lunch at Restaurante Nicos “Nicos”

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I feel badly, that I didn’t write down what we ate, but I do remember that they made table-side Guacamole.  I know we enjoyed it, but sometimes I think that Xavier would rather have street food than sit in a restaurant.  Obviously it’s more local of course, but I am not quite as adventuresome so, he compromises on my behalf.

After lunch we decided to check out a museum we had been hearing so much about called Museo Soumaya.  If you enjoy art and visiting museums, then this is a don’t miss!  From the stunning exterior architecture, to the collections on display inside, makes it  definitely worthy of a visit.

 

The museum has a collection of over 66,000 pieces of art, with the majority consisting of European works from the 15th to the 20th centuries. It also holds a vast Mexican art collection, religious relics, historical documents and coins.  The world’s largest collection of pre-Hispanic and colonial era coins is also housed here. 

 

In addition there is the largest collection of casts of sculptures by Auguste Rodin outside France, and the world’s largest private collection of his art.  A truly specular collection!  

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After visiting the museum, we wrapped up our day with some shopping in the Polanco neighborhood.  There are some nice shops and it was fun to see the local neighborhood life with small coffee shops, cafes and restaurants.  Our last night’s dinner was at Guzina Oaxaca.  It wasn’t my favorite of all the restaurants that we went to, but I am mentioning it because some may really enjoy it – “Guzina”

Overall, we would definitely recommend visiting Mexico City.  We felt very safe (however we don’t stray into areas that could be questionable), and enjoyed the different neighborhoods, the local people,  and food and culture the city has to offer.  We hope to return someday, and now that we are living in Mexico, this might happen sooner than later.