As everywhere we have been in Mexico, this is a friendly, comfortable city where a little Spanish will get you far, most everyone is happy to explain or help, moving around is straightforward, Uber is ridiculously cheap, and the food is plentiful and delicious.
We have started each day with coffee and a pastry (if you are in Roma Norte we highly recommend Buna for croissants—cuernitos—of the highest quality and especially well made espresso drinks), stopping at a fruit/juice street vendor for what may be a quart of freshly squeezed orange juice for 40 pesos or so, then after a refresh at the hotel calling Uber to head to a museum. From there we wander to a taco stand or market or hole-in-the-wall place for lunch, and either walk and wander or call Uber to take us back to the hotel to spend the rest of the day in and around the Roma neighborhood.
Yesterday, for example, we visited the Museo Soumaya in the Polanco neighborhood, known as the Beverly Hills of Mexico City and reputed to be the most desirable real estate in Latin America. The museum contains Carlos Slim’s personal collection. The guidebooks call it “eclectic” and I would rename it “Stuff I Bought.” It is the most bizarre, oddly organized, hodgepodge of an art museum imaginable, housing everything from an enormous (too much so) collection of Rodin to postcards and watches. The building was designed by his son-in-law and is, shall we say, striking. The interior has an open stairway and ramp which wind from level to level and room to room, and I was freezing the entire time because there is a wind tunnel effect adding to the oddness of the experience. Sr. Slim has no apparent discipline or taste, and while the collection includes many paintings from recognizable artists I learned something I’m not sure I wanted to know—even the biggest names (Renoir, for example) did some truly mediocre work. But it was free, we toured with energy, and were out in perhaps 90 minutes.
Having no interest in walking around a cliche rich peoples’ neighborhood to ogle houses or Chanel shops, we hopped an Uber and went to the Friday market in Condesa to find something to eat. Now, that was more like it.
Below note the beautiful blue corn gorditas and quesadillas. A very nice man in front of the cooks is there to explain what is on offer and take orders. Gorditas were “chicharron” but in truth that meant cheese, nopales, and a few other vegetables stuffed into fat tortillas that were split like pita and grilled. The mushroom quesadilla was alas eaten too quickly to make it into the photo. I was happy to see a juice vendor so I could get a picture showing the enormous number of small, green and yellow orange rinds piled into the two big bags as he grabbed halves, pulled down on the juicer, and tossed them aside in a single motion. Poetry.
It was about a mile’s walk back to our neighborhood in Roma, so we decided that would make a perfect end to the afternoon. We were correct—discovering the beautiful, dog-filled Parque Mexico and the enchanting architecture of Condesa, and before we knew it we were back “home.”
Trotsky and Casa Azul
Our friend Christina had encouraged us to check out the Coyoacan neighborhood and that meshed nicely with our plan to see Trotsky’s house and small museum as well as Casa Azul, the home of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, two worthwhile sites only a few blocks apart.
We had both been ignorant of the Trotsky story, and both had the same revelation about how the heck Trotsky ended up living, and being assassinated, in Mexico City. Turns out Rivera, also a socialist, had prevailed on the government to give Trotsky asylum, and even had him as a houseguest for a few months (during which there was apparently a strong flirtation between Frida and Leon).
Trotsky comes across as a lovely guy, doting on his chickens and rabbits while he wrote obsessively, often using a dictation machine. It was while he was working at his desk that the assassin came up behind him and hit him in the head with an axe. It is a very small, traditional, modest casa and he and his wife were admired for adopting a completely Mexican life.
Now, Casa Azul is something else again—filled with art, curios, gardens, studios, traditional kitchen (no electricity or modern accoutrements of any kind), and the very sad remnants of Frida’s pain-filled life. In spite of her physical misery, however, she had many lovers and intense relationships while at the same time suffering greatly from Diego’s affairs. We rented the audio-video tour and highly recommend it.
We walked on a few blocks to the small mercado looking for lunch, and ended up in a lovely conversation with a couple from Montreal, ate an enormous lunch at a little counter in the middle of the market, walked for a while in the lovely, quite, cobblestoned neighborhood of Coyoacan, then took Uber home to Roma Norte.