I ❤ Mexico City.
I’d been looking forward to visiting Mexico City ever since I’d discovered the artist Frida Kahlo in an art gallery exhibition in Rome. Kahlo was from MXC and visiting her house, and checking out all the cultural things to do in the capital were reasons I was excited to visit. I was a little scared as I’d heard some awful things about DF (Distrito Federal, is what people call the city), I’d been warned against taking taxis off the street, as apparently drivers kidnap passengers and deliver them to drug dealers who hold them for ransom and people suggested using Uber instead. Who knows? Maybe the rumour was started by Uber themselves *shrugs*, I played it safe and took the metro and buses everywhere. I was also advised against walking around at night, even in the tourist centre and I’d downloaded a map of the dodgy streets beforehand and was religiously checking this every five and a half minutes. But as long as you don’t take taxis and take the normal precautions you would take elsewhere, then you will be fine! I never once felt scared and even ventured out in the evenings with a friend who I’d met in Cuba.
So don’t let any of the above scare you off of going to such a beautiful, vibrant city! I felt just as safe here as I did anywhere else 🙂
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Madre mia! This place was incredible; I am someone who doesn’t “get” art. I hate that pieces are often displayed without additional information and you’re just supposed to appreciate the wonder and beauty of it, recognising the era it was created in and its influences, pah! Lady, it’s a piece of trash, how is this conceptual art? But I digress… Palacio de Bellas Artes is a hybrid of museum and art gallery and pieces are displayed with long, detailed explanations of the work and information about the artist. There are even recordings of interviews with Diego Riviera (Frida’s husband), videos and other exhibitions that better illuminate the history of Mexican art. A lot of twentieth century Mexican art was a direct commentary on the revolution taking over the country and so context is key when appreciating them. The art itself was stunning (nothing conceptual thank God!) and there are pieces from Kahlo and Riviera, who ironically was more famous than her while they were both still alive.
La Casa Azul (The Frida Kahlo Museum)
I arrived here and wished I could go back in time, not only to see Frida in her natural habitat, but also to have gone online and bought tickets beforehand to avoid the horrendous queue that basically stretched all the way back into Mexico City. Getting here was a nightmare (no taxis remember?), I took the metro around forty-five minutes out of the centre and got off at Coyoacán. From there, I was informed by the tourist guide that it was a “short walk” and ended up following the trail to Frida’s house by asking a thousand passerbys if they knew where her house was. Barely anyone knew and one woman told me it was “too far to walk, take a taxi,” maybe she works for some dealers in DF?! I backed away cautiously and turned to another passerby who finally gave me helpful directions. The journey felt like the breadcrumb trail from Hansel and Gretel, except instead of breadcrumbs I was being fed tiny morsels of information that would eventually lead me to the blue house (not the one made of sweets). The walk from the station was around half an hour and not straightforward, so I’d recommend either ordering an Uber from the station, finding a mahoosive map of Coyoacán (which is actually outside of the centre of Mexico City) or relying on the information of passerbys.
The house was beautiful and there were exhibitions that featured her clothes, her paintings and documented her life from the cradle to the grave. There was a short half-hour film on her life and you can see where her ashes are, the bed she used to sleep in; literally everything is preserved. I learnt a lot more about the life of Frida and her life as an artist, visiting was definitely one of the highlights of Mexico City.
I actually arrived here by mistake, meaning to go to another tourist site and was misled, going to the wrong station. It ended up being serendipitous though, as I met a lovely Argentinian girl and we ended up hanging out the whole day, checking out the pyramids. The site is beautiful and I would recommend a guide, as you won’t be able to learn about any of the Aztec history without one. Be warned that it is DAMN HOT, as you can see from the photos, there is no mercy (read: shade) from El Sol, so I recommend bringing hats and plenty of water, as the drinks they sell onsite are $$$.
The Anthropology Museum
This place is massive; apparently you could take a whole day just exploring this museum, as it is roughly the size of Soho. I, having neither the patience nor the inclination, stayed around two hours; I thought I would love this museum but found it to be a little boring. The museum focuses on Mexico from the beginning of time until today; the people that inhabited Mexico and some of the more interesting exhibits included traditions and clothes of the people, but overall this one’s a skipper.
Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
This church is pretty cool; it looks like a spaceship! After the pyramid trip, instead of going back to the coach station, we asked the coach driver if he could drop us off near the Basilica, as it was on the way and carried on by foot to the Basilica. I have never seen a Church with such a strange architectural style, it definitely wasn’t the strangest Mexican church I’d come across, not by a long shot (post coming soon about the church without pews where they sacrifice chickens at the altar and drink soft drinks to burp out the spirits, I kid you not.)
Zócalo (The city centre)
The first time I saw the main plaza of Mexico City was in a Prince Royce video (“Sigo aquiiii… a pesar de lo malo….”) so it was amazing to see the cathedral in real life; it is colossal, I have never seen such a big church in my life and the main plaza is huge, easily the size of a football pitch. The centre is basically this plaza but DF never really felt that touristy; the roads leading away from the Cathedral (as in walk out of the church and keep going) have really good food options and the road on the upper right-hand corner of the square (imagine you’ve just left the church and continue walking straight) has the most amazing bakery if you follow it five minutes down. There is also a cool military parade twice a day, when the flag is being put out and removed; I caught the evening one at 6pm and the ceremony was around twenty minutes. That flag, like everything else on that plaza, is essentially BFG-size, so it really did take all the men (a small army you might say….) in that photo to bring it down, fold it and carry it.
I ate incredibly well in the capital and never once felt in danger, though I tended to stay in after dark. The one night I did venture out though, I felt fine and stuck to the main square and the streets surrounding them, which are very well-lit and are crowded with lots of other people who are also out having a good time!
That’s my summary of DF, an incredible city and one of the highlights of my trip, I also met some people in the hostels there that have visited me in London and who I will visit in Italy and Chile!