For many years, I thought Mexico City was the proverbial one who got away. I suspected he might be too complicated and a touch dangerous, and he was intimidatingly immense. Like any enigma, he had a mysterious allure. I talked about him with others who had met him and even lived with him. They all agreed that he was charismatic and creative but mercurial and corrupt.
When in 2016, The New York Times named him the number one travel destination, and I knew we had to meet. Last November, we spent a week together, and I was smitten. He was charming and sophisticated but also unexpectedly chill considering he lives with over 20 million people. We met up again this March, and now our romance is full on. After Trump’s inauguration—and his declared intention to build a wall—he’s only become cooler. His mantra, c/o Mexican fashion designer Anuar Layon, is “Mexico is the shit.”
You won’t get to know him in one visit. The city has 16 boroughs, each with its own neighbourhoods. If you’re game for a date, I’d suggest you spend time in Condesa, Cuauhtémoc, Hipódromo, La Roma (Norte and Sur), Coyoacán, Colonia Juárez and Polanco. Getting around is easy via registered cabs or Uber. I used the ride-sharing app, and the drivers were friendly and respectful. If you’re in the mood for all things posh, head to Polanco. Its Avenida Presidente Masaryk is Mexico City’s answer to Beverly Hills’s Rodeo Drive. There are designer flagship stores and boutiques, like Yakampot, Alejandro Carlín and Anatole 13, as well as hotels and restaurants that are decidedly tony.
In nearby Nuevo Polanco, there’s the futuristic Museo Soumaya, which is clad in 16,000 shimmering aluminum tiles; it’s one of Mexico’s most-visited art museums. For dining, the restaurant Pujol has long-standing buzz. The offerings, courtesy of Chef Enrique Olvera, are authentic but with a modern twist: chile de árbol, mole madre and chocolate tamal with guayabate and tonka bean. (Make your reservations a few weeks in advance of your trip.)
A pilgrimage to Museo Frida Kahlo (La Casa Azul) in the Colonia Del Carmen neighbourhood of Coyoacán is a must-do. To avoid long lineups, order your tickets online. The famous Mexican artist had an epic romance with Diego Rivera. She offered up many quips on love, from “There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the train the other was Diego; Diego was by far the worst” to the slightly more lighthearted “Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are a bourbon biscuit.” You may not find any of these biscuits at the nearby Mercado de Coyoacán, but there’s always huitlacoche—or “corn smut.” It’s not what you think. It’s a fungus that grows on organic corn, and it’s considered a delicacy. If that’s not exotic enough, there’s chapulines (grasshoppers) or cow-foot tostadas from the popular Tostadas Coyoacán stand.
For a different cultural and architectural experience, order an Uber and head to the Miguel Hidalgo district to visit Casa Luis Barragán. This was the home of Mexico’s famous Pritzker Prize-winning architect Luis Barragán. This modern and minimalist sanctuary was built in 1948 and is the counter-opposite to Casa Azul’s colonial maximalist setting. What they do have in common is their bold use of colour. In Barragán’s case, it was orange, yellow and pink. There are only five tours a day during the week, so book your tickets online well in advance of your trip. After your visit, walk through the nearby Chapultepec Park en route to the city’s hipper areas: Condesa, Cuauhtémoc, Hipódromo and La Roma.
When you’re flying into Mexico City, the view from the window is both mind-blowing and daunting because the city appears to stretch on forever. I braced myself to feel exhilarated and overwhelmed. What I didn’t expect was to feel relaxed and peaceful. But that’s the vibe of Condesa and Hipódromo. There’s no sense of urgency, as people casually stroll down the streets or enjoy an espresso at a café. An ideal lunch spot is Lardo, a laid-back bar-brasserie owned by Elena Reygadas, one of Latin America’s top chefs. Carb-load with the zucchini and parmesan pizza or get a protein boost with grilled octopus with garbanzo and chilies. Later, head to the rooftop bar at the Condesa DF hotel and have a cucumber mezcal mojito. For shopping, start walking along Colima street in the direction of Roma Norte.
Along the way, be sure to check out Goodbye Folk, a small boutique that carries an eclectic mix of high-end and vintage pieces as well as its own line of handmade shoes. A few doors down, at 180° Shop, you’ll find everything from clothes to bike gear to quirky and affordable home accessories. Roma Quince, which is more upscale and located in a former mansion, also has a stunning collection of modern handcrafted Mexican accessories and decor pieces.
If you can get into Rosetta—another one of Chef Reygadas’s places—consider yourself lucky. This plant-filled townhouse resto is cozy and romantic, and it will inspire you to plan your next date with this captivating city that architect Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo described perfectly: “People who haven’t been to Mexico City expect it to be chaotic,” she says. “To me, it’s a beautiful mess and frustratingly inspiring.” The romance continues….
Check out the FASHION x Joe Fresh Summer 2017 cover shoot, featuring Heather Marks, below.
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