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Condesa & Roma: the trendy neighborhoods of Mexico City

Please check out my latest article up on the Mexico Today website– http://mexicotoday.org/article/condesa-roma-trendy-neighborhoods-mexico-city!  This month I’m recounting some of the highlights of our favorite colonias in DF– Condesa and Roma, located just east of Chapultepec Park.

Some of the hyperlinks to the businesses I mentioned didn’t come through on the Mexico Today page, so I’m including them here for your convenience. Take a look at the article for additional commentary on each!

B&B:

Restaurants:

Shopping:

More Mexico Today Updates!

In other news, here are some of the great articles my fellow MT folks wrote this past month for your leisure reading:

https://www.facebook.com/Gastrofonda https://www.facebook.com/Gastrofonda

Mexico Today- Keep track of all the news!

I am excited to have the opportunity to continue working with the Mexico Today program in 2012!  (You may recall my post on this from last year.)  We have even more great contributors involved this time around, and there are a whole host of ways for you to keep track of what’s new and exciting in Mexico these days.

In other news, my first post for Mexico Today this summer is up on the site here: http://mexicotoday.org/article/exploring-mexico-city-foodie-tour-coyoac%C3%A0n!  If you’ll be in Mexico City anytime in the future, I outlined a great self-led food tour in Coyoacan that we did with almost all visitors that we had in town.  You start at Tostadas Coyoacan with some amazing fresh seafood tostadas, get a dessert coffee (café de olla) at Cafe El Jarocho, dip a sugary churro in it, and then wash it all down with some mezcal! You’ll find all the details + directions in my post above. Even if your Spanish isn’t great, you should be fine as long as you’re able to translate the types of tostadas on the menu! (But even that is pretty easy, since you order with a sheet of paper, kind of like a sushi restaurant.)

Here are a few more of the great articles that my fellow contributors & the Mexico Today PR team have shared lately that may be of interest to y’all!

Thanks for staying with me & you’ll hear more updates soon!

Back to Mexico City!!

This past year has been a struggle for me & John to readjust from the “every other weekend = a 3-day+ vacation to a beach, jungle, colonial town or archaeological site” schedule that we got accustomed to living in Mexico City. :) (Yes, I can almost feel your waves of sympathy washing over me.)   So after a long, challenging, nearly-vacation-free 2011, we made last minute plans to zip down to Mexico City today (Friday Jan 6th).  We debated going somewhere new & unknown to us, but for this particular trip, the comfortable & familiar won out. Consider it a greatest hits tour….just 15 months after the original tour.

Planning has been pretty light thus far… all we’ve really accomplished is starting a list of places we need to eat…. So far we have:

Point being– we are super excited to eat & wander through all the fun neighborhoods, mercados, etc. & track down some friends while we’re there.  More photos to follow of anything else new we discover while there. My current fascination is this— Bamboocycle, a company that makes bicycles out of bamboo. Love it!

Is it wrong to just want to replicate this photo again in person? Love ya, tacos al pastor (& even the sullen taquero).

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in DF

We found celebrating the Año Nuevo in Mexico City to be a bit different than our prior U.S.-based New Year’s Eve festivities.  In the U.S., pressure always feels high among the 20/30-something crowd to have THE MOST AMAZING NIGHT OUT of your life.  This usually involves spending 2x what you would normally spend on dinner at a restaurant whose food will be 1/2 as good as normal, and then spending the subsequent hours trying to purchase drinks from a bar packed with dozens of sweaty, overdressed strangers. :)

Most of the folks we knew in DF took the opposite approach: they spent New Year’s Eve at home with their families, where food & drink are plentiful, cheap, and readily-accessible!  But this begs the question, if NYE is not the crazed event that it is in the US, what is there to do in Mexico City for the non-chilango crowd?  Here are a few options to consider…

  • You can still go out for an overly-expensive, fancy New Year’s Eve dinner!

Lucky for you, there are still plenty of folks who will be out celebrating. As per Ruth’s post, Jaso & Piazza Navona will both be open on Dec 31.  Open Table may also serve as a useful starting point to determine which restaurants are serving dinner, as does this article on Chilango.com highlighting places that are doing fancy fixed-price options.

  • Learn & take part in traditional Mexican New Year’s traditions!

Cristina has a great summary of some favorite traditions within Mexico.  I found the “eating of the 12 grapes at midnight” the easiest to emulate. Make a wish for each grape you pop into your mouth!

You too can be the recipient of tired grapes from a bar in Mexico City @ midnight!

But I also quite enjoyed the lucky underwear– go to any Mexican mercado during the month of December, and you’ll find reams of red & yelow undies for sale.  Wearing red underwear increases your odds of finding the love of your life during the upcoming year, and yellow underwear is said to bring money.

We found this lucky-undie array at the mercado in Morelia, Michoacan shortly before New Year's Eve.

A quick non-NYE-related sidenote: I think when we saw our first red/yellow underwear display in Morelia back in 2008 (our first holiday season in Mexico), we didn’t understand the significance… But you know what we DID understand the significance of?  This hilarious display of other novelty underwear next-door to the NYE underwear:

These 20-peso novelty undies have provided an ROI of about 1000% in terms of amusement derived. We have given these as inappropriate gifts to more people (and laughed more at their expense) than we had ever hoped. Hindsight being 20/20, I would buy another 30 of these if I could.

  • Go to one of the trendy bars in Mexico City that you can’t get into on a normal weekend!

When we had trendy-club-goers visiting us from the US in Dec 2009, we were worried about telling them that “sitting at home together” was the preferred activity for NYE.  So, we decided to go out in Condesa to the strip of bars that is usually too much of a mob scene for us to bother going to on a normal Saturday night. :)

Pata Negra, here we come. (Address: Tamaulipas 30 at the corner of Juan Escutia)

We started out with a beverage at the King’s Pub, and then spent most of the evening at Pata Negra followed by Zydeco.  We were a little too early for much excitement @ King’s Pub, but I did score some sweet glasses there:

Yes! Feliz Año Nuevo indeed!

The best part about being at Pata Negra for the New Year’s Eve midnight countdown was: NYE is such a non-event that the 4 of us personally started the countdown in English based on the time shown on John’s watch. :)  But they did come through with glasses of grapes shown above! In general, the bars along Tamaulipas (normally quite busy) were pleasantly full but not heaving, which was perfect for us.

What are you folks doing for New Year’s Eve this year?? Will you be incorporating any Mexican traditions in your celebrations? :)

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

Our First Christmas Posada in Mexico City

One of the many Mexican Christmas traditions I’m missing while back in the US this year is the posada. The season of posadas began on Friday, December 16th– nine days before Christmas.  When we lived in Mexico City, this marked both a time of holiday joy & grinchy anger, because of the sharp uptick in traffic (even worse than normal!).  My friends told me the reason traffic got SOOOO bad was due to all the chilangos driving to posadas after work each night, as well as shopping for last-minute Christmas presents. :) Unfortunately my social calendar never had nine days of parties in a row, but I did get to experience at least one authentic posada thanks to my MBA classmates!

We arrived at Grace & Lalo’s house to discover a well-dressed dog, which I took as a sign that this would be a successful night:

Santa dog = key ingredient for any posada. :)

They had their own outdoor patio heater, which was both awesomely warm & perfect for lighting sparklers on:

It's all fun & games until someone loses an eye, David.

And most impressively, they were even prepared with posada instructional booklets!

All the official posada wording you could ask for

These were important, because a key part of the posada is reliving Mary & Joseph’s experience trying to find shelter in Bethlehem. You set up half the party attendees outside pretending to be a very pregnant Mary & tired Joseph, and the other half stays inside telling M&J to go away & not bother them. FINALLY Joseph explains how he has the mother of our savior with him & then the jerks inside are like “Oh! Our bad! We didn’t know! In that case, come on in!”

The text for the exchange between Joseph/Mary + the meanie lodging folks. It almost feels like that experience you had at the Motel 6 outside of Albany when you showed up at 2AM without a reservation.

Once Mary & Joseph are let inside the house, then the party gets started with some singing, a good old fashioned piñata, food and drink.  I was pleased to see that much like the Lutheran church, no celebration is complete without the opportunity to burn you & those around you with small candles while singing:

Ceci makes the rounds with candles surrounded by their protective, holiday-themed mini-muffin wax drip guards

Alonso pauses to marvel at the flame of light burning so close to his fingers.

The celebratory singing begins!

Finally, the time for the piñata arrived. I took endless pleasure in watching the careful, laborious piñata set up.  I will confess to the fact that my motto of life in Mexico (“What could go wrong?”) flashed through my mind more than once… 😉

Things began with the transfer of the metal ladder over the electric fence. It was never clear to me whether it was truly on or off, which just made the process all the more exciting. :)

The other side of the piñata was secured to this ladder across the street.

To get a full visual of the piñata setup as well as hear a preview of the piñata-smashing theme song, you can check out this incredibly-dark video shot right before the first piñata contender made their way up to the plate:

Luckily the street that the piñata was strung across was not very busy... :)

Finally, it was my turn!!

Grace carefully instructs me in the ways of piñata-beating, while I am blindfolded with an artsy blue scarf.

I think I may have knocked loose one of the piñata's wings, which I promptly claimed for myself as a victory hat.

After the piñata excitement died down, we headed back to Grace’s deck and continued eating & drinking. The fan-favorite drink at any posada is ponche. It’s kind of the Mexican version of hot apple cider here in the US, but better (added alcohol optional but recommended). Check out some excellent recipes courtesy Maura, Silvia, and Lesley.

Good ponche, good people, good times. :)

It looks like we may miss the boat on hosting a posada this year here in Arlington, VA, but hope springs eternal for next year. Though I really need to work on mastering the lyrics to the piñata song.

Is anyone out there holding their own posada this week??  Would anyone like to bring over some tamales & ponche and we can have a quick posada, just the two of us? :)  In the interim, here’s to all my GMBA classmates who made our first & only posada so much fun! Check out more posada blog posts below…

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

What’s happening this December in Mexico City?

December in Mexico City is jam-packed with opportunities for celebration, highlighted by the Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe on Dec 12, posadas, office parties, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, just to name a few.  I found during our time in DF that the Mexico City goverment (a.k.a. “GDF”– Gobierno del Distrito Federal) really gets into things around the holiday season. 2009 brought a new Guinness record for the World’s Largest Christmas Tree, followed quickly by the World’s Largest Rosca de Reyes.  What could possibly be on tap for December 2011, you may be wondering??

The record-breaking Christmas tree I saw in Mexico City in 2009 was definitely not a natural fir.

Well, the GDF just announced some of their plans for this year’s Christmas/New Year events.  I was curious how the general economic climate might affect things, but this hilarious sentence from the article in El Universal put my fears at ease: “Los festejos de Navidad y Año Nuevo en el último periodo de la administración de Marcelo Ebrard en la Ciudad de México serán más austeros y con menos atractivos espectaculares que las temporadas anteriores, excepto por el posible concierto de la estrella pop Britney Spears en el Ángel de la Independencia.”

Rough translation?  “The Christmas/New Year’s festivities in the last perod of the Ebrard administration in Mexico City will be more austere and have fewer spectacular attractions than previous seasons… except for the possible Britney Spears concert at the Angel of Independence.”  What??  While I’m not certain whether bringing in a washed-up-but-surely-still-high-dollar American pop star says to me “we are keeping a close eye on the budget,” I appreciate their enthusiasm nonetheless!  :)

You’ll obviously want to monitor for Britney confirmation (they are trying for concerts on Dec 1, 3 & 6, and we’ll know next week whether negotiations have been a success), but here’s what you should mark your calendars for in the interim.

Christmas Events in Mexico City 2011

  • Ice Skating in the Zocalo!  December 4th will be the first day that the 2400 square meter ice rink will be open in the Centro Historico.  Check out the photos of its construction.  The ice rink should be open through January 7, 2012.
  • 50-meter-tall Christmas Tree!  Alas, they won’t be trying for a new world record this time, but there will still be a sizeable tree to view in the Zocalo. You’ll be able to see it from the pedestrianized street, Francisco I. Madero.
  • December 4th Parade!  At 6PM, lit-up floats carrying athletes that competed in the Panamerican Games will depart from the Diana statue on Reforma & head towards the Zocalo.
  • **UPDATE–December 4th! Britney Spears free concert is confirmed!! It will be at 7PM @ the Monument to the Revolution.
  • Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12th!  Now this is not a GDF-sponsored event, but rather an annual pilgrimage to the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City made by tens of thousands of people.  To be honest, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going on the actual feast day due to the crazy crowds… but if you want to experience a massive cultural event that happens all over Mexico & see its source, this is the place to be. I posted some logistical instructions here for how to get to the Basilica– scroll down about halfway through that post.
  • More Glamorous December 18th Parade that includes a FAKE SNOWSTORM!  This parade will start at La Morena and go up Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas. I believe it will cut right and end at street 20 de Noviembre in the Zocalo, but the map is a little unclear… (see below)  But to reiterate: they are going to have machines launching fake snow into the air to fall on parade watchers. Love that.
  • Nativity Scenes Galore! Apparently Reforma will have 3 nativity scenes instead of the usual huts selling random gifts/food, but there will also be a LIFE SIZE nativity scene in the Estadio Azteca parking lot. It just makes sense, people!
  • More Stuff for Kids! The Zocalo will also be packed with various other activities/games/inflatable bounce houses/etc. to entertain your kiddos, so bring them on down.
  • Another Crazy-Big Rosca de Reyes!  While I am unclear if this is a world-record-breaking contender, there will nonetheless be another massive rosca de reyes (the king’s cake traditionally eaten on King’s Day) created on January 6th. Keep this in mind if you haven’t eaten enough during December.

Logistics

Here’s a blurry map to give you a feel for the parade routes:

Parade maps courtesy Milenio online: http://www.milenio.com/cdb/doc/impreso/9068350

More info:

If you read Spanish (and/or can send website through a translator), monitor these two newspaper pages online that are tracking updates on holiday events in Mexico City: El Universal and Milenio.  Also Ciudadanosenred.com.mx may have additional details– thanks to them for their helpful article summarizing these events!

Finally, you can check out the current progress of the Mexico City ice rink & general Zocalo preparations in the video below, courtesy of El Universal:

Have a great holiday season & take advantage of all that Mexico City has to offer during this festive time!!
**Updated 11/30 to reflect the dramatic free concert news of everyone’s favorite pop star. 😉
Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

Baja California Sur Roadtrip: Part 2- Los Cabos

In follow up to my prior post regarding our Baja California Sur roadtrip, we continued on from Todos Santos to Cabo San Lucas, the most well-known spot for tourists. I will admit to being a bit skeptical of visiting Cabo prior to our arrival… I feared the existence of too many all-inclusive resorts & too many frogs:

Señor Frog, as spotted from afar, surrounded by scantily clad young-uns.

I was also wary of cruise ships & young girls getting their hair done in those horribly-unattractive really tight braids along their scalps by roving beach braiders.

In my nightmare, this cruise ship would suddenly speed to shore, disgorge all of its buffet-laden passengers, and surround me while that guy in the white t-shirt turned his hair-braiding attention on my locks.

As it turned out, I actually really enjoyed our visit!  Friend Heidi will attest that she had to convince me that we should spend two nights there, but as I told her later, it was a great choice. What turned me around on Cabo San Lucas, you may wonder?

1) Finding a sweet lodging deal on www.vrbo.com

I got a little obsessed with the Vacation Rentals By Owner website during our time in Mexico, as there were so many amazing properties at really reasonable prices. We had 5 people in our group in Cabo San Lucas, which was the perfect number for investigating a VRBO alternative to 2 or 3 hotel rooms.

We found Casa de Mario (http://www.vrbo.com/272874) located in Medano Beach, which was my top neighborhood of choice in Cabo. This spot has 3 beds/3.5 baths, is 300 yards from the beach, has a fully-outfitted kitchen, and even has a pool in the backyard. It was the perfect spot for our group as we could abandon our car & walk to everything, come back in the afternoon to refresh with a glass of wine in the air-conditioned living room, and whip up our own breakfast in the morning.  Owner Tim was super helpful & responsive, and even had some great restaurant recommendations to boot.  (See additional pics on his VRBO page above.)

John lauding over the pool at our VRBO house in Cabo San Lucas

FYI if you stay @ Tim's place, this is what the entrance looks like of the place he had us go to check in & get the keys.

2) Co-opting a large hotel’s beach chairs & pool for the day

We determined in advance that the only thing we’d really be missing out on by not staying in a large hotel was the primo beach location.  So on the nice sunny day that we wanted to spend reading on the beach in luxury, we had our best-dressed group member approach the gentleman standing guard around the beach chairs of one of the nicer hotels on Medano Beach. She asked if it would be possible for us to rent five chairs for the day. They quickly arrived at some reasonable agreement (maybe a few hundred pesos or so + our commitment to buy some food/drinks) to allow us free reign of the beach chairs, pool, and restrooms for the day.  Win-win, I say!Also, since we were inside the “velvet ropes” of the hotel property, all the beach vendors were preemptively shooed away from pestering us– bonus.

This is the hotel we ID'd as our target property for beach-sitting.

Cooling off in their gorgeous pool while sipping a cold beer was quite rewarding.

3) Breakfast on the beach at The Office

A quick walk from our door, the food here was solid & the views were great! A little Americanized? Maybe, but they had chilaquiles which gets a thumbs up from me. Sit in a ways from the perimeter of the tables to minimize interaction aforementioned beach vendors. Website is http://theofficeonthebeach.com/.  [Insert requisite joke here about this being the best office I’ve been to, etc.]

4) Great photo opps with cute garbage cans

What's not to love about these guys?

5) Great photo opps with the iconic rock formations off the coast

The girls looking artsy, outside of me in my dumpy Old Navy flatteringly-horizontal-striped t-shirt.

While we were too cheap to take a boat tour to actually see El Arco, it does look pretty sweet & probably merits a trip. :) VRBO owner Tim recommended the following folks that will treat you fairly: “POCHOS, across from the Marina, runs five boats of different sizes (Carlos or Gustavo 877-347-4275).   REDRUM Sportfishing is currently running seven boats, located on the Marina at the Marina Cabo Plaza Hotel.  John Donovan is the contact 617-335-2124.”

6) You’re on a nice beach

The beach! Not overrun with spring breakers!

More beach! This time looking from the other direction!

 7) People-Watching Extraordinaire!

Good diversity of tourists equals good diversity in people watching. We enjoyed this special photo opp happening below with a young boy plus various small dogs staged along a multi-part beach chair.

Is this man a professional photographer? Hard to know what's happening here.

Which one is the statue in traditional dress?

From a food perspective, Cabo San Lucas certainly has no shortage of restaurants. We went to Nicksan for our one fancy dinner, but you have a plethora of options for higher-end dining. The bigger challenge is probably getting recommendations for good, traditional Mexican places to eat! Ask around where you’re staying (but try to clarify you’re interested in where they go to eat, not where the closest Ruth’s Chris is) & follow the crowds of locals.

After our two nights in Cabo San Lucas, we headed out for lunch in San Jose del Cabo & back up the coast to La Paz. More to follow in our next installment!

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

Are you a Mexico fan? Tell us about it & win $500!

Have you ever been sitting at your computer, paging through this blog, and thought to yourself, “You know, Julie is not the only one with stories to tell about Mexico…. I too have lots of witty/touching/inspiring/riveting things to share about this country! When will I be given the chance to share my stories about Mexico??”

My friends, this time is now!  The Mexico Today program that I’m a part of recently launched the Mexico Today Social Magazine on Facebook.  This is a pretty slick online publication that will profile stories & submissions from a variety of Mexico bloggers & influences, including me + my 23 Mexico Today Ambassador pals. The content will be community-driven from folks who are fans of Mexico, and the goal is for the Social Mag to have fresh, dynamic content for readers interested in Mexico’s culture, economy, environment, food, etc.  Right now we’re in “gather content” mode, and then in November, you’ll be able to see the second phase with the contributions all prettied-up into an online magazine.

So how does this impact you? We want your Mexico stories!  Tell us about that time you had the best cup of esquites from that street food stand in Puerto Vallarta. Tell us about your amazing destination wedding that you pulled off for 100 of your dearest family & friends on the white sand beaches of Tulum.  Tell us about your trip through Copper Canyon on the only passenger train left in Mexico & meeting the Tarahumara Indians profiled in that book,”Born to Run.”  Tell us about that time you had one too many shots of lighter-fluid-grade tequila at Señor Frogs…er, wait. On second thought, that is one Mexico story that we might pass on. 😉  But ALL THE REST of those stories– those we want.

And the best part? You might win $500 for sharing your Mexi-insights online! Each month, they’ll be drawing 10 winners, which makes me feel like you actually have a chance at some $$$.  (And those are dollars, not pesos people!)

If you had an experience like this in Mexico, don't you think it's only fair to share it with someone else?? :)

Here’s all you need to do:

  • Go to the Mexico Today facebook page at www.facebook.com/MexicoToday, and click on the link on the left that says Social Magazine.  Or get to the mag directly at this link.
  • Click on the green box that says “Submit your story or link for the launch!”
    • Don’t get freaked out by the ol’ Facebook “this app needs to access your info/settings” warning– we promise not to e-stalk you.
  • If you have a blog, great- you can just submit the link to what you’ve written.
  • No blog? No worries! Just scroll a bit farther down the submission form under the “Write Your Story” heading. Here, you can type in any anecdotes you’d like to share!
    • If you are a friend of mine, this will probably be either a) how visiting Julie & John is Mexico City was totally the best trip you’ve ever taken in your life, or b) how you have this friend who is constantly talking/writing about how great Mexico is so you’ve decided to plan a trip there just to get her to shut up.
    • If you aren’t a friend of mine, you should have more latitude in your topic selections. 😉
  • That’s it– thanks for sharing your Mexi-story with the world. Now just sit back, relax, and keep your fingers crossed that $500 gift card will soon be winging its way towards you!

If you’re curious to see what others have been submitting for the Mexico Today Social Magazine, check out this great summary from fellow ambassador Laura.  Also, you can review the legalese on the Facebook page, but you have to be a legal US/Canadian (but not Quebec) resident in order to win, and not living in my house….sorry, John.

Looking forward to see what gems y’all have to share, so keep me posted if this inspires you to send anything in!  If you win, I will be happy to serve as a consultant on what Mexican-themed food & goods to spend that money on– free of charge, in exchange for just one tamale. :)

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

A race to the finish: our final days in Mexico City!

One year ago last weekend, John & I were on our way to the Mexico City airport for the flight that would end our 2+ year experience as chilangos. All our worldly possessions were packed, all our kitschy souvenirs had been purchased, all the tacos al pastor that one person should ingest in a one-month period had been ingested, and most of the tears had already been shed. (Luckily our flight was so early that our driver wasn’t able to see me crying in the dark during our pre-dawn trip to the airport.)

Having lived in several cities now, I’ve experienced a lot of these permanent departures which usually involve a period of “holy crap, we have to do all our favorite things one last time before we leave!!!” combined with “I can’t believe we haven’t been to place x; we have to go before leave!!!” I thought it might be amusing to reflect on what made the Final Hurrah list for us in Mexico City.

  1. Eating. At a lot of places. Repeatedly.

This should come as a surprise to no one, as obviously I wasn’t able to maintain my corn-fed, Midwestern figure by NOT gorging myself on the amazing food in Mexico City. But which were the top priorities??

Tacos Don Guero: corner of Rio Lerma & Rio Guadalquivir in Colonia Cuauhtemóc

John was such a regular here that it merited a photo on his last day of work. Great source of al pastor & bistec (beef), or ask for “a la gringa” to get it on a larger flour tortilla with tasty Oaxacan cheese.

John informed me that the "good" taquero is working in the background.... along with a whole lotta pastor!

Dulce Patria: Anatole France 100 in Polanco, in the Las Alcobas hotel

If we were still in DF, this place would have definitely become our go-to when visitors are in town for fancy, “modern” Mexican food. Much has already been written about Dulce Patria + Chef Martha Ortiz but let me second—the food is amazing, presentation is gorgeous, service is impeccable, and while prices are not cheap, I think they are very fair for the neighborhood + the quality of the food. Don’t skip the trendy drinks either.

I had a fantastic salmon dish...

...as well as a savory huazontle tart

P.S. -Learn more about huazontle from Lesley here!

Restaurante Lampuga: Ometusco 1 at the corner of Nuevo Leon in Condesa

Friends Scott & Aryani tipped us off to this great seafood spot . While many may argue for Contramar as the seafood go-to in Condesa (which I agree is amazing), Lampuga is open in the evening & has a nice bistro atmosphere with great food + reasonably priced wine. Great option for a seafood-centric dinner where you want to sample a variety of dishes among friends.

The Coyoacán Trifecta: start at Tostadas Coyoacán in Mercado de Coyoacán on Ignacio Allende, between Malintzin and Xicoténcatl

It would be hard to count how many times we did this circuit with friends/family on a Saturday afternoon.  First, find the brightly-colored yellow Tostadas Coyoacán stand inside Mercado de Coyoacán. Order an assortment of AMAZING tostadas—be sure not to miss the jaiba (crab), camarón (shrimp), and ceviche, and don’t be shy about trying the salsas on the counter. Get an agua de sandia (watermelon), jamaica (hibiscus flower) or maracuyá (passion fruit) to drink.

I could eat the tostada de camarón all day, especially with a glass of agua de maracuya

Next, leave the mercado & get to the intersection of Ignacio Allende and Malintzin. Walk south down Allende (in the opposite direction of vehicle traffic) until you see Café el Jarocho, where you’ll order a café de olla—basically dessert coffee with cinnamon & piloncillo (brown sugar). Continue a few more steps & pop into the Churreria on the same side of the street. Order either a bag of churros or an individual churro filled with dulce de leche. Dip these in your café de olla.

Everyone loves a churro

Then, go sit on the edge of the coyote fountain & reflect on how much food you just ingested.

My dad Larry and I, preparing for a rest post-churro.

Astrid y Gaston: Alfredo Tennyson 117 @ Masaryk in Polanco

I don’t think I’d tried many Peruvian ceviches before living in DF, where there are several high-end Peruvian restaurants: Astrid y Gaston, La Mar, and Restaurante Mankora. FYI—they are amazing. I’d always lumped most Pervuian food in the “variations on a theme of meat and potatoes” (which you’d think coming from the Midwest, I would have been more excited about). But Astrid y Gaston does an amazing job sexing up the traditional dishes as well as whipping out several flavorful, spicy ceviches. The service can be annoyingly hit-or-miss, but the food was solid. Don’t forget the popular Peruvian cocktail—the pisco sour. Thanks to my many Peruvian MBA classmates for introducing me to this fan-favorite. Though note to self: they go down easy but cost probably ~$150 pesos each at this joint, so budget accordingly!

I liked the "sampler" appetizer that let you test out several traditional Peruvian dishes.... I believe this was the "piqueo limeño para dos."

2. Finally taking a photo of someone sleeping in their car

This is one of those things where once you notice it happening, you suddenly see it EVERYWHERE. It made sense, as what else were the many drivers in DF to do while waiting on their passengers to emerge from their appointments/lunches/etc.?  But the sheer number of car sleepers we saw made it oddly fascinating to me. Finally I got the nerve to snap a pic, albeit from a healthy distance.

De riguer for the streets of Mexico City

3.       Stock up on guayaberas & lucha libre items

Check out our guayabera source here, and a smattering of possible lucha libre souvenirs here. The week before we left, I purchased yet another lucha libre purse, as well the lucha heads that are now gracing our bathroom….

4.       A few carefully selected museums

While I am generally not a huge museum fan (see #1 for where I am probably spending my time instead), Mexico City does have some amazing options. I made a special effort to get to-

Museo Dolores Olmedo: Avenida México 5843, La Noria, Xochimilco– you can drive or take the Xochimilco light rail (el Tren Ligero) to the Estación La Noria, after first taking the blue metro line #2 to Tasqueña. The metro & the light rail each cost 3 pesos.

Not only does this museum have a great collection of pieces from Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and beyond, but the property/gardens are gorgeous. Check out these two amusingly-divergent obituaries of Dolores Olmedo herself, one from her museum website & one from the Times.

A view of the gardens + main building at the Museo Dolores Olmedo

Some may be drawn to the screeching peacocks that roam the grounds, but the highlight for me was the collection of xoloitzcuintlis (or “Xolos” among their friends). These hairless dogs are rather fascinating, and the best part is that they all hang out sunning themselves next to a statue of a xoloitzcuintli. This results in hours of entertainment while you try to distinguish actual hairless dogs from statues of hairless dogs.

Dog vs. dog statues: you be the judge.

Casa Luis Barragan: General Francisco Ramírez 12-14, Colonia Ampliación Daniel Garza. Easy taxi ride from Polanco/Condesa/downtown, or take the subway to the Constituyentes stop. Tours cost $150 pesos.

This architect’s home is totally off the radar for most DF visitors, but I highly recommend a visit, particularly if you’re an engineer-y/architect-y type. There’s a little more prep involved, as you have to call (+52) 55.5515.4908 or email casaluisbarragan@gmail.com to make an appointment for a tour (available in both English & Spanish). When friend Brandi & I went, we had a great tour guide who offered lots of color commentary—but I may have been biased because he was so excited to have me on the tour. Apparently I am the same height that Luis Barragan was (6’2), so the guide regularly paused for my input of what various perspectives were like since I would be experiencing it the way Barragan did. :)

So why is this place cool?  Barragan won the Pritzker prize in 1980 (which is *the* award to win for architects, so he must be good, and he also designed the Torri Satélite that you may have seen driving north out of DF). There are several tall-guy tricks, like floating walls that were high enough for only him to peer over to spy on people & furniture designed to accommodate his tall frame.. There’s a staircase consisting of wooden planks sticking out from the wall, and fascinating mixtures of paint/shadows that offer really different perspectives depending on where you’re standing. The bedroom where his female guests slept was the only room in the house to have no religious iconography in it, which I found amusing. This description is obviously not doing it justice, but just trust me that it’s worth a trip. :)

Unfortunately I was not able to take any interior photos, as I was told there exists some tricky arrangement where his heirs sold the rights to a foundation in Europe & they own all images of his work… However, I did find a couple blogs with a few pics. All I can share with you is the rather uninspiring street view to assure you that this nearly-unmarked door is indeed the entrance to Casa Luis Barragan.

If you're looking for the Luis Barragan house, you've come to the right barely-marked place. :)

Basilica de Guadalupe: Plaza de las América #1, Colonia Villa de Guadalupe. Take either metro line #3 up to Deportivo 18 de Marzo (if you’re going from the Centro Historico) or line #7 up to El Rosario (if you’re going from Polanco), and transfer to line #6 in the direction of Martín Carrera.  Get off at the La Villa Basilica station, and walk north 2 blocks.

While this is more than a museum, I’m bucketing it here due to its historical value. This is a must-do for anyone intrigued by the history of the Catholic faith in Mexico. You can visit both the old & new churches, see the cloak that Juan Diego brought back after the Virgen appeared to him (while you’re on a moving sidewalk), light a candle, be sprinkled with holy water, get your photo taken while riding a fake horse, etc. etc.  This merits a full blog post to really describe the experience, but I’ll whet your appetite with a few highlights.

Moving sidewalks to control the crowds viewing Juan Diego's cloak w/the image of la Virgen

The unique roofline of the new basilica (since the old one on the left is sinking, like many other historic buildings in DF)

Doesn't this just scream "Christmas card photo"??

5.       One more visit to Mercado Jamaica

My “top market in Mexico City” rating for Mercado Jamaica was recently seconded by an unbiased third party. :)  Besides flowers, they always have a great assortment of accoutrements for whatever holiday is coming up on the horizon; I made one last trip to pick up some papel picados around Mexican Independence Day for my future decorating needs.  And don’t forget to visit for all your flower animal purchases!

This flower frog is not only precious, but he also had a button you could press to make him ribbit. Hilarious, people!

6.       See the Ballet Folklorico: performing at the Palacio de Bellas Artes; tickets can be purchased on Ticketmaster

I had unwisely assumed the word “ballet” in the title equated to “boring,” but after enough friends tried to convince me otherwise, I finally brought my dad to this when he visited a couple months before we left. It was awesome. Great music, amazing dancing, a guy dancing like a deer while wearing a deer head, what’s not to love? Put the Ballet Folklorico on your list, people!

7.       Get your picture taken with the Ángel: intersection of Reforma + Eje 2 (a.k.a. Rio Tiber or Florencia)

When a city has one icon widely associated with it, I feel moving away without a photo of you + that thing is ill-advised. In Mexico City, this icon is the Ángel de la Independencia, located on the main east-west drag through town. I recommend doing this on Sundays when Reforma is blocked off to vehicle traffic. This will significantly reduce your odds of getting run over while posing with the Ángel.

This is about as iconic as we're going to get folks, outside of me draped over a green VW bug.

8.       Attend a bullfight: Plaza México in Ciudad de los Deportes, tickets available on Ticketmaster once the season kicks off in November 2011. Take metro line #7 to San Antonio station, or take the Metrobús to the Ciudad de los Deportes station.

Attending a bullfight wasn’t on my “favorite things to repeat” list, but I did feel like I had to experience it + Plaza México once before leaving Mexico. The spectacle is fascinating, albeit a bit depressing. The phrase “not very sporting” kept running through my mind as we watched the bull be weakened by successive rounds of picadors + banderilleros before the matador even came onto the scene…  But it was interesting, many tasty snacks were served, and I’m glad I went. FYI for the sensitive among us if you decide to brave it—there are 5 or 6 rounds (each with its own bull), so go towards the end to ensure you’re watching the good matadors who make the process as quick & painless as possible.

Early on in one of the bull fights at Plaza México

Now I know this isn’t a comprehensive Mexico City to-do list …. You may be asking, “But where is the Anthropology Museum? Xochimilco? A street food tour? Attending a lucha match??  The Centro Historico??”  Do not fear– this is just a combination of our favorites + places we didn’t prioritize when moving there but later realized we had to do pre-departure.  :) Former and/or current Mexico City residents—what else have I missed?? Anything unusual spots or activities that were/are on your DF bucket list (or lista de cubeta, rather) before you leave this amazing city??

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

Baja California Sur Roadtrip: Part 1-Todos Santos

When we assessed our options for a longer vacation in Mexico over Semana Santa last year, we asked ourselves the question that most tourists as themselves: what would Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo DiCaprio, & Cindy Crawford do for their vacations?   Well, as it turns out, what they would do is prance around in their swimsuits at an expensive resort in Cabo.  We decided to slightly modify that option by expanding it to all of Baja California Sur, spending less money, and minimizing the amount of time I would spend being photographed by paparazzi while scantily-clad (a constant battle, I assure you).  :)

I’d heard lots of rave reviews of Baja California Sur (even from non-celebrities!), so we plotted a Wednesday-through-Tuesday road trip to take in all the highlights over the long Easter weekend last year.  The plan was fly into La Paz, rent a car & head straight to Todos Santos (one of Mexico’s heralded Pueblos Mágicos).  We’d spend a night there, then two nights in Cabo San Lucas, then make a leisurely drive back to La Paz for three nights with a stop for lunch in San Jose del Cabo.

We had a bit of a rough start when we got bumped off our Wednesday afternoon flight from DF to La Paz for reasons yet-unknown.  But we didn’t want to admit defeat & return to our apartments, so we took Aeroméxico up on their offer to put us up in an airport hotel for the night.

Here we are, awaiting the arrival of the free shuttle to the Hotel Riazor in Mexico City... I think most of us look cheerier than how we were actually feeling at this stage.

As a side note here, for anyone in need of a hotel close to the Mexico City airport, the Hotel Riazor was actually decent/clean/convenient. For anyone in need of being in Baja California Sur, it was none of those things. :)

We made it out the next morning & arrived safely in La Paz, with great coastal views as we passed from the mainland to the peninsula.

A view of La Paz from the air

I will save the details of renting a car in Mexico for another day & time (note to self: investigate insurance options well in advance because the “but my US credit card covers rental cars!” argument doesn’t carry much water here), but we soon got on the road!  It’s about 55 miles from La Paz to Todos Santos.

Luckily driving around Baja California offers much clearer signage than Mexico City!

I wish I could offer a review of lodging in Todos Santos, but alas, our one night was foiled by our flight delay. However, I can tell you that I research hotels obsessively and had settled on Casa Bentley as the boutique hotel worthy of our love, so please check it out & report back!  The interesting thing about Todos Santos is that it doesn’t sit directly on the beach– but it’s only about a 5-minute drive or ~25 minute walk to get down to the beaches. Casa Bentley has a great map here to give you a better idea.

Clean & cute town square within Todos Santos

We spent some time wandering around the shops of tiny Todos Santos– definitely a cute little town, with kind of a up-and-coming San Miguel de Allende feel. (For those who’ve not visited San Miguel, this means lots of gringo-friendly stores & restaurants owned by a mix of Americans & Mexicans, lots of American artists peddling their wares, it’s easy to get by in English, and there’s a tendency towards gringo prices.)   It was a prime example of what John & I had realized several times during travel to more popular tourist destinations in Mexico– if we hadn’t been living in Mexico City for a year+, we would have considered the prices quite reasonable. But after living in “normal” Mexico, you become irrationally outraged at higher prices in tourist spots. :)

After eliminating a couple of the pricier restaurants I’d sussed out online, we decided to have lunch at the Hotel California at its La Coronela Restaurant & Bar.  (I think this menu is a couple years old, but it gives you an idea of the food.)  It was tasty & had fun decor + a nice palapa area to sit under outside in their courtyard.

I do love me some bull-themed decor...

...supplemented with fresh cala lilies!

Note requisite fountain + palapa in the distance! We arrived too late to snag an outdoor table-- popular spot.

After a final round of verifying that we didn’t need to make any large purchases, we took a few photos next to some noteworthy cacti and headed back to the car.

Here's the rest of the crew posing on the sidewalks of Todos Santos

My ~2 hours in Todos Santos did not allow me to suss out all that it had to offer, so I encourage you to review some other  assessments here, here, and here.  After our brief stop, we headed back out to our next destination– the famed Cabo San Lucas!  More to come on the sweet VRBO house we stayed in blocks from the beach in Cabo, followed by the best swimming I’ve ever had outside of La Paz!!

While you await my next post, keep yourself entertained wondering about this photo I snapped on the road from Todos Santos to Cabo:

"Hieleria" translates to "store that makes/sells ice". Note the sign in the middle-- No hay hielo!! There is no ice! Looks like there hasn't been ice at this spot for a while, folks...but the signage confirming that is appreciated.

And let this last photo lead you down the highway to Cabo San Lucas.... Will we see a celebrity??!? Watch and find out!

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.

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