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Mexico City - Febrero 2024

Updated: Jul 6

I must admit, this travel adventure got off to an apprehensive start, as when I informed subscribers of my destination, one mentioned "Mexico City is dangerous." And he was a Navy SEAL! Though much like my recent trip to Santiago, safety is relative, as the day prior to my departure, 23 people were shot at the Chiefs' Super Bowl victory parade soon after I attended it¹.


There are two basic options to get from Mexico City International Airport (MEX) to my hotel in the Centro Histórico neighborhood: Uber or taxi. I had planned to use Uber as it almost universally offers cheaper and more accountable transportation, but when I entered my hotel in the app, it returned an amount slightly greater than a taxi. So I decided to go with a taxi ($476 MHX ~ $28 USD), via a booth in the Arrivals terminal, where I gave some woman my credit card and she gave me a receipt which was then given to a taxi driver.


After getting in the taxi I rechecked Uber for archival purposes, and found it was now ~180 MXN, which confirmed a basic airport rubric: taxi ~ screwjob. Even though the taxi was at speed, I seriously thought about bailing, but then thought "What about my luggage . . . and my wife?"


What made it worse was that half way there our driver, who spoke no English, pulled over and asked for the hotel's name and address again. This time he thankfully entered it in GPS . . . . as did I. As the GPS audio directions were in English, I continued to have some concerns.

When I travel and talk with tourists, eventually the discussion will turn to food and the snootier of the bunch will mention that they ate at the best restaurant . . . and before I can say a word, they quickly and gleefully inform me that "you needed to make a reservation months ago." I unnaturally remain quiet and think 'eff you, you effing know it all . . . I don't care if they serve "Liver and Haggis smothered in Fermented Yak Milk," I'm going there, if only just to spite you!'


And then I do. Generally arriving on the early side, many times sitting at the bar, with Señora AAR handling the finer points of negotiations (the iron fist in the velvet glove), which more often the not has me dining "at the best restaurant" without ever having made a reservation at all.


I must admit this all has Seinfeldian quality, as . . . "there is not one house to rent in all of Tuscany?"


In Mexico City, the name of this restaurant is Contramar and per the above game plan, the next thing you know the Missus and I were eating camarones al gusto and the house specialty of red and green fish (specifically mentioned by Mr. Snoot). In the end though the most expensive meal in Mexico City was the most underwhelming: noisy, with our server disappearing midway through service and a couple of the Missus' camarones being real clinkers.


A far better meal was had nearby out hotel at Tezontle Restaurante. I had the caldo de piedra, which sounds much more appetizing than "stone soup." And it was: A rich broth with fish and shrimp that is heated by the introduction of two scaldingly hot stones that produce a fair amount of hissing, bubbling, and steam. It's all quite a show and of sufficient danger that it occurs a few feet from the table. The service was little confusing and slow, as I ended up eating our appetizer waiting for my soup, while the Missus ate her entree. Which then led to her watching me eat my soup. Also her Negroni was made with crushed ice, which is just sinful and an issue I'm unfortunately encountering with more and more frequency. All of which made the best meal in CDMX . . .


The feast encountered at Taqueria Arandas: a sumptuous bowl of pazole, which is a traditional Mexican stew made from hominy with chicken and pork, garnished with shredded lettuce, chili peppers, onion, garlic, radishes, avocado, salsa, tortillas and limes. All washed down by a Pepsi, and all for $120 MXN (~$7 USD).

The Best Meal in Mexico City

I previously blogged about the Crystal Bridges Museum where Sam Walton’s daughter spent hundreds of millions of dollars to create a museum from scratch. Well this idea (like her fortune) was not her own, as previously Carlos Slim, the one time richest man in the world, built the Museo Soumaya² in Mexico City.


On the outside it looks like a 151 foot high aerodynamic anvil covered in 16,000 aluminum hexagonal tiles. Inside it looks like the Guggenheim, as ramps connect each of the six floors. Each of which is completely filled with art, with not a square foot of wasted space. It appears that Señor Slim shopped at Museum Depot, with him ordering the contents like he was buying a little league team lunch at McDonalds, "I'll take twenty of those Rodins, those five Van Goghs, make that three El Grecos, ten Renoirs, that case with twenty-five antique pocket watches, a gross of old coins and twenty or so nymphs and cherubs, and, hey, if I get those six Pietàs, will you throw in an official David reproduction for free?" It's the only museum I've ever been in that had two Thinkers!


And just when you think you're getting to the end, you arrive at the 6th floor which contains a sunlit circular space the size of a basketball court packed with hundreds of priceless statues, with more than a few duplicate castings of the same sculpture! Like they were having a buy one get one free on The Burghers of Calais.

The Museo Soumaya

Oh, yeah . . . and admission is free.


It was the perfect antidote to the Museo Rufino Tamayo, which I should have been wary of as even though its modern collection includes a Picasso, a Calder, a Dalí, a de Kooning, a Lichtenstein, and a Rothko, according to Wikipedia it is a contemporary art museum. While many people including myself conflate modern art with contemporary art, they are very different. You see modern art includes work from 1860s to the 1970s, and is associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation, as exemplified by the above listed artists.


Contemporary art is the art of today and is associated with complete horseshit. And unfortunately this museum displays only the later, as 100% of its modern collection is currently in storage. And I'm not being hyperbolic: One of the "exhibits" that filled a large gallery consisted of four large monitors showing four different videos of a man being spit upon by his mother. Of which I was actually quite thankful, as I subsequently read a review from last year that mentioned, "Photos of someone vomiting, someone peeing and shoes in a small refrigerator."


The museum's founder and namesake, Rufino Tamayo, was a painter of some renown in the modern art movement, must be rolling in his grave.


Fellow tourists raved about Museo Nacional de Antropología so it was visited to tie up any remaining loose ends regarding our understanding of Aztec (Mexico City) and Zapotec (Oaxaca) culture. For $500 MXN ($58) we hired Lucio, who was hanging out in front of the place. We figured he must be a licensed guide as hanging around his neck was a plastic case with a piece of yellow paper with Spanish text on it . He gave an hour long crash course on the "Best of Mesoamerica." As only the overview placards are translated into English, having a guide has it uses, the problem was as the tour went on I could understand less and less of what he was saying.


With so many urns, headpieces, masks and indigenous groups, I started to feel inadequate to the task of acquiring all this pre-Colombian knowledge, like I was a speck of nothingness shoveling Mesoamerican wisdom against the Pacific tide.


The one thing I took from the place was how the Aztecs came to live in what is now called Mexico City from 1325 to 1521. They had left their home somewhere to the north and were sent to wander, looking for the promised land which would be at a location where an eagle was perched on a cactus eating a snake³. A wandering people looking for a promised land, who when they find it kill or subjugate those who were currently living there? It all sounded very familiar.


We left the museum, heads swelled with strange calendars, jaguars, human sacrifice, and crazy sounding words like Huitzilopochtli, avocado and Mr. Mxyzptlk. So I thought it might be wise (and economical) to take the public bus back to our hotel to allow time for it all to sink in.


There was a time when travelers like myself could serendipitously get on a public bus anywhere in the world, drop some change in some sort of gizmo and ride throughout a city on the chariot of the people. This time is no more. Now riding the bus requires a card, a card which much be purchased from a machine that is rarely located where to bus stops. In Mexico City, this card is incongruously purchased where . . . the subway stops.


So I returned to my hotel, on the chariot of the rich . . . Uber.


Frida Kahlo is the most famous Mexican female artist that you've ever heard of. If you're like me, you may be familiar with her name, or her face or her art, but only vaguely familiar with the whole package.

Frida Kahlo and Family

She had a unique artistic style, was married to Mexico's most famous artist Diego Rivera, and lived, worked and died in her childhood home which has subsequently been turned into the Frida Kahlo Museum, which is half shrine/half museum. If you're a fan of Señorita Kahlo then a 30 minute Uber ride from Centro is probably worth it. If you're not, then it will be nice to get outside of Mexico City and see what the suburbs looks like . . . which look amazingly similar to the suburbs in the U.S. Before our 2:30 tour, we stopped by the adjacent Cochinita Country Coyoacán for a delicious tortilla soup and dry mini tacos. Tours need to be booked in advance.


In the end I never felt endangered during my stay, but then again maybe Submariners are made of sterner stuff.


Note: I may have picked up a pequeño case of Montezuma's revenge in Oaxaca, which may have affected this Report.


Lodgings

The City Centro by Marriott Ciudad De México got an 8.8 on Expedia, but if this place was scored by "internet rating divided by my rating" it would get a significantly higher score. It was just strange. I won't bore you with all the details except to mention that while the room was voluminous with 20 foot high ceilings, all the surfaces were made of stone with no effort to dampen sound. It was like sleeping in a racquet ball court made of concrete, with a bathroom in the corner also made of stone . . . without a ceiling.


One plus though, was the the rooftop terrace, which was nice place to spend Rojas Gin & Tonic O'clock, whilst overlooking the most famous skyscraper in Mexico.

The Rojas G&T and the Torre Latinoamericana

Endnotes: I wanted to provide some very specific details that while vaguely interesting did not contribute to the overall narrative. Perhaps just wait until the end to read.


¹ One benefit of living in Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, the Carolinas, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Tennessee . . . is never having to worry about getting shot at a Super Bowl victory parade.

² The Museo Soumaya was named after Slim's wife. I'm thinkin' he got lucky that night.

³ An eagle perched on a cactus eating a snake is depicted on the coat of arms of Mexico.




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