Monday, November 3, 2014

TIME OUT MEXICO

     

Trying to find accurate information about what's going on in this city can be a frustrating experience. Have you ever noticed how many posters for an event leave off the date, place or time?  The magazines Tiempo Libre (weekly) and Chilango (monthly) make a stab at keeping us up-to-date, but I find the free magazine Time Out Mexico even better, so why spend your money? 

Paper copies can be found in trendy shops and restaurants around town.  Even if you don't read Spanish, the magazine is pretty easy to follow, as it includes lots of color photos and a 1 to 5 star-rated system for grading restaurants, etc. If you can't find a paper copy, you can see the whole thing on-line.  The website is well designed for searching by area or topic, and you can even click on the current issue and 'flip' the pages.  

 So add this one to your list of favorites:

                                      http://www.timeoutmexico.mx

…and, for MX$260 per year, you can have TimeOut Mexico delivered to your home/office every month. See "suscripciones" on the website. It's a great deal! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

VEGAN TACOS

Although I am neither a vegan nor a vegetarian, I'm always on the lookout for non-meat options at street food stalls. Some tacos de guidados stands offer rajas con crema, calabacitas, or chiles rellenos, but in  general, it's the carnivores who reign in Mexico City. So I was intrigued when I noticed a little white stand at a corner near my house with the sign 'Vegana Taqueria'.  I've been several times now,  and have noticed the crowds growing each time.  Oddy, all their tacos are named after meat (chorizo de soya, trigo al pastor, etc.), and with all the toppings provided, you might have a hard time telling the difference. I did notice they use quite a bit of oil in the preparation, so I'm not sure how healthy these guys are, but they sure taste good.  




Vegana Taqueria is located on Calle Manzanillo near the corner of Chipas in Colonia Roma (one block from the Sears store, half a block from Insurgentes). Here's a link on google maps: 


Open 6:30PM until midnight daily



More Vegan discoveries:


Next door to the taco stand:  https://www.facebook.com/veganiRB

*****************************************************
Forever Vegano, at the corner of Merida & Guanajuato, in Colonia Roma, Web- facebook.com/forevervegano
Teléfono- 55 6726 0975

*****************************************************
Article from the LA Times:
http://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-d-mexico-city-vegan-20160320-story.html
*****************************************************
Another article:  http://www.elle.mx/estilo-de-vida/2015/08/28/cinco-restaurantes-veganos-deliciosos/


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MEXICO CITY'S FLEA MARKETS


Urban treasure hunters looking to furnish an apartment, find a rare piece of Spratling silver, old Mexican ceramics, toys--just about anything (even Nazi memorabilia)--will be happy spending a few hours at one of the city's flea markets. Here's a list below--an excerpt from the upcoming new edition of my book--of the places where I've had the best luck. 


 MEXICO CITY'S  FLEA MARKETS 

Lagunilla Flea Market is on Reforma near Jaime Nuno (just north of Metro stop Garibaldi). This is the best flea market in the city. Only on Sundays. 

Cuauhtémoc Flea Market takes place in the small park (Parque Dr. Ignacio Chávez) on Av. Cuauhtémoc, between Dr. Liceaga and Dr. Juan Navarro, just across from Jardín Pushkin in Colonia Roma—Saturdays and Sundays.

Portales Market, Rumania between Libertad and Santa Cruz, near metro Portales, is a scrappy affair, but treasures can be found. There’s a big used furniture store nearby at Montes de Oca 391. Open daily, but best on weekends.

Plaza del Ángel (Londres 161 and Hamburgo 150, Zona Rosa). Saturday and Sunday flea market, more upscale than the others in town.

Alantigua, Guanajuato 133 (near Jalapa in Colonia Roma) is a junk/furniture shop, open M-W-F only.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

GETTING AROUND MEXICO CITY SAFELY: UBER IS HERE



I only heard the word for the first time a few weeks ago, when a friend said he'd invested in an UBER car. I didn't pay a whole lot of attention.

Then last week, my friend Jane who was visiting from L.A. sent an email, saying, "I'll see you at your place--I'll come by taxi or UBER."

She explained a bit when she arrived, but it really hit me when it was time for her to go back to her hotel and it started raining gatos y perros.

"You'll never get a cab now," I told her.

"Never fear. I've got UBER," she said as she pulled out her IPhone. Within a matter of seconds she had a taxi on the way, with the driver's name, license plate, phone number, and make of car, and was tracking his route from Polanco, with minute by minute updates as to how long it would take him to arrive at my house, and what route he was taking. A minute before he was to arrive, we headed downstairs, and there was Alfonso pulling up in a gleaming white BMW.

"And when you arrive, you just walk away--no cash changes hands, no tipping allowed," she explained. "You know the amount when you arrange for the car and they charge your credit card.
And if you leave something in the car, they know how to reach you."

Of course Nick, who is fascinated by all things gadget-related, immediately signed up. He was off to Lima the next day, where he UBERed several times. Upon returning to Mexico City, the lines for a taxi were longer than any he'd ever seen at the airport--at least a half hour wait. But with UBER he was in a taxi within 5 minutes heading home---and it cost about 50 pesos LESS than the Taxis Autorizados.

I hear the future calling.

You do need an IPhone to make use of this service, and sign up on their website:

                  https://www.uber.com  

Monday, August 18, 2014

SEEN IN COLONIA ROMA



This photo was taken by my friend Joan, who is visiting from London. It's a close-up of a sculpture made of zippers. It's part of a large outdoor art show currently on display in the camellón (pedestrian walkway) along Álvaro Obregón in Colonia Roma.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

POLANCO



Polanco, which extends along the north side of Chapultepec Park, is home to some of the wealthiest people in Mexico. It has some of the best hotels, restaurants and shops in the city and is the location of choice for many foreign embassies, international corporations, and a large portion of the city’s Jewish community

Near to many of the top museums, the air of sophisticated culture extends even to its streets, named after philosophers, writers and scientists. Avenida Presidente Masaryk (named after a former Czech leader), is often compared to New York’s Fifth Avenue or Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive, with its line up of status conscious stores like Tiffany’s, Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

Development of the area began back in the 1930’s, but the big building boom happened in the 1950’s, and it still continues. Designed as a purely residential area at first, homes in Polanco were marketed to those wishing to emulate an American lifestyle—freestanding houses had front and back yards, a novelty back then. Examples of the original architecture, a florid style with ornately sculpted doorways and windows known as Colonial Californiano, are scattered throughout the neighborhood, although many have been turned into stores and offices.

Polanco suffers a bit from a reputation as a snooty place—there’s even a popular restaurant named ‘Snob’. A few years back, the ‘Ladies of Polanco’ became famous after a video on youtube went viral showing two wealthy residents berating a dark-skinned transit policeman for daring to give them a ticket. It was the talk of the town for several weeks. But there’s no denying that Polanco is a defining element of Mexico City, and well worth a visit to see how ‘the other half’ (or at least the top 2%) lives.  

WALKING TOUR #13: Polanco

Two metro stops (Polanco and Auditorio) serve Polanco on the #7 line, but neither is very convenient for a walking tour. Arriving by taxi, ask your driver to take you via Campos Eliseos, a lovely tree-lined street that gives you a quick overview of the luxurious life-styles enjoyed by many here. Ask the driver to leave you at the corner of Julio Verne and Parque Lincoln, just next to a taxi sitio you can use later on this tour.

Polanquito, the area around Parque Lincoln, is the closest thing to a town center, and the best place to walk around and get a feel for the neighborhood. In the park you’ll find an art gallery, an aviary, and a small pool where kids play with toy sailboats. The nearby streets, Virgilio, Julio Verne, Oscar Wilde and Alexandre Dumas are lined with stores and restaurants, and lots of well-heeled customers. At Masaryk 360, walk into the Pasaje Masaryk, a former apartment complex turned into a shopping mall, which feels like a bit of old Palm Beach in Mexico City (‘Snob’ is here). It was designed in 1939 by Francisco Serrano, the architect of many of the best Art Deco buildings in Colonia Condesa.

Emilio Castelar runs along the north side of Parque Lincoln. There are some great examples of extravagant Colonial Californiano architecture here. It’s worth poking inside to get a glimpse of the splendor of these former residences, even though they've been remodelled as stores and reataurants--the glamour of yesteryear is still evident amidst the layers of comtemporary posh. As you walk west on Emilio Castelar (toward Edgar Allan Poe) you'll find these old houses at #135, #149 and #163.

Other than Polanquito, the other area well worth visiting is the ultra-modern development of stores, offices and museums in the northwest corner of Polanco. Here you'll see a futurist verison of Mexico that stands in extreme contrast to its image of old-style colonial charm.

It's a long hike from Polanquito, so take a taxi from the sitio in the middle of Parque Lincoln (on Julio Verne, in front of the statue of Martin Luther King). Go to the main entrance of the Centro Commercial Antara (Ejercito Nacional near Moliere), the snazziest shopping mall in town--very deluxe. During one visit I heard the voice of Ella Fitzgerald singing ‘My Heart Stood Still.’ Mine almost did, too, when I saw some of the price tags. There’s a pleasant open-air food court--better for people watching that dining. The Cinemex movie theater upstairs features reclining leather seats and waiter service—you can order from a 10-page menu.

Leave the mall by the passageway to the left where you entered, across from the Hugo Boss store. Outside, across the street, you'll see Plaza Carso, a recent development of shops, offices and apartments. The big draw here is the Jumex Collection, Mexico City’s most important contemporary art museum. It features big-name artists in exhibitions that change every month or so. Check their website for information (www.fundacionjumex.org). There are great views from the second floor terrace.

Next door to the Jumex Collection is the Museo Soumaya, pet project of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim (his son-in-law designed the sinuous, metal-clad structure). The collection is a grab bag of masterworks to kitsch, but there are some notable European paintings (by El Greco, Reubens, Tintoretto, and Zurburan for example), a number of Rodin sculptures, and a delightful selection of pre-Hispanic ceramic vases and sculptures on the fifth floor. The best way to see this museum is to take the elevator from the lobby to the top floor and work your way down.  

ALSO WORTH A LOOK IN POLANCO

El Péndulo (Alejandro Dumas 81) is a bookstore/cafe with a small, but savvy selection in English books.
David Alfaro Siquerios Museum (Tres Picos No.29). Contemporary art museum with changing exhibits.
W Hotel (Campos Eliseos 252). The bar here is one of the top ‘beautiful people’ spots in the city.
MAP store (Emilio Castelar at Temístocles). The store of the Museo de Arte Popular in the centro carries good quality Mexican handicrafts.
Kurson Kosher, Emilio Castelar 204. Kosher food products, canned and fresh.
Da Silva (Oscar Wilde 12). The bread and pastries at this Portuguese style bakery are excellent.

Museum Store Books (Aristoteles 8, near Campos Eliseos) has a good selection of books on art and culture.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

ARTES POPULARES VICTOR


For the past 30 years or so Artes Populares Victor has been attracting discerning collectors of Mexican handicrafts to its little hideaway in the Centro Histórico. It was formerly located on Calle Madero, upstairs, past the perfume store, behind a locked door. It always had a feel of a speakeasy. 
Their new location, a few blocks south, still retains its secret clubhouse feel--you must knock at the huge wooden doors for admittance. They specialize in small items perfect for packing in your suitcase. Don't forget to ask to see the other, locked room with antiques. 
 

Victor's new location is Isabel la Católica 97, near the corner of San Jeronimo in the Centro Histórico. I't one block from metro stop Isabel la Católica. Open from noon to 7PM, Monday through Friday.
Tel. (55) 55-12-12-63.  Email: victormex@hotmail.com
For Google map link click HERE.





Thursday, May 29, 2014

AZTECS IN SPAIN

I recently returned from two weeks of travel in northern Spain, one of my favorite parts of the planet. While in the seaport town of Gijón, I was surprised to see this building, the Edificio Mexico, with its 'Aztec Deco' motifs. 








Friday, May 16, 2014

UNDER 50 PESOS: Where to Eat in Colonia Roma


I've worked in Colonia Roma for almost nine years and have watched, amazed, as the place turns into hipster heaven (or hell, depending on your point of view). Roma has become the most talked about destination for creative cooking, with excellent restaurants like Maximo Bistrot, Rosetta, and Delirio drawing crowds from all over town.

On most workdays, however, I'm not looking to spend the kind of money you need to eat in these places. And sometimes I just want to eat, not to dine.

Luckily, Colonia Roma abounds in inexpensive places to eat well. I'm hoping my readers will respond with their favorites, but I'll keep this list short--limited to places I've been to multiple times, always with happy results. You're not likely to be asking for the recipes at these places, but you are likely to leave feeling contented.

Tacos de Canasta (at the corner of Jalapa and Álvaro Obregón). Quick, cheap and satisfying describes a lunch of a few tacos de frijol, topped with spicy green salsa, at this corner puesto, where a few plastic stools and an overhanging tree make up the ambience.

Torta stand (Tonalá between Queretaro and San Luís Potosí). A bowl of roasted jalapeños on the counter wins this simple stand in the middle of the street an extra star.

Comida Corrida: When I want something a little more comfortable than standing on the street, I'll go to one of the many comida corrida places that abound in Roma, which serve office workers and students in the area who can't make it home for mom's cooking. A complete meal will include a soup course, rice or salad, a main dish, agua del dia, and often a bit of dessert (usually jello or canned fruit). In many places the soup will be watery, starches will abound, sugar and salt will be the only flavorings. The following places are all a cut above average. They often get full after 2pm, but the turnover is fast.

El Axotleño (Coahuila 152, between Monterrey and Medellín). This busy place, adjacent to the Mercado Medellín, is my first choice for a satisfying comida corrida. Even an often dull dish, like albondigas al chipotle, comes to life here.

CoffeeLand (Zacatecas 117, near Orizaba). The sign here is so small you might miss it, but students from the adjacent university know this place and fill it daily. The only danger here is the basket full of fresh totopos (fried tortilla chips) that you'll find on each table--hard to resist.

Krika's (at the corner of Chihuahua and Monterrey). If you're in a hurry, this is the place. I've never seen waiters move so fast in Mexico.


Monday, April 7, 2014

CLASSICAL MUSIC IN MEXICO CITY


Finding out what's going on culturally in Mexico City can be a frustrating experience. Although I try my best to be on top of things, I'm constantly coming across posters and notices about events that happened yesterday.
A recent discovery of a useful website will help, at least in the area of classical music. You may want to bookmark this website:

                                  http://musicaenmexico.com.mx


They even have a listing of the opera season at Bellas Artes, where I discovered this rarity--in April, two performances of the opera ATZIMBA, based on an episode of the conquest of Michoacán, by Mexican composer Ricardo Castro. It was supposedly a bit hit when it was first done in 1900.
                               







Tuesday, April 1, 2014

LOOKING AT MEXICO CITY: FLYING HORSES



Although I've been to the Palacio de Bellas Artes hundreds of times over the past 17 years, it wasn't until recently that I actually paid attention to the magnificent bronze sculptures that adorn its front plaza. It pays to arrive early.

The four statues are known as 'Los Pegasos'. Each represents two human figures, male and female (the spirits of drama and music) being carried aloft to Mount Parnassus by Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek mythology. 


'Los Pegasos' are the work of Catalan sculptor Agustín Querol. Finished in 1912, the sculptures were intended to be placed inside the theater, but I guess they were found too distracting, and ended up outside.


These bronzes express an exalted sense of exuberance that is hard to resist. Next time you're at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, take a ride.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

WHERE THE TOYS ARE


In a corner of Colonia Doctores, far from any route the average tourist would travel, is the 
Museo de Juguete Antiguo Mexico. This quirky museum, a rambling series of rooms in a crumbling 1960's apartment building, is filled with toys, games, dolls, memorabilia, circuses, cars, boats, planes, trains, and space ships--for starters. The 40,000-plus objects on display are only a fraction of a massive collection belonging to the Shimizu family, whose ancestors came to Mexico from Japan several generations ago. 

"I used to have one of those!" my friend Luisa said, time after time, as we wandered through this hallucinogenic toyland. The owners have a vision that is broader than simply putting a bunch of interesting objects on display. A visit to the museum is an anthropological survey of 20th-century culture seen through a lens of common objects, an outlook it shares with the Museo del Objeto del Objeto in Colonia Roma, and the marvelous new book Miscelánea.


The museum is as much about toys as the delights of obsessive collecting. Objects are creatively displayed and mixed up, as though you had entered the attic of some eccentric grandma. So even if you don't think you have any interest in old toys, you're bound to enjoy a visit to this musem.








The Museo del Juguete Antiguo Mexicano
Dr. Olvera #15, Colonia Doctores (near Eje Central)
Monday to Friday 9-6
Saturday 9-4
Sunday 10-4



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A GLIMPSE OF HEAVEN IN TLALPAN


I can't recall a previous opportunity to use the words 'sublime' and 'divine' in the same sentence without seeming ridiculous. But today, after visiting the Capilla de las Capuchinas by renowned Mexican architect Luis Barragán, I have it.

When the door to the chapel was opened, my eyes welled up with tears. This is something that has happened to me with other art forms, but never architecture. The space Barragán created has a sublime beauty that suggests a divine presence. A few tears and a dropped jaw seemed the only possible responses.

What Barragán has created is an intimate theater for prayer. His clear visual poetry is filled with optimism for a world beyond our own that might really exist. The architect's trademarks are all here: contrast of low, shadowy spaces with high, bright ones; the use of reflected light to create Rothko-like colors (the chapel glows with a light that simultaneoulsy suggests both sunrise and sunset); the sensitive mix of natural materials. "Even the temperature of a room was important to him," the young nun who guided us said, as we stood in the small, dark, chilly anteroom of the chapel.

The chapel is located at Miguel Hidalgo 43, just a few blocks from the main plaza of Tlalpan.
Click HERE for map link. There's a metrobus stop (Insurgentes Linea 1, 'Fuentes Brotantes')
within walking distance. If you drive, there is a public parking lot at the corner of the plaza along Miguel Hidalgo.

You must call and make an appointment to visit the chapel--open weekdays only.
Telephone (55) 5573-2395.
Donation 60 pesos.

Beyond the chapel, Tlalpan centro is worth a visit for its charming main plaza, the bustling market (eat HERE), and a cultural center with art exhibits (sometimes). It's a bit like Coyoacán or San Ángel, but smaller and less crowded. Even though you are within the limits of the Distrito Federal, you'll feel like you're in a small provincial town.



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

LOOKING AT MEXICO CITY: Neglect, Decay and Disintegration



Buildings with tilted walls, crumbling facades, rusting metalwork, broken planters, cracked and bulging sidewalks are common sights in Mexico City, the effect often heightened by proximity to some gleaming new high-rise. There is a notable tendency here to let things go to wrack and ruin, financial investment be damned. Depending on the mood I’m in, I can see it as a charming reminder of the temporal nature of life, or an indication of a complete lack of civic pride. But there's no denying that decrepitude is one of the characteristics that defines this city. Learning to appreciate this quality, like one would the nicks and scars on a piece of antique furniture, is necessary in order to fall in love with Mexico City. 


Among the most remarkable examples of this phenomenon is the high-rise Edificio Insurgentes (Insurgentes 300, between Zacatecas and Guanajuato), known by many here as the Canada Building, for a huge sign that once adorned it. Inaugurated in 1958, it was the most fashionable address in its day for the offices of politicians, doctors and lawyers. Now its a veritable urban ghost town. 

Its heyday lasted about 10 years, and then things started to go downhill. The earthquake of 1985 was the nail in the coffin, but a fire, and the murder of a tenant didn’t help. Spirits of those killed in the fire supposedly haunt the 15th and 16th floors.


Elevators no longer work, graffiti covers much of the ground floor, and upper floors are a hodge-podge of slapdash additions and makeshift alterations. In 2012 the city ejected the remaining tenants and closed the building. Rumor has it that it was being used as a halfway house for illegal immigrants from Nicaragua.

Take a look from across the street to fully appreciate the weirdness of this once grand edifice.

I think all this physical instability helps create a flexible and resilient culture. If you can't trust the ground under your feet, you must seek security elsewhere, preferably from within. Mexicans are the most Buddhist-like of westerners, embracing instability, change, decay and death as normal parts of daily life. Perhaps the remarkable calm one experiences here (at least as compared to my former hometown, New York City) is a result of this acceptance. The phrase ni modo (literally “no way,” sort of a resigned shrug) is more often heard in response to situations beyond one’s control than anything more aggressive or confrontational. A popular song by the beloved ranchera composer José Alfredo Jimenez has the refrain “no vale nada la vida” (life is worth nothing), sung to a sweet and lilting waltz melody. Mexicans of all ages know it by heart.  


                                     More images of decay in Mexico City: 



                                                Calle Puebla in Colonia Roma Norte



                                               Insurgentes and Niza in the Zona Rosa



                                             Abandoned penthouse in the Zona Rosa 
                                              


                                               Abandoned store, Calle Bucareli, Centro





Broken sidewalk





A FEW HOURS AFTER I WROTE THIS BLOG POST, THIS SHOWED UP ON FACEBOOK: http://www.demotix.com/news/3904354/demolition-threatened-historical-building-mexico#media-3904337



Torre Insignia (abandoned)

And this from one of my readers:  http://garydenness.co.uk/2010/10/15/towering-desolation/ 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

BUY THIS BOOK



If you're a fan of Mexico City's Centro Histórico like I am, there's a new book out that you will want to add to your collection:

'MISCELÁNEA: Guia del comercio popular y traditional del Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de Mexico' by Marie-Aimée Montalembert and Ángeles Reunes. 




A true labor of love, this 768-page tome puts the Centro under a microscope and studies every little nook and cranny. The focus, as the title suggests, is popular (in its Mexican sense 'of the people') and traditional businesses, many of which have been around for ages and have been run by the same family.

Are you looking to concoct your own perfume? Bronze-plate your baby's shoes? Repair your juke box? Dress yourself in a complete mariachi outfit? Find a good Goth bar? Buy a life-size statue of Saint Eulalia, or learn where to find a prostitute? It's all here, and lots more. The amount of research put into this 11-year project is simply astounding. And there are lots of personal anecdotes and bits of history that make this book much more interesting than the yellow pages.

The graphic design is impressive, with information divided by street and neighborhood. Excellent maps are provided. There are hundreds of great color photographs that may change the way you look at the Centro. Images are beautifully framed, giving and order and logic to what can often feel like visual chaos when you're in the midst of it--I had no idea that all that plastic junk from China could be so beautiful! Even if you don't read Spanish, the photos alone take you on a remarkable and intimate tour of the Centro.

The book is available at all major bookstores in Mexico City (Ghandi, Porrua, etc.)--be sure to ask if you don't see it.

In San Miguel de Allende, you can buy the book at Abrazos, Zacateros 24