Friday, April 21, 2017

Travelling close to home: Hotel Isabel in Mexico City

More than twenty years ago, at the very beginning of my exploration of Mexico City's Centro Histórico, I stayed at the venerable Hotel Isabel. At that time, it seemed remote from the 'action' closer to the Zócalo. The revival of the Centro had not begun, so the walk down deserted streets at night to get back to the hotel was intimidating. The hotel, which opened in 1920, is housed in a former colonial mansion. It's funky charm and low prices attracted a bohemian following--the writer John Ross lived there from 1985 until his death in 2011. 

I've recently begun to update my Mexico City guidebook and decided to stay in the Centro for a few days to work on that section of the book. I was ready for a re-visit to the Isabel. An Uber transported me the 4.8 kilometers from my home in La Condesa to the Centro Histórico, and I spent two wonderful days as a tourist there (more about that in future posts).

Twenty years has not affected Isabel's funkiness, but perhaps has even added to its charm. I loved staying here! The price (500 pesos a night), location, ambience and cleanliness all add up to my idea of a great hotel.

Hotel Isabel
Isabel la Católica 63
Centro Histórico, CDMX
tel. (55) 5518-1213

            View from my window

Monday, April 17, 2017

An Easter morning stroll through Colonia Condesa

The light was crystalline, the air was clear, and the streets were almost deserted--a perfect morning to stroll through Colonia Condesa. Happy Easter.



Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Best Baroque Church in Mexico City

Mexico City's most magical baroque church is often overlooked. La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, popularly known as La Enseánza (derived from its former name El Convento de la Enseñanza La Antigua, The Old Convent of the Teaching), is located at Calle Doncelles 104, not far from the ruins of the Aztec's Templo Mayor. Begun in 1737 and finished in 1778, it was originally connected to a convent dedicated to educating young girls from wealthy families.

One of the smaller churches in the Centro, it's interior is an explosion of gilded baroque curves, squiggles and arabesques. The main altar is flanked by 8 side altars, turning the small space into a giant Faberge egg. It is rarely crowded, making it my number once choice for a moment of rest and reflection during a visit to the hectic Centro Histórico.


Monday, February 6, 2017

On the Road Again

I've had a lot of distractions from blogging about Mexico City these days. I spent all of December abroad, mostly in Bangladesh, and now I'm back in India for a month. I have been invited by the American Embassy School in New Delhi to teach art to their students for the next two weeks, and will travel after that.

Today was the first day of classes--so far, so good. I have renewed respect for teachers everywhere after the experience. I am teaching the printmaking techniques I developed during my years in San Miguel de Allende--but in a speeded up version, as classes only last 45 minutes. It's a whirlwind.

So to those readers who have asked why I'm not blogging more, here's the answer. When I return home I plan to work on an update of my Mexico City guidebook so I expect to be more active on this blog.

Saludos, Jim J.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Visiting Frida's house?

                          Image result for frida kahlo paintings

I was surprised that on a Tuesday afternoon in January, the line to visit Frida Kahlo's big blue house in Coyoacán reached way down the block.

So here's a tip:

To avoid having to wait in line, buy your tickets in advance
through this website:


Entre semana (during the week)
$ 130.00  entrada general
$   80.00  nacionales presentando una identificación oficial
$   40.00  estudiantes y profesores con credencial vigente
$   15.00  estudiantes de nivel primaria y secundaria, de escuelas públicas
$   15.00  adultos mayores
$   80.00  renta de videoguía
En fin de semana (weekends)
$ 150.00  entrada general
$   90.00  nacionales presentando una identificación oficial
$   40.00  estudiantes y profesores con credencial vigente
$   15.00  estudiantes de nivel primaria y secundaria, de escuelas públicas
$   15.00  adultos mayores
$   80.00  renta de videoguía

Thursday, January 26, 2017


It's time to repeat an old blog post as there may be more interest in the topic at the moment. I've been adding to this post as I find new information, and welcome readers suggestions for anything they think should be included.   

(For Part 2 click HERE)
This is a compilation of information useful to anyone planning a move to Mexico City. I first posted this in 2011 and have been repeating it every year, with the addition of new information I've found. I invite readers to send any tips they think relevant to the post.
First, if you don't own a Guia Roji map book of Mexico City, go to Sanborn's and buy one--I use it all the time. You can get the maps on line for free as well at
The website has a wealth of information about moving to and living in Mexico.
Finding a place to live: 
Check out the website for short term rentals. You might consider this as you look for something more permanent--that way you can get a feel for the city before making a final decision.

VRBO (stands for Vacation Rentals BOwner) is a website that has places for rent (short-term) all over the world--a great resource for any traveler.
It's important to consider transportation in your choice of where to live. Being able to walk to work/school, or having a short ride on public transportation, can make a huge difference in your quality of life. A long commute by car will be living hell. 
Living near a park will also improve quality of life. Use google maps to search around for those green spaces.
Visit your chosen area both during the day and at night time--you might find some drastic changes.
A good way to find an apartment is just to walk the streets in the area you'd like to live. Many apartments are rented/sold directly by owners by putting signs in the window. Listed below are a number of on-line sites for house/apartment hunting.

Check these pages on Facebook for rentals & roommates:  is a Spanish-only website with real estate for sale/rent all over Mexico. You can put an 'alert' on this site and be notified by e-mail of anything new that shows up according to your criteria. It also has a useful chart of 'price-per-square-meter' according to location. Many of the listings are agents, but that's a good way to find one. is similar. Check out for real estate in the centro historico.
are the two Mexico City craigslist sites (English and Spanish--in Spanish look under 'Viviendas'). Keep checking this site as things change constantly. and also have listings for Mexico City as well as the entire country.

Another on-line real estate site: and have listings of shared apartments all over the country
The Hostal Virreyes in the centro draws a hip, young crowd on weekends. They offer cheap rooms by the month-- is another site offering furnished rental apartments.
Buy a copy of 'Segundamano' at any newsstand--this weekly paper lists all sorts of things for sale or rent (cars, apartments, houses). Look for real estate agents here, too. You can also find them online at

One of my readers wrote to say that she found her apartment by speaking to the doormen (porteros) of various buildings and leaving her number--a little tip will help. 


This blog post lists average rental prices by delegation:

Less expensive areas of the city:
This moving company was recommended by a friend: is a website for buying and selling all sorts of stuff (like furniture, e.g.)
For renovation work, Alberto and Eduardo Álvarez can be reached at
044-55-2283-9330 or 044-55-2020-3312

Looking for wood furniture? The address is: Insurgentes Sur 100, corner with Camino a Santa Teresa. The market is also called Mercado de Vasco de Quiroga. It's in Tlalpan. Hundreds of skilled carpenters show off their wares. Anything made to order. is the website for the Mexico City Newcomers Club, which has all sorts of programs for ex-pats. has lots to offer, including this post about how to meet new friends in the city:
Here is the website for a moving company in Ajijic that can help get your stuff across the border. I have no personal experience with this company, but found it recommended on another blog. Check out the comments on this blog for more helpful information on moving household goods into Mexico.
Mexico City's own government website has a wealth of information in over 60 languages, including brief descriptions of each delegation and what there is to see. (Spanish only) is for more purely governmental information.
I add to her comments about the fiador: I rented my first apartment here without a fiador by offering to pay the first year's rent up-front (with a small discount). Since the monthly rent was only 3000 pesos this was possible.

A number of Facebook pages are directed toward ex-pats in Mexico City, e.g.:
Foreigners in DF (Mexico City)
Americans in Mexico City
Roomies D.F

Aztec Explorers Mexico is a FB page that offers interesting tours in and around the city. offers all kinds of information about events around the city
Part 2 of this blog post offers a brief introduction to some of the more desirable areas to live in the city:

P.S. Buy my book! It will definitely help unravel the city for you.

(The map shown is by Emily Edwards from 1932)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Reaction in Mexico City

Although the crowd was small, speeches were made and people were protesting the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States today along Paseo de la Reforma. Fear know no borders.