Elegance that rocks and rolls
DUSK has settled in an eerily golden hue as we check into Mexico City’s centrally located Hotel Majestic, with its warm inviting lobby of sienna walls and traditional handpainted blue and white Spanish tiles. An old-fashioned lift, operated by a cherubic pageboy in natty red uniform with gold trim, slowly creaks up to our sixth-floor room.
No sooner are we inside than the earth moves for us, albeit briefly. It hardly matters that we are fully clothed, at opposite ends of the hotel room, and slightly confused.
We rush to the door to find the pageboy telling us not to worry. ‘‘ The city is slowly sinking into the bed of an ancient lake it is built over, so it sometimes rocks and rolls,’’ he explains.
Nice try, and no mention of the earthquake that hit the city in 1985, which was accompanied by a high death toll. We soon discover Mexico City’s residents are all equally relaxed, rolling with the punches and taking life as it rocks up.
The Hotel Majestic sits on prime land in this sprawling city, facing Plaza de la Constitucion (best known as El Zocalo or central square), which is the heart and soul of this Latin American nation.
Demonstrations, fiestas, outdoor concerts, political meetings and military parades are played out on El Zocalo. After the conquest of Mexico in 1521, Hernando Cortes gave the land where Hotel Majestic now stands to the secretary to Spain’s king Carlos V. The hotel was built in the 1920s and, with its elegant baroque proportions, looks as if it was transplanted from a grand European city. We have five-star views and our hotel room is spotlessly clean, with an ensuite that does what it has to do and a breezy ceiling fan above the large comfy bed. Ours is one of the few in the 84-room hotel with a tiny balcony off skinny french doors. We squeeze out and are captivated well into the night as salsa music drifts in the sultry air. Such prime beds can be the noisiest in town, especially on the sixth floor below the rooftop Terraza Restaurant. The voices do not travel, but the noise of those moving chairs leaves teeth very much on edge.
But Mexico City is not a place for sleeping. It is a loud, brash capital filled with infectious energy where time should not be wasted. Fired by tequila and tortillas, we dance the night away as organ grinders and mariachi bands roam. There is no chance of a sleep-in as every morning bugles blow and military guards march across from Palacio Nacional (once Aztec emperor Montezuma’s palace) as dawn breaks to raise a huge national flag in the heart of El Zocalo.
We experience a miracle of sorts on a public holiday, when most shops are shut; a sole has fallen off one of our shoes, so we ask for the Virgin of Guadalupe, the country’s patron saint with a reputation for solving problems, to come to our aid. And just around the corner from the Hotel Majestic we find that the only open shop sells shoes. A miracle, indeed. Veronica Matheson was a guest of Peregrine Adventures.
Hotel Majestic, Av Madero 73 Col Centro, Mexico City; 55 5521 8600. The property is a member of the Best Western group, 131 779; www.majestic.com.mx. Tariff: From $140 a night, twin share. Getting there: 10km from the airport but roads are usually busy, so about a 30-minute drive. Checking in: Independent international travellers and small tour groups. Bedtime reading: LikeWaterforChocolate by Laura Esquivel. Stepping out: Main attractions on the doorstep. Brickbats: Public areas have a wonderfully warm Spanish feel but guestrooms are a tad impersonal. The rooftop restaurant, open all day, has great views but needs a stylish renovation to make it the hottest spot in town. (Book for the popular weekend brunch with mariachi band.) Bouquets: The hotel’s staff are friendly and passionate; what they lack in five-star polish is made up for in care and attentiveness; free internet access.
Mexican baroque: Hotel Majestic