El­e­gance that rocks and rolls

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Veron­ica Mathe­son

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.

Check­list

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

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