A tale of four won­ders

Skep­ti­cal about Mexico City as a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion? Don’t be. The art, fash­ion, food and ar­chi­tec­ture are won­ders to be be­hold, dis­cov­ers

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

cook­ing aprons and pil­lows in Mexico and be­yond. In­ter­est in Mexico City, where she lived much of her life, is re­bound­ing, too.

Still, the sprawl­ing, bustling city had not yet made it on to my own list of the top places in the world I wanted to visit. So when one of my fre­quent travel bud­dies sug­gested we meet up there, I needed some per­suad­ing.

‘‘What would we do there?’’ I texted her, un­con­vinced.

Her re­sponse was im­me­di­ate and de­fin­i­tive: ‘‘Art. Fash­ion. Food. Ar­chi­tec­ture.’’ It was hard to ar­gue with that. A month or so later, I found out for my­self why Mexico City, whose rep­u­ta­tion was once marred by sto­ries of kid­nap­pings and high crime, has in­creas­ingly been con­sid­ered one of the up-and-com­ing hot travel des­ti­na­tions.

A hip­ster en­clave

A quick – and rel­a­tively cheap – Uber ride took us from the air­port to an apart­ment we rented through Airbnb in the bo­hemian Roma Norte, known for its bars, restau­rants, art gal­leries and bou­tiques.

With adren­a­line pump­ing at be­ing in a new city, we dropped off our things and hit the streets in search of a latenight snack and some mez­cal.

We ended up at a hip, darkly lit mez­ca­le­ria a cou­ple of blocks away that could have eas­ily been trans­posed from the Lower East Side of New York. Skilled mixol­o­gists pre­pared some tasty li­ba­tions for us. We toasted to our first night in Mexico City. It was an aus­pi­cious start.

The next morn­ing, the first item on the agenda was caf­feine. Luck­ily, a cute cof­fee shop, Buna, was close by. Drip cof­fee was nowhere to be found here. Rather, stylish baris­tas hand­poured each drink, an­other sign we were stay­ing smack dab in the mid­dle of a hip­ster mecca.

For sev­eral days, we strolled many of the city’s pic­turesque neigh­bour­hoods, of­ten stop­ping to chill out at the serene parks and plazas that make the city feel very Euro­pean. They were per­fect spots for peo­ple-watch­ing – and dog-watch­ing, as hired walk­ers of­ten en­ter­tained and hus­tled to keep track of all of the pets on their leashes.

Con­desa, a neigh­bour­hood near our rental with some of the city’s best restau­rants and bars, has two par­tic­u­larly lovely parks with canopies of trees and a duck-filled pond.

Then there’s the grand­daddy of them all, Cha­pul­te­pec Park, a mas­sive ur­ban oa­sis that re­minded me of New York’s Cen­tral Park. At a large lake there, lo­cals rent or­ange and blue pedal boats. Through­out the park, nu­mer­ous stands of­fer an eclec­tic mix of tchotchkes and salty snacks.

The park is also home to a cas­tle, once the stamp­ing ground of Mexico’s rulers atop a hill. The hike up is well worth the ef­fort. We am­bled up the slop­ing walk­way and ar­rived at the top just a half-hour be­fore it closed. So we found our­selves speed-walk­ing through its beau­ti­fully man­i­cured court­yard, black-and-white checked floors, and rooms with stained glass win­dows. The cas­tle is a feast for the eyes – and so is the view of the city spread out be­low. We wished we had more time to ex­plore it – a re­cur­ring feel­ing dur­ing the trip.

Art abounds

When it comes to art, Mexico City’s boun­ti­ful of­fer­ings go well be­yond Kahlo and Rivera, though they are a ma­jor draw for tourists. And for good rea­son. I could have spent hours study­ing and ad­mir­ing Rivera’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary mu­rals at the Na­tional Palace.

But I quickly found that there is a whole lot more to see be­yond that. Of the abun­dance of art mu­se­ums, a high­light was the Museo Univer­si­tario de Arte Con­tem­po­ra­neo, which seemed to be pop­u­lar with young Mex­i­cans, not sur­pris­ing since it’s lo­cated on a col­lege cam­pus. We were lucky enough to catch an ex­hibit by Bri­tish sculp­tor Anish Kapoor (the artist be­hind Cloud Gate, the ‘‘bean’’ in

This im­pres­sive foun­tain in the mid­dle of the Museo Na­cional de An­tropolo­gia is a pop­u­lar place for kids to play, and a com­mon back­drop for self­ies.

A statue in one of the many court­yards of Mexico City’s Na­tional Palace, home to the fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive as well as Diego Rivera’s The His­tory of Mexico mu­ral.

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