Tiddley-Bits tea

Tiddley-Bits tea

Friday, 13 January 2012

{Mexico City}

As you know, I spent Christmas in Mexico. We spent most of the time down on the coast in Zihuatanejo (blog here), but we flew to Mexico City for 1 day of sightseeing. As an art historian, I've always wanted to go to Mexico City to see the works of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo...and it's such a historically rich city. Surrounded by neo-classical and neo-gothic buildings, I was reminded of many European capital cities. Indeed, the large boulevards reminded me of Haussman's Paris, filled with cafes, restaurants & shops. One street in the historical centre is fully pedestrianized, which is great. As we only had one day, and I was travelling with my parents, who although they love history, aren't too keen to be dragged through tons of museums, I decided to be strategic and just hit one main museum I wanted to see, while taking in the sights & smells, mostly through walking through the historic centre. 
Our first stop was the Palacio de Bellas Artes, where Diego adorned some of the walls with his political murals. Unfortunately, the woman at the ticket booth was particularly prickly, refusing to take my various art history association cards and faculty card as evidence that I was an art historian and stating that they only gave discounts to Mexican art historians (although not stated on the website). Finally, when I was happy to pay the full amount of the entrance ticket, she refused to take my money, stating that I didn't have the exact amount and refused to give me change (& it wasn't like I was trying to pay with a $50 bill). Running low on time, feeling frustrated at crazy ticket lady, and feeling bad leaving my parents waiting, who weren't going to go in anyway, I decided to give up & continue on our day. (Sorry Diego, you'll have to wait for next time). We did take in the gorgeous exterior: 
{Palacio de Bellas Artes}

{my parents in front of the gorgeous entrance}

{historic buildings in the vicinity, recalling Florentine palazzi }
So we moved along down the pedestrianized street to stumble upon the original Sanborns. Now a big department store, the original store started here, in this gorgeously tiled edifice:
{entrance to the original Sanborn's}

{gorgeous interior of Sanborn's with a place for dining-unfortunately the queue was out the door. next time, next time}
From there we stepped across the street to the monastic complex of San Francisco: 
{San Francisco}

{strolling along the pedestrianized street...}

{altar at a nearby church with the Virgin of Guadalupe above}
Finally, we made it to the main Metropolitan cathedral, an amazing site, which was started in 1573 and completed in 1813:
{Metropolitan cathedral}

{interior of the cathedral, which features not one but 5 naves}

{the cathedral is situated in a major square, with the Palacio Nacional across from it. A definite vibrant historic central part of the city}

From there we jumped into a quick cab ride to the area of Coyoacan, a more residential area with beautiful colonial houses. You'll find the house that Frida Kahlo grew up in, and later where she lived with Diego, where they kept a studio. Famously known as the Casa Azul, it's been transformed into a museum, containing a collection of mostly Frida's work, some archival materials, (only recently on show to the public for the first time), and a re-creation of their home together. Essential rooms like the kitchen & studio are staged with some of their collections, books, easels, etc... (even Frida's corsets).  (I should note that they eagerly let me in for a discounted rate, once I showed them I was an art historian.)

{the art historian at Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera's home}

{ok, I know touristy, but too funny to pass up. My Dad & me, as Diego & Frida (minus the monobrow luckily}
Our last dinner we spent at a lovely restaurant, famous for their paella. My Dad got talking to the piano player & was invited to tinkle the ivories. A good way to end a gooooooooooood vacation: 

I'd definitely love to go back to Mexico City to explore a bit more. If you're planning on going, d*s has some great restaurant recommendations etc..., and I hear that Xochimilco, just a bit further south of Coyoacan, known as the "Venice of Mexico" is another great spot to hit.


  1. I love those pendant lights at Sanborns.

    I'm reading a novel set partially in Mexico heard the Kahlo-Rivera residence had strange connecting bridges between two separate homes. Was that the house you visited? Or was that the one Frida grew up in (more traditional)?

  2. The house she grew up in is the same one where she lived with Diego. There is a bridge/passage between two houses. The azul house is the old one, the addition seemed more later 20th century. She also was in a wheel chair for part of her life, so this may have also been the reason for the bridge. But I don't know enough about the actual house to offer more than that! It was amazing.