January 10, 2015
Books praise the suburb of Xochimilco. It is a marshy land pretty far away on the south-east side of Mexico City, you have to take Metro line 2 to the last stop Tesquena and then transfer to Tren Ligero TL 17 stops to the very end. It takes over an hour. The problem with TL is how to pay for it – there are no cashiers as in metro stations. You have to have a metro card and add money to that card via the machine. We didn’t have the Metro card, so asked a guy to enter our pesos into his card and help us through the gates with it. We got out 3 stops before the end on La Noria. Walk a little back to the intersection and then you already see Dolores Olmedo Patino Museum -it is a mansion, an ex-hacienda, all enclosed with high walls. So far it was the most beautiful museum we saw. The ticket is 75 pesos, Tuesdays – free. You enter a huge very well cared park:
Then there is a house to the right. This time it was like a skeleton Disneyland :-). Lots and lots of them dressed in funny clothes, caught in doing different activities, even Diego’s mural was depicted by them, colorful, joyful, with different music playing in each hall – maybe it should be called Dia de la Muertes art. Created by a French artist, not a Mexican:
Deeper in the park there is the main house, a real mansion, with a chapel from old times and all those inner yards and gardens. One part of the building is Dolores Olmedo’s living quarters, overfilled with riches, decors and statues from the Orient and numerous big photo portraits of her lined up to the ceiling. With different jewelry, different make ups, but still, this indicated a pretty big ego. Some smaller photos were her with the pope and presidents shaking hands. Only in her bedroom we saw a picture of what seemed her children. So it raised quite a lot of questions. We couldn’t find answers there for obvious reasons, there were no English interpretations, and I could see that the museum workers were not eager to explain who she was, they didn’t feel very proud of her. Only in the evening at home we Googl’ed her and what came out was impressive – this beauty made her big bucks herself, while establishing construction companies, while herself having only music and art education. In her 30ties…She had a husband and 4 children, but the museum is not about them. Diego seems to have been an important friend of hers, therefore she restored parts of Hacienda and made halls for 136 Diego Riviera’s art pieces and only because she knew that Frida’s art is also valuable – she gained 25 pieces of hers. That was basically why we decided to visit the museum in the first place. So here they were -a Mexican Communist party leader and a big capitalist – very good friends or even more. She posed to him naked while still a teenager and that painting is there and it is good. And then he finished his last years of life after he got cancer in her Acapulco mansion. So there is his literally – a line of sunsets on the ocean – Diego could not be just sick, he had to paint till the last. There are also several good of his self-potraits. What a true artist! And Frida- Dolores didn’t like her at all, because Frida was a Communist, as if only because of that, cha cha…
A magnolia flower in an ancient bowl.
Tiny orchids and a Cala Lilly.
The park was full of life – dozens of peacocks were mingling around, seemed like some park in England. Dolores liked to have them and also geese and chickens and hairless dogs which are now kept in closed gardens and don’t react to visitors whatsoever – they looked like statues, not real dogs:I guess those dogs were in fashion then. Because Frida also kept them and had them in her self portraits.
Another peculiar artist whose works are exposed in one of the halls is Angelina – the Russian lady, who was Diego’s kind of a wife while he lived in Europe – she even gave birth to his child and then in 9 months a cold winter killed the baby -a sad story. Angelina came to Mexico after him, he didn’t recognize her… But Dolores Olmedo was smart enough to collect some of her illustrations and here they are, pretty good, only too small for my aging eyes.
The gardens are also richly decorated with old Indian statues taken from archeological sites… I wonder – how much art was created by ancient Indians and how many of those pieces landed in private collections…I guess that the bigger part. it is good that Dolores left her collection to the public. She did that because of her mother, who was a university professor and that was hes wish.
We were sorry to leave this Eden, but being so far away we had to rush to see some of Xochimilco. It is a half hour walk on one street, as if the Los Angeles ave., if I remember correctly, and you reach the center, which is nice. Nothing very different than lets say – Coyocan. Maybe not so fancy, no galleries:
Here I am by the statue of the peasant who saw Maria Guadelupa – the legend goes that she left her image on his shirt:
Xochimilko is just a real town, with a square, a church and at some point- vast marshy lands for which it is known. Books say that there are floating gardens and something like canals or waters around them and there were many Embarcaderos with very colorful boats ready to take tourists for a ride in those waters. They say it is very quiet there. But those are not open waters, not like a lake as we expected, more like canals with houses and houses and trees in between, so it didn’t attract us to do the trip, too slow for us hectic and busy people. One of the boats had a Lithuanian name Dalia. They all had little chairs and a table in the middle – floaters are supposed to eat while floating:
So we just looked at the boats and left back to the train back home. Here are some street views of Xochimilko:
We wanted to grab our luggage from the friendly Tea-house where we stayed and rush to the Downtown to another hotel to stay for 2 more nights. This was already taken. Not bad, another experience! Here it is, Casa San Ildefonso, previously a monastery, with lots of charm from old times. Good prices, breakfast included, just in front of Museo de la Luz on a very quiet street -what else can one want. The rooms were with very high ceilings, some folk art on the walls, 25 canaries in a huge cage in the inner garden where we had breakfast, a lot of rooms for sitting, reading, or even having a meeting. Really -a lot of “wasted” rooms as I would label them. I would highly recommend it for staying:
It is also close to a bus stop from where a bus to the airport runs. But again -tickets, where to buy them, have no clue…Maybe it would be a good idea to ask in the hotel about where to buy them – we had a little problem with them, because we planned to buy them in the bus directly. It is not very easy without Spanish language.
The next day was a lot of walking. We took metro to the very end of line 3, got out at the university and walked through it. It is a big peace of land, all dotted with lava pieces and wild flora growing on them, lots of fenced paths and roads, when you go and don’t know- will you manage to get through…They have this strange inclination to gate everything. So I wondered- was it so dangerous to live there, and why did I feel so safe, or what is the deal. Maybe it is their habit from old times when they were fighting and fighting and having revolutions:
Those crosses say that students are standing for democracy, liberty and justice.
Inside of one of the libraries. Lower is the main library – so exotic from outside but no art inside:
This decor to me as if was saying that people come to the university with holes in their knowledge and the university fills them up:
From there we walked to San Angel, passed and had lunch in the church of Carmen yard:
The center of San Angel is Plaza Jacinto. It was well worth the effort to go there. A very fancy area, with galleries and restaurants, and beautiful rich houses:
At last we reached Diego Riviera’s studio built by considered the most famous Mexican architect whose name I forgot. Well, I would argue…but again – it is a matter of taste, and it looks better in photos than in that location:
Frida had her studio in the smaller blue part and Diego in the white-brown buildong. He even lived there. The bridge between buildings is said was built so that Frida could carry lunch to Diego…I highly doubt it. Her with her leg problems -you should be an acrobat to climb those little stairs on the side of the blue building and and also the bridge…As the story goes – the restaurant in front of the house provided them with food and that seems true – it looked very fancy.
From there we walked down the slight slope to avenida Revolucion and reached Museo Carrillo Gill. It is very modern, very big spaces, fits well for big paintings by their outstanding muralists.
We still sneaked a little back to Av. Francisko Sosa, walked a little around the district which is so nice and had our last dinner in this outstanding city in the same Fish restaurant we already knew – Mazatlan. And didn’t get disappointed.
January 9, 2015
So here we got Monday – when all museums are closed…No problem, we took the metro to Basilica de la Guadelupa! (metro stop La Villa-Basilica). In 4 days there had to be the anniversary of Virgin Mary appearing to a poor peasant Jose, so crowds were already there with new ones flocking in…people were coming with bags and food prepared to camp for days on those vast sacred plazas. At the time there were 3 groups dancing some national dance, dressed in colorful clothes, some groups with little flags for distinction looking for a quiet corner to all pray together, lots of people coming with their Virgin of Guadelupa paintings or statues – maybe to get them sanctified…
We counted 6 churches on the premises. With gardens and butterflies around them. Luckily there was a hill behind the Basilica with another chapel on it, a rather steep hill, so we could climb and look around at the city skyline far away for the first time:
The peculiar thing about that hill is that it is not very high or big, but so much water was pouring from all sides of it wherever you go -it was dripping, flowing, falling in special canals and pipes down to abundant gardens:
The New Chapel that is built to the left of Basilica was always full, mass was following another mass:
While the Basilica was almost empty and beautifully decorated- a good combination of yellow and white flowers!
The Basilica’s facade is leaning to the left but camera manages to hide it. However, it didn’t hide the leftovers from 1995 earthquake by another smaller chapel:
This is a very interesting clock – sun and regular, has Indian decors incorporated, as well as the dancers were using Indian rhythms and feathers:
As Chapultepec park was closed, we, disappointed returned to the old Town and walked the Regina pedestrian street. A good note- there are not so few pedestrian streets in MC, which was good for us, walkers:
The wall up is made from live plants, there are two bikes attached high up on it – cute! The wall down shows how talented some people are (nice way to hide a rotting house!):
Talavera street is also for walkers:
At the end of it with the view of a st Teresa church there is a small eatery -there we had a good vegetable soup several times. They also served different Quesadillas. But what a view while eating!
January 8, 2015
Our third day the City was Saturday. Sunny as all days were, so we took the metro several stops south on the same line where we lived -to General Anaya, to the suburb called Coyocan. From there we headed on a quiet street towards the area where prominent people lived and maybe live. The walk was very pleasant, houses were looking better and better, we came across some plazas and churches here and there, like in a small Mexican town. There was a nice museum on our way, evidently it was previously a monastery, but left its visit for next time:
First bigger stop was Trocky’s casa – where he lived his last years hiding from Staling and still couldn’t manage to escape his plan. Diego Riviera and Frida Kahlo, being devoted Communists, met him in Mexico, hosted him in their “casa” and helped him to find and move to his own:
This is the desk behind which he got a fatal smack with an ax from a trusted friend, who was also hired by Stalin. Not so many trusted friends in Communa-land…:
Casa’s of Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera, the two outstanding artists of Mexico, were in our plans next. For the respect of their talents I will not mention peculiar facts about their strange lives…I am sorry for Frida’s pains and sufferings she had because of polio and an accident, and admire her for persistence to paint even while bed-bound. Here is her house, Casa Azul, where Frida was born, where both of them lived for a while, both of them created and collected ancient and not so very ancient pieces of art. It is not permitted to take pictures in the house, so I took some in the gardens:
They show a documentary movie non stop with Frida and Diego and Frida singing. He was as he is portrayed, fat and not handsome, and Frida was much more attractive than she painted herself in self portraits. Here are some of Diego’s creations – the ones hanging. he made a lot of them. they are now in his studio, where taking pictures is also not permitted. Or maybe permitted fro additional price, i already forgot. The figures on the bottom – are ancient Mexican art pieces:
Here Frida’s day-bed van be seen through doors upstairs – the mirror is on top of it and they put her death mask draped with a traditional colorful scarf on her bed – it seems she is still there..She really is – hes ashes are in adjacent room in an ancient Indian urn, one from her collection – a useful collection. I should say:
A hint – better go to Frida’s house on another day but weekend. Lots and lots of people and tickets are more expensive.
From there through a colorful street, having some rest in an occasional garden:
we reached the Hidalgo square – the essence of Coyocan. There there is a church, and a park and performers, mostly clowns, and a girl having her “sweet 15″ party and lots and lots of art galleries and restaurants around. This is the place not to go through, but to stay and enjoy:
But we went through the gate:
and walked and walked on Avenida Francisco Sosa – so pleasant that we returned there for some more enjoyment in a couple of days:
There we found a House with gardens for Culture – where couples were training to dance salsa, others playing music, others playing chess, and us only sitting by Frida and Diego:
We found a Fonoteca, where wonderful Handel was being played in their gardens and nobody was listening:
we found a museum of Watercolors – in an fancy mansion:
What else can one wish! We did manage to reach an edge of Miguel Angel – another suburb, but left it for another day – it was already enough, and so we ate in Ostioneria Mazatlan on our way to metro station Miguel Angel de Quevedo. It is a chain seafood restaurant, really good, highly recommend! Full of locals, which is a good sign.
I will continue about our adventures the next day, which was Sunday, of which I won’t show a lot because taking pictures is restricted in some museums. On Sundays some of the museums are free. Free or not free -the museum tickets are not expensive in Mexico city, so it is not a big deal, you may not stress to visit many of them on Sundays. More important hint is that on Mondays everythign is closed, even the very big Chatapultepec park! But still the Sunday we were on our quest to see as many as possible. We took metro to the stop Revolution and visited Museo Nacional de San Carlos – it was supposed to have older colonial art, which was good, not a big collection at all:
Walking back toward the center we saw a long line of dressed in white kids – they were going towards their First Communion – girl’s dresses were way over the top, like little princesses…
On the other side of that big street by metro station Hidalgo we saw Diego’s very big mural and a museum built specially for it. Impressive, lots of his friends and political figures depicted there:
Laboratorio Arte Alameda was just interesting for its walls. The art there was worthless in my eyes, an instalation made by some European, fro those who understand :-). But it has changing exhibits, so you may be luckier. Museo Nacional de la Estampa was closed, bad, for I wanted to see the outstanding drawings of their artist-caricaturist Posada. What was left -Palacio de Bellas Artes – it is in a wonderful location and looks wonderful. I am sure they have wonderful concerts and ballet performances there, too. But we saw only Handel’s Messiah, performed on a movie stage by the Palace walls – so many people were enjoying it! Inside the Palace besides their very beautiful interior there are many murals by all those outstanding muralists and exhibition halls of art, so rich, so vivid!
So that was almost enough. After early dinner or lunch we still managed to go through the National Gallery. of which the stairs,doors and ceilings left the biggest impression!
Then home to rest!
January 5, 2015
I just read in Lithuanian Delfi.lt newspaper how they describe Mexico: “vibrant, full of contrasts, passionate, friendly and breathing memories of the past” -I agree fully.
The next day was also very saturated – this was the day when I almost crawled home on my fours, how tired I was…Because we visited the biggest museum of all -the Anthropology museum, metro stop Chapultepec. It is a big park, a huge park, lots of fountains and all grounds are well taken care of. There is a botanical park on the way and a museum of Modern Art:
But we had no time for it. Another modern art museum is called Rufino Tamayo, who was one of Mexico’s outstanding fresco painter and evidently he built this museum:
I expected to see some of his art, even stood in line there and what we got to our astonishment and delight was an exhibit of Yayoi Kusama – a Japanese avant-garde artist, who does different strange things besides being a good artist. She is really “big” and this exhibit is traveling around the world, so it was very useful to see her creations! Lots of installations, of which one was the most impressive -a dark room with mirrors filled with lights that change color – it creates the feeling of infinity and magic:
Then there was this room from her period of liking penises…(That is what the notes on walls said) :
Thanks God they took her to a psychiatric ward and healed to the extent taht she started making really good art, which reminded me of Matisse, big pieces:
Interesting how a person is born creative, evolves through many styles and still any of them can’t be called “the one” – she is still changing, creating, singing, playing music, etc… Her personality is really very inspiring!
Close by in the park – there is a pole and we were lucky to see the performers – some strange way of performing – attaching themselves to ropes while high up on a tall pole and little by little while the pole turns around – lowering down to the ground with their heads down all the time – not a healthy way, I think, but popular in Mexico:
And here is the famous Museo de Antropologia, which I would call – too big, too much:
It is its inner garden, the museum halls are around it and there is a lot of them! It has even a pond with natural plants, attracting wildlife:
There are sections of each part of Mexico, each bigger Indian tribe – fantastic, so much beauty in one place! So much so, that I couldn’t take it all, had to take some pictures for later “consumption” and sharing with you:
This is one of their “stars” -the Aztec calendar:
What impressed me a lot, were groups or classes of kids brought by their teachers to get them acquainted with their roots – all the kids were so nice and cute and bright – but the funny part – they were more interested in us, very few foreigners than in what they were shown. They were enthusiastically taking their selfies, taking pictures with some Swedish blond ladies, and wanted to take with me while I had a hard time not managing to communicate with them, no habla Espanol…
Here is at least one Rufino Tamayo fresco which is in the entrance hall in this museum -two symbols of Mexico – a snake and a leopard, sun and moon, day and night:
It was a peculiar black squirrel that we noticed while walking back through the park:
Paseo de la Reforma -the skyscraper street starts right by that park, with an agave blooming:
And that was too much for a day
January 4, 2015
Now I am in love with Mexico. Didn’t expect to get such a good feel from the biggest city in world, as some say…We flew there on December 3rd and planned to stay for 5 days, but extended to 7 and still it was not enough. And I am not a fan of big cities. But Mexico city has not only its bigness, noise, but also some quiet islands that look like rather rich and cozy communities with all this colorful colonial architecture, houses-museums, small parks and churches and street performers. And the museums… an endless number, one better that the other. All the churches are free to enter (unlike in Italy), they are very fancy inside, everywhere in those spaces it is so clean that it makes you feel clean! All in all Mexico city can be a destination on its own. There is a street lined by skyscrapers, there are nice parks with fountains and happy people resting on benches, there are concert halls, a variety of nice restaurants and best of all – a very good climate! We were in December and it was a perfect temperature for sightseeing, no rain whatsoever. They say that it never gets very hot and very cold – based on the flora we saw there they definitely have no frosts. Everything was good except for one thing- we don’t speak Spanish…And you need at least to understand some. We met several Mexicans, who luckily have spent a year or two illegally in the US and learned some English, good for us :-). But the majority doesn’t speak any English. In museums you seldom see information written in English, so I used a Travel guide for Mexico and the internet to find out about what we saw in the museums.
So here it is -a flight form Las Vegas is 3.5 hours only, on Mexican Airlines. Then you buy a taxi ticket in one of many kiosks in the airport – you show the address and pay based on the distance (in our case it was 224 pesos). Then you stand in a line for the taxi company you have the ticket (we noticed there are several companies) – Mexicans are so good in standing in lines, so patient and orderly. Then your taxi comes and takes you to the very door of your destination. This time it was a room on top of a cafe – Tea House -right by the metro station Villa Cortez. The owner is Chez and she speaks English. We found the place through Air B&B and were happy about it. All the time you come from the city – there are workers in the cafeteria and they greet you, the feeling was you came home. All in all the location is fantastic and there was a very good pastes shop across the square, also- fruit sellers, also – some other cafe if that was not enough. On Thursdays they have dancers dancing Aztec dances in the square and you hear the drums all evening long but that is not disturbing. Here is the house, our room was on the right with a balcony:
The garden wall gad some distinct drawings, looked very modern and the garden had enough greenery and flowers. Here is the view from our window:
It would be a very big blog if described all the museums we visited during those 7 days. But I’ll try to mention the ones that impressed us most. And also to give as much useful travel information. The main point of traveling in Mexico city is the convenience of the metro! I remember getting much more tired in Barcelona, versus here- the stations are in good places, approximately 1 km from each other and a ride costs 5 pesos (we got 13.4 pesos per 1 $ at the time), not bad. The place we stayed was about 6 metro stations south from Downtown and its main square Zocalo, on the the same metro line. They were building some constructions I guess for Christmas in Zocalo, so we don’t even have a picture of the whole square, it is so big. We even didn’t take a picture of the Cathedral, for there was no place to stand and get it all. So here is at least the facade of another church by the Cathedral, and then the interior of the Cathedral:
How can one not like it!
And from there we started our walks. The churches and pedestrian streets with some old mansions turned into museums, with their different inner gardens, very cleanly swept so that not a single leaf is lying where it should not, like little oasis with orange groves, you go right and left, never boring, always nice treats for the eyes. The only thing that I think is strange for us, living in mountainous area, is the flatness of the city – you never see more than the street you are at. It is built in place of a lake, so no wonder. Also -in most churches a strange feeling would make you feel you are loosing your balance, you feel like thrown to one side – they are leaning…Some do that because of the soft clay under them, the “lake” effect and some, as they mention in books -because of that big 1995 earthquake. Anyway -here is a Leonore Carrington’s sculpture -in one of the mansions-museums we entered on Moneda street:
Jose Luis Cuevas museum and his sculpture -he was a very good artist, lots of good paintings there:
Yes, that is the name of the street. And this is what they like to have here and there on their streets:
I guess they are called La Katrinas. We had our Sopa de verdura – vegetable soup overlooking this church in the same Moneda street:
Here is St.Domingo church and square. They have trees growing from their roofs, sad…
Here we are enjoying the big statue-chair by the bank in this square – never change money there! they give the lowest rate possible. And pay attention to the feet of those beasts:
Here is the old central post office:
And here you can see the Cathedral dome and the old Aztec city ruins right in the very center of Mexico city – the old city was on an island in a lake. We ran out of time and didn’t enter the ruin museum…