Mexico City

February 10th, 2005

Mexico City Urban Chic

A return visit beckons. Perhaps the great metropolis is luring me to return so that I may reassess the rather low opinion I have held of the place. There are seemingly plenty of converts.

New and exciting things are indeed sprouting up all over the city: a new monumental skyline, upscale boutiques, trendy restaurants, new nightspots and an incredible art scene. Not forgetting the favourable exchange rate (21 Mexican pesos = £1) .

There is no question however, that stylish modern hotels have been in short supply in the capital. The super-minimalist 36-room Habita was hailed as a trailblazer when it opened in October 2000; but it remained the city’s only ‘design’ hotel for the next three years – until the 237-room ‘W’ Mexico City opened in November 2003. But the pace of change is quickening.

Finally opening its doors a fortnight ago (31 Jan) was the hip Condesa DF – the first style-hotel in the recently-very-trendy neighborhood of La Condesa – known among young locals as ‘Condechi’ – with its tree-lined Parisian-style boulevards, small green spaces, and well-kept art-deco residences. The area is full of boutiques, street cafés, and a startling and ever-expanding number of new restaurants and nightspots.

At a lavish party, around 1,500 guests were invited to inspect some of the hotel’s facilities (the bar, gift shop, dining rooms…) and then to pop across the street to the garden of the former residence of Plutarco Elias Calles (president from 1924-28) for drinks and hors d’ouerves. The lobby bar-restaurant has already turned into something of a hangout for the city’s “beautiful people”.

The Condesa DF’s 40 sleek rooms are housed in a renovated 1928 apartment building. Each with custom-made furniture, stone floors and flashy extras like wide-screen TVs and DVD players. There’s a rooftop terrace with bar and also a Turkish-bath (why not a temazcal?). Doubles start at US$195.

My amigo, David Lida, who is more knowledgable about ‘el DF’ than most, has written a piece (not online) about the three chefs the hotel hired – a Brit, a Filipina and a Lebanese. They lingered for six months perfecting their own brand of “nueva cocina mexicana“, mainly Mexican with a pinch of Asian, and a little bit of French flair for fusing ingredients borrowed from many of the world’s cuisines.

Another Mexico City insider with whom I’ve recently been in touch is Chris Humphrey, author of Moon’s Mexico City Handbook. He agrees. “In the last couple of years in particular I’ve noticed a growing level of ‘cosmopolitan-ness’ in the city, more openness to and awareness of the rest of the world,” Chris told me. This is particularly noticeable in the dramatic upswing in the variety and quality of restaurants. “There are really some fantastic places to eat in DF now,” Chris continued, “it’s becoming a major culinary mecca.”

Have you been seduced? To recap, Mexico City is among the top ten destinations to visit in 2005. So say Arcarnus, the exclusive ‘lifestyle management’ company (whatever that is) who has surveyed its client list of celebs and entrepreneurs. So it must be true.

Also among the new disciples is Gridskipper – the latest media offering from the bestubbled Nick Denton’s stable of trendy blogs. Trumpeting itself as “the decadent travel guide to urban destinations around the world”, those who consider themselves chic urbanites will find it well worth keeping tabs on what’s posted under their Mexico City category. So far, so good.

For sure, Mexico City is not alone. I have noted elsewhere that Mérida, the hub of Yucatan, is also undergoing a similar transformation. For now though, I will reserve judgement on the capital.

Filed in Mexico City

January 28th, 2005

Life in the High Lane

A dearth of road signs on Mexico City’s ring road directing drivers to the new second deck has itself resulted in traffic build-ups.

The confusion appears to confirm the view of critics that the segundo piso project (link in Spanish) had been completed with undue haste to help the presidential ambitions of the city’s mayor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Welders worked through Friday night to finish the guardrails on the new section of the periferico in time for last Saturday’s inauguration.

El Universal reported that a motorist ignoring road closures hit construction workers, killing one man.

Whether the double-decker highway will alleviate congestion or pollution is questionable.

One sceptic columnist in the FT was keen to stress that the view for stationary motorists is much better from the second level.

Bus Rapid Transit

Thankfully, the city has now moved on to a more promising pilot project for a “metro-bus”, which will operate in its own bus lanes in the main avenues.

Furthermore, while the car flyovers will only serve the 20 per cent of Mexico City residents who use private cars, the BRT system will reduce over-crowding on three metro lines and improve public transport in areas underserved by the existing metro system.

Filed in Getting about, Mexico City

December 14th, 2004

In Coyoacán You Can

The New York-based Project for Public Spaces organisation – a nonprofit consultancy dedicated to creating and sustaining public places that build communities – has nominated Coyoacán, 8km south of Mexico City Centro, as the fifth best neighbourhood in North America in which to live. Discuss…

Languages student Helen Murray from Rossett in North Wales writes about Coyoacán in her BBC blog about her experiences living & working in Mexico.

Filed in Mexico City, Mexico City & Beyond

Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City

Catedral Metropolitana, Mexico City
The largest colonial cathedral in the Americas
Originally uploaded by Froda

Filed in Mexico City

November 23rd, 2004

Xochimilco Gardens, Mexico City

Flickr
Xochimilco

Originally uploaded by Juan Rene

Ron Mader of Planeta.com has written an excellent and up-to-date guide to visiting the ‘floating gardens’ of Xochimilco in the current issue of Transitions Abroad magazine.

Ron highlights the efforts to conserve the agricultural beds called chinampas – “not mere historical artifacts but living examples of sustainable agriculture”, and a visit to support a breeding programme for the axolotl, an endangered salamander.

Filed in Mexico City, Mexico's World Heritage Sites

September 10th, 2004

Mexico City Metro

Mexico City Metro

Metro de mi ciudad
Originally uploaded by juanrene

It’s still only $2.00 pesos for a metro ticket.

Filed in Getting about, Mexico City

June 28th, 2004

Mexicans rally against insecurity

Historic pictures coming out of Mexico City following Sunday’s massive protest at surging violent crime.

Jo Tuckman reports for The Guardian as public outrage spilled over on the streets of the capital. Even from the UK, from where I am following these events at the moment, this feels somehow important – a watershed. Lots moving on this over the coming weeks & months I suspect, with 2006 presidential and congressional campaigns seemingly already underway. Did I hear anyone say, “Rudy”?

Filed in Mexican Life & Society, Mexico City

August 8th, 2003

Giuliani crime advice to Mexico City

An article on BBC Online today follows our story from Thursday.

Filed in Mexican Life & Society, Mexico City