Sunday, April 07, 2019

More Mexican Muralists

Friday, February 22

Although I want to visit the Ciudad Universitaria which has numerous murals and mosaics created by “The Three Greats;” Diego, Orozco and Siqueiros, Art vetoes that idea. The University is a city in itself and the art pieces we want to see are scattered over miles of campus.  330,000 students attend the university. We decide on a less ambitious day and after another inspiring view breakfast at our hotel, we set off to find the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso. This hidden gem, a Jesuit monastery and an example of Colonial architecture is a few streets behind the Zocolo and has some wonderful murals by the ‘Three Greats’ and others. I am struck by a mural of Cortez with his indigenous mistress and the luminous stained glass in the stairwell.

Marty at Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso
Cortez and his indigenous mistress - Orozco
Jose Clemente Orozco

Detail of Orozco mural

I regret I cannot match all of the murals with their corresponding artists but I imagine that Maurice Sendak was inspired by these murals because his ‘Wild Thing’ monster character looks nearly identical to a creature in one of the murals. The downstairs theatre is closed but fortunately, musicians are wrapping up a rehearsal and we are able to slip inside. We are cautioned not to take photographs but we get a firsthand glimpse of Diego’s early mural, Creation, strikingly illuminated by the lights of the stage.

Just around the corner from our hotel is the Cathedral Café where we have been meaning to dine but because it closes at 3:00 P.M. our timing has been off until today. (This restaurant is on the “foodie” list.)   We enter the unassuming ground floor bakery and goat cheese shop to discover that there are two floors above. A stylish woman juggling seating charts and a microphone takes our names and within minutes she points us to an elevator and we ascend to the third floor and emerge into an elegant and light filled dining room.

View through the elevator door

A salad art piece

Art and I always share so we orchestrate our order so we can taste a variety of dishes. The salad we order is both delicious and an art piece and we order two different types of enchiladas. (We are not disappointed.)

This is our last full day and we are still ticking Diego Rivera murals off our must see list. We walk to Mueso Mural Diego Rivera, one that we overlooked a few days ago. It is home to one of his most famous murals, Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park. The museum is just one room, showcasing this panoramic mural and we spend our time resting on the gallery bench and identifying the characters portrayed in the mural.

Dream of a Sunday Afternoon...
Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park

Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park

Photos of Diego Rivera

After a week of intense site seeing, Art and I are tired and sated but I feel I will regret not picking up a few souvenir gifts. I peruse the guide book and map and discover we are near the local craft market. Art humors me and we walk many more blocks in search of the permanent market that engulfs many blocks. We enter a warren of stalls, each one selling identical merchandise and Art is surprisingly patient as I try on several blouses in the hopes of transforming myself into a young Frida Kahlo. Alas, the blocky cuts are unflattering and I am soon disheartened, but had we not come here, I would have felt that I had missed something.  We UBER back to our hotel, rest a short while and head out for an early dinner at Restaurant Mumedi on Avenue Francisco in the heart of the trendy shopping district. Mumedi has good reviews but turns out to be more like a museum bookshop cafeteria than a restaurant. Although the food is good and stylish, they don’t serve any alcohol and we miss sipping wine with our meals. After dinner, we peruse the gift shop but overall I am disappointed with our dinner choice on our last night out.

We wander from dinner to an upscale bar with fashionable drinks but the music is loud and unlike us, the crowd is young and gearing up for their Friday night. Still not ready to give up on a last night Mexico City fling, we walk from the tourist district and choose a local cantina where we sit and people watch over a mediocre drink before strolling back to our hotel and sinking into bed.

Saturday, February 23rd  Homeward Bound

I’ve coordinated our separate flights back ‘home’ so that Art and I are able to enjoy a leisurely morning together. We forgo our hotel breakfast and walk around the corner to the Cathedral Café.
Yesterdays’ lunch was stellar and we want to sample their extravagant yet affordable breakfast (affordable by California standards.) Art has his shoes shined on the way and by the time we arrive at the restaurant there is a 30 minuet wait.

Art having his shoes shined
Waiting for a table

We put our names on the list, return quickly to our hotel to pack and are back at the restaurant just in time for our names to be called. We ride the elevator up to the first floor and are seated. A waiter immediately appears wielding a silvery pot of coffee and a white ceramic pitcher of Mexican hot chocolate. Having read the rave reviews over the hot chocolate, I throw cation aside and watch as the waiter froths the thick and creamy concoction. Another waiter discretely slides pastries onto our plates and we inhale the calories and the old world ambiance.  After the cholesterol high hot chocolate, I order an egg white, goat cheese and poblano pepper omelet, not because of its health attributes but because it sounds delicious. Art orders an omelet wrapped in squash blossoms and both our breakfasts are amazing.

Squash blossom omelet at the Cathedral Cafe
Egg white and pepper omelet

We fast walk off some of the calories to have a repeat look at the Diego Rivera Murals at the National Palace. There is no line at the palace and we are able to spend another 30 minutes admiring the murals.

A last look at the Diego Rivera Murals at the National Palace
The reality of time dawns on us and we call for an UBER and are soon our way to the airport. Our two different flights depart 20 minutes apart from different airline terminals. All goes seamlessly.  Art’s return flight to San Jose del Cabo is an easy two hours. My return flight to California is a bit more painful involving two flights and a 4 hour layover in LAX. I arrive back in San Jose by 9:00 P.M. and am pulling in my driveway before midnight.

Taking off over Mexico City - 21 million population!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Mexican Muralists and Xochimilico

Wednesday, February 20th, 
In spite of the dramatic terrace view of the Zocolo, our hotel breakfast is starting to get old. I am not complaining because I can’t imagine wanting more than what is offered and I serve myself fresh papaya and pineapple, two pieces of bacon, steamed cauliflower and broccoli and a tiny fresh baked croissant. We seat ourselves and the waiter takes our coffee order; a cappuccino for me and a double espresso for Art. Our waiter asks if we would like something from the kitchen and I order a one egg omelet with mushrooms and cheese. I am more than sated when we leave and well fueled for another full day of museums. 
We start with the museums within the National Palace, just steps away from our hotel. We arrive at 9:30 A.M. but entrance to the Diego Rivera murals doesn't open until 10:00 A.M. We poke into several other nearby museums. A political cartoon exhibition is both interesting and amusing with satirical cartoons of Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and Netanyahu.

Trump and Kim Jong-up 
Michel Michka Political Cartoonist

 When we exit the line for the Diego Rivera mural is long so we head to the art gallery across the narrow street. We have this free museum to ourselves and motion lights switch on as we enter each gallery. There is a guard within each gallery and Art comments that it must be a government work program to keep people employed. Again when we exit the line for the Diego Rivera mural is still long so we walk in the direction of the Palacio Bella Arts in search the Franz Meyer Decorative Arts museum. It is tucked inside an unimpressive courtyard but the temporary Neo-Baroque exhibit is excellent and leaves us wanting more.  

Exterior of the Franz Meyer Museum
Exhibit, Franz Meyer Museum

Exhibit, Franz Meyer Museum
Most of the national museums are free and as seniors, the private museums offer discounted admission for seniors. I feel like a senior today with my legs still burning from pyramid climbing and my injured knee. Art steps into the men’s restroom and I rest on a bench nearby to wait. Suddenly two pretty young women wearing stylish museum uniforms with knee length skirts and high heels approach me and motion me to come with them quickly. I recognize the word “drill” and “not to worry” but they are insistent that I follow them outside to a breezeway and into a covered parking garage. I fumble for the word “esposo” and point to the restroom worried that Art will think that I have been abducted. A large dot with 4 arrows is painted on the garage pavement and they position me on the center dot as two dozen others are escorted to the “safety zone.” Gratefully, Art is among the others being corralled and within a few minutes the drill is over and we return to the museum.  

Safety drill at the Franz Meyer Museum
The safest spot!

Since our taxi driver to the Condessa passed us counterfeit money, we have been enjoying the magic of Uber. Art enters our next destination as the Museo Tamayo and within minutes our Uber magically arrives to transport us to the park bordering the museum. We head straight for the museum café and Art orders the salmon and I order succulently marinated duck tacos. As usual, we share. The modern architecture of the museum is striking and the main exhibit is work by German Venegas. I try to find merit in his work but it’s a struggle.  This is the Tamayo Museum but there are only a few paintings by him. The modern art museum across the park and is excellent and we spend two hours wandering the four wings. Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, David Siqueiros and Ricardo Martinez are just a few of the artists represented here.

German Venegas
German Venegas

Paintings by Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo 
David Alfaro Siqueiros

We decide to give the Opera Café a second chance for dinner tonight. The interior could be out of a movie set and their claim to fame seems to be that Poncho Villa rode into it on horseback and shot bullet holes in the ceiling.  We watch nearly every customer crane their necks scanning for bullet holes on the baroque ceiling. The ornate carved wood and mirrored antique bar stretches the length of one wall.  We enjoy tonight’s dinner but much might be attributed to the liter of fruit filled Sangria that Art orders expecting me to share it. It tastes like fruit punch poured over fruit cocktail and I order red wine.  We linger some time listening to the mariachi music and enjoying the old world ambience and each other’s company. Although the food is good, we are getting tired of Mexican fare and take two of my four Chile Verde enchiladas to go with the intention of passing them to one of the many less fortunate who ask for a few pesos. We are less than a block away when a man approaches indicating that he is hungry and we hand him the well wrapped to go box and then worry that we have forgotten to ask the restaurant for silverware.

Opera Cafe
Thursday, February 21st,
We are looking forward to the day and have the perfect start at the National Palace. Yesterday the line for entry to the Diego Rivera Murals was long and we decided to try another day but this morning we arrive at 9:50 and there are only 30 people waiting.  We chat with a couple of Chinese American tourists who are foodies and reside in Albuquerque New Mexico.  They share foodie tips with us and their tips will influence our next couple of days. Entry to the National Palace is free but one must show ID and go through a security check. Security holds Art’s ID and we hurry into the palatial courtyard and towards the staircase with the murals. The Diego Rivera murals are impressive and we take our time trying to understand the historical characters and time periods of the various murals.

Diego Rivera Mural - The History of Mexico at the National Palace
Diego Rivera Murals - The National Palace
Diego Rivera Mural

Diego Rivera Mural - The Grand Tenochtitlan at the National Palace
There is a small gallery off the upstairs courtyard balcony with a few choice works from the period. We wish that we could spend more time here overall but we have an 11:30 A.M. entry to the Frida Kahlo Museum so we tear ourselves away and fast walk back to our hotel where Art calls for an UBER and within minutes we are magically transported to the Coyoacan district and to Frida’s Blue house. Although this is nothing like the Anne Frank House, the hype feels the same. One must purchase tickets in advance or suffer a 2-3 hour wait in line. The timed ticket line wraps around the corner and we insert ourselves time appropriately into the line. 20 minutes later we are granted entry and emerge into the lush courtyard of Frida’s Blue House. Initially, Art and I are unimpressed but we soon navigate towards a few rooms displaying Frida’s wardrobe, recently discovered and on display.  Art whispers to me that I already dress like Frida and I feel flattered and vow to do a better job of putting myself together. This was her home and painting studio. Her wheelchair sits in a light filled second floor room beside an easel along with an array of paints and brushes. I am gaining a new appreciation for her work. Prior to this visit, it was Diego who I most admired but her prolific work on display in various small gallery rooms are moving and impressive.  I am voraciously taking pictures when a guard stops me and inquires if I have a “photo permission sticker?” I tuck my phone away but return to the entrance to purchase a 30 peso sticker and I return to take photos. 

Line to enter Frida's Blue House Museum

Frida's wardrobe on display
Frida's wardrobe on display

Marty beside a photograph of Frida
Title- Marxism will give health to the sick


Frida's painting studio
Frida's easel, wheelchair and paints

Hungry, Art map quests a local restaurant just a few blocks away. The restaurant is packed with locals and offers only set lunch menus for 85 pesos or about $6.00 each. The waitress brings us a large pitcher of Jamaica juice and gives us a form and pencil. We are to write down our choices from the set menu. Art pencils in our order and minutes later soups and salads arrive followed shortly by two different styles of taquitos. A strange dessert completes the ample meal and we ask to take the leftovers to go. Within minutes of leaving the restaurant, we pass the box off to a young man motioning to his belly in what we presume is a request for money or food. 

Prix Fix Menu
Restaurant Terminal

The day has been perfect so far but I insist that we go from here to Xochimilico, the floating gardens where we will take a gondola boat along the canals. Art is not much interested but I am insistent. We take another UBER and are deposited at the boat dock. It is after 3:00 P.M. and the guide book tells us that the boats are 500 pesos an hour regardless of how many people are onboard and that we should find another party to share the boat. The boat launch is virtually empty except for a row of colorful boats and many bored gondola pole pushers and their “pimp.” We immediately run into a problem.

Xochimilico Gondolas
Xochimilico Goose

There is one boat master in charge of filling the vacant boats and he sees Art and me walk in alone. We scan the boat launch for other passengers who we might join and there are none. The gondolas hold over 20 passengers each and it is not so much a matter of economics as it is of pleasure. We would rather enjoy this boat trip with company. Art spots a Hispanic family and approaches them. In Art’s best Spanish he asks if they might like to share a boat?  Eddie, a man in his mid 40’s who speaks perfect English is from Guatemala and he is delighted with the prospect of us joining his family of four. We will share the expense and bring along some beer. I scurry off to try to find both beer and a bottle of wine in anticipation of a delightful cruise along the canals with new and interesting friends. The dock side concessions have no wine but I buy beer plus a couple of canned mixed alcoholic drinks and return to our Guatemala friends only to find that the dock master will not allow us to share their boat because we are not a part of their family. We offer to pay full price to join their boat but he will not budge on his policy. Another larger group of Canadians and Americans have arrived and we try to piggy back with them. The dock master “Pimp” stands his ground and it is not until the woman who has pre- arranged their trip for 15 people calls the travel agent that we are allowed to join their group but we must pay the $750 pesos additional for the hour and a half boat ride. Art thrusts the money at the dock master and we board the gondola with this large family wedding party.

We share the gondola with a wedding party
Our gondola poler

Local boatman

Initially, we enjoy the company of this multi-cultural family until one member, an American bore, purposely moves himself to our end of the gondola table and decides to make Art and me his best friends. I surmise that the rest of his family is relieved that we have now taken on the burden of entertaining him and I watch Art visibly withdraw as the man spouts on and on. Although this experience might be fun with a group of likeminded friends, we spend an uncomfortable hour and a half simply wanting the trip to end.

The return UBER ride back to our hotel takes about an hour.  At about 7:00 P.M. we dress and decide to to walk to restaurant Limosneros, recommended by the couple we met waiting in line for the National Palace.  I tell Art we have little chance of getting a table but it is before 8:00 P.M. when we arrive and we are fortunate to be seated. The range of our meals in Mexico City has been all over the place and its’ time for us to enjoy a good meal. I suggest that Art orders the 7 course Prix Fix dinner along with wine pairing. I will order the sea bass entree and he can pass me tastes of his various courses. Although some of his courses are stellar, several are quite ordinary and even my sea bass is not exceptional. (We do not order the Pueblo beetle or ant egg appetizers.) We have an enjoyable evening and our bill with drinks and tip is less than $120 U.S. dollars. These meals with wine parings would have cost over $300 in California. 

Limosneros Restaurant
A fungi course

Limosneros Restaurant
Pueblo beetle and ant egg appetizers