Subject: Mexico City
Jeanine,

I've gone back and compiled some previous posts I've sent to TheTravelzine about Mexico City over the years. A search of the archives will undoubtedly turn up additional helpful information.

Teotihuacán is generally considered the premiere sight to see in the Mexico City area and deservedly so. The visit to Teotihuacán will involve most of a day. You should also be able to do at least one other sight that day which doesn't involve as much time. I would suggest the Centro Histórico around the Zócalo, the second largest public plaza in the world (the Red Square in Moscow being larger). This is the center of the city and includes the National Palace housing Diego Rivera's wonderful mural depicting the history of Mexico, the enormous Catedral Metropolitan, and the ruins of the Templo Mayor, the Great Temple of Tenochtitlán which was the center of the Aztec Empire. Destroyed during the Conquest and subsequently built over by the Spaniards it was rediscovered during construction of the city's subway.

If you happen to be in the Zócalo in the late afternoon you might witness the trooping of the colors, the ceremonial lowering and folding of the immense national flag that flies in the center of the plaza. Due to its great volume it takes upwards of twenty soldiers to execute this logistic puzzle. All the while a military band plays the national anthem and keeps rhythym. The best vantage to observe this is from the rooftop restaurant at the Hotel Majestic on the corner of Av. Francisco Madero and Av. 5 de Febrero on the west side of the Zócalo.

Afterwards you can stroll up and down the four streets (Calle Tacuba, Av. 5 de Mayo, Av. Francisco Madero, & Av. 16 de Septiembre) that run between the Zócalo and the Alameda Park. In addition to window shopping you might take the opportunity to visit the House of Tiles dating from 1596, the Palacio de Iturbide an 18th century mansion belonging to Augustín I self-proclaimed Emperor of Mexico, stop in at the Dulcería Celaya for a visit to one of the premier candy shops in the city (try anything with coconut), or enjoy a meal at the Café Tacuba. Finally, you could continue up Av. 5 de Mayo past the Palacio de Bellas Artes (try to get in to look at the fabulous lobby and murals by Rivera, Siquieros, and Orozco on the mezzanine walls). After passing the Palacio de Bellas Artes you enter La Alameda Park. This park is nice in its own right but is definitely enlivened by the various activities of the vendors, food stalls, and promenaders. Additionally you can visit the Museo de la Alameda which contains another mural of Rivera's. This work called "Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park" is one of my favorites by Rivera and you could easily spend a couple of hours gazing at the myriad different characters marching past you.

If you want to continue with investigating pre-Columbian Mexico then I suggest a visit to the Museo Nacional Antropología (National Anthropology Museum). In fact, this museum, arguably the most important in all of Mexico, would be intrinsic to an understanding of the history of this complex country. It is here where you will find the statuary, jewelry, clothing, pottery, and other essential artifacts of the various cultures whose ruins you will visit at Teotihuacán, Monte Alban, Palenque, Chichen Itza, and Tikal. This museum is the single unifying institution on the planet that brings the history of Mesoamerica into context for the visitor.

After visiting the museum, which could take the better part of a day depending on how captivated one becomes with the exhibits, you could spend the remainder of the day(and additional days as well) sightseeing in Chapultepec Park, the location of the Anthropology Museum. Other sites worth visiting in Chapultepec include Chapultepec Castle, the residence of Emperor Maximilian and his wife Carlota. A good place to enjoy the views of the park and up the Reforma, the city's grand avenue. Also located in the park are the Museo Rufino Tamayo donated to the Mexican people by the beloved Oaxacan artist, the Zoo and Botanical Garden, and the Monument to the Niños Heroes, six young army cadets who sacrificed themselves in defense of their city against the troops of the American Intervention of 1847.

An additional destination would be to visit the spiritual center of Mexico-La Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Eight kilometers north of the city center this site draws millions of pilgrims from throughout the country every year. Familiarize yourself with the miracle of Juan Diego and his encounter with La Señora before you go.

In the opposite direction, to the south, are the communities of Coyoacán and San Angel both former suburbs of the city which have been surrounded by its unchecked growth. Coyoacán was the original site of Spanish development after the destruction of Teotihuacán. You'll find some of these older buildings around the central park, the Parque Centenario. You can wander the streets and experience the charms of this lovely neighborhood. A visit here can include a stop at The Frida Kahlo home which is now a museum. A beautiful home that also serves as a museum for some of her artwork, as well as a few pieces of her husband's, Diego Rivera. Another interesting home to visit would be the last residence of Leon Trotsky, a key player in the Russian Revolution. Despite his efforts to remodel the home into a fortress and sanctuary for himself he was assasinated by a Stalinist agent here in 1940. This home is creepy and fascinating at the same time. Full of intrigue and worth a visit. Catch a cab over to the nearby neighborhood of Churubusco to visit the Museo de las Intervenciones on the grounds of a 16th century ex-convent. A museum depicting Mexico's sad history of foreign invasion (mostly French and American). This is also the site of the Battle of Churubusco between the Mexicans and Americans. One of the most poignant aspects of this battle was the story of the St. Patrick's Brigade a group of Irish-American soldiers who deserted from the U.S Army and chose to fight for the Mexicans due to their belief that the Intervention of 1847 was an unjust and illegal war.

Once you're finished in Coyoacán you can head over to San Angel another quiet neighborhood in this teeming megalopolis. Here you can visit the Diego Rivera Museum a former home and studio for Rivera and his wife, Frida Kahlo. Afterwards stroll across the street to the San Angel Inn, a former 17th century hacienda now housing a restaurant. Have a meal or if it's too crowded a cocktail and a snack and enjoy the surroundings.

RESTAURANTS:

A wonderful spot for breakfast is the Cafe Tacuba in the Centro Historico on Calle Tacuba 28, of course.. The walls of this venerable restaurant echo with the turbulent history of 20th Century Mexico. Tel 5-518-4950.

Also in the Centro Historico you'll find the Hostería de Santo Domingo for good traditional Mexican cuisine. Chiles en nogada are a definite if they are available. At Belisario Dominguez 72 Tel 5-510-1434.

For ambience from a more distant past try dining at the Hacienda de los Morales in the Polanco District. This 16th-century colonial structure offers beautiful gardens, detailed service, and outstanding cuisine. At Calle Vázquez de Mella 525, Col. Polanco. Tel. 540-3225. Try the filet mignon with huitlacoche.

A wonderful discovery was the Restaurante Centro Gallego. This restaurant is the central point of a Galician social club. Ex-patriate Galicians gather here for excellent cuisine, dominoes, and reminiscing about home. You'll find it at Colima 194, Colonia Roma. Tel. 511-83-56, 207-60-13, 533-52-26.

Recent inquiries of clients from Mexico City have resulted in their recommending a restaurant called Champs Elysée on the Paseo de la Reforma #316. Can't speak about this one personally but it's been mentioned a number of times. And, hey, there's no reason why you can't enjoy French food while in Mexico. Tel. 5-514-0450

¡Buen provecho! John in San Diego