06 May 2015

Mexico City: Chapultepec, Condesa and Roma

Yesterday morning, I went to the two last museums on my list for this trip: the Museo Nacional de Historia and the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, both of which are based in the Bosque de Chapultepec, a huge park on the west side of the city centre. Chapultepec means 'the grasshopper hill' in Nahuatl, and the history museum is located in the Castillo de Chapultepec, at the top of the said hill. I knew it was going to be a steep walk because I had run up to the gates a couple of times. You can take a little train to the gates for 13 pesos (about 60p), but then you arrive with dozens of other people and might have to queue to get in. Entrance to the museum itself was 64 pesos (£2.75) and you can't take food or drink inside.

The castle is a very grand building with stunning views over the park and the city. After some torrential rain last night, the sun was shining again and after the walk to the top, I was grateful to seek shelter in the cool interiors. If you know little about the history of Mexico — which I didn't — the museum is a great primer. There is little information in English, but my Spanish is good enough that I could get the gist. There was also a temporary exhibition called 'Hilos de Historia', which I eventually worked out meant 'threads of history', and highlighted various official costumes and the ballgowns of the first ladies.

I lingered for a while on the beautiful chequered balcony, enjoying the view and watching the monarch butterflies.

The anthropology museum is about a 20-minute walk from the castle, including the stroll down the hill. It cost 64 pesos to get in — well worth the money. It's a huge museum divided into different rooms for different Mexican civilisations and cultures: the ground-floor rooms are for pre-Hispanic Mexico and the upper-floors are about how the indigenous people live today. You can hire an audio-guide, but there is a lot of information in both English and Spanish throughout. My inner linguist particularly enjoyed the parts about the different indigenous languages.

As I've been staying the Roma area, I have wandered through Roma and the neighbouring Condesa neighbourhood on most of the days I've been here, so I thought I'd mention a few highlights (as well as Limantour and my Saturday coffee stops).

Yesterday, I went for a late lunch at Con Sabor a Tixtla, a cute, colourful restaurant that serves Guerrero food on Calle Chiapas, near the Mercado de Medellin (a great food market to visit). I ordered the special of the day: pollo enchipotlado, a rich, spicy dish with juicy chicken, pineapple, plantain and chipotle. It came with a couple of soft tacos, and some tortilla chips and salsa verde, and it was very tasty. I was glad I also ordered a pineapple agua fresca as the spice was a bit full on. I realised too late that I should have ordered one of the 'main dishes' (the menu wasn't very clear), which for between 40 and 70 pesos came with soup, an agua fresca and a pudding (my main dish was 39 pesos and the agua fresca 40). The waitress may have been trying to tell me this but I couldn't understand her well enough.

On Monday afternoon, after I returned from Teotihuacán, I ambled through Roma, stopping for coffee at Cardinal, a colourful cafe with funky decor and an impressive coffee menu. I ordered a Guerrero coffee brewed in an Aeropress (30 pesos), but other brew methods are definitely available. The coffee was great, the staff are friendly and they were even playing Supergrass. I also visited Abarrotes Delirio on Colima, which I discovered months ago when it was featured in a BuzzFeed post about beautiful cafes around the world that also featured my photo of Revolver in Vancouver. It is indeed beautiful inside — they sell all sorts of fancy deli goods, sandwiches and cakes, as well as coffee — and my macchiato was rather good.

An elliptical park called Parque México divides Roma from Condesa. It's a pretty, shaded haven with fountains and flowers (much smaller but even lovelier is Plaza Popocatepetl, just to the north, which has a gorgeous white fountain; second photo below). The two roads that circle it — Avenida México and then Avenida Amsterdam — are leafy boulevards filled with chic restaurants. The oval shape came from the days when there was a hippodrome here, and I quite like the quirkiness of it.

You can happily wander in Condesa and find plenty of interesting shops and restaurants. It wasn't quite dinner time when I was there, but I did have a pineapple nieve (sorbet) for 20 pesos from Neveria Roxy on Avenida Tamaulipas, which is a particularly nice street to walk down. I spotted a number of design shops, including Design Spot (on Parral near Fernando Montes de Oca — another lovely street) and the Galería Vintage México on Tlaxcala near Culiacan, whose gorgeous vintage furniture and homewares made me wish I had brought a bigger suitcase. Even the Adidas store on Calle Atlixco looked beautiful! In Roma, Calle Colima probably has the biggest selection of shops, including a boutique called 180 (I also liked the look of Tenderete, a design shop on Jalapa).

There are stacks of restaurants, from hole-in-the-wall taco joints to classy bistros, all over Condesa and Roma. Caught in a rain storm without an umbrella on Monday night, I ran to Taqueria Los Parados, on the corner of Monterrey and Tepic. It's a small, family-run joint with no seats and just a few spots for standing and scoffing, but it had a good write-up in Where Chefs Eat. I struggled to decode the menu and in the end, ordered the tacos poblanos con queso — I figured that as Puebla is famous for its mole, Pueblan tacos would probably involve chicken with mole, but actually, they contained charred green peppers and cheese. Very tasty and it was probably good to have a meat-free meal; they cost 35 pesos for two. Sadly, although the rain slowed a little, it didn't stop and it was a long walk back to the hotel.

Today is my last day in DF; I've done a lot of the main touristy things, but the food, the culture, the people and, of course, the coffee make me want to come back soon.

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