04 May 2015

Mexico City: Museo Frida Kahlo and Coyoacán

Making the most of the (relatively) cooler weather in Mexico City, I went for another run to the Bosque de Chapultepec yesterday morning. This time, I went further into the park, including the very steep climb to the top of the hill on which Castillo de Chapultepec is perched. It was a sunny morning and I was rewarded for my effort with a good view over to the Olympic park and the distant hills. Then, it was back to the hotel for another great breakfast — this time, eggs with tomato and chilli, and refried beans. I love the colourful pottery mugs and I hope I will have room in my suitcase to bring some home.

My main destination of the day was Coyoacán, a leafy suburb some seven miles south of the city centre, whose name (from the Nahuatl for 'place of the coyotes') it took me all weekend to learn how to spell! The primary tourist attraction in the area is Frida Kahlo's house — the Casa Azul — now a museum about the artist and her husband, and I had heard that the queues built up very quickly at weekends, so I hopped on the metro straight after breakfast. At 5 pesos (about 20p) a pop, the metro is very cheap and fast. The Museo Frida Kahlo is only a fifteen-minute walk from the Coyoacán metro station, but thanks to a few challenges crossing the massive highway, it was almost 10.30 by the time I got to the museum, and there was already a big queue.

The sun was shining, though, and it wasn't too onerous to spend the 45-minute wait under the palm trees outside the bold cobalt blue house. My guidebook (Lonely Planet from September 2014) said the museum admission was 80 pesos, but it has now gone up to 140 pesos (about £6) at weekends, plus another 60 pesos if you want to take photos inside the house. It was the most expensive thing I had done in DF, but still pretty reasonable. I'm not exactly an art buff, so I was really there for the culture and the history. Frida was a fascinating woman, and she and her husband Diego Rivera (of the murals) sure did have exquisite taste in décor, and I'm very envious of Frida's painting desk.

By the time I left, I was starting to get hungry, so I went to the Mercado de Coyoacán, a few blocks further south on Calle Ignacio Allende. The market is the usual mix of colourful toys and sweets, food and little food counters for eating-in. I bought an avocado for later, and then took a seat at one of the counters for Tostadas de Coyoacán and ordered two tostadas (deep-fried tortillas) — one with chicken and mole, one with cochinita (pork) — and a coconut agua fresca, for a grand total of 70 pesos (£3). After my meal, I continued down Allende and, drawn in my the scent of batter, I stopped for churros at Churrería de Coyoacán, which turned out to be recommended by my guidebook. I wish I had read it first, though, because then I would have known that I should have got four churros for my 25 pesos, not one. Alas!

I had picked out two coffee bars to try in Coyoacán, the first of which was Café Avellaneda on Higuera (a block southeast of Plaza Hidalgo), a tiny place with a pretty teal awning. They serve hand-brewed coffee using V60 and Clever drippers, and provided a huge amount of detail about the recommended coffee variety for each brew method (they roast their own coffee). I picked a Oaxacan variety (38 pesos), which was excellent. I liked it so much that I bought a small bag of beans for 70 pesos. I hope it makes it home safely! I needed some more caffeine, so I also went to Café Negro on Centenario — the other side of Plaza Hidalgo. There I tried some coffee from Guerrero, brewed with a V60 dripper (29 pesos). It was fruitier than the Avellaneda variety, which is always nice on a hot day.

Rejuvenated, I headed back to the metro via Vivero Coyoacán, a huge park directly west of the main touristic centre of Coyoacán and just south of the metro station. As I entered, I was told I couldn't take any photos unless I had a permit — I'm not sure why because it's really just a quiet, shaded park filled with tall trees, but I did sneak one on my phone. I didn't see any coyotes — just some scampering squirrels and lethargic lizards in the park. It's very pretty and if you're staying in the area, it's a great place to go running.

I caught the metro back to Roma and headed for a boutique called Ursa Minor that I wanted to visit, but it seems to be permanently closed. Instead, I ambled along the leafy Avenida Álvaro Obregón, which has some nice restaurants and bars. Drawn in by the monochrome typography, I headed over to a gourmet ice cream van called Heladería Nómada, which, as the name suggests, may not always be found on that street. The flavours all sounded very tasty, but I went for the lemon sorbet, which was served with gin-soaked cucumbers and a sweet minty sauce (50 pesos). It was delicious and extremely refreshing.

On the way back to my hotel, I visited the Mercado del Oro on Calle Oro, which my guidebook described as upmarket. I am by no means an expert of Mexican markets but this market didn't seem particularly 'up'; it was very busy though and a good place to pick up cheap makeup, hats and sunglasses.

Later on, I walked back to Obregón to try the cocktails at Licotería Limantour, which is one of the world's top 50 bars — for good reason, I would soon discover. I only planned to have one cocktail, but there were too many tempting things on the menu. Unusually for me, everything ended up being green, starting with the Green Sour, a gin, sherry, lemon and coriander concoction, which was sharp, sweet and delicious. Next up was the Margarita al Pastor, which, in addition to the standard margarita ingredients, included chilli, coriander and pineapple. Also delicious. While this was taking place, I was watching avidly while the friendly bar tenders span caramel around cocktail glasses, creating a sweet 'ponytail'. In the end, they made me one of the cocktails with the caramel 'tail', probably because I asked so many questions. It included Jameson, lime, matcha, some kind of syrup and other ingredients whose names I did not catch, and it was awesome. Best of all, its 'tail' shone like spun gold when lit up by the light of a smart phone. All of this for 215 pesos (under £10). If you are in DF and like cocktails, you really must go to Limantour.

Anti-clockwise from top left: Green Sour, Margarita al Pastor, spin spin sugar, and the bonus cocktail.

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