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  CITY FOCUS

Metropolis of the Americas:  Mexico City Does it Right.

  by Craig Stevens Corey

 

 "The city is huge, but it comes with a multitude of benefits for the visitors."

 

Written as a supplement to the newsletter FOOTPRINTS: Conversations with Craig, Travel Tips & News." Information such as details, dates, prices, etc. are subject to change without prior notice.)

 First Published, May 1, 2011.


On certain days the plaza may be filled with dancers, flame-throwers, and acrobats, if you're lucky enough to be present! The Polanco District, just north of Chapultepec Park, is where quaint mansions on tree-lined streets sit beside gleeming glass and steel skyscrapers, and is home to the foreign embassies. Here you can see beautiful women dressed to the nines parading past the likes of Chanel and Hermes on the Avenida Presidente Masaryk. 

The city's dining scene goes way beyond the local stuff. For example, French brasseries, Italian Trattorias, Russian, Turkish, Cuban, Czech, and scores more fun the gamit. It's a testament to the great influx of foreign immigrants who came to Mexico's shores over a century ago. And in Mexico City, the locals still dress for dinner. Nightlife in Mexico City is unquestionably the best in the country. At dusk Mariachi bands serenade cocktailers. Then later on, night revelers head to the trendy clubs in the Zona, where the Latin beat gives way to the disco/club beat and keeps going until dawn.

You can get around easily in this vast metropolis, and the underground Metro system is safe, clean, and cheap. But honestly, I'd walk as much as poissible because there's so much to see. And you never want to simply hop into a taxi-it's risky! Instead, it's best to have the hotel, shop, or restaurant call one for you. Ω

At a recent dinner meeting with a travel-industry associate, she was lamenting her upcoming sales meeting in Mexico City. Convinced they were destined for an unremarkable experience, she and a companion had already decided they would just simply hole-up in their hotel room with a couple bottles of wine to help pass the time. Astounded, I immediately jumped in and assured her that she was in for a great suprise, and laid out a few of the reason why.

Mexico City is indeed the most populated city in the western hemisphere with over 19-million inhabitants, and the sheer thought of all that humanity is daunting. But when you stroll down the city's wide-open boulevards, or meander around in the more modern Polanco District or the diverse Zona Rosa for example, you can't help but notice that it's a colorful, exciting, cosmopolitan place to be. Everywhere you look, classic architecture mixes in with gleaming new skyscrapers. And new restrictions on automibile usage in the city have pushed the grey cloud of pollution out, and you can once again breath. The city is huge, but it comes with a multitude of benefits for visitors. Righ in the heart of it all, adding a "green" edge to the city is the gigantic 2,100-acre Chapultepec Park. In the center of the park on the Paseo del a Reforma Boulevard (the city's main thoroughfare) sits Mexico City's magnificent connection to the past-The National Museum of Anthropology or Museo Nacional de Antropologia-a must see! It covers 20-acres and contains among others, the famous Aztec Calendar, giant stone heads from the jungles of Tabasco, and treasures fom the Mayan Civilization. In the opposite direction heading up the Paseo de la Reforma is the Pink Zone, or Zona Rosa. This is to Mexico City-what the Ginza is to Tokyo-an artsy area chock full of bars, clubs, trendy boutiques, restaurants, cinemas, and much more, and is a great pit-stop after an afternoon at the Museo Nacional!

Mexico City's "original downtown" is the district known as Centro Historico, north of the Zona Rosa. Dominating the center is the famous Zocalo, the city's main square and home to the Palacio National. Inside the palace you can see the enormous murals created by Diego Rivera in the 1930's and 40's that depict Mexico's history, which are completely mind-boggling. Across the square is the amazing Art-Deco Palacio de Bellas Artes which houses more of Rivera's murals.

 

 Planning a trip to Mexico City:

Aeromexico (a Delta Air Lines affiliate) flies nonstop from several U.S. cities, landing at the brand-new "T2" terminal at Mexico City Intl  Airport. You'll need a valid U.S. passport (sorry, you can't board a plane with a Nexus card.)

When to go: It's a year-round destination, but because of its high altitude the city never really boils and it's usually quite comfortable.

Where to stay: I recommend the Camino Real Polanco which is perfectly juxtaposed on the edge of Chapultepec. The hotel's fitting contemporary-Aztec design is luxe (designed by prolific Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta) and resembles a museum in its own right. The hotel's swimming pools offer an oasis right in the city!

What to buy: Mexican handicrafts or "tchaotskes" are wonderful-be sure to haggle! They won't haggle though at upscale department store El Palacio de Hierro, but stop in anyway to grab a photo op of the store's beautiful glass-dome, looking five stories up!

Travel Advice: Never just grab a taxi off the street, because many operate without licenses or government approval. Instead, ask the hotel, restaurant, or shop to call one for you from their list of approved, licensed operators. It's a safer option!