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  • Writer's pictureMark Vogel

Mexico City: A Marvelous Blend of Modernity and Tradition

Mexico City, Mexico

View of the Palacio de Bellas Artes from the cafe at Sears in Mexico City, Mexico
View of the Palacio de Bellas Artes from the cafe at Sears in Mexico City, Mexico

The moment I landed in Mexico City, the pulsating energy of the city was palpable, and I was eager to explore every corner. I checked into my temporary home, the Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel, an impressive landmark strategically located on Avenida Paseo de la Reforma. This iconic avenue is the city's main artery, juxtaposing classic architectural masterpieces with contemporary high-rises.

“This trip was a beautiful collage of history, art, food, and architecture, offering an experience that I'll forever cherish.”

On one side, my hotel flanked the Angel of Independence Monument, an emblematic symbol of Mexico's victory in its War of Independence. The golden angel, perched high on a column, overlooks the bustling avenue below. It's an awe-inspiring sight, imbued with profound historical significance.

I embarked on my adventure by taking a leisurely stroll up Paseo de la Reforma, admiring the tall, modern architectural wonders lining the avenue. Mexico City's seismic activity is renowned, thanks to its location on a fault line. I momentarily thought I felt a tremor beneath my feet, but it may have just been my jet-lagged senses playing tricks on me.

Continuing my journey, I was struck by the omnipresence of Starbucks coffee shops on every corner, just like back home in New York City. In fact, I even found one Starbucks directly facing another across the street! After a quick caffeine fix, I sauntered towards Avenue Juarez, which led me to the verdant oasis of Alameda Central.

Alameda Central is a meticulously manicured park, brimming with statues, fountains, and vibrant flowers, all of which contribute to a soothing, tranquil environment. Unexpectedly, I stumbled upon a lively gathering where locals were swaying to rhythmic music under the dappled sunlight streaming through the trees.

Alameda Central, I discovered, was not just a green haven but an outdoor gallery of sorts, displaying a rich array of monuments and fountains, each one more interesting than the next. As I ventured deeper into the park, the sound of splashing water drew me towards the first fountain, Las Musas. It was a delightful spectacle with the Greek Muses of tragedy and comedy seemingly dancing amidst the cascading water.

Nearby stood the monument of Benito Juarez, one of Mexico's most venerated presidents. Towering over the park, the statue beautifully encapsulated the spirit of resilience and reform that Juarez embodied. The elaborate craftsmanship, especially in the engravings on the pedestal, was quite stunning.

Next, I came across the Hemiciclo a Juárez, a semicircular monument dedicated once again to Benito Juarez. Its majestic marble structure gleamed under the sun, and the golden statue of Juarez looked as though it was keeping a benevolent watch over the city.

My walk took me further to the Fuente de las Sirenas (Fountain of the Sirenas), the oldest of all fountains in the park. The two mermaid statues in the center, designed by Vicente Mendiola, seemed to be frolicking in the water, creating a playful yet serene aura.

From there, my path led me to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a stunning edifice that houses Mexico's primary opera house and a splendid museum. Promising myself to explore its treasures another day, I crossed the street to visit the Sears department store, which, surprisingly, offered a splendid vantage point of the Palacio from its top-floor balcony cafe. As evening began to descend, the city skyline painted with strokes of cool blues was truly a sight to behold.

After enjoying the breathtaking views, I ventured further, passing by the Torre Latinoamericana (Latin-American Tower) and the beautiful House of Tiles on Maderno Street. I ultimately reached the Zócalo, the city's main square, surrounded by the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Palace, and the City Hall, each illuminating a different chapter of Mexico's rich history.

The following day, I fulfilled my promise of visiting the Palacio de Bellas Artes museum. Inside, I found an extraordinary array of artworks by renowned artists such as Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Rufino Tamayo. I then went to explore the inside of the House of Tiles, an 18th-century palace that now serves as a restaurant. Its blue-and-white tiled exterior is definitely something to admire.

The architectural brilliance continued at the Palacio de Correos de Mexico, also known as the "Correo Mayor." It is the main post office known for its ornate staircases. Then, I visited the Torre Latinoamericana with some friends and was rewarded with panoramic views of the city. Lunch followed at Gaucho Grill, a delightful kosher restaurant, before exploring Coyoacan, a colorful neighborhood famed for its artistic legacy and Frida Kahlo's Blue House.

I started the next day by visiting the Plaza de Las Tres Culturas and Templo Mayor, where I witnessed the confluence of ancient civilizations and the depth of their cultures. Then, I spent the afternoon at Bosque de Chapultepec, a park housing the magnificent castle, Castillo de Chapultepec. Surprisingly, the squirrels in the park are known to approach visitors for food, unlike the squirrels in other cities where they run away from people.

During my stay in Mexico City, I had already briefly explored the Forum Buenavista Mall and the Reforma 222 Shopping Mall. Now I headed to meet up with my friends again, this time at the Antara Fashion Mall, an upscale shopping haven boasting a myriad of high-end brands in the Polanco neighborhood. We then went to see an exhibit featuring the works of Jeff Koons at the nearby Museo Jumex, a contemporary art museum featuring delightful displays.

On my final day, I wanted to do something off the beaten path. I explored Biblioteca Vasconcelos, a library boasting a unique, modern architectural interior design that created an almost surreal environment, where books appeared to float mid-air.

While in Mexico City, a few days earlier, I took a day trip to the ancient city of Teotihuacán, a majestic archaeological site that deserves an article of its own.

As I packed my bags, I couldn't help but reminisce about the unforgettable memories I had made in Mexico City. This trip was a beautiful collage of history, art, food, and architecture, offering an experience that I'll forever cherish.


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