This is the second in a series of posts about my recent trip to Mexico. The first week was spent at a yoga camp with some girlfriends and another ten days was spent traveling with my sister in and around Mexico City. Catching up, slowing down, cultural immersion, and time in the sun all proved long overdue and much needed. It goes without saying that food was a big part of the travels, too…
After spending the better part of an hour trying to find one another in the Mexico City airport (hardest part of our trip, frankly!), we arrived in lovely Coyoacán on a Saturday evening. As soon as we arrived at our air b n b and met up with our host, we dropped our bags and headed our to stretch our legs and take in the atmosphere.
Cortés used this area as a base of operations during his conquest of the Aztecs in the 1500’s. Many of the narrow streets of modern Coyoacán still maintain their colonial architecture, plazas, churches and gardens. Its own municipality until the 1850’s, Coyoacán is now one of the 16 boroughs of Mexico City.
We walked to Plaza Hidalgo & Jardín Centenario, which is the main zocalo for the town, anchored by the beautiful Iglesia San Juan Bautista. The plaza was alive with couples on date night, families out for a stroll, street vendors, organ grinders and musicians. After a cocktail and a snack, we tucked in for a solid night of rest before our first full day.
Our only real agenda was a visit to Casa Azul, also known as the Museo Frida Kahlo. After a quick breakfast of Eggs La Michoacana (in a rich tomato and chili based broth, served with a generous amount of queso fresco and topped with avocado), we were on our way. Many of our guidebooks and suggestions from friends said there there would be a long wait so we planned to arrive right before the museum opened. It proved to be a great call.
Casa Azul was the house where Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was born, raised and eventually lived in with her husband, Diego Rivera, who was also a Mexican painter known for his murals. Their lives and art are absolutely fascinating…both were revolutionaries and are beloved by the Mexican people. Having the opportunity to visit their home and learn more about their upbringings and political beliefs was really interesting and insightful. Her self portraits are so iconic but my sister and I were both really taken with her still lifes (and of course, the kitchen).
Frida passed before Diego, who mandated the bathrooms in their home to be sealed off until 15 years after his death (1957). The woman who took over the estate left the rooms sealed and never opened them before her death (2002). The museum finally opened the rooms in 2004 to reveal all of Frida’s wardrobe, personal affects, and correspondence, among other things. There was a fabulous collection of Frida’s clothing, curated by Vogue, while I was there… it was stunning. You can read more about Frida and her wardrobe here.
After the visit to Casa Azul, we walked from Frida’s to the main zocalo. Cinnamon from churros and fresh cookies baking, coffee roasting, adobo and roast pork made for a heady mix of smells.
After a trip the the craft market, which had booths offering everything. Piercings, tattoos and dreadlocks, huilaches (oaxacan shirt and dresses), silver pieces and Talavera pottery were all available. Coming up empty handed, we decided that some ice cream was in order. The best ice cream in Coyoacán is on the zocalo, called Helados Siberia. I opted for the nuez de macadamia- Macadamia Nut, while Jen went for the Maracuyá – passion fruit.
We really just spend tons of time walking around and checking out the architecture in Coyoacán. This little church, Iglesia La Conchita, was right by our place and was one of the first churches in Mexico City. The relief work, the paint jobs and the plant life combine to make this city very enchanting.
Just off the square on Calle Higuera is the Mercado de Antojitos. The mercado is a grouping of food stalls, about a dozen in total, selling everything from elotes to tacos, pozole and quesadillas. We got a tip about the fried quesedillas at booth number 14. 14 is my lucky number, so of course I took it as a sign that these quesdillas and I were meant to be together. There were many offerings, from panza (belly), sesos (brains) and requeson (cottage cheese) to huitlacoche (corn fungus), chicharrones (pork skin, slow braised then ground in this instance) and frijoles y queso (beans with cheese), which are the three flavors we opted for. Made by hand, right in front of us, then fried, these were packets of pure joy. They were served with crema, salsas rojo and verde, which you could add yourself in any quantity. We also opted for a glass bottle coke as an accompaniment. So tasty!
Evenings were spent strolling around. One of those happy accidents was finding the Cultural Center Elena Garro. This cultural center was built on the site of a colonial estate, where the facade still stands inside the bookstore. The cultural center also has a large courtyard and garden, cafeteria and offices.
All in all, our stay in Coyoacán was fantastic. We averaged about 8 miles a day on foot, just taking in the sights. Side trips to San Angel and Xochimilco were nice little respites and provided an opportunity to see more of this dynamic city. If you love architecture, mexican food, practicing your spanish, Frida & Diego and proximity to fantastic side trips, then Coyaocán is for you.