One of Mexico City’s most beautiful colonial buildings, known as ‘Casa de Azulejos’, or ‘The House of Blue Tiles’, a former mansion house, is now home to a department store, but hidden away in the central courtyard is a splendid restaurant, where diners can sit in the central courtyard and soak up the old world splendour whilst sipping coffee and eating their morning eggs.
The building takes its name from the countless beautiful tiles that adorn every wall and floor inside and out, a great example of the craftsmanship that can be seen around Mexico, but in particular nearby Puebla, the likely origin of the tiles here, despite historical claims that they were originally sourced from China.
To get a vantage point over the courtyard from the balconies above there is a grand staircase where it is said a previous owner Andrés Diego Suárez de Peredo met his end when his adversary stormed through to the courtyard with sword drawn and the two came face to face on the steps.
We enjoyed an excellent breakfast in this beautiful courtyard, before moving on to take advantage of free entry (thanks, Sunday) to el Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) the usual home of the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico (they were performing at Chapultepec Castle to the west of the old town whilst we were there).
We marvelled at the incredible Art Deco interior which showcases several incredible vast murals by Diego Rivera, amongst others. They depict political and cultural themes including the revolution in Mexico and are very impressive to behold.
Because one gallery is never enough for a Sunday morning, we walked the short distance to the National Art Museum of Mexico (MUNAL) which exhibits hundreds of pieces representing the history of Mexican art, primarily focusing on works by some of the academy’s most renowned students. The exhibition on this occasion was entitled ‘Discursos de la Piel’ or ‘Discourses of the Skin’. Not as creepy as it sounds, it was a fascinating look at how celebrated Mexican artist Felipe Santiago Gutiérrez had learned and developed portrait painting techniques on his travels to create ever more impressive works.
Gutiérrez was an intrepid explorer in his own right, working and studying throughout Mexico and in far flung places such as Rome, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Florence, Bologna, Turin, New York and Colombia – very impressive mileage for the 1800s.
In the afternoon we hopped in an Uber (so very cheap) down to the charming district of Coyoacan, away from the hustle and bustle of the centre and where all the east-west streets are named after cities around the world. We enjoyed some fantastic pizza (better than the pizza we ate in Naples – he says) at ‘Centanario 107’, between Vienna and Berlin, before spending an hour relaxing in the nearby park, amongst the locals. The park featured nice shady spots to sit amongst a variety of wooded areas, where we saw dancers weaving through the trees, people posing for pictures and lots and lots of very friendly Mexican squirrels!
The main reason for heading to Coyoacan was to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum which is within her old residence, ‘La Casa Azul’ or ‘The Blue House’. The iconic Mexican artist lived here with her partner Diego Rivera (of previously mentioned mural fame) and many of the rooms are presented as they were in their time here, including Frida’s studio, kitchen and bedrooms (one for the day, one for the night). We learned a lot about her life, both through her artwork and through the accoutrements of her lifestyle such as corsets, wheelchairs, clothing and photographs. We highly recommend a visit here, if only to sit in the shade of the garden and drink in the beautiful blue of the walls.
As night fell we had two final stops we wanted to make on our last day in CDMX -the panoramic bar at the top of the Latin America Tower, the city’s tallest building and an ideal viewing spot for sunset with a nice cold Victoria or vino tinto, and Churreria El Moro the oldest Churreria in town where 27pesos (less than a pound) will set you up with 4 large churros and a pot of chocolate dipping sauce. We squirrelled them away and walked back up to el Palacio de Bellas Artes, to enjoy them in the open air.
Hasta la vista Ciudad de Mexico.