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Mexpert's Blog

Travel news and information on Mexico from Mexico.

Tag Archives: travel

Standing tall: this six-foot pair of feet served as a column base in pre-Hispanic Mexico

Children of the Plumed Serpent, a major exhibit of pre-Hispanic artifacts, opened this week in Los Angeles. More than five centuries old, the 200 pieces on show are on loan from collections around the world, including the UK, Austria, Canada, Germany, the US and Mexico.

Among the prized works are the Nutall Codice, which may have been among the first batch of gifts Hernan Cortez shipped to Spain’s King Carlos V in the 16th century as proof of the marvels of the New World; it was borrowed from London’s British Museum. Another featured relic is also the show’s largest: a six-foot-tall (1.8 meters) column base in the shape of the feet of an Atlante, or giant; borrowed from the museum at Tula, in central Mexico.

Made of jade, turquoise, gold, seashells, pearls and other materials, these objects depict the way various cultures in Mexico, including the Maya, Toltec, Zapotec, Mixtec and Nahua, venerated the Plumed Serpent god, Quetzalcoatl. The show will travel to Dallas before arriving in Mexico towards the end of 2012.

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Mexico City’s booming western suburb of Santa Fe is really a city within a city, with its own business district, schools, restaurant row(s), shopping centers, residences and hotels. Already home to a Sheraton Suites (the area’s first hotel), Fiesta Americana and Fiesta Inn, Westin, Camino Real, NH (Spanish chain), Novotel (French chain) and Distrito Capital, a Mexican design hotel, Santa Fe will soon see the opening of a 223-room Marriott and a Presidente InterContinental, along with branches of its top restaurants Au Pied de Cochon and Palm. For more new and noteworthy developments in the neighborhood, read on.

LUCY SHANGHAI: Sleek, spacious and with a ceiling reminiscent of Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium, this modern “Oriental urban kitchen & bar” borrows from East Asian cuisines, including Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese, to create its own signature dishes. Choose a roomy table indoors or out on the wide covered terrace and let Memorias de una geisha, a sweet-and-sour cassis-and-cranberry martini, or Bali Waves, a refreshing blend of gin, lemongrass, ginger, lime and ginger ale, welcome you to the Lucy Shanghai experience.

No relation to Joe’s Shanghai, a favorite NYC spot for pork dumplings, Lucy nevertheless serves a spectacular version of her own. A Latin-Asian fusion, the Dumplings de Pancetta are rice-flour empanadas filled with soy sauce-and-wine marinated pancetta sautéed in a spicy chipotle chili sauce (100 pesos). There are six dumplings to an order so you can share if you must. Other mouthwatering starters include the Shanghai fish ’n chips (bass tempura with a citrus mayo dip; 170 pesos) and Min Pao de Cerdo o Pollo (sweet-and-sour minced ribs or chicken thighs served with steamed Chinese-style tortillas; 80 pesos).

Star dishes include a fabulous Asian chicken almondine made with breaded chicken breast in a crunchy toasted almond crust (180 pesos) and smoked Peking duck three days in the making served with wok fried rice flavored with duck juices, sesame seed tortillas and plum sauce (260 pesos). Leave room for dessert. Like everything else on the menu, the desserts are infused with the flavors and aromas of the orient, including the seasoned tapioca and ginger chocolate mousse.

  • Lucy Shanghai
  • Juan Salvador Agraz 97
  • T: 5292 4022

WONDERFUL WORLD OF WINE: You’re probably familiar with the concept of food and wine pairing, but do you know which varietal brings out the best in a Habano? Delving a little deeper into the wonderful world of wine, the Sheraton Suites Santa Fe Hotel this week kicked off the first of eight Wednesday night wine workshops that go beyond the cursory to reveal a little more about wines from around the world and why we love them. Each session showcases a variety of grape, from Chardonnay to Shiraz, and a different winemaking region, along with related topics like the health benefits of wine, the increasing popularity of artisanal cheeses, and changes in wine production. Coming up next week is Spanish wine tasting, featuring “guest grape” tempranillo. Side dish? Spain’s legendary aged ham, Jamon Iberico, also known as pata negra, how it’s made and why sybarites the world over make such a fuss over it. Each workshop costs 390 pesos per person (free for hotel guests), including discounts on purchases; dinner/workshop packages are available.

PLAZA SAMARA: The area’s newest shopping center has a smart collection of shops, as well as a select gourmet supermarket. When complete, the complex, which includes office towers, will also house Santa Fe’s Marriott hotel.

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The discovery of the New World implied the discovery of a new world of no-no’s, a recently inaugurated exhibit of religious art shows. Transgression and Temptation in New Spain, now showing at Tepotzotlan’s National Viceregal Museum near Mexico City, illustrates the array of sins, peccadilloes and offenses that preoccupied the clergy and ruling classes in colonial-era Mexico, including some that were never an issue before, such as indulging in too much chocolate or pulque, two staples of the pre-Hispanic diet that were unknown in Europe. Both were believed to boost your energy levels, but also your libido if taken in excess, so prohibitions soon followed. This novel exhibit brings together artwork from major collections, including Mexico City’s Franz Mayer Museum and the Guadalupe Museum of Zacatecas, as well as major artists from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The 74 pieces on show, ranging from oil paintings to banned books, are grouped into four themes, including the struggle between good and evil and the road to salvation.

  • El pecado y las tentaciones en la Nueva España
  • Museo Nacional del Virreinato
  • Plaza Hidalgo 99, Tepotzotlan, Estado de Mexico
  • Until April 29, 2012

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On January 6, three South American passengers land at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport only to get sucked into a bureaucratic black hole generated by baffling immigration procedures and the bungling or corrupt officials handling them. That’s the premise of the play “Juarez 6.01,” a hilarious and hard-hitting political farce in which nothing is clear and no one is innocent, including the alleged offenders, each of whose motives for being in Mexico is murkier than the next.

“Nobody comes off looking good in this play,” says director Ernesto Alvarez, an Uruguayan who has lived in Mexico for the past 15 years. “Deceit is a constant theme throughout the story, but it also touches on the Latin American exodus, fleeing the dictatorships, searching for better opportunities abroad, the expatriate experience.”

Written by Mexican actor-director Eduardo Castañeda, “Juarez” features well-known Argentinean-born actor Juan Carlos Colombo, who has lived in Mexico since 1975 and appeared in the groundbreaking 2003 film “La Ley de Herodes” (released in the U.S. as “Herod’s Law”). The play stars Juan Carlos Medellin as an affable yet rotten-to-the-core immigration agent eager to profit from the misfortune of others.

  • Juarez 6.01, El respeto al derecho me es ajeno
  • Teatro Casa de la Paz, Cozumel 33, Colonia Roma
  • T. 5286 5315; tdelapaz@correo.uam.mx
  • Until April 15: Thursday/Friday at 8 pm, Saturday/Sunday at 6 pm
  • General admission: 150 pesos

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Plazuelas, near Penjamo, Guanajuato

What is a pocket planetarium? How important was astronomy to Mexico’s pre-Columbian civilizations? And why do galaxies belch? You’ll find the answer to these and other cosmological quandaries at Plazuelas this Friday night, when the grounds around the archaeological site in southwest Guanajuato state host a gathering of professional astronomers and avid stargazers.

Organizers expect between 1,500 and 2,000 people to attend this first ever sky-watching event at Plazuelas, located 12.5 km/7.7 mi from Penjamo, a town known for its rugged sierra landscape and outdoor life. (The site was chosen for its ideal stargazing conditions, so disregard the clouds in the photo above, they’re just there for dramatic effect.) There’ll be telescopes to observe Venus, Jupiter, and Orion and the Great Nebula, among other planets and constellations, as well as workshops and talks by experts.

If you go, dress warmly and take a lantern, if you have one. For more information about the event, Los caminos del cielo: el dia de la creacion, or Heavenly trails: the day of creation (astronomers are poets, too), call 01 473 102 2700, ext. 105, or email: juanisparvob@hotmail.com.

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Mural painting of Luis Alfonso Cruz Vazquez Abreu by artist Akut at Campeche's Best Western Hotel del Mar

If love can be infectious, then you’re sure to catch it in Campeche, where it has been actively spreading since 2010 through a series of large-scale street art projects. The piece you’re most likely to come across first, since it embellishes an entire wall of the centrally-located Best Western Hotel del Mar, overlooking the malecon, is a stunning three-story mural of an irrepressibly cheery Luis Alfonso Cruz Vazquez Abreu.

Who? Though not famous in the conventional sense of the word, the rail-thin Cruz is a familiar face to locals and has been for years, long before he was immortalized in painting. Spend any time at all in the historic center and you’re bound to see him – a twinkle in his eye, his hair wildly disheveled, and with the uncertain gait of the homeless – amiably offering to help a housewife with the groceries, a bellboy with luggage or a shopkeeper with a delivery. He’s better known as “El Paisa,” or paisano, the guy that’s always hanging around Calle 59, his preferred stomping ground, with usually a street dog or two in tow. He’s omnipresent, marginalized and, thanks to the mural, a recognized, hailed even, member of the community.

Painted by German graffiti-style artist Akut, Cruz’s mural is one of a handful in Campeche that pay homage to the everyman as part of an international art initiative called “Seres Queridos,” or Loved Ones. The project is designed to foster a greater sense of connection between people and their environment through art, and is spearheaded by the cultural organizations NOBULO (Spain) and ARTO – Art Beyond Museums (Mexico). First launched in Mexico, project Loved Ones spread to Paris in 2011.

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Baroque-era homes painted different candy colors line Campeche's Historic Center

 

Like people, some destinations are more romantic than others. Just as some people are naturally more expressive, more affectionate, more willing to make eye contact, some places possess that special combination of features that make them ideal honeymoon or anniversary getaways.

A location by the sea is an automatic romance booster. Deep, vast and mysterious, the ocean is a well-known aphrodisiac. Of course, even smaller bodies of water like rivers and lakes can amp up a city’s sex appeal — just look at Paris. Other key ingredients include picturesque streets and promenades that invite couples to stroll, hand in hand, discovering shops and cafes tucked among the narrow alleyways. A long and tumultuous history is a bonus, since few things are quite as sexy as tales of bold exploits and heroic deeds. A small luxury hotel that offers personalized service and pampering is a great mood enhancer. Add warm and welcoming locals with a strong sense of community and belonging and you have the makings of a truly romantic getaway, you have the makings of Campeche.

Located on Mexico’s gulf coast, Campeche makes the most of its seaside location with a long, winding malecon, or seafront promenade, that wends its way by the water’s edge for more than two miles. Residents of all ages come out to stroll or jog along this breezy stretch, but it’s most popular with couples, especially around sunset, when a fiery orange sky is sometimes intensified by its reflection in the usually placid baby-blue surface of the gulf. You can come out to watch the show, then as night falls head over to one of the many seafood shacks that line the opposite side of the malecon for a fresh ceviche cocktail.

Undeniably romantic by the water, Campeche is even more romantic when you head inland. The historic center, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, is a checkerboard of cobblestone streets lined with almost a thousand historic baroque-era buildings, churches and plazas in near pristine condition, mostly thanks to the fact that the second most important city in the Gulf of Mexico, after Merida, was bypassed by the industrial boom.

There’s no other place like it in Mexico. In fact, Campeche has a sultry harbor town atmosphere that’s more reminiscent of Havana than any other destination along Mexico’s coasts. Campechanos seem happy to be living here and it’s easy to see why when walking past the colonial-era homes and businesses, each newly painted a different candy color. Walt Disney couldn’t have designed a prettier town. And, as if gift-wrapped, all of this colorful, ornately adorned loveliness is bordered by the remnants of a centuries-old fortification, its arching entry gates and imposing redoubts.

The main seaport for the Yucatan Peninsula in its day, Campeche was repeatedly sacked by the likes of John Hawkins, Francis Drake, Henry Morgan and Laurens de Graff (Lorenzillo). In his illustrated encyclopedia “Historic Cities of the Americas,” David Marley writes that, during one attack, as many as 13 vessels landed and 500 men swarmed ashore, led by Pie de Palo (the peglegged Captain Cornelis Jol) and Diego el Mulatto. During another looting spree, the brigands stayed for two months, demanding cattle as well as cash. When the townsfolk refused, the corsairs set fire to everything. To prevent more pillaging, a series of fortifications were built in the early 1700s, connected by an eight-foot thick and 18- to 24-foot high hexagonal stone wall that encircled the city. The last recorded sacking was in 1708. Today, the walls and bulwarks still standing are a vivid reminder of Campeche’s romantic, eventful past, full of tales of high adventure and buried treasure. The hilltop redoubts, even more so, since they have been converted into museums, including the Museum of Maya Culture (Museo de Cultura Maya) at the San Miguel Fort.

You don’t have to museum hop to soak up history in Campeche. Almost everywhere you go, you are surrounded by it. Right behind the Land Gate, or Puerta de Tierra, which once served as the main entrance to the city and territories farther south, like Guatemala, you’ll find the top hotel and dining spot in town. Member of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, the Hacienda Puerta Campeche is housed in adjoining 17th-century buildings with high wood-beam ceilings and terracotta tile floors. There’s alfresco dining overlooking the garden or rooftop dining with views of the historic center lit up at night. Everything on the menu is artisanaly made right on the premises, from the cochinita pibil to the fruit-flavored ice creams.

If you like to swim, check into suite No. 7. The hotel’s one-of-a-kind freeform pool will be right outside your door. With water that meanders through a series of unreconstructed rooms, it gives new meaning to the term indoor/outdoor pool. Honeymooners should reserve suite No. 1, the only one with a sunken tub for two and a semi-private sun deck. Next door, No. 16 is the hotel’s most secluded suite. But with just 15 guest rooms in all, the historic hideaway offers a romantic, intimate atmosphere no matter which corner of the hotel you’re in.

Enjoy the Campeche countryside — home to soaring Mayan ruins, handicraft villages, and abundant wildlife — at Puerta Campeche’s sister hotel, Hacienda Uayamon. Once the largest hacienda in the state, it is steeped in history and romance. A giant ceiba tree locked in an everlasting embrace greets guests as they arrive. What used to be the company store houses a spa equipped with twin massage beds for treatments for two. Best of all, each guest room, formerly the laborers’ quarters, is a stand-alone cottage surrounded by tropical greenery, creating an ultra private refuge you won’t ever want to leave, except maybe to climb the singular pyramids at nearby Edzna, buy hand-woven hats and jewelry in the village of Becal, or explore the underground caverns of X’tacumbilxuna’an.

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