One more long, photo-heavy travel post ahead ...
You know how, when you plan a trip, there's always something you look forward to a little more than the rest? Last Saturday's plan for the day was it for me on this trip. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's house in the morning, the house where Leon Trotsky's was assasinated, and a long walk between two neighborhoods described as "the most beautiful in Mexico City" (Coyoacán and San Angel), ending with the Mercado Sabado artist's market.
If you've made it through any of my other long-winded travel accounts, you'll know my preference for art falls in more classic genres. French romantics, Dutch masters ... plop me in front of View of Delft and I'm giddy. So while this is where I confess that I'm not a huge fan of Frida Kahlo's work in general, I am an art lover. An art museum lover. And if I have a chance to see where the history of an artist unfolds, I'm gonna' do my best to see it - and hope I leave with a better understanding of it. Whether I love it or not. (D and I outside Casa Azul.)
And while the personal pain and suffering Kahlo so often depicted in her paintings doesn't speak to me personally, I do like the way she wove Mexican culture and tradition into her work. (And hey, I like skeletons.)
No one really paid much attention to Kahlo's work until the 80's. (Up until then she was primarily known as "Diego Rivera's wife.") Then something called Neomexicanismo happened and she (along with other Mexican painters) got some attention from the art world.
That led to exhibits outside of Mexico and a best-selling biography in the years that followed. (A movie based on that biography garnered her more attention too.) Interesting morsel of trivia: she was the first Hispanic woman featured on a US postage stamp - in 2001.
There was a small collection of her paintings on display as you meandered through the house. Most walls were white, trimmed in a bright, vivid yellow. But punctuated here and there with bright green or blue. And with patterns. Especially in the kitchen. There were paintings of Rivera's as well. Photos. Personal things. Knick knacks. It was colorful. Bright. And cool inside, despite the heat. Really, truly pretty.
This is iconic Kahlo - to me. Her bedroom. Her bed. And the mirror her mother installed on the canopy so she could paint after the accident that caused her to leave med school. And her death mask laying on the bed, wrapped in a shawl.
But my favorite room was the one behind these windows - the studio. Paned windows on 3 walls, so much light, but filtered from all the trees in the courtyard. They said it was still set up as Rivera left it. A huge desk, one of the largest easels I've ever seen. Pastels from Paris. A giant box of paints - messy and aged. Palettes.
I'm not really sure what I expected from Caza Azul, but it was like a little oasis in a frenzied city. And so pretty.
With little alcoves in the courtyard. Fountains. Statues. Green, lush, and completely set apart from the blazing sun outside the walls.
And I had to show you this - a giant rubber stamp roller, carved from a tire.
There were a few bright yellow tables in the middle of the courtyard. We sat, chatted, and I tried to get the shade of blue on the walls right. There was a constant breeze and sitting there was so nice. And the place was nearly empty, so we sorta' had it to ourselves for a little while.
I really, really liked that courtyard. And the shade. The breeze. And the blue. It changed the color of everything else - even the light was cool.
If you're ever in Mexico City. It's a must-see. Even if all you do is sit in the courtyard for an hour or two.
Coyoacán wasn't easy to get to from the Zócalo. No close Metro stops, no easy connections ... so we used one of the car & drivers available to hotel guests to get us there. We had big plans for today and figured saving some time at the onset was a good plan. Hailing taxis is something we were cautioned about before going. If you're a US citizen in Mexico CIty, attached to the Embassy or working for the government there, using local taxis is currently against the rules. Abductions, ransom. Crazy stuff. So, we were careful about the transportation we used. (I also noticed Jose making note of our destination and the license plate of the car before we left.)
So that's why I didn't really notice the difference until we were walking ...
... it was quiet.
There were lots of flowers and trees. And shade.
And no music.
We walked by the Trotsky house. Saw the murals on the outside walls.
And started walking towards the plaza for lunch ...
More trees. More quiet. I wasn't sure what to make of it after the past few days in the Zócalo. It didn't seem right.
We ate lunch in Coyoacán's Plaza. On the terrace of an old villa D had read about. The food was really tasty and we sat there for a long time, plying ourselves with Victoria and Limonada.
And then we walked some more ...
The distance from Coyoacán to San Angel is about 2.5 miles. Which we crossed slowly. Stopping to take photos. To look around. To sit in a park. Or two. Or three.
The streets continued to be quiet. The homes were large and elegant. Pretty little parks with pretty little churches.
And there were petals falling all around us. Piling in the streets in purples, pinks, yellows, and reds ... lovely really. But we were also tired. And hot. I'd forgotten how heat can take the steam right outta' ya'. We don't really have that here. And certainly not humidity.
But we made it to San Angel. Found the market. And found the objective - a molcajete. (The Mexican version of a mortar and pestle.) Not particularly huge by molcajete standards, less than a foot wide at the mouth, it's easily 50 or 60 pounds. And the one thing we REALLY wanted to bring home with us.
We were still stuffed from lunch, but plopped ourselves in a pretty courtyard resturant under trees dropping more purple petals and ... sat. Cool drink in hand. Watching the petals, listening to a fountain, and groaning about how stuffed we still were, hours after lunch.
On the way back to the hotel a few hours later, D and I were talking about the differences in the neighborhoods we visited - stark contrasts for sure. San Angel hadn't done much for me. I called it the "Montmartre of Mexico City" (or more accurately, the "Painter's Square of Mexico City"). While the market was kinda' cool, the area seemed sterile in comparison to everything else we'd seen. Like it was the manufactured image of Mexico City that was comfortable enough for tourists (and it was really the only other place we saw white tourists - though they were British, not American).
The food was amazing. I'm already missing Tacos al Pastor. (And we had none of the stomach issues you seem to always hear about in conjunction with Mexico travel.) We ate well. For nearly nothing.
Which brings me to the money. I gotta' say, I struggled with this. I didn't want to haggle in the markets. I wanted to pay them what they asked and not care if I was being "ripped off." Because, seriously, whether I paid $3 US for a tortilla press or $5, I was still going back to a comfortable home with more than I need. Poverty is humbling. And you weigh the appearance of arrogance, with just wanting to give someone a little something more. I know what the books say, what you're "supposed" to do. But I still don't know what the right answer is. Or what the right thing to do was. I guess you go with your gut, and the rest will sort itself out.
And that was our trip! It was great. Amazing actually. We had a fabulous time and will absolutely go back. But ... I will look for a flight on a larger plane. *grin*