Our good friend Marc Cave, one of the cleverest Brits we know, just ventured to Mexico City from his home in London where he had time to mock Trump, fall in love with the Roma Norte neighborhood and share an ideal day with us at Daytripper365. As nobody quite says it like he does, here’s his ideal day in the CDMX. For more from Marc see his Shoreditch itinerary here.
ROMA NORTE, MEXICO CITY: WHO KNEW?
Trumpty Dumpty built a great wall.
Trumpty Dumpty took a big fall.
Things could have been different and that's a great pity,
Had he seen Roma Norte in Mexico City.
Thus the quaint old nursery rhyme did not go. But it should have. For Mexico has hidden charm and urbanity that would melt even the hardest of gringo presidential hearts.
Mexico City is a vast, sprawling metropolis of 18 million people. On the drive in from the airport, you might be tempted to head to the coast judging by the architecture, which is one long, ugly smear of low-rise buildings that stretches for miles and miles, nibbled away by decay and the stink of pollution. And then a miracle happens. Beauty rises and tranquility descends.
Wide boulevards appear, with lush greens and sparkling bougainvillea. The buildings remain low but now, they have stunning architectural detail - a rich assortment of windows, architraves and magnificent doorways, framed within handsome facades that are coated in soft powdery colors. We have driven through the district of Condesa and arrive at its even leafier sister Roma Norte. Apparently, it is the Shoreditch/Williamsburg of CDMX. True - we did once see a hipster with a hipster dog, but there the similarity ends. Roma Norte is serene and architecturally beautiful. Its peaceful streets are lovingly lined with ficus trees. What's lovely is that each tree leans over to kiss its neighbor on the other side of the street. Together, the ficus trees on the left and the ficus trees on the right form an intimate canopy above the pedestrians and not-too-frequent cars passing the length of the street. It's elegant in a more intimate way than, say, Buenos Aires. Romantic, even. If Salma Hayak had married Michael Corleone, they would have been driven gracefully down Calle Colima in an open-topped wedding car.
Roma Norte is a calming oasis to use as your base in CDMX, reminding you that cities can beautifully combine architectural cool with pretty greenery; intimacy with inspiration; sophistication with peacefulness. Here's how you could spend a Saturday here:
Stay: Hotel La Valise, a Roma Norte townhouse converted into a 3-suite boutique bolt hole. Super nice, friendly, clued up staff. Combinations of period Latin architecture with modern European and urban Mexican furnishings - it all works well. So do the quirky bespoke signature pieces, like the giant rotating moon which separated our bedroom and lounge.
Breakfast: Stroll out of the hotel and stand in the early morning sunlight on the corner of Calle Tonalá and Calle Colima in Cuauhtéhoc, Roma Norte. It's a lovely four-way meeting of wide quiet streets, gracious townhouses and ficus trees. Gaze down Calle Tonalá to your left, then walk two short blocks to Panaderia Rosetta. It's a tiny, low-ceilinged, incredibly intimate and uniquely Mexican breakfast experience. The. Best. Granola. Wonderful coffee. Delicious cold pressed juices. Superb pastries, some Mexo-wackier than others.
Frida Kahlo Museum: Take an Uber (unbelievably cheap) from Roma Norte to the boho district of Coyoacan. It's a 40-minute ride through town, which is a good way to feast your eyes on all the contradictions of CDMX. The Museum is the house where Kahlo and her ‘bastard’ husband Diego Rivera lived. Apart from the art, there's a haunting display of her magnificent dresses and disturbing array of medical corsets and devices that the dresses were designed to conceal. What she wore and why - this is itself the art of supreme poignancy and stature. I will never look at a mustachioed woman in the same way again.
Lunch: San Angel is another supposedly boho district of Mexico City. Hmm. It is boho in the way Epcot is boho. Or Detroit. Its centerpiece is the Saturday 'artists market' El Bazar Del Sabado which is crammed full of tchotchkes ebbing and flowing in wave after wave of touristy schmaltz. We felt seasick. In the central courtyard, our authentically fake Mexican experience was augmented by a three-piece Mariachi band, replete with sombreros, depressing muzak and a sweaty bass guitarist with an arse the size of Jalisco. However... just across the busy Avenue. Insurgentes Sur on Plaza del Carmen, salvation awaits. If San Ángel is a fallen angel, Restaurante Carlota is its salvation. Housed in a magnificent room with impressive tiled floors and sublimely pale blue walls of cathedral height and elegance. Eat in here or, if as usual it is sunny weather, grab a table in the rather lovely garden. Lunch is a more serious affair than dinner in Mexico City, and Carlota is a serious – and hip - destination restaurant.
Afternoon Stroll: Hop into an Uber back to civilized Condesa and walk off your lunch with a stroll through Parque México. Cross the road at its north end and this will bring you to a stylish crescent-shaped street called Avenue Amsterdam - a nice place for a little light shopping. (If you have more time and energy, Bosque de Chapultepec, one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere, is only a 5-minute cab ride away).
Dinner: You could go to Rosetta in Roma Norte, which is owned by the woman who owns the Panaderia breakfast joint and considered one of Mexico’s best restaurants. Behind the vast oak door of Rosetta lurks a buzzy, friendly atmosphere and good modern Mexican food. But you should try its sibling, Lardo. Billed as a great place for breakfast or lunch, as it is pretty informal. But it will be bloody marvelous any time you go. Brilliant bar. Absolutely world class Mexican-Italian food, served in sharing plates by cool Mexican geezers. And it’s crammed full of locals. If you don't have the dorade in green curry, washed down with the unbelievably Meursault-like Matetic Corralillo, you deserve a lifetime of Tacobells. (I wanted to say a lifetime of McDonalds with The Donald but that's just cruel). Lardo was set up by an Italian who trained under Giorgio Locatelli at Zafferano, and then met his Mexican girlfriend at Locanda Locatelli. Love may have brought him to CDMX. But CDMX is the luckiest place in the world to have his brilliant restaurant.