Knowing that Mexico City holds north of 150 museums, Dave and Lee dedicated a fair amount of pre-trip planning time to researching and compiling a manageable list of areas of interest. They knew Sunday would have to be museum day because they had read that many museums wave entry fees on the Sabbath. They had already mapped out a rough plan that would optimize travel time between destinations, and after a quick stop by Café Reforma, they hailed a cab.
Their first cab driver of the day was a salesman. Upon hearing the couple’s tentative itinerary, he immediately changed their route, doled out crusty, used information pamphlets, and tried to sway them in the direction of far-off and potentially fatal-to-the-wallet destinations. He also informed them that the fee-free Sundays were typically reserved for Mexican citizens. A delightful man, he was.
He dropped them in front of a bright blue wall, where a line of people spanning more than half the block stood to greet them. They waited somewhat impatiently, snapping photos of each other and all of the people cutting the line both ahead and behind them. When they finally reached the entrance to Museo Frida Kahlo, they were famished. Still, they walked the slow, meandering single file, enjoying Frida’s unique and often graphic artwork and appreciating the opportunity to get such a vivid peak into her past with Diego Rivera. The couple decided that the museum was worth the wait. Upon exiting, they saw the line had grown to curve entirely around the block and said a silent thank you to the cab driver who saved them from a doubly long wait time by not giving them an alternative choice to this as their first stop of the day.
Life Tip #16: Need a travel tip? Ask a local. Bartenders and cab drivers are great resources for everything from touristy spots worth seeing/avoiding, to local events and hidden gems for food and drink.
After grabbing a snack, the couple made a quick stop around the corner at Leon Trotsky’s old digs, deciding to take their salesman-of-a-cab-driver’s advice once again. Trotsky’s museum was decidedly less crowded, less colorful, but perhaps slightly more interesting than Kahlo’s, depending on the observer’s tastes. It was small, displaying a pictured timeline of his life, exile, and death by ice pick. The home portion of the museum was certainly a museum, untouched by modern hands. The books on the shelves and tables were telling. Ghosts haunted the room in which Trotsky was murdered.
After getting their fill of Frida and Leon, it was officially time to see the inside of Bellas Artes. They high-tailed it back toward Zócalo in another salesman’s cab. This smooth-talker mapped out the possibility of a private tour the next day, beginning with several things they didn’t care to see and one thing they did, and ending at the airport. “All of this for the low-low price of your wallet and soul!” At least this driver was entertaining and well-informed. Lee and Dave disembarked and took their time enjoying the sights before the Palacio, white and regal. This museum was filled with an impressive collection of great works of art. The murals were interesting, and huge, and violent, and political, and sexual. There were pieces by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and others. The interior rivaled the exterior in beauty.
None to waste time, Dave and Lee left to peruse the Alameda Central, where people-watching was the name of the game. People from all walks of life strolled the green, tree-lined park, taking in the assorted statues and structures, like the Hemiciclo A Benito Juarez. And after a quick stopover at a local food stand for a Coca Cola and an oversized sandwich, the couple was off to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia.
This was, by far, the pair’s greatest endeavor of the day, for it was massive. It boasted two, wrap-around stories of ancient, wonderful history in the form of fossils and bones, fashion and textiles, figurines and statues, paintings and photographs, and recreations of scenes from ancient villages. A mushroom cloud of a fountain spilled buckets of water from the sky in the center of it all. The pair took their time through the first half before deciding to walk briskly through the last. They still had one stop left on their museum tour.
They took a long, leisurely walk through an open air market toward their destination. There was a small lake where kids laughed loudly from brightly colored paddle boats; vendors sold candies and toys; music played from many different sources; young couples made out on the lawn beside picnicking families; and bubbles danced high in the air, origin unknown. It was like a scene from a movie.
Life Tip #17: Even when you’re in a hurry, pause. Don’t miss out on the journey for the sake of the destination.
Finally, Lee and Dave reached the base of what would be a very long, uphill walk to Castillo de Chapultepec. Before even reaching the castle, the view from the hill proved to be worth the climb. Mexico City sprawled before them, beautiful and somehow peaceful from that distance. Finding that they were on Museum Number Five, the couple realized a near crippling level of physical exhaustion and stimulation overload. They walked in a daze through the figures or royalty’s past and quickly found themselves settled on a bench in the castle garden. The long day was getting to them, but the view from the top made the end of their journey worth their aching feet. They road in the cab back to Hotel Sevilla in contented silence, Lee’s head resting sleepily on Dave’s shoulder.
Life Tip #18: If you’re going somewhere that site-seeing and fun-having are top priorities, don’t waste too much of your trip on inessential sleep. You can sleep when you get home. When possible, set aside a day for post-vacation recovery.
Back in their room, after about ten minutes of rest, the pair decided to make the most of their last evening in CDMX. They headed back toward Zócalo for one last hurrah. It was Sunday, and the plaza was bustling. They decided to pause for a snack and drink at one of the rooftop bars overlooking the square. As the sun settled low in the sky and beers made their way to the couple’s table, a great processional of military personnel and musicians entered the square for a ritual flag lowering. Lee and Dave observed in awed silence from their seats on the rooftop.
The remainder of the evening slipped by in a blur of tacos, ice cream, and gratified sluggishness. Finally, the pair lay down to rest with Salma Hayek’s portrayal of Frida playing quietly in the background.