Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dolores Olmedo's Museum

This being our last real day here to do tourist things we decided to trek out to the Dolores Olmedo Museum right at the southern end of the city. It took two metros and an elevated train to get us there, about 1.5 hours, but it was totally worth it.

The museum is in a rambling stone structure originally dating from the 16th Century. Dolores Olmedo was a controversial figure who was involved with Diego Rivera and Frida most of her life. She accumulated many of their paintings as well as an enormous collection of pre-Columbian art and in the later part of her life lived in the hacienda that is now the museum that bears her name.

The grounds of the property are peaceful and gorgeous with large expanses of green lawn (unheard-of in Mexico City), blooming bougainvillea, aloes and stone walkways. What a lovely relief it was to wander around the grounds after an hour and a half metro ride through the heat of the city.

As we entered we noticed this huge statue of an Aztec woman with a dog beside her. Olmeda kept these unique Mexican hairless dogs called Xoloitcuintili, originally bred by the pre-Columbian peoples here. There descendants are still being cared for at the museum. 

The one in the foreground is a bronze sculpture and the one in the background is real. In this photo you can see three actual dogs behind the sculpture. They live in a large grassy area and appear to be very well kept and happy. 

Dolores Olmeda seemed to be fascinated with these dogs and many of her ancient sculptures and crafts featured images of them. on the left is one of probably forty stone scultptures, and below a large vase featauring a dog image that looks remarkably like those in the pen.

The main exhibit hall featured works by Diego Rivera, including some very early ones done while he was in Paris and experimenting with French styles of the day.

This one is clearly cubist...      and this one influenced by Matisse.  You can see he was a master of every style.                             

I was also interested in seeing how Diego worked. There were two pieces in the exhibit of the same subject, one a finished drawing about 20x28" and another simpler drawing done very large, about 4'x6', which I think was a cartoon for one of his murals. He was a prodigious worker.

The rest of the museum included some temporary exhibits and a room full of Olmedo's folk art including these full size papier maché Day of the Dead figures.

We also enjoyed seeing this Mexican style kitchen, which has grates under the big pots and a recess beneath it where a fire would be lit to cook the food. The tiles are so gorgeous.

And the lovely arches and the stonework stairs and walls going up the hill behind the house. If you're ever visiting Mexico City I highly recommend visiting this lovely oasis.

At the end of our time wandering around I was relaxed and happy. It was a wonderful way to end our trip to Mexico City. Tomorrow we pack up and get ready to leave for our very early flight on Tuesday morning. The plane leaves at 6:00 so we will be at the airport at 4:00 am.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mercados Mexicanos

Mercado is the Spanish word for market and in Mexico every village, every town, every neighbourhood has at least one. In most cases they are held in a building that is purpose built for this. Here's the beautiful mercado in Tlalpan, a town in the southern part of la Ciudad Mexico.  We stopped here on our way to Coyacan, which I wrote about the other day.

Inside this building are dozens of stalls which are owned by vendors of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, spices, housewares of all kinds, shoes, clothing, and many other things that would normally be found in our stores.

We've always liked the mercados and when we were in Mazatlan we often did our shopping there. The vendors usually are very direct with their prices and there doesn't seem to be a lot of bargaining so it's easy for us.  (Someone may contradict me about the bargaining, but we find the prices so reasonable that we don't attempt it.)

A few days ago we visited with our friends Tere and Jose, who live here in the city and run a small school. When Harry was here a year ago he did some volunteer teaching in their school and we've spent a couple of days with them this time around.  It's wonderful to go to the mercado with people who are really familiar with the foods and who speak fluent Spanish.
They took us to the market in their neighbourhood and bought us some fruit. This is mamay, something new to me.  It's quite unusual with its deep orange colour. I must say it's not my favourite, being a cross between dry canteloupe and sweet potato.  Pretty though. The three varieties of mangoes were wondereful, however.

Here's another fruit stall in a market. Maybe this woman is phoning her husband to ask which fruit he would like to have today.

In the past when we went to markets we avoided the areas where people are eating, and it turns out that in doing so we were missing one of the best parts of the mercado experience.

We've been cautious about these little eateries but Tere and Jose showed us how to do it right. 

Select a stall that has a lot of employees, that tells you that it's a thriving operation. Order food that is cooked such as soup (caldo or sopa), tacos, gorditas etc. Or try the comida corrida--the daily special usually consisting of three courses plus a fruit drink called agua de fruta. 

After being tutored by them, Harry and I tried the comida corrida at the market in Tlalpan and it was delicious and an incredible deal. Lentil soup to start, then a plate of either Spanish rice or pasta, followed by mango chicken and vegetables, plus a large drink. Harry had agua naranja (orange water) which was delicious. They always use bottled water for the drinks so there's no need to worry.

Here's Harry looking quite pleased to be here, and this was our very busy waitress who took excellent care of us. The cost of the meal was $120 pesos, about $4.50 each. And it was delicious and more than I could finish.

Today we went with Tere and Jose to a market close to our neighbourhood here in Roma. It's the Medellin Market and our friend Andrea told us about it. Because it's in an upscale neighbourhood it had more variety of foods and stalls than some others. And it was light and bright. There were several different seafood vendors who get their wares by air from both coasts. Also there were a few very nice looking restaurants.

We sat down in this one and ordered fish tacos, seafood soup, and shrimp pasta.  

And for desert, Tere ordered fried bananas. Delish.

Other hints on dining in these places include using the cut limes to disinfect the top of your bottle or glass before your drink from it and wiping the cutlery with one of the many paper napkins on each table.

Here are few more shots of the mercados we've visited over the past few days. Lots of dried peppers, tortilla makers and veggies including cactus leaves.

The Medellin market has its own shrine.

The other market we visited recently was the Mercado de Artisanias, also called la Ciudaduela. It's a huge complex right in the centre of Mexico City where vendors sell art and crafts of every kind and level of quality.

From the hand carved alebrijes from Oaxaca...

to handwoven and stitched fabrics, tin work and much more.


We only saw a small portion of this enormous market, enough to know that we'll be going back again before we head home. It's amazing to see all this stuff in one place.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Diego and Frida's house

Way back in 1984 when Harry and I first came to Mexico City we took the metro out to Coyacan to see Frida and Diego's house. It was a long trip and when we got there we discovered that the museum was closed that day. (Most museums in Mexico still close on Mondays). At that time not many people had heard of Frida Kahlo but their house looked really interesting. Of course since then Frida has exploded into the public consciousness and seems to be icon of Arty Mexico.

While I enjoyed the movie Frida and love the colours and the Mexican handicrafts I must say I'm somewhat baffled at the adulation given to her work. I find it overly dramatic and self-serving. I know that she was in constant pain and tortured by her relationship and I sympathize. But I don't really see her work as groundbreaking particularly.  Ok, now I'm waiting for some nasty comments.

Still I admire her spirit and the bohemian life she and Diego created. It was a pleasure to finally be able to see the Casa Azul. Behind those blue wall is another world with gorgeous gardens and rooms full of incredible handicrafts and artwork.

This is the colour of the house on the outside--a gorgeous blue that would  look terrible in Victoria but shines here in the bright Mexican sun. Below are a couple shots of the garden, one showing a temple style structure and the other a fountain. the blue wall looks fantastic behind the plants I think.

Inside there are photos and paintings by Frida and images of her and her family. this early drawing (unfinished) caught my eye. You cana see she has talent and is learning about drawing and shading.

I like this photo of Frida. Here she looks confident and a bit sassy. Maybe this was taken before she was so badly injured in the streetcar accident.

Here's the wall of the kitchen where Frida and Diego's names are on each side of the chimney.

And this is their dining room where they entertained the intelligentsia of the day.

Finally a photo of her easel and paints and the wheelchair where she sat.

This is one painting of Frida's that I really like. 

It was nice after all these years to see her house. In the intervening time the museum has become a big deal, with security all over the place and lineups and big prices. While most museums here are between 40 and 75 pesos to enter, this one was 200 plus 30 pesos for a permit to take photographs.
The good thing was that because we're over 65 we got in for only 15 pesos each. I couldn't believe it when she gave me the change.

Our day was stressful as we decided to take the hop-on/hop-off bus to Coyacan--a big mistake. It was a long way and the traffic was horrible. We sat on top in the open air and almost choked to death on the smog. I think that this way of travelling, while worthwhile in many places, doesn't really work for Mexico city. It took us twice as long as it was supposed to to get there.

When we got out of the museum it was thundering and raining buckets so we ended up taking a taxi back to town, using up most of the pesos we'd saved from the museum entry fee. But totally worth it.

I think that the rainy season has begun here in CDMX. Last night it rained and thundered and then again today. One bonus is that it's much cooler. Tonight we'll sleep comfortably even without the fan I think.