Mexico City: Colorful San Ángel and Condesa

April 07, 2020

Mexico City sprawls across 573 square miles, with a staggeringly large population of 8.85 million that makes it the biggest city in North America. You can’t possibly see it all, so you have to pick one neighborhood per day and plan on a 20-to-30-minute Uber ride to get there no matter which direction you’re going. On our last day in Mexico City, we visited lovely San Ángel.

El Bazaar Sábado

The girls and I were keen to do a little shopping at El Bazaar Sábado, the Saturday Market, where they bought some pretty rings and I got earrings.

The bazaar, which features upscale handmade jewelry, pottery, and handicrafts, is housed in a rambling, 17th-century mansion with a courtyard shaded by a lovely old jacaranda tree.

Stacked terracotta pots make a zigzagging wall along one side of the courtyard.

Outside, more vendors sell everything from otomi wall hangings and table runners (I should have bought one, dang it) to paintings to Oaxacan blouses.

Parroquia de San Jacinto

After the market we wandered nearby streets and happened upon a pretty garden inside the walls of Parroquia de San Jacinto, or Parish of San Jacinto.

The coral-walled church was

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Mexico City: Bosque de Chapultepec botanical garden and more

April 05, 2020

One morning during our stay in Mexico City we explored the city’s “lungs”, the Bosque de Chapultepec, or Chapultepec Forest. At 1,695 acres, it’s one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere. Chapultepec means “grasshopper hill” in the Aztec language, and in fact the park does contain a tall hill — a rare sight in flat Mexico City, which is built upon a drained lakebed.

Tucked into Chapultepec park is a small botanical garden, only 13 acres, but an interesting one. A recent article by Wildflower editor Amy McCullough about the jardín botánico had piqued my interest, and we soon found it. Happily, admission is free.

Cinderblock succulents

We strolled in, and I smiled to see this: a long border of cinderblock-planted succulents — much like my own (much smaller) cinderblock wall planter!

Hundreds of cinderblocks laid end-to-end and stacked into miniature modernist towers hold echeverias galore.

The creative display makes for a fun moment as you arrive.

Echeveria is native to Mexico, making it a perfect plant to greet visitors.

Pallet fort

Next we came across a fort-like structure made of wooden pallets. Stacked about 8 feet high, they invite climbers

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Mexico City: Folk art skeletons, devils, and more at Museo de Arte Popular

April 03, 2020

Skeletons may be macabre to American eyes, but they’re a popular motif in Mexican folk art, as we saw at the Museo de Arte Popular (Museum of Folk Art) in Mexico City. Housed in an Art Deco building in the historic center, the museum is perfectly sized to see everything in a couple of hours, and it also operates a very nice gift shop of regional handicrafts.

Día de Muertos art

Here in Austin, we’ve adopted Mexico’s joyful Day of the Dead celebration. So folk-art skeletons enjoying everyday activities aren’t unfamiliar to me. This well-attended skeleton bullfight (above) was a surprise though.

Check out the feast table for this convivial group of skeletons.

And how can you not love this guy’s exuberance? Does he remind you of Coco?

These skeleton miners are hard at work…

…mining for skulls.

These clay skeleton women are beautiful if a little creepy. Check out the “hand”lesticks!

There’s a lot going on here, but it looks like a party.

Animal masks

When your inner leopard comes out.

Devils

They say the devil is in the details.

One whole room of horned devils offers an up-close look at the details.

Alebrijes

Beautiful

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Mexico City: Day trip to Teotihuacán pyramids

April 01, 2020

One pleasure of travel is the opportunity to marvel over monuments built by earlier civilizations: Stonehenge, Roman arenas and bridges, castles — and, most recently for us, Mesoamerican pyramids at Teotihuacán, about an hour’s drive northeast of Mexico City. We hired an Uber driver to take us there and back and spent about 5 hours climbing, exploring the ancient city’s ruins, seeing the site museum, and admiring a small native-plant garden.

Who built the stepped pyramids and surrounding dwellings of Teotihuacán? No one knows for sure. Archaeologists believe construction began around 100 B.C., and the city thrived through 650 A.D., ultimately swelling to a population of 100,000. But it was a ghost town by the time the Aztecs arrived circa 1200 A.D. — 1,000 years after Teotihuacán was built — and the Aztecs would have marveled over its ancient pyramids just as we do today.

By 1832 the Pyramid of the Sun — the largest pyramid at Teotihuacán, pictured at top — would have been overgrown with vegetation, as shown in this reproduction artwork by Jean Baptiste Louis.

Reconstruction restored the pyramids and continues to this day. Many areas at Teotihuacán are marked off

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All cleaned up after live oak deluge

March 30, 2020

The garden reemerged last weekend, after copious raking and blowing and bagging, from the annual spring deluge of last season’s live oak leaves and subsequent pollen catkins. I ran around with the camera, capturing the gorgeousness of new flowers and fresh foliage, like this pretty combo of ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvine (Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’) and wine-leaved ‘Sizzling Pink’ loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense) on the cedar fence in the backyard.

The center of the fence offers a rare sunny spot in my garden, for half the day anyway, and this year the Katrina rose (Rosa ‘Peggy Martin’) sports dozens of clusters of pink flowers.

‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvine rambles all along the length of the fence…

…keeping company with blue bottles on the bottle tree.

Looking lengthwise past the bottle tree, ‘Sizzling Pink’ loropetalum reappears, backed by a spiky blue fringe of Yucca rostrata.

Still on my to-do list: lightly prune the loropetalum, which threatens to overrun the path.

I adore those burgundy leaves as they catch the sunlight.

The loropetalum echoes the rusty steel planter in front of the blue wall. Orange bulbine has just started blooming again, mingling with the soft texture of

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Mexico City: Jacaranda purple haze, Centro Histórico, and native plants

March 27, 2020

A romantic, violet veil brightens Mexico City each spring, when jacaranda trees unfurl a profusion of purple flowers on bare, sinuous trunks lining parkways, park paths, and residential streets.

Jacaranda trees

I caught sight of the purple haze from the airplane as we descended over the smoggy city in early March. At ground level, in placid Alameda Central park in Centro Histórico, the historic city center, the view is even better.

These otherworldly, head-turning trees came from South America. According to online sources, a Japanese immigrant to Mexico (via Brazil) imported the jacaranda in place of cherry trees, which fared poorly in Mexico’s dry climate. The jacaranda thrives in Mexico City’s mild, dry, high elevation (7,300 feet!).

I’ve seen jacarandas in the U.S. in frost-free (or nearly so) locations like Phoenix and Southern California. But the profusion in Mexico City dazzled me.

I was forever stopping my family for “one more photo.” The airy trees are hard to photograph against a hazy sky, but the purple flowers pop against the greenery of other trees.

Lilac loveliness everywhere.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Aside from jacarandas, Centro offers plenty of other attractions, like the amber-domed Palacio de Bellas Artes,

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