Mexico

I have been to Mexico twice before – both times with kids and the first time pregnant with Maude, which definitely changes the type of trip you experience.  this time we are here to celebrate my husband’s big birthday – but really its any excuse to travel, explore and discover……its a long 10 hour flight, but it really transports you into a very different culture;  from the minute you leave the airport – where shanty living is literally alongside the airport walls, you can feel the life and spirit of Mexican seeping on the streets on the journey into the centre of town. there is so much to write, so I will do a day by day post of what we got up to.

we decided to stay centrally in downtown Mexico – right next to the famous zocalo square – which pre colonial times was the ceremonial aztec city of Tenochtitlan.  usually the more upmarket hotels are in the suburbs, but recently a few more boutique hotels have opened up centrally.  remember Mexico City is a vast sprawling city and with the traffic, it can take a long time to get around from one area to another.  Downtown Mexico is a housed in an old colonial 17C Palacio centred around a large open courtyard, filled with trees which from the first level bedrooms looks like a floor of greenery.  the concrete walled bedrooms are vast and spacious and look out onto the courtyard. there are a few rooms with outside views, and these are what I would go for next.  its a great location for popping in and out of the main central sights and then be able to flop on your bed in-between.  in the main courtyard the restaurant Azul Historico is very good and popular with the locals too;  interesting Mexican food that includes several dishes of grasshoppers, which seems to be their delicacy.  after a while you realise that these specialities are commonplace on most menus.  there is also a roof top bar and terrace and swimming pool to relax by. due to the the time difference of 6 hours, you inevitably wake up at dawn, which is a great time to explore the surrounding area.  walk across to zocalo square, see the ruins of the aztec temples that Mexico was built around ;  pop into the cathedral filled with people on morning mass – they also provided breakfast for the hungry in a courtyard – you will see that there are lots of homeless people, just as there is in London, all lining up waiting to be fed –  watch street life come alive with portable food stalls, buskers turning their organs releasing the wailing sound that was once the popular sound of the city and out of town indigenous Mexicans dressing in their feathers and bells to perform their native dance.  its a busy jostling city……

Mexico is a big sprawling city and traffic is bad, so you need to plan your day with sights and restaurants so that you are not going round in circles.  we continued our walking up to the incredible Bellas Artes Museum, high Art Deco style with its incredible ceiling and murals by some of the great Mexican painters including Diego Rivera.  we also saw a wonderful retrospective of Brassai’s street photography.   Mexico apparently has the highest number of art galleries and museums in one city.

  

walking the streets is a great way to soak up Mexico City – we passed the beautiful old post office, again high Deco in style, beautifully preserved but only functioning for parcels in one section.  one can only imagine how exciting it must have been in Mexico 100 years ago.   next to the museum is the Alemeida Park – full of locals enjoying the sun and green space, children splashing in the fountains, a group of locals dancing on the bandstand.  at the opposite end of the park is the mural museum of Diego Rivera – a small museum especially built to house this mural of Rivera which he had originally made for a hotel and was relocated to this spot.  its stunning and includes people of all ranks and sorts, including a younger self portrait and his wife Friday.

  

we ate lunch at La Opera – a viennese style restaurant serving typical Mexican food.  opposite is an incredible blue porcelain tiled building Sanbornes – pop in and see the 1970’s style cafe – so many great interiors.  for dinner we went to Maximo bistros in Roma Norte – a more upmarket restaurant that specialises in local grown vegetables and sustainable fish – it was very nice, but definitely attracted more tourists.  Roma is about 20 – 30 mins drive out from the centre, a more affluent suburb, its where people go for a quieter life and seems full of restaurants.  its definitely worth visiting to see the more gentler side of Mexico City.

as we have  done most of the important sightseeing trips before, we tried to see other new things instead and discover different areas.  however a trip to Frida Kahlo’s blue Azul house is always a must – not just to see the beautiful house and gardens that she created, but to appreciate her exquisite taste.  everything that she and Diego collected was of impeccable craftsmanship – from the bowls and pans in the kitchen to the furniture and objets around the house.  sadly in the last 10 years, Frida has become somewhat of a commercial icon for women artists to the point that the saturation of souvenirs with her face emblazoned onto absolutely everything makes you not want to like her – but I still do…..  her art may not be as powerful and iconic as Rivera’s but her personality, individuality and strength against all her pain only makes you admire her all the more.  there are now huge queues to get into the house, so its best to book in advance, which we did, and you still have to queue for at least 20 mins.  fortunately timed tickets makes it not too overcrowded – its still one of my favourite galleries in the world.

walk a few blocks down towards the main square Centenario Maguey Parque passing a couple of garden squares on the way.  one was full of budding artists, the other with organ grinders, stall holders selling balloons, woven bags and rugs, flowers, sweets – absolutely everything. my favourite bit was watching the locals learning to dance, first in couples then in formation – they danced in a small space on the borders of the artists, in the bandstands and in the squares  – its full of life and colour and especially as it was a Sunday, so there were particularly a lot of young families enjoying themselves.

we ate in Corazon de Maguey – just on the edge of plaza centenary – very good local food and more typical delicacies such as cactus fruit and sprouted leaves.   we were actually told to take Ubers around the city, apparently the safest as they are all traceable;  Ubers in london are a dreaded word, but here they are widespread, very efficient and extremely cheap.  we took a taxi to the nearby museum of Diego Rivera, which was a shock/surprise to see – we didn’t know anything about this museum , but think of Aztec pyramids.  it was Frida and Diego’s dream to build a museum dedicated to the origins of Mexico;  it now houses Rivera’s massive collection of Aztec art, sculptures, bowls and the vast first floor studio is dedicated to the drawings for Rivera’s huge murals.    definitely worth seeing.

we then returned to our hotel just in time to catch the 6pm daily ritual of taking the enormous Mexican flag down in zocalo square.  a regiment of soldiers march around the square in unison and then watch them catch the flag and roll it into one long tube – I think it would have been far more exciting watching the 6am daily unrolling and erecting the flag and then seeing it blow in the sky.

parkway

Parkway is one of those streets which seems to have had nothing that succeeds – restaurants and shops open and close, but suddenly Parkway is becoming the heart of camden;  the high street is full of chains, pret, office, american apparel – the fruit market on inverness street has been replaced by tat.  but now there are more amenities on parkway –  parkway greens is a welcome addition with its vast varieties of fruit and vegetables –  it is a change to the numerous supermarkets that are in the area.   its sad to admit, that i feel excitement at something like a greengrocers opening in my area than another fashion boutique!  one shot coffee serves breakfast and cakes, as does the coffee jar opposite.  Gails has now taken over the original pet shop, and although now a chain does offer good bread;  parkway deli has been there for many years and sells all the traditional Italian produce, its still very old fashioned which I love;  shimogano is a decent traditional japanese restaurant and especially great value for lunch.  if you are a vegan, there is a vegan pizza Purezza that is extremely popular and of course there is whole foods, though very expensive offers everything you need for the alternative health junkie.  zero 40 has taken over Strada and is a comfy place to have breakfast right through to cocktails;  its a simple menu, but hopefully it will succeed – its owned by camden craft breweries.   chaksu just opened – an independent opticians, which I will definitely try out – its good to support small new businesses, especially in this ever growing world of chains and supermarket domination.   at the bottom of Parkway there is the flower stall who will sell you flowers individually, so that you can make up a mixed bouquet – if you just want to spend £10, they will help you stick to your budget and you can go away with a bunch that looks like it cost double.

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finding the right make up

going on all these shoots, i have certainly learned a few tips with make up – i certainly don’t know where to start, but increasingly i see what the professionals use.  I have now paired down my make up to a minimum, so many times I buy things and only use it once and then revert back to my original.  a big favourite is laura mercier for complexions -the primer definitely gives you an all over radiant glow,  the tinted moisturiser for a natural glow with a hint of coverage, the multi minerals powder to get rid of the shine, but still look luminous and natural;  my all time favourite is just skin by chantecaille – expensive but it goes quite far and the shade perfectly matches my skin tone.   both armani and mac for eye colours as they have great colours and lasting power – I especially like Macs twist down kohl pencils, which are super fast to use, paul and joe for pretty colours and pretty containers,  by Terry for concealer  and Charlotte Tilbury for blush;  for eyebrows I always use an eye pencil by blink.   my favourite red lipstick is by shu uemura – its moisturising as well as loaded with colour and for a red lip stain, both Clinique and lipstick queen have a great deep red crayon, which is easy to put on quickly.  always a classic, chanel has beautiful shades of red lipstick – especially to go with your 1940’s dresses. a beautiful deep shade of red lipstick, is black dahlia by Tom Ford – all his make up is not only  beautiful to use, but in great packaging too, but pricey . my favourite mascara is smokey eyes by Bobbi Brown.   if you get really confused Beauty Mart have a great selection of products that they have curated – both Anna and Millie are experts in this field for many years.

loved these wooden paddles that you decorated at one of the temples in Kyoto to wish for beauty!

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the sick rose

O Rose thou art sick.

The invisible worm

That flies in the night

In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed

Of crimson joy:

And his dark secret love

Does thy life destroy

William Blake

‘The Sick Rose’, although written in clear, plain language, is an enigmatic poem whose meaning remains difficult to pin down. Therein lies much of its haunting power.

I have so many roses in my garden at the moment;  I only planted this one a few years ago, and finally this year, there are more than the one or two that I have been getting.

l. cornelissen

it must be one of my favourite shops in london, l. cornelissen stocks art materials, but not just like your regular art shop,  its a specialist in all types of mediums, from inks, to watercolours, to gouache etc….  there are bottles, jars, tins, tubes of everything that you would ever need.  the problem is that i didnt even know what you used most of the things for!  its definitely a place for inspiring your creativity – i have decided to buy some calligraphy pens with the beautiful shades of sepia ink (in gorgeous bottles of course) and try them out in the beautiful sketch books that they stock.  what a brilliant present to buy somebody interested in art, a starter kit in drawing or painting  with a lovely notebook – perfect for any young teenager or budding artist!

here is my watercolour of a pot of daffodils.

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Cambridge for the day

now that my daughter is at Cambridge I seem to be always visiting;  last weekend was her birthday and because of exams, she could just about fit in dinner with us all.  there is always so much to see and do and one day is never enough, so we have been taking the opportunity to take in the sights each time we go;  it was fortunately a beautiful bright day so we went to the heritage botanical gardens which I highly recommend;  situated about 5 mins walk from the train station, its a mini kew, but not too big to walk around and admire the beautiful planting and trees – my favourite were the victorian conservatories.  surprisingly we haven’t found that many interesting places to eat, and especially to accommodate a vegan!  as Maude was not eating lunch, we ate a good Sunday roast at  Pint Shop, and had the wonderful  Jacks gelato  for dessert;  the queue can be very long, but its definitely worth it and they even have a couple of choices for vegans.  stem and glory is a great restaurant for vegans and the ivy, though now a chain, does have a vegan and vegetarian menu.   kettle’s yard is always a must and even though I have been 4 times in the last year, its always a pleasure to walk around.  I am now on the list for David Parr’s house, which has recently opened, but is booked for the rest of the year!  I think the only way to get to see it this year is to book a private tour.  if you get a chance evensong at Kings  College is definitely a lovely experience;  I am not religious, but the grandeur of the choir and the chapel is just breathtaking, all those stained glass windows.  Just walking around the old part of Cambridge and peeking into all the colleges is interesting, its a beautiful historical city.

 

Chelsea flower show

after a couple of years rest,  I made it to the flower show -always incredibly busy when you first go in, and especially hot waiting in the queue,  but much more comfortable and less crowded as the early evening draws in.  if you have been before, buying the 5.30 ticket is not a bad choice, though it does mean that you don’t have time for that lazy cup of tea or glass of pimms and a sit around – my choice of doing this would be in the artisan section, which is always less busy and shady.

i always get garden envy – wondering why my tiny little plot is not as neat or bursting with flowers as these are;  but then I tell myself that these are show gardens intended to entice you.  so much inspiration  – from sheds, to pots, to meadows and flowers – there was definitely a more wild flowers meadow feel with beautiful rich tones of burnt orange and rust, delicate tones of eau de nil and creamy taupe, lots of herbs and vegetables, and a much more overgrown look than usual.  I never like the over designed touches of steel curves, water features, dominating sculptures and heavy stone, but still its always an inspiring day, but the best thing are the lovely pretty dresses that get worn, such a selection and so nice to see that people take the effort to dress up for the day.  the flower show is definitely a good place to go people watching, such a diverse group of people all with the interest of flowers and gardens in common.

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