Garuda Indonesia Colours Magazine March 2014 | Page 156

154 Travel | Bucharest, Mexico City, Atlanta Mexico City In celebration of Garuda Indonesia joining the SkyTeam airline alliance, Ryan Craggs ventures to the thriving metropolis of Mexico City, home to SkyTeam airline alliance carrier Aeroméxico. Words by Ryan Craggs Somewhere around the third bite of a chicharrón de queso, a flaky cheese crisp served at El Califa taquería (taco stand), or perhaps the second Diego Rivera mural viewed in an afternoon, the wonders of Mexico City come into focus: here, in a metropolis of nearly nine million people and twenty-one million in the metro area (only slightly smaller than Jakarta), a day can be filled with as much art, history and food as the heart – or stomach – desires. A few short years ago, an outsider wouldn’t have considered traipsing around the dust-covered streets of Mexico’s capital. But in the 20th year of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the fruits of open exchange radiate in Mexico City. Ever the financial juggernaut, the Distrito Federal, or DF as it is commonly known, sprawls upwards and outwards. In no place is this more apparent than along the Paseo de la Reforma, the city’s most famous boulevard. Along this street in the financial district, the imposing HSBC Tower exemplifies the wealth of the world’s eighth-richest city. Just east of the world-famous National Anthropological Museum, business headquarters and luxury accommodation pepper this stretch of the Paseo. Power lunches and thousand-thread-count sheets come with the territory at the Four Seasons Hotel and St. Regis Mexico City. But a short jaunt across the street reveals even more activity. Bordering the southern edge of the Paseo de la Reforma, the Zona Rosa, or Rose Zone, teems with life. The streets of this neighbourhood resonate with old-world character, with streets named after European cities and many homes designed a century ago to resemble their European counterparts. If not for the sound of spoken Spanish, the cafés and clubs of the Zona Rosa could easily transport a visitor to Paris or Rome. And amid the comfortable subtropical climate, an extended espresso break or lingering lunch amid the sculpturelined streets just seems like the thing to do. In the shadow of the HSBC Tower on that famous boulevard, the Ángel de la Independencia, or Angel of Independence, looks northeast towards the city’s centre. And it’s in this locus that one finds a hub of culture and history. Really, the Centro, or the historic centre, is a city within a city, boasting more museums and buildings of cultural note than some entire countries. Here explodes a sensory overload: the smell of freshly fried churros, the harmonies of street musicians and the palpable buzz at the epicentre of Latin America’s richest city. Further up Paseo de la Reforma, heading east on Juárez, many of the city’s finest gems neighbour one another. The Casa Mural Diego Rivera showcases his work Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park. And on the eastern corner of the Alameda, the Palacio de Bellas Artes hosts concerts, art symposiums and even more of Rivera’s murals. Diagonally opposite to that rises the Torre Latinoamericana, which allows vistas around the capital from the building’s 44th-floor observation deck. Though Centro offers the greatest number of famous sites in Mexico City, the newfound affluence and vibrancy of the DF shine Mexico’s landscape is filled with ancient history, with ruins of the Aztec, Toltec and Maya indigenous peoples influencing the country’s art and culture. © Mauricio Avramow / Shutterstock © ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock Continuing east on Juárez, the grid offers numerous hotels and restaurants such as the Downtown Mexico, a trendy Habita Group hotel set in the Palace of the Countess of Miravalle, and El Cardenal, possibly the best restaurant for a traditional Mexican huarache. Gravity continues pulling eastward, towards El Zócalo, one of the largest public squares in the world, and home to the National Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral.