You needn't be in a hurry in Mexico City

Published3/8/2008 10:57 AM

When my colleague Elizabeth Wallace arrived in Mexico City for a brief business trip, she took the time to wander the area surrounding her hotel.

"Even though this huge metropolis has a population of about 25 million, it didn't feel overwhelming to me on the Place de La Reforma," she remarked. "The city has devoted so much time and effort into revitalizing their central business district that it is a real pleasure to stroll the scene."


In fact, even when she was off to a business appointment, this energetic sojourner preferred to walk rather than take one of Mexico City's ubiquitous green-and-white VW bug taxis. On her way, she was shaded from the intense heat by trees that line the wide boulevard.

City parks stretch along the entire length of the street, providing a canopy for the myriad benches designed by individual local artists.

"It is a veritable outdoor museum of sitting opportunities," said this patron of the arts, who described multi-leveled seats of welded iron, inventive lounge chairs and a place to sit that resembled a steamship.

The business traveler was also fascinated by her Mexico City accommodations at the celebrated Marquis Reforma, a 209-room hotel she says is the city's best. Her first move once she moved in was to look out her eighth-floor window. From that vantage point, she fantasized that perhaps the hazy air was mixed with volcanic ash.

"Well, Popocatepeti had mildly erupted twice the week before I arrived," she told me, adding, "and, of course, I was well aware that this beautiful city suffers many earthquakes, so when the porter reminded me where the emergency exit was -- twice -- I became a bit unglued. That first night I slept with my sandals and a jacket near the door."

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That fear dissipated very quickly. Elizabeth told me she became too entranced with living in the moment in Mexico to be worrying about the future.

"Besides," she explained, "the Marquis Reforma has earthquake bridges that allow its three sections to move against each other should there be any ripples."

Then she added, "On a more personal note, an expert deep-tissue massage in the Reforma Spa before bedtime took the ripples out of most of my nervousness and I ended up sleeping soundly through that first night."

In fact, Elizabeth reported that because she had made room in her schedule so she could enjoy a treatment at the hotel's massive marble spa and because she also made time to look around the area and take in all its splendor, she used this "don't-be-in-a-hurry" demeanor to get into the slow sway of the city.

Lunch at the luxury hotel's Il Cafeto allowed her to continue that quest. She lingered over coffee and pastries after a bounteous buffet while guests talked between tables even though they had been strangers only moments before.


Not all that eager to get down to business in Mexico City right away, Elizabeth spent her first day not far from the capital city sightseeing at the ancient Teotihuacan temple ruins of the moon and the sun. There, she watched as school children, dressed in blue-and-white uniforms, sat in circles around their elder guides.

"Later on, a few of the kids came up to me with their pads and pencils to interview me," Elizabeth said, admitting that this was the first of many such Spanish-speaking interactions in Mexico City.

Later, at Garibaldi Square, a young girl wearing a turquoise skirt came up and asked her questions. Then, at the Saturday Market near Frida Kahlo's house, two young men doing a film also interviewed Elizabeth.

According to this visitor from Washington, D.C., "While no one stayed to chat for too long, I realized this kind of charming curiosity is sadly missing from the Smithsonian mall back home."

Another aspect of life in Mexico City Elizabeth marveled at was how one would languish over business meals.

For the best place to talk turkey, this enthusiastic visitor recommends Los Canarios in the Marquis Reforma Hotel (serving Spanish-Mexican cuisine incorporating market fresh ingredients) as well as the restaurant's original outpost in the Polanca section, an intimate, old city version of Manhattan's 5th Avenue. Up one floor from the street, the restaurant opens into a beautiful room of deep woods, giant mirrors and a wall of windows.

"We were above the traffic. It seemed to disappear because the treetops acted like a foliage backdrop. For ambience, there were cages of canaries chirping along with lunchtime conversations," she remembers.

Elizabeth mentioned that the Los Canarios chef stopped by her table, telling the story of how he had followed his family's desires and gone to America for his medical degree even though immediately after that he became a chef. Apparently, this foodmeister made the right choice. Elizabeth raved about the ceviche he prepared, served in a chilled beer mug.

"The white meat virtually melted in my mouth," said Elizabeth. "It was so good I resisted the urge to ask for a straw."

The appreciative diner noticed that although she had arrived later than most restaurant patrons and that even though she had eaten slowly, savoring every bite, she still left before anyone else.

That said, she promised that going faster than the general population wasn't going to happen the next time she hits town. In fact, from her experiences, Elizabeth decided that Mexico City is the perfect place in which to spend lots of time on task no matter what that task will happen to be.

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