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Just Back: 48 Hours in Mexico CityMay 20, 2014 By: Meagan Drillinger
I'm not usually what one would consider 'trendy'. I wore hemp necklaces until an entirely inappropriate age. I was 20 when I learned what a 'Dolce & Gabbana' was, and I'm always late to the restaurant du jour. But when it comes to Mexico City, that is one trend that I saw coming from the start. I'm just back from a weekend in this Latin American metropolis and the city is as chic, safe and relevant as ever.
Travel Agent checked into the St. Regis Mexico City last Thursday, where we were treated to a weekend of spa pampering, fine dining, cooking classes and culture, all of which can be had within the hotel and the surrounding neighborhoods. The St. Regis Mexico City sits right on the Paseo de la Reforma, the veritable "Champs-Élysées" of Mexico City. Within walking distance to the hotel are the neighborhoods Polanco and Condesa, which are likened to the 5th Avenue and SoHo of Mexico City. The hotel is also about a 25-minute drive from the heart of Mexico's Downtown Centro Historico, where travelers can find gorgeous Spanish architecture, ancient pre-hispanic ruins, museums, galleries, restaurants and fine arts.
Mexico City has been the "it" destination for Latin American travelers for years, and it is only recently that Americans are catching on. Dissipating safety concerns, plus a rise in interest for short-haul travel is pushing travelers back into Mexico after an almost five-year hiatus. And what these travelers are discovering is a world-class city.
48 Hours in Mexico City
Our first day in Mexico City took us to the Mercado San Juan, a food market that sells everything from fresh fruit and produce to grasshoppers, goats, fish and pork. This is a truly authentic experience. Travelers wind their way through the stalls to see local farmers and fishermen hawking their ware to chefs and locals. Vegetarians, beware. Butchers are skinning, cleaning and chopping meat right in front of your eyes, so this is not for the faint of heart. We were escorted around the market with Chef Maycoll Calderon, the director and chef of J&G Grill, a Jean-Georges restaurant within the St. Regis.
Following our trip to the market, Chef Calderon led us into the kitchen of J&G Grill where he taught us how to make a variety of vinaigrettes and his signature avocado pizza.
A trip to Mexico City is incomplete without a visit to Pujol, which is heralded as the number one restaurant in Mexico. The intimate restaurant is in the upscale Polanco neighborhood. Diners are treated to an eight-course tasting menu, which changes regularly based on what is in season. It is best to make reservations months in advance as the tiny restaurant fills up quickly. This is also a two-and-a-half-hour affair, so make sure you carve out plenty of time to savor every morsel.
Continue your trip the next day with a visit to Mexico's cultural downtown. Here you will find dozens of museums. This was our fifth visit to Mexico City, so we had already done many of the destination's hot museums like the the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, the Museo Frida Kahlo and the Museo Soumaya. This trip we visited the Palacio de las Bellas Artes, which is Mexico City's fine art museum. On the second and third floors of the lobby you will find stunning murals that depict important moments in Mexico's early 20th-century history. The museum is currently celebrating its 80th year.
From the museum, wind your way through the streets over to the Zocalo, the main plaza in the heart of the historic center. It is bordered by the Cathedral to the north, the National Palace to the east, the Federal District buildings to the south and the Old Portal de Mercaderes to the west. Just outside the Zocalo is the Templo Mayor site, an ancient Aztec pyramid site that was discovered just beneath the pavement of the Zocalo. For the best views, visit the Porrua library. There's a rooftop cafe here that overlooks the Templo Mayor site, giving guests a birds-eye view of the discovery and the rooftops of Spanish architecture. Indulge in a serving of guacamole and a frosty Michelada.
Then it's time to head back to the St. Regis for a signature spa treatment at the Remede Spa. We indulged in a new body wrap that harnesses agave's healing properties to deeply exfoliate and moisturize the skin. The hour-treatment is capped off with a luxurious amenity of champagne and truffles.
Close out your weekend in Mexico City with a chef's tasting table at J&G Grill. Chef Calderon whipped up almost everything on his extensive menu for us to try. The highlights were his twist on salmon and tuna sushi, a mushroom pizza, steak with caramelized carrots and a decadent corn cake for dessert topped with mescal ice cream.
Mexico City is large. It's impossible to see the entire city in one visit. It extends to more than 16 boroughs with more than 300 neighborhoods. But if you follow this 48-hour itinerary, you will have a wonderful sample of everything that the destination has to offer. I know my word means nothing when it comes to the latest club in town or what shoes are hot on the runway, but when it comes to Mexico, and Mexico City, you can trust me. Lo prometo.