Just Back From: Mexico City
When a friend suggested a trip for her banner-year birthday, we needed a destination that was reasonably priced, close enough for a short visit, and, in early September, warm enough to make us forget that summer was ending. With Mexico City, we got two out of three: It is indeed reasonably priced, both in terms of getting there ($250 roundtrip from New York!) and getting around ($5 to Uber from the airport to the city center!), and the time change is negligible, making it more than manageable for a holiday weekend. The weather wasn’t as unrelentingly hot and sunny as expected, but we packed northern California-esque layers, and it was perfectly pleasant.
Mexico’s capital is a sprawling metropolis that offers so much to see and do that it’s practically impossible to check everything off your list in just three or four days. Which is fine—you’ll be planning your next visit before your return flight has left the runway. Here’s a little taste of what to expect from one of the world’s most populous urban centers.
1. A Network of Neighborhoods
Home to more than 20 million people spread across some 571 square miles, there's no chance of seeing all of the city in one go. Your best bet is to focus on a few colonias, or neighborhoods, and even then, you’ll probably be frustrated by the sheer volume of museums, galleries, shops, restaurants, and bars in each that you don’t have time for. We stayed in the Centro Historico—a friend called it the Times Square of Mexico City, but with more monuments and historical landmarks. It may not be the prettiest or the trendiest, but true to its name, its central location makes it a convenient base of operations. Check out the Zócalo, the city’s main plaza; visit the ruins of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán at Templo Mayor, and hit a museum or two before taking an Uber (or the metro) to one of the outlying neighborhoods. West of the Centro, a half-hour cab ride away, the moneyed, tree-lined streets of Polanco provide a respite from the downtown scrum, with posh boutiques (and plenty of upscale chains familiar to the American eye), fancy restaurants, and chic cocktail joints. Southeast of Polanco, Condesa offers ample opportunities for people-watching, with sidewalk cafés and bars that draw tourists and locals alike. And to the east, the neighboring Roma is a hipster hangout par excellence, with great restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores.
2. A Collection of Curiosities
For unique sights and experiences that give a distinct sense of place, look further afield. The Museo Frida Kahlo (museofridakahlo.org.mx), for one, sits in the peaceful suburb of Coyoacán, and it’s worth braving the throngs for a glimpse into the private lives of two of Mexico’s most iconic artists. Pro tip: For the best chance of avoiding the crowds, book tickets in advance for the earliest timed entry available, and go on a weekday. Allot plenty of time to wander through Frida’s bedroom, gaze out onto the idyllic gardens from her studio window, and imagine yourself at the kitchen table, sipping tea with Diego Rivera. Directly north, in the decidedly nondescript environs of Buenavista, is Biblioteca Vasconcelos (bibliotecavasconceles.gob.mx), an architectural marvel designed by Mexican architect Alberto Kalach. With interlocking, towering metal-and-glass stacks holding more than 600,000 volumes, this public library is pretty much heaven for bibliophiles.
3. An Array of Fantastic Food
Anyone who’s nibbled on a subpar burrito and dreamed of the real deal, rest assured: You'll find it in abundance here in the motherland. From perfect little three-bite tacos in the Centro to upscale bistro fare and chi-chi tasting menus in the outlying neighborhoods, a culinary revolution is underway in the Ciudad de México. We booked a table at Máximo Bistrot Local (maximobistrot.com.mx) in Roma for a leisurely—if unfashionably early—lunch. (The cognoscenti don’t sit down until at least 2:00 p.m.) A swank, smart-casual spot, Máximo specializes in beautifully plated, Frenchified takes on classic Mexican dishes, from an outstanding sea urchin tostada to an unparalleled octopus ceviche. Also in Roma is Fonda Fina (fondafina.com.mx), a small space that treats Mexican cuisine with the reverence it deserves. Try the memela, a masa cake topped with octopus, pressed pork, and roasted cauliflower; the tortilla soup and the squash blossom–laden salad are also standouts. On the other end of the scale, the tiny tortillas from Taqueria Los Cocuyos in the Centro are as good before a night on the town as they are after one. The suadero (brisket) is good, as is the lengua, but the mixed-meat campechano was my personal favorite. If a sugary nightcap is more your speed, the 24-hour outpost of Churrería El Moro is not to be missed. Four churros and a side of dipping chocolate will set you back less than $2, and you’ll have sweet dreams to boot. Do note, though, that almost all sit-down spots close at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. on Sundays, so plan your meals accordingly.
4. A Booming Art Scene
From hyper-colorful graffiti to carefully preserved murals by national treasures like Diego Rivera, and from sleek contemporary galleries and museums to grand dame institutions, Mexico City is a hotbed of artistic activity. In the Centro Histórico, the Palacio de Bellas Artes (palacio.bellasartes.gob.mx) is a must-see. This extraordinary theater was completed in 1934 and boasts a neoclassical facade, Art Deco interiors, and eye-catching murals. Take a tour or catch a show (the folkloric ballet is particularly memorable; see below for details), but whatever you do, get there before the curtain—a shimmering stained-glass number from Tiffany & Co.—goes up. A few blocks away, the Museo Nacional de Arte (munal.mx) focuses on art produced between the late 1500s and the early 1950s, with rotating exhibitions on subjects as varied as landscape master José María Velasco and modern muse Nahui Olin. A few miles to the west, the 1,655-acre Bosque de Chapultepec plays host to a number of noteworthy sites, including the Castillo de Chapultepec, a mansion with historic displays, a solid gift shop, and a terrace with sweeping city views; the Museo de Arte Moderno (museoartemoderno.com), featuring assorted work by 20th-century Mexican painters, sculptors, photographers, and more; and the Museo Nacional de Antropología (mna.inah.gob.mx), a supremely cool collection of galleries arranged around a central courtyard and dedicated to the country’s pre-Hispanic history. Just be aware that most museums are closed on Mondays.
5. A Show of National Pride
The citizens of North America’s largest capital have plenty of reasons to be proud of their city. I visited just before the country celebrated its Independence Day on September 16th, and Mexico’s red, white, and green were on full display throughout the streets. But you don’t need a special occasion to get a feel for the city’s national pride. Performed year-round, twice a week, at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández (balletfolkloricodemexico.com.mx) is a high-energy interpretation of classic Mexican dance. Through costumes, characters, and music that reflect the country’s heritage, the members of this skirt-swirling, lasso-twirling, tap-dancing company channel the traditions of days gone by. For 300 pesos (roughly $15), you can snag a seat in the nosebleeds, and you won’t find better value for the money. ¡Viva México! indeed.
Hotel We Love: Hotel deLuxe, Portland, OR
If the name doesn’t tip you off to the hotel’s ambiance, consider that the Czech chandeliers that dominate the lobby are masterpieces from the 1960s. Consider also that the property was inspired by the Golden Age elegance of Hollywood. But this standout in the heart of Portland is luxury without pretension, or the hoity-toity price tag. Opened in 1912 as the glamorous Mallory Hotel, it underwent a $20 million renovation in 2005, re-opening as Hotel deLuxe, an homage to the opulence and elegance captured in the classic films of the 1950s and 1960s. THE STORY The Mallory was a longtime institution and the go-to accommodation for any member of American high-society that came to town. As such, it aimed to impress. It was the first hotel in the city to install air conditioners in each room and, later on, the first in Portland to offer Wi-Fi. In 2004, it was purchased by an art collector and devoted patron of the city’s institutions, who kept the décor relatively unchanged—including the original letterbox next to the elevator, a classy mailbox by any standard—as a salute to the hotel’s heyday. THE QUARTERS That heyday is largely defined by Hollywood, which explains the 400 photos—film stills and studio shots—adorning the corridors. Each of the eight floors is devoted to a thematic group of silver-screen greats, to wit: the Dance and Music Masters (Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire), the Masters (Frank Capra, Billy Wilder, and George Cukor), and so on. The spacious rooms also nod to the era, with Art Deco–style crystal lamps and leather accents. Of course, there’s no nostalgia in the tech department. Each room features a flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi, and a clever “Make It So” button on the phone that connects you to the front desk for all requests—even creative ones, within reason. There's a Spotify Menu, a Spiritual Menu offering books, beyond the bible, that are central to a variety of religions, and a Pillow Menu, which is exactly what it sounds like. Want memory foam? Full body? Soft? Just ask. The honor bar shines a spotlight on locally made treats, many designed to take home as souvenirs, like tins of sea salt from Jacobsen Salt, honey from Bee Local, olive oil from Red Ridge Farms, and Kettle Chips made in Oregon. Make sure to try a nip of Portland-produced Burnside Bourbon for a nightcap. THE NEIGHBORHOOD If you’re looking for convenience, this is as good as it gets. Situated in Portland’s West End, the hotel is walking distance from the downtown shopping district, which is chock-full of bars and restaurants, but the adjacent Providence Park, a sprawling sports facility that hosts Portland State football, Major League Soccer, and various community events, separates it from the hustle and bustle. It’s also on the light-rail line, which has direct service to Portland International Airport. THE FOOD The hotel has an exclusive partnership with Salt and Straw, a local ice cream company known for its creative handmade flavors. There are scoop shops throughout the city and all over the west coast, but no need to run out for a cone—the deLuxe will deliver a pint to your room. As far as dining, Gracie's, an elegant, cheery eatery specializing in modern food with local ingredients, is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, and there are dinner hours on the weekend. The Art Deco–accented Driftwood Room, which looks much the way it did when it opened in the 1950s, draws a local crowd for its excellent spirits selection and classic cocktails. ALL THE REST One of the city's best-kept secrets is Pop Up Cinema (hoteldeluxeportland.com/signature-events), which happens about twice a month on a giant screen in the hotel lobby. They mostly screen classic flicks, as befits the ambiance, but every so often you can catch a newer movie. RATES AND DEETS Starting at $189. Hotel deLuxe729 SW 15th Ave. Portland, OR 97205(503) 219-2094 // hoteldeluxeportland.com
A New York Fashion Week Fantasy Ride
This is the stuff that New York Fashion Week dreams are made of—or any week, for that matter.In fashion Inspired by the spring/summer 2019 collection from Alice + Olivia, a fashion-forward high-end women’s clothing brand, Booking.com has partnered with the company to create “Passport to Wonderland,” on the Calypso, a posh 74-foot yacht docked at New York's Chelsea Piers that’s hosted glitterati like Kate Winslet, Will Smith, Taylor Swift, and Henry Kissinger, to name just a few. At 5PM on September 6th and 7th, you can play your luck and try to score one of the exclusive reservations for a $59 room on the yacht. A not-to-be-missed chance to live the yacht life for a night Yes, $59. On each of those days at 5 p.m. EST, Booking.com will release a one-night stay on the Calypso for September 12th and 13th, respectively. The stay includes a shopping spree at the Alice + Olivia boutique. Click here to toss your hat--your ultra-stylish couture hat, that is -- into the ring for a chance to win.
Satisfy Your Thirst in South Carolina
South Carolina is home to some of the friendliest, most welcoming locals in America. That means whether you’re visiting a vibrant urban center like Charleston or Columbia, a beautiful coastal retreat like Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head, or a cool small town like Beaufort, you are likely to be offered a cold glass of Sweet Tea, a world-class pint of craft beer, a shot of “white lightning” (a.k.a. moonshine), or other distinctly South Carolina libations. In fact, wetting your whistle in the Palmetto State has never been easier, with the help of the free Satisfy Your Thirst Tour app, and a few pointers for getting the most out of your tour. CRAFT BEER Coast Brewing Co. in Charleston, SC (Courtesy CoastBrewing.com) After a busy day seeing some of South Carolina’s historical sites, hitting a beach or golf course, or paddling one of the state’s scenic waterways, nothing refreshes quite like a chilled pint of artisan-crafted lager, pilsner, ale, or stout. And if that sounds just about perfect right now, you’re in luck: South Carolina offers more than 50 craft breweries, many boasting great food, tours, and canned and bottled beers you can’t pick up at the grocery store or bar. South Carolina’s craft beer scene extends from the coast to the upstate, and its finest products have garnered nationwide attention. Our friends over at Southern Living named Holy City Brewing, in North Charleston, the best in the state, and Beer Advocate gives the thumbs-up to Westbrook Brewing Co., in Mount Pleasant, and Coast Brewing Co., in Charleston. We’re partial to Conquest Brewing Co., in Columbia, for its variety of textures and mythology-inspired names such as Artemis Blonde and Medusa Stout. And besides loving the name River Rat Brewery, we also admire how the Columbia-based establishment offers affordable brewery tours, great nachos, and evocative names like Twisted Lemon Wheat and American Kolsch Story. MOONSHINE & COCKTAILS Peach Moonshine at Carolina Moon Distillery (Courtesy @cmdistillery/Instagram) Not too long ago, producing moonshine in the backwoods of South Carolina was against the law - not just during the Prohibition years, when alcohol production was illegal across the U.S. and illicit distilling could earn a farmer a small fortune in “liquid gold,” but right up until 2009, when state laws finally changed to allow for micro-distilling of the potent spirit known locally as “white lightning” and “corn likker.” These days, there are more than two dozen artisanal stills across the state producing not only classic moonshine but also bourbon, rum, and vodka, making for a lively tasting scene - and some great cocktails. Dark Corner Distillery, in Greenville, is named for the former bootlegging hotbed “dark corner” of South Carolina, and it produces popular flavored whiskies (butterscotch, maple, and beach to name a few) and offers a tasting flight with a side of regional history. Carolina Moon Distillery, in Edgefield, offers tours of its small-batch operations where vodka, bourbon, and a “high octane” moonshine evocatively dubbed Rabbit Spit are produced. Stop by Palmetto Distillery, with a distillery in the city of Anderson and a shop in Myrtle Beach, both offering fun tours and the brand’s signature moonshine. Of course, all this talk of spirits is bound to make you want to raise a good cocktail, right. Across South Carolina, restaurants and bars are crafting signature concoctions. We especially love the Charleston restaurant Prohibition, where you’ll find a vast array of mixed drinks and small-batch spirits. Try the Bacon Maple Old Fashioned or the classic Mint Julep. When you’re in Myrtle Beach, hit the Chemist for science-fiction themed cocktails like Thyme Machine (including gin and thyme-infused ice) and Flux Capacitor (with vodka, blackberry syrup, and mint). WINE South Carolina’s wine scene is lesser known and ready for the spotlight, with vineyards and wineries producing some outstanding bottles from the coastal regions to upstate. Locally grown grapes include scuppernong and muscadine, used in the great wines produced at Duplin Winery, in Myrtle Beach. And some wineries, such as Island Winery, in Hilton Head, make great use of tasty local fruits like berries and peaches to craft highly rated wines. Kick back at a South Carolina wine bar such as Wined It Up, in Beaufort, where you’ll enjoy small plates and the flexibility to try a variety of hand-picked wines in 2-, 4-, or 6-ounce glasses perfect for tasting a little bit of everything. SWEET TEA On the softer side, but potent in its own way, Sweet Tea is one of the most iconic beverages of South Carolina. For the most authentic, local experience, visit Charleston Tea Plantation, on Wadmalaw Island, where, just like visiting a brewery or winery, you can take a charming tour and savor a variety of teas in an elegant tasting room. And remember that although the name Sweet Tea implies a thick, syrupy experience, you can order it lightly sweetened if you prefer. MILK That’s right: Milk. No visit to South Carolina would be complete without a sip or two of the state’s official drink. There’s nothing like a trip to the farmland of upstate South Carolina for a tour of a dairy, such as Happy Cow Creamery, in Pelzer, that kids of all ages will appreciate. And don’t forget one more mouth-watering tasting experience as you try the milk, cheese, and sometimes even ice cream produced at a dairy farm. DOWNLOAD THE FREE ‘SATISFY YOUR THIRST TOUR’ APP Ready to satisfy your thirst in South Carolina? Download the free South Carolina Satisfy Your Thirst Tour app for iOS or Android or visit SatisfyYourThirstSC.com to find breweries, distilleries, wineries, tours and sampling locations and learn about upcoming festivals that celebrate the best in sippable South Carolina.
10 Exquisite Musical Events Worth Traveling to in 2018/19
Whether your idea of “classical music” is a ferocious symphony by Beethoven, the pulsing minimalism of Philip Glass, or a brand-new opera adapted from a Hitchcock thriller (really), the 2018/19 classical music and opera calendar promises to be one of the richest, most diverse ever. Here, 10 noteworthy musical events in travel-worthy destinations across the U.S. 1. Opera Philadelphia’s O18 Festival September 20 - 30, 2018 Opera Philadelphia showed themselves as one of the most interesting companies with last year’s O17 festival. This season’s 018 line-up features "Lucia di Lammermoor" and the world premiere of "Sky on Swings," which brings back the team of composer Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch, plus a production of Poulenc’s "La Void Humaine" that will include star Patricia Racette singing French art songs. Performances are staged all over, including at the Barnes Foundation art museum and concert (operaphila.org). 2. Daniil Trifonov With the Chicago Symphony October 18 - 20, 2018 Pianist Daniil Trifonov is a legend in the making, and his youth makes that even more exciting—there’s a sense he’s discovering new music and ideas at his every concert. Among many notable performances in North America this season, this appearance with the Chicago Symphony stands out for both his collaborators—the great Chicago Symphony and conductor Marin Alsop—and the material, Prokoviev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Stick around for the entire concert to hear Copland’s mighty Symphony No. 3 (cso.org). 3. 'Marnie' at the Metropolitan Opera October 19 - November 10, 2018 Five years after composer Nico Muhly’s opera "Two Boys" caused a considerable positive stir at the Met comes "Marnie." Best known as an Alfred Hitchcock film, "Marnie," adapted from a novel by Winston Graham, has the perfect operatic theme of a beautiful young woman who assumes multiple identities. It’s a star turn ripe for the taking by the great mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard. Michael Meyer, who produced the Met’s scintillating "Ratpack Rigoletto," promises an appropriately cinematic staging (metopera.org). 4. 'Satyagraha' at LA Opera October 20 - November 11, 2018 Composer Philip Glass may be most widely known for his film scores, including most famously "The Hours," but his operas are uniquely beautiful and intriguing. Glass's opera "Satyagraha," about Gandhi, is probably his music beautiful, and for the LA Opera it is the final leg of their stagings of Glass’s opera trilogy on science, religion, and politics. This co-production with the English National Opera and Metropolitan Opera comes from director Phelim McDermott, who has triumphant stagings of Glass's "Einstein on the Beach" and "Akhnaten" under his belt. His "Satyagraha" is a stunning interweaving of evocative settings and history, and features tenor Sean Panikkar in the lead (laopera.org). 5. Yuja Wang Perspectives Series at Carnegie Hall, New York City October 26, 2018 - May 2, 2019 (various dates) The Perspectives Series hands over programming to selected artists, and pianist Yuja Wang’s choices mix expected pleasures with real surprises. Across six concerts, she’ll play Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 5 with the New World Symphony, and premiere a new work from Michael Tilson Thomas (May 1-2); she’ll play duos (Feb. 6 and April 10); and on February 11 she’ll perform with the classical music comedy duo Igudesman & Joo in a concert that will absolutely be something completely different (carnegiehall.org). 6. Celebrating MTT at the San Francisco Symphony November 15, 2018 - June 22, 2019 (various dates) Conductor Micheal Tilson Thomas (a.k.a. MTT) will not be leaving the San Francisco Symphony until the end of the 2020 season, but a long goodbye is in the works for this immensely important musician. Interspersed through the SFS season are signature concerts like MTT’s own "From the Diary of Anne Frank" (Nov 15-18), and ones that feature his special touch with Tchaikovsky, with Symphony No. 4, Feb. 7-9, and Mahler’s glorious Symphony No. 9, June 13-15 (sfsymphony.org). 7. 'Ariadne auf Naxos' at the Cleveland Orchestra January 13, 17 and 19, 2019 The Cleveland Orchestra presents a staged opera performance annually, and for this season it’s "Ariadne auf Naxos," one of Richard Strauss’ most entertaining dramas, combining comedy with beautiful music. A new production made especially for the orchestra comes from opera director Frederic Wake-Walker, and consummate Straussian Franz Welser-Móst will conduct. The terrific young soprano Tamara Wilson, who has a shining, clarion-clear instrument, will sing the dual role of Ariadne and the Diva in the opera within the opera (clevelandorchestra.com). 8. Salonen’s Stravinsky at the Los Angele Philharmonic April 12 - 20, 2019 Among many exciting musical events in Los Angeles, this one stands out for its balance of variety and compactness. Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen brings his distinctive vitality and sense of color to three programs at the Los Angeles Philharmonic devoted to works of the titanic, indispensable 20th century composer Igor Stravinsky: Rituals, Faiths, and Myths. "The Rite of Spring" is there, of course, alongside the astonishing "Agon," there will be great choral works for the Faith program, and Myths presents two beautiful and infrequently heard ballet scores, "Orpheus" and "Perséphone" (laphil.com). 9. Music of Conscience at the New York Philharmonic May 26 - June 8, 2019 Jaap van Zweden begins his first seasons as music director, thus already an exciting year for the New York Philharmonic. Their season culminates with the Music of Conscience festival, which explores composers’ responses to political and social turmoil. Opening with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, and featuring John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1—his response to the AIDS epidemic—the two weeks end with the world premiere staging of David Lang’s opera "prisoner of the state," his updating of Beethoven's opera "Fidelio" for the 21st century (nyphil.org).10. Cirque de la Symphonie at the Philadelphia OrchestraJune 13 - 14, 2019Dance has been an intimate partner of classical music since before the courtly menuet and trio became permanently entwined into symphonic form. While that has developed since the 18th century, in 2014 the Philadelphia Orchestra took it a leap, literally, farther, with aerialists and acrobats performing in mid-air above the orchestra. This truly spectacular Cirque de la Symphonie program returns for the coming season, along with contortionists, strongmen, and of course dancers. It’s a singular meeting of music making, entertainment, and feats of daring (philorch.org).