A Long Weekend in Mexico City

Disclosure: I traveled to The St. Regis Mexico City on behalf of The Daily Meal. My travel and accommodations were sponsored by The St. Regis Mexico City and the Mexico Tourism Board. My opinions are all mine.

Mexico City was never high on my travel list, yet I found myself there last month, all the same.

As the lucky recipient of an assignment from The Daily Meal, I was the guest of The St. Regis Mexico City and the Mexico Tourism Board for 4 days that changed me.

Changed me? It sounds so cliché. But the thing is, this was the first time I completely immersed myself in a foreign culture in quite some time, especially without knowing the language. And while everyone was very accommodating, assisting me when I didn’t understand what they were saying, it became abundantly clear quickly that I am the “ugly American,” requiring others to adjust to my inability to adapt to their culture, even though I was the guest.

I’m getting ahead of myself though…

flying in to Mexico City

From the moment I entered Mexico, I felt special.

The good kind of special, where someone thinks you’re important. It started with a driver with a placard with my name on it, who whisked me away to The St. Regis Hotel Mexico City in a shiny silver Mercedes, and continued with the 3 gentlemen who assisted me in getting my 1 carry-on bag to my room; the people at the front desk, who were incredibly cheerful, insisting I take a cool washcloth and a glass of champagne to recharge after my travels; and then there was my butler. Yes, butler. Jaime Goméz, who escorted me through my room to show me how all the gadgets and gizmos worked, pointed out the well-stocked snack and mini bar, and snapped on the television embedded in my bathroom mirror, to my surprise. What kind of sorcery was this? I was thoroughly impressed. He handed me his card and told me all I needed to do was email him and he’d show up again–a point proven when I had problems connecting to the wi-fi. Jaime? He took care of it. What a guy!

The room was luxurious.

The St. Regis Mexico City knows how to pamper you!Embossed carpeting, neutral palette, a bed so comfortable I never wanted to leave it, and a shower I had a serious love affair with. Don’t tell my husband. I never did get around to soaking in that deep tub, but had I desired it, my butler would have drawn the bath for me. I am not kidding. When does that ever happen at home?

Well stocked in snacks and drinks at The St. Regis Mexico CityThe St. Regis hotels were founded in 1904 by Colonel John Jacob Astor IV in New York City. From the start, the whole concept was elegance, innovation, glamour. Case in point: Astor had a butler, so he felt everyone should have one. Thus, every St. Regis Hotel offers butlers for their guests; some are from suite level up, but both Mexico City and Punta Mita provide butlers for every guest of the hotel. Every room level. Every man, woman, and child. It’s a bit decadent, and I felt weird at first, being so used to doing everything myself. But when it came time to pack to leave and I knew I could call on my butler to pack my bag–yes, pack my bag–I was sold. How can I travel without one now?

A little light reading in my room at The St. Regis Mexico City

There’s so much to do that you never need to leave the hotel. But you will.

The lobby at The St. Regis Mexico City is a classy place to hang outCatering to a mostly business clientele, The St. Regis Mexico City has just about everything you need under one roof: conference rooms, 5 restaurants, a fitness center, indoor relaxation pool, and Remède Spa. And yes, the restaurants are worth staying on site for–I’ll get to them. But the big selling point to The St. Regis is its location on the Paseo de la Reforma. In the center of it all, it’s a quick 2 miles to Chapultepec Castle, the Diana the Huntress fountain is right outside the doors, and there are tons of small restaurants and shops in the vicinity. Spread out a little more and there are over 300 museums awaiting your arrival throughout the city. There’s a fashion district, featuring your favorite high end brands. And gastronomy is flourishing in Mexico City right now, with many restaurants worth investigating.

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico CityTake a quick ride over to the Historic District, where you can explore the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts). Nearby, find Palacio Postal, a most decadent post office. Take a walk down Av. Francisco I. Madero and poke your head into the Templo Expiatorio Nacional de San Felipe de Jesús, a church that was built in the late 19th Century. At the end of the street is Zócalo (aka Plaza de la Constitución), surrounded by the National Palace, the Federal District buildings, and the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, built on the ruins of the Aztecs’ pyramids. It took a few hundred years to complete and is now sinking, thanks to the soggy soil beneath the city (and people think there’s no need for Inland Wetlands Commissions!). And this is just a small sampling of the history that awaits you in this city of 25 million people!

Palacio Postal, Mexico CityHead in the other direction on Paseo de la Reforma and you can spend some time at the National Museum of Anthropology, learning about the original settling of the Americas and well beyond. So many artifacts, so much to take in! I only had time to visit a couple rooms during my stay, and it was worth it.

My favorite sculpture inside the National Museum of Anthropology
My favorite sculpture inside the National Museum of Anthropology

My most favorite excursion has to be when we soared over the pyramids at Teotihuacan in hot air balloons at sunrise.

Hot air balloon ride over the pyramids at Teotihuacan, MexicoWhen I first learned that The Mexico Tourism Board arranged a hot air balloon ride at sunrise over the pyramids at Teotihuacan, I was terrified. It didn’t go well the last time I stepped into a hot air balloon. But I was willing to give it a chance–after all, when would I have this opportunity again? Rising before 5 AM was rough, especially after walking over 11,000 steps the day before. But when I saw the crews setting up the balloons in the early morning light, I knew I made the right decision.

Hot air balloon ride over the pyramids at Teotihuacan, MexicoWhen a hot air balloon isn’t tethered, you don’t even feel it moving. It’s the most amazing thing! And before I knew it, we were far above the ground, surrounded by balloons with the sun rising in the distance. It was a little foggy, lending an other-wordly feel to the experience. And there they were: emerging from the mist, two behemoths connecting past and present in a mystical manner. This. Was. Awesome.

Hot air balloons soar over Teotihuacan at sunriseLanding in the field after, it seemed like it was all a dream. Riding back to the base of operation in the basket loaded on a trailer, I knew it wasn’t. (The trill ride after the thrill ride, as I called it.) No one can visit this area of the world without experiencing it in this manner. You’ll regret it if you skip it.

Getting back from the hot air balloon ride over the pyramids at Teotihuacan, MexicoWe followed up the balloon ride with a trip to Teotihuacan’s pyramids to scale the great heights ourselves. And if you’ve been following along here for a while, then you already know about my foot drop from my back injury. You also know that I took a nasty fall down the stairs last Autumn, causing a concussion and a fear of walking down stairs. Climbing the Sun Pyramid was the single most scary thing I did on this trip. Not so much because of the climb itself–which was exhausting–but because I knew I’d have to walk back down all those uneven stone stairs–some with runs no longer than the width of your foot! I made it 1/3 of the way up and called it quits, defeated by the prospect. Then I sat. And thought. And remembered my regrets for never going to the top of the Eiffel Tower when I was 14, also too afraid of the height. And I convinced myself to walk up another 1/3.

View from the Sun Pyramid at TeotihuacanBy then, the group was already well on their way down, but our guide, Roberto, stopped. He grabbed my hand and walked me to the tippity top of that pyramid. He told me about the solstice rituals to recharge the ancients’ energy, the human sacrifices, how the landscape changes depending on the time of year and weather, and I performed a sun salutation at his urging. Then he grasped my hand and held it the entire slow walk down. Sometimes, I was like a child, one-footing it, inching my way down. He never pushed. He never hurried me up. Roberto was patient and kind–my hero. Without him, I never would have managed. And he did it all in a suit and dress shoes. He’s a bit worthy of worship, if I do say so, myself…

View from the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan
Made it to the top!

Don’t have a plan for your own adventures?

“The 48 Hours in Mexico City package is designed to afford our loyal guests the most convenient and exclusive way to discover the best aspects of our famed city’s rich history and burgeoning cultural renaissance in just 48 hours,” said Bernard de Villèle, General Manager. “This vibrant city is constantly transforming in exciting ways. With so much to see and do, The St. Regis Mexico City has revitalized the package, affording our guests unique access to a new selection of the city’s best museums, shopping, dining, and attractions.”

statue at Palacio de Bellas ArtesWhether you’re seeking culture, history, or shopping, the Cultural Curator will cater a plan to your needs, maximizing your time during your stay. Basically, they are your fairy godmother, making sure you see everything that should be seen. They have you covered!

Before climbing the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan. Photo by Joanne López
photo by Joanne López

The 48 Hours in Mexico City package is available Thursday – Sunday, for a minimum of 2 nights and a maximum of 3 nights, with package rates beginning at $430 (USD) per night for a Deluxe Room, double occupancy.  The signature package is valid for travel and open for booking now to December 15, 2015.   For more information or to make reservations, visit www.stregis.com/mexicocity or call 888-625-5144.

I Could Have Eaten All Night

chilaquiles with chicken at The Diana Restaurant at The St. Regis Mexico City
chilaquiles with chicken

With 5 restaurants on site, there are a lot of options when your tummy begins to rumble. Breakfast was served every day at the Diana Restaurant, and I highly recommend you take it out on the terrace. The buffet had just about everything you would need, but the regular menu items are where it’s really at. I still dream about the chilaquiles I had for breakfast on the first day. I chose to have chicken with mine, but the eggs looked fabulous, too. There are a variety of freshly-made juices to sample–Joanne suggested the green juice, which was a wise selection. Pastries and coffee round it all out nicely.

Lunch at J&G Grill in The St. Regis Mexico CityFor lunch, J&G Grill is the place to be, and avocado pizza should be on your plate. Really, I can’t complain about anything on the menu–and I sampled most of it, so I know what I’m talking about. Sip a ginger margarita, sit back, and relax. Lunch time is a little later in this part of the world, so if you go when you normally would, it’s pretty quiet. But it gears up as the afternoon goes on. If you’re in a hurry, at least stop by the gorgeous bar. It’s worth experiencing for yourself!

Cheers! Enjoying a Sangrita María at King Cole Bar in The St. Regis Mexico CityAll great nights seem to start at the King Cole Bar, and I have to agree, it’s a fantastic starting point. Whether you’re there to listen to the live music near the bar or groove to the DJ’s music on the terrace, it’s the perfect spot for gathering with friends for a few drinks before the night really begins. Grab a small bite, sip a Sangrita María–the signature drink for  The St. Regis Mexico City–and get ready for an epic evening.

La Table Krug is the most exclusive and intimate French restaurant you'll find in MexicoFor a truly epic evening, you must make a reservation at the exclusive La Table Krug. Just 12 guests at a time will be served in the most intimate French restaurant in all of Mexico. With an 11-course menu created (and changed weekly) by Executive Chef Sylvain Desbois, this is a culinary journey like no other. Guests will be treated to delicacies like liquid foie gras, New Zealand lamb, Wagyu beef, Sologne caviar, Kumamoto oysters, spider crab, and more. Dessert is the main event, in my humble opinion. Each diner is presented with a tray containing 3 bowls of dry ice and greens; staff then pours water over the dry ice to create a fog that creeps across the table. The pièce de résistance: platters with scoops of Cassis Sorbet, Raspberry Meringue, Almond and Caramel Nougatine, and Creamy White Chocolate encased in a chocolate sphere, placed upon the trays, instantly assimilated into the misty tablescape for a dreamy effect. Theatrical? Yes, but a fitting finale for the evening. La Table Krug is open Tuesday-Saturday at 8 PM by reservation only. Call +52 (55) 5228.1867 or email latable.krug@stregis.com for details.

End the evening with a nightcap at Candela Romero. Chef Alejandro Sanchez brings his talents in contemporary Spanish cuisine to this jazzy little spot on the first floor of The St. Regis Mexico City. The bistro is a fabulous place for tapas and listening to live jazz; the cocktail bar and terrace are great for gathering with friends to see where the night takes you. Two distinct personalities contained in one restaurant.

A little live jazz at Candela Romero to end the evening

Takeaways…

Like I said: life-changing experience. It was a bit of a whirlwind, too. While I was catered to, pampered, fed fabulous food, and lavished with gifts (tequila, for the win!), there’s no forgetting that I was in a foreign land, with a foreign culture, surrounded by a language I no longer understand. I was very lucky to have the constant assistance of the staff at The St. Regis Mexico City, because I could not have navigated this world without them. Which was a gentle reminder that, by remaining in the States most of my time, I’ve also created a bit of a barrier between me and the rest of the world. The easiest way to avoid a fear of the unknown is to embrace it and make it part of your own life. Get out there more. Expand your mind. Broaden your horizons. Forget the fear and push through to the other side. Because there is so much more out there than New Haven pizza and Maine lobster–you just have to have faith in yourself that you can manage, and be willing to give it a try. Grab your passport and a two-way dictionary and immerse yourself. You’ll be a better person for it.

As for me, I’m looking forward to the next time I can travel to Mexico City. It gets a really bad rap, but it’s undeserved. This is a metropolitan area with a lot of art, history, and FOOD to offer. 4 days simply aren’t enough to experience it all…but it’s a great start. And I know that I’ll be looking to The St. Regis Mexico City when I return. That service is hard to pass up.

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