Mexico for the Holidays

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It’s freezing cold in New York and Sunday night we had our first dusting of snow this winter. But my mind is still somewhere far away on a white sand beach with palm trees gently swaying in the tropical breeze and a double rainbow after a brief late afternoon shower. To say the least I wish I were still in Mexico as I remember all of the wonderful moments my sister and I shared together over the holidays this year.

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We split our time in Mexico in half with the first part in Mexico City, the vibrant city at the country’s center. My sister had spent 5 weeks in Mexico this summer so she was my guide and translator (and she did an excellent job). We stayed centrally right off the Zócalo in the historic heart of the city. I arrived half a day before my sister and with my first afternoon I strolled the crowded central streets with vendors selling their goods, food being cooked on small carts by the side of the road and people everywhere eating, walking, shopping. The colorful streets made all the more colorful with the piñatas for Christmas strung everywhere you looked.

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One of my favorite parts of Mexico City was the layers, the ages built on top of one another all still visible in places. The Aztec ruins, the colonial churches, and the modern buildings all living and gently sloping and sinking together in a city that is so alive today you can feel the echoes of its history but also the pounding of its modern heart. I visited the Templo Mayor the incredible ruins built by the Aztecs in the 14th and 15th centuries.

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One of the main reasons I have always wanted to visit Mexico City was the Frida Kahlo museum. My sister had visited La Casa Azul this summer and had said we had to come together. At the fist look the vibrant colors of the walls and the sanctuary of the garden you feel transported back to the days when Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived here entertaining Trotsky and painting. The rooms and views out to the garden, especially where Frida painted and her bedroom with the bed from which she was confined and worked often in her life, feel like you are guests in the most intimate way. Her clothes, especially the braces she wore make her words “Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” come to life in ways I never could have imagined.

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We visited Diego Rivera’s awe inspiring murals at the Palacio Nacional depicting Mexico’s history; I am still amazed at the size and scope of these works. We went to Christmas mass at Catedral Metropolitana.

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We strolled the streets and squares of Coyoacán and the Historic Center. We had unbelievable dinners in restaurants from 1912 and desserts at a sweet store from 1874, and on Christmas we had the best churros and hot chocolate of my life at Churreria El Moro that has been in business since 1935.

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I discovered that my friend Jenni was in Mexico City at the same time as us and we were lucky enough to meet up for one of the highlights of the trip and one of the most special and magical Christmas gifts. We spent Christmas night with Jenni walking and looking at the lights of the Zócalo. Watching an amazing light and projection show on the side of the cathedral; searching for Tequila, eating tacos and cerveza; talking about our dreams, our disappointments, our departed parents and life in the biggest and best ways!

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Our last day in Mexico City my sister and I took the subway and a small train out to Xochimilco and the canals and semi floating gardens and the colorful trajineras (gondolas). Slowly we were punted along the network of canals with gardens and the occasional house along the shores. Other trajineras would glide past us with an occasional mariachi or vendor selling flowers or preparing and selling food. Time was slow and peaceful. It was a perfect close to our Mexico City experience.

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The second half of our trip was spent on a small island in the Caribbean called Isla Mujeres. Our hotel was on a rocky beach but with perfect ocean views and morning sunrises. It even included free yoga twice a week (which I promptly took advantage of). The center of town was a short cab ride away, or golf cart by way of hitch hiking (yep we hitch hiked a golf cart!) It had one main pedestrian street lined with restaurants and stores. The houses were colorful and the ocean air was everywhere.

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At the north end of the island is one of the most beautiful white sand beaches with perfect warm turquoise waters. We swam as pelicans dived for fish and landed feet away from us. We floated and soaked. We dug our feet into the soft white sand as the palm trees gently swayed.

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We took an exhilarating and hot bike ride to an ancient hacienda one day. My sister was very patient with me as a yelled and cursed a good portion of the way. The parts of the Island where I was not almost being hit by taxis, motorbikes, or the very present golf cart, there were moments with beautiful beach and tropical forest views. I almost ran over an iguana but all wildlife (including myself) lived to tell the tale.

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We read our books and played cards. Ate countless fish tacos and margaritas. We went to a beach bar with swings and let our feet stay in the sand. We had double rainbows and a beautiful last sunset.

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It felt like a perfect vacation to me! With someone I love, relaxed, eating, drinking, talking, swimming, seeing art, trying new things, returning to things deeply beloved. A perfect combination of adventure and rest all topped off with what I had hoped for some of the best meals I could ever imagine!

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Having grown up in a neighborhood heavily influenced by Mexican culture and people I felt instantaneously at home everywhere we went. But more then anything I felt a deeper respect, understanding, and admiration for things I have taken for granted my entire life. Everything in Mexico felt more rooted and grounded but reminiscent of my childhood. I left feeling more love both for where I was raised and for the deeper connection and roots that it has back to a country that is far richer more vibrant more diverse then I had ever known.

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Our favorite places to eat on this trip:

Cafe Popular in Mexico City – lived up to its name and was very popular on our trip.

Cafe Tacuba in Mexico City – with the best enchiladas!

Sanborns de los Azulejos in Mexico City

Churreria El Moro in Mexico City – for churros and hot chocolate that will blow you away!

La Torta Brava in Mexico City – had great tacos al pastor

Dulceria de Celaya in Mexico City – amazing sweets

Compadres on Isla Mujeres – this was our favorite place on Isla Mujeres! Great Fish Tacos

Gelateria FraSe on Isla Mujeres – our favorite dessert on Isla and for the record my sister wanted this more then the fish tacos!

Gracias y besos

Ramona y Camila

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Photo credits: Ramona Collier & Camila Martin

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01 2016

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