Although the GIS data used to support GPS maps is more than a little iffy for Mexico, the Guia Roji—the rough equivalent of a Rand McNally road atlas for the U.S. or Canada—does an impressive job of staying up to date. It’s not perfect, but it has all the apparatus of a standard road atlas, including six levels of roadways—from divided autopistas (tollways and freeways) to terracerías (dirt roads). It shows planned roads, including the (in)famous route designed to connect 175 as it descends from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido. It gives mileage between major cities in map form, and follows up with a diagram of many routes, including getting from Mexico City to Bahias de Huatulco.
You can get the Guia Roji via Amazon. The Spanish version is properly called Por las Carreterras de Mexico 2014, and will set you back $22.95 plus shipping (and taxes if appropriate). The most recent English edition is apparently from 2011, and is listed for $38.99 on Amazon—you’ll do fine with the new 2014 Spanish version. It’s definitely the way to go if you don’t use GPS, and it’s invaluable for coordinating the big picture with your GPS if you do use one.
You can also pick one up in some of the Pemex stations or other outlets shortly after you enter Mexico, although that’s a hit-or-miss strategy compared to ordering it with ample time for delivery before you set off on your trip.
Although the Guia Roji atlas does have a red cover, and many think of it as the “Red Guide,” Guia Roji is the name of the Roji family’s cartography company, which has been issuing maps of cities and states in Mexico, as well as the country itself, from its headquarters in Mexico City since 1928.
Mexico City Neighborhood Walking Tours: A Stroll Through Polanco
Though you’ll be walking most of the time, your tour through this neighborhood might require taking a taxi or bus ride or two as this is a very large area to cover solely as a pedestrian. Better yet, plan on more than one day to experience all Polanco has to offer. It’s one of the most active and growing parts of the city, partly due to the contributions and development of business magnate Carlos Slim (often listed as the richest man in the world).
You can get to Polanco via metro or the green city bus that runs down Reforma. Or take a taxi, always a convenient and comfortable way to arrive.
Right now the most exciting area to spend an entire day in is the northwest corner of Polanco, where within a two-block area you can visit three fascinating museums: Museum Soumaya, the new Jumex Museum of Contemporary Art, and the sparkling new aquarium.
The Museum Soumaya was built by Slim in dedication to his late wife. It’s packed with different art styles, from European Impressionism to Mexican ancient and modern art: Van Gogh, Renoir, Kahlo, Rivera, Siqueiros, Orozco, and Miro are just a few of the artists you’ll encounter. The top floor houses a sculpture gallery of Rodins and Dalís- not to be missed- and the building itself is a piece of art reminiscent of the Guggenheim in New York. There’s a Sanborn’s restaurant (this chain also owned by Slim) for lunch or coffee and a rest during your exploration of the five floors of art. Soumaya is open every day of the year and is always free to everyone.
Kitty-corner from Soumaya is the new Jumex Museum. Worldwide, there’s been much buzz about this new museum of contemporary art. An hour or two here is a surreal experience. The exhibitions change, of course, but whatever you see will be innovative, often a little strange, and certainly challenging to the imagination. Many people now visit Mexico City with the sole purpose of seeing this new addition to the already vast selection of more than 150 museums offered in this cultural haven. When asked by one visitor the reason I enjoyed this museum so much, my reply was spontaneous and simple: “It makes me happy.”
In the same area the aquarium, Aquario Inbursa (also owned by Slim), just opened its doors in June 2014. Currently there are long lines to get in because of the excitement accompanying the opening and the summer vacation, but note there’s a separate line for seniors. If one member of your party is over 60, you can all be received in that line.
Next to the Museum Soumaya and across from the Jumex Museum is the Teatro Telcel, a modern showcase for musicals and another theater that provides comfortable seating (thank you!) with plenty of space between rows. Every seat is a good one. At present, the ever-popular Wicked is showing. It’s an excellent production, but remember all theater in the city is presented in Spanish.
If you can’t bear a day of museums-only, take a break and shop at the new mall on the other side of the Jumex Museum. It’s another pleasant place to stroll. Among the usual clothing stores, there’s a bright and airy Crate & Barrel, loaded with gadgets and décor for your home and providing the breath of fresh air often needed while touring.
Parks, walking, and shopping streets
Every street in Polanco deserves a stroll, and keep your eye on the signs because even the street names here are entertaining as they’re all named for foreign writers, philosophers, and scientists, including Jules Verne, Archimedes and Homer. The architecture of residences and businesses is a nice mix, from very modern high rises to older Spanish and Italian influences.
Three streets are of particular interest. The main street running through Polanco is Presidente Masaryk. Here you’ll find the most expensive shops in the city, Cartier and Hugo Boss among them. Restaurants beckon on every corner, many for eating al fresco. The streets of Homero and Horacio run parallel to Presidente Mazaryk to the north. Homero Street offers a wide, tree-lined garden island for walking. Look for locals walking dogs, chatting with neighbors, biking, and generally relaxing. A delightful respite from your museum wanderings.
Also ideal for walking and relaxing is Lincoln Park, just a few blocks north of Reforma. A small museum in the park is dedicated to special exhibits, and on the north end of the park, on Emilio Castelar Street, there’s a variety of outdoor restaurants.
It’s hard to imagine any other neighborhood could house such a wide variety of restaurants, though truth be told you’ll never go hungry in Mexico City! Food is a major focus here and you’ll seldom be disappointed.
As mentioned above, Emilio Castelar, adjacent to Lincoln Park, is one of the main restaurant streets. A favorite here is the Casa Portuguesa, whose menu features the famous bacalao (traditional here for your Christmas Eve feast, but on the menu daily at this restaurant) prepared in different styles. There’s also plenty of fish and other seafood, as well as beef, pork, and chicken choices. The service is impeccable and each dish is uniquely prepared. Try one of the Portuguese wines with your meal and enjoy occasional live music in the evenings. The restaurant is open for breakfast and comida every day, but closes at 6 pm on Sundays.
One of the top 20 restaurants in the world is located in Polanco. A review of Pujol appeared the August 2014 Food issue of The Eye (www.eyemagazine.net), but it surely deserves another mention. Plan to spend a few hours dining here. An aside: you’ll find that you’re never rushed in Mexican restaurants. Eating is considered an art form, and regardless how large or small, formal, casual, or world-famous, owners allow their patrons to enjoy each course at their own pace. You’ll never be presented with a check until you ask for it. Plan to dine at Pujol in the late afternoon or evening. You don’t want to rush through this dining experience. Due to its fine reputation, reservations are a must.
Numerous international restaurants also dot Polanco–from Indian, Arabian, and Italian to Cuban, among others. Around the Lincoln Park area, you’ll find everything from formal and casual restaurants to taco stands.
Polanco is just one area of this grand city, so when you book your visit stay as many days as possible. Even if you live here you could never see it all. Enjoy!