I’ve wanted to visit Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s home, and now museum, in Coyoacan, Mexico for ages. When Jason and I discussed a trip to Mexico, I looked for a place to stay in this neighborhood of Mexico City. We were lucky to find a small, one-bedroom apartment over a cafe just a few blocks from Frida’s blue house.
Coyoacan has cobblestone streets, brightly colored homes with terraces full of potted plants, and a main square (zocalo) with second oldest church in the country. The bell tolls on the hour as vendors sell handwoven baskets, push carts offer cups of roasted corn or churros with hot chocolate, and couples stroll hand in hand.
It is a delightfully slower pace of life.
We sat on on one of the benches in the zocalo park just to enjoy the people watching. Frida and Diego couldn’t have picked a more beautiful neighborhood. It isn’t like the many others of this giant city. There are no billboards. There is no significant sign of corporate America. It is tucked away beneath huge rubber trees and tropical pines, noisier and far more posh barrios in all directions.
Coyoacan has remained quiet and quaint. The Frida museum is undoubtedly the biggest tourist attraction. By midday, the lines wrapped around the block.
We spent Valentine’s Day at the museum. I wanted a day when we could linger, toward the end of our trip. We were among the first few in line in front of the exterior cobalt blue wall, alongside other fans. Half a dozen languages floated in the air around us.
Soon, after a $10 ticket and a $5 photo permit (without flash, as are the rules in most Mexican museums), we were inside, following a queue of folks into a wide central patio, through the kitchen, into the studio and library she shared with Diego and finally through her bedroom, which includes a frog-shaped urn that holds her ashes.
My fingertips lingered on the walls, when possible. I couldn’t believe I was really there, in Frida’s house. Frida stood on those steps. Frida ate in this kitchen. Frida painted here! The walls are full of her art I’d see only in books, and many framed family photos. My heart pounded as I walked from one beloved portrait to the next, having read in great detail the story behind the paintings.
When we got to her bedroom, which included a small bed and the milieu of a woman who in many ways never matured in her interests beyond girlhood, I let the tears fall off my chin standing before her urn.
I cannot explain why I feel so connected to this artist. I’ve loved her art for decades and appreciate how unique and sassy she was in a time when Mexican women were expected to rarely been seen or heard. (Women in general, really.) She always marched to her own beat, including in her decision to marry the much older and infamous womanizer, Diego Rivera.
He also happened to be a prized muralist, communist and advocate for Mexico’s indigenous. Frida’s mother was a native Mexican who married the German/Austrian photographer Guillermo Kahlo. Her parents thought she was nuts for marrying Diego and her mother was reportedly horrified Frida identified with Mexico’s indigenous, not her more “refined” European ancestry. This love for Mexico is demonstrated in Frida’s choice of clothing — embroidered tops, long skirts (which also served to hide her leg brace) and heavy, rustic jewelry.
Diego, Diego. Oh, you toad, as Frida called you. You were such a tramp. Little did I know how you’d fooled even me until we later the same day traveled more than an hour across town to the barrio of Xochimilco to visit the Dolores Olomedo Museum. This gorgeous estate-turned-museum holds the largest collection of Diego’s work.
Of course it does. Dolores was Diego’s mistress. But that’s a story for tomorrow.
Today’s Mexico City travel tip: go see Frida’s art and house. Get there before it opens and plan on spending at least an hour. Walk to the zocalo in Coyoacan afterward and enjoy a leisurely lunch. And if you have to cry, I get it. That museum is a powerful place and the art will live on in your heart.
If you visit Mexico City and don’t care to rent a car, consider the Turibus. For $8US a day, you can ride one of the double decker buses on any or all of the four routes around the city. We picked up the Turibus in Coyoacan, a quick walk from our apartment. You can buy the tickets at the bus stop, and they accept both cash and cards.
We sat on the top level, with the cool spring air keeping us happy all day. We would got off the bus to take photos or take a break, knowing another one would be on its way sooner than later. This system is clean, easy and really comfortable. We rode the buses multiple days to get across one of the world’s largest cities, and did so with ease. The longest we had to wait for a bus was 20 minutes.
We visited only a handful of the many, many museums in the city. The big four included:
The National Palace is where the President of Mexico lives, and where Diego Rivera was hired to paint murals depicting the history of Mexico from 1929-1935. The artwork is huge and colorful and breathtaking; Diego was hired to celebrate the recent Mexican revolution. The artist returned from living in Europe to join his countrymen in the revolution.
There is so much detail to see, you could spend a week with these murals and still see more on the next visit.
Additionally, the museum includes the history of Mexico’s government. We saw copies of the first constitution, portraits of Benito Juarez, and ancient Aztec maps. This museum is free.
Just me and Frida, hanging out
The Templo Mayor is what it sounds like: the largest and most culturally significant temple of the Aztecs. The site is being slowly excavated. The attached museum holds the history of the Aztec people and many relics found around Mexico City during the last 200 years when others were digging to build new structures. This museum cost about $4.50 and is beautifully curated. I got a bit overwhelmed by the end, which likely had more to do with thirst and adjusting to the thin Mexico City air.
I will post about the two Frida/Diego museums we visited tomorrow. They are worthy of their own time, and there are so, so many great photos.
(Tip for today: take the Turibus!)
Jason and I spent last week in Mexico City, wandering and adventuring. One of the many reasons I love this man is that our spirit of travel is similar. We like tours, to a point. We like adventurous foods, to a point. And we like to see a new place by foot when possible.
Mexico City is home to 24 million people, many of whom live outside of the capital, in brightly colored modest homes that stack on top of each other. To look at these colonias, you wonder how so many could live in such a small space. The barrios are cheery in color and faulty in design. The lack of water is one of the biggest public health concerns.
Here are a couple photos from our trip, including the Shrine of Guadalupe, Zocalo and a couple pyramids we managed to scale.
We are standing on the pyramid of the moon here, with the pyramid of the sun (Teotihuacan) in the distance. The view from both was amazing.
These were a couple shots from the pyramid museum. I was impressed with the sheer number of museums available in Mexico
— most of which are open to the public for free, and showcase relics centuries old. This carving was made without metal tools. So were the pyramids.
The Shrine of Guadalupe was a life changing experience. I’ll write another post about this.
This 1600-era Spanish Catholic church in downtown Mexico City was built with the rocks of the previously dismantled Aztec pyramid seen in the foreground.
The Revolution Monument, with the elevator running up the center to a museum in the middle.
Flora and fauna at the National Palace.
The fountain in the central courtyard of the National Palace.
The central Zocalo, looking toward the (sinking) basilica of Mexico City. The city was built on a lakebed, and sits near a major fault line. Buildings are sinking at an increasing rate due to global warming.
Palace of Fine Arts built with marble from Europe
Benito Juarez memorial plaza
I hope these posts will serve as a tourism guide for Mexico City. We couldn’t have had a better time.
Tomorrow: a museum roundup.
January in Phoenix is an ideal time for gardening, believe it or not. I planted tomatoes from seed, which are popping up all over the beds, along with garlic and onions. The cruciferous plants are hanging in there, but not flourishing. The soil needs more work and it didn’t get cold enough this winter to set these vegetables.
However, the citrus are going crazy. The peppers continue to produce. The larger tomato plants are blossoming and the lettuce and rainbow chard is happy. The rosemary is perennial and the Thai basil is happy. Poinsettias and geraniums are blooming red.
And for Christmas this year, Jason received an avocado tree. We planted it yesterday and I took a photo next to this planted cactus for size. She should grow to be 6-8 feet tall. We’ll have to work on a shade structure sooner than later to help her through her first of many hot Arizona summers.
Now, if we could only figure out how to make those agave in the front yard magically transform into tequila…
A group of girlfriends I swam with in high school got together a few weeks ago. We had dinner and caught up — many of us not having seen each other for 19-plus years. It was fun to hear how everyone was. Most have children and every single one of us still loves to exercise in some way.
Three of us decided to run the Rock and Roll 10k together that Sunday morning. This photo makes me smile. Natalie and I spent 80% of our childhoods together in the pool, or smelling like chlorine out of the pool. We were side by side through junior high and high school. And when she went to California to swim in college, and I headed to Flagstaff to take swimming as a PE elective (never the great athlete), we lost track of each other. It was so nice to see her and reconnect.
The race concludes after running over the Mill Avenue bridge in Tempe. Years ago, when I’d run over that bridge with Adam and Juliann in the mornings before work, we’d stop and pick up a rock and toss it in Tempe Town Lake at the bridge mid-point, with our good wishes for the day. It was a positive affirmation they made fun of me for, but rumor has it they continued doing it after I moved to Denver.
Now that both Adam and Juliann live in Denver (with their partners), I stopped to pick up a stone and take a quick photo before I crossed the bridge. Traditions, man! Also, I miss those two a lot.
After the race, our group found Elvis. Yes, this guy ran in that outfit. He was more than happy to pose with the long line of women who wanted photos with him afterward.
Afton, who I also hadn’t seen since high school, now lives in Portland. I didn’t realize how much fun she was until this weekend. We had so much to talk about and along with Natalie, we are planning a girls’ trip this year now that we’ve reconnected.
I am thankful that I grew up swimming for a bunch of reasons, crows feet and skin damage not included. Swimming taught me discipline and time management. You couldn’t be in the water for hours every day and be a good student, both of which were expected, if you didn’t keep on top of your priorities. And swimming gave me friendships that will last a lifetime. Most of my closest adult friends came through time spent in the pool, or church youth group. (And we spent a lot of time in church youth group in someone’s pool, now that I think of it.)
Ah, the childhoods of Arizona children.
To reconnecting with old friends, and maintaining friendships far and wide!
I recently applied for a local writing contest and had to submit a few shorter pieces. Reviewing my portfolio, I’ve had my head down working on novels for the last 12-plus years. There has been occasional blogging when I was distracted with crafts or inspired by travel, but I’ve done very little other writing.
I spent several hours yesterday going over this space to find a couple essays I could include in my submission for the contest. In doing so, I am reminded why I blog. This site has served as my journal for the last 10 years. Moves across the country, countless recipes, adopting Nelson, marathons, a wedding and two books later — my life has taken turns I couldn’t have imagined.
Eyeing the craft supplies in the guest room, I wonder if I will ever return with a fervor to share the latest pattern or project. I now know I cannot be creatively focused on more than one project at a time. Finishing this novel is my priority; my sewing machine has grown dusty.
The one exception to this seems to be knitting. When I am winding down at night and my husband is watching sports or a food program, I find peace in knitting. (Not in Guy Fieri’s shoveling.)
I’m not giving up my crafting supplies yet, or this blog. Yet, I am giving myself the space to change. Expect more updates on writing process, knitting patterns and married life in the burbs.
And, thank you to everyone who came to the signing, who has bought a copy of Basket Baby, and those who have sent a note of encouragement about the story. You never know how these things are going to go, and it is easy to let the most insecure thoughts win. The last month has added fuel to the fire that I may just be able to do this for a living one day.
If you have read Basket Baby and wouldn’t mind leaving an Amazon review, I’d really appreciate it. This is helpful in a variety of ways, namely that with enough reviews the Amazon robots pay attention to your book and will help promote sales. Thank you!
Now, to those great photos:
(How adorable is my husband?)
I am taking a few days off over the next three weeks. A couple days here. A couple days there. I plan on accomplishing the following:
I hope you also get a chance to lounge around the house in comfy clothes, enjoy good company and great food and sleep without setting an alarm.
Wishing you the very best and brightest in 2017!
Hi, all! The book signing this weekend went marvelously. It was, much like the wedding, full of unnecessary nervousness and over far too quickly. My face was hot for the reading, I was so flustered—which was silly because the room was full of people I know and love. This burgeoning writing career is a dream come true, and there is little that feels better than to know your tribe will come out and support your wild endeavors.
For those interested, there are signed copies still available at Changing Hands in Tempe, and there are copies also available online. (If you’ve read Basket Baby and wouldn’t mind providing a review, I’d appreciate it.) I’m offering to attend book clubs in person locally, and via Skype elsewhere. If you have a group interested, let’s email.
Now, on to the next book. I’m writing Counting Coup and am well into the final chapters. This is both exciting and unnerving because there are major plot holes and character issues I have to resolve with the next pass. This is when in the writing process, it is much easier to stuff the project in the back of a drawer (or a folder hidden within another folder on your hard drive.) It is like building a house and recognizing you have to add another room, and change where the fireplace is located. And maybe you need another bathroom? But first, you have to finish the drywall and the tiling. You’ll go back and knock down that part of the house later.
It is tempting to pull out the wrecking ball now, is what I’m trying to say. (That and I’m likely watching too much HGTV.) Editing now would be a very bad idea. When I have the end in sight, I have learned in the last ten-plus years of writing that it is critical to push on. The first draft is always bad. Always. Whether you are Tolstoy or Donley, you’re going to have to make some major revisions. But by not first writing the ending, you’re still in first draft limbo. And this gray area, for me, is a swamp of self-doubt and loathing. It is a murky land full of mean girl voices whispering how I’m never going to be a great writer and I don’t deserve to tell this story.
Those mean girls are bitches and deserve to stay in their swamp. This time, I’m not falling off the thin bridge I’ve built over their noise. I know at next pass, and the next, and quite likely the next, and then the final, that bridge will become more solid. And the negativity will go dormant until arriving here when telling the next story. I am not going to get caught walking in circles, writing and editing until I’m so frustrated I put it down, or worse—quit.
So, buckle up. We’re headed toward that tiny light on the horizon.
Hey local friends! Just a gentle reminder tomorrow I will be talking about Basket Baby and signing copies at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. 7 pm! I’ll be wearing new boots, and old turquoise and a nervous but happy smile. Let’s awkward hug and talk about dreams realized.