Mexico - Condesa
Having been impressed by the beauty of Mexico City when I visited for the first time in 2012, a year later I was asked if I would object to being based there. Up to that point I had been living in India (Hyderabad) for 3 years and was ready for a change. I agreed with little hesitation.
My first month was spent living at the Sheraton Reforma, next to the US Embassy on Paseo de la Reforma. Work came first but I was able to look around for a more permanent place to live. Many expats in Mexico City prefer the sophistication of Polanco (the feel of which I would equate to Knightsbridge in London) whereas I was drawn to the less snobby, more relaxed environment of the Condesa area (an area that felt, to me, more like Hampstead).
Condesa, which was a 30 minute walk from the Sheraton, has a lot of older houses and lots of trees. Its centre, Calle Amsterdam, is an oval shaped road that once was a race track owned by the Countess of Miravalle, thus giving rise to the area names of Condesa and Hipodromo.
I managed to find a nice apartment on Avenida Baja California, the southern boundary of Condes-Hipodromo. The avenue was a bustling one way highway that started to get noisy at 6am and was gridlocked with returning traffic at 10pm. Many people live outside Mexico City, in Toluca for example, hence the heavy commuting traffic. Luckily my bedroom windows were double-glazed.
Now the good bit. Within a couple of blocks were countless bars and restaurants. Not noisy, trashy bars, but pleasant bars where one could enjoy a quiet drink with friends. Many restaurants were Argentine style – beef, beef and more beef, but the area also offered Italian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese and, of course, Mexican food. I loved it.
I have a long list of Mexico City restaurants in my contact list – I rate every restaurant that I visit and only those that I really like make it to my permanent list, so Mexico stands out as a culinary hot spot for me.
Aside from the bars and eateries in Condesa there are several parks – including a dogs-only park (owners can of course accompany their pets) – and pedestrian paths that are used for fitness sessions in the evenings. These pavements are buckled in parts as a result of earthquake damage. There were 4 earthquakes that occurred while I was in Mexico. The first, in 2012, was a new experience for me and taught me the procedures to follow. It was quite a big quake but little damage and no-one hurt. The second was a couple of weeks later. The third woke me in the early hours while I was in the hotel. I simply turned over and went back to sleep. The last one took place a week after moving into my apartment. A few older buildings lost roof-tiles but again little general damage.
On Sundays a number of main roads, including Paseo de la Reforma, are closed to traffic so that cyclists, joggers, skaters, walkers and marathon runners can get traffic free access. I had my own bike, though I also had access to the public bicycle hire scheme that operates in much of the City, and developed a habit of riding 20km or more on Sunday mornings, or 40 kms on the last Sunday of the month when a wider road circuit was made available.
A popular thing to do after a long hard cycle ride was to find a café and have a good breakfast to put back any calories that may have been expended! Coffee, croissants, fruit juice and whatever took my fancy from the menu. I did that on a couple of occasions but prefered to unwind at home.
For those that like shopping there are a couple of large stores in the area, plus a hypermarket, a supermarket and several 7-Eleven type shops, including 7-Eleven. Everything was close by.
If I had an opportunity to return to live in Mexico City I would not hesitate, and would certainly try to find somewhere to live in Condesa. Mexican's are friendly, there is lots to see, and certainly lots to eat!